Friday, July 5, 2019

Goodbye, Simmis.

I have always been a crazy cat lady. My parents hated asking me what I wanted as a gift for my birthday, Christmas, Easter, or any other holiday, because my answer was always the same: "I want a cat." Each time, my mother reminded me that my dad was allergic to cats and our dachshund may not like them--it just wasn't possible.

One summer, shortly after I had turned eleven, my mother called from work and asked if I'd be willing to watch her friend's cat Simba for a while. Her friend was going on vacation, and Simba was too young to be kenneled. A cat?! No duh, I agreed! The next day, my mother came home with a white kitten so tiny, he fit in the palm of one hand. I couldn't wait to hold him.

When I DID get my hands on him, I realized two things: first, this wasn't a he. Second, she was absolutely COVERED in fleas. We fought to de-flea this poor kitten for over a week, and of course, we ended up giving our dog the same treatment. I learned that this wasn't the start of Simba's troubles: whoever had owned her mother hadn't wanted to deal with kittens, so they'd drowned them in a bucket. This little fighter had managed to survive by getting her head over the edge of the bucket. That's when my mother's friend's daughter found her and hid her in her purse.

I never wanted this cat to feel that type of fear or pain again. I played with her regularly, helped her and the dog adjust to each other, and genuinely enjoyed feeding and cleaning up after her. I was a little sad that I'd have to give her back, but weeks went by and she never went home. After Simba had been with us for about a month, my mother came home with new cat toys. I was confused. "Mom, when is your friend coming back from vacation? She's been gone a long time! Is she on a cruise or something? And why are we buying her toys?"

My mom sighed. "Renee, you ruin everything. I wasn't supposed to tell you until your dad came home."

"Cat-sitting" was just a ruse. The friend had decided not to keep the kitten and had asked my mother to take her. My parents were worried that my father's allergies would act up, so they decided to pretend we were just watching the cat for a while so I wouldn't be upset if they gave her back.

I was so elated, I started to cry. I ran to the cat and started petting her. The whole time, this kitten--already well aware of her queenliness--was staring at me like, "Lady, what's your problem?"

We changed her name to the more feminine Simran, but nobody ever called her that. In our house, on her name tag, and on her paperwork, she was always "Simmie," though I personally spelled it "Simmis" with a silent 's' because I like palindromes.

Simmis didn't like being hugged or squeezed. She enjoyed other forms of affection, like cheek scratches, dozing against my stomach while I watched TV, or squirming on the floor as you spoke or sang to her. She would always greet us when we came home from an outing, partially because she was lonely and partially because she was a total pig who wanted fed again. She loved catnip toys, especially crinkly mice and fish, and she'd carry them around the house whilst yowling like a fierce huntress with her prey. Some cats have exceptionally loud purrs; Simmis's purr was soft and smooth, but always welcome. It would shake every bit of her eight pound body when you stroked her side or woke her up for breakfast.

One of the most amazing things about her was that she adjusted to her position as ruler of the house so quickly. Unlike most pets, she wasn't afraid of the vacuum. My dad (a very big guy) would playfully stomp near her head, and she wouldn't even flinch--she'd roll on her back and stare up at him like, "I can be silly, too!" When we switched her from a self-feeding dry food diet to a meal-based wet food diet, she made sure to interrupt whatever we were doing with loud "FEED ME!" screams. She was the cleanest cat I've ever met, grooming herself constantly and fussing if her litterbox wasn't scooped often enough. Sometimes, it seemed like her favorite past time was getting right under your feet when you were half-awake or carrying something heavy. Simmis started life as a scared kitten squirming in a bucket, but she quickly became a diva.

So when I visited my family this past summer, the changes in her behavior really stuck out. She'd run her paws over the catnip fish, but she wouldn't play with them. Her arthritis made going up and down the stairs difficult, so she didn't come up to my bedroom to sleep with me like she used to. She spent almost all of her time on the living room credenza, not even looking out the window the way she used to. She just slept. And after twenty years of her drinking water once a day and always using her litterbox, she began drinking tons of water and peeing around the house. Cats are masters at hiding pain, but we knew something was wrong. Simmis was no longer thriving; she was merely existing.

Last month, on the last night of our visit home, Simmis made her way upstairs and got in to bed with me. She couldn't sit still, likely because of her arthritis, and she had to get up and adjust her position every five minutes or so. But still, she cuddled up against me like she had for so many years. It felt like she knew her time was coming, and she was saying goodbye.

After we left, her symptoms worsened. Today, I had to make the difficult decision to put her to rest. I'm struggling in large part because I won't be there physically: we moved across the country last year, and while we moved in a to a pet-friendly apartment and absolutely expected to bring her here, her age and health issues made the trip impossible. But as several of my family members pointed out, it's probably for the best. I've already spent several weeks crying and hyperventilating, behaviors that always set my cat on edge. My parents' house is also where she's always lived and felt safest. Thanks to Lap of Love, she will spend her final moments in that home she's always known, cuddled on a fleece blanket she loves.

I know we gave each other twenty wonderful years, but the grieving process remains frightfully difficult. She is my baby, a beloved part of our family, and I'll always miss her.

At this time, I ask that you be patient with me and the ongoing hiatus. And if you have a pet of your own, please give them a scratch or a treat for me.

Goodbye, Simmis. Goodbye, Miss Kitty, Boo Kitty, Miss Fuzzybutt, Queenie, Fluffy Wuffy Princess, Mon Petit Kiki, my girlfriend. By any name, I have loved you times a thousand and will you love you forever.

Friday, June 28, 2019

I'm on a break.

You may have noticed that this blog has been strangely quiet for the past two weeks. That's because I have experienced a ton of life changes in June. I'm not wild about broadcasting my entire personal life on the internet, but there are four big things happening that I think you have the right to know about.

First and foremost, I visited my family for several weeks and realized that my cat isn't doing well. She's had a few health scares, but these are much more serious, continuous issues. It's been a struggle to come to terms with the fact that my cat is finally feeling all of her twenty years. This issue alone has taken up a ton of my time and energy.

Also, my partner and I have both experienced some really positive career changes, including a relatively stable full-time position for me. While these are obviously improvements, there's also a lot of stress that goes along with them. Restructuring my brain to focus on one full-time position instead of juggling two or three part-time positions (I've done the latter for about six years now) has been tricky.

A lot of my energy is being devoted to politics as well. I'm sure most of you are aware that there's a big election coming up in the United States. My career will be greatly affected by some of the major issues in this election, namely education and immigration, but I'm also concerned about the future of this country. Living in one of the most conservative, least politically flexible parts of the country forces my partner and I to deal with a lot of stress and turmoil that we want to work through.

Finally, our closest friends in the area are moving across the country. Obviously, we're thrilled about how their lives are getting better and better! But my partner and I are human. So we're sad to say goodbye to two people we've come to love and trust. We've realized that we probably need to work on making more friends and expanding our social circles, which is...something I am shit at, frankly.

So for now, at least, the blog will be quiet. I actually have a lot of reviews left to write and plenty of post ideas jotted down in my notebooks, but I think I need to take an honest to goodness break for a bit--no popping in every couple of weeks to post or whatever. I'll still post on Instagram from time to time, I'm sure. In the meantime, I hope you all have a beautiful summer, and I thank you for sticking with me and this blog throughout these years.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

I broke my no buy. It's fine. Don't panic.

Many a psychologist has pointed out that our shopping tendencies have little to do with our wants, needs, or financial realities and more to do with how our brains our wired. The fact that we buy stuff we don't need and spend more than we should because of our habits has become common knowledge; it's a factoid that appears in just about every blog post critiquing capitalism and every "stop shopping" YouTube video. And that's what made me break my no buy this month: a habit.

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know that I've moved to a rural area with few physical retail options, but I'm originally from Pittsburgh, where shopping opportunities abound. This means it's tough to get nice clothes where we live now unless we do a ton of online shopping and returning. However, we have plenty of options when we visit my family. So twice a year, we have a "refresh the closet" budget, slash, shopping spree. This includes visits to numerous thrift, consignment, and discount stores, including T.J. Maxx. And after a hundred T.J. Maxx visits, I'd built up a routine: spend 15-20 minutes scouring the beauty section for any products that might remotely interest me.

Sure enough, when we went to T.J. Maxx last week, I followed the same routine: I perused piles of Perricone MD skincare, Kat Von D palettes (oh, how the mighty have fallen), recently-discontinued Bite lipsticks, and nearly-expired Shiseido sunscreens. Then I noticed a few Bobbi Brown lipsticks, including the relatively new Crushed Lip Colors. I went through my usual procedure with T.J. Maxx beauty products: I checked the shade (Baby, a soft pink I've been wanting for a while), I opened the box and rolled up the lipstick to see if it had been tampered with (it was fine), I considered the price ($15.89 with tax--not bad), and I checked the batch code (it was from a later 2018 batch). I'm so used to doing this that I didn't even think of my no buy as I tossed the box in to my cart and wandered off to peruse the clearance sweaters.

My T.J. Maxx habits are so engrained in me, in fact, that even going through the checkout lane twice didn't set off my "WAIT WAIT NO BUY" thought process. I bought my clothes on the first go-round, noticed the Bobbi Brown box sitting in the cart under our bag, realized I'd forgotten to pay for the lipstick, and went right back through the line to buy the lipstick on a separate transaction.

This week, we finally got around to hitting up our local thrift stores and found tons of great, like-new clothing for all of $43. (Why can't my experiences in department stores crowded with $100+ blouses and dresses be as successful?) We decided to wash all of our new-to-us clothes so we could just throw them in our closet when we got back, and when I reached in to the T.J. Maxx bag to grab my $10 sweater, I realized...oh, wait. There's a new lipstick in here. And I didn't use a gift card to get it.

I broke my no buy.

Now, I didn't give you this whole story to make excuses for this new lipstick. It doesn't really matter that I bought it because shopping the T.J. Maxx beauty section is a habit; I still made an adult decision and broke my no buy. Rather, I'm pointing out that behavior modification is tougher than we think it is, and it is very likely that you will make mistakes with your own no buy. So much of what we do in our lives is based on routines and habits. In my experience, our financial habits are even harder to break. In a recent Reddit thread, I admitted that I used to prepare for each paycheck by looking for something to buy as soon as the money hit my bank account; it was a habit I didn't break until I was well in to my 20s.

It's also important that we realize that mistakes are normal, and as I've said before, flagellating yourself every time you slip up during your no-buy isn't helpful. You're just going to feel bad for a few days. How is that productive? Rather than downing yourself, think of ways you can address the problem and learn from your mistake. I've realized, for instance, that I should remind my shopping buddy that I'm not buying new beauty products this year. Then, when I make my habitual drift toward the beauty section, they can remind me that I'm on a no buy. If you prefer to shop alone, trying using cash to pay for your purchases instead of a card (we tend to spend less when we use paper instead of plastic), write a note on your hand, or jot down a list and stick to it. For instance, my wardrobe is now pretty well updated, but I still need a new pair of tennis shoes, a white bra, and maybe a back-up pair of jeans. I'd write down those three items on a list, and that would be all I'd look at when I was in the store.

Long story short, I broke my no buy, but I'm not mad about it. I got halfway through the year without spending my own money on any unnecessary purchases. I'm back on track. And I've learned something beneficial: the T.J. Maxx beauty section is the devil.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

What I Crammed Into My Travel Bag

I have a tendency to over-pack when I travel, and that includes my makeup selection. I'll pack five different lip color options and three foundations, despite the fact that I'm incredibly lazy when I travel and I spend a lot of time makeup-less in my pajamas. To save space in our luggage, I decided I'd only pack what I could fit in this small makeup bag. I openly admit that I squeezed it cram-jam full and I could barely pull the zipper shut, but shut it I did, so it counts.

Against my better judgment, I packed two highlighters: Glossier Haloscope in Quartz and MAC Strobe Cream. I brought the Glossier highlight because it's my go-to for natural looks, and I brought ye olde Strobe Cream because it's almost done and I wanted to empty the tube. (This is a good place to point out that I've decided to stop collecting empties for the year. I'm tired of having a box full of trash in my bathroom and empty containers clogging up my luggage.)

Glossier actually makes up about half of my bag. I brought three shades of Cloud Paint because I'm Too Much, but also because Dusk, Puff, and Beam can be mixed to make a whole slew of shades. I'm almost done with this tube of Lash Slick, and it's my go-to summer mascara because it doesn't smudge or flake on me, so I figured I'd finish it up on this trip. I'll be curling my lashes with the Shu Uemura Lash Curlers, which are honestly at the end of their life cycle--the hinge is getting rather loose. As for the Boy Brow: it's just a tube of the clear shade I'm trying to finish up.

There's a distinct lack of Besame in this bag, which I know will raise some eyebrows, since they make my favorite lipsticks. Frankly, I've become a bit of a Besame collector, and I'm way too worried about losing my beloved lipsticks to even consider tossing them in my carry on. Instead, I brought two travel-sized lipsticks that won't hurt my wallet if they're lost: YSL Oil-In-Stick in 44 Nude and Shiseido Modern Matte in Exotic Red. If I wear the Shiseido, I line my lips with the NYX Auburn Lip Pencil to get a crisper line.

Now, I would usually round out my bag with a brow pencil, since they're easy to apply and don't require any special tools. But honestly, I've been loving how the Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Powder Duo in Medium Brown makes my brows look. It takes a little longer to apply, but it's unbelievably natural looking. I use the lighter shade in the front of my brows and to map out the shape, and I fill in the tails with the darker shade.

For my base products, I brought my most natural, slap-it-on-and-go foundation (Surratt Surreal Skin) and my new favorite undereye concealer (YSL High Cover). If I'm traveling and dealing with something that needs more coverage, like the travel acne that finally reared its ugly head today, I usually just skip a full face of makeup and go with these two products instead:

Is it a cheat to bring these two products in my purse, separate from my makeup bag? I always carry a lip balm (this is the new Glossier Balm Dot Com in Mango) and my Sephora Make No Mistake High Coverage Concealer in 04 Ginger, so it's just standard fair for me. But maybe I should've wedged them in to the bag, too, to prove to myself that I could pack light. Anyway, I think the Mango balm is just okay, and I absolutely love and rely on the Sephora concealer. Sephora will inevitably discontinue this concealer and I will have a minor panic attack. It's doing a great job covering up this morning's travel acne.

Now that my brother is back from the south and I've finished sorting through roughly half of the objects I left at my parents' house, I can probably start using this makeup bag, right? Right. I'm going to get out of these pajamas and put on that fierce red lipstick!

...tomorrow. Tomorrow I'll do it, I promise. Today, I have books to read and a brother to hang with.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

FOTD: Red Lipstick, No Mascara

Makeup artists have this incredible ability to make awe-inspiring looks appear easy and manageable. In this age of YouTube, Instagram, and blogs, we have more access to these artists and their work than ever, including tutorials they make themselves. Over the past year, there's been one oft-repeated suggestion that has stuck with me: skip mascara.

"You know," the makeup artists say coyly as they brush up their models' already-perfect brows, "you could leave the eye makeup here. With skin this glossy and perfected, and with brows this full, you could totally skip mascara." Some of them add, "With a red lipstick, this would be so chic and Parisian," which always makes me cringe a bit because it taps in to an idealized, fetishized, commodified woman who doesn't really exist. After that cringe, though, I'm basically sold, because red lipstick. I'm a simple Pittsburghese woman.

As dramatic as it sounds, I've been trying to do this for months, and I just haven't been able to do it. I'd spend a solid 20 minutes perfecting my base makeup and brows, then I'd put on my bright lipstick and tell myself, "Okay, you're done." But I always caved and brushed on some mascara before I left the house. I just felt weirdly incomplete without that mascara.

Today, I forced myself to put away the mascara. And I have to be honest: I kind of like it. It's nice to know that the only things I'll really have to touch up are a dash of undereye concealer and some post-dinner lipstick. There won't be any black smudges or smears or flakes.

Accepting my nearsightedness actually makes me like this look even more. With my very necessary glasses on, you can't really see much around my eyes EXCEPT for my brows--you'd have to get damn close to see my lashes behind the lenses. I've been thinking about buying a few more pairs of glasses and treating them like fashion accessories in and of themselves; skipping eye makeup and pairing them with a strong lip color seems like a great way to emphasize both the lipstick and the glasses.

That said, I'm not going to toss out my mascara any time soon. I still love the look of full, dark lashes, especially if I wear winged eyeliner or glossy shadow. But I'm glad I've finally listened to the makeup artists and tried the sans-mascara look.

BASE: MAC Face & Body Foundation in C1 + White; YSL Touche Eclat High Cover Concealer in 0.75 Sugar; Dolce & Gabbana Perfect Finish Powder Foundation in 50 Ivory [D/C]; Clinique Moisture Surge Spray
CHEEKS: NARS Liquid Blush in Orgasm; MAC Strobe Cream in Pinklite
EYES: Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Powder Duo in Medium Brown
LIPS: NYX Lip Pencil in Auburn; Shiseido Modern Matte Powder Lipstick in 516 Exotic Red

ETA 5/26/19: I completely forgot to post about our recent donation--I'm so sorry! With your help, we donated $20.04 to the DNA Doe Project this month. Thank you so much! This summer, I'd like to collect donations for Planned Parenthood.