Mar 31, 2015

Removing the Glory from "Busy"

Lately I've felt "busy."  And by "busy" I really mean over-scheduled, stressed out, constantly doing instead of being, with a to-do list that stretches for months (no exaggeration - I made the list.  It goes until August).

Part of that is timing.  Sister2 and I are both getting married this year, which entails a certain number of activities.  Part of that is not wanting to say no to things.  I've also chosen to take a grad-level class, accept client projects, and attend bi-weekly gaming sessions.  Yet another part is wanting to improve my overall health and happiness.  I've increased my physical activity level, tried out new habits, set plethoras of goals, and added personal crafting projects to the master list that didn't really need a size increase.  And, of course, I blog.  Oh, and have a full-time job, but that's pretty much assumed.

On the one hand, I'm proud of all the things I'm doing!  Each one, taken individually, is a positive addition to my life.  And I'm unwilling to drop any of them, or I'd have done so.  I think the past couple months I've been convinced that if I keep working at it, I can optimize my time to the point that it all fits in my day and leaves sufficient time for sleep and relaxation.

But I might have hit the limit.  When there is "me time" it's guiltily snatched from the jaws of the looming "master to do list" that I was foolish enough to put together.  It's not as enjoyable as it should be and, all too frequently, it's taken at the expense of getting enough sleep.

I'm starting to wonder if I'm guilty of the "glorification of busy" that Steph mentioned a while back.  Have I gotten so busy because I think it's glamorous to be busy?  How important are these things that I'm doing?  Are they contributing to my overall happiness?

Saying no is incredibly hard.  Sometimes it's guilt - not wanting to offend someone or let them down.  But more often it's because I want to do it.  I want to do all the things!  I want to improve everything and make my life as full and satisfying as possible.  You know, that whole self actualization thing.

But maybe in attempting to Do so much, I'm really taking away from my ultimate happiness.  Maybe by submerging each moment in tasks, I'm missing out on the time needed to reflect on what I have and feel happy with what I've achieved.

I'm of the personality type that likes to go all out.  Moderation is a word I occasionally use, but struggle to actually practice.  Instead I bounce back and forth between frenzied activity and total apathy like a ping pong ball with no control over its own velocity.

I don't really want to be a ping pong ball anymore.  But I don't know how to stop.  How do I choose what things to cut out when they're all important to me?  How do I figure out the difference between things that actually are important and things that just sound cool?

My family has a habit of saying, "FOR GLORY!!!" right before sending a poorly aimed frisbee with great force well past the disc golf cup.  It then typically takes an extra turn or 2 to make up what ground we lost during the "all or nothing" throw.

And just maybe there's a lesson to be learned there.  Maybe in seeking glory we actually take a few steps backwards in reaching the ultimate goal: happiness.

SOS!  How do you prevent yourself from getting overloaded?  What do you think about the glorification of "busy"?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Mar 29, 2015

Sunday Sweats - Beginning the Final Countdown

Sunday Sweats Theme Inspired by Holly

Image via Imgur who probably stole it from somewhere else (Also on my Pinterest Inspirational Art & Designs board if it looks familiar)
This past week I was determined to do something to make up for the disgrace that was last week.  And I was pretty discouraged thinking about the 10 mile race coming up in 6 weeks that I'm utterly unprepared for.  But then I ran a couple of "baby runs" and I realized something.  My new starting base is 3 miles.  It used to be 1, and then it took weeks to work up to 3 miles.  I might feel like I lost a lot in the couple of weeks I had to take off, but I am still way ahead of my old self.  And that's something worth celebrating.

Anyway, on to the workouts!  Here's what I did...

Weekly Workouts

Monday - 15 Min Biking, Strength Training

Got up in the morning and biked before heading into work!  Such a good start to the day.  Then returned to the lunchtime workout routine.  Bench press, pull downs, and ankle rehab.

Tuesday - Strength Training, 2 Mile Run

Lunchtime workout: curls, triceps, situps, and ankle rehab.  After work, I grabbed Luke and my mom and wandered around in my toe shoes for a bit before running a cautious 2 miles.  Delighted to see that my body's not really complaining and the hardest obstacle is, once again, my own brain.

Wednesday - 15 Min Biking, Strength Training

Got up early again (sort of), and got in some quick biking before rushing off to work.  I'm definitely feeling the burn of the arm workout from yesterday, but it feels good to have a reminder that I've actually been active this week.  Squats today.

Thursday - Nada

Just surviving. Stayed up all night last night to finish my midterm because, after a half day of work, we're off to Texas for a wedding! Looking forward to seeing Ryan in a tuxedo.

Friday - Nada

Ahhh... vacation.

Saturday - Hiking

Sorta. We jogged a tiny bit and explored the area around the ranch we're staying at. Also stopped by the gym and, after a half-hearted workout, wandered around and enjoyed the scenery.

Sunday - Nada

Wedding day.  Lots of food, alcohol, dancing, and happiness.

Total Weekly Mileage: 3
Total Hours Exercised: 3
Weeks to Next Race: 5

Thoughts Going Into Next Week

At this point, I've got 5 weeks to prepare for the 10 miler.  The likelihood is that I will not be able to run the whole thing.  I'm definitely tempted to jump back into my training plan and bump up every long run by 2 miles each week, but if I learned anything from my ankle issues, it's that listening to my body is more important that meeting my goals, and that refusing to take the time I need to recuperate will slow me down even more in the long run.  So I'll optimistically hope to increase by 1 mile each week, which will put me at 7 before the race.  As for the race, whatever happens happens.

P.S. I'm posting this from the Blogger app. Fingers crossed it's not too horrendously formatted!

How did your workouts go this week?  What's the longest race you've ever run? Have you ever posted from your phone?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Mar 26, 2015

I See You Checkin' Out My Bumper

Actually it's the other way around.  I'm checking out other people's bumpers, because my car is entirely lacking in adhesive rear-end decor.

But sometimes I wonder what people are really trying to convey with some of those stickers.  And sometimes I hate them regardless of what they're trying to convey because traffic aka road rage.  So I thought I'd make a list of where cliched bumper stickers fall on my Hate/Acceptance scale.

Immediate Rage

  1. I Love My [insert dog breed].  Yes, that's a cute sticker.  Oh, look, it's a dog bone because you're talking about dogs!  That's so creative!  In all seriousness, that's great that you love your dog.  But you're driving slow, you and your dog are unfortunate victims of my unnecessary driving-induced anger, and you should really consider adopting.  Moving on.
  2. Political Stickers.  Get over yourself.  Dealing with traffic is bad enough without getting pissed off at you shoving your political agenda in my windshield (not literally, hopefully).
  3. Bullet Holes.  You're dumb.
  4. Balls.  Not a bumper sticker, but come on!  Really?  No one wants to look at that.
  5. Driving Critiques.  Really?  Do you know how close I had to get to your car to read what you were trying to tell me?  It was so dangerous!  Hypocrite.  (Note: the best ones are the ones against cell phones when the driver is on the phone.  Not nearly as uncommon as you'd hope.)

Depends on Traffic

  1. Family Stick Figures.  I have no logical reason to hate this; it's just cheesy.  But if the traffic has caused my blood to boil, then it really doesn't matter.  Curses on you and your perfect little family!  Exception: Star Wars or zombie family.  Hey, at least you tried to be creative.  In the height of road rage I might still hate you, but for the most part you're spared my unnecessary and impotent rage.
  2. My Child is a [Something I'm Proud of].  Good for you!  Your child was given the "koalaty award" just like every other child.  That's so special!  Apologies for my road rage induced sarcasm.  As long as I'm not bumper to bumper with you for too long, I'll probably stay level headed enough to admit it's nice of you to support your family member.
  3. Bumper Stickers Making Fun of Other Bumper Stickers.  I get that it's a joke.  But at what point in making a Facebook page for your dog to be funny do you just become the guy who has a Facebook page for his dog?  And very few of these are clever enough to be any better than what they're mocking.  So usually rage, but the occasional chuckle.  It depends.

That's Pretty Alright

  1. Mileage (ex 13.1).  I kinda get this.  You trained for something, you worked hard, you completed it.  Even my completely illogical driving brain has nothing negative to say about that.  Good job!  Celebrate that achievement!
  2. Coexist.  I had to look this up because I didn't actually know what it meant.  Good message, pretty to look at, no complaints here.
  3. Anything original that isn't making fun of or criticizing someone else.  Unless traffic is particularly bad.  Then no one is spared.

To sum up: I might need help with my driving anger management.

What do you do to avoid road rage?  Do you have an irrational hatred of anything (cough, cough, bumper stickers)?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Mar 24, 2015

Dystopia, Fairy Tales, Romances - Books Galore!

I've been reading recently.  Reading too much, actually.  Reading as the hours slip by and counting down the hours of sleep now attainable, but continuing because I'm unable to put the book down.

How did this happen?  Well, I found a new author, K. M. Shea, who's created a unique genre that I will now refer to as the crack of literature.

But I also want to talk about the other books I read, so I'll start a couple months ago with The Giver Quartet.  I was trying to make use of my new Kindle Unlimited subscription.  It was less magical than I had hoped, as most of the books I have in my Goodreads "to read" list are not in the Kindle Unlimited selection.  But The Giver Quartet was, and after finding out that it was a quartet and didn't just end with The Giver, I was intrigued and eager to read it.  So I started there, one stressed out Sunday when I had no energy or patience left to give the world and my never-ending to do list.

I read all day!  And it was heavenly.  And the books weren't bad either.  (SPOILERS!  I tried not to do any, but I failed.  I'm terrible.)

The Giver Quartet

The Giver - ♥♥♥♥

I absolutely loved The Giver!  This was the only one I read when I was younger, and it was pretty early on into my dystopian obsession, so there was really nothing to dislike about it.  I particularly enjoyed how open-ended the ending was.  What was actually happening to Jonas?  Was it literal or metaphorical?  Who knows?!?!

Gathering Blue - ♥♥♥♥

Oh wait.  Now we know.  It was literal and now the mystery is gone.  Hmmm... less satisfying than I would have expected.  For the record, I still greatly enjoyed this book, but it was unexpected both that it starts off with a completely different character, and then that it ties in at the end when you've all but forgotten that this is part of a series.  So I had trouble settling in and just enjoying it and while you'd think I'd enjoy how it ends on such an optimistic note, I guess I found it less realistic, or too tidy or something.  I don't know.  But anyway, I still liked it enough to give it a 4.  The actual story and character were interesting and I was very invested in what would happen to her.


This one was very similar to the last.  It was about a new character, but at least he was one we'd met before and he interacts with our old characters, so I didn't struggle as much to figure out what was going on.  The story was different, and the mystery of what's happened to sour the one little bright spot in this land filled with tyrants and dystopia kept me reeled in until the end.  At which point I teared up because it was so sad!

Son - ♥♥♥

The last book was probably the least compelling.  It felt more like the author was unwilling to put down that world and those characters and less like it's own story.  I still enjoyed parts of it, but the end was the stereotypical "fix everything and save everyone" and it was just too tidy and clean for my cynical mind.  It certainly wasn't bad, but I didn't like it as much as the others.

After The Giver Quartet, I floundered around until I found the "search by genre" area online.  I still haven't found it on the Kindle interface, so I have to preload my Kindle and then read later, which is kind of a pain but hardly a deal-breaker.  But anyway, here's the things I found just by bumbling around in the fantasy section of the Kindle Unlimited selection.

Dragon's Keep - ♥♥♥

This was so so.  The story was interesting, especially the intrigue and suspicion you have for the main character's mother.  Her interactions with dragons and overcoming old prejudices was my favorite part of the story.  But... there's a love story and it's so incredibly cheesy and underdeveloped.  We met, exchanged 2 words, and then were in love - that sort of romance.  And then he magically knows when to show up and save her even though they've had no communication for months?  Years, maybe?  Oh, and all the rest of the characters switch drastically from condemning her to die to being loyal subjects.  It's just all-around cheesy and not how people behave in real life.  3 stars for dragons.  I think there might be more, but I won't be following up.

Timeless Fairy Tales

I read these out of order, so I'm going to review them starting with #4, but it doesn't really matter.  The stories don't rely on each other.  And yes, this is my crack.


If I'm being absolutely honest, this probably doesn't deserve a full 5 stars, because it's not the most masterful writing (I think on Goodreads I gave it 4), but I'm giving it 5 here because of how much I enjoyed it.  I knew this was a fairy tale adaptation, and for the first 3/4 of the book it read as such.  The main character is kind of stand-offish and not personable (to other people, not to the reader), and I kind of liked that about her.  She's not a typical blushing maiden and she doesn't put up with other people's BS.  She is, however, very capable, and very intelligent.  There was a little bit of a romance, and I enjoyed watching that develop, but I wasn't expecting much until about 3/4 of the way through when the story suddenly transformed from a fantasy into a full-blown romance!

That caught me off-guard, but I don't actually object to the romance genre, and it was well-written for a romance story, so I decided to just go with it and accept it at face value.  If I have one tiny, little quibble with the story, it's the ending.  Because we had switched over to romance genre, the bad guy was easily dispatched in about 2 seconds (after years of terrorizing his subjects), and then there was one of those horrible epilogues where you can practically hear the fake, jolly laughter in your head whilst the heroes' well-deserved happiness is lauded to the point of excess.  But that's not an issue with this book in particular, more the romance genre in general.  And obviously it didn't deter me from downloading the other 3 books in the series.

Beauty & the Beast - 

This one was more obviously a romance early on, because of the nature of the story: the Beast is saved if Belle (Elle in this story) falls in love with him.  Throughout I enjoyed the way the fairytale had been adapted, and the quirks of their romance, particularly some of the dialogue.  Again, the female protagonist is written as a strong, intelligent woman, and I found her very enjoyable, especially after we found out there's a little more to her than what she first seems.  Only complaint: the ending again.  It's well known that there have to be communication obstacles in the way of the main characters in any romance to prevent them from falling in love and just enjoying being together.  But this one was particularly stupid and they should have known better, both being intelligent people.  And, alas, the author did the thing where everyone turns against the main character, even if they've liked her the whole entire time, but then are friendly and loyal again as soon as the miscommunication is cleared up.  I'm pretending it didn't happen since the rest of the book was so much better.

The Wild Swans - 

I liked the main character less in this one, and the romance is a little weird (it's a love triangle with 2 of her 7 foster brothers.  I know they're not actually related, but still...).  But there's a lot more story to it, since the main character has to accomplish a lot more than sitting in a castle having diverting conversations with the other characters.  The thing that stuck out the most in this one: the ending!  There's 2 of them!  The author lets you choose which of the 2 you wanted to win the main character's heart, and then you can just read the ending you prefer.  On the one hand, everyone wins!  But on the other, it's a little less satisfying, because you know the author didn't choose this one - you did.  But points for creativity!!!

Cinderella and the Colonel - 

This would have to be my second favorite after Rumpelstiltskin.  The romance has the least amount of cheesiness of all the stories (I didn't even realize the male protagonist was the love interest until more than halfway through!), and the main character has enough strengths, quirks, and flaws to make her a well-rounded and interesting person.  Oh, and I love how she solves her own problems, sometimes through great personal sacrifice.  It does get a tad bit moral-y near the end, but I'm allowing it.  A solid end to the series (although I'm hoping the author writes more.  I love me a good fairy tale adaptation!).

So why is this like crack to me?  I'm not sure.  The fantasy/fairytale/romance combination is awesome.  And the stories are quick paced - the books are only a couple hundred pages long, so there's never a slow point to set it down.  But I think above all, it's the dialogue.  Some of the exchanges between the characters are truly witty, and I've laughed out loud several times while reading these.  I was briefly saddened that there aren't more books in the Timeless Fairy Tales series, but then I decided to stalk the author and read all her other stuff.  Including...

King Arthur and Her Knights

Yeah, you read that right.  "Her knights."  So what/why/how can King Arthur possibly be a woman?  I know - that's why I knew I had to read this series, too.


"King Arthur" is actually a replacement, someone brought from the future by Merlin's magic to replace the intended king who has run off.  At first I was disappointed; I don't typically enjoy the "ignorant person from the future can't do anything and uses lots of confusing slang" type of storyline.  But I stuck with it (it's not hard to, each book is only 100-ish pages) and I started to really like the main character.  She tries, for one thing.  And she's not completely clueless, due to some convenient skills that we can explain away or not think very hard about.  But I think the thing that got me the most was her grief when she finally realized this isn't a dream and she's never going to go back home and see her family again, and also how she does the best with what she's got.  I'm definitely interested to see how they'll continue to hide the fact that their "king" is actually a woman.  Oh, and the way Merlin pulls the strings and manipulates everything!

Enchanted, Embittered, Embark

I was going to just leave it there, and then I had another short night where I read through all of these.  They're so short and so hard to put down!  Anyway, I can't remember which events happened in which book, so I'll just say I really liked all of them.  I like where the story is going and Britt's personal growth as she settles into her "king" role.  There's a few slip ups with her gender being discovered, but nothing they can't handle, yet...  Also there's a tiny hint of a possible romance with Britt and Merlin, but I like that it's not a huge focal point.  Every once in a while it's nice to read about men and women being friends without it always having to develop into romance and you have that with Britt and all her knights, even the ones who know her true identity.  Oh!  And one of my favorite parts is the way they portray the King Arthur story.  It's different, but it's also being influenced by our modern version because Britt is from our time and she wants to follow the legend that she knows.  So it's fascinating to see which things will change and which will follow the legend (in some form or other).

Anyway, I'm out of new books for the moment, and I might have to keep it that way, because I'm obviously having trouble being disciplined enough to put a book down lately.  And I really need a few nights of normal sleep!

What have you read recently?  Do you have your own literature crack?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Mar 22, 2015

Sunday Sweats - Gettin' Bare

Sunday Sweats idea borrowed from Holly.

Let's just say this week wasn't pretty and no motivational picture is deserved.

Weekly Workouts

Hahaha.  Workouts?  Plural?  I barely managed one.  I won't bother to make excuses; I'll just admit it was kind of lame and distract you all by talking about my new shoes.

See these?  Ryan has been trying to get me to try Vibram 5-Finger shoes for almost as long as we've been dating.  But, knowing how heavily I run and reading that they're not really meant for someone of my mass, I preferred to stick with the thickly padded shoes I know.

But then... the Internet happened.

Not wait.  Actually a book happened.  I read Born to Run, blah blah blahblah (long title), a book all about ultra runners, and different running ideologies, and I started to doubt the things I "know."  Afterwards I was inspired and did some follow up research on this barefoot running thing, and decided it was something I wanted to try out.  Not actually running barefoot, because my feet are wimpy, but running in minimalist shoes and finding a more natural gait than lumbering along and pounding down on my heels.

So I bought the shoes.  They felt a bit strange - I've never been a huge fan of toe socks and this was a bit more invasive between my toes than socks.  But after walking Luke a couple miles (normally we do 1, but Ryan was on a work trip, so I had double dog duty for a couple days), it felt pretty good!  I was even bold enough to try jogging a couple tenths of a mile.

Later, of course, my legs made it immediately apparent why you need to ease into this sort of thing.  My feet and ankles are incredibly wimpy, because they're used to the shoe doing all the work for them.  So they were sore for a couple days, which was a good warning (in addition to all the people who have mentioned that hey! be careful because people get hurt doing this) and reminder to take it slow.  So I'm planning on wearing them to walk Luke for now and gradually adding in some running over the next couple weeks as my feet and calves strengthen.

Total Weekly Mileage: Um...
Total Hours Exercised: The shoes, remember?  Don't think about this because there's a pretty picture of shoes!

Thoughts Going Into Next Week

Actually do something, eh?

How did your workouts go this week? (hopefully better than mine)  What books have you been inspired by?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Mar 20, 2015

Wedding RSVP Form - Design Day Friday

Remember the Save the Date project for Sister2 and Soon-to-be-Brother?

Well, we're getting closer to the day, and they're sending out invitations now.  To my great sadness (but probable lower stress level), they chose to pick a templated wedding website instead of doing a custom one.  However, they did run into a few issues with the RSVP form, which I got to work on and resolve!

The Wedding Website

Sister2 and Soon-to-be-Brother started out with a fence background and a green themed website, so I was very pleased when they switched over to this design.  To me it looks more "wedding-y" but also it goes well with the colors in the Save the Date (which they used as the picture on the home page).

wedding website featuring save the date image with dog

The Problem

In short: lack of form customization.  Sister2 and Soon-to-be-Brother needed to ask about dinner preferences, and wanted to add a couple other custom questions as well, and their form wouldn't let them.  It was also unclear on the matter of +1s.  So to get around that, I offered to make a single page site that would mimic the style of their wedding website and just do the RSVP part of it.

The Solution

To start with, I made a layout with HTML and CSS that was similar to the look of the wedding website.  I found a pattern that was close to the one used on their site and changed the colors to match.

wedding rsvp form main page

Then I copied the PHP forms that I use on my website (and frankly understand very little of) and edited them to include the fields Sister2 and Soon-to-be-Brother wanted to have on their form.  Once I had the form entirely set up, I used Javascript to hide and display content depending on which buttons the user clicked.

For example, if they say, "Sorry, can't attend" there's no need to show the whole form, but if they click, "Yes!  I'll be there" then the document expands to show the rest of the form.

wedding rsvp form extended options

There's one other spot that does this and that's the "how many guests are attending?" button.  Default shows just one spot for a guest name and preferred dinner.  But if they click "2" then it will display the 2nd area to fill in.

wedding rsvp form example javascript display function

I'll be frank: I just learned Javascript in my Into to Programming class for my master's degree, so I am psyched to be able to use it and that it turned out so well.  In addition to changing the display based on user input, it also does some behind the scenes data verification stuff and is generally smooth and pretty and something I need to incorporate into my own website.

Also, I can't give Ryan enough credit for helping me troubleshoot PHP at 12am.  My brain had shut off and I was doing horrible things but couldn't stop until it was DONE and he stepped in and untangled the mess I was making and allowed me to get to bed at a reasonable time.  And a couple days after putting the basic form/functinality together, Momma came over and helped me do the data verification stuff, so that people can't accidentally send in blank RSVPs.

I'm so lucky to have programmers in my life.  There's always someone to help me with my homework!

VERY IMPORTANT UPDATE: My father RSVPed already.  He's "not attending."  Lmao!  The first person to use the form and they've already abused it.  Figures.

Would you ever use a digital RSVP form for your own events?  What do you think of the trend of wedding websites?  Do you get trolled by your family members?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Mar 19, 2015

Quarterly Goals - Spring

Spring is here!  (Well, it's here tomorrow, teeeeechnically)  And along with it a check in with my seasonal goals.

On a side note: I thought originally I was making too many different types of goals, but it's actually working out fairly well.  The "seasonal goals" helps me to defer some of my to do list items until later so I don't have to get stressed out by looking at it every day, while my Google task list stays relatively small, because only short term things are on it.  Seasonal goals also gives me a place to put festive ideas that I'd like to do, but aren't so urgent that they need to be on my task list.

The monthly goals are usually comprised of a combination of task list and seasonal items, and also break down the lifelong resolution/goals into smaller, more manageable chunks.  Each has it's own level of priority and gets a proportional amount of attention from me.

  1. Get Healthy & Fit - Lifelong Ongoing Goals
  2. Train for a Race - Seasonal Goals
  3. Complete an Exercise Challenge - Monthly Goals
  4. Buy New Running Shoes - Task List
Now the only problem is remembering to check all my different lists...  But anyway, on to the goals!

Winter Seasonal Goals

1. Start Strong at AAU - Check!  You better believe I was all over those discussion boards and homework projects.  Loving this class!

2. Sign Up for a 5k and Set Training Schedule - Check!  And then some.  I had researched a couch to half marathon plan before the broken ankle, so it was no trouble at all to dust that off and give it another go (and adjust it in accordance with the twingings of my ankle).  I ran a Chocolate Lover's 5K on Valentine's Day, and have the Wipeout Run scheduled for later in the year and the Broad Street Run.  (We also signed up for a 5-Miler but then got invited last minute to a wedding and Ryan's the best man, so... he probably needed to be there and I really wanted to see him in a tuxedo.)

3. Don't Stress Over the Holidays - Check!  Driving is (for me) less stressful than flying, and I was quite pleased with my car snacks and general planning.  As far meeting new people and small talk, I managed to utilize my "don't think about it until you have to" plan, and that worked quite well.

4. Help Sansa Host a Harry Potter Party - Check!  I didn't put in nearly as much work as Sansa, but I did make some floating candles (like the Great Hall), printed some décor, and nerded out over all the awesome stuff she put together.

5. Start My New Self Actualization Project - Check!  Actually, I used the crafts from the Harry Potter party for month 1's project, so that ended up being 2 birds with 1 stone.

6. Organize Portfolio and Computer Files - Fail.  :(  I spent a lot of time thinking about it and dreading it and never got around to it.

7. Organize Craft Supplies - Check!  They are now a thing of beauty.

8. Painting with a Twist - Check!  Twice.  (We hung a couple of our paintings and we wanted to go to the classes until we have a seasonal rotation.)

New paintings on the wall for our "winter" look.  Top left is the 2nd class we went to - pretty, but the 1st was my favorite.  Bottom right shows our nerd tribute to Game of Thrones: a couple of our own little white walkers.

7/8!  And the new goals...

Spring Seasonal Goals

  1. Canoe
  2. Organize File Cabinet (Convince Ryan to either use mine or clean his up - it's a disaster)
  3. Ace My Class
  4. Write Speech/Ceremony for Sister2's Wedding
  5. Run 10 Miles
  6. Research Home Buying
  7. Hike
  8. Spring Cleaning (Combat the dog smell)
  9. Organize Portfolio & Computer Files
  10. Be Less "Busy" and Enjoy Life More


My winter priorities went pretty well (better than fall, that's for sure!).  Creativity: Success!  In addition to Painting with a Twist, we went to a pottery class, I got my crafting on with the Harry Potter décor, and I got plenty of design practice with the start of my class, and a couple personal projects.  Exercise: Success!  I devoted all of February to a consistent workout plan and I managed it.  I've also kept up with the half marathon training plan, so I'm well on my way to running a half some time in the summer.  Routine: This is where it gets tricky.  Some routines were formed - like meal planning, which has helped a lot with improving my eating habits.  Other routines were attempted - like sleep, which has been a long string of failures.  I do feel like things are starting to fall into place, just in a different order than I initially expected.  So I'll give this a partial success.

I think I'll be skipping the "priorities" for future seasons, because I'm doing that a little differently with my habit building project.  And because these posts were a little clunky.  (Some type of metaphor about finger in too many pies.  You get the idea.)

Do you make seasonal goals?  Do you ever go overboard?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Mar 17, 2015

Cropping, Docking and Circumcision

Ryan and I watched an episode of Dr. Who last night where humans were cut apart and turned into machines.  Metal, robotic bodies, but controlled by a human brain.  Their emotions were turned off, because if they had emotion and could see what had been done to them, they'd go insane.

But would we really?

In the episode, the people were horrified at what they'd been turned into.  But there were scenes that highlighted the horror of being sawed and hacked apart.  Nothing gory, because it's not that kind of show, but we saw saws and razors and cleavers and winced at the mere idea of those devices being applied to our characters.

Seems logical, right?  Who would wanted to be mutilated?  Yet we willingly turn over our pets and male children to have parts of their bodies removed.  Is it done in a safe, clean environment?  Sometimes.  But does that matter?  We're choosing to take a body that has evolved (or in the case of dogs, been bred) into the shape most suited for its environment, and then alter it.

Why do we think these bodies are better when we adapt them this way?  Let's start with animals.

Aesthetics.  Yes, one of the reasons dogs' ears and tails are chopped off is to "look better."  No logical reason.  Someone just decided this animal looked better without half its ears and most of its tail.  I'm not even going to debate this one, because it's ridiculous.  If the people who mutilate their dogs because it "looks better" will agree to allow me to choose whatever body alterations I (not they, because dogs don't get to decide for themselves) want for them, then I'll agree that their reasons are perfectly valid.  But I'm guessing that's not going to happen.  Ignoring my building outrage, let's move on to the next reason.

Function.  When dogs were still working animals, tails got in the way of pulling carts and could even be dangerous if caught in the wheels or spokes.  While I could see the desire to save a dog from pain and even possible death, I refuse to believe that in a world filled with amazing modern technology we could not find a better solution than to alter the animal, rather than the machine it works with.  Would you remove your pinkie toe to fit shoes better?  No - we design shoes to fit our feet.  Last reason...

The dog's own comfort.  Some people say that certain dog breeds' very thin tails are prone to breakage.  Cropping the tail saves them pain and suffering.  Certain ears are prone to infection.  Removing the ear prevents sickness.  This one I feel is harder to debate because it sounds almost logical.  But let's talk about what the dog is losing when you remove its tail or ears.

Can a dog with docked ears still hear?  Yes.  Would they be able to hear better if we didn't mess with them?  Quite possible.  And a tail is not just an inconvenience for humans.  A tail provides balance for running and making turns, direction when swimming and, perhaps most importantly, communication!  How do you know when your dog is happy?  That tail waving frantically back and forth.  Without a tail, we can still tell that the dog is trying to wag that little stump, but it impedes communication with other dogs.  Here's a quick excerpt from an article from Animal Planet:

"Since tails are essential to communication, pooches without tails typically approach other dogs with caution so there's no miscommunication or fights between the two animals. A playful pup might not be able to interpret cues from the tail-less dog, so he doesn't back down, causing the tail-less pooch to resort to biting or other acts of aggression if he feels threatened."

To really bring home what is being lost here, I found what I consider to be a good human equivalent: breasts.  Do they provide a function?  Yes, to provide nutrition for our young.  Can we live without them?  Yes, easily, and many women are forced to after suffering breast cancer.  And, with baby formula readily available, many women don't use them for their intended function at all.

Breasts can also be dangerous, especially dense, heavy breasts, which are more prone to breast cancer.  Wouldn't it be nice to prevent that?  We'll just have all the women with larger, heavier breasts remove them!  That will prevent them from suffering.

Some women are doing just that.  But you'll notice most women are holding pretty firmly onto their breasts, because we, as humans, don't like to mutilate ourselves unless we absolutely have to.  It's only other people and animals that we're ok with chopping apart.  And, in this case, why would you remove something that MIGHT become a problem, when removing it has a direct effect on the creature involved?  Why not wait and see if it DOES become a problem?  Or better yet, use our advanced, modern technology to solve that problem.

Let's talk about humans in a bit more depth.  It's become pretty standard practice in the US to surgically alter our male children's penises.  Yet we abhor and campaign against the female circumcisions happening in Africa.  Why the double standard here?

People say that they aren't the same thing.  Female "genital mutilation" is a horrible crime, immensely painful, committed to control women, that removes all possible pleasure from the sexual act, while male circumcision is a small, hygienic procedure that prevents infection (yes, that phrase is getting thrown about quite a bit, isn't it?).

But it really all depends how or where it's done.  Male "circumcision" can be just as horrendous as female "genital mutilation."  If we practiced female circumcision here in the US, I'm sure it would be performed similarly, with the intent to leave that body part primarily intact and prevent uncleanliness and infection.  I mean, think about it.  There are at least as many folds and wrinkles down there for the ladies as the uncircumcised man.  Why should it be any less of an infectious risk?

It's not.  The real answer is not that there's no difference between male and female circumcision or between male and female mutilation.  Circumcision is not the agonizing, traumatizing ordeal that mutilation is.  Rather like our puppies, it's done at a young age, and we have (supposedly) have good intentions behind it.  But we see it as a completely different act for females and males and the only reason is this: familiarity.

We're used to cutting penises and we're not used to cutting vulvas.  Since it's common place, it can't possibly be wrong!  When I had this discussion with someone, he said, "I wouldn't think, that with all the years we've been doing this, that me spending a couple hours thinking about it would have the better answer.  That many years of tradition know better than I do."  Bullshit.

Tradition doesn't mean generations of people have thought logically about something and determined that it continues to be the correct answer.  Tradition means people have continued, blindly, to do something simple BECAUSE it's "always been done."  In my mind, that's the worst possible reason to do something.

If you really think about it.  If you sit down and think about the act of cutting your child's genitals, or removing a puppy's ears and tail, can you really say you think it's right or just?  Circumcision MIGHT prevent infection but it also MIGHT dull sensation and lessen the pleasure felt in the act of sex.  We don't really know.  We're going on a bunch of guesses and maybes, but mostly we're just floating in the wake of tradition.

Here's another point someone brought up: kids can be cruel.  Kids that look different get made fun of and it's hard to be the outcast.  Women will make fun of him.  Are these things a possibility?  Yes.  But most kids get made fun of at some point in their lives, penis-related or not.  It's a thing they're going to learn about, and I don't think carving them as babies is needed to "make them fit in."

And as for being laughed at by girls, woman here.  I have no idea what the difference is.  I've seen a few penises and I didn't know which were circumcised or not.  And if I had, other than the initial, "Oh, that's different but why?" I wouldn't have cared.  It's just a body part, and News Flash!  They're not an attractive feature anyway.  That little surgical, face-lift isn't going to fix that.

Please stop cutting our babies.  Animals and human.

I believe in letting people decide for themselves.  Your children will be able to do that one day.  Your pets won't, but does that really give us the right to do whatever we want to them?  I'd like to hope humans aren't that self-righteous and cruel.  But for those who will insist on doing it anyway, I hope they at least give it some serious thought and follow this basic rule: If it's not something you would do to yourself, then don't.  Just don't.

Thoughts?  Questions?  Mild Outrage?  Let's hear it.

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Mar 15, 2015

Sunday Sweats - Getting Into It

Image found on Greatist who borrowed it from

This quote was one I've been thinking about lately, in more areas than just exercise, so I'm glad I found it!  There's never really an optimal time to make life decisions.  Life is always going to be busy (if we let it) and things are going to keep on coming, so sitting around waiting for "the right time" is pointless.  If you really want something, make it a priority and find a way to fit it into your life.  I suppose I should stop being a bum and make my own pretty quote pictures, but since I have yet to do it (quite obviously not making it a priority :P), I figured I might as well share the images I've found that have been inspiring.  It's a nice way to start off the week, no?

Anyway, on to the workouts!  Here's what I did...

Weekly Workouts

Monday - Strength Training

A quick lunchtime workout with curls, triceps, around-the-worlds, and what I call my "ankle rehab" stretches, which typically consists of some balancing stuff, calf and shin raises, "writing the alphabet,"and a bunch of other things I don't have names for.

Tuesday - 30 Min Biking, Strength Training

Actually got up early and biked!  I was up at 4am!!  It was crazy!!!  (But then I still managed to be late to work because I puttered around in the kitchen doing dishes and making steamed broccoli and hard boiled eggs.  I don't know what my problem is.)  Another lunchtime workout, this time pull downs, military press, and ankle rehab.

Wednesday - 30 Min Biking, 15 Min Yoga

Biked first thing in the morning and did about 15 minutes of stretching and random yoga poses from various videos.  I really like spinal twists - they make my back feel amazing!  Downward dog I like a lot less, because my upper body is so wimpy.  After about 30 seconds, my arms start to shake from holding myself up but I'm tired of struggling so much with it so I'm trying to get more practice in for that pose.

Thursday - 15 Min Biking, 2 Mile Run w/Incline

Despite a late night, my body woke me up at 5:30am and I got a quick bike ride in with some stretching/basic yoga.  The run was awesome!  Just a little short one to test out my ankle, but it was pain free and it felt good!!!  Lots of ankle rehab afterwards, just to make sure.

Friday - Nada

Have I mentioned Fridays are a pretty low-motivation day?

Saturday - 30 Min Biking

I was supposed to run, but hey!  At least I did something, right?

Sunday - 45 Min Pilates, 3 Mile Run w/Incline

Kicked ass, sea bass!  Sunday is yoga/pilates day, but since I didn't run Saturday, I figured I'd make it up.  Pilates went great - I'm starting to be able to attempt some of the more ridiculous "plank while waving your legs around, balancing, and working your core muscles" type things.  And even after that workout, I was able to get through my 3 miles fairly easily and my ankle didn't hurt.  Booyah!  (Oh, and Strider was killing it, as usual.  How you doin'?)

Total Weekly Mileage: 5
Total Hours Exercised: 5h


The things I struggled with:
  • Feeling tired and stressed from the never-ending to do list.
  • Having energy to do things after work.


The better moments:
  • Morning workouts!  Thursday was the best example - I was running on 4.5 hours of sleep but I felt energized and generally awesome.
  • Running without pain!  Fingers crossed this becomes the norm again.
  • New shoes.  <3

Thoughts Going Into Next Week

Alyssa suggested a couple things for me to try with the ankle issues, so I bought some compression socks ($60 - my goodness!  More expensive than most of my shirts).  I'm also going to give toe shoes a try.  I've read quite a bit about barefoot running and, at the bare (tee hee) minimum, I'd like to at least do some walking/light jogging with the new shoes to strengthen my feet.  Not gonna lie, though, having my toes separated like that is weird.  I was never much of a fan of toe socks and this is even more extreme!

How did your workouts go this week?  Have you ever tried barefoot running or minimal shoes?

Linking up with Holly

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Mar 13, 2015

Themed Surprise Party - a Semi Sorta Crafting Thing

At some point this year-long craft-project-a-month thing is going to fall to the wayside because I'm already struggling to keep up and the next couple months only get busier.  But for now I'm going to keep posting the things I do manage to get completed.  February was supposed to be the recipe book, but more of my effort ended up going to something more exciting - Ryan's surprise Back to the Future themed birthday party!

The party was this past weekend, but I started planning and assembling at the beginning of February.  Having a fuzzy recollection of the first 2 movies and never having seen the 3rd, Pinterest and Google were my best assistants in finding decoration ideas.

Roommate suggested breaking up the time periods by room, so the kitchen was 1955, the living room was 2015, and the basement was the Wild, Wild West.


The kitchen was by far the most elaborate and the easiest.  We (me and my super awesome, helpful neighbor) decorated it like the school dance in 1955 from the movie.  So lots of "Enchantment Under the Sea" posters, balloons, and long strands of tinsel on the walls.  Also diner-y type food: sliders, fries (sweet potato because that's what Ryan likes), and Pepsi and "Tab" (I made my own labels because I couldn't find any - I was later told this was unnecessary and they have it at Walmart).

Living Room

The living room was the "future" (the present?), and it was mostly just "No Hoverboarding" signs, newspapers from the dystopian future created by old Biff, and the goofy "holographic" baseball hat that Marty's son wears.

Oh, and this...


The wild, wild west!  This movie I hadn't seen, so I really had to rely on Google.  I didn't go all out with the basement and I'm glad, because I don't think anyone ended up going down there anyway.

Most of this stuff was just Photoshopped to fit the page sizes I needed, and then printed.  A few things were cut out and/or taped together.  The hoverboard is the only really "crafted" thing and that was just a strip of cardboard with the image taped to each side, and a strip of painters tape to hide the rough corrugated edges.

In progress (other "in progress" decorations behind it)

Horrible, grainy picture of finished product

Oh, and of course, costumes!  Another picture fail, I got myself as Marty McFly, but not Ryan as Doc Brown.  I did take a picture of Sister2 wearing the wig, though...

Jenn McFly

Something strange and hilarious
In case you're wondering about the surprise element, it went down something like this:

  1. Roommate distracts Ryan - practically has to guilt him into seeing movie
  2. Jenn (and Neighbor) frantically tidy up and decorate their butts off
  3. People start arriving early (awesome for the surprise, but also stressful because nothing was ready!)
  4. Roommate further misleads Ryan by proposing dinner and suggesting they "stop at the house to pick Jenn up."  Without warning, Ryan calls Jenn, and she hides in bathroom to prevent him from hearing party sounds and agrees to everything they say, while trying desperately to sound normal.
  5. Jenn sends Momma to dumpster with trash
  6. Jenn stands at window awaiting car lights
  7. The car pulls up!  But Momma is also returning with the trash!  Oh no!
  8. Momma ducks inside, and we all hide in the kitchen.
  9. Jason and Ryan enter, talking about some random thing.
  10. We start giggling as Ryan comes around the corner and give a half-hearted "Surprise!"
  11. Ryan "feels feelings" and is generally blown away and touched, but does not have a heart attack.
  12. Success.

Not bad for my first ever surprise party!

Have you ever thrown a surprise party?  How did it go?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Mar 12, 2015

4 Awesome TV Shows I Just Discovered in 2015

We're not even 3 full months into 2015, but I've already watched some really good TV.  And by "really good" I mean I found shows that are perfect for me, which means light-hearted, fun, and probably fantasy or sci-fi related.

Most of these aren't actually new - because hey!  Netflix.  But they're new to me, and I thought they were amazing!  Let's dive right in.

1. The Guild

The Guild is about a group of stereotypically socially awkward gamers whose obsession with the game causes them difficulty in the real world.  You might think I'd be annoyed at the perpetuation of the stereotype, but there was enough diversity within the guild itself that I was ok with it.  After season 1, I really got to know the characters and ended up going through all 6 seasons in a couple weeks.  Impressed?  Don't be - each episode is so short that Netflix packaged each seasons as one hour-long "episode" so getting through them was pretty easy - even when I didn't want it to be.  (I wasn't ready for it to be over!)

2. Galavant

I think I saw the recommendation for this on The Pyreflies, but I couldn't find it again, so I can't confirm that.  In any case, I read somewhere that Galavant was like a cross between Robin Hood Men in Tights and The Princess Bride, and that was all the recommendation I needed.  It was, and I loved it, and I'm more than a little concerned that it won't be back for season 2.  (Oh, and this was the one rare show that I actually watched on Hulu as each episode came out.  Thus far, the only other shows that could claim that dedication from me were Once Upon a Time and Game of Thrones.)  Another note: I think my absolute favorite character is "the bad guy" because he's so quirky and ridiculous and, as we soon find out, isn't even the worst "bad guy" around.

3. Doctor Who

I've had this recommended to me so many times and I never followed up... until now.  This is me and Ryan's "together" show, since it's new to both of us and has elements that we both like - action and life or death situations for him, goofy comedy and fun characters for me, and time travel and space, which we both like.  Time travel, in particular, is the winning factor for me.  I love seeing how different people think of time, and how they try to interact with it.  It's also fun to finally be in on all the Doctor Who jokes and references.

4. Merlin

This one is a little cheesy and probably wouldn't get the full 5 stars that the others have, but as I continue to watch I find myself reeled further and further in.  This one is a King Arthur/Camelot story, but it's a little strange - Arthur isn't a humble orphan, Guinevere is a servant, Morgan le Fey is ward of Uther and not evil, and Mordred is around already even though all the other characters are teenagers.  The acting isn't the absolute best and the effects are a little silly sometimes, but I'm a sucker for a good fantasy story (and everything Camelot) and I'm becoming fascinated with how they're twisting the traditional King Arthur story.  Plus, they're not shy of killing, which is surprising for a family show, and that keeps me in more suspense than anything, because I'm pretty sure Uther's going down at some point and I NEED to see when it happens.

As an aside - Once Upon a Time will be back soon!  And Game of Thrones after that.  Counting down!

Anybody else into sci-fi and fantasy?  What shows would you recommend?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Mar 10, 2015

Of Charities and Changing Perspective

So remember when I said that I felt like a bad person because I don't like volunteering?  Well, my most recent excursion was much more pleasant!

Last Tuesday we did our annual meal preparation for the Ronald McDonald house.  Despite my initial reluctance, I was feeling more and more enthused about my planned contribution - apple crumble and cheesecake shooters.

I made a plan to eliminate the things I hadn't enjoyed from before: feeling confused and unhelpful, and being at the beck and call of the residents when they needed someone to root around in a chaotic organization system that I didn't understand.

So having my own meal to plan and prepare kept me very busy.  I ended up with a bevy of helpers and I spent more time running around telling them what to do than actually doing any food prep myself.  To be honest, I'd rather be more involved with the proceedings, but I was still pleased with how things progressed and my helpers were super awesome!

As we were nearing the end of our allotted preparation time, I was surprised to find I was actually enjoying myself.  Having my own project kept me from feeling lost, Ryan and my parents were there to chat with, and interacting with my coworkers was a lot more fun probably because after an additional year of working together I'm much more comfortable with everyone.

Then, at the suggestion of one of my helpers, I went on the offered tour of the house.  And, you know what?  It's amazing!  Hearing our guide (another volunteer) describe the building, what activities went on, the different ways they offered support to the parents and families, and just his general enthusiasm made me feel really good about the whole thing.  I felt much more involved and I got a better sense of exactly what's being done and how much it helps people.

Afterwards, we returned to the kitchens and set everything up for dinner.  It seemed more organized than last time, but perhaps that was merely my added familiarity with the building.  And then... someone came up and asked me if I knew where a to-go box could be found.

A simple request right?  But it was worlds different than it was last year.

Last year I felt lost and confused and bothered by the chaos.  Last year the person asked me rudely and impatiently and I felt all kinds of out of sorts both by their tone and my lack of knowledge.  Last year I rummaged around in the closet for a good 20 minutes before finding it, all the while feeling stressed that someone was waiting on me (and not very happily at that).

This year the person requested it politely and I, delighted that I actually knew the answer to this, dashed off to the cabinet and retrieved the item.  She took it and we both went on our way.  No big thang.

It's kind of insane to think back on last year's experience and how much anxiety I felt, and how sharply this year's experience contrasted with that.

This year was fun and light-hearted and incredibly satisfying when we heard people make comments about how delicious the food was, and how glad they were to have a meal that wasn't pasta (we went all out.  There was jambalaya, and prime rib, and sides galore!  Plus, of course, apple crumble and cheesecake shooters).  I even heard someone comment on how exciting the desserts were.

To sum up: I don't feel like a bad person anymore.  And I'm actually looking forward to next year.

What was your favorite volunteering experience?  Least favorite?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Mar 8, 2015

Sunday Sweats - Jumping on the Bandwagon

Image from Everyday Power Blog.

So I found Holly's Sunday linkup (from My Own Kind of Beautiful), and I love the idea of sharing fitness weekly both for motivation and because monthly is too infrequent.  It feels like lately each week is a completely different beast in terms of what my body is capable of doing and how delicate certain body parts are feeling.

So for this past week, in the aftermath of ankle issues and not being sure what's going on, I decided to take a little break from running.  I've been saying a lot of things like, "I wish I had a treadmill, then I could..." and "If it wasn't cold out, I could exercise in the morning before work."  So instead of pining after the things I don't have, I thought I'd make better use of the ones we do: a stationary bike.

So last week I tried to get up early and get my cardio out of the way at the beginning of the day.  In general I don't find biking as satisfying as running - I sweat but I don't get that same sense of "I just worked my butt off."  It is, however, much easier on the ankle, and after a week of (relative) relaxation, that body part is feeling much better!

Anyway, on to the workouts!  Here's what I actually did...

Weekly Workouts

Monday - Biked (stationary) 30 minutes first thing in the morning, lifted weights at lunch, 15 minutes meditation/stretching before bed
Tuesday - Biked 30 min (AM)
Wednesday - Nada
Thursday - Biked 30 min (PM)
Friday - Nada
Saturday - Jog/walked 1.5 miles
Sunday - Had a dog walk/meetup with one of Ryan's coworkers - meandered for a couple miles in the SUNSHINE!

Total Weekly Mileage: 1.5 (not counting meandering)
Overall Time Spent Exercising: ~3 hours

Why am I counting mileage if I'm not focusing on running?  Because the plan is to ease back into the couch to half marathon plan, and maybe take it a little slower this time.  I've still got all these races to run, after all!

Oh, and a side note: I do a couple other things that I don't necessarily think are worth recording, but I guess I'm kind of proud of working into my routine.  I walk Luke ~1 mile every day, weather permitting, and I do a couple flights of stairs every time I use the restroom at work.  Since those things are routine, and no particular effort went into it, I won't be recording them.  (But still needed to show off my accomplishments, apparently.  :P)


The things I struggled with:
  • Getting enough sleep.  The chores pile up and by Thursday and Friday I've usually given up on being well rested in lieu of having all my tasks completed.
  • Making time for exercise when I have other things to do.
  • Getting up on time when I'm sleep deprived.  :-0===


The better moments:
  • Monday.  It's always Monday.  That first day of the week when you're all well rested and it's easy to make yourself do the planned workouts.
  • Exercising in the morning.  It just sets a good tone for the day.
  • Being outside on Sunday!  It was warm and sunny and all-around delightful, even after my boots got soaked all the way through.
  • Finding this linkup!  I've been wanting to do posts of this nature, but couldn't think of a good format for it.  This is perfect.

The Plan for Next Week

Not to have a plan.  I think for now I'm content to just do as much as my ankle will let me and stick with biking and strength training for the days I'm not doing so well.  I will be trying to continue working out first thing in the morning, though.  It's hard to get up earlier but is so totally worth it.

What does your workout routine look like?  What do you do to stay motivated?

Linking up with Holly

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design