Jun 29, 2017

The Big Three Oh - Jenn Rambles About Time and Age and Stuff

I'm 30 today!  And, in true blogger form, I have thoughts.

30 is different from previous birthdays in that it feels both significant and an afterthought.  I've been telling people I'm 30 for the last couple years when I get confused so it's not upsetting to hit a new decade, and I'm not worried about aging.  I think maybe the people who are most upset about getting older are the ones who haven't achieved what they think they should have at that point in their lives.  Still figuring out careers, waiting to settle down, or have kids, or whatever other thing society tells us we should have by this age.

I'm fortunate in that I do have the things I wanted to have - although in my head a lot of them were going to happen a few years sooner.  But now that I'm here, with a business and a husband and a baby, I'm glad I didn't do it earlier.

30 feels so much more balanced than previous ages.  I'm starting to get to the point where I wake up and body parts hurt for no reason, but it's nothing debilitating yet and I have no fears about being able to keep up with small children over the next 10 years or so.  My mind, on the other hand, is only improving over time and I'm so glad I won't be subjecting children to the emotional immaturity I had 5 or 10 years ago.

So I feel like I've hit a sweet spot in regards to improved self awareness and being generally a better person and liking myself, but not yet being old enough that I'll physically struggle with my current goals, like having kids or running 5ks.

Sister3 asked me the other night, "Is this the phase of life when everything starts moving faster?"

She's 4 years younger than I am, but yeah, I do think things started to "speed up" around 25/26.  BUT something amazing happened 5 months ago.  TIME SLOWED DOWN AGAIN.

I always though time would just go faster and faster until death.  And it scared me a little bit, because if it already felt fast in my 20's, what would it feel like as an 80-year-old?  But it doesn't have to be that way.

Time feels incredibly slow right now because of Orion.  Part of that is due to being tired or stretched thin or acutely aware of how messy the house is.  But part of that is just because he's commanded so much of my undivided attention.

Quite by accident I find myself living in the moment more.  And it's really nice because all the cute baby stuff isn't shooting by, even though I'm constantly "busy."  Sometimes when Orion is napping, I'll catch myself staring at his little face and think, "Oh, I should go do something productive."  And then I think, "No.  This is exactly what I should be doing right now."

Because all that "productive" stuff will still be there later.  But that cute, little baby face will change and grow and eventually leave me.  I can't change that, nor do I want to, but I can get all the enjoyment possible out of the present moment.

So that's one nice thing about 30.  Another nice thing?  Feeling like a "grown up."  Sometimes at networking events I still feel like no one will take me seriously because of my age and then I remember that I'm 30.  I'm not even a "young adult" anymore and people probably don't think twice about the fact that I have my own business.

I was telling Sister3 how much more confident I feel in my business, setting boundaries with clients and raising my prices.  In truth, it's probably more due to experience and practice than age, but getting older and trying things is the only way to gain experience, so they're linked in my mind.

I also decided at some point to just be honest with people, while being as nice as possible about it.  Most of the time it works!  But even when it doesn't, like with MLM guy, I don't agonize over the situation or doubt my actions.  Maybe I could have been more polished - I'll do better next time.  What's more important is that my integrity is intact because I didn't bullshit and I didn't add stress to my life by caving to shady sales tactics or putting myself in a situation I'd have to scramble to get out of later.

The other day, I saw a familiar name in one of my networking groups.  It was a girl who had taken the pro-life stance in a debate we had in English class in high school.  I've clung to this memory because I thought her argument was stupid and I resented the teacher for cutting off the debate after she got to have her say and the pro-choice kids didn't get a rebuttal.  But for the very first time when thinking of that memory, I thought, "Maybe [teacher] cut off the debate because it was 1 person against a whole room and she felt awkward or ganged up on or we were being disrespectful of her religious beliefs."

Whoa.  Who is this person in my brain letting go of ancient grudges just like that???

I'm not gonna lie - forgiveness for real things, not just little petty memories, is still tough for me.  But it feels like a turning point.  It feels like all my struggling for self improvement, all the self help I've read, and the counselors I've talked to, have finally made some little adjustments to the paths my brain takes.

So if that's what 30 means for me, I'll take it.  Happily.

I'll take the tired eyes and wrinkles and stress, if it means I get a family and business and general satisfaction with the direction of my life.  I'll take the stiff back and weird aching-for-no-reason shoulder if it means I finally like myself as a person, and I feel confident in my own ventures while being forgiving of others.  I'll even take the slowly sagging boobs as a fair trade-off for the continued improvements that the future holds.

Yep, 30 is a pretty good age.

What was your favorite age and why?  How do you feel like you've improved as you've gotten older?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Jun 27, 2017


As defined by The Accidental Creative, pruning is saying no to things.  Cutting out opportunities, letting things go, reducing the number of tasks and obligations and projects.

I'm not good at it.  I want to do everything and say yes to everything.  I have a tendency to say yes and then figure out the "how" later.

But I'm working on this because I'm trying not to exhaust myself and because I don't live healthfully when I'm scrambling to get from this event to that or to complete things late into the night when everyone is asleep.

It's been tough to cut things out but here's what I've done so far!

Networking Groups

I have tried a TON at this point and I had 3 contenders that I was considering sticking with, in order to diversify my connections.  But I ended up cutting the all women group, which started out fun but is mostly comprised of MLMs (not my target market) and in the most recent event had anti-man vibes, which I thought was unnecessary and frankly?  Kind of bizarre.  And I also cut the referral group, which I wrote about not too long ago, because referrals feel forced and require additional time and energy that I don't want to give right now.

This leaves me just one networking group to stick with and that seems ultimately more productive.  I think I'll make stronger connections if I don't spread myself so thin AND I won't have to struggle to squeeze in networking days. 1 or 2 per month should be no problem.

Scuba Diving Lessons

I KNEW I didn't have time to pursue this but my dad is persuasive and how fun does this sound?!  He offered to pay, and for my mom to babysit, and I figured, "I'll make it work somehow."  Then 2 weeks before the first class, the nagging began.  "Did you read the book yet?"  "You better got on that."  "Quit slacking and read the book!"

I realized that "making it work" was actually doing my dad and myself a disservice because what he really wanted was not just someone to attend the class with him but someone to discuss his new hobby with.  Someone to be fully absorbed and interested and engaged.  And I can't do that right now.  I'm just not willing to prioritize any hobby, however fun, over spending time with my baby or working on client projects.  So I was going to half-ass the homework and he was going to be pissed off at me and then I'd feel guilty and instead of a cool new experience, it was going to be an obligation.

You guys should be proud of me because I realized this BEFORE the first class instead of waiting and thinking I can somehow do it all AND I had a grown-up conversation with my father about it.  We actually managed to discuss it amicably and decide it didn't make sense for me to do it.  I'm proud of both of us.

Running a Book Club

This one makes me the most sad!  There are no sci-fi/fantasy book clubs in Delaware.  I was halfway through the process of making "Life, the Universe, and Books" the DE sci-fi and fantasy book club on Meetup and I already made a private Facebook group before I stopped myself.  Do I really have time for this?  To read a book once a month, sure.  But to organize and promote a group?  No.  Instead I joined a new book club on Meetup that reads feminism-based books.  The first meeting was awesome AND the time investment was minimal.

What things, good and bad, have you cut out of your life?  Do you find it difficult to "prune"?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Jun 22, 2017

"I Don't Need Feminism Because...

I don't understand what feminism means."

That's really the only answer when a woman stands up and declares herself anti-feminist.  Well, maybe in a few rare cases that woman actually believes men are superior and she shouldn't have any rights.  But most women want equality and fair treatment which means they believe in the dictionary-defined version of feminism, whether or not they like using the label or believe modern-day feminists are doing a good job of pursuing that goal.

One thing that can complicate the issue for men, and women, is that we might think we want equal treatment but subconsciously enjoy the unfair advantages our gender gives us.  I won't even list all the privileges available to men, because it's too long and if you're reading this, you're probably already somewhat acquainted with the concept.  But women have certain benefits as well.

Women are far more likely to be encouraged to try "masculine" pursuits, clothing, and mannerisms than men are to try feminine ones.  Women have a pretty strong hold in the work force, if not the within corporate leadership, while men have very little presence in childcare and stay-at-home dads are often mocked or considered "hen-pecked."

Dating and relationships are a confusing mishmash of old and new traditions and, more often than not, women are the recipients of free meals, experiences, and gifts on anniversaries and holidays of various types, while men are less often treated to the feeling of being courted or desired.

Now, to me, it seems like a pretty straightforward trade-off.  Stop buying me dinner on dates and start giving me the same opportunities to rise through corporate or political leadership!  But not everyone feels that way.

And then there are the privileged among us, myself included, who don't feel the affects of inequity.  And if we're not personally experiencing it, it must not exist, right?  And there's the problem of not recognizing prejudices or biases within ourselves.  No one wants to admit they have biases but it's not a sign of being a horrible human - it's how our brains automatically categorize and sort information as a survival instinct.  To quote this article, "If you have a brain, you are biased."

I'm having on ongoing debate with someone.  He believes we can solve our problems without the endless discussion of feminism, racism, classism, and so on.  He believes in a blanket solution in which we all just treat each other fairly and, when we're struggling to do this, imagine ourselves in that situation and then treat them how we'd treat ourselves.

I think this is naïve, because most people aren't emotionally mature enough to be able to do this.  It also doesn't account for the great number of people who have no desire to do this or change the status quo.  I think we have to discuss the endless "isms" in order to become aware of our own biases and to come up with strategies for changing our own actions and those of others.

But I will agree with him on one small facet of his argument - sometimes the discussion is counterproductive.

I'm reading We Were Feminists Once by Andi Zeisler for my book club and damn it is packed with stuff to think about!  But I think one of the themes I'm getting from the book is that endlessly debating whether something is or is not "feminist" is a waste of time.  Trying to get people comfortable with the label feminist, which I still think has value, is less important than getting them to see the ways in which women are still marginalized.

We should be talking about health care and protections against sexual abuse and how to raise the next generation to respect each other instead of wasting our time reading about Taylor Swift's journey to actually read the dictionary definition of feminism.  It's a journey many of us have already undertaken as we went from impressionable children who agreed with the adults that angry man-haters are bad to realizing that's not what feminism is about at all.

It's a journey that many have yet to take, as well, and ultimately it's a journey that everyone can take on their own and that's largely irrelevant to the issue at large.  It doesn't matter if Beyoncé is a good or bad feminist.  To paraphrase Zeisler, it doesn't matter whether Mad Max is a feminist film.  What matters is the discussion that arises from it and whether we view it with a "feminist lens."

What matters is whether we're seeing increasing diversity in our films and whether more groups are being represented.  What matters is that we speak up, support diversity when it's given to us, and demand it when it's not.

Not every movie has to represent everyone.  But more movies should represent some of us outside of white, male society.

Why the emphasis on movies?  I'm always tempted to blow off Hollywood and entertainment, BUT I do think the way media portrays humans is a big part of what children will internalize as "normal."

I just rewatched Beauty and the Beast (the new one) with Ryan.  (He was unimpressed.)  But it solidified my thoughts on it.  People, this is Disney's first ever gay character!  That's exciting.  Sure the film was a bit lacking in diversity and the couple of interracial couples seemed like they existed just to pacify the demanding liberals.

BUT Disney is trying.  For maybe the first time in its history, Disney is slightly progressive and I think that's a positive.  I also think their choice not to pick an entirely white cast, despite the story's placement in medieval France, speaks to the fact that they're placing more value on diversity than on historical accuracy.

I don't want to read articles about "But is it enough?"  This only serves to nitpick every small piece of progress we have.  No, it's not enough.  It will never be enough because by the time movies and media and society catches up to where they should be now, there will be lots of other new issues we'll be aware of!  Instead lets talk about the movies the continue to ignore diversity and the all-white. all-male board rooms that continue to create them.

Sure, diversity in movies is great.  But imagine how much easier it would be to create that diversity if the people behind the scenes were actually, you know, diverse.  Support movies led, directed, and produced by women and minorities.  Pay attention to what's on screen and behind it.

I'd like to say the same solution applies to all big companies and organizations.  After all, in a Capitalist society what has more power than our dollars?  But I'm not sure that's enough on its own and I don't know what other solutions might be.  I'm hoping the book will have some by the time I finish it.

Because right now it's a little depressing.  It talks a lot about marketplace feminism and how the word "feminist" is having its own little revolution but while we purchase "Feminist AF" mugs and "This is What a Feminist Looks Like" t-shirts we forget to actually work towards feminist goals.

It's the substitution of speech for action and while we're arguing about terminology and debating the merits of this film or that celebrity, real laws are being passed that negatively impact all women.  Health care policies are being enacted that punish women for various female-specific conditions, you know, like reproduction.

I don't have an answer other than reading the news and keeping up with current issues.  And, as my answer often is when I'm at a loss, I turn to myself.  What can I do, within myself, to make sure I'm doing my best by other people?

Here's some of my own personal, feminist commandments.

Thou shalt not...

  1. "Slut shame" or in any way indicate that feminine sexuality is somehow immoral.  You get it, girl!
  2. Police other women's clothing.  Revealing or modest, how a person dresses has nothing to do with their worth as a human being.
  3. Trivialize violence against women.  "Boys will be boys" is never an appropriate justification.
  4. Blame the victim.  It doesn't matter what she was wearing, people are allowed to change their minds, and no means no regardless of previous context.
  5. Compete with other women for a man's approval.  The "queen bee" theory is bullshit and while you might meet a woman you don't like, it never means you "don't like women."  We should know better than to judge an entire group, or gender, by one or two or even ten people.

Thou shall...

  1. Speak up (politely) when people put down women and explain my stance.
  2. Watch movies and read books that increase my understanding of these issues.
  3. Give people, especially women, the benefit of the doubt when they do something I find objectionable.  A bad day does not make a bad person.
  4. Support other women's ideas and bring the conversation back to them if they've been talked over.
  5. Continue to try to uncover my own biases so I can treat people as fairly as possible.

Thoughts?  Discuss.

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Jun 20, 2017

Synchronicity as a Belief System

I've heard this word around a lot in the last year or two.  Usually it's said by people who also believe in various other mystical things - crystals or karma or higher powers outside of God.  So I mistakenly assumed synchronicity meant something to the effect of "the Universe aligning for you because you wanted it to."

Finally I looked it because I was going to use it in a blog post and wanted to double check the meaning before I committed it to written word.  Turns out I was way off!

"Synchronicity (German: Synchronizität) is a concept, first introduced by analytical psychologist Carl Jung, which holds that events are "meaningful coincidences" if they occur with no causal relationship yet seem to be meaningfully related."

Thanks, Wikipedia!

I had to think about this for a while because I'm probably not as smart as I think I am.  But after breaking it down and mulling it over, I realized this is a concept I can get on board with.

I enjoy the mystical and magical BUT I am super skeptical and believe none of it.  I don't believe in any higher power, God, karma, the Universe, you name it.  When I try to open my mind enough to accept the possibility I lean more towards believing that if there are higher powers, it doesn't really matter because they don't care about us anyway.  (A quick Internet search informs me that this is called deism or possibly "apethism.")

What I do believe in is myself.  I don't believe the universe will rearrange itself to my liking if I just believe it hard enough, but I do believe in my ability to affect change, particularly for myself, through my own actions.  I think affirmations and beliefs work because you behave differently once you change your beliefs.

Synchronicity fits into this perfectly because, while I chalk most experiences and events up to random chance or coincidence, it does occasionally feel meaningful.  Lately my self help books are starting to show me patterns, and I'll hear the same message in a couple different places when it's exactly what I need to hear at that moment.

The explanation for that is not that the Universe cares whether or not I quit sugar binging or if I figure out my finances, but that I find the pieces that are relevant to me and create meaning in it myself.  A 10 hour long audiobook has a lot more in it than "use keystone habits to create a chain effect" but that's the piece that I pluck out because it ties in with something in the other book I just read and it rings true with my own past experiences.

Life does follow certain patterns - we learned that in biology class.  So it makes sense that the older I get, and the more I read and learn and experience life, the more of those patterns I'll become aware of.  And having that knowledge means I can apply it to my life when it's appropriate or has meaning for me.

It's kind of like some of my previous discussions about purpose.  What's the purpose of life?  What's our individual purpose as human beings?  I believe we each get to decide that for ourselves and, to me, that seems incredibly liberating because there's no wrong answer.

Synchronicity is the same thing.  Building meaning for myself out of the experiences I have, both deliberate and random.

Have you experienced synchronicity?  Or do you believe there is no such thing as coincidence/that it's all due to higher powers?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Jun 15, 2017

How Having a Baby is Like Having a Dog

In the past when people talked about their kids, I, more often than not, would be reminded of some anecdote about my dogs.  Half the time, "Oh, that's like when my dog..." would be out my mouth before I realized some people might be offended by my comparison of their child to my dog.

However, I now have a child, which clearly makes me an expert, and I have to say... I still see the similarities.  Shall we compare?

Similarities Between My Human and Fur Children

1. For the Most Part They Don't Understand Me

The dogs know a handful of words including sit, stay, up, off, outside, walk, and "you know what time it is?"  That last one is all Ryan.  I tend to stick with one to three word commands.  Luke is more trainable and we've had him longer, so he also knows paw, roll over, touch, bed, and tail.  The baby gives zero indication that he knows any words, but I feel like he understands the general tone.  It's comforting or funny or exciting, and so on.

2. They Can't Communicate Their Needs

Between the three of them, all sorts of noises are made on the regular: crying, barking, whining, growling, squawking, and so on.  Alas, I understand almost none of them!  It's like troubleshooting a brand new problem every time.  "What's wrong?  Do you need to go to the bathroom?  Are you hungry?  Does your tummy hurt?  Do you just want attention?  Have you tried turning it off and on again?"

3. They're a Built-in Conversational Topic

I always chat with strangers at the dog park.  It is the hands-down easiest small talk I ever make.  "Which one is yours?  Do you know what breed?  She's so energetic!  He's got beautiful coloring."  So far babies and motherhood are the same.  "OMG, breast feeding is/was the worst!  Have you started real food?  Is he on a sleep schedule?  Has she started to roll over/crawl/walk/talk?"

4. There are Social Groups Revolving Around Them

I just joined a mom group on Meetup and I have been to my fair share of dog Meetups in the past.  Perhaps because of the previous point, they're usually the easiest Meetups to attend and chat with new people.

5. Bodily Fluid Cleanup

I can't tell you how many people have, upon hearing some poop story about my dogs, said, "And that's why I don't have pets."  I always got irritated, "Bitch please - you have 3 kids!"  So far the baby hasn't created anything as foul as that time the dogs had diarrhea, BUT he spews bodily fluids with far more regularity and I've gotten his poop on me far more often than the dog's poop.  And, because we're on this topic, his poop looks like pumpkin puree and smells salty, like a pretzel.  Weird!

6. Loss of Freedom

We kind of eased into this by having dogs first, but the more beings you are responsible for, the less you can do.  Dogs are good for up to 8 hours alone, and babies can never be left alone ever.  Both require some kind of care plan should you wish to go on vacation without them and both are much easier to deal with with the help of generous family members.

7. People Judge You

At some point I realized I'd become "that dog owner."  You know, the one who calls herself "mommy" when she talks to her dogs, enjoys dressing them up (though so far they don't own their own clothes!), and feeds them all the horrible human junk food she's eating (avoiding grapes and chocolate, obvi).  And now I'm slowly becoming the sort of mom my pre-baby self would have side-eyed.  I don't want to miss out on life, so baby is traveling with me to more and more locations, as my tolerance for crying goes up I don't always realize it hasn't done the same for others, and I have probably 100 baby pictures on my phone.  For each month of his life.  I try not to talk about him too much but heaven help the person who asks me how the baby is doing!  You did this to yourself.

8. People Really Judge You

Just like people judge you for being too "into" your pet and kids, they also judge you for being too disinterested or not doing it right.  I've been very fortunate and I've experienced very little of either in my personal life but every search query opens the floodgates and you have to sift through the pile of, "Just pay more attention to them.  They need more sleep.  They need less sleep.  This is obvious - I can't believe you're having trouble with it.  People like you shouldn't be allowed to have pets/kids."  Seriously, animal and baby people on the Internet are crazy.

9. They Need You

Not just for food and cleaning up after them.  My baby has started to show a clear preference for mommy, and Toast has been "my dog" since a month or two of having her.  Luke is a little more independent and loves every human he comes into contact with, but on a typical day at home, we're all in the same room together.  It's not just their physical needs - they're dependent on me for affection and physical contact.  For routine and stability and keeping their world turning.  It's humbling, and sometimes overwhelming, but mostly it gives me a sense of purpose.

10. They Love You Unconditionally

I really didn't want to hold Orion down for his shots a couple months ago.  I thought he'd hate me, but after it was done and he was wailing this sad little cry of betrayal, he still calmed down in my arms.  He still wanted me to hold him and I'm still his favorite person.  When we have a battle of wills and I have to put him down to cry either because I need a break or to try to get him to go to sleep on his own, he'll still smile at me as soon as it's over.  Toast and Luke are the same way.  Toast has been through a lot and her confidence is easily shattered, but even if she gets skittish after I drop something or bump into something noisy, she still wags her tail for me and goes back to following me around once she's reassured that the scary thing is gone.  Luke is an even more extreme case - he made it through our learning curve as new pet owners, and he's remained loving and eager to please through all of it.

I do feel bad for the dogs because I know they've gotten less attention since the baby was born.  He's become a much lighter sleeper and he cries now at loud noises, so they're banned from the room when we're napping.  But, as frustrating as it is when they bark and he cries, that I think he'll just need to get used to.  And until then, every guest in our home will be greeted by an excitedly barking Luke, growling Toast, and crying Orion.

Hello.  Welcome to my pack.

Do you have pets and/or babies?  Do you think they're similar?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Jun 14, 2017

Small Talkin' (Bee Boppin', Mic Droppin')

I started this off as a rant post, and then realized I didn't really have any rants.  I just really liked the phrase "ranty panties."  So I'll giggle once more at that and then just chat at you.  Warning, it got kind of long.  (Cue joke about how I have just soooo many thoughts.)

Things Are Always Obvious in Hindsight

I was sitting in stop and go traffic for 30+ minutes and kicking myself for not checking the route before leaving home.  Then I realized I literally never check before leaving unless I don't know where I'm going and I need GPS.  How on earth would I have known to use it today?  Am I really going to check every single day?  Big backups happen maybe once every two or three months.

I'm Abusing My Body

It's so liberating to not be pregnant or breast feeding!  I feel kind of like an asshole or a bad mom for even thinking that, but I'm getting so little sleep and being able to pour caffeine down my throat is amazing.  It's not a sustainable life style, I know, and I need to be a good role model, but for now until I figure out work stuff, it's incredibly helpful.

Speaking of Work Stuff

I'm going to hire a VA (Kelli from 3K VA!!!) to do some of my admin stuff and hopefully a nanny for one day a week.  Hopefully with less work to do and more time to do it in, I can finally stop pulling all nighters!!!  I'm super stoked about this, but also a little nervous because regular monthly expenses and irregular monthly income.  But I think the networking is paying off and my business is going to continue to pick up steam if I want it to.

All 3 of My Meetup Groups are Woman-Themed

It's a feminist book club, coding classes for women, and a mom group.  It wasn't intentional, I swear!  Those are just the groups I've enjoyed the most so far.  My networking group is actually a mix, because I enjoyed the Small Business Chamber more than any of the women groups, so at least I know I'm not entirely biased.

Rethinking My Target Market

I built this whole "ideal customer profile" for my business.  It was specifically women ages 30-60 who were just getting started with their service-based business.  But over the last year or so I realized at least half my clients are men.  So maybe I need to rethink who my target is.  It doesn't need to be gender specific.  Searching for common factors it's more likely to be people with smaller budgets (I raised my prices but I'm still pretty cheap compared to others in my field), not tech savvy at all, and passionate about their business/cause.  I've got nonprofits, politicians, real estate, restaurants, artists, a private investigator, a fraternity, and even an MLM.  It's a crazy mix, so selecting for a specific business is counter productive.

Graphic Design Friends

I have often said wistfully that I wished I knew more designers, but I had no idea how to go about finding them.  I currently know more graphic designers than I have since I was in school.  It's awesome.  AND it's so collaborative and friendly and not at all competitive!  It's the best support network I could think of.  I have one new potential friend who also has a baby and does the working-from-home thing!!!  I'm so stoked.  Just another little perk of networking and meeting new people.

Not-Reading Sadness

I literally cried the other day because I haven't been reading.  Which was silly and overdramatic but I think it was a symptom of the bigger problem - I have no time just for me.  The only time I take a break from the baby is when I can "justify it" by working or doing something social.  I am almost never alone (although Ryan did take Orion so I could nap the other day and that was really nice) and it's slowly draining me.  Fingers crossed that hiring on some help frees up more time for me (and for Ryan) because I'm currently on the path to burnout.

Baby Clothes

I'm definitely overthinking this, but a couple of awesome ladies from the feminist book club shared this article with me: How to Raise a Feminist Son and it made me realize I'm totally guilty of encouraging girls to pursue traditionally male activities but NOT encouraging boys to pursue traditionally feminine activities.  So I'm trying not to avoid the color pink, for Orion or any future girls I might have.  But it's hard, because I apparently have all these weird, pre-conceived notions about pink clothes, and so many of the girl clothes are lacy or ruffly and I don't want any of my babies, of either gender, to be frilly.  Also my favorite colors are blue and green, sooo... whatever.  It's not because he's a boy!  (Note: obviously I'll be doing more than including pink in our lives but for now Orion's not terribly aware of the world so it's a bit early for discussions about societal norms. :P)

It Hurts My Heart When Ryan Disapproves of Feminist Topics

Ryan is a total feminist in that he will call someone out for treating women like they're too dumb to understand something or when he notices that TV shows or movies portray women in cliché ways.  BUT he hates the word "feminism" and isn't always on board when I talk about things like my feminist book club's official name with is "Dangerous Women Book Club."  Because of that quote: "A well-read woman is a dangerous creature."  I thought it was fun and clever but I had trouble explaining it to him.  I feel like it's a nod to the backward stereotypes that feminism attempts to overcome, but also an affirmation that women should read and revel in their intellect and not try to be dumb in order to be more attractive to men.  The more we read and educate ourselves, the more we too can have an impact on this world that thus far, has been primarily shaped by men.

My 2-Week Clothing Rotation

I love my clothes!  I ended up buying mini jewelry hangers to go with each category, so there is literally no thought beyond "which blazer outfit should I wear today?" or "which tunic outfit?"  I also managed to collect just enough new pieces so that I never feel uncomfortable or like I'm dressed inappropriately without spending a ton or getting rid of everything I had already.  I really want to do a post with 2 weeks of photos for the outfits but since I'm terrible at remembering to take pictures when I get dressed and rush out the door, this is unlikely to happen...

Potato Baby No Longer!

I've been calling Orion a "potato baby" in that he was a pasty little lump that didn't really do anything or interact with humans.  (With love, of course.)  BUT NOW HE DOES STUFF!!!  He has a blast in his bouncy seat, and he smiles and laughs both in response to things I do and all on his own when he's in a good mood.  He's constantly waving his arms and legs around and when he's in bed with me he almost always turns towards me and puts his feet on me.  It feels playful, even if that's not necessarily his intention.  He also doesn't do the stranger danger thing with everyone and it's a relief to find some humans that he's ok with besides just me, Ryan, and Momma.

Feeling Kinda Extrovert-y

I have always said I swing back and forth.  Well I'm fully on the extrovert side right now.  I get drained sitting at home with the baby and I feel so much better after going to a mom group or having a friend come over and talk to me so it's not just me and Orion babbling nonsense at each other all day.

And this might perhaps be the reason that all this conversation just bubbled out of me today.  Despite having a social or business event almost every day this week, I needed to talk EVEN MORE.  Feel sorry for my mom, you guys.  She's definitely an introvert and sometimes I just exhaust her.

That's it - what's going on with you?  Chat back at me and tell me all about your life!

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Jun 13, 2017

Weddings, Consumerism, and Greedy-Azz B's

It's supposed to be book day but let's face it - I am not making reading a priority right now and it's depressing (to me - doesn't reflect on anyone else!) when I only have a book or two to talk about it.  This month's were Better Than Before and Power of Habit and I have already discussed them to death, so instead I'm going to put my ranty panties on and tell you how I feel about consumerism.  Exciting, I know.

The older I get, the more jaded I feel about our consumerist society and marketing in general.  As you can imagine, this makes me feel more and more conflicted about my own field of work because graphic design is really just a supporting area for sales and marketing.

But I like to be creative and solving the logic problem that is website design is just about my favorite thing, so I'm going to hold off the career existential crisis as long as possible.  However, this anti-consumerism mindset is starting to affect me in other ways.

I hate gifts.  In particular gifts for expected events like house warmings and weddings and such.  LOATHE them in fact.  Every celebration I host for some major life event I try to wiggle my way out of receiving gifts.  I've tried naming the party something less obvious ("last box unpacked party"), gently stating it, "Your presence is gift enough," and blandly saying, "No gifts." (Although Ryan made me change it to "no gifts requested" because he thought "NO GIFTS" was rude.)

At the risk of sounding like an ungrateful brat, let me explain my feelings on them.
  • I don't need them - I'm a grown up and buy what I want
  • If you don't know me well, you're probably not going to get something I actually want so why waste the money?
  • My love language is acts of service and quality time - if you don't spend time with me occasionally, any gift you give is going to feel fake because you're throwing money at me instead of, you know, actually doing stuff with me
  • On a similar note, that's kind of what my dad does, which definitely increases my hang up whenever someone tries to "solve" my problems by giving me money (sisters excluded because they are the best humans in the world and I know they'll never hold it over my head)
  • You're not respecting my wishes when I say, "Please don't bring a gift" and you show up with one anyway
  • Now I have to write a thank you card for this... oil warmer?  Lamp?  I dunno, it's weird and taupe and it's already in the Goodwill pile.
(Side note: I don't mind gifts when it's spontaneous or, "This made me think of you."  A few bloggers have given me stuff for the baby and it was all amazing nerdy-themed things and I was blown away by how well you all know me.  So a heartfelt thanks to all of you!  Plus when you have your first baby you have literally none of the things you need, which is why it's my one exception to the "I hate gift parties" mentality.)

Despite my repeated failures at having celebrations without gifts from my guests, I keep trying.  Before Ryan and I decided to elope, I was already planning on saying "NO GIFTS."  I also wanted to break with the tradition of parents paying for the wedding and having 3 different "gimme presents" type parties.  No bridal shower, no engagement party, and no gifts at the wedding.  (As you may recall I had a "bachelorette" party which was a weekend away with my sisters in which we ran a half marathon, ate sushi, and then drank mudslides out of penis straws while watching Magic Mike.  Oo la la!)

Because we're ADULTS and we'd been living together (for 2 years at that point) and we'd already furnished our living space.  The whole point of gifts used to be to help a young couple transition out of their parent's home, and to help recoup the cost of the wedding.  We weren't going to do anything we couldn't afford in the first place and we're not young and just starting out.  So let's all give our wallets a break and just enjoy each other's company instead of running out to buy luxury towels and candles and kitchen gadgets we'll never use.

Even though it wasn't my original plan, in hindsight I'm nothing but glad of the way we handled our wedding.  "Eloping" meant that it was small and stress-free and I could have everything my own way.  It meant we spent a grand total of $5,000 and that paid for lodging, catering, tiki torches, and our "honeymoon" which was basically the rest of the week in the rental house everyone stayed in.  My dress came from Modcloth.com and cost under $200.

I loved every minute of it, and even though I enjoy daydreaming about the grandiose things I could have done (Uhhh steampunk...), I have no regrets and I'm glad I don't have to be a hypocrite about my hatred of consumerism in general and the wedding industry in particular.

I'm in a bridal party right now and I feel like my eye twitch (ironically this appeared around the time I was planning my elopement and helping Sister2 plan her real wedding) is going to go from an occasional flutter to a full on nervous tic by the end.  Honestly, it's driving me up the wall and making me wish there was a good way to say no to being a bridesmaid without insulting a good friend.

I'll start off by saying I do like this friend in normal everyday life, but... she has no sense of logic or rationality about her wedding.  She's doing all the things and big.  We're having all the parties - bridal shower, bachelorette, and wedding (obviously).  There's a registry (for what I'm not sure since a couple who has lived together for 9 years probably has all they need...).

We started the process of with the whole, "I just want you guys [the bridesmaids] to be happy with what we pick" and then less than halfway through the dress shopping process I realized our opinions do not matter in the least.  That's fine - I'll buy the $200 dress (thank god we ended up in one that's not backless or strapless), and get my hair done however you want (I'm shit at doing hair anyway).  It's your special day and I agreed to play along.

I'll be there for emotional support, I'll design your invites, help you craft your center pieces, whatever you need!  I'll push the limits on having Ryan watch the baby and I'll bite my tongue whenever part of your wedding process seems distasteful to me.

But I'm gonna draw the line at making permanent alterations to my body.  Bridesmaid tattoos is just not something I can wrap my head around.  I'm also not basing my family planning on someone else's life event - my next baby is going to happen when it's the best timing for me and Ryan, not anyone else.  And I'm not buying any presents - the expense of being in a bridal party is high enough without having to buy into the gifting insanity that is weddings.

Does that sound overly stodgy?

I didn't think so, but maybe I'm further than I realized into cranky old lady land.  And with one bridesmaid refusing to compromise on hair styles and the other happily agreeing to have a tattoo parlor bachelorette party, I have no sense of normalcy anymore.

I actually had an ex-friend who did the exact opposite.  She managed to build a wedding for $5,000 and while it wasn't the nicest wedding, it made her happy, didn't put anyone into debt, AND she helped pay for bridesmaid dresses, which is totally breaking with tradition.  While I disagree with her on a lot of other things, I had the utmost respect for the way she handled her wedding.

Overall, I think I agree with Jenna Marbles when she says that a lot of people (especially women) put more value into the wedding than the marriage.  It's a year of planning and, on average, $27,000 for ONE DAY.  It's just a party.  Yes, you're making a very special commitment, but the point should be what's coming after that day, not how fancy your napkins were or whether your dress had the Italian or the French lace.

It's so easy to get lost in minutiae, and I can't get too judgy because I was all ready to dive in the moment Ryan and I got engaged.  But I do wish more of us stepped back to think about priorities or, like I did, listened to their partner's wishes and scaled down if they weren't on board with the grandiose-ness of it all.  I know plenty of guys who wish their partners had been/were willing to elope and it's a little bizarre to me that this "special day" that's supposed to celebrate the commitment 2 people are making, ends up being the bride's day and the groom's wishes don't matter.

On a similar note, what's up with surprise proposals, and engagement rings as Christmas or birthday gifts?!?!?!  Committing to someone is NOT a gift - it's a decision to be made jointly.  I mean, I guess some people like it but I was much happier when I knew what Ryan's intentions were even though that made his proposal less of a "surprise."

Anyway, the quick summary is I hate consumerism, I hate being obligated to buy people gifts, and I have great difficulty empathizing with people who see their friends and family as a way to make profit (also see MLMs).  I also like being in control of everything and am really bad about being open-minded when people choose to do things differently than I would have.

How do you feel about weddings and "gift parties"?  What traditions would you keep or do away with?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Jun 8, 2017

Habit Building Strategy - Some Tweaks

Reporting back in on the all-nighter plan.

It's, um... well it's not ideal.  I'm torn because I really, really enjoy sitting down and powering through a website in one night BUT if I don't have a recovery day, it affects me pretty noticeably the rest of the week.  When I'm tired I don't handle the baby's fussing as well and my willpower is low so I succumb to poor health choices.

Part of the problem, too, was that I got overexcited and started abusing my all-nighter powers, pulling several late nights with 5 hours of sleep or fewer in addition to the all-nighter.  So I need to limit it to just the one, or maybe 2 short nights, but not both.

I also have a few new ideas.  Immediately after Better Than Before, the library decided to give me The Power of Habit, which is a powerful combination and has a slight aura of fate hanging about it.  Mysticism aside, I feel like Rubin gets you interested and helps increase your self-awareness and then Duhigg teaches you the science behind it all and adds to the toolbox.

Here's my takeaways so far.

Keystone Habits

After listening to Better Than Before, I was all set to make big changes, because they're easier for me.  But it turns out they're not really.  It's just that certain habits, like exercise, make it easier to make good choices in other areas too.

Knowing that, I can focus more of my effort on those keystone habits, which will then start a chain reaction into other things.  Saving up willpower for the ones that will make the most drastic changes is important because willpower isn't infinite.  In fact...

Willpower is a Muscle

Duhigg talks about a few different studies where people performed more poorly on test involving willpower if they had to expend it prior, even in simple or unrelated tasks.  This is important because if I know I want to workout at the end of the day, I need to conserve enough willpower in order to make myself follow through.  It also explains why people who workout first thing in the morning see a better success rate in the long term.  Because they're doing it early, before their willpower has been used on other things.

Small Wins

I can't remember if Rubin talked about this or not, but the idea that, like keystone habits, successes build on each other.  Tracking food might seem relatively unimportant if you're not controlling your consumption BUT successfully following through with tracking gives you that feeling of achieving something and makes you more aware of each choice that you're making.

Duhigg's example of people asked to track their calorie consumption explained that even without the intent to change their dietary habits, people who tracked improved because they gained increased awareness into what they were doing AND they strengthened their willpower "muscle."

What I'm Doing Now

So what this means for me is that I'm shifting my focus away from trying to do everything right all the time and I'm picking a few key areas to focus on.  I want to work on building my willpower muscles and getting some momentum going with small wins.

Rather than healthy eating all the time, for now I just want to track it.  I already noticed that the healthier I try to be overall, the more likely I am to brush my teeth at nighttime so I'll keep doing that one because it's easier to force myself to do at 3am than yoga or meditation but can eventually lead into a full nighttime routine.  I'm going to use the bathroom on the 4th floor at work, because, again, the amount of willpower needed to climb the stairs is small but that small win makes me want to chase additional wins.

I also want to incorporate more of the things I learned from Rubin, about obligers and their need for accountability.  Momma and I are going to get back to yoga on Sundays - we'd stopped after the baby was born but prior to that, it was my longest running exercise routine.  With only small breaks, we'd been doing it every Sunday for years.  I'm still considering what else to do - whether it's an online exercise group or just reporting in here for Sunday Sweats.  I read a strategy on Rubin's website for getting up early that involved scheduling an embarrassing Facebook post for the time you want to get up.  This was intriguing because it's a way to use other people for accountability without them even knowing.

My Goals

Duhigg mentioned that people recovering from hip surgery were far more successful with their physical therapy if they wrote down goals with specific measures to deal with setbacks and difficulties.  (Gretchen mentioned this as well with planned exceptions and dealing with setbacks.)  So here's mine!

1. We will be having a family dinner 5 days a week by the time Orion is 6 months, and cooking 3 of those meals.

I'll make this happen by continuing to meal plan and grocery shop on Sundays.  IF I don't grocery shop, or we forget some of the ingredients, I'll figure out a workaround or make one of our backup frozen meals.  Ordering out is fine for the other days but there must be some sort of vegetable involved that we can share with the baby.

2. I will have a sleep routine that I follow religiously by the time Orion is 9 months old.

I'll make this happen by setting aside specific days for catching up with client work and not over-promising what I can do for clients.  I will also limit the number of social events I agree to each week and set reminders to myself to go to bed.  I will create a consequence for myself if I don't get up early and when I don't want to go to bed, I will remind myself that wake up time is non-negotiable and I'll feel crappy if I don't sleep enough.  I may also bribe myself with mint tea.

3. I will be exercising once a day by the time Orion is 1 year old, and doing cardio at least 3 of those days.

I'll make this happen by utilizing workout buddies, and building workout routines that I can do with the baby, like jogging with the stroller or using him as a free weight.  On the days when I'm tired and don't want to exercise, I will remind myself I only need to do it for 5 minutes and that will help me get started and keep the habit consistent.  Duration is not important, but I will set individual exercise goals, because I find goals incredibly motivating.
I wasn't planning on making these centered about the baby, but being a good role model is a big part of my motivation so I guess it makes sense.  I wouldn't care about meal planning all that much but it's important to me now because he'll be eating with us soon.  Exercise is for my own health but also to teach him healthy habits.  Sleep positively impacts everyone I come into contact with BUT will be easier to do once Orion is sleeping through the night and in his own room, so I'm giving myself a little extra time for that.

What are your most effective habit strategies?  Do you have keystone habits that help you keep the others?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Jun 6, 2017

That Old Guy with the Weird Humor

Back in my waitressing days, when I was a wee lass of 19 with no world experience and minimal empathy, I had quite a few customers I didn't quite mesh with.  Some were jerks and some I just didn't "get."

One of the latter was a guy, probably in his 50s (which doesn't seem all that old now but did at the time), who had the driest, most deadpan humor I've ever seen.  I totally didn't get it.  I felt uncomfortable waiting on him because I never knew if he was joking or not and when I should be smiling or taking him seriously.

It's ironic because he was actually really nice and the older waitresses all loved him.  Also ironic, as I get older I can feel my own sense of humor... shifting.  More and more often something that makes me laugh hysterically leaves other people raising an eyebrow at my inappropriate reaction. 

I like to misquote movies and books, which no one gets but my sisters and people who happen to have read the same books I have.  So to my friends I'm just randomly using archaic language or bizarre phrasing.

I also like to make jokes that are inappropriate for a particular situation because, in my mind, half the joke is how inappropriate the joke is.

Example: we went to a friend's birthday party recently.  Her mom was hosting and is a bit of a prude and easy to set off.  So naturally I had to make a card that read:
  • Front: "You might be getting old..."
  • Inside: "But you still got dat ass!"
Ryan was not on board with this.  His reaction reminded me of one I'm seeing more and more often.  I'll be in a group conversation, especially text or email, and I'll make a joke.  Then silence.  It's gotten to the point where I always debate whether or not I should say whatever weird thing pops up in my head because I can no longer tell when my humor has gone in a weird direction.

It's not always inappropriate either!  Sometimes it's just obscure.  I really like "meta jokes" or jokes that are funny because of some aspect of the joke itself.

Another example: a friend is getting married and just "said yes to the dress."  We were all excited and texting our support since she had gotten it on a shopping trip without the bridal party.  Here's what the comments looked like:
  • Other bridesmaid: Yayyy, I'm so excited for you!
  • Other bridesmaid: Omg, it's beautiful!  I love detail A, detail B, etc, etc.
  • Me: I'm so glad you found the one!  (And [future husband's name] is ok too, I guess.)
Funny, right???  I thought so but the conversation went silent for about an hour and then continued on, completely ignoring my comment.

To me it's funny for 2 reasons.  1) It's a play on "the one" and it was ironic that "the one" was the dress, not the life partner.  2) Actually suggesting that the dress is more important than the partner is horribly shallow and hopefully no one makes their decisions that way.

Last example: I was in a group text with my blog buddies and we were talking about some phone-related thing.  I made a joke about my emoji struggles, they responded appropriately and then we moved on.  Later, we were on a different topic and instead of saying, "I <3 organization" I used a strawberry.  "I [strawberry] organization."  Because I'm bad at emojis...  Get it?

It's ridiculous because I'm over here cracking up at my own lame jokes and I honestly don't know if anyone else even noticed it.

And I feel like it's getting worse as I get older.  I'm slowly getting more out of sync with what the rest of the world considers to be funny and I'm slowly ceasing to care so I say more and more weird things.

It's only a matter of time before I too am that old guy with the weird humor.

Do you ever make jokes that fall flat?  Do you feel like other people "get" your humor?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Jun 1, 2017

Quarterly Goals - Summer!

I didn't set very long-sighted goals for Spring and as a result, I got them all done before mid-April (minus the ongoing ones).  It was very satisfying and refreshing, but might also mean I need to stretch myself a bit more.

Spring Goals (March, April, May)

1. Business Collaboration Project - Check!

I'll be honest, I'm no longer sure which project I had in mind, because there have been so many opportunities.  But a definite check because I'm now a mentor for the Delaware Small Business Chamber and I'm on the marketing committee.

2. Have 1 Baby-less Outing Per Week - Check!

Networking events count, right?  I think I had "me-time" in mind when I made this but I honestly think time to myself FOR myself is unrealistic right now.  I have been out and about quite a bit for networking, occasional social events, and taking care of the dogs and that will have to be good enough.

3. One Social Event Per Month - Check!

I said once a month - ha!  I think I got closer to one per week.  Especially if you count some of the networking, because after all those group events you meet people for "coffee dates" and the lines blur between work and play.  It's amazing how much I've tipped from the extreme introvert side of the scale back to extrovert-y-ness.  Still not a total extrovert (I HATE the idea of spontaneous social events - it's got to be planned, I will always prefer one-on-one interactions, and I do need time to unwind with as few people around me as can be had - usually baby and dogs).

4. Write Some Non-Baby Blog Posts - Check!

Right?  I think I did fairly well.  I talked about tardiness and multi-level marketingSpotify and Harry Potter.  I also wrote baby posts, because balance.

5. Sign Up for a 5K - Check!

We did the Ronald McDonald 5K and actually ran the whole way!  37 minutes and some change, which is slower than I thought it was possible to run 3.1 miles but still.  And now I'm on the lookout for more kid-friendly races we can do with the jogging stroller.

5/5 - Hells yeah!

Summer Goals (June, July, August)

  1. Quiet Time - Yoga? Meditation? Reading? I don't know exactly what this looks like but I need some dedicated time to being "off" because my brain is starting to feel really chaotic and strained.
  2. Mom Friends - Make some overtures. Extend some invitations. I'd love to have a local friend who's also doing the working-from-home-with-a-baby thing and can give me advice or just empathize.
  3. An Adventure! - I'm cheating because we already have a trip planned in August to see the solar eclipse, but I've been missing travel and new experiences so I'm super glad this is on our plate.
  4. "Prune" - I listened to The Accidental Creative and a lot of it resonated with me, but particularly the bits about having just one pool of energy for work and home, and how you can have a ton of opportunities that are good BUT you still can't pursue them all because you don't have enough energy.  While it's tough to cut out potentially good things, the things that stay will grow more and better because you did that "pruning."
  5. Get Outside - Get some sun!  Take the baby to the beach.  Go to the dog training area and let Toast free her inner greyhound.  Have a picnic.  All the outdoorsy things.
That's it for me, what about you...

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

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design