African Violet on the mend

African Violet on the mend

Recovery:  However relative to our lives, it’s a waiting game that we have all played – hoping to return to “normal” or to “break even” or to find a lost possession; not to mention the healing process from illness or emotional trauma. We are compelled to expedite our cause in whatever ways seem most effective, oftentimes relying on past history, medical cures, professional advisors and simply, on faith. The reassurances we receive from those we confide in along the journey only contribute a momentary balm. Who doesn’t resort to “Wishin’ and Hopin’” and prayin’ to St. Jude, for one. Sending good thoughts into the Universe, in combination with presenting one’s self as open and receptive to all methods of healing and guidance, however forthcoming, are all positive enablers. Hope springs eternal, allowing us the fortitude, confidence, trust and patience we need to further along the desired result we seek. “Ahhhhh,” the sigh of relief we take when we see the light at the end of the tunnel – progress in the form of  physical movement, an “up” day in the market, a pain that ceases to distract us and a glimmer of gold under a cushion – the missing earing found!

Violet bud

The fall and winter months passed for me with a sense of painful concern over my inability to rescue the few plants I own, some for over twenty years. From health to withering and death in a matter of weeks, two well-loved philodendruns had to be discarded. I also tried to sustain an African Violet (“AV”) which flowered last spring but then just continued to wilt and drop outer leaves. I tried a stick of plant food as well as watering the bottom of the pot. No, I do not have a ‘green thumb’ nor am I big on plant research, repotting or root surgery. I care though, never over-watering or exposing to extreme heat and cold. Observing no change from bottom watering, I once again top watered. A little more sun I felt would be good, so I put my AV on the window sill for a few hours each day.  A slow change:  the outer leaves remained a pale sickly mint color, but no leaf fall. There was an apparent density of center leaves, and could it be?  With my strongest glasses I peered into the plant, and noticed an embryonic flower bud. Life had begun!  Was this my harbinger of health for all my far-from-well and unfinished business?  In order to bring about any change, one has to be proactive, but, as recovery appears on the horizon, most of us repeatedly say, “Thank God,” “Thank you, God.” And some “Wishin’ and Hopin’” never hurt – sing it Dusty.

Mascara: The Art of Application

NefertitiEnhancing the eyes by darkened articulation has been an accepted aesthetic preference from as far back as 4000 BC in ancient Egypt. Over the millennia, the properties of the materials used to cosmetically blacken the eyes, eyebrows, eyelashes and moustache hairs (of men), while similar throughout the world, would never have been approved by today’s FDA guidelines. Not until the late 19th century, would a prototype for our current concept of mascara be developed by the French chemist, Eugene Rimmel, in England, using petroleum jelly. A similar, yet improved product was fashioned in the U.S. by T.L. Williams for his sister, Mabel, in 1913; and later sold through mail order by a company eventually known as Maybelline. As the 20th and 21st centuries progressed, so did the compelling desire for cosmetic manufacturers to create mascaras that promised long, longer, thick, thicker, black, blacker lashes.  If you look at giraffes and camels, these animals have luxurious, beautiful lashes – if only we could emulate theirs – oh, wait – we have. We have false eye lashes in every imaginable pattern and shape. But, for those of us born with modest, short, sparse and lightly-colored eyelashes, not into adhesive attachments – there is mascara.

I started wearing eye makeup at the age of 13. Over the decades, I have only made very minor changes to my look. Since fashion trends are often revisited a couple of generations later, the current eye fashion, (using excessive black eyeliner, smoky shades of eye shadow, pearlized highlighters, and lots of mascara) is pretty much the same as when I got started. Eye makeup should be dramatic and, I believe, sexy. I have always been complimented on my makeup application and, on occasion, asked to show a woman how to make up her eyes. I am not a “makeup artist.” I have no training outside of my own observations and lifetime of personal experience. When I did ballroom dance competition, I was given a few pointers in ballroom makeup, and, of course, have seen, many competitors and their amazing makeup – often done by professionals.

Women who generally don’t wear makeup, especially eye makeup, are often intimidated by the whole process of picking products – and complain that they are physically uncomfortable with “stuff” on their eyes. I agree that sensitivity to different products is very common, and it does take exploration to find those we can live in. I suggest buying inexpensive over-the-counter brands in chain stores, i.e., CVS and Harmons, where they also have liberal return policies.

Not all mascaras are created equal: some are watery and non-lengthening, some are volumnizing and allow you to build up your lashes significantly. Age changes the consistency of mascara, thickening it, making it more substantial and easier to apply. When asked to critique a woman’s makeup, by my standards, she is usually not wearing enough for me to see. I often comment that she needs eye shadow, eyeliner, mascara, foundation, blush, lip liner and lipstick. I am then told that she put the components on in the morning, but they wore away during the day. I have never personally had this experience, except for lipstick, which needs re-application a minimum of 3-4 times a day. Because I’m writing about Mascara, I will not get into why makeup disappears, but simply advise: consider the products and the application. For women who claim their mascara is not noticeable – they usually do not understand “the art of mascara application.”

So, here we go: To properly apply mascara, one has to have patience and precision. Dip the wand into the case to coat with fresh mascara, but not excessively. Carefully apply to upper lashes starting from inside of eye (closest to your nose) moving to the outside (near cheekbone). Stroke gently upward from the base of the lash to the tip. Return wand to case to refill brush and keep putting fresh mascara on till you see your lashes turning black and lengthening. Yes, you should always buy black mascara unless you are an albino or have blonde lashes, and then brown would be OK. You may accidently smudge part of your eyelid or nose; clean up at the end with a cotton swab and eye makeup remover. Also, you may have to remove an obvious clump of mascara from some of your lashes; do so carefully with your finger tips (or a toothpick if your vision is exceptional). The key is to keep applying mascara to the lashes across the entire lid for as long as it takes them to become obviously thicker, blacker, and longer. If you were to count the strokes – you could easily do from 50 to 100 strokes per eye. In time, that’s a minimum of a minute per eye. The lower lashes (inside lid or outside lid)only need to be outlined with eyeliner.

There are many brands and types of mascara to choose from. At the higher end ($24-$35), Lancôme makes excellent mascara, in the $8 range, I like L’oréal Voluminous Original.


You Wear It Well

There used to be something missing from my wardrobe.  It’s absence was mentioned to me from time to time, quite unexpectedly, usually by men whose presence I was quite unaware of.  I tried to quickly remedy the targeted omission, but without conviction – I didn’t feel like wearing something that didn’t feel natural, much like a child in a suit dressed for a holiday occasion.  I was in my mid-twenties at this time, and fortunately, I was put on notice.  It was at this juncture in my life that I began to study people’s behavior patterns, i.e., actions and reactions, manners and conduct that were either alien to me or just different.  Sometimes we aren’t able to employ a behavior we’ve been advised will benefit us, even when we see for ourselves how well it works for others. I admired various individuals for their ability to handle situations that I couldn’t.  Hence, I began to channel such traits and emulate them.  Once I learned to wear this amazing accessory, free to us all, my life not only improved, but I learned how to influence others around me – whether they could see me or not.  Making this addition to my general attire, regardless of whether I was taking out the garbage or dressed to the nines made me feel appealing and offered a sense of control – a camouflage of an untidy appearance or not-so-hot emotional state.  I even confused myself — that’s how powerful this simple enhancer is.  You must have guessed by now I’m talking about a smile.  It will dress up anything you are wearing and really make people notice you.  A great smile is an equalizer that allows you entry to places you might have been previously afraid to explore.  It’s a well received calling card.  One reason I am so impressed with the “smiling” advantage is that it gives you a confidence you didn’t know you had.  If you are alone, you can go anywhere, engage strangers and get assistance faster just by the warmth of a smile.  Another thing that occurs when you smile, and you can really enjoy this too, is that you project a positive attitude which is contagious.  Yes, good karma does travel.  A smile adds a radiance which makes the wearer beautiful and someone is sure to tell you, “you wear it well.”