Thank you, Easter Bunny

There’s nothing quite like a holiday to trigger all your perfectionist demons.

I love the reasons we celebrate Easter: the resurrection of Jesus, if you’re a Jesus person, or the coming of spring if you’re not. But like many holidays, it comes with a ton of cultural pressure that mostly lands on Mamas. And whether I can meet a holiday with joy or dread mostly depends on whether I’ve been taking good care of myself emotionally or not. If my needs are met – joy. If the well is dry – dread.

The pressure to make a holiday is unique, because it comes at a set and arbitrary time – whether you feel like holidaying or not. During Easter I feel pressure to make sure everyone has an outfit that’s appropriately springlike but in which they will not freeze to death, since it’s still 30 degrees where we live. To host a big dinner and/or a family gathering with all the attendant cleaning, shopping and cooking and which, like most holidays, will fall short of the expectations for at least one, and possibly more, of the people present. And do that ON A SUNDAY, when I have to go to work the next day. Oh, and don’t forget to make it look effortless and be sure you look good doing it.

This year, the well is dry, and I was filled with dread. I started a conversation with Anthony about this with my usual subtlety: “How can we make Easter not SUCK?”

The critical part of what we came up with was his idea: a) decide what our little family is doing; and b) invite anyone else to join us IN WHAT WE ARE DOING. Or not. Those are the only choices. What we’re doing is not up for debate.

This short-circuits the people pleasing, hustling-for-approval thing that happens when, instead of making definite plans for our family, I try to come up with something that everyone is happy with. All of that is lifted when I can say we are doing X, and leave everyone else with the choice to join us or not. If it’s not what anyone else wanted to be doing with their holiday, it’s on them to decline, and if they do join us, it was their choice and they are responsible for their own good time. It seems like a small change, but it created a big internal shift for me.

Full disclosure: Anthony has tried to lead me to this before, with mixed results. Clearly I’m a bit of a slow learner when it comes to this kind of thing. The pressure I put on myself makes so much noise, it can be hard to think clearly in its presence.

So what are we doing?

Easter baskets and coffee.

Church.

And then a midday dinner – not brunch or an Easter buffet, but one of our very favorites: Italian. There’s wine! And going out means it has a definitive end point at which I can go home and put on pajamas.

A day of enjoyment and rest for EVERYONE, including Mama.

That’s what I call a holiday.

8 things to do when your makeup doesn’t love you anymore

Once upon a time, I was under the impression that your skin remained the same throughout your life, right up until you got old and got wrinkles. And then I turned 40. And every single cosmetic I used stopped working. My skin didn’t look much different, but something was certainly changing.

Overnight, it seemed, my face became the place where makeup went to die. The mineral foundation I’d used for years? No trace of it by about 11 a.m. Eyeshadow? Mush. Mascara? Smudged. Eyeliner? EVERYWHERE. For nearly a year I ran through product after product – smudge-proof this, waterproof that, a fistful of different primers – before I realized that the problem was not just the products. My techniques also needed to change along with my skin, but hadn’t.

These are the products and techniques that really worked for me – and that I arrived at after trying a lot of things that didn’t. It would make me SO HAPPY if I could save you some of the money I wasted. My price point is ‘not spending any more than I have to,’ and I live in a rural area where there’s no Ulta or Sephora, so I like to be able to order my products from Amazon or buy them at the drugstore or the grocery. My year of experimentation taught me where I could go with drugstore products, and where I had to spend a little more.

  1. Use eye primer. My eye primer of choice is Laura Geller Eye Spackle. It brightens my eyes and keeps my eyeshadow in place, creaseless and defined, instead of a muddy, mushy mess. Other primers I tried brightened the lid but didn’t do anything for staying power, because my eyelids are hot and oily. If you have cool dry lids you might be able to spend far less. I have friends who swear by this inexpensive eye primer from Elf.
  2. Switch to matte eyeshadow. Unfortunately, one of the casualties of aging is sparkly eyeshadow. Now that the skin above my eyes is less smooth and elastic than it was, eyeshadow with any sparkle or shimmer just makes the skin look crepey, and matte shadows look much better. They’re not always easy to find. Physicians Formula matte shadows are my favorite, because they’re long-wearing and you can make the colors more intense if you apply them with a damp brush. I’ve also had good luck with these Cover girl neutrals, which can be found just about anywhere.
  3. Use REALLY good mascara. The only mascara I have found that doesn’t give me raccoon eyes is Estee Lauder’s Double Wear zero-smudge mascara. Even fixers or ‘raincoats’ over other mascaras don’t give me the results of the Estee Lauder. It’s a little more spendy, but worth it.
  4. Use brushes. If you haven’t started putting on your eye color with brushes instead of those rotten little sponge applicators that come with the products, definitely do that. Not only will you get better results and more control, there is something about dragging that tiny piece of foam over delicate skin that can make you hate life.
  5. Eyeliner: know when less is more. From the fabulous book Makeup Wakeup, I learned that for the bright, well-defined look I was looking for, that didn’t age me or look harsh, I should be “tight-lining” my eyes – putting eyeliner pencil only on the waterline and deep in my lashes, and for me, only on the top. (I have small eyes, and lining both top and bottom tends to make them look even smaller.) As a bonus, this also cut down on my eyeliner transfer.
  6. Eyeliner part 2: go smudge-proof. The hands-down best smudge-proof eyeliner I’ve found is Essence waterproof gel eye pencil. I understand a lot of theater performers use it for its ability to stay in place – and as a bonus, it’s SO affordable.
  7. Know your eye structure. Probably the most helpful insight was when I realized my eyes are ‘hooded.’ (This came after I had already burned through a bunch of money and products, naturally.) Hooded eyes are when not much of your eyelid and crease is visible. Many women are born with this structure, and many acquire it as they get older. Depending on your particular structure, your mascara or eyeliner may transfer onto your browbone. That was what was happening to me. While I’ve always had hooded eyes, something about my changing skin was now causing my eye makeup to transfer all over the place, where it hadn’t before. Enter this wonderful technique for applying makeup to the mature hooded eye.
  8. Use liquid or cream foundation. The mineral-powder foundation that gave me the fresh, minimally made-up look I loved ten years ago was now aging me, while at the same time not providing the coverage I needed. I was really hesitant to go back to liquid foundation. I associated it with a too-made-up look. But makeup has made a lot of progress in ten years. I tried a few, and settled on Revlon Colorstay for now. I like the way it looks, but I feel like it’s not great for my oily, easily-congested skin, so I’m still looking for my foundation soulmate.

Had similar experiences? Hit me up in the comments with your favorite products, techniques and lessons learned.