New Home Pinspiration: Tropical & Airy

The most exciting part of buying a new home, at least for me, is new paint and decor! After living in Hawaii, I was so inspired by the open, airy homes with tropical furniture and decor. We’re not talking Hawaiian print. We’re talking subtle colors, patterns, and artwork that convey the comfort and peace found on the North Shore. The current colors in our soon-to-be-home are burgundy, baby boy powder blue, pastel jade green….Need I continue? So, here’s my color palette decisions for the new home. (These are from Pinterest and photos should link to pin!)

KITCHEN: Citron, white, & chrome

 

Behr Color: Citron (+ plus Chalkboard Paint!)

DINING ROOM: Dark teal, white, gold accents

(only bottom half of wall will be dark teal; top will be white)

color perfection. i love how the wood and whites pop against the teal. Benjamin Moore Dark Harbor, mixed 25% darker.

 Behr Color: Realm bottom half, Luster White top half

LIVING ROOM: light aqua, burnt orange and green accents

living room

Behr Color: Parsnip

GUEST BEDROOM: navy, yellow accents, white

Yellow, Navy and Gray! Future Dining Room colors?? Hmmm . . . already have the gray walls. Note to future self: All shopping trips will now revolve around the colors yellow and navy.

Behr Color: Clay Pebble

HALL BATH: greige, citron, white accents

Horizon Stripe Shower Curtain - Citron #westelm

Behr Color: Citronette

MASTER BEDROOM: light greige, white, ocean color accents (various shades of teal)

I am not good at decorating on my own, but sometimes I see things that make my heart feel nice and warm. This room is one of those. For some reason I can imagine that right outside that door is the beautiful ocean where I can surf with my family all day.

Behr Color: Weathered White

MASTER BATH: aqua, white, yellow accents

Yellow bathroom tile with white

Behr Color: Luster White, Hawaiian Pineapple accent wall

FAMILY ROOM: golden yellow, greige, teal accents

greige and yellow for a starter.

Behr Color: Cumin

M’s TODDLER ROOM: aqua, gray, red-orange

hrm, possibly a redo when he's a toddler. wallcolour is the same and i'm loving the grey and red.

Behr Color: Dinner Mint (+ Chalkboard wall)

HALLWAYS: Luster White

I’ll be sure to post before and after photos so you can see how it comes to life!

Why Bedtime Still Matters, Especially for Marriage

I have determined (through nothing but sheer experience) that waking and sleeping together is one of the most important things in making a marriage work. I am just sure there are psychological studies to back my claim, but who needs numbers?

Growing up, my mom always made a big deal of bed times. Even into my teen years, she still climbed in my bed and tucked me in. She always stressed the importance of no TV or phones in bed—maybe a book. Going to bed was quiet reflection time. And as an adult, I’ve found that it’s a shame that we often don’t practice this still. While it may no longer be a bed time story or lullaby, it should be relaxing and reflecting (and in my bed, praying) about where the day left us and what tomorrow will bring.

While my husband was in the Army, I always made sure we went to bed together. Most nights, we did. We didn’t have a TV in our room and often put our phones up. It was our time to talk about life, dreams, maybe even peacefully solve an earlier argument we had just dropped, and, well, do other things that are great for marriage. Now, my husband is a night shift cop, and the single thing I miss the most is going to bed with him each night. Now, I find myself lying in bed for hours, unable to sleep. Thinking about what he’s doing at work. Thinking about buying a house. Thinking about how to more effectively discipline my son. Thinking about the future. Thinking about the rapidly approaching school year. But not having anyone to tell these things to allows for me to keep thinking and thinking…and thinking, until it’s 1A.M. and I finally pass out in delirium. Those words “goodnight” and rolling over into our “sleeping positions” (you know, the set ones you always get into every single night) tells my mind, “It’s time to let it all go.” Not just for the night, but for good. And those deep conversations are so good for a marriage. Complete strangers can small talk, but complete strangers can’t talk about things like God’s timing in their relationship, how much their children are just like the other, how they can’t wait until they can take this certain vacation. Intimate conversation brings couples together just as much as other intimacies, and when you have a one-year-old, bedtime is the only time you can hold a conversation for longer than one minute.

I feel like this is a badly written vent, but I guess it’s just what I needed to do. I miss my husband beside me every night. On the nights he is home, the difference in our relationship is miraculous. Now, that may have something to do with my bitter attitude that I sometimes let sneak out. But bedtime, people. Try it. It does wonders for your marriage.

The Domino Effect of Generosity

I always like to share moments that restore faith in humanity, even if just a little bit.

Yesterday, I sadly drove by a closed Chick-Fil-A as I was leaving BootCamp at the gym. After literally dripping sweat from my nose and eyelashes, all I wanted was a chicken sandwich and sweet tea. Literally every time I leave the gym, I’m starving. And literally every time I leave the gym, I’m forced to drive by Chick-Fil-A. Needless to say, today, I was gonna get my chicken sandwich, dag on it! I packed up the kiddo when he woke up from his nap and we headed out.

Single mothers will definitely understand the next scene, only I’m not single. Just the wife of a night-shift cop.

I’m being stared at from the moment I walk in the door because my kid’s shoes have fallen off and I’m trying to wrestle him because he wants to walk but he doesn’t have shoes on so I won’t let him. Then I’m trying to dig through my purse for a debit card while holding him. Then I’m trying to carry him, two drinks, and a tray to a table…while steering a highchair. And everyone is just watching me do it all and either wondering how or contemplating helping me. Then, thank goodness, we have a peaceful lunch with no food-throwing or tantrums. Then it’s time to leave. I’m steering his highchair with one hand (he thinks it’s a fun ride) while balancing the tray of trash with the other. I need to order my husband’s food and tea to take home and get a refill for my sweet tea. I get that done. I get to my car and place our drinks, his food, and M’s shoes (which have fallen off again) on the roof. I get him strapped in his seat, and then it happens.

I hear a thud. Nope not a car accident. Worse. D’s sweet tea falls off the car (somehow) and crashes to the ground with such ferocity that the cup breaks. I immediately decided I’d just give him my refill. To save the God-awful seagulls, I pick up the cup, lid, and straw and proceed to throw them in my car to throw away at home. Then, an angel in the form of a Chick-Fil-A manager appears. I’m sure everyone in the restaurant was watching my fiasco, including her. Out she comes with another sweet tea–even though she wasn’t the one to even take my order. I guess I just look like a sweet tea kind of girl. That kind gesture absolutely made my day.

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So much so, that the rest of the day–at two banks and at the grocery store, I found myself being generous and extremely kind to everyone I come in contact with.

We often underestimate the power of a kind gesture. A sweet tea, a dollar, a helping hand, a smile. These things have a domino effect. When someone shows you one of these generosities, it’s almost as if you can’t help but feel to return the favor to another stranger. If you’ve gotten through my longwindedness (a.k.a English teacher syndrome), I challenge you to do one generous act today or tomorrow. Even if it’s something so simple that you think that it won’t matter. Trust me, it will.

Short Hair Steals the Top Spot

If you haven’t noticed lately (a.k.a. if you live under a rock), celebs are starting to move away from the typical long wavy hairstyle to edgy, textured, short styles. Regardless of who started it (Miley?), it’s on now!

Check out these transformations and get hair inspiration to go for it and chop it off!

                     

Jennifer Lawrence is pretty much a style icon these days. Even other celebs (see below) are stealing this style.

        

Kaley Cuoco Sweeting (who has since gone even shorter–a haircut just like Jennifer’s) no longer looks like the typical dumb blonde (but still plays one).

           pamela anderson

Even Pam Anderson caught on! She doesn’t look like a porn star anymore, and that’s always a plus.

If Beyonce does it, it must be in. She went from an asymmetrical bob to a pixie. I personally love the bob.

       

Whitney Port is known for her long, beachy waves, but I’m loving her new lob!

        

I think she could pull off a bald head, but her textured bob was the inspo for my recent chop!

       

Probably my favorite transformation. There is nothing like a full head of natural curls (been there), but this look is amazing on her! Now I just want to see her rock the natural curl afro! That would be…interesting.

             

It takes some guts to be the only Victoria Secret model without butt-length wavy hair, but Karlie Kloss pulls it off like no other. Dare I say that the hair even conveys more sexiness than her long locks? (And I think Taylor Swift may have used her as inspo for her own short cut).

So, it’s pretty clear that if you’re contemplating cutting off your hair, you should do it. It’s all the rage. Fads aside, short hair has become the new sexy, wavy, long hair look. To me, short hair says, “I am playful and like to have fun, but when it’s time, I get down to business and you better not mess with me.” Sounds like the perfect balance to me.

      short hair long hair

My own transformation! Granted my hair was half wet in the before picture, but I’m loving my short hair! I feel much more carefree, fun, and edgy!

Money Matters: Homebuying Costs, Paperwork, and the VA Loan

Today (gasp), we officially put in an offer on a home! The seller has until 8pm tomorrow to answer it, and I’ll be freaking out and will have high blood pressure until then. Needless to say, I’ve been doing some researching on this process in the last few days. Something I wanted to know was, “Exactly what kind of money will we have to pay out of pocket?” I found a few vague sites that were speaking finance talk that I didn’t understand. That didn’t help. So, now that we’ve gotten it all squared away ourselves, here’s some info that might help you out if you’re in that boat. Note: We used the VA loan, which isn’t a standard loan, so some requirements might be different (like the fact that we don’t have a down payment). We also had a 30-day closing timeline, so some time frames may differ. We asked for closing costs, too. I’ve also included a list of paperwork we needed. That would have been helpful. Instead, I ran around like a crazy person looking through filing cabinets and calling companies for records.

Basics:

Asking Price of Home: $180,000

VA Funding Fee (financed with price above): $3,870

Approximate Closing Costs: $5,715.13

What’s Due and When:

  • What: Deposit / Due: when writing offer
    • We wrote this check for $500 to our real estate agent’s company at the time we wrote the offer with her. Basically, this deposit ensures the buyer that you’re serious. If something falls through, you typically get this back. The only way you won’t is if you just randomly peace out on the seller (“I found a better house. I don’t want yours anymore”).
  • What: Appraisal Fee and Credit Report Cost / Due: in the 7 days after offer is accepted
    • For us, this totaled $430 ($400 appraisal and $30 credit report). This check was due to the lender by the 7th day after our offer was accepted. Not 7 business days. 7 days.
  • What: Home Inspection / Due: in the 10 days after offer is accepted
    • The home inspection has to take place in the 10 days after the offer is accepted. This amount all depends on the square footage of the home. Ours is 1,903 sq. ft. and the approximate inspection cost is $350.
  • What: Escrow or “Good Faith” Fund / Due: from time offer is accepted until closing
    • This was definitely the most confusing concept for me. This sum of money, 1% of the asking price ($1,800) for us, is “due” from the time your offer is accepted until you close. For our lender, we didn’t have to cut him a check for $1,800. Here’s the deal. The $500 deposit and $430 check to the lender count towards this (considering they prove that you really are invested in making this home yours). The inspection does not count towards this–in most cases. So, let’s subtract $930 from $1,800. We’ve got $870 left. Basically, all we had to do was provide bank statements showing we had this much money or more in our regular (checking/savings) bank accounts. And that’s it. I have read where some lenders do require a check in hand, but thankfully, it wasn’t ours! If you follow through with the deal, this money is credited back to you at closing.

Paperwork Needed for Lender

  • Lenders don’t like when family members gift you with money to cover the out of pocket expenses of home-buying. My dad sends me a monthly check to help with student loans, so I had to have him write a statement that it was not a gift and is for student loans. The repeated check from him on our bank statement was additional proof for this.
  • W2’s from the last 3 years
  • Federal tax returns from the last 3 years
  • DD 214 (for VA loan only)
  • Paystubs for most recent 30 days
  • Copy of Driver’s License of Gov’t ID
  • Home buyer education class
  • Proof that any collections are paid
  • Landlord information
  • Copy of last three months of bank statements
  • 2 examples of 12-month-long good payment history (credit cards, loans, phone bill, electric bill, insurance payment, etc.) – We used phone and insurance

Fixing His Credit Score

Recently, my husband and I had to do some major work at tackling a bad credit score. We wanted to use his VA loan to buy a house, but he wasn’t approved at first. Due to military pay gone horribly wrong (that we are still fighting), my husband’s credit needed help. After researching the heck out of what a credit score really was, and by watching his like a hawk, we managed to make his score go up 58 points in just 3 months. We are now VA approved and house hunting! Below, I’ve tried to sum up the basics of a credit score. Be advised that I am not a financial officer, and I have an English degree. I hate numbers. This is your average gal talking about money. The best advice will come from a financial adviser or lender.

What a credit score is: a number, determined by an equation with many factors (an equation that no one knows), that shows how financially responsible you are. Note: It says responsible. Not stable. Not wealthy. You can have $1,000,000 in your bank account and have an awful credit score! When applying for any type of loan, credit card, rental house, even electricity or cable TV, companies may require your credit score to be above a certain place so they can be sure you can and will pay their bills. What your credit score needs to be depends on what you’re purchasing. It’s always a good idea to be in the 650-700 range or higher. Most home loans require a minimum of around 640 to 660.

Things that determine your credit score:

  • Open Credit Utilization: The percent of your credit card “allowance” that your actually using. It = credit card maximum allowances divided by credit card balances. Ex. If you have a $10 balance on your credit card with a $100 max, your credit utilization is 10%. You want to keep your credit utilization between 1% and 20%. 0% will hurt you just as much as 50% will. For this reason, I never fully pay the balance on our credit cards. If my balance is $30 come due date, I’ll pay like $25. The amount you leave on it (in that case $5) will acrue interest, but if it’s only $5, your interest may be all of like 0.30 cents, which is worth not risking your score dropping due to a 0% utilization.
  • Percent of On-Time Payments: This is just what it sounds like. It’s the number of payments you’ve had divided by the number of them that were paid on time. You want this number to be 100%, but not lower than like 98% or 97%.
  • Average Age of Open Credit Lines: This is the average of how long you have had credit accounts open. This is where young people get hurt because most won’t have more than 2 years or so. If you’ve had a credit card for 2 years and student loans for 4 years, your average age of credit will be 3. The higher that number, the better. That’s not something you can change quickly. What you can do, however, is not close out your oldest credit card. For example, my husband has a credit card through the Army PX (Military Star Card) that he no longer uses. However, because it is his oldest credit card, I did not close it out because it would make this number drop.
  • Total Number of Accounts: This is simply how many credit lines you’ve had open–ever. Again, this number makes young people suffer because we have less credit experiences. Most young people will only have 2 to 3. Having student loans helped me drastically here. Do not rush into getting new credit lines to improve this number. It will happen over time.
  • Hard Credit Inquiries: A credit inquiry is where a company pulls your credit to see whether they should approve you for their loan or service. A hard inquiry is a detailed one that goes on your credit report. You only want between 0 and 2 at a time. If you go applying for a bunch of credit cards and loans at once, it will destroy your credit. There are soft inquiries (done by home loan lenders, etc.) that do not go on your credit report, and, therefore, do not affect your credit. Hard inquiries usually take 12 months to fall off your credit report (making your credit score go up when it does), but some can take longer. So, when you apply for something that pulls credit, make sure it is worth it!
  • Derogatory Marks: These are kind of like stamps from companies that say “You are bad with money!” They usually happen when you continually miss or refuse payments with a company. These derogatory marks only come off after months and months of improving your on-time payments with that company. It’s hard to get one of these, but when you get one, you can almost be guaranteed to be denied for a loan or credit card. One or two missed payments rarely ever make a company give you a derogatory mark.

Steps to Improve Credit:

  1. Shop for a credit card. If your credit score is low, look into a secured credit card (where you pay the max on it…so you’re spending your own money…thereby eliminating the risk for the credit card company). My husband got the Capital One secured card and we only put a $200 max on it. It worked wonders!
  2. Use the credit card like I explained under the “credit utilization” section. We put $30 of gas in a car once every credit statement period. That was an easy way to make sure we didn’t go over-board on spending and ruin our utilization. This method alone did amazing things with credit!
  3. Use a free app like Credit Karma. While the credit score is not exact (because it’s not a FICO [a.k.a. official] credit score), it will give you an accurate picture of the categories listed above. My credit score on CK is about 40 points lower than Experian, while my husband’s is 20 points higher. So, don’t worry too much about the exact credit score it gives you. However, if your credit score jumps by like 30 points on Credit Karma, you can bet it probably made a big jump with FICO, too.
  4. Use your one free credit report per year. You can get it online through various websites. Just make sure it’s actually free! You shouldn’t have to put in any credit card info. This is how my husband found out he had a student loan debt in collections, which of course killed his credit a few years ago. The school told him he wouldn’t have to pay the loan back while he was in the Army, but he was told wrong. And of course, when they tried to contact him about the loan being due, he was on the other side of the world and never got a word of it. The only way we found out was by pulling his credit report a year later. It will let you see exactly what may be hurting your credit score. There are also cases where someone may have stolen your identity or opened a card or loan in your name. This will alert you to anything like that, and you can then dispute that item.
  5. You can get a small personal loan (for, say, $1,000), but this is a long-term change. It can take 1 to 2 years for this loan to positively affect your credit score. As you see with my husband, a credit card works much faster (and is easier to get).

I hope this info will give you a basic no-brainer look at what it takes to, hopefully, pull your credit score up! Have you found anything else that works? What advice do you have for other readers?

My (Southern) Health Cheats

**DISCLAIMER: The truth is, there aren’t really health and fitness cheats. When you cut corners, you have to expect lesser results, even if just by a tad.**Below are some of my “health cheats” for things I’ve had a hard time giving up.

Sicky-Sweet Sweet Tea = Mio Sweet Tea

By far one of the hardest things for me to give up has been sweet tea. Soda was cake. Sweet tea, I’ve gone down kicking and screaming. I tried green tea with stevia. Not bad, but not even close. You won’t believe my cheat. You read Mio and though “Sweet tea in a little squirt bottle? Ain’t no way.” However, it is the best tasting and most realisticly sweet tea-ish water enhancer I’ve had. It tastes better than instant tea (like the Lipton fountain machine stuff), but of course still lacks the herbal taste that comes with real brewed tea. I’ve considered making green tea and putting some of this in it.

Mayo or Sour Cream = Plain Nonfat Greek Yogurt

Okay, this one doesn’t taste the same, but for the calorie and fat savings, it’s darn close enough! Potato salad, chicken, tacos, creamed spinach, and much more. I replace it all with plain Greek yogurt. If you just can’t do that, try doing 3/4 greek yogurt and 1/4 mayo or sour cream. Any bit counts!

Sugar = Stevia

Stevia is by far the best non-sugar sweetener, at least that’s user-friendly. I even found it in a squeezy bottle (a la Mio) that I take on the go!

Potato Chips and Fries = Sweet Potato Chips and Fries

Even better if you make them yourself. Now don’t get too excited. Sweet potatoes are still starchy veggies loaded with carbs. And anything fried is still a cheat. However, when you look at sweet potatoes and white potatoes side by side, the difference is clear. This awesome infographic from Cleveland Clinic shows you what makes this swap worth it:

Health Hub Knockout White Potatoes vs. Sweet Potatoes final

Spaghetti = Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti squash is obviously nothing like spaghetti noodles. It won’t taste the same, nor does it have the same texture. However, if you really want to avoid starchy, non-nutritional noodles, try spaghetti squash. This blog article explains how to bake it and extract the “noodles”. You can make it like regular spaghetti with sauce, or you can try other variations, like this garlic and butter version.

Butter = Olive Oil or Coconut Oil

I’ll admit. I rarely replace a recipe that calls for butter fully with EVOO or coconut oil. However, I usually mix the two to cut back on calories. For example, if I saute zucchini, I use olive oil and about a tablespoon of Country Crock Light. Olive oil has a more “buttery” taste that is great with veggies or savory dishes. Coconut oil is good for sweeter veggies or meat preparations. For example, I love to cook Jamaican Jerk chicken or pork chops in coconut oil. Some people claim that you can’t taste the coconut, but I can, so that’s why I only use it for certain recipes with which it meshes well. I get my oils from Trader Joe’s. Best bang for your buck!

Ground Beef = Ground Turkey

These taste similar–not the same. I’ve found that I like to use ground turkey with ground beef recipes that require lots of flavoring. I most frequently use it for tacos and spaghetti. The tons of sauces and seasonings mask the fact that it’s turkey and not beef. Turkey burgers on the other hand, while possibly tasty, just don’t do it for me. Turkey meatballs–not bad. Play around with it and see what you like and don’t like! The other plus: ground turkey is cheaper! Here’s an article by Livestrong that compares the two.

Store-bought = Homemade

I’ve found that one of the best ways to save money and calories is to make things you would usually buy. Many of these recipes still require some buttah and sugah, but what they don’t require are chemicals, additives, or preservatives! Below, click each item to find an easy recipe on how to home-make it!

Ranch Dressing/Dip (Not an exact copy cat, but does the job)

Gummy Snacks (This site has different flavor combos!)

Pop-Tarts

Sloppy Joe (Note: Ground turkey is not meant for this stuff! It’s pretty awful. I tried)

Strawberry Jam in Crockpot (Wonder if purple grapes would work…)

Apple Butter in Crockpot

No Bake Granola Bars

Peanut Butter

 

My Case Against Sulfates

The sulfate-free toiletry trend is picking up, but it’s still pretty hard to find these products in mainstream stores. Here’s an overview, product list, before and after, and various reviews.

Overview

I refuse to get all chemist here, so basically a sulfate is soap. It’s the chemical in shampoo, conditioner, body wash, soap bars, and face wash that give you that squeaky clean feel. But…you wanna know why you feel squeaky clean? Because sulfate strips your skin and hair of its natural oils–you know, the ones you’re supposed to have. This leaves you with super dry skin and hair. For hair, this means no shine, dead ends, and frizz. And if you have curls, it’s worse. For skin, this means dry, uneven skin. If you have conditions like eczema, they get worse. AND…when you strip your body of its natural oils, it actually overproduces oil to replace what was lost. This means your hair/skin stays dry and “clean” for a minute, then it becomes oily as mess. Note: When you switch to sulfate-free, you may feel like your hair is still dirty because it didn’t get soapy, and it may even be more oily than normal until your hair balances out again. People, it’s pretty clear. America’s obsession with bubbles and sudsy soap (from sulfates) is horrible for us!

Before & After

Routine 1: Garnier Nuctris Triple Nutrition Shampoo and Conditioner + Garnier Nuctris Sleek and Shine Leave-In Conditioner

Routine 2: Shea Moisture Sulfate-Free Shampoo and Conditioner (for Curly Thick Hair) + Garnier Leave-In

*TIP: I don’t use this conditioner on my roots–but maybe once a week. It’s so moisturizing that it makes them oily if I apply it to the roots too often.*

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The difference there is clear, and that’s after ONE use of the sulfate-free. I used to use sulfate-free (one of the products below) when we lived in Hawaii, then I switched back after I felt like it wasn’t doing much for my hair. So, I’ve been using sulfate-ified products for over a year–until today when I washed with Shea Moisture. If this is after one use, I can imagine my hair will look even healthier, less frizzy, and curlier after many uses. My hair looks more “flat” and less thick in the after photo, but it’s in a good way. It’s controlled versus all over the place.

Sulfate-Free Products & Reviews The following products are easy to find at large stores like Target and Walmart and popular drug stores. Some of them I’ve used and reviewed below. These are the basics. You can search organic stores and salons for much more! Prices are Target prices.

1. Shea Moisture Shampoos and Conditioners ($9.79 and $11.99)

(I used their Curl and Shine ones, but they also have ones for Moisture, Repair, etc.)

Review: This is the exact product I used in the photos above. It’s actually a top product for African American women who rock their natural curls, but it’s meant for all hair types. The curl kind smells amazing. It’s coconut and hibiscus bliss, a la my beloved Hawaii. The best part is that the fragrance is all natural–no artificial perfumes. In fact, many of the ingredients are certified organic, and there are zero artificial chemicals in it. The shampoo does suds up like a regular shampoo, but not as much. Unlike some sulfate-free hair products, this stuff still leaves my hair feeling silky soft after rinsing the conditioner.

2. Aveeno Shampoos and Conditioners ($5.99)

(I used the Pure Renewal line pictured below)

Review: This was my first ever try at sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner. I used up the bottles, but didn’t go back after that. It smells weird. This stuff didn’t suds at all, like most sulfate-free shampoos. However, it left my hair feeling dirty. It also left my hair feeling much like straw, and when I was living in Hawaii and doused in saltwater every day, I did not need help with that! Another issue I have with this stuff: It may be sulfate-free, but it has every other chemical under the sun in it. I can read maybe one of the thirty ingredients on the list. There’s no point in going sulfate-free if you’re going to use a million other chemicals.

3. Organix Shampoos and Conditioners ($7.99)

(I used the Tea Tree Mint kind pictured below)

Review: I used this stuff before I even used Aveeno, but it was before I knew anything about sulfates. This stuff gets basically the same review as Aveeno. No suds. Maybe not quite as dirty feeling as Aveeno. Still that same awful straw-hair feeling. This stuff smells lovely though. I think that’s the only reason I used it! By the way, this stuff might be called Organix, but it is not organic. In addition, the line that claims to be sulfate-free has many hair products that have sulfates in it, including the sea salt spray I have. Much like the Aveeno stuff, they also contain a billion other chemicals–even if no sulfates.

4. L’Oreal Paris Ever___ Shampoos and Conditioners ($5.89)

Review: I used this once, and it is the second best sulfate-free brand next to SheaMoisture. It still feels nourishing and silky, unlike the two before it. Again, not organic or all-natural like SheaMoisture, but if you’re looking to go sulfate-free and don’t want to splurge, this is a great option!

5. Carol’s Daughter Sacred Tiare Shampoo and Conditioner ($12.99)

Never used this. Has lots of yummy fruit and herbal oils and extracts, but also lots of chemical names I can’t pronounce. Much of the line is for African-American hair, but they market their products to all hair types.

6. Burt’s Bees Shampoos and Conditioners ($7.99)

Haven’t used this one either, but nothing Burt’s Bees makes has ever disappointed me!

The Problem with Day Dreams

I’m a day dreamer. Like all day all hours day dreamer. Most of it has to do with my role within my family. I’m currently a working mom. I really want to be a stay-at-home mom and home school my chillins. I also really want to live near the ocean (2 hours is not near enough). Like Hawaii, where I used to live. But let’s be real. At least that’s what God says. I noticed recently that when my marriage started to improve (it was supah rocky), that I didn’t day dream quite as much. Then, it hit me. Instead of facing the reality of my marriage and really trying to fix it, I was living in some dream world that I thought would make it better. The only problem: that world doesn’t exist.

I was so guilty of day dreaming about this other life, that I wasn’t taking the time to be thankful for my life, my real life. And when we aren’t thankful, we notice our blessings might fall short. I think we’re all guilty of this. Sometimes it’s in the form of being jealous of someone else–a co-worker, a friend, a star. Sometimes it’s living in the past–missing your old life that was “so much easier.” Sometimes you’re like me and you’re so busy dreaming about your dream life that you don’t see the blessings you already have. So what does God say about this? Let’s take a look.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. -James 1:17

This verse reminds us that every little thing we receive in life–the good and the bad–was crafted perfectly for us by God.

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. -2 Peter 3:9

I like to think that one day I may be able to quit working and home school my kids are start a little side business, but this verse tells us that, while we think God is taking too long to fulfill our hopes, his intent is to bring us to the point of repentance before we can receive his gifts. And no, that doesn’t mean that if you say “I’m sorry, God. I’ve been really bad lately. Please forgive me.” at this very second, that you’ll be living your dream life tomorrow. Trust in his timing.

…Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies. He fills my life with good things… -Psalm 103:1-5

What else do we need in life other than God’s forgiveness, good health, love, mercy, and eternal life? It says “MAY I NEVER FORGET”, and when we are constantly hoping to live some other life, we ARE forgetting.

This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot. Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God. They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart. -Ecclesiastes 5:18-20

The key words in this verse are “the few days of life God has given them.” To think that my life, which is so short in the expanse that is God’s Earth, has never lacked food, drink, and some good hard work and reward, it’s a blessing. Another key phrase “this is their lot.” God intended for some of us to work hard labor, some of us to sit at desks and make millions. The most important thing is that we realize that God’s intentions for our lives are gifts. At the end of the day, he put right where he wants us, and we should go through life never thinking twice about it.

But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. -James 3:14-16

Well, this is pretty clear. If you’re jealous or have selfish ambition, your life will be a hot mess. God says so. If you don’t want your life to be a hot mess, then stop wanting what isn’t in his will for you.

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. -James 4:1-2

This is a warning against what jealousy and ingratitude can do to our relationships with others. I saw this within my own marriage. I was so busy complaining to my husband that I wanted to move back to Hawaii (and mainly because our marriage was good there), that I didn’t see how it made him feel. And I didn’t see how that simple complaint, over and over, was destroying each day. Although I’ve never asked him, I can imagine my husband felt like I was an ungrateful wife–a wife not thankful for the home and life he was working so hard to provide for me–even if it’s wasn’t in Hawaii. Then, I imagine that God felt the same exact way as my husband. Completely baffled that he did so much for me…and there I was, complaining. The last line of this verse is also very important. Notice I’ve said day dream, hope, and other words to describe what I was doing. But for every 10 times I dreamed and complained for something, I may have prayed for it once. If we have desires, we should let God know through prayer. And if it’s in his will, it will happen. Trusting in that will keep you from complaining, envying, and wasting your days just dreamin’ away.

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. -Romans 12:2

This verse just reinforces everything above. This world is full of jealousy. Everyone wants what they don’t have. And they’ll spend their life savings on something just to have it. DO NOT COPY THIS WORLDLY BEHAVIOR. Instead, CHANGE THE WAY YOU THINK. Realize that worldly belongings do not decide your place in Heaven. Instead, be thankful for God’s will for you. As the verse says, it is GOOD, PLEASING, and PERFECT.

There’s that saying, “Have you prayed about it as much as you’ve talked about it?” (Or “complained about it?). I doubt there are many of us who could say yes. And even fewer who have prayed about it more than they’ve talked about it.

SUMMARY: Steps to Take

1. Want something you don’t have. (That’s easy).

2. Pray: “God, I really desire to ____________. I pray it’s in your will and that I may receive it, but if I don’t, let me understand that it is not in your will for me. Let me be thankful for all of the blessings you have given to me.”

3. Wait patiently and trust in his timing. It may happen in two days, two months, or two years. Or never.

4. In the mean time, be overwhelmingly thankful for your blessings. Have the attitude that even if you don’t get ____________, that you still have everything you need in life to be happy and thankful.