Wednesday, July 1, 2020

My Favorite Small Business Jewelers

Because I've been really leaning into comfort in my fashion choices lately (and, in turn, lots of re-wearing), I've felt the need to step up my jewelry game. I figure that if I'm going to wear the same dress again, I can at least change it up with a different necklace or pair of earrings. And it's also been a way for me to feel like I'm able to support some small businesses, who are likely struggling right now, while also getting some fun new jewelry pieces that I love.
I'm sharing a few of my favorite small business jewelers below - let me know of your favorites so I know where to shop next!

I found out about Blakbird through a Pittsburgh Instagram account highlighting Black-owned businesses, and immediately knew I had to buy a pair of her earrings. I love that they're statement earrings but still have a simple, chic design. I'm wearing them in the picture above - I got the Maryen hoops!

I found this company on Madewell's website, but wanted to support them directly and check out all of their offerings. I love how dainty their designs are! I picked up a pair of earrings for myself, and got my friend who is a breast cancer survivor the pair that looks like boobs. So perfect.

Not the first time that I'm sharing Old Soul, but I have since purchased a few more pairs of earrings and the Etsy shop has really expanded. So many options to choose from, and all sustainable and shipped in sustainable packaging, too!

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Recent Reads

I was in a really good reading groove for all of May. And then about halfway through June, I feel like I lost it a little bit - sometimes, after I finish a great book, it takes a while for me to get into another one. (I also got a Nintendo Switch in June, so it's possible that had something to do with it...) I'm back in the habit now, though, so more books to come next month!
This is written as a letter from the author to his son, but it also explores issues about race on a societal level in addition to the personal. It's a short read, but it's honest and direct - which makes it hard to read at some points. It's also incredibly beautifully written.

This wasn't my favorite of the ones that I've read this month, but it wasn't bad, either. It's written as a story about complicated friendships and complex personal histories, and who we are and how we see ourselves.

I loved how this book was so multi-generational - it wove together so many different story lines so seamlessly. It really drew me in - I wanted to hear each character's story, and how they all fit together!

I learned a lot from this memoir - it's written about the author's life, and her experiences as a Black woman personally, and professionally in fields that claimed to place a high value on diversity. It really gives a first-hand look at the complexities of racism, and how it's a large-scale societal issue.

This book is meta - it's about a "chick lit" author facing writer's block after her vision of happily ever after has crumbled, and, of course, follows her own romance while also following her writing. I couldn't put it down!

I think this was my favorite for the month. Books that I really love have both engaging storylines and good writing, and this one definitely had both. It looks at belonging, and home, and race as a Black person living in different countries. I've also read We Should All Be Feminists by her and recommend both.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Three Years of Blogging

I am really bad at remembering my blogging "anniversary" - the end of May actually marked three years, but I didn't realize it until a week ago! Since I was already late, I figured the end of June was as good of a time as any to celebrate.
I started blogging because, at the very heart of it all, I love to write. Because I've always worked or studied in a more science-based field, I didn't really have an opportunity to do non-technical writing in my day-to-day life. Plus, as anyone who knows me even a little bit will tell you... I am not shy about my opinions. I have opinions about basically anything and everything, and I do not hesitate to share them. So a blog seemed like the perfect combination of the two - a way for my to write, and a way for me to share my opinions.

But what I underestimated was the opportunity I'd have to build a community. To connect with people who read my blog, to connect with new friends on Twitter and Instagram. And right now, it's those connections and that community that I'm the most grateful for. I definitely didn't think that I'd ever be blogging during a pandemic, or that I'd be coming up with things to talk about here without going anywhere for three (plus) months. But I've actually found the opposite to be true - I've felt like I've had more things to talk about and share. And I think that it's largely because of those connections and that community - because I can't make in-person connections right now, the virtual ones feel extra special.

Three years feels like a long time, in some ways - it's hard for me to remember not blogging - and yet I can also remember clearly the moment that I decided to stop just thinking about blogging and start actually doing it. I'm so glad that I did make that choice, and didn't allow myself to get too overwhelmed by the actual process of what it would mean to start a blog. I have loved sharing about my life with you; I love sharing about disability topics equally as I love sharing about cute new sundresses or a new habit that I picked up. I'm looking forward to more sharing in the months and years ahead.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Friday Favorites

This was an incredibly busy week for me, and I'm really looking forward to being able to relax over the weekend. This week was also momentous because Lily finally got a haircut!! It was done very, very safely, with incredibly minimal contact, but it was SO needed. She couldn't really see anymore because her hair was covering her eyes in all directions. She looks so much smaller after a fresh haircut!
On to this week's favorites:

I. Am. So. Excited!! Seriously, every time I watch the trailer I get chills. I can't wait to watch the original cast and be able to watch the show over and over and over and over...

I bought this on Carly's recommendation, and it does not disappoint. By far, the most comfortable bra that I've ever worn, and ideal for these working-from-home days.

This is a really important reminder - now and in the future - about reading scientific papers. It's almost an art form - it's different than reading a newspaper or online article, and this is a good, basic explainer.

Pitt's Diversity and Inclusion Office has been holding Town Halls all through June on different topics. I was a panelist on the most recent one about being disabled during the pandemic. If you're interested, I think we had some great conversations.

I actually shared this pillow in a post a long time ago, but what better time than a pandemic to spotlight it again? If you are a side-sleeper, you NEED this pillow. I don't know how I ever slept without it!

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Where I'm Buying Masks

I can honestly say that this is a post I never thought that I'd be writing. The concept of wearing a mask out in public is something that seemed so strange at first, but is such a simple thing to do to help keep everyone safe and healthy.

I actually haven't gone anywhere yet that I'd need a mask, but I wanted to be prepared just in case. I have some plain black ones, but I've also had fun picking out some cute colors and patterns. Here's where I'm buying my masks:

Nancy was my absolute favorite designer on the last season of Project Runway - not only did she make it to the finale, but after being inspired by an earlier week's challenge, she used models with disabilities during her final runway show! She has so many different patterns to choose from, and even has a DIY kit if you want to make your own. Each mask is hand-signed, and a portion of the proceeds goes towards material to provide free masks to those who need them.
I've shared Equal Entrance scarves before, so I was excited to see that they started making masks too! These are on the simpler side, but they're really well-made and the material feels really nice. I love how easily adjustable the ear straps are, too.
The selection from Knotzland is, I think, the most fashion-forward. They make all of their masks from reclaimed materials, just like they do for their bow ties, and I love seeing the variety that they've come up with! They have the option of a simple face covering, or a more formal "mask." I ordered a "surprise" one, and I can't wait to see what it looks like.

Where are you buying your masks?


Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Friendship, Just A Perfect Blendship

I've been reflecting a lot lately on how important friendships are to me. I've had a lot of time lately to really think about what's important in my life, and where my priorities are (and should be) - on what I value.
Having a small number of close, supportive friends has been something that, as I've gotten older, I've come to value more and more. It's so important to me to have friends who I can be open and honest with, who I know will be there for me, and who will be supportive. If you're anything like me, you've had your fair share of friends who turn out to be competitive - who aren't really happy for your successes because they feel like life is a constant game of comparison, that there has to be a "winner." But to me, real friendships are the opposite - real friends are excited for your successes; they're the ones cheering you on, supporting your ideas when you're not sure that you can make them a reality. And they know that you'll do the same for them, because there isn't a finite amount of success out there.

My friends have been there for me when I was applying for my new job, when I was starting my own advocacy organization, when I decided to apply for Ms. Wheelchair USA, and when I decided to start writing a blog! Not being able to be there physically for my friends right now doesn't mean it's any less important to me to make sure I'm still celebrating them. Some of my friends have gone through pretty major events - one got married, another decided to launch a virtual art exhibition - and it's been sad not to be able to be there for them the way that I would normally. But I've made an extra effort to be there in different ways - group texts, Zoom calls, handwritten cards, flowers/little gifts delivered. I'm SO proud of and excited about the steps that they've taken, and it's important to me to celebrate them.

If anything, the pandemic has only made me more of a believer in the importance of supportive friendships. These past few months have not all been easy, and it's just as important to have a supportive group during the rough times than it is during the good times. Those group texts or Zoom calls aren't just for celebrating - they can be just to feel connected, to feel like there are people there for you, who understand what you're going through. Having a great group of friends in my life is something I'm thankful for all the time, but extra-appreciative of lately.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Pandemic Purchases I've Loved

I think I've definitely shopped less than usual over the last few months - although there have also been times that I've done some "retail therapy" to make me feel better about being at home all the time. Maybe not the absolute healthiest, but I figure that there are worse things I could do. I'm sharing some of the things I've bought that I've loved.
I think this actually arrived before the AirPods themselves did - I ordered it as soon as I ordered the AirPods themselves. A case is a necessity - I definitely don't want to break or lose these!

I'm obsessed with this! It's an exfoliant for your scalp (you can actually use it on your body, too) that helps get rid of product build-up, dead skin, etc. It works SO well! I learned it works best if you really do leave it on for at least 10 minutes before you rinse it out - it helps the little granules dissolve better.

I bought these when I bought my initial necklace (from this post). They're so elegant and simple, and they're different from anything that I already had. Plus, they're really affordable.

I have been wearing this every single day since it arrived! Since it's a loop with velcro, it's so much easier for me to put on myself with my limited dexterity, and it feels so comfortable on.

When I started working from home, I bought about 5-10 different t-shirts to figure out which was the most comfortable. This was, far and away, the winner. I picked up a discontinued color on sale, and keep checking back and hoping it goes on sale again so I can scoop up some more!

This body wash smells AMAZING, which is a real feat considering that there's no added fragrance. It also leaves you skin feeling nice and moisturized.

I love the Velvet Noir mascara by Marc Jacobs so much that of course, I had to try the new one. It makes my lashes look so long, and it doesn't rub off/smear when my skin gets oily.

I'm trying really hard to be careful about not getting burnt, and this is a great, easy way to make sure that my face keeps getting covered all day long. I can just put this on over my face throughout the day to make sure I stay burn-free. And when it runs out, you can buy refills for the powder so that you don't need to get a whole new brush.

Lily has recently decided that she's afraid of thunder, of storms, of fireworks... anything that makes a loud noise. This isn't a total fix, but it does seem to help some in calming her down.

I finally got a Switch!! I have wanted one since March - I'm not normally a "gamer," but there was just something about the pandemic that made me decided that I HAD to have one. And so of course... they've basically been completely sold out since then. But my sister set an alert online for availability, and we were able to place an order very, very quickly earlier this week!

Last, but definitely not least - what good is a Switch without Animal Crossing?! This is basically the whole reason I wanted the Switch, and it doesn't disappoint. It's such a fun distraction!

Friday, June 19, 2020

Friday Favorites

I'm not going to lie, I'm really excited that it's Friday. This week has seemed very busy, but also very long, and I'm looking forward to the weekend to have some time to relax a bit. It's also Father's Day - it'll be a different kind of celebration this year, since we won't be going out anywhere, but it'll be a celebration regardless.

This week's favorites ahead!
This actually happened a few weeks ago, but it didn't really seem like the time to be sharing celebratory news. I was inducted into my high school's Highlander Hall of Fame as a distinguished alumni, which is an honor that I feel incredibly undeserving of. Since we couldn't gather in person, you can watch the virtual ceremony (and check out some pictures of me from high school!)

This is a really interesting look at how you say Black Lives Matter using ASL, and how language can evolve differently in different groups of people. You might think that ASL is a direct translation from spoken English, that follows the same patterns and syntax, but it's actually pretty different.

I think part of why this week felt so long is that I have so many different projects going on all at the same time. I was trying to make digital lists, but I'm really missing the pen-on-paper experience. I'm hoping this pad makes me feel a little more organized!

My incredible artist friend Katie Koenig wanted people to remember the role that art plays in our lives now, even when we're separated physically. So she organized a virtual exhibition with over 50 artists, all with new small works (12x12 inches or less). It goes live TODAY and everyone should check it out!







Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Being Disabled During the Pandemic

Living during the COVID pandemic has been a unique time for all of us - it's like nothing else that most of us have ever experienced, and it's kind of incredible how much our day-to-day life changed so quickly. But I'm going to get a little bit personal today, and talk about the pandemic beyond the science and statistics. I want to talk about what it's been like being disabled during the pandemic.
It became clear to me at the very beginning of it all that this was going to be a particularly challenging time for me, and for other people with disabilities, when I heard the language that was being used to talk about the severity of coronavirus. Over and over, I heard things like: "It's only dangerous for people with pre-existing conditions." "The only people that have died are those with pre-existing conditions." People didn't understand why life had to stop just to protect people who were vulnerable. As someone who does have a pre-existing condition, and for whom COVID could be incredibly serious if not deadly, it's hard to hear that people think like that, hard to hear that other people don't think my life is valuable and worth protecting. It seemed, right from the start, that it was going to be an uphill battle for people to take this seriously, for me and for the everyone else, too.

My family knew that we'd be staying home no matter what the city of the state decided. But while my parents are also my caregivers a lot of the time, my sister and I also have a paid caregiver that comes in part of the time. We had to really think about what to do in this situation - was it safe to have her keep coming? Was she taking precautions to stay safe and healthy? If we told her not to come, we knew life would be much more stressful for us. So we took a calculated risk and had her continue to come for her scheduled shifts. We'd also been in the process (for months, actually) of getting additional caregivers for the "shifts" that weren't currently filled. We had to put that on an indefinite pause, until we feel like it'll be safe for strangers to come into our house again, people with who we haven't built up that trust.

When you're truly staying at home, and not leaving even for necessities, there's the matter of actually getting the things that you do need. I know there were lots of jokes and memes about finding toilet paper, and paper towels, and hand sanitizer, and disinfecting wipes. But for most people, if you really needed one of those things, you could go to the store and within maybe a few days, you'd be able to pick up whatever you needed, because the stores were rationing how many each customer could have. Well, it didn't quite work that way with online ordering or delivery - even now, you can't order things like disinfecting wipes easily. Luckily, we had some kind friends and family who helped us get things when buying online/for delivery just wasn't possible - but not everyone has the support network that we do.

And now... people are bored. They're over the pandemic, they're over not being able to see their friends, to get a haircut, to go on vacation. They don't want to wear masks - they're uncomfortable, they restrict their breathing (even though, of course, doctors and nurses and all medical staff have been wearing masks for hours each and every day for the last few months). I wish the pandemic were over too! I want to hang out with my friends, go to a concert, go out to eat. But as a disabled person, people's disregard now towards COVID makes me more nervous than ever. It's clear that because people in general won't take simple precautions (obviously - not everyone, but many people), I have to stay vigilant, and stay home, away from friends and from the public. But for how long will I be able to do this? For how long will virtual options remain? When people talk about "opening up," they say that we need to continue to protect the most vulnerable - continue to protect me. But if people aren't willing to do something as simple as wear a mask to protect me, how can I believe that there's anything they will do?

So I urge you to keep me, and to keep other people with disabilities, on your mind in these next few months. Weigh your discomfort with wearing a mask and not being able to get a haircut with my continued inability to even leave the home. Make risk calculations, but really consider if the reward is worth the risk - not just the risk of being infected with coronavirus yourself, but with unwittingly adding to the spread and the concern of taxing the healthcare system.

One thing that I strongly believe is that living with a disability has taught me resilience and adaptability. I know that a pandemic is a stressful time for everyone. But I'm confident that as a society, we can adapt to a "new normal" if we try - we can make changes for now, knowing that it might not be our preference, but that we'll survive until the current threat has passed. And it will pass - but we all have to be willing to do our part now.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Easy, Breezy, Beautiful Summer Dresses

For the first few weeks (okay... maybe months!) of staying at home, I basically lived in a t-shirt. I wanted to be comfortable, and it felt nice to get a break from having to be "dressed up" all the time. Plus, it was March, and it was cold! I was spending a lot of time indoors, with a few minutes here and there outside. Comfort was key. And while there are still days that I still reach for a t-shirt, I've started to embrace getting dressed again. It has been HOT, and I have been working outside on my deck whenever possible. Now, instead of going for a t-shirt most days, I'm putting on a sundress.
I've been going for dresses that are light, and flowy - I love how easy it feels to wear one, definitely not like I'm dressing up. I don't feel like I'm sacrificing my comfort at all! When summer hits and it's hot out, there's nothing better to me than an easy sundress.
I picked up this one from Gap sometime last month during a sale - it's mostly sold out now, but there a few sizes left, and there's also a few more sizes left in the black version here. I love the little polka dots, and the twist in the back of the straps. It fits all my qualifications - the material is super comfortable and not stiff, it's a good length, and felt great when I wore it all day.

You can scroll through my picks for other easy, breezy sundresses below!

Monday, June 15, 2020

Getting into Journaling

Growing up, my mom tried every summer to get my sister and I to keep a journal. I think that she even set time aside most nights for us to write in them. Being the stubborn person that I am, though, this made me want to NOT do it! I don't always love being told what to do. So I'd usually only last a few weeks before I gave up on it, much to my mom's disappointment.
But recently, a few things have happened that have made me want to take up journaling again. One of my good friend's colleague/mentor passed away from COVID-19 in New York, and his son wrote an incredibly touching tribute to him (you can read it here). He mentions that his dad kept a diary, to be read by his family after he passed away, and that detail just really struck me. I've also been thinking about how much I love writing here, and how much I get out of it, and that it might be nice to do that on my own, without having to worry about sharing too many personal details online.

So I've been writing in a journal for the last few weeks, but not putting any real pressure on myself in writing in it. I'm not forcing myself to do it every day, or on any set schedule - just whenever I feel the urge. For as much as I love all things tech, there's still something so satisfying for me about putting pen to paper, and acknowledging thoughts that you might not be ready to say out loud. And I realize that because of my SMA, I might not be able to keep a handwritten journal forever (writing is much "harder" physically than typing, after a while), but I can right now, and I'm grateful for that. I do think it'll be interesting, 5 or 10 years from now, to be able to look back and see what it was like during the pandemic.

Since we're all spending more time than usual by ourselves right now, I think journaling is a great way to be introspective, and to work through the stress and anxiety and just questions about life right now! It can help work through things, and I think it helps us (or me, at least) to be fully honest with ourselves.
Of course, because I'm me, I needed a new journal to start writing in - I wanted it to feel like a fresh start, literally and metaphorically. I had pretty specific requirements - I needed it to be a spiral-bound one, because it's too hard for me to write on ones that have to be held open flat - and found this perfect one (it's even leopard print!!). If you don't have strict requirements, though, and just want something cute to write in, I'm sharing some of my other favorites below.


Friday, June 12, 2020

Friday Favorites

It has (finally!) felt fully like summer here in Pittsburgh this past week. It hit 94 degrees on Wednesday, which is usually what it hits at the peak of the season! I've been trying to really take advantage of this while I can, and have spent a lot of my working-from-home time outside on my deck. It really makes me feel so much better, and happier, and less stressed.
On to this week's favorites...

This was filmed before all of the shutdowns, obviously, and just reminds me how much I want to be able to see a live show again! The music (and story) are so powerful.

I don't know how many of you are from Pittsburgh, but the local newspaper (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) recently barred a Black reporter from covering the protests after she tweeted something that they claimed made her biased. Obviously, this is just a quick overview, but if you feel (like I do!) that their actions were wrong, you can sign on to support the journalists.

Another tinted sunscreen to add to my repertoire! The texture of this one is like a mousse, and it took me a bit to get used to it, but now I'm sold. It just evens out my skin with a tiny bit of tint, and has mineral-based sun protection, if you're sensitive to chemical sunscreen.

I have SO many questions about the safety of so many different activities right now - being outside with friends, 6 feet apart? Being inside? Traveling by car for a short trip? This isn't a set of hard-and-fast rules, but surveys over 500 epidemiologists on when they'll feel comfortable returning to different activities again. It's not certainty, but it's somewhere to start.

Pittsburgh Arts and Lectures is hosting a virtual talk by Dr. Robin DiAngelo about her book, White Fragility: Why It's So Hard to Talk to White People About Racism. Tickets are only $10 (including taxes and fees), and if money is an issue, you can e-mail info@pittsburghlectures.org for one of their Community Tickets. I bought my ticket already - let me know if you do, too!




Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Father's Day Gift Guide

I can't believe that we're coming up on Father's Day - to me, it feels like Mother's Day just happened. I'm admittedly not the best gift-giver for Father's Day... my dad and I both share the trait of being very specific about what we want, and like, and not always being open to other people making selections for us. I'm trying to give gifts that are more thoughtful, though - something that my dad wouldn't necessarily think to buy for himself, and thus, won't have a super-strong opinion about!

With that in mind, I've rounded up a wide range of different types of Father's Day gifts, for whatever type of father or father-figure is in your life.

For the dad that's a mix of old-school and high-tech, this is a record player that also has Bluetooth capability.

Mr. Rogers is one of PIttsburgh's hometown heroes - what better gift for a Dad than a book about life according to Mr. Rogers?!

Personally, I think that starting the day with a delicious cup of coffee is the ultimate gift. This coffee is from a Pittsburgh roaster, and it's what a start each of my days drinking.

I've seen Chef Marcus Samuelsson on so many episodes of Chopped, and have always wanted to go to his restaurant in New York. For any Dads that love to cook, these recipes look amazing.

My dad is definitely more comfortable at a grill than in a kitchen. This is such a great collection of grilling tools!

If your dad is a snappy dresser, there is no better gift than a bow tie from Knotzland. If he's not quite that dressy, they also sell unique, handmade wallets.

Bose speakers really have such amazing sound quality. This one is wireless, and can be taken anywhere around the house - inside or out.

A puzzle with a picture from another Pittsburgh hometown hero, Andy Warhol. I figure we're all spending more time at home these days, and a puzzle could be a great family bonding activity.

There is nothing more classic than a pair of Ray-Ban Wayfarers. They look good on everyone!

An easy, simple travel duffel bag that doesn't look overly professional for weekend trips (whether they're taken this year or next).

Monday, June 8, 2020

Just Checking In

I haven't done a more casual update post about what's been going on in my life lately because, well, there hasn't really been anything going on with me. But there's a lot going on with the world right now, so it seems like as good of a time as any to check in with you all about life.
In a lot of ways, my life is not very different than it was in March, and April, and May. While I hope that governors are making the right decisions by starting to "open up" again, I basically need to live under the assumption that they're not. As much as I, too, want to go out to dinner, and spend time with friends and family, there's no real evidence that the risk has diminished in any real way for me. The hardest part for me is the lack of any real answers or guidelines. We don't have a clear answer on what is safe for the general public to do right now, and it's even less clear what's safe for people who are at higher risk. Since I've never been someone who deals with uncertainty well, it's a struggle for me. I've mentioned before that while the city was under stay-at-home orders, my anxiety went down, because everyone was forced to take the precautions that I had to take. But now that things are opening up, and people are out and about, I'm having to re-think all of my actions and make sure I'm taking every single precaution that I can. It feels like people are just.... over it, and while I get that mentality, it doesn't mean coronavirus is just going away because we're bored of it being here. And while I understand that we cannot all stay at home indefinitely, it doesn't make me any less anxious about the logistics of it all.

And then, of course, there are the continued protests against racism and injustices faced by Black people in this country - both at the hands of the police, and in a real, systemic way that is not easy to untangle. While I cannot physically take part in the protests, I've been doing my own part, in the ways that I can, to dismantle racism - I've been reading, I've been diversifying the voices that I listen to, and making a real effort to check my own biases. Something that I've learned from my own work in disability advocacy is the difference between equality, and equity, and justice. There are people who can speak on this much better than I can, but the crux of it is not just giving people an equal opportunity, but about reaching out specifically to people who have historically been underrepresented. So, right now, I think the most important thing to do is to listen to Black people, to amplify the stories and voices of Black people, and give them our support - not to talk over them, but to help their voices be the ones that are heard.

It's a lot to deal with, and it's heavy, and it's something that is going to require continual work, beyond a few weeks of protests. So I hope that you're all taking care of yourselves, and staying safe and healthy, whatever that means to you. Burnout is very real, and I think we're all at higher risk right now because we've been more isolated in the recent months. So remember to practice self-care in whatever form works best for you, and however you're able to - take a break, stretch, do a meditation, talk to therapist, talk to a friend... make sure you're still sleeping, and eating well.

I'd love for you all to check in with me in the comments, because I think staying connected is so important right now! Just a little note letting me know how you're doing, and how you're feeling.

Friday, June 5, 2020

Friday Favorites

I want to do a different kind of Friday Favorites post this week. I've been watching the continued protests and demonstrations this week, and have been trying to listen, to read, to learn, and to share resources and posts that I've come across. It can be hard, as a white woman, to know exactly what to say, but I think it's become clear over the past week that the important thing is just showing support and making it clear that racism isn't okay, and isn't something that I'll ever support. I also want to be clear that this is something I'm going to continue to learn about, well beyond this week.

So for today's post, I want to share some of the resources that I've come across, and some of the things I've been reading to educate myself.
Image via Imani Barbarin's Instagram, designed by Jen White Johnson

This is a constantly-updating resource of things that you can do to help even after this is no longer a trending conversation. It has links to petitions, places to donate, other resources/education, and information for protestors.

It feels like President Obama always has the right words. This is a great look at what's happening, and about how we can work to enact change.

Reading about experiences that are different than your own is one way to keep educating yourself. I've previously personally pledged to read more books written by women; I'm now going to make a conscious effort to read more books by non-white authors, too. One I can recommend to start with by local author Damon Young is "What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker."

FOUR - People to Follow
It's important for me to remember, and to remind all of you, that it's important to consider the intersection of race and disability, too. A few people that I recommend following (please note this is definitely not an exhaustive list!) are: Vilissa Thompson, Imani Barbarin, and Keah Brown (who is also an author of The Pretty One).


Thursday, June 4, 2020

Updated No-Makeup Makeup Routine

I have gotten much more relaxed about my daily makeup routine now that I'm at home all day. I never really wore that much makeup to begin with, but since I'm only seeing my family in person and other people through a tiny computer screen, it feels good to be more laid-back. Some days I won't put on anything past moisturizer, but there are some days where I want to look just a little more pulled-together.

So I've come up with a very simple, straightforward makeup routine for my days at home. It's been feeling so nice to be so low key!
I used to use First Aid Beauty's Skin Tint, but when I went to order more about a month ago, I found out that they had discontinued it! So I did some research, and some testing, and ended up with a different First Aid Beauty product - their weightless mineral SPF. It is tinted, but basically just enough to offset the white cast it would leave on your skin from the mineral SPF. I wish it came in more color options - the tint luckily works for me, but it would not work for everyone. I have incredibly oily skin, so I use this in place of moisturizer. If you have drier skin, their tinted moisturizer looks like it would be a great option!

(As a runner up - if I'm looking for something that gives just a tiny, tiny bit more coverage, but is still light, I've also been loving this waterweight "foundation" from MAC.)

I don't really feel "done" without mascara - it's probably the one thing I just can't go without when I'm doing even minimal makeup. This is my favorite, and I've been wearing it for a few years now. It doesn't smudge or flake, it's easy to remove, and it makes my eyelashes look longer plus thicker.

I love these so much! They add just the tiniest bit of color, but they go on like a lip balm. You don't need a mirror, you don't need to worry about it smearing when you eat, and it's so nice and moisturizing. I keep one by my desk at all times. I have it in Orgasm, Dolce Vita, and Turbo, and I may pick up another color or two soon...

This is my optional, extra step, because my eyebrows are decent enough on their own. But if I want to add a little something extra - maybe I have a Zoom meeting going on - I'll add this. It's easy and quick to put on because it's a gel, but it also really does make your brows look more defined.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Physically Distant, Socially Connected

I know that some places are starting to open up, so maybe this post is coming a little bit late. But I do think that whatever normal we're opening up to now isn't going to be the normal that we're used to. And I don't think that the road ahead of us is going to be straight, either - I don't think anyone really knows what it's going to look like! I know that as someone at higher risk, my coming days/weeks probably aren't going to look much different than they do now. And I think that there are lots of other people in the same situation as me, or people who live in cities/areas that are less open.

So I think it's important that we keep looking for ways to stay connected, even if it's not physically. I recently saw on Twitter the idea of calling it physical distancing, rather than social distancing, because keeping our social connections strong is so important right now. Isolation only adds to stress, and there are ways to keep from being isolated while maintaining physical distance.
Virtual Game Night
There are probably lots of ways to do this, but I've used Jackbox Games. Someone buys a game set - it usually comes with 5 or so different games - and then shares their screen on Zoom so everyone else can play, too. They're usually silly and simple games, but they're a lot of fun.

Friend Dates
The important thing is making sure that you're staying connected - so you can do FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, or even just a regular phone call. I think the key is to plan them regularly, but not too often - it seems like too many virtual hang outs actually just seems exhausting rather than refreshing!


Virtual Movie Night
Sometimes the best part about watching a movie is the group experience - knowing that you're all seeing the same thing, at the same time, and talking about it afterwards. There a browser extension called Netflix party that helps a group of people all watch a movie "together," at the same time. You can even chat during the movie - and since it's not talking out loud, you won't even interrupt everyone else's experience and be shushed!

Zoom Trivia
I love trivia, but sometimes I think I'm too old for bar trivia - I want to be in bed before it ends! So virtual trivia has been PERFECT for me, and it's been so fun! The ones that I have done use Zoom - you start out all together to hear the question, then you're sent to a breakout room with your team to discuss (or, sometimes, just to chat when you have no idea what the answer is). I have not yet even come close to winning, which is hard for me because I'm so competitive, but I've had a great time nonetheless.

Letter Writing
The most low-tech suggestion of them all! I have been sticking with my new habit of sending people little cards to let them know that I'm thinking of them, and it's been a fun way to send a little piece of cheer through the mail. And I still love looking at my stationary (from this post), so it makes me happy, too!

Friday, May 29, 2020

Friday Favorites

I don't know if it's just me, but May has felt incredibly long. It's felt like real summer here this week - in the mid 80s, which has been beautiful - but normally, summer would mean lots of eating outdoors and restaurants and hanging out with friends on rooftops, which obviously isn't happening this summer. So it's just a bit of a strange feeling.
On to the favorites for this week!

I know that some things are starting to open up, but I still think this is a good resource for deciding if/when to shop. I have definitely been making purchases, but I've tried to be mindful, and tried to mostly focus on small businesses.

I am really looking forward to watching this rendition of the Babysitters Club this summer! I always wanted to be as fashionable as Claudia, and she's probably the original inspiration for all the black clothes in my closet.

I mentioned that I've been sending more handwritten notes recently, and decided that I wanted to step up my pen game, too. This fountain pen makes me feel so fancy and sophisticated whenever I use it!

This is a(nother) great video from Molly Burke, and I am totally with her. Disabled isn't a bad word - it's totally okay to use it - and I much prefer it to "differently abled."

This is a super cool article about how Marvel worked to make their Avengers video game have disabled representation! This is so incredible, and something that I do not see often, either (though admittedly, I am not a big gamer).


Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Recent Reads

I really found my reading groove again in May. Some of that I probably from making reading into a daily habit, but I'm also pretty sure that a lot of it is also due to the nicer weather. There is nothing I love more than taking my cappuccino onto the deck and losing myself in a book for a few hours. I didn't actually realize how many books I'd read until I started putting together this post!

Here's what I read during May.
I was really looking forward to reading the Hunger Games prequel - I love the original trilogy so much. And I definitely enjoyed the prequel, but I think I forgot how hard they are to read. Not like they're difficult, reading-level wise, but hard to stomach the awful things that happen during the course of the story. The story focuses around Snow, as a young adult, and I did like seeing how the Games became the Games we know of from the trilogy.

I reminded myself to read this after I watched the Normal People miniseries on Hulu. Sally Rooney has such a distinctive way of writing, and I could definitely see parallels between Conversations with Friends and Normal People. I think I enjoyed Normal People a bit more, but I think that Rooney writes complicated characters in a really truthful way.

Another blogger (and a friends from CMU) shared this on her Instagram stories the other day, and it reminded me that I watched this movie on Netflix a long time ago. The story is told entirely through letters, and while it took me a bit to really get hooked on on this way of writing it, I was sold by the end. It's a cute, sweet story.

This was my favorite of the bunch, by far. I love a story about female friendship, and loved how diverse it was without that being a trite plot point. Sarah Watson is the creator of the TV show "The Bold Type," which I also love, and also is focused around female friendship, so I wasn't surprised that this book was so well done. I think it's technically a "Young Adult" book, but don't let that stop you - I really loved this book and found it so heartwarming!

I read a lot of dark books this month without realizing it. This is kind of Lolita-esque, if told from Lolita's point of view, and the story keeps going back and forth between the present time (and the #MeToo movement) and the past. I think it gives you a lot to think about once you're finished reading, but again, reading it wasn't always easy.

I finished this book in a day or two - it's a short novel, or long short story. It doesn't follow a chronological format - it really jumps around a lot, kind of looking at an event from the points of views of all of the different people involved. It left me wanting more, but in the best possible way.

I've had this book on my iPad for a long time now, and this seemed like the perfect time to dive in. It is long - it's a collection of diary entries from Tina Brown, during her time as Editor of Vanity Fair. I felt like I was living vicariously through her, going to parties and restaurants in New York City from the comfort of my deck! In my "other life," I have always dreamed about working for a magazine, so I loved the insider's look at what it could be like! It also made me want to start keeping a diary, but that hasn't happened yet...

Don't let the title of the book fool you - it's actually a biography of George Washington! This was probably the most fun I've ever had while reading a biography about a historical figure. It was easy to read, and was interesting to learn about some of the exaggerations, or the things that tend to get glossed over when written by a male author rather than a female. And it was educational without being dry and boring!

Monday, May 25, 2020

Pandemic Purchases: Suetables Initial Necklace

I know that the concept of shopping (outside of groceries and necessities) during quarantine is a fraught one. Is it good to shop and support the economy and businesses who need an income to stay afloat? Or are you putting people's lives and health at risk when they're at work in the warehouses, packing and getting things ready to be shipped out.
I've tried to land somewhere in the middle. I'm not going crazy, but I've done some online shopping. And when possible, I've tried to support smaller businesses. So when the perfect initial necklace popped up as I was scrolling through Instagram, I knew I had to have it.

I've always had a thing for wearing my initial - not necessarily my whole monogram, but just an H. When I was in middle school/high school, there was a huge phase of wearing shirts with your initial on them, and I had SO many. I know that monogram necklaces were all over the place a few years ago (and really, are timeless), but now that it looks like initial necklaces are in, I'm so excited. I don't tend to rely too much on trends - I tend to wear what I like, when I like - but I'm not opposed to being in style, either!
I've come across a lot of initial necklaces, but I really do think that this is my favorite. It's so delicate, classic, and simple. I'm almost always a silver jewelry person, other than rare exceptions. If you're more of a gold person, though, you can get the necklace in gold instead.

I love that you can wear it alone or layer it with other necklaces, and it would really go with any outfit. I also really love that you can pick a chain to go with it of whatever length you want! Normally, chains are 16 inches, but since my torso stopped growing after my spinal fusion in 6th grade to treat my scoliosis, 16 inches is actually pretty long on me. I got the 14 inch chain, and on me, it's just slightly longer than a choker, which is exactly what I wanted.

Even though I'm mostly living in t-shirts these days, I've been putting on the necklace some days just to feel a little more polished and put together! Plus, whenever I remember that I'm wearing it, it just makes me happy.

And I want to especially call out the incredible customer service at Suetables. When I e-mailed with a shipping question, they got back to me the same day (in a pandemic!), and honored a shipping code that technically shouldn't have applied to me. I was so appreciative!

Friday, May 22, 2020

Friday Favorites

It feels very strange right now to think that this weekend is a holiday weekend. Since I'm working from home, it is actually still a day off work from me... but since I'm still not going anywhere, it doesn't feel all that different. I do hope that I get to spend a lot of time outside, in the sunshine - the fresh air is really keeping my anxiety down (especially as things start to open up and I start to worry that people aren't being careful).

Not much else to share right now, so let's go on to this week's favorites.
I love being surrounded by so many creative people in my life! My good friend Katie's (the artist) sister has starting making jewelry out of the scraps of wood left over from the furniture she makes. I love unique jewelry that still looks classic, and these little wooden studs are exactly that. How cute are they?! I have my eye on one of her necklaces next.

I think Ben Platt's voice is one of my absolute favorites. His range is so incredible, and he sings so many different music styles so well. His new song is no exception! Also - the recording of his concert at Radio City Music Hall is on Netflix right now, and definitely worth a listen, too. It makes me excited to think about going to a live concert again sometime.

I have loved MZ Wallace bags for so long, so when I saw that they had a bunch of things on sale right now, I jumped at the chance to get one. I got a Micro Crosby, perfect for just the essentials, and love it so much I have been carrying it around the house since I have nowhere else to go!

Taylor Swift put the recording of her Live From Paris concert on Netflix, too - so much great music this week! I love all the acoustic versions of her songs; you can really hear the emotion in them. If you don't want to watch the whole show on Netflix, the songs are on YouTube too.

What a world we're living in that Emily Post's great-great-granddaughter is answering questions about Zoom etiquette! She does give some great tips, though, especially that it's okay to say no to virtual get-togethers just like it's okay to say no to in-person ones usually!

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

New Quarantine Habits

I'm not one of those people who thinks that we all need to be super productive while we're all at home - I think we all need to get through this time in whatever way best works for us. I've mentioned that I spent my first few weeks watching a lot of TV and trying to settle into some sort of new normal. And once I started to settle in, I found myself wanting to fill my time with a few other things. It helped create the sense of normalcy for me, and helped me feel like something good was coming out of all of this; some new habits that I could build that will hopefully continue far beyond the pandemic.

It's been fun, and a bit of a silver lining, to have the time and opportunity for things that I've been wanting to do, but maybe hadn't gotten around to. Or some things that I had never thought about before but have become a new part of my routine. They give some order to my day, and give me something to look forward to. So here are the new "habits" that I've picked up in the last few months.
Headspace for sleeping
I've mentioned this in a few posts, but it's become such a pivotal part of my new routine that I need to specifically mention it again. Listening to Headspace right before I fall asleep has been the most peaceful way to doze off that I actually look forward to it! In addition to the wind downs, I've also been enjoying their sleepcasts, which are longer and more story-like, with a wind down built in.

Reading at least 10 minutes a day
This is something that I've been trying to get into the habit of for a few years, but seems like it may have finally stuck. At first, I felt like I was spending a lot of time mindlessly watching TV, so setting a 10 minute goal was a good way to train my brain back into the habit of actually focusing on a book again. But since I actually do love to read, I usually end up reading more than 10 minutes. Either way, it reminds me that I can be just as engrossed by whatever I'm reading as I am by TV.

Letter writing
Since we're all connecting so much virtually right now, I decided to go old-school and start sending more snail mail. I've loved taking the time to take pen to paper, and write a short and sweet note to friends and family members. I've already written more notes during quarantine than I have probably in the last year, combined! Having gorgeous, personalized stationary definitely makes me more excited to write more notes, too (see this post here for my stationary).

Duolingo
I took Spanish throughout high school and even into college, but have let it slide since then. I've had Duolingo on my phone for forever (their headquarters are in Pittsburgh and their founder is a fellow CMU alum!), but never really stuck with it. I now have over a 40 day streak, and the competitive side of me is now totally unwilling to let that streak end. I've really been having fun practicing my "espaƱol" each day!

Monday, May 18, 2020

I Can See Clearly Now: Warby Parker Glasses

I know they're trendy right now, but I've never really been a glasses person. For as long as I've been able to, I've traded my glasses for contacts. But I haven't been wanting to wear my contacts right now - it seems like such a hassle, and the fact that we're supposed to avoid touching our eyes makes me want to wear them even less.

But because of my reluctance to wear glasses, it meant that I didn't really have a good pair to wear. I had a pair from a few years ago, but they were so thin that my field of "see-able" vision was really small. After spending the last few weeks squinting all day long, it got to be too much, and I knew that I needed to get a new pair.
Of course, being me, once I decided that I wanted a new pair of glasses, I wanted them NOW. Patience is not known to be my strong suit! Years ago I'd done one of the Warby Parker try-ons, where you order five pairs of glasses and they send them to your house to try on... and ended up going to the store to buy a pair! But I didn't want to go through that waiting process, because again, impatience! So I "tried on" a few pairs virtually through Warby Parker's app, crossed my fingers, and placed an order.
And they turned out so well - this is the "Lovell" style! I went ahead and ordered the blue-light blocking option, because at this point, I figured that it couldn't hurt. The website warned that they might be delayed, but I think they made it to me in a little over a week, which is really not bad. I've been wearing them every day, and it's so nice to be able to actually see again - no more squinting at my laptop screen. I think that the app was really accurate - it's obviously not the same thing as actually trying them on, but it came really, really close.

I highly recommend if you're in the market for a new pair of glasses during quarantine (or even after). And of course, if you have more patience than I do, you can order the five pairs to try on at home for free, but rest assured knowing that the virtual try-on option is a really good one, too!

Friday, May 15, 2020

Friday Favorites

Another week in the books. It's actually been kind of a relaxing one for me - last week involved a lot of tying up loose ends for my MPH program, but since last weekend was my commencement, that's over! It's a weight off my shoulders, and yet feels so strange - I genuinely can't remember what my life was like before I was in graduate school. Even though I couldn't celebrate with my friends and family in person, it was nice to "see" them virtually, and I'm so honored that so many people wanted to celebrate my special day with me!
I've mentioned that Lily has been loving all this extra time surrounded by people. How cute and funny is she in this picture - I was in the yard down below, and she wanted to come join! (Don't worry, she could never actually fit between the posts, so she was totally safe).

On to the week's favorites...

When I got Disney+ a few months ago, one of the very first things that I did was re-watch every episode of Lizzie McGuire. My fingers are crossed that the reboot ends up happening, but for now, we have this fantastic virtual table read of the "I need a bra!" episode.

Center Stage is one of those movies that I watch every time I stumble on it on TV. It's just such a fun movie, and I even though I've (obviously) never been a dancer, I loved watching what seemed to be the behind-the-scenes of ballet life... even though yes, I realize it was fake. So the REAL behind-the-scenes of filming the movie is great!

I love Idina Menzel and Ben Platt, and they do not disappoint in this duet. What a beautiful take on a Disney classic!

I mentioned that I've been using Headspace to help me fall asleep. If you're having trouble, these are some good tips for getting a restful night's sleep.

Last, but DEFINITELY not least - the recording of the ORIGINAL BROADWAY CAST of Hamilton is coming to Disney+ on July 3! This is a full year earlier than originally planned, and I am so excited. Truly, the good news that the world needed right now. I am so incredibly lucky to have seen it performed live (which I still think everyone should do when it's safe!!), and can't wait to re-live it, and to see the original cast, too. So exciting!!




Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Pandemic Purchases: AirPods Pro Review

When I bought my AirPods a few years ago, I couldn't believe how I ever lived without them. The only thing I wished they had was the little silicone tips that make the earbuds actually stick in your ears, because I think they're more comfortable. It wasn't enough to stop me from using the AirPods daily, but it was on my wish list.

So when I saw that Apple came out with the AirPods Pro, which are the noise-cancelling version of the AirPods with silicone tips, I was so excited. I tried to hold off on buying them for as long as I could, because the AirPods that I have still work perfectly fine. But with all the extra phone and video calls that I'm doing right now, both for work and for fun, it seemed like the right time to bite the bullet and buy them.

Just like the "regular" AirPods, I've been using them daily and don't know how I waited this long. The noise cancelling aspect is great - it doesn't totally block out every single sound, but it does a really great job. Even when I'm not actually listening to anything, the headphones still block out ambient noise almost completely, and people talking are really muffled. And once I'm listening to music, it's all that I can hear! You can also turn the noise cancelling effect off/on, both by pressing on the earbuds themselves, or by the volume slider in the Control Center on your phone.

They've been great for all my Zoom calls, and they don't hurt my ears even when I'm wearing them for a few hours at a time. They come with three different sizes of silicone tips, and you can go through a really short check on the phone to make sure the ones you're using have the right seal. And just like all Apple products, I love how seamlessly they switch between devices, so I can go from using them on my laptop for a video call to using them on my phone without issues. The battery life is a little shorter than the regular AirPods, but if you're worried about them running out in the middle of something, you can always use just one of the earbuds for a bit while you charge the other - even just 10 minutes of charging gives you another hour or so of listening.

Were they something that I absolutely needed? Probably not. But they have made my life more pleasant in the last few weeks, and I see myself using them long after the stay-at-home orders end. I already can't wait to use them to block out my dad's 70s music on our next family road trip!

Monday, May 11, 2020

A (Virtual) Graduation Celebration

As of this weekend, I am officially a Masters of Public Health graduate from the University of Pittsburgh!
This has been a LONG time coming - about six years, start to finish. My MPH actually got off to a rather rocky start, because I had to withdraw from my very first semester to have my feeding tube surgery, and take the next semester off after that to recover. So I guess, at that point, there was really nowhere to go but up for the rest of my time at grad school! And luckily, the rest of my time did go smoothly.

It wasn't always easy, though. As a part-time student, grad school was a huge balancing act, with work, school, my personal life, and other commitments (usually, too many commitments). While it was made somewhat easier by the fact that I was taking classes in the same department that I worked for, that didn't somehow magically make more time appear! Being a part-time student while still working full-time meant sacrificing evenings and weekends, and concerts and dinners with friends and so many fun things that I wanted to be doing, but knew that I shouldn't. I didn't always make the right choices, and I definitely complained at times when I did make the right choices but wasn't happy about it (I'm still sad that I had to miss an Andrew McMahon concert to study for an exam!).

But of course - it was absolutely worth it, no question. I studied engineering as an undergrad, and I knew a little over halfway through my time that I didn't really want to BE and engineer. But I wasn't exactly sure what I did want to be, and I definitely wasn't ready to go right into grad school, because I was really worn out from my bachelor's. So when I happened into my job in public health, I felt so lucky. Because I realized that public health was what I wanted to do, in some way, shape, or form. So after I had sufficiently recuperated from my challenging time at CMU, I knew that I had to go back to school for my MPH.

My MPH program, and the professors that I've had the opportunity to study under, and the fellowships that I've taken part in - all of that has had such an immeasurable impact on where I am today, and what I'm working on. Had I not discovered public health, I'm not sure that I would be working in disability advocacy the way that I am now, because so much of my public health experience has shaped that. So yes, the time and work and effort have all paid off, many times over.

 Because of the stay-at-home orders, my commencement ceremony was not exactly how I imagined it! But in some ways, it feels sort of fitting to be graduating with my MPH during a public health crisis. And thanks to Zoom, I was able to celebrate with friends and family, just like I would have done if the ceremony had been in-person. So, with that...

HEATHER TOMKO GRADUATES!

(Major bonus points to anyone who gets the reference!)

Friday, May 8, 2020

Friday Favorites

I actually have something very exciting going on this weekend - my (virtual) MPH graduation! It has been a very long time coming, and I can't believe it will actually be over. I don't really know what the virtual ceremony will end up like, but I'm excited for it nonetheless. I'm sure I'll have more to share next week!
 I had to record something earlier this week, and it was the first time that I've done my hair and makeup since the stay-at-home orders began. It felt so weird to me, especially because the farthest that I had plans to go was outside in my hard. I had almost forgotten what I looked like with makeup on, ha!

Now this week's favorites:

ONE -  Julie Andrews and her Daughter
I love Julie Andrews so much - she just seems like the best. She and her daughter were really cute when Kelly Clarkson interviewed them together in this clip.

TWO - Harry Potter Narrated
Different beloved Harry Potter actors are taking turns reading a chapter of the very first Harry Potter book! This is such a fun idea - the Harry Potter books were actually the first I ever listened to on audiobook, and the narrator, Jim Dale, was my absolute favorite. I just think there's something really special about hearing Harry Potter read out loud.

THREE - Apple Watch Band
I normally have a leather band on my Apple watch, but it felt like "too much" for just wearing around the house. This nylon loop is the perfect, more casual alternative - and because it's a loop, it really is completely adjustable, so it's guaranteed to fit your wrist.

FOUR - Becoming on Netflix
A very welcome addition to my "Favorites to Stream" post from earlier this week (here). I loved Michelle Obama's memoir, and I was so disappointed that her tour didn't stop here in Pittsburgh. This documentary was a great way to get a glimpse of the tour and her life.

FIVE - Disney Channel Original Movies, Ranked
Growing up, my sister and I absolutely LOVED watching all of the Disney Channel Original Movies. I don't completely agree with these rankings - I would put Zenon much higher! - but man, what a walk down memory lane!