May 5, 2018

Tiny Teething Toddlers

I'm hiding from my toddler right now. Yes, you read that right. Literally hiding where he cannot see me because every time he sets eyes on me he screams.

He's teething. I hope.

If he's not teething, I don't know what the problem is because I ran the full parental diagnostic and came up with nothing.

Today, more than ever, having a child reminds me of being a teenager. I remember those highs and lows. Moving seamlessly from giggles into tears.

Of course, if I thought I had it bad as a teenager, but I assure you this side of it is worse. Because now I have logic and I watch this mini human flailing his body around, as his face crumples into tears for the umpteenth time today, and I know NOTHING IS WRONG!

At least as a teenager I could feel all the self-centered angst in my soul and I knew I was troubled and misunderstood. Now I'm just observing it wondering what the hell is going on.

And, as an adult who has struggled her way into some semblance of emotional stability, it is HARD to maintain that equilibrium when my tiny human seems like he hates me and hates the world. So I'm getting some echo of those wild emotional spikes. "Oh good, he's giggling. All is right in the world!" "And now he's screaming again. Aghghghgh, shoot me now!"

I don't like it. I've occasionally felt a sense of wistfulness at not experiencing the highs of teenagerdom. The excitement leading up to trips, the sheer joy of confiding in a friend who "gets it", the thrill of finding an awesome outfit at the mall.

But ultimately it was worth it to not feel "joy" at a good pair of shoes when I could also skip the utter misery that accompanied every activity that didn't line up with my idea of a perfect world. I had settled for content and serenity and quiet happiness in calm moments. Like sleeping babies, family walks, and talking to my husband about goals and dreams.

So no, I don't like this. I don't like the resurfacing of the emotional turmoil I remember all-too-well from high school. I don't like feeling the echo of a teething toddler's emotions, and I don't like all the leftover frustration with nowhere to vent other than my husband or dogs. And the inevitable guilt that follows when I yell at a dog whose worst crime was being physically present when my child is driving me crazy.

Is calmness a skill? Is there some sort of trick I can learn to let his baby emotions slide off me? I'm rubber, he's glue???

Apr 17, 2018

'Allo, Neekee!

Just when I think this blog is well and truly dead, Sister3 mentions it and I think, "I could write a post." Why not? After all, I'm sitting here waiting for a ridiculous plugin called "WP Bulk Smush" to finish hulk smashing its way through my images.

So... life. I've been doing my morning routine, and setting priorities when I begin the work day, and not working after 6pm when Orion gets home from daycare. And it's totally and utterly cheesy, but as I was walking the dogs last week during my 1pm break, glowing from a morning of unprecedented productivity and designs that had simply flowed out of my brain in a wash of beatific harmony, I thought, "I'm living my best life."

That's right! All those inspiring quotes that I alternate between pinning to my boards on Pinterest or rolling my eyes at, and I feel like I'm catching on to something. It feels like a secret the world is sharing with me. But it's not a secret at all, and it just took my slow-learning self about 20-some self help books to finally find a version that works for me.

It's not one thing. It's an amalgam of all the advice you read in lifestyle blogs. It's your own creative mashup of 20 different self help books. For me it's...

  • A morning routine of exercise, reading, affirmations, and breakfast with my baby
  • Setting priorities before I get to work, monthly goal-setting and goal-evaluating days, and finding purpose within my business
  • Taking a break at 1 to eat, walk my dogs, and warm up my frozen toes which have forgotten how blood circulation works
  • Dinner with my family, watching the baby play, and quitting on the day right after he goes to bed because I have nothing left to give anyone
  • Realizing that that's ok, even if it feels like a "waste of time" to sit around and read fantasy books from 8 to 10pm every night
  • Scheduling client projects further out so I can plan my next couple of weeks without constant feast or famine
  • Boundaries and raising prices and talking to my business bestie when my confidence is low
  • Trying new things and stretching myself and putting in the work during working hours, knowing that I get a break at the end of the day
  • Constantly reassessing and tweaking and finding even more harmonious balance between the different areas in my life
I probably wrote about this, but someone said to me, "You must hate your life" after I explained my system of goal setting.

Far from it! There have definitely been low periods, especially in the first year of having a baby and all the adjusting we needed to do. But I love my life and I love goals and I love the strength and resilience that allowed me to overcome those obstacles and troubleshoot myself to where I am now.

I'm happy. And it feels good.

New Horizons

I watch the snow swirling around outside. Yesterday the sun shone, warm and hinting gloriously at spring. My husband and I walked and talked and looked forward to the beginning of many more family walks in the sun.

Yesterday was my "last day" at my part time job. Of course, I'm back there today, finishing up because my final project is one of those horrendous maps that I truly dread doing.

I'm plowing through it. I'll confess, my productivity hasn't been what it could have been the last couple years here. I was bored with the repetition. Repeating the same, mindless tasks, on the same maps, year after year.

But today I have a goal, a vision, and a finish line.

Today I depart, for real, and I will leave my key, and my work email, and the reliable paychecks behind.

I am thrilled! I am excited. I am terrified.

This is it. It's now or never. I have my chance to chase my dreams, make a go of my business, take it from a side gig to the real deal.

I like to run through worst case scenarios when I'm afraid or anxious or stressed. I'm very fortunate that I'm able to pursue this opportunity AND that the risks are so low. If the business doesn't make it, I'll have to find a job. It might take a few years for my finances to rebound. It might add some tension to my marriage.

But I'll survive and we'll figure it out. And if I don't fail...

I get to run a business my way and make all the decisions. I get to donate part of my proceeds and make ethical choices in my company. I get to provide work and pay for other entrepreneurs or potentially employees one day. I get rewarding projects that make a difference outside of my little, personal sphere.

I dressed like I was going to a networking event today and yesterday. I wanted to make that clear distinction. Yes I can work in yoga pants most days. But out in public and interacting with people, this is my business persona. This is who I am and who I'm growing into.



Thoughts About...

...Health


Sometimes going for health goals feels a lot like losing. Like deprivation and missing out. "Giving up" alcohol and sugar and junk food and tv and gossip and on and on and on. I'm trying to focus on the good things and the enjoyable things that I gain. I'm trying to set up accountabilibuddies so I have people to hang out with and make the workouts go by faster. I'm trying to force myself to actually attend a fitness class because I think I'll enjoy it once I get there. I'm trying to remember that running feels good. I'm trying to enjoy some of the weird, new foods that Ryan brings home.

I'm trying.

I've "given up" sugar, which means not binge-eating, which for an abstainer like me, means not eating anything that might trigger cravings. I'm on week 5 and I feel as good and resolute about it as I did when I gave up alcohol. It feels good and I'm proud of myself but I don't want to try many other things right now because...

...Overwhelm


I'm sticking to modest goals for now because I feel so overloaded and overwhelmed with life. The smallest things throw me off and when I need to do 3 things at once, like get my car fixed, set up medical appointments for the kid, and replace my glasses, forget it. It takes weeks to handle these 3 seemingly inconsequential tasks.

To be fair, I ended up going to the eye doctor's 3 times because they closed absurdly early the first time I tried, they couldn't fix my glasses the 2nd, and the 3rd I had an appointment to actually get my prescription. It makes me feel so frustrated when I can't cross the thing, whatever it is, off my list after the first attempt. I feel almost thwarted, like life is laughing at my feeble attempts to keep up.

At the current moment I've got Orion's next doctor's appointment scheduled (this'll be his 3rd or 4th for the same ear infection - I've lost count but fingers crossed his poor ears are finally better), a mechanic ordering parts for my car and hopefully calling me tomorrow to set up an appointment to put them on, and glasses ordered (hopefully they fit and don't hurt my eyes - I ordered them from Zenni Optical and I did more guesstimating than is probably wise).

So on the one hand you could say everything's handled. But at the same time, things actually being resolved is a little out of my control at the moment. It's all waiting to hear back from other people, or hoping that things resolve themselves.

Did I mention I hate not being in control?

I'm a control freak anyway, but feeling out of control tends to awaken the beast...

...Mom Brain


I think I've got this mostly squashed down. I'm getting better at silencing that internal voice that tells me I'm not good enough. I purposely don't worry about Orion's development and whether we're reading to him enough. I don't google things we "should" be doing. I wait until there's something to actually be concerned with and then research the appropriate amount. Like biting. I need to teach him not to bite. I don't need to teach him to never drop food off the highchair tray. The dogs will clean it up anyway.

Something I'm working on is removing the word "should" from my vocabulary. I'm literally going to scan this post right now to see if I've already used it because I've gotten so bad about it (just once - changed it because I need the practice). I'm constantly telling myself how I should be better and what I should be doing instead.

Other people have pointed this out. My coach, my counselor, my friend. "Why should you?" "Who's telling you that?" "Don't listen to people who tell you what to do."

But it's not someone else saying it. It's me. It's all me.

I think in the past when I felt too much pressure from school or to not let people down, I'd crack and I'd do it on purpose. Not finish the project, skip a few days, avoid seeing whoever it was. As an adult, I'd take the occasional mental health day and read all day in bed.

I can't do that now. The stakes are too high. I care too much.

I will build a business that pays the bills. I will raise a child who has minimal parent-induced trauma and can function in society. I will, I will, I will.

...Lowering My Standards


There are certain things that non-negotiable. If it has a direct, detrimental effect on my child or my business, it's not happening. But there's definitely room for flexibility in other areas.

My pediatrician wants me to read to Orion twice a day. I tend to beat myself up over that after every visit and every reminder. How will Orion know that books are fun if I don't read to him? He'll struggle with his schoolwork!

But you know... given 5 minutes of free time, I will read. I don't read as much as I used to before having a child, but I'll listen to audiobooks (or podcasts), and I read books or on my Kindle whenever Orion's not physically pulling it out of my hands. If there's a consistent theme to the things I do around him, it's going to be: work, books, and phone.

I'm less proud of the last one, but let's be honest. Every child born in the information age is going to learn that phones are fun. They're going to play stupid phone games and be on social media too much and then, eventually, they'll grow up and learn how to moderate their usage and still, somehow, get things accomplished in spite of this toy they carry everywhere.

So maybe it's not that big a deal if my baby wants to play with my phone. Maybe it's not that big a deal if I don't read to him exactly twice every day. Maybe it doesn't matter to anyone other than myself if we don't have a sit down meal every single day or if I don't cook more often than twice a week.

We still eat. It's mostly nutritious. The baby's weight is proportionate to his height for the first time since he was born.

...Good Enough


Ryan used to sing to him, "It's a good enough bath" whenever he bathed Orion because he'd basically splash some water on him and call it good. I was thorough. I wanted to develop a nighttime routine, so I bathed him every night. And then... Orion developed a rash because getting a bath every day strips the oils out of your skin and I was drying him out too much.

Yesterday we realized we hadn't bathed Orion for a week and a half. Ewww, dirty baby! But you know what? His skin looks good. No crazy rashes or irritations. Maybe a little dirt is ok.

I'm not saying we want to neglect our child, but maybe straining ourselves to be perfect is more harmful than good. Maybe a stressed out version of me that cooks dinner every night actually does him less good than a relaxed, happy version of me that makes a peanut butter sandwich one night and orders pizza another. As long as we eat a squeezy pouch of vegetables first, who cares?!

I told Ryan at lunch today that whenever I seem "chill" about our child, like not worrying that he's not walking or talking at 13 months, it's very intentional. I can feel the underlying concern, and even panic, if I let it well up. So I don't. He's fine and every baby matures at a different rate. He'll do it when he's ready.

It's an intentional chill. Sometimes even a little forced. But it works. And I think I can start applying this to other areas as well. Like feeling stressed and sometimes barely functional. Instead of feeling like an utter failure, I can be intentionally chill about it. These things happen. It's a bad month, not a bad life. It'll pass. I'm not a failure, I'm just struggling a little bit right now. And even though I'm struggling, I'm still kicking ass in a few different areas!

...Self Validation


Sister2 and I talked about this years and years ago and it's a lesson I have to relearn every so often. If you feel sad and tell yourself it's ok and just ride it out, you'll be much better off and recover faster than if you beat yourself up, tell yourself you have nothing to be sad about, and then start feeling stressed and panicky that you can't get rid of this emotion that shouldn't be there.

So that's probably my number 1 priority right now. Yes, lots of other things are important, but the world will survive if I don't do them perfectly right at this instant. I might not survive if I don't give myself some self love.

Shonda Rhimes said we're all constantly failing. Which sounds negative but it's comforting to know that women who publish popular books and write TV shows and raise kids and seem like they "have it all" feel the same way that I do. You can pick an area or two to do well in, but you have to give yourself slack everywhere else. We're all constantly failing at something, but we can choose what to be succeeding at right now and what to pull back from and we can rotate through the different life areas that really matter to make sure they all get some attention from time to time.

...Life Design and Optimization and Famous People


I like optimization and it definitely helps. I like having a smaller wardrobe and not having to spend time putting together outfits on the days that I'm rushed but need to look professional (every single morning networking event or client meeting). I like having a routine and structure and defaults to fall back on when it's time to make a decision so I can save my willpower for more important things.

But I think I thought life design was a magic answer. Surely if I just optimized enough, like President Obama and his only one kind of suit, then I would have time and feel calm and life would be easier.

So part of my overwhelm and stress and even sadness has been waking up and realizing this is just life. Life is as busy as you allow it to be. And if you want to accomplish goals and raise a family and do more than 1 or 2 things, you're going to be busy. You're going to feel stressed and less than put-together sometimes.

Mar 13, 2018

5 Things

"No one has time for 5 things!"

This was said to me by a mom friend after explaining to me that her pediatrician (or maybe it was a friend? advice article? something) had told her that to build a bedtime routine, you need to pick 5 things and then do those same things every day at the same time.

I agreed.

No one has time for 5 things EVERY SINGLE NIGHT! I can't even manage to cook every day, or pick up my dirty clothes, or get 8 hours of sleep. I started brushing Orion's teeth regularly with this little rubber thingy you can slip on your finger and it worked great for 2 weeks. Then he got tired of it and wouldn't let me put it in his mouth. Now we don't do teeth brushing anymore.

Don't freak out. We'll figure it out. At some point. Hey, it's just baby teeth!

My pediatrician has been getting on my case because I cracked and admitted that I don't read to Orion twice a day. "It's important," he says. "Kids need to learn that books are fun, so they enjoy schoolwork, and go on to do well academically."

I know, I know.

So I'm trying. Tonight I put Orion to bed and as I wormed him into his pjs, I remembered something I had seen on Instagram earlier. I got my phone out, figuring I'd take a peek while he finished his bottle. After opening the app I caught myself, put the phone away, and picked up my baby to hold him while he finished off his bottle.

This was bedtime, not phone time.

Then it hit me.

We DO have a bedtime routine!!!

It doesn't feel like it because it's not big things that seem like a routine. I don't bathe him every night because when I did that he got a rash. But I do make a point to just enjoy being with my baby and not get distracted by life and phones and everything else. Not for these 20-30 minutes.

Every night we:
  1. Change into PJs
  2. Go into his bedroom, close the curtains, and turn on the white noise machine
  3. Chug a bottle while rocking in the glider
  4. Play with a book (I couldn't properly call it reading, but he at least chews on it and plays with the pages and sometimes I even read them all in sequential order!)
  5. I give him a kiss on the cheek and say, "Goodnight baby. Mommy loves you." Sometimes 2 or 3 times because it's hard to say goodbye, even for just one night.
Boom! 5 things.

It's not so hard when you let go of your expectations of what those 5 things "should" be.

Mar 8, 2018

What Would You Do If You Weren't...

Afraid?

  • Take a business loan
  • Hire a marketing strategist
  • Quit my part time job


For me, overcoming fear is less difficult than other obstacles. I'd spent almost a year thinking about what my biggest fears were and specifically doing things to trigger them. Still, fear is pervasive and as often as you're alive and making decisions, you'll find new things you're afraid of. I'm super excited that, as of today, I've checked off all three of these!

Tired?

  • Exercise
  • Cook dinner
  • Smile


These are harder because they're ongoing, rather than things I can easily check off of a list. However, I know I can make solid commitments to my schedule because Ryan and I have done that with Friday night date night. It's our time to be a couple, resolve issues, and remember why we married each other. So if I just apply that resolve to my workout schedule, I'll be able to make that happen. And I know from experience that working out regularly decreases my stress, gives me more energy, and generally makes me a happier and more fun person to be around. Not to mention that the consistent element in the routines of busy, successful people is exercise. No matter what other weird stuff (affirmations, journaling, email, snorting Kombucha) top CEOs and innovators do, they almost always have some sort of workout in their morning routine.

Short on Time?

  • Pursue new friendships
  • Start a Meetup
  • Learn new skills


Time is by far the trickiest obstacle to overcome. At some point you just have to admit something is not a priority and stop whining about it. I'm trying very hard to prune back and just keep the basic priorities I need to be happy so that I can do a better job at them (family, business, health) BUT I also think some of these can be squeezed in with a little bit of creative engineering. For example, learning skills by myself through classes wasn't working. But I can hire an expert to teach me one-on-one and I'll learn faster, without having to skip through fluff that doesn't apply to me. New friendships are harder, but my ongoing friends have begun scheduling our next hangout before leaving the current one and that helps immensely. I might try to implement this among all my social groups. And starting a Meetup might remain a wishlist item for now. I love the idea of it, but it really is time consuming and I know it's not a priority.

Jenn signature graphic | Optimization, Actually

Feb 24, 2018

Home is Where...

...the dogs are.

...you stop sucking in your gut.

...bare feet don't feel like a risk.

...you can walk around in the dark without bumping into furniture.

...the decor has become invisible.

...you can let your guard down.

...the water doesn't taste weird.

...you can sleep naked.

...the messes are your messes.

...you can finally relax.
Jenn signature graphic | Optimization, Actually

Feb 12, 2018

Jenn Discovers Honesty

I've traditionally had terrible luck when I try to be honest with friends. When I try to intervene in an emotional situation, or even to answer questions honestly like, "Do you think I'm being irrational?" or "What do you think of this outfit?"

I had come to the conclusion that people really just want reassurance; they don't want honesty. That outfit looks great, your significant other is an asshole, girrrrl you've never been wrong a day in your life!

I'd mostly made peace with this philosophy but occasionally, usually when talking to more blunt or honest people, I'd feel twinges. Not of guilt, exactly, but I knew I wasn't behaving with integrity.  It didn't feel right.

So I gave the honest, tough love approach another go.  I sent an awkward text to a friend to let her know I thought she was treating someone inappropriately.  And another awkward text to a family member letting him know I thought his behavior was out of line.  And when a close friend asked, "What issues do you see with my relationship?" I suppressed that inner voice screaming "don't do it!!!" and made her a list.

Her response?  Well, it could have been worse I suppose.  But she was upset and didn't understand why I was being so harsh and really it's none of my business.

Fan-fucking-tastic.

"Ok," I thought. "Honesty doesn't work."

But after talking it over in a group text with some friends who are probably my best role models for balancing "I support my friends" and "I tell it like it is" I realized honesty wasn't the problem here. The question was the problem.

Their relationship IS none of my business.  Admittedly my friend invited me into it when she asked that question, but I didn't have to let her.  I can be honest with her and still stay out of her business.

So the next time she asked my thoughts on something relationship-related (and yes, it did happen again), I recognized the question for what it was. She wasn't asking me for an analysis, or suggestions. She was asking for reassurance, even if she didn't realize it.

I could be honest by refusing to give reassurance that something was ok when I don't believe it to be.  But I could also keep my nose out of her business by stating the (in hindsight) obvious, "You would know better than I would - I'm not actually there when any of this is happening."

I'm sure another friend with thicker skin could handle real feedback.  But now I try to assess what a person is looking for before diving into their love life with a self help book in one hand and a list of relationship counselors in the other.

Another opportunity to practice arose not long after the first fiasco.  Another friend, another relationship problem.  This time I was convinced that it wasn't issues on both side that could use honest communication or counseling.  The description of her significant other's behavior made me feel alarmed, disgusted, and concerned.

Of course they got back together, and I knew continued voicing of my opinion wasn't going to help.  But I also knew I couldn't stay silent.  So we met up once, I explained my concerns and that I couldn't continue to be friendly towards him but I'd still like to be her friend if she was ok with that, and that was that.

I think it went over so much better this time both because this friend wasn't as emotionally fragile, but also because I did a better job of assessing what she wanted to hear.  I balanced saying what I felt needed to be said with supporting my friend and I think it was ultimately positive for both of us.  she knows how I feel but still feels comfortable confiding in me.

I've been a terrible friend in the past.  When my friends make terrible decisions, I've berated them, nagged them, and generally made them feel even worse about it than they already did.  Ultimately that approach is pointless.  You can't "slap sense" into people.  They have to recognize their own issues and decide to action on their own.

And when I really dug down into why it bothered me, the reason was because I cared about their well-being.  I wanted them to have fulfilling, easy lives and to be happy, and watching them make choices that took them in the polar opposite direction was frustrating.

Telling people that instead of yelling has been a much better approach.  "I care about you and want you to be happy, and I consistently see that you're unhappy after spending time with this person you're dating" goes over much better than "He's an asshole, treats you badly, and you deserve better."

The last piece of the puzzle that JUST clicked into place for me was boundary setting.  I don't have to carefully reserve honesty for when my opinion is solicited or to inform my friends of truths they might need to hear.  I can also use it to set boundaries and for my own mental health.

I recently told a flaky friend how frustrating it is when she cancels last minute.  I told her that it was hard to tell if she wants to be friends with me and that I'd much rather be turned down for things than canceled on.

I don't know if we're still friends - she hasn't answered yet.  But the alternate path was to drop her as a friend anyway, because after someone bails on me 3 times, I stop inviting them out.  So at least this way I gave her a chance to talk it out with me, if she wanted to.

And I feel better.  No lingering resentment or irritation.

Having discovered this tool, it's one I intend to wield liberally whenever my friends stray from venting into constant negativity.  I can listen to you describing a frustrating day at work.  I won't listen to the same daily rant about how much you hate your job while you do nothing to improve that situation.  It doesn't solve your problem and it brings us both down.

Maybe this is a skill that most people just know how to use.  But I've struggled my entire adult life to figure out how to resolve conflict with people.  Literally telling people how I feel just never occurred to me until recently.

I have a coworker who uses emotion talk quite liberally at work.  He's the epitome of thin-skinned so it doesn't take much to set him off, and I watch in absolute horror as someone asks him for something and he launches into, "When you say that, it makes me feel..."

Get those emotions out of the work place!  You're embarrassing us all, man.

I'm still not 100% convinced that emotion talk is needed to resolve work conflicts, BUT they are helping me immensely in my personal life now that I finally started applying them outside of marriage.

If I had written this post listicle style, I would have said that there are 5 things I've learned:

  1. Figure out what people are really asking for
  2. Deliver it as concisely as possible and then get back to the support role
  3. Focus on why I want to share this with them rather than what I think they're doing wrong
  4. It's ok to put my own emotional needs first
  5. An awkward conversation is forgotten a lot sooner than bottled resentment

Your turn - tell me about your strategies for being honest with friends!  Better yet, tell me about times when honesty blew up in your face (so I don't feel so dumb about mine).


Jenn signature graphic | Optimization, Actually

Feb 8, 2018

There is No Lightning Bolt

Back when I was reading all the habit books, I was taken with Gretchen Rubin's concept of a "lightning bolt" change.  She said usually, for most people most of the time, change happens slowly and it requires small steps and consistent effort.  However, on rare occasions, and for some personality types, change could happen quickly because of the "lightning bolt."

The lightning bolt could be anything that shocks you into or out of action.  If you ever read weight loss stories, or addiction recovery, you'll know what I mean.  The story people tell about that one day when it all got to be too much.  Something happened that made them realize how bad their situation was and how unlikely things were to get better if they didn't make a drastic change immediately.

Those stories are much more compelling than "I just decided to be healthier and worked at it a little bit every day until the changes added up to something substantial."

They're also unreliable.

I think I was making excuses to wait for a lightning bolt.  If I could give up alcohol just like that, then I'm a lightning bolt sort of person, right?

But I wasn't addicted to alcohol.  If anything, alcohol was that first long-term relationship that was maybe headed in abusive directions that we all secretly knew wasn't a good idea in the first place.  So quitting wasn't really a lightning bolt - it was a culmination of years of mixed feelings and a final year spent trying it out and debating the pros and cons of alcohol use.

And when we start talk about sugar and emotional eating, yeah...

I was hoping for a lightning bolt because I felt weak.  Giving up 30 years of habit training is hard!  I wanted that thing, whatever it was, to shock me into making changes.

Every self help book I read that mentioned habits or nutrition or emotional eating, I thought, "This is it!  This is the thing!!!"

And then a week or two later that thing didn't seem important anymore.

So here's my "lightning bolt": there is no lightning bolt.  There is no abrupt, rapid, easy change.  But there is plenty of work ahead.  And it's high time to get started.

Jenn signature graphic | Optimization, Actually

Feb 5, 2018

5 Kinds of Guilt

Life may have joy in it again, but it's not all rainbows and sunshine!  On a serious note, I definitely think being a parent has made me more aware of the many different forms and manifestations guilt can take.  So obviously we need to start with...

1. Mom Guilt

Moms feel guilty about everything from using formula to putting their kids in daycare.  It's like the moment the baby pops out, our brains lose all ability to silence that doubting inner voice that tells us we're doing everything wrong.

I think the underlying emotion behind this guilt is fear.  We're afraid that we're not good enough, that we'll fail our children, that this choice will be wrong and will ruin everything.  Being physically capable of producing a child does not in any way mean you're capable of being a good parent and our brains like to remind us of this every time a new decision needs to be made.

2. Spouse Guilt

I actually think Ryan might be suffering from this more than I do, but in our case it's the acknowledgement that with a baby and work and trying to snatch a few solitary minutes of non-productive time, we really don't spend much time together anymore.  Doing nice things for each other is definitely on the backburner and our main relationship goal is to not fall apart, rather than to soar the heights of romantic love.

I often feel guilty when I get irritable with Ryan for no good reason, and underneath the guilt is a sense of cranky petulance.  I almost resent the fact that here is another thing I need to feel guilty about.

3. Pet-owner Guilt

The dogs haven't been out to run in weeks and, honestly, they're not even getting walked regularly.  We tried going on a family walk recently, which ended in a pink-cheeked, screaming baby because it was uncomfortably cold out even with his jacket and blankets.  I could walk them during the day when I work from home and the baby is at daycare, and I should.  Scrambling to keep up with client projects is no excuse, even on a week particularly full of networking events and client meetings.

This guilt is, I think, the most pure because there's no sense of "the world will explode because I didn't do this" the way there is with the baby, and I don't feel irrationally angry at the dogs because they are innocent beasts who have no control over my actions.  I just feel bad that I'm not a better dog-mom to them.

4. Friend Guilt

I'm not currently a good friend.  I showed you guys my value chart and social was last and is often traded out for "me time."  It's just not a priority and while I'm sorry, I also know I'm not willing to change that while my business and baby are still so young.  I just have to hope that my friendships will survive on the scraps of time I throw at them and that I can nourish them a little better in the future.

This guilt is heavily overladen with exasperation and exhaustion.  This person needs what now?  Someone's mad about what stupid reason?  Why does anyone have time to care about any of these things?  Can't we just get coffee and say nice things to each other???

5. Health Guilt

I should take better care of myself, but... [insert excuse here].  The chocolate was beckoning, I had a client meeting during my usual exercise time, I was too tired to get up early, it was too cold out.  The list of excuses is never-ending.  This guilt is usually easily silenced with a book and some junk food, which keeps the vicious cycle going.  For me it's associated with a feeling of rebelliousness.  Yes, I know X choice is better for me, but I do what I want!  Get off my back!!!

Quick recap:

  • Mom Guilt = Fear of Impending Doom
  • Spouse Guilt = Cranky Petulance
  • Pet-owner Guilt = Normal Guilt
  • Friend Guilt = Exasperated Exhaustion
  • Health Guilt = Rebellion


What does guilt feel like for you?

Jenn signature graphic | Optimization, Actually

Feb 1, 2018

Words with Friends

No, not the game.  These are words I'd like to say to my friends if I thought any of them would be interested and it wasn't so much effort to plan a damn lunch or coffee date!  (More on that further down.)

"For an enterprising mom..."


A potential client used this phrase during our meeting a couple weeks ago.  At the time I was focused on answering his question and not on his phrasing, but every once in a while my brain dredges this up to get irritated at it.  (Day going too smoothly?  No worries - we can find something to get annoyed about!)

It's really, really not a big deal but... I'm not an enterprising mom.  I'm not a stay-at-home mom who thought, "Childcare is so super, duper easy! I better find some extra work to do to fill in the extra gaps in my day and wallet."  (Note: if you know me at all, you know this is laden with sarcasm because I found staying home with a kid to be much more challenging than running a business.)

I'm an entrepreneur.  I have been since well before my child was born.  An entrepreneur who is also a mom, sure, but in our business meetings the entrepreneur always comes first.  The mom part comes first when I'm with my baby, but I didn't see him at that meeting, Mr. "Enterprising Mom"!

"My car got a nose job."



This is what I tell people when they ask me why my car's bumper is conspicuously absent and its innards visible.

Yes, I got in a fender bender.  It was my slowest, most low-key accident yet and also the first one I've had since I was 21 or so.  I'm a little sad to break that streak of not destroying my vehicles.

More importantly, I'm ok and the baby is ok.  (Baby's first car accident, yayyyy...)  But I'm still a little distressed by how this went down.

A car was at a stop sign on a road perpendicular to mine.  I had no stop sign.  Right as I entered the intersection, the other car decided it was their moment and darted out in front of me.  I don't remember any crunch from the initial impact, just a grinding noise and then a small jolt as the resistance in front of us disappeared.  I slowed in the intersection, trying to decide what to do, felt the drag from the front end of my car, and watched incredulously as the other car slowed, and then seemed to change their mind and speed off.

Get-hit-and-run.  Is that a thing?  Well it is now.

Since my car was obviously in no shape to chase down the other car, I pulled off, confirmed that my bumper was dragging on the ground, and then proceeded to have 2 awkward conversations with the 911 operator about what one is supposed to do in this situation.  Do I need to report it if I don't want a damage report?  What do I do with my bumper?  Is there some kind of procedure for cleaning up road debris?

She was not amused and not helpful.  I ripped my bumper the rest of the way off and took my baby home.

"I read a great business book on the plane..."


Sometimes I think I'm not really becoming more proactive at all.  It's just that instead of jumping to react to whatever's happening that day, I'm jumping to react to my latest self help book.

I don't feel like worrying about that so I'm going to use vague phrases like "synchronicity" and "we hear what we need to hear" and leave it at that.  This particular book was very exciting because it gave me options for achieving business success in a way that feels better to me.

Everyone I've talked to who has employees has said to offer more money and to only hire people if they're the perfect fit and they have skills I don't.  This book said that if you systematize down to the literal step-by-step tasks needed to get something done, you can hire the base level of skill needed to do the tasks without needing a great amount of skill.

You'd think design couldn't be systematized that deeply, but in an effort to communicate better with my current employee that's exactly what I've been doing.  The book made me realize I need to break it down even further, and it also told me my job is to organize the business first and to do the work second.

To a lot of people that would sound awful because they got into their business because they like the work.  I like the work I do, too, and it's important to me, but I also like organizing, so I can handle this.

Here's what a systematized design process looks like.


The best part is, it's still totally creative!  But it gives you a framework to work within.  My design teachers always said we needed a box because without some kind of limitations, the options are completely overwhelming.  And you can go outside the box, but only with good reasons not just for the sake of being unique.

Anyway, long tangent, but self help books + organization = happy Jenn.

"I didn't realize I had to talk to you in order to stay friends..."


This is heavily paraphrased but that's basically what one friend said to me when I checked in with her recently.  I had checked in only because our mutual friend said she'd been feeling down and maybe that's why she wasn't really reaching out.  Nope!  It just never occurred to her that friendship goes both ways and each person needs to extend some effort in order to continue to keep the relationship alive.

Yes, we're 30 years old.  My other friend is younger, but she's doing something equally frustrating.

"My super important job keeps me busier than everyone else."

Arghghgh!  Yes, when I was in my early 20's, I too thought being busy was an exceptional situation that only afflicted me.  And maybe she'll figure it out eventually.  But right now... I'm too old for this shit.

I'm also aware that my definition of friend is a little different than everyone else's.  I don't call every single acquaintance a friend.  I have a "brunch group" who isn't really friends because we don't hang out individually (though more and more of them are jumping the gap).  I see my book club more often than many of my friends but we never text each other just to chat, so they're not friends.

It doesn't mean I don't like you!  And if you seem interested in becoming friends, I'll totally invite you to stuff and plan events.  But I don't want to waste time organizing and planning events for people who are going to flake and never reciprocate.  Or people whom I don't enjoy - "friends of convenience" isn't something I want to do anymore.

Here's my standards for friendships.  You're not my friend if...

  • You haven't met my baby. (It's not like he was just born - you've had a whole year to stop by.)
  • You cancel an outing and don't plan the next one.
  • You only see or talk to me in group scenarios and never one-on-one.


"On a scale of one to ten, how open-minded are you about..."


In the last few months, we've lost a few family members.  My aunt, and then my grandmother (Dad's stepmom), and most recently another grandmother (Dad's mom).

It's been hard but there's not really much point in continuing to write posts about the circle of life and processing grief and all that.  I'm sad, I'm not performing at 100%, and I'm doing my best to not scream at Ryan when he tells me deep breathing will make me feel better.  (If it doesn't bring my grandparents back to life or retroactively make their last years less miserable, it's not going to make feel better.  Thank you but stop, please.)

But the thing I want to talk about here is the bizarre coincidence of timing.  You might have noticed that the grandmothers who died were my dad's mom and stepmom.

From all accounts, these two ladies made the best of things when the kids were small.  They were tied together by a man and his children, and it wasn't the kid's fault, so they made do.  This ceased once the children were grown and only got worse with time.

After my grandfather died, you'd think the source of contention would be removed, but it seemed like the opposite.  They grew increasingly isolated and bitter and I heard more and more negativity from each of them over the years, often directed at each other.  They probably hadn't seen each other in 20 years!  But still...

"She stole my husband."  "She says such nasty things to Jack [my dad]."  Etc, etc.

Both died very abruptly, the first from cancer after being given 30 days to live, and the second quietly in her sleep about 3 months later.  The first had been declining for some time, and the second had actually been improving.

At one time I might have called it superstition, but my brain keeps saying it wasn't random coincidence.  They were tied together through years of pain, years of emotion, and years of focused energy.  It might not have been a positive, but they certainly thought of each other a lot.

There's a theory called Quantum Entanglement that talks about particles that relate to each other even when distanced physically.  (I'm not going to link to anything because I couldn't find an article that breaks it down in non-science-y language but it's on Wikipedia.)  I know it could be coincidence but my brain keeps whispering that's it more than that.  That they were connected, even though neither would have wanted to be.

My mind has been slowly creaking open lately, due to the prevalence of manifesting type talk in the online entrepreneurial world.  If 0 is total skepticism and 10 is total belief, I probably would have been a 1.  Now I think I'm at 4 or 5.

I like to think about energy connecting us through the boundaries of space and time.  It feels less lonely that way.

What's been on your mind lately?  What do your friends do that drives you up the wall?  Where do you fall on the open-mindedness scale?


Jenn signature graphic | Optimization, Actually

Jan 29, 2018

Things that Give Me Joy

Instead of making a listicle, I want to describe a couple of recent experiences that made me glad for the life I've built.

Friday Night Date Night


Friday night is date night.  After Orion goes to bed, Ryan and I play games or watch tv or sometimes just talk, depending how mentally dead we are and what our relationship needs at that moment.  We also get junk food, because nobody wants to cook or do dishes on date night!  (And it's delicious!)

This past Friday, Ryan stopped by the ice cream place across from his work that has the ridiculous, elaborate flavors that I enjoy so much. (Hello, Fluffernutter!)  Roommate was around, so we had BBQ, and Orion made a huge mess with his macaroni and green beans, and we joked around.

Then we went into the basement to while the time away until baby bedtime, and I happened to remember that a childhood computer game I'd enjoyed was available on Steam.  Ryan let me download it on his account, and immediately I was transported back to age 10 or so.

Electronic beeping, flat graphics, and a total of 4 actions.  Commander Keen is NOT a high-tech game.  But the wave of nostalgia that hit was so strong.  This is clearly the best game in existence.  Ryan is an awesome husband so he humored me.  And our roommate voiced his astonishment that there exists a game I'm actually good at.

Yes, world!  I am good at Commander Keen.  I know exactly the right angle to run, pogo stick, and then jump to get that lollipop out of the high corner.  In episode one, I've got most of the levels memorized, so I know where the monsters are, that the icicles are dangerous, and that the one-eyed aliens are friendly but will sometimes accidentally push you into fire or off cliffs.  (You still don't shoot them.  Friends don't shoot friends.)

Ryan was... not good.  Which makes sense, as he'd never played before!  But this might literally be the first time I've played a game with him and been more skilled.  Hell yeah I'm going to enjoy that!  It's my one chance!

Food, loved ones, nostalgia, humor.  The whole night was just perfect.

Playing with the Baby


When I was in my rough-ish patch, Orion was the only thing that ever made me feel joy.  But that was very specific (and probably fueled by hormones and instinct more than my conscious brain) and only occurred when I was holding him while he slept.

Now he's older and learning to do new things all the time and it's amazing to watch!  I'll follow him as he climbs up a flight of stairs, or leave him in his play area for a moment and come back to find him climbing onto blocks so he can get a better view.  I let him dig around in the pantry (after moving heavy and glass thing up to the higher levels) and unravel toilet paper to his heart's content because I enjoy watching it more than I mind tidying up after.

But my favorite (recent) day was one where we sat together in his play area and I showed him how his "giggly gears" fit together.  Ryan's been working with him on shapes and he's very recently shown interest in getting blocks to fit through the right holes.

So he was holding a block and I connected another block to the top of it.  He looked in surprise at his now twice-as-tall block and then held it out to me.  I held onto the block I had just put on, and he pulled his block back, and they came apart.  We repeated this at least five times and he smiled and poked things with his finger and IT WAS SO COOL!

I was literally watching him learn to assemble things and how they fit together and he was enjoying it.  I remember hearing or reading someone say that everything is the first for babies.  They've literally never done this before.  And that thought is a little mind-blowing, but I'm also amazed that in a totally unfamiliar world of strange things, they're so delighted whenever they discover something new.

You would think it would be overwhelming or scary (and sometimes Orion does get startled and have to cry a little bit) but mostly it's just magical and exciting.  And for me, watching it happen can be magical and exciting.

Business Accomplishments


I get a little thrill each time I come closer to my monthly financial goal.  I do an internal happy dance whenever I land a new client or project.  But I think the best moment was my first business check-in when I realized I no longer feel chaotic and disorganized.

This is not exciting and I'm ok with that.  But it was an accomplishment that removes significant stress from my life AND that combines 2 of my interests: optimization and my business.  And even while I poked around and troubleshot my business stressors, I don't think I truly believed I would find a solution.

I went from dreading (and often not doing) my monthly financial check-in because it stressed me out to starting my annual check-in several days early because I was so excited to do it.  I went over goals and set new ones for 2018.  I totaled up my business's profits and what my 10% donation to charity would be.  I polled people on social media and got more responses than I expected!

It felt so good to be achieving a goal of mine and to have such positive support from people I care about.

My Family


I always enjoy seeing and talking to my family.  I'm grateful that we have the ability to see each other in person as often as we do, despite living across the country from each other.

My favorite moment recently was during a video chat with my mom and sisters.  I set up the laptop near the baby play area, and we started the call with both me and Orion popping our heads up over the baby gate to see everyone's faces.

The call ended 2 hours later and, outside of a diaper change and a head bump, was barely even interrupted by the baby because he's become so self sufficient.  He can play by himself for long periods of time and I can do my own thing, or play with him.

That flexibility is something I cherish after months of near-constant care, and having everyone I care about there in the room, physically or digitally, was a magical moment.  I don't even remember what we talked about but talking with my family always means smiles and laughter and knowing that people love you.

It's simultaneously the most comforting and the most fun part of my life.

P.S. I don't know how to end blog posts without asking questions.  But there's no point in asking questions if I don't have comments enabled.  What a conundrum!

Jenn signature graphic | Optimization, Actually

Jan 22, 2018

Questions for 2018

Did you guys read Alyssa's post, 10 Answers for 2018?  She starts with this quote, "There are years that ask questions and years that answer."

I felt that latch onto my brain as soon as I read it.  It's interesting how certain things just trigger something and then you know, "Yep, this is going to be a blog post."  Usually, for me, it's something that irritated me and then I couldn't let it go, but sometimes it's a reality check or something introspective.

In this case, I read the quote and immediately thought, "Oh, this was a question year for me."  In fact, I think the past 2 have been question years.

What did they ask?  I'll tell you.

Are you strong enough?


Like the cold showers I finally took after Ryan kept suggesting it over and over again, it didn't feel good.  Much of the past 2 years was stressed and strained, marked by everything from aching loss to physical breakdown from extended sleep deprivation.  At times I felt betrayed, I felt alone, I felt grief, I felt rage, and occasionally I felt despair.

And I overcame all of it.  I'll never know if I actually had postpartum depression or if it was the effects of months of sleep deprivation.  But after realizing this thing was here and nothing was going to get better without some sort of action on my part - I took action.  I made it better.

Every challenge that presented itself, I recognized (after wallowing in self pity first), and then took specific steps to address.  Some things, like loss, just need time.  There's no "fixing" to be done there.  Others, like the neglect of your own health in order to care for an infant and growing business, require some work.

I've always been a problem solver, and that served me very well the last couple of years.  Is my life not making me very happy right now?  Let me poke at each piece, one at a time, to see which changes will make it better.

Who do you want to be?


I don't like feeling like a victim.  Given the polar opposites of control freak vs doormat, I'll choose control freak every time.

So I don't accept struggling and sadness and having people treat me in ways I don't like.  Maybe it feels like an inescapable prison right now, but it's not.  There's an out.  I just have to find it.

Overall I'm proud of how I've handled the last couple years.  I haven't been perfect and, in many cases, I was contributing to, if not outright causing, the problem.  But I recognized that, and continued to work at it until I could see other ways of doing and other ways of being.

I know who I am, and I know who I want to be.  I have a list of steps to take to try to get from point A to point B.  And if those don't work, I'm confident that I can find other strategies to try.

Where will you go?


In 2016 I made choices that permanently changed my life (having a baby), and in 2017 I learned that it was possible to be a mom AND an entrepreneur and do a good job at both.  I also learned that I had to let go of other opportunities and goals in order to invest the amount of time and energy needed into those 2 areas.

I didn't figure out how to balance all the things I want to have in my life, but I learned which ones I'm ok with letting go of.  And I set up a framework for regularly checking-in, adjusting, and reworking my routines until they do achieve that balance.

I suppose, now that 2017 has come to a close, I am starting to feel like there are more answers now.  But I have some questions of my own for 2018.

Dear 2018,


  • Is there anything else I can trim from my life?  And do I want to?
  • Can I grow without external challenges?  Will you leave me alone long enough to try?
  • Where does "me time" fit into the priorities equation?
  • Can my business still grow even when it's not the top priority?
  • How do I get rid of the mom guilt thing?


Jenn signature graphic | Optimization, Actually

Jan 15, 2018

Reading Review - My Reading Habits from 2017

After re-opening the blog, I was casting around for topics and struggling.  I started 5 different posts and quit them all after the first couple sentences.  Finally, I asked myself, "What would I be most excited to write about?"

Then I laughed because I'm so boring.  Books, of course!  So yes, I'm doing my end-of-year reading recap, which should be drastically different from last year's recap in which I read 100 books.  I mathed this out recently and realized that's about 2 books a week.  Ridiculous!  Now I'm a lot closer to 2 a month.

Book Stats



Last year I wrote "I shouldn't even bother to set goals, because I clearly have no idea what I'm going to do each year" and that remained true!  In 2016 I read 100 books after setting a goal of 50.  This past year I read 41 after setting a goal of 100.  Ah, reading time.  How I miss it.


My page count wasn't quite as far behind as the number of books, thanks to certain chunkers like Oathbringer (1,200 pages).  And I also did a few rereads of series like The Mortal Instruments and Mistborn, which was a plus for my wallet.


Genre



I'm always surprised by this!  I started counting backwards and I was like, "Yep, self help, yep, yep, more self help" and I guess I'd forgotten the beginning of the year when there was quite a bit o' fantasy.  Especially January before the baby was born.  Like 10 books!  Crazy!!!

Rating



I've gotten pretty good at quitting books I'm not enjoying so low star ratings are minimal.

5 Most Read Authors of 2016



I definitely went on a Sarah J. Maas kick.  I had been really hesitant to continue the Throne of Glass series after the first one a year or two ago, but they get SO MUCH BETTER!  And her other series, A Court of Thorns and Roses is sooo good.  So no regrets there.  I also did a few Rick Riordan and Ilona Andrews, because sometimes it's just easier to read more books by authors you already know you like instead of looking for new ones.

Overall I think the trend here is just that self help books are often one-offs.  Sure that author may have written quite a few, but I just read the one that's popular and then read more books by different authors on that same topic.  Whereas fantasy authors are super prolific and you naturally want to follow the thread of the story to its conclusion!

Bests and Mosts


One nice thing about this year - because I had less time to read, I was more deliberate in (most of) my reading choices.  So I never felt like I was overindulging or reading too much YA BS.  All reading that occurred in 2017 was hard-earned!  And most of it was pretty decent quality, as well.

What did your reading habits look like this year?  Do you have trouble setting a reading goal?  What were your bests and mosts???


Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

Jan 8, 2018

The Answer to Goals, Self Improvement, Life, and Everything!

It is not 42.  Although I could easily weed out any other sci-fi nerds by just writing 42 and nothing else and it would make me chuckle a little.  I digress.

The system I talked about last!  It is time.

Life Design


I read a bunch of self help books (Designing Your Life, Essentialism, The Accidental Creative, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck) that all reference basically the same systems.  Basically we all have a limit to how many things we can focus on.  You can't have 10 priorities.  The books break down life into general categories like work, play, relationships, etc.  You then choose what to prioritize and you assess how your supposed priorities differ from how you're actually spending your time.

I did my categories a little differently.  Mine are, in order of priority: Family, Business, Health, and Social/Leisure/Etc.  (Business is on top because this was originally the business vision board.)


I know, that last one is a little vague.  Basically the last category exists to fill in whatever I'm currently struggling with or missing.  Mostly it bounces back and forth between friends and hobbies (aka reading or blogging).

In each category, I've got my top 3 goals for the year or quarter, and each one has the action steps I'm going to take to accomplish it.

None of this is revolutionary.  For me, the best part about it is that it forces me to focus on what's important, and what will have the biggest impact on my life instead of choosing goals arbitrarily or by what sounds good in the moment.

The part that was a real game-changer was implementing a monthly check-in.  For whatever reason, this has never occurred to me.  It was an idea I stumbled across during a coaching session for my business specifically.

What started as a way to organize my finances has grown to encompass all my business systems, and now, my personal development as well.


This is Trello.  I use it for just about everything.  In the case of goals, Trello is my day-to-day interface to check on things and cross things off, while the corkboard is a visual reminder and place to check things off during the big monthly, quarterly, and annual check-ins.

On my "Personal Planning" board, I first have a reminder of what's really important, which includes those core values.  Then I have a separate list for each of the values (minus business, which has several of its own boards).  On each of those lists is 2 cards to manage the goals.


The first card is an overview of what the goals are, along with any goals that are set further in the future.  This helps me, because I tend to be a details person, not a big picture thinker.  So I tend to set totally random goals unless I first brainstorm where I want to be in 5 years and/or what my ideal life looks like.  If I take that step first, then it's a lot easier to set relevant goals for the next year that get me part of the way to that overarching goal.

Note: the weight loss goals are still a little arbitrary, but I was trying to use the S.M.A.R.T. goals system and have something measurable instead of just "feel healthy!"


Then I have the card with the action steps.  This checklist is for me to reference throughout the year or quarter.  Some things are one-offs, and some are ongoing.

In the past, my biggest problem was that I'd set it and forget it.  Setting goals is great but they're not going to happen if you don't remember what they are!

So now, in addition to my monthly business development check-in, I also set a day on my calendar to my personal goals check-in.  What are my goals again?  Am I following the steps?  What is working and what isn't?  Does anything need to be adjusted for the next month?

At some point, I might find I also need to do small check-ins weekly, but I'm hoping that having that monthly deadline will keep me focused and I can check my Trello boards more organically in between check-ins.

The Test


So far I've done monthly check-ins 3 times.  The first was just my P&L for my business.  That went well and really helped make me feel less stressed about business finances, so I started doing it for social media and business development.  My year-end check-in for my business was Ah-mazing, so I've got high hopes for the next month when I do business and personal, but it's always possible that personal life isn't meant to be so systematized.

Hahahaha, yeah right.  Systems for everything!

Jenn signature graphic | Optimization, Actually

Jan 6, 2018

I'm Writing this While My Baby Plays with the Dog Water

I wanted to start this post with a wise and pithy quote from my husband, who reminded me just last night that my life is mine, and I should occasionally put myself first and enjoy it.  But, alas!  I am a mom now, and my brain cells are shot and cannot retain a damn thing.

So instead, let me just say, I'M BACK AND I HAVE MISSED YOU ALL SO MUCH!

I've actually been posting, it's just been hidden and difficult to access.  I wrote a post on the 2nd, which is the real "comeback" post, so go check that out.  This post is more logistics and expectation-setting.

I'm NOT enabling comments.  Which is not because I didn't love getting them but because towards the end I was scrambling to actually respond and it made me feel like an ass.  So if you want to comment or say something, feel free to email me, but also feel free not to!  I've never been a fan of commenting just for the sake of commenting.

(Orion says, "0
+6

105236+")

I'm also not recreating any of my blog social accounts.  So this blog will be accessibly by feed reader, or if you follow by email.  (Dear Sisters, I added you - you're welcome!)

Updates from the Last 6 Months


The Good

My baby learned to climb stairs, unroll toilet paper, and find things even if I move them from his line of sight.  I'm sure at some point it will be frustrating or I'll be frazzled and wish he hadn't learned these things but right now it's still funny and exciting to watch him make these discoveries.

My business has grown a lot, and I just raised my prices to a number I never would have dreamed of 2 years ago!  I'm working towards quitting the part time job this year and having my business be my sole income.  (I'm actually really proud of my business blog, right now, if you've got any interest in reading about business and design things.)

SO MUCH optimization and life design and goal setting.  I'm writing a post on that now.

The Bad

My aunt died, and then my grandmother.  My aunt was too young, and healthy, and died unexpectedly after a routine surgery.  She won't be there for her daughter's wedding this summer and I still have trouble wrapping my mind around it.  My grandmother went into the hospital for a fall and then found out she had cancer and 30 days to live.  We flew out as soon as possible, so we could see each other one last time and she could meet her great grandson.  I'm so, so glad we had the opportunity to say goodbye, but it was also hard, and stressful, and makes me wish I never had to fly with a baby again.

There is No Ugly

I'm working really hard on improving my mindset (affirmations on the mirror and everything!), and I've already devolved into a pity party or two, so I won't go there today.  My business coach gave me a comparison chart of the way pessimists and optimists think and I might actually be a pessimist.  But I'm pretty sure I can change that.  If I can switch from introvert to extrovert and emotional thinker to logical thinker, this should be no problem!

And that's pretty much it!  I'll see you around and I'm excited to be blogging (publicly) again.

Jenn signature graphic | Optimization, Actually

Jan 2, 2018

Ryan's Starting a Blog

I'm apparently not supposed to tell anyone.  Lololol!  Does he know me at all?

Ahem.  Anyway, we kicked the idea around a bit, and finally I installed WordPress in a subfolder on my site, he pointed his domain there, and I showed him the ropes.  Oh yeah, did I tell you guys I design WordPress sites now?  I've gotten pretty good at it, actually, since my clients all want to take over site management afterwards, so custom HTML & CSS isn't a terribly popular option.

So yeah, he wrote his first post and I'm so vicariously excited for him and keep trying to chime in with helpful details like SEO! and Social Media auto-sharing! and Build an Audience! and each time his eyes widen slightly in panic.

So I was casting around, trying to figure out a way to distract myself from bugging him while he learns how this whole blogging thing works and I decided to pop back in.  I think it's been 3 months since I posted anything (visible).  And I reread some of the last posts I wrote to get back up to speed and realized some updates are due!!!

I wrote a post about my new routine idea.  Then I wrote a super peppy update 2 weeks later.  Now you, as I would, might feel skeptical about that because 2 weeks is hardly a fair trial.  2 weeks is still solidly in the infatuation stage when success cannot be trusted.

But in this case, it really was a game-changer.  Reading some of those other posts, about how angry I felt, and how joy wasn't a real thing that people feel, makes me feel almost shocked.  It's so easy to forget how bad you felt when you feel better.  And I don't totally disagree with the joy post, but I had forgotten how infrequently I felt happy.

Guys, sleep.  Sleep is so, so, incredibly important and continuing to follow a routine that emphasizes sleep has made all the difference.  I'm not peppy every day, and sometimes I still get irritable for unimportant things.  But I've got extra energy to work on it and try to give some positive energy back to my family instead of just surviving and keeping them alive.

And it's not always the routine that's successful.  It's like I turned a switch and once my body remember how good regular sleep felt, it became harder and harder to prioritize client projects over it.  I've been late on projects a few times.  Outright missed deadlines because I didn't plan enough time, or we got sick (when the baby gets sick, EVERYONE gets sick) and my timeline didn't allow for any deviation from normal working hours.  In the past I would have pulled all-nighters to get it done, but now I can't seem to muster up the will to do it.

So I tell my clients what's going on, apologize, and I learn from these experiences.  I push my lead times further out.  Turning everything around in 48 hours isn't realistic anymore.  I might be reaching the point where 1 week isn't always possible.

Other things that have helped immensely:

  • Daycare - Yes, I felt guilty. Yes I cried (a LOT). And yes it made a huge difference and I'm glad we did it.
  • Business Coach - I seem to be becoming more reliant on talking to sort through my mental chaos. Having someone to echo my thoughts back at me and suggest strategies has just been 100% amazing.
  • Prioritizing Downtime - Not just Friday night date night, but business downtime.  Time to set goals, analyze strategies, and figure out how to make things operate more smoothly.
Things are definitely not perfect all the time.  A mere 3 weeks ago I was telling Paul (my business coach) how I still felt disorganized and overall more cranky than I needed to be.  After solving all my business problems, we kind of naturally shifted into personal life.

I think the real problem at that point was that I was still recovering from some of the losses we'd had, and the resultant sleep deprivation and stress that happens when you fly across the country with a baby.  But I've always been a reactive person, too prone to moodiness, and it seemed like a good topic to tackle.

Fast forward to last week, when I was doing my end-of-year assessments.  This system, that I had set up with Paul's guidance and some hints from Kelli about operations management, let me review everything in just 2 days.  Took all that chaos and disorganization and out-of-control feeling I'd been experiencing in my business and just banished it completely!

I had been working with Paul, and enjoying it, and maybe feeling like we were making a little bit of progress, but it was at that moment that I realized I'm really on to something.  Thus far, my business has been the only thing that really motivated me to keep trying things and stick to a routine and ACTUALLY find a way to be accountable for my goals (eek!).  But the moment it clicked and I realized, "Holy crap, this is going to work!" I knew this was a system I could (and will) implement everywhere else.

The system is complex, and visual, and will require a full post to describe.  So I'll leave you with a summary of my last few months.

I did not realize how much I was struggling.  I was in a floodzone, and it felt like the whole world was either floating or sinking next to me.  But I have found dry land and remembered what normal feels like and it is good.

Also I might be on just a bit of a New Year's high right now.


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