Sunday, September 20, 2015

Saying Goodbye To Molly

2011 was one of the most, if not the most, difficult year of my life. I saw my world turned upside down in a matter of months. Just looking back on that time is painful. But there was one bright moment, one piece of sunshine that God sent me to help me through the storm. That piece of sunshine was our dog, Molly.

Molly appeared in our front yard in May of 2011.  She was so thin, filthy, and scared. She was such a big dog that she frightened us at first, but my daughter (the eternal animal lover) quickly brought her some water to drink. She also got some leftover meatballs, which the poor dog devoured.  I had a can of Vienna sausages, and gave her those, too.  She was clearly starving, and from the looks of her she'd probably been roaming the streets for some days.  We brought her inside our yard to keep her off the streets and out of danger.  I had to pick up my son E from school, and I promised my daughter I'd buy her some dog food as well.  I clearly remember bawling in my car as I remembered Tobey, our soft coated wheaten terrier that had died three years earlier. I didn't want another dog.  I didn't want to go through the pain of losing another dog.  But I also knew my daughter would be begging to keep her. What's a mother to do?

My son also fell in love with the dog. She was so scared, so timid, and she appeared to be very sweet, but I warned them that the dog probably belonged to someone and it was our duty to find her owners and get her back home. Which wouldn't be easy; she had no collar and no visible signs of ownership.

Within a couple of days we took her to a vet to see if she had a chip that would help us get her home. She didn't. What we did find out from the vet was that she was about a year old, maybe a year and a half at most. She'd also recently given birth. I was amazed at how gentle she was, how she let the vet do all kinds of tests and didn't complain, growl, or bite. The vet asked what I was going to do with the dog. I told her I would continue to seek the dog's owners; if we couldn't find any, we would have to decide if we would keep her or take her to the humane society. The vet immediately objected: she was sure the dog would be euthanized if we took her to the pound. She told us, "If you don't want to keep her, bring her to me. I want her. She's an excellent dog, well behaved and gentle. I will take her if you won't."  It surprised me that she would speak with such passion over a dog she'd just met.

Convincing my children that we should keep the dog would be easy; convincing their dad would be another story.  He hated the dog.  Couldn't stand having her around.  There was no reason for this other than the expense of having to buy dog food and dog stuff. But when my son E got on his knees and begged his father to please let him keep the dog, his father couldn't say no.  So the dog stayed, on the condition that if we found her owners we would give her back.  We would take care of her as long as she needed us to, but she wasn't truly ours yet.

We asked around, we looked for signs at the stores or on street lights, but no one ever came looking for her. My daughter recalled that, about a week earlier, she'd seen some folks selling American bulldog puppies not far from our house. The dog we'd found was an American bulldog mix, and she'd recently had pups.  My daughter believed that this poor creature had been used to breed and then abandoned.  We couldn't understand why: she was the sweetest, gentlest, most loving and affectionate dog we'd ever seen. She was well behaved, completely housebroken, obedient, quiet...I often said she couldn't be a real dog.  She had to be an animatronic.  No dog could be that good.  But she was, and she climbed into our hearts.  We named her Molly because to me, she looked like a Molly. She responded to the name immediately, so we suspect that her name was something similar to Molly. She quickly became a member of the family.

Within a couple of months I found out my husband had been cheating on me, and that the whole reason he wanted me and the kids to move to Central Florida was so that he could bring his mistress to live in my house. The months that followed were nothing less than a nightmare. My two older kids moved to Central Florida for school.  My husband moved out that November.  I was left alone with my almost 12 year old son, and whenever he was in school I was alone in my house, with my thoughts, my pain, my prayers, and my dog.  Molly saw more of my tears than anyone else.  She kept me company day in and day out; while I cleaned the house, she'd follow me around.  I would say to her, "I should have named you Shadow because that's what you do all day, is shadow me!"  She would look at me and smile.  Yes, my dog would smile.  When I sat down, she'd rest her head on my lap. When I'd pet her, she'd put her paw up on my leg and pet me back.  I soon figured out that when God brought her to my front yard, it wasn't so that I could take care of her; it was so she could take care of me. My daughter repeatedly asked if Molly could come to Central Florida to live with her, but I said no each time.  She was my puppy, and we needed each other.

My kids came back home in 2012.  By then it was established: Molly was ours. We loved her, doted on her, and in turn she loved us unconditionally.  Everyone who met her fell in love with her.  You couldn't help but love her.  She was just that sweet.  We did notice a strange little pimple-like growth on her belly at the time, and we had the vet at the humane society look at it.  She said it was probably nothing to worry about, unless it started growing.  "Just keep an eye on it," she said.

About a year later we noticed the little pimple had grown, and we took her to another vet (none of us wanted to go back to the vet that treated Tobey; he was never able to tell us what killed our poor dog).  This vet glanced under her belly and told us it looked like blood cancer and that he would need to test her to see if she could take anesthesia, then operate and have the pimple removed and tested, and it would cost $60 to test her for anesthesia and another $600-$700 to operate, plus have the thing was so upsetting, I could not put it into words. He never really examined her, he barely looked at her and didn't put a finger on her.  I went home raging mad because I didn't know what to do.  Within a couple of days, the pimple popped and went almost completely away. Hah! I thought. Dumb vet didn't know what he was talking about.  The little pimple would come back, but it would pop and go away, so we didn't worry too much about it.

Then, at the beginning of this year, the pimple became a growth. It got larger and redder, and even when it bled it wouldn't go away.  So off we went to yet another vet.  How I wish the first vet that had seen her was still around!  Unfortunately she'd moved out of the area.  We took her to a vet not far from our home that we'd heard good things about.  The vet was out of town so his assistant saw Molly.  Just from the look on her face I knew it wasn't good.  She said the growth had to be removed, and soon.  She also said that, from her experience, it didn't look good.  We scheduled the surgery for the following week when the vet would be back.  It was the soonest we could get her in.

In the meantime, the growth not only got bigger, it began to decompose. It smelled like death; that's the only way I can describe it. It would bleed from open sores.  It was awful.  She felt awful; we could see in her face that she was extremely uncomfortable, though she never cried.

Three days later, she had the surgery. By then the pimple had become a mass larger than a golf ball.  We held our breath waiting for the results, but deep down inside we knew.  A week after her surgery the vet confirmed our worst fears: the growth was a grade 2 mass cell tumor, and it was malignant.  Our sweet, loving Molly had cancer.  And not just any cancer.  This form of cancer was aggressive.

My kids and I had discussed this possibility.  We knew the vet would suggest cancer treatments, but we've known multiple people who've gone down that road with their pets only to regret it.  Their dogs have suffered through chemo and died of cancer anyway.  We didn't want that for our Molly.  We knew if she had cancer she would die because of it, and we wanted her to die with dignity.  So I informed the vet that we would forgo the treatment, and enjoy her while we had her.  When her time came we'd do what was best for her, and not let her suffer.  The vet respected our wishes.  He told us Molly could live anywhere from 3 months to a year.

Looking at her after her surgery, we thought the worst was over.  She came back to life again; she was bouncy, energetic, and happy again.  She was acting like a puppy!  We were convinced that she would live a long time now that the ugly tumor that had taken three years to grow was gone, and if that's how long it took the tumors to grow, we might even have more years with her! But it wasn't to be.

Within a couple of months she had another growth on her belly.  And another.  A month later there was one on her leg, and another on her face.  It was like her body was exploding with tumors.  Most were small, though, and we continued to hope they'd be like the first one.  Then we noticed that she was having trouble breathing at times.  My daughter was petting her, when she noticed that Molly's chest was swollen, and there was a rash.  It was getting bad.  Really bad.

September 11 we went to Disney World for Night of Joy, just as we had last year.  Part of me was dying to go.  I'd booked a room at the Pop Century months earlier, and we'd never stayed at that resort.  We were excited to go back to Disney, but I hated leaving Molly.  She didn't look well at all.  My oldest son R was staying in town, but he would be working all day Saturday and wouldn't be able to watch her or let her out.  Thankfully, my daughter's best friend came to the rescue, and dog sat Molly for a little while on Saturday.  We got home Sunday evening, tired and worn and happy to see our sweet dog.  It wasn't until the next day that my daughter came to tell me that she had found more tumors, and that the one on her chest was getting really, really big. Molly was having trouble getting around. Her leg, the one under the tumor on her chest, was extremely swollen as well.  She couldn't even sit for very long because she couldn't put much weight on her leg.  There was an intense sadness in her eyes.  She was constantly running a fever.  I told my daughter I didn't know what else to do, and she said, "Mom, it's time."  I felt my heart break in two, but I knew she was right.  I told her I'd call the vet the next day.

When I explained to the receptionist what was going on, she said, "I remember Molly! I'm so sorry!" It was not unexpected.  Molly impacted everyone she met in the most positive way. I asked if we could wait until Friday; I needed time to get used to the idea.  Oh, how I suffered those days!  I kept seeing how unhappy she was, how miserable she felt, and I desperately wanted her to be her old self again. But I knew.  It wasn't going to get better.  And I didn't want her to get worse.

Friday came, and I dreaded each passing minute of the day.  I went to my Ladies bible study group, but I only told one lady about it.  She got all teary-eyed and told me she loved me.  She must have seen the hurt and pain in my eyes.  Finally, I packed Molly and my son E into the car, and we met my daughter A at the vet's office.  They asked if we wanted to stay during the procedure, and we said yes.  I couldn't bring myself to leave her alone when she'd never left my side.

It was quick, and it was painless.  The vet told us that, more than likely, the cancer had spread to her organs.  We were doing the right thing by not letting her suffer any longer.  I knew he was right.  As we watched her take her last breaths, we knew we'd saved her from prolonged pain.  It didn't make it any easier.  With every short breath she took, my heart broke into more and more pieces.  How do you say goodbye to a pet that has been with you through the worst storms of your life?

I cried when our Tobey died.  It was sad, because he did suffer, and we never found out what was wrong with him.  It was rough.  But nowhere near as much as I have suffered now, losing Molly.  Tobey was my daughter's dog; he was her dad's dog.  I loved Tobey, but Tobey was independent.  He was never affectionate, and he was always getting into mischief.  Molly, on the other hand, was loving.  She was a people lover.  We would say she was like Ariel; she wanted to be "where the people are."  She was my dog.  MY dog.  She loved me more than anyone else in the house.  My daughter would get mad because she'd be petting Molly and Molly would be watching me.  She loved everyone, but she loved me most, and now she's gone, and I can't stop missing her.  There's an emptiness in our house.  Our family feels incomplete.

In case you're wondering, we won't be getting another dog.  My son's allergist made it clear: E is allergic to dogs, and Molly was contributing to his eczema and allergy symptoms.  There was no way I was getting rid of Molly; I knew she didn't have long to live, and I couldn't bring myself to give her to anyone else.  But I will not bring another dog into the house.  It's not fair to my son.  Besides, I know I will never, ever, find another dog like Molly.  She was truly the best dog in the world.  Even as the tears become less and less, I will remember her and miss her for the rest of my life.  

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

What's Been Going On

It's amazing what can happen in just a couple of weeks.  Life can take some crazy turns.  Thankfully ours have been pretty positive!

One of the teachers at the tutoring center recently got a job at a Christian school teaching high school math.  I was sad to hear she was leaving but happy for her new job, especially since she's getting married in October.  Little did I know how her new job would impact my family!

My daughter A has been under her father's health insurance ever since I stopped working.  She turns 26 the end of this year, which means she will no longer be covered under his insurance.  Her father has been hounding her ever since her birthday back in December, telling her she needs to get health insurance before her birthday.  She has looking, but health insurance is expensive, especially for a young single woman.  For those who think that government insurance is the answer, think again.  Even Obamacare is costly.  Since she was working two part-time jobs and neither one offered health benefits, she knew she would have to come up with a way to get affordable healthcare, and her options weren't very promising.

Her dad called her about a month ago asking once again if she had found insurance yet.  When she told him she hadn't, he told her not to worry about it, he had found a way to keep her on his insurance and she'd only have to pay him $100 a month.  Now, if I know anything about this man, it's that he can't resist a scam.  I didn't know what he was up to, but I did know one thing for sure: whatever it was, it was illegal.  He doesn't care; as far as he's concerned, it's not illegal unless you get caught.  Well, that was NOT what I wanted for my daughter.  Of course, with J, it's his way and that's that.  But he doesn't know the power of my God!  My daughter and I began to pray that God would provide her with insurance that would be more affordable than what J was insisting on offering.  Seems impossible?  Ha, nothing is impossible for our God!

A week after we started praying, I got home from grocery shopping to find my daughter extremely excited.  It turned out that the girl who was leaving had contacted her.  The school where she was going to start working needed an English teacher, someone with a degree in English, and they needed someone right away.  She immediately thought of A and asked if she was interested.  The school would take care of getting her certification.  The part that had her most excited?  The job would pay her double what both her part-time jobs paid, and she would receive 100% paid health benefits!!  She could hardly contain her excitement!  She was happy and nervous at the same time, and asked me what she should do.  I said hey, go for it!  God is sending you this opportunity, you'd best take it!  She interviewed that same day, and they offered her the job on the spot.  Turns out they'd been needing someone since the school year had finished, and no one - absolutely no one - had applied for the position.  She was the first person to apply, and school was going to start in one week.  The thought of it made her even more nervous, and she said she needed to pray about it.  She spoke to her pastor, her friends, and of course mom.  We looked into the school and the church.  This church has been instrumental in planting many of the churches in South Florida, and their ministry is extensive.  All her friends (many of them teachers themselves) told her they'd be there with help and advise.  We all agreed, this wasn't a coincidence, it was a God-incident.  So she accepted, got her training and certification, and this week started teaching 9th and 11th grade English (including an AP class) along with middle school journalism.  She is the happiest she's been in ages!  Everything has fallen into place so perfectly, that we know it has to be the hand of our ever faithful God!  We are so thankful for this new step in her life!

Of course my bosses weren't as happy as she was.  They were left without two teachers for the fall session which starts next Monday.  But once again, God has provided.  We have three new teachers coming in that got trained this week.  It was rough for my daughter, because she doesn't like to disappoint, but the opportunity was too great to pass up.  It's been hectic with her church job too, but she's such a trouper.  She's getting the work done, and getting all her school assignments done as well (she's working towards getting certified as a pastoral counselor).  God is blessing her hard work, and I can't wait to see what else He has in store for my little girl!

As for me, I've been on an organization kick - or more like a frenzy ;-).  It started in the master bedroom, moved into the kitchen where I've been organizing the pantry and cupboards, and now it has continued into the bathrooms.  I've been throwing out anything that is expired (you'd be surprised what you find hiding in a medicine cabinet) or that doesn't get used, and putting things away properly.  I've shopped at Walmart, Target, Dollar Tree and Amazon for organization tools and containers.  I've also done some deep cleaning before school starts up again, which is on the 24th.  I'm off from work this week (yay!) so I've been able to get loads of stuff done.  I'm very much a type A personality, and having everything streamlined and organized makes me feel relaxed.  I'm loving it!

I took my youngest son E for allergy testing.  Not only were his allergies getting out of control, his eczema was spreading.  Both his arms were covered, his eyes were dry and irritated, and below his chin it was starting up.  It seemed the medicines the dermatologist had ordered weren't enough, so I had to take the next step.  He had to get off his maintenance medicines for 5 days so the tests could be accurate.  It was the most miserable 5 days of his life!  He literally needed a trash can next to him to drop all the tissues he was using because he was sneezing so much.  When we finally got to the doctor's office for the tests, they got delayed because E was having a mild asthma attack.  See, the day before we'd gone to see Hillsong United in concert, and it was held outdoors in a park.  The outdoors are my son's enemies, unfortunately.  He was coughing but he wasn't wheezing, at least not heavily, so I hadn't detected it, but the doctor noticed right away.  Once he was breathing normally, the doctor proceeded with the tests.  Thankfully my son has no food allergies.  He does, however, have a ton of other allergies, all environmental.  Trees, grass, mold, plants...let's just say, he's allergic to Florida.  The doctor put him on prednisone and gave him an inhaler, along with eye drops, nose drops, and instructions for taking care of the eczema.  He also suggested I get an air purifier, which I ordered the very next day.  I'm happy to report that his eczema is almost completely gone thanks to the creams he's using (Vanicream is the best, I highly recommend it), and I haven't heard him sneeze in days.  Oh, thank You Jesus!

We found out he's also allergic to pet dander, particularly dogs and cats.  This has created a dilemma for us, because we can't get rid of Molly.  Not only because we love her, but because she has cancer, and she's dying.  The second tumor on her belly has started to grow, and we don't think she has very much longer to live.  We know no one will take her in her condition, and if we take her to the humane society they'll put her down.  We've decided to keep her until the inevitable, which J is against (he's wanted us to get rid of Molly since day one), but honestly I don't believe we will have her for much longer.  It breaks our hearts to even think about it.

Sorry to end on a sad note (I didn't realize it till I looked back) but life is like that; it has its ups and downs.  We thank God for the good, and we thank Him for the not-so-good.  In all things we praise our God and Father and trust in His decisions.  Hope you do too.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Product Review: Trader Joe's All Natural Uncured All Beef Hot Dogs

I have a sensitive stomach.  Way too much acidity going on in there.  Consequently, I have to be very careful about the foods I eat.  Whenever I have foods that irritate or upset my stomach, it can get bad enough to give me a migraine headache.  And no one wants those.

So when it comes to deli-style meats, I have to be very particular.  Hot dogs are a food group I avoid like the plague.  Not because I don't like them, but because they don't like me.  I can have a hot dog well done on the grill, and get a terrible stomachache and long lasting heartburn.  It bums me out, because I grew up eating hot dogs and enjoying a good Nathan's extra long.  Growing up in New York, I'm familiar with dirty dog weiners smothered in onions and mustard - yum!  But the sick feeling I'm left with afterwards is not worth the momentary pleasure.

On a recent trip to Ulta, my daughter suggested we stop off at Trader Joe's.  For those who aren't familiar with this specialty geared grocery store, Trader Joe's sells mostly their own brand label products that are preservative free, dye free, and GMO free; lots of organic fruits, veggies, and meats, and overall good food.  The closest Trader Joe's to us is by our Ulta, which is two cities north of us, but worth the occasional trip.  Whenever we're in the area we like to stop by and see what's new.

It was July 4th weekend, so they were serving hot dog samples outside of the store.  These hot dogs were advertised as being 100% all beef, no preservatives, no fillers, uncured, with no added nitrates or nitrites.  The aroma of grilled hot dogs was too tempting to resist; and since it was just a sample, I figured, what can it hurt?  I took the sample and hoped for the best.

Let me just say, this was the best tasting hot dog I have ever had the privilege of trying.  I can't even describe the flavor, except that it's not like a regular grocery store hot dog.  It's not like the stuff the street vendors are selling in NYC.  It's not like the Coney Island hot dogs.  It's way better.  Like, 1,000 times better.  I didn't want to swallow because I was enjoying the taste too much and I didn't want it to end.  My son E, who isn't a big hot dog fan either, also commented on how delicious the hot dog was.  I asked him to go check out the label again, and we went in search of them in the store.  As I read the description, I was more convinced this could be a good choice for us, so I bought a pack and made hot dogs for lunch.

For the first time in years, I was able to eat a hot dog without it feeling like I had swallowed a brick and it was sitting in my stomach.  I actually ate two hot dogs (gasp!) with no stomach upset whatsoever.  It was amazing.  To be able to enjoy a hot dog as I did when I was a little girl...well, to me, that's priceless.

If you have a Trader Joe's near you, I urge you to check it out.  They have a lot more specialty items (my son would tell you their cookie butter is the best invention since sliced bread), and the food is all good for you - bonus!  The prices are slightly higher than supermarket prices, but cheaper than Whole Foods.  It's worth the price to put good stuff into your bodies, that's for sure.

This post is not sponsored.  I purchased the products on my own, and this is my personal opinion.  Trader Joe's doesn't even know I've done this review.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

What I've Been Up To

It's been a couple of weeks since I last posted, busy and productive weeks.  Let's see if I can remember what all I've been up to.

I'm on an organizing kick.  Spring cleaning so to speak, except in the summer.  I've been getting rid of clutter and putting things in order.  I hate clutter; I avoid having things I don't need or having things in the wrong places.  But with work and home and church and everything in between, things have fallen to the wayside and been pushed back on the priority list, until one day I looked and said, "Enough is enough!!"  It started in my bedroom closet.  I'd bought some clothes and was having trouble fitting it all into my closet.  It was starting to look messy and out of control.  One day I decided to go through my clothes and pull out anything that could be donated so that my closet wouldn't feel so cramped.  That was all that was needed to get me motivated.  I not only got a donation pile going, I organized all my clothes, shoes and purses.  I decided to take any "winter" clothes out (winter clothes in South Florida means a few long sleeve shirts) which meant I had to organize some of my dresser drawers to fit them in.  When I was done I felt like a load had been lifted off my shoulders (when in fact it had been lifted out of my closet).  There's actually room to move in my closet now, and I can see the floor again!  It got my adrenaline pumping for more.

This week it's been the kitchen.  I reorganized the pantry: there are bins to put bagged items in, canisters for snacks, pastas, flours and cereals.  The slow cookers were moved to the storage cabinet in the garage to make room for food containers.

The shelves outside the pantry were organized as well.  To make it easier for us to find things, I labeled everything with chalk labels so that the information can be changed at any time.  Now we can easily see where everything is without having to move everything or having five items fall on the floor trying to reach for one item.

Today I emptied out several kitchen cabinets, then put things away so as to make the kitchen flow better.  I moved all my spices to the cabinet on the left of the stove.  This was where I used to keep my spices originally, until we remodeled the kitchen and J insisted that cabinet should have a glass door.  I didn't want to keep my spices there anymore, because I was concerned it would look messy, so I put glassware there and put my spices in the cabinet on the right of the stove.  Problem is, I was using the left side cabinet as more of a display cabinet, which ultimately meant my cabinet space was reduced.  I'd already lost cabinet space when J decided that one of my cabinets should be converted into a trash bin (why do people who never cook or spend more than 2 minutes in a kitchen think they know better than the folks who actually use the kitchen?).  My kitchen was so cramped.  I had to move so many things around just to get my spices out because of the way the cabinets were made; the right side cabinets are corner cabinets, but they were not built as corner cabinets.

The cabinet on the left goes all the way back to the wall, but the one on the right has no access to that space, so if I need something from the back of the cabinet I have to empty the entire shelf to reach it.  Many of my spices ended up back there; cooking became a hassle of moving things in and out of the cabinet, creating more of a mess.  As you can see, I took the spices out of the cabinet and put canned goods there instead.  I had some of my canned goods in my kitchen and some in the storage cabinet in the garage; again, every time I needed something I had to go out of my way to find it instead of having it nearby.  I decided to put my glasses, mugs, and all our drinking cups in the cabinet above the sink.  I've ordered a 3-tier spice shelf/rack for my spices from Amazon.  It's bamboo so it'll match the color of my cabinets, and it'll keep my spices neat so I won't worry about what my cabinet looks like.  I'll have to remember to take a picture once I've got it all done.

I also cleaned out my refrigerator and freezer.  It's amazing how many things are hidden in the back of the fridge - items that have expired but we've forgotten they're there.  I found some file folder holders at Target for $3 that work perfectly for holding onions and potatoes.  I have to keep these in the fridge because, with our heat and humidity, they would go bad in no time.  This works much better and keeps them longer.

Speaking of heat and humidity, I don't know about the rest of the country but it is H-O-T in Florida!  Granted, it isn't as hot as it was last year, but it's still sweltering, especially in the afternoons right before the thunderstorms start.  We are in the rainy season now, getting hammered with rain every afternoon for about a half hour.  I cut the grass and it grows back in no time.  Allergies are on the rampage thanks to this weather.  My boys are especially susceptible; they are sneezing all the time, and while R has the itchy, watery eyes, E has eczema.  E has an appointment to see the allergist for testing on August 3rd.  He has to be off all allergy medicines for five days before he can be tested.  I'm not looking forward to that - he's gonna be miserable.

My daughter has been busy with work and school.  She is taking online courses to get certified in pastoral counseling.  Nothing like having a child who can tell you everything that's wrong with you :P.  Actually, she's learning a lot and has a strong desire to help teenagers and young people.  Her dream is to work with the A21 Campaign, an organization that helps victims of human trafficking.  I pray God would use her to help many suffering people to know they can have hope in Christ.

Of course, I did some shopping for beauty products during Bare Escentuals' Beauty Rush sale.  I actually wasn't going to get anything, and I didn't even place my order until late that night because I kept debating whether to place an order, but ultimately I got a Complexion Superstars set containing two mineral veils (one loose and one compact), a bronzer called The High Dive which is in a compact, a gorgeous highlighter called Bare Radiance, and a blush that I've been wanting for a long time called Vintage Peach.  I like peach colors more than pinks on me, and this one is a soft peachy tone that is very feminine.  It also has a blush brush.  All for $21 - just the blush retails for $18.  I also got a brush set that contains 5 brushes (2 face and 3 eye) and a gold-toned case for $18 (original price was $49). I decided to get these because we are going to Disney World in September and I wanted makeup that would be easy to bring along.  A lot of the Bare Minerals products are loose powders which makes them a little tricky to travel with, though I still plan on taking a few items.

Those have been the highlights of the past couple of weeks.  I'm going to continue focusing on organizing and purging.  I know, I've got to blog about it!  I'll keep it in mind ;).  Have a blessed rest of your weekend.

Friday, July 10, 2015

YouTube Vlogger Fashion Chalet

I promised to reduce my YouTube subscriptions because they were getting out of hand.  And I did - the YouTubers that had content that was not pertinent to me (like crazy colors and club looks that I'd never wear) were dropped.  I kept the ones that had information about women my age, and those that had interesting content, not the same makeup looks over and over again.

One YouTube channel I found was a Miami girl whose look is just what I like.  Her channel is Fashion Chalet, and her look is classic and elegant, right up my alley.  Yes, she can do some colorful looks, but most of what she does is appropriate for work, fun, and everyday.  She also has fun clothing tutorials, reviews, nail, skin and hair care...a plethora of great content.  This week she hit 1,000 subscribers and is giving away a bag of goodies - how sweet is that?!  I encourage everyone to take a look at Fashion Chalet.  She's a breath of fresh air.

The Week In Review

It's Friday, once again.  I take it slower on Fridays, since it's my day off from work.  I've been doing my grocery shopping every other week (because I hate going to Walmart) and this week I'm off from that as well.  Perfect time for a blog post.

I was off this Monday for July 4th weekend.  Most companies give their employees the Friday off when the holiday lands on Saturday; since we don't work Fridays our bosses decided to give us Monday instead.  My daughter still had to work at the church, and my son had to work at the store.  I waited for my daughter to come home, and we went to see Disney/Pixar's new movie Inside Out.  I don't want to give anything away, but once again Pixar hit it out of the park.  This movie is wonderful!  The story is beautiful and well developed, with its funny moments thrown into the deeper message.  But to be perfectly honest, my favorite part of the movie was the short cartoon at the beginning, called Lava.  The story of two volcanoes that fall in love was the most romantic cartoon I've ever seen - even my 15 year old son got teary-eyed!  While this movie doesn't knock The Incredibles from the top spot of my list, it's definitely in the top 5.  I recommend everyone see it at least once.

Our weather has been slightly milder than last summer.  Last year was killer; it rained almost every single day - at least 5 times a week - so that the humidity levels were off the charts.  This year has been drier, with rain a couple of times a week, or just in the afternoons for about a half hour.  There have been thunderstorms but they've been quick to pass by.  It's actually been pleasant in the shade, with warm breezes blowing.  Once you step out into the sun, though, it's like being in an oven.  I've thought that I would melt on several occasions.

I finally got the chance to use my new weed eater last weekend.  It's lightweight, so it wasn't a hassle carrying it around as I trimmed all the edges around our house and fences.  It's also fairly quiet.  I'm glad I charged both batteries, since the first one went dead with a quarter of my yard left to do.  I was really satisfied with how the yard looked; my arms, however, were not as happy.  The vibration of the weed eater is something I'm not used to, so by the time I was finished I felt like my arms were going to fall off.  It was a weird sensation that lasted several hours.  Yesterday I mowed the grass in the backyard again (that's the problem with summer, the grass kicks into high gear) but the sun was blaring on me by the time I finished so I didn't do any trim work.  Instead I pulled out the blower, and found that it too does a good job at cleaning up.  My favorite part is that they are both very light to carry around, even with the battery put in.  Assembly was easy too: for the blower I just had to attach the tube portion to the motor.  There was a small hole that I figured needed to be screwed in, but I couldn't find one in the box.  I thought, "Hmm, looks like I'm missing a screw," - then I chuckled at myself.  I figured out that the holes were just for lining up the two parts and no additional hardware was needed.  For under $120 I got a good buy, which makes me happy.

I've come to the sad realization that one of my makeup products is making me break out.  I'd purchased the Mac Face and Body foundation a couple of months ago, and was really liking it - the color match is spot on, it gives good coverage without feeling heavy, and I could use it on its own or over my Complexion Rescue.  I had noticed, however, that a couple of times after I'd used it I was broken out.  I have occasional breakouts from acne, thanks to hormones and such.  Pre-menopause = Puberty, The Sequel.  But this wasn't pimples; I was breaking out in a rash.  I tried to attribute it to other things: food allergy, hormonal acne, weather changes.  But yesterday, after cutting the grass, washing and drying my hair, and making lunch, I was running late, so I decided on using the Mac product for a quick makeup look.  Sure enough, when I got home and took off my makeup, my cheeks and chin were red and blotchy.  This morning it was no better.  Even my oldest son, who typically doesn't notice things like that, asked me what was going on with my face this morning.  The only thing different was the Mac Face and Body.  My daughter won't mind getting my almost full bottle - it works wonderfully for her.  I'm going back to my trusty mineral powder foundation.  Just not today.  Today I'm gonna run over to CVS and see if I can't find something for my blemishes.

What else is on the agenda for today?  For one thing, laundry.  Lots of laundry.  I also have to put gas in my car.  It's so great to work just three minutes from my house.  I literally put gas in my car once a month.  That saves me a ton of money.  I've also got to vacuum, and I'm hoping to take a trip to Target today.  They have shorts on sale, buy one get one 50% off.  Shorts this year are much shorter than anything I care to wear - let's face it, mini shorts don't look attractive on me anymore.  They have Bermuda shorts on sale, though, and I want to stock up for our upcoming trip to Disney World - yay!   So that's it for now.  Hope everyone has a beautiful and blessed day.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Product Review: Brow Gels

I like my eyebrows.

Back in the 80's it was popular to wear eyebrows really thin.  Like, pencil thin.  Girls would pluck their eyebrows until there was nothing but a skinny line, leaving lots of room for colorful and bright eyeshadows that reached up to the hairline (okay, not that high, but pretty high).  I plucked my eyebrows but never to that extreme.  I was so afraid of messing up my brows and having to draw them in, which also scared me because, what if I accidentally rubbed my eyes and the pencil smeared?!  I was too much of a self-conscious coward to let that happen.  Hence, my brows were always groomed but on the bushy-er side.

Come to find out now, it was a good thing I didn't over-pluck!  Brows tend to thin out as we get older (like the hair on our heads), and women who over-plucked their brows are finding that the hairs don't grow back.  To make matters worse, thicker brows are what's in vogue now, so those pencil thin brows are dated and (ugh!) aging.  My brows are thinner than they were back in the day, but they are definitely not a barely-there line over my eyes.  They have a nice shape, and since they are mostly dark they don't look thin.

I say "mostly dark" because my brows are starting to rebel and turn white.  That is not cool.  At first there was one.  Then two.  When I found three white eyebrows I knew I was gonna have to take action.

Dying my brows is not one of the options I considered.  I've read that, while there are women that dye their eyebrows and even salons that do this type of service, it's actually illegal.  These products are harsh - hence why the packaging on hair dyes says to test on a small patch before actually using the product - and I don't want to put harsh chemicals on my already sensitive face.  My alternative was going to have to be makeup - but what?

I didn't want a brow pomade.  It's not that I'm knocking brow pomades.  They're great for folks that have pencil thin brows, or nonexistent brows.  It just isn't what I need.  I wanted something that would cover my white brows (albeit it temporarily) while also keeping them tame.  Yeah, that's another thing I've found out about getting older.  Eyebrows misbehave.  They become unruly.  I needed a product that would make them stay in their place like good little brows.  Enter the brow gel.

Similar to mascara but for the brows, these gels can be transparent (for women who like the color of their brows) or colored (for those of us who don't).  They can be light for blondes, or dark for brunettes.  They even come in auburn or red, though in my opinion they don't look as natural.  This sounded like something that could work for me, so I was on the hunt.

Like all other makeup, there are drugstore brands of brow gels and there are high end brands (read: cheap vs. expensive).  Before I dished out $18-$25 on a tube of brow gel, I wanted to experiment with them and see how they worked.  I turned to YouTube tutorials for inspiration and a little education.  Anastasia of Beverly Hills was clearly the high end favorite, with her brow wiz, brow pencils, brow pomades and gels.  But her tinted brow gel costs $22.  The second popular option is by Benefit.  The product is called Gimme Brow, and it's marketed as a product that not only tints and sets brows in place, it makes them look thicker, which means less work for those of us who just want to make our brows look slightly fuller without having to draw them in.  The price on this product was a more moderate $18 - still higher than I wanted to pay just to test it out.  Off to Walmart I went to see what I could find.

Side note here: I absolutely HATE shopping for makeup at my local Walmart.  Folks think all the product is there for the testing, and all I ever find are packages that have been opened.  Why must people be so disgusting?  Recently our Walmart did some remodeling and the makeup section is kind of closed off in an attempt to keep people from stealing or opening packages they don't intend to buy.  It helps - if the person at the register is actually there, which isn't always the case.  Still, I had to go to Walmart for groceries anyway, so I checked out the Revlon section.  There I found their Brow Fantasy Pencil and Gel.

    This was the best of both worlds: a brow pencil AND a gel, for $6.99.  I could give it a try and see if I liked it without breaking the bank.  I snatched it up and used it as soon as I got home.

And I liked it!  The pencil is too fat, and needs to be sharpened regularly or else it draws too thick of a line.  The gel worked really well at taming and lightening my brows (I got the light brown gel).  I totally enjoyed it - for the six weeks it lasted.  Yes, the product is nice, but there's not a whole lot of it.  Again, that's the issue I have with a lot of drugstore brands.  They appear to be more economical, but in the end they cost more because they have to be replaced so much more often.

Since the pencil on my Brow Fantasy Pencil and Gel had barely been used, I decided to try a different brow gel, one that would only have the gel.  Maybelline has a Brow Drama Sculpting Brow Mascara that has gotten some attention, so I decided to give it a go.  I usually steer away from Maybelline products because I've had allergic reactions to it in the past, but products get reformulated everyday, so I figured I'd give it a try.

I used it once, and thought I would die.  The fragrance is so strong, and so long lasting, that it gave me a headache.  I could smell it on my face for hours!  And honestly, it didn't make my brows look any better.  I could still see the white hairs because it didn't color them at all.  I knew I would not be able to use this, so I quickly returned it to Walmart.

I was tempted to just order the Gimme Brow from Ulta - suck it up and dish out the $18 instead of putting myself through all this torture!  But I did see another review for a product that was touted as a dupe for the Benefit product, one by L'Oreal called the Brow Stylist Plumper Brow Gel Mascara (quite the mouthful, I know).  I was intrigued because none of the other products had been called a dupe for the Gimme Brow.  I decided I'd give it one more try with the drugstore brand, then I'd order the Gimme Brow.  At least I felt like I'd covered all my bases.

I got the Brow Plumper at Walmart for, I believe, $7.99.  Slightly more expensive than the other drugstore brands, but then L'Oreal usually is.  I also decided to get it in medium to dark, since my other options were light to medium and transparent.  I'm not a blonde, so I didn't want to go too light.  This product is a dream!  There is no fragrance, which is great for me.  It tints my brows but not harshly, so it doesn't look like my brows are jet black.  It goes on slightly wet but dries quickly, and those brows are set in place like cement!  They are not budging!  Yet it comes off easily with cleansing wipes or my facial cleanser.  I've been using it for about a month now and I'm loving how natural yet fuller my brows look.  I can use this on its own for a quick makeup look, or, if I want something more dramatic, I can use my Revlon pencil to shape and color in my brows, then use the Brow Plumper to finish off the look.

This past weekend my daughter and I took a little trip to Ulta to get some makeup for her (more on that in another post).  I decided to take a look at the Benefit Gimme Brow to see the wand and product, so I could compare it to the L'Oreal brow gel.  As soon as I opened the tube, I was glad I hadn't ordered it.  It has fragrance!  It wasn't even a pleasant fragrance as far as I was concerned.  I had my daughter smell it, and she immediately made a face.  Proof once more that what's popular isn't what's best, at least not for everyone.

So, the winner in the brow gel contest for me is, by far, L'Oreal Brow Stylist Plumper Brow Gel Mascara with its no fragrance, full coverage formula.  I'm so glad I did my homework because this one is going to be my go-to brow product from now on!  Do you have a favorite?  Let me know what you like/dislike in the brow product category!