COVID SKINCARE~A self care reminder

What a time we live in! While pandemics have occurred throughout history and we have been anticipating the next one, no one knew this would be the year.  And what a year it is turning out to be.  The majority of us are socially isolated or at least somewhat so, and our contact with the outside world is limited. When we do venture out, the sane are doing so behind safety masks, thus blocking the world’s view to our facial expressions and our skin in general.  Masks are also resulting in a change in our skincare and makeup routines.

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If you are like me, wearing a mask can be somewhat irritating, causing anything from the occasional skin irritation to a full-blown breakout of acne, rosacea, or even dry skin patches.  Some of us find that going sans makeup beneath our masks is better—and easier—than donning a full face, only to cover it with layers of cloth.  The sweat and heat build-up that can occur wearing a mask can be a real irritant. And while the world may not be seeing the pesky resulting nuisances, they are troublesome to our short-term self-esteem and long-term skincare goals nonetheless. What are we to do?

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While our physical appearance may become less of an issue as we are hidden behind facial coverings, caring for our skin should still be a priority.  Maintaining a daily skincare routine is a must if we want to look our best in the years to come.  And that may mean less, not more.  A simple cleansing and moisturizing system will go a long way to making us look and feel our best, with or without a mask.

 

Anyone with a good skincare routine knows the importance of following their system on a daily basis. Soft, supple, glowing skin is part genetics and part discipline.  Being hidden behind a mask can make us complacent and even lazy. Don’t be tempted! Even though the rest of the world can’t see us, we see ourselves in the mirror everyday and can appreciate the fruit of our efforts. And though it may seem that we have months ahead of hiding behind masks and remaining at home more often than not, the day will come when we are able to shed the confines of Covid 19 and show our full selves to the world.  Skincare is important! For those who have yet to establish and good skincare routine, now is the time! And when you can finally shed your face covering, you’ll be so happy to show your best face to the world!

Don’t give up on your beautiful skin even though it’s temporarily hidden.  Baby yourself and take pleasure in the ritual while you await the day you can return to normal living.  Give yourself a little ‘pep talk’ everyday and remind yourself that new days are ahead.  Days of freedom from masks and isolation, days of meeting up with friends and family. Taking care of yourself is an investment in your future.

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Live well, live safe and live beautifully!

 

GIFTING ON A BUDGET~

The time is fast approaching when we will be scouring storefronts and some folks will go online to look for the perfect gifts for family and friends. And for those on a budget, be it necessary or simply a self-imposed frugality, gift-giving can pose a problem in terms of available resources. My first rule of holiday shopping is to do so with cash—not credit. Going into debt to purchase gifts doesn’t help anyone but the banks. So, where do you start?

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Easy for both those shoppers who are finally seeing the light and cutting back or, for those who aren’t in a position to part with much, the local consignment shop in your community is a ‘must’. No matter what type of community you reside in, if you have a consignment store, you have access to something that will make a great gift for someone, even if you don’t stumble across it yourself. It’s still worth a regular look. Ladies with fast-fashion sense frequently turn over their still recent, stylish goods for a few bucks so they can move on to the next fad. Connoisseurs of home décor collectables will trade last year’s home party must-have for the funds to buy the latest holiday decoration. People who engage in regular hobbies—from horse riding to photography—will consign used related items for a quick down payment on the updated equipment they are saving for. So, don’t sell consignment shops short. There are a lot of really nice gifts within their walls that might make one of your family members or friends ecstatic.

A great place to find beautiful and much appreciated gifts after the consignment shop is

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your local antique mall or flea market. If you have a collector on your list, finding a suitable gift can be both fun and financially feasible. A few of my favorite collectible for my rare groundhog collection have been found at second-hand markets and I cherish those trinkets more than most of my other possessions. You just might surprise your own passionate collector with a rare find that he or she will keep close for a lifetime. Antique stores don’t only offer pricey pieces such as furniture or rare china, you can also find affordable antique toys, crystal, even fine jewelry that won’t break your budget. Finding the unexpected makes browsing these locations fun, whether or not you make a purchase.

Another great way to give is to consider your own possessions. Yep. ‘Shop your own closet’ so to speak. Does your sister compliment your cashmere sweater every time you wear it? Give it to her. Does the watercolor you in your dining room catch the eye of your cousin every time he visits? It’s his. If something doesn’t have a great sentimental value to you and you think you can live life without it, give serious consideration to passing it along. The financial value doesn’t matter. If the recipient really likes the item, it will

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mean more than any new gizmo or gadget you could ever buy at a store. And perhaps your thoughtfulness will inspire them to make someone else’s holiday special by sharing a gift of their own. One of my greatest joys is sharing books. As an avid reader I purchase so many and even when I get them off the discount table, I know they are more than a lot of my reader friends can afford. And why keep books sitting around unless I really think I’ll read or refer to them again? I have several family members and friends who read as avidly as I do and I send my books to them as soon as I have enough to fill a box. Even if I have to mail them, shipping becomes the most expensive part of the gift and that’s a bargain.

While lots of folks give up and give in to the gift card strategy, there is one more thing I’d like to receive in lieu of the plastic cash and that is a gift donation to a charity I adore. Everyone who knows me knows they can make a donation to an equestrian charity, my local

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dog shelter or greyhound rescue, or the local food pantry in my name and I’m just as happy as if I’d opened a paper wrapped present. I am mindful of the needs of others in my community through my simple practice of gratitude and I get great joy from giving. Even a dollar to a legitimate charity can make a difference. And most charities don’t disclose the amount you donate in someone’s name, they simply send a ‘thank you’.

Don’t think your time counts as a gift? Guess again. Your great aunt Jennie might like nothing more than for you to offer to cook her dinner or show up at her door with a fresh bouquet, then to sit down and reminisce over old family photos. Offering to spend an evening with your grandmother or your elderly neighbor who dog sits so you can

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address her Christmas cards may be more valuable than you know. Take a small box of candy and brew the coffee and make an afternoon of it. If you have children or grandchildren in their ‘teenage years’ where their time is their most prized possession, have them offer to stop by a loved one’s house for a movie day complete with cocoa and popcorn. Better yet, send them on a yard work expedition for a day. Time is a gift that is always in short supply and shouldn’t be undersold.

If all else fails, and for those in your life that you want to acknowledge with a thoughtful gift of appreciation, remember that you needn’t break out your VISA to buy a meaningful gift. My family absolutely loves Christmas and a new ornament for the tree will provide memories for years to come. My pen-pal loves that I send her a book of p

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retty stamps. My sister enjoys getting craft items that she can use in her many sewing pursuits, like a supply of beautiful buttons. If you really think about the person you are buying for, you can find reasonably priced yet still very meaningful new gifts.

Your gift is always appreciated when it’s beautifully wrapped but don’t sell short a gift that doesn’t come with a bow. It’s the meaning between you and the recipient that will surely please. Give it with all your heart and it will make a memory to last forever.

*Images courtesy freeimages.com

LUSH~ Hair Care

I seldom get to browse inside a LUSH store as the nearest one to my home is an hour away. So when I do have the opportunity to pop in, I take advantage of the opportunity to indulge in something new.

Hair care is one of those items that has become easier to purchase in a sustainable fashion, as shampoo bashampoo bar.jpgrs are becoming more prevalent. And at LUSH, they take their haircare seriously. There are not one or two, but five varieties of shampoo to choose from, as well as an amazingly luxurious conditioning bar. Like me, you may doubt the ability of a bar product to rival that of your favorite bottled brand but I found my LUSH haircare to be as good, if not better, than the curly hair shampoo and conditioners I have been using.

The sales woman who assisted me with selecting my shampoo bar for my curly, occasionally low-lighted locks, offered me three options that she felt would work for me. I opted for the Rose scented bar and have not been disappointed. Even without using conditioner, my curly hair is left tangle free and soft enough that a light, leave-in treatment prior to air drying worked just fine. Following a wash out with the LUSH hair conditioner bar gave my hair softness and frizz control that is vital to us curly headed girls, especially as the weather gets drier.

I was thrilled to be ever so pleased with my LUSH bar haircare as I had my doubts that bar conditioner.jpgany bar shampoo was going to live up to a cream version. Now I can enjoy a fragrant wash and a smooth style while maintaining the sustainability that is LUSH’s trademark. Pick and pack your bars in a brown paper bag, in store, or order online to receive them in recyclable packaging. Most of all, enjoy!

 

FREE TIME~

Free Time. We grow so addicted to not having any that we are at a loss as what to actually do when we find a bit. If you are a full-time working person, your time off is so limited that you likely have become possessive of it. You have to cram family care and events, errands and shopping, cleaning and lawn work, into such a few hours that youTN_girl-working-on-computer-classroom-education-clipart-2.jpg feel overwhelmed, stressed and constantly tired. Days off are oftentimes as filled with duty and responsibility as work days that it feels like you never really have a break. Now that I am free to live without the burden of a full-time job, I have the luxury to budget my time differently and I don’t miss the days when ‘free time’ was such a commodity that I would have given anything for it. How did I do it?

 
For starters, I took inventory. I had been in a professional position in an extremely hostile work environment for years. The fight to end the turmoil there became more overwhelming than my professional duties ever could have been. Free time was something I never had because I couldn’t let go of the worry, concentrate on my personal life and live in those few hours. I always had coworkers and underlings, and their well-being, on my mind. It was a very unhealthy situation. Eventually I would want to do nothing but sleep and it was then I realized I had to take back what I could of TN_girl-sleeping-in-her-bedroom2.jpgmy spare moments. I began by making a list of what I did and could do for myself. I already made physical self-care a must: from daily walks with my dog, riding and caring for my horse, and taking exemplary care of my skin and appearance. Despite going through a serious physical illness during those last few years of my work life, I looked pretty darn good!

 
I also took inventory of what I did for my mental health: outdoor activity is a must for me. Hiking in park, beach walks with Mr. LucyLoves, enjoying meals on our backyard deck. Then there was ‘girl time’ that allowed me to vent frustrations and progress to friends who knew my situation and who prayed for and looked in on me from time to time. There was little else I could do in terms of self-care. But I was still overwhelmed by the idea of housekeeping, grocery shopping and cooking, getting to appointments and TN_shopping-cart-full-of-grocery-clipart-5122.jpgpaying bills, and the multitude of others things that go into maintaining a home when my husband worked 12 or more hours a day. I never really had the opportunity to feel rested because the stress of my situation was always on my mind.

 
Once I knew I had done everything I could for myself, I had to decide how to make more ‘free’ time for me. Time that would allow me to sit and read a book or go on a date night without worrying about what still needed to be done. Time to enjoy my rural property, watching ducks on the pond or napping in a lounge chair while the birds sang. TTN_girl-jogging-in-city-park-vector-clipart-image.jpghis required a schedule much like one I kept for work. I would have to make appointments for free time and force the ugliness of my work environment out of my thoughts or I was never going to ‘get a life’.

 
It sounds strange but I realized that in order to have more time for fun, I might have to cut back on things I enjoyed. Barn time was a seven day a week treat for me. Going to the TN_family-enjoying-sitting-in-swimming-pool-together.jpgbarn after work every evening to spend time with my horse was critical to my well-being. But I realized that if I took one night off every week, I could get my house cleaned in that time and free up Saturday mornings. And my horse wouldn’t miss me because there was so much activity in the barn every day with the other owners and riders that I needn’t worry about him. And what a relief those few hours of freedom on the weekend brought to me. I also took grocery shopping out of my weekend routine by going out with hubby for a late Friday night meal followed by an even later trip to the market. Bonus: we had the store practically to ourselves! OK, maybe it doesn’t sound like the most romantic date in the world, but it worked for us. We ended it by putting the groceries away together when we got home followed by a nightcap. We turned what used to be a chore for me into something I could look forward to. And in the process, I now had all of Saturday for fun! I was tired on those evenings that I did those woman doing alpine skiing winter olympics cliparttasks but no more so than I would be from stress after a work day. And it actually helped keep my mind busy those couple evenings a week on something other than the situation at my office.

 
There are numerous ways to alter your schedule even if it takes some thought and help to do it. You might need to enlist the aid of a partner or friend, and you might even have to say ‘no’ from time to time. So many Americans have gotten so used to over-scheduling their families that they forget their lack of free time is, in great part, their own doing. If your child is in an activity every night of the week, you’re probably doing too mTN_ballerina-ballet-pose-2a.jpguch, which is another issue you can control. Children need to learn that we can’t do it all just as we adults have learned it, oftentimes the hard way. Maybe one dance class and one sport’s practice a week is enough. Or, maybe there is a dance class you can take while your children are enjoying theirs. One couple I know rotates their attendance at children’s activities, with mom taking one week and dad the next. The parent who stays home prepares the evening meal, packs lunches for the next day and sets out school clothes. And they swear they are all the better for it. It is possible to save more time if you take a hard look at how you spend it. Don’t forget to include the time you ‘waste’ with your electronic devices which are real time sappers.

 
Man Walking Dog ClipartOnce you’ve carved out time for yourself, you might actually be at a loss as for what to do. We become so used to always being active that sitting idle makes us feel we are missing something. I remember asking myself the same thing. I had to remind myself of some of the quiet things I enjoyed, on my own and with hubby, and then I was able to randomly select a pleasure, be it working a crossword puzzle or searching through recipe books that had been long neglected. Once I got used to having a day just for play, I started making more adventurous plans such as outings at museums and concerts and local festivals. It just took me awhile to get used to having time to truly savor life. Once I was able to do that, I was also able to be less critical of myself for letting some things go. Maybe I didn’t get all the house chores done on cleaning night and TN_young-girl-holding-basket-of-vegetables-from-garden-clipart.jpgmaybe the bathroom really did need a thorough deep cleaning but I no longer focused on those things. I was able to let it go until scheduled cleaning time came around again. Because no one really cares if there’s a spot on the shower curtain.

 
If you are having difficulty finding time to truly live your life, to focus on working to live and not the other way around, maybe you need to schedule your own free time. You may have to take baby steps, such as contemplating what seems like an impossible dream on your lunch break or waking up an hour early one morning to draft a new time schedule. Once you get started, you’ll soon get excited about the possibilities and before you know it, you’ll have a bit more freedom you crave. Freedom to enjoy the gifts your work and family bring as opposed to the efforts they take.

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As always, live a beautiful life!

 

*Images courtesy Classroom ClipArt. 

WHERE I’VE BEEN AND WHAT I’VE BEEN DOING~

It’s been a long while since I’ve been here on the blog and for good reason. I have been continuing on my journey of reinvention!
Last year I wrote a short series about my pre-breast cancer diagnosis and the process of surgery and treatment. I’m so very grateful to say that one year later, my test results are perfect and I am healthy again, albeit a little heftier than I care to be. Darn those medication side effects! But I am so very blessed and grateful.

 

wedding-ringsAnd a year out from surgery, Mr. LucyLoves and I celebrated our 31st wedding wedding-rings.pnganniversary, which also makes him one year closer to retirement—just a few short years from now. I have been working more as a professional temp and found one recurring seasonal position I have fallen in love with. I so look forward to future stints with the company. As a wife who is a decade younger than her other half, I have many more years to work and earn and be productive, if only on a part-time basis. But as hubby slows down, I’ll want to be right there beside him, doing a bit more traveling and enjoying a quiet home life, surrounded by family and friends. The big question for us has been, where will we make that happen?obi_Castle_with_flag

 

Over the last couple of years, and more seriously, over the last several months, Mr. LucyLoves and I have been pondering the decision about where to spend the coming years of life as we prepare to enter that long-awaited ‘freedom-phase’. We have considered staying in our home territory, moving a county or two away, and even changing states. We wanted a home that would allow us to maintain our privacy while giving us continued access to the water, which we are blessed with on Lake Erie. After talking with friends who have made distant relocations, as well as driving through various local neighborhoods visiting beach condos and town houses, smaller country properties as well as city homes, we finally made a decision. We are going to stay put. No ‘For Sale’ signs for this homestead.

 

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I honestly hadn’t fathomed we would stay in the home we have occupied through our working years but here we are: happy with the beauty and solitude of our rural property, and thankful for our retirement aged, quiet neighbors and the growing Amish community now absorbing many of the surrounding small farms. While I remain somewhat concerned about our abilities to continuing climbing stairs and managing a basement laundry room in our old age, as well as keeping up with a large-acreage lawn FarmPack.pngand pond, which serves as our fresh water source, we have tentative ideas for options when the day comes that we can no longer manage those things. And no, I won’t be getting that big kitchen I have dreamed of or the luxury master bath we had in our previous home, which I so miss on many a day. But there are trade-offs to any homestead decisions, at least for those of us who haven’t an unlimited budget. And we do have tentative plans for managing the few problems we have pondered, should the need ever arise. But, what about those ideas for a smaller home, a simpler lifestyle and the desire to live next to the water? Well…those will be answered with a bit of renovation. Which may turn out to be a bigger challenge than finding a new home! But we decided to proceed and now we are off.

 

What does one need in a rural home after twenty years of life? For starters, a new outbuilding and driveway. Perhaps not what most gals out there would look forward to but bbarnelieve me, there’s a reason! First, our outbuilding has sustained storm damage on several occasions and is no longer ‘rebuildable’, but rather, in need of replacement. As for the drive, our wet, boggy environment has caused the gravel drive to sink over the years and hold water, making it a terrible mess during our wet and wintery seasons. So yes,our outdoor renovations are much needed and will make life much easier for years to come.
As for our home itself, most of you would agree that the most used rooms are the kitchen and bathrooms, and no matter what level of resources you have to invest, even the best of cabinetry, flooring and hardware does sustain heavy wear. And that is where we are: in need of more than a face lift in those places in our home, in addition to a few cosmetic changes we hope for. The challenge here in rural America: finding dependable, qualified contractors who want the jobs and actually show up to complete good work. Which kresba.pngleaves Mr. LucyLoves and I strapped to perform a great many of these renovation tasks ourselves. That may mean slow going on some of our projects but we shall persevere.

 

Making our home, both inside and out, a ‘new’ place to spend the next couple decades or more, will be where my time and energy goes in the coming year. From taking down trees that are becoming a fall risk in foul weather, to re-dredging and cleaning the pond, and installing a new, state of the art water system, we have our hands full and we feel our bank account may well bleed dry.

 

All of this doesn’t mean I’ve abandoned my love of fashion and skincare, and certainly not of nature and art and supporting my area parks and museums. I’ve just had to shift poolside-villa.pngmy focus from installing new products in my vanity to picking out a new vanity itself. I’ve had to temper my museum visits to the hottest days when we need a break from rural life to soak up some city fun. Just another adventure to look forward.

 

Whatever you do, however you spend your time and whatever you plan for your own future, do so with gusto. Live your best life, every day, be grateful for what you have and give much of yourself. And always love your own home.

 

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Building a Lifestyle Change Wardrobe~

When I worked as a professional woman, I easily indulged my passion for fashion on a daily basis. Career wear was my number one, and most favorite, fashion investment. I had two closets teeming with dresses, suits, shoes and bags of the finest quality I could afford. I thrived on changing up jewelry and scarves, and mixing and matching, and my style spoke to my career almost as much as my actual work did. I loved career fashion as much as business administration. I was in my element.

 
Then came ‘The Change’. After a long and devastating illness, and years in an environment riddled with harassment, Mr. LucyLoves and I made the decision that I would walk away. I would have to put myself first if I was going to live life to the fullest. That meant not only the loss of identity associated with years of a stellar career serving sweaters yes.jpgothers, but also the loss of my fashion identity. I didn’t realize at the time that I’d be losing more of myself than expected on my journey to a better life. Obviously the first and most important obstacles were to heal and recover, in body, mind and spirit. Then I had to figure out a new budget and how to live with a lot less money while conserving my resources. Fashion was the least of my worries. Or so I thought.

 
It is my earnest belief that a true fashionista is born, not made. Yes, you can develop your own personal style and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. I wish more people today would do it. But to truly be in love with types and plies of fabric, with the drape of various cuts, with the flow that different patterns give to the figure is an art form that we are born with. Like the painter or potter who finds love in texture and shape, the fashionista is a born artist. And losing the ability to engage in making our art on a daily basis leaves us at a loss. What to do?

 
simple dresses.jpgI was not used to this ‘casual’ life that I now lead. I didn’t know how to be happy in jeans and a tee shirt, roaming around the house and barn. I missed deciding which shoes to wear on any given day. My blood supply was being strangled and I didn’t know where to go for a transfusion.

 
After a long year of health recovery, I finally decided to face the studio that were my closets. I opened the doors to the A-lines and silks that had been hanging on racks without a wear for months. And I started to purge. I went through every piece, enjoyed the colors, the textures and the memories. And then I started the piles. I organized by type of clothing and by size, and set aside specific piles for special people, whom I knew would at least appreciate them. When I got to my shoe racks, I hesitated and I left several more pairs behind than I should have, but a girl has to draw the line somewhere. Once I had finished, I put out a call to family, friends and associates looking for women in my size range who might be in need or want of professional attire. And then I said ‘goodbye’. Those few things I couldn’t rehome on my own went to a local charity where I’m sure they eventually found a new body. I closed the doors on two closets and had maintained what I would wear for months to come in less than one. It left me with mixed emotions but I let the joy overcome the loss, knowing that there was new life for my old art. I just had to find it.

 
lux layers yes.jpgAfter nearly three years of figuring out what a casual lifestyle would mean for me, I am finally enjoying shopping and wearing clothing again. Not the clothing I spent a career indulging in, but in new clothing that suits me, in the here and now. It was hard at first to find joy, let alone elation, in putting together a style that included more jeans and button downs than skirts and gabardine jackets. I was like an oil painter finding herself in watercolor class. The form was still beautiful but I had to figure out the medium.

 
The first challenge was getting used to casual styles for the activities that I now engage in. For the most part, I still spend most of my days at home, unless I’m temping or volunteering for someone. My ‘dress up’ activities usually include museum or concert events with hubby, or lunch dates with friends and the occasional girl’s weekend. I want to look polished, include the things I love in my appearance, like favorite pieces of jewelry, but still blend in with the vibe of the event. Getting used to dressing in a ‘casual’ fashion as a new art form was indeed a new medium for me.

 

Once I found clothing ideas I liked, the next challenge was finding new stores and departments to shop in. Some of the old standby’s still offered options, like J Crew and Nordstrom’s of course. Madewell still puts up the occasional silk blouse and lovely soft sweaters that work as well with jeans as with dress pants and heels. I can still indulge in boots but now prefer low heals over high and my favorite riding boot company makes just the perfect pair.

 
After I found locations to shop, I started going more regularly again and just looking at what they had to offer without necessarily buying anything. I started putting together pictures in my mind of how certain items I already had would mesh with new things that simple resort.jpgI was beginning to like. Staples remain the same, such as layering tees and socks but I now find myself naturally gravitating to more prints and less structured knits than when I was suiting up for professional career demands.

 
At last, after nearly three years sans work life, I am enjoying shopping, and dressing, once again. In fact, I now have a hard time walking away from something I like, which I frequently have to do because I just don’t need that many items of clothing anymore. I can’t possibly wear all of the things I have bought this past year on a regular basis to get my money’s worth and I don’t want to spend too much on clothing that will end up spending most of its life on a hanger. Scaling back on the number of items I purchase is my current bane. If I like it, I like it. What can I say? But quality over quantity is still my motto and buying something only to leave it to hang in a closet is of no use to me. Or to my checkbook.

 
Finally, I am enjoying indulging in fashion again. I look forward to my lunch dates and my museum trips, my holiday events and weekends away. And yes, vacations! Traveling is one of the best parts of this retirement life. And with the new stash in my closet, I can pack for any get-away and love every minute of it. tops yes.jpg

 
Whatever you wear, wherever you go, live a beautiful life.

Younique~Moodstruck Lip Exfoliator

I am new to this brand, thanks to one of my friends in Germany, who is a sales agent for the Younique brand. As a cruelty-free cosmetic guru, I was more than happy to learn Younique is not tested on animals and is environmentally friendly. So, when I saw the opportunity to try this lip exfoliator and moisturizer duo, I jumped at the chance. As someone who suffers from chronic dry lips, I’m always on the hunt for gentle exfoliation and moisturizing options that keep my lips both smooth and comfortable. This Younique Moodstruck Lip Exfoliator is the absolute best I have tried.

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This gentle exfoliator leaves lips smooth without drying them out. If you are in a rush, or if you are immediately applying lip color afterward, a second moisturizing agent isn’t necessary. Moodstruck leaves behind a dewy comfort that leaves lips ready for a slick of balm or even the most drying of matte lip colors. My lip color lasted for several hours and my lips didn’t feel dry or tight with extended wear, thanks to my Moodstruck.

If you are interested in trying Younique for yourself, you can find them through a local Younique agent or online at http://www.youniqueproducts.com. You won’t be disappointed in the quality or the price.
As always, live a beautiful life.

*www.youniqueproducts.com/AnjaWalpuski/account/index offers great deals and savings on Younique products throughout the year.

WHEN MAMMOGRAMS SPOT TROUBLE…BIOPSIES, SURGERY AND POST-OP TREATMENT~ Part III

PREVENTION TREATMENT AND MOVING ON WITH LIFE~Part III

A couple of weeks after my post-surgery follow up, I met my new oncologist. At my appointment, I underwent a breast exam and a full review of my biopsies and my health history. From there, the oncologist reviewed with me the averages of breast cancer occurrence in the general population and the likelihood that I would have breast cancer within five years and within twenty years. His calculations, based on my health, my family history and the types of cells found in my biopsies, indicate I am more than twice as likely as other women to develop breast cancer in the next five to twenty years.

IMG_20170727_174652.jpgBut the news need not be so troubling today. The oncologist informed me of various medications that are being used to reduce the development of breast cancer in women who have experienced a pre-cancer or early cancer situation. And I am a candidate for just such treatment. Furthermore, my information will be used as part of a study to rate how effective these medications are for women in the future.

My doctor selected Raloxifene treatment for me. Raloxifene is used for menopausal women who may also be at risk for osteoporosis or other brittle bone issues. The drug comes in pill form and is taken once a day. Yes, there are numerous side effects, many of which sound a lot like pre-menopausal and menopausal symptoms, such as headaches, blurred vision, hot flashes and difficulty sleeping, among dozens of others. After a week of treatment, I have had no indication of any side effects so I am grateful for my apparent tolerance of the drug. Treatment with Raloxifene is for five years and requires six-month visits with the oncologist. At these visits, I will have a breast exam and review my six-month mammograms and undergo a complete check-up that includes a review of where I stand in terms of any reduction in my likelihood of developing breast cancer.

In addition to my Raloxifene treatment, I am continuing with my pescatarian diet and IMG_20170802_195735.jpgdaily exercise routine. Surprisingly, while my surgeon is adamant I remain living a pescatarian/vegetarian lifestyle as part of my fight against breast cancer, my oncologist doubts the studies relating diet to breast cancer occurrence in the general population. That does not mean he gave me the green light to eat and drink anything I want however. He does advocate both diet an exercise as a means of significantly reducing the risk of heart attack and other heart disease and stroke, as well as other types of cancers. So, I’m not off the hook! Furthermore, I was notified that I should never again use any form of hormone therapy including over-the-counter menopausal supplements that contain natural hormone producing ingredients. This also means strictly limiting my soy product intake, as soy is after all, a form of estrogen. And I shouldn’t have to bring up the issue of smoking or over-indulging in alcohol: just don’t do it.

The post-surgery oncology preventative treatment is by far the easiest part of this journey. Yes, it means taking a medication daily for the next five years and undergoing twice yearly tests and reviews with my oncologist. But if oncology prevention can reduce my risk of breast cancer by as much as half, putting me back into the range of the average woman in society, then I’ll gladly do it. And if my information somehow helps with breast cancer treatment for other women in the future, that is just another blessing for my community.

IMG_20170801_142346.jpgOne in eight women in the general population will get breast cancer. These aren’t the best odds for any of us, and for those of us with higher risk factors, our chances can seem overwhelmingly dire. But we can all do things to reduce our risk and increase our chances of survival if we find ourselves to be one of the unlucky gals diagnosed. Knowing how to do self-breast exams at home should be second nature, and an annual breast health exam and mammogram are a must for every woman over the age of 40 and for those in high risk categories. Don’t put off your own breast health. I am one of the lucky few who was found to have an issue BEFORE it turned to full blown cancer requiring more than post-surgery, preventative oncology. Do yourself and your family a favor: have ALL your medical preventative check-ups and tests, on time, on the schedule your doctors map out for you.

Live a long, healthy and beautiful life!

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WHEN MAMMOGRAMS SPOT TROUBLE…BIOPSIES, SURGERY AND POST-OP TREATMENT~Part II

THE BREAST SURGERY~Part II

I was checked into the hospital for breast surgery at 7:30 AM, less than a week and a half after my core needle biopsy. The surgery again started with a trip to the mammography department, following my surgery preparation. My usual mammography technician was assisted by a second radiology tech, both of whom set me up for the radiologist. Once IIMG_20170718_163146.jpg was properly positioned in the mammography machine, the radiologist again took a few pictures and numbed my breast prior inserting a wire, via a large needle, into my breast tissue. The purpose of this wire is to meet up with the marker that was placed during the biopsy, and to give the surgeon the exact location of the cells to be removed. Once this wire was in place, I was taken to surgery.

I woke about an hour and a half later, ready to have a snack and go home. When I was being dressed post-surgery, I found I was wearing a sport type bra, well-padded with gauze, over and around my incision. I was told to wear it for the remainder of the day and then I could remove it at bedtime. I was also sent home with a prescription for pain relief medication and informed that ice packing was again appropriate as I felt necessary. The ordeal itself was over.

IMG_20170802_180440.jpgA few days later, my surgeon again called me at home to inform me the post-surgery biopsy report showed the same abnormal cells as the biopsy, but no full-blown cancer. Over the next few weeks, I was sore and tender, swollen and bruised. Sleeping was a bit problematic as finding a comfortable position wasn’t always easy. I was protective of my breast and didn’t want to be too close to anyone who could possibly bump into me. But overall, the experience wasn’t as bad as some might expect. I kept my physical activity limited and got as much rest as I could for the next few weeks.

At the three-week mark, I had a follow up appointment with my surgeon. At this appointment, he reviewed with me the likelihood that I would experience a recurrence and possible breast cancer. The verdict? There is a 20% chance that I will have breast cancer within five to twenty years. The good news? That chance can be reduced by up to half using preventative treatment, combined with good lifestyle habits. I already pass the diet and exercise test with flying colors so the only other task at hand was to give up my menopause related hormone therapy, which I had done the week of my surgery. Welcome back hot flashes, night sweats and hormone related acne! IMG_20170727_160208.jpgFurthermore, my surgeon ordered a six-month follow-up mammogram and appointment with him at the end of the year, and every six months thereafter, until he deems they are no longer needed. Those appointments were also already scheduled for me.

My surgeon then referred and scheduled me with an oncologist at a premier cancer center with a satellite office at the same hospital where I had my surgery—just twenty minutes from my home. Another blessing in my eyes as I need not travel out of town for my medical appointments. The last thing anyone wants to do when they are dealing with a medical issue is to deal with traffic jams, hazardous weather driving conditions and long waits in packed waiting rooms. I have the benefit of top notch care in a small-town environment, and that is stress alleviating indeed.

If you have yet to see your doctor for a breast health check-up, be sure to pick up the phone and schedule your appointment on Monday morning. It just may be the appointment that saves your life.

Live a beautiful life!

 

WHEN MAMMOGRAMS SPOT TROUBLE–BIOPSIES, SURGERY AND POST-OP TREATMENT~

THE MAMMOGRAM~Part1

I’ve been busy the last couple of months. Not just lunching with friends, vacationing with hubby, walking the dog and grooming the horse. But with serious, self-loving behavior. And it all started with my annual mammogram.

I had my mammogram a couple months late this year because I was dealing with

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another medical issue and had to tackle one thing at a time. As soon as I resolved the original problem, I scheduled my mammogram and thought nothing of it. I also thought nothing of it when I got a call from my GYN a couple days later to return for a few more pictures. I’ve had call backs before and nothing came of them. Sometimes us gals with denser breast tissue don’t always take the best snaps the first time around. I scheduled my call back and had mammogram number two within a week’s time.

At the conclusion of mammogram number two, my tech asked me to wait while she sent my additional pictures straight to the radiologist so he could determine if any additional pictures were needed. Again, just routine. But what wasn’t routine was the radiologist coming down to meet me in the mammography center to speak to me in person. It turned out I had a spot on my mammogram indicating ‘calcifications’ that are often linked to breast cancer. OK then. The radiologist recommended I seek a biopsy to determine if there was any need for further investigation. He was very kind, explained everything clearly and then informed me he would telephone my GYN as soon as he returned to his office to make the arrangement. Again, I was not in any way concerned or upset by the news. It was just another hoop for me to jump through.

I no sooner arrived home and settled into my tasks for the day when my phone rang. It

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was my GYN. Her first words to me were, “How are you feeling about this”? I told her that honestly, I felt very positive and wasn’t worried because I didn’t feel there would be anything wrong. I think she was more relieved to hear that I was less upset about a possible breast cancer diagnosis than she was. She inquired as to whether I had told my husband yet and how he was handling the news. I was so grateful to have a doctor who expressed such kindness and concern that I knew no matter what happened to me, I would be OK. After all, I am surrounded by great doctors in one of the premier training hospitals in the nation. My GYN offered to refer me to a surgeon and I chose the one I had used for past surgeries and felt very confident with. I called and scheduled my consultation that day.

A week later, my husband I walked into the surgeon’s office to learn about what would happen during my biopsy and what the possible outcomes might be. The verdict? Three possibilities: nothing at all; abnormal cells that are not yet cancer but indicative of a future cancer; or, breast cancer. After going through the specifics of the biopsy process, I left well prepared for a core needle biopsy, scheduled for the following Friday.

I had been warned by my doctors that this procedure might not be the most pleasant experience in the world but I have been through far worse. As far as the core needle biopsy went, I was seated in a convertible chair and wheeled up to the mammography machine where you are placed according to how the radiologist needs you in order to

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perform the biopsy procedure. Once properly placed in the mammography machine, the technicians took photographs to ensure proper placement for the biopsy. The radiologist then numbed my breast while the technicians kept me occupied and helped me to remain still. Just like in a routine mammogram, I was asked to hold my breath and breath out on several occasions so the radiologist could properly insert the larger needle for retrieving sample tissue. Also during this time, a ‘marker’ was placed in my breast tissue where the biopsied tissue was removed. This is done so my radiologist and surgeon would know exactly where the offending cells were found, should surgery be required. This is also where the doctor’s advice came true: it is NOT the most pleasant of experiences. Although I was numb, I could feel the large, tube like needle being inserted deep into my breast tissue, which was a bit uncomfortable. But I got through it and once the biopsy was done, I was allowed a few minutes to catch my breath as I started to become a bit light-headed. I did eat a light breakfast prior to the procedure but perhaps could have stood a bit more on my stomach. Nonetheless, the entire procedure took about one-half hour to complete. After the biopsy, a few more pictures were taken so the radiologist could ensure she had taken all the samples she wanted. I was sent home with an ice pack and instructions to take Tylenol only and/or use ice to ease any pain. I was prepared for serious bruising and swelling and while I was sore for a few days, the after-effects were minimal. On the following Monday evening, my surgeon called to tell my me initial biopsy results were in and while the news wasn’t the best, it wasn’t the worst either: abnormal cells that would require surgery to remove.

One week later, I was checking into the hospital for outpatient surgery and the next phase of the process would begin.

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If you haven’t had your annual mammogram, now is the time to make that appointment. It is easy to do and painless, especially in comparison to the alternative treatment for a long ignored, breast health issue.

Stay healthy and live a beautiful life.