Weddings and Haircuts

It’s been an eventful week here in Modest Mandi-land, to say the least. First, on Friday I officially survived another half term of school and am only seven weeks from surviving this school year. Now that the sheer exhaustion has lifted I have a mixture of feelings: I am ready (and eager) for this school year to be over, but not looking forward to the next one beginning. Luckily I’m spending five weeks at home in Nashville this summer to ease the transition. If my sisters are successful in stealing my passport, I may not need to worry about starting the next school year at all…

I’ve been needing a haircut for a few months now. I’m not good at taking care of my hair and it’s really only ever an afterthought. Luckily, one of my housemates is a hairdresser and in exchange for dinner, she agreed to cut my hair. I can’t remember the last time I walked into a salon and asked for anything other than a trim and a refresh of the layers that I wear in my long hair. When my housemate asked what I wanted, I said ‘something different.’ Radically different? Coming from someone with purple hair, this struck fear into my old fashioned heart. ‘Perhaps not radically different, but a change is most definitely needed.’ So she chopped off 8” of my hair into a lob – that’s a long bob to those of us who are clueless about all things hair. This is the end result and I couldn’t be happier:


It’s different enough that I feel all fresh & new, but not so different that I don’t recognize myself. The students have been complimentary and if I know one thing about teenagers, it is that they are brutally honest with their opinions. I have to agree with my students that my hair looks well good. 

Yesterday I attended the wedding of a friend from the Peace Corps who was getting married in Oxford. This was my second wedding since Terry’s death (I attended the wedding of one of his cousins last month and quite literally ran out of the wedding sobbing) and I was a bit nervous about this one. I managed to make it through the entire reception dry eyed, of which I am really proud. As you can imagine, weddings are quite difficult for widows. After all, it wasn’t so long ago that Terry and I said similar vows to each other. It was with a heavy heart that I listened to the wedding vows and realized that I have fulfilled each and every one of them: I loved my husband for better and worse, for poorer with the plans of getting richer someday, in sickness and in health and I loved and cherished him every second until death did us part. When I told Terry that I would love him until death did us part I meant until we grow old together, but that wasn’t meant to be. 

with the beautiful bride

The wedding was absolutely gorgeous and I am so glad that I overcame my fears and attended. Although I knew no one there, I felt very special to be invited to part of their special day.

And so with a new haircut and having attended the wedding of a dear friend I find myself with an entire week of half-term in front of me. It’s going to be a good week.  


The Chains of Debt

When I moved in January I packed the Debt-o-Meter away in a box with some of Terry’s things and I haven’t had the heart to take it out since. It’s not laziness, it’s that the mere thought of it brings back the happy memories of making it and colouring it in each month, which I prefer to remain boxed up until I am a bit stronger and can take those memories and cherish them the way that they should be cherished (without a breakdown). 

I wish that I could pack away my debt and not think about that, either, but unfortunately I have had to keep making payments. I miss the feeling of acomplishment as I coloured those few hundred pounds of debt away every month, but I can’t bear the thought of colouring in the debt-o-meter without Terry. This led me to look into other ways to visualize my debt payoff and I stumbled across the idea of making a paper chain. The idea is that you make one link for each $1,000 of debt and then tear it off as you pay it off. I wouldn’t be able to take a chain off each month that way, so I adapted it to be one link for every payment that stands between me and my dream of being debt free. I just so happened to have a paper chain hiding away with the Christmas decorations that I never did get around to making and it had 45 links, enough for my 44 remaining payments and 1 for luck. So I made my paper chain and I hung it on the wall of my new bedroom. Today I checked my US bank account and my student loan payment has been paid off, so I happily ripped off the first of many paper links. It felt pretty good. 

The chain is spread across 5 nails and as my debts get paid off, I’d like to hang a picture on each of the nails until instead of a paper chain I have a wall of happy memories, with many more to come once I’m debt free!

And so I am looking at 43 links for my 43 remaining payments and already looking forward to that next chain coming down. I think Terry would like this idea, and he would be really impressed that I managed to put 5 nails in the wall without breaking something. 

On a side note: when not paying off debt, I’ve been doing quite a bit of baking. This weekend I baked a banana cake with Nutella frosting and have been happily devouring it since.  



Bold Is Beautiful March

Remember when I said I had some fun adventures coming up this month? Today I travelled down to London to meet up with my friend Jess to participate in Benefit’s Bold is Beautiful March around town to raise funds for two amazing charities: Refuge , a domestic violence charity and Look Good Feel Better, a charity that supports women undergoing cancer treatments to feel good about themselves. Having donated to both of these good causes to sign up for the race, Jess and I turned up at Cavendish Square at 10:00 this morning ready to go.

When we arrived, we were greeted with a goody bag containing a bright pink Benefit t-shirt, a Benefit make-up bag and a bottle of water. We then walked around London where we stopped at the Marble Arch to have our lashes done, then headed through Hyde Park to get to the Wellington Arch where we got some blusher and lipgloss and a super-cool pair of glasses and finally to Golden Square where we had a full-on makeover and received a pink cape. We then paraded back to Cavendish Square with our pink capes billowing behind us where we crossed the finish line, listened to music, ate some delicious cookies that we got for crossing the finish line and then had some superhero photos taken (seriously though, both Benefit and My Little Box have now affirmed my Superhero Theory).

Marble Arch
At the Marble Arch, our first stop of the day
I make this cape look good
Superhero Photo Shoot
This is what we superheroes look like behind the scenes

After the march, we had lunch in a nearby restaurant and ate some delicious cupcakes. Then we took advantage of the good weather and had a chat in the park before we both went our separate ways. I arrived back home in Northampton completely shattered but in such high spirits. Today I raised money for charity, got some good exercise while exploring new parts of London (one of my favourite cities in the world), ate some delicious food with a good friend and then came back home with some lovely new goodies – but no cookie. Today I had my picture taken as a superhero, which will be framed and put on my wall. There are some really not so nice parts to my life, but today I haven’t thought about any of those. Today I feel like the luckiest girl in the world to be able to go down to London for the day to meet up with friends and participate in an event that was only a glass of champagne away from being perfect for me. Giving Looks Good, my new tote bag tells me, and I feel good as a result.


Now if you’ll excuse me I have some cookies to eat, a cape to wear and a world to save.

I Live With Spenders

My apologies for not posting for awhile, I got really sick last week and am still trying to get over this sore throat and cough. I have blamed each of my classes individually for getting me sick, but who knows?

Over the long holiday weekend that we recently enjoyed here in the rainy UK, my housemates and I decided to host a BBQ in our gorgeous backyard. The morning of the BBQ we made a joint grocery run to pick up supplies. As we were leaving I asked if they wanted to make a list of what we needed. No, we’ll just pick up anything we need, my housemates responded. I really think we should make a list guys, I tried, but they were insistent that it was unnecessary. To them perhaps, but a list is an essential part of my shopping these days. I don’t go shopping without lists, mainly because I used to go shopping without lists and I used to make really bad decisions.

I should clarify that my housemates are amazing. We get on really well and enjoy spending time together, which is why we were throwing this BBQ to begin with. I’m the frugal one in the house, which was immediately noticeable when I moved in. My housemates both enjoy going out a lot, whereas although I mostly go over my £100 social budget each month, it’s never by much. If I go away for a weekend, I’m in the rest of the month to balance it out. I have friends over for coffee and dinner rather than meeting up for drinks after work. I do everything I can to save money these days.

While walking through the supermarket we picked up the meat, paper plates and plastic cups that we had all agreed we needed, but then things got spendy. Things that we didn’t need just kept getting thrown in the shopping cart. Are you sure we need crayons and a coloring book? I questioned. Don’t we already have citronella candles at the house? That’s not actually a question, we have an entire pack of citronella candles at the house that we can use. You still want those ones? Ok….None of my questions changed my housemate’s decisions to buy things we didn’t need for the BBQ: how could they? They are spenders, just as I once was but the new saver me was slightly horrified at how much their bill came to. I remember spending a disproportionate amount of my income on silly things that I thought I needed only to be broke and unhappy at the end of the month. I used to think hosting a BBQ meant you needed loads of fun party things, but now I can appreciate that with good food, enough to drink and good music, the other details are arbitrary.

Shopping Cart

And, I should mention, although I don’t have any new crayons or the 96 leftover plastic shot glasses, I have money left in my bank account for some really fun adventures later on this month. Stay tuned.