Routines – Good or Bad?

I tend to exist in two pools of thought. One pool is filled with rigor, structure, and routine. The other pool isn’t really a pool at all. It’s a free flowing river that allows for exploration, creativity, and flexibility. The river usually wins and guides my day-to-day.

Most of the resources I draw from talk consistently about habits and routines. It’s very difficult to develop healthy budget and spending habits if you don’t implement a routine because we are, gasp, creatures of habit. However, I have to often sit down and ask myself:

Does my life even have room for routine?

This seems silly, but more importantly, it seems backwards. Typically, after you develop a routine is when you start asking what can fit into your life. I suppose my brain just isn’t hardwired that way and I can’t assume I’m the only one. The challenge is to develop a plan of sorts that allows a flexible schedule but also promotes the development of healthy habits.

Here’s a sneak peak into the upcoming month-ish for me and just how variable things can get:

  • July 25th – August 8th: Germany/Vacation
  • August 16th: Bristol Renaissance Faire
  • August 23rd: Wizard World Chicago
  • August 24th: Distant Worlds Chicago
  • September 12-16th: San Francisco/Vacation
  • September 20th: BYOB Painting Date

This list of events is not including time for:

  • visiting parents (a 3 hour car or train ride, in which I typically stay for a weekend)
  • seeing boyfriend (we average seeing each other 2-3 times/week, but don’t obligate each other to limit or meet that amount)
  • if all goes according to plan, I’ll be starting grad school on September 22nd part-time
  • Full-time job
  • Fiverr/Freelance jobs/(possible part-time job to help pay off debt?)
  • Blogging/Digital Scrapbook Project
  • Personal Writing/Art Projects
  • Time for, you guessed it, Jenn!*

This type of life I live doesn’t have room for a routine. If you have a similar situation, I don’t think the answer is in trying to make all of this smoosh into a routine: it’s simply too restrictive to people like us and no matter how carefully we plan, we’ll be setting ourselves up for failure. Instead, look at your obligations (because, yes, these are what they are). Is there anything you can remove, trim down, or give up (or, really, SHOULD give up)? For me, August 23rd Wizard World is the one thing I could/should give up for a few reasons.

Next, look at what healthy things you want to implement in their stead? I want to implement less spending and more Jenn-time. In getting rid of Wizard World, I’ve eliminated some spending (major spending, really. Conventions are never cheap, folks. You’re look at at least $120 for a day, and that’s without spending any money in the dealer room OR hotel. And can we talk about costume costs? Ugh. My hobbies are expensive). Now, how can I implement more Jenn-time in this hectic lifestyle?

I’ve been feeling a vibration lately. It’s one that is telling me to get off my ass and do the things I keep saying I will one day. This includes yoga and Buddhism. Developing a yoga practice may be too much obligation right now, but I could begin the study of being present and mindful through meditation. Because my evenings are SO vast and variable (I never really know where I’ll end up most nights), the one thing in my routine that is stable is that I wake up in the morning (so far, cough…). The people I surround myself by would be understanding and loving enough to not bother me for a half-hour in the morning after we wake up. But, should it be before I shower? After? Before I eat? After? So many questions that are only answered through trial and error!


You don’t have to give up your freedom and flexibility for a routine:

Step 1. What are your obligations?
Step 2. What can you/should you get rid of?
Step 3. What goes in their stead?
Step 4. Implement and experiment through trial and error until the groove feels right.


Does anyone else have any grounding habits they enforce upon themselves in their hectic schedules?


A Short Reminder or Two

The last few days I’ve been in a rough spot when it’s come to letting go of ego. Sometimes, we can find the most timely reminder even on Facebook.

To that end, I also offer another like-minded reminder: success is not determined by the amount of money in your bank account, how expensive your car is, or how big your home is. It’s not the things you have that define you, it’s what you do and the experiences you collect.

Gift vs Passion



Let’s be clear, your gift is the thing you do the best with the least amount of effort. Your passion is the activity you have a strong desire for or the thing that gives you the most energy. Just because you are passionate about something, it doesn’t mean that it’s your God-given gift. In other words, it doesn’t mean you’re even good at it.

 -Patrice Washington


It’s about time I take my definition of freedom and really pinpoint what it actually looks like in quantifiable terms. The above graphic I found while browsing LinkedIn one day and, unfortunately, do not have a credit for it. But, remember when I posted about unexpected help/resources and how I was hopeful to incorporate them into my life? gave me the above quote to consider. On a personal note, we can replace “God-given” with “X-given” for the sake of my own journey. Combining these two resources, I think I have enough to get started!

That Which You Love (or are curious about)

  • Myself
  • Words/Writing
  • Language/Universal Language
  • Travel

That Which You Are Good At

  • Communication
  • Service/Serving Others
  • Writing

What Which You Can Be Paid For

  • Writing
  • Teaching
  • Service (customer or other support)

That Which The World Needs

  • Communication
  • Teachers
  • Peace/Understanding/Respect

I suppose now would also be a good time to insert that I have decided to continue to work at my current position at a top research institution and MBA school in the USA while taking advantage of my employee tuition-assistance benefit and pursue a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing (assuming, of course, I’ll be accepted into the program). This path will take much longer than if I were to quit my job and go to school full-time, but it honors a couple parts within myself:

  1. Safety/Security (financial): quitting my job to go back to school for an MFA does not make me feel very safe/secure, especially financially, as I would be taking on a very large amount of student loan debt.
  2. Establishing myself within a community: I have, for the better part of the last 7 or so years, never fully invested in the places I have lived (and there have been plenty). I am constantly looking for that place that feels like “home” and while Chicago may not fully meet that criteria, it is a great city with amazing opportunities and a vast and colorful writing community. Establishing myself here as a writer/contributor/member is a smart decision.

But, you may ask (everyone does, believe me), how useful is an MFA career-wise? It’s as useful as you want to make it. Referring to the above list of what I love, am good at, can be paid for, and what the world needs… Using an MFA to get certification in ESL/EFL or TESL/TEFL (teaching English as a second or foreign language) wouldn’t be too far off from my purpose. I could be paid to to serve/teach (or even teach globally through services like Peace Corps, meeting the demands of my love for travel) a common language (even though I don’t necessarily think English is the best language to be universal, it is one of the easiest to learn) and be part of the conversation about what we, as a society, miss out on due to language barriers (and we are missing out on a lot; not only do language barriers contribute to war and rage and anger, but also other things like coming up with effective solutions to save our planet while we are still living on it isn’t going to happen unless we can all understand each other). Maybe I’m a dreamer, but that seems like a mighty purpose worth dedicating myself to.

Still, the voice in my head imagines you all questioning the MFA and why it is necessary to this step. Well, I need to appease the writer within me, don’t I? And I do need a background in teaching/teaching practicum to apply for ESL/EFL/TESL/TESFL certification. Two birds, one stone.
To fulfill my definition of freedom, I’m going back to school for my MFA to appease the writer in me and to get my certification to teach English as a second/foreign language.

Unwanted Help – Dealing with Parents

It’s confession time: I’ve lied about my situation to someone. That someone is my mom.

Making excuses or explaining why really does matter. But, a story about how to deal with unwanted help (especially from people like our parents who are so vehemently protective and loving that all they want to do is dig us out of the holes we have dug ourselves into) does matter.

In a conversation about going to graduate school (something my mother does not support), she wanted to know how much debt I had. I didn’t want to lie and tell her I had 0 debt, and I didn’t want to lie and tell her the full amount (partially because I didn’t know the full amount at the time and partially because she would have a stroke at the number). I told her I had $4,000 worth of credit card debt.

Immediately, she is demanding, not asking, that she gives me the money to pay it off. I’m kindly refusing, stating that this is my battle and it is my problem; that I love her and understand why she wants to help, but I don’t need that sort of help from her right now; that she should trust that if I need help, I would come to you. And she is getting angry, very angry, at my refusal to accept her help.

Now, how easy would it be to just say, “Ok, I’ll take the 4 grand!”? Very damn easy. Painfully easy. Too easy. It also opens the door for chastising and negativity in the future when/if I do go to graduate school: “After I dug you out of debt, you’re going to accumulate more!?” and I refuse to put both of us in a situation where she is saying that sentence to me.

A month later, she is still not dropping it. She’s is on Facebook, messaging me about interests rates and numbers and “doing the math”; about how she isn’t mad at me, but mad at the numbers. I spend an hour on Facebook messenger kindly and lovingly declining her offer for help and she will not drop it. Eventually, I had to set a boundary:

Jenn: I love you. I love that you want, so desperately and passionately to help me. It’s part of why everyone loves you, but we can not continue to have this conversation. If I need help, you are the first person I will go to, but I do not need help in this right now. If you continue to talk about it, I will have to stop talking until you talk about something else.

This was the first time I had ever set a mature boundary with either of my parents. And, I had to follow through as she did not let up. It was a small achievement and a good lesson, although heartbreaking.


You’re an adult. It is completely in your right and realm to establish boundaries that are loving, honest, and that protect yourself, regardless of who that boundary is established with.

A Personal Note: Mindset and Spirituality

I tend to sprinkle in some things about my mindset and spirituality throughout my posts and in defining my values, but I think I owe it to myself to fully document what my mindset and spirituality actually looks like to date:

  • I’m a new-agey hippy type, not yet fully acclimated to or invested in movements like “sustainable living” or “intentional communities”. I do see myself fitting into those things very nicely when the time is right/when I decide the time is right. I also believe I’m not in the correct geographic location to fully live out this type of life right now.
  • When asked about my religion, I tend to say that I will be a Buddhist one day. For now, I’m working on simple breathing meditation and actively seeking opportunities for mindfulness while de-cluttering and simplifying on the material plane.
  • I actively (once a week) see a therapist. Our work together focuses on parts healing and me remembering who I am and what my truth is.
  • When asked the question, “Do you prefer to talk about big things that matter?” I responded with, “Well, let’s first start with what actually matters?”
  • I believe that we are souls and have bodies to host those souls in this life. I believe we all have a purpose, a truth that we must decipher and act out until this body deteriorates and we move onto the next one.
  • I am still very terrified of death, but I’m working on it. I recently read an essay that remarked sleep is a practice for death. This helps calm me down because sleep is one of my favorite things!
  • I try to act in kindness, especially in kindness to myself first and foremost. I have been in situations where I’ve not only been abused, but let myself be abused. I do not wish to live that life any longer.
  • I believe humans can benefit and advance more by asking “Why not?” instead of “Why?”
  • I don’t necessarily value being an entrepreneur. However, when I reach my freedom, I will only allow myself to work for someone or something that I fully support and see as being a benefit to the planet or society. If that someone is me and that something is a thing I developed, then so be it!

I’d like to extend this to anyone out there who may come across this post somewhere in the future. Someone very close to me spiritually, mentally, and physically offers this saying to me on an almost daily basis. You should take this kindness and give it to yourself:

You are great, and you’re getting better.

Cutting ’em Up!


On 6-30-14, after talking with my therapist, I cut them up. All three of them.

I wouldn’t necessarily say it was hard, but I did have 10 seconds where I looked at my highest balance card and felt a sense of fear. Fear about not having a “back-up” plan; not having something to pull out in an emergency. But, then I remembered it was maxed out and I couldn’t use it in an emergency anyway. For the past however long, I had been carrying around 3 cards that I a) can’t use and b) are a symbol or talisman of what is holding me back. I reminded myself of my value, “Do things out of love, not fear.” and reaffirmed that I love myself enough to get me out of debt.

It feels good, folks. Try it sometime.



Defining Freedom

As highlighed in the about page, everything took off after watching this TEDx talk by Adam Baker, founder of It started with defining what freedom is to me. I started with the following list and few notes:


-No financial burden

-A job I love with flexibility to change it


-Not evil

-A sidenote: consumerism is not evil by nature. It is a driving force that keeps our current system alive and while this may not the best system… I’ve yet to see anyone come up with something better and I certainly haven’t myself.

-Another sidenote: debt is evil. It is a cycle of working a job to pay for debt you have accumulated because you have a job.

What I arrived at was:

Freedom is a life unrestrained by consumer debt, enabling me to passionately, honestly, and lovingly serve the planet, world, and society.

Perfect! But now I had to start shaping the idea around my values and lifestyle. I started with breaking down my debt. Total, consumer and student loan, debt equals $12,100 at the time of the posting. Roughly 9,100 of that is consumer debt (before you roll your eyes at my mere $3,000 of student loan debt, do me some justice… If it is crippling you, it is crippling you regardless of if it is $3,000 or $300,000. Ok? Ok.). I have a very stable administrative job at a university with amazing benefits. However, my take home pay per month is $1847 and my estimated monthly expenses living in a large city (bare bones) sits at $1550. This leaves me at just under $200 extra a month for savings/repaying debt above minimum payments/fun.

How the hell am I supposed to clear $9,100 (not including interest) worth of debt on an extra $200/month? That would take YEARS (3.2 years, to be exact) and I want to go to grad school! Frustration. Disappointment. Almost hopelessness… But, I asked myself a simple question:

Can I sell, budget, or find roughly $10,000 in a year?”

The answer? A BIG, FAT (scary) YES.