Sunday, December 4, 2016

Doing a New Thing

Yeah, so I haven't done a blog in about a year exactly. My bad. Here's the Reader's Digest Condensed Version of the last year:

1. Chamaco is now turning FIFTEEN (on Friday). Typing that made me throw up in my mouth a little. He's a freshman in high school. Yikes.

2. Train and I are still going strong. We did indeed take an anniversary-type trip down to Tucson in March of this year. Don't know what we will do for anniversary number 3, but Hawaii is looking like a good idea... just saying...

3. We both work. We both pretty much hate our jobs most of the time. We are both becoming less convinced that this is "living", per se.

4. I've gone a little further off the rails of what people call "normal" lately, but I'm pretty okay with it. Train seems to be also, as he's stuck with me so far.

So this will probably be the last post on this blog. Not just because I keep forgetting to blog, but also because I tend to start new blogs as I commence new chapters of my life, and I think 2017 is going to be one of *those* years like 2012 was.

I've been trying to make structured time in the evenings to draw or paint or write or play music, which I think has been what keeps me somewhat sane. Been kicking around an idea for a new blog, so it may show up eventually, but until it does... just rest assured that I'm still here where I've always been, doing pretty much the same things I've been doing for the last four years or so. Until I come back and tell you otherwise, you can pretty safely assume that.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Where does the time go?!?!

Yeah, so I haven't posted any thing since March. Wow. Writing is not a thing I have a lot of time for anymore, which is sad I think. They used to tell me I had something of a knack for it. Now if I write anything it's e-mails or perhaps a legal notice of some kind.

I realize it's very early in December and not really time for the "year in review" post yet, but some things were missed. So I'll sort of update the best I can here.

Late March: Family trip to Las Vegas/Grand Canyon/Zion National Park and a few points in between. Whirlwind week, lots of driving, and saw lots of cool stuff. Since my promised photoblog never actually happened, here's this:
At the Grand Canyon
 Monument Valley
 Antelope Canyon
Antelope Canyon

April/May/Somewhere in there: The person above me on the ladder at work gave notice and left. Hiring was done, and I ended up moving up and taking on some more responsibilities. Technically I am now an "executive" at the company, which is not as cool as it sounds, trust me. :-)

August: We were visited by Train's Air Force buddy and his family. Bryan, Danielle, and Lilah magically chose the ONLY rainy weekend we'd had all summer for their visit. We tried to go to Mt. St. Helens, but it looked like this:

Seriously, there is a giant volcano right there. We were less than 6 miles from it. Sadly, the clouds were completely obscuring it that day. We never did see the stupid mountain (though I can see it most of the time from the freeway near my house, and I don't even live in the same state as the mountain). *sigh* We did also go to the beach with them while they were here, and that worked out better:

September: The Chamaco started EIGHTH GRADE. Like, where does the time go, seriously?? He's going to be in high school next year! Also I turned 33. I haven't had an age consisting of repeating digits since I was 22. Yikes. Those were dark days... Also we went on my annual birthday trip to Bend:
On Paulina peak

The view from Paulina Peak

Also in September I got to have my favorite nephew for an overnight visit for the first time. He was 1 and 1/2 at that point. Hopefully this video will work. I bought him a toy to have at my house that plays music, and he and the Chamaco were rocking out.

October was unseasonably warm, which gave Train and I the opportunity to visit the Oregon Garden, one of those places I've never been but always intended to go that is practically in my backyard:


The other notable thing that happened in October is I somehow stumbled into an interest in yoga. I started doing yoga consistently on I believe October 9th, and I have not missed a day since, though admittedly some days I only squeeze in 10 minutes. In late November, I finally cancelled my gym membership (which I hadn't really been using) and got a membership at a yoga studio instead. I then promptly got sick for a week, which brings us up to present day.

For anyone interested in more details, I have a fabulous yoga mat/towel combo thingie that has a tropical beach scene on it. I get compliments on my mat in class! I practiced at home for over a month before finally getting the courage to go to a class. The studio I go to does Baptiste method "power yoga" in a room heated to 95+ degrees. Classes run 75-90 minutes, and I am usually the good kind of dead afterward. There are still a lot of things I cannot do because of my size and because I'm just plain not strong enough yet (a simple thing like being in down dog then stepping my foot forward between my hands to come into a lunge is a nope, because stomach and boobs, for example), but I'm getting better slowly. Also, since I started practicing in October, I've lost 7.2 lbs and a cumulative total of 16.5 inches from the various locations on my body I am tracking. It's been slow but steady, and I think one reason the weight loss has been slow is because I'm having to gain muscle, which is heavy. **END YOGA TALK**

Embarrassing pic as proof that yoga actually happens.

Today we took my friend/co-worker Christi out for blacklight mini-golf and pizza for her birthday, which was today (Happy birthday Christi!!!), and tomorrow we're going to a family gathering for the multitude of December birthdays in the family... my cousin Marlaina (3rd), the Chamaco (9th), Marlaina's husband Garrett (10th), my dad (15th), and my cousin Jasmine's husband Thadd (23rd).

You'll note the Chamaco in that list... this week he will turn 14. I don't remember how old he was when I first started blogging about him, but he was small enough I could still carry him upstairs if I really had to. No way I could do that now! Also on the not-too-distant horizon, my baby sister will be turning 25, my baby brother will be turning 27, my nephew will turn 2, and all this will be shortly followed by our second wedding anniversary. We've been married nearly 2 years already! Where does it go?? No concrete plans yet, but we're tossing around the notion of taking an anniversary-ish trip down to visit Bryan and Danielle in Tucson, AZ. Much depends on what sort of job the husband is able to get after he graduates next week with his machining degree. He's been sending out resumes and filling out applications for a week or so now and has had one interview already, with another one scheduled for Monday. Send prayers/positive thoughts/sunshine and rainbows our way as we handle the first major transition we've had in nearly two years of blessed stability. Everything's been pretty calm since we moved into this house in January 2014. 2016 could very well see us moving again, and possibly even buying a house, but we're not sure where yet. Much of that will depend on what kind of work Train can find.

Thank you to anyone who is still reading for even pretending to care what we've been up to this year! Now that I've rediscovered my own blog, I'll try to update more often. Writing is a thing that needs to happen.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

One Year Later...

So, for those of you that were paying attention, today is our one-year wedding anniversary. Is the honeymoon now officially over?

Never. :-)

It's still kinda like having a slumber party every night with my best friend, and there are still a lot of nights (probably too many) where we're up talking and giggling until long past our bedtime.

Have I discovered that my spouse has habits that annoy the crap out of me? Oh yes. I won't list the things here because many of our mutual friends are likely to read this, but rest assured there are times I want to (very lovingly) strangle him. I regard this as normal, however, and try to keep a broader perspective... those little tiny habits that annoy me are a small price to pay for all the benefits I get out of this arrangement, such as:

1. Built-in Partner in Crime - If I can concoct a scheme for a thing I wanna do, I've already got an accomplice! And I'm not talking about criminal activities here, I'm talking about anything I think I might want to do that's more fun with a friend. Netflix and popcorn? Yep. Bowling? Yep. Going for a walk in the neighborhood? Yep. Taking a nap in the middle of the day on Sunday? Yep.  Still can't convince him to go with me to get his nails done, though...

2. Master Planner - Those that know me know that planning is not my strong suit. I don't even know where I'm going with this blog post yet... I just sit down and start writing. However, we're going on a trip next week, and my husband has already booked flights and hotels and rental cars and created an itinerary for what we're going to do on what day. Pretty much all I have to do is show up and have fun. What's not to like? His planning skills are not limited to that, however. He's also the financial planner. And we did have to learn to communicate clearly at first. When he realized that vague instructions like, "You need to start saving money," didn't work with me, he changed it to a more concrete, "Put $300 out of every paycheck in savings." Bam. I can do that. That's a specific instruction that I can follow. As a result, between the two of us we have now built up an emergency fund that could sustain us for up to six months or so, depending on how frugally we were living. I also no longer live paycheck-to-paycheck. This is HUGE change for me, and also it's really weird. Still kind of not used to it.

3. Partner in Domestic Operations - I was a single mom for over a decade. I'm used to doing it ALL, in the sense of if I didn't do something, it wasn't going to get done. So imagine how cool it is that often when I get home from work, dinner is already cooking! And it's not in a crock-pot either! Our current situation is a bit non-traditional... I'm working full time and making the bulk of the money. He is in college full time and working part time. So a lot of the time he will start dinner because he gets home first, and because waiting for me to get home and do it would be stupid. On these days, I do dishes/clean-up after dinner. Some days it's the other way around... I cook, he cleans up. And on the days when we decide the house needs a full cleaning, between the two of us we can get it done in about an hour.

4. Understanding of the Little Things - I am not a romantic in the traditional sense. Thankfully, neither is my husband. He told me for our anniversary dinner he might cook a pot of ramens and put a sparkler in it. I think this is a cool idea, and he knows this. He also mentioned to me that he found a dead crow in the yard while he was mowing the lawn yesterday, and that he'd left it for me so I could look at it. Yes, I want to look at it. Our relationship is built on a solid foundation of back scratching, massages, and fart jokes, and I wouldn't want it any other way.

I could go on for quite a while about the million and one little ways in which we were so obviously meant for each other that even my kid can see it, but you're bored and I have a gelatin mask in my hair that I will need to wash out very soon. So I will just finish by saying that it feels like our family is complete now, and we have a plan and goals for the future for the first time. And also the first year has been a Carnival of Awesome, pretty much. Can't wait to get started on the next year.

And also we're flying out to Las Vegas on Wednesday night and we'll be driving to the Grand Canyon and Sedona and Zion and Monument Valley and all kinds of cool stuff, so expect another trip blog with heavy photography coming up soon... :-)

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Obligatory "2014 - The Year In Review" Blog..

Why is it obligatory? Well, because there is less than a week left of 2014, and everyone else is doing it. That's why. So anyway, here are some highlights from the year, both good and bad, in roughly chronological order...

January 18, 2014 - Moved into a house (not an apartment) for the first time in several years. Gotta love that.

January 2014 - Unexpectedly lost my dear friend Nancy. They just don't make human beings like that anymore, and probably a few of you who read this will know exactly what I'm talking about.

March 22, 2014 - The day I married my best friend. I suppose I'll always remember 2014 for that. I even still like him 9 months later... lol

April 2014 - Started April in French Polynesia on the island of Bora Bora. This is where we went for our honeymoon. Not a bad way to start a month.

May-ish? 2014 - Got promoted into my first full-time "supervisory" role since being a shift leader at Jack in the Box when I was 18. I say "full-time", because while I was working at Head Start I was the boss if my head teacher was out sick. Now I've got people and things I'm supposed to oversee whether or not anyone is out sick. I'm also apparently supposed to still oversee them while I'm doing someone else's job in addition to my own. Yay.

June 2014 - Road trip to Yellowstone. Also notable for the car accident we got into when we were less than 2 hours from home. Car was deemed repairable and we got it back in early July.

August 2014 - Trips to Gold Beach on two consecutive weekends. Basically I did a lot of driving this summer. Also on the first trip we went to Gold Beach by way of Bend, Crater Lake, and the California Redwoods. The second trip I went down there with my mom because my grandma was having surgery, so that was slightly less fun but still totally worth the drive.

September 2014 - My "baby" started 7th grade. I also managed to turn 32. Still not sure how either of those things happened. Also we got gym memberships toward the end of September. This will be important later on, I'm sure.

October 31, 2014 - Was tapped once again as the parent cool enough to chaperone my son and his friends on the trick-or-treat walk through Milwaukie. Made a ridiculously glittery skirt for the occasion and wore a tiara. Still have glitter in my car and on my boots. It may not come off ever.

November 2014 - Started doing Couch-to-5K workouts. Became a runner, if only in my head. Before the end of November, managed to run a full 3 minutes without stopping. I would have previously thought this impossible (and if you looked at me, you'd think it impossible as well).

December 2014 - My "baby" turned 13. Still not sure how this happened. To celebrate, took him and his girlfriend (!?) to mini-golf and frozen yogurt. (Actually, she's been his "girlfriend" for almost 2 years. And I say "girlfriend" because they don't do anything even remotely couple-ish. The Chamaco told me they held hands once and it was weird and they mutually agreed to never do it again. To which I say GOOD, because you're my "baby" and you're still only 13.)

Also December 2014 - Increased my longest continuous run time to 5 minutes. It sucks and I hate it still (that gets easier, right?), but I can do it. And I keep doing it 3 times a week. So I guess there's something to it.

Happy End of 2014, everyone! Wishing you all the best in 2015!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Changes SIX Years Can Bring....

So, every year since 2009, I've been doing this blog-thing at about this time of year where I compare the year I am just finishing to the years previous. I've come a long way since 2008, and this just kind of throws all that into sharp relief anymore. My only problem is that I'm gonna run out of colors soon...

2008: We lived in a falling-apart house with no heat.
2009: We live in a pretty nice apartment with gas heat.
2010: We live in the same apartment as last year. Have somehow managed to keep paying the rent. Praise God!
2011: We still live in the same apartment. I have an eye toward moving before the end of the year, though, because I'm close to being able to afford to at this rate.
2012: We have moved twice in 2012. The first time was to Gresham (in April) for a new job, the second time was to Milwaukie (in October) for the same company.
2013: Still living in the same apartment in Milwaukie, and sort of enjoying the stability. Have an eye toward moving to a house sometime in the next year or two, but there's no rush.
2014: Moved in January to a house (rented)! Yeah, I know I said there was no rush, but we found one accidentally at a price we could afford. Very much loving not having neighbors above and below.

2008: I was unemployed. All year.
2009: I sometimes wish I worked less, but I am blessed to have a job surrounded by good, godly people who are passionate about what they do and make working with them so much fun.
2010: Same job situation except it has dawned on me that I really don't like teaching. Okay, so I knew that all along, but now I'm really starting to get the urge to move along... still like the people I work with, though!
2011: I now work FULL TIME for the first time since 2001. I adore the people I work with, but I like teaching less and less. Looking to move on (and when I do that apartment change thing will probably shortly follow).
2012: I am now a full time, salaried property manager. Which sort of explains how I have moved twice this year, no? And look up there and see how psychic I was in 2011! I knew something was coming, just didn't know what... lol. Anyway, not only do I get free rent on a 1,200 square foot apartment, but also I am salaried for more money than I've ever made before in my life. I've had years where my total yearly income was barely $8,000. This is not one of those years.
2013: Still with the same property management company, but in a different capacity. I've moved up!
2014: Um... yes. To all the 2013 above. Same company, and I've moved up yet again, technically.

2008: I did nearly all my Christmas shopping at the Dollar Tree, because it was what I could afford.
2009: I did most of my Christmas shopping at Wal-Mart... moving on up!
2010: Primarily Wal-Mart again. No huge change in this department.
2011: Again, no change! What can I say? I like Wal-Mart.
2012: Haven't done any shopping yet. Could I shop somewhere else? Yes, probably. Will I shop somewhere else? Eh... maybe. But it's hard to beat Wal-Mart!
2013: Well, I did some of my Christmas shopping in Hawaii this year, but still a lot of it at Wal-Mart.
2014: Wal-Mart! Wal-Mart! And some online ordering... I really need to get moving on that or I'm going to be giving people pieces of paper showing what I ordered for them that hasn't arrived yet....

2008: We got food boxes from a couple of different local organizations.
2009: An organization called to offer us a food box and I told them they could probably find someone who needed it worse than we do. After I hung up I realized what I'd just been able to say and I almost cried.
2010: Nobody even offered us a food box this year.
2011: I don't even get food stamps anymore. (Well, $16 a month, but that hardly counts, now does it?)
2012: Virtually no change from 2011 here. I do technically still qualify for the minimum amount of food stamps, but I often forget to use them. The only reason I'm still signed up is because I do it at the same time as the Chamaco's medical insurance (which I'm keeping, since I don't have health insurance myself to add him to). 
2013: Actually no change since 2012 here, except that I'll be getting insurance myself come January 1st.
2014: This year, for the first time, I felt stable enough to pull a couple of tags off of the Adopt-A-Family board at church and buy a couple of extra gifts for someone that otherwise might not have gotten any. That was kinda cool for me.

2008: I carried my son upstairs to his bed when he fell asleep on the couch.
2009: I can barely pick up my son, much less carry him upstairs. This only happened in the last month or two. I realized today that soon I won't be able to pick him up at all... my baby is gone. I almost cried.
2010: I can still pick up my nine-year-old boy for brief periods of time
2011: My kid turned 10 this year. I can still pick him up, but I can't carry him much of anywhere. I realize that the only reason I can pick him up is because I routinely lift up to sixty pounds of child at work. He clocks in at about 74, last I knew.
2012: The boy will be 11 next week. And I can still pick him up, but only barely.
2013: He's 12. He's in middle school. Still trying to get my head around that. Sometimes he jumps on me and hangs, and I can stay upright but I'm not going much of anywhere.
2014: He turned 13 yesterday... Not a whole lot taller than last year, but I'm still trying to get my head around this whole teenager thing.

2008: My son was the sort of co-dependent that being the only child of a single mom will get you.
2009: I have an increasingly independent eight-year-old who more and more often wants to do things by himself. I told him that I was going to get Nancy's recipe for play-doh because the stuff we make at work is better than the store-bought stuff. I said this because I thought it would be something fun we could do together. He asked if he could do it by himself.
2010: My son cooked dinner a few weeks ago. I supervised him, but the only thing I actually did for him was turn the knobs on the stove, because he can't reach them yet. He's older but still short... lol.
2011: My kid can stay home by himself for increasingly long periods of time (I haven't yet pushed it past an hour and a half). He has a cell phone. As long as there is a microwave and a stocked freezer, he can feed himself indefinitely. This works out well for me going to Zumba classes on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.
2012: All this moving and new job stuff has created the necessity for the Chamaco to stay home alone for up to eight hours a day if he's not in school. Somehow, against all odds, I have raised the sort of responsible, independent kid that can handle this just fine so long as he has a microwave and internet access.
2013: Same sort of situation here, except he can reach the stove knobs now. I'm still not letting him stove-cook without supervision, but I sense it's on the horizon.
2014: We're working on the whole "remembering to turn in homework" thing, but other than that he's pretty independent. I wake him up in the morning and then I leave for work. Somehow, miraculously, he gets to school and back home before I come home from work.

2008: I had a couple of friends, but mostly felt very lonely and isolated.
2009: I have some very good friends, some less-close-but-still-good friends, some casual acquaintances that  always make me smile (hello CTG!), a pretty full social calendar, and sometimes wish desperately to just be home by myself for a few hours.
2010: All of the above, plus a couple of new friends... :-)
2011: Loads of new people in my life this year. Some of them are even male... lol.
2012: With the new job comes a new social circle. I must say I like working with a mixed group of men and women again... lol. The estrogen levels in my life were approaching critical.
2013: A few of my "new" coworkers (here at this job where I've been for a year and a half) have wormed their way into that circle I would call "friends". For my own sanity, I have taken to keeping Saturday for myself and having that be a day where I can just stay home if that's what I want to do, because it often is. I'm kinda busy these days.
2014: Well, my best friend lives with me now. I still have my friend/coworker circle, and church friends. I did lose a very dear friend in late January of this year... still miss you, Nancy.

2008: I was single.
2009: Still single... no change there. : )
2010: Despite some rumors you may have heard, still single. But I guess there were at least rumors this year. Maybe next year there will be something to them! ;-)
2011: Still single! But I did actually go on ONE date in 2011. Which is one more than in the previous eight years combined, so I guess that's progress... ha ha ha!
2012: I am... not single. Haven't been since September-ish. (Don't ask me exactly when, because I don't know!) Here's the funny part: Internally, I have always said two things... that I wanted to date someone I didn't date in high school (because all previous boyfriends and my ex-husband I dated in high school), and that I wanted to date someone who was my best friend (obviously, this required finding a male best friend). To which, I presume, God said, "Okay then... how about your best friend from elementary school? That's not high school!" You will never convince me that God doesn't have a sense of humor (as well as a keen sense of irony), but I am still very grateful to have Andrew back in my life after 19 years of absence.
2013: Okay, here's the big one! Andrew and I became officially engaged on December 17th, 2013, and we're planning to get married on March 22, 2014! I am thisclose to having a "squee" moment, and if you know me, you know I do not squee easily. See the previous post for how it all went down if you're curious, but know this - somehow I went from 10 years of impoverished single-mommyhood to being the sort of person who gets flown to Hawaii and proposed to on a beach. If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone!
2014: Yes, my best friend lives with me because I married him earlier this year. Actually, considering we got married in March, we're getting pretty close to the one-year mark. Anniversary/spring break trip is already planned... we're going to Arizona. Grand Canyon, Sedona, all that. We're already well on our way to being old married people.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Experimentation Phase

Some people, when they get into something, are INTO that thing 100%. I am not one of those people. Not right away, at least.

I experiment. I test. I dip a toe in the water first, then another toe, and once I've got my whole foot in I might just jump in all the way.

I have about 3 toes in the crunchy, organic, "clean living" water right now. I know previous posts may have made it sound like I had jumped in, but trust me, I still have a few reservations. To go all the way, there are a couple of issues I haven't yet resolved:

It's Cost Prohibitive (sort of): I do think that in the long term I will save money by making on my own the things I am now making on my own, like cosmetic products and household cleaners, but the initial investment to have the raw materials is kind of steep. However, in the matter of food/produce, I cannot seem to find a way that it is not expensive. Organic produce is pretty universally more expensive than conventional (and I'm not totally sold on the "everything organic" idea yet either, though I'm just about sold on the benefits of eating grass-fed, free-range meat/poultry over farmed meat), and "organic" and "natural" versions of our usual kitchen staples tend to cost a bit more as well.

It's Time-Consuming (very): This is probably my biggest hurdle right now. If I was a stay-at-home mom/housewife, I could do it. It would be cake. As it stands now, I get up in the morning, shower, cook breakfast, unload/load the dishwasher, go to work for 8-10 hours (depending on the day), come home, cook dinner, load/run the dishwasher, and then flop. And since I cut out caffiene, I've been in bed by 10 PM, which for me is way early. Usually on the weekends in my "free time" I do laundry and, if I'm feeling particularly industrious, prepare my lunches to take to work for the week so I don't end up eating out and spending a bunch of money on crap food. As I write this, it is Saturday and I am in my kitchen/"meth lab" (as the husband calls it) whipping up a batch of Mango Citrus Body Butter, because I decided I was going to take some time to play today. But my main point here is that my family (including the husband, who betwen work and college puts in just as many hours as I do and sometimes more with homework) depends on the convenience of packaged foods. I am having difficulty finding the time to cook from scratch, because ingredient preparation (chopping, slicing, of vegetables, etc.) takes forever and I do not have a food processor. Adding to this mix of fun is the fact that I got promoted at work day before yesterday and put on salary, which means they can now extract as many hours from me as they like without paying me my mildly-staggering overtime pay rate. Yesterday was my first day in my new position and I worked about 9 hours. We'll see how this plays out...

Anyway, those are the main problems that I will have to figure out how to resolve before I can jump into this thing completely, but I'll go ahead and give some status updates and tell you some things I've learned so far:

My Butt/Legs - Shrinking: I'm not sure if this is from walking at my breaks, trying to eat better, or both, but the new capris I bought in April are getting seriously baggy in the butt. I'm sure you care.

My Hair - Slowly Normalizing: Yes, I did the thing. I went "no 'poo" a few weeks ago. And what I learned was that my hair is NOT super dry as I had thought it was. My hair was being stripped of any and all oil every time I washed it (and I wasn't even doing that as often as most people do... I've always been an every-other-day sort). When I stopped doing that, my head immediately turned into a greaseball. I had been warned about that, fortunately. All the "no 'poo" devotees will tell you about the "detox period", supposedly lasting from one to eight weeks, in which your scalp, which has been frantically overproducing the oils that you've been stripping out of it every day or every other day for years, calms down, takes a breather, and realizes it doesn't have to do that anymore. The first couple of times I washed my hair with homemade shampoo, it was fine. I thought this was going to be easy. Then around the third or fourth time my hair suddenly turned into a greaseball. It was nasty even 15 minutes after I washed it. I wore a lot of ponytails and nearly gave up on the idea. Then, earlier this week, I threw a small amount of lemon juice into my shampoo recipe as a "degreaser", if you will. This seems to be helping. Another interesting thing is that without the shampoo buildup in my hair, I've discovered that my hair is actually much wavier than I thought. I haven't yet decided what to do about the haircolor situation... my hair is currently bleached blonde, and I haven't come up with a natural way to maintain that. So either I will have to chemically compromise my ideals every four or five weeks and continue bleaching it, or I will have to chemically compromise my ideals just once and dye it back to the natural color and then leave it alone to go somewhat gray. There are supposedly "natural" dyes out there, but aside from henna (which, lets face it, lets you mostly go darker or redder, not blonder) most of them still have some degree of "nasties" in them. This is a matter I will be pondering as I go on.

My Skin - Actually Getting Better!: I have super-sensitive skin. I also have skin that often gets so dry that it gets irritated and breaks out. But if I try to use any commercial moisturizer, it gets irritated and breaks out. It's lose/lose. I've never been one to use much makeup or put much of anything on my face. Now, however, I have discovered the benefit of putting oil on my face. Yes, that's right. I put oil on my face. On purpose. Only in certain areas, though. When I first discovered the idea I was putting it all over my whole face. Then my skin started breaking out on my forehead, which it generally doesn't do... usually it's just the cheek area. That was when I realized I have combination skin... my forehead and nose are fine if I leave them alone most of the time and maybe put some oil on them when they start to feel dry. My cheeks, however, need oil just about every day. I'm using tamanu oil right now, but I may try jojoba oil in the near future. Neither of these were things I had heard of two months ago.

My Energy Levels - A Lot More Consistent: When I first started this process, I cut out caffiene entirely. I realized quickly that this was only going to make me (and my family & coworkers) very miserable. So I got some Spark from The Empress (which is great stuff) and transitioned myself off gradually. Now I go sometimes entire work-weeks without caffiene at all. My energy levels are a lot more consistent throughout the day, though I am likely to start getting drowsy on the couch after 9 PM and I'm usually in bed by 10. I sometimes have Diet Coke, which I know I shouldn't. Mostly on weekends when we go out to eat. Like I said, only 3 toes in. 

Cocoa Butter: Interesting stuff... smells like chocolate, yet is yellowish-white, hard, and waxy, and a real bear to dig out of the container with a spoon. Melts nicely, though, and is an ingredient in a lot of the homemade lotions I've been making.

Shea Butter: Kinda looks like whitish Crisco in the container. Semi-solid in the container, but if you touch it with anything even remotely warm - your finger, a spoon that has recently been washed in hot water, a spoon that was lying within 10 feet of a working stove - it goes gooey. And if you have it on your skin, you may as well just rub it in because not only is it super hard to wash off, but also it's good for your skin. Another ingredient I've been using a lot.

Mango Butter: I didn't even know this was a thing until I found a recipe I wanted to try that called for it. I couldn't find it anywhere. Finally ended up ordering online and having it shipped. It's somewhere between Cocoa Butter and Shea Butter in consistency... it's fairly easy to break up into chunks with a spoon, but you can actually handle it briefly with your bare hands without having to wear it forever. I am tempted to eat some and see if there is anything mango flavored about it, but I doubt it since I think it comes from the mango seed. Just finally tried that recipe earlier today, so more on that later.

Beeswax: Originally I was buying this in 1 oz. bars for my little projects. And then I discovered that they actually sell beeswax in a sort of granulated state like coarse sugar that can actually be measured in tablespoons. No more bars for this girl! This is a common base for lotions because it is solid enough to bind everything together, I guess. 

Coconut Oil: What can't you use this stuff for?!?! I'm using it increasingly in cooking (does not actually make your food taste like coconut, but is much better for high-heat cooking than olive oil), but it's also useful in homemade lotions, homemade toothpaste, homemade sunscreen (yes, that's a thing I intend to try very soon), and even just on your skin by itself as a moisturizer. I also read some pretty fantastical story about a guy claiming that consuming 2 tablespoons of coconut oil per day greatly improved his Parkinson's symptoms, but I take this with a grain of salt. Still, it's great stuff.

Raw Honey: I thought my favorite sweetener was agave nectar. It isn't. And when I need the occasional sweet fix, I am totally not above eating honey from the jar. As well as putting it on my skin, in my hair (I made a mask once, and I found a recipe for honey shampoo that I may try), and in various recipes. I actually made some honey glazed pork chops the other night that were pretty darn good. Now I want to go eat honey... where's that jar at?

Stuff I Have Made: If anyone is wondering the extent of my crazy so far, here are the things I have made successfully (or tried to make, which I will indicate if that is the case): Sweet Orange Lotion Bars (approved by both me and my mother... I have almost used my whole batch and plan on making more today), Coconut Milk/Aloe Vera Shampoo (I have recently added lemon juice to it, which is working quite well), Apple Cider Vinegar Conditioner (I use this also on a regular basis, and you never knew even if you see me every day, because my head does NOT smell like vinegar), Mango Citrus Body Butter (jars are still cooling on the counter, I will get back to you after my mom and I have tested it later), homemade "Carpet Fresh", Homemade Deodorant (I love this stuff, actually. Use it every day.), Homemade Body Spray (my current batch is citrusy, I may try something else next time), Homemade Foundation Powder (I need to perfect the coloring, the last batch I made was too dark for my ghosty skin), Homemade Creamy Foundation (again, too dark for me as the recipe is written... something I will need to play with), Homemade Hand Sanitizer (I now use this exclusively at work rather than the soap provided, which contains I know not what). 

Stuff I Haven't Made Yet (but want to): Homemade Sunscreen, Homemade Laundry Soap, Homemade Dish Soap, Homemade Soap (less urgent since I actually found an acceptable store brand), Homemade Lip Balm, various homemade household cleaners, homemade hand soap, Homemade Toothpaste, Homemade Neosporin, Homemade "Vapo-Rub". 

You should now be sufficiently bored for one blog post, but in the event you aren't and you have questions, please feel free to ask me. On a side note, today was my second day with lemon juice in my shampoo, and my hair is awesome today. :-)
This grew in my yard. I found it while weeding around the grapevine, which is why my hand is dirty. I'm quite pleased about having my own raspberries, because those suckas ain't cheap!

Monday, May 19, 2014

In Perilous Danger of Becoming a Crunchy Granola Person

This is a follow-up post to the previous one (titled "Why I'm Always Cold", if you care to go read that first). I promised an update as I continue with some revised eating patterns.

Well, it might be starting to get out of control.

Not in terms of my body, though. That part is doing great. As of Sunday morning I was down 7 pounds total from where I started the morning I began this change of food habits. (The word "diet" does not seem fitting for what I'm doing, since I'm still eating plenty and I do not feel deprived.) I feel better and am no longer caffeine-dependent. I say this with some pride, as my Diet Coke habit has been tough to kick in the past. I had a small Diet Coke at McDonald's on Sunday morning and wasn't really that into it. Before we left, I rinsed out my cup and refilled it with ice water. I'm still having a Spark in the morning most of the time, but on Saturday I forgot. And guess what... I was fine. No caffeine-deprivation headaches, no sleepy-time crashing... nada. I've been walking on my breaks at work when the weather's nice, and I'm starting to actually like the exercise. I think it stabilizes my mood throughout the day a bit. My job can be pretty stressful, and there have been a lot of days in the past where by the time I got home I did not want to talk to humans for a while. I haven't had any of those days in the last couple of weeks, and I'm not sure if the change in food and exercise is what did it, but I'm sure it didn't hurt.

No, the trouble started when I started reading some of the other articles that were on some of the sites I was getting recipes for "clean" foods from. It seems that one thing leads to another in this lifestyle... you stop eating stuff with a bunch of weird chemicals in it, and suddenly you become aware of the zillions of other weird chemicals that you're ingesting/absorbing without really meaning to.

Before I go any further, let me pull over and park (as Ron would say). Inevitably when we discuss this subject, someone makes the comment, "But EVERYTHING is made of chemicals!" Yes, that's true. Some of those chemicals are even naturally ocurring, and some of those naturally occurring ones are even meant to be in your body. But when I say "chemicals", I am speaking of the man-made ones that you can't spell or pronounce without a chemistry degree that most likely do not belong in your body. I'd copy something off of a bottle of Diet Coke as an example, except I don't have one of those in the house. 

Getting back on the road (parking over!), I happen to be female. This seems to be inextricably linked to the use of various cosmetic products... shampoos, conditioners, perfumes, deodorants, shave gels, body wash, foundations, eyeshadows, mascaras... the list goes on and on. Your skin is the largest organ of your body, and something I read (don't know for sure if it's true but it certainly sounds plausible) stated that any sort of chemical you put on your skin is absorbed into your bloodstream in less than 30 seconds. Go read the ingredient labels of some of your cosmetic products, ladies. Decide how many of those things you actually WANT in your bloodstream. It's going to be pretty close to zero, if your bathroom is anything like mine was. 

Let me take this opportunity to say that my husband is an amazing human. He did not complain when I went out and spent probably far too much money on ingredients. He did not bat an eyelash when I took over the kitchen and made my own shampoo and conditioner. He did not comment when I *used* said homemade shampoo and conditioner. And that was day one. 

Day two I made my own deodorant. I even put it in an old deodorant container (I may have accidentally thrown away the last quarter inch or so of existing deodorant after reading the label), so I can dial it up just like regular deodorant. So far, no complaints. It's sort of a dark gray, which looks a little funny, but it goes on clear. The husband even justified that a little. When I asked him if he knew what kind of chemicals were in deodorant and that some of them were carcinogens, he said something about how we put it under our arms right where the lymph nodes are. He didn't complain about the homemade deodorant (nor has he complained about me being smelly, so I guess it's working). 

Day three we were cleaning the house. He was vacuuming the carpet in his "man cave" room, and noted that the carpet was smelly and that we needed to get some Carpet Fresh. The first thing out of my mouth was, "I think they have that at Dollar Tree." The next thing to pop into my head was, "Wow, I wonder how many nasties are in that stuff?" And I fled to Pinterest, which has become my first source of DIY info. About ten minutes later I brought him a "repurposed" frosting container (frosting recently tossed in garbage, because eew) with holes punched in the lid. "Try this," I said. We applied it generously to the carpet, waited a bit, then vacuumed. He admitted there was an improvement, though he informed me he did not prefer citrus cents. 

This "carpet fresh" was comprised of exactly two things. Baking soda and essential oil (sweet orange). 

Tonight when he was headed through the kitchen on his way to bed (he's not feeling well so he turned in early), I was standing at the stove over an improvised double boiler. Mind you, I don't know how to cook very well. He asked me teasingly, "What kind of meth are you cooking now?" I informed him that what was in the double boiler was beeswax, shea butter, and coconut oil, and what was in the bowl on the counter was honey, olive oil, and sweet orange essential oil, and that the two were just about to be combined and then poured into that muffin tin over there to make lotion bars. He just nodded and said okay, and made me promise to put at least a little money in my savings account this pay period. I get paid Thursday, so that's an easy promise. And I informed him that while it might be more of an investment initially to get the raw materials, it'll probably be cheaper in the long run since I'll be making stuff instead of buying it. 

After he went to bed, I made body spray. The lotion bars are cooling in the fridge. I am excited about them. They smell yummy. I'm also learning how to clean wax off of kitchen things. I think I will probably break down and get some cheap stuff at Goodwill that I use exclusively for my "meth-cooking". 

I also had a brief panic attack yesterday about plastic containers. Specifically, re-heating my lunch in plastic containers, because those things leach nasty chemicals when they get too hot or too cold. Ran to Dollar Tree. Dollar Tree came through for me. I now have glass containers with plastic snap-on lids. I got 3 of them to start, so $3. Yay! 

So I guess what I'm trying to say here is that I've gone a bit crunchy. Not entirely... I still dyed my hair tonight (it was too yellow), but then I followed it up with homemade conditioner. I am not yet insisting on all organic produce, nor do I forsee that happening (though I may buy some things organic). I plan to contiue experimenting with less toxic homemade versions of household cleaners and cosmetics. The scarcity of mango butter in Portland is the only thing stopping me from making some killer body lotion right now (that and I just used the last of my beeswax in the lotion bars that I made because I couldn't find mango butter, so they were my second pick). 

The boys don't like my chia seed pudding (I happen to love it!) but they've at least been accepting and supportive of me while I'm trying something new. And who knows... we might all be better for it.
I made a cinnamon/honey/lemon face mask tonight. It was slightly runny.