Sharp Tutor


Like Sharp Shooter, get it? Moving on. A few random updates, with a few random photos thrown in for good measure.


First of all, WTF with WordPress all of a sudden wanting to SCHEDULE all my blog posts instead of just PUBLISHING them? It’s annoying as hell, and it’s something that keeps happening randomly and I always have to go dig through the help forums to figure out how to correct the damn problem. I tried to un-schedule it just now, and ended up publishing it instead when the post only had two sentences written. So if you got an email update that I’d published something earlier, well, I hadn’t. I was just trying to un-schedule it. Thanks, WordPress.

U.S. Air Force, 93-0604, Boeing C-17A Globemaster III

The Wings Over Houston airshow was this past weekend, and as usual my father and I were front row for the whole show. It’s a lovely little bonding experience we get to have every year, and I really enjoy it. The weather was perfect – not too hot, not yet cold – and there were a lot of unique planes I hadn’t seen before. I haven’t yet heard any estimates about the crowd size, but it was massive. There were people everywhere; we stood in line for an hour to get onto a shuttle bus after the Blue Angels finished their demonstration, then it took another hour for the bus to push through the traffic back to the parking lot. Then, since I live on the opposite side of town from Ellington Field, it took me another hour to drive home (my dad lives much closer). I’d left my house at 6:30 AM that morning, and didn’t get back home until almost 8 PM, so it was, to put it mildly, a long-ass day. But it was worth it, as it always is. Even if you’re not as into airplanes as we are, it’s really amazing to see what some of these planes can do. The aerobatic planes are always a thrill, and the powerful jets on display are awe-inspiring to see. I think only the diehards like my father and I get there as soon as the gates open and stay until the whole thing is over (and honestly, with the way the crowds have grown over the years, I think I’m going to have to start insisting we leave early to beat some of the throngs to the shuttles) but even to just show up for the main events and hang out a few hours, it’s a fun thing to experience at least once in your life.


For something different, I took my wide-angle lens this year and just shot photos of the planes when they were on display before the air show began. I figured two years’ worth of photos of the (mostly) same planes in the air doing (mostly) the same things they do every year was enough, and that it would provide me some different material if I got shots of the planes on the ground instead. With my 17mm I was able to easily get full shots of the planes in the frame, and it’s a lens that shoots lovely color, too. At first I thought these photos would be pretty boring, but then I remembered I could use my Landscape Pro plugin to jazz them up, and it was off to the races.


There wasn’t one cloud in the sky this time around, and even though that’s great for the show in general, it doesn’t make for very interesting photos, so I’m really thankful that I can use the plugin to add such details. I also used to it to spruce up some of the people photos I took, like this one of my dad talking to a pilot:


These are the only shots I’ve had time to edit so far, but I’m sure there will be more later, because I’m really having fun playing around with them in Photoshop. And because you all know how much I love a good before-and-after, here’s some collages of all these photos as they came out of the camera vs. after my treatment with Landscape Pro. I also discovered that the new Topaz Glow software I purchased comes in quite handy with these as well; by reducing the opacity of some of its dramatic effects I can add a painterly quality to the photos. I think you’ll see how much I actually did to them in the B&A’s below:


In the top shot, I didn’t do a whole lot of alteration beyond adding clouds (I think you can really see how much better a plane shot looks when there are clouds in the sky there) and added a slight glow effect to get it more drama. Landscape Pro also added nice detail to the concrete; I believe I used an effect that creates the look of wet pavement, but again I reduced the opacity of it so that instead of looking wet it just showed a lot more detail. Then of course, there’s the bottom shot – the original wasn’t very interesting to me, but I liked how the nose of the smaller plane was pointing right at the nose of the larger one, and I got the idea to try and edit the people you can see in the original out of the shot so that it might kinda look like they were in the air (which would actually mean they were about to crash, so I guess that’s actually kinda morbid). It was just an experiment to use a night sky here, but I liked the effect enough to keep working with it. I’m not sure it’s totally successful on its own, but I do like showing the B&A of it as an example of what the software can do. It’s pretty fun stuff.


I struggled to decide how to edit the photo of my dad (he’s the one in the big brown hat), but when I found the right sky, the rest of it came easy – it needed some retro tones to work, and then I used a pretty heavy glow filter to give it an oil-painting quality. I still reduced the opacity of it, but I kept the effect pretty heavy here, as it seemed to work better that way. The bottom photo is a good example of how to use all these effects in a more subtle way – although you can see a dramatic difference in the concrete, where I used the ‘wet’ filter again for added detail.

Sprocket is glad there’s no “wet dog” filter

But about the title of this post: I wanted to talk briefly about the whole tutoring business-thing, because it’s finally starting to take shape for me. I am taking a certification course for Academic Coaching, and along with the course comes a lot of great materials I can use when I’m ready to get started. I’ve completely re-structured my pricing model and parts of my professional website to reflect the things I’ve learned in my class, and am really enjoying going through the class and learning how to apply these tools to students’ needs. I even had an interview with one potential client, but it didn’t go so well – no big deal, I just hadn’t ever had a consultation before and was still quite unfamiliar with the program I’m learning about, so I didn’t do as good of a job as I think I’ll do next time, and the student didn’t sign up in the end. I’ve also been attending some online conferences about online tutoring, and am really excited by this idea – my goal is to be doing 100% coaching, with all of it being online, within a year. Working from home and using something like Skype or Zoom to coach students would be the perfect solution for me, and I’m excited that it is actually starting to feel feasible for me.


But for now, I am still offering English tutoring services as well, since that is actually something I’m in a position to do right away. I’ve had one consultation so far for that, and I have to say, it didn’t go well either. But this one was not my fault; I don’t want to say too much about it at the risk of being unprofessional, but let’s just say the student was less than ideal for me to work with. Even though the kid’s mother was sitting right next to him while we met to discuss his situation, that did NOT stop this boy from being completely rude and disrespectful – rolling his eyes, shrugging his shoulders instead of actually using words to answer my questions, and pretending like he had no idea what I was talking about  when I asked him what his struggles were in English class, just to be difficult. About halfway through our consultation, I just stopped and said to him, look. It appears to me you really do not want to do this (for most of the conversation he literally had his head down on the kitchen table) and if you aren’t into it, it isn’t going to work. Then I told him to think about what he wanted to do over the weekend, and let me know by Sunday if he wanted to work with me. At the time, I only did this because he was making it so obvious that he could have cared less about getting a tutor, and the fact that his mother wasn’t even trying to get him to be polite was also a concern; clearly this kid is allowed to act that way all the time, so what made Mom think I was going to be able to get more work out of him than she could is beyond me. It was later that I realized I may have come across as bitchy, but ultimately I decided I was OK with that. If the kid HAD agreed to work with me, he would have done so with the understanding that he would have to take me seriously and treat me with respect, and I think it would have been fine. But since I didn’t hear from him after our first meeting, I figure I dodged a bullet, and have come up with some new ideas and approaches to try and cut to the chase with the next potential client sooner rather than waste too much of anyone’s time. I didn’t leave the full-time working world to get myself back into a situation where I don’t have choices about who I work with, after all, and part of the reason for having a consultation with a student before starting to work with them is so I can be sure I want to work with them, just as much as to see if they want to work with me.

Do I really want to stare at this every week for an hour? No, I do not.

One other thing I thought I’d mention: I finally starting tracking my daily calorie intake and exercising every day, as well as kicking the Coca Cola habit (which I’ve done several times in my life already – I’ll go for years drinking nothing but water, then fall off the wagon and get back on the soda train). When I’m teaching, my weight tends to dip really low due to all the constant activity and the complete lack of time to eat all day; when I quite working last May, i was down to about 112 pounds, which is actually a little light for me. The last time I quit working was when I was in graduate school back in 2010, and I was about 112 back then, too. It took two years, but by the time I went back to work in 2012 I’d gotten up to 130 and gone from a pant size 0 to a size 6 – and that’s a bit too much for me. I’m a skinny bitch by nature, and once I start to get past 120 I start to get uncomfortable; a few weeks ago I started to notice my fairly new size 4 pants I’d had to buy to replace all the zeroes that no longer fit were starting to get a little snug, and when I stepped on the scale I was up to 122 with no signs of stopping. So, I finally downloaded an app (My Fitness Pal) and started counting calories. The app recommends I consume about 1260 calories a day, which felt RIDICULOUS at first, but I’ve now found ways to do it most days without being uncomfortable or unhappy at all (although there are days where it goes out the window, like today when I had lunch at the Cheesecake Factory, but I am fine allowing that every once in a while as long as overall I’m eating better). To be honest, I don’t see any difference when I step on the scale yet, but when you’re only trying to lost about 5 pounds it’s slow going, and honestly I would be OK if I never lost any weight and just stopped gaining. I have clothes that fit and I definitely feel much better, so that’s the main thing. Oh, and I also discovered that swimming burns way more calories than walking or riding a stationary bike, so I am taking advantage of the fact that it’s still summer weather here right now and swimming for 30 minutes every day to burn some calories off (which I put back on when I eat my 4 gluten-free Oreos every night, but whatever).

I’m only supposed to consume 1260 calories a day. Cheesecake Factory Sweet Corn Tamale Cakes have 1750. I ordered them anyway.

Oh and next week I plan to do this color to my hair, because why not? It’s something else I could never do because of my job, but now my job is my own so why not do something a little different:


It’s actually fairly subtle, so I think it will work. I also like this, but my hair is really too dark for it:

I just like the color here, not the cut. Those bangs are not for me.

Happy Wednesday everyone!

Class Act


First of all, I don’t have many photos to add in this post. I haven’t been in the mood for taking any, and definitely not for posing. I’m pretty much over taking my own photos by now, and so far no one is jumping at the chance to pose for me, so I’ve been lying low instead. The Wings Over Houston airshow that I attend every year with my dad is this Saturday, so I’ll be able to take some pictures there, and I’m going back to Ruah the first weekend in November and hopefully can take pictures of the walking trails as long as the weather cools down (so far, it’s still pretty hot down here). I’ve not been in the mood to shoot wig videos either; my energy for that really waxes and wanes, and right now, I’m just not into it. I wonder if it’s for the same reasons that I am tired of photography right now – tired of the same old script and editing the same old face, maybe? Video is not as much makeup or setup as photos, but it’s still got quite a bit of prep work to pull it off properly, and lately I just haven’t been in the mood for all the furniture-moving and makeup-applying it entails. Which sucks, because in a few days I will be the proud owner of five – yes, count them, FIVE – custom Laine wigs I ordered from Rene of Paris back in May.

Laine by Rene of Paris in Almond Spice-R

Laine is a wig I’ve reviewed before; I love it, but it has a ton of permatease in the crown that makes it a deal-breaker for a lot of people. I’ve also ordered custom wigs before, and when I placed this order with Kathy at Gallery of Wigs I was deep in the throes of wigdom and really into trying something new. I thought if I could get Laine in a rooted color it would be the perfect wig (and even as a custom color, it’s not expensive – I think they were $90 each, maybe a bit more), and at the time I placed the order I was willing to get the minimum (five) to try her out. Then, about a week after I placed the order, I quit my job, and really wasn’t thrilled that I’d spent around $500 on five wigs I didn’t need, but Kathy had already placed the order and I didn’t want to back out on her, so I left it open.


The last time I ordered custom from ROP, I received it pretty quickly, but that may have been because I only had to order three then since the wig had a monofilament top (the minimum is higher on a non-mono wig). This order, however, seemed to take forever, and I had all but forgotten about it when Kathy emailed me Tuesday afternoon to tell me the Laines had come in. What the hell I am going to do with FIVE of these, I have no idea – well, sell them, obviously, so I guess I do have an idea – but I’m still feeling a bit OMG why did I do this about the whole thing.  I have other wigs to review, quite a few actually, but lately I’ve been considering blowing off reviewing them entirely and just putting them up for sale – but I just can’t bring myself to do that with these Laines. Not a lot of people know about custom ordering, and a Laine in a rooted color (Almond Spice-R, BTW) is so unusual it would be a shame not to show it off a little. I’m more concerned that what’s probably going to happen here is that I will get the Laines in, love them to pieces, and be back on the wig-wagon immediately. Just looking at the photos make me think about how many other wigs I’d like to own – especially if I check out the background in those shots; does Kathy’s store look like wig heaven, or what?!

The rooting appears to have helped disguise the permatease nicely!

Speaking of videos, I have to tell you about the course I’m taking for my Academic Coach certification. It’s an online course, which means we all use Zoom to meet online for class. I’ve not done this before, but I had an idea how it would go; I did not anticipate, however, how old my laptop is (I got it  in 2010) and what a COMPLETELY CRAPPY webcam I have. I didn’t think about this at all until I logged in for the first class and saw how AWFUL my webcam quality was compared to everybody else. It’s really pathetic. After that, I immediately went online to research how to make my webcam videos look better (because there isn’t anything in the ‘settings – if you can call them settings – I could adjust to improve the quality) and made note of a few tips I’ve since used to at least come across as presentable.

  1. Use one of my white umbrellas to diffuse a fluorescent light through it (like I do in photos) and give my face some brighter, cooler lighting.
  2. Wear a white shirt so that the webcam has something white to calibrate color balance against, so I don’t keep changing skin tones throughout the entire session
  3. Use a backdrop to keep the background from being messy, or situate myself against a blank wall
  4. Wear makeup. LOTS of makeup.

OK, I get that this last one is silly, but still. It’s two hours of staring at myself on my computer screen, while knowing everyone else can stare at it, too. And on top of that, each class is filmed and uploaded to YouTube for people to watch later, so do you really think I, of all people, am going to allow myself to appear in a YouTube video looking like I just rolled out of bed? Hell no! Makeup it is!

This picture adds nothing to the conversation right now, but I wanted to throw it in somewhere

But the really fun part is this: as usual, I got the time zones mixed up (I can never figure out different time zones properly) and mistakenly assumed that, when signing up for this class, the 5-7 PM time slot would translate to 3-5 Central time. I was wrong. 5-7 PM translates, in this case (and no, I don’t know off-hand what time zone the course is set in and don’t intend to look it up) to SEVEN TO NINE PM my time, which is WAY later than I expected to be taking a class. You see, by 7 PM Marey time, I am in my pajamas and camped out on my floor playing video games (yes, I sit on the floor. I am a floor-sitter, and as such, I have an awesome floor chair. Maybe I’ll write about that some day). I am not interacting via crappy webcam online, and I am definitely not wearing makeup. Until a few weeks ago, when my course started. Now, I am in my bathroom slathering on makeup at 6:15 PM, when I should be washing it off and getting into my pajamas, because I cannot stand the idea of being on camera and filmed without having any on. Which pretty much sucks. I’m a nighttime showerer, so I end up on Tuesdays taking a shower before class, then putting makeup over my newly-washed face so I look presentable until 9 PM, at which point I take it all off AGAIN.

Downside of a shitty webcam: a grainy, foggy mess of poor image quality. Upside of shitty webcam: so much blur that the makeup I put on right before class doesn’t have to be good at all, as long as it’s heavy!

As far as the class goes, it’s quite useful and full of good information, but I find myself once again in the position of being THAT PERSON who answers every question and always has shit to say. I try so hard to hold my tongue and wait for other people to speak, because I’ve been known to, shall we say,  over-engage in situations like this, but the other students sit there staring at the screen waiting for someone else to answer the instructor’s questions. In a class dynamic like this, it doesn’t take people long to figure out which fool will eventually answer everything (and that person more often than not ends up being me) and then sitting around and waiting for that fool to pipe in. Don’t get me wrong – I always have comments to contribute, so speaking up in regards to everything isn’t a problem for me – I just don’t like sharing them every single time a question is asked or a volunteer is solicited. It feels really obnoxious. But once again this evening, every single time the instructor asked a question or for a volunteer, no one else said a word, and I ended up jumping in. So, obnoxious it is!

OK, so one last thing before I go: since quitting my job, my weight has been slowly creeping up on me again. It’s not that I’ve ever had much of a weight issue, but I definitely have a size that I am comfortable with and feel is my true size, and when I start to inch past it I am not happy. As a teacher I ran around constantly all day, with only 20 minutes for lunch, so keeping my weight down where I like it to be wasn’t difficult at all; in fact, I never had to think about how much I weighed or what I ate. But since quitting in May, I’ve already gained ten pounds and gone up two pant sizes. I don’t particularly have a problem with this, but the scale kept notching up, and if I’d gained any more I would not have been satisfied with myself. It’s mostly about maintaining my current weight, but if I could lose five pounds I’d be happy with that, so there’s some calorie-counting involved. I chose an app called My Fitness Pal to enter my meals and exercise into for a daily reality check. The damn app calculates my daily caloric intake to be just 1260 calories a day, which is really pretty hard to do, and it amazes me how I hadn’t already gained more weight than I have with what I was consuming before using the app. I cut out sodas two weeks ago and that alone has probably saved me close to 1,000 calories a day! I bet I was eating twice the amount of calories than what the app recommends every day, easy.

Another thing I discovered was that swimming burns almost twice as much calories as walking does, and since it hasn’t yet gotten cool here I can still swim in the pool, which, believe it or not, I’ve done every single day for going on two weeks now. Yes, this from the woman who hates all forms of exercise! I’m trying to take advantage of the swimming opportunity while I still have it, since I suspect with the first big cold front the water will drop down below a comfortable temperature for me to swim in until March or April. After that I’ll have to come up with something else, because my life right now may be busy mentally, but physically I’m pretty much a slug.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you – the Frog Log

Anyway, all this exercise and “diet” talk (I put that in quotes because I’m not really dieting, just watching what I eat) was really just an excuse to share this last picture, which is a photo of a little frog I named Jonathan. There may actually be more than one Jonathan hanging around, but since I cannot tell the difference between them any frog who gets in the pool is Jonathan to me. Anyway. Jonathan is almost always in the pool when I get in there (and yes, I know this implies we need to use more chlorine, but we forget sometimes, and besides, I rather enjoy Jonathan’s company). The first time I got in to swim while he was in there, he stayed frozen to the bottom of the pool for as long as he dared, then scooted over to our artificial lily-pad we have hanging out by the skimmer of the pool (it’s called a “frog log,” and it provides a way for critters to get out if they get stuck in the water) and hopped away. The second time, he stayed in the water but kept his distance and stayed down below for as long as he could. But now, he just sorta hangs out while I swim, floating around on the surface and watching me with his big bug eyes. He didn’t much care for the camera I was pointing at him today, though, because he hid out on the bottom step until I put it away – hence I couldn’t get the best pic of him, but here’s what I did get:

Meet Jonathan.

Please don’t tell me if it’s totally gross for there to be a frog hanging out in my pool or that I’m going to catch a horrible disease by swimming in there with him. I’ve kinda gotten used to his company, and Doug has to keep warning me that frogs do not have a long life span because he can tell I’m getting attached. Whatever. I got attached to the snakes I kept seeing at the beginning of spring,. and I gave them all names, too (Sebastian) and it didn’t break my heart when they stopped appearing. Of course, frogs are a bit cuter than snakes, so I may miss Jonathan more when he quits paying me visits. And we do use Jonathan as a reminder to add chlorine anyway, since his presence is a sign that it’s gotten low. So there’s that.

Ugh! Boots

I’ve written before about my love of Ugg boots. I’m convinced the collective consciousness of America hates them because it doesn’t want women to be comfortable. I have always thought they were cute as hell, so it isn’t even just about comfort for me, and for the life of me I cannot understand the hate they inspire. Except for the fact that they are comfortable and make women’s feet happy, and apparently that isn’t allowed. Women who wear them are, for some reason, often called slutty, which I don’t understand – even when they wear them with shorts, and yes, boots and shorts is a seasonal disconnect for sure, but what’s slutty about that? I will say, the thickness of them make most women’s legs look great, as their girth balances out the hips nicely, so maybe that’s where the slutty thing comes from? Because as much as America wants us to have nice legs, if we’re too proud of them, well, SLUT.


So okay – maybe you just think they’re ugly, in which case fine. But I still have to ask, have you ever tried on a pair? Because I swear if you do, you’ll at least want to wear them around the house (which I do with my older ones once they’re too worn out to wear outside). And as far as the cruelty factor, which I totally understand, Ugg no longer uses the twinface sheepskin that harms the animals, so there’s not that to worry about anymore (I admit to being late to understanding about the process of getting the sheepskin, and by the time I found out Ugg was already moving away from using it). But really, the only reason I’m writing about this, aside from the weather here turning a teensy bit cooler and making me think prematurely about being able to wear them again, is because I recently stumbled across another brand that makes boots EXACTLY like the Ugg ones, and at the moment you can get them for such a steal I have to share it.


More shit I didn’t know about Ugg boots that you probably did already: “ugg” originally was just the name of a type of boot made in Australia by many different manufacturers, but the style didn’t take off internationally until the Ugg brand because popular in the States. There have been ongoing disputes over the use of the term to define a type of boot since the late 90’s, when Ugg the brand became so popular. What the end result of all that is, I have no idea, BUT what I did realize upon reading about this was that other brands of boot can be just as cozy and comfy as the name brand Ugg, and that at the moment, one brand of them in particular can be bought online for around $45! Well, sign me up for that!

Some other boots I’ve bought recently – all Ugg styles

The brand is called “Koolaburra,” and in general people who’ve tried them actually think they are a little nicer than the usual Ugg ones. In general, they’re also more expensive, but for some reason has them on sale right now for $40-$45. There are other styles of them at that link that are more expensive, but I’m a big fan of the traditional-style boot anyway, and those are the ones that are so cheap right now. I just got mine in, and as was recommended online I went up a size – I normally wear an 8 in the Ugg brand, so I got a 9. They fit great, and are in fact just as comfy as the Ugg ones I normally wear. The one downside here is that I ordered a ‘tall’ boot, but they are not nearly as tall in the shaft as an Ugg ‘tall’ would be. In fact, they’re just an inch or so higher in the shaft than the Ugg ‘short,’ so in essence they look like short boots instead of tall ones. That’s a bummer, but for all of $45 I am not going to complain. I have no idea WHY they are so cheap at right now, but they are, so if you are wanting a pair for whatever, go get you a pair while they last! They only have the boring colors, but still, GREAT DEAL.


As far as Ugg boots being slut-shoes, that’s just my segue into how over this bullying, misogynistic culture I am right now. Watching the second debate between Hillary Clinton and the Orange Anus (hat-tip Rosie O’Donnell) was just devestating. First he downplays and normalizes bragging about sexual assault in front of the whole damn world, then he slops right down into the gutter by bringing these women into the debate that have accused Hillary’s husband of sexual impropriety over the years. Then he stalks her on camera like Buffalo Bill planning his next skin suit while shouting her down, threatening her with imprisonment, and barking lie and after vacuous lie for ninety minutes without the slightest concern for anything relating to truth or reality. Sure, he would have acted that way if we had a male candidate representing the Democratic party in this election, but the gender dynamic, combined with the repugnance of the video released on Friday, made my skin crawl in a way I sincerely hope never happens again in my lifetime – probably not a realistic wish on my part, but could we at LEAST not see it again in the context of a presidential election? WTF has this country come to that a human being with zero experience, knowlege, or self-control represents one of the two only viable political parties the public has to choose from on election day? Seriously – what. the. fuck.

Simon is not impressed

The thing is, I am no huge Bill Clinton fan either. I found his behavior in relation to women to be repugnant, and completely abusive of his power, as well. But I don’t blame Hillary for it, and I do not condone using Bill’s past to intimidate her in this election, or to invalidate her very extensive, and very real, experience as a public servant. I don’t approve of  holding Melania Trump accountable for her husband’s scumbag behavior either, by the way – as a woman, I fully understand how complex a marriage to a man can be, and how easily a spouse can conceal his or her darker nature from their partner. And yes, I think it’s much easier for a man to get away with than a woman, since in most public spaces men are given so much more leeway to be as douchebaggy as they want without judgment or consequence. So if Melania says what she heard in that tape is not the Donald Trump she knows, I believe her. I believe Hillary trusted Bill when he told her those women were lying, too, and I believe she stayed with him because in spite of his massive faults, on a different level Bill has always been Hillary’s supporter in ways that I suspect meant more to her – Bill has always believed in her politically and was bragging about how she’d be president one day back in the 90’s when he was the one in charge. It’s why he trusted her so much more than anyone else in the country was willing to, and it’s why they were both shocked when the public reacted to her intelligence and power so negatively back in the day.

Simon intends to spend the next month hiding behind the blinds until the election is over – I may have to join him

So when I rail against Trump’s misogyny and abusiveness  I am in no way ignoring Bill’s huge faults in relation to women by doing so. But Bill isn’t running for office, and the spectre of Donald treating Hillary like human  garbage on a world stage has turned my stomach like nothing back in the Impeach Clinton days ever did -although the way poor Monica was put through the wringer by BOTH parties back then certainly rivals the way in which Donald trotted out those other women last night for his own amusement. But holy hell – at least, in the end, Bill apologized, and admitted to his own mistakes. While it was painful to watch, you at least understood he’d earned that punishment, and could get some closure out of the fact that he was being put through a comeuppance that was deserved, and needed, if we as a nation were to ever feel clean again. But now there’s Trump, who instead of sucking it up has doubled down. And this is the way it is when a presidential candidate decides to dig down deep into the muddy gutter and slosh the shit all over America – no one comes out of it clean, or undamaged, and no one comes away from it feeling respected, or validated, or hopeful about anything, no matter who you are voting for or how you feel about either one of them. Their private shit now belongs to, and sullies, all of us. And I’m afraid there’s no escape from that now.

So I woke up this morning feeling like utter hell, depressed as all get-out, and miserable. So I did the most stereotypically female thing I could have done to feel better about it: I went shopping. And I bought more Ugg boots. I know Hillary’s going to win this election, and ultimately that will be the comeuppance that matters for Donald’s ugly behavior, and I’m pretty sure Hillary knows that, and accepts this bullshit as simply more of what she’s already had to go through to get this far. But for me, I may have to sit out the third debate, and stay away from the news until this all over. Because I don’t need any more Uggs right now, and I can’t imagine how much emotional shopping it would take for me to recover from the next one.

Spaced Out

Aside from plugging away at some wig reviews lately (a few more on the way and several still to edit and upload, BTW) what else have I been up to? Being “self employed,” at this point, means being unemployed, which is my own fault since I’ve been moving slowly at getting my name out there. I want this tutoring thing to build organically, and I don’t want to rush it since I don’t need to, so it’s still going to be awhile until I have clients, I think. School is only in it’s second week down here where I live (in Texas schools always start a week or two before Labor Day) so I’ve only been making very soft inquiries for business so far. I am so used to feeling stressed, desperate, and rushed when it comes to my work life that I have to keep actively reminding myself that part of the reason for going this route is so that I can be the one in control, and that working myself into the ground isn’t the only way to work just because it’s the only way I’ve ever worked. Why go into business for myself just to boss myself around as harshly as others have in the past? It makes no sense, since I am blessed to be in a position financially where I am not desperate to make money out of the endeavor, but it is something I do to myself out of habit and I am really having to unlearn this way of living that I’ve always known.

short1Who, me? Relax? 

One of the ways this is all starting to tie together for me is the way in which I have been missing having a space to call my own. Now, don’t get me wrong, my husband and I have plenty of room in our house and no kids, so I do have space in my casa that belongs to me and me alone, but somehow that is not the same as when I had a classroom (or as a counselor, an office) that was just mine. It’s about identity as much as it is about space; it isn’t so much privacy I am craving as a self that is seperate from the part of me that lives in this house as wife to my husband. I’m not sure that makes sense, but I honestly also believe that even if I lived alone I would be craving some space separate from it that addressed other parts of who I am than the parts that cook dinner, clean out litterboxes, and chat with people on Facebook. When I had an outside job, there were many times I would go to wherever that office was on weekends for an hour or two, to catch up on work, yes, but also to just be totally alone in a way that I am not when I’m at home. As a teacher, even though I was off all summer, I always kept my classroom keys and would drive up to the school once a week to both prepare for the coming school year a little and just chill in a quiet space where no one could find me or bother me. I guess this is why I love going to the Ruah center so much, too – with all the technology at our disposal nowadays it’s pretty much impossible to really disappear, but there’s something about being in a space that is dedicated to disconnecting from it all that makes it easier to do. So I suppose an office or classroom that I can go to at a time when neither office work nor classes are taking place often served the same purpose for me.


The Oratory at Ruah – still my ideal sacred space

So it may be an odd way to describe a classroom without a class in it, but yeah, it was a sacred space for me when I could use it in that manner, and I’ve been missing it without really understanding what it was that I was missing. One of the things I got quite obsessed about regarding my tutoring business was owning my own office space where I could work. It’s not really common among indepedent tutors, who tend to just drive to people’s houses and do the work there, but there are people who do rent space, and it has benefits for sure – no drive time, first of all, so you can schedule more students since they can show up one after the other. And driving simply isn’t all that fun, so it solves that problem as well. And I admit to being a little uncomfortable with the idea of going into other people’s houses to teach. You’d be surprised at the questions that come up when considering this, like, what if I have to go to the bathroom? Is it OK to ask to  use theirs or should I find somewhere to stop along the way? What if I just ate Chipotle and I like, really have to go (answer: don’t eat Chipolte before tutoring)? Weird stuff like that.


How you feel when you don’t eat Chipotle before your tutoring session

I actually asked around and discovered that in my part of town, very small office space can be rented for as low as $350 a month, which is REALLY reasonable. My husband was thinking at least $1000, so he was also pleased to hear it could be had so inexpensively – now, we’re  talking  not much more than a teeny room with two chairs and a desk, here, but it’s not like I need anything more than that to do some tutoring. So at first I was very gung ho about this, and ready to get moving hiring enough clients to cover the rental cost ASAP.


How you feel when you realize you can have Chipotle before a tutoring session because you have your own bathroom

So right away, I’m thinking about how many clients I need to get to not only cover the cost of rent but actually make money, too. And suddenly I’m feeling behind the 8-ball because at that point I hadn’t done anything to get clients and I was realizing it might be months before I had enough to afford my own space, unless I immediately started hitting the pavement and peddling for clients hard. I didn’t really want to do that, but I wanted that damn office space, so SIGH. Hit the pavement it is. Hey, it’s a job after all, and isn’t this how jobs always go? Rat race, stress, pressure, the whole shebang. Yep, summer’s over, and it’s back to the grind – a different grind, to be sure, and at least I’ll be my own boss – but a grind nonetheless. Unless…


TFW you have the epiphany that you are driving yourself crazy for no good reason

…what if I reject the notion that work must be a grind? What if instead of creating a situation where my job puts pressure on me to perform to a certain level, I instead embrace a reality where I simply do what I am called to do, and let it grow organically if, in fact, growth is what is meant to happen? In other words, the sooner I tie myself to a financial need to pay rent, I tie myself to requiring a certain number of clients, and a certain amount of income each month, when I don’t even know yet that this business is meant to be some huge success. Maybe the right way for me to do this work is to do it simply, and sparingly, and never turn it into some big endeavor that I can go back to my previous job and rub in everyone’s faces who ever insulted me while I was there (which, upon investigation, was at least part of my motivation for wanting some visual representation of my ‘success’). I was committing to this vision in my mind of having a tutoring business that turns into this huge THING without really questioning whether or not I even want that. And when I did start to question it, I realized that maybe I don’t.

We’re not really raised to think this way, but the truth is, when I quit teaching in 2010 to go to grad school for my Master’s in counseling, I really only did it because I desperately wanted a few years ‘off.’ And I didn’t feel comfortable just owning that; I had to tie that time off to something productive, like going back to school, and I figured after I did that I could at least return to my chosen profession without having to go back to the stress of running a classroom; I could work in a counseling office and not have to spend all weekend grading papers as consolation for returning to ‘the grind’.

This is when it hit me – one day a few weeks ago, I was driving around obsessing about how I was going to hurry up and get enough clients to afford office space, and thinking about how I’d just have to take every kid who came along even if they didn’t seem like a good fit for me or want the sort of tutoring I really want to do, and I was feeling really bummed that I didn’t already have some solitary space of my own I could go to and sit by myself and just ponder my thoughts about it all. So I drove to the university library instead, the university that is located near my house and that is, in fact, the university where I got my Master’s degree. There I was, wandering around dreaming of having a little room of my own, preferably on a higher floor, with a window so I could look out over some sort of view and be totally alone and think things through, when I walked up to the librarian’s desk and asked if they had any study rooms available (they have study rooms all the time, but you can’t reserve them and they’re usually full and hard to get) and lo and behold, they had one – they gave me a key and told me where to go, and when I opened the door I about died right there on the spot:

Photo Aug 11, 4 07 48 PM

Yep, a room with a view.

Yep, there it was – the very thing I’d been wishing for so hard and thinking I was so far away from getting, waiting right here in a corner of a library about 15 minutes from my house. And it was free. Not always available, true – but always there, and always free. Poor libraries – they offer us so much, for so little, and we’re always forgetting they exist. Anyway.

Photo Aug 11, 4 14 05 PM

I’m not what I’d call a religious person, but I believe in, and often pray to, God, and I admit that both my time working in a Catholic school and the time I spent at Ruah this summer have opened up that communication a bit more for me, and at that moment I just plopped right down in a chair, stared out the window, and thought, okay God. What is it I’m not getting here? And I was immediately taken back to a time I’d completely forgotten – August of 2012, when I was staring down the barrel of my last semester of grad school, and had just been offered the job at that awful school where I ended up working for the next four years. The job was on the table at that time, but I hadn’t yet taken it, and I did not want it. I knew that I didn’t want to go back to any traditional job, because in the two years I’d been off I’d come to love and value my simple life, and my free time, so much that I was desperate to find any alternative way to move forward. The problem was, I just couldn’t see how it was possible; we’d just spent thousands on a graduate degree that qualified me to be a school counselor, so how could I just decide not to do that at all, and work from home as a tutor or personal trainer (something else I considered at the time) instead?

But the day I discovered this little room, I suddenly remembered how exactly four years ago I’d sat in that very same library with a notebook and pen, brainstorming and jotting down ideas about how I could do something, anything, aside from going back to the rat race of working in a school. I actually jotted down private tutoring, as well as some other things that allowed me to work to my own schedule instead of following someone else’s, something that would have less stress and pressure and allow me to continue my blogging, my wig reviews, and my photography – all hobbies I was able to develop during those two years off. I wrote pages about how I was going to broach the subject to my husband, but in the end, I just didn’t do it. I couldn’t believe in it myself, much less convince anyone else it was the right thing to do. I ended up taking the job, grudgingly, and we all know how that turned out.


It turned out that the job was a mask, hiding what I really wanted, in case that isn’t clear.

Since I’d completely forgotten about the time I sat in this same library four years ago desperately trying to come up with a way to construct a life for myself that totally and utterly matched the life I was now living, I about fell out of my chair at the realization. And right at the front of my mind was the question: why are you still so upset at losing a job you never even wanted? And why are you so stressed about being given the life you’ve always wanted instead? Everything you need is already in existence, just like this room was already here whether you realized it or not. The life you want already exists. The space you need already exists. You do not need to force anything to happen. Just let it all be. And so, I did.


It was kind of like a long drink of water from a magical fountain! OK, not really, I just wanted to work this picture in somewhere.

So – Chipolte be damned – driving to people’s houses I go. No need to force myself to make this job a J-O-B. I’m going to let it be a calling instead, and go where I am called. And if I am called to have my own office space, then that will be clear at the time, and it will fall into place.

BUT – that doesn’t change the fact that sacred space is something I still desire, because I realized that a lot of my desire for that office space was really just that – not so much a space to work as just space to go to when I need to feel totally silent and totally alone, and the fact is I still don’t have that, being without a classroom or an office as I am. Ruah is obviously one such space, but I can’t go there every day. The university library is another I’ve discovered recently that can provide me a quiet room, but it isn’t the most reliable since the rooms are first come, first serve, and are often all occupied. But it is nice to know it’s there. Still, I wanted something more constant, so I’ve started seeking out chapels in the area to visit when I want to sit still and listen to whatever the universe has to say. And happily, I’ve already found a few.

Photo Aug 26, 12 03 42 PM

This is the chapel of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church, which is about six miles from my house. It’s open to the public every day (as opposed to the much larger church which is only open for services), and so far each time I’ve been there’s been no one else there (which is how I managed to sneak the picture). It has everything I love about a sacred space – although I’m not Catholic, I am very inspired by and into iconography right now, so I love the stained glass windows and the Stations of the Cross they have on the chapel walls. The school where I taught had a small chapel on the campus that I made sure to visit every day for at least ten minutes, and since leaving I’ve really  missed having that time. I can eke it out at home if I need to, but knowing there are also lovely spaces I can visit is helpful. This is definitely one of them, but I admit the fact that it’s always empty makes me feel conspicious when I go too often. I’m neither Catholic nor a member of this church, after all, so I start to feel a bit obvious if I go too much (even though no one is ever praying in the chapel, there are people working there who often see me).


The chapel at my former school, where I went and sat for at least ten minutes every day.

The other chapel I’ve found nearby is at St. Bartholomew, about 16 miles from my house, so still not bad. It’s another small chapel that is open all day – in fact, they have perpetual Adoration there so there it’s actually open 24-6 (not 24-7 because it stops at noon on Saturdays) and there’s always at least one person in attendance. This chapel is the opposite of the Sacred Heart one – not only is there always one person there, there are in fact a lot of people coming and going, and the parish itself is so large that I don’t feel conspicious showing up there and getting singled out as someone who isn’t a member (not that it would matter, it’s a chapel after all, so everyone is welcome, but still). I haven’t snapped a picture of that chapel yet, though, because it’s always full of people and I feel it would be rude (although when I went today there was one woman there not only on her phone but also blaring music through her headphones – weird) and I couldn’t find any photos of the chapel online, just the big church.

So one of my new goals is to locate available chapels that I like all over the city, and visit them whenever I can. Hopefully I’ll be able to photograph some of them, too. I’d also like to read up on their history and learn about them. The chapel at the Villa de Matel is probably the most glorious one Houston has, so I’ve already been a little spoiled, but we have some very interesting ones to focus on, like the Rothko chapel and the Byzantine one that’s in the same area.


I will have time to do all of this, of course, because I am not going to turn myself into the worst boss ever and put ridiculous expectations on my tutoring business simply because I’ve been programmed to do that. So it all works out!


The chapel at the Villa de Matel – how many times now have I shared this photo? No idea, but it’s still glorious

Now, I’m going to wrap this post up even though I didn’t get to tell you the story about the time I decided to check out another supposedly lovely chapel in my area that I’d never been to before, only to realize when I pulled into the parking lot that this church also had a school on the premises and I’d inadvertently driven myself right into the after-school pick-up lane, with about 20 minutes to go until the bell rang, and how I endured utter hell and humiliation trying to remove myself from this line because apparently when it comes to elementary school pick-up lanes, once you are in there is simply NO getting out of them, no matter what. Suffice it to say I endured much honking of horns and shouting out of rolled-down windows to get myself the eff out of there, so this is NOT a chapel I’ll be returning to at any time in the future. It was in a very hoity-toity rich part of town, anyway, so perhaps I wouldn’t be welcome without putting money in the coffers.

I’ll close this out with a picture of my cats, who are obviously getting along nicely. And if you actually slogged your way through this entire post, I’ve got some more wig reviews coming up soon with which to reward you.🙂


Favorite Things Part 2: Bangs and Blemishes

No, seriously about the blemishes – about a month ago, my chin decided to re-visit high school and break out. Actually that’s not accurate, because I didn’t have acne in high school (luckily), but I did start occasionally getting cystic acne on my chin starting in my early 30’s. When it began, I was at a loss as to how to deal with it,  but the internet helped me out and I learned how to handle the outbreaks, so much so that they diminished in time and aside from the occasional one or two cysts that would pop up on my chin throughout the year (at the most) the situation resolved itself and we all moved on.


Until this summer, when first one but then a second cyst appeared on my chin. Okay, no big deal, I’ve been here before – apply my home remedy of Vick’s Vapo-Rub on the spot when at home (best to get it on there as soon as I feel it coming in; timing does seem to make a difference) and my Origins Spot Treatment underneath my makeup throughout the day. If I caught the spot early, it would be red and sore for a few days, then shrink away without ever growing huge and unsightly. But sometimes I didn’t catch it early enough, and man, that spot could turn ugly. For the most part the entire process might last a week or up to 10 days, and I was always careful never to ‘extract’ them myself no matter how tempting it might have been and just slapped makeup over them and gotten on with my life. It’s just a spot after all, and I’m hardly going to complain about the occasional ONE I get given what some people struggle with in this area.


But this time, one spot showed up, got huge, started to die down, and immediately a second one popped up on the other side of my chin. That one showed up, got huge, started to die down, and then THE FIRST ONE CAME BACK. So, more Vapo-Rub and Spot Treatment, same routine, and when it started to die down – THE SECOND ONE RETURNED. It was at this point I realized I was going to have to do some more research and find a better solution.

It’s on my face, unfortunately. And it’s not alone.

The first thing I learned was that recurring spots like this are not uncommon. It usually means a pore is clogged that has not cleared, so you treat the cyst at the surface but it never really goes away (cystic acne is deep beneath the skin anyway). So I knew I was going to have to commit to a longer-term treatment for whatever was going on with my chinny-chin-chin.


The good news is that in my researching I discovered a whopper of a treatment that seems to be working so far. It’s called La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo; this stuff packs a wallop at 5.5% benzoyl peroxide; you can certainly get higher concentrations, but I don’t think you can go much higher without a prescription – I know I’ve never used anything higher than 2.4% in the past. Being me, I didn’t actually read the ingredients when I got a tube of it in, just smeared it all over my chin in the hopes that it would work. Needless to say, I managed to burn my chin-skin a bit – it would have been far worse if  my skin was not already acclimated to BP, and if I didn’t already know that putting moisturizer over it was essential (oftentimes with acne people don’t want to moisturize, thinking it will make the skin oily and therefore more prone to breakouts, but in reality irritation from dryness can make acne worse, so moisturizing in conjunction with using a treatment is important). In the end I experienced some burning the first few days and a light round of peeling, but the damage was minimal. However, I do not recommend anyone else do this! Start very small with this product; if you really dry out or irritate your skin you’ll have to stop using the treatment until that clears up, which just sets you back even further.

For a moisturizer, I also went with La Roche-Posay, because why not. I’ve also purchased but not yet received their cleanser and toner. Clearly I need a full arsenal right now.

While the RP went to work effectively reducing the two current spots I had, MORE started to emerge. In face, I am finding a new cyst daily. This has never happened to me before, and I’m assuming it’s happening because this stuff is working to clear out my sad, sorry pores. I’ll feel the spots appearing (they hurt) but they so far are not getting to be more than fairly small red bumps and then they shrink away. So while I can read Braille on my chin at this point, when looking at me you don’t see much of anything – I’ll take that over having even just one huge cyst that grows eyes and glares out at people from my face.

Artist’s rendition of my chin

But the question remains – why did this happen? Hormones are always a possibility, but when I sat down to think through why this might be going on, I realized a few sad things about my current skin care regimen. Mainly that it had disappeared. Once I quit working and summer came, I would go days without wearing any makeup at all, and without choosing to do it consciously, I would forgo washing my face at all on days I didn’t have makeup to remove. So, I was easily going 2-3 days without giving my face a decent scrub. I was also not applying moisturizer, which contributed to the skin irritation. For some reason I’d also gotten lazy and started using moisturizing wash cloths whenever I DID wash my face, instead of good old soap and water, and in my opinion those cloths are fine as a second swipe after a good go with a foaming cleanser, but on their own they don’t do much to take off a full face of makeup. And also – and this SO is awful, I know – I realized I had not washed any of my makeup brushes or sponges since, like, erm…December? January? I know, I know – it’s horrible, but it’s how I roll.

Artist’s rendition of one of my makeup brushes in the wild

So basically, there were all sorts reasons for my skin to get out of whack, and then add in the stress that was the end of my school year and it’s no wonder I went all Spot City on myself. But, I did also discover a new foundation I love – when reading about treatments I read a lot about Vichy DermaFinish, which I do not think is the same as DermaBlend, by the way. Anyway, lots of women recommended it to cover acne, so I figured if I was going to be stuck with spots for a while I’d try it out. Oddly, it only comes in four shades, but I took my best guess and ended up with a perfect match for my skin. It is high coverage, of course, but I’m an 80’s girl at heart, which means I’ve never much been into the natural look when it comes to foundation anyway. I always wanted my skin to be a fully coated, evenly toned canvas, thankyouverymuch, dewy skin be damned, and I want a powder that renders it matte to boot (Laura Mercier’s Translucent powder is the jam). DermaFinish is the business for full coverage foundation – I can even use it on my neck to conceal sun damage and it actually works. Unlike full coverage DermaBlend, it does not feel heavy, and you do not need to apply much for it to cover your skin. I made a few videos today, too, and when I viewed them later I noticed it looked great on camera and does appear to match my skin tone quite well. And yes, it helps to cover up the spots, along with the DermaFinish concealer I also picked up.


So, having cystic chin acne isn’t fun, but at least I  am learning from mine. The spots are still working their way through whatever it is they need to work through before they disappear, but so far they’re not becoming very visible, which is great. And after the first few applications my skin adjusted to the LRP so now I can apply it three times a day without feeling it. I’m putting it over the whole chin area now, as a preventative measure, so we’ll see how that turns out.


Now, hair. I do want to share this amazing curling wand I paid way too much for but really do love – it is called The Bombshell Cone Rod Curling Iron by Sultra – which is quite a name – and I paid $102 for it at Amazon. I have never been able to use a regular curling iron, or hot rollers, or any implement to put curl in my hair – hence my perm a few summers ago (I admit that on occasion I miss those curls, and my hair is so much longer now…yeah, I get tempted). And I’d tried a few wands before, but I couldn’t get the hang of using them to create the beachy waves everyone else seems to sport without effort. My first attempt was with another highly reviewed wand by ConAir that costs about $30 – it was pink and I can’t recall what it was called now – but the problem with it was that my baby-fine hair would just slip off the little wand unless I held it there tightly, which, if you’ve used these wands before, often leads to burning the living hell out of your fingers or hands. I actually have a permanent scar from one of the burns I got trying to keep my hair curled around the ConAir one, and the Bombshell has bumps all over it that work like grooves to hold the hair in place after you wind it around the cone.

Now go back and re-read that paragraph from this perspective

I wasn’t sure this would really work, but when I got mine and started using it I did, in fact, find keeping the hair wound on the rod was easy, and it didn’t seem to get as hot as the ConAir one did, although in reality I think it reaches the same temperature. The material the wand is made out of just feels cooler, which could be a placebo effect of paying so much more for it, who knows.

As far as figuring out how to use it, I finally realized what I needed to do what keep the damn thing turned off and just PRACTICE wrapping my hair around it the proper way. I am spatially challenged to a ridiculous degree, so figuring out which hand needed to hold the wand and which one needed to do the hair-wrapping was a real nightmare for me, and trying to figure that out while the wand was hot was risky and how I got burned so many times with other models. I also discovered that with the natural body I have in my hair, I can wash it at night and let it air-dry to keep some wave to it, then in the morning just use the wand around the top layer of my hair for added wave; no need to work in layers and curl every single hair on my head or anything. It still takes longer than flat-ironing, but not by much, and the fullness it gives my hair really is helpful.

The gloves are a lie. No one uses them. And that phrase only works if you’re covering your ARM. 

I also learned that with this wavy style, I have to stop curling it while it still looks crappy, and wait about ten minutes for it to fall into place. I kept trying to perfect the look the first several times I tried, and would get more and more frustrated as I couldn’t get it ‘perfect.’ It really does look like crap while I’m styling it, and even right after, but by the time I go get dressed and add some styling spray wax (which I prefer over hair spray as it’s more moldable and soft) and Moroccan Oil on the ends, it looks nice and natural. I’ve been attempting to create a beach wave in my hair for about two years now, so it’s a miracle I’ve finally figured this out!


So this post really wasn’t about bangs at all, but I wanted to alliterate with the blemishes. But it was a bit about hair. I promise handbags will be up next! Also coming up: RuPaul’s Drag Race All-Stars! I am still pissed that they shortened the otherwise amazing Season 8 to compensate for filming an All Stars 2, but any time Alyssa Edwards is back on television I’m there with bells on. And glitter. I bet you were wondering why she kept appearing in this post, didn’t you?


Favorite Things

Catherine over at Atypical 60 wrote a purse post recently that got me thinking about my own favorite handbags, and my favorites in general. Back when I ran a poetry blog I used to write about perfumes a lot, because I was deep in the throes of a perfume addiction back then – something I simply had to put a stop to, because collecting perfumes is a lot like collecting wines; one you get into collecting rare and unusual scents the price skyrockets, and unlike many other things I’ve obsessively purchased over the years, perfume simply cannot be consumed at rate that’s anywhere near the rate at which it can be purchased, and $300+ a bottle for something that’s going to sit on a shelf for years without ever making so much as a dent in the quantity just isn’t practical. There’s a LOT of selling and trading that has to be done to keep trying out new things, and unlike something like, say, wigs or purses, I just wasn’t getting enough use out of all the expensive stuff I was buying to justify staying on the wagon with it.

That said, I do still love perfume and keep a lot of it on hand. I just have to stay away from the expensive stuff and the blogs that review new and unusual scents (of which there are many, and one of the things to love about perfume is how musical and poetic the reviews of them are) and stand by the ones I currently love without venturing out into the beyond about it. Anyhoodle, here are some of my favorite perfumes, purses, and other stuff – here goes!


First up are two perfumes from the L’Artisan line – Safran Troublant and Piment Brulant. They were a part of the Les Epices de la Passion (spices of passion) limited edition coffret that came out in 2002. The third one in this set, Poivre Poulant, I still have lying around somewhere, I’m sure, but it didn’t make an impression on me; the Safran and Piment I’ve kept on-hand ever since. These were all three ‘foody’ scents, hence the title of the coffret, and I am a sucker for foody perfumes of either the sweet or spicy variety; you get both out of this set for sure.

The Safran and Piment are both discontinued and have been for some time, but keeping them in stock is still easy enough to do (for now), and when I find one it’s certainly cheaper than it used to be. With a little internet sleuthing,  I can snag a bottle of Piment Brulant for around $40 compared to well over $100 back in the day. It’s a truly odd scent that I suspect most people would hate, but it doesn’t get complaints like some have that I’ve worn in the past (Tom Ford Black Orchid, I’m sniffing at you). The main note is, you guessed it, pimento, and the spiciness of this one is sharp and distinct. Yet the pimento/red pepper is not overwhelming, and it is balanced by notes of vanilla and chocolate. It is a truly unique scent, and I wear this one more out of the two.


The Safran can be had for around $75, which is still cheaper than its full value, but of the two it is the more wearable scent so it can still get a higher price. It’s described as a ‘spicy Oriental’ fragrance which if I recall was all the rage back in the 00s, it is light and sweet, and a little woody, but as an EDT it has zero staying power.  I suppose the Piment Brulant, although it’s also an EDT, lasts longer because of the dominance of those red pepper notes; while I can still smell that one on my skin hours later, the Safran Troublant is all but gone by that time. Still, it’s very easy to spray on for a hot summer day without feeling overpowered, and the saffron note is so clean and sweet that it’s easy to dose on throughout the day without overpowering anyone. It’s very pretty, and smells unlike anything else I’ve ever tried.


One of the downsides of loving unusual perfumes is how difficult it is for me to pronounce them. Not to mention how freaking LONG some of the names are. Nothing is more awkward than having someone ask me what scent I’m wearing and having to respond with a paragraph in a bad French accent, but that’s what happens when I’m wearing this one. It’s truly lovely, though; cherry and almond are the dominating notes (in my opinion) and it wears beautifully throughout the day. It’s a sweet one, but I am fine with that, and the price is also getting up there where I rarely choose to go ($180) but every time I am out of it I find myself craving the scent again. It’s like flaming marzipan in a bottle, but the full name REALLY IS “Luctor et Emergo” by niche company “People of the Labyrinths,” so you’re going to have to spit out a mouthful every time someone asks you what it is that makes you smell so wonderful.


I always tried, REALLY tried, not to get into scents that were overly expensive and/or hard to find – but damned if Frederic Malle (nephew of the late French director Louis Malle) didn’t make it hard on me. Malle’s line of perfumes is top notch – such unique scents that are distinctive but wearable, and that last forever on the skin. I almost NEVER go through an entire bottle of perfume, but Le Parfum de Therese (yes, there it is again, another one I have to stumble over myself to pronounce to people) has that distinction. I wore this exclusively for a year before I began to cheat on it, and it’s still  a hands-down fave for me. It has a strong scent of jasmine and also something fruity going on, but there is this underlying earthiness to it that gets stronger over time, and quite honestly, there’s something in this scent that reminds me of my mother and my childhood. My mom loved gardening and being outside, and there was always this “dirt” quality to her scent when she came inside after being out in the garden during the day – that sounds awful, but if you love the smell of a garden you can understand its unique pleasantness – and this perfume captures that beautifully. It is difficult to find – Barney’s sometimes carries it, but often does not, and although a lot of Malle’s perfumes can be bought from either Barney’s online or Neiman Marcus, this one cannot be had to so easily. It’s always available if you order it direct from the Malle store in France, but obviously you’re going to wait a good long while to get it. It’s also a whopper at $290 a bottle; I’m currently out of this one except for a little sampler I got off eBay, and it’s calling me to purchase it again as a full bottle, but I’m trying to resist. Still , there is something about this scent that fascinates me; that earthy note should be off-putting, but instead it is addicting, and even though it’s always there beneath the surface, this is not a perfume that gets a negative response – and yeah, I’ve worn those before (remind to tell you sometime about the perfume I just HAD to try because it was created to smell like a woman’s, um, garden).

Plus, it has a lovely story. The perfumer created it for his wife (Therese, obvs), and it was kept secret until after she died; she was the only one who smelled like this while she alive. Isn’t that romantic? LOVE.


Oooooooh, Lipstick Rose is so much easier to find, pay for, and pronounce, and it is more straightforward than the Therese. This was designed to smell like the lipstick the perfumer’s mother used to wear, and indeed, it smells like exactly that – not that I knew Schwieger’s mother, mind you, but this isn’t your latest MAC lipstick scent. It’s your grandmother’s old-school waxy red, rosy and sweet, with a strong whiff of talcum blended in. It hints a lot at baby powder, but it is so smooth and well-done and downright nostalgic that people will stop me in the street to ask what in the world I’m wearing. It’s also VERY strong with long-lasting power; I made the mistake of spritzing some on during a break when I was a classroom teacher and my students all freaked out when they came into the room later – it was too much for their not-yet dulled sense of smell! (I often tormented my students with odd scents until finally accepting that they just couldn’t handle the stranger stuff – their sniffers really are still too sensitive.) It is rare to find a scent that smells EXACTLY like what it is supposed to evoke; it is what I imagine Marilyn Monroe’s signature red lips must have smelled like after she applied. It’s a little more reasonable at $185, and it’s worth every dollar.


Ha! Now this one is a challenge; technically it is a cologne for men, but it’s usually described as unisex, and who cares anyway – this scent is amazing, if for no other reason than it works when it really shouldn’t. It’s supposed to be the smell of the city, and like the shape of the bottle suggests, one of the most dominant notes here is rubber, which is why it resembles a tire. I know how awful that sounds, but again, the scent pulls it off quite nicely. While you will agree at first sniff that, yep, that’s a rubber tire all right, the smell stays with you in a rather pleasing manner. Like Thierry Mugler’s Alien (which I also like), my first whiff of this was unpleasant, but after walking around awhile I noticed I was sniffing my wrist repeatedly, and also like Alien this is a scent that will stay with you forever – two days later, I was still smelling this on the sleeve of the sweater I wore the day I tried it. It has a rough opening, but the drydown is really pleasing and long-lasting; if you can handle how unusual it is you will love this one. Plus, it’s inexpensive (you can snag it online for under $30), no one else will smell like you, and it’s easy to find. Many unusual scents I’ve tried are so evocative that although you like to smell them you don’t want to smell like them, but this is one that I think pulls off both. If the rubber smell overwhelms you, though, try out that Mugler Alien, as it is in the  same scent range but distilled by some other notes that water down the rubber a little. Alien, however, has even longer lasting power than Black – if you don’t believe me, go to any department store counter where Mugler is sold (which is pretty much everywhere) and give it a spritz. I swear two days later you’ll still be smelling the stuff on your clothes.


This one is easy to find; I snatched it up at Ulta when the saleswoman helping me was wearing it and I was mesmerized by the scent. My bottle was right around $100, so not super-reasonable, but not bad, price-wise. I later realized what it was that drew me to such a clean, mainstream scent (in case you hadn’t figured it out yet, I love scents with something odd or earthy lurking beneath the surface) – this is the exact smell of my grandmother’s vanity where she used to get ready every morning. I swear I think it matches the smell of Irish Spring soap, which is what she always used; that or something else she used to clean either her face or the countertops. It’s a smell that is long gone for me, anyway, and every time I sniff this I am taken right back to her bathroom counter with her light-up mirror and Pond’s cold cream. It is incredibly crisp and clean, and there are probably a ton of other crisp and clean scents out there to match this one (I think Light Blue by Dolce & Gabbana is one that is well-done, or if you want to spend a fortune on one, try Bond No. 9’s The Scent of Peace, which is amazing, but it’s the Price of Wealthy) but something about the specific construction of this one is my grandmother’s vanity table, all the way. So it’s a total home run for me, plus as I said it can be found easily.


This is another fresh and clean one, with a little more weight to it than the Chloe. Plus, it’s got a fun story, in my opinion – Oribe is a hair product line that, while pricey as hell, is still pretty fabulous. Yes, a can of their mousse costs almost $40, but it is rich and luxurious and will last me at least five months, which is crazy. Their Rough Luxury hair wax is another winner for me; less than half an inch on my fingers and run through my hair in the morning gives my baby fine locks the weight I need and the hold is fantastic. The story with their perfume is that so many people were raving about the great scent of their hair products that they decided, what the hell, and made it into a perfume, titled it Cote de’Azur, and now it sells like gangbusters. How awesome is that? It’s really nothing unusual, and is another fresh, fruity, and clean scent that you can find dozens of in any department store, but it does have a nice zing added it to by way of tuberose, which, if you’ve ever smelled tuberose you know can go overboard easily (Fracas, I’m looking your way – thanks for the massive headache) but is well-utilized here. By the way, they also make a little hair refresher spray that is great for sweaty or non-hairwashing days.


Carven is another late entry into the fruity/floral/clean category; it’s nothing fancy but it is very well-done and affordable – I think I got mine for a bit under $100 around Christmastime. It is a white floral that is quite clean without that detergenty-smell component that can often happen with such a scent (as much as I adore Bond No. 9s Scent of Peace, as soon as someone sniffed me and noted how much it smelled like a laundry dryer sheet the love was tainted). It also has a touch of the earthiness I love so much that makes it a bit warm in the drydown stages, and it is quite long-lasting. Plus, I just love the milky glass bottle.

And now, to wrap this bitch up:


This perfume closes the post (yeah I know, I never did get around to purses) for several reasons. First of all, Black Orchid was the first perfume from fashion designer Tom Ford to hit the market back in 2006, and if you love perfume at all you probably know what happened after. Ford’s fragrance line is now quite a big deal, and quite expensive. Black Orchid was pricey but not overly so back in the day, and while as far as connoisseurs of perfume go this one isn’t even all that revolutionary, it is one of the most unusual scents in my little arsenal. It’s also the perfume I purchased that sent me into my first obsession with fragrance, along with Viktor & Rolph’s Flowerbomb (another one I love but that I’ve declined to write about to save time; plus who still doesn’t know about Flowerbomb by now? But it’s fabulous and worthy of all the attention it has received). Black Orchid is one of the most difficult scents for me to wear, not that it does anything odd on my skin, but if anything I own is going to offend people, it’s going to be this one. This is the one I tried to wear in the classroom that finally sent the students into revolt. The overpowering baby powder smell of Lipstick Rose did distract them quite a bit (side note: I purchased the Lipstick Rose lotion to go with my perfume back in the day, and it was actually the lotion that bowled them over. I am not kidding when I say those Malle scents are potent stuff), but it was nothing compared to the offense Black Orchid unleashed upon their olfactory systems. A kid in the back of the class one day finally broke down and exclaimed, “Mrs. Cox, I am sorry, but what IS that smell? What are  you trying to do to us! I just can’t take it anymore!” Needless to say I never wore it to school again. I also stopped refreshing my scent in the classroom – started sneaking into the faculty restroom to do it, which now that I think of it, probably pissed other people off, too. Oops.

I felt the same way when I tested Black Orchid out in Nordstrom; my initial response to this was just, ugh. It was so weird, and SO very strong, and I couldn’t get away from it soon enough. But an hour or so later I was back buying a bottle, because the drydown of this stuff is divine. You  have to endure the initial blast, for sure, but it transforms into something sweeter and more warm, with that initial black truffle (there’s the earthy again) that never goes away, and doesn’t even fade very much. I think the sweetness intensifies over time, rather than the dark musky scent fading, so what you end up with is a unique balance of the two. Overall, I’d say this is a very mature scent, in the best use of that word; so many perfumes are geared towards 20-somethings with more sensitive noses and a leaning towards innocence in their fragrances; but Black Orchid is all woman. It is haughty and a little standoffish, and utterly confident. Wear it with pride, ladies.

So, I did not in any way get to writing about handbags, but I’ll do that later. I haven’t written about perfume in forever, so this was fun. Thanks to Catherine for inspiring me with all of her favorites she posts on her blog! And if you’ve not checked her out yet, please do. She writes every blog post with such passion and detail and a great big dollop of fun. She’s lovely.


Convents and Kittens

It’s been a minute since I posted anything, but I’ve been busy, y’all.

Not busy doing much posing, though. This is from last month’s shoot.

First, I am still working on my website and getting my business together, and yeah I know, I really need to get a move on with it. Every day I get a little bit closer to opening up shop, and every day I feel a little bit less resistant to the idea. There are so many unknowns, and I’m just old enough to feel a touch more threatened than excited by them, but in the end I can at least say I gave it a try. So, there’s that. Plus, I have been fighting the temptation to continue to think about work on ‘school time,’ since that is one of the benefits of venturing out on my own instead of going back into a traditional classroom, so the rebellious part of me purposely wants to keep vacation going for a few more weeks, even though teachers here have already returned to work and the students will be going back soon. Not the smartest business move, probably, but it is helping me to break free of that old structure that ended up not working out for me and to appreciate the benefits of doing things the way I am now. Either that or I am a procrastinator working too hard to justify it to myself. Moving on.

At least I sound good on (virtual) paper

Also, since I came back from my second trip to the Villa de Matel’s retreat center (the actual center is called Ruah, but I generally just refer to it by the convent name) I’ve been wanting to edit a lot more photos of the place so I could share them here, and that’s been slow going, but I think I have enough to give a decent representation of it now, even though I still don’t have as many photos edited as I would like. This entails processing photos that are less artsy and more representative than what I usually work with, so my motivation has been a little low, but I’ve done my best to still have some fun with even fairly straightforward shots that mainly exist to simply show what a room or balcony looks like. I am going to write a different blog post to share those photos, though, as I’d like to focus solely on the convent when I show them.

Plotting her world takeover

Third – and I addressed this briefly in my last, almost picture-free blog post – about three weeks ago we got a kitten, and well, she’s a kitten, y’all. Which means at various times throughout the day she is a nightmare. And one of my favorite times to write blog posts and edit photos is in the evening, sometimes moving into nighttime, and this happens to be one of Violet’s most INSANE parts of her day. She will sleep all day and then, around 9 PM, she wakes up and goes berserk – so I guess we can take that term nightmare literally.

Violet is hard to photograph – she moves as soon as she sees a camera, and she is so jet-black that with her eyes closed, she’s just a blob in photos

As soon as I get going editing photos she’s all over the place, including my desk where I work, knocking over water bottles and stepping on the computer keys and trying to eat every single cord she can find – you know, the usual. Not to mention terrorizing our other animals (who take it in stride, and Simon for the most part has adopted her as his own) and managing to crawl into the strangest of places and get stuck there. Oh, and she also had coccidia when she came to us, and in spite of my best efforts to keep Simon from getting it too, it happened.

In sickness and in health, apparently

I am not kidding about my efforts either; I would clean out a litterbox as soon as it was ‘used,’ I had each cat’s litterbox in a separate room, completely cleaned out and replaced the litter and wiped the boxes down with Clorox every 2 days, you name it – only to walk into the den and find Simon happily LICKING VIOLET’S REAR END. Great. I was told the best way to stop the spread of it was to keep the two cats separate, but for ten days? Simon was practically scratching his way through the door of the room where I tried to isolate Violet, so that just wasn’t going to happen.

Also – about two weeks ago I filmed at least five wig review videos, mostly of fun little inexpensive shorties. When I went to edit the first one, I realized that the slightly darker shade of foundation I’d bought to compensate for the sun my face has gotten from spending time in the pool did not blend well at all with the DermaBlend foundation I use to cover the sun damage on my neck (which I didn’t think to replace with a darker shade), and when I turn to show the profile of the wig there is a HUGE LINE around my jawline that looks ridiculous. Argh! And I look like this is at least FIVE VIDEOS! And of course, since they’re all shorties it is painfully obvious. Eventually I will suck it up and post them anyway, because I really don’t want to re-do them, but it still pains me to see it now, so I’m still putting it off.


I did get a Jon Renau Diane last week and a Georgia by Noriko in Champagne-R, but filming is on hold for the moment as I focus on my new business and our new kitten (I can’t imagine trying to film or pose for photos right now with Violet, and by extension all the other pets, going nuts). I’ll get around to it soon enough.

Oh and one more thing: I am American, so I feel the need to say this – Donald Trump is a narcissistic, ignorant, overblown human Cheeto who has no business being in this presidential election, and the people who handed the candidacy to him have put our entire nation at risk by doing so.


It is beyond my comprehension that the human Heat Miser is about to receive classified security briefings; the very thought of it actually fills me with both fear and rage. Trump is a rabid liar, intellectual black hole, and white male privileged shit-stirrer, with no consciousness or caring about how his words and actions influence the world around him – and the fact that the Republicans gave him a platform to treat the entire country like the biggest catbox he’s ever crapped in on a daily basis represents, to me, a complete and utter disdain and disregard for the dignity and safety of our nation. Trump is the most dangerous sort of buffoon ever, and he actually makes me long for the days of George W. Bush – something I did not think was possible. He’s already lowered political discourse to the level of commenters on YouTube, and opened all of society up to nurturing the worst, most base elements of it’s psyche – damage I don’t think can be undone for a long, long time. When I see young people rallying behind this human traffic cone in a toupee, I weep inside for the future. Be you liberal, conservative, or anywhere else on the spectrum, you should expect the individuals you elect to the highest offices in the land to understand foreign affairs, domestic policy, human decency, and – although George W certainly pushed this one to its limits, and let’s not even get into Palin – for God’s sake, be able to complete a fucking sentence.

I think I’m just going to start putting this at the bottom of every post from now until election day. Because I’m serious y’all, Trump is a really dark, really low point in our nation’s history. Come on America, we can do better than this. Can’t we?



Kit(ten) and Kaboodle

I have a random mish-mashy update post for you, so here goes.


I know what you’re thinking – but in spite of the fact that I am the most Photoshop-happy photographer ever, I actually did very little to this photo. Not that I didn’t try; but none of the bells and whistles really added anything to the original, so I just sharpened and contrasted a bit and called it a day. But the color here was all in the sky, not added later.

I made another trip to the Villa de Matel retreat center last week; I wrote about going in June and have shared occasional pictures from that trip, but I only made reservations for one night last time and it wasn’t nearly enough for me to process my thoughts, let things go, and move back into my own little happy place where I usually reside. I knew when I left last month that I really needed more time, so I always planned to go back in July, and this time I made my stay three nights instead of one. It was PERFECT.

Interestingly, I felt like I got the closure I needed after being back for about thirty minutes! It was as if I’d just rushed off last time without stopping to leave all my baggage on the altar (they have a beautiful chapel) and ended up still carrying it with me. So as soon as I got checked in this time, I headed straight to the chapel. sat my butt down in a pew, and got to work. I ran through all my negative thoughts, and my hurt feelings, and the wounds to my self-esteem, and just said you know what God? I’m really really tired of carrying this around. I’ve been struggling since May and I don’t want to do that anymore. So I’m putting this all right here and walking away from it for good, sound cool? And God (or whatever) was all, cool man, go for it. So I did. Of course, then I had three more days to read and write and really kick all that stuff to the curb, but after that chapel visit it was as if everything had finally been dislodged and it was all pretty easy to knock away.

I’d started not to bring my camera, because I took a lot of photos last time I was there, plus several years ago I took a ton too, and the place hasn’t changed so I didn’t honestly think there would be anything to photograph.But my husband suggested I just bring the camera along anyway, and I am glad I did, although I only spent a few hours total shooting anything, and I’ve only had time to process that top shot. I took different lenses, which gave me the opportunity to look at things differently, so I’ve got a lot of macro shots to edit and share, and for the first two nights I was there I was actually the only person staying in the retreat area so I got to have fun bustling about at 11 PM taking photos of everything with the flash on, but other things have gotten in the way of me editing them, so let’s move on to that now, shall we? Be back with more Villa photos later. And by the way – being the only person staying overnight in a huge building that looks a bit like a castle is pretty much the most awesome thing ever. Don’t worry – I was far from truly alone because it is a convent and one entire wing is the Sister’s residences, and they have full security and all that stuff on staff. But two floors of one wing belong to the retreat center, and it was really cool to be able to just wander around in whatever disheveled state I felt like it without being bothered, until my last night a bunch of other people showed up and ruined the fantasy.

So I was doing that all last week, and came back feeling refreshed and rejuvenated enough to finally take on something I’ve been considering for a few months now:

Photo Jul 24, 5 58 50 PM

That’s right – we got a new kitten! Her name is Violet, and I do not have any good photos of her because, unlike Simon, Violet is NOT into posing for the camera. I’ve tried to take photos with my phone, and she’s just a blur, so I sure haven’t  bothered bringing out the big guns to get her picture. She is a bit of a terror right now, but when she sleeps nothing can wake her, which is what she was  basically doing here, so there’s that.

Photo Jul 24, 9 24 28 AM

I got her for what is apparently one of the worst reasons ever to get a second cat, according to the internet: because I felt Simon needed a companion. For the past several months, he’s been getting pretty insistent with his play, which has always been what I’ll call ‘aggressive’ – he is not mean, but he does pounce, nip, and on occasion, scratch, and he always has. There’s no malice in it, he’s just always been one of those cats you have to know when to get out before he goes full-cat-Rambo on you and nips too hard or scratches too much. And lately, he’s been pouncing at my feet constantly; even, on occasion, pouncing at them even HARDER when reprimanded, which was starting to bother me a little. Then about a month ago he started randomly licking things for no good reason – lids of jars, my soda bottles, the neck of lamps – and while I’ve read that this could be a sign of some sort of nutrient or vitamin deficiency (which I am keeping an eye on) it is also a possible sign of boredom leading to obsessive behavior, and as playful as Simon wants to be, i could see him getting bored easily, since no one else around here is all that down for playing. So, enter Violet.

Then there was a selfish reason for getting her, too. Simon has never been a huge cuddler, which is new for me. I’ve always had very cuddly cats, but when Simon is done with you, he’s done, and if he doesn’t want to be cuddled, forget it. He’ll swat you away. And as he’s gotten older, the less cuddly he’s  become. Oh, he still crawls into my lap most nights while I’m sitting up in bed reading or playing Hearthstone on my iPad, but that’s about it, and again, it’s only if and when he decides to do it that it happens. So I was hoping a new kitty might alleviate Simon’s boredom as well as give me something to cuddle with impunity.

One of our local shelters, Citizens for Animal Protection, has a lovely shelter and they were holding a ‘clear the shelters’ event this past Saturday where all pets adoptions were free (this is the shelter where we adopted Simon). When I first heard about it, I thought oh hell no, I am NOT going to deal with that madness because it will be packed – but then I woke up Saturday morning and thought, yep, today’s the day. It wasn’t that I wanted a free cat that badly, it was just the day I finally  felt ready to take the plunge. So down to CAP I went. I knew I needed a pretty bold kitten, since she’d be coming home to two dogs and one seriously playful full-grown cat, and not only did Violet seem, personality-wise, to fit that bill, but her original name was Mercy, which of course, is part of my internet/blog name, so I figured she must be the one. Plus her health record was clear, she’d already been spayed, and one of the directors of the shelter told me he’d fostered her at his house and found her to be a really great cat. So I snatched her up, and off we went!

And here’s where I broke more internet rules. Everything I read said to give the new cat its own space and leave it separated from the other pets for, like, two days, but there was a problem – there isn’t one square inch of this house that another animal hasn’t already claimed or, if it wasn’t claimed by one of them, that was a safe place to keep a kitten. I originally chose my office to be the new-cat space, but within five hours our dog Penny was hiding in a back corner of my husband’s closet, completely traumatized that she’d been replaced from her spot next to my desk. Honestly i didn’t even realized she was that attached to being in there, but apparently she was, so Doug and I decided to move the process along and start introducing Violet to the other pets right away.

We put her in a wire crate that was pretty big and allowed the dogs in first. Now, my husband comes from farmers (although not his immediate family; it’s an occupation that ended with his grandfather) and so he has that throw-em-in-a-room-together-and-let-them-work-it-out mentality, whereas I am such the opposite of that it isn’t even funny. While he felt letting the dogs sniff her while she hissed at them inside the cage was just part of the process, I was literally chewing my nails off with worry that we were damaging her for life. Then he let Simon in, and I practically went through the ceiling from the tension. There was growling and hissing and swatting and crying – and that’s just what I was going through! Before I was anywhere  near ready to deal with it emotionally, Doug had opened up the gate to the crate and let Violet out, and of course in the end it was all fine. By the end of the night they were all wary, but basically OK with each other, and when on occasion the two cats would get too aggressive with their wrestling I could easily get Violet tucked away somewhere to give Simon a break, but he seemed to be fine even though he had to swat her down from time to time.

Tomorrow I take her to the vet in the morning to make sure she checks out OK. I’m exhausted right now because although the director at CAP told me Violet was fine sleeping by herself in a closed room, I of course couldn’t stand it and took a sleeping bag into my office and slept with her, which was fine from the perspective that she didn’t actually mess with me too much (unlike Simon, who spent the entire night attacking my face and feet when I did the same for him) but sleeping on a hard floor in a sleeping bag was not good for me overall, and I’m stiff and sleepy today. We left the house this morning and Violet stayed alone in the office for several hours without incident (although I did have to cat-proof it by removing every item in there that had a cord), so here’s hoping I can manage to unattach myself from her enough to sleep in my own bed tonight.

A busy week ahead, and though I have filmed a lot of reviews to share, there were some problems with the results and I haven’t yet decided whether or not I’m going to upload these vids or have to film them all over. We’ll talk more about that later, I’m sure.

Fringe Benefits

I realize this is not a big deal, but I got a haircut.


Actually no, that’s my hair before I cut it. But you know I have to build up to it a little, right?

The thing is, I’ve been saying for years as I’ve been wearing wigs and growing out my hair that I do not look good in bangs, and for the most part I refuse to review wigs that have distinct bangs cut into them. I’ve never felt bangs looked good on me, and I’ve honestly never much liked the way they look at all. I’ve never really understood why people would choose to wear their hair that way, either.

This is pretty much my ideal hairstyle.

As I’ve mentioned before, though, my hair is baby-fine, and although all of the photos above are supposedly good cuts for fine hair (I mean, would Pinterest lie?) try as I might I couldn’t get my hair to look like that. Perhaps it’s because all those hair models are 22 years old; more likely they all are wearing hair extensions, or at the least they’ve just been professionally styled (my own hair MIGHT look like this right after leaving the stylist, too). But for the most part, although I had the length for something like this, what I usually ended up with was completely lacking in style. It was the photo I snapped with old Mattress Mack last week that cinched it for me:

Photo Jun 17, 10 09 56 AM

I swear when I left the house (all of 10 minutes before this photo was taken) I had a nice sweep to the front that curved under just so, and fell perfectly over my right eye like every good bob or lob should. But here, it’s just a limp, shoulder-length pile of meh. What’s a truly fine-haired gal to do when she’s 47 years old and lives in the real world? I figured I had two choices: shorten it into a chin-length bob, which I’ve worn before and which does work with my face and hair; or, keep my hard-earned length and cut in some bangs. In the end, I just couldn’t bring myself to part with the length, and I still want to go longer, so I called up my stylist and made an appointment (no way in hell I’m trimming my own hair; I’ve learned that lesson the hard way).

As I already mentioned, I knew from all my wig-wearing that bangs looked terrible on me, so I was torn about doing this. But I did some reading about not only hairstyles that are good for fine hair, but also for long faces. My face shape is oval, which is always nice, but it’s also always been oblong, and as I get older it gets, well, longer. I’m sure it doesn’t actually get longer, but without fillers it starts to appear that way. And one of the most common recommendations for people with long hair and long faces is – you guessed it – bangs, because they shorten the face, basically. So I took that first photo I posted above (it’s just a quick crappy cell phone pic, and no, I am not wearing any makeup) and found a copy of a celebrity whose hair reminds me a lot of my own and who always has a pretty heavy bang: Rashida Jones. I basically pasted her bangs over that photo, and voila:

Had to make it black and white because Rashida’s bangs didn’t match my hair color

I still wasn’t sure about it, so I tested the hairstyle out by making this my Facebook profile photo, and enough people liked it that I figured it was worth a go. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I certainly didn’t expect to freaking love it. I figured it would add a little bit of style to what was rapidly becoming a completely nondescript, style-less hair do, but I really did not expect the transformation that the addition of the bangs made to my hair:

And yes, my face is Photoshopped – notice the slightly shorter chin? That’s only partially due to the optical illusion of the bangs.

Yes, that is really all my own hair. I kind of still can’t believe it. For at least five years my hair has been in one stage or another of still-growing-out, and here it really looks like an actual style. I love it.

Took this for my tutoring blog I’m currently working on; thought I’d share it here because you can see what my hair looks like without the hair being blown about Beyonce-style. And is anyone else seeing how much this looks like RW’s Star Quality, or is it just me?

But what strikes me most right now is how, when I go back and look at wigs I’ve reviewed that have heavy bangs, I still don’t like how they look on me. And I still think some of the best long wigs I’ve ever worn (on me anyway) are styles without them. Which brings me to my point, more or less: if you’re wearing wigs, you probably need to re-think what looks good on you. Because the style of your bio hair may not look as good on you in wig form. The bangs on the wigs I’ve tried have been too heavy, and too long (and I’m not willing to trim them myself), and I think when combined with the thicker density of wigs in general those styles overpower me. But if I were to continue to insist that the styles that look best on me in wig form are therefore the styles I should wear as far as my bio-hair goes, I’d still have a shapeless hair-curtain. So the reverse must also apply: the styles that looked amazing on your bio hair just might not be the styles you wear best in wig form. So, try to be open to completely new and different styles and cuts when trying out your wigs. Perhaps the goal of finding a wig that looks exactly like your biohair isn’t always the best to have? Who knows.

I’d say, at least be open to the possibility of finding something completely different in wig form that really works on you. You never know.

Mattress Mack and Giving Back

I just have to share the story of this day, even though it’s not over yet.

I got up this morning feeling restless, so I decided to throw on some makeup and get out of the house. I didn’t have any specific plans for what to do with myself, but I had a few ideas in my head rattling around. One was to visit the local library for some quiet reading time; another was to head over to the local mall and wander around, then grab some lunch; and a third was to go check out the new Gallery Furniture showroom that opened up near us a year or two ago.

If you’re not from Houston you’ve probably never heard of Gallery Furniture or its owner, Mack McIngvale (aka “Mattress Mack”). But if you’re from this area, you know who he is; he’s a huge presence in this city and has been for a long time – he’s been around as long as I can remember, at least. He started out with a small furniture retail business and over the years grew it into a money-making machine. He’s also quite philanthropic and is known for putting a lot of his money back into the communities he serves (which is pretty much all of the Houston area at this point). I think he still makes the cheesy commercials he became famous for; he is mostly associated with them and with his famous catch phrase “Saves…You…MONEY!” (shouted while jumping up and down with a wad of cash in his hand – see video example below).

He’s also known for continuing to only sell products that are American-made, and continuing to be very hands-on and present in all of his stores. He’s put God knows how much money back into the city’s medical community, educational institutions, and the like. Plus, his commercials are a part of my childhood, as they are for everyone who was a kid in the 70’s and 80’s (and perhaps further on than that, for all I know).


This new Gallery Furniture showroom he opened in my area was a big deal when it was finally finished; it’s huge and has quite the fancy restaurant attached to it, and it’s a big attraction to the area. The showroom itself boasts an indoor atrium with lily ponds and monkeys (for some reason), a 30,000 gallon aquarium, and a huge Texas flag “mattress” playground for kids to jump on. So, I thought I might wander inside and see if there were any interesting photos I wanted to take.

Photo Jun 17, 12 21 26 PM

Photo Jun 17, 12 21 10 PM
Some seriously over-sized furniture; check out the yellow cab kid stroller for scale

I decided not to lug my camera in first, though, and to take some time to wander around and see if there was anything worth snapping. And what do I see first thing after walking through the entrance but Mr. Mattress Mack himself – he and two employees were actually using one of those huge kitchen table chairs in the photo above as a desk (the chairs are approximately chest-high). I recognized him right away, and although it’s well known that he visits his showrooms frequently, I was still surprised to see him there, and right as I walked inside to boot. At first I ignored him, because he was busy at the time, and walked right past their group into the showroom to wander around. A salesman was giving me the lay of the land when I decided I would, in fact, go back to my car to grab my camera, and that I would try to snap a photo of Mr. Mack if I encountered him on my journey. Sure enough, as I started back towards the entrance, Mattress Mack was heading right for me, so without even thinking I asked him if he was who I thought (knew) he was, and asked for a photo. And here it is.

Photo Jun 17, 10 09 56 AM

He asked me if I was heading into the Brookwood Community Store located within the showroom, and I mentioned that I was (I wasn’t, but hey, you know how it is) and that I was familiar with the organization. Let me detour and explain what Brookwood is: it’s a non-profit organization dedicated to providing living assistance to individuals with severe learning disabilities. They actually have many people who live in their residential facilities, but they also provide day programs for people with Down’s Syndrome and other functional disabilities. One of the organization’s biggest focuses has always been on providing people with vocational skills so they can maintain a productive existence and be able to contribute to their communities, and in that regard they have many work programs as well as businesses in which the members work and make the wares that are sold.

Photo Jun 17, 10 09 23 AM
The Brookwood Community store inside the Gallery Furniture showroom

They have a cafe where community members can cook as well as serve the food, a nursery where they can work in the gardens or sell the plants, and other opportunities like this to provide a sense of accomplishment to the members and help them live productive lives. It’s a great organization, and Gallery Furniture has a store inside the showroom for the community to sell certamics and other products the residents make. They also have classrooms and a workshop in this facility, where Brookwood members work every day. I learned all of this when Mattress Mack walked me over to the area and started showing me around.

Photo Jun 17, 10 11 03 AM

Photo Jun 17, 10 13 33 AM

So Mattress Mack and I enter the workroom, and since neither of the staff members had ever met him, we all ended up kind of introducing ourselves to each other without any formality to it. This led them to believe that I knew him somehow; that either I was an important person he was showing around, or I was an unimportant person charged with showing HIM around; I had to explain to them later that I didn’t know him at all and had just run into him when I walked into the building. I made mention of my background working with students with learning disabilities as a teacher (although I’ve never worked with students who had severe issues) and asked if they needed volunteers. I’ve learned over the years never to ask someone at a charitable organization if they need volunteers unless you are ready to start RIGHT AWAY, because they always need volunteers and are pretty darn skilled at coralling people to work. Sure enough, no sooner did I ask than I was seated at a table, making mosaic crosses with a girl named Josie that would be sold in the store later.

That all came after the kids finished bombarding Mattress Mack for photos, though, which I dutifully took for them (they all knew who he was, had clearly never met him before, and were VERY excited to see him):



I got to the showroom right at 10:00 AM, and ended up staying until around 1:30. For all of that time, I was in the workroom with the kids. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve never worked with students who have these levels of disability, so for the first hour or so I was observing more than anything. The girl I worked with, Josie, had a tendency to overload the wooden cross she was working with, trying to put a mosaic tile into every available space. At first I just let her do her thing, but when one of the workers came over I watched how she corrected and instructed Josie to be sure not to overload the cross and to pay attention to symmetry so that the end result could be sold in the store. After that, I was more comfortable doing the same thing, and started to guide her more and ask her to stop on occasion and evaluate what she was doing. It was rough going, because she’d seem to hear what I was saying and agree, then she’d go ahead and plonk whatever she wanted onto the cross. At times, she had it perfectly symmetrical, then would take a tile or two off and jumble it all up again; and when it came time to glue the pieces down things really got interesting. I noticed right away that she was dumping a ton of glue onto each piece, and she ignored my instructions to use less. After a few tiles got slopped onto the cross with glue oozing every direction, Cherie, the assistant, came over, and once again she was very direct and stern with Josie about not using too much glue and being careful with what she was doing. She asked Josie to explain to me what her issues were with glue, and together they informed me that she loves the feel of the glue so much that she always overdoes it – that was certainly good information for me as up to that point I was getting nowhere trying to get her to calm down with it! Cherie even went so far as to point out to us that some of the tiles didn’t match the overall look color-wise, and that they needed to be changed (by the way, I am NOT crafty at all, so I had no idea what I was doing and this was as much of a learning experience for me as a teaching one!).

Photo Jun 17, 11 15 45 AM
Oh dear. An early attempt. Yeah I’m really not good at this sort of thing.

Once again I was able to see how much more direct I could be with her, and even though I could tell she didn’t like me quite as much once I started giving her more direction, we got the cross into a somewhat manageable pattern, and right away she started doing a much better job with the glue. Teaching these sorts of life and social skills to students who need it has always been a problem for me; I feel guilty and don’t want to hurt kids’ feelings, but the truth is, if you’re teaching them, you need to include those life skills they need to function independently of you – in that regard, it’s better to be liked a little less and be able to teach the kids more. I just worry about pushing a kid too far or being too stern and upsetting them. But hey, even getting upset and learning to deal with those feelings is a good lesson, so there’s no need to be overly cautious; it’s just my nature to be too nice with kids.

Photo Jun 17, 11 43 45 AM
I swear this improved once we got it all glued down.

In case you can’t tell by how much I have to say about this experience, this sort of thing is right up my alley. I cannot emphasize enough how much I needed something like this to come my way at this point and time; to get out of my own head and spend a few hours being useful and helpful in a very direct and tangible way. Even though it’s officially summer and I’m always ‘off work’ this time of year, knowing I have nothing to go back to in the fall in a helping capacity makes me feel a bit lost and purposeless. It opened my mind a bit more to all the possibillities that are not only available to me but right under my nose, as well as opening up a possibility for the future I hadn’t considered, which is working with kids who have even greater disabilities than I’ve ever taught. And I’ve been wanting somewhere to volunteer a few hours a week, too, and here’s somewhere I can do that right up the road. Overall, what I was left with at the end of all this was a sense of amazement at how much more abundance and opportunity there is in the world than I realize, and how magical the universe can be in guiding us to where we need to go.

Photo Jun 17, 10 15 56 AM
Josie and Mattress Mack with a Texas flag she made

Before I left I talked volunteering on a regular basis and filling out applications and possible job opportunities; I’m certain I’ll do more volunteer work there soon but whether or not anything turns into a paying job is just a remote possibility at this point. But I’m not sure either one of those things matter right now. For now, what’s important for me is to go with the flow, follow my instincts, journey down some new roads and see where they lead; sure, today it just led me to a furniture showroom, which felt weird at first, but look at the day I ended up having as a result! And there’s a whisper of a promise in all of this somewhere, I can feel it – something that’s nudging me and hinting of more. What I need to keep doing right now is listen.