The Most Difficult Story I Have Ever Told.

justin12

 

Update- Monday April 27, 2015.

I was hoping I would get a few more years before I would have to write this, alas God had other plans.

I had the distinct priviledge of witnessing my brother take his final breath on Thursday, April 23rd, at 11:45 pm.

After our family trip to Gatlinburg, he seemed to be feeling worse. I made the decision to come and stay with my family and visit with him on April 17th. When I arrived  it was obvious he wasn’t well, but I still felt hope.

As the days went by, the difference day to day was astounding, and soul crushing.  He hadn’t eaten in in two weeks because of a neck tumor blocking his esophagus. Drinking was difficult for the same reason. He would take sips, which would result in very painful coughing fits that would sometimes last several minutes.

He was always thirsty, always in pain. He didn’t feel hungry, that urge had left him weeks ago.

Many family members and friends came, and showered him with love. My sisters laid by his side, rubbing his feet and legs. Helping him drink, wiping his face. We spent hours watching “Dirty Jobs,” because that what he wanted. ( I really didn’t mind, since I have a bit of a crush on Mike Rowe.)

Except to bathe and eat, my mom rarely left his side. The entire week, I can count the number of times she left him on one hand. She was his constant companion. She was his giver of pain relief in the form of medicine, the giver of love in the form of leg massages and quiet words. When she wept, she wept quietly so he couldn’t hear. I have never seen so much capacity to love.

On that night, she was completely spent. I was asked to stay with my Aunt, who was also giving her precious time and love to help my mom. The plan was to let my mom sleep in an adjoining room, and my Aunt and I would stay in the room with Justin. My brother was very attached to my mom, there were many times he called out for her, and she wanted to be close in case he needed her.

I arrived to Justin’s house around 10:30. I had spent a few hours with my Dad. We watched “Hot Fuzz” and laughed and laughed. The previous afternoon had been very stressful, so I took a break. I think it prepared me for what was to come.

My Dad dropped me off and went back home. We began getting settled in for bed. My Aunt Joy gave him a dose of his medicine, but he was still restless. I was laying on the bed next to him, thinking to myself…

My Brother isn’t going to be with us when I wake up in the morning…

Aunt Joy got down on her knees at the foot of the bed, and prayed, for what seemed like a very long time. I felt no comfort in this. I wish I did, but I just didn’t.

Aunt Joy laid on the floor next to the bed. We had started out sharing the bed, but she told me she wanted me to sleep next to “your baby brother.”

I laid next to him for a few more minutes. Watching him grimace in pain. I asked him if he needed anything.

He said he was thirsty.

I asked him what he wanted.

He said it didn’t matter.

I was dreading giving him that drink, because everytime he drank, he coughed, and it hurt him. I hated watching him cough and choke. I hated watching him in pain, but there was no hesitation. I got out of bed, and I grabbed a bottle of 7-up that was sitting on the shelf.

I went over to him, and gave him a towel, that he put down on his chest. This was his routine, because he would dribble whatever he was drinking due to his Bells Palsy.

I opened his drink, and handed it to him. He hesitated for a second, so he could get his strength to lift the bottle.

He took a drink of the 7-Up, and handed the bottle back to me.

He didn’t choke. He didn’t cough.

He laid back, relaxed and I watched his eyes open wide. He was looking at something. Intently.

Then I realized.

He was gone.

It was almost instant. It was almost as if he was waiting for that last drink.

My brother, who had been talking to me, moving around, and put his own towel down on this chest only seconds before, was gone.

The next few minutes were a blur. I grabbed my Aunt, I grabbed my Mom, I grabbed my sister in-law who was asleep on the couch.

I made a phone call to my sobbing sister. I called my husband and I couldn’t even speak.

At one point I collapsed onto the floor, because my legs wouldn’t hold me.

Family came. Friends came. Everyone he loved was with him until the funeral home came and took him.

I am crushed. My heart feels a void that can never be filled. I feel immense guilt for being the one who was with him when he passed. I feel such priviledge for being the one who was with him when he passed. I feel like I robbed my parents of a moment that should have been theirs.

The thing I feel the most?

I wasn’t ready.hands

 

 

 

 

Design Your Own Jewelry with Zazzy.co!

small-1404399947I came across Zazzy surfing the web a few months ago and I was intrigued. I thought the idea of getting to design my own jewelry was such a cool concept.

Zazzy takes your design, whether it be a drawing or text, and uses a 3-D printer to create it just for you. You can also have listings on their site, and sell your creations to raise money for a cause.

From their official press release:

Zazzy aims to encourage creatives from all fields to turn their ideas and designs into saleable, wearable, 3D printed jewellery. Entrepreneurs familiar with campaign-based e-commerce will recognise the potential to turn one clever, topical or otherwise creative idea into a profitable product, without dealing with production, packaging or logistics. Bloggers will monetize their reach, designers will engage with a new medium and expand their portfolios, charity fundraisers will control their own designs and profit margins, storytellers, tastemakers, marketers and masters of memes will create unique and topical pieces to sell to their followers instantly.

Zazzy provide the software needed, look after the 3D printing in a choice of materials and hand-finish and ship the jewellery to the buyer.

“With the maker movement jumping on 3D printing by building awesome proof-of-concepts, there has been little focus on enabling digital creatives to make beautiful things,” says Martijn van der Veen, Zazzy CTO. “We’re speeding things up. Our newly launched Sketch Editor allows any creative to upload drawings or icons, and see them transformed into a piece of jewellery instantly. We’re cutting 3D modelling and production out of the 3D printing equation, so anyone can start a jewellery brand over a cup of coffee.”

“We’ve removed the traditional barriers that entrepreneurs and creatives alike encounter when attempting to launch a new product,” says Gert Jan Spriensma, Zazzy CEO. “Anyone with an idea or an audience can monetize it on our platform, without financial or time investment. Our platform will help people who don’t want to physically make something to design high-quality jewelry and shoot for a share of the 5Bn market of online jewelry sales in the US”  

About Zazzy

Based in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Zazzy was launched in 2013 with a view to utilising 3D printing to encourage creativity in the digital age. Allowing customers design and customize their own jewellery, Zazzy’s use of professional 3D printers and self-built software ensures that every design produces a high-quality piece of jewellery in a host of materials including sterling silver, stainless steel and nylon. Having closed deals with some of The Netherland’s and Europe’s largest retailers and employing 10 people, Zazzy is determined to allow everyone enjoy the benefits of 3D printing, no matter their skill set, experience or tech-savviness. With more than 60,000 active users creating more than 200,000 designs, Zazzy’s growth since its launch in 2013 has been remarkable. Zazzy is backed by a group of prominent angels that founded companies like eBuddy, Freedom of Creation (acquired by 3D Systems), Hyves and Vakantieveilingen and participated in Rockstart Accelerator.”

When I decided to do my piece, I knew I wanted to do something in tribute to my brother, who at the time was dying of cancer. I thought about doing a cancer ribbon, and several other things. I came up with the idea to do this when I was having a rough night worrying, and was basically cursing cancer. Thus, the “eff cancer” necklace was born.11216112_410722249107308_2086819336_nThe process was very easy. I chose my phrase, material, font and chain and Zazzy took it from there. Using their 3-d printer technology and keeping in constant contact with me the entire time, the piece was completed and arrived at my door within about 3 weeks. 11205068_420131018166431_4801337065249411990_nIsn’t it lovely? They put an adorable little logo on the clasp too!11179995_410722232440643_1021348632_n11391247_420131014833098_6185465087498954058_nI love this piece so much. I know this probably isn’t everyones cup of tea, but it has so much meaning to me, and it’s my irreverent way of sticking it to that horrid disease that took my brother away from me.

This isn’t the only type of thing you can make on there! You can make bracelets, cufflinks, earrings, and so many other things! You can use their format to make things using your sketches, words, or coming soon, a 3-d model. The website makes it so easy, using drop down menus and step by step directions to make the piece that you want.

I have personally designed three pieces that are listed on the site.

Bridal Bracelet

Moms Rock Necklace

Eff Cancer Necklace

I plan to do some more pieces in the future, using the sketch option, and I am super excited about that.

Zazzy makes the whole process so easy and fun. All you have to do is come up with the idea, submit it, and point and click. Zazzy handles the manufacturing, packaging and shipping to whomever orders. It really is a genius idea, and I kinda wish I had come up with it!

Check out the Zazzy website, and tell me what you think. Would you enjoy designing something and seeing it come to life?

Sound off in the comments.

 

Summer Skin Care Tips and a Special Offer From Jillian Wright

I reviewed Jillian Wrights blemish serum several months ago. She has some awesome summer skincare tips that I want to share with you!

She focuses it on women in their 20’s, but I think they are great universal rules to follow.

Top Skincare Tips for Women in Their Twenties

A Skincare Message for Women in Their Twenties

The key to having the best skin possible for women in their twenties is as much about as what NOT to do as it is about proper regimens. Generally, ladies, you often don’t have the cares and responsibilities that come along later in life. There’s nothing like having a child or a job you love that teaches you about how to care properly about the essential things in life. But think of your skin as your baby, as I like to say, and you’ll get a touch of the perspective you need to make the best long-term decisions.

That’s not to say young women don’t feel pressure. Geez, you probably feel more pressure more intensely than at other times in your life: What to wear, whom to befriend, what career path to take (just getting ANY paying job is hard enough), whom to date, where to live, how to make your parents happy (or not)…. You’re on your own for the first time and are bombarded with skewed messages from the media about looks and behavior. There is no getting away from it. But consciously recognizing and identifying these pressures will help prioritize your needs and choices.

Regimen for Normal Skin with Slight to Mild Acne
Gentle Peptide Cleanser, Breakout Blocker, and Mattefying Moisture Lotion
Now only $139 when bought together!
>> BUY NOW

Good Habits, Prevention and the Right Regimen

I like to talk about three things for young women that are necessary to keep the skin you’re in looking fresh and youthful: Good habits, prevention, and a simple skincare routine, all informed by the right thinking.

Public Skin Enemy #1

Don’t pick: Think of the word blemish. When we look in the mirror, what do we see? Often, when we begin our routines, it begins with scrutiny in the mirror. We look for flaws, instead of seeing the positive, overall picture. And when we see flaws, we are subliminally channeling all the self-criticism and flawed social values and snarky remarks from friends and bringing them to the surface…of our skin. The blemishes on our skin stand in for the perceived blemishes on our character, and we try to root them out, pick them clean. It’s not just the dirt and ineffective methods that do harm in picking (I write extensively about them here (Extractions and Facials blog link), but the risk of turning picking into an uncontrollable obsession, for all the reasons stated above. FACT: The zits and red marks on your face are WAY more obvious to you than they are to the casual observer. Frankly, they’re just not that interested in examining your skin with such scrutiny. So, take a breath, lighten up, and have confidence that the horrible red pimple you think everyone is staring at is actually going unnoticed. One more thing: Have you ever realized that putting on make-up feels far more fun that cleansing and moisturizing? That’s because of the way we think about our routine: Skin care can seem about finding the negative and treating it, while make-up is about stepping back and enjoying the overall effect and face you create. But if you flip the switch, and eliminate those negative feelings in front of the mirror when you’re cleansing and treating your face, your mind and skin will benefit immeasurably. Don’t obsess!

[ For more read Why Picking Skin Leaves Marks and Causes Aging ]

More Bad Habits for Your Skin

All right, we all know what’s bad for us, but I’ll lay it out here—knowing that you’re not perfect and we all make mistakes. Plus, you can make up for your mistakes; it just might take some extra care (in the next section I’ll have some treatment solutions), and careful attention.

Don’t overmedicate your skin: With acne still a concern for many women in their twenties (and yes, it can follow you into your fifties; hormones, zits and taxes are just part of life), most skincare products used by young women involve cleansing and break-out treatments. Going overboard with some of the widely marketed and distributed products in trying to stamp out your acne can result in dry skin, which can turn into clogged pores, premature aging and more stubborn acne. Jillian Wright Skincare is natural and non-medicated, and avoiding harsh chemicals for us is a must. Breakout Blocker [link], for instance, is an everyday serum that will help keep your skin soft and smooth.

Don’t smoke: That occasional cigarette while standing outside the club might be wonderful at 2 a.m., but do this too many times, and you’ll be risking early crow’s feet, sallow skin tones, and fine wrinkle lines around your lips.

Don’t fall asleep with your make-up on: I know you’re tired; I know you might have had a teensy weensy bit too much to drink. But seriously, try to get your face to a sink before passing out.

Don’t have an erratic diet: If you’re prone to skipping meals or going hungry just remember that the more you tax your body, the more you tax your skin.

Get sleep, minimize stress: Given all the pressures you feel, you’re under enough stress. Going without sleep will make the stress feel that much worse—and stress is terrible for your skin and overall health! I know you can party till 4 or 5 a.m. and show up to work tanked up on coffee (for the effects of all that caffeine, read Tragic Love Affair with Caffeine) but…well, for every endurance run you pull, try to compensate with some pampering—a massage, a facial, a day in bed.

[ For more read How Caffeine Affects Your Skin ]

Prevention

Hydrate: I can’t emphasize enough how important drinking plenty of water is to your skin. Happily, most women are already doing this; it’s a wonderful, positive modern trend. You can also keep your skin hydrated with superficial treatments by using the right cleansers (such as Gentle Peptide Cleanser ) and moisturizers (Mattefying Moisture Gel ). [ For more read Water for Clear and Vibrant Skin ]

Wear SPF 50: Sun damage has put the roof over my head; I’ve made a living off treating women in their thirties and forties who weren’t careful about going in the sun in their twenties. But that doesn’t mean I don’t feel for them—I can help preserve and enhance the best skin for their age (skin age, that is), but I can’t help undo the deterioration and long-term damage from sun exposure. (And hey, sexy, make sure you protect your cleavage as well as your face).

Healthy diet and exercise: It turns out your mom has been right for all these years….

Everything in moderation: Weight loss, weight gain, dehydration, alcohol, coffee, sugar intake…avoiding the wrong binges and doing things in moderation will help maintain your natural collagen and elastin.

Be conscious of the effects of your birth control: Bloating, breakouts, hormonal swings—some birth control pills actually even out some of these monthly cycles; but some dosages for some people can exacerbate them. Be attentive to the potential effects, and keep track of them.

Enjoy yourself! Celebrate your achievements! I am honored to treat and befriend some of the most high-powered, smart women in America thanks to my Madison Avenue spa [link]. These accomplished executives, lawyers, professors, writers, actresses and models know—like all great women through the ages—that beauty is NOT superficial. It starts deep inside you, with how you feel about yourself. Sometimes that requires blotting out all those negative messages. It’s impossible not to internalize all the bad stuff—when we’re hurting, some of us get headaches; some get depressed; some get stomachaches, and worse; some get acne. Realizing your self-worth and beauty in your youth will help you make viable decisions that will greatly affect how you age. Taking care of your skin is just one small, positive building block of a healthy long life.

Stick to your regimen; do it every day: Don’t skip. Don’t run out. Stick with the plan. With skin, slow, steady and regular wins the race. You will see results over time, particularly with the right products. Speaking of which….

Regimen for Oily Skin with Mild to Moderate Acne
Congested Skin Cleanser, Breakout Blocker, and Mattefying Moisture Gel
Now only $139 when bought together!
>> BUY NOW

The Right Regimen

If you have overmedicated skin:

First, identify the signs of overmedicated skin.

Red and blotchiness: Use a cleanser that helps minimize redness and inflammation like the Gentle Peptide Cleanser.

Dry, scaly skin: The medicated products are drying out the surface so dial back and use products that will nourish your skin. Then use an exfoliator like the Double Surface Exfoliator 2x a week.

Breakouts: Your acid mantle is confused. It’s oily underneath and dry on the surface. The surface is telling the oil glands to produce more oil. The key is to balance and not over dry the skin with ingredients that will not disrupt the sebaceous glands.

If you can’t avoid the sun:

Always use an SPF. Our Favorite is the Elta MD UV Clear. SPF 46.

If you are acne prone:

Use the Congested Skin Cleanser 5 days a week but supplement with the Gentle Peptide Cleanser if your skin doesn’t feel like it is active.

Follow with the Breakout Blocker

Finish with the Mattefying Moisture Lotion (oil-free) or the Gel (if your skin is super oily)

If you fell asleep with make-up on:

Wash your face immediately. I would suggest a shower because make up is probably embedded around the jawline, hairline, underneath the chin and ears. Use a scrub. You have tons of dead skins cells that have built up overnight that you have to get rid of to reveal fresh healthy skin.

Follow with your serum, moisturizer and SPF.

 

If you want to keep your skin looking healthy

My best regimen for young skin:

Gentle Peptide Cleanser when you wake up and go to bed.

Breakout Blocker day and night.

Mattefying Moisture Lotion day and night.

Double Surface Exfoliator 2x per week

Covergirl Intensify Me Liquid Eyeliner- Review

*This was sent to me to test and review. My opinion is my own.*

Eyeliner is such a fun part of my everyday makeup routine. I have so many of them! I am constantly buying new ones, trying to find the “perfect” product. Covergirl provided me with this one to try, and of course I couldn’t wait… I mean this could be it! Was it? Let’s find out…

11225581_410736419105891_1069931972_nFrom the Covergirl website:

“Get the control of a pencil with the intensity of a liquid eyeliner for beautifully defined eyes every time. Our all-new paddle-shaped tip gives you two looks in one—thick and dramatic or thin and elegant. The intense black formula glides on smoothly and dries quickly for instant drama. Clinically tested, suitable for sensitive eyes.”11185692_410736329105900_761838945_n 11094215_410736339105899_1742190676_nYou can get thick or thin lines, and the color is awesome!11216383_410736349105898_1091470507_n 11185671_410736365772563_105019391_n

I really hate to say this, but I just didn’t like this eyeliner at all. It is super black and intensely pigmented, which is awesome, but it just didnt perform for me. It didn’t go on smoothly at all. I found the felt tip drug on my eyelid and wouldn’t make a clean line. Maybe it is because I have slightly wrinkly eyelids? I have less of a problem with this when I use cream liners or brush applicators.

The cost of this eyeliner is $8, so I would say that for the wonderful pigmentation and color alone it is great. I wouldn’t tell anyone NOT to buy it, because you may have better luck than me.

 

What do you think? What kind of eyeliner do you prefer? Let me know in the comments below.

Beauty Blogazons Weekly Roundup

blogazons2

Covergirl Super Sizer Mascara- Review

*this was sent to me by Covergirl for review. My opinion is my own.*

 

I was so excited and honored when Covergirl contacted me about testing this mascara and also their “Intensify Me” liquid eyeliner. ( I will review the liner in a separate post.)

I have very light and sparse lashes, so I need a mascara that provides length and lots of volume. Did this deliver? Let’s check it out!11118115_410736439105889_1422340929_n

“The Super Sizer by LashBlast Mascara gives you 400% more corner-to-corner volume for full, fanned out lashes. Our amazing Lash Styler transforms even small lashes— just twirl as you apply it to your lashes for an instantly Super Sized lash look. Opthalmologically tested, suitable for those who wear contact lenses.”11126793_410736299105903_1570407909_n

The applicator is very thin and made from flexible plastic. It is easy to  use and applies with ease.

11198628_410736389105894_1098024707_nI found it provided me with decent length, and a fair amount of volume. I used 2 coats, and I didn’t get any clumping. 11198831_410736289105904_989655652_nRight is without mascara, left is with the mascara. You can see a pretty big difference, and I am quite happy with it! The mascara is VERY reasonably priced at under $7 and worth every penny.

So, if you are hooked on higher end mascaras and are looking for a drug store brand that actually works, I would definitely recommend this one.

You can check it out here.

 

What do you think? What’s your favorite mascara? Let me know in the comments below!

 

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