Saturday, February 25, 2017

When the Luck of the Irish Failed Me

On Monday, February 13th, I completed my last day of class, and on Tuesday, February 14th (Valentine's Day), I ventured to the Dollar Tree and purchased a litany of St. Patrick's Day paraphernalia for crafting in my copious free hours.  I carefully laid out my spoils on the family room floor and planned a revolutionary wreath that was sure to send my neighbors into a jealous frenzy.

I began with 3 aluminum tins that I sliced and diced to create metal rings which I manipulated into a heart shape.

Next, I contracted tetanus from too many metal cuts as I glued my makeshift hearts together.

Then, I took poorly-crafted St. Patty's Day tinsel and wrapped it around my shamrock form whilst green confetti shed from the emerald strings, and danced and glistened in the air before adhering themselves to every surface of the room with static electricity.

Lastly, I stood back to admire my flimsy, nondescript bush.  It was suddenly obvious that my genius craft was a flop.  In desperation, I glued a leprechaun bobblehead to the center of my "shamrock," but instead of enhancing the good luck charm, my wreath looked like an Irish gull laid an unfortunate egg after eating Lucky Charms out of a convenience store dumpster.

My front door has since remained bare.  No jealous neighbors.  No lucky threshold.  Just an unwelcoming nail protruding like a finger bidding my visitors to turn and leave before my hot glue gun has time to heat up again.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Lanyard

Written February 13, 2017:
I cried today at Annie’s Parent-Teacher Conference.  Nothing says, “I’m a stable parent,” like tearing up at your child’s kindergarten teacher while she explains library day.  After a moment of embarrassment, I explained I wasn’t crazy.  It was just her lanyard that was making me cry.  I realized that sounded worse than crying over library time, so I felt compelled to tell her the whole story.

Two years ago, when I reenrolled in school for what felt like the ten-zillionth time, I hoped this stint would end in graduation (finally).  A few weeks into the semester, I was meandering the aisles at Harman’s looking for gluten-free something-or-other when something sparkly caught my eye.  I turned to study a hanging wrack of lanyards bedazzled with plastic rhinestones.  The rows of halogen lights above illuminated the prisms, and tiny rainbows reached out to me like a divine sign.  I lifted a lanyard from the hooks and ran it between my fingers, smiling slightly and imagining a teaching name tag hanging from the clip with my picture and Mrs. Rowberry printed on the front.  I handed it to wide-eyed baby Sam who thoroughly tasted it as I made my way to the checkout.  At home, it laid out on my nightstand as a visual representation of my goal to finish school.  On nights where I stayed awake rocking a restless baby or cleaning puke out of stuffed animal fur and woke up completely exhausted with piles of reading and homework in front of me, that glittery lanyard whispered, “Keep going.”

Sitting across from Annie’s teacher on the final day of undergrad classes while she wore the same name tag accessory I picked out to wear during my first year of teaching was just too much to handle. It finally felt real that someday I may be sitting across from nervous parents and handing them report cards. When I shared this tale with Annie's teacher, she smiled at me and squeezed one of my hands while I wiped away a tear with the other.

I can never show my face there again.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

January Favorites

January has come to a close, and as I have promised, I have compiled a rather short list of monthly favorites. Since the new year, I have spent the majority of my time buried in books or crouched over a keyboard, but from the rare moments I came up for air, a few choice products and experiences stood out. I'm going to quickly share them because Ibsen's A Doll's House is not going to analyze itself.

Canada's Worst Driver
I realize I am a sick, twisted person to admit this, but I am obsessed with Canada's Worst Driver on Netflix. Imagine Worst Cooks in America and your high school driver's ed class had a love child that says aboot and caer. That pretty much sums up this show. I don't know why watching people back into stacks of wheels or rip the bumper off a sports car brings me so much joy, but I binged both seasons in two days. OBSESSED.  #straightAstudent #nosleep

These Four Walls - Little Mix
Do you ever just wake up cloaked in angst? I did for the first two weeks of January. I blame the overcast skies and sub-zero temperatures that confined me to my house. When my seasonal depression made leaving a cocoon of blankets almost too painful to bear, I would jump in the shower, crank the water temperature to blisteringly hot, and play this song as loud as my phone could muster. Though my skin would turn red from the lava flowing from the shower head, I would get chills from the emotional vulnerability in these ladies voices. Don't knock it til you try it.

Laundry Room Floor
After our water heater had flooded our basement and garage at the beginning of October, the floor in our hallway and laundry room was partially torn up. In December, my dad and hubby patched the hallway floor and garage drywall, but the laundry room still needed new floors, doors, drywall work, and baseboards.  Our contractor was booked out till January, but since I had already spent two months acclimating to a ripped-up laundry room, waiting an additional month didn't bother me. However, I'm glad the new floor is finally here. I didn't realize how cold the old stick tiles were until I could compare them with the updated vinyl. The vinyl is slightly padded and warm under my feet, and because the laundry room doesn't have a heat vent, this flooring actually helps maintain a comfortable temperature.  Folding clothes just got much more manageable.

Book Shelves
When we purchased this house, we had a solid plan for the layout. We wanted the upstairs living room to double as the kids play space, and we wanted the downstairs family room to be an adult space. No toys. Glass decorations. Casual sophistication. After dealing with mothering madness all day, I wanted to be able to go downstairs, shut the door behind me, and sit in a beautiful, clean, relaxing oasis.
This is what our family room looked like when the previous owners lived here. They installed a surround sound system that connects to a large amplifier. On either side of the fireplace, they built matching bookshelves which gave the room a balanced, homey feeling. When we moved in, I knew I wanted to purchase similar-looking bookshelves. Unfortunately, bringing my vision to life was not as easy as I thought it would be. We needed something tall, but short enough to fit under the speakers. We needed something narrow enough to fit between the wall and the mantle. We needed shelves deep enough to accommodate the amp. AND we needed something inexpensive but that didn't look cheap. It was a tall order to fill. Get it? Tall order? Because the bookshelves were. . . oh nevermind.

While I searched, a rickety white bookshelf and one of those wire cubby systems flanked the television and housed our movies, games, and technology. You can see them peeking out in these pictures. It was functional but unattractive and instead of feeling like my sacred retreat, this room felt like some dorms had vomited in our basement. After a year of scouring Ikea, Shopko, Target, Homegoods, Wayfair, and even RC Willey, I finally settled on these bookshelves from Shopko.

These shelves have completely changed the appearance and feeling of this room. My new full-time hobby is taking pictures of my beautiful black babies from various angles and in different lighting.  If I lay down to watch a show, I spend more time looking at the shelves than I do at the TV.

I realize it's excessive, but obsession is not always logical. Paul and I have been married almost eight years and have survived on hand-me-down furniture (for which I have been incredibly grateful), but it is also exciting to be old, established grown-ups and purchase pieces that express who we are.

Loreal True Match Mineral Foundation
Once upon a time when I was eighteen years old, my mother took me to Rite-Aid and bought my very first set of makeup. As a creature of habit, I continued to buy the exact same makeup for years without ever dipping my toes into the vast pond of drugstore brands. A couple of summers ago, my cousin gave me a mascara sample that changed my life. After one use, I realized how poorly my old mascara was performing. Sadly, the sample was from a pricey company, but it set me on a journey to find a drugstore dupe that would make my eyes look like a Disney princess. The more I experimented with mascara, the braver I felt trying different brands of eyeshadows, blushes, and foundations. I uncovered some gems too, except with foundations. I actually loved the foundation my mother picked out, but the brand repackaged and renamed it, and thought they no longer made it. I tried at least five other powder foundations and one liquid, hoping to find something comparable, but I hated all of them. For years, I have been covering my face with garbage I was just trying to use up, and I really began to hate putting on makeup.  Consequently, I began hating my face too.

At the beginning of January, I bought a new powder foundation that seemed similar to the one my mom bought me nine years ago. Since I still had the original packaging, I was able to compare the two and realized they were the same thing. It's the Loreal True Match mineral foundation, and it is amazing.  The active ingredients are clouds and angel dandruff. The powder is so soft and finely milled that it blends effortlessly.  When I used the foundation years ago, I remember having a conversation with my sister-in-law about my makeup routine and telling her I didn't use concealer. She was shocked. How can you live without concealer? However, when I ran out of that original foundation and began to purchase other brands, the need for concealer quickly became apparent. This worried me. Was my skin betraying me at such a young age and deteriorating rapidly?  Was my nose always this red?  Were my cheeks always this blotchy? It took me a while to realize it was not my skin that had changed so suddenly.  It was the new foundations that severely lacked the effortless coverage I'd become accustomed to.

Here is a stripe of permanent marker and five samples of foundations from my makeup drawer.  The Loreal foundation is the light one in the middle (because it's winter and I'm a pale princess).  It actually masks a lot of the red, and when it blends out, it looks creamy and flawless.  The two on either side of the Loreal have zero coverage (and yes, they are powder foundations, not just pressed powder)  The bottom one was okay, but when I wore it on my face, it looked like sidewalk chalk. The top shade is a liquid foundation that oxidizes to a lovely shade of orange.  On days when I'm going for that Ompa Lompa look, this foundation is perfect.  Just not on all of the other days, you know?

Here's a picture of my face, so you see the full effect of this mineral makeup.  The left side is bare, and the right side has nothing but powder foundation which masks my red nose, freckles, splotchy cheeks, and leaves me with an airbrushed finish. (Bonus: If you want to look like you are glowing from within, add a little Elf illuminating powder to the top of the cheeks. Gorgeous.) I know this is such a strange thing for me to write about, and believe me, there is no end to the discomfort I feel posting this. However, this foundation made a significant impact on my month.  I felt less self-conscious and looked forward to getting ready in the morning with fast and flawless makeup.