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No surprise, but I’m a daydreamer. It’s not an easy thing to hide. My school reports often cited that I tended to wander off without actually leaving the classroom, and seeing as I’m confessing it all, I may as well admit that I probably still wander off about a hundred and sixteen times a day.

 

But there was a period of time in my life where I was able to focus. You see I used to be this really good housewife. I was even, in fact, once accused of mirroring the likes of June Cleaver from Leave It to Beaver. I admit I didn’t see the resemblance back then, but I will say that I took my daily chores very seriously. They were always completed in a timely, organized fashion and no cupboard or corner was ever left unturned. The kids smelled good, unmentionables were folded, floors gleamed, toilet rolls were always miraculously placed on the holder and there was something fairly edible to eat at all the right times. The least of which is not that I somehow managed to perform all of these things with barely an eyelash bat.

 

So, why not now?

 

Now everything is Everest, its trails littered with obstacles and me, always looking to tunnel through the middle rather than suffering the long way ‘round. You know the drill. The perfectionist holds out—Oh, if I just give this a swipe and that a wipe I can hold off another week until I can do it…properly. These are the tall tales I tell myself. They are the bungees that bounce me up just before hitting the hard bottom of that long dark rabbit hole—It looks fine. It’ll do for now. No one notices anyway. But I notice. And I’m held in a state of unrest.

 

So, why don’t I just buck up?

 

I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. And, it’s starting to sink in. There are just too many balls to buck. I can’t focus because I don’t know what my focus is anymore. Now that the kids are older, my plate is piled even higher with outside responsibilities that go beyond vacuuming and changing the bed sheets. Back when I was a young housewife with three small children, my role wasn’t in question. It was simply to serve and protect. And although serving and protecting will always be my heart’s work, the kids are vying for independence and with me on the precipice of 45, it seems only natural that I start to question whether there might be more to the meaning of my existence.

 

So back to my daydream. I was imagining what it would be like to step off the front stoop every morning to follow my fiction. To have nothing on my mind for the first eight hours of every day but fostering what it is I want to achieve. To write without distraction. To have someone running my family and my home, allowing me to work on making a success of myself. To be one of the chosen few who gets to concentrate solely on my goals and aspirations.

 

But daydreams aren’t always realistic. To truly triumph I must achieve whatever it is I want while living the life I’ve already made.

 

That’s victory. That’s genuine success.

 

That’s being a mom.

june-cleaver

 

 

 

 

The corner store is peeling, its peach paint rolling down toward the dirt, dodging a lifetime of being stuck in one place. Where, she wonders, will the wind take it once it’s free?

 

She sits in the front seat of her car, grappling a family size bag of Ruffles, her only company the small sprouts of green budding through the dryness of the earthy lot. Alone, but for the weeds, she needlessly slumps below the driver’s window and listens to the hum of the wheels bumping through on the small town road behind her. The content of the bag is finally released with one more pull and she closes her eyes, breathing in through her nose, savoring the first crack of salty chip.

 

Bump, bump, bump.

 

She twists at her ring, normally a mindless habit, but her fingertips are oily and she’s forced to be conscious of the now slick metal. Her thoughts slip with the ring, back to long ago. Long ago when his photos and the few things he’d left behind had scorched through the night. Roaring flames shot from her mother’s bonfire as she had watched in fear, her legs extended and toes sinking deep into the mattress on which she’d stood, her pudgy hands gripping the windowsill with all her might. The back yard, lit only by the blaze, looked scarier than she’d ever seen it and she was relieved a week later, when she and her mother were forced to move to a studio apartment with no back yard.

 

Bump, bump, bump.

 

Her graduation ring, the one whisper from her father in all the years that have passed since that fiery night, marks her finger like the black circle left on the grass at the old house. She wears it anyway. It’s what she has—the ring, the pale pink box, the envelope he’d scribbled over in seeping blue ink and the outline of his face as he’d said good-bye to her in the low glow of her bedside lamp one last time.

 

Bump, bump, bump.

 

She could’ve walked. The store was close enough to home but she refuses to be caught in the streets clutching a bag of grease. No, relaxed in her car, shielded by its metallic shell, she’s safe from judgment. She knows it’s not right. The eating with reckless abandon, and often recites the many reasons she shouldn’t, but the crunch between her teeth, the crackle of fragments lining her cheeks and paving her tongue, bring her a sense of comfort she can, only in this moment, grasp. It is as simple, and as complex, as that.

 

But for a split second, she knows that she is, in more ways than one, like the chip—simultaneously curved and flat, plain and sparingly seasoned. One clench away from cracking and crumbling, breaking, but most of all, consumed by the lost, the disappointed and the dismissed.

 

She thinks of her mother, run off her feet at the deli, calling out Next! to the numbers that will reach into the hundreds today. She pictures her standing on the crowded bus, smelling like meat, her feet and aching back making the trek uphill from the stop to the small studio apartment they still call home. She knows she will pour herself a glass of wine and a bath and sit in the too small tub, knees exposed, pretending she’s anywhere but here.

 

She imagines her father’s image slithering down the peach wall facing her and sees him being lifted by the wind. To where, she does not know, but envisions it to be, of course, anywhere but here.

 

May bites into another chip and wonders what it must be like to dodge a lifetime of being stuck in one place. Her thoughts are as simple, and as complex as that.

 

Bump, bump, bump.

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Driving this morning, contemplating my woes—plenty of material for long journeys—I hear the radio DJ’s talking about the sequel to Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker. And it got me thinking. Where will they go from there? Where can they go? Well, being a woman of almost forty-five years, the only answer to that is; The Darkest Shades of Fifty. (I swear if EL James & Co. use this title I will sue. You are my witnesses)

 

I’ve never read the book. I’m not against steamy subject matter, but there are far too many titles ahead of that one on my To Read list. However, I have spent a lot of time thinking about it. In fact, it keeps me awake at night. You probably want me to say the content is what’s stimulating my brain’s core to the point of distraction, so, I will.

 

It’s the content.

 

There’s been so much talk about how poorly written this book is. About how it’s written like a high school student—someone who just found out how babies are made and takes it to a whole other level to prove they didn’t just find out how babies are made.

 

This book has been criticized by many people. People who do not have a published novel sitting on a shelf…anywhere…or a blockbuster on a screen…be it big, small or silver.

 

I could be bitter about EL James’ success. I could be angry that her apparent grade nine scribbles didn’t slip to the bottom of the pile of slush, where most people (who gobbled up her prose) say they should be. I could be sad that such writing has a place in the literary world at all.

 

But, I’m not.

 

I’m jealous. I’m envious. And I’m spurred.

 

She had something to offer. She wrote it down. She believed in her work. She got it published. She completed her mission. And then some. Good for her, I say. After all, she’s not fretting over putting food on the table or making her minimum Visa payment.

 

We’re all we’ve got. There is no other us. We have only our take on things, our thoughts, our originality. Our idea of what makes a story good. This is what we have to use to win in this game. We have to plug our ears, put on our blindfolds and handcuff the haters to a bedpost.

50-Shades-of-Grey-Poster

 

 

 

Years ago, when my kids were just tiny specs of what they are now, a best friend of mine would drive from her house, nearly an hour away, just to cook dinner for me.

 

At least once a week.

 

She invited herself of course, as all good friends do. In my state, it never would have entered my mind to entice another person into my varying vortex. When it began, I had only a single child. The task was fairly uncomplicated at that point, but even when the total of tots quickly rose to three, she, somehow, was not deterred.

 

She would arrive to screaming babies, scattered Cheerios and mounds of laundry piled in the hallway. There would often be a sink full of dirty dishes, a forgotten diaper gracing the table or me, crying in a corner.

 

But, week after week, in the door she’d burst with an arm full of groceries and a funny story to tell. Out would come the pots and pans and commence would the chopping, slicing, stirring and simmering.

 

My husband was traveling a lot then and with three children under five, her visits meant the world to me. Raising kids—being housebound for long days on end—can be very isolating and as decadent smells, (these being anything non-urine or spit-up related) started to permeate the air, I’d often reflect on how having someone go to the magnitude of shopping, commuting and cooking for me was much like a good dose of vigorous CPR.

 

She didn’t have any children at that time and I wish I could say that now that she has had two of her own, I’ve been as worthy a friend as she. I’d always intended to return the favor, but as it turns out, tiny tots transform into taxing teens and there is somehow even less time now than there was all those years ago.

 

Over the days, weeks, months and years that this went on, we, okay she, concocted many recipes that the two of us shared a love for. One of these favorites was fresh Crab Cakes with, made from scratch, Chipotle Sauce.

 

And I’ll tell you, having it made for you when your children are five, three and zero is truly wonderful, but returning home to find a serving of it in your mailbox when they’re eighteen, fifteen and fourteen is a true lump-in-the-throat moment.

Because sauce is my favorite

Because sauce is my favorite

 

Part of Me

We know that amateurs wait for inspiration. It’s only the salty sailors who sail in still air, trusting intuition and determination will keep them moving. And it’s because of this that they are the ones who will collect the skylines and scores, the sights and successes, while the others sit in wait, stagnating and stale.

 

I’ve been an amateur as of late. No time. No spunk to hunt for treasure. No snap for anything but my own sorrows and slumps.

 

Then the strangest thing happened. Putting the sheets back on the bed is not one of my most favorite tasks, so to make it slightly less painless, I play mind-numbing T.V. while hoisting my five hundred pound mattress up chest-high so I’m able to wrap the fitted sheet snugly around the base—assurance that I will only have to perform this incredible feat once until the next wash.

 

This day, the mind-numbing T.V. of choice happened to be a Katy Perry documentary called Part of Me. Katy’s music, although catchy and quirky has never been on my A-list, but as I heaved and huffed, the show began to seep its way into my awareness.

After all, it resonated with me on several levels. You may know I’m a Make-up Artist by trade and I admit to a degree of fangirlyness when it comes to celeb styling and Katy’s make-up is always impeccable. So, for me to learn that she plucked her Make-up Artist, Todd Delano, out of retail obscurity…well, it tweaked a heartstring.

katy-perry-0

 

And, she’s a Writer. Much of her material leaks hot off the pages of her personal diary—raw thoughts and emotion slowly simmered into song. I related to her strict upbringing and her struggles with money. Her passion to create and her desire to become what she’d always dreamed of being. I admired her capacity to think outside most everything she’d been taught since a young age, her talent at turning those things inside out and her ability to maintain her relationship with her family despite this turn of their truths.

 

No, Katy Perry’s music may not have been on my A-list, but her rite of passage now is.

 

We are capable of relating to anything. Compassion and understanding are components of our genetic make-up. Sadly, some of us bury them, but in the beginning, there they were. We were born with them. Whether you’re waiting for inspiration or it simply rings the bell while you’re doing the laundry, stop and let it in. Sometimes we just need to sit down and go beyond the cover to actually read the story inside.

 

We bought a new car. It wasn’t slated into our immediate financial plan, but when awarded squat for my husband’s mashed up write-off and a whopping $5000 repair estimate for our 11 year old van (lovingly known as the Silver Bucket) we were left with little choice.

 

Despite the sharp snap of our purse strings, I’m thankful for this new vehicle. It makes me feel safe and relaxed. When I’m driving it, I am patient and peaceful. There’s just something about it.

 

I didn’t know what it was at first.

 

There is the obvious. I mean, I’m not driving the Silver Bucket anymore. That’s a plus. There’s no need to fret about it breaking down while on the road or worse, losing steer-power on the freeway and me, subsequently crashing to my untimely death in a cringe-worthy caravan. Insult to injury.

 

All jokes aside though, that van has been good to us. We’ve owned it for quite some time, payment and almost maintenance-free. It has reliably delivered our children from A to B on countless occasions and hauled 4000 pounds over long, dry roads and rocky terrain. It kept going when the going was tough. Just for us. And it’s appreciated.

 

But it took me a while to get it.

 

It‘s not just the obvious. There is a certain straightforwardness to our new ride. An ease to hopping in, turning it on and getting where we need to be. No sense in entertaining the what if’s. No need to confuse cares with concern over complications.

 

Put simply; simple is nice.

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It’s been brought to my attention that I have been sitting on valuable information. Newly enlightened, this topic may read differently than what you are used to receiving from me. Please know, that despite my reference to teens in this post, the information below will benefit people of all ages and stages.

***

As a teen, you’re most likely prone to breakouts no matter what you do, but the good news is, there are many ways to keep them in check. Sometimes, even just knowing you’re doing all the right things can be enough to give you peace of mind.

I have been an Aesthetician and Make-Up Artist for 20 years and this is my advice to you:

Wash your face every night before bed, using a milky, non-foaming cleanser. Non-foaming is important because it keeps your skin at an ideal pH level. Our skin likes to be acidic and when we use foaming cleansers, our pH level becomes too alkaline, creating tight skin and the perfect platform for bacteria to thrive.

Feel free to use an exfoliant (gently) once a week should you crave that smoothness, but make sure it is not infused with sharp shards that will cause microscopic cuts on your skin. These cuts will also allow bacteria to find a home. Only use beaded scrubs. Sometimes even a soft once-over with a face cloth is enough!

Use a toner (made for sensitive skin) to remove leftover cleanser residue and any make-up that may be left behind. This helps once again, with maintaining or restoring a healthy skin Ph.

Even though you may believe your breakouts are from too much oil, you need not fear creams! We still have to moisturize our skin with a non-comedogenic (non-pore-clogging) lotion. This is important because the oil in our skin builds on a supply and demand basis, so if we don’t give it any moisture after cleansing, it will work to produce more oil than normal, causing a breakout.

Pure Oregano Oil is known for its disinfecting and purifying properties and can be helpful in the treatment of acne or individual problem areas. Once you have completed the steps above, use the dropper to place enough oil on the end of a Q-tip and apply to any affected areas.

In the morning, because your face is already clean, you will need only to rinse with water. Cleansing your face too often can also cause problems. As I mentioned before, stripping the skin of its natural oils is a cruel and unnecessary act! Alright, that wording might be a bit dramatic, but there is that supply and demand thing to worry about. Use a toner if you long for that fresh(er) feeling and, as always, apply a bit of moisturizer.

In coming posts I will talk more about products and what types are effective and affordable, but for now, let me say that even at your young age—especially at your young age—use a lotion with an SPF. Trust me, you will be punching my name into whatever Search Engine exists 30 years from now, so you can shower me with thanks for your un-sun-damaged skin.

Wearing make-up is of course, completely fine, as long as you follow what I’ve said above. Do not go to bed without washing your face!

To add to this, managing stress is key. Make sure school or friends don’t become the center of your world. Yes, doing well in school should be high on the list, but there are ways to make sure you keep on top of studying and homework that don’t make you hide in a corner and cry. (More on this in another post, but for now, here’s a hint: TIME MANAGEMENT!)

Good friends are equally essential in life, but the main focus here should be on the word good. If a particular relationship is getting you down or causing you grief, it’s okay to step away. It doesn’t have to be forever. It can be just long enough for you to catch your breath and clear your head.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle with lots of water and fresh air, good eating, exercise and plenty of sleep is one of the greatest things you can do to be your best you.

Good luck! And remember, the pimples aren’t who you are. You will continue to grow and blossom long after they, and their memory, have been washed away.

See what I did there?

acne_teen_skin

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