Personal Review: The Mid-20 Identity (Or Lack Thereof)

This morning, I woke up, hopped in the shower, made a cup of coffee, and headed to work. It’s the same routine I’ve done, 5 days a week, for the past 3 1/2 years.

I’ve been living in a metaphorical fog for the past few months – or really, years – battling pain, extreme stress, depression, and a persistent feeling of inadequacy. I mean, I’m 24. Sure, I have a steady job, and I am able to excel at it because it plays to my strengths. I have a car I can drive to work in, but really, all I work for is to pay for gas to and from, food on the table, and a few imbibements throughout the week (a gravy train that pulls out of station all too soon when the money is gone and there’s another week until payday).

Every day I stand at this age and look around, and wonder what on earth I’m doing and how I got here. When I was in high school, I was involved in everything. Business camps, the anatomy club, a job, and school. Having a job gave me freedom to explore, and I did. I went to another city by myself for the first time. I chose a college out in the cornfields, away from anyone I knew, because at that age I was unafraid to leap. For so long, I survived every jump I made. Everything I put my mind to, I could do. I even excelled at the things others wanted me to do. I had no reason to believe things could be any different.

And then, I experienced for the first time what it felt like to leap and fall. I got to that school in the cornfields and failed. Hard. I had to come home after one year. And I spent every day, for months afterward, crying. Every time I saw a friend post about school it ripped me to shreds. I hated education and everything about it. (I’d be lying if I said I’ve completely recovered – I still hate the system, but education is important, and there are other options now.)

Ever since then I lost my flair for the unexpected, for the surprise, for the adventure in life. I’m completely settled down, in a regular 9 to 5 job, with a man and two cats at home. And after 3 years I realize that I haven’t changed a thing about myself, and that I’m no further ahead now than I was when I first took this job (my responsibilities within the firm have changed dramatically – but I’m still doing essentially the same thing). And you know what, I KNOW I can do better. I know I’m capable of so much more. And I know that I can still be as successful as I used to be, despite the setbacks.

(photo credit to Abigail Mohon)

And so I’ve been spending the last few weeks, though still in a fog, reconnecting to those things that I loved and that moved me. I stopped ducking the “what do you want to do question” after a lunch with an old friend who, although we lost contact for 10 years, had many of the same experiences and exasperations that I do, and is going through a similar situation of wanting more. I used to hate answering that question, even though the answer remains as natural to me now as it was 15 years ago when the idea first took root.

And finally, after days of feeling worse than I’ve felt in a long time, after feeling doomed, after coming close to breakdown more times this week than I care to count, I woke up today feeling just a bit different, and really, I don’t know why. I looked at my bank account, almost empty, as usual. Normally I’d be angry, but not this time. This morning I drove a little faster. Played my music a little louder. Drummed on the steering wheel and shredded my air guitar with a little more abandon than normal – I wanted the other drivers to see my fun. Why not? What was someone going to do, look at me funny? Honestly, when you know you’re flat broke with another week of gas to buy so you can continue making gas money, the least of your worries is a funny look.

And then, I listened to the following Ted Talk by Meg Jay, a talk that brought me to tears:

What she said made so much damn sense. About how in our age group, we’re both rushed into endeavors such as childbearing and marriage, while simultaneously being told we have “plenty of time”. And we don’t. 

We’re told that we can pursue our dreams and be anything we want to be, with blind disregard to the current state of affairs in the world, affairs we’re responsible for handling with absolutely no idea of how to even begin.

We’re capable of doing so much with the technology available yet are chastised for doing so. (So often I get berated for spending time on Facebook, without realizing that I use it to have regular conversations and share ideas with people all over the world – an amazing feat when you think about it)

These are general ideas, but really, the talk is incredibly uplifting, and worth a few minutes to watch.

So what’s someone our age to do? Do we live a sheltered life of pre-cut occupations and decisions, just because we’re told to? Do we aimlessly fling ourselves into the world and hope to find some spark that will light the way? Do we halfheartedly explore various experiences, in hopes that by the time we’re 30 we can finally get it right, as we’re told to?

Ms. Tola has some inspiring thoughts on the subject: http://thoughtchannel.wordpress.com/2013/04/18/quarter-life-crisis/#comment-36

As for me? Well, I have no clue (sorry!). I’ve lived my life following the advice of others, often to my detriment, and I have no real idea of what path I’m supposed to take. Honestly, I don’t think any of us do, no matter how many well-meaning epiphanies we reach.

But I am trying to look out at the rest of my 20s optimistically, and without the same fear that has kept me static for so long. I have seen enough to know that life doesn’t work the way you think it will growing up, and that’s okay. You’re going to struggle, and that’s okay. You will be surrounded by people who appear to have it all figured out – they don’t. And they can’t tell you how to live your life.

I think it’s normal to feel afraid. To not want to get hurt again. To just survive, to just do enough to get by. But I know you also feel that burn in your chest. You don’t want to spend the rest of your life doing unfulfilling work just because someone has told you it’s the way to go. And you don’t want to open your eyes years from now, like so many people do, and regret not taking the risks you deserve to take now, and not chasing your desires when there are so many opportunities to do so ahead of you.

You get to write your own story. Let’s all put our pens to paper and make the magic we’re capable of happen – whatever that magic may be.🙂

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Beer Review – Samuel Adams Octoberfest

“In 1810, Munich celebrated the wedding of their Crown Prince with a special beer. After 16 days the party ended, but the tradition continues. Our version of the classic Oktoberfest lager blends 5 roasted malts for a rich, hearty flavor that’s perfect for the season, or whatever you’re celebrating.” (Quote from label on beer)

Oktoberfest caught my eye in the liquor store for two reasons: 1) I’m a big fan of seasonal beer, and October is a great time for beer varieties; and 2) I like Sam Adams.

I’ll be honest, the bright orange labeling also played a part – reminded me of fall leaves and comfortable weather.

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If you catch a whiff, it smells like a deep citrus – a little heavier in body than a summer citrus, though, more like pumpkin.

It’s got a generally light taste with a bit of a bubbly kick at the end. “Cherry vanilla” comes to mind, more in theory (a subtly tangy undertone weaved in with a sweet overlay) than in specific flavor.

This may not be the first beer of choice for every event, but because it’s smooth and refreshing, this is a great treat for social drinking, especially during Sunday football games with a few friends. It can be enjoyed on it’s own, or with chicken or nachos.

Rating: 3.5/5

Check out the website for more information: http://www.samueladams.com/craft-beers/octoberfest

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MyFirst Android: MyTouch Q

Phones like this are so easily overlooked. 

After receiving this gem as an early Christmas gift, I did a little review trolling to see what other people thought of the phone (because of course, it’s always a good idea to buy first, research later o_O).

I found most reviews were wildly dismissive of this phone. “Just another Android”, I suppose, or however they put it.

Perhaps, because this phone was marketed for “first-time smartphone users”, most people thought it was a little too basic for their tastes. If you’d rather spend a bunch of time navigating cryptic menu screens and searching hours for that one little settings button, go right ahead. 

The thing I appreciate most about this phone is, all of the information I could need at a glance is right there. The home screen tells me the date, time and weather. I was able to create “widget shortcuts” to my alarm clock, the built-in music player, and even a browser shortcut to my horoscope (Yahoo! Shine, for those who are interested), so that anything I need is just one touch away. 

With a swipe, I can check Facebook or update my status. Another swipe and I can view news headlines, or recommended downloads from the Android Market, quite possibly the best app market out there (Whaaaaaaa? Better than App Store? YES. Because most of the good stuff is still free.)

I can also check Google with a swipe, which has proven extremely useful in Smartphone Circle situations.

It’s got GPS Navigation with turn-by-turn directions, so I never get lost on late night trips to Taco Bell. 

For those caught up in the Siri hype, it’s got a pretty cool Genius button, which allows you to search Google, send a text, make a phone call, or get directions. Which, when you think about it, is pretty much all you’d need to use voice commands for, anyway. The voice recognition software is pretty spot-on, and there’s even an option that allows you to dictate text messages. 

For the business user who needs to view/edit documents on the go, it comes with an Office Suite-type package pre-installed, for free.

The camera is actually pretty good and stands up to my 12mp Olympus camera (at less than half the megapixels, that’s really saying something). I wouldn’t use it for really professional pictures or anything, but casual smartphone camera use is more than acceptable with this device. I hear it also has an HD video camera? I don’t take many videos, but I’ll update next time I do. 

The physical keyboard took about 5 minutes of getting used to, but once I did, it was a match made in heaven. The phone sits so nicely between your pointer fingers and underneath your thumb, which makes for good balance while typing. The buttons are easily pressed and typing is really a breeze. Love the extra dedicated symbol keys.

Now. The Calendar widget leaves just a bit to be desired (it still shows October, and we’re almost in December!). And sometimes, the browser kicks me out of a page for no apparent reason at all. I can’t be sure if these are phone-specific, Android-specific, or user-specific issues, but you should be aware that you may need to download new calendar and browser apps. For free, of course.

In Conclusion…….

I’m no first time smartphone user, and I’m normally not easily wowed by the “cool” features on a phone. But I have to say, I’m really pleased with this one. It may not run your life for you, but it certainly makes those little things you do everyday, that much easier and faster to do. I probably wouldn’t switch providers just to get it, but if you already have T-Mobile and are looking for a new, simple, fun phone, this is a good option. 

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Blackberry For Newbies

Once upon a time, there was a girl who despised everything Blackberry. She hated the blocky, awkward phones with their abhorrent trackwheels. She hated that they were for businesspeople, not regular consumers. And she hated that suddenly, everyone and their mother was chirping about Blackberrys.

Maybe it was the trusty Palm Treo 650 that had discolored her judgment, forcing her to detest any and all competition. Maybe she was jealous – she was, after all, but a young high schooler at the time, and what high schooler had money for a shiny new Blackberry (the Treo had been handed down from a tech savvy uncle who also had avoided Blackberry)?

She would go on to try many different phones with different providers : Motorola and iPhone with AT&T, Sidekick with T-Mobile, LG and Samsung with Sprint. But with the exception of the Sidekick LX, a phone that met a rather untimely and unfortunate demise, none were what she wanted.

The trouble was, with the creation of the iPhone, other phone manufacturers focused on making rivals. In an effort to simply compete (and perhaps not suffer the same fate as Motorola when the Razr got whomped by the iPhone), these manufacturers focused on a number of certain features they thought were more important for a phone : touchscreens, higher grade cameras, the ability to download expensive and oft meaningless applications.

She wanted none of these. She wanted a phone that wouldn’t crack to pieces when dropped, a phone she wouldn’t need to buy a case for. No touchscreen – even the most user friendly screens are difficult to navigate with gel nails. It needed an intuitive calendar that could keep track of important dates, meetings, and deadlines while providing an easy reminder system. It needed a functioning web browser, one that could support Facebook and email as well as news reading.

So, after a surge of curiosity and the realization that it was one of the only phones she hadn’t tried, she gave the Blackberry Bold a shot.

She soon developed a sort of love-hate relationship with the device. It did everything she wanted, without using a lot of space for things she didn’t (a compass? Cmon, who needs that when you have GPS?). Emails and notifications were pushed to the device almost instantaneously, far surpassing the iPhone even on WiFi. It even survived the first 3 weeks of occasional falling on hardwood floors.

But it was so customizable that it would require some sleuthing through an array of menus to change certain settings, a feature that arguably gets better with familiarity with the device. It tended to freeze every once in a while, having required a hard reset. And there’s no contesting the horrid battery life…she literally could watch the juice get sucked away.

Still – she couldn’t shake the fact that this was one of the most AWESOME phones she’d ever owned, not an easy title to win by anyone’s standards. And now, she writes to you from this powerhouse, using a WordPress application that by far trumps any similar app she’s ever used.

Goodbye, iPhone and all your Mini-Me renderings.

Hellooooooo, Crackberry.

Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.

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Garnier Fructis Triple Nutrition – A Review

In A Nutshell –

On it’s own, the Garnier line works well. With a few additional products in your lineup, though, this can be your hair styling dream team (of sorts).

The Long Story-

I came upon the Garnier Fructis Triple Nutrition line a few months ago, during a trip to Walmart. There was a sale on the shampoo, conditioner, and 3 Minute Undo cream…3 for $10! At such a deal, I couldn’t bare to pass them up.

Right after I bought the line, I went no-poo for a month and a half, during which time I almost tossed the shampoo. Good sense made me keep it, and now after months of sitting in my closet, the Garnier line is back out for Round 2!

By reading the full review, you’ll not only see my thoughts as I was using it, but I’ll also include some of my own go-to tips and techniques for certain steps in washing, conditioning, blowdrying, and straightening your hair.

Here we go!

Step 1: Shampoo

Before I go any further, I want to make something very clear. If you are intending on using the conditioner, PLEASE use the shampoo. I know, shampoos dry your hair out, they’ve got sulfates, and all that good stuff. But unfortunately, the system is made to work in conjunction with one another. They KNOW the sulfates are bad for you, which is why the conditioner works the way it does. If you want to get the best results, you’re gonna have to suck it up and use it.

This is what it looked like post-shampoo and rinse. Ack! I rinsed with lukewarm water. Here’s a secret: all those sulfates in shampoo are activated by warm water. My attempt at neutralizing those effects is to make the water more cold. As you can see, there aren’t many curls in my hair, but the ones that are curled are CURLED. It looks really dry and nasty, but it felt like soft cotton after this step.

Step 2: Condition

Now, I’m used to using creamy conditioners, because my hair needs all the moisture it can get. This conditioner was a bit more runny than I’m used to, but once I started to apply it it felt REALLY good. I left it in for about 5 minutes, which isn’t a lot but I knew I was doing another conditioning step. This step, to me, was simply to further neutralize the shampoo.

These are the curls post-condish. My hair was starting to feel fuller by this stage. The conditioner was pretty soft, and my hair still felt good after rinsing.

Step 3: Reversal Treatment

Not much to say about this one. It’s an interesting conditioner with avocado seeds in it, which makes it a pretty cool conditioning scrub of sorts. It is thicker and creamier than the regular conditioner, so I expected big things.

Nice. My curls have become more defined, and a big fluffier than before. You can actually see that my hair is curly. To be honest, at the time I didn’t feel a huge difference after using the treatment. In fact, I felt like my hair was actually getting rougher, not softer. But, I’ll admit that the change wasn’t huge, and I continued on.

Thus far, the Garnier System is working very well…you can see the curl results for yourself. I would add a little gel and wear my hair just like that. But, if you want to see what it ended up straightening like, continue reading…

Step 4 – Blow Dry

Here, I changed up my arsenal to include my all time favorite products for straightening my hair. For blowdrying, my fav is Redken 02 Satinwear Blow Drying Lotion. I remember it being kind of expensive, since I bought it at a salon, but BOY do I love it for blowdrying!

Holy shit – my hair looks like kinky twists! This is after I applied the product, before I blowdried. As you can see, my curls are now CLEARLY defined and stacking. As an added bonus, my hair felt soft and ready for blowdrying. And for the record – this product doesn’t always do this, so it may have something to do with the Garnier. I would most DEFINITELY stop the process here, gel it up, and leave. But, of course, I didn’t.

Ahh, what heat does to your hair!!! This is what my Remington Ionic blow dryer did to my wonderful curls. *Sigh*

But look at how shiny it is!! It also felt like a dream when I ran my fingers through it. It was puffy, but nonetheless felt great.

Tip: I only blow dry until my hair is dry. I’ve learned that no matter what I do, a blow dryer is NOT going to straighten my curls. And if you have curly hair, you’d be wise to avoid making that mistake. In the end, you’re only going to fry your hair more. That’s why my ends are not straight in the first picture. That’s what the straightener is for. Which reminds me…

Step 5 – Straighten

I’m going to come out and admit that I spent (rather, Jay spent…he’s so awesome) waaayyyyyy too much money on my flat iron. I have the Royale from the mall kiosk. I know, I could have gotten a CHI for cheaper. I also know that my flat iron is AWESOME. And it’s under warranty for 5 years. I’ve already taken it back once, because for the first month or so that I had it, nobody could stop knocking it off the sink to the tile floor😦.

This step is where I incorporate my second go-to, the Tresemme Thermal Protection Spray. YOU NEED A HEAT PROTECTANT FOR YOUR HAIR. I understand that the Tresemme has lots of silicones. Here’s another secret, ladies: if you want straight hair, you need ‘cones. I’m sorry. It’s the cold, hard truth. Your hair will NOT stay straight unless you use them. Plus, protectant spray makes your hair even softer and shinier. So it’s a very good idea to have some in your arsenal.

This is a good way to show how good my flat iron actually is (I’ve sold a complete stranger the flat iron based off of a picture I already had that was very similar to this). As you can see, my hair is SUPER shiny and straight to boot!

Step 6 – The Finisher

Now, I’ve straightened my entire head. My ends are NOT straight yet.

To be fair, my ends haven’t been trimmed since February. Also, for some reason, even when they are trimmed, they never seem to look quite right. And, the bottom of my hair, as I mentioned earlier, is still bleached and very badly damaged. As you can see, though, it doesn’t look horrible at the ends, but they are sticking up. Time to call in:

THE ENFORCER: IC Fantasia Hair Polisher for Color Treated and Chemically Damaged Hair. Again, I know some of you ladies are not huge fans of ‘cones. This is the best working concoction of ‘cones I’ve ever bought, though. It is shiny and smoothing, it makes my hair feel amazing, and it doesn’t weigh it down.

Before I show the end result, this is what it looked like before I even started…

And now…

My hair feels AMAZING. It is shiny, flouncy, soft, fluffy, and moisturized. It’s got healthy volume without being too huge. I LOVE IT.

In Conclusion –

Honestly, if you’re expecting a miracle worker out of the Garnier line, you’ll probably be disappointed. BUT, it does make a difference…and it certainly didn’t hurt my hair. Plus, it’s only $3-4 per bottle, and the bottles are pretty big. AND Garnier smells amazing. If you’ve got ten bucks to use on hair products, I would recommend at least giving it a try. If you don’t like it, there are plenty of people out there who will take the leftover bottles off your hands…me included!

Also – My hair falls really quickly…if you’re a curly, you understand what I mean. For REALLY good results, add a few more drops of the hair polisher and wrap your hair before bed. When you wake up, your hair will have tamed, it will be EVEN softer, and your style will stay much longer.

Hope this helped! As always, comments are welcome. I also accept ideas for new products to try and review, so leave those too.

Ciao, bellas!

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Understanding the Introvert: Party Scenes

Jay and I went to a party yesterday to celebrate Cinco de Mayo.

Jay, being the socialite and cool guy that he is, was all over the place, talking to any given person at any given time. I, on the other hand, stayed as far behind the scenes as possible.

I called it being observant…he called it antisocial.

“Get up and mingle,” he kept telling me. He must have thought I was depressed, bless his soul. I don’t think he understood (or ever will understand), however, that there was nothing more depressing than the thought of having to do this “mingling” business. Mingling, to me at least, usually means I have to put on a happy face and pretend that I want to be a part of the world everyone else is living in. It’s okay when I don’t mind being a part of it. But that day, I didn’t want to be in anyone else’s world but my own.

And problems arise when I’m forced to be a part of a world I don’t want to be a part of.

First comes the agitation, which turns the “quiet girl in the corner” into the “quiet bitch in the corner”. By that time, my face is stern and my arms are crossed, which basically is a sign for everyone to keep away. Normally, if left to my own devices, I can escape to my world for a few minutes until I feel comfortable enough to live life with my fellow earthlings, and I return to my normal party self.

But no one ever leaves the quiet bitch alone in the corner. They all have bleeding hearts for unsocial beings. They drop little hints, like “You’re so quiet today” and “Why so serious?” I didn’t want to deal with those questions anymore, so I jumped into the party.

Big mistake. My psyche said “Whoa, you weren’t ready for this” and pulled me out of there lickety split…in the form of claustrophobic impulses so powerful that I literally ran for and cowered in my “corner”. Twice.

Now, I don’t only look like the quiet bitch, but I also look like some psycho sissy babbling on about “personal space” and a “claustrophobic fog”. Later, I have to apologize and explain that I can’t take too many people standing close to me (especially when I’m not really feeling the human contact), that it tends to make me a little neurotic from time to time, and that there’s nothing to worry about, I’m okay.

It takes much longer to ease out of being the Agitated Quiet Corner Psycho Sissy Bitch. And unfortunately, it could take the rest of the party, meaning that time I could have spent socializing (because by that point I’d probably have gotten over being in my own world) I now have to spend doing damage control. It’s soooo not worth it.

This is for all you extroverts who see people like me at parties, the ones sitting in the corners with a cup, not talking much. We laugh at jokes, make a comment here and there, but don’t go much further than that. Before you turn into Captain Save a Ho and try to pull us from our “misery”, stop for a minute to consider that maybe we want to sit by ourselves because it’s what’s comfortable for us, not because we’re left out. Understand that there is a lot of valuable information to be gleaned from sitting on the sidelines once in a while and simply observing.  Remember that “misery” for us means being forced to hold conversations with people we wouldn’t normally talk to more than casually. Know, however, that “introvert” does not equal “unsocial” and that we are FULLY capable of being a part of your world…but only when we’re ready.

And trust that when we ARE ready, we’ll be more than happy to peek into your world to see what’s good.

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The Arsenal

If you know me, you know I change my hairstyle almost as much as I change my underwear. I get weave, then decide it’s too much hair. I cut my hair short, then decide I want it long. One of these days I’ll get it together.

Until then, I’m thankful for my arsenal of hair products.

First, there’s the always lovely Royale 3/4 in. flat iron. I was tricked into buying one from a kiosk in the mall – you know, the ones where they bombard you, sit you in a chair, make one section of your hair fabulous, and tell you if you buy it they’ll finish the look.

I have to admit, though, with it’s temperature settings and rounded edges (makes it perfect for curls, let me tell you), it’s one of the better flat irons I’ve ever owned. It came in bigger sizes and in a wet-to-dry option, with all sorts of different colors, but my 3/4 inch is just right for me.

As a backup, I have the Bed Head 1 1/4 in. curling iron (I think it’s called Light Me Up or something). Though I don’t use it very often, since it’s huge and my hair is oh-so-short, it comes in very handy when I’ve got someone’s 12 inch Remi Yaky weaved into my hair. It curls well, it has a number of temperature settings, and…it lights up! The light doesn’t really add much to the functionality of the iron, but it certainly adds flair (and yes, I’d be the one to choose a flat iron because it lights up…but this one really does work =P).

You really don’t want to touch your hair with all this heat without the proper heat protectant. I’ve been using Tresemme Heat Tamer Spray. Tresemme does a great job of keeping the hair soft and shiny, and would probably be better at protecting if I didn’t use heat almost every day*.

*I know, I know. Heat is bad for your hair, it fries it, blah blah blah…I’m well aware of the damage heat does to my hair. I’m conscientious of it, and if there were a way MY hair would cooperate and style without heat, I’d be on it like salt on popcorn. Unfortunately, my hair is curly, rollers make it puff up and out (I can’t remember the last time I successfully slept in rollers and woke up without having to redo my hair), and heaven forbid I try to wrap and straighten it. So, I just accept the fact that heat tools were made to be used, I spray my heat protect, and hope my ends don’t break too badly before my next hair appointment.

And when you’ve spent 40 minutes getting those bouncy, voluminous curls just right, it would break your heart for the damn things to just fall right out (happens to me all the time). I’ve been switching between Tresemme Tres Two Light Hold Hairspray and Mizani Light Hold Spray, and thus far Mizani has won. It smells great, goes on lightly, and makes my hair soft, unlike the Tresemme (makes my hair crunchy and dry). Plus, the Mizani is an anti-humidity formula (explains why it’s so moisturizing) and I’ve noticed that the weather has a much smaller impact on my hair now than it did before.

Once I get a little better at my curling skills (they’re there but I need them better) then I’ll probably post up a tutorial or two. In the meantime, experiment like I am! And if you’ve got a miracle product/tool/technique in your arsenal, feel free to share!

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