Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Some Tips on Buying and Selling on Craigslist

So this is more about personal experience with Craigslist, not necessarily something that will help you navigate/buy/sell on Craigslist. (I really cannot offer any advice on that terrible ugly dining room table that has been in your family for generations and that you want to get rid of now that grandma is gone. The only advice I can offer about that is: take low quality pictures and the first person to call about it get their address and just drop off in their lawn in the middle of the night, then it can be their ugly dining room table and not yours.) After our experience last night with a treadmill and combined with some of our friends experiences I thought a post might be necessary.

Tips for buyers:

Have patience, just because the person you are buying from is not at their house 30 minutes before their scheduled time to meet you doesn't mean you should call them every 5 minutes until they show up.

Don't expect a money back guarantee. You bought it, you exchanged cash for an object, you generally cannot get your money back. If you want to try and get your money back don't show up at the sellers house asking for your money back without the object in hand, seriously!

Be leery of going into certain neighborhoods after dark. If you must go and look at, let's say, a treadmill after 10pm be sure to have someone else with you, preferably a male with some martial arts training (like my husband).

Tips for sellers:

Don't give out too much personal information on the phone, some people might just be wanting to steal your stuff. If it's an item that you can take with you meet the buyer in a very open and public place.

Be accurate in your information. If you aren't sure of all the details of the object that you are selling, look them up before you post.

Don't smoke pot right before someone is supposed to come over to your place to look at...ummm... let's say a treadmill.

Have the right tools on hand so that you are able to take apart a treadmill, for example, to fit through the door. It's best that your buyers aren't waiting around in your pot smoke filled living room while you search for an allen wrench.

Don't have people come over to buy your stuff after 10om if you live in bad neighborhood. The drug deals that take place two doors down from you just might deter them from buying your treadmill. (But not us, because by golly we were not going to travel to a terrible neighborhood, risk our lives or money, and not have anything to show for it.)

These are just a few tips, not all of them happened to us. By the way we bought a treadmill last night, can't wait to use it. Although it does need a good scrubbing, kind of smells like pot....

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Quest for the Dress

It is the year for weddings in my husband's family. His oldest sister is getting married in November and his younger brother is getting hitched in just a few weeks. I have been to the bridal store quite a few times in the past two months helping the bride-to-be's pick out wedding dresses. That got me thinking about my own quest for a dress. Here is what I wrote about my experience five years ago when I was looking for a wedding dress of my own.

I do want to put a disclaimer on this post that this was my experience, if you had a wonderful wedding dress shopping experience than that's wonderful!

I actually started looking at wedding dresses before Michael proposed to me. I thought that it would be a good idea to go and look at them and see what was out there. This lead to frustration. I didn't want to try on a dress before I had a ring on my finger in fear that somehow he would change his mind and not want to marry me so I didn't want to start trying on dresses because that would be "buying the cart before the horse." I went to bridal shops and boutiques around the greater Des Moines area. To my disappointment there are not many around here. I could, if I wanted to, drive all over to the numerous small towns outside of the Des Moines area. I started wondering how women got married in this state, there is nothing out here. I was also very frustrated over the price of these gowns. I would find one that I liked and then I would look at the price tag: $1200!! You've got to be kidding? It's a dress that you will wear once for about 4 hours and never wear again.

This is what would normally happen when I would walk into a shop or boutique. I would walk in and take off my shoes (you have to take off your shoes at small bridal shops, don't ask me why.). I would then start to peruse the dresses. By this time very pushy sales women who weren't married would start asking me a whole bunch of questions. I would politely tell them that I was just looking. Then they would walk away for about 5 minutes. They would come back and ask me what style of dress I was looking for. I would respond by saying: "Something with sleeves and no beads. Also if its under $200 that would be great." They would look at me and stare at me for a few seconds before replying. I knew that they were thinking: "this girl is crazy". They would point to a rack at the back of the store, they would never help me or walk me to the rack; they would just point. I would walk to the back of the store where I was greeted by really hideous, awful looking dresses that were left overs from 1987. Most of them had big poofy sleeves and lots and lots of beads. While I wanted sleeves on my dress, I didn't want poof nor did I want beads, but all of these dresses were in the price range I had inquired about of the sales girl.

I would also get unsolicited advice about how my wedding should be, not my wedding dress, my wedding. At one shop after I had told one of them what I wanted my dress to look like she told me that I shouldn't put so many expectations on the dress. I should try on the strapless ones too and have a more open mind. This led into a whole talking to about how weddings will never turn out how we expect them to be and how I should just spend those few extra dollars to make my wedding the most important day of my life. I told her that while a wedding is an important day it will not be the most important day of my life. She stood back with a look of horror on her face. While I understood that I should have a more open mind I know what I am comfortable with and a strapless dress is not one of them.

At another shop I was looking around and one of them (sales woman) was trying to force a strapless dress on me. I was so tired of wedding shop clerks forcing the ever popular strapless dress on me that I said to her: "Why would anyone want to look like a slut on their wedding day is beyond me. A wedding isn't the celebration of what the bride looks like, but that she has abstained from sex and that two people are coming together in a union that was ordained by God. I don't want a strapless dress, I don't want everyone looking at my breasts, they are not there for everyone else, they are there for my husband!"* With that she backed off. I was really frustrated with her and everyone else trying to persuade me into something that I was not going to wear. After that experience I decided that I was should stop looking for awhile. I quit for about 2 weeks, in that 2 weeks Michael did propose to me and then I had a ring on my finger, it's a beautiful ring by the way.

One day I got an e-mail from one bridal store announcing their annual $99 sale. I was actually excited about this, even though I hate this store because its huge even though there is a lot of selection, but with a larger store there are more of those pushy sales ladies who aren't married. So I enlisted the help of two of my friends here in Des Moines and we came up with a game plan. The plan was to get in and get out. The store opened up at 10am on Saturday. Michael, who had been in Washington DC all week was coming in and was expected to be home around 11am. I really wanted to see him, but I wanted a dress so I set a really strict time frame. Besides you can't stay too long at those stores because you can get overwhelmed very quickly. My plan was to be done by 12pm.

Brenna, Angela and I met at 9:30am and drove to the other side of town. We arrived at the store and already there were a lot of people looking at dresses. We started looking at dresses, we found a few that I wanted to try on. So we went to go put them in a fitting room, we were greeted by one of the them. She told us that I needed to register with them to try anything on. So I went, not too happily, to "register". I had to give my name, address, phone number and date of wedding. We didn't have a date set yet so I didn't put one down. I also didn't include my phone number. They immediately asked me about my phone number. I told them that I might give them my number if I bought a dress but I wasn't making any promises. I didn't want one of them to call my cell phone in the middle of the day and waste my precious minutes. They never asked about the date. I went into the room with 4 options; 3 of them fit my criteria, one them didn't because Angela wanted me to try on a strapless dress just for fun. So I put on the first one. It fit and was beautiful. I came out of the fitting room and Brenna zipped me up. I stood on the little step and then did numerous spins for Brenna and Angela. Then Angela went to find me a veil to try on with the dress. While she was doing this one of them came over to see how I was doing. She told me that the dress would need alterations and that they could do that for me. I told her that it just needed to be let out a little through the waist and that it wouldn't take much to do that. She told me that it was a very complicated process and that they would be happy to do alterations there at the store, for a fee of course. I asked her if she knew how to sew, she told me no. I assured her it wouldn't be that complicated and that I would find someone to do it for me, like my mother. She also told me that I could get 15% off of the veil. I looked at the price of the veil $70!!! No way I could make one for $15 that looked exactly like the one that she was holding. Thankfully it was busy and she had to rush off to someone else who was spending more money than me. I had found my dress!

I went back into the fitting room and tried on the other dresses, they didn't "feel" right. I got dressed again and got my dress and went to go pay. At the cash register the woman checking me out started to ask me if I needed this or that. I told her all that I wanted was my dress, that's all. She then asked me what my wedding colors were. I started to say white, black and dark red, but I got out white before she started talking to another one of them. She then said to me that that was nice and she liked those colors. I only mentioned one. She then told me that she has been a bridesmaid 22 times. It actually re-enforced my suspicions of them, they are actually never married women who live vicariously through others in a business that can be ruthless, thus making them rather pushy. I paid $115; $99 for the dress and then $10 for the heavy duty garment bag, $5 for tax. I made it over to Michael's by 11:30am.

Did you have a similar dress experience? Did you know it was "the one" the moment you put it on?

*I also want to note that while I will probably never ever wear strapless you may feel very comfortable in a strapless dress. If you do happen to wear a strapless dress while in my presence I am not thinking that you are a slut; I did say this to a sales woman out of frustration and if I had to do over again I probably wouldn't have said it.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Random Russian Remembrance

The hallways are filled with music. Children of all ages are singing as loud as they possibly can. It's about 11am and almost time for lunch. Their chapel is just after our chapel and for some reason they sing much louder than the children in our chapel. In this school there are actually two schools; one American and one Russian. I happen to lead music for the American school chapel hour, and yet I cannot get our children to sing as loud as the Russians. They are full of energy, perhaps this is due to having to sit still all morning in class, now they are able to move about and release some energy. The school I teach at is mostly made up of missionary children from Korea, there are a few Americans, a few Germans, a few Indians, a few Japanese, but mostly Korean. I pause at the chapel/gym/choir room/band room/classroom doors. I look inside and I see happy faces of about 35 Russian children. They are singing in English, or at least trying to. Their music leader for the day is Sam, he is a single man. He is tall with blonde hair and brown eyes, I think he is about 40. I think he is originally from California, but is a bit of a free spirit and moves around a lot. I'm in love with him, as is every other single female teacher in both schools.

A boy of about 12 steps out to take a phone call. He is wearing navy blue dress pants that are fraying at the hem. His brightly colored knit sweater has a few holes in it. In Russian I hear him say: "Grandma, you can't call me at this time I'm at school." I hear her voice on the other end of the line, but can't make out what she is saying. "I know, I'll come by and bring you some food and make you dinner after school." He pauses again to listen. "I love you too grandma." He hangs up his phone and puts into his pocket, he pauses and takes a deep breath. I see a little glisten of wetness in his eyes. I realize that this child is probably the only one who takes care of his grandmother. I imagine that after school he will go to the local market and pick up some tomatoes, cheese and brown bread. He may stop in at the butcher and pick up some sort of meat. I imagine him going into a dark building with no lights on in the hallway and climbing up five flights of stairs because the elevator has not worked in about 30 years. I imagine him pulling out his key and unlocking the steal door that provides some security for his grandmother's apartment. I imagine him entering a 300 sq. foot apartment with a small kitchen, a small wash room, and a room that is for both living and sleeping. I imagine him cooking a delicious meal for his grandmother and after they have eaten he finishes up his homework. Such is the life of many people in Russia, they bear one another's burdens and mostly without complaint. The boy goes back into the room and joins the other children in singing this American worship song: "Forever God is faithful, Forever God is strong, Forever God is with us, Forever, Forever..."

Yesterday Chris Tomlin's song Forever came on the radio and this lead to a Random Russian Remembrance.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

I've Rediscovered the Library

When I was a child my mom would take me and my sisters to the library all the time. Our local library was within walking distance and sometimes we would all take our bikes, sometimes we would walk or, if we were in a hurry, we would drive. I knew our local library like the back of my hand. I remember going to the library for everything. If we needed to write a research paper, we went to the library. If we needed a good book to read during the summer months, we went to the library. If we needed to use a computer to type up said research paper, we went to the library. The library had so many interesting things in it. There were so many books to explore, not just fiction but also non-fiction. When I was in high school I would often stop at the library on my walk home from my choir classes at the local high school. (I was home-schooled in high school but took music classes through our local high school.) I could spend countless hours in the library just hanging out and reading. Then I discovered Barnes & Noble.

I don't know why I decided that buying books was more fun than just borrowing books for free. But by the time I was a senior in high school I was working a full-time job and had the money to buy the books I wanted to read. Over the years I kept going to the book store to buy books. The book store was just as interesting as the library, but I could keep the books and never return them. You know what's funny? I very rarely read the same book twice. There are only a handful of books that I've read twice and most of them were checked out from the library. For approximately 15 years I've supported my book addiction by purchasing books. You know what that gets you? A lot of books that I will probably never read ever again.

Last August my husband and I wanted to get our house on the market to sell. We decided to par down on our books. We donated about 4 large boxes of books. Now that we have lived without those books for almost a year, I don't miss them. I have decided I'm not going to buy books anymore, okay maybe I'll buy a few but only if they are used ones off Amazon. Since this declaration I have started to go to the library more frequently. I have to admit that the library in our neighborhood is no where near the size of the one that was close to the home I grew up in. The Central library downtown isn't as big either :( but it's library either way and I get to check out books for FREE!

Do you have any fond memories of your local library?

Monday, July 12, 2010

To Blog or Not to Blog?

To blog or not to blog? I was faced with this question this past weekend at the Savvy Blogging Summit in beautiful Breckenridge, Colorado. I was there with about 65 other bloggers; 65 other bloggers that, whom I think, have better blogs than I do. At the beginning of the weekend I was ready to throw in the towel. I went through the sessions thinking there is no way I can devote this much time, or get my blog to same level as the other bloggers at the Summit. I was kind of had that "whoa is me" type attitude. I was comparing myself to others. You want to hear something kind of ironic? I prayed to be invited to this summit. Guess what? The Lord answered that prayer. Yet here I was wishing that I could just go home and cry on my husband's shoulder. I was lamenting some of this to one of the women I was rooming with at the resort. She just asked me one question: "Do you want to write?" The answer is yes! After she asked me that I started the next day with a new attitude. All of the sudden I thought: "I can do this, with the Lord's help." I may not be as a successful blogger as some of the other women (and 3 men) there, but I can at least give it a try.

I now have more focus, I don't seem to be floundering around trying to figure things out on my own. I now have the knowledge and tools to take the next step. As I said in my previous post I plan on making some changes to the blog. I would like to focus more on stories about our lives without a television, since that is the intent of the blog. I will continue to write a little bit about being frugal, some granola tips as well keep the Random Russian Remembrance series going. I plan on keeping up on posts so that only a few days lapse between posts and not a few weeks or months. I would like my following to grow and so I will be putting my blog "out there" a little bit more. There are plans for a new design and a new domain, but that will take a little bit of time. Over the next few months I will be implementing these changes. I hope that all of you are as excited for the changes as I am, and I really hope that you like them. Thanks for your patience with me as I travel along this blogging journey.


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Savvy Blogging

I just got back from the Savvy Blogging Summit in Breckenridge, Colorado. For a newbie blogger like me it was a fantastic way to meet other bloggers and see what they are doing in their own blog. I was able to get a little bit more focused with what the vision is for my blog as well as where I would like my blog to be in the next 6 months, as well as where I would like it to be in the next few years. For the 10 of you that actually read my blog there will be some changes over the next few months. You will see a switch to a different platform. You will also see a new design, it will be a lot prettier :). You will also notice more posts (hopefully) with better content as I have been pretty lax in my posting and content. Thank you in advance for your patience and I am excited to take my blog to a new level.

Monday, July 5, 2010

I ♥ Holidays

Yesterday was the 4th and normal people go and watch fireworks and go to bbq's on the 4th. You know what my husband and I did? We went and saw a movie in the afternoon and then went home and read until about 10pm and went to bed. We kept all the windows closed last night and left the air on even though it was a cool evening. We didn't want our slumber to be bothered by all the illegal fireworks being set off. This morning we got up at 7:30am and really have done nothing all day and really don't plan on doing anything all day. We did go for a 2 mile walk this morning with the dog and let me tell you no one was out and about. As I sit here and type there is still not a whole lot of activity in our neighborhood. I assume everyone was up late shooting off fireworks while we blissfully slept.

There are a couple of things that I need to get done today. One of them is this, blogging. In case you hadn't noticed I took a four week hiatus. It wasn't an intentional hiatus, time just gets away from me. I have this problem of not really keeping track of how much time has passed and what seems like just a few days for me really has been a month. This personality flaw actually drives my boss crazy, if I was my boss it would probably drive me crazy too. The other things that I need to get done revolves around the blogging summit that I am attending in a few days. There seems to be quite a bit of homework. I actually haven't done any homework for anything in about 12 years. Unless you count my Russian language classes, which I don't because that was out of necessity; I needed that skill to survive and to stop telling people I was naked when I was really hungry (they are very similar words in Russian). So now I must force myself to do something that I haven't done in a long time. I'm sure that I will of course wait until the last minute to do this homework, like when I'm on the plane. Hmmm....that seems like a good time to do it, maybe I'll just procrastinate wait until then. I will be updating my blog before and maybe during the summit. There will probably be a lot of changes to the blog after the summit, because I'll be trying out some new things that I've learned. For now I am going to continue what I set out to do today, which is not much.