Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Finding My Motivation

January and February are the roughest months of the year for me, in a lot of ways and for a lot of reasons. You're probably sick of hearing me say this, but snow and cold mean that I'm mostly stuck inside, and that gets old really quickly. Plus, right around the end of January/beginning of February, I start to lose the momentum that I had from the New Year. It's dark when I'm home in the evenings, and that just makes me want to hibernate and watch endless episodes of "The West Wing" while I'm wrapped in a blanket and parked directly in front of my space heater.

But obviously, the world does not stop until Spring comes around, so I have to find ways to convince myself to keep going. I won't lie... some of these ways center on "rewarding" (aka bribing) myself. Whatever works, right? So here's what I've found works best for me.
One - Lots of Coffee
I'm a noted caffeine addict, but there's something especially appealing about coffee in the winter. Not only does it help keep me warm (I don't have great circulation and I'm basically always cold), but when I'm drinking it I can pause to collect my thoughts and start to get myself in order. This year, my new Ember coffee mug (which I talk about here) is making this one a lot better!

Two - Making Lists
I often feel like the hardest part of being unmotivated is that feeling of not even knowing where to start. This is where list-making is immensely helpful. Getting everything written down helps me feel like I'm making progress towards getting things done, and then that first step of getting started feels a lot more attainable. Plus, the feeling of crossing things off the list is so good and helps keep my momentum going.

Three - Taking Time for Myself
Sometimes I'm not feeling motivated because I'm feeling run down and worn out. So taking a few extra minutes for myself can help me feel relaxed and reinvigorated and ready to take on the day again. Whether it's taking a few minutes to read something not school-related, or doing a face mask at night (this one is my favorite), it's just about "me time."

Four - Puppy Cuddles
I mean, this is basically the cure for everything. A few puppy kisses and cuddles make every situation better - nothing more needs to be said.

Five - Treat Yo' Self
Maybe this is shallow, but I do feel more confident and ready to take on the world when I'm rocking something new. It just gives you that little boost that you need sometimes to get things started. I just picked up this faux leather skirt from J. Crew, and I'm really looking forward to wearing it!

What do you do when you're feeling unmotivated? Tell me your tips!

(This post contains affiliate links, I may earn a commission from purchases you make.)

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Crushing on the Drybar Brush Crush

In an ideal world, I'd wash my hair every day. I know, I know - all you ever hear is that washing your hair every day is bad, it's drying out your hair, and you shouldn't do it. But my hair gets greasy after about 8 hours, and by the second day, dryness is not my issue.

Sometimes, though, washing my hair every day just isn't feasible. I talked about my morning routine here - it takes me a while, and can be tiring, and sometimes I just don't have that time in the morning. I definitely use lots of dry shampoo (my favorite by far is the Drybar Detox one), but that only helps with the oil control, but that doesn't help with how my hair actually looks. I use a breathing machine at night, so the "sleep on a silk pillowcase" advice is pretty useless to me. When I wake up, my hair is frizzy, and I have the dreaded "crease" from both my ponytail holder plus the straps from my breathing machine.

Straightening it always works, but it takes away the body that my hair has - it leaves it super stick straight. So I was intrigued when I saw Drybar announce their Brush Crush, which is a straightening brush. There's a "plate" on it like there is on a straightener, but there's only one, not two - and its underneath bristles like there are on a regular hairbrush.

It works SO WELL. It keeps the body in my hair, but gets rid of the creases and the frizz so easily. You can also style your hair a bit with it - make the ends flip out or flip under, without getting the sharp line you can end up with when you use a straightener. And the best part? You can't burn yourself easily like you can with a straightener! My ears are so very grateful.

If you're looking for something to make your day two (or day three or four - no judgment here!) hair look better, definitely go for the Brush Crush.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Disability and Hollywood: International Day of Acceptance

I'm a little late with this post, but I just learned that January 20 is actually "International Day of Acceptance" - a day dedicated to the social acceptance of disability.
Image via
You can check out the website here to learn more about this day and Annie Hopkins, the woman who started this movement. What stuck out to me, right away, was the focus on social acceptance of disability.

I've been thinking a lot about this lately - about disability's intersection with the diversity and inclusion movement going on right now, and about how willing society really is to have a conversation about disability acceptance.

There's a movie out right now called "The Upside," where Bryan Cranston is playing a quadriplegic. And at first, you think - "Great! It's really cool to see movies about people with disabilities being made." The problem is, though, that they're not actually hiring actors with disabilities to play those roles. They're hiring able-bodied actors, many of whom go on to win awards for taking on such "difficult" roles - the roles that are essentially the lives that people with disabilities have every day.

Hollywood has a real problem with disability. They certainly don't hire people with disabilities to play characters without disabilities, but then they also don't cast them to play characters with disabilities when those very, very few roles appear. So we don't see any actors with disabilities on our screens, ever. There are a few great exceptions - Shannon DeVido on "Difficult People" (which I talk about here), R.J. Mitte (acting opposite Bryan Cranston himself!) in "Breaking Bad," and a few others. But they're incredibly few and extremely far-between.

And it's not just Hollywood - it's society as a whole. Trevor Noah did a great segment on the Bryan Cranston casting controversy - watch it here. And then, if you're feeling brave, take a look at the comments. The majority of people just do not get it - and don't really want to. There are still lots of people who are incredibly comfortable with others with disabilities... if they don't have to see them, or interact with them. I know this is a bit of "preaching to the choir" here because many of you know me personally, and are comfortable with me, disability and all. But I think it's a good reminder that not everyone feels the same way.

That's why I think that the goal behind the International Day of Acceptance is so important. We have a long way to go until we truly have social acceptance of disability, and I'll gladly support anything working to get us there.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Friday Favorites

It's been a blur of a week for me, and I'm really looking forward to the weekend (I know, I say that all the time). January and February are really rough here in Pittsburgh, and for me especially! All the cold weather and snow makes it so hard for me to get around outside, and I start feeling really cooped up and stuck. At least I have this little pup to keep me company, though!
This week's favorites - 

ONE - Late Night Coffee
It is no secret that I am a caffeine addict. When I'm in New York or DC, I can grab a Starbucks from basically every single corner until very very late at night, but that's not the case here in Pittsburgh. I appreciated this look into where I can get coffee late at night in the city!

TWO - Jessica Vosk on Broadway
Jessica Vosk is currently playing Elphaba in "Wicked" on Broadway, but before she got back into theater, she was working in Investor Relations on Wall Street. This article is a great look at her life and how she got to where she is now.

THREE - Chemical Exfoliants
If you exfoliate your face (which you should!!!), you know that there are two different kinds - chemical and physical. Physical ones are scrubs - they have actual physical beads or granules or something that basically rubs off your skin. I prefer chemical, though - they can really get into your skin, and don't irritate it the way that physical ones can. I use this one every day, and have started adding this one to my nightly routine, too. 

FOUR - The Princess Diaries
Honestly, this one was just a fun walk down memory lane. I have seen The Princess Diaries so many times, and this is such a tiny detail in the movie, but really cool to see how it related so strongly to the writer's life.

Five - EduHam in Pittsburgh
EduHam is one of my favorite things that "Hamilton" puts on, and probably one of the lesser-known things about the show. All of the casts - both the standing ones in New York in Chicago, plus the touring casts - have special shows for local high school students. Not only do they get to see a special performance of the show, but they also have a Q and A/talkback-type session. It's such a special thing for the students.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

When Routines Break Down

I never forget that I'm in a wheelchair and have a disability, but I do tend to forget the affect it has on my daily life. There are so many workarounds that I've created that I just take for granted. But I notice my disability the most when one of those workarounds fails. Because, as many people with disabilities know, it's not the disability that affects me the most - it's the ways that society is inaccessible to me and my disability.
Living in Pittsburgh means that almost every house is a multilevel house, built on a hill, often with steps to get in. Until I was in high school, that meant that my sister and I had to be carried up and down flights of stairs to get to other floors in our house - our wheelchairs could only get in on the main floor. And you can't easily carry 250 pound wheelchairs up stairs, so we were basically stuck once we were carried up- or downstairs.That was fine when were young and small, but by high school we really wanted the ability to have our own space, and to be in it without having to be stuck laying in our beds. So my parents did a major renovation on our house, and we put an elevator in so that we could actually get around independently.

When I woke up Thursday morning and tried to ride the elevator downstairs to shower, it just didn't work, at all. I don't want to get into the details, but long story short, it meant that I was stuck in the top floor of my house and couldn't go to work.

I ride the elevator in my house multiple times a day, usually without giving it a second thought - we've had it for so many years now that I just take it for granted. People with disabilities do this for so many different parts of our lives - we create workarounds or modifications to get through our days. And we rely heavily on them! So much of the life of someone with a disability is complicated logistical planning, with backup plan after backup plan in place, and sometimes even that's not enough - it's not possible to foresee every single potential breakdown. When something goes wrong, and one part of our routine breaks down, no matter what it is or why it happens, it sends ripples throughout the rest of our lives.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

10 Year Challenge

Have you seen the 10 year challenge going around social media? I'm not exactly sure how or why it started, but the concept is to put two pictures of yourself roughly 10 years apart next to each other, to see how you've changed.

It's a fun thing to do - I think I look different, but people still think I'm in high school or college all the time, so maybe I don't actually look THAT different. But I think that most of the changes that I've gone through haven't necessarily been strictly physical ones. I thought it would be fun to do a 10 year challenge, but about my life in general, not just my looks. Since we're just getting started in 2019, I'm going to use 2008 and 2018.
In 2008, I was in college at Carnegie Mellon - either finishing up my sophomore year or starting my junior, depending on which part of the year we're talking about. I was very much still figuring things out. I was majoring in engineering, but realizing that maybe I didn't actually want to pursue it after graduation. I had a really rough freshman year, academically, and was still learning how to study effectively and this point in college. I was starting to get more involved in groups at CMU - I joined a sorority my sophomore year, and got more involved with the campus newspaper, which I ended up loving. I had also just finished one of my internships with the Quality of Life Technology center, where I was introduced to research as a field, but I definitely didn't know that was the field I'd end up working in.

I'm not absolutely certain, but I think that this is also when I started to solidify my friends at college. I had such a close group of friends before going away to college - we'd basically been friends since elementary school. I made some friends freshman year, but the ones I'm still closest with now I met a little bit later into college.

I also can't write this without talking about living alone on campus. Until college, I'd never had anyone but my parents doing my caregiving. I really really wanted to live on campus - and I'm so incredibly glad that I did - but the adjustment was huge. By sophomore year, I was finally starting to feel a little more settled about living away.

I've touched on this last year in a few posts now, so I won't go into too much detail here, but I do think it's interesting to look at some parallels, and also see where things are wildly different.

I'm a part-time graduate student, so technically that hasn't changed, but it certainly feels very different. I'm so glad that I took some time "off" between undergrad and graduate school, because being a student feels so different now. I'm able to actually take interest in my classes and dedicate the time that I need to, because I'm not completely burnt out on exams and problem sets. Now, with that being said, I have been a part-time graduate student for about five years now, and I'm really looking forward to the end of my MPH program.

What feels the same, too, is the feeling of starting to be settled, of knowing where I'm going and what I'm doing. This whole past year felt like a long, slow coming together of sorts. Pieces and experiences have started to click into place, and helped me to figure out what I want to do and how I want to move forward.

There were certainly both ups and downs in the interim years, but on the whole, I think my life in general is definitely on an upswing. Hopefully the next 10 years continue on this path, too.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Winter Essentials: Staying Warm

The cold weather has really hit here in Pittsburgh. The wind chill was hovering around -5 degrees yesterday! I am not a winter person at all - I hate the cold, and it also makes life a lot more difficult for me. I can't put a jacket on by myself, so I don't get to take a break outside at all during the day, and having to wear layers just means it's harder for me to move my arms easily.

I have learned, though, what to wear to keep me warm without adding a lot of bulk and layers. While I might be more particular and specific about my needs, these tips really apply to anyone!
Cashmere Sweaters
I know cashmere can be expensive, but it is absolutely worth it. Not only is it incredibly soft and comfortable, but it is the best at being warm without being bulky. They're never stiff or hard to move in, which is really important to me. My favorites are from Everlane and Uniqlo - if you can scoop one up from Everlane during a "Choose What You Pay" sale, you can get one for $70, which is really great for the quality of the sweater - there are still a few sizes/color combinations available at that price here. And the sweaters from Uniqlo are really reasonably priced, too, and on sale here!

Fuzzy Socks
If I'm wearing boots, I almost always have a pair of fuzzy socks on underneath. I usually buy the "spa socks," but I wear them during the day rather than overnight. I don't have great circulation, and my feet are almost always cold, but these socks help keep me nice and toasty.

Fingerless Mittens
My aunt bought me a pair of super cute, embellished fingerless mittens for Christmas - I'd never had a pair before, but I realized they're perfect for me! Driving a wheelchair in the winter is hard. It's a struggle because if your fingers are too cold and stiff, it's hard to drive it, but if you wear gloves and it's too hard to move your fingers, it's also hard to drive. These fingerless mittens seem like the perfect middle ground - they add some extra warmth, but they don't make it harder to move. And the crystals are so cute!

Plush fleece lined thigh highs/tights
In the interest of full disclosure, I should be honest - I never wear full tights. Sitting all day with the tights waistband digging into your stomach is SO uncomfortable. I don't remember exactly when I realized that I could get away with wearing thigh highs/knee highs as regular tights and no one would ever know the difference (#WheelchairPerks) was one of the most exciting. The Plush brand are especially great because they're fleece-lined and so warm - they sell thigh highs here, and for those who may not be able to get away with those like me, they sell tights here

I pulled together some of my favorite picks below - you can scroll through and check them out. Let me know what you wear to stay warm in the winter!

This post contains affiliate links; I may earn a small commission from any purchases you make.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Friday Favorites

I had some crazy deadlines for work earlier in the week, so I'm looking forward to the weekend even more than usual. I'm also off work on Monday, and I'm excited to use that time to relax... and maybe try to get just a little bit ahead on my to-do list. For as much motivation as I've had this January, I feel a little bit like I'm perpetually behind on everything I'm trying to get done.

And of course... after I wrote the paragraph above, I woke up to a broken elevator in my house on Thursday morning. This threw a serious wrench in the rest of the week/weekend - I'm currently stuck on the upper floor of my house, unable to get out. Time off sounds nice, but it's not so much fun when it's forced and you have to worry about when the repairs will be completed.

Having the elevator - and the ability to get around in my house - is something that I take for granted day-to-day, and something that I really rely on. I'll do another (longer) post on the elevator another day, because while it's something I take for granted, I know most people don't expect to find an elevator in my house!

On to this week's favorites...
ONE - Get Your Flu Shot
It's not too late! Flu season is not over, and you can still get your flu shot. Read my post here to understand why I feel so strongly about this, but please - unless you are allergic, just get your flu shot.

TWO - What is the HFPA?
I will be honest - I will read anything that Caity Weaver writes. She is one of the most engaging and entertaining writers I've come across, while also being actually informative. This column is about the HFPA, but I HIGHLY encourage you to sign up for her newsletter - you will not regret it.

THREE - "Hamilton" in Puerto Rico
I wouldn't be me if I didn't share Jimmy Fallon's interview with Lin-Manuel Miranda as he steps back into the role of Hamilton in Puerto Rico. I know I'm obsessed, but truly - I am continually impressed by how Lin-Manuel keeps doing more and more charity and fundraising work as his star keeps rising. All of the funds raised from Hamilton's run in Puerto Rico are going to the Flamboyan Arts Fund, to help artists on the island after it was devastated by the hurricane.

FOUR - Late Risers
I am not, and never will be, a morning person - this is a fact that I've accepted about myself. But I agree with this writer - the world does try to make me feel guilty for not waking up early and seizing the day! I'm more than happy to seize the day... just a few hours later than everyone else.

FIVE - Cure SMA Guest Post
Finally, a little bit of self promotion - Cure SMA asked to write a post about making and achieving goals, and it went live earlier this week. Do you have any goals set for yourself in 2019?

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Treat Yo' Self

If you're a Parks and Recreation fan like I am, you recognize the title of this post. I've been wanting to write about this for a while, but I've been struggling with how to write about it without coming across as braggy. Talking about buying things is always a fine line between being excited about things and wanting to share them with everyone, and seeming like I'm just showing off. But sometimes when I'm sharing things that I've bought, it's about more that just the thing itself - it's about the memories behind it.
I've written here before about having to get a feeding tube after I lost a lot of weight and couldn't gain it back. And I think I touched a little bit on how I tried everything else that I could before I accepted that I needed it, but it's hard to explain how badly I did not want it. The thought of getting a feeding tube made me want to cry (to be fair, almost everything related to the weight problems I had then made me want to cry), and I really, really tried to do every single other alternative first. It took a lot, mentally, for me to accept that I had to get over my fears and schedule the surgery. Looking back years later, I wish I had faced those fears earlier and saved myself a lot of time of feeling really horribly - the feeding tube improved my life drastically, and really, really quickly.
When everything was over, I bought myself a sapphire ring that I wear every day (to this day! You can spot it in basically every single picture of me that I post) to remind me of not only went through, but what I was able to overcome.

So when 2018 ended, I knew that I wanted to get myself something to commemorate all of the exciting things that happened during the year. I've always been a handbag person - it can be hard for me to find shoes and clothes that fit, but I don't have to worry about sizing with bags! I searched for quite a while, and finally decided on this bag (I got it slightly on sale - you can still get it at that price in this pink/red color combination). I love the black and tan color combination, and how timeless the style is. Just like the sapphire ring, this is something that I'll be able to use for years to come.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

What I've Been Reading

I always get a lot of reading done in the end of December and early January. With my break from classes, I have a lot more free time, and I love using it to catch up on reading. I can only binge so many episodes in a row on Netflix before I need to do something else. You can see what I read below, and let me know if you have any good recommendations for me.
Crazy Rich Asians Trilogy by Kevin Kwan
I saw the movie when it came out over the summer, and I finally had time to read the books that the movie was based on. I was happy to find that the the movie had stayed pretty true to the book. Of course, there was more detail/character development in the books - plus, it's a trilogy, so the books continue past where the movie ended. They're a fun, light read.

Becoming by Michelle Obama
I loved reading about Michelle's take on her time in the White House (and leading up to it). Her story focused on the personal details, which are, in my opinion, the most interesting to read. She's a great author, and it was fascinating to learn about how her history led up to her being the First Lady.

A Well-Behaved Woman: A Novel of the Vanderbilts by Therese Anne Fowler
 This book is historical fiction about Alva Vanderbilt. I basically knew nothing about the Vanderbilt family, other than the fact that they are incredibly wealthy (and that Anderson Cooper is related to the family). But apparently, Alva did a lot to support women's equality work - it was fitting to read this right after Becoming.

The Clockmaker's Daughter by Kate Morton
This may have been my favorite of the bunch. It focuses on a few different main characters, spanning decades, but is so satisfying when everything comes together. It's a bit of a mystery, but not in a typical way - it's hard to explain without giving too much away, but I highly recommend it!

One Day in December by Josie Silver
I decided to read this one after seeing it on Instagram, and I'm really glad that I did. It's another quick read with a love triangle of sorts. It's the perfect book to read on a cozy day in in January.

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
I loved reading Circe by the same author, so I was incredibly excited to start this one. Most of my knowledge of Achilles and Odysseus comes from Wishbone, so maybe not the most accurate but I did at least recognize the names of most of the characters. The plot was so moving, and the ending will stick with me for a very long time.

Ghosted by Rosie Walsh
I picked this one up after seeing it on Carly's blog, and it was a great choice. It's a love story, but there are so many twists and turns - many times, my guesses about what was happening were completely wrong. I could not stop reading - I finished it in one day because I couldn't put it down.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Hamilton in Pittsburgh

If you live in, or near, Pittsburgh, you probably know that "Hamilton" is here right now! Of course, there was no way that I was missing the show since I've traveled to New York twice (here and here) and celebrated by 30th birthday in DC by seeing the show (here)!
I saw the show this weekend, but before the show, I went to a really cool event at the Heinz History Center last week called "Hamilton Remix." Historian Richard Bell came to talk about Hamilton the show vs. Hamilton the man - where the show accurately depicts history, and where it deviates a bit. What was really fun, though, was that the lecture did a really deep dive on everything about the show, including the references to other musicals hidden in Hamilton lyrics, and even the rhyme schemes used. I didn't fully agree with all of the arguments he made, but the talk did remind me - and everyone else - that Hamilton wasn't a perfect man. He definitely had some ideas that we wouldn't agree with today, and could be hypocritical - basically, he was flawed, just like everyone else. But that doesn't make it any less powerful of a show, or Hamilton's legacy any less important.
The event at the Heinz History  Center actually just made me even more excited to see the show. I'm sure that I've mentioned this before, but each time I go to the show, I notice new things happening on stage. I've been very lucky in that the accessible seats in every theater have been really great seats, but this time I was right up front, so I could really see every single thing that happened. I'm continually impressed by the choreography and the staging - each and every single character is doing something on stage, and if you watch really carefully, you'll see the same choreography repeated throughout the show as a call back.

Seeing the show reminded me about the message of inclusion behind it. Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote his first show, "In the Heights," partially because he didn't see anyone like himself on Broadway, and so he wrote his own role. He continued that same message of inclusion for "Hamilton," by choosing a diverse cast that reflects America today to tell the story of America during its founding. I actually talked about the show a few times during my Ms. Wheelchair USA interviews, because I think its message of inclusion is so important, and I love that it does it by showing, not telling. I'm working hard to promote that same message of inclusion for people with disabilities!

Friday, January 11, 2019

Friday Favorites

This was my first week back to classes for the semester, and I was not ready for it. It was also one of those weeks where I just continually felt like I was one step behind and constantly playing catch up. Not fun!
I am looking forward to the weekend, though, because I'm going to see Hamilton! Shockingly, this week's favorites do NOT include a Hamilton-related link. This is possibly a first?

ONE - Pelosi's Pink Dress
I love this article about the fashion choices of the newly-installed Congresswomen, written by the authors of a blog I have been reading for years and years - Go Fug Yourself. I've always been interested in fashion and style, and I also have an engineering degree - those qualities can coexist! The Congresswomen made smart style choices on their first day, to stand out, or to honor their heritage. The "Fug Girls" do an incredible job breaking down the intersection of politics and style.

TWO - Joe Manginello, Dragon Master
Lots of celebrities come and visit sick kids in the hospital, but not many come to teach them how to play Dungeons and Dragons. I love how unabashed Joe Manginello is about his love for the game, and I think that teaching the kids at Children's Hospital how to play is the perfect way to give back.

THREE - Wheelchair Wedding Dress Display
It made me so happy to see this story about a mannequin seated in a wheelchair in this bridal shop display in England! I can honestly say that I have never seen a mannequin in a wheelchair in any store, and seeing one at a bridal store is especially powerful because there are still so many misconceptions surrounding people with disabilities being in relationships. I also love that the owners didn't design the display to make a grand statement - to them, it was just a "why not?" moment.

FOUR - The Fiji Water Girl
I love watching award shows - I love the fashion, the celebrities, and all things pop culture. If you watched any of the Golden Globes coverage, you may have seen this Fiji water girl in one (or many) of the red carpet shots. She's everywhere now! 

FOUR - Disabled Actors
I highly recommend you listen to this podcast episode, or read the transcript. You may have seen the previews for the movie coming out soon where Bryan Cranston plays a quadriplegic. This podcast interviews actors with disabilities about the importance of representation in TV and movies. Plus, the host and one of the actors both have SMA!

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Going (More) Digital

Each year in January, I'm hit with the urge to organize everything. Maybe it's because I'm off work for over a week and spending more time in my room than usual, or maybe it's the typical January mindset of making yourself over for the new year. Either way, I get bitten hard by the bug. It doesn't tend to last much past the end of the month, but I'm really going to make an effort this year to keep things relatively neat.

This year, I've been doing both physical and digital tidying up. I do feel better when things are more in order in my life, and I realized that extends past the physical. I'm spending a lot of time on my phone/iPad, so it makes sense that I want those things to be organized, too!

I wrote earlier this year (in this post) about going to a digital calendar rather than a paper planner. I've loved using Google Calendar and haven't looked back. After dipping my toe into digital organizing, I decided that I wanted to go a little bit further digitally.

I got a new iPad earlier in the year (see this post) and got the Apple Pencil along with it. So far, I had mostly used the Pencil for note-taking in classes - there's a really cool app, Nebo, that will translate your handwritten notes to text documents, which is great for school.
But I decided that I wanted to start using the iPad (and the Pencil) more in my day-to-day life. I already read almost exclusively on my iPad, through the Nook app, but I feel like the additional of the Pencil makes it the perfect digital notebook. And I LOVE a good notebook, which I mostly use to write to do list after to-do list. I never really liked typing up a to-do list, but I do like using my pencil to "write" a digital one. I'm still experimenting a bit with apps, but my current favorite is Notability. I like that I can view the notes that I've written on my phone, so that I can have a quick reminder of something if my iPad isn't nearby.
I've found that for me, convenience is key. If something isn't convenient, and nearby, I'm not going to go through the extra effort. I have an iPad case that has a little slot for the Pencil, but I'm not necessarily using that case, with the keyboard, when I'm writing my lists. I wanted a way to keep the Pencil nearby on my desk, so that every time I wanted to add to my list it'd be just as easy as reaching for regular pen and paper. I also wanted a way to keep the little "accessory" pieces nearby (the extra Pencil cap, and the little charger adapter). So I found this Belkin case/stand online. I really like that it's a two-in-one, stand and case - I lost one of the little Pencil caps in my bag, so I'm very happy to have a better place to put them now, but it's also convenient just sitting in the stand for everyday use. If you want something a bit smaller, just as a place to put the Pencil on your desk, this is a great alternative.

After I got the Pencil case/stand, I wanted to organize a few more things. I've been looking for a nice charging stand for my watch, and I decided to get this one. I have so many things that need charged all the time - AirPods, Apple TV remote, phone - and I liked that this stand could charge more than just the watch alone. And what I really liked is that you don't have to supply your own charging cables. I'm constantly running out of places to plug things in, so I'm all for things that streamline!

I've also been doing some organizing that focuses on getting rid of things, rather than adding new ones. My e-mail was out of control - I get so many e-mails from stores every single day, telling me about new products and sales. I usually delete them without opening, but I decided that I want to get off all of these e-mail lists! So now, before I hit delete, I'm finding the very tiny unsubscribe button at the very bottom of the e-mail and making sure to click it. It'll take a while for this to make a difference, but I still get a little smile every single time I do it.

These are all small changes that I'm making, but they're really helping me feel like I'm starting 2019 off the right way. I'm crossing my fingers that I stick with it!

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Tuesday, January 8, 2019

New Year, New Makeup

After not having changed my makeup in years, I somehow have done an almost complete overhaul of my day-to-day products in the last six months or so. I've shared some of them separately, but it seemed like a good time to do a full update of my regular makeup routine.
ONE - Make Up For Ever Matte Velvet Skin Foundation
I honestly didn't think that I'd ever switch from my Estee Lauder Doublewear Light - and then they changed the formulation. I tried a whole bunch of different foundation samples from Sephora, and this was by far my favorite. It's a bit more full coverage than the Doublewear Light, but it lasts really well and does a decent job with my oily skin.

TWO - Shiseido Minimalist Whipped Powder Blush
This is the first non-powder blush I've ever used. I didn't think that I could wear something that wasn't powder (because of the oily skin I mentioned a minute ago), but this isn't a typical cream blush. It really does seem whipped like the name says - a really whipped mousse. It blends super easily, and does feel like a powder once it's on my face. It lasts all day, and looks more natural to me than traditional powder blush.

THREE - T. Leclerc Banane Loose Powder
This one isn't new, but it's so good that I wanted to make sure I included it. It's the only powder that I will use - it tones down some of the redness that I can have in my face, and it doesn't get "clumpy" on my skin once my face starts to get oily. It's not cheap, but it lasts a really long time and I think it's completely worth it.

FOUR - Marc Jacobs Velvet Noir Major Volume Mascara
Just like my foundation, I never thought I'd switch from my favorite Chanel mascara. But I think that the Velvet Noir does a better job at getting volume and length, and it doesn't flake off under my eyes during the day. It also layers well - it doesn't get clumpy easily, which is always my concern.

FIVE - Anastasia Beverly Hills Tinted Brow Gel
I've reluctantly started wearing brow gel almost every day, mostly because I fit in blog pictures whenever I can, and I do think they turn out better when I'm wearing this. It's definitely nothing crazy, but my eyebrows are decent on their own, so this just makes them a little bit darker and more defined.

(This post contains affiliate links; I may earn a small commission from any purchases you make.)

Monday, January 7, 2019

Ember Coffee Mug Review

There was really only one thing that I put on my Christmas list this year - one thing that I really, really wanted: an Ember coffee mug.

It's no secret that I'm a caffeine addict. I drink lots - maybe too much - coffee every day. It's the very first thing that I do each morning. But I'm also not a fast coffee drinker (or anything drinker, really). Which means that generally, my coffee has to be reheated many, many times. And since I can't reach the microwave myself, it means that I have to ask someone to reheat my coffee many times each day. And if you've ever reheated a cup of coffee yourself, you know that it's a bit of an art form. It's either too cold or too hot - there's about a five minute window where your drink is actually the temperature that you want it, and then you have to heat it up and start the process all over again.

It's also no secret that I'm a tech person. I love my Hue lights, my Alexa, my Apple watch... they're all fun things, but they're also things that have made my life easier, and more independent, in some way. The Ember mug is another one of those items.
It's a smart mug, and connects to an app where you can pick your preferred temperature - down to the degree - for any beverage that you're drinking. For those of us like me who don't have a clue what their preferred temperature is, they give suggestions that you can start with. Once you set your temperature, the mug keeps whatever you're drinking exactly that hot. The saucer that comes with the mug is the charger - once you unplug the saucer, the battery lasts about 2 hours, but I mostly leave mine plugged in all the time.

For anyone like me reading this who has limited strength, I will say - the mug is not light. That makes sense, since the temperature sensors are in the bottom of it, but it does mean that I have to use two hands to pick it up. It's definitely still usable for me, but just something to be aware of.
It's been really, really nice to know that no matter how long since my last sip, I don't have to worry that I'm taking a drink of cold coffee. It has lived up to my expectations, and then some!

Friday, January 4, 2019

Friday Favorites

This week was happily only a three day work week for me, and I don't start back at school until next week, either. Even so, it was a rough one for me! I am a night owl by nature, and I easily shift back into that routine when I'm off work for any extended period of time. It is a very rude awakening, though, when I have to get back on a somewhat normal schedule!

All of that just means that I'm very happy not to have any real plans this weekend, and I can read and relax and try to adjust before everything gets crazy.

Although my work week was short, I have some great things to share with you in this week's favorites!
ONE - New York Times op-ed
This is a great editorial about the importance of hiring people with disabilities. To me, this is a "no duh" kind of statement, but I know to many employers - and just many people - it's not so obvious. Pretty cool that companies who championed people with disabilities had higher profits, because I think that will go further to convince more companies to champion the cause than any argument for equality or inclusion ever will.

TWO - Taylor Swift Reputation Stadium Tour
This is a Netflix exclusive - a recording of one of Taylor Swift's performances in Dallas as part of her Reputation stadium tour. I loved going to see the show in Pittsburgh (read about that here), and it was fun to re-live the action!

THREE - How to be Organized
I thought this was a great article for the beginning of the new year. I'm constantly looking for more ways to be better organized. While it may seem like I'm put together, my desk/dresser/vanity are always in some sort of "organized mess," as I like to think of it. I know where things are, but things definitely start to pile up. But I feel so much better when things are neater! So I'm always on the lookout for new/different organizational advice.

FOUR - The Original Schuyler Sisters at the Kennedy Center
The creative team behind Hamilton was honored with Kennedy Center Honors in December, and they aired the event on PBS at the end of the month. The whole thing is worth a watch, but I especially loved the performance by the original Schuyler sisters - Pippa Soo, Renee Elise Goldsberry, and Jasmine Cephas-Jones. The harmonies are beautiful!

FIVE - Deep Breathing
I used to - and still do, honestly - get really nervous before an exam. It doesn't matter how much I've prepared, or how good I feel - it's just the last-minute nerves, and they creep up no matter what. I've always tried to take a few deep breaths when I'm feeling like this, to try to slow things down and calm down a bit. This is a good look at what taking a deep breath does for the body, and also why you shouldn't do it JUST when you're nervous.

SIX - Mary Poppins Returns
I saw this over the holidays and loved it! It was really cute - very Disney - and I thought Emily Blunt did an amazing job as Mary Poppins. I love Julie Andrews, of course, but since this was a sequel and not a remake, it didn't feel like she was being replaced. And Dick Van Dyke makes a very impressive cameo!

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Velvet and Leather: Better Together

One of my absolute favorite parts of the holiday season every year is the party my family hosts. Every year, for as long as I can remember, we've had our annual "Christmas Party" in between Christmas and New Years. When I was a kid, it was my parents inviting their friends, but as my sister and I have gotten older, the guest list has grown. Now, my sister and I both have our own group of friends to invite in addition to my parents' friends.

It's the one time of year that friends who have moved away do their best to be in town, so that we can all catch up on each others lives. In college, it was when we chatted about classes and sororities and new boyfriends and dorm living. Now, we talk about jobs and and life and have more and more little kids running around each year. Even though we're technically adults now, my friends and I still all end up downstairs, in the "kid room." Some things are tradition, and I hope they never change! The party is truly something that I look forward to each year, and I love knowing that my friends feel the same way.

Another big part of the night has always been the OUTFIT. In high school, my sister and I would go with our friends to the mall the morning of the party to try to find the absolute perfect thing to wear. Many, many texts have been sent with pictures of potential outfits. Now, I start planning a little earlier... but that doesn't mean that any less texts are sent out.
I think I picked a winner this year - I paired two of my current favorites, velvet and leather. I know that a tank top might seem out of season, but in a packed house with the oven going for two plus hours, a tank top is actually the perfect choice! My exact top is sold out, but I've collected an assortment of other velvet tops below, in a variety of sleeve lengths.

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Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Looking Back and Looking Ahead

Happy 2019! I started off 2018 with a trip to the ER because of a gallbladder issue, so my fingers are crossed that 2019 starts off on a slightly better note.
2018 was one of my best years yet, I think. It feels kind of weird to talk about how amazing my year was when I know things in the world were a little more turbulent, but I think it's okay for both to be true. I thought it'd be fun to revisit some of the highlights of my life in 2018. I can only hope that in 2019, I keep building on my successes from this year.
ONE - Being crowned Ms. Wheelchair USA
Obviously, participating in and winning the Ms. Wheelchair USA pageant was one of the biggest things to happen to me this year! Not only was the experience itself really fun, but it's helped open doors for me and my work, and also helped lend some legitimacy to my voice. While I feel really passionate about my platform, sometimes I still feel like I don't have the expertise to really be a leader. Winning the pageant helped to make me feel like I do know what I'm talking about, and that people are interested in hearing what I have to say, too.

TWO - My one year "blogiversary"
I started blogging a little bit on a whim. I had thought about it for a while - I really love writing, and I was looking for something creative to do - but kind of just decided to start one day. While I hoped that it would stick, I definitely didn't have a one year plan, or five year plan, or anything like that. Hitting the one year mark started to make things feel a little more "real," and also made me feel confident that I can keep going! That's not to say that I'm an expert by any means, but I feel like I have things down just a little more smoothly.

THREE - Turning 30
I know some people dread turning 30 - it's a new decade, it sounds like a really adult number - but I was really excited. I don't know that I have an exact reason for it, but it was just something that I was really looking forward to. I'm excited for the rest of my 30s, and to see what lies ahead for me. I'm definitely someone that focuses on looking forward, not looking bad, and I feel really hopeful about this new decade.

FOUR - Starting Accessible YOUniverse
I've kept this one a little quiet, because things are moving ahead slowly and I don't want to talk about it too much without anything real to share. But I did get fiscal sponsorship for the organization I started, Accessible YOUniverse, earlier this year. This means that I can collect tax-deductible donation just like any other nonprofit. The website is coming, hopefully in early 2019, so that's something to be on the lookout for!

FIVE - Speaking at Thrival
Getting the invitation to speak on a panel during the Thrival conference was incredibly exciting. It was my first real invitation to be on a panel to talk about my work, and it was at an event that went out of their way to be inclusive and make sure that people with disabilities could fully participate. They even built us a "platform" at the music festival so that we could see the stage just as well as anyone else could who was standing.