Wordless Wednesday--Tennis Shoes


To be fair, my cheap $30 tennis shoes went longer than usual before splitting open at the toe. It's because I'm so hard core. No big deal.

A Few Things I'm Not into Right Now


{Note: I may or may not be writing this after having taken a muscle relaxer for my back pain. As such, the following post may or may not make sense.}

In April, I wrote a post titled "A Few Things I'm into Right Now." 

In the interest of seeing what's changed since then,
and because it's the last day before the last day of August,
(which means I'm almost done blogging every day!)
and because it's almost the start of a new month,

{and because I think the muscle relaxer is making me feel funny}

I give you: A Few Things I'm Not into Right Now

1. Pinterest

Over the past few weeks, I've heard this come up more and more often. It seems there's now another place to post pictures, be crafty, and in general put yourself out there on another (what seems to be) social media site. 

I can't claim to know what I'm talking about, seeing as how I don't actually have a pinterest account. But my initial conclusion is that this seems like the perfect way for me to become more distracted and, consequently, more overwhelmed by all the meals I want to cook, all the crafts I want to make, and all the clothes I want to buy.

There's enough going on right now without thrusting myself into a land full of more examples of crafty people who can seemingly whip up a curtain or fabulous homemade meal while most of the time I fail at my attempt to be the least bit creative. (My recent scrapbooking obviously being an exception.)

 Overall, I think Pinterest looks really cool, but right now it's just not appealing enough to actually sign up for it and figure out how it really works.

2. Twitter

I know twitter has been going on for a while; I'm not stupid. And I've considered joining in the past, but I'm just just not into it.

Maybe it's because I don't want another site to look at; maybe it's because I really don't think I'd have much to say that would interest anyone else. Maybe it's because I have to join and actually start doing it to fully realize it's awesome power. Whatever the reason, I just can't seem to get into Twitter. Not that I never will, but at least for now I'm Twitter free and plan to stay that way. 

3. A smart phone. 

So many people have an iphone or a Blackberry or an Android or any other type of crazy phone with apps and email. But I am totally not kidding when I say that I'm 100% satisfied with my regular flip phone. I can't listen to music, read emails, take video, edit pictures, read books, or play Angry Birds, and I couldn't care less.

Pet peeve #804: people tinkering with their phone while we're supposed to be having a face-to-face conversation.

When did the real-life person lose priority to the person you aren't even with?
I'm not exactly sure, but I don't like it.

Also, I am not into having my monthly phone bill increase by a ridiculous amount because of a stupid data plan.

4. Dressing Up

Is it just me? Lately all I want to do is wear cotton shorts and a sports bra. Yes, everywhere. Darn you, Oklahoma and your ridiculous heat!

But don't worry. I'm not going to be that girl (you know, the girl who runs on the busy street in just her sports bra and her six-pack). Good thing I have about eight hundred different colored Old Navy tanks tops. Pair one with a cardigan and khakis, and I've got myself a semidressy-but-mostly-not-dressy-at-all work outfit 5 days a week!

I am also mostly not into fast food (because it makes me feel weird), Harry Potter (because it looks like I'll be reading Game of Thrones for a while), and baseball (because the Cubs are 18 games out of first place and 4 games away from being eliminated from play-offs).

Be Careful What You Wish For


So here's what happened.

I said I would blog for 31 straight days in August. I knew it would be hard, but there actually have only been two days this whole month so far when I was like, "What do I write about?!"

The rest of the time things have just seemed to....happen. It's like when your preacher starts his sermon with a story that happened yesterday or even that very morning that perfectly ties into the sermon topic. I'm always like, "How on earth is this possible that yesterday something happened, and now you have a perfect illustration for your sermon?" I wonder what fake story they were planning on sharing before the perfect real-life story magically (or I guess I should say spiritually, since it's God) dropped in their lap.

But that's how it's seemed for me this month--things just happen, so I write about them, and another day passes. Last night I was thinking about how there are only three more days left to post, thank goodness. I was thinking about how I didn't know how many more things could keep happening to me, and what was I going to write about tomorrow (tomorrow being today)?

Well, friends, be careful what you wish for. Apparently I'm all out of funny things, and now the universe has just decided it's time for a change. 

That's how you find yourself bedridden on a perfectly good Monday when I have a ton of stuff to do at work. 

You see, yesterday I went to church with my family. I remember hopping out of their Dodge Durango onto the sidewalk and feeling an uncomfortable twinge in my back. It passed fairly easily, and I didn't think much more about it until later that day on the 3-hour drive home. My back hurt most of the drive, but I chalked that up to being crammed with four other people in a Chevy Malibu for three hours and, again, didn't think much about it. 

Then last night, I was lying flat on my back and tried rolling over. A shooting pain the likes of which I've heard about but never personally felt went up my back. I rolled onto my side, curled up in a ball, and started whimpering. 

Yes, whimpering. It was very sad and pathetic, and it woke Jordan up briefly before he fell back asleep.

When I woke up this morning, it was as if I'd aged 60 years and was suddenly a hunchback. So I went to the doctor, stocked up on a few of your regular muscle relaxers and 800-mg Ibuprofen pills that might as well be horse tranquilizers they're so huge, and now I'm just hanging out in bed. It's glorious. 
Except the part where I can't move. 
That part isn't fun.

I think I'll take nothing to write over back pain. Got that, universe?

52 Candles


Today, I'd like to wish a most fabulous birthday to my dad! Lookin' good at 52. I've written a lot about my family on this blog, and the reason is because they're all freaking awesome. 

But we wouldn't be anything without my dad. 
He's a great storyteller, a spontaneous planner of family vacations, and the best parallel-parker I've ever seen. 

You have to see him in action parking a black Suburban on a crowded street in the middle of downtown Chicago to believe it. 

And, in just about a week from today he's heading out on a 500-mile bike ride to raise money for Youth for Christ. My dad is the director of the North Texas region, and this bike ride is stage 2 of a 4-stage ride from the Canadian border to the Gulf of Mexico. Last summer he trained for stage 1, and Sept 3-11 he's riding stage 2 with four friends of his.

Every day this summer--even in this 100+-degree heat--he's been pumping up his bike tires, strapping on his helmet, getting his gear, and heading out for a few hours of riding. 

Here he is posing at the start of last year's ride. Totally legit for a 52-year-old, right? Or anyone, for that matter. I know I couldn't do it.

So happy birthday, Dad! You're my hero. 
And happy riding! 

{If you're interested in supporting my dad's ride and/or YFC or just want more info, please let me know!}

Texas Chicken


This weekend I'm in Texas for my dad's birthday.
Today all I did was eat.

Here's a picture my brother took of Jordan and I outside our lunch spot--Babe's Chicken.

Seriously. Talk about delicious Texas chicken.
And all you can eat green beans, mashed potatoes, gravy, creamed corn, salad, and biscuits.

I was a little worried we'd break this bench thing since we weighed about ten pounds heavier.

But it was so worth every bite.

Flashback Friday--The Back-to-School Edition


I'm pretty sure this is me on my first day of kindergarten.
It's definitely not preschool (cuz I never went; I'm smart like that).
So it has to be kindergarten. The definitive clue are my bangs. After kindergarten I grew those babies out and haven't looked back since. Bangs just aren't for me. 

But look how cute I was with my bangs, large pink bracelet thing, jean dress, and multicolored backpack. 

Dear 1992,

You served your purpose and served it well, but for your sake, I suggest you not attempt a comeback. Trust me, it will not go well.

Sincerely yours, 

Linking up with Lauren for today's colorful flashback!

On Starting School and Summer Jobs


School has started. 

I know this because:

A) people keep blogging about it
B) back-to-school sales 
C) there's noticeably more traffic in the morning on my way to work

Other than the third item on my list, school starting again doesn't affect me at all.... not until I have school-age children, at least. Let's face it: when you're working full time, summer just isn't as wonderful as it used to be. When I first graduated college, I thought, How am I going to do this!? I can't work all summer. This is so lame. 

But who am I kidding? I've had a summer job since I was 14 and became a swim instructor at our community pool.
This was by far my least favorite summer job. 

Because I repeated the nuances of "shark fin, rainbow" for four hours every day. 
Because I had to get wet in the early mornings when it was still cold (in Illinois isn't not immediately sweltering like it is in Oklahoma). 
Because of the children and his/her parent(s). 
Because every morning I prayed for rain that never came. 

And even when it did, we still had to sit in the cold and "wait it out." There was only one day all summer where I actually got to go home early.

After that, I swore I would never return to the pool.
Of course, I did return the very next summer, but it wasn't to be a swim instructor. It was to bring the kids I was nannying. 

I was a nanny for two consecutive summers for two different families, and I didn't like that either. My job mostly consisted of following the kids around to make sure they didn't get lost and/or hurt themselves, which was fine most of the time. But the main problem was that in both cases, the parents had requested a limit to the amount of TV the kids were allowed to watch each day. 

If you've never babysat, then you have no idea how hard it is to get children to stop watching TV. Next to impossible, I'd say. So it was mostly terrible, and I didn't get paid all that well, and every day I tried to time it so the dad would arrive home from work and see my playing or interacting with the kids. Because it's all about appearance, right? (Kidding...sort of.)

My favorite summer job was working at Color Me Mine. It's a paint-your-own-pottery place, and I just sat around, helping people with color suggestions. And when no one was in the shop, I painted display pieces. It was pretty great.

I was also an intern for two summers at a publishing company, and it was the most boring job ever. They didn't really need me, so I sat in a desk all day and cataloged stack after stack of books. They cleaned out their warehouse one summer, and I had the privilege helping to organize dusty boxes of books. That job rivaled the pool for sure, though I guess it looked good on my resume. 

The last summer job I had before I moved to Texas was as a waitress at a small Italian restaurant. I was a good waitress, if I do say so myself. But I had one downfall--the bar. If someone ordered a drink from the bar, I never had any idea what it was, and a lot of the time I forgot what had been ordered by the time I put the order in and had to go back and ask the person what it was they'd wanted. The owner scheduled me to work until close one night, which meant working until 2 a.m. in the bar. I was only scheduled the one time; I think they figured out pretty quick that that wasn't my area of expertise.

Waitressing wasn't that bad, although there was one customer who made me cry, and it comes to mind every once in a while and makes me feel bad all over again.

Looking back on all my summer jobs, I suppose they were just preparing me for the real work: 9-5. all. year. long. Where vacation time is treasured and I get excited about two days off for Christmas (remember 2 weeks Christmas vacation? I didn't know how good I had it).

So it's the end of summer, but really for me that just means an increased amount of morning traffic, which I didn't take a picture of like my mom did all those years of me for the first day of school.

I'm going home this weekend. My goal is to get arsenal for the next few Flashback Fridays. 
Including some awesome school pictures. 
Let's just say, middle school was not kind to me.

Wordless Wednesday--The Latest Pages


{click to enlarge}

On Budgeting (An Ongoing Tale of Trial and Error)


Last week I posted about how I paid off my car. When I left the bank that day, I was like, "So...that's...it?" 

It felt a bit anticlimactic, which is why I jumped around afterward to make the whole thing a bit more exciting.

What has been neither exciting nor anticlimactic, however, has been budgeting. It sort of sucks a lot, actually. In our pre-marital counseling, Jordan and I read a Dave Ramsey book, which (if you ignore all the capital-letter yelling and annoying true-to-life stories from people who are much more ridiculous and reckless than I will ever be) was quite inspiring. It made me want to remove debt from my life, cut up my credit card, and become a millionaire! 

My aspirations of retiring early were soon snuffed out when I realized that in real-life time, saving money and paying off debt takes time. A lot of time. So I started stressing out, as I tend to do, and Jordan started getting stressed out because I was stressed out, and it was this whole big thing. 

And then, my Sunday school teacher chose finances as the next topic to study in class, and so for the last two months(ish) we've been going in depth into budgeting, saving, investing, insurance, and any other financial topic you can think of. It's all been extremely helpful and, unfortunately, extremely stressful. I left every Sunday feeling sad and depressed. This was completely my fault; I realize this. Admittedly, I let myself get too stressed about things that aren't that big of a deal. It's another one of my annoying character flaws. 

When Jordan and I got married, I decided that was the perfect time for a fresh start; I was ready to have a whole new outlook on money. So we created a budget, and June was our first month of officially trying it for real. (We threw out May because that was wedding month, and we knew there would be a lot of unusual expenses that would never be in a normal budget.)

Since then, it's been a battle. I hate being cliche, but finances really have been one of the main frustrations for us. We both have different ideas of how it should work, what's important to spend money on, and how we need to budget. Each month since--in June, July, and now August--we've tested out a different budgeting system. We keep making small tweaks here and there to try and get it right, and we're trying to find a system that works for both of us. 

I am not going to claim that what we're doing for August is going to be our final choice. There's still a lot to work on. But this has by far been the best month, and I feel much more hopeful for our future of saving, budgeting, and overall handling our money. 

First, here's what hasn't worked:

In June, we tried going straight-up cash only. We had different envelopes for categories like gifts, groceries, personal, medical, clothing, etc., and we were only allowed to use cash. When the cash ran out, that was it--no more spending from that category. This seems good in theory, but there were times when I would be out without cash, and I needed to buy something. I should have gone home, gotten cash, and gone back to the store; but when you're already out, who wants to do that? So I used my Visa card, and it threw the whole system off. Or say I bought something online? Then what? 

The other problem with this was that neither Jordan nor I really knew what the other was buying. We kept all our receipts and put them in the appropriate envelope, but it takes a while to look through all the receipts, and sometimes you forget to get one, and when you buy something online it's not like there's a receipt for that. 

Again, problem. 

In July, we made a slight adjustment and tried using cash only for a smaller number of categories, but again, it just ended up being a mess. We'd argue, and it wasn't good. I think Jordan felt like I was just spending money willy-nilly, which I wasn't, but I suppose I can see why he felt like that.

Enter, Excel spreadsheets. 
So here we are in August, and we finally have something that seems to be working.

We'd been using a spreadsheet to keep track of our income, but this time I thought maybe it might be helpful to make a spreadsheet with all the budgeted categories. 

(Note: We each get $50 a month of "blow $," which is essentially anything we want to spend money on. If we're saving up for something big, we can choose to save our blow $ each month until we've saved up for that big thing.)

When we buy something, we write down the date, amount, and what it is. We hung this on the fridge, and at any given time throughout the month we can take a look at what we've spent (or at what the other has spent).

I have a column to keep track of weekly totals as well as the running total for the month. I actually have a more updated spreadsheet since I've made some adjustments to this one, but I don't have a picture of it. (One addition was a row at the top to write down the budgeted amount for that category so we know how much we have to spend.)

Here's what ours looks like for this month:

(Note: this was the very first version I made, so it's way messier than what September is going to look like, but you get the idea.)

Again, I am not in any way claiming to know what I'm talking about, but this seems to be working for the time being. It's slightly tedious to write down everything, but for me it's easier than getting on my computer each time. And at the end of the month, all I need to do it input the grand total and voila! 

Keeping track of our outgoing money has allowed me to know exactly how much money I have leftover at the end of the month. Then, I immediately writing a check for the difference and put that extra money on my car, which is how I was able to pay it off early. 

Of course, this entirely depends on having a positive difference at the end of the month as opposed to a negative one, but when you're keeping track of your purchases this closely, it really makes you think about money in a different way. 

And now that we have a system that's working, I'm sort of excited to see what happens in September.

On Skipping and Scrapbooking


(Where my inner scrapbooking nerd goes on full display)

Today, I didn't go to work.

I took a personal day and spent most of the day working on my scrapbook. I really got into a groove and ended up finishing two spreads, which is crazy for two oddly dissimilar reasons.

1) Because I worked all day and only finished two spreads.
2) Because I worked all day and finished two spreads.

I set up shop at my kitchen table, which almost immediately became a complete mess--with pens, stickers, paper, and of course pictures scattered everywhere. (Two shots from different times today.)

My process consists of spreading out the pictures I want to use on that page and then staring at the page for however long it takes to come up with a layout idea. I have a few books that I use for inspiration, but I rarely just flat-out copy a design. 

It takes a while for me to put it all together, because getting it right is tedious work. There's cutting the paper, choosing colors, finding stickers... and that takes much longer than you might think. It for sure takes longer than I think.

For my wedding scrapbook, I'm going for classic--something that will look good years down the road. I really don't want future me thinking, What is going on with this page? (Like what happens when I look at my high school and college scrapbooks.) So I'm trying not to overdue it with stickers and words while at the same time making sure the page doesn't look boring.

I have a lot of materials to work with, all thanks to my grandma, who has stocked me well over the years for numerous birthdays and Christmases. But my favorite tool by far is this pencil thingy:

I have no idea what it's actually called, but in my head I refer to it as "that blue stick thing." This has saved my life so many times, and I'm not even kidding. 

I actually only use the flat end (the left end in the above picture). It's super thin and works perfectly for lifting a sticker up off the page so I can move the sticker to a different spot. I don't know what I would do without this, because I have to move things a lot, and when I try to move a sticker without this, I tore up the sticker and the page, and it was a huge mess.

It's also super handy for placing small letters and stickers exactly where I want them. Where my clumsy large fingers would fail, this stick tool can place them easily. I guess my point in all this is that if you're an avid scrapbooker, you should really consider adding this to your bag of tools. It's pretty awesome.

Okay. So, I don't know how this post turned into a sales pitch for the stick tool, but maybe it's just because I was scrapbooking all day today and this was the one thing that never left my sight. I only used it about a billion times.

And my other point is, every so often it's just a good idea to skip out on your regular schedule and do something unusual...like staying home on a Monday to work on a scrapbook, I guess. And I don't even care that that made me sound like a huge nerd.

Check back on Wednesday for pictures of the new pages! 
See my previous pages by clicking on the "scrapbooking" link on the left sidebar. 

My Head is Exploding


A new outlet mall just opened about 10 minutes from my apartment. It's a pretty big deal around here; a friend from Tulsa even said people she knew were talking about the OKC outlet mall.

Yesterday, I went for the first time.

I was there for three hours and didn't even make it in all the stores. And as much as I wanted to show disdain and be all "above" the hype of the outlet mall, it actually was pretty nice. There are some great stores, and a lot of them had good deals. I ended up buying a pair of shoes from Naturalizer and a skirt and shirt from Gap.

There was a lot I saw that I would have liked to buy, but Jordan and I have a budget now--an official one with an excel spreadsheet (which I might post about at some point)--so I had limited resources.

It was fun shopping and trying on clothes, but as I walked around and saw all the great new shops, my head started to explode. It was exploding with (dare I say it?) Christmas gift ideas.

I know. It's entirely too soon to be thinking about Christmas gifts, and I'm not one to rush time. But finding the perfect gift for someone I like is pretty much my favorite thing ever, and this outlet mall might be the death of me.

I came home and went on and on to Jordan about all the awesome ideas I have for this holiday season. He's not as into gifts as I am, and he's well aware he'll have to hold me back. But now, after visiting the new outlet mall that's oh-so-close to my house, I think he'll have his work cut out for him.

Screw the budget, I say. Presents! 

Yeah. This could be trouble.

How Being Competitive Relates to Writing


 It's no secret that I'm a sore loser. 

Just ask Jordan how I handled losing to him the other night while we played Wii Sports Resort. Wakeboarding. Archery. Bowling. Canoeing. Sword fighting. Ping Pong. I lost at all of them, and I did not handle it well. 

(And before you get all, "You play tennis! You should be good at ping pong," let me stop you right there. They aren't the same at all.)

I hate losing probably more than I hate anything else in life (except maybe robots and dead bodies). Sometimes I choose to not even start something I know I will lose. This is first of all because I hate losing but also because I'm probably in a situation where I don't want to make a fool of myself once the inevitable happens (the inevitable being me losing).

This insane competitiveness annoys other people. I know my family and friends will readily testify to this fact. But the truth is, it annoys me too. I wish I weren't so competitive. I wish I could just take things in stride, laugh it off, rid myself of this terrible character flaw; but I can't. And it's so annoying.

I often wonder why I have such a strong reaction to losing when other people have such a mild one--even none at all, depending on who you are. I have a few theories, but mostly I think it's because that's part of my super Type A, firstborn daughter, born-into-a-family-obsessed-with-sports personality. However, I recently read something that spun my theory in a new direction. 

The following line is from a friend's blog post concerning the purpose of editors and writing and how you should receive constructive criticism from your editor about your book. Here's what she said: "You are not your book." 

By this, I think she meant that when an editor gives a critique, it's not personal; it's not meant to say, "You suck as a person." How I read this is that you don't have to get so wrapped up in your book that you aren't able to see or accept anything negative about it because for some reason you think this means there is something negative about you.

Criticism doesn't mean you should stop writing; it doesn't mean you can do nothing right and that you should just pack yourself in a box and mail yourself to Antarctica. It just means that your book has flaws and that even though you can put your heart and soul into something, that doesn't mean it's going to be perfect. 

Basically, it means you have some work to do. But even then, it isn't going to be perfect, because there is no perfect book. What authors (at least the ones I've encountered) so often fail to realize is that their worth as a person is not measured by how well or poorly they write. (Their worth as a writer is measured by how well or poorly they write, but that's not the point I'm trying to make.) Their ability to love and be loved is not measured by the fact that they wrote a book and whether or not the book was good.

And that's where my insight about my annoying competitiveness comes in. 

I often feel like I have to be perfect. I should be able to just "get" something, and if I don't, well then I'll just give up. But there is no perfect book, and there is no perfect person. (Yes, Jesus, okay? But that's also not what I'm talking about right now.)

I feel like losing makes me a lesser person, that it makes me weak, vulnerable, not good enough. I say to an author, "You are not your book." But that concept applies to my life as well.

I am not my athlete achievements. 
I am not my grades. 
I am not my writing abilities. 
I am not my job. 
I am not my church. 
I am not my family.

There's no one thing that makes me me--it's a myriad of likes and dislikes, of goals and pursuits and bucket lists. It's friends and hobbies. And it's games won and lost.

Losing doesn't make me less of a person; it doesn't make me stupid or lame or worthless. 
It just means I'm not perfect. 
It just means I have stuff to work on.

But my ability to love and be loved and live is not measured by whether I won or even whether I played well. It's measured by the fact that I did it at all, that I tried, that I didn't give up, that I started when I could have just said forget it. 

I said earlier that your worth as a person is not dependent on the fact that you wrote a book and whether it was well written. Your worth as a writer is dependent on this fact, however, just as my worth as a tennis player is dependent on how many balls I hit out and how many times I can ace someone on my serve. But what I so often forget is that being a good tennis player doesn't make me a better person. I could be a fantastic tennis player and be this biggest jerk on the planet. 

I get upset when I lose, but I have a new theory as to why: 

It's because I'm basing my person--myself--on winning and losing, and I need to stop.
I am not my wins and losses. 

I may suck at wakeboarding and canoeing and ping pong and bowling and archery and sword fighting, but in the end I'm still just me. And right now I need more practice in order to stop sucking at Wii Sports Resort.

Flashback Friday--Four Generations


This picture was a very strong contender for my wedding slideshow but in the end didn't make the final cut. I think that was because my mom thought my grandma (we call her Nonnie [second from the right]) wouldn't be super happy with the confused/annoyed face she's making.

But I think it's great. Four generations of woman from my mom's side.

From left to right: Great-grandma Staman (her name was Hazel), my mom, me (age 1), Nonnie (my mom's mom), Great-grandma Short (her name was Thelma)

I have to wonder what was going on just before, or maybe as, this picture was taken. My mom is really the only one who looks ready. I suppose maybe that's the way of grandmas, though, isn't it? To took confused sometimes.

Great-grandma Short looks like she might be looking at me, perhaps telling me to smile or look at the camera. Or maybe she's telling Nonnie something, which is why that look on Nonnie's could be a tad bit of irritation.

I guess that's both the beauty and frustrations of photos. You can freeze a moment, yes, but you can't go back in time and recreate it. And it can leave you wondering what that moment actually was. I suppose I'll just have to wait for heaven so I can ask them.

Linking up with Lauren!

The Word You're Looking For Is Booya


I felt it was appropriate today to show you a picture of me and my car.
Because after work yesterday I went to the bank and paid. it. off.
A year and a half early, I might add.

Hence me jumping for joy in front of my car while holding the official papers.

Also, for your interest, here are some car-jumping-picture deleted scenes. I do strange things when preparing to jump.

Special thanks to my photographer, Jordan, who braved heat and humiliation to take pictures of his wife jumping around in the parking lot. 

{My car and I are embracing the camera this week with Emily!}

Wordless Wednesday--Slow and Steady Scrapbookin'


I'm apparently moving at the rate of about a page a week.*

{click to enlarge}

*Don't tell me what you think unless it's something good.

Morning Workout FAIL


Yesterday morning, the weirdest thing happened to me. 

After making myself sick on butter cream frosting for a week straight, I decided I needed to get back on the wagon and check in with Jillian. So I set my alarm for 5:15 and mentally prepared myself to wake up early and work out in my living room. 

Monday morning, bright and early, the alarm went off, and I rolled out of bed and slowly made my way into the living room. In case you don't know, Jillian Michaels's 30-day shred DVD is one hardcore 20-min workout consisting of 3 cycles of 6 min each.

There are three levels, and in my earlier attempt at the shred I had gotten all the way to the end, but considering my extra 50lbs. of butter cream, I decided to start back at level 1. So I was pumping the iron and doing my jumping jacks and butt kicks, and I got all the way to the end of cycle 2 when suddenly I started to feel nauseous. 

It was one of those I-can't-decide-if-I-need-to-throw-up feelings, so I lay down on the carpet to catch my breath. Jillian was still yelling at me in the background, so I shut her off just as cycle 3 was about to start and continued lying on my back, taking slow, deep breaths in an effort to regain my equilibrium and hopefully continue my workout.

After about a minute or so, I rolled over on my stomach. That position felt instantly better, so I rested my cheek on the carpet.

Half an hour later, I awoke with a start. 

"Uhhhh," I groaned. 

My face was pressed up against the carpet, causing a severe red crease across my left cheek. My arms were spread wide as though I'd been attempting a snow angel; my legs were pencil straight. And, oh yes, I'd been drooling. Gross. 

It seemed I had stopped two thirds of the way through my workout to fall asleep on the floor in the middle of my living room. I tried to be angry and disappointed with myself, but I was in too much pain to care. My legs were sore, my right arm was completely asleep, I couldn't turn my head to the left, and my entire face was numb. 

Not the sort of inspiring morning workout I'd envisioned. I can't even pretend to know what happened. That was definitely a workout fail. 

I suppose if you look at the bright side, it would be that I was no longer nauseous. 

Update--Regarding My Name Change and Trip to the SS Office


Once I had made my final decision to forgo the legal name change and just stick with my original first and middle name (which I wrote about here), it was time to head to my local Social Security office.

After talking to a few people who had made the trip, I realized that it would be in my best interest to arrive as early as possible. The office opened at 9 a.m., so I planned to be there somewhere between 8:30 and 8:45. I was nervous all the way there because I wasn't completely sure what sort of information I needed and didn't want to be denied a name change because I had forgotten a certain important form. 

When I arrived, there was already a line. I waited for my turn to be ushered through the glass doors by a security guard wearing a brown uniform and displaying two guns--one holstered on each hip.

I walked through a metal detector and had my purse inspected by a different guard, who literally looked in every pocket. He even took the book I had brought and leafed through it, as though I might be hiding a weapon between the pages. 

After that was over, I took a number and sat down. The rectangular room was a bland beige color, and there was a large TV screen mounted on each end that flashed a number every so often to show which person was being helped. I continued to get more and more nervous for the next 25 minutes as the numbers counted slowly up toward mine--N394. 

When my number was called, I made my way over to the counter and was greeted by a plump lady with short blonde hair. I noticed an American flag pin attached to her blue blouse.

"What do you need?" she asked.
"I got married and need to change my name."
"Ah yes. Okay, I need to see your marriage license."

I took a deep breath and handed it over. 
She glance at it and then asked me for my social security number.
I leaned forward and repeated the number in as close to a whisper as I could without her thinking I was being paranoid. But I mean really, what a perfect place to steal identities. Just hang around the SS office all day and write down people's numbers. (No, I'm not a conspiracy theorist; I'm just suspicious.)

After she typed in my number, she looked at me and said, "Mkay, I'm going to ask you some questions now. What's your birthday?"

Easy enough, right? Wrong. I instantly started sweating. I could feel my brain trying to connect the dots, becoming frustrated because my answer wasn't coming quickly enough. 

"July seven... No, July tenth. Nineteen eighty... six."
Wow, you're dumb. Can't even remember your own birthday. That's what inner me said in a mocking tone. (Inner me is rather mean sometimes.)

To be fair, my birthday is July 10, 1986. Jordan's is July 17, 1985. They can be easily confused, especially when you're being interrogated by the United States government. 

"Hmm," she said, peering at me over invisible spectacles. "Where were you born?"
"Winona Lake, Indiana."
She paused and leaned closer to her computer screen before turning back to me. "Nope. That's not right."
"That's not what it says. It starts with a W, if that helps."
"Winona Lake," I repeated stupidly. 
"No," she said again. Then she paused and peered at me again. "It's one word."
Think! Think!
But I came up with nothing other than Winona, and I didn't want to embarrass myself more by idiotically continuing to repeat the same town name over and over. 
"I, I don't... I don't know," I said helplessly, resisting the urge to wipe the sweat that was trickling down the back of my neck. "I don't know. I only lived in Indiana for two years. My parents only ever told me Winona Lake."

She sighed heavily. "Warsaw."
"Oh. Well, thanks. I'm sorry. I really didn't know that."
"I'm going to need to ask you more questions," she said, turning back to the computer. "What's your mother's maiden name?"

This time the answer came sooner.
"What's your father's name?"

Again, I was able to give a quick response, which was apparently satisfactory, because she printed out a piece of paper and handed it to me along with a pen. 
"Sign your new name here. Your number will remain the same. We'll mail you a new SS card in about a week."
"That's all I need?" I asked, encouraged by the prospect of getting to go home and take a shower.
"That's it. You're all set."

I got up and wove my way through the crowd to the glass doors. It was 10:26. (I know this because I called my mom on the way out to ask why she'd lied to me about where I was born. ["Winona Lake was the city you were born in," she told me between bursts of laughter."Warsaw was the town."])

And then, thankfully, it was over. 

I wasn't nervous anymore, I now knew where I was born, and, most importantly, I was officially (and legally) a Bumgarner. There's no going back now. If for no other reason than I never again want to make a trip to the social security office. That place messes with your mind.

On a Good (Married) Life


Three months ago today, Jordan and I got married; and over the last three months, I've heard one question come up over and over again:

"So how's married life?" {Or: "How's married life treatin' ya?"}

This question confuses me, and I'm here to admit that after three months of fielding this question on a daily basis--sometimes multiple times a day (today I heard it three times)--I still haven't produced an answer that seems to satisfy the questioner.

"Well," I want to say, "it's actually the same as regular life except I have to share the bathroom, my last name is different, and people won't stop asking me this stupid question."

Or sometimes I want to try something like this: "Well, actually right now it's pretty lame. Last night we argued about the laundry. We didn't do that when we were dating. So...yeah."

But I can't really say either of those things.

So what, then, I wonder, are people looking for? What am I supposed to say? After all, this question is posed all the time in the form of the age old: "How are you?", which is more often than not followed by "good," whereupon the questioner feels satisfied and moves on.

"Good" is the answer they were looking for. Good is safe. Good doesn't require much explanation. Good doesn't give details, and good doesn't require them. Good can be hiding tears over the worst day ever; good can be masking humble excitement; good can pretty much mean anything you want it to.

I've tried answering good.

All good gets me is a quite chuckle and confused stare, sometimes followed up with a question about whether I'm enjoying it.

"Umm, I'm really not sure what you're implying," I want to say while I wonder, Why is "good" not an appropriate response? What on earth did you want me to say? 

Maybe they were looking for something like this: "It's only the single greatest thing that's ever happened to me! It's so much fun! I love it!" Is that what they were looking for? Because to me, that comes across as a bit startling, and I can't believe they really expected that. 

Were they looking for the truth? The truth that it's been hard, difficult at times, even, because two different people trying to work together and live together and compromise every day isn't going to be something most people are able to jump right into and have it instantly work like clockwork.

Married life is awesome and wonderful, of course, and I love living with Jordan; I know he's the right person for me. But it's been an adjustment. It hasn't been all hearts and flowers. We're not used to "married life" yet. We're not even close, actually. Some days it's easier than others, just like some days it's harder, but in general, I wish people would be okay with good. (When I say people, I of course don't mean my close friends. Part of being a close friend means not being satisfied with good.)

Just today I was hanging with some of the people from my tennis team, and someone asked me, "So, Amanda, how's married life?"

"It's good," I said, not feeling the need to elaborate.
The four other people in the room chuckled softly, and my friend said, "Oh yeah? So that's it?"

Yeah, that's it. What else do you want? If he had asked me, "How's your day going?" and I said good, he would have been fine with that. What's the difference?

I think mostly, though, my issue might be less with the question itself and more about the responses I keep getting to my answer. It sorta makes me feel like I'm missing something. Is it not okay that it's good? Should I be beyond excited at all times, unable to contain my newlywed excitement?

I guess maybe that's what people think, but I'm not like that about life in general. There are days when I'm busy and tired and stressed out, days when I cry for no reason at all. And there are days when I'm happy and cheerful just because, days when I wish I could whistle, because I would definitely be walking around whistling an upbeat tune. That's how my life is--full of ups and downs--and that's how married life is too, cuz guess what? Spoiler alert: married life is the same as real life! Imagine that.

Today has been a rather melancholy day for me. This might not surprise you, based on the overall tone of this post. But I can't be funny all the time, and today I'm just tired of people asking me how married life is. What I really want to say is that it's the same. It's life, and it sucks sometimes. It's life, and it's awesome a lot of the time. It's life, and I'm blessed to be alive. It's life, and I'm doing the best I can with what I've been given.

It's life, and it's good.

Book Review--The Monster of Florence


A friend recommended The Monster of Florence to me, and after hearing the title and seeing the cover, my first inclination was to ask if it was scary.

"I don't do scary," I told her.

But she assured me it wasn't. 

"I mean, it's a true story about a serial killer," she said, "and the character of Hannibal Lecter was based on the Monster of Florence, but it's not really scary."
Good, that makes me feel so much better, I thought.
But I ignored my better judgment and borrowed it from her anyway.
This is the true story of a serial killer who roamed the Florentine countryside in the 1980s and killed 14 people--7 young couples. The Monster was never caught.

Two decades later, bestselling American author Douglas Preston moved his family to Italy so he could do research for a mystery novel. The house his family was living in happened to be right next to one of the Monster's crime scenes, and so Preston becomes caught up in the story himself, working with Italian journalist Mario Spezi to go back through the evidence and visit the crime scenes, hoping to finally learn the truth about the Monster.

It's an extremely interesting story, and this book itself is an excellent example of writing nonfiction that reads like fiction. The story kept me reading long after I should have been asleep, because I wanted to know what happened to the Monster. With all the facts and evidence, I expected it to drag a bit, but it really didn't. It felt exciting and believable all at the same time. And even more horrifying because it's 100% true.

As Preston and Spezi get deeper into the dust-covered Monster files, they discover long-lost secrets and unearth evidence suggesting that the Italian police force might even be guilty of cover-up. The two writers themselves are accused of planting evidence and become the target of the investigation.

This book was a great read, and I'm glad the possibility of it being scary didn't deter me. It actually wasn't scary, strange as that may sound, and if I didn't find it scary, no one will.

That being said, now I'm not so sure I want to visit Florence any time soon.

{Also worth noting: I started George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones.}

Flashback Friday--There Were Never Such Devoted Sisters


{Before you do anything else, name the movie my title comes from. If you can't, then I have to wonder what you've been doing with your life.}

So my sister called me last week demanding to be in the next Flashback Friday. What is it with my family? Apparently they think my blog is some crazy type of popularity contest. (And if it were, Jordan would be winning anyway.)

But since I already had a FF subject for last week (see: my trifecta of awesome things), I promised to feature her next week, which is now this week. So, Sarah, this one's for you.

My sister.
Ah yes, my sister.
She's so pretty, no?

[Note: this is not the "flashback" part; I just think these pics are funny.]

I am not lying when I say that I remember the exact moment I found out my parents were having a baby and that, thank the sweet Lord, it was a girl.

I was in my house in Winfield, IL, standing in the living room with my two brothers and my grandma. I had come home from school (I was eleven, so maybe fifth grade?), and my parents were gone. 

"They're at the hospital," my grandma said. "Your mom's having the baby."
Of course, I had known they were going to have a baby, so that wasn't the surprise. But I didn't know what kind, and since up until that point I was the only girl in the family (not counting my mom), I wanted a baby sister more than anything in the world. 

I waited and waited, and then the call came. 

I remember my brothers and I crowding around my grandma, who was holding the speakerphone. When I heard those three words--It's a Girl--I jumped up and ran circles around the house, yelling and pumping my arms the entire time. It sounds weird, but to this day I really do remember exactly how I felt. 

That moment is what I think about when Sarah is driving me crazy. (Example of said crazy: leaving threatening messages on my phone, promising me harm if I don't feature her in a flashback.)

But it's okay, cuz see? Eleven-year-old me is the proudest big sister ever. 
(Also of note: my huge glasses. Thanks, Mom.)

I'm biased, but really I think we can all agree that my sister is gorgeous.

She's one of those annoying girls who's hair looks perfect straight and curly. She's also one of those annoying girls who is nice and pretty and smart and athletic. (Bonus: She's a really good shopping companion. Talk about super cute dresser. And also honest in her critique of your choices.)

Yeah... she's super annoying. Just look at that face. Annoyingly cute, isn't she?

Linking up with Lauren today!
Is it Friday already?

3 Things I Learned Yesterday while Baking Cupcakes from Stratch


Ever since I bought this cookbook (about a week ago), I have been wanting to try something from it: 

A friend of mine is moving away, so I decided to bake her some please-don't-leave-me-here cupcakes. This was my first attempt at baking chocolate cupcakes not from a box.

Here's what I learned: 

1. If you are making chocolate cupcakes (not from a box), and the recipe calls for a double broiler but you don't have a double broiler, you can rig up a homemade db using a regular pot and a glass Pyrex bowl. It works just the same or mostly the same, I guess. (Since I've never actually used a real db, I obviously can't say for sure.) The chocolate melted, in any case, so I was satisfied.

2. When using your Kitchen Aid mixer, do not begin the mixing process immediately on level 4. Doing so may or may not cause flour and sugar to erupt from the bowl, layering all counter tops and baking utensils in the vicinity with a light [read: heavy] dusting.

Note: My Kitchen Aid mixer is still a raging success. It makes me excited to bake things, even if a mess ensues. 

3. Apartment ovens are a large oil stain on the clean white apron of aspiring bakers. Even though the recipe says bake cupcakes for 20-25 minutes, you can still put them in for 15 and have them turn out dry. Clearly my conservative setting of the kitchen timer needs further adjustment.

It's obvious I need to practice baking cupcakes from scratch, which I am willing to do as long as I can keep a tight hold on my willpower to eat the batter and frosting in large spoonfuls. I may or may not have made myself sick last night with all the sugar...and then again this morning. Don't judge me. I already judge myself enough for both of us.

Wordless Wednesday--Wedding Scrapbook Spread No. 2


I'm moving slow, but that's what it takes to get it right.
(See the first page here.)

I'm loving my wedding photos.
(And all the awesome stickers I picked up at Hobby Lobby.)