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Friday, February 28, 2014

These aren't a few of my favorite things

As you know, if you know me at all, I'm a huge fan of the social media. By "fan" I don't mean so much that I have a fanatical enjoyment of it, but that it's an efficient way to communicate with a lot of people at once, and I like keeping up with my friends via Facebook.

But I'm going to promise you a few things you will NOT see on my Facebook feed. And I don't mean these as judgments against anyone who *has* done them. I'm just saying it's not my bag, baby, and you don't have to be concerned that you might encounter any of these things on my timeline:

1) A picture of the actual pregnancy test. (I did post a stock photo one April 1st as a joke several years ago, but it wasn't, you know, tainted.)

2) A blow-by-blow description of the stuff that's happening to/inside my body. Now, I might blog about some of that, but I always preface TMI with the caveat that no one should read it and I'm just logging it for historical value. Not on Facebook, though. I might gripe, but I'll try to be non-specific and non-gag-inducing.

3) Ultrasound pictures. 2D or 3D. What *is* that thing, anyway?

4) Stickers demarcating the passage of time: a) on my belly (20 weeks, 25 weeks, etc.) or b) on the baby (1 month, 6 months, etc.).

5) A picture (much less pictures) of any of the skin on my abdomen at any stage of the pregnancy. You know who gets to see that? My husband? You know who *wants* to see that? Yeah. Same audience.

6) Live-blogging/Facebooking my delivery. I can tell you right now, having had one baby with an epidural, labor is not something at which I am particularly "good" or "stoic" or "pleasant." James might want to leave at some point, so I harbor no fantasies than anyone else wants to walk that heinous path with me.

There are also some other things you might be interested to know. Again, no hate toward anyone who does these things, or does not do these things, just that these things seem appropriate for me. The reasons are all personal.

First of all, I don't want a baby shower. I want a shower cake. I want a shower cake from Blue Note Bakery. I will buy it myself. And I will share it with friends. But I don't need presents. I am a grown-ass adult. The things I want and need for the baby, I can buy. My husband makes a comfortable living; we're not kids who are struggling just to get by. My mom says that people might "want" to get the baby something, and if they do, God bless 'em and go for it! But I'm not going to dictate that someone has to show up at a place to give me something, and I'm not going to tell them what to get (although, now that I think about it, house-cleaning help and a meal could be awesome :) ). Maybe this is a character flaw in me, but it's how I feel.

So, anyway, I'd love for some of my Sherman friends to come down and see me, or I could stop by and see them when I drive up to Oklahoma for July 4... but if we do that, I'll need to get a cake from Mom's Bakery. Whatever. I just think it'd be fun to hang out and catch up. And eat cake.

Secondly, I don't have a "nesting" phase. I had Daphne at 1 AMish on a Friday and went out to eat and to church on Saturday night. I know that some people want not to leave the house for a good six weeks, but I was so jarred by the experience of having a newborn that if I stayed home, I became upset and overwhelmed. I felt "normal" when I was around people, or out and about. I was able to remember that everyone else was still going on with their lives as usual. The whole world hadn't changed (in a scary, hopeless way)... it was all still good.

I guess because I'm not a social butterfly or extremely "out there" with regards to parties and functions and whatnot, people think I'm independent and strong and prefer to do things on my own. Maybe I am to an extent, but after Daphne was born, I felt very lonely. Everyone else was busy with jobs and lives... and I'd quit my job to be home full time. I never wanted to go back to work, but I had no friends to talk to in person. My sister lived nearby at that time, so that was cool. But she was only one month behind me, pregnancy-wise, and soon had her own hands full. And my mom came by when she could, but she lived across town and was still teaching then. I had one girlfriend who called me every other day, and we weren't even close in our "real" lives... but her calls were a lifeline. She would tell me the most morbid and angry thoughts she'd had as a mom of a newborn. Again, this helped me to feel less alone and dysfunctional.

So, by all means, if you need a cute baby fix as fall rolls around, come on over. I can't promise that I won't nod off, but by now the bar for my social graces should be set pretty low, so no surprises, right?


Sunday, February 23, 2014

He likes me for me!

That bottom half of a body over there? That was me, earlier today. I didn't even have an '80s party to attend. I just pulled those pieces out of my closet last night, and they made me happy. It's been so grey and dreary out, and I LOVE color. So that's what I wore this morning.

Yes, I realize that I'm 41. Yes, I realize that no single piece of that leg ensemble is going to get me into a fashion magazine. Yes, I realize that I am not Blossom Russo (well, maybe I haven't fully accepted that part yet). But I have this tendency to wear what I like.

When we were in Sherman, one time I was hitting McDonald's before play practice, and this lady asked, me, "Where are you headed in that get-up?" I was wearing a denim short skirt with black leggings, a sleeveless magenta button-up top with a collar, and a very cool necklace I'd gotten at Claire's that looked like a black sequined tie. I didn't feel it was a "get-up" but I told her where I was going. She laughed and said, "You theater people and your costumes."

Another time, my sister shot a video of my dancing with Daphne and her kids, and after she posted the video, someone asked her about my "costume." Which was really just the costume of being me, I suppose. And maybe I'm a little bit weird.

But here's why I wanted to tell you about this today:

This morning, when I was dressed and pretty much ready to go to church, James came out of the bedroom, saw me, smiled, and said, "I like that outfit. It's festive." And he meant it.

This might be normal for you more normal people, but it's all new to me: The more *me* I am, the more James seems pleased. He genuinely likes the quirky things that make me who I am. Not that he just tolerates them because otherwise, I'm a pretty good catch. Those weirdo things actually seem to bring him some pleasure. And this makes me giddy.

In terms of accomplishment and renown, I feel like I'm on the winding-down side of my life. I wish James could have seen me act more, and seen some of the things I wrote be performed the same way I wish I could have heard him play classical guitar. I think James would have enjoyed these things, and been proud of me.

I wish James had been with me at our 20-year high school reunion. If we'd been married, and if I'd gotten a wild hair to teach myself a complete dance routine to the inordinately long "You Can't Stop the Beat" from "Hairspray," and then I'd convinced the DJ to play the song so that I could perform said dance... alone... with everyone else watching... when it was all over, James would have been yelling and clapping the loudest. He would have high-fived me and hugged me and announced, "That's my wife!" And he would have expected other men to be jealous.

I'm not always an attention-seeking weirdo, but there are times when I get these ideas in my head that seem like they have to happen, regardless of how sensible they are. And I sometimes wear offbeat combinations of clothing. These things have always been a source of amusement and joy to me... but to have them be a source of amusement and joy to the adult I love most on this planet? Incredible. To have someone love the pieces of me that in the past I've been told in the past are too silly or too loud or just too much? Really, I can't begin to describe the difference it makes in my life. And all I want to do for the rest of it is to pay him back.



PS If you watched the video: I can (or could before the ruptured disk) do a cartwheel... but the dance floor was super slippery and the heels didn't help!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Professional Renewal

My insurance license is up for renewal, and over the past couple of years, I've had the "opportunity" (responsibility, duty, state mandate) to take some continuing education courses. Of course, I've learned a lot, and some of the classes are really interesting (and some are like those defensive driving classes you have to take when you get a ticket... or so I've heard, because I have never gotten a ticket - at least not according to my driving record), but what has often struck me most is something about me. (Are you surprised? This is my blog, after all.)

Somehow, over and over in my life, I find myself involved in what I consider to be "professional" careers. I have a great phone demeanor; seriously, I have won an award for it. But I'm not what I would consider to be a serious, business-minded person. I don't know how I kept my job at Terra West for as long as I did. I have a hunch that I amused Darlene and she kept me around to see what I'd do next. How on earth I ended up with a real estate license, managing properties, is beyond me. I was way out of my league. I always knew that it was just a matter of time before I was discovered to be a fraud and lost my job. Which did happen. And when it did, Darlene just moved me over to technology instead of property management.

Now, a decade and a half later, I have my insurance license and am again an agent. People have to have insurance, and I want to help them find the best deal for the best coverage, because that is my job and I do take doing a good job seriously. But I'm not a salesperson. I won't call you if you don't call me first. If you don't buy from me, I don't lose sleep over it (and not just because I'm hourly, so it doesn't matter to my personal bottom line). When there's talk of upping retention and percentage of new customers, my mind doesn't jump to ways to make that happen.

And, today, sitting in a room full of grown-up people, I did feel like the one dork kid who showed up wearing bright spring colors and without a shiny purse and clacking heels to show how very serious I am about the whole enterprise. (Then there's my Quidditch backpack I always use when I ride my bike... which was the lone bicycle at the Convention Center bike racks.)

When it comes to business crowds, I truly feel like an interloper. When a man walked by saying, "You can't expect a harvest if you don't till the ground!" excitedly, as it refers to sales, I had no context because, first of all, I don't garden (although I did trench a bunch of caliche in Las Vegas to save $900 on our landscaping... and wished very much 1/3 of the way through that I hadn't). And, second of all, because I can't imagine what "tilling the ground" might mean metaphorically in terms of preparing a field of customers.

I got some cool new information I'll be happy to implement, but I was most excited about the fact that the breakfast buffet had grilled pineapple and apple slices. This is the reality of who I am.

Who knows what's next? I might be in my 60s and find myself on a college board of directors somehow. If that is the case, I have no doubt that my priority at every meeting will be browsing snacks and maybe tucking a can of complimentary soda into my purse to take home for later. And I'll probably be wearing high-tops, too. And feeling out of place. Wondering why I'm not raking in the acting offers and whatnot. Seems like that's what I should be doing, right?

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Review: Vidal Sassoon Pro Series Runway Red

The thing about home-coloring red hair (according to people who do that kind of thing) is that if the color is a little light, it is strawberry blonde at first, and after a few shampoos, just blonde with some orange highlights. If the color is too dark, it starts purple (not pretty, Day-Glo purple, either... just a blackish dark "auburn" that's really a flat, ugly purple) and fades to a brown with some red highlights, if you're lucky.

If a girl (or guy) wants red hair, she (he) wants it red, dagnab it! But novelty colorings like Manic Panic (or its inferior, cheaper cousin, Splat) are both extremely messy and will stain tile and other surfaces permanently. Plus, they look amazing at first, but after a week of washings, they start to fade and after three weeks, they just look sad and flat, and if you don't keep touching them up, it's like an old manicure that would have looked better if you'd just left your nails naked (which is what I do because ain't this girl got time for that).

So you can imagine my excitement when I saw this at Walgreen's last night!


Dude, that is *red*.

When I first started coloring my hair, I always said that I wanted a color that exists in nature, but over time, I've grown fond of a little too red to be true. I know I can only get that for a couple of weeks, but since tomorrow is Valentine's Day, at least I'd have some construction-paper red hair for that day, right? Plus, with the gentle chocolate shampoo and conditioner, maybe I'll have some luck keeping the color strong for a while.

This dye is typical for drugstore dye, which is $10.99. Some colors were on sale for $8.99, but not this one.


There was nothing special in the box. Development creme, color mix, after-color weekly conditioner, and gloves. Oh, and the gloves are elastic, not the fast-food one-shape clear gloves, so they're easy to work with.

After I mixed the dye, which was a bright orange (always a good sign), I started applying it and was pleased by how "dry" it was. It didn't drip, it wasn't "goopy." It was easy to apply and I didn't get any drops or anything on the floor, or my hair-color sports bra, or anywhere else that I did not want dye.

Since my existing color was quite a bit darker than the hair color, I went ahead and colored everything at once instead of just doing the root touch-up and then the rest of the hair shortly.


See? Super dry. It didn't weigh my hair down, and my hair didn't want to fall off of my head. Also, the dye did not smell bad. It didn't smell good, either, but neutral is better than suffocating.

When it was time to rinse it, the dye liquefied quickly and rinsed out easily. The rinse water started out deep, bright orange, which was a good sign. When it's purple, it makes me a little nervous. The conditioner was silky.

The color looked very bright even when my hair was wet. Once it dried, it looked like this.


I love it! I can't wait to see how the color holds up over the next few weeks. I'm tempted to go back to that Walgreen's and clean them out of this color. I've never seen it before, and actually just looked online to see that it's not even available on Amazon.com. It *is* available here, on drugstore.com. They also have London Lilac, and I'm tempted to order one of those. For Easter, maybe? I'll let you know!

Review: Ikove Organics Acai Chocolate Shampoo and Conditioner

Last week, we were at Central Market for their annual chocolate festival, when I saw something on the counter behind the lady dispensing the salted caramel hot chocolate samples.


Yep. Chocolate shampoo and conditioner. I needed shampoo, and indeed this was fortuitous. I don't know if Central Market typically has them available, or whether they're only in the store for this special celebration, but my husband happily agreed to get me some as an early Valentine's Day gift. (Actually, the conversation went like this... Me: "James, can I get--" James: "Of course.")

If you look on the Ikove website, it lists the ingredients of the Acai Chocolate shampoo as including "cocoa extract." I like the label on my set a lot better. On my bottle, it says, "theobroma cacao extract." I adore the scientific name for the chocolate tree.


The shampoo is the color of a good, dark honey, but it's actually a lot thinner; more the consistency of agave nectar. Also, there are no sulfates, and the ingredients are "all natural," so the shampoo doesn't lather. ("You Americans love your lather," is something I read in an article recently, and it's so true.) You can smell the chocolate (and maybe even more the orange) in the bottle, but once you put it on your scalp, it doesn't scent your hair.

After a suds-free shampoo and rinse, my hair was squeaky clean and ready to be conditioned.


The conditioner is the color and consistency of coffee yogurt, and it smells more strongly of chocolate than the shampoo... But, again, that's mostly in the bottle. Once you put it on your hair, it doesn't have a strong odor.

The ingredients list is here, even though I think mine is a bit different, but I wanted to point out something that's in the conditioner that isn't in the shampoo: cocoa butter!

If you pay attention to this sort of thing, you might have noticed that a lot of bottom-tier American "chocolate" (i.e. pretty much anything made by Palmer) contains a different fat than cocoa butter. They do this because cocoa butter, having become extremely popular in beauty products, is very expensive, and can actually be profit-maximized by using in personal care items instead of candy. Actually, some bigger companies have done this, too, and no one is very impressed.

The point is, whether we're dealing with eating chocolate or conditioner, the presence of cocoa butter is to be much rejoiced. In the case of conditioner, it locks in moisture and makes hair more manageable. Similar to replacing cocoa butter in chocolate with other oils and fats, a lot of conditioners use waxy ingredients to get that soft, easy-comb-through feel. This is definitely superior. Of course, that means you're going to pay for it.

Regarding "expensive" hair care products: For a long time, I'd buy Suave or whatever was on sale, and I balked at paying more than a buck or two for a bottle of shampoo. Then several years ago, my sweet departed Mema spent something like $35 on a set of Joico shampoo and conditioner for my birthday (she got it from my cousin's place, D Salon, which you should definitely patronize if you're in the Grayson County, Texas, area), and those bottles lasted me more than six months. I was shocked at how little shampoo I had to use, and how far the conditioner went.

So, when you factor it out over time, the cost of the pricier hair care is lower, as you don't have to use as much... Plus, your hair is in better condition, because you're not stripping it and coating it with garbage.

Final analysis: I like how light and clean my hair was after I used the shampoo and conditioner. I did need to use a spray detangler, even with the conditioner, but that is probably more about my damaged hair than the product. It will be interesting over time to see if there is a cumulative effect from using the cocoa butter, and I will definitely update in a few weeks.

Monday, February 10, 2014

This weekend

Although the office where I work doesn't open until 10, my weekdays start at 6:30. I get up early enough to make coffee, start breakfast, and put together lunch for James before I wake him up at 7. Throughout the week, I cook a lot of meals and I love everything that I do for my family. I am blessed to have the life that I have. I've heard that moms don't get time off, even weekends and vacations... but this was one of those wonderful, vacation-feel weekends, and I enjoyed it thoroughly.

A warning: This blog post is probably boring to anyone who isn't my mom, my mother-in-law, or me in four years, but I wanted to share my weekend with the three of us so we can all be grateful at how fortunate I am.

Saturday morning, James got up early because his brain had turned on and wouldn't stop, so he fed the cats and I got to sleep in until 9:00. I got up,we all had awesome new cereals I'd bought at Trader Joe's on Friday, and then had a leisurely time getting going.

At a little bit before 11, we went to Central Market for their chocolate festival. There was a Valentine's event for kids (and grown-ups, actually; they had a grown-up card-making table) on the patio, so the actual store wasn't very busy. We walked around and got to sample Vosges bars (I had been curious about the green tea matcha), couverture chocolate, "The Other Macaroon," salted caramel hot chocolate (with marshmallows), two or three other different bars, some date-based sugar-free cocoa macaroon things, etc. Behind the hot chocolate sample table they had some health and beauty items, so I picked up chocolate shampoo and conditioner.

They also had sushi, hummus dips, and some wines, also... but while James enjoyed that, I had only room for chocolate.

After sampling and purchasing a few items, we went next door to Zinger Hardware, which is a fun store to browse, even if you're not planning on buying anything. We did end up getting a few things, but had a good time testing the wind chimes and laughing at some things that people spend money on. James and I had been to Zinger when he first moved into town, but this was Daphne's first trip.

It was almost time for Daphne to go see a friend of hers, so we dropped James back off at home and headed up toward Cedar Park. Although D and I had felt pretty full after the samples, we realized we were hungry for food food, so drove through a Jack in the Box where Daphne got a deli melt and I got their sweet potato fries. It was a gorgeous day, so we sat in the car and ate. I love those opportunities just to hang out and talk to her. When we're home, very often I'm working, or she's doing school, or she's on the computer. So having a good half hour just to listen to her was a treat.

Every other time I drop D off at her friend's, I'm rushing back to work. So Saturday, I went in and visited with her friend's mom for an hour or so. It was nice to catch up.

When I got home, James helped me prepare some stuff to juice, and we made a beautiful carrot grape pear juice. I used about half of it to fill four Popsicle molds we'd bought at Zinger. Then we went out on the front porch and played Scrabble outside, taking advantage of the warmest day in weeks.

By the time we were finishing that up, Daphne was home. I had a pizza shop for dinner, then James and I watched a movie while Daphne role-played with friends online.

Sunday morning, Rudy started bugging me about breakfast at 6:30, so I got up and shut the door so that James could sleep in. I had the computer for the a/v display at church, and needed to get it to the building two hours before service started, so I packed everything up and rode my bike.

It was 46 degrees and very foggy when I left the house. I was wearing a waffle shirt, hoodie, coat, gloves, scarf, ear band, leggings, shorts, shoes, and socks. By the time I got to the church building (AKA Elk's Lodge), the fog was burning off and I'd worked up a sweat... that hill on Dawson is a butt-kicker (for me). And, no, for those of you familiar with the property, I do not try to bike up the driveway. I walk it.

Handed off the computer, and replaced it in the backpack with my coat, scarf, and gloves. I kept the ear band on and occasionally wished I'd kept the gloves, but not enough to stop riding and access my backpack. I'm sort of lazy like that.

By the time I got home, it was sunny, though still pretty chilly, but I wasn't cold at all. Daphne was up, so we chatted for a bit before I took a shower and used the chocolate shampoo and conditioner (review coming on the other blog soon). Since I still had so much time to kill, I pulled all of the hair spray, razors, tooth brushes, facial cleanser, etc. that are on the top shelf of our open-air medicine cabinet, rinsed them all off (we don't use a lot of that stuff, but have nowhere else to store it), and wiped down the shelf. Then I did the middle one, which has my curling irons, hair dryer, etc. And the bottom one, which has my curlers, the spare toilet paper caddy, and my "jewelry" (which I practically never wear). I ended up getting rid of a lot of stuff, and my allergies feel better, if just through the power of suggestion.

I also had time to do one load of laundry and sweep the entire house before we had to go. Then after church, Daphne and I came home to get James and we all went out to lunch at Red's Porch, thanks to a gift certificate Khrys and Mei Li had gotten James for his birthday. It was good, and the restaurant was fun, and it was so much food we all brought home left-overs. We'd started out sitting inside because there was a wait for the patio, but half way through our meal, they opened all of the garage doors and we were outside, too! We got to watch some of the winter Olympics, too.

After lunch, James and I walked to the library as I had a couple of things to pick up... actually, I thought one of my held items had been returned to stock, in which case I would owe the library $1, but I guess because of the "ice" closures, they'd left the pick-ups out past the deadline. It was very warm on our walk, and by the time we got back, I was ready for a nap. I got to lounge for a couple of hours, then we all had left-overs for dinner and did our own things until bedtime.

So, basically, this was the perfect stay-home-and-enjoy-the-weekend.

When I got up this morning at 6:30, I was ready to go. It helped to know that I had a delicious glass of carrot grape pear juice waiting for me in the refrigerator.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Milestone

Today is the day that I would have started my period, if I were having one. The last time I was pregnant, after the first month's skipped period, I started bleeding on this day. I was asymptomatic, pregnancy-wise, and it was not a huge surprise.

This time around, I'm feeling characteristically icky, and I took a two-hour nap today. The third blood test I took indicated that the hgc was up, but progesterone was down. The midwife wanted me to start on progesterone supplements, but before I poured too much energy into that, I wanted to know what we were dealing with. So we went to a radiology clinic and had an ultrasound done.


Huh! Would you look at that? It's a... um... What *is* that?

The tech had told us that he couldn't tell us anything because of "why you're here," but toward the end, he did show us a wee video of "the fetus, and there's its heartbeat." He measured it at 7 weeks, 3 days as opposed to the 8 weeks I was estimated to be from my last you-know-what, but at least we were in the ballpark. It had a pulse of 153.

I went in for a final blood test Thursday, and should have the results Monday. After that, we're not monitoring that whole thing anymore. I'll go into the midwife's as a regular pre-natal client mid/late-February.

And, still, we wait...

Meanwhile, please enjoy this image of the surface of Mars.


Which is apparently in my uterus.