Jun 29, 2014

Of Birthdays and Broken Ankles

Of Birthdays and Broken Ankles | Business, Life & Design

It's my birthday and GUESS WHAT!

I'm not here.

I'm in California, reuniting with my beautiful, brilliant sisters, and we are on our way to Vegas.  I'll be back in a week with wild tales to tell.

This vacation is one I've been increasingly excited about the past few weeks.  Originally we were going to swing by Yellowstone (Edit: Yosemite - I had this mixed up all week) and attempt the Half Dome hike.  Turns out, you need a permit for that, which is decided by lottery.  Then Sister3 broke her leg skiing, and when we didn't make the lottery it seemed like it was probably better that way.  Sister3 is fine now, after surgery, some new metal parts, and a few weeks in a cast.

Actually, this is a good story, so I'm going to tell it right.

The Break

Once upon a time, Sister3 was employed by a charming job that took her all the way across the country, far from her loving family.  The job went about as well as can be expected in tech-centric Silicon Valley, but she was alone and perhaps a tad bit lonely.

So Sister3 did something as of yet unprecedented in her young life: she actively sought friendships with other human beings!  This quickly escalated into such wild, depraved activities as going out for drinks, pretending to like sports, joining a cooking club, you name it.

All was going well, and these activities were doing their job of preventing the youthful Sister3 from working over 70 hours a week and reverting to a feral state.  Then came one invitation even more grandiose than the rest: a ski trip!

Fortunately, Sister3 had skied this past winter (for the first time in 10 years), and remembered how it was done.  Unfortunately, the Californian mountains are a lot less forgiving than the puny peaks on the east coast.  And she fell.

As she had many times on the Camelback slopes.  But this time, something was different.  Perhaps her ski or her boot wasn't positioned correctly?  It was very difficult to get them to lock back together.  After a few attempts, however, she managed and continued on her merry way.

Only to collapse in a heap as soon as her left? leg was asked to bear any weight.  "That's odd," thought the doughty lass, as she forced her boot back into the ski for another attempt.  This time, getting the ski to lock on was even more challenging, but with a mighty effort, she managed.

And fell almost immediately.  The leg wouldn't carry her, it seemed.  So she sat and waited for a patrol to happen by and help her out of this predicament.  In due time they arrived, and she was carried to the bottom of the steep descent, where she declined all further offers of assistance.  As she attempted to limp away, the patrol insisted that she make her way to the first aid station, and she agreed reluctantly.  After all, it didn't hurt, so she couldn't be injured, right?

2 hours and an X-ray later, the ankle was pronounced broken.  And that should be the end of the story except that I'd like to also note that the intrepid lass did not want her friends to miss out on the rest of their fun.  So in answer to the texts and queries, "Where are you?" she merely replied that she was resting in the lounge.

When all the fun was done being had and they gathered to commence the drive home, they were surely astonished to see her in her temporary cast.  As was I when I asked, "How was the skiing trip?" and she proceeded to tell me about getting sunburned, and a getting a speeding ticket on the way home (she didn't break the driving leg), and then finally all casual-like, "Oh, by the way, I broke my leg."

And it is with this ridiculous person, and with the med school student who will examine the surgery scars and nod knowingly even if she makes no deductions from her examination, that I will spend the next week.  As I sit here typing this, I can hardly wait!!!

Do you have any ridiculous or eccentric family members?  Who are your favorite people to take vacations with?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Jun 28, 2014

Hosting a Meetup - June Self Actualization Pt 2

Hosting a Meetup | Business, Life & Design

I was really excited about hosting.  I thought I would be bold and take charge and force the Meetup group to be more active and involved than it has been.  Things didn't exactly work out that way.

Each month my art Meetup group has 2 regularly scheduled events and attendance varies from 2 people to 5 or 6.  I thought if there was a more personal event, you know, something another member hosted that you didn't need to pay for, people would be more enthused.

And they were!  At first.  Within 3 days of setting up the event, 5 people signed up.  Boom, just like that.  I had set up the event a month in advance to give people a chance to see it, and make room on their calendars, but in hindsight, I think the extra time was a bad thing.

The first to drop was actually our group leader.  She was double booked.  No big deal, Significant agreed to help me host and we still had 4 attendees.

2 days before the event, we lost 2 more, but gained one and a half, as one of the members decided to bring his wife and son.

Day of: because I do everything last minute, I was frantically cleaning, setting up snacks, seating, and the still life right up until the moment the Meetup was supposed to start.  And then... silence.

Jenn's beauteous still life | Business, Life & Design
The still life!  I was proud of it.  Significant said there was too much stuff, but I told him he didn't have to paint it all and to basically shove it.  Not very nice, but I was busy.

The couple did let me know they were running late, but the third participant never bothered to say anything or show up, which I guess is how Meetups typically go.  People be all kinds of flaky.  At this point, I was starting to feel pretty despondent, and turned to the many bottles of wine I'd purchased for the event to cheer up.

As soon as our guests arrived, however, things got better.  The 2 were so friendly and cheerful, and both fantastic artists.  We chatted while we painted and sipped our wine.  Their son played with our dog and told us about his Pokémon game (aside: I can't believe this is still around!).

Significant and I struggled to produce something that looked even remotely like the still life, but while our artistic attempts weren't greatly successful, I'd say the social ones were.  Not so much a Meetup, but a very pleasant double date that we'll probably repeat.  But this time, we'll only invite the ones who actually came.  And maybe try something other than painting.

Still life painting and dog | Business, Life & Design
Significant said Luke could take credit for his painting.  I liked it though - it was more modern and artsy!

Still life painting of flowers in vase with book | Business, Life & Design
Neither of us finished ours.

Still life watercolor of flowers | Business, Life & Design
But our guests did!  They both used watercolors and created really pretty things.  I only got a picture of one though.  :(

Have you ever been to a Meetup?  Have you ever hosted an event with total strangers and how did it turn out?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Jun 26, 2014

A Breach in the Moat - Guest Post by "Momma"

A Breach in the Moat - A Guest Post on Soliciting | Business, Life & Design

Each generation of my family has at least one member who styles herself an authoress.  My mother's mother commonly refers to herself as the "Poetaster" and fills the family emails and Christmas letters with rhymes, puns, and witticisms.  She's also self published at least 2 books (I might not be up to date, she just keeps going!), my favorite of which is Junior High at 69.

Book cover Junior High at 69 by Eva Lynn
Why yes, I did design the cover.  How observant of you to notice!

My mother inherited this tendency and is planning her own venture into the writing world after she retires in a few years.  I convinced her that she doesn't have to wait until then and after a bit of pleading she's provided this post about solicitation.  Here she is!

A Breach in the Moat

Last week, I officially joined the ranks of the neighborhood unfriendly. I put up a NO SOLICITING sign.

Actually, my sign says this:

Creative no soliciting sign | Business, Life & Design

I was going for clever... slyly self-deprecating? but I'm afraid I may have missed the mark and landed instead on pompous and cranky. Although Jenn says she laughed when she first saw it, so that's a good sign.

We don't actually have folks knock on our door very often. Those we do get are generally one of two flavors: fresh-faced, earnest converts trying to cement the saving of their own souls by recruiting others into the fold, and fresh-faced, earnest college students trying to sign us up for a free siding estimate.

The houses in our neighborhood are approaching 20 years old. The roofing and siding companies know this, and for the past five years or so have canvassed the neighborhood every few weeks. This is their mode of operation: they go to the nearby college campus and lure innocent students into a seemingly easy money-making opportunity. They'll pay them a small hourly wage to walk around and knock on doors, but every time they sign someone up for a free estimate, they get a bonus. The students think, how hard could that be, to give stuff away, right? But what they don't know is that the market is over-saturated; we've had that same pitch from that same company three times a year for several years running.

The faces are different each time, but the story is always the same. "We're doing some work on one of your neighbor's houses, and my boss says as long as we're in the neighborhood we'll give free estimates to the neighbors." Yeah, sure. If they really were working in our neighborhood as often as claimed, every house here would have been re-sided and re-roofed seven times over by now.

In the beginning, I used to grill the poor kids. "Which house is that? What are you doing for them?" After the first year or two I started feeling sorry for them, and trying to explain how "their boss's" system works. "I'll bet you're wondering why it is so hard to get anyone to sign up, huh?" But now I've just been worn down by the repetition of it all, and just gently shut the door on them as I shake my head no. Maybe it is kinder, after all, if they don't know how badly the odds are stacked against them.

The religious callers, in their suits and dresses, come in a wide variety of ages. Sometimes they arrive in pairs or small family groups (which always makes me wonder how the youngsters among them have the stamina to keep smiling for so long).

If they come to the front door, it is fairly easy to take their pamphlet and shut the door, after a minimally polite few words. Once I was approached while weeding out in the yard, and ended up talking for a good 15 or 20 minutes before I could shake the woman. Evidently this was a good "score" for her, and she took notes after she left me. The next few times I saw her on the doorstep she asked about my garden and my kids by name. "And how is your creeping phlox coming along?" Something definitely was creeping [me out], but it wasn't the ground cover plant.

I'm not sure of the best approach with these folks. If you say you are already a believer, then they'd probably want to commune with a kindred mind. If you say you don't believe in that stuff, then you are a hot prospect. I don't suppose there is actually a quota system (e.g. you must convert six souls before you are allowed to quit the circuit), but I do think that evangelizing is a holy duty for many believers. I've tried saying something blunt like "We are pretty solid atheists, so there is no point in your coming to our house." This may actually work with one individual, but there are hordes of others out there who didn't get the memo.

I figure, if it makes even one witness quietly wedge the pamphlet next to the doorknob instead of ringing the doorbell, it was totally worth the $20 investment in my (clever?) custom door sign.

How do you handle solicitors?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Jun 25, 2014

8 Blog-fessions for the Humpday Confessional

8 Blog-fessions for the Humpday Confessional | Business, Life & Design

I actually kind of hate the term "humpday" but I think this link up is a lot of fun, so I'll overlook it.  Just this once.

My Blog-fessions

I started writing this list of confessions and then realized they were all blog related.  Since my brain is stuck on blog topics, I figured I'd go with it.

1. I Was a No-Reply Blogger

For way too long!  The worst part?  I saw tons of references to it and instead of reading what it was all about, just arrogantly assumed I knew what it was and had already fixed it.  Nope.  Kristin @ Kristin's [k]Nook and Taylor @ The Daily Tay saved me from myself on this one.  (Edit: If anyone else is like, "Oh hey, what's this whole no-reply thingermajig?" Sarah's tutorial at Venus Trapped in Mars does a great job of explaining.)

2. I Get an F for Link Up Etiquette

Well, maybe more like a C.  Hear me out, though!  I just started participating in them about a month ago and I'm still trying to figure out all the rules.  And this post about link up etiquette over at A Peek at Karen's World has really helped cement my vague ideas of what I should be doing.  I'm gonna visit all the blogs for this one, I swear!  (Edit: apparently comment forms are not my thing - I've had 4 of them go blank after I hit "submit."  Maybe it's IE?  Edit #2: Visiting all of them is my goal; not necessarily Karen's advice - see comments)

3. I Can't Stop Blogging at Work

After today, I'm going to have complicate my passwords/browsers to the point that I can't access it at work.  Self discipline, where are you?  You're never around when I need you!

4. I Have No Plans to Monetize

But not for any sense of integrity or any personal scruples.  It's just too much work.  And I'm having fun and don't want to ruin that.  Plus, it would require having the confidence in my writing to sell it, and with all the self improvement projects I have going on, the idea of one more just makes me tired.

5. I Get Bored by Regularity

Sticking to a post schedule is one thing, but the idea of having to write on the same topic at the same time every week?  Nah.  I like the idea of doing link ups once in a while, but I don't have enough things to confess to do it every week!  And you know, I don't want to alienate my primary readers (family and personal friends) by talking about the blog world too too much.  (the phrase "in the blog world" is guaranteed to make their eyes glaze over)

6. I Wish Everyone Used Blogger

It's just so much easier to read all the blogs in the same interface as where I edit my own blog.  And it's easier to subscribe - if I'm reading blogs I'm probably already logged into my gmail, not necessarily feedly or bloglovin.  So yeah, that lazy thing again.

7. I Am Completely in Awe

of this whole blogging world I've started to uncover.  I've been "blogging" (barely and poorly) for several years and only now in 2014 have I discovered some of you amazing people.  I know I've only scratched the surface but what I've found so far has been so amazing and enriching, I don't think I can ever go back.

8. I Don't Know How to Go About Finding Blogging Conferences/Conventions/Workshops

I'd really like to get more involved.  You know, like, in person and stuff.  Recommendations, anyone?

Edit: I've found a couple and gotten a couple suggestions.  Here's the small bit of information I've gathered so far.
  1. The SITS girls - blogging community, with conferences, linkups, and other resources (suggested by Frikken Duckie)
  2. Alt Summit - definitely a conference and maybe other stuff? (suggested by Frikken Duckie)
  3. The Blogcademy - has in person workshops, lessons available online, and also mixers
  4. Bloggy Boot Camp - conference (affiliated with the SITS girls, but is separate?  I'm a little confused, they've got 3 logos)

Linking up with Kathy over at Vodka and Soda.

Vodka and Soda

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Jun 24, 2014

A Different Kind of Faith

A Different Kind of Faith | Business, Life & Design

I was hesitant to write about religion, because it's a topic that easily upsets, but I was inspired by 2 things.  1. This post from Arkansassy about how controversial topics are the most important ones to cover and 2. This post from She is Fierce about her own stance on religion and how beautifully, non-confrontationally it's written.

We can all believe different things and still get along.  I have a Christian friend and an agnostic/Catholic friend, I'm an atheist, and we all subscribe to the "live and let live" policy and get along just fine.

That being said, sometimes I do struggle to understand how someone can believe things that seem so patently false to me.  And I struggle even more not to judge them for believing these things.  But it's gotten much easier after seeing how others, on both sides of the debate, can be so obnoxious about it, and resolving to be nothing like the smug, self-righteous know-it-alls on the internet.

As an atheist who is comfortable with her beliefs, and open to discussion, I get asked unusual things occasionally.  The most common questions:

1. Why do you celebrate Christmas?

This could probably be answered by repeating the question.  Most of the religious people that I know (and who are asking this question) don't go to church on Christmas.  Or if they do, it's a very small piece of their morning.  The rest of the day is focused on family, gifts, and delicious food.  Believe it or not, atheists also happen to enjoy family, gifts and delicious food.  While this day may have originated as a religious holiday, the focus has shifted far, far away from its original meaning, and I think it's every family's prerogative to decide what about the day is important to them.

2. Why do you say "Oh my God"?

This is another one where I could probably answer the question with a question, "Well, why do YOU say 'Oh my God' "?  I seriously doubt that every time this cliché and much overused term is uttered, the speaker is thinking about God, and the blasphemy they are currently committing.  It would probably be said less if this were the case.  We all learned it as children, probably before we even understood who and what this God person is, the same way we learn all language.  So for me, it's just a saying, like any other, with origins somewhere in the past that don't necessarily mean a whole lot to me anymore.

3. Why are you an atheist?

Why does anyone believe anything?  For many of us, it's simply because we were raised that way.  There are, of course, those who have discovered God somewhere along the way, and those who have decided that it does not make sense to them, and stopped believing.  I think those people probably have much more compelling and well thought out reasons and arguments.  For me, it was simply the way I was raised and, as an adult, it continues to make sense to me.

4. What keeps you from doing bad things?

Here's one that I can really sink my teeth into.  Story: One day when I  was working the takeout counter at my first job ever (a burger place), I found someone's wallet in the arcade.  I mentioned that I had found it to my coworker, and then took it to the manager.  She said, "Didn't you even want to see what was inside?  What if there was a lot of money?"  I said that would have been wrong and she was totally astonished, "And you don't even believe in God!"

I like to think that, even for those who believe in heaven and hell, that fear of the afterlife is not the only motivator for good behavior.  If it was, what would that say about us, as humans?  I think we have an inherent sense of morality that we're born with, and that is further instilled in us by our parents.  My mother, despite our beliefs, is the most moral person I know.  I don't feel that I come anywhere close to her level of saintliness, but I certainly am not going to steal the money out of someone's wallet.  I know that's wrong and I don't need God or an afterlife of flame to tell me that.

5. So what DO you believe in?

Just kidding, no one ever asks this.  But I think it's important and I want to talk about it.  I was raised to be a skeptic, so while there's a lot that I would like to believe in, I really just don't.  Sure, it'd be great if there was something after death, if the end wasn't the end at all, if there was some, any kind at all, of magic spark out there in the world to keep it from being so flat and unimaginative.  But I can't make myself believe something just because it would be nice.

I do believe in, and rely heavily on, logic and reason.  Human integrity.  I believe the things that make sense to me, or that make sense to those whose opinion I respect.  I believe that we do the best we can with the information we have at the time, and we continually strive to improve our understanding.  I believe that beliefs can change, given better information.

I choose to believe that people are inherently good, that the world is capable of fixing its problems before reaching utter destruction, and that life is worth living.  I choose to improve myself and to make my sphere a happier place to be, in the hopes that it will positively impact the other spheres that overlap it.  I don't believe in karma, but I do believe that our positive actions can influence others to do positive things and will continue to ripple outward.

Most of all, I believe that since there is no destination, life is all about the journey.  There's no one meaning of life.  There's no ultimate answer.  But that doesn't mean life is bleak and empty and meaningless.  Rather it has all the beauty of a blank canvas, for each of us to decide our own meaning and paint our own picture of what life can and should be.

What does your canvas look like?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Jun 21, 2014

Breaking the 27 Commandments for 27 Year Olds (laws laid down by a total buzz kill)

Breaking the 27 Commandments for 27 Year Olds | Business, Life & Design
So you guys have probably heard plenty about that article that says you have to stop having fun at age 27.  After reading a couple of blogs lambasting it, curiosity got the better of me and I read it for myself.  It's pretty terrible.  I ran the gamut of emotions all the way from my initial fury to a kind of mild confusion.  In truth, it's left me somewhat baffled.

There's a possibility that the author really believes what she is saying and feels it her duty to put the rest of us in our place.  Or she could have been deliberately trying to enrage people.  I mean why else say things like you're too old for law school and people look poor if their bathing suit doesn't meet her standards?  Or it could have been [very] poorly executed satire.

Whatever her intent, the result has been a pretty big backlash in various online communities.  Some, like this post at Helene in Between, chose to replace the negative list with a more optimistic one of experiences you should have.  And others, like Whitney from I Wore Yoga Pants to Work, chose to rebut the article in a comical way.  An idle comment on this second post started a conversation between Whitney and myself.  Someone felt it was worth writing these 27 supposed commandments for 27 year olds.  And we're going to break them all!

27 Things I Refuse to Say Goodbye To

  1. Everything bagels "bathed in full fat cream cheese"
  2. Celebrating your birthday for a week
  3. Taking vacations "just because"
  4. Ignoring babies
  5. Dancing at the bar until the lights come on and expecting to not be in bed until 3PM the next day recovering
  6. Shopping at Forever 21
  7. H&M
  8. Urban Outfitters
  9. Hair accessories. "They're for newborn babies."
  10. Rainbow sandals
  11. Law school. "It's too late."
  12. White dresses
  13. Midnight movie showings
  14. "You must be VERY serious about your career."
  15. Not having a hobby
  16. Old ratty bathing suits.  "You look poor."
  17. Boy bands
  18. Being a flake
  19. Fighting with your mother
  20. Watching MTV
  21. Holding grudges against your exes
  22. Not showering every day
  23. Themed parties
  24. Not watching the news
  25. Approaching a guy to flirt and/or wingman for your best friend before taking a glance at his left hand
  26. Facebook albums
  27. Not working out
Without even trying I handled #'s 22, 24, and 27 in the first 2 days.  And just for good measure, I put a bow on top (#9).

Buzz Kill, hear me roar!
Note: I realize a couple of these are actually not ridiculous and/or offensive.  But since it's only a couple, I'm taking up the challenge anyway.

What things do you refuse to give up?  What things are still fun at any age?

adults and ball pit comic from xkcd
There's a relevant xkcd for everything

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Jun 19, 2014

Doctah's Orders - Some Advice from a Sort-of Doctor

Doctah's Orders - Advice from a Sort-of Doctor | Business, Life & Design

Having a sister in med school is really awesome.  Because every weird symptom you have, or strange skin thing, or whatever is too gross to talk about with normal people, she'll listen to, look at, ask questions, and share whatever she may happen to know about that body part.  In the past couple years, the breadth of knowledge that Sister2 has gained has been truly astounding.  It's also fun, because whenever you question her, she says, "Trust me.  I'm a doctah!"

It's getting to the point now where it's amusing sometimes.  She's starting to forget what's technical jargon vs common terminology.  So she was telling us about how med school has improved her understanding of an old injury, offhandedly mentioning that it was a "gelatinous mass," while I was totally astonished that "gelatinous" can refer to anything other than Jello.  She also routinely mentions things like palpating, palpitating, and intubating, which I keep getting jumbled.

Sometimes she uses us as practice, which can also be funny.  When she learned how to "palpate" abdomens - and Sister3 was too ticklish to hold still for it.  When she got a stethoscope and showed us all how to do it and we compared our heartbeats to the dogs' (theirs are much faster!).  At some point she's going to learn to do needles, but I don't know if I want to volunteer for that one.

She passes on everything she learns that could be relevant.  On her advice, our Mom went to the dermatologist, and they caught something that wasn't dangerous but could have been disfiguring if left unchecked.  She also explained that the supposed benefit of a glass of red wine is less than the damage it does to your liver, so this exchange is only practical after a certain age.

We've all filled out advance directives (instructions for if you're in a coma or incapacitated) on her advice and we're all taking folic acid now, because Sister2 discovered that folic acid can prevent birth defects, but must be taken a year in advance to be truly effective.  So we're all prepared for accidental pregnancies. (Hey, it might be an accident, but you still have to be prepared.  Or something.)

She also helps us figure out fact vs fiction with supplement advice.  Evidently, with all the weird things that are supposed to help with sleep issues, Magnesium is the only thing found to be effective by the sleep specialist who spoke to their class.

As far as other vitamins, most multis completely overdose you, and you'd be better off getting your nutrients through a healthy diet.  However, the only ones you should worry about taking an excessive of are the fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, & K - More information here).  Water solubles we just pee out the excess.

Advice You Should Follow

  1. Fill Out an Advance Directive - you might find your next of kin have completely different ideas about how to handle medical emergencies and life support than you do.  Also, the directive assigns who gets to make your medical decisions.  Make sure you know what will happen!
  2. Take Folic Acid - if you're a woman, that is.  It's a very easy thing to do, and it's included in a lot of multi-vitamins.
  3. Visit the Dermatologist - At least once if you're young, so you can get educated about what to look for.  If you're older, go every so often so they can keep an eye on you.  Several of my family members have had Melanoma, which is scary and dangerous, and might not have been caught without the dermatologist.
  4. Educate Yourself - it's easy for us now that we have a med student in our family, but there are tons of resources out there.  If you have questions about anything, or at risk for anything, you should know what to look for and how to keep yourself healthy.  Just don't let WebMD make you paranoid.
On very rare occasions, her extra knowledge can be bad.  New med students learn so many things and it's easy to start over-diagnosing, or imagining diseases that aren't there.

One day I was driving all of us to a state park to go hiking.  I started to feel light-headed (scary when driving), and we tried to fix it by giving me water, and a granola bar from the snack bag.  I recovered quickly, leading Sister2 to conclude that I was diabetic (because I had skipped breakfast and the granola bar was obviously the miracle cure) and should get that checked out. (Which totally freaked me out and I spent weeks researching it and always check the option at the blood bank to have my blood sugar tested - it's always fine.)

This is one example where it's easy to see where the mis-diagnosis came from.  And I think we all get a little paranoid if we spend too much time on WebMD.  Honestly, the fact that she's spent 2 years pouring through information on ALL THE DISEASES and we've only been diagnosed with a couple is pretty impressive.

Overall, the times her knowledge has been truly beneficial have far outweighed the inconvenient ones.  And isn't that what being a doctor is all about?  "First do no harm."  I'd say she's well on her way!

Have you ever been just a tad bit hypochondriac or had any WebMD self diagnosis mishaps?

Jun 18, 2014

The Daily Grind - My Everyday from 9 to 5 #9to5TotalSocial

9 to 5: The Daily Grind | Business, Life & Design

9 to 5 is our somewhat clichéd way to refer to work hours (if you're more of a list person, feel free to skip to the bottom).  Cliché because we don't really work 9 to 5, do we?  Maybe 8 to 5, 9 to 6, or in my case, 7 to 4, but it's 9 hours at the work place with an hour long lunch.  Taking an hour for lunch was an appalling practice that I actively rebelled against when I worked in customer service.  When you're hourly, and they tell you you have to be at work an extra hour for no pay?  Uh, no.  That S*** ain't happening.

Now it's a welcome respite.  And it also serves to break up my day.  Mornings I do what the company hired me for - maps.  I use graphic design skills to edit them, but for the most part it's staring at lots of tiny text and trying to make it searchable and about as far removed from graphic design as possible.  In the afternoons, I work with IT to do simple projects and learn, so that I can be more useful later on.

Some days I'm fine with my new career path.  Others, it's a little rough.  I miss being so absorbed in my work that I don't notice the hours flying by.  I miss not having to make myself care, because I was already so passionate about it that it was hard to tear myself away for meals or bathroom breaks.

Blogging isn't the same as graphic design, but it's very definitely a creative outlet.  And when I started making images for posts, I realized graphic design could be involved too!  Which has transformed it from a fun hobby into something irresistible that I rarely have the discipline to avoid doing while at work.

What happens if my coworkers read this?  Well, hopefully they'll take pity on me, realize that I'm aware of the problem, and working on fixing it.  And also that I don't play several rounds of ping pong every day so maybe we're somewhat even?

Here's My 9 to 5

9 Things I Do Before 9am

  1. Turn off the alarm and go back to sleep, at least once
  2. Walk the dog (supposedly - lately it's been more of a sprint outside and back in again)
  3. Say affirmations
  4. Get pretty (lately this is more in theory than in actuality)
  5. Think longingly about the nice outfits I could wear if I didn't wait until the last minute to get up
  6. Have breakfast
  7. Set up my goals/priorities for the day
  8. Blog
  9. Start working

8 Huge Time Wasters at Work

  1. Blogging and all blog related activities
  2. Email
  3. Feedly
  4. Reddit
  5. Personal errands and research
  6. Social media
  7. Ridiculous theoretical conversations with coworkers
  8. Organizing and optimizing excessively even when there's nothing left to organize

7 Things I Love About My Job

  1. Coworkers - they're all really nice and considerate
  2. Size - there's only 15 of us so it's very tight-knit and close
  3. Learning new things - some self taught and some on-the-job training
  4. Values - our boss really cares about us and does everything he can to take care of us
  5. Culture - it's very relaxed; we all wear jeans, people swear and joke, and no one gets offended
  6. Feeling intelligent - when I get to learn or explain what we do to someone else; graphic design is awesome but it doesn't use your brain the same way as learning programming
  7. Security - it's like a safe, little bubble with none of the uncertainty of freelancing and none of the chaos of my last job (where they ended up firing the entire marketing department)

6 Ways I'm Trying to Improve My Work Performance

  1. Make my social media and personal sites inaccessible at work
  2. Stop writing posts during work hours (if I don't muster up the willpower I might have to block myself)
  3. Find supplementary classes to take to accelerate my learning curve and also increase my interest in my work
  4. Adhere to a stricter personal schedule (sleep and morning routine/getting to work on time)
  5. As well as a more segmented work day (10 minutes for "organizing," 4 hours for mapping, 1 hour for lunch, 4 hours for coding - you get the idea)
  6. Use affirmations to improve my overall discipline (among other things)

5 Affirmations I Have Taped to the Bathroom Mirror

  1. I am a happy person.
  2. I am in control of my mental attitude and focus on positive thinking.
  3. I have the willpower and discipline to follow through with my goals.
  4. I complete my tasks even when I don’t feel like it, because I know it will make me feel better tomorrow.
  5. I will be happy with what I’ve achieved today and try to achieve even more tomorrow.

So that's my 9 to 5.  Is it exactly what I want it to be?  No.  And part of that can be attributed to the curves that life has thrown at me, but a bigger part of it is myself.  I read this amazing post from Arkansassy a little while ago.  The gist: the attributes that you put more time and effort into are the ones that grow and dominate your personality.

I know my current situation is pretty damn good, and I know I should be getting more out of it.  So the wolf I'm going to feed (go read her post for the reference story - it's amazing, I swear!) is the one that has will power and discipline.  I think those are the biggest tools that I'll ever need to improve the other areas.

And now... I'm going to go get some work done.

Linking up with Helene in Between and Venus Trapped in Mars for Total Social.

Helene in Between

What things do you like or dislike abut your daily schedule?  What would you change, if you could?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Jun 17, 2014

The Other Side of the Sketchbook - June Self Actualization

The Other Side of the Sketchbook | Business, Life & Design

What side of the sketchbook?  The other side.  You know, where instead of you creating the image, the image being created is you.  Because you're modeling, naked, on the other side of the room.


Modeling for an art class is something that's been on and off my bucket list for a long time.  I already talked about how I was inadvertently selected to do it and how, in my mind, it was kind of symbolic of self love and total self acceptance.  But I really wanted to share the experience, as well, because it was interesting, and a little awkward, and accomplished what I wanted it to.

When I started attending figure drawing, I was thinking, in the back of my mind, "Hey, this could eventually lead into modeling."  Some time.  Waaaay in the future.

Then our model went on vacation and the organizer asked me to fill in.  Despite having intentions to do this one day (in the distant, unforeseeable future), I hesitated.  It was very definitely an "Oh, crap" moment.  After a couple moments I realized I had to say yes.  You can't have something on your bucket list and then turn it down when it's offered to you.  So I did.

The next month, my nervousness increased as the day grew closer.  But, in a way, I was proud of how I coped with this.  For whatever reason, my brain all on its own, just shoved it away.  "Don't think about it, being anxious won't help, you only need to think about it when you're getting ready and when you're there."

The fateful day arrived.  I prepared myself with all the care you take for a special date or a visit to the lady doctor (after all, your viewers might not be as close to you physically, but they'll be looking at you a lot harder).  I wore a dress that didn't require undergarments and that was easy to slip off and, more importantly, back on the moment it was over.

It was raining when I got to the studio and there were only a couple people there.  I started to relax, thinking it would be pretty low key, but people continued to arrive.  By the time I was naked and posing, the studio was more full than it had been any of the other times I'd been there.  And there were more men there, which started to bother me, and then I realized how stupid it was and added it to the list of "don't think too hard about this."

The first 10 minutes or so I had to count 30-ish seconds in my head and then change poses.  I was bad at this.  My mind would wander and I'd lose count, because apparently being naked and counting to 30 is just too many tasks at one time.  Fortunately, the organizer had my back and would make subtle motions for me to change, so that made it easier.

It was surreal.  If I looked at the ceiling or the floor, I could even forget that I didn't have any clothes on.  But then I would turn at an angle where I couldn't help but see myself and it was a bit of a shock.  "Whoa!  Still no clothes, huh?"  Each time, I could feel the color, which had started to subside from my face, flare back up.

We moved into 5 minute poses and I started to notice something.  The organizer, in concern for my unclad state, had left the air conditioner off and it was warm and humid.  At first I was just delicately misting, us we ladies do, but after an uncomfortable 15 minute pose I could feel a couple drops of sweat roll down my back.  As if it wasn't bad enough to just be naked, I was now sweaty and flushed and naked.  I resolved to keep my back to the wall and hoped that artists are serious when they say things like, "Oh, it will be really nice to do the pink of your cheeks."  (How about some deep red?  IS IT PRETTY?)

Fortunately, I got a break at this point, threw my dress on and went outside to let the rain cool me off a bit.  After this I did a couple more 15 and 20 minutes stances, and the night was over.

By the way, you can get sore just from holding still.  Your body really doesn't like this, and if you were foolish enough to choose something like (as a totally hypothetical example) leaning on one arm for 20 minutes, then your hand will probably go numb and your arm will ache for about 30 minutes afterwards.  But totally in a "I'm so self actualized" way, not in a "Think about your choices" way.

Everyone was really nice throughout.  They told me what a great job I did, they loved this pose or that pose, it was great to see a model with "curves," (technically accurate - everything is very round) and even that I had great skin.  By the end, I was thoroughly embarrassed.

I tried to not take the payment offered, in order to donate it to the Arts Alliance (which is an awesome group and you should check out if you're a DE local), because I wasn't doing this for money, I was doing it for self actualization, but apparently they legally have to pay you.  So I was paid to get naked, which is the type of slightly misrepresentative though technically true statement that I can imagine The Bloggess saying (I'm reading her book right now, which is why this irrelevant statement made its way into this post).  And it was a pretty decent amount, too!  $60 for only a couple hours of discomfort?  If I was a college student, I'd be all over that!

Afterwards, I was trying to avoid seeing the drawings, afraid that they'd cause my self confidence to plummet, but I ended up seeing quite a few anyway.  Some made me look better than I'd imagined, and some I looked pretty bad.  But I was able to admire them anyway, for the artist's skill, and get over the fact that I don't have a perfect body, which was the whole point of the evening.

Overall, totally worth it, and I'm proud of myself but also glad it's over.  They tried to recruit me for next month and I declined.  For me, this was a one time thing.  And no, there will be no pictures.

What have you done to face your fears (or discomforts)?  Do you have bucket list items crossed off for this year?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Jun 14, 2014

How to Create a Grab Button & Other Blog Tweaks (for Blogger)

Grab buttons, related posts, and custom navigation | Business, Life & Design

So if you're not new to blogging and you've already optimized everything, you probably don't need to read this.  Through much struggle, I just figured out how to add a grab button, custom navigation, and "similar posts" to the bottom of each post.  If you don't know what any of those things are, then this is the place for you!

When I did it, it involved a lot of googling and wrangling and was all-around more painful than it needed to be.  So hopefully I can simplify things for other novice bloggers.  I'll start with the grab button.

How to Add a Grab Button

(and what is that?)

Grab buttons are those things on the side of everyone's blogs.  Sometimes sponsored, sometimes just "let's be friends!"

Exhibit A (from Insert Classy Here by Steph G.)
Grab button example from Insert Classy Here

After lots of trial and error, and struggling with html, I finally found this guy's Grab Button Code Generator.

Grab My Button Code Generator Link

This makes it super simple.  Just fill out the information in the form on the website.

Grab Button Generator Layout Example

Then copy the code it generates and paste it into a blank "html/javascript widget" in your layout screen.

Blogger layout for adding custom html

And viola!  Much happiness.

Grab button example | Business, Life & Design

How to Add Links to Similar Posts

Adding similar posts is a little more complicated (you have to delve into the Blogger layout html), but this tutorial from Helplogger was great!

The only thing I'd like to note is that the image it grabs is random (or maybe just the first in the post).  It's not necessarily the one that will fit the best, and tall or wide shapes will get squished to fit.  If not all your posts have images (mine certainly don't, especially pre-2014) then it will display whatever is in there (like your signature) or a generic image icon if there isn't even a signature.

Related posts example layout | Business, Life & Design

I couldn't find an example with the generic image icon now that I've added images to more posts, so I'm hypothesizing that it makes an effort to use posts with images for the links.  But... I have no idea how that would even get coded, so I'm going to worry about it too much.  If you're consistent with having imagery, then you'll have no problems and this will work beautifully!

How to Add a Custom Navigation

This requires knowledge of HTML and CSS.  Feel free to skip this one, if that's not in your knowledge base.  I'm sure there's other ways, but after struggling with several tutorials, I found it easiest to just use the HTML/JavaScript widget and write out my own links, referencing my own images.

I wanted a horizontal nav that didn't have the ugly tabs that the Blogger layout defaults to.  So I added the HTML/JavaScript widget to the top (there's only one spot for a widget above the post/sidebar areas).  Leaving the title blank (this widget is one of the few that allows that option), I filled in my HTML and CSS.

The CSS actually stumped me for quite a while.  Finally I realized you can format it just like a style sheet from any regular website design, as long as you put it between the <style></style> tags.  You don't need the head or body tags.

Blogger layout example custom HTML for navigation

So after setting up my divs, and referencing images that I'd uploaded to my regular website, I had buttons across the top!  And I did pretty much the same thing for my social media icons and the about blurb on the right.

Custom navigation example | Business, Life & Design

What's your favorite blog trick or tutorial?

Jun 13, 2014

A Tale of Ghosts and Gastroenterology

A Tale of Ghosts and Gastroenterology | Business, Life & Design
I found these awesome spooky trees as a free vector download, if you were like, "Oh man, it must of taken forever to draw those creepy swirls."  Nope, it was free and this is an awesome resource that I just discovered: http://all-free-download.com/

I was twitting on the tweet thing and thought of this story and kinda told the end of it already.  So if you follow me on Twitter, you might have already seen it.  But for everyone who's not one of my tiny little following, this will be all new!

I'ma do this Edgar Allen Poe style:

Once upon a midnight dreary (or maybe more like 10pm on a clear night)
As I pondered weak and weary (or, you know, a little buzzed and confused)
Upon many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore(on the fact that people actually believe in ghosts and have so-called equipment to detect them - whaat?!)

Or maybe I'll just tell it like a normal person.

Fort Delaware has a ghost tour around Halloween time.  Very fitting and appropriately spooky, and you get to explore the fort with a little more freedom than during the regular season.  I was all for it!

For the record, I don't believe in ghosts, or much of anything really, but I like anything mystical all the more maybe because I don't actually believe there's anything to be afraid of.  So I was expecting a light-hearted evening of people drinking and goofing off.

Turns out, not only did the hosts of the tour believe in the spirit world, but my companions did as well.  So the goofing off was not to be, for fear of offending someone, and light-heartedness was lacking.  However, it was somewhat intriguing to find out what "scientific equipment" the ghost seekers intended to use and what, if any, proofs would be provided that evening.

Thus intrigued, I went along with the various experiments without questioning or doubting aloud.  The first room had a simple set up - all the same décor as usual, and a flashlight.  The "ghosts" were supposed to respond to questions by flicking the flashlight on and off.  It was supposed that   The flashlight flickered a few times, and a couple of them even coincided with questions being asked or statements addressed to the spirits.  (I have a theory on this, I'll elaborate later)

The next 2 room was less interesting.  They had some kind of radio to pick up a specific frequency that they believed ghosts could interact with.  Supposedly strange sounds were often heard on this frequency.  The particular night we went there wasn't much activity and so we heard only static.

At some point I lost interest with listening to radio static and took the time to explore in the dark.  There were a few lights, but Fort Delaware has a couple of these cool little chamber that spiral inwards.  I managed to follow one blindly until I was alone in a tiny room (probably a dungeon) in the pitch dark.  I considered suggesting hide and seek, but our tour guide probably wouldn't have appreciated it (we were supposed to stay close).

The final exhibit was a room higher up on the wall.  They explained that an officer had lived there with his wife and daughter and they thought it was the ghost of the child.  For whatever reason, the instrument of choice here was dowsing rods.  I know, I know, those are for finding water, but I wasn't the one picking the tools of the supernatural here.

This room was bigger and so we packed 20 - 25 people in the near dark, all sitting in a circle and staring at those rods expectantly.  It began to seem like one might be moving just a tad, and the excitement was almost palpable.

At this moment, we began to hear a bizarre, high-pitched yowling sound.  People began to look around nervously and someone excitedly said, "What is that?"

Different shadowy figure, "It sounds like a dying cat."

Woman nearest the dowsing rods, "I think it's just someone's stomach."

And it was.  Mine.

And so our tour was completed, and it was entirely possible that the most persuasive thing of all, to the more delicate stomached, was my never claimed gastroenterological liveliness.  Yep, I never admitted it was me.

The real question though, is what was up with those flashlights?!  Did they flicker because they were cheap and the tops had been left so close to screwed on that small particles of dust was able to connect the battery's electrical circuit (my theory) or was it something else, something from beyond?  (Cue dramatic music)

Happy Friday the 13th!

What are your spooky or embarrassing stories?  Do you believe in ghosts, and why?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Jun 12, 2014

Love Languages - Speaking the Right Lingo

The 5 Love Languages - Speaking the Right Lingo | Business, Life & Design

If you thought, "This post is probably about that 5 Love Languages book that Jenn just read" you'd be right!  I read it, it spoke to me, and now I want to share.  Because, really, who doesn't want to be better at making their significant other happy?

The 5 Love Languages is written by Gary Chapman, a relationship counselor, and takes a look at how we communicate our feelings to our partner.  The way Chapman writes is simpler and more direct than the other relationship book I've read (Men are from Mars... etc), and I really like that he doesn't sound like he's bragging when he gives examples.  They're all just there to illustrate the point he's making.

book cover "The 5 Love Languages" by Gary Chapman

Chapman says that we have 5 basic methods of showing our affection:

  • Words of Affirmation - stating outright how you feel, what you appreciate about the other person, etc
  • Acts of Service - doing things and using consideration for your partner to show how you feel
  • Gifts - simple enough; physical things
  • Quality Time - being together and being mentally engaged, whether you're talking or being active
  • Physical Touch - not just sex! this is more about the non-sexual touching, like cuddling, holding hands, putting a hand on someone's shoulder, etc

Based on this premise, we fall in love and are enamored with the other person and it's easy to do things to make them happy.  But that enamored high that we get from falling in love is a temporary thing, and after a certain time (roughly 2 years) it'll fade away, hopefully to be replaced with the more stable feeling we get by communicating each other's love language.

I was particularly excited about this 2 year time period for the infatuation thing, because that's what I personally have experienced.  In my three long term relationships, the first 2 fell apart at the 2 year mark.  They stuck around a bit longer than that, but only because we were terrible at letting go.  We certainly weren't happy.  This one I have higher hopes for.  We both work hard to better ourselves and make each other happy and we flew by that 2 year mark over a year ago with no changes but for the better.

So if you were interested in advice from Jenn-the-not-a-relationship-counselor, it's this: DO NOT GET MARRIED UNTIL YOU'VE BEEN TOGETHER 2 YEARS.  If you make it to 2 years, I think you're capable of making however long you want to, but until then you're all happy and not arguing about chores and you just don't know!!!

Anyway, back to the book.  So what we tend to do is give the kind of consideration we want, which means communicating in the love language that we understand best.  4 chances out of 5, the other person has a different main type of love language (I mean, we all appreciate all the languages to some extent), so even though you're trying to express it to them, they might not be hearing it.

To fix that problem, think about what type of gestures they tend to appreciate most, and more importantly, what they complain about the most.  Those complaints have a high probability of being fueled by your significant needing to hear you in the love language they understand.

The book also has a quiz in the back, but I honestly didn't think it was all that revealing.  The first half of the book was great and had amazing insights (it spoke to me, what can I say?), and the last few chapters felt a bit more like filler.

Mine is probably Acts of Service.  The #1 thing Significant and I fight about is chores.  I'm actually kind of sad about this, because it's so mundane.  Why couldn't it be quality time?  Then we could be spending time out having adventures instead of arguing about who should do the dishes.  Significant's I haven't figured out yet.  He says none of them sound vastly more important, which Chapman says can be for 2 reasons: your love tank (yeah he uses that metaphor) has been full for a long time, or empty for a long time.  So I'm either doing a really great or really terrible job.  I hope it's the former...

Have you figured out your love language?  Or do you think it's just a bunch of hooey?

Jun 10, 2014

My Claim to Game (er, Geekiness? Geekdom?)

My Claim to Geekdom (Renaissance Outfit) | Business, Life & Design

Game as in "she's got game" - she likes to game - she's a nerd - her claim to geekdom?  Yeah, that didn't work out as well as I'd hoped.  Wordplay is hard sometimes!

Anyway, remember that post about nerd culture being trendy?  You see people all the time saying "I like [whatever/whatever].  I'm such a nerd!"  And then there's the people who suffered through being ostracized for it and who now debate the right of these band wagon jumpers to the title.

Well, I think everyone has always had a couple of things that they consider themselves a nerd about and we should celebrate that everyone finally feels free to express it!  Here's my claims to Geekdom!

1. I Met My Boyfriend on a Dating Site Called Geek 2 Geek

And that title pic up there?  That was my profile image.  Now Significant says I didn't actually belong on there, because I'm not geeky enough - but I've always liked nerdy guys and I absolutely loved the atmosphere on this site.  Everyone was celebrating and reveling all of the hobbies that would normally be a little off-putting to mention on a first date.  For example...

2. My Love of World of Warcraft

This poor game is no different from hundreds of other MMO (massive multi-player online) RPGs (Role Playing Games) except that it's well known enough that even non-players have heard of it.  Therefore it gets touted as the stereotypical "nerd" activity.  (Also, in case you couldn't tell, I learned those acronyms recently and am still super proud of knowing them!)

3. And D&D

I'd wanted to play this since high school, but never really got started until Significant came into my life and enfolded me in his nerdy embrace.  I really love it (and my dice, which are beautiful with purple and gold swirls!).  It's a way to goof off while being social, so you don't have to feel too guilty about wasting time - the way I usually do if I play WoW for hours (being social is a productive activity for me, because I have to work at it).  I think D&D used to be the cliche "nerd" thing to do, but WoW's replaced it.  A surprising number of people haven't even heard of it!

4. I'm into Fantasy and Sci-Fi

Mostly fantasy (Dystopias, hell yeah!), but I do love time travel.  The different concepts for how time travel works and who it impacts/what you can or can't do.  It's so fun!  Sister3 and I once became so engrossed in a discussion about time travel that we drove past our exit for Philly, all the way through Pennsylvania to the New Jersey border.  We went to the rest stop and had butterscotch krumpets, like Maniac Magee (if you haven't read this book, please do - it's so good!).  It was a delightful accident.

5. Math Aptitude

I'm fairly good at it and math and science were my favorite subjects all the way up until college when graphic design came into my life.  I also adore math riddles and logic puzzles.  I have a Sudoku app on my phone that I waste way too much time on, and when I heard about the "Who Owns the Fish" riddle, I dropped everything for 2 hours until I figured it out.  I'm certainly not brilliant (or that puzzle wouldn't have taken so long), but I get a good kick out of working out my brain.  Conversely, I freak out when someone calls me dumb or casts aspersions on my intelligence.

6. Puns

I love them.  If I can work a movie quote in, even better!  I own about 26 books from a ridiculous series devoted to puns (the Xanth books).  In addition to bad puns, my humor is obscure enough that I'll be giggling away at my own perceived genius and my family will just be staring at me.  "You named your GPS?  Not "Jenny" after yourself but "Genny" as in Genesis?  Ok...  How is this funny again?"  (It was.  I still don't know why, but it was.)

6 1/2. I'm Going to a Convention AND Dressing Up

This only counts as a half because I haven't been yet so I don't know if I'll even like it.  I'm dressing up as Snow from Once Upon a Time and I'm super excited about that.  She's not the most awesome character in the show, but I really liked her riding/I'm-a-princess-again-but-still-fighting-for-my-throne outfit.  And her hairstyle looks a lot easier to imitate than say, the evil queen's.  I'm not going to call this cosplay, because I'm not planning on acting like her and also because I hear they get super into it and kind of mean/judge-y to each other, but we'll see what happens.

What are your claims to fame/game/geekdom?

Don't worry, if you say Lord of the Rings I won't hate on you for thinking such a mainstream movie is "nerdy" (though I might judge you if you say you hated it.  I will absolutely judge you if you named your child/dog/sock puppet after a character from LoTR but never actually watched the movies all the way through).

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Jun 7, 2014

Becoming a Dog Person

Becoming a Dog Person with Jenn and Luke | Business, Life & Design

Significant and I rescued Luke (the only "person" whose real name I can use) from a shelter while we lived in Laurel, MD.  I wasn't sure I was ready for a pet at the time and, despite a carefully laid out agreement determining responsibilities (mostly his), I had some misgivings.  We didn't want the same things at all!

Significant wanted a smaller, "apartment" dog.  I did some research and saw that size really doesn't matter as much as temperament, which backed up my argument for a larger dog, like a greyhound.  We did so much research on breeds, size, dog psychology, the whole nine yards.  None of it mattered in the end.  Sure, we got a few tidbits from the shelter, and we spent an hour or so visiting with Luke.  He seemed gentle enough and was friendly and a good compromise in terms of the sizes we had argued over.  But in terms of actual information, we got very little.

Things the shelter said that were true:
  • Tendency to eat fabric/soft things (we lost a few socks, but he's learned, finally)
Things the shelter said that were totally wrong:
  • Crate trained (Nope, not at all.  After freaking out for 2 hours the first night, he escaped and ran frantically around the apartment until we realized what was going on.)
  • Lab mix (I think this was to make it easier to find him a home.  So many apartments have prejudices against Rottweilers, Pitbulls, and even Dobermans and Luke is probably mixed with the first or last of these.)
  • Afraid of storms (hey, at least one positive!)
The day we took him home was a bit impulsive and probably foolish.  Significant was working one of his 24 shifts (different job, weird hours), and I had plans up in Delaware.  But we couldn't wait, so we picked him up anyway, and I took him to Delaware with me, growing increasingly stressed by his continual whining and not understanding his signals or what I needed to worry about him getting into.

Sister3 watched him for me while I went to dinner with a friend, but I was so anxious the whole time that it wasn't very enjoyable.  Thinking about it now, it's almost laughable.  I was very obviously a new pet owner.

That night I went to another friend's house, one who was dog-friendly, to spend the night so I'd have some moral support until Significant got home from work the next day.  Luke spent the night getting on and off the bed and pacing, occasionally growling or barking at the beings on the other side of the door, and I was totally freaked out, not knowing what any of it meant or whether I should be afraid of the growls.  In the morning, I sped home, waiting impatiently for Significant to get home while Luke barked incessantly at me, and finally burst into tears the moment he walked through the door.

"Why won't he stop barking?!!!"  (Seriously, I don't think the whole "ignore them until they stop" thing works.  Say what you will.)

"I don't know.  Here, I'll take him into the other room and you go lie down."

Significant got him calmed down and we fed him.  We spent that day trying to learn how to best take care of our new pet and the next several nights trying to decide how to handle the crate fiasco.

We struggled with crate training for weeks.  We tried the wire crates, and the plastic ones.  We tried tenting a blanket over it to make it feel like a "den" and succeeded only in destroying the blanket.

Crate training fiasco with destroyed comforter | Business, Life & Design

Finally, one day, we tried leaving him uncrated.  Magic!  I honestly don't know why we didn't think of it sooner, but I'm going to have to blame it on inexperience.  He was so destructive inside the crate that the idea of leaving him alone with access to our furniture just seemed terrible.

And he had a few lapses.  We lost some sofa pillows and and the inside door mat.  When we first got him we were both home most of the time, so he didn't really have to get used to being alone for a while, and the very few occasions that we did leave were usually rocky.  As soon as we started a more normal schedule, he adjusted and the "bad behavior" went away.

My dog, Luke, in the laundry | Business, Life & Design
Posed, obviously.  Such a well-trained dog would never roll in the laundry...

By the time we had had him a year, he was trained, he understood most of our commands, he wasn't our "dog" anymore, he was our baby.  He sleeps on the bed with us every night, gets cuddles and the occasional "people food."  We feel bad when we leave him and he gives us the big sad eyes, and drooping "my spirit is broken" ears.  When we come home at the end of the day, he's at the front door, whole back end wiggling with enthusiasm, and making the oddest cooing/growl/Chewbacca noises I've ever heard.

In addition to learning to love this happy little animal, I've learned more about dogs in general.  What's normal, what's not.  The fact that a little growl here and there is really nothing to be alarmed about.  That bad behaviors aren't permanent, and training just takes a little time.  That we got really lucky, because despite our initial trepidation, Luke is really one of the most chilled out dogs I've met (case in point: Sister2's dog, Maverick, has all kinds of emotional psychiatric doggy issues and she's probably scoffing at the "training just takes a little time" comment).

Seriously, who could not love this guy?

My dog, Luke, with his backpack being adorable | Business, Life & Design

And my other favorite

Significant goofing off with the dogs | Business, Life & Design
Significant getting goofy with Luke and Maverick (who is currently not being crazy, but usually is)

It's been a really amazing experience overall and I'm so glad I agreed to it despite my misgivings.  I always thought of myself as more of a cat person and now I'm learning there's no hard and fast rules (definitely pros and cons though - I posted a Cats vs Dogs Comparison a while back).  Most pets are hard not to love!

What was your first pet?  Did you have trouble adjusting?