Saturday, October 26, 2013

Expect a Miracle?

I fretted over the title of this blog, biting figurative fingernails (if I had any left!), and tearing out my hair (I have plenty of that, don't you worry. It'll be a 'fro in Japan) And, in the end, I recalled a sticker that has to be from the 70's I saw in the Family History Center of my church almost a year ago.

I was sleepy eyed and grumpy, helping to clean the church building one morning. Amidst missing breakfast and picking up moldy cheerios, I was not sure if I was in the best mood possible. I was wallowing, moping about some things that morning. Naturally, that turned into whining about bigger things. And, like it always occurs with everyone, it turned against myself. Feeling overwhelmed from everything and thinking life was impossible. That I would never get better and become a person I wanted to be.

Then, vacuuming that commercial grade carpet with a vacuum older than me, I looked up in the morning light and saw an old, cracked sticker stuck on a file cabinet. It was old writing (lots of serifs) and looked like it had been there so long it had worn itself into the metal.

Expect a miracle. 

Like most things I end up loving, that comment bugged me. "Expect" a miracle? Isn't that a little snarky? 

Then, that morning began to improve when the words on that sticker bounced around in my head. 

"Expect" is a whole new level of faith: not only do you know God is there and He give His children miracles, but you understand that when He asks you something, He will give you the means to do it. (1st Nephi 3:7: I will go and do the things which the Lord has commanded me, for I know the Lord giveth no commandment unto the children of men save He shall prepare a way for them to accomplish the thing which He hath commanded them") 

"Expect" is an action word. When someone is "expecting" a child, do they continue living their lives like they had a month ago? No! They change things in their lives: they eat different food, try to stop bad habits, change their house, and adjust their lifestyle- all for "expecting" a little baby to arrive.

"Expect" is saturated with surety: If you are doing family history work or being sent halfway around the world, if it was by the word of the Lord, you can expect miracles. It may not the be the ones you anticipated or at the time wanted, but it'll be what you need. It is in that absolute trust that you will receive what the Lord knows you need that things go well.

So I am expecting miracles. Hence, the title of the blog.


At my "Open House" (I tried not to call it one, because I heard a rumor we aren't supposed to anymore?) I practically forced everyone to leave with an origami butterfly!


(I didn't make these. But they are the same style) 

Well, I made each of them. And I made a terribly awful lot. To be honest, I didn't realize how many I had made until I looked over and there was a huge pile. 

They remind me of the Gospel. In origami, you follow a very specific set of rules, and the results are always the same! The same is true for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If you keep the commandments, you will have His Spirit with you. Always. 

The second, and more poignant reason, for me occurred when I was trying to complete the pattern from memory. I found myself practicing when anxious, sad, or nervous about anything regarding preparing to serve. Do you know what came out of all those feelings and situations? A delicate little butterfly. I suppose I could have crushed the paper and been angry. I could have run away and flung myself on my bed. But I didn't. I made butterflies.Even if some of them didn't look the exact way I wanted, I tried my best. And I chose to make butterflies.

They are a constant reminder to me that, even in a difficult situation, something beautiful can come out of it. It only depends on what you decide to do. To make butterflies or to crush the paper. It's a choice.

I am so excited to serve! It is only six FIVE days left and I feel absolutely unprepared. I don't think I would ever feel truly prepared, but I want to get close. 

Need to do:
Get toothpaste (enough for a year and a half)
Get gloves
Write farewell talk for tomorrow (heh heh, I mean, I totally already wrote that...)
Learn Japanese (lols totes)
Pray. A lot.

And many other adventures. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to go serve. As insignificant as I feel, I believe I have been called to go by Priesthood Authority. So I'll trust that fact that, maybe, I'll be able to do a good job. That's my hope. :)

Monday, October 14, 2013


I am surprised no one has made anything like this yet. And I believe there are quite a few people who I am sure have thrifting tips far better than mine! So, please comment or (better yet) make your own article! If we all can let each other how we “thrift” (my favorite verb. Ever.) then maybe we can make it easier for everyone trying to serve the Lord to look professional, adorable, and still have money when they come home!

So, this is an article for missionaries who need Sunday best outfits, but really, it can be an article for anyone who wants to go shopping without needing to pull out a second mortgage. Or anyone who wants to find things that are not revealing, overpriced, or bad quality. So I think that covers just about everyone.

So, coming from the point of view from a professional personal shopper and a lifelong thrifter, here are some more reasons WHY you should thrift:

-Do you need pieces for a season that is out? (for example, are you going to Panama and have to shop in the dead of winter?) THRIFT STORES! They carry pieces for all seasons year round. They may spotlight sweaters in winter or shorts in summer, but they still carry them!!!

-One of a kind pieces? And, no, I don't mean “one of a kind” in an ugly way. I mean in a cute way. They are there!

-You want floral? Yup, it's there

-Do you like vintage like me? Yup, it's there (More on vintage vs. just plain old later)

-One word: knee-length.

-Need/want button ups? There are a dime a dozen! (Well, more like $2.50 a piece, but compare that to $30 each)

-Need durable? C'mon, who really wants to spend $900 on a wardrobe that you will destroy in a year and a half? If you want inexpensive(notice not the word “cheap”) clothes that'll survive 18 months- two years, then do it.

I think I have made my point. Honestly, once you pull away the gauzy misconception of “grandma clothes”, you find a place where you can buy CUTE, INEXPENSIVE clothes that'll survive you for a year and a half!!! (or for longer!)

Now, would I say thrift everything on your mission? Nope. There are things, for many reasons, you should NOT THRIFT for your mission:

-Bras, socks, tights, and undies. I don't care how many times it has been washed. It's

-Shoes. Don't misunderstand this one. I ADORE thrift shopping for shoes! However, as a missionary, you'll be walking a whole lot, and you do not want shoes that have already been broke into. They won't last as well as other pieces. (it's an entirely DIFFERENT story if the shoes have never been worn. Then go for it, girl!)

-Hats. I love hats, but considering the amount of people that go through a thrift store in one day, don't try them on- just to be safe.

-BASIC PIECES. If possible, I would love to thrift my whole mission wardrobe. But it is very difficult. It is not impossible to find pieces that will work in thrifts stores (I have found quite a few), and I would still look. But I would be prepared to put money out for classic pieces. If you need a classic white top, or a basic black skirt, I would just retail it when you're at a month or a few weeks left.

Now, the most IMPORTANT one: HOW.

Thrift shopping is an adventure! I like to call it a treasure hunt. I am not going to flat-out lie to you and say that every piece in a thrift store is adorable. It's not; just like everything in Kohl's isn't. But you will find success.

Biggest hint I can give you: SEW! Or know someone who can sew (You can pay them in banana bread). Sometimes, a dress can be totally YOU but be a little too short or have an old 80's neckline. Then just go on Pinterest, find out how to fix it, and then do it/ask a family member or friend.(There are some web pages at the end of this article)

“But, Mari,” You may say, “I don't sew! And I am not going to ask someone in the ward who I'm not very close with to do it for me!” That's okay. (If I may, don't be afraid to ask for help with only one or two pieces. I doubt they will object to helping out a missionary. If you are really scared, ask a Relief Society President)

Yet, if you still say nay, thrifting is still the best option!! All the expertise I have needed to know on some pieces is how to sew a button or take off a shoulder pad. I can't sew very well (it's literally a joke) but I found pieces don't require much, if anything!)

So, to paraphrase the famously addicting/false doctrine musical “Saturday's Warrior”: “Don't see them as they are- see them as they could be.” Changing a button to sleek black or white or removing a shoulder pad will change a piece's life. And pulling in the seams or removing length will give it a new one.

IN STORE TIPS: This may be the most vital part. And I am sure there are tons of thrifters out there with better/more advice, so I would recommend you share:

-Be prepared to hit up multiple stores. There are a few in your area- google it. Or ask around. My best recommendation would be to thrift in an affluent area or in a town near one. The donations tend to be higher quality and more modern. And, very often, never worn with the tags attached. (those are my favorite! :D ) Everything will not be in one store, so don't give up after looking through one for a half hour. I would start going after you get your call so give yourself as much time as possible.

YES stores:

Assistance League (these tend to have a vintage section. And are cheap. And are wonderful. And my favorite)

Savers (huge. Tons of options)

Salvation Army (Love it! No, it is not scary or gross stuff. They tend to be picky with what they put out. Pick high quality merchandise. Occasionally something will have a stain, though, so be aware)

Working Wardrobes (Blazers and office wear! Literally, blazers for a dollar. Amazing.)

-St. Paul de Vincent (Huge. The ones I've gone to have nice quality. Warning: call and see if they have dressing rooms, though. A few don't.)

-Uptown Cheapskate (this is one I am running on merit from my sister. She served in Utah on her mission, and fell absolutely in love. The things she got were modern, cute, and well-priced. And I want to steal everything she bought there)

Ma and Pop thrift stores (Pro- Good quality. Con- Can be more pricey, since they tend to be for-profit)

NO stores:

-Goodwill (I hate Goodwill. Wow, that sounds really bad. I know it is weird to say thrift stores are “pricey”, but Goodwill is unnecessarily high. They are basically Salvation Army with higher prices. And corporate is mean to their employees. So, you CAN go if it is a last resort.

-If they don't have fitting rooms.(Trust me, they are important) Most places do, and all of the places I have told you tend to. You will need to try things on. Sizes are tricky. YES, the clothes are washed, and NO you won't get sick.


-Go in with a budget. Seriously. I tend to go about $5 over mine. As long as you have an idea going in, you should be more controlled. (My usual is to do $20 per store.)

1:Look through everything. It is really a treasure hunt. To entertain yourself, you can always find one or two horrible pieces and make it a game with a friend as you look. But skim until you find someone you like.

-I am going to give you a secret I've learned shopping for people at work: you do NOT have a size. You have a size RANGE. And, quite honestly, it can be quite expansive. For example, (I can't believe I am putting this on the Internet) my usual size is a four, but I own skirts sizes 2-12 from thrift stores. The OLDER the piece, the higher size you will be. The NEWER the piece, the smaller size you will be. Remember that.

2:Something you like can be the: fabric, shape, or concept. If, when you eyeball it, it looks too big, take into account the sewing principle above. If you like the concept but hate everything else, then put I back and remember it; you will most likely find something along that style again in your size. If it is your size, though, and you can see a future for it, then...

3:Figure out WHY it is there. Normal reasons are:

-A stain* (if it is not a make-up powder stain that can easily be removed, put it back)

-A tear or rip (If it is along a seam, it can be fixed very easily. If not, put it back)

-Missing a button (replace it with ones you love! Keep it)

-It is a winter piece donated because it is now summer (keep it)

-Just plain old worn (As cute as it may be, it won't last 18 months. Put it back)

-Owner got bored with it(Happens more often that you think. She may have only worn it once, or may have the tag still on it when they decided they didn't want it. It's gold! Keep it.)

4:Rinse and repeat until you have a pile. Then TRY THEM ON. If it is older, imagine it as it could be. Sometimes, it'll just plain fit weird. But other times, imagine it with new buttons or a little shorter. I find it is like shopping in retail stores. A few pieces will work, a few won't.

5:Does it match with stuff you like? Do you really like it and are not just settling because it is a dollar? If you can answer that honestly, then BUY THAT SUCKER!

Yaayyyy!!!! (imagine thunderous applause as you approach the cash register in triumph)

Now WHAT to look for:

-BLAZERS, BLAZERS, BLAZERS! You would be surprised how many quality and cute blazers there are for $7 in the world. (Not really surprising, when you think of it, actually. People always take good care of their blazers/suit jackets, dry clean them, and almost always remove them an hour or two into work.) LOOK FOR THEM. I find a one button suit jacket is the safest, youngest, and most classic. The more buttons you get, the older you look when it is closed. (I would not do more than 3 buttons if you are in teens and twenties)

-Knee length skirts. Seriously, it's like magic. They are everywhere, especially in fall and winter. A big 80's style is mid calf with buttons down the front. All it can take is changing buttons and/or shortening the piece to make it look more foxy (And by foxy, I mean mission appropriate awesomeness) Personally, the length they are is growing one me, though...

-Button ups. There are SO many. You will find a quite a few that work.

-Sweaters. You need basic colors? Or a stand out piece? There are racks of them from October-February. Just make sure they aren't stretched out or fuzzy. Those are no-no's.

-Winter jackets. Same concept as the blazers. A lot of people wear them for one winter and then donate to make room in their closets. I've found going to stores in affluent areas as the secret for this one. Affluent people get new jackets frequently apparently.

-Belts and accessories. $6 for a belt at Forver21 vs. the same/cuter belt for a $1? You can choose. But accessories tend to be in good condition. (A watch you will have to get a new battery. So watch out for that one) Some of the prettier necklaces may be retail priced, so don't be fooled simply because they are in a thrift store.

-Everything else. Don't be afraid to go through everything! To resolve the size issue, I would go around the two sizes you tend to be. (I have a system, where I flick through clothes like crazy and go down whole racks, whip something out, and then stick it right back. Apparently, I've been told it's like an action movie.)

Vintage tips:

-There is a difference between just plain old vs. vintage. If it is old and worn, it will not be worth your money. Vintage pieces are older style/throw back pieces that have been well taken care of and are in good condition. And yes, it may sound a little impossible, but they are there!

-True vintage pieces are not the easiest pieces to find. I would recommend stores like Assistance League and Cheapskate, which tend to have vintage sections. You can definitely find them in other places in stores(like the “collectibles” area), but the best quality are in these. If they are a dollar or two more, then go for it! If the price is leaning towards retail, then don't bother. You could find it lower somewhere else (or even just buy it retail)

-Vintage is YOU. There is no set way to do vintage pieces. They are your own style and personality. If you want inspiration, then go online (For me, I Pinterest them) and look up old pictures. It is usually best to juxtapose a vintage outfit with a modern accessory.

-BE AWARE of SIZES. I find myself going up the older the piece is. So eyeball when you take it out and then TRY IT ON IN STORE.

-Check for moth holes. They may be small, but they can be there. And those tend to lead to trouble.

-Shoulder pads are removable(and SO easy to do). And losing them can make outfits look 10 years younger. So try to fold back a shoulder pad when trying on a piece.

-I find the most vintage pieces come from the 80's. If you like that, then go for it! (I don't tend to) If you are like me, the good news is that the 80's provide more than velvet and leggings. During this time period, vintage became very popular. So quite a few throwback 50's styles skirts apparently were made. Don't be surprised if you see a few in great condition. ALL IN ALL, what I've found (maybe someone else has seen otherwise), the easiest vintage looks to do are 40's and 50's. (Basic BASIC descriptions: 40's- pencil skirts and button ups/flowy professional tops. 50's- A line dresses and skirts with collared tops. Just Pinterest it)

Potpourri Tips:

-Wet make-up marks (lipstick, foundation) are difficult to remove. Dry (Powder/eyeshadow) you get get off by rubbing pantyhose on it.

-Don't buy something because it is inexpensive. Buy it because you like it.

-Most thrift clothes are not returnable. Remember that.

-Take about an hour a week to go out and look. Things will compile quickly so you'll know if and what to retail when the time comes to go.

-Layering is magic! Seriously!

-*Stains. Confession time: I have a vintage 50's skirt for my mission with a little bleach stain. Because it is so small and in a place no one will look I decided to get it. That is common. If stains don't weird you out, are small, and in a place no one will see, then I would say get it. Your deciding factor is “Would I feel comfortable representing the Lord in this?”

-Don't get stuff with sweat stains. It may seem obvious, but sometimes there is a cute piece that has some. Even if you get the stain out with lemon juice, it'll still be worn. And you'll be doing enough sweating on your mission.

THERE WE GO. Those are a few basic tips I have found work for me. I am sure there are hundreds of you with much better tips, so please share them! If we all can band together with thrifting for our missions, it'll help us to stop worrying about the material and monetary and focus on the spiritual and satisfying.

Thank you, everyone!

Sewing/updating tricks:

Sewing from scratch:

My favorite vintage inspiration boards:

Happy thrifting!