more on this health thing.

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So, I’ll start off with the nitty gritty which is, I’m sure, what you all want to know most: On day 8, I have lost a total of 5.5 pounds and one inch off my waist :D. I’m even starting to feel and see a few muscles.

I keep going back and forth with being impressed about the shakes, and right now I’m back to not terribly impressed. It didn’t seem to make a noticeable difference to my energy level after the first day, and I’ve yet to find a flavor/texture combination that actually tastes good. I mean, it’s all right, but not great, you know? So my plan is to finish out the supply I have, and then not drink them for a month, and see if there’s a noticeable difference in energy and/or weight loss.

The food part of the equation hasn’t been overall too difficult, either, though a little frustrating with trying to find different ways to prepare vegetables that doesn’t involve smothering them in butter, salt, and/or cheese. I’ve managed to come up with some tasty concoctions, though, and I’ve even gotten the mister to grin and bear it through his broccoli and carrots.

The workouts are getting progressively easier for me to do, which would be expected, I would think. I like that they work out a different group of muscles every day. I have discovered, though, that I utterly and completely despise ab workouts. I suppose that once I have a little less fluff in the general abdominal area, I’ll be able to do a crunch without popping blood vessels in my head. Until then I’ll just resort to doing a few crunches and then just repeatedly lifting my legs/hips up off the floor, which seems to work out the same muscles without trying to dislocate any vertebrae.

The absolute most annoying and frustrating part of this whole program, though, are the damned fruit flies. When you don’t really keep any fruit in your house, you don’t tend to have too many issues with them, but this past week they have invaded my space with abandon. What is it that works for them? Apple cider vinegar and dish soap? Anyone have a wading pool I can set up in my living room?

i haven’t started throwing DVDs yet, so there’s that.

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I really, truly, honestly thought I’d be making a post today about how much I wanted to die.

But in all honesty, it hasn’t been too bad. The food part of it has actually been almost easy.

Instead of my usual morning coffee with an obscene amount of creamer and sugar, I just mixed it with one of the chocolate Shakeology shakes, and that was breakfast. And, honestly, I’m a little reluctantly impressed with the shakes. It did taste a little like Slim Fast, but better (after the first couple of sips), and while it wasn’t exactly delicious, it was pretty good. I didn’t add anything else to it this morning because I wanted to judge the energy level it gave me on its own merit, but starting tomorrow I’ll experiment with different fruits and see how it goes. Now, to be clear, I need my morning cup of coffee to achieve any level of functionality higher than an angry, mentally challenged orangutan. It doesn’t give me any extra boost of energy. So I’m attributing the extra energy boost to the shake, and it was pretty impressive. We’ll see if the trend continues for the rest of the month.

Lunch was a salad with a chopped up chicken thigh (minus the skin) leftover from night before last’s dinner. Dinner was a baked pork chop with apple slices on top, peas and corn on the cob (I’m on a diet?). I had a boiled egg for a snack (tentatively; I don’t want to talk about my love-hate relationship with eggs) and I just finished off a peach-pineapple-banana smoothie with coconut oil, which was a little reminiscent of a sex on the beach and amazing. I actually have enough various servings left over to make up another meal, but I’ll probably just have a banana or something in a couple of hours to keep my stomach from being growly when I go to bed.

The biggest food-related issue today was denying the craving for a Dr Pepper and not adding extra salt to anything. (Okay, I cheated a little and had salt on the boiled egg. I practically never have eggs, so I gave myself a little leeway there. But trust me, that being the only thing I actually added salt to all day was a hell of an accomplishment. I treat bouillon cubes like hard candy, for heaven’s sake.)

All right, so the food thing, I’ve got that down. I even got the mister on board with me, minus the shakes, because while I might be willing to spend $130 a month (maybe) on them, there is no way in hell that’s bumping up to $260.

I started the workout today with “Total Body Cardio Fix”, which was definitely not easy. I had to follow the modified version for a lot of it, and there is one move which involves getting down on your knees and getting back up again that I’m pretty sure actually caused my knees to start throwing tea bags into the harbor. Also, I am not good at crunches. But I did finish the full thirty minutes, and I did keep moving through the whole thing, so I feel like I deserve a gold star for that, at least. And the ankle I’ve been having problems with isn’t even bothering me too much, thanks to the preemptive strike I took involving an ankle brace.

Now, that being said, I am in a pretty good amount of pain at the moment, mostly in my inner thighs, and I have definitely been getting up and down like a 70-year-old woman for the majority of the day. But tomorrow is “Upper Fix”, so that should hopefully give my legs a rest, and I can moan and groan about my abs and my shoulders all day tomorrow.

All in all, considering that I had been completely sedentary and eating crap up until now, I feel pretty good about today. And I’m fairly optimistic about just about everything right now except for actually getting up the stairs to go to bed.

this health thing

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So, I did it. I bought into a diet plan.

I know, I know. Just hear me out.

The package I got in the mail today contained Beachbody’s “21 Day Fix”:

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What we have here is lots of pictures of the scantily clad woman who developed the program. She’s a bikini competitor, whatever that means. I guess if she looks better in a bikini than her opponents she wins? I don’t know. Regardless, amongst the many, many pictures of this lady and the many (to be expected, I guess) “before” and “after” photos of people who may or may not have actually seen their results from this particular program, I feel like I have the bones of something that might be pretty effective, assuming that I actually follow it and don’t start chucking workout DVDs at the walls and wallowing around in cheeseburgers and Doritos three days into it.

The main draw of the program is the portion containers. I have seven of them in bright, pretty colors, and each of them is coordinated to a different type of food. To go with these is the eating plan, which details how many of which container I can have each day. This number is directly related to my caloric need, which is calculated by a formula given in the eating plan booklet. I have no idea where the formula comes from, but it doesn’t seem wildly off and doesn’t equate to starving myself, so we’ll go with it.

Next are the workout DVDs. I have no idea how effective these are and have no way of judging them, because I have personally never used workout DVDs before. I’m not watching them before I start them, either, because I have a feeling that they will terrify me and I’ll shut down and go cry in a corner before I even get started. But there are a total of three DVDs with eight thirty minute workouts and two ten minute workouts.

The third basic component of the program are the Shakeology shakes. They’re not an integral part of the program, but apparently Beachbody is doing a special and the shakes were included in the package. They are also about $130 for a 30-day supply, so these had better be some badass shakes. Seriously, I’m willing to try the 30-day supply I got with the package, but I’m going to have to be pretty damned impressed to spend that much money monthly on amped-up Slim Fast.

There is also a calendar with recipes for the shakes, which is pretty neat, and a little pamphlet called “3 Day Quick Fix”, which is a starvation diet and not healthy at all.

So, after taking my last day to officially pig out (mmm, sweet and sour chicken and tempura shrimp and vegetables) I’ll be starting this tomorrow. I have quite a lot of weight to lose before I’m in a healthy place, so obviously three weeks is not going to be some kind of miracle fix. The idea is to continue to eat according to the program until I hit my ideal weight, and then transition over to weight management, which is the real appeal behind it all — it teaches how to eat correctly, instead of promising a miracle and then kicking you headfirst out on your own when they program is done. The workouts are meant to be done for three weeks at a time with a few days of light activity in between.

I plan to check in a few times during the next three weeks, so that you can all join in my misery as I think longingly about Double Quarter Pounders and Domino’s.

i feel like brain to mouth filters should be something we can issue at birth.

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I’m in a mood today. Actually, I’ve been in a mood for a few days, and felt the need to rant about the things people say that annoy and/or piss me off, because I am the type of person that lets this stuff build up for months on end before I get pissed off enough to say anything about it. So if you’re looking for warm fuzzies today, I do not have them.

These are not of any particular category, other than the “things I lay awake at night getting pissed off about” category.

-“Oh, you’re an artist?/Are you still painting and drawing?/Do you do (landscapes/portraits/dog butts)? You should paint/draw _______, that would be beautiful!”

No. I shouldn’t. Let me tell you why: I don’t want to, or I would have already done it. Or I already have plans to and haven’t gotten around to it. Regardless, it isn’t up to you to tell me what I should or shouldn’t be creating, unless I’m taking a class from you or you’re paying me. If you give me money, I will happily paint/draw/crayon whatever you like, but until then, you don’t get an opinion on what I as an artist choose to create — or not create. For some reason, the main suggestion people make is usually some kind of landscape, and I don’t really understand this. I don’t know why people seem to think that any landscape I paint is going to be more beautiful than what they can actually see with their own eyes. Or why they think a landscape deserves to be painted, for that matter. Yes, it’s beautiful; that doesn’t mean it needs to be on canvas. Take a photo. Because chances are if I were to paint it, it would probably be in funky colors and there would be something “off” about it that makes you uncomfortable, anyway.

-“How did you do that (painting/drawing/dog butt sculpture)?”

I can’t tell you. It’s not a trade secret or anything, I just literally could not tell you, even if I tried. Artwork (for me) does not involve a recipe or an instruction manual. I piddle around for a a little bit, take a step back and look, piddle around some more, rinse, and repeat. I eyeball and I guess and I experiment and practically none of this involves thinking about explaining how I do it, I just do it. You are not a scientist (probably) and can’t explain the exact chemistry behind why your cake rises, and I am not teacher and cannot explain the method behind my madness, because there isn’t any, and what there is has become so second nature that I don’t realize it’s method anymore. (If, incidentally, you can explain the chemistry behind batter expansion, insert your own analogy and stop being a pedant.)

-“How did you get the idea to do that?”

I went out to my inspiration garden and picked an idea flower. I don’t know, it just happens. My mind flies frantically around in endless circles most of the time and occasionally it lands on something worth putting on a canvas or paper or computer screen. If I knew the secret behind where ideas come from, trust me, I’d tell you, and then maybe people would quit bugging artists about where they get their ideas and artists would quit feeling compelled to come up with detailed explanations that they probably thought up after the fact specifically because they knew that they would be asked that question.

-“I wish I had your talent. I’ve never been very crafty.”

This is a two-parter. Firstly, do you not understand what an awkward statement this is for me? People have been saying this to me for most of my life and I still have no idea how to respond. I can’t give you what I can do, and I can’t teach you, so what do you want from me? I understand that this is supposed to be a compliment (somehow), so is this a situation where I’m supposed to say, “Thank you?” I feel like that’s probably not it. It’s also a little presumptuous. I don’t have very much raw talent. I’ve been drawing and painting for most of my life and threw entirely too much money at schooling for it. You can tell because the stuff that I do right now, out of practice, is hardly up to par with the work I did during college when I was doing it all the time. If you picked up a pencil at three years old and never put it down except to graduate to paintbrushes, and then went on to burn an extortionate amount of midnight oil in studios that reeked of turpentine and linseed oil, and still can’t manage much more than a stick figure, then you can be wistful about my “talent.” Otherwise you’re discrediting the 25 years or so of practice I’ve had at it.
Secondly, I understand you’re a victim of a society where “art” is indelibly linked to “craft,” but stop. Just stop there. I’m not going to go into definitions here because they can get a little muddy, so let’s just boil it down to this: Leatherworking, woodworking, things you make with paper and glue and string, those are crafts, though they can be artistic and in some cases can very well be art. Painting, drawing, sculpture, etc., those are arts and are not always art (and we are definitely not getting into that discussion, as there are whole college courses dedicated to that one). My painting is not a craft, although painting may be my craft.
Just don’t tell a painter they’re crafty, okay? Use the word “artistic.” It’s safer.

-“Do you want kids?”/”When are you going to have kids?”

The only person who is not related to me who can get away with this question with zero offense taken is my best friend, and she does not ask because she knows the answer because I willingly discussed it with her without her having to ask. It is a complicated one, as a person might guess by the fact that I am 28 and do not have any children. At this point, it’s a pretty safe bet that either I don’t want them or I don’t want to talk about it, and it’s an incredibly nosey question to ask, anyway. You’d have to be living under a rock at this point in history to not be aware that a lot of people exist in the world to whom the having of children is a sensitive topic, so it would behoove everyone to stop being so damn inquisitive about it, especially if this is the first time I’ve ever even had a conversation with you. “What church do you go to?” “How long have you lived here?” “Are you married?” “Do you work?” Even “Do you have kids?” These are all acceptable conversation topics for someone you don’t know all that well. “Do you want kids?” is not. Worry about your own uterus, mine is my business.

-“You’re so brave to marry into the military! I could never do that.”

Okay, first of all, I did not “marry into the military.” My husband and I had been married for three years when he joined, and it was a decision that he made sure I was okay with before he ever stepped foot into a recruiter’s office. Even if I hadn’t been okay with it, I never would have tried to keep him from doing it, because I love him and want his happiness above all else, and also because my job at Long John Silver’s — which I was definitely not interested in making into a career — kind of paled in comparison to a career in the military. There was nothing brave on my part about him enlisting; quite the contrary, it was a lifeline that saved us from a paycheck to paycheck lifestyle where we had to decide between paying the electric bill this month or getting groceries.

-“I could never stay at home and not work. I’d feel so useless, like I’m not contributing. I like to contribute to my household.”

Do you even understand what you’re saying to me when you voice this opinion? Me, the stay at home wife*, who doesn’t have a job or draw a paycheck? Think about the words that are about to come out of your mouth before you say them, and you’ll keep a lot more friends. You wouldn’t tell a vet that you couldn’t do their job because you’re not heartless enough to be able to euthanize an animal, so don’t tell a stay at home wife that you couldn’t live her life because you’re not lazy enough.
*I actually did go out this month and get a job, with the intention of gaining ground a little more quickly on the paying of debts. I worked for two and a half weeks before I put in my notice, and my last day of work is August third. I love everything about being a homemaker and missed it dearly. The only thing that would make it better would be if I could actually talk someone into giving me a paycheck for it.

-“My (really old relative or friend or acquaintance) smoked for 20/30/40/150,000 years and quit cold turkey. If they can do it, anyone can.”

I hate any statement that ends with, “If ____ can do it, anyone can.” Because it is categorically untrue about everything. I don’t care if your 97 year old aunt with leukemia who has been on radiation treatments for a year and a half just finished a marathon, there is a 20 year old out there somewhere who wouldn’t be able to do it. You’re insulting the person who has legitimate reasons for not being able to do whatever by telling them they just don’t have enough willpower or spunk or dedication to do it. Smoking, specifically, is a very personal thing, and believe it or not, not everyone can just put them down and quit. Everyone’s level of addiction is different and everyone’s level of tolerance for withdrawals is different. Also, if you’re not a smoker, there is basically no reason to have a conversation about quitting with a smoker unless they initiate it. There is almost always absolutely nothing you can tell them that they don’t already know, and nothing you say is going to convince them to stop until they are personally ready to do it. Most smokers have had people telling them their entire lives how bad smoking is — what makes you think that you’re so super special that you’re going to be the one person who has enough power to convince them to quit? You’re not. I don’t care if it’s your spouse or your parents or your kid, or how close you are to them, they will not quit until they are ready and likely the only thing that trying to convince them otherwise is going to do is piss them off.

This is why I hide in my house 90% of the time.

that old habit seems to be dying pretty easily, actually.

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It’s been about 49 hours since my last cigarette, and I’m still pretty much okay! Here is what’s keeping me sane, by the way:

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The coffee flavor is what’s helping me right now. The vanilla is sitting in a dark cabinet with the top off in hopes that it might eventually not taste like death in a drip bottle.

The most difficult part so far is right after I wake up. It takes a little longer for the nicotine to absorb with a vaporizer, so if I’m actually having a craving it takes about an hour to completely assuage it as opposed to the instant satisfaction I’d get from a cigarette. That combined with what has up until now been my morning ritual of coffee and a cigarette has really made that the only real difficult part of any of this — and it’s really not that hard. It’s not a magic potion that makes me never want another cigarette again, ever, but it’s effective enough that I can definitely see it replacing them.

Vaping has had its other perks, too. Either the e-liquid or the act of vaping itself seems to be a bit of an appetite suppressant for me, at least for now. I still get hungry and I don’t forget to eat, but I’m not thinking about food all the time and I don’t realize I’m hungry until my stomach actually starts growling. Since I can do it inside I can vape almost absent-mindedly, which satisfies the hand-to-mouth urge and means I don’t get munchy. It’s also made me up my water consumption — the vaping dries my mouth out a little, just enough so that drinking tea or soda just doesn’t cut it and I actually want water instead. Before this I pretty much exclusively drank sweet tea, with a soda or two a day, so that means that my sugar consumption has dropped drastically and I’m better hydrated.

All in all, I’m very impressed (and pretty surprised, honestly) at how well this is working out. I may actually be on my way to being a non-smoker. My sense of smell is already starting to come back a little, and I’m greatly looking forward to being able to taste things more and not get winded going up the stairs.

old habits die hard.

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I think I was fourteen when I first really started smoking. I’m not entirely sure when “trying it out” turned into “I’m a smoker,” but it was somewhere around that age. I was probably sixteen or seventeen when I wasn’t doing it anymore because I thought it was cool, but because it had become a need. I didn’t have the nerve to try and sneak a smoke at school, but by the time I got off the bus at home my nerves were pretty raw.

Being young and immortal, I didn’t want to quit. Smoking was, truly and honestly, something I enjoyed, especially after going off to college. You meet lots of interesting people while taking a smoke break, and most of them are pretty cool. At college parties, I spent most of my time out on someone’s front porch, surrounded by drunk laughter and a cloud of smoke. For someone who was generally awkward and didn’t really know how to interact with others like a normal person, smoking was a great security blanket. It was a conversation starter, and even if the conversation didn’t go very far, there didn’t have to be this awkward silence between two strangers because we were both outside for a specific purpose, and as long as that purpose was being fulfilled it didn’t matter whether we were talking. (Nowadays people just disappear into their smart phones. We didn’t have smart phones back then, so give me back my cane and get off my damn lawn.) It translated from breaks between classes and at parties to smoke breaks at work, too. Great friendships were forged standing outside the back door of Long John Silver’s.

I did try to quit a few times, but it was usually only a few hours before I gave up. The one and only time I’ve ever had a crying, screaming, yelling fight with my husband was in 2007 when I’d managed to not smoke for almost a whole day. (To be fair, it was more me doing the crying, screaming, and yelling while he desperately tried to reason with a madwoman.) When we learned in 2012 that we’d be moving to Alaska and I found out that Marlboros were over $8 a pack here, I decided I’d quit — or at least cut down significantly — before we got there, starting a few days before we left. I bought some cigarette look-alike vaporizers, and they did help me cut down for a while, but ultimately weren’t satisfying and I had put them in a drawer and forgotten about them before we were here for a month.

Now, fourteen years after I picked up the habit, I find myself wheezing when I lay down to go to bed at night, and occasionally when I sit down to watch TV. It isn’t quite being out of breath; it’s just an annoying whistling coming from my throat. And I just don’t enjoy smoking anymore. The whole process is annoying: having to stop what I’m doing, breaking tasks up into little chunks, the anxiety of being down to my last pack, of losing my lighter when I’m out and about and don’t have access to another, of “I’d better smoke now because I may not get another chance for a while.”

So I spent about two days this week psyching myself up to pull those little e-cigarettes back out of the drawer. When I finally did, I discovered that the batteries had lost their ability to hold a charge. I really wasn’t that disappointed, because they weren’t that great anyway, and I had honestly been dreading trying to use them to cut back. So I got to Googling, and discovered this whole subculture dedicated to nicotine vaporizers and “vaping”. I didn’t even know they made e-cigarettes that didn’t look like cigarettes. I found out that there were a couple of local vaporizer stores, and made plans to go this weekend. In the meantime, I spent a lot of time reading forums and websites about vaping.

I now have in my possession two pen-style vaporizers that are about the size of a Sharpie* and two bottles of e-liquid, one in coffee and one in vanilla. The vanilla is actually pretty awful (the sample I tried in the store was fine, so I don’t know if I need to let it sit for a little while or what, but it’s like trying to inhale sandpaper), but the coffee is tasty and I am utterly astounded at how well it’s satisfying cravings. Eight hours. It has been eight hours since I’ve had a cigarette. I don’t remember the last time I’ve gone so long, but I suspect that it was probably the day that screaming, yelling, crying fight happened. I’m normally out in the garage every hour and a half or so; by two hours I’m well on my way toward some hardcore cravings and at three I’m in the midst of a full-blown nic-fit. Right now? I’m fine. Zen, almost. It isn’t that I don’t want a cigarette, but I don’t want one, either. The weirdest part so far has been not stopping everything I’m doing to go smoke — I want to go stand in the garage. I don’t have the urge to smoke, I just want to go stand in the garage and look at Facebook on my phone, because it’s become so much part of my routine that I don’t even think about doing it anymore.

I’m still not making any commitments. I’m not jumping on the quit-smoking bandwagon just yet — committing to making a drastic lifestyle change works about 0% of the time for me. So right now I’m still in a “see how it goes” kind of mode. But so far, it’s going extremely well.

*They look like crackpipes. I shit you not. My husband was actually a little nervous about me using them in public.

it’s almost six am and i haven’t gone to bed yet, so you don’t get a witty title. sorry.

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Well, technically I have been to bed, but I couldn’t sleep because I may or may not have gotten a little drunk tonight and then stayed up late enough for the hangover to go right on ahead and set in. So I started feeling sorry for myself instead, and therefore you get a whiny post. With no title. You’re welcome.

I don’t remember the very first time I was ever homesick. It seems like it was a pretty permanent state of being for me when I was very young. I would go to spend the night at my sister’s or my grandmother’s house, and I would be perfectly fine until it was time to go to bed. When bedtime hit, I was ready to be at home, in my bed. I was eight years old before I was able to stay the night anywhere that wasn’t home without crying myself to sleep and/or begging to be taken home.

I don’t remember it really being homesickness, though. I remember the unhappiness of a small child who wasn’t getting what she wanted, but I think it was more an unhappiness with the unfamiliar. (That still happens even now, twenty some-odd years later. But, in most situations, when a 28 year old woman stomps her foot and demands to be taken home she just gets funny looks, so now I just take sleeping pills.) The first time I remember real homesickness, I think I was around ten or so, when I was at 4-H camp — my first-ever sleep away camp. It was a week long, and the first night there was absolute, pure misery. I feel bad now for the slightly bewildered counselor who got stuck with rubbing my back while I sobbed into my pillow.

When I was a kid, it seemed that the first night of homesickness was the worst, and then as the time wore on the homesickness lessened. And it was an imprecise sort of longing, one where you couldn’t put your finger on exactly what it was you missed, just that you missed the general concept of home.

It’s reversed now. Of course, when home turns into a 20-some-odd-foot trailer that you’re sharing with two other people, that cures you of any homesickness for a little while. I was thrilled with our hotel rooms right after we left because they were bigger than the space I’d been living in. But as time wears on, I find that there are little things that remind me of the people I’ve left back in Tennessee, and the longer I’m away (exactly a year now since I’ve been home, not that I’m counting) the harder it hits every time.

Like when I’m cleaning the kitchen and find myself in tears because a George Strait song came on the TV and it made me think of one of my sisters. Or passing the deli cheese section at the grocery store, or seeing someone fish off the bank of a creek. I can’t even think about making my mom’s chicken dressing right now, and I’m kind of afraid to try moose because it might taste like deer and there goes the neighborhood called Laura’s dignity.

It’s a very specific pain now, attuned to very specific people. Of course I miss Tennessee in general, too (I don’t care if I never drive up/down the side of a mountain again in my life). But it’s not the same now as it was when I was a kid. Of course, part of that is probably because the actual home I grew up in is gone now, and I had to dig deep and make myself understand that that house was not actually home. I was forced to be specific with myself about what was home for me, and so as a result, my homesickness is more specific.

Daddy is coming up to visit in June, and my husband and I are taking a trip home for my sister’s wedding in October, so that’ll help a little, but I feel like it’ll make it even worse, too — because those are such short little trips, and at the ends of them I’ll have to say goodbye all over again.

Daddy’s always said that when you’re homesick, take each day five minutes at a time. If you get through the first five minutes, you can get through the next five minutes, and the five minutes after that, and so on. But I’ve got two more years to go before we have a chance to move back to the lower 48, and two years is a long span to take five minutes at a time.

On the bright side, breakup has started, which means that the snow is all melting and turning the city of Anchorage into a giant, dirty puddle. But it also means that the days are getting longer, and summer is around the corner, and summer in Alaska is amazingly gorgeous as long as you view it from the right side of the mosquito netting.

a tale of two nightstands.

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This is not a DIY blog. The reason it’s not a DIY blog is because I have grand ideas (thanks, Pinterest) and very rarely actually implement them, usually because I’m lazy and never have all the materials on hand and don’t want to leave the house to go get them. However, an idea I had recently coincided with a grocery shopping trip, and since I was going to be out anyway I went ahead and went to Lowe’s and picked up the materials I needed.

So, last year, while we were living in California, I picked up a couple of very well-loved end tables off of a yard sale site for $8, intending to temporarily use them as nightstands until we could afford an actual, nice bedroom suit.

ns1After I actually looked at prices of bedroom suits, and then just nightstands, I resigned myself to just using these for the rest of my life because holy crap that shit’s expensive. We don’t keep enough junk next to the bed to need drawers, anyway. Our bedroom, however, is done in black and white, and I was getting really tired of the clashing brown of the tables. So I took these out to the garage a couple of days ago, and sanded them down with fine grit sandpaper, just to get the shiny off, and wiped them down with Goof Off! wipes.

ns2I set them up like so on top of one of those stupid plastic drop cloths. I hate those things; trying to lay one out flat is like fighting with a room-sized piece of saran wrap, up to and including tangling yourself up in it and almost suffocating. I wouldn’t have even used one — I mean, it’s a garage, not the dining room floor — but we rent and I have a feeling that come time to move out I would end up having to scrub paint off the concrete. So anyway, after a smoke break to calm my rage at the drop cloth, I gave them a good coat with a can of Rust-oleum Universal Paint and Primer in One in Gloss Black.

ns3I got a little OCD painting the undersides, considering that no one sees that. I also didn’t need to paint the side panels, because I decided later that I wanted those white. So if I’d actually used the amount of paint I needed, I probably would have only used about a half a can instead of a full one and my garage probably wouldn’t smell so much like a chemical plant.

After a bit of drying time and a second coat, I moved them out of the way so Ben wouldn’t run them over with the car when he came home (I can only imagine the damage they would do to the Versa) and was done for the day to give the paint plenty of time to dry, since I’d be painting over it later.

The next day I brought them in and set them up on the dining room table, because I was tired of working in the garage. (Also because I was done with the spray paint, and my back was still complaining at me for bending over in weird ways to sand and paint them the day before.) Having decided at this point that I would be painting the side panels white, I taped off the bits I didn’t want white paint on.

ns5Having learned from the massive waste of paint the day before, I didn’t bother with the undersides because, like I said, no one sees that anyway. And so it was time for primer –

ns6and paint –

ns7– which needed a second coat but I decided that I kind of liked the stippling effect that you can’t really see in the photo anyway. (Also, I was getting impatient and ready to start on the top, which was where the whole idea had generated.)

The top of the tables was going to be done with Mod Podge and gift wrap. So after removing the painter’s tape, I cut my gift wrap down to size and marked where it would sit on the table with a sharpie pen.

ns8 ns9I ended up trimming it down a bit more as I went, but this gave me a good starting place. I slathered the top of the table in Mod Podge –

ns10– and very carefully smoothed the gift wrap onto the surface.

ns11I still kind of destroyed it. Apparently, when you put a sticky, glue-like substance on wrapping paper, it sort of comes to pieces and also will lose its color in places if you’re not careful. It will also wrinkle up and is very difficult to smooth back down, due to the aforementioned coming-apart-ness. It wasn’t so noticeable that I felt I had to do it over, though. Ironically, the second table actually ended up looking a lot worse than the first; because it had been kind of difficult to get the paper nice and smooth by doing the whole top at once, I decided that with the second table I would do it in sections. Unfortunately, my brain translated “sections” to mean “quarters” so by the time I was done with the second table there was a pretty good sized portion in the middle that didn’t have any Mod Podge under it because I couldn’t fit my applicator under there without tearing the paper. I was also at the point where to re-do it would mean tearing the paper up that was already down, letting it dry, sanding it again and starting over. So, needless to say, that table is on Ben’s side of the bed so I don’t have to look at it as much and I’ll do it over when it finally, inevitably tears.

So anyway, for the corners, I cut slits into the paper and pasted the little tab this created down with the Mod Podge, using my fingers to apply and get it as smooth as I could. I also apparently missed the corner of this leg with the spray paint, but as I had already used the whole can and was already half-way through the Mod Podge process I just decided I would put that leg against the wall.

ns12 ns13Once I got the corners pasted down, I did the same with the sides, using my sponge applicator to slather Mod Podge on the edge and underside of the table top and then my fingers (with lots of Mod Podge on them) to smooth it down as best I could.

ns14I then Mod Podged the top, getting my strokes as even as possible. Next time I do something like this, I think I’m going to try a roller, because I’m not a huge fan of the brushstroke look on furniture.

ns15Break for lunch! (And Under the Dome on DVR!)

ns16

Om nom nom nom nom.

After giving the Mod Podge sufficient dry time (it took a couple of hours, I had it on there pretty thick), it was back out to the garage for spray enamel (Rust-oleum Crystal Clear Enamel):

ns17And done!

ns18So it was a royal pain in the ass to do, but I’m pretty pleased with how they turned out. And they look great next to the bed!

Total cost, including the tables but not counting the materials I already had (sand paper, drop cloth, paintbrush): about $35.

southern comfort.

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Most of the people that I’ve met in my life either love the South or hate the South. Once in a while someone comes along that doesn’t care either way, but not often, and there are a few who don’t actively hate the South but do look down upon it with condescension — those dumb rednecks with their pickups and their country music and their trailer houses who quit school in eighth grade and sleep with their sisters, har de har har.

Okay, I trailed a little into bitterness there, sorry. My point is, out of all of these people, no one has stronger opinions about the South than the people who have actually lived there. I’ve never met anyone who lived in the South who said it was “okay” or “fine”. Either it was the worst hellhole they’ve ever set foot in or they love it and want their grandkids’ great grandkids to grow up there. I can’t really speak from the perspective of someone who hates the South, because I don’t, but my understanding is that this particular brand of loathing usually comes from dealing with closed minded, hyper-religious, occasionally bigoted, hypocritical people who are, unfortunately, all too present in Southern society.

(Okay, my “DING DING DING OFFENSIVE OFFENSIVE” alarm just went off, so all I’m going to say on this matter is that if you were offended by that last sentence, stop and think about why you’re all of a sudden defensive. If you’ve got nothing to be defensive about, you’ve got nothing to be offended by, because you’re not one of those people. And if you’re still offended, you probably shouldn’t be reading me because your blood pressure is just going to continue to rise.)

I’m going to go on a tangent here for just a moment, and define what I mean when I say “the South”. When most people think of the South, this is what they think of, as I understand it:

south

When I say “the South”, this is what I mean:

deepsouth

I make this differentiation because, more than anything else, I’m referencing the culture rather than the geography, and this is based largely on my experience. I’m not 100% sold that the bits of Virginia and North Carolina I’ve marked in green up there are actually part of the South, but I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. I’m also pretty sure that most of Texas is a different kind of Southern culture from the more eastern areas, but from what I’ve seen it’s close enough to include for the purposes of this discussion.

Anyway, here’s the thing. There are awful people in the South, but there are awful people everywhere. And trust me, I’ve met a whole hell of a lot more crazy people since I left the South than I did in the entire almost 26 years I lived there. (I am not, however, discounting the possibility that I’m just familiar with the brand of crazy that tends to flourish in the Southern states and therefore don’t actually recognize it as crazy. I’m just sayin’, go live in California for a little while.) But the people like myself who love the South love it because for us, the wonderful things about it outshine the bad things. We love sweet tea and biscuits with homemade sausage gravy and watermelon with a little salt and deep-fried everything. We love muggy summer nights and mild winters and watching fireflies on the porch swing and catfishing in the creek. Some of us even love hot cornbread in a glass of milk, which is a phenomenon I’ve yet to understand, but I’m apparently not doing it right.

But what I love more than anything is the people, because the crappy ones make the good ones shine even more, and the good ones are the ones who wave to you driving down the road, who smile and nod a greeting in the Wal-Mart parking lot even if they don’t know you, who stop to help you out when you’re stuck on the side of the road with a flat. The good ones are the ones who invite you over for a Sunday fish fry, or the ones who come to your fish fry and bring the potato salad in a big yellow Tupperware bowl; or the ones who, when a member of their community meets a tragedy or disaster, bring their extra food and blankets and clothes and let their church know that someone needs help. They are the backbone of Southern culture, and for every sweet-talking, back-biting hypocrite you meet, you’ll meet two more amazing souls who may talk a little slower but will move quicker’n a possum through a hole in the hen house to help you when you’re in trouble.

There really are people in the world who think that the entire South is full of people with no hygiene, no shoes, no education and no class. A Southern accent is almost automatically associated with ignorance and lack of culture, and I find that immeasurably sad. We’re a special breed of people, and we deserve to be proud of that. Yes, we have our idiots, just like any other region of the U.S., and we have our poor and our uneducated. They exist there as they do everywhere else, alongside the well-educated, the well-spoken, the groomed and the intelligent. Just because I occasionally drop “G’s” from the ends of my words or use colorful similes to describe things makes me no less intelligent, no less important than someone who doesn’t drawl their “I’s” or who happened to not grow up with an outhouse in their backyard. Which, by the way, is an awesome thing to have, as long as you’re not the one digging the hole.

North! to Alaska, Part 2

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Alaska is gross this time of year, guys. Seriously, I don’t recommend it. All the snow is still melting and the entire state is basically one big, boggy, poop-smelling swamp. Okay, probably not the entire state, because I’m pretty sure the top like two-thirds of it are still covered in ice, but the important parts of the state (like the part of it that I’m in) smell a bit like a sewer from all the frozen moose poop that’s thawing out and it squelches when you walk.

Spoiler: We made it to Anchorage without driving off of a mountain, getting eaten by a bear, or getting turned into vampires. Now I’ll pick up where I left off last time which was, I believe, in Montana. We left Montana with this in the backseat (because I can’t resist throwing in cute critter pictures):

Gabriel: Go? Are we going? We're gonna go now, yeah? When are we going? Can I have a treat? I need to poop. Jenny: I hate all of you so much right now.

Gabriel: Go? Are we going? We’re gonna go now, yeah? When are we going? Can I have a treat? I need to poop. Go?
Jenny: I’m going to slit your throat in your sleep. Every. Single. One. Of. You.

And trundled our way into Idaho for about an hour, and then into Washington, where we got rained on again (at least it wasn’t snow) and I very courteously did not get us killed trying to find our hotel in Seattle, although I did almost hit several pedestrians, because apparently, in Seattle, the “DON’T WALK” signs are just a suggestion.

So we did finally find our hotel and very awkwardly dealt with the valet parking. Note that up to this point in my life, the nicest place I’ve ever stayed is the Holiday Inn. In Seattle, we decided to treat ourselves, so we stayed at the Westin. Now, it has been established that I grew up in the boonies. I come from a family of rednecks and country folk, and we did not have a whole lot of money growing up. I not ever, once in my life, have tried to hobnob with anyone who had a job title classier than “store manager”. The closest I’ve ever come is trying uncomfortably to fit in with some of my in-laws at family gatherings. I truly and honestly felt, from the moment the valet started doing a little wave-dance to get us to drive toward him, like I could’ve been on an episode of Beverly Hillbillies. To his credit, he was very friendly, and seemed to understand that I was as out of my element as… well, a redneck in a four-star hotel. And of course, when I get nervous, I run off at the mouth, and I honestly can’t tell you what all I chattered about to the valet, the front-desk lady, the bellboy (which is what Google told me when I typed in “guy in a hotel who carries your luggage to your room”) and any other innocent bystander we happened to pass on the way to our room. And I couldn’t stop. It was just awful. I’m sure I thoroughly embarrassed my poor husband, though he valiantly denies it, and once we were in our room and all of the people who take care of you at these places were gone and I was in tears because I felt like Carrie at her prom at that point, he gently reminded me that he fell in love with me precisely because I was from a different world of people, who stay in Super 8 and haul their own luggage to their room. And also advised me that people probably didn’t think I was unfriendly if I didn’t say everything that went through my mind when I was nervous. That last bit didn’t exactly help, but he meant well. Also, he told me I was adorable, and that did help, a little.

So that was a disaster. At least we had the common sense to not drink the $15 bottle of water or touch the $8 candy bar on the refreshment stand. And we did get to see this from our hotel room window:

seattle

Which was pretty cool, even if I can’t tell you what any of the buildings are. (I can tell you that is Puget Sound, though. I can also tell you that I had that Owl City song stuck in my head the ENTIRE TIME we were there.)

And we didn’t go see the Space Needle, but you can’t go to Seattle without taking a picture of it, so here’s that:

seattlespace

And that’s all the pictures we got of Seattle, because any time we were outside I was terrified we were about to be mugged and I figured that wandering around goggle-eyed with my phone up in camera mode would probably make me a pretty easy target. But we went and saw the Pike Place Market, which was essentially a giant multi-story indoor-outdoor flea market and was pretty neat, and we went on the Seattle Underground Tour, where we learned that Seattle is mostly built on poop and whores. (The website doesn’t specify this, but if I remember right, after the Great Seattle Fire most of the funding for rebuilding the city came from a Madame.)

So Seattle was neat, but I don’t care to ever go back, and I am sure as hell sticking to my Days Inns and Best Westerns. Also, after actually spending a bit of time in a real urban setting, my husband has decided that giant heaps of people all living on top of each other are not for him, either, and I will still probably never get him to live in the country but at least I don’t have to talk him out of living in the middle of a big city anymore. So out of Seattle we went, on to Sumas, WA, where we crossed the Canadian border with no trouble at all (thankfully), which is good because I didn’t even realize how unreasonably nervous I was about it until we were actually pulling up to customs and then I REALLY had to pee which did not help matters at all, but the guy in the booth was pretty reasonable, although he apparently expected that we should be pulling a U-Haul behind our Versa or something since we were moving to Alaska.

And then we were in British Columbia, which was actually very ugly in the southern parts, so we didn’t get pictures. Also, I was very busy trying to remember that the speed limit signs were 100 km/h and not 100 mph. It did get prettier as we went further north, though, and I got this outside our only slightly shady hotel in New Hazelton, on our second day in BC:

newhazeltonbc

It also started in with the ridiculously long days at about this point (which I am STILL not used to, god). So anyway, up through British Columbia and into the Yukon, and EVERYONE is so nice and friendly and Canadian accents are endlessly entertaining. Also, they have this amazing phenomenon known as honey garlic sauce which I think we should definitely try to capitalize on in the States, because seriously, it’s like a sweet garlicky heaven in your mouth. They also put gravy and cheese on their French fries, though, which is just kind of weird, so not everything Canadians do is brilliant, apparently.

I was so happy, after three days of driving in BC, to get to the Yukon, especially because the “highway” we took to get on the Al-Can was just awful, and comprised of dirt in a lot of places and potholes in the rest. And then this happened:

watsonlakeyt

That space there, in front of that silver car? That’s the road.

But it did wait until we got to our motel. I would just like to point out here that this was the SECOND time on our trip that we hit an “unseasonable snow”. And we got stuck in Watson Lake, YT for a day, after a delightful morning of trying really hard to get out of Watson Lake, because Watson Lake is awful, which consisted mostly of me having a nervous fit because I couldn’t tell the road from the ditch on the side of the road and also it was snowing still. A lot. And then when we pulled into a parking lot to get our bearings, the car got stuck because people in Western Canada obviously don’t believe in paving their parking lots and undoubtedly like to chuckle evilly at out-of-towners when said out-of-towners can’t tell the lot’s not paved BECAUSE THERE IS A FOOT OF FREAKING SNOW ON IT and the heat from your car melts the ice and then the ice refreezes and then my poor husband has to spend over an hour trying to push the car out of its self-made rut. And for the first time in my life, I am, at least for a while, okay with cleaning out the cat’s toilet because her ass saved ours — we used an entire bag of kitty litter and ruined our back floormat before we finally got the car out. And then spend 45 minutes driving the ten miles back the way we came because I was absolutely done.

The roads weren’t great the next day, but at least the snow had quit, so we took a chance and even though it took us about three and a half hours to go the first hundred miles or so, the Al-Can was pretty good the rest of the way and we made it to Whitehorse.

I'm only sharing this because it's a real, live, honest-to-goodness TOWN, and after days and days of nothing but trees and tiny little crappy villages, this place was a freaking oasis.

I’m only sharing this because it’s a real, live, honest-to-goodness TOWN, and after days and days of nothing but trees and tiny little crappy villages, this place was a freaking oasis.

Which, being the capital of and the biggest city in the Yukon Territory, boasts a bustling population of about 23,000 people. But, they had a Best Western, so I wasn’t complaining.

And then from Whitehorse to Tok, AK, and from Tok to Anchorage, and both days were pretty uneventful. I will say that I feel kind of cheated, because everyone always talks about how much wildlife you see on the Al-Can. Our total wildlife tally came to two bald eagles, a whole bunch of ravens, a dead deer and a dead fox. Oh, though Ben did see a wild cat, which was possibly a lynx but he’s not sure. Either way, I was all excited to see bears and giant herds of bison and moose, but no. On our last day, once we got off the Al-Can and were en route to Anchorage, we did see one yearling reindeer and one female moose.

Either way, we are now safely ensconced in our temporary lodging (more motel room, wooooo) at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, and if I ever get too down about not seeing bears on the trip up here, all I have to do is go to the BX.

Rawr.

Rawr.

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