Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Striped Sweater Dress

When the temperature starts to drop, sweater dresses become my go-to when I want to be cozy and still look put together. The best part of dresses, in general, is that they take very little effort to form an outfit, and yet it still looks cute and polished.
Sweater dresses are the ideal version of this for winter - they're cute, but they keep you warm and comfy when it's cold out. And this striped one from eShakti is my current favorite.
I love the different colors - totally not my thing, normally, but I just think it works perfectly! The pleats give it a little something extra, and it's SO soft. Just so soft and comfortable! Plus, since it's from eShakti, it was super customizable - I changed the neckline and the sleeves to make it more "me." I get so many compliments every time I'm wearing it.

If you're looking for a last-minute outfit for Thanksgiving, I think that a sweater dress is the perfect way to go. No matter how dressy or laid back your meal is, there's a sweater dress for the occasion, and you can fill yourself with turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing without having to worry about unbuttoning your jeans.

If you want to try eShakti, don't forget to enter the code HEATHERTOMKO in the "Gift Coupon Box" at checkout to get 33% off plus free customizations on your first order. If you're looking for something a little different, I picked out some other cute sweater dresses below!

Monday, November 18, 2019

Headspace in Pittsburgh: Happy Healthy America

Earlier this month, I saw on Facebook that Headspace would be coming to Pittsburgh and doing a two day, live event in Schenley Plaza for free, and I RSVP'ed as quickly as possible. I found out they were actually launching their Happy Healthy America campaign here, which is so cool for Pittsburgh and really exciting for me!
I've written about using Headspace before - it's a guided mindfulness meditation app. I will admit that I'm not always the best about using it daily, but I am really trying to be better about my practice. I love that the app has so many different lengths of meditation - I can stick to the 5 minute ones, for now, since I'm still getting used to it. They also have so many different categories - meditation for anxiety, for focus, to help with sleep... something for whatever you're looking for.
Headspace took over Schenley Plaza and put up a huge, inflatable structure - "The Dot" - where all of the events took place. When I say huge, I mean it - it was three different connected bubbles, basically, all with room to walk around and explore. One of them was set up for the live meditation sessions, with little poufs to sit on, and one of the others had a QR code that you could scan for a fun Headspace filter for Facebook/Instagram (which I obviously took advantage of!). They had a whole bunch of activities going on across the two days they were there, but I specifically signed up for the live meditation session on Friday.
I wasn't exactly sure if I was going to enjoy it, going into it - I wasn't sure if I'd be self conscious meditating in front of other people, or if I'd accidentally fall asleep! But it was THE BEST. I didn't feel self-conscious or fall asleep - I just felt incredibly relaxed! It was led by Eve, who is the female voice on the app (I've actually only listened to Andy before), and she was great. I think it probably lasted about 10-15 minutes or so, but I wasn't really checking my watch! Afterwards, I got to walk around a bit and explore the rest of "The Dot." The only issue, for me, was the it wasn't very warm inside of the huge bubble, and by the end of my time there all I wanted was to be WARM. But at least I was relaxed!

Friday, November 15, 2019

Friday Favorites

This week has felt so busy! I had an amazing time on Wednesday evening speaking about my Public Source article at the Ace Hotel... and then had a delicious dinner afterwards at The Whitfield, one of my favorite restaurants. And later today, I'll be going to a live mindfulness meditation with the founder of Headspace! I can't wait.
And of course - thank you all SO MUCH for your support in the mission to Lift the Limit on the MAWD earnings cap! If you didn't get a chance earlier this week, you can sign the petition here.

Onto the favorites...

ONE - Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood
I am SO EXCITED for the Mr. Rogers movie coming out later this month. This story is such an in-depth look at the writers' time with Mr. Rogers - I think everyone should read it. It's just so good!

TWO - Lover Remix
Have you heard the remixed version of Taylor Swift's Lover, where she sings with Shawn Mendez? It's such a pretty song as a duet!

THREE - Knotzland on Youtube
Nisha, the creator of Knotzland Bowties, serves on the board of The Warhol with me. She's currently being featured in a series called "YouTube Stories." How cool is that?!

FOUR - History of Disney Songs
It's no secret that I'm a huge Disney fan. So of course, I loved the medley of Disney songs that Jimmy Fallon and Kristen Bell sang! It's the perfect thing to brighten up your Friday.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Advent Calendars

Growing up, my sister and I had a different Advent calendar every year. We loved opening up the little squares every day in December - I think that some of them had small treats in them, but often they were just a quote or a picture. But we always looked forward to getting to open it each day and see what the little square held - and see how much closer to Christmas we were getting!
I haven't had an Advent calendar in years, but I came upon this one from Anthropologie and couldn't resist. I thought it was the perfect mix of grown-up Advent calendar and nostalgia for me and my sister. It'll be something fun to do in the days leading up to Christmas - who doesn't love getting little mini presents each day? I'm really excited to bring the tradition back in grown-up form.
I realize that you might not all want a beauty-focused Advent calendar, so I pulled together some other options below. I think I might buy this tree one too - it seems like such a great little decoration for an entry table! And of course, chocolate is always a good option for getting into the holiday spirit! There's even a DIY version, where you decide what treats go in each pocket for each day.

Did you have an Advent calendar as a kid (or as an adult)? Let me know which one is your favorite!

Monday, November 11, 2019

Lift the Limit

I've written before about having caregivers/aides who help me, and I've written about what it's like when they don't show up (in this post). But what I haven't talked about is how they're paid for.
image via
Paying for caregivers out-of-pocket would be incredibly (impossibly) expensive, and insurance doesn't pay for long-term care (which is what caregivers are considered) at all. So there are state waiver programs, part of Medicaid, that pay for this care. Depending on how much you make, you may have to pay a monthly premium, on a sliding scale, to continue to be eligible even after you make more than the standard Medicaid limits (which are also impossibly low).

This all sounds reasonable... but there's a catch. There's an income cap of around $62,000 - meaning that if you make over that, you're cut off. And if you're married, it's a combined $62,000, not just the income of the person with the disability alone.

This means that employed people with disabilities are forced to make impossible choices between remaining employed and remaining eligible for the services that keep them employed. It's a nonsensical system, because forcing people to choose unemployment means that those people cost the state more money than they would if the state continued to support them through their employment.

I am working with the United Way to get Pennsylvanian lawmakers to "lift the limit" on the salary cap. You can visit to watch two videos of people sharing their stories (you may recognize a familiar face...) and then sign the petition to show your representatives that you support lifting the limit, too.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Friday Favorites

This has been one of those weeks where it both feels like it has lasted forever and it has flown at the same time. I was convinced that it was Friday on Thursday, multiple times, which is never a good sign!
It was a fun week, though - I got to see Antoni from Queer Eye speak and do a cooking demo at CMU, which was a great mid-week bonus. And now, I tentatively have no real plans going on this weekend, and I'm so happy about that. I definitely have things to do, but I'm really looking forward to being able to take it a little bit easy.

On to this week's favorites -

ONE - "Real Pittsburgher" Quiz
I thought this was a fun little quiz from Pittsburgh Magazine about how many "real Pittsburgher" things you've done! I actually didn't score that highly even though I've lived here all my life - let me know how you score, if you live here!

TWO - Billie Lourde and her Mom
I'm not even a real Star Wars fan, but this essay written by Bille Lourde about her mom, Carrie Fisher/Princess Leia, is SO good. You have to read it.

THREE - Molly Burke Meets a Fan
I've shared some of Molly's videos before, but this one is a new favorite. Molly surprises a fan who is also going blind, and seeing them connect is so heartwarming. I hope that you don't come away "inspired" by their disabilities, but rather understanding the importance of representation and connection. It's why Molly started vlogging, just like why I started blogging - representation is so powerful.

FOUR - Activism and Fashion
I love this interview, where Amanda Nguyen talks about clothes and style being a source of power, and using them in her work as an activist. You can do really important work while still being interested in style!

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Sephora Holiday Bonus 2019

It's that time of the year again - Sephora's annual holiday sale. It's the perfect time to stock up on holiday gift sets (for yourself or others) or just get some refills of your regular products. I tend to do a little bit of both - I definitely take advantage of the change to get refills on things that I'm running low on, but also pick up one or two fun, different things that I wouldn't normally buy. It's the perfect excuse to branch out a little bit.

As for the details - for Rouge members, the sale runs from November 1 - 11, and you get 20% off. VIB members get 15% off from November 7 - 11, and Insider members get 10% off during that same time. You can go into the store, or use the code "HOLIDAYSAVE" at checkout.

So what am I buying?

First up - the refills.

Drunk Elephant Products
Specifically, I use the exfoliant, the hydrating serum, and the vitamin C serum. I've been using these for almost a year now, I think, and I'm still loving them. They work, and they don't have any ingredients that my face reacts poorly with. They're not cheap, but I think they're worth it.

Ouai Shampoo and Conditioner
I use the Clean line - it's clarifying without being overly stripping. It smells amazing, and I feel like I've been having more good hair days since I started using it. Sold!

Urban Decay Subversion Lash Primer
I wear this every day under my mascara - I think it just makes my mascara look better and last longer. Is it absolutely essential? Probably not - but I love how it looks and I'm going to keep using it.

Marc Jacobs Velvet Noir Mascara
I feel like I go through mascaras so quickly that I'll always pick up another during a sale. I've been using this mascara for a few years now, and I still love it. It's not clumpy and it lasts all day without smudging down my face. I don't use waterproof, so it's still easy to get off at the end of the day.

Now on to the fun things...

Pat McGrath Eyeshadow Quad
I'm trying to be a bit more experimental in my eyeshadows. This Pat McGrath eyeshadow palette seems perfect for that! I chose "Iconic Illumination" - it has some more standard colors, but also the pretty purple/plum one to have some fun with!

Bite Beauty Mini Lipstick Set
I discovered Bite lipsticks sometime last year, I think, and keep buying more of them. I love their texture and staying power, and they're not so matte that they dry out your lips. I don't wear lipsticks so often that I ever go through a full sized one, so this set of minis is perfect. It would also make a great gift!

Charlotte Tilbury Pillow Talk
I know, another lipstick set! But I have heard so much about how the Charlotte Tilbury Pillow Talk shade is the perfect natural color for almost everyone that I had to try it for myself. This would also make a great gift for someone!

Monday, November 4, 2019

November Happenings

It seems like October flew by, but November is when things start to get really busy, I think. The end of the year creeps up before you know it, and the holidays always come with a lot of activities and events, too.

I thought it might be fun to share some of the things that I have going on in the next month.
This month, the Broadway in Pittsburgh series starts again (that's my name for it, not the technical one!). I saw Mean Girls this past weekend, which I absolutely loved - it was the perfect mix of references to the movie while still being its own thing. I also have tickets for A Bronx Tale later this month - I don't actually know much about it, but I've heard good things, so I'm excited.

On Wednesday I'm going to hear Antoni from Queer Eye talk and do a cooking demo at CMU! I watched the newest season of Queer Eye over the weekend to hype myself up even more. After getting to see JVN (see this post) and Karamo (in this post), I guess I'm making it my mission to meet all of the Fab Five!

Then the week after, I'll be telling my Pittsburgh Story with PublicSource at The Ace Hotel. I loved writing about accessibility in Pittsburgh, and loved even more the outpouring of support that came from my article! I'm looking forward to talking about the story behind my story, and hearing about the other speakers' Pittsburgh stories, too. Don't forget to get your ticket here if you want to join us!

On the 15th and 16th, Headspace is coming to Pittsburgh! I can't go to everything, but I'm very excited to join Andy for a live guided meditation. I am not amazing in my meditation practice, but I'm trying to get back into the habit. I'm really interested to see what it'll be like to experience it live.

I'm also excited to attend the Disability, Inclusion, and Access: Moving Forward conference being held at the Heinz History Center on the 21st. With a keynote address being given by the head of the Ford Foundation, the whole focus is on how disability has been largely overlooked in the planning and programs of nonprofits.

Finally - I'm traveling to DC! I had a ton of weekend trips over the summer - but they were all for something specific - a conference, a wedding - and while they were all really fun, they weren't necessarily relaxing. I feel like I'm finally ready to travel again after all of our summer trips, and I'm really excited to relax and explore. We have plans to visit Mt. Vernon while we're in DC, which I've never been to, so it should be great.

And that basically takes us into December; into the very thick of the holiday season.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Friday Favorites

Happy November! While I'm not really a big fan of dressing up on Halloween, I absolutely am a fan of dressing Lily up for Halloween, and she tolerates it pretty well! This year she was Wonder Woman - she has this weird thing where she freezes up if I put anything on her head, so she's not wearing the little crown, but I still think she looks adorable.
On to this week's favorites...
ONE - L.L. Bean #Bootmobile
L.L. Bean had a pop-up shop on Pitt's campus this week, and of course I had to check it out and take this picture with the Bootmobile (and pick up this super soft pullover). The best part, though, was learning that they actually had a chairlift that would let me get up into the truck/trailer part of the shop! Not only did it exist, but multiple employees made sure to tell me about it. I couldn't believe it, and it made me feel so included (and made me feel better about my purchase, too!).

TWO - The future of Condé Nast
I've always loved reading magazines, and as I kid I often thought about what it'd be like to work for one. I've watched The September Issue, the documentary about the making of the September issue of Vogue, so many times. This is a great, long form article about what the future of magazines looks like.

THREE - Airpods Pro
Apple FINALLY came out with Airpods that have silicone tips and are noise cancelling! I actually don't care that much about the noise cancellation part of it, but I have wanted Airpods with silicone tips for so long.

FOUR - Normal People on Hulu
I really liked Normal People when I read it, but it's definitely not light material. I didn't realize that they're turning it into a show on Hulu - I'll be really interested to see how it translates to the screen (and I'll definitely be watching).

FIVE - Dagne Dover Sale 
I bought a duffel bag from Dagne Dover earlier this year and LOVE it. They're having a sale right now, with some bags and a lot of their pouches. I may pick up this one in the XL size. I feel like you can never have enough little pouches when you're traveling!

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Favorites for Fall

I try to spend a lot of time outside when it's warm out. As the temperature drops, though, I shift to a lot more indoor activities. I have really bad circulation and get cold SO easily, so my favorite things to do during the fall and beyond are things that I can do while I'm still warm and cozy.

This post is also a reminder to me that I will survive the colder months, and I won't be miserable the whole time, either. In writing this, I realized that a lot of my favorite things to do are totally fall friendly. And I'm not even including Netflix binge-watching on my list... mostly because I do that year-round, anyway.
Cozying up at a coffeeshop
In the summer, I'm all about getting my drink to-go and finding an outdoor spot to enjoy it. But when it's chillier, I love meeting a friend and grabbing a table at the coffeeshop. It's the best way to catch up and relax - especially if there's a fireplace in the shop, which is my personal favorite.

Having a movie night
Either a movie night at home or out at a movie theater works! Movies are my ultimate weekend activity when its cold - I equally enjoy snuggling up with a blanket and my dog at home, or going out to the theater and buying delicious buttery popcorn and watching something new.

Visiting a museum
Pittsburgh has so many amazing museums, and sometimes I think that I take them a bit for granted. Obviously I'm a fan of The Warhol, but the art/natural history museums are also excellent, and I consider the Frick mansion a museum of sorts, too. Visiting any of those is the perfect indoor fall activity.

Getting lost in a book
This is my ideal activity for almost any time of the year, but there's something extra lovely about doing it under a fuzzy blanket when there's a chill in the air (or, in my case, a fuzzy blanket AND a space heater). It's so peaceful!

Monday, October 28, 2019

Getting Organized: Shoe Storage

I don't have a ton of storage space in my bedroom - my closet is generally packed full, as is my dresser. There's just not a lot of places to put things. I always struggled the most with shoe storage - I had a shoe rack that lived under my desk, and while it fit nicely, it collected a LOT of cat hair because it was so open and near the floor.

When I was browsing The Container Store's website the other day (is that not how most people spend their free time?), I came upon these shoe boxes. I bought the small size, but they have a larger size as well. I loved that they were closed (no more cat hair), clear so that you can see what's inside them, and they have a door that swings down! I decided to order 12 (2 cases of 6) of them to start, and then see if I wanted to add more.
I put them together this weekend. I went through all of my shoes - and got rid of a ton that I haven't worn in years - and then replaced the old storage with the new. It looks so much nicer and cleaner! The new boxes definitely take up more space than the old rack, so I cant fit quite as many shoes under my desk as I used to. (You can see a picture of what it used to look like below!) I also need to buy a few more boxes now - I didn't want to overbuy before I knew that I liked them.
To deal with the issue of less space, I decided to keep my most worn shoes out here under my desk, and then put the rest in my closet for now. I'll switch some of them out with the seasons, but most of these I actually wear year-round. And because I got rid of lots of boots and shoes that I haven't worn in years, I have more room in my closet for the shoes I don't wear as frequently.

I've been trying to tackle things one by one in my room to get it back into order. Last week was some of my closet, this time it was my shoes. My desk needs to be one of the next things - it's really gotten out of control - but it's so overwhelming that I keep putting it off! So little by little, I'm getting things back under control.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Friday Favorites

It's been quite the week. It's officially started to feel like fall - the colors are all changing, and everything looks so pretty. I might not love the cold, but I do love how beautiful everything looks right now. On the downside, though, my caregiving issues that I mentioned in this post have still not been figured out, and it just makes everything so much more difficult and stressful. Hopefully I can use some of my weekend time to de-stress a bit.

Since it's the last Friday Favorites post of October (HOW is that even possible?!) I thought I'd share some of my favorite purchases from the last month mixed in with my favorites from this week.
 ONE - Comfy fall dress
I now own the short sleeved AND long sleeved versions of this Amazon dress that I'm wearing in my picture! It's just so comfortable and easy, and can look really cute when it's dressed up with a scarf. It's definitely on the thin side, so it won't work when the temperatures drop, but it's perfect for now.

TWO - Hot Ones with Paul Rudd
I've mentioned the Hot Ones interview series before - it's an interview show mixed with a hot wings challenge. I love watching each week's new episode, and Paul Rudd's is especially great!

THREE - Dog Costume
I don't really "do" Halloween, but I absolutely get Lily a costume each year. She's kind of weird about costumes and clothes - if you put something on her head, she acts like she's frozen and will just sit/stand in place until you take it off. Needless to say, she will not be wearing the headpiece that goes with this costume, but how cute is the rest of it?!

FOUR - Office Ladies Podcast
The Office is one of my favorite shows. I actually didn't watch it when it aired originally - I thought that it wasn't my thing - but I gave it a try on Netflix and quickly found out how wrong I was. I was so excited to learn that Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey were starting a podcast about the show. It's so fun to hear the behind-the-scenes info!

Lots of Amazon purchases this month! My sister actually found this first, and I liked it so much that I bought one of my own. I'm always looking for layering pieces that I can still move around it easily - I can't take a jacket on/off by myself, so I need things that have warmth and style. This sweater/coat combo fits the bill perfectly.
amazon sweater

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Trying Out eShakti

 I've mentioned (probably many times) before that I have a hard time finding things that fit. I love wearing dresses, but the sizing can be really difficult - I could wear kids sizes sometimes, but they can be much too short, and then the adult sizing is just too big overall. Even a size XXS in adult can be on the long side for me, and with midi styles being in right now, it quickly becomes a maxi on me.
Recently, someone recommended eShakti to me. I'd heard of them years ago, but had forgotten all about them. Basically, all of the styles they offer are customizable. Not only can you enter all of your measurements, but you can also change the neckline, sleeve style/length, and overall length of the dress (or pants, or shirt). I knew that I needed to try it!
I decided to start off by ordering two dresses - one is sold out, but this one is still available. I think I may have gotten some of my my measurements slightly off (it's hard to measure your hips when you can't stand!), but it was pretty smooth. I changed basically every aspect of the dresses, too - the neckline, the sleeve length, and the length, plus taking away pockets, which only get in the way when you're always sitting. eShakti will customize the dress to your height for free, but any other customizations you request cost $10. The quoted shipping time is 9-14 days, but mine unfortunately got stuck in customs for a few days (the clothes come from India). However, eShakti sent me a code for $20 off my next purchase to apologize, which I think is great customer service.

Overall, I was really happy! It wasn't a 100% perfect fit for me, but I also had a shoulder width measurement that was smaller than the smallest they offer, so I didn't expect it to be. It was still a much better fit than a lot of the things that I buy, and I have a very difficult body to shop for. I'm already planning out my next few purchases - I want to try some long sleeves, and maybe some tops in addition to dresses!

If you want to try eShakti (and I think that you should), you can click here and enter the code HEATHERTOMKO in the "Gift Coupon Box" at checkout to get 33% off plus free customizations on your first order.

Monday, October 21, 2019

The Warhol Museum Silver Anniversary

This weekend was one of the most amazing that I've had in quite a long time. I was recently asked to join the Board of Directors of the Andy Warhol Museum here in Pittsburgh - while he might be best known for his time in New York, he was actually born here. The museum is one of my favorite in the city - it has a great mix of Warhol works, and works by Warhol inspired or adjacent artists. They've also been one of the most inclusive cultural institutions in the city for years, which is really exciting to me.
The Warhol recently celebrated their 25th anniversary, and had an incredible gala to celebrate. They transformed their parking lot into the most amazing space - if I hadn't known it was a parking lot, I never would have guessed. They also had not one, but two stages, where we were treated to performances by Matthew Morrison (!!) and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts (!!!!). It is still so surreal and I can't believe that I basically got treated to two private concerts in one night. It was such an amazing night, and it's so wonderful to see how much support there is for the Warhol, from within the city and beyond.
Of course, since I'm me, I put a LOT of thought into what I'd wear. It was a silver, black, and white theme, and I couldn't resist a little nod to Warholian pop art with splashes of color. The sequin fringes on my dress reminded me of Studio 54, and these heels (which are SO comfortable!) added the pop of color that I was looking for. I found earrings on Shopbop and was instantly obsessed - they were fun and different and like nothing that I've seen before (the silver are sold out, but the gold are still available here).
My favorite part of my outfit, though, was the clutch from Scenery. They're a small business who takes the backdrops/drapes from Broadway and other theater productions and turns them into clutches and pouches. I love the sustainability aspect, and I love owning something unique with such a cool history! The clutch that I bought (from a perfectly pop art production of Veremonda) is sold out, but you should definitely check out their site here and see what other shows they have bags from!

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

What I've Been Reading

Now that I'm back to taking classes, my time to read is definitely cut down. I have been trying to find time where I can, though. I really LOVE to read, but sometimes turning on the TV just seems easier, even if I don't enjoy mindlessly watching something as much as I enjoy getting lost in a book. I have finished a few books since my last post, so I wanted to share.
What the Eyes Don't See
I actually had to read this for my class this semester, and I'm so glad it was assigned. I got so invested that I started and finished it the same day! It's about the Flint, Michigan water crisis (lead in the water), but it's written in a really person, approachable way. I highly recommend this, even if you know nothing about public health.

Fleishman is in Trouble
This book came to me via a Twitter recommendation - someone I follow said that when she finished it, she threw it across the room because it was that good. I totally get the reaction! It really is SO good. Without spoiling anything, I'll just say it's about a troubled marriage, but it's not what you think. It's not exactly a light read, but it's incredibly good.

American Royals
Now, this one is a lighter read, but that doesn't mean that I enjoyed it any less. It imagines what America would be like if we were a monarchy rather than a democracy, and follows the lives of the current royals. It's really fun and cute and I can't wait to read the sequel.

Tell Me Everything
I loved the twisty turns this book took that I never, ever saw coming. It's been compared to A Secret History by Donna Tartt, which I also loved, and I agree with the comparison. It follows a group of friends in college, but this isn't a fluffy, rom-com of the book - it's more psychological, and I love books like that.

The Ensemble
I never realized how much I enjoy books that are more character-driven until I started writing these posts! This one follows different members of an orchestra ensemble, but focuses on the characters and their lives and the decisions that they make. It really drew me in to the characters lives, which is always the sign of a good book for me.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Treading Water

I think that I mentioned this in passing in one of last week's posts, but it's felt like I've had a lot going on lately. It's basically felt like treading water - I just can't seem to ever get ahead, or to feel like I'm getting on top of things. Each time I get something done, it's like there's a neverending list of things right behind it, and I never really feel like I'm making actual progress.
It's been a constant cycle of waking up, going to work, going to class if it's a class day, coming home, doing OTHER work, going to bed, and repeating the next day. Even my weekends have been fairly packed. Even if I'm not going anywhere, I'm not just reading or watching TV, either. I'm exhausted, both because I'm busy and because of the repetition and not having the chance for a real break.

When things start to get like this, everything in my life starts to feel a little bit chaotic. And that's not the way that I like to operate! While my spaces might always be a bit of "organized chaos," I don't like to feel like that mentally. I like to be able to know what I'm doing, when, and to have the satisfaction of checking things off my to do list.

So when I had an early-morning meeting this Saturday that ended right around when I usually wake up on the weekend, I decided to take advantage of the "bonus" time to get my life in order. I spent some time just making lists and feeling like I was getting things under control. I went through some of my closet and did a MAJOR overhaul. I even got back to planning some blog post content, so that I don't feel like I'm scrambling to come up with things to share. I never realize how much the chaos affects me until I start to get it under control, and then I breathe an internal sigh of relief. It just feels so much better when I have a handle on things.

So I'm getting there.... slowly.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Friday Favorites

I'm not usually someone who likes to go to "events" on weeknights. I know, I sound so old saying that, but after school/work I'm usually pretty exhausted by the end of the day. This week, though, I broke my rule and went to see Hugh Jackman. I didn't exactly know what to expect, but it was a really fun show. He did a mix of his songs from The Greatest Showman, plus some other musicals and medleys of other classic songs. Keala Settle, who played the Bearded Lady in The Greatest Showman, made an appearance to sing "This is Me" and one of her own original songs. She was INCREDIBLE! I definitely made the right decision in breaking my rule and going to the show.
Before I share my favorites this week, I have one more thing that I want to mention. On Wednesday, November 13, I'll be sharing "the story behind my story" for the article about accessibility I wrote for Public Source, along with other storytellers. If you're interested in coming, you can buy tickets here. It should be a great night!

Now, onto my favorites.

ONE - MacOS Updates
I have to make sure to back up my computer before I install the newest MacOS update, but I think they have some really great changes lined up. Not only are they implementing MAJOR accessibility updates, but they're also giving you the ability to use your iPad as a second computer screen. Really looking forward to trying out these features.

TWO - Sinéad Burke
I love this article that Teen Vogue has on Sinéad Burke. She's an incredible activist for broadening diversity in fashion, and is really compelling when she talks about the constant need to validate her own existence. I can definitely relate!

THREE - This Beautiful Office
I love when things are neat and organized, even if I sometimes get overwhelmed in my attempt to make things that way myself. Look at how beautiful this office is!!

FOUR - Dog Perks
I certainly don't need to be convinced that there are benefits to having a dog, but I still love hearing it. Apparently, the evidence is clearly in my favor.

FIVE - Prince Harry and Ed Sheeran
Such an important video about the importance of mental health! We're really biased towards the importance of physical health, and even when we consider mental health we often don't think about it holistically. Mental and physical health are both importance, and really tied up in each other. I'm glad two huge names joined together to talk about its importance!

Monday, October 7, 2019

On Bathrooms

Over the weekend, my sister and I went to a conference held at CMU on intersectionality. It was a day-long thing, so we had to figure out the normal logistics - since our mom was dropping us off and picking us up, we had to figure out the timing of  that, and then we also had to figure out when we'd be able to use the bathroom.
Using the bathroom as a wheelchair user isn't something that I've talked about much, because it's a private thing, and because I haven't really felt the need. But something happened on Saturday that I want to talk about.

I can't use the bathroom independently. So if I'm out in public and need to go to the bathroom, I have to figure out the logistics of when and where I can meet my mom. Because I need help, I prefer to use the single stall/unisex/all gender bathrooms. I don't have to worry about whether or not the handicapped stall will be taken, and I don't have to feel awkward and like I have to whisper while I talk to my mom as she's helping me. It's just more comfortable overall.

So on Saturday, my mom had stopped by CMU during the conference lunch break so that my sister and I could use the bathroom. My sister and my mom were waiting outside the one single stall bathroom that we could find, waiting for it to be available. As the door opened, another woman rushed past the two of them and ran into the bathroom. When they explained to her that they had been waiting, she just said that she was about to pee her pants and that this was the closest bathroom, and closed the door behind her.

Now - I understand that I don't know her exact circumstances, so I don't want to make this post all about her. But it was an incredibly frustrating situation, and I was upset. Because just like I don't know her situation, she also doesn't know ours. To her, that bathroom was just the closest and most convenient; to us, it was the only one on that floor of our buildings that met our needs. And while I'm not doubting her need to use the bathroom, she probably didn't think about the fact that it had been over 4 hours since my sister or I had peed.

I don't want you to come away from this just thinking about her behavior. That bathroom line cut might have been the most outrageous I've ever experienced, but the everyday things get the be almost as annoying. I get it - the single stall bathrooms offer privacy, and everyone prefers that to a bathroom stall lined up next to 5 other people all going at the same time. But a single stall, accessible bathroom is not meant to be used as your personal changing room, or your own private bathroom for when you need some extra time. If you have the option between a single stall restroom and anything else, please leave the single stall option for someone who really needs it (whether they need it because of a physical disability or otherwise). While the added space and privacy in those bathrooms are a luxury for most, they're an absolute necessity for others.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Friday Favorites

By Wednesday this week it felt like it should be Friday, so that's a sign of how this week has been going for me. It's seemed like each time I'm able to check something off my to-do list lately, five more things get added on. I'm not really complaining, because most of them are things that I want to do, but... it has felt a lot like treading water lately, just trying to get by to the next thing! I'm not sure there's any resolution ahead, but the only way out is through, right?
My favorites from this week...

ONE - Get your flu shot
My annual reminder to please, please remember to get your flu shot. You can't get the flu from the shot, and it can help protect you and others who might be at risk for more serious side effects. Now is a great time to do it - it takes a few weeks to fully go into effect, so don't wait too long.

TWO - Vienna by Ben Platt
I started (and finished) The Politician on Netflix last weekend. In my defense, there are only 8 episodes, so really not that bad - or that impressive, depending on how you look at it. In one episode, Ben Platt covers Vienna by Billy Joel, one of my absolute favorite songs. As soon as I finished the show, I went directly to YouTube to see if the song was there so that I could listen over and over. The good news is that I can, and you can too!

THREE - Accessible Museum
I loved this NYTimes article on what they're saying might be the most accessible museum in the world. I am so happy to see more spotlights on accessibility and inclusion of disabilities!

FOUR - Floral Silk Scarf
After I posted about my newfound love of scarves earlier this week, someone on Twitter shared the scarves from Equal Entrance with me. I love that at least 10% of their proceeds go towards charitable causes supporting women, and I also love this grey floral silk scarf.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Scarves for Fall

"Scarves for fall... how groundbreaking." Okay, so I took a little bit of liberty with that quote (from one of my favorite movies!), but I think the general sentiment is the same. Except, for me, it's not - I never thought that I was a "scarf person." Maybe you don't have this issue, but I just never felt like I could pull off a scarf. Obviously, I've worn scarves to keep warm in the winter, but it's different than wearing one as part of an outfit. That's what I never felt sure about - kind of like I was playing dress up whenever I tried one out.
I think, though, that I'm officially a convert. I actually texted my friend earlier this week "I think I'm a scarf person now." I've worn a scarf with my outfit twice in the past week! When you add that to the leopard cape (that I showed in this post), I think that's enough to make it official. This is the new me, I guess, and I'm not upset about it.

It definitely doesn't add warmth in the same way that a cape does, but it does add another layer of dressiness and style to an outfit. I think it makes it so much more of a complete look - especially when all I'm wearing otherwise is a simple t-shirt dress. The leopard scarf I'm wearing here is super old (and actually borrowed from my sister...) but this one is really similar. It totally makes the outfit, in my opinion!

If you want to be a scarf person - or you already are one! - I've picked out some new favorites below. Now I just have to keep myself from buying them all...

Monday, September 30, 2019

Over the Top: Jonathan Van Ness and Michelle Kwan

On Friday night, I was lucky enough to be at the Carnegie Library's Lecture Hall, where Jonathan Van Ness made a stop on his book tour for Over the Top. I have never bought tickets so quickly for an event, and I'm so glad that I did, because it ended up being sold out. I was already super excited to hear him talk... and then I got an e-mail about two weeks ago that he'd be interviewed by MICHELLE KWAN at the event. I may have actually screamed?
I was not disappointed. It was such a fun evening! If the topics that JVN talked about are any indication, I'm going to love his book. While he may be the "grooming" expert on Queer Eye, his talk was definitely not just about skincare and makeup. While he did talk about ingredients in products and their lack of regulation, he talked about so many other things, too. In just a short hour, he discussed politics and the upcoming election, his time on the show, and his HIV-positive status, among other topics! It was a jam-packed hour. Michelle was such a great moderator/interviewer, too - going along with his stories but helping to guide him back on track sometimes, too. You can tell that they're genuinely friends!

I think the best part was how honest, vulnerable, and open JVN was. His answers were off-the-cuff and not guarded - he had moments of both tears and laughter. It's clear that there are so many things that he's passionate about, and it was so infectious to hear him talk about them.
I can't end this post without sharing the pictures that I got to take with JVN and Michelle! They were both so kind and generous with their time; coming out to the crowd after the talk ended to say hello and take pictures. It was the best night, and if JVN's book tour is coming to your city, you should definitely go.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Friday Favorites

September seems to be flying by - I think mostly because I've been keeping myself so busy! I have fun plans tonight, but the rest of my weekend is looking pretty low-key. My fingers are crossed that it stays that way!
This week's favorites -

ONE - A Little Late with Lilly Singh
I've loved watching Lilly Singh's YouTube channel, and I think it's amazing she has her own late night show. She adds so much diversity to the late night scene, and representation is so so important! Her show is on WELL after my bedtime, so I'm still watching her on YouTube, but it's still a big step!

TWO - Disability on TV
Just like Lilly Singh's new show is doing a lot for representation, people want to see disability representation on the screen, too! As this article says, "Authenticity is the new frontier."

THREE - Silk Scrunchies
Whenever I get a blowout, I like to pull my hair back at night when I sleep to make it last a few days. But I hate getting that ponytail crease that comes from using a ponytail holder all night. I've been trying out these silk scrunchies, and I'm a fan. They're also supposed to help with frizz and hair damage, too.

FOUR - Best Movies on Netflix
Looking for something to watch this weekend? The New York Times listed what they think are the 50 best movies on Netflix. I'm currently deep in a re-watch of the original Beverly Hills, 90210, but once I'm finished with that I'll be checking out this list.

FIVE - Taylor Swift in Rolling Stone
Taylor Swift recently gave an interview to Rolling Stone. It's a great read because she's a lot more honest and blunt than she's been in the past - it's a little glimpse into her life, and the new album (which I'm obsessed with).

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Leopard Cape Scarf

This week was the first week it actually felt like fall was in the air. It went from being 80 and sunny over the weekend to having a chill in the air when I woke up this week - a sign that fall is officially here. While I'm not exactly ready for summer to end, I am trying to be keep a good attitude and think of the positives - things like warm cups of coffee when it's cool out and feeling all cozy wrapped up in a sweater.
It's chilly enough now, especially in the mornings and evenings, that you have to layer. Since jackets aren't easy for me - I can't take them on/off by myself, and it adds a layer of bulk that can make it harder for me to move around in - I often go for some sort of scarf/wrap/cape. I tend to wear them well into winter, but they're especially perfect for fall.
I spotted this leopard cape scarf through the window of a little gift store on Pitt's campus and knew I had to have it. I love the leopard print, and it has little slits for your arms to go through so you don't have to keep pulling it up to stay wrapped around you. I couldn't find this exact one online, but this one from J. Crew is super similar!

If leopard isn't your thing, there are so many other cute cape scarves out there right now! I've picked some of my favorites below.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Playing Tourist: Visiting Phipps

One of the best parts about Pittsburgh is the number of museums, and theaters, and other cultural things that we have. I've clearly seen my fair share of musicals and symphony performances, and I also love exploring the museums. One thing I don't do much, though, is visit Phipps - the conservatory/botanical gardens.
My aunt and uncle were visiting this weekend, and we decided it would be fun to take them to Phipps. It was one of the last weekends of their current exhibit, which was inspired by Van Gogh, so it seemed like the perfect time to check it out. I realized that I actually hadn't been to Phipps since I visited while I was in college, so I was long-overdue for another visit!

I was amazed by how huge it was - they tell you to just keep going to the right every time you're at a turn, and the number of different rooms that we kept walking into shocked me! It doesn't look that big from the outside, but there's actually so much to see.
Admittedly, I am not the hugest plant enthusiast, but I had a great time walking around and exploring. There are some really beautiful flowers - I especially enjoyed the orchids, and anything bright and colorful. They even still had some Chihuly glass sculptures on display, which was the exhibit going on when I visited over 10 years ago. It's also nice and quiet, so it's perfect if you want to actually be able to talk to the people you're with!
I loved having the chance to go somewhere different in Pittsburgh - hopefully my next visit to Phipps is less than 10 years from now!

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Needing Help

I've been thinking about writing this post for a while, but I wasn't sure whether or not I actually wanted to post it. I share a lot about living with a disability, but this is a bit more of a peek behind the curtain of some of the day-to-day struggles. It's something that I'm currently dealing with, and I decided that it's important enough that I can't not write about it.
I've mentioned before that I have caregivers/aides that help me when I'm at home. Things like getting out of bed, showering, using the bathroom, getting dressed... these are all things that I can't do alone, so I rely on other people's help. I've mostly adjusted to the psychological aspect of needing help with a lot of basic needs, which is a whole other thing, but I don't think you ever really adjust to the logistical aspect. The fact that if someone has to call off for whatever reason, you're suddenly scrambling to find a replacement so you're not just stuck.

In an ideal world, there would be layers of built-in backups, and I'd never have to actually worry about not having anyone. The real world, however, doesn't exactly work that way. Finding caregivers is HARD. It's a really multilayered issue - caregivers are drastically underpaid (it's basically considered "unskilled" work), which results in lots of turnover. Agencies that hire these caregivers are so desperate to hire that there's often very little done, personality wise, to screen to make sure they're actually a good fit for the job, and even less to make sure they're a good fit for any particular person in need of care.

This is all one thing to hear in theory, but it's really really stressful and frustrating when it plays out in real life. My normal caregiver is on maternity leave right now, and it's been a real struggle as the agency I use tries to find someone to replace her. There are so few caregivers available that I don't really have the luxury of saying no to someone who isn't really a good fit for my needs - I'm forced to make the decision between not-great care and no care at all, which really isn't a choice. I even have the "benefit" of living at home, which means my parents are available to act as caregivers, too - for people living alone, there are even less choices available.

When you're not used to dealing with things like this, it can be hard to understand the impact it can have on your life. It adds SUCH layer of underlying stress to everything else already going on. I think it's one of the aspects of disability that doesn't get talked about as much, partially because not everyone needs help, but also partially because it's largely unseen - a lot of it happens at home, not in public.

And while I was writing this post and getting ready to publish it, I had a caregiver call off about 2 hours before she was scheduled to be here, which means there is a very low chance of them finding a replacement. So much hinges on the schedule running smoothly, and when it's so easily thrown out of whack it has a major impact. But life doesn't stop just because a caregiver can't make it, and it's that underlying stress that can make everything else already going on in the day that much more difficult.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Target's 20th Anniversary Collection

I can distinctly remember when Target announced their first designer collaboration collection. I was already a Target fan (who isn't, really), but the concept of a special collection just felt so exclusive. Now, I can't say that I remember if I bought anything from that particular collection, but they've had many throughout the years and I still felt the same excitement each time I bought something - it was like owning a little piece of (shopping) history.
It doesn't seem possible, but it's somehow the 20th anniversary of their first designer collection. To celebrate, they're releasing a limited selection of pieces from all of the collections that they've done over the years. As with the original collections themselves, things are selling out quickly, but there are still a lot of great things left! I picked up this leopard drawstring bag and this cute giraffe bottle opener, but there are so many other great things, too! Scroll through below to check out my favorites, and let me know what your picks are!

Friday, September 13, 2019

Friday Favorites

This has been quite the week. It's not even that anything in particular is going on, it's just one of those weeks where everything seems to drag and I feel like I'm constantly treading water. My fingers are crossed for a relaxing weekend - or at least a weekend where I have some time to relax in addition to cross off some things from my ever-growing to do list!
ONE - Representation Burnout
I really relate to this one - the concept that it can be exhausting to constantly be representing a diverse viewpoint somewhere. It's like you always have to be "on," and it can get really tiring.

TWO - Cashmere Wrap
It's no secret that I'm into wraps and capes. They're especially perfect as it starts to cool off a bit in fall, and you're not sure when you'll need to throw on another layer. This one looks so soft, and is an extra 30% off if you use the code SHOPNOW. I ordered it myself and can't wait for it to arrive!

THREE - Toxic Friendships
Unless you follow a lot of Instagram influencers, you might not be up on the drama going on surrounding one influencer, Caroline Calloway, and her once-ghostwriter, who just published an essay on their time working together. Even if you don't care at all about anything from that last sentence, the essay is a really insightful look at toxic friendships, and how something that seemed so amazing and consuming can go so wrong.

FOUR - For the Love of Men by Liz Plank
I've written about Liz Plank before - she has done some great coverage on myriad issues, and always makes sure to include disability when talking about diversity and society. She has a new book out about masculinity, and I can't wait to read it!

FIVE - Rain by Ben Platt
I love Ben Platt's voice - he sings so many different genres so effortlessly. This new song and video are so great - I will be listening a few (hundred) times this weekend.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Madewell Insiders Sale

Today is the last day of the Madewell Insiders sale, and it's definitely worth checking out. It's free to become an Insider - you just have to sign up! - and at a minimum, it gets you free shipping and returns (the rewards vary based on how much you spend). Plus, the sale items are ANOTHER 40% off, which is a great deal.

 I only discovered Madewell a year ago or so, but I've already added quite a few of their things to my closet! I've gathered some of my favorites from the sale below - some things that I own, and some on my wish list.

I own this first red/orange dress in the widget below! I love it and think it'll transition well to fall, especially if you throw a leather jacket over it. There are some dresses with fun details and textures - I love the ruffle strap, and velvet dresses are so nostalgically 90s to me, in the best way.

If you're looking for something a little more fall-like, check out these cozy sweaters. I love the autumn colors, and they look so fuzzy and comfy. Plus, there's cashmere in the sale - never hurts to add to your cashmere collection, in my opinion!

If you're not ready to admit that sweater season is approaching, there's lots of other cute tops to choose from. The tiered sleeve top is basically just the shirt version of the dress in the picture above, so obviously I'm a fan. And I can never say no to ruffles and peplums - it adds the perfect touch.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Turning 31

The first year of my 30s is officially over. It feels really strange to type that, because I don't think that I necessarily feel like I'm in my 30s. It's not that I'm super young-at-heart - I'm more of an old soul than anything else - but I remember 30 seeming SO grown-up when I was younger.
I still feel in so many ways that I'm still learning and growing and figuring out where I want my life to go. I feel very confident about myself as a person, and who I am, but where I'm going? That's still a bit blurrier. One of my friends has three questions she asks people each year at their birthday: What was one thing from the past year you hope to never do again, what was your favorite thing from the past year, and what's one thing you definitely want to do in the next year?

I came up with answers for the first two, but the third one really stumped me. I realized that I don't really have anything concrete in mind for the next year. I think the past year has been so big for me that I've been so focused on short-term planning - this weekend, next week, next month - that I haven't really had a lot of time or energy to focus on the longer term.

My year as Ms. Wheelchair USA was incredible in many ways - it helped me to make so many connections, which brought me to some really exciting opportunities. But knowing this was a year-long reign, my attention was highly focused on that year and that timeframe. Now, I have a little bit of luxury to look farther ahead. Where do I really want to go with all of the work that I've been doing? Where do I want it to take me?

So while I didn't come up with an answer when she asked me during dinner, I think I have an answer for my friend now. In the next year, I want to figure out what exactly it is I want to be doing after this year is over... or at least have a better idea. I'm excited to do some long-term, big-picture planning.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Friday Favorites

Why do short weeks always feel so long? Maybe in this case, it's because I'm looking forward to my birthday this weekend! Even though it's not a big one like 30 was last year, I'm still looking forward to celebrating. I also had a really fun week - I went to a scavenger hunt at the local library. We weren't really sure what to expect, but we ended up having a blast. Even though we didn't win, it was so fun and we are already looking forward to the next one.
This week's favorites...

ONE - Lizzie McGuire Reboot
I loved watching Lizzie McGuire growing up. I watched the show, saw the movie, had the soundtrack... could probably still sing every word to "What Dreams Are Made Of" (Hey now, hey now...). I am so excited for this reboot! I know there's still no release date, and not a whole lot of information, but I still can't wait.

TWO - Pointy Toe Flats
I bought these flats earlier this summer and have been wearing them basically nonstop. I love how comfortable they are, and the pointy toe plus the metallic makes them a bit dressier. They're on major sale right now, too!

THREE - Paper Rings
It's probably no surprise that I've been listening to Taylor Swift's new album Lover basically nonstop, but I especially cannot get this song out of my head. It's so fun and upbeat, I just can't help singing along!

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Life Lately

August has FLOWN. I seriously feel like I blinked and missed it - I can't believe that it's already September... and almost my birthday! Because I traveled so much this summer (relatively "so much," for me) it almost feels like I didn't actually get a break. So much of my time was spent packing or unpacking, gearing up for one trip or winding down from the next. Hopefully, September ushers in a little more down time for me - my fingers are crossed.

It's kind of weird, because as much as I feel like I've had SO MUCH going on, when I sat down to write this, I felt like I had to wrack my brains to figure out what exactly it is that I've been up to. I did have one unexpected ER visit (don't worry, all is well now!)... but I'm not dwelling on that.
Over Labor Day, I went to Easton to celebrate a friend's wedding. We stayed at an INCREDIBLE hotel, the Grand Eastonian - it was so amazingly spacious and open!  I will say - we did get a room with a roll in shower (a single room, and the only room in the whole hotel with a roll in shower), but we also got the adjoining two bedroom suite, because it would have been impossible for the four of us to fit in a single room. The upside of that, clearly, is the space that we had - traveling with two people who use wheelchairs can make it a bit difficult to navigate tight spaces, and we had absolutely no issues here. The pictures really don't do it justice!
Lily has come with us on almost every trip we've taken this summer. It's been a definite process, because she doesn't love the car and can get a little anxious the first few hours (or sometimes, day or so) after we arrive and she does NOT want to be left alone. She's gotten so much better, though, and in each hotel she finds a "spot" - this time it was on a pillow we had put on the floor for her to use as a step onto the couch!
The wedding itself was so beautiful, and I was so happy to be able to be there to celebrate them. It was at a winery that used to be a silk mill, and the venue was so unique and fun - I want to go back to see what it's like when it's not an event space! The whole town, really, was fun to explore - lots of little restaurants and cafes popping up. It's also just across the river from New Jersey (literally... I made us walk across the bridge just so that we could say we left the state)!

I also started classes again, hopefully for the final time in my graduate career! I'll still have to do my essay before I officially graduate, but this should be the last of my classes. It has been SUCH a long journey getting to this point, and I'm so happy to have made it this far and to be this close. Here's to hoping that this final semester of classes goes smoothly!

Monday, August 26, 2019

Dressing for the Weather

As much as I am personally sad to admit, the hot and sticky days of summer are coming to an end. It's already starting to cool down here in the early mornings and late evenings - you can tell that the hot hot heat of summer is going away. My birthday is coming up, so I definitely don't hate fall... I just hate that it means winter follows!
But I do know that there's something almost magical about those first few crisp fall breezes. They remind me going back to school as a kid - all the nerves, but also the excitement and hopefulness - of starting a new school year. And even though I'm a very different kind of student now, and I never really "leave" school so there's no going "back" to it, I still get that same feeling in early September.

I also get the itch to do some shopping. The sundresses that I lived in during the summer don't exactly cut it anymore. But I want things that still don't feel too heavy and cozy yet - something that will still remind me of the warm summer days but keep me a little warmer than a tank top.

I found this yellow midi dress (well, maxi dress if you're as short as I am) at Nordstrom Rack, and I think it fits the bill perfectly. It's still easy and flowy, but the sleeves and length are enough to add some coverage for fall. The mustardy yellow color, which I love, is also perfect for the changing seasons. And it's hard to tell, but there's little polka dots all over it, which is so cute. I can tell I'll be reaching for this a lot in the next month or two!