Archive for February, 2010

Totally Unsolicited, Completely Uncompensated Product Review (Wait– what am I doing this for again?)

Ok, I’m stepping out of my usual bloggy boundaries a little bit today, but hey, it’s Friday, the weekend is looming and all bets are off.

I never do product reviews for several reasons, most of them having to do with complete disinterest er, lack of motivation, lack of quality free stuff being shoved at me on a regular basis AND an unfortunate habit of being, as my friend Lynne says, ‘honest to the point of recklessness.’ But every once in a while I do come across something that I know that if we were just sitting around a table at Starbucks I would totally tell you all about it. Not because I have any area of expertise or because my opinion means any more than anyone else’s, but because I just kinda want to share the wealth, so to speak. I am also someone who spends a ridiculous amount of time Googling stuff and in the world of product reviews, that basically means PRESTO! I’m an expert!

(I’m now going to add a small caveat here for you readers of the male persuasion– this will probably bore you silly and you might want to take a brief break and go watch a violent movie or some ESPN or something. And yes, I’m aware that is a completely sexist stereotype, but whatever. I would love for you to stay. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you when you nod off and become all slack-jawed and drooling.)

Ok, how many of you have seen those commercials with Brooke Shields for that new stuff they have out that is supposed to make your eyelashes grow long and thick and luxurious? You can put your hands down now. If you’re like me, you may have perked up your ears the first time that commercial came on and Brooke is batting these huge eyelashes that are so wonderfully furry it almost makes you forget about her caterpillar eyebrows– at least until they mentioned that whole “by prescription only” part. They also have a whole lot of warnings and possible side effects information written in print so tiny only someone with super powers could read it that they send flying across the screen at the speed of light. Both of those factors pretty much scared me away. I mean, I love long gorgeous lashes as much as the next woman, but not enough to spend $130 a month to risk things like redness, irritation and oh, I don’t know, PERMANENTLY CHANGING THE COLOR OF MY EYES! Eww. (Unless you could pick your eye color change… That might be cool, like, to match your outfit or something. But apparently that’s not possible, so just forget I mentioned it.) Anyway, after seeing all the scary stuff, I just went back to reading my magazine and figured that unfortunately, like so many other rude surprises about getting older like saggy knees and muffin-tops, I would just have to make my peace with the fact that those lovely lashes I used to receive such nice compliments on and bat about with wild abandon are gone forever.

But then I was at the grocery store, or Walmart, or one of the other glamorous places I visit on a regular basis, and I saw this:

Now, I use lots of L’oreal products, including their mascara which I love, so I figured I probably wouldn’t get any weirdo side effects with this. But being the big ol’ skeptic I am, I also figured that it probably wouldn’t work that well either because it wasn’t prescription strength and full of scary warnings. However, I am always a sucker for new beauty products, and at $12 and change (which is still a lot of money to risk wasting, if you ask me), I figured the worse that could happen would be that it would end up in my wastebasket like so many other products I’ve gambled with over the years that didn’t follow thru on their promises. (See: every under-eye concealer I EVER BOUGHT.) So I decided what the heck, and I brought it home. The packaging is very careful not to WAAAAY overstate the possible benefits, and uses a lot of terms like ‘booster’ and ‘conditioner’ and ‘less lash fallout’ instead of stuff like ‘You will grow 4-inch lashes, become magically taller and younger and your life will now be perfect!’ (Which is totally the approach I would take if I wrote advertising copy, which probably explains why I don’t.)

The applicator is sort of like a curved mascara wand except without any bristles on it. You ‘brush’ it on your lashes with that part, and then flip it over and use the outside tip of the wand to draw a line at the base of your lashes like you’re putting on eyeliner.

You might have to re-dip it a couple of times to do both eyes completely. The serum is slightly cloudy and a little viscous. (I started to say ‘a little mucus-y’, but I’m trying to be professional here and nobody wants to get a mental picture of brushing snot onto your eyelashes, am I right? High five!) It didn’t irritate my eyes at all, though my extensive Googling research did find some anecdotal evidence that indicated it sometimes slightly did with a few people.

You can use it in the morning and at night, and you can put your mascara on right over it. Actually they sell this product alone OR in combination with their “Double-Exend Lash-Boosting Mascara and Primer”, but I had just bought a brand new tube of their mascara as well, so I just went with the serum. They don’t suggest it for bottom lashes, but I’m gonna reveal a deeply personal weird secret here, folks– for some inexplicable reason the bottom lashes on my right eye have developed a, for lack of a better term, ‘gap.’ It’s like male pattern balding, except that I’m female and we’re talking about eyelashes here. Like, if you were scanning down the row of my bottom lashes on that side, all of a sudden you hit this tiny little speed-bump gap and you’d be all, “Whoa! What happened here? Why are there little stubby, spaced out eyelash hairs here instead of normal ones?” I have no answer for this. I can’t even blame it on something exciting like a chemical burn or a tropical disease. And yes, I do realize we’re actually only talking about a few tiny millimeters of sparseness, and I do also realize that most (ok, all) people looking at me would probably not notice and would certainly not care, but still. I’m a girl and I don’t want weird eyelash gaps, OK?


So I’ve been using it faithfully for a few weeks now– which of course, for me translates into “most nights, except when I forget and occasionally in the morning as well”– and you know what? I REALLY AM SEEING A DIFFERENCE! It’s not like, an Alert-The-Media HUGE difference, but it is most definitely not just in my imagination. The idea behind the product is that it extends the life span of your lashes, which is usually about three months. Since your lashes are hanging in there longer, ipso facto, there are more of them on your face. And also? It does seem to condition them, so they aren’t quite as dry and brittle feeling as lashes can sometimes get what with all of the mascara, makeup removal and face washing, blah de blah blah. But here’s the best news– my gap? It is closing! Those weirdly-angled little stubby lashes are now most definitely weirdly-angled, slightly longer silky lashes. And of course, the biggest indication that this is indeed a pretty dang good product is the fact that my teenage daughter Madi immediately tried to steal it.  I finally went out and bought her one for herself, which she uses daily and ALSO highly recommends.

So, my final review:

L’Oreal Concentrated Lash Boosting Serum does indeed work, within reason. It is well worth the price, and with regular use will slightly-though-NOTICEABLY  increase the thickness, length and durability of your lashes. You may not end up with ridiculous batwing lashes like Brooke Shields is sporting in that Latisse commercial, but then again, you won’t be spending frillions of dollars on a freakin’ eyelash product for crying out loud, AND your eyes will stay the same color they started out as, so win/win!

I give it …

**(SEE, guys-that-stuck-aound-anyway– that wasn’t too bad was it? And also, now when you’re around women/your wife/ female co-workers/random female strangers on a bus you can casually throw out something like, “You know, I have it on good authority that the new L’Oreal Lash Serum is actually a very effective product…” and they’ll think you’re all metrosexual and everything, which women love. Or they’ll think you’re a drag queen, which women kinda love too, so once again– win/win.)

**(Now tell the truth– do you want me to promise I will NEVER IN THE NAME OF ALL THINGS HOLY review a product again, or did I possibly just stumble upon a whole new Babybloomr category for my reader’s occasional enjoyment and enlightenment?!)

**(WHOA! While I was ‘acquiring’ a photo to use in this post I just found out that L’Oreal is doing a Lash Serum 4 Week Challenge thingy, so I just jumped on that bandwagon too! They’re still not paying me anything, though, so you know. I’ve still got my integrity and all.)

Surprised by Kindness

Hey everybody! I’m participating in the One Word At A Time blog carnival over at The deal is, they choose one word– this week’s word is ‘kindness’– and then participating bloggers write a post on the subject. There are some really good ones over there, I encourage you all to check them out! So here’s mine:

‘Kindness’ ought to be an easy one, right? I mean after all, I was raised in the South and kindness (at least on a surface level) is part of the atmosphere. Like the humidity. We are a civil bunch down here, and if your car breaks down on the side of the road or you’re a pregnant woman loading groceries, you can always depend on the kindness of strangers. But frankly, waxing rhapsodic about the land of my birth didn’t feel very personal to me. I couldn’t really emotionally sink my teeth into it.

So I started thinking about people, specific people and specific acts of kindness. That took me all over the place! I have a tendency to think in pictures (Yes LindaB, just like Temple Grandin, only without the math) so there were some scenes that immediately came to mind…

I remembered Madi’s birth. My water broke exactly 15 minutes after Russ left town for a weekend concert. He was supposed to be back in 24 hours. It was my first baby, and it was two and a half weeks before my due date. I was alone and scared and couldn’t reach him for the next 8 hours, despite having the state police in three states trying to locate the bus (pre-cell phone era.) My brother Matt and his wife Carol came over and stayed up with me all night, because I refused to go to the hospital until I knew Russ was coming home and also my labor hadn’t really gotten started yet. Long story short– we finally found Russ, he immediately got on a plane home, we went to the hospital together, my labor dragged on for about a year and a half (long enough for my entire family to drive here from Arkansas!) The hours passed in a haze of pain and joy, and there was never a time in my life that I felt more kindness extended towards me. A nurse sat at my bedside until my family arrived, urging me to rest and softly stroking my hair until I did. The anesthesiologist patiently tolerated the (in retrospect, RIDICULOUS) requirements and protestations of this frightened first-timer with a ‘birth plan’ and an attitude. My mother, my sisters and June (Russ’ mother of choice) arrived like the calvary and engulfed me with their tenderness and care. I gave birth holding Russ’ hand and surrounded by all the women I love. It was glorious.

But, actually that’s not really the ‘kindness’ story I want to tell.

I also had a flashback to a childhood memory as clear as a snapshot. My brother Jonathan is 6 years older than I am, which is more than enough distance to guarantee that for the first oh, 20 years or so of my life I was destined to be cast firmly in the role of pesky little sister. To be fair to him, he wasn’t ever really cruel or mean to me –well, there was that one time that he opened the secret trap door of his treehouse and KICKED me off of the knotted rope I had just spent 20 minutes climbing in my attempt to break into that dang treehouse…  But for the most part, he just ignored me. I was the youngest of the six kids and my sister Liz, who was three years older, barely put up with me and my tireless attempts to tag along with her. With Jonathan, I knew better than to even try. His life was full of all the things that consume an almost-teenage boy– baseball, friends, school. At six years old, I was virtually invisible to him. But one night, I had a bad dream. Liz, who shared a room with me, wasn’t there for some reason. I guess maybe she was at a sleep-over or something. I don’t remember what I dreamed, but I do remember that feeling of waking up in a panic, looking desperately around my dark bedroom and being too afraid to get out of my bed and go running to Mom and Dad’s room. I must have been crying, or whimpering or something because Jonny, whose bedroom was across from mine, stuck his head around the door to see what was wrong. I was embarrassed to reveal what a big baby I was, especially to him, but eventually I choked out that I had a bad dream and I was scared. He asked me if I wanted him to go get Mom. I lied and said no. He stood there a minute, sighed, and said, “Oh, all right. You can come in here with me.” I couldn’t believe my ears and I scrambled out of bed before he could change his mind. I padded in my bare feet behind him, right into the sacred inner sanctum of his bedroom that of course, I was usually forbidden to enter upon penalty of death. He climbed into his bed and said, “OK, you can lay here ON TOP OF THE COVERS for a few minutes. Just until you get sleepy. Then you are going back to your own room.” He turned his back to me as I eased onto his bed and lay there silent and still as a corpse, barely daring to breathe. After about ten minutes, I was still wide awake when Jonny turned over to check on me. Another deep sigh, then he said, “So what was the dream about, anyway?” I said I didn’t want to talk about it because I would get scared all over again. And then for some reason, my usually indifferent older brother did something amazing. He started talking to me, there in the dark of his room, telling me all about the planets and the stars and the constellations in the black velvet night sky that we could see out of the window next to his bed. I have no idea how he knew all of those things, maybe he learned them in science class or Boy Scouts or something. It was a monologue, not a conversation, but his voice was friendly and engaged, and he actually pointed things out to me in the sky, like Orion’s belt and the Big Dipper. My eyes started to grow heavy, but I willed myself to stay awake so I wouldn’t miss a minute of this once-in-a-lifetime experience– my big brother was talking to me, like a real person! Eventually sleep won, and my last memory of that magical night was the feeling of my head baaaarely resting on his shoulder and his voice softly explaining how ancient astronomers had believed that the heavens were a giant bowl that covered the earth. When I woke up the next morning, I was back in my own bed and Jonathan was back to barely acknowledging my existence. But I never forgot that night, and the unexpected miracle of my brother’s kindness towards his scared little sister.

But that’s not really the story I want to tell, either.

Can I be honest with you, at the risk of sounding self-serving or smarmy? Here is the God’s own truth– when I thought of the word kindness and all that it implies, the first thing that came to my mind was…. you guys! Seriously. This community, this little Babybloomr Nation that has sprung up will-nilly and completely unexpectedly as a result of my decision to start a blog has come to embody that word to me. It’s not just the kindness you have relentlessly shown to me with all of your loyalty and encouragement, although honestly that would be enough. (You’ve even sent me presents for crying out loud– I bet Dooce doesn’t get homemade jalapeno jelly, red velvet cakes, personalized tote bags, Christmas decorations, candy, photographs and Mardi Gras king cakes from her jillions of readers!) But even though your kindness towards me has been unprecedented and has created a bond (imaginary or not) that I feel with every one of you, it’s your kindness towards EACH OTHER that has been, well, life-changing for me. I can’t take credit for what has happened in the comment section of the ‘bloomr– that has been entirely your creation. Forgive me for the cliched, over-used term, but you guys have truly formed a kind of family there. You talk to each other, pray for each other, laugh with each other. You exchange recipes and advice. You are interested in hearing about everyone’s daily lives– their homes, children, professions, opinions and dreams. You are respectful and sympathetic. You reach out to newbies to welcome them into the fold, and you get as excited as I do when a longtime reader finally delurks. You honestly care about each other. You are kind.

I always joke about my desire for world bloggy domination. I’m forever trying new things, hellbent on making this site look like a Real Live Blog. I’ve been (way too) honest about my insecurities at all the conferences and bless your hearts, you’ve had to put up with my breathless reports about how much I’ve learned from them.  But you know what? If I never achieve impressive readership stats, and if the big advertisers never ply me with Disney trips and free appliances, and if the Big Name Bloggers never clamor for me to be their new best friend, the truth is this blog has already far exceeded my initial vision of what it could be. I had no way of knowing how important my relationship with my readers would become, or how much I would look forward to interacting with you and reading what you have to say. You enrich my life, and I want to continue to provide a platform for you to do that for each other.

Actually, I might need to bend the rules a bit and make a slight adjustment to the ‘One Word At A Time’ carnival theme. (I’ll make it sound all Biblical, so I’ll probably get away with it.) There’s a better word, a hyphenated word that describes what all of you display towards me on a daily basis– it’s not just kindness, it’s loving-kindness. And I thank you for it.

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