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My Empty Plate

God has some difficult lessons for me lately. I wish I was a faster learner, because these lessons are tough and tiring. For years, I’ve had a few personal wishes, dreams if you will. They are pretty situational and very specific to me and what I dream of for my future.

I’m not sure why, but one by one, those deeply held desires are not only being withheld from me, but they are being handed to others in a way that I see them intimately. It feels like I’m wishing for a cupcake with buttercream icing and pink sparkling sprinkles, or a warm, fresh from the oven piece of cheesecake with ice cold cherry topping and a little toothpick flag on top, or even a hot fudge sundae with chopped nuts, a brownie, a few slices of banana (not too much) and no cherry on top, just extra fudge and two oreos for garnish.

My desires, like those desserts, are very specific desires. They are also very private. I haven’t told anyone besides my husband what these are.

I feel like I’m sitting at a table with a bunch of other children who have cookies and pie and cake on their plates already. And not only do I not get dessert, the exact same secret wishes of dessert that I have in my head are given to others. The buttercream cupcake goes to the boy across the table from me. My dream sundae goes to the girl on my right. The rich and creamy cheesecake with the little toothpick flag is served to the boy on my left. They’re seated next to me, enjoying what my heart craved and dreamt up. But I didn’t tell them what I wanted. So how did they get it?

The chef knew.

The chef knew what everyone wanted and needed. And for reasons unknown to me, took the -exact- things I have been craving and gives them to those around me. At first it was just the cupcake. That was sad, but wow, it made that little boy happy. He must have needed it more than I did.

Then the chef came out with that delicious looking piece of cheesecake. I could smell the warmth. It had clearly just come out of the oven! It was smothered in cherry topping, and on top, pitched on the apex of the cherries like the crest of some climber’s victory, was the little toothpick flag.
It was so close to me now! Closer, closer . . . and then it was given to the girl next to me.

It seemed like a run of bad luck, until the third dessert I had dreamt of was given to the boy on my left. I sat there, gripping my hands under the table and staring at the plate in front of me, all while the sounds of joy and the scents of delightful desserts surrounded me.

It felt like little pieces of my heart had been torn up and distributed about to others. I decided to play it much safer, be more guarded, before the next stolen dream caught me unaware. “Maybe just a chocolate chip cookie?” I would wonder. Chocolate chip cookies were common and not at all difficult to whip up, not for the Master Chef. But the longer I sat and waited, the more I saw other children at the table get desserts. But not me. My little dessert plate sat alone and empty.

I should be grateful. In front of me is a balanced meal that is not only good for me, but it is delicious, too. I have plenty to keep my belly full and I even have a can of Coke for a sweet treat. I try to be thankful for the good meal in front of me, and focus on how good it is, and try to imagine how much work and thought the chef put into it just for my needs. The Chef even considered getting my favorite fork (I don’t like the short tong forks) and picked out my favorite plate, the delicate white one with the pretty blue flowers that remind me of Chinaware. If I look very, very far away, I can even see children who haven’t been served dinner yet. I certainly should be grateful.

I am thankful. I have joy. But many times, I am not happy. Why does God keep giving all of my secret desires to those near and dear to me, but deny me the simplest request? What is it that I am meant to gain by watching my dreams unfold and develop in the life of someone else?

I don’t know. I don’t know the answer. I hope I learn the lesson soon, because my heart is weary. This world is heavy and has lost its luster. I don’t want to be here. I wish that God would come back and usher us into that bright and beautiful Paradise of the perfected future earth. I long for a place free of suffering or heartache. I long to be perfected into a creature that no longer has these unmet desires. I’m so, so tired of wanting. I don’t want to want anymore.

I don’t want to want anymore.

So what do I do? How do I move on with this hole inside of me that aches as I see my hopes and dreams play out in front of me but are never mine?

I take what is on my plate and start naming each thing, no matter how small.

So that is what I will do.

I thank God for my husband. If ever I need assurance that God loves me, I can always look to the gift that is Nathan.

I thank God for my health insurance and my good doctor who cares about me.

I thank Him for my precious doggy, who at this moment is snoozing next to me, half hugging my ipad with one eye just a little open.

I thank God for some of the most beautiful weather we’ve had here in weeks. I had lunch outside today.

I thank God for my family and dear friends.

I’m thankful I get to see my precious Nichole in just a week.

I’m thankful for all the time I have to pursue and perfect my various hobbies and interests.

The more and more that I spend reflecting and really focusing on all the things I DO have on my plate, the more satisfying it all becomes. And more than that, I realize I have more than I could need just for myself. I may not have a big dessert or enough on my plate to feed five hundred, but I certainly have enough to share with one other, maybe two or three.

Photo by Jasmin Schreiber on Unsplash

Writing down my individual blessings is an exercise in gratitude I take for granted. The truth is, my brain does not naturally lean into an attitude of thankfulness, especially when I am battling a depressive episode. When I’m in the throws of mental health issues, it feels like I’m clawing up to the surface of the ocean only to gasp a partial breath before the next wave crashes into me, knocking me down into the dark depths where I must fight and claw again. But gratitude is like a life ring. It doesn’t matter how hard or fast the waves come. The life ring will stay afloat. It may bob for a second, but it is in its nature, its design, to stay above.

Photo by Agnieszka Kowalczyk on Unsplash

I just have to hold on.

It’s a choice. It does not make the waves any weaker or the storm less fierce. And, sometimes, I need someone to assist me in reaching it. But holding on to it, making the decision to reach for it, is up to me.

And it is up to you.

If your plate feels barren, and your heart aches, decide now to try. It doesn’t change the fact that my dreams are unmet, or that my heart aches when I am reminded of that. But it will keep you afloat through it all.

"XOXO, Amber" in hand-styled script
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The AMAZING Skin Solution that takes LESS than Five Minutes

You may have seen my recent video on my instagram, but just in case, I’ll make sure I share it below. In the video, I do a (sped up) version of my nightly routine. While I recorded it, including extra time spent showing off the products, it was actually UNDER five minutes, and that included removing my makeup! WOW! I was absolutely amazed.

This post may contain affiliate links. For more on that, check here.

Products Used:

  1. Facial Cleanser by Instanatural – use the cleanser as directed. If you need a little extra makeup removing power, add a little extra virgin olive oil in with your cleanser. (TRUST me!!!) Wash away!
  2. Toner – Vitamin C by Instanatural – depending on the toner, the directions may differ, but generally, you want to shake the product, dispense into either your palms or on a cotton round, and pat it gently onto the face. Toner is so important to your facial routine. But it won’t give you the benefits if you don’t have the right product (avoid alcohol at all costs!) and don’t use it at the right step. Toner is done after cleansing to adjust the PH balance of skin back to where it should be. This allows the products you’re about to put on your face to actually do the work they are supposed to. If your toner makes your skin feel “tight,” most likely, it is just a drying agent and not a balancing one, and that is a HUGE NO NO!
  3. Serum – Vitamin C by Instanatural – the serum is the powerhouse of your nightly routine. It is the agent that delivers the compact, concentrated nutrients that help your skin. I love the vitamin C serum because how it helped reduce my redness and in general, evens my skin tone! You might want a different serum depending on your skin goals and needs, but if you’re new to skincare, you can’t go wrong with this one! (And the smell is simply YUMMY!)
  4. Roller by Witty – I love using my roller! Not only does it just feel awesome, but it also helps me save money! Seriously. I can get away with just a few DROPS of my serum when I use my roller because none of it gets soaked into my fingertips! (To be fair, in the video, I use more because instagram.) It is also great for helping with cystic acne. Pop that baby in the fridge and apply it to any inflamed areas to reduce swelling. It also works great for reducing morning puffiness.
  5. Night cream by Instanatural – after you’ve applied your serums, the cream is going to be the protective layer that keeps your skin hydrated and helps you to absorb the nutrients from the serums while you sleep. I had the pleasure of being taught how to give yourself a spa facial by a premier aesthetician, and it makes such a difference. I’ll be able to do a video on that later, but for now, when you apply lotion, only dispense it on your fingertips. Your fingertips absorb product the least, which means it will last longer and most of it will go on your face where it belongs. Tap your fingers together until you have an even amount on each fingertip (sans thumbs). Then, gently tap the product all over your face until it is evenly absorbed. It helps to stimulate circulation as well as prevents aging by eliminating unnecessary tugging. Plus, it just feels nice!

I’ve been using Instanatural since 2017 when a friend introduced it to me (Thanks, Savannah!). It’s made in Orlando, and I admit, this FL girl loves that! (Plus, I feel like it’s genuine Florida citrus in these products!) The products are clean, not tested on animals, and actually work.

No filter, no editing, just my face, half brows and all!

If you’re wondering if these will work for your skin, I’ll share what skin hurdles I have and how these have helped. First, my skin is combination. I have patches that are usually oily and patches that are sometimes dry. I also have random breakout (usually coinciding with my cycle) and have hyper-pigmentation, where the skin is perpetually red after a breakout in the past. Even though I have rarely broken out since high school, my skin retains the redness of each one for months, sometimes years! I also have sensitive skin that gets easily irritated and inflamed. I have the best experience with my skin when I regularly do this nightly routine. During the day, I also use Instanatural day cream and sunscreen if it is in the summertime. I exfoliate as needed, which is usually every 1 – 2 weeks. Also, I have found that drinking lots of water makes a big difference, too!

So tell me – what works for your skin? What products do you love? Try this easy nightly routine; I’d love to hear your results!

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Train your brain to be POSITIVE!

Whether you are a boss babe, a mom, a college student . . . wherever you are at in life, you can start changing your outlook today.

Let’s talk about WORDS!

I have made a life-changing habit of creating positive expectations that has turned my health and business around. And it’s important enough that I want to share.

If someone bumps into you and you spill your coffee, it reveals what was already inside the cup. Coffee spilled out because it was full of coffee. If bumps and challenges jostle your cart, what spills out is a great tool for knowing yourself better.

Ask yourself: what spills out when you get jostled by life? Stress? Anger? Jealousy? Defeat? Worry?

If it is anything but good, healthful thoughts, you know where to start!

This post may contain affiliate links. For more on that, check here.

Does that mean you can’t express an opinion? Of course not! Disappointment is sad, and it is something everyone of us will experience in life and in business. But commiserating is not healthy for you or anyone else. 💕 If you need to vent or have a listening ear, any leader will tell you to complain UP and praise DOWN! Talk to your leadership/manager to see how they would like to help you work out your disappointments.

What spills out is a great tool for knowing yourself better.

But venting (in the break room, online forums, work emails, or the home) is not a good business practice. You are a boss babe, a killah queen, a warrior princess. We all are. And we are in this together. 💕

If you want to express your feelings critically, also follow up with a solution so that it is constructive versus destructive. Here are some examples:

“I feel like in meetings we go over the exact same things that was said in the email. There are huge benefits to gathering collaboratively, but if we don’t get a chance to voice our input and share our experiences, the email is sufficient.”

“I have asked in the past if you would help me by putting the laundry in the hamper instead of on the floor. When you don’t, I feel ignored. When you do, I feel like we’re a team. What can I do to help without nagging?”

I totally am not scolding you, even though it might seem like it. I’ve been a Negative Nancy and didn’t even know it. You really do reap what you sow! Ever hear of self-fulfilling prophecies? So I’m telling you as a converted Positive Polly that you will be AMAZED at the GOOD things that start coming your way as if by “luck” when you change what energy you send out into the universe.

Want some more info on what helped me change? I highly recommend the books, “The Energy Bus,” and the pair “Successful Women Think Differently” and “Successful Women Speak Differently” by Valorie Burton.

A good place to start is asking yourself, “This bothers me. What can I do to fix it?” And, “Is what I’m about to say leading me to a solution?” You might find yourself the million dollar answer!

“Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on THESE things.” -Phil. 4:8 (emphasis mine)

Until next time,

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Buh-Bye Winter Woes

And hello to nourished, hydrated skin!

It’s that time of year again. Depending on where you are in the world, you might be experiencing one of the more frustrating beauty hurdles of winter:

Dryness.

And it’s just dry everything! 

Dry hair, dry scalp, dry skin . . . what’s gal to do? Well, after battling this beast for a while now, I’ve come up with a list of my favorite things for different winter issues.

This post may contain affiliate links. For more on that, check here.

First, you have to get rid of dry, dead skin. You can’t bring it back to life, but you can help it along so that your new, fresh skin below can really shine.

Body Care

  1. Flake Away body scrub by Soap and Glory

I stumbled upon this at Target and later spied it Ulta as well. To make it easier for you, I’ve got a nifty link to find it online, but you might want to check out stores just in case.

What’s good?

  • Delicate, uplifting scent
  • Lightly scented
  • Eco-friendly
  • Scrubs the flakes away

(Because the only thing that should flake in winter is snow.)

If you’re being price conscious, you can make your own scrub at home using things you probably already have around the house. A word of caution: some things should NOT go down the drain, like certain oils or coffee beans, even though they make great scrubs. Always check before it goes down the drain!

Psst! If body scrubs aren’t your thing, get a natural loofa sponge! Not only are they completely organic and biodegradable, but they’re great for cleaning and scrubbing around the house, too!

2. The Righteous Butter by Soap and Glory

Together, the Flake Away and Righteous Butter make a killer combo! A real one-two punch, a hadouken to K.O. your winter woes!

Seriously, I’m pretty particular (i.e. picky) about lotions and anything scented. Not only because of my scent-triggered migraines, but also because of my “super sniffer” of a nose.

I have the sort of sniffer that makes going to the laundry aisle or anywhere within a two-block radius of Bath N Body Works or Yankee Candle a nightmare. (Anyone else feel me???)

But this. I couldn’t stop smelling it! It’s surprisingly complex, delicate, and just a joy to smell. The Righteous Body Butter is definitely one of my top faves!

Hair and Scalp Care

3. Ouai Scalp and Body Scrub

At a pretty penny, this would definitely be considered an investment into your beauty routine and self-care regimen. It does say you can use on body, but because of the price, I like to save it just for my scalp.

It is scented with their incredible Melrose Place perfume, a delicate blend of bergamot, rose, lychee, and cedar wood, that makes me feel like I’m leaving an upscale salon in New York after a lavish treatment. It is classy, and for that reason, plus how well it handles scalp flakes, it is my first fave on the list for hair and scalp.

2. The Doux Sucka-Free Shampoo

I’ve been using this since August 2018 and it has revolutionized my curly girl routine. It gets rid of all the buildup (and the flakes you just rubbed off) and leaves your hair a fresh, clean canvas for your next step. Cleansing properly is key to getting moisture in the cuticle of the hair where it is needed. If there is anything left on the hair, that lovely conditioner or mask isn’t going to be able to do it’s job.

This gets it done.

Simply scrub your hair, paying attention to the scalp, mid, and ends as separate areas to cleanse to make sure you don’t miss a spot. Just remember: “get squeaky clean.” Once you rinse out the shampoo, if your finger can squeak on the hair on your scalp, you’re done!

Seriously, you need this stuff. Not only is it amazing and the only thing I use now, but it is also a woman run business, and she specializes in natural hair. So go get it! Right now!

3. Scalp & Shampoo Brush by MAXSOFT

If you’re really struggling with a case of winter flakes on your scalp, get yourself one of these! Yes, I know they are sort of making a resurgence on social media, but they’ve been around forever. They are affordable and help make sure that you really stimulate and cleanse the scalp. And for around $8, it’s a good investment!

Pro tip: this is a great tool to help keep your nails in good condition!

4. Deep Treatment Masque by Shea Moisture

Did you know? You should always do your masks before you condition! When you condition, the hair cuticle soaks up all the conditioner it can hold, making a masque simply get washed down the drain without getting the full benefit.

I use this hair mask and a gel heat cap to really open the hair cuticles and give this a chance to work. If you want a more consistent heat without having to put your cap back in the microwave, this is the best one out there.

The Shea Moisture Deep Treatment Masque is well worth the investment. It has lasted me for months with a once to twice a month regimen!

5. Fresh Rinse conditioner by The Doux

After you rinse that mask away, it’s time to leave a little sumthin’ sumthin’ on your hair to protect it during the heat of styling or the cold harshness of winter weather. That’s where this conditioner comes in. It has been the most effective conditioner to help me detangle. (And when your hair is down to your waist, you need all the help you can get!) I used to run out of hot water before I finished combing through half of my hair. But now with the Fresh Rinse and the power of my Brush with the Best, I get it done in less than half the time!

6. Scalp Oil by Shea Moisture

Scalp oil is going to be your best friend during winter. I love the Shea Moisture line of products, and this is no exception.

To use, part your hair into sections. In each part, place a few drops of oil onto the scalp, avoiding the hair as much as possible. Use the pads of your fingers to massage it in.

Depending on your hair needs, you can put this on prior to styling, fifteen to thirty minutes before your shower, and the night before wash day for a deep conditioning scalp treatment.

Hand, Feet, and Nail Care

  1. Stainless Steel Pedicure File

For all that is good and holy, please STOP putting those cheese grater things to your poor feet!!!

They are actually illegal for salons in many states to even use because of how dangerous they are! Medical professionals in the linked article suggest even using a nail file, which is basically what this bad boy is, except large enough to do your foot in a few strokes instead of hundreds. And since it is stainless steel, I keep mine in the shower ready for use!

Pro tip: for extra smooth results, first soak feet in a hot water bath filled with baking soda and a few drops of your favorite essential oil! Or, if you don’t want to science things up, here’s my favorite foot soak.

2. Cuticle Oil

You know those dry, scaly cracks and crevices next to your nails that sometimes peel into the worst hangnail of your life???

You need this.

I’m bad at remembering to use it, but when I do, it is a world of difference! No more frustrated picking at my cuticles! No more bleeding!

Pro tip: I’ve started keeping mine on a table next to the front door. I give each nail a quick swipe and run it in a bit. With my hands occupied on the wheel, driving is the perfect time for them to soak it all up!

3. Tocca Mini Hand Cream

Hand lotion is a bit of a luxury for me, and I don’t normally notice it until I’m away from the house (and anything I can do about it). So my favorite lotions are small enough to drop in my purse and creamy enough to nourish my skin without any greasy residue. (Because eww.)

You’ll love this lotion by Tocca! You can snag it at Anthropologie, or you can use the link above.

So there you have it! My favorite ways to beat winter dryness from head to toe. In the comments, let me know what has worked for you!

Ciao!