It’s Been Awhile…

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Well…this awkward.

Let’s go back to September 2015 when I had last posted. I had just said goodbye to a close friend who would be studying abroad in France, was only a few months into a night job and was coming to grips with my longing for more English classes.

Quite a bit has happened since then, including but not limited to:

  • Declaring an English minor
  • Taking a cruise to Alaska
  • Taking a creative writing course from M.L. Liebler, one of the most eccentric professors I’ve ever encountered
  • Presenting a research paper at a student conference where I had to talk about quite a brutal murder
  • Becoming a dog mom
  • Ditching the English minor for a full-on second degree
  • Getting my dream internship with Hour Media
  • Getting a job as a paginator
  • Taking a class under Beth Konrad, the legend
  • Joining Society of Professional Journalists
  • Starting a capstone project which will hopefully continue through the years
  • Graduated from college
  • Joined the leadership team for a mental health blog

Oh, and books. So. Many. Books. Read.

Yes, I’ve been busy. I’ve silently maintain this domain not only because I knew I would return one day in a glory of typing and tagging for my limited audience of family but also because I enjoy having something I’m proud of.

Will I be updating every week? Likely not, if we’re being honest with each other. I intend to get at least a few posts up a month with topics ranging from post-grad life to current events in my usual sarcastic tone. I won’t be waiting nearly five years again because frankly…

I have a lot of stories to tell.

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How to make a great care package for a friend studying abroad

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*Disclaimer: I’ve been waiting to post this until I knew my friend had opened the care package, as I didn’t want to take the chance she would see this.

It’s always nice to be a fun and caring friend.

That being said, a friend of mine is embarking on a study abroad program to Grenable, France from August 2015 to June 2016. I’m going to miss her to pieces as will the other two people in our immediate friend group and I decided to make sure she never forgets any of us.

So my friends and I brainstormed a care package and I put it all together.

I had no plans to post about it seeing as this was between the four of us and not for the purpose of being something put up on the interwebs but during the brainstorming phase I had a hard time finding good ideas on the web. I wanted to give people a look at something you can put together, and not break your already fragile wallet, that your friend will not only appreciate but also get great use out of.

At first, this was supposed to be more of a “Things you probably over looked when packing” box but it morphed into a practical and personal care package. A small note to start: all of these items fit into a Recollections Memory Box that can be picked up at Michael’s craft stores for $4-$6.

1.A jump drive
I bought a 16 GB jump drive while doing my back to school shopping and put some music and videos on it for my friend’s viewing and listening pleasure. I separated everything into folders because some of the videos were meant only for when she missed home i.e. Pure Michigan ads I saved from YouTube. For the music, I just took from my iTunes songs I figured she had never heard because where’s the fun in listening to a secret jump drive if you know all the tunes?

A screenshot of some of the songs that made it on the jump drive.

A screenshot of some of the songs that made it on the jump drive.

2.Scarves
I am a knitter and I’m not ashamed. I love to make scarves and have a box full of them seeing as I don’t sell them but continue to make them; let’s just say Christmas is a cakewalk for me. Because she’ll be in a region of France that does get a cold winter, though nowhere near as cold as Michigan, I put in one warm infinity scarf that I finger knitted (if you don’t know what that is click here) and one fashion black lace scarf. Putting in the scarves added practicality and a personal touch seeing as I made them myself.

3.Toiletries
This is one of the more practical parts of the care package. All of the following are travel size items: shampoo, conditioner, make-up remover wipes, bottle of hand sanitizer three packs of Kleenex and a first aid kit. Mostly we just wanted to make sure she had some basic supplies until she settles in especially seeing as she goes to Paris first for a few days and then she goes to her host family. The first aid kit was more because you can never be too prepared and it was tiny.

4.A Notebook
It’s the size of a Composition notebook and the same brand but it’s a more plastic-like cover rather than the cardboard because we needed it to be flexible enough to fit in the box. It could be a travel journal, school notebook, planner, etc.

5.Pens
You can never have too many pens, especially when you’re in college. Enough said.

6.Sony Headphones
If you’re like me and go through headphones like a runner goes through socks (what can I say? I like my music loud) then having a spare set is always necessary. I’ve been using Sony ear buds since I my first iPod’s headphones crapped out back in 2007. They are on the cheap side ($10) and the sound is great seeing as I normally go through them every six-nine months.

7.Ricola
We all get sick at some point during a year time span so of course I included her preferred brand of cough drops. Fun fact: I sent her a very odd Facebook message in order to find out her preferences for certain things I wanted to include such as “Halls or Ricola?” and “EOS or Burt’s Bees?” which leads us to the next items.

8.Burt’s Bees Lip Balm
I love this stuff and have a tube hidden in all my purses. She preferred Burt’s Bees over EOS so I stuck two tubes of the beeswax lip balm into the box. Not going to lie, I was tempted to keep them.

9.Basic School Supplies
Glue sticks, notecards, pack of paperclips, a Post-It cube, crayons (Crayola because they are our childhood), Wite-Out and tape because let’s face it, she probably forgot the basic stuff when worrying about her laptop, charger, clothes, and Nintendo DS.

10.Peanut Butter-y Goodness
She had done a six week program in May and June 2015 so she had an idea about the snack situation in France. Being from the United States, we have a lot of different chocolate, nutty, delicious candies. I had asked if there was any candy, in general, that she couldn’t get in France that she loved and she said mostly it was anything that had peanut butter in them. As a disclaimer, I would like to point out she wasn’t saying you can’t buy peanut butter items anywhere in France but it just wasn’t common. To solve said problem I bought a bag of peanut butter M&Ms and a bag of Reese’s Miniature cups (Not the newer super small ones but the ones individually wrapped and the circumference is close the size of a quarter) and we plan to send her more Reese’s as the year goes on because we’re good friends.

11.Bookmarks
Nothing says we love you like taking the time to make something from scratch. I handmade a bookmark that she could use for textbooks, notebooks or novels.

And there you have it! A care package for someone going to France for nearly an entire year. One thing to keep in mind is how they are traveling. I asked multiple times if she would be putting the box into her checked or carry-on luggage because that makes a huge difference in what you can and cannot put into the package. Even though I know she was putting it into her checked luggage, I still tried keeping all liquids until 3oz and nothing too suspicious which is why I didn’t buy green tea in a thin plastic tube at the Michigan Renaissance Festival due to its’ physical similarity to marijuana. I didn’t want her bag to get riffled through and that box, which is sealed with packing tape, to get broke open.

Third Time’s The Charm: Tattoos

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Let’s be honest; it’s hard finding an accurate description of what getting a tattoo is like.

If you ask your friends, they’ll play it up to sound tougher, “It hurt so bad, I almost had to take a break at a couple of points but I made it through. Want to see it again?”

If you ask a parent or aunt/uncle, they’ll play it up to convince you it’s a bad idea, “It’s the worst pain in the world. Imagine thousands of hot pokers stabbing you at once and then being thrown into a fire. Don’t do it.”

I have three tattoos, all in different areas and none of my experiences have been that bad.

First off, tattoos don’t hurt that bad but then again they don’t feel all that great. Let’s just say, they definitely don’t tickle.

Tattoo number one.

Tattoo number one.

My first tattoo is what I call the “Spring-Breaker” because I got it during the last Saturday of my spring break when I was 17-years-old, it’s the size of a stereotypical spring break tattoo (a bit bigger than a golf ball) and it’s a paw print with “Mom” written underneath it.

My second is what I call my “Birthday Present to Myself” tattoo because I paid for it myself and got it done the day before my 19th birthday. I also will jokingly call it my “gang” tattoo because it is a Glock 23 with “Dad” written below the handle.

Which brings us to the third one I call my “Tim Burton” tattoo because everything about it is Tim Burton. A couple Christmases ago my parents bought me The Art of Tim Burton and one image always jumped out at me from one of the love notes Burton had sent to Helena Bonham-Carter. It looked like a shrunken head and I loved it instantly. I had been looking for a long time for a Burton inspired tattoo and knew I had found it but I wanted one of his quotes to go along with it. A Google later and I found it, “One person’s craziness is another person’s reality.”

The original image and love note from "The Art of Tim Burton."

The original image and love note from “The Art of Tim Burton.”

I made the appointment in February to get the tattoo done in July. Some of you may be wondering why wait? Let me explain something. I have only seen one person for all of my tattoos and plan to continue to see the same woman. Caryl Cunningham, the woman I trust with my dermal canvas, is really good, plain and simple. Not only does she book up quickly but she also travels and does conventions. So making the appointment months in advance in necessary. When I saw her at the end of July, she was already booked through the year and wasn’t taking any more appointments until she gets her calendar for next year.

Talk about being a hot inking commodity.

May I also mention she is one of the coolest people? Very laid back, talented and has so many stories of her customers and her travels.

Back to the matter at hand: pain.

Tattoos, to me, feel like a weird burning mixed with vibration. If it’s your first time, the artist may offer to do a quick line without ink so you know how it feels. Honestly, the outline is nothing and at times it can be easy to forget it’s happening. The shading/coloring in is when you remember you’re paying someone to put a permanent masterpiece on your skin. That part can start off a bit uncomfortable and the more it goes on the seemingly worse it gets. I would compare it to having a raw spot on your skin, like a busted blister, and continually poking it. Depending on the location, said raw spot could hurt more than if it were somewhere else. Anywhere there are nerve endings is where you’ll be wishing you had a tequila drip.

My first tattoo was on my hip and wasn’t bad at all. The worst part was when she colored in around the hipbone. The second tattoo was on my upper leg and toward the end, due to the amount of shading involved, I was ready to time out for a break. The third tattoo was weirdly the most painful. It was softball sized and on my right shoulder so I figured it wouldn’t be as bad as the second.

Tattoo number two.

Tattoo number two.

Nope.

My guess? I was exhausted and it’s always a poor decision to get anything that could be even mildly painful done when you’re in that state. I had just recently switched to working midnights so I had only gotten about three hours of sleep before leaving for Eternal Tattoos (where Cunningham is located) and I had to work that night as well so this was likely my fault. The good thing was it didn’t take long for her to finish.

But it came out amazing!

I had been worried when I found the image because it looks like Burton had used watercolor paint and I wasn’t sure how Cunningham would feel about trying to recreate it but she told me she was open to just about anything. When we walked in she was finishing up the stencil and making it look like the easiest thing in the world. If I hadn’t been completely at ease before, that definitely put me into my mental Zen.

The really cool part too was the way she covered it. Anyone who has gotten a tattoo before is probably familiar with the plastic covering and tape over your tattoo, you leave it on for a few hours then take it off and proceed to wash and moisturize the fresh ink two-three times a day. Cunningham used a different method and this was my first time with it. She referred to it as a “derm” and it’s used to help treat burn victims by helping to lock in plasma which keeps the tattoo naturally moisturized and also keeps clothing from rubbing against it. The good news is you leave it on for three days and once you take it off your tattoo is healed and all you have to do is survive the peeling phase they all go through.

The downside was how it feels. Because mine was on my shoulder I was nearly constantly aware of it when I tried to fall asleep. Cunningham warned me it would feel weird but I would describe it as a massive bubble that you need to be pop but instead you have to deal and try to get comfortable. The other downside is taking it off. Because of the placement of mine, I knew I would likely need help but Cunningham’s warning is what really made me seek assistance. Instead of pulling the “derm” up like a Band Aide, you have to pull outward parallel to your skin otherwise your skin could come off with it.

All healed tattoo number three.

All healed tattoo number three.

Excuse me…what?

May I note she told me this after it was on my body?

Honestly, taking it off wasn’t too bad but my dad, who helped to take it off, kept pulling upward and it caused it to sting. Once it was off, my skin was irritated in the areas surrounding but the actual tattoo felt perfectly fine. A couple days later I entered the itchy/peel-y phase of new tattoos and was so happy when it was over.

All in all, I would say the worse part of tattoo number three was getting the “derm” off and how itchy it was. Seeing as I’m a girl, I think the culprit was my bra strap constantly rubbing against it and making me want to roll around on a floor made of steel wool.