Love is what makes a family!

A few years ago I wrote a blog about how my oldest son Zachary wrote a paper for English when he was 15. In the paper he wrote that he thought his “gay mom was cool”. In the years that have passed since I wrote that blog post (he is now 20) a LOT has happened.  Some good, some not so good and some great!

When my partner Karol and I first decided to blend our families together, we definitely had concerns. We were concerned about what the kids would think,  about Karol’s job (she was on Active Duty in the era of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell), about what the community would think, about what our families would think (her family didn’t know), among others. What we found were that some of those concerns were very valid, and some weren’t as big a deal as we thought they would be.

Where it all started

Where it all started

When we came together as a family our kids were 13, 11, 8 and 6. Our main concern was the oldest, as she had already started rebelling and was NOT happy about another adult in her life “telling her what to do”. The boys were not as complicated and didn’t seem to care at all.

First family vacation 2007...the girl refused to get in the photo....

First family vacation 2007…the girl refused to get in the photo….

Fast forward 14 years. The kids are now 24, 22, 20 and 17. Looking back on the way our family has evolved I can tell you there were some good years and some not so good years.  Our daughter did end up moving in with her dad for a few years to avoid “a new adult telling her what to do”, and that ended up being a disaster. Her father was a very ineffective parent and even though Katarina was living with him, Karol still ended up doing most of the parenting. AND she was having to do it while her ex husband AND his wife were working against her.  Those were some of the not so good years. Then she ended up having to come live with us her senior year because her father “didn’t want to deal with her crap anymore”, and that was another not so good year.

All the kids Christmas 2008

All the kids Christmas 2008

The boys never really gave us the same problems, and living with them was not perfect, but definitely not as problematic as with our daughter.

All of us in 2010. Photo courtesy of Leila Wylie.

All of us in 2010. Photo courtesy of Leila Wylie.

However, even in all of that drama and family conflict we had lots and lots of fun! We vacationed together, and laughed and played, and went to high school graduations, and proms, and all of the things many many other families do.

As I have talked more with other parents about our family struggles I have come to realize that LOTS of other families had trouble with one or more of their kids. And not just gay families, but straight families too. And not just step families, but also all biological families. And not just girls or the oldest, or the whatever.

ALL families have some complications, or stress, or a kid that acts out, or fails a grade, or smokes weed, or gets in trouble at school, or cracks up the car, or rebels, or a million other things that kids do and families deal with. Death, divorce, drama, fights, sorrows, joys, etc.

I guess my point is that ALL families are essentially more the same than different. So during this week of PRIDE I want to say that what I have learned in the past 14 years of raising my family, is that we are the same as a million other families out there. The fact that this family has two moms does not really play much of a part in it. Because in the end what truly makes a family a family is the love we have for each other and that we work together to overcome obstacles and dealing with “stuff”.  A family is not about biology, but about love!

And to be honest, my “family” is much more than my partner and kids! I have people in my life I call my “chosen” family. Women I consider sisters, men I consider brothers, and many kids I love to pieces!!

They are my family, and I am so blessed to have them!!

Because what it boils down to is that:

What to do about dark spots??

Having worked in the skin care industry for over 12 years there is one thing that plagues men and women about their skin, especially on their face: DARK SPOTS!  DARK SPOTS!!!!! People ask me all the time: How do I get rid of dark spots on my face?

Dark spots, or hyperpigmentation (the medical term) is a problem that can affect men and women of all ages, and can be very embarrassing and make people self conscious. It affects how we feel about the way we look.  And how we look affects our entire life.

I understand the difficulties of uneven skin tone and dark areas on your skin very well.  Not only do 95% of my clients come see me to correct uneven skin tone, but I also suffer from an uneven skin tone problem.  I am an olive complected Caucasian, and I have a skin condition called Melasma.

Melasma is a skin condition that affects women more than men, and is caused by our hormones, (great, one more thing to blame our hormones on).  It affects all skin tones (Caucasian, African American, Asian and Hispanic) people.  It can sometimes be easier to see on women with a lighter skin tone (skin tone 1-2) because of the contrast between their regular skin tone and the melasma.  The skin is usually “splotchy”.  The dark areas do not have even borders, and can even appear like “spatters” of dark spots on the face.  As if someone took a paintbrush and dipped in a darker skin tone and then spattered your face with the darker color.

Then there are the dreaded spots from acne.  Clients will call me and say they have “acne scarring”, or “Blemishes” or simply “dark spots” from acne.  These discolorations can occur on the face, neck, chest, shoulders and back.  Anywhere there has been an acne bump.  Acne causes redness and inflammation many times, and in skin of color inflammation or redness commonly leads to a dark spot.  The dark spots will be worse if you “pick” or “squeeze” your acne bumps.

acnemarks

So what can you do to clear up your skin???  Well, the first step is to prevention.  For melasma and sun damage that means 1) SPF 20 (at least) sunscreen on your face EVERY day that you are outside.  2) Try not to be in direct sunlight without covering your face with a hat, visor, umbrella, etc.  I wear a visor ALL summer long.  We went to the beach for our weekly vacation and my body was protected with sunscreen.  My face was protected with a big floppy hat.  I battle melasma all the time, so I protect my face from the sun as much as possible.  HATS and sunscreen are your best friends.

For acne the best prevention is an appointment with a dermatologist to get medication that will prevent you form continuing to get bumps.  I talk more about acne and treatments here.  Truly the key with acne is the proper medication to keep the bumps from coming in the first place.  Second, if you do get bumps, DO NOT PICK, SQUEEZE or otherwise mess with them.  That will help tremendously to avoid dark spots!

However, my FAVORITE products that I have had LOTS of success with (I use them myself and LOVE them),  are the Arbonne Genius pads, and the Cellular Renewal Mask. Now for complete transparency I am an Arbonne consultant, however, I have used lots and lots of products that were not made by Arbonne to help with my melasma, and these two worked better  than any others. I fact, I no longer have to get microdermabrasions to make my skin softer because these products keep my skin very soft and smooth as well.

These pads have worked WONDER for me!!

 

LOVE LOVE this mask!!

The reason I do this is because I have dealt with dark spots for years and have tried many many products.  I have done chemical peels, microdermabrasions, facials, etc etc etc. THESE are the ones that have worked the fastest for me, and I LOVE IT!!  I understand how dark spots affect your self esteem,  how it feels to be unhappy with your skin and have to use makeup even in the summer (which most women HATE), and I am a firm believer in these products because they have worked for me!

Before

 

6 months after

 

The bottom picture I DO have some makeup on, but it is ONLY mascara, eye liner and lipstick. NO face makeup!!

Now, I am NOT going to tell you that this has been a fast or easy process, but I will tell you that minimizing the dark spots on my face has made me much more comfortable going out without makeup, and when I DO use makeup it is MUCH less than I used to use.

Pictures tell the story and if you decide to use this product I advise you to take a before pic and after pic three weeks later to see the difference.  Yes, three weeks.  If anyone tells you something works faster than that don’t believe it. It takes time to remove dark spots.  The best prevention in the first place is: sunscreen, hats, and DON’T pick or squeeze your bumps.  If you have acne, see a dermatologist to get medicine to help prevent the acne from coming in the first place.

Please let me know if I can help.  This product worked for me and I know it can work for you too!

When you have to walk away from a toxic friendship

I have had some amazing friends in my life.  I have also had some NOT so amazing friends in my life. And I have had friends who started out being amazing, but then the friendship fizzles. Many times with a new friendship you see a promising future, and somehow, something happens that pulls the rug out from under you and you have a sudden realization that it just wasn’t meant to be.

Or sometimes you need to break up with a friend.  I had to do that. I had to break up with a friend I had for many many years. It wasn’t pleasant and I avoided it for a long time because we had been friends for so long I just didn’t know how to part ways without it becoming ugly or bitter. In fact, in writing this it has occurred to me that I have been through a few friendship break ups. So I guess the question that came to me next is:   why do I need to break up with my friend? And what happens when you have to walk away from a toxic friendship?

A friendship breakup can be even more devastating than a breakup with a boyfriend or girlfriend.  Sometimes we have been even more emotionally intimate with our friend than our lover/boyfriend/girlfriend, and so the loss of the friendship seems to cut a little deeper.

But as I think about it more, I realize that I have usually been the one to end the friendship.  Every time I have had to do that it has been because what was at first a wonderful, loving, friendship ended up being toxic to me. Let me explain.

Picture found on www.xojane.com

Picture found on www.xojane.com

I am an empath. Because of that people usually feel very comfortable talking to me about deeply personal things. Even when they don’t know me well. They tell me really intimate details of their lives without me even asking.  Something about me makes people feel comfortable and able to talk openly.

This has never been a burden and I have always been happy to be that person someone feels comfortable sharing with, however, occasionally it has resulted in a friendship that starts out great, but I soon realize that the friendship is toxic.  In one case I had a very close friend who I realized was toxic when I thought about all of the kind and loving things I had done for her and her family, but the love and kindness was never reciprocated.  The final straw was when she asked me about something someone else had told me in confidentiality and I refused to breach that trust. She just “had to know” and wouldn’t let it go. I finally realized that she would never give up asking for the information and I would never share it and break that trust, ….ever…..so I had to walk away. That one really hurt because we had mutual friends, and had been very very close for about quite a few years.

I think the most painful part of a breakup is the loss of what could have been.

picture found on pinterest

picture found on pinterest

But probably even worse than the previous breakup was one I went through about a year ago. It was a friendship that I thought would be amazing for my life and my family’s life.  I had invested a LOT of time and finances into the relationship and had gifted her and her family thousands of dollars. We were even talking about starting a business together and she had asked me to be on the board of her 501c.3 corp.  It started going downhill after she and her family came to stay at my home for a week and we sent them home with a truck full of goods as well as cash to get home. (approximately $500.00) This was after we had given them $1000.00 to go from their home across the country for a family funeral, and helped pay for vehicle repairs (900.00), groceries, hotel stays, etc. for a total cost of about $4000.00 over the span of about 12 months.  After they left I didn’t hear from her for almost two months (and prior to that I had spoken on the phone or via skype with her at least two to three times a week.) When I finally heard back after multiple attempts to reach her over that two months I were told “not to worry”, she had been “busy”, and could I give her $500.00 to help with some vehicle repairs. I said no, and the friendship began to unravel…..quickly…   I was accused of not caring, trying to trick her, lying to her, etc etc etc….. it just got uglier and uglier. I eventually had to block her from my FB, my phone, and my email.

That was an awful loss for myself and my family! I had a lot of dreams wrapped into that friendship both personally and professionally.  I actually cried for a week after I realized I had to walk away.

So I guess the bottom line is that friendships do break up, and they can be even more painful that a romantic relationship breakup.  I think we always know when it is time to move on, but we are sometimes reluctant to end a friendship.

Nontoxic people can become toxic.  Friendships can change  and become unhealthy. We can change. Friends can change. Sometimes we just have to walk away.  There are many different reasons we have to break up with a friend, but my advice is to always listen to your heart and gut and do what is best for you and your life.