Jul 27, 2017

More Time-y Wime-y Stuff

 We watched Arrival with my family shortly after the baby was born.  The premise (SPOILER ALERT) was that after some aliens landed on Earth, Amy Adams (linguist) has to figure out how to communicate with them.  At some point in transcribing their language, she forms a theory that, because they don't read left to right, but absorb all information at once, they're able to travel through time.  The movie has these flashes into the future to indicate that, as she learns their language, Adams also comes "unstuck" in time (which of course we don't figure out until the end of the movie).

To get to the point, I've been thinking about how I feel about time with Orion.  Time isn't quite as slow as it was when he was first born, but it's still moving at a speed I'm comfortable with.  I take time to just hold him as he sleeps or look at him and try to memorize how he looks and how he makes me feel at any given moment.  Every once in a while I remember various points during the past 5 months and it feels like the movie.  Little flashes into a different time that I can see fairly vividly but then I return to the present moment.  I like it, it's like experiencing both times but still living and moving forward in the present.

Though it's entirely pointless, I keep wishing I could do the same with the future.  I don't want to actually travel through time but I wish I could catch little glimpses.  I want to know what he'll look like at 5, or 10, or 15.  I want to see that he turns out ok and all the silly things we're agonizing over now really didn't matter in the end.

Imagining the future has always been a way to reassure myself when I'm struggling.  Because I know I'll get through whatever current issues I'm dealing with and, most likely, it'll all have smoothed out into the greater path my life is taking.  Example: agonizing over spending $500 on a cruise with a friend shortly after being laid off.  Maybe not the best financial decision.  But added to a life of generally responsible decisions, it might have made finances tight for a while but certainly doesn't impact my current situation.

And the same thing with adopting a new dog or struggling with breast feeding.  A lot of emotional turmoil and in the end, it all worked out.  It's somewhere in between fatalistic (whatever will be will be) and laissez faire (let things take their course).  I like this more relaxed attitude, BUT I do still wish I could get the reassurance of glimpsing the future now and again.

I've also been thinking about time travel theories and fate.  I certainly don't believe we have a fate and it will happen no matter what.  But I also don't believe our future is as strongly impacted by the butterfly effect as in certain movies.  I don't think my future will be drastically different if I do or don't breast feed, if I do or don't adopt a 2nd dog, or even if I change my career path.

I think there are a few big crossroads where we could drastically change our personal futures.  I think if I divorced Ryan or decided not to have any children (too late but you get my point) or any other decision that would be a big departure from my current life.  I don't feel like a 2nd child is a big crossroads because we're already doing all the parent things, and I feel like regardless of my career, I'll be here with this family in this location so all that would change is the way I keep myself busy.

So maybe my definition of a "crossroads" is a thing that ultimately changes my identity?  Definitely things that change my location.  For whatever reason I feel like any iteration of business owner/employee/part time worker/housewife that happens in this same house with this same family isn't a really big change.

Anyway, I'm rambling and I'm interested to hear how other people think of time.


Do you wish you could see the future or are you happier not knowing?  Do you believe in fat, the butterfly effect, or somewhere in between?

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Jul 25, 2017

Logic vs Emotion - US Laws Make No Damn Sense

I've personally gone back and forth with what one of my counselors called "mind and spirit."

After a young adulthood filled with terrible decision-making, it was a relief to let logic take over for a while.  Life improved as I made rational decisions and I was happier.  Then I swung the other way as I realized that some decisions, like "What should I do with my life?" need a little bit of emotional input if life satisfaction is your goal rather than just not starving.

I think we could all use a good balance of logic and emotions when it comes to making decisions.  Your emotions tell you what you want to do and logic prevents you from living a wild, hedonistic life that drives you physically, mentally, and financially into the nearest gutter.

However, there's a place where emotions should play minimal parts in our decision making.  Can you guess where that is?


It can be hard to predict the outcomes of our actions.  Debates about gun control rage.  "Prevent guns from falling into dangerous hands."  "But if we take the guns away, the only people who will have guns are the criminals!"  And so on.

But you know what?  We don't have to make these decisions in a vacuum.  Other countries have been experimenting with the exact same issues that we have and we can benefit from their experiences.

Other countries like Australia, the UK, Israel, and Japan have strict gun laws.  Why don't we assess the effectiveness of those laws in those countries and then decide if we should follow suit?

Oh, right, that would be far too logical.  We don't make our laws based on logic!  We make it based on rights and freedom and what we want!  Which is apparently free access to guns for everyone, including the mentally ill and violent criminals.

The debate about drugs seems, to me, to be primarily morality based.  "We can't just allow people to decide what to do with their own bodies!"  And emotion fueled, "People who do drugs are all worthless criminals."

But here, too, we have studies we could be using to make our decisions.  Rat Park was a study that showed rats only became addicted to drugs when isolated and given no mental or physical stimulation.  And we don't just have to look to rats for guidance.

Portugal has decriminalized all drugs and treats addiction as a medical problem rather than a criminal one.  In addition to medical treatment, drug users were provided with social programs and job training, all targeting that isolation that seemed to be a common factor for addiction in the rat studies.

The outcome?  A massive drop in the numbers of drug users.  Portugal now has a lower percentage of drug-related deaths than any other country in the European Union.

A similar story of decriminalization occurred with sex work in New Zealand.  Generally prostitution is seen as a tragic, immoral act that victimizes women and leads to trafficking.  But by making sex work legal, New Zealand has given sex workers access to police protections and legal recourse to combat discrimination.

In my mind, the craziest part of this story is not that decriminalizing sex work improved the lives of the women involved, it's that the government actually listened to the people who would be affected by their legislature.

The US had its own (accidental) experiment with legalizing sex work.  Through a loophole in the state law, Rhode Island decriminalized "indoor" sex work and guess what!  Rape offenses dropped by 31%.  Female cases of Gonorrhea dropped by 39%.

I was going to cite Germany as well, but I think that case study isn't as well documented and prostitution doesn't have as definitive an answer as some of the other issues.  Still, I think the idea of listening to input from sex workers is the best way to decide how to improve their lives.  If indeed, that is even the goal rather than pontificating from our privileged pedestals about the moral good of society.

Which I guess brings me back to decision making.  Currently we're making decisions based on what we want.  We want guns.  We don't want drugs and sex.  Boom.  Laws made.

But if there is evidence that society as a whole benefits from changing the laws we have, or from changing the way we make laws, why wouldn't we take it?  Are our "wants" more important than evidence and logic?  Don't we want other people's lives to improve more than we want to dictate what they can and cannot do?

What's your take on US law making?  Is there anything I'm overlooking?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Jul 19, 2017

Mo' Baby Stuff

I just kind of want to talk about Orion today.  I haven't been to a mom group in a while so... bear with me.

He's almost 6 months old!

People keep commenting on how fast he's getting older and I get it - other people's kids do seem to grow up pretty fast.  But it doesn't seem fast to me, and that's not a bad thing.  I'm enjoying our current pace of life.  The only changes I want to make are less multi-tasking and more sleeping.

We moved him into his own room!

I cried so much the first night.  Like to the point where I couldn't calm down and sleep and had to get on my phone for some mindless distraction.  Ryan was sad, too, but in a more stereotypical man way where he says, "I'm a little sad" and then rolls over and goes to sleep.

The 2nd night was fine.  Lol!  I guess I got all the emotions out the first night.  The 3rd night he was awake every other hour and I finally gave up and put him in our bed.  I was worried that I'd be ruining all the progress we made but it was fine.  He's been sleeping in his crib the past couple weeks AND he's slept 11 hours without feeding breaks several times.

Ryan keeps telling me he didn't expect me to be as emotionally attached as I am.

He then reassures me that this is a good thing but I wonder if he actually means it.  In any case, I'm fine with my balance of being a mom and being myself.  I don't have trouble focusing on non-mom topics and I'm just as obsessed with my business as I ever was.  But yes, I do occasionally need to cry hysterically about various baby-related things and change is hard and I often feel unnecessary mom-guilt.

To me these just feel like facts of life and, as long as I don't let them overwhelm me or dictate my actions, I don't think it's a big deal that I'm a little less rational than I was before.

My definition of peace is my baby sleeping.

This won't come as a surprise to other parents, but it did for me.  I was at a counseling appointment and the counselor asked me to describe the first thing that came to mind when she said "peace."  My first thought was nothing - like I don't have it at all, but my second thought was the baby sleeping.  Specifically me holding him while he sleeps.

There's all this advice that says babies need to fall asleep on their own in the crib and I was worried because Orion tends to fall asleep on the bottle BUT you know what?  Life is too short to worry.  Currently it's not a problem and he is sleeping through the night most of the time and soothing himself back to sleep without a bottle or me rocking him so I'm going to let myself have this one.  I need more peace in my life and right now that means sitting and holding my baby for an extra half hour each night.

He eats people food!

Everybody knows I was excited to start giving Orion adult food.  I read about mashing up food from our plates vs making purees or using jars of baby food, and decided there was enough support for the option I wanted to do (straight to adult food) that we would try it.  It was hilarious at first because Orion didn't know how to chew so he'd spit everything back out again by accident and he made these frowny faces of intense concentration whenever he tasted a new flavor.

Now he's starting to get it.  I think chewing is actually easier for him than liquidy foods like smoothies because he doesn't understand the closing your mouth part so liquids tend to run right back out again.  He also doesn't understand how to put food in his own mouth, which is kind of ridiculous because he puts everything else in there!  He'll just sit there with an open mouth waiting, like a baby bird, or if he's really hungry he'll launch his face at my hand when it's close enough.  This makes it difficult to feed him but is hilarious.

He looooves his bouncy seat.

Orion wants to be upright all the time but can't actually sit up yet.  He's also likes to jump and he's starting to really get into all the various doohickeys there are to grab and crinkle and spin on the chair.  Sometimes he bounces so violently that the chair sounds like it's going to fall apart and Toast flees.  I feel bad for her but it's pretty funny.

He's changing constantly.

Every week there's some new thing.  A couple weeks ago it was his tongue - he learned how to blow raspberries and was constantly making this "pbbtbtbtbt" noise.  I don't even know when he went from just being able to grab things to now being able to spin the wheel thing on the bouncy seat.  He's also rolling onto his stomach and scooting in a circle.  It happens so slowly you almost don't notice and then you realize he's facing the opposite direction from where he started.

Orion and Luke are going to be best buddies.

He watches both of the dogs all the time and laughs when Luke licks him.  (Toast is too chicken, which is unfortunate because she really liked him when he was smaller.)  Luke just wants to lick anyone who will let him so we're constantly having to pull him away to keep his tongue out of the baby's mouth.  I think they would both be fine with it, but we're not!

Luke has also learned that babies are a good source of food.  He parks himself under the high chair every mealtime to await dropped food or the occasional treat from me or Ryan (we give in to begging as long as it's not obnoxious).

And now for the not-so-sneaky baby pictures!  I'm breaking Ryan's and my rule but I don't feel that bad about it because after telling Google not to list my blog and removing all the places where I shared it, my hits are down from thousands a month to under 100.  I think I know everyone who's visiting and you guys are cool.  Here's Little Dude.

Jenn signature graphic | Optimization, Actually

Jul 18, 2017

The Problem with Millennials is...

Nothing.  Seriously, people.

I've read far too many articles assessing millennials, whether it's how to work with them, why they're needlessly whiny, why they're justified in being whiny, how to market to them, whether they have any value as human beings or not, and so on.

I've also heard far too many people around my age bitch about millennials without realizing we ARE millennials.  Early 80s to mid 90s.  Seeing as I was born in '87, I'm smack-dab in the middle.  As millennial as it's possible to be.  And guess what!

I'm pretty freaking awesome.

Before you start telling me that unwarranted high self esteem is a millennial trait, allow me to explain.  I don't feel entitled to anything.  I'm very strongly motivated by feelings of obligation to others and by my desire to be independent.  My business isn't exploding, but it's growing steadily as I continue to work at it.

I work hard.  I deprive myself of sleep to keep up with client requests.  I read business advice constantly, to learn new tips and tricks for how to keep improving.  I listen eagerly to advice from others if they know more about a topic than I do.

Maybe I did want my "dream job" instead of just a regular 9 to 5, but I found a field that was both profitable and pleasurable and I worked to make it my own.  Who wouldn't want to do the same if it was possible to have both?

And I'm no unicorn.  I see some of my peers sitting back with a victim mentality letting the government or their parents pay for them, but I see far more of them working their butts off alongside me.  We hustle, we make up goofy names like bossbabe and girlboss, but so what?  The idea that work isn't work if it's fun is ridiculous.  You're going to spend a huge chunk of your life at work - why not at least TRY to enjoy it?

I'm gradually seeing more and more of my peers in the networking events I attend, building businesses and taking actionable steps towards their dreams.  Like it or not, the millennial generation is growing up and starting to kick ass.

"Oh, well, I just had my time periods wrong.  It's not actually the millennials that are the problem.  It's the next generation."

No.  Every generation thinks the generation being raised after them is a problem.  Don't believe me?  Check out Mental Floss' list of historical references to the degenerate youth.

The truth is we just don't like change.  And if a younger generation is doing things differently than we did, it's wrong and probably immoral.

Not to mention the fact that so, so many of the complaints about "millennials" are things that apply to young people almost universally.  Young people are always self-centered until they grow up and learn to empathize with other people.  Anyone entering the work force for the first time is going to make mistakes and handle things awkwardly a few times until they get the hang of it.  You can't be perfect at something you've never done before.

So here's my crazy proposal: why don't we stop whining about the supposed whininess of other generations and instead start looking at each other as individuals?  Maybe Baby Boomers wrecked the economy.  Maybe millennials could stand to put their phones down more often.

Or maybe we're all just people doing our best to adapt and keep up in a rapidly changing world.  The idea that you can blame large-scale world problems on one particular generation is just as ridiculous as trying to blame a specific gender or race.  We're all in this together, collectively and individually.

Yeah, I'm a millennial.  So what?


What generation are you and what stereotypes do people apply to you because of it?  Do you have prejudices of your own?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Jul 13, 2017

"Abundance" and Other Buzzwords

I'm going to start by reminding you of my highly cynical nature.  The more you tell me to believe blindly vs following actionable steps, the higher you'll see my eyebrows go.

I try to be open-minded but for the most part it's a "good for you, not for me" situation.  You believe what you want and I'll believe what I want.  Neither one is interfering with the other so what does it matter?

BUT, even with the best of intentions to remain open-minded and non-judgy, I am sick of hearing certain phrases.

Manifesting.  Synergy.  Rewrite your story.  Intentions.  Vibrations.  Abundance.

Forgive me if any of these feature regularly in your vocabulary.  And know that it doesn't matter if I like what you like.  Continue on manifesting abundance through your intention to emit positive vibrations.

What irks me about these words is not people running around having fun stretching their vocabularies or diving into the mystical.  I like mysticism myself, even if I have trouble getting past the shallow end of the pool.  What irks me is when people use this type of vocabulary to present a misleading perception of themselves to others.

We all try to come up with the best version of "our story" to show the world.  And that's natural.  But it all gets a bit murky for me when it comes to selling.  Promising others wild success and then talking about the abundance you've manifested seems like selling an empty promise to me.  You're essentially creating your "abundance" from tricking others into believing you already have it.

In one specific example, someone from one of my networking groups said she was no longer going to be running the group or her previous business.  Rather than say what she was transitioning into, she said she was "coming into a place of abundance."


After hearing a few different versions of the story, I think I've pieced together the non-mystical-jargon version of the story.

She got bored and/or burned out, dropped some of her obligations that were overwhelming her, and decided to try something new.

What is wrong with that story?  Why do we have to put this new-agey spiritual spin on it?  She didn't have to "manifest" this career change.  She just decided to do it.  You go, girl!  Take action in your life.

Honestly, I think that sounds more impressive than "life has handed me abundance and I must follow where it takes me."  Because you made a decision and are working to build the life you want.  You're being proactive instead of passively letting life roll over you or letting some all-knowing universe tell you what "your path" should be.  There's nothing wrong with changing your mind and there's definitely nothing wrong with being in control of your own destiny!

I hate the idea that we're not in control of our own lives.  That it's our thoughts and intentions rather than our actual actions that enact change.  I don't think praying for victims of a tragedy is helpful and I don't think thinking positive things about money is going to pad your wallet.

And I feel like, in general, words like "abundance" are often used to mask the fact that there is no plan, or it's still coming together, or to make it sound like everything is fun and breezy and if you just pay me $50 for my e-course, you too can make money with minimal effort!

Wouldn't it be so much more "authentic" (to use a buzzword) if we admitted that we're not sure what we're doing yet?  Why do we need to pretend we have it all together or that it's all predetermined?  Does that really sell better than, "I'm working hard and making progress at a reasonable rate"???

I suppose it does or people wouldn't keep doing it.  But I'm never going to be ok with it.

So go ahead and manifest all you want!  Write blog posts on it and tell me about all the positive things coming into your life.  But don't try to sell me manifestations and abundance and over-the-phone energy healing.

I need a business coach who's going to say, "Shit, woman, get your finances in order!  Here's 5 steps to get started."  Do those exist?  Or is coaching solely the realm of the new-age-y and the magical?

What buzzwords bother you and which, if any, in my list do you use regularly?

P.S. If you'd like to waste some time, here's a "New-Age Bullshit Generator" that entertained me quite a bit.

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Jul 12, 2017

A Mental Health Check Up - Some July Goals

I went back to my counselor/therapist/psych/whatever you call it a couple weeks ago.  On my birthday actually, which I joked was a little present to myself.

I hadn't been since before the baby was born and I think we're pretty much through the rough patch of, "Holy shit, delivery and a new baby and breast feeding issues - I need help!"  Life is starting to settle back into a smoother pattern.  So I don't think I NEED therapy.  With a couple exceptions I've rarely gone because I NEED therapy.

But I do think it's beneficial to talk to someone about what's going on in your life, get an outside perspective, and most importantly, remember to check in on your mental health once in a while.

That last one is what I've been missing since Orion was born.  Even now that he frequently sleeps through the night, and I can put him in his bouncy chair for 15 minutes to wash dishes or take a shower or whatever.  I have small snippets of time I could use for myself.  To read, to do yoga, meditate, workout, relax, whatever.

But I don't.

When there is a spare scrap of time, I'm working on client projects.  I've spent so many days bouncing between entertaining the baby and trying to get "just one more" thing done and it's both exhausting and a constant source of stress.  Stress because I feel like I get so little done and stress because I feel guilty for not giving my baby my undivided attention.  And the nights!

I get a full night of sleep maybe once or twice a week.  If Orion cooperates on the day I happen to choose sleep over work.  But most nights have me up working until at least midnight, and often until 2 or 3.

I'm pushing myself to the very edge of burnout and while I'm trying to be proactive about solutions (childcare, contracting work out, etc) it's slow to set up and in the meantime I'm just a mess.  I can't count the number of times I've cried about being sleep deprived and knowing another long night was coming.

Apparently my own misery isn't enough to prompt me to change, because I only started pushing client projects back after I felt that it was literally unsafe for me to be behind the wheel one day.  You can't drive around with a baby in the car wondering if you're going to nod off and crash.

And I think that's the crux of the problem - I don't do things for myself.  I do them for other people, whether that's my child, my clients, my husband, or the dogs (we have a flexible definition of people in this house).  I'm probably the epitome obliger, and sometimes it almost feels like a game - how long can I deprive myself before I crack?

In a way, talking to a therapist almost feels like an obliger strategy, because if I know I have to report back in to her in a month, I'm more likely to follow up with the "homework" she gives me.  Between her advice and the pediatrician's reminder, "You can't be a good parent if you're exhausted" I've got a plethora of reasons to take care of me that aren't necessarily about me.

Anyway, now that you're sick of me whining about how hard life is, let's get to the actionable part!  As you may have guessed, my previous set of health goals is so far left behind I had to visit the blog post to see what I was even trying to do.

I need a new strategy obviously and I think the focus needs to be more on root problems rather than just suddenly adopting healthy mannerisms.  I'm not following through with healthy living because I'm exhausted and my willpower is at a minimum because I expend it all day, and most of the night, on working and serving others.  I don't leave any for myself.

My therapist and I talked about this and while she didn't specifically suggest I blather on my blog about it, I am going to use her suggestions as the basis for my new goals and report in monthly to give myself reminders.  Like a mental AND physical health checkup.

July Health Goals

1. Walk Once a Day

This one shouldn't have been hard because prior to baby I'd been used to walking the dogs at least once a day BUT after chatting with the therapist I realized a couple of things were interfering: 1) My distaste for the stroller and 2) My guilt at going for walks without the dogs.  I like body slings but Orion's not terribly secure so it's not actually hands free and they make picking up dog poop very difficult.

I've been trying out a few of the suggestions my therapist made and am already finding solutions I like but I'll wait until a full month has gone by before I report in.

2. Go to Sleep When the Baby Does and Work in the Morning Before He Wakes Up

We talked about how I would be a lark if I wasn't always sleep deprived and how, on the rare occasion when I do go to bed and get up early to work I seem to get it done much faster.  The problems I run into with this are: 1) It's about damn near impossible to get up early when I'm so frigging exhausted and 2) I like the safety buffer of having a full night before a deadline.  It's a reassurance that even if something goes wrong, I have hours to fix it.

So far I've done this just once and it was nice.  But it took 3 days of going to sleep at 9pm before I could manage to get up at 5am.  I feel like I've dug myself into too large of a hole so this isn't as straightforward as it sounds.

Supporting Subgoals

  • Delegate, delegate, delegate!  I went through the process of screening 4 potential graphic design helpers and I have 2 that I like but I still hesitate to send them stuff.  I keep thinking, "I could do it faster" or "It will only take a minute."  So quit the bullshit and just send it to someone.
  • Longer Leadtimes.  I've gotten better about giving myself more time for the first couple project steps but then when people request changes, I forget and say, "Oh, sure, I'll have that to you in 2 days!"  2 days is not enough time to delegate and will inevitably have to be completed at some point late that night or the next.

3. Get Into a Routine

As per usual, this sounds awesome but I have no clue how to follow through with it.  The funny thing is I've managed to build some routines for the baby - he gets a bath at 8pm, has a bottle and then goes to bed around 9pm.  In the mornings he's usually up around 8am (sometimes he's up a lot at night and sometimes he sleeps all the way through but the start and end times are pretty regular), and then we get dressed and go have breakfast around 9am.  He's even starting to fall into a nap routine with naps roughly around 11am and 3pm.

So the question I need to answer to tackle this one is, "How did I enforce these routines for the baby and how can I apply that strategy towards myself?"

And that's it for now.  This has been a long, rambly post, but the end game is more sleep and better self care.  We'll see how it goes!

How do you enforce self care?  Do you do mental health check ins?

Jenn signature graphic | Optimization, Actually

Jul 11, 2017

If I Were a Wizarding Student...

Life would be so much more awesome, no?  I'm currently listening to the audiobooks as I get them from the library (currently on book #3 - don't try to kill Sirius, Harry!  He's not really evil and, by the way, you're way outclassed here.) AND THEN Stephanie posted her amazing HP questionnaire, which I promptly stole.

1. Who is your favorite character?

Remus Lupin.  Maybe in part because I'm listening to this book right now, but he's so chill and he doesn't rise to any of Snape's backhanded comments.  He also balances authority with reasonable adult-ness and is one of the few teachers who takes the kids seriously.  (I really think the reason they spend most of the books running around doing dangerous stuff is because whenever they do tell a teacher something, the teacher shushes them up and pretends nothing is wrong.)  Dumbledore and Hermoine are close seconds.

2. Who is your least favorite character?

Stephanie made a really good point about Rita Skeeter being annoying AND unnecessary to the plot vs Umbridge who is an excellently written evil character.  I actually think my least favorite might be the Dursleys.  They're exaggerated to the point of unbelievability AND I have to hear about them in every single book.  I don't think I minded them as much before but in the audiobook they are SO ANNOYING!!!

3. If you could hook up with any character, who would it be?

One of the twins, probably.  I like goofballs.

4. What is your favorite quote?

"Alas!  Ear wax!" -Dumbledore  (I love how he manages to be both wise and quirky and this quote made me laugh.)

5. Favorite/least favorite book?

Book number 5!!!  Order of the Phoenix, because Harry is so angry and whiny and mean to his friends.  I spent the first half of the book pissed off at him.  Finally he gets it together and starts his secret club at school, which was my favorite part of that book, but I hated him for the rest of it.

Not doing movies because I don't remember having strong feelings about any of them.  Well, except maybe the death scene in the last movie.  I still don't understand how Harry died and came back and it felt too "I'm a main character so I will survive anything."

6. Parts of the book or movie that made you cry?

So many scenes in the last book, but definitely Fred's death above all.  Listening to the books as an older, more emotional person, I'm finding myself tear up for all kinds of things - Harry hearing his mom pleading for his life strikes a chord it didn't previously.

7. What would your patronus be?

Hippogriff!  Patronuses can be magical beasts, right?

8. What about your boggart?

I'ma get uncomfortably real with you.  My worst fear is everyone I care about not loving me anymore so my boggart would be some version of being cold and sad and alone while everyone leaves me.

9. Would you rather have the elder wand, invisibility cloak, or resurrection stone?

Invisibility cloak.  I'm not afraid of aging and I've never wanted power in any sense.  Plus the invisibility cloak came in handy for Harry so many times!

10. Which house would you be in?

Hufflepuff.  I've written about this plenty, so I won't bore you with a repeat.

11. What position would you play on the Quidditch team?

Beater!  Blocking the ball is about all I ever mastered in soccer.  Aim, dexterity, coordination?  Pah.  But I can be a wall.

12. Which class would be your favorite?

Probably transfiguration or maybe potions (with a different teacher than Snape!).  Whatever seems the most "magical" and least like muggle life.

13. What would your job be in the wizarding world?

I wouldn't mind owning a little magic shop!  Maybe I could take over from Ollivander and make wands.

14. If you could bring one character back to life, who would it be?

Fred, obvi.  Killing one half of the twins was the most tragic of all the deaths, in my opinion.  They're a set, Rowling!  Kill both or neither.

15. If you could meet any member of the cast, who would it be?

Rupert Grint!  He seems so dorky and happy and did you know he drives an ice cream trunk around to give free ice cream to kids???  But only in the off season so as to not hurt business for the regular ice cream trucks.  Emma Watson is pretty awesome, too, but I feel like I wouldn't know what to say to her.

16. Things that were better in the movie.

Order of the Phoenix, movie Harry didn't annoy me nearly as much as book Harry.  I think that's one case where not being in the character's head was better because I didn't have to hear all his angsty thoughts.  Also Voldemort continuing to reappear.  The movies it felt more like a gradual building of his power where the books it was more, "What, this again?!"

17. Things that were better in the book.

Ron!  They gave some of his lines away in the movies and it made me mad.  Harry and Ginny's relationship.  Dumbledore.  Really just a lot of characters because the movies had to skim over some of the smaller details that made me like them so much.

18. Favorite parts in all the books.

In no particular order, when Harry, Ron, and Hermoine break into the ministry, the D.A. where they practice fighting dark magic, any time they use polyjuice potion, Hermoine's makeover for the dance, and when Ginny gets more confident.  Makeovers and takeovers.

19. Least favorite parts in all the books.

The Dursleys, the Triwizard Tournament where Harry just stumbles through on luck (even though they later explain that it was only because of whats-his-face), the death scene with Dumbledore, the horcrux thing with Dumbledore where Harry has to force him to drink - that was just horrible, and, of course, whenever anyone died.

20. Were you happy with the ending?

Uhhhh... well, as terrible as it is to say, I kind of thought Harry should have died.  I was happy that he survived and that we had a (mostly) happy ending, but it also broke me out of my suspension of disbelief.  I also agree with Stephanie that no one was good enough for Hermoine, although book Ron was much better than movie Ron.  Oh, and how they ended with everyone's kids at the train station - I didn't need that.  The movie was unbearably cheesy when they spot balding Malfoy and he half smiles as if to say, "No grudges, eh?"

Go ahead - tell me your answers!

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Jul 6, 2017

A Tale of Sensitivity, Benevolence, and Dick Pics

"He literally could not remember a single project that any of the women were working on."  "He kept putting his hand on the back of my neck and after I moved it the 2nd time, he said, 'What, were you abused as a child or something?' "  "He pointed out that I hadn't left room in my coffee cup for cream."

I mentioned my feminist book club before.  I like it because it gives me a reason to read, even if that involves taking a break from client projects to do so (which I only really do for my own pleasure when I'm so burned out I can't function anymore) and also because it educates me.  These books are ones that would have made it onto my Goodreads TBR, but not necessarily into my Kindle simply because, left to my own devices, I'll read fluff.

To get back on track, our last meeting was a good one.  After about an hour, we left the book behind and started sharing personal experiences and stories.  It was particularly interesting for me because, while I knew I was sheltered, I think it's very easy to forget to what extent.

I've never received a random dick pic.  When I was pregnant, no random strangers touched my belly.  I've never felt like I was on the receiving end of sexist treatment at work.  With a few exceptions from childhood ("Girls don't play drums"), I wasn't really told what I could or could not do based on my gender.

And we all know how easy it is to fall into the trap of thinking, "Well, if I've never seen it, it can't be that bad."

As I sat and listened to story after story of workplace chauvinism, sexism both benevolent and hostile, and, yes, dick pics, it really hit me.  These women were here, right in front of me.  They work and live in my state.  And all this shit is happening right here.

There were stories of work discounted or discredited, accomplishments minimized or attributed to male coworkers.  One woman's job in a particularly male-dominated field had been filled with random snide remarks like the coffee example above or basing her performance review on the fact that she had appeared "tired" rather than how effective her work had been.

She told us how, after interviewing with the one office with a majority of female employees in that field, a huge proportion of male interviewees would drop out.  She told us of coworkers who thought she was being "too sensitive" because she preferred to have them stand to the side rather than right behind her when she was showing them something on her computer.

In fact, "too sensitive" was the phrase I probably heard repeated the most in these stories.  It was a way for men to brush off the concerns of their female employees and coworkers.  Obviously if they'd just toughen up, everything would be fine.  The problem wasn't the unfair treatment, but their vocalization of it.

The story that sticks out the most in my memory was a "too sensitive" story.  This woman had been placed in charge of investigating why people were so insistent on stealing things from archaeological sites, even risking significant fines to do so.

After going out in the field and talking to a few people about it, her number was circulated and men started sending her pictures of their contraband artifacts.  With their dicks next to it.

As if that wasn't disgusting enough, when she told her supervisor what was going on and that it was making her uncomfortable, he accused her of being "too sensitive."  Then, after she forwarded him some of the pictures she was receiving, he told her she was unprofessional and should handle it without forcing him to have to look at something so unpleasant.

"Too sensitive."  Apparently that's a phrase that applies only to women.

I don't even know which of these stories makes me the angriest.  Having a supervisor openly ignore the fact that you're being sexually harassed.  Coworkers who refuse to not loom over you at your desk even though standing 1 foot away takes literally zero effort.  The fact that benevolent sexism is a thing and that many women are on board with it.

This phrase was new to me, so I'll explain.  Hostile sexism is what it sounds like - men who hate women, think they're lesser creatures, and that they should obey and stay in their place.  Benevolent sexism has another name which we're all familiar with: chivalry.  To be sexist in a benevolent way is to believe that women are gentle, fragile creatures who need special treatment.  Being the recipient of benevolent sexism could even be pleasant if you enjoy being waited on or receiving special perks that the opposite gender doesn't receive.

We talked about the harmful effects of both benevolent and hostile sexism and how they can act in concert.  Women who obey and follow the rules are treated "chivalrously" and given special perks.  Women who want to be equals or step out of line are treated aggressively.

This is a scary system, because it gives women motivation to try to oppress other women.  Women seeking equal treatment will remove the benefits they are receiving from benevolent sexism.  It also explains why any woman would be anti-feminist, or would vote for an openly sexist president.  After all, Trump "loves women."  He just disapproves of women who try to step out of their place and don't they deserve it anyway?

She shouldn't have dressed that way/gotten drunk/walked around in that part of town on her own/been so loud/complained so much/been so sensitive.

After all, it's women who are the problem.  If they'd just stop complaining they'd see that things are much better and there's nothing left that needs a movement.  If they weren't so sensitive, maybe they'd get promoted like the guys and get taken seriously in meetings.

I'm sure I sound a little bitter, because hearing these stories does make me feel that way.  Equal parts bitter, sad, and dispirited.

I don't have a moral to today's post.  Except maybe to listen to other people's stories.  Your personal one-person point of view is only one, teeny, tiny segment of society and we should all know what kind of world we're living in.

Had you heard the phrase "benevolent sexism" before?  Can you think of a time you've been on the receiving end of it?  Have you've ever been told you're "too sensitive" in response to legitimate work concerns?

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Jul 4, 2017

An Update on the Friend Finding Mission

I know I've talked about how difficult it is to make friends as an adult.  (I can't find the post but even if I did, I'd probably hate it because don't we all hate our posts from more than 2 years ago?)  I attended Meetup Groups, tried a friend finding website, and generally struggled and felt isolated for a long time.

Then I forgot about it.  Until a couple days ago when I was talking to Ryan about my new "graphic designer friend" and he said, "Which one is this?"

Guys.  I have enough friends that Ryan can't keep them straight.

This is huge!

But it's also different from what I thought it'd be.  I think I was expecting to find one or two good friends.  I thought I'd find a tiny, core group of people who were just like me.  People who could be my end-all be-all, and nerd out over Lord of the Rings after we finished attending a business function together.  Who could give me business feedback, and would want to watch fantasy movies with me and go to figure drawing and on and on and on.

I was looking for me.

The problem with that is that no two people are exactly alike and share all the same interests.  Even if I did find my lifestyle doppelganger, my own interests change and I can't expect another person to mirror that.  It's ridiculous.

I don't know exactly when I figured it out, but I started accepting that each friend fits into one part of my life.  And that's plenty!  I have more variety this way and I get to know so many awesome people that I would have missed out on before.

I have an art friend, a business bestie, blogger friends, old high school friends, nerd friends, graphic designer friends, and a TON of acquaintances.  I have a brunch group, a book club, and I'm working on some new mom friends, and hopefully a new workout buddy since I lost mine.

In addition to accepting that people are different (staggering revelation, I know), I think I've also accepted how transitory it all is and I've stopped being so selective in how I apply the term "friend."

You don't need to prove yourself or pass some imaginary gauntlet to be my friend.  All you have to do is say yes occasionally when I invite you out somewhere.  If you invite me out, even better!  I can really see this going somewhere.  (I'd like to add an innuendo there but my brain isn't working with me.  Pretend I said something funny.)

I have maybe one ride-or-die buddy, a couple of closer friends who will do one-on-one activities with me and who actually answer my texts, and enough special-interest/one-dimensional friends that I'm not going to try to count them.  It's more satisfying than I would have expected it to be and I don't even mind that a lot of these relationships will never become deeper friendships.

Some of these people I will only hang out with a handful of times and then we'll drift apart.  Being temporary doesn't mean they didn't contribute to my life in some way.

Now, let's stop rambling and get down to practicalities.  Here's what I've tried.

Places to Make Friends

1. Meetup Groups - C

I can't honestly say I've made any friends from a Meetup group that I then spent time with outside of that group.  BUT if you're lonely and haven't made friends yet, a Meetup group can provide a fairly satisfactory social substitute.

My favorites: pretty much any dog group (you can also just go to a dog park - talking to other dog people requires very little effort because you already know what your common interest is), Girl Develop It (women in tech), MOMs Club (ditto to the dog group comment but don't tell the moms I said that), and my feminist book club.  This last one I have the highest hopes for turning into real life friends but even if that doesn't work, I'm enjoying the discussions so much that I won't be too upset.

2. Friend Finding Websites - F

I think the one I used was "Girlfriend Connect"?  I'm not sure.  In any case, while I went in determined to make light of "friend dating" I think it did, in fact, feel too much like dating.  Awkwardness ensued.

Note: I've seen some people legitimately use dating website to look for friends.  I was always too suspicious that they were actually looking for threesomes or kinky sex things so I never tried it or responding to it but I'm curious.  If anyone has done this or knows someone who has, I'd love to hear how that worked for you.

3. Special Interest Forums - F

I think I really only tried online groups for graphic design and books.  While I like blogging book linkups, online book clubs don't really do it for me.  The conversation gets too disjointed.  Asynchronous group conversations are not my thing.

4. Blogging - A

I don't have to tell you guys how effective blogging is for making friends.  The ironic thing is that when I started I didn't realize that would happen.  Which is great because it means all the friendships I have made have been totally organic!  I even have a couple people I meet up with occasionally so it's made the transition from "online friends" to "IRL" friends.

The only downside is that the majority of my blogger friends are too far away to see in person and Delaware doesn't have a ton of bloggers.  So it's a limited pool to work with.  (For me - it could be very effective for someone else.)

5. Networking Groups - B

This one surprised me.  But it makes sense!  If you pick a group and go regularly, you'll see the same people over and over again.  People in networking groups are often better at reaching out because they have a stronger drive to "make connections" and they're not going to give you the side-eye if you invite them out for a coffee.  Overall, I've made more "business connections" than friends, but I have some of each and networking taught me the MOST important tactic, which I'll get into below.

Friend Finding Tactics

1. Reaching Out to People

Yes this is the most important one.  Let me apologize for how obvious this must seem.

When I started this journey it was a struggle to text or email or Facebook message someone just to say, "Hi.  How have you been?"  Inviting someone out to do something if I didn't know them well seemed impossible and incredibly awkward.  I have a theory that this is harder for women because, for the most part, we didn't have to take the lead in dating and so we never learned this skill.  (Feel free to debate me on that - I'd be interested to hear opinions!)

Regardless of other people's skills or lack thereof in putting themselves out there, I didn't have it.  I didn't realize it was necessary.  Going to a coffee shop with a stranger?  How terrifying!  Someone from the friend finding website actually invited me to do this without any preliminary conversation and I thought she was crazy.  Turns out she got it and I didn't and I probably missed a good opportunity to hang out with an experienced socializer.

In any case, networking events quickly taught me that this is not only normal, it is essential, and after bumping into a high school acquaintance at a couple of events, I invited her to brunch.  I got lucky with that, as she was an enthusiastic bruncher, knew a ton of graphic designers/artists, AND was an experienced networker.  My semi-monthly creative brunch group is all due to that one contact and, as I invite these new acquaintances to things, I'm realizing most people DO want to do things.  But most of us don't have time to plan and maybe, like me, are a little scared to do the reaching out.

So I reach out now.  When I meet someone I like, I ask if they're on Facebook/Instagram/Twitter/etc.  Do they have a business card/an email/a phone number?  When I think of an activity that reminds me of our conversation, I invite them.

Sometimes that old awkward feeling does resurface and it's not always easy.  But I force myself to do it anyway and, more often than not, people are interested.  I've even just posted to Facebook, "Who wants to do ___?" and to my great surprise, people answered!  I got a totally random group together for Harry Potter Escape the Room and it was a fantastic time.

But it doesn't always go that well and sometimes people don't answer or they're "busy," which leaves you wondering if that's code for, "I don't really want to hang out with you."

Here's my next secret.

2. Don't Take Things Personally

People flake, potential friends ghost, close friends drift apart.  So what?

Back to the friend-finding website.  I had one really good potential nerd friend.  I was far too excited about this.  Every email that I sent her or thing I invited her to was terrifying and I had no idea how to handle it if she said no.  After going to a couple things I invited her to, she stopped answering me.  I reluctantly let it go.  It felt like a personal rejection.

And maybe it was.  Maybe she didn't like me as much as I liked her.  Maybe she thought my activities were boring.  Maybe I was way too clingy because I had so few potential friends at that point.

Or MAYBE her life was too chaotic.  Maybe she moved back home.  Maybe she didn't have as much free time as I did.  Maybe she was more introverted, or had a bigger group of friends already.  Maybe she just forgot.

It literally doesn't matter.

Something we often lament as adults in need of friends is how busy everyone is and how hard it is to get people to do stuff.  That's true.  But it's also true that if you keep reaching out, you'll find the other people who feel the way you do and who are just as determined to find some new friends.

Don't waste time on the ones who don't respond and don't waste time agonizing over whether or not they're going to respond.  Next point.

3. Use a Wider Net

When I invite people to things now, I'll often forget I sent the invitation because if they don't answer, there's someone else who will want to do something.  Plus, between the business and the baby, I'm busy too!  I don't have time to waste feeling awkward or scared and anxiously waiting to see if people reply to my messages.

One huge benefit of having a wide net of acquaintances vs a core group of friends is that I'm not as tied to specific people's schedules.  If my schedule and another person's schedule don't match up, that's fine.  We'll do something in a month or two.  In the meantime, I'll find someone with availabilities that match mine.  And if one person doesn't seem as receptive, I can let them go and focus on others.

4. Be Enthusiastic But Don't Wait for Other People to Be

Some of my best friends are the ones who make it very clear that they like me.  I never have to worry about whether they want to do stuff because if I say, "Do you want to go to ___?" They respond immediately with, "YES THAT SOUNDS AWESOME!"  I have friends who literally say, "You're amazing" which is about the best feeling in the world.

But not everyone has that personality.  I don't even have that personality.  I have to remind myself to tell Ryan that he's awesome.  I literally have a calendar reminder.  I had to make an executive decision to be a "hug person" because my natural inclination is more, "Meh, I don't really need to be touched right now."

I do this because I've noticed that while I might not want a hug at the time, I do feel closer to the people who are "huggy" people.  I also pump up the exclamation points and the visual indicators of enthusiasm because I don't want people to think that me being more laid back means I don't like them.

On the same token, I don't expect everyone else to spew sunshine and excited emojis.  If they do - great!  I know they're on board with our blossoming friendship and that I'm in the clear to say things like "blossoming friendship."  If they don't, it doesn't necessarily indicate lack of interest and I'll continue to invite them to things until they stop accepting my invitations.

It's also ok to literally tell people you like them.  Sometimes I text all my close friends (aka the ones I have a recent text conversation with) and tell them a thing I like about them.  Some people will question you but most people will appreciate it, because we all need reminders and support.

After all, isn't that what friends are for?

What tactics have you tried for making friends?  How did you become friends with the friends you have now?

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