Friday, February 27, 2015

My Third Fashion Post, and My First Stitch Fix

Update: I posted this several days ago and have really enjoyed the FB comments and messages I've gotten from friends who've read this. A few have surprised me by thinking I look good in things I didn't think flattered me. As I look over the pictures, I'm realizing that nothing looked truly awful, but at the same time, I don't think I was being unnecessarily harsh on myself. So much of how you look in something is reflected by how comfortable you feel in what you're wearing. I was very comfortable with some of the clothes, as you'll read below, and not so comfortable with others!

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Well, folks. I've written over a thousand posts on this blog over the past 10 years. Of those 1,000+ posts, I've published exactly two that focus on fashion.

We have Vestis Virum Reddit, and Two Chopin Trips, and a Jealous Sister, both published in 2004. Although I just now posted vanity links to both of them, I won't ask you to read them. They're both pretty much about the same thing: How poor my sense of fashion is, and how and why I hate to shop.

So I was kind of excited when I learned about Stitch Fix. Here's how it works:
  1. You fill out a questionnaire about your likes, dislikes, sizes, etc.
  2. For $20, Stitch Fix assigns a "stylist" to pick stuff out for you.
  3. You get a present package with five new items of clothing on your doorstep. Included is a note from your stylist, plus some cards giving suggestions about what to wear with the different items.
  4. You try everything on and decide what you want to keep.
  5. Within three days, you send back what you don't want.
  6. You're charged for whatever you keep. That $20 styling fee? It goes toward payment for the clothes.
Nice, huh? They say the first few "fixes" aren't always great, since your stylist is just getting to know you and your tastes, but that things get better over time.

I decided to try it. Couldn't hurt, could it? Worst case, I hate all the clothes and I'm out $20. Not a big deal because I have a job.

So here it is, folks (drum roll) ...

My First Stitch Fix Experience

Lots of Stitch Fixers videotape the whole thing -- getting the box, opening the box, looking at the clothes, etc. I didn't do that. Maybe next time. Maybe not. Here's what I got:

Item #1: Pixley Edmond Chevron Print Henley Shirt

When I saw the picture, I wrinkled my nose. I'm not a fan of chevrons. They remind me too much of Charlie  Brown. And I'm not crazy about "busy" patterns.


I liked the shirt a little better when I took it out of the box, mainly because the colors are prettier than they look in this little picture, and the soft fabric is heavenly to the touch. Here's what it looks like on me:


Not bad. Not great, but not bad. Since it isn't petite, it's a little big in the neck and shoulders, but I think it would look great if I added a necklace.

Here's what I like about the shirt:
  • Soft fabric - This is a really big plus. The shirt is super-comfortable.
  • Sleeves - I love the length, and I can make them longer if I want
  • Henley - I've always liked this style
  • I think the shirt goes well with my curly hair
Here's what I don't like:
  • Chevrons - Good grief.
  • Cost - At $54, it's pricey. More than I would typically pay for a shirt.
  • Pattern - While I like that it kind of complements my curls, I think the "busy-ness" of it kind of washes me out.
The verdict? Do I keep it or send it back? I finally decided to sent this one back. If it had been $20 less, I probably would have kept it, but I just couldn't justify spending $54 on a casual top I wasn't crazy about.

Item #2: Fun2Fun Lamont Tile Print Blouse

This was another one I wasn't sure I'd like, mainly because of the busy pattern. But like how it's paired with a bright jacket in the picture, and I have some junky-looking jeans just like the ones shown here!


The fabric felt kind of silky, which I liked. So I tried it on.


Not crazy about this one. I think part of the problem is that it isn't a petite shirt. Even though it's a size small, it looks boxy on me. My small waist is one of my better features, and this shirt just made me look like a block.

Here's what I like about the shirt:
  • Neckline is kind of fun.
  • It would be fun to pair with a brightly colored sweater or jacket.
  • Would be a great shirt for dressing up a pair of jeans.
Here's what I don't like:
  • The busy pattern totally washes me out.
  • The cut/style turns me into a box.
The verdict? Do I keep it or send it back? Send back.

Item #3: Just Black Faye Skinny Jean

Despite the name of the designer, these jeans are not black. They are gray. And they are beautiful


You can't really see them in the picture, so here's what they look like on me:


(Sorry for the weird angle.) As you can see, I'm wearing the chevron shirt from above. I'm also wearing these jeans in the picture of me in the Fun2Fun top above.

Here's what I like about the jeans:
  • Fabric - Soft and stretchy. Very comfortable.
  • Appearance - They look good on me.
  • Color - They are different, and a little dressier, than my run-of-the-mill blue jeans.
Here's what I don't like:
  • Length - They're a little long. Not a problem if I wear them with heeled boots, but I have to roll them up if I'm going to wear flats.
  • Nothing else. I pretty much love these jeans.
The verdict? Do I keep them or send them back? Keep!

Item #4: Kristah Ruffle Knit Blazer

I'm not a blazer type, so I wasn't sure about this at first.


As with the other items, the soft fabric won me over! I don't remember telling my stylist I like soft fabrics, but she definitely made some good choices with the fabrics. Here's a picture of the jacket on me. I'm showing it from the side so you can see the cute ruffled back.


I'm still wearing the skinny jeans, BTW. I didn't want to take them off.

Here's what I like about the blazer:
  • Soft fabric - So comfortable. It doesn't have that stuffy "blazer" feel about it at all. It's more of a t-shirt/sweatshirt material.
  • Sleeves - I love that they're 3/4 length.
  • Ruffle - I don't think of myself as a "ruffle" type, but I love how it dresses up the blazer, yet makes it feel less blazer-y.
  • Fit - It fits me really well. I don't know if it's a petite, but it has a petite feel to it.
Here's what I don't like:
  • I'm not crazy about blazers. I think I would rather wear a sweater. Then again, buying this doesn't mean I have to quit wearing sweaters.
The verdict? Do I keep it or send it back? Keep!

Item #5: Cleokai Marta Wrap Dress

I was hoping this would be another "I-don't-like-the-picture-but-maybe-it'll-look-nice-on-me-after-I-try-it-on" things. Because I really didn't like this dress when I saw the picture.


I hesitate to even add the photo below. Not only does the dress look awful on me, but my daughter, who is dressed in clashing stripes, insisted on posing with me. I now fear this picture will show up in some Buzzfeed "Clashing Mother-Daughter Pics" listing someday.


Let's all say "ugh" together. Ready? UGH!

Here's what I like about the dress:

Here's what I don't like:
  • The weird color combo with the stripes. The stripes in general.
  • The fit. Folks, this is what happens when you put a non-petite dress on a petite person. Technically, it's the right size, but the proportions are all wrong--the torso is too wide, the shoulders are too wide, and the neckline is ... yes, too wide. And then the horizontal stripes just make everything look wider.
  • The thin belt. You can't really see it here, but I'm not a big fan of thin belts. And I prefer dresses that don't "cut me in half" the way this one does.
  • The pattern. In addition to the stripes, I mean. As with the sleeveless blouse, I just feel like the busy pattern washes me out. 
The verdict? Do I keep it or send it back? Send it back.

So, overall, I'm pretty happy with my first "fix." Kudos to my stylist, Emily, on this first go-'round. The wrap dress and the sleeveless shirt didn't work out, but she picked three things that I like, and I've decided to purchase at least two of them.

Interested in Trying Stitch Fix?

Click here to check it out. If you click that link (or this one here), I'll get a $25 referral credit that I can then apply to my next fix! So please, try it for yourself! And let me know your experience!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Looking Back on 2014

The year 2014 had its struggles. It had its ups and downs. Here are some reflections on how the past year has been for me. Questions are from last year (which I got from Simple Mom, a blog that I, admittedly, haven't read in a long time).

1. What was the single best thing that happened this past year?
I got a job--one where I'm doing meaningful work and working with a great group of people. I love my work, and the income has allowed us to make huge strides toward getting out of debt. And that has been unbelievably good for morale. Oh, and we also moved out of a house that Hubster hated into a house that we both love. It's the first house we've lived in that we both like. That's really helped make life easier--just liking where we live.

(Hubster's answer: "I think the single best thing that happened to you this year was getting your meds straightened out.")

2. What was the single most challenging thing that happened?
Not long after I started my job last June, I started having issues with my medications. This caused a bumpy first few months at work--I was sure I was going to get fired. I tried a new medication in an effort to "get my brain back," and that was a disaster. I was certain that I was going to have to be hospitalized again for depression. I ended up quitting all the meds except one, so things are better now. But it was a huge struggle of a year, mental-health-wise.

3. What was an unexpected joy this past year?
I ended up really liking a lot of things I wasn't sure I'd like: our new house, Scout's new school, my job. (Actually, I was pretty sure I'd like the job. The unexpected non-joy was the struggle I had when I first started it.)

Also, Scout is growing more amazing than I ever dreamed she would be. I shouldn't be surprised, but it's hard to expect things you were never able to imagine in the first place.

4. What was an unexpected obstacle? 
The novel I was writing, which was so easy to write for the 40 days it took to compose the first draft, ended up being something I fought against for the better part of the year. This was very disheartening, and I'm still trying to get past it.

5. Pick three words to describe this past year (or to describe yourself this past year).
Insecure. Afraid. Frustrated.

6. Pick three words your spouse would use to describe your year—don’t ask them; guess based on how you think your spouse sees you.
Dedicated. Busy. Distracted.

7. Pick three words your spouse would use to describe their past year—again, without asking. Improved over 2013! (Hubster had kind of a crappy 2013. Things got better for him on all fronts this year.)

8. What was the best book you read this year?
I read quite a few books on writing, along with a bunch of trashy novels. And then, in November, I re-read Pride and Prejudice. And that was the best book I read this year.

9. With whom were your most valuable relationships?
My daughter and my husband.

10. What was your biggest personal change from January to December of this past year?
I am no longer on medication. I also have extremely curly hair, which I didn't have last January. (See picture below!) The curls are completely natural. My hair just decided last spring that it was going to be curly. I couldn't do a thing about it.

11. In what way(s) did you grow emotionally? I am learning to stop blaming my shortcomings on conditions found in the DSM-V. It's very difficult to differentiate what is "mental illness" and what is simply laziness or lack of confidence . . . but I'm learning to do that. Or trying to.

12. In what way(s) did you grow spiritually? Oh, me. I could write a book on that ...

13. In what way(s) did you grow physically? 
I gained five pounds! Yay! (I needed to gain five pounds!) In the first two pictures, taken in late 2013, you can see that my face is thin and kind of gaunt. Not so in the bottom picture, which was taken in December 2014!


The not-so-great news is that 2014 was probably the least healthy year I've had in a long, long time. So, along with so many other folks, I've made a resolution to get back to my eating-right-and-exercising ways.

14. In what way(s) did you grow in your relationships with others?
Scout is becoming more mature, and that's being reflected in our relationship with each other. I love being able to have conversations with her, and I feel like our relationship is a totally different animal now than it was a year ago. I also improved my relationship with the Hubster. Due to a number of factors, we managed to spend more time together this year than we typically have in the past.

15. What was the most enjoyable part of your work (both professionally and at home)? Learning new things! Working with great people! Being in Asheville! Having an income!

16. What was the most challenging part of your work (both professionally and at home)? Starting my job and having it be incredibly hard to learn because my medication was making me so stupid. It was unbelievable how much easier life became after I stopped taking the Depakote.

17. What was your single biggest time waster in your life this past year?
Oversleeping. But I think I might have a sleep disorder of some kind (my new Fitbit tells me I average about 2.5 hours a night of sleep, even though I'm in bed for 8-9 hours per night), so maybe my answer next year will be different.

18. What was the best way you used your time this past year?
One-on-one time with Hubster, and one-on-one time with Scout.

19. What was biggest thing you learned this past year? 
My kid and my husband are more important than my writing dreams.

20. Create a phrase or statement that describes this past year for you.
Struggling for/against contentment? (That doesn't seem to make sense, but it does make sense. Trust me.)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Dear Carbamazepine,

Dear Carbamazepine,

If I'd wanted to feel hungover, I'd have gone out and drank drunk imbibed lots of good wine, or cheap wine, or heck . . . some of the "hard stuff" that I haven't touched since, oh, 1992 or so. But to be honest, I haven't felt a desire to lose myself in an alcoholic haze in a long, long time. And I certainly haven't craved a hangover. Sheesh.

But I got one, or something like it, dear Carbamazepine, thanks to you.

The Prescription. One pill for four nights, increased to two pills per night after that. Makes perfect sense, doesn't it? Well. I tried my one pill for four nights and that was fine. Then two pills for two nights and . . . ugh. It started out with a little dizziness, some slight nausea, nothing unexpected.

The Symptoms. Soon I couldn't feel my feet, other than some tingling below my ankles. And I started sweating buckets, particularly at night. I woke up Friday morning thinking I'd wet the bed. And again Saturday morning. But folks, you'll be happy to know that I haven't yet broken my 40-year not-peeing-in-the-bed streak after all, but that's how much sweat I'd excreted in the night--enough to soak my clothes and sheets.

My Weekend on Carbamazepine. So the Hubster had planned on a weekend backpacking trip with the guys for several weeks, and he left Friday morning. This was before my reaction to you, Carbamazepine, had gotten bad; otherwise, Hubster would have stayed home. Friday evening, I didn't feel great, so I let Scout watch TV and play computer games all evening. We got to bed early that night because we had fun plans for Saturday: Go to the Barnes and Noble at Biltmore Town Square, maybe go to a movie if an appropriate one was showing, and then hit the ol' Waffle House for some waffle-eatin' and Johnny Cash. Sounds like a fun day with a four-year-old, doesn't it!

Well, it would have been . . . if it weren't for you, dear Carbamazepine.

Saturday morning, I had that feeling of being somewhere between very drunk and very sick. Weirdly enough, it reminded me of the bathroom at the Chimes in Baton Rouge, probably because I experienced that very same feeling in that very same bathroom so many times back in the late 80s. I couldn't walk in a straight line and kept thinking I was going to throw up. The only difference between Saturday morning and the Chimes was that I wasn't being further nauseated by the familiar old aftertaste of Bacardi and Diet Coke.

Still, my sweet kid was so excited about going to B&N, so we went to B&N, which we probably shouldn't have done, considering how dizzy I was.

Oh, me. When we got there, I found I could barely walk. I thought, "You know, I haven't had much to eat today. Maybe I just need some food in my belly." So we went to a burger place (I figured I needed a large dose of protein). I sat on the floor of the burger place for several minutes, so sick I thought I was going to throw up right there. But I was merely dry-heave-y, thanks to you, Carbamazepine. Oh, how I've missed my dry-heaving hangover days from so long ago. (Insert eye-roll here.)

So right there, sitting on the floor of the burger joint for twenty or so minutes, I sent out the modern woman's version of the APB: I posted my location to Facebook, said I was sick and couldn't drive, and hoped someone was in the vicinity to pick me up. Probably not the smartest thing to do, but I wasn't thinking very straight.

My sister (who I suppose I could have just called, but she was having a fun pajama day with her young daughters) saw the FB post and was able to pick us up. We went by my house to pick up clothes, she brought us to her house, where I promptly went to bed (at around 5:30) for the most part of fifteen hours.

I did wake up a few times with another hangover (or a continuation of the one from before) and spent a couple of those hours on the floor of my sister's bathroom, kneeling before the porcelain god.

Now. Now I'm feeling a little better--good enough to do something other than lie in bed and/or hang out on the bathroom floor. I also got some food in me and drank lots of water and only a little coffee since I'm probably pretty dehydrated.

Should We Break Up Already? Should we break up already, dear Carbamazepine? My pharmacist brother-in-law said it could be more of a dosage issue than the medicine itself--which means I have too much of you in my system, or maybe too little, or maybe you and Fluoxetine just aren't playing well together. If you're able to perform as a desperately-needed "mood stabilizer" for me, then perhaps we just need to make changes in how much we see of each other.

Whatever it is, dear Carbamazepine, I'm not very happy with our relationship right now. That is all.

Your pet guinea pig,

Waterfall

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Things I Would Rather Do Than Write

Here's a short list of things I would, at this moment, rather do than write:

1. Work out.
2. Eat chocolate.
3. Watch TV.
4. Do logic puzzles.
5. Do math puzzles.
6. Play piano.
7. Go hiking with my husband and kid.
8. Fold clothes.
9. Vacuum.
10. Clean the bathrooms.
11. Take a walk.
12. Go for a run.
13. Look at old pictures on Facebook.
14. Phone a friend.
15. Dance.

Considering I would rather do math puzzles and clean bathrooms than write, you can imagine how desperately I've been avoiding writing this past week.

But . . .

The Hubster said he will never support me in my writing endeavors again if I don't finish this book. So I have to finish it. And I have to finish it before the end of the month. October 31 is my set-in-stone deadline.

So. It's time to get started. It's noon and the Hubster and Scout have gone hiking--something I really wanted to do, but I told myself I'm not allowed to have fun until I finish this thing.

So. Now that I've procrastinated for another 30 minutes since starting this blog post, I guess I'll write.

Either that, or floss. Or crack all of my knuckles. Again.


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Ten Things from the Last Seven Months.

I’m going to write. And write and write and write. I haven’t posted here since March, so, for posterity’s sake, I suppose I should catch myself (and you, my devoted readership of two) up on what’s been happening for the last seven months of my life.

1. I’ve been keeping a written journal. I hate that word “journal.” I’ve been keeping a notebook. One of those old-fashioned ones with the lined paper and curlicue-wire bindings. So, even though I haven’t been writing here, I’ve been writing.

2. Speaking of writing, I’ve spent the past year working on a novel. Like all the other novels I’ve started, it seems to be falling apart just as I’m getting toward the end of it. None of the other novels ever got finished, so I fear this one is headed for the same fate. If I were hand-writing the wretched thing, I would throw it across the room and delight in the sound of it hitting the wall with great force. However, since I’m typing it on a laptop, I can’t do that. Which means lots of pent-up frustration in my throwing arm. Which also happens to be my writing arm, coincidentally enough.

3. My kid is almost FIVE YEARS OLD. She’s in PRE-KINDERGARTEN. She’s READING at a third- or fourth-grade level. She’s taking BALLET and is showing some TALENT at it. She can color IN THE LINES. (I’m not yelling those all-caps words. I’m just saying them really loudly because they are concepts of some disbelief for me.)

4. I’ve fallen off the fitness wagon. A year ago, I was in the best shape of my life. Now I’m . . . I’m not sure what I am. I won’t say that I’m in the worst shape of my life, because I’m not. I can’t say that I’m fat, because I’m not. I’m just . . . flabby. I’ve lost a lot of muscle tone. And why? No clue. One day I just quit working out and haven’t been able to start again. Until yesterday. I did my Burn Circuit 2 yesterday, and today is core work and a short run (jog, actually). So I’m going to take my “before” pictures today and will take “after” pictures in another couple of months, after following my ChaLEAN Extreme/TurboFire hybrid workout for that long. No, I will not post them online.

5. I got a job. I’m working in customer service for a company in downtown Asheville. I work with good people and enjoy the work, plus it’s all for a good cause, so I’m pretty happy with the old professional life these days.

6. I’ve been pretty stable mentally/emotionally for almost two years, thanks to the miracle mood-stabilizer Depakote. Unfortunately, Depakote also makes me stupid and shaky (think Parkinson’s), so my pdoc and I are trying to figure out how to fix that. I’m hoping my new re-commitment to fitness, while not what the doctor ordered (the doctor likes to order pills), will have more of an effect than anything else.

6.5. I think the Depakote may also have made my hair curly. Either that, or I'm just getting old. (See #9 below.) But I now have curly, curly, curly hair. People keep asking me if I've gotten a perm.

7. I’ve played a bit of piano here and there, but not as much as I should or as much as I want to. To be honest (and why wouldn’t I be? why do we even use that phrase in the first place?), this novel has been my life for the past year. Outside of my husband, child, and job, it’s come before everything else.

8. Yes, I’m procrastinating. I’m avoiding the novel because I don’t want to get depressed at how much time I’ve spent on it and how it now seems to be falling apart. You’d think that, after a year and three drafts, the &^%$ book would have enough redeeming qualities to be completable.

9. My other favorite mode of procrastination has been puzzle books. The kind old ladies have. I think a fondness for puzzle books may be one of those “You know you’re getting old when . . .” indicators.

10. It’s time to stop procrastinating and work on the novel. I feel like a kid who’s about to get in trouble, and the novel is the principal’s office. I do not want to face it.

The End. (Oh, to be able to write those two words, once and for all, in reference to this novel!!)

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Gripey & Grouchy

I've been in a gripey, grouchy mood all morning. I haven't had a moment of "me time" in about a week. I'm not getting any today. Like an idiot, I went and volunteered for something this afternoon and am going to miss a chunk of my monthly write-in with the AsheNo group. I look forward to that thing, as it's one of the few writing times I get each month where I don't feel like I'm stealing time from something else.

This novel I'm writing has come to a standstill, and it has nothing to do with writer's block. I have the entire reverse outline written and am chomping at the bit to get started on the next draft. Problem is, between errands and school cancellations and such, I haven't had a normal day of writing in over a week. So now I'm out of the zone and I hate it. Even right now I don't feel like I can work on it because I only have about ten minutes.

Whine, whine, whine. Time to list ten good things that happened this week while I wasn't writing.

1. I got to spend the day with Scout yesterday.

2. Scout and I were sitting at an outdoor cafe yesterday, and Scout was busy charming everyone. There was this one retired couple from Florida, and then these three kids who seemed between maybe fifth grade and eleventh grade. We ended up staying at the cafe for an hour an a half because Scout was making so many friends. It baffles me that such a social butterfly came from my loins.

3. We got to celebrate Hubster's birthday yesterday.

4. I got to read some here and there.

5. Scout and I watched The Wizard of Oz together three or four times. I was so glad she wasn't terrified by the witch and the flying monkeys the way I was when I first saw it as a child.

6. I went (mostly) gluten-free starting last week. I'm amazed at how much bread I used to eat.

7. Scout and I made fun little Easter egg decorations for her friends and teachers.

8. My little niece, SG, said my name for the first time last week.

9. Hubster has lost a few pounds.

10. We interviewed (successfully, I think) with the school we want Scout to go to next year. We'll find out for sure sometime this week if she's been accepted.

Ah. I was starting to feel better when Scout came running into the room, crying because I put milk in her cereal when she wanted it dry. (This was thirty minutes after telling me she wanted it with milk.) On top of that, she can't find her stickers. And she doesn't want to eat her sog-fest of a breakfast at her little table because the seat is not comfortable.

AARRGGHH!!

Back to gripey and grouchy again!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Burn Circuiting

My hair is sweat-soaked, doing what it does most naturally: parting itself right down the middle of my head, curling up into wings at the sides and at my temple, and poofing into two Golden-Arches-style bumps on either side of the middle part at the top of my head. My clothes are icky and sticky, and I probably stink. I can definitely smell the mix of sweat and the Aveda stuff I used yesterday. And it smelled so good when I squeezed it out of the bottle and ran it through my hair ...

But I'm happy because I finally worked out. Today's workout was Burn Circuit 1. I love that workout.

I've been procrastinating on workouts for weeks. I don't know why because I usually enjoy exercise. I think part of the reason is all the writing I've been doing: Writing simply offers more instant gratification than exercising does.

Each night, I plan to wake up and exercise first thing in the morning. Then, when I wake up the next morning, I tell myself I'll exercise while Scout is at school. And then, when Scout is at school, I tell myself I'll exercise after she gets home. Of course, it's impossible to exercise when she's home. So then I tell myself I'll exercise after Hubster gets home. But with dinner and dishes and Hubster-time and everything else, evening is the worst time for working out. So that night, after a full day of saying I'll work out, I promise myself a workout first thing the next morning.

Repeat. Rinse. Repeat.

I'm hoping I've started a new habit here. My plan is to work out while Scout is at school until I get addicted to exercising again. Once I'm addicted, it will be easy to change my workout time to 5:30 a.m. I know that from experience. And I'm going to post something here each time I complete a workout.

I know this is a very random, unexciting, and self-absorbed post (like most of the ones I've written in the past few years), but I wanted to publish this so it could give me some measure of accountability.

If you're reading this post and wouldn't mind leaving a comment, please leave one that says something to the effect of, "Now I know about your secret goal! Bwa-ha-ha-ha!"

Thank you! Shower time!