Oct 30, 2016

Weekly Wins!

This week was a little more scatter-brained and less productive than I wanted.  There was one day in particular when I was trying to set up various business accounts and it felt like all the websites were conspiring against me.  Can't pass captcha on this one (eff your handwritten fonts with "l"s, "I"s, and "1"s - just use a freaking word like normal people!), not eligible for an account with that bank, can't access bank account with that accounting website, and so on.  Also had to spend double the money on WordPress templates because the first one I bought was utter shit, and then it took me 2 days instead of the 1 I had planned to learn how to use it.  I think I've finally got everything sorted, but it's been hella frustrating.

Anyway, all that's to say that this is a particularly good week to focus on the wins and remember that a lot of things went right too!

The Wins!


Biznass

  • Business blog - figured out the sidebar, added comments back in, found a beautiful search plugin, and added an email subscription form!
  • Got an email template built to start sending out monthly newsletters!  (First one going out tomorrow as kind of a test since I'm the only subscriber currently.  :P)
  • Found a good WP template and made it through the learning process to get my first client site ready!  (Planning on getting the finished site up next Friday.)

Health

  • Signed Sister3 up to be my "accountabilibuddy" which she agreed to upon the condition that I would re-download snapchat for our sweaty workout selfies.  (Although so far we only used it for late-night Halloween festivities).

Happiness Project


  • Halloween party success!  We actually ended up with a pretty small group, but it was almost more fun because I got to truly spend time with and talk to everyone who attended (vs the ones where you're too busy running around hosting).  And I thoroughly enjoyed my themed foods.
  • Attended another Girl Develop It meetup and found ways to potentially contribute more to the community.  Also met the organizer of the WordPress meetup group, which I will definitely be attending at some point in the future!
  • Finished out my social month with a bang.  The first 2 months of the happiness project have been super successful.  Month 1 got my business moving again and month 2 got me some new social interaction and potential friends!

Personal

  • She's been doing this more and more but today I finally noticed - Toast wags her tail when I talk to her!  She still doesn't want to be petted or cuddled, but she definitely enjoys my attention and that's pretty huge.
  • Found a counselor I really like!  She's kind of in between therapist and life coach and she gives "homework" instead of just listening (as useful as that is sometimes).

Thoughts and Plans for Next Week

  • Switching gears for the new happiness project month and hopefully keeping up with work and home life a bit better.

What victories did you have last week?  What's in the works for the upcoming week?


Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Oct 27, 2016

Inconsequential Restaurant Things

I'm twisting this prompt a little.  A while ago I posted about memories I can't seem to shake, which are mostly things I regret.  This is in the same vein, but instead of examples of me being an awful person, it's mostly awful customers I had when I worked in the restaurant world.  Although I don't feature particularly well in the last one.

It might be because restaurants were the first jobs I ever had, or it might be because they happened at a time in my life when I was at my most vulnerable and insecure, but my bad restaurant memories just don't go away.  I had waitress nightmares for years after quitting my last restaurant job.  (You know, where you have too many tables and you can't remember what everyone ordered and you slowly lose control of it all until everyone is enraged with you.)

So here goes...

The Takeout Trash Talk

Before I moved all the way up to waiting tables, I worked the takeout counter.  Takeout was exciting because we had a tip jar (unlike being a hostess, which is where new employees would usually start) and occasionally people would drop a dollar or two in there.

I had a customer come up and place his order.  He handed me some cash and I was starting to get his change, when he said, "Wait" and handed me another dollar.  I wasn't sure what to make of this, and was trying to figure out how to politely ask if it was a tip, when he, impatient with the few second lapse in the exchange, did the math for me and told me how much change to give him.  Ah, not a tip.

Then he asked, "Where do you go to high school?"  I answered, confused by this seeming shift in topic and he asked, in this ridiculous, exasperated-with-the-stupidity-of-everyone-but-me tone, "Don't they teach math there?"

I could not think of a response and let it go and it will always, always infuriate me thinking back on it.

"I Used to Be a Waitress and I Know..."

Shortly after beginning to wait tables (with minimal training because this was a cheap burger place), I had a pretty normal table of ladies.  We exchanged the usual pleasantries and they seemed happy enough with their order.  What made them unique was that they were the first table I'd had who counted out exact change for their bill.

I took the check and their payment and then, stuck because in my scrip that's the part where I always said, "I'll be right back with your change" I stammered and said, "Uhhh... I guess you don't need any change.  Have a nice day!"

Then I forgot all about them and continued on my day until the end of my shift when my manager took me to the side and said, "A customer complained about you today."  Being my first complaint, I was in tears before she even finished explaining.  Apparently, said customer had waited tables before and she knew when people were being facetious and my comment about them not needing change had been rude and unnecessary.

Yep.  17-year-olds are always aware of every possible implication of their words and think things through thoroughly to give subtle insults.  She totally had me pegged.  (Seriously, though, if you get bad service at a fast food place or a restaurant and your cashier/server is a child, cut 'em some slack.  For fuck's sake, people.  We're not born automatically knowing the best way to handle every situation.)

The Entitled Youths and the Waitress Mistake

After waiting tables a couple years, and perhaps starting to head into burnout zone when you lose respect for all customers, and, indeed, most of humanity, I had a table of young 20-somethings.  They had needs.  No mayonnaise on his burger or he'd throw up all over the table.  No fruit on her plate, anywhere close to it.

They pissed me off.  It seems stupid now, but they were just so obnoxious with their order and they were loud and rowdy and I really didn't want to have be in the same room with these people.  So I was ready for some revenge.

Now, if restaurants were really like the movie Waiting, I'd have simply spit in the guy's drink and called it a day.  But I couldn't bring myself to do it, so I mixed some sprite and raspberry tea in with his coke to "make it taste gross" and decided that this tame revenge was good enough.

Unsurprisingly, he noticed, and, you might have already figured out where this is going, but the fruit-hater actually had a food allergy.  (Side note: if you have an allergy, TELL YOUR SERVER!  Not wanting fruit on the plate is not the same thing and I could very easy just remove it after the cooks garnish as usual without even realizing I might kill you.)  She hadn't consumed any of the tainted beverage, but, as they sternly lectured me, she could have and it would have been my fault if she died.

This story makes me squirm because, yes they were assholes, but I was too and it was so incredibly stupid.  What did I think was going to happen?  I didn't.  Because I was 19 and teenagers are dumb.

So yeah, those are the things I can't forget, as much as I wish I could and I know they're not important, to me, or to the world at large.

What are the inconsequential things that stick in your brain for no good reason?

alyssagoesbang

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Oct 25, 2016

Some Thoughts About Think

I just finished Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World.  And when I tried to review it for SUYB, I ended up with 5+ paragraphs and knew it deserved its own post:

This book wasn't necessarily easy to read.  The first half is basically, "You're stupid" which no one wants to hear.  But... after making it through and being forced to open my eyes to a multitude of cultural and societal issues and admit that no, I don't educate myself as much as I should, I'm glad I read it.  Sometimes, especially in a society of participation trophies and being told how special you are from birth, we do need to hear that we're not the best and brightest and yes, we could and should be doing better.

Did you know that 22% of women would rather lose their ability to read than their figures?  What the what???  Did you know that 12-18% of women who have breast implants lose all sensation in their nipples AND that women with breast implants are 2-3 times more likely to get several different kinds of cancers?  The craziest part to me is not that people are willing to take these risks, it's that no one knows them because apparently we A) Don't care enough to research and B) Doctors aren't required to tell us (though they are required to tell us all the risks behind vaccines, go figure).  Bloom also points out that in our culture, looks are rewarded to such an extent that the people making these choices (figures over literacy) might actually be making the more career-minded choice.

Bloom talks about our obsession with celebrity culture, to the point that we completely ignored the genocide going on in Rwanda because we were busy being scandalized by the fact that our president had an affair.  To that point that most of us can't name a tiny piece of the humanitarian work done by Angelina Jolie but we all know and have opinions on her love life.  And you can say, "Oh, people don't want to focus their brain power overseas - they only care what happens in this country."  But do we?  Near the end of her tirade against the shallowness and vapidity of our society, Bloom pointedly reminds us that all the missing (and recovered) persons cases that have received long-standing national attention have had white victims.  Pretty white women, to be specific.  She lists a pile of cases concerning minority children that we have never and probably never will hear about because the media knows which demographic we care about.

I don't necessarily agree with all of Bloom's points, and Bloom admits she's not above it all - as a member of the media, she too wastes hours of her time on her appearance in order to be "camera ready."  But I do think the book very much accomplished its goal - it made me think and think hard.  I was all ready to give myself a pat on the back for not reading tabloids, and not wanting to waste money on plastic surgery or more than a fairly small amount of cosmetics and clothing, but this was a powerful reminder that there is a ton I don't know about.  And not because I'm young or haven't had a chance to learn about it yet.  I don't know it because I'm choosing not to seek that knowledge out.  I close my eyes and ears, avoid the news, google selective issues occasionally but the majority of the time choose to remain in the dark.

Bloom has me convinced that this is not an acceptable way to live.  Even if my only contribution to society is to educate myself, it's one I intend to start now.  So I've subscribed to BBC News (global) and NPR because they're the least biased channels I could find.  I'll try to pick up more "real" stories like I Am Malala and 3 Cups of Tea, and maybe a little less YA dystopia.  I don't know if I'll start donating money to global issues over domestic ones but at least I'll be making that decision with full knowledge of what that choice is.

I don't need to tell you guys to read, since most of you are avid book-devourers, but the second half of Bloom's book goes into "the solution" which is not just to read, but what to read and how to make time for it.  She has a few other points on health and family and time management, but my biggest takeaway was this.

You can't make good decisions without educating yourself and most of our country is uneducated.  Don't contribute to that problem.

I don't necessarily think you need to read the book to get that message, BUT I recommend it anyway, because I don't think this short summary can really hit home in the same way.  If for no other reason than to shock yourself, read the book and find out what you don't know.


What's a book you'd recommend even if you didn't necessarily enjoy reading it?  What books have you found the most impactful to your own life?


Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Oct 23, 2016

Weekly Wins!

Another good week.  There's something to be said for tracking gratitude, I think.  Oh, and that "find work you love and you'll never work a day in  your life" saying?  That's doing good things for me lately.  Just fired up and ready to work all the time!

The Wins!


Biznass

  • Got myself a UPS box (aka street address so I don't have to advertise my personal address) and updated a bunch o' business listings.  Fingers crossed for moving up in the search rankings!
  • Social media strategy built!  Boom!!!  Look out world, I'ma be sending you some "Graphic Design Fun Facts" this and the next 8 Fridays at the very minimum.
  • First WordPress client project in the works.  Learn new skills, get new clients.
  • Oh!  And in return for her awesome referral of said client, I revamped Kelli's logo - go look!  In't it purdy?

Health

  • I was all set to say "First 5K since getting pregnant!" but it turns out the GPS wandered a bit and it was probably closer to 4.5 kilometers.  Whatever, longest run since... I don't even know when.  Last year, possibly?  Go me.

Happiness Project

  • Accidental book swap.  I was just trying to do the chain thing going around on FB and then my friends who commented were displeased that it wasn't a regular swap, so I made it one.  It's not super social, but I'm still kind of tickled that I accidentally organized a thing I've always been too wimpy to do.  And I feel weirdly proud of myself for listening to feedback and then finding a way to make it work after all.

Personal

  • I'm kind of letting personal life and having a clean house and all that get away from me, BUT I did finally manage to get some party planning and prep done over a week in advance, so hopefully I won't be scrambling Friday night/Saturday morning to throw it all together.

Thoughts and Plans for Next Week

  • Halloween par-tay!  I love planning these, almost more than the actual event.  In any case, I hope it's fun.

What victories did you have last week?  What's in the works for the upcoming week?


Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Oct 20, 2016

The Causes I Care About

I'm pretty sure I've written about this before, but since Alyssa's linkup topics offer this as an option, I'll get back on my soapbox.

I don't donate to charity nearly as much as I should or would like to.  But, after attending a TEDx event in Philly, I was really struck by the idea one of the speakers, Katherina Rosqueta discussed:

High-Impact Philanthropy

The whole concept is putting your money where it can do the most good.  A lot of us donate when it's convenient or when someone or something reminds us to.  And there is nothing wrong with that!  But I don't think it's any secret that not every charity or nonprofit is created equal.  There are operating costs and not all of them manage those as efficiently as they could.  Some pay their chief officers what I would deem an excessive amount.  And others contribute in ways that aren't as efficient as they could be.

One of the Rosqueta's examples was the food bank.  I'm sure you've participated in a can drive.  We all have.  Did you go out and buy some canned food for it?  As Rosqueta pointed out, had you merely donated that money to the food bank instead of buying a can, which would then need to be transported, the food bank could have acquired much, much more food than the one or two cans you donated.  The food bank has resources we do not, and even access to free food from oversupply and mislabeled products at various grocery stores/vendors, so what they really need is money to cover transportation costs.  Basically they can do a lot more with that money than we can, so it makes far more sense to donate cash rather than pre-purchased food.

The one charity I do donate to monthly (and would advocate!!!) is the Nurse-Family Partnership.  They aim to provide access to nurses for underprivileged (and often underaged) mothers.  This support helps to maintain the mother and child's physical health, mental health, and improves childhood learning outcomes and increases the chances that the child will go on to college and successfully find a career.

I'm all about education, personally, because I feel like that's one way to improve the future, rather than just slapping a band aid on the present, but I understand that everyone has different causes they feel passionate about.  Regardless of what type of issue you want to help out with, I do highly recommend checking out the Center for High Impact Philanthropy, because they have a list of the organizations they feel make the most impact, organized by issue type, with all the research that went into making that conclusion.  Or you could do what my mom did and pick something from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, who did their own research to deduce which issues most impact society before deciding where to send their money.

I'm hoping as I continue into my career and earn more money, I can continue to pick charities off the list that appeal to me, but for now there's one other thing I like and would recommend.

Monthly $5 Freebie

Everyone has their own pet charities and I hate to be all stodgy when someone says, "I'm participating in a [walk/5K/bike/etc].  Will anyone help us out?"  I used to agonize over every single on of these instances and sometimes I'd donate and sometimes I wouldn't and it was always a different amount.  Now I give myself $5 a month to spend wherever I want.  A dog down in South Carolina needs surgery?  Sure.  Yeah, if I thought about it logically, I might decide that that $5 would do "more good" going to a shelter that helps lots of dogs, but it called to me and $5 isn't enough that I really need to worry about whether I made the most logical choice for it.

I've donated $5 to ALS, MS, to kickstarters for someone whose house was burned down as a hate crime, someone who needed brain surgery, a funeral for a family member of a friend, and so on.  It feels good to be able to do something even if that something is pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

What are your pet charities?  Have you heard of high impact philanthropy and, if not, did I convince you???

alyssagoesbang

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Oct 18, 2016

Something I Wish I Knew and Something I Hope to Remember

Finally linking up with Alyssa!  Alyssa's Back to Blogging challenge had 2 prompts that go very nicely together, so here's my...

One Thing I Wish I Knew One Year Ago

One year ago, I was very recently married and I was also nerving myself up to drop down to part time in order to pursue this freelance thing.  We had (and still have) a lot of life changes coming up, but the lesson is the same for all of them:

You can do it!!!

I was mildly terrified at the idea of being financially dependent on Ryan and not knowing where my income would be coming from.  As it turns out, my part time job actually does cover my monthly expenses pretty tidily and, while I definitely don't have as much play money as Ryan, I've had a pretty steady range for my freelance income.  Yes, budgeting is helpful for the slow months, but I'm not struggling and I'm not begging money from friends and family, and it's all working out just fine.

Marriage, on the other hand, I had no fears about.  I did not expect it to be hard, and that was dumb.  It is hard.  Incredibly so at times.  But in this too, I am stronger than I realized and I can do it.  So I think in general, I'd want myself to have more faith in my own strength and ability to grow and adapt.

and...

One Thing I Want to Remember About Today

Maybe not literally today, but the past couple weeks as some projects picked up steam and I started getting immersed in the busy-ness of business, I want to remember the slow moments.  There weren't many, but the ones we had were very poignant and sweet.

Sitting on the couch with Ryan, doing our "kick count"* and thinking about this new life we'll have in 3.5 short months.  Exchanging glances at a wedding we attended and sharing the thoughts we had while watching 2 other people pledge their lives together.  Goofing off and playing Zelda together, which wouldn't normally be that special, but when it's the only downtime you've scheduled for yourself all week?  Hells yeah, that was fun.

So I guess what I'm saying is we've hit a sweet spot and, bringing this back to lessons I've learned, while I might once have been tempted to cling to it desperately, hoping to extend it as long as possible and push back the future hard times, I know better now.  All you can do is enjoy it while it's here and, hopefully, hold it in your memory for the next time things get rough.

And that's probably enough sappiness from me today.  What do you wish you'd know one year ago?  What do you want to remember?


*In case anyone was curious, the kick count is when you literally count the movements you feel from the baby and make sure you get up to at least 10 in a 2 hour period.  I think the idea is to get used to monitoring so you notice if there's any big changes in pattern - like if movement drastically slows or stops, so you can let your doctor know asap.


alyssagoesbang

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Oct 17, 2016

Weekly Wins

I totally forgot to post this during a weekend filled with social events and client projects (whoop whoop!), so I'll go ahead and do it now.

The Wins!


Biznass

  • So Good They Can't Ignore You convinced me that I needed to A) Continue stretching my skills by taking on projects I don't already know how to do and B) Solicit more feedback.  So I sent my website to a free user testing site (Peek) and laughed my butt off at the strong British accent declaring that my site had "an awful lot of flourishes" but was overall easy to use.
  • I also found a graphic design forum for project critiques since I was too chicken to go back to Reddit after an unfortunate incident a few years ago.  So far this community seems both nicer and more educated on the topic, but we'll see.  I just submitted my first project for critique so helpfully they're helpful!
  • New client!!!  Referred by the awesome Kelli AND in need of a Wordpress website, which is a skill I conveniently picked up these past few weeks.

Health

  • Family dog park/jogging days.  It's a little challenging to run with 2 dogs and keep them both on the side out from under my feet (and other people's) but Toast is a surprisingly good little runner!  She's just got so much energy.
  • Yoga with my mom.  This is probably the most consistent exercise I get and we've found some fun prenatal videos!  Although our last one was ridiculous.  Harder than some of our non-pregnancy yoga videos and all kinds of silliness like, "Flow from down dog into cobra, keeping your belly just off the floor."  Why not just do something that's not based on a pose that's on your stomach, eh?

Happiness Project

  • Meetup attended!  Rather spur of the moment, but I was browsing and found a "women in tech" group that was having a class on social media branding, which sounded right up my alley.
  • Also brunch, lunch, and a wedding.  The past week was jam-packed.

Personal

  • I was just happier this week than I have been.  Exhausted and craving some alone time, but overall very happy.

Thoughts and Plans for Next Week

  • I specifically did NOT make plans for this weekend because I knew if I had social stuff going on every other weekend, I'd be burned out.  Technically we have a gaming session, but that's not quite as draining for some reason.
  • I really need to get on my party planning.  We have 2 weeks until Halloween and I really want to have some actual game type stuff to go along with the standard, "let's drink and talk."  Plus it's October 17th and our house isn't decorated!  What is this madness???

What victories did you have last week?  What's in the works for the upcoming week?


Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Oct 13, 2016

The Best Relationship Advice I've Ever Received

When I saw the movie Waiting, I felt 2 things: 1) Appalled at the nasty kitchen stuff they showed because our kitchen did none of that but forever after I had to reassure terrified customers that no, they wouldn't get their food spit on if they wanted their burger cooked a little longer and 2) Highly amused by the character cliches, because they were spot on.

We had our cranky, don't-take-no-shit waitresses who had been there way too long, we had the young and innocent new hostesses who hadn't been made cynical by years of restaurant work, we had the cooks who liked to joke and play games.  (Seriously, though, guys.  It was an open kitchen.  Nothing happened back there.  The worst thing they did was throw cheese on the wall and yeah, a customer complained about that even though it was nowhere near their food.)  We did not have a savvy, charming know-it-all server like Ryan Reynolds BUT we did have my favorite character, the eccentric semi-wise-semi-insane cook who dispensed his wisdom.

Cam was a grizzled man in his 50s, with Samuel Jackson-esque eyes, wide and slightly crazy.  He was entertaining, but I didn't pay much attention to him until the night he decided I was in need of his sage advice.  With his restaurant hat on backwards and apron tied around his hips, he ushered me into a booth and asked me how my relationship was doing.  What followed was 45 minutes of an intense, face-to-face lecture, most of which I can no longer recall.  But the bits that stuck with me are these:

  • People tend to choose a partner based on the holes in their own personality
  • You shouldn't be with someone who completes you.  You should be with someone who complements you.  They can make you better, but you can't rely upon them.
And honestly, I have no idea if he came up with this stuff on his own, but as an impressionable 19 year old in a shit relationship, it was some powerful stuff.

But that's not all!  I have also been on the receiving end of wisdom from the crazy, possibly homeless man at the bus stop!  After he (black) reassured me that it was ok, he was actually white because he was born in Australia and all their birth certificates say white, so go ahead and admit that white is better, I started to pointedly ignore him and refuse to make eye contact.  So, deciding that race wasn't a good topic, he decided to move on to relationships.

Still avoiding eye contact and staring down at my book pretending to read, I couldn't help overhearing this gem:
  • Your partner can't come first.  This is the order that it needs to go in: 1) God 2) Yourself 3) Your hand.  Because your hand was around before your partner ever was and your hand will be there when your partner is gone and 4) Then your partner.  They only come after everything else.
So cutting out the religious and masturbation parts of that lesson, yeah I suppose I can agree that you should put yourself first.  And it really was something I needed to hear at that time.  Of course, crazy homeless man really had nothing on Cam, whose potential insanity just added to his charm.  I believe Cam was later fired for stealing steaks, but I've always appreciated that conversation.


Have you ever had wisdom come from an unexpected source?


Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Oct 11, 2016

Happy Birthday Show Us Your Books!

Steph mentioned last month that this was the 2 year anniversary of SUYB and I was blown away.  Does it feel like 2 years?  No, no it does not.  Without getting too cheesy, I'd like to spend a few moments reminiscing because this linkup is awesome, and I love talking books, and I love that this gives me an excuse to talk books every month, and encouraged me to get back into reading and now I can't even imagine how I lived so many years without reading new books every month.  Best.  Thing.  Ever.

Ok, I'm done now.  Onto the books!

♥♥♥♥♥ - Loved!


Networking for People Who Hate Networking by Devorah Zack

So good!  I told everyone who would listen all about this book, and since a good number of bloggers are also introverts, I heartily recommend this to all of you.  The book starts off by delving into the differences between introverts and extroverts (I thought I'd educated myself pretty well on this topic but there were things I hadn't heard before), and then talks about the strengths and weaknesses of each type and how to apply those to networking and social engagements.  The book also talks about centroverts, which delighted me because I've always thought I flip flop between the 2 types and I had never heard that term before.  Favorite quote:
  • Q) Why do extroverts have voicemail?
  • A) To never miss a call.
  • Q) Why do introverts have voicemail?
  • A) To never take a call.


Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder by Arianna Huffington

Here on out to be called "Thrive" because that is a mouthful.  This was such a surprise!  As the founder of Huffington Post, I wasn't expecting Huffington to have insights that resonated with me so strongly.  This was all about redefining success and putting more importance on our health and happiness than how many hours we put into work AND pointing out that we perform better when we take care of ourselves anyway.  Lots of good stuff about mindfulness and the pacing of our lives and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Also I kind of wish I could work at Huffpost, even though I never read them.  :P


♥♥♥♥ - Liked



Magic Kingdom for Sale/Sold by Terry Brooks

Cute story, maybe not quite as well fleshed out as it could have been, but very fun and light-hearted.  For some reason, I really didn't feel connected to the main character in the beginning, but he slowly grew on me.  It reminded me of the Xanth series, which used to be a favorite (though I've kind of outgrown them).  Would have been 3.5 stars, were halves allowed.


Stars Above by Marissa Meyer

I don't typically enjoy short stories so this is really good for me!  But, of course, it's Marissa Meyer and I had just reread the Lunar Chronicles, so...  It was a cute, fun read.  Perfect for an unmotivated night when my stack of business books from the library seemed too overwhelming.


So Good They Can't Ignore You by Cal Newport

Another one that surprised me (perhaps I need to read the synopsis before plunging in, eh?).  I expected this to be all about how to acquire career skills but really it was more of a debunk of the "follow your passion theory."  I'm not 100% sold BUT I thought he had a lot of excellent insights, which I will share right now.  Based on research, there are strong correlations between work satisfaction and competence, control, and mission.  So Newport argues that passion grows as we become skilled at something and if we put more focus into how to become good at our work rather than how the work makes us feel, we'd all be happier with that work overall.

He also gives kind of a timeline - basically you acquire "career capital" or work skills, and then you leverage them for other things, like more control over your job or specializing in a field that gives you a sense of purpose.  He also points out that a lot of us don't necessarily have a passion off the bat, but by beginning work and learning new things, we often find one along the way, which is a theory I quite like since I never felt quite as driven as my peers in high school and it took some experimentation in college to find the major that clicked.  Honestly, this topic probably deserves its own post, but I'm lazy so this is all you get.  The only thing that I liked less about it was the format - it felt a little bit like a research paper with some of the repetition and some of his examples felt a little forced (subjective evidence tweaked to fit his foregone conclusion).

♥♥♥ - Ambivalent-ed



Mara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw

Another fun one with romance, adventure, and intrigue, but it just wasn't quite there for me.  I love Egypt, but this felt more like a romance story with the Egypt setting as a veneer to make it more interesting rather than actually being about Egypt.  Anyway, like my category title says, it wasn't good or bad, just ambivalent.  Someone who's more into drama/romance might enjoy this more than I did.


Organize Your Life by Ronni Eisenberg and Kate Kelly

As much as I love this topic, I'm starting to think I'm tapped out.  There's just not much new information to be had.  Pros: I liked the points made about using your most productive time (depending whether you're a morning or night person) to work instead of trying to force yourself to work during your non-peak times and there was some good stuff about organizing for kids/families.  Cons: It's 9 years old and a lot of the computer and paper vs digital information is just outdated.  Many of their tips don't work for me because I use my phone for everything and the idea of paper filing fills me with horror.  A lot changes in 9 years.  It did, however, get me excited just in time to help a friend organize her house, so that was good timing.


Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

Sooo... Mindy Kaling.  I'm not her biggest fan, but back when I was doing my streak of comedian memoirs, her first one was entertaining enough and I added this to my library holds.  Months later (there were 35 people ahead of me), I wasn't as into it and a lot of her humor fell flat for me.  Likes: the stuff about body image and business/career.  Dislikes: everything about dating.  It felt very cringy to me and she came across more than a little boy-crazy.  I went back and forth between, "Oh this is good stuff!" to wanting to not even finish the book.  Rating this was impossible, so 3 as an average?  And maybe no more celebrity memoirs for a while.  I need a break.


This was a fairly random pick from the library audiobook selection and I went back and forth on it.  Good advice, but his snarky tone alternately amused and annoyed me.  And he was so condescending about certain things.  You know what?  I don't want to spend time at yard sales and I like buying a new (or relatively new) car instead of a piece of junk that requires constant maintenance.  I can still see the value of his advice, but it's a bit extreme to indicate that everyone who doesn't share your views is in need of a psychiatric evaluation.  I am heavily considering his one tip, though, to give myself a cash budget for spending, since the psychological cost is higher when we see the money leaving our hand.

♥♥ - Mildly Disliked


None!


 - Did Not Finish or Wanted to Burn in a Fire


No 1 OR 2 stars!



Currently...

I JUST finished Thrive and So Good They Can't Ignore you so I'm not in the middle of anything, but I do still have a couple other business books from the library I need to get around to.  Also I think I'm going to read MFW Seeking BFF and The DUFF in honor of my social month for my happiness project.

Challenge Updates


Erin 5.0

Almost done.  The last one left is my freebie book, which is kind of hilarious since that's supposed to be an easy category and is only worth 5 points.  I'm not excited about it but I'm being stubborn and refuse to make changes to my list (especially after seeing how many people changed theirs - poor Erin!).  Challenge books this month: Magic Kingdom for Sale/Sold, and Mara, Daughter of the Nile.  With my 160 points from last month, that puts me at 195 out of 200.


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

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Oct 8, 2016

Weekly Wins

I'm in a couple of small business owner groups on Facebook and one of the things they do on Saturdays is our successes from the week.  But I found myself wanting to celebrate personal victories along with the business ones, so I'ma do it here.  It's also a good way to keep myself up to date on my happiness project, which is easy to forget about when I'm not paying attention.

The Wins!


Business

  • Finished my m-effin' mobile site.  Hells yeah!  I had no trouble getting 8+ hours of work in on my freelance days because I wanted to get this done.
  • Added my business blog to my website (the site is hand-coded because I like doing it that way but I installed a Wordpress blog in a subfolder and then coded it to match the website design).  I honestly preferred the interface on blogger for writing posts BUT I think I can improve my traffic and SEO by having new content on my actual website, so here we go!
  • Read/listened to some good books.  Thrive by Arianna Huffington = surprisingly good!

Health

  • Went jogging for the first time in a few weeks!  It's not fun, but it also wasn't as ridiculously hard as I expected.  I can still do my 1 mile, which means I haven't degraded past my baseline.
  • Cooked some meals!  Poor Reptar has been making do with junk food and maybe one serving of veggies per day.  We ramped that up this week and I honestly do feel better physically than I've been feeling.

Happiness Project

  • At least one social engagement made for each week of October AND 1 new potential friend reached out to.  I found that writing that "hey do you want to hang out?" message was a LOT easier than last time I was considering trying to make a new friend.

Personal


  • Stuck to my cleaning routine on my planning app!  (Oh, did I already confess that I spent the extra $5 to get the repeating tasks?  I have reoccuring tasks for cleaning, exercise, and various reminders for dogs and plants and such.  It is awesome.)


Thoughts and Plans for Next Week


  • I'm considering asking a coworker if she wants to start a book club.  I might still wimp out because I don't think she'll be interested, BUT we read the same books and we talked about books for our entire 1 hour lunch break the other day.  So... nothing ventured, nothing gained?
  • Some very nice people mailed my license back to me after I lost it jogging with the dogs at the park and I want to send them a thank you note.  It's not really a friend-making attempt, but it still feels in line with my social outreach goals.
  • Oh my goodness!  The lunch dates, weddings, and appointments to doctors and mechanics.  I'm just hoping to get any freelance work done at all next week and I'm super glad my website is done so I don't have to try to snatch a few minutes here and there to work on it.


What victories did you have this week?


Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Oct 6, 2016

The Linkups I Long For

There are tons of great linkups floating around and I've participated in my fair share.  Absolute favorites: Show Us Your Books, the themed monthly goals posts that Steph and Stephanie ran for a while, and, surprisingly (because it was so short-lived), Sarah and Helene's #TotalSocial.

I think what I liked most about that last one was the variety.  It was a different writing prompt each month, and everyone could answer however they liked, so you could read 50-some posts in the linkup and they'd all be totally different.  (My favorite topic was "firsts" because I went the scandalous route and talked about my first stripper, aka the bachelorette party I threw for a friend that went rather badly.)

Anyway, reminiscing aside, I've had occasional ideas about linkups that would be fun to run but I'm too lazy and lack the social klout to pull it off, so I always just let them pass me by.  Here's hoping I inspire someone else to host one of these for me.  :P

20 Linkup Ideas

  1. Story Time - A funny/embarrassing/memorable story from your childhood
  2. Life Lessons - Your top 3 pieces of wisdom and the stories behind them
  3. Sell Yourself - What makes you a good friend/employee/human being?
  4. Closet Hobby - What's a topic you love, but can't find anyone to enjoy with IRL?
  5. Alliteration Ahoy! - Write about anything, but pick a letter and make every sentence start with that letter.
  6. Someone Else's Shoes - Defend a viewpoint you don't share.
  7. Grind Those Gears - A freebie day for complaining.  What's bugging you?
  8. Mistakes Were Made - A big mistake you've made or seem to keep making.
  9. And So Our Story Begins - Write the intro sentence/paragraph to your own memoir.  Then the last, with full freedom to predict where it'll all end up.
  10. Did You Know? - Whip out your favorite fun facts or trivia.  Educate us.
  11. Doodle Day - Using whatever artistic ability you have (or don't) doodle something from your day, or how you'd like the day to go.
  12. Book Swap - Actually, this might already exist.  Anybody know of one?
  13. Young Love - Tell us about your first crush.
  14. On Fleek and Off Beat - Which trends do you like and which can you not stand?
  15. 180 - Something(s) you've completely changed your mind about
  16. Utopia - What would your perfect world/day/job/house/relationship look like?
  17. Kiss and Tell - Dating mistakes, mishaps, or just funny stories
  18. Dream Big - What's your lifelong goal/where do you want to be in 10, 20, or 40 years?
  19. Charity Day - Everyone picks one charity to donate $5 to, tells what they picked and why.
  20. Things That Should Exist - A product, concept, law, etc that's made you think, "Why isn't this a thing???"
I could keep going - I was surprised how easy it was to come up with more and more ideas - but you probably get the idea.  After a while I realized I mostly want to come up with prompts that force people to talk about who they are outside and beyond the blog (one idea I had was "What makes you you?" - lol! because that's a simple question to answer).  So maybe the truth isn't that I have good ideas for linkups but just that I am more voyeuristic than I realized and want to know everything about everyone.

What are/were your favorite linkups?  Do you have any topic ideas you'd like to see other people write about?


Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Oct 4, 2016

Happiness Project Month 2: Social (and Career Development Progress)

First an update.

Month 1 Update: Career Development.


I said before that I was trying to build on the momentum of some things I had in the works.  That was true but I also forgot I had a week vacation planned with my sisters.  Sooo... that week was spent more on snatching a few moments to read a business blog, and doing just enough work to keep up with client obligations, and then some other junk happened, but instead of listing all my excuses, I'll just tell you how I did.

I made myself a handy dandy chart/daily checklist a la Gretchen Rubin.


Here's how I did on each of my resolutions.

1. Spend at Least 5 Hours on Business Activities W, Th, F - Meh

So... even after I got back from vacation, there were days when personal projects took priority, or I didn't track my time well enough to really know what I did and it's SO EASY to not sit down and work when there's no clients keeping me accountable.  But I did hit my stride near the end when I dug into Wordpress and started rebuilding my website for mobile and those projects got me interested enough that it wasn't even hard to hit my time quota.

2. Track Time Usage - Check

Again, this didn't happen right away, but I'm checking it off because after poking around I finally found a solution that works for me.  Like my digital planner, it's an app, because any solution that requires me to carry paper or be at my computer to use is going to work, whereas my phone goes everywhere with me so I can walk to the kitchen, realize I forgot to hit the stop on my time, and do it from there instead of walking back up to my office.  The app is Gleeo Time Tracker and it's a little confusing to get into, but it has good tutorials and once you get your tasks set up it is so easy to use.  Just hit play and stop.  I'd like to delve into what my biggest time wasters are, but I think I need another couple of weeks with this app before I can give definitive answers as to what my patterns are.

3. Follow Up With Clients Weekly - Check!

All the points for this one!  So this is hard for me because I feel like I'm bothering people.  I refused to let myself squirm out of sending reminder emails or checking in just because I felt uncomfortable and it was great, because A) I got paid for an invoice that was more than a month overdue and B) One of my check-ins resulted in the project continuing rather than stalling out and dying (which I had assumed had already happened)

4. Say Yes to All Potential Networking Activities - Check!

There weren't that many, but I did attend the Mascara and Mimosas brunch in DE, which was by far the best networking event I've ever been to!  It had been recommended by a woman I'm trying to get a mentorship with, so in addition to finding a good crowd of like-minded business owners, I was able to meet her in person and kind of get my foot in the door with this particular community.  Side note: I LOVED that most of these women were entrepreneurs with their own, unique business ideas and not just, "Oh I sell [x pyramid scheme product]."

I also joined a couple Facebook groups recommended to me by the lovely Kelli of 3K VA Services and I'm really enjoying their interactions.  So far it's mostly just chitchat, but being able to talk to people about business topics without their eyes glazing over is awesome, and I did get a good recommendation for a Wordpress tool when I was digging into backend design on that platform.

And I added a couple more along the way.


5. Listen to Business Podcasts/Read Business Books and Blogs - Check!

Initially I was very excited about a couple of my podcasts, but I've kind of fallen off the wagon.  I feel like the majority of them are just, "Here's me interviewing this successful person" instead of real content.  So I'm not going to force myself to keep listening.  BUT I did find several business blogs I like (including Kelli's) and those are on my Feedly now and I read a bunch of good books.  Absolute favorite: Networking for People Who Hate Networking.

6. Create Informative or Educational Material - Mostly Check

I updated my business social media, got on Instagram for business, set up all my RSS feeds in one Hootsuite account, and tried to optimize my business blog for social sharing.  I also wrote a couple posts I really liked and worked on finding "my voice" which was surprisingly hard, because I had trouble finding a balance between the informality I use here and boring professionalism.  I think I have it now!  But I still tend to write each post twice.  Once in this voice and then again without the curse words and the self deprecatory humor, but keeping the anecdotes and (informed) opinions.  The hard part: keeping up with it.  I'm kind of torn because I don't know that my target audience is on Instagram and Twitter, but I guess I won't find out if I don't at least give them a shot AND a lot of the women from the networking event are there, so I've followed a bunch of them and I'll see how it goes.

Other Stuff

I made affirmations, but as per my usual self, those were used very infrequently.  I might still try it again for next month and maybe even set myself a calendar reminder to see if it goes better when I don't forget about it completely.  Maybe taping to the mirror would be better than keeping them in my google doc check list.  I completed the to do list I had made in my last post, but not the new items I added, which, frankly, were probably a bit ambitious anyway (limiting myself to 3 to do list items and 5 resolutions for future months).  When I applied for the mentorship with a graphic design company in DE I was just reaching for any potential education instead of sitting around twiddling my thumbs waiting for clients.  I was disappointed that she gave me homework instead of welcoming me in to learn from her right away but having those goals so clearly defined was immensely helpful in getting me kick-started on acquiring new skills for my business.

I know the ins and outs of Wordpress now, and I can create child themes to customize freebie themes (that aren't always very customizable on their own).  I'm pretty comfortable building responsive websites that adapt well to mobile AND desktop.  I updated my service list to reflect these skills and plan to start building a portfolio that displays examples of each, even if I have to offer up a couple more freebie websites.  Honestly, I don't even care if I get into the mentorship program now, because I've already learned most of the things I wanted to learn and I have a direction to head in.

So overall I'm pretty happy with the progress that I've made and I think I'm on a good path to start picking my own educational and business promotional projects to fill whatever extra time isn't used up by client work.  I do need to find some additional networking activities, however, because my new favorite group isn't meeting again until January 29th and, as that is 2 days before my due date, I'll probably be missing that one.

I'm really, really tempted to make a bunch of business goals, but that's not the point of this project, so instead I'll reluctantly set down career development and try to focus on social topics.

Month 2 Goals: Social

Breaking this up a bit, since I've restructured since the first month.  The things I struggle with most in the social sphere are not reaching out to friends and letting friendships drift away, and not being as tolerant or as considerate as I could be.  So the focus is generally in those areas and the end goal is not necessarily acquiring more friends (difficult to do in one short month) but making myself better friend material.

Affirmations

  1. I am positive; I lift people up instead of bringing them down
  2. I am considerate; I think of other people's needs and remember to ask about their lives
  3. I am tolerant; I give people the benefit of the doubt

Resolutions

  1. Avoid gossip
  2. Read books about friendships or making friends
  3. Compliment someone
  4. Empathize instead of judging
  5. Say yes to helping people or doing favors

To Do

  1. Commit to 1 social event per week
  2. Have a conversation or spend time with each friend I have at least once this month
  3. Reach out to one new potential friend

October is actually a very good month for social, because we're hosting a Halloween party and I already have a lot of social events scheduled, so I won't be scrambling to invite people to things last minute.  But I intend to make the best use of the things I do have planned and try to make sure no one is left out.

Do you have any social goals you set for yourself?  How do you go about trying to make new friends?


Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Oct 3, 2016

Mistakes Were Made - a Weekend Recap

I never do weekend recaps, but this weekend was special because it was my goddaughter's 9th birthday and I had agreed to help organize my friend's house before the big day and co-host the slumber party.  This was my first mistake.

The invitation flyer we made for my goddaughter to pass out to her classmates (32 all told, thank goodness they didn't all show!)

As much as I love organizing, I find it very stressful to organize other people's houses because you're essentially making decisions for them for how they'll live and utilize their own possessions.  It feels a little invasive to me.  But I did it anyway, with the crux of my efforts being focused on her kitchen and I relearned a lesson I'd forgotten: cleaning is a lot of work!

Come Friday morning, I was already sore and tired and the bleary weather was echoing my energy levels perfectly.  Nevertheless, I returned to the scene to begin party preparation.  3 hours in, when things were looking festive and somewhat put together, I was feeling a tad bit more cheerful.  Then they began to arrive.

I like little girls.  I usually find I can slip back into that mindset and find things to chatter about and entertain each other with.  But 3 girls in and the shrieking had already begun.  9 girls in and I was having trouble with the headcount.  By the time all 13 had arrived, Melisandre and I were in combat mode.  "You get them started on the pizzas, I'll try to find a new place for the pillowcases, girls STOP FLIPPING ONTO THE COUCH, THAT IS WET PAINT!!!"

I'll skip all the gory details and get straight to the lessons I learned (sorry for the repeat, FB friends):
  1. Craft supplies must be WASHABLE! (But really, paint of any kind is a terrible idea)
  2. Twister probably would have gone over better than movie time
  3. 13 is a LOT of children
I wish I had pictures for you, either before and afters of our massive cleaning endeavor, or the party decoration, or just me and Melisandre before we became no-nonsense drill sergeants with an intolerance for gymnastics and a newfound loathing for fabric paint.  But in the chaos, photos were the last thing on my mind.

I am however, going to share some other weekend pictures with you, because I'm feeling chatty today.


Ryan and I were poking around in a newly acquired baby name book and discovered that my name and my 2 sisters' names were the top 3 most popular girl's names in the 80's.  In birth order, though my mom claims not to have known this when she picked them.


One of my awesome coworkers gave me a huge pile of her old maternity clothes and I have discovered a newfound love of stripes!  They accentuate the belly and I'm finding myself actually liking how it looks instead of feeling self-conscious and worried that I might be gaining too fast or whatever.  Also, maternity clothes are magic and I am wearing the first size mediums I've owned since maybe middle school.  :P


We went to a comedy club!!!  I've been wanting to do this for ages, so it's nice to finally be able to check it off my list.  I was a bit nervous because I picked the show and then we ended up inviting people and no one really gave any input so it felt like it would be all my fault if it wasn't funny.  Fortunately, Justin Willman is hilarious and he did a comedy/magic performance that had us discussing the definition of "magic" and how he could have possibly pulled off some of his tricks the whole way home.

AND THEN I had to get caught up with client projects, one of which ended up taking me approximately 8 hours longer than I expected so I got 1 hour of sleep last night.  (Side note: Word sucks.)  Plegh.  I could use a few days of doing nothing.

How was your weekend?  Any mistakes made or new adventures had?


Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design