31 October 2010

For Every Season, There is a Hairstyle

Nothing reveals more about a woman than her hair and her shoes.  Even if she hides her gray, the styles in her grammar school photos will reveal the decade she was born and probably tell a story about the journey that got her to where she is today.  Her hair style speaks volumes about her life style ~ is she relaxed and easy going, high maintenance, a trendsetter, a trend follower?  

I've strayed from long hair a few times and regretted it every time.  I'm not a trend setter, a trend follower and I don't have it in me to be high maintenance. In elementary school, I wore two braids for most of my school pictures with a slight detour for that awful mullet of second grade.  By junior high, I had matured to a french braid paired with some fringed moccasins that were about 20 years ahead of their time. Fast forward to college.  My years at OSU were a bit conflicted.  I was struggling for an identity and terrified of pretending to be anything that wasn't part of my nature.  That mostly meant long-natural-barely-brushed-rarely-trimmed hair.  It was a nice compliment the Birkenstocks w/ socks "fashion" statement (that had been out of style for about 20 years).  However, I also enjoyed dancing with the local cowboys, so on Thursday nights, I left my "style" in the dorm and wore a high ponytail, a pair of ropers and some way-too-tight-Rockies to Tumbleweed's.  It was like a costume party every weekend.  

But all good costume parties come to an end, and in 1999, I joined the real world.  I took a job in a manufacturing plant so the hair went into a bun ~ everyday.  EASY.  I loved it!  

Then, I started working with fancy people.  Que a new costume party.  I adopted an actual hair style and bought high heels to match.  Though my colored-highlighted-stacked-razor cut-flat ironed-hair looked nice when it was styled, I despised the morning routine and the constant upkeep.  A haircut every 8 weeks & color every 3 months made me feel like I needed a second job.  

Three years of being a stay-at-home-mom and being somewhat alienated from popular culture has helped me to be more okay with the way God created me ~ cow-licked hair and all.  Growing it out has simplified both my routine and my upkeep schedule.  I'm even learning to accept my "natural" highlights, finding inspiration from other ladies who are Going Gray and Looking Great.  No worries though.. I haven't completely gone back to my Birkenstock days.  I can still rock the scarf look to hide a bad hair day, but I have learned to appreciate the magic of a straightening iron for taming runaways (and most of my hair is runaways).  

Life is a journey and along the way, things change.  We adapt to our environment, but the challenge is to remain true to ourselves ~ to embrace what comes naturally even when it isn't the most popular trend.  It's Plain & Simple as That.

29 October 2010

Tricked or Treated?

Even a plain Jane can be known to splurge on occasion... a birthday gift for Tiny & the Tot, the cookie aisle at Walmart, a rare dinner with the daddyman, or a mani/pedi to celebrate the start of flip flop season... but one thing I refuse to spend too much money on is halloween, and more specifically, Halloween costumes.  For me, it's the thrill of the hunt, and the satisfaction of expressing creativity on next-to-nothing.  I mean, really.. anybody can purchase a costume in a bag, but it takes sheer genius to come up with something out of next-to-nothing!  
We are hosting a Game at the annual Grace Point Church "Trunk or Treat" event, so by Sunday, I have to figure out a queen costume... three days, any kind of queen; the pressure is on!  Let's see, there's:

  • a beauty queen - umm.. no.  I don't have the legs.  Plus, I can't walk in heels.
  • the Queen of England - ummm... nope, I can't pull off the hats or the accent, 
  • a Homecoming Queen - uh uh... too many wrinkles and gray hairs, 
  • Queen (For my audience that lives under a rock, Queen is a band) - it would be sinful for me to show up at an event for children wearing spandex
  • Queen of Hearts - interesting, but would require too much facepaint
  • Queen Esther - pretty predictable, but .. I think it's the one. 
Now, to find a robe, a headpiece of some sort and some accessories.  The catch:  I'm determined not to spend more than $10 total on the parts of the costume that can't be (or won't be) used again in everyday life.  Here's what I have put together:
  • Blue Short haired velour robe: Scored this little gem at the Thrift store in the old part of Rogers today for a buck.  Unless I plan to save it for the nursing home, this won't be used again, so that counts toward my $10 budget.   
  • Headband: a big spend at $5.  Potential for the Tot to wear it sometime, but not likely.
  • Regal Purple Velvet Beaded wine bottle bag (to be turned into a purse because I can't be without pockets): 50 cents.  I love the Thrift store.
  • Shoes: $0 I'm just using my old sandals
  • Leggings: This was a big chunk of my budget at $4.50, but it is functional.  I hesitated on this particular purchase since it adds nothing to the overall effect, but it's hard to put a price on warmth, so I went for it.  They are just plain black, so I might wear them again with a skirt and some boots if I decide to get fancy one day.  
  • Sash and/or belt: $0 I haven't figured this out yet, but I'm thinking some old fabric; I have some lavender microsuede that might work.
  • Jewelry: I could have spent about $20 on some cool costume jewelry, but instead, I'm going on a scavenger hunt through some of the old beaded stuff I was saving for the Tot.  
Overall, I'm at $11.  Not bad even though it's technically 10% over budget. I guess I should just let it be.  

I struggle to see Halloween, even Halloween "alternatives" as anything more than marketing ploys by the industry ~ especially the Pumpkin Growers of American; the makers of Aqua Net, cheap tulle, and fake blood; and the good folks in Hershey, Pennsylvania (and Hackettstown, NJ).  I probably shouldn't bring that last one up since technically, candy is our bread and butter, but it's true.  

Alas, I've been suckered and we spent some cash on Snickers and M&Ms (of course).  And... I bought pumpkins for Tiny & the Tot along with some "ballet slipper" pink spray paint so they could double as Tiny's birthday decorations.  

Maybe I was tricked into "celebrating" Halloween.  It's okay though.  Afterall it's for the kiddos, and they are in for a real treat.  Plain & Simple as That. 

28 October 2010

Jump Start Your Journey

Last year, I started to feel like I was drowning in stuff ~ stuff I didn't use, stuff I didn't need, and even stuff I didn't want.  On a search to find breathing room, I discovered Discardia and the 100 Thing Challenge.  Both sites got me thinking about where all this stuff came from and why I couldn't get rid of it.  Some of my friends have since asked me about my journey to living a more simplified life, so this post is dedicated to anyone who wants to get started down a similar path to freedom from junque.  Keep in mind... it is a journey, and I don't claim to have arrived.

Discardia helped me to part with the things I kept even though I didn't want them.  Parting with a gift or something inherited makes me feel guilty.  Somehow, we attach memories of people to their things.  We have to understand that parting with the item does not lessen our love for the giver (or previous owner in the case of "inheritance").  I don't need everything that was in Grama's house.  I wear her ring, and have a few of her Hummels.  Keeping her dishes (to give to my girls one day), freed me to get rid of a bunch of my dishes.  Too often things kept out of guilt drain joy from true treasures.  

I learned that true joy could be gained from giving my treasures away.  It's okay to pass along gifts to someone that will enjoy said items more than me.  Not in a sneaky regifting kind of way, just in an "I thought you would like this" kind of way.  

How often have you kept something because it was such a great deal?!  I bought a beautiful tea set for a steal once... but I didn't actually need another tea set.  It was pretty, and I liked it, but it was taking up space and stealing joy (guilt for owning it, guilt at the thought of getting rid of it since I spent money on it) ~ so, it went to live with my friend.  She now has real tea parties with her little girl instead of pretending with a play set.  Before, it was gathering dust in the shadows of my curio cabinet, now it is being used for its intended purpose ~ and that erases the guilt for me.   

The 100 Thing Challenge showed me why we accumulate so much stuff and how to stop the flood from overtaking my house and in turn, my spirit.  I never got down to 100 personal things, but my mindset has changed.  I now view retail therapy as a temporary bandaid, not a permanent fix.  I've found it much easier to donate half my closet, and I'm enjoying more breathing room even though we are in a significantly smaller home than we were a year ago.  Those skinny jeans I've been saving... they are from another season in my life.  Hoarding them in my closet will not make me skinny ~ it just makes me sad to look at them.  Besides, by the time they fit again, they will only be great for vintage costume parties ~ hardly worth the space in my closet since I don't get invited to many of those.  Time to have a garage sale or better yet, donate to a good cause (Check out Donate or Save to see the math).  It's Plain & Simple As That.

For more ideas on where to get started, check out the discussion pages for Discardia on Facebook and the 100 Thing Challenge on Facebook.   

27 October 2010

Fashion Tips for Kids

Plain & Simple Fashion Tip #1: Last week, I bought Tiny two brand new long sleeve white onsies. Layering these under a t-shirt or a sundress turns summer wear into fall fashion.  

Plain & Simple Fashion Tip #2: If you feed Tiny too many chocolate animal cookies, dress her appropriately.  Yep.  You guessed it.  

A classic case of Murphy's Law.  Plain & Simple as That.    

Even a Hypocrite Can Praise Him

David was called "a man after God's own heart," but if you read the Psalms, you might observe while being very good at worshipping the Lord, he was also a big ol' whiney baby.  With a great big slice of humble pie, I generally refer to such people as hypocrites.  I won't claim to be an expert at worship, but I sure can whine.  Yesterday was no exception.

Tiny was up early ~ and by early, I mean before the other side of the planet went to bed ~ the Tot wasn't far behind her at O'dark-thirty.  My journal had a whooping four words in it before they interrupted my quiet time.  Later, I started again with the date, "10.26.2010" and the words, "Take 2" even though Tiny was still crying herself to sleep.  Her crying woke up the Tot.  Great.  Back to keeping one quiet while the other sleeps ~ have I mentioned we live in a little duplex with thin walls???  Ugh!

By 3:30, Tiny still hadn't taken a nap, so I packed up both littles and headed to the sanctuary!  (Check out my posting: Maybe You go for Skinny, I Go for Sanity to hear more about that).  Nothing soothes a bad day like some time away ~ even if it means almost drowning exercising.  

Still not quite soothed all the way, I unloaded my day on the daddyman before heading out to do some religious stuff. How's that for hypocritical!?!?!  After whining to my friends at church, I came home to a quiet house.  Sixteen hours after first complaining to God about wanting some time alone with Him, He granted the cry of my heart.  

This morning, I woke up 30 minutes before the Tot ~ just the amount of time I begged God to give me.  A dear friend came for tea and Farmers' Market apple butter (and she brought her Tot along to occupy my littles!) Ahhh... #5 on my  Name them One by One list of blessings!  This was just what I needed to keep Tiny awake for the morning.  Skipping her morning nap meant that she and the Tot would be taking synchronized afternoon naps ~ another cry of my heart granted!

My point is this: I may be a hypocrite, but I serve a mighty God, and He still shows up when I cry out.  Actually, when I cry out, He shows up in a big, big way.  It's Plain & Simple As That.

26 October 2010

Name Them One by One

While I claim to be a Plain Jane at heart, I'm living in a culture of extravagance so sometimes I still relish some of the not-so-plain & simple-things of life.  But if I think about the things that really make me happy, I have to leave off silver and gold, diamonds, fancy bouquets of flowers, couture fashion, and expensive perfumes.  This is a list of things that make my heart smile, things that make me realize it's time to count my blessings.  

1. Tiny & the Tot ~ especially when they nap simultaneously.  
2. 80 degree days in October.  The trees are gorgeous and it's still warm enough to enjoy them
3. Sand between my toes and endless water before my eyes.  This doesn't happen often enough.
4. Hot tea on a rainy day
5. Hot tea with a friend, especially a friend that brings along entertainment for the Tot (ie, another Tot) or a friend that brings along scones (Mary ~ you know who you are)
6. Hot tea with my mom.  It always tastes better at her house
7. Hot tea at grandma's house, especially with blueberries and custard

**I know what you're thinking... "Okay, so we've established that you like hot tea... shouldn't that just be one item?"  For the record, I stand by my list that these are four distinct entries**

8.  Lunch dates with the daddyman
9.  Good hair days ~ especially when Jolana does it at The Blue Door
10.  Swimming more laps than my goal for the day
11.  Reading comments on my blog or on my Facebook page
12.  Emails from a friend I haven't talked to in a while
13.  Getting my passport stamped and experiencing a different culture
14.  Speaking Spanish to someone who didn't expect me to know any ~ and seeing their face light up when they realize I know THEIR language.  Makes me want to learn 10 more languages!
15. Sleeping in
16. Making someone laugh or even just smirk.  Humor that elicits snorts is the ultimate goal most of the time though. :)
17.  Roller coaster rides ~ especially big drops or fast spins
18.  Reading something I wrote and feeling like it is brilliant ... even if I know I'm the only one that gets it.
19.  Worship songs that penetrate my soul and capture my sentiments exactly.
20.  Candlelight
21.  Peanut M&Ms 
22.  Finding a great deal on something for my house or my girls at a garage sale, thrift store, flea market or Craigslist
23.  Jeans that fit 
24.  My Uggs, my jammy pants, an old tattered long sleeve t shirt and my MacBook with a fully charged battery
25.  Watching the daddyman read to Tiny & the Tot
26.  When the Tot says "Please," "Thank you," or "Excuse me" without being prompted

I started this list as "20 things" but it just poured out and I have a feeling I could easily come up with at least 100 more (even without cheating and making one thing into four things).  

God has truly blessed me ~ it's Plain & Simple as That.

25 October 2010

Maybe You Go for Skinny ~ I go for Sanity

There are a million reasons to exercise:  camaraderie on the bikes, sweating off last night's pie in Zumba class, showing off a new pair of Sketchers ShapeUps, working toward those coveted skinny thighs and flat abs.  Name your motivation.  It's different for everyone.  As for me, I do it the cinder block shower with the mildewed curtain.

A few years ago, when I signed up for this mommy gig, I fully anticipated having to constantly supervise my littles ~ but nothing could have prepared me for constant supervision.  In my years of working outside the home, I never experienced micromanagement like this.  Sure, I get that all humans are created for community, but there are certain times everyone wants to just be alone.  

Alone time takes careful planning these days.  I've tapped the depths of my cerebrum to come up with a list of "errands" so when a Tot storms the bathroom, I have a task waiting for her: take something to the trash in the kitchen, check to see what Tiny is doing in the living room, or go look out the window on the other end of the house and tell me if Daddy is home yet.  To gain an extra 30 seconds, I sometimes attempt the evasive sneak-away-without-telling-her maneuver.  I've learned not to attempt this during Tiny's naps because sneaking away is always followed by, "MOOOOOOMMMY ~ WHEEEEEERRRRREEEE AAAAAAAAAAAAARE YOUUUUUUUUUUUU?"  Seriously?.. we live in a 1000 square foot duplex.  Where does she think I went?  Errrrrr.   

My Solution:  The Pool.  

Not only does it give me the freedom to gorge on an entire loaf of pepperoni cheese bread, but swimming also guarantees an opportunity for prayer and meditation.  Alone!  The littles stay occupied supervising the childcare area, and the other swimmers are pretty quiet.  It's sorta' difficult to talk while swimming.  

So, yeah, I covet your skinny thighs and flat abs, but for now, I keep my gym membership for the sake of sanity.  Thirty minutes of swimming justifies a nice hot shower with no one busting through the curtain screaming, "Moooooom!"  That's my motivation.  Plain & Simple as That.  

24 October 2010

Investing in our Future

For the first seven years of our marriage, we focused on building a future. We stacked our 401k, saved a little nest egg for a down payment on a house in town, and tried to a be a blessing to others though what we deemed sacrificial giving.  All the right boxes were checked.

In the meantime, what we really sacrificed was time; especially quality time together. Between raising rugrats and building a bungalow, busyness has rocked our foundation this year.  If we let it crack, the rest of what we've strived to build could crumble around us.  Recently, we decided to heed some valuable wisdom from a trusted friend and invest more time, energy and money into enriching our relationship.

At first, taking time away from our girls and rearranging our resources felt a bit selfish even though we understood that it is essential to secure the future of our collective dreams.  Tonight, we finally left Tiny & the Tot with a teenager, and went on a date. First, we strolled down memory lane as we sorted through our storage unit together.  Afterwards, we enjoyed some pumpkin pie and mingled with the retirees at Villiage Inn.  We came home to sleeping babies.  What a perfect evening!

Sometimes, investing in the future doesn't have to be expensive, it just has to be intentional.  I'm finding it really is as Plain & Simple as That.

23 October 2010

Bringing home Baby without Breaking the Bank

What do you really NEED to bring a baby home?  It was so much fun to go register for all those tiny little bits of baby paraphernalia  ~ but you don't need it all and it just takes up space!!!  

For kid #2, we trashed the "Diaper Champ" for a plain trash can lined with a Walmart bag.  We empty it more often, but it seems more sanitary.
The Tot had loads of adorable clothes that she never wore.  Footed PJs are cute enough for church when you weigh less than 20 pounds and it is only 20 degrees outside.  Little dresses, even with "tights," never seemed practical.  Tiny has no idea how unstylish we dress her, but I'm convinced she appreciates comfort more than she would fashion anyway.  Every time poop escapes a diaper, I'm grateful for her garage sale wardrobe.  

The most treasure toys in the house are hidden in the daddyman's pocket: keys, cell phone, a few pennies, and a wallet stacked with credit cards.  No matter how many squeaky bath toys we give them, they'd rather scoop water and splash with a washcloth.  Yogurt containers have entertained my girls far longer than anything from Toys 'R Us, and never ever underestimate the value of that crinkly fruit snack wrapper the Tot left under the coffee table for Tiny to find. 
Marketers would have you think it costs a fortune to have a kid that will be intelligent, but I tell you, you can raise a creative kid with a rock, a stick, a rope, a bucket of water, and pile of dirt.  ... okay, maybe it's not quite that easy, but for my blog's namesake, let's pretend it is Plain & Simple as That.

19 October 2010

Donate or Save ~ Use the Math

It's often hard to donate good stuff.  It just feels wrong; I mean, you spend good money on something you'd like to at least get a little bit out of it, right?  but sometimes you get MORE for giving it away than you would if you sold it.  How?  It's called a Tax Deduction!  So, how do you decide if an item is worth more to sell or to give away?  Let me show you:

The Salvation Army has a Value Guide for household items and clothes.   Let's do the math using a men's shirt for an example.  The Salvation Army says a men's shirt is worth anywhere from $2.50 to $12.00, and YOU get to decide the value (be reasonable).  If you donate a $6 shirt, you can deduct six bucks from your taxes ~ donate $200 worth of stuff: deduct 200 bucks from your taxes!

If you are in the 15% tax bracket, donating the shirt either reduces your tax bill by .90 ($6.00*0.15) or adds that much to your tax return!  You have to sell the shirt for more than 90 cents in a garage sale to make more by selling it than by giving it away.  If you are in the 25% tax bracket, it's worth even more to donate ~ $1.50!

I usually sell shirts for 50 cents, so donation is a way better deal for me.  I get rid of stuff in bulk, I don't have to store it for the next season, I don't have to spend as much time in the driveway bickering with people over the price of my husband's old jeans.  The trick is to keep a good record of what you donate.

How's that for Plain & Simple Math!

14 October 2010

Treasure Hunt Find

When it comes to style, I'm a true plain Jane.  I like my old jeans, my husband's old t-shirts, and a pair of flip flops... when it comes to my house, I'm mostly into simplistic, but can't help but feel comforted by a bit of vintage whimsy.  

While my fancy friends swarm the mall for the latest fall trends in home fashion, I like to go treasure hunting on Craigslist or garage sales and flea markets.  Spray-paintable frames for the girls' artwork, unusual tchotchkes, and lately ~ vintage furniture that can be reupholstered and/or refinished usually top my wishlist.  Today, I discovered "Out of the Box" err.. something like that, in Rogers, AR.  It's a new flea market in an converted nursing home.  I found a real diamond in the rough.  For six bucks, I got this:

Urban Outfitters sells this one for $148.00

Now that's a deal! ~ It's Plain & Simple as That

13 October 2010

Rule #1

Dear Little People, 
If you stay up late and get up early, that means you must take a really great (LONG) nap.  Get used to it.  That's the rule.  ~ It's Plain & Simple As That.


12 October 2010

Breaking Up With My Addiction

You remember him... that boyfriend that you knew wasn't "the one," but your heart wouldn't let you end it.  

So, one day, you did it.  You called him up and dropped the dreaded, "I just want to be friends" line.  But really, who can be "friends" after dating?  

That's how I feel about Diet Coke.  It's been fun.  I've savored every single cherry flavoured, lime flavoured, Sonic iced of carmel coloured, carbonated, aspertame.  I've enjoyed the conversation accompanied with Chips & Salsa, Popcorn, PB&J sandwiches, and yes, even the occasional salad.  

I've tried to end it before, but I keep running back to my beloved 24-pack of silver cans.  When the top shelf of the fridge is empty, it's like a part of me is missing.  

Is this the last time?  Is it really over forever?  It needs to be.  

The last 4.275 days (if we're counting) have been filled with headaches, chills, and then a freedom that only comes from being released from something that has controlled me for far too long.  

Good bye Diet Coke.  Maybe we can still be Facebook Friends. ~ It's Plain & Simple As That

Managing Blessings

Somedays, I spend the entire day just managing my bank account, my girls, my house, my reputation... the stuff we call "blessings."  Sound familiar? ~ If these are blessings, why doesn't it feel like it?  Maybe because blessings aren't to be juggled.  It might be scary to pass along our blessings, but how freeing would it be to let God be in charge of it all?  

It's all his anyway  ~  It's Plain & Simple As That