Reflections

I don’t normally get introspective before my birthday. I normally treat it as another day, and celebrate all month long. I work on my birthday most of the time.

Now, I did celebrate all month long. I bought myself beautiful things. Treated myself to a full spa day and turned off my phone (that never happens!)

And this birthday, as per usual, I will be at work (and take the rest of my week off.)

All I can think about, though, are the things that I have done in my 28th year that have made me happy.

I am happy that I am learning to focus more on what matters most to me. I want to work more on honing my craft. One of the best gifts I am giving to myself this year is working my schedule so that I have a solid hour per day to write. Whether it’s working on posts for here or working on my novel, I just need to write. Often.

I am happy that I am learning to accept myself as I am. I put my foot in my mouth, but I still am not afraid to express my opinion. I am not thin, and may not ever be. And that’s okay. I still am going to dress this body well, and emanate the confidence I’ve found.

I am happy that I am exploring the craftier, artsier side of me. It’s a hobby, but I am making sure I am dedicating time to the hobby. If it’s a stress reliever, I ought to turn to it in times of stress, right?

The thing I am the happiest about is that all of the above showcases my growth.

My biggest worry is that by the time I’m 30 that I won’t be happy with the person I am. I’m not concerned about what career I’ll be in (I’ll find it eventually) or if I’ll have a family (I’ll have one eventually). I just want to be content with me, flaws and all. And if I can find content, all other things will follow.

As my 28th year closes, I can say I’ll enter year 29 being happy with me. Happy with my growth, happy with life.

I’m grateful.

Here’s to year 28 and it’s lessons, and to year 29 and it’s blessings.

Positivity Stories

Nails of Literature: The Lorax, or, How To Bite Off More Than You Can Chew

Author’s Note: I don’t advise having anything to drink or eat while reading this post, because you may choke on it from laughter. And I like you! So please, proceed with caution. Oh, and there’s some mildly NSFW language in here too.

I had to delay this post by a day because I wanted to make sure that I could capture the full goodness of this nail art.

*snicker*

Ahem.

Some background: ordinarily when I do posts, I usually write up drafts of them and leave them in the folder to finish later. Maybe I need to add pictures if it’s a nail art or crafting post, or I need to add links for a shopping post. So, for the Nails of Literature series, I have all of the posts planned out. I may switch the order in which I do the art, but it’s the same works.

Until this week, that is.

This is what happens when you deviate from the plan.

I originally had a different work planned for this week, but since this week’s post would fall on Earth Day, I thought that I would switch to one of my favorite children’s books: The Lorax. I love the book, the movie was cute, and the message is on point even for today. I did a little research and found a tutorial that looked like I could handle it. Pretty straightforward, and I had all the tools at my disposal.

Here, have a look (don’t worry, I’ll wait):

How cute is that, right? Now, since I was able to pull off Pacman nails, this ought to be challenging, but doable, right? Hell no. Hell NO. This did not go right at ALL. This look took the longest to do (3 attempts over about 3 1/2 hours) and I didn’t even come close to what the amazing artist above did. What I was left with was two things: 1) a mess:

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And 2) this look:

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Now, I’m eating cereal as I write this, and almost snorted a Honeycomb up my nose when I put this pic in.

Oh, boy. This did NOT go well. And this was the third and BEST attempt at this nail art.

*sad trombone* 😦

The idea here was to do the Lorax and the truffula trees, and to add the picture of a factory creating smoke (Pointer finger. Yes. Yes, that is indeed what that’s supposed to be. Don’t rub it in!) Grand idea, E for effort, F for execution.

So, why even show y’all this?

Well, I haven’t been doing actual nail art for long (a few months) and only recently have I been really digging into what I can do. The point of showing you the above fail is so that you know: even the folks that love it, and are relatively gifted at it, get it wrong sometimes.

And this doesn’t just apply to nail art either.

We are human. And it is hard for us as humans to admit we are taking on more than we can handle. So we try to push through it, as if forcing ourselves into tight spots will make us adapt quicker.

And that’s why you have that…abstract (*gigglesnort*) version of the Lorax up there. That was the THIRD attempt. I should have been done after the first, but I didn’t want to let it beat me. I am the nail guru!

Ha! I’m good, but not that good. And that isn’t to say I won’t be one day. I’m just not there yet.

If you have an issue you’re tackling out there, be mindful that you may not get it the first (or third) time you try. There’s no shame in having to step away, ask for help, and work slowly towards getting it right. It will come. But anything worth having is worth fighting and planning for, not rushing towards. Be encouraged! 🙂

Oh, and what nail look did I do for the week? Cause y’all know I didn’t leave the house with my hands like that.

Y’all saw it already. It was yesterday’s post. 😀

Hope this brought a smile to your face. Happy Wednesday!

Nail Adventures Positivity Stories

My Hair: A History

I have a love/hate relationship with my hair. I’ve always had a lot of it, and never could really be bothered with it the majority of the time. Mostly it was because I had no clue what in the world to do with it.

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This is me as a peanut. About 4, I think.

My mother and grandmother always kept it in braids and bows (twin beads and barrettes, anyone?)

When I got older, around 9-10 maybe, I decided I wanted to get a relaxer. I was tired of my mother burning my head with the hot comb to straighten it. After a warning of it would burn my scalp the first time, I then had it relaxed. It didn’t slow down on me being tenderheaded, but it helped the tangles a bit.

I kept up the relaxers for years after. My hair went from long, to short, to very long when I still lived in Texas (almost the center of my back), to this:

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It’s maybe an inch past my shoulders here.

I rarely wore it down, because it was HOT. Oh, good grief. Like the hand of Hades was sitting on my neck and wouldn’t move! I kept it up in a bun or ponytail most of the time, only wearing it down when I got it done (see pic above) or on special occasions. And I could guarantee I had a ponytail holder to yank it up as soon as the special occasion was over with. Typically, you’d see me like this:

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Yep. Typical. It’s in a bun here.

I got tired of never being able to wear it down (it did not hold a curl at all, and frizzed at the drop of a hat, or sweat.) So one day, randomly, I decided to transition my hair. It stayed in a bun for a while, until one day, I decided to braid it up after a wash. I let it out the next morning and picked it out, and came up with this:

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I threw a headband in it, and went to work. I didn’t know how to feel, honestly. I felt like the world was staring at me.

But natural hair will do that. Folks don’t know how to handle an afro, whether it’s out and free or in a puff. And I didn’t know how to handle the questions that resulted from my afro.

“Can I touch it?” What the hell am I, a puppy? For the most part I don’t mind, but the question is still odd to me. And please, for the love of fluffy kittens, ASK first. Everybody isn’t me.

“Is it real?” Yep. I wouldn’t know the first thing about picking out a good wig/weave.

“How long have you been transitioning?” At the point above, it had been maybe a few months, maybe 4.

“What do you think of it?” This I had a hard time answering, but I gave an honest answer. Self conscious. I was (and am) a big woman with big hair. You can’t be invisible like that. It’s a bold look, and you have to be prepared to rock it and be seen.

Slowly, I became more and more comfortable with my ‘fro, wearing it in a pouf some days:

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And pulling into a front bouffant other days:

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Because my hair isn’t even (back is longer than the front, left side longer than right), I rarely wear it completely out without a headband (it helps conceal the unevenness.) But hey, it’s all about pushing my boundaries, right? Who knows, maybe I’ll have a free fro come tomorrow morning. Anything’s possible.

Hair Stories

Nails of Literature: For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When The Rainbow Is Enuf

In my junior year of high school, my AP English teacher wanted us to do a research project on any work of literature we wanted. We were going to learn how to use MLA format with this paper, so we were to pick a substantial work in order to have enough to talk about.

It had to be 10 pages, and it was the longest I’d ever had to write.

I couldn’t figure out an author. I thought to maybe do Edgar Allen Poe, or maybe Shakespeare? I liked Shakespeare quite a bit.

When I went to tutoring that afternoon, I asked my SAT tutor, a lovely woman with a huge salt and pepper afro and a pendant shaped like Africa around her neck, who I should write about. I’d had, at this point in my academic career, very little exposure to Black authors.

Without hesitation, she told me: “You won’t be doing any old dead White men on this project, girl.” I blinked. Well, ok then. I thought. So who am I going to write about, exactly?

Not missing a beat, she continued. “Ntozake Shange. The work is For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When The Rainbow Is Enuf (hereafter, For Colored Girls.) You’ll love it, and it will give you more than enough to write about.”

So the next day, I went to the school library and found it. I looked at this skinny little book and thought, I have been set up for the okey-doke! I’m not going to get 10 pages out of this! But I trusted my tutor, so I checked it out and told my teacher my choice.

My teacher blinked. “That’s a little advanced, don’t you think?”

What.

What?!

I looked at the book in my hands. “I can handle it,” I said with a smile.

I took that little 60 some-odd page book and wrote an amazing paper. Got an A.

For this nail look, I downloaded a copy of the book to the trusty iPad and reread. I can say that so far, rediscovering these works has been the best part of this project of mine. If you’ve never read the choreopoem (not a poem, or a novel, or a novella,) it centers around the performance of 20 poems set to music. These poems are performed by women only identified by colors: Red, Orange, Yellow, Blue, Purple, Green, and Brown.

Each Lady had some beautiful pieces, but the one I remember focusing on in my paper was the Lady in Blue. At first it was because blue is my favorite color, but the Lady in Blue did a poem that still fascinates me to this day: “abortion cycle #1.” The whole thing, while short, is amazing because it’s still as relevant now in 2014 as it was when it was written in 1975. The part that stuck with me:

this hurts

this hurts me

& nobody came

cuz nobody knew

once i waz pregnant & shamed of myself

More often than not we suffer in silence. Abortion rights, in general, are cloaked in silence. Women can’t be sexual beings, and if they are, they have to publicly show their shame for their mistake–carrying a child to term is their penance.

We won’t debate this point here today.

The point is, one shouldn’t have to go through tough times alone. Hurt alone. Shame shouldn’t drive people to silent suffering.

And yet it does.

With this concept in my head, I dedicate this week’s Nails of Literature to the Lady in Blue. Presenting: Blue Lady’s Blues.

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Right hand is on the left; left hand is on the right.

The base of the manicure is Frenzy by Orly, the accent color is Keeping Suzi at Bay by OPI. The rainbow accent nail (there’s one on each hand) represents the name of the work, and the 4 rhinestone accent nail represents the Lady in Blue. I only did one nail like this to represent the loneliness in the poem.

Despite the seriousness this manicure represents, it was a lot of fun to create. See you next week for the next installment!

Know a work you want to see represented in manicure form? Email me!

Nail Adventures Stories

“Why Do You Put That Stuff On Your Face?” or, My History With Makeup

One day, when I was in high school, I was in the bathroom, getting ready to head to the movies with my friends. My little brother watched me put on my makeup, carefully doing my eye shadow and mascara (I hadn’t yet gotten into liner or brows.)

He looked at me and said: “Why do you put that stuff on your face? It makes you look fake.”

My response was to push him out of the bathroom and close the door.

Honestly, at the time I didn’t have much of a response outside of “I’m supposed to, right?”

My relationship with all things cosmetic started at 16, formally. Even when many young girls start to experiment with makeup, digging into their mother’s stash, I was hooked on Lip Smackers. Specifically, the Dr. Pepper kind because it left a slight red on my lips that I liked. Other than that, I couldn’t be bothered.

My mother would let me have all of the neutral colored lip gloss I wanted. I stuck with browns, mostly. I couldn’t do foundation or anything till I was older, so I was a tomboy with great manicures and lip gloss. Interesting combo, right?

When I was able to do full faced looks, I did foundation and eye shadow. Blue, mostly, because it’s my favorite color. Now, most girls my age were doing a single line of white on their lids, lining their lips with black eye pencil, and wearing clear gloss. I thought that was odd, so I did my lid with blue (lid only, no highlight under the brow) with no eye liner. I did like mascara, though. And I stuck with brown lip glosses.

I can’t say, looking back on it, I had the most savvy makeup sense. But I was supposed to wear it, right? I’m a girl!

By the time I left for college, I was still struggling to keep my skin clear, so I would do full makeup only a few times a week, sticking with a little powder and gloss the majority of the time. I kept it simple, figuring less was more.

And then? I started working, and makeup became my livelihood. And my makeup routine? Took a left!

So, I went from next to nothing to full face and loud eye shadow colors. I discovered Urban Decay and bought as much product as my small paycheck would allow me. Lips still neutral, rarely did a lip liner unless I had a bright color on (never.)

And now? I am a manager, and I do makeup consultations all the time. I tell my clients that I am the laziest makeup artist I know, because my face routine is so low key. These days, foundation, powder (if I remember), liquid liner, brows, and mascara. Lip balm if I have it on me, bright lipstick if I find it in my bag. I do the extravagant eyes when I am headed to see my bosses or training.

With all this history, I still find it hard to answer why I put this stuff on my face.

The honest answer? I love the idea of what makeup can do. It can build someone’s confidence, change an outlook, or give another means of self expression. I tell people that anyone can learn how to do makeup; while many of my coworkers have been formally trained, I have no training outside of getting to work and realizing my look is NOT the best. Makeup isn’t an exact science, and it shouldn’t be. It shouldn’t be an obligation either. It should be fun, a means to express yourself in yet another way, to add to one’s uniqueness. And that’s pretty awesome.

Also? I love showing off some of the looks I come up with now, too. For fun: me in an awesome dark lipstick (Cargo Cosmetics Bordeaux), wearing my dearly departed specs:

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This is how you’ll see me at work, most of the time.

But off the clock? Naked face and lip balm. Old habits, you understand. 🙂

Makeup Looks Stories

Nail Polish: A History

It’s no secret to anyone that reads this site that I am a nail polish junkie.

I collect polish like most people collect shoes or handbags.

It’s a rare occasion when at least my toes don’t have some kind of glitter on them, and I feel naked when they are bare.

These days, it’s a hobby, but when I was younger, I did my nails even more frequently than I do now. Typically I’ll do a design once a week, and then maybe a polish change when it starts to chip. When I was in school? It was as often as I had time to do it. Even while I was rocking my tomboy glam, I had a manicure to match (typically it was a metallic blue.)

It gave me something to focus on when homework and school projects couldn’t distract me from feeling like an outcast. Is it a day where we can socialize in class? I only had one friend; she and I didn’t have class together, and a bunch of acquaintances I suspected dealt with me out of obligation rather than actually wanting to be around me (admittedly: this probably wasn’t true. But you couldn’t tell 14 year old me that.) So while everyone conversed, I would listen and smile where appropriate. My mind wasn’t there, though. I was thinking about if I’d saved up enough money for a new color for my hands.

It also helped to keep focus off of what I perceived as my flaws. Imperfect skin and teeth. I was fat. What I had going for me, in my mind, was that I was smart, and all of my insecurities added up to me being pretty obnoxious about it. Overcompensation, perhaps.

Folks were able to look past everything to ask how my nails were so perfect. In my mind, my nails were the only thing that could be perfect.

Perfection, like beauty, is a state of mind that manifests into the physical. If you say you are, then it’s true. 14 year old me was not aware of that revelation.

14 years later, I still love to do my nails. But these days, it’s all about perfecting a craft than it is pursuing this idea of perfection or trying to distract from perceived flaws. I could say I’m saving money by learning to do this myself, but let’s be real. With the way I buy nail polish, any savings are negated. But it relaxes me when work stresses me. It inspires me when I have writers block. It helps me break the ice when I’m around new people. And for that, I am profoundly grateful that something as simple as some nail polish came into my life.

This is only about 1/4th of the collection.

This is only about 1/8th of the collection.

Lord knows I don’t need any more polish; the three bottles I bought a few days ago notwithstanding. What I could use is a better organization system for all of them. Anyone have any ideas? 🙂

Nail Adventures Stories

The Evolution Begins: Crawl Before You Walk

Part One of this series is here.

My mother got engaged and married before I finished my freshman year. We were moving to Miami that summer, a world away from my home state of Louisiana.

Before we moved, my stepfather (“Pops” hereafter) got me a pair of beautiful black heels for my 15th birthday.

He got me a name plate necklace and bracelet too, because I saw his and thought it was so pretty.

But those heels? Oh, oh, my. High heeled, open toed, and the heels had these swirly embellishments on them. Now, Pops was well aware that I didn’t do dressy clothes often outside of church, but he figured that was where I’d wear them.

Nope.

Wore them to school with a pair of hip huggers I’d gotten for Christmas that year. The jeans had swirly black embellishments to go with the design on the shoe, and I had a nice black top to put with it.

Walking into the gym that morning, I heard a couple of whispers. I realized folks didn’t quite know what to say to me. I’d gone from demi-feminine to ultra-feminine in one day, and now I fit in. Kinda. Or maybe it was that I not only looked more like everyone else, but that I was even capable of pulling it off. It wasn’t a complete switch. I incorporated it into my “tomboy glam” repertoire: some days sweats, some days heels, and every day, at least to me, I felt I looked great. Until…

I started getting the backhanded compliments: “Wow, your outfit is so cute! You really aren’t a boy!” The ultimate one? “You can really dress. If you lost some weight, you would be perfect!” And although it hurt me, I didn’t drop the new look.

Yet all I could think was: really!? I don’t win here, do I? Of course I didn’t. But I was still too young to get that it wasn’t a matter of impressing everyone else, it was a matter of embracing myself as I was. Of course, I dieted and wanted to be pretty (cause you can’t be fat and pretty, don’tcha know), but I never really got that there is so much more to beauty than the outside. Your outfit is only a part of you, and it isn’t even the important part.

It took me changing states to change my perspective…

To Be Continued.

Stories