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!