Sunday, September 29, 2019

Subscription Box - Box of Style

I've avoided jumping on the subscription box band-wagon over the past few years.  The idea of spending money on something unknown, that will be a "surprise," just never appealed to me, that is until I saw on of my favorite bloggers, Kate McFarlan sporting this beautiful gold necklace.  I had noticed that same necklace in an ad on Instagram, for the Rachel Zoe Box of Style.  What can I say?  I'm a sucker for shiny, beautiful pieces of jewelry, so I found a coupon code and clicked the link to order the box.  The one thing that I liked with this particular box, was that they showed you what all to expect in your Box of Style.  I could see tangible objects that made me feel more at ease about spending the money on this particular box.

The Box of Style is luxury style curated by Rachel Zoe.  Maybe you aren't familiar with Rachel Zoe, but she is a celebrity stylist, fashion icon, designer and she even had her own show about styling the stars in Hollywood.  I've followed her career somewhat for many years.  She started offering these boxes a few years ago, and they release a new box four times per year to coordinate with the changing seasons.

Your first step is to pick your Membership: 

Member (pay as you go) $99.99
paid 4 times per year
The do offer extra "add on" products that you can add to the cost of your box.

VIP Member (prepay for 1 year) $349.99
This saves you $50 per year

I went with the Member membership, as I was unsure if I would want to continue receiving the subscription after my first box, plus I had a coupon code FALL25 for 25% off the first box.

Step 2 is to fill out their questionnaire, to let them know your style preferences.

Step 3 is when your box arrives.

The review below is my honest take of this box.  I purchased it with my own money.  This is in no way an ad for this box, or Rachel Zoe.  I just wanted to share my experience with you.
When I opened the box, the first thing I noticed was the saying on the lid, that says, "Hello Gorgeous."  What a way to make a gal feel special.  Who wouldn't love a compliment like that? 
The box has a luxury look to it and can be repurposed to keep any number of items tucked away in a closet or on a shelf.  I do like getting items that can be repurposed, instead of just being recycled or thrown into the trash bin.  I have to admit, the anticipation while opening the tissue paper was quite exciting.  There was a booklet that described each item, which is a nice touch.

Of course the first item, I looked for was the beautiful gold necklace, by Dannijo Elisa.  It came in a velvet drawstring pouch, which will be great for packing this necklace when I travel.  At first glance, I was a little disappointed, as I thought it looked very light-weight.  I mean, I didn't expect to be something so heavy that Mr. T would be jealous with envy, but with the retail price of the necklace being $245, I was expecting something substantial.  This was before I put it around my neck.  Once on, I could tell that it hung a bit heavier than I expected at first glance.  It's the perfect length and the gold color is beautiful.  It has a small chain to adjust the length depending on your blouse.  I wore it on a date night with my husband that night and even got a few compliments on it.  I can see myself wearing it with a turtleneck sweater in the fall and winter.  I wouldn't have paid $245 for the piece, but I am over the moon happy that I have it and will get a lot of use out of it in the future.

The next item that I pulled out is the JJ Winters Ivy Leather Crossbody purse.  It is a beautiful color of caramel, as Rachel Zoe described in her video about the Fall 2019 Box of Style.  This bag is on the small size and I wish the strap have been a bit longer.  I don't care for crossbody bags that hit too high on my hip/waist area.  This bag has a retail price of $148.  I am not familiar with this brand, but I will use it for date nights throughout the fall and winter.
The Rachel Miriam Leather Card Case is a gorgeous burgundy color and it looks and feels like a luxe item.  It will only hold a few cards, but it's the perfect size for a small bag, like the JJ Winters bag.  I will definitely use this item for years to come.  The retail price on this is $50.
The next item I pulled out of the box, is the Shani Darden Texture Reform Gentle Resurfacing Serum.  I look forward to giving this a try.  Perhaps I will do a blog post about the results after using it for awhile.  It has a nice fragrance and I did apply it to the back of my hand.  It has a luxurious feel to it.  The retail cost on this item is listed as $95. I'm not sure that I would repurchase this item, as I try to stay away from fragrances on my face.
The last item in my Box of Style was the Marc Jacobs Beauty Enamored Hi-Shine Gloss Lip Lacquer.   It has a retail price of $28, which is right at the same price point you would see at a department store like Nordstrom, Dillards or even Sephora.  It is a pretty pink shade called Sugar High, shade #382.  I am familiar with the Marc Jacobs line of lip products, and I even have a couple of their lipsticks, which I love.  Fortunately for me, pink is a good color for me, but for someone that doesn't wear pink lip products, I can see where this might be a bit of a disappointment.  It would be nice if the Rachel Zoe team gave your choice for lip products, because unlike a necklace or purse, it's not really something that everyone will like.
Over all, I'm happy that I finally splurged on a subscription box, but I doubt that I will keep going with this particular subscription.  It's just not my thing, but I am glad that I tried it.  I do like the option to add things onto your box, which is a nice touch. Have your jumped onto the subscription box bandwagon?  What are your favorites?

Thursday, April 18, 2019

My year of Grief

As we grow older, it's common to experience loss of a loved one or close friend.  Everyone's life and loss is different, because we are obviously individuals, but some of the other factors that lead us through the grief process are, the relationship with the person, how we are raised, our culture and even our experiences with life, can shape our grief journey.  I am not an expert by any means.  I am not a counselor.  I'm still in my grief journey, but the thought of helping someone else, is why I am writing about this tough subject.  Here is my story..........

My Mother had me late in life, at 43.  I have four older siblings.  I was 10 days old at my oldest sister, Nancy's wedding.  Talk about a wedding crasher! ha!  By the time I, myself had gotten married, I had lost Aunts and Uncles, but they all lived so far away, that it was....well, different.  My first real encounter with grief came when I lost my Mother.  I was 25 years old and she had a short battle with cancer.  I lived 10 hours away and had a 1 year old and a 3 year old, as did my siblings, so our family depended on our sister, Diane, to care for our mother, and she did.  I remember visiting my Mom, right before she went into the hospital for the last time. She was frail and dependent on others, which I'm sure was torture for her, as she was a strong Christian woman, who only depended on the Lord and was there to care for everyone else.  She passed in February 1990.  I believe that my mind has shut out a lot of the grief that I experienced.  I remember the visitation, the funeral and our long drive back home in Iowa.  I had to get back into my normal life, because of our two young children, so I didn't take the time to make sure that I had properly grieved for my Mother.  I hadn't experienced a loss like this, so I handled my grief by pushing it down, which is never a good way of dealing with things. 

Three years later, my Dad passed away.  I remember being at the hospital, entering the room, just has he took his first breath.  I remember my brothers being there with me at the hospital.  My two sisters lived away, like me at time.  I remember the visitation and funeral and crying a lot.  This time, I had 3 children to keep my mind occupied, and it made getting back to normal life, somewhat easier.  Once again, I pushed my grief down, to make it more manageable. I don't mean to make it sound like loosing both of my parents by the time I was 28 wasn't a big deal.  It was a huge deal, which made me draw closer to my 4 older siblings, especially my sister, Diane.

Within a few years of loosing my parents, both of my husband's parents passed.  They were both wonderful people, who I miss terribly.  They were very present in my children's lives and the only grandparents that they remember.  I realize now that I pushed some more of my own grief away, to being strong for my husband and children.

In April 2014, my oldest brother, Ron, passed away.  I was not as close to Ron, as my other siblings, mainly because, he went to Vietnam when I was a little child and then was stationed in Hawaii for some time afterward.  He didn't live at home and had his own life to live and didn't exactly have the patience for a bratty little sister, but I knew that he loved me and I loved him.  I think he was the one sibling that actually saw me as an adult later in life and not little Debbie, like my other siblings seemed to see.  I know they all meant well, trying to protect me, but Ron didn't treat me that way.  I was an adult with kids and he was too.  He had a long battle with liver cancer and boy, it was a battle to the death.  He wasn't willing to give up.  I tried to travel to visit him when I could, but honestly, it was so hard to see my big brother deteriorate and become weak, because he was anything but weak throughout his life.  He was one of the most honest and strong men that I have known, you always knew where you stood with Ron.  I grieved loosing him harder than my parents, because I didn't have the distraction of little kids to take care of this time.  I went to a Rollings Stones concert, not too long after Ron passed.  He loved the Stones and when they played his favorite song, Jumpin' Jack Flash, I cried tears of joy because I could feel him near. To this day, if a Rolling Stones song comes on the radio, I always say, "Hi, Ron.  Love you!"

Owning my bakery, was something that my sister, Diane, encouraged me to do.  At that time, she had owned her own cake decorating business for about 30 years.  We literally spoke everyday on the phone, chatting about cake projects that we were working on, me asking questions on how to do certain things, exchanging stories about crazy customer calls.  She was something special.  She was my closest sibling. We were 11 years apart, so she looked after me like a mom, and after our Mother passed, she became that second Mom to me, and a grandparent figure to my children.  They called her Aunt Didi and she has special nicknames for each of them.  They adored her and she them.  Even though her 3 kids were older than mine, there was a lot of time spent together and the kids were all close.  She was my best friend, the person that I could tell anything to without judgment and if I had a problem, she was there for me.  She listened, gave great advice and prayed for me and my family on a regular basis.  So, when she passed on April 20th, 2018, it literally wrecked my world. I have never felt grief, like this before.  It gutted me.  With both of my parents and my brother, we had time to say goodbye, to see what diseases like cancer and heart disease can do to a loved one, but with Diane, no one was able to say goodbye, as she died peacefully in her sleep.  It was such a shock, that maybe it contributes as to why this grief is so hard to get through.  I think it's mainly because she was such a huge part of my life, she helped raise me, and was a consistently IN my life.

My family was worried about me, as I laid in bed, not being able to function for day after day.  My daughters urged me to find a counselor or someone to talk to.  Diane had been my constant person, the person that I turned to when something bad happened, and she was one of the first people I called when something good or exciting happened.  I was there for her too, although I think I leaned more on my big sister than she did on me, but I knew with every fiber of my being, that she loved me.

I contacted a friend on Facebook, that had done some work with a grief counseling.  She gave me the number to contact Lost and Found, our local grief center.  I signed up for a support group and began going twice a month and I'm still going.  The whole reason for this blog post is to share some of the things that I have learned during my grief journey and my acceptance of my "new normal."  Every one's grief journey is different.  We may loose the same person, but our path is not the same.  My brother-in-law and my nieces and nephew lost Diane too, but each person had a different relationship with her; spouse, mother, sister.  It's not fair to compare our loss to anyone else's loss.  Seeking a support group was the best thing that I could have done.  In my group, no one judges me for the anger that I'm still dealing with, and they understand the sleepless nights, the new annoyances with trying to figure out my new normal. They listen, share their own story, and sometimes our group facilitator has us do exercises to focus on our grief journey and to dig deeper into why we feel the way we do, and of course how to cope. The people in my group know, how my heart is breaking into a million little pieces, how tough it is to find my way in this "new normal" way of life without Diane.  They just get it. If you are going through grief, I encourage you to find a group, either in person or online to be a part of.

Grieving takes time. Grief can be lonely.  It's often compared to ocean waves, sometimes the waves will knock you off your feet and you'll feel as though you are drowning and you can't imagine what life will be like without your loved one.  Other times, you can see the wave starting and you can give in, knowing all along that it will eventually pass.  Those are the times, you lean into the pain and allow it to wash over you,  knowing that if you just ride the wave, you'll have a little hope that the next one won't be so bad.  Sometimes, grief tries to rob us of our hope, but eventually you figure out that even though you only took one step forward and two steps back, the one step still counts and they add up.  I found hope in a closer relationship with my niece and her family.  They live in the same town as me, so they are my connection to Diane.

Saturday is a year since we lost Diane. Friday, is the last time that I spoke to her.  I think of her every single day and I miss her terribly.  I feel her presence around me, when a Led Zeppelin (Diane's favorite group) song comes onto the radio, when I see a beautiful sunset, or see a four leaf clover, because she was obsessed with finding them.  I often say hello, and sometimes, I cry.  My heart still aches and I get a pit in my stomach at times.  It will get easier and less tears will fall as the years go by, but right now I'm still grieving.  I still need my group to listen, although, I spend a lot of my time crying and that's ok. No one has ever made me feel pressured to share.  Sometimes it's just nice to listen and comfort someone else, to take a break from your grief for a minute or two. 

I know this has been a lengthy blog post, but if you are experiencing grief, I hope that you find encouragement that it will get better and that asking for help, either from family or a support group setting is alright.  No one's journey is like yours, your person was special to you because of the relationship you had with them.  Be kind to yourself and find help to get you used to your new normal.  

I wasn't sure about writing this as a blog post to share, but so many of the women that know in person and friends online, are going through their own grief journey and I know that Diane would want me to use my situation to help others.  She was like that, like our Mom, always taking care of others.