Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Sosh Meeds

I've been sucked into the abyss that is social media.

I seem to live and breathe Facebook and Instagram. Every funny, serious, interesting, thought-provoking, deep, light & humorous thing that comes my direction in life appears in some form or fashion in the "sosh meeds."  {which is my silly, cheesy, faux-teenager word for social media when I'm talking to my teen daughter}

I have neglected this blog.
I have neglected time spent face to face with other actual human people.
and worst... I have neglected prayer time. And Bible reading.

I'm a mess, folks.

I know, I know.  Most of us are. And most of us are re-evaluating things in life this week.  It's almost time for a brand new year so everything is suspect and we all feel inclined to wipe out anything that might remotely take away from the beauty of the life we've been given.  Maybe that's what this is.

Sure.  I could throw out my smart phone and disable all my social media accounts.  Perhaps I could move my family into a cabin in the wilderness.  That would do the job.  But I have found that there are GREAT opportunities to connect, to minister, to love, to find (and give) compassion, to laugh, to share, to grieve alongside long-distance friends...all via social media.  So it's not all bad.  But I think, like most of us, I have to find a way to rein that in.  I'm not sure how I'll pull it off, but I'm open to suggestions.

How do you handle it?

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Mother of the Year Award

Last weekend, I had a whole discussion on facebook with a number of friends about people being judgemental and nasty to moms.  (Mostly by other moms online, but in public as well.)  I wrote my weekly newspaper column about it and quoted several friends from the Facebook discussion.  We had chatted about all our own perceived 'failures' as a mother, what people say about us, how we all are doing the best we can and need to be able to parent our kids without worrying about anyone else's opinions.  I believed every word of what I said about how rude, mean & catty moms can be to one another. The ultimate "end" to the discussion was the decision among all of us to be kinder and extend grace to other moms, to be careful about being quick to judge and remember how we all feel when others look down their noses at us for whatever they perceive as bad mothering.

And then today, I got a reminder of the whole thing.  Only this time, *I* was the judgey mom.  And it took several hours before it hit me square between the eyes.  Here's what happened.

This afternoon, my daughter had a counseling appointment.  While waiting in the small waiting room, a mom and her two young children came in.  There is a small table with 2 little chairs, one of those wire frames with beads on the wires and a couple of old children's books & magazines.  (In other words there is hardly anything for a kid to do while they wait.)  The little boy, probably about 7 yr old, walked in, spotted the wire/bead toy and asked the mom if he could play.  She growled "NO!" at him.  That's when I looked up.  I hadn't really paid much attention when they came in, but upon hearing her growl at him, I noticed several things.  Mom's pants said "Wild Love" down the side and were paired with a too small tank top that was splattered with paint as if she'd just stepped down from the ladder where she was painting the bathroom.  Little boy was wearing a sweatshirt & jeans.  Little girl (about 5 yr old) was wearing a spaghetti-strapped sundress.  (It was in the upper 80s outside today.)  Mom checked him in at the window, then walked over & plopped down in a chair with her phone & started playing on it, taking selfies, watching videos, etc. And that's where she remained for the rest of her time in the waiting room.  She never looked up.  Not when her son was HURDLING chairs (I'm not kidding), not when he was using her lanyard and keys like a whip and swinging at his sister with them, not when he broke one of the small chairs, not when he said some mean things to his sister, not when little girl told the boy she'd slap him if he sat in the red chair. (of course he immediately went & sat in it and she walked over to slap him, but he slapped back.  Mom shouted "Stop hitting." from across the room & never looked up.)

After brother was called back to talk to his counselor, the little girl, mom & I were the only ones left in the waiting room.  (Sarah had also been called back.)  In an effort to NOT talk to the mom and girl, I was playing a game on my phone.  Mom of course had been on her phone the whole time.  The little girl was in the floor, talking to herself & playing with the wire/bead frame.  She got bored, looked up and eyed her mom, then me, and asked "Why is it so quiet in here?"  I responded that her mom and I are phone addicts.  The mom giggled a bit, but never looked up.  So I put my phone down and talked to the little girl.  Her mom had earlier eyed my shirt & asked if I lived in the town mentioned on my shirt (I do) so I asked the little girl if that's where she lives, and which school she goes to. She briefly talked to me, then said "I don't want to tell you that." so I affirmed that it was a smart choice because I'm a stranger and she probably shouldn't tell me any information.  So instead of talking to me, she began running laps around the waiting room. (I'm totally serious.  Laps.  Like, dozens & dozens of laps.)  Mom didn't look up.  I was watching the little girl and thinking how she was just acting like a little kid and no one else was in the room and she wasn't really bothering me.  The only thing that bothered me was that mom didn't seem to care, wasn't talking to her and just generally wasn't paying attention. I guess in my head, if she were my little girl I would've stopped her from running & gotten her engaged in one of the books, or I'd sit on the floor & play with the wire/bead thing with her or get her to do something on my phone, pull out some paper and a pen from my purse.  Anything but running laps around the room & potentially bugging others.  Then little girl began saying "Hi" every time she passed me and her mom as she made her laps.  Mom still never looked up at her so I started making funny faces as she approached me on her rounds and tried to beat her at saying "HI" in a funny voice.  She began giggling and clearly enjoying the attention.  She then added a tap to my knee and to her mom's knee as she passed us each time.... then it became a pat to both of my knees, a pat to both of mom's knees and the HI as she passed us each time.  She was running off some energy, getting a little adult attention (even if not from her mom) and having fun being a kid.  Had we been in a different environment (say....church, a funeral, a waiting room with a bunch of elderly people...) it would've been horribly inappropriate but she didn't really bother me.

After about a 45 min visit with his counselor, brother showed back up at the door with his counselor.  Mom heard the door open & looked up, announced to the little girl to put her shoes back on (yes, she took off her shoes at some point in all this) and fussed at the boy who walked in & immediately said or did something (I can't remember what) to bug his sister.  After getting little girl's shoes on, they got up to leave and then mom spotted the counselor, still standing at the door waiting on her.  She looked at the counselor & said "WHAT?" in a pretty harsh tone. Then added "Do you want to talk to me?"  The counselor kindly nodded yes & gestured for them to all come into the hallway (outside the waiting room, so out of earshot to me.)

As they left, I sighed with relief and was giggling to myself about how I wouldn't have to worry about losing my "Mother of the Year" title to that woman!  I mean, I have bad days now and then. My kids probably heard their share of harshly spoken words when they were younger.  But on my bad days, at least I do better than THAT.  I came home & relayed the story to Larry later tonight.  He laughed along with me and we sort of had a high five/yay for being good parents moment.

And then it hit me between the eyes.

Yes, the kids were pretty awfully behaved. Yes, they argued and fought when they were both in the room and mom should've intervened.  Yes, the little girl was talking pretty openly with a stranger and running around the room like a crazy person, swatting the knees of a stranger.  Nothing about the circumstances change.  Mom should have done something differently.  Mom should've put her phone down & paid attention to the children.  I'm not saying any of that was "okay" in the least.  So please don't read into this that I'm saying "I understand their poor behavior & mom's disconnected style."

But my response and my judgemental, catty attitude is something I can control.  I learned from a wise lady years ago that in all sorts of relationships we can't control the behavior of the other person but we can control our response. And I responded wrong.  The truth is, I don't know that mom's circumstances.  I don't know if these were foster kids who came to her with huge issues to tackle or biological ones with special needs or delays. I don't know if she struggles with substance abuse or alcohol.  I don't know if she grew up in a horrible home and has never really learned good parenting skills.  I don't know if she was recently released from prison and has never had a relationship with the kids and today's behavior was a drastic improvement over what it was a month ago.  I don't know if she was sick, in pain or battling her own demons.  I don't know if she's mentally ill or was abused moments before leaving home today.  I don't know if she had another child who died recently and she was not really equipped to handle the being out in public alone with the kids just yet. Or maybe her spouse died yesterday and she was tied to her phone watching old videos of him, reading things he wrote to her. I don't know her socioeconomic situation or if she's homeless.

There are just too many factors involved for me to make a judgement of her.  I don't know whether she gets the Mother of the Year Award or not.  But I do know that I am certainly not a perfect mother myself.  I've had my share of horrible days.  I've done my share of screwing up and probably looking about as equally disengaged with my kids in public places a few times. I have made horrible parenting errors that I looked back on later & thanked God for protection and provision. And maybe that was the case with this mom today.

So before I decide that she was such a terrible mom and her kids were horribly behaved, maybe I should consider that she was in a good place to deal with those things--- a counselor's office!  Maybe I should consider that she's trying to get help. Perhaps today was her son's appointment and hers is tomorrow.

Whatever the case may be, I hope she will be willing to share the podium at the Mother of the Year Awards ceremony.  It seems like we might be receiving our awards on the same day.

Grace, y'all.  Give it freely.  You just don't know what's happening with other people.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Product Review: Baby Foot Original Exfoliant Foot Peel

Warning:  If pictures of feet gross you out, you don't want to read this. 
If pictures of gross feet transforming by means of a chemical peel would freak you out, you REALLY don't want to read this. 
But if you're curious about how Baby Foot works or you're looking for a product that will REALLY do what it claims to help soften your feet, read on!


A few weeks ago a friend of mine posted on Facebook about a product she'd bought online to help with her dry feet.  I am always on the look out for products like this, but have found that most of them fall into the same category.  That is, they are all creams/lotions/body butter type products & if you use them regularly (EVERY NIGHT) they will work.  That's where I lack in product success.  I have good intentions, but I forget to use them after the first few days.  And bam....crusty hooves.

That's not just a funny name I just came up with.  It's what my husband has called my feet for the last couple decades.  Isn't that sweet?  Thank God he loves the rest of me! 

Here's the thing.  I grew up in the country.  I live in the south.  I'm a barefoot girl.  I pretty much go barefoot 24/7 in the summertime.  I only put on shoes if I'm going somewhere.  And during the school year, I wear shoes all day but take them off the second I get home.  To this day, if anyone in my house has on shoes, they get asked where they're going.  It's like putting on shoes equates dressing up.  ha ha!  So years & years & years of barefoot walking means my entire foot is basically one big callous on top of an older callous.  Layer upon layer of hardened skin.  I know....lovely mental image, right?  {Hang in there....I'll show you the actual thing in a second.  Scary....}

So when my friend posted about Baby Foot I had to look into it.  Anything that I've been told about personally by someone I know & trust is worth a look.  I googled it and was SHOCKED and WOWED by the pictures.

Pause reading this for a second.  Take a minute and open another window.  I'm serious.  It'll blow your mind.  Do a quick google search for baby foot before and after photos.  It's really shocking.  And disgusting.  In the most satisfying way.

Before I continue, I should scare you to death, errr...I mean, show you my "before" pictures.  I should apologize ahead of time.  It's frightening.  Make sure the kiddies aren't around.  They might cry.

See what I mean?  I NEEDED this stuff!!

So this is Baby Foot.  You can buy it from their own website for $25 plus shipping.  I found this one on amazon for about $23 including shipping.  It comes in a box like this.

To use Baby Foot, you first have to soak your feet in warm, soapy water for 15-20 minutes.  Then dry thoroughly and get ready for the process!

You slip on these lovely little plastic bag booties.  They're about the size of a gallon ziploc bag.  They come with little tape strips to fold over & tape down.  This will hold them in place on your feet.  They are filled with a lotion/gel stuff.  That's the magic stuff!!

And here's the fun part.  Sit or lie down.  For an HOUR.  You really have to sit still & let the gel/lotion/goo inside the booties to work.

After an hour, wash the remaining gel off your feet thoroughly & go back to life as normal.  For a few days, you'll feel like the stuff did not work, but then the wild part begins.  I read online that some people had a lag of as much as 5 days after use before the peeling began.  But for me, it started on about day 3.

First it was just a little peel.

Every day for the next 4-5 days, I peeled a little more.

I know.
GROSS.  Shudder!  Good grief!

By about 8-9 days after the initial treatment, I was pretty well done peeling.  Every place that peeled left SOFT pink, fresh new skin.  While it looks red/pink in the after pics below, it was NOT inflamed or painful AT ALL.  That's just what healthy, fresh skin looks like!  Plus the lighting in my house is not the greatest so it probably looks a little pinker than it really is.


The cracks were SO deep that you can still see them, but they're smooth to the touch.  I will probably do this again soon but the process is so ugly & gross (all that peeling skin!!) that I hate to do it during the summer when people will see my feet in flip flops & sandals.  The box says to wait about 5-10 days at least between the end of peeling & doing a 2nd treatment.  I still need to keep up the softness with regular lotion/cream/pedicures, too!!

If you're considering using Baby Foot, I highly recommend it.  It truly does work exactly like it says it will!!  And it is painless!!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Sermon Notes

Nearly 2 years ago I got a new journal notebook for sermon notes. It has 200 pages in it and it is nearly full now.  As I flipped through the pages during church this morning I realized how much of a treasure this notebook is and how many things from it I want to share.  So much truth, beauty.  So, enjoy a brief scroll through some of the high points from the past 2 years of sermons in my life. The sermons have come from various preachers at various churches as well as some speakers at conferences.  This is in no way a compilation of everything written down, but just a sampling of some of the powerful things that have affected my soul.

from sermons/lessons given by Robert Burkett & Tom Terry @ Grace Fellowship Church, Flint TX:
*We should live as champions, but we may not always see victories. {Luke 9:58, There is no EARTHLY security. If you count on it, you will be disappointed.}

*Faith sometimes requires waiting.

*God always goes before us. He knows what you're facing. There is no where in the Bible where God retreated.

*When God's at work, we often have to move out of our comfort zone. You will never experience victory in Christ until you step out.

*When you walk in faith, do you expect something from God?  He will never ask you to do something that you can't do WITH HIM.

*How often do we not see our Jericho walls fall because we quit trying on the 6th lap?

*We cannot be defeated by Satan unless we throw up our hands in surrender.

*Death is just a sign that there was LIFE.

*Don't be in bondage to the past.

*Faith will lead to works -- not the other way around.

*You can't draw water from a dry well.  Fill it with the Word.

*Let the mind of the Master master your mind. Then you'll know the mind does matter.

*I find that doing the will of God leaves no time to dispute His plan.

*Joy busters: unsatisfied expectations, unresolved conflict, unconfessed sin

From Larry, when he filled the pulpit at a few different churches:
*Weak faith is better than no faith. God can work with weak faith.

*How God deals with another person & their sins is none of your business.

*God's heart has always been in tune with those who are outsiders, less than, ones who can never repay grace extended.

*If you want to be closer to God, go where the poor are. They can never repay.

*God can handle things -- He does not need our help!

From Kim Beckham & Dan Sala, Central Baptist Church, Tyler TX:
*You influence your children more by the way you live than the words you use to teach them.

*What you teach your children to love is more powerful than anything they learn in systemic education.

*God has compassion for us in our frailty.

*Forgiven people should be forgiving people.

*Discontentment:  We will never run out of things to see that we want!

*Society constantly changes what it values.

*When hearts get hardened, doubts come.  You can ALWAYS go back to God.

*When you see someone struggling:
1.  pray--discernment & wisdom
2.  talk to them about your own experience if you are done dealing with it emotionally, spiritually, etc.  Speak truth in LOVE.
3.  physically walk the journey with them.

*Make relationships when things are good so that you have an avenue & a voice to speak to people when things get rough.

*Ministry means being willing to be interrupted.

*1 John 4:20:  If you claim to love God but hate a fellow man, you are a liar.  You can't love God & hate sinners.  We can't choose who to extend grace & God's love to.

*Submission:  love/service/honor given out of respect for another person, even when they don't deserve it.

*It is hard to share the joy of Christ when you are in a hurry to grab everything the world has to offer you.

*You guard what is of great value or importance.

*To determine the status of your heart, examine what's coming out of your mouth.

*No matter what we, Christians, are going through in the world, it sure beats Hell.  -Mark Lowry

*If we could hear the screams of the damned in Hell, we'd become more missionary-minded.

*If you want to make an impact on someone, you must be willing to serve them.

*Sincerity is not the magic ingredient that makes something true.

*Genuine love is not a sugary sentiment that denies truth.

*Why does God allow interruptions in our lives?
1.  Sometimes He needs to redirect our focus.
2.  Sometimes He needs to realign our priorities.
3.  Sometimes He needs to reclaim our attention.

MOSES:  grew up in the palace, God interrupted to lead him to the the wilderness w/ the Israelites
JOB:  God took a man who loved Him completely & interrupted his safe, happy life -- but Job's allegiance never faltered
JONAH: swallowed by a whale as a result of disobedience to God
MARY: her whole life was interrupted to carry Jesus

God sometimes uses an interruption to perform the miraculous.

*What we believe about God impacts our view of the world:
1.  I am not the same.
2.  I don't see things the same way.
3.  I am not seen in the same way.

*When we grow impatient with God, Satan is always quick to answer us.

*Out of your deepest misery flows your most powerful ministry.

*Sin & shame are powerless at the Cross.

*You cement your right to lead by learning how to follow.

*There is no healing in your spiritual life until you come to terms with what you've done.  The Lord delights in showing us where real power comes from.  The greatest victories come with the fewest resources. When did we stop trusting in God's provision?

*When the Spirit is leading your life, the fruits of the Spirit are evident.

*We all approach Scripture through the lens of our own life experiences & biases.

*We can't base our salvation on the memory of the day we got saved, but on the daily experience with Christ.

*True faith is transforming faith.  When you meet Christ, it's revolutionary.

*Becoming a Christian doesn't do away with your past -- it buys you a new future!

*God uses common people & asks them to abandon everything & find their hope, security & identity in Him alone.

*He uses our sin & struggles to reach others.

*The nature of forgiveness is recognizing someone has done something wrong, then surrendering your right to hold it against them & retaliate.

*Forgiveness is the 1st step toward reconciliation.

*If your gospel is not touching others, it hasn't touched you. -Curry Blake

*Don't waste time getting caught up in theological arguments. Spend that time loving others & reaching people for God.

*The same way that a physically dead person doesn't respond to physical stimuli, a spiritually dead person won't respond to spiritual stimuli.

*How much of God's power would be unleashed in the Church if we let Him cleanse the parts of us that we keep from Him?

*When life is so full that we are scheduled to the max, we leave no time to be a blessing to others.

*What would the world look like if we acted out an accurate depiction of the Church?

*Prayer means being vulnerable in the presence of God; being deeply honest with ourselves & with God -- kind of silly since He already knows; letting down our guard is powerful & intimate.

*Salvation is not a matter of God's law, but God's love.

*We don't celebrate enough when Christ sets someone free of sin.

*We spend so much time climbing the ladder of success only to reach the top & discover it was leaning against the wrong wall.

From Jake Murphy, Central Baptist Church Tyler, TX:
*During consistent sin struggles:
1.  pray every day
2.  get into the Word
3.  worship
If you're doing #1-3 when you fall, you're that much closer to Him when you get back up.

From Christine Caine @ a ladies event, July 2015:
*Where there is absence of light, darkness prevails.

*Some of us have rationalized God out of His church.

*Don't stop trusting God because He didn't do it in your timeframe.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Foundation Comparison & Review: Avon, Maybelline and Younique

This morning I was feeling ambitious and decided to do a little comparison of 3 varieties of foundation I had on hand.  I compared these three.

First we have Maybelline Dream Matte Mousse in classic ivory.  It comes in a small glass jar & you apply it with your fingertips.  It's a mousse/cream foundation.  This is the foundation I've been wearing most recently.  I get it at my local CVS for about $7-9 depending on sales.  {Note:  there is also a Maybelline Dream Smooth compact/sponge version of this product that I actually liked much better for the coverage but it appears to have been discontinued, so I switched to this mousse version last fall.}

Next we have Younique's Mineral Touch liquid foundation in Organza.  This color has been out of stock for months & months, so it's been a long time coming.  When it's in stock, it sells out rapidly so you have to know someone who sells to get the heads-up when it'll be available and buy quickly or you'll miss it.  Several friends of mine sell Younique and I've seen dozens of videos online that made me want to try it.  But more about those videos in a minute.  It is $39 (plus shipping, which makes it $48 total.)  You must use a foundation brush to apply this.  Younique sells one ($32) but I found one that I like at CVS for $15.  So the foundation itself is nearly $50 (with shipping) & the brush is around $15 (if you get a drug store version).

And last we have Avon's Anew Age-Transforming 2-in-1 compact foundation.  It's got a wrinkle cream component built into the foundation so that's where the 'Age-Transforming 2 in 1' part comes in.  This one is in the Ivory shade.  It's in a compact and you apply it with a small sponge.  I paid about $8 for this one, but like the Maybelline one, the price varies slightly depending on sales.


I need to make a couple disclaimers here.
1.  I sell Avon, so I clearly went into this with the hopes of proving Avon to be the best product.  They have a good reputation.  They're affordable.  Plus anyone who buys their products earn me money!  Local ladies: let me know if you need an Avon lady!  Or visit my website: https://youravon.com/elizabethreeves
2.  I have tons of friends who sell Younique and I've seen a million videos like these that made me want to try their foundation.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2HaVWSJ1fHo  and  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Z4HFUegRzE  I really figured it was a "too good to be true" sort of deal, so I bought it out of a cross between skepticism and curiosity.  After all, this girl is getting older every minute and my pores are widening. Younique claims to fix my pores and make me look 21 with their magic foundation.
3.  Maybelline/Cover Girl/Loreal & other drug store brands are generally my go-to foundations because they are most readily available and I can look at them in the store to make sure they are the right shade for me without worries about having to return something if it's NOT the right shade.  So while I order a lot of Avon products from myself, foundation & powder are items that I typically buy in person for the color matching issue.  Plus, I suppose, if I get one that doesn't quite cut it for me, I don't feel bad about tossing a product that I spent under $10 on.

And a little info about my needs for a foundation:
I am generally a Classic Ivory shade in all foundations.  Pretty much a glowing white girl, but not quite pasty porcelain doll white. I have pink/blue undertones (not yellow).  I burn easily, peel and go back to glowing white.  I have combination skin.  I'm mostly dry but have times when I get oily, so I can't buy a product solely based on whether it's good for dry or oily skin because I kind of need both.  I don't have any major wrinkles just yet, but I am beginning to see a few small ones.  My pores are pretty big on my nose & across my cheeks near my nose.  I have some redness in the same areas that has to be covered.  And while I don't typically have trouble with blemishes (thank you genetics!), I still have a wacky mid-life acne crisis now and then with a big honkin' zit that takes 2 weeks to break the surface, then turns into a giant red scab before it completely goes away.  At the moment I have one those trying to surface on my chin.  You'll see it in the pics below.  I need medium to full coverage on a day to day basis to even out my skin tone and cover the redness, pores & occasional zits.

Now....on with the review & comparisons.

I started the day with a clean face, but to sure, I used my cleanser and washed it anyway.  I re-washed my face in between each type of make-up and took a new clean face pic, so the clean face pics below are not just repeats of the 1st shot.  I wanted to be sure to show you that I started fresh each time.  I did not apply any primer, moisturizer or anything else before applying the foundations.  In normal daily use I would apply my Avon Nurtura cream (moisturizer) first but today I wanted it to be foundation ONLY so I could get a good comparison of the products.

I took a picture of my bare face (eeek!) and then applied the Younique foundation.  As per the million videos I've seen I put 5 drops of foundation on my brush, dotted it around my face, then began spreading it around or painting my face as I like to think of it.  ha ha!  I ended up having to add 2 more drops to get the results below.  The coverage is good and while it dries to a powdery finish, I still would use powder over it to set it.  This is the side by side comparison of before/after with that one.  You can click the pic & blow it up bigger to see the redness and imperfections it covered.  I'd say the coverage is medium to full. While I didn't see quite as dramatic a difference as all the videos I've seen online where this foundation is called "Photoshop in a bottle", it did cover well and the color was a good match for me.  Application was really fast.

I washed off the Younique foundation and took a new clean face pic and then applied the Avon foundation.  Again, you can click the picture to blow it up bigger.  I noticed that it took several dips into the compact to get it to the right thickness on my face to cover the zit on my chin but then again, you don't typically only swipe the sponge once when applying cream foundations so no shocker there. However, it bugged me that I had to add more a couple times to get it to the level of coverage I wanted.  Once I did, the coverage was about the same as the Younique foundation and the color was good.  However, in looking at these pics, it appears a tad lighter in color than the Younique foundation pic above.  I think that's just the lighting in my bathroom.  Coverage was medium to full, but took several "layers" to get to that point.  It took a tad longer to put on than the first one.

I washed off the Avon foundation, took a new picture and applied the Maybelline foundation.  It is what I'm most used to so application was fast.  You swipe your fingers across the top of the jar, dot it on your cheeks, forehead, chin, nose and then use your fingers to spread it around.  The coverage is light to medium with this one.  Because of the way it dries (quickly) to a matte finish, adding another layer for better coverage would be difficult, because you'd sort of wipe off the first layer to add more.  Recently, I've noticed that by 1-2 PM it appears that all of my make up has disappeared.  I don't know if my skin soaks it all in or what but that's why I ordered the Younique and Avon products to compare.  This is my side by side pic of the Maybelline foundation.

So, what's my take on these three products?

Pros/Cons of each:
I like the Younique foundation for coverage & the fact that it would last forever since you use so little with each use.  However I don't like that the Younique product is very expensive. It is WAY more expensive than anything else in my make up collection and it would be cost prohibitive for me to buy it regularly.  However, since you use so little of it, I feel like the bottle would last about 6 months at least, which helps ease the ouch factor of the cost.  Since it is so often out of stock, it might be hard to acquire if I run out & need it right away.  Their shipping was very fast, though.  I ordered it Monday online & it was in my hands Thursday afternoon.

I like the Avon foundation because it's the one I sell and let's be honest, I wanted to prove the Younique product to be false/exaggerated advertising.  ha ha!  I got the same sort of coverage as with the Younique foundation, however, it took a bit more of the product to achieve the same level of coverage.  Given the cost, I might be able to afford buying more of it and feel just as happy with the use/coverage.  It is affordable and I can get my hands on it fairly quickly since I sell it.  (But do I want to buy 2-3 of them to match the cost of the other product for the same sort of results?)

I like the Maybelline product because it's cheap & so readily available. The coverage is not so great and it absorbs (or disappears?) from my face mid-day.  Irritating.  But it's cheap and I can get it in my hands within 10 minutes.  (I live near a CVS.)  If I was 21 and didn't need much coverage, it probably wouldn't bother me as much to use this one, but I think I've probably aged out of the use of this one.

So what will I put on my face & wear to church tomorrow?  Which one will I continue to wear regularly?

I am torn.  It's definitely between the Younique product & the Avon product.  Both offer good coverage and benefit someone individually rather than the big chain stores.  {I like to buy from an individual when I can if there is a good product I need/want/enjoy.}  While the Avon product is MUCH cheaper & benefits ME when I sell it, it does require heavier use to get the same coverage as the Younique product.  The cost to coverage ratio is where my dilemma comes in.  Since budgetary concerns are an issue for me, I did some math.

Assuming the Younique product & brush last me 6 months, it costs me about .33 a day to use it.  (Of course, the brush may need to be replaced sooner--or might last fast longer than 6 months-- so there might be some variance in price where that's concerned.)  And assuming that the Avon product lasts about 2 months (so I'd have to buy 3 to make an equivalent use to the Younique product), it would cost me about .13 a day to use it.  But the coverage not being equivalent with just one "layer" of the Avon product I'd have to use more of it to get the same results, thus increasing my overall cost for the Avon product.

So does it even out in the end cost-wise?  Maybe.  The Younique foundation is still a little pricier than the Avon product, but I really like the way it covers so I won't have an issue buying it again.  {Plus I get to support my girlfriends who sell it.  Check out the sweet friend I bought it from this time here: https://www.youniqueproducts.com/kathyfergueson}  But there are times, like when I travel, that liquid foundation is kind of a pain in the neck so in those instances, I'll carry the Avon product with me instead.

Are the Avon product & the Younique product equivalent?  In some ways, yes.  In others, no.  I think the Avon compact is a more travel-friendly & convenient product.  But the Younique one offers really good coverage with very little product and it takes a minimal amount of time to apply.

So.... I will continue to buy both products!  I'll use the Younique one on a regular daily basis and the Avon one as a touch-up or for travel.  But I'm gonna go toss the Maybelline one in the garbage.  Or give it to my young beautiful daughters who don't yet need much help in the beautiful skin department!

Have you tried these same products?  Which one did you like best?

UPDATE July 6, 2016:
Alright...when I wrote this blog on April 30, I felt a lot of things about the Younique Liquid Touch foundation.  You could say I had all the feels as the kids are saying now days.  LOL  It was new & fresh & different. It covered well & stayed on pretty much all day.  I was impressed, even though it was pricey.  But I have to update this post for honesty & fairness.  If someone were to google & find this blog I feel like it's only fair for them to get the whole story.

1.  I'm already out of it.  Like, I just poured the TEENY amount that is left into this container.  There is enough in there for MAYBEEEEE 1-2 more uses.  But I couldn't get it out of the bottle anymore because the little dropper thing doesn't reach deep enough down to get the last little bit out.

Folks, I had high hopes that it would last me upwards of 6 months.  I was thinking that, if I only used 4-5 DROPS a day, it would last a longggg time.  But here's the kicker.  The bottle is only .68 ounces.  An average bottle of foundation from the drugstore or Avon or whatever other company you might buy from is usually in the neighborhood of 1-1.3 ounces.  So the bottle is teeny.  (Actually, the bottle itself isn't teeny, but its contents are less than the average bottle of liquid foundation.  It is not full when you buy it.)  And after use, I discovered that 4-5 drops is really about all I'd ever use of any other type of liquid foundation, so the marketing tool of proclaiming how little you use is really just that....a good marketing tool.

In barely over 2 months, the entire bottle is gone y'all.  Which leads me to point #2.

2.  Cost is a huge factor for many of us.  When I bought the Younique foundation, I was a little shocked at the initial cost.  Between the foundation itself plus shipping plus the cost of the brush I used, I spent about $60.  When I was thinking that it would last me 6 months, I had figured the daily cost at 33 cents.  However, now that I know it really only lasted a smidge over 2 months, the daily cost sky rockets to 92 cents a day.  Ouch.  I realize that if I continued to buy it, I would not have to buy a new brush with every new bottle, so that does lessen the overall cost some.  But still, it's very pricey.  So if budget is an issue for you, you might want to consider another type of make up.

3.  With daily use I discovered a few things about the Younique foundation that I would like to mention.
a)  It is not very forgiving of skin texture.  If you have rough spots or dry patches, it sort of clings to those.  And if you don't have time to apply moisturizer, then a primer, then concealer before use every single day, you may not look the way the foundation looks on you.  (Honestly, most days I put on moisturizer & then the foundation.  I don't use a primer 95% of the time.  I have some, but it's not in my usual routine and I kind of hate it when I'm forced to use 2-3 other products in conjunction with a new product just to make it work.  Ya know? I know...wahhhh....whine, whine....but really, I don't want to have to add more products into my routine & onto my face if I don't have to.)
b)  It is not quite the photoshop in a bottle that all the videos I saw online claim it to be.  I'm not sure WHAT those women did who made it look like it covered sharpie & lipstick & eyeliner and whatever else they put on their faces, but I tried it.  I actually drew on my face with a sharpie.  The foundation did NOT cover it.  In fact, it didn't even fully cover zits & freckles.  Now, I don't have to have full coverage...I can own my imperfections.  But when it's advertised that way & it didn't do that for me, I was a little disappointed.  I was kind of hoping for some super voodoo magic that would make me look 25 again.  LOL
c)  While the foundation had pretty good staying power in May, once late May/early June hit and the Texas heat was hitting the mid-upper 90s daily, I found that by mid-afternoon, my make up was not looking so great.  I kind of despise having to touch up make up, but really this would've been the case with any type of foundation.  I just had high hopes that it would last longer in the heat as it had done when it was a little cooler.

So, my overall impression and feelings about the Younique foundation changed a bit with use.  I really did like the product (even if it wasn't quite as magical as I hoped) and would probably continue buying it regularly if it was cheaper.  I simply don't have the funds to keep up with a $40+ bottle of foundation on a regular basis.  Given how quickly the bottle emptied & the high cost, I can't recommend as highly as I did before.  But if cost is no issue for you, then go for it!  You'd probably really like the product!

As for me, I have a new Avon foundation coming in a shipment tomorrow.  I'm making the switch to Extra Long Lasting liquid foundation.

Friday, April 1, 2016

I don't have cancer!

I have walked through a breast cancer scare these past couple weeks.  All my friends and family already know this story, but I am hoping that, by documenting it here someone else will find it when they are frantically googling like I was a couple weeks ago. My hope is that they'll find a bit of comfort in knowing someone else has "been there, done that" before.  If you are that person, feel free to email me privately if you have questions beyond what I answer here.  My email address is at the top right of this page.

My husband's mom and grandmother both had breast cancer years ago.  When I was about 25, he started asking me to get a mammogram to set his mind at ease. I had to explain that they don't do mammograms on 25 year olds unless there is a problem suspected.  So for the past 15 years, he's anxiously awaited a time when I was old enough to get it done. I, on the other hand, was a little less enthusiastic about the test.  But I went anyway because I'm a rule follower and you're supposed to start doing these lovely tests when you're 40.  I turned 40 back in November.  So on March 8, I went in for my first mammogram ever.

I had been told ahead of time that it's not uncommon for first timers to be called back for additional images. Since the doctor who looks at your mammogram Xrays doesn't have a previous year's records to compare to, they have a tough time determining what's normal for you. So I went in knowing that was a possibility.  While doing the test, the tech showed me on the screen where one breast had an area of dense tissue -- a very common thing where you have spots in your tissue that are simply thicker than the rest.  It doesn't "mean" anything, but sometimes the radiologist will ask for more magnified pictures of that area to be sure there's nothing hidden in that thicker tissue. The tech told me not to panic if they called for more pictures in a few days.  She made sure to tell me that she didn't think there was anything wrong, but she wanted to give me a heads-up so I wouldn't be concerned.  But she said "If you get a letter, it's even better!"  So in my mind, that meant a phone call in a few days meant there was reason for concern (or more pictures) and a letter meant everything was okay.

Almost a week passed without any word from them, so I assumed everything was fine. But then I got a letter in the mail.  I almost threw it away, thinking that a letter meant everything was normal. I almost threw it away because I felt like it was just going to say things were fine, but I went ahead and opened it.  I scanned down the page looking for the words "normal" or "everything is okay" but instead found that there was "reason for further evaluation" of my right breast. It instructed me to call ASAP to schedule a diagnostic mammogram.  I immediately called & scheduled it for Good Friday because I was off work that day. It was about a week and a half out, but it was a convenient time. While scheduling, the lady on the phone slipped & mentioned the "suspicious finding" on my chart. It worried me briefly but I convinced myself that's probably just what they call any need for more images. But in the days leading up to the diagnostic appointment, I couldn't help but get nervous that there was something more going on.

Good Friday came and I went in for the tests. I had been told my husband could be there to hear the news with me, so he sat in the waiting room for 2 1/2 hours while I paraded around the back of the office among other half-dressed women, all wringing our hands and praying nothing was wrong.  I had the mammogram first.  I was positioned in several odd poses, compressed in all sorts of crazy ways while the tech circled me & adjusted the machine over and over. When she swung a screen around to see where to position the machine, I saw it. On the screen, there was a little red circle around a strange little white rectangle with a bumpy top.  It looked like a Lego block inside my breast.  I pointed & asked what that was. The tech said "That's why you're here.  That's the spot he was concerned about due to the irregular shape, so we're getting some magnified images of that particular spot."

That's when I knew that it wasn't just dense tissue they were looking at.  I had an actual THING in there.  A lump.  A mass.  Some thing was growing inside me when it shouldn't be there at all. The panic set in and I had to work hard to keep from crying and hyperventilating.  The tech sat me down in a chair after she was done & said to hang out for a minute.  She was going to show the doc my pictures and see if she'd gotten everything he needed.  When she returned, I had talked myself off the cliff.  She said the doctor felt like he needed to see it under ultrasound as well, so they moved me to that room.

The ultrasound tech came in, did her measurements of this thing in me and then called in the doctor.  He looked at it, did a quick exam and then said to meet him in the room next door after I got dressed so we could discuss it.  They called Larry from the waiting room to be there, too.  He explained that I have a tumor in my right breast but he believes it's a benign tumor called a Fibroadenoma. Of course he couldn't guarantee that's what it was, but he offered us two options.  (1) Wait six months & then look at it again to see if it had changed/grown, etc. or (2) Biopsy it to confirm the diagnosis.  Larry and I took about 5 seconds to decide we wanted a biopsy! The idea of leaving it there without knowing for sure what it was for six months put my stomach in knots.  No thank you.  Let's figure this out!  I'm a bit of an information hog, so getting answers and info is vital to me.

My biopsy was the following Wednesday. Leading up to it I was a nervous wreck.  I didn't think I was, but as the test approached, I realized how worried I really was.  I just wanted to get it over with & have some answers!

The procedure itself wasn't so bad, aside from baring myself to yet more people I don't know. By the time it was over, I realized that 6 people had seen or touched me. Eeeeek!  For the biopsy, I was laid on a bed and they gave me several shots of lidocaine to numb the area.  They used a needle biopsy gun tool to do it.  Basically it's a long, thick needle that they feed other needles through.  They are attached to the handle with a trigger that sort of shoots them out when they get it positioned right.  Those needles have a grabber thing on the end which snip off little pieces of tissue and pull it back out.  They also inserted a small metal clip into the tumor so that they could find it later on future mammograms. Or if it turned out to be malignant they could use the marker to measure the tumor and locate it during Xrays. Fortunately, the lidocaine shots numbed the surface, the underlying tissue and the tumor itself so once I got those shots, I was completely numb for the entire thing and watched it all on the ultrasound screen.  It was really sort of interesting to watch.  When it was over they put steri-strips over the tiny incision (about 1/4" long) and a bigger bandage over that, then taped an icepack on top of it all.  Of course, this is all before I got moved to the mammogram room for a "gentle" mammogram to check and make sure the clip they inserted was placed well and had not migrated to a less optimal spot.

They told me that the samples they took would have to soak in some sort of solution for 24 hours before they were looked at, so I would not hear anything for at least 24 hours. But since it was late in the day on Wednesday, they suspected it would be Friday morning before the doctor called with results.  The nurse, the ultrasound tech who assisted during the biopsy and the doctor himself all confirmed my phone number and assured me over & over that he'd call Friday morning.

On Thursday I was at work (I work at a school) when my phone rang in class.  All the teachers knew what was going on, so when I grabbed my phone and ran out of class the teachers who were in the room knew exactly what was going on.  I was a couple doors away from the school cafeteria so I went there to be able to sit in a quiet room and hear the doctor and talk.  He told me that my biopsy had shown NO cancer cells, that the tumor was indeed benign and was absolutely a fibroadenoma like he'd originally suspected. He told me I didn't have to be looked at again for 12 months and I could just go back to a normal mammogram routine at that time.  When I hung up, I cried. Tears of happiness, tears of relief, tears of anxiety releasing from my tense shoulders. I texted my family and a couple close friends, then got up to return to the classroom but I couldn't stop crying.  When I reached the classroom door where I had been the teachers in the room were looking out and spotted me and gave me the "WELL????" look.  I was crying and wiping tears but I was able to mouth the words "It's not cancer" and give them a thumbs up.  They cheered, they yelled, they ran into the hall to hug me and cry with me....which made me laugh & cry some more.  The kids in the room were stunned, not sure what was happening at the door way.  When they asked what was happening I said "I don't have cancer!" and they were shocked---of course they had no idea there had been an issue before. Some of them stood in shock while others ran over to join the cheering and hugging party.  It was a really sweet time!

It took a few hours for the high to wear off and life to sort of resume some normalcy. 600+ friends on facebook cheered along with me at the "It's NOT cancer!!" post I made.  For a few hours, I felt more loved and a little like a rockstar, than I ever have before.  When you're wrapped up in that much love and joy, you can't help but feel like the queen of the world.

24 hours later, I'm still elated to have received such good news.  Who knew I would ever be praying for a diagnosis ending in -oma, but in this case a fibroadenoma is the absolutely best case scenario.  Unless it grows or starts hurting, I don't have to have it removed or do anything about it.  It is literally marked for life (with the little metal clip from the biopsy) so we can always keep an eye on it.  It does not increase my chances of having cancer. No one really knows what causes these tumors, but they are 100% benign.

And so, it's with great happiness I can say I DON'T HAVE CANCER!

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Spring Break 2016

Last weekend I made myself an extremely ambitious spring break to-do list. I always do better when I have a list to check off.

There were 12 items on the list. There were cleaning items. There were organizing items. There were lying around & resting & reading items. As it turns out, I crossed off 6 items & part of 2 others. Of the things that I DIDN'T do:

1. Bathrooms: organize inside the cabinets. {Who really looks inside those cabinets anyway? I'll deal with the mess this summer when I have more time to clean!}
2. Clean off the kitchen table & sweep under it. {Really, it's never used for food these days...it's a storage unit. Perpetual problem for us!}
3. Mopping {I'm going to try to do this one tomorrow, actually.}
4. Finish season 1 of Gilmore Girls {I watched and enjoyed the pilot episode, but haven't made it past that yet.}
5. Read all of The Wedding by Nicholas Sparks. {I'm about 1/2 done. I've been too busy to read much this week. But I am enjoying it, so it will be finished!}
6. Fold & put away all the laundry. {Umm...yeah. Nope. Hasn't happened. But there is plenty of it to do if anyone wants to come do it for me.}

BUT I have accomplished some other things.  For example:
1.  Sam got in some behind the wheel driving time for his driver's ed course.
2.  We fed a friend's dogs every day while they traveled. (Blogger says traveled only has 1 L in it, but it looks weird to me like that.  Seems like it should have 2 Ls.)
3.  We watched several episodes of Friends.
4.  Sarah slept at a friend's house 5 of the last 8 nights.  That means a lot of getting her to or from someone's house.
5.  I had a lunch date with Sam, who ran some errands with me one day.
6.  I had a lunch date with Sarah, who ran errands with me another day.
7.  Sarah and I both got haircuts.
8.  I washed & dried about 10 loads of clothes.  (But alas.... #6 from the first list.)
9.  We cleaned both bathrooms.  Ya know...from the baseboards up anyway.  (Just don't look inside the cabinets.)
10.  Cleaned & re-seasoned 3 cast iron skillets.
11.  Changed all the sheets in the house.
12.  Visited the new Goodwill store in town.
13.  Did the dishes daily.
14.  Handed out several Avon books to new people.
15.  And last but not least, I slept a little later than usual EVERY day.

I could keep going, but you get the idea.  I may not have accomplished all the cleaning & organizing that I'd hoped to, but by golly, I got some stuff done.  It might not have included a beach or sunshine.  (Heck, I'm in Texas...the land of a thousand floods this week!)  But it included a bit of rest, time with my kids and some downtime.

Back to the grind Monday!

Saturday, February 27, 2016

IF:Gathering 2016

A movement began a few years ago, led by a sweet lady named Jennie Allen in the Austin area.  I don't really have the whole history & background on what made them choose the name "IF" but it is basically a smaller version of Women of Faith.  It's a Christian women's ministry.  While there is an IF:Gathering every year in Austin, the ministry stretches beyond that.

Local groups around the globe (called IF:Local) meet and watch the live stream version of IF:Gathering.  There is also IF:Equip which is a year-round, day to day Bible study you can sign up for via their website.  There are also IF:Tables where you have mini IF:Local get togethers with your local church group or ladies in your community where you eat dinner together & use the IF questions provided to you to create a Christ-centered conversation.  It's a whole big thing, basically.

Last year a local church hosted an IF:Local event on the day of the IF:Gathering in Austin.  I planned to go but then came down with the flu, so I watched the live stream at home.  Fortunately my family wanted to stay far away from me that weekend so they left me alone to listen, pray, worship & digest all the speakers' messages and to sing (quietly, with a croaky voice) in the privacy of my bedroom.  So this year when that same local church began talking about hosting another IF:Local event, I quickly bought my ticket.  That event was last night & today.  I took lots of notes and wanted to share a few tidbits from different speakers throughout the weekend, but decided it was a little too much for a Facebook post.  Although I suppose it wouldn't shock any of my FB friends to see a 400-mile long post.  Let's just be honest.  I talk.  A lot.  So this blog post was born.  If you missed attending the conference or just don't know what IF is like, this are some of the high points that I took away from each of the speakers I heard.

Jo Saxton
Here is her facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/1josaxton/?fref=ts

If you're looking for someone who can take a world of chaos & bring it into order, look at Jesus.

He is the redeemer of your life.  When you think about the cross, take it personally.

The word redemption means to buy back what was lost.

He is the one who restores your purpose.

Jennie Allen
IF Founder
Here is her facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/jenniesallen/?fref=ts

You have to put your dirt out for Jesus to wash you.

Eugene Cho
Here is his page: https://www.facebook.com/eugenecho/?fref=ts

The tomb is still empty!

Are you more in love with talking about & singing about Jesus than actually following and living for Him?

5 fears in every human being:  success, power, $$, popularity, beauty

There are so many voices seeking to twist & distort the words of God -- you must regularly hear the voice of God (prayer, reading the Bible) to overcome all the other voices.

The grass might be greener on the other side, but use that revelation as a sign to water the grass you're standing on more!

Shelley Giglio
Here's her twitter page: https://twitter.com/shelleygiglio

It's interesting that Mary Magdalene didn't immediately recognize Jesus when she first saw Him after the resurrection. How often does God do something in our lives and we don't even see Him?

Your words and testimony are powerful because of what you have seen & experienced. People don't seek help, encouragement, friendship in people who are just speaking from words in a book or platitudes.

Jen Hatmaker
It's probably wrong to say, but she's my favorite.  I seriously feel like she & I could be sisters or best friends or separated at birth.  I want to go hang out on her porch and just talk.  Every day.
Here's her website: http://jenhatmaker.com/

Love God. Love people. That pretty much sums up the Kingdom of God.

Love & live so that the world looks at you and have to draw no other conclusion but that you've been changed by God.

Love people with dignity -- no condescension, no pity, no shame.  Love them as friends, not as a project, not a charity case, not a "goal" to reach.

Power & superiority are fueled by fear.

If you love people the way you should, the way Jesus loves, you should expect obstacles, tension & trouble. Often FROM OTHER CHRISTIANS. Who will you stand by when you're not afraid?

Jesus was scandalous from the day He was born. He didn't pander to the popular -- He came to SAVE.

Jesus is not afraid to recklessly love you.  He is not ashamed of you.  He doesn't wish He chose someone less messy.

Lauren Chandler
Here's her facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/laurenchandlermusic/?fref=ts

(looking at the story of the woman at the well)  The woman's jar was empty & needed to be filled over and over and over.  The jar was fragile and breakable.  What is the jar in your life? Leave it at the well with Jesus and accept His living water --- no more jar to heft around.

Bianca Olthoff
Here's her facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/BiancaOlthoffSpeaks/?fref=ts

God is not a genie in a lamp to be rubbed to get what we want.

Faith consists of believing when it is beyond the power of reason to believe.  (quote from Voltaire)

Angie Smith
Angie is right up there with Jen.  I love her so very much.  I feel like I actually KNOW her.  But of course I don't.  She lives in Tennessee.  She's a little farther of a drive but if she has a porch, maybe Jen and I can come hang out on it with her.  Here's her facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/angiesmithministries/?fref=ts

Her talk was brief, but brave.  She spoke about the story of Abraham & Isaac's trip up the mountain when God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son.  One quote stood out:  "You may not be sure of the ram, but you can be certain of the Lamb."

David Platt
His facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/plattdavid/?fref=ts

1.  Recognize the unique place God has put you.
2.  Realize what's at stake in the lives around you.
3.  Remember the purpose He has given you.

What will it take for all the unreached people of the world to become totally intolerable to the Church?

Share the gospel even if it makes you look for feel strange.  Love makes you do strange things.

From Jennie Allen's closing:
People want God.  They don't want our hate & condemnation & judgement.  Why would they want to come to God unless they've seen a compelling life with Christ in you?

So there we go.  Obviously there was MUCH MUCH more & there was tons of Scripture referenced, but these were my big high point notes that I wrote down.  I hope they bless you!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Book Review: Hunger Games

I started reading this book a few weeks ago at school.  I had a sick child at home today and we were only a couple chapters from the end in class, so while he rested, I finished the book.

****Spoiler alert:  There will be some details about the book in this review, so if you haven't previously read this book, be aware that you will learn some details of the story if you proceed.***

Disclaimer #1:  I am not typically a fan of sci-fi, fantasy or dystopian style books/movies, so my keep that in mind.  That means I am not the biggest fan of movies/books like The Princess Bride, Star Wars, Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Twilight...and so on.  I have friends who have almost disowned me for this (ha ha), but it's just not my cup of tea.  Since discussing this with a few friends recently, I have really been introspective, trying to determine why these styles don't do anything for me and I think I have come to a conclusion about it.  {Note: this has nothing to do with the book, but I am explaining so you have an understanding of where I'm coming from.}

When I was a little girl, there was plenty of pretend play. I dressed up.  I played house.  I built forts from sheets and blankets.  I mothered baby dolls.  I built elaborate doll houses from cardboard boxes.  I wrote stories.  I drew and colored.  I took dishes and toys outside for tea parties.  I wandered in the woods, floating Barbie dolls on boats (styrofoam meat trays) in the creek.  I played school with my sisters.  But the thing is, all of that was based on mimicking behaviors I had seen in real life.  All of my pretending and imaginative situations of my entire childhood were based in reality.  Having taught preschool for five years myself, I realize now that is very common for young children.  Many children base their pretend play off things they have seen in the world around them.  I had no context for princesses or dragons or fairies or monsters or other things of that nature. I never played pretend with situations I couldn't see replicated in real life.  It's just not how I was wired I guess.  Or maybe my parents were never interested in stories or movies like that, so I never saw it in their entertainment choices?  I don't know but that's how things were when I was little.

So as an adult, it seems that has rolled over into my entertainment choices.  I don't mind fictional books and movies, but if it's so far-fetched that I know it'll never happen in real life, I have a VERY HARD TIME staying focused on it.  The second it goes into something that isn't potentially possible in life, I find my mind wandering, I get drowsy.  I have to constantly pinch myself to come back to the story. It's like there is such a disconnect for me that I have to force myself to stick it out.  And sometimes I do.  Other times I walk away.  There is nothing WRONG with these stories, they just don't hold my attention or entertain me.  When my family wanted to see the new Star Wars movie on Christmas Day, I went. It wasn't awful, but I would've been just as satisfied sleeping through it.  I would never have bothered to see it if it weren't for my family.  I hate to use the words "dumb" or "stupid" or "weird" because that sounds so judgmental and I know lots of perfectly wonderful, highly intelligent people who loved the movie.  But for me, it was really umm.... dumb, stupid, weird.  I left listening to my family cheer and laugh and talk about particular scenes.  I left thinking "Eh.  Whatever.  Now, can we talk about something real?"

So, with that in mind, I just could not imagine enjoying anything about the Hunger Games book.  I'm a big reader and have plenty of other books to keep up with, so it never even crossed my radar to care about this book. If you aren't a fan of those styles either, this book probably won't drastically change your feelings but it's entertaining, and maybe that's what you're looking for.

Disclaimer #2:  With disclaimer #1 in mind, I should say however that I DO love musicals and most Christmas movies, which might have some smidgen of reality in them, but they are largely based on fantasy.  I also have several cartoons I've watched with my kids over the years that are hugely entertaining to me but clearly they are very far-fetched.  Do you know of any high school in the real world where students routinely break into song & the entire school knows all the moves to the dance that happens with the song? (Grease, High School Musical, West Side Story, etc...)  Have you really ever seen an elf, Santa, etc?  How many talking sponges do you know?  I can't reconcile these things, but feel like I need to confess and clear the air and share this truth since I don't tend to like anything else fiction that COULD NEVER HAPPEN.  I'm weird.  I know.  I can't explain it. Sorry.  Please love me anyway.

So.... about that Hunger Games book.

This is the first book in a trio. The second book is Catching Fire and the third is titled Mockingjay.  I watched the first movie a couple years ago and kind of hated it.  I was incredibly underwhelmed, so I had zero desire to read the book version.  While I know that the book version is always far better than the movie, I didn't pursue finding a copy and reading it. So when the classroom teacher told the class that we would be reading this book as a group, I put on a happy face and played along for the sake of the kids.  I didn't want to give them a reason to turn up their nose at the book or not participate in discussions as we read along.  I think one or two of the kids eventually got the picture that it wasn't necessarily my favorite book ever, but for the most part, my lack of enthusiasm didn't cause any issues in class.  I would never want to discourage a child from reading anything.  But this particular teacher and another english teacher on campus were REALLY anxious to see me read the book and fall in love with it.  (Or at least give it a try and make an attempt to enjoy it.)

(Are you ready, Morgan and Tiffany?)

I didn't hate it.  But I really didn't love it either.  I wanted to.  It's hard being one of the few people on the continent who really doesn't care for this style of book.  But try as I might, I couldn't convince myself to adore it.  There were some really great parts.  Then there were parts that I thought were completely ridiculous.  I guess 'indifferent' would be the best way to describe my feelings. Or maybe confused?  I still really don't know how I feel about it.  Let me explain the two sides to that coin.

The book was not entirely different from the movie, but there was way more to the story in the book than viewers saw in the movie.  The book begins by explaining that the Hunger Games were established by the government of Panem, a country divided into districts.  The games are sort of a punishment to the country, a reminder that the government controls everything after a time of rebellion against the government years earlier.  The games are an annual tradition where 2 children (age 12-18) from each district (1 male, 1 female) are trained and then put into an 'arena' where cameras watch them for however long it takes to hunt and kill each other.  Citizens of the country are forced to watch as their young ones fight for survival and attempt to be the last remaining participant. Parents literally see the brutal, graphic, bloody deaths of their children.  Sounds delightful, huh?

Hearing the history and background story before the actual games began was engaging.  At the time, I felt like those chapters were a little dry and boring, but when the rest of the story began to take on an accelerated pace a few chapters in, I realized that I actually enjoyed much more so the dry & boring parts of the book than any of the rest.  {which was completely backward from every student in the classroom!}  The main character, Katniss, is a girl in her mid-teens whose father was killed years before in a mining accident.  She, her mother and little sister Prim remain.  Katniss is a skilled hunter and she spends most of her time in the woods hunting for food to feed the family.  Her district is known for extreme poverty.  People frequently starve to death there. Hearing about Katniss's family and the place where she lives was relatable.  While I've never lived in a place like District 12, I could visualize that being a real place.  Poverty is very real today and there have certainly been times when my own family struggled to figure out where we'd get the next meal. Serving the extremely poor has been the core of several mission trips I've been on.  Meeting physical needs of children I have worked with over the years is such a part of my soul that all of this part of the book just 'made sense' to me.

Hearing the stories of her relationship with her friend Gale made sense to me.  Gale is a boy who also hunts regularly to feed his family in District 12.  Katniss and Gale have a special friendship and they look out for one another.  Their friendship feels tender and sweet.  So when they both go to the Reaping (the day when participants for the games are chosen), you can really FEEL the pain in Gale's heart when he sees Katniss volunteering to be a participant.  {She volunteers so that her very young sister will not have to go.} He is scared he will never see her again.

Learning of her history with her Hunger Games partner, Peeta, was sweet.  Peeta's father is the local baker and there was a time when Katniss's family was on the verge of starvation and Peeta intentionally burned a loaf of bread so that he'd have to throw it out.  He knew he could give it to her to help her family survive.  Katniss feels like she forever owes Peeta a debt of gratitude for his gift.


Pretty much from the moment the selection process began (to choose contestants for the games,) the book lost its thunder to me.  Everything went from feeling realistic and familiar, full of potential and tugging at the heart to being ridiculously fiction-y.  Cartoonish sounding names of characters, items and situations in the book totally distracted me from the story & felt laughable and silly. Characters with names like Effie Trinket, Glimmer; items like trackerjackers, silver discs that lifted the contestants through a glass tube "elevator" into the arena, magic potions; strange situations like images projected onto the night sky for all to see, etc.  While the storyline was engaging enough to keep me curious about what would happen next from day to day, it just felt well... silly.  It was just so far-fetched.

From the moment the games begin, each of the tributes must make decisions about life or death survival tactics constantly.  They are given the very bare minimum in supplies. They must live with these provisions, unless a sponsor chooses to send them a gift along the way.  If they do send something, it arrives on a magical silver parachute that drops from the sky into their exact location. Remember, everything is televised back home so rich people in the Capitol are able to see when they need something & may (or may not) choose to buy it for them.  As the games progress, anytime one of the tributes is killed, a cannon shot is fired for all contestants to hear, giving them a way to keep a death count.  And in the evening, as it gets dark, some sort of mystical film projector puts an image in the sky of whichever tributes died that day.

Katniss is an archer who spends her days mostly hunting for food and evading being found by the other tributes. She has a few close calls along the way.  I hate to give away too many specific details, though.  She is friended by a young girl who reminds her of her little sister, so she feels obligated to protect her. They become allies and she ultimately kills the person who kills the little girl.  Katniss's fellow District 12 tribute, Peeta, is injured pretty badly in the story and we find out later it's because he was protecting Katniss because he loves her. In the midst of the games, the government decides that it would be exciting to see Katniss and Peeta pair up, so they announce a change in the rules that will allow for two tributes from the same district to win. Katniss locates Peeta in the woods and they remain together, doctoring each others' wounds and working together for the remainder of the games, ultimately winning together. (But not without a last minute twist in the story that I'll let you find yourself if you choose to read it.)

There were brief moments in the story while Katniss was participating in the actual games that made me feel connected to her again.  When she talked of survival techniques and trapping food, hiding herself in the trees.  When she nurtured her young friend as she died, when she cared for her District 12 partner's wounds... all that made sense to me.  I have a family of hunters.  We all enjoy watching survival shows on television.  I'm fond of quite a few close friends who are doctors or nurses, and Katniss's care for Rue and Peeta's health felt maternal to me.  Those things make sense and seem real to me.

But when she got a magical silver parachute delivered to a treetop where she was hiding and it held magical burn cream that transformed her horribly burned hands to baby-pink-new skin by morning, it was a big eye-roller for me.  It's like I'd reach a point where I was almost drawn back into enjoying the story and then BAM, another completely outlandish and goofy thing would happen to make me feel like I was reading a Looney Tunes comic book.  I sort of expected an anvil to drop from the sky and hit her, followed by a silver parachute bearing some magic potion that would make her pop back up & keep running.  Ha ha!

While most people would never be bugged by these little details, these are the kinds of things that turn me off to this genre of story.  It feels corny to me. I mean really.... the day I allow my child to leave & go participate in a "fight to the death" game to entertain my horrific government is the day you'll see me shot in the head for grabbing them & running.  They might still be forced into the arena to participate but it would literally be over my dead body.  Everything about the story line of the Hunger Games feels so insane to me that I couldn't really focus because I was seeing a steady stream of holes in the craziness of the plot.  When a story's concept is so far-fetched from the first page on, I have a hard time enjoying it and not looking at every detail through cynical, critical glasses.

Don't get me wrong.  There were certainly parts of the story that even an realist like me enjoyed. I didn't hate the book.  The story just felt well... fiction.... to me.  And that's not necessarily a bad thing if that's what you're looking for.

So can you see my confusion & alternating feelings about the book?  ha ha!

As far as my recommendation (or not?) of the book:  If you like this genre of book, I think you'll enjoy it.  So grab a copy & get to reading!  But for the cynics & realists like me, let's meet in the Biography section of Barnes and Noble.  I'll point you toward some of my very favorite ever books!