Sunday, March 5, 2017

Semi-Charmed Kind of Life

I run for the bling.

Or at least, I like my running related bling.

Back in October 2012, when I crossed the finish line for my first Twin Cities Marathon, I remember receiving that first finishers medal and feeling this overpowering sense of accomplishment. They placed that beauty around my neck and I felt like I was a different person than the one that had toed the start line just a few hours earlier.

As I wandered around the finishers' area, sort of disoriented and in shock, the one thing that kept me grounded was the feel of that medal. Its weight, its slight sway and "thump" against my chest, as I moved clumsily about.

I wore it as we waited for my PIC to cross the line. I wore it as we hit the nearest fast-food joint to re-fuel.

I reluctantly removed it to get into the shower, and eyed it wistfully as we left to go and celebrate our accomplishment with some hard-earned ink.

The next day, when we left for the airport, that puppy was proudly worn around my neck. Not the most fashionable statement necklace in the world, but I just did. not. care. I wanted anyone who looked at me, shuffling slowly along, to know that I WAS A MARATHONER!

I was like Howard Wallowitz from The Big Bang Theory, after he got back from outer space...I'd find a way to work that fact into practically any conversation..."oh, you are flying home to see your parents for the first time in 3 years? Thats, great...I'm flying home to show my parents my finisher's medal."

The following day, when I went to work, I wore my medal. There were a few raised eyebrows but, in general, everyone was good natured and gave me "atta-girls"...even if it was after asking me "How far was your marathon?"

For a few weeks after that, the medal was actually stashed in my laptop bag...a constant reminder that I could do anything I set my mind to. Eventually, I made peace with the fact that I would have to hang it up instead of dragging it with me least I had the ink on my foot, to remind me.

In the weeks leading up to the marathon in 2014, my "virtual goody bag" arrived from Twin Cities in Motion. I scrolled through the coupons and offers, mentally discarding most of them on account of them being extremely locational. Although we would be *in* Minneapolis, I don't *live* there and so most of the "deals" were not something I could take advantage of.

Except for one...

There was an ad for a jeweler, Scott James Sports Jewelry, that caught my eye.

I clicked over to the store and I audibly gasped...they had charms that were in the shape of the logo that is inked on my foot!

They were beautifully rendered *and* they were reasonably priced.
I swooned and immediately texted my bestie to share in my excitement.

That Christmas, to my extreme delight, Mr. Man and the kidiots gifted me with 3 beautiful charms...the TCM logo, a 26.2 disk and a bar that said "Twin Cities" charm for each time I had run the marathon.

I had them soldered to my Tiffany & Co. Charm bracelet, that I never, ever, ever take off...and have gleefully worn them every day since.
2 of the original 3...

It's like being able to wear my medal everywhere I go.

One morning, a week or so before the 2015 marathon, I woke up and discovered that the delicate maple leaf in one of my charms had apparently snagged something and broke...I was pretty bummed, but took it as a metaphor of sorts...I might be a little beaten up and worse for wear, but that doesn't take away from my accomplishments.

The weekend of the marathon, we were in Minnesota and made our way to the expo. As we wandered around, I spotted the now familiar logo and bolted over to the Scott James booth. After fangirl-ing for a minute or two I mentioned my broken charm and asked if it was possible to fix it. Sadly it was not, however, they took the broken charm and replaced it for me, ON THE SPOT. I was utterly speechless...a condition, dear reader, I am certain you have by now ascertained is quite unfamiliar to me.

If I hadn't already been in love with their product, and their company I was now. I constantly trolled their inventory to see if any of my other favorite races had been added to their repertoire.

I may or may not have entered lotteries for races specifically because I could then get myself that charm. ::cough::

As 2016 kicked off, we signed up for the Cape Cod Ragnar, and I knew *exactly* what my next charm would be. I anxiously awaited the early May race, as much for the race as for the bragging rights that would allow me to add that charm...I'm not even sure our whole team had finished their third lap before I had that puppy ordered.

Recently, I happened upon the super exciting news that Scott James was introducing an Ambassador program. I eagerly applied and held my breath...

...and so, it is with the utmost excitement and pride that I can announce that I have officially joined the Scott James Sports Jewelry team of Ambassadors! I couldn't be more excited and am hoping that you all will give their shop a little look-see...I'm certain you won't be disappointed. And, because they are super awesome, they have armed with a sweet 15% of discount code that I can share with you!

Visit them by either clicking the badge on the side of my page or here and enter code AMB-b35st95d.

As for me, I'm eyeing up my next charms...I've got another Ragnar coming up, so I'm counting the days till that beauty makes its way to my bracelet.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Are You Being Fresh?

Life is busy, yo. There are not enough hours to get all of the things done that I want to get done, that I need to get done, that have to get done. I mean, somehow we always figure it out, but something always needs to be sacrificed. Totally not complaining, because I recognize that the mere fact that I am as busy as I am is a product of my privilege.

I am privileged to be healthy enough to run the miles I run.
I am privileged to have a job that inspires me to work all of the hours.
I am privileged to have children that are healthy and happy and bold and engaged enough to want to be in all of the activities.
I am privileged to be able to afford to keep them in these activities.

I get it, my blessings are more than abundant. My time? Much less so.

In order to get things to all balance out I am, perhaps, a bit of a *control freak*...but also pretty much a time management expert, so whenever I find something that might potentially help me to "herd my cats", I'm all about trying it out.

When the kidiots were much younger, like 1 & 2, and we still lived in sunny South Florida, our local grocery chain introduced an online shopping and doorstep delivery service. Not surprisingly, I swooped in on that, like a hawk. It was an awesome invention and I was willing to pay a bit of a premium for it.

I would log onto their website, while I was in the lactation room, pumping breast milk and check off the items on my grocery list. Once I had it all done, I'd checkout and schedule my delivery for a 2 hour window that would work for me. (i.e., a Saturday, NOT during nap time.)

Saturday morning would arrive and bright and early and, right on time, a big truck would pull up, a friendly delivery driver would call my cell phone (because I specified on delivery instructions to NOT ring the bell as that would set the dogs off in a tizzy) and I would greet him at the door. He'd then lay out a plastic "runner" of sorts, but on little cloth "booties" and wheel my purchases in, on a dolly so as not to dirty my floors.

It was a Godsend.

But, apparently either I was the only one that thought so or they were just waaaaay before their time.

Almost as quickly as this lifesaver started, it stopped. It was gone. I was super bummed.

Fast forward 13 years, and I find myself living deep in the heart of PA Dutch country, among Amish folks and Mennonites and cows and corn. Our town has hitching posts for horses. Our Walmart has a special parking area that is designated for the horse and buggy crowd. We are not terribly modernized.

We *do* have a college, which explains why we have a Walmart.

There are a few solid grocery stores in town, and I live less than a mile from one of them. Giant has some nice features...a great "Bonus Card" program that allows me to load digital coupons to my shopping card and a gas station that I can earn points worth money off my gas for.

Anyway, I was making a point here...I knew my hopes of having a grocery delivery service any time soon were pretty slim, so I tried to block the blissful recollection from my mind.

And then a wonderful thing happened. My best work friend, K,  mentioned "Amazon Fresh". She said it was like regular Amazon...but for groceries.

I was intrigued. (Truth be told, pretty sure she was too)

As an existing Amazon Prime member, I could try it for free. As long as I bought at least $40 worth of groceries, there would be no delivery charge.

Let's be real. I have a 13 year old and a 15 year old. $40 worth of groceries? Shit man, they eat that in a sitting.

So we logged on, at work, during lunch and started to populate my cart with items. I found a good number of things that I can't get in my local stores - or varieties of favorites that I didn't even know existed...for the most part, the pricing was pretty comparable to my local grocery stores. Some items were a bit spender, but some were decidedly cheaper.

I added yogurt, sour cream, lettuce, tomatoes, garlic, lemon juice and Craisins. (We eat A LOT of yogurt...)but then we got distracted and wound up abandoning my cart and getting back to work.

The next day, we picked back up where we left off, but decided to look at the delivery windows...I realized that I *needed* some of the items before Monday (it was Friday) and if I couldn't get a delivery the next day, well, our experiment would have to wait a week.

To my immense relief, there were Saturday windows. There are two categories of delivery: Attended and Unattended. There were no Attended slot left, so instead I selected Unattended. This provided me with a few 3 hour windows that I could choose over the next two days.

I selected Saturday 7-10am. Once selected, it stated that my slot was reserved for the next 60 minutes. I would need to check out within that window, or I would lose my slot.

I clicked back over to the "store" and added a last few items, to round me out to $40.

Checkout was the standard Amazon checkout process, so simple and fast. I used my Amazon Visa card as my payment method, so I earned 5% back on my purchase.

Once I checked out, I noticed that there was a message that said I could still add items to my order...which is a pretty nice feature for someone that is constantly juggling all of the balls. I am not sure what the cut off is for how close to your scheduled delivery you can add items, but I can envision starting an order on a Monday for a Saturday delivery and just continuing to add items to it all week, as we run out of things.

Needless to say I was pretty excited this morning, in anticipation of my first delivery. (K? Every bit as anxious...she texted me *while I was typing this up*)

Some time between 9 and 10 they quietly came to the door and left my parcels...
Those are cute little totes, wonder if I get to keep them?
I may or may not have squealed when I saw them sitting there, waiting patiently for me to discover them.

I brought them inside and noticed that they were clearly marked with instructions on what I should do with them:
Sweet! Reusable!
I opened the first one, which contained my perishables:

They were protected under a thermal blanket and then, under that, three substantial ice packs. Granted, it's the dead of winter in South Central PA, so defrosting was never really a concern, but this looks like it would be adequate, even in the summer.

Everything I ordered was there, and in pristine condition, so I would call this adventure a success. I will continue testing it out, next time with loose produce and meat products.

My only reluctance here would be about not earning the gas points, but as K and I worked out, the 5% cashback that I am getting is worth much more than the $.10 off per gallon that I get for every $100 I spend in groceries...but there is something kind of vindicating about pulling up to the pump, swiping my bonus card and watching the price of gas drop before my eyes...ah well, perhaps if I had a MUCH BIGGER gas tank.

Stay tuned for updates on additional Amazon Fresh orders. I'm sure you can hardly wait. ;)

**This is NOT a sponsored post. The opinions expressed here were not solicited and I am not being compensated for them at all...though if Amazon would like to throw me a bone, I wouldn't turn them down...

Friday, February 24, 2017

My First *Fix*

I typically like to see myself as being immune to advertising...somehow above being coerced into buying things just because a splashy ad tells me that I want it. I suppose we probably all want to think of ourselves as being strong willed and strong minded enough to withstand the pressure and just do our own thing...

For well over a year now, I have been seeing ads for Stitch Fix pop up all over my social media. First as ads on Facebook. Then in the form of sponsored pins on my pinterest.

"Pffft.." I thought.
"Not gonna suck *me* sirree bob. Nope. Not a chance."
"Wow, that really *is* a cute outfit...I bet it's a bait and switch."

...and finally, one night, when I was reasonably certain that no one else was looking, I clicked on one of the banner ads and started to read up on what it was all about.

I filled out the profile...

...but did *not* schedule a "fix" for myself. Because hey, you're not the boss of me! I'm not going to cave to the peer pressure. Also, I'm *frugal*.

A few weeks ago, I started seeing more and more people posting pictures from their "fixes"...and I was quietly impressed...I thought "Hmmm, I could totally see myself wearing *that*..."

Finally, earlier this week, I decided "what the heck!" I recently got a promotion and a healthy raise and by golly, why *not*?!? I figured, I 'll try it once, probably hate it, will send everything back and that will be that.

Click, click, thing I knew, I got an email advising me that my "fix" would be here on February 28th or sometimes thereabout.

So, imagine my shock and nervous delight, when I came home to a white and aqua box *today*, fully 4 days *early*...

As TGC and I walked up to the house I nonchalantly asked her to pick up the mail and carry it in for me. (Play it cool, play it cool)

I said my hellos to the fur babies and TBC...

Then casually picked up the box and CHARGED UP THE STAIRS LIKE A TODDLER AT CHRISTMAS...

As soon as I was in my room, with the door safely shut behind me, I stared at the box in nervous anticipation...

What would I find inside of it???
What if I hated it?
What if I loved it?
What if I loved it but none of it fit???????


Finally I took a deep breath and cut open the tape...and found parcels, wrapped in white paper and a small envelope with some papers in it.

In there, I found what I initially thought was *another* advert...until I noticed that my name was on the top...hmmmm...

Instead of an advert, I found it was a note from my stylist, Amber. In it, she mentioned perusing my pinterest style boards...and as such she had included boyfriend jeans (WITHOUT holes!!!!!!), a striped shirt, a cargo jacket and a "little black dress".

She pinterest stalked me...which almost felt creepy...except...I loved it.

At that point, there was no holding me back...I removed the parcel form the box, tore open the white paper and started going through the items. I loved the look at feel of each of them... which point a mile panic set in...what if none of it fits????

Skeptically, I pulled on the jeans. Jeans and I have a love-hate relationship. I have really long legs and a really short waist. My waist is also pretty small in comparison to my hips and butt. And though my legs are long they are a runner's legs...strong and muscled.

To my astonished delight, the jeans fit. And well.
Oh my! Boyfriend jeans sans rips??

Next I unfolded the navy blue and white striped shirt. It seemed pretty basic and I thought, "Well, *this* one I can surely send back..."

And then I saw it...the shirt has elbow patches!!! I LOVE this sort of detail. My heart skipped a little beat and then I started to brace myself for the inevitability of the sleeves being too short. Because they almost always are. Because I have monkey arms. That my knuckles don't drag on the ground is nothing short of a mystery.

I slid the shirt on and the sleeves are PERFECT. And the shoulders and neckline flattering! ::swoon::

Next I eyed the cargo jacket...I really, really, really wanted it to fit. I tried it on but alas, it is a bit tight across the shoulders and the sleeves are a little short for my liking...

That left the black dress...which is super soft...and has nice detailing around the bust and neckline. I slid it on, over my head and was delighted to discover that it fit me like it was made for me.

The last thing left in the box was an accessory...a pair of earrings. Nice, intricately detailed but not my thing.

So 3 out of 5 are keepers and 4 out of 5 are a perfect match to my taste. Not quite enough to get the discount for keeping all 5, but I'd call this first run a I just need to be patient until my next fix, coming up on March 28th! Stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Do I Have the Words?

I woke up this morning, in a world that feels changed.

Yesterday was election day, and I was able to do something quite incredible, I was able to vote for a woman for the office of President.

It was a heady and exhilarating experience.

Adding to the gravity of what I was doing was the knowledge that I was also, effectively voting *against* a candidate that has come to represent, in my eyes at the very least, the seedier underbelly of America. The disgusting little primal demon that may exist in each of us that we choose to quash, every day. For me, that level of hate, of distrust, of fear and loathing of other people is really an alien concept...I guess you could say that I am (happily, proudly) hopelessly out of touch with my darker side.

Also making this election exceedingly significant to me is the fact that it is the first one that *both* of my children are obsessively aware of. As 8th and 9th graders, they are no longer "little kids". Though many of their peers are still in the "parroting their parents' beliefs" phase, mine have been going out of their way to learn about the candidates and ask questions. They have formed their own opinions and have a burgeoning understanding of exactly what is at stake.

As the results started to roll in last night, the tensions were increasing.

My youngest was panicky and getting increasingly frantic. Still young enough to revert a bit to "little kid" mode fairly effortlessly, she devolved into a series of "no, no, no" utterances...

My eldest watched with an increasing sense of disbelief and incredulity. The faintest tone of cynicism started to creep into his tone of voice...taking me as much by surprise as the recent changes to his voice, wrought by puberty had a few months back.

I sent us all to bed (minus Mr. Man because he is a big kid and his bed time is outside of my jurisdiction), holding fervently to the hope that with a good night's sleep, things would look better in the morning.

Such is the luxury of being the eternal optimist. It will all be alright, because it just *has* to be.

My alarm sounded at it's usual hour and I pretended to be woken by it, even though I was already mostly awake.

I grabbed my phone and refreshed Google.

She didn't win. Dammit.

I felt sick and sad and scared and outraged.

I wanted to shake my virtual fist and scream my moral outrage at the ugliness that had been wrought.

A quick visit to Facebook - bad idea. very, very, very BAD idea - showed me that others were well ahead of me. Some wallowing loudly from the depths of despair and hopelessness. Others readying the torches and pitchforks. And others gloating over their candidates victory over mine.

My finger hovered over the reaction bar as I scrolled through this mess of emotions and I found myself at a complete loss. I don't know how to react. Where is the reaction for "scared"? Which face means "confused" or "worried" or "in shock"?

And then the root of my confusion crystallized for me: What am I going to tell my kids? How the hell do I explain this to them? How do I send them to school this morning, where they will be surrounded by peers who are reveling in a victory that they likely don't fully understand...they rooted for their parents' candidate in the same way that a small child roots for their parents' alma mater...not because they have cultivated their own personal interest into that school but because it means something to their mom and do I send them to be surrounded by that with adequate protection over their raw feelings about a candidate for whom they made a very conscious and informed decision to support? How do I help them to assuage their fears for their friends and classmates?

I can't *fix* this for them. And I can't fix this for me.

All we can do now is hope. Hope that with this result, the ugly that has been unleashed and whipped up into a fervor will feel satisfied and vindicated...hope that it will roll up its sleeves and now do the work to actually make changes that will be *great*.

As the eternal optimist, I can't help but to scan the horizon for the best place to set up my lemonade's practically reflexive.

And so I send my children - and in fact, myself - out into the world today with this simple message to the victors - Congratulations on your candidate's victory. I sincerely hope and am counting on your judgment that he is the best candidate and that his presidency will be a great win for all of us. So let's stop fighting and tearing one another down and instead, start working together to do great things.