Need a Vacation

I’ve often wondered which lucky employees at nail polish companies get to name the colors.

Essie’s are always fun:

Need a Vacation
Power Clutch
Bikini So Teeny

And OPI:

Aphrodite’s Pink Nightie
Desperately Seeking Sequins
I Eat Mainely Lobster

Nail polish is one of the few beauty products I use on a somewhat regular basis. Over the past few years, I’ve given my nails a break between polishes because I’ve become aware of how toxic cosmetics are since they aren’t regulated. I stopped dyeing my hair every other month for the same reason.

I recently discovered a few nail polish/cosmetics companies with nontoxic products: No Miss and Piggy Paint. I’m happy with the products so far.

Are you wondering where I’m going with this?

I made nail polish via my birthday list, natch.

Thanks to Brambleberry, I’ve made soap, candles, perfume, lotion, and now nail polish. This was by far the easiest project.

I have no idea how toxic its nail polish base is, but I’m pretending that it’s fairly nontoxic.

All I had to do was put some colored mica, argan oil, and a small metal ball in a nail polish bottle and then fill the bottle to the top with “nail polish base.” And shake it up.


The shade is lighter than it appears in the bottle; it’s more pinky than purple-y. On the fly, here are so possible names for it:

Berry Late than Never
Fuchsia Funtime
Berry Be Good


I’ll stop myself there.



A Better Ending

A few months ago, I was waiting for the subway and ad caught my eye. It was an invitation to free lectures as part of a “Harvard Mini-Med School.”

I had never been to a free medical lecture before. Hence, an addition to the birthday list. All four of the lectures sounded interesting, but my schedule only allowed for me to attend one: A Better Ending: A New Beginning for the End of Life.

This is a hot topic for me right now, so I was really looking forward to this lecture. My interest in end-of-life care piqued last fall, when I saw Atul Gawande talk about his 2014 book, Being Mortal. In his book, he discusses the necessary shift in thinking that doctors must undertake. In medical school, students are taught to save lives. Whatever happens, they have to do everything in their power to save a person’s life.

But what if treatment after treatment brings unnecessary pain and suffering to the patient? What if the patient just wants to be comfortable in their last days and doesn’t want to endure another operation or round of drugs? What if quality of life is more important than length of life?

Doctors are now being trained and encouraged to ask terminally ill patients what is important to them. Patients are being given control in how their final days play out.

Simultaneously, there is a movement to encourage people to talk about their wishes for end-of-life care with loved ones, even before they become ill. It’s stressful enough dealing with crisis or illness when you know your loved one’s wishes regarding artificial nutrition, mechanical ventilation, CPR, etc. When you don’t know, it must be torturous.

The Conversation Project is a wonderful resource to help you start “the conversation” with loved ones.

I didn’t take notes during the lecture, so I don’t remember any of the interesting stories and research that was shared, except for Dr. Angelo Volandes‘s video library that he is creating “not to train doctors, but to train patients.” The videos explain how patients can go about discussing their goals of care with their doctors.

I printed out the resources from the lecture that are posted on the website and found them very helpful. I also highly recommend Atul Gawande’s book!

These conversations are difficult to have but really important. If people can face their mortality and think about and share their end-of-life goals with their doctors and loved ones, they are ensuring peace and comfort for themselves as well as their loved ones.

Be #StigmaFree

[Getting on my soapbox]

I consider myself very lucky because I have never lost a family member or a close friend to a tragic circumstance such as an accident, crime, or suicide. So lucky.

But in the past two weeks, two acquaintances have died by such tragic circumstances. My mind reels and my heart aches.

A few days after New Year’s, I learned that my former neighbor committed suicide. We lived on the same floor for years. We were friendly when we ran into each other,  yet I don’t think we ever had a full conversation. Typical city living. She was 31 and had just gotten a promotion at work. And she was in so much pain that she took her own life.

Last night, I learned that a student from my alma mater whom I met last year was murdered off campus early in the morning. Details are still sketchy, but it seems that a former student of the college killed his current or ex-girlfriend as well as the student whom I met, Matt Hutchinson. Matt was the leader of a group of students who came to Boston for a week to meet with alumni and explore Boston. He was friendly and smart and eager to learn from the alumni he met.

My alma mater is located in a very small community. The alleged perpetrator comes from a prominent family who has lived there for generations. I am sure that every single community member is grieving.

When I asked myself why these events occurred or what could have prevented such tragedies, one of my answers was “get rid of the stigma around mental health.”

Now I know that many depressed people completely mask their pain and that some people “just snap” out of the blue and murder others.

But in how many of these cases are there “warning signs” that are ignored?

Did this young woman tell anyone how she was feeling? Did the person on the receiving end not take her seriously? Did anyone notice a change in her behavior or mood?

Did this young man who killed two people and then himself have a history of violence? Did anyone notice his possible poor impulse control/short temper/apathy, etc.?

How can we start treating mental illness like physical illness?

We have to destroy the stigma surrounding mental illness. We have to help our loved ones who are struggling.

What is stigma?

You can be stigma free by taking a pledge to learn more about mental health.

If you need resources for yourself or loved ones, they are out there:

Project 375

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Mental Health Screening Tools

We need to start TALKING about mental illness.

R.I.P., Matt. (Courtesy of
R.I.P., Matt. (Courtesy of

Good Genes

My first birthday list item of the new year is checked off. Last weekend, a friend and I saw Deepak Chopra give a lecture on his new book with Rudolph Tanzi, Super Genes.

At times, I felt as if we were attending a college biology lecture, and I really wish I had taken notes. Deepak said so many fascinating things!

The main premise of the new book is that we do not necessarily have “good or bad” genes. Only 5% of our genetic makeup is set in stone, which means that we can change 95% of our genes through “what we think and do.”

This information was life changing for me. Having done a good amount of genealogical research over the past few years, I was convinced that I had “bad genes.” Well, I may have some bad genes, but I apparently have the power to change some outcomes.

One tidbit I do remember is that it’s been proven that genes have memory. How amazing is that?? A study was done during which mice were shocked after smelling a certain food. For the next SEVEN generations, mice freaked when they smelled the same smell (they were not shocked).

I’ve always thought that my love for travel “is in my genes,” because I didn’t travel much while growing up. Maybe there is some truth to that after all! My maternal great-grandparents globe-trotted quite a bit at the turn of the 20th century.

I could have listened to Deepak for hours. He ended the lecture with a meditation, and it was simply thrilling to meditate with 1,200 other people.

If you ever have the opportunity to see Deepak speak, do not miss it!

Somebody Loves You

A few weeks ago, I volunteered for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention‘s national Overnight Walk for the second time. In solidarity with the walkers, I took the 12:00 to 6:30 am shift.

I walked into a disorganized situation because of the weather. It had been raining for hours and it wasn’t about to stop. In nice weather, tents are set up on a big plaza at City Hall. So most of the tables, signs, etc. had been crammed into City Hall.

The route of the walk, which is usually around 17 miles, had been shortened due to weather-related safety concerns. So when I arrived, walkers were starting to cross the finish line. I didn’t have a set job because of the turn of events, so I stood at the finish line to cheer on the walkers for a while.

The walkers were soaked. Some were excited and grateful as they approached the finish line. Others were exhausted and limping. I witnessed a marriage proposal, which was sweet.

My next task was to help a woman find her luminaria. Luminaria are paper bags that walkers can decorate with messages for and photos of the loved ones they’ve lost to suicide. Once decorated, battery-operated tea lights are put inside and they are displayed by the finish line. Some people choose to put out their luminaria before the walk, and some bring them on the walk and put them out afterward.

Because of the rain, luminaria were placed in a number of random spots. Outside, inside, 20 there, 50 there. The woman I was helping showed me a photo of her luminaria. On it she had written some inspirational thoughts in black Sharpie. I registered the second one, “Somebody Loves You.”

She took the inside; I took the outside. There were approximately 1,800 bags, so I wasn’t hopeful. Like the last time I volunteered, I was surprised by the range of people who had lost their fight against suicide. Parents, children, spouses, friends. One person had lost his fight in 1981 and another had lost his fight a mere six weeks earlier.

I didn’t find the woman’s luminaria. I somehow was able to find her again inside and offered an apology. I felt an urge to look around inside myself. Within five minutes, I found her luminaria. Holding it to my chest, I practically ran to where I had left her, and thankfully she was still there. We exchanged some happy words and a hug.

By about 4:00 am, the last walker had finished. Everyone who was staying for breakfast and the closing ceremony was sprawled across rooms and hallways on the first floor of City Hall. I spent the next hour or two on garbage duty, picking up discarded breakfast items. Exhaustion, sorrow, and relief hung like a cloud over everyone.

At the closing ceremony, a young man who had attempted suicide spoke, and a musician who had lost her sibling sang a song. The AFSP CEO announced that the walkers had raised more than $3 million in that one evening.

I left exhausted but happy that I had helped AFSP in a small way. Please read these statistics and never be afraid to ask loved ones if they feel like hurting themselves. Let’s bring mental health issues into the light.

Message at the finish line
Message at the finish line