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It was time to re-dye my hair, and I was completely over turquoise.

Not totally true. I still love my turquoise hair. Adore it.  I call it my mermaid hair. But I was not in love with having it this time of year, because much of my winter clothes are also turquoise. I don’t like doing the matchy-matchy thing, partially because I feel like wearing the same color as my hair turns me into a monochromatic blob, but also because, as previously discussed, if I wear something even remotely close to the same color as my hair, fifty-thousand assholes who think they’re clever will point out that I match. Don’t think I’m serious? I hate the matching comments so much that I will no longer buy clothes in anything resembling turquoise or purple, just in case. So while I was still thoroughly enamored with my mermaid hair, I have winter dresses that I’d like to wear again someday.

The turquoise had to go.

Originally my plan was to go back to purple. I still love my turquoise, I love my purple, I just wanted to them to be on my head during opposite seasons. But then Kyle, being ever the contrarian, suggested blue. And predictably, I immediately latched onto the idea. I can’t help myself, I’ll always be attracted to a newer and shinier color. Not that blue is an entirely brand new color; I’ve been blue before. But it had been almost two years since I’d seen my blue-headed self, which was much longer ago than the mere four months since I’d been purple. Besides, I liked being blue during the winter; the way that it faded into icy blues and silvers made me feel like a snow queen!

And so I set my heart on blue. Unfortunately, I found my previous shade of blue (After Midnight) to be no easier to source than my purple was! I probably should have just given up and ordered it straight from Manic Panic just like I do my purple, but when you’re tired and pissed off and standing in the middle of a Hot Topic surrounded by teenage emo “scene” kids, sometimes you make rash decisions. Staring at a bottle of Rockabilly Blue, I vaguely remembered when Manic Panic developed that color and hearing them tout that it was their most potent blue ever. Well, as someone who is all about saturated colors, that couldn’t be bad, right? That just meant that my hair would be even blue-er, right? Seemed reasonable enough.

Time to try this new blue.

The first mildly red flag was during the dye process. Kyle mentioned that the consistency of the dye was much thinner than any of the other dyes we’ve used. This is not necessarily bad; after all, each color has a little different level of viscosity. It just surprised me, considering this was supposed to be their “most saturated blue ever.” But no matter. Blue-ward, ho!

Six hours later, we completed the dying ritual as we always do. I stood in the shower, bent backwards with eyes screwed shut, while Kyle poured diluted vinegar on my head. He turned the water on for me, as always, and I kept my eyes tightly closed, since despite his careful pour, vinegar has a way of creeping into my eyes and hurting like a motherfucker. A couple of minutes vigorously rubbing my scalp and squeezing my hair, and I was finally confident that my eyeballs were safe. I opened them for the first time. And screamed.

It was like someone stabbed a motherfucking smurf. And then used a chainsaw to dismember the smurfy little corpse.

Blue. Everything was blue. Now, I’m used to a certain amount of splash; it’s kinda the nature of the beast to see whatever color is going on my head also speckled on the walls and swirling in the tub. It cleans up pretty quickly, no big. But this was not the normal amount of splash. Blue on the walls, the tub, the shower curtain, my hands, my chest, running down the side of my legs and staining my toes. My hands were purple, for shit’s sake! Everywhere I looked, I saw blue.

Luckily, the tub and walls cleaned up easily. (Because otherwise, I’m pretty sure Kyle would have actually murdered me.) And despite the shocking amount of staining in the shower, it’s actually not entirely outside the realm of normality for there to be some leaching immediately after dying. After all, last time I went blue it was not uncommon to see a slight tinge of blue on my fingernails for a week or so after first dye. No big deal, I just made sure that whatever nail polish I wore looked nice with blue. Look, now they’re just ombre! I mean, sure, my hands were purple for what felt like a little longer than usual. And the fact that my neck remained stubbornly azure for a solid week was…not my usual experience. But even though the blue-splosion was pretty shocking and the cerulean stack of evidence was piling up, I still wasn’t totally convinced that there was any reason to panic. It’s just a really potent blue, right?

That’s what I thought. Until I started seeing blue everywhere. Slight tinges of pale blue so faint that at first you almost think that it’s the light playing tricks on your eyes. Until you realize that it’s e-ver-ry-where.

On my sunglasses…






my earbuds…

the fur of my coat.







And then, on places that don’t even come into contact with my hair!

My phone…





and the handle of my toothbrush!

Luckily the blue-bleeding hasn’t ruined anything that I really care about. (In that the things it’s probably ruined I don’t really care about, and the things that I care about it hasn’t really ruined.) So far it’s stabilized at a  humorous levels of bluing up my world, but there’s no longer any denying that there is definitely something up with Rockabilly Blue. A perusal of the interwebs has informed me that this is a thing, that many other people have had the same issues that I have, so at least I know that it’s not just bad luck or poor dye technique. And I really do like the finished color on my head.

I just wish it would stay there!


I love…


…all the flowers on our lilies

(that I didn’t even know were

going  to bloom!)




Zest…the way my hands smell after zesting citrus.






…a quiet morning on the back porch Morning on the Porchwhen the air is just a bit brisk.






…all my favorite people in one place.


Favorite People







…surprise wildflowers.










…how much Kyle loves his new FPV rig for his quadcoptor.








…the way my tomatoes smell just picked.










…when Allyse sits like a people.


Allyse is people.








…the hens & chicks from a cutting off of my grandmother’s plant.


Hens & Chicks






…any day spent at the track.








…this guy.




Rocking OutI have a confession for share with you guys.

I, Stephanie Van Sandt of MonsteRawr.com, listen to Kesha. I also listen to Demi Lovato, Nicki Minaj, and Katy Perry. I have listened to the song “Wreckingball” without sneering, and I sing along loudly to “Roar.”

(I’ll wait a moment for you to finish judging me.)

For a very long time, I hid this affinity for female-driven synthpop/R&B/dance rap. I hid it from myself (“I only listen to it when I run, to pump myself up,”) I hid it from Kyle (“I totally made that Katy Perry Pandora station as a joke, to piss off a coworker,”) and I definitely hid it from my friends (“Ugh, how can anyone listen to anything with that much auto-tune? What’s wrong with people?”)

I didn’t want to admit to myself or others that I listened to that type of music because to do so is considered unpopular. Only thirteen year old girls and basic bitches listen to that over-processed shit, right? No one with any semblance of taste or half a brain could possibly listen (or, god forbid, sing along!) to music as shallow and overly produced as pop music, right?

But I refuse to hide it or lie anymore. Truth is, I love that shit.

That’s not to say that all of my musical taste is entirely devoid of cultural merit. I’m absolutely bonkers for Frank Turner and Red Molly, and worship at the feet of Florence + the Machine. Getting to light Guster, Ben Folds, and Ingrid Michaelson were highlights of my career. And I’ve got a perchance for jazz vocalists like Madeleine Peyroux that Kyle finds positively annoying. (He says they all sing the same dozen songs. To be fair, I’m not entirely sure he’s wrong.)

But if you look at my Pandora account, my most used playlist is Kesha. I can’t help it, I love that over-produced-auto-tuned-bubblegum shit. I love listening to it because it’s upbeat and empowering, and it makes me feel good. It’s music to kick ass to, that gives me a voice with which to declare my prowess and strength to. It’s music to sing off-key in the shower and feel sexy to. It’s music to have a kitchen dance party while making dinner and pretend that I’m less exhausted than I really am to. It’s music to dig deep for that last quarter mile of my run, when my lungs are on fire and my tank is empty, to find the hidden strength and finish strong to. It’s music to feel like I can do anything and be everything I ever wished for, to. It’s music that makes me happy.

But is it musically complex, you may ask? Does it ponder over some existential mystery that calls into question the core of my very belief system?  Does it leave me breathless with the surreal musical drama that crawls under my skin and into my blood and puts me in a dulcet trance? Aaaaahhaha–no. But does that mean it can’t be equally valuable to me than that which does? Isn’t music supposed to be a deeply personal thing? Expression and emotion and thought, using the medium of sound and silence? Just because a thought isn’t fucking Shakespeare, does that make it less legitimate of a thought? Isn’t there room for silly and soft and fun alongside thoughtful and provocative and awe-inspiring? Or does our quest for cultural perfection doom us to only enjoy music with a prescribed number of guitar solos that you’ve probably never heard of? If no one is impressed by your obscure musical taste, does it still make a sound?

The reality is, much of what is considered “culturally valid” doesn’t resonate with me. I find The Beatles wildly annoying. (I said it, no regrets.) John Mayer only has one song that he entitles with twenty different names. (And don’t even try to defend him by talking about how his recent stint with Dead & Co gives him enough musical legitimacy to forgive years of whiny bro-folk. I will still pants him ever given the opportunity.) Anything with the word “experimental” anywhere near the title makes me uncomfortable. And I don’t even fully understand how jam bands constitute as music. The truth is, I just don’t connect emotionally with music like that. It doesn’t make me feel anything that doesn’t resemble irritation or fury. So I don’t really understand why I should feel obligated to listen to it, just because it’s been declared musically credible.

But maybe that is something you connect to! Maybe you’re staring at the screen, mouth agape, wondering how I could so ignorantly insult the creator of what is obviously the greatest music of all time! (I mean, The Beatles are considered one of the greatest bands ever, so someone has to like them.) And maybe, just maybe, four musicians starting four different songs at the same time (I’m looking at you, Phish,) is your jam. I get that! I mean, I don’t get why you like that crap, but I get that you connect with it emotionally in a way that I don’t. And that’s great for you! You rock out to that free-form jazz that I find totally grating! I like to think that deep down inside, we all have that band that we’re a little ashamed of. All I ask is that you afford me the same acquiescence to listen to what you perceive to be shitty music that I afford you to listen to what I perceive to be shitty music.

(Or at least judge me quietly.)


I’m Running Again

RunningI’m running again.

Well, sort of. I’m not technically running. I mean, I am, but not exactly the way most people think of when someone says they’re running.

Hold on, let me back up a minute.

Last winter, I got wicked bad bronchitis, which also caused my  (normally exercise-induced) asthma to flare up. The combination gave me a nasty hacking cough that stuck around for months. I was eventually able to get the bronchitis cleared up, but my asthma decided that it didn’t feel like going anywhere. Like a little bitch. For reasons my doctor isn’t entirely sure of, it went from intermittent to persistent. Before getting sick, my asthma really only popped up with I was participating in a seriously throw-down workout (and even then, half the time I’d forget to take my inhaler.) But now, my baseline state is for my lungs to be tight and my breathing ragged. With daily medication and a preventative inhaler I’m able to feel more-or-less normal, but it takes much less effort for my asthma to flare up than it used to.

Which, I’m sure you can guess, sucks balls.

In a matter of months, my lungs were basically crippled. Things that didn’t used to be hard suddenly became so, and it felt pretty awful. Sorry, that’s putting it lightly. It felt frustrating as fuck. And helpless as shit. If I wash down an entire pizza with a sixer of beer and the next day I’ve gained 5 lbs, I get that. If I spend a couple weeks sitting on my ass and the only exercise I get is standing up to pick my wedgies, and then my legs are on fire when I try to run 10 miles, I understand the physiological process that’s happening there. But to do my best to eat right and exercise, only to have my body –through no fault of my own– completely debilitate itself…it feels like some sort of cosmic punishment.

So I’m running again.

Sort of. I’m doing run/walk intervals. Because even though I know that I have the stubbornness and the masochism required to push myself through a run, I also know that what’s important is to rebuild my lungs. Because I will be damned if I’m going to let my fucking asthma keep me from doing the things I love. I’m going to keep skiing, and I’m going to keep climbing mountains. I just have to rebuild my lungs first.

And so I run and walk. It started out alternating two minutes of running with two minutes of walking. Push my lungs’ abilities, but then give them a chance to recover. When that felt too easy, I started running for two and walking for one minute. Since then, I’ve slooooowly been upping the amount of time that I run. I’m up to running for three and a half minutes and walking for one. The slow pace I’m taking has been frustrating; I can feel that my legs and heart are strong and could be pushed so much harder were it not for my lungs, but the constant burning in my chest tells me that to do so would be dangerous. And yet, I can also feel them getting stronger. I know that little by little, I can build my lungs back up strong so that I can do all the things I’ve always loved. It’s just going to take time.

And so I’m running again.

But there’s another reason I’m running, and this one’s not for any physical benefits. I don’t want to go into super details, but let’s just say that things aren’t always sunshine and gummy bears for the monster. Let’s just say that sometimes a person’s brain can trick them into thinking that life is harder than it really is, and make their rose-colored glasses red or blue. I’m seeing my therapist now, but there was about two months between when I finally acknowledged that I needed help and when my therapist had an open appointment, and for those two months I was on my own and struggling. One night, while listening to me express my frustration at what I felt was happening to me, Kyle suggested that I start running. “After all,” he said, “I don’t remember you being ever as happy as you were when you were running.” I was doubtful that it would do that much good, but it was that or take up drinking, and I didn’t feel like having to buy new pants when drinking inevitably made me fat.

So I started running again.

It’s amazing how great running has been for my mental health. Whatever fear, anxiety, depression, worry, or anger I’m holding in my chest, running exorcises it all. (Hehe, puns.) Running wipes my emotional slate clean, and leaves nothing behind but exhilaration and pride. After a run, I feel like a superhero. Maybe it’s because I’m too tired and in too much pain to be upset or anxious. Maybe it’s satisfaction of having accomplished something that is by all accounts hard, of knowing that I have the strength to dig deep and overcome my physical discomfort. Whatever it is, it cleanses me emotionally, leaving me feeling like I can do anything.

And so I’m running again.

This time around, it’s not about how far I can go. It’s not about how fast I can run. It’s not about how many calories I can burn. It’s not about trying to lose weight, and it’s not about trying to run my way into a body that will only exist in my impossibly-high expectations delusions.

It’s about building myself up.

I’m running to make my lungs stronger. I’m running to prove to myself that my asthma won’t debilitate me, and it won’t keep me from the things I love. I’m running to prove to myself that I am strong. I’m running to quiet that little bitch in my head with my voice that says that I’m worthless and weak. I’m running to make myself happy. I’m running (for now) slower and shorter than I ever have before.

But I’m running again.