The girls and I have completely cut ourselves off from public places. The only people we are seeing socially are two other families in our neighborhood that the kids play with. I started a group text thread and we agreed to only have contact with each other, this way the kids can play, but we are still technically quarantined. We also left the option open to change these plans as the COVID-19 situation progresses.
Our school district has assembled distance learning packets that will be available for parents to pick up this Thursday, so until then the girls and I are just hanging loose. I'm sure it will not be long before the stress of being stuck at home begins to affect all three of us. While we can, we are trying to stay upbeat and positive! For those of you who are also home with your kiddos, I thought I would share some online learning resources for you.
Another really fun kid-friendly thing to do online is to check out some of the zoo websites. Most zoos have all closed to the public, but several of the larger organizations have websites full of animal facts, learning tools, and best of all LIVE ANIMAL CAMS!! This activity is really one for the whole family. Here are a few of the pages that my girls and I have been enjoying!
If you haven't heard of Fiona, where have you been?! She is the cutest baby hippo. Check out the Fiona show here.
The San Diego zoo has a great Facebook page, in addition to their website. You can see it here!
Here is a way to visit the San Diego zoo's page featuring 10+ live animal cams!
The Atlanta zoo also has a great Facebook page, click here to visit.
The Atlanta zoo has two sister pandas that love to wrestle and play with each other, check out the live panda cam here!
Here is Zoo Atlanta's animal facts page, for those of you with future zoologists.
Every now and then I step up my Mom game and create a super fun activity for the girls to do. Today the weather was nice, so after hosing away most of the pollen I set up an outdoor paint studio for them. If you're like me you have a massive stash of craft supplies somewhere at home, if not you can always order supplies through Amazon, Walmart, or Target while they are still offering same day pick-up and delivery options.
What is really neat about this was that we turned it into a "Virtual Playdate" by video chatting with one of their besties. After talking to the mom of their friend we were able to set up a paint activity for the kids at our individual houses, using the video chat so that they could share the experience with each other.
I think this quarantine is going to require more creative ideas similar to this one. I would love to hear what you are doing with your kids!
I have always had decent eye brows. My Greek heritage gives me a one-up in the facial hair department. Yayyy, lucky me, all women want facial hair, right?! Though I have naturally dark hair I still felt that there was some unevenness and thinner areas that needed attention. Before microblading I was easily spending 5+ minutes "putting my brows on" each day. It was such an ordeal. Then you add to the scenario South Carolina's insane heat for 9 months out of the year, and often I would sweat those suckers off before lunchtime.
One of the best things I've ever done was having my eyebrows microbladed. This was not a decision I made lightly. I debated about it for months before I truly knew I wanted to have the procedure, and then spent another few months stalking and researching the different estheticians and artists in my area before I finally knew who I wanted to do them.
Researching your options for a service provider is going to be my number one suggestion when it comes to cosmetic procedures. I think it goes without saying that you should feel confident in the person who is going to slice your face repeatedly. Lucky for us, we are living during a time in which social media makes getting information about someone super easy. So, you really have no excuse not to do your due diligence. There are a few ways that you can go about this.
1. When you see someone with rocking brows-ask them who they use! They may not have had microblading, but then again, maybe they have! Also, if their brow artist is supes talented, even if it is just a shaping, chances are she can recommend someone for the job.
2. Use Instagram and Facebook to stalk your prey. Search the accounts of salons and spas in your area, as well as estheticians and makeup artists. As you do this you'll begin to see who the players are in the area, and can begin to study their work.
I followed Katie Reagan on the gram for months before I reached out to her. I scoured over her posts, the before and after pics, and the comments in order to feel confident that she was going to be who I trusted to do the work. I asked Katie a TON of questions about the ink she used, and it's ingredients. She in turn asked me about my skin condition and medications I take, so that we checked as many boxes possible to ensure that everything was going to go according to plan. Microblading is a semi-permanent procedure, if your brow artist is not asking questions and really getting in deep with you about what you want, then I would find someone else. I'll be honest, reading through Katie's contract and rules for before and after the procedure honestly had me a little nervous. It was really thorough and strict. However, a provider that takes what they do seriously, and respects the significance of the procedure is one that is going to treat your body like the priceless canvas it is, and you will find great comfort in this.
The pain of the procedure is very minimal. It is the least painful cosmetic procedure that I've had to date. The only thing that surprised me during the appointment was that you can hear the blade as it makes the cuts, and that was a little unnerving. I didn't focus on it long, Katie and I have a love of theater and music in common so we were able to chat and sing the entire time and I barely gave it a second thought. For those of you that are not going to chat with your brow artist, a very simple solution would be to wear ear buds and listen to music during your procedure.
Post procedure maintenance is of the utmost importance. Instructions may vary from artist to artist-but whatever they are make sure to follow them exactly. I was given A&D ointment with instruction to keep my brows covered with it for at least the first several days, I did this for the first full week. There were also specific rules regarding showers, face washing, and applying makeup in the days immediately following the procedure.
The second appointment is typically 6-8 weeks after the initial application. This gives your brows time to heal, and the ink to situate itself. The "final results" won't actually be seen for about two weeks. The skin will need to heal, possibly scab over, and then flake off to reveal your beautiful results. As I mentioned, Katie and I had discussed my skin allergies and health in detail so she knew that I would be slower to heal, because of this we scheduled my touch-up appointment further out than she would with other clients. At my second appointment she asked my opinion of the results so far, would I change anything, and was there anything specific I wanted her to focus on during the second application. I was already in love with my results, because I was unfamiliar with "shading" we only did a minimal amount at the first appointment. Now that I knew it was a look that I liked Katie did more shading at the second appointment, as well as squaring of my brows just a bit more. In the video below you will be able to watch part of my second appointment with Katie. What you will see below is the ink being applied after the new cuts were made. The ink is applied fairly thick, and then rubbed into the open wounds. I hate that the description sounds so vicious, because you'll see in the video that it is really isn't the case. However, it is what is happening. After the ink sets in, it is wiped off and she looks over her work, then she is able to go back in and start the shading.
*I suggest turning the sound off for these videos, we don't do much talking, and it's all at warp speed, but there is some moving around noise that doesn't add anything to the viewing experience. *
Microblading is such an individual process. What each person wants and needs will vary significantly. Here are my before and after results, but I also wanted to share before and after photos of some of Katie's other clients that way you can see the different techniques and options, and what results will look like on different skin tones and hair colors.
Would you ever try microblading? Is it something you've been wanting? Is this the first time you're learning about it? Sound off in the comments, I would LOVE to hear! Also, it goes without saying that if you are local to the CSRA, I highly recommend Katie!
Anytime school supplies are mentioned I think about a scene from the movie "You've Got Mail". Tom Hanks is narrating as his character types an email to send to Meg Ryan's character. He says "Don't you just love New York in the Fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address." I think the reason that line stuck with me is that I can relate to it. Though, I'm far enough removed from school now that the school supplies I purchase are for my children, I can still remember the excitement of back to school time. Newly sharpened pencils seem like the perfect metaphor for the clean slate and endless possibilities that a new school year brings.
As a parent of school-aged kiddos I still enjoy the excitement of a new school year, but getting caught in the madness of back to school shopping at a big box store can be overwhelming. Even thinking about it is enough to give me anxiety; The hassle of parking lot traffic, crowded aisles, not being able to find the one specific binder you need, and being all the way in the back of the store when your kid decides that they have to pee and the only bathroom is up next to the entrance.
One thing that I have found incredibly helpful since my oldest started school about 5 years ago, is ordering my school supplies online and doing a pick-up, or having them delivered to my house. It doesn't get much better than that, right? Wrong. I recently discovered EPI, a company that has been in the school supply business for 40 years. They not only assemble your school supplies in a pack for you, letting you skip the store, they go a step further. They ship the supplies in one pack directly to your child's school, labeled with their name to be ready and waiting for them on the first day. SAY WHAAAAAT?!? I know, it really is one of the greatest ideas, ever.
I would pay a steep price for the convenience of not having to shop for school supplies and lug them all to school, but EPI is actually really affordable. You could potentially spend up to 40% less than if you were to shop for each individual item yourself. EPI offers a variety of products so that they are able to cover anything your teacher may request on their list. They also give the school or parent goup a choice between name brands that you may be comfortable and familiar with, like in the package seen above, or saving money by using brands that the company offers at a lower price. Their basic elementary pack, seen below, has 43 items and costs around $35, isn't that incredible.?
EPI is not just a service for parents, they also work with groups like PTA, PTO, and charitable organizations. These groups are able to work with both EPI and the school to put together packs for students with the specific school supplies they will need, after all, a Kindergartner will not need the same items as a fourth grader. For added satisfaction all supplies from EPI packs are school-year guaranteed, so if for some reason an item is defective or doesn't meet your standards the company will replace it free of charge!
I was on the PTO board at my daughter's school for three years, and as a board we often discussed ways that we could ease the financial burden of buying school supplies that a lot of families face. These packages, are such a great idea for school organizations that may be looking to do something to ensure that all students have the tools they need to succeed each school year. Individuals and organizations do not have to be directly affiliated with a school in order to work with EPI, they only need to be in communication with the school so that they can receive accurate lists based on teacher's needs. If you are an organization interested in starting a school supply program at your school this video is full of great information. If you'd like more information about how you can bring EPI to your school, you can click here and request a free quote!
You can also check out EPI through social media including their Facebook page and Instagram account! It is my obligation to inform you that I was provided with free product and a fee in exchange for my review of EPI and it's services. However, I am not required to share anything other than my honest opinion with you. Check out my video below to see all of the supplies that come in the basic and name brand packs, remember that your pack can be customized and you are not limited to only the items you see below.
EPI is so confident you’ll love their prepackaged supply service, they’re giving away free packs to readers who sign up for more info! To enter to win a grand prize of 100+ arts and crafts supplies (valued at $250) or secondary kit prizes valued at $50, simply click here and fill out your information.
I love when I get the opportunity to share products and services with y'all that are really applicable to most of you. This is such a fantastic idea, I'd love to know what you think about it!
As you all know, mental health is something that I am very passionate about. I recently published a post about the stress women place on ourselves to keep up with each other, and how that can create patterns of anxiety and depression. So many of us (men and women) struggle with our mental health on a daily basis. I hope you were able to read my post from a few weeks ago, but if you didn’t, I wanted to include a little snippet for you:
“If you’ve been following me for any amount of time then you know that I am a huge advocate for mental health awareness. #Breakthestigma is a huge passion of mine. As a woman I feel like we are constantly putting pressure on ourselves to have “it'' all together. We set ourselves up in a way that can only end in feelings of inadequacy and disappointment. The bar of “having it all together” is NOT attainable. This is not my opinion, it is a promise, a fact. There is not a woman alive who has it all together, every single one of us struggles in our own way. For most of us, we silently suffer under the weight of our self-criticism. Ladies, let’s stop this shit! Let’s acknowledge our limitations, set realistic goals, and talk about the fact that some days (or weeks, or months, or years) we are a big hot mess. We feel depressed, we feel anxious, and we feel defeated. If we all say these things out loud that unreachable bar will hopefully begin to taunt us a little less. We will be able to hear our sisters, peers, and role models voicing the same thoughts and feelings that we deal with. To me #breakthestigma is about recognizing that there is nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to my mental health. It is recognizing the astounding data that tells us that over 23% of women worldwide suffer from an anxiety disorder, and over 10% of women in the United States (estimated to be 300 million people worldwide) suffer from depression. In my opinion one of the biggest goals of #breakthestigma is realizing that I am, we are NOT alone.”
Aren’t those numbers astounding? In 2018 National survey data showed that more than 8 percent of adults aged 20 and older suffer from low mood, according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Among women, slightly more than 10 percent have depression, versus 5.5 percent of men. "One of the findings that surprised us the most was that for both men and women, about 80 percent of adults with depression had at least some difficulty with functioning with daily life," said lead author Debra Brody.
These include going to work, completing daily activities at home and getting along with other people, said Brody, of the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).
Something you may not have realized is that depression is an umbrella term, medically it includes multiple different diagnoses including: Major Depressive Disorder and its related mood disorders including bipolar disorder, postpartum depression, post-traumatic stress syndrome, anxiety disorder and suicide.
As I previously shared, one of the biggest goals of breaking the stigma is knowing that you are not alone. The National Alliance on Mental Health asks “Do you have Stigma? Stigma harms the 1 in 5 Americans affected by mental health conditions. It shames them into silence and prevents them from seeking help.”
What frustrates me so much about the stigma of mental health is how often it presents us with the opportunity to use mental illness as a type of scapegoat. It is used as an outlet in which to place blame when we are presented with less than ideal situations or conditions. For example, I suffer from depression and anxiety. Thankfully, due to an individualized medicine regimen, and implementing coping skills I acquired through therapy my mental health conditions are not something I am in an active battle with. Certain environments, and situations may trigger or increase my anxiety, but for the most part I am able to manage my life in a way that allows me to avoid those things as much as possible. So yes, I do have anxiety and depression, but it's not something I suffer from every day. If I snap at you, or you notice that I am in a bad mood- more than likely my anxiety is not the culprit. People with depression and anxiety can experience an entire arsenal of emotions that are not symptoms of their mental illness. Personally, I often feel that if I am not visibly cheerful, the people I encounter will make the assumption that I am depressed or anxious. You may be reading this and having the realization that you are one of the people guilty of this, and that is ok. If you don’t have a mental health condition, there is simply no way for you to comprehend what those of us that do experience and feel. However, as more open and honest discussions take place, people without depression will have the opportunity to expand their understanding and educate themselves more. I am no mathematician, but with depression affecting Americans in such staggering numbers, I feel comfortable in assuming that every American has a relationship with someone dealing with mental illness. Every. Single. One. Whether it is themself, a family member, or friend- and whether it has been clinically diagnosed or not- this affects all of us.
If you know that you are one of the millions of Americans dealing with depression, and you have not sought help for it, I implore you to do so.You are not broken, you are not weird, and you certainly are not alone- so please do not let the stigma be what stops you from getting help. Talk to your doctor. You do not need to see a specialist right away. If you feel that you need help fast there are several help lines that you can call and speak to someone immediately.
The NAMI HelpLine can be reached Monday through Friday, 10 am–6 pm, ET.
The National Suicide Prevention life line is open 24/7 in North America by calling 1-800-273-8255. You can also chat with someone through their website.
If you don’t have a doctor that you are comfortable with another option is to get in contact with a local counselor or mental health facility. For example, Lynn Thompson Umstead, LPC, NCC, CIRT, CAMS, is the founder and clinical director of Ray of Hope Counseling Services. She is a trained mental health professional, with a Bachelor degree in Psychology and a Masters degree in Clinical Psychology. In addition, she is a Licensed Professional Counselor with a certification as an Imago Relationship Therapist (CIRT), and is also a National Certified Counselor. Lynn also holds a certification as an Anger Management Specialist (CAMS). She has had experience in a wide variety of settings when working with individuals, couples, and families. These settings include in-home therapy, in-patient and out-patient hospitalization programs, group homes, administration of psychological testing in private practice, and in a hospital environment. If you were struggling with infertility problems, anger management, relationship problems, and more, you would seek out Lynn because she has the experience and understanding when it comes to what you are going through.
In fact, all of the counselors at Ray of Hope Counseling Services have quite a few areas of expertise, so I am sure that you could find someone that fits your needs there. A great thing about their practice is that they offer online therapy, so you never need to have the excuse of “I don’t have enough time” anymore. But, if you’d rather go in-person, they also have eight locations all around Georgia, so if you are looking for a therapist Athens, or a therapist in Marietta (along with many other locations), they have a location for you.
If you are reading this and are not local to Georgia, I guarantee that there is a similar option available where you live. I will gladly help you find a local place that you can reach out to. Know that I’m here, and you are not alone.
A fresh slate. Full of opportunities. Often I hear people speaking unfavorably about new year resolutions, but my opinion is that there is never a bad time to want to try and improve yourself or your current situation. In January I tend to feel a renewed sense of productivity. I want to get back to working out regularly, I want to take better care of my health, I want to up my house-wife game and commit to schedule with house cleaning and laundry. Ok, I'm totally joking, there is absolutely NO WAY I would ever stick to a schedule for that mess, it would only lead to disappointment. However, there are some ways that I will extend my "fresh slate" into my house keeping. One of my favorite places to let go and totally revamp is my closet. I have a border-line addiction to clothes shopping and my walk-in is only so big. No matter how large your walk-in closet may be, it’s just not sustainable to continue adding new pieces without revamping it, cleaning it out, and making room from time to time. My method is a little bit mad-genius, and I tend to make a massive mess before I am through, but when I am finished it makes me so happy to see the freshly organized product!
Get Rid of What You Haven’t Worn in Years
My first tip when tackling a closet makeover is to get rid of the things you haven't worn in years. We’ve all heard it: the tip where people turn their hangers one way and if they are not turned the opposite direction (after wearing said item) by the end of the year, they get rid of the item. This is a bit much for me, most of the time I'm dressing in a hurry because I am late to everything, and I am sure that I would forget to turn them around. Also, I can remember if I've worn an item within the last year (or more), or not, so there's that. My suggestion is to go through each article of clothing and make your decision based on three things: if you have worn the article of clothing (or accessory) within the past year, if you can fit into the item(s), and if you see yourself wearing it in the future. Now, when you do this, you need to be really honest with yourself because its crazy easy to rationalize keeping something that in your heart of hearts you know you never wear again. In order to make this closet revamp really work for you, it takes being willing to let go of things. If you are a clothes or shoe hoarder, you may need to enlist a bestie to sit and chat with you while you go through the process, that way they are there to tell you that you aren't ever actually going to shorten that bridesmaid's dress and re-wear it.
Keep it Seasonal
Low on space? It can be important to rotate your clothes out to fit the season. If you rotate your wardrobe based on seasons you don't have to fit every single thing in one area of your closet. Use what you know about the weather in your area to make a best guess of when during the year to do this. If you're like me and live in Georgia and South Carolina, may the odds be ever in your favor. I would suggest packing the off-season clothes in Sterilite tubs, or under the bed storage boxes so that they're not too far from reach for those 75 degree December days. Keeping your closet seasonal saves space and it also makes it much easier to choose an outfit that is weather-appropriate when getting dressed. Just make sure you weed through everything before storing it, get rid of what you do not need first.
Easy Access To What You Love
Every person is going to be different, but I like to organize my closet using these categories:
~ Dresses and Rompers
~ Sleeveless and Short sleeve tops
~Long sleeve tops, sweaters, and outerwear
I am fortunate to have enough space in my closet that I do not currently have to swap out items as the seasons change. I do, however, have to swap out shoes. I truly would not consider myself overly into shoe shopping, but an inventory of my closet would tell a different tale. To solve this problem, I store my off-season shoes in clear shoe boxes, on the top shelf of my closet.
Add in Practical Solutions
Adding in practical solutions is very necessary when it comes to creating the perfect closet. The clear shoe boxes I mentioned are a great example of a practical solution. I chose clear so that I can see the item being stored- the thought here being that if I have my warm weather shoes stored, and plan a tropical get away- I can see the stored shoes, and grab exactly what I need with ease. At the same time, there are practical solutions that also look great and will help elevate the overall aesthetic of your closet. For example, wood hangers are awesome and look great, woven and/or wicker baskets are stylish, but also really help keep everything organized. I didn't want to waste money on wooden hangers that I could be spending on clothes, so I still went the plastic route. For the sake of appearances I chose all white, and the same style- little details like this, make a big difference when it comes to a beautiful closet. Similar to wood hangers, wicker baskets can be pricey- so I suggest checking out stores like Marshall's and TJ Maxx for good deals. Another alternative to wicker is woven plastic, which is what I did. The baskets I used are from Target and were completely budget friendly.
Don’t Forget About Your Jewelry Box
Last but not least, don’t forget about your jewelry box! Every so often, you need to go through your jewelry box and sort through what you are wearing regularly vs. what you are not. This prevents your fine jewelry from tarnishing, and your unworn costume jewelry from taking up space you may need for other items. If for any reason some of your items are tarnished, most reputable jewelers will fix it for you, free of charge as long as you originally purchased the item from them. For example, I know that James Avery does this. If you are going to have to spend money in order to fix or clean your jewelry and you don't think that you will wear the item again, you might want to consider getting rid of it to clean out your jewelry box and/or make space for new items. Chapes-JPL is a great place in Buckhead to sell jewelry in Atlanta, GA. They are the nations premier jewelry lender, offering collateral loans on valuables such as diamonds, watches, gold, handbags, and more. They'll also by the valuables outright, as well. They say: “Looking to sell your jewelry? We know you have plenty of options. You could either sell it yourself online or take it to a typical pawnshop, gold buyer, or jewelry store. Selling it online has its drawbacks, You have to photograph it, list it, wait for a buyer, ship it, wait for payment and lastly hope that the item doesn’t get returned. If you want cash for your jewelry immediately, we can help. Why visit Chapes-JPL with your gold, diamonds, jewelry and Rolex watches? First, with over 38 years appraising and buying jewelry, our offers are fair and honest. Secondly, we will buy gold and jewelry in any condition. From brand new engagement rings to broken clasps and scrap earrings, we will make you an offer. And lastly, privacy, when you go to a typical pawnshop, gold buyer or jewelry store you are discussing your business in their public showroom. At Chapes-JPL all appraisals and offers are conducted within our private offices and all discussions are confidential.”
Costume jewelry is typically not worth the hassle of trying to sell, so what I do when I am going through my jewelry and accessories is to make 3 piles. One is "keep", one is "sell", and the other is "Taylor". Taylor is my oldest niece and I love being able to bring her bags full of jewelry that I haven't worn in a while. I know that she'll put them to good use, and if any of it is too "grown up" for her, then her mom will happily take them off of her hands! If you don't have a niece to bestow items upon try your church's youth group, or donate them to a women's charity. To store my jewelry I use acrylic storage boxes that I purchased a Home Goods- I think most people use them for make-up storage, but I love them for my jewelry.
So that's it, y'all! That is my closet makeover, and suggestions. Do yourself a favor and beat Spring cleaning to the punch!
Hey y'all! I'm Layne, a 30-something Southern Belle trying to navigate this craziness we call life. I'm a wife, mom of 2, and all around hot mess. I'm passionate about mental health, and love everything having to do with fashion. I'm living a super blessed life, and I love sharing it with you.