Mar 31, 2016

Final Texts - My Digital Legacy if I Dropped Dead

You know how sometimes you think of something totally, totally random, like "What would happen if I drove off this bridge?"  (Please someone say yes.)  I had one of those moment the other day, but it was, "If I died right now, what would be the last thing I had said to all my friends and family?

Since we're living in the digital age, most of my last words would have been recorded through text (and that was a lot easier than trying to remember the last verbal exchange), so I browsed through my phone.  Some of the answers were amusing, so here you go...

My Final Texts

to Ryan: "Please let them out to pee."  (Last gchat, which we use more frequently, is "okey doke".)

to Sister2: "We love you too!!!  Have a good trip!  Call us when you're able!  Congratulations on surviving the first 2 weeks (which is when you'll get this)!!!" (she had just gotten on a flight to Nepal)

to Sister3: "Yes!  Cats are a good solution because they take care of themselves."  (In reference to Pablo Escobar's rat problem.)

to Momma: "That's a good point, actually."  (She had just pointed out that the Trump and Hillary Clinton wigs a new client is selling will probably do well this year.)

to Michael, Alyssa, and Dani: "I have opinions!"  (That was a lie.)

to Melisandre: "I think I don't have the 2nd one in this load after all.  I already ditched it.  :P"  (with a picture of a shoe organizer)

to Danaerys (a new friend who has just gotten her first blog nickname): "If it's a men's jacket it will cover the vital bits!"  (Halloween brainstorming, but mostly just screwing with her.)

The rest was all logistics - a couple conversations with clients and/or planning to meet somewhere.  But you know, other than maybe telling my mom how amazing she is and saying something a little less practical to Ryan, I'd be ok with these being my final words.  In fact, I'm going to text Ryan something now, because you never know...

P.S. There's a relevant XKCD for this situation.  I mean, there pretty much always is, but I thought you guys might like this one.

XKCD is awesome

What would your final texts be?  Are your texts usually more practical or goofy?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Mar 29, 2016

Training for Tuesday - Return to Running

I am 79% positive that I have another post titled this same thing.  Which shouldn't be surprising because running, despite its popularity, can be pretty rough on your body.  I know very few regular runners who don't have a problem area or two and I had the distinct displeasure of experiencing this phenomenon for myself all of last year when I was trying to convince my body that we could do this half marathon thing.

Long story short, I did my race, but I never did get past 7 miles in a training plan without injuring something, and my longer races always involved a good bit of walking.  I've been out of commission since December, waiting for my foot to stop hurting (it'd gotten so bad that even walking and hiking could aggravate it), and hoping that I hadn't done myself any permanent damage.

I didn't begin March intending to start running again, but at some point I realized the pain was gone.  The weather warmed, and I was desperately needing something to get me motivated again and to lift the somewhat bleak mood I'd fallen into over the winter.

A few short, exploratory runs later, I'm pretty confident that my body is healed and ready to do this.  But I'm also determined to prevent future injury.  Allow me to introduce you to the most cautious training plan known to man.

Yes that's right.  Half a mile increments for each week.  That's it.

Technically there's a 10% rule out there, but even with my history I couldn't bring myself to make a training plan based on tenths of a mile.  When the distances get longer, then I'll switch over from half a mile to 1/10 each week, but for now I'm jumping from 2 miles to 2.5 and so on.  Every 4th week is a mandatory no running week where I'll do only low-impact exercises.

I actually think it's a little crazy to make a plan for 5 months out, BUT I wanted to get myself back up to 5 miles.  Maybe at some point in the future I'll want to attempt longer races again, but for now I think 5 miles is a pretty comfortable, doable baseline.

Now to answer the question: "Why running?"  If running is so hard on my body and such a rocky road with emotional highs and lows, why do it at all?  Why not stick to biking all the time instead of just every 4th week.

There's a few reasons.  I think part of my determination stems from the fact that it is difficult.  The desire to overcome this infuriating opponent.  But a lot of it is just practical.  I can run for 20 minutes and my heart rate will jump up to 140-something and stay there for the whole run.  I can do the stationary bike for 30 minutes and my heart rate will maybe get up to 120.  It burns more calories, it works more parts of my body, it works my lungs and helps me overcome EIRA (basically asthma but only during exercise).  It's also the only exercise Ryan will do with me.  He's just not motivated to do other things so running is a way for me to encourage him to work out as well, and time for us to bond together over a healthier activity than pizza and Netflix.

Whatever the reason, I'm back, the first week went amazing, and I'm hoping I'll still be here in a month to report it on the long, slow crawl back up to 3 miles, and how infuriating a week off can be when you don't feel like you need it.

What are your fitness goals for the next month?  Do you build yourself training plans?

Linking up with Alyssa and Tracy


Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Mar 24, 2016

My Favorite Instagram Accounts

I was persuaded on the 2nd New Jersey blate to become an Instagram user.  For real, not just in possession of an account I never used.  So I did what I always do when I join a new social media network and followed a bazillion account that I "should" like.

It was boring and I rarely looked at it.  Finally I decided to figure out what I really like and not what I should.  Skipping the obvious friend's accounts, here's the ones that fill my feed (and heart) with joy.

1. earthofficial

Just gorgeous!  Beautiful, beautiful landscape, scenery, places I never even imagined existed on this earth.  I love it.

2. theawkwardyeti

This has actually surpassed XKCD as my new favorite web comic.  The constant battle between heart and brain is one that both amuses and resonates with me.  Sister3 actually got me an Awkward Yeti book for Christmas, which is proudly displayed with the other "bathroom books."

A photo posted by Grace Ciao (@grace_ciao) on

3. grace_ciao

A Reddit discovery (about half the art on my Pinterest boards was found through Reddit), Grace Ciao does some really awesome and pretty stuff with flower petals as fashion sketches.  I don't even care about fashion, but these makes my heart happy.

4. natgeotravel

More pretty pictures, but more variety.  Some landscapes, some animals, some people.  Always interesting, sometimes educational.

5. fowllanguagecomics

I don't even have kids and this makes me laugh.  I can only imagine this being more poignant once I do cross into parenthood.

A photo posted by Javier Pérez (@cintascotch) on

6. cintascotch

Abstract, minimalist, and artsy, this one is just good fun.  His art is fun and silly and sometimes makes me think.

7. chrishallbeck

More comics!  Although this one is more inappropriate humor than the other two, which are more family friendly.

A photo posted by Michael Grab (@gravityglue) on

8. gravityglue

This is so incredibly zen.  Gorgeous photography, and mind-blowing configurations of rock.  I honestly don't know if the artist actually glues things together or just has some kind of gravity defying balancing abilities, but the results are amazing.

9. gemmacorrell

I actually found this one through a bunch of random "inappropriate Valentine's" that I googled and printed as a joke for Ryan.  He liked hers so much that I tracked down the artist, bought a laptop case with the comic (these 2 dogs - it's cute and weird), and then followed her on Insta just for good measure.

A photo posted by Murad Osmann (@muradosmann) on

10. muradosmann

This is the "follow me" series, where the photography is being led by the hand into various cultural settings.  A fun idea and absolutely gorgeous travel photography.  Not very frequent posts, but that's fine when each one is so beautiful!

11. thatsbabyanimals

And the best for last!  My daily "daw."  Sometimes I feel ashamed of how much I like this, but what can I say?  You'd have to have a heart of stone not to.

To sum up: according to Jenn, the best of Instagram is web comics (I actually follow a bunch of other ones also but these artists format the best for Insta), travel photography, unique artists, and baby animals.  (But especially the baby animals.)

What are your favorite Instagram accounts?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Mar 22, 2016

What Are You Hungry For - Applying the Concepts to My Life

I mentioned in the book linkup post that I was in the middle of reading (listening to, actually) What Are You Hungry For by Deepak Chopra.  I found it in my library's selection when I was trying to find audiobooks that were available to listen to right away and it's been a very fortuitous find!

So a quick summary: the book talks about emotional eating and fixing it with mindful eating.  The beginning talks about how we eat to fill holes or things in our life that we're dissatisfied with.  Nothing you haven't heard before, right?  What was different (for me) was his solution.  Rather than setting regimented rules, or restricting yourself, Chopra is all about fulfilling your needs and applying mindfulness to find out what your needs really are.

Taking his advice, I spent a few days taking notes every time I had a sugar craving.  Not only was I a bit surprised at the sheer number (I think 8 times in one day was my record and this is not counting regular eating nor was I stopping myself from fulfilling those cravings), but less than half of those food cravings were about the food.  I'd get frustrated with a task, irritated at Ryan or the dogs, stuck in traffic, and boom!  "Sugar will fix this."

Knowing why I want to eat is sometimes a deterrent all on its own.  And knowing why gives me insight as to what better methods might be of coping with my own bad mood.  Like actually expressing my feelings, or asking for what I really want.  But sometimes I still want the quick, easy fix.  And sometimes I crave things just because I crave them.

The middle of the book goes into the how of healthy eating and, I'll admit, I got a bit bored.  It's mostly stuff I've read before, and it's a little extremist.  Sure, the idea of eating "pure" is appealing, but I'm not going to magically start preparing all my own meals from scratch, and I still don't care about organic produce.

But then it piqued my interest again when the author got to a section about combating cravings by making our meals fuller and more satisfying.  He talks about paying attention to our food instead of eating mindlessly while doing other things.  I'll admit, this is hard for me, because I eat while I work frequently, and I really enjoy watching TV with Ryan while we have dinner.  But you know?  Actually talking to each other would be nice, too.  And when we ate out for Ryan's birthday at a nicer restaurant than usual, we really did pay attention to the food (because it was fancy and elaborate) and it was a much more satisfying meal than usual.

He also has a few tricks for fighting cravings.  One I intend to try is drinking warm milk when I have a sugar craving.  Basically, using the 6 different types of tastes to figure out what our body is craving and provide that without going overboard.  He talks more in depth about which foods satisfy which "taste" and that's all good information but the part that really made me pay attention was when he said, "Happiness isn't meant to be so elusive."

Right on!!!

And this is the biggest, most widely applicable part of the book.  Because while overeating may not be the way you deal with unhappiness, the lack of satisfaction with our own lives is such a common problem that most of us can relate to, in the past if not now.  And life isn't meant to be lived this way.

That's the biggest change I'm making.  Remembering to actively work on my own happiness every day and not just when I'm in the pits and in desperate need of it.  Adding more mindfulness to my life, applying the tips and tricks I pick up from various books, and continuing the search for a better, and happier self.  Every day is another small improvement.

I'm also continuing to apply mindfulness specifically in the area of food and nutrition.  Why am I eating what I'm eating?  Am I actually enjoying it?  Sitting down with food without distractions and paying attention to how I feel about it.

You know that smoothie I have just about every day?  Banana/blueberries/whey protein/yogurt/spinach?  I'm actually pretty sick of it.  And I didn't even realize because I just chug it down every day while I work on things.  But when I forced myself to sit at the counter and drink it without other distractions or activities?  Yeah...  Maybe if I had a breakfast I actually enjoyed and paid attention to, those mounds of baked goods wouldn't be so tempting 10 minutes after I finish.

Another unexpected side effect of sitting down for breakfast: I felt calmer.  Lately I've had enough freelance work that the moment I get up I'm running.  Get dressed, walk the dogs, make a smoothie, drink it while doing dishes or getting started on my work, work all day with small breaks for the dogs, dinner with Ryan or exercise, back to work, sleep.  There's been no time for me.

While eating isn't the break I would have chosen for myself, it's enough of a quiet space in my day that the rest of it felt less frantic.  It also helps to take the dogs for a legit walk at lunch instead of just, "Ok, go pee, quick back inside everyone!!!"

Frankly I'm surprised at some of the insights I've found by applying the concepts to my life and I've just barely started.  I'm hoping it will continue and while I'm realistic enough to not expect it to revolutionize my dietary habits, I do think it will help.  So here's to sit down meals and making food a bigger deal rather than trying to ignore it!

Do you have sit down meals or do you eat in front of the TV?  In which areas do you practice mindfulness and where could you use more?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Mar 18, 2016

Things That Make Me Happy

So, as part of my "cheer the eff up and stop being mopey" plan, I'm trying to actively focus on the good parts of my life and the things that make me happy.  For your viewing pleasure, here are the things that I could find cute pictures for.

1. Family Time!

And especially being active with my family!  Ryan's birthday was a Wednesday, so he took the day off work and we went hiking.  Toast did fantastic, after initially being frightened of the harness, and we had an awesome 2 hours of wandering around in woodsy areas.

2. Killer Closet

I'm hoping I'll eventually feel this way about the rest of the house, but our closet organization is killing it!  For now, the closet (yes, that's right the closet) is my happy place, with the best mix of organization, color, and simplicity to be found anywhere in our home.

3. Nerding Out

Painting with a Twist and these Tardis paintings.  Doctor Who might have been taken off of Netflix, but that doesn't mean we can't find other ways to indulge our fandom!  We went completely off the rails during the class and the results were... interesting.

4. My Babies (Sometimes, When They're Good)

When my pups actually like me!  Toast never gets this close willingly.  I had to bribe her with popcorn.  But when you consider that she was too afraid to even try popcorn when we first got her, this is a total win.  Luke is, of course, being a ham and trying to keep all the popcorn and bellyrubs for himself.

Other Things That Make Me Happy (that I don't happen to have phone photos for)
  • When people call or text me just to chat
  • When Sister2 thanked me for being the reliably enthusiastic family member for news and events
  • New clothes
  • Finding the optimal arrangement for something
  • Letting go of physical and emotional baggage
  • A clean car
  • Watching people laugh (the best is that big belly laugh when they throw their head back and really let go)
  • Febreeze bombing the house
  • Friends (and people) who like you and say it
  • Spinach salads with fruit on them (strawberries, craisins, pineapple, you name it!)
  • When Ryan calls me "lady"
  • Vacations
  • Conversations that teach you something
  • Conversations that teach you nothing but make you laugh
  • New experiences
  • Writing and having people care enough to discuss it with me
Thanks, guys.

What makes you happy?  What do you do when you're feeling down?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Mar 16, 2016

How to Get Out of a Slump - A Frank and Uncomfortable Look at Feelings

Hi, my name is Jenn and I'm prone to wildly fluctuating moods and long, enduring downswings.  Typically my method is to wait it out, occasionally taking a sick day and reading in bed for 24 hours as a last resort cure.

Sometimes that's not enough.  Sometimes I get stuck, mired in my own negativity and I forget that it's temporary.  I forget to relax and wait it out.  I start to feel a bit desperate and hopeless and I find myself sleeping more and more.  Not enjoying sleep (which is a sad state of things, since I normally enjoy it quite a bit!), but using sleep as an escapism.

I know I've hit a low when my first feeling upon waking up is disappointment.  Not wanting to be awake.  Typically sleep acts as a reset button and whatever the hurts and sadnesses from the day before, the morning brings new possibilities.  But sometimes it doesn't, and that's when I know just waiting won't be enough.

I'm there now, in that uncomfortable, unmotivated, self-pitying pit of ugliness, and I'm ready to climb back out.  Here's my action plan.

1. Decide to Make a Plan

As a bit of a control freak, my first step to feeling better about anything is to make a plan.  Having a plan of action gives me an illusion of control over life in general, and reminds me that I really am in control of my own brain, even if it doesn't always feel like it.

2. Isolate the Source

Which area of my life is making me feel down?  Sometimes I know off the top of my head, sometimes I have to really dig into those uncomfortable, unpleasant feelings.

3. Is it Valid?

Is the problem the thing?  Or is it me?  If it's the former, then it's time to really think about changes I can make in my life (6 months ago that was changing up my job situation).  If it's the latter, then it's my attitude that needs adjustment (the case in my current situation).

4. Research (Optional)

I quite honestly used to research things like "how to be more optimistic" or "how to get rid of negative thoughts" but at this point I've read so many self help books that I have plenty of tools in my arsenal - I just need to use them.

5. Attitude Adjustment/Action Step

Really just anything to get my brain working in a more positive direction.  Sometimes this is affirmations (remember the selfie project?).  Sometimes this is a gratitude list or "self love" notebook.  With my current slump, the problem is my negative attitude towards external stimuli, and my lack of a routine to implement any of the healthy life initiatives I've come up with recently.

So I set myself a reminder for noon for the next 30 days - a time when I know I'll be awake and, most likely, near a computer.  My action steps are 1) Say something nice to Ryan (who's been getting the backlash of my negativity)  2) Set myself an affirmation or positive word to work towards all day  3) Selfie it out (I know I said I wouldn't do the selfie project again, but I'm feeling it right now) 4) Say something nice about myself  5) Choose one healthy expression of self love for the day (exercise OR cook a real meal OR chat with a friend - anything really, as long as it isn't wallowing in sugar and apathy)

And perhaps the biggest act of self love I can complete is just going easier on myself.  Setting fewer goals each day, and not beating myself up when it doesn't feel like I'm moving forward.  Sometimes time gets wasted, and sometimes things take longer than they "should."  I have flat rate projects (Photoshop sports jersey mockups) that I get paid $15 for and sometimes they take over an hour.  Is that a bummer?  Yes.  Is it the end of the world?  No.  And I've learned so, so much about Photoshop in the last couple of months that even when they take too long, they are way faster than they would have been without the skills I've gained since December.

We also have a new dog (did you realize?  I know I hardly ever mention this fact /s).  She is adorable, but she is also difficult.  Some days she's awesome, and some days she pees on the floor every time I'm not looking and howls when I crate her.  That's frustrating and distracting, and yeah, it's going to make my work less efficient and me less productive.  That's ok.

I got really busy last week and had to cancel all my social plans.  I don't think I realized how much I was looking forward to escaping the house and interacting with my friend and sister until this weekend when I was still working and hadn't interacted with anyone other than Ryan, Luke, and Toast.  It was hard to explain to Ryan why I was crying over missing a pedicure.  But you know... sometimes you really just need that time to take care of yourself and our home isn't currently a place I can do that, because I'm always too busy taking care of someone else.

So I'm rescheduling that m-effing pedicure and if work comes up, I'll politely let my clients know that it'll be a day or two until I can get it over to them, and that won't be the end of the world because normal people schedule their work in advance instead of dropping everything the moment someone contacts them and most clients are used to that kind of turnaround.

To sum up: Relax, breathe, get a pedicure, buy cheesy decals for your closet (I'm thinking this one), do some yoga.  I WILL feel happy again, even if I have to smack some sense into my own self to get there.

Do you ever have slumps?  What are your strategies for getting out of them?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Mar 14, 2016

The Most Important Thing I've Ever Designed!

Way back in October, I was trying to find a complete family tree of the characters in Once Upon a Time.  You may wonder why anyone would be interested, but each season of the show has basically added several new members to the main family to the point where any new relationship is dangerous, because there's a good chance they're already related.  It is complicated, and hilarious, and makes me giggle when I'm not busy rolling my eyes.

Anyway, I could not for the life of me locate one that was both complete and aesthetically pleasing. (Uhhh, it's Baelfire, not "Bae."  You haven't earned the right to his informal nickname!)  So I took it upon myself to make one.

Since I struggle to complete anything I start, especially when it has essentially no purpose, I have just finished that graphic today.

Unfortunately, I have discovered that since I last looked into this, someone else has also created a complete graphic and his is a thing of beauty.

Artist: David Ryan Andersson on DeviantART
Look at all those little vector characters!  Blown away.  Plus his covers all the characters, regardless of whether they're related to the main family, which I did not feel capable of attempting.  So anyway, if you've watched the show, you're welcome!  If you haven't, you  may now laugh at us for how ridiculous our show is.  :P

What shows do you follow?  What things do you have to admit are ridiculous, despite still loving the show?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Mar 9, 2016

8 Things I Learned This Weekend

As I mentioned Monday, I met up with some blogger friends this past weekend, and it was certainly educational.  Allow me to share my newfound knowledge.

8 Unscientific and Nonfactual Things I Learned

1. Some people don't like jelly and, in fact, have never had a PBJ (after reading your comments, I'm realizing this number is much higher than anticipated)

2. Blogging "how to" posts are out

3. Some people don't like mushrooms

4. Or chocolate (if it's plain)

5. Or ketchup (or tomatoes in general - they're "pulpy")

6. Some people have never seen ET

7. Some people don't enjoy the term "adulting"

8. Listicles are among the type of blog posts that will begin a rant... for some people

My, wasn't that fun?!  And let us all remember that no day in which you learn something is a total loss.  (Side note: I had a very specific reason to use gifs for this article but I had no idea they were SO MUCH WORK!  I have a new respect for you gif-users.  Though, personally, I can't really stand them.)  EDIT: I have to add a caveat - I do like Disney gifs, and Doctor Who.  Or any TV show I've actually watched.  I like none of the gifs I've included in this post, with the possible exception of the happy peanut butter and jelly sandwich.)


What have you learned or "learned" recently?  What's the weirdest blog post you've ever written to prank someone?  And what's your stance on gifs?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Mar 8, 2016

Bookin' It

BOOKS!!!  I feel like I haven't written about books in forever.  And I've been reading a ton.  I'll skip my January reads (The Time Machine, Equal Rites, A School for Unusual Girls, and Uprooted), but here's everything for February.
City of Bones (and the rest of The Mortal Instruments series and the spinoff about Magnus Bane) - ♥♥♥♥
4 hearts for most of the series, 5 for the last book, which was phenomenal, and 3 stars for Magnus Bane, which was a set of mini stories about one character and didn't feel like as much attention had been put into it.  There's a tiny bit of teenage angst, and it is very much YA, but it's a really great story, and I like the world of demons, vampire, and shadowhunters.  I also like the riddles, and the biblical references.  I guess just the idea that all our myths and mythologies were true in some sense.  Once I got started, I had trouble putting it down.
The Queen of the Tearling - ♥♥♥♥
I enjoyed the story while I was reading it, but I don't know if I'll go after the rest of the series.  The main character bothered me in the beginning, but by the end I was definitely starting to like her.  I think the book did a really good job with character development and she grew in a very believable way.  Maybe I've just read too many books between it and reviewing it now, but I don't remember exactly why it got 4 stars and it feels less compelling now.
I'm just a sucker for all things organizational.  There were definitely parts in the book where I thought it was excessive and far beyond anything I'd want to imitate but I LOVED the parts where she elaborates on how to get joy out of our possessions and homes.  This book was less about getting rid of stuff and more about arranging the stuff you do keep to make a joy-filled home.  And I loved it.
Meh.  Another comedian memoir.  Got the audiobook from the library and it passed the time pleasantly.  My favorite parts were Mindy's reflection on body image and eliminating the whole concept of "being discovered."  Afterwards I was feeling much more Mindy-inclined that before so I tried watching her show, but I couldn't get into it.  I won't pick up the second book - I enjoyed it well enough but I don't need 2 books of random reflections on her life.
The Lightning Thief - ♥♥♥
Another YA book.  This one felt more YA-y to me, with the narration being told by the main character.  The tone was interesting, and fairly believable as a 12-year-old, and the story was good.  I love Roman mythology, so all the fighting and interplay with gods and mythical creatures was right up my alley.  But, like the Queen of Tearling, it fell just short of compelling me to go out and buy the rest of the series.
This isn't even really a book - I think they recorded a man's speech to a graduating class and made it into an audiobook.  I'm not sure.  I borrowed it from the library and was not expecting it to be only 12 minutes long, but it was a fantastic speech and he made really awesome points about the things you regret as you get older and how to prevent it.  Thoroughly enjoyed, definitely recommend, it takes less than 15 minutes of your time, AND it's available for free on The 6th Floor.
Winter - ♥♥♥
I was reading this to finish up my challenge books I'd purchased back before the Australia book.  I wasn't expecting much and it was about in line with that.  A good story, perhaps a little weak in back story and inconsistent with shifting character point of view, but enjoyable overall.  Not picking up the rest of the series.
I'm juggling 3 books, mostly because they're in different formats.  I've been reading Emotional Freedom since the beginning of January, and it's good!  But there's so much to think about that I keep putting it down for a break while I read my light-hearted stuff.  I started listening to May Cause Miracles (to keep my brain occupied while I do particularly mindless tasks at work) and was immediately inspired, but it's a 40 day workbook and I really want to go through it one day at a time, but I'm struggling to integrate it into my routine.  So I might actually buy it on paper and keep it by my bed to remember to read it each morning.  And the most recent is another audiobook, What Are You Hungry For?, which is all about emotional eating and mindfulness, and has been amazing so far!
So anyway, I'll probably describe them more in depth next month, but my Kindle and library app are full of great books right now and I'm looking forward to continuing to keep my nose buried.

What have you been reading?  Have you read anything from my list and what did you think?  Do you ever juggle multiple books?

Linking up with Steph and Jana
Life According to Steph

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Mar 7, 2016

Weekend Recap - The Bloggiest of Weekends

First off, can I just apologize for the randomness of my posting lately?  I know, I know, one must maintain a 5-post-per-week regimen, but can I just say it has been a challenge lately.  Don't worry, though, I'm back with a furor and I fully intend to fill each week with all your favorite kinds of posts.  Well, maybe not your favorite, but somebody's favorite.  Nobody's favorite?  I can never remember the difference.  Moving right along...

This weekend was crazy!  And by crazy I mean not terribly unusual.  I tried desperately to get caught up on sleep, Toast did her best to prevent that by barking in the nighttime and having "accidents" around the house, Luke wandered around whining because life is hard, and Ryan... well I'm not entirely sure what Ryan was up to.

Saturday I met up with my favorite New Jersey bloggers, Alyssa, Michael, and Dani for some pottery painting!

These ladies are responsible for me actually being active on Instagram, but I still haven't quite gotten the knack of taking pictures where people are actually paying attention.  But I'm sure someone else will post one of the real pictures we took on Saturday and I'll steal it and add it to this post then.

Pottery painting was super fun!  I think I felt lost the moment we walked in, gazing up at all those blank palettes, awaiting our creativity.  As per usual, I made my choices almost entirely at random.  That vase thing, 'cause I like the shape.  Those colors, because they're my favorites.  About halfway through painting, I figured out what I wanted to do, and made some sort of elaborate stencil/dot/ocean-y thing that I have no idea how it will turn out after firing.  Fortunately, I'm no perfectionist and this uncertainty concerned me not at all.

Afterwards we headed over to Casa Piquin where Alyssa disclosed to us all the foods she doesn't like (I'd tell you now, but I'm planning a blog post on this later in the week).  I ate my tamales and admired the chili pepper mariachi band painted on the wall (along with the other décor - super cute place), and we caught up on life, food hang-ups, and yoga.  I again did not take any useful pictures but did document my first ever fried ice cream (interesting - not an instant favorite, but definitely worth trying!  Wayyyy better than deep friend Oreos).

This picture would not go sideways.  I'm still a little annoyed - sure it's pretty but not enough to be worth all the space it's taking up in this post.
We then leisurely made our way back to Alyssa's, where we holed up and tackled the topic we'd valiantly held off of for several hours: blogging.  3 hours later, having disclosed my every like, dislike, and thought on the subject, it was time to make the long drive home.  About 15 minutes in, I remembered that audiobooks exist and that I've downloaded a couple with the library app, and thus I discovered What Are You Hungry For? by Deepak Chopra, which is turning out to be a really fascinating book that I will, no doubt, discuss further at some point.

After an unsatisfying 5 hours of sleep, I arose with the dawn (or, you know, several hours after), threw some clothes on, and joined Momma for my first ever hot yoga session (actually my first class at all).  It was so good!  Having an instructor helped a lot with correcting my posture in the sitting pose (my lower back is super weak so that's always hard for me), but we weren't so new to yoga that we didn't know the basics of most of what the class did.  Coming almost 180 from where I started with yoga, I actually really enjoyed the spirituality of it, even the breathing (though it took me about 30 seconds to figure out how to make the hissing breath noise everyone else was making), and the little chime, and focusing on healing energy.  All of it.

The rest of the day involved frenzied (much of my life is frenzied - it comes of possessing an all-or-nothing mentality) cleaning, and preparing for guests, and then getting our nerd on with a return to our tabletop game, which I hadn't even realized how much I'd missed over the last couple of months.  Looking back, that hour of yoga is a nice quiet space in the constant hustle and I know I need to make more time for it in the future.

I don't think any of my blog readers participates in gaming, but I'm going to describe it anyway.  Since it had been 3 months, our DM (Roommate) took pity on us and, rather than have us try to remember what we'd been doing, he just told us, gave us a new "assignment" from the higher order mages, and a new twist in our group's little conspiracy theory.  We work for "The Tower," which is basically the organization who handles magic and keeps it separate from the public.  As lower level members, our characters get sent on tasks, which was all well and good in the beginning, but lately we've been beginning to suspect that not all is right with the Tower and perhaps there are things they don't want us to know more about.

This gaming session didn't give us enough time to investigate that suspicion, but we did have an interesting train ride, fight what was possibly a golem inhabited by the spirits of the dead, and lie to a LOT of people to cover up the fact that magic was being used.  My character is very honest, but we have one guy who's excellent at coming up with bullshit, so he typically handles those situations, while my character is better at the polite small talk (or babble - she babbles a lot).  I honestly don't even remember what was so funny, but we laughed a lot, and I had no trouble slipping back into character, despite having trouble imitating her accent to non-gamers just a couple days prior.

And now it's Monday, and I'm still amazed at how fast the weekend went by BUT I actually got 8 hours of sleep on a Sunday night and thus am feeling much better at the beginning of this new week than I usually do.  Hence the ridiculousness of this post.  Please forgive my facetiousness.

What did you get up to this weekend?  Ever done hot yoga or pottery painting?  Will you still read my blog if I actually post a bunch of weird random stuff this week?  'Cause I'm pretty sure that's happening.

P.S. I'm poking fun at weekend recaps, but mostly the reason I don't write them is because I get bored just writing it.  I also hardly ever take pictures of my activities.  However, I think in general, while they might not have a huge appeal to a wide audience, they'll be interesting to your friends and if that's your jam, go for it.

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Mar 4, 2016

Quarterly Goals - Spring 2016

This year started off a bit rockily, and it's been decidedly marked by big life changes.  So naturally the thing to do now is get super cheesy about the symbolism of spring and thawing out and feeling alive again.

As I do every so often, I'm feeling the desire to reinvent myself, and I think a lot of that is getting channeled into the house, but I've been restructuring a few other things here or there.  I'm adopting Kristen's definition of the seasons, since I fully agree with her that they could be chopped very neatly into 3 months per season: Spring (March, April, May), Summer (June, July, August), Fall (September, October, November), and Winter (December, January, February).

So Spring isn't officially here, but it's here for me!  In part because it makes so much more sense, and in part because I lost all interest in my Winter goals.  So much has happened that several of them lost all sense of relevance to my life, and others are still good things to do, but I've been in survival mode rather than conquering the world, and now that I'm feeling better and ready to tackle some goals, they're not the ones I'm most motivated for.

Winter Seasonal Goals

1. Find clients - Meh, not really

I really didn't do much for this.  I was lucky and had another new one come to me with no hunting necessary, and then didn't make time to pursue more leads.  I was fortunate enough to have client work every week, but if we're being honest, it needs to be a little more substantial for me to take myself seriously as a business owner.

2. Budget - Nope.  Not at all.

Uhhhh... by "budget" do you mean spend all the money and then stop buying stuff because the bank account is empty?  'Cause that's basically what I did.  It was difficult to resist the allure of home organization stuff.

3. Optimize our new living space - Check!

I'm still actively working on this, but I'm giving myself a check because we have it all planned out already, if not actually purchased.  The guys had moved a few things without me - needless to say I rearranged the kitchen to try to maximize efficiency (cooking stuff near the stove top, silverware closer to where a table will eventually be, easiest accessibility given to items most used, and so on).  Ryan actually did a lot more optimization than I expected.  He was all about swapping out lightbulbs for high-efficiency ones, bought a Roomba (his name is Rover), supplied himself with an assortment of manly tools and went around caulking, spackling, and hanging stuff.

So that was awesome, because it left me free to rearrange the actual stuff, focus on organization solutions, and start decorating!  That is definitely an ongoing process because we have about double the square footage we had before, so the main floor is devoid of furniture, and we have to pace ourselves financially with all the new furniture purchases.

4. Find an adventure for each month - Check!

January we moved into our new house!  (Plus the tail end of the Australia trip and starting my new PT employee/FT freelancer scheduler.  Oh, and I quit drinking.)

February we did a few fun social things.  There was the Delaware Fun-a-Day and the "Speakeasy" Valentine's Day event at the DE Art Museum.  But mostly getting a dog and learning how to help her and integrate her into our family has been a huge adventure!

And March was removed from Winter, by my new definition of the seasons.

5. Finish writing book - Newp

This fell off my priorities list at some point and it's back on the list of "things I maybe want to do some day."  Meh.

6. Routine - Nada

Although I tried.  I set up my alarms on my Fitbit so that I had to follow them since snooze wasn't an option, and I moved my phone and kindle charging stations to the basement so that the bedroom would be unaltered by "screens."  And then my Fitbit band snapped in half, and I'm awaiting my replacement, and we got a new dog who barks at night and has some needs we didn't anticipate (hello house-training), and overall we're a bit of a mess.

7. Introduce myself to our new neighbors - Check!

Roommate and I baked cookies and then, in the midst of our first snow flurries, I did the rounds and passed out my slightly soggy baked goods.  I'm glad I did - it's nice to smile and wave when I see people across the street instead of studiously ignoring each other, and the parking spots across from our house magically became much more accessible afterwards.  Coincidence?  I think not.
3/7 - Pretty dismal, but I'll live

Since I'm switching things up, I'm going to be setting new goals by category, since my life is feeling a bit segmented right now.  Here's the new goals...

Spring Seasonal Goals

Fun & Frivolous Goals
  1. Host a social gathering (party/event/whatever - our house is pretty and people need to see it)
  2. Finish my painting projects
  3. Follow the 40-day plan from May Cause Miracles (which has been an interested listen so far - I'm currently planning on listening to a chapter per day and going through it at the pace she suggests)
Business & Design Goals
  1. Treat my business like a business.  (Make quarterly goals, set weekly priorities and objectives, and choose activities instead of just responding to client requests)
  2. Speaking of which - get my business bank account set up already!  I got my license but forgot about the "LLC formation" stuff and I've been dragging my heels at doing the research to figure it all out.
  3. Pick a weekly learning project.  (After 3 weeks of increasing rage, I dropped my Master's class.  I'd like to replace that with goals that actually align with my business needs and skills I want to pick up - like gaining a better understanding of SEO and designing for mobile.)
Relationship Goals
  1. Have a home-cooked meal with Ryan 3 nights a week.
  2. Take a family trip with Ryan and the dogs.
  3. Walk the dogs 5 days a week. (Toast is walking on the leash now!  She pulls like a little horse, but hey, progress is progress.

Not gonna lie - it feels good to be back on the goals bandwagon.  I almost want to do monthly goals, but let's not get too crazy.

Do you make seasonal goals?  What are you planning for this spring?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Mar 2, 2016

Materialistic vs Minimalist

In high school, I prided myself on placing no value on "things."  About the only thing I cared about was having pants long enough that I wouldn't get teased for wearing "high waters."  I had had enough of that shit in middle school.  In any case, I was proud that stuff wasn't important to me, and I dreamed about living the freest lifestyle I could imagine: living in my car, moving constantly from place to place, and only working long enough to make enough money to eat and fill up my gas tank.

It was a fun idea.  But what happened instead was that I went to college (sort of, I mean I went, dropped out, tried again, and finally found graphic design and picked up steam).  And graphic design classes require you to own a lot of stuff.  Nice paper, exacto knives, spray adhesive, matte board, art supplies, camera, camera equipment, a laptop.  Before I knew it, I had more possessions, and more expensive possessions than I'd ever had.  And I valued them.

This caused me a bit of distress.  Was I shallow now?  Materialistic?  It's laughable now to think I even worried about it, considering how few possessions I had then compared to what I have now.  Dating (and marrying) Ryan took my new found "materialistic" tendencies to a new level.  I now wanted possessions of a certain quality.  I wanted things that looked nice in addition to serving their purpose.

I probably would have worried about this, too, but that's one area that Marie Kondo's books have really helped me.  I've realized that I want these items because they'll bring more joy into my life.  I know the value of these items is the use and enjoyment I get out of them, rather than their monetary worth.

I've helped a couple friends clean out their homes in the past, and, while they weren't exactly "hoarders," they did approach that territory.  I knew something was off about the way they were using (or not using) their "stuff" but I couldn't have put words to it until recently.  The value they were placing on these items was entirely based on the value they could have had if they were ever used.  Or sold.  Or given to a friend.  But they weren't.  And so that value was nonexistent, because it would never be realized.

So I guess this is a long-winded way to say that I'm not a minimalist, and probably never will be.  The tenants of minimalism appeal to me, but what really appeals to me is not not having stuff, but increasing the value and efficiency of the things I do have, by reducing the things that don't contribute in some way to the lifestyle I want to live.  I like my wall art, and having a nice computer that doesn't crash all the time.  I like having a computer desk and chair that don't make my knees/arms/back hurt when I sit there for far longer than I probably should.  Our couch is covered in sofa blankets and pillows right now.  Could we make do with 1 or 2 of each?  Sure.  But it is the most comfortable it's ever been.

We're buying a lot of new "stuff" for the house right now.  I felt twinges of guilt as I realized that we're going to be guilty of acquiring extra space just to fill it back up again.  But you know what?  We're not doing that at all.  We're very carefully selecting each new purchase to make sure it fits the space, adds value, and gives us enjoyment.  Sure, it might take weeks to find the perfect rug or bar stool, but damn if I'm not excited to receive and use our new stuff!

Minimalism is kind of a trend right now, and I support that.  If nothing else, it makes people analyze what their possessions really mean to them.  But I've finally realized where I fit in the minimalism to materialistic scale and I'm pretty comfortable here in the middle.  Neither minimalist or materialistic, but mindful.

Where do you fall in the scale?  Would you like to have fewer or more possessions?  How much research do you do before you buy something?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design