The Downfall of Winter

Yeah, I already screwed up my goals for 2019 by not posting at all last week. I had plans to post some things but then my daughter brought home the Worst Head Cold In The Universe and was nice enough to share it with me. I mean, sharing is caring, right? So instead of spending my week writing and laughing and trying to enjoy winter (by the way, I hate winter with the passion of a million burning suns), I spent it trying to find the best combination of cold medicine that would allow me get through the day at my full time job then going to bed as early as possible to try to sleep the damned thing away.

Needless to say, I mostly accomplished those goals. I left work early one day to work from home so my co-workers didn’t have to hear my disgusting noises. But I did get all of my work done in a timely manner. That’s a check in the win column, right?

Now I am feeling much better. (Thank you for asking.) But we still have like two more months of this wretched winter. I’m hoping it won’t be too awful. Maybe if we all wish for spring (or, in my case, summer) as hard as we can, winter will just vanish off the face of the Earth, never to bother us again. Or maybe I’ll just move to Arizona. Please tell me Arizona doesn’t have snow….

Talking about snow, I was stuck in the house all weekend thanks to a forecasted snow/ice storm that was supposed to roll through my area. (Spoilers: It was a little snow but mostly rain which will now all freeze over into ice.) I took the housebound time to update the look of the blog a bit. It’s not a drastic change, mostly some different colors and fonts but I felt like it needed a new coat of paint. After all, it’s been like five years since the last update. I hope you like it as much as I do.

Why I Suck At Using Planners

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I desperately want to be one of those people that use planners. I want to have a pretty layout and use pretty stickers and be all sorts of organized. Every year, I buy a brand new planner with the best of intentions. But, every year, I fail miserably. I use the planner for a few months then it ends up getting tossed in a drawer for the rest of the year. I’m going to try to look into the ‘why’ of my planner failure. Maybe you can help me overcome it so I will be plantastic this year.

First, I’m going to say that I don’t think the problem is the type of planner I buy. I have bought a few different types of planners and they all end up barely used. A couple of years ago, I purchased a classic Happy Planner (not that specific one, though) because I liked the layout and I prefer my planners to be dated. But it was way too big for me. So last year, I purchased a mini Happy Planner so I could fit it in my purse. If I had it with me all the time, I’d me more apt to use it, right? Nope. That also ended up in the drawer. This year I bought an Erin Condren planner that I customized. Maybe if it’s more ‘me,’ I’m more likely to use it.

So why do I think I give up on planners? I think the big reason is the limitation of a physical planner. My personal life, where I maintain the schedules of three people, is entirely kept on my phone’s calendar. I use the DigiCal app to color code all of our events. I can, with the flick of a wrist, tell you what we have planned for any particular day, complete with who planned it or what type of plan it is. (For example, all of my daughter’s dance classes & events are pink but her school concerts are yellow.) Unlike my phone calendar that I can use anytime and anywhere, I have to make time to use a physical planner. I have to find somewhere I can sit with my colored pens (I like to color code things) that isn’t too distracting. Considering I spend approximately three hours per night, three nights per week at the dance studio, it doesn’t leave me tons of undistracted time.

Another possible problem is that, every time I sit down with my planner, I feel like I need to plan at least a week, if not an entire month, ahead. And I just don’t have that many ideas. It was worse when I still filmed videos for YouTube. I’d need ideas for three videos per week plus blog posts. (I think I was trying to post twice a week back then?) I’m creative but I’m not THAT creative. I tend to do a little better when I’m spontaneous. Granted, sometimes that ends up with me sitting at my keyboard with writer’s block. I’ve just never been good at planning things out.

So how do I fix this? How do I become a planning goddess? Give me your tried and true tips and tricks to planning. It doesn’t have to be writing-related. Just how you plan…well…anything!

Goals for 2019

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I’m not really big on making New Year’s Resolutions. Mostly because they feel like non-specific, unattainable things that hang over my head to make me feel bad about myself. Things like “Lose Weight.” It sounds great but what does that mean? Am I successful if I lose 2 lbs? 10 lbs? Instead, I prefer to make a list of specific goals. I’m sharing my 2019 list with you.

Write at least one blog post every week.
As I said back in November, I have failed miserably at keeping up with my blog. I don’t want that to happen again. So while I’m planning to write three blog posts per week, I know that may not be sustainable for me. I can definitely do one post per week, though.

Get more massages.
This one sounds weird. I have some fairly chronic back pain. It’s nothing debilitating but, if I don’t keep up with regular massages, I can get some very painful muscle spasms. Usually one massage every six months is good enough. I would like to get a massage more frequently though. Maybe instead of keeping the pain at bay, it will actually help me get somewhat better.

Finally cover up that old tattoo.
I got my first tattoo in 1995. It’s a shooting star on my left arm. Needless to say, I was a broke college kid so it wasn’t the best tattoo work. I also didn’t do a great job of taking care of it. Now it’s kinda fuzzy and generally terrible to look at. I’ve wanted to get it covered for years but I couldn’t figure out what design I wanted. This thing is almost 25 years old. It’s time for it to go.

Consume less true crime media.
Well, this may be the most difficult of the year’s goals. I listen to a LOT of true crime podcasts. I watch a lot of true crime documentaries. I watch a lot of true crime YouTubers. And I think it might be making my anxiety worse. I’m not saying I’m going to give it up completely. And maybe it’s not making my anxiety worse. But I can try to watch and listen to fewer stories about the terrible people in the world. If less true crime doesn’t make me less anxious, I can always add it back in. So, anyone have some non-murdery podcasts they’d like to recommend?

These are my main goals for 2019. If you are interested in my progress, I’ll gladly do a quarterly update. A monthly update would probably be too boring.

Now it’s your turn. What are your goals for 2019?

When Life Is Overwhelming

It has been quite awhile since my last blog post. Almost seven months. I haven't kept up with my YouTube channel either. What have I been up to? Everything and nothing.

See, I totally burned myself out with an unreasonable schedule. I thought it was reasonable at the time but I didn't really think it through. If you didn't know, my schedule was three YouTube videos each week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and two blog posts each week on Tuesdays and Thursdays. That doesn't sound difficult, right? What I didn't take into account was that this meant I had to come up with something creative every single day of the week. And, to be honest, I wasn't all that happy with the content on the YouTube channel. I was able to come up with some lovely blog articles that I am very proud of but the YouTube channel was filled with unboxings and makeup challenges that I just wasn't into. And I was having issues coming up with good topics to blog about. My mind started unraveling. 

So I decided to take the summer off. 

Unfortunately, I didn't get the relaxing downtime I needed to refresh myself. But I did get to chaperone my daughter on another trip to the Technology Student Association National Conference in Nashville, TN. And I got to watch her play some awesome tennis. And listen to her play in the summer band. It was some good family time.

When I was getting ready to "come back," there was a suicide in the family that knocked everyone for a loop. It's been a little over a month and things are still somewhat difficult. Things will definitely never be the same. It will just take a lot of time for this to be the new normal.

Then school started. This is my daughter's first year of high school. There was quite a bit of transition to go through. But I think, on this end, things are good. My daughter has gotten into the groove of high school and the difficulty of honors classes. She's good at this stuff.

This brings us to today. I'm still not sure what I want to write about or put on my YouTube channel. As a result, you might see some wacky things showing up over the next few weeks as I try out new things and see what I like the best. Please feel free to leave a comment with any ideas you may have. I'm always open to new ideas.

In the meantime, thank you for sticking with me through all of this. I hope to have some awesomeness coming in the future. 

I have become one of those people

During the last quarter of 2015, I caught a nasty bug. When I finally went to the doctor, I found that I weighed much more than I thought I did. While I didn't weigh enough to be on My 600-lb Life, it was definitely more than I was comfortable with. So I decided to do something about it. I signed up with a personal trainer in February.

My trainer, Tammy, is pretty awesome. At the first appointment, we took some body measurements and tried a few exercises to see where I was starting. The next week ramped it up a little bit but not enough that I was ready to quit. But by the third week, Tammy kicked it up. A lot. But never to the point where I couldn't do anything. If something hurt or I had too much trouble with a specific exercise (damn you, push ups), we would modify it a little bit. I have yet to not finish a set.

But the part I like the most about Tammy? She makes me feel like I'm not working out. When I come in, she'll write the night's "assignments" (OK, they're sets) on the board and show me how to do each move properly. Once I get started, we spend the rest of the time chatting while I work out. I may not be able to respond with words (mostly because I'm trying to count in my head) but it's enough to distract me from what I'm doing. Before I know it, the night's workout is over and I'm heading home extremely sweaty.

On March 23, we took my measurements again. This was after only four weeks of training with her. (I had to take two weeks off due to a migraine and some school commitments for my daughter.) I lost an inch off my waist, three inches off my hips (which is my worst part), and an inch and a half off my thigh. In addition, I gained three-quarters of an inch on my bicep due to muscle.

For the record, this was almost entirely exercise based. My diet barely changed. I drank a little less soda, I added some more protein, and I tried to eat less fast food. I still don't measure or weigh my portions. The only real change is that I drink smoothies for breakfast instead of a bagel slathered with cream cheese. But I can still have a bagel once in awhile if I want!

I never thought I would be one of those people that enjoyed working out. Dancing has always been my "workout" but I don't do it nearly enough to make a difference in my body. Thanks to Tammy, I look forward to my trainer appointments. I've even purchased a kettlebell and a dumbbell to use at home in between our weekly appointments. A good trainer really does make a world of difference.

Why Can't I Write?

If you have been following my blog (and you should), you'll notice that I haven't really written anything since October. But why, Cass? You were doing so well!

I could come up with a ton of excuses but it boils down to two hard facts: 1. November and December are difficult months for me and 2. I get writer's block in January and February. Let's take a closer look at these two reasons and see if we can't figure out a solution together.

1. Blogging and Vlogging are not my full time jobs. While I would love to make them my main source of income, at this point in time, they are not. That means that I have a full time job outside of my house. It's already difficult enough to find the time and energy to keep up both my blog and my YouTube channel after commuting an hour each way and working 8 hours in between. On top of that, my daughter is very involved in activities so I have to dedicate a few more of those precious "me time" hours to transporting her around town. And that is during the normal months! Add in Thanksgiving and Christmas and *BAM!* something has to give.

Another addition to the stress of the holidays and busy work schedule is the fact that I got very sick during the last quarter of the year. I went to the doctor a few times and, beyond a kidney stone that required surgery, no one could give me a diagnosis for my cold symptoms. We chalked it up to bronchitis and went on with life. However, this meant that, instead of spending my free time writing and vlogging, my free time was spent sleeping and trying to recover. Then came excuse number 2.

2. I have writer's block. Once I was well enough to be a normal human being again, I ran out of ideas for both my blog and my vlog. I don't want to keep doing the same thing over and over again but I'm not sure what to do differently. Even now, I don't really know what I want to do. I know I want to keep you, my readers, in the loop. I just don't know what that loop is.

So, here we go. I turn to you for ideas. What type of posts would you like to see here? Reviews of television shows or books or movies? More How To type posts like How To Make A Dance Floor? Issues that affect society like Why The Minimum Wage Should Be Raised? Should I bring back the Website of the Week feature? Leave me a comment telling me what you are interested in reading. We can get through this together.

There's no business like snow business

I'm sure many of you have heard about the huge snowstorm that passed through the eastern United States this past weekend. Here in Berks County, Pennsylvania, we had 30 inches of snow fall within 24 hours on Saturday. Sadly, you will not hear any official record stating such. But, if you follow me on Instagram, you would have seen the snow covering my husband's Kia Soul. Sadly, my Honda Fit was a little too far away from my porch to get a good picture and I wasn't going any farther than my front door! (Hint: That is my blue car in front of his silver car.)

Approximately 11:00AM on Saturday, January 23, 2016

Approximately 11:00AM on Saturday, January 23, 2016

As you can imagine, most things were closed on Monday. All of the schools in the Philadelphia area were closed, the post office was not delivering mail, and even the grocery stores were mostly closed. The plow trucks were having a difficult time keeping up with the amount of snow that fell, making the roads mostly impassable.

Approximately 2:40PM on Saturday, January 23, 2016

Approximately 2:40PM on Saturday, January 23, 2016

Despite the weatherpeople's insistence that we did not have a blizzard nor did we have the largest snowfall in the area, you can see from these pictures that there was a lot of snow. Notice that the back of my Fit is no longer visible above, though you can still see a little bit of the Soul's doors! Schools were closed, once again, on Tuesday due to dangerous roads. It wasn't until today, Wednesday, that school was back in session, albeit a 2-hour delay. I worked from home the entire time, only venturing out of my house today to come into the office.

My backyard at 10:54AM on Sunday, January 24, 2016

My backyard at 10:54AM on Sunday, January 24, 2016

Of course, digging out from under all that snow has been a chore. My car wasn't freed from its snowy tomb until late yesterday afternoon. Thankfully, the temperatures have been rising slightly, letting the snow melt some. But that also means that liquid refreezes on the road overnight, making the morning commute an icy mess.

At least we are used to snow, here in Pennsylvania. It would just be nice if it wasn't THAT much snow. I'm all ready for you, summer!

 

How to Build a Tap/Dance Floor

As I am sure I have said before, my daughter is a dancer. She takes tap, ballet, and lyrical classes. Since her classes have gotten a little more difficult this year, I decided to make a floor so she has a practice space. But I don't have a lot of experience building floors. It turns out that this was a lot easier than I expected.

Things you will need:

  1. Foam flooring
  2. Gorilla Glue 
  3. OSB plywood
  4. Laminate flooring (optional)

First, decide how big you want your floor. A 4'x4' piece may be sufficient. Since we have an entire spare room to use, our floor is 8'x4'. It is easier to keep your floor in 2' increments. Otherwise, you will need to trim the pieces to fit properly.

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The foam flooring I used is the Best Step colored square interlocking foam mats. These can be found at Home Depot or Lowe's. They are 2'x2' and come in packs of 4. That means you will be able to get a 4'x4' floor with just one pack. This will be the very bottom of your floor. It will allow the floor to give a little, which is very important for tappers. Since this is the bottom, it doesn't matter if you pick the grey or the colored mats. My daughter wanted the colored ones.

Glue the mats together as you interlock them. It will be easier to keep everything from falling apart.

Next, you will glue the mats to the bottom (the rough side) of your plywood. Plywood comes in a variety sizes. Choose the size that works best for you. I used two 4'x4' pieces. 

Important: Make sure you press the mats fully onto the wood. You want a good strong seal. (My daughter and I walked back and forth on the wood until we were satisfied there weren't any loose pieces.) Let the glue dry overnight. 

At this point, you can be finished. The plywood will be sufficient for a dance floor. However, I wanted to make sure my daughter got a really good tap sound so we covered the plywood with laminate. 

I took my daughter to Home Depot with me so she could choose the shade of the laminate. She chose the TrafficMASTER floor in Glenwood Oak. (See the picture above.) This particular type of floor is  tongue and groove. You can just slip them together and you are done. I elected to glue the laminate to the top of the plywood in order to make sure nothing would slide around. It would suck to have the floor slide out from under you in the middle of a heavy tapping session. 

Again, let the glue dry overnight. 

And that is it! See, I told you it was easy! I recorded a quick video of my daughter tapping on the floor so you could hear how it sounds. 

Since the laminate flooring fits together perfectly, this is also a good floor for other types of dance. There aren't any splinters or grooves in the floor that will cause injury. 

I spent a little under $100 for an 8'x4' floor. The actual assembly only took a few hours. Most of the time was spent waiting for the glue to dry. If you have a dancer and need a practice space, this was cheap and easy. I couldn't ask for anything better! Now get dancing! 

How To Dye Your Hair Funky Colors

My hair has been a variety of colors. For the most part of my life, it has been a dark brown-almost black shade. Thanks to that whole aging thing, there is now a good amount of grey in there too. That is one of the reasons I elected to dye my hair. I have done the usual boxed dye that you can buy in almost any store but I was never really impressed with the results. My next attempt was using henna hair dye from Lush.  It was slightly better but a lot of work. Lately, I have been using either Manic Panic or Ion Color Brilliance. These are the dyes I'm going to talk about today. Let me know in the comments if you'd like to hear about the other dyes as well!

In this super old picture from 2007, you can see my hair in it's natural state. Very curly and very dark. How do you go about turning dark hair into blue hair? It's really not that difficult. You just need some bleach. I know, it sounds scary, but it will be OK! Promise!

 

Like most people, I was terrified of bleaching my hair. So, for my first bleaching and dye job, I turned to the professionals. I went to a reputable local salon and had them bleach my entire head. It took quite awhile for my whole head to turn that lovely yellow color. I think it ended up being somewhere around 60 to 90 minutes. I've heard horror stories about hair falling out or scalp burns but none of this happened. I think boredom would have killed me first. 

After the bleach, the hairdresser dyed my hair bright red. Once again, this took forever. In the end, it took about three hours to bleach and dye my hair. And most of that time was spent sitting around waiting for the magic to happen. Even though I was happy with the results, it was rather expensive to go to a professional. I decided that I didn't want to spend that much every six weeks to touch up my roots.  So, despite my fears, I took it upon myself to do it at home.

First, I'd like to say that I am lucky enough to have a husband that is willing to help me with this process. Since I don't have eyes in the back of my head, it gets a little difficult to see back there. We work together on the project. I get the bleach and the dye ready; he paints it on my head. A partnership, indeed.

In order to get my hair to that nice yellow color, I use Manic Panic Flash Lightning bleach kit in 30 volume. Everything you need is in the box and it is super easy to mix together. Simply pour the bleach powder into the supplied container then add the cream developer. Mix until smooth and creamy. (Yeah, the directions say that.) Then you use the supplied paint brush, excuse me tint brush, and brush it on your hair. Once it is applied, you stick a plastic cap on it and wait. 

But waiting is hard, yo. Thankfully, you don't have to wait very long! Even though my hair is super dark, it only takes about 20 - 30 minutes for my hair to reach the desired yellowness. It is amazing! 

When your wait time is up, you shampoo the crap out of your hair. I hate this part the most because it makes my hair feel like straw. That is why they invented conditioner!  However, you don't want to use that yet. 

So, you got all the bleach out of your hair and you let your hair dry. Don't put your dye on wet hair! If you are too impatient to wait for it to air dry, you can use a hair dryer. Just don't fry your hair too much. 

From here, you just put on your favorite color of your favorite brand of hair dye. Personally, I have used Manic Panic's Vampire Red and Manic Panic's Atomic Turquoise. I just dyed my hair last night and I switched it up to Ion's Cyan color. It is a little darker than AT but that is OK. Head over to my Instagram to see pictures of the new color. 

Once the dye is on your hair, put on a new plastic cap. You can add a little bit of heat from a hair dryer, if you want, but it isn't necessary. How long you leave the dye on is up to you. I have had good results leaving it in for only a half hour and I have had good results leaving it in overnight while I slept. Either way is fine. It mostly depends on what color you are looking for. Do a little bit of research to find what works best for your particular color. 

And that is it! Now your hair is a brilliantly funky color! Feel free to ask my any questions in the comments. I will do my best to answer what I can. Are you interested in reading about using henna on your hair instead of cream dyes? Let me know! The more funky hair we have, the better life is! 


Inside the Mind of Social Anxiety

At some point in my life, I'm not sure exactly when, I became a worry-wart. Well, that isn't quite as serious as it sounds. I became an anxious person. Most of the time, I categorize my inner demons as "social anxiety." But what exactly does that mean? I'll tell you.

Social Anxiety Disorder is pretty much what it sounds like. It is a disorder where a person has an extreme fear of social situations. People with SAD spend a significant amount of time worrying about being scrutinized by others. It isn't always just about people judging them. It's about this hyper-judging thing that social anxiety tricks the brain into believing really happens. 

For example: While I am waiting for my daughter to finish her dance class, I sit in the waiting room with other parents. Often times, the other parents will be holding conversations among themselves. Even if I have something to contribute to a conversation, I will sit there quietly (usually playing a game on my phone) until someone brings me into the conversation. I don't jump into the conversation myself because, in the back of my mind, I believe that these nice people will hate me for barging into their personal conversation. (And note, these aren't usually super personal conversations. It's usually about school or an upcoming event.) I don't want to be hated so I simply say nothing. 

These are the extreme thoughts of the socially anxious person. It's not as simple as being uncomfortable in a situation. Situations where we have to interact with other people (sometimes including loved ones) are difficult and uncomfortable because of these dark thoughts inside our heads. We truly believe that others will despise us for inconsequential behaviors. That the person sitting next to us will think we are an awful human being for trying to include ourselves in their lives. 

Yet, I try my best to overcome my inner thoughts. I sit in the waiting room while my daughter dances; I agree to attend parties once in awhile; I occasionally walk my daughter to the door when she goes to a friend's house to talk to the parents. I know what the triggers are for my anxiety and I do my best to avoid those situations. (I don't go into a social situation alone. I always have a 'social buddy' with me who will carry the conversation and allow me to step in when I want to.) And while I don't ask people to coddle me, I do ask for their patience. If you text me, know that I may not respond immediately. But only because I am trying to work up the courage to do so. If I ask you a question, know that it took me hours of agonizing whether or not I should ask the (usually simple) question. My heart knows that you do not hate me. My brain just hasn't caught on. 

So feel free to invite me to events. Feel free to join me in the farthest corner of the room. You may not get more than a smile and a nod but there are a million unspoken words in those few motions. "Thank you for including me. Thank you for not leaving me alone. Thank you for understanding. Thank you for being a friend."