Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Sand House pt. 3

I've always tried to change things for the better. Or at least my interpretation of the better.  I believe I know what's right and how things should be and can never understand why people don't do the right thing. Some people may call me controlling. But those people aren't very nice. 

After years of trying to change the world, I've finally had to admit, I can't change or fix everything. Believe me, I've beat my head to a raw pulp trying to budge some of those brick walls that shape things into what they are.
This is how my world would look
Today that brick wall is my dad. I've had very limited influence over his decision-making processes in the past but I've had more than most. I've been trying to use that limited influence like a snake charmer trying to coax him into The Sand House.

We went back to have lunch there last Saturday. My husband, Howard, took pity on my solo plight and offered to have his dad watch the boys so he could accompany us. I wasn't sure about this. On one hand, I really needed the support and felt relieved to have him hold my hand as I traversed the narrow path between love and fear. On the other, I was afraid he would break the bubble I had created in my head to better deal with this situation. Within this bubble sat my dad who reluctantly agreed to enter into this new senior living situation and found he was much happier, healthier and surrounded by new friends. I didn't want Howard asking questions or giving opinions that touched, or even worse, burst my bubble. But I appreciated that he acknowledged how difficult this has been for me and wanted to help out. This was the part of marriage that felt like a partnership or a team.

So we picked up my dad and took him to The Sand House. Lunch was being served in the dining room which felt more like an oceanfront restaurant.
I think an ocean view helps with digestion
We were seated by the hostess and greeted warmly by our server, Helen, the Russian speaking immigrant who had wanted to meet my dad. Or at least welcome him as a fellow Russian. She was surprisingly fantastic, like a female Don Rickles. She was irreverant, poking fun at the residents but in such a kindhearted, loving way, she had everyone giggling. I could see the light in my dad's eyes as he gazed at her with a wonderous smile.

I felt hopeful.

We went and looked at his potential room again while my husband sprinkled appreciative comments along our path, "Wow, this place is great." He sounded sincere. 
"I know," I replied, "It's amazing. I really do want to live here someday." 
"No really," he said, like I was doubting him. 
"I know!" I replied, could we move on already? My dad just walked alongside us with his left foot slightly dragging. And we went into the room again to confirm just how amazing this place really was.
view from amazing room
We left feeling good. Or I was feeling good, like I was a step closer to him agreeing. How could he not? We even had an elderly gentleman stop by our lunch table and give an unsolicited testimonial about how great the place was. And my husband kept reaffirming how much better this place was than the one his grandma had lived in and how it was so much better than he had imagined. This made me wonder, does he not believe me when I tell him something? Because I had already told him it was perfect. But that's another story, ha ha.

We dropped off my dad back at his apartment and told him I'd call him the next day. When I called him, I wanted to casually ask what he had thought of our visit but couldn't find the courage to say the words. I wasn't ready for any responses other than the one I needed to hear. So we chit chatted and I called again the following day. At the end of the conversation, I summoned my courage and asked. "So. Wha'd you think of The Sand House?" Brief silence.

"No," he said with a deep sigh. "No." A little softer.

 I don't think his inner platelets ever budged, not far enough to create the type of seismic shift that would have allowed him to move into the direction for which I had hoped for him.

I couldn't hold it together any more. I was too tired to keep down the bubbles that begged to explode from the bottle. This last 'no' had shaken the contents until there was a little explosion. I didn't yell but I was very stern. I lectured him about what a good opportunity this was for him. He could heal, make friends and enjoy the beach anytime he wanted.  I urgently kept talking but I knew there was no hope. He had made up his mind and I couldn't shift his glacial stubbornness. I didn't want to make things worse by getting mad and yelling even though I was so scared for him and didn't know what else I could do to help him.

So I didn't. I had to let it go and have faith.

That night I got an email from my friend, Diana. She too is Russian, though so Americanized, like me, unless she told you, you'd never suspect. But being an immigrant, regardless of how young you were when you got to this country, shapes you. Maybe you have a stronger feeling for the plight of other immigrants. Maybe you are more empathetic to the struggle of being a loner in a foreign land, even if that land has been your home for decades.

Anyway, Diana reached out to me by giving me the phone number of a Russian home services agency passed on to her by her grandmother.

In the darkness of my disappointment, I felt a glimmer of hope.

It appeared we now had a Plan B.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Sand House pt.2

He said no.

I heard the no, between his chuckles and warped speech, the kind I usually have to rummage through to find the words he actually means to use. I feel myself starting to sink. I tread harder but play dumb because I'm tired and don't have the energy a commitment to this conversation will require.

"No?" I ask, hoping I'm wrong about what I'm suspecting he means. "No, what?" I always have to have an idea of where he's going with his words, to help guide him to his meaning. Like a game of charades but with half syllables instead of pantomime. Since his brain tumor and ensuing stroke, he has had a problem with word retrieval. He knows what he wants to say, he just can't find the words to say it. Sometimes he uses words from the other languages he knows, thinking they're the ones he needs, but usually they're not. Unless I can figure out the terrain of where his meaning lives, we're both lost and when he's lost, he gets frustrated and waves me away with an impatient groan, stops trying to say anything and instead resigns himself to be locked in the prison of his mind.

But during this conversation, he seems more lighthearted. I wonder if he's had some drinks.

"Sand House." I can decipher the words through his mirth. "Sand House!" he repeats, louder, like a tourist speaking to someone who doesn't understand his language, assuming a greater volume will make everything clearer.

The Sand House is the assisted living facility we visited together. And, in this stage in his life, it is the perfect senior living situation for him.

The Sand House is in Santa Monica right across the street from the beach. My dad moved us to Santa Monica from 'Little Russian' in West Hollywood just before I went into the fourth grade. He hasn't budged since. Santa Monica is the one place on Earth where he sees God. Or at least His handiwork. The beach is his altar. When he is at the beach, he is in his version of heaven.

The problem is he hasn't been going to the beach in the last few weeks. He hasn't taken his regular walks on the boardwalk or really done much of anything.

Since he was duped by his Internet Bride, he's just been sleeping all day. He wakes around 4pm to sit in front of the TV, and barely eats, if at all. The gold-grubbing thief arranged for a woman who takes care of an ailing, next-door neighbor to come every day and cook and straighten up for him. But this caretaker woman used to drink wine with the Internet Scavenger so I'm not sure about her morals or her intentions. When I ask my dad what he's eaten each day, his first meal is always cheese, yogurt and coffee and then a soup as his dinner. The skin is flapping around his spaghetti-thin arms. He is looking as skinny as a concentration camp victim. Each of these conversations breaks off another little piece of my heart.

How could this have happened to my dad?

When we visited The Sand House, its bright, airy interior and cheerful staff and residents was a stark contrast to the gloom in which he now lives. I hoped he was seeing what I was seeing.

They serve three gourmet meals a day but also have a small menu available until 6pm so my dad could eat whenever and wherever he likes. They have housekeeping services and laundry. They have exercise classes including his favorites, yoga and tai chi.
This is the room where they execise
They have physical, occupational and speech therapies, all covered by Medicare so it would be 100% free. My dad's ego has always prevented him from getting the therapy care that he's needed after each of his medical maladies. His dragging left arm and leg and his stunted speech are the result of his inaction. I can do it myself, he always said. Here, I tell him, he can give his body and brain the attention they need to finally heal.

"You deserve this," I told him, when we first toured the place. "You've always taken care of everyone. Please, please just this once, do something for yourself."

We even went back again to see the actual rooms that were available, to get a sense of what his life would be like living there. I felt tears meekly slide into my eyes as I looked at the view that he could have.
Actual balcony view from the room he could have
I really wanted this for my dad. I really wanted this for myself. When I'm older and retired, I want to live in a resort overlooking the ocean with meals available anytime of the day and people cleaning my room when it needed plus a variety of activities planned for me - like this one that happened this month on the 20th:

It would be like living in a college dorm except with older people. Sure, when I looked around there were a few people that had special needs but the majority seemed like they were there because they wanted to live their lives fully, not be locked away in some isolated apartment like my dad's.

When we got back down to the lobby after seeing the two available apartments the last time we visited Sand House, my dad's ailing leg forced him into an awaiting chair and it appeared, but I didn't want to look too closely, that he was softly weeping under his fedora. I wanted to give him his moment and had to admit that although I can see the beauty of this potential situation, he might see it differently.

Here's what I saw (the rooftop deck)

Here's what he might see
I know, after doing yoga for many years, that what we see in this world may not be what actually exists. People see a blend of what is in front of them and what has happened to them in the past and/or what they are expecting to happen in the future.

I'm sure my dad has seen images of terrible nursing homes, although I would never call this a nursing home. I'd say it's more like a resort exclusive to seniors.

He said, after his brief weeping episode, when I leaned down to see if he was okay, "I am not in my grave yet." This was quite a sentence for someone who normally has trouble stringing together more than three words. He proclaimed this with a hot burst of frustration born from the tension taking over his body.

I know when he gets like this not to argue. Besides, there was nothing to argue. "Of course not." I tried to smooth his rising hackles. "This is not a grave. You're apartment is more like a grave. This is living. This is being surrounded by people who want to be your friend, who have enough of their own money that they don't want to steal yours. This is where you can meet a nice woman who will think you are so handsome and like you for who you are. This is where you can do things you enjoy all day long or do nothing at all. Or go for a walk on the beach, which is only across the street!" I ended, sounding more like a cheerleader or a spokesperson for an infomercial than the scared, defeated daughter I was actually being.

Yet, when I called to check in on him the next day, he told me, in no uncertain terms, No. He would not be moving into The Sand House.

Okay, I told him, feeling like a deflated balloon, trying not to get stuck in the slimy swamp of inviting hopelessness, trying not to let anger take over the situation and bring it to an unshakable end. I wished him good night and hung up the phone.

The next day, I called him again and told him I wanted to take him to lunch. "Okay!" he said with excitement in his voice. I couldn't imagine how lonely he must be now that the greedy witch had abandoned him.

"I'm coming on Saturday and we'll go back to The Sand House and have lunch in their restaurant and you can meet the Russian server that works there and wanted to meet you." During our last visit, the nice lady who was facilitating our tours, Kortney, told us there was a woman who spoke Russian and was excited to meet my dad but we were running late that day and she had already gone home.

"Okay," he said, sounding a little less certain.

"Great!" I wasn't going to get dragged down by my fears for his future. I wasn't going to get tangled in my frustration that this situation was going to be harder than I imagined, that his Old World Ego wasn't going to let him be cared for. If I went down, there wouldn't be anyone left to see him as the strong, determined man he is that brought us to this country and fought for our survival until we could fight for ourselves. And now I had to fight for him.

Saturday. It was another chance.

My dad sitting in what could be his room

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Sand House pt. 1

When I was four, I wanted a colored pencil set more than anything in the world. 

The memory of this seemingly trivial desire has followed me into my 40s, a permanent etching in my mind.

At the time, we were living in Italy. We had just left Israel, where we had sought asylum as Russian-Jewish refugees. 
Our Soviet Union family passport photo
Now we were awaiting permission to enter the United States. I know now, as an adult, when we left the former Soviet Union we were not sent off with kisses and well wishes. We were stripped of our possessions and sent into the unknown with $100 to mark our family fortune.

But my dad is stubborn and a hard worker. I'm sure we were given some type of social assistance when we arrived in Israel because they really do try and take care of their people. I know my dad was a reservist in the Army. 
Dad on left
I know my dad must have worked diligently to rebuild some type of financial cushion because that's the kind of guy he is.

But by the time we went to Italy, to await the bureaucratic green light, we still weren't living anywhere near the financial elite. We shared a rented room in a boarding house in Rome.
This was not our room in Rome.
This was actually taken in Israel right before we left
for Rome. In Italy we didn't take any pictures
because we didn't own a camera.

But as a four year old, full of desire (and apparently unaware that I was artistically uninclined), I saw that pencil set and imagined all the beautiful pictures I could create with those colors. All I wanted to do was color my life. Maybe it was the influence of the talented street painters we passed by daily. But I knew if I had that set, everything would be perfect. In an anguish of tender consumerism, I threw out a passionate declaration to my young, innocent parents: If they bought me this pencil set, I would never, ever ask for anything else in my entire life.

When I made that statement, it was true.

I sincerely sat down, crossed leg, pondering on the checkered tiles in the aisle of the market. I put my little chin into my small hand and asked myself with unflinching honestly: could I really make this commitment? Was there anything else I would ever want? No! I answered myself. There was nothing else. This was truly it.

I got the set. My parents took pity on my passionate plight and relented, I'm sure spending a good percentage of their remaining financial resources to satisfy their four year old's questionable needs. And needless to say, I have asked for one or two things since then. 

This memory comes to mind because now I have a new wish that falls in the same category of urgency and fervent desire with which I yearned that pencil set. Only this wish is for my father. I want him to live in a nurturing, safe environment. One in which he would have help and supervision. He's reached the age where he shouldn't drive, he can't cook for himself and cleaning has never been his forte. He won't come live with me. I know he doesn't want to be a burden, though he never would be, or so I tell myself now. He also doesn't want to leave his paradise: the beach in Santa Monica. So, I need him to move into an assisted living apartment.

It is a vision I never thought I'd have for my dad, the pillar of strength in our family who threw away everything he and my mom had known to walk into the unknown, in search for a safer, more secure place to raise their daughter and by the time they got here, a soon to arrive son. 

I remember looking at my dad's bulging biceps, knowing he was the strongest man in the world.

Except for my visiting grandmother in the middle,
that is my entire original family in our first apartment in America. I'm on
the right, my grandmother is holding my brother (born here).

But since that day in the Italian market, my father has weathered the onslaught life can sometimes bring: rebellious kids, a divorce, an unhealthy lifestyle filled with smoking and booze, a fickle economy, two strokes, a brain tumor that robbed him of most of his speech, lung cancer and most recently: a heartless, younger Russian woman he met online. He married her, she took his money and scurried back to Russia with it. Not all of it, but a good chunk. It was the supposed good intentions of this woman, who promised to take care of him, that set my mind at ease. Living an hour away and taking care of two rambunctious boys, it's hard to see my dad as much as I'd like. Instead, this woman created a situation that highlighted my dad's inability to continue to care for himself.

keep this woman away from your daddy
It is in the aftermath of that drama that I now find myself. My dad needs help. Because of his stubborn, self-sufficient nature, he never got the therapy that he should have had after any of his ailments. Since his second stroke, he is limping and no longer able to do the yoga handstands that once stood for his ability to survive despite anyone else's prognosis for him. He has never asked anyone for help and would thwart any attempts when it was offered. That's partially why it's been hard to admit to myself that the best situation for him would be in an assisted living environment. I know what a battle this is going to be, one that needs to be fought with finesse and patience rather than muscle. It's an amount of energy that, on most days, I can't muster.

The other reason is I still see my dad's bulging bicep and his defiant attitude towards anyone that would dare tell him he couldn't do something. I still see that glimmer of mischievousness as he joked with my friends and flirted with the check-out lady. I still see the sailor that learned all of the Soviet propaganda he had heard growing up, about the United States, wasn't true. 

He found there was hope for a Jewish man, raised by a single mother with three kids in the wake of a vicious war, to find freedom. 
My cutie-pie dad on the left

Freedom to raise his daughter without the anchor of racism weighing down her ability to soar.

Everything my father has ever done has been for his family. I only hope now, with the desperate hope of a four-year-old who still sees sparks of her father as the superhero he once was, that he now allows his family to do for him.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Write On!.....(Why I Write)

I helped start a writing group.

This was our first official picture (almost a year ago!)....we've since acquired new members
I say "helped start" instead of just "started" because I had had the idea in my head for some time. But I needed to meet the right writers to make it happen. Had they not agreed to be part of the adventure, there would have been no adventure. 

I guess over time most writers turn blonde.
(this is a more recent pic of some of us on a road trip to support Kim Prince in her stage debut)
There are two main reasons why I wanted to have a group like this in my life. One, I needed the support and accountability that comes from being part of a fellowship. I have had this experience before in my life and found it worked quite well. Second, I thought if I surrounded myself with writers maybe I could convince myself I too am a writer. I still have my doubts. But they tell me I am and that is great to hear.

One of the original members above, red haired Charlene Ross, participated in an online writing train where writers talk about their Writing Process (#mywritingprocess)At the end of her post, she picked three writers to ride on that train. She picked me as one of the writers.

Again, I am grateful that she considers me a writer and also that she picked me from the many writers that she knows and (wait for it), I will do that too. You know, to keep the train going. So if I pick you, please join us on this lovely ride into the workings of our inner selves. And if I didn't pick you it means 1) I didn't know you wrote a blog bc I really had to wrack my brain to find the three I did or 2) you're not a writer but are a reader, so please kick back and join us on this journey.

Why do I write what I do?

write mainly three things (not counting Facebook status updates). I write short fiction stories, non fiction stories and blog posts.  My heart is in the fictional worlds I create like this one. It's also an opportunity for me to work out my fears and feelings about things happening to me or to our world. It's a little like an exorcism. A way to get out the demons and the jesters that live in my head. There are observations I've made of people and the world in which we all live. I am always looking and taking mental notes. I've written much more in my head than I've ever written on paper. Sometimes, I'll even grab a piece of paper, if there's one handy, because I know if I don't capture the thought, it'll drown in the thousand of others that follow it, never to be seen again. Stories are like that too. I've procrastinated on stories I thought were so original then watched a movie, that was my story, being told by someone who didn't wait around to tell it.

My non-fiction started when I decided to major in Broadcast Journalism in college. That in itself was a victory and I kept expecting people to laugh when I told them what I was doing. It was only my father who commented how unpractical this was because it is such a competitive field. (This was a recurring theme in his parenting me) But I had a plan. I was going to become a well known reporter and then write a book, thereby already securing a built in audience. Well, I didn't wait long enough to become a well known reporter (my instincts for success conflicted with the seemingly accelerated pace of my biological clock) but I did start writing for print newspapers and magazines while I was pregnant with Kaleb. That was the last bit of free time I regularly had to myself. It's only now that the kids are in school that I can start focusing on that again.

My blog is almost like a free sample for prospective readers. Since I never became that famous reporter, I need to give out bits of myself for readers to know whether I taste good or not. I figure, if you like the various styles I offer on my blog, then maybe you'd be interested in a longer format piece, like the books I will someday find the time to write. Plus, I don't have to get anyone's approval to publish the things I want to write. All I have to do is hit the publish button. 

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I think if we're talking strictly blogging, my work tends to be sporadic and disorganized compared to the official blogging sect. But it's also original because it's my work being presented by me. I strive to be really honest and I try to present things in an interesting way. I suspect that if I found more time to actually write, I would get much better at this.

How does your writing process work?

If I show up to write in front of my computer, the words will come. No matter how many excuses I make beforehand or activities I find to distract myself, once I arrive to write, I write. Then I edit. And edit.

Since joining the writing group, it's become a lot easier to convince myself to just get in front of the screen and start typing. I know some people prefer paper but I think my brain is trained to work with keyboards and formats where it is much less messy to edit.

What am I working on?

I am lucky to have been offered some stories to write for LA Parent magazine. They are amazing to work with. Very warm and supportive - obviously a theme I seek out in my writing life. From this platform, I intend to submit to more national magazines, probably parenting ones since that is the place in my life where I happen to live.

I also have a few sci-fi shorts I have written and am editing and will be submitting after just having my first one actually published.

I also had a huge gift fall into my lap. A friend introduced me to someone whose life story needs to be immortalized. It is interesting on levels that scrape beneath the skin. I have spoken to this person many times now and we are evolving his story into one that will become the first book I will have the honor of writing.

Ok that's it from me.


Let's invite some new conductors onto this train of self discovery.

Julie Gardner is the newest member of the Writing Safety Tree - our writing group. She used to be an English teacher and her notes on works in progress are sweet and priceless, just like her.

Laurel Jansen Byrne is a friend from a group that helped ease me into motherhood, the Westlake Village MOMS Club. And she turned out to be a writer and was the cherry I needed to help me make this sweet concoction of a writing group. She's also probably the only one of us that has a actual education in creative writing.

And Jessica Craven, whose simple and precise words make my heart bleed regularly when I read them. I haven't seen her offline in ages but she came to mind when faced with the assignment of finding three talented bloggers to choose for this fun exploration into self.


Monday, April 7, 2014

My Fake Lashes...a journey into extensions

My youngest son has these cartoon character eyelashes that any girl would kill for.

He got them from his dad.

While I, like most girls, have to curl, color and volumize in order for mine to even be seen.
This is before curling, coloring and volumizing

I had heard of eyelash extensions but it sounded painful and was something I thought I’d never do. After all, even if you can withstand the discomfort, who wants to looks like Tammy Faye Baker?
She probably wants to look like Tammy Faye Baker

But then I saw my beautiful friend Lindsay.
She looks nothing like Tammy Faye Baker

And she had eyelash extensions and looked amazing. Amazing. Not at all fake or overdone. She is a very natural looking girl, and beautiful to boot (single if you can believe it!), so a fake looking eyelash appendage would have looked bizarre on her. But while we hung out, I kept glancing over to admire her now extravagant lashes and finally decided to investigate into getting them for myself.

Now. Being on a budget - or at least not being able to justify a huge eyelash expense to my husband - I started looking for deals on GroupOn and Living Social. Might as well get a good deal if I can. This is how I go about it: If I find a service I want, I go onto Yelp and see what past customers think of the company's performance. I know oftentimes it is usually the disgruntled that take the time to share their nasty experiences, so if there are some of those, I want to hear about them before I commit to anything.

Living Social had a deal for a place called iCandi Lash Loft (cute, huh?!) ~ $125 for a full Volume Set and included an aftercare product. The regular price was $250 with no free product. Sounded good, so I went onto Yelp and this is one review I found by Hossana A.: 

I have been in the Beauty industry for ten years now...I can not sing Karina's praises enough! She listened to my needs and wants, and executed exactly what we discussed. Not only did they look AMAZING, they also felt really natural. As a beauty professional, sanitation and cleanliness is a big deal to me...

You can read the rest of the review here. At this point, I started to get excited. I bought the deal and plotted for the perfect time to maximize the impact of my new look....say, a girl's night out or a weekend with my honey.

Then I took my son to baseball practice and ran into my friend, Heather who also has eyelash extensions. 

We started girl gabbing about this suddenly essential component I must immediately incorporate into my life. You know, the usual. How long did she have them? (Over a year) Did she love them? (yes, obviously, she's had them for a year) How often did she have to maintain them? (every 2-3 weeks) and finally, the biggest consideration: How much did she pay? Her answer brought me into instantaneous retail agony. You know the kind. When you find the good deal you thought you got was actually not so great. And in this case, had I waited for just one more week, I could have gotten Heather's better deal.

So, in a panic, I emailed Living Social (because you know, they have that Good Deal Guarantee) and told them I needed a refund because I found a better deal.

Next I called iCandi (yes, I'm still at baseball practice) and spoke frankly with Karina Lopez, the owner. I told her, look, I love Living Social and thought I was getting a great deal since I have no experience with eyelash anything except mascara and curlers and just found out my friend is getting a better deal than the one I bought from a coupon place! 

I have to say, her voice alone calmed me down. She was very mellow and laughed and didn't seem at all put off that someone she had never met, one of 100 people who had taken advantage of a deal that cut so dramatically into her profit, was now calling to take even that away

She explained two things that attempted to help me understand the price difference. One, the stylist's product cost had an impact on the customer's final cost. Different lashes cost different amounts. So obviously, I would be getting some great lashes is what she inferred. Knowing nothing about lashes or what they were made from, I just inwardly agreed. It made sense. Also, she painted a picture of back-alley lash clinics that imported waste and unsavory elements and who wanted that stuff near their eyes? OK, I was sold. I booked with Karina and couldn't wait for my appointment. After all, the price difference was only about $20 and after interrogating Heather a little further, I found out the overall cost was really only a few bucks less, so I was back on my retail savings cloud.

Before our appointment, Karina was great. Very professional. She emailed me a confirmation and address of where my appointment would be. Her studio is in North Hollywood and she has another in Studio City at a Med Spa but very conveniently, she was covering for a friend who has a lash studio in Canoga Park. That was a much better fit for an Agoura Hills mom.

On the morning of my appointment she texted me, confused, asking me if I was still coming because she had gotten a cancellation from Living Social for my voucher.

Oh my gosh! I had completely spaced on retracting my cancellation!

I told her how sorry I was, feeling like the biggest pain of a customer that ever lived, and told her I'd take care of it or pay her the fee that I had originally given to LS. She, again, was very relaxed and laughed, said no problem. I already liked her.

So I sent LS an email and drove to her friend's studio
next door to the Spectrum Gym in a little strip mall.

Everything in the studio was white and clean and Karina was in one of the curtain-drawn rooms doing some paperwork. 

She greeted me warmly as I plopped onto the examination table and took out my phone to see if LS had responded to my email and yes they had! I already had a brand new voucher for the lash extension sitting in my Inbox and I showed it to Karina, again apologizing for my rash move, feeling a little proud of handling my mistake so efficiently and a little relieved that LS is such a professional company.

She asked how I wanted my lashes. I told her about Lyndsay being able to look natural and glamorous at the same time and how I too wanted something natural looking but that would still give me that bit of a wow effect. Plus I didn't want to have to wear make-up to look like I was awake. With two little boys, I just don't always have time in the morning and hate putting on make-up if I'm going to the gym, which is almost everyday. So most days I just have way too much of that natural look. I wanted to drum it up a bit.

She showed me some pictures and I gave her a thumbs up or down on each look. Finally, she thought she knew what I wanted.
BEFORE - much much too natural
I lay down on the examination table and she put two large pieces of tape to cover my lower lashes to avoid them from accidentally sticking to the glue.

Then she used surgical glue to meticulously attach each lash to my actual lashes. It didn't hurt at all. I could have slept if I wasn't so excited.

There are three types of lashes that lash stylists use and I found an objective explanation of them here.

I don't know for sure but I am guessing that Kim Kardashian uses the acryllic kind because hers are very dramatic.

There is no way I could pull this sultry swankiness off while I'm dropping my kids off at pre-school or kindergarten but I have seen other moms do it. Full make-up, hairdos and single girl outfits at 9am. I don't know how they do it. There have been days I was lucky to brush my teeth before I walked out the door.

The whole process took longer than I expected but I was able to find some things out. Like, what makes one stylist or salon different from another is the artistry of the stylist. Just like there are tons of people with their license to cut hair, many of them very close to where I live, there is a reason I drive to Hollywood to see my hairstylist friend, Wendy Lallas. Yes there is.

While I was lying there, two things happened outside of our little curtained off room, in the salon, that got my attention. One, this woman walked in saying she was so overdue for a lash fill, her boss had just asked her what was wrong with her eyes. Ouch. Note to self: don't go there. This was a man who had been supposedly socialized to have manners. My boys are still working on that. God knows what they'd say.
Two, someone asked someone else about another woman and the reply was an amused recounting of this other woman's allergic reaction to the glue. It was during this moment that Karina's hands were completely inside my face, working the fake lashes into my real ones.

"Umm?" I asked.
"Don't worry. If it was going to happen it would have already happened. As soon as the glue got near your skin," she said.

Okay, I was reassured but here's a Facebook post I found that goes into these types of allergies a little more specifically. But it is Facebook so not sure about the accuracy.

OK, so two hours later, she's finally pulling the tape off my bottom lashes, thank god because at this point I'm late picking everyone up. I had only factored in one hour, again trying to pack in too much into too litte.

Karina used synthetic mink lashes on me and although the process of applying this type of lash takes longer and is a little more arduous to attain that perfect combination of sulty and natural, I think it is so worth it.

And voila!
I am definitely awake now!

All I could think of was, wow! I hadn't put on any make-up for the appointment and even without the this and that to add color to my face, I still looked very dramatic.

I was very happy and went home with instructions from Karina to help keep the look longer, no oil based eye make-up removers, no steaming or jacuzzis for the first 24 hours. She told me I should wash my lashes at night and morning with the soap wash that came with my LS deal. I could also use it as an eye makeup remover but if I'm not using mascara, that's most of the battle won right there. That's right, no need for mascara. Or eyelash curlers. Yay. And I rarely put on upper eyeliner, only for extra special nights out because really, I don't need it. So, that cuts down my getting ready time by like a good ten minutes every day, which if you have small kids or a busy schedule, you know what a treasure of found time that is. 

Also. No eye rubbing. I forgot a few days in and felt myself lose a couple lashes in my inner left eye. Oh well, you can't tell. 

She told me that the lashes fall out with the natural shedding of my real lashes and that's all dependent on the individual and their diet. I'm hearing her say this and feeling so smart because I know that the Juice Plus I'm taking also cuts down on hair loss (in fact, it's helped me - and Howard - grow hair). Ha! These things were going nowhere!

ALMOST THREE WEEKS LATER: I have an appointment in a few days for a fill but my lashes still look amazing. I'm thinking of postponing. I love my new lashes and plan on going back to keep them up. The fill price is dependent on how often you go back because, of course, they figure the longer it's been, the more work they have to do. But fill appointments are thankfully much shorter 30-45 minutes depending on how much you want done.

These lash places are springing up everywhere. Just make sure the place you go to is licensed and has a good reputation.

Here is iCandi Lash Loft's website. And if you're dying to meet Karina, she just made a video and talks a little about the process. It's perfect for the short attention span (which if you're still reading, you do not have!) because it's just over a minute long.

Karina agreed to extend my LS deal to my friends (and if you are reading for this long, you are definitely my friend!). She doesn't really advertise and books quickly, all through word of mouth, so get her while you can.

And yes, I've gotten tons and tons of compliments on my lashes. But it doesn't get old. Last night my husband said to me, "I can't stop staring at your face." It's the best beauty thing I've done since getting my ombre hair color. These lashes have been the easiest way to get that really feminine, youthful look. You know, without getting all that plastic surgery stuff.


So I've had a couple fills since I now seem to be addicted to having these lashes as much as I love to get a great new haircut.

Yet, I'm still a mom and still short on time so I can't just run around town at my whim like single girl I used to be. It took me almost six weeks before I had my first fill. I should have done it at week four or five. Five may have worked but if I wanted to look great the whole time, four would have been perfect. By the time I went back to Karina, I still had a smattering of lashes left. She was surprised. But one lash, in particular, hadn't shed like it should have because of all the Juice Plus I take (and now sell) and was instead growing like Jack's magic beanstalk. It was kinda funny looking like it was trying to grow high enough to escape. 
not bad after 6 weeks
I waited as long as possible because we were going on our summer vacation and I wanted to make sure our pictures and my self-esteem wouldn't suffer as I embraced the au-natural look during our beach trip. Lashes and a tan really do make all the difference. 

I was a little worried that all the salt water of the ocean and the chlorine of the pool would shorten the life of my lashes. I was afraid they might make me look like a plucked chicken by the end of the week. But I shouldn't have worried. Turns out these lashes are great for the active girl as well as the more mellow gal.
no make-up
There is no way I could have pulled the Toucan picture off without having that extra color around my eyes.

Hooked, I tell you.

Karina has set up shop at a cute new location called The Doll House. She has a sweet partner there named Graciella. I will follow her to the ends of the Earth but lucky for me, this is right off the freeway.
cute name

I have to say, I'm looking forward to my next "fix".