I will not book out my entire summer before summer begins

Sunset on Marco Island

The first day of summer has only just passed, and this year, I’ve made a promise to myself. In the Before Times, everything in my life was booked out weeks, if not months in advance. That left very little time for spontaneity, relaxation, or self-assessment.

Kristen Bell said in a recent speaking engagement with BlogHer, “The only thing you can’t purchase or get back is time.” As we weave our way toward the After Times, I vow to cherish the time that I am given and treat it like the precious piece of my world that it is. 

June 20 marked the first official day of summer, and in May, I made the decision that I would refuse to have every weekend of the entire season booked out before it began. That’s only 13 weekends. 26 full weekend days (plus Labor Day and the Fourth of July).

Between weddings and showers and birthdays and anniversaries and graduations, our weekends get eaten up quickly like Cheetos at a slumber party. But not this year. And for those of you who invite me to your parties and events and whatnot: I hope I can make it. I do. I love seeing you and celebrating with you. And if I can’t make it to your party, I hope we can go out for dinner or lunch or play games and actually catch up after this wild (yeah, wild. Let’s run with that, for now, but make sure we recognize that awful doesn’t even begin to describe it for the majority of people) year.

I love my friends and family. But I need to start setting boundaries for the sake of myself and Brian. So henceforth, unless it is something that requires a firm RSVP (like a wedding) or advanced planning (major travel), I am only opening my calendar up two weeks out. I even developed some language to use as I start engaging with friends about making plans.

“Would it be okay if we touch base in a couple of weeks to confirm?”

Okay, fine, I’ll probably add a few apologies and “hi I’m a giant weirdo,” but I feel really good about this decision and my language. And I’ll work on being less apologetic about it later. I suppose that comes with time. 

I have a lot of things I need to prioritize, and seeing a full calendar of social engagements and obligations will only stress me out about not having time to focus or take a break or just spend time with my extremely introverted husband.

Does this mean there might be times when I don’t have plans and my extroverted self really wants to do something? Yes. But that leaves room for spur-of-the-moment date nights, or summer evenings with my neighbors and a few bottles of wine. It leaves us open to possibilities of something new and different. Or sitting at home with a board game or movie just the two of us. And there’s no one I’d rather be just the two of us with than Brian. 

Have you changed the way you manage your time as you start to emerge from pandemic life? What are you doing to improve your stress levels and resume a new normal instead of going back to The Before Times? Tell me everything!

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Things I learned hiding out in a HomeGoods apartment

HomeGoods Hideout Chicago Bedroom

I will love HomeGoods forever and not just because they supported a majority of my addictions (cheese, shopping, eating fancy food, hot bubble baths, and people watching, among others) for 5 days last week.

DIY Macrame Kit

I fell in love with HomeGoods in 2014, shortly after buying our house. I had always had an affinity for home shopping (and been a huge Marshalls fan since I was a teenager), but I hadn’t really explored all there was to offer in that HGTV world until I had an entire house to furnish and decorate. Seven years later, I still have no idea what I’m doing, but HomeGoods has absolutely made our house a home.

In May, I found out that I won the Homegoods Hideout, a 4-night stay in a fancy Chicago apartment, completely furnished by Homegoods with decor, stocked with snacks (And OMG do I love me the Homegoods snack aisle, my dudes), fun activities, and a Magic Buddy available 19 hours a day via a Magic Phone with a Magic Budget for all my additional needs. At the end of the stay? A Magic Takeout Box the size of my trunk arrived via Magic Buddy for me to fill with souvenirs of my home away from home.

Last week, I moved into the swankest apartment I’ve ever been in for a long weekend. I spent the first hour just taking it all in. Noticing the details and opening every cabinet and drawer just to see all the things. I spent the next four days unwinding myself from myself (an old friend used to say I was wound tighter than an 8-day clock), reading, writing, and plotting. It was magnificent. 

Relax with a book and a bath

Here are some of the things I learned this past weekend:

  • Enter the contest. Someone has to win, and one day it could be you (or several days. We all know I’m a professional contest winner at heart).
  • Take more baths. They feel good, and they are good for your body.
  • Use the candles. It was kind of amazing reading in a bedroom with a lit candle. The aroma of relaxation is magical.
  • Notice the details. Take your time. Slow down. Breathe it all in. 
  • Run the dishwasher every night.
  • Make your bed every morning.
  • Decorate with plants.
  • Clear the clutter. You don’t need it all. Seriously.
  • Read more joy. Books are a way to learn, to escape, to fall in love, to try something new. But also, joyful books are just good for your soul. ESPECIALLY if you’re an empath.
  • Social media less. When your mind isn’t constantly “on,” you can do so much more.
  • Try something new. I learned how to macrame (hello, new hobby) and tried some new delicious smoothies. I also learned that making sugar and salt scrubs is an art form that is not for me. But I’m glad I tried. 
  • There’s no place like home (even if home is a clusterfuck of clutter and distraction).
  • And finally, you can fit A LOT of home goods from HomeGoods in a 2-ft cubed moving box.

HomeGoods Hideout Takeout Box

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

The 3 Best Reasons to NEVER Dye Your Hair at Home

As you may or may not have known from my glamour shots, I’ve been dying my hair since I was 12. I started out with highlighting and going blonde(r)…but eventually went dark…then finally the ginger set in.

I’ve gone to professionals, had friends do my dye jobs, and done it myself. I’ve done it all.

Of the three, I obviously prefer the first. But I’d been known to frequently do my own hair (typically when I was broke). Now, I have a relationship with a hair stylist, like a grown up. And I could never cheat on her.

I used to be pretty awesome at it. I mean, dying your own hair blonde is no big deal. The blonde dye doesn’t really stain anything. It cleans up pretty easily…

After several attempts at dying my own hair, I finally only let a stylist handle my mane. Theses are the 3 reasons not to dye your hair at home as learned from my own experiences.

Reason # 1 to Never Dye Your Hair at Home: Stains

I did the auburn/brunette thing… That got a little trickier. I may or may not have stained the bathtub in my college apartment. I may or may not have almost stained mom’s bathroom floors, walls, sink, bathtub…you get the picture. Mom banned me from ever dying my hair at her house again.

So then I finally grew a pair…and decided it was time to go ginger. I had been waiting for so long to do this. Years! Friggin’ years! And finally…I was ready. I went to the store. I bought the color. It was awesome. Bright. Delicious. Ginger. Excitement!

I was living at my pal Mark’s at the time as he was uber busy working in some foreign land, and someone had to make sure Jerry the Mouse didn’t invade again. (Note: This is not like the time I stole his car. I had permission to live in his home.) So I took the opportunity to change my look (in not-my-mother’s bathroom).

Reason # 2 to Never Dye Your Hair at Home: The Stains Hide

So, I may or may not have accidentally made a huge mess in Mark’s apartment bathroom. I cleaned it all up and made sure to get all of the red spots before they dyed anything permanently…or so I thought. A few weeks later, when Mark came home, he called me up and asked “What the fuck did you do?!” He found some red stains. I went over there with my trusty Mr. Clean Magic Eraser and discovered that there were apparently stains that I had missed…quite a few of them…whoops! Those bitches hide.

Reason # 3 to Never Dye Your Hair at Home: Drastic Errors

That same dye job over at Mark’s apartment required a double process. The first was my own, in which I fucked up royally and had blotches of red, blotches of brown, and blotches of in between. It was a disaster. I had to call my sister (a beauty school drop-out) to come over and fix my huge err. Luckily, the second process was done by my sister, and she handled it like magic. And then once I thought it looked hot, I STILL got some pretty nasty commentary about going such a bold shade of red.

Of course, this wasn’t my last adventure in self-hair-dye.

After a few months of dating Brian, it seemed like an OK idea to dye my hair at his house (well, his roommate’s house). You know, since Mom banned me, Mark banned me, and I had already dyed my hair at several hotels–staining their white towels pink (I know, right–it was a terrible idea).

I had a system though. I would run a bath while dying and sit in the bathtub. That way the dye wouldn’t stain the porcelain. Brilliant right? Except that as I set the dye down on the tub edge, I learned (the hard way) that the edge was angled. I first dropped the bottle into the tub of water.

So I placed the bottle on the floor outside the tub. I had removed all towels and anything that could get destroyed in the process. But when the bottle fell onto the bath rug (that I had carelessly forgotten to remove or hadn’t noticed…I don’t even know–sometimes I’m not very observant), it was game over. I freaked out. Red toner spilling everywhere onto this rug.

Brian’s roommate liked nice things. While I wasn’t the biggest fan of this rug, I assumed that it was costly. So I tried to do damage control. I scrubbed it. I loaded it with soap. I did everything I could think of to get rid of the stain. And it looked…better.

I Googled the brand on the tag. No luck. I didn’t know where it came from or where I could replace it. So I contacted Brian…and he told me it was his rug. PHEW and that it was from Walmart DOUBLE PHEW (and I should have known the minute he said it was his, because everything he owned was from Walmart–just like Danell Leyva’s Towels).

I told him we would likely need to toss it. He didn’t believe me and said it could be washed. I explained it was pretty bad and hair dye was permanent. I had just checked on it again, and apparently “cleaning” it made it significantly worse after it dried a little…it was blood red and the stain was enormous. I was still having a panic attack as I typed a G-chat message to Brian, even though he kept telling me it was fine and not to worry. (He still does this a lot because I have a lot of unnecessary panic attacks.)

The following weekend, Brian threw the rug in the washer.

It came out clean.

Who knew?

What errors have you made when dying your own hair? Do you see a stylist or do it yourself? What are your thoughts on stylist loyalty?

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

10 Things I Learned From Robin Williams Characters

My heart hurts today. I know that Robin Williams was not my personal friend, but he is one of the few actors who I spent the last 30ish years admiring and enjoying. I’m about to send myself on a serious Robin Williams movie marathon, starting with Dead Poet’s Society and working my way through as many nostalgic flicks that I can.

Photo from Eva Rinaldi

Photo from Eva Rinaldi

Interestingly enough, I was thinking about Mr. Williams on Sunday, when I posted an image with the phrase “carpe diem.” I meant it as a joke, but the message is still the same. Seize the day.

Robin Williams Carpe Diem Seize the Day

I thought it would be an apt tribute to discuss just some of the the very important life lessons that I learned from this Chicago native through his brilliant and beautiful character portrayals. Each role that he chose carefully crafted an epic view of the world as we know it, and it truly is magical when you combine them with each other.

  1. Words and ideas can change the world.
  2. Always keep windows open. Never ever ever close them.
  3. The bad days will remind you of the greatest pieces of your life.
  4. Be cautious and be daring and be wise.
  5. Find your happy thought and keep it in your heart for the days you need to fly.
  6. Seize the day.
  7. Families that have love are the ties that bind.
  8. Believe in magic and fairies and the power of love.
  9. Fight for your family.
  10. Humans are passionate. That is part of what makes us special.

And from the man himself, I was reminded of this:

Depression is real. The funniest, wisest person you know may be suffering deeply on the inside with little internal hope of escape. It may even be you. I encourage you to ask for help should you consider self-harm in any of its forms. As the very funny and very wise and often depressed Jenny Lawson reminds us, depression lies. Please don’t ever forget that. You are not alone.

The lack of negativity that I’ve seen in response to this tragedy is awe-inspiring. The world lost a bright light to the darkness, and the entire internet is hugging right now. Let this be a step toward the realization that there are many people who suffer from mental illness and they need support.

Go out there and seize the day, my friends. You only have this one life.

Were you as surprised and devastated as I was by the news of this wonderful comedian’s passing? What Robin Williams films, characters, or quotes resonate with you?

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Adventures in Moving

Well, fair readers, it’s official. I no longer live in the home of Wayne and Garth. Goodbye Aurora, Illinois. Hello suburban town MUCH  closer to civilization.

Moving to a new home

I’m home! This is the only room that has been fully assembled. Though it’s missing the chatchkies. They will be arriving shortly.

We moved this Saturday. Brian and I were lucky to have Anna, Cletus,  Mark, and one of Brian’s pals to help us move.

The Moving Crew

Taking a break to check out “cool techy stuff”

The Trouble with U-Haul

It all started bright and early…as Brian and I had to drive 30 miles to pick up the U-Haul. This pissed him off immensely, considering we lived 5 minutes from a U-Haul location. He wanted to just go into the one near us and demand a truck. I called and they didn’t have one available…in any size. So we sucked it up and drove to the south suburbs. I asked if we had to pay extra for mileage. He didn’t know. He didn’t seem pleased with the question answer portion of our morning, so I stopped talking…and started texting Cletus to request his assistance.

Once we arrived at U-Haul, I told Brian that I was coming in. He looked at me with a Please don’t. You’ll only embarrass me. So I hopped out of the car with a shit-eating grin on my face. We walked in and I immediately informed the guy that we were not pleased with the 30 mile drive that we had to take. And I asked if mileage was included. 30 miles. Fuck. That. I told him that I wanted an extra 30 miles added to cover our drive time to the house. He made several suggestions on how to maybe save money, until I told him that we would be traveling about 90 miles that afternoon and he realized the issue. So the amazing and wonderful Eric of U-Haul offered to add as many miles as he could (as a regular employee) at no charge. For the record–it’s 70 miles.

I was prancing around U-Haul waiting for their slow-ass computers to work…and one of the other workers complimented my pullover… My Adidas pullover. She asked the dreaded chick question: “Where did you get it?”

“Um…it was my ex-boyfriend’s?” Yes. The sweatshirt in question belonged to The Bartender.

Heavy Lifting

My boyfriend has this weird belief that girls shouldn’t lift heavy furniture. Regardless of whether or not I used to be able to throw a girl 20 feet in the air…regardless of whether or not I have helped other people move…regardless of whether or not I have helped build festivals and haunted houses…I’m a girl…and he doesn’t trust me to lift furniture. He suggested I manage the Tetris of the moving truck…and unload things to the guys. He just didn’t trust me.

Well, he didn’t. Until he realized that these 3 other guys were rockin’ out and exhausted carrying our ridiculously heavy, but beautiful, furniture through the mazes to get to our new bedroom. And finally…on the last (and heaviest) piece of furniture, he looked at those exhausted men; then he looked at me…and said, “OK, let’s do this.” So I did…with a little help. We loaded the hutch onto the small dolly that they hadn’t really used at all. Brian and I rolled it around to the “front” of our new apartment.

Then, was time to carry it up the double flight of stairs. We got to stair number 2, and I may or may not have had to pause in order to figure out how the hell to best tackle this beast. So we tried another 2 stairs. And Brian, was all like, “OK, Cletus…time to help her out,” and the other two guys jumped in as well…and with a 5-person team lifting this thing up the stairs…we finally got the giant hutch into our bedroom. Maybe I needed a little help, but dammit, I could do it.

 3 Things I Learned from Moving

1. Set up internet and cable BEFORE moving. Like a week before. It takes 3-5 business days for internet stuff to arrive. That’s a lot of days without internet. Lucky for you I wrote this post last night, NOT from my new home.

Things I Learned from Moving

I miss the internet already

2. I have a lot of stuff.

3 things I learned from moving

I don’t even know where to start. So I’ll sit and ponder where to put my Christmas trees.

3. Brian and I have discussed this. We both feel so much gratitude for the amazing men who helped us. They were amazing. And helpful. And wonderful. But we will try never to make our friends endure this again. I promised Cletus that he would not have to help with the next move.  The next time we move-we’re hiring professionals.

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

I Teach Life Lessons

For couple of summers, I worked for a company that teaches students how to read. It’s kind of one of those last resorts for parents who have tried everything else. They teach children that no one else can teach. And they do it well. It was an incredibly humbling experience. Not only did I teach children, teenagers, and even some adults how to read…I taught them how to comprehend. Sometimes I really miss that place.

What may surprise you is that for some people, understanding what they’re reading goes hand in hand with understanding consequences. Perhaps the young 20-something who keeps ending up in jail for stupid reasons could have benefited from the program that I have come to know and understand. Of course, it’s a lot of fun teaching some of the life lessons that everyone should know. Here is one of my favorites. Be forewarned, it’s a little gross.

Always wash your hands

 

Wash Your Hands

Calia (named obviously changed to protect the innocent), an 8 year old who came to us unable to read the word, “smart,” eventually got to a point where we were solely working on her comprehension. She became an excellent reader. When Calia first started, she didn’t want to work at all, she crawled under the table, and she was really mean to most of the teachers – calling us names, saying rude things about other students, herself, and the teachers. By the end of her time with us, Calia was understanding and making conclusions/inferences based on her reading. She had made friends with some of the students and I can even remember her hugging me when she did something super awesome as far as reading. During one of her later work sessions, she and I were having a pretty interesting conversation about cleanliness.

Calia was constantly playing with her feet. Picking them. Putting pens and other items in her shoes. Putting feet in the teacher’s faces… So I explained to her, “Calia, sometimes the little kids here put this stuff in their mouths. Do you think that it’s a good idea for your feet to have touched them? It’s like putting your feet in their mouth. Would you want someone’s feet in your mouth?”

She thought for just a minute before she said, “No! That’s gross!”

“Exactly. Our feet are pretty dirty right?” I asked her to see if she would understand further…

“Yeah, our whole bodies are dirty, aren’t they?”

“Well, yes and no. Our feet are dirtier, because they walk on the ground a lot, don’t they?”

“Yeah, I don’t really like wearing shoes.” She said, as her shoes lay in a pile on the floor.

“But would you want them in your mouth?”

“No, probably not. But sometimes I pick my nose and put boogers in my mouth.”

ew. Ew. EW.

“Well, let’s think about about our hands for a minute. Are they cleaner than our feet?”

“Yes!” She said as if I was asking her the stupidest question in the world. Almost a Duh! moment.

“Right, because we wash our hands a lot. We wash our hands all day. Every time we go to the bathroom, right?”

“Well….sometimes.”

Knowing she had just come from the bathroom a few moments earlier, “Did you wash your hands in the bathroom today?”

“Of course! I always wash my hands. Sometimes, when I’m at home though…I don’t.” Calia admitted to me.

“Well, your mom is a doctor, right?”

“Uh huh!”

“And she sees sick people and makes them better, right?”

“Yeah!” Her smile beamed with pride for her mom.

“So, sometimes people get sick because they don’t wash their hands and then touch part of their body and the germs get inside.”

“Huh?”

“Did you know that the inside of your nose is inside your body?”

“It is!?!”

“Yep..”

“I didn’t know that!” She started getting really excited.

“So when you pick your nose, you’re putting the germs from your hand into your body.”

“Really?”

“Yep.”

“Miss Chrissy?”

“Yes, Calia?”

“I need to go wash my hands.”

Are you as grossed out by feet as I am? Have you ever had to explain why handwashing is important to a tiny human or two? How would you have explained it?

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!