Thrifting 101: Is thrifting getting too expensive?

Last week I made a quick thrifting pit stop while on my lunch hour, and I came across this:

Maybe it's a product of living in a major metropolitan city, or maybe it's something that's part of a growing trend. I'm talking, of course, about how ridiculous thrift store prices have become.

The tag above was for a vintage 1960's double-faced wool dress. Almost certainly adorable in its day, it was now moth-eaten and peppered with irreversible yellowing along the hem. I found it in a little hole-in-the-wall store tucked in the back of a decrepit strip mall, the kind of dusty place where you're more likely to discover avocado green Tupperware, macrame plant holders, Burl Ives records and men's butterfly collar polyester shirts than designer items - far from the high-end, curated shop that can justify overpriced vintage.

I was absolutely baffled by this price tag. Really? Forty-five dollars for a stained dress? For that price, I could go to a reputable Etsy dealer or local vintage shop and invest in a gorgeous piece in nearly perfect condition. Why on earth would I pay nearly fifty dollars for a stained dress?

Whether it's a charity shop or larger-scale thrift store, prices are definitely on the rise. Blame the faltering economy or trendiness of thrifting (personally, I fault Macklemore,) thrifting has never been so popular. Resale shops are thriving, popping up across the country. In 2011, the number of resale shops has increased by 7%. According to Britt Beemer, founder and chairman of America's Research Group, much of the recent growth can be attributed to young shoppers, many of whom are passing on trips to the mall in favor of thrift stores. About 20% of people shop in thrift stores regularly, compared with about 14% in 2008. Jim Gibbons, CEO and president of Goodwill states that Goodwill Industries has expanded into 2,700 stores in 15 countries since its inception in 1902. The total donated goods revenue for the Goodwill network is more than $3 billion.

At my local Goodwill, I've seen H&M dresses for $19 - more expensive than their counterparts on the sales rack in an H&M store. The bottom line is that all thrift stores, including Goodwill, get their merchandise for free. While some stores use proceeds from sales towards supporting charities, there are others that don't. It's also worth noting that at $719,147, Goodwill chief Michael Miller is the highest-paid nonprofit CEO in Oregon, and one of the wealthiest CEO's in the country. The  Goodwill store of Columbia-Willamette booked $106.4 million in 2010 revenue.

So much for non-profit.

So now I ask you: Have you noticed the same thing in your area? Are some thrift stores too expensive? What's the most you're willing to spend on an item in a thrift store?

{Outfit} Peasantly. 9.24.13

Vintage 1970's peasant blouse? Thrifted. Jeans? Old Navy. Minnetonka booties? Consignment shop. Louis Vuitton 'Speedy' bag? Thrifted.

I've been feeling kind of under the weather over the past few weeks. As a new teacher, this is not surprising. When I started teaching, I was warned by my coworkers that I'd be exposed to a whole new world of germs and pestilence. They spoke of terrifying things like hand-mouth disease and hacking coughs from bronchitis and pink eye. So I took action. For the first few weeks in the classroom, I diligently applied hand sanitizer, stuffed my pockets full of tissues, and sprayed Lysol in great foaming clouds. Then I got cocky, decided I was overdoing it, and stopped. 

And then I got sick.

I wore this recently thrifted peasant blouse as I nursed my aching head this weekend. Some people lounge around their homes in their sweats when they're sick; I wear vintage.

Keep calm and don't stop smiling.

I'm five weeks and a few days into my new job as a preschool teacher. A certain degree of routine has begun to emerge. Every morning I look into the mirror and think, "You are a strong confident woman and these hoodlums will not get the best of you."



Why did I decide to teach preschool? I wonder on the very worst day. (This is typically a day I've been spit, farted, peed and pooped on; bit, smacked, and screamed at.) It's not a particularly well-paying job. On occasion, I have to spend my own money to get the materials I need to expand a lesson plan. There's an enormous amount of work, a school director I can't seem to please and parents determined that I guarantee their offspring entrance into Harvard. At the end of the day I'm covered in various bodily fluids, paint, and glue. Play dough is buried under my fingernails. I am often so tired that I can barely parent my own kids.

Yeah, it sucks. I should seriously consider quitting.

But I LOVE my job. The absolute joy I feel when I connect with a child is beyond compare. The excitement I see in their eyes when they make a discovery makes up for every germ that makes me sick. The hugs, the tickles, the unrestrained giggles, the frantic begging for one more story Miss Elissa!!! is enough to fill my heart. I find myself getting attached to my students, even the ones who seem determined to break my spirit. Especially them. The children who are most resistant are the ones that challenge me, inspire me, and energize me the most.  I think about them on my commute home. I research their behaviors during my lunch hour. And I make lists of activities to do to keep them engaged, occupied and happy.

Life has kept me out of the classroom for the past decade. Between the births of my daughter and twins, personal health struggles, and marriage to a man intent on relocating us every 2-3 years, it was simpler for me to have part time retail jobs than manage a classroom of 20 rowdy children. Fortunately, teaching isn't really that much different than any job. Here are some commonalities:

1. Keep a positive attitude and be sure you're always smiling.

As a preschool teacher, you always need to have a smile on your face and a calm demeanor. This is because children can sense when you're defeated/exhausted/overwhelmed and will retaliate with the pent up energy of a starving lioness stalking a herd of axis deer. Also, if you stand in a preschool classroom for only 5 minutes you will see a child spill something or break something and hear screams and screeches from every corner of the room.  When you watch a kid spill an entire pitcher of juice all over that morning's art project (my experience yesterday), your natural reaction may be to scream in their face, “Why do you have the worst motor skills ever? And why would you think your tiny ineffectual little baby arms are strong enough to properly handle a gallon of liquid?” but you can’t do that because they will freak out and cry and probably develop some strange complex where they're terrified to drink juice.  Instead, you force a smile, take a deep breath, and say, “It’s OK. I’m glad to see you're trying to be independent, but sometimes we need to ask for help.”

The same rule can be applied to customer service. Imagine you're working with a customer trying to sell a dress. After a long morning of failed sales, you might be a bit defeated. Instead of being an energetic, creative, competent employee, you might sound like Dwight Schrute. If you appear miserable with the customer, they won't want to do business with you. But if you're smiling, you'll find that people are more likely to make a purchase.

2. Your attitude affects those around you.

One of the most important things to be mindful of in the classroom is the way you speak to your students. If you're a screaming, screeching harpie, your students will eventually speak to their classmates in the same manner.

The same is true in any office job. If you come into work and act like a big cranky pants, eventually it's going to rub off on your office mates. The way you speak to a client will affect the way they interract with you too. Which brings me to my next point.

3. It's not personal.

As we age, we learn how to control our emotions, which is something that preschoolers do not get. Sometimes a child will be playing with a toy they can't figure out. Instead of calmly and rationally asking their teacher for help, they will scream with the pitch of a cat in heat and throw the toy across the room, where it will bounce of the head of a innocent classmate. Most likely this little terror didn't get enough sleep last night, or they're missing their mom, or they didn't eat enough for breakfast. In any case, the problem usually isn't the toy, and when you hand them the same thing tomorrow morning they'll happily play with it.

Though we adults mostly have control over our emotions, this isn't always the case. At my last job, I saw a customer accidentally back into another customer's car in the parking lot. When she was confronted about it, she launched into a verbal assault so nasty, so vitriolic, I blushed. Hard. Maybe she got bad news that morning; maybe she didn't get enough sleep. Everyone has bad days. Giving them the benefit of the doubt can go pretty far.

We all have cellulite. Big woop.

I have cellulite.

I'm not sure there's any subject more ubiquitous to women than the admission and discussion of cellulite. It's a fact that 85 to 90% of all women have it - skinny, overweight, tall, short, young, and old. A genetic condition, it dimples our thighs and contours our butts and sometimes pops up on arms and stomachs. A January 2013 study commissioned by Cynosure Inc. about women and cellulite revealed that women who report having cellulite have a different perspective on how they appear than those without cellulite. On a ten-point scale, with 1 being 'extremely unattractive' and 10 being 'extremely attractive,' women with cellulite rated their own appearance on average lower than women without cellulite (6.4 vs. 6.7, respectively). In fact, ninety-seven percent of women with cellulite shared that given the opportunity they would change a part of their body. Of those, 82% would change their stomach, followed by their upper legs (62%), then 50% their buttocks and lastly, 37% their arms. Only 23% of women with cellulite find their lower legs most attractive, while 18% selected buttocks, 10% choose upper legs and 4% believe their stomach is most attractive.

The results confirmed that women with cellulite have tried many approaches to hide the bumpy appearance on their bodies. This includes, but is not limited to, avoiding certain types of clothing (72%), keeping the lights off while intimate (28%) and shunning communal fitting rooms (15%). 

The very presence of cellulite is enough to send us into a shame spiral involving the purchase of expensive caffeine laden creams, "skin tightening" treatments, and hours spent perspiring on cardio equipment. There are complicated diets, liposuction, juice fasts, massage, dry brushing and endomology.

And yet it remains, stubbornly mocking our attempts to eradicate it.

America is hyper-obsessed with body image, pairing photoshopped images of emaciated models alongside scintillating exposes of celebrities with cellulite. Headlines scream both about the latest actress they've exposed as anorexic, and those they've "caught" with visible cellulite. This is presented as something shocking and downright dreadful. Our culture tell us, in no uncertain terms, that cellulite is just Not Okay.

I started getting cellulite about nine years ago (I'm 39.) Despite the fact that I was somewhat underweight, there it was, peeking out on the backs of my upper thighs. I thought about my cellulite a lot. I wondered if women whispered about it when I was at the community pool in my swimsuit. I worried that it affected the fit of my clothing, and quit wearing yoga pants, even in the privacy of my house. The shame of having such a common genetic condition sent me to the internet, where I researched skin tightening products. I seriously considered liposuction. I restricted my diet down to the bare bones.

The cellulite stayed.

These days, I don't think about my cellulite at all. I've found comfort in the fact that there really isn't anything I can do about it and that there was nothing I did to cause it, aside from being born into a family of genetically cursed women.  From the Mayo Clinic:

“Cellulite is caused by fibrous connective cords that tether the skin to the underlying muscle, with the fat lying between. As the fat cells accumulate, they push up against the skin, while the long, tough cords are pulling down. This creates an uneven surface or dimpling.”

This is a matter of physical mechanics. Cellulite is not caused by poor circulation, sugar, toxins, poor diet, laziness, or any of the other ridiculous things charlatans have come up with to sell us ‘cellulite cures’. Men are less prone to cellulite for three reasons: their connective tissues have more of a criss-cross pattern, their skin is actually thicker so any unevenness in fat below the skin is less evident, and they store more fat viscerally (around their internal organs) than subcutaneously (between the skin and muscle). In other words, their bodies are structurally different.

I have to ask myself why so many women are willing to shell out ridiculous amounts of money and sometimes even undergo surgical procedures to attempt to eradicate something nearly all of us have. And it comes down to this: the media and out culture have made us feel ashamed about something we have literally no control over, is perfectly normal, and almost all of us have. In response, we spend our time, energy, and hard earned money chasing after an unattainable ideal.

Screw that message. We can do so much better.

Here's what it comes down to: Cellulite is not a problem. It is not a flaw. It's a normal function of the way women's bodies store fat. Lean women have cellulite. Healthy women have cellulite. Celebrities have cellulite. Vegan women, paleo women, gluten-free women, lactose-free women have cellulite. Body builder women have it. Bikini models have it. Women in isolated hunter-gatherer tribes have it. Women with unlimited access to plastic surgery have it. Most of the women reading this blog post have it. There's nothing wrong with you.

You're normal.

Last night I took a good hard look at my cellulite. Then I had a slice of red velvet cake.

It was delicious.

{Outfit} Friday on Monday. 9.15.13

Cardigan? Loft, thrifted. Blouse? Loft, thrifted. Jeans? Old Navy. Flats? Old Navy.
Vintage satchel? Coach, thrifted.

I took these pics before I left for work last Friday. In case you didn't know, Friday is my new favorite day of the week. Okay, let's be honest... it's always been my favorite day of the week. Friday is payday. It's date night with my boyfriend. It's Shark Tank on TV. It's staying up late because I can sleep in the following morning. It's strutting out of my classroom with the comforting knowledge that I won't be peed, spit, puked on or hit until Monday. And now, Friday is jeans day - the one weekday teachers are permitted to wear denim to school, a relief from the khakis that normally cloak my legs.

So yay to jeans. And yay to Fridays!

Just four more days to go.

Bits + bites. 9.13.12

Bits + bites.

1. Rows and rows of vintage cowboy boots at Dolly Python, the raddest vintage shop/antique mall in Dallas.
2. After an exhausting day of pooping in the house, glaring at neighbors through the dining room window, and escaping through an open gate in the backyard, Max is ready for bed.
3. Fried chicken, vintage thrifted china.
4. Merry Go Round Thrift in Sherman looked like a hoarder's basement. On steroids.
5. Rebeca's 13th birthday painting party. One of my sons pained a blue chihuahua. Hilarity ensued.

Guess what? We all have emotional baggage.

Being in a new relationship can be uncomfortable at first.

I've been divorced for over a year and have a new man in my life. He's attentive, and romantic, and kind. He buys me my favorite flowers and writes me poetry. He lets me cry on his shoulder when I've had a tough go of it. We make dinner together and explore Dallas neighborhoods and see movies and share tumblers of whiskey in dark, cozy bars. He is my best friend, deepest confidant, and can make me laugh harder and longer than anyone ever has.

And I'm happy. Really and truly happy.

Of course, when you're dating someone, there are things you aren't supposed to talk about. Especially when you've somewhat recently left a fifteen year marriage.  There are topics we stay away from because they fear we'll make our dates wish they were anywhere but across the table from us. We worry that their eyes will search for the exit when we delve into the messy abyss of our struggle with depression or our estranged relationship with our mother or that time we got arrested for shoplifting. Sometimes there are topics we're afraid to come near ourselves, because they're too painful or too emotional or just too damm messy to tangle with.

But what happens when your whole life is a bunch of messy things we don't talk about or acknowledge, otherwise known as baggage?

I meet people easily, but I don't tend to keep them around. Sometimes I feel lonely and untethered but more often I don't. I enjoy my independence, but the truth is, I find safety in the fact that my baggage remains mostly in the dark. The details about the tribulations of parenting autistic twin sons and thoughts about my struggle with anorexia and the trials I faced throughout the course of my marriage are things I tend to keep to myself. Friends, and even family, have often been left in the dark.

I worked with twelve other women at my last job. Funny, friendly, gossipy young women with boyfriends and designer jeans and addictions to reality TV. We chatted easily at work and bitched about our boss and bought each other diet Cokes from the sandwich shop next door.

We didn't talk about my family. How could I explain the messiness of being estranged from my mom to other people?

We didn't talk about my eating disorder. How could I talk about something that makes most women uncomfortable?

Of course, everyone over the age of eighteen has acquired some sort of emotional baggage. It's the stuff we carry into new relationships that weighs us down and has left us scarred. But it's helpful to know that we all have it., that even the most “perfect” upbringing has its baggage. It doesn’t require a traumatic event or abuse or screwed-up childhood. I'm learning that the crap we drag with us can either weigh us down and put a rift in our relationships, or make them stronger. It can strengthen the connection between you and your spouse/boyfriend/best friend, creating a bond that only the two of you share. It all depends on how much power we give that baggage and whether we let it define who we are.

So I'm making vow to be more open and honest from now on. I promise to give it all a real chance. Because we all come with baggage. It’s just whether or not I choose to let it define me that will determine how much a role it will play.

Currently 9.9.13


Making me cry:

My girl turned 13 on Friday. Thirteen! It's like the pages are flying off the calendar like they do in cartoons. Rebecca is lots of things I am (creative, thoughtful, emotional, impatient) and plenty of things I am not (fiercely opinionated, willful, mathmatical, snarky.) Thirteen is an interesting age. It's the in-between of childhood and adolescence, the cusp between cuddles and eye-rolling. It's not often I know which one to expect. Thankfully, Rebecca exhibits far more hugs than snark. She's on the lacrosse team, and plays upright bass in orchestra, and likes to draw and read and text her friends Dr Who memes found on the internet. All in all, she's a pretty well adjusted, remarkable kid.

Stressing me out:

A month ago, I started teaching pre-k. I had taught preschool years ago, back when I was a fresh-faced newlywed flush with creative energy. I gleefully spent my evenings cutting things out of construction paper and making homemade play dough. Now, I am a mostly exhausted middle-aged divorcee and mom of three who spends her evenings cutting things out of construction paper and making homemade play dough. I adore teaching. I feel very at home in my new school and overall am having a blast. But making lesson plans, scheduling parent-teacher conferences, and establishing a dominant position in my classroom has been stressful to say the least. Some of my kids are angels; others are more...challenging. Sometimes I feel confident, and others like I have no freaking idea what I'm doing. It's an adventure.


The Bookstore by Deborah Meyler. I came across a review of this book on a blog I follow and was immediately hooked. The setting is a used bookstore in NYC, and our heroine a sweet, likeable Englishwoman with an unexpected pregnancy. There are literary references and quirky characters and wonderfully descriptive prose. Of course, I'm intrigued by any book set in my hometown, so this was an easy choice.


Fall. Pumpkin spice lattes and cozy sweaters and the crunch of leaves underfoot and hot apple cider and roaring fires and jeans with boots and essentially any temperature below 90 degrees. The weather here has been blazingly hot. Our weather forecast should just be a red-faced, profusely sweaty guy standing outside with perspiration stains under his arms. It's that bad.


Khakis. Cropped khakis, long khakis. Khakis with Old Navy tee shirts and khakis with short sleeve blouses and khakis with sleeveless tops and cardigans. Sometimes I scroll through this blog and wistfully recall my past outfits featuring vintage sequins and leather maxi skirts and distressed jeans with holes in them. Unfortunately, those outfits are just not appropriate for teaching preschool. Sad face.

Spending time with:

My boyfriend. Yes, I have a boyfriend. He brings me flowers every week and takes me out for tacos and beer and fixes things around my house and loves thrifting almost as much as I do. He's gentle, and kind, and creative, and makes me really, really happy. More on him soon.


The support I've received for my return to blogging. Thank you for the kind comments and for being a reason to be back.

25 things I (re)learned over the past few months.

1. Before anything else, always, always, always ask your best friend first.

2. Remember to take care of and protect your own feelings.

3. Making homemade play dough is one of life's secret pleasures.

4. In so many cases, all you can do is watch and wait (being anxious as hell the whole time is entirely optional.)

5. Some people are going to be angry, and petty, and self-righteous, no matter what you do. Remember that this is their problem, not yours.

6. Whataburer eaten in bed at eleven at night tastes better than consumed in the dining room during daylight hours.

7. Choose the one who loves you more, who is willing to do as much for you as you are for them, and who'll be physically there for you when you need them.

8. Let people assume what they want about you.

9. You have the right to draw boundaries in your life wherever you need them.

10. If it hurts, remember there's always whiskey.

11. Rehashing the what-if's is fruitless.

12. Chances are, nobody thinks as badly of you as you do.

13. It's okay to invest your money in things that make you smile, just for the hell of it.

14.Grey's Anatomy season 2 - better the second (or eighth) time around.

15. You will never, ever make as much money as your ex-husband does. You'll never be able to spoil your kids rotten the way he does. This is okay. Your children know you love them and appreciate them. They value your time and attention more than anything store bought.

16.  If you see something intriguing at the Salvation Army, get it. It will not be there the next time you are.

17. Sometimes holding someone's hand is more magical than a kiss.

18. High heels are rarely worth it.

19. Loud is sometimes good but quiet is never bad.

20. The colors grey, pale pink and green do not work on you. Move on.

21. Never underestimate the value of a long talk with family. They understand you better than you think.

22. The crock-pot: summer's most underrated appliance.

23. The gift of aging is that you can draw on past experience to know what will be successful for you and what won't.

24. Jersey sheets are a revelation.

25. No matter how hard things might seem, you are going to be okay.

Coming back home.

This place, which was essentially my second home for so long, has been quiet for the better part of nine months now.

And if I’m being honest, it wasn’t very loud in the months leading up to that. A pitiful smattering of vague-isms, monumentally bad outfits, and a few brave moments I probably shouldn’t have published (but am ultimately glad I did, and not just for the e-hugs I so desperately needed at the time).

I’m surprised at how that stretch of silence has ticked on and on, honestly. I suppose the past nine months were just such a roller coaster, it was all I could do to live it, never mind find the energy to share it. I’m not sure yet if I’ll regret how much time I missed getting down on paper; how many memories will disappear because I couldn’t find the wherewithal to save them here.

But it is what it is, right? And I can either continue to sit on my ass and ponder that, or I can shut up and start to hit publish again.

So that’s it, for now. I’ll try to play catch up over the next couple weeks, and get back to a place of normalcy here, so that it’s no longer this big, fat, bully of a blank page that stretches on for eons and can’t possibly be filled. Instead, it will just be my little old life, day by day-ish, again – a place I once again love to call home. There will be more personal thoughts, rants, and musings, so get ready for that.