Thursday, August 31, 2017

A Day at the Pittsburgh Zoo


Even though I'm an adult, I love going to the zoo. I am such an animal person - I have planned vacations around animal encounters (I highly recommend McCarthy's Wildlife Preserve in West Palm Beach, Florida) and stayed at Animal Kingdom Lodge at Disney World, where you can see zebras and giraffes from your balcony. So going to the zoo is a no-brainer for me. And luckily for me, Pittsburgh's zoo is amazing.


The zoo of today looks completely different from the zoo of my childhood. They recently re-did the African Safari section of the zoo - now, you can see the giraffes, elephants and zebras from so close, you almost feel like you're on the safari yourself (which is my bucket-list dream!).








They also added - and are still adding to - a new section of the zoo called The Islands. I couldn't believe how huge it was - they built it going up a hill, so you take a nice trail walk up while you look at all the animal exhibits along the way. The Siamang monkeys were especially cool - they had a ropes course of sorts set up for them to swing around on.


Spending a day at the zoo is so relaxing. You can just roam around and look at the animals, enjoying the weather and the atmosphere. If you're in the area, it's totally worth a visit!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

SMA Awareness Month, Volume 4: Traveling with SMA

This is the last Wednesday in August, so this is going to be my last official SMA Awareness Month post of 2017. I've really enjoyed writing them, and I hope that you've all enjoyed reading them - I plan to keep writing SMA-specific posts, just maybe not as scheduled as they've been so far.

This picture was taken last year during a trip to NYC.

My family and I have a trip to NYC coming up very soon - we're going to see Hamilton and visit one of my best friends from college, and I could not be more excited. I really enjoy traveling - I like going to new cities and exploring, and really love trying new restaurants in those cities! But traveling with SMA, or with any physical disability, can also be incredibly stressful and difficult.

This difficulty starts from the very beginning of any potential trip planning - deciding where to go. For driving trips, my family basically has a 5-6 hour limit - any longer than that, and it's too much for one day. This is partially because driving in the car isn't just relaxing for me and my sister as passengers - it actually takes strength for us to balance and sit comfortably in our chairs for extended periods of time. The other main limiting factor on driving times is planning out rest stops - or really, lack thereof. We have so much equipment packed for trips, regardless of length (more on this below), that by the time my sister and I are both able to get out of the car, go to the bathroom, and have a little snack, it's easily been an hour, which means we get to our destination an hour later and an hour tired-er. So, my mom or dad may make a quick pit stop while we're on the road, but my sister and I don't - and obviously, this is only possible for so long!

So why not just fly? Well, it turns out it's not quite that simple. First of all, only certain larger planes can fit two wheelchairs in the cargo area of the plane. We had an awful experience once where we arrived at the Philadelphia airport after a red-eye from LAX, only to learn that our wheelchairs weren't going to fit in the plane we were supposed to take to go home - even though we had called and had a very long, very detailed phone call with the airline to make sure something like this didn't happen. And then, once we find a plane that we know will fit our chairs, we have to look at the flight routes - where can we fly directly from Pittsburgh, with no layovers? Because our wheelchairs get taken at the gate and stowed in cargo, we're always the first ones on the plane and the last off. That would mean that if we had a layover, we'd have to allow an extra hour or so for that alone. And then when you add in bathroom stops, a meal, and picking up a wheelchair accessible minivan at your destination, you've just lost an entire day to travel. And the equipment that I mentioned above - that also has to all come on the plane. It's a lot to pack and cart around, and you have to cross your fingers and hope that none of it (or your wheelchair!) gets damaged during the flight.

This is our luggage for a stay in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. You can see the bins at the bottom of the pile - they're full of medical equipment!

So let's talk about this equipment - there's a lot of it. I use a ventilator at night, as well as a feeding tube. The ventilator is the machine itself, plus the tubing, plus the mask I use. The feeding tube is the pump, a tube that connects me to the pump, a different "bag" for each night I'll be away that the formula goes in, plus about 2-2.5 containers of formula for each night. I also have a CoughAssist breathing machine that I use daily (plus the tubing!), and my sister and I both need our wheelchair chargers. These are just the basics! They take up quite a bit of room, and are also a hassle to unpack and set up once we arrive.

Example of why Disney is so great - the balcony in their wheelchair accessible room doesn't have any sort of lip, so it's easy for a wheelchair to access!

There's so much more that I could talk about - finding a wheelchair accessible suite that actually has space to move around in, finding accessible transportation, whether that means renting an accessible minivan or taking public transportation, if that's available. Making sure that any and all activities, stores, and restaurants are wheelchair accessible (which does not mean "just one small step to get in, but other than that, yes"). We've definitely learned, over the years, places that are better to go - Disney is always amazing with accessibility - and places that are more difficult (the NYC subway system is largely inaccessible).

What I said at the beginning of this post is still true - I really do love traveling! And knowing what is involved in traveling makes trips like my upcoming NYC trip a little more special. If we're willing to put up with all of what I mentioned above to go on a trip, it means that it's something we really care about.




Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Importance of Taking Breaks



This summer has been really busy for me - in addition to work, I took a summer class for my MPH program, and had five weddings to go to, started this blog, and I try to have some sort of normal social life! Because of this, there wasn't really time for me to take a real vacation, or travel anywhere. As much as I wanted to, I just couldn't make it work, schedule-wise.

I was starting to feel beyond exhausted. Dealing with everything that comes along with having SMA on a daily basis already leaves me tired, and after adding everything else, I was really in need of a break. By August, I was basically waking up each day, going to work, coming home to eat dinner and write a blog post, going to bed, and repeating the next day. So I decided to take two days off work last week, right before the start of the fall semester. It was so needed, and left me feeling so refreshed.

This is something that I've struggled with for as long as I remember. In college, we'd have conversations where we bragged about who got less sleep, who was taking more classes, and who was involved in more activities. 

We live in a culture where we're always pushed to do more. Social media makes us want to go to every event, be involved in every activity, be on Instagram and Twitter and Facebook "liking" all the posts we come across. But when I took off last week, I took a day where I really stayed off social media a lot of the day. I still went on Instagram, but I did it when I wanted to, posting pictures that made me happy. I went to the zoo, which is one of my favorite places ever - I am such an animal person. I'll probably still write a blog post about it, but because I want to share my love of it, not because I feel obligated!

Taking time off when you need it actually helps - it makes you feel better physically, mentally, and emotionally. I'm feeling happier and more productive now that I took time off, not less.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Coffee and Dinner Around Pittsburgh

I've been trying to get out and try some new-to-me places in Pittsburgh recently, in parts of the city I don't always get to. If it isn't already clear, I love coffee and love finding new places for dinner, so I checked out ADDA, in East Liberty/Shadyside, and Senti in Lawrenceville.

Dress: here; Sunglasses: here

ADDA is a local coffeeshop/tea house on East Highland, near the new Bakery Square development area. The feature a unique menu of traditional coffee options and different tea flavors and tea lattes like matcha and ginger tumeric. They also have a selection of pastries and quiches, and on certain Sundays, they serve High Tea!


It has a really cute interior, and definitely has a community atmosphere. I'm really glad I ventured here, and will definitely be back.

Dress: here (different color)


Lawrenceville has been the place to go for new, innovative restaurants for a few years now. I'd heard great things about the Italian restaurant Senti. It ended up totally exceeding my expectations! The interior is beautiful and sophisticated, and the service was amazing - they were friendly, polite, and prompt, but I never felt rushed or like they were hovering. And best of all, the food was all incredible! I had grilled salmon that was cooked and seasoned perfectly, and the most delicious piece of tiramisu for dessert.


I'm so glad I went outside of my usual bubble to try these places, and can't wait to find more new places to explore!

Friday, August 25, 2017

Currently Watching, 8/25/2017

When I first watched the trailer for The Bold Type, I was afraid that it was going to be too young for me. It's loosely based on real-life Cosmopolitan magazine, which did pique my interest - I love The Devil Wears Prada, and thought a show about working at a fashion magazine had potential. But after watching the trailer, it seemed like it might be too cheesy - I was totally wrong.



The Bold Type centers around three friends working for the fictional Scarlet magazine. There have been episodes that look at health scares and promotions at work in addition to friend and relationship issues. I think it does a really great job picking topics that are interesting to everyone - it's really more of an "adult" series than you might think from the trailer! Although I imagine some of the details of working at the magazine aren't totally accurate, the characters themselves are "real," and never once does the show delve into "after-school special" territory.

 I've been really enjoying The Bold Type, and think that everyone should be watching it. The first season is almost over, but I'm looking forward to see where the show goes next season.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Lessons Learned as a Part-Time Graduate Student

I started my grad school career in Public Health in the summer semester of 2014 as a part-time masters student, also working full time in public health research for the same university. Not only were most of the other students in my program full-time students, but they also mainly came straight to graduate school directly from their undergraduate degree. These differences have made me approach school a bit differently than some of my classmates, so I wanted to share some of the things I've learned during my time as a part-time student.


First, some tips specifically for part-time students:
  • Know your limits and take it slow
    Being a part-time student is a long process - while full-time students are graduating in two years and moving on, you can start to feel like you're barely trudging along. But it's better to take an extra year and only take a class or two each semester rather than trying to squeeze in as many classes as you can. You'll end up really wearing yourself thin, and not leaving yourself with any free time.
  •  Keep track of your requirements
    Sometimes, the curriculum and requirements of a program can change one year to the next, and it's really important to know which version applies to you. Otherwise, you may end up (like I did) taking extra classes that aren't required for you because you didn't know that you were grandfathered in to an older set!
  •  Stay organized
    With work deadlines, school deadlines, any other professional obligations, and your social deadlines, it can be hard to keep everything straight. I highly recommend some sort of agenda, whether on paper or online, to keep track of due dates, class times, meetings, and personal obligations. It will make you feel less stressed and overwhelmed to know that you're not forgetting about anything.

More general graduate school things I've learned...
  • It's important to go to class
    I feel like this one should be obvious. I'm not going to pretend like I went to every single class while I was an undergrad. But by the time you're in graduate school, you're choosing to pursue more school because you think it will help you in your future, and you're genuinely interested in the program. So even if you're tired, and lecture is boring, you should go. Even if you think your professors don't notice, they do.
  •  Do the assigned reading
    Sometimes, your professor can't cover all the material in class, or what they're going to talk about relies on a baseline knowledge that not every student will have. Or maybe, they want to run class like a discussion rather than a lecture where they talk at you for 90 minutes straight.  This only works if you do the reading they assign! This also leads me to...
  •  Participate
    There is absolutely nothing worse than seeing every student look down and pretend to be thinking really hard after the professor asks a question. If you've done the reading and are paying attention, try to participate if there's an opportunity. It will help class go faster, and I always find it helps me learn and remember things more easily.
  • Be professional
    I have had some graduate school professors who definitely expect you to dress up a bit for class - pajamas and sweats would definitely not have been acceptable. And it's more than just clothes - don't use abbreviations in your e-mails, and don't ask for an extension the day an assignment is due.
Are any of you in graduate school? I'd love to hear from you - share your own tips in the comments!

    Wednesday, August 23, 2017

    SMA Awareness Month, Volume 4 - Going to College



    It's move-in week for undergraduates in Pittsburgh this week, which reminded me that 11 years ago this week, I was moving into my freshman dorm at Carnegie Mellon University. That seems like another lifetime ago now, but was a real milestone in my life, so I wanted to talk about it this week for my SMA Awareness Month post.

    When I was applying to colleges, I had pretty much made the decision that I was going to stay in Pittsburgh. I had never been to camp, or lived away from home, and I know that I wanted to be near to my parents. While this may seem like a decision that a lot of people make, for me, it was a logistical decision, rather than an emotional one. I knew that if I got sick, or something happened to my wheelchair, I needed to have my parents available as backup. When I toured both Pitt and CMU the summer before my senior year of high school, I realized that the smaller size and more "bubble-like" feel of CMU's campus would make it much easier to navigate for me than Pitt, whose campus is spread out all over Oakland (and up some pretty steep hills).

    Even though I knew I wanted to stay in Pittsburgh, I also knew I didn't want to live at home. I really wanted to have a real college experience, and I knew that it wouldn't be the same if I lived at home. Especially at CMU, where almost every freshman lives on campus. Before move-in day, I met with the director of the Disability Resource Office and various other staff members, picked out a dorm that would work best for me, and worked out other necessary accommodations. CMU was actually great in trying to make things as smooth as possible for me. But until move-in day itself, I didn't realize what a change living away from home would really be for me.

    Not only had I never traveled without my parents, I had also never had anyone but my parents help me shower, get dressed, go to the bathroom - anything. The reality of this set in a few hours into my move in, and the complete fear set in as well. I had aides scheduled to show up later that evening for their first shift, but hadn't realized that I had never really had to "train" anyone to help me. I'm not a big crier (believe me - anyone I know will vouch for this), but I started crying and basically couldn't stop. After an hour or two of this, we made the plan that my mom would come back later that night to help me train the new aides, and walk them through my routine and needs. She ended up coming back for the next few days, and that was such a huge help. In hindsight, it would have been smart to have the aides come to my house before the move-in to train them, but we just didn't think of it!



    After those first few weeks, things definitely went much more smoothly, but going to college with a disability is never quite "normal." I survived freshman year on very little sleep and very high stress levels (this is normal), but this led to me getting pneumonia at the end of the spring semester, had to go home, and ended uptaking incompletes in my classes since lung infections can be serious for me! That actually ended up helping me get a summer research internship, though, so it almost ended up being a good thing!



    I joined a sorority, a co-ed service fraternity, and the school newspaper. As much as I might sound like a typical student, I also had to call my mom too many times to count when one of my aides called off and the agency couldn't find a replacement in time. The aides were also there for scheduled shifts at specific times - I couldn't decide to be spontaneous and stay out at the library or at dinner for too long, because that would have meant losing my chance to go to the bathroom!



    I loved living on campus, and can't imagine doing it any other way - I was often at the library until past midnight, and don't know how I would have done that if my parents had to drive me to and from campus each day. While it wasn't always the easiest, I learned so much, and would be happy to talk to anyone else with a disability starting college!

    Tuesday, August 22, 2017

    How to Layer Your Skincare Products




     I've talked about my skincare routine a few times (here and here) and talked about the products that I specifically use. But I realize that not everyone has the same skin needs as me, and may not want or need the same types of products as me. It can be confusing to figure out which product to put on when - what will be the most effective, and what will wear the best on you skin so that your makeup still applies easily and doesn't pill. So today, I'm talking about how to layer your skincare products.

    In general, the rule is to go from lightest product to heaviest. I'm going to use my own routine as an example when I can, but I'm also going to mention some products that I don't personally use.


      Liquid Products  
      The first products are the very lightest of all. These are things like toners, liquid exfoliants, or essences. I tend to put my toner on before my exfoliant, but since they're both liquid, you could flip those and it would be fine.

        Prescription Face Creams or Over-the-Counter Acne Creams  
        This step is often left out, but if you're using a face cream or gel prescribed by a dermatologist, you definitely want to make sure you're using it properly! Over-the-counter acne face creams would fall under this category too. You should put these types of products on after any liquid ones, so that they can really penetrate the skin.
        Serums or Oils  
        Serums and oils are still fairly light and liquidy, so they go on next. If you try to put these products on after moisturizers, you may run into some texture or pilling issues - these are meant to be put on first, to help your skin absorb the moisture.
        Moisturizer  
        Moisturizers help seal in the products that you put on the skin earlier, and give your skin the moisture it needs if you didn't use a serum or oil earlier. And in the morning, make sure that your moisturizer has SPF in it! You should be putting in your SPF as your very last step right before makeup.
        Creams 
        Creams are heavier than moisturizers, and should be the last step in your routine. They act as an extra barrier for your skin, and should only be used for people with dry skin - other skin types tend to find them too heavy.
         
        What kids of products do you use in your routine? Let me know in the comments!
         
        (This post uses affiliate links, but all opinions are my own.)

    Monday, August 21, 2017

    Drybar comes to Pittsburgh

    Dress: here (floor length version: here)

    A few years ago on a trip to New York City, I discovered Drybar. I know that blowout places like Drybar have been around for a while, but they hadn't really made their way to Pittsburgh. But after visiting Drybar once, I was hooked.

    My hair is thick, but gets oily pretty quickly - I usually have to wash my hair daily. And since I can't really style my own hair easily, I have to stick with blow drying it and leaving it straight. So learning that there was somewhere I could go where they'd wash and style my hair - and the style would still look good with day 2, unwashed hair - was amazing! I'm always impressed by how easy it is to get and make an appointment; you can do it all online or in the app, and you can cancel up to two hours before your scheduled appointment time with no penalty.



    Until recently, Drybar was a vacation treat for me, because there was no Drybar here in Pittsburgh. Happily, though, a location opened over the summer, and it turned out to be only 15 minutes from my house. I had another wedding to go to this weekend, so I was excited to have and excuse to get a blowout. I love that Drybar is so standardized - the store looked just as cute as the other locations that I've been to, and I knew what to ask for so that my hair turned out the way I like it.


    I'm used to having to get lifted out of my wheelchair when I'm getting my hair washed, because the sinks are too low or they're permanently attached to the chair you sit in. When I went over the weekend, though, they found a way to move the chair out of the way so that I could pull my wheelchair in front of the sink and have my hair washed without having to get out of my chair - and they offered all of this without me having to ask them. This made it so much easier for me, and just added to the rest of the amazing experience! 


    If you get a chance to check out a Drybar, I highly recommend it! It's always a fun time and my hair  turns out looking great.


    Friday, August 18, 2017

    Currently Reading, 8/18/2017



    Last summer, I (like the rest of the world!) read and loved The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. I'm all for books that are psychological thrillers - they're suspenseful and dramatic, and they make you think and try to figure out what is really going on. I thought The Girl on the Train did this perfectly - I was on the edge of my seat near the end of the book, turning the page as quickly as I could so that I could find out who the killer was.

    This summer, Hawkins came out with a new thriller, Into the Water. I still really enjoyed it,  but not as much as The Girl on the Train. Both books largely follow the same format - there is a lot of jumping back and forth between characters, which worked for The Girl on the Train because there were fewer characters, but was more difficult to follow in Into the Water. I also thought the twist ending was much more satisfying in The Girl on the Train. But both are really fun, quick reads - perfect for the end of summer.

    And if you love The Girl on the Train as much as I do, you can also watch the movie made based on it, starring Emily Blunt. I don't think it quite lives up to the book, but I've never seen a movie adaptation of a book that did!

    Thursday, August 17, 2017

    Why I Love My Nespresso




    In addition to being SMA Awareness Month (you can read my posts here, here, and here), August is also apparently National Coffee Month. I am a huge coffee fan/addict, which you'll quickly notice if you take a look at my Instagram! And while I love going to Starbucks (and believe me, I do love it - the baristas at "my" Starbucks know me by name), it gets expensive so quickly. So in an effort to cut back on the amount I spend on coffee, I got a Nespresso a few years ago.




    I LOVE my Nespresso. I use it almost every morning before work, so that I can take my double-shot cappuccino with me to go. It's so quick and convenient - it takes less than five minutes to make my coffee in the morning. The pods only cost $0.60 - $0.70 each, so it's definitely cheaper than buying my morning drink at Starbucks. I get to try out different "flavors" of pods, to check out different flavors of coffee, and figure out what I like and don't like.



    The milk container that attaches to the machine is washable, and can be stored in the fridge between uses. And it's just so much easier and more automated than a traditional espresso machine. When I'm running out the door to work in the morning, there's no way I have time to tamp espresso grounds and steam milk by hand. Plus, I don't have to strength to do any of that on my own, so I'd be relying on someone else to do it for me. The more automated the machine is, the easier it is for me to explain to whoever is helping me.




    Best of all, it tastes great! I used a Keurig a lot during college, which was convenient, but just never tasted as good, or as strong, as a regular cup of coffee. I actually really like the way my Nespresso cappuccino tastes. It's the perfect start to my work day or my weekend.

    (This post isn't sponsored, but does use affiliate links, and all opinions are my own.)


    Wednesday, August 16, 2017

    SMA Awareness Month, Volume 3 - Time and Effort

    Dress: here

    Social media in general, and blogs/bloggers especially, are supposed to look effortless. There's a real tendency to make each post seem like it came together easily. I think that I do this a lot with my life - not just on social media - in an effort to seem more like everyone else. My wheelchair already sets me apart enough; I don't necessarily need to highlight my differences any more.

    But in reality, my life is anything but effortless. That's what I want to talk about this week for SMA Awareness Month - how much time and effort is involved in life with a chronic disease/disability.

    I work full-time in research, so I have to get up and go to work every day like everyone else. But unlike everyone else, getting up and getting ready isn't a simple task. It takes me between two and a half to three hours to get ready in this morning. I'm not doing anything special or elaborate - getting up, having some coffee, taking a shower, drying my hair and doing my makeup. But when you need help getting in the shower, during the shower, getting dressed, brushing your teeth, everything takes longer, and those extra minutes add up over the course of the morning. I do like to look nice, I won't deny that - but that just means I like to wash my hair daily, put on makeup, and wear a nice outfit - nothing crazy.


    I don't actually get up until 5:30, but this is when my weekday alarm goes off.


    This basically means that when I start my day, I'm already tired! And this is before a full day of work, maybe graduate school class, and anything fun/social I might have planned. Some of this might be my "fault" - I like to do things, and am involved in a few different organizations that have weeknight meetings.

    Other than meetings or classes, I try really hard to keep weeknights free, because I know having plans at night will make me more tired, and make things harder for me, the next day. Even on a night when I have nothing planned, by the time I do get home from work, have dinner, take a little bit of time to relax, maybe write a blog post, and get ready for bed (which again, takes longer!), 10 p.m. comes incredibly quickly. I then need help getting hooked up to the feeding tube that I use overnight, and putting on the breathing machine I also use overnight. Then I get a few hours of sleep, get up, and do it all over again. By Friday of every week, I'm pretty spent.

    And with SMA, being spent manifests itself not just mentally, but also physically. When I'm exhausted, it's harder for me to do simple things like lift my arms, and hold my head up. And when I'm sleep-deprived, I'm more likely to get sick, and when I'm sick, it's more likely to turn into a serious respiratory problem.

    I'm not sharing this peek into my life so that you feel bad for me, or pity me! But I do want to help people understand the extra effort involved in my life, and I also want to ask that you have patience. If I, or someone else that you know living with a chronic disease/disability, am a few minutes late to meet you - keep in mind what I had to do just to show up! Try to understand that there are factors involved in people's lives that you might not know about.

    (This post uses affiliate links, but all opinions are my own.)

    Tuesday, August 15, 2017

    No-Foundation Foundation: First Aid Beauty, Cover FX, and NYX



    I'm constantly searching for the perfect "no makeup" foundation for weekend days. Something to wear when I'm having a low-key day running errands, or going to see a movie, and want a little bit of coverage, but nothing heavy. My skin looks and feels better with a little bit of something on, because it helps keep the oil in check, so I try to find something with the lightest coverage that will still help keep my face from looking like an oil slick. I've tried the Glossier Skin Tint, the NYX Total Control drops, the Cover FX Custom Cover drops, and the First Aid Beauty (FAB) Triple Protection Skin Tint.



    • Glossier Skin Tint
      This is incredibly light coverage, by far the lightest of the batch. I liked how it felt on my skin; it was easy to rub it in with my fingers, and because it's so thin, you don't need for the color to be a perfect match for it to still look good. Unfortunately, though, it didn't agree with my skin at all, and I had a bad reaction to it and broke out. I tested it a few times to make sure it was the culprit, and I've convinced it was - it was the only new product I was trying. Glossier made it super easy to get a refund, and they didn't even ask me to send the product back, just to pass it along to someone else who might enjoy it, which I did.

    • Cover FX Custom Cover Drops
      The premise behind the Custom Cover drops is intriguing - you can mix in drops with your normal moisturizer, so you can customize the amount of coverage that you want. One drop is light coverage, two drops is medium, and three is closer to full coverage. I liked the look and feel of this foundation, but I found the logistics a bit tricky. It was messy to mix in on my hand, and I always ended up with extra product that I had to wipe off. It's sometimes hard to get the amount of drops right - one drop didn't seem like enough to mix in with my moisturizer evenly, but adding more gave me more coverage than I really wanted. But if you want a product that you can customize, this is the one for you.

    • NYX Total Control Drops
      I'm not sure if you're supposed to also mix these drops in with your moisturizer, but I put it directly on my face and found that it wore and blended well. It's definitely still liquid-y and runny; a few times I ended up with foundation on my clothes instead of on my face. I actually started just putting the excess product from the outside of the dropper onto my face, rather than trying to squeeze the contents onto my face, and found it a lot less messy. Make sure you shake well before using this, because it tends to separate, but I liked how it looked and wore on my face.

    • First Aid Beauty Triple Protection Skin Tint
      This is the newest offering; I think it came out sometime last month. Unlike the Cover FX and the NYX, it isn't a dropper, but just a little squeeze bottle. The liquid is also much thicker than the other three, but it still blends out really nicely. This one came the closest to what I was looking for - it covers my skin but doesn't feel like heavy makeup, and wears well throughout the day. I also like that it has SPF, but I wouldn't use this as my only source of SPF - you'd have to use too much product to get the needed amount of SPF, and you'd end up with super full coverage makeup!

    Have any of you ever tried any of these, or any other no-makeup foundations? Let me know if the comments!

    (This post uses affiliate links, but does not change my opinions in any way.)

    Monday, August 14, 2017

    Weekend Dining and Culture



    This weekend, a friend's gallery opening took me out to Coraopolis, a neighborhood outside of Pittsburgh that I don't get to often. It was her first solo show at a gallery, and I am so proud of her! She does hyper-realistic art - her paintings basically look like photographs, which is incredible. You can check out her Etsy site here to see more of her amazing work!

    Since we were in the area - and because it was my parent's anniversary! - my family went out to dinner at the Hyeholde. The Hyeholde is an institution - it's been around since 1938. It's owned by the daughter of the original owner, and the building is beautiful - it really has so much old-world charm. The dining room is small but exquisite, and the food was all beyond amazing. The Hyeholde has a no cell phone policy in the dining room, which was actually really refreshing, but it means I don't have any pictures to share! I did snap this picture quickly outside, though.


    I picked up this red dress from ASOS earlier this summer, but had to find the right occasion to wear it. I love the lace, and the peplum detailing - it works well for me because it gives me a little extra room around my feeding tube, which I appreciate. The color is nice and bright and perfect for the end of summer. You can find some other similar bright lacy dresses below!


    I also went to Eighth & Hays for dinner to celebrate a friend's birthday. Eighth & Hays is a new pizza kitchen/wine bar opened in Homestead, really near to the Waterfront, a big shopping center. It's a 21+ restaurant, with a small but frequently-changing menu.



    They have some unique appetizers and pizza choices - I was especially excited for the lobster pizza!


    The interior is small, but cozy, and I can't wait to go back in the winter when the fireplaces will be roaring.

    (This post uses affiliate links, but does not change my opinions in any way.)

    Friday, August 11, 2017

    Currently Watching, 8/11/2017

    Happy Friday! This was my first full week with no summer class, so I'm trying to enjoy my extra time for the next few weeks until my fall classes start as much as I can. I've been reading more, but I've also been watching TV (as usual), and I want to highlight the show Difficult People this week - Season 3 just premiered earlier this week.





    Difficult People is a comedy on Hulu that focuses on the lives of two New Yorkers. I think the show is hilarious - it's definitely a darker kind of humor, though - and I really think they've done an amazing job putting together a diverse cast. They have gender diversity, sexuality diversity, racial diversity, and even disabled diversity!

    Shannon DeVido plays a character who is in a wheelchair, because the actress is in a wheelchair in real life. The fact that she is in a wheelchair isn't ignored, but it's also not the central to her character's role in the show. DeVido's character is also not the stereotypical nice, sweet girl in a wheelchair, which I think is so refreshing and honest. It's really exciting to see a character in a wheelchair who is treated as more than their wheelchair. I've read articles talking about the first time people "see" themselves on TV - meaning the first time they see a character who looks like them - and DeVido's character in Difficult People was the first time I "saw myself."

    All in all, the show is amazing, and I'm really looking forward to the rest of Season 3!

    Thursday, August 10, 2017

    Dealing with Acne



    I wanted to talk a little more today about how I've learned to deal with acne. I have talked about my morning and evening skincare routines before, but I wanted to go a little more in depth specifically about how to handle pimples - something that almost everyone has to do at some point or another!

    I think that I first started breaking out when I was in middle school. And I'm not talking about tiny blackheads - these were deep, cystic-type breakouts. I didn't wear makeup in middle school - well, other than the bright blue eye shadow that my friends and I would put on in home room - and I was really, really embarrassed when I started getting pimples. After trying a few over-the-counter treatments with very minimal success, my mom took me to a dermatologist.




    I cannot overstate the importance that going to a professional has had on my skin, and I don't think it's something that we talk about enough when we talk about beauty. I use two prescription face creams daily - clindamycin mixed with benzoyl peroxide in the morning, and adapalene at night. The rest of my skincare routine is important too (cleanser, toner, exfoliant), but without these prescriptions, I think I'd see a lot more breakouts than I do. Sometimes, acne is bad enough that all the facials in the world aren't going to help it, and you really do need prescription strength products.



    Like so many other things, it's all a matter of balance. Just using the prescription creams isn't enough for me; I need to be vigilant about the rest of my skincare routine, and even then, breakouts can pop up if I get stressed, sleep-deprived, or if it's my period. And sometimes (like in the picture above!) I'll get a pimple for no reason at all! It happens. I just tell myself that people that people are looking at my wheelchair, not my zit.

    Wednesday, August 9, 2017

    SMA Awareness Month, Volume 2 - People's Perceptions



    Welcome to my second post in my series for SMA Awareness Month! In my last post, I tried to give a general overview of my life with SMA. This time, I wanted to talk about how old people perceive me.

    I've mentioned that I've been in a wheelchair since I was two years old. I'm used to the stares - they don't bother me when they come from little kids, who are probably seeing someone in a wheelchair for the first time - they are a bit more unexplainable when they come from adults! But it's not the stares that surprise me the most - it's how some people react when they interact with me.

    To start with - some people interact AT me, not with me. These are the people who talk at me, and they direct their questions or comments about me to whoever is around me, rather than talking to me. They assume that because I am in a wheelchair, I am delayed developmentally and can't carry on a conversation.

    Even people who do interact directly with me bring a lot of assumptions into the conversation. If I'm talking to someone out in public, rather than at work or at school, so many people are surprised that I have a life and a job and school. My life might look a little different than a "normal" person's, but SMA only affects me physically, not mentally. 

    I don't want to sound bitter about this, but it does get frustrating to constantly have to disprove people's assumptions about me and my life. That's a big part of the reason I started this blog! I want people to understand that yes, I have SMA, and yes, I use a wheelchair and that affects my life in a big way - but it doesn't mean that I don't have a job, that I don't have friends, that I don't care about hair and clothes and makeup. I want people to think of my diagnosis and my wheelchair as just another part of me, like my sarcastic sense of humor and my obsession with the Real Housewives.

    Please feel free to comment or e-mail me at theheatherreportblog@gmail.com with any questions or comments. My first post in this series really seemed to get people's attention, and I'd love to connect with all of you!

    Tuesday, August 8, 2017

    How I Unwind


    My summer semester just ended, and fall classes don't start again until the end of August, so even though I'm still going to work every day, I feel like I have more free time. I want to take advantage of this time so that I feel refreshed going into the fall semester - it can feel very monotonous otherwise! With that in mind, I thought I'd share my tips for unwinding and relaxing.

    • Read
      I love to read, but I struggle to keep up with books during the semester. After a long day of work and classes, I usually just feel exhausted, and reading sounds more like a chore than something fun. But each time I actually pick up a book and start reading, I remember it doesn't actually feel like a chore at all! I'm trying to get back in the habit of reading daily now, so that when classes start again, reading is an established part of my routine.
     
    • Go outside
      Take a few minutes to clear your head and get some sunshine. Go for a walk around the block, or to grab a coffee, or even just sit on a bench outside for a few minutes. I am honestly a happier person when I've had a few minutes in the sun, and it really helps you just take a breath and reset. This is harder to do in the winter, when it's 10 degrees out, so I try to really take advantage of this one while it's nice out.
     
    • Watch TV or a Movie
      Sometimes, you really do just want to turn off your brain and relax in front of the TV. And that's okay! I love finding a new show on Netflix and marathoning it, or renting a movie. Just know when to turn the TV off and try one of my other tips mentioned above.
     
    • Make a Date with Friends
      Whether it's a coffee date, a movie date, or just a date hanging out at your house, spending time with friends can help you relax and take your mind off things. Try to stay off of Instagram and Twitter and Facebook and just enjoy your friend's company!

    I'm going to do my best to follow my own advice in the next few weeks - let me know if you have any tips for me!

    Monday, August 7, 2017

    Weekend on Mount Washington



    This weekend, one of my cousins got married. This was actually the third wedding I've been to this summer, with two more still to go before the end of August. Her wedding ceremony was at a church right on Mt. Washington, and the reception was a few hours later, downtown, so the gap between the two gave me a chance to play tourist in my own city!

    Mt. Washington is known for it's stunning views of the city, so it was the perfect backdrop for pictures of the bridal party - and I made sure to take a few pictures of my own.





    Mt. Washington is also home to two inclines - basically, two cable cars that take you up and down the hillside. Years ago, people took them regularly as a means of transportation, but now they're really just something fun for tourists or school field trips. I hadn't ridden one since elementary school, so it was fun to take a ride down the hill and see the city from a very different point of view!





    The incline dropped me off at Station Square, so I had time to grab a coffee at Crazy Mocha and walk across the Smithfield Street Bridge before heading to the reception.


    The dress I wore is sold out, but you can find a very similar one, from the same company, here. I loved the fun yellow color and eyelet embroidery!

    (This post uses affiliate links, which means I may earn a small commission if you click and make a purchase - but this doesn't influence my opinions!)