Friday, December 22, 2017

Report in Review - Holiday Edition

I still can't believe that Christmas is on Monday! I'm really looking forward to celebrating with family and friends, and having some time to relax and recuperate from the last year, too.

Since I'm off from work, I'm also going to take the week off from the blog, and come back refreshed in the new year. I want to make sure I'm able to enjoy my time with my family and friends, and not have to worry about missing out while I'm writing posts or taking pictures.

I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Years! I hope that you all enjoy your holidays and take some time to kick back and take advantage of some time off like I plan to.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Wintertime Fun in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh can turn into a real winter wonderland in December. There is, of course, the snow - but there are also so many fun additions to the city around the holidays. Today's post is going to be a holiday bucket list, of sorts - a guide to fun, temporary events that are happening in the city right now.
1. Winter Flower Show and Holiday Light Garden at Phipps Conservatory
Each year, Phipps transforms itself after Thanksgiving. They put up beautifully decorated Christmas trees, deck the rest of their halls, and even turn their garden into a holiday wonderland with decorations and light displays. I drive by it on my way home from work every day, but I've never actually been in. I'm planning to check it out this week, and I'm so excited.

2. Holiday Market in Market Square
Market Square hosts a lot of pop-up markets throughout the year, but none more festive than their holiday market. Each booth looks like something straight out of the North Pole, and you can walk around and check some gifts off your Christmas list too. Plus, while you're in the area, you can check out the next two items on my list!

3. Wintergarden in PPG Place
Just a few steps from Market Square is PPG Place. The inside of PPG Place turns into a true wintergarden, filled with lots and lots of decorated Christmas trees. Its the perfect place to check out when you need a break from the bitter cold outside. They also have a gingerbread house contest, and this year CLASS (the organization that I sit on the Board of Directors of), took home an award for their entry!

4. Miracle on Market
Miracle on Market is a pop-up bar, in a new location this year - above the Oyster House in Market Square. The bar is totally decked out in holiday decoration - over-the-top decked out! It's open until New Years Eve, and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to 412 Food Rescue.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Reflecting on Six Months of Blogging

I started blogging right around Memorial Day weekend - a holiday weekend seemed like the perfect time to dip my toes into the blogging pool. I had watched at least 20 YouTube videos about starting a blog, and read as many posts by other bloggers as I could... but I still didn't really know what I was doing! It's been a little over six months now, and I can't believe how far this blog has come.

It's been trial and error, and I'm definitely still learning as I go. But I feel really lucky and grateful for the readers that have joined me here in the last six months! I've loved having the chance to share a little bit about my life - whether it's sharing a style post, or sharing what it's like to live with SMA. The comments I've gotten here, on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have been really touching!

I'm really excited to keep blogging over the next six months (and beyond)! Let me know in the comments (or send me an e-mail) if there's anything in particular you'd like to hear more about!

Monday, December 18, 2017

Christmas Traditions

I can't believe how close we are to Christmas - I feel like December really flew by, and while I'm not quite ready for the holidays yet, I am looking forward to the time off and time with family and friends! The great thing about the holidays is the different traditions that we have - such a fun thing to look forward to each year. I already told you about my Christmas pajamas tradition here, but that's not my only tradition around the holidays.

I love getting together during the holidays - so many people come home, so it's really special to get the chance to see people you might not otherwise! When I was younger, we would always go to my grandparent's house on Christmas morning. But since my grandparents have passed away, and my cousins have gotten married and have kids of their own, getting together on Christmas has gotten more difficult. So for the last 10 years or so, we've all gotten together the day after Christmas at one of my Aunt's and Uncle's houses. My dad is from a family of six, so there's quite a crowd, and it's always a fun time. It also stretches Christmas even longer, which is great in my mind!

The other traditional get-together that we have is my family's annual Christmas party (which actually takes place after Christmas). It's been going on for as long as I can remember - when I was young, it started out as mostly my parents' friends, but now it's more split between my parents' friends and my friends/my sisters friends! It's always the highlight of the holiday season, and my friends and I love the chance to catch up.

We also have some smaller-scale traditions... my sister and I always open a present from each other on Christmas Eve. This one started in middle school, when we would buy each other makeup or jewelry that we wanted to wear to Christmas Eve mass! It stuck, though, and we still do it to this day.

And then there are the Christmas movies. My dad loves nothing more than a family movie night with Christmas movies. We've watched It's A Wonderful Life every year for as long as I can remember. When we were younger, we'd watch the animated classics like Frosty and Rudolph, and we still watch non-animated classics like The Santa Clause! But his other favorite is a movie that no one else has ever heard of - The Littlest Angel. It's a Christmas movie/musical... and it's BAD. Beyond cheesy bad! We used to complain about having to watch it, but after my friend was subjected to it one year, it's become a tradition to enjoy some drinks and watch, laugh, and make fun of the movie.

I'd love to hear what your traditions are - and PLEASE, if you've ever seen - or even heard of - The Littlest Angel, let me know in the comments.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Report in Review

I've decided to re-name my Friday posts "Report in Review," but it's still the same content - I'm going to share something I came across this past week that I want to highlight, whether it's something I'm watching, reading, listening to... you get the picture!

The holidays are in full force right now - we're in the middle of Hanukkah, and so close to Christmas. I'm sure you've all seen a million different gift guides (here, on other blogs, on other websites) - they're really everywhere! But I want to share a different type of gift guide today.

Image here
I mentioned the last fundraiser Lin-Manuel Miranda did for Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. Now, his organization is partnering with Toys"R"Us to help spread holiday cheer for kids in Puerto Rico. He knows that many families may not have the time - or resources - to buy gifts for their children for Three Kings Day (which is the "big" holiday in Puerto Rico), but doesn't want those kids to miss out.

It's so easy to help out! Go to the website HERE, and pick whether you want to purchase a $5, $10, or $20 gift, and how many. The checkout process takes less than five minutes! It's so incredibly easy, and is a great way to spread some cheer and take a step back from the craziness that can come with the holidays.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Why I'll Never Be A "Typical" Blogger

I think a lot of people don't fully realize what goes on behind-the-scenes in blogging. For every picture you see here, or on my Instagram, there are at least 10 more versions of the picture that didn't make it on the blog. And a lot of bloggers set up real photoshoots - they scout for locations, use photographers, and plan multiple outfit changes to get as much photography content as they can.

I have absolutely no problem with this - I love looking at bloggers pictures as much as anyone else! But that's not something that you should expect to see here too often. Photoshoots are more of an ordeal for me than for most bloggers! Location scouting isn't the easiest when you have to make sure it's accessible, and have to make sure that you can get a ride! And there is definitely no such thing as a quick outfit change for me! That would mean there was someone there to help me change (usually my mom), plus a bathroom big enough to fit my wheelchair, plus a lot longer than five minutes.

There's also the issue of the outfits themselves. I've mentioned this before, but finding clothes that fit me well is hard. I fit in kids clothes, but they don't usually quite fit my style... and women's clothes are usually too big. That means that when I find something that fits, I wear it a lot, and I buy it in multiple colors if I can. This works out just fine in my life, but would make incredibly boring blog material!

I hope that none of this comes off as a complaint, but just as an explanation. I love that blogging lets everyone have a voice, and lets voices be heard that might not otherwise have much of a platform. With that being said - there are definitely some blogs that are bigger/more popular than others, and therefore, some bloggers that are able to have bigger voices because of that. Even though my posts might not always be the most professional or polished, I hope that they're still adding something useful to the online conversation!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Be Back Tomorrow!

When it rains, it pours... I thought that I'd be back to regular posting, but I've been dealing with some computer issues. I think that I finally have it figured out, and should be back tomorrow, fingers crossed!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Holiday Pajamas

My Dad LOVES documenting through pictures and video. When I was little, we couldn't start opening any presents until the video camera was set up and recording, and the regular camera was nearby, too, to snap some pictures.

This led to the need for Christmas pajamas. By middle school, I realized that if I was going to be recorded every Christmas morning, I'd need a new pair of jammies every year! Now that we're a little older, we don't open presents until Christmas evening, after family has left for the day. But I still think that's the perfect excuse to buy a new pair of holiday pajamas to change into after everyone is gone!

I've gotten a lot of my Christmas PJs from Old Navy - they have some of the cutest options, and they're always so comfortable!

Red and Green Striped Pants: These thermal underwear style pants are so festive and so cute!

Black and White Reindeer Pants: The fleece pants are always my favorite style - they're so warm and cozy. The reindeer pattern add the perfect holiday touch.

Baby It's Cold Outside shirt: Classic Christmas song lyrics on a simple pajama top that you can wear even after the holiday season ends.

Doggie Pajama Pants: I couldn't pass up these adorable flannel pants with Christmas-themed puppies all over them!

White Pajama Top: This simple white top goes with any of the pants in this picture, and probably any of the pajama pants already in your closet, too.

Striped Onesie: If you're a fan of onesies, this striped one is perfect for the holidays!

(This post uses affiliate links; I may earn a commission from any clicks or purchases you make.)

Monday, December 11, 2017


I'm back! My exam is over, my presentation is complete, and my papers have all been handed in. I'm really excited to have this semester behind me!

While I was away from the blog, I did fit in something fun - I went to CMOA On Ice, an after-hours event at the Carnegie Museum of Art. I've been to a few really fun after-hours at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History (which is actually attached to the Art Museum), but was excited to explore the other half of the museum this time. I'm happy to say that I wasn't disappointed! We were told to wear our "holiday best or holiday worst," and luckily, I had the perfect sweater for the occasion in my closet.
The event was called "CMOA On Ice" because they installed a temporary ice skating rink into the museum's Hall of Architecture. It was so cool to see an ice skating rink inside of the museum - not something you'd ever expect to see! The rest of the art museum was open for exploring, too, and they had plaster ornament-making, silkscreening, hot chocolate bars, and tons of cookies!

The prettiest part was looking at all the decorated Christmas trees. They were all themed after children's books, and the decorators did such an incredible job! You can see the Jungle Book and Wizard of Oz trees below - how amazing are they?!
If you get the chance, I highly recommend you check out the Christmas tree displays, and look around the rest of the museum while you're there - you won't regret it!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Health Activist Expo

Sorry for the break I've had to take - with finals, and work, and my fellowship coming to and end, time has been a little tight for me! I'm hoping to get three posts up this week, and then things should go back to normal after that.
Last week, my Health Activist Fellowship (which I talked about here and here) had its finale, the Health Activist Expo. It was held downtown at the August Wilson Center, and each fellow had a table to display a poster and talk about the project that we'd each been working on. There was a great turnout - more than 100 people came to find out about our projects, and there were even some members of the media there!
It was really exciting to be a part of the fellowship, and to have so many people show interest in what I've been working on!

In 2018, I hope to start talking to local businesses about accessibility, and helping them understand the importance of an accessible entrance for people like me. I want to be an ally to these businesses, not an adversary!

If you're interested in learning more or getting involved, you can e-mail me at I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

My Thanksgiving

I had lots of plans for my Thanksgiving and for posts on this blog (I really wanted to do a Black Friday post!) but sometimes, things don't go exactly as planned.
I wrote about having to go to the ER for a feeding tube issue in this post - because of that, I decided to schedule an appointment to get it replaced. I scheduled for the Monday of Thanksgiving week, so that it would be done before the holiday, and I didn't have class, so I could take the day off of work guilt-free. It was replaced with no issue (other than a bit of a wait at the hospital) and I went home and back to work the next day.

But by Wednesday, it was becoming clear to me that maybe there was some sort of issue. My skin around the feeding tube "button" was really red and irritated, and it seemed like the button was really digging into my skin. I wasn't sure what this meant, so I did some quick Googling and nothing I read seemed too alarming. I decided to give it a few more days and see if it calmed down.

It didn't calm down, though, and by Thanksgiving evening I knew I'd have to go in to have it looked at the next day. It was certainly not the most enjoyable Thanksgiving for me - it's hard to stuff yourself with mashed potatoes when the skin on your stomach is irritated!

Luckily, they were able to squeeze me in on Wednesday morning - not surprisingly, things weren't too crowded at Interventional Radiology on the day after Thanksgiving! They took some water out of the balloon that holds the feeding tube "button" in place, and that seems to have solved the issue. It was a quick fix, but it did put a bit of a crimp in my plans for the weekend.
That's not to say, though, that I didn't fit anything in! I managed to do a little bit of Black Friday shopping (mostly online - I can't deal with the crowds), treated myself to a blowout at Drybar (where I also picked up their candle) and made time to see family and friends who were in from out of town. So, it wasn't a completely ruined holiday weekend!

I hope that you all enjoyed your Thanksgiving - let me know in the comments what you did to celebrate!

(This post uses affiliate links - I may earn a small commission for any clicks or purchases you make.)

Monday, November 27, 2017

Gift Guide

Since today is Cyber Monday, it seemed like the perfect time to share my gift guide! These are all things that are on my personal wish list this year.
Nespresso Creatista Pro
I've talked before about my love of my Nespresso - this is the newest model, and really lets you customize your drink. It has an automatic frothing wand, so you don't need to be a professional barista to get a delicious foamy cappuccino, and still uses Nespresso pods!

Sapphire Necklace
Sapphire is my birthstone, so I love collecting sapphire pieces of jewelry! I have a sapphire ring that I wear every single day, and this necklace would go with it perfectly.

Cashmere Sweater
There's nothing better on a chilly winter day than a warm, cozy cashmere sweater. These v-necks from Uniqlo are my favorite - very reasonably priced, and they hold up well, too! There's a great variety of colors to pick from.

Moleskine Journal
I can never have enough journals - I love picking up new ones whenever I see a cute one. And of course, I can never say no to anything from TeeRico, Lin-Manuel Miranda's official online store!

Pier One Hayworth Lingerie Chest
I've been slowly replacing all my bedroom furniture with pieces from Pier One's Hayworth collection over the last few years. This piece is next on my list!

Apple Watch Series 3
I've had my eye on an Apple Watch for a while now, but I've been waiting for the newest series to come out. Obviously, I'm not in need of the fitness tracking aspects, but I like the freedom it gives you from your phone!

Drybar Gift Card
My love of Drybar and blowouts is well-documented. Who am I to pass up free blowouts??

Faux Fur Throw
I love snuggling under a soft, warm blanket with a sleepy puppy by my side. This blanket would do the trick, and would look great with my silver furniture, too!

What's on your wish list this year? Let me know in the comments!

(This post uses affiliate links. I may earn a small commission from any clicks or purchases you make.)

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving

 I hope that your holiday is filled with family, friends, and feasting!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

What I'm Thankful For

Thanksgiving, to me, has always meant family.  My dad comes from a family of six, so Thanksgiving has always meant getting together with aunts, uncles, and cousins, and eating around some (very packed) tables - there are more than 20 of us total! Over the years, to accommodate everyone's schedules, we've started having Thanksgiving "dinner" at noon, to make sure that we could still all get together before people have to head to their next holiday gathering. It may sound cheesy, but I'm thankful for this time to get together and catch up with family members!

I'm also reminded at Thanksgiving how grateful I am for my friends. The holidays are always the perfect time to catch up with friends who are home visiting their own families. I've been lucky enough to stay close with friends I've known since before high school, and now that some of them have moved away, I love being able to see them while they're home for Thanksgiving.

And finally, I'm so thankful for all of you! I started this blog a little less than six months ago now, and the kind words from you all have really warmed my heart.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Wrapped in Warmth

I talked yesterday about how winter can be hard for me, and how part of that is having to deal with taking my jacket on and off all the time. It's hard to have someone else try to help you with your jacket, especially when you're out with friends, or already bundled up with multiple layers of clothing.
one // two // three // four // five

This is why I was really happy when wraps and capes started coming back into fashion. This is a style I'm going to wear long after the trend dies, just because of how much easier it is for me! Even though I'm still not able to put it on myself, it's so much easier for someone else to put a cape on me than something with sleeves. I can also keep it on as part of my outfit, and it reaches over my hands to keep them warm while I'm driving my chair - it's win-win for me!

I found some of my favorite capes in the picture above - I tend to go for plaid, and neutral colors that match with lots of outfits. You can find them at the links above, or click the pictures below in the widget!

(This post uses affiliate links, and I may earn a small commission on any clicks/purchases you make.)

Monday, November 20, 2017

Winter in a Wheelchair

I had a really fun weekend - I went to Casellula, a wine and cheese bar in the North Side that also shares a space with a bookstore and event space - and also saw The Color Purple at The Benedum, which was an incredible show!
This weekend was also Light Up Night, which to me, is the official start of winter here in Pittsburgh. Winter is not my favorite time of year. I know that a lot of people don't like winter - it's cold, it's dark, and it snows! But when you're in a wheelchair, winter is so much more difficult.

The first thing about winter is the clothes. Since I need help getting dressed, more (and heavier) layers means more time in the morning getting dressed - and I talked here about how my mornings are already pretty time-consuming! I also can't put my jacket on and off by myself, so colder weather means that I'm stuck inside during the day. And if I'm going somewhere with someone who can help me with my jacket, I have to choose my coat carefully - anything too think or too puffy makes it really hard for me to move. This coat at Uniqlo (I wear an out-of-stock kids version, but the women's version is still for sale) - has been a lifesaver; it's really lightweight but also really warm! It's also harder to drive my wheelchair with gloves or mittens on (and again, hard for me to put them on and take them off by myself), so I end up with some really cold fingers for the few minutes that I am outside.

The snow and ice are also huge problems for the wheelchair. When it snows, the streets get cleared, but the sidewalks may or may not. And if they do... the snow plowed from the streets and sidewalks usually ends up piled right at the curb cuts, high enough that my chair can't drive through. So even if the temperatures weren't keeping me inside, the piled-up snow traps me, too. And if my wheel hits a chunk of ice on the sidewalk and slides, it could be really dangerous! So I have to plan my sidewalk routes out very carefully, scouting ahead to make sure that the path is clear. Plus, when the snow is all piled up on the side of the street next to the sidewalks, it can be really hard (and sometimes actually impossible) to park on the street, because the ramp that comes out from under our accessible minivan can't clear the pile of snow.

So, if you see less pictures of me outside, or less exciting activities, you'll know why! I definitely get cabin fever if I am inside for too long, so hopefully things won't get too boring around here.

(This post uses affiliate links - I may earn a small commission for any clicks/purchases you make.)

Friday, November 17, 2017

Currently Reading

I have a very exciting article to share this week!

A few weeks ago, someone from my school district reached out to me about being interviewed as a featured alumni in the district newsletter. I was really honored to be asked, and had a great time reminiscing about my time in high school, and about what I've been doing since my high school graduation. I loved being able to share my motivation for starting this blog, too.

You can read the article here. I'd love to hear about what your life has been like since your high school graduation!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Thanksgiving Outfit Ideas

Thanksgiving is a holiday that is so loved because it combines two of everyone's favorite things - loved ones, and food! It's great to be able to gather and catch up with friends and family that we may not have seen lately, while sharing a delicious meal. It's also a holiday that everyone celebrates differently - some people have relaxed, buffet-style meals earlier in the day, and other people have more formal affairs.

My dad comes from a family of 6, so I have lots of aunts, uncles, and cousins to celebrate Thanksgiving with. Because everyone has multiple meals to get to, our Thanksgiving "dinner" is actually at noon. It tends to be more casual, so I definitely go for comfort over style when I'm picking my Thanksgiving outfit. It's usually cold here by the end of November, so I go for something cozy and loose, so that I'm not uncomfortable after I have my favorite stuffing and mashed potatoes!

I know not everyone celebrates as casually as I do, though, so I'm sharing my favorite styles for every type of Turkey Day celebration.
1: A comfy cowl neck tunic
Leggings and a tunic is the ultimate comfort outfit! I love that this slouchy tunic comes in some great colors and still looks cute while letting you feel relaxed.

2: This ruffled burgundy dress and 3: this cozy grey turtleneck option
Sweaterdresses are actually my go-to for Thanksgiving. They look a little more put-together, and bonus - there's no waistband, so it's the perfect choice if you indulge a little too much.

4: This velvet flowy dress
If you're looking for something dressier, I love this velvet dress. It's still loose and comfortable, but the texture and ruffles dress it up a bit more. If it's chillier, you can easily throw a cardigan over this.

You can also find the items in the widget below!

(This post uses affiliate links, and I earn a small commission from any clicks/purchases you make.)

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Health Activist Update

I cannot believe how quickly fall has flown! We've gone from leaves turning bright colors to frigid temperatures, and Thanksgiving is only about a week away. My Health Activist Fellowship with the Jewish Healthcare Foundation is also coming to a close, so I wanted to give you all an update on what I've been working on.

When I first talked about my Fellowship here, I wasn't really sure what it would be like, or what I'd choose to work on. The Fellowship has been amazing - the Jewish Healthcare Foundation has helped connect us with mentors for our specific projects, and has also brought in influential speakers who are experienced in many different aspects of activism.

We were advised to think big, but start small. It's great to have a big-picture idea of what you what your journey as an activist to look like, but you should start with a small, achievable step to get things started. My big-picture idea is to make the world more accessible to people with disabilities of any type. For my first step, though, I knew I needed to start smaller. I want to focus on Pittsburgh - the city I live in and love! And as a 28-year-old, I want to have a thriving social life, and be able to go out to a local boutique, bar, or restaurant without any concerns (other than my bank balance!). So I am focusing my project on making these buildings more accessible, for both old and new construction.

I'm calling my project Accessible YOUniverse. I'd love for you to hear more about my project, and where I envision it going in the future! The Fellowship is holding a Finale, open to the public, on November 30 from 5:30 - 8 PM at the August Wilson Center downtown. If you're free and in the area, stop by and hear about my project and the other great projects the rest of the Fellows have been working hard on! You can RSVP here, and e-mail me here or leave a comment with any questions.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Winter Closet Clean-Out

I try to go through all of my clothes twice a year - in winter and spring, when I'm changing from one season of clothes to another. Full disclosure - this does not always happen. This year, however, I had some extra motivation from Stacy London's talk still fresh in my mind, so I wanted to do it.

I tried to be really ruthless about going through my closet this time. I went through every single thing individually, and really thought about if I had worn it at all recently, and if I actually felt good the last time I had worn it! It's hard to get rid of things that you know you spent money on and rarely (if ever) wore, but it's pointless to leave it in your closet just sitting there. There's nothing worse than rushing to get ready for work, pulling out a shirt you can't remember why you haven't worn recently, only to be uncomfortable all day.
Obviously I still need to work on my hanger game!

So with that, here are my tips for make a closet clean-out easier and more productive!

- Go section by section in your closet
It's really easy to get overwhelmed and want to quit when you have your whole closet ahead of you. So, pick an article of clothing and start with that. Go through all of your skirts, then stop and take a break before you move on to the next category. It'll keep you from getting frustrated, and keep you from making quick decisions just to get the whole process over with!

-Think about the last time you wore each item
Clothes can be really cute, but if you never wear them, they have absolutely no value to you. I had a skirt that I really loved, but never felt like it went well with anything else I owned, so I never wore it. I finally got rid of it, because it wasn't doing me any good while it sat in my closet unworn.

-Don't keep something just because the tag is still on it
I know - you feel really guilty getting rid of something with the tag still on it, because it feels like a huge waste of money. But if it's more than a month or two old and the tag is still on, you're never going to wear it.

-Don't keep something that doesn't fit
If it's something that a tailor could easily make work for you, that's fine. But don't keep things that you're hoping might work for you some day in the future. It just takes up space for clothes that you could be wearing right now!

-Think about your lifestyle
It's perfectly fine to have "special occasion" clothes that you love, but can't wear every day. But if 90% of your closet is clothes that don't work with your lifestyle in one way or another, that's a problem! You're going to end up re-wearing the same few things that do work with your life. Stacy London called this "use value" - does the piece of clothing have any value in your life?

And don't forget - don't just throw away your clothes that are still in good shape! Donate them to Goodwill, or your local clothing charity of choice. Just because your clothes don't work for you anymore doesn't mean they won't work for anyone else.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Shopping the Sephora VIB Sale

Sephora doesn't have sales very often, so when they do, it's a big deal. From now until Wednesday, VIB Insiders at Sephora get 20% off their purchases, which is no small thing! So I'm sharing my favorite picks to buy during the sale.
1: Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Gel
I don't "do" my eyebrows every day, but if I do, I swear by this gel. It looks natural and is so easy to use!

2: ColourPop Eyeshadow Palette
I was so happy when ColourPop came to Sephora, and I love every single color in this palette. When there's a sale like this, I like to get something fun that I wouldn't buy otherwise, and I cannot wait to try out these colors.

3: Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blush
This blush is just the right mix of shimmer and matte, and is so incredibly pigmented - I only have the use the tiniest bit. It also really lasts all day, and doesn't settle into my pores! I use the color Radiant Magenta (pictured) but all the shades are great.

4: Anastasia Beverly Hills Blush Kit
This was intriguing to me - I haven't used Anastasia blush before, but I trust their brow gel, so I trust them. The color selection is great!

5: Touche Eclat Radiant Perfecting Pen
I use this as an under eye highlighter/concealer, and it is the only one I will use! I tried a few drugstore dupes, and while they certainly weren't bad, there's just something about the texture and finish of the Touche Eclat that keeps pulling me back to it!

6: T3 Featherweight Luxe 2i
If you're looking for a good deal during the sale, this is what you should buy! This is the blow dryer that I use, and it's actually on sale right now for $50 off, which is amazing. It's definitely not cheap, but it's worth it - my hair is less frizzy and healthier when I use this dryer!

You can also find the products in the widget below - happy shopping!

(This post uses affiliate links, and I may gain a small commission for any clicks/purchases you make.)

Friday, November 10, 2017

Currently Listening, 11/10/2017

I feel like it's been a heavy week here on the blog - talking about my feeding tube and friendships - so I wanted to keep my Friday post light, short, and sweet!

In case you somehow missed it.... Taylor Swift's new album, reputation, came out today at midnight. I know Taylor can be a bit of a divisive figure, but I'm a big fan. I have always loved her music, and I think she seems like a nice, genuine person. I know the word "manipulative" gets used a lot to describe her, but I think it's an insulting way of saying she knows who she is, both on a personal level, and on a professional level as a "brand" - I think she's actually an incredibly smart businesswoman!

So, today, I'll be listening to reputation on repeat.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Importance of Quality Friendships

One of my friends recently went through a not-so-good time, and it was really heartwarming to me to see our friends rally to be there for her - both physically and emotionally there. I felt really grateful to have such a great group of friends, and it made me really think about my views on friendship.

I have been lucky enough to have a group of people, some of whom I've known since elementary school, that I consider some of my closest friends. We don't all necessarily live in the same city anymore, but we are there for each other without a doubt, in both the good times and the bad times.

I've also been lucky in that my friends don't treat me any differently just because I'm in a wheelchair. I was talking to one of my friends the other day about how I don't think that I was ever really bullied or teased as a kid about my wheelchair, and I think it's partially because I had such a great group of friends who accepted me so readily!

I am not someone who has a ton of acquaintances. I think I probably take friendships more seriously than most - I really expect a lot of my friends, but I'm willing to give a lot, too. I think that having a few quality friendships is so much more important than quantity of friends. I'd much rather have a small number of friends who I know I can go to and count on for anything and everything, rather than a larger group of people I'm friendly with and can make plans with, but can't necessarily count on.

Friendships like these - quality friendships - take real work. But the time and effort that you put it is more than worth it in having friends that you know you can count on no matter what.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Feeding Tube, Part 2: Dealing With Emergencies

Yesterday I talked about why I have a feeding tube, and how great it's been for my life.  However, in the interest of honesty, I wanted to write a follow-up post about the downsides to having a feeding tube - about what it's like when I have a feeding tube "emergency."

The human body is a crazy and fascinating thing. My feeding tube sits in a hole in my stomach, and is held in place by a little balloon that is inflated on the inside of my stomach. But balloons can break, and when it does, there's nothing left keeping the feeding tube from slipping right out. And the craziest part of all is that if the feeding tube comes all the way out, the little hole in my stomach can start closing back up in an hour! That would mean that I'd need another surgery to get a new feeding tube placed, which I definitely do not want.

The first time that my feeding tube balloon broke, I was in New York, seeing Hamilton and Oh, Hello On Broadway. I had just come back to my hotel room after meeting Nick Kroll and John Mulaney, so I was having a great night and feeling pretty fantastic. I was eating a burger and milkshake I had picked up from Shake Shack, so again - feeling great. As I was changing into my PJs, though, I realized that the bottom of my shirt was soaked (the balloon is filled with water/saline), and my feeding tube was sticking way out of my stomach.

I completely PANICKED. I pushed it back in really quickly, put a Kleenex over it, and put about 100 pieces of tape on it to keep it from coming out. I called the on-call physician at my gastroenterologist, who calmed me down a little bit by telling me that since it had been in for 3 years, the hole wouldn't close with the feeding tube still inside it, and told me that if it did come out somehow, I could just put it pack in and it would be ok. I was allowed to use it overnight still, but at a much slower rate than usual. That meant I got a lot less calories than usual, which made for a really rough drive home from New York to Pittsburgh. Luckily, the hospital was able to fit me in for an emergency replacement of my feeding tube the next morning, which was surprisingly quick and easy.

Then, over this past weekend, almost a year to the day from last time, I felt the same familiar rush of liquid and soaking of my shirt. I was happy to be home this time, at least, but I was no less panicked. After a few hours in the ER, I found out that the balloon wasn't completely broken, but had deflated a bit and wasn't holding the feeding tube tightly into my stomach. They were going to put in a new feeding tube anyway, to be safe, but the hospital didn't have any of my "size" of feeding tube. So instead, they refilled it, took an x-ray to make sure it was in the right place, and sent me on my way. While it was actually a relatively quick ER visit, it still basically ended up being my entire day.

Things like this, that happen with no warning and are completely out of my control, are the frustrating parts of my feeding tube. The positives absolutely outweigh the negatives, though, and I'll take a day spent at the ER over being too tired to live my own life anytime.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Why I have a Feeding Tube

A few years ago, I was going through a really rough time, health-wise. Because of my SMA, I've always weighed less than a normal person would - well under 100 pounds. But after graduating college and starting to work, I somehow gradually lost around 20 pounds. When you only weigh around 60 pounds to start with, 20 pounds is a lot. I wasn't trying to lose weight, and I honestly didn't even realize that it was happening.

Weight and metabolism are tricky for people with SMA. My body can go into fasting/starvation mode really quickly, and I don't have much of a fat reserve. So if I go too long without eating, my body will start to break down my own muscles to try to get the energy that it needs. So when I was down to weighing about 40 pounds, everyday life got really, really hard.

I basically couldn't eat enough to get enough energy to get through a normal day. I was burning so much energy just breathing that I couldn't get a good breath when I was sitting up - it would be hard for me to breathe, and my heart would start racing. I was exhausted all the time. I honestly didn't have much of a life at that point, and it was not fun. But it took a while to figure out that my weight was the problem - I don't get weighed often, so it was hard to pin down what the issue was.

Once we knew it was my weight loss that was the problem, I tried really hard to gain the weight back. I had so many chocolate flavored Ensures every single day, and ate as many of the high calorie foods covered in butter as I possibly could. I gained maybe 3 or 5 pounds back, but it wasn't nearly enough to get me back to a healthy weight.

The whole time I was trying to gain weight, I knew that if I couldn't, I'd have to get a feeding tube. I really, really wanted to avoid this. I hate going under anesthesia and having surgery, and I didn't love the idea of having a button sticking out of my stomach for the rest of my life. I was terrified, but I knew that I was out of options. So surgery was scheduled for early November, almost exactly four years ago to the day. This is a picture of myself that I took the night before surgery - the quality isn't great (I had no idea I'd ever share it!), and even though I'm wearing really baggy, loose clothes, you can still see how thin I am.
It's still crazy to me how quickly the feeding tube helped me. I was already feeling better in the first few days afterwards. I had energy again, and my heart didn't start racing if I sat up for too long. I was incredibly lucky in that I didn't have any side effects (like nausea) from the feeding tube, and my body adjusted really quickly.

Now, I use the feeding tube overnight, and eat "normally" during the day. Knowing that I can get in extra calories overnight takes away from the constant stress of trying to eat enough that I felt while I was trying to gain weight. It can be a little annoying sometimes - not all of my old clothes work with the feeding tube, and when I go to bed, I have to plan ahead and know what time I'm going to get up so I can do the math to get the right amount in overnight. But it honestly gave me my life back, and I am so grateful for that.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Stacy London at The Frick

I'm a huge fan of Stacy London - What Not to Wear is such a great show, and I also love following her Twitter account - so when I saw that she was coming to speak at The Frick, I bought my ticket as quickly as I possibly could. This turned out to be a great decision, because the event sold out in about 12 hours!
Top: here // Necklace: old, similar here
I've talked about The Frick here before - the last time I went, they had an Irving Penn photography exhibit, which I absolutely loved. Their new exhibit is called Undressed: A History of Fashion in Underwear, which looks at how style reflects and shapes our views of human bodies, and how this has changed over time. Stacy's talk was titled The Power of Personal Style, and focused on how knowing your body and taking control of your style can help improve your own body image.

Stacy talked a lot about the psychology behind style and body image, which was a really interesting perspective. She explained that we're always going to make judgements about other people - our brain makes an initial judgement in the first three seconds of seeing someone, and it's not something that we can control. She also brought up how much we internalize what we see, and how our brains can be held hostage by these images.

"What you wear is being aware" was my favorite quote of the night, and something I absolutely agree with. Stacy made it clear that we have the right to wear whatever we want, and it's never an invitation for any type of sexual harassment. But by being aware of our bodies, and our style -  that's going to help us to look and feel our best, and going to help us achieve what we want to in our lives.

She had a lot of other useful tips and tricks for personal style - she talked about the use value and joy that our clothes should bring us - but my favorite part of the evening was when diversity in fashion came up. Another woman in the audience asked a question about dressing for her body type, and Stacy talked about how she decided to work with the midwest store Meijer because they wanted to have a line of clothes were all sizes were available for all styles on the same rack, and not segregated into "regular sizes" and "plus sizes."
She went on to talk about how fashion really needs more diversity to reflect what the rest of the world looks like. She looked over to me and we had a great discussion about the lack of handicapped diversity in fashion. I talked about how hard it is for me to find clothing that fits me but doesn't make me look like a child. The fashion industry doesn't make clothes for "different" body types like mine. Stacy had some tips for me, and even complimented my necklace, which felt great - but what felt the best was knowing that she was aware of, and had thought about, the lack of handicapped representation in fashion.

 Stacy's talk about diversity in fashion fits in really well with my hope for this blog. I want to add to diversity here online! I do care about fashion and style, about how I look and about how I present myself. It makes me feel good about myself, and I do think it goes far in showing people that my wheelchair doesn't define me. But finding clothes that work for me isn't always easy, and lots of other parts of my life that seem like everyone else's aren't always easy, either. Stacy's discussion was a great reminder that while people are aware of this, more diverse voices adding to the discussion is needed.

Stacy was kind enough to stay after her talk to chat and take a picture with everyone who asked. She even let me gush to her about my love for Hamilton, since she knows and has worked with the Miranda family. She recommended a new series on Vox, called The Divided States of Women, which highlights underrepresented female voices, that I'm really looking forward to. It was such an amazing night, and I cannot thank Stacy enough for all of it!

I don't want to end this post without mentioning Undressed, the current exhibit at The Frick. We got to walk through the exhibit after the talk ended, and it was really interesting to see the history of underwear - how it started as something just as a necessity, and then started to change to shape and reflect society's ideas of bodies. The exhibit also showed how fashion has borrowed from and been inspired by shapes in undergarments over the years. If you're in the Pittsburgh area, definitely go check this out!

(This post uses affiliate links, which means I may earn a small commission for clicks/purchases you make.)

Friday, November 3, 2017

Currently Reading, 11/3/2017

Happy Friday! I can't believe it's already November - October really flew by for me.

Today, I want to share this excellent New Yorker article I read a few weeks ago. I thought it was very well written and interesting, but was hesitant to share it at first because it talks about essential oils, which I know many, many people are a fan of right now.

I have no problem with essential oils in and of themselves - they smell great, can help people relax, and have no real side effects when used properly. But what makes me nervous is when people start to use essential oils in a medicinal way, based on the word of multi-level marketers who are literally being paid for every sale they make, and are incentivized to keep expanding their sales and sell more. And I get especially nervous when saleswomen, like Carla in the article, say "Rub it clockwise three times. That activates the electrical properties in the oil, and aligns your DNA." Or when customers are told that there is an essential oil that can cure cancer. That's when, from a public health and medical perspective, essential oils become dangerous.

I worry that people are going to start using essential oils to boost their immune system and skip their annual flu shot - and I talked here before about why the flu shot is so important! I have no problem with alternative medicine used in conjunction with Western medicine, but I do take issue with factually incorrect statements like those that say oils "align your DNA" or detoxify your body.

As someone in public health, I'm really glad that people are so invested in being healthy. But I hope that people don't get so invested in a wellness craze that they do it at the expense of their actual health.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Knights of Malta Investiture in Washington, DC

I mentioned in yesterday's post that I went to DC because one of my good friends invited me to an event. He was invited to join the Knights of Malta, and asked me to be his date for their Annual Dinner/gala that they held in the evening after the formal investiture (initiation) ceremony in the morning. Since I love DC, I was more than happy to join him and have an excuse to make the trip!
I didn't know anything at all about the Knights of Malta before my friend joined, so I'm going to explain a little bit what they are. The order actually started as a Catholic religious order that ran a hospital in Jerusalem (I enjoyed the public health connection!) back in the eleventh century. The US part of the organization originated in 1927 in New York City, but has now expanded nationwide. The general mission of the order is to care for the poor and the sick, and they do this many different ways, both domestically and internationally. Currently, there are over 3,000 dames and knights (what members of the order are called) in the US, and about 13,500 internationally. (If you’re interested, you can read more here.)
The investiture day was a fun, but long, day. It began with the actual investiture Mass itself, celebrated by Cardinal Wuerl, who actually used to be a bishop here in Pittsburgh!. Mass was followed by a luncheon, and then they gave us a few hours to get ready for the dinner in the evening! I, of course, had made an appointment at Drybar to get my hair blown out, so I hurried there, and only had about an hour or so by the time I got back to my hotel after my blow out, so I had to get ready pretty quickly.

Of course, picking out my dress for the dinner was very important. I ended up going with this Adriana Papell dress - I love anything beaded and sparkly! They also make a cocktail length version, and it comes in lots of other colors, too.
The dinner was so much fun - it was a really amazing night. It was held at the US Chambers of Commerce, which was an absolutely beautiful building. I didn't want to take any pictures during dinner, but I wish I had - the ceiling was wooden beams that were intricately carved with state names, and mottos, and emblems. Every single part of the evening was fantastic - from dinner, to dancing, to all of the people I met, who were so kind!

I'm really excited for and proud of my friend being invited to join the Order of Malta, and truly honored to have been asked to join him on such a wonderful day!

(This post uses affiliate links, and I may earn a small commission from any clicks/purchases you make.)

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

My Trip to DC - Staying at The Mayflower Hotel

A few weeks ago, I took a long weekend trip to DC. A friend invited me to join him for an event in the city, and I decided to stay an extra day so that I had some time to enjoy and explore. I'll talk more about the event in tomorrow's post, but today, I want to recap the rest of my trip.
I stayed at The Mayflower Hotel, which is by far the most beautiful hotel that I've ever stayed in. It's in the heart of downtown DC, maybe a 10 minute walk from the White House. It opened in 1925, and has hosted inaugural balls, numerous Presidents, and many heads of state - the hotel actually had historic photographs and other memorabilia on display in the mezzanine level. We stayed in a suite, which was incredibly spacious, and I'm always impressed with hotels that offer accessible suites with roll-in showers - they're actually very difficult to find! Since my whole family made the trip to DC, there's just not enough room for me and my sister to move around if we don't stay in a suite.
I loved the decor of the room and the hotel - how cute are the fireplace and the globe?
The bathroom was so huge it was almost unbelievable - more than enough room for me and my sister to get ready at the same time! They also had a little light-up makeup mirror in addition to the huge mirrors on the wall! I always pack a small stand mirror when I travel, and it was great to not have to unpack it.
I was busy all day Saturday with events, but had time on Sunday to walk around. I didn't plan this, but I was delighted to find out that the National Geographic Museum was right behind our hotel. When I found out that the current exhibit was wildlife photographs, I knew I had to go! I loved all the pictures, and it was fascinating to read the stories behind the shots and to watch the video clips they had playing throughout. I had to get a picture outside with their sculpture for their Big Cats Initiative, which was started by a husband and wife filmmaker/conservationist team. Big cats are my favorite, and I have a framed print in my bedroom that supports the Big Cat Initiative!
We had dinner reservations, so we didn't end up with too much time between the museum and dinner, and decided to just walk towards the National Mall. We ended up having time to walk to the Washington Monument, and I made mental plans to come back in 2019 when the elevators are operational again so I can ride up to the top! It really is an amazing and awe-inspiring moment - you don't really grasp the size of it until you're up close.
I never feel like I have enough time in DC - I really love just walking around and finding new coffee shops and restaurants to try. I can't wait to tell you about the rest of my trip tomorrow, and I also already can't wait to go back to DC!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Breast Cancer Awareness Month: A Personal Perspective, Part 5

Each Tuesday in October, Katie is taking over my blog to talk about her experience with breast cancer. You can read part one here, part two here, part three here, and part four here. This week, to finish out the month, Katie will be posting the final parts of her series on both Monday and Tuesday.

 It's been almost six months since my reconstruction surgery.  When I was going through treatment, I kept thinking, "I can't wait until there is a day that cancer doesn't cross my mind." And now, I frequently have those days and when I do think about cancer, it's from a different view. I do know that I was lucky, but I'm also less afraid - I had something really terrible thrown at me and I was able to cope. The biggest fear that I do have is that my cancer would become metastatic, because there is no cure for that, and it would mean that I would have to undergo treatment for the rest of my life. 30% of early stage cancers do, at some point, become metastatic, and there are many women out there living that reality.

I want to use the rest of this post to talk about some final things from my experience with breast cancer.

For as much as I learned about my body and physical health during this experience, I learned even more about taking care of my mental and emotional health. I think trying to keep a positive attitude throughout treatment definitely helped me, but like anything else, it was a balancing act in learning to be kind to myself. Not every moment was going to be pink ribbons and survivor slogans. Talking to a therapist throughout my treatment played a big role in how I handled everything being thrown at me.

I also want to talk about doing self breast exams. I read that 80% of women find their own breast cancer, and with mammograms not being covered by insurance until the age of 40, that means the vast majority of young patients have no screening options other than themselves and their annual gynecologist visit. It would have been so much worse for me if I had not found my lump during a self exam.

Writing these posts has been a great way for me to look back and reflect on my breast cancer experience, now that my treatment is over and I'm less fearful. I hope that they've been helpful to you in understanding the actual reality of living with breast cancer a little bit better. I also hope that when life throws you your own unexpected curve balls, you will know that you are strong enough to get through it, and to always focus on living a life that is as happy and healthy as it can possibly be.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Breast Cancer Awareness Month: A Personal Perspective, Part 4

Each Tuesday in October, Katie is taking over my blog to talk about her experience with breast cancer. You can read part one here, part two here, and part three here. This week, to finish out the month, Katie will be posting the final parts of her series on both Monday and Tuesday.

I did my last chemotherapy November 30, but my surgery wasn't scheduled until December 30 - I wanted to finish out the year cancer-free. I had to wait for my blood cell counts to rebound a little bit, and two weeks before I had to drink whey protein shakes and avoid things like green tea and any medications that could thin my blood.

I knew early on that I wanted to go with a double mastectomy, not a lumpectomy or single mastectomy. I wanted to eliminate as much recurrence risk as possible, and I also wanted to look symmetric! I did struggle with this decision, but knew in my gut that it was the right choice for me - but that doesn't mean it's the right choice for everyone with breast cancer. I did a lot of research and even got a second opinion from my plastic surgeon to make sure I was comfortable and confident in my choice. Even with the decision to have a double mastectomy, there are so many different reconstruction options that it was a lot to wrap my head around.

I knew going in that the surgery would take about four hours, and the surgical oncologist would remove as much breast tissue as she could, as well as three lymph nodes from my right (cancerous) side. I also knew that I'd have to wait several days to find out what cancer was left and to be completely certain that my lymph nodes were cancer-free - meaning that the cancer had not spread. The plastic surgeon placed tissue expanders in each side, to start to reconstruction process. These expanders are a temporary implant that are filled multiple times with saline, over several months, to stretch and expand your tissue/skin/muscles and prepare your body for the permanent implant.

I was home from the hospital by New Years Eve, so I was only in the hospital for about 36 hours. I had excercises that I had to do to stretch things out - these actually really helped my pain. I felt better than I thought I would, but still needed help doing things that required a lot of pulling, like opening doors, and sitting up was really hard! The most annoying part of recovery was the drains that were on each side of my body to collect excess fluid as I healed. They were in for a few weeks, and made showering really, really difficult. I was very happy to see them go. I had to wear a surgical bra while the drains were in, and I had to wear only button-down shirts, since I couldn't really use my arms.

 Before I even had the surgery, I really struggled emotionally know that I was going to be losing part of my body. I knew that as my body healed, I'd be going through a grieving process for my breasts, as silly as that may sound. I knew that it would take a while to get to a place where I was content with the way my body looked and felt. It was really hard not having hair, eyebrows, eyelashes, or boobs - it was a definite emotional low for me.

The expansion process was actually kind of fun, because with each fill, it was like a small improvement. Each expansion was really quick - they used a magnet to find the port, and slowly pushed the saline in to expand. I was afraid that it was going to hurt, but really, it was just some muscle soreness for a day. I had a minor setback when my incision wasn't healing as well as it should have been, and we actually had to remove some saline during an appointment rather than add any, but that was the only real problem I ran into. My expanders were in for about 4 months - we stopped filling them when I decided that I liked the size - it's a totally personal decision.

For reconstruction, I had to decide what kind of implant I wanted - there are different shapes and fillings (saline vs. silicone). There were so many different shapes and sizes - I was really shocked. The actual reconstruction surgery only took an hour and a half, was outpatient (so I went home that day), and by the next day, I felt great. It's definitely a much easier surgery than the mastectomy! I was really excited to have the implants, and to feel like I looked more normal. That, to me, was the finish line.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Join the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra's Young Professionals Club

I'm taking a break from my regularly scheduled programming to talk about a new organization being formed by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra - the Young Professionals Club.

It should be clear from my posts that I love live music, but I don't think I've ever posted about going to the symphony before. I've been going to the symphony ever since I was a little girl - my sister used to sing in a choir that would sometimes perform with the symphony, and we both also took piano lessons. I know that some people think of classical music as old and boring, but I think you really just have to find your niche. It's certainly different than going to a pop concert, but the music is beautiful and it's incredible how all the different instrument sections come together to create such an amazing performance. Pittsburgh, in particular, has such a fantastic symphony - the musicians are all so passionate, and it really shows.

Last year, I joined the New Leadership Council, which is a group of people who are passionate about helping the symphony continue to grow and succeed. This year, we're helping the symphony start the Young Professionals Club - a group of people who are 21-35 years old who enjoy classical music and the Pittsburgh Symphony! It costs $35 a year, and members get discounts on tickets, invitations to happy hours and other social events, and access to special behind-the-scenes activities.

To kick off the YPC, we're throwing a happy hour downtown at Pork & Beans. I'll be there, and anyone who is interested in learning more about the YPC should definitely join! Feel free to leave a comment or e-mail me with any questions.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

My Travel Tips

I have talked about what it's like for me to travel before (here - for my SMA Awareness Month Series), but that post focused on the amount of medical equipment that I have to take with me when I travel. I got back from a trip to DC earlier this week, so I want to talk about other, non-medical travel essentials - things that I make sure to take on every trip, but aren't related to me having SMA. I'm not going to write a full travel list, but I'm going to talk about the things that are necessary but sometimes forgotten!

  • Extra contact lenses
    There's actually a story about this one. On a trip to New York a few years ago, I put in what I thought were my contacts, and thought they were old and looked blurry. So I took them out, threw them away, and put in the new pair I had brought. Well, the reason they looked blurry was that they weren't mine - they were my sister's, and she didn't have an extra pair with her! Now, I double and triple check to make sure that I have another pair packed.
  • Glasses
    I almost never wear my glasses, so it's hard for me to remember to pack them! But you never know what will happen, and I definitely don't want to be basically blind while I'm on a trip.
  • Extra iPhone cords
    I have an iPhone, an iPad, and the Apple EarPods, and they all use the same (easily broken) cord to charge. It never hurts to bring a few extra chargers to make sure that all of your devices are fully operational.
  • A comfy blanket/sweatshirt
    Hotel room thermostats can be really finicky - it's either freezing, or way too hot and stuffy. The sweatshirt or sweater is a must for the hotel room, to throw on over your pajamas in the room, or while running to the lobby for coffee. And I just love having my own blanket to sleep with! Depending on the hotel, there's a good chance I don't want to use the comforter from the room, and sometimes I need something more than a sheet.
  • Ibuprofen, allergy pills, and decongestants
    I'm not one that gets a headache often, but weather and temperature changes, plus the really dry hotel air, can really do a number on you! Being prepared can save you from a 10 p.m. run to CVS when there are other things you'd rather be doing.
I'm always trying to be a better packer - let me know what your must-haves are when traveling!

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

My Favorite Eyeshadows

I've talked about my makeup routine here before - it's nothing exciting, but I'm not super adventurous with my makeup so I don't stray from my routine often! Sometimes, though, my basic routine just doesn't cut it, and I want a little extra, so I add some eye shadow.

I'm not great at doing a fancy, smoky eye, so I need something that goes on easily, but can stay put on my oily eyelids and still look nice a few hours later. I've found that the Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Cream Shadow Stick fits all of my requirements! It couldn't be easier to apply - you can just put it on directly from the stick - and once it sets, it stays put for hours without smudging. There is a great mix of basic matte colors and fun shimmer shades, and they also make a great base if you want to add any other eye shadow on top.

When I'm feeling really fancy or festive, I'll go all out and add some of the Stila Magnificent Metals Glitter & Glow liquid shadows. These pack a real punch, so you may want to apply it sparingly. I've found that spreading it across my eye gives a bit more of a subtle look, whereas if I press/dab it on my eye, it's definitely a lot more of a sparkly, disco ball type look. Sephora is selling a few great sets with smaller versions of the shadows - I picked up "Written In The Stars" and love the colors. Since a little goes a long way, the mini versions are the perfect way to try out different colors!

(This post uses affiliate links,

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Breast Cancer Awareness Month: A Personal Perspective, Part 3

Each Tuesday in October, Katie is taking over my blog to talk about her experience with breast cancer. You can read week one here and week two here.

Once fertility preservation treatments were over, the real fun could begin - chemotherapy. I was very worried about chemotherapy in general until my oncologist told me that chemotherapy of 2016 is very different than chemotherapy of 20 years ago - there are a lot more medications now to counteract side effects. There would still be side effects, but I wouldn't be vomiting constantly. Still, that's not to say it was a fun experience.

I found out very early that I'd be receiving 16 chemotherapy treatments, starting with a heavy-hitter called the "red devil" that I'd get every other week, four times total. I went into Day 1 of chemotherapy very  apprehensive - there's the nickname, for starters, and the fact that I had to get an EKG beforehand to have a baseline because the drug can cause heart damage. I was nervous about how I'd really feel, and what the side effects would be, and how it would affect my everyday life. I was the first patient of the day, at 8 AM, and chose a chair by the window (that turned out to be my bad luck chair!). I had a wonderful nurse who sat down and explained what drugs I would be receiving, and in what order, and that they would take things slow to see how my body reacted. I was there for about eight hours, In later treatments, I would spend my time in treatment watching a lot of TV with my husband Terry or coloring, but the first day, I was too nervous to do any of that, and just sat there talking to Terry or my mom and dad, who came to visit. After the first treatment, I was really nauseous (a side effect of the estrogen medication I was still on from my fertility treatments), but that was really the only time that happened. Afterwards, I took a little walk to get some fresh air, but mostly spent my night exhausted, laying on the couch.

I took a week off after the first round of chemotherapy and went to Hilton Head with my family. I knew from my research that I'd likely lost my hair about two weeks after my first treatment, so we packed hair clippers since we knew it would probably happen while we were away. It started to fall out more and more, and by the end of my time in Hilton Head, my scalp was starting to hurt, almost like it was sunburnt, so I decided to buzz it all off. Terry did the work, and we tried to make it fun - he shaved some designs into my head - and I was fine until Terry and my mom left the bathroom so I could shower. Looking myself in the mirror for the first time was really hard. On the way home, we stopped in North Carolina for an art show, and headed back home to Pittsburgh a little more well rested, but with a little less hair.

The rest of "red devil" treatments were fairly uneventful, but I did have trouble with my port a few times. They were always able to get it working, but it made things take a lot longer - the first time there was an issue, I had to get an x-ray, to make sure the port was positioned correctly. Mostly, I was just super tired. I did manage to run a local Fourth of July 5K with Terry four days after a chemotherapy treatment, but it was hard and I slept for the next four hours after I finished.

After the "red devil" was over, but before the new chemotherapy drug could start, I got bronchitis. Because I didn't have much of an immune system left, the nurses started to panic when they heard me cough when they were starting to get me ready for treatment. They did a chest xray to confirm that it wasn't pneumonia, but found that my white blood cell count was elevated, so they delayed treatment. I went home, had a fever for the next five days, and finally was sent to the Emergency Room. They did blood cultures and a CT scan to make sure I didn't have a blood clot in my lungs, gave me fluids, and wanted to admit me, but I fought them and went home, since there wasn't really anything else they could do. It was a scary thing to know that my body couldn't fight off whatever was causing my fever, and I was disappointed that the treatment delay meant I wouldn't be done with chemotherapy before Thanksgiving like I had hoped.

I did start feeling better, though, and the doctor cleared me to resume chemotherapy, now weekly instead of every other week. The next drug was a lot easier for me - it didn't wipe me out as much as the first had. I did have some neuropathy - numbness and tingling in my hands and feet - and some nail separation, but considering how much more normal I felt, I was ok with that. I was even to go to Greece during this time, where Terry was presenting at an academic conference. The nurses were more nervous than I was about me traveling while in the middle of chemotherapy. I had Lysol wipes on the plane, and I was under strict instructions to get up and move around every hour while on the plane, and even then, my legs did swell up when we landed, which alarmed me a little bit. Luckily, nothing major went wrong, and I loved my time in Greece and want to go back!

I finished chemotherapy on November 30, and was so relieved it was over. Because the second drug was milder, my hair was already starting to grow back a little, which was super exciting and brought me hope. The next step was surgery, scheduled for a month later, and the topic of next week's post!