2017: My Year So Far

It’s been awhile, and I am certainly not maintaining this blog very well. Many apologies!

As many of you are well aware, 2017 has been an interesting and trying time for the US (and the world, tbh). I have been trying my best to keep my head up and be a positive member of my community. But, that’s really exhausting some days.

Waking up to news of hate, violence, and someone who isn’t fit for their job? This is not a world I want to be a part of. And, any of you with a head and a heart probably feel the same.

With that said, I want to share some of the positives that have happened in my world this year.

  1. My cousin had a baby, and he is absolutely adorable. I haven’t met him, as they live across the pond.
  2. People I know and love are expecting babies this year. I’m proud of all of them, especially as I know that they are bringing humans into the world who are going to be compassionate, kind, smart, and strong.
  3. My beloved 1999 Subaru is out of steam. She’s done. Because neighbors can be wonderful, in an effort to make life easy for everyone, I purchased my neighbor’s 2006 lightly driven PT Cruiser. This saved me money, took a car off our neighbor’s hands, and taken some stress out of my life.
  4. I took myself on vacation to Maui in April. I needed a week to be by myself and far away from work. I needed to swim in an ocean for hours at a time. I needed to relax and decompress. I loved being there and didn’t want to leave.
  5. I have been walking regularly. Again, I thrive when I have time by myself. These walks are great for listening to the hundreds of podcast episodes I have saved. I’m using my legs and taking care of my body.
  6. Finally, I took back control of my body and have been eating well. Along with the regular walking, my body has let go of the extra weight it was carrying around. I am feeling healthier and we’ll. I feel empowered and ready to take on the world, even if I am taking baby steps.
  7. After not reading, I am back into it. I plan on making a huge dent in my bookshelf by the end of the year. With all the reading, A Life In Paperback will start to be updated regularly.

Very soon, I am going to do some updated favorites posts (podcasts, skincare, makeup, movies, TV shows, music).

In the meantime, I am going to be working at my 9-5 while looking for new, more fulfilling work.

Ciao readers! Be well!

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She Stands Alone

Here’s a few facts about me: I’m approaching 35, I’m single, I don’t have any children, I identify as a cisgendered woman, I love cats (and appreciate dogs that are genetically coded to herd or rescue), and I am not ashamed of any of these.

Many single, childfree women of a certain age, particularly those who love cats, have such a bad reputation. Trust me. I am reminded of this constantly. In fact, something that always makes me laugh is when I politely turn down men I feel are not good matches for me, I often get such hate filled responses. These usually manage to include “no wonder why you’re still single; I bet you have ten cats and knit in your spare time.” These responses always clue me in even further to the fact that these men have not read a word of my dating profiles (that mention the most feminine thing I’ll do in my spare time take a long bath after an even longer run). Let me clarify, I love people who have ten cats and knit. You are giving ten adorable souls a home, and you are able to make your own clothes. I admire anyone who does both.

So, here I am, celebrating all you single women, cis or trans, especially those of you who are in your 30s (or older and wiser). I salute each and every one of you. Keep doing you, and whenever someone asks “when are you having kids?” or “you have 10 cats, right,” go ahead and tell them “Imma do me and don’t you fret about my choices, kthxbai.”

Let is rise up and celebrate each other. Let’s care for and support each other. If you witness a woman’s choices being judged and torn apart, be a voice of reason and love.

Branching Out To YouTube

I’ve decided to finally branch out and start a YouTube channel. As of February 4th, 2016, there are only two very raw and mildly embarrassing videos up on my channel. I will become better at shooting videos & editing, as well as creating content that people want to see. However, I would love to get subscribers and views. Please take a gander and hit that subscribe button if you’d like: Ellie @ YouTube.

So, here’s the deal. The more subscribers and views I get, the more content I will create. I’ll do anything from a ‘get ready with me’ video to weekly recap video to a ‘my favorite xyz’ video. I’m happy to take suggestions now, so I can formulate what I’ll be talking about and when the videos will go up. Incredibly ludicrous ideas probably won’t happen, so please be reasonable with your suggestions! Please, tell me what you’d like to see!

Thank you, loves!!

 Nobody’s Perfect.

The thing about depression is that, while everyone experiences sadness and grief, those of us who are actually depressed get frustrated when people tell us it will pass. It often doesn’t. We’re lucky if we have one day in a long string of months in which we feel normal and can actually contribute to society in an acceptable manner. It’s also very frustrating when people are shocked when we actually seem genuinely happy. That diminishes our identities and is a huge hurdle we have to deal with.

I’ve known I’m not wired to be happy for two decades. Twenty years is a long time.

Here’s the thing: one can say that they don’t understand how anyone can be depressed. Well, those of us who struggle every single day to force a smile when we’re screaming on the inside can’t understand how people can be happy all the time. And, us depressed folk, we are highly functioning people. I’ve managed to stick around for twenty years. It’s been difficult, but I’ve made it work.

Describing depression isn’t an easy task. We all experience it in very unique ways. The general idea of it is the same, but we all cope with it in our own ways.

“Depression doesn’t define me.” and “I’m a real person with real value.” These two stand out. While depression is one of many parts of us, it isn’t who we are. We have plenty of things to offer this world. We are well aware of this. While it can often be challenging for some of us to be motivated to shine, we have the ability to. Instead of being stigmatized, we need to be loved equally.

There are great resources out there for those of us struggling with some sort of mental health spark. [I use the word spark, because issue, disease, and disorder each hold such negative connotation. Spark, for me, is a happy word. It is a motivating word in my life.]

If you live in a town or city with a public library, I highly suggest utilizing it. Depending on the town or city, there is usually a good selection of self-help books and books about mental health. Remember that not all self-help books are created equal. They often have a bad rap, but there are some great books out there, I promise! I suggest books on mindfulness, creativity, and other task based guides.

I know that it’s often difficult to find the strength or motivation to get up and move. But, movement really does help. If you live near a park, walk there with a book & some tea or coffee. Sit & read, breathe in some fresh air. Attempt to smile at three people. Then walk home. This helps me find some momentary peace.

If you are a college student, use the health services your school fees pay for. Many higher education have mental health services. They are staffed by a few licensed therapists (who are often professors at the school) and graduate students who are training to become therapists. It is an affordable way to get some counseling. If they don’t offer counseling, they are well connected to resources outside the school, and are able to assist you finding affordable therapy.

Also, research graduate schools in your area. Often graduate psychology programs will offer affordable group therapy or other affordable forms of care.

If you are religious, connecting with religious leaders are a great resource. They are usually trained to counsel individuals as well as lead a congregation. They are also able to direct you to proper venues for help.

My last suggestion is to search online for “affordable online therapy.” You’ll find a decent list of (legally operated) websites that offer counseling done online, usually through private chat or video.

I hope this helps everyone! This only scratches the surface, but it’s a start. If you know someone with a mental health spark, please educate yourself. If you experience a mental health spark yourself, I hope this motivates you to reach out for help.

Please remember that I am not a licensed therapist or doctor, nor do I have a Ph.D in psychology. I am speaking purely from my own experience. Always seek out the help of a licensed professional.

Working Retail

How many of you enjoy going to the mall for a few hours to shop? A large number of people do. That’s one of the reasons why malls still exist.

The thing is, people often forget that the people working at the mall aren’t all young idiots. There is a growing contingent of well-educated Gen Xers and early Millennials who lost their jobs sometime between 2008-2010 and have had a hard time finding solid, full-time employment in their chosen career field since.

Working retail is heartbreaking, and sometimes very demeaning. Especially for those who have college degrees. As we live in a world in which we need do need money to feed, clothe, and protect ourselves, well-educated people will resort to menial retail jobs while looking for full-time work. Now, there are some people who make a career of working retail. And, the last ten years, I’ve worked retail. Seven years ago, I had the hope that I’d grow within the company I work for and the possibility of growth was dangled in front of me without actual promise. That’s why I buckled down and told myself to go back to school and do something productive with my life. I felt that the act of me going back to school was taken as a sign of defeat from managers at the company I work for.

“If you want to work at corporate, why did you make yourself less available by going back to school?” and “There is no time to develop you as you’re only here two days a week. Can you change that?” Both are questions that had a simple answer of “you have had seven years to develop me, which was a constant request on my part.” Truth of the matter is that this is an entire combination of me trying too hard and getting disheartened when my hard work never paid off, and management not spending the time to truly get to know my strengths and see my hard work.

Enough about me. Let me get to the real point. As I’ve said, those of us who work retail are not idiots. Sure, you’ll come across some less than stellar people whilst out shopping. However, the majority of us are wonderful, insightful, caring people. We don’t like being treated poorly, and no, some of us can’t just quit if we hate the way customers treat us. Many retail employees, like me, are there to pay some sort of bill, whether it be student loans, a second mortgage, car insurance, rent, or tuition, etc.

The things that customers put us through is enough to make any happy, stable person cry. We would love it if every single customer that we interact with, including the awesome ones, spend a year working at our store. In fact, I am in favor of giving all of the on floor employees a month-long paid vacation and have customers man the store while we are gone. Business probably would fail, I don’t doubt that. But, it would be a great experiment and valuable lesson for everyone who shops there.

The best way to describe how we are treated (or perceived):
each sales associate is a special hybrid of two-year old from a non-English speaking country and the CEO of the company.

We are spoken to as though we have never heard a human speak before, we are constantly told we are wrong (especially when we are right), and yet, are expected to have the right answer for everything (ie. what the customer wants to hear), know every little detail about how the company as a whole works, and have the authority to change any detail about our store that hundreds of customers don’t like.

We know how our company works in a broad sense, and as well as it pertains to our store. We are able to work with what our company has given us. And, we will do our best to go above and beyond for our customers. Our company has provided us with the tools to get you the product(s) you need within reason. But, we don’t have the executive decision to knock down the nine stores within our vicinity just to carry every single SKU that the company sells. We don’t have the executive decision to start selling brands that ceased to exist a decade ago. Our backroom does not consist of a factory or lab or series of offices that our headquarters are located in. If we all had any kind of executive decision-making or say, we wouldn’t be sales associates. It’s that damn simple. If that makes sense to a ten-year old, it should make sense to a university educated 35-year-old.

And, if I have to hear “I want something that is 100% natural, organic, and not manmade” and “I need something completely chemical free” once more, I might just scream. Most of the stuff you buy that isn’t food is not 100% natural, nor is it likely to be organic. It may have been processed & put together by a machine in a sterile. Does that process of synthetically making something count as not manmade? (Answer: no.) Oh, and a very minor fact you may have missed in fourth grade chemistry: everything you know to exist on this planet has some sort of chemical structure. So, asking for something without chemicals in it is physically impossible. Stop acting as though two hydrogens and an oxygen bonded together is going to kill you.

If you are going to be rude, fine. We’d rather you not be rude to us, as that’s just unnecessary. We don’t need to be treated like idiots. Our request is simple. Please, stop assuming that we get paid enough to make magic happen. And, a smile never hurts anyone. Neither does “please” and “thank you.”

If none of this makes any sense, I have an idea. Consider yourself. Imagine spending eight hours a day having someone expect you to give them everything you own, then expect you to give them more. Imagine them never asking politely or showing the slightest shred of gratitude. Imagine being asked to explain something you understand immensely and have studied for years, then be told that everything you have said is wrong. Imagine people yelling at you for absolutely no reason. Imagine people stealing money from you. Imagine going home with swollen ankles, having to do housework of your own and caring for your own family. Imagine having to do that multiple times a week.

Working retail is not thrilling. We work hard for very little money. And, while we have plenty of fantastic customers, not a day goes by without having to deal with unpleasant people. We’ve cried because of customers. We’ve felt threatened because of customers. We’ve had to leave halfway through our shifts because of exceptionally unreasonable customers.

Be kind. Be patient. Be mindful. Be aware. And, please, for the love of all things good in this world, know that you are sharing this planet with other human beings. So, stay classy and treat others exactly how you expect others to treat you.

What’s In My Bag: College Edition

For those of you who don’t know, I’m a few months shy of an Associate of Arts in Paralegal Studies. I spend a lot of my week reading cases, writing briefs, and carting my life between home, work, and school. I have a tendency to live out of a backpack or large bag. Ever since I’ve needed to have my computer with me most days, life is a lot easier with a bag that’ll haul it around safely.

I’m currently using a Western Pack backpack, one that I’ve used for year. It’s got enough sections to make storing things easy and efficient. And, the part that is against my back is padded, which allows a bit of safety for my computer.

So, what do I have stowed in my bag?

The simplest items are my keyring and my wallet. It has a fob with a Shakespeare quote, my front door key, my car key, and a key for the lock I use at the gym. I recently downsized my keyring and am so happy I have done so! I’ve been reprimanded for not using a wallet, so I’ve forced myself to use one. Sure, I can see why it’s safer, but it still drives me crazy. Being the tomboy that I am, I usually like just carrying one card, my license, and a few dollars.

My parents were amazing and got me an iPad air for Christmas. I didn’t think I’d love it, but I do. This awesome device goes with me most places. I love having it accessible in case of waiting moments. I have a few books stored on it, a couple magazine subscriptions, and some Mr. Selfridge episodes. This makes travel time seem less tedious. Also, it’s great when I’m at the gym and opt to workout on the elliptical or bike instead of run.

Of course, my iPhone 5c is in there. Honestly, I miss the days of simple cell phones and wish I never made the smartphone leap. I do love the fact that smartphones are a lifestyle efficiency tool, and it’s great to have access to, what seems, the entire world at the tap of a finger. With that, I have a USB cord & USB wall adaptor. Usually, I have an external battery, but it is at home due to being charged earlier today.

Of course, I have my iPod with me. On lunch breaks, at the gym, walking places, doing chores; these are all times I love listening to music or podcasts. I feel engaged when I’m listening to good music or a funny podcast. I also love informative podcasts, too. Having my iPod accessible gives me the chance to feel engaged in the world, even when it is just me.

Depending on the quarter, I can be on campus anywhere from 7 hours to 11 hours per day. I’m not a huge fan of school cafeteria food, especially as I am a vegetarian. My options are limited and usually to dodgy looking salads and french fries. So, I like to keep some sort of small, nutritionally dense snack on hand. I’m addicted to salty cashews. Today, I’ve got a small bag of cashews waiting to be eaten when that 4.45pm slump hits.

Stemming from a few years of school in England, I’ve always been in the habit of using a pencil case. I still like to switch mine up every year or so and do have a couple going at all times. Right now, I have an illustrated one with cat faces on it. (Yes, I’m a proud cat lady.) In it, there are a plethora of ball point pens, mechanical pencils, a couple sharpies, and some paper clips. And, I have a mini leatherman in there, too. It’s come in handy quite a few times.

I keep forgetting that I have two fragrance rollerballs in my backpack, and am always happily surprised when I see them. The ones I have are Bobbi Brown’s Beach fragrance and LaVanila’s Vanilla Summer fragrance. As you might be able to gather, I like warmer fragrances. I always love any fragrance that has vanilla, coconut, pineapple, and even notes of Coppertone Water Babies SPF in it. Bobbi Brown’s Beach reminds me of being a child and being slathered in Water Babies.

Of course, I have two spiral bound notebooks. I always have something ready to take notes in while at school. I’m old school and learn better if I actually write lecture notes down. Typing has never proved an efficient way for me to truly retain information. At home, I do have a stack of partially used spiral notebooks and I definitely need to organize them. So, the notebooks I have in my bag are leftovers from last quarter, and I am determined to use them up. I have promised myself I won’t buy any more until I’ve used up the ones I have.

Speaking of spiral bound notebooks, I have my journal in my backpack. I’ve been working on this journal for five years and have a bad habit of going through phases of writing almost everyday to months of not writing, hence the fact I’ve been using the same one for five years. I like to keep it with me at all times, though. I’m not a fan of snooping eyes. I’m open with plenty of things, but my journal is for things I need to release without sharing with anyone else.

I do have a book in my backpack that has nothing to do with school. It is a book that I keep wanting to check out every time I go to the local library. Who knows if I’ll get around to reading it before it’s due, but I have it with me in case I am compelled to. It is Locas by Yxta Maya Murray. This book takes a look at Mexican women involved in gang life in East Los Angeles. First and foremost, I am actively trying to learn Spanish & am interested in working with immigrants from Latin America. So, this is one of many books that should be included in my learning process. I always love reading stories told from the female perspective, and as this is a life I am not familiar with, I hope this will be an enlightening read.

Lastly, I have five empty Lush Fresh Face Mask pots. They have been sitting on my desk for awhile, just waiting to be returned in exchange for a new mask. If we are let out of class early enough tonight, I am going to try and go get one. I want to try their Cupcake mask, but fear that I won’t use it very often, as I’ll only use it across my nose & cheeks. I might stick with Oatifix, as I know I like it and it’s easy to use.

What’s in your bag? Do you have three separate bags you constantly use? Soon, I’ll be doing a What’s in My Gym Bag post & What’s In My Purse post. Be on the lookout!

Treat Yourself Thursday: I Covet Thee

I’ve been alive for 33 years. Thirty-three!! My 33rd birthday is coming up on the 9th, and there are a few things that are high up on my wishlist.

First and foremost, I’d love to be done with my Paralegal AA. But, that is something no one can do but myself. So, that’s all on me and that’ll be my birthday present to myself this year.

Things that I currently covet:

LASHFOOD Lash Enhancer

LASHFOOD Phyto-Medic Lash Enhancer
If you don’t know already, my lashes are the one part of my physical appearance I am OCD about. I’m picky about everything that relates to my lashes: mascara, makeup remover, eye cream, eye liner, and even the need to make sure I’m taking flax seed oil everyday. I’ve been told I have long lashes. I think they are of average length. But, no matter what, my lashes consistently get complimented. So, I don’t know if I really *need* this product. But, I’ll take anything that keeps my lashes healthy. And, the fact that it is considered vegan (cruelty free, by default), I’m intrigued. I’ll use anything cruelty free that will keep my lashes strong. And, it’s got the ECOCERT seal of approval. For those of you who don’t know, ECOCERT is a European organization that inspects products regarding organic status. Essentially, if something get’s approved by the organization, the product has to maintain honesty/transparency about the origin of the ingredients, and maintain a high level of organic ingredients & a low to nonexistent level of possible toxic ingredients. There are more detailed requirements and there is a lengthy manual as to what is entailed, but you can research that on your own time. Anyway, let’s be real, I’m a sucker for stuff like this.

Dr. Dennis Gross hydra-pure firming serum

Dr. Dennis Gross hydra-pure firming serum
I love this brand, so much so that I freelanced for the company a few years ago, back when it was called MD Skincare. A huge seller for me is that the majority of the products in the line are vegan. Again, by default, that means those products are cruelty free. Furthermore, the entire line should (and does) stick to that philosophy with every single item they create. This serum is something I need in my life. After three years of being a lifeguard, the chlorine & sun got the best of me. I got major forehead wrinkles whilst still a teenager. Since then, I’ve done a decent enough job to prevent them from getting any more noticeable, however, time & gravity still exist. I’d like to preserve my skin just a little longer. I wish I had the $95 to spend on this serum!

Dr. Dennis Gross clinical concentrate radiance booster

Dr. Dennis Gross clinical concentrate radiance booster
As I just mentioned, I was a lifeguard for three years. I am also a fan of being outside when the sun is out. Moving to California at six in the 80s, it’s what we grew up doing. If it was light out and we weren’t in school, the kids would be outside playing until the very last minute. I never baby oiled, thankfully. I wore sunscreen as much as possible. But, sunburns are inevitable when you have skin that is easy to burn and you spend hours upon hours outside. I love the freckles on my body and wear them with pride. They show the world that I enjoy being outside. My face is a different story. The freckling on my face is not worthy of showing up in Vogue. Instead, the sun kissed look is blotchy, red, uneven, and scary. I’ve become quite obsessive about putting sunscreen on during the day and adding lemon juice to my toner in the evening. I trust Dr. Dennis Gross, and I trust that this can help minimize the appearance of some of the discoloration. Sometimes, the lemon juice is just a little too exciting for my skin.

Harvey Prince Hello Eau de Parfum

Harvey Prince Hello Eau de Parfum
I got a sample of this in a Vegan Cuts Beauty Box awhile back and was so happy I did. I’ve been wanting to try this perfume for a long time. The entire day, I kept smelling my wrist and grinning. Such a delightful smell. I love pretty much all fragrances that have lemon or lime notes in it. And, as this is a cruelty free line (and apparently vegan), I am even more excited about it. The notes of the fragrance are: Meyer Lemon, White Grapefruit, Satsuma Mandarin, Summer Forsythia, Pink Plumeria, Wild Verbena, Tahitian Vanilla, Sensual Musk. Delicious!! So, I am not really one to justify a new fragrance for myself. Ignore the entire shelf in my closet dedicated to perfume. I’m in the process of getting rid of scents I don’t really wear. [HINT to my friends: come over and take them off my hands! Some are lightly used, others are halfway used.]

The North Face Stow-N-Go II Sports Bra

The North Face Stow-N-Go II Sports Bra (Size Large)
I have a habit of losing sports bras or wearing them out. I have one similar to this from lululemon, but the support isn’t quick as efficient as it needs to be anymore, due to a *ahem* decreased bust size. Plus, having more than one of these kinds of sports bras comes in handy, especially as I’m back on a running kick and would love to not wear the same bra for two weeks straight. I can get very sweaty when I run & sometimes I forget to put deodorant on. California is in an intense drought, so I’d rather not have to do multiple loads of laundry for one bra. The reason why I like bras like this is because I listen to music or podcasts when I run. I cannot stand holding on to anything when I run more than half a mile. Putting my iPod in a small waist pack is uncomfortable and the earbud wires get in the way. Having a place to put my iPod that is out of the way, comfortable, and easily accessible is great. And, seriously, how many women do you see running with keys, a cell phone, an MP3 player precariously stowed under a bra strap? If you haven’t noticed that yet, you will come summer months. Having a bra like this is very useful for those of us who like to listen to our iPods/iPhones whilst working out. As well as keeping things accessible and out of the way, it ensures that an iPod or cell phone will not go crashing to the ground.