I started this blog back in 2009 which means I’ve been blogging on and off for five years. Now honestly, most of those five years were spent away from the blog. I have constantly been on a recurring hiatus because I was too busy being a full time student and trying to work two or three different jobs to pay for school and life. And then I decided I wanted to become a teacher. And now I’m realizing that I can make blogging a priority as I do the teaching thing. I have decided that I want to write beautiful words that weave together into stories that connect experiences to lessons. I can live out my love for writing. My time is now.
However as I look at the blog I realize that my purpose for blogging has drastically changed as I have changed. When I started this blog I was a Junior in college. I was bored in the middle of the summer and eager to find connection out there in the middle of the world wide web. I stumbled upon a niche of book bloggers. I realized that I love reading and I dove in. My first iteration of the blog was called Justice Jennifer Reads. My book reviews were few and far between because as much as I love reading, I don’t really make a whole lot of time for it. And so I struggled to produce content for my blog. Today, that struggle continues because I still feel trapped inside this label of “book blogger” when I’m not really a book blogger any more. I’ve grown outside of that label.
And so I’m going to be working on a massive revamp of the blog. You can expect in the future a complete redesign as I rediscover my purpose (you might even see a mission statement!). I’ve been doing a lot of brainstorming sessions on this because I want to get it right. Part of what I’m realizing is that I don’t want to be confined in one particular label. I will continue to write about books because books inspire me. But I want to write more consistently about other aspects of myself. When I moved to hosting my own site and shifted into just plain Justice Jennifer I was beginning to realize that I wanted more of a lifestyle blog. My main purpose now is just to write. I guess very loosely envisioned I want to make meaning out of stories, everyday anecdotes, adventures, and observations. I want to write my way into meaning. And through that I will continue to share. I’m no expert on most things but I’m a constant learner. I am a lifelong student and I love sharing what I’m learning as I learn. I just want to share words and hope that as I push them out into the ether, they will resonate with someone out there.
My blogging pursuits have always been about sharing. I want to continue sharing the things that I’m passionate about (creativity, fashion, reading, food, yoga, running, ect). And with that all I really want are readers who are looking for a like-minded friend. I want to create a space that feels like a cozy coffee shop where friends old and new come for conversation. There is no judgment, only exploration and experimentation with the ideas that keep us moving forward. I guess what I’ve always wanted to be is an every woman of sorts. I want to live up to the name I chose for myself: Justice Jennifer. I want to do myself justice by making full use of my abilities and sharing myself. For a long time I worried that admitting that would mean I was a horrible narcissist, but I’m realizing that truly sharing myself actually takes some guts that I haven’t had for a long time.
So here I stand bravely letting you know that change is coming. I’m (re)discovering my purpose in blogging. A while ago, I purged a bunch of old posts and I’m slightly regretting that because the journey to where I am headed wouldn’t really be complete without those posts. They weren’t what I want for myself now but they got me into this wonderful spot which is so ripe with potential! They were the gateway that allowed me to come to these realizations and take this scary leap into admitting what I really want for myself.
Marriage has been on my mind a lot lately. I think I started thinking about it more seriously when two things happened almost simultaneously. First, Aidan Donnelly Rowley and Linsey Mead started talking about marriage as a topic in their Here Year series, a project designed to examine presence in different areas of life. If you aren’t familiar with either of them or their Here Year I urge you to head over and check it out. The conversation going on is fascinating and I have a feeling the questions being asked over there will resonate and linger whether or not you’re married. Second, my long term boyfriend, Brian, got a job. We have been together for seven years and so everyone has been thinking “it’s just a matter of time until he pops the question, right?” Well, yes and no. We have been waiting for the two of us to be somewhat settled and ready for marriage. So now that we both have jobs, yes, it really is just a matter of time. And once he signed that job contract, I started realizing that time is soon.
Before I start planning out my ideal dream wedding (which trust me, I already have the Pinterest boards!), I also wanted to start thinking about the idea of marriage itself. After all, a marriage is about a lot more than just a wedding. And so like the inquisitive writer type I am, I stared thinking and asking really probing, difficult questions about the very complex and interesting topic of marriage. I want to know that when I accept a proposal and walk down the aisle to say “I do,” I know exactly what I’m getting in to. And like any crazy lifelong endeavor, I know that I need to start with the strongest foundation possible.
These are the questions I started with:
- What makes a good marriage?
- How do you make sure the the spark stays alive?
- How do you show you appreciate your spouse?
- How do you deal with children?
- How do you deal with balancing work/life?
- How do you make decisions that make both people in a relationship happy/satisfied?
- How do you handle disagreements (big and small)?
- Why do people cheat?
- Can trust be regained after it is broken?
- How do you make something as complicated last?
- What happens when people change after getting married?
Now, how do you research something as tangled as marriage? I don’t have a ton of married friends so I turned to the next best thing: I dove into a new book! I listened to Tempting Fate by Jane Green. Luckily, the author herself read the book. Simply put, I really enjoyed the book. I loved mulling about my house or walking back from a run and getting whisked off into idyllic scenes of the East Coast and the drama of a marriage being challenged by very real troubles (nothing in this book seemed contrived or placed into the plot for the sake of entertainment). I loved Jane Green’s charming accent. I loved the characters and amazing descriptions. Jane Green is a very talented author and I only wish I had discovered her sooner.
Gabby, the main character of the novel, has settled quite seamlessly into middle age (or so she thought). She is happily situated in her marriage with her beautiful young daughters. She has never even considered having an affair. Why would she? Her husband, Elliott, makes her feel calm and secure. Gabby is filled with joy for the life she has built for herself. She knows that this is what she was meant to be: a mother and a wife. She even dabbles in a hobby that lets her creative flair shine: she uses the barn in her back yard as a space to restore furniture. She is even planning on one day turning her hobby into a business. Gabby wouldn’t ever say she has it all but she also know she doesn’t have anything to complain about. But then how she sees her whole life, especially her self and her marriage, is challenged when she unexpectedly meets a handsome young entrepreneur at a bar while out with her girlfriends. Suddenly, Gabby is challenged to reconsider the things she has and doesn’t have in her life.
Through Gabby, Jane Green is able to really explore the inner workings of a marriage, a family, and a woman. She presents what I assume to be a very common gilded marriage. I love the layers of this book. At first glance, you learn about Gabby and she is an awesome character. You learn about her insecurities and her history with her mother. You learn about her marriage. You learn about her as a mother and how she navigates her very full life. And then the book shifts to explore these weighty topics of marriage, infidelity, and family. You start to see some of the “problems.” I love the ways in which this book presented what I found to be a very complete and realistic portrayal of the realities of a marriage long after the shimmer of weddings and the warm and fuzzies have faded. And yet, I didn’t walk away feeling like I now know everything about marriage.
I have always (like since I was a super little girl and used to play dress up) imagined myself having a “traditional” wedding and a “traditional” marriage. But sometimes when I look at “traditional” marriages, I start to notice that they seem more gilded than anything else. They gleam with happiness on the outside (all those contrived images of romance and love) but once you start to pick at the surface, you begin to see insecurities and doubts. You realize that the spark is fading and all that joy about being together and entering into this partnership has suddenly faded. When I think about the future for Brian and I, I don’t have all the answers. I just hope that we can somehow get through all the struggles of a life together (because isn’t that really all a marriage is?). I hope we can communicate and continue to be the best friends that we have always been. I like to think that marriage is just that: agreeing to spend forever with your best friend. I don’t know what challenges await us in the future, but I have always felt more confident and capable with him at my side. The longer we are together, the closer we seem to grow. He understands and accepts me. He challenges me. And yet, when we go out to dinner, I don’t think we look like that typical happy couple. And in that I’m starting to think that I might just be paving my way into a less than perfectly conventional marriage. And perhaps that’s where we’ll be able to settle into marital bliss: in the build your own marriage department.
Clearly, I have no concrete answer to my list of questions (are these questions that anyone can definitively answer?). I will continue reading and wondering. Know that I’m still mulling over Tempting Fate, which in my mind means that the book was awesome and definitely something you should pick up if you’re looking for a good summer read.
And as always, I’d love to hear your thoughts and insights on this fascinating topic. Are you married? How would you describe your marriage? What makes it work? You can also feel free to try and tackle any of the questions and topics mentioned above.
I’ve been thinking a lot about ways to improve the blog lately. One thing I notice a lot on blogs I admire are regular (weekly, monthly, ect.) features. I have dabbled a bit in a feature I was calling “My Life Right Now” but I struggled with consistently having enough to discuss. I had created categories but found these to be somewhat stifling. What I really want to create is a space to share some photos from my life and discuss what’s going on in my life: what feels particularly good and what I might be struggling with. I want a space to bring to the forefront topics and events that matter but might just not quite be post worthy on their own. I want this to be a space where I can provide updates but also where I can just release whatever I’m feeling. I guess what I’m hoping this will turn into is mini photo essays where I rant and rave a bit and get the opportunity to hopefully connect more with my readers. So here’s a shot at what I am thinking of calling Photos and Few Words.
I’ve been thinking a LOT about time lately. My father called and informed me last week that my great grandmother passed away. She was over 100 years old. And yet with all that time, I never really knew her very well. She didn’t speak English so the few times she visited the states (she lives in Japan), I never really got to connect with her. I was a little girl who just didn’t understand. I’ve been processing the loss by examining my own life and how I spend my time because any death is a reminder that we have limited time. Almost immediately, I realized with some dismay that I haven’t really been keeping a clear schedule lately. I let my body lead me into whatever it feels like doing. This can work in the summer but definitely won’t work when school starts up again (and that day looms ever nearer). I’ve started tracking how I spend my time in the hopes of really reflecting on what I want to be doing with my time. I mentioned earlier this week that I’m really trying to get more sleep. I’m wondering of some of my more leisurely daytime activities (aka too much time in front of the computer and television) might be part of my core problem. I will continue to track how I’m spending my time over the next couple weeks and then I will try to revise and prioritize a bit better. I’m already trying to think ahead about how to better schedule my time for when life gets crazy busy again.
I’m also really working on getting healthy. I’ve been doing the running and the yoga but now I’m focusing a bit more on my diet. I’ve signed up for a 30 day challenge to consume a green smoothie every day! I’ve stocked up on lots of leafy greens and yummy fruits. I consumed my first green smoothie today after my morning run and loved it! I’m hoping this is a healthy habit I can keep! For more info on the wonderful green smoothie program I’ve adopted visit this amazing site!
Speaking of running I got some awesome new running kicks (thanks mom and dad for an early birthday present!!) that have amped up my motivation to hit the road in the morning. I’m going to miss being able to run in the morning once the school year starts. I have to be at school by 7:30 so morning runs aren’t terribly practical for me. I’d have to hit the road around 5AM and even then I’d be anxious about time. I prefer mornings where I can do yoga, write, and prepare breakfast before I head into the fray of a school day. I’ll gradually start shifting to afternoon/evening runs in August so that my body can acclimate to the change. School starts August 13th so as soon as August arrives I’m going to be starting to test drive my new schedule so that I’m not going crazy in that first week.
Change is coming. I like to think I’m ready but I have a lot of work ahead of me. Change terrifies me. I like being comfortably nestled in routines and terrain that I know well. But change is natural and part of progress. I can and will adapt!
I really do love hearing from you! How do you find yourself spending your time lately? Any new diet tips or tricks you’re trying out? How do you find yourself adapting to change? Are there any great routines or time management tips you have to share? And last but not least, what do you think of this as a regular feature? Do you like the photos? Should I be writing fewer words? Let’s get talking!
I’m a lucky girl. I have a lot to be thankful for. I’m fortunate to have been born to my Japanese & Filipino father with his Polish last name and my Italian mother with her stubborn traditions. I haven’t always realized all the blessings that this cultural heritage has granted me. So let’s start at the beginning. Jennifer, my name, grew from the silly fact that my parents were expecting me to be a boy. They had every intention of naming me after my grandfather, Joseph. And then I appeared as a girl and they had to rethink that planning. Most of my childhood was spent outside in my mother’s vegetable garden. I grew up picking cherry tomatoes straight off the vine and eating them. I was so tanned and lean back them from running around in the sun all day. My mother would let me frolic in the wild of our garden picking flowers to put in my hair or make ornate bouquets and occasionally I would help her with the mundane tasks of weeding or harvesting. My mother has a rare natural talent for cooking. When we weren’t in the garden, we were in the kitchen. And my sister and I were always mesmerized by the strange chaotic methodology my mother’s kitchen utilized. After all, she was trained in a kitchen with her mother who didn’t use measuring cups. All of my grandparents came from their respective homelands and brought with them stories, rituals, recipes, clothing, and a way of life so different from what they would eventually adopt when they settled in America to have children. I loved all of them dearly but only one of my grandparents is still alive.
I’m luck to have been able to soak in so much culture even if I find myself distance from it now. I sadly don’t retain many (if any) of the practices or traditions or even recipes so near and dear to my grandparent’s heart. But somewhere in college, I found this burning passion to study other cultures. I wanted to find ways to be more sensitive and respectful of the differences I observed. I wanted to find ways of celebrating and embracing difference instead of making people feel like they needed to cover up. After all, part of my own distance from the culture of my ancestors comes from my own discomforts in terms of sticking out. And so through literature, I studied diverse groups of people. I examined the various experiences. I asked questions about identity and community and belonging. I read and I wrote and I questioned. I rarely came up with any definitive answers.
I still don’t have any definitive answers. I have questions and experiences. I have memories and feelings. I have the desire to continue to learn. And now I’m fortunate that I also get to teach. I get to guide students into the world that is multiculturalism. I get to challenge them to try and see life from a different person’s perspective. I get to discuss these vast topics in a classroom discussion. I get to continue learning. As I work on designing a new short story multicultural reader for my American Literature class, I’m blown away by the gift I am receiving through my work. I’m challenged by the waves of memories and regrets that wash over me as I dig deeper into my research and these hauntingly beautiful stories. I wish I was more connected to my own cultures. But without the guidance of my grandparents I find myself at a loss. And yet, I study on because although I haven’t found any singular answer, I do find layers of meaning and truth in my reading and in my discussions.
Have you studied multiculturalism in any of its many forms? Are you deeply rooted in your cultural background or have you found yourself melting into the pot that is the United States without any clear distinctions or direct memories/ties to your homeland (this isn’t necessarily a bad thing …)? I started this post with a string of gratitude and memory. What are you feeling grateful for right now? Are there fond memories that are running through your mind?
I sit here twenty-one whole days into my second round of trying to live a happier life. This project started much like last year: at the beginning. The goal of July, the beginning of my happiness project, centers around creating a foundation for my project by getting my body prepped and ready for the journey ahead (aka healthy). I broke down my bigger goal of overall health into smaller tasks that I felt needed the most work. I wanted to pinpoint measurable tasks that would challenge me while still being realistic. This has been further motivated and supplemented by the fact that this summer I’m also preparing my body for the intensive yoga training I will commence in September. I had gotten an e-mail from the instructor with a summer to do list that basically said: eat healthy, practice yoga, mediate, read, get your body ready! I translated that almost immediately into: stop eating junk, work out, and finally lose some weight! But the goal of my project isn’t weight loss or even increased health, is it? I thought that the goal was to make me feel happier. And then I came across a quote that made me rethink things a little:
I actually attack the concept of happiness. The idea that—I don’t mind people being happy—but the idea that everything we do is part of the pursuit of happiness seems to me a really dangerous idea and has led to a contemporary disease in Western society, which is fear of sadness. It’s a really odd thing that we’re now seeing people saying “write down three things that made you happy today before you go to sleep” and “cheer up” and “happiness is our birthright” and so on. We’re kind of teaching our kids that happiness is the default position. It’s rubbish. Wholeness is what we ought to be striving for and part of that is sadness, disappointment, frustration, failure; all of those things which make us who we are. Happiness and victory and fulfillment are nice little things that also happen to us, but they don’t teach us much. Everyone says we grow through pain and then as soon as they experience pain they say, “Quick! Move on! Cheer up!” I’d like just for a year to have a moratorium on the word “happiness” and to replace it with the word “wholeness.” Ask yourself, “Is this contributing to my wholeness?” and if you’re having a bad day, it is.
I found this quote on Lindsey Mead’s blog A Design so Vast; Original Quote from Hugh MacKay The Good Life
I did start this project with the ultimate goal of being happier. But I think that definition changes the longer I commit to these resolutions. I no longer just want to live my life with a dopey grin on my face. Instead, I want wholeness. I want to be better. And I think that MacKay is on to something in that wholeness (which happiness is a part of) also contains sadness, disappointment, frustration, failure, and a bunch of other complicated emotions. But wholeness allows us to constantly be learning and challenging and wondering. Wholeness is a journey that never ends. And my happiness project isn’t really designed to ever end. The idea behind it would be that every year, I would take on new challenges. And that means that I don’t think I’ll ever have those boot camp perfect days I wish I could have.
My month of trying to live healthier has been so incredibly difficult. I’ve discovered that even though having a healthier body makes me feel better, keeping up with healthy habits is really difficult and not always fun. Let me break down my adventures so far this month:
1. Sleep More. I endeavored to commit to a minimum of seven hours of sleep a night. I thought this would be a happy in between of the suggested dose of sleep for most adults (6 – 8 hours). Now I always considered myself a deep sleeper. Since I lived in dormitories throughout college, I though I lean red how to sleep through anything. But then I realized that I wasn’t really feeling rested. So I’ve started more closely examining my sleep habits as well as the hours of sleep I get. I’ve been using the fitbit to track my sleep. I’ve learned that I’m a restless sleeper. The good thing in all of this is that I actually really do enjoy going to bed early and waking up early. This is a habit I engrained in myself since high school when I would procrastinate my homework late into the night and then out of sheer exhaustion let myself sleep for a couple hours before waking up at the crack of dawn to finish the work before school. Not the best way to discover the magic of early mornings but my love affair with having time for myself in the earliest hours of the days is something that persists even today. So now I am getting in to bed earlier and constituting a no electronics an hour before bed rule for myself. This is helping but I’m still pretty restless at night. I will be experimenting with more meditation later in my happiness project. Perhaps this might help improve my sleep quality…
2. Exercise consistently. I’ve had enormous success with this one. I’ve been doing yoga daily (not directly associated with this project but more in preparation for yoga training). I’ve also been running three times a week. Running has emerged as this odd secret weapon for me. I gain so much from running. It’s a struggle to stay motivated at times especially when I consider how slow I am, but I’m miraculously remained consistent for the past month. I haven’t missed a day yet. I think part of this can be attributed to the fact that I selected a realistic number (three times a week allows for “recover” days or days when I am too busy or just don’t feel like it). On the days I don’t run, I have been trying to walk. The fitbit helps with this but I have to admit that I haven’t been perfect. I definitely walk a lot more now than I did before the fitbit and definitely a lot more than before I had Zuko. He ensures that I get at least three walks a day! Still, I would like to increase my mileage (not just my step count).
3. Eat healthier. This one is difficult. When I think holistically about my eating habits, I can say with absolute certainty that they are healthier now than than they were a couple months ago. However, I also find this one a bit difficult to track. I haven’t been eating out very much since summer started but that’s mainly attributed to my new schedule. I eat more vegetables and less fatty junk food but that’s primarily because I’m not as stressed out. I know what my triggers are for eating unhealthy foods and I’m fortunate to be away from most of them right now. Still, I do like to think of these summer months, the beginning of my happiness project, as experiments. They are meant to help establish habits and routines that will stick when life gets more challenging. So I’m hopefully that this healthy eating thing might just be sustainable. I’m using myfitnesspal to track my food consumption and it’s teaching me a lot about what I put in my body. Perhaps these lessons will help me plan ahead during the school year to avoid pitfalls.
So I’m not sure if these past twenty days have necessarily made me abundantly happier. They have however moved me toward being more healthy and whole. I’m growing. I’m challenging myself. I’m moving toward a place where I can take better care of myself. Sure, there are a lot of external factors tied to each of these resolutions. I want to lose weight. I want to be able to fit into my skinny jeans and look better in my clothes. But even more than that, I want the intrinsic benefits. I want to have a healthy body. I want to nourish and cherish myself so that I don’t fall into serious health problems later in life (diabetes and heart disease run in my family after all). These foundational resolutions don’t always make me feel happy. Sometime coaxing myself into going for a run or eating a salad instead of a burger is incredibly dissatisfying and actually puts me in a bad mood. And then I get through the ordeal and I realize that there is a bigger picture than just feeling some joy or happiness in the moment.
This was a long post but I’m still curious and thinking about a few things: do you find yourself seeking happiness, wholeness, or a mixture of the two? What do you think about MacKay’s commentary? I told you all a bit more about my struggles and successes this month, do you have any advice for me in any of my areas? Are these areas where you find yourself excelling at or struggling with in your own life?