Invisalign Time

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In January of 2019, I decided to pull the trigger on using Invisalign trays to straighten my teeth. I know there’s a ton of interest online about the process, so now that I am on my last tray, I thought I’d share my experience. I am  not including any before and after photos because honestly, the correction I needed was pretty slight and mostly involved the teeth in the back of my mouth on one side that had gotten so crowded I could barely floss. Plus, I kinda feel like sharing photos of the inside of my mouth is gross, so, sorrynotsorry.

The best way I know to share my experience is through categories rather than a long-ass winding reflection on the past six months, so let’s get to it.

Cost 

I paid $5000 for my trays. I can’t recall the specific term Invisalign uses for people who only need the bare minimum of correction, but whatever the term is, minimum treatment is what I qualified for. The $5K covered 14 trays and all dentist visits throughout the process. It also covered replacement trays – I was doing some damage to my trays at first with the way I was removing them, and I had to get two replacement trays because they were tearing at a certain point. There was no charge to me for those replacements. I am ASSUMING that the retainers I get at the end of this process are also a part of the cost, but as I write this I realize that I’m not completely sure about that, so I will ask the dentist about it when I see her on Friday and update this part of the post.

The Process – Dealing with Dentist Appointments

Step One was to get my entire mouth scanned at the dentist’s office. This is exactly what it sounds like – I sat in a chair while the attendance stuck a scanner in my mouth and ran it over all my teeth, front side and back, while looking at the results on a screen to be certain everything (teeth and gums) was being scanned clearly. It didn’t take long, and there is no contact with the teeth while this is being done, so there’s no pain beyond having to stretch out your mouth to fit the scanner in, which is a little bulky.

Step Two was a second appointment once the computer had generated my 14 trays based on the scan. From the initial scan, trays are computer generated by determining the process of straightening my teeth at two week intervals. The program also determines where “attachments” needed be placed on my teeth to properly pull the teeth in the right directions. You can think of the attachments like little white ‘snaps’ on your teeth; the bumps on my teeth coordinated with indentations in the trays, so that they actually do snap on when you put them in.

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This is an image I just stole from the internet – not my teeth! However, it’s a decent representation of how the software works. I believe those red triangles on some of the teeth represent where attachments are placed. Every individual will have a different number of them; I was told I had more than the usual number for some reason (doesn’t really matter or mean anything special, just that the software determined I needed that many on those specific teeth).

Step Three involved getting the attachments put on at the same office visit where I got the initial trays; this was not painful, just sitting there with my mouth open while they used some sort of powdery substance to create the attachments. Once that was done, the dentist showed me how to snap on the trays and we practiced how I should take them off (more on that later). Then, I was given my first two sets of trays and told to come back in a month to check the progress. Just keep in  mind that yes, you will have a bunch of bumps on your teeth, and they are visible. The trays are certainly not as visible or distracting as traditional braces, but they are NOT invisible!

Step Four involved making regular check-in appointments with the dentist. I went in after the first month to see how I was settling in, and after that, wasn’t required to come in as often – just every 2-3 months to check progress. I insisted on getting re-scanned at every appointment to be sure everything was on track; it seemed like sometimes they were just going to look at my mouth and send me home, but I always wanted to get scanned again and see the progress; especially after my second visit where it turned out my teeth were not ‘tracking’ properly and I had to wear a certain tray for an extra week. That made me paranoid about how I would even know if my teeth were moving on schedule or not, because I certainly couldn’t tell on my own. It does happen, so if possible, I would insist on getting a scan each time to be sure things are moving along as they should – if at some point your teeth quit shifting according to the schedule the computer generated to make your trays, you will have to go BACK to the tray where the miscalculation started and re-do wearing every tray that comes after. So, I reiterate – always insist on a scan when you go for a check-in!

Step Five will be to get the attachments removed once I’ve used up all of my trays, and then get scanned for retainers that I will wear constantly for SIX MONTHS. I want to be sure you read this part, because it slipped past me when I started this process, AND Invisalign just recently upped the number of months patients have to wear the trays from three months to six. Yes, I just found out yesterday that I will be dealing with wearing trays for ANOTHER SIX MONTHS instead of another three; and it was a surprise to me that I would be wearing trays for an extra three months already! Bummer.

Step Six will be to wear retainers only at bedtime; I am not yet sure if this involves getting new trays or just transitioning the daily wear ones over to only bedtime. It’s freaking SIX MONTHS AWAY, so I will update this part much later.

OK, so that covers the dentist visits throughout the process, now let’s talk about the fun part:

The Daily Grind (pun intended)

OK, so. Let me kick this off by saying that wearing these trays has turned out not to be that big of a damn deal for me. But at first, it sure is intimidating and annoying. It becomes routine quickly though, so if you are struggling at first, just hang in there. By about tray 4 it will be old hat, and you will start to figure out how to make this process work for you.

The most important thing I can tell you is this: when you are told to wear the trays for 22 out of every 24 hour day, believe them. Your damn teeth will snap back into their old place faster than rubber bands if you leave them off too long. That said, I am 100% certain I did not wear them for 22 hours every single day – there are simply times where that is not possible due to having an actual life and wanting to go out to eat with friends, or have an extra cup of damn coffee. For me, the goal was to wear them as often as possible every single day, and hope that would make up for the times they were off more than usual.

The biggest question for me was, did I really have to take them off every single time I ate or drank anything? I used trial and error to determine my own personal answer for this. At first, I took them out every time I ate or drank anything, and it was very annoying, because you are supposed to floss and brush your teeth before you put the trays back in every single time. I don’t know about you, but flossing and brushing in a public bathroom after a lovely meal isn’t exactly my preferred method of capping off the evening; so having to brush and floss in public bathrooms several times a day (due to the amount of times I would eat out or get coffee while tutoring during the week) was just a majorly awkward chore. So at first, I tried leaving them in when I drank anything cold (I felt like hot drinks might damage the plastic, so leaving them in when drinking coffee was always a no-no) or ate something liquid like soup or ice cream. Which leads me to my first big lesson:

Any eating or drinking (other than water) that you do while the trays are in your mouth is going to stain them. However, because during the school year I have to eat a lot on the go, for the first four months I continued to eat liquids and drink things other than water with them in. And not be too gross about it, but by the end of each two week period, my trays would be pretty yellow. I did my best to keep them clean, but as often as I drank smoothies or got a coffee at a coffee shop while tutoring, I felt this was the better option than taking them off and dealing with the flossing and brushing in public places. My breaking point with that process came after my trip to Disney World, where I just abused the shit out of a set of trays – wearing them while eating, not brushing or flossing before putting them on, I mean, fuck it, I was on vacation – and they were so gross by the time I got home that I swore I’d do better with the next set. But – and this is a big but – yucking up the trays was better in the long run that not wearing them long enough, because although I had one nasty set of trays at the end of my vacation, by teeth were still on track. So, choices.

My after-Disney commitment: back to no wearing of the trays while eating or drinking ANYTHING but water, but reducing the amount of time I spend snacking between meals so that I’m not taking them out too oftenThis is how I am handling the situation now, and I can attest that my trays are almost as clear when I am done with them as they are when I put them in. So, I feel a lot less gross now at the end of a tray period. But what does that mean for eating out, since that is my main area of weakness with these things? I simply eat out less while tutoring now, or, when I go to a coffee shop to tutor (which I do two days a week) I just get a sparkling water and hold off on the coffee until my tutoring is done – then I can get a cup to go, take out my trays, drink my coffee on the drive home, and brush and floss before putting the trays back in after I get there. So see what I mean about adjusting – I eventually figured out a way to deal with my trays and keep them in long enough without being gross or miserable, and so will you.

But let’s say I am going out to eat with a friend, and I am not heading straight home after lunch because we’re going to go shopping or see a movie. In that case, I do something kinda gross, but since I don’t do it often it doesn’t do much in the way of staining or ruining the trays. I take the trays off before we eat, then when we are done, I go the bathroom and just swish swash some water around in my mouth, rinse off the trays, and put them back in. Then when I get home I make sure to clean out the trays extra-good to make up for the time they had possible coffee stains or food bits mashed into them. As long as this is not a super-regular occurrence, this has worked out fine.

People who regularly consume alcohol may have more of a problem. I know for me coffee is tricky, because of how leisurely I like to consume it, and I would think alcohol might work the same way. The best you can do is make up for the lost time somewhere, and be cognizant of how long you are keeping your trays off.

Now let’s talk about comfort. Your mileage is going to vary here. Personally, I never experienced pain when wearing the trays. My mouth was never sore from the teeth shifting – I would have pain in relation to the new trays rubbing against my gum or cheek the first few days sometimes, which would create canker sores I had to deal with, but after a few days with a new tray that would subside, and for the most part, the actual wearing of the trays has not been a problem for me. I don’t find that I speak funny, or drool excessively – which are both things I’ve heard others complain about. Aside from occasional mouth sores, the process has been pain and drool free for me. But I have known others who had different experiences. Keep in mind that once you’ve paid for the trays, you HAVE PAID FOR THE TRAYS; meaning, you won’t get your money back if you abandon the process due to pain. I am not someone who has sensitive teeth, or issues about going to the dentist and having someone rummaging about in my mouth, so I felt pretty certain I could handle the process. If you commit to it, you really have to commit – so don’t make the decision lightly, because you are stuck with the cost no matter what!

The Unexpected

Other dental work may suffer. As with any process like this, unexpected obstacles have come up as I’ve meandered down this road. The first big one was that, as my teeth began to shift, an old crown I had on one my teeth finally popped off – I literally took out my trays one evening, and there it was, nestled into the groove of my lower tray. Wonderful. If you’ve ever had a crown put on a tooth, you know how freaking expensive it is, as well as spending that 2 hours in the chair having your enamel shaved off and the root exposed and then wearing a temporary crown while waiting for the new one to come in then having to go back and – UGH. I really hate getting crowns on my teeth. Root canal? No problem. But the fucking CROWNS, y’all. I. Hate. Them. Not all crowns make us queens, ladies. Boo!

I’ve actually read that this happens sometimes to other people as well – especially with an old crown like mine that probably needed to be replaced anyway. The teeth shift, and the crown can’t accommodate for it, so off it pops. Unfortunately, I ended up having to go in to the dentist and get that old crown glued back down, because my trays had been scanned and generated with the old one on, and the dentist didn’t want to risk the trays not fitting if she put in a new one. So, now that I am at the end of my trays, I have to go in for a new crown that will be put on before we make my retainers. YUK. And also, yikes – it’s gonna cost me at least $800, and that’s after my dental insurance.

And also, tray damage. I found getting the trays out of my mouth with my fingers to be incredibly difficult. Just using my bare fingers rarely worked, and when it did, it damaged my fingernails, so my first solution was to buy those little finger protectors you can get at a CVS:

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Fanger condoms rule! Yay!

I think the most common use of these things is to insert medications/pills into the rectum, quite honestly – one time when I was checking out with these the woman behind the counter asked me what I was going to use them for, and my first thought was OMG WHAT IF I REALLY WAS USING THESE FOR THAT PURPOSE AND THIS WOMAN ASKED ME THAT LOLOL but since it wasn’t why I was using them, it was no big deal. Still, if you are rummaging around in someone’s med cabinet and come across these things, just don’t ask. You don’t wanna know and they probably don’t wanna tell you.

Anyway, I would put these just on my pointer fingers and they would grip the trays better, making them much easier to remove. There was just one problem – something about the angle at which I was pulling kept cracking the trays. I had two sets of trays with a break in the upper one at the exact same location (these were the two I got replaced without paying extra) which is a problem because a crack affects how well the tray can pull on your teeth, and you can end up off-schedule with your teeth movement. So number one is, if a tray cracks, go to your dentist and get a new one ASAP. Number two, find a way to remove your trays that doesn’t tear at them. I did some research and found a ‘pull tool’ on Amazon that not only fixed the cracking problem, but made taking out my trays easy to do quickly and effectively. I will link to the tool I used below.

Moving the teeth might create other problems. My main complaint right now is that as my teeth have moved, the two on the front bottom have created a gap between them as they moved apart, and it is pretty noticeable. However, to correct this would cost me well over $1000, so unfortunately right now I am stuck with the gap unless somehow I can get this cost down – I HAVE to get the new crown first, which is also gonna cost a buttload, so, choices. Just keep in mind that when moving your teeth around, new problems like this may happen, and you will have to decide what you are doing to do about them, because it won’t be included in the initial cost.

And lastly, poor teeth tracking. Your teeth are ‘tracking’ if at each transition point from one tray to another, the new trays fit perfectly against your teeth. I am gonna be honest here, my dentist has tried repeatedly to show me how to determine if my tray fits properly or not, and I just CANNOT see it – I end up just nodding my head and saying, oh yeah, uh-huh, I see what you are talking about – but in reality, I do not. So that is part of the reason why I insist on being scanned at every dentist visit. It’s pretty cool actually – they scan your teeth, and the software determines what tray you are currently on, and shows which teeth are ‘on track’ (ie, moving at a proper rate) and if any teeth are not where they should be (which is where the problem comes in, because that means you can’t yet move to the next tray, and may need to even revert back to a previous tray until your teeth catch up – this adds time onto how long you will be wearing the trays!).

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I don’t recall what each color means, but trust me that they do mean something…let’s say for sake of argument that red means no movement, green means proper amount of movement, and purple means not tracking, or not moving properly. Well, on my second check-in, I had some teeth that were not tracking, and I had to extend the length of time I wore that tray. In my case, I’d tried to get creative with eating and drinking with trays on; I thought that when I was eating or drinking coffee I would simply take out my current tray and put on an older tray, and that would be good enough to hold everything in place while I chatted away for hours on end. It was not. Once I knew that little trick wasn’t going to work, I quit doing it, and I haven’t had an issue since. But, having teeth fall behind course for one reason or another is pretty common, so I feel like it should be something you prepare to have happen to you at some point in the process, at least once.

The Tools 

The first thing that made my life way easier was the PullTool. This lovely bit of plastic saved my bacon when it came to taking out my trays – it is super easy to use and doesn’t damage the trays or my fingers. I bought three of them; I keep one in my purse with my tray case, and two in my cabinets at home, so that anywhere I need it I have it – I really encountered so many situations where I wanted to take out my trays without having planned for it ahead of time, so just one tool wasn’t enough for me. It was super helpful to just keep one of them in my purse at all times! You just use the curved hook at the back of the trays, one little tug on each side either pulling down or up, as the case may be, and off they pop! Lovely.

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The PullTool!

 

Hydrogen Peroxide. I am assuming you don’t need a photo of this or a link – I just buy big-ass bottles of it at the grocery store to keep on-hand, because the only time I don’t soak my trays in something while they’re out of my mouth is if I am out and about. If I take my trays off at home, I soak them in a solution of some sort, and it has made a world of difference in the cleanliness of the trays! I use hydrogen peroxide most of the time – I have a little bowl that I fill with half of the peroxide and half water, and soak the trays in them while I eat. When I am ready to put them back in, I can floss, brush my teeth, and then just rinse the trays off before putting them in and I am good to go.

By the way – Nowhere does Invisalign require you to soak your trays in anything every time you take them off, this is just what I feel most comfortable/least gross doing, so keep that in mind. They simply recommend you clean off the trays before putting them back in, with a toothbrush and some water or some mild soap. I just like doing extra.

Bleach. Once a day I soak my trays in a solution of half water and half bleach. I was super worried about getting the measurements right initially, but honestly now I just slop it into the bowl, drop the trays in, and go eat. Is this necessary? No, but I feel better doing it and I do think it contributes to keeping the trays clear for the two weeks I have to wear them.

Hand soap. Definitely when I use the bleach, and sometimes when I use the peroxide, I do an extra cleaning with some hand soap and toothbrush, gently scrubbing the inside of the trays in particular. It also helps to get most of the bleach taste out of them; but honestly, I’ve gotten used to both a slight taste of bleach AND hand soap at this point, so there you go.

Chewies. OK, this was another one of those things that no one told me about until I needed them, and it felt like it should have been mentioned to me sooner. When I went to the dentist and discovered my teeth were not tracking, she gave me some ‘chewies’ and told me I needed to chew on them for about 10 minutes after putting in a new set of trays, at least for a day or two until it was definite that the trays were settling onto my teeth properly. The fact that it was casually dropped on me that I in fact needed to be gnawing on little mini pool noodles for days on end seemed like something I should have been alerted to earlier, but you know, live and learn, I guess. The dentist gave me a few, but I found that they lost their sponginess quickly, so I now buy them at Amazon when I feel like I need them. For no real reason, I pretty much hate doing this. I don’t know why; but of every unexpected thing I’ve encountered while wearing these trays THIS is the one that irritates me to no end – there’s just something so I can’t believe I have to gnaw on this stupid thing for twenty damn minutes every day if they had told me I’d have to do this I never would have gone through this stupid process about it. I guess everyone has that ONE THING they hate about Invisalign, and this is mine.

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Chewies – don’t let the cute name fool you, these things are of the devil

Tray Minder App.  If you find you are forgetful about remembering to put your trays back in after you take them out, or you have a hard time keeping track of when it’s time to switch to a new aligner, this app can really help. I am pretty good with remembering to put my trays back in, but I constantly lose track of when I should switch trays, so this thing has been a godsend to me as it reminds me when I need to do that. You can also click on the app when you take your trays out, and it will remind you in an hour (or whatever time you set) to put them back in – you can also take ‘teeth selfies’ to monitor your process. It’s a handy little app, and it’s free, so it’s worth having on hand.

OK, so. I think that’s all I have to share at this point; I typed this up quickly and suspect there are a TON of typos in it that I’ll have to correct later. But if anyone wants my overall summation of whether or not this process is worth it, I’d say: meh, it’s fine. There are things I am happy about, and things I’m not so pleased with, so for now I am leaning towards being pleased, but just slightly. I am happy that my teeth are no longer crowded and that this one tooth that was really jutting out at an odd angle no longer does so. So yeah, I am pleased with the effectiveness of the process. What I am NOT pleased about is having to spend another two to three grand of my money for problems the Invisalign caused – the crown replacement, and the gap between my two bottom teeth. That just sucks. And I just found out yesterday that I have to wear retainer trays constantly for another six months, which doesn’t thrill me either. So, I do wonder if, knowing these things, I would have gone through with it. I probably would just because it hasn’t been that bad, and probably did need to be done due to the crowding issues I had; but ending up with a gap between two of my teeth that I don’t like is a real bummer. Especially since I will have to spend so much money to fix it when it’s really a purely ‘cosmetic’ procedure – I mean, I don’t have to do it, but after spending a year wearing trays and already spending $5,000 on the process, why would I settle for having that gap? Grr. That is really annoying me right now, and influencing my opinion.

I will say this, though – I have had a lot of people tell me they want their kids to have Invisalign instead of regular braces, and I do not recommend this. I don’t see kids being able to keep up with the maintenance of taking them out, brushing and flossing after each meal, and remembering to put them right back in after eating. I also see a LOT of lost, expensive trays in your child’s future. These things have their advantages, but they are a big responsibility, so keep that in mind when it comes to the kiddos.

Skin Care Finds

Over the past year, I went through a listacles phase, especially Buzzfeed, for their quick and easy lists tailored to any number of interests, like skin care or cool home gadgets – usually with links to super-cheap items you ‘can’t live without’ that you can find online. I was particularly interested in the skin care lists, since over the years sun damage and Father Time have been showing up more and more, and as much as I’ve never given a whit of attention to all the miracle claims skin care products tend to make, Buzzfeed’s lists usually included products that were cheap enough for me to be willing to try. And lo and behold, some of them really, really helped.

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The DermaRoller!

OK, hands-down, this has been the best product I’ve tried all year. I got the idea from my plastic surgeon, from whom I get Botox every 3-6 months. I asked her what treatments were available for sun damage and hyperpigmentation of the skin, and she recommended something called microneedling, which is expensive and requires recovery time. I researched this online and it did seem to produce excellent results, but the cost and the downtime from the procedure both put me off, and in the process of doing that research I also came across DermaRolling, which is much milder form of microneedling you can do at home. I found a kit on Amazon with the plastic handle and three extra rollers for $30, so I figured I’d give it a go, not expecting much, but willing to try it out for the price. And holy cow – the results were noticeable after using it just one time. I’ve been doing it a few times a week for several months now, and it has significantly reduced the hyperpigmentation and evened out my skin tone, as well as giving my skin a healthier glow in general.

There are a ton of videos on YouTube about how the process works and why, so I’ll just summarize it quickly: before starting, you should apply a serum to your skin; it really doesn’t matter what serum you use, so I will link to a few I like below. The roller has tiny needles on it, as you can see in the picture above – and no, they don’t hurt – and you simply roll the roller over your skin in an up-and-down and then a back-and-forth motion, working in sections. I roll my forehead first, up and down and then back and forth, until the skin turns slightly red, then I move onto my nose, both cheeks, and end with the upper lip and chin. Then, because I have a lot of sun damage on my neck and decollete, I also do the same process in those areas. It’s important not to overdo it – when the skin turns pink, move to another area. After you are done rolling, you apply another round of serum, and then whatever night products you put on your face, and you’re done (oh yeah, don’t do this process in the morning; it’s definitely a night-time treatment).

According to dermatologists I’ve watched on YouTube or read online, the main reason DermaRolling works is because it allows the skin to truly and deeply absorb the products you put on  your face before and after you use it. That seems to be the main benefit. It has not only worked wonders for me, but everyone else I’ve recommended Dermarolling to has also been impressed – even my sister, who has acne scars from her teenage years. She even told me shortly after she starting doing it that she is no longer ashamed to go out without makeup on because her skin looks so much better. It did not completely erase my sun damage – no product will do that, I don’t think – but it has improved it so much I don’t notice it anymore. And as I said, I’ve also noticed that when I take pictures, I don’t need the heavy foundation I needed before; I can use my regular tinted moisturizer and it works just as well.

Here are some of the serums I’ve used with the DermaRoller and quite like:

Valjean Labs Facial Serum, Combo Pack of Hydrate, Glow, and Firm 

TruSkin Vitamin C Serum for Face

Elizavecca Hell Pore Control Hyaluronic Acid Facial Serum

In addition to the DermaRoller, there are two masks I’ve tried recently and really love. But honestly, if you only try one thing I recommend here, go for the roller. It is by far the most effective.

Peter Thomas Roth Pumpkin Enzyme Mask

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Before I discovered Botox, I used to go get facials once a month, and my technician often used a pumpkin enzyme mask that I really loved, and Buzzfeed reminded me that such a mask exists. This is pricey in my opinion – about $60 – but it can be used sparingly and still be effective. The way I use it is in the morning, before I apply any other products, and I don’t use it every day, just a few times a week because it’s quite strong. The smell is amazing, though! I wet my face, scoop out a dollop of the mask, spread it over my skin, and then – this is an important step – I re-wet my fingers and work the mask in a little with wet hands. I have found that if you don’t re-wet the mask after applying it, it is too harsh and can burn. I don’t know why. I guess it dilutes the product a little. Then, I only leave this mask on for 3-5 minutes, which is the recommended time limit – this is why it’s easy to use in the morning to freshen up the skin. I do NOT recommend leaving this on any longer than five minutes, though, because as I said, this shit is strong. Once time is up, I just wipe it off with a damp rag, follow up with a splash or two of water, and move on to rest of my morning routine.

Aztec Secret – Indian Healing Clay 

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This stuff has a huge cult following, and rightly so – it is a serious, old-school beauty mask, and it makes your skin feel amazing. It’s only $10 for a big old tub of the stuff, and I see it at my local grocery store as well as on Amazon. It’s a bit messy though – it is in powdered form, and you can mix it in a little bowl with equal parts water and apple cider vinegar (which is what works for me) or, if the vinegar is too strong for your skin, you can try it just adding the water. I use the water with vinegar concoction, and it creates a paste that I smear all over your face and then wait for the magic to happen. I call this an old-school mask because it’s the kind that dries on your face, unlike the pumpkin mask which stays moist, and you look like a zombie and will scare your dogs while you leave it on. How long you leave it on depends on your comfort level; my skin is not overly sensitive, so I leave it on until it’s completely dry OR my skin starts to feel too tight (you will feel a tingling/tightening sensation that personally I find pleasant, but it may bother others) and then I scrub it off with a rag followed by a splash or two of water. Now, your skin may be quite red when you take this off (one reason why I recommend not leaving it on too long the first time you try it) but not to worry – it fades quickly and your skin will not be red when you wake up, at the latest. But because of the redness, this is another product you only want to use at night. If you check out some of the before and after photos on Amazon, you’ll see some pretty amazing results. I am never sure how much to trust such things, but I still do notice great exfoliation from this and I love how my skin feels afterwards. I also think it has contributed to the lightening of my hyperpigmentation, so there you go.

Now, a moisturizer that is super-affordable and that I feel has also REALLY helped with my sun damage:

Pond’s Correcting Clarant B3 Dark Spot Skin Cream

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Amazon lists this moisturizer at $14, but I’m pretty sure I pay a lot less than that at my local grocery store. I use this every morning and night on my face and neck. While I can’t say that this product alone has helped do reduce my sun damage, because I tried all these products at about the same time, I am willing to give it credit for helping; especially since it’s a very affordable moisturizer that is easy to find, includes sunscreen, and doesn’t bother my skin.

Other than these staples, I’ve tried a TON of other eye creams (not found one yet that does anything to reduce dark circles, although I found a few that I liked), serums, masks, and moisturizers that have had varying degrees of success. But most of these are things I either keep around and use because I just like them in general, or discarded and did not re-purchase because they didn’t thrill me and I saw no real benefit. However, can I just address one product I did try that has a huge following and that baffles me completely?

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Jade face rollers are huge THING that the internet swears by, but for the life of me I just do not see any difference when I use one of these things on my skin. It does feel good at first, because the jade is cold when you roll it across your face, at least until you’ve done it enough for it to warm up, but other than that – nothing. Zip. Zilch. Nada. No bueno. I know people who swear by these things, so clearly they work for some people, but for the life of me I don’t even know how (In fact, I kept trying to convince a friend of mine to try DermaRolling, and she kept refusing because she thought I meant JADE rolling, and she too had tried it without noticing any effect to her skin at all. We got it straightened out quickly enough, though). 😉

So, there you go. My little recent skin care wonders/recommendations. You’re welcome. Happy Sunday.

Hell-oooo

It’s been almost a year since I posted, yikes! As you may have noticed, I also took the site down during that time. No particular reason, I was just feeling like having less of an online presence for a while, so there you go.

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It took me quite a long time, but I have finally gotten used to my new work routine. After decades of working the regular old 9-5 for someone else, coming up with a way to work for myself and still feel like a normal human was a long time coming for me. But I think I’ve got it figured out now.

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What I do is wake up between 6-7 AM, make my tutoring notes from the day before, plan my tutoring for the day, and then do anything else that needs to be done before eating an early lunch around 10:30. After that, I slip back into bed and either just chill for a while watching TV or playing video games, or take a nice nap until 1 or 2. Then, I get up, get myself put together, and head out to tutor around 3 or 4. In the evenings I get home between 7-9 PM, depending on the day, so I do a quick workout and stretching routine, and sometimes I cook a meal. Then it’s in bed between 9-10 PM to read a little or watch some more TV, and fall asleep between 11-12. It’s pretty wonderful.

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I haven’t taken any photos all year, really; there’s been little excursions here and there but not much in the way of my usual selfies – although this past Sunday, I did actually get the urge to do a shoot and took a bunch of portraits for the first time in forever. I even donated all my costumes at one point, because my closets were too full, and I felt pretty bored with the process overall. However, at the same that was going on (or wasn’t going on, as the case may be) my depression was also creeping back into my life, so I’m not sure if the photo hiatus and costume-purge may have been a part of that. But I started to notice around April of this year that my thoughts were increasingly negative, and my energy and enthusiasm were low, and in May I finally gave in and asked my psychiatrist to put me back on my medication. I’ve been on Lexapro for anxiety for several years (which has caused a good amount of weight gain, but more on that later) but I stopped the Wellbutrin around the time I started it. I was hesitant at first to get back on it, but in the end I felt I had no choice. The last time I was on Wellbutrin, I lost a ton of weight, but that hasn’t happened this time, either because of the Lexapro or the fact that I am turning 50 this month and my body is changing, but either way, I’d rather be sane and heavy over thin and depressed/anxious any day, so there it is.

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I will say, in the past year I’ve also been experimenting with a lot of new skin care, and have discovered some products and processes that have greatly improved my skin. So much so, that I don’t even have to use the heavy foundation I used to wear in my photos to even out my skin tone – yeah, it’s that good. And not having to wear as much makeup has also got me thinking about how much Photoshop I used on my face before, and I’ve decided I don’t want to do that anymore. Yes, I still add makeup and even out my skin, and remove blemishes and what have you. But no more slimming my nose (except with contouring and highlighting) or shortening my long face or widening my close-set eyes. It feels more honest, which, at age 50, I think is a good place to be.

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The weirdest thing about turning 50 has got to be the changes in my body shape. I’ve never, ever had issues with my abs and have always had a flat stomach, and somehow I thought I’d escape the disappearing waist of middle age because of that. I have not. And it’s a bitch to lose it. I finally plateaued weight-wise around 150, and haven’t gained any more than that in about a year, but I’ve never in my life weighed above 130 until this past year and a half, so there you go. One nice thing about losing my waistline though – I always had to get my pants altered to fit me in the waist because it was so much smaller than my butt and thighs, and I don’t have to do that anymore! I’d always hoped that would happen because my  butt and thighs slimmed down to align better with my waist, but hey, working the other way isn’t all bad. And, since I rapidly outgrew all my pants and skirts, I got to buy a whole new wardrobe to fit my new shape, and you know I’m always up for some clothes shopping.

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This is a macro of some lotion I found at Urban Outfitters. As lotion, it is awful. But it took a great picture!

After a very long, slow illness, my father-in-law passed away in April. It was a hard road for my husband to travel, because he was the only one around to care for him, and for about ten years a big chunk of our lives revolved around that. And yet, it was still a shock to lose him, and we were both pretty down for a while even though we knew it was for the best, and he died peacefully in his sleep, but things are starting to even out now and my husband is at least free of the added stress of caring for him, although we have to sell his house and figure out other estate issues. We’ve known for some time that an inheritance was on the way, and while we both plan to cut back on our work hours now that we have more retirement savings to add to what we already had, we both intend to keep working. The only money we’re spending right now is what we need to spend to sell the house, and the rest is going right into investments and savings, so we can enjoy middle age without too much money worry. I’ve seen so many people get an inheritance and immediately start spending (wasting) it, and we both know that Doug’s dad wanted us to use this money to retire and take life easy, not blow it on a second house or granite kitchen counter tops, so that’s what we’re going to do.

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Also, my father-in-law had this big-ass brand-new Mercury Grand Marquis he bought for cash in 2006 and then fell ill, so he barely ever drove it. He’d been bitching for years about how all the car did was sit in the garage when it was so big and fancy, but no one ever wanted to take it from him. When we were working in the house shortly after he died, Doug suggested I just give it a spin around the block to see what I thought – although it was a 2006, it only had 16,000 miles on it, and the Honda I was driving had 120,00; plus, I’d been saying for a while that I really wanted my next car to be bigger and more comfortable instead of the usual compact economy cars I’ve always bought. Needless to say, I ended up loving it, so we sold the old Honda and I now drive my father-in-law’s car as my own. I actually named it ‘Outlaw,” after him – trust me, if you knew him, you’d know how accurate a description that is.

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Meet Outlaw!

What else is there to say? One of the best things that happened this year is that a friend of mine convinced me to travel with her to Orlando and go to Universal Studios, Disney World, and Hollywood Studios – something I never EVER would have done on my own – and OMG it was an absolute BLAST. I took a ton of photos, although they were all with my phone, so I’ll have to do a separate post about that adventure. It was honestly the most damn fun I’ve had in years, even though holy hell it was expensive. How do people manage stuff like that with children? I’ve got no idea.

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This was us on the last day. We were exhausted, but happy.

Well, I’m going to cut this short now, because it’s after 11 AM and time for my daily nap. I may be back soon, or I may never return – you just never know with me. 🙂

Harried Alive

Whoo – it’s been a long while. I’ve been busy, y’all.

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Doing what, you might ask? Work, mostly, and also precinct chair duties in preparation for the upcoming mid-term election. Which, I am fairly certain, the Dems will not win in Texas. I love me some Beto O’Rourke, y’all – something to which my front yard signs will proudly attest – but in spite of the need for me to put on my happy face for the Dems in my neighborhood I represent, well, come on. We all know Ted Cruz is a lock for Texas. This state might get there eventually, but I do not think this is the year. I’m perfectly willing to be wrong – and I hope I am – but I don’t see it happening.

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Visual representation of me not seeing it happening

We’ve held candidate meet and greets and block walks, and I’ve sent out fliers and push cards. And until this week I was watching/listening to news obsessively; something I finally realized I had to put a stop to. The constant news was making me insane, and the Kavanaugh nomination did me in. I was taking it all, way, WAY too personally, and it was ruining my life. Yes, I believe Donald Trump is a shitty president. I think his administration is incompetent at best; greedy, selfish, and batshit crazy at worst. But you know what – I have disliked presidents in the past, and considered them dangerous and awful (I’m looking at you, Dubya), but I still managed to have a separate and functional life from all of that. And somewhere between November 16, 2016, and last week, those lines got completely erased. I was obsessively on Twitter. I listened to MSNBC and/or CNN for about eight hours a day. I ranted and raged alongside my husband (who is as liberal as I am, but had way more control over himself and the amount of news consumption he was absorbing).

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My brain on Twitter

Long story short, I finally realized I was not going to be helpful to anyone if I was completely insane, so I put myself on a one-week news blackout. No radio, no Twitter, no Washington Post, nothing. The first two days were awful, as checking Twitter every spare second had become a terrible pastime of mine, but by day three I had started to realize there were actually music channels on Sirius XM, and there were TV shows to watch (Dancing Queen, anyone?), and work I’d been putting off, and you know, a world out there that was worth enjoying.  Of course, people are still laughing at me when I tell them I am slowly allowing the news back into my life with my favorite three-hour block of news shows each night (Rachel Maddow, Lawrence O’DonnelL, and Brian Williams) as if it’s hilarious that someone’s idea of properly REDUCING the amount of news consumption to THREE HOURS A DAY is somehow inadequate. But to go from 24 hour news consumption to three is, in my opinion, progress. So there you go.

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But no, Beto still ain’t gonna win.

What else has been going on? Lots of work – I have 19 clients this year, which is a LOT. I tutor 3 or 4 kids a day, starting at 3:30 PM and usually working until around 8:30 at night. I also tutor three kids on Sunday, and then I have Friday and Saturday as my weekend off. This is working well, but it’s a lot of kids to plan for and keep track of, so I’ve really had to commit myself to staying organized and making good planning notes after each session, or else I forget what we did when I go back to that kid a week later. Note taking has become VERY important with so many students, and it’s the last thing I want to do after getting home around 9 PM, but I’ve found ways to make it work. Sometimes I do it the next morning, and other times I leave for tutoring a little early and stop by a coffee shop to make my notes before the work begins. One way or another, I’ve found that staying on top of it is essential to doing a good job, so a lot more of my time is taken up with work now than has been for the first two years of doing this. Which is to say that photography has taken a MAJOR backseat lately. I took zero photos in September, and very few in August, so I started editing old blooper photos like the ones you see in black and white above (photos where I screwed something up). It’s been kinda fun to work with photos that are basically screw-ups, and it kept me  occupied when I had a little time to play around with Photoshop.

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Here’s a few examples

I actually took the first week in October off, just to catch up with things, and I took a day to shoot some photos in a few new wigs I’ve picked up lately. But then I got so busy again I’ve barely had time to edit any of them at all.

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Except this one

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And this one

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And this one

So there you go – that’s what’s been going on with me since July 9th when I last wrote a blog post. It feels like I’ve been so busy that I should have a lot more to tell you, but at this point in the school year I can’t remember much past the last week or so, so anything else interesting that’s happened to me lately has already been forgotten. I will try not to stay away so long next time, and  I hope you are all doing well.

Summer Stuff

I’ve had a light summer of tutoring, with the past two weeks having no students whatsoever, so you’d think I would be busy taking advantage of all the free time to do things I don’t have time to do during the school year. But, you would be wrong.

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For the most part, I’ve been incredibly lazy, napping every day and sleeping late, while occasionally hopping into the pool. But I’ve had a few moments of activity here and there, just enough to keep me away from the blog, I suppose.

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For starters, my older sister and I have taken a few little day trips over the past several weeks. It started when I was staying in a hotel during the last few weeks of our mold remediation; I figured since I was in a nice hotel and she and I both love hotel rooms, she should come on over and hang out with me for a while. She spent one night with me and we spent the day shopping at the nearby mall and eating in the restaurants surrounding the area.

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I thought this was the town hall in Hallettsville, TX, but my sister thinks it’s a church. I still have no idea. 

That led to us getting another hotel room in Clear Lake City so we could visit my brother, who lives in Dickinson, when he threw a graduation party for his two kids. It’s a long drive out to Dickinson from where we live, even though technically it’s all still “Houston” – especially since Dickinson is off the main freeway to Galveston Island and the party was thrown over a holiday weekend. Traffic is always horrible on I-45 in the summer, so my sis and I figured we’d get another hotel room, check in at the graduation party, and then spend another nice night hanging out in a hotel on the water instead of making two traffic trips in one day. I forgot my camera, though, so no pictures of that little jaunt.

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Another Hallettsville shot

Most hotels were booked in Clear Lake for the weekend, though, and we ended up staying in an older Hyatt hotel that had a lovely view overlooking the bay, but had horribly thin walls and those old, adjoining rooms that I don’t think newer hotels even do anymore – and the first floor we stayed on was so poorly insulated and populated with small children that I swear my sis and I kept opening the door to the hallway to try to find out where the large gaggle of children was playing in the halls, only to realize that they were the kids in various other rooms that we were hearing as if they were right outside our door. We ended up moving to a higher floor, where they apparently don’t let kids stay, and that reduced the noise level quite a bit. But lesson learned, no more stays at the Clear Lake City Hyatt. It also must have been moldy, because after having no breathing issues for several weeks, I woke up coughing like a maniac the night of our stay, and it took me another week or so to recover. Moving on.

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Then my sister wanted to go spend a few days in an incredibly tiny little Texas town called Hallettsville, which is where all these pictures are from. It’s a bit convoluted, but my aunt and uncle bought a tiny little country house there, on about 4 acres of land, where they plan to retire someday, and my sister, who is close to my aunt, has a key to go stay out there whenever she wants (I’m not as close to this aunt so I had never even been to this house before). Sounded like a nice free vacation to me, so we loaded up her car and headed out there for a few days in June.

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When I say Hallettsville is small, I do mean small: Wikipedia lists its population as just over 2,000. Even though we were wandering around their little town square on a Saturday afternoon, there was still almost NO foot traffic, and I have no idea how anything aside from the factory supply store manages to stay in business there. The house my aunt and uncle bought is small, also – almost claustrophobic – but it’s actually a nice enough place to retire if you want some land and a Dairy Queen to visit on occasion. I was a bit fascinated by this little walkway leading up to their front porch though, and fortunately I’d remembered to take my camera so I could do some quick levitation using it as a background:

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That’s the walkway leading up to their house, and as you can see, it just sort of stops for no reason in the middle of the grass. I’m assuming someone at some point had intended to put in a driveway or something and then never did…? I dunno. But anyway, it inspired me as some sort of launching pad to a magical dimension, so there you go. The house is right behind me here, and you can see their little stretch of land with some decent trees and a pleasant view to look out over from the front porch. Not bad, if you’re into that sort of thing. Not sure I could do it long-term though.

Fun little detail: my aunt and uncle keep a golf cart on the property so they can tool around a little, and my sister loves to just hop on it and drive around on the grass, so we did that a few times. I am not as big of a fan of this, because I HAAAAATE flying bugs, and as soon as you start cruising around on the grass all of these CREATURES leap out of the grass and into the cart. So, my sis was really enjoying driving around and listening to me scream. Then, she accidentally ran over a cow pie (that’s cow shit, for those of you not familiar with the term) and it splattered all over my leg. Two more reasons I probably should not retire in the country: cow pies and flying bugs. Moving on.

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In other news, I have new little beauty obsession – fake nails, the kind you glue on and can buy at the CVS.I wore acrylics for years, but really got tired of all the filling and drilling involved, so about a year ago I had those soaked off and just got shellac manicures for about another year. But, since my husband and I are both wanting to work less now, I am trying to cut back where I can, and shellac manicures are rather expensive where I live ($50!). So, the last time I went to the salon I just got a plain old manicure and left it at that. But, not being one to just leave well enough alone, I decided to try out these Lime Crime “Pop On Nails” I saw on their site a while back. I’d never been able to try them before, because of the aforementioned acrylics, so I figured while I had naked nails would be the best time to try.

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I’ve never tried press-on or glue-on nails before, and I was actually nervous about how these would turn out. I held onto them for several weeks, but then my sister and I decided to make one more hotel trip out to the Woodlands to see Chicago and REO Speedwagon (shut up, I’m old) so I figured that was as good a time as any to give these a go. I was really surprised by how nice they looked. I had to shorten and file them a little because they were pretty long, though:

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I don’t drink; that was actually my sister’s glass of wine

I loved them so much I ended up buying all the other available colors of them I could find online (they were limited edition at Lime Crime) but before I got them all in, I discovered some nails I like even better – the ImPress brand you can get at any drugstore or even (in my case at least) the grocery store.

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I actually prefer these ImPress nails because they are much easier to apply, and they hold up better. The Lime Crime ones look amazing at first, but they have to be applied with nail glue and the first time I applied them I used WAY too much and spent about an hour melting them off my fingers with acetone. The ImPress nails actually have adhesive already applied to the nail, so you just peel the backing off and stick them to your nails.

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I have always had seriously wrinkly fingers! When I was a kid classmates would call me “granny hands.” Kids are assholes, BTW. 

Both brands stayed on for a week (the ImPress ones are still on as I type this) but I must say that after a few days the color was starting to flake and peel off the Lime Crime nails, and every little scratch or scuff showed on the surface so that by the end of that week, they looked a lot worse for the wear. So far, the black Impress nails aren’t showing any wear and still look like new. I haven’t tried to take these off yet, so I can’t speak to how hard they will be to remove, but all the reviews say they are easy enough to do and I know I didn’t overdo it with adhesive this time. I’m so pleased with these nails, especially since the ImPress ones are easy to find, are inexpensive (around $7 for 30 nails) and are quick to put on. I never liked getting my nails done, although I do still get pedicures (ImPress actually makes press on toenails, too, but I just can’t go there), but I always loved the look of the acrylic nails, and these are a really practical and nice alternative.

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Another thing I’ve done recently is volunteer to be a Democratic precinct chair for my precinct. I do not yet know what this means, but there is a meeting for all of the Democratic chairs for Precinct 3 this Wednesday, so I’ll find out my duties then. With the mid-term elections coming up, I am sure it will entail a lot of phone calls and block-walking, which I do not look forward to, but the opportunity was there for me to fill an empty chair and even though I didn’t really want to do it, with everything going on right now I felt it was important to do it anyway. Especially being here in Texas, where so many of these immigrant families are being torn apart. By the way – our city’s mayor, Sylvester Turner, is awesome, and in no way supports these policies the Trump Administration has tried to implement and bungled so stupendously. He and our city’s police chief Art Acevedo are both very strong, progressive voices for reasonable immigration policy and gun control; Acevedo in particular has gotten a lot of attention lately for his outspokenness on both issues. Houston, even though it’s deep in heart of red, red Texas, tends to have Democratic mayors, and Fort Bend County – which is the county where I live – is statistically the most diverse county in the country. A lot of Fort Bend is more purple than red, except for – you guessed it – precinct 3, where I live, which is the reddest area out here. So block walking for the Dems should be an adventure. If I get shot, well, I can’t complain. I’ve had a better life than most…only partly kidding about this!

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I also discovered Venessa Arizaga’s jewelry lately, which, if you haven’t checked her out, you really should. I know a lot of her stuff looks insane, and her prices aren’t cheap, BUT the pieces look much better on that they do just sitting there against a white background, and if you get on her mailing list she has major sales ALL the time. I got a TON of her stuff during a recent 50% off all sale event, and things like that bracelet above I got for a steal. It was already reduced to  $27 and I got it for 50% off that, when it was originally fifty bucks! I now have a ton of her necklaces and bracelets and they are just what I like. I actually don’t care for metal jewelry, and much prefer necklaces and bracelets made of leather or cloth material, which is pretty much her thing. And everything is made to be worn with other items and really layered together, like so:

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It all is very light and works well together – although I will say, I bought one of her shell chokers and it was literally choking me; I had to buy a necklace extender just to fit it around my neck. That one also isn’t very comfortable; the shells are heavy and the material is itchy. But other than that, everything I have bought from her I’ve loved.

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Oh, and I have a few other things I’m keeping busy with right now – for starters, I am really trying to learn Spanish, and so far am having little luck. I’m using Babel, and there a few damn verbs I just can’t get a grasp on (those damn ‘to be’ verbs are killing me) and trust me, if I were taking this as a class I’d be failing right now. But using the app is actually helping me understand what it’s like to struggle with English grammar and spelling, which helps me with my tutoring, so it’s all good, even if my Spanish never gets up to snuff.

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The thing I am more excited about than that, though, is that I am learning how to sew. I haven’t officially started yet, because my sewing machine doesn’t arrive until tomorrow (I tried to borrow one from my mom but hers was broken), but I’ve got a good book to work with that jumps right in to working with simple patterns like making headscarves and simple skirts. I’ve been wanting to learn how to sew forever (I was forced to take sewing in high school, and in a fit of misplaced feminist rage I refused to learn anything. This worked against me because not only did I not learn how to sew but I failed the class, which was less than impressive on my transcript. I failed cooking too, for the same stupid reason). I figure that most of the clothes I love to wear are loose, light, and pretty damn simple; I dislike zippers and buttons and fancy details, I tend to wear things I can easily pull on and off, and I don’t even like to wear prints, so how hard can it be to sew this stuff? Plus, I have so many things I don’t wear but would if I could just alter them a little, and let’s not even talk about the COSTUMES I could create for my photos! I really think I am going to love this new hobby, and hopefully, I will be better at it than I am at speaking Spanish.

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As you can tell, I’ve also managed to take some photos too – so this all sounds like I’ve been way busier than I feel like I’ve been. Especially when I mention that I am taking one more trip with my sister at the end of the month to Galveston, but honestly, most of these trips I’ve taken have been her idea, and she’s done the planning while I’ve just tagged along. I promise there has also been a LOT of nap-taking, TV binging, and Candy Crush playing going on this summer, too. In truth, I’ve actually started to get bored and look forward to getting back to tutoring my students again in August.

Oh, and one more thing – in trying to spend less, I recently opted to not renew a LOT of the features I’ve paid for in the past for this blog. I am honestly not sure what some of the stuff was I was paying for, so things might randomly go wonky here if I actually canceled something I should have kept. If that happens, I’ll figure it out eventually and get things back to normal. 🙂 It just seemed like I was spending lots of money every year for a blog I only post on about once a month now, so in a fit of frugality I canceled all the extra features. We’ll see what happens!

Mannequin Avenue

Dang, I have been busy with these mannequin heads, y’all:

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First of all, I got the idea to stick a bunch of fake fruit to one of my mannequin heads. I really don’t know why this idea came to me, but once the thought occurred to me to do it I had to give it a go.

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I used double-sided tape to stick some fake fruit to the mannequin; I actually don’t have that much fake fruit – I used Photoshop to duplicate the grapes and stick’em all on there.

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I call this “The Grapehawk”

This one is my favorite of the fake fruit shots. Somehow my edits ended up making the mannequin’s face look so real, it’s almost creepy:

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What should I call this one? The Pear Devil? 

I also gave her a grape beard in one shot:

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Now, some of you may remember that when I tried out all those Oribe products, I mentioned how shiny and metallic silver the Silverati shampoo is, and how much I wanted to take pics of it running down my face. That would have been pretty messy to do, but when using a mannequin as a model, it was just crazy easy:

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I really only took pictures of one mannequin. I composited this shot and changed the face a bit on one of the images so they didn’t look exactly the same. 

These mannequin heads are so ridiculously easy to work with. The have these perfectly smooth, proportioned faces and they’re easy to manipulate as well as glue stuff to or smear crap all over. When I was done, I was able to just wash the old gal off with a rag and call it a day.

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The perfect “skin” tones on these mannequins make them super-easy to overmanipulate in processing. I don’t have to worry about uneven skin tones that don’t match up – and this all led to an absolute photo-editing frenzy. I started out simple enough, but as time went on I started to really go to town with the color and shading:

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See what I mean? The mannequin is such a great ‘blank’ canvas for some awesome edits and I can really cut lose in all sorts of ways I’ve never done before.

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Not to mention how easy the setup and breakdown is. I managed to shoot all these photos this morning before heading out to tutor in the afternoon. Usually that’s not even remotely possible – it takes me at least an hour to put on my makeup and then after the shoot is done, I have to wash it all off again. Not to mention how much longer it takes me to shoot myself as opposed to a perfectly still doll head.

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And I didn’t even need any fancy lighting, just my camera with my external flash. Heaven!

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I am sure eventually I’ll get bored with these mannequins, but then again, there’s all sorts of mannequins out there with all sorts of faces, and they do whatever I want them to do without complaining. The perfect models!

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I can’t believe how many photos I was able to take as well as edit today, while also eating two meals, tutoring a student, and swimming for half an hour. I’m over the moon with this new direction!

 

Hello Dolly

Recently I was in the Goodwill store by my house when I came across one of those big doll styling heads kids sometimes play with:

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I’ve photographed dolls before, but never ones that were so big I could put my wigs on them and really play around with the facial features in post. Needless to say, it made a difference:

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All three of these shots came from a quick photo where I just stood the doll head on a table and took a snap. I used my Portrait Pro, PhotoToolbox, and MakeupDirector software to alter the doll’s face to look different in each shot. Then, after seeing how easy she was to work with, I started to get more creative with my shots, adding wigs and wind (of course, because you know how I love hair that blows about) and taking pictures from different angles:

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Same wig as the shots below, I just put it on the doll head backwards

sasha5

sasha6

I was having a hard time getting the wig to blow around dramatically, however, because I had to sit the doll head on a table and could only get the fan to hit the hair fiber from certain directions. I wanted to be able to get the fan up under the doll as I thought that would create more interesting shapes with the wigs, and then I remembered that I had two wig mannequin heads that have holes in the bottom so they can be put onto a stand. Bingo!

jasmine2a

Jasmine1

I have many ideas for where to go from here, and putting wigs on a doll head is WAY quicker to set up for and easier to shoot than putting the wigs on, and photographing, myself. I also feel more free to go crazy with the processing, since the subject isn’t a real human to start with, and I’m having fun working with some filters I don’t normally use, like Topaz’s Impressions filter, which transforms photo into faux-paintings or sketches.

I can easily set up and shoot some wig shots this way every day without it being a big ordeal, so expect to see more doll shots coming soon! I am, of course, already on the lookout for more heads – the wig mannequins are definitely easier to use, but damn they are expensive, as opposed to the wig-styling kids’ toys that can be found used for around three bucks. I’ll be hitting up eBay for mannequin heads today, and we’ll see what I find. 😉 There are also some really freaky mannequin heads out there, so finding some of those for cheap would be a real bonus.

 

Up and Running

I’ve brought the blog back up, but the wig reviews are still down. At this point, I don’t think I will bring them back, but you never know with me. I’m definitely done reviewing any new ones, since at this point it just doesn’t seem worth it to me when all people who watch them can do is nitpick and complain. Let all those people who find fault with everyone who tries to share their opinions about wigs via video step up and make some for a change, is pretty much where I’m at with it at this point.

fireplace

We got in all the photos I had printed to hang around the house, so I thought I’d share the final result of that. In this photo, which we put on our fireplace mantel, the original had a purple curtain in the image, which I changed to gray to make it match more with our decor. This is one of my favorites that we got printed onto canvas.

front room

This one is in our front room – not sure how I feel about this one, mostly because although I got it printed on the largest canvas the company had, it still gets dwarfed on this wall. All the furniture in this room is pretty old and mish-mash, as well, but I found some small rugs online that I threw over the settee and chairs and it actually doesn’t look half-bad. None of the furniture is very comfortable, though, so I ended up getting big floor pillows to sit on when I spend time in there. Strange little-known fact about me: I have always preferred sitting on the floor to sitting on furniture. Who knows why.

gold balls

office 1

office 2

And yes, I did hang pictures of myself in my office, thankyouverymuch. I know it looks vain and kinda weird, but I love a lot of my self-portraits and movement/motion/costume shots, and I wanted to print some up and hang them somewhere – and the room where I do my photoshoots seemed like the logical choice. I had a few more I really loved and wanted to print, but I would have had to put them in other parts of the house to do so and it did seem like overkill to hang big prints of myself all over the area. So, I stuck with these and called it a day. You may have also noticed that a lot of these prints are a bit crooked or off-center – and I totally admit to not caring about that. I never have, and it makes a lot of people (like Doug) crazy that to me, just getting close to straight is enough for me.

I also think I hung these too high on the wall, but again, I don’t really care:

pet wall

I call this our “pet wall;” it’s upstairs in the loft which functions as my husband’s office (hence the mess everywhere – he’s even more sloppy than I am). In spite of how much I love color in my shots, I transformed a lot of them into monochrome for printing, just because when hung side by side they tended to clash – that happened with the pet shots and the photos I hung in my office, too.

bedroom

The bedroom has had a few issues – at first I bought all white bed linens, because I loved the look, but since our pets run the house and deposit themselves on all of our furniture, that lasted about a month before I had to make a change. I refuse to spend a lot on bed linens, though, because of the aforementioned pet issue, so I found this new comforter set on eBay for $60 and I actually like it – even though I still prefer the look of the solid white.

I finally set up a photoshoot yesterday and took new pictures, so I’ll share more of those in a later post. At least the major house stuff is finally done!

House Party

OK, so. It’s all been a challenge, but the major home renovations are finally done.

Before and After shots – the ‘before’ is on the left

There’s still a lot to do – we are going to print my photos to hang on the walls, and there’s still furniture to replace or move  – but the main, really destructive stuff is done.

I tried to come back home once the floors were installed, but there was so much construction dust everywhere that my lungs got very irritated again – so I spent the last week while the house was being painted at a hotel.

We took out all the seriously outdated wallpaper, and replaced it with a soft, subtle beige by Sherwin Williams called “Kilim Beige.” You can’t see it really in this shot of our living room, but above the wainscoting it’s actually beige, and below it is white. The contrast doesn’t show up well in the photo, and it’s pretty subtle anyway. Truth be told, the paint ended up being lighter than I thought it would be, but it is quite pretty, and our house is old which means we have small rooms, so anything much darker would have kept the rooms feeling small and cramped, so in the end it’s fine.

We also replaced all that nasty wall-to-wall carpet with laminate flooring, FINALLY. I’ve been wanting to do this for years, but we were too cheap and lazy to get it done.

The color in some of these photos also looks more pink or red than the wall paint is in reality. Oh well.

My health is slowly on the mend – I am still coughing a lot, but at this point I just think it’s going to be a slower recovery than I would like. It still wakes me up at night sometimes, but not regularly, and I am seeing a pulmonologist regularly who says my lungs are clear and there’s nothing else going on but inflammation, and I’m just going to have to keep taking my meds and being patient. I also screwed up my back sleeping on the floor for the two weeks I tried to stay at the house, and my sciatic nerve is a mess. But I’m seeing a chiropractor for that and limping around for now while that recovers.

Slowly but surely, things are getting back to normal, and I have a lot of life and work stuff I need to get in order since everything has been all over the place since early March. But I am definitely ready to get back to normal and not live out of a suitcase anymore!

Black Mold, Texas Tea

After two and a half weeks at my sister’s, I came back home today to a house that’s still ripped apart, but has been given a clean bill of health and has been scrubbed into submission. We had out air vents cleaned out also, and I swear you can actually SMELL how clean it is in here.

Photo Mar 26, 4 54 05 PM

The entrance to our bedroom

Within the next day or two, all the sealed areas should be opened, and our furniture will be HEPA-vaccuumed a second time and placed back into the bedroom. The floor has been ripped out, though, so in about two weeks we will have to take all the furniture back out again to replace the floors. We are going to go ahead and replace all the nasty carpet on the first floor and get wood laminate for the entire downstairs area, which ultimately will be awesome and is something we should have done years ago, but keep in mind our completely shitty home insurance is not covering a dime of this, so it’s going to cost us a ridiculous amount of money. We also have to get the sheetrock re-done again (most of it is sheetrock we already replaced once, right after Harvey before we knew about the mold situation). Then, we are going to go ahead and rip out all the wallpaper in the areas where we still have it (the kitchen, the bathrooms, and our front living room – yeah, we’ve been living with serious old-school decorating in this house for decades) and get all the walls repainted (some of which we also JUST re-painted right after Harvey).

Photo Mar 26, 4 53 31 PM

One of our built-in bookcases, which also had mold. It wasn’t the black mold we had in the bathroom, but it still has to go. 

But here’s the thing: EVERY TIME I try to get back to normal as far as getting out of the house, going to tutoring sessions, running errands, etc., I get sick again. Even trying to have a simple conversation with someone on the phone sends me into a coughing fit within twenty minutes. It’s as if the only way I feel well is if I sit in bed all day, don’t speak to anyone, or do ANYTHING. And it’s really pissing me off. I have been canceling tutoring sessions for three weeks now, although I’ve managed to squeeze in a random one here and there before getting worn down and miserable again, for the most part I’ve gone weeks without working with most of my kids. Everyone is being really great about it, but I’ve worked really hard to build up the client base that I have, and I hate to risk losing it.

Photo Mar 26, 5 28 34 PM

After packing up all my things and my dogs this morning and driving us all back out to the house, I ended up with another massive coughing fit that just broke me down into tears. I was so frustrated having to cancel on my students again, and to not be able to get back to normal health-wise. I also have now pulled something on my left side from all the coughing, and I’m just really worn down, tired, and disappointed that I can’t get well. I had a chest x-ray done, and while it shows hyperinflated lungs due to asthma, it’s not like there’s any congestion in my chest or anything else going on. It’s just that nothing we’ve tried so far has worked to control my asthma, and we’re pretty much at the top of ladder as far as the escalating steps you take to get asthma under control. I’m honestly not sure what we’re going to try next, unless we add daily breathing treatments and perhaps get allergy tested again to see if I’m reacting badly to something else other than the mold. Especially since the damn mold is gone now and our house is probably the cleanest one in Houston – although the pollen is out of control in the area right now which I am sure isn’t helping.

Photo Mar 26, 4 53 48 PM

Our bedroom furniture, which has been HEPA-cleaned and sealed.

Reluctantly, I took the entire week off and cancelled all my sessions, and as much as I hate to do it my plan is going to be to sit at home on my ass and just. do. nothing. I’m going to go back to the doctor on Thursday for a check-in and I hope to God by next week to be able to get back to normal as far as my health. This sitting around coughing and hacking and feeling exhausted is for the birds. And I haven’t worked out in weeks and am gaining weight. So overall, I just feel sloppy and lazy and nasty and totally blah.