Sweet Little Surprises

I haven’t written anything in a while, as I have been plagued with the severe exhaustion and agonizing pain that is Fibromyalgia. Every single day has sounded like a good day to sleep. No amount of sleep has seemed to be enough for my body, and the pain has been excruciating to the point where I’ve been pretty distraught. Unfortunately, I have had an onslaught of appointments during all of this and had no real time to truly rest or focus.

In the midst of all this, I have had great support from a select group of friends. I am going through something seriously awful in my personal life and these friends are trying to help me navigate it, to the best of their ability. It’s one of those things where you cannot say thank you enough because you get to see people’s true colors.

It’s amazing how sometimes, through all the trauma and awfulness in your life, little surprises pop up and you’re in awe of the thoughtfulness of the gestures. I have been on the receiving end of some really sweet, thoughtful surprise packages and here I share “my stash”.

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This sweet little package arrived via UPS and totally made my day. Mally Beauty had been holding a 100,000 Fan Giveaway on their Facebook page. I entered, left a comment as to why I use Mally’s products, and never thought anything of it afterward. Then, out of nowhere, I get this adorable set of eye liners and a nice little note as a gift. I was so touched (I also have to mention that Mally personally responded to me when I sent her a thank you. That is the epitome of class!). The colors are Caribbean Sea (kind of like Emerald Green meets Teal), Milk Chocolate, Royal Purple, Midnight Black, and Silver. If you’ve never used a Mally product before and you love make-up, as I do, I highly recommend starting with Shimmer, Shape, & Glow. You’ll feel like you belong on a Red Carpet in less than a minute. These liners are a fun treat. Also, for all you animal lovers out there, Mally does not test on animals whatsoever. In fact, she’s the owner of two rescue dogs that she adores. You can now find her products nationwide at ULTA.

 

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Prior to New York Fashion Week, Kate Somerville Skin Care had a contest to win this Save Our Skin package. Kate has some seriously amazing products and as a fan of ExfoliKate, I tried entering the contest, to no avail. I sent the company a message to let them know there was a problem with the contest page. They told me they were working on it. After the contest ended, I received a message letting me know that they had saved one of these packages for me and just needed to know where to ship it. They came to the right place, because that is just plain good Public Relations. The package was beautifully wrapped and contained all of this:

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24 Hour Pimple Punisher on the bottom (Yes, I still get the occasional breakout. This stuff is nice and has already cleared up a few breakouts I had before the package arrived!), above that is CytoCell Eye Cream (I’m a religious user of a different brand, but this one is very nice.), to the right in silver is a product called DermalQuench Liquid Lift (I’ve been using this on and off and I see a difference in how sculpted my face looks. Might be the product, might be the weight I just lost, who knows?). In the middle are two of Kate’s self-tanning towelettes, and on the left is my beloved ExfoliKate. For the record, the ExfoliKate usually costs about $350 a year, with the assumption that you’re using it 2-3 times a week, so anytime I can get a small one, I’m thrilled. I returned the last full size tube I bought because $200 (which included tax and shipping) was a hefty price to pay, and I decided to stick with a gentler product for the time being. However, I am thoroughly enjoying this lovely little box from Kate Somerville Skin Care. There’s a reason this stuff is so expensive, the ingredients are high quality.

 

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My other surprises included this awesome little package from Dove Dark Chocolate. I received this with no knowledge whatsoever that I had won anything. Inside is a coupon for a free bar of their chocolate (free chocolate is never a bad thing!) and two special Nicole by OPI Nail Polishes in two different shades called Better After Dark (lighter shade on the left) and Promises In The Dark (darker shade on the right). I am really into dark polish right now, so I am going to enjoy wearing these. 🙂

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The biggest shocker was one I received earlier in the year and absentmindedly forgot to share. It’s from Tria Beauty and is a Laser Hair Removal device. Not only did I win this in a fan giveaway, one of three they offered, but I also got to choose which of their lasers I wanted, they even sent me an additional message to ask if I wanted it in a special color. For me, this was a HUGE gift to receive.

This laser happens to be their top of the line device, and I can attest to the fact that it is much faster than the one I already owned. I’ve been a fan of their products for a few years now, and I do still use the previous laser even though it’s much slower. The results are amazing, so long as you are fair to medium complected and are removing light brown to black hair. This laser is not yet FDA approved for redheads or blondes, but I am sure they’ve got one on the way. This company has amazing advancements not only involving hair removal, but also involving skin care, so keep your eye on them, and don’t be afraid to follow them on whatever social media platform is your favorite.

Life has truly felt like absolute torturous HELL at times, but every once in a while, I get a really sweet surprise and it helps me see that my hard work and sacrifice is noticed by a much Higher Power than anything here on this plane of existence. These are the little things that make me smile, apart from my tiny little minx, my Goddaughter, my best friends, my friends on a whole, and the fact that I am forever reaching towards the light at the end of the dark, long tunnel.

I hope you have sweetness in your life too, in whatever form it may come in. Let us all count our treats and blessings. 🙂

*I am not a paid advertiser of any of these products, merely a customer.*

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Best Parts Of My Day: Part One

Talking with a friend and laughing over the goofiest shit for hours. She knows who she is. 🙂

Receiving the autographed Scott Stapp CD “Proof Of Life” that I won when someone else backed out of Walmart’s Soundcheck Giveaway. The CD is signed in gold and an enormous poster promoting the CD and the Soundcheck interview came separately. The poster is beautiful. All in all, a pretty cool win, and my second score during the holidays via a Facebook giveaway. I encourage people to enter these things, you never know what you might win. My first win shocked me and totally made my month. This win was a really lovely surprise. 🙂

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Receiving toys for Baby V, handmade by Megan @  https://www.etsy.com/shop/PeonyCrochet 

I took photos of all of the toys and will be showcasing them with Verity as soon as I can catch her. After I took the photos, with her permission, of course, she resumed sniffing and inspecting the toys. First she simply tried stealing the package right out of my hands. Anything with bells, man, she’ll attack you for playtime. Then she systematically snatched one right off my bed, and ran off with it in her mouth. She’s a toy beast, and she’s obsessed with these. If you have pets, check out Megan’s store on Etsy and see if she can make you something that your pet will love. V is picky, but she LOVES these. I tried taking it from her to throw it (I had to lock the others away, she tried getting into the envelope. Megan, I swear she smells Chester!) and she nearly tore my hand off. Possessive little shit. THANK YOU SO MUCH MEGAN! You know how much this means to me. 🙂

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Crappy part of my day? Not (legally) being able to shoot the plumber that showed up and tried to gauge me for a job that is 3/4’s cheaper than what he quoted me. The asshole then has the balls to charge me a service fee for coming out, when all he did was look in my back yard. He calls that a diagnosis of the problem?! I beg to fucking differ! I got my service fee back right away, called someone else, and hopefully this fucking mess will be handled tomorrow by one company or another. Whoever gets here first and honors the price I was originally quoted is the one that gets my business, otherwise murders WILL be committed. I am so sick of this shit. How hard is it to be where you say you will be in a timely fashion? I understand some jobs are much bigger than mine, therefore mine is lower priority since it’s not as much money, but don’t blow me off for DAYS and expect me to be all sweetness and light. Not going to happen. 

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Here’s hoping, and praying, that tomorrow leads to better days, better situations, and more reasons to smile.

How This Jewish American Wiccan “Celebrates Christmas”…

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How This Jewish American Wiccan “Celebrates Christmas”

In the very near future, I will be spending a huge chunk of my time in Israel. It will be nice not having to explain holidays to anyone or explaining why Christmas is just another day to me. For now, in the suburbs of a predominantly Irish and Italian neighborhood with a good 20 churches in pretty much every direction I turn (I wish I was exaggerating), I am still explaining myself. I have no idea why people still think their religion is the only one that exists on this planet. I’ll never understand it!

I am completely respectful of other people’s religious beliefs and their holidays, so long as I am not subjected to them in a means to try and convert me, but my spiritual beliefs and holidays are often met with some extremely disturbing questions, as opposed to the few I have received recently that were honest, curious, and filled with excitement for knowledge. They were by no means offensive. When a person is open and honest, and interested, it makes it so much easier for me to be me, as opposed to feeling like I have to repress my thoughts.

A few weeks ago someone wished me a “Merry Christmas” and received my usual response, which is that I do not celebrate Christmas. This is someone whose establishment I frequent once or twice a month, and not only did she look like I’d just kicked her, but she came over to make sure she hadn’t offended me. I had to explain that I celebrate Chanukah and Yule, and that I am not Catholic or Christian. She was incredibly confused, but she came over to make sure she hadn’t offended me with a wish for a good holiday. Me, I simply like to be clear with people. I am not trying to offend anyone, but if you’re going to wish me well, wish me properly. Don’t make assumptions and please, don’t tell me I “don’t look Jewish”. I don’t even know how to answer that one without telling you off, and because I come from a rich ancestral well of knowledge and an incredibly deep DNA pool, I can assure you that we come in all different shapes, sizes, and colors. We are all distinctly unique, some more than others.

Growing up, Christmas was not a word used much in our home. Not for any other reason than the simple fact that we’re Jewish. We had many Christian and Catholic friends, some who understood and some who did not, that we ourselves did not celebrate the same holiday, nor did we share the same spiritual or religious beliefs that they did. It is extremely disturbing to me that in 2013, any Jew still has to explain themselves.

People like to quote the Bible at me, and they are generally New Testament folk. They’re the kinds of people that don’t realize exactly how “new” the New Testament really is. I, myself, do not adhere to anything outside of the Old Testament. Even that kind of loses me at times. Prayer is an amazing thing, but I like to stick to my own path when it pertains to anything of a spiritual nature. I am not trying to change or convert anyone.

Today is simply December 25th to me. It’s not a holiday, but it IS my Great-Uncle’s birthday. He passed away 15 years ago, but I still remember him very clearly. I remember the last things he ever said to me, and I remember how silent this time of year became after he passed away. For several years prior to his passing, myself and two other family members would try to spend the day with him. Even though he had long since stopped acknowledging his own birthday, he still loved going out to a nice restaurant and enjoying good food, good company, and he told stories like nobodies business. They’re the kinds of stories you want to hear from someone over the age of 80, because you know that no matter how much time passes, you will never hear such stories again.

After he passed away, the tradition maintained in my home on Christmas Day was movies and good food. Either we went to the movies and came home to a really great meal, or we stayed home with a pile of movies and made a meal together. Almost always, it was homemade Italian food from scratch, or Chinese food from the best place in the area.

To know me is to know that I make killer Italian food. It’s something I love doing, but I am just as comfortable making Asian cuisine, Mexican cuisine, and pretty much anything else that I have mastered in all my years of cooking. Nothing is impossible, but I am an epic lasagna failure. It’s the only thing I make that falls apart, so I’ve stopped doing it. It is never inedible, it just never does what it’s supposed to do. Despite a family recipe for veggie lasagna that has been passed down for four generations, I completely and utterly suck at it. It’ll probably be another ten years before I attempt it again. It takes time and patience, and we all know I have no patience.

Over time I have found that people really seem to be offended whenever I clarify that I do not celebrate Christmas. They look at me like I kick puppies, torture kittens, steal winning lottery tickets, and am just, on a whole, not a good person. I look at them with the knowledge that, for over 5000 years, my people have not celebrated Christmas. It’s not on our calender and it’s not in our religious texts. It’s perfectly ok to not share the same religious beliefs. If we did, we’d be living in some kind of bizarre utopia. That’s not a world I can imagine functioning in. Differences make the world go ‘round. We can either choose to come together and learn from one another or we can continue fighting in the name of religion. The choice, however, is generally not ours to make because those that govern our respective countries are a huge part of why organized religion is failing. I could go on, but I won’t, or I assure you, I will offend you.

One year a family friend (one of my brother’s best friends at the time), on leave from the Army, wanted me to convince my brother to come to midnight mass with him. I, personally, do not spend time in churches. It has never been my thing. My brother politely declined, but as his friend became more insistent he finally said “Look, there’s a Jew hanging from a cross in no less than 7 places in there. With that track record, I don’t care to be the sacrifice sometime between midnight and 2 a.m.” We ALL laughed, and no one was offended.

This very same friend asked us about Christmas trees, genuinely wanting to know “If we put up Christmas trees, what do Jewish people do?” Never one to miss an opportunity, I turned around and said “We put up a Chanukah Bush, John.” He nodded and said “Oh, ok.” I said absolutely nothing for a few minutes, everyone was in on it because they’d heard me do this little bit before. Finally, after suppressing serious laughter to the point where I almost hurt myself, I admitted to him that I was just fucking around with him, that there was no such thing as a Chanukah Bush (though I admit, I know some people that put one up because they love Christmas trees, but don’t celebrate Christmas). Again, laughter ensued. You have to really know me to know that I will joke like that with the people that know me best, and that, while inappropriate to some, I am careful what I say in mixed company because I don’t go out of my way to be hurtful to others. I do like to be very clear though, that’s just my way. Humor and clarity.

Approximately 11 ½ years ago, Wicca was introduced to me. It is the perfect blend of a nature based religion steeped in Kabbalistic teachings. Kabbalah is Jewish Mysticism. If you don’t know what that is, use a search engine. That will explain it more clearly for you.

For me, Wicca was like coming home. It was pretty much everything I had been raised around, especially a love for animals and nature, and the elements. Part of the Wiccan Rede is “An it harm none, do as ye will”. There is no governing body, you govern yourself, and the Wiccan Rede tells you “So long as you are not harming anyone, do as you will. Live your life.” It is laid back and calm, and it brings an extra level of peace to my life. Even my Rabbi is comfortable with my spiritual beliefs. He’s one of the most open people I have ever met, so I feel supremely comfortable being myself and speaking my mind around him. Until I met him, I had NEVER been in the presence of a man of God and not felt judged. However, my Rabbi is unique. He too, is from a foundation of “You’re not harming anyone by being you. Live your life.” In this, I always feel incredibly blessed.

Almost all of my friends are religiously different than I am, and that is beyond ok. I am not sitting in judgement of them or their beliefs. I want them to be their authentic selves, and I can only hope they want the same for me. I have friends that are Jewish and friends that are Wiccan, so I don’t feel spiritually deprived in any sense of the word. We should all celebrate what we believe in and do so with those we love. We should wish the people in our lives well EVERY DAY, not just during the month of December.

So Lisa, exactly how does a Jewish American Wiccan “celebrate Christmas”? Simply put, I don’t. I ignore the insanity of my neighbors, all of whom DO celebrate Christmas, and I go about my day. I will bake Cranberry Orange scones for breakfast, I will do laundry and maybe enjoy a movie. I will play with my fuzzy little Princess. Later on, I will be making a nice meal for the family I am spending my day with. I might even get some writing finished, if I’m feeling up to it. Basically, anything goes. It’s just another quiet day for me. After years and years spent taking care of others, quiet days are something I really treasure.

Wishing you & yours a beautiful holiday season.

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Young IDF Soldier Killed

Young IDF Soldier Killed

This story is all over the news in many forms, so I’m sure some of you have heard it, even if only in passing.

It’s heartbreaking to me that Palestinians are being taught such violence and hatred at such a young age, whereas Sabras (Israeli born Jews) and Jews born outside of Israel aren’t taught hate. I was not raised to hate, I was raised to treat every individual on a case-by-case basis. To this day, that is still how I treat people. I don’t spew hatred and I don’t like carrying around hatred within myself. In times likes these, it simply hurts me that there is such a lack of compassion for humanity in this world.

So many of us have passions and interests that we support in so many different ways, but in turn, we forget to support each other. That’s unacceptable to me, and I hope that one day that changes and people start to see the error of their ways.

In the Jewish religion, we light Yahrzeit to light the way to a happy after-life. Even those who do not believe in reincarnation still do this, especially after the passing of a loved one, or in remembrance of someone we may have never even met. Having lost both of my parents and over 60 friends, family members, and pets, I could probably burn my house down with the amount of candles I’m supposed to light on a yearly basis and on the High Holy Days. I can’t always do it because it fills me with a lot of pain at times to do so.

In light of this tragedy, I hope that some people will purchase a candle (Yahrzeit usually burns for 24-30 hours straight, each one is slightly different in terms of how long it lasts) and light it in honor of a young life lost. One day, there will no longer be a need to light candles for tragedies such as this.

No matter who you are, no matter your religious or spiritual beliefs, remember that you are still a human being.