Thursday, March 15, 2018

Beware the Ides of March

For the past 7 years, I have felt like Julius Caesar and I have something in common. Its the day we were both betrayed. Caesar by fellow Romans. Me by my own body. If you have followed my blog for any length of time you know I suffer from Fibromyalgia and an autoimmune known as CREST Syndrome. In the days leading up to this anniversary, I have thought about the past 7 years a lot. Especially in the context of the past year.

I've been doing better. Over the past 15 months I've lost 51 pounds. This has allowed me to move more with less pain. I'm glad I had already started to lose weight when my husband decided to walk out on me. I could not have handled working the jobs I have worked with the pain I had been in. I worked weekends last fall at a Rein Faire. They were long hard days, but I was blessed by working for my friend and fellow Spoonie Ruby. We watched out for each other and made sure not to use up to many spoons each day at take lots of rest breaks. I spent three months working for Target stocking shelves. There were so many days I came home from Target rung out. In January I started to work for my towns Parks and Rec department, where I am also on my feet most of the time. All the while I continued to look for an office job.

I stated to a close friend in January I knew my technical skills were a little out dated, which I felt was keeping me from finding full time work in an office setting. I just didn't know how to go about getting them updated without paying to go back to school. In my current financial situation, that was just not an option. A few weeks after making that statement the opportunity I had been looking for presented itself. A 12 week training program in Application Support Management with job placement help for every successful graduate. Just what I needed!! I went through the multi-interview multi test process and ended up being one of 22 selected (over 90 applied).

Upon finding out I was accepted I felt two things at once. Overjoyed to finally get a professional break and terrified. The training program would be in downtown Dallas Monday - Friday 9-5. So not only would I need my employers to work with my new schedule (Target declined to) but I would need to the spoons to take on this additional task. There were so many days after working at Target and the Rec Center I barely had the spoons to feed myself. How the heck was I going to pull this off for 12 weeks?

My parents have been incredibly supportive through the divorce. In talking to my mom about my new undertaking she expressed concern for me and my health about doing the training program and working my jobs. Thanks to Target not working with me (after telling me we'd talk about it for a week and a half) I only had one job to worry about. Of course this spawned another concern, paying the bills, as I had barely been getting by. Once again my parents are being amazing and are helping me bridge the gap.

So dear reader why am I telling you this? As you know I do tend to make points. Mine is this. For years after getting sick I never thought I'd ever get close to leading a normal life. That I'd never work physical jobs again. Or work full time. I have been in my training program for almost two weeks now. I'm doing it and I'm not just getting by. I'm doing well and keeping up with the homework. I'm doing things again I never thought I would do.

So on this historic day of betrayal I want to send out a message of encouragement. I don't know what is going on in your life, but have hope it will get better. It might not be soon. I had to wait 6 years for mine. Don't give up. You never know what amazing thing might be around the corner. And if your a fellow spoonie - I'd love to connect with you.

Until Next Time

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

2017 - Year in Review

Dearest Reader,

I must apologize about my silence as of late. Well, It would appear almost all of 2017. There are many times I would have loved to have written to you. I felt it was best not to. My silence has been quite intentional.

2017 was going to be better than 2016. Or at least that was the plan. I had plans to really build my brand. Start a Youtube channel geared towards my fellow spoonies. Blog more. Instagram more. Jump start my jewelry business.

Things in 2017 started off rocky in my personal life. So clearly my attention was elsewhere. Aaron left me in May and I decided to stay fairly silent on the matter. I'm sure he expected me to lash out every which way on social media. Sometimes I don't behave as expected.

I've learned number of things since my marriage broke up. A few I'm going to touch on in this blog. The first thing I learned was you find out who your real friends are real quick in a divorce. For the record, if I ask you have you heard from Aaron and you tell me no, you may want to make sure you are either telling me the truth or I have no way of verifying it. In this instance your insistent no was quickly proven out to be a lie. I was checking cell records daily. Your number was on the text logs a lot. Don't feel bad. A few people got caught that way.

As I said you learn who your real friends are. These are the friends that step up, circle the wagons with you. The friends who call more, check on you more, make sure you're eating once in awhile. I am very blessed to have a number of these amazing friends, both locally and via the internet.

I've learned you are given what you need when you need it. Almost a month after Aaron left, my friend Annie and I were out in my jewelry studio when Annie thought she heard a cat. She did some digging and found some very weak, dehydrated, flea covered kittens that we estimate were about a week old.

Annie and I quickly ran to petsmart and bought a bottle and formula and then went to Target for some Dawn dish washing soap (for the fleas). Did you know kittens need to be fed every three hours? I didn't. Guess what I ended up doing. That's right, feeding kittens every three hours for three or so weeks. I was never so happy when I was able to wean them and they could eat kitten food. So many people told me how amazing I was to do this for the kittens. Maybe yes, probably no. They gave me something to focus on, someone to help. In one small way I could effect positive change in the middle of my life being thrown out of wack. Also, you should know all the kittens found furever homes. I did end up adopting one of the black ones.

I've learned it's okay to be alone. Until a few months ago, I had never lived on my own. I got married in college. I went from having a roommate to having a husband. At first I didn't know what to do with myself. Change is scary, but it's not always bad. I've learned to embrace the solitude and the quiet. I boxed up things that weren't mine. I rearranged rooms. I made this space mine and mine alone. I turned my house into a place of peace and rest.

While I was learning how to live alone, I also learned I really don't know who I am. I recently ran across this and it made me think:

It was like somebody took a bucket of cold water and threw it on me. Talk about a light bulb moment. I'm still thinking about it and trying to figure out what to do with it.

Traditionally I try to learn something new each year to improve myself. It's typically a skill of some kind. Find something I'm interested in and take a class or read up about it. So here is what I've decided. 2018 is going to be the year I learn about me. Old baggage is going to be left at the curb for garbage collection. Toxic people no longer have a place in my life. It's time to get to know me, a balanced and healthy me.

And here is some food for thought. Despite society telling me I should be upset over the break up of my marriage, I've found I'm a much happier person. And healthier (to date I'm down 39 pounds). They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so here you go!

Until next time

Friday, January 20, 2017

Battle Beauty Box December 2016

Welcome back Beauty Subscription Box lovers! Last month I covered the November boxes between Ipsy, Sephora Play, and Lip Monthly. In case you missed it you can catch up here. This month I will once again be reviewing those three with one more contender. This month the quarterly Wal-Mart Beauty Box came, so it will be reviewed as well. Let's get to it!

To review, Ipsy is $10/mo and comes with five products. This month I received a Beau Gachis concealer brush, a NYX eye shadow in Bedroom Eyes, an Aurora Intensively Precise Eyeliner in Blackberry, Hanalei Lip Treatment, and a Tarte Tartiest Glossy Lip Paint in WCW.

Ipsy December bag

Sephora is also $10 and you get 5 products plus a perfume sample. December's box included Urban Decay's All Nighter Makeup Setting Spray, Drybar Detox Dry Shampoo, Makeup Forever Step 1 Smoothing Base, Bobby Brown Smokey Eye Mascara in black, Sephora Cream Lipstain in Always Red, and a perfume sample of Elizabeth and James Vanilla Bourbon.

December Sephora Play

Lip Monthly is $13.50/mo for me (as I buy 4 month blocks for $54). This month had 4 products (you get 4-5) which included a ChapStick Total Hydration Lips Scrub, City Color Lip Gloss in Wild Child, Crazy Rumors Hibiskiss Hibiscus Flavored Lip Color, and Cougar Mineral Lipstick in Sangria. I was actually very disappointed in this month's products in that it appeared to be very cheap (ChapStick, really?). Typically the card included tells you what the value is. November had a retail value of $98. December didn't tell us. Hmmm, wonder why...

December Lip Monthly
Why aren't you telling us the value this month, Lip Monthly??

Last up is our quarterly box from Wal-Mart Beauty. This box is only $5/quarter and comes with full size products, samples, and coupons. Products include samples of Dove shampoo, conditioner, mask and body wash, a full size Cover Girl Last Blast Volume in Very Black, Ponds Rejuveness Anti-Wrinkle Cream, Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Body Yogurt, and Curel Hydratherapy Wet Skin Moisturizer.

Winter Wal-Mart Beauty Box

Now that I've told you what was in every box I'm sure you're wondering my thoughts on these (that's why you're here, right? I mean I don't give out cookies or anything). Ipsy and Sephora Play always crush it. Ipsy has clearly built great relationships with beauty brands over the years. I love that you get a mix of prestige brands (like Tarte) and new indy brands. Clearly Sephora also has access to amazing brands. I love that I got Urban Decay, Bobby Brown, and Makeup Forever in one box. Woo!

Wal-Mart also has the marketplace muscle to get good sample sizes of product. I couldn't go to Wal-Mart and buy the Cover Girl Mascara for $5.00, let alone the rest of the travel size samples. I do fly from time to time and having bottles on hand that are TSA approved (under 3.4 oz for carry on) is always a plus.

Now Lip Monthly...we need to have a chat. Did you run out of end-of-year budget or did your buyer just go on vacation? The Chapstick scrub at Target is $4.99. From the City Color website the lip gloss is $5.99. The Crazy Rumors Hibiskiss lip color from their website is $4.99. The Cougar Mineral Lipstick is sold in a 5 pack for $47.80 (It's a UK brand so the conversion isn't a nice number we're used to). Still that makes each lipstick $9.56/ea. Which means this month's has a retail value of $25.53 or 1/4 the value of last month's bag. I was extremely disappointed in this month's December bag. When Wal-Mart's budget-conscious box does a better job you know you've done something wrong.

So dear reader, I will keep subscribing and keep testing beauty boxes for you. Be sure to stay tuned as I will also shortly be launching a YouTube companion page. 2017 holds some exciting things for sure!

Until Next Time, XOXO

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Battle Duochrome Highlighter: Kat Von D vs Makeup Geek

Dear Reader,

You may be looking at all the makeup highlighters that are popping up and launching, especially the duochrome ones (they have a color shift) and think to yourself "Those are so pretty - I must have them all!" Then your bank account pipes up and says, "No, you must only choose one." You put on your sad panda face and see the wisdom of your bank account. But how do you choose? I am here to help.

Today I am going to pit the much anticipated Kat Von D Alchemist Holographic Palette against similar Makeup Geek Duochrome highlighters. For today's test I am going to put the KVD {blue} Sapphire against the MUG Moon Phase (The blue shift ones) and the KVD {pink} Opal against the MUG Lit (the pink shift ones).

 Lets look at the blue ones first. I used both a brush and my finger to swatch and I took photos with my LG V20 in both outdoor and indoor light.
KVD {blue} Sapphire vs MUG Moon Phase Outdoor Light
KVD {blue} Sapphire vs MUG Moon Phase Indoor Light with Flash

Personal opinion here, but I think the MUG has a slightly better color pay off in the blue version. What do you think? Let's take a look at the pink:
KVD {Pink} Opal vs MUG Lit Outdoor Light

KVD {pink} Opal vs MUG Lit Indoor Light with Flash

With the pink I feel like the Kat Von D product has the better color payoff.

So lets break down cost. The Kat Von D Alchemist Holographic Palette is $32 at Sephora.Com right now if you're a VIB or a VIB Rouge Member. It will hit Sephora.Com and KatVonD for everyone on 12/24 and will be in stores the 26th. You get four shades in the palette and each shade is 0.05 oz. This is $8/shade or $8/0.05oz. The Makeup Geek Highlighters are sold individually for $20 on the Makeupgeek website. You get 0.25 oz for the price.

If I were to wave my magic makeup wand and was able to make the pan sizes equal (0.25 oz) and have the ability to buy colors individually, you would end up paying $40 for the Kat Von D pan and still $20 for the Makeup Geek. From that stand point it is easy to see which one is the better value. Since I feel the color pay off in each is very similar, I don't know that the price of the Kat Von D one justifies purchasing it unless you're a diehard Kat Von D fan.

L-R MUG Lit, KVD Alchemist Holographic Palette, MUG Moon Phase

Sorry Kat, but it looks like Marlena (founder and head of Makeup Geek) won this one. I still love your products, though, so no hard feelings. :)

Until Next Time,

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Self Care and Why You Need To Do It

Dear Reader,

It's time we talked about self care. This is important for normal people and for us spoonies. I know a lot of you don't invest in self care which is why we are going to have ourselves a little chat. Now you may be asking yourself, what makes this random blogger an expert? Well dear reader, I have lived with fibromyalgia and an autoimmune disease called CREST for over 5 years now. If I do not take care of myself daily and set up boundaries I get myself in a whole mess of trouble. Trouble equals a flare and me being in bed for days if not weeks. It is my goal in this blog to impart to you some of my hard-gained knowledge in the world of self care.

Go grab yourself a drink. Coffee or tea if that's what you need. Something stronger if that will help. I'll wait... Are you ready? Then let's do this.

Step One - Figure out the energy you have. In the spoonie community we call this our number of spoons. For my readers who might not be familiar with Spoon Theory you may find it here. Now your energy level should be what you can accomplish on a normal day. Not a full on emergency situation day. This is the energy level you have without being totally wiped out. The kind of day where you go to bed tired, not the kind of day where you literally fall into bed.

Step Two - Now that you have figured out what you can get done in a day, you need to prioritize your day. What must get done versus what you'd like to get done. These priorities might change from day to day. For example, must the laundry get done today? If you still have clean clothes to wear and you have more pressing matters, I'd put that on the "like to get done" list. It is very important you learn the difference between "like to get done" and "must get done." You are not Superman or Superwoman. There is no reward for getting it all done right this minute.

Step Three -  Learn to forgive yourself. I know you have been taught you must get everything done in one day and what you don't get done you must lay in bed and flagellate yourself over. I know, I know, we have been conditioned by society that we must put on this facade of a perfect life. Guess what, there are no awards for having the perfectly cleaned house or always helping out people when they ask for it. Which leads me to step four...

Step Four - The magic word. This is going to be a tough one. Deep breath and repeat after me. NO. Let's try it again. NO. Use this magic word (NO) to create boundaries for yourself. Your time on this planet is finite. Don't waste it all doing everything for everyone. You can't be all things. If you are running around trying to do everything asked of you, you will have no energy for yourself.

Step four is a very hard step. I get it. You want to be a good friend, a good sister, a good child. However, if you are constantly using your energy for everyone else and leaving nothing for you, your batteries will eventually just run down to zero. Then what? You can't do anything on a dead battery. Learn to set boundaries and take care of yourself first. This step is critical for self care.

Are you still with me? You've evaluated your energy, figured out the difference between have to's and like to's, learned to forgive yourself for not being superhuman, and learned to say no and set firm boundaries. Are we ready to move on?

Step Five - Recharge. What can you do just for you? This might be taking a bubble bath, or reading a good book with a glass of wine. Maybe going for a walk. Figure out what you can do just for you. I know you're used to putting yourself last, but this must change, dear reader. You need to put your own needs first. Now now, I'm not telling you to be selfish and never do anything for anyone else. All I'm saying is put yourself first, take care of what you need to do, including recharging your batteries. If you have energy left over after you've done what YOU NEED to do, then you can help others.

As to not overload you dear reader, I am going to leave it there. You can start practicing these five steps and see how it goes. Please report in on how you feel after practicing. You know I love to hear from you!

Do you have a recommendation on self care? Did I miss a step? Please comment below. I too am learning how to do this "self care" thing.

Until Next Time <3

Monday, December 12, 2016

Battle of the Beauty Subscription Boxes

Lets Get Ready to... I was going to say "Rumble" but that doesn't sound quite right when talking about makeup/beauty subscription boxes. Anyway... (insert long awkward pause)

I love getting beauty subscription boxes. It's a happy surprise each month in the mail. And who doesn't love happy surprises as opposed to bills? Today I am putting Ipsy, Sephora Play, and Lip Monthly up against each other. May the odds be ever in your favor.

First up, Ipsy. I don't even know how long I have subscribed at this point. Three years? Its been a while. Ipsy is $10/mo and you get 5 items.  Here is November's Glam Bag. Included in my bag are Elemis anti-aging day cream, Absolute New York Matte lipstick in Dark Red, Tarte Maracuja Oil, The Balm Mad Lash mascara, and a W20 Angled Eyew20 brush from SLMissGlam.

November Ipsy Glam Bag

I did say five items and you can count, there are six. I had used my points in October to get the eyelashes. You get points for reviewing products, so it pays to review so you can cash in on extra items. Plus it helps to dial in what items you will like (30-40 are available each month) and which ones you aren't a fan of.  An additional Ipsy benefit is items/brands featured each month typically have a coupon code so you can purchase full size items that were featured. Ipsy also does daily offers of beauty items (Monday-Friday). I think this is the biggest feature. I have gotten some crazy deals from this. Most recently I nabbed 2 full-size Besame lipsticks for $20. That's two for the price of one!

Next up in this battle royale is the new kid on the block, Sephora Play. I believe Sephora Play launched three months ago. I signed up after the first month and this is my second box. Just like Ipsy it's $10/mo. It comes with 5 items and a fragrance sample. The bonus of the Sephora Play box is that it comes with a 50 point bonus card that you can redeem with purchase. I don't know about you, but I love Sephora points. Just last month I cashed 1000 in for a really nice bag of deluxe size items from Urban Decay (which will be reviewing in a future blog).

November Sephora Play Box

Included in the November Play box is Pop by Stella McCartney, Glam Glow SuperMud Clearing Treatment, Sephora gel gloss in Pin-Up Pink, Cover FX Illuminating Primer, Dissolve The Drama 2 in 1 Cleaner by Estee Edit, and Caviar Stick Eye color in Rose Gold from Laura Mercier.

Last up is Lip Monthly. It is 4-5 items a month. I buy the four month blocks for $54 ($13.50/mo).  It's a little more expensive but it's a combination of full sized items and deluxe size. Additionally, just last month they started to allow you to select the shades your lip items will be. I like having a little say over what I get beforehand. It's somewhat disappointing when you get a shade you really don't care for.

November Lip Monthly

This month the Lip Monthly bag included a Luna lip gloss in Titania, a lipliner from Ofra in Maya, a lip crayon from Hikari in Duchess, and an anti-aging eye serum from Freeze 24*7.

Do we have a clear winner from these three boxes? In my opinion no. Each has positive qualities. Since Ipsy and Sephora Play are the same amount it's a little easier to compare the two since it's more apples to apples. I like the high end items (and bonus points) from Sephora Play, but I like getting full size items and tools (a girl can never have too many brushes) from Ipsy (plus coupon codes and daily offers). Is the extra $3.50/mo with Lip Monthly worth it? Some months yes, some months not so much. If there was one I was going to stop subscribing to it would be Lip Monthly.  I like that they have added on the shade selection option and they are promising more changes. We will see what the future holds.

All three boxes appeal to my spoonie side. I love having items delivered right to me. Beauty items shipped right to my door at a value price? You are speaking my language!  I also subscribe to the Wal-Mart Beauty Box, but that only comes in quarterly. That is $5/quarter and comes with some great samples and coupons. Oh, and Ulta, if you're listening, Sephora has thrown down. What do you have? Time to get in the ring.

Did my review help you? Are you currently subscribed to any of these? Are you subscribed to a box I didn't mention but I need to? Would you like me to review future months? Let me know dear reader! I love hearing from you.

Until Next Time,

Friday, November 11, 2016

Body Positivity And Learning To Love Yourself

What do you know about the body positive movement? Maybe you've seen a Dove ad with women of all shapes and sizes. Maybe you saw the Lane Bryant campaign of I'm No Angel. If you're on Instagram maybe you even follow Effyourbeautystandards. If you don't know about Body Positive, it's about accepting all shapes, sizes, and colors and celebrating them. It's about rejecting what we've been told is beautiful by the world (and mainly advertisers and the fashion industry) and finding the beauty everyone has.

I've been told by a number of people "I love your confidence" or "You're so brave to pose for pictures like that."  When I get told these things it's almost if there is an unasked question of how do I get that confidence? Maybe some even think I've always had it (I haven't). I've been told these things enough that I've decided that I should make the keys to the kingdom into a blog.

For a very long time I derived my self-confidence and self-worth from the knowledge that I'm fairly intelligent. I did well in school. I learn things fast and I'm a great problem solver. I've never been a shy person and I'm quite happy to tell you my opinion. I would actually lose patience quite easily with people who couldn't keep up with intellectual conversation. When it came to beauty however, I didn't think much of myself. I didn't think I was a troll, but I didn't think of myself as pretty either. When my husband and I started dating he would tell me how beautiful I was and I would laugh at him. He was blinded by love! How sweet.

I continued on this path of deriving my self-worth from my intellegence and, after college, from my career. I was a great employee (I have the awards to back it up). So what happens when you get sick, doctor after doctor can't figure out why, and you eventually lose your job? Talk about having a bubble burst. Even though I was no longer working I was still intellegent. Which is just fine and dandy. Who am I going to prove it to? The walls of my house and my pets?

People with chronic conditions can really take a hit to their self-worth, especially if they are house bound. Plus there is the added bonus of weight gain with a lot of the medications. Nothing makes you feel more confident than getting larger and having your clothes no longer fit. Add to that having days where you can't get out of bed and you are living in your pajamas. You can really start to feel like you are nothing.

Three years ago I was fortunate enough to kind of stumble into a community of performance artists in Dallas who celebrate everyone. It wasn't just skinny people or traditionally beautiful people on stage. I saw large women on stage. I saw people who didn't fit the commercialized mold of beautiful. I was intrigued. I also started taking some dance classes. I felt uncoordinated and very unfit at first. I had lost a lot of what little coordination I had due to my fibromyalgia. But my dance teachers encouraged me and little by little it came back! As it came back I felt more confident; I held my head higher.

About this same time I was introduced to a local photographer and make up artist. Having my makeup done by Vivienne Vermuth is a game changer. You look into the mirror and you don't recognize yourself. Then you go in front of Dee Hill; as she shoots each picture she gives you words of encouragement. You hear things like "beautiful, oh wow, stunning!" Somewhere during the shoot your inner light comes on!
Photo by Dee Hill. HAMU by Vivienne Vermuth

I've also done photoshoots with Shoshana Portnoy and her right hand make up artist LaDonna Stein. They are also amazing to work with and their finished product always shines! You can find them at Dallas Pinup.
Photo by Shoshana Portnoy. HAMU by LaDonna Stein

Am I saying you must go do a photoshoot like this to get confidence? I'm not advocating that at all. What I am advocating is to find things that boost your confidence. What makes you feel good about yourself? "Nothing" is not the right answer. There is something amazing about you, I know it! Find that little nugget of amazing and grow it. The trick to confidence is you MUST learn to love yourself.

I can hear the objections already. Stop. Just stop. You are amazing. You are beautiful. You're right, I don't know you. But I do know every human being on this planet is beautiful. You are beautiful because you are unique. You are beautiful because there is only one of you. See where I'm going? That's right, start to love yourself. Find those things that make you YOU and flaunt them!

Find your tribe. Find the people who will encourage you. Get rid of the toxic people in your life. If they don't add to your existence, you don't need them. Surround yourself with people who love you just the way you are. This is your tribe. These are the people that will remind you how special you are in times where you don't see it yourself.

For my spoonies, I know this can be especially difficult, especially if you are housebound. That's okay. You have the internet and you've already found me. You can join my tribe. I have a bunch of friends who I only know through the internet. Nothing is worse than feeling alone. I know. Come join us so you don't have to go through your illness by yourself. There are people just like you all over the internet.

I hope this blog has helped you start the first step on loving yourself. If you need more enouragement, just let me know. I'm always happy to send love and encouragement through the internet.

Until Next Time,