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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

Oribe! Oribe!

I thought since I’ve spent a small fortune over the past several months trying out a ton of Oribe hair products, I’d go ahead and write a review of the different things I’ve tried and what I think of them. I don’t have any photographic evidence of how this stuff affected my hair, but I think I can use my words to describe how it all turned out.

First of all, I will say that using the Oribe shampoos and conditioners does mean my hair air-dries into a bit of a mess. It’s all natural and lacks all of the sulfites and other stuff that’s supposedly bad for your hair, so while it leaves my hair feeling soft and silky, “soft and silky” on baby-fine hair often = frizzy mess. In that sense, if I wanted to just air-dry my hair without any future styling, I’d be better off sticking with the Goldwell or Moroccan Oil products I use that have the more traditional formulations, because they weigh my hair down more and give me more curl and definition, as well as less frizz. But, since I enjoy styling my hair anyway, I do find that when combined with heat-styling this Oribe stuff is amazing, and in the end my styled hair has less frizz and some really nice wave. Also, I recently added a LOT of blonde highlights to my dark hair, which changed the texture somewhat, and also makes it more necessary to style it than it was when it wasn’t highlighted. Moving on.

I’ve tried a few of the shampoos so far, and here they are:

Oribe Silverati Shampoo and Conditioner

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I got this stuff when I was planning to grow out my gray, and continue to use it at least once a week on my blonde hair now. I don’t know that it really makes my blonde look any blonder, but the highlights haven’t gotten brassy or anything, and there’s a cool factor here because the shampoo and conditioner are both shiny silver instead of the usual purple tint. If this stuff didn’t cost $50 each, I’d dump a bunch of it over my head and take pictures, because it really does look like liquid metal coming out of the bottles.

Oribe Beautiful Color Shampoo and Conditioner

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I also bought this stuff to use on the days I don’t use the Silverati. Both of these lines smell and feel amazing, and do not take much at all to lather up and get to work. Again, they both leave my hair feeling amazingly soft and silky, the only downside being that I must style my hair to add some weight and curl to it since it turns into a little puffball without the usual goop to hold it down. Is it worth the money? I think so – if only because it’s so gentle, it smells amazing, and when used with other styling products (oh, so many styling products in my case) my hair really does turn out great, and continues to look great for 2-3 days after shampooing. With my Goldwell or Moroccan Oil, I can’t stretch a shampoo for three days without looking greasy, but with Oribe I can. So that’s something.

Supershine Moisturizing Cream

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I’ve found that when going full Oribe, products which add moisture are essential for me. My baby-fine hair tends towards looking dry and frizzy, which is interesting, since when using more traditional products with sulfites and other chemicals my hair gets weighed down and greasy, and I tend to have to wash more often. I’d never dream of using so many moisturizing creams and things on my hair before switching to Oribe, but the overall effect is still hair that feels smoother and lighter than when using heavier products. So, this cream is a real must-have for me; I work it into my wet hair right after stepping out of the shower, and can sometimes add a bit to my hair when it’s dry if it looks a bit frizzy.

Oribe Matte Waves Texture Lotion

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Another cream-based product to put into my hair would have sounded insane before Oribe, but here we are. I didn’t get how to use this stuff at first, and combined it with a few other gels which was too much – now, I just put this on after the Moisturizing Cream and scrunch it into my hair and it’s good to go. It doesn’t add a lot of extra texture when air-drying, but I find that it makes my hair very easy to heat-style into waves the next morning and creates a touchable hold that lasts all day.

Split End Seal

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This is the product I’ve been using up the most; it’s a smaller bottle so that has something to do with it, but it’s a great little cream that I like to put just on the ends after heat-styling. I often throw some on them when it’s still wet, too; my chemically-treated hair needs help, y’all, and I do think this cream delivers. I also like that it weighs down the ends of my hair a little, which helps since it’s so fine; the ends of my hair can look stringy even without all the highlights, and anything that adds some weight to them combats that.

Oribe Gold Lust Nourishing Oil

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I was hesitant to commit to this oil at first, still loving my Moroccan Oil as much as I did, but I eventually gave in to the lovely bottle, the great title, and the desire to go full Oribe. It’s an oil. It’s in a lovely bottle. Like everything Oribe, it smells amazing. And in case I haven’t yet mentioned it, my hair is frizzy, y’all, and it loves hair oil. It drinks this shit up. I sometimes dab a bit on, concentrating on the ends, while it’s still wet, sometimes not – but I always apply it last after putting a ton of other products on it after heat-styling. It adds a touch of sheen and weight that makes my hair look and feel silky even though it’s loaded with expensive goop. Good times.

Oribe Balm d’Or Heat Styling Shield

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First of all, aren’t all these bottles just gorgeous? I love to just look at all this crap on my shelves. This was another one of those if-I’m-going-full-Oribe-let’s-really-go-ALL-OUT purchases, but I really ended up preferring it because it’s also a cream, and I feel I can really saturate my strands with it better than the spray form most heat protectants take. Also – and I don’t know why this is – but most sprays I put in my hair end of making it frizzy and dry-looking, including heat-protectant sprays. This stuff doesn’t make my hair crispy or dry at all. And like everything Oribe, I don’t have to use much of it for it to work.

Apres Beach Wave and Shine Spray 

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First of all, another gorgeous bottle! And, this is one of the few sprays from Oribe, or any brand really, that I feel I can actually use. It’s pretty light, and it does what it says it will do, which is add some volume and texture to my waves. I don’t use it when my hair is wet, though, even though the instructions say you can – this just gives me frizz for some reason, so I stick to using it as a finishing spray, after I’ve air-dried, heat-curled, and applied the Split End Seal, but before I use the Anti-Humidity Spray and Gold Lust Oil. I just flip my hair over, spray some on, and scrub it in, and poof – a little added texture and volume. Voila!

Impermeable Anti-Humidity Spray

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If I feel my hair needs it (and living in Houston, Texas, my hair often needs it) I will add this anti-humidity spray to my daily routine. I also keep a small bottle of it in my purse. Unlike the oilier shine spray from Oribe that I tried and did not like, this one smooths out frizz without making my hair look flat and greasy. I don’t use every day, but I use it often enough to know it works to reduce flyaways on high humidity days without dragging my hair down or flattening it out.

OK, so far, everything I’ve discussed is stuff I use regularly – but I’ve also tried out a lot of items that I don’t use as much because they’re either treatments you use less often, stuff I just bought and am still on the fence about, or stuff I just don’t care for. Here we go.

The Cleanse Clarifying Shampoo and Essential Antidote Replenishing Conditioner

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Wow, ladies. This stuff is amazing. I’ve tried a few shampooing/conditioning products by Oribe that don’t even look like shampoos or conditioners – both of these come in cans that look like they would distribute mousse, and in fact both of these have that consistency, more or less. Hell, I don’t even know if they do a good job clarifying or conditioning my hair, but the absolutely luxurious feel of these two products almost makes me not care. The shampoo foams out into a rich, fat-ass lather that actually was WAY more than I needed the first time I used it, so now I know to press that nozzle lightly. Honestly it feels so good I kinda want to lick it after I foam it into my hands; it’s already in a lather as it goes into my hair and overall it just feels (and of course, smells) delicious. It’s also this bizarre silvery, shiny color that matches the bottle, which – how do they do that? It’s amazing.

Then, there’s the conditioner. It also foams out into the palm of your hand, but it feels – I swear to God – like warm honey, and smooths into your hair like butter. So, honey butter for your hair. Need I say any more? I used these both after a major-heavy product-trying day, including one product I seriously over-used to the point that I had a big knot of product at my scalp, and everything rinsed out easily and my hair felt soft and squeaky-clean. Love.

Oribe Bright Blonde Radiance and Repair Treatment

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This is for use in the shower instead of a regular conditioner about once a week; it’s in a pump form, and the treatment is purple-tinted like a lot of blonde treatments are. I didn’t notice anything majorly different about my hair after using this, but my husband did ask me if I’d gotten my hair highlighted any more because it looked blonder after I used it. So, there’s that going for it. It’s fine, but it doesn’t do anything noticeable enough that I would re-purchase it.

Soft Lacquer Heat Styling Spray

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This was the first heat-styling product from Oribe that I tried, and remember what I said about heat protectant sprays leaving my hair dry and frizzy? Yeah, that happened here. When I mentioned to my stylist that I didn’t like this spray because it left my hair feeling crunchy, she laughed and said, ‘Girl, when a product has lacquer in the name it’s gonna be crunchy,” which I probably should have figured out on my own, but whatever. That said – and this is probably going to make me sound a little crazy – I actually do use this product every day, but only on my bangs. Yes, I am very picky about my bangs, so much so that I use a teeny little half-inch flat iron on them every morning to get them just how I like them (otherwise they curl up and I don’t like them) and for some reason, this laquer spray works with the heat to give me perfect bangs every time. Go figure. So yeah, this big old bottle is only used on my bangs and no where else on my head. As is the little flat iron (in fact, I use three different hair irons to style my hair. It’s a process, y’all).

Shine Light Reflecting Spray

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Nope. One of the few utter fails from my Oribe experiment. It just leaves my hair looking and feeling greasy. I kept trying it day after day as a last-minute afterthought, thinking my hair still looked a little too dry, but it never did anything but kill all the good I’d gotten out of the other products and tools I was using. When I discovered I could use the Gold Lust Oil, Moisturizing Cream, or Anti-Humidity Spray and get better results, I was done with this one. Doesn’t even work on the bangs!

Swept Up Volume Powder Spray

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If you’ve ever tried Big Sexy Hair’s powder spray, then you know what this stuff is – I was always a bit amazed at that product, but the application of it eluded me. I’d always end up with this big WAD of that powder in my hair that I couldn’t distribute through it, so I’d have one blob of sticky, weird, volumized hair somewhere random on my head. This feels like the same product, with a catch – it’s a pump so you can spray the powder onto your head instead of coming in a shaker you have to shake onto it. Turns out (go figure) this makes a huge difference, and I can actually spritz a little of the powder onto my scalp to give my hair a boost without feeling like I’ve put glue in it. But be careful – it’s a powerful little spritzer, and if you aren’t prepared for how much powder comes out with one little pump you’ll end up with glue-head again. It kinda sucks to pay so much more for what’s essentially the same as a $10 product, but form factor matters, people, and trying to shake sticky powder into my hair like I’m salting and peppering myself for supper was never gonna work in my favor. So Oribe it is.

Star Glow Styling Wax

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I’ve been a fan of KMS’s Spray Wax for years, as I’ve often used it in lieu of hair spray as a finisher because it’s softer and more malleable, so what could be better than a spray wax but a non-spray wax, because sprays generally don’t work for me? So I decided to give this one a try – it’s described as a “gel-wax” which, whatever, but it is odd – it looks just like honey and is as hard to squeeze out of the tube as honey can be to boot. I’m still not sure what I think of it, because I’ve only used it once and I’d over-used the spray powder already, so it didn’t stand much of a chance once I’d blasted my scalp with glue. But as hard as it is to get out of the tube, I’m not sure how useful it’s going to be. I literally had to crush the damn tube with both hands to get anything to come out, so I’m wondering if I got a defective bottle or something. More on this one later. I got it in the hopes it could add just a bit more texture to my curls, so that’s how I intend to try and use it.

Gel Serum

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This was the first Oribe product I ever tried and it was at least five years ago; it was one of those times I was at a salon checking out, and I realized I needed some hair gel, so my stylist recommended this one and I tossed it onto the counter without looking at the price tag. I was shocked when it ended up costing $65, but I bought it anyway, and that one damn bottle ended up lasting me four years! You don’t need to use much of any Oribe products at all because they’re all highly concentrated, and this is a good, sturdy hair gel with a nice, medium hold that does the job nicely. It was good enough that I did re-purchase it, but I don’t use it every day, only at times when I feel a little added hold is needed. I’ve found the Texture Waves Lotion to be my primary ‘foundation’ styling product, but this gel pairs with it fine when I want a little extra hold. Plus, it literally is loaded with little gold sparkly flecks, if you’re into that.

Curl Gloss

Oribe Curl Gloss

This is another gel that’s fine, and I use it on occasion, but only paired with other products like the Gel Serum or the Texture Lotion. On its own, it’s just too light to really give my hair the hold it needs, but at times I throw it into the mix and it doesn’t hurt anything.

Dry Texturizing Spray

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This stuff gets raves from everyone, but for me it’s just meh. As a texturizer, it’s a little drying for me, and as a dry shampoo it doesn’t tend to make any difference – but dry shampoos have never worked on me that well anyway – because again, it’s a spray.  Out of this one and the Apres Wave spray I tried, I find the Apres Wave is less drying and gives me better volume without frizzing. This is fine, and it hasn’t ever made my hair look awful, and you can read tons of raves about this stuff from other people online, but it isn’t a huge winner in my book.

Maximista Thickening Spray

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Spraying anything into my hair when it’s wet has always been a fail for me, and this one is formulated to be applied to wet hair. It failed.

Volumista Mist for Volume

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Same.

 

OK, so. That’s everything I’ve tried. I didn’t put prices on any of this stuff because it’s all stupidly expensive, and please don’t anyone add up how much I’ve spent on all this crap. I will say, unlike previous hair product obsessions like DevaCurl that I’ve had over the years, I’ve ended up using almost all of the Oribe I’ve purchased on a regular basis, with quite a low number of fails. Most of it I can still use on occasion even if it’s never going to be in regular rotation, and overall I am really impressed even with the things I’ve tried that haven’t worked out. It’s a huge line of products, by the way, and even as much as I’ve experimented with barely scratches the surface of what they offer, so there’s definitely something for everyone – if you’re willing to cough up the cash.

 

 

 

 

Mold Maid

There are so many words that rhyme with ‘mold,’ I had a hard time choosing one for my title. Hope I didn’t disappoint.

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Wearing my ROP Kai in Mocha Brown and what looks like a mop but is actually a sweater

Mold remediation starts on our house tomorrow. I am still staying with my sister, and although I tried the first few days to stop by the house each day for a while, by Wednesday I just couldn’t do it anymore. First of all, my sister doesn’t live nearby, so it was a lot of driving, and with the hacking cough and other allergy symptoms I’ve been dealing with for 7 months finally taking their toll, I just felt too worn down to keep up all the traveling. I even canceled all my tutoring gigs for the rest of the week so I could hide out at my sister’s house and just rest.

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Wearing ROP’s Evanna in Mocha Brown

It seems to be helping. Last night I actually went all night without coughing, and for some reason today I was just ravenous – I ate an ENTIRE PIZZA by myself for lunch and God knows what else. Usually this would be a bad thing, but I haven’t had much of an appetite lately so I took it as a sign that I might be on the mend. My allergies starting giving me hell around 4 PM or so, but given the pollen situation in Houston right now that’s not terribly surprising. Once your immune system starts freaking out due to black mold, it’s gonna be hypersensitive to everything for quite a while, so this is the sort of spring I’m going to get this year, it seems.

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Wearing Rae by ROP in Melted Marshmallow, and Maybelle SuperStay Matte Ink lipstick in Ruler.

If there’s any plus side to all of this, it’s that we’re finally going to fix up some areas of the house that have needed it for years. Our floors have been in terrible need of an update, but we were too cheap and lazy to get it done. Now, we have no choice, so we’re going to pony up the cash and do it right this time, instead of on the cheap like we usually do when it comes to home expenses (because we hate how much this stuff costs). Same for replacing some really old, desperately in need of an update cabinets and painting the walls (and finally removing the ridiculous wallpaper that hasn’t been in style in over 20 years, but again – lazy and cheap). I might actually not mind taking photos or making videos with my house showing instead of the backdrops I always use – but we’ll see about that. I do love my backdrops.

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It’s like I was trying to run away from Rylee but it wouldn’t let me go. Damn, that’s an ugly wig. 

I tried to at least use Rylee and Hudson in some photos, but honestly, those are still two ugly-ass wigs and they didn’t even photograph all that well. And both of them are ready for the trash after one photo session – I have $30 wigs that have outlasted these monstrosities in a photo shoot!

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I had to edit the color of Hudson here, because that Melted Sunset was just too stupid-looking. The lipstick is the Maybelle SuperStay in Ruler. 

After playing around with the Kai and Evanna, though, I’ve actually discovered I like them both better in the Mocha Brown, which was the original color I bought them in. So I guess I didn’t really need to get those two others in the Marble Brown and the Caramel after all. Oh well.

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Evanna in Caramel Brown, and SuperStay Matte Ink in Protector

The only other thing I wanted to mention was discovering the most amazing long-wearing lipstick I’ve EVER tried: Maybelline’s Super Stay Matte Ink. I love the idea of long wearing matte liquid lipsticks, but they are so tricky to wear; I grabbed a tube of this in the Fighter color at the grocery store, mostly just because the packaging was cool and flashy and caught my eye, and it wasn’t expensive so I figured what the hell. As the reviews will tell you, this stuff doesn’t dry as quickly as other liquid mattes; it will stay a little tacky for about ten minutes, which can be annoying but actually lends itself to less dryness even after it finally settles down. I actually don’t mind the tackiness as the dry-factor is my one big complaint about these lipsticks – and OMG y’all. This stuff LASTS FOREVER. Seriously. I put Fighter on the next day around 9 AM, ran errands, ate lunch, tutored three students, drank a coffee on the way home, AND washed my face around 10 PM – and I’m not lying when I tell you that after all that, it was STILL ON MY LIPS without retouching once. Even when I woke up the next morning – IT WAS STILL THERE. Miracle.

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I look insane here and I am not sure why. That’s my real hair, BTW – yes, I ombre’d it to hell and I like it, sorrynotsorry. And I’m wearing the Fighter Matte Ink here – one of my favorite colors.

I have, of course, tried like 10 different colors already, and there’s a handful I really like from the neutrals line (Fighter, Driver, and Seductress are my faves). It’s hands-down (lips-down?) the BEST longwearing liquid lip I’ve ever tried, and I’ve spent some serious coin on longwearing lipsticks over the years! So check it out!

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OK, this about catches me up for now. I’m in a bit of a wig mood since reviewing all those ROPs, but as much as there are some others I’d like to try (damn that Sarah by Jon Renau is tempting) they’re all just too much for me to spend when I don’t wear them out that much. So I will keep an eye on the clearance sales and perhaps snatch something up again soon for a future review. Anyway, time for bed now *cough, cough*

 

 

 

 

Reviews News!

I don’t wear wigs except for fun in photos and on rare occasions out of the house, so the ones I normally buy nowadays are less expensive and far more costume than wigs for daily wear. But I do love the internet equivalent of window-shopping – I will sit in bed at night with my iPad in front of me while I watch TV or listen to an audiobook and scroll, scroll, scroll through the new wig releases from time to time, and honestly, I have not seen much of anything in the way of new wig styles in the past few years that has motivated me to even consider spending my money. Jon Renau, Raquel Welch, Envy, Estetica, or whatever – the styles don’t look all that different from what’s been released in the past, and the colors generally aren’t all that new or exciting, either. But of course, the huge rise in prices over the past five years has a lot to do with that, too – especially when I’m not wearing them full-time anymore.

However:

ROP 2018

Damned if every time Rene of Paris comes out with new styles I don’t want them ALL. Why is this? I think one reason why is because each time ROP comes out with new styles, they also drop at least one or two new cool colors that really think outside the box – like the new color on the Kai (only pic on the bottom row) or the Hudson. And where all I feel like I see when Renau or Welch comes out with new releases is a few long wavy wigs, one bob with bangs, and a few short shags in the same colors that they’ve been pushing for years, I always feel like ROP’s new styles are truly something new. Maybe that’s because the ROP line isn’t nearly as vast as Jon Renau, so there’s less to compare the new styles to, but also, it feels like ROP will release a good mix of styles – a curly one, something long, something short, and at least one that’s just really funky. Or maybe I am a sucker for the more interesting photos they use instead of the same four women in the same four poses in front of a white background, who knows.

Anyway, what is the point of all this? The point is, while browsing around Friday morning as I drank my coffee, I wandered over to Vogue Wigs and these new styles were the first thing I saw. AND O.M.G. I immediately wanted, wanted, WANTED THEM ALL. Yes, these price points are way higher than back in the days when I could easily snag an ROP wig for between sixty to eighty bucks, BUT these retail prices are still significantly below the sticker shock of a $400 Jon Renau synthetic, and as any good online wig-shopper knows, if you search around and wait for sales and/or know where to go, you’re going to snag even a brand new style for a good thirty percent less than Vogue Wigs or Wigs.com is going to sell them. I bought four of these five new styles – every style but the Dakota – and each one was between $160-$170, which I feel is reasonable for a wig with very nice synthetic fiber in a gorgeous color (which ROP really excels at).

So, the point – WIG REVIEWS COMING SOON! I haven’t made any videos in a few years, so they won’t be great or anything, but I will review these when I get them in, because for the first time in years I’m excited about getting some new wig styles. So stay tuned! 🙂

Marey January

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It’s been awhile, huh? First I got a few weeks off, and got really lazy. Then, I went back to work and got ridiculously busy right away. In neither circumstance did I do any blogging, or much picture-taking – not that the ridiculous amount of photos that are in this post are any indication of this.

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I took a fair amount of photos in December, but never got around to sharing them here, or anywhere, for that matter. I keep forgetting to log on to my Flickr account to post photos. Days will go by before I realize I haven’t shared anything anywhere, so a big-ass backlog of photos has piled up. It’s weird to look at it all now, since I haven’t touched a camera in weeks. My schedule has gotten all turned around, because once school started up for my students they all had to change their appointment times around due to extracurricular activities, and everything is flipped and flopped and I’m still not used to the new hours.

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I’ve worked basically from 3-8 Monday through Thursday, with Fridays off and a few appointments on Saturday, for a good solid year now. But all of a sudden, my students are scattered all over the place. Whereas before I saw three kids each evening, now I see two on some nights, only one on others, with no entire days off except for Sunday. And, I’m seeing students in the morning on Saturdays now, which I’ve come to learn that I dislike immensely. I don’t know how I ever taught high school all those years when the first class started at 7:30 AM – right now, I have my first morning appointment at 10 AM, and it’s miserable. Of all the changes I’ve made to my schedule, it’s the morning appointments I dislike the most, and as soon as I get an opportunity I intend to change it so I never start tutoring before 1 PM again.

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I’ve had other scheduling issues in the past that I didn’t like – I don’t mind having several hours between appointments, but getting stuck with, say, one hour between two sessions really sucks, because it’s not enough time to do anything other than sit in my car or drive around aimlessly – so one thing I’ve learned is not to sweat the unpleasantness too much, because my schedule is always changing. I’d say the longest I’ve gone without any changes to my work schedule is three months, so by now, when I run up against a schedule I don’t like, I just suck it up and bear with it until it changes again. So, I’m pretty much doing that now with the Saturday morning thing.

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Also, the weather has been bananas here lately. Just this last week, Houston was hit with temperatures well below freezing for two days in a row (Tuesday and Wednesday), with sleet and snow and roads iced over everywhere. I know people who live in cold climates love to make jokes about how a warm Southern town like Houston shuts down in weather that wouldn’t make anyone blink in, say Boston, but the fact is no one who lives here is equipped for such weather, and our city isn’t well-equipped for it, either. None of us natives have ever seen a snow tire, and we are generally hard-pressed to even buy heavy sweaters, much less coats and warm boots and the like. So yeah, the city was basically shut down on those two days, which are also two of my busiest tutoring days, so I’ve spent the rest of week cramming in all the appointments I missed wherever I could to make up for that. And, get this: it’s now Saturday of the same week where the entire city iced over and froze on Tuesday and Wednesday, and it’s currently about 60 degrees outside. My sinuses don’t even know what to do anymore, and trying to decide whether I need to wear a winter scarf or summer shorts is a daily ritual. Usually I just wear both.

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One thing I’ll mention about my photos: I’ve made a conscious decision to use less Photoshop on my portraits. Don’t get it twisted – I still use a lot of Photoshop, but I’ve really backed off the portrait editing software that can alter my face shape. It was fun for quite a while to try to make myself look as different as possible, but the thrill of that has worn off for me now that I’ve basically pushed that as far as I can, and I’ve dialed it way back. I still love to add makeup and I do still even out my skin tone and smooth it a bit, but I’m doing a lot less in that department than I was doing for a while. Obviously I’m still using wigs and makeup, though – that’s probably never gonna change.

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Speaking of wigs/hair, I was considering growing out my gray hair for a minute there, but I abandoned that idea and got some ombre-ish highlights put back in. I wanted more of a contrast than I’ve had before, so my stylist kept the base color quite dark and close to my natural color, then worked in some very blonde ‘panels’ underneath the base color and on the ends. I really like the look, but in my current state of laziness I haven’t taken any pictures of it except for a few crappy iPhone photos. I also got about an inch cut off – the first time I’ve taken off any length in several years – because I really felt like the ends were getting scraggly, and I wanted to get a really blunt cut. For the most part, I’ve been planning to let my hair get as long as possible, since I’ve never had long hair before and I thought having hair down to my waist would be amazing, but lately I’ve been noticing that it’s about as long as it needs to get right now. In fact, the longer it got, the scragglier and thinner it was starting to look, and too much length doesn’t do my long face any favors, either. So, I figured losing a little bit would give it some much-needed bounce, and I plan to keep this length for the foreseeable future. I’ve also been slowly going heavier with my bangs each time I get them trimmed, but keeping them pretty short, and I’m really liking the look right now, even though I lost enough length that pulling it up into a bun is a little tricky now.

Photo Jan 12, 8 41 23 AM

I am also on a big Oribe product kick. I’m still trying out a lot of the line although I’ve used one particular Oribe gel for years; I am not far enough into my experimentation to write about it, but I am determined to make this stuff work for me because the price is ridiculous. I’m impressed with the shampoo I’ve been using so far; it definitely is luxurious and makes my hair silky smooth, but the problem is that my hair is so baby-fine that silky smooth also = flat as hell. So I’m trying out some volumizing styling products to see if I can’t get a good system going with this stuff. We shall see. But I will say, if you have thick or coarse hair and you struggle with frizz or dryness, Oribe shampoo and conditioner just might be worth the money for you. It smooths out my hair so much that even when air-drying (which is all I do anymore) my hair turns out almost straight. Even five years ago I would have loved this, but I am really into wearing my hair wavy now, so it just isn’t floating my boat at the moment.

oribe

So maybe at some point I’ll write up a review of everything I’ve tried and what I think about it all. But for now, I’ve got to wrap this up and get to bed, since I have yet another round of early morning tutoring to do – still making up all the sessions I missed during our two-day winter of 2018.

 

Well Red

Recently I’ve been playing around with my makeup. A lot. In fact, every morning I watch CNN in my bathroom and spend about an hour viewing YouTube videos and learning how to apply my makeup better or style my hair differently. It’s actually become a fun part of my morning routine, and for someone who has NEVER had any skill at makeup application, well, I guess finally figuring it out at age 48 is better than never learning at all. I know it’s not time spent making the world a better place or anything, but it puts me in a much better mood for the day, which certainly isn’t making the world worse. So there you go.

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Some of the cool things I’ve learned recently are how to effectively apply winged liquid eyeliner (the key: pull the eyelid way out and extend the line so far out that it looks ridiculous, because when you let go of the lid it will just barely extend past the outer corner of your eye and look amazing) and how to apply a fairly decent red lip (still working on this one, actually). In fact, on my recent trip to my local MAC counter to pick up a few more bright lipsticks, blushes, and shadows, the makeup artist actually complimented the eyeshadow I’d meticulously applied that morning, and having never, EVER been complimented on my makeup application before, that thrilled me to a ridiculous degree.

closeup shawl

Now, before you get too confused, keep in mind that most of the makeup I have on in my photos has been Photoshopped to perfect all the blending and application flaws I always make. My general method is to apply a ton more makeup than usual, just so it all shows up, and then pull it all together when editing. And as much as I love using bright colors for my photos, in real life I’ve never, EVER worn anything other than neutral makeup shades. I’ve tried on occasion, but always felt terribly overdone with a bright red lip or a multi-colored eyeshadow trio on my lids. My general palette for the past 15-20 years has basically been neutral, golden browns on my eyes, cheeks, and lips, with foundation and powder – period. But, it’s finally happened – my skin has reached that stage where it really does call for more color, and all those neutrals were starting to wash me out. Not only that, but they were also starting to bore me, and lately I’ve been wanting to have way more fun with my face. So, here I am.

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I’m also loving my new pink backdrop! It was pricey, but worth every penny.

Aside from some of the nice, bright eye shadows and blushes I’ve purchased to pop up my look, I’ve become obsessed with getting a good red lip game going. And, in typical fashion, I’ve attacked this by over-purchasing makeup products and then taking pictures of all the new shades to justify the ridiculous expense. So, lucky you – you now get to scroll through photos of NINE of the TWELVE different red lipsticks I’ve purchased over the past two weeks! Why only nine, you ask? Well, because three of the colors just didn’t photograph well for various reasons. Being me, I couldn’t just quickly take photos of all the different lipstick shades while wearing the same outfit, because that would be boring, so I made a costume change with each new color, and in one of them I wore a blue top that made me look washed out and horrible (I’ve discovered quite recently that blue just isn’t my color, but sometimes I still forget). In another one, the outfit was a mess because after about the seventh costume change I was starting to run out of ideas, and the third color went bad because, after applying and then wiping off eleven different red lipsticks, most of which were a long-wearing liquid formula, my entire mouth and chin were a disaster. On the plus side, I currently have the most exfoliated lips in history. But I digress.

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Because I actually have never gotten much into makeup and I get easily overwhelmed by the limitless array of choices available, I tend to stick to the two or three brands I know well when it comes to trying new things. I may venture out a little when I feel the need to change my foundation or some other more fundamental product (and I did, actually, change my base recently as well; I figured if I was going to change things I might as well go for broke – I went with Chanel’s Ultrawear Flawless Foundation, but I’m not wearing it in these pics because I have special, heavy-duty foundation I use for photos) so the only two lipstick lines I tried here were by MAC and Lime Crime. I’ve worn MAC since my 20s, and all my blush and eyeshadow still comes from them even though I moved on from their foundation long ago; and I’ve always liked Lime Crime’s aesthetic even though they’re more outrageous than I’ve ever worn in public – I’ve been wearing their lipsticks and shadows in my photos for years. I’ve always liked both of their long-wearing liquid lipsticks, but always took issue with the more neutral colors from both lines. In fact, I’ve always found neutral long-wearing formulations problematic; while the brighter colors maintain their pop in long-wearing lipsticks, I feel like the neutrals just go flat and gray and muddy on my lips. The only one I’ve ever liked is one I found about a year ago – Kylie Jenner’s King K (see photo above) – and it’s still my favorite neutral lip in the world which is why I have about ten unopened tubes of it in my lipstick drawer; I want to have it on-hand forever (it’s currently sold out and I don’t know if they will be re-stocking it).  And it’s still the color I wear when working; I tried wearing a bright red lip ONCE to my tutoring sessions, and when I got home in the evening after my three tutoring sessions and looked in the mirror, I was mortified. At some point while teaching and talking and driving from place to place, without any real time to look in a mirror or touch up  my makeup, that bright red had slipped completely off my lips and settled into my chin as well as my upper lip, leaving only a weird, dark red line outlining my cupid’s bow. I hate to say it, but my first thought when I saw my reflection was that I looked like I’d had a quickie in my car between sessions; it was THAT bad. I looked insane. So, I’ve never worn a red lip to a tutoring session again. But I digress again – let’s get on to the lipsticks!

#1: Psycho by Lime Crime (Velveteen long-wearing liquid)

psycho

I played around with my eyeshadow and skin tone as I always do in these photos – but I do want to point out that I left the lipstick colors alone, so they should be pretty true to how they really look. 

One of my issues with red lipstick has always been that, on me, it always seems to turn pink when I put it on, even if it doesn’t look like it has blue undertones in the tube. So, I was careful to stay away from shades that had any sort of blue or pink in the color descriptions. Psycho, however, is about as far away from a blue undertone as I could go – it’s pretty much flat-out orange, and in real life it’s too bright to work for every day. But it’s fun, and it will work for photos, and I can see wanting to wear it every once in a while. I knew this one was a longshot when I bought it, but as with all the lipsticks I tried I got it during the Black Friday sales so I was feeling more adventurous due to the added savings.

Oh and speaking of Black Friday sales, the reason I am just now getting these colors reviewed for you when I bought them two weeks ago is because UPS had a complete meltdown after Black Friday, and took forever to deliver my packages. Here’s just one little snapshot of the sort of insanity they had going on while I waited, fairly impatiently, for my deliveries (keep in mind this is the tracking for just ONE package; I had three that were lost in the UPS loop for days and days):

UPS

Allow me to explain.

First of all, I ship most of my packages to a shipping business that rents mailboxes; usually shipments to a business will arrive way earlier in the day than shipments to a residence, and I like knowing when a shipment is out for delivery that I will get it by 3:30 instead of at 8 PM (even if it means I have to drive up to my mailbox to get it). I also like that if something needs to be signed for, I don’t have to worry about it, because there’s always someone at my mailbox who will sign for it. So, that first reschedule above was legit, because the business was closed the day after Thanksgiving. After that, though, things just got ridiculous. There actually was NOT an adult signature required for this stuff, because IT WAS A BOX OF MAKEUP, and MAC has never required signatures on anything. So that was just a flat-out UPS lie. Then I got the dreaded “due to operating conditions” update, where “operating conditions” means “untrained, inept, and overwhelmed UPS drivers.” Then, it just goes Out For Delivery for a few days in a row without ever showing up, then it was back to requiring an adult signature again…you get the idea. Also, make note of the times of those delivery attempts – 9:42 PM, 9:35 PM, 7:55 PM. The office where I rent my mailbox closes at 6:00, and is supposed to have a shipment guarantee with UPS that all shipments will arrive by 3:30. Sigh.

Anyway, on to Lipstick #2, which is: Red Velvet by Lime Crime (Velveteen long-wearing liquid)red velvet

This is one of those reds that went pink on me; it’s described on the website as “reddest red,” which I figured probably meant it would be a blue-red, and I was right. However, I Googled all these lipstick shades before I bought them, and overall I did love the way it looked on other people, so even though I knew it was a longshot I figured I’d give it a go (what can I say – probably the Black Friday sales getting the best of me again). It’s pretty, but definitely no orange undertones in this one that makes it too pinky for my taste. It’s really too bad that in my frustration waiting for my wayward shipment with this color in it to arrive, I actually went online and placed a second order from another website in the hopes I’d get it sooner (or actually get it at all,  because I was pretty convinced that the shipment had actually been lost and was never going to arrive), because now I have two. Moving on.

Lipstick #3: Pumpkin by Lime Crime (Velveteen long-wearing liquid)

pumpkin

Ah, Pumpkin. I really like this one. It’s orange, but not bright, and in more of a brick-red kind of way, so it works as a neutral red I can wear with all my neutral-toned clothes in tan and gray (I’m also working on incorporating more color into my wardrobe, but hey, let’s take this one expensive step at a time, OK?). By the way, this is probably a good time to talk about the formulation of Lime Crime’s Velveteens (the name of their long-wearing liquid lipstick line). As with all long-wearing lipsticks, these are quite dry, and in fact I find them drier than the MAC Liquid Matte lipsticks I tried. And I will say it was a Lime Crime lipstick I was wearing the night of my disastrous red-lip tutoring fiasco, so, there’s that. But, I wouldn’t say Lime Crime’s formulation is the driest I’ve ever tried, or is so dry it’s unwearable. I think it’s more that the MAC formulation is less dry than the others I’ve worn, and Lime Crime’s are the usual amount of dry, if that makes sense. I purchased MAC’s Lip Primer as an afterthought and have been wearing it underneath all of these the past few days, and I do think it helps a little, but dryness is just part of the deal with all of these matte, long-wearing, liquid lipstick lines. And although Lime Crime didn’t survive one of my marathon tutoring sessions, the truth is, nothing else I ever wear makes it through five hours of teaching, talking, and driving – not even my stand-by, still-loved King K. When I’ve worn Lime Crime out of the house for anything else, like shopping, or visiting friends, it’s held up just fine. So there you go. And while we’re at it, I might as well finish up the Lime Crime lineup all at once, so on to the last one of that batch. This one also happens to be my favorite lipstick of them all!

Lipstick #4: New Americana by Lime Crime (Velveteen long-wearing liquid)

new americana

I. Love. This. Lipstick. 

As far as colors go, this one wins, hands-down. The color is GORGEOUS. It’s very bright, but since it maintains the orange undertone I love so much instead of leaning pink, it really makes me happy.  I have to say, if I were ranking these lipsticks, I would knock off half a star because I know the MAC formulation isn’t quite as dry, and dryness is my one tiny complaint about this one. But I think if I tried to wear something this bright and red in a non-longwearing formula, I would be a mess within twenty minutes, so overall this is a big win. As long as I get it applied right, and have time throughout the day to check myself in the mirror and touch it up now and then, it doesn’t end up all over everything (although you’ll still see some of it on your coffee cup) and stays in place. And the rich, red color is really stunning.

Which wraps up our Lime Crime reviews, and as we move on to MAC I’ll start with the red from them that I think is closest to New Americana.

Lipstick #5: Fashion Legacy by MAC (liquid matte)fashion legacy

Fashion Legacy is from MAC’s Liquid Matte line of longwearing lipsticks, and as I already mentioned, these are a little more moisturizing than Lime Crime’s Velveteens. That said, I notice a bit more color transfer onto my coffee cup with these, but they can still endure a lunch date while maintaining most of their color by the end of the meal. Fashion Legacy has the same nice, rich brightness of LC’s New Americana, but as you can see it’s also a bit more pink. Honestly, I didn’t really notice the difference all that much until I put these two pictures side by side, and Fashion Legacy can probably do anything New Americana do – but it doesn’t do it any better, to quote the song. So, this is a great one to wear if for some reason I’m wanting my lips to be more moisturized than they would be with Lime Crime’s version, and for that reason I’ll give this one four and a quarter stars (I’ve got to give New Americana my highest marks, even if it is just slightly).

Lipstick #6: Quite the Standout by MAC (liquid matte)quite the standout

Look out Westworld! I chose the black hat. 

I like this one. It’s a great orange-red, nowhere near as bright as LC’s Psycho but much more so than the brick-ness of their Pumpkin. I will get a lot of wear out of this one, even though it doesn’t make my heart go pitter-pat like New Americana does – and by the way, how great are all of these names? I even love just saying “New Americana” over and over. Quite the Standout? Fashion Legacy? All so much more lovely than the $60 Chanel foundation I just bought in “Color 40.” And speaking of names…

Lipstick #7: Lady Danger by MAC (matte lipstick – non-liquid)

lady danger

Lady Danger – how’s that for a great lipstick name? This one is one of the handful of non-liquid, non-longwear ones I tried; I thought maybe I could make a more moisturizing red lipstick work on tutoring days without coming home looking insane, but I haven’t tried it yet. I do like this color, even though I can’t tell much difference between it and Quite the Standout aside from perhaps a touch of coral in this one; since I really like how Standout looks on, what I may do is carry this one with me when wearing Quite the Standout out of the house as I could use it to moisturize my lips while adding some color if they get too dry. I don’t know; I’m really not sure why I bought this one other than to try out some non-liquid reds while I was on my Black Friday lipstick-shopping kick. I tried a few others that aren’t so entirely similar to something I already had in liquid form, but a few of them were in the batch of photos that didn’t work out, so I don’t have anything to show of them yet.

Lipstick #8: To Matte With Love (MAC Liquid Matte)to matte with love

That’s right, you guys – I even tried a pink. Me, in PINK. In a PINK LIPSTICK, y’all. Me, who never ever even wore pink in high school in the eighties, when pink lipstick was basically the only available color in the drugstore. I figured if I was trying out new things, I might as well try a pink or two, and again – BLACK FRIDAY SALE MADNESS. Plus, this one looked quite pretty and not obnoxious at all, and I actually quite like it. Not sure how much I’ll wear this one, but since I also bought some bright, deep pink eyeshadow and an awesome bright lime green, I could see putting that all together and making it work.

OK, last one for now, and it’s not all that thrilling, quite honestly:

Lipstick #9: Dangerous (MAC matte)dangerous

Why do I look so much like Jared Leto here?

First of all, this is the last lipstick I photographed, and it really shows. By this time, all the scraping and wiping I did on my lips had taken its toll; you can see how much the other colors had kind of faded into the skin around my lips here. Plus, Dangerous really doesn’t have much pigmentation at all; I think it’s buildable if you want more depth, but on its own it is rather sheer. This isn’t a bad thing, but because of that it looks more coral on me than I’d like, and I feel it’s an odd color for such a sheer formulation. For now I don’t feel like I have any real use for this one, but who knows. It might grow on me.

So at last we reach the end of this massive lipstick post. Keep in mind I still have three other shades I didn’t even review! Which one of these did you like best? Do you agree with my #1 winner, or do you like another one better? Let me know in the comments, or don’t, it’s up to you. But if you made it to the end of all of this madness, at least drop me a line in the comments and say hi, so I can thank you for your dedication. 🙂

Thanksliving

pennyyyy

Penny says hello

The past few weeks have been a bit of a stressful blur – I went from having 4 clients to 11 in three weeks’ time, and adjusting to the added workload took a while. Once I had a chance to step back and look at my schedule, though, I found some ways to make things flow more easily from day to day, and that helped. I went through a period of time where I was getting phone calls from interested parents daily (after a round of report cards went out, apparently, and people started to panic), and I ended up just slapping them onto my schedule wherever I could fit them. Going from tutoring two kids per day to three doesn’t sound like a big adjustment, but when you factor in drive time between sessions (I don’t have an office and meeting at libraries isn’t my first choice because they get so crowded out here) I went from working between 3:30 and 6:30 each day to not getting home until around 8:30 PM, which is a pretty big change. Add to that the fact that daylight savings time ended right as my schedule was starting to fill, and I ended up feeling pretty tired and out of sorts while I tried to manage all the new students.

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Simon is not bothered, though.

One thing I was able to do after the dust settled was look at my new schedule and find ways to maximize my time. For example, I’d ended up tutoring two kids who lived just a few blocks from each other, but I wasn’t seeing them on the same day. And somehow I ended up scheduling myself an hour break between two of my sessions, which, when you don’t have an office, ends up being just enough time to get restless and irritable between sessions, but not enough time to do anything about it other than sit in your car and check your phone. So, I moved some students around and re-arranged some of my session times to make my schedule more manageable. I’m still getting used to driving around for my last two sessions of the day in the dark, which still feels odd, but the days will start lengthening out soon enough, and it’s starting to feel more normal now than it did when all of the this started up a few weeks ago.

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A few weeks ago I got in two new photography tools that I was excited to work with: one was a pink popup backdrop that was rather pricey – pink isn’t a very popular color for these backdrops, so I did end up paying quite a bit for this one – and the other was a fairly inexpensive ring light for portraits. Unfortunately, the ring light turned out to be more challenging than I remembered it being  -I had a cheaper one years ago that could only be used when attached to my camera, and it broke after a few months of use – and my first pics with the pink backdrop didn’t turn out as good as I’d hoped they would because I was also trying to figure out the best way to use the ring light at the same time. But, I did manage to get a few good ones, which I’ve shared above.

Photo Nov 02, 1 28 33 PM

A REALLY RARE decent selfie I took with my phone

I’ve been trying to be active on Instagram again since leaving Facebook, but I completely SUCK at phone selfies, and I was hoping the ring light would help with that. Here, it worked out great, and this was a real one-off, barely-planned photo, so I had high hopes it would always be this easy to use. But so far, that’s not how it’s going. Yes, it creates a lovely catchlight in the eyes, which is one of the main reasons it is used for portraits, and if you get it just right it can also create a lovely halo of light on the face, BUT for me that’s turned out to be trickier than I imagined, and I’m still not sure how best to use it to get this effect every time. Another issue seems to be that to get this effect you have to be VERY close to it (and therefore, the camera) and I don’t do a lot of super close-up photos since I like to show the hair/wigs and usually the head and shoulders to show off an outfit. You can see in the pink backdrop collage above how the shots where I’m closer to the camera worked better than those where I wasn’t, and even then, the ring light blasts out a lot of the nice soft shadows I like my portraits to have. So, I’m still working on how to use this thing best, and it may not end up being a big part of my normal shooting gear. Fortunately this one wasn’t expensive either, although I did spend more on it than on the previous one (around $80).

collage_insta2

So anyway, about those Instagram selfies. What I’ve done so far is use one of my DSLRs to take the selfies, then use Instagram’s filters to edit them before uploading. It’s not totally in the spirit of IG, but my iPhone selfies are literally the worst I’ve even seen and I just don’t have the skill to improve them – they have always been horrible with the exception of that ONE ring light photo. For the most part, though, even though I am still taking these shots with a DSLR, I do them quickly, with whatever amount of makeup  I have on at the moment, and wearing my own hair and pretty regular clothes and standing wherever I happen to be standing at the time. So, they are still way more ‘candid’ than the stuff I post on Flickr.

collage_insta

All of these were taken around the house

I am hoping that through Instagram I can also get back into photographing outfits and fashion-y shots like that. But I’m SO picky about them that we will have to see how that goes. Using a DSLR instead of my phone already ups the amount of time photos take to shoot, and since I really prefer the full length shots to have good lighting that would require even more prep time, which isn’t really in the spirit of what I’m doing. I’m going for another photography avenue that can be more spontaneous and take less time, and even though I think I’ve found a way to do it with portraits and still be happy with the results, it remains to be seen if I can pull that off with full length photos.

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Another random thing this photo makes me think to mention: the last time I went to get my bangs trimmed, I had my stylist cut them blunt and without thinning them out or making them look piece-y. I felt that a heavier bang might look better and so far, I am liking the results, although they still need to fill in a bit. Then, once I started playing around with hair looks and got my new cat-eye glasses in (from Zenni, of course) I started playing around with my makeup to create a more Rockabilly vibe (my new favorite thing to do, since I have the time in the morning, is to shut myself in my bathroom for an hour, watch CNN, and play around with my makeup and my hair). In order to do this, I’ve gotten into really pigmented, colorful lipsticks – something I have never done before. As much as I’ve always loved the look of a dark or bright red lip, I never EVER felt comfortable wearing it myself. My lips are quite thin, first of all, and the darker or brighter a lip color is the thinner the lips will look. But it’s more than that – for all the talk of how women over ‘a certain age’ shouldn’t wear bright red lips, I am actually finding that I really LIKE wearing it for all the exact same reasons the fashion industry says more mature women shouldn’t. To put it another way – I really do think it ‘ages’ me – but in a way I really like! I do think I look older in a dark or bright lip color as opposed to something pale and neutral, but in an “I’ve earned the right to wear this” way and not in an “I shouldn’t be wearing this” kind of way. To me, it looks really sassy, confident, and yes, mature – so I’m having lots of fun with that right now.

Anyway, Happy Thanksgiving to those of you that will celebrate it this week. I am looking forward to slowing down and catching my breath since I only have two students to tutor, then it’s off on the mad dash to the winter holidays!

Oh, and if any of you want to follow me on Instagram, this is me: Instagram. Just don’t be an asshole or I’ll block you.

 

Free (People) Spree

Since getting off Facebook, I’ve gotten back onto Instagram and been finding other ways and places to share my photos.

trucker cords

One thing I decided to try was participating in Free People’s “community” they have on their website. I used to upload photos of the things I bought from ModCloth years ago, but I was still teaching back then and when some of my students recognized my photos on the site I got nervous and took everything down. I never liked having my students view my photography, but I don’t have to worry about that anymore. And since I no longer shop at ModCloth (does it even exist anymore?) and buy pretty much everything I wear at Free People, I decided to get back into the swing of taking photos of my outfits and try uploading them there.

cardigan

I’ve also been playing around with the new portrait editing software I purchased when Portrait Pro bit the dust. The demise of PP turned out to be short-lived; miraculously someone DID respond to my help ticket, and within a few days of losing it I had it back again. In the time I’d gone without, though, I’d started using a program by CyberLink called Makeup Director that is pretty damn cool. So, now I’m using it combined with Portrait Pro to get some really nice results – although I’m still learning, and my first few attempts came out a bit heavy-handed.

Cobalt Set

I’d pretty much stopped taking full-length shots entirely because over time I became so disappointed in the results. The truth is, my studio space is SO SMALL that I really must use a wide-angle lens to get my whole body into a shot, and wide-angle lenses are really the WORST for portrait work of any kind, even full-length shots. But, if there’s one thing that is consistent about photography, it’s that at least 50% of it is learning how to make do with what you’ve got to work with, because the absolute ideal setting almost never happens, so I decided to accept the fact that I had to use a wide angle lens and read up on shooting full-length fashion shots and use all the tricks that I could to make up for the ones I couldn’t.

Baggy Sweat 2

The biggest changes I made from how I used to shoot full length shots was with my lighting. After much reading and researching, I decided to layer my two umbrella lights one over the other, so both of them were positioned on one side of me and angled towards me at about a 45 degree angle. My usual lighting setup would have one umbrella stand aimed at me from either side, but putting them both on the same side not only created more shadows to add detail, it also ensured more even lighting from head to toe without having heavy light falloff starting from about the knees down.

lights

Kind of like this.

Then, I took a third umbrella light and moved it directly off to my other side, and aimed it at the backdrop. I’d never heard of this before, but the information I read claimed it would help to distance or ‘separate’ me from the background, and once I saw the results of doing this I understood what that meant.

Pink Tunic

Even though I’m up against a solid background, I definitely see more depth in these shots than previous full body photos I’ve taken – the flatness of those was what really started to turn me off even trying to take them. There definitely is some separation here, I think, between myself and the background. At least, it feels more dimensional to me.

pleats

I just LOVE a good baggy pant! Although technically these are jeans. 

I also made sure to stand as far away from the backdrop as I could – not easy to do, because again, my space is really really tiny, and I couldn’t get as far away from it as was recommended at all, but even the little bit I did helped. I do have a bad habit of squashing myself right up against my backgrounds (again, because TINY STUDIO) but I stuck a rock on the floor as a marker to remind myself to move up a little.

corset dress

That corset top is technically a mini-dress, but I honestly don’t know anyone who could (or should) wear it as one.

Now by this time, I’m sure you’re thinking why does she keep saying these are full length shots when clearly they are cut off right below her knees? Well, that’s because I actually took full-length shots, but had to crop them because I was lazy and used my gray popup backdrop rather than my really long muslin one that actually covers the floor. I did that because I actually got started on these photos rather late in the day, the muslin is much more time-consuming to set up, and I really didn’t expect to like these photos at all anyway so I didn’t bother with it. And even though my popup reaches the floor, it doesn’t cover it, so the effect of a solid gray background is completely lost when you can clearly see that I’m standing on ugly-ass carpet. So yeah, I cut them all off to conceal the floor. But when I really wanted to show the pants I was wearing for some reason (above it was for the wide flare leg, and below, it was to show how the pants cinch in at the ankles), well, I just contorted myself into shapes on a stool that made it work:

no joke 1

How to cram your whole body into a shot when it really doesn’t fit in the frame. I’m pretty sure I fell over right after the flash went off.

Here’s the thing though: I uploaded these to the Free People site several days ago, and they’re still awaiting approval. I think, like Instagram, what they really want is mobile phone photos and not studio stuff, so I’m wondering if they are going to reject them all. I’ll be bummed if that happens, but in the end I’m glad I gave this a whirl anyway. I’m pleased with how the shots turned out, and I learned a lot more about how to take these kinds of photos properly, which is always a good thing. Learning is fun, kids!

kingsley

Remember what I said about baggy pants? Yep, I love ’em. 

October Surprise

Man, it has been awhile since I last posted – almost a month – but things suddenly kicked into gear a few weeks ago, and it’s been a bit of a blur ever since. Tons of pictures to share as I babble on, so let’s get to it.

justme1Someone challenged me on Flickr to post a ‘just me’ photo without makeup or a wig. I didn’t do it – I actually have a TON of foundation, contour, and highlighter on in this photo, and yes I did edit it – but this is as close as I’ll ever get to a truly ‘naked’ portrait (I was actually just test shooting my lighting here).

A few weeks after Harvey, my business phone starting ringing like crazy. I have picked up FIVE new clients in the past three weeks! I am now at 10 students whom I tutor, and have had to start turning people away or referring them to other tutors. I really didn’t do anything differently this fall to promote myself, but two of my new clients are referrals from parents whose kids I am already tutoring. I also think those two weeks students had off while districts in the area dealt with the aftermath of Harvey (many schools functioned as shelters and it took time to prepare for the return of students, plus schools that were damaged by the floods had to figure out where to send them) threw everyone off, and grades are low as a result. On a psychological level, I am so much more confident this year than last that I think that has to be vibing out into the atmosphere in some way; I know last year I often stumbled when I felt I had to ‘sell’ my services to a parent, whereas now I just do what I know works without feeling nervous. It’s a good place to be.

befriI found this shirt at Goodwill, and I can’t help but wonder what happened to the other half!

Most of my clients are for English tutoring still, which is actually fine as I enjoy it now. They’re mostly middle-school students, for some reason, which is age 11-13 here in the US, but I also tutor one fourth grader, one ninth grader, and a high school junior as well. The student I coached over the summer and had such a hard time with (as far as feeling like what I was doing was actually helping) has texted me several times since his new school year started to update me on his progress – he made all As and Bs on his first report card, which is a HUGE improvement over his grades last year. That has really given me the confidence boost I need in relation to that aspect of my business. I am now coaching another high school freshman, and am meeting with a potential coaching client this afternoon; it’s fun work to do so I am still hoping to build up that side of the business as well.

candacetamhair

I often get comments questioning why my ‘job’ isn’t photography instead of tutoring, but let me reiterate that I really enjoy teaching and consider it the best work I can do. And honestly, a “busy” working day for me involves tutoring for three hours, tops. Houston is very spread out and most of my clients do not live near me, and since I drive to their homes or a nearby library I do put in another hour of drive time each day, easy, but I really don’t mind that. Having grown up here, driving is a part of life and I am used to it; plus, I have always enjoyed getting out and taking a drive. Since aside from my tutoring I’m pretty much a homebody, it gets me out of the house and helps me feel like I am still a part of the world. Plus this one particular drive I make several times a week is actually a nice, pretty drive, which helps.

hairnet1This wig is called a ‘bump’ wig; Paula Young came out with this line years ago that literally has a pouch in the crown that closes with a snap! It came with a little foam piece that you were supposed to tuck into the pouch and snap closed for extra height, but of course I had to shove as much wadded up newspaper as possible in there to see how high I could get it. 

On the photography front, I hadn’t taken many photos at all since Harvey. In what at least felt like an unrelated decision, I took myself off of Facebook for various reasons, and almost immediately  began taking photos again. I also got back to being active on Flickr, which hasn’t been the case for well over a year now. I’m assuming these things are related, somehow; I do think it got so easy for me to load a photo to Facebook and get so much feedback that contributing on Flickr lost its panache, and while I do miss getting to share my photos with my friends there, cutting some social media out of my life for now has had more benefits than drawbacks, so I’m sticking with the decision. Interacting with other photographers, I think, is important to me, and Facebook had a tendency to make me feel like I was doing so much more than I actually was – not just in the photography arena, but in other ways as well. And I admit that social media is freaking me out more and more every day I read about how American voters were manipulated during this last election. My biggest concern is how easily Russia got us all to turn on each other – pitting opposing sides against each other by playing to our worst instincts, fears, and prejudices. I was as susceptible to this as anyone – understanding that people I  may have fought with in comment sections weren’t even real people but foreign agents just trying to get me to feel hatred for conservatives was the nail in my Facebook coffin. I do not want to be manipulated into hating other people, and I’d gotten to a point where at least 50% of the time I spent on Facebook I felt pissed at someone or something. So, I’m done with that.

dred leopard

So, as I said, I almost immediately started taking more photos, and getting active on Flickr again (and hopefully, keeping up better with the blog). I had a marathon photo session last Sunday; on Saturday I went to Goodwill and purchased 5 or 6 tops to use, then spent Saturday night planning out what wigs, accessories, and makeup to wear for each one. Then I pulled it all together that night, so I could just get up in the morning and get started. I do not usually do this – in fact, I usually take photos when I wake up with the urge to do it; I rarely plan things out in the detail that I did this last shoot. It made for a really long day of shooting, and by the end I was pretty bored, but my goal was to get as many looks as I could out of the stuff I’d bought and have lots of different looks to work with when I edited the shots – when I only do 3-4 looks per shoot, I get bored with them all quickly and then run out of stuff to process.

whitecurly1

Something I have done a few times before is start off with a ‘naked’ face – which really just means all the foundation, highlighter, and contouring is done but I haven’t added any color (except a  nude lipstick). Then I figure out which costume would work best with a neutral face and take those shots, figuring I can always add makeup later in post if I want (although I’ve hit a snag in that area that I will discuss later). That huge necklace came from Banana Republic; I bought it at least a decade ago, and at some point had loaned it, and a ton of other accessories, to my sister-in-law for a party where they wanted to have a photo booth. I totally forgot about all of that stuff until she returned it to me a month ago – they were moving and came across two bags of old wigs and accessories they’d forgotten they had, and she gave them back to me. Most of the wigs were already shot before I gave them to her to use, so I pitched all but a few of ’em, but the accessories made it into a lot of these shots because they were all pretty cool, and I’d totally forgotten about them.

windsongMy face was ‘naked’ in this shot, too – I added the makeup using Portrait Pro.

So back to the makeup: for my second costume change, I will add a little more makeup for a slightly different face to work with later. Again, this is easier to do when I plan in advance, so I can be sure the makeup, or lack thereof, will work with the costume and not be a problem later.

lipsandhearts1Actually, all I’d added as far as makeup for this costume change was blush, a brighter lipstick, and mascara; the eyeshadow was added in post. And yeah, that necklace is one that was in the bag of goodies my SIL returned to me. It was broken before I loaned it to her, so I had to just wrap it around my neck. And the other hearts are cheesy, but I couldn’t resist them. 

I think you get the idea now for what happens  next, and next, and next. With each costume change, I just keep adding makeup until the end of the shoot. It certainly does make for a greater variety of photos to work with later – I took almost 600 this day, which I haven’t done in a long time.

leopardyThis is one of the returned wigs that I kept. Also, I think those glasses were originally from a cheap Halloween costume I bought on sale after October 31st at a grocery store. They’re actually vinyl and really floppy. The top was actually a dress that was too small for me, so I cut the skirt part off to be able to get it on! 

The tops I found were amazing, and taking the time to even plan which backdrops to use was helpful. It made for a lot less thinking during shooting, and a lot more posing, and things went really smoothly even though it took a long time having to stop between costumes and apply more makeup and change backdrops. I even got use out of that pastel one that I almost never use, because it has never really worked with anything I’ve used it for in the past. This time, it was perfection with some of the brighter colors.

orangewif

Now for the problematic bit: Just this past week, my most-used Photoshop plugin, my beloved Portrait Pro, started crapping out on me midway through working on a photo. I’d just “upgraded” (I put that in quotes because even though I already owned a previous version of the software, I had to pay full price for what they called an ‘upgrade’) to their newest version, which is fantastic – it has a sharpening tool within the skin softening category that solves the issue of skin looking ‘too soft’ perfectly – so at first I thought it was a problem with the upgrade. But then, it started happening with a few of my other plug-ins too. The oddest part was how it would happen out of nowhere, sometimes right after I’d just used the program and attempted to access it again.

hailey1Yep, another prop returned to me by the SIL; the nails used to light up but the batteries are dead now, and they never showed up properly in photos anyway. The sweater is another one from the Goodwill haul. 

I took the error message I kept getting when trying to access the plug-in and typed it into Google, which sent me down a rabbit hole to figure out what the hell was going on. I got Doug involved, and together we finally figured out that a security update to Adobe Flash Player was the culprit: we uninstalled the update, which sure enough had been installed the same day I started getting the error, and then I had to uninstall the plug-ins that had been affected by the update and re-install them. And then I stumbled across another problem: Portrait Pro would not let me re-install the software. My license key was only good for one download, and since I’d already used it once, it wouldn’t work again. I get it – no one wants their software to be purchased once and then shared all over the world, but this was on the same computer and simply needed to be re-installed, so there should have been a way for me to manage this. However, I’ve actually dealt with this issue with Anthropics (the makers of Portrait Pro) before, so I knew there was going to be no way to get this remedied.

fuzzyhair1This is actually a pajama shirt, but I liked the colors on the sleeves. 

See, I ran into this issue when I got my new laptop last year. I had to reinstall all my photo editing software, and of everything I’ve purchased, Portrait Pro was the only one that wouldn’t let me use my license keys a second time to get what I paid for installed on my new machine. I opened up a help ticket, which went nowhere, and because this program is my primary portrait editing tool I gave in quickly rather than waiting, and purchased the software a second time.

sonominator1The lace sweater is from Goodwill and it’s so comfy, I now wear it around the house (which I don’t do with most of my costumes). That ‘necklace’ is actually a fascinator that I’ve worn in photos before; I spied it at Nordstrom and even though it was expensive, I had to have it. The colors are fabulous! Oh, and I changed the color of the eyeshadow on the right in post. 

I admit that in this case, I was itching to finish a photo I was working on, so I just said to hell with it and bought the software a second time rather than deal with waiting on a support ticket that would probably take at least a month to get answered, if it got answered at all. So yeah, I bought another copy of the upgrade I’d just bought a month prior. Stupid, I know – especially when, on the very next night, the plugin quit working again.

lovemeCome on Portrait Pro! Will you deny the world this beauty?! And yes, that’s a Goodwill sweatshirt, and it’s AMAZING. 

Turns out the Flash Player update had automatically installed again, around 8 o’clock at night. I know this because I had just been using the plugin when all of a sudden it quit working, and I went to see what updates had been installed, and there it was. So, now I realized I had to figure out a better solution, or every single night my damn software would stop working again once the update installed. I spent a long time trying to figure out how to stop the Flash update from installing only to discover that it is actually a crucial update that is needed to  fix some massive security flaw or another. I hemmed and hawed on this for a while – should I just uninstall Flash altogether? Turns out that’s not so easy to do, although it is possible. It just started to turn out to be a hell of a lot of work to do just to get one stupid Photoshop plugin to work (the others that keep failing I don’t use that much anyway, and the help tickets I submitted to those companies will most likely be addressed since they actually have real online support) plus, it was already clear I would have to purchase yet ANOTHER license to fix the damage done to the program by the new Flash install.

hairflower

I am not gonna lie, I was seriously upset about this. I use that program for everything and it is a major part of my workflow. But this is the downside of utilizing a product that has no support; when something goes wrong, you’re on your own, and I saw no real way to fix this one without a lot of ridiculous work and spending yet more money. So, I am now on the search for other software that can at least get close to what Portrait Pro could do, which sucks. I’ve found a few things to noodle around with, but so far nothing comes close to that program. But I’ll have to make do for now. I did go ahead and submit a help ticket, but I have no hope anyone will ever respond or fix this issue. A perusal of their forums made that clear; it sounds like no one ever gets responses to their issues and it’s a real shame some other company can’t buy this software from Anthropics and service it properly,  because all of their photo editing tools are really great products.

revolution1This about sums it up.

So that’s my life as it stands. I haven’t talked about my injuries but I’m now out of time, and I’m fine anyway. I need to go get ready for a day of tutoring, so I’ll catch up with you all another time. Happy weekend everyone!

Cat-ching Up

I only titled this post as I did because I have a few new cat pictures. Here’s one of them:

violeteyes

I have a few other pictures to share that aren’t of cats, and lots of random things to discuss, so I’ll just throw it all into the mix and see how things come out. Sound good? Let’s get to it.

shortblonde

First of all, on the home front: we’ve spent the last 2-3 weeks dealing with contractors and literally getting our house in order. Last week, all the damaged drywall in the house was being fixed, and having workers in the house every day from 9 AM to 6 PM put a serious damper on my schedule. I ended up doing a lot of nothing but babysitting nervous cats and dogs while all the banging was going on, and I didn’t do much of anything else but read books and watch Netflix while trying to avoid all the parts of the house that were under construction. That said, all the leaks and water damage is fixed, finally, and everything we had to move and store in other parts of the house has been returned to it’s original location, OR has been tossed out/donated.

redqueenleap

Doug and I did have a conversation, at some point in all of this, about how little TLC we’ve given to this house over the years, much as I mentioned in one of my earlier Harvey posts, and we both agreed that some of the problems we had during the storm were our own fault for not fixing house issues properly as soon as they arise, choosing instead to ignore things until they reach the critical. We also discussed how we should really go ahead and put some real money into the house and settle in a stay awhile, so that when/if we really do decide to move we can actually sell it for a decent price. And we’ve both decided that staying on for at least the discernible future might be the best thing, after all – in fact, since our house is almost paid off, it might be wise to stay a good, long while. So, to that end, we’ve been getting bids for other repairs and cleaning out, well, everything, in an attempt to start treating our home more, shall we say, respectfully.

greenblur2

Sadly, I will admit to being a bit of a slob, as is my husband, and while the truth is we are not averse to cleaning up after ourselves, or paying a service to come in and do deeper cleaning every other week, neither one of us has ever been meticulous about much of anything else, and as such, we have a lot of work to do just to get things up to snuff (in fact, we just had a vacuum cleaner delivered today because we didn’t even own one). For example, last week I decided just to clean out our kitchen pantry, and that task alone generated FIVE BAGS of trash. Our worst habit is probably taking things that are broken or serve no purpose for us and just kind of stashing them somewhere, then leaving them there for 20 years. As such, the pantry was full of old broken coffee pots, toasters, boxes of unneeded dishes, and other ridiculous items that haven’t been touched in decades as well as canned foods that expired in 2008 and spices on a rack that had completely lost all color and smell. I know, it’s a horrible thing to admit, but there it is. I also actually changed out the light bulb, which hadn’t been done in so long I still keep forgetting to actually turn it on when I go in there.

profile

It took me about four hours to clean all that out, and y’all, that was just a PANTRY. Literally every closet and cabinet in this house is in a similar state (except for the expired food part – that was strictly a pantry issue). In fact, we actually have an upstairs bathroom that at some point came to be treated like a closet and was full almost to the ceiling with boxes of stuff that needed to either be thrown away or put in the attic. I am proud to say we’ve cleaned that out now, and can actually use our bathroom as, well, a bathroom. Go figure. But it probably goes without saying that I have my work cut out for me as far as getting this house in order; I don’t mind, as I have the time now to do this, and I figure it’s good exercise as well as being necessary work I need to do. But clearly my aversion to behaving like an actual adult runs DEEP, y’all.

poolflowers1

Health-wise, I mentioned in a previous post how much anxiety I’ve been having lately, and I did meet met with my psychiatrist and was taken off Wellbutrin and put on Lexapro instead, which addresses the anxiety as well as the depression that Wellbutrin was prescribed for originally. And I am happy to report that the results have been tremendous. From the first day of taking it, I’ve had exactly zero panic attacks, and zero anxiety. The only issue has been how sleepy it makes me, but recently I switched from taking it in the morning to taking it at night, and that seems to be helping. For now, I’m thrilled with this solution, and having the anxiety lifted helps me realize both how bad it had gotten and how long it’s been building up. I probably should have been put on Lexapro the first time I went to a doctor for my depression, but I wasn’t even able to articulate that part of what I was feeling was anxiety until recently.

curly

I don’t know how much I mentioned here about my other health issues I’ve been handling lately; I went to a doctor over the summer to deal with my right wrist, which felt fractured but ended up just being inflammation that, surprisingly for how much it was hurting, healed up completely in about six weeks. I was totally expecting to need a surgical solution to that problem, but while I was talking to that doctor, I mentioned how basically my entire right arm gives me trouble constantly, and that the second-most pressing issue I was having (next to the wrist that I thought was broken) was my rotator cuff, which has troubled me for, oh, let’s say at least seven years. Seriously. It’s hurt for so long I just got used to it, and for some reason have always considered it just some weird thing about me that I have this one shoulder that sucks, and never considered it something I should see a doctor about. I am not even sure where I got this idea, but obviously it stuck, because I barely even thought to mention it to the wrist doc.

band

When I did though, he made me an appointment to see a shoulder specialist at the same location, who ordered an MRI (an awful, awful experience that I will never go through again without some serious Xanax, but I’m not going to talk it about it any more than this because I do not want to relive that nightmare) and discovered I have not one, but TWO tears in my shoulder. My rotator cuff has a partial tear, and I have a lateral tear on the back side of my shoulder, so between the two of them it’s no wonder my right arm gives me serious grief from time to time. Still, the doctor felt like rushing into surgery wasn’t the best idea, and I totally agree – I’ve heard that rotator cuff surgery is no joke, and I want to avoid that shit if at all possible. So for now, I’ve been given an injection that did reduce the pain for now, although it does still hurt when I try to do certain things, and I am schedule to start some physical therapy this week to try and strengthen the muscles around the tears enough to make the shoulder functional, and see if that is enough for now. I am really regretting not getting to a doctor sooner about this issue, since if I had done so it could have resolved on its own like my wrist did without ever developing into being torn, but I can’t bust myself up too much over something that seriously just never ever occurred to me to be a problem. Still baffles me why I decided that, but nothing can be done about it now.

catprofile

Due mostly to my ongoing arm issues, I haven’t been blogging or editing pictures much at all, as too much computer work is a primary pain culprit. Before the injection, just thinking about getting online and commenting on people’s blog posts just felt like more than I could handle, but for now at least I can do it. Who knows how long that will hold up. I’m hoping that the ease with which my wrist healed up is a sign that I can get to a similar place with my shoulder. We’ll see.