Safe Sex

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The term safe sex gets thrown around a lot and is used loosely and misunderstood in today’s society. Most people hear safe sex and think only about pregnancy prevention. Full disclosure, that was me in my twenties. Since I was in a committed long-term relationship, my biggest concern was pregnancy. But safe sex is more than just preventing a mini-me.

Teen pregnancies are decreasing over the last several years, but STD rates are increasing. So good job on preventing those babies, but now you have to deal with that syphilis. Here are some options to prevent both babies and those dreaded diseases:

The book "<a href="http://boyopress.com/protect-yourself/" target="_blank">Protect Yourself: Venereal Disease Posters of World War II</a>" by Ryan Mungia looks back at the posters designed to discourage military members from putting themselves at risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases during World War II.

  1. Abstinence. Not only for the ultra-conservative, religious type. Avoiding sex will also avoid all the possible effects of it. Treat your body like a temple, and keep the gate closed until you’re ready. But you may get lonely/bored of masturbation. I made it 23 years living the life of abstinence, and turned out okay (sorta).
  2. Physical Protection. I.e. condoms or diaphragms. Condoms are one-time use and are about 98% effective in preventing pregnancy and STIs when used correctly and ALL THE TIME. While they aren’t 100%, 98% is better than zero. Diaphragms are a little different. They are reusable for up to 2 years but shouldn’t be worn for more than 24 hours at a time. The nice part about them is that you can insert them prior to sex and not worry about it until later on. The only thing is they don’t protect against STIs, only pregnancy. So if you use a diaphragm, you have to use another form of protection to protect against STIs. They are 88% effective against pregnancy with typical use, which means that extra protection wouldn’t be a bad idea to get that percentage higher.
  3. Hormonal Protection. I.e. birth control pill. Birth control is just that: it protects you against pregnancy but does nothing against those diseases. They are about 91% effective with typical use, as long as you take them every day around the same time. Miss a dose? You better have a backup plan! I was on birth control for about ten years through my twenties, at first to control my cycle, then mainly to prevent pregnancy. For me, it was 100% effective. #kidfree
  4. Family planning. So, normally people will track their ovulations when planning to have a baby. But I have taken this to the next level and actually track my ovulations to plan to not become pregnant. I now generally know when I will ovulate and I’m sure to avoid sex for the days surrounding my ovulation (5 days before and a day after). This adds to the other forms of protection I’m using, and together it is basically 100% protection against pregnancy.

As you can see, the best way to prevent disease is abstinence. But for those of us who aren’t nuns, using a condom correctly is the next best option. Another option is to just to stick to foreplay and oral sex. No matter what, be sure to not sleep with anyone who has genital sores, a rash, discharge, or other symptoms. Hygiene is important: wash up before and after sex! Also, get a Hepatits B vaccine.

How do you prevent pregnancy? And STDs? Do you feel awkward yet? Do you hate condoms as much as I do? Share your thoughts below.

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Aladdin the musical

For my birthday, I saw Aladdin at the Cadillac Palace Theatre in Chicago with Nathen.  I had heard it was amazing, but had a feeling it may be a little corny (you know, Disney corny). I also wasn’t sure how they would portray Abu the monkey and Iago the parrot, which could definitely be distracting if done wrong. But it surpassed my expectations!

 

 

First of all, instead of Abu the monkey, they gave Aladdin three human friends with three different personalities. This made a lot more sense than a talking monkey. And Iago was also a person, basically Jafar’s sidekick. Iago was funny, and so were Aladdin’s friends. They still kept the overall personalities and didn’t soil them. Good move, Disney.

Beyond that, the Genie song “Friend Like Me” was hands-down the best part of the entire musical. You can tell they put a lot into that song production, and it was amazing to watch. Also, the magic carpet ride “A Whole New World” was really well done. The visuals were entrancing. I would highly recommend this musical to everyone, young and old included.

Have you seen Aladdin? Or any other musical recently? Comment below your favorite musical! What should I see next?

This is 31

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Last year I did an entire This is Thirty series where I looked back at my past and took you through the process of my life pre-marriage and eventually to where I was, or where I thought I was. Looking back over the past year has me seeing double. It’s hard to believe how far I’ve come, and I’m only getting started.

It feels like where I was at 30 is a completely different world and different life than where I am now. The crazy part is I thought I was in control of my life and thought I was mature. Thought my mom passing away and my dad starting a new family helped me grow, but little did I know I had no control and my marriage was already falling apart.

Today, as a single and independent woman, I am no longer in that fake-happy world I was stuck in. I’ve grown up and out of the “American dream” and I’ve found my own dreams. I not only was thoughtful, but also methodological in my choices and actions over the past 9 months. Moving to Oak Park wasn’t the easiest choice, but it was a no-brainer for me for several reasons. Reasons relating to my job, my friends, my sense of community, my safety, and my lifestyle. Above all, though, I feel like God called me here. And I listened.

In the middle of the storm of my previous life, I grew quiet and listened to God. He told me several things that still ring true today. He told me “He’s just a person” “I have someone better for you” and “I have something better for you.” I believe that something better was and is Oak Park, Free Church, and the community I’ve found here. I’ve moved on from the person who tried to control me, and find it surprising when people ask me about that old, long ago time and place.

I’m still growing and I’m still maturing. There won’t be a time where I will say I’m mature and I’ve grown, because there is always room to grow more. I learned that even when you think you’re in control, you never really are. And I’m learning to let go of that need to control and to let God. So far, he’s steered me into this new, wonderful life that I would’ve never imagined on my own. And I’m savoring every moment.

What’s in a birthday?

Today is my birthday. Yay? I was born on Bastille day, I’m a cancer, and my stone color is ruby. Ruby red crab. Also a tiger. Tigercrab:

 

Does anyone else find it weird to celebrate your day of birth? Like yay I was born, I did absolutely nothing so celebrate me. If anything, my mom should be celebrated for doing all the real work: pregnancy, labor, giving birth, and the hardest part: raising me. Not that I was a difficult child to raise or anything, but I’m sure I wasn’t easy.

I’m extremely stubborn, and when younger I was extremely quiet and shy. Like the crab, I put up a hard exterior and protect my soft insides from others. From far away, I seemed innocent and kind. My mom would get frustrated at me since I wouldn’t tell her my thoughts and feelings. Sometimes I would just cry, or just be extremely mad, but I wouldn’t tell anyone why.

Since my mom is no longer around to celebrate, I have decided to keep my birthday low-key. She isn’t here to be lifted up in glory of raising what I think to be a wonderful Jen (that’s me). My friends have been trying to get me to throw a party or go out for my birthday, but I already made plans to see Aladdin tonight and just hang out/chill with friends and family the rest of the weekend. Sorry not sorry. Ideally, I would be like a crab and hide in a cave by the sea until the storm passes. But I have tailored my weekend to my liking.

Do you celebrate your birthday? Why? What did you do to deserve a celebration? Or am I just weird? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

In lieu of a birthday gift, please donate to my fundraiser to bring clean water to those who need it in Africa by clicking HERE. Thank you!

 

Party in the Park

This past weekend my church threw an amazing party in the park. This is an annual summer party they throw that just keeps getting bigger and bigger every year. It was great to be a part of this event and to be able to hang out with my church community outside of church.

To give you some perspective, Free Church was started in 2012. In five years, it has grown from only a few to about 300 churchgoers. There were well over 100 people at this party yesterday. The growth is amazing to see, and we got our very own building this year (the Hemingway Museum). 🙂

I’ve only been going to Free Church since November of 2016, but I feel myself growing as well. While it’s great to see more and more people at church, it’s even better to feel my faith growing as I learn and dig deeper into this community I call home. I feel safe and cared for in my church community. And I feel strong. There’s about 46 of us training for the Chicago Marathon this year. We’re all running it for Team World Vision which brings clean water to those who need it the most in Africa.

This week is week 6 of training and I already feel myself changing. This past Saturday was the second time I ran with my church group, and it was amazing. We ran 10 miles and we crushed it! Not only do I notice my chub decreasing, I also feel my legs getting stronger. But beyond that, I feel healthier all around. Not just physically, but also mentally. My mind feels more clear and focused. I feel like I can achieve my goals that I have for myself.

If you have the means, please consider helping me bring clean water to the women and children in Africa. This small act will allow them time to do other things, like go to school and study. Thank you!

https://www.teamworldvision.org/participant/jenb

When to walk away

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Do you feel emotionally drained and don’t know why? Do you doubt yourself after talking to your partner? There are 5 things that every emotional manipulator does to confuse and drain you.

  1. They will persistently dismiss your emotions. If you ever tell your significant other about something they did or said that hurt you, they will turn it around and say you’re making it a bigger deal than it really is, disregarding your feelings. Their apathetic attitude will eventually make you start doubting yourself, so you introspectively gather your thoughts and start believing it’s your fault. You lose motivation to pursue the issue any further.
  2. They play “tit for tat” pretty well. If you ever become confident to approach them with what you think they are lacking in terms of affection or intimacy or emotional support, they  will respond by listing all the things they find lacking in you. They might try and throw it back at you and once again blame you for the reason there’s even an issue in the first place. If you’re like me, this will just make you crawl into your shell further.
  3. They are completely different people when no one else is around. You’re with your friends having a great time, everyone’s laughing. But then at the end of the night when no one else is around, your partner starts a fight saying how terrible you are with his friends and how mean you are to him in front of his friends. He can make fun of you but you can’t make fun of him back. Sometimes it feels like he just wants to fight.
  4. They try to convince you that everyone else is on their side. We all make mistakes, but if you make a mistake and you’re with an emotional manipulator, one thing to look out for is if they try and point out to you the error of your ways and tell you that everyone else is in agreement that you’re wrong. These supposed phantom alliances that allegedly conspire against you leave you feeling left out and insecure. If you inquire as to who’s saying this, you probably won’t receive an answer or they will just lie to your face.
  5. To them you are not intelligent enough to understand their reasoning. An emotional manipulator is not prone to explaining their own actions to you when asked, their reason will be that it’s too complex for you to understand. Their goal is to put themselves above you by pointing out to you your lack of intelligence. If your partner continues to withhold information from you, you will never know when you do something right or wrong. This puts you in a terrible, vulnerable place to be attacked over the smallest things.

Speaking from experience, if your significant other is doing these things, it’s time to leave. There’s no reasoning with someone who’s unwilling to be reasonable. And no one deserves to be manipulated like that anyways. We are all our own people and we all have a right to our feelings and emotions.

Defend yourself from these types of people. Raise your tail feathers and quills. Don’t let manipulators get to you.

 

National scare your dog day

Many of us celebrated the 4th of July with fireworks. But did you think of poor fido? I don’t know if your dog gets scared or not, but I know mine does. In my house, we refer to the 4th of July as National scare your dog day.

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Every year, Barley acts like the world is ending. He doesn’t budge from the bathroom, which is the most central room in our home. There you will find him shaking like a leaf, drooling up a puddle around him. No amount of hugs and kisses will calm him down, but he demands them anyways. I wish I could pluck Barley out of the field of bombs he thinks he’s in and place him in a padded, quiet room of calm.

When we go for walks, he is almost too scared to even go on the grass. It takes him an extra ten minutes to work up the courage to take a poop. In the past, I’ve tried medications and natural calming remedies, to no avail. He’s a Sheltie mix and naturally a nervous Nelly to begin with. The meds just make him loopier than normal, but still shaky and nervous. Perhaps just more drool.

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On a more serious note, many dogs end up in the ER on the 4th of July due to them being so scared. It can get so bad that they could start showing neurological signs. If your dog displays the following symptoms, consider taking them to the veterinarian:

Collapsing, jerking, stiffening, muscle twitching, loss of consciousness, drooling, chomping, tongue chewing, or foaming at the mouth. Your dog may walk in circles and bump into things. He might have a lot of drool on his chin and could be bleeding in his mouth if he bit himself. He may try to hide.

If you’re in the Chicagoland area, there are many great options for animal ER care for days like the 4th when your normal Vet is closed. I.e. MedVet, VSC, and Blue Pearl.

Is your pet scared of the fireworks? Do you have a remedy that works? If you do, please share below.

 

Eyes to the skies

This past weekend I went to the Eyes to the skies festival in Lisle, IL. It’s an annual hot air balloon festival that I’ve always heard about but had never attended before. I had fun but was unfortunately a bit disappointed and technically it’s my fault.

I was under the impression that the balloon glow included the balloons being released into the sky. This isn’t the case, the balloons are actually released at 6:30pm and the glow is later on at 8:15pm. I thought it was all at the later time, so didn’t arrive until closer to 8pm. While the balloon glow was cool, it was hard to see since the balloons were still on the ground. And the field where the view was clear was very crowded as everyone was making a mad dash to get into it. We decided to sit on the nearby basketball court thinking the balloons would go up. My bad. 🙂

The only other thing that sucked was parking. The parking lot was a few miles away from the festival and they had school buses shuttling people back and forth. At the end of the night, the line for the buses was about two to three blocks long. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Overall, a fun time and now that I know the actual timing may consider going back some other year. But I’d take a motorcycle next time to avoid the parking hassle. 😉

I hope everyone has a safe and happy 4th of July! What are your plans? Fireworks? BBQ? Comment below your favorite part of the holiday.

Magnetic Energy

Have you ever met someone and instantly connected with them? Almost like a magnet, they draw you into their world and make you feel welcome. Like your energy melds well with theirs, and you both give off a similar vibe.

I’ve noticed that this tends to happen when I meet other positive and passionate people like me. When I meet someone, I try to read their vibe and adjust my approach to them accordingly. I have a lot of energy, but am exclusive in regards to who I share it with. Usually when I first join a new group of people, I remain pretty quiet as I observe everyone and how they interact with each other. For example, I started running with this fun run group about two months ago and I didn’t really tell anyone much about me until about 3 to 4 weeks into it.

Another good example is a new job. It usually takes me about 2-3 months to warm up enough to be a fraction of myself at a new job. I do this so that I can learn the company culture and environment without tainting it with my craziness. This is also a way for me to be careful that I don’t overstep my bounds at a new company. What tends to happen is that most people think I don’t know English or that I’m from a different country that’s how quiet and shy I seem those first few months. I’ve had many people ask me where I’m from and when I respond with Chicago they ask but where were you born? Chicago. Still Chicago.

As long as you’re positive and passionate, we will likely get along. Just don’t lie to me. And don’t call me Jenny. Do you have a magnetic personality? Do you give out your energy? Or do you reserve it for only certain people? Or maybe no one other than yourself? Leave your thoughts in the comments below. Thanks!

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Full of Pride

This past weekend was Pride Chicago 2017. This was the first local Pride parade I’ve experienced despite wanting to attend for many years beforehand. It was one of the most fun events I’ve ever experienced. The floats were amazing, everyone was colorful and happy, and I felt surrounded by some of the nicest people in Chicago.

Even Big Boo was there!

I went with some of my friends and their awesome friends. I made new friends this weekend and felt welcome by everyone. Love this celebration and I look forward to attending more pride parades in the future.

Love wins. Love conquers all.