Category Archives: money

My mediocre but achievable 2018 running goal

I’ve made a completely arbitrary decision that, starting in October, I’m going to run a 5k nearly every week so that I run 40 5ks the year before I turn 40. “That’s not 52 weeks!” Yeah, I know! But I’m planning ahead for failure, weather, and illness, so hush!

These won’t all be race events. Frankly, I can’t afford $25-50 a week in entry fees, and winter has a dearth of race events, too. Plus, my job has me incredibly busy the first two months of the year.

I think this goal will keep me on the road as much as possible when I’m not that busy and help me be mindful of training that will keep me from being totally out of shape and help me maintain my mental health when I’m really busy at work. My trusty exercise bike will help me get through the coldest of days. It runs on batteries, so even if the power goes out during one of the 11 polar vortices that wander our way now that our climate is unpredictably crappy, I will be able to keep myself warm for at least a half hour and keep my leg muscles strong for when we the survivors climb out of the snow a week later when the temperature swings to 70F with tornadoes. Yay weather!

I would love also to be able to shave some time off my 5k. I’ve started adding hip stretches and leg lifts to strengthen my hips, and I’m alsoadding lower body plyometric exercises to my routine to try to strengthen my leg muscles. I’ve missed this past week’s workout because of being social three evenings in a row, then being full of food and a little alcohol after being social, then being sick. I’m doing the Body Shop video linked here, not the 30 burpees per day business, and I’ve had to modify the exercises to minimize the impact on my legacy injuries (ankle, knee, wrist, foot, shoulder). The first time I did them, I definitely felt them the next day, though the soreness wasn’t unlivable or as much as it is when I start up weightlifting again (which I can never stay consistent with for some reason). I felt faster the last time I ran, and I came pretty close to my race day PR speed for an everyday workout.

A good way to start it out: I plan on buying my first pair of nice running shoes around the time of my birthday. Working for a department store, I sometimes get good deals on running shoes, but I’ve always had to be very mindful of sales price, which has gotten me burned on occasion when the shoe I can afford wasn’t the shoe that was necessarily best for my feet. However, I’m getting a budget upgrade for my birthday, and I’m going to do it right. I’m researching now what brand and style would do me best, though it also depends on what is in stock and what recommendations I get as to where I settle, and there’s no one perfect shoe – I’m sure my feet aren’t so special that a variety wouldn’t give me great benefit. I would love to patronize a local running store for my purchase, too, to both get the benefit of an in-store fit and to support local brick-and-mortar sports outfitters for their expertise and accessibility. Most of the shoes I’ve been looking at have nearly identical prices in store and online, and I would rather know I’m getting a shoe that fits and suits my needs rather than get something, go through the bother of returning if it doesn’t work, etc.

So there we are – new shoes for a year of consistent running. I hope to achieve my goal or learn something on the way there. And I look forward to joining the cool kids club when it comes to sneakers.

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Pants Retirement Ceremony

Today, we bid adieu to the sisters Pants: gray striped, black, and navy.

The pants sisters, retiring to a nice home elsewhere.

The pants sisters, retiring to a nice home elsewhere.

I bought them last year as part of my professional post-weight-loss wardrobe. They served me well for months, enduring a little weight fluctuation, lots of trips to and from the printer, and being cursed at for having no belt loops. Alas, I don’t have the sewing skill to add belt loops that would look like they naturally belong to these pants, even though I now have a sewing machine. And so, the circle of life begins anew, and these pants go on to a new home.

I decided to retire them tonight as I put away laundry because I have purchased 3 new pairs of pants at a thrift store over the last month: gray plaid with a light pink stripe, gray striped, and very dark gray. (Gray may be my favorite color when it comes to clothing. It’s just so damn classy.)

I may have also decided to get rid of them so I could free up space in my closet for new clothes and wouldn’t have to put away those 3 pairs of pants. Yes, I would rather give away clothing than follow through with the laundry. We’ve all been there.

The pants I’m retiring are U.S. size 12s. The new pants I purchased are two in size 10 and one in size 8. Every brand fits a little differently, and I spent a lot of time in the clothing racks plucking out every viable-seeming candidate from a range of sizes before heading to the dressing room and depositing the losers on the return rack.

Unflattering fit aside, what is up with the embroidery?

Unflattering fit aside, what is up with the embroidery?

The retiring pants were all of the same fit and brand, all 3 bought all at the same time, and I am moving them along as a unit. Are they some kind of sisterhood of trousers that journey together? I wouldn’t go that far. But they were, to me, a symbol of the smaller person I was becoming, the first full-price clothing purchase I made of nice clothes for my changing body. I started wearing them less and less as I got better-fitting replacements, and I knew their time was short when I started finding high-quality, gently used trousers at the thrift store that didn’t have to be held up with safety pins.

My new pants, newly washed and hung to dry, will start their new life upholstering my rear end starting tomorrow. Hopefully, it will be a while before I have to hold them up with pins. They do have a major advantage over my old pants: they all have belt loops.

Making It Work

I went to an outlet store last weekend with a good friend of mine as part of my Search for More Pants. And I struck twilled cottony gold – two nice pair of jeans (I don’t think I’ve ever owned a pair of Calvin Kleins), one dark blue and the other black, for $12 apiece. Huzzah!

A pair of shiny gold pants

I also struck this gold in the clearance rack. Yikes.

The fit on the two pair of jeans was great everywhere, except the hem. I wear petites, which means I have a shorter inseam than women of average height, and shopping for jeans at thrift stores and in clearance racks is always a gamble. Both these pants were made for tall women – they have 34″ inseams. Which means I could sew the hems together at my toes and have myself some denim tights! And…and…if I got a denim shirt to wear with them, I would have myself a denim onesie. YES. An abomination that I would never, ever wear in public. Ever. Maybe. Perhaps if I was bolstered by American flags and a mullet.

I was elated at my new purchases, but the length was an immediate problem that prevented me from showing off my fabulous new threads at work the following Monday. What to do! I can sew to some extent, but I just haven’t gotten around to hemming the legs of these suckers, initially because I was afraid of an epic sewing catastrophe, like an uneven seam or accidentally cutting a hole in the butt while trying to lop off fabric. Those are plausible Eve-created situations.

Another friend recommended I use the original hem method, but I’m not sure how well that will work for pants with flared legs. While I decide whether to make the best of it with my sewing kit or take these to a professional tailor and letting them figure it out, I still want to wear them. So this morning, it came time to MacGyver myself up a temporary solution. (I bet MacGyver could rock a denim onesie, then use it with a can of Turtle Wax and a door snake to create a balloon to get him and a pretty lady out of a sticky situation in East Berlin circa 1987.)

Rolled-up jeans pinned with safety pins to create hems

The dirty secret of this makeshift hem! Well, I guess it’s not really that dirty. No, I don’t want to know how you can make safety pins dirty.

A pair of women's jeans hemmed with safety pins; one hem pinning is exposed.

Showing off how the finished side looks next to the makeshift alteration. Also, don’t you love my adorable red shoes (that need polishing)?

Jeans hemmed using safety pins.

You can see the glint of the safety pins in the fabric. I think it’s passable until a more permanent solution is implemented.

Refreshing a wardrobe when it’s necessary thanks to sliding out of obesity toward being merely overweight, but inconvenient due to a limited budget, is an adventure, and you’ve got to make the best of it and be happy that you’re improving your health. I’ve managed to put together a respectable collection of plain t-shirts from big box retailers to wear with my new, smaller pants, and wearing fun necklaces with them keeps me from feeling plainly dressed every day.

I could keep wearing the clothes that don’t fit me as well anymore, but do I really want to wait until I decide I’ve hit my lowest weight, or decide that I can afford to spend a lot more money on a single article of clothing? Might as well do the best with the resources I have at hand and enjoy the hunt for new clothes while I’m on this weight loss journey.

And speaking of things I enjoy on my weight loss journey, I had this paleo-ish but not super diet-y dinner with my friend after our shopping adventure: cheeseburger with bacon, lettuce and tomato, with a side of sweet potato fries.

A bunless cheeseburger with sweet potato fries from Ozona in Dallas, Texas

Ozona gave me a burger without a bun. I ate almost everything on the plate. Including the little bowl the mustard came in.

And I still made a respectable weigh-in for that week of my Reddit 90DaysGoal sprint.

Thrifting for In-Between Clothes

Yard saleing. Thrifting. Going to Goodwill. Call it what you will, you’re getting either a great deal, or someone else’s gross old cast-offs, depending on how you look at it.

I have fond memories of browsing a somewhat upscale consignment/resale shop with my mom. When my siblings and I were kids, we’d go there to do some clothes shopping. It was less expensive than going to the mall, and I thought it was a magical land of gleaming dresses, shimmering, soft Christmas sweaters, and rabbit-fur coats. That perception set me up for a lifetime of disappointment in visiting other thrift stores, I’m afraid. As a grown-up, when I got my first desk job ten years ago, I made the trip to the store, which had moved to a smaller location, to find some business casual clothing. I found the store cramped, the selection not as thrilling (like looking for a needle in a haystack), and the frustration at not being able to find something in my size pretty high. I still remember being happy with the two pair of slacks and the light blazer I picked up for, all told, $25.

A girl looks in awe at women's clothing in a thrift store

Goods from the magical thrift store of my youth always seemed so glamorous and beautiful…and cheap!

And then, I’ve been to two thrift store changing rooms in the past two months that have smelled of urine. Yeah, no wonder some people still look down on it.

A cartoon of a woman holding pants and staring with concern at a discolored carpet.

The sad reality of my latest shopping trips. Maybe I just lucked out in getting two dressing rooms at -two- separate locations that people had recently used as a bathroom.

I’m down from 203 in March 2011 to around 167 at the beginning of June 2012. Started at U.S. pants size 18, currently down to size 12. I haven’t been here long, but I could get used to it real quick; it’s nice to be back in a size I haven’t seen much of since I was an eighth grader.

My personal pants collection was culled last week. There’s a stack of slacks and jeans in storage, just in case I yo-yo and put the weight back on (you never know), some of them size 16, a few of them size 14. I got down to three pairs of jeans this week, and one of them is still ill-fitting enough that I need a belt to wear them again – and I didn’t even have one of those, since my old belts are now too big.

Normally, this would be cause for celebration and a shopping trip. Yeah, I’m losing weight! Let’s celebrate with participating in capitalism! However, my personal finances being what they are, I’m not really solvent enough to go buy too many new things. You could say I’m as broke as Greece. I’m as broke as Iceland. I’m as broke as I was until I got my first full-time job with benefits. It’s depressing as crap to need things and not actually be able to afford them. So whenever I get paid, and there isn’t a big bill looming around the corner, I try to build my wardrobe back up again as inexpensively as I can. I get plain t-shirts from big box retailers; they’ll do until this fall, when I’ll have to start looking at smaller-sized sweaters, though realistically, there’s not a lot of call for that kind of thing in Texas. Pants can be bought new from a number of places for relatively cheap – $15 or $20 a pair sometimes – but shopping around can get you even more bargain-y bargains. And I’m such a spendthrift when it comes to buying things for myself that I will bend over backwards to save a dollar.

A month or two ago, I visited a nearby charity thrift store and browsed the overstuffed jeans racks. One thing I learned is that many times, the men’s and women’s jeans are jumbled together, since it can be hard to tell some of them apart once tags have been torn off, worn away, faded by time, or eaten by monsters that are nourished solely by tags, whatever. This makes finding your size sometimes hard to find if you’re used to flipping through clearly-marked sizes and tags in well-organized clothiers. I combed through two racks of jeans and found two pair that I felt like trying on. I found others that I wanted to take pictures of to share them with the world, but I had great misgivings about whipping out my iPhone and taking Instagram photos to make fun of bedazzled, embroidered jeans in a thrift store where I was shopping for real clothes and not just Halloween costume components.

Two images of a woman in Halloween costumes put together from thrift store clothes

Thrift store costumes from the past several years: Velma and Teddy Bear Roosevelt.

I picked up two pairs of pants that last shopping trip. One pair, I have no idea where they are. They have disappeared into the depths of my house somehow. The other pair was loose and comfortable when I tried them on. They were also way long, since I have short legs and a short inseam, but I decided against hemming them, because I knew they would probably be released back into the wild at some point, and I wanted them to be in just as good condition as they were when I bought them.

Those pants are now too big. Most of my pants are too big. So I went to another thrift store this weekend on the way to the grocery and picked up two more pair of pants. The store I visited this time was a little bit cleaner and better organized, though the dressing room was still disgusting. But I got an awesome find: Levi’s for $6.00.

A photo of a woman wearing jeans, depicted from the waist down, in a dressing room.

We can re-clothe her. We have the Hamiltons. Introducing… the six-dollar pants.

They had a couple of spots on them in the store, but once I took them home and ran them through the Kill All The Germs cycle in the washer, they came out looking fantastic. And I look fantastic in them. Yeah, I’ll say it.

I learned to try on everything before I buy, though. I picked out a second pair of pants that had an identical waist and length (I held the jeans up together and measured them against each other, thought about that dressing room, and made a beeline for the register). The second pair is a pair of men’s pants, cut very full in the legs. But there’s this awesome long pocket up the leg that is the right size for the handle of a hammer, so if I want to become a carpenter, I’ve got a head start on my wardrobe.

I also picked up a really nice belt for $2.00 so I can keep my other pants up until I can afford to discard them. This belt is leather without frills and studs, so I’ll be able to bore holes in it as needed as I continue to lose weight. If I do. I hope I do!

Continuing the cycle of charity stores, I’ll be rounding up some of my old shirts, pants, and some bras (bought but never worn) to donate at some point in the near future. I’ll miss my old favorite pairs of jeans, but I’ll be happy knowing they will be looking fabulous on some other lady for a while.

Thrifting can be hit-or-miss, but if you find gems and put aside any classist misgivings about pawing through other people’s things, you can come home with a real bargain. But I wonder if it wouldn’t be prudent to bring a tarp to put down on the dressing room floor. Or maybe make your own donation of a can of Lysol.