If you read all the way through my 2015 year end review, you know that one of the happy things that happened in the last part of last year was that I met a boy. I kind of snuck that info in.


The thing is, there aren't boys, and then there are. It's hard to say what brings that change about. Suddenly, things line up. A connection is made. It's kismet. Sometimes, I think you just have to be patient enough to wait for your life scale to balance itself, for the universe to bring good things to you. You can do a lot to improve yourself, to find grace, to increase your happiness, but you can't do everything.

The boy and I met online, on Tinder of all things. He found me the day I got back on after an online dating hiatus, sent me a message right away. And I swiped right on him even though he didn't live in Austin and was in school, two things that, in a different mood, would've made me think it was going to be too much trouble and I would've swiped left. We had our first date on a Friday, texted Saturday, had our second date on Sunday. We seemed easy together, similar but different, good. And after Christmas we talked about it, and it felt right to label this thing as a relationship. The boy is now my boyfriend. Excuse me while I suppress my little girl squeal.

One of my favorite things about having new people in my life is buying gifts for them. I can't help it. There is nothing as lovely as delighting someone with the surprisingly perfect gift that they didn't even know they needed. When UncommonGoods reached out to me about sponsoring a post, it seemed kismet too. Where else would I look for a gift for the boy, who never asks for anything? Plus I love giving my dollars to companies that pay their employees a living wage, are committed to being more environmentally friendly, and sell products that are handmade, organic, and/or recycled, so that's pretty great too (you can read more about their mission here, if you're interested).

I cannot tell you how many hours I spent combing through the website for gift ideas. The first gift you give to someone is kind of a big deal. The collections were a big help is narrowing things down. Look here, here, and here for more products if you're looking for a gift for him, too. Plus, a lot of these gifts are unisex, so really the possibilities are endless.

I have six ideas currently in the running, but I keep going back and looking at more, so who knows what he'll end up with. This bourbon stout beer brewing kit seems like it would be a fun thing to do together, this bamboo bike wall clock would look super cool on his walls (and he loves biking), this bar tool seems like a super nifty thing to have, perhaps along with this whiskey wedge for funky, undiluted drinks? This kit is the kind of luxury item he would never buy himself (but is it offensive to gift someone something with the word "hygiene" in it?), and we do live in Texas after all, so this make your own hot sauce kit seems fun and fitting.

Have your started shopping for Valentine's Day yet? What do you like to do for love day, and what kinds of gifts do you like to give (and receive!)?

Yours Truly, Jen

***This post was sponsored by UncommonGoods, but all thoughts and opinions are my own***

The Boy (+Uncommon Valentine's Gifts for Him)

I had all the hope in the world for 2015, and it started out so well. Unfortunately, rather than the happiness I was searching for, I got buckets of stress and anxiety. But, that's not to say that a lot didn't happen or that I didn't achieve some things, or that there weren't plenty of lovely highlights along the way. It did and I did and there were.

But I am not sorry to say, farewell 2015. It was real, but I'm ready to move on. First, though, some highlights from the year:

+ Read bunches
+ Reflected a lot on what makes me happy, and what I could do to bring more happiness into my life
+ Found out my oldest sister had late stage cancer
+ Became mildly addicted to taking hot baths
+ Took an amazing yoga class
+ Helped my dear friends sell their house
+ Battled the elements (So much snow! So much ice!)
+ Made the decision to move back to Texas
+ Injured my knee pretty badly when I slipped on a wet floor
+ Took the first steps toward getting my debt under control
+ Got the jewelry store in tip-top shape before I left

+ Sold off my things, packed up my life, and said goodbye to fair Blacksburg
+ Survived the drive from Virginia to Austin (with Olive and a car full of stuff) and moved into an apartment with one of my oldest friends
+ Survived unemployment and found a couple of jobs that would (barely) pay my bills
+ Learned to embrace a more minimalist lifestyle
+ Adjusted to apartment living, and especially, apartment living with a dog
+ Visited with so many family and friends
+ Lost some weight
+ Tried my hand at dating again

+ Turned 25, and spent some time reflecting on the last 5 years, and looking ahead to the next 5
+ Started a snail mail correspondence with my best friend back in Virginia
+ Worked way too much
+ Found out my oldest sister was (after extensive surgery and some chemo) cancer-free
+ Started going to coworking with some boss babes in Austin
+ Made a guest appearance on a friend's podcast
+ Started letting Olive sleep in bed with me some nights to give us more bonding time
+ Started feeling confident at both my jobs and making friends with my coworkers
+ Worked on upgrading my attitude
+ Got serious about my nutrition and fitness
+ Met a boy
+ Became determined to overcome my struggles with mornings
+ Hosted a super successful family Christmas
+ Partied it up on New Year's Eve with some old and some new friends, and still made it to work the next morning

What were some of your highlights from 2015? Is there anything in here you want me to share more about on here?

Yours Truly, Jen

P.S. I would've liked to have this up before the new year, but I was working two retail jobs through the holidays, so it just didn't quite happen. Ya dig?

2015, Year End Review

Two weeks ago I thought I should really, definitely, surely write a post for Christmas. And then I really didn't feel like it.

One week ago when I thought about writing a Christmas post, I thought about titling it "Happy Everything, Schmucks." There are people who will yell in public. At a retail worker. During the holidays. Over absolutely nothing. There are people who will wait through a line, get to the front of it, wait until all of their items have been scanned, and then suddenly realize they don't have their wallet, or their debit card, or whatever. There are people who will do this, say they'll just run out to the car and grab it, hold up the line while they do so, and then never come back. There are people who will complain about how long something is taking (gift wrapping, processing an online return, looking for a different size), when you are already going above and beyond. There are people who will tell you "hey, what's that?" point to the ground, say "you dropped your smile," and then laugh when you are 1) confused, because you're tired AF and don't have full brainpower, and/or 2) angry, because it's sexist and not funny. There are people who get angry when you don't accommodate them when they read something incorrectly, because that's your fault somehow. There are people who will interrupt you while you're helping another customer, talking to a customer on the phone, putting away an armful of clothes, clocking out for your lunch break, and ask if you can check them out because they don't want to wait in the short line that's formed, when clearly no, you cannot check them out right then. There are people who think that somehow you should make everything happen instantly for them when they have groceries in the car, or when they have a place to be, or when they were supposed to be at a place 10 minutes ago.

And yes, those people are absolutely terrible. Not to the core, probably, but they need to learn to check themselves in public. Have some empathy. Have some perspective. Have some human freaking decency. And have some goddam holiday spirit. It's not all about your party dress or what's under the tree, you know.

But there are also coworkers to laugh with, to commiserate with, to dream with. There are boys who will text you and ask how your day is going. There are friends who invite you to parties even when you're always working, friends who will hook you up with job opportunities, friends who will take care of your dog so you can go out on a date, friends who will write you long, kind, inspiring letters from afar. There are customers who have utmost gratitude for everything you do for them. There is family to coordinate pot luck dinner with, and pups to soothe you on the days, weeks, months when you constantly feel like crying because of all of this accumulated stress. There are mothers to cheer you on.

When it comes down to it, holidays are all about spirit, and sharing that spirit with the people in your life. The other stuff is tradition, decoration, potpourri. But the holiday itself is feeling. Every holiday celebrates love and gratitude in a different way.

So Happy Everything, lovelies. Go out and spread your love and gratitude and light the best way you know how. Share a tasty treat with someone you love. Play Parcheesi. Sing as loudly and poorly as you want. Sip a festive beverage. Send a thoughtful text (or two or three).

Be merry. Be bright.

Yours Truly, Jen

P.S. Some things to do if you're flying solo for the holidays this year.

Happy Everything, Lovelies

Being late to school was always a major source of stress for me when I was growing up. I found it mortifying, plus I would get punished by the school for my parents not getting me there in time, which seemed unfair to me.

I hate being late, and yet, lately, I always am. I'm using my tips for having an awesome morning to help develop a solid morning routine and kick the habit, but in the meantime, these are my favorite tips for making sure I looked pulled together (a must for me by nature, but also in my job description) when I'm short on time.

1. Choose key areas of your face to focus on. DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT try to do a full face of makeup if you are running late. Because once you start it, you really can't not finish it. Trust me, I've been there many times before. Instead, figure out what you need to do to feel polished. Try to stick with 3-5 products. For me, I'll usually do a tinted moisturizer (2 steps in one, plus much quicker to blend than foundation), fill in my brows, line my upper eyelids, and swipe on some mascara, then throw my lipstick in my bag so I can put it on in the car or when I get where I'm going. It's such a good idea to practice this face and time yourself so you can feel super confident on your rushed mornings.

2. Master a go-to hairdo. True story: I am not good at putting my hair in a ponytail. Putting my hair in a ponytail I'm happy with actually takes longer for me than just styling it so I can wear it down. This is a great go-to for lots of people, but not for me. Find the thing that works for you! I'm most confident when my hair is down, and my daily style takes me 5-10 minutes to do, and usually lasts me 2-3 days. On day 3 or 4, if I don't have time (or, honestly, am just too lazy) to wash it, I can throw it up in a topknot real quick.

3. Prep your purse. I am notorious in my friend group for having a huge, Mary Poppins-esque handbag on me at all times. I like to be prepared, and I like to have the extra room to be able to throw my laptop, camera, water bottle, book, lunch, or whatever else I need in there and go. BUT, you do not need to have a huge purse to have a prepared purse. Think about the things you often wish you had or end up buying on the run and see if you can stock them in your bag. For me, having a go-to lipstick, a nutrition bar, a pressed powder, a pack of gum, a water bottle, and a battery pack for my phone helps me feel more confident about getting through my day. Confidence is the best accessory, after all.

4. Save your favorite outfits. Take the opportunity on mornings when you have plenty of time to get creative with your wardrobe, and save your favorite, go-to outfits for mornings you're lacking in energy or time so you can throw them on and feel and look good. Bonus tip: I like to dress a little nicer on days I'm not feeling well (which includes days I'm feeling stressed or frantic). I don't want people to be able to take one look at me and know that I'm a hot mess that day.

5. Eat Breakfast. Hungry is not a good look, or a good feeling! Take a moment to eat a granola bar, bowl of cereal, cold piece of pizza, or piece of fruit. No matter how late you're running, taking a second to drink some water and get some food in your belly is a non-negotiable step in my book. You can always pack something and eat it on the way!

5 Tips for Looking Pulled Together When You're Running Late

One year ago, I brought this little girl home. It's hard to believe it's been a whole year, and also hard to believe that I haven't always had her in my life. She is the way I begin and end every single day, and she is the greatest source of joy and frustration currently in my life.

We've both learned and grown a lot in the last year. We've had our love and we've had our fights. We've had to learn not to be selfish. We both struggle with this sometimes. We've learned how to communicate. We know how to pull back when the other is about to reach the breaking point. We've both cried a little. We've cuddled a lot. I've cleaned up messes, groaned over chewed up water hoses and measuring cups and paper anything. She's suffered through long work days home alone and injuries that kept me from exercising enough with her and laziness, too. We've forgiven each other. We've walked it off. We've seen many a beautiful sunrise and sunset together.

Happy Halloween, everyone, and Happy Anniversary, Olive.

Yours Truly, Jen

One Year

I have owned exactly one iPod in my life, and this is it. I bought it in college, refurbished, around the same time I got my first car. I wanted to be able to listen to something other than the radio in my car and in between classes on campus. I rocked a discman all through high school, so this felt like a huge step up, a chance to diversify my listening experience.

I was downloading music like crazy then, trying out new music constantly and building up my collection. Before then, my music library consisted mostly of my parents' CD's and ones that had been gifted to me. The iPod was the home for this changing identity, this exploration. 80 GB of sound experimentation.

With the limited storage on the iPhone, I mostly stream music now, through Pandora, through Spotify, through Apple Music. Even the music I own exists in the cloud somewhere. It's changed the way I listen to music a lot, put me in habits of listening to the same over and over because shuffling through my whole collection, or through a category, isn't available anymore. You have to work to find something new, it feels like, when shuffle would just find something for you that you didn't even know you had. It's almost like going back to the discman, in a way.

The iPod still works. If you plug headphones into it, it will only play music in one ear, which makes it a perfect dock player. I'll put it in a drawer for months at a time and forget about it, but currently I use it as part of my wake up routine, selecting music on it to play in the morning when my dock alarm goes off.

Digging this old iPod out has inspired me to shuffle through my iTunes songs from time to time while I get ready in the morning or putter around after work. I've re-discovered some gems  and some forgotten tracks, and re-visited some favorites. I've put together a playlist of songs that have come up in my shuffle in the last couple weeks that I listened to all the way through. Maybe you'll discover something wonderful in here too.

What songs have you been re-discovering lately?

Yours Truly, Jen

What I'm Listening To | iTunes Shuffle

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