Apr 27, 2017

Speaking of MLMs...

I know I just wrote about this not too long ago, but I had another run in and thus another rant!

It all started one not-so-special morning as I attended a "6-top" networking event.  The idea being that only 6 people come, all from different industries, and the focus is more on getting to know each other and come up with ideas for each other than direct sales.

Awesome, awesome.  Best networking event I'd been to.  Everyone actually listened to each other, all were super supportive, and I left with a few ideas and 2 people I wanted to follow up with.

One of those 2 contacts suggested a coffee meeting at Purebread to discuss collaboration activities, which I happily accepted because I <3 Purebread and because I was genuinely interested in his business development services.

The meeting began very smoothly.  BDG (Business Development Guru, as I have nicknamed him for the convenience of this post) was reading a book when I came in, I asked about it, and then we chatted for a full 15 minutes about business self help books and it was awesome.  The conversation moved on to networking events, and then into his clients (who are also my target market - startups and entrepreneurs) and the type of work I was looking to do.  Then, an unexpected hitch.

Multi-level marketing.

I was actually quite surprised when he said, "I don't think this is for you, but I ask everyone I meet to watch this 5-minute presentation."  But what's a girl to do?  I watched it.  It was unique in that it was service based rather than a product, but the end result is the same - as a customer I get x benefit, but as a sales person I get x times y benefits!

Afterwards BDG asked, "Did you understand all that?" and when I said it was the first service-based MLM structure I'd seen, he seemed surprised at that insight.  Not the insight itself, the fact that I had had the insight.  Evidently I wasn't as stupid as BDG expected me to be, but he re-explained the video anyway.  Then he made his pitch.

"I've got 3 options for you. 1) You become a customer 2) You become a sales person 3) You tell me which of your friends and family might be interested."

I hate this because it's a false choice.  It's an obnoxious sales tactic to try to make you feel forced into choosing something that's NOT your only option.  But this wasn't my first rodeo with an MLM-er.

"I'll just be honest with you - I don't think I'm going to follow up with any of those options.  What I AM interested in is your business development services."

Feeling somewhat proud of myself for turning the conversation, I figured that would be it.  Because why sell me on the MLM when he had another legitimate service that I point-blank told him I was interested in?

But after running around in loops without giving me any pricing information for business services, we did run back to the MLM topic.  BDG wanted to know why I wasn't interested.  This I was not prepared for.  As you may recall, in the last post I said that you shouldn't make excuses because that gives the sales person an opening to "solve" your problem and keep selling to you.  Since I was flustered I said something about not wanting to take the time to research and set this up.  And then we dove back into the sales pitch ("It only takes 15 seconds!"), where I asked questions BDG couldn't answer and he said mansplain-y, condescending things like, "You catch on quick!" and "You can't believe everything you read online."

I then told BDG my real reservations - MLM overwhelm and feeling skeptical of that business model.  I don't know what reaction I expected, but it wasn't for him to get offended and start muttering about trust and how he was just trying to provide for his son's college.

Guess what, dude.  You can't guilt me into buying from you.  You can however, piss me off.

The only thing I left that meeting with was a bad taste in my mouth and the determination to not do business with BDG, in any capacity.

Thinking about it still makes my head buzz, which I guess is some weird kind of fight-or-flight response, BUT I'm not sorry that I went.  Because A) I had no way of knowing how it would turn out and I need to keep going after opportunities even if some don't pan out and B) I really do think it's good practice for me to keep saying no to people.  My first response was good, "I'm not interested" and now I just need a better response when they ask why.  Something that manages to be polite but avoids reopening the conversation.

Any ideas?  What sales tactics bother you the most and how do you deal with them?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Apr 25, 2017

I Love My Kid, But...

This post is inspired by conversations with other moms about our secret and not-so-secret struggles.  You really don't want to complain all the time, because there's not really a solution or even necessarily a problem.

But that doesn't change the fact that sometimes you feel like your house is a mess, your dogs aren't getting enough attention, you can barely get projects completed and sent in to your clients, neither you or the baby has bathed in 4 days, and your brain is so chaotic that you can't figure out how to handle any of it any better than you are.  If, indeed, such an improvement is possible.

I love my kid, but...

... I went to a "coffee date" (meeting with a potential client) with green something crusted on my sleeve.  Guacamole?  Breakfast smoothie?  Bodily fluids?  Who knows!

... sometimes I only breastfeed because I'm hoping it will make him sleepy enough that I can read a few pages in my book before he wakes up enough to eat more.

... he has peed on me far more times than seems necessary.  And not once on Ryan.  Fair?  I think not.

... I wish he would nap for more than 30 minutes at a time.  Oh!  And sleeping through the night.  That was nice.  Why did that go away?

... nipple pads suck.

... our current situation makes running my (not-very-profitable-but-very-time-consuming) business seem impractical.  I'm torn between clinging on despite the dust gathering in my bank accounts or giving up and looking for a full time job or maybe just being a house wife.  Anything that would require less multi-tasking and fewer late nights!

... I miss frivolous shopping for myself instead of always baby things.  I can't justify it right now but I would love to buy a tunic or blouse instead of more onesies and diapers.

... evening fussy time is not my favorite.  Nor is his newfound tendency to spit the bottle out and scream despite being hungry.  I know he's still hungry because we swaddle him, he calms down, and then he drinks 3 or 4 ounces of formula.  Jerk.

... I'm afraid to take him anywhere.  Who wants to be that person with the screaming baby in public?  Not I!

... it hurts my feelings when he won't breastfeed.  Ridiculous?  Yes.  But I am apparently incapable of being rational about breastfeeding.

... tensions are high in our household.  It's not Orion's fault, but Ryan and I are definitely both easier to get along with when we've had proper sleep and some alone time and right now neither of those is happening.

... I miss earrings and my ring and wearing clothes without first considering their potential impact on a baby.  (Is it sharp?  Is it easy to remove?  Will I be devastated if it gets poop on it?)

... I feel like a bad mom, no matter how many times Ryan tells me I'm doing a good job.  I feel like I don't have my shit together and I'm setting a terrible example for everything and each new event and client project that I schedule is an attempt to keep this train from derailing.

On the first runthrough of this post I ended on kind of a negative note.  Because there have been some pretty tough days, like lay face down on the carpet next to Orion's play mat and cry days, and I don't want to sugarcoat that or be just another rose-tinted pretend-perfect mom making everyone else feel like I'm doing it better than they are.  Hahaha, no.  Our house is far from perfect.

But I also don't want to make it sound like I regret having a child.  I've been making a lot of jokes on Facebook, both because sometimes it's better to laugh than cry and because I don't want to be a super sappy parent, at least not in public.  But I've had a few comments that make me think I'm coming across rather complain-y.

I don't regret this.  I chose this and I know it and if sometimes it isn't all I thought it would be, well that's my problem to deal with.  And there are other ways in which it's more than I ever thought it would be so it balances out.

Raising a child is a challenge, in the same way that running a marathon, writing a book, starting a business, overcoming a fear, or achieving any goal is a challenge.  For me, it's been more emotionally loaded than some of the other challenges I've taken on, and it's affected all the other areas of my life in ways I didn't necessarily expect.

But it is in all ways I challenge I appreciate because I love my little morsel of humanity.  Like rampaging mother bear love.  Like fussy mother hen love.  Like apparently-only-animal-comparisons love.

And I think it's making me a better person.  Stronger, more patient, less judgmental.

But that doesn't mean I can't laugh at it sometimes.  And admit that it's hard sometimes.  Because I love my kid, but...

What's something challenging you've decided to do and how has it changed your life?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Apr 20, 2017

Lord of the Rings Time Wasters

Ok, so how I just did the Harry Potter themed ones?  I almost included this video: Gollum Meets Harry Potter and then decided it was too stupid.  And then I went off on a Gollum tangent, because this same YouTuber has some other videos that crack me up.

So anyway, any LotR fans out there?  This list is for you.

Gollum Covers Taylor Swift

I'll be honest, I wasn't a fan of this song until after listening to the Gollum version roughly a bajillion times.  I still love it!

Galadriel vs Leia

This isn't my favorite of the rap battles, but it's still decent.

This Woman and Her Uruk-Hai Sword

I wish I knew her in real life - she seems hilarious and we have at least one thing in common.

Movie Trivia!!!

The primary thing I learned here was that Viggo Mortensen is a total badass and maybe a tiny bit terrifying.

Meme Gallery

The one about Sam and Frodo, right?  Sam was too good for him.

What are your favorite LoTR-themed time wasters?  Or if you're not into Lord of the Rings, what movies do you like enough to waste time googling?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Apr 18, 2017

Perfect Imperfection

Lately I've been thinking over what it means to be "great."  I've read tons of self help books, and memoirs, and quite frequently I have the same thought I'm sure many of you have had, "I'll never do anything this amazing."  My self help books would say it's all in my head and if I really believed, I could do anything, after all, my perception shapes the universe!

Maybe I've read too many self help books lately, or maybe it's my natural skepticism, but I'm starting to think we're looking at this all wrong.  We can't all be "great."  That's like everyone being "the best."  It's a title that can only apply to a select few, our highest achievers, our biggest movers and shakers, and the most impactful proponents of change.

And maybe that's ok.  Why does everyone need to be great?  Why do we feel like failures for having ordinary lives?  I can't help but feel all that time spent thinking about how I'll never be as great a person/designer/parent/whatever as someone else is a complete waste of my life that could be used seeking something much more important.


I've been chasing happiness for the last couple years and I've documented some of my experiments.  Sometimes I get disheartened because I don't feel as happy as I did when I was young, or because I can't seem to get this gratitude thing down, or because no matter how determined I am to make the best use of my time, I seem to keep coming back to these cranky week-long slumps where I'm good for nothing but reading and sleeping.

Maybe it's time to say "good enough."  Maybe it's time to get rid of goals and lofty ambitions that I'm not even 100% sure I want.  So what if I "wasted" a day reading a book or playing games?  Did I enjoy that time?  Maybe that's better use of it than continuing to drain myself being productive when I'm burned out.

Maybe I don't need to be the happiest person ever.  Maybe I don't need to be a high-powered business woman whose at-home start-up launched a nationwide company with hundreds of employees.  Maybe I don't need to create a famous piece of art, or an acclaimed novel.  Maybe I can just be me, chasing small goals and small dreams that make me happy day to day.

I wrote a post a while ago about some pretentious author who wrote about how most people don't need to write yet another book that will end up on the "schlock pile."  I said he was an asshole, made fun of his book about overcoming snobbery (I mean, that's still pretty funny), and then promptly forgot about it.  But I think I'm still trapped a little bit in the mindset that if it's not good, it's not worth doing.

I don't think that about other people.  I think everyone should write a book and self publish.  I think everyone should paint or draw or take photos and put their own art up on the walls, even if it's just some generic painting-with-a-twist beach scene that you did with your friends while tippling wine.  I think the DIY stuff around our homes is what makes them uniquely ours.

I embrace imperfection for everyone else.  But embracing it for myself is difficult.  I spent over a month agonizing on types of scrapbooks for our family.  Because it had to be perfect.  WHY???  No one who looks at it later (if anyone even does) is going to care if it's postbound or 3-ring.  No one is going to look at the paper behind the pictures.

My mom makes gorgeous, themed, uniquely wrapped gifts every year for Christmas and I'm always sad thinking about how the ones I wrapped, despite my gold crepe, and fancy paper ordered from the Internet, look totally sloppy.  I'm just not good at it.  But again, why does it matter???  That paper is going to get torn off in a few minutes (except for my mom's gifts, because they really are a work of art) and then it's all about what's inside.  I'm not good at wrapping gifts.  I'm not good at crafts.  I'm getting better at saying, "Oh well, good enough" and moving on, but if there's anything I do want to perfect, it's my ability to accept imperfections.

With that in mind, I've come up with some goals for myself, and anyone who wants to practice enjoying something for itself, without needing to be perfect.

Jenn's Goals to Achieve Perfect Imperfection

  1. Write your book.  Everyone's got one, I firmly believe it, and I think the biggest reason most of us don't write it is the fear of not being good enough and the feeling of overwhelm.
  2. Make artwork for your home.  Take a pottery class, painting class, photography class, pick the best one and display it in your house.  Look at it every day and remember how much fun you had making it instead of picking apart its flaws.
  3. Run a 5K and walk some.  Go with a friend and chat the whole time.  Wear themed outfits and take silly pictures.  Don't even check your time at the end.
  4. Cook something out of your comfort zone.  Instead of agonizing over what was overcooked, what had too little flavor or too much, or what you should have done, enjoy the meal.  Or toss it if it's not possible to enjoy.  Think about what you learned instead of what went wrong.
  5. Do ANYTHING out of your comfort zone!  I'm too chicken to game with strangers because I'm "not good" at gaming.  (I'm seriously not, though.  I seem to lack certain necessary coordination of the hands and brain and I panic and hit all the keys when a monster attacks me.)  For you it's probably something entirely different.
  6. Write down an embarrassing memory and tape it to the mirror.  Practice laughing at it until it doesn't bother you anymore.  Or if that's too masochistic for you, tape it to a punching bag and beat the crap out of it until you feel like you've beat it into submission.
  7. Leave your clothes on the floor.  For an entire day.  You can do it.
  8. Blow bubbles in a dog park.  This really isn't relevant but trust me.  It's hilarious.
  9. Be your cranky self.  And don't apologize or worry about how you "just can't seem to be happy."  Bad moods happen and being upset about being upset just makes it take longer to get out of it.
  10. Paint your fingernails well past your cuticles.  The extra will peel off in the shower, I promise.
  11. Hit on yourself in the mirror, sans makeup.  You might be a 7 or a 3 or a 5, but who cares where you fall on some bullshit arbitrary attractiveness scale?  Right now, you are the most attractive thing in the room.  Appreciate.
  12. Let a child choose your outfit.  If you don't have access to a child, let your inner child out to play.  Remember how you dressed yourself when you were 4?  It was glamorous.
  13. Read a dissenting opinion.  Don't respond, don't get angry, and don't think about it again, unless it has some value to you or might change your stance on the issue.
  14. Take a day off.  What's the one thing you most want to do?  Go to the spa, eat ice cream and read a book, have a picnic in the park, play video games all day.  Did the world fall apart because you weren't productive today?  I didn't think so.
  15. Don't finish your goals list.  Not even these ones.  Be ok with that.

Let me know if you have any suggestions, and I'll happily update this list!

What's your take on perfection and competition?  Are you able to do things without worrying about the outcome?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Apr 13, 2017

To Share or Not to Share?

I'm sure you've all noticed my remarkable self restraint and the lack of baby pictures.  No?  Just me?

Well, I have noticed and I am very proud of myself.  It was actually on my list of things to figure out before baby arrived.  "Discuss Internet privacy with Ryan."  And then we didn't.  And then I felt like if we hadn't bothered to make time for it we obviously didn't care and I had a free pass to post whatever I wanted!

But after my first baby post, Ryan gently said, "Hey... maybe we shouldn't share Orion's pictures where the whole Internet can see them."  And I reluctantly agreed.  But why?

I think when we first made this decision, we just had a vague sense that it's safer somehow.  We actually do have a private Facebook group where just family and close friends can see what we post (which is ironic because we should only be "friends" with family and friends, but with all the networking I've been doing lately I have a lot of people who I just don't know that well).

So I guess I'm glad that I don't have to worry about the pictures floating around in Google image search or some weirdo running across them on my blog and using them for whatever gross purpose.  But I also realized that, outside of the unlikely event that some pervert would find my blog/various social media accounts/etc and enjoy baby photos in a way I don't want them to be used, there's other things that can happen too.

Do you guys remember when Helene's photo was used by some right-wing Facebook group to make fun of "bleeding heart liberals"?  She asked for people's help in reporting it to Facebook to get it taken down since it was literally a photo of her and the group didn't have the rights to it.  I thought for sure Facebook would help her out since stealing her image is a copyright violation, and I sent in a report to try to help.

Their response?  Basically fuck you.

Did not care one bit.  It wasn't sexually explicit or offensive to a religious group (funny story about that - see at the bottom), so it wasn't worth doing anything about.  The theft was not their problem.

So yeah.  To me that seems far more likely, with the sheer number of people who think it's ok to just grab images off Google and use them for their own projects and I don't want Orion's image to be used for that either, even if it's less revolting than my first example.

That's one side of the coin.  The other is that, even if no one outside of family uses his photos for anything, as Orion gets older we might realize that we're using his photos in ways he doesn't want.

My mom was telling me just the other day that one of her Facebook friends posted a video of her kid pooping.  Potty training - ok, it might be cute or funny or whatever, but when your child is 15 that video is still going to exist on the Internet (nothing goes away on the Internet - just ask all the celebrities who have had photos leaked or tried to get images removed.  It's impossible) and, if someone was really determined, could be found and watched and used to make fun of your child later on.

We all know cyber bullying is becoming a huge problem and I doubt that's going to go away in the future (kind of like Facebook - I think Facebook is the most timeless of all the social media sites simply because it's the most widely adopted).  Again, if my Facebook was locked down tight, I wouldn't have to worry about it.  But it's not, and who knows how far technology will have gone in 15 years.  Will I still be tech savvy enough to keep my accounts from being phished?  I hope so, but I'm not going to make any plans based on it.

The bottom line is that, even if none of this stuff happened, we want Orion to have some amount of control over his own image.  If I throw photos around the Internet like glitter on New Year's Eve, then by the time he's old enough to express an opinion, it's too late.  Nothing can be done.

But if I set up a specific outlet for sharing - one private Facebook group - then I know who's viewing AND if 12-year-old Orion says, "No, I don't want those photos available for anyone to see.  Screw you, Grandma!" I can delete the group and all the photos with it (after giving him a talking to about his potty-mouth, of course).

So that's our reasoning!  I'd be curious to know how other people feel about sharing or not sharing.  (And I absolutely don't want to shame anyone who does share - when it comes to my own image I've always felt that anonymity is safety enough.  Basically in the deluge of photos from the millions of people on our Earth, who is going to care about yours specifically?)

How do you approach Internet privacy?  Would you/do you treat your child's images and privacy differently than your own?

Oh!  And my story.  So my friend is an artist (she makes gorgeous shadowboxes) and she was putting together a Facebook page for her art using her name, which is Deanna Zions.  Facebook kept telling her she couldn't use that page name/url because it was inappropriate.  We must have checked a dozen times trying to make sure she didn't spell something weird and trying to see where a bad word could possible be.

Have you figured it out yet?  The url would have been facebook.com/deanNAZIonsart.

After we figured it out, and I laughed my ass off, she changed it to be www.facebook.com/dzionsart (which you should check out because she's awesome or her website www.deannazionsart.com because I designed it).

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Apr 11, 2017

Clever Title (SUYB)

Well, if that's not a lackluster start to this post, I don't know what it is.  Here's the books.

♥♥♥♥♥ - Loved!

Throne of Glass Series books 2-4 by Sarah J. Maas (ebook)

I read the first book a while ago, gave it 4 stars but ultimately decided not to finish because the clich├ęs were buggin' me.  I'm so glad I revisited because OMG this went in a completely different direction by the end of book 2.  The characters grew up and fleshed out, the author introduced more characters to cycle through and give you a broader picture of the world, and the world building was awesome!  Here's my summary of the books as a set so far (WARNING: SORT OF SPOILER-Y):
  1. Hey, look at me, I'm pretty and fight good and boys like me.
  2. Whoa, let's blow your mind with all these riddles and revelations!
  3. Training montage (also some psychological fuckery)
  4. Building up for the big battle (but also wow, I'm like a real grown-up fantasy story now.  One that Jenn would recommend to her guy friends and not just to women who like YA dystopia)

♥♥♥♥ - Liked

The Gender Game by Bella Forrest (ebook)

I got this for free somehow.  (Prime library? I'm not sure.  I was trying to renew Kindle Unlimited and instead it gave it to me for free and I'm not going to look a gift horse in the mouth.)  I fully expected it to be a cheesy version of The Hunger Games but it really wasn't.  It has the traditional YA dystopian elements (teenage girl, doesn't fit into a society divided by factions) BUT the fact that it's men vs women is kind of hilarious and the story surprised me more than a few times.  I think I enjoyed the story both for itself and for laughing at the tropes (love triangles ahoy!) so take that into account if you decide to read it.

♥♥♥ - Ambivalent-ed

The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan (ebook)

This crushed my Riordan streak.  This series takes place after the Percy Jackson series, but there was another one in between them that I missed and it referenced events that had happened then and messed me up.  Also the main character felt like yet another iteration of the same person (Percy and Magnus felt pretty similar) and I finally got tired of it.  And the final blah factor was that after reading Magnus Chase and enjoying the more fleshed-out side characters, I couldn't go back to the Percy Jackson style where they feel more like props than actual contributors to the story.

♥♥ - Mildly Disliked


 - Did Not Finish or Wanted to Burn in a Fire

Nothing notable.

#5 in the Throne of Glass series, and trying to get back into reading at least one business book per month.  Right now it's The Accidental Creative.

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

Hosted by Steph and Jana

Life According to Steph

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Apr 6, 2017

Happiness Project Final Update!!!

Well look at me, posting this a mere 2 months late.  I was actually going to just let it go but then Kelli and I were talking about running a weeklong happiness challenge in our Facebook group (for creative entrepreneurs if you're interested!) and I felt compelled to finally summarize.

Month 5 Update: Mindset

I knew going in that this would be tough.  I was already physically uncomfortable, starting to get freaked out about having a baby at the end of the month, and trying to wrap up a bunch of loose ends.


As per usual, I was sporadic with my affirmations.  I love the idea of these so much but am terrible at remembering them.  I think I need to actually print them out and put them on the mirror or something.  I'm still not giving up on the idea of affirmations, but they didn't do a whole lot for me for this month of the challenge.


  1. Read parenting books - Mostly check.  I finished the one I'd been reading my entire pregnancy (What to Expect) and skimmed a couple others.  Ultimately I decided I didn't need to read an entire book on every baby topic under the sun and I feel better for the easing off of that pressure.
  2. Meditate 3x a week - Nope!  I did it maybe once a week and mostly because Ryan was getting into meditation as a way to deal with his own stress.  So I kind of just tagged along with him.
  3. Give myself permission to slow down and enjoy any and all downtime that comes our way! - Bahahaha!  Yeah, there was no downtime.  I networked, I did client projects up until the morning of my induction.  I actually think the best thing about being induced was having a deadline, because I took the day off of work, wrapped things up with clients, and folded my damn laundry, which made me feel much better about the prospect of bring a baby home.  You gotta have a clean spot to sit down where you feel safe.  Or I do, anyway.

To Do

  1. Finish online childbirth class - Nope, and maybe that was a good thing.  I think I needed breathing space more than another deluge of information.
  2. Discuss family values with Ryan - Sort of.  We had a mini conversation but we didn't make a list or a family crest or anything (and yes, I really did want to do this and probably still will at some point).
  3. Tell my clients I'm taking February off for baby stuff - Check!  And yes, I did work right up until my deadline, but we were all on the same page, and they knew I'd be gone for a while afterwards.  It made it so much easier to start gradually phasing clients back in when I was ready instead of feeling pressured to do things as soon as physically possible.

In Conclusion

This month wasn't my most successful but it was better than the 2 months prior.  I didn't magically morph into a centered being of positivity and light, but I also didn't implode and die from all the external pressures I put on myself.  (Although that whole high blood pressure/induction thing brought me pretty close.)  I'd like to give this one another try sometime in the future and see how much further I can take it when I don't have a huge life change looming.

Summary: AKA Am I Happier?

I spent 5 months on this and I worked on Career Development, Social Life/Relationships, Self Actualization, Clearing the To Do List, and Mindset (above).  It's easier to see the impact by category so I'll summarize that way.

Career Development - Yes

I think when I started I thought by spending a month focused on my business, I'd build my client base up and have tons of work to do and everything would be great.  That didn't happen.  BUT I did find a ton of great resources, learned how to optimize and streamline a few areas of my business, educated myself, and made quite a few new connections.  I have a couple good communities I really enjoy, and building connections that will be more profitable in the long run than acquiring a bunch of one-off projects.

As for my business' contribution to my overall happiness, yes.  This area definitely makes me happier now.  I'm enjoying so many different aspects of my business and I'm not tying success just to each month's income.  I've learned to look at the bigger picture and hopefully that will help me build something sustainable that doesn't have to scramble for income each month.  Only time will tell, but for now I'm content to keep working and see what happens.

Edit: I wrote this mini summary back in January.  2 months later I have a LOT going on.  About as much as I want to try to handle with the new baby.  So yes, networking has definitely paid off, and I'm starting to see some real results here, in addition to feeling more fulfilled by the business.

Social/Relationships - Yes

October was my social month and I did a ton of stuff with a few different people.  I almost pushed my poor, little introvert brain to the point of overwhelm, but not quite and some of these habits stuck.  I've definitely been more social since October than I was over the summer.  I have a new brunch group that I've been enjoying and I have at least one friend I've gotten closer to simply by spending more time together.

And yeah, it does make me happier.  Even the most introverted of us need human interaction and online doesn't always cut it (though it makes a pretty huge impact too!).  Gretchen Rubin gets into the science of this in her book, but I've also noticed the impact in my own relatives.  The more socially involved they are after retirement and into seniority, the happier they seem to be.  I'm not going to run out and join a church group just because my happiest grandparent is in one, but I definitely want to keep a focus on community as I get older and continue to involve myself in clubs and social groups.

I feel like the older I get, the easier it is to let friendships grow apart and not put forth the effort to make plans or attend activities (everyone's so busy, after all!), but both scientific and anecdotal evidence shows that it does matter.  So it's something I want to remember both for my later years and because it's already made me happier this past year.

Self Actualization - N/A

I dropped the ball on this one pretty badly.  But maybe it was a good thing, because I learned what my priorities are.  As much as I want to dive into every creative project and idea that comes my way, I don't enjoy them enough to make time for them.  Yeah, I kind of want to write a book.  But you know what I want more?  To work on my business.  When business picks up, I will always drop my personal projects and that's ok.  Because now I know my business matters more to me.

And while I called this "self actualization" I don't think I'm not achieving it by dropping those projects.  I think I just learned that I feel more actualized by being an entrepreneur than an author.  For now.  I might still write a book one day, but it won't be today and it probably won't be this book.

I suppose I could cheat and say the overall impact on my happiness was positive because I let go of unnecessary obligations.  But in reality I just didn't do this, and I don't spend much time reflecting on it, so it didn't have an impact.

Clearing the To Do List - Meh...

This was supposed to be my "fun" month but I was so overloaded and stressed out that I couldn't stand the idea of scheduling even more activities and pretending to enjoy them.  I needed to do this and it helped me feel more prepared for the baby, but there's no permanent impact from clearing your to do list.  It always manages to fill itself back up again.  So did it make me happier?  Yes, but not anything lasting or in any permanent sort of way.  I honestly can't even think of a good takeaway or thing I learned from this month.  Oh well.  C'est la vie.

Mindset - A Tiny Bit

Like I said above, I think the biggest impact was in being up front with my clients about what was going on in my life and not feeling the pressure to overextend myself.  And that's a lesson I've continued.  When someone asked for something in 2 hours, I said I would try, but no guarantees and if they needed rush work in the future, I could make it happen with advance notice and extra money.  I've also finally started discussing money with people and raising my rates.  Feels good!!!

The part about preparing for baby was perhaps unrealistic since you can't prepare for something when you have no clue what to expect.  You just have to experience it and try to stay calm.  So I'll say I feel much better and less stressed now than I did when we first brought him home, but that doesn't have a whole lot to do with my happiness project.

Future Plans

I actually read a book at the beginning of January, "Declutter Your Mind", that talks about setting core values, using those to make life priorities, and then building your goals based on where the biggest disparities are between your values/priorities and your actual life.  It took me a little bit of reflection, but I think that's exactly what The Happiness Project is.

I did the exercise from the book and tried to set my core values and so on, and I made some goals for 2017 based on the gaps.  One core value was "entrepreneurialism" and I don't feel like I need to work on that right now, in large part because I spend a whole month dedicated to it.

I don't feel it's necessarily practical to divide your entire life up into months with a single focus, but I do want to continue trying to bridge the gaps between what I care about and what my actions are.  So in a way, I guess I'm planning on making this whole concept an inherent part of my life.

And maybe it already was.  I mean, what is self improvement, if not making changes to become what you think you should be or to emulate what's important to you?  But thanks to this project and some of the reading I did in the final month, I have a more strategic way to go about it.  And I hope, above all, to do as Gretchen does and "Be Jenn."  To pick the values that really matter to me and not just read self help books from the "I should care about this" category.

Have you tried your own happiness project and how did it go?  What categories did you/would you do for a happiness project?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Apr 4, 2017

Things I Think Differently About After Having a Kid

I was so afraid of "changing" after having a baby. The idea of not being myself was scary and, let's face it, we all get annoyed sometimes by the constant influx of baby photos and stories from some parent or another on our Facebook feeds. So I didn't want that to be me.

Just the other day I was thinking about a time that I was judging a new parent (don't worry, it was silently in my own head) because he said his new baby needed a lot of time. My non-parent self was thinking, "Oh, he's just spoiling his kid. Babies don't need to be held all the time" and so on.

But now I have one and A) He was totally right - babies take up a ton of time and they do need interaction in order to develop. Our pediatrician recommended talking to our baby at least once very 60 seconds while he's awake. (Which I am unable to do and don't feel guilty about not following through with, but you see my point.) and B) I don't even want to set my baby down. If I didn't need to use my hands to do stuff, I'd happily carry him around all day even when he's sleeping. I keep trying to convince him that he likes the body sling so I can do just that. (Mixed success on that one.)

There are actually studies that show positive correlations between "wearing your child" (yes, they really call it that) and confidence as an adult. So I don't even need to feel bad about it! But it did get me thinking about all the things I've changed my mind about in the short 2 months since my own spawn arrived in the world. For example...

Screaming Children

I was 19 or 20 when my goddaughter was born and I had no tolerance for crying. Once she got started, I could stand about 30 minutes before it was time to go home. I'm definitely not immune to it now, but it doesn't stress me out and I can go for at least an hour before I start to get frazzled (and after an hour, Little Dude starts getting hoarse and wheezy, which makes me laugh but also worry about his poor little lungs). And that higher tolerance means I don't really mind other people's screaming kids either.

Babies in Restaurants (and other public spaces)

So I was definitely one of those people who would groan upon seeing a baby boarding the same flight as me. But I could kind of understand the dilemma. I mean, what do you do - just not visit family because you had a baby? But I was very anti-kids in restaurants. Now I totally get it. Yes, they might scream and annoy other patrons. But they might not... And given the choice between not dealing with the stress of screaming baby in public vs missing out on most social events, I just don't know. It's hard to decide. Neither option sounds great, honestly. Everyone else should just come sit in my house and eat takeout. Clearly.

Going Back to Work

I thought this would be easy. And it really wasn't hard to leave Little Dude with my mom, BUT I totally understand the anxiety of handing my baby off to strangers. So far the roster of baby sitters is my mom, my sister (for the week she was in the same state), and one particularly close friend. Of course, there are also some mornings when Orion is sleepy and cute and then it genuinely is hard to hand him off and leave him.

Mom Groups

It seemed like a superficial facet of your personality to bond over. Having kids isn't an interest or a hobby, it's just part of your life and, to non-parent me, it seemed like I'd rather get out and talk about the things I like outside of having a kid. As a change of pace, if for no other reason. But I am getting to the point where I really do want to talk to other people who understand the challenges, both to empathize and to get their advice. Especially other parents who work from home with a kid, as I am struggling to make that work.

That's all I can think of, but I'm sure there's more. It all boils down to one thing, though. I couldn't empathize with an experience I hadn't been exposed to. Now I have more experience and more information and how can I be pissed at parents of screaming children when I'm secretly afraid that my kid is going to start up at any moment? Instead I think, "That sucks for the parents."

Because how often do you see a mom or dad who actually doesn't care that their child is misbehaving? They might not be handling the situation well in your eyes, but no one sets out to be a bad parent or deliberately annoy other customers in a grocery store. And what kind of punishments can you deal out in public? Spanking is out, obviously, even if you do believe in that form of punishment, and you can't really send them to time out in the bakery. The parenting tips I've read in the past said you're supposed to ignore tantrums since even negative attention positively reinforces them, but if you pretend you don't care then everyone in the store hates you even more.

I don't think I believe that children who are raised "right" are always well-behaved. I think different personalities require different parenting styles and you might get a bad combination. And I also think everyone's going to have bad days.

So anyway, my baby is only 2 months old and he has not yet had a meltdown in a grocery store. But I can see it as a distinct possibility in our futures and I dread the day.

Yes, I can sympathize.

Completely Unrelated But Interesting:

I posted this on Facebook the other day, "I love my baby but his utter lack of survival skills makes me wonder how humans made it this far. He cannot move around or even cling onto a parent on his own, cries loudly often but especially when left alone, and literally can't tell the difference between my nipple and his own hand."

Sister3 then researched this, because no scientific mystery can go unsolved! And she learned that in monkeys intelligence is strongly correlated with "helplessness" aka length of time before weaning. So basically the more intelligent we are, the more underdeveloped we need to be born in order to fit through the birthing canal!

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design