Monday, September 29, 2014

September Challenges and October Projects and Nothing In Between

"Scotland Forever"

I know I've been rather quiet around here for a couple weeks. It comes down to one reason, really...

I'm still broken up about the Scottish No vote against independence.

I kind of just didn't have anything worth saying after that sad, disappointing result. Yet on that same day, Scott and I celebrated ten years of marriage. I should have lots to say about that! But we were both feeling pretty lousy about Scotland, and I just haven't had the heart to write much of anything since. Pathetic, I know.

Things I could've written about in the meantime:

1. Scottish independence. Obviously. But I just can't.
2. Our anniversary. We are still very happily married, by the way. But we didn't actually get to do much for the actual event, although my mom and stepdad did keep the kids overnight so we could go stay in their camper at the lake for a night, which was wonderful, though uneventful, which is exactly what we both needed.
3. My old BFF's wedding, which is also the reason we didn't get to do anything for our anniversary, because we spent that weekend travelling to Nashville with the family instead. No regrets though, the wedding was beautiful, and I was so glad to be there. It was a great wee family holiday too, and we'll have other opportunities to celebrate our anniversary another time!
4. Our last minute overnight trip to Fayetteville, just me and Scott, to see some bands at my old college hangout/workplace. It was so much fun to do something last minute and unplanned and all college-studenty, but at the end of the day, there wasn't actually much to say about it. I saw a lot of old friends, most of whom didn't recognize me until I introduced myself, so you know, that.

I could've but didn't write about any of those things, and I probably at this point won't. But I will write about these two things:

1. The September Shopping Challenge
2. The October Dress Project

First of all, the September Shopping Challenge. Did anyone else participate? I didn't post much about it this month, because honestly, it's not that interesting to read about and also because it was sort of half failure/ half success all month long. There were a couple of weeks, especially at the beginning where I rocked it; I didn't spend any money, I didn't do any mid-week shopping, and I was fully in control of my purchases on my allotted shopping days. Then there were days and weekends that were totally shot. After all, three weekends this month were spent out of town, and only one was pre-planned (Nashville wedding). We tried to do everything extremely cheaply, but as far as the September Shopping Challenge went, they were still technically fails.

It got me thinking though, and I promise this is all I'll talk about in regards to this challenge, because really, I know it's not fun to read about, about how good the challenge was while I was succeeding at it. I liked always knowing how much money we had and I liked the feeling of control I felt by not spending money unnecessarily. I liked seeing how much we were saving. A little idea started swirling around in my head, and I've decided to go for it, win or lose, success or fail...

I'm going to do the One Year Shopping Challenge.

For a whole year I'm going to try to abide by my September shopping rules:

1. Only shopping one day a week.
2. No eating out if it isn't planned.
3. Put money in savings.
4. Conserve petrol.
5. No impulse buys.
6. Plan ahead with birthday presents and cards.

I know that if I intend to do this for a full year, I'm going to have to expect the rules to bend and break. For example, this month, I was invited to lunch last minute with a new friend. Making new friends has been hard since I've moved here, and to refuse the invitation just to satisfy some inconsequential rules would have been ridiculous. So of course I went, and I had a great time. The good thing was, because I'd been conserving money and not impulse buying, I knew I had the money to go without guilt.

I also realize that I'll probably forget some birthdays until the last minute, or not feel like cooking some nights and want to just order pizza instead. It's just going to happen over a twelve month period - of course it will. However, if I've been abiding by the rules all the rest of the time, then little slips and blips won't matter. It's an overall lifestyle I'd like to create for myself. I've lived on a budget basically my whole adult life, yet I still feel like I have little control over my everyday spending.

It's not that we are broke. We are actually in a far better place now, here in the US, than we ever were in the UK. (Props to the husband for kicking total ass at his new job.) But like the saying goes, people don't get rich by spending money. I certainly don't care about getting rich, but I'd sure love to save up enough money to take the family back to Scotland on holiday sometime soon (even if I am disappointed in you, Scotland) or make a down payment on a house some day.

So that's my plan. I may not write about it much here; maybe just a once a month update, especially if anyone else decides to take the challenge with me. If anything, an update will simply be for noting to myself what my pitfalls have been and how to manage them better next month.

The other topic I'll write about today is the October Dress Project. This will be my third year taking part. I learned my lesson last year about trying to get too creative with my "canvas" and I've gone back to a simple black number this year, giving me a far greater range of possibilities. I'm really looking forward to it; I love this dress and how it looks on me and how versatile it is. My biggest challenge this year will be working around my gym activities. I try to go to the gym four-five days a week, and, sorry if this grosses you out, I usually stay in my sweaty gym clothes most of the day. It'll be a challenge to come home, shower and get dressed up at midday, knowing I'll probably never see anyone for the rest of the day. The gym is pretty much my main social outlet. I guess it just means I'll need to rev up my friend-time this month, so I won't be dressing in vain. Ha. New friends, I'll be calling you to hang out and do (free) stuff together this month! This dress is going to make me social again if it kills me.

It'll also get me blogging again which is, like, yay. I need this.

If you're interested, here are links to 2012 and 2013's ODPs.

Anyone want to do the October Dress Project with me too?

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Spider In the Doll's House

One thing you might know about me is that I am deathly afraid of spiders. Beyond arachnophobic.

At least I used to be.

There was a time in the very recent past that I would cry if I saw even a teeny tiny spider crawling on my ceiling. I used to shake out my shoes before putting them on, and pulling boots out of storage after a warm season gave me palpitations. I once sprang out of my bedroom crying, tripping over a wooden beam and slicing my knee open because there was a spider on my bedspread. I once had to call the neighbor to come over and kill a spider for me because Scott was at work. I once LITERALLY jumped onto a businessman's lap on the train because a spider had crawled onto my handbag. (Probably made his day.) I was so afraid of spiders that I couldn't even get near enough to one to kill it. If there was a known spider in my house, I could not sleep until it was dead. I had nightmares about flying spiders. Ugh, saying that word over and over is actually freaking me out a little right now.

Before I got married, I had daily panic attacks because my best friend's house, in which I was staying for a month between my apartment's lease running out and moving to Scotland, was infested with all kinds of spiders - big, black, hairy spiders, little skinny brown spiders, black widows, brown recluses - and even approaching the front door of that house would cause my throat to close up and I could barely breathe. I'm not sure I actually slept for a month prior to my wedding, and it wasn't wedding jitters that were keeping me awake. It was the six or seven spiders I saw daily in that little house.

But in the past two years, I have improved significantly. It started with killing teeny spiders. Like the little practically microscopic ones. I'd take one of Scott's biggest, most sturdy shoes (brogues usually did the trick) and smash them dead. Then with half a roll of toilet paper folded up so I couldn't feel the creepy crawly with my fingers, I could clean it up. Anything bigger than a pony bead was still Scott's territory.

I got braver and learned to kill even kind of slightly bigger spiders. I knew by this point I was moving back to Arkansas, land of venomous black widows and brown recluses - not to mention harmless but evil-looking wolf spiders - and would simply have to learn to kill these beasties before they killed me (or my kids). I got really brave. By the time I moved back to Arkansas, I had overcome my phobia of spiders and now I simply hate them. I can kill them now, even big ones. If they are small and of the harmless nature, I can even allow them to coexist in my home - as long as they don't crawl around too much or get up in my personal space. We have some spiders who have taken up residence in a few corners of our home and have been very effective in killing mosquitoes. I've learned to live harmoniously with some of these guys. I'm officially no longer arachnophobic.

To prove this, we even allowed a HUGE (I mean freaking HUGE) garden spider to live in our backyard for a few weeks. However, it was interfering with our kids being able to play freely in the backyard and with actual sadness and regret (actual regret!), we had to give it the old death squash. (It was EW. I mean EW. It was freaking huge.)

But I am currently still shaking, and my heart is still pounding over what just happened.

Scott is out at an awards ceremony at work tonight, so I'm home alone with the kids. I told the girls to go get their pajamas on, while I put Jaguar to bed. Suddenly, the two girls came barrelling through the house SCREAMING and crying.

"A SPIDER! A SPIDER! IT'S ENORMOUS! IT LOOKS LIKE A BLACK WIDOW!" they screamed, sobbing uncontrollably.

"Okay! Okay! Calm down!" I could feel a little terror welling up in my chest, because even if I'm not totally arachnophobic anymore, I still hate the wee buggers. Especially black widows. I put on my tennis shoes and grabbed one of Scott's sturdy shoes from the shoe rack.

"Tell me where it is," I instructed Fi.

She told me it was on the top level of the doll's house. I crept into their room, and from the door could see what they were screaming about. It was no black widow.

"HOLY CRAP," is about all I could say.

Black legs danced around on a creature as big and black and hairy as a tarantula. It wasn't walking away but was moving its legs like it was stuck. The legs were thick and hairy-looking. Each leg looked about three or four inches long. How on EARTH did that thing get in here?!

How the FECK am I going to kill this fecker?!, I thought wildly. "GRAB ME A GLASS CUP." I said to Fi, trying to keep my composure. Shrieking, she ran to the kitchen.

"None of them are big enough!" she wailed. She was right. Oh my STARS, she was right. So I ran to the kitchen and grabbed a large cereal bowl. It might be big enough. I would trap it under that bowl until Scott got home. Somehow. Oh heavenly gracious, PLEASE DO NOT LET THAT SPIDER RUN! Wanting to pass out, I took the cereal bowl back to their room and crept closer to the doll's house.

Let me pause for suspense.

Feel the terror with me. Let's all imagine catching a bloody tarantula with a cereal bowl.

Do you feel it? Is your skin crawling? Is your stomach churning? Do you feel your intestines twisting?

Now. Imagine this.

As I approached the doll's house, I burst out laughing, maniacal laughing.

It was no tarantula.

It was a fringed trumpet noisemaker, being blown around by the ceiling fan.

I have never been so relieved. I also promptly allowed myself the freak-out that I'd been bottling up for the sake of my children. I threw that evil party toy in the trash and will never look at them the same way again.

I still don't think any of us will sleep very well tonight.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

You May Be a Fitness Junkie If:

1. You plan your social life and appointments around your workout schedule.

"Dr Murphy can see you at 10:40 on Tuesday. Will that work for you?"
"Oooh, sorry, I'll be at Body Pump at that time. Do you have anything after 11 but before 2?"

2. You're always trying to get your non-fitness friends to join you for a workout.

"You'd LOVE Zumba if you just tried it! You don't have to be coordinated! Well, you do a little bit, but after a few weeks, you'll get the hang of it!"

3. You have multiple pairs of athletic shoes, a different pair for each activity.

"These are for running, these are for weight training, these are for indoor cardio, these are for outdoor cardio, and these are for running errands in."

4. You post on Facebook at least once a week or more about your WODs or gains.

"Not my best, but you know, we were out of bacon this morning."

5. You use words like WODs, gains and macros in ordinary conversation as if everyone knows what you're talking about.

"I've had to recalculate my macros to factor in my gains."

6. Your idea of a lazy Saturday means taking a light jog or a Pilates class instead of your usual more strenuous activities.

"It was just a half marathon, not a full. No biggie."

7. You have insisted that your friends feel your biceps.

"No, seriously, FEEL THEM!"

8. You know the difference between wrist and chest heart rate monitors and that they don't give the correct algorithms for strength training since they are based on cardio.

"I hate that I can't figure out how to enter my chest reps into My Fifitness Pal."

9. When another fitness friend is having a bad day, instead of telling them to go home and relax because they deserve a break, you encourage them to go to the gym.

"Just go. You'll feel better."

10. Even when you're sick or having a bad day, you still choose to go work out.

"Feed a cold, starve a fever. Doesn't say anything about avoiding light cardio."

Thanks to Amy Belk, Kristy McElroy, Angie Schwab and Steve Arnold for lending me your photos!

Friday, September 05, 2014

2014: A Hair Oddessey

For the past sixteen years of my life, I've been dying my hair. Sometimes natural colors, usually not. I've had pink, purple, blue, red, orange, black, brown and blonde hair over the years. I have only looked 'natural' a for a few months within the second half of my existence. (I'm thirty-two, it's literally been some unnatural color for basically half my life.)

For a few months lately, though, all I've really wanted to do is to stop dying my hair. I'm not entirely gray yet, and I know when I go gray I'll want to color over it more often, but until then, I kind of just want to stop messing with my hair. I'm also once again wanting to grow it out, and if I stick with it this time, I don't want most of it to be disgusting and fried. A few months ago I attempted to match up my hair to my roots, and I actually did a pretty good job of matching it. I now had about two inches of root that was nearly indistinguishable from the dyed hair.

My hair on Monday.

The only thing is, I had put that dye on over bleached hair. Knowing what I know now (I've learned a lot about hair in the past twenty-four hours), that is why it had a slight greenish/gray tinge to it in certain lights. Apparently bleached hair pulls in more of that cool ash color in the color I'd chosen, and thus gives off a greenish hue. That was my only complaint about my hair; in certain lights, it definitely looked a little seasick.

I wanted to brighten it up without changing it completely, so I began considering an ombré. For those who have been living under a rock for the past several years, ombré is the hair trend of having darker, more natural hues at the roots with gradually-dyed lightening at the ends (or with a reverse ombré, it goes from lighter to darker). I'd been resisting this trend for a long time, but it looks like it's here to stay, and it kind of did achieve the goal I was aiming for. I wanted to stop having to touch up my roots all the time, and this would allow me to have fun hair without having all the upkeep.

I was going for something like this:

Or maybe even this

Scott didn't want me to do this out of a box. He was afraid I'd mess it up. I on the other hand didn't want to spend a fortune (upwards and over $100). I settled on a compromise. I'd go to the local beauty college to get it done, so it wouldn't mess up my hair but I also wouldn't spend a fortune. Oh the irony. The painful, sad irony.

I printed off, not one, but four pictures of acceptable ombré styles. I didn't want to take any chances. I then of course left the pictures on my kitchen table and drove off to my appointment. Mistake I Should Never Make Again #1.

I had to take Jaguar with me too, by the way. It was unavoidable (well, except I could've booked it for another day, but I have him all day five days a week, and I work on Saturday, and I wanted my hair done by next Thursday, so there wasn't really any other day to book it for). He was actually pretty good considering he's a two-year-old boy stuck in a stroller for almost three hours. Mistake I Should Never Make Again (Or At Least Do My Best to Avoid) #2 - Take toddler to get hair done. But he wasn't really that much of a problem. It just meant I couldn't sit in that chair and make her fix it after it was all done. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I arrived right on time and was taken to my chair promptly, no waiting. I explained to the girl, who was a student graduating in a month, so assumably trustworthy, what I wanted. I explained I'd forgotten my photos but tried my best to explain. I used some words I realized immediately are bad buzz words in cosmetology, and tried to rectify them, but some part of my soul knew the damage had already been done by uttering them. Mistake I Should Never Make Again #3 - Never use the word 'bold' in the same conversation as 'ombré'. I tried to take back the word 'bold', but it was too late. I only meant I didn't want it to be so entirely bland and subtle that it was unnoticeable, but 'bold' is just a word you should never use. Especially with a student.

I explicitly stated I did not want to look like my roots had grown out. Explicitly. I said that very plainly. I used the word 'fade' with 'ombré' multiple times. Even as she was applying the lightener, I reiterated I wanted it to fade to blonde. She assured me it would fade beautifully and 'not to panic'. Her supervisor came by and complimented her on the color. I took this as a positive sign. In retrospect, her supervisor probably didn't know I'd wanted ombré. She probably thought I wanted the bleach blonde crack addict look.

She wrapped my hair up in a cap to process for a while before washing it out.  It looked awfully.... brassy.... to me while wet and not very.... blended... but I didn't get worried right away. Surely there was still toner to go over it to create that coveted faded, blended look I'd spent hours on Pinterest looking for.

But no.  She dried my hair (with no soft, silky product, which is the best part of getting your hair done), and left it feeling sticky, mushy and frizzy.  She didn't style it, which I didn't expect her too, but it looked, well, AWFUL.  It was such a mess. She proceeded to 'trim' it, and by 'trim' I mean she snipped a few ends off here and there.  I was waiting for her to fix the dark roots/ bleached blonde hair line, but the supervisor came, handed me my ticket without so much as looking at my hair, and that was that. She was done.

I squirmed. I HAVE to say something, I thought. I hate confrontation, and I hate hurting people's feelings, especially people who are just learning, but I had to say something.

"I have to say, it's not really what I expected...' I said slowly.  I told her, overly apologetically, that I expected the blonde to start much lower and for it to fade better.  She looked surprised (hurt?) and said she could fix it if I wanted, but by this time, we'd been there almost three hours and wee Jaguar, who'd been sitting in his stroller spitting at everyone and throwing his shoes, socks and Spiderman all over the place for three hours, had had enough. I needed to get him home.  She said she could fix it if I came in again, so I took her card, paid the $38 ($5 of which was for Jaguar's haircut, which she did fine on) and left. Fifighting back the tears, I got to the car and immediately called Scott.

I didn't want him to see this disaster before I'd warned him.

Also, he was right. He's always right, by the way, which is one of his more intolerable qualities. Mistake I Should Never Make Again #4 - Doubt Scott.  If I had just gone to a salon in the first place, my hair wouldn't have ended up looking like this:

Why - no seriously - WHY would anyone think this is what I wanted?! Is this considered ombré? Is this even considered a hair style?! I spent almost $40 making my hair look like I needed to get my hair done. My hair was in bad enough condition before this, but now it was absolutely, positively, utterly destroyed.  I'm talking Death Star destroyed.

I googled home hair repair remedies.  I needed something to make my hair feel more natural than phony plastic doll hair; my twenty-year old Barbie's hair looked more conditioned than this. I gave myself a hot oil treatment with real coconut oil and a steamy hot towel. I later washed it out and conditioned it as well as I could and went to bed with wet hair. Maybe I'd wake up to realize this was all just a cruel warning dream.

It was not.

Thanks to Facebook, I had lots of messages with recommendations for what to do about my hair - go back to the college to get it fixed, go visit so-and-so's salon, DON'T color over it, etc. I eventually went with my friend Angie's recommendation of a local friend who would be sure to know how to fix it. I called this girl at 8am this morning, crossing my fingers she'd be able to see me today. Luckily, she finishes early on Fridays and her last appointment was at 2pm.  I warned her that my hair would take a long time, as it is very thick, and if she was willing to see me after her last appointment, she may not get that early Friday.  I'm not sure if she really believed me when I told her my hair would take two to three hours. I wasn't exaggerating.

I printed off several more pictures.  I wanted to offer her several different options, since I didn't know how realistic it was going to be to fix my hair.

I figured she'd maybe just be able to go over most of the hair with a dark color and leave the bottom tips that bright yellow. I even brought a picture of pink hair - Scott's suggestion - since part of me was thinking that since my hair was already bleached and ruined, I might as well take advantage of it and go crazy. But really, all I wanted was to be normal for once in my life. Just once. 

At 2:30, having left Jaguar with Scott who was working from home today (bless him), I spread my photos out before Marissa and told her the story of my hair.  She gingerly touched my hair, hiding her cringe face, and admitted it was pretty, er, bad.  We talked about each picture and how possible it would be to do each.  She really liked the idea of the pink too, and I think she kind of wanted me to go with that one, but I just wasn't sure I wanted to commit to more upkeep; the idea was less upkeep. And normal.

We decided on a plan best for my hair, and Marissa got to work.  I felt nervous, understandably, but really, she couldn't have made it any worse than it already was.  Yet by the time she'd put in the toner, foils, and over all color, I felt very confident that this was going to turn out really good.

I had been at the salon already for two and a half hours. My hair is thick, ya'll.  Once all the color had been washed out, she got down to the problem of the damage.  I haven't had my hair cut in almost a year, so the ends were pretty messed up already, not withstanding the recent bleach fiasco.  She trimmed it up beautifully though, thinned it all out with thinning shears, taking out a lot of the damaged hair without sacrificing length, and put in some nice oils.  Then she hot ironed it and worked that hairdresser voodoo on it.

The girl performed a miracle.

Now that's what I consider ombré!  We had decided that with the shape of my hair (that year old grown out bob) I should only keep blonde in the front and do the back all the same color. It turned out really pretty, and my hair feels so good now! It's still damaged, but it doesn't look as damaged anymore.

I had been at the salon for over three hours at this point.  I wasn't going to be home in time to make dinner, so I ordered pizza while Marissa finished my hair. That meant that including the thirty minutes drive beforehand to get there*, and the pizza pickup afterwards, I'd left Scott for four hours, three of which were with five kids**.  (I'm pretty sure he wins Father and Husband of the Year.)

*That's considered 'local' here. America, sheesh.
**Fifive kids because we've been watching my neighbors' two kids this week while they've been house-hunting out of state.

My hair looks so much better. I'm so happy with it! And now, after all this faffing about, I have also made myself a pledge to never do my own hair (or go to a beauty school - sorry, trainees) ever again.  I'll even go in for fringe trims. By trying to save money, I ended up spending way, way more than I intended. Mistake I Should Never Make Again #5 - Trying to cut corners in all the wrong places.  Which, incidentally, messed up my September Shopping Challenge. After that $110 getting it fixed, and the wasted money at the college, plus the pizza, I spent well over my allotted budget for hair this month. Oh, and throw in a pity Sonic shake I bought for myself on the way home yesterday in which to drown my sorrows. Sweet, chocolatey sorrows. But all's well that end's well, and my blonde ends are looking well***!

***Actually they are looking 'good', not 'well', to be grammatically correct. But that ruins the parallel structure of my wee quip, dammit.

Monday, September 01, 2014

A Day at the Lake... But First - A Challenge Update!

Day 1 of September Shopping Challenge down!  It's harder than you think.

I actually did this week's shop yesterday, since I knew we'd be at the lake all day today. I was super proud of myself. I made a menu, checked what I already had in and made a shopping list, guessed each item's price and concluded my shopping would cost $167.

It was $160 before I remembered a few more things.

I went to the grocery store, stuck to my list (only bought four things that weren't on the list - two of which I actually needed and simply forgot about) and only skipped one thing on the list because I couldn't find it. My total came to $162!

I call that a super success.

I also covered all the other little payments - bills, Fifi's monthly swim team fees, wedding present purchase (stayed under my budget by literally 1 cent!) and school lunch cash.

Now the plan is to stay away from stores and shops all week. This won't be easy.  In fact, I had to go into one today. On the way to the lake, I realized I'd left Jaguar's arm floaties at home. Not wanting to be miserable all day chasing after a drowning two-year-old, I stopped into a Dollar General to pick up some floaties.  Luckily, with summer stock being replaced with Halloween (already?!), the floaties were 50% off - making them $1.  I got two packs and... erm... a box of ding dongs.  Impulse buy confession. They shouldn't have Little Debbie's snacks just RIGHT THERE at the checkout. That's playing dirty!


Spider Man Floaties!
The lake, yeah, we went! I actually can't believe we've been here for two summers, and this was our first trip to the lake, only an hour down the road. It was practically empty, despite being Labor Day weekend, so we practically had the whole "beach" to ourselves. The kids LOVED it. Jaguar got a huge kick out of throwing sand at everyone.  Fifi enjoyed snorkeling and trying to find fish.  Lolly, of course, made best friends with the kids of the one other family on the beach with us.

Swimming with Mimi.
The Sandman.
Snorkel time.
We swam, played in the sand, and ate a picnic.  Unfortunately the leisure was cut (quite literally) short when Jaguar cut his knee open. We didn't have any first aid with us (I'm a crap mum, I get it), so we cleaned him up as best we could and gathered up our stuff early to head back to my mom's camper site.  I figured we'd just doctor him up and head home, but we ended up hanging out with Mom and my step-dad (and my brother and sister-in-law) for another few hours, drinking beer and Diet Coke and whatnot.

That bad mother thing again.

Shell Collector.
The ride home was glorious... we all fell asleep. Except for Scott, luckily, since he was driving, and actually, I think Jaguar may have stayed awake the whole time - how he didn't konk out straight away, I cannot fathom.

Me and my beach babe.
Oh, and even though I failed a little today with my ding-dong purchase, I DID manage to resist the urge to stop on our way home at Wendy's or Pizza Hut or something else junk foody and effortless and money-costing.  Even though we toyed with the idea, we were strong and came home instead, and I made delicious, if I do say so myself, homemade pizza for dinner. I even made an extra calzone to put in Fifi's and Lolly's lunches tomorrow.

Thanks to my tripod, you see.