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".