Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Monthly Reads 2017: January & February

HAHAHAH remember when these posts were a thing for a whole two posts before I totally slacked on reading consistently or posting about it? I'm back. I set my Goodreads reading challenge goal very low for 2017 because I have a bad habit of not meeting what I can meet. Last year, I could have hit my goal, but I didn't. So I'm aiming a little lower: 20.

I have a stack of books I want to finish within the next few weeks. So here's what I'm reading right now:

  1. Talking As Fast As I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls and Everything in Between by Lauren Graham 
  2. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain 
  3. Marvel's Venom collection, namely credited to Rick Remender 
  4. The Walking Dead: Compendium One by Robert Kirkman 
What are you reading? 

I try to remember to update my Goodreads. You can check out my somewhat inaccurate shelf here:

Jennifer's currently-reading book montage

Bright Dead Things
The Black Poets
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Stephen Hawking's Universe
The Walking Dead, Compendium 1
Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls, and Everything in Between
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

Jennifer's favorite books »

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Taylor Swift, We Need You To Give a Fuck

I had different plans for this post. I wanted it to be part of my Brunch Colloquy series. This one is going to be a doozy. I just needed to get these thoughts out.

Unpopular opinion upfront: I am not a fan of Taylor Swift. 

When I was younger, this was simply because I couldn't get behind her music. I found it annoying and whiny at best. But I understood her appeal to people my/her age. When we were - what? - 14-17 years old, she sang about the same superficiality that we were dealing with in high school. When I was this age, I was highly pretentious. I think we all can be, but as strengthening as it can be to ensure a child understands her own competence and intelligence, that heightened awareness can make said child unbearable at times. And boy was I unbearable. I had a rant for everything. When it came to Taylor Swift, the rants ranged from her "mediocre voice" to her "surface level lyrics." (I'm putting these things in air quotes because they don't matter much to the point I'm about to make. And while in some ways I may believe that about fetus-Taylor, and sometimes now-Taylor, who really cares what my opinion is on her music? She's having fun, right? Let her.) ...


Today I went to a brunch with the ladies I work with, and we all sat around talking about anything and everything: how ridiculous our bosses are, how tiring the past week was, TV shows we're in love with, podcasts about murder, the inauguration and we ended on the Women's March on Washington.

I do believe that it's important not to live inside a bubble - to expose yourself and debate - but it's so nice to get 9 women, from the ages of 24 to 35, together and have like-minded conversation and togetherness on a week where it's needed most.

I have never been more uplifted by a group of women in my life. Those women are amazing, all of my friends who marched in DC are amazing (or elsewhere if they were able to in a nearer city/town), and even just reflecting on everything that Michelle Obama has given me.

(But let's be real, she's given women of color so much more, and I'm so happy to see my friends of color benefit from that example and presence.)

I was going to do a post that's overdue about what books I'm reading, but I couldn't not talk about this. I was at work on Saturday, so I didn't march, but I wore red lipstick and a shirt of  😻 made out of a skull. I was living in as much solidarity as I could. And I really really want to set all other obligation aside and march next time it happens. 

I told you all that I've been posting weekly inspirational reflections on my Instagram. You'll find that below:


Week 3. #2017positivity

I’ve wanted to actually sit down and pre-write this week’s positive note several times. Make it something existential, something sound, something profound. I never gave myself that chance, and now I’m wishing I had. There is so much I could say about this week that I worry this post might end up all over the place.

To mitigate that, I’m going to do a list of things I have thought about today. Perhaps some other day or night I’ll expound on them all. (But I should be asleep right now - work tomorrow.)
  1. I watched pieces of the Inauguration day of events, but I unintentionally missed the actual swearing in. I can’t remember if I wasn’t awake then or if I was too groggy. I saw things like the luncheon and setting up for the parade. I saw the protests, and the marginal riots. I was pleased that the police reports were so fair despite the attacks being thrown at them, and I only saw one headline that generalized the protests as all rioters. First time I can recall that happening in awhile. I am zen. I am not happy, but I am zen. But that doesn’t mean I will be silent or let my words never take action.
  2. I have my biannual performance review coming up at work. I took at peak at the one from 6 months ago. I checked what I thought my goals would be, or what I wanted. I was happy to see that I was there or way beyond it. I went for things and did things that gave me a sense of wholeness professionally. That doesn’t mean it was without its stress or frustrations, but like my political zen, I have a professional peace with things. I’m taking it day-by-day, finding experience in unlikely spaces, and constantly learning from my mistakes. And it feels good. But also, hook a sister up with some more writing and editing gigs. I’m in the ZONE.
  3. I have more friends than I thought who made it to DC in order to march tomorrow (Saturday) in the Women’s March. And I’m so jealous I’m not there, matching with them, among friends and empowering types. But it makes me that more fired up to do it next time. Plus I’ve never been to DC, sooooo…
  4. I don’t know if I said it here, but despite the actual occasional crap food (like a few times a month), I am now pescetarian-ish. I decided to cut out junk food and meat from my diet, not because of some moralistic dillema, but because I was feeling exhausted and horrible. I also got back into running.
  5. I love my friends and family, and despite being very introverted and closed off sometimes, I hope they know how much I love them. 
  6. I feel more secure in who I am, where I’ve been and where I’m going than I ever have.
  7. I realized today that as an actual adult, Obama was my first president. I am very sad to not see the family werking every day, but I know they’ll never truly stop. I hope that if you’re sad to be losing Michelle and Barack that you remember that we couldn’t have been more lucky, than to grow up in a time with them. With an administration building towards a future for us, rather than for a generation that will be gone long before us. They did their best in tough times and always set themselves higher, as an example. I can’t say “thank you” enough to them.
  8. This is my last one: I love you. If I haven’t truly said it… I. Fucking. Love. You. To my friends of color, minorities abound, I love you so damn much. All I want is to be there for you. And I hope you can feel that when we talk. And I hope you’ll always hold me accountable. I want to be your ally and your family. 💕

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Monthly Music 2017: January

This past month, I've been getting some really good funk vibes from Childish Gambino's latest album, "Awaken, My Love!" For that, I created a playlist that has been doing God's work for me:
  • "Have Some Love" by Childish Gambino
  • "FourFiveSeconds" by Rihanna, Kanye West, Paul McCartney 
  • "Bad Blood" by NAO
  • "It's A Man's, Man's, Man's World" by James Brown 
  • "Riot" by Childish Gambino 
  • "Good As Hell" by Lizzo 
  • "Redbone" by Childish Gambino 
  • "Never" by The Roots, Patty Crash 
  • "If Anybody Gets Funked Up (It's Gonna Be You)" by George Clinton, Erick Sermon, MC Breed 
  • "Back Pocket" by Vulfpeck 
  • "Bother Me" by Lizzo 
  • "Me and Your Mama" by Childish Gambino
  •  "Fever" by the Black Keys 
  • "California' Dreamin'" by Eddie Hazel 
  • "Boogieman" by Childish Gambino 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Self Care

If you've been paying attention to blogs, YouTube, Twitter or pretty much any other conversation in the last year, most of the conversation, following anything bad (and sometimes good) is the necessity for self care. I'm glad we're constantly reminded of it, because with a heightened awareness of mental illnesses and disorders, it can be daunting to take on the world triumphantly when things get rough. We're more aware of the toll our bodies take day after day.

Stay hydrated. Get sleep. Remember to eat. Go outside.

It's the formula for personal success that might have been scribbled on pages of self help books before, but it's a conversation that truly matters and applies now. I've been trying to remember this.

Recently, I made the decision to commit to a lacto-ovo-pescatarian diet. I'm trying to use the official, or rather accepted, terminology for my diet change. It's basically - from what I understand - a way of saying that you're vegetarian, but you still eat fish, eggs and dairy. Which is true! I've also committed to cutting out most if not all junk food. These decision didn't come lightly for a foodie like me. I will still occasionally eat meat, but you won't likely see it happen for weeks at a time. My stomach and my metabolism just couldn't take it anymore. And it's about damn time I listen to them.

I've been taking more time for myself, for the things I enjoy, and not worrying about "goals" or "resolutions" this year. I have aspirations, but those take legwork, and they are much more easily attainable without the pressure. Today I walked 12,277 steps, according to Google Fit. Seems I'm taking the idea of legwork literally, but it was a reminder that we make time for what we want. Other than walking, I'd like to hit a stretch goal, in the next 90 days, of an additional 20,000 words on my novel that I started in November. At work and in life, it's about growth in whatever form that may be. It might be immeasurable sometimes, but it's certainly valuable.

Since 2017 began, on Instagram I have been focused on weekly reflections and prospective positivity.

Week Two. #2017positivity

I've been thinking about what I can take away from last year and move forward with this year. Where do I see myself professionally? What am I doing personally? Who did I think I was going to be at 26 when I was 16?

The most I can say is what I learned from a TED Talk from @coollike: I don't owe my past self anything.

Who knows if my 16 year old, anxious and depressed (but didn't know it), incredibly insecure, fumbling over herself, teenage catastrophe would have cared at all about who I am and what I'm doing now? I don't have the same ideals. I am not published in the New Yorker (yet?). I am not even still in Georgia.

But there are a lot of things that have happened in my life that are so much better. I work at Microsoft doing something that - even on my most frustrating days - I really love, with people I love. I am married to my best friend, a guy who I don't have to constantly work at getting along with or being with. We're just together and it's natural. I may not be published where I "dreamed" of being, but I have a running Xbox blog with a best friend and co-worker, and I am 35,000 words deep in a fiction novel, and constantly working on my New Journalism nonfiction pieces. I am healthy. I am happy. And on days like today, when I have to wake up at 7:45 a.m. for a dentist appointment, it gives me an excuse to go get coffee and a sandwich at my favorite places afterward, and I am reminded about how much I love this little town/city/thing that I live in. The roads and sidewalks are often very clean, pedestrians are everywhere with friends, kids or dogs, and I can safely go walking from the dentist to those downtown shops I love in the morning and have a trip like this one. It's a disgusting little postcard waiting to happen.

I am where I'm supposed to be, and I love where I am. And if my 16 year old self wouldn't be okay with that, maybe there's a reason she and I don't talk anymore. I've learned so much about myself and coexisting in this world, and the other day I realized I'm really close to 30, and that was a new, weird and cool feeling to have. I'm not that teenage catastrophe anymore.
A photo posted by Jennifer Sheffield (@dearjenna) on

I am just happy for what I have. I am happy that I am here. And I am reminding myself of that every day, and I am doing what makes me be at my happiest and healthiest.

Monday, January 2, 2017


How wide is your perspective? The complicated, scientific answer comes from editors on Wikipedia:
"The approximate field of view of an individual human eye is 95° away from the nose, 75° downward, 60° toward the nose, and 60° upward, allowing humans to have an almost 180-degree forward-facing horizontal field of view." 
In regards to the new year, my answer is that we need to check our perspective and get over saying that 2016 was the worst year.

The year 2017 is still very fresh, and we are sitting around licking our wounds - as we have been for the past two months - as if it's not time to move forward. In a lot of ways, we complacently decided we would ring in the new year on entitled laurels of shame and disappointment in a world that had failed us. And while we did do some things and make some pacts, we had all silently decided to make sure that whatever we did it would start happening after 2016. After every single hit from the past year, you'd think we would have stopped being phased. And I mean that for me, as well. This is me saying this in a mirror slowly.

Sometimes things were already this bad, and these events leading into the "worst year" was just affirmation of feelings. It's as if we created a different kind of echo chamber. Not one in which we all just shut ourselves off from other opinions, but one where we all are standing in the same room shouting how bad it is, and the damaging words keep coming back to us in arrhythmic chorus. We cannot help but hate it. We cannot help but continue to say that we hate it. It's all we're hearing, and it's all we know. The year 2016 had sparks of greatness despite being the "worst".

The real reason I do believe that this past year wasn't the worst, or that I'm trying to remind myself that it could have actually been bad, is because of the conversation it really started.

The age 26 has been an age of introspective and prospective reconnaissance for me. I've had to take time to look at what hurt, why it hurt, how I responded, did I hurt someone else, why it hurt them, what can I change, what isn't in my control, what can I take control of, what do I want. A long, long list of questions with branches and points of perspective on each one. I've learned what it really means to be confident in who I am and my capabilities in the workplace and elsewhere. I've learned about my own femininity and strength, and the strong, irreplaceable connections that I can make with strong women in my life - the connection and the voices we have. I've always tried to explore the concept of "beauty" on more than one level, but this year I really came to understand it on new planes.

For every hardship, there was a conversation and a voice that rose up in defiance or in triumph. That is beautiful. For all of the deaths of idols, stars and celebrities that gave us something to look up to or look for, there were memorials of those lessons and a collective embodiment of power that made the passing seem easier. For all of the tragedy in just our country alone, there were more conversations being had about why they have happened or keep happening. Words lead to action.

I want to extrapolate the year, event after event, but some of events may be missed among the fodder, so I'm going hit the points that I remember the most vividly from 2016 and explain why there is something beautiful or meaningful to take from them.