Living Well

My Own True North - Living Well

New Year Resolutions and Goals for 2018

And, just like that, 2018 is here. New Year Resolutions get a bad wrap, and while I have played around with linguistics, in the past, I stand on the sideline for resolutions. Anything that builds motivation and feels fresh is something I like getting into. Some years are more ambitious than others, but I always start the year with an intention and focus.

It occurred to me, when I was journaling about my New Year Resolutions, this is the first year I do not write “finish PhD” as a goal for my new year.

Whatever you want in your mix, major life goals or small focal points, or to take better care of yourself, or boost up some self love, write something down to satisfy your craving! A friend of mine even includes a theme for her year.

My Own True North - New Year Resolutions

Here are some ideas to help you get started (as you may infer, I’m practically the conductor on my own self-love train for 2018).

Be kind to yourself with the thoughts you let yourself think about you.

Commit to a set bed time and routine.

Stock healthy snacks, including slicing up the veggies when bringing home to have ready-to-crunch goodies on hand, at all times.

Clean up after yourself, daily! You’ll feel better when your entire personal spaces are clean, tidy, and shiny. This includes home, car, desk, etc.

Superfoods. Apple cider vinegar, bee pollen, probiotics, and healthful(l) foods.

Gratitude. Create a journal dedicated to expressing your gratitude for that which is good. Last year, I had a fun day planner I used to record my daily thoughts. Two years ago, and this year, I will write on scraps of paper to go into a gratitude box I will read on New Year’s Day 2019.

Community impact. Find a cause you can contribute to, and volunteer a minimum number of hours per month. Your community needs it, and you will feel better for it.

Social media breaks! I’m thinking about taking one day a week away from all social media.

More baths, at home facials, massages, and other pampering activities fir yourself.

Eliminate toxins from your life. This includes any excessive wine down Wednesdays, household cleaners, and toxic friendships.

I firmly believe in you do you, so let me know, what are you doing, now that we’ve passed New Year’s Eve?

XO, Jennifer

My Own True North - New Year Resolutions


As We Approach Winter Solstice – Taking Time for Yourself

I’ve been fully submerged in teaching, writing, and researching new work opportunities. It is true that I have been looking for a long while. As much as I am ready to return to work, I did not radically dismantle my life last year so I could jump back into a similar situation of overwhelm and undervalue. All too keenly aware of a slower time table than I wanted for my next transition, my intention and specificity will remain. Late December always brings me especially reflective mind wanderings. As I write, I look out the window of my office to the waning, foggy, light. Tonight is the Winter Solstice.

Winter is coming. The long night. No, really. Tonight, the longest night of our year will be here. The northern axis will begin shifting toward the sun when we wake in the morning. Our days will slowly begin to get longer.

As We Approach Winter Solstice - Taking Time for Yourself

Tonight is an especially beautiful time for personal reflection and looking inward.

There’s something about the Winter Solstice that pulls to me. This darkest day and longest night of the year is a personal invitation to look into yourself and see what you want to set right, straight, and out for the days, and year, ahead.

Today has been particularly ponder-filled, for me. Tomorrow marks one week to a milestone birthday. I’ve been taking personal inventory rather heavily this year. In my social solitude, there has been much time for personal thought.

I think of winter as a season of regeneration of energy. Location helps. Situated within a cold state, with a winter storm on the horizon promising sub zero temperatures, I watch birds and squirrels busy themselves among bare branches of trees. I’m witness to activity I don’t see in Spring, Summer, and the better part of Fall. The physical transformation is visible.

A steady reminder of my own opportunity to turn inward, reflect, redraw energy, and prepare for cyclical regeneration.

Tonight, give yourself some quiet space.

Even if you only have a moment or two, give that much to yourself. What calls to you, and what will you call out to? In a season so often aligned with an over abundance of everything, make a slight break in the chaos. This night is about our Earth’s balance. And it is good enough for your balance, too.

Take a cue from nature. Rabbits and bears snuggle in their burrows. Frogs and lizards bury themselves in mud. They slow their metabolism to a crawl. Trees and plants have shed their leaves. For them, there is no one to impress. They receive the shifting season as they need – with rest.

As We Approach Winter Solstice - Taking Time for Yourself

Where there is darkness, there is light.

On this darkest night, consider your light.

Turn of the back-lit phone. Light a candle. The warm flicker of that flame has the capacity to help you center and be the center of your attention tonight than anything in your phone, tablet, or computer.

Nature’s first green is gold,

Her hardest hue to hold,

Her early leaf’s a flower;

But only so an hour.

Then leaf subsides to leaf.

So Eden sank to grief,

So dawn sank down to day.

Nothing gold can stay.

~Robert Frost

I hope you have a happy Winter Solstice and coziest start to your new season!

XO, Jennifer

As We Approach Winter Solstice - Taking Time for Yourself

Favorite Thanksgiving Movies to Watch this Weekend

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I have a confession to make. But don’t tell my mom…. I *LOVE* hosting Thanksgiving! Menu planning for days and Pinterest prepping the perfect bougie table centerpiece gets me more giddy than ultra shoppers preparing for their Black Friday hunts. Girlfriend, over here, looooves her fancy tablescapes…. After the Thanksgiving meal has been packed away and all that remains is leftover punch (yes, I love boozy punch, too), what’s left to do is pull up the hair, slip on fuzzy socks, and begin the marathon of my favorite Thanksgiving movies.

I’m a holdout. No Christmas tunes will be welcome in my presence until AFTER Thanksgiving. While one is unlikely to find me anywhere near a casserole with marshmallows or fried onions, where I can be found is partaking in serious movie marathoning this chilly Thanksgiving weekend. Of course, I mean after the Christmas decorations are up!

Plains, Trains and Automobiles

Steve Martin. John Candy. Schedenfreude. For anyone who has every survived Thanksgiving travel hell… You’re welcome! I giggle like a fool every time I see this movie. Every. Time! That car rental scene…..

Home for the Holidays

What an underrated movie!!! Holly Hunter, Robert Downy, Jr., and Anne Bancroft. Oh my! If you haven’t seen this one, my recommendation is to skip the dinner roles, pass on the potatoes, and go straight for this delicious treat, instead!

Pieces of April

April (Katie Holmes) tries to build a Thanksgiving holiday for her estranged family and must rely on the help and grace of her East Village neighbors. This may not be one of the better known holiday films but it is as lovely as can be.

The House of Yes

Parker Posey. All the Yes! Thanksgiving is known to bring up many family dysfunctions to the surface.

You’ve Got Mail

One of my favorite films, ever, and it has not one but TWO Thanksgivings! And a second film in my list to feature Parker Posey! I think my favorite character is the circa-1998 AOL dial up. Oh, my gosh, I love this movie so darn much. Soooo freeging much!

Not because it’s Thanksgiving related but… The Big Lebowski

This marathon submission is NOT Thanksgiving related but one of my best Thanksgiving memories includes good friends, deep Tryptophan saturation, many beagles (and one tiny white scnhauzer), mega meal comas, and a home made drinking game with the signature drink of The Dude. Take note: there are many calls for “Caucasians” in the film. Rather than the film being Thanksgiving focused, I have one of my best Friendsgiving/Thanksgiving memories every time I watch it. Although, I must admit to being slightly overexposed to White Russians, now!

My conflicted movie inclusion or omission… Hannah and Her Sisters

I’m incredibly torn on this one. I… LOVE… Woody Allen films. I think he is despicable. No matter how much I go “bananas” for Annie Hall, Manhattan, Midnight in Paris, Vicky Christina Barcelona, and yes, Hannah and Her Sisters, I can’t help myself but to remember and be aware that the film I’m watching and love so much was made by a man who did things that are detestable.

What are you looking forward to this Thanksgiving?

XO, Jennifer

Thanksgiving movies to watch this season my own true north


A list of the best Thanksgiving movies to watch this season my own true north

A Few of My Favorite Things | August – Saying Goodbye to Summer

Where has August gone? The days are still long but the garden harvest is beginning to dwindle. It won’t be long before my tomato fix must be met with mealy fruits picked from chilled grocery shelves instead of my garden. Summer is beginning its farewells. Soon, monarchs will begin their migrations South. I’m, alas, still not ready to migrate myself South of the border. I miss Mexico. For now, painted ladies and swallowtails eat their fills from backyard peonies, zinnia, and basil blossoms. 

August Eclipse Highland Kansas My Own True North

When I drove back to Kansas two weeks ago, I passed field upon field of cotton crops. Alabama surely was standing high in her cotton. In a couple of months, the pale yellow blooms will burst into the bright white bolls. Yes, Autumn is on her way.

How About That Eclipse?

Were you able to get outside to see the eclipse this month? My stepfather’s sister and husband have a farm in Highland, Kansas. This is noteworthy because their home is – er, was – directly under the path of the Great American Eclipse for totality. It was a gas! Even Edie had solar approved eye wear. About 50 members of the Johnson, and extended, or Johnson by proxy (i.e. me), descended to this tiny farming community in Northeast Kansas. It was awesome in every legitimate dictionary definition of the word.

  August Eclipse Highland Kansas My Own True North

Until clouds moved in the way and blocked visibility of the “diamond ring” effect. I bet that halo was just amazing, though. A phenomenon I had heard of but never witnessed, though, was the effect of the wildlife. As totality neared, birds and insects were humming and busying themselves as if it were dusk. The speed of approaching totality created some sort of frenzy. Birds were diving to their nests.

And then, silence. And darkness.

Sure as scientists promised, day turned into night. And as quickly as totality came upon us, nature’s activities of dawn greeted us with the returning sun.We spent hours idling on two lane country highways to make it back to the capital. Despite missing the halo effect, midday darkness was worth the sacrifice of the day.

After all, what else would I have done? Stayed home to… edit? No thanks. Speaking of edits….

Something I’m Loving….

PhD progress is… happening.

My committee and I are finally starting to come to agreement about what my re-analyzed chapters and conclusions should look like. It’s taken me long enough. I will probably be kicking my own butt later in this year, but I’m hesitant to apply for some of these jobs I find that are appealing because Ph.D. ABD just isn’t the same as PhD. Listing Ph.D. ABD is just a fancy way for saying you quit. Is my opinion… in the academic community, though, ABD isn’t something to broadcast.

If you happen to be struggling with your proposal or draft edits, remember this: the dissertation is a means to an end. The end goal is your Ph.D. The dissertation is a means goal, not your end goal. The dissertation is a way you can prove you are a vetted, successful researcher.

My dissertation, in its approaching final form, is so far from the initial problem statement and hypothesis I created. Choose your battles with your committee. Even though it may not always seem like it, they really do have your success and your best interests in mind. They’ve been down this path, before. You know the subject, best, but they know the process, best.

Patio Jenga

Giant Jenga My Own True North

My summer dabble with woodworking was a narrowly averted disaster. I gave up many freckles and even a slight sunburn, heat exhaustion, and sweated through so many clothes while standing in that blistering August sun cutting, sanding, and staining this giant Jenga game.

The final outcome is something I am so proud of, but I now appreciate the cost people want to charge for a handmade patio Jenga game. I chose three different stains and love the variance in colors.

Giant Jenga My Own True North

Something I’m Listening to…. Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee, and ft. Justin Bieber – Despacito

Oh my goshhhhh…. Yes. Yes! I am all over this song. I can’t even keep count of how many little zoom videos I made with Edie and this song. It makes a great mid afternoon break away from the desk slump.

I know about 70% of the translation to the song when I sing it. The misses in translation on my end now create some empathy and understanding to judgment I passed on a friend I met in Chiapas. I asked my friend why he had “ugly boy” tattooed on his arm. He wailed as if in pain then proceeded to tell me the saddest tale ever about how he and his buddy misheard the lyrics to a Black Keys song. And they are ugly boys, now, not lonely boys.

Something I’m Reading…

How these women are taking up space every day in their lives.

My memory fails me as to where I discovered The Happy Reader. That is a moot point, however, because I am having so much fun with this “bookish” magazine. Bibliophiles, consider yourselves put on notice.

The Happy Reader August 2017 My Own True North

Now that August says “goodbye,” how are you winding down your summer?

XO, Jennifer

August Great American Eclipse My Own True North

Some Things to Enjoy | HAIM – Want You Back

If the weather hasn’t convinced you, surely the fireworks and festivals this week for Fourth of July heralded summer is in full swing! I appreciate the AC, sweet tea, the juicy peaches, warm watermelons, salads fresh picked from our garden, and songs of crickets and frogs I hear in the woods surrounding the farm at night.

Aah, summer. I love you so much, I even accept the frizz in my moppy hair this time of year. So much so I even accept picking the fleas of Edie as a daily ritual.

Here are some things that inspire and uplift me this week.

want you back

Something I’m Listening to….HAIM – Want You Back

Haim’s single from their new album, Want You Back has been out for two months, now, and it’s on heavy Spotify rotation. Well, alongside songs from Moana and Cigarettes After Sex — it’s been a rough summer of edits and motivation to finish that has waned to nonexistent…. My musical tastes this summer represent the chaos that is my writing frustrations and anxiety on overload.

Cue in some salvation and better-than-a-pineapple-whip delight… HAIM’s new album, Something to Tell You, released yesterday. Definitely, most definitely, check it out! I’m no musician or critic, and won’t pretend to be, but I like it — hello — their harmonies.

The video is LA eye candy, too.

Something I’m Reading…. Darling Magazine

I stopped subscriptions to print magazines when I moved from Phoenix. A newly adopted nomadic lifestyle is not conducive to monthly mailings. Fortunately for me, Darling Magazine maintains a robust online platform. This is a particularly refreshing read for some internal reflection on what labels or definitions you are picking up from external influences and pressures.

Something I’m Loving…. 

Fellow stationary groupies, raise your hands! Currently loving on the locally sourced stationary and excellently curated art, home, and apparels in Lawrence, Kansas. The best town in the heartland.

On an unrelated topic, have you contacted your senator to express your views on the AHCA bill? If you’re unsure how to act to effectively communicate with your senator, Our Revolution has a great page of resources.

Want you back

What is inspiring you this summer? XO, Jennifer

want you back