Sunday, March 29, 2015

Courtney Conover's WHAT I SPENT: $123.33

Ooops, I did it again.

I blinked and blew over one hundred bucks on nothing.

I shouldn't say that because the vast majority of what I bought was totally necessary.

Here's how I spent $123.33 in one day...

1. KROGER: $22.47
A few months ago, I went back to my roots: I became a vegetarian again. Correction: I shouldn't say that a no-meat lifestyle has always been a part of my roots because I was raised in the Midwest on meat and potatoes. But I became a vegetarian in 2005, ceased when I became pregnant with my son four years ago because I realized I preferred eating meat while I was pregnant and/or nursing. And since I had two back-to-back pregnancies and nursed each child for 17 months, well...let's just say that I'm done being a milk maid and have thus gone green again. And as you can see via the pic below, it ain't cheap. During a recent trip to the grocery store, I bought the following items: unsalted peanuts, roasted almonds, Ezekiel 4:9 Cinnamon raisin bread, hummus, and two containers of baby spring mix (mixed greens for my smoothies and salads):



2. BURLINGTON COAT FACTORY: $46.44
Despite this store's name, it is a virtual treasure trove containing much, much more. And one of my favorite reasons to pop into Burlington is to peruse their snack selection (believe it or not). They have a ton of health-conscious treats that our family loves -- including goodies from a company called YumEarth, which makes organic all-natural candies. But this time, I didn't stop in to buy for us: I thought it would be cool to buy a few bags of YumEarth Naturals Sour Beans for the young kids who are living in a nearby homeless shelter: 
One bag of these jelly beans contains 10 snack packs, and since they only had five bags in stock, I bought them all. One of these bags usually retails at $7.99, but Burlington sells them for only $3.99, so I spent $19.95. (Please note that the bag I gave to the shelter also contained the receipt, and I gave it away before I thought to take a photo; so I had to use a file photo of the product.) And then, while waiting in line at Burlington, I looked down and saw the most perfect black blazer -- in my size -- that someone had decided not to buy: 
That had to be a sign...right? So I bought that, too ($26.49). This blazer is perfect with jeans, tee, and canvas sneakers on those chilly spring days when I do the preschool run:


3. WALGREENS: $16.43
So later that afternoon, I enter Kennedy's room after her nap, and she pops up in her crib like a Jack-in-the-box...and promptly pukes. E-VER-Y-WHERE. I flip on the light, run to her...and then she pukes again. This time all over me. I summon Scott to her room, and he takes her to the kitchen where he tries to get some saltine crackers into her, and I run to Walgreens because, of course, we are out of Pedialyte...so fast forward fifteen minutes later, and I'm flying through the store, trying to think of what else I need because going to a store without kids is, like, a rarity, so I'm going Think, Courtney, think! What else do you need to buy!! I remember Kennedy needs more training toothpaste, so I get some. And I need chewing gum. (We are also out of AAA batteries and Cheerios, but, of course, I only remember that as soon as I pull the car into the garage.): 


4. POLO.COM: $37.99
My husband is currently experiencing what many of us would call a God-send --
Most of his clothes are too big for him:
If you follow this blog on Facebook, then you've probably noticed that Scott has dropped some serious LBs over the past several months due to his diet and exercise regimen. And since many of his polo shirts now look like tents on him, his Father's Day gift (or, at least partly, anyway) was a no-brainer. I buy the vast majority of our clothes online after I've put the kids to bed for the night, so I bought this classic-fit mesh polo by Ralph Lauren for $37.99 ($29.99 + shipping). And it was on sale! It usually retails for $59.50. After it arrives, I'll have Scott try it on, and if it fits okay, I'll snap up more in different colors:


And that's my latest "shopping spree."

For now, anyway.

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Sunday, March 22, 2015

SAYING "NO" TO REGULAR CLOTHES

It is 7:20 a.m.

I've just taken a shower, and now I'm brushing my teeth and contemplating whether I should throw my flannel pajamas back on or get dressed in Regular Clothes -- i.e., decent clothes that are worthy of being seen in public in.

I've got less than forty minutes to get my three-year-old son up, dressed, and fed before we get out the door to preschool, and I'm thinking that I would be far comfortable doing all of the above in baggy cotton PJs as opposed to, you know, Regular Clothes.

But we all know that, when we're running around like chickens with our heads cut off, forty minutes really feels more like ten.

So by the time I change into my PJs, it'll literally be time to change out of them.

But I am seriously tempted because I. Hate. Regular. Clothes.

Why?

They're uncomfortable.

Period.

I don't like them.

Even ones that are considered comfortable really aren't.

Look at it this way: Which would you prefer to wear when squatting down to dress your child -- a "comfortable" pair of jeans...or yoga pants?

See?

Yoga pants win Every. Single. Time.

And the irony is that, as a stay-at-home-mom and one who writes from home, my closet is chock-full of casual Regular Clothes.

Ask any parent who runs into me at preschool drop-off, and they will tell you that I am always wearing the same get-up: a worn-in cashmere sweater, a pair of distressed Gap jeans, Bogs boots covered in road salt, an ankle-length Land's End parka, also covered in road salt, and a Detroit Lions baseball cap.

And guess what?

As soon as I return home, I'm changing back into my flannel PJs with a quickness.

I know you've got to be with me.

I'm betting most of us feel this way, regardless of gender or the profession we work in.

Look, the men's Snuggie was invented for a reason.

Black yoga pants have become the unofficial uniform of SAHMs everywhere.

I've worked in television news. You've heard of television anchors wearing bunny slippers under the news desk as they read the news to their unsuspecting audience at home? 

It's not a fallacy.  It happens. 

And how do you explain the multiple sightings of folks wearing their smiley face fleece pajama pants while perusing the aisles of Walmart?

I have been known to wear my PJs while running through the Dunkin' Donuts drive-thru:
(Sue me. It was the weekend of their Croissant Donut debut.)

But I don't wear pajamas in public.

No, I'm the one at Walmart wearing itchy jeans. Ha!

I'm not throwing shade here. 

Really, I'm not judging. 

But, seriously, all this is to say that Anti-Regular Clothes Syndrome is real.

How does it affect you?


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Thursday, March 19, 2015

WHAT YOGA IS NOT

I primarily get two responses when people find out I am a certified yoga instructor:

"Cool, can you stand on your head?" and "I can't do yoga because I'm not flexible."

To which I usually reply, "Yes, I can stand on my head, but that isn't the essence of yoga," and "You can breathe, right? Then you, too, can do yoga."

But more on that in a minute.

I want to debunk some myths about yoga first.

Why?

Because amid all the frenzy about yoga, amid all the talk about the benefits, and amid all the debate about whether it should be illegal -- yes, you read right, illegal -- for women to wear yoga pants in public, there's a little bit of stigma hanging in the ether.

Is it a cult?

What is it teaching?

What, at the root of it all, does yoga really mean?

Well, let's start with what yoga isn't.

Myth #1: Yoga is a religion.

No, it isn't. Yoga has no gods to worship or services to attend, no institutional structure or leaders, no statement of religious beliefs, and there is no profession of faith. 

Yoga, by definition, means to “yoke” or to unite the body and mind in harmony. 

Yoga, as a practice, seeks to correlate all aspects of living as it relates to those around us. This union is accomplished through physical postures, relaxation, and meditation.

What yoga does have at its core, however, are the Yamas and the Niyamas. These are the moral and internal restraints that regulate our inner lives. 

The Yamas are the moral virtues that, if attended to, purify human nature and contribute to health and happiness of society. The five Yamas are non-violence, truth, not stealing, moderation, and non-greed or hoarding or to take only what is necessary.

The Niyamas are personal observances. They refer to an attitude that we adopt for ourselves to live soulfully and joyfully no matter our circumstances. The Niyamas are cleanliness, contentment, disciplined use of our energy (keeping our bodies fit and healthy), self-study or self-reflection, and surrender to a higher power.

That last bit about a higher power refers to whatever God you may already believe in.

And even if you aren't religious, you can still practice yoga.

One of the best explanations (I think, anyway) of the last Niyama comes from mindbodygreen.com:

"Surrendering to a God of sorts is like softening to the universal. One does not need to forsake your individual self, just soften it, paying homage to the universal, acknowledging how we are all connected, biologically, chemically and atomically! When we soften our individual self and open a part of ourself to the universal, we become more open, more connected to everyone and everything. In this place, what we call love has the opportunity to root and spread it's pollen wide and afar." 

And that, in a nutshell, is why people think of us yogis as hippies.

Well, that and our penchant for crossbody handbags and quinoa -- neither is required, by the way.

Now let's move along.

Myth #2: Yoga is expensive.

Sure, there are classes and retreats that can cost more than a monthly mortgage, but attending said practices is in no way necessary. Not only do many studios offer free community classes, Amazon.com is chock full of yoga DVDs – new and used – for less than ten bucks. (My favorite is Rodney Yee’s Yoga for Energy, by the way.)

But I’ve found that my favorite way to practice is in the confines of my own home. And while props can come in handy (i.e. blocks, bolsters, straps, etc.) during your practice, they are not mandatory.

Here’s what you need to practice yoga: A mat. That’s basically it. And even that is optional depending on your flooring.

Myth #3: You have to be flexible to do yoga.

That's bullcrap.

Yoga is for small and big people; short and tall people; young and old people; women and men.

In other words, yoga is – quite literally – for every body.

Quick story: Long before I became an instructor, back when I was in college and still a yoga newbie, I used to pore over the pages of Yoga Journal magazine and admire all of the accomplished instructors and world-renowned yogis who were striking intermediate and advanced poses.

I got swept up in the beauty of it all.

But sixteen years later, I would discover what is truly beautiful.

When one of my students, who is old enough to be my grandmother, is so dedicated to her practice that she attends class no matter what – and when the time comes to do Warrior II pose, her breath is calm and even, and she is standing taller than anyone else in the room.

That is beautiful.

When another student is able to find peace and comfort in Mountain pose after sitting hunched over at a desk all day.

That is beautiful.

And when a yogi decides that today is the day that she will conquer her fear and attempt Shoulder Stand pose, does it, and then cries after the class erupts in applause.

That, my friend, is beautiful.

So all together now: You DON'T have to be flexible to do yoga!

If you can draw breath, you can do yoga.

And you can do it beautifully.

Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Now that I've resumed teaching yoga following the longest maternity leave known to man, I'll be blogging about yoga more and more.

I hope you'll join me on the mat.

And if you're still a little gun-shy about establishing your own practice, no worries.

You're still welcome here.

In the meantime, if you have any questions for me about yoga, please leave them in the comments section below -- I'll be sure to respond. 



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Sunday, March 15, 2015

WHY KIDS CHANGE EVERYTHING

My first memorable experience with discrimination occurred in kindergarten when, while lining up for recess, a classmate looked at me and point-blank asked if I was scared.

"No," I replied. "Why?"

I remember her response as if it were yesterday:

"Because if I woke up black, I would kill myself."

Let's just pause here for a moment, because her reply is a lot to digest.

Although it has been over thirty years since that exchange, replaying those words in my head still elicits a visceral response that I cannot accurately characterize with words.

But back then I really wasn't all that bothered by it.

I was more confused than anything. 

I honestly could not understand why it would have been so bad to be me, or to be black, even.

But after I told my parents what had happened over dinner that evening -- and then heard them discussing the matter afterward (behind a closed door, I might add) -- I knew that this was serious.

Their final consensus was this: I would not transfer out of that school. 

I would stay. 

You've just had your first real taste of racism, my dear. There will be others. 

They were right.

And here's what I have since learned: It still stings, yes, but I can shake it off.

However, the mere prospect of discrimination against my children hurts a gazillion times worse.

Forget not being able to fit into an old pair of  jeans.

Forget sleep deprivation.

Forget the constant daily grind of having signed up for the hardest job in the world.

The real reason having kids changes everything is because looking at situations -- particularly social ones -- through the prism of What if this were happening to my son or daughter? makes everything matter that much more.

My experiences with discrimination have primarily been about my color.

But this isn't just about racism.

Far from it.

Every single day people endure a struggle for being who they are.

People who are gay, people who have birth defects, people who have ADHD, people who are financially strapped, people with speech impediments, heck, sometimes people catch hell for something as basic as their age or gender.

I could go on and on.

These people are someone's daughter or son.

And what if they were your own?

Even if your child isn't autistic...imagine if he was.

Then we'd probably be more mindful of the challenges faced by those impacted by autism.

Even if your daughter isn't overweight...imagine if she was.

Then our knee-jerk response wouldn't be to joke about a person's size.

Let's say your son doesn't struggle with substance abuse...but imagine, just for a moment, if he did.

Then maybe -- just maybe -- our first inclination wouldn't be to judge, condemn, and write him off.

And, lastly, even if your child hasn't been bullied...imagine if they came home day after day after day trembling and in tears because they've been the targets of relentless mistreatment. 

Then, of course, bullying would be more than a buzzword.

Playing switcheroo and putting our own child in the place of the one perceived to be the underdog forces us -- and quite easily, I might add -- to practice empathy in a way that perhaps we hadn't before we had our children.

Because we all know prejudice is wrong.

But it sucks ten times more when it happens to kids.

Especially our own.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

10 THINGS THAT ARE HARD TO SAY

Since late last year, I've been doing a lot of thinking about getting my own house in order. 

You know, clearing emotional baggage, yadda, yadda, yadda.

I'm not the kind of person who wears their feelings on their sleeve.

I'm more like Hmmmm. I don't know what to do with this emotion. Let's just bury it in the basement, close the door, and forget it's there.

Which is basically a prescription for an ulcer.

Or a lifetime of bitterness.

Frankly, I don't know which is worse.

But the bottom line is this: Sometimes it's hard for us to say what we truly feel.

Here are ten things that all of us -- at one time or another -- have had a hell of a time admitting...

1. I'm sorry.
This one is the Big Kahuna. Even the mere thought of having to say these two words is liable to induce choking. But, man, if we can summon the courage to utter a genuine, heart-felt apology, it can bring relief like nothing else.

2. I love you.
While definitely as powerful as I'm sorry, this one packs a tad more vulnerability: Few things can be more daunting than laying your heart on the line. Maybe you want to confess this (for the first time) to your new significant other. Or maybe you're in a well-oiled partnership that is as old as wine and should say I love you more. Chances are, we all know someone we could say these three words to more often.

3. I f*cked up.
Maybe you said the wrong thing. Maybe you did the wrong thing. And whether or not you knew it was wrong then -- and in your defense, perhaps you really didn't know it was wrong, but you know now that it was wrong. Maybe you're not genuinely sorry about the mishap, but you still know you messed up. And it can be hard as hell to admit it. Even though you would probably feel better by doing so.

4. I don't know.
Mothers. Fathers. Construction workers. Teachers. Broadcasters. Singers. Writers. Doctors. Politicians...I could go on with this list until I'm blue in the face. No matter how skilled we are at what we do, none of us knows everything. Sometimes circumstances and situations arise when we've got nothin.' We're fresh out of ideas. Fresh out of directions. Fresh out of answers. We just don't know what to do next. And although this happens to the best of us -- all of us -- it's often considered a weakness to acknowledge it.

5. I'm hurt.
This one here is tricky.  It's tricky because hurt is a chameleon. Right after it occurs, you can dress it up to look like anger, or you can take the other extreme and brush it off to hide the fact that you were ever hurt at all. Regardless, hurt won't just go away. It festers.

6. I'm angry.
But there's no masquerading this one. Anger is ugly, in your face, and, frankly, dangerous. If hurt simply festers, anger festers and lingers. Which is basically akin to an emotional powder keg. I'm angry symbolizes a fire that has been ignited within is -- and not in a good way. But the worst part is that we'll often try everything in our power to deny admitting it.

7. I'm afraid.
Back when I was in college, someone -- I forget whom -- told me this, and I've never forgotten it: There are only two emotions in this world: fear and love. That every single emotion we are capable of feeling stems from either fear or love. And when I thought about it, I totally agreed. When I've been mad, sad, confused, or frustrated, fear -- of not having the answer, of not being able to change my circumstances, etc. -- has usually been the true culprit. Like hurt, fear can also change shape and color.

8. I forgive you.
Few things suck more than being wronged by someone -- and then having to forgive them. But forgiving ourselves can be even harder. About a month ago, I posted the following on Facebook:

9. I'm letting this go. 
Have you ever just been tired? Tired of that relationship. That job. That routine. Tired of whatever is not working. But as much as you desire change, something is keeping you from pulling the trigger and altering your course of action. But, ultimately, in your bones, in your core, you know that you are ready to move on. And move on, you must.

10. I deserve this.
A loving partner. The job we truly want. A better life. Before we can attain whatever it is that we want, we won't have a snowball's chance in hell of getting it unless we admit that we deserve it first.


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Sunday, March 8, 2015

Courtney Conover's WHAT I SPENT: $50


One of my favorite ways to unwind has always been to kick back with a glass of wine and a new issue of New York magazine, which I've subscribed to for years. 

In my bachelorette days, I used to do this on the patio of my condo at two 'o clock in the afternoon on a Saturday.

Now, I do this at 9 p.m. on a weekday in my mommy cave.

Because, you know, kids. 

Anyway, New York magazine used to run this feature called Economy of One, which detailed how the magazine thought a particular celebrity or socialite would spend a set amount of cash...and then, at the end of the piece, said person would reveal how they actually spent the money.

So, in this new series, I'm sharing what I've spent with you.

Here's how I spent $50 in cash one morning after I dropped my son off at preschool:

1. A BIG LOTS RUN: $12.30
If left to my own devices, I could very well drain every one of The Hubs' and my bank accounts in Big Lots. Big Lots is my Target. So this was the first place I stopped after dropping off The Boy because I needed a second one of these thing-a-ma-jiggies -- you know, those plastic sheets you put your dirty shoes on ($10.60), I forget what they are called:

I also bought a pack of Dora the Explorer fruit snacks, also known as bribery for my son ($1.70). At the grocery store we shop at, these suckers cost twice as much:



2. MY NEXT STOP WAS TIM HORTON'S FOR COFFEE: $1.70
I usually stop and get coffee before I drop my son off, but today, I did it afterward so that I could savor it during my third stop...


3. A MUCH-NEEDED PEDICURE AND AN-EQUALLY NEEDED  EYEBROW WAXING: $36
In an effort to "keep it 100%" I must make the following confession: The last time I had a professional pedicure...well, lets just say it's been too long. So as I got my hooves buffed and polished with my favorite toe color, My Boyfriend Scales The Walls by Opi ($28), I sipped my coffee and read a book. Okay, I'm lying about the book. I stayed on Facebook the entire time. (Hanging my head in shame.):


And because I was rocking a look not unlike Sasquatch that day, my esthetician Julie, who is, simply, awesome, waxed my eyebrows ($8). (Sidebar: For years, I had my eyebrows threaded -- an Indian technique of hair removal in which facial and body hair is removed with a string. But Julie is closer to my home and works wonders with wax, so I've made the switch.) Now, mind you, if my brows still look a bit sparse, it's because I still hadn't filled them in with gel yet. But, trust, even without being filled in, they are a thousand times better than they were pre-waxing:


So there you have it. 

That's how I blew fifty bucks.

All before lunchtime.

I'll be back soon with another receipt rundown.


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Thursday, March 5, 2015

I'LL NEVER DRINK COFFEE THE SAME WAY



Since a picture is worth a thousand words, let's just start with the candid shot below, which was taken nearly a year ago:


I turn by back for ONE SECOND to rewind a part of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills reunion show, and this is what happens -- apparently you can't enjoy any of life's luxuries while kids are awake. (Never mind the Little People tourist girl. She didn't drown. She was rescued in time and survived.)

The focus here is the shade of this beverage, which I like to refer to as cream with a splash of coffee.

Because, you see, since I began drinking coffee nearly twenty years ago, that is how I found my coffee most enjoyable: heavy on the Splenda, and even heavier on the cream.

And then this happened: 

The Hubs recently embarked on a newfound weight-loss journey. His primary motivator -- in his exact words -- is "to be around for you guys as long as I can." ( I know: Awwwww!

And I've decided to join him.

My motivator, however, is decidedly less noble, purely cosmetic, and, frankly, borders on vanity: 

I simply want to look better in my shorts this summer. 

Anyhow, The Hubs casually drops this bomb one night while watching TV: 

"Did you know that by switching over to black coffee, you could lose 14 pounds by the end of the year? Because black coffee is basically calorie-free."

This according to the findings of a study he had just read on Yahoo!.

It made sense immediately. All those tablespoons of cream I pour into my coffee certainly weren't freebies.

They were ending up somewhere.

Like, my thighs and ass.

And even though Splenda has zero calories, I remember in the best-selling book Skinny Bitch that your body still actually processes the sweetener the same exact way as it does regular sugar.

And all of a sudden, my coveted little yellow packets and their sidekick, half-and-half, didn't seem like such a necessity anymore.

Particularly not when visions of my thighs and backside fitting into my skinniest skinny jeans danced in my head like calorie-free sugarplums. 

"Think about it: You already like the taste of coffee," The Hubs said, egging me on. "You can do this. You could totally make that switch."

I thought about it some more.

It seemed easy enough. 

I know a ton of people who drink their coffee black. So it can't be all that bad.

Right?

Cut scene to the next morning:


Straight black coffee, baby.

I'm currently on week three.

And it ain't half bad.

Eggs, half a pink grapefruit, maybe a piece of whole wheat toast, and black coffee.

That's breakfast.

Watch out, saddlebags. I'm coming for you.

You should be very, very afraid.

To be continued.



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Sunday, March 1, 2015

MY ABSOLUTE BEST BARGAINS -- PART II


I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I love me a good bargain. 

And of all the fabulous things I have scored on the cheap, there are three that still send shivers down my spine. 

Here are their stories in a three-part series. Now for my second pick:

Authentic Herm├Ęs Vintage Silk Twill Scarf
What it retails for: $330
What I paid: $3.75

First, some background on my approach to fashion:

I'll spend A LOT of money on a good handbag, yet I'll buy virtually everything else at thrift stores.

Especially jeans, sweaters, and scarves.

I've encountered a lot of bargains in my day, but this one tops them all...

My immediate thought upon finding this scarf was that my eyes were playing tricks on me. 

And my second thought was this: Somebody, somewhere, will need to drown their sorrows in a stiff gin and tonic when she discovers that this scarf is the one that got away. 

My discovery had to have been a mistake…right? 

How else does a three-hundred-dollar scarf end up at a Value World Thrift Store, hanging next to worn and faded bandannas? 

This had to have been priced wrong. 

This had to have been a mistake.

Except that it wasn’t. 

I’m telling you, I literally held my breath when I approached the cashier with this scarf in hand, and when he rang it up, I paid for that sucker so fast, I would have made your head spin. 

I then got the hell out of dodge like I stole something.

Because, in essence, I felt like I had.

P.S.: An Hermes representative has since confirmed this scarf to indeed be The Real McCoy.

Oh, and one more thing -- in case you live in my neck of the woods and are wondering where I found this gem: It was at the Value World thrift store on Central City Parkway behind Westland Mall.

To read the first entry in this series, please click here.


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