Sh*t (Sometimes) Happens

I would like to say that 2017 is the year I get sh*t done, even though I started this blog back in 2016 with the same intention. Sh*t happens. It’s what you do next that matters most. This is one of my focus areas for 2017 – what do I do when sh*t happens?

I tend to over worry about everything. Anxiety is nothing new to me. Sometimes sh*t happens, and sometimes the sh*t is only happening in our heads. This weekend I replayed a conversation I had at work last week that left me feeling worried. I started second guessing my overall purpose in my job. It didn’t take long for my brain to jump to all kinds of conclusions. Tonight, while relaxing with my “Be Inspired: Design Coloring Book – Patterns by Eijffinger”, I tumbled into the thought that I’m just no good at graphic design.

This is a prime example of sh*t happening…in my head.

Because one negative thoughts breeds more negative thoughts I came up with this gem of insecurity: If I’m no good at graphic design, I have no purpose for the work I do.

That negativity was followed up with how much I dreaded going to work in the morning because nothing I do in my job gives me any sense of purpose.

Again, sh*t happens sometimes only in my head.

Purposelessness is a feeling I got used to having in my 20s and 30s. I clung to it because it was the devil I knew. A change, a risk in doing something new was, well, new and scary! What if I failed?  What if I found out I was terrible at the new thing? In all that time I never considered that discovery requires risk, that there are things I am definitely going to suck at, but I will always feel purposeless without trying to find what I love doing!

Somewhere along the way I realized that none of my negative feelings were true. Sometimes I want to tumble down that rabbit hole of self-doubt but then something always happens to remind me that those thoughts are false.

Tonight my mother’s voice popped into my head. Can anyone else “hear” their mother’s voice when they read her texts? Well, I can. She sent me this text: “I returned to line dancing on Monday. I wore my elephant t-shirt you created. Several people commented on it.” *One of her classmates, Barbara, a “working $$$$ artist”said she liked my shirt very much.


This snapped me back to reality. 1. My elephant drawing t-shirt is super cute thus proving that I have some talent. 2. I can’t let my insecurities get to me. I can’t travel down the road of insecurity without a lot of unnecessary pain. 3. My job is what I make of it. It’s up to me to give my job purpose or not. I believe, honestly, that my job helps a lot of people do good things for our community.

Sh*t happens. Sh*t happens in my head. When it happens in my head I have to focus on how I react to it. I can only do my thing. I can come home and pile on more sh*t. Or I can keep drawing, keep doodling, keep playing around with paint and clay. There is nothing to do but deal with it.

In life you need one thing to survive: The ability to realize shit happens. You step in it. Accept it, get over it, and move on. 


*The fact that a working and paid artist likes my shirt is a high compliment. Mom and I both think that if you are a working and paid artist you are living the life! At least the life we want to live.


Hi, 2017! Let’s Get Sh*t Done!

img_6028Here we are again at the beginning of a new year. So much has happened! New job responsibilities, new life responsibilities. For me, 2017 is going to be a year of self-care, lots of reflection, and channeling as much as possible into various creative outlets.

Because so much has changed, and I’ve been asked about it again, I thought a good update on my Bullet Journal would be a good start to the year. Let me share what I learned over the last couple of months.

  1. Pre-made planners just do not work for me. In fact, nothing short of the Leuchtturm 1917 notebook or the Rhodia Medium Webnotebook works for what I need. Truth be told, the Rhodia is the better paper-wise between those two notebooks! I use a lot of different inks when I use my BuJo. Rhodia is the only one that holds up and has no bleed through. I was really disappointed in my new Leuchtturm – so much bleed through!
  2. When I last posted about my adventures in BuJo I wrote that I was using the Levenger Circa Notebook junior sized (for various reasons). The Circa Notebook junior size is way too narrow for all the sh*t I do, track, take care of. And those dang discs! Kept getting in my way. I couldn’t do really nice spreads without ramming my hand against the disks. I like that both the Rhodia and Leuchtturm have different bindings making it easier for me to have continuous writing across spreads.
  3. So I switched from my gorgeous Circa notebook to the Happy Planner. I hated it right from the get-go.Not only does it also have discs it has a pre-made layout making it very hard to track everything I need to track. Also, if you don’t pay close enough attention, like I did, you’ll get the wrong weekly layout and there is nothing you can do about it. Blech! (If anyone wants a Happy Planner just let me know. We’ll work out a deal. None of 2017 calendar has been used and I have some extra bells and whistles I got to “help” me out.)
  4. The idea of keeping all those meeting notes in one notebook became annoying and daunting. I kept having to flip back and forth between this meeting section and that meeting section. Now I have my BuJo for my calendar and a separate notebook for taking notes. Wait for it: After my meeting I transfer my tasks straight into my BuJo. My note taking notebook is roughly the same size as my BuJo. I make sure to title and date the notes so if I do have to go back and check on something I can flip through the pages easier looking for a specific title.


So with all this said, let’s move into what I’m doing now.

1. I am using a Leuchtturm 1917 medium dot grid notebook. Paper isn’t thick enough for all my inks so when I fill this notebook up I’m going back to the Rhodia. Even if it is traffic cone orange.

2.  Straight out I made my legend to keep me on track. Yes, things are color coordinated. This happens when you’re job suddenly becomes two jobs. I’m now the admin assistant for my original office and the assistant to the director of marketing for our entire department. (I know, I sound exactly like Dwight in “The Office”.) This is the beauty of the BuJo. The original BuJo has their own legend. I used that and tweaked it to fit what I needed.


3. The Leuchtturm has the Index pages, which I do love. The Rhodia does not. But I’ll deal with that. The Leuchtturm also has all their pages numbered. LA! The Rhodia does not. Boo.


4. I took the time and made a full year calendar just so I could see dates. Sometimes you just need a good look at just the dates to help you out.


5. Now this is new, to me anyway. The Calendex! Boy, do I love this! Now I’m not so terrified of not having pre-made weekly pages or monthly pages. Go ahead and watch this great video by Boho Berry about the Calendex and how she set hers up. I took her idea and tweaked it for my needs. I like looking at things a semester at a time. I work at a university, so my life is basically on a semester schedule. I set up my Calendex by the Spring 2017 and Summer 2017 semesters. Don’t forget to add your legend!


6. I’m still using the monthly page for quick appointment updates. I’m using color coded dots to show recurring meetings.


7. My Social Media Calendar! Now, this is just a stroke of genius. Just kidding, I honestly don’t know why I didn’t do this earlier.


8. I’m back to using the weekly layout and the To-Do list as a full spread. My weekly page is only Monday through Friday because my Bullet Journal is only for work things. Nothing else. Well, except for…

9. The mega-list spread is my Spring Semester To-Do list. At the end of Fall semester I started writing down things I needed my student assistants to do when they got back to school. Then I realized that the list also had things I had to do. Then it grew to things my marketing students needed to do (see that ink bleed through?!). So the list became this spread. It’s all organized and color coded. Also, my list sprang from this!


10. Ta-Da! The only pretty pages in my Bullet Journal! I am only focusing on six days at a time to do this Zen Art Challenge. I don’t want to overwhelm myself thinking I “have” to do this challenge. This is the perfect reminder of something I enjoy doing. It is also teaching me a lot about shading, perspective, and other things I have comletely forgotten from my early days in art school (early as in 5 years ago…I have no excuse).


11. Lastly, I have a list. There are a ton of classes I want to take through; especially those that deal with marketing. So I created this list of classes I need to take soon and classes I just want to take. Lot of people put lists like this in their Bullet Journals – sometimes it’s books, other times it’s movies. All these classes are work related so I thought they deserved a page in my book. Also, if I didn’t write them down I’d forget.


So this is what works for me. That’s the beauty of the Bullet Journal. You can always find ways to tweak it for your own needs.


Getting My Sh*t Together Through Gratitude

This is a boring trope. Everyone from Oprah to the Dali Lama has told us to keep a gratitude journal. They say the benefits of doing so are numerous including being more present and being happier. I have tried to keep a gratitude journal before, writing in it every night before bed. But usually by that time I’ve forgotten what’s happened during the day.

I’m not saying I hate my job, but I’m not saying I love it either. It’s a struggle right now. I feel like I’ve done everything that I can to make the office a little less stressful. It’s just not enough though. So I turned podcasts for inspiration. After listening to many, many experts tell the audience that we can’t change the actions of others we can only change our reactions to those actions I was about to give up. When you’re very stressed out that bumper sticker psychology just isn’t going to cut it. But in the last podcast I listened to it was suggested that until the stressful situation ends we should keep a work gratitude journal.

I have a Field Notes notebook sitting on my desk right in front of my keyboard. I pull it out and write down what I’m grateful for at the moment it happens. Some days it’s a struggle to find something to be grateful for but committing to writing something down has me looking for things. What about this craptastic day stands out? Even in all the angst, what is one thing that went right today?

Yesterday was a particularly bad day. One of those is this really all there is to my life kind of days. Mid-day my co-worker comes in and tells me that she has finally found her office key. Gone went the bleakness of the day. She’s been looking for that key for about four months. She was genuinely happy to find it, and relieved too, I’m sure. Seeing how happy she was just made my day. It might sound silly to anyone else but when things are bleak any good thing deserves recognition of gratitude.


Writing things down has also helped me evaluate my past jobs. I started thinking about what made those jobs good. I wish I had had a work gratitude journal back then. I may have saved myself a lot of perceived angst and problems.

I have two rules for myself:

  1. Nothing negative goes into the gratitude journal.
  2. I will name names in my journal, and that’s okay.

Here’s an example about not putting anything negative into my gratitude journal. I was recently interviewed for another job. I was absolutely sure I was going to get it, but I lacked the financial training to do the job. I was not offered the job in the end. But the person who interviewed me called me to tell me that I was not going to be hired, and then gave me some excellent feedback about my interview. She told me how much she enjoyed talking to me. She said that she thought I had a great personality, and that I would definitely fit in in their office. She also expressed hope that I would be able to find a job in their department some day because I needed to be working with other creative people in a design related field.

WOW! That’s the best rejection I’ve ever received! I didn’t get the job for very good reasons (I stink at financials). So I wrote this in my journal: I am grateful for the positive feedback I got about my job interview. I didn’t mention that I didn’t get the job because I want to look back at that entry and remember that I did actually knock that interview out of the park.

My second rule has a purpose. My desk is very public. I’m the secretary after all. If someone should sit down at my desk and see my work gratitude journal and see their name they will see is something good about them! In an office that struggles with toxicity seeing something good about yourself truly helps.

Being grateful really puts things into perspective. It helps me see what the important things are, it helps (sometimes) pull me out of the doldrums of working in an toxic environment. I look forward to it every day.

Getting My Sh*t Together with Water & Caffeine Free Diet Coke


Sh*t tastes good

My office recently moved to a brand new space. I work at a university, and our student union finished major upgrades in January. We moved into our new space the last week of January. For the most part it’s been amazing. Our previous building is on the national historic register. It’s at least 100 years old, which means it has a significant amount of problems, bad odors, and air conditioning units that can’t keep up in these modern times.

Needless to say the new space is stink free, with new desks, furniture, and several initiatives to keep the office EPA friendly, green friendly, and the staff healthy. Even with all it’s amazing improvements and modern add-ons, there is a downside.

We are one level up from the food court.

We all said that we would have to be really conscious of bringing our own lunches or we’d gain weight really fast. Well, guess what?

I gained 10 pounds since moving into our new space. I no longer have to walk half a mile to my office and another half a mile to my car every day. Grabbing a soda and a snack is super easy because we have vending machines on each level of the building. The university bookstore and mini-mart are all easily accessible.

Because of the weight gain and eating bad food a lot of problems have come up. My restless leg syndrome (RLS) is totally out of hand. My skin is breaking out as if I’d entered puberty all over again. Overall I feel blech. I know exactly what I needed to do but am not looking forward to it.

But it’s time to grow up. I’m taking some first steps because it has to start slowly with me otherwise I’ll give up. Also, withdrawal headaches are a b*tch. Here’s my plan:

  1. Giving up caffeine! I didn’t think I would ever say that but there it is. I’ve done this before, so I know I can do it. It’s the headaches that kill me. (Follow up: For a few days those headaches were really bad, like Fight Club punched in the face hurting.)
  2. Drinking more water! I’ve done this before too. I gave up all other liquids and only drank water for a long time. Then I couldn’t sleep and I gave in to the soda again. Well, now I realize that there will always be times when I can’t sleep and the soda really doesn’t do anything to help me feel better. I just like the taste and the bubblies.
  3. Taking supplements! I’m taking a probiotic twice a day for good tummy health. I take a giant Biotin supplement (that also has the right amount of iron in it to help with my anemia) three times a day. Mid-day I take my vitamin B12 for overall goodness.

That’s where I’m starting. I’m Day 3 Week 2 (D3:W2?) without a caffeinated soda. The headaches aren’t too bad, more like a teeny bit of pressure that could also be allergies. Tylenol comes in handy. I started adding more water too. I picked a great time because my Work-BFF just started his water regimen again. We keep laughing about how many times we have to run to the bathroom to pee.

But it’s worth it. Already I’ve seen a decrease in the amount of RLS flare ups. My skin is so much better! Seriously, my face looks amazing compared to how it looked a week and a half ago. I feel good. Feeling good means I’m more creative, I’m less stressed. All good things. But I had to figure this out. No one could tell me this.

Maybe life does begin at 40.

Getting My Sh*t Together with a Bullet Journal

I’m getting my sh*t together with the support of the Planner Community (#plannercommunity). I’m not new to using planners. My mom required that I use them all through my junior high school years because I constantly forgot what assignments were due and when. The planner didn’t work then – it helps if you actually carry your planner with you – and for a long time the planners I used as an adult didn’t work either. If I only knew then what I know now about my particular planner needs.

When I went back to school to study Graphic Design I knew I needed a better way of tracking my work deadlines and my school deadlines. I tried using the calendar app on my iPhone, but it wasn’t enough.

I need something to hold in my hand, something with substance, something that I have to really interact with. The calendar app didn’t provide enough interaction I guess. Neither did any of the free and paid for task management apps I tried using.

I started searching for something, some kind of life hack to help me get organized. That’s when I stumbled upon the Bullet Journal. The Bullet Journal, created by Ryder Carroll, is a minimalist way to track your tasks, appointments, and anything else that you need to remember. It’s note taking. It’s journaling. It’s the Marie Kondo way of keeping your non-material life organized.

“All you need is a notebook and a pen.”

I always suggest the Bullet Journal to anyone who needs something to help them keep track of life. I started with the Bullet Journal. I followed Ryder’s instructions but realized I needed something different. The blogosphere is filled with amazing women who are also using the Bullet Journal but they’ve adapted it to their specific needs.

These women helped me shed my insecurities and OCD tendencies (yes, I actually have OCD, I’m not using it here to be sarcastic) to form my own working #BuJo. My BuJo, planner, or whatever you want to call it, is working successfully for me. It morphs from time to time as things come up. It’s an organic work-in-progress that still allows me to keep my world on track.

One thing to keep in mind: I use my planner for work only. I put my doctors appointments and vacation times in my planner but only because those things directly affect my work hours.


Tools for success: My beautiful Circa Junior Silver Inside Out Pastels notebook and Jinhao X750 fountain pen.

I used a Circa notebook back in summer 2015. Lots of changes were going on at work, and I needed to stay as organized as possible. I’m not quite sure why I switched to the Rhodia other than I liked the paper better than the Levenger Circa paper refills. I like the grid paper and Levenger just doesn’t offer what I need. However, Tül has a line of ring notebook supplies that fit with Circa. Now I can get all the refill papers I want the way I want them.

This is how I have my planner notebook set up for July, and how I’m using it right now.


This week I had quite a few discussions about creativity. That led me to collect some quotes about creativity to decorate my front page for July. This is the only decorating I will do in my planner.

I start my month off with a front page. It’s the only page I will purposefully decorate. I tried to have a planner with a lot of ephemera but all it did was distract me. It works for some people, just not for me. Again, trial and error. I adore stickers and washi tape but it’s just too distracting for what I need.


My Monthly spread. July doesn’t appear busy. At least, not right now.

Next I use the original Bullet Journal monthly spread. I put in each day of the month and it’s day of the week. Then I add the information I find most important for those days. For July, important information includes my office being closed for Independence Day and two work related trainings I have to attend.

Successes section is one that I am really, really trying hard to get back into doing. I find myself breezing through projects and tasks without really stopping to pat myself on the back for a job well done. This section is where I can list the things that I am most proud of accomplishing for the month. Also, this can feed my yearly evaluations – what did I do well this year? Well, let me show you…

Monthlies is a little section just to remind myself of the stuff that happens without fail every single month. Staff meetings, weekly blog posts, etc.


The “Extremely Important Weekly” spread.

My Extremely Important Weekly spread is the single most important part of my planner. Hence the name. This is where I list everything that I have to get done that week. Below is what my weekly spread looks like on Fridays.


It scares me too!

My Focus Tasks section is where I put all the to-dos for the week. It helps me populate what I do daily. I usually add this information on Mondays at work.

When I put tasks into that section I do a brain dump. No prioritizing, just dump it all on the page. Then I’ll start adding the three most important tasks to Monday. If I finish the task I color in the block. If I don’t finish the task I put double arrows showing that I’m advancing the task on to the next day.


Sections for notes – this is where the Circa notebook helps me the most.

While I love my Rhodia notebook I found myself inserting my meeting notes between weekly spreads. I’m taking an HTML class, those notes are in multiple places between weeks in my Rhodia. Also, I have to flip through the Rhodia’s pages to find the notes. Now that I have sections I only have to flip through that particular section. My sections are 1-on-1 weekly meetings with my supervisor, staff meetings, graphic design projects, and marketing team meetings. The last section is for a specific on-going project.


I use all the spaces provided!

I like the Circa refill pages for meeting note taking because I can write really messy but then add the tasks I need to do in that section to the left. I move those tasks to my weekly spreads. Now when I meet with my supervisor again I flip right to these notes where I can tell him that yes, I did complete the things we talked about and share information I got while working on those tasks (the Follow Up under Tasks).

I know it seems like overkill but this works for me. Sometimes I need a paper trail. I need to be able to refer to something that I did or notes from a meeting to make sure my colleagues and I are all on the same page. This is why it’s so important for anyone working with a planner makes one that works for them.

My favorite “BuJo morph” blog posts are:

Boho Berry’s Top 12 Bullet Journal Hacks

Tiny Ray of Sunshine’s Layout Idea: Weekly Layouts

Pretty Prints and Paper’s Using A Bullet Journal at Work.

The best thing about these blogs is that all these women have cultivated incredibly supportive communities. It’s not only about using a planner or Bullet Journal. I found Boho Berry because she was talking about setting goals. From her I found other incredible people doing interesting things.

Just a note: Levenger, Goulet Pens, Boho Berry, Tiny Ray of Sunshine, and Pretty Prints and Paper did not pay me to write about the products they sell or about their blogs. Everything in this post is my personal, unpaid, “unrewarded” in any way opinion.