Dec 30, 2014

2014 Post Round Up - Awesome Posts by Awesome People

We're almost to the new year and I'm doing some reflecting!

I link pretty freely to posts I like, especially the ones that influence me to write my own post.  But sometimes a lot of people are talking about, and making good points on, certain topics and it feels like a shame that I can't share them all.

So from now, I'm going to!  And because I'm super lazy, I'm only going to do it once a year (hear that, future self?  Remember to do this in a year.)  A side benefit of this is that we can look back at the things that happened this year and reflect on what we were all thinking and what events inspired those thoughts.  Here's a compilation of all the awesome, thought-provoking, and inspiring things I read in 2014.

(Reminder: I'm still away, but I'll be back soon to discuss all the things with you!)

Blog Advice and Resources

Body Shaming & Self Image

Feminism and Sexism

Going Against the Current

Humor (because, let's face it, everything else is pretty serious)

Mental Illness


Self Improvement

I realize this is a bit limited, because I only started being active in the blogging community this past May, so this should really be titled "The Latter Part of 2014 Post Round Up" but I figured it's a good start.  And I could have probably created a whole category for the Ice Bucket Challenge but I think we were all pretty sick of it by the time it faded away.

So these are all the posts that I found particularly impactful.  What about you?

What were your favorite posts and topics of this year?  What discussions were important to you?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Dec 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

And if you don't celebrate Christmas, then Happy Day-Off-of-Work-for-Somebody-Else's-Holiday!  Really, it's a win-win for everyone.

I don't have a lot to say today, but I wanted to mention my final (and kind of lame) self actualization project.  We made Christmas cards.

It was kind of last minute, and we ended up using a stock design from Walmart (which hurts my inner graphic designer), but despite all the issues (and lack of pictures of the finished product - sorry, I was too quick to seal everything up), we've managed to send them out and present ourselves to the world as a family for the first time.

Ryan and I have been together for 3 1/2 years and we've had Luke for 2 of them.  We've been a family, and considered ourselves that, for a while now but sending out cards felt almost as official to me as the ring on my finger.  So I'm happy, because we've done it, because it's a first for me, and because it will ensure that we receive more cards next year (who doesn't love getting cards?!).

So here's a screenshot from the Walmart website.

I hope everyone else's Christmas is as wonderful as mine will be (fingers crossed - we're flying cross country today, and we all know Murphy's law runs rampant with the airline companies).

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Dec 22, 2014

Quarterly Goals - Winter

Winter Quarterly Goals | Business, Life & Design

So I managed to do 2 posts with goals in the same format!  Whooo!  (Edit: Actually, I'm taking out the lifelong goals and just doing those once a year, along with the bucket list update.  Consistency - who needs it?!)

Also, for the next 2 weeks I'll be out and about.  Ryan and I are driving down to Alabama/Mississippi to visit his family, flying from there to San Diego to visit mine, who happen to be having the family reunion on the holidays this year, and then flying back to finish the trip and drive back home.  I haven't experienced the holidays in blogland yet, but I imagine most of you will be busy with travel and family and generally enjoying having some time off work, so I'll see all of you in a couple weeks.  Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Próspero Año y Felicidad!

Back to the goals post.  Here's how I did with my Autumn Goals.

Autumn Seasonal Goals Update

1. Bake something! - Check! I made a few things for Halloween and then a ton of stuff for Thanksgiving (including a couple pies), which I hosted (for all 3 of us, my what a hostess I am!).
The top right is Roommates beautiful cupcakes that made an appearance once before.  They really shouldn't be in here, but it made the collage pretty so, just, like, deal with it.  The top left is the Jell-O shots with gummy worms for the Halloween party - also not a baked good, but fun and crafty!  The middle is the mummy hot dogs and the bottom 2 are my Thanksgiving feast.  Brag moment: I didn't follow a single recipe in its entirety and it all still turned out delicious.
2. Do something crafty with pumpkins - Check! Had a girl's night to discuss books and carve some pumpkins.  I used a pattern!  And made something other than a regular ol' jack-o-lantern.

You may be wondering why there are so many cups with various hues of orange and green.  My friend Melisandre, whose hand you see in the bottom picture, despises all forms of alcohol.  But, once upon a time, a bartender made her a drink that she found palatable - a "junebug."  So now, years later, we looked up the recipe and made several drinks, with varying amounts of alcohol.  Result: she still hates alcohol and we failed to reproduce whatever it was the bartender made those many years ago.
3. Sort clothes and take to Goodwill - Check! I got rid of a bunch of stuff, and then a month later we organized the storage area and we had EVEN MORE stuff to give away.

Not the books, but everything in front of them.  Clothes, curtains, mismatched comforter sets, a humidifier, old laptop, bike helmet, etc.  It's nice to have the extra space back.

4. Drink all the ciders! - Check! I think I was feeling more ambitious about this when I made it (like go to a tasting or something), but I did try all the ciders available at the local liquor store, as well as enjoy a couple cider/liquor beverages.  Favorite by far: hot cider and peach schnapps, although hard cider and fireball is an old favorite.
5. Organize closets (bedroom and hall) - Check! Rearranging my clothes was a good start and then I bought even more organizers to handle the shoe situation.
6. Help Ryan put together new exercise bike! - Fail. He did this without me. But hey, it's done and is an awesome alternative to running when the weather outside is frightful.
7. Attend the Renaissance Faire - Check! I love the Ren Faire so much and I'm so glad we didn't miss it this year.  (The joust at the end was BRUTAL!  Spoiler: everyone died.)
8. Organize storage room & basement - Check! Three times actually.  The first time Ryan and I condensed some of the boxes and arranged it more neatly.  The 2nd time was after I purchased storage bins for the holiday décor and a few other sundries.  It got messed up surprisingly quickly, but after adding a new set of shelves I'm confident (aka I really, really hope) it'll stay somewhat under control.

Look at those tidy rows!  And all that empty space!  Is it not a thing of beauty?
9. Rehang decorations that fell down (sticky tape not terribly effective) - Check! I replaced the back fixtures we had removed, and Ryan put the nails up.  We went above and beyond and also hung some of the paintings we made in Painting with a Twist.
10. Get an A in Programming 101 - Check! (This one was a bit of a surprise to me, since I had a couple of iffy weeks, but after a strong final project and some extra credit, I squeaked by!)
9/10.  Works for me.  And the new goals!

Winter Seasonal Goals

  1. Start Strong at AAU - I got into grad school for web design and was super excited about it.  But... then I got a job, and everyone I talked to seemed to think it was illogical to take expensive grad school classes, so I withdrew.  I've regretted it ever since.  Now I'm back in and I want to prove that this time I mean it!
  2. Sign Up for a 5k and Set Training Schedule - This will probably be reoccurring, just as added incentive to stay in shape.  Training plans tend to die if there's no reason to keep doing it (especially in winter when the weather sucks).
  3. Don't Stress Over the Holidays - Try to stay calm and not worry, despite all the traveling and leaving Luke with Roommate for 2 whole weeks.  Luke will be fine, our flights will be fine (and if not we'll figure something out), and our families will be happy to see us no matter what.  Rinse, repeat.
  4. Help Sansa Host a Harry Potter Party - We've talked about doing this for years now, and we finally picked a date for it.  Not hosting is awesome, because there's less pressure, but I still want to be involved with making themed treats and decorating.
  5. Start My New Self Actualization Project - More on this for the New Years and Bucket List Update.
  6. Organize Portfolio and Computer Files - I always go back to my old portfolio book or folders to figure out what I have already and what needs to be added or removed, and usually I find a mess.  I need a more consistent organization system and, most importantly, I need the original project files in one place so they can't accidentally be saved over because they're named something stupid, like "portfolio1."
  7. Organize Craft Supplies - I have a lot of duplicates and if I'm going to be a little craftier this year, it'd be convenient if things were put away in some kind of logical order.
  8. Painting with a Twist - Take another class with Ryan and rotate out the paintings in the living room.
Note: In obedience to my "simplify" goal of setting fewer goals, I only made 8 instead of 10.  Are you proud?

Winter Priorities

My fall priorities were a mix of fails and successes.  Unclutter: This was incredibly satisfying, especially because maintenance is much easier once you do it.  Unlike exercise, you can get it over with in one big burst of energy and cross it off the list.  My favorite!  Routine: More challenging.  I feel like I never really got into the swing of this.  Unwind: I'm going to call this a success, because despite all the cleaning, planning, organizing, and socializing, I found time to read (a lot!) and play games with Ryan.  We instituted Friday night game night and it's been something I look forward to each week.

Here's the new priorities!

1. Design/Creativity

I was down for a good portion of the summer and fall and I think a big part of it was dissatisfaction with my work.  It's not terribly creative, and if I don't do some design on the side, I get bummed out.  So I'd like to make more of an effort to be involved with design (clients and classes), but also to take on more creative projects in my spare time.

2. Exercise

Winter is when my exercise routine is most lax.  I don't want to completely lose my conditioning after working so hard to get back to normal, following the broken leg incident.

3. Routine

I know following a routine is good for me.  When I get enough sleep I'm more likely to be motivated and follow through with everything else.  But, for some reason, this has been so incredibly challenging for me.  I've been struggling for the better part of a year to follow the routine I've set for myself and it's still a work in progress.

What do you want to accomplish this winter?  Do you have ongoing goals?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Dec 20, 2014

Media Hype - Shootings, Autopsies, and Incomplete Information

I don't want to write about Ferguson.  But I do want to write about WHY I don't want to write about Ferguson.

I feel like things are cooling down enough to have a reasonable discussion.  By reasonable, I mean we're able to look past the outrage and horror and start analyzing why we feel this way.

Does that seem off base?  Let me explain.

To me, it seems like the media has gotten so extreme with what they're reporting and, more importantly, how they're reporting it that it's difficult to sift through and find the actual facts.  A good portion of it is hearsay, opinions, and events framed in such subjective language that you're unable to form your own opinion without being biased by the so-called "news" article.

So yeah, I was outraged when I first heard that cops had killed an unarmed teenager.  And the racist implications were utterly horrifying.  But then I started to see how slanted every article was.  Example: "Michael Brown shooting: Cop cleared over killing of unarmed teenager."  This title, and article emphasize that Brown was unarmed, black while the cop was white, a teenager and refers to it as a "killing."  Here's the opposite end of the spectrum: "Michael Brown Robbed Convenience Store, Stole Cigarillos Before Darren Wilson Shooting."  It uses his name or refers to him as a "man" rather than a "teenager," heavily emphasizes his criminal record and substance use, and refers to the incident by referencing the police officer's name and "shooting" rather than the "killing of" anyone.

The very language used in these articles is designed to sway our opinions before we even read it too thoroughly!  Is an 18 year old a "teenager" or a "man"?  Is it a race issue or are we always going to call something a race issue if the people involved happen to be different races?  Does it make a difference if the person killed had committed a crime earlier and whether the police officer was polite when he asked him to move onto the sidewalk?  Even the use of the word "cop" rather than "police officer" is an intentional play on our emotions.

So at some point I thought we'd get past the he-said-she-said stuff and down into actual evidence.  In this case, the autopsy.  But even here, in the realm of what should be investigative science, it's not so clear.  Take a look at this article claiming the autopsy proves everything and Brown was less than innocent: The physical evidence in the Michael Brown case supported the officer [updated with DNA evidence].  Then take a look at this one discrediting all autopsies done and related "evidence": Fake Michael Brown case pathologist: ‘If they want to think I’m a doctor, that’s their issue.’  The first article completely brushes off that the qualifications of the man who performed the autopsy were being called into question, and the second proclaims him a "fake" before ever explaining why that is.

So you know what?  I have no idea what to believe and I'm starting to think any opinions I form on anything reported by the media will be based on faulty or even misinformation.  So I'm not going to loudly proclaim who I think is right or what this means for America.  Because it's total bullshit and I have no clue.  What I will say is that I think it's good that this opens the door for us to discuss and maybe scrutinize race relations a little more clearly.  And I'm all in favor of cameras for the police because then at least we'll KNOW what happened.

I'm sure there's inequality in our country that I'm unaware of or unexposed to.  I'm sure I have prejudices deep down that I don't even know are there.  I will even admit that being white, along with being born into the comfortable middle class, has made my life much easier than it could have been.  But I won't tell other people what to do or think because of it.  I don't think I'm qualified to form an opinion and I don't know how to help.  If anyone has any ideas, I'd certainly be willing to listen.

What scares me more than anything is the amount of control the media has over our country.  If you watch liberal comedy news shows, I can probably predict the stance you'll take on most current issues.  If you're conservative and get your news from Fox, I can be pretty sure it'll be the opposite side.

I shouldn't be able to do that!  Your opinion should not be dictated by your source of news.  News should be impersonal and unbiased and they're not even trying anymore.  They're not even hiding how biased they are anymore.  It's all about ratings, and views, and clicks.  And public outrage is worth a lot more to the media than an accurate presentation of facts.

Here's another, less controversial example.  I saw this image about Russell Brand on Reddit.  Go look at it, it's funny.  But basically, the media saw a chance to score some views by bashing Russell Brand, who we seem to enjoy calling a scumbag.  His version of the story places him in a much more flattering light.  Which version is true?  No one knows but Brand, the homeless man, and any eyewitnesses who happened to be present.

Here was my reaction to the story: "That's nice, but probably not true.  Russell Brand seems like a dirtbag" (because I'd read a headline once that said he had a sex addiction, because that's totally not even remotely related).  Then I read the comments and they all pretty much said Russell Brand seems like a nice guy and I thought, "Oh, maybe it IS true!"

Based on what?  The fact that some other people thought so.

Just like my opinion of the events in Ferguson have swayed all over the place because other people told me to think so.

But I'm done trusting every source of news I get.  And I'm done pretending I have all the details.  No one does, and we do the best we can with our incomplete information, but maybe we can do just a little bit better and start taking "the news" with a grain of salt.  Scratch that, a whole heap of salt, because those bastards have nothing to lose by making us overreact and only more news coverage to gain.

What do you think about the way news is reported in your country?  What sources of news do you use and do you trust any of them?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Dec 18, 2014

Gift-Giving and the Holiday Spirit

With the Christmas season approaching (who am I kidding - it's here), now is a perfect time for this post.  I was reading a discussion on AskReddit about the following question: Have you ever given someone a gift you really thought they would love but, when you gave it to them, they were not very impressed?

I definitely have these stories!  And since I'm too chicken to participate in the Reddit community, I'm writing about it here.  Here's some gift mistakes I've made on Christmas's past.

Buying an Experience for a Materialist

So the word "materialistic" has taken on a really negative cast, but I don't necessarily think it has to be that way.  Some people prefer to go places and experience things.  Other people would rather have objects that will stick around for a while.  They don't enjoy the fleeting or temporary things as much.

This was a huge disparity in one of my past relationships.  I was all about life experiences and he was all about acquiring nice things.  But I hadn't yet figured that out.  He had mentioned a couple times that he'd like to drive a race car one day.  He had never bothered to make a bucket list, but if he ever did, that would be on there.

So I thought, "What a perfect gift!  He'll love it!" and spent an amount that was uncomfortable for my finances at that time to acquire the racecar driving experience for him.  As a bonus, I bought it at a racetrack a few states away so we could make a trip out of it.

Come Christmas day, I was so excited for him to open the gift and see the vouchers.  So I was completely flustered when his face fell and his thanks seemed a bit lackluster.  Later he said the thing that would really hit it home, "I wish you had just bought me something."  Meaning a material object, of course.

At the time it really hurt, but now it's very easy to see why it happened.  We had completely different values, and even though the experience was one he had expressed a desire to obtain, I was still essentially purchasing him the type of gift I would appreciate.

Buying a Gadget for a Technophobe

Here's another mistake.  I know my father is the type to appreciate material things more than experiences, so I wouldn't repeat the previous error.  He's also the type of person who doesn't do anything unless it's his own idea.

So when I say technophobe - he's not actually afraid of new technology.  He's random.  Sometimes he resists and refuses to use it and sometimes he wants the newest and the best.  It's almost more of a competition type thing than any desire to learn about new technology.

But anyway, he'd commented on GPSs a few times and how awesome it would be for long car trips and/or to travel on family vacations.  So, again, I thought I was being absolutely amazing by remembering something a person had said they wanted and buying it before they thought to buy it for themselves.

My father never unwraps Christmas gifts.  He's one of those people who is uncomfortable with faking excitement and hates the pressure of having people watch you and having to pretend you like everything you open.  I understand, because I feel that way when we have Christmas with more distant relatives.

So I waited for a couple days for him to finally get around to it.  I think there was a brief spark of initial interest, but that thing never got used.  Finally, a few years later, I asked to borrow it (this was before we had smartphones, so it was really handy when I moved down to the DC area to live with Ryan), just temporarily.  I never bothered to give it back.  There was just no point.

Not that I begrudge my father the gift.  If he ever remembers that he owns one and wants it back, I'll be happy to hand it over.  But now that we do have smartphones, it's pretty redundant.

An Almost Mistake

Generally, I'm starting to mistrust the whole concept of "Listen to what people say and take notes when they point out things they like."  Because, as adults, if they like it enough to want to own it, they'll have purchased it long before the next Christmas.

But anyway, here's the 3rd example of something someone said they wanted.  Before moving into our current place, Ryan was talking a lot about cider and wanting to try his hand at brewing his own.  So I thought, "Ah ha!  I can encourage him to follow up with his new interest and buy him a starter kit."

The enthusiasm was there when he received it.  But the months went by and the interest waned.  I was just starting to think he would never actually use it when I came home and there were bottles everywhere, and equipment being sanitized.  Hopefully we'll get to sample his first batch in the next couple of weeks!

The Moral of the Story

So, while I'm excited that he did actually like and end up utilizing his gift, I think I'm going to approach gift-giving a little differently in the future.  For one thing, it's important to consider the other person's values.  Would they rather own a material object, or experience something new?

If the answer is things, then it's important to consider how much research they put into new purchases, and how likely you are to buy "the right brand."  With tech guys, that's a particular risk and one that I am not willing to take.

I, personally, am a big fan of gifting experiences (when it's applicable), because it's something that I also value, something we can enjoy together, it doesn't clutter up the house, and it really can't be the wrong one.  And I'm lucky enough to finally be dating someone who also appreciates experiences, so I know that approach won't be wasted.

But even if it were... even if I spent a lot of time and thought on something and I gave a gift and the recipient hated it, I have no right to resent them.  I feel like people have forgotten what a gift is.  It should be something you give with no expectation of return and with no obligations owed.  If you get angry because the person didn't buy you a gift, or didn't properly thank you, then it's not really a "gift" is it?

And once you give it, you can't dictate how it's used or what's done with it.  I knew a couple people who struggled with this.  They were very focused on acquiring things and, while willing to be generous, they absolutely hated seeing things used "incorrectly."  They'd ask for things to be returned to them.  That's not a gift anymore.  That's a loan.  "This is yours as long as you use it the way I want you to."  (I realize I'm somewhat guilty of this with the GPS.  But I didn't demand it back because it wasn't getting used.  I asked to borrow it, and after a certain amount of time we all forgot about it/it was a redundant piece of equipment.)

I think receiving gifts is difficult for a lot of people, for various reasons.  Not liking to be the focus of attention.  Not being good at faking enjoyment or appreciation.  Even just anxiety at all the expectation that comes along with receiving a gift these days.  "What if it's bad and I have to pretend to like it?  What if it's awesome and the gift I gave isn't good enough?"

And I think the most important thing is to let people handle it whichever way is best and easiest for them.  If they need to Grinch out and open their gifts in secret 3 or 4 days later, so be it!  If they don't like gift exchanges at all, then find other people who have similar gifting values and exchange with them instead.

My father only gets token gifts these days.  And I think that makes us all feel better, because it's low pressure and none of us get upset that he didn't appreciate it.  I think the gifts he has appreciated the very most have all been ridiculous photoshopped pictures: our family as the Star Wars characters, him and my mom as Arnold Schwarzenegger and some model (I can't remember who), him and my sister as body builder champs.  Goofy stuff.

So anyway, here's wishing everyone an awesome holiday season, with great gifts, a huge dose of tolerance for each other's preferences, and most importantly, some great family time and memories together.  Only 1 week 'til Christmas!

Oh, and here's that picture I was talking about.  The Star Wars Wells Family Portrait!  (And also the first real thing I ever Photoshopped)

What's your gift-giving philosophy?  Do you have any gift fail stories?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Dec 17, 2014

Scams, Parasites, and How to Identify Them

A not-so-fun topic for today.  Sorry in advance.

An older woman that I know is getting scammed.  Really badly.  Not just because she's confused, but because she's far gone enough mentally that she believes her family is trying to steal from her and the "nice man on the phone" is really trying to help her acquire her sweepstakes winnings.

It started out as a generic, "You've won!  But we need $5 to process your winnings."  Sounds familiar, right?

Turns out, when you keep sending in the $5, the amount progresses up to $25, $100, and higher.  The latest development is the involvement of the "IRS" who need $100,000 in "taxes" before she can "receive her winnings."

And she believes them!  And nothing her family says or does seems to change her mind that these people are not "the bad people" and that her family really is trying to help her.

It is incredibly sad to watch this unfold, and it is incredibly frustrating that there are human beings out there who are so unscrupulous and so fucking lazy that they would rather take money from old people, the money those older folks need to survive, than have to put in some actual effort and work a real job like the rest of us.

Who are these people?  How did they get like that?

I can almost understand when you steal from a store, or a company.  It's a larger, impersonal entity.  And the public opinion of corporations in general is pretty low.  That doesn't make it right, but it doesn't feel the same as harming individuals.

But to steal money from old people, who have so little, and who are without the capacity to understand or fight back?  That is so fucking low.  I can't even wrap my head around how someone can justify that to themselves.

It bewilders me, and it hurts, and it's not what I want to be thinking about at this time of year, but it's happening anyway.  And while I can't do anything about this particular incident, maybe I can at least provide some useful information for someone else.

It's Probably a Scam if...

1. Your credit card company calls YOU and then asks you to enter your credit information.

If there's a problem with your account, you should receive an automated call (or message) that lets you know and asks you to call them.  They don't handle your account information unless you have called them.
What To Do: If this ever happens, tell them you'll call them back.  Call the OFFICIAL NUMBER for your credit card company and verify that there's a problem.  Most likely there isn't.

2. Microsoft (or any other software/computer/IT company) calls to say you have a virus.

Once you purchase all the stuff for your computer, there's no one monitoring it, and no one who will know if  you get a virus.  They might ask you to follow troubleshooting steps, which is a way for them to infect your computer so they can sell you the fix for it, or they might just try to get your credit card information in exchange for virus protection you don't need.
What To Do: Hang up.  You probably don't have a virus and that's not Microsoft.  If you're worried about it, feel free to hire someone like the Geek Squad from Best Buy, but don't listen to someone unless you have solicited their services.

3. You've Won! (anything)

Did you sign up for it?  No?  Then you didn't win.  You cannot win a contest you didn't enter, and anything that requires money for you to receive your prize IS NOT REAL.
What To Do: Ignore it.  Everyone gets this type of email and phone call.  It's one of the more popular scams and it can't hurt you if you don't provide personal information or send money.

4. Someone you know has sent you an "interesting" link.

Is there any personal information?  Is it strangely generic without the use of your name, the sender's name, or what the link is?  It's probably not from your friend/family member/contact.

What To Do: Double check the sender email - my AOL account frequently tells me emails are from one of my contacts but the email address itself is something totally random.  If it really is your friend, check with them to make sure they sent it.  If they did, you can open it.  If they didn't, their email has been compromised and they should change their password.  If it's not their email address, don't open the email and DON'T click the link.  It could be anything from click bait to a virus.

5. An email asking you to reset your password.

Quite possibly legitimate, but also possibly a scam.

What To Do: Only ever change your passwords by going directly to the website.  Do NOT use the link provided in the email.

6. Someone from another country needs to transfer funds and would reward you greatly for allowing them to use your bank account.

NO!!!  There is no such thing as easy money, money for nothing, or something that seems "too good to be true."

What To Do: Hopefully your email filter is catching this kind of stuff, but if not, mark it as spam and delete it.

7. A loved one has misplaced their password/bank account #/personal info and needs you to text it to them.

It's probably your loved one, but it could also be a scam artist who has picked up a lost or stolen phone.

What To Do: Only provide this type of information over the phone where you can verify your loved one's voice.  Yes, a text would be easier, but it's definitely not safer.

8. Someone is selling ___ but needs the money before you can see it.

I'm sure you can see where this is going.

What To Do: Steer clear and find a seller who is more forthcoming.  Never give someone money without some kind of guarantee or documentation of the transaction.  This also applies to someone who creates difficulties about payment type, or changes the terms of the agreement frequently.  Also, establish a level of trust before accepting checks as payment.

Those are a few examples, but there are probably more scams out there than you or I could even conceive of.  And sometimes something will be new to you and catch you off guard, or will seem honest when it's not, and there's not always a whole lot we can do about it.  Here's a few tips that will hopefully help.

General Guidelines

1. Be stingy with your personal information

If someone asks for your bank account, social security number, or credit card information, make sure they have a valid reason for "needing" it.

2. Do your research

Family, friends, or even Google are all great resources to double check something that seems fishy.  And checking reviews for products or sellers is a great way to make sure the product you're buying online is legitimate.

3. Be alert

The sad fact is we do have a significant number of predators in our society.  These people would rather take from you than have to earn for themselves.  The only way you can protect yourself is to try to stay educated, and be on the lookout for things that seem suspicious, especially with your email and anything having to do with your finances.

For a more comprehensive list of current scams and ways to deal with them, check out the FBI's list of Common Fraud Schemes.  Another good resource is The National Council on Aging with Top 10 Scams Targeting Seniors.

Hopefully this helps someone, although I realize that a lot of the elderly who are being targeted aren't mentally acute enough to ward off the world's parasites, and, frankly, it terrifies me to think about one day being older with new scams I don't know about and won't have the tech savvy or knowhow to fend off.

What scams have your or your acquaintances experienced?  What tips would you include that I don't have up here?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Dec 16, 2014

Nicknames - Because 1 Name is Never Enough

Post inspired by this awesome list of ideas from The Florkens.

Everyone's got those silly family nicknames that they don't remember the origin of.  Or a plethora of mutilated variations of their first name.  I've got both:
  • Poco Jones - From my dad.  No idea.
  • Jiff - Grandfather.
  • Josephine - Sisters.
  • Jossifer - Sisters.
  • Josey - You can guess.
  • Jo - This one I really like because it makes me think of Little Women and I empathize a lot with Jo.
My father also has some lovely endearments for all of his daughters:
  • Swine-o - This happened because of some of the insults we used when we're playing games or some family activity.  Usually it goes something like this: Papa will say, "Scum!"  Then someone else says "Slime!"  And we'll finish it off with "Swine!"  And I guess at some point we just shortened the whole process and added an "o."  Because why not!
  • Lou - Short for "losah!"  If all 3 of us are present, it's Lou 1, Lou 2, and Lou Joo (short for junior, because we like shortening things apparently, and for the sake of rhyming).
  • Schmedley - Usually used for non-family members or the dogs, but sometimes jokingly when you're "lookin' for trouble."

In keeping with our family's custom of name-mangling and affectionate insults, I have also come up with a number of bizarre nicknames for my dog.  And even for my sister's dog.  I'll start with those:
  • Mavvsy - His name is Maverick so this sort of makes sense, right?
  • Football-head - Ryan started this, just because, in comparison to Luke, Maverick's head is pretty sizeable.  Also Gator-head.
  • Hodor - Because of the way he sometimes bays repeatedly.  (It sounds like this "Hrooooar" so it's only a small stretch to turn it into "Hodor.")  And he's not always very smart.

By coincidence, or perhaps in retaliation, Soon-to-be-Brother calls Luke "Lucas," which I find amusing because he doesn't actually use nicknames for his own dog.

And here's the list of names Ryan and I have for our own dog.
  • Boobah - Um... I totally don't baby-talk my dog.  This is another language, or something...
  • Buddy - Generic endearment.  I'll probably use this for my children, too.
  • Butt-sniffer - Because duh.
  • Dog - When annoyed or sometimes just because.
  • Doge - Like doge-coins?  Anyone know what I'm talking about?  It was all Ryan!
  • Douche-dog - Affectionately, I swear!
  • Poop-face - Because insults aren't insulting when they're true?
  • Puppy - And various other endearments.  He'll never grow out of being our puppy.
  • Whine-o - When he's whining.  Also a play on "swine-o."
  • I was going to add more and then I realized they're mostly insults and they get a little crass.  Not because we don't like him, but sometimes Ryan has a pretty good case of sailor-mouth.

So yeah...  Those are our alternate appellations.  Now please tell me you understand what I'm talking about and we're not just a bunch of weirdos!

What are your family nicknames like?  Do you have nicknames for your pets?

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Dec 15, 2014

Tour Around Blogland - Pit Stop Awesome

Just kidding!  Both because it won't be that awesome, and because I'm not really that full of myself.

So you know the Liebster Award?  I've been nominated twice and didn't really know what to think.  It reminded me a little bit of the chain emails full of jokes or religious sentiments that my friends used to send back and forth (and back again) in high school.  But I suppose the difference is, this isn't cluttering up anyone's inbox if I decide to write about it.

I also didn't do the Liebster Award because the questions asked weren't ones I was very interested in.  The Tour Around Blogland is more fun and I really enjoyed reading some of the background for Sarah Christine Style, so I was excited to see that Sarah nominated me for this one.

So here's the 411...

What are you working on now?

Not a lot.  Somehow I got ahead and I'm scheduled out past Christmas, so other than some spur of the moment ideas, and a couple images, I'm all set to enjoy vacation blog-free!  (Not email free, of course.  I will happily respond to any and all comments complimenting my genius and/or my eyes.)

Some things on my to-do list for my blog this month is:

  • Honestly, not much.  There's less than a week to work with, after all.  But here's the things I've been focusing on most this month:
    • Checking and updating my goal post for next month's check-in (for the Choose Your Own Adventure linkup), because I love goals, and lists, and organizing them, and these posts have all those things!
    • Some holiday-y imagery to go with my happy "yay Christmas" type posts.
    • Getting to know some new bloggers

Some things on my to-do list outside of the blog:

  • Pack!!!  (We're leaving next Saturday to drive down to Alabama/Mississippi for a week, and then fly out to San Diego for a few days, so I need a "car suitcase" and a "plane suitcase.")
  • Assemble Christmas Cards (Technically finished, but I need to mail them out)
  • Permission Forms for Book Cover Design (My grandmother's new book will be published later this month!)
  • AAU Student Account Setup (For my first semester of Grad school!)
  • Various Last-minute Christmas Things! (Like this)
I like crafts, but I tend to make a mess of them.  That 2-tone present... yeah, that happened because I cut TWO lengths of wrapping paper that weren't long enough.  Same mistake twice in a row.  Since the paper is reversible, I figured I'd try to make it look like it was intentional.

How does your blog differ from others in its genre?

It doesn't really.  Let's be honest here - sure we're all different, but when it comes down to the actual content, there's going to be other people that have similar combinations of topics.

But... since I have free time today, I've created this highly precise, mathematically accurate bar chart to demonstrate the exact distribution of blog content that differentiates me a tiny, tiny bit from the crowd.

Oh, and I forgot design.  And business.  Those would be tiny little bars next to the Pictures column.  Just pretend.

Why do you write/create what you do?

Mostly because other social media wasn't doing it for me.  I didn't want to write cute, little one-liners - I wanted paragraphs!  And when I had strong opinions or put a lot of thought into something, it was frustrating when no one responded.  It's also an amazing relief to vent when someone or something makes me angry or frustrated, in real life or online.

How does your writing/creative process work?

I have an incredibly complex, finely tuned scientific system for churning out the posts.  Since it is so revolutionary, I've illustrated with the following flowchart.

Next Blog Stops: Nadine @ Life by Nadine Lynn, Holly @ Everydays a Hollyday, and Jessica @ The Pyreflies.

Do you having a writing process?  (Does anyone have a writing process?)  What's on your to do list this month?

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Dec 12, 2014

Just Beachy - a Fond Farewell

I witnessed the death of a blog yesterday.  And, just like the first time I became aware of my own mortality back in high school, I realized this would one day happen to me.

I mean, sure, there's a small possibility I'll never get tired of my current hobby.  But let's be honest here, how long have I ever stuck with anything?  My hobbies tend to have a lifespan of 1 - 5 months.  Since this particular hobby is so ego-centric, I estimate 1 additional year of fascination before I begin to tire of it and the inevitable strikes: blog burn-out.

So my purpose today is 2-fold.  First, I want to say goodbye to Just Beachy, one of my favorite reads and an awesome provider of resources, interesting links, a no-nonsense modern mindset, and pretty beach photos!  Kelli promised she'd still be around and I hope that's the case!  (Kelli, if you're reading, this is a test and you have passed)  But if not, I hope not blogging proves to be a way of life as enjoyable as blogging, even if I personally can't imagine it right now.

I also wanted to write my own, imaginary burn-out letter, because I figure when I get burned out I won't want to write one.  But then I realized I had nothing to write about so instead I'm going to write one for Kelli.

Dear Readers (of my totally awesome, amazing blog),

I'm tired of writing.  It's been a long time coming, and some of you may not be surprised by the choice I'm making.  I'm resigning from blogging.

Life's gotten busier lately, what with Little K getting older, the holiday season coming on, and being called away for secret CIA missions.  I also feel I've been living a double life lately, trying to feign an interest in pop culture and current events, while my heart is with my family and my work, dealing with the uprisings in Area 51.

So it really is time to say goodbye.  Truthfully, I won't have access to the blog on the space shuttle, anyway, and it will probably be a few years before the Mars One colony gets high speed internet.  But never fear!  Like King Arthur, I too will return one day and reign supreme once more!

Kelli, The Once and Future Blogger

P.S. I actually have an excellent post about burn-out, which, ironically, you won't be able to read now that it's relevant to me, personally.  Jenn discussed some of that post here: 6 Reasons to Stay Small, but remember that the link back to my page won't work anymore, and neither will the links in a post Jenn has scheduled for the end of December.  She should probably take them out, but she's too busy grieving so please just ignore them.


Goodbye for now, Just Beachy!  (but not Kelli, because she's still here, right? Right?!?!)  Oh, and in case you were wondering, yes, my goodbye letter will be even weirder, and yes, I am writing it now so I'll have it ready to post when I don't want to write anymore.

In case you weren't feeling sad enough:

What blogs have you seen come to a close?  Have you thought about how you would end your own blog?

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Dec 11, 2014

The Deal with Vitamins - Potential Negatives

Vitamins are great.  It's an easy way to supplement your diet and ensure you're getting enough vitamins.  Right?


There's a catch, though.  Unless your diet is totally lacking in fruits and vegetables, you're probably getting some portion of your daily dose.  So you really just need a supplement.  But for some reason, vitamins all seem to overdo it, with a dosage of at least 100% and sometimes as high as 2 or 3 hundred!

Let's Talk Types

Vitamins are either water soluble or fat soluble.  If you overdose on water soluble - no problem!  You'll just pee out the excess.  But if you overdose on fat soluble, it'll build up within your body and, depending on the level of overdose, could lead to harmful side effects.  Examples of fat soluble vitamins are A, D, E, and K (more information here).

When I checked my multis, it turned out they contained an excess of a couple of these fat soluble vitamins, so I quit taking them and instead chose supplements of the specific things I knew I was low on: Calcium, Iron, Potassium, and Folic Acid.

A while back, Sister2 recommended that we all start taking Folic Acid, as it can help prevent some birth defects.  Gotta be prepared for accidental pregnancies, don't ye know!  And when I checked my current vitamins, it was already included, so I didn't have to worry about it until I quit taking them.

It took a while to find a Folic Acid supplement that wasn't mixed up with a multi, so I was excited when I finally did!  I didn't even bother to read the label because it was a water soluble, so it'd be safe, right?  More on that.

The Ridiculousness of Vitamin Manufacturers: Example - Folic Acid

Here's my current Folic Acid supplements.  The container looks great, right?  It tells you what they do, how many are in there, and the amount per pill, even though that information is pretty meaningless to the average human being.

What I never bothered to check until last night is this (sorry for the blurry photo).

In case you can't read it, it says not to exceed a daily dosage of 250%.  Laughable, right?  If I'm low on Folic Acid with my normal diet, how on earth would I exceed 250%?  But then, I read the nutrition information (more blurriness - I'm terrible).

Yes, you read that right.  200%.  Why on earth?!  The supplement company is basically assuming you get none of this in your daily diet, because if you're not supposed to exceed 250% and they're giving you 200%, that's only a 50% margin of safety.  Do you get less than 50% of your daily Folic Acid?

I have no idea, either.  But I'd like to think I can eat whatever I want without danger of my vitamin taking me to potential harmful side effect land.  By supplying such a ridiculous dosage, this supplement company is basically saying, "Eff your safety.  You want vitamins?  I'll give you a vitamin punch to the gut."

So I'm a little soured on supplements just now.  I still think they can be useful, but I also think the supplement companies give very little shit about the actual benefits of their product and are more concerned with marketing.  "Oh, 100% is good?  We'll give you 200%!"

With that in mind, I'm going to be a lot more careful picking out which supplements I buy, and I'm never going to take anything that gives me over 100% of what I need daily, water soluble or not.  That's just ridiculous.

Oh, and no, I won't be tossing these into the trash, even though I kind of want to, right now.  But I will be cutting them in half.  Because, you know, frugality.

What supplements do you take?  Do you get enraged by ridiculous nutrition labels?

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Dec 10, 2014

Tavern Tours and Turkey Day - November Self Actualization

I'm reaching the home stretch of my self actualization project!  For November, I squeezed a couple things in at the very last minute.  We'll start with the less thrilling adventure.

Some Non-Turkey

Thanksgiving.  I made it.  And it was good!

Having never hosted Thanksgiving before, I had some doubts.  In the past, I've been a terrible multi-tasker.  For example, when I make a big breakfast with omelets, sausage, hash browns, and toast, I'll invariably forget the hash browns or the toast.

So I prepared pretty extensively.  I had lists.  Shopping lists.  Recipe lists (for reference.  That's another quirk.  I always have to adapt, even though I'm not a great cook).  Oven timing lists.

I did a lot of prep work the night before, and even with some last minute house-cleaning Thanksgiving morning, so my mother wouldn't be too disgusted with us, everything was completed at just the right time.

Disclaimer: I did NOT make a turkey.  We ended up with 5 people, instead of the expected 3, but none of us are huge fans of turkey, so it's silly to go to all that trouble and then have to eat leftovers we don't actually want.  So my mom got some smoked turkey and brisket from a BBQ place instead and I made all the sides, which is really the good stuff.

What I did make (and how I adapted it):

  • Pineapple Yam Casserole - I couldn't find canned yams, so I boiled them the night before and then threw in the stuff I wanted (nuts, marshmallows, and a drizzle of caramel sauce).  Basically the recipe just gave me the cook time.
  • Green Bean Casserole - Evidently the recipe for this is on the back of the French Fried Onions.  Who knew?!  Anyway, most of the recipes I found wanted cheddar cheese on it, but my family's never done it that way, so I just skipped it.
  • Aunt Shirl's Potatoes - Family recipe.  I followed this one, but my family tends to use a shallower pan, which increases surface area for the parmesan cheese, which is the most delicious part.  Oh, I also used no-fat half and half, not to be healthy, but because the grocery store didn't have the regular stuff.  Turned out fine anyway.
  • Stuffing - Made from scratch!  Which my family doesn't really do.  I looked at a couple recipes, and referenced them for cook time, but basically picked the ingredients from each that I wanted.  Ended up using French bread (a loaf that I tore apart by hand - turns out that's fairly time consuming), celery, onion, chestnuts, an egg, and chicken broth.  Oh, and some dried seasonings that I no longer recall.  Note: chestnuts are a huge pain in the a** and I will not be using those again.  Tasty, though.  Overall, it wasn't super flavorful, but that's more because I actually showed restraint with my spices, for once, and it went well with the other things, so I'd call it a win.
  • Cornbread - There's 3 recipes on the back of the corn meal bag.  I did a cross between the regular cornbread and the honey sweet cornbread.  Basically extra sugar, some vanilla, honey, and less oil.
  • Pumpkin Pie - For some reason I keep accidentally buying sweetened condensed milk instead of evaporated milk, even though the recipe is right ON THE CAN of the pumpkin.  So I found a recipe that used the stuff I had bought.  It was for only one pie, instead of 2, but, as per usual, there was a fair amount of extra (I always have at least half a cup of extra stuff - not sure what that's about), so I added the extra pumpkin I had, and we had slightly less sweet pie.  It actually worked out fairly well - I think the sweetened condensed milk recipe would normally make sweeter pie than we're used to so using one container for 2 pies was ideal.
My oven's not that big so I made the cornbread and the pie the night before, and then everything else fit snugly.  I'm still somewhat shocked that the timing worked out so well.  Also, Roommate and his girlfriend were still around, so they ate with us, despite having additional Thanksgiving dinners to attend later on, so that was nice.  And we got to laugh at Roommate, who was so hung-over that he couldn't even partake of the non-alcoholic sparkling cider.

Now that I'm done babbling about food, the important stuff - booze!

The Taverns!

Some friends had mentioned the Grim Philly tavern tour, which in late November/December is Christmas themed.  I thought it was an awesome idea, despite their somewhat shady and horrendous website, but timing with that group didn't work out, so we ended up inviting one of Ryan's coworkers and his wife.

There was some initial confusion when the confirmation email said to print and bring our "tickets" but did not actually provide any tickets.  When we called, they said the email was the "ticket."

Of course, we totally forgot to do that and brought nothing, but it turned out it was completely unnecessary, as anyone walking up who knew the name of someone who had registered was freely given wristbands.

We arrived early at the meeting place, a sushi bar, so we could partake of the food and drink specials available before the tour.  I thought the sushi was delicious and was quite prepared to become inebriated and happy.

The tour began by everyone collecting their wristbands and then sitting back down as history of the pagan roots of contemporary Christmas traditions was shouted to us across the crowded bar.  It was funny, and crude, and our host was amusingly quirky (even more so when we found out his day job was teaching at a college).

He also did some trivia, awarding correct answers with shots from his own bottle of buttershots, whilst passing out seemingly random snacks, like unopened jars of peanuts.

Tour guide with his bottle of buttershots

We collected our first free drink (cider and Jager - blegh), toasted, "Wassail!  Drink hale!"  And then trooped in a disorganized mass down the street, following our guide.

After a few blocks, I began to be alarmed, as the group was spreading further and further apart, and the guide continued shambling along without ever looking back.  But my concern was alleviated when he stopped and waited at a cross walk that half the group hadn't crossed in time.

When we reached the 2nd stop, a pub, he finally addressed again, calling out a few fun facts about Benjamin Franklin, who had lived across the street.  He also gave us a rundown, promising some "stuff" at the end.

The 2nd bar was less fun; quiet enough that we were all able to hear it when a couple members of our tour group began to belligerently complain that, "The management at this bar sucks.  They don't treat their customers right."  Ryan's coworker spent some time talking to the manager, assuring him that our entire group wasn't made up of assholes, and that we were perfectly happy with what was going on in our corner.  But it still reminded me how much I hated working in the service industry.

We were given more snacks, less random this time - gingerbread cookies and peppermint sticks.  And our free drink was actually provided by the bar and not something that the tour guide poured out.

Eventually, we all meandered over to the 3rd location, a moonshine bar, expecting some kind of history, or introduction from our guide.  He basically pointed us to the back, where some food was made available, and then left us to our own devices.  I proceeded to drink more than I needed to, all the while happily awaiting the final round of trivia and another chance to win a Santa hat.  Finally, when most of our group had drifted out a few hours later, I realized the tour was over.

To sum up: It was a bit disorganized, all the "tour" stuff was at the beginning, and some of our peers were belligerent jerks.  I think it was worth doing, but I definitely wouldn't pay to do it again.

We did have a lot of fun and it was nice to get to know the couple we went with.  They're Philly residents, so they were able to fill in some of the gaps in the tour information, and handled most of the driving (which was nice!).  Afterwards we went back to their home and played Mario Kart (which is way harder after a bar crawl).

Here's the very little, vague bits of trivia that I remembered (not claiming accuracy - from an unreliable source and also unreliable retention method):
  • Gingerbread men originated because of some culture's tradition of human sacrifice.  They swapped out the sacrifices for little gingerbread men (which is much more humane, don't you think?)
  • Something about Odin being an influence in some version of Santa at some point
  • The Germanic version of Santa was Belsnickel, who carried a birch rod to beat naughty children with.  A little more forceful than coal!
  • Jesus was more likely born sometime in the spring, but in order to combine Christian beliefs with the pagan traditions (for easier conversion), they moved it to the Winter Solstice.
  • Santa started out tall and thin, wearing all white.  Coca Cola is responsible for the red outfit, which was introduced for one of their marketing campaigns (the power of marketing is scary sometimes, some of our "culture" like engagement rings and ladies shaving their legs is only commonplace because of clever marketing).  Then, some other company's marketing campaign softened him up even more and made him rosy and chubby.
  • Something about Black Pete's, which was the racist lore that said Santa's helpers were 2 black men who would kidnap the naughty children for a lifetime of servitude.
  • Basically history is crazy, and we've believed so very many strange things over the years.  I wonder what future generations will think is incredibly strange or stupid that we believe now?

Terrible, fuzzy picture of Ryan and me in the first bar, with festive Santa hat behind us.


Have you been on a tavern tour before?  Did they actually talk about the bars in the tour?

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Dec 9, 2014

When TV Betrays You

You know that sickening feeling of disappointment and loss when your favorite TV show does something utterly and incredibly stupid and then just expects you to accept it?  Like it's no big deal.  Like they didn't just take one of your favorite pastimes that you were emotionally involved with and rip it away from you, leaving you cold and empty to muddle along alone.

Well, yes.  I suppose that's a little dramatic.  But then again, so is TV.  Let's talk about my biggest disappointments.  I shouldn't have to say it, but yes, SPOILERS, SPOILERS, SPOILERS.  Because the most disappointing thing of all is an unsatisfying ending.

4 Terrible TV Betrayals

Culprit #1: How I Met Your Mother
The Crime: The entire last season, but especially the last episode

The last season dragged on with an insufficient plot for so many episodes.  I mean, you just shouldn't have an entire season based on one weekend.  It doesn't make sense.  Also, they showed us a tantalizing glimpse of the mother, the woman we've been waiting for how many years? to meet, and then they just take her away and expect us to be content with Barney and Robin's flakiness for the first half of the season.  Uh-no.

THEN!  Oh, then, after dragging this along, in the most agonizing way possible, and finally allowing us to spend some time with and start to fall in love with the mother, they're just like, "Oh, yeah, well it was really about Robin all along.  Now that she's fulfilled her duty and popped out some kids for Ted, she's just going to die and clear the way for them."  The most utter betrayal I have ever witnessed in a show.  I could go on, but I'll spare you my incoherent ragings.

Culprit #2: Friends
The Crime: Rachel and Joey

It didn't make sense and was such an obvious ploy to dig up some interest by pairing off more of the main characters.  And then, after following along with Joey's wistful longing for however long that lasted, they didn't even properly date.  They just played around with the idea long enough to cause some drama and make everyone upset and then decided they weren't interested.  Inconclusive and unsatisfying!

Culprit #3: Game of Thrones
Crime: Indifferent slayings of main characters

This one isn't really something to rage about.  It's part of what makes the show so exciting - anything could happen and anyone can affected in any way by it.  And, honestly, it's far more realistic than just about anything else where the main character always pulls through somehow.  But who didn't feel the utter shock after the loss of our first, and much-beloved, main character, Ned Stark?  Even after that, I think a fair amount of us were surprised at the Red Wedding, when the Starks continued to suffer brutal losses.

So I'm torn on the main character death theme in GoT.  Because it's kind of awesome, and different, and hits home in a different way than any other show.  But it has a good possibility of ushering in a new era of TV shows where none of our main characters are safe, ever again.  And I don't know about you, but I generally like my main characters to pull through overwhelming odds to reach a generally satisfying conclusion.  I'm not ready for utter chaos!

Culprit #4: Roseanne
Crime: The last season

So this gets an honorary mention because Sister3 watched all of this and explained it to me.  I believe she said something to the effect of, "Roseanne aficionados have agreed to ignore the last season.  It doesn't count."  Basically, after a very real and honest portrayal of a family's struggles through poverty, economic crisis, and internal strife, they decided to have the Conners win the lottery and do all sorts of ridiculous things.  Then, in the last episode, they reveal this has all been a massive fake-out, and Roseanne was making up the story to cover up her own grief at Dan's death.  So, incredibly sad, and a complete departure from the style of the rest of the show.

Side Note: I found this list of TV Finales that almost ruined the entire show while I was writing this post.  I found it entertaining.

What TV moments made you feel betrayed or disgusted?  What is your favorite show?

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Dec 4, 2014

Simplify, Simplify, Simplify (and Some Organization Updates)

Checking in for the Make Your Own Adventure link up.  November had the theme of Organization, which as I may have stated a time or two, is one of my absolute favorite things to do!  Here's my updates from November, and my new goals for the month of December, theme: Simplify.

November Organization Themed Goals

  1. Kitchen Junk Drawer - Check!  This was actually easier than I expected.  In my head I'd built it up to be this gargantuan mess, but in actuality it was a few things that needed to be thrown away, and others sorted into "kitchen" vs "utility."  Kitchen stayed in the drawer and utility items were put into a new piece of furniture that I got for free at the office!  (details below)
  2. Resolve Hall Closet Shoe Situation - Check!  Shoe rack purchased, and all housemates bullied into using it.
  3. Make a Place for Holiday/Seasonal Items - Check!  Giant, plastic storage bins purchased!  And, more importantly, everything put away in them.  Also the kitchen overflow, which clears up a bit more space and prevents baking pan avalanches.
  4. Plan and Purchase ALL Christmas Gifts! - Check!  After a last-minute burst of inspiration, I'm pretty pleased with my purchases.  Now I have an entire month to finish wrapping and make some holiday cards to hand out during our travels.
  5. Solidify Travel Plans - Check!  Ryan and I booked our plane tickets for the holidays the very first weekend, and after some back and forth over the next week I managed to get lodging selected and booked for both of my 2015 events as well.  Sigh of relief!
  6. Backup Computer - Check!  I'm a little ashamed at how easy this was.  I literally just had to spend the 2 minutes reading through my settings and then click a button.  Oh well, it's done now!  And set for reoccurring backups each week.
Pictures, because I am so darn proud of myself!

See that filing cabinet?  It had ONE broken drawer, and my office was going to throw it away.  I don't think so!  Perfect solution for a "utility" drawer.

All the "messy" baking supplies (flour, sugar, cocoa, etc) ended up in the storage bin, and everything else is spaced out a little better and stacked neatly, which means A) No avalanches and B) It will be maintained more easily and unwieldy piles won't happen as we use things.

And my new goals for December...

December Simplify Themed Goals

  1. Start Keeping Continuous Goodwill Box - I think this will remind me to get rid of things on a regular basis, instead of holding onto things for a long time and then doing massive purges.  Also, try to add 5 things to it each month, starting with this one.
  2. Bedtime Yoga/Meditation - I'd like to try setting aside 15 minutes or so before bed each night to "meditate" and see if it really is as beneficial as everyone says.  Clear my head, so to speak.
  3. Packing Lists and Travel Info - So putting together a packing list a week or 2 early will make getting ready easier, and paper instructions for Roommate (he's taking care of Luke for us) and a travel doc for us with all relevant location info and phone numbers will make me worry less on the road.
  4. Set Fewer Goals - This is really hard for me.  When I started writing this I was on #7, and I realized most of them weren't really about simplicity, even if they did involve removing clutter and excess.  They were about my love for organization.  But that same obsession causes my to-do list to be constantly overflowing and sometimes I get stressed because I can never catch up.  I can't, because there's always something new to add.  So I'm going to make an effort to keep my to-do list under 10 items, and my monthly goal lists under 5.

Do you have monthly goals?  Are you good at simplifying?

Linking up with Steph, Stephanie, and Ashley.

Life According to Steph

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Dec 2, 2014

Putting the Moves On - 3 of My Dating Techniques

I didn't do as much dating as I would have liked to.  Not that I have any regrets - my first 2 horrible long-term relationships have made me into a much better person, and my current relationship is incredible and fulfilling and makes me very happy.  Buuut...

Dates were fun!  I know a lot of people hate going on first dates, but I loved it.  I loved getting to know a new person and figuring out how their brain worked.  Learning what their motives were, and what they thought about.  What made them who they were.  You really don't do that in any other situation.  When you make a new friend you don't say, "Tell me all about yourself!"  You make polite small talk, and occasionally stumble across a common interest and it takes a long time to get any further under the surface.  Dating is an excuse to really dive into someone's life and personality.

Anyway, the point is I enjoyed dating.  And when I settled into my current relationship, I had just started to figure out how to get people to do what I wanted them to.  How to put the moves on them, so to speak.  And that was fascinating, also, because it involves the psychology of body language and figuring out how to communicate without words.

Since I'm reminiscing, let's talk about those techniques.  I have 3 specific ones.  And for the most part they involved putting myself in a position that elicited the response I was going for.

1. Casual Proximity

I just realized how silly these will sound.  But I'm going to write about them anyway.  So, ignoring that... basically we all have a bubble of space.  Some people need more or less space, but in general, unless you're close with someone, you stay outside of that bubble.  So the casual proximity "move" is basically placing yourself inside their bubble, which manages to indicate receptiveness to their presence in YOUR bubble, without actually putting yourself out there.

I know, I know.  Women can make the first move.  But it's far more fun to manipulate things behind the scenes.

Example: I knew a guy was probably interested in me (that always helps in the bravery department, that and a few drinks).  At a party, he was leaning against the kitchen counter and I went over and leaned next to him.  Rather than space myself the comfortable foot or so away, I was only about half an inch away.  Our arms brushed a couple times.  Shortly after, his arm was around me, and my goal was accomplished.

2. The Chivalrous Arm

I've only done this on dates, where I typically know the person will be receptive to it, but I suppose it could work outside of that.  So basically, reaching for someone's hand is far too forward for a lady like myself.  But taking a man's arm, just like the old-fashioned gesture, doesn't seem so bad.  It's really not that much more than touching someone's arm, BUT it very easily and naturally transitions into holding hands, which the giddy schoolgirl in me really enjoys.

Example: The first time this ever happened was a bizarre, magical night in high school.  I was pretty awkward in high school, far from socially adept, and at this point in time had never dated anyone.  So when I was introduced to an attractive boy, and the conversation just flowed for over an hour, I was totally shocked.  At one point he offered me his arm, which was charming.

We walked like that probably a quarter of the way around the football stadium (football games were like, THE social event in high school), and then he started to drop his arm.  I figured we were just done being fancy, and also let my arm drop, but in the process our hands crossed, and then all of a sudden we were holding hands and I had no idea how this had come about.  Very smooth of him.

I have since used this on several dates, and it always gave me a little inner chuckle when it was successful.

3. The Come-Hither Death Stare

I feel bad for guys, especially the young ones.  Making the first move is scary, and this one is probably the most so.  After a couple dates with awkward, failed kiss attempts (more on that later), I decided I should probably help them out.  This one basically involves eye contact.  I tried to explain it to a friend and she said, "So you just stare at them?"  It sounded dumb then and it still does, but that's basically it.

When you're standing or sitting right next to someone, eye contact in such close proximity is kind of like that bubble of space - it's less comfortable than eye contact if you're standing a few feet apart.  So the point is to break that boundary.  It might feel a little strange to look at someone, or to hold their gaze for more than a few seconds, but the point is to make yourself available and give them enough time to make a move.  They can't really kiss you if you're shyly hiding your face or turning the other way.

Example: After already crossing the other thresholds, I was sitting and talking with a fellow.  His arm was around me, which meant we weren't really making eye contact.  So, I raised my head and looked him in the eye, while smiling.  He smiled back, and I maintained eye contact and waited.  Thus far, it's never taken more than a couple seconds for a guy to respond to that.

I know this one in particular wouldn't work for everyone, because so many people aren't comfortable with direct eye contact.  I've never felt uncomfortable looking someone in the eye and, actually, have trouble talking to someone if I can't look at them.  So I guess that's the opposite extreme.

Useful or not, those are my "techniques."  They served me well (and you better believe I used all 3 on Ryan - he never stood a chance).  But I believe I mentioned dating blunders, and I'd like to share those as well, because they're pretty funny.  Well, actually just one.

The Blunder

My favorite dating mistake:

I'd gone on a date with a very nice boy I met in college.  We saw some movie (can't remember which one), and he was driving me back home.  I remember I was already thinking about whether or not we would kiss once we got back to the house.  Because boys!  First kisses!  So exciting!

He stopped in my parent's driveway, and we sat uncomfortably silent for a second, then I decided to be bold and just go for it instead of waiting for the man to do all the work.  Gender equality!  So I leaned over to kiss him, and right as my lips landed, he turned his head.  After the awkward and unexpected cheek kiss, I grabbed my things and rushed my way out of the car and into the house.  I don't even remember if we actually said "Goodnight" or "Goodbye" or anything.

There was no second date.

Do you/did you have dating "moves"?  Do you enjoy first dates?

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