First Project Pan Done

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Project 10 pan 2017

I am back to let you know how I did on my Project 10 pan challenge.  I meant to do an update or two before it was over, but things came up (more on that in a future post).  This was my first project pan, and I am really happy with the progress that I made.  I learned a lot about the panning process, and what my personal beauty needs are.  I’ll talk a little more about that later on in this post, but first let’s see how I did.

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Michael Todd Liposome Antioxidant Moisturizer and Michael Todd Cranberry Antiox Toner

The first two products that I attempted to finish were the Michael Todd Liposome Antioxidant Moisturizer and Michael Todd Cranberry Antiox toner. I guessed that both of them had about a third left in their bottles. I had no trouble using the moisturizer, but the toner took longer than I expected.  I was able to finish both products, though, so they were a success.

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Smashbox Photo Finish Primer and the Becca Backlight Priming Filter

I had two primers in my challenge.  The Smashbox Photo Finish Primer is my go-to primer, but I had a little more than half the bottle left.  It took the entire three month time period, but I finally finished this tube.  I might be able to get a little more product out if I cut the packaging, but I can’t squeeze any more primer out.  The deluxe size sample of the Becca Priming Filter is almost empty.  I probably have another two uses left.  You need so little product when you use this primer that even this sample lasts a long time.  I’ll definitely be done with it by the end of the month.  I call my use of these primers a definite success.

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Revlon Colorstay Whipped Foundation

The next product that I wanted to use up was the Revlon Colorstay Whipped Foundation. The jar was about halfway empty, so the three month time frame made this an ambitious choice.  It took all three months, but I made it through and finished up the foundation a day or two before the challenge ended.  I am really proud of myself.

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Coastal Scents Hot Pot in Timeless Taupe

I did not finish my  Timeless Taupe eyeshadow, but I did make a lot of progress. I was encouraged by the amount of pan that I started with, but since I don’t wear makeup every day,  I didn’t know if I’d be able to use up the shadow in the three month time limit.  I may not have finished, but I expanded the pan showing all the way to the side.  Realistically, there was no way that I was going to be able to finish, but I’m proud of how far into the shadow I got.

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Colourpop Blush Between the Sheets

I also was not able to finish the Colourpop Blush in Between the Sheets and the Coastal Scents Hot Pot in Timeless Taupe.  There was just the teeniest bit of pan showing, and there isn’t a lot of product in the Colourpop blushes so I thought that I’d have a chance at finishing.  What I didn’t take into account is how pigmented these blushes are, and how little product I need to use.  Although I can’t call this one a success, I am still really happy with the progress that I made.

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Nivea Lip Balm in Milk & Honey

I knew that the Nivea Lip Balm would be very easy for me to finish. It’s my favorite formula of lip balm and I tend to blast through these. I figured that I failed with everything else, at least I knew that I could get through the lip balm.  As it turns out, I not only finished the balm I started with, but I also finished two more.  This was a gimme, but a success, nonetheless.

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Fresh Sugar Tinted Lip Treatment in Berry

The Fresh Sugar Tinted Lip Treatment in Berry was the first product that I finished and a great confidence booster.  I love the formula on these and need to make sure that I use them and not let them get lost in my collection.  Another success.

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Maybelline Color Whisper in Made it Mauve

Maybelline Color Whisper in Made it Mauve is a product that I love and I am going to miss it, but I wanted to use it up before it went bad. I had a lot of product to go through, and I didn’t know if I was going to make it. I said that I would consider it a success if I got through half the product. I am so excited to say that I used it all up.  I could probably dig out a little more if I used a lip brush, but I can’t apply it the normal way any more.  I think that I have only ever used up a full sized lipstick one other time in my life, so I am really proud of my progress.

All in all, I am really happy with myself.  Like I said in my previous post, in an effort to move toward a more minimal lifestyle I am trying to work through my makeup collection.  Beauty blogging left me with a lot of products, and I want to use what I have before they go bad.  I will definitely be doing more use-it-up projects in the future, but one thing I learned in this process is that the three month challenge is not for me.  By the end I was so bored and didn’t want to use any of these products anymore, especially the foundation, blush, and eyeshadow.  I need to do shorter projects in the future, or choose different products so that I can have more variety in my makeup routine.  Or maybe it’s as simple as choosing more flexible goals, like wanting to extend pan instead of trying to use the whole thing up.  I’ll have to use more trial and error to figure out what works for me.  No matter what, though, I am very happy with what I accomplished with this project and will keep working on being less wasteful and less consumer driven.  This project was definitely a success.

 

Project 10 Pan Introduction

Project 10 Pan

Project 10 Pan

In an effort to move toward a more minimal lifestyle I am trying to work through my makeup collection. After five years of beauty blogging that was heavy on reviews, I accumulated a lot of product. When I officially ended my blog, I did a massive declutter of products that I no longer needed. Now my goal is to use up what I have left. So, with that goal in mind, I am participating in a Project 10 Pan with a Facebook beauty group that I’m a part of. It’s a three month long challenge with the goal of using up or hitting pan on 10 products. These projects have been gaining popularity on Youtube and Instagram for the last couple of years, but I have never participated in one. From what I’ve gathered, a major factor in successfully completing one of these panning projects is accountability. I’ll be doing quick check-ins with my facebook group, but I want to go into more detail about my progress here. This post will introduce each product and show my starting point. I will do an update at the one and two month marks, and then a finale after three months. So, after all of that build up, let’s get into the products.

Project 10 Pan

Project 10 Pan

My first two products are the Michael Todd Liposome Antioxidant Moisturizer and Michael Todd Cranberry Antiox toner. I am estimating that both of them have around a third left in their bottles. I can’t really check or mark them up, but that’s what it feels like to me. These are pretty straightforward and I should have no trouble using them up.

Smashbox Photo Finish Primer and the Becca Backlight Priming Filter

Smashbox Photo Finish Primer and the Becca Backlight Priming Filter

I have two primers in my challenge, the Smashbox Photo Finish Primer and the Becca Backlight Priming Filter. I received two deluxe size samples of the Becca Priming Filter, so I am trying to get through this one so that the backup doesn’t just sit in my collection. It’s not a product that I would normally go for, but I do like it. The Smashbox primer is my favorite, so if I have problems with the Becca, I can fall back on something that I know that I love.

Revlon Colorstay Whipped Foundation

Revlon Colorstay Whipped Foundation

The next product that I want to use up is the Revlon Colorstay Whipped Foundation. I really like this formula and this is the second jar that I’ve used. A little goes a long way with this, so you don’t have to use very much. The jar is about halfway empty, so I am hoping to get through it in the three month time frame, but this is an ambitious choice.

Colourpop Blush Between the Sheets and the Coastal Scents Hot Pot in Timeless Taupe

Colourpop Blush Between the Sheets and the Coastal Scents Hot Pot in Timeless Taupe

For color cosmetics, I chose the Colourpop Blush Between the Sheets and the Coastal Scents Hot Pot in Timeless Taupe. Colourpop products have a pretty short shelf life, so I don’t want them to sit in my collection. I really like this formula, and Between the Sheets is a lovely shade. There is just the teeniest bit of pan showing, but there isn’t a lot of product in the jar, so I think I’ll be able to use it up pretty easily. I use Timeless Taupe for my eyebrow shade. I was encouraged by the amount of pan that I am starting with. I don’t know if I’ll be able to use up the shadow in the three month time limit, but I want to try. At the very least, I want to make some serious progress on expanding that pan.

Maybelline Color Whisper in Made it Mauve, the Fresh Sugar Tinted Lip Treatment in Berry, and the Nivea Lip Balm in Milk & Honey

Maybelline Color Whisper in Made it Mauve, the Fresh Sugar Tinted Lip Treatment in Berry, and the Nivea Lip Balm in Milk & Honey

My final three items are all lip products. I chose the Maybelline Color Whisper in Made it Mauve, the Fresh Sugar Tinted Lip Treatment in Berry, and the Nivea Lip Balm in Milk & Honey. Made it Mauve is a product that I love, but that is getting pretty old and I want to use up before ir goes bad. I have a good portion of the tube to go through, and I don’t know if I’ll make it. I’ll consider it a success if I can get through half the product. The Fresh Sugar in Berry is also getting old. I’m pretty close to the end, so I should be able to get through it. The Nivea Lip Balm is going to be very easy for me to finish. It’s my favorite formula of lip balm and I tend to blast through these. If I fail with everything else, at least I know I’ll be successful getting through the lip balm.

So those are my 10 products. I’m excited to get started. Now that I am no longer blogging about beauty, I feel like I can finally dig into what I have. I’ve done a pretty good job over the last year or two at cutting back on the new products that I bring in, but I still have so much. I created a huge list of 100 products that I want to use up throughout 2017, not just makeup, but body and skin care too. I am hoping to participate in several of these smaller seasonal panning projects to help me along with that master list. Wish me luck!

How to Make a Super Easy Tulle Wreath

Halloween Tulle Wreath

Halloween Tulle Wreath

Today I would like to show you how to make this super easy tulle wreath.  If you can tie a knot, then you can make this adorable project.  Not only is this wreath so simple to put together, but you can use this technique for any season or Holiday.  All you have to do is change the color of the tulle and the accessories that you add, and  you can make a wreath for Christmas, Spring, 4th of July, whenever.  Today, though, I am making a wreath for Halloween.

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Supplies

I am woefully lacking in Halloween decor, so this year I am trying to fix that situation.  I wanted something cute and fun that was Halloween specific, but not too scary.  Luckily Micheals was having a huge sale, so I was able to get all of my supplies at a great price.  My wreath ended up costing me about $15.  This project can be pretty inexpensive to make.  Your overall cost will change based on which accessories with which you choose to embellish your wreath.  The Dollar Tree is a great place to look for doo-dads to add in without spending too much.  Let’s talk about what you will need to complete this project.

Foam Wreath

Foam Wreath

First off, you will need a foam wreath.  I chose to get my wreath from the Dollar Tree.  You can use an extruded foam wreath, which would be a lot less messy, but it will definitely add to the overall price of your wreath.  Since the tulle will completely cover the foam, I had no issue getting a lower quality wreath for a dollar.  You can choose any size wreath that you want to, but I prefer to use a small-medium sized wreath because the tulle will add a lot to the overall size.

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Tulle

Next you need to choose your tulle.  You can choose any shades you want to for whatever season you like.  For my Halloween wreath, I chose black, orange, green, and purple tulle.  I bought an extra roll of black because I wanted to frame each color in black and I definitely needed the extra roll.  The amount of tulle that you will need will vary on the size of your wreath and how densely you pack the colors together, but you will need at least three of the 20 yard rolls.

Tulle Wreath

Tulle Wreath

To make the wreath, cut your tulle into panels that are long enough to wrap around the wreath with 2-3 inches of tulle sticking up off each end.  The length of your panels will depend on the size of your wreath, so I can’t give you an exact measurement.  Take a panel of tulle, scrunch it up so that it is thinner and easier to wok with, and then tie it around the wreath in a double knot.  That’s it. Just tie the strips of tulle onto the wreath, and double knot to secure them.  Work your way around the wreath, alternating your shades as you go.  I chose to tie 5 strips per color for the best opacity.  I wanted the tulle to be pretty densely packed, so you can certainly use less if you think that’s overkill.  This is so easy to do, but it is time consuming, so it is a great thing to do in front of the TV.  Just put on a movie or binge watch some Netflix, and you will be done in no time.  When you have tied all of your tulle in place, give your wreath a once-over and trim any pieces that may be sticking out longer than the others.

Themed Accessories

Themed Accessories

Once your wreath is covered in tulle, it’s time for the embellishments.  I found these adorable picks with pumpkins and witchy things at Micheals.  You can literally add anything you want to your wreath.  Picks like these are the easiest to add because they stick into the styrofoam, but other bits and baubles can be glued on as well.  Just fire up the hot glue gun, and have at it.

Halloween Tulle Wreath

Halloween Tulle Wreath

And this is my finished Halloween wreath.  I love the way that it came out.  It was so easy and fun to do that I can’t wait to make another one.  I’m thinking that this is a great style for Easter and 4th of July wreaths.  They could not be easier.  I really hope that you enjoyed this tutorial, and I’d love to know if you try to make a tulle wreath for yourself.  I think I covered everything, but I’d be happy to answer any questions that you might have.  Let me know in the comments below how it worked out for you.

The Fog Begins to Clear

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We have a little over three months left and then we can put this dumpster fire of a year to bed. 2016 has been a really hard year for a lot of people, and I am no exception. I’ve been struggling all year, but the up side is that now I think that I am finally starting to come out of the funk that I’ve been in. It’s been tough, y’all. My husband lost his job back in January, and it took him until September to start a new one. That is a long time to be out of work, and desperately trying to find a job. Finances have been a constant stress, and if any of you have been in a similar situation, you know how nerve-racking it can be. His new job is great, and he is really happy with it so far, but it’s been a long journey to get there.

I suffered a pretty serious injury to my knee at the end of last year that I’ve been dealing with ever since. For months I wasn’t able to walk unaided, and I was in a constant state of pain. Even after I was able to get rid of the crutches and then the cane, I still had a lot of work to do to rebuild my muscle strength. It has been a long and a frustrating healing process. Even now, ten months later, though the pain is mostly gone, I’m still working on strength and durability so that I can walk for longer distances. It’s been very slow going.

With all of this I’ve been under a cloud of mild depression and anxiety, justifiably so. Nothing so bad that I have needed medication or therapy, but enough to completely stifle my creativity. I haven’t been working on anything at all this year and it’s really bothering me. I usually have some projects going, whether it be arts and crafts or writing, or any number of household organizations or improvements. But since my injury, and especially since Tim lost his job, I’ve just been dead in the water. I have felt so stuck. I haven’t felt excited or inspired about anything. I really want to start writing again. I have so many ideas for a novel I started last year. I really need to get back to it, but my creative muscles have atrophied after going so long uninspired. While I am still fighting off depression and anxiety, I recently felt a spark of inspiration. It may sound silly, but I got really excited about some DIY Halloween decorations. I actually really enjoy craft projects, and although it is starting small, I hope this spark will catch fire and help me stretch my creative muscles. Maybe if I work on some crafts I’ll get inspired to work on my writing.

I’m thrilled to get the house back to myself during the day. I love my husband more than anything. He’s my best friend and we have a blast together, but it was hard spending all day, every day together. He worked from home all through 2015, and it was a huge adjustment for me having him here. My productivity fell dramatically. I just had a really hard time getting any work done with him around as a distraction. Once he lost his job and didn’t have his own work to occupy him, it was even harder for me to accomplish anything. Now that he has the new job and is at the office all day, I have an abundance of time to myself again. I’m hoping that I can capitalize on it and start creating.

So all that to say, I’ve been having a tough time and am still struggling, but I feel that things may be improving.  I feel like I am coming out of the fog and getting back to myself.  I hope that I can pull together some small victories that will hopefully catch some momentum for some real changes.  Wish me luck.

Let’s Try This Again

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I’m back with a new look and fresh intentions.  It has been a very long time since I’ve posted here.  I think that it is clear that I could not keep up with posting to this blog while also keeping my regular post schedule on my beauty blog.  But, as of today, I have retired my beauty blog.  Now, I am free to focus on some new projects, and this blog is one of them.  If you are coming over here from my beauty blog, welcome.

Personally speaking, I am in a transitory period right now.  That is both a scary and an exciting place to be.  I am moving away from some projects and beginning new ones.  I have several things that I want to accomplish over the next year.  I am really happy to be getting back to this blog.  While I enjoyed my beauty blog and am proud of what I did with it, I am glad to have a place to write about several different topics as inspiration takes me.  It’s a time for new beginnings.

Thanks for coming along with me.

This is How I am Doing

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Life is stressin’ the hell out of me right now.  For those who do not know me personally, I am not a very patient person.  I’m working on it, but that’s the truth.  This year has been a real test of my patience so far.  We are being relocated by Tim’s work from North Carolina back to California.  It’s very exciting, and we are so happy to be going back home.  The only problem is that we have no information about the move.  The “plan” is that the company is going to buy a building in “the LA area” to open up a West Coast office.  This has been the plan since January, and nothing has happened yet.  They have signed contacts promising that the office will be up and running by the end of the year, but that’s all we have.  There have been tentative general plans made, but even those are behind schedule because the CA office keeps getting pushed back by more pressing matters.  And it is so very frustrating!

I can’t even explain how not knowing the where and when of the move is driving me crazy.  I can’t make plans for birthdays or small getaways because I don’t know what state I will be in.  I can’t start looking for places to live, because I don’t know where the office will be located.  “The LA area” is gigantic, stretching from Ventura County down to the border of Orange County, and from the Inland Empire to the Ocean.  That’s well over 30,000 square miles. I don’t want to look for a place to live in the San Gabriel valley if the office in in El Segundo or Silverlake.  (I realize that this doesn’t make much sense to those who are not familiar with SoCal geography.  Sorry.)  Not knowing the where and when is really taking its toll on me.  I’ve tried to be patient, but it’s been six months and I feel like I am in the exact same place as I was back in January.

The other thing that has been an emotional blow is that we had a possible adoption fall through.  Tim and I randomly had the possibility of adopting a baby boy.  It was a long-shot, a young couple in a bad spot that know my sister, not through an agency.  We tried not to get our hopes up because we knew the situation was precarious, but it was still a disappointment when it didn’t happen.  The good that came out of it was that it got us talking a lot about IVF and adoption, and I think we have decided to go the adoption route instead of risking IVF.  I’ll be looking into California agencies.  We keep trying to tell ourselves that this just wasn’t the right baby for us, but it’s hard.  The whole process has brought emotions to the surface that had been pushed down for a long time.

So, that’s how I am doing.  A lot of stress and a lot of emotions.  Tim and I are in a holding pattern right now, and it’s a tough place to be.  My guess is that we will move sometime in the Fall.  We will be renewing our lease for a shorter term, so I’m hoping that we can move in late October.  Nothing for sure, though.  I’m just trying to get though the day to day without getting crushed by the giant ball of stress hanging over my head.  Some days are better than others.  The good news is that I get another summer to play with my sister and my niece.  I plan to pack it full of days at the pool, backyard BBQ’s, and hanging out at Panera.  Other than that. I’ll just be here waiting… and waiting.

We Need to Talk

Memorial for UCSB students

Memorial for UCSB students

We need to talk.   I am outraged.  And I think that anyone who is a woman or who loves women should be outraged too.  There are a lot of conversations that could be had in response to the shooting at UCSB, but I am not going to talk about most of them.  I’m not here to talk about gun violence/gun control.  I don’t want to talk about the stigma surrounding mental illness, the speed in which the media assigns labels, or characteristic traits of Aspergers and how it does not equate to violence.  I don’t want to talk about the shooter at all.  What I want to talk about is the positive response his actions are getting on the internet.  I want to talk about the many men who think he had the right idea.  What I want to talk about is the Men’s Rights Movement, the message that young men are being raised with, and the fact that this is not a one-off incident.  The tragedy of the UCSB shooting is that it has happened before and it will happen again unless we all start having more conversations about misogyny and start changing our culture.

Elliot Rodger was a Men’s Rights Activist (MRA), a member of many MRA websites and forums, and subscribed to several “pick-up artist” and “player” channels on Youtube.  The sole purpose of these sites is to teach men how to manipulate women into having sex with them and also to blame women for withholding sex.  They are taught that just for being men, and therefore superior, they deserve sex.  They feel entitled to access to women’s bodies.  The MRA sites teach that women lie, cheat, and manipulate men, trying to steal their power.  They teach that men need to take their power back, by force if necessary, and become the “true alpha male”.  Each of these websites and Youtube channels have tens of thousands (if not more) of subscribers.  So, we aren’t talking about a few “gun-toting crazy” men who are going to snap and kill everybody.  We are talking about normal, everyday men that you may know, and that is what is truly terrifying.  The UCSB shooting didn’t happen because one man was (allegedly) mentally ill, it happened because this viewpoint has become normal.  This happened because last month a 16 year-old girl was stabbed to death by a classmate for refusing to go to the prom with him, and it’s so normal that you probably didn’t hear a thing about it.  Six people are dead because Elliot Rodger couldn’t get laid when society taught him he had a right to it.

It is truly frightening to see how many positive responses there are to the UCSB shooting.  And these horrible sentiments are getting “likes” and upvotes, so it’s not only a case of the extremist minority.  Whether the comments are sincere or said in jest (there are some of both), these thoughts are out there in the mainstream.  Here are some real life responses that I have seen:

  • “I applaud what this guy did and encourage other young men to take women’s lives, it’s the only way we can fight feminism.”
  • “Whenever a crazy guy asks for sex, you better drop them panties and take one for humanity.”
  • “This would never have happened if those stuck up women had given him a chance.”
  • “Thank you, Elliot, for putting these bitches in their place.  I really appreciate your sacrifice.  R.I.P.”
  • “I really feel bad for him, rejection is agony.”
  • “Involuntary celibacy [screws] with a man’s mind… No one cares about a man’s suffering until he starts killing people.”
  • And one of the worst to a current UCSB student: “If you had just given him a little ass, those people would still be alive today.”

People, what the fuck!  Why are you defending a mass murderer?  We need to talk about this.  I realize that the majority of my audience is female, but that’s fine.  Talk to your brothers and your friends, and especially your sons.  Tell the men and boys in your life that sex is not a right, it’s a gift.  Tell them that no means no, and it doesn’t mean they are now challenged to wear the women down.  Tell them that real men respect women.  Tell them that feeling “entitled” to sex is a short step away from taking it by force.  Ask them to think about the mothers, sisters, and female friends in their lives and take those women as evidence that not all women want to manipulate and use them.  Give them examples of how humanity works best when men and women work together.  Explain that there is no “one right way” that a man should be.  Explain that men come in all different shapes and personalities, with different talents that are just as valid as the next.  Explain that women are the same way.  Women aren’t objects, or property, or receptacles, or trophies, or caricatures, or body parts.  Explain that a woman might say “no” for any number of reasons and many of them may not have anything to do with the guy, but the important part is that they have the right for that “no” to be respected.  Teach them that they don’t have to fear a smart, successful woman.  Teach them that capable women make excellent partners.  Teach them to respect a women, not because she is someone’s sister or daughter, but because she’s a fucking human being and we share a planet together.

This conversation needs to happen.  “But,” you say, “the men in my life are all fine upstanding citizens who love women.”  That’s awesome!  Get them to talk to their friends.  We can not keep perpetuating a misogynist culture where rape jokes are perfectly acceptable on facebook, men can make youtube channels dedicated to tricking women into sleeping with them, and women get brutalized (verbally and physically) every day simply for being a woman.  My heart goes out to all of the victims that were shot, stabbed, and run down by Elliot Rodger.  But mostly I am pissed off that even one person can look at this guy and his manifesto of hate with sympathy, understanding, or agreement.  There is a very popular Margaret Atwood quote circulating the internet right now: “Why do men feel threatened by women?  They’re afraid women will laugh at them and undercut their world view.  Why do women feel threatened by men? They’re afraid of being killed.”

I am not an activist.  I have never been very focused on politics.  I don’t follow the news, I don’t listen to talk radio, and I am not as aware of the world around me as I should be.  But, I do know that without the actions of good people who can’t stand the way of things, the world will never change.  I have become more politically aware as I’ve gotten older.  There are certain causes that I truly believe in.  Mainly, though, I simply refuse to remain silent as society crumbles around my feet.  So, instead of leaving your with that sobering quote from Margaret Atwood, I will choose to end on a different note.  Have a conversation.  Don’t talk about the gory details of what happened at UCSB.  Talk about why it happened.  Talk about gun violence and gun control.  Talk about the stigma surrounding mental illness, and the speed in which the media assigns labels.  Educate yourself on the characteristic traits of Aspergers and then talk about how it does not equate to violence.  Talk about misogyny and the Men’s Rights Movement.  Educate yourself, and then spread the word because we have a hell of a lot to talk about.

Not only will we have to repent for the sins of bad people; but we also will have to repent for the appalling silence of good people.” -Martin Luther King Jr.

It’s been awhile…

I have been absent from this blog for a couple weeks.  On one hand, I was busy with the Easter holiday.  But the main reason has been that I’ve been struggling with trying to identify what’s going on in my head.  I’ve been distracted and emotional, but I haven’t been able to nail down my thoughts to write about them.  I am feeling better now, though.

In the meantime, I’ve been enjoying time with my sister.  I’ve been shopping.  I’ve had good times at restaurants with my husband.  I’ve been out living, despite my muddled mind.  That’s the important part for me.  As long as I stay involved, then I’m okay.  The real worry is when I start to withdraw.  That’s when you know shit is getting real.

I have a favor to ask of you.  Paula’s Choice, the skin care line, is offering a photo contest on facebook promoting a stance against animal testing.  The brand is offering a $100 gift card to the photo that gets the most votes for the week.  There will be three weeks of winners, and then the three winners will compete in a grand prize finale.  If you could take a moment to follow this link and vote for my photo, I’d really appreciate it.  Be sure to hit “Vote” and not “like” (though they may have removed the “like” button by now to avoid confusion).  This week, I opted to enter one of the black and white photos of my cat Bella.Bella3

Only one vote will be counted per person, so I only need you to take a few seconds to vote once.  Thank you so much.

Marking the Day

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I mentioned last week that the 23rd marks one year since my grandmother passed away.  I’m spending tomorrow with family.  Since I usually don’t get on the internet over the weekend, I wanted to put up this post today.  I spoke at my grandmother’s memorial service.  I was determined to give her the honor and respect that she deserved, and desperate to make her proud.  This is what I said.

My grandmother was the best person that I have ever known.  It’s not possible to sum up 94 years worth of living in just a few minutes, and I’m not going to try.  What I do want to talk about is how special grandma was, and how influential she was in my life.  She truly was one of a kind.

Grandma had the purest heart of anyone I have ever met, and she touched everyone who came in contact with her.  Everyone who met grandma fell in love with her.  Her sweetness and light were infectious and she approached people with an openness that never failed to make others feel included and wanted.  When I was a child, I was always at her feet.  No matter what she was doing, I was never too far away.  She loved children, and always included all of us kids; teaching us how to cook and how to make tortillas, telling us stories of her childhood, and playing with us.  She made the same newspaper boats and hats for Aubrey that she did for Deborah and I.  Playing in the corner of the kitchen while she was cooking, reading on her bed while she watched TV… it didn’t matter; I just always wanted to be near her and she was always happy to have me.  Because of that, I learned a lot about life watching her and talking with her.  I want to share with you the person that I knew, and the invaluable lessons that she gave me.

One thing that Grandma taught me is to regularly exercise my mind.  She didn’t have the luxury of a proper education, but she didn’t let that stop her from learning what she could and using the mind that she had.  Even at 94, she was pretty quick witted, and that was largely due to her love for puzzles.  When I was a child she would let me “help” her do the crosswords out of the paper or search her word finds with her. She taught me to love words and puzzles and to keep my mind active and in shape.

She taught me to be resourceful and to think outside the box.  She could entertain me for hours with a balloon made from a grocery bag.  My mom often said that you could look into the kitchen and see nothing to eat, but grandma could turn around and feed four or five people off of what she could MacGyver out of a potato and some spices.  She knew poverty and she survived.  She made due with what she had and taught me that a little goes a long way when you approach it with creativity and determination.

I learned about love and marriage from talking to her about grandpa.  She loved my grandfather; he was her whole life.  He was truly her soul mate and she talked about him all the time.  She longed for the day when she would see him again in heaven and be reunited with him once more.  I learned from her that when it came time to choose a partner, not to settle for anything less than someone with whom my soul would be entwined for eternity, because epic love is totally possible if you believe in it enough to be patient and wait for it to arrive.

A lesson that took me a very long time to learn is one of perseverance.  Grandma suffered from phlebitis for decades, and lived in a constant state of pain that got progressively worse over the years.  As she lost mobility, the limitations of her body continued to rob her of the things she loved to do.  Grandma taught me that life is hard and doesn’t make sense.  The longer you live, the more you will experience pain and loss.  Life isn’t fair, but you can’t run away from it.  You have to face the pain head on and accept it.  You play the hand that you’re dealt and you do the best you can with it, not making excuses, but thriving in spite of how hard the circumstances may be.  Grandma’s body was weak and fragile, but she had amazing strength of spirit.  She taught me that the strongest people aren’t necessarily the ones who shout the loudest or who control and overpower.  In fact, grandma was much more likely to listen and witness than to speak out.  The quiet strength of simply surviving, of standing tall and going on while the fire threatens to consume you, that’s what real strength is.  She lived a life full of pain and loss, but she never let it rob her of her joy.  She cried, she grieved, and she kept right on going.  She never let it turn her bitter.  She never allowed it to cause her to be closed off or shut down.  She stayed optimistic, despite all of her suffering and was quick to laugh or sing.  She taught me that it’s okay if you have to cry, and it’s okay if you have to crawl, as long as you keep going.

Grandma showed me what faith looks like.  She had a strong sense of right and wrong and was honest and uncompromising.  She prayed to God several times a day for herself, and especially for those she loved.  Despite how hard grandma’s life was, her faith never wavered.  There were a lot of things about her life that she didn’t understand.  She didn’t know why she was made to suffer and she wondered about God’s plan, but she never doubted that He had one.  Sometimes I wonder if faith like that only comes with age.  There are those few people who you come across whose faith is so strong that they stand like giants among us, and many of them are older.  Grandma was a Goliath in her faith, and it left an impression.  Perhaps it takes a lifetime of testing to believe so solidly, as tangible as rock beneath your feet.  I don’t know the answer to that, and this is a lesson that I am still learning.  Because of her faith, though, I know that she is in heaven.

Grandma told me several times that when she died she didn’t want me to cry and she didn’t want me to be sad.  It’s not that easy, though.  I want to be happy for her, and in a way I am.  I am so thankful that her pain is over and she is finally at peace.  I’m glad that she was able to shed her earthly body that was always at war with her, and can now run and dance and be free.  I’m glad that she is reunited with all of the family that she lost, especially her husband.  But I miss her.

The last couple weeks my mind has been flooded with a lifetime of memories.  I miss her cooking.  No one was a better cook than grandma.  I miss her humor.  She really was a funny lady and I miss the sound of her laugh.  Mostly, though, I will miss experiencing how much she loved me.  She was always so happy to see me, no matter what was going on.  All I had to do was walk in the room and she lit up.  Her love was unconditional, the purest love I’ve ever known.  She taught me that family isn’t limited to blood lines.  Family can include neighbors and friends and many of you can attest to being “adopted” by grandma.  Whether we were born in, married in, or adopted in, she loved us with the same fierce devotion.  It was a selfless love, doing whatever she could, giving everything away, wanting the best for everyone else before herself.  I don’t think I will ever find a pure love here on earth like what I received from grandma.  She was one of a kind, and a blessing to everyone who met her.  And though I am happy that grandma has gone on to a better place, I am so sad for the hole that she has left behind.  To me, grandma was safety and love and acceptance.  She was truly special, and we are all so lucky to have known her.  I feel honored to be her granddaughter, and so blessed to have had her in my life.  I loved my grandmother with all my heart, and she lives on through what she passed on to me.  She didn’t have much, and she didn’t leave a wealth of possessions behind.  What she did leave was the memory of her love.  We are better people for having known her.  We are her legacy, and she will live on in the hearts of everyone she touched.

Cats: A Study in Black and White

It’s been a long time since I had a photo heavy post.  I don’t have much to say right now, so I’ll let these photos speak for themselves.  This is Belladonna and Shenanigans.  Enjoy.

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I hope that you liked them.  🙂