Aug 30, 2016

Happiness Project Part 2 (Inspired by Gretchen Rubin)

I read The Happiness Project and, despite having run my own mini project a couple months ago, and several people assuring me that I'd enjoy the book, I was just not expecting to be quite so blown away.  I LOVE how organized Gretchen's approach is.  I love how she splits the areas of happiness into 12 categories and has different resolutions each month.  I love how she quite candidly states that her 12 areas of happiness are probably going to be different than her readers' and everyone's project should look a little different.  Every time I ran into a chapter that didn't captivate me as much as the others, I'd remind myself of that.

For example, I was entirely taken by her month of fun.  I absolutely want to collect ideas from people and try out a months of suggestions, just like I did for happiness ideas.  But I was less enthralled by the relationship chapter, because the way Ryan and I function is so different from Gretchen and her husband.  For me, the answer isn't "Do stuff instead of asking him to" because that fosters resentment.  Instead I need to ask him before I start stewing about it and he is almost always happy to oblige me (which is amazing and I appreciate this so much about him).

I also really liked that Gretchen is so focused on research and analysis.  A lot of her prompts and choices for resolutions are based on actual studies and I learned a lot, in addition to gaining ideas for things to try on my own.

Another thing that really resonated was her point about hobbies and interests that we think we SHOULD like.  I've experienced this 2 ways: 1) Trying to continue finding joy in childhood hobbies despite the fact that it's just not working for me anymore and 2) Thinking I should like things because of how I'll be perceived if I do like them.

I want to like video games, both for the nerd cred and because Ryan likes them so much, but if I'm really, really honest, most of the time I'd rather read a book.  I do greatly enjoy the games we play together, but not all games are created equal.  I enjoy childish games like Zelda, Mario, and Lego Harry Potter because they're easy and fun and sometimes involve solving puzzles.  I like games that are visually appealing and that allow you some autonomy outside the basic plot, like World of Warcraft and Fable.  It didn't used to matter, but I no longer like playing games at my computer because it's so strongly associated with work and because I sit in that damn office chair enough as it is.  My butt needs a break!

I want to like classical music, but usually I'd rather just turn on my Dub/Electronica station on Pandora or listen to the Les Miserables soundtrack for the bajillionth time.  I want to like Smashing Magazine and other business and design oriented news sites and blogs, but I get bored.  It's work, not play.  I want to know more about world events and how our political system works, but researching it is a huge drag.  I want to be more into yoga, meditation, and spirituality, but in the end I think I'm happier as a dabbler than a devotee.

In The Happiness Project, a lot of Gretchen's realizations when something doesn't make her happy are that she's not really "being Gretchen."  And, while sometimes she does things she doesn't enjoy, the whole point of the project is to find the things that truly call to her.  I think this is a fantastic next step for me.

I spent a month trying out everyone else's suggestions and, while I found a few new things that work for me, a lot of it was things I'm already trying to force myself to like more than I do.  Or, like exercise, things that do make me happier in the long run, but aren't "fun."

12 months is a bit long for me, and I don't think I have as many areas I want to cover as Gretchen did, but I'd like to give this monthly resolution thing a shot.  I've got 5 months until R-Day (that's Reptar Day), at which point who knows what life will be like, so I'm choosing 5 areas to build on.
  • September: Career Development
  • October: Social
  • November: Self Actualization
  • December: Fun
  • January: Mindset

Happiness Project Month 1: Career Development

After spending some time debating which topic to tackle first (they all sounded so fun!), I reluctantly settled on career development, which is in the most need of some attention.  For those who don't know, I work a part time job Monday/Tuesday and I freelance the rest of the week.  Some months have been busy, but the last few not so much.

Rather than continue to play around during my free time, as much fun as all the extra reading has been, I'd like to channel more time and energy into my business.  I've got a couple things started or in the works already, so I figure now is a great time to build on that momentum.  My primary goals are to educate myself and gain new skills for my business and to make more connections within my field.  So some of these are projects rather than ongoing behaviors, but the projects are a lead in for a mentorship/internship opportunity I'd like to take advantage of, which would represent both a great learning opportunity and a way to get to know some other designers.

The Resolutions

  1. Spend at least 5 hours on business activities W, Th, F
  2. Track time usage
  3. Follow up with clients weekly
  4. Say yes to all potential networking opportunities

The To Do List

  1. Optimize website for mobile
  2. Redefine target market
  3. Build a Wordpress website
  4. Follow up with potential mentorship (the previous points were prerequisites to working with the company I'd like to get more involved with)

I'll check in at the end of each month with results and my resolutions for the next month, and I'm going to try to keep a checklist, modeled after the one Gretchen used (and makes available at her website!).

Have you built your own happiness project?  What did you think of the book?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Aug 29, 2016

Sunday Sweats - the Test

My entire focus for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday morning is the blood pressure appointment on Wednesday.  It's actually kind of ironic, because the biggest thing you can do to lower your blood pressure is lose weight, and that's one of the (very, very many) things you're not supposed to do during pregnancy.  So I'm certainly not restricting myself (probably doing 4 or 5 meals per day and not all of them are that small), but I am focusing pretty heavily on good nutrition and a balance of protein, veggies, fruits, and whole grains.  Which is better for Reptar anyway, in addition to helping lower that pesky BP.

I also had a negative rant about my doctor's office, but that's no fun and I need a better attitude, so instead I'll tell you about some of the positives in the last couple weeks:
  • I don't have to eat every 2 hours to prevent nausea anymore!!!  I honestly never thought I'd be grateful for the ability to not eat until I had to monitor it so closely.  I didn't even get hunger pangs for the last few months - I'd get a tiny wave of nausea and eat to stave that off.  So it's nice to not have to eat immediately if I'm in the middle of something.
  • I totally forgot that back in April/May I had injured my chest/ribs/something and couldn't do yoga!  When my mom finished her yoga challenge last week (there had been a bit of a hiatus), I was reminded of why I hadn't done it with her - because on the day we started, I aggravated my injury so badly that I couldn't fully use those muscles for weeks.  Freedom of movement is amazing!
  • I really do feel back to normal.  When the first trimester ended, I was all excited about the fatigue going away, but it didn't...  And then my doctor's office made me feel like a huge slob and I got exercising, and the cardio has really helped far more than any other type of workout to make me feel like my old self.
To sum up my gratitude bullets: not tired, not nauseous, and not injured.  Life is good!

Anyway, here's the workouts...

Weekly Workouts

Monday - Biking | DTT: 30 Min

This probably wouldn't have happened if not for the looming doctor's appointment on Wednesday.  We went to the dog park, I walked the dogs a bit, and then it was late but I knew I had to get my heart rate up at some point, so I opted for exercise and a baked sweet potato instead of getting my 8 hours of sleep.

Tuesday - 2 mile run, yoga balance-y thing | DTT: 34 Min

Was dragging pretty hard, so I called Momma who obligingly agreed to do yoga with me.  We tried a couple of yoga balance videos, so it wasn't super strenuous but it was interesting.  My run was fantastic - not only have I rediscovered my love of treadmills but Disney movies while running?  Sooo good.  I was singing with all the voices of the wind and running the hidden pine trails of the forest and life was good.

Wednesday - 3 mile walk | DTT: 45 Min

Today was appointment day and everything was great!!!  I was expecting a quick blood pressure check, but they did the full BP, weight, and baby heart rate and all my numbers were better than 2 weeks ago.  According to the doctor, Reptar was moving around "like crazy" and I should be able to feel it fairly soon!  Anyway, after the appointment, I went for a walk with my dad around the park with the dogs and while it's a pretty wimpy excuse for a workout, it was hot and sweaty and afterwards I had to go die for 3 hours and accomplish nothing that day.  (Note: pregnancy keeps lying to me and telling me that a nap is going to feel amazing.  It never does, but I keep falling for it.)

Thursday - 3 mile walk | DTT: 45 Min

Uhhh... yeah, I don't know what's happening this week.

Friday - Nada | DTT: 0 Min


Saturday - 3 1-mile walks | DTT: 45 Min

Ryan and I celebrated our 1-year (ish) anniversary by playing Zelda, Twilight Princess ALL DAY LONG.  It was awesome, and because my husband is a genius, we dragged ourselves outside every 3 or 4 hours to walk a mile with the dogs and prevent that icky feeling you get from being inactive for too long.

Sunday - Yoga | DTT: 20 Min

Fun day!  Yoga with Momma outside on the grass, which was good and bad.  Good because the scenery was delightful and my dogs were delighted to have us out there and played the whole time.  Bad because we had to make up our own routine, but I feel like we did a decent job of coming up with poses.  The rest of the day was surprisingly active, though nothing I felt was trackable: some time wandering the dog park with some friends, and then disc golf with my dad (and the dogs), which I haven't done it forever!  Some of it came back to me, so I didn't spend too much time digging in the bushes, and eventually Toast calmed down even though there were crazy people around her throwing stuff constantly.

Average Daily Total Time: ~31 Min
Days With Cardio: 2
Weekly Mileage: 2

Thoughts Going Into Next Week

A little more structure would be good and more actual cardio.  Walks are great, but I'm pretty sure I need to get my heart rate up more if I want to continue to reap the benefits of healthy blood pressure.  But I'm not going to waste time bemoaning the week that was - at least I did something!  And I'm sure the dogs enjoyed all the outdoorsy-ness.

How did your workouts go this week?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Aug 25, 2016

The Memories that Stick (Regrets and Embarrassment)

You know how certain memories burn themselves into your brain?  The Awkward Yeti actually has a comic about Brain only remembering embarrassing memories.  I have those, but for me the ones that are the most strongly embedded are not the ones where I was embarrassed; typically as I grow up I learn to laugh it off and they lose their sting.  The ones that seem to never go away are the ones where I wronged someone.  Where I was unkind and accidentally hurt someone, or even just failed to help.

I think I wrote about this a while ago, but the author of Congratulations, by the Way: Some Thoughts on Kindness really gets into this.  I don't know why I decided to write about this because, frankly, it's a downer of a post, but maybe I can use this as a reminder to myself that being kinder in the future will save me all kinds of regret.  Yay, what fun!  Anyway, here's the memories I can't seem to forget:

Summer Camp, the Tie-Dye Shirt

When I was perhaps 9 or 10 (or 11 or 12, I have no idea really), my sisters and I all went away to an overnight summer camp.  We didn't stay in the same cabins, and bumping into each other was pretty rare, so I was excited when I was allowed to see Sister3 for a short period of time.  I honestly don't remember how or why this was coordinated, because she would have been 5 or 6, but she was at a really cute age where I liked reading to her and babying her and being trusted with her without adults was still exciting.  So she was showing me around the area where her age group stayed and we passed some tie-dye shirts that were hanging up on a line to dry.  One was almost entirely white, with just one tiny splotch of color, and I pointed it out, making fun of it for being so plain.  And then she told me it was the one she had made.

Charcoal Pit, the Catty Waitresses

As a teenager, I waited tables for a couple years at a little burger place my family liked.  When Sister2 came of hireable age, it was pretty natural to get her a job there as well.  She was a hostess and her responsibilities included seating people and cleaning off the tables.  I'd been there for almost 2 years, was working 50+ hours, and was generally starting to get fed up with it, so I was pretty absorbed with my own emotions and not paying much attention to anything else that was going on.  At a staff meeting, a couple of waitresses made a point of calling out the "best" hostess, which, when there are only 2, is pretty pointed, and lavishing praise on the other hostess who was their little pet.  I didn't even notice and didn't put much thought into it until later when Sister2 told me how angry it had made her.  After that I paid more attention, and a few people told me mean things they'd said, but the two waitresses never said anything in my hearing and I never really had a chance to say anything back or defend my sister.  I still regret my lack of attention at that meeting and not calling them out on it even though they never said anything after that in my hearing.

Alaskan Cruise, the Disembarkment

My family takes some pretty epic trips together and our cruise to Alaska was no exception.  I don't have a single negative memory of that trip until the end.  We were packing up our bags and waiting for them to call our group number in order to disembark.  I don't remember what item we needed and didn't have, but since it seemed like it would be a while before it was our turn, my mom ran down to the ship store to get it.  While she was gone, they called our group and my father, in his typically crazy fashion, belted out, "We gotta go!"  He snatched up as many suitcases as he could carry and rushed down to the deck.  My grandmother, my aunts, my sisters and I all followed and not a single one of us thought to text or call my mom to let her know what we were doing.  We searched the milling crowds for her before someone finally thought to check their phones and saw all the missed calls.  She cried when she did catch up to us, barely managing to explain how it had felt to return to an empty room, completely abandoned, and my heart still aches when I think about what a bunch of inconsiderate assholes we were.  I've seen my mom cry maybe 4 or 5 times in my life, so it makes a big impression when she does.

Trip Recap, the Unnecessary Literary Critic

We were reading a trip recap some relative had written and my mom commented on how well done it was.  I expressed general agreement but thought certain parts could have been better written.  I then proceeded to point out two parts of the recap that had actually been filled in for the author by someone else, as she hadn't been there at the time.  The person who had written the parts I pointed out?  My mom.

Those are the worst ones.  I've also treated my friends poorly when they've confessed things to me.  Choosing to become angry and scold them instead of sympathizing.  It's hard to watch the people you care about make terrible decisions, but after it got to the point where they were openly afraid to tell me things, I knew I had to change that.  I think, I hope, I'm a better friend now.  And I hope I'm kinder than I've been.

Standing up to people is harder, but I like to think I'm more up front about my beliefs and more likely to express disagreement when people say rude and ignorant things.  Finding a balance between standing up for people who are being maligned vs becoming the malign-er by bashing people who make careless remarks is a difficult line to walk.  Especially for someone who was raised with a "the best defense is a good offense" philosophy.  But I think I'm finding that path and I hope as time goes on I find fewer and fewer things to regret.

Now, to lighten the mood, I will tell an embarrassing story that I only learned to find amusing in the last couple years.

Poker, the Freudian Slip

We were visiting my grandmother and aunts and making small talk about various inconsequential things.  The conversation turned toward hobbies and games (maybe we were trying to brainstorm ideas of what to do, who knows?).  We had lately been playing poker with my dad, which felt very grown up and hardcore, gambling with the giant stash of quarters he'd collected over the years.  We played a few different varieties, but primarily Texas Hold'em.

Since I was a teenager, I also played poker with my school friends at the rare parties we had, but you can imagine it was of a different variety.  So when my aunts asked, "Oh, you guys play poker?" my brain decided to blurt out, "We only play strip poker."

There was an awkward silence as everyone tried not to picture a family strip poker game, and then one of my aunts, not knowing what else to say, went, "Woowoo!"  A second later my brain reconnected and I said, "Oh no, oh my god, Texas Hold'em.  I meant Texas Hold'em!!!"

What memories do most regret?  Do you tend to remember the things you've done or the things other people have done to you?  Got any embarrassing stories to lighten the mood?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Aug 23, 2016

Stupid Reasons I've Unfollowed

I'd like to begin this post by reassuring everyone that I know perfectly well that these are dumb reasons (I'm skipping over the obvious ones like "I didn't like their material anymore"), and I have no intent to advise people on what they should or should not write about.  We all have our turn ons and turn offs, and for whatever reason, the following things hit me at just the wrong time, or happened to be the tipping point that caused me to unfollow.  (Note: no blog names mentioned because I'm not trying to point any fingers, except maybe at myself for occasionally being ridiculous.)

1. They told me something was easy that I don't find easy

Either they're naive, or I make life more difficult than it needs to be, but I don't like either rubbed in my face.

2. How to posts from beginners

It really, really bugs me when people post "what I learned" or "how tos" about relationships, specifically, or any hobby or activity after participating in whatever it is for a month or two.  I'm sorry, but you don't know shit yet.  Dispense your wisdom when you're 10 years in or you've successfully completed something, not right after starting.

3. Bible quotes

I would like to first point out that I do like when people talk about their religious philosophy or the logistics of their faith or something, because that's fascinating.  But a lot of other religious talk bothers me (particularly sending prayers or using your religion to dictate how social issues should be decided) and for some reason I don't like bible quotes.  Couldn't tell you why - it's not logical whatsoever, but I've definitely unfollowed for that.

4. Dating stories that bashed men

After a month or two of laughing at funny date fails, I started to notice that the guys were always "total weirdos" and any awkwardness was always the men's fault.  And you know... if you have a problem with everyone else, that's a pretty good indication that the problem is you.  It really wouldn't hurt to occasionally give people the benefit of the doubt and it IS possible to tell a story about awkwardness and date fails without condemning the other person.

5. Taking pictures of strangers

"WTF Wednesday" started out funny, but I'm not a fan of people taking secret pictures of strangers in order to make fun of them on the Internet.  None of us are perfect and do you want a picture of yourself on someone else's website???  (Similar note: People of Walmart.  I know a lot of people enjoy this, but come on.  Don't we have anything better to do than laugh at strangers whom we consider outside the boundaries of propriety?  It's almost as bad as tabloids.)

6. Too much self deprecatory humor

I LOVE self deprecatory humor, so this one made me sad, but it had reached a point where I was no longer laughing along and instead was just genuinely worried about the person and whether they might be heading into depression.

7. Complaining about losing followers

Ummm... I'm still here but if that's not good enough I guess I can leave.

8. Pretending everything is peachy when it's not

If life is a shitshow right now, and everything is falling apart, you can either talk it out on your blog, or you can keep your personal life private.  But talking about it and trying to pretend it's all a huge positive really irks me, because it's so facetious and who are you trying to impress?  You can talk about how life is hard sometimes and I'm fairly certain the super-supportive members of the blogging community will still like you and be nice and want to help if at all possible.  Plus they might even have useful advice or resources.

9. I disagreed with them

I know, I know, I know.  If we don't read and listen to opposing viewpoints, how will we grow?  I try, but sometimes I get tired of it and then I head back to my cozy little circle of bloggers with similar views and we all agree with each other (most of the time) and life is awesome.  It's not an instant unfollow either, and I do like discussing issues and comparing viewpoints, but sometimes it's something I find particularly ignorant or obnoxious or I can't wrap my brain around at all, and then I give up and leave.

10. They gave away their pet

This is absolutely none of my business and I have no right to condemn someone for their life choices.  But I do.  As a pet owner, I feel like you owe it to that animal to provide for them and work with them until their life is over.  No one forced you to go adopt an animal.  The only valid reasons for giving up an animal, in my mind, are because they became violent and endangered people or you found a home where they would be happier.

11. Posts about posting

Posts about blog goals, or needing to post more, or why you didn't post, all that.  Unless of course, why you didn't post is a topic you'd like to cover in its own right.  But I guess just write or don't write.  Don't feel bad about not writing, especially if it's just a hobby.

12. Buzzwords

If buzzword fatigue is a thing, I think I have it.  We've been inundated with numbered lists, "easy," "simple," "fast," "miraculous," and "the very best" for a few years now and I've begun avoiding anything that registers as a clickbait type title (sorry Buzzfeed, we will never be friends).  I still love numbered lists, because I feel like they increase readability (or scannability - whatever), but I'm not going to title my posts with the exciting number of bullet points you'll be reading about!

That's pretty much it.  My tastes have changed a lot in the couple of years I've been blogging and I'm sure they'll continue to, so I might even have 12 entirely different but equally dumb reasons in another couple of years.

What's the most illogical reason you've unfollowed someone?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Aug 21, 2016

Sunday Sweats on a Monday

Heading into a new week with a lot more optimism than last week!  I'd been stressing about my weight and my blood pressure, but now that I've got some momentum making positive changes, I don't feel quite as helpless.  It's also counter productive to stress about it since I'm sure that only sends my BP up and up and up.  ALSO I bought a blood pressure cuff, so I can more accurately keep tabs on that at home without abrupt surprises at the doctor's office, so that should be helpful.

Side Note: I knew I'd be gaining 15-25 pounds for this pregnancy and, since I was so comfortable with my weight and my body, I just thought I'd be fine with it.  Now that the weight gain has started (barely - just the first 4 pounds of it), it's harder than I thought.  I've spent a very long time floating here just below 200 pounds and there's a piece of my brain that is terrified to leave that number behind and scared that losing the weight after Reptar is born won't be as simple as "eat healthy and exercise - breast feeding alone burns 500 calories a day so losing the weight will be easy!"

Anyway, I'll be doing my best to focus on my blood pressure and being healthy and not on weight.  I know I can do this, I just have to face some fears I didn't even know I had.  Here's the workouts...

Weekly Workouts

Monday - Bodyweight exercises, biking | DTT: 40 Min

Did a half-assed One Punch Man workout with Ryan (we're on day 50, so I did 2 sets of 25 for push ups and sit ups but skipped squats because they make biking really hard), and rode the stationary bike for 30 minutes, reading The Happiness Project which I finally got from the library!!!

Tuesday - 1 mile run, family walk | DTT: 27 Min

As planned, I took my gym bag to work and made use of the treadmill there at the end of the day.  I don't like it as much as my parent's treadmill - I almost feels like the tread thingy slips or something.  Anyway, I allowed myself to get sleepy and cranky and point-blank refused to workout with Ryan, but we did have a nice walk afterwards

Wednesday - Biking | DTT: ~30 Min

Ryan's schedule has been all kinds of crazy, so no walk or workout together, but I did bike on my own.  I had to get up in the middle to take a client call, but I paused my timer so it still counts.

Thursday - Biking | DTT: 30 Min

Same thing here.  I've noticed that while cardio does not make me feel good in the moment, or not even necessarily afterwards when you're supposed to be feeling all accomplished, it does make me feel better physically and mentally over time.  This is a much less fatigued week than the past few.

Friday - Yoga, walk | DTT: 35 Min

Wimped out on my cardio but found a new prenatal yoga video to do!  It started off so slow and relaxing my mom and I were both thinking we'd need to do something else after, but then it got into lunges and, especially after all the biking, my quads were burning.  Our walk was super sweaty and left with feeling no desire to do anything else today.

Saturday - Nada | DTT: 0 Min

We did get outside and take our dogs to an off-leash area, which was a smashing success, considering Toast's general skittishness and that this was the first time we'd tried this.

The irony of the sole pictures in this post depicting rest day rather than exercise is not lost on me.
But no formalized exercise.  And I think maybe I'm going to start giving myself Saturdays off, since I seem to naturally want to focus on chores and family time anyway and it'll be nice to have a rest day.

Sunday - 2 mile run, yoga | DTT: 44 Min

Excellent workout day!  Went to my parents, made use of their awesome treadmill (the run started pretty uncomfortable and then by the end actually felt good, which is always a win!), and then my mom and I finished the yoga challenge she started months ago when I was still injured.  Days 29 and 30 of Adriene's 30 Day Challenge, but I only counted day 29, because day 30 was a "do your own thing" and my own thing was mostly laying around and stretching.

Average Daily Total Time: ~29 Min
Days With Cardio: 5
Weekly Mileage: 3

Thoughts Going Into Next Week

Awesome week!  I felt really good about myself this week and I just about hit my goals, with the exception of Saturday, which will henceforth be known as rest day.  Oh!  I've tested my blood pressure (and Ryan's) and the monitor I bought said both of us were in the healthy range (under 120/80, whoop whoop!), which I might doubt, but it accurately gave our respective heart rates, so fingers crossed...  I'll keep testing to keep an eye on it and then hope that at my appointment on Wednesday, the doctor's office concurs with my at-home testing.

How did your workouts go this week?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Aug 18, 2016

Being Fat - a Manifesto

Sooo... I feel like I must have written about this before, but maybe I never got around to it.  Let's start with a couple facts:
  1. I consider myself to be fat
  2. I don't think that's a bad thing
I know the word "fat" has gotten so incredibly loaded.  It's a word people use to berate themselves, to diminish their own value and that of others, it's used derogatorily, insultingly, and to harm people.  But in other cultures it's not a loaded word at all.  I remember our Spanish teacher in high school explaining that in Mexico, fat is merely a descriptor, like tall or short, blonde or brunette, and no one was insulted to be nicknamed "gordito."

I've read posts, inspiring posts that I don't entirely disagree with, that talk about banishing the "f" word.  Getting rid of it, never using it, hiding it away.  But I feel a little differently about it.

I think forbidden words have more power.  I think making it a "bad word" only makes it more hurtful when it's applied.  Like "curse words."  If our parents didn't tell us not to use those words as children, would we give a shit (<--- see what I did there?) about them as we got older?  No.  As it is, we give them power, by applying cultural connotations to them, and now we use them to insult, to express strong feeling, and occasionally to be funny.

I don't think we should give words power.  I don't think there should be words we don't say.  That would be difficult to change for words that have long, long been considered inappropriate, or especially words that are loaded with malicious meaning towards a particular ethnic group, but the word fat?  I DON'T want us to vilify this word until it reaches the linguistic power of the "n" word or the "c" word.

Instead, let's do the opposite.  Fat, while not highly scientific, is supposed to be an objective term, describing someone of a larger size.  If you want a tighter definition, we can use BMI.  I, myself, am borderline obese according to the BMI charts and therefore would call myself fat (DO NOT rush to tell me, "Oh, you're not obese."  I am stating a fact and I require absolutely no reassurance about something I don't feel bad about).  Honestly, I've been called fat by kids intending to hurt my feelings for most of my childhood, so accepting this term and making it into one that has no effect on me was one of the most empowering things I ever did.  So having people rush to reassure me, "Oh, you're not fat" "You're just curvy" and on and on is so incredibly infuriating.

I know what size I am!  I am perfectly comfortable with it, with my body, with my clothes.  I'm not insulting myself and usually if I use the word "fat" it's not to say stupid bullshit like, "Ugh, I'm so fat right now," it's to describe a scenario in which being fat creates a different end result than being thin.  For example clothes shopping is a completely different experience for fat women than thin women.  Not all stores offer XL and up.  Being fat means that your average weight range is probably larger than a thin person.  (For example, my weight goes up and down 7 or 8 pounds and that means nothing.  I didn't lose 5 pounds, I just had my period or shed some water weight.)  Being fat means that a pregnancy belly will probably take longer to show.

It actually amuses and irritates me in equal measure when people rush to tell someone, "You're not obese.  Obese is, like, really big."  The fact of the matter is, obese is a medical term and unless you're a doctor or a nurse, you don't actually know.  You have a mental image of what you personally consider obese to be, and you certainly know you don't want your friend to feel bad about themself, but maybe by not rushing to make obese or fat such an terrible thing to be called in the first place you'd be helping them better.  When someone carefully reassures me that I'm not fat, what they're saying is that fat is a bad thing, and surely I'll feel better when I've been informed that that terrible word doesn't apply to me.

Another problem with these reassurances is that our mental image of what a healthy body looks like has gotten so skewed.  We see ribs and everyone freaks out, "Omg, that person can't possibly be healthy!"  But you know... a normal healthy body can have muscle and even bone definition.  A healthy body can also have padding, but if we're being really, really honest, it's a lot easier on our joints and bone to not carry extra weight around.  And while I agree that no one should pass judgement on total strangers about their health by looking at their weight, I also think it's silly to pretend that someone who is carrying an extra 100 pounds of fat is perfectly healthy.  I'm not judging anyone's lifestyle and I think everyone should have the freedom to eat what they want and make the choices they want, but a medical fact is that the more fat you carry on your torso, the more dangerous and difficult it is to perform surgery on your body.

I think being overweight is a choice, with maybe a few, very rare exceptions.  I think there are a host of things that can complicate it or make it much more challenging for some people than others: thyroid issues, metabolism, emotional eating, eating disorders and so on.  BUT I don't think the vast majority of us are completely prevented from attaining a healthy weight (as defined by our doctor, not by society at large).

I think it's silly and unnecessary to pretend that people can't help their weight.  I think instead we should not vilify people for making choices that lead to them being whatever size they happen to be, thin or fat.  I consider myself to be fat.  I don't consider myself to be obese, despite the BMI chart, but I think it's really up to my doctor to make the final call on that.  I enjoy my life.  I exercise fairly regularly and I get a good mix with running, biking, weights, and yoga.  I eat healthy some weeks and I eat a ton of junk other weeks and I have often thought the tradeoff between being thin or being able to enjoy so much tasty food on a regular basis would not be worth it to me personally.  I don't have quite as healthy a relationship with food as I would like, but I also don't think it's the end of the world, and I intend to keep working on it.

I remember working in DC where most of my female coworkers were about 5' and 100 pounds.  I remember joking about being twice their size, not being believed, mentioning that yes, in fact, I do weigh 200 pounds and having someone respond with, "Don't say that about yourself!"  Uh... what now?  How is that an insult - it's an m-effing fact.  And I'm not ashamed.  I wasn't then and I'm not now.

I remember one of these women commenting on how she didn't "have any boobs" and I responded pretty much the same way, "Awww, don't say that!"  But you know what?  She was fine with being flat chested exactly the same way I'm fine with being fat.  Obviously "no boobs" was an exaggeration, but she wasn't insulting herself, she was making the observation that flat chested people can wear lower-necked shirts than those with larger boobs and still be considered work-appropriate.

After thinking it over, I think that this is exactly the way we should be able to talk about our bodies.  We are whatever we are, through fate or through our own choices, and doing anything other than making peace with it and loving ourselves anyway is a waste of time.  You can work to change your body and still love where you are now.  If I'm honest, I'd rather not have back fat, but do I spend undue time worrying about it?  No.  It's part of me and I accept it.  I don't wear bikinis because I don't like how I look in them, but that's not a lapse of self love.  That's a choice to wear the one-piece or tankini that will stay on in the ocean, and make me say, "Damn I look good" when I see the pictures later.  (Though I'm rethinking one-pieces.  They're awesome right up until you have to go to the bathroom.)

You don't have to call yourself fat.  I personally prefer it, because I think "curvy" and "bigger" and all the other polite alternatives are just bullshit references that everyone knows mean the same thing.  But I will use them if I have to refer to someone else's weight, because I have no desire to insult someone, even if it's a word I don't consider to be insulting and I won't be an asshole to someone else who prefers those words.  But I'm also done reassuring people if they refer to themselves as fat.  Either you are or you're not, and if you're using it to insult yourself, you have some work to do and I'm not going to cater to your need for validation, and if you're using it as a fact, then I'm not going to insult you by making fat seem like a bad thing to be.

Fat is not "the f word."  It's just a word, and I'd like to get to the point that we all laugh at it just like we would if someone tried to insult us by calling us a bunch of poo-poo heads.  And that no one feels the need to reassure me about something I feel perfectly comfortable being.

What's your take on weight, self love, or linguistics?

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Aug 16, 2016

Sorting My Wardrobe

In the last couple of years I've been considering myself somewhat minimal-ish.  I knew I had far more clothes than a typical minimalist but I had few enough that a capsule wardrobe would have been silly, because everything from all 4 seasons already fits comfortably in my drawers and closet.

The exception was t-shirts.  I did feel I was getting to be a bit excessive with my collection of shirts.  Normally I'd just run through my mental catalog of stuff, pick the least favorites, and throw them in the Goodwill box.  But this time I was having trouble with the mental catalog.  It felt messy.

So instead I pulled out everything I owned and took a tally.  For science!  Hahaha, no not really.  More like for the blog!  And I took pictures so I can show you how ridiculous my clothes really are, despite having convinced myself that it was in any way minimal.

Starting with the least offensive numbers and working my way up...

Dresses - 6

Not too bad.  One is a beach cover-up, one was a sweater dress, and the other 4 have distinctly different feels to me (as far as levels of formality).  I did end up getting rid of the sweater dress because it's too short to wear without pants anyway, and I really only wore it as an "everyday cosplay" kind of thing because it made me feel like Link.

Purged: 1

"Real" Pants and Skirts - 10

I had some trouble with my categories as you'll soon see.  So "real pants" just meant not workout pants, but obviously those oversize plaid pajama pants aren't going out in public anytime soon.  I wear all my pants pretty frequently despite the heat (the one black pair is capris), but my skirts don't see as much use.  I like them all, but 3 black skirts was too much, so I tried them on and let the least flattering shape go.  (It also happened to be Ryan's least favorite, but it had pockets!  And fond memories.  RIP black skirt.)

Purged: 1

Cardigans, Blazers, and Sweatshirts - 11

This was a little excessive.  I actually do use the black and grey ones the most, but I kind of want to utilize color more and dress up my look, so I let go of several of the more casual black and grey ones.

Purged: 3

Shorts, Leggings, and Workout Pants - 15

I forgot to take a picture of this category!  But it was pretty boring.  Just imagine a huge pile of black on black on black.  This was a really good one to physically lay out because I was convinced I didn't have enough workout clothes and the truth is I have plenty and if I run out, I probably just need to do some laundry.  I also have too many leggings, but I was hesitant to purge anything for winter because I don't remember anymore what was used frequently when it was cold out.

Purged: 3

Long Sleeved Shirts - 16

16 is kind of a lot, but a handful are for running and the rest were enough for almost 2 weeks of outfits.  I felt that was acceptable and, like the leggings, I didn't want to get rid of clothing I'm not currently using in case the heat has me confused about what I don't want to wear ever again.

Purged: 0

Short Sleeved Shirts and Tanks - 29

Yeah, you read that right.  29.  That's enough for an entire month without repeats!  That's ridiculous!!!  Minimalish my butt.  To be fair, 4 are undershirts, and 4 are running shirts, but that left 21 shirts and 3 weeks of outfits is more than I need.  Despite my initial reaction of "But I love everything!" I managed to cull quite a few that I'm reluctant to wear when the other, "more favorite" shirts are available.  Some were nicer shirts that are no longer nice due to holes or fraying, but most were t-shirts.  I did, sadly, mess up the almost perfect rainbow I'd been enjoying in my drawer, but I'd say that's a fair trade off for being able to see everything.

Purged: 7

That's it!  Not counting undergarments and socks and such, obviously.  An excess of those things isn't common (for me) anyway, as they tend to wear out on their own.  I also skipped swimwear (I have 2 bathing suits, which seems reasonable to me), winter gear (1 peacoat, 1 winter jacket, 2 hats, 3 pairs of gloves, and an excessive number of scarves), and my interview outfit.  I should probably do this again in about 6 months when I can see which warm weather clothing is used and which is forgotten about, but for now I'm pretty happy with my accomplishments.

To sum up, I started with 87 clothing items and purged a total of 15, bringing me down to 72.  I'm glad I counted, not because I want to start tracking the number or setting a target but because it helped me realize how much I really do own and how much I really don't "need" to shop.  In the future, I'll be trying to purchase only for a specific need (ex. maternity) and implementing a one-in-one-out system.  I also want to be really picky about what I bring in.  No more, "It doesn't fit quite right, but I really need __ so I'll buy it anyway."

Have you ever counted how much you actually own?  Were you surprised by the number?  How do you organize your clothes? (I do it by color so I can have a rainbow every time I open a drawer!)

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Aug 14, 2016

Sunday Sweats - the Wake Up Call

So, pregnancy exercise...  I know there's some conflicting advice out there and conventional wisdom is anti-running and anti-weights, but my doctor said everything my body was used to doing is fine as long as I try to maintain a conversational pace and don't try to push too hard.  I've been doing a few different things: the Erin Motz 30 Day Yoga Challenge with my mom, a regular routine with Ryan (although I'm not nearly as militant about it as he is) involving sit ups, push ups, squats, and light weights with high reps, and some occasional running and biking.

I felt like I was doing pretty well in general, even though fatigue has gotten in the way a few times, and I knew the last couple weeks had been pretty slack.  But then I had a doctor's appointment and my weight jumped up a bit (not super high, but I'd been steady the whole first 3 months and Reptar still only weighs like 2 ounces, so...) and, perhaps more alarmingly, my blood pressure was up quite a bit.

I'll be going back in 2 weeks to keep an eye on the blood pressure thing and I really want to get that number down and keep it down.  Both because it's healthier for me and Reptar, and because I do not want to get categorized as a high risk pregnancy and have to go into the doctor's office even more than I currently am.  That is just time and money I'd rather spend somewhere else.

So this is my return to Sunday Sweats, to track my exercise and see if I really am getting as much as I thought I was getting.  The goal is 30 minutes of something every day, with 5 of those days including cardio (running or biking).

Anyway, here's the workouts...

Weekly Workouts

Monday - 1 Mile Run, Walking | DTT: 27 Min

Ryan's taking a recovery week from his workout plan (he's doing this thing where he increases the number of reps of each exercise by one every day and runs an extra tenth of a kilometer and he's up to 50, which is the halfway point), so we went to my parent's house where I took advantage of a treadmill in a nicely air conditioned workout room.  I was going to try for 2 miles (running has been seriously hard this year, probably due to a combination of pregnancy, letting my conditioning go, and the overall heat and humidity), but Ryan said he was going for a walk, so I quit after one and we walked the puppies.  Normally I wouldn't count walking, but when it comes to blood pressure, everything helps!

Tuesday - Nada | DTT: 0 Min

This was prior to the doctor's appointment, so I happily took a day off and ate poorly (mushroom stroganoff!  Delicious but no real nutritional value) and thought nothing of it.

Wednesday - 2 Mile Run | DTT: 24 Min

This was D-Day.  After over dramatically deciding I was completely out of shape and a horrible person and mother, I took an extended pity party and nap, but when I woke up I was ready to start making changes.  Cue the salad and hummus!

Thursday - 2 Mile Walk | DTT: 30-40 Min?

At this point I was debating whether walking should even count towards my exercise goals.  But... with time limitations and wanting to do more for the dogs (we've been taking Toast to the dog park 2 or 3 times a week because it helps her confidence so much!), sometimes it feels like I have to choose.  So walking the dogs counts.  It has been decided.

Friday - Pilates and 1 Mile Run | 52 Min

As part of the plan, my mom and I are picking our yoga routine back up (it'd kind of slipped the last couple weeks along with everything else).  Knowing I have a time limit for exercising on my back (apparently this cuts off blood flow to the baby???), I wanted to do one of our old favorites, Dynamic Pilates Full Body Workout.  Then when Ryan got home I did my 3rd day of running this week, which is the most I've run in quite some time.  Treadmill running is soooo much easier than outdoor running.

Saturday - Nada | DTT: 0 Min

It was a hot cranky day.  I make no excuses for this.

Sunday - Yoga | DTT: 45 Min

Momma and I got overconfident and attempted one of Sean Vigue's newer (relatively) videos, 60 Minute "Power Yoga."  We gave up after about 45 minutes, but I'm not upset about it.  It was still a good workout!  Having some trouble with vinyasa, though, and anything that requires me to put pressure on my stomach.

Average Daily Total Time: ~26 Min
Days With Cardio: 3
Weekly Mileage: 4

Thoughts Going Into Next Week

Just gotta keep it up.  I think I'll take a gym bag to work Monday or Tuesday so I can use a treadmill without bothering my mom and dad so much.  Also it's looking like the day is not far off when I'll need to start looking for prenatal yoga, or else figure out a way to adapt vinyasa so I can do it.

How did your workouts go this week?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Aug 11, 2016

Challenge Updates (Happiness and Spending)

Happiness Projects

So I never did update you guys on my happiness project.  I had a super organized post with the entire list of suggestions I got and how I felt about each one and then I went all apathetic and stopped blogging so that's been lost to the sands of time.  Honestly, it probably wouldn't have been that exciting anyway.

So I'm going to condense this down into categories of activities instead of the full list (it was somewhere around 30 things) and rank them as "Not for me," "Should do," and "Immediate Success."

Exercise - "Should do"

It almost always feels like a chore to me.  And maybe that's in part due to having less energy than usual anyway, thanks to Reptar, BUT I definitely notice an increase in overall mood when I make a point of doing cardio a couple times a week.  The stationary bike is ok, but running is the best and most helpful thing.  It's also something I really despise doing right now, for whatever reason.  So if I had to sum up my feelings on all forms of exercise: yoga, running, biking, weights, etc I'd say it's a chore but it is effective in the long run if not always in the short term.

Integrity - "Should do"

Things like saying no to things I don't want to do and being honest with people seem great in theory.  And not doing the things I don't want to do does make me happy BUT I haven't gotten over feeling guilty yet, so that's going in the "should do" category as well.  Telling the truth, while liberating at the time, backfires on me way more often than you'd expect it to.  Some people don't want to hear the truth, and sometimes I don't want to have lengthy conversations about feelings with people because I dropped a truth bomb, but you can't really say, "Nevermind, I'm out" when you started it.

Artsy - "Not for me"

I like art.  I like figure drawing and painting with a twist and writing, but it's something I do when I'm in a good mood to have fun.  It's not a way to increase happiness when I'm feeling down.  So I guess "not for me" is misleading, because they are for me, but I'm not going to run to my sketchbook when I'm feeling sad.

Reflective - "Should do"

Things like meditation, journaling, etc.  Journaling should be enjoyable, but it's in the same category as exercise.  I really have to make myself do it and a lot of times it's not worth the effort.  Honestly, I don't see much of a difference when I journal or meditate regularly.  I do, however, use meditation as a tool on the occasions when my stress is overwhelming me or I feel like my life is out of control and it's very effective then.  But those are rare and specific occasions.  Gratitude lists are great, but I can take 'em or leave 'em.

Products - "Not for me"

I actually wanted product suggestions and I only got one, which surprised me.  This goes hand in hand with what I'm learning from my spending freeze, but new purchases really only increase happiness for a short period and then as soon as I'm used to it being there, I forget about it and it's invisible like the rest of my stuff.  So learning not to chase happiness through shopping is a great, great lesson!

Pampering - "Immediate success"

And just when you thought I was a grouch and nothing could make me happy, we have one!  Kristen and I had a really good conversation and it helped me see a different perspective on this.  Most of my suggestions were lifestyle changes.  Big things that involve changing my habits and a substantial amount of effort over time.  Kristen's approach was much more day-to-day.  She said that she tries to just focus on that particular day and what would make her happy in that moment.  She also suggested bubble baths, which were absolutely heaven and I wish so badly that our tub was big enough to actually soak my whole body rather than just my backside.  But even with that half in/half out issue, I enjoyed it enough to do it several times and it's sooo relaxing.  I also went on a "spontaneity" spree where I'd ask myself, "What do I want to do now?" and do it.  One day that meant yoga with my mom.  Another it meant fruit gushers and making a funfetti cake for no reason.  Sometimes it means spending time with Ryan and the dogs, but mostly it means noticing when I'm starting to feel burned out, sequestering myself away in the bedroom, and reading until that feeling of pressure on the front of my brain goes away.

Result: I didn't feel that much happier when the project first ended in July, but for the past few weeks I have felt pretty damn good.  And it's been this subtle thing that I didn't really notice, but I think it's been the result of being more in the moment and paying attention to my needs.  Getting off social media has helped, for sure.  I've had a lot of free time, too, which means I'll probably wince when I look back at how few invoices I was able to send out in July, but that time, though unproductive, has been incredibly well spent.

Spending Freeze

Don't worry, this I can sum up much more concisely (Edit: I lied.  Sorry).  I'm terrible at spending freezes and budgeting and I broke this several times.  BUT my spending overall decreased and, like my absence from social media, the lack of shopping gave me a lot of time to reflect on how new "stuff" really does or does not impact my life.  Some things have undeniable value.  While I enjoy organizing for the process itself, it does have a long-term impact every time I need something and it's easy to access and use.

But my other purchases?  Not so much.  Clothing makes me happy for a week or two and then the novelty wears off.  All too often, I find I wasn't stringent enough with new purchases or I buy to fill a hole in my wardrobe and end up never wearing it anyway because the fit wasn't quite right or the fabric is scratchy or whatever.  Other things, like decor, or games, are admired briefly and then become invisible like all the games and decorations we already have.

The other thing I'm getting better at is realizing the different between need and want.  I felt like I "needed" new shoes because my sneakers have developed a small hole by the pinkie toe.  But you know... with how little I've been running lately, they'll last for months yet.  If I buy new ones, I'll wear those all the time and not actually finish wearing these out, so I should just wait.  I thought I "needed" a new dog bed since Toast had chewed up the corners of her current one.  But... it doesn't need to look nice!  I can slap some duct tape on the corners so she stops pulling the fuzz out and it'll be good as new.  Plus it'll be less upsetting if she chews on it again, which is all too likely.

So my major takeaways are things that will probably sound obvious to you but I obviously needed to learn:

  1. Products don't increase my long-term happiness
  2. Need and want are different things
The "freeze" isn't over, although freeze is a strong word since I've never had the discipline to shut down my wallet completely.  I will always be willing to spend money on new experiences and travel, as long as there's enough money in my bank account.  But I'm going to continue saying no to new "stuff" as much as possible and working on deciphering what is actually a need vs a want.

One of our major upcoming challenges will be purchasing baby stuff.  Do we really "need" a changing table?  Do we really "need" a special piece of furniture to hold baby clothes?  I was completely sold on all the BS nursery furniture but the more Ryan and I talked about it, I think he's right and a lot of that stuff won't get used.  Because you don't just take care of the baby in the "baby room," you take care of it wherever you happen to be in the house.  So we'll see where we end up on baby spending, but just by cutting out a changing table and baby dresser, we're already saving a couple hundred dollars.  Not to mention a crib - we got one for free, but I was all set to just use a pack n play, which is multiple purpose AND way cheaper.

And, with baby stuff, I feel like it's not just about frugality.  I don't mind investing in nice things if we intend to keep them for a long time.  But it's all so transitory!  Your baby gets to be 2 or 3 or 5 and then you throw away all of that furniture and replace it with appropriate "little kid" furniture.  It's so wasteful.

To sum up: both projects were good.  I didn't accomplish as much as I hoped to but I learned more than I expected to.

Have you ever tried a spending freeze?  What about a happiness project?  What have you learned (about either)?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Aug 9, 2016

Bajillions of Books

Maybe not bajillions, but since quitting social media, I have been reading nonstop.  In a word: awesome.  Since I didn't report in in July (and because I've been reading a fair bit), this is a bit long.  Bear with me.

Edit: Apparently not a lot of 5 stars, but a ton of 4s and a couple DNF!  I'm getting so good at putting down books I'm not enjoying.  :P

♥♥♥♥♥ - Loved!

Big Magic

I started this off being stupidly skeptical and then the author won me over and got me all inspired to do something.  It makes me really want to write a book, but I'm not sure if that's my own desire or because she's a writer, so makes it sound so compelling.  In some ways it made me think of the BFG and how he catches dreams.  Anyway, I recommend this for anyone, but especially for all aspiring authors.  I loved her point about not needing to achieve perfection and that doing was more important.  I also loved her combination of mysticism and pragmatism.  I felt like, while she did personify ideas, it wasn't for the sake of being mystical, it was to give your brain a way to think about them that would get you moving.  Or, if you didn't move fast enough and lost your idea, to not feel regretful about it.  I wish I had written about this right after listening because it's starting to fade so I might have to listen again.  In any case, I'm revisiting the story I started last fall, because this really was a good kick in the butt.


Way of Shadows (and the Night Angel series)

One of Roommate's books, I stole this because I was trying to be good and not purchase books and then it turned out to be an awesome read.  The world is dark and grim, which made me rate the first book 4 stars, because I had trouble reading certain parts, but the story was amazing and I was totally invested in the main character, really all the characters.  At first I thought, "Oh, this is a boy book" because there weren't female characters, but by the end there are at least two strong ones, with quite a few female side characters, so it really wasn't lacking for much of anything, other than maybe a little levity.  By the 2nd book, I was a little more adjusted to the grimness of the world and I was so fascinated by the plot that it was absolutely 5 star and so far the 3rd is as well.

♥♥♥♥ - Liked

The Wise Man's Fear

I didn't love this quite as much as the first.  I still like the character and the writing style, but I started to get impatient with the story, which wanders around and isn't in much of a hurry to get to the point and often involves things I don't think are truly necessary to the story.  I think I might have enjoyed it more if I was in the mood - sometimes it's nice to take a break from constant conflict and just enjoy the world the author has created, but I was torn because there was just so much of it.  Because this one was so long, the cut scenes where we come back to the present are even more annoying, because they don't add to the story.  I hope in the third book that something will happen in the present, otherwise all of the back and forth will have been completely wasted time.  Still a good story, still love Kvothe, still want to how he ends up where he is.


This one was interesting, because I've read a couple others by Brandon Sanderson and they've been sweeping fantasy epics.  The style in this one differs slightly, but that might be because it's his first published work, but it's more romance-y and maybe a little less polished.  I still enjoyed it quite a bit, but I like the depth of his current works even more.

You Are a Badass

Awesome, awesome book.  I identified pretty strongly with the author - she talks about all the self help books she read and workshops she attended in the quest to find and improve herself and achieve the life she wants.  I loved hearing all that knowledge summed up in one place, and it was nice to see what themes I could pick out that I'd read in other books, because it kind of validated my prior reading.  I do still have trouble with the mystical part: both the spiritual need for faith in something and the idea that you can manifest things by believing them.  I do believe you can change your own actions by changing your beliefs, but I don't believe the world literally shifts to give you what you want just because you believe it.  So not quite 5 stars but I really liked everything else and I think she does have good action steps in addition to "just believe" so it was inspiring and useful.

The Golden Compass and His Dark Materials Series

This was a reread.  I picked it for the car ride, because I read online that The Golden Compass is one of the most well-narrated audiobooks out there and it was!  They actually have different voices for each of the characters and it's almost more like listening to the movie and having someone read at you.  This is my first successful fantasy audiobook - normally I'd rather read it myself, but this one was so captivating I actually listened to it at home in addition to at work.  I also have a lot more respect for the world building as an adult than I did the first time I read it.  And lol at my teenage self who thought it wasn't an anti-religious book.  They're literally going to war with God.


I read this when I was 12, or something, and strongly disliked it.  I couldn't keep up with the characters and politics and it was all too much for me.  I'd since read Game of Thrones (and the rest of the Song of Fire and Ice series) and figured it was time to revisit (it couldn't have THAT many viewpoints!).  It was so good.  Very political, so I can see why I struggled as a kid, but Paul's story and transition was fascinating and I really liked learning more about the world and its ecosystem with the spice and the sandworms.  Planning on reading the sequels.

Pudd'nhead Wilson

A classic!  This was very interesting, both for the historical aspects and the story itself.  I found the ending very satisfying in a "justice is served" kind of way and I'm doing my best to ignore the unlikeliness of it (it involves people believing scientific proof using technology they've never heard of before and I think we know how that goes in real life).

Swan Lake

My expectations were low going in, because my last KM Shea experience was lackluster and I thought maybe I was just getting tired of her style (I've read everything she has, because she's on Kindle Unlimited and her stories are all cute, but the writing isn't as mature as some authors - perhaps because she pumps out several books a year).  But apparently I was in the mood, because I thoroughly enjoyed this.  4 stars for enjoyment!

Notorious RBG

Another hugely inspiring book.  I listened to this one, and I really liked the narrator (minus one little bit at the end where she reads what I think is supposed to be rap and I wish someone had legit rapped it instead).  Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a phenomenal human being and I'm so glad I took the time to learn more about her achievements and what she's done to move our country forward.

♥♥♥ - Ambivalent-ed


It was a cute story.  It always takes me a little while to adapt to the more classical writing style, but once I was in, I was pretty invested in Anne.  But, despite how much I liked her as a person, I didn't feel like she really showed that she was different than everyone else who only cared about rank.  She turns the guy down because her family tells her to, and then only wants him back after she finds out that he has higher status now.  She thinks her family shouldn't chase after and cater to ridiculous people just because they're high-ranking but disapproves of Mrs. Clay because she's low-ranking.  I think maybe Anne was open-minded for that time period, but not for modern times and thus I had trouble fully relating to her.

♥♥ - Mildly Disliked

No 2 stars here!

 - Did Not Finish or Wanted to Burn in a Fire

Bad Feminist

It wasn't THAT bad, but I listen to audiobooks to take my mind off certain dull tasks at work, and this one wasn't doing it for me.  I liked the first part where she talks about teaching and some of the racial issues with underprivileged minority students.  But then she lost me in an endless chapter about Scrabble tournaments and I decided if I was going to improve my mind with knowledge about feminism and feminists, I'd rather do it with a more cohesive book instead of something so rambly.

Turning Points (Thieves World)

This was one of Ryan's and he really liked it, but never actually explained to me that it wasn't an actual novel.  It's a series of short stories, all written by different authors about the same world.  Not a fan.  I could do short stories if they felt more cohesive, but these were totally random and not all of them even felt finished.  I didn't realize until after the 3rd story that we weren't going to go back to the first character's POV.  So not burn-in-a-fire bad, but not my style and I didn't finish.


Finishing up the Night Angel series with Beyond the Shadows.  Seemingly unrelated, but it ties back in, I swear, did you guys see Erin's post about her reading habits?  I went to all the work of mapping out my own reads so far this year and making fancy pie charts and I realized I've been filling my brain up with fluff.  So I'm going to try to dive into some classics and actually tackle my challenge list for Erin 5.0 (more on that below).  And then I think I'll save the fancy pie charts for the end of the year, when I have 12 months of data instead of 7, as much as I want to post it right now.

Challenge Updates

Erin 5.0

Challenge progress: not good.  Only Persuasion and Pudd'nhead Wilson were challenge books, so only 2/10 for a total of 55 points (out of 200 possible).  Need to get a move on!

Read My Own Books

Also, I didn't linkup because I was on an impromptu break, but I did read my own books for Dani and Erin's challenge.  I cleared my kindle with You Are a Badass, finished May Cause Miracles (and decided I didn't need to follow the 40 day project), started Physics of the Impossible and decided I was ok with getting rid of that one without finishing, and then started reading Ryan and Roommate's books (Dune, Turning Points, Way of Shadows).

What have you been reading?  Have you read anything from my list and what did you think?

Linking up with Steph and Jana
Life According to Steph

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Aug 4, 2016

A Not-So-Unexpected Announcement

Yep.  We did it.  We made a baby.  Or an alien-looking blob of cells that is rapidly becoming a baby.  Although I'm kind of amazed at how early on the intricate details of various organs are formed.  I think it was week 6 when my pregnancy app informed me that our baby was developing nasal pits.

Some quick facts:
  • Due Date: January 31st (ish)
  • Baby Size: Lemon
  • 1st Trimester Symptoms: Minimal (no morning sickness, fatigue, and some emotional-ness that I really hope was due to pregnancy and not me being crazy)
  • Baby Nickname: Reptar (because it looks like a lizard in the ultrasound)

I'm 3 months along and Ryan and I are thrilled.  Our families are happy and everyone's been excited and super supportive.  My first reaction to the positive pregnancy test was "MUST PLAN EVERYTHING!" but somehow having to wait for 2 months to tell everyone has really helped me calm down.  So now we're much more relaxed and just figuring things out as they come up.

To be totally honest, it still feels a little surreal.  We've had a couple ultrasounds already and I've heard the whuff, whuff, whuff of Reptar's super-rapid heartbeat, but the idea that it's there inside of me?  It's hard to wrap my head around.  I think my lack of symptoms contributes to that and being a larger person, I'm not exactly going to be showing until later on.

Some other things people have expressed interest in:
  • Names: We haven't thought much about it yet (other than joking about Charles Xavier a few years ago and kind of liking Jean Marie for a girl because it's my two sister's middle names).  I might write about this at some point.
  • Gender: We will definitely find out.  I'm not sure if I'll share, because I strongly dislike gendered baby clothing (No, she/he is not a "princess" or a "ladies man," just a little blob of humanity that only wants to eat, poop, and sleep!) and I want to do my best to not start applying gender expectations before the baby is even born.
  • Roommate: Hi Roommate!  I'm talking about you.  Roommate has no plans to depart just yet and I'm selfishly glad because I'm sure we'll be happy to have another pair of helping hands PLUS I've seen him with his niece and nephews and he's so good with them.
  • My Belly: I don't have a bump yet!  I probably won't for quite some time as I am both tall and in possession of a fair bit of padding in that area already.  Despite this lack of bump, I have had a few different people's hands there.  It's always a bit of a surprise, but I guess I might as well get used to it.

Best Pregnancy Stories so Far

I told my parents and close friends pretty early on.  As it turns out, I should actually not have told my parents until I was ready for everyone else to find out because this secret was one they could not keep.  Sister2 found out this way:
  • Dad: "Oh, did Jenn tell you guys about..."
  • Mom: Sternly shakes head
  • Dad: "Uhhhh... how she smashed her phone the other day?"
  • Sister2: Sneaks upstairs to wake up her suspiciously napping sister and ask her if she's pregnant
Roommate found out this way:
  • Jenn: Overcome with dramatic tears because she thinks Sister2 has departed for San Diego (to live there) without saying goodbye
  • Mom: Somewhat quietly, "Oh no!  Did you have a miscarriage?"
  • Sister2: Walking in the door, "Omg, Jenn are you ok?"
  • Jenn: Nodding and trying to make words
  • Sister2: Quite loudly, "Thank goodness - I thought something happened to the baby!"
  • Roommate: Waving hands wildly in excitement, but politely waiting for Jenn to calm down before expressing congratulations
At first I was upset when people were finding out this way, because I had cutesy plans and had bought "aunt" t-shirts and such, but finally I gave up any semblance of control over the situation and just went with it.  I did get to tell Sister3 myself, but only after my dad informed me that he had already almost texted her about it and my mom told their neighbors, because why not?!

Ummm... I guess that's it, really.  Let me know if you have any questions or if there's anything you'd actually like to hear about on the blog at some point!

Linking up with Kristen and Gretchen for What's New With You.  (I have had this post schedule for a couple weeks, so I was super excited when Kristen reminded us about the linkup and it was already scheduled for that day!  Minimal effort.  :P)

What's New With You

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