Oct 31, 2014

A Tale of Ghosts and Gastroenterology (a repost)

A Tale of Ghosts and Gastroenterology | Business, Life & Design

I wasted this story on a mere Friday the 13th back in June, so I'm going to repost, because it's so appropriate for Halloween!

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 d├ęcor as usual, and a flashlight.  The "ghosts" were supposed to respond to questions by flicking the flashlight on and off.  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 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 in the 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.  That's right.  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 Halloween!

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

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Oct 30, 2014

A Breakup Letter to Society

Dear Society,

I'm tired.

It was fun at first.  Getting involved.  Getting educated.  Learning about everything that's currently going on, how everyone else feels about it, and forming my own opinion.

But I noticed something: It never ends.

There's always something going on.  Something negative.  Something unpleasant.  Something to be angry, upset, worried, and especially outraged about.

Everyone's outraged all the time.  And I get it.  Society is fundamentally flawed in so many ways.  And it was fun to ride the crest of that wave of opinion and be outraged along with the group.  I vented about just about everything that's ever bothered me.

But now I'm tired.

Tired of me.  Tired of you.  Tired of negativity.  Tired of everyone picking apart each little nuance of everyone else's argument.  Tired of overanalyzing EVERYTHING.

Whether it's something as trivial as Renee Zelweger's face, or something as important as the continuing discussion of body image, I just need a break.  I need to focus on me for a little while and more of the positive things that make life worth living.

I hope you understand.  (You won't, because you're the personification of a concept, but that's not important.)

It is you.  But it's also me.  I just need a break.


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Oct 28, 2014

Reconcilable Differences

Idea borrowed from Steph's post Different Strokes for Different Folks.

I don't know about you, but when I gave up on dating the random guys who entered my life by chance, and started an online dating profile, I had very specific things in mind.  Obviously I wanted to avoid some of the mistakes I'd made in the past, and find someone whose values aligned a little more closely with my own.

But I was also looking for someone who had different hobbies and interests and could help me branch out.  I think a relationship is more rich and enjoyable if you have things to teach each other and share with each other.

Now that we've been together 3+ years, Significant and I have blended a lot of our hobbies and interests together, but there are some ways in which we are just different.  And that's what today's post is all about.  Here's some of the things Significant and I do differently:

  • Significant would like to read more, but can't resist the allure of gaming.
  • I would like to game more, but find books to be ultimately more compelling.
  • Significant's needs are simple: he craves downtime, he does it, it makes him happy.
  • Mine are complex.  I feel like I need downtime, I take it, I feel like a bum for not being productive.  But if I knock 1 or 2 items off my to do list and then relax, then I'm ecstatic.
  • Significant tends to crave ethnic foods: Indian, Thai, Ethiopian, etc.
  • I like plain ol' American food.  Give me some surf and turf!
  • Significant is a pretty casual planner.  He knows which things are important for him to know ahead of time and the rest is more, "I'll get to it when I get to it."
  • I need packing lists.  And to do lists.  And lists of contact and emergency numbers.  And I need to pack at least a day ahead to not feel like I'm forgetting things.  And at least 1 backup plan.
Sleeping Habits
  • Significant would probably happily go nocturnal.
  • I'm at my best in the mornings (as long as I get enough sleep).
  • Significant likes to use vacation time to relax and do as little as possible, in a leisurely fashion.
  • I like to see and do as much as I can - I can relax back at home.
Activities Together
  • Significant has some great ideas, but...
  • I'm the one who actually organizes it and contacts other people to set things up.
Energy Level
  • Significant tends to be pretty low key, and frequently serious.
  • I'm bubbly and infrequently serious; which means a lot of my jokes get serious answers.
TV Preferences
  • Significant likes intense shows that draw him in and keep him interested.
  • I like light-hearted shows that make me laugh and feel stress-free.
  • Significant either does it or doesn't.  He never stresses about things he should be doing.
  • I have a much bigger list of things I think should be done, and when they're not it bothers me.
In general, even though we don't always see eye to eye, I think it's a good balance.  Significant is the level headed one who keeps me grounded, and I'm the enthusiastic goal setter, who keeps us from getting entirely complacent.

What do you and your partner do differently?  Do you subscribe to the "opposite attract" theory?

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Oct 27, 2014

Between Ease and Effort - Motivational Monday

I've been doing yoga with my mom, pretty regularly each Sunday.  We don't do anything too difficult, just beginner stuff, but after my initial distaste (yoga wasn't really "my thing"), I've settled in and I'm starting to like it.  It's nice to have one day where your exercise routine is something soothing, and it feels really good to stretch everything out so thoroughly.

We like different things, of course.  My mom likes the Patricia Walden VHS she's had for 10 years.  Unfortunately it met with an untimely (sort of - I mean 10 years is a good lifespan for a VHS, right?) demise and so we had to branch out a bit.

My favorite so far is Sean Vigue.  I call it "broga" (Barney style, from How I Met Your Mother), because he makes jokes and doesn't get as far into the "feel the energy of the universe pouring into you" type stuff.

Despite his mostly matter-of-fact manner, there's one tidbit that stuck with me. "Between ease and effort lies your pose."  I think I've heard him say this 3 or 4 times and never thought much of it, but this last time it resonated.

I'd like to apply this principle to more than just yoga.  Work, for example.

You should always be pushing yourself a bit, stretching to keep yourself and your work from becoming stagnant.  But if you push too hard for too long, you're going to hurt yourself.

I think lately I've been too hard on myself.  I've been pushing myself to be more productive, and fix all my bad habits, and that's a good thing.  But I was fighting against my own nature so hard that I totally forgot I can enjoy my work.  I used to.  I enjoyed it a lot when I first interned here several years ago.

So maybe what's required is not so much self-berating, but a focal switch from "Here's what you have to do - get it over with" to "Ooh, here's a fun part - I should enjoy this as much as I can."  I've written a bit already about trying to find the positives and I don't know if that's finally starting to take effect, or if it was something else entirely, but today I feel good.  Today I feel like the world is full of possibilities.

Do you do yoga?  What's something that's helped you out of context?

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Oct 23, 2014

Feminism - Using Current Standards on an Outdated Source

Say what you like about Disney movies.  You're probably right.  But you know what?  The one you're referring to was made how many years ago?  Are you taking into account what the culture was like back then?

I'm not saying that something's inherent "rightness" or "wrongness" can change.  (that's anyone's guess)  But our perceptions as a society most certainly do, and what we think to be right and wrong does.  So we vilify some of the older Disney movies for their uninspiring or unheroic heroines, and we make each other feel guilty for enjoying these staples of our childhood.  But what we're forgetting to consider is the time frame in which it was made.

Some of the oldest films feature heroines whose primary virtues seems to be beauty and an optimistic spirit.  They teach us to wish upon a star, or that our prince is on his way, and we don't need to take action to improve our own lives.

Sure.  But what was domestic life like at that time?  Women were primarily housewives, no?  If the internet isn't lying to me, there was even social pressure not to work if you were married, in order to open up jobs for unemployed men.  So why shouldn't the idealized women in the movies be preparing for roles in the home, rather than displaying more individualistic tendencies?

And the one other thing the Disney leading ladies had in common was their genuine kindness - a virtue that seems to be all but forgotten in our modern world as we push people out of our way to get what we want.

Now Disney is hardly one to scare off it's fans by an excess of liberalism.  So they cater to whatever is most widely accepted by society at any one given time.  Does this make them the bad guys?  I would argue that it's our society that spawned Disney's stories, and as our demands have changed, so have the heroines.

And so we've finally traversed all the way to the other side of the spectrum.  From Cinderella to Elsa and Anna.  From Snow White to Merida.  And I think it's fantastic that Disney's finally dropped "true love" as the panacea for all ills, and that their heroines are flawed human beings who have to work to better themselves and to fix their own problems.

But you know what?  I'm also a little regretful that our society, while increasingly enlightened, has to be one that values consideration and generosity of spirit so little.  Sure, Merida's story was enthralling.  But I found her personality hard to relate to.  Basically, I think she's a brat.  Sorry, Merida-lovers!

I mean, I in no way, shape, or form think anyone should be forced into marriage.  I just don't think they should turn their mothers into bears, either.

So I guess what I'm saying is that while I wouldn't necessarily want my children to grow up with the helpless damsels of the past as their role models, I also don't want them to take for granted everything the modern heroines embody either.  And I can't prevent them from being exposed to gender roles - our society is full of them.  But I can encourage them to question everything and to make their own rules.

So no, I'm not terribly worried about my children watching a few Disney movies.  And no, I won't feel guilty for enjoying them.  There's good and bad in everything, and at least in this case, we can look at the bad and see how far our society has progressed since then.

Did I miss anything important?  What's your take on the Disney franchise?

Bonus: now that we've all agreed that Disney isn't the soul of evil corrupting our society, let's enjoy some artist adaptations!  I've seen some great ones lately.

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Oct 22, 2014

My Book Picks for the Semi-Charmed Winter 2014 Book Challenge #SCWBC14

Remember how I said I got 4th place in the Semi-Charmed Summer Book Challenge?  Yeah.  That was pretty cool.  Especially because I got to pick a category for the Winter 2014 challenge!  So of course I'll have to participate again.

Basic rules: read as many books as you can between November 1st, and February 28th!  They must be 200 pages, a different book for each category, and only 3 can be rereads.  For elaboration, go check out the official rules.

Initially, I was a little disheartened because some of the categories are HARD this year!  It honestly took me a couple hours of browsing Goodreads and Googling before I found something that fit each category.  In any case, here's my selections:


5 points: Freebie!
— Bossypants, Tina Fey (264 pages)

10 points: Read a book written by an author who has published at least 10 books.
— Stardust, Neil Gaiman (248 pages - apparently he also wrote Coraline; who knew?)

10 points: Read a book of short stories.
— Either The Complete Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Anderson or The Complete Grimm's Fairy Tales by the Brothers Grimm (803 or 880 pages - haven't decided yet, but I own both and haven't ever made it through either.)

10 points: Read a book with a food in the title.
— Potatoes Come Forth!, H. Jonas Rhynedahll (330 pages)

15 points: Read the first book in a series that is new to you.
— The Goose Girl, Shannon Hale (383 pages - The Books of Bayern #1)

15 points: Read a book that was originally written in a different language.
— The Phantom of the Opera, Gaston Leroux (360 pages - French, if you couldn't guess.)

15 points: Read a book written by a local author.
— Captive, Colleen Faulkner (416 pages - another DE resident!  I had a choice between her touching novel about a woman adjusting to her adult child with down syndrome growing up, or smut.  I chose smut.)

20 points: Read a "bookish book".
— The Eyre Affair, Jasper Fforde (374 pages - Things from literature come to life.  Excited about this one!)

20 points: Read a book with a direction in the title.
— East, Edith Pattou (507 pages)

25 points: Read a book from a genre you don't usually read.
— The Colour Purple, Alice Walker (256 pages - This was my category and it was hard.  I'm using it to force myself to read something I'm less excited about.)

25 points: Read a book with a song lyric in the title.
— On My Own, Eleanor Roosevelt (234 pages - On My Own, sung in Les Miserables by Eponine, lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer)

30 points: Read two books with a different meal in each title.
— Mr. Darcy Came to Dinner, Jack Caldwell (256 pages) & Breakfast of Champions, Kurt Vonnegut (302 pages)

Pick some books and complete in Megan's Semi-Charmed Winter 2014 Book Challenge!  It starts November 1st, and I can't wait to get started on Stardust.


What good books have you read lately?  Have you completed (or started) any book challenges?

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Oct 21, 2014

$Cash Money$ - Some Woulds and Wouldn'ts

I saw this really fantastic idea over on Venus Trapped in Mars with a list of things she WOULDN'T change if she won the lottery.

And I was excited and immediately started this post about it.  But... then my mind went blank and I couldn't think of anything.  So I'll start with the things I would do.

If I Was Filthy, Stinking Rich I Would...

(Disclaimer: for the purposes of this post, we'll assume I've already handled buying a house, putting away a sufficient amount for retirement, and paying off all outstanding debts.  Otherwise you guys will just get bored watching me put my ducks in a row.)
  1. Travel - Starting with the Amazon, and then on to Australia, the Galapagos Islands, and the Arctic circle.
  2. Doggie Daycare - Fun activities and friends for my pup all day, every day!
  3. Shop Without Price Checks - One of my favorite shirts is from Anthropologie, but I haven't been back because of the prices.  It would be awesome to only worry about one thing: "Does it look good?"
And here's the things I wouldn't change.

If I Was Filthy, Stinkin' Rich I Wouldn't Stop...

(Disclaimer: this didn't really need a disclaimer, but I wanted my formatting to match.)
  1. Designing - I love graphic design.  When I have no clients, I work on my website, my blog, and my personal branding.  I never stop designing.
  2. Shopping at Costco - Call me inconsistent, but some deals are important to me and others aren't.  Getting dog food for $35 instead of $50 is one of the former.
  3. Cutting My Own Hair - I might not be particularly good at it, but it's fun for me, and I really don't see the point of shelling out cash when my super straight hair is going to look the same regardless of how refined the layers are.
Note: these are probably the shortest lists you'll ever see from me, so enjoy the brevity.  We're back to dissertation mode after these messages.

What things would you do if you suddenly became wealthy?  What things wouldn't you do?

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Oct 20, 2014

Making Friends, Painting with Wine, and Breaking Some Laws - October Self Actualization

I was trying to decide what to do for October's Self Actualization activity, and then I realized I already did one!

Remember how I said Girlfriend Social was one of my failures.  Weeell... it's not a total failure.  Not just yet.  I actually chatted with somebody long enough for us to make plans and we went to Painting with a Twist together!

I had a lot of fun, and the art we chose (Moonlit Cherry Blossoms) turned out gorgeous.

And most importantly, we got a story out of it.  Ready?  Here we go.

I'd been to Painting with a Twist in Pennsylvania before (the DE location is pretty new), and it was very clearly a BYOB type of thing.  So we bought ourselves some sweet, cheapish pink Moscato, and a couple other varieties, and managed to swig just enough while letting the paint dry to keep from being too self conscious about our (lack of) artistic skills.

So I figured, "Hey, I've done this before!  I know the ropes."

I planned slightly better this time, hustling to the grocery store to grab some wine-friendly snacks.  As you were probably made aware (if you follow me on Twitter), Friday afternoon is grocery store rush hour and I suffered from some intense grocery-road-rage before finally making it out with most of my sanity and/or the things on my list.

I managed to arrive a little bit early (which is a huge victory for me), signed in, met my new bestie, and we got started on our wine and snacks.  An hour later, after some furious painting (seriously, it was hard to keep up), and managing to make some conversation despite the raging club music (odd choice, but whatever), it was time for a refill.

So I grabbed our cups (of the red solo variety, naturally) and was in the middle of the refill when the art instructor approached me.

"You can't do that."

I paused my pour to meet her eyes.  I quickly arrived at the conclusion that she was joking, because she had had yet to be serious that evening and so I said something inane like, "Oh, do I need to use cork service?"

Laughing at my own hilariousness, I again made eye contact and realized, "Oh shit.  She's serious."

She gently explained to me that in DELAWARE the rules are different, and in DELAWARE you can neither bring your own, nor serve without also selling food, but they did have some complimentary wine in the back.

Basically Delaware is stupid.  That is the point I'm making.

So I looked back and forth between the half-consumed bottle of wine and my purse and finally said, "Uh... I guess I'll put this away?"

The instructor agreed that this seemed to be the thing to do and I, relieved that I was not being kicked out, made haste to hide the bootlegged goods in my bag, and secure myself a good supply of the house offerings.

No BYOB in Delaware.  Who knew?

Have you ever done something illegal accidentally?  Have you gone to a painting class?

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Oct 17, 2014

Free Stuff! and Review of the eShakti Ordering Experience

I got something for free!  For blogging!  (I think this is where I do the little "*I received a free product to review for this post, but no words have been put into my mouth."  Am I doing this right?)

I was a little unsure at first, but after talking to a couple of other bloggers (that I trust) I decided to go for it.  The product - a dress from eShakti - was one I'd been considering buying after seeing other people's sponsored posts.  And the idea of buying something that was custom sized for me specifically was one that I've been intrigued by for a while.

Also, after perusing their site a bit, I noticed the "Real Fashion for Real People" section down at the bottom.  They have pictures from their actual customers, many of whom are my size!  There's only a few stores that I've found that do this and I really like it.

The dress I ended up picking is, ironically, one of the ones featured on the home page right now.

The process of ordering was a little bit of a pain, because a lot of the options available for free dresses said, "Out of fabric, please choose another option."  However, going through the regular site, I didn't have any problems, so I think that's just for people ordering a dress for free.

The shopping page looks like this.  (And I'll be honest - I was hoping to get the black and white dress on the top right but it was one of the "out of fabric" dresses.  I think I'll order it anyway, without the freebie deal, because it is gawgeous!)

The customization screen was awesome.  It's very clear on what the measurements are for each size and if you want to (and I certainly did), you can input your own measurements for a ton of options, including shoulder width and arm length.  Different dresses had different options, but the most customizable ones I saw you could change up the height, sleeve type, dress length, and even the neckline.  You could also remove pockets (most of the dresses come with as the standard), but why would you want to?!

When I got my dress, I was a little unsure.  It was the perfect colors for a fall type sundress that I could mix and match for warmer or cooler weather.  And the fit was good!  But the fabric was a little poofier and starchier than I expected and I wasn't sure how I felt about the elastic waistband.

I decided to give it a whirl, and after receiving several compliments, deemed it a win!  (Also, my parents were impressed that I got something for free by blogging and I think it's the first time anyone IRL has seen any value in my hobby.  So there's that.)

I like it best with a waist belt, and a cardigan is a must for my chilly office.  My mom has a hatred for waist belts that I'll never understand (especially when she continually insists that pants should be worn at the waist), so we took photos with both.

I forgot to show off the pockets, but they're awesome!  They're nice and deep and actually useful (unlike the majority of pockets in women's clothing), and the dress is flowy enough that it doesn't throw off the silhouette at all.

Overall, the eShakti experience was a pretty good one.  My first thought as far as actually purchasing from the site was, "But if they let you customize, then it's probably not returnable."  But when I checked their return policy it looks like it's pretty hassle free.  And the prices are good for all the options they provide.  So they've managed to convert at least one new customer.

Interested in eShakti?  Order from them, or learn more on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.

Oh, and I guess another side effect is that after having done one, I'm understanding the sponsor process so much better and feeling more open minded to it.  It wasn't what I was expecting, that's for sure.

Have you gotten anything for free by being a blogger?  Who was your first sponsor?

Bonus: I was attempting to be artsy with this and take shots with the dog, but when does that ever work out?  Here's the least blurry of the pictures we got with Luke.

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Oct 16, 2014

What Makes Me Unfollow - A Rant

This isn't so much an advice post, as it is a self-realization one.

I've answered this prompt on a few other people's advice posts, and I said things like, "too many sponsored posts" or "no interaction with the blogger."  Sometimes their life just takes a turn and the blog content heads in a direction I'm less interested in.

But when I think about the blogs I've actually unfollowed, it's been primarily for one reason:

They said something mean.

Sounds childish, right?  But I'm not talking about snarky or sarcastic comments.  Those are all in good fun, and I really don't offend that easily.

I'm talking about unnecessary snideness, or outright assholeishness (making up some words here, bear with me).  Blogging is an incredibly zen-esque and de-stressing experience for me.  So when I start seeing a lot of negativity, or things that influence my life or my feelings in a non-positive way, I'm out.

That might sound harsh, but... you know what?  No, it's not.  That's life.

We're adults (most of us), and we're old enough to know that our actions have consequences.  In this case, the consequence is pretty small.  You put people down for no reason - I unfollow.  You use somebody's size/gender/race/orientation as the butt of a joke - I forget you ever existed.

That's not to say there's not other people out there who won't enjoy your particular brand of being mean to people.  But I don't have to put up with it.  And I won't.

Did you come here looking for advice and are now disappointed because I just ranted?  I'm feeling generous today, so here's a few posts other, more interesting people put together along the same lines:

Oh, and instead of ending this with a plaintive, "Can't we all just get along?" I'll reference you to The Nectar Collective's 15 Ways to Be a Good Human Today for some inspiration.  Some great (and easy) ideas that make me feel more optimistic just reading about it!

What makes you unfollow?  Do you have any one pet peeve that makes you crazy?

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Oct 15, 2014

Defining Lifestyle

Irrelevant life update: I'm at home and feeling a leetle out of it with a mild fever and possible infections in both ears, but I really wanted to join in on this, so I'm posting this despite the unusual brevity.

When I started writing whatever I wanted to, I didn't know what to call it.  I knew it wasn't a business blog anymore, but I didn't have a new definition.  I saw a few other people mention that they were "non-niche" and that seemed to fit pretty well.

Learning that "non-niche" and "lifestyle" were synonymous took a while.  Eventually I realized I'd be categorized as a "lifestyle" blog, which was probably for the convenience of feed readers, like Bloglovin, more than anything else.  In my head I wasn't a "real lifestyle blog."  Those were about things like shoes and makeup.  Or maybe they were DIY and organizational tutorials.  In any case, it wasn't me.

But when Trish wrote her post about lifestyle, it got me thinking.  An individual's lifestyle is everything they do, everything they think, everything they are.  And that is a wide scope.

And that's the real beauty of this "niche."  Our lifestyles are more than just one or two facets of our lives.  Our lifestyle is a full mind meld with other bloggers of everything we want to share and some things that we share just by being ourselves.

Do you consider yourself to be a lifestyle blogger?  How do you define lifestyle?

Go link up with Trish!

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Oct 14, 2014

The 7 Most Impactful Books I've Read

I saw someone else do this and thought, "What a great idea!"

Well, actually no, what I really thought was, "Really?  Catcher in the Rye?  How can that possibly have impacted your life when it makes no sense?  Gah, I hate that book!"  But that was illogical, we're all entitled to like what we like, and almost immediately afterwards I thought, "I should play this game."

So basically here's the books that have had the most impact on me and why.

7 Books that Blew My Mind

1. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

I read this at a very pivotal time in my life.  And honestly, the only reason I read it was because my youngest sister had, and liked it, and she very rarely makes it through a book without resorting to spark notes.  So I had to read it to show her up since I was the "reader" in the family.  And because she doesn't skim, I couldn't skim.

I had to take breaks.  There's a speech near the end that goes on for 70 PAGES!  And the concepts are heavy.  So I would read my 15 pages or so, and take a break to think about it.  I may have taken notes, I don't remember.  This was quite possibly the first time I'd ever thought about social issues in this way.

A lot of people object to Ayn Rand for her extremism and her coldness.  But I think the book is set in an extreme world, and the concepts aren't mean to translate directly to ours in the same intensity.  Even if they were, I can analyze the concepts and decide which pieces of them I agree with and take from it, and leave the rest.  And, honestly, I don't know if I was capable of that before reading this book.  It really taught me to think for myself.

2. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein

I remember very clearly the first time I read these.  I was complaining to my younger sister that I was bored, I had read everything in the house, there were no new books, etc.  She said, "You have not read all the books in the house" and pulled open a cabinet I had never investigated before.  The first book she happened to grab was The Two Towers.

I read it, and then read the whole series, in the proper order.  It was the first adult fantasy I'd been exposed to and I loved it.  It really catapulted me further into the genre.

3. The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman & Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus by John Gray

I know this is 2, but they're basically the same category.  I wrote about each one when I read them, because they taught me such important lessons about my relationship and about the way I think.  Quick synopsis: The 5 Love Languages teaches us different methods for conveying our feelings and how to test which is most effective for our loved ones (full post here).  Men are from Mars... is more about the different ways each gender expresses themselves, and how their needs vary (full post here).

4. I Will Teach You to be Rich by Ramit Sethi

This was the first personal finance book I'd ever read.  I took a lot out of this and basically reconfigured my finances.  I highly recommend if you're unfamiliar with investing and you don't make use of your 401k!

5. Harrison Bergeron, Fahrenheit 541, and 1984 (Kurt Vonnegut, Ray Bradbury, and George Orwell)

We went through a dystopian section in school, and there were several short stories, but it somewhere in between these 3 that it clicked in my brain.  They're all warnings.  And it became fascinating to see what type of screwed up futures authors could imagine, and realize they all pointed to the government having too much control.  They called it different things, but "Big Brother" was always very present and something we need to watch out for in our modern day world.  (Note: I don't worry about government control all the time, but I do still love me a good dystopian story)

6. The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis & Taggerung by Brian Jacques

The Chronicles of Narnia was such a magical read as a kid.  I was completely swept away by this world of vivid imagery.  Taggerung is only special because it's the first of the Redwall series I read, and after that I had to keep collecting them.  I was a little older when I started Redwall, so at that point part of the enjoyment was the story itself, but a bigger part of was sharing both of these series with my younger sister.

I remember reading from one of the Narnia books and getting winded because the sentence was so long.  So we stopped and she counted each word while I read.  I don't remember exact numbers, but they got up there.  My favorite memories of the Redwall series involve doing character voices, and making up fake-out scenes to see when Sister3 would catch on.  And there were a couple times I read so long I lost my voice.

7. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle & The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister

These are among the very earliest memories I have of books.  I know I was blown away by books that had some kind of tactile/3D element.  And they both involve a transformation of some kind.  The Rainbow Fish had the added element of some gorgeous artwork.  I really think the beautiful illustrations in most of our children's books had something to do with my childhood desire to be an artist, and eventually going into the graphic design field.

I guess I should also mention Grandfather Twilight by Barbara Helen Berger, because it's another one that stuck with me.  Not so much for the story, but for the artwork.  Later on, after starting graphic design classes, one of our projects was to interview someone in our field/a similar field, and Ms. Berger actually responded and answered all my questions.  It was very insightful and really reawakened my love of this book.

8. Bonus!  Whatever Book I'm Currently Reading

Because almost everything I read gives me something to think about, something to learn, and sometimes even something to utilize in my daily life.  I love reading and I love the influences books have had on me.  Working a book quote into conversation is always awesome and sharing my favorites with other people is even better.

So that's the list!  They're not all classics or masterpieces, but they were all there at the right time in my life, and collectively had a huge impact on my behavior, philosophies, career, and hobbies.

What books have impacted you?  What is your favorite book of all-time?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Oct 13, 2014

The Face in the Mirror - Motivational Monday

Lately I've been making an effort to take better care of my skin.  So at night I actually wash my face and remove my makeup.

Consequently, I've been seeing myself completely without makeup a lot more often than usual.  And you know what?  I'm kinda liking it.

At some point makeup stopped being an extra and became the standard.  And I didn't even realize I had fallen prey to this mindset; it was such a gradual change.

Not wearing it slowly switched over from a "less put-together day" to a "bum day" and then finally it was an "ugly day."

But now, simply by changing up my routine a little, it's turned back into what it should be - an accessory.  I still like it, and it's still fun to try new things (eye primer - it's magic!) and match it to the "look" I'm going for each day.  But it's not a necessity, and I can not wear it without feeling like I have to hide my face.

I wrote, not too long ago, about Things That Are More Than Skin Deep.  And I do think we should focus on all of our positive traits and not just this beauty thing.  But I also think we should all feel comfortable in our own skin, and accepting ourselves without makeup or enhancements is a big part of that. 

The Florkens actually had a great link up a while ago for this, and everyone shared makeup-less selfies.  I'm a couple months late, but same idea!  So here's mine.

Because I can

Do you feel comfortable without makeup? 

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design