Our first Music Together class!

For Christmas, Marsha, my mother-in-law, gave us a session of Music Together classes at our local chapter.

Will and I postponed signing up with the excuse that we were going to transition from one nap to two and had no idea when that would happen and thus could not commit to a time.

Marsha reported back to me that the woman she had spoken to had said earnestly, “oh, they should come sooner.”

And she was totally right.

If you know me very well, you likely know that I have a history of crying at such mundane banalities as long-distance phone call commercials (woah, dated reference!), soap operas, the Great British Baking Show, virtually all movies… You get the idea.

I didn’t have a chance to put on my eye makeup before we headed over and within the first five minutes, I was so glad. It was all I could do to stifle my tears. My mascara would have been all over.

The kids were soooo cute. The songs were soooo fun. It was such a relief to just be and forget my busy week and weekend. And watching Quinn become comfortable and then boogie his little butt off during free dance… Well, my heart warms and tears spring just thinking about it.

When Will and I put off signing up, we were seeing these classes as another weekend obligation.

But, I can’t wait to go back. I had just as much fun as he did. I’m excited to hear him add some of the songs we are learning to his repertoire that currently consists of mainly a slurred “Twinkle, Twinkle” (or is it the “ABCs”?? I can’t wait to figure that out!).

Our teacher in the class made a distinction between making music and consuming music; a distinction that I hadn’t considered before. We listen to a lot of music as a family, and we have a lot of silly songs that we sing already. After Sunday’s class, our daily activities have become even more musical. Will actually got out the guitar the other night. Instead of singing along to music on the stereo, I’m more likely to sing a song and invite Quinn to join. And I downloaded the Music Together app so we can sing the songs we sang in class on our way to and from daycare.

We are making more music as a family and it is the best ever.

In class, we are making music with our neighbors and that’s pretty cool too. No cell phones are allowed so you are forced to be present, musical and silly. I can’t think of a better way to spend forty-five minutes a week.

My Life is Good

So good, I’d hazard to say it’s practically perfect.

I have an amazing home with a boyfriend I love. I have a cat of 12 years who I know as well as I know myself. I have a new kitten (still nameless!) to work in some excitement. And yesterday I exercised for the first time in weeks.

The #1 reason that my life is awesome: it’s 10:33 on a Monday and I’m lying in bed with my coffee and the kitten working on this website, jenniferheller.com.

This site has been a labor of love for many years. Whatever my passion du jour (mosaics, pet portraits, wood carving), I never stop wishing for more time and energy to devote to this site. I wished for so much time to work on this site (and other silly projects) that I threw caution to the wind and quit a full-time job I’d had for years on March 31st, 2009.

Since then, I’ve been forced to overcome many challenges. My perfectionist instincts, for one. And the realization that my dreams change almost daily, for another. The first dream I followed was a failed attempt at a pet portraiture business, Van Gogh My Pet.

Hangoverville was even less of a success. Lushes in Love caught on, but never proved profitable.

But these attempts were not without their lessons. I learned that “If you build it, they will come” is frankly not true. No, if you build it and promote it AND it’s brilliant, then they will come.

I launched Artsy Geek to capitalize on the web development and marketing skills I’d been building since I built my first website in 1996. Artsy Geek, I thought, would pay the bills and then, finally, I’d have the time and energy to work on this site (and other silly projects).

This year has been particularly trying. Artsy Geek has tripled its business since January.

Tripled! I didn’t see it coming.

That growth has brought with it more challenges than I ever expected. I regularly bemoan our success, saying “If I’d known it would be this hard to grow a business, I never would have launched it.”

I wonder at this moment if I still mean that. With a team in place that I can trust, I can scale back the 60+ hour work weeks. With the confidence to charge higher prices, I don’t have to work as hard for every dollar we earn. With a great reputation, we have enough business coming in that I don’t feel the need to jump at very last dollar. (Knock on wood!!)

And having survived on practically no income for many months, I can truly appreciate every dollar in my wallet.

With this new found breathing room, my sister suggested that I take my mornings to myself. With my mornings to myself, I can be sure to exercise more often and — perhaps most importantly — to pursue my long-term dreams of being a writer, a blogger and a talk show host.

So here I am. My head sings the Randy Newman song, My Life is Good:

Sure, I don’t have a housekeeper to write my songs for me or Bruce Springsteen asking me to be boss for awhile. But I do have a purring kitten, a stack of blog entries I’ve been dying to write and infinite appreciation for what I’ve built.

Ching ching!

We Got a Kitten and We Can’t Agree on What to Name It

Ever since Will and I departed with our awesome roommate Ellen and her cat, Shawn, we have had a cat-sized hole in our hearts.

Gus and Shawn

With a memory like this, it’s lucky we didn’t bleed to death!

We went back and forth about what to fill that hole with. We tried television, and it worked pretty well when we had Downton Abbey to watch obsessively. But we caught up and then that hole kept aching and screaming, “KITTEN!!”

Shut up, hole, we said for weeks. “SHUT UP!”

Until one day last week, it was just plain time.

I surfed Craigslist. It didn’t take me long before I’d located THE kitten for us, Kendale: Continue Reading

No Use Crying Over Spilled Lattes

Life’s been hard of late.  I won’t bore you with the details, but today I took a break from a demanding day to go out and get a badly needed double latte.  Ooooh it was so good.  So milky and delicious.

I was headed back to the office to do something harder than I wanted to do. Way harder than I wanted to.  I was walking slowly, trying desperately to avoid my future.

Going to the office and facing my problems was too hard. It was way easier to start sobbing and bemoan my life.  I sat down on the side of the road to really give my sob it’s due and call my mom. My mom’s great at both answering the phone and talking me off a cliff.

The phone’s ringing and then Mom’s there, listening to me sob and asking me what’s wrong.  At that exact same time some guy comes up and is like, “Oh no!  Are you okay?!!”

I try to get the guy to go away…”I’m fine.  I just called my mom. She’ll help me.”

But the guy won’t leave. It turns out he needs to give me a hug and send me “strong thoughts” and coincidentally ask me for money so he can get some gas and keep his car from being towed.  Well, I get him to quiet long enough so I can actually talk to mother, during which time he heads off to find me kleenex.  It wasn’t Kleenex as much as a paper towel, but it was sure nice of him to bring it back for me.

So there I am, on the side of a busy street, sobbing on the phone to my mom and here’s my guardian angel letting passers by known that I’m okay and he’s taking care of me.

Eventually it’s time to get off the phone.  I get off the phone.  My latte is there waiting for me to take it back to the office and face the music of my day.

I feel a little better. My guardian angel needs to make sure that I know he’s got my back and that also he needs me to have his.  His back costs two gallons of gas, roughly priced at $10.  I pull out $10, slowly, trying to give him less, but eventually obliging his needs.  I needed to get to work, after all.

Money in hand, he’s excited to go attend to his car. But not until after one last hug. It was a pretty good hug, to be honest. But the farewell embrace was not without disastrous consequences.  No, it wasn’t.

Somehow…in some way…that farewell embrace knocked my latte off the ledge. There was my liquid courage* spilled all over the sidewalk.  Just blocks away from work, I had no choice but to forge ahead, with no latte and no more tears.

*the daytime variety, that is

The Story of Clocky the Rolling Alarm Clock

I really don’t like getting out of bed.

I never have. Ever since I was a pre-pubescent, I’ve had this problem.

Lately, it’s gotten worse. Here I am, running my own business, with a staff of three to six to keep track of on any given day. And all I want to do is lay around in bed!

I’ve tried everything…it didn’t work to have the alarm clock across the room. I’d just get right back into bed, time and time again, even for as little as five minute snoozes.

An upbeat playlist backfired. It was too easy to shut off and go back to sweet slumber.

I even followed one blogger’s advice and practiced getting out of bed for a solid hour one night. I’d get set the alarm for two minutes later, get into bed, try to get into the sleeping rhythm and then — when the alarm went off — I’d practice jumping out of bed with energy and enthusiasm the way I dream I might. Time and time again I practiced. The next morning I went back to snoozing like nothing had happened.

Adorable Guster tucked into bed.

Can you blame me, when I have such an adorable feline beckoning me back to bed??

I’ve made the mornings incredibly easy for myself. The coffee pot goes off at 7:30 — the first thing I get to do is take a sip of nice, strong coffee. The boyfriend makes me breakfast. All I have to do is get my ass out of bed.

And I can’t do it.

One day I was shopping at fab.com and I found the answer: Clocky, the Rolling Alarm Clock.

This alarm clock is designed with people like me in mind. The alarm clock goes off and rolls away, so no matter how much I don’t want to, I have to go chase it.

Or so I thought.

Day 1

At long last, Clocky arrived in the mail. I was stoked. Tomorrow, I told myself, tomorrow will be the beginning of a new day!! I’ll get up early! I’ll exercise before work! I’ll come in so sun-shiney-happy that my team won’t know what hit them!

I set the alarm. I went to bed. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. It was a glorious sleep.

The next morning, the alarm goes off and Clocky takes off from his perch on my nightstand. Onto the floor he goes and boom! He’s stuck next to a stool.

Sleepy me reaches down out of bed, picks him up, presses snooze and back to dreamland. Fail. Though Clocky did succeed in scaring the wits out of poor Gus. But even that hilarity wasn’t enough to keep me from dreamland.

Day 2

Determined to make this work, I moved the offensive stool to give Clocky a clear path to somewhere hard to find. Tomorrow, by God, I will have to hunt and hunt to find this beeping, rolly creature. I will be awake!!

Moving the stool helped. Clocky rolled off and away. And then under the bed. I spent a solid two minutes fishing it out and was, indeed, awake. It was a success! The beginning of the new me!

Day 3

I did my best to ensure that the previous day’s success would reoccur. I cleared all obstacles from Clocky’s way. I went to bed. Oh, did it feel good to be a new person! To be someone with a working method to ensure that I got up early!! Ooooh, yes, the sky was the limit from now on.

But I neglected one thing: my intellect. Over the past two days I’d learned that there was a slight delay between when Clocky goes off and when he rolls off my nightstand. The next morning, he went off.

I acted quickly. I wrestled my hand from the covers, and in one quick gesture, pulled the drawer of my nightstand out. There Clocky was, a rolling and a beeping away in the confines of my nightstand drawer.

Another quick gesture later, he was silenced and I was back to sleep, happily dreaming of a time when I might actually learn to get up early.

Day 4

I had spent a whopping $30 or something on Clocky, and I wasn’t going to give up yet. Perhaps…perhaps, if I combine Clocky with the alarm-clock-across-the-room-method, perhaps then I would have the magic recipe to my new life!

Luckily for me, my boyfriend’s dresser was all way across the room and it had plenty of room for Clocky to live. That is until he woke up, and rolled away and I would finally get out of bed on time!

With a sense of dread, I placed him up there. Why dread, you ask? Well, I had an inkling that this method just might work, and, the truth of the matter was, I didn’t want to get out of bed on time. I wanted to lay around and cuddle until the last possible moment.

Well, I placed Clocky up there, and set the alarm. I went to bed, knowing that my slumber would be dramatically disturbed come 7:30 am. And come 7:30 am, it was. Clocky did his job, and did it well. It took me a solid five minutes to dig him out from under the chair he wound up under.

Reluctantly, I stayed awake.

The next few days continued to see Clocky doing his job and doing it well. But lucky for me, I had sabotaged the whole thing. You see, Clocky takes AAA batteries. And when he came, I couldn’t find my fresh AAA batteries. So I put in whatever ones I did find, and they just didn’t have much juice.

Day 16

Clocky is set atop the boyfriend’s dresser, waiting to do his job. But the sabotage finally worked its magic. By 7:30 am, Clocky was out of juice and unable to run around. I slept in unknowingly, yet happily. And I have yet to put new ones in.

What can I say? This damn rolly alarm clock just does too good a job. And I just plain don’t want to get out of bed.

Committed to getting out of bed? Get yourself a Clocky the Rolling Alarm Clock today!

The wp_postmeta Table is a Sexy Beast

The longer I work with WordPress, the more I love it. There’s something about knowing something so inside and out that makes you all the more fond of it.

The farther I dig into custom themes, post types, design…the more I have started having to get down and dirty with the actual MySQL database where all the content for a WordPress website is stored.

It gets super geeky, and there’s no need to go into any level of detail. But this sort of detail-oriented digging tends to make one punchy…which led to this:

I just imagined the two of us in a sordid love triangle…I’m calling my boyfriend, “oooh I have to stay late…I haven’t gotten this functionality to work.” Meanwhile the wp_postmeta table is kissing my neck and massaging my back. I’m digging in deeper to find the slug for the custom data I need displayed…he’s asking me on a ski weekend.

What did I tell you? Punchy.

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