Nov 20, 2017

My Christmas Wish List

I never do these and normally I'm all, "Mlegh, if I want it I'll just buy it" but this year is a little different.  I've successfully exercised some level of frugality (which my bank account is happy about) and I sometimes literally have "purchase ___" on my to do list for weeks because I'm tired and it takes that long for to do list items to feel like a priority.

One of my last comments on another blog was about how I was getting small, 5-minute things done every time I was in a room.  So we had all this alcohol stashed in our kitchen cabinets that Ryan and I are not going to drink (I don't know how long it's been for Ryan but I am 1 year, 11 months alcohol-free!!!).  I'd been meaning to move it into the basement for a few weeks and I was proud because I'd finally done the first "5-minute" portion of the task: taking the alcohol down from the high shelf.

Hey, man, it requires a step stool!  This was WORK!  And then I figured the next 5 minute task would be moving it into the storage area in the basement.  I'd do that whenever I next had occasion to go down there.

It seemed perfectly logical to me and then I took a (mental) step back and realized how sad that sounded.  4 6-packs of beer, and it's a multiple day project?

So yeah, these days even small tasks sometimes feel like monumental ones.  Partially because I'm usually tired and partially because I'm almost always multi-tasking housework with baby-watching and guys!  He's crawling and pulling himself up and our house is really not baby-proofed.  It's exhausting.  So a lot of times the effort to purchase things for myself doesn't seem worth it.

Which is all a roundabout way to say, I actually have a wish list!

My Christmas Wish List

The Morning Sidekick Journal

I love planners and journals and all that awesomeness.  I told myself I wouldn't buy any more planners because I'm never going to not be digital for my to do list and my calendar BUT this one is about habits and habit building, which is perfect for a paper format.  I actually do think I'll buy this for myself at some point, but I'm going to wait until I get through my 52 Lists journal that I'm currently using each night.  Both to prove that I've successfully built the habit and to avoid duplicates that don't get used.

Running Shoes

Specifically, I want to go get fitted for fancy running shoes at the Delaware Running Company.  My current shoes have holes just everywhere and at first I was saying I didn't deserve new sneakers until I was running regularly and then I was too frugal/lazy to buy new ones.  You can't just buy them online, guys!  You have to physically go to a store and try shoes on!  Effort!!!  But the company-specific dream is left over from when I was training for the half marathon a couple years ago because a coworker suggested it and I never went.  I want to give fancy shoes a try!

17 Hats

I JUST locked myself in for a year of Freshbooks, so I'm stuck with one accounting software for a while.  (Honestly, this is probably a good thing since end-of-year taxes are hard when you have no idea how much money you made most of the year because you kept switching systems!)  But this is the latest shiny new piece of software that promises to do it all and make my life easier.  And I do wish I could try it out and not waste the money I spent on Freshbooks for the annual plan.

Bathroom Decor

This was the last home decoration project that we didn't fit in before baby was born.  I have a vision of this Moroccan themed wallpaper, but it's daunting because I've never done wallpaper before and what if I mess up and Ryan thinks it doesn't go with our current style and so on.  So what I really want is gift cards to purchase the paper AND someone to help me put it up.  I'll also need a way to hang a piece of wall art I bought at the Ren Faire this year.

Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson

I was all set to buy this but the paperback copy that I saw was $40 and that's a bit pricy for me.  Especially since 1,200 pages is going to require a few late nights.  I'll wait until the official paperback release.  But I have a coworker who's reading it now and I'll confess I'm a bit jealous.  Also a good options, any books from my Goodreads TBR.

Home Organizer

On a similar note, I would love to have a pro go through my home and figure out the most optimal way to arrange things!  This is the sort of thing I normally enjoy doing myself but right now sounds exhausting.  A less expensive but equally satisfying gift would be the offer to help me do it.  Someone to trade off baby watching with pulling all the shit out of my closets would be great so I wouldn't have to constantly multi-task!

VenturePop Creative Conference

It's a goal for Kelli and me to finally meet in person at some business conference or other.  VenturePop 2018 is in New Orleans, which is conveniently on the east coast and has all the conference elements I want, but NOLA is hardly an inexpensive town to stay in.  If I recall correctly from Sister2's bachelorette party, it was hundreds per night.  Sooo... let's just say the hotel will probably cost more than airfare, and possibly even more than the conference itself.

Wardrobe Level Up

I successfully "found my style" and my closet is organized with the "real clothes" hanging in sets.  So to get ready for a networking event, I just grab the particular pants, t-shirt, blazer set I want to wear that day, and the earrings that go with it and I'm good to go!  It's amazing, BUT all my shoes are falling apart.  And I'm really sad because they're all comfortable and I liked them a lot.  But I feel like I look just a wee bit shabby.  So I'd like replacements for many of the items in my closet and this time around I want higher quality pieces that won't fade with the first wash, won't pill, and generally will look nice after being worn for a few months (or years!).

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Nov 13, 2017

It's a Pity Party and You're Invited

Last night was rough.  In a "what were we thinking when we decided to have a child" kind of way.  I think it was worse because I thought we were over the hump - Orion had had a fever Friday and Saturday and been back to normal on Sunday, and then Sunday night he just lost his shit.

It was particularly frustrating because he was already asleep in bed.  And then I opened the door to turn his light off and it gave the teeniest, tiniest creeeeak.  Boom!  Baby awake and screaming for 3. Fucking. Hours.

Not that he went back to sleep after 3 hours, but after 3 hours I gave up and asked Ryan to take a turn.  I have limits, guys!

And he was awesome and kept him all night but that didn't stop me from sleeping through my alarm and being 1.5 hours late to work today.

I told Ryan, only half-joking, that a few more nights like that and Orion won't have any younger siblings.  Nights like that make me wonder why anyone has multiple children.  And it also makes me wonder how so many people used to manage large families.

Did they cry every day from lack of sleep?  Were they just way tougher than I am?  Is our generation inherently more selfish because we put our own personal happiness before the desire to procreate and raise more humans?

I don't know and it doesn't matter.  But I should probably stop complaining to my mom because she did this 3 times over AND she didn't have much help from her husband or parents (the latter because they were across the country, not because they didn't care).

So that's the current thing blackening my demeanor.  But if I'm really honest and take a look a little deeper I know it's not just one night of screaming baby.  My grandmother died and our trip out to visit her during the 30 days the doctor gave her was hard.  It was just sad and stressful and traveling with a baby is the worst.

And my aunt a couple months before that.  Which was so unexpected and tragic because of her relative youth.  2016 was hard for me because of marital issues, and Ryan's (perhaps related) anxiety.  I spent the better part of that year feeling like I couldn't depend on him and that I was on my own.

Having a baby is magical and wonderful and hard and you get no sleep and, if you aren't careful to do some sort of self care, end up hating life and counting down to the end of each day.  So while I'm glad we had our son, the beginning of 2017 was rife with its own challenges, and now that we're starting to settle in to having a baby and getting more comfortable with it, there's other challenges, too.

I guess what I'm saying is that I can't remember the last time life was easy.  Just for a few months at a time.  And maybe that makes me lazy or weak or selfish but I really wish I could have that back again.

I think the happiest I can remember being is leading up to my wedding.  Sure, we were "busy" with planning.  But an elopement doesn't really take THAT much planning.  And while I had the occasional client, it was just a drop in the bucket now and again as far as time consumed.  Mostly I worked my full time job, worked out, and did whatever I wanted to in my free time.

I read a lot that year.  I played video games.  I finished whole TV series in a week or two.  Guys, I played mother fucking candy crush for weeks!

I can't imagine doing that now.  When Orion was sick, Ryan and I watched 5 episodes of Stranger Things, because fever baby = cuddly, sleepy baby.  It felt as world-altering as the things going on in the show itself.  5 hours of TV?  That's ludicrous!

So I guess what this all leads up to is I'm feeling sorry for myself because I made a lot of choices that mean I don't get free time anymore.  And I also intend to travel as little as possible because babies on planes, babies in cars, and babies in public for more than an hour or two all suck.

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Oct 31, 2017

The Circle of Life

I don't know quite what I want to say today.  We visited my grandmother, who is dying, and who specifically requested to see everyone one more time before she goes.  She wanted to meet her great grandson, so Orion and I, along with my parents, flew out to California for 4 days, said our goodbyes, and then flew home.

It was hard.  Hard emotionally, hard physically, hard logistically.  My stress levels were through the roof.  But we held it together and did our best to respect my grandmother's wishes and get through it with smiles on our faces.  We were there to celebrate our last opportunity to have time together, not to mourn that that time is ending.

And I'm so grateful that we had the forewarning to be able to do that.  Talking to my dad about it, he seemed absolutely horrified by the idea of being given 30 days to live by a doctor.  I, obviously, don't know how I would react, but conceptually it sounds better to have that time to get your affairs in order and do all the things you want to do.

We thought about what we'd do with that time, if we had just 30 days to live.  And my first thought was books, junk food, and relaxing.  My sister's was trying all the drugs now that you don't have to worry about damaging your body, which I found intriguing, but ultimately I think I'd enjoy the books and chocolate more.

We also talked about the circle of life, Lion King style.  Seeing the sharp contrast of Orion, 9 months old and blissfully unaware of what was going on, sitting on Nana's lap.  He'd inevitably go for the oxygen cords resting just under her nose and when we tried to stop him she always said, "No.  Let him."  She'd just "met" him for the first time and already she loved him, whole-heartedly.

It makes me so sad that he won't remember her.  That this visit is one we'll show pictures of to a child or young man and we'll say, "That's you with your great grandmother" and he'll nod politely without any real interest.  As I did when shown pictures of my great grandmother.

And I understand better now why family is so important to my mom's mom.  Why she was always trying to tell us about Great Grandma, and relatives further up the tree.  Because "Great Grandma" to me is "Mom" to my grandmother.  Because it's insane that someone who meant so much to you can mean so little to your descendants.  Because you want all the people you love to love each other, too.

We fall in love with our children and grandchildren when they're small, helpless things, incapable of understanding or fully reciprocating.  And then we move on into some other realm, or blackness, or nothing, while they're still figuring out what those emotions even mean or feel like.

It's a great treasure we receive from our parents and grandparents, this vast, unconditional love.  And I guess the best you can say about the recipients is that they'll in turn lavish it on their own children and grandchildren.  We're all just paying it forward since we don't learn how to pay it back until it's too late.

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Oct 16, 2017

Digital Decluttering

I had a conversation with some blogger friends that went like this (paraphrasing, of course), "Ya'll I'm tired of blogging."  "Me too!"  "I still want to blog, I just don't want to read anyone else's or feel obligated to do anything."  "Totes!"  "Omg, we should all make our blogs private and only do what we wanna do."  "Coo'."

So I stopped reading all the blogs I'd been reading, and I no longer have comments to respond to because no one can read this or weigh in with their thoughts.  I do miss some of the occasional thoughtful conversations but most of the comments were trite or forced or just plain boring.

For me that was the beginning of a digital declutter.  I then rampaged about on Facebook, my phone and Meetup.  Here's what I've accomplished:


Dropped all the Meetup groups I was on the fence about (1 more in the near future after I attend the one event I'd already signed up for).  I didn't always join because I enjoyed them or they were beneficial.  Some I was in the "broaden my horizons" or one had been recommended by someone.  But if it doesn't fit in my current schedule I'm not going and if I'm not enjoying it AND it doesn't serve my business, why do that to myself?  I'll find diversity in other ways.


Scaled back my Facebook groups to just the essentials.  No more networking group that I don't intend to stay in once my membership expires.  No more fitness/MLM group that I was in out of politeness to a previous client.  No more entrepreneurial group for the sake of the rare, occasional useful tidbits buried amidst the mystical bullshit.  Only groups that are worth my time at least 50% of the time.


Removed all social media from my phone (minus Instagram).  Even Facebook!  Most of my social posting is scheduled, but Instagram has to be posted from the app, not a scheduler, so that's on my phone but there's no shortcut for it on my phone.  To find it I have to dig through my app directory, which usually prevents me from bothering.  Facebook I really ought to have, to participate in me and Kelli's group, but I was wasting so much time on there.  Now I'll check in once a day, do my due diligence, and then check back out.

Plans for Future

I've been pressuring myself to create content for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn, blog, and send out a monthly newsletter.  It's a lot and, ultimately, networking is my biggest ROI anyway.  So I'm scaling way, way back on social media and focusing on the face-to-face interaction.  I might drop the e-newsletter altogether.
Part of me is reluctant to give up all that effort, but another part of my brain is just singing at the idea of eliminating some of the pressure.  And more and more, that vibrant little thrill of "YES!" is what I'm following.  Sorry, logic, you can't do everything.

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Routine Update

Guys.  This is actually working.

I am two weeks in.  There have been maybe one or two nights where I messed up and got 6 instead of 8 hours of sleep.  That's crazy!  I haven't been this well rested since the 2nd trimester of my pregnancy.

And it's funny because I don't always feel that well-rested.  Some days I still feel tired and then I get dejected and defeatist and say, "WHY isn't this working??? I'm doing all the right things!"

BUT even when I feel tired, I'm somehow able to follow that nighttime routine.  I make dinner instead of binge-eating my horrible sugar/peanut butter mixture that I make when I'm sad and stressed.

I'll probably never have the leisure to sleep a full weekend, which means recovering from months and months of sleep deprivation is also going to be a slow process.  Expecting anything else is unreasonable.  But in just two weeks I've seen all kinds of improvements.

1. Having a visual forces me to confront time limitations

I think I mentioned this in the last post, but when an opportunity comes up or I get invited to something, I look at my schedule.  What would have to be left undone and is it worth it?  Certain time blocks are more sacred than others - Friday night date night for example.  And not scheduling things on Sunday because Sunday always, always gets away from us.

2. It cuts waaay back on decision fatigue

This schedule eliminated my need to be constantly forcing myself to do productive things.  Now it's not a battle of willpower to go run - I just go because that's the time I'm supposed to do it.  And I realize this might not work for everyone, because it's definitely a psychological trick.  You have to tell yourself you're sticking to this schedule no matter what OR decide what the exceptions will be and avoid straying.  In my case, I follow the routine unless I scheduled something in advance that conflicts and then there's still no willpower battle - I just do the scheduled thing.  No spur-of-the moment decisions because that's when my discipline will fail.

3. It's not nearly as constraining as I thought

I think in my mind a routine had to be the same thing every day or it wouldn't "stick."  That hasn't been the case at all.  For me, it's not as much about the consistent act of every day the same thing as it is about putting things on autopilot and following the schedule.  So I do get variety because every day on the schedule is different.  Every day has its own theme and within my structured time blocks there is definitely room for choice.  Last week on Thursday (baby-at-home day), I left my mom group and decided to let Orion nap in the car while I got ice cream instead of rushing back home to have him nap in his crib.  He still got his nap in, I got a fun treat, and the day felt more spontaneous without breaking the routine or having to leave things undone.

4. It keeps my irrational night-time brain in check

So one night I was convinced I was way behind with work things and I'd never catch up and all my clients would hate me.  I told Ryan I was going to break the routine and pull an all-nighter.  He talked me down and then the next morning, I completed my tasks in a matter of 2 or 3 hours and was all caught up.  Later (during my first ever business coaching session!), I was discussing this phenomenon where business tasks always feel so urgent late at night and Coach told me that your rational, thinking brain (pre-frontal cortex?) functions best in the morning.  He said by evening it's tired and the amygdala, which runs your fear and fight-or-flight response, takes over.  So now, knowing this, I can ignore that sudden, driving urge to get back to work when the baby goes to bed.

5. I'm rediscovering my own emotions

In my post on joy I said something about how the only times I've felt actual "joy" have been moments with the baby.  I also said that I felt more of those moments when I got more sleep and that trend has definitely continued.  The other night I went into the basement to say goodnight to Ryan and I caught him mid-binge on a pile of Reese's cups.  I don't know if it was the role reversal or the funny mock-panic face he gave me, but I laughed my ass off.  I think that moment was my favorite thing to happen this past week.

I think I'd gone so long feeling angry and unhappy that the lower plateau of not miserable felt like normal.  But now I'm starting to laugh and really feel it deep down inside, and have moments of happiness unclouded by other, negative emotions and I'm realizing I was not "back to normal" and that was not "the new normal."  That was sleep deprivation, and I don't need to live that way.

6. I'm learning what I enjoy

One thing I've never been able to consistently do is go to bed an hour early and follow any sort of bedtime routine or journal.  So the past two weeks have been kind of revelatory in that regard.  I'm discovering that I do like journaling (I always thought I didn't but really I don't like trying to force myself to do it when I'm exhausted and want to collapse into bed).  I also like my particular journal, which has prompts for making lists.

I like the end of the day being "output" time instead of input.  It's easier to sleep when I've emptied my brain out and I feel calmer and more centered.  I've also found a couple other things I enjoy: waking up with clean-feeling teeth, not having clothes strewn all over the floor, making the bed every day, and, oddly enough, brushing my hair at night.  I don't really care about washing my face, but the fact that I'm taking care of my skin and my body makes me feel better in general.

7. I'm getting confirmation that this is a healthier way to live

An unexpected side effect of this past 2 weeks: I've lost a couple pounds.  Without trying.  I made zero diet rules.  The only thing is that this schedule makes room for cooking.  So I'm preparing healthy meals for the family and we're all eating better.  I'm not specifically trying to avoid binge-eating but I desire it less when I'm not so tired and stressed AND this new schedule simply doesn't make time for it.

I'm curious to see if this trend continues but it's totally not a focus or a priority right now.  Forming healthy habits and feeling good are the only things I'm worried about.  Health and happiness > weight.  Always.


It's not always this cut and dry.  Some days my fear brain takes over and I bemoan the fact that I'm behind on everything and I do miss my all-nighters.  Even if I didn't always get a lot done, I enjoyed them in a weird, perverse way.  I sometimes feel like balancing my time so evenly between all the different segments of life means that none of them are going to move forward very fast.  And that's true, but the overall trend is still up for the areas I've prioritize AND for my overall happiness/mental sanity.

I spend the last 8 months building my business as much as I could without dropping dead from sleep deprivation or neglecting my child.  I don't regret it because I accomplished a lot, but it's also not sustainable long term and I'm ready to ramp it down for a while.  Maybe eventually I'll be ready to switch gears again, but for now this schedule, this routine, and these priorities are working.

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Oct 12, 2017

My Rehaul of the High School Curriculum

My mom suggested that I do a post about useful things I didn't learn until well into adulthood.  I was struggling to come up with ideas and then I bastardized it and turned it into this instead, BUT I kept Momma's tips in the relevant categories.

Social Studies => Political Science

Less focus on dates and names and more on the reasons why things happened and a comparison of historical events to current ones.  The whole point of history is supposed to be so we can avoid repeating it, right?  So let's learn why it happened, not just what happened.

Home Economics => How to Survive On Your Own

Less perfecting your fudge lava cake recipe and more meal planning, budgeting, laundry, and how to take care of yourself.  My mom made us do our own laundry and it wasn't until my younger sisters went to college that I learned that many of their peers had no idea how.  No college students should be going home on weekends so their parents can do their laundry (and those parents probably shouldn't enable them - using a free washer is one thing, folding your 20-year-old's dirty underwear is just ridiculous).

Tip from Momma: Instead of guessing which corner of a fitted sheet is which, look for the manufacturer's washing instructions tag. It goes in the lower right corner (as you face the bottom of the bed).

Also: Plastic wrap containers have perforated tabs on each end that you can punch in to keep the roll in place when you dispense the wrap.

Computers/Typing => Job Hunting

Sure, students will probably have to learn Microsoft Office at some point.  But typing?  Come on, they'll learn that on their own.  Teach kids something useful (especially for those who aren't planning on college) and help them build resumes, practice interview skills, and show them where job search sites are.

Health => Still Health but with a Parenting Component

I think it's good to learn about STDs and drugs and so on.  But instead of giving students a math lesson ("Every time you have sex, you have a [insert surprisingly low number here] chance of getting pregnant"), make them take care of babies for a week or two.  Although I will say that the birth video is spot on as a warning for safe sex.

Gym => Exercise & Nutrition

I didn't learn that the food pyramid is outdated until I was an adult and doing my own health research.  How many overweight teenagers struggle with dieting, starvation, and diet pills instead of simply eating healthier food???  I know I was one.  And introducing teenagers to badminton seems far less important than teaching them about keeping their bodies fit.  Active vs dynamic stretching!  Avoiding injury while weight lifting.  How to use a food tracker and what's healthy weight loss or gain looks like.

Driver's Ed => Driving & Car Maintenance

We need to learn to drive, yes, but also what to do in an emergency.  How to change a flat tire, check your fluids, where the spare is located in a car, and so on.  I don't think everyone needs to know how to do an oil change, but what AAA is, how much a tow costs, and whether your insurance has free roadside assistance are all good to know.

Tip from Momma: Every car... including your rental car... has a little arrow by the gas gauge telling you which side the gas cap is on.

Language Arts => Reading, Writing, & Logic

Grammar is important!  I will not argue that point.  Bit I will argue that memorizing vocabulary words for the SATs and DSTPs is probably less important than critical thinking skills.  Also, how to write compelling copy!  Not that everyone needs to get into marketing, but I feel cheated that I made it to college before I learned what a "hook" is.  Also that every essay should have a point - my high school teachers were happy to let me write inane compare-and-contrast essays that had absolutely no purpose.

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Baby Stuff - What I Liked, What I Didn't, and What I Wished We Had Bought

I should probably chop this into several posts, but I don't wanna so you get this one monstrous post of all the baby "stuff" opinions I have.

To Bring to the Hospital for Delivery

You get so much advice about what to bring to the hospital and what you'll NEED as soon as you bring that baby home.  We did our best to sift through what was actually necessary and what was superfluous or a luxury, and I think our "must haves" ended up being different than any other list.

1. A Pillow & Blanket

For your spouse or whoever might be in the waiting room with you.  I was well taken care of, but Ryan was exhausted and his nap on the bench they have for spouses looked pretty uncomfortable.

2. Clothes to Wear Home

Bring stretchy pants that fit during the middle of your pregnancy.  I'm sure I'm not the only one who was surprised and disappointed that after having the baby I still looked about 5 months pregnant.  Definitely don't bring your pre-pregnancy clothes unless you want yet another trigger for all those unstable hormones!

3. That's It

Seriously, all that advice about bringing slippers and a robe and so on, just no.  All that means is extra stuff in your hospital bag that you won't use and then have to make sure you grab when you switch rooms after.  They provide you with a hospital gown, and an extra one for your backside if you want to roam the hallways.  You get socks with grip on the bottom, and the delivery table/bed thing is messy enough that you probably don't want to use your own version of anything from home.  They also provide all the necessities for feminine hygiene, thank goodness!  I can guarantee that nothing you currently have at home is going to suffice for what your body will do after having a baby.

You could bring clothes for your baby, but the hospital provides basic onesies, and plenty of blankets for swaddling.  All the hospital babies are almost constantly swaddled.  They also provide little hats and tons of diapers.  You really don't need to bring a diaper bag to the hospital.  You do need your baby's car seat in the car, and if you know ahead of time you won't be breast feeding, you could bring bottles and formula.  (Honestly, I'll probably smuggle this in next time even though we will be trying to breast feed again because I'm not going to listen to a hungry baby screaming for hours instead of sleeping while the hospital reassures us that "You can't run out of milk."  Hahahaha, bullshit.)

To Buy for Your Home

1. Diaper Pails!

I thought, "Surely this is unnecessary" but then my mom pointed out that maybe our garage wouldn't smell so bad if we didn't have dog poop bags out in the regular trash bin.  So we bought one and started using it for that before we even brought the baby home and IT WAS AWESOME!!!  They're so good at containing the smell.  We have one in the garage for diapers changed on the main floor and one in our bathroom upstairs and neither smells at all if they're closed and locked.  When the upstairs one gets a bit fragrant upon opening, I sprinkle in some baking soda and that helps keep the odors inside.

2. Play Mat

Somewhere around 4 months we started using this and it was the first toy that Orion interacted with and held his interest.  It was such a relief to have him able to be entertained for even 10 minutes at a time!  AND he still plays with it now at 8 months, which is pretty enduring considering how fast babies change.

Ours was a fun, jungle themed one and it has music and lights and all that, but we didn't always use those and it still worked pretty well.  I think any play mat with dangly things hanging over would work fine.

3. Bouncy Seat

Some people swear by baby swings, or the "Mommaroo," but our baby loves his bouncy seat.  That thing has entertained him for countless hours AND after he started getting more mobile was a nice, safe place to put him while I did chores or, you know, used the bathroom.  In general, having some sort of thing you can put your baby in and know that they're not going to hit their head, or get into something dangerous, is a godsend.

4. Food Masher Thing

We've mostly been feeding Orion from off our plates but at some point he decided he didn't need to bother with gumming/chewing.  So now we've kind of regressed and we mash things up for him to make sure he doesn't choke.  It's basically the baby version of a mortar and pestle.  Sorry I don't have an actual product name but I'm sure some inventive googling will successfully pull it up!

5. Glider

Expensive, yes, but amazing for feeding and rocking to sleep!  I'm a little sad that Orion's outgrown this and doesn't let me rock him to sleep anymore, but this was a total must have during the early days and maybe we'll use it again at some point in  the future.

Things People Recommended That We Did Not Need

1. Wipe Warmer

You can just hold them in your palm for a second - problem solved.  But then again, maybe our baby was less sensitive than the child of the recommendor.

2. Baby Food Processor

We really haven't been making special foods for the baby, and when we do the food masher works fine.  It doesn't need to be a special puree.

3. Baby Utensils

I mean, no one specifically recommended this, but I find myself not really using them ever.  How do I feed my baby, you ask?  With my hands.  Straight from the highchair tray.  We're heathens, I guess.

Things I Wish We Had Gotten

1. Baby Changing Table

For the most part, people were right and you just change the baby wherever you happen to be in the house.  But in the early newborn stages, I was feeding him and changing him in the closet (on the floor) so Ryan could get some sleep and my back hurt all the time from constantly hunching over.  A changing table would have been nice!

2. Dresser

This is not a must have and I know it, but the organizer part of me really hates that we don't have one central location for baby clothes.  I thought we'd move them into his room when he started sleeping there, but instead we kept them and in the morning I just go get him and bring him into our room to get ready.  It actually works pretty well, but we'll need something at some point, right?

Bonus Tips

  1. Footie pajamas are much easier with a zipper instead of snaps
  2. For bibs, the opposite!  They have them mostly in snaps or velcro and the velcro will attach itself to other clothes in the wash and mess your delicate laceys up.  Snaps = far superior.
  3. You probably won't have to buy any newborn or 3 month onesies.  We only started having to buy clothes around the 6 month mark because so many people bought us stuff.
  4. You cannot have too many receiving blankets - you'll be using these to wipe up bodily fluids, swaddle the baby, pad uncomfortable services, and as blankets in mildly chilly weather.  A coworker was very generous and gave us their (massive) pile of receiving blankets.  At the time, while grateful, I couldn't help but wonder, "Why on earth are there so many?"  Now I know.

Jenn signature graphic | Optimization, Actually

Oct 9, 2017

Replacing Joy with Serenity

The search for happiness has been a long, and ongoing one.  I've written about it and discussed it with my mom, Ryan, my friends, coworkers, even my book club.

The book club said something that resonated with me.  "There's so much emphasis on being happy all the time."  Yes!  Why am I spending so much time and energy trying desperately to reach this thing that would be probably occur more naturally if I just relaxed a little?  And is it so freaking important to be happy all the time?

Ryan and I were sitting and watching TV and I felt quietly content.  I told him so and said maybe, as adults, that's our new happiness.  A coworker said the same thing.  I said something about "being mindful and finding joy in every moment" and he laughed and said, "That doesn't exist!"  He then described an evening after his kids (3) were in bed and no one was running, yelling, or trying to give him a wet willy.

So this idea of shifting to seeking serenity and contentment instead of joy almost feels like a relief to me.  Joy takes energy, joy is a level of emotion I haven't felt much of since my teenage years, when they were equally interspersed with dark moods of depression and anger.

When I talked to my mom, I repeated pretty much all of these comments because I tell her everything, and when I got to the part about mindfulness and essential oils and gratitude lists she said, "That's not joy!  That's just busywork."

And I kind of like that.  Every single moment of joy I've had in the last few months has been from my baby.  I didn't seek them out.  I didn't journal them or scent myself into aromatherpied bliss.  I just held him or watched him or listened to his little giggle.  And it just happened.

But I will say this.  The past week of following that new schedule I set up, and getting enough sleep, I have had more of those little moments than I'd previously had in a month.

So like my tangent in the last post - I think you need a strong base, and then after that life and happiness and success will follow.  I don't think those things need so much work and I don't think it's the end of the world if they don't happen right away or right when and how you want them.

Serenity is good, too.  My favorite moments of this past week have been quietly watching TV on the couch with Ryan, or just talking.  My evening routine where I'm alone and NOT working for a whole hour!  I brush my hair and teeth and, yes, I journal.  But I think by forcibly removing myself from my phone, I've given myself quiet space to think and be calm and I think I really, really needed that.

It's somewhat ironic that a year or two ago, the idea of giving up on happiness and "joy" were somewhat depressing.  It felt like settling.  Now, the idea of joy is exhausting and aiming for serenity instead makes me feel calmer and more relaxed.  I don't want to work hard right now.  I want to conserve the mental energy I have left for actually doing things and not on having the proper mindset while I do them.

Maybe one day I'll switch back.  Babies grow up and I'll have more time to myself, to be alone and to work on myself.  But for now, trading in joy for serenity is not such a bad deal at all.

Jenn signature graphic | Optimization, Actually

In My Darkest Moments

Remember how I was so positive I didn't have postpartum depression?  Well, I read on someone's blog (and I didn't research this because I really just don't see the point of dwelling on it too much) that postpartum is actually NOT characterized by typical feelings of sadness and hopelessness, but anger, irritation, and lashing out at loved ones.


IF that is true (and I'm still not going to Google it), then there's a teeny, tiny chance that perhaps my counselor was right and I was having a bit of postpartum.  Perhaps.

Because I've been pretty damn reactive ever since having the baby.  Every little thing is irritating, and for a long, long time I was mad at Ryan at least once a day every single day.  Sometimes for most of the day.

Although part of me thinks this is more due to sleep deprivation than anything else, but even after a whole week! of getting 6+ hours, I'm still less tolerant than I'd like to be.

That friend needing favors and always wanting to talk about her wedding.  OMFG, leave me alone!

Any moment I'm working (which is 99% of the time) and Ryan isn't (almost never but it does happen).  HOW DARE YOU?!  Can't you see how tired I am?  Why do YOU get a break???

That friend whose marriage is shit, and her job pays shit, and she's pregnant and wants me to be happy for her.  I'm trying, I really am, but Jesus, woman!  Get your life together.

Toast peeing on the rug for the bajillionth time, and always being afraid, and having so many needs.  I'm sorry baby dog, but I have, for the first time ever since getting our first dog, had the occasional wistful thought about how much easier life would be without you.  For the record, we DO NOT get rid of pets.  I also don't drive off of bridges, or punch people in the face, but you know how the mind wanders sometimes.

When people are so proud of themselves for not being interested in something that's currently popular or trending or whatever.  Oh, you don't love pumpkin spice?  My, what a rare, special unicorn you are!  Oh, the eclipse is boring?  I'm so glad you're proud of being uninterested in science.  I just don't see the point in talking about how you don't want to talk about something.  Why not, instead, just talk about what you want to talk about?

Unsolicited advice, from anyone.

Woo-woo.  In my personal life, sure, but I've run out of patience for manifesting, law of attraction, and any other supposed business advice that life coaches use to make money off of other people.  One life coach had us all stating our "true" income goals, and encouraged us to be ambitious.  Her number?  $100,000/month.  WTF?  Who makes that much, other than CEOS?  What would you even do with that much money?  It's a ridiculous fucking number pulled out of her ass that has no bearing to the value of her services or the likelihood that she'll ever offer enough product or service to get there.  And she's going to manifest it by believing it's true.  I'm so done with this bullshit.

In a similar vein, quick fixes.  Anyone telling me I can make "quick, easy money" from their shady-ass MLM, or that I can make money by manifesting instead of working, I can be healthy from essential oils instead of diet and exercise, or happy just by keeping a gratitude list and lighting some candles.  Life is work, people!  Even happiness is work and sure, some of those techniques help but only after being applied consistently over time.  And they're no replacement for having a solid base.  A healthy lifestyle, a healthy mindset, a life and job you want to be living, a strong work ethic, and a good business model.

Now, I'm not in a constant state of irritation, but it doesn't take much and in some of my darker moments, I feel this, all of this, all at once.  It's overwhelming.  So yeah, anything taking up extra mental energy, and everything nonessential, is getting set aside at the moment.

Call it an act of self care, all this stepping back and letting go and minimizing down.  I've got the essential oils, too, but I think the biggest contributor to feeling better and removing some of this irritable haze from my days is the extra sleep and endorphins from running 3 days a week.

Jenn signature graphic | Optimization, Actually

Oct 5, 2017

I Get That I Don't Get It

Remember how worried I was about having a child "changing me"?  I've had some time to reflect on that and I think I was guilty of 2 things: 1) Not fully understanding what it's like to be a parent and 2) Being really fucking judgy.

So I've had a baby for 8 months.  I'm still me.  I still like all the same things and I'd love to run around and do those things.  But in order to make time for them, I have to not spend time with my child, not work on my business, or lose sleep and/or a precious scrap of time to myself.

It's a lot harder to get out and do all those things I was running around doing before and the trade off doesn't necessarily look all that appealing when you're tired.

So Dear Past Self,

Kindly fuck off.

Lol!  Just kidding.  That's unnecessarily harsh.  But it's totally true that I was over here like, "New parents just change and lose themselves in their children" and on and on and I had no idea what was actually happening in their lives or why they were making those choices.

We do not have a baby sitter outside of my mom.  A few friends have offered in the past but, frankly, it seemed either half-hearted, logistically difficult, or (in one case) we weren't sure could actually handle it.  So we didn't take them up on it.  Roommate actually babysat once or twice, but he's got a second job now and is rarely home.

As you may recall, we HAD a nanny, but she hurt her back after a mere one week of watching the baby, so she is no longer an option even for occasional childcare.  Of course, I could pay for another month of and screen through a bunch of strangers, hoping for another good option.  Or recruit more seriously among my friends, or any number of things.

So yeah, we should find a babysitter.  But even if we did, now that Orion's in daycare, I don't feel like I spend THAT much time with him.  Thursdays and the weekends.  So to go out and do something with someone else, I'm literally prioritizing them over time with my baby.

Dear Past Self,

Did you think you deserved to be more important to someone than their own baby?  No, you did not.  You just never thought about that at all.

I do happily go out and do things when babies are welcome.  He goes to dinner and the dog park and the store and museums and anywhere else someone won't side eye us.  He's even been on an airplane, despite the side eye.  (And that lady was a total asshole before we even boarded.)

I guess what I'm saying is that I'm trying, in a kind of tired, half-assed way.  If everyone else who supposedly wanted to see me would compromise just a tad, even in their own half-assed way, we'd see a lot more of each other.  Example: We went to the beach all the way in New Jersey because my bloggy buddies Alyssa, Michael, and Dani wanted the baby there.  That birthday part the baby couldn't come to?  Yeah, we'll come but only for one hour because my mom doesn't want to put the baby to bed and I don't blame her.

To better sum up: we're a package deal now.  And I know that's not optimal and I know there are a lot of activities that are better and more fun without a baby.  But I made the choice to have a baby and I accepted all those trade-offs.  I guess my friends didn't necessarily agree to the trade-offs when I got pregnant, but they're also not the ones living my life.

I'm just rambling now, but if there's any point to be had in here it's this: you really don't know what you're talking about until you experience something.  And if you're thinking, "She's just saying that because she's a mom now" you're right!  I was totally judgy and not sympathetic and now I have a kid, and holy crap I get it!

My own personal goal is to chill out a little and stop judging people in situations I haven't experienced.  Because I am wrong all the freaking time.

Even about something as basic as love or instinct or whatever.  Prior to baby, I thought, "Sure, yeah, parents love their kids.  Duh!"

Now I'm like, "NO!  I did not get it.  I LOVE my kids.  I love my kid so intensely that I don't know if I'd want to keep living if something happened to him.  Which is not necessarily good or healthy but it's the truth."

I'm not even going to think about that any more because it makes me upset.

So anyway, I guess the point is not just not to judge, but to be ok with not getting it.

There's a South Park episode (and yeah, South Park is kind of gross - I usually don't watch) where one of the kid's dads says the "n" word.  Token (the "token black character") is upset about it and the kid (white) keeps trying to make it up to him and saying, "I get it.  Why won't you accept my apology?"

Finally at the end of the episode, the white kid says, "I get it.  I get that I don't get it and I could never get it."  (And many more words that I don't remember.)

Token says, "Now, you're getting it."

Lol!!!  Ridiculous, but it stuck with me because the whole point was that there are some experiences we can't understand because we have never and maybe even could never be in that person's shoes.

My book club recently discussed Bad Feminist and the one chapter where I felt completely distanced from the group was the one on weight.  I like that we occasionally address this topic but in this case the author had said something about a book about fat camp where the main character was traumatized by being 30 pounds overweight and how unrealistic that is.

I am overweight.  The rest of the book club is not.  Now, I'm not obese and I'm not overweight to the level that Gay talks about in the book where you don't fit into clothes outside of plus size stores, and you don't always fit on public transport and people treat you like shit.  But I guess being overweight and having friends who are closer to that side of the spectrum makes me more sensitive to that point of view.

The rest of the book club thought Gay was being too judgy for saying you can't be traumatized by a 30 pound weight gain.  I thought they were ridiculous for thinking 30 pounds overweight could compare to 100 or 200 pounds overweight.

In both cases, I think we should probably just assume there are experiences we don't understand.  They couldn't possibly understand what it feels like to not know if you'll be over the weight limit for things you want to do, and I can't possibly understand feeling traumatized by 30 pounds because I've gained it and more and still think I'm fabulous.

I'm sure there's more examples I could apply it to, but I'm just beating a dead horse at this point.  Let's all chill and try to be more understanding.

Jenn out.

Jenn signature graphic | Optimization, Actually

Oct 3, 2017

What Blogging Means to Me

It's interesting how my answer (and probably your answer, too) has changed to this over time.  At one point I had newly discovered how cathartic blogging could be and I wrote a post on The Psychological Impacts of Blogging.  (I was prepared to reread this and cringe but it's actually pretty solid.  Good job, past me.)  At that time it felt exciting and, I'll confess, I was a little wrapped up in the numbers game.

How many views can I get?  How many people commented on that post?  What can I write that people will like?

Now I'm lazy.  I've tried to quit a couple times and failed because I just enjoy it too much.  Each time I "quit" and came back, I shed a little more of that fake sense of obligation to provide value to others.  (I say fake because I never intended to monetize so why stress over numbers or who does or does not like my posts?)

I still write to "you" and love having discussions with people who comment, but it's almost like a diary at this point.  I've even thought about making the blog private and literally using it as a diary since I've never successfully journaled and that would open this space up to the last few remaining taboo topics.

But I'm not quite there yet, which indicates that the community holds some sway over me, still, small and intimate as it is.  I learned about Tony Robbins' 6 Basic Needs not too long ago and concluded that, for me, blogging hits every single one of them.
  • Certainty - I know how writing makes me feel
  • Uncertainty - I don't know how people will respond (although I'm fairly confident that it'll be generally positive)
  • Significance - What?  People care enough about little ol' me to come here and read my words???
  • Love & Connection - Daw, you guys...
  • Growth - Like the primary thing I write about.  This is my self actualization journey up in heah!
  • Contribution - This is a tenuous connection, especially as I continue to downsize and make my blog harder to access, but I always like it when someone says I've given them an idea or a new way to think about things.  Let's be honest here, who doesn't like knowing they've impacted someone else?
But anyway, back on the "I do what I want" topic.  One thing I'm starting to appreciate more and more about this space is that I literally can write whatever and however I want.  I'm blogging somewhat steadily over on my business website and I'm using the SEO plugin on WordPress and trying to get the green light on my readability score and every once in a while I feel really resentful.

What?  That sentence is too long?  Oh, people don't know that word?  Are you serious - my paragraphs are too long?!?!  FINE!  I'll add more images and bullets.

I still enjoy it, for the most part, but there is definitely a lot more effort that comes into play when you have to write within certain parameters.  And here I don't have to worry about the balance between professionalism and boring.  I don't have to provide value.  I can abuse grammar to my heart's content and string those sentences on and on and on.

Most of all, I can use whatever phrasing I want.  I hate the idea of "dumbing down" articles.  I understand that ease of use is important on the Internet and that people just want to skim and get the content out without a lot of time spent deciphering my language.  But I also think context provides the answer to any questions they might have on verbiage.

I'll be honest - I probably don't follow any blogs specifically for their turn of phrase.  I follow because I like them as a person or because I get value out of the posts.  But my favorite authors almost always have little quirks of phrasing that I enjoy, or they set the scene really well.  I enjoy vivid imagery.  I enjoy soaking into the world of my favorite fantasy novels.

So while I'm certainly not going to start writing fantasy short stories, I still appreciate the ability to express myself in as many, or few, words as I want.  I like saying "loathed" or "despised" instead of "hated."

I talked before about my friend finding journey and how I've given up on having friends that can empathize with all the levels.  Now they're compartmentalized into art friends or mom friends or business friends.  Sometimes they hit 2 or even 3 levels, but this blog is literally the one place (other than to my mom) where I can be all the levels.

I can talk about my business, I can post my weekly workouts, I can write my reviews of fantasy books.  Now that I've ceased to care about comment count, I could even post those fantasy short stories if I really wanted to and I was still writing them.

I get to be completely and fully myself, without topic moderation, without watching for eyes glazing to indicate I should stop talking business or sci-fi or what have you.

I can be sassy and snarky and sometimes outright whiny.  And when I do get comments, almost without fail you guys are positive and helpful and nice.  You are always on my side and more forgiving of my faults than I am myself.  It's ridiculous.  In my personal blogging experience, this little circle is comprised of the best followers of the "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all" philosophy that I've ever met.

So that's it.  To me blogging is like my little hidey hole where I can read a book with a bag of chocolate and no bra, judgement-free, combined with a stream of inspirational and supportive comments from friends.  It's not just the comfort of solitude or the reassurance of other people.  It's both together.

What does blogging mean to you?  If you had to abuse your blog with elaborate metaphors and similes, how would you describe it?

Jenn signature graphic | Optimization, Actually

Oct 2, 2017

Cutting Shit Out

Another thing I've been talking about with only minimal success in implementing: pruning.

It was so hard to hold firm and stick with my "No."  To be actually done and not just taking a break for a day or two.

But I've been finding myself more and more irritable lately.  Irritated with the blogs I've been reading, not wanting to leave or respond to comments, and after vacillating between turning off comments and just hiding the blog altogether, finally choosing the latter.

This is officially my space to sort out my thoughts and write purely for pleasure.  I actually quite enjoyed selecting the 15+ comments in my inbox and deleting them without even looking.  Sorry guys!

On a similar note, I'm going to exercise the crap out of "No" in order to adhere to that routine I posted.  I'm going to stop giving myself choices and hope that the break from making decisions gives me back some of the willpower I've been stretching too thin.

I do think my social life and friendships are going to take a hit, but at this point it's time to finally accept that something must give.  I know I'm not going to stop prioritizing my baby or my business, so if I get a 3rd priority before running out of energy or time, it needs to be myself or Ryan.

I almost wrote this post a couple days ago.  It would have been a lot sadder at that point.  I was going to write this:

"I am failing.  I feel like I am failing everyone and everything and I can't keep up with any of it.  I'm a huge mess and as I continue to overload myself, I feel more and more irritated and I don't want to put up with anyone's shit."

So I'm glad to come to this place of calm and acceptance.  I'm ready to let go.  I'm ready to make changes.  I'm ready to admit I cannot do all the things and to choose 4 or 3 or even just 2 and really kick ass at those 2 things.

Jenn signature graphic | Optimization, Actually

Routine Building

You all know how much I've been struggling with routines.  Ryan and I will have our Friday night family discussion and we talk about what worked and what didn't and how we want the next week to go.

Friday night has long been set aside as date night but I broke that this past week and had a friend come over to work on her Save the Dates for her wedding. He was a little annoyed, and he said something like, "You have to decide that you're going to actually do this." And normally I might brush that off as crankiness but he had a point.

I've been struggling so hard to get on a routine and that's why. Because I break my own rules and make exceptions all the time. So I took my optimal daily schedule that I've had floating around in my head and put it on my Trello board for "this week." If I do anything that's not included in the schedule, I have to choose something to bump off. I think having that visual and realizing I can't actually "do both" or "get it all done" will help me say no to more things.

I'm actually really excited about this, which is silly because I've tried so many things and they haven't worked. But, but, Trello! Everything works if it's on Trello!!!

The colors are for different types of activities and the ones with my picture are the work tasks that are supposed to be completed in each of those time slots. I don't currently estimate how long each of those tasks is going to take but maybe I should, to get really clear on whether they'll fit in the time spots I'm putting them in.

This is also good because with the colors I can easily visualize how much time in my week is being allotted to different priorities, like exercise or family.  I added a couple things like "spend time actually playing with baby and not doing anything else" because I realized I literally didn't have any time slots for him.  He was just an obstacle that the rest of my routines were working around.

I can even specify a theme for each day:
  • M - Errands
  • T - Paying the bills
  • W - Working ON the business
  • Th - Family
  • F - Working IN the business
  • S - Social
  • Su - Relaxation
Only quasi-related, this blog is now secret and private and I'm still writing to "you guys" mostly out of habit, but I guess if I ever republish people might see it again.  For now this is a private journal to get my head straight and work through stuff and the task of "replying to comments," enjoyable as it may be, is one I've deprioritized and removed from my life.

More on that in the next post.

Jenn signature graphic | Optimization, Actually

Sep 28, 2017

Things I Have Zero Patience For

I know I let things get to me too much and I shouldn't be irritated about blog posts and social media and so on.  Butttt... sometimes it's nice to just complain.  So here you go!

Things I Have Zero Patience For

Complaining About Being Fat

First off, there's nothing wrong with being fat.  If you're going to be bigger, why not just own it and love your beautiful self, regardless of size and what society says is ideal?  Secondly, are you actually doing anything to change it?  Yeah, I know it's hard.  I've experienced the struggle as has every single other overweight person I know.  With a very, very few exceptions for people who actually have thyroid issues, there's nothing special about your body that makes it harder for you than everyone else.  We all struggle and we only succeed when we really work to make it happen.  Decide what you want to do and be and then rock it.

Giving Away Pets

This is one area where I'm not ashamed to judge people.  It's amazing how many people suddenly develop allergies to their pets years after getting them when something else happens (like a baby) and they don't want them anymore.  Go be around animals before you adopt one.  If you have allergies, you'll figure it out before taking responsibility for a creature's life instead of finding out later and ditching your pet like a child with an old toy.

Our Home Owner's Association

The one meeting I went to was plenty for me.  I unfollowed the Facebook group because my neighbors are the whiniest assholes.  We don't want dogs in our yards or kids in the street!  Build a playground or a dog park?  Hell no!  We don't want to pay for that!  It's just constant whining and unwillingness to take any proactive measures.

People Not Helping Plan Events

You know when you say, "Who wants to go to happy hour?" and everyone says, "YAZZZZ, that sounds amazing!"  But then you ask, "Does such and such a day/time/location work for everyone?" and it goes silent.  Fine.  We just won't do it.  You think I've got time to plan all this shit AND keep following up with your ass to see if you actually want to do it?  No.  We're all equally busy.  I don't have magical reserves of time that you don't.  I'll invite someone who doesn't make it hard for me.


Things I Have MORE Patience For (than I used to)

Babies Crying

Someone else's baby was crying at my office job the other day and I thought, "Awww, it's a baby!" instead of "Ermagawd, I'm going to slam my head into a wall!"  Who knew having your own kid would toughen you up to everyone else's as well?

Jenn signature graphic | Optimization, Actually

Sep 26, 2017

What Men Don't Get About Being a Woman

I read an interesting article the other day about the "real reason women drink."  It's not click bait, despite the title - it's a pretty well-thought out analysis of some of the difficulties women face in the everyday world and how we use alcohol as a coping mechanism.

I don't know if I agree with the article that women use it more than men do because our lives are more terrible, but I do agree that alcohol is a crutch and a huge proportion of our population uses it to self medicate whenever life isn't performing the way they'd prefer.

Something the author said that I found compelling was that if any situation requires you to drink to cope, maybe it's time to change the situation instead of just drinking to forget that it's bad.  I do think one (of many) benefits to my own sobriety has been realizing which activities I actually enjoy for themselves and which are just fun for the alcohol and because everyone else seems to think it's fun.  (Dancing = still fun.  Flip cup = meh.)

But there are situations that we can't actually change, alcohol or no.  There is racism and classism and misogyny.  There are all kinds of ugly, little cultural mindsets that impact us negatively every day.

I'm all too apt to brush these things off, but my sisters and I were chatting about this and I've got a few stories.  I'll start with the scary one and end on the funnier ones.

Sister3 was walking home at night and a car stopped and rolled down the window.  Thinking it was perhaps an uber trying to find his/her passenger, she walked towards the car.  Upon hearing the catcalling that followed, she realized it wasn't someone confused or in need of assistance but just some gross asshole.

So she walked away.  And he followed her.

She tried turning a corner and he turned to keep up with her.  She was getting nervous when she tried walking the wrong way on a one-way and that successfully deterred stalker asshole.

This story reminded me of that video from a couple years ago.  The one with the woman who walks around New York and the many negative reactions she gets from people in the street (men) simply by not returning their greeting.  It reminds me of how infuriating the comments are because a huge number of men thought it was her own fault for not being friendlier.  Because women have time to engage with a stranger every 60 seconds of their day.  Fucking ridiculous.  I can't even talk to my own baby that frequently and I'm in charge of his mental development.

So anyway, that story is a little scary because there are crazy people in the city and getting pulled into a car isn't a story that usually ends well.  But it didn't happen and Sister3 is ok, minus a little scare.

The next story is from the male perspective.  My father recently went on a trip to visit relatives.  He forgot his glasses, which he's supposed to use for driving but especially at night when his vision goes to shit.  Rather than do the smart thing and stay put after dark or have someone else give him a ride, he drove off on his own and got lost.

Finally after aimlessly driving around for a while, he stopped at a gas station to get directions.  He got out of his car and walked towards the first person he saw - a woman pumping gas next to her car.

She walked away.  He followed her.  She walked faster, and he KEPT FOLLOWING HER!

He had no fucking idea.  According to the story he chased her all the way around her car before he realized what the problem was and said, "I just need directions!"  Hopefully that was an exaggeration, for her sake.  She was apparently a stellar human being because all she said was, "You gave me a little fright" and then gave him directions.

We heard this story and laughed because, it too, had a happy ending.  And the idea of someone being so oblivious that they accidentally threaten someone is kind of funny.  But it also really highlights how much men do not understand what it's like to constantly be on guard for potential threats.

And now the least serious story.

On the day of writing this (who knows how long it's been to actually post), I stopped for gas before heading to my office job.  It was around 6:45am on Labor Day so it was pretty empty and I was enjoying the lack of crowds.  I also happened to be wearing makeup and heels because I'd pulled yet another all-nighter and after finishing up at 4am, knew I couldn't take a nap and still be on time to work so spent that extra time gettin' purdy instead.

I didn't feel particularly pretty, despite the effort I'd put into my attire.  I mostly felt groggy and ready to go into survival mode for the day.  So I was taken aback when a man stopped his truck close enough to call to me,

"It's a shame that someone looks so good [gesturing at me] this early in the morning and I'm so ugly."

When he'd started talking, I'd been prepared to do my waitress smile and make whatever small talk was required while pumping gas, but that...  That confused me.

Was I supposed to reassure him that he wasn't ugly?  Was I supposed to just agree with his compliment/insult and say "thank you"?  Was he hitting on me at 7am at a gas station?

My brain couldn't figure it out and when I tried to formulate a response that wouldn't open me up for potential flirting, it failed completely.  So instead I made a strangled, "Mlehehghghg" noise and quickly turned back to the gas pump.

And I think that's another thing men don't understand.  I don't want to be rude and blow people off.  But it's also 7am, my brain isn't working, and I don't necessarily want someone telling me how good I look.  I put makeup on as some ridiculous sort of psychological trick to amp myself into surviving an all-nighter.  I didn't put it on thinking I could get some attention at the gas station.

I can even picture a scenario where it would my dad making a similar comment.  And it wouldn't be intending to hit on that person.  He would just notice that someone stood out because they were more dressed up than the rest of the customers, then make a self-deprecating joke.

But as a woman, I can't just assume it's all harmless and silly.  I can't just let someone buy me a drink at a bar.  I can't give my number to a man who says he's interested in hanging out and making more friends because he "just moved here."

As a woman, and frankly, not even a particularly hot one (not fishing for compliments - I'm perfectly comfortable with my looks), I'm constantly on guard to prevent misunderstandings and men getting pissy with me because I "led them on" and they now feel they're owed something.

I think this morning was the first time I ever thought, "Huh, maybe I shouldn't wear makeup anymore."  What???  My brain's first thought is how to change myself to fit into a society that thinks I'm a sex object as soon as I put lipstick on?

No.  I don't accept that.  I'm going to do my thing and if people make incorrect assumptions, I'm going to correct them.  And I'm going to practice appropriate responses so that my brain doesn't vomit out random sounds in the moment.  "What do you mean by that?" "I'm not sure how I'm supposed to respond to that." "I'm not really worried about my looks right now."

What random, stupid shit have people said to you?  How did you handle it?

Jenn signature graphic | Optimization, Actually

Sep 21, 2017

Quarterly Goals - Fall

I'm a bit late, but that's ok because quarterly goals give you 3 whole months to get 'em done!

Summer Goals (June, July, August)

1) Quiet Time - there was an attempt

I read some books.  Mostly because a friend and I had visited the most amazing second hand book store and seeing physical books lying around made it harder to resist the lure.  I also, quite by accident, defined "peace" at my counselor's office as holding my baby while he sleeps.  So I've decided to quit feeling guilty for letting him fall asleep on me and instead just enjoy the quiet.

2) Mom Friends - check

I joined a local mom group on Meetup and made some other overtures.  I'm checking this off not because I've successfully made friends I see regularly but because I feel I did all I reasonably could to foster those relationships.  I don't really have any new friends yet (or solid prospects) but that's more because I don't feel as much of a drive to seek them out now that I have childcare and I can focus more on work/networking AND because I got tired of people not getting back to me.  Sometimes I'm willing to put forth the effort to make social things happen and sometimes I say, "Fuck it.  I'm busy, too, assholes."

3) An Adventure - check!

I can't take credit for this but Ryan planned the most amazing surprise for my birthday!  He had told me to keep a weekend open for him and I literally thought we were going to sit around and play video games (which I was still looking forward to but expectations were low).  Then he started asking some pointed questions about whether I'd be ok to leave the baby with "the best of care" overnight (which was/is clearly my mom).  I still wasn't expecting much more than a good night's rest until the day of, when we got into a car and proceeded to drive past Philadelphia.

At that point you pretty much know you're going to New York, which I guessed and Ryan confirmed.  Happily I chatted away, and oohed and aahed as we entered the big city.  We got to our hotel and went up to the room, where I was quite surprised to see a cake and balloon - not typical Ryan details.  As I turned to thank him, my sisters and brother-in-law burst out of the 2nd room in the suite and yelled, "Surprise!"

I almost cried.  It was awesome.  Then we went to an amazing restaurant where the worst possible thing that could be said of any of the dishes was, "It was good for brussel sprouts," saw Sleep No More which is insane, and had a leisurely stroll through Central Park the next morning munching on random food from street carts and pastry shops.

Our masks from the show.  Imagine dark hallways with lots of silent people wandering around with these on.
We also did the long-planned eclipse trip and it was awesome, too.

4) "Prune" - Semi check?

I wrote a post about pruning, and I did try to cut some stuff.  But I think what I did more of was delegating, and I guess that's ok, too.  I've got Kelli handling my social media stuff and a freelancer who works with me on Fridays.  We also hired a nanny, which was really good for a while.  Then she hurt her back and the daycare asked if we wanted to move our start date up and it all seemed rather serendipitous, so we said yes.  So pruning is less of an issue now than it was before I was gifted 3 extra baby-free days each week.

5) Get Outside - check!

We tried to go to the off-leash dog area at the state park or the dog park at least once a week.  We also walked a lot (and I got comfortable walking the dogs and baby on my own).  Then we ended the summer with a beach visit and a trip to Wyoming, so nature and sunshine galore!

4/5 - Half points for pruning and quiet time

Fall Goals (September, October, November)

  1. Run a 5K or 2 (I need something to train for)
  2. Learn to cook something new (Still inspired by the zoodles!)
  3. Try something new (I'm thinking acupuncture but am leaving this open for other ideas)
  4. Go the zoo (Orion's probably too young to really get much out of it, but I finally have a kid and I want to do kid things!)
  5. Ren Faire!!!
  6. Link up to SUYB for the first time in months
  7. Pay off my credit card (Confession: I've been floating a balance since buying my laptop.  But I'm tired of paying interest, so I'm calling in all the client invoices.  Pay me, mofos!)
  8. Burn some candles (We buy them and always forget to use them)
  9. Bake something!
  10. Try 9 new flavors at UDairy Creamery (They have seriously fun ones like cherry pie and fig/goat cheese)
I started making my fall list based on things I want to accomplish and then I thought more about my "Living with Enthusiasm" post and realized I want fun goals.  I want to eat the ice cream and watch my child's face when we show him giraffes for the first time and spend some time reading with candles and tea instead of sneaking in a few pages late at night when all the work is done and I only have 6 hours left to sleep.

I'm going to enjoy life this Fall - what about you?

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

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Sep 18, 2017

Living with Enthusiasm

I was going to write a humor post with something like "Life Lessons from a Baby" and then I realized there was really only one.  And then I analyzed it to death and turned it into this instead.

I've been told by several people that Orion is a "good sleeper."  I wouldn't know, I only have the one kid so no basis for comparison.  But even as a "good sleeper" it's still hard to put him to sleep.

He fights it.  He looks around and smiles at the dogs or Ryan or anyone else who happens to be within view, even when he's so tired that he'll start crying the next minute.  I have to feed him sitting up because he doesn't want to lay down and get sleepy.

Sometimes he's still awake when I set him down at the crib and leave the room and I turn back to say, "Good night baby" and he gives me this super happy, manipulative little smile that almost cracks me and sends me back into the room to pick him up and hold him some more.

I know that smile isn't for me.  It's an attempt to stay awake a little longer.  Because life is so amazing and so fun that he can't stand the idea of being asleep and missing out on a few hours of it.

I can't remember the last time I cherished my time that much.  That I enjoyed it so thoroughly that I wasn't willing for it to end.

I do remember being a child when the day after Christmas felt almost like a hangover.  That crushing disappointment of the holiday ending and all the decorations being put away.  No more anticipation, no more twinkly lights and old-fashioned carols.

In general, I think things are very immediate and very intense as a kid.  The highs are high, the lows are low, and I don't miss the crazy emotional mood swings of my teens.  But I do miss the zest for life and living and the enthusiasm I felt for my hobbies.

I was listening to an audiobook the other day and it was making a point about how at some point in the last few generations, it's become parent's job to be their kids' playmate in addition to parent.  How they have to structure everything.  I think the point the book was making was that we should step back and let kids be kids while we do our own, adult things.

But I wasn't in the mood for that message (though I'm sure it's valid in many ways).  I want to have fun with my kids.  I want to see things through their eyes and enjoy it vicariously through their enjoyment.  I want to play with them and laugh and be silly again.

A couple weeks ago, I was checking out at the grocery store.  It was nearing bedtime and I had Orion with me, so I was alternating talking to the cashier and doing payment things with making faces at the baby and eating his feet.  (Gotta keep the fussiness at bay, people!)  The woman behind me had 2 older kids in one of those horrible bulky car/cart things and they were obviously on her last nerve.

I could tell the cashier felt as awkward as I did because all small talk ceased as she berated her kids and I paid and left as soon as physically possible.  It's not like she was screaming or anything but there was a lot of, "Just stop it!" and "This is the last time I'm telling you." and so on.

On my way to the car I passed another family, and it was like night and day.  The dad finished loading the car while the mom tickled her son and they laughed together.  He put their child into his car seat while she brought the cart over to the cart corral and half a smile lingered on her face as she made eye contact with me.

I'm not judging either of these people.  For all I know Mom A was having a terrible day and Mom B had just won the lottery.  But it did make me think about my own relationship with my son and future kids.

Lesson 1) The higher the kid to adult ratio, the more stressful life is.  Lesson 2) As much as possible, I want to be the second mom.  I want to be having fun and enjoying the moment and not just struggling to get through life while irritating shit happens to me.

There's not a whole lot I can change in my parenting style now - an infant can only do so much, after all.  But it's a lesson I want to apply to the rest of my life.  I want more time for fun, and I want to plan events I'm genuinely excited about.  I want to savor the anticipation instead of pushing it to the back of my mind until it's time to go.  I want to do things in my business that excite me and I want to try new things.

If you go out and seek them, you're offered a lot of opportunities as a business owner.  Coffee dates, conferences, events, committee roles, and so on.  A fellow designer who recruited me for the DE Small Business Chamber's marketing committee has mentioned a couple times that the board often has openings for new directors.

It seems smart - there's perks and you sit at a high table during events, and everyone knows your name.  But the idea makes me feel tired and reluctant.  You know what does excite me?

Business conferences.  Speaking opportunities.  Classes.

I think I need to follow that little thrill of excitement I feel when considering certain possibilities and listen to my gut when it says, "Meh."  It doesn't always need to be the most logical choice or the most productive for my business.  Sometimes my choices can be purely for me to be happy and excited and enjoying the moment again.

Long term gains are just that - long term - and they're important to keep in mind but you don't know how much time you, or anyone else, has.  So I want to make the most of the here and now.  I want to blow bubbles and laugh and eat ice cream and sign up for way too many productivity courses and ready fluff and be happy.

How do you live in the moment?  What makes your day-to-day life enjoyable?

Jenn signature graphic | Optimization, Actually

Sep 5, 2017

Life and Mortality and Grief

This isn't a particularly well thought-out post.  I didn't have a specific concept going in that I wished to express.  But I did want to write it.

A family member died last week.  Abruptly and unexpectedly and, as far as I know, it shocked everyone.  It's not my place to go into details and I don't want to be disrespectful to her immediate family, but I am sad and it feels wrong to go about daily life pretending everything is normal.

It's weird what your brain does in times of grief.  I should mourn my relative, feel empathy for those closest to her, and sadness for myself for all the future conversations and time I won't have with her.  But instead I felt disbelief, then sadness, then guilt.  Who was I to feel sad about this?  This person wasn't a part of my daily life.

Our family is a fairly close one.  Despite living on opposite corners of the country, we have reunions every 2 years, with occasional extra gatherings, and we chat via family email threads fairly often.

I've probably seen my relative in person 20 times or so.  It's a countable number.  But my sense of her feels much stronger than that.  Sometime in the future, I'll tell my grandmother this.  Because her goal was always to have strong family ties and I think she succeeded, despite time and distance and obstinate personalities.

We haven't experienced a ton of loss in our family.  The few occasions that I can remember losing someone they were even more distant, but the feeling of disbelief is a constant factor.  It's hard to process and feel that loss when the person you mourn is across the country and not a part of your daily life.  There's no hole in each day to remind you or instill a feeling of wrongness.

I don't want to go back to life-as-usual, but I also do.  After the first day when we tried to grasp it, and my mom, sister, and I spoke together about grief and death and remembrances, I've felt my mind instinctively shoving it away whenever something reminds me.  Because it hurts and it's easier not to think about.  Life goes on, after all, and I need to function.

But that, too, feels disrespectful.  And I think I need to make time to think about it and feel the pain and process what we've lost.  I think sometimes being hurt is important and it's part of the process of living.  Hiding from feelings and bottling things up might be easier but is ultimately more destructive.

It's hard to feel helpless.  To know that I'm across the country and can't offer much solace to my relatives in their time of grief.  To not know what the best course of action would be even if I was closer.

Death is such a hard concept to wrap your mind around.  How can a life, particularly such a warm, loving, vibrant one, be so suddenly gone?  How can life continue on without this force in it?  It feels distant and incomprehensible to me, but what really breaks me down is thinking of those still living.

Thinking of her daughter, so recently engaged whose mother won't attend her wedding.  Thinking of our next reunion planned for summer 2018 and what it will be like without her kindness.  Thinking of her husband and their interrupted plans for a retirement filled with travel and togetherness.

I hope she got the most out of life.  I hope the time she had was happy and filled with joy.  I hope she had all the things figured out that I still struggle with and that her time was better spent than mine.

I have an advice book that my sisters made with tips from all the parents in our family.  I'm so glad I have some of her words to remember.  I'm so glad she contributed to my life in tangible and intangible ways.  I'm glad I can look at the picture of her from years ago and read the words she gave me.  I'm glad I knew her.

Jenn signature graphic | Optimization, Actually

Aug 31, 2017

Things I Do That Make Me Happy Now, Later, and Never

This post comes to you courtesy of Stephanie's blog post ideas.

Things I Do That Make Me Happy...




1. Mindless Phone Time

Sometimes it's automatic and sometimes I just need a break but there's no point in picking up a book because I'm watching the baby and he'll need something in 5 minutes or so.  Whatever the excuse, I'll somehow spend 30 minutes or more doing absolutely nothing and then I feel like crap because I wasted that time and there's very little worth doing or reading on social media anyway.

2. Lose My Temper

My brain lies to me and says, "Just let go. Snap at Ryan/yell at the dog/bitch about traffic.  It'll feel good."  It doesn't.  Especially in the case of yelling at the dogs, where I feel guilty almost immediately.

3. Go to Excess

Mmmm, that chocolate was so delicious.  I should have a few more handfuls.  Boom!  Now I feel sick.  Wow, caffeine is amazing and I feel so much more awake and productive.  Boom!  Now my hands are shaking and I feel light-headed.  This book is so good, I'll just read another chapter or two.  Boom!  It's 2am and I have to get up in 3 hours.  I don't seem to have any filter that tells me when to stop.  Everything just feels great right up until the moment when it feels horrible.  (Hence me giving up alcohol.)


1. Reading!

Being alone with a snack and my face buried in a fantasy or sci-fi book is my happy place.  I know it's my number one favorite thing because when I hit burnout and can't force myself to do one more damn productive thing, this is always where you'll find me.  It's also the one thing I do somehow find time for even when I'm telling Ryan I can't possibly fit in a tv show or video game time with him.

2. Organizing Shit

It's a weird obsession.  Considering all the other unhealthy things I do to excess, I'm not too worried about this one.  No one ever died from reorganizing their closet too many times!  I do realize that an organizational system only saves you time if you spend more time using it than setting it up (and then replacing it with the next system and the next and the next), but I enjoy it and it's harmless, so I don't care.

3. Self Improvement/Analysis

This is kind of a weird one because the point of it is supposed to be long-term improvements.  But I really like the process of it.  I love analyzing myself (and others) and breaking things down into tiny pieces and seeing how I might arrange them more efficiently.  I also love the insights I get from my self help books, even though (as I confessed to Ryan the other day) I frequently don't put them into practice.  I honestly think this has become something I enjoy planning more than doing, which isn't ideal, but like the organizing, it's not really harmful either.


1. Make Healthy Choices

Bleurghghghg, I don't want to run right now.  But I know I'll feel good about it later and I know that a month or even a week of consistent exercise will have me feeling happier and coping with life better.  Same with sleep and cooking healthy food.

2. Hustle

I'm starting to feel like a broken record with all my "I don't sleep, I don't sleep, I don't sleep" but this is why.  It's not for the day-to-day feel goods.  It's for the long term progress and satisfaction of watching my business grow.

3. Be Social

This is not to say I don't enjoy going to social events.  But I still frequently have to force myself through the "Mlegh, I don't wanna go!"  I always make myself and I usually have fun, and even if I don't, the time spent is an investment into building and sustaining relationships.  I consider this an investment because having a good support network is a big contributor to overall happiness, even if we don't think we need other people.

What about you?  What do you do for instant gratification, for long-term happiness, and despite knowing it makes you unhappy?

Jenn signature graphic | Optimization, Actually