Oct 30, 2015

The Difficulty of Small Talk - An Ineloquent Halloween Tale

Making words is hard sometimes.

I remember being an insecure and uncomfortable teenager and having no idea what to do when adults would meander over and start talking to me.  What, politics?  I don't know what those are and can't possibly have an opinion.  What have I been up to?  I don't know.  Teenager stuff.

A fortunate streak of jobs in customer service pretty much wiped out the shy streak and left me with the ability to produce inane and amiable noises.  Was it raining?  "Good luck dodging the raindrops!"  Did my customer request a steak knife?  "We've decided to trust you with this."  Did my customer just make a lame joke?  Whip out the fake laugh and then smile big and hope the fakeness wasn't noticeable.  (The "waitress smile" also came in handy when I was on the verge of tears, but that's a less fun discussion.)

The pinnacle of this ability was a couple years ago when I had moved to the DC area to live with Ryan, and I had to get to know a whole new group of coworkers, and talk to strangers if I wanted to make any friends.

It was hard, at first, but I gradually got the hang of chatting with people at work.  And then, something magical happened, and I learned how to talk to total strangers at Meetups!  And I liked it!  Afterwards I was always filled with the enthusiasm and bubbliness that typifies an extrovert and it was immensely satisfying.  It didn't make it easier to make myself go, but once there I usually did alright.

But now, I'm starting to feel like I'm going backwards.  I'm not smooth, and my polite chatter is getting rusty from disuse.

Oct 29, 2015

Satire News Sites - Funny But I'm Not a Fan

Are you guys aware of the rise of pseudo-news websites?  Every once in a while there's a "too ridiculous to be true" style article, and then I check and it's usually from The Onion.  The Onion was one of the first fake news website I became aware of, but they're definitely on the rise and I've seen an alarming trend.

More and more of these fake news stories are being shared on social media (especially Facebook) and presented as actual fact!  People say things like, "The state of our nation is so sad" or "I can't believe stuff like this really happens!"  But the thing is, a lot of us did believe it, because lots of terrible and ridiculous things do happen, and sorting out truth from satire isn't always as easy as people make it out to be.

I'm sure there's some self-righteous, condescending intellectuals who will say, "Anyone with a scrap of common sense can tell the difference."  But you know what?  Without even going into the portion of our society lacking in that virtue, some of these sites are getting really subtle.

Ok, so "The Onion."  That's a fairly bizarre name for "news" and it stands out, so if you learn once that it's satire, you'll remember.  But "NBC.com.co"?  I think that's a pretty clear attempt to confuse potential readers into believing it's from NBC News.

And, honestly, with controversy over whether news websites even report facts anymore (to me it certainly feels like everything is slanted one way or another, and most headlines exaggerated to bring in more views) maybe that's their intention.

Oct 27, 2015

Monthly Sweats - November Health and Fitness Goals

I'm doing away with my Sunday Sweats posts.  Every Sunday was too much.  But I do still want to track it (albeit in a more simplified format) and I want to make better use of Training for Tuesday/general health goals!

I've got progress on last month's goals, goals for next month, and then the boring workout stuff at the bottom.  Feel free to skip it if it's not your jam!  That's mostly for myself and accountability anyway.

How I Did for October

1. Meal Planning

PLANNING went great!  Cooking?  Not so much.  The first couple weeks I made maybe half the meals I planned.  Week 3 was better!  My crockpot meal (chicken with honey curry sauce and chickpeas) was freaking amazing!  And then on Thursday night, right before the vegetables went bad, I pulled it together and made the rest of my planned food items.  A bit late in the week, but nothing went to waste and there was plenty of food for the weekend.  Week 4 was the best.  I felt like I hit my stride (documenting here helped me to keep it a focal point) and all meals were made in a timely manner.

Oct 26, 2015

Mind-bending Monday

Wanna see something fun?  Yeah, you do.  It's Monday.  Thus, to lessen your weekend hangover, I present my favorite mind-blowing riddles, images, and puzzles

1. Who Has the Fish?

A fun logic puzzle that took me over 2 hours to solve (and heck yeah was I proud of myself when I did!).  Basically it's one of those, "If this person is ___ and this person is ___, then what you can determine about ___?"  See if you can beat me!

2. Optical Illusions Paintings by Rob Gonsalves

These paintings are amazing!  Each one is like its own optical illusion, but they're also beautiful.  The link is for a Lifehack article that collected a bunch of his images side by side, but you can also see his stuff on Facebook (no website as far as I can tell).

Oct 22, 2015

Old Lady Crybaby

I feel like as I get older I'm only getting more emotional.  I get misty at weddings now, gentle tears slide down my face during a particularly poignant scene in a book, and some TV scenes have had me outright sobbing.

To document this newly found emotional weakness, I've made a list of books, movies, TV shows, and life events that have made me cry as an adult, in order of least tears to most.

9 Tear-Jerkers I Wouldn't Have Cried About as a Kid

9. Weddings

The list wouldn't be complete without them, I suppose.  It's happy, but for some reason my brain says, "Hey, look, we're going to cry now.  Just go with it.  It'll be easier that way."

8. Videos Where Disabled People Regain a Sense

That's not terribly clear, but basically Reddit had a spree of videos where deaf people were given implants that allowed them to hear, and then there were a few color-blind people who got those glasses that let them see color.  Their reactions were so emotional, and overwhelmed, and I knew I should feel happy, but I think I felt just as confused as they must have.  I recommend cute cat videos as a chaser.

Oct 20, 2015

Social Media Etiquette - the Don'ts

I'm no Emily Post, but I do have some small amount of common sense and as such, it annoys the heck out of me when I see people blatantly throwing that to the wind.  So let's talk Facebook foibles.

Annoying Things People Do on Facebook

Facebook seems to have become the hub for people who abuse social media.  And by "abuse" I primarily mean not understanding that Facebook is like a party you're having with every single acquaintance you have and everything you post is something you're saying to that entire group.

Here's just a few of the things I see on a regular basis.

1. "Vaguebooking"

I just saw this term on Reddit the other day and it's so perfect!  You know when someone posts something vague that's meant to get sympathy but won't actually tell anyone what they're referring to?  Usually it's fairly obvious what's going on, but throwing that thin veil of vagueness gives them the illusion of privacy.  Or perhaps it's a deliberate attempt to be mysterious.  Either way, annoying.

  • "It is just so sad when you can't trust the person who is supposed to love you most and never, ever betray you."
  • "Some people just can't stand to see you happy and will do anything to bring you down."

Oct 19, 2015

Mental Health Monday - Counseling and Mental Health Stigma

I finally went to see a counselor!  And I loved it.

Some backstory: I don't have a specific problem.  But I am into self improvement and general optimization.  I want to live the best life I can and improving myself and my mindset helps me to enjoy it as much as possible.  So if I enjoy self-help books so much, it seems logical to conclude that I could get a lot out of talking to a professional who can target my specific issues and goals.

I did a bit of research first.  I wasn't sure if a counselor would want to see someone just to talk, without a specific problem to address.  But once I finally got someone on the phone, she assured me that they'd be delighted to talk to me about whatever I wanted.  So I went!

My counselor was a very calm, soothing, spiritual lady, with colorful art and tapestries in her office, along with the cliche couch that I totally wasn't expecting!  I wasn't sure what to expect, but I ended up babbling for a solid hour about all the topics I wanted to cover.  She gave me a few insights, but it was more of a broad overview about me and where I am currently than going deeply into any issues.

The results were surprising.  Like I said, I did get a few insights, and there were a few things I knew already, but she said a few times that I'm doing a good job already.  Unlike other doctors who seem apprehensive when you make suggestions or reference an outside resource ("Oh God, not one of these patients!"), she seemed delighted that I'd educated myself.  She didn't have specific suggestions for continued research, but she wholly approved of the books I'd picked out for myself and suggested a couple topics to go into.

Oct 16, 2015

Dear Family,

Apparently you do still read my blog.  I apologize for misjudging you and for the suffering you must have undergone at being thus slandered openly on the Internet.  Please remember, forgiveness is a virtue and accept this screenshot of the Google image search for baby bulldogs as a token of my sincere regret.

P.S. Oh my gawd...  Look at all those little wrinkles!!!

Happy Friday!!!

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Oct 15, 2015

Minimalism (and Organization) Challenge - Round 2

I had some very vague ideas about what I wanted to do with this whole minimalism challenge thing.  Round 1 was quite pleasant and I've already been reaping the benefits of having a cleared out and revamped filing cabinet, and I'm absolutely loving how streamlined our bathroom closet is.

I didn't set a timeline for the next round of goals and I think that's ok.  I like the idea of this being a fun thing and not a stress-inducing to do list item.  I've also added a few things to my original list of goals and got so excited about my tidying challenge that it had to become its own post.

Have I made it confusing enough yet?  Ok, let's get to the challenge.

Minimal(ish) Challenge Round 2

1. Finish Reading My Kindle Downloads

I was supposed to do this before adding new things, which was a fail, BUT I did finally catch up (the graphic design book had been on there for years!) and I think that's more important.  I read: #GirlBoss (3 stars), A Tale of Two Cities (4 stars), The Non-Designer's Design Book (2 stars), and Hunchback of Notre Dame (4 stars).  (For full reviews, check out Tuesdays' post.)  I also finished the 16 book set Ryan had gifted me forever ago, decided I don't have to finish War and Peace (not a bad story but very, very long), and, with my backlog cleared up, can actually say I'm only reading 1 book at a time!  (Although I am still guilty of downloading more than 1 at a time - but that'll be a necessity when we're traveling abroad this winter!)

2. Say "No" More Often

I decided not to sign up for a race that was inconvenient for me.  Oh, and then Ryan and I didn't go to my 2nd half marathon that neither of us was prepared for, because we were no longer excited about it AND it was 2.5 hours away.  AND THEN there was an event that I was trying to plan (after the other person suggested it) where no one would give me suggestions or feedback even after I did all the research.  So I let it die because that's not a good use of my time.  So... I'd call this a success so far but continue to be on the lookout for other situations I really should decline.

Oct 14, 2015

NJ Blate #2 - Pumpkin Picking and Wine Tasting

I don't really do weekend recaps (and this'd be a bit late anyway), but I thought it was worthy of a post since it's about a blogger date!

It is now painfully obvious to me that I should have swapped the bottom 2 pictures for more symmetry of color and composition.  Alas, I am too lazy to redo it.

Same crew as last time (Alyssa, Dani, and Michael), but we opted for all the Fall things.  Originally planned for Fright Fest, we switched at the last minute for pumpkin picking and wine tasting and I'm really glad we did!

Oct 13, 2015

Show Us Your Books! - August & September

I was convinced that I did this linkup just last month, but when I looked, it was back in August.  So, that's 2 months worth of books to talk about!

I won't talk about The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying up, because I've gushed about that already, but starting with my reads after that...

The Martian

So good.  Of course, I mean, I don't know why I expected anything less after it was so widely enjoyed.  I loved the main character's humor, determination, and problem-solving.  And I enjoyed the way they broke down the science, so I could feel like a smarty-pants too.  ("Yes, of course you can make water with a chemical reaction!  Oh yes, I knew that there's a danger of crazy explosions in that process.  Mmm hmm... science!")

P.S. Just saw the movie last night - so good!  They did cut out a lot, but I agreed with all their edits.  What works in a book doesn't always work in a movie, and some was strategic for overall length or suspense in the right places.

Then I went on vacation and treated myself to a plethora of light, fluffy reads.

Oct 12, 2015

Metaphorical, Motivational, Mysterious, Magical Monday

At one point I wanted to do "Motivational Monday" as a themed day to help Mondays not suck so much.  But then I wasn't motivated enough to continue (ba dum tish...).

I also really liked last week's "Hey guys, look at this thought-provoking metaphor!"  But "Existential Crises Monday" just didn't sound good, nor did it lend itself to any sort of satisfying alliteration.

So here's a new game.  Sort of like my affirmations project (which is almost done - more on that this Thursday), where I pick a fun word for the day and then roll with it.  Starting with today's theme...

Magical Monday!

Now, it's pretty clear that I'm a skeptic so when I talk about "magic," I typically mean it more in an "appreciating the wonder and joy of life" sense.  That being said, I also enjoy mysticism and superstition, as long as they don't get in the way of my (sometimes overly) pragmatic lifestyle.

So here's a list of ways I've added a tiny bit of magic to my own life, followed by some of the fantastic resources that have inspired me to do so.

9 Things That Add a Little Magic to My Life

1. Essential Oils

Although they are increasingly becoming a more pragmatic resource (I've been beginning to make my own hygiene products), I first bought essential oils simply to have fun with them.  Every once in a while Ryan or I decides to play around with our oil diffusers, or I decide to mix up a new concoction, and it reminds me of the joy I found as a child, raiding my parent's toiletries to make "magic potions."

Oct 8, 2015

Clothing Swap! (AKA the Get Naked Party)

I did it and it was awesome!  /post

Just kidding!!!  Although I maybe shouldn't bother to post about this because I didn't take a single damn picture during the event.  Normally my lack of picture taking doesn't bother me but this was one where the sheer amount of clothes was truly impressive.  I started out with the (cleared-out) hall closet, and an extra table I'd placed in the living room.  By the end, we'd also commandeered most of the couch, the end tables, and the island in the kitchen.

I knew my friends were close-ish in size, but I didn't realize how good of a match we'd all be!  I think I ended up with at least one new item from each person.  People left with new shirts, dresses, jewelry, purses, shoes, even a K-cup display holder!  It was glorious!

My new wardrobe additions!

The event itself was a ton of fun.  I was lazy and bought a smorgasbord of hummus, veggies, cheese, and crackers (rather than cook anything), but Roommate made us chocolate-covered strawberries (despite my insistence that he could not stay for the event).  One exceedingly well-prepared friend brought alcohol, apples, and her own pitcher, and made us caramel apple sangria, which was freaking amazing (and so very Fall!).

Oct 6, 2015

Some Thoughts on Blogging

These posts are the reason my family doesn't read anymore.  :P  Except my mom, who is awesome and always makes my dreams feel like a possibility.

Well, except for making money from blogging.  She was very clear on that.  And how it wasn't going to happen.  But that's ok, because I've got this graphic design thing I can always fall back on.  You know, just in case.

Blogging Thoughts

1. I Found My Rhythm

I've settled into a very comfortable cycle.  I get really motivated to write, fill up my blog with about a month's worth of scheduled posts, and then gradually my proliferance tapers off until I'm almost out of posts.  Once the last scheduled post goes live, I'm magically inspired and ready to churn out another month's worth.

2. Hobby Blogger

When I first found the blogging community and realized people make money from this, I got all excited and I wanted to play the numbers game and work with brands, and sell sidebar space.  Now?  Not so much.  I don't want to bother with pictures unless I feel like it.  I write what I want to, when I want to.  It's thoroughly enjoyable, unlike all the times when I started to feel pressure to do things a certain way.  Like my writing rhythm, I've found a comfortable groove for my blog style and I'm happy here.  There's so many things that cause stress, and I refuse to add blogging to the pile.

Oct 5, 2015

How Many Faces Do You Have?

via Imgur (and Higher Perspective, but I couldn't find the actual page)

Were you looking for a reason to get introspective today?  If not, I apologize, because I found this metaphor very interesting.

On the one hand, I don't feel like I hold anything back from my family or Ryan.  I frequently babble to the point that there's not much filter between what's in the brain and what's coming out my mouth.

On the other, I guess it makes sense that there will be certain things we don't or can't express, even to those closest to us.  For example, how would you explain how you feel about yourself?  It's kind of like the way you can't actually see yourself with external eyes.  So you'd actually be worse at identifying yourself than other people would, because your primary source is posed pictures and quick glances in the mirror, whereas everyone else sees you behaving and acting naturally.

Oct 4, 2015

Sunday Sweats - Return to Running!

Sunday Sweats Theme Inspired by Holly
Sister3 bought us matching tank tops for that half marathon with this quote on them.  It's from Hercules, when he's singing I Can Go the Distance, and it was entirely fitting.  So to honor my return to (non-long distance) running, I had to start with that one.  To keep things light and easy, but still motivate myself to do it, I'm shooting for 5 miles a week, divided up however I want.  And, to keep the numbers simple, I'm also shooting for 5 hours total workout time per week (for an average of ~42 minutes per day).

Anyway, here's the workouts...

Weekly Workouts

Acronym Cheat Sheet
DTT - Daily Total Time
SKC - Stronger Knees Challenge
GS - Goblet Squats | DD - Dumbbell Deadlifts | HC - Hamstring Curls | RL - Reverse Lunges

Monday - Strength Training | DTT: 45 Min

Pretty solid workout for a Monday!  A good press for bench, and then pulldowns, but all my "extras" were enough to get me sweating before I even started the "real" workout.  By the time lunch was over, I was quite warm, despite our chilly office!

SKC Day 9: GS 10s x 15, DD 10s x 15, HC 24

Oct 1, 2015

Radical Self Love - Putting the Book into Practice

I read Gala Darling's book, Radical Self Love, last month and absolutely loved it!  It definitely falls into the self help category, but the way she writes is down to earth and comfortable (not to mention entertaining), so it was a breeze to get through.

Each chapter had a "homework" section with practical examples of how you could utilize her self love principles in real life.  There's a lot of good ones and a lot that I will be trying out, but I thought I'd share the first ones I wanted to implement.

Gala advocates selfies.  She says they're powerful in that you create the image of yourself that you want to share with the world and it gives you a chance to get really comfortable with how you look.

She also mentions affirmations and compliments.  I've tried affirmations before and they didn't do much for me.  I think a big part of that was the routine of it; it became a chore that my brain didn't really put much effort into thinking about.

So I decided to give myself a different affirmation every day and make use of Gala's exuberant and over-the-top language.  I played around with words like "glamorous" and "radiant."  Things I would never, ever have thought to apply to myself.  It didn't always feel true, or like it fit, but it gave me a chance to see myself in a new light each day.  To try things on and see what felt right.  And it was fun!

Try looking in the mirror sometime and saying, "I am a mother f***ing boss."  It's hilarious, but also strangely empowering.  And a tiny part of me agreed.  "Sure, I can be a boss today."