Feb 27, 2015

The Mysteries of Lent as Explained by a 7 Year Old

I asked my goddaughter what Lent was, because even though I'm probably a failure as a godparent, she attends Catholic school, and I know they've taught the kids something about it.  As expected, I thoroughly enjoyed her answer.

She got out a sticky note and a sharpie.  She drew a symbol, some words (from upside down I could discern "Lent" but that was about it), and then several more squiggles that may have been a nun with a cross on her forehead.

She pointed at it, indicating that my question had been thoroughly answered and verbal explanation was quite unnecessary.

Because my intellect is nowhere near on par with the genius of her 7-year-old brain, I had to point at each thing and ask her what it meant.  The heavy sigh indicated my dullness in being so slow to understand her archaic runes, but she obligingly explained.


Turning the sticky note to face me, she read aloud as I read her youthful handwriting, "Lent is no met." (meat)

I pointed to the first squiggle and inquired as to its significance, "That's a cursive G!"  Ah... My bad.

Then to the person squiggle, "She has ash.  On her head."

With a few more strategic questions, I was able to get her to elaborate a bit more.  Meat is bad during Lent, "Because Jesus."  And, "They put the ashes on Wednesday" with vigorous forehead crosses to help get the point across.

So I'm still not entirely sure what this Lent/no meat thing is all about.  Is it:

  1. A homage to Jesus' sacrifice by avoiding the flesh of warm-blooded creatures and/or making sacrifices of our own?
  2. A reminder of the miracle feast of fish and wine?
  3. A political and economical battle that has, at various points throughout history, resuscitated the fishing industry?
  4. A way to torment your coworkers by ordering the Meatzza special?
  5. An amazing discovery, because the Meatzza special is, in fact, the tastiest pizza you've ever had.
  6. Or simply, "Because Jesus"?


Happy Lent (happy? is that appropriate?) to all you Catholics!  And happy More Meat For Us to everyone else!

What do you believe?  Do you have Lent traditions?


Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Feb 26, 2015

Running - Some (Demotivational) Thoughts

I like to post motivational things, both because sometimes I really feel like that, and also to remind myself later, when I'm not feeling so hot that that's what exercise can do for me.  But it's not all sunshine and rainbows, and it's silly to pretend that it is.

Let's talk Pros and Cons...

Chocolate Lovers 5K

Pros

  • I ran 10'15" miles!  That's the closest I've ever been to 10 minute miles, and it was in spite of uncomfortably cold temperatures and running outdoors for the first time all winter.
  • It was a much more unique, and less cheesy things for Ryan and me to do on Valentine's Day and we had a good time.
  • The stroller moms!  I know I've complained about them before, but the stroller moms at this race were for serious.  They passed us at the beginning and then they were gone - we didn't see them again until the race was over.  Seriously impressed.
  • AMAZING chocolate and goodies at the end.
From the culinary program at Deltech (the host of the 5K).  They done good.

Cons

  • I pissed off my lungs and then spent the next 30 minutes coughing.
  • All the people who decided to speed up right as we were trying to pass them.
  • That mom and her son who were alternating between walking and sprinting.  When we wanted to pass they were blocking the path like nobodies business - after we finally got in front, almost immediately I heard her say, "Excuse us!" as though we should move out of their way so they could block us again?!  I don't think so.  Access denied.
  • Oh, and that guy who won fastest time for the walking section of the race with 10 minute miles.  Uh... excuse me, sir.  Are you sure you know the difference between walking and running?  Because I did not see any 8 feet tall people there so I seriously doubt you got to the end faster than me while WALKING.  Quit lying.

Lord of the Rings as a Treadmill Movie

Pros

  • It's long and will see you through a lot of running
  • No one else will watch it with you so while running is the perfect time!
  • ♥♥Samwise Gamgee♥♥ (He's just so 'onest and good 'earted!  Also, in the Lego Lord of the Rings game, his character is the most useful.  He has ALL THE STUFF!)
  • You know the movie so well you start laughing before they actually say the jokes. (Wait, is that just me?)

Cons

  • Frodo.  He's on the ground being wimpy for like half the movie!  And you're struggling to keep running and it's incredibly unmotivating.  "Stop being a little B****, Frodo!!!"  (Sorry, tired Jenn is not very politically correct)
  • It's harder to focus on when you're pushing yourself.  For tempo runs, I recommend Disney movies - less complex plot to follow and lots of good running music!

Just Running in General

Pros

  • It burns a bajillion calories.  Yep, a bajillion.  (But seriously, as soon as you get past 3 miles, you're burning like 500+ calories every time you run.  Nothing else does that!)
  • It's what we're made to do.  There are so many benefits because nothing is healthier for you than doing what our bodies are designed to do, whether that's eating natural foods, or exercising the way we would if we didn't have technology and marketing to tell us to do it differently.
  • It gets easier.  After a couple months of consistent running, there are even times it feels good!  And my lungs are in way better shape than they typically are - I rarely get wheezy if I run at 5mph, regardless of distance.
  • You know you did something.  I like the exercise bike, too, but I don't get that same glow of accomplishment that I do when I ran.  It just doesn't feel like work in the same way.

Cons

  • Sometimes it feels crummy.  Not in an injury type way, or my lungs are dying, or even actual pain, just everything feels bad.  Each steps feels jarringly uncomfortable, and you want nothing more than to stop and never do this again.
  • Sometimes it is in an injury type way.  Runners get injured a lot, and more runners than not have a bum this, or a problem that.  Avoiding injury is one of the highest priorities in my training schedule but sometimes my ankle hurts (the previously broken one) and that calf has been bugging me a lot (I think it's just weaker than the other one - fingers crossed that's all it is).
  • Running pants - of the 3 pairs I have, only 1 stays up.  The others I ignore until they get about halfway down my butt, at which point I claw them sweatily up to my waist where the slow descent begins all over again.

Other Totally Random Running Thoughts

  • RunKeeper did not automatically track my 5k.  Double-yew, Tee, Eff?!
  • I was so tired the week before last.  I was struggling to get through the lunchtime workouts and running fell the the wayside for several days.  I did get a lot of sleep, though.
  • I read a book about ultra runners (Born to Run) and it was so motivating! 
  • But it made me argue with Sister2 about barefoot running.  She was trying to inject reality into my enthusiastic alternate reality where I can be a barefoot runner despite having horrible running habits and being overweight, and I didn't want to hear it.
  • Right now running feels pretty roller-coaster-y.  I'm either feeling healthy and strong and running easily!  Or I'm dying and feeling like crud.  I think I finally understand the whole "love/hate" thing runners talk about.

Actually loving it.

Pretending to love it, but really hating it.  Also, you know, sweat.  You're welcome!

What are your favorite and least favorite things about running?  Do you understand the runner's struggle?  Or were you just tricked into reading this post because of the picture of delicious food items?


Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Feb 25, 2015

Life Lately - the Good and the Slightly Less Good

I saw this idea forever ago on Allie's blog, and I finally decided to try it (but can't find the post to reference - sorry!).

If we were to meet up and chat, I would want you to:

Ask Me About... my health goals and aspirations.  I'll happily tell you all about my meal planning, exciting and tasty things I've tried, and what I'm planning for next week.

But Don't Ask Me About... how last week went.  Roommate baked SO MANY delicious cookies, I didn't have a healthy meal prepared ahead of time, and motivation was at an all-time low.

Ask Me About... the races I've signed up for and how my training plan is going.  After the Chocolate Lover's 5K and finishing Born to Run, I've been really hyped up for training, and I'm excited to start racking up the miles.


Don't Ask Me About... the ankle issues I've been having lately.  I'm doing everything I can think of to put less stress on my leg/ankle, and it keeps hurting and I'm so worried I'll injure it again in some way and mess up my training plan.  I'm really starting to enjoy running and I don't want to lose it just when I'm gaining momentum!

Ask Me About... my grad school class!  I'm learning JavaScript, and so far it's not terribly difficult; it's building on what I've learned already in programming class and at work, and I'm really enjoying the class UI, structure, and assignments.

Don't Ask Me About... how I juggle work, school, training, and client projects.  Sometimes it's great and sometimes I'm short on sleep and stressed out and the house is a wreck.  Mostly I try not to think too far ahead.

Ask Me About... how Ryan's doing.  He is killing it at work and has generally been really considerate, and helpful around the house.

Don't Ask Me About... Valentine's weekend.  The crankiness levels in our household were off the charts!

Ask Me About... our travel plans this year!  With Sister2's wedding, our elopement, Ryan being the best man in another wedding, Sister2's bachelorette party in New Orleans, and possibly flying out to San Francisco for a half marathon with Sister3 in the summer, there's a lot of exciting stuff going on!

Don't Ask Me About... how I've prepared for all of this.  With so many different timelines and so many different things being in a partial state of readiness, my brain is feeling overwhelmed.  This year is going to be awesome, but I'm already looking forward to 2016, which I'm pretty sure will be my year of living in the moment and NOT making plans or doing projects.

If we met in person what would you want to chat about?  (And what wouldn't you?)


Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Feb 24, 2015

Sometimes I Feel Like a Bad Person

You know that feeling you get?  The obscure guilt, where you feel like what you're doing isn't enough.  You really should be doing more, even if you don't know what "more" would be or caring more, even if it causes you stress and unhappiness.

Sometimes I just feel like I'm a bad person.  Sometimes for no reason.  Sometimes for bad reasons.  But differentiating what is a "good" or "bad" reason is difficult.  We're not rational when it comes to ourselves, and, all too frequently, not very forgiving either.

Here are some of the things that make me feel like a bad person.

1. Not Enjoying Charity Work


I don't feel good about helping people.  Instead I feel worse, because I'm now keenly aware of their situation and how bad it is and how trivial my contribution is.  I feel guilty that I'm not doing more.  And sometimes it's just unpleasant.

Example 1: Volunteering at the Food Bank.  There were other people there, for rehab or for work or something.  They clearly did not want to be there and weren't taking it seriously.  We were supposed to be assembling bags of food for families, and trying to put an even mix of stuff in them so everyone could have some vegetables, some pasta, etc, etc.  They didn't give a shit.  Some of those bags had 10 jars of spaghetti sauce and nothing else.  And now those families don't get to eat because some bastards from a required corporate volunteering project were too lazy to put 2 seconds of thought into what they were doing.

Example 2: Making dinner for the Ronald McDonald house.  This is for the families of sick children in AI Dupont Hospital, so I expected it to be sad.  I expected to see upset people, and tired people, and people who didn't want to talk much.  I didn't expect them to be rude.  So we had no idea where things were and the coordinators weren't much help, because they were also volunteers with minimal knowledge of the building or kitchen.  So it was chaotic to begin with.  Then, some of the people we were supposedly helping came over and started demanding things, or asking questions and getting pissy when we didn't know the answers.  I tried so hard to remember that these are people who are going through a hard time, with a sick or maybe even dying child, but in the end it was hard to feel good about something when the recipients were so hostile.

To sum up: I'd rather give my money than my time.  And I feel guilty both because I don't enjoy helping and because I'm so stingy with my time that I don't want to use it to do something I don't enjoy.

2. Wanting to Shut Out the World


There are so many problems, and it's frustrating and depressing to read about all the things that are wrong with our society and the world in general.  It's easier to just stop reading the news, and bury your head in the sand, but the problems don't go away just because you don't know about them.  Just like the charity work - the more I know, the more upset I feel, but me ignoring that it's there doesn't help, while raised awareness might do something even if I personally don't have a solution or plan of action.  But opening your eyes exposes you to:
  1. The problems themselves.  Depressing news everywhere!
  2. Bickering.  Since everyone has an opinion and everyone is 100% convinced they're right and everyone else is a moron.
  3. Your own anger.  The heightened emotions surrounding controversial topics and many current social issues are contagious.  Soon enough you find yourself with a strong opinion, soap-boxing along with everyone else.

To sum up: I feel sad and angry when I know stuff; I feel guilty when I don't.  Lose/lose.

3. Putting Myself First


I've always made decisions with other people in mind.  What will be best for Ryan, and my family?  What is the logical thing to do instead of the thing that will make me happy?  And I usually end up feeling trapped, because it's a situation I chose based on everyone else instead of what I truly wanted.  I finally decided to start making decisions for myself - like saying "No" if I don't want to go out, or play that particular game, and choosing things for their potential to make me happy instead of what would fit most easily into our current lives.

But I've barely done this at all and I already feel a twinge of uneasiness and a bit of guilt for even considering it.  It doesn't feel like "self love."  It feels selfish and inconsiderate.  Especially when it concerns one of the other examples.  If I do what I want to do, I won't be volunteering at that charity event.  Sorry, people in need!  I chose to follow my own personal desires instead of helping you.  And what about career?  Oh, sorry Ryan, I got a new job that makes half the salary but it's what I love to do!  You didn't really care about our old standard of living, did you?

To sum up: It's tough.  I don't know where the line is, which side of it I currently stand on, or even whether or not I'm a jerk.  I don't want to be, but if worrying about it is going to cause me anxiety and guilt, maybe it's time just embrace whatever it is that I am.

Do you ever feel guilty when you shouldn't?  Do you think it's ok to be a jerk sometimes?


Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Feb 20, 2015

The MOST Amazing Thing

What Nicole over at Just the Elevator Pitch didn't realize when she posted today was that the "convenient tool" that she was sharing was actually something so amazingly revolutionary that I would weep tears of joy.  Only exaggerating a tiny bit.  I didn't cry, but it was a close call.

She posted about Peek.UserTesting.com, which does FREE user testing.


I was super nervous at first, because it's a video showing the screen of the person using your sight and them talking about it as they try to navigate it.  And I know criticism can be really harsh and I was worried it would get abused and I would be sad.

Here's what I forgot.

I can handle criticism.  After the mental beatings I received as part of my education at Deltech, and the even more callous, not-even-trying-to-be-constructive shit at my first job, it doesn't faze me one bit.  Criticism about my life, my writing, or my opinions is one thing, but my design is the one thing I want people to tear apart so I can make it the best it can possibly be.

So why the tears?


Because I have been trying for years to get constructive feedback on my projects.  From my family, from my friends, from my boyfriends.  And all I get is "it's nice."

And I love them, and I appreciate that they were trying to tell me nice things, or to help me in a positive way, but I so desperately wanted an honest assessment.  Something to fix.  Nothing's perfect on the first go-around, as I am frustratingly aware.

Finally someone gave me a straight up "here's what I think."  She was totally unselfconscious and not worried about hurting my feelings because I wasn't physically there staring at her.  And just about everything she said was useful.

"What does this site do?  Where is she located?  Oh, I guess this means ____.  I like this, but this other thing is confusing."

It's not even necessarily that the suggestions are useful (although in this case they were), it's seeing how and where someone gets stuck when they're trying to navigate your site.  Normally you have to pay someone $50 to do this.  Or hundreds of dollars for a company to run the analysis for you.  And I got it for free.  Because some amazing company somewhere decided to offer this for free.

And this woman, whoever and wherever she is, just gave me some of the best feedback I've ever gotten.  Because she was just answering some questions on a screen.

I hope you guys all try this out, because it's really awesome and a great way to get honest feedback and make your blog a little bit better.  (EDIT: I'm actually going to add a little caveat - depending what your blog is for, it might be less useful.  If you just want to chat with other bloggers, then you just need your blog to be user friendly and appealing to them.  So a random person who might not even know what a blog is will have less useful feedback.  But if you're trying to sell products or services or any kind, then it's immensely useful because your purpose has to be clear to everyone, not just other bloggers.)

But for me, it's so much more than that.  Websites are what I do.  This is going to vastly improve every web project I get from here on out.

This is the MOST Amazing Thing.

How do you get feedback on your projects?  Have you ever tried Peek?


Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Feb 19, 2015

Eloping - We're Doing It, But Why?

Ryan and I decided shortly after getting engaged that we would elope.  Up until the engagement I had been pretty gung ho about weddings and planning and, while I hadn't started a secret Pinterest board, I did have a pretty extensive Google doc with resources and a list of all the things we would need to decide upon.

Planning don't scare me!  Bring it on!

But then, when the engagement happened and I was finally allowed to start talking about this stuff, I realized Ryan really wasn't into it.  He wanted to get married, but every conversation about how and when and where seemed to leave him feeling drained and unenthusiastic.

Obviously not what I was going for.

So after rather carefully feeling him out to see what was going on, I realized my dream wedding was his worst nightmare.  We talked about the difficulties of collecting his family from various parts of the South, mine from the East and West, and all the expectations we would have to deal with.  And I thought, "Why am I doing this to him?"


He'd joked a few times about running off to Vegas or eloping, so finally I asked him if that's what he really wanted.  Yes.

So while we're putting our own twist on it, and there is a small bit of planning involved, that's essentially what we're doing.  And magically, as soon as we started using that word - Elopement - the expectations seem to fade away.  Are people disappointed?  Probably.  But no one's seemed too upset about it, and a lot of people have been really supportive.

Let me give you a list of the reasons I'm convinced this is one of the best ideas we've ever made.

8 of our Reasons for Eloping


1. Money

"Just think of all the money you'll save."  Yes.  Weddings cost a LOT.  Sister2's wedding, originally intended to be a modest event, has ballooned somewhere to the vicinity of $20,000.  Of course, this was only after my father got involved, leading to...

2. Expectations

You think everyone's going to go along with what you want because it's your "special day."  But they don't.  Everyone has a request, or a demand, even, because they know what the right way is to do things, and it's not whatever you had planned.  I had 2 different people tell me what their expectations were before Ryan and I even got engaged.  And yes, I still sometimes get pissed off about that.

3. Stress

While I was still convinced that planning would be delightful and I'd get to do everything all my own way (Eff alla ya'll - I'ma do what I want!), it was obviously going to be a major source of stress for Ryan.  And that alone would have caused me some unhappiness, even before all the other bajillion decisions and financial issues got involved.

4. Time

Even if planning is your thing (like it is mine), putting together all those little details is going to take a long time.  An engagement quite frequently lasts a year or more, not because the couple isn't ready to go all the way, but because that's how long it took to get everything figured out.  It's kind of nice to have that time to do and plan other things.  Like school, and house hunting.

5. Flexibility

You don't have to worry about who can afford what.  Or whether your guests will be able to travel to your location.  You can just do what you and your partner want to do, no one else's needs to be considered.  And you don't even have to worry about offending people - either they all will be or none of them will.  No one has a right to feel singled out, because everyone received the same thing.

6. Freedom

This probably sounds like a repeat of some of the others, and it kind of is.  But I guess I'm thinking specifically about not having to tailor our ceremony to be something everyone else will be comfortable in.  We're gaming, because that's what we like, and the few people there can either appreciate it or are willing to go along with us because we're so close.  Could we make our wedding into a game with 100 guests?  No, no we could not.

7. Public Speaking

When I have to talk in front of a bunch of people, I get blotchy and red.  Even when I'm comfortable.  And with the number of people attending a wedding, I wouldn't be.  I'd be thinking about how to say my speech, and whether it's properly memorized, and it really wouldn't be that special moment between Ryan and myself that I'm hoping for.  The last thing I want to think when I'm pledging my life to him is my splotchy, red face.

8. Guilt

Ok, so maybe this is just me being a control freak.  But the thing I enjoyed most about the idea of a wedding was the fact that I was in total control.  Everything was going to be my way.  For once in my life, I could be totally selfish and do everything the way I wanted - you know, with a few exceptions for what Ryan wanted.  So either I was going to cave to all the expectations and be unhappy, or I was going to stick to my guns and then feel guilt for all the people I upset or pissed off.  And faced with those 2 options, I'd really just rather piss them off A) From a distance and B) In a much cheaper way.

So there you have it.  Will I still feel guilty if people's feelings are hurt.  Probably.  And will I feel wistful that I didn't get to have my moment in a big princess-y dress with everything the way I want it?  A little.

But I think I'd rather accept those feelings gently now, than realize them in the midst of a stress-crazed battle with some guest who refuses to make things easy for me.  Because it's impossible to make everyone happy, and there's no way the event will go down exactly how I want it to.  The real world doesn't work that way.

If you want more to think on, here's a couple fun links:
P.S. Offbeat Bride and A Practical Wedding were my absolute favorite resources when I was still in research mode.  Oh, and while I do encourage eloping as an option, I do still very much enjoy weddings and all wedding details!  Just don't complain to me about it - you had other options.

Would you ever consider eloping?  Are you married and if so did you have a wedding?  Tell me all about it!


Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Feb 17, 2015

A Story of Blogs, Sponsors, and Lost Innocence

So I just finished writing a post about mind games in social interactions, and something really ironic happened.  I got an email chalk full of 'em!  Let me start at the beginning though.

So my blog is pretty tiny.  A baby blog, if you will.  And that's mostly because I look at it as a hobby and I'm too lazy to pretty up my posts with pictures, or to promote myself.

So I'm always taken aback when I get an email with some kind of sponsor offer.  Like the eShakti, one.  I mean, why advertise through me?  I have barely any hits.  But, hey, free dress, so I'll take it.

I had an interesting one a while ago about a subscription program for cheap razors for men.  I really liked their website and their ad, but in the end it just didn't make sense.  You guys, as far as I can tell, are mostly women and I doubt you want to hear about men's razors.  Plus, I didn't want any, so how could I promote a product I didn't want to try?  I let that one go.

Then, I got an email from an job search site.  TheLadders.  (Hey guys!  You said you wanted me to post about you, right?  Here it is!)  This sounded like something that could directly be useful for me or a friend!


It was a long email, so I reread it several times before I concluded that there really was no mention of payment.  But, not to be discouraged so easily, I responded to the message, indicating that I wouldn't be able to review their service if I hadn't actually tried it and asking this simple question, "What are you offering?"

To my surprise, they actually responded.

But, as I was soon to find out, their response didn't mean there was actually any benefit!  After carefully scanning 6 paragraphs of text, I finally found the line that indicated what was in it for me, "Our social team is going to be shouting-out our favorite posts on our social platforms!"

Ah.  So if I mention you, despite having no familiarity with your site or any idea whether or not it's effective or user-friendly, you might share my post.  Maybe.

Well, you know, to me that just seems unethical.  I'm not pretending we're best buds and trying to get my readers (all 10 of them) to use your website if I don't know whether or not I like it.  And, if you're going to ask me to do something unethical, at least offer payment or something.  Geez!  A girl has to have some standards!

So I guess I finally understand what people are talking about when they say it's annoying to get all the fake sponsor emails.  I'm really hoping that the tiny size of my blog prevents the spam from increasing.  But I know how I'm going to respond in the future.  Jenn over at Hello Rigby wrote a post about the different types of sponsor emails and how she handles it, and the last example is exactly what just happened with [the generic employment finding site that I won't be mentioning again].

One thing I'm wondering... how are they finding me?  Does getting sponsor emails mean my blog is big enough to be showing up on some random list somewhere?  Or in someone's database?  Is my little baby blog becoming a toddler?


Do you get BS sponsor emails?  How do you respond?



Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Feb 16, 2015

Getting Motivated to Achieve a Healthy Lifestyle

This month is exercise themed, and next month is nutrition.  With that in mind, it's pretty clear that while there are lots of habits I'd like to build, the brunt of my efforts is going to health.

Now is really the perfect time to get my shit together as far as my health goes.  I haven't permanently damaged anything yet, I'm still fairly young and healthy (through luck not effort), and I don't have kids yet so I have more free time than I will later on in life.

I was thinking about that, and it occurred to me that having healthy children, and being a good role model for them are really damn good reasons to get in shape.  I don't want to pass my flaws on to my children and then have them struggle with the same health, social, and confidence issues I did.

Another vague idea floating around in the back of my mind was that it would be nice not to develop Diabetes.  Am I at risk for that?  I very well could be.  I eat a ton of sugar, and quite frequently a lot at once, which is how your insulin producers get worn out.  I've also had more and more instances lately where I feel light-headed if I haven't eaten in a while.

While blood tests haven't indicated anything, I really don't think I should wait until there's something medically wrong with me to take action.  And I'd been doing it slowly, in a half-hearted way until very recently.
Now I want to do more. I want to see what I'm capable of, and I want to more fully achieve my potential. Knowing that motivation was bound to be an issue, I put together a list with the things I mentioned above, and a TON of other reasons to get (and stay) in shape.  And, because I'm crazy, I categorized it and put it in order of importance.


Why do I want to exercise and eat well?

Family

  • Be healthy and give my babies the best of my genetics
  • Be a good role model for my future children

Health

  • Stave off Type2 Diabetes
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Live longer and with improved quality of life
  • Less potential complications with surgery
  • Might regulate moods and sleep better (all them endorphins and whatnot)
  • More energy

Financial

  • Save money on medical care
  • Stop wearing out pants in the thigh
  • Don't have to pay more for plus size

 Self Actualization

  • Run a half marathon!!!
  • Could do things I want to do (hike Grand Canyon) and it would be less miserable
  • Don’t have to worry about being over the weight limit for things

 Convenience

  • Wear whatever I want without considering body type
  • Easier to buy clothes

Vanity

  • Not considered “obese” on the BMI chart
  • So I can say things like, “I’m the healthiest I've ever been!”
  • Be thin and beautiful like a model
  • Get a sugar daddy
I like having a list to think about, and to refer to when I'm feeling less motivated.  And I guess the sheer volume of the list surprised me at first.  I still have a lot of life to live.  Why wouldn't I want it to be better in all the ways I mentioned?  (Well, most.  You probably guessed I don't care about being modelesque and I certainly don't need a sugar daddy)

What's your motivation to be healthy?  Have you made any changes recently?


Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Feb 13, 2015

Valentine's Flyer Advertisements - Design Day Friday

On the plus side for Valentine's Day - I got a project!

This one was a bit of a rush job, which actually turned out great, because that (and my awesome, stellar designs - maybe) meant no changes.  Easy peasy.

Concept


It was for a countertop company, and it was a play on the diamonds (or an engagement ring, possibly) for Valentine's thing.  I could explain it, but you'll see...

Version 1





Version 2



Version 3



The client actually asked for the image files for 2 of them to use in a couple different places, which is always a good sign, I suppose!  And I believe their favorite was #3, which was also Ryan's favorite.  I like all of them (obviously), but the colors on #2 make my heart the happiest.

One thing I was kind of intrigued by was the whole "don't buy a diamond, buy a countertop" marketing idea.  At first I was thinking a "rock" meant an engagement ring, and then I thought, "Oh no, that's not a good substitute at all.  She'd be piiiiissed!"  But I guess instead of jewelery... I don't know.  Do people buy this sort of thing for Valentine's Day?  Ryan and I don't (as you may recall), but what do you think?

Which is your favorite?  And if you wanted a "rock" for Valentine's Day, would a countertop be a good substitute?


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Feb 12, 2015

Marketing Holidays & Supposed Obligations

Let's talk Valentine's Day.

People make a big deal about it.  Ryan and I don't.  Neither of us has a problem with Valentine's Day, specifically, but when you get right down to it, it's just another day.  So we don't do elaborate gifts or flowers or chocolate.  We typically avoid eating out, because the restaurants are usually crowded.  We'll probably spend time together, because that's nice to do anyway.

This year we're running the Chocolate Lover's 5K.  And, honestly, I was halfway signed up before I even realized it was on Valentine's Day.  I was just excited about the free chocolate.

Anyway, the point is, it's not a terribly special day to either of us.  Neither of us has the gift-giving love language, so we don't feel we're missing out on anything by saving some money and sitting this one out.

I rarely put this much thought into this particular holiday, but seeing someone's reaction when they ask me what I'm getting for Ryan, and I say, "Nothing" kind of drives me into this irritated state of rebellion.  I also get sick of hearing things like, "My husband didn't get me anything."  Is that really the most important thing about the day?  Whether or not you "got something"?


In high school, I used to wear all black on Valentine's Day.  It was an inside joke, with myself, and I liked the rebellion of not following along with what everyone else was doing.  But I didn't dislike the day.  Some kids passed out candy, and class was interrupted all day long by singing Valentines.  Some of the singing groups were funny, most were talented, and all of it prevented us from having to learn anything, so it was really a pretty great day.

As I've gotten older, and the candygrams have stopped, it's become less exciting and I've become more jaded.  You get the concept of a marketing holiday, right?  Basically, some company's marketing department comes up with a genius idea and for the history of forever, we will always have to buy their product on that day of the year.  Examples: Valentine's Day (obviously), diamond engagement rings (yeah, not a deeply rooted tradition after all), even razors and women shaving their legs.

So I kind of hate the idea of us, as a collective society, being led around like naïve, little children and being brainwashed into putting value into things simply because we're told to.  Meanwhile our pockets are getting emptier and theirs are getting fuller.

I also dislike the way a lot of our holidays seem to be tailored to the same pattern: something special happens - so the man buys the woman a present.  I know some of you are going to say, "Oh, but I buy my [husband/boyfriend/man of some sort in my life] a gift, too!"  And that's great.  Here's to overturning the gender stereotype!  But I still hear an awful lot of women complaining about the lack of attention from their husbands and nothing from the other gender.  I've also been hearing a barrage of jewelry, flower, and chocolate commercials lately, but oddly enough, nothing for tools, beer, or other stereotypical man-type gifts.

I think our society is still skewed in a lot of ways.  And I think this "women must be romanced" thing is one of them.  And it bugs the heck out of me.

So not doing much for Valentine's Day is equal parts due to resisting sexist traditions, not having my finances be dictated by marketing, and not being a gift oriented person.  Oh, and a tiny bit common sense, because even if I was into Valentine's Day, it'd be a heck of a struggle to get Ryan to be.

If you're into Valentine's Day, that's great.  If you give me chocolate, even better!  Now if I could just get other people to stop trying to make me feel guilty because I don't happen to do things the way they do, yeah, that'd be perfect.

Do you have plans for Valentine's Day?  How do you feel about marketing driving our cultural traditions?  Oh, by the way, Happy Valentine's Day!


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Feb 10, 2015

What You'd Learn About Me From My Phone Photos

I'm in a very goal-oriented place right now.  Every post I write seems to turn into a goals list or a motivational essay.  So I thought maybe for today I would share a bit of randomness.  Here's 5 recent pictures from my phone and the story behind them.

1. The Seemingly Random Salad



Ryan and I have always eaten the same salad: spinach, tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, feta cheese, raspberry vinaigrette.  Not bad, unless... you don't like red onion, are tired of tomatoes, and have eaten this 10 bajillion times.  Since I'm bringing salads for lunch and they don't need to appeal to Ryan, I finally branched out and tried different toppings.  This is sliced carrots, apples, and almonds and it was AMAZING.  I was super proud of myself for making something I actually want to eat again.


2. Feel the POWAH!!!



 
I'm doing squats.  We don't really have a squat rack, so my dad and I adapted the bench to be tall enough for squatting.  I'm only doing 135 lbs. but it's exciting because I get to use the big plates and feel all macho.
 
You might think, "Ah, a new weightlifting accomplishment.  A logical reason to take a photo."  Nope.  We actually took this one and another one of my dad, so that we could Photoshop his weights onto my bar and tell Sister3 I was way ahead of her in our squatting competition.  THAT is the real reason my family takes pictures.
 

3. Do You Know How Groceries Work?


 

Yes, I do.  But my car does not.  So it beeped at me for about half a mile until I get fed up and buckled my heavy-as-a-person groceries in.  Note to self: put the groceries in the back next time.
 

4. If the Shoe Fits

 

Obviously the best way to tell if the shoe would match Sister2's wedding dress.

5. A Lesson in Swaddling



This is Sister2's dog, Maverick, wrapped up in the sheet that would later become the Harry Potter sky.  If you have a dog, I'm sure you know that if you leave a blanket (or anything soft) on the ground, the dog will immediately curl up on top of it.  However, it always surprises me when I wrap them in it completely and they actually like it.  Anyway, this is Maverick being calm and cute, which only happens once in a blue moon!

What's going on with you?  Do you ever have to check your phone photos to see what you've been doing lately?


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Feb 9, 2015

My Health and Fitness Tools - Motivational Monday

In general, I'm focusing on living a healthier life, not just this month, but making permanent changes to my lifestyle.  Because I'm so goal and spreadsheet oriented, I really enjoy tracking every little, miniscule detail and there are certain apps that I've come to rely on.

These probably aren't super revolutionary, but I thought I'd share anyway.

My Favorite Fitness Apps

 
 

MyFitnessPal

MyFitnessPal is a great food tracker, and it has options to set weight loss (or gain) goals, totals up the calories in what you've eaten already (as well as other nutritional information), and lets you know how much is left.  I really enjoy it, though I did eventually get tired of tracking every single thing I ate, which is why I stopped using it last time.  It definitely works better when you're doing things like meal planning, and eating conscientiously, and this time I've found it's helped immensely with trying to plan a well-rounded diet.

I've learned some key things - for example, my protein is consistently low.  My fats are low, too, but the protein is practically non-existent, and my carbs are about double what they should be.

Knowing that, and having done some research on how our diets generally have the same problem (low protein) and it can be a huge contributor to overeating, I've made changes to my diet.  I make an effort to add in protein, whether that's yogurt, nuts, or actual meat (which is what most of us think of when we hear "protein").  It's been really exciting to see the changes, and how choosing the right snacks to balance out my protein (or whatever else happens to be low that day) is already becoming easier with a little practice.


 

RunKeeper

Turns out this app syncs up with MyFitnessPal!  So it tracks your runs, calculates calories burned, and reports it to MyFitnessPal, which then recalculates your total calories left for the day.

I really like that RunKeeper tracks your runs by GPS (which is one of the reasons I switched from Fitocracy; the other being that Fitocracy can't connect to MyFitnessPal), but it is definitely more focused on outdoor running than anything else.  I do a lot of treadmill running (especially right now - brrr!) so I have to manually enter that, as well as strength training and yoga, but it does automatically add my dog walks and it will be more useful in the summer.

I'll be honest - while I like the layout of RunKeeper, it's probably not too terribly different from the other 40 apps that CAN sync up with MyFitnessPal.  I really like certain things, like being able to see a summary of your activity all in one screen, and another for your progress on your goals.  But probably the biggest impetus for choosing it was the very important 3rd app...



Sleep Cycle

Yes!  All my apps can connect to each other.  Which is cool, because each one does what it's best at (calories & nutrition, exercise, and sleep) and then they just communicate with each other so that you don't have to retype anything.

So Sleep Cycle might actually be more unique than these other 2.  It's also the only one I paid for, although it was pretty cheap.  Basically, it's an alarm clock (although you can turn that function off if you'd rather use something else) that sits under your pillow and monitors your movement.  Using how restless you were as a guide, it tells you how well you slept, how long, and gives you a history that you can refer to.

So far the most useful aspect of this has been "sleep notes."  Basically you make a list of things you can check off before bed, and then later the app graphs how well each of those factors affects your sleep.  Example: some of mine are "Dog on bed, Worked out, Drank caffeine after noon, Took vitamins."

After tracking my sleep for a couple months, I looked at the graph.  There was no clear correlation between vitamins and anything (which makes sense; I mean they don't really have a day by day impact), a slight positive for working out, and a strong negative correlation for caffeine and the dog.

What was interesting about this is that when I drink caffeine before bed, it's easier to wake up.  But that was obviously coming at the cost of sleep quality.  And it wasn't just caffeine right before bed - every day that I had caffeine after noon, my sleep was impacted.  Using that information, I was able to make changes to try to improve the quality of my sleep.


Take a Break

This is my meditation app.  It's the really simple starter app for a whole pack that you have to pay for if you want to upgrade.  I really like it, enough that I'm considering buying some of the other, more targeted apps.

Basically a soothing woman's voice walks you through a guided meditation.  There's a 7 minute, and a 13 minute version, and you can change basic options, like volume (both of her voice and the background noise) and what type of sound you'd like to play along with her (my favorite is the "music" options but ocean waves weren't too bad, either).

I think it's a great app for introductory meditation, since it's a simple layout and all pretty self explanatory.



AllRecipes.com

Initially I was so excited about this that I signed up for the subscription services, so I could do my meal planning here.  I ended up canceling that because the grocery list and meal planning wasn't as useful as I thought it would be, but I still love looking up recipes here!  (Both on the website or the app)

Two main things are what makes this a real winner for me:
  1. The ability to search by ingredients.  I really like being able to use up the little bit of this or that from old meals.
  2. The reviews.  They are plentiful and a lot of people share how they customized the dish, which is what I almost always do, because I refuse to run out and buy just one ingredient.  If I don't have it, then I'm either not making it until after the next grocery run, or I'm making it without.  And sometimes they provide substitutes for more unusual ingredients, which is a huge plus for someone who would rather just stock their kitchen with basic ingredients and spices.
Oh, and the dinner spinner is fun, too!  Based on a couple of inputs (amount of time you have to cook, etc), it'll give you suggestions to make for dinner.  But I haven't actually used this.



Safeway App

I was using a Google Doc for a long time for our grocery list.  It was easy, I could access it anywhere, and it was shared with Ryan so he could add stuff, as well.  But...

I just learned that you can sort your grocery list BY AISLE for the Safeway app, which thus far has been a huge time saver!  Example: I had no idea that the tuna helper is in the baking aisle.  I would have easily spent 15 minutes looking for it if it wasn't for the app.  Plus, I'm pretty sure Ryan can also download and sign in on his phone, so it will have the same flexibility as the Google Doc.

At first I thought it would be a pain to add ingredients, but the app will pop up a list of options, so you can select those, or you can type in something custom and just select the "category" (like "Fruits & Vegetables"), and it will still sort for you.

Also, I miss this type of layout.  It seems like most of my apps are turning the "home page" into some sort of feed, and I'd much rather just have my page options on there and not the newest snippets from the blog, or what "my friends" are doing.  I can see why they do it - to get you to stay longer - but it takes away some of the efficacy of the app for me.  Anyway, Safeway is still doing it right.

Apps I'm Less Thrilled With


Pandora

So, it's got all my stations, and it's what I use on the computer, too.  I've been using it for a long time and I don't hate it.  But I'm not in love with it either, or the way they blast some of the ads, and some of the ads are totally inappropriate to my stations (see horror movie ads on my Disney Sing-alongs station).  But since being louder is supposedly an effective technique and TV uses it, too, I'm not sure if there's any better alternative.  I'm considering switching to Spotify or trying out these podcasts and ebooks I keep hearing about.  Spotify users, let me know what you think!

Apple Health

It seems like a really good idea.  It connects to all the other fitness apps and shows you graphs.  But it's confusing and there's way too much junk in there (for me, personally).  I have no way (other than manually) to input blood pressure, and there's way I'm going to be manually inputting data into 20+ categories.

I guess it's simpler if you just choose the categories you want to show on the dashboard (graphs), and then you don't have to dig through it every time you look, but the dashboards aren't terribly user friendly and there's no way to rearrange them after they've been added.  I'm going to reserve judgment, though, since I just started trying to figure this one out.

What health and fitness apps do you like?  Do you prefer Pandora or Spotify and why?


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Feb 6, 2015

Harry Potter Decor - January Self Actualization

I had something else in mind for January and I was rushing trying to get around to it when I realized, "Wait!  The thing on my to do list is ALSO a craft.  Yeah, I'll just use that."

So my friend, Sansa, was super ambitious with her projects for the Harry Potter party and wanted to do all these amazing things.  I was inspired by her inspiration, so I offered to do a project, which ended up taking hours longer than expected and causing me intense self loathing and not a few tears.

Let's Talk Candles - A Non-Tutorial


Through a plethora of Great Hall Candle tutorials, I managed to find instructions I was actually A) willing to & B) capable of following.  Or so I thought.  I'm sharing what I did, primarily so you can avoid my mistakes, but if I haven't managed to scare you off of this project yet, here's a great tutorial for the candles, and here's another one for the sky.

1. Collect a Bajillion Paper Towel Rolls

Technically, Sansa did this.

2. Cut Them

Sansa wanted varying heights, so they're all fairly close to the halfway line, but there's a couple inches of difference between the tallest and shortest.  I also did this at an angle, because I thought it was more realistic of how candles actually burn.



3. Glue Candle "Drips"

It's actually pretty easy to make imitation wax drips with a glue gun.  So Ryan and I watched From Russia with Love while I dabbed it on.  No tears yet...


4. Paint

So... if you want to do it right, you'll put a coat of glue on the ends with the drips.  Paint doesn't adhere that well to glue gun glue.  But I was lazy and didn't want to buy a ton of Elmer's glue, so I just did 2 coats and they were mostly covered.  I was planning on spray painting them, but turns out my white spray paint was just about used up from old projects.

5. Attach Bottom

I thought the tutorials would have something fancy for this, but it was just cutting out circles of regular computer paper and sticking them on with a glue stick.  We have some trust issues with glue sticks in our household, so we used the glue gun.  Ryan helped with this, because he's awesome.


6. Stop Doing Anything Until the Night Before the Party

Yes, this is key.  Also stop documenting because it's all pretty much downhill from here.

7. Emergency Walmart Run

Realize the extra sheet you had generously offered to donate to the project is actually not in your possession anymore, because you did so much purging recently and gave it all away to Goodwill!  Run to Walmart at 11pm on one of the coldest days of the year.  Feel the surge of unhappiness, self pity, and the beginnings of doubt, "Is this really all worth it?"

8. Spray Paint a Bunch of Shit

Technically only the sheet needs to be spray painted, but lets glitz the candles, too!  Just for a little touch of gold... oh shit!  There's gold everywhere!  They're striped, half white, half gold.  The bottoms are peeling off because the paper is soaked through.  What have you JUST DONE?!?!

Oh, right.  Also spray paint the sheets.  You can use an image of the galaxy for inspiration and attempt to recreate those purple and blue swirls, but that "shimmer" spray paint you bought isn't going transmit any color anyway, so don't worry too much about it.  Also, "Diamond Dust" is really just glitter.

9. Paint Some Stars

Do we have our nice, glittery-but-still-solidly-blue sheets?  Good, now let's painstakingly dab silver splotches all over them to look like stars.  Avoid evenly dispersed polka dots, because for some reason, you still care about this project.

10. String 'Em Up!

Ahem.  Hang them delicately, is what I meant.  With fishing line.  Stab holes into the horrible beasts with something small and sharp, and thread fishing line across, right below where you want the tealights to sit.  Tie into a loop and staple it to the sheet.

Or, if it's 2 hours before the party and you have to run out and get something printed at the last minute, have your partner do the stapling.  And then run out of time and fishing line, bring the half finished project to the party, where a friend has brought some emergency fishing line, and finish stringing the damn thing together over there.

11. More Stabbing

This time with thumb tacks.  To the ceiling.  Choose a part of the ceiling that you are the only one tall enough to reach, and which requires you to stretch to full height.  Continue through the burning arms - no pain, no gain!  (Actual Tip: If you ever need to hang something taut, like a sheet that wants to pull the thumbtacks out, angle them so they're pointing towards where the tension is coming from.  That way the pressure pulls them further into the wall instead of out of it.  Same concepts as tent stakes.)

12. Tea Lights

This would normally be easier once the sheet is up, but since I had primarily vertically challenged helpers (sorry guys, but you know it's true), they ran around and did it while I held the sheet in the air, half pinned.  Fun, fun, for everyone.

13. Be Glad It Is OVER!

And briefly sad that it doesn't look good.  But mostly glad.  Also, enjoy the party.

Does it look good with the flash on?  No.

How about with the flash off?  Oh, still no.

And here's all the other awesome things Sansa put together.


The bajillion things Sansa made.  Of particular note: those "Fizzing Whizbees" actually fizzed.  The chocolate had pop rocks in it, which was super awesome and tasty!  Oh, and that tiny hand in the potions picture is my goddaughter.  Who later took the colored water and got into a "dye fight" with the other little girl who was there.  Good fun, but very messy.

What I Learned

I'm not good at crafting.  Design is one thing and crafting is a totally different beast.  Much respect to all the crafters out there, but one BIG request.  Stop making it look so damn easy!  You're confusing the rookies like myself.  (Same request of chefs.  If I have to buy fresh herbs, it is not a "quick and easy" recipe.)

What crafts have you completed that you were proud of?  Or that you hated?  Would you attend a Harry Potter party?


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Feb 5, 2015

Complete Challenge Completed! (and Create Challenge Created)

Checking in for the Make Your Own Adventure link up.  Starting the year off with a bang, here's my updates from January, and my new goals for the month of February, theme: Create.

January Complete Themed Goals

1. Complete My Transition into the New Year by:

  • Putting away all seasonal décor - Check!
  • Finding a place for or discarding all gifts - Check!
  • Finishing all leftover tasks from 2014 BEFORE adding new ones - Check! (Discarded a couple, but making that decision took it off my plate, so I'm counting it.)

2. Complete Abandoned Creative Projects by:

  • Setting a schedule for and initializing my new art/craft/design Self Actualization list - Check!
  • Writing a post about it and updating my Self Actualization page explaining the priority shift - Check!
  • Completing the first art/craft/design project this month - Check! (Harry Potter party décor - full post coming tomorrow)
Great Hall floating candles.  Post for these coming soon!

3. Complete Unfinished Challenges by:

  • Trying out a new system for habit building - Check! (last month was "Sleep")
  • Challenging myself to 30 days of yoga/meditation before bed - Check! (Really enjoyed it!  I missed a couple days, but overall it was really nice and I plan to do more with it.)
  • Becoming a grad student - Check! (class is in session!)

9/9!  (The New Year is always pretty inspiring)  And the new goals for February...

February Create Themed Goals

1. Create an Inspirational and Organized Workspace for Art/Design by:

  • Organizing and restructuring my portfolio and computer files
  • Printing and hanging a motivational poster I made a while back
  • Upping the cozy factor of my desk to combat the chilly basement

2. Create a Healthier Lifestyle by:

  • Putting together a binder with our favorite (healthy) recipes
  • Following through with February's Habit Building Challenge (exercise)
  • Researching and learning more about meditation

3. Create Some Stuff!

  • Draw something!
  • Pottery class with Ryan!
  • Greeting card art for scholarship entry!  (Because why not?  Grad school isn't cheap.)
I might be cheating a little bit with the "health" section, but it is something I want to do this month, so why not?  Throw it all in there!

Do you have monthly goals?  What are you "creating" this month?


Linking up with Steph, Stephanie, and Ashley.

Life According to Steph

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Feb 2, 2015

30 Minutes is Nothing; 30 Minutes is Everything

For this month's habit building challenge, I'm focusing on exercise.  I started a couch to 5K plan back in January and I've done alright. Not great.

For some reason there are just a couple days that I've been struggling to make myself do.  It seems like every Wednesday/Thursday/Friday, my motivation just breaks down and I lose all desire to make myself do something.  I saw this pattern last month with the Sleep Habit Building.  But why?  Let's take a slight tangent.

If you asked someone, almost anyone, I'd imagine, if they would be willing to put up with a half hour of discomfort every day for 30 minutes in order to be healthy and maybe even lose weight or gain muscle tone, they'd say, "Hell yeah! Sign me up."

But then you think about it, and that's all exercise really is.

Half an hour to an hour of being uncomfortable every day.  And it makes such a vast difference to your overall health!

But there is one major obstacle: you can't just passively allow it to happen.  You have to choose to make yourself uncomfortable.  And that's where it all falls apart.

I can understand that; certainly, I'm as guilty as anyone of saying, "Nah, I'm not feeling it today.  I'll just go home and relax."  But when you break it down, when you really think about what it is that you're not willing to do, it's not THAT hard.  It's not THAT miserable and it's not THAT big a deal.

With this in mind, I'm going to challenge myself to 30 days of exercise.  30 days of being mildly uncomfortable for at least half an hour.  Obviously I'm still going to try to follow my running plan, but I really want the focus to be on DOING something, anything!

Because it's really not that hard, and the only thing stopping me is my own mental blocks that I've put up.  This is the month those come down.
I'm setting a few parameters or goals, but really I'll consider this a success if I do anything.  Here's what I'll attempt to do:
  • 30 minutes of some kind of exercise every day (cardio/weights/yoga/anything!)
  • Run every day my couch to half marathon plan says to (I've been about 1 run short each week)
  • Bike once each week (for variety and to validate our purchase of the thing)
  • Break through this Wednesday/Thursday slump in motivation!
That last one is the hardest, so I'm probably going to be repeating my new mantra a lot, "Half an hour of your day = years added to your life."  Or when I'm feeling less eloquent, "It's good for you, it's good for you, it's good for you..."  (What I told myself the whole way up on the Grand Canyon Hike)

What are your exercise goals?  And what do you tell yourself to get motivated?  Do you have a mantra?


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Feb 1, 2015

Challenge Updates! - Habit Building & Sobriety

I've got a couple things going on, so I'm combining them into 1 end-of-month post, covering my month-long sobriety challenge, sleep habit building, and the yoga for 30 days.

Starting with the fun one -  the Alcohol Challenge.  I haven't had any!  In over 4 weeks.  (Unless you count cough syrup, but that's really not fair.)

I know one month doesn't sound like much of a challenge, and it probably wouldn't have been since we don't normally go out more than once or twice a month.  But I remedied that by piling on the social activities.  I won a happy hour from Catherine Rooney's, so I scheduled that for myself and my coworkers during week 2, and then the last week we went to Painting with a Twist (I turned down free wine, people!) twice, and ended the month with a Harry Potter party hosted by my friend, Sansa (themed Harry Potter drinks, le sigh).

So I had the opportunity to turn down alcohol 4 times!  The Happy Hour was pretty easy.  There were 2 points that I felt wistful. 
  1. When people had first arrived and we were still in the uncomfortable, "What should we talk about?" stage of the evening. (Social Crutch)
  2. Right when we left and I looked at their custom cocktails list.  Catherine Rooney's has some really awesome looking cider combinations and I'd like to go back and try them one day.  In moderation. (Enjoyment)
Overall, I think my biggest concern was what I should tell people when they asked why I wasn't drinking and how to not give off the impression of pregnancy. (I debated about what to say, and I probably could have just said, "Oh, I don't feel like drinking tonight" or "I'm doing a no-alcohol thing" but I feel like at this age, people always just assume pregnancy.  "You have big news?  Are you PREGNANT?!?!"  And I was sick, so that seemed like a fairly legit reason that didn't delve too far into the not-very-fun discussion of alcoholism and addictive personalities that I reserve for you guys.  <3)  Anyway, for the most part it wasn't a problem, though I did have one person ask what I was taking for my cold and reassure me that alcohol wouldn't react badly with that.

The other events were, if anything, easier.  Painting with a Twist was just as fun without alcohol, as was the Harry Potter party.  I think the hardest things were seeing other people drinking and feeling like I was left out or missing something, and not getting to try all the fancy HP-themed beverages!

Oddly enough, I think the aftereffect I most appreciate avoiding this month had nothing to do with feeling physically ill (hangovers and whatnot).  It was the nagging sensation that I probably said or did something inappropriate while under the influence.  I hadn't realized how much anxiety that gave me until it wasn't there anymore.

I also spent the month thinking about how best to accomplish my overall goal: to enjoy alcohol in moderation but avoid excess, getting drunk, and hangovers.  Here's the new rules I came up with.
  1. Unlimited... tasting.  Because as much as I wanted to rule out hard liquor, sometimes there's a flavored something, or you end up at a moonshine bar, and it's a unique, interesting experience that I don't want to miss out on.  So I'm permitting samples or trying out someone else's drink.
  2. 2 drinks... wine, beer, cider, etc.  Anything that is being consumed for the experience/taste rather than the effect.  No hard liquor.
  3. 1 drink... pretty much whatever.  If, for some reason, I'm actually craving a rum and coke, then go for it.  But nurse that thing, because it's the only one!  (Goes without saying - but doubles are cheating.)
  4. Never again... shots.  Specifically straight liquor shots.  They really only have 2 purposes: to get you drunk and to look badass, and those are 2 things I can live without.  Shooters, on the other hand, are generally pretty harmless and accomplish neither of those things.  So I'd count them as "tasting."
I'm actually really pleased with this experiment and with the conclusion.  Would it be better to cut out all alcohol?  Probably.  But I think spending a couple months thinking about it really helped me to identify exactly which situations result in problem drinking, so I can eliminate that without losing the entire experience.

Anyway, on to the habit building project!

Monthly Habit Building: Sleep


The goal with the sleep habit building project was to get (at least) 8 hours of sleep every night for one month.  To facilitate that, I would try to stick with a nightly routine (start getting ready for bed at 8pm, and be in bed before 9pm.  Morning alarm at 5am).  I'm quite honestly not sure why I struggle so much with this, so I was hoping that putting a bigger focus on it would shed some light on the situation.  Some notes...

Week 1: Started strong (as per usual), but allowed my after-work social events to mess up my schedule and was short on sleep from Wednesday on.  After 2 days I lose the motivation to get up on time and spend the morning hitting the snooze button, which is not restful or productive.

Week 2: As per usual, my routine fell apart on Wednesday night, but unlike usual I can say that 8 or more hours of sleep happened each night, so... an improvement, I guess.  Maybe I'll stop worrying about routine for now and just focus on sleep.

Week 3: Ugh.  Starting to lose motivation.  Wednesday night I had friends over, and then Thursday Ryan came home from a work trip and I waited up.  I don't predict better results for next week - there's something scheduled every single day of the week.

Week 4: School started.  I got behind on my craft projects.  In short, I decided to let this one go.  (One positive though, relating to meditation which I will discuss at the end.)

Summary: I think maybe, as simple as it seemed in theory, I was trying to fix too many things all at once.  Part of it is getting 8 hours of sleep.  Another part is following my schedule and getting up on the 1st alarm.  Then there's the nightly routine to wind down and get to sleep on time.  And THEN there's sleep quality and working on improving that.  I seemed to either follow each item rigorously, or miss the mark on all of them.

It didn't occur to me until the last week, but I'd like to track my sleep better.  So I started using Sleep Cycle again, and in a month or 2, I'm going to look at what my patterns are and what mistakes I'm consistently making.  Do I stay up later on the days I feel stressed out?  Which factors make me sleep more poorly?  And so on.

At that point, I'd like to revisit this and decide the best way to go about it.  For now, I want to just focus on sleep quality (which seems to improve with meditation & exercise), and tracking to see where I'm going wrong.  Other than that, I'm not going to worry about it, because I've been feeling more and more enthusiastic for my February Habit Building challenge, which is Exercise.

More on that tomorrow!

Oh, and One Last Thing


Remember how I said I was going to try again with the yoga/meditation thing?  I actually did it!  And I liked it!

I downloaded an app that talks you through some stress relief exercises (Take a Break), and listened to it (almost) every night before bed.  I adapted a little bit, since sitting still makes it harder for me (my mind wanders more, and a couple times I got too comfortable and fell asleep), and I typically do some stretching and some stuff from our yoga routine.

But in general it's been really nice and it makes me feel calmer and ready for bed.  I do feel like I could get more out of it, so I'd like to do some more research about meditation, and maybe try a couple different apps so I can learn more techniques to try on my own.  I might also make it a focus for Habit Building later on in the year.

To sum up: It's been a good month.  I've got high hopes for this year.

Do you have rules about your alcohol consumption?  What habits would you like to work into your routine?  Have you tried meditation and do you have any good resources for me?


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