A Shift in Perspective

Happy Monday, folks!

Hopefully you all had rockin’ weekends — mine was pretty busy with not one, but two different events that I worked on Saturday. First up was the Taste of Falls Church, where Intern Sean (heh) and I manned the Yelp booth and challenged many a folk to some rousing rounds of Rock, Paper, Scissors in exchange for rockin’ swag.

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I know it doesn’t seem like rock, paper, scissors would be that fun at first glance, but people got really into it! Full credit goes to my beautiful coworker (and fellow blogger!) Kimberly for thinking it up. Plus it’s always a huge hit at family friendly events like this one, because it’s A) free and B) kids know how to play it. Really well, actually. Most of them kicked my butt.

The second event of the day was an Elite Event at Glynn Jones hair salon in Old Town Alexandria. It was my very first salon event so I was admittedly a wee bit nervous, but it turned out so fabulously! Elites got to nosh, sip, and watch (and if they were lucky, get selected for!) demonstrations on blow dry technique, updos, airbrush makeup, and more.

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So Saturday was a tiring day for sure, but a lot of fun at the same time. And I got to make up for it yesterday with just about the laziest Sunday I’ve had in a loooooong time. All I did yesterday was sleep, cuddle with schnauzers, cook, sleep some more, and then give all my money to Target. In my defense, I think I’m a little bit under the weather — Mia was sick pretty much the whole time I was visiting her in Macon, and given her penchant for sharing food (aww!) and my penchant for being a sucker and letting her shove said food into my mouth, I think it’d be more surprising if I didn’t catch whatever she had.

Sickness be damned, though! I’m not feeling too terrible (thanks to the probably 15 hours of collective sleep I got yesterday), so this week I’m determined to continue the good gym habits that my sister helped me start to establish on what shall henceforth be known as the Healthiest Vacation Ever. I’ve marked some classes at my gym that looks interesting and have booked time in my actual calendar to make sure I don’t book any calls or meetings during those times. So now it’s just a matter of actually, well, going!

Now, if any of you are skeptical as to my ability to keep my enthusiasm for working out up, well… I don’t blame you. After all, I don’t exactly have the best track record. I’ve never been shy to admit my utter hatred of working out, getting sweaty (ironic, because I’m probably the sweatiest person on the planet even just standing still and breathing), and just generally exerting myself. I wasn’t a particularly active kid — I played basketball in middle school because I was tall. And I wasn’t very good at it. Growing up, my family never put a real focus on fitness or being active, so I never thought of it as an important thing to incorporate into my daily routine. (This, I have to say, is somewhat funny to me now given that my sister is a marathoner who teaches fitness classes and my dad bikes like 20 miles every single day.)

So I never learned to find the joy in being active, and, obviously, that translated into my adult life. It wasn’t for lack of trying, though. When I first started out on my weight loss journey and found myself immersed in the world of healthy living blogging, I definitely tried. Everyone tells you that you just have to find an activity you like doing, and then you’ll want to that thing and, by default, you’ll want to be active. So I really did try to find something I liked.

I went to the gym. I walked. I ran. I swam. I did yoga. I did hot yoga. I did Zumba. I did CrossFit. Nothing stuck. I never got myself into a regular routine, and when I did go, I still found I was forcing myself to, and only because I knew that it would help me burn XX amount of calories.

Of course, as I discussed in my last post, I’ve also only ever thought of fitness being a means to an end for weight loss.

But hey, it did work for a while! I mean, even if it was unwilling and forced, I still did get myself into gear long enough to help me shed some weight, tone up, and be fit enough to accomplish quite a few fitness milestones. I was running 5Ks and 5 milers and 200-mile team relays, after all. It’s just that even when I was doing those things, even when I was legitimately in shape (well, in shape for me, at least), weight loss was still my primary focus.

But, obviously, using weight loss as a motivator for fitness can only last as long as you are losing weight. So when I stopped actively losing weight, I stopped feeling a need to dedicate time to fitness, and that, amongst other things, meant I ended up gaining back a lot of the weight I had lost.

Which is why I can say, even with my track record of failing at maintaining a regular fitness routine, I’m actually feeling fairly confident about seeing this through this time around. Because I really do feel like my motivation, and my perspective, has shifted. Do I still find myself thinking about my weight, thinking about how I look, comparing myself against the standards that the media has set forth? Of course I do. I’m only human, and I’ve got over twenty years of negative body image and weight obsession to fight against.

That being said, it takes up only a minimal, miniscule amount of my thoughtspace now. And without all those negative thoughts weighing me down, without the constant, continual focus on how any activity, any food, any choice will ultimately affect my weight loss…well, who knows if all the things I thought I felt about working out and being active and being fit weren’t wrong all along?

I sometimes feel that within the body positive/fat acceptance culture, there’s almost an expectation that you shouldn’t want to work out or eat healthily or whatever, because doing so means you must still want to change yourself. And, more specifically, you must still want to be thin. You must still secretly be working towards conforming to society’s standards or whatever. And I know that most people don’t think that way, and it’s not indicative of the entire movement in any way, but I do believe it is a sentiment that exists.

And so I have struggled with the idea of whether or not I’m really, truly, honestly rededicating myself to fitness because I want to, or because I still feel like I need to. Am I honestly doing this because it helps me sleep better and it boosts my energy and it is healthy? Or is it just because it will help me look better?

I guess only time will truly tell since, based on past precedence, we already know that if it’s the latter, this current burst of motivation won’t stick for long. But I do know that it does feel different. I’m not weighing myself. I’m not counting calories. I’m not using food as a reward system. I’m not limiting myself to not buying clothing because I want to wait until I’m smaller, or purposely buying clothes in a smaller size to “motivate” myself.

I’m just loving myself. And as much as I used to only think of it in relation to my weight and size, I know that being active in some form or another is just one more way to love myself. So that my body — curves and flesh and fat and muscles and stomach rolls and ligaments and stretch marks and all — will be around for me to love as long as possible.

Mia-cation and the Evolution of Balance

I’m back, baby!

Well, actually, I’m back from visiting the baby!

I returned yesterday from my trip to Macon wherein I spent a crapton of time with my wonderful 17-month-old niece, Mia.

It was awesome. What did we do while I was there, you ask? Well, let me tell you!

We played…

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We read books…

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We were extremely fashionable…

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Her, not me, obviously.

We also snuggled…

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And celebrated the Mid-Autumn Festival with Mia’s first moon cake…

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And we watched Frozen.

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Every day.

Sometimes twice a day.

I mean, I fall asleep and wake up with “Love is an Open Door” stuck in my head.

But those of you who know me also know that I am totally, 100% okay with that. :D

Of course, since my sister teaches fitness classes, I also ended up doing a few other things. Most of which can be summed up by these extremely attractive pictures:

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She. Destroyed. Me.

In a very positive way, of course.

I went to the gym and was thoroughly worked not once, not twice, but THREE TIMES IN A ROW during my so-called “vacation.” Given how ridiculously lazy I am, you should be pretty proud of me. And on the second day, she taught back-to-back classes, and I DID THEM BOTH. Who am I?!

Actually, if I’m being honest (and aren’t I always?), getting my work out on with Jenny really was a bit of a wake-up call in terms of my fitness. I know that in the (many) months since I quit running and working out regularly, my fitness level has really tanked. And nothing brought that to my immediate attention more than the outrageous pain my muscles were in the morning after I attended Jenny’s first Ab Crunch class. Oy.

IMG_7794-1.JPGOne of these things is not like the other…

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, staying active is a real struggle of mine. If given the choice between going to the gym or going on a hike or going for a swim OR watching a Gilmore Girls marathon on TV (DID YOU HEAR THAT THEY’RE RELEASING THE ENTIRE SERIES ON NETFLIX?!?!), it’s not hard to guess what I’m always going to pick.

I mean, even when I was on the rockin’ weight-loss train, it was still really hard to motivate myself just to be active. I had to bribe myself with races just so I had some reason to go to the gym, to hit the pavement, to get moving. And, really, even though I was running and racing and talking a lot about my health and fitness levels (which were, obviously, much improved over what they are now), the main reason I was doing all those things was to aid in my weight loss.

So it’s not too much of a stretch to understand that when I stopped actively focusing on losing weight, my sole motivation for being active pretty much went out the window, too. It is just so, so, so easy to live a sedentary lifestyle. Between my computer, TV, PlayStation, and books, I spend a lot more time sitting than anything else. And while I really do enjoy taking Harry and Daxter out for walks, those fluffernutters are even lazier than I am.

  

Seriously, try going more than a mile with them and see what happens. (Spoiler alert: it involves carrying Daxter home.)

So yes, anyway, the wakeup call. It comes as no shock to you, I’m sure, that I am suuuuper out of shape right now. Even if you take the whole weight factor out of the equation (and I am not truly that oblivious, I do realize they’re associated to a certain extent, but let’s just put that conversation off for another day), I simply recognize that I’m not currently at my most energetic or my peppiest or my most well-rested…est. I’m sure that on some level I’ve known these things for a while, but I haven’t been motivated to do anything about it because, well, I didn’t want to. Simple as that.

As you know, I’ve been taking some time to try and separate myself from my former identity as Someone Who Is Losing Weight, as Someone Who Needs To Be Thin, as Someone Who Is At War With Her Body. Instead, I’ve been honestly trying to embrace and love myself as-is. And that truly means embracing everything — from my large frame, height, and thighs that will always, always touch, to my tiny ears, widow’s peak hairline, and double-jointed elbows.

But life is all about give and take. And as my focus shifted away from the number on the scale, giving me the confidence to feel better about myself, it also was taking a lot (okay, all) of my motivation for maintaining the healthy habits that I had originally cultivated to help me lose weight. Which led to a serious backslide in terms of my overall fitness level.

So, yes, unsurprisingly, when I actually did find myself back at the gym, I got my ass handed to me. But you know what the surprising part was? I really felt so accomplished for getting through those workouts. For going back the next day. For working hard enough to really get sore. I mean, the soreness wasn’t great in that it was a literally painful indicator of how out of shape I’ve gotten (it seriously feels like a totally different person ran Reach the Beach back in 2012), but it still felt good in a weird, semi-masochistic way.

So I started to think about why that was — after all, it’s not like I’ve never worked out before. I’ve done plenty of challenging classes, I’ve been CRAZY sore after a workout before (my brief stint with CrossFit in particular comes to mind). But I’ve never been, like, happy about feeling like I got schooled by a workout. And I realized, sad as this sounds, that’s probably because I’ve never really known what it’s like to go to the gym or try a class or take up a exertion-based activity without the question constantly stirring in the back of mind, “How will this help me lose weight?”

Which I guess actually probably isn’t shocking given that I’ve been basically obsessed with my weight for most of my life, and it’s admittedly really hard to break free of that kind of thinking. But… I think I’m starting to get there. Just maybe. I think I might just be getting to a place where I can see myself taking steps to be active and fit because of how it makes me feel, not because of how I want to look.

So that’s pretty neat. We just have to hope that this feeling will last long enough for me to get into the rhythm of things even without my super fit, crazy active sister here to drag me to class with her, haha. This is new territory for me, after all! I mean, exercise for the sake of… exercise?! Not just with the aim of losing weight?! Egads!

Let’s see how this goes, shall we? I think the main thing I want to bear in mind moving forward is this: embracing my body and loving myself shouldn’t be an excuse for me to be lazy. Loving myself should mean taking care of myself, right? Just because I’m not trying to be thin doesn’t mean I get a pass on making an effort to be healthy, happy, whole, and balanced.

So, all this is really just to say that next time I get a craving to binge-watch back-to-back-to-back-to-back episodes of Revenge, I’ll most definitely still be doing so. I’ll just try to make sure I’m gasping aloud from major plot twist shock from atop a treadmill instead of my couch. #balance

Let’s Rock and Roll

Tomorrow, I’m leaving on a jet (yet again) to visit my beautiful sister, Jen, and even beautifuller niece, Mia! (“I mean, not FULLER, you don’t look fuller, but more beautiful…”) in Macon, GA. And the reason for this trip? Well, there is no real specific reason, actually! It’s a visit for the sake of visiting. And yes, I did just see them a month ago in Cabo, but hey, when it comes to little minions like this, can you really ever get enough?

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So this is kind of a random visit, but it’s also a visit that came at almost no personal expense because of the ridiculous deal that I got on my planet ticket. See, when Frontier Airlines launched their service to and from IAD, they had a crazy 12-hour flash sale where flights were as low as $15 each way. So I spent like three hair-pullingly frustrating hours on Frontier’s constantly crashing website, refreshing, refreshing, and refreshing some more, until I finally succeeded in securing a $30 roundtrip flight to Atlanta to visit Jenny.

That is not a typo.

THIRTY DOLLARS.

So yeah, it’s pretty sweet. Alas, Frontier is one of those nickel-and-diming airlines that charges for EVERYTHING, including in-flight beverages, choosing your seat assignment, and putting your carry-on bag in the overhead bin. Not just checking your bag, but actually putting it overhead. Womp womp. So I’ve decided that I’m going to try to fit everything I need for my entire trip in my single duffel bag and squish it under the seat.

I mean, if I’m not successful in cramming it under there, of course I’ll just pay the extra $25 or whatever to put it up top since all things considered, it’s still waaaaaayyyyy cheaper than a regular plane ticket anyway, but who doesn’t love a challenge, amiright?

So let’s discuss my action plan to fit all of this:

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Into this:

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There are a few different packing ideologies out there — traditional stacking, bundle wrapping, stuff ‘n’ go — but the one I personally subscribe to is rolling.

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Rolling not only makes your clothing super compact and easy to arrange, but also leaves you with far fewer creases than traditional packing. Somewhat ironically, the t-shirt I used in the example above was actually already kinda wrinkly to start with (oops), so it’ll actually end up coming out of my suitcase nicer than when it went in, haha!

And how is this space-saving packing mastery achieved, you ask? Here are the easy-peasy steps, as demonstrated in the photos above.

  1. Lay out your clothing item flat, then fold the bottom hem over about two inches.
  2. Fold the item into even thirds.
  3. From the opposite end, begin tightly rolling the t-shirt.
  4. Pull the folded part of the hem over the roll to lock it into place. Done!

The last bit’s a little bit hard to explain in words, but when you actually do it it makes perfect sense. Just make sure that the folded-over band is wide enough.

Rolling’s not just for t-shirts, of course. You can roll up everything from maxi skirts to workout shorts…

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…and even underwear! Although since they already take up so little room, I don’t bother with the fold-over band part when doing my undies.

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Sidenote: these eBags Slim Packing Cubes are the bomb.com. They make compartmentalizing your packing and keeping all your littler items together soooo easy. I use them for my delicates, for makeup/toiletries/brushes, for electronics, all that good stuff.

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So that’s how I roll (pun intended) when it comes to packing! As you can see, things are generally more compact, and it’s organized, too! Another plus for rolling is that each item is still clearly identifiable, even when wrapped (provided you actually know what your clothes look like), so if you really needed to grab something out at the last minute, it’d be easy enough to do so.

Some items, like my long maxi dress and romper I just kept folded, since they are made out of that thin, non-wrinkle material and I haven’t decided if I’m going to wear one or the other on the plane there.

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I’m happy to report that once I loaded all my clothing (shoes included!) into the duffel, there was still plenty of room to move and jive and squishhhhh. I maintain high hopes that this will indeed be underseat-crammable.

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Of course, this is excluding one more packing cube of makeup and toiletries, as well as the fact that I need to fit my purse in here as well, but I’m sure I can make it work. And, again, if not, I’ll suck up the bag fee, no big deal. Either way, hopefully at least one person will have found this tutorial on clothes rolling informative!

To finish out this post, here are some shots of my packing helpers (you might have already noticed Harry chilling in one of the photos above, hehe.) If only I could roll these fuzzballs up into my bag and bring them with me, too!

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Always

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“But this is touching, Severus,” said Dumbledore seriously. “Have you grown to care for the boy, after all?”

“For him?” shouted Snape. Expecto Patronum!”

From the tip of his wand burst the silver doe: She landed on the office floors, bounded once across the office, and soared out of the window. Dumbledore watched her fly away, and as her silvery glow faded he turned back to Snape, and his eyes were full of tears.

“After all this time?”

“Always,” said Snape.

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I got my very first tattoo on Friday.

Between the crazy My Little Pony hair and my new tattoo, it must seem like I’m entering my rebellious phase a little on the late side, doesn’t it? Truth be told, I do kinda feel like I’ve got some sort of emotional Benjamin Button thing going on here — when I was in college, you’d probably find me sitting at home, watching TV, reading, and learning how to knit (true story.) But now that I’m 26 and I’m supposed to be this adult (stifle your laughter, please), I’m finally doing all the things that I feel like should have happened back then.

Actually, I did very nearly got this tattoo when I was in college. I mustered all my courage, waltzed into a tattoo shop, and made an appointment. I even put down a deposit! But that didn’t stop me from chickening out. So, flash forward another five, six years, and here we are. I figured that the fact that I still desperately wanted this tattoo meant that I probably wouldn’t end up regretting it — at least not for a long, long time, haha.

And so, on Friday, I walked into Jinx Proof Tattoos in Georgetown with my blessedly patient friend Lara, and I took the plunge.

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I’m sure that any of you already sporting some ink probably think it’s absolutely ridiculous that I made such a big deal out of getting a tiny little word on my wrist, but you have to remember that I’m a crazy person, and my mental capacity for imagining worst-possible-case scenarios is truly something to behold.

Soooo, though I was wracked with nerves from imagining that the pain would be akin to having my skin slowly sliced open, I managed to hide my neuroses long enough to talk to the girl at the front about what I was looking for. I knew I wanted the word “Always” with the three stars from every page of the Harry Potter books worked in somehow.

I already had a font picked out, so my tattoo artist, Tim, simply drew up the word in that style with the stars bookending the “S” at the end, and when I saw it, I knew it was perfect. Simple, clean, subtle, whimsical, and, most importantly, meaningful.

Funnily enough, even though this was the exact tattoo I had planned on getting for years and years, when I finally made the decision to definitely get a tattoo (I decided before I went to Cabo), I started getting a little bit, er, grand, with my vision. I mean, really, it’s Pinterest’s fault for having so many awesome examples of killer Harry Potter tattoos out there. I mean, snitches, house crests, stags, does, quotes galore, even one absolutely bitchin’ scene from the Tale of the Three Brothers… oh man, so cool.

Ultimately, though, I’m definitely glad I stuck with my original choice. After all, if I ever end up getting another tattoo, that’s when I can go a little wilder, right? ;)

Anyway, off I went, back to Tim’s station, where he cleaned my wrist, shaved my hair a smidge, and then applied the tattoo appliqué so we could see exactly where it was going to go. After I signed off on its placement, he had me lay down on the table, wrist up, and went to work.

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Tim was awesome. He talked me through exactly what he was going to do at the beginning, giving me one test stroke to get acclimated to the feel of the needle. And, of course, since I had been imagining excruciating pain the entire time I was sitting out in the waiting room, it was like, nothing. Compared to what I had been fearing, the pain was so, so manageable. Obviously I’m not going to say that it didn’t hurt at all, but there were honestly only one or two spots where I actively reacted to the pain with an intake of breath or a facial wince.

I’d tried asking numerous friends with tattoos what it feels like, and I can now understand why it always seemed difficult for them to describe — because it IS difficult to describe! My friend Chrystalle likens it to that feeling when your skin touches the hot outside of a car, which I’d say is pretty accurate. It feels somewhere between a burn (but not like, a super painful, run your finger under the water, it’s gonna blister up burn) and a scratch.

Tim worked in small strokes so even when it did hurt, I always got a second to wind down from the pain, and it was honestly over in a flash. I mean, I know my tattoo is very small, but it seriously flew by. Before I knew it, he was cleaning it off, rubbing a little ointment on it, and indulging me by taking a photo on my phone of it before bandaging it up!

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I’ve been taking my aftercare pretty seriously, since I’m paranoid that I’m still somehow going to mess it up and ruin it forever, but as of right now, it seems to be healing up really nicely and I couldn’t be happier.

So there you have it, my very first tattoo story. I’m sure there are some of you out there who think it’s absolutely crazy for me to get something related to Harry Potter tattooed on my body for all eternity (cough*mom*cough), and that’s fine. Not everyone grew up with Harry Potter, year for year, the way that I did. Not everyone had their childhood shaped by the stories and characters in these books. Not everyone learned lessons about right and wrong, friendship, heroism, justice, and sacrifice from them.

But I did.

And so the word “Always” is not just a tribute to Snape’s undying love for Lily Potter, to his sacrifice to keep her legacy and progeny alive, but is also the embodiment of the significance that Harry Potter has, and will always have, in my own life.

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Plus, if nothing else, it’s sure to get me some serious street cred when I return to Harry Potter World and hit up Diagon Alley in the fall, eh?

My Little Pony: Hair Dye is Magic

First things first, let’s all remind ourselves that I’m actually a small child inside. Which means that not only should you not judge me for the alarming number of stuffed animals that still reside on my bed, it should also come as absolutely NO surprise to you that I have watched every episode of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic on Netflix. Now, not only is this show adorable and home to the catchiest damn songs on the entire planet, I maintain that it’s also totally legitimate viewing material for adults because of all the Easter Eggs they slip in on a regular basis that kids could not possibly be meant to get.

I mean, HELLO, there is a DOCTOR WHO PONY. I rest my case.

Anywho(oves), I bring this up because yesterday I went to see the ultimate master of all things hair color, Linh at Be Scene Studios, and he transformed my formerly faded mermaid-hair into something about 20% cooler

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Just call me Unicorn Gretchen.

Now, I know I already walked you through what it’s like dyeing my own hair, but I thought it might also be interesting for those of you who are less inclined to play with fire bleach to see what it’s like for a professional to get his hands on my hair (literally!). I actually had planned on just taking some progress pics throughout the dyeing process to show you, but as luck would have it, Linh had a photographer visiting the salon yesterday, so I convinced him to snap a few shots!

I think you all know how this story begins. BRING ON THE BLEACH!

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Linh started by bleaching my roots, as those had a good 1/4-inch or so of dark regrowth, and then sat me under a dryer to torture me help the bleach process faster.

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After a while (I’m not sure how long it was exactly), I emerged from underneath the dryer and Linh’s beautiful fairy assistant Ara gave me a “silk bath” (I *think* that’s what they called it?) to help take out the rest of the green color in my hair. Basically, she mixed some bleach with clarifying shampoo to help remove my color in a much more gentler way than straight-up bleaching over it… because that part of my hair is already super bleached. Unfortunately, as it turns out, green is a damn hard color to remove, so all I really ended up with was white-blonde roots and mint green lengths.

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I was pretty paranoid about not damaging my ends any more than we had to, so we went just went with it, drying my hair to an almost-dry-but-not-quite level of dampness. Then we crossed our fingers and hoped that the colors Linh chose for my new ‘do would be bold enough and bright enough to be unaffected by the green…

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… and off he went!

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Linh crafted a colorful cocktail of purple, blue, turquoise, magenta, and pink, painting each color onto different pieces of my hair, using foil to keep colors from bleeding onto one another.

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And I waited for a liiiiitle while longer until, at last, after one final rinse, some conditioner (oh, blessed conditioner!), and Ara’s awesome styling, I was reborn with beautiful rainbow hair:

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Ta-da! I feel like a beautiful unicorn and I am so, so happy with deciding to go for multiple colors this time around. Of course, this being my very first time with multicolored hair, I have absolutely no idea what subsequent washes might do to the color distribution and how it fades, and my trick of making my color last by putting some hair dye into my conditioner won’t really work since, well, you know. But, given how pretty the colors all look together right now, I have no doubt that they’ll continue to look pretty even if they mix and match and fade together even more.

Another successful adventure in hairdom, I’d say! And my new rainbow hair will hopefully go pretty perfectly with another new something that I’m planning on getting today… So stay tuned for that, have an awesome weekend, and see you on the flipside!