humor

Dear Life: Now What?

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Now that I’m essentially done with my Masters degree, that dreaded question has reared its ugly head.

You know the one.

NOW WHAT?

I recently listened to a book by Mike Dooley, Leveraging the Universe: 7 Steps to Engaging Life’s Magic, and he repeated this phrase often: Don’t get caught up on the “cursed hows.” (<—Totally worth the 5-minute read.) What he meant by that was: figure out what you want and visualize the end goal, then let the universe decide how it’ll deliver.

If you want to be a published author, for example, spend a few minutes each day picturing your books already on the shelves and, most importantly, feel how it’ll feel when you achieve that goal. Yes, also put some pen to paper today (“do what you can with what you have”), but don’t spin your wheels wondering about how to get a publisher or whether your idea has already been “done before.”

If you want a romantic partner, don’t get hung up on a specific person, just picture the kinds of things you’ll do with your dream mate and how you’ll feel when you’re together. Yes, you can add specific details like what you’re wearing -and please do!- but if you decide it’s got to be Gary from accounting, you might wind up butting heads with the universe, who’s working overtime to get you stuck in an elevator with Pete from payroll, the perfect guy for you.

When I picture where I want to be in a year, I see an active, fit, social butterfly who’s swimming in creative projects and opportunities, brave enough to say “YES!” when it counts – and “NO!” too.

While I’m trying not to get hung up on too many hows, I know it’s important to work with what I’ve got at my disposal today. For starters, I signed up for a half marathon in May, despite it having been two years since my last run. I even recruited two of the most inspiring “accountability partners” I could dream up, spanning New Jersey to Oregon, to help me get in gear:

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Meet East Coast A.P.: Remember Janeen? The one who says yes to everything? I may have used that little fact to my advantage…
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Meet West Coast A.P.: Vegan Retreat Unicorn #2, Dakota, a.k.a. Superhuman Freakazoid and author of the blog that will make you either hide in a corner or decide to start CRUSHING IT!!!!

To show them how compliant I am, I joined a gym…

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“Y” U NO LIKE 2 RUN, JULEZ?

…made Google docs outlining every aspect of my ideal life, started logging daily exercise, water and caloric intake…

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…and shed immediate poundage via purging more joyless belongings from the tiny apartment

I’ve even acquired new confidence-boosting crystals and signed up for a week-long “past life therapy training” with She’s a Maineiac at Omega Institute in July.

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Because I’m crazy now, in case you’ve forgotten.

I’m trying to up the ante in every area I can think of, breathing life into “November 2019 Jules” in ways that feel tangible yet exciting.

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2016 Jules, breathing life into another exciting vision.

As for creative projects, I’ve been keeping a list of fun blog post ideas and researching marketing courses and products. So far I’ve narrowed it down to a couple of top choices:

  1. Campaign Monitor  / My Emma – I think they can help me get my newsletter game straight with their sleek designs and impressive customer roster, plus a really reasonable Basic membership fee ($9/month)

    “Email acquisition best practices”? I’m definitely going to need some help… Photo credit
  2. Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing – this one comes recommended by a financial independence blogger I really like, Millennial Boss, but with a $197 price tag, I’ve been hesitant to take the plunge

(If anyone has any recommendations or experience with either, please leave a comment!)

I don’t know about you, but I’m still feeling antsy. Maybe I should stop with the hows and go tinker with my Google doc some more.

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Actual screenshot from my “ideal life” Google doc. …DON’T JUDGE. Okay you can judge. I still love you. …Do you know anyone single?

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Do you believe in the power of creative visualization? Do you get hung up on the “hows”?

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DISCLAIMER: This post contains sponsored links.

Blogging

You’ll Never Guess Who I Met in Maine

Hiya, Chipmunks! Welp, I’m back home in New Jersey, but alas, my heart is still in Maine.

And by heart I mean the better part of the paint from the side of my car.

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Last week, I drove north to Bar Harbor to relax, unwind and commune with nature. Instead I almost died three times.

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Mt. Sargent. Time #3.

One of those times, however, was positively pleasant. Because I died and went to heaven

I met Peg-o-Leg’s Rambings and She’s A Maineiac!

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Left to right: Go Jules Go, Peg-o-Leg’s Ramblings, She’s A Maineiac

You heard me.

Last Sunday, the stars aligned and three bloggy universes collided (much like my car with many, many rocks and trees).

Peg (Peg-o-Leg’s Ramblings), Darla (She’s A Maineiac) and I stumbled across each other’s blogs eons ago, back when we were still trying to figure out how you posted the whosewhatsit up by the whatchamathingy. I’d been lucky enough to hang out with Darla before, but this time we upped the ante and met Peg in Portland, where she was visiting with family.

Any Catfish fan knows that meeting an online friend can go terribly, awfully, heinously awry – but not with these two. They’re every bit as hilarious, warmhearted and adorable as their words. Last weekend we were just a gaggle of blogging vets, inhabiting the same fresh Maine air, trying to fit four years worth of conversation into two short hours.


In fact, rather than try to cram all of the goodness into one post, I think I’ll let the two of them explain the rest. (Click on their logos below to check out all of the great things they have to say about me their accounts of our meet-up!)

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Blogging, dumb blonde, Food, PSAs

Maine: Best Worst Trip Ever

Last week, Rachel’s Table and I headed north to Freeport, Maine to visit Darla from She’s A Maineiac. I guess we were kind of excited.

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We were originally going to go Friday-Sunday, but decided to leave on Thursday afternoon so we’d have a full day with Darla while her two adorable kiddos were in school.

Without traffic, it’s a 6 hour drive from New Jersey.

We took Rachel’s car, agreeing to split the driving time. Did I mention her car is new? And if there’s a pothole, I’ll hit it?

Somewhere between New York and Connecticut, we (and by we I mean me) hit 37 potholes. And I’m not talking little divots in the pavement.

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Good job on 15 North, guys. Really. It’s impressive.

On Rachel’s high-tech dashboard, we watched the air pressure in the driver’s side tire plummet.

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By the time we reached Boxborough, Massachusetts, we had a flat. Rachel pulled over while I surreptitiously checked her fuel tank. Plenty to keep the car running and heated for at least an hour or two. Whew.

“I don’t know how to change a tire. Do you?” she asked with a laugh.

“I’m from New Jersey. I don’t even know how to pump my own gas,” I replied. “But I just renewed my AAA membership!”

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In under 30 minutes, a tow truck arrived. The driver got the spare out of the trunk and started rooting around while Rachel and I bounced up and down trying to keep warm.

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Rache “spares” a smile for this photo. *groan*

“I can’t find the key,” he announced.

It took us much longer than it should have to understand that tires have unique “keys” to unscrew the lug nuts so no one steals them. The spare in your car is supposed to come equipped with its matching key.

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We tore apart the car, but alas, no key. Thanks, Toyota.

Eventually, he said our only option was to go to the nearby dealership and have them change the tire – when they opened. In the morning.

Oh, did I mention Rache had 20-inch fancy rims?

This detail becomes important later.
This detail becomes important later.

“I’m so sorry I broke your car!” I wailed for the first of many times.

After the tow truck driver unloaded the car at the dealership, he said he could drive us to the nearest hotel. Nevermind that we had two non-refundable rooms waiting for us a mere two hours away in Maine.

“Do you have anywhere for us to put our luggage?” we asked.

“Just your laps.”

Our essentials were scattered between six bags, not including my swinging 1970s, fully-loaded cooler, which took up half the back seat. I grabbed my laptop and two bottles of champagne. “Screw it,” I said to Rachel. “This is all I need.”

When we arrived at the hotel, Rachel explained our predicament to the front desk. The man at the counter replied deliberately, “You have a coupon, riiight?” He nodded slowly.

“Um…yeeees,” Rachel said, catching on.

When we saw the receipt: 50% off! What’s more, our room overlooked a funky indoor pool, white lights and palm trees (you go on with your bad self, Holiday Inn), so we opened the balcony sliders, and more importantly, the champagne, and toasted to the kindness of strangers.

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Rachel called the dealership at 8am the next morning, and they finally got back to us with the verdict two hours later.

“It’s not just a flat. Your rim is damaged beyond repair.”

“Of course it is,” Rachel replied.

“And since you have 20-inch ones, we’d have to custom order a replacement. It wouldn’t be here until Monday.”

“So…my only options are to wait until Monday…or get 4 new 18-inch rims and tires?”

“Correct. And it’d probably cost the same either way.”

She covered the mouthpiece. “I knew. I knew when we got that car with those friggin’ rims…” She spoke into the receiver, “I guess I’ll have to get four new tires and rims, then. How long will that take? …Okay.”

“I’m so sorry!” I cried.

“Jules, it’s not your fault. I hit them, too,” Rachel reassured me, gracious as ever. (It was totally my fault.)

Turns out they had to order the ‘regular’ rims from a nearby dealer and couldn’t start work until 1pm.

They gave us a complimentary rental car, and we killed time at a local diner.

“There’s no lobster on this f&*&#% menu.”
"I haven't showered in 24 hours!"
“I’ve been in these clothes for 27 hours!”

At 3pm, they gave us the good news: “Almost done.”

At 4pm: “We just realized we have to put all of the tire censors back on. It’s going to be another hour.”

5pm: “Okay, just finishing the paperwork.”

5:02pm: “Our computers just froze.”

5:30pm: “Let me give you the damaged tire and rim. Oh, wait, it’s filthy, we need a bag. Hang on.”

5:35pm: “We can’t find any more bags.”

5:45pm: Finally, FINALLY on our way. “Good thing we left Thursday night.”

7:00pm: Reach Maine.

7:30pm: Darla texted. “I can’t get out of my driveway. It’s a sheet of ice.”

That’s right. At last we were in Maine, 24 hours behind schedule, and NO DARLA.

But there was lobster. Lots and lots of lobster.

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These were called “Lobsicles.” Heh.

Saturday morning, another text from Darla: “I still can’t get out!!”

So Rachel and I shuffled around the icy streets of Freeport alone, waiting for the temperature to climb above freezing.

At one point, it was so slippery, a gift shop owner reached out a hand while holding the door, towing us inside. Later, when we peered longingly into Freeport Chowder House, the man inside waved us in.

“Are you open?” we asked.

“Not for two hours, but I never turn down customers,” he replied. “I don’t have the fryer going yet, but what do you want? Lobster roll?”

Rachel and I looked at each other. “YES.”

Breakfast of champions bloggers.
Breakfast of champions bloggers.

It was noon on Saturday before we saw Darla, but she was worth the wait.

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The sun even came out…just in time for us to drive home.
Bartending for Rache and Darla from my favorite possession: My parents' 1970s cooler. Dude. It keeps ice frozen for THREE days. IN THE SUMMER.
The (in)famous swinging 1970s cooler, a.k.a. my favorite possession. It keeps ice frozen for THREE days. IN THE SUMMER.

Despite the many snafus, this li’l trip north had so many heart-warming moments, I wouldn’t trade it for anything would totally trade it for another 10am lobster roll.

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And they say chivalry is dead.

P.S. – I even learned how to pump my own gas!

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Since the word count on this post is already as atrocious as the potholes on Route 15, I hope you’ll head over to Rachel’s Table and She’s A Maineiac to read more about our adventures!

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Have you ever had any vacations that didn’t go, ah, according to plan?

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Blogging

Have Pie, Will Travel

This afternoon, Rachel’s Table and I are on our way up [from Delaware and New Jersey, respectively] to…

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To see this gal!

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Darla, from ShesOneOfMyFavoritePeople.com, I mean, ShesAMaineiac.com.

The three of us had been daydreaming about a Maine get-together for ages. One December morning, I blurted, “Why wait? I’m not working [since my “separation” with Big Pharma], and Darla doesn’t have to go back to [Medical Assistant] school until late January! When will that ever happen again?”

Maine? In January? You’re probably thinking.

My mom's cousin's backyard right now. Little Deer Isle, Maine.
My cousin’s backyard right now. Little Deer Isle, Maine.

Sure, they’re having the harshest winter Darla’s ever seen, but I think I’ll be spending less time outdoors and more time doing this:

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Besides, while most people fantasize about palm trees and white sand, I lust after evergreens, crisp air, mountains, and of course, an ocean view at every turn. I’ve been in love with Maine since my first visit [to Freeport, Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park] 16 years ago. It calls to me. It’s like my Paris.

View from Darla's backyard.
Basically, I want to live in an LL Bean catalog. View from Darla’s backyard.

I also realized I had a golden opportunity to woo several people at once with my homemade Tollhouse pie.

Get ready, Maineiacs.
Get ready, Maineiacs.

Because that’s how I roll.

The Accidental Stepmom (a.k.a. JM Randolph), who I just had the pleasure of seeing again on Monday, approves.

I hope to return next week with some wacky and wonderful tales. In the meantime, stay warm – and don’t have too much fun without me!

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I really should have gotten that hat.

Where’s your “Paris”? What part of the world calls to you?

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Blogging

The First and Last Thing You Should Do Today

I am tickled right down to my wee little paws today, Chipmunks.

I’m the Featured Blogger over at She’s A Maineiac!

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Things You Will Experience If You Read My ‘Firsts and Lasts’ Interview on She’s A Maineiac

  • Me in costume
  • An Uncle Jesse jack-o-lantern
  • A positive example of molestation
  • An overwhelming sense of self-worth at my expense mirth

So what are you waiting for?! Click here to check it out!

P.S. – You look soooooooooo cute today. Did you do something different with your stripes?

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Blogging

Did You Know I Write For You?

Yesterday, the panic settled in – that WordPressurey feeling that’s become all too familiar: Oh god I’m so behind on reading blogs, people are going to think I don’t care about them, and why can’t I find my dashboard, and why is my comments widget missing, and WHAT AM I GOING TO WRITE ABOUT NEXT?

And that’s when I read one of my favorite blogs, She’s A Maineiac. Suddenly all was right in the world. Darla had posed a series of hilarious and compelling questions to bloggers.

I’d found my next blog post. Warning: We’re about to go deep.

Thanks, DP!

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Why in the hell do you blog?

I believe in taking baby steps, to JUST KEEP GOING, in order to survive and thrive creatively, and blogging has been the perfect medium for that approach. It’s manageable, yet lets me push myself.

Like this happened.
On the set of the “My Parents Are Crazier Than Yours” pilot webisode shoot, Oct 2012.
He loves peppers and I love...blogging.
Have you heard? He loves peppers.

How did you discover blogging? What was your initial impression? 

Husband #1, Peppermeister, has a blog and urged me to start my own. My degree is in Creative Writing, but I’d let writing slip for many years.

My first impression was, “Um, hello? Anyone out there? Can you please tell me what HTML is?”

Were you shy and withdrawn as a child or gregarious?

A little of both. Still am. In social situations, if I’m with someone shy, I’ll step up to the plate and carry the conversation; if I’m surrounded by extroverts, I’ll take a back seat. I cater to others to distract myself from my own insecurities; it’s exhausting, actually.

How close is your ‘blogging’ persona to the real you? 

I think Rache (Rachel's Table) was really disappointed.
With Rache (Rachel’s Table) in Nov 2012. What was that about shyness?

Oh gawd. I get so nervous when I meet other bloggers in person; I worry they’ll be disappointed with the gal behind the ‘stache glasses. Nevertheless, this blog helped me find my voice, and sometimes I think it’s the most genuine representation of me.

How has blogging changed you or your life?

It’s given me creative momentum, which is huge, but what’s life-changing? The connections I’ve made with fellow bloggers. They inspire me every day – this post is a perfect example.

Do you consider yourself to be a ‘writer’? 

It took a long, long time; I’ve been writing since I was a kid. One day in my mid-20s, it just clicked: I write, therefore I am a writer.

Do you prefer to write, then edit, edit, edit or just throw up on a page and be done with it?

I’ve never written a post without tweaking it at least 10 times. Usually more. Some of it has to do with the visual component – that’s very important to me. I’m still wondering about the text format I chose for these questions!

How confident are you after you hit that dreaded ‘publish’ button? 

I’ve gotten better at letting it go, in part because I can count on such a supportive blogging community. But when I share something personal, or spend another 20 hours making a video, believe me – I’m holding my breath!

Jules-Reated-PG13Have you ever regretted something you’ve written?

I really regret wearing that red shirt in my ‘200th post’ video blog – does that count?

Have you ever been 100% satisfied with something you’ve written?

Yes. Once:

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The Byronic Man and me. It was his birthday. It was special.

Do you view your writing as good, bad, so-so, or ‘eh, you really don’t care’? Do you ever look back at a post and cringe?

I think my writing has improved VASTLY since I started this blog, but there’s plenty of room for improvement, and there always will be. And YES, some of my old posts make me cringe (note how I’m not linking back to any here)!

When you write, do you have a certain audience in mind, or do you just go with your gut and let the words spew forth without a care who would like it or not? In other words, do you censor yourself at all?

Darla and I actually talked about this last week during one of our marathon phone chats. We agreed blogging [for us] has evolved to where we write with a specific audience in mind – regular readers that we like to tease or make laugh.

I know everyone says write for yourself, but I did that for years, and let me tell you: It’s way, way more fun to write for your friends – yeah, I mean you!

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Aren’t these questions fantastic? If you haven’t already, please go check out the source post on She’s A Maineiac – I encourage you to answer them, too!

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And the random winner of the 2nd blogoversary ‘stache glasses is… Susie Lindau! She was the 41st commenter (not counting my comment replies)!

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Blogging

On Blogging & Bacon: The Balance

A few months ago, I wrote a post called, “On Blogging & Bacon,” which covers the top three things I’ve learned about blogging. Essentially, I said in a super charming and funny way I got out of blogging what I put into it.

I feel this slipping… Oh dear god. Not the bacon!

Ironically, shortly after that, I realized I’d put too much time into blogging. I wasn’t able to write new blog posts, respond to comments, and read and comment on other blogs without devoting several hours a day.

I’d been eating way too much bacon (is that possible?) and neglecting other responsibilities and relationships. It wasn’t healthy.

Between working full-time as a project manager, part-time as a freelance writer,  earning a web design certification, maintaining personal relationships, a marriage, home, and dog, I had to find the right balance between blogging and the rest of my life – fast.

But one thing was certain:

I needed this blog.

I needed you.

You were, and are, my Jack Dawson (go with it). You opened my eyes to a whole new world, and if you jumped, I’d jump. And I think we all know there’s enough room on this blog for both of us.

Rather than struggle alone, I reached out to some of the busiest bloggers I know. Bloggers juggling kids and/or full-time jobs and/or other writing gigs. I wanted to know how they struck the balance, and where blogging fell on their priority lists.

Angie is my hero. In so many ways. Here she is on a totally regular day.

How, for example, did they make time for both family and blogging? Angie from Childhood Relived shared her 9pm cut-off rule, at which point the computer goes away and she spends time with her husband. Darla, from She’s a Maineiac, took a hiatus for part of the summer to spend more time with her children.

And what about how often to blog? How important is it to post regularly? Would I lose readers if I started posting less, or more sporadically?

Deb Bryan – lovely inside and out.

Nina Badzin posts once a week. “If I’m guest posting elsewhere,” she says, “then THAT is my post of the week.” Deb Bryan blogs 1-2 times a week in the hopes that it will allow her to “maintain an online presence without doing so at a huge cost to [her] offline life.”

You should see Renée in a bikini.

One of the most comforting pieces of advice came from a phone conversation with Renée Schuls-Jacobson. In a [chipmunk] nutshell: No one was going to stop following me because I didn’t publish a certain amount of new posts every week. Her words reminded me that while I want to hold myself accountable to writing goals, I never want to stop having fun. And ‘forced and rushed’ don’t equal ‘fun.’ For anyone.

One of the biggest struggles for me was finding the balance when it came to reading other blogs. If I tried to keep up with more than a few blogs a day, minutes turned to hours and Peppermeister (Husband #1) got that puppy dog look.

The bloggers I interviewed also agreed that they had to get real about how many blogs they tried to read each week. Following more than 30 blogs was unanimously impossible, though some of us had, at one point or another, tried to follow over 100.

Renée shared my desire to want to get to everyone, but she also reminded me that using all my time to follow the same blogs meant denying myself the opportunity to meet new people. I decided I didn’t need to read and comment on every post. Even my favorites.

It’s still a hard pill to swallow. I still worry people will take it personally.

After all, we bloggers rely on our community.

I heart D-Pants.

As Darla put it, “I am grateful that I have a chance to show a slice of my world to people and they respond in a positive way. So over time, we are able to form a relationship that’s full of laughs and tears. That is my favorite part of blogging. Making a genuine connection.”

“The best part of blogging,” according to Angie, “is friendships with the other bloggers.” Deb said, “Thanks to blogging, I’m able to see life through the eyes of so many other observant, compassionate eyes.”

Don’t hate Nina ’cause she’s pretty AND smart.

And if you’re still wondering why I called you my Jack Dawson, I’d like Nina Badzin to speak for me: “I love that blogging has allowed me to just be more ME. …Even in real life now I feel more confident and have a stronger sense of self.”

Thanks to all of this wonderful advice, I feel much more comfortable reading blogs and writing new posts when I genuinely have the time, and hope that this approach won’t alienate the community I’ve come to cherish.

But if there’s one thing I could change about my blogging experience? I’m with Darla: “I’d have WordPress install a button so that every time I clicked ‘publish’ I’d get five bucks. Or some beer. Or Skittles. Something.”

A heartfelt thank you to Darla, Renée Schuls-Jacobson, Nina Badzin, Deb Bryan and Angie Z. for taking time out of your busy lives to openly share your experiences. I look forward to blatantly misquoting you in the future for my own amusement. My blog and I are the better for knowing you!

How do you strike a balance between blogging and everything else? To non-bloggers: How do you balance work/family life with your other passions? If that question bores you: What’s the coolest bacon-themed product or website you’ve ever seen?

And okay – enough of the serious stuff – on Friday we kick off the September ‘Stache Glasses Giveaway!