How I Bit the Apple: A comparison of the Apple iPad versus the Amazon Kindle Fire.

     I first got onto the tablet bandwagon with a Kindle in 2011. I liked the idea of being able to cart around my substantial personal library in a piece of hardware that could fit into my purse. I have purchased several different iterations of the Kindle since then.Recently, I found myself wanting to do more with my tablet than access the internet and read books. I have a growing need to be able to work on class assignments on the go. While I can actually knock out a paper on the Kindle in a pinch, I feel that my 7” Kindle Fire screen is simply too small for me to do this comfortably.

     I am not in the habit of buying the most current phone or computer the moment it lands on the market. I am more about functionality than sexiness in my electronics. I am usually the lady to purchase a laptop or a mobile phone and work with it until it needs a decent Christian burial. However, dissatisfaction with my Android phone’s storage performance, some major accessibility issues with my new Kindle Fire and certain health-related concerns made me, nay forced me to begin to reassess my options. I have never been attracted to the Barnes and Noble Nook. I was underwhelmed by most other brands. And unfortunately for their advertising department, despite the delightfully choreographed commercial campaign, the Microsoft Surface Pro failed to draw me in either. My online searches kept suggesting the iPad (thanks,Google AdWords). So,I went to the site and pored over the system specifications information, kvetched a bit about prices but finally decided to be fair and at least see what all the kerfuffle is about Apple products. I mean, there has to be a reason that their stock traded at $140.64 (on Friday March 24).
     Now just to be clear, I have always been somewhat cagey about Apple. I see the Apple logo and I think, “ iPad, iPhone, iSeeYou”. The thought of a device designed to capture my thumbprint for “security purposes” sends a frisson of dread down my neck. It just feels too much like Big Brother for me. And frankly, those prices! I refuse on principle to spend more on a telephone than I would on a computer. It just seems very frivolous to splash out $800 on a device that is meant primarily to send and receive phone calls. Um, it is a mobile telephone, after all. Nevertheless, I stand in need of a working tablet, and in the name of fair consideration , I decided to grant the latest iPad a fair trial. 
     I visited the Apple Store at Garden State Plaza to investigate the Apple iPad in person. The store itself is actually pretty groovy: a long, futuristic hall with rows of tables, each full of snazzy looking display models. Apple technicians in their blue polo shirts, lapels blazoned with the familiar logo (now, that is highly symbolic– an apple with a single bite taken out of it–shades of Eden!), mill about offering sales advice and tutorials. I was told that they actually hold classes to teach customers how to get the best out of their shiny new phones and tablets. Well! I had better find out if I can get college credit for attending a class, hadn’t I?
      Now I wasn’t going in just to see how pretty the iPad is. My first consideration was the size and weight of the tablet. I need comparative portability to that provided by Amazon Kindle: whatever I get needs to fit into my tote bag without weighing me down since health issues restrict me for the time being from bringing my laptop along in a backpack. Next, I need reasonable storage. I plan to use the tablet in class, hence the next criteria, ease of use as a writing interface. Storage is also important. I have had my share of horror stories involving lost college work ( my transcript has a stack of incompletes from last semester as a result, whole other post right there), so I need reassurance that I can retrieve work on demand. I therefore need WiFi access and cloud services. Finally, I want a tablet to look like something that I paid decent money for. 
     Now, while Amazon Kindles generally meet the standard for portability and for affordability (Kindle Fire sells between $40 and $90), I was greatly disappointed by the poor overall performance of the latest Kindle Fire. For one thing, the touchscreen is frustratingly unresponsive. The previous Kindle Fire 6 accustomed me to the Swype feature, something absent from this one. The screen resolution is not incredibly sharp. The actual tablet has the objectionable heft and feel of a cheap plastic toy, not to mention ridiculously garish color options– neon shades of tangerine, magenta and electric blue — compelling me to encase it so as not to look silly in public. I am a woman grown. I certainly do not wish to appear to the casual passerby to be playing video games with a children’s toy when I am in fact going about serious business. And speaking of business, to my chagrin I am unable to utilize critical productivity applications on the new Fire. I need access to either Word or Google Docs to edit academic work on the go. But apparently, the Google Docs app for Kindle has not been available for download in over a year and remains unavailable at this time. Bummer. The only improvement over the older version that I can find is that the Kindle now has a port for a micro USB. As far as every other feature I expected in a tablet, I was sorely let down. Boo, Amazon. Boo, hiss.
     I finally checked out a review from the industry website, Trusted Reviews (why not?), and I found this nifty table:
Here’s a full comparison of the new 9.7-inch iPad (2017) specs, compared to the 9.7-inch iPad Pro and the 9.7-inch iPad Air 2

New iPad (2017)

iPad Pro (2016)

iPad Air 2 (2014)

Screen

9.7 inches

9.7 inches

9.7 inches

Display Resolution

2,048 x 1,536 pixels (264ppi)

2,048 x 1,536 pixels (264ppi)

2,048 x 1,536 pixels (264ppi)

Dimensions

240 x 169.5 x 7.5mm

240 x 169.5 x 6.1mm

240 x 169.5 x 6.1mm

Weight

469 / 478 grams

437 / 444 grams

437 / 444 grams

Chipset

Apple A9

Apple A9X

Apple A8X

RAM

TBC

2GB

2GB

Storage

32GB / 128GB

32GB / 128GB / 256GB

16GB / 32GB / 64GB / 128GB

Primary Camera

8 megapixels, f/2.4

12 megapixels, f/2.2

8 megapixels, f/2.4

Secondary Camera

1.2 megapixels, f/2.2

5 megapixels, f/2.2

1.2 megapixels, f/2.2

Connectivity

Wi-Fi (LTE optional)

Wi-Fi (LTE optional)

Wi-Fi (LTE optional)

Charging Cable

Lightning

Lightning

Lightning

Fingerprint Scanner

Touch ID

Touch ID

Touch ID

Battery

32.4Wh (10-hour life)

27.9WH (10-hour life)

27.62Wh (10-hour life)

Colours

Space Grey, Silver, Gold

Space Grey, Silver, Gold, Rose Gold

Space Grey, Silver, Gold

 

image: http://static.trustedreviews.com/94/00003d6f4/d36b/new-ipad-2020.jpg

     Armed with my checklist, I ordered the new release (March 24, 2017) iPad, receiving it about a week later. The size is comparable to a standard book. Weighing in at just under a pound, it fits nicely into my tote bag, settling snugly into the side pocket. Despite the lightness, it nevertheless has a pleasant heft to it. You just feel like you are holding something substantial. My first order of business was to download the Google Drive app for iPad. Wouldn’t you know, but it works like a charm, granting me immediate access to my documents in Drive. Deliberately keeping the plastic film on the touchscreen, I happily discovered that I can nevertheless zoom in and out, enlarging text with the flick of my fingertips. Screen size is just right for a tablet. It is aesthetically superior to the Kindle in design, in material and in color choices. When I asked about storage capabilities, the phone representative told me that the complete works of Shakespeare would consume just under 5 megabytes of the possible 32 to 64 gigabytes available in a new release iPad. I can also use the virtual iCloud storage if need be.

      After having used my iPad for about six weeks, I find very little to be desired. It is just about perfect for my college work needs as I can simultaneously do online research and type up my work on the go. However, I am still gaining familiarity with the iOS. I did find out one thing: your iPhone and iPad will ring in unison if you don’t disable the sharing feature, even if the phone is on silent (I am so sorry, Professor I. !). And I got my iPad at a small discount from the Apple Education Portal, saving $20 on a $330 device. Just because I’m slightly nervous about such a pricey device, I also plumped for the 2 year insurance. I’ll probably never need it as I am quite careful with my devices, but I spent another $7.99 on a screen protector plus a total of $20-odd more on cover cases. In all, I can say that I am enjoying my little foray into the Dark Side. The Apple tastes pretty good.

 

Always getting duped.

Not because I’m gullible but because I’m prudent. Let me clarify. You see, I allow myself a set number of high end cosmetic purchases annually. I have gotten really fond of makeup but I have to make thoughtful, considered choices that won’t break the bank. I have almost made a vocation out of going to the makeup counters at department stores and messing about with the lotions and potions, figuring out what items will earn a spot in my little (and I do mean “little”) toilette area.
A practice that has served me well for years is to find a similar product from the drugstore to practice with first before shelling out the big bucks. For instance, in 2012 when I was considering purchasing the NARS bronzer-blush duo, I practiced with a comparable $3 e.l.f compact just to see if I even liked the concept. Turned out that while I did like the contoured look I came to feel that it would be too much hassle for everyday. So I didn’t end up essentially burying $42 in my makeup bag when I could have better spent the funds on other skin care or hair care products. That said, I have purchased –and thoroughly enjoyed the use of– three other NARS blush shades over the years without a prior test run at the drugstore. When the nude lip regained popularity, I searched the drugstore for my ideal “my-lips-but-better” shade before plonking down the moola for higher quality tubes from MAC and Hourglass in similar colors. I mastered the art of the groomed brow with the aid of $3 eyebrow kits from NYC and e.l.f and they proved more satisfactory than the $23 Anastasia Beverly Hills kit, no matter how you want to dice it.

Skin care is pretty important to me. In my mission to keep my skin looking like porcelain, I’ve gone through a great many samplers from the department store looking for The One Cream That Rules Them All.  When I moved back to the States for good, I asked my cousin who has exquisite-looking (but alas, exquisitely sensitive skin) for her best picks from the drugstore.She pointed me towards Basis bar soap and Aveeno. Since the only bar soap I like –and even at that only on my body– is the original Dove beauty bar, I tried Aveeno Positively Radiant facial wash and was delighted. I have loved it ever since. Sometime later I decided that I wanted to get all fancy. I recalled a product that my late sister had used for a while but discontinued when the cost of importing it to Nigeria became prohibitive. One trip to Macy’s later, and the Clinique 3-step skin care products have been in fierce competition with the drugstore Aveeno Positively Radiant line ever since. I’ve reached detente by maintaining a supply of both sets of products side-by-side in my closet and alternating between them as the whim strikes.

 

An effortlessly delightful collection.

Mary Kay lipstick heart

Image courtesy Mary Kay Inc.

 

In my quest for a more efficient, uncluttered lifestyle, I’ve  watched hours of Project 333 , Project Pan and other minimalist-inspired videos seeking inspiration and encouragement. I am in the process of streamlining my clothing and curating my possessions to include only specimens of the highest quality that I can afford of their kind. My desire is for quality over quantity: I would rather own two or three really high-end lip products from prestigious brands like NARS or Hourglass than have twenty cheap, waxy tubes of lipstick. In my current state of affairs, interspersed among the items that I consider to be enhancements to my quality of life are other items that I wouldn’t consider essential to either life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness. And whereas some objects may have a legitimate, though infrequent usefulness, certain others are mere filler. My aim is to establish the gold standard in what I choose to adorn my space with.

To this end, I have undertaken a progressive “renaissance project” for this year: by December 2016 my goal is to have refined the very best of my clothing and cosmetics down to whatever might fit into two compact pieces of luggage. What I have done in this first phase is to place all my clothes into two large suitcases, then set aside two dozen empty hangers and two carry-on sized suitcases empty and waiting.  Working  by season, I get dressed with clothes selected from the large suitcases then put them away into the smaller cases at the close of day. What I hope to achieve at the end of each season is to see what makes it into the carry-on bags. Those items will be re-hung on the clothes rack that I am replacing my Ikea wardrobe with come Spring 2016, and the rest will either go into storage or be sold/donated. My shoes and accessories are already at a manageable amount but then I still have to ask,why do women find it so hard to discard busted-up shoes? Honestly, there are a couple of pairs of shoes in there that deserve a decent Christian burial!

Last November, I sorted through an unexpectedly large hair product stash (I buy a lot of  conditioners and the like by stacking coupons during drugstore sales) and gathered any partially-used deep conditioners and what-not that I could find into a soft sided organizing cube that lives on my bedside shelf. My goal here is to use up any five of the lot by February 2016 and to enter Summer 2016 with a collection of no more than perhaps 10 items in this bin in a new,unopened state. My revised “Mane Event Box” should eventually include one hair gel, one pomade or edge control product, one jar of shea butter product, one jar of 100% coconut oil, two alternate co-wash products, one leave-in conditioner and two alternate deep conditioning masques in addition to a basic set of heat styling products (the two heat-protective serums and a keratin mist) that currently reside in a Dopp kit under the bathroom sink. Reducing the general population of the use-it-up bin probably won’t prove too difficult since I am pretty generous when applying conditioner. Additionally, since I went back to keeping my hair in ponytail styles (see my post “Time Out” for why) I have already completely emptied four out of the posse of products that I began the challenge with last November. The only hair products excluded from the use-it-down program are my heat styling products. Even if I tried, I don’t believe that I heat style frequently enough to use most of that lot down anytime this year.

Color cosmetics are a bit tougher for me deal with as I like playing with my pretties. However, my aim here is to ensure that, come December, I won’t have much more than can fit into the acrylic cosmetic organizer I purchased on Amazon last summer. My organizer is a two piece set: a stackable upper unit with compartments for a dozen lipsticks, spaces for longer items such as lip and eye pencils or makeup brushes and a square section to house a few jars of lotion , and a rectangular 3-drawer unit. The drawers currently house whatever is in the current month’s rotation of eye makeup, facial makeup, blushes and so forth with the appropriate brushes. This arrangement means for instance, that I can simply pull out my dedicated eye makeup drawer from the unit and place it on the dresser as I work. All the required brushes, my eyeliner pencils and the eyeshadow palette currently in rotation are collated into this drawer. When eyes are done, I move onto the drawer dedicated to the next step– in my case, foundation, then onto blush, highlight and finishing powder. I currently own around a dozen lipsticks, but I have six in active use at a time. My goal for makeup is to use up any two of my currently opened products per month.That can mean a sample-sized lipstick and an eye-liner pencil, or an eye cream and a lotion or a face wash and a clay mask. Additionally, I am planning to hit pan on a couple of individual eye shadows in any palette on active rotation about every other month.

I am starting to really enjoy this challenge. A huge advantage of this process has been that I’m deliberately pinpointing those beauty and hair products that I genuinely love and would repurchase in the future. Should I encounter a particular product that I don’t care so much for, I will simply use it up or pass it along with a courteous farewell and a sense of genuine gratitude for its contribution to my life. Over the course of time I have become all about rediscovering  those things in my life that effortlessly delight me. I wouldn’t call myself minimalist in the strictest sense, but I am more focused upon consciously possessing whatever I choose to own and  encapsulating it into a curated collection of a few beautiful and elegant things that can feed my sense of joy.

 

 

Dress like you mean it.

Image

Brand-Nude-pumps-high-heels-shoes-women-pointed-toe-high-heels-pumps-thin-heels-shoes-sexyA few months ago, I was taken to the ER from campus in a state of semi-collapse. There I was, hooked up to blood pressure monitors , IV lines and an EKG machine, with an oxygen mask on and wires going everywhere. Suddenly I started laughing. The nurse looked at me as if I was losing my mind and asked what was so funny. I replied, “Well I’m glad I took my mom and grandmother seriously when they warned us to always wear nice underpinnings when you leave the house!” The entire floor burst into peals of laughter. When she caught her breath again, she remarked that she had noticed that I was probably the youngest woman she had ever seen come into the ER wearing pantyhose, full slip and matching panties and bra on a regular weekday morning. Someone else remarked, “Well, that’s the benefit of good old fashioned ladylike upbringing right there.”

I have always taken my appearance seriously. I might have once tended toward safe and perhaps even a little boring but never was I unkempt. In recent years I’ve begun to venture towards more trendy looks. I don’t care for the boyfriend jean or distressed (translation: torn up and raggedy) vibe. I lean towards classic silhouettes and timeless styling. For example,when fringe came on trend I purchased one blouse to pair with a classic moto jacket and professional dress slacks or a pencil skirt that went down very well in the campus office. I aim for a look that is of the moment without making me look like I were trying to recapture my lost tweens. I enjoy dressing intentionally. I will go to the trouble of putting together clothing combinations and hanging them up in the closet for a week or more of outfits as you see recommended in certain lifestyle magazines. You know those “Outfits for a Month” layouts? yeah I do those sometimes. It saves me considerable time in the mornings when I know that all I need to do is to pluck my outfit for the day from a hanger already set out the previous night. It makes me feel in control, efficient, like CEO material. I just enjoy feeling like “I got this”. Fuss and feathers may not make the man but a sleek, pulled-together sartorial presence can certainly make the woman feel like a million bucks.

Clean up your act.

The word “minimalist” evokes for me  images of clean, spare, almost futuristic home decor in crisp colors, neatly pressed garments hanging in wardrobes, kitchen cabinets occupied by small tidy stacks of crockery, and dressing tables with maybe six lipsticks, a comb and brush and a flowering plant on display. I hold so dearly to these images as a means to anchor my sanity. You see, I dwell with a compulsive hoarder who fills every available surface of our tiny home with stuff : empty yogurt containers, folded bits of tinfoil, pizza boxes, take away boxes from Chinese meals and doughnut shops, stuff that normal people throw out because,you know, it’s trash. Plastic bags filled with – what else? – more plastic grocery bags are crammed into every possible corner because otherwise,”it would be wasted space.” There is neither rhyme nor reason to what one can find squirreled into what used to be quite a nice apartment. Once when I opened the drawer where I keep fresh dish sponges and steel wool scrubber pads, I found a bag of onion peels sitting there. Yes, dried onion peels. I’ve even found a bundle of empty ramen noodle wrappers, folded down tightly and secreted at the back of the television. She must have been gathering those things for weeks, foraging them from the kitchen trash can. I have taken to stashing the empty juice and milk containers and the like in my purse and taking it all with me as I leave the house. I cannot make this stuff up. I can only thank G-d that she isn’t willing to leave the house, or G-d alone knows what might follow her home should she take to actual dumpster diving. House cleaning is fraught with angst . For Mother’s Day I completely redid our sole bathroom, hanging new shower curtains, replacing the bath mat, soap dishes and towels. It looked fabulous for about three days. Her response? She immediately filled a slew of plastic grocery bags with clothing and tied them to the towel rod where they have remained ever since, slowly festering. I’m almost accustomed now to cleaning and feeling the glare of suspicious eyes following me about as I dust and scrub off grimy surfaces, peering closely at my every move lest I should dare discard any of her precious things. Of course, but a Coca Cola bottle that was re-filled with tap water and tucked behind the television is priceless, a national treasure. So are the jars that once housed food like pasta sauce and jelly but now live in every possible space in the kitchen cabinets, carefully refilled with tap water and wrapped in safe little cocoons of paper towels. “You hate me and want me dead!” she accuses me whenever she discovers that I have discarded a mildewed parcel of grunge that she had been “saving”. I have resorted to photographing new discoveries of stashes before I sweep them out of a cupboard and attempt to air the place. I sarcastically promise to print the photos out and compile them into a Sanford and Son Calendar that she can distribute should she bring herself to part with it. A calendar is paper, after all, and paper apparently must never be thrown away. Not even if it is soaked in rancid grease.

I bitterly resent that we basically live like vagabonds. We are held ransom, compelled by kibud av v’em, or honoring one’s parents, to dwelling in an unsafe environment in order not to anger her by simply disposing of the piles of trash that she has hoarded around us. We have to dodge and duck around piles of objects to get in and out of any room in the house. Whenever the estate maintenance guys come over to perform repairs they laugh incredulously at the mess we live in. And I am so mad that since I am one of the nation’s 14% chronically underemployed, I currently cannot afford a place of my own. I cannot in good conscience produce any commercial baking in a kitchen that looks like a dumpster, so a once-promising baking business has all but died. I am seriously considering becoming a sugar baby and fixing the price of my favors as an apartment with cleaning service.

 

 

Have you taken your pills today?

A couple of weeks ago I had the misfortune of catching the same mall-bound bus as someone I can only describe as a thirsty hyena. He started by insisting loudly upon sitting next to me on the bus because he thought I looked “cute”. I decided to politely ignore him since it is public space after all but apparently that was a mistake. Child, I had this critter straight stalking me from off the bus, into the mall, lurking his stank self around while I shopped (I had a personal shopping client meeting to prepare for that day). For an entire FOUR HOURS he followed me like a stray dog seeking a home, interjecting into every conversation I attempted to carry on with anyone else despite my best efforts to ignore him. He ended up trailing me through three different shops and even to the women’s restroom. I went in there and deliberately stayed put for twenty minutes. I could not believe my eyes when I got out and saw his wooden-headed self sitting on the bench outside and bopping to whatever music was blaring out of his headphones when I came back out. He clearly had boundary issues and I needed to demarcate them for him once and for all. I finally went into the MAC store , sat down as if I wished to get my makeup done and discreetly asked the MUA to call security. She looked horrified as I told her how this fellow had hassled me all afternoon. She raised the alarm with her colleagues immediately, but the poor young lady was agog when he walked right up for the umpteenth time, grinning from ear to ear and said to her, ” Would you introduce us, because I wanna ask her to marry me!” I smiled ever so sweetly and replied, “Oh, well you should have come to the point four hours ago. Happens I’m not interested!” He then shuffled off out of the shop but security had already been alerted. We related what had just happened and I requested that the officer escort me to the Sephora around the corner.The mall police later caught him peering into the window of Sephora,evidently still on the hunt. What part of not interested did he not understand?

It is annoying to think that I should have had to put up with such nonsense just because I was trying to avoid triggering off someone who, as far as I could make out, was plumb out of his mind. Several times,I told him as nicely as I could to go away. I tried ignoring him for the most part. But I was finally unbelievably infuriated and disgusted to come out of a women’s restroom to find that idiot sitting there like he was waiting on his date.

Mental illness is serious. However, there is a difference between mentally ill and just plain thick-skulled. Sometimes, it would seem, the two conditions plague the same individual. All society asks of you is to take your damned “cuckoo vitamins” before inflicting yourself upon the rest of humanity. At a point I asked him in exasperation,”Do you have children? Please, don’t. Just don’t.” He seemed to think this was uproariously funny and tried to convince everyone in earshot that we were having a glorious time. Meanwhile, I was busy trying not to faint from the fumes rising off of his person that he kept trying to inch ever further into my personal space and dodging his hands that were going from wiping his dripping nose (and no, he was not using a tissue) to trying to catch my attention by poking at my sleeve.

The mall police eventually led him off the premises. However I decided to take a very different bus from the one I had boarded to get there. My trip home that evening saw me travelling a circuitous route from Wayne to Newark NJ,catching the PATH train to 34th St in Manhattan before transferring to the A train to 42nd St for the Port Authority Bus Terminal. A trip of two hours plus, just to avoid being harassed by someone who ought not to even be allowed to walk the streets.

It angers me that I should have considered it necessary to go to such lengths. I see no reason why I should have to worry about my safety when I am just going about my business in a normal everyday fashion. It disgusts me that anyone would think it is acceptable to follow me around for hours at a time even after I’ve made it abundantly clear that I am not interested in any interaction whatever with them. It further revolts me that anyone would think it acceptable to continually attempt to invade my personal space. The phrase “Go away” is pretty unambiguous and not open to multiple interpretations. Go. Away.

It put me in mind of the recent case of a high school boy who reportedly came to school and told other students via Facebook and Twitter how he was going to “kill all the girls”. The other students took this seriously and reported the conversation to the school authorities. A search revealed that the boy had in fact come to school with a firearm. His gripe? Apparently, he had approached several girls and demanded that they send naked photos of themselves to his cellphone. Everyone of them flatly turned him down. He unfortunately seemed to believe himself entitled to have such pictures and failed to understand that this was most certainly not the case. If I don’t know you and if you aren’t my husband, what exactly entitles you to see naked pictures of me? Come to that ,  so far as I reckon the only person who needs photographs of any portion of my unclothed body for any reason would be a surgeon preparing to provide me necessary treatment. My husband wouldn’t need photographs of my nude body when he’d have the real deal anyway. There are too many people emerging with blurred notions , or no notion at all, of what constitutes appropriate boundaries or acceptable behavior. It is nothing to do with so-called cultural differences either. Basic human decency is a universal trait that shows up everywhere on earth.

I refuse to be intimidated by the recent reports of mall disturbances and the like. I consider it my G-d given right to go shopping, to visit a movie theater, to eat at a restaurant if I should so choose without the fear of being hassled. I live in the land of the free and the home of the brave. I pay my taxes and abide by the law. There is no reason why I should be fearful or uncomfortable in my surroundings. I will not be held to ransom by anyone. No one has the right to impose themselves upon anyone else. The world is large after all. If any person is not ready to talk to you, find another mode of entertainment. Read a book. Take up stamp collecting. Go bungee jumping or rock climbing. Just don’t be a pain in anyone else’s patootie. That’s just not cool.

YouTube Made Me Buy It

 

Mary Kay map

Image courtesy Mary Kay, Inc.

I am, by the mercy of G-d,recovering after a long stretch of sub-par health. As part of my back-to-fitness program, I walk outdoors for  a minimum of 15 minutes at a time. Today I decided to hit the mall for my walk. This might be considered risky territory, not because of the terrain but because of the sheer temptation of the place.

You see, this summer I managed to hit Sephora VIB Status. Simply put, that means that I spent far too much money on makeup than I ought to have. Granted, a portion of my purchases were not for my personal consumption . I make some money as personal buyer, so a certain percentage of my purchases were for clients’ use. However, I bought myself a limited-edition Becca highlighter powder, two eyeshadow palettes, three lipsticks and a number of skincare products. Could I have perhaps done without at least some of this stuff? Absolutely. For example while I don’t need a highlighter, I really just wanted one because it looks so darn pretty on my skin. I did need to repurchase some skin care because not only had I completely used up my old faithful Clinique and Aveeno,but I actually managed through sheer self-discipline to work through my entire cache of  makeup counter samples to boot. However, I truly do not need anymore lipsticks than I currently have in my possession. As such, I am determined to buy no more until I have done with two tubes out of my current collection. The biggest help I have right now is watching the Project Pan videos. Too much YouTube for my own good was what got me to the point I am at now, after all. YouTube got me into this mess, let YouTube get me out of it. More on this tomorrow. I need to get ready for bed and my skin care process takes awhile. Ciao!

Why I don’t do Hallow-e’en.

Image courtesy Charles M Schultz and http://www.usatoday.com

As a young girl in Piscataway NJ, I would happily go trick-or-treating with my siblings. Around five p.m. on Hallow-e’en, our mother would send the six of us out with firm instructions not to enter anyone’s home (except those of the three other Nigerian families in that apartment complex), to be home before night fell and not to eat any of the candy. My oldest sister and brother blatantly disregarded the last instruction. Ignoring them as a lost cause, my mom legit shook the rest of us down for our loot as soon as we crossed the threshold,promptly redistributing it to other trick-or-treaters who came to our door. I never understood that, because it wasn’t as if she hadn’t had a great big bag of candies that she’d bought in readiness for distribution. Her logic appeared to be that if anyone had slipped something noxious into the stuff we’d gathered, that we wouldn’t end up eating it, so let it be someone else’s problem. My beef was that if that were the case, then a) we would be responsible for harming someone else and b) why let me go to all that trouble of dressing up and traipsing through the entire neighborhood if you were only going to spoil my fun right afterward? I’m afraid that I don’t always entirely get my mom…smh.

Fast forward to my teens. We were now living in Nigeria where Hallow-e’en is not observed. I  enrolled in Catholic catechism classes the summer before my 14th birthday. By this age I had cultivated this pesky notion of wanting to understand exactly what I was signing up for. It wasn’t sufficient to just tell me about a custom or a practice, I needed to to hear why is this or that custom observed, who started it , where did they start it and why? When I came across the observance of All Saint’s Day, I was pleasantly surprised at first to make the connection between Hallow-e’en and All Saint’s. But then, as I dug further, I found about the Celtic origins of the two celebrations and I came to a screeching halt. Oh no sirree, I was not about to incorporate “pagan practices” into my life. At that point in my life, I associated pagan customs with outright witchcraft. It was understandable to come to that conclusion. I was sitting under the voices of preachers who basically condemned any and all pre- European missionary indigenous customs as devil worship. These guys were vocal enemies of harmless things like cultural dance gatherings and ethnic celebrations such as the famous New Yam Festival , the Ibo equivalent of Thanksgiving, a harvest festival celebrating the annual yam harvest. Yams are a staple food in most parts of Nigeria, and the festival has major significance to the Ibo people. (Not to be confused with the sweet potato, a true yam is a large tuber typically measuring 18 inches or more in length and anywhere from four to 12 inches in girth.)  By the lights of the super-Christians who ruled the pulpits and the airwaves of ‘nineties Nigeria, merely showing up at a village community meeting was akin to being “unequally yoked with unbelievers”. With all that swirling around me. I decided to call Hallow-e’en and all its pomp and pageantry “pow”, and kept it moving.

Later on, I started noticing how the phenomenon of masked revelry seems to manifest across cultures worldwide. There were the mummers and Morris dancers of Britain, the Purim revellers of European Jewry, the multitude of Polynesian dance forms and the masquerade dancers that are a part and parcel of every indigenous ethnic group I ever encountered in Nigeria. I started to appreciate the deeper aspects of the symbolism behind different features of this apparently universal practice. I relaxed my stance condemning it all as devil worship, and began to recognize it more as a form of pageantry and theater. For this I have to thank my father who was an esteemed college professor of ethnomusicology for nearly forty years. However, I came once again  to find the Hallow-e’en business troublesome from a religious viewpoint when I began to cultivate Torah observance.

My problem is this: I don’t know exactly how much of the ancient Celtic earth religion is responsible for Hallow-e’en. I do know that a lot of Catholicism became conflated with the Celtic customs. I have a bit of concern about that aspect. Another gripe I have is the implied threat in the concept of trick-or-treat, as if the revelers are saying,”If you don’t stump up with goodies, then we are so going to trash your house”. As my Nigerian folks would say, ” What,is it ‘by force’?”. I don’t like the idea of feeling intimidated into participating in anything that I am not entirely comfortable with.

For that reason, until I am satisfied one way or the other, I do not participate. I most certainly do not go out in costume of any kind. My porch lights stay off when I get home. And I don’t have any decorations up nor one of those bowls of candy on the stoop either.

I light yahrzeit candles in memory of  my father’s birthday because it so happens to be on All Saint’s Day, November 1st, and again on the 2nd of November in memory of the passing of my wonderful maternal grandfather. But that is about where I draw a line under it all. In the meantime, if you know anything about the customs and origins of the holiday, please feel free to share with us below.

Time out.

Oh, I am outright disappointed in my hair right now. It is just the most ungrateful mane you ever did see. After all the love and attention and pampering I have lavished upon it over the past few years, it has had the unmitigated gall to break. Again. Just when I was about to surpass shoulder length. One fine day in mid-September I noticed that there was sudden, serious breakage in the nape area. The damage extended nearly two inches up the back of my head . A hard-earned swatch of my precious hair suddenly broke off from eight inches in length down to less than two inches long for no discernible reason.

I was boiling mad. Especially when I consider how much I have spent in time and money to lavish the best of the best in deep conditioners and natural oils on my hair and scalp. I don’t have many products in my rotation, but what is there is top of the line, high quality. I keep a bottle each of avocado,coconut and grape-seed oils which I combine to moisturize skin and hair. There are essential tea tree and peppermint oils for massaging my scalp and a 4 ounce tub of pure shea butter for sealing moisture into my ends. My commercial preparations include one moisturizing shampoo, two deep conditioning masks, a small tub of Eco Styler Olive Oil gel for the days when I want to lay the hairline down and a heat protectant product line for when I heat style. I like keeping hair care as streamlined as I can get it.

My mane is carefully dry detangled and given an overnight hot oil treatment prior to the weekly wash and deep conditioning session. I haven’t washed my hair loose in five years.Rather, it is always sectioned off into four quadrants that are each washed and conditioned individually to avoid tangling. If you follow YouTube-ers like Whitney White (Naptural85), Chime (HairCrush) Edwards, Kriss (NaturalMe4C) , sisters Kendra and Kelsey glamtwinz334 and the late Domenique Banks(longhairdontcare2011), then you know the drill.

Yes, I wear protective styles using only non-pulling ribbon hair ties to secure my locks. Yes, I use both a silk pillowslip and a satin bonnet at night. Yes, I oil the ends before I re-twist at night. Yes, I massage my scalp nightly. Yes, I apply heat protectant serums on the infrequent occasions that I heat style and yes, the flat iron stays below 400 degrees. No, I do not wear tight braids under my clip-ins nor have I gotten a weave nor box braids in years. I coddle this mane of mine like a piece of fine silk, I tell you. So yeah, I was utterly furious at this setback.

My first reaction was to throw a major hissy fit. I threatened to go off to a barbershop for a military buzz cut and have done with it all. The first two weeks or so after that discovery, my curls only got the most perfunctory of weekly washes for the sake of hygiene and little more. There wasn’t going to be any extra attention going towards this head of hair of mine.None of your scalp massages or fancy oil treatments. Look what that got me. UGH! So it has gotten cleansed, conditioned then bunned right back up and no nonsense. That’s where I’ve stuck it out from September all through October.

Well, after calming down I decided to go back to the drawing board and regroup. I’m considering where I am now to be Ground Zero. On the first of  November I will start a new cycle of chelating treatments in order to reset the clock as it were. I got some more Queen Helene cholesterol deep conditioner and a tub of the super-pricey Macadamia Deep Repair mask. I am considering doing an inversion treatment cycle over the next few weeks. I’ve scheduled an early November visit to a barber, but only to have the hair in the nape trimmed evenly. I might decide to have the damaged section buzzed down altogether depending on my mood that day. But until further notice, no more glamorous twist outs, nor braid outs, nor clip-in styles until my hair recovers. I am sticking to a bun or a ponytail for the rest of the year and the first quarter of 2016. Apart from the weekly wash and a basic protective style, I am calling time out on hair styling.

 

Sitting Pretty.

I am subscribed to a number of beauty and fashion channels on YouTube. I spend inordinate amounts of time watching and re-watching look-book posts, everyday makeup looks and Sephora / Ulta / whatever-the-It-shop-that-caught-her-fancy-was hauls. I indulge my love of pretty, glamorous things and by vicariously reveling in these fashionable displays I have begun to conquer my fear of my own beauty.

For me, the essential issue was my fear that glamorous was somehow incompatible with modesty. Hence I chose to err on the side of caution. At one time I rarely wore much in the way of makeup, no “shouting colors” or anything dramatic. I tended to keep my clothing classic and refined but somewhat boring. Nowadays, I think I have got the hang of being trendy but covered. I’ve found it hard to find jeans with a high enough waistline to conceal the undies these days which is why I rarely wear jeans anymore. But I always seem to find a lovely Liz Claiborne or two to add to my growing dress collection every season. I find that I look my best in a dress and pumps. It’s an easy, breezy, beautiful look. You grab one dress, one coordinating pair of hose, one pair of shoes, sweep your hair into a ponytail, replicate the five-minute makeup look your favorite YouTube-er uploaded last week and bob’s your uncle.

Watching YouTube was instrumental in shifting me from cowering behind the sweater-over-jeans-or-maxi skirts uniform until one day I got up the nerve to try on a wrap dress. I could have kissed myself! I started playing with fabrics and found out what worked and what didn’t. For instance, I have yet to find a sweater dress that I love, although I’m willing to keep looking. On the other hand, I found out that lace, leather and I should really move in together and start a family.

Oh yes, we have taken a stand to actively and fiercely love our own image. Dive in and do something, anything out of your comfort zone. It could be as small as wearing a bold nail color even if only on your toes. Use a new eyeshadow technique. Invest in a faux ponytail or clip-in hair extensions. Instead of clinging for dear life to your usual hair color, flirt with a few highlights. Even if you think that you daren’t go as fitted or body-con as other people yet (I can understand, been there, done that, have the tee-shirt and the poster), just start by attempting to replicate the general silhouette. What have you got to lose? If it turns out that the dress / jeans/ lipstick / blush doesn’t work out for you , then either pass it along to someone else or simply return it (which is why I am boss at keeping my receipts). However, that said I used to work in retail and I witnessed how people will attempt to do the darndest things in the name of getting their money’s worth. So pretty please, I will ask that you just don’t try to take it back if you know fully well that you got it stained or in any way grossed up …just saying. And have fun. You’re worth it.