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!

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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?

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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.


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!!!


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???

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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!

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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


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.

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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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