My Arena

January 08, 2014 By: Jenna Category: Personal

Presenting my ideas and work to the online world is wonderful in many ways. My best friendships today were formed through social media, I have relationships with a range of intelligent and talented people, my ideas and beliefs have been challenged and shaped in positive ways, and certainly the validation is appreciated (sometimes far too much by me, but that’s another post).

But anyone who has read the comments on YouTube or The Huffington Post has seen the dark side of the internet. Lobbing molotov cocktails of snark and hatred is all-to-easy when done via a computer screen. It became crucial for my mental health to find a way to wade through the sea of criticism and develop a new metric for measuring my self-worth.

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“Nothing has transformed my life more than realizing that it’s a waste of time to evaluate my worthiness by weighing the reaction of the people in the stands.” Brene Brown

Brene Brown is the second great woman I know of who has shared this approach (the first was Liene Stevens, of Think Splendid) but it wasn’t until I started reading Daring Greatly that I was able to fully integrate this concept into my life.

I suspect most successful and notable people utilize this mindset at some point. Which is not to say that I think I am successful or notable, but I know I won’t get there if I’m busy worrying about whether everyone likes me. But how to fully embrace this idea when confronting faceless/useless/meaningless criticism? I was spending far too much time stewing and giving credit where it wasn’t due. Dr. Brown’s book has helped me develop a mental process that I can enact each time the self-doubt rises to the surface again. Anyone who has encountered her work has probably become familiar with the Theodore Roosevelt quote that she loves.

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 It is her addition, that last part at the bottom, that changed everything for me. I am the gladiator in my own arena. If I want to share parts of my fight with the public, I am going to have unwanted observers jeering at me. Those people, and their feedback, do not matter to me. The only power I have over them is to deny them any power over me. 

The feedback that does matter comes from a very select group of people. If I shared something with these individuals, something vulnerable and painful and raw, they would first pull me in for a hug. After they felt my shoulders relax they would pull away, look at me (really look at me), and tell me the honest truth that I need to hear, no matter how hard it is for them to say it and for me to hear it. Those are the people I want in my corner, and those are the people who are going to help set the guideposts that I live my life by. I don’t need the public to like the way I spend my time, or to think I am a good mother, or to agree with my beliefs and opinions.

And now, when the clouds gather and the mental stewing begins, I picture My Arena. Is the feedback I’m considering coming from the hug+honesty group? No? Then I’ll be moving right along thankyouverymuch. I’ve got a battle to fight and a life to live. There is greatness to be had.

Christmas Card 2013

December 25, 2013 By: Jenna Category: family, Holiday

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We made it! With the birth of T2, yet another move, demanding work schedules, and the Thunderous Threes all happening in the same year we are breathing a big sigh of relief as we think about 2014. We are still in the San Francisco Bay Area, but I’m drafting this letter from a different home address yet again. (I’m keeping my fingers crossed that 2014 will be the year with no moving.) We loved our East Palo Alto house, but made the decision back in June to move to a new rental in Fremont. A big thank you to my parents for hosting us for 6 weeks while we waited for our new place to become available (and watching our kids so we could have an adults-only weekend getaway in Portland!).

We like our new neighborhood much more and are using all sorts of methods to meet our neighbors (the most out-there attempt involved nailing an introduction letter to the tree outside our front door). The population in this area is very diverse and it’s been fun to explore the multitude of Indian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese, and Mexican restaurants in the area. Turns out T1 is not a fan of the bubbles in bubble tea but he loves Chinese donuts.

TH and I are busier than ever, juggling two young children along with work. It’s a lot harder than we thought it would be. Thank goodness for babysitters and preschool! TH travels for work Monday-Thursday. While he’s gone I care for the kids and work on a growing number of projects – www.jennacole.com, www.pinterestfail.com, and www.thatwifeblog.com.

T1 is thriving in his fantastic preschool, attending full days every weekday. He loves making friends, starting every sentence with “Ma”, and exploring his ability to exercise his independence. Between the passionate outbursts his tender side shines through – when we caught a bug and looked at it under a microscope he begged me to set it free so it could go back to its mommy.

T2 has started digging through my kitchen cabinets and walking along the furniture. She’s a resilient little girl who survives being sat on and dragged around (literally) by her brother on a daily basis. When I say “It’s time to go get brother from preschool” she flaps her arms and waves excitedly. He is her very best friend and I love to listen to them babble and interact on the drive home from school every day.

This year we are particularly grateful for technology and the ways it keeps us connected. Social media that fosters connections with friends who live far away from us, video chats with family as we’re making dinner, Skype with family in Poland (who we, sadly, didn’t get to visit this year), screen time that gets us through the littles witching hour in the evenings, and phone calls between husband and wife as we live apart each week.

Thanks to all of you who make our life better in some way being being in it.

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Christmas cards past: 2008, 20092011, 2012

Solo Parenting

November 20, 2013 By: Jenna Category: Parenting

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It is ironic that I use this picture for this post – as it was taken by my husband. We really enjoy the time we do get to spend with him. 

I’m not really sure what I should call this thing that I’m doing, existing with a husband who travels for work M-Th every week, and is often working away from home 6-7 days/week. I’ve read enough posts written by actual single mothers to understand why it is hurtful and inaccurate for me to co-opt the phrase single motherhood. My partner provides monetary resources that afford me the luxury to work from home as a photographer and blogger while deciding when and how much to outsource childcare. He might not be physically present, but at the end of a hard day I am able to talk through the highs and lows of my day with him. When our children present challenges I have someone to brainstorm solutions with. We debate together, vacation together, make goals together. It’s been hard for me, but nowhere near as difficult as it would be if I were an actual single mother.

Taking on so much of the parenting load has been really difficult for me though, especially since parenting isn’t really my forte. We have no family in the area, and that means no breaks from the kids unless we pay someone. On weeknights I’m trapped in my bedroom (literally, since my oldest thinks that if I am awake and moving about that gives him license to stay up and move about his room), while my girlfriends in the area meet-up for movie nights and book clubs as their spouses watch the kids. We’re slowly building up friendships in the area, but haven’t made it to that perfect point where you don’t even bother knocking as you walk in the front door.

In short, it’s been challenging for me, with lots and lots of tears.*

The point of this post is to say that I needed something to describe my situation. Adopting consistent verbiage would help me accept where I’m at and give me a way to talk about it with others. I didn’t know of anyone else who had blazed that trail already, so I went with solo parenting. Single is the word our culture uses to describe someone who is not in a relationship, but solo is a word we use to talk about people who are alone. My husband is frequently absent, and so I am alone, though I am not single. Most of the time, I am a solo parent.

It’s important for me to talk about this, because the more I do so the more I realize how common it is. It’s very helpful for me to hear the stories and coping strategies employed by women in similar situations. The idealized 9-to-5 working schedule just isn’t an option for everyone, and I don’t think it is productive to be reductive in our discussions about work-life balance and career strategies.

I am growing daily, getting better at it with time. And I love living here! There is no other location in the world where I would rather live than Silicon Valley. I love the opportunities I have, and the way I’m living my life right now. If I want to have all of those things, traveling husband and solo parenting are also part of the equation.

What do you think, is there a better phrase to describe what I’m doing?

ETA: Lots of comments already about how we should get more help – babysitters, a nanny, maybe even an au pair. I would love that, specifically for one or two evenings each week, but our spending in other areas means we can’t afford it. Maybe you can tell all of your friends to hire me to photograph their weddings or lifestyle sessions, and then I’ll be able to pay to have some girl’s nights? :)


*I’m in weekly therapy now. No more breakdowns!

Hey

August 19, 2013 By: Jenna Category: Uncategorized

We’re around. Doing our stuff. I’m off to 24 Hour Fitness to try to cancel my current membership (which I signed up for only 2 weeks ago) because Costco is selling 24 Hour memberships that equal out to $25/month. Right now I’m forking out $60/month, not including childcare.

Just wanted to say hi.

The PBC (Post Baby Chop)

August 13, 2013 By: Jenna Category: Personal

Add me to the list of women inspired by Beyonce to cut their hair. Have you seen her pixie cut? I had been considering a drastic cut for a long time now, but I was stuck in the “growing out” phase. Each time I would consider cutting it, I would say to myself that I wasn’t done growing it out yet and just have the dead ends trimmed off. What was I growing it out for? I don’t know anymore.

This length still fits in a ponytail (I’m a mom of two young kids, ponytails are a must), and is a much more flattering and a better fit for my current lifestyle. I love it!

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That Husband likes it too (he gets credit for this photo, btw). T1 hasn’t noticed that it’s any different. T2 misses my long hair because she liked yanking on it when she was drinking her bottle. If you’re in the Bay Area, I highly recommend Diane at Juut. It’s the most money I’ve ever paid for a hair cut, but when I sat down in the chair she not only took my hair down and looked at my face, she asked me questions about my lifestyle and preferences. She’s worth the money, especially for a change like this one.

Have you ever been stuck in the growing out phase? What kind of cut did you get when you left your long hair behind?

      I'm a farm-raised almost-crunchy stroller-pushing picture-taking lifestyle-blog-writing gastronomy-obsessed divine-seeking thrift-store-combing cheese-inhaling pavement-pounding laughter-sprinkling lover of individuality and taking chances.
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