Subscription Box Therapy: Accio!

Accio! Is a magical monthly Harry Potter themed subscription box. This box is very different from J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World box by Loot Crate. While they are both filled with Harry Potter merchandise for all of us Potterheads out there, Accio! brings us items from independent artists every month, while J.K Rowling’s Wizarding World sends officially licensed merchandise every other month. 

Accio! is curated by two long time Harry Potter fans who conjure these magic boxes in Lawrence, Kanas – yes, where the Winchesters are from! If you don’t get that reference, then we may not be able to be friends. 

This was my first box from Accio! and it was fantastic! 

*Spoilers*

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I opened the box and practically screamed with excitement – this month’s theme is…..wait for it…. The Luna Box! Yes, Luna Lovegood one of my favorite characters from the books and movies. The description of what was in the box was printed on The Quibbler, how cute is that? 

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Luna Lovegood Magnetic Bookmark. This is one of those simple magnetic bookmarks that slip between the pages of your book and tend not to get beaten up like the bookmarks that stick out of your book. 

House Pride Friendship Bracelet. Each month Accio! sends at least one house specific item to you. I’m a Slytherin so I received the green bracelet – which I will also be using as a bookmark – aka a quitter stick. 

 

 

Luna Lovegood Articulated Paper Doll. I don’t know if I have ever owned a paper doll in my life, but if I did I doubt it was any were as nice as this one. This is really a piece of art. Now what I will do with it is another matter entirely. I do really like how her Spectrespecs and lion hat come off. 

 

 

Spectrespecs Fizzing Bath Bomb. This is adorable and hand painted. If I took baths, I’m sure I would love this. 1. I don’t have a bathtub, and 2. Pompe has robbed me of the ability to take baths. Maybe I’ll use it for a hand or foot soak. 

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Dirigible Plum Handpainted Leaf Print. The is a beautiful print, and yes, you can tell it was hand painted  It is very delicate so I’ll need to frame it. I like that it is super unique, just like Luna, and not just a typical graphic print. The photo does not do it justice. 

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And finally, as usual I have saved my favorite item for last. Luna’s Room Scented Candle. I’ve watched several unboxing videos about Accio! and these candles by Highland Bluff show up a lot. I was really hoping there would be one in this box. I was cautiously optimistic when I picked up the box from our mailbox – it was a little on the heavy side and marked “fragile.” The description says that once you have burned the candle all the way down you can use the container as a drinking glass – and I can totally see that. However, since it also comes with the wooden lid, I think I will be using mine as a container for reading and writing snacks either at my desk or in my book nook. The scent is described as cotton candy and watermelon and I feared it was going to be sickeningly sweet, but no it is sweet smelling, but just the right amount of sweet. It fills the air pretty well too, but it doesn’t take over the whole house. More stuff like this please Accio!

 

 

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If you’d like to sign up for Accio! and have your own box of magical goodies delivered, head on over to Cratejoy! 

Subscription Box Therapy: Stitch Fix

So, technically Stitch Fix isn’t a subscription box in the traditional sense, it is more of an online styling service. There is a $20 styling fee and of course the cost of the clothes you decide to keep. I hate shopping. I especially hate clothes shopping. I hate trying on clothes. It is just too much time, too many people, too many florescent lights, and too many spoons.* 

In the past I’ve picked out clothes and then brought them home to try on. If they didn’t fit or if I just didn’t like them on, I would take them back to the store. After I broke my leg a few years ago the only pants I could stand to wear because of where my surgical site was located were leggings. Jeans were especially bothersome, so I found Lu La Roe which kept me in comfortable, cute clothing that was delivered to my home. I knew what sizes and what styles worked for me, so that was more or less what I wore. Plus these items are easy to pack and easy to mix and match. Well, I mixed and matched myself into a Lu La Roe rut. I needed help. It was time to bring in professional help. Enter Stitch Fix

 

Stitch Fix uses a combination of algorithms and professional stylists to create your box. The algorithm takes many things into consideration, including your location. It then sends your stylist (a real live person) suggestions. Your stylist will look over your Style Profile (we’ll get to that in a bit), he or she will even look at your social media sites if you provide the links. Pinterest is probably their favorite. Here is a link to my board if you’re curious as to how I’ve set mine up.

Now, on to the Style Profile I mentioned… when you sign up for Stitch Fix, you’ll be asked to fill out your style profile. This shouldn’t take more than 10 or 15 minutes, but do take your time and make sure you are providing honest and specific information. This is not the time to shave off a few extra pounds or add a few inches to your height. Give them as many details as possible, in addition to the “multiple click to answer” choices, you’ll also be given places to type in whatever you feel your stylist should know about your, let’s say fashion quirks. I certainly have more than a few quirks myself. 

You decide what types of items you’d like to receive and how often (as in often, sometimes, or never or only when I ask), as well as how often you’d like your Stich Fix to arrive. You can even pick your delivery date. You set your own price points, for each type of item. So if you like to spend less on tops and more on shoes you can make those choices in your Style Profile. You may update and change your Style Profile as often as you wish.

Stitch Fix will send you 5 items. Remember that $20 styling fee I mentioned? That $20 will go towards anything you decide to purchase. And…. if you purchase all 5 items in the box, you’ll receive a 25% discount on the total. Plus you still get the $20 styling fee applied to your purchase. If you decide you don’t like any of the items and ship all 5 back, you will not get your styling fee back. Do you see why it is so important to be honest and detailed when filling out your Style Profile? 

Since I was on this subscription box binge and in a fashion rut, I decided to give Stitch Fix a try. I told my stylist that I spend most of the day seated in my scooter, so I needed clothes that look and feel good while sitting down. When I do physical therapy or exercise I change into fitness clothes – or just stay in my Lu La Roe because LLR is so comfortable. But again, I was in a rut and wanted to look a little more polished, especially when I went out on speaking engagements. I expected to like maybe one or two tops and that I would send the rest back, that maybe I would give Stitch Fix a second chance once I provided feedback on why I sent the items back. By the way, you have three days from the day you receive your box to get your returns in the mail. They provide a shipping label and shipping bag, all you have to do pack it all up and put in the mail. 

I opened the box and saw that they had sent me a pair of shoes. I had watched enough unboxing videos to know what the shoe bags looked like. “Uh-Oh’” I thought. I could have sworn I didn’t ask for shoes because I am so picky with them. They need to have excellent grips to keep me from slipping and sliding when I am up on my feet. I did go back and look at my Style Profile and I had requested that they sometimes send me shoes – so that was totally on me. 

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The shoe bag! Which is great for packing.

My Stylist sent me a pair of Toms. I tried them on and immediately loved them, until I tried to get up on my feet. Sigh. They were way too slick, especially on my bathroom floor. Bummer. 

I moved on to my clothing bundle. Where I found two tops, a cardigan, and a pair of jeans. A pair of jeans?! I haven’t worn jeans in years due to the lack of comfort from my scar tissue and sitting most of the day. Plus the last time I tried to buy jeans I felt like I had to try on dozens and dozens of pairs at multiple stores which ended in failure. Sigh. Well, I knew I would be a challenge to style and fit, but I was hoping the tops and cardigan would work out, so I started with those. 

Low and behold they all fit and I loved them. I then decided I needed to at least try the jeans on so I could provide feedback on why they didn’t fit. I knew they were going to be too long – the curse of being vertically challenged. Imagine my surprise when they actually fit me – everywhere! And they had some stretch to them so I was super comfortable sitting down, plus the seam on the side didn’t bother my leg with all the scar tissue! What was this sorcery? I decided to give the shoes another try to complete the whole outfit and I was blown away at how well everything looked and felt. Wow! My aunt and uncle were blown away too because we all tend to buy the same things over and over again once we know they fit so we don’t have to actually go shopping. They are both considering giving Stitch Fix a try – yes, they style men too! 

Here are photos of my Stitch Fix haul:

 

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They send you a personalized note from your Stylist and styling suggestions to go with each piece. I decided to keep the slippery Toms because they were so comfortable and went so well with everything else. I purchased some non-slip grips for the soles and they are much safer for me now. Since I purchased all the items in the box I received a 25% discount and after deducting my $20 styling fee I only paid $187 for everything in box! I hope Stitch Fix continues to hit the mark with me, it will save me so much time, effort, frustration, and most importantly spoons! 

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I love that they include a personal note from your stylist as well as outfit suggestions for the items they’ve sent you.

Wanna give Stitch Fix without having to gamble a $20 styling fee?

Use my any of my Stitch Fix links and they will waive your first $20 styling fee, and I will earn a $25 credit! Yay – we both win! Basically you get try Stitch Fix risk free. If your box arrives and you don’t like any of the items, simply ship it back. They pay for all the shipping! Plus, you may even get a referral link of your own to pass on to friends and family. What do you have to lose? Except maybe the fashion rut you might be stuck in like I was? 

*Too many spoons refers to the limited amount of spoons a person with a chronic condition has to spend in a day. Based on The Spoon Theory Theory by Christine Miserandino.

Subscription Box Therapy: Jersey Shore Cosmetics

I first fell in love with Jersey Shore Cosmetics when I received their lip balm through my Ipsy subscription. Their lip balm is fantastic and now that I am living in a much, much, much drier climate I actually finish tubes of lip balm! I was under the impression that never happened, that half used lip balm tubes ended up in the same place as lonely socks. 

*Spoilers*

Once again this is a monthly subscription service that sends you a quality product for a fraction of what you’d pay elsewhere. 

Here is what I received:

I now have lip balm strategically placed around my room so it is never far from my reach. I did cancel the subscription after this shipment, only because I didn’t think I needed another 4 tubes next month. When I start running low, I have every intention of signing up again. You can purchase just two tubes in a shipment as well. 

Once again, head on over to Cratejoy to check out Jersey Shores Cosmetic’s subscription service. 

Subscription Box Therapy: The Wallflower Box

The Wallflower Box is a monthly subscription box service created for introverts, by introverts. One of the founders is a Professional Counselor and introvert – so she gets us. The box contains self care items and a book. You had me at introvert and book! 

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*Spoilers*

When I opened the box the first thing I spotted was a note from one of the founders entitled Introvert Insights

Recipe Cards. These are a nice touch and sound delicious and easy to make. I probably won’t be making these as they are extremely high in carbs, which is not good for us Pompe folks. 

Mint & Rose Quartz Wellness Candle. This is gorgeous and so fragrant, it smells like you’re in a spa. I was worried that when lit, it will make the whole house smell like mint – not my aunt’s favorite scent. However, it really isn’t that potent and the scent doesn’t travel that far. Perfect for a small, cozy place – you know, where us introverts are at home in our natural environment. 

Natural Hand and Foot Balm. This is some serious balm. It is not lotion or even body butter, it is balm. It is really thick, but goes on easy. 

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White Porcelain Ramekins. Who couldn’t use these? I like to use them to hold my reading and writing snacks, they are great for portion control. 

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Rejuvenating Rose Cream. This is a very nice skin cream with a floral fragrance. I have plenty of facial care products so I am not sure how much use this is going to get, but it is nice. It just doesn’t fit in with my other skin care products. 

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Preserve Company Sugar Scrub. This stuff is wonderful. It is a great exfoliant, but not too rough and I love the scent. My only complaint is that it comes in a glass jar. I have been known to drop things and I wouldn’t want to drop this and have it break in the shower. I think I will be transferring it to a klutz proof container. 

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Recipe Journal & Pen. I love how the notepad has a pen holder, I am forever looking for a pen when I need to jot something down. 

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One of my favorite items was the Forget Me Not Blossom Kit. This is not something I would purchase on my own and I have never been good with plants or gardening, but I am looking forward to seeing if I can keep it alive. The kit was easy to use and not at all messy. I really hope I’ll have some flowers soon, and not just a box with dirt in it. Feel free to send prayers for my flowers. 

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And finally, the best part… ok, all the items in the box were pretty awesome, but the book. This book: The Quiet Rise of Introverts by Brenda Knowles. 

I know I am not going to love every single item in a box, I especially have a low tolerance for beauty items. This has more to do with the fact that I already own more than enough beauty items thanks to Rodan & Fields and an Ipsy subscription I had for over two years. Not wanting more beauty items in my subscription boxes is just my personal preference at this time. That being said, I LOVE THIS BOX! I am looking forward to the next one. 

If you are interested in ordering The Wallflower Box, head on over to Cratejoy and check them out.  

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Subscription Box Therapy: Fab Fit Fun

Fab Fit Fun is a seasonal, or quarterly box, filled with fashion and beauty items. It is not normally something I would steer towards, but they offered some really good deals for their spring box. I could either save $20 on the box, or pay full price and receive 3 additional, full size, items. I chose the latter and I am glad I did. All three items are amazing, but one I was really, really, really hoping to try. And I love it!

 

*Spoilers*

Here are my three bonus items: 

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I was excited to try the Spongelle body wash infused buffer and was not disappointed. And who doesn’t love argon oil? At first I didn’t really care for the Ahava hand cream because I wasn’t fond of the scent, but since it is mineral based it is less greasy than most hand cremes. I ended up keeping it in my desk drawer so I can keep my hand moisturized without getting anything on my keyboard. 

Now on to the rest of the box! Concealing ridge filler? I didn’t know such a thing existed. It is too soon to know how well it works, but I am happy to give it a try. Murad is a brand I had actually heard of and it has made a nice addition to my skin hydration needs because – Colorado. The Dove exfoliating polish was  a sponsored item, so a “freebie” if you will. I haven’t tried it yet because it is a great travel size.

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Next up is this whimsical medieval torture device. Just kidding, It’s the Physique 57 Massage Roller. It is supposed to help your sore muscles and even break up scar tissues, which I have a LOT of after all the surgeries and biopsies on my legs. I hope it is up to the challenge! 

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I think this next item is my favorite. It is the Anderson Lilley candle. It retails for $45 which is about what I paid for the entire Fab Fit Fun box and I can’t imagine throwing down almost $50 for a candle. I absolutely LOVE the copper colored vessel and the fragrance I received was Super Bloom – which is amazing and not too flowery as the name would have you believe. 

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These next two items are, well… one is ok and the other is the only item in the box that I really didn’t care for. The sleep mask is super cute and it has a removable cooling insert to really relieve tired, puffy eyes. I have owned masks like this before and I really only end up using them a couple of times a year. The earrings are just not me. Not me in any way shape for form.  I have started the process of trying to find them a new home. 

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The KNC Beauty All Natural Collagen Infused Lip Masks arrived in this super cute pouch. While these claim to plump your lips, I am more interested in the hydrate part, because again – Colorado. This is something, that if after I’ve used the entire pack and like how they work I would consider purchasing because it is so dry here. 

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I love this Rachel Pally clutch and was thrilled to get this color and pattern. The colors remind me of Florida and it is reversible. 

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This Lip Statement Palette by ISH is super nice. While not all the colors work for my coloring, I think there is at least one or two that could work for almost any skin tone. My aunt and I are opposites (as in, I’m a cool and she’s a warm) so we can share. 

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This box gave me a chance to try products I wouldn’t normally come across or have even heard of. I am very happy with my purchase. Fab Fit Fun estimates the value of the products in the box is about $350, and that is not including my 3 bonus items. Fab Fit Fun is a great value. I am unsure at this point if I will order the summer box, but I do have some time to make a decision. While I love the products I received, and feel it is an incredible value, I am not sure I will need or want more items like this in just a few months. Time will tell.

Fab Fit Fun is one of the few boxes I’ve subscribed to that is not available through Cratejoy, so head on over to Fab Fit Fun’s site to check them out.

Subscription Box Therapy: The Guidance Box

On my quest to keep myself busy with subscription boxes, I came across The Guidance Box. It sounded like a perfect fit for me. It was a box designed to help people who were dealing with some pretty heavy life and emotional issues. They call it a “Monthly Wellness Box.” 

With most subscription boxes the value of the items is much more than what you paid for the box. The Guidance Box was $25. I would like my $25 dollars back please. Ok, you can keep the $4 you spent at the Dollar Store on these items. I have nothing against the Dollar Store (or other stores like that), my aunt and I love getting jigsaw puzzles there, you just don’t expect to find those items in a subscription box. Subscription boxes often send you items you couldn’t easily get your hands on, like exclusive items, or items if purchased separately would cost a lot more than what you paid for the box. 

There wasn’t even a note or product description card. It was basically a random box of of stuff, almost a grab bag. I kind of get what they were going for, but they really missed the mark.

 

*Spoilers* 

Here is what was in my box:

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I think I may have received one of their last shipments because I can no longer find them on Cratejoy  and when I try to go directly to their site:

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Screen shot from my phone when I tried to visit their site.

I am not sure if they will open up shop again, but I will not be ordering another box. There are too many other options out there.

Subscription Box Therapy: Singles Swag – updated

I made a rookie mistake. I passed judgement on an item from my subscription box before having tried it. I mentioned that the socks included in my Singles Swag subscription box  seemed a bit pricey at $14 a pair. Well, yes, $7 a foot does seem like a lot for a pair of thin ankle height socks. However… wearing them made me a believer. I love these socks! I think they were designed to do yoga in, but I believe they were destined to be embraced by the feet of people like me. People like my Pompe Peeps! 

These socks are super comfortable, and while they are thin, they seem to keep my feet warm – inside the house. Have you ever seen or had to wear those so-called grip/safety socks they make you wear in the hospital? They are supposed to keep your feet warm and they have grippy stuff on the bottom. They are not comfortable, and that grippy stuff is kind of a joke for patients like me. I still slip and slide like Bambi on ice with those on. 

The Tavi Noir Savvy Grip Socks from my sub box have grip that rivals some of my shoes! My bathroom tile is super slick. And I swear these socks grip as well, if not slightly better than, my sneakers. It is nice being able to casually hang around the house in a pair of socks again. That is something that Pompe had taken away from me. 

For those of us who struggle with balance and slick surfaces – these socks are our new best friends. So much so, I had to dig the discount code out of the trash that I casually tossed out. 

So, I apologize to both Singles Swag and Tavi Noir for being so quick to judge. Pompe Peeps – check out the Tavi Noir site, you and your feet will love these socks. 

Thank you Singles Swag and Tavi Noir for giving me back sock days at home!

You can sign up for Singles Swag and other great subscription boxes at Cratejoy.

Subscription Box Therapy: Singles Swag

In my previous post I told you that I ordered some, ok several, subscription boxes to help me cope with the upcoming reminders of the worst year of my life. In this entry I will be reviewing the Singles Swag subscription box.

First, for those of you who may not know what a subscription box is, according to Wikipedia,  “It is a recurring delivery of niche purchases.” Huh? Ok, you find stuff you like, books, food, fitness, beauty, hobbies, whatever – there is a subscription box out there for just about every interest. You pay a flat rate for a box (plus shipping) and once a month or quarter or every other month (there are lots of options) a box filled with surprises lands in your happy little hands. You can pay month to month and usually cancel anytime. Most of the time, there are no commitments or contracts. However if you pay upfront for say 3 months or a year, you usually won’t be able to get a refund. It is like having someone who really “gets you” pick out gifts for you, that you paid for – so choose wisely. 

On to Singles Swag. It is a monthly subscription box for the single women out there! (link) It is way to treat yourself or you can gift it to someone. The box is pretty reasonable in price and you get more than your monies worth. For me however, I won’t be renewing. It just isn’t a good fit for me.

*Spoilers*

 

 

 

 

Here is what was in my March box – 

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The Beauty Crop Glow Milk Illuminator. This product gets an A+ for packaging. So cute! It would probably work better for one someone who has a darker skin tone than I do.

 

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Jules Smith Dreamer Necklace. This is not me at all. It looks cheap and I dislike yellow gold and this is really, really yellow. They have the retail price listed at $68. Ok. Moving on.

 

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Tavi Noir Savvy Grip Socks. These are very nice and I would never pay $14 for a pair of socks, so I will enjoy them and pretend I’m fancy!

 

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How To Sew A Button: And Other Nifty Things Your Grandmother Knew. This is not a book I would purchase because basically everything in it is either common sense, or the instructions on how to do something can be found on the internet, or by asking my Aunt Jan. However, it is a well-organized book that has lots of information. It is written with wit and whimsy so it is not your run of the mill how-to book.

 

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There was a bonus item – chocolate. Sadly, the chocolate was not that great.

 

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All in all, the box is a great value and it can make a nice treat for just about any woman – single or not. It just wasn’t a good fit for me personally. Other than the chocolate and the necklace, the other items were of good quality. 

Here is a link to the Singles Swag page on Cratejoy.

And we’re coping, we’re coping, we’re coping….

It is quickly approaching the one year anniversaries of my parents’ deaths. My dad passed on March 20th and my mom on May 10th. The past year has taken its toll on me for sure, but for the most part, I think I’ve been doing well, all things considered. I’m coping. 

I never fully understood what people were talking about when they spoke of being triggered. Until recently. I was Netflixing (What? That’s a word) a show and one of the main characters was told his father had suffered a stroke and passed away. I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. I immediately turned off that show and haven’t been able to resume watching it. I am still a bit weirded out that I simply watched something happen to a fictional character and had a distressing reaction. I guess that is what being triggered feels like. Either way, it sucked and maybe I am not coping as well as I thought I was. Maybe I am. We all deal with stress and grief in different ways, and it seems to be unpredictable.

The next day my J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World subscription box arrived. It brightened my day after a really rough night.* So, in preparation for the worst anniversaries I will have to live through, I have ordered some subscription boxes. It gives me something to look forward to, instead of just dreading the anniversary dates and wondering how I will react. It gives me something to focus on, and each box is always a surprise – hopefully they are good surprises! And not the, “what the crap is this and why did I pay for it” kind of surprises. I guess it is kind of like retail therapy, but I loathe shopping. Plus some of the items can’t be purchased in stores. 

I am going to try to review each of these boxes in an effort to keep my mind busy. It may even help some of you decide if you’d like to jump on the subscription box bandwagon, or try some new ones. Or perhaps steer away from others. 

So, up first is the aforementioned J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World. This January’s theme was The Ties that Bind. I’ve received this box for about a year now, it is by Loot Crate. It arrives every other month and it often comes with at least one house specific item. 

One of the silly things I really like about these boxes – is well, the boxes themselves. You can turn them inside out for a bit of Harry Potter storage fun. A previous box turned into a luggage trunk. It now sits underneath my book nook chair and contains my Slytherin throw blanket. But enough about the box and on to what’s inside the box. 

 

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*SPOILER ALERT*

This box was “lighter” on the number items than previous boxes and some of the Looters complained about it. I however really liked what was included and would rather have a couple of nice quality items than a bunch of cheap ones. 

First up was a Hogwarts house tie. It is a nice quality tie and has your house symbol on it. I already have a costume replica of my house tie that I bought at Universal Orlando a long time ago, so I am kind of glad it is a tad different. I do like my replica tie better, because – replica. 

Next up is Rowena Ravenclaw’s Diadem pin and it is beautiful. Loot Crate has been sending a what seems to be a series of Horcrux pins in their boxes. 

The next item is the only non-exclusive item in the box. It is a paperback copy of From the Films of Harry Potter, The Wand Collection.  This is not something I would likely purchase on my own, but I am glad it was included. It is well done and very interesting. I believe I saw the hardcover version of it in Barnes & Noble yesterday, but again it is not something I would normally purchase. That is one of the many things I love about subscription boxes, you end up with things you love that you’d never buy. 

And finally, I’ve saved my favorite item for last! The Black Family Tree Tapestry Shawl/Scarf. I LOVE this item. It reproduces the Black family tree, burned out faces and all, on a super soft and gorgeous scarf. You could hang this on your wall, across a table or your bed, but I will be wearing mine – and I already have. 

 

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Loot Crate offers loads more subscription box choices. Head on over to their site and check them out.

If your are interested in other types of subscription boxes visit Cratejoy’s site, they are marketplace for all sorts of subscription boxes. 

I will continue to cope, unbox, and as always Keep Fighting!

•In an effort to be completely honest with my readers, I feel I should tell you that I also took a small dose of Valium that night after my metaphorical punch in the gut. I’ve tried to stay away from meds as much as possible, but sometimes I have to admit defeat and seek extra help. 

Happy Freakin’ New Year

Dear 2017,

I’m glad you’re gone. I’m glad you are now past tense. I’ve never been so happy to see the back end of a year. You were a bully. You were cruel. You seemed to take pleasure in finding new ways to torture me. But I survived because the people in my life stood next to me and picked me up every time you knocked me down. It is now 2018 and I hope 2018 kicks your butt! 

Thanks for the worst year ever. Screw you 2017.

Sincerely,

Not your fan

Saying good-bye is never easy. Except to a year that sucked beyond belief. Beyond my worst nightmares. Actually 2017 was my worst nightmares come to life. As we enter 2018, I have hope that it will be a better year, but the wounds and baggage from 2017 will continue to plague my existence and there is not much I can do about that.  

Let’s go back to the beginning. 2017 started like any other year. My dad and I went on a Disney cruise for my birthday. Then something new and exciting happened, something I had been hoping to happen for years – my Aunt J and Uncle G joined us on a week long Celebrity cruise. We had a wonderful and relaxing time. It was really nice just being with my family. Before 2017 our family had suffered a few setbacks and scares, so this cruise seemed to come on the tail end of a series of mishaps which included a couple of broken bones that required surgery (both my uncle and I), a very serious cancer scare, a very bad reaction to a pain relieving surgery, and a serious fall down a flight of stairs in a foreign country. As the the four of us enjoyed our week long adventure of sea, sun, fun, food, and togetherness the forces of evil and torture were circling around us. 

Back in November of 2016, my mother had gone in for emergency umbilical hernia surgery. She’d had this surgery before and recovered as expected. However this time, she struggled with her strength and mobility to the point I had her tested for Pompe Disease – just in case. She did not have Pompe. She was in and out of in-patient rehabilitation until they finally allowed her to go home against medical advice. She refused to get the care she needed, which was putting her in a long term care home – even if only for a month. What I found out later was that she wasn’t doing the physical therapy work she was assigned. Two of my aunts and I spent hours and hours on the phone trying to keep senior protective services from taking her away because that is not what she wanted. It was a giant mess and I was stressed more than I had ever been. I went on anti-anxiety meds for the first time in my life. Trying to get my mom the help she needed in her home went on for months, I spent hours and hours on the phone and internet as did my two aunts. I spoke to all of her health care professionals and social workers and neighbors. I was in Florida, she was in Nevada, and my aunts were in Colorado and Georgia. I was on the phone or internet for hours every day for weeks trying to get her the help she needed. I paid for a nurse to come help her, I paid for food, and groceries to be delivered to her since she couldn’t get out of the house. My aunt and I made plans to go to Las Vegas at the end of March to try and get her better situated in person. We didn’t end up going to Las Vegas until May. 

My dad and I had a our usual assortment of travel adventures coming up. We booked a trip to Asia for April 2017 to visit Shanghai Disneyland. From there we would fly to Tokyo and spend some time there before setting sail on a cruise from Tokyo to Vancouver. About 4 weeks before we were scheduled depart, my world changed forever – my father suffered a heart attack and passed away. I’ve lost people and experienced grief before, but this hit me harder than anything every has. I couldn’t eat or sleep, and I was physically ill. It was probably a good thing that I was already on anti-anxiety meds because without them I am sure I would have been even worse. 

Thankfully I have some really amazing friends in Florida who were there by my side immediately and my Aunt J and Uncle G arrived the next day – they had just returned to Colorado from our cruise on March 1 and now they were back. I’m an only child so I had no siblings to share this burden, but again, thankfully my friends and family were there.  I will be forever grateful to Susan, Jeanne, Jagger, Cristy, Anne, and Angelica for making sure I was never alone and didn’t have to leave my room until I was ready. I am grateful that Allen was able to pick my aunt and uncle up from the airport so I am grateful to may aunt and uncle’s neighbor who drove them to the Denver airport in the middle of the night so they could be with me the very next day. I didn’t have leave the comfort and safety that was my room. I wasn’t ready to explore the rest of the apartment my father and I had shared. It was a couple of weeks before I could even go into his room, we kept the door shut when people had to go in there because it was just too painful for me to see his room without him in it. 

My cousins and Aunt K and Uncle H flew in as well from Colorado, Kentucky, and California. Somehow thanks to a LOT of support I got through planning and executing my dad’s services and I think he would have been happy with the choices we made. We had a simple military ceremony at the National Cemetery in Cape Canaveral – very fitting seeing as we cruised out of Port Canaveral numerous times over the years and it was one of his happy places. The next day we had a “Celebration of Life” at our clubhouse. I know how cheesy that can sound, but it really wasn’t. My friend Leanna, whom my father thought of as a niece, created  a beautiful slide show of photos of my dad and set it to music from Main Street USA where he had worked since 2007.*  We prepared some his favorite foods to serve at the Celebration including explanations of what they were and quotes from dad about the items. Such as: Mashed Potatoes – “I’m Irish and I’ve never met a potato I didn’t like.” – Bill Griffin. Loads of people he worked with at Disney came by and shared stories of his antics, my family really enjoyed hearing about his life as part of the Main Street Mafia – if you have to ask, then you don’t need to know. Wink. Wink. I asked people to sign a guest book and share a story about my dad. People has some great things to say about him. I will treasure that book.

After the services were over and the out-of-towners headed back home, it was just my Aunt J and I. She stayed behind to help me figure out what to do next. She ended up staying with me in Florida for almost 6 months.

I needed to make a decision on what to do, as in where to live and who to live with. I had a number of offers, which is always nice. As much as I would have loved to stay in Florida, it made the most sense for me to move to Colorado with my Aunt J and Uncle G. They are both retired and are around to help me with the things Pompe prevents me from doing on my own. Plus, it is not just my aunt and uncle here. It’s my cousin and her husband who live in the same neighborhood, two of her kids, my other cousin, my cousin’s husband has a sister, daughter, and grandson in the area as well. Our family gatherings can be up to 11 people. Family game night is a thing! An awesome thing! And most of them are now hooked on escape games too! I miss my amazing friends in Florida. I miss the weather soooooooo much. I miss the beach, theme parks, cheap cruises and all that, but I am so blessed to be surrounded by family. I have good medical care here and didn’t miss an infusion with the move thanks to my nursing company and my Case Managers at Genzyme. As hard as it was to leave Florida, the transition into my new life here in Colorado has been pretty good. 

Once the decision was made that I would move to Colorado, the packing and planning needed to begin. I had my things as well as my father’s things to sort through. The first order of business was to deal with dad’s bank account. So my aunt and I went over to his bank and handed them the death certificate, but my father had not named a beneficiary on his account. They gave me instructions on what I needed to file with the probate court. My aunt and I went to the court and filed the paperwork and I paid the over $300 filing fee. We followed the clerk’s instructions on what to include and what not to include. A week letter a rejection letter from the court arrived. My parents who had been separated for over 23 years were still in fact legally married and therefore my mother was automatically the beneficiary. My mother was in Nevada and didn’t know my father had passed away – it was his wish that she didn’t know. Plus she was dealing with her own medical issues. I did have power of attorney papers for her which did allow me to have my father’s body released from the medical examiner to the funeral home. But those papers did nothing in the eyes of the probate court. Then just 7 weeks after my father passed away, my mom passed away. She went downhill so quickly that even her nurses and doctors were shocked. No one can tell me what she died of. No one. I had them send me her medical records and I’ve had a couple of my nurses look through them and no one seems to know. 

Everything in Florida came to a screeching halt when I got word that my mom had passed. My Aunt J and I had to get to Las Vegas immediately. We had to make arrangements and clear out her apartment. That was a nightmare of different color. Stating that she was a pack rat is putting it nicely. She was a hoarder, not like the hoarders you see on tv who live with piles of trash. She just had multiples of everything and everything was stuffed into every nook and cranny in that place. We counted over 100 pairs of shoes, 14 Christmas tea pots, 6 leather coats, and so on and so on. To walk into her place you wouldn’t know she was a hoarder, everything was put away and she had decorated her place nicely. Remember folks, hoarding isn’t just about trash it is about buying and buying in excess. It is not always about living in cramped conditions, it is an addiction to buying “stuff” and not letting go of it. Also, from time to time you should raid your pantry and throw out expired food. My cousin and his wife stayed at my mom’s place the weekend of the clean out – the rest of us were at a hotel on The Strip (Thanks to a generous discount from one of my sorority sisters). My cousin called one morning before we got to the apartment and asked if he could get rid of any expired food and then donate the rest. Sure! Great idea! When we arrived at the apartment he had a fun new game for all of us: Guess how long ago the oldest product expired? The answer: 22 years ago! Clean out your pantry and fridge at least once a year, or even every Leap Year for crying out loud! 

When I got news that my mother had passed away less than two months after my father’s death, I took my struggle to Facebook. I didn’t know where else to turn. I needed more help than my closest circle of friends and family could provide. Friends from all over the world stepped up and helped me. They gave me help I didn’t even know I needed. I asked for help with packing both in Nevada and Florida, but my friends did way more than that. A friend from elementary school asked for people to help me financially – I didn’t even think I needed that kind of help. Boy was I wrong! Thank you Heather for having the foresight to know I’d need that kind of help. Death is freaking expensive. Taking a last minute trip from Florida to Nevada is expensive! Plane tickets, hotel, food, cab fare, everything! People offered frequent flyer miles, buddy passes, hotel discounts, help with packing and packing supplies, flowers and cards arrived, meals were purchased, well wishes and prayers were sent. My friends Candi and Rob sent me a wonderful book on how to cope with loss. Everything everyone did, no matter how big or how small helped and was greatly appreciated. I am not sure I would have survived this year if it wasn’t for the support I received from everyone. In the end I sent out over 100 thank you cards to people who came to my rescue in my darkest hour of need. 

When my Aunt J and I arrived in Las Vegas, we were greeted by Aunt K and Uncle H from California and my high school/theater buddy Carie also made the journey from California to Las Vegas. My aunt and I arrived pretty late and so we had to wait until the next day to head over to my mom’s apartment to clear out her belongings. I had spoken to someone in the office a few days earlier as well one of my mom’s case managers from Hospice and gave them our travel plans. They both told me to take as much time as we needed to clear everything out and not to worry about the rent that was now overdue. We met with the apartment complex manager who proceeded to tell us that we would need to be let in and out of my mom’s place by a staff member and could only be there during business hours. Oh, and that we only had 2 days to clear everything out. This is just the tip of the iceberg of our dealings with the apartment manager, I have it all documented and may post it separately because I don’t have the strength to go through it all again. Basically she was drunk with power and cold hearted and wrong. We got her overruled and over 10 days of 12 – 15 hours a day and with the help of over 30 people we got the apartment cleared out. And the apartment manager got what she deserved – fired. Not that I would want to interfere with anyone’s ability to earn an income, but this manager was in the wrong line of work and I think she may have even broken the law. The apartment community staff and residents are much better off without her at the wheel. 

My cousin Lani Kai and Aunt LaVonne from California also came to my rescue in Las Vegas. As I mentioned, my mom had a LOT of stuff. Everything from antiques both authentic and reproductions, a mink coat, valuable art work, loads and loads of silver and gold and fine china. A lot of this stuff I had never seen before. And we are pretty sure the China Hutch had some sort of magical Tardis-like power because it kept producing more and more stuff. No matter how many items we pulled out of it, there always seemed to be more. It took hours to unload it. 

We discovered that Las Vegas isn’t really the market for vintage anything. Well, what can you expect from a city that tears down buildings every other day and builds bigger and better ones? My Uncle H spent days dealing with consignment shops and dealers in the area and no one wanted anything in that apartment. Well, ok one lady offered about $200 for some furniture and tea cups. Aunt LaVonne knows a woman with a consignment shop in California who was happy to take on a LARGE U-Haul truck crammed with stuff. Everything from furniture to tea cups to porcelain figurines. That cleared out the majority of “stuff” but it took a team of about 10 of us all day to get the truck loaded – but it was worth it. That truck pulling away was a huge weight lifted. I had no idea what I was going to do with all the “stuff” until Lani Kai and LaVonne arrived. 

After the worst trip to Las Vegas ever, my aunt and I headed back to Florida. We were mentally and physically exhausted as my infusion nurse pointed out. He put us both under strict orders not to do anymore work of any kind for a week. Otherwise he feared I would end up in the hospital. I had a speaking engagement in Louisiana that week, so while it was technically a business trip it was also a very nice and much needed get away for my aunt and I. We returned from that trip much more refreshed than we had from the Las Vegas trip.

All this time I was still going back and forth with probate court over my father’s estate. They kept telling us it is a simple case and should only take another week or two. We heard this over and over again. Each time I submitted more paperwork they had new problems with it. It was like they were making up new excuses not to process things and they were very inconsistent. We kept putting off the move to Colorado because we were under the misguided delusion that this court thing would be wrapped up quickly. Additionally, I was still responsible for the lease on my apartment that wasn’t up until November. Finally we just decided to suck it up and start the move to Colorado and deal with whatever may come our way with probate court and the breaking of my lease. Probate is still pending and I have no idea what to do next other than having to hire lawyers in both Nevada and Florida – which is really not in the budget. Getting out of my lease was much easier than I expected and the staff and management couldn’t have been more helpful. The exact opposite of how the manager at my mom’s place treated me. 

So my Uncle G flew back to Florida from Colorado to help my Aunt J and I with the drive. And also, he hadn’t seen his wife for the better part of 6 months and wanted to make sure she still knew what he looked like. He along with my cousin and her husband did drive from Colorado to Las Vegas when we were there, but that was a quick and chaotic trip for all of us. Finally, they were reunited for good and we made the trek home. We had all these plans to stop at 3 Presidential libraries on the way home. However, once we got on the road, we all just wanted to get home as quickly as possible. This move had been drawn out for so long that is was time to just get to Colorado and put that last chapter behind us. 

The journey from Florida to Colorado was not without its misadventures. A semi made a left hand turn right in front of us on the highway causing us and everyone else around us to slam on our breaks. The next day a couch fell off a pick up truck on the highway sending us and all the cars swerving to miss the debris and struggling to see through the snowstorm of cotton stuffing that exploded everywhere. After several long days on the road we finally arrived home. We pulled into the driveway and my aunt and uncle went to unload my scooter from the back of my car. There was a problem. My scooter was not there! It had fallen off the lift somewhere between the Kansas/Colorado state line (our last pit stop) and home. So the hits just keep right on coming! Of course, this was a Sunday of a holiday weekend so there were no mobility stores open. We made some phone calls and ended up at Wal-Mart to purchase a manual wheelchair. The two days I had to spend in that chair were exhausting and uncomfortable. On Tuesday when the mobility shop opened up I bought a new scooter – out of pocket. Why? Because I didn’t have pre-authorization from the insurance company and that takes months. I still don’t know if I will get my insurance to cover the cost of it. 

I have still not settled the estates for either of my parents. That is whole mess of crap. No wills, no beneficiaries named, probate court in two different states – neither of which I currently live in. Folks – write a will, name beneficiaries, open a trust. Probate is not fun nor is it cheap. Do not put your family through this crap. Please! 

My cousin Val volunteered to help me make final arrangements for my mom in California. The plan is to place her remains in a family plot where her parents and brother are buried. You’d think it would be simple enough right? Nope. Val and my Aunt J called the cemetery to ask about pricing and what needed to be done to make this happen. We’ve gotten several different answers. A family friend who lives near the cemetery even visited and tried to get to the bottom of things. We keep getting different answers and different hoops to jump through. I need permission from my mom’s brother to use the plot for her. We’ve been told there is a form he needs to sign, but no one can seem to produce this form. We’ve also been told there is no form. We’ve been told that they can’t start the paperwork until we schedule services. We’ve been told we can’t schedule services until the paperwork is complete. Anyway, Val was on top of this and you don’t want to mess with her when she is determined to get something done – then in October, the unthinkable happened. Her father, my Uncle H (the one who came to Florida and Nevada with my Aunt K when my parents passed) took a nasty fall, hit his head, and suffered a heart attack. Val did CPR on him and EMTs got his heart started again in the ambulance. He was unresponsive for days, but did have brain activity so we had hope. It was very touch and go and he had a set back his first night out of ICU. The nurse didn’t listen to Val’s instructions about putting his I-Pap on him before he went to sleep. So he stopped breathing during the night and back to ICU he went. His sister, a retired nurse was soon on hand to help make sure nothing like that would happen again. Val was prepared to sleep in the hallway or lobby to make sure her father was getting the care he needed. Well, their persistence paid off and he is scheduled to go home on January 4th.

I also had surgery in November. Remember the broken leg I mentioned earlier? About 3 years ago I broke my femur and had rods and screws placed in my leg. The bone healed nicely and I did all my physical therapy, but 3 years later I was still in pain. My new doctor here in Colorado suggested that I be seen by an orthopedic specialist and I agreed. The surgeon suggested that I have the hardware removed and that could get rid of the pain since I had an inch of metal sticking out of my bone in two spots. Also, I had a tendon that ran over those two sharp pieces of metal every time I stood up and tried to walk. So I agreed to surgery and it went pretty well. Because of my Pompe Disease, I opted for light sedation and an epidural. That’s right, I was awake during the surgery, but it was the best thing for my respiratory system. It was weird and a little scary, but I know I made the right decision not to be put under. As well as the surgery went, the recovery was a lot tougher than the initial surgery. I was in a lot of pain and discomfort for the first couple of weeks and was not allowed to put any weight on it. I have been house bound for about 5 weeks now. The pain is almost completely gone and I start physical therapy on Wednesday. Hopefully that will give me some independence back or at the very least, mean that I won’t experience the pain I had before the hardware was removed. 

2017 continued to take aim at my family. There was a semi-emergency gall bladder surgery, a job loss, two beloved family pets had to be put down, a gas leak that could have been deadly, and a mining company wants to put a gravel pit in behind our house. 

Dear 2018,

I am still recovering from an abusive relationship with 2017. Please be gentle, patient, and kind. I would love for some great things to happen in 2018, but I am more than happy to settle for no more tragedies. My family and I really need a break. 

Hoping for a better year.

Sincerely, 

Your hopeful fan

*Click here to view the slideshow Leanna created for my dad’s Celebration of Life Gathering:  Bill1 2