November 23, 2015

Six Things I Learned From a Six Year Relationship

I'm extremely superstitious. As in, I consider spilling salt a near death experience, and there are certain shirts I just can't wear when the Ravens play because I don't want to be responsible for their loss.

My point is that I'm not one to make a hobby out of walking under ladders, or one who is interested in tails-up pennies. But one thing that I do like are Friday the 13ths.

Because Friday, November 13, 2009, is the day that 19-year-old Nicole and 19-year-old Derrick had "the exclusive talk." It was scary and awkward and wonderful, and was the first day of a relationship that will last the rest of my life. And what's a blogger to do in times of monumental milestones other than list all of the things we've learned from our experience?

Nothing. There's nothing else I can do. That being said, here are six things that I've learned from being in a six-year-long relationship.

1. You're not always right, even when you are actually right.
It was a hard day when I learned that I am actually not always right. But that was nothing compared to what I learned from a relationship: sometimes, even when you are right, it's better not to draw attention to that fact. Like when you told him that olive oil shouldn't be heated that hot; the subsequent fire alarm through the smoke-filled kitchen says that you were right, but pointing that out won't do you any favors.

2. Don't always keep score... out loud.
They always say that you shouldn't "keep score" in a relationship... But that doesn't mean that you don't anyway. For example, two weeks ago, I asked Derrick if we could watch a movie instead of the FSU game. At first, Derrick said no... but then he quickly and adamantly changed his mind, and demanded that we watch a movie. When I asked him why the sudden change, he said that he needed to "save his football game card" for a later date. God knows what other cards he's saved over the years.

3. Bacon is so worth it.
Before I started dating Derrick, I avoided bacon and all its butt-increasing glory. But it's only so long that someone can resist the smell of Sunday morning bacon, and I am only mortal. My butt is a little bigger but you know what? Life is so much better when you can just eat the bacon.

4. It's easier to just say it already.
When we first started dating, I'll admit that I pulled the "I'm fine" schtick all the time. But eventually, I got tired of Derrick's pretty unimpressive mind reading abilities, and learned that when he asks me if something's wrong, it's so much easier to just say yes.

5. You don't have to love what he loves... but you'll learn about it anyway.
The depth of my love for Derrick knows no limit... but NASCAR doesn't fall under that love umbrella, no matter how many Dale Jr. t-shirts Derrick buys. But just because I don't care who's still in the Chase, doesn't mean that I don't know who Kevin Harvick is. Because even though I don't care who wins, I care that Derrick cares... so when he talks about it, I still listen.

6. Sometimes, you need to let go of what you thought you knew.
Maybe you thought for sure you'd end up marrying an English doctor, or knew for a fact you'd live in Alaska. You don't need to compromise what's important to you... but sometimes, you find someone worth compromising for. Because even though you thought Friday the 13ths weren't worth getting up for, they could turn out to be one of the best days of your life.

(That still doesn't mean I'm playing around with overturned salt shakers though.)

November 18, 2015

Adult Acne: Does Spironolactone Work?


I just want to put this on the table: acne sucks.

I am in awe of all of the men and women who are confident enough to not care about acne. And in the grand scheme of things, I know that acne is so, so far down on the "things that matter" list.

But it still sucks. Which brings me to this post about the bastard.

You might remember this acne post a while ago, where I told you that I had tried minocycline (an antibiotic which worked, but isn't something I wanted to take long term) and was just starting to try a prescription retinoid.

My Experience with Retinoids

I ended up using the retinoid for a very uncomfortable three months. Like, stepping on a lego in the middle of the night uncomfortable. Or sitting next to a couple making out in the movie theater painful.

You see, even using the lowest strength cream (0.025%) every other day, I couldn't get rid of the "I forgot sunscreen on a boat" look. And being a light shade of cherry Kool-Aid wasn't the worst of it; I also could not run or work out (even indoors) for more than 15 minutes before my face stung to the point of stopping. And the worst part was the sun; even with spf 50, ten minutes outside was enough to start burning my sad, abused face.

I'm not sure if my skin would have eventually adjusted but in the end, although the retinoid did make my pores noticeably less clogged, I didn't want to deal with the no working out, vampire lifestyle anymore.

At that time, I was also about a month into taking an oral medication called spironolactone (or "spiro," if all those letters annoy you), so I stopped using the retinoid and prayed to the acne gods that spiro worked.

Spironolactone

Spiro is a medication that was originally prescribed for high blood pressure, but has also been prescribed off-label for over 20 years to treat all sorts of hormonal related issues.

You're probably wondering how a high blood pressure medicine can also affect hormones. And the answer is simple: science.

But seriously, doctors learned a lot about spiro when it was used to treat high blood pressure in women who were also diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). PCOS is a syndrome which, among other things, is associated with a high level of androgens (i.e., "male hormones") in women. Although women normally produce some level of androgens, too much can do some pretty effed up things. For example, too much androgens can cause unwanted hair growth, sebum production, and a messed up menstrual cycle, all of which are symptoms of the syndrome doctors call PCOS.

The doctors found that spiro was pretty efficient at inhibiting androgens, meaning that it stopped the male hormones from doing that unwanted shiz.

In my case, I didn't have any symptoms of PCOS or an unbalanced level of androgens except that my skin and hair was incredibly oily. When I broke out, it also looked like a "classic" case of primarily hormone-related acne: very inflamed, very deep, and painful pimples on my cheeks and chin that would last for weeks.

So I decided to give spiro a shot.

I've been taking spiro for a little over six months now. I also switched birth control pill brands again about three months ago to see if that helped as well. I don't want to do any jinxing but so far, it seems like it's been helping a lot. I'm still trying to figure out a good skin care routine and I still don't have close to perfect skin, but I also would recommend asking your doctor about spiro if you think your acne is mostly hormonal related.

Spironolactone: The Downsides

I don't feel like I can post this without at least some sort of disclaimer about the downsides of spiro. Because even though it sounds like spiro is pretty safe for long term use, I still have to be careful taking it because:

1. It's a diuretic. Basically, it makes you have to pee a lot, which can lead to dehydration if you're not careful.

2. It's potassium-sparing. This one is the biggest one: potassium-sparing diuretics like spiro can make you pee a lot, and also make you excrete less than normal amounts of potassium while you do so. This means that if you have a kidney problem or eat an unnecessary amount of bananas, you could be at risk for hyperkalemia (high levels of potassium in the blood). I'll let Google explain why that's bad.

3. It's used to treat high blood pressure. Which means that if you already have low blood pressure, it could lower it even more, sometimes to dangerous levels.

4. You can't use it while you're pregnant.

For the sake of not getting sued, I also thought I should add that I'm not a doctor. This isn't a medical journal; this is the experience of one random person online. Don't buy drugs online because you read about them on a blog. Don't confuse my advice with legit medical advice. Don't be stupid. 

Anyway, hopefully this was helpful. Or interesting. Or at least better than stepping on a lego.

And to be clear: this is just an update, not an "end of the story" type post. I don't know if this is a long term solution, and I don't know if in a month, I'll be saying that spiro made me grow a third boob.

But I'm saying a silent prayer and keeping my fingers crossed that for the love of God, I stay acne and third boob free

November 16, 2015

Hate

On Friday night, I was sitting outside in the warm Florida evening in front of a dessert shop with my fiance, eating a banana foster crepe with vanilla gelato on top.

And I am so incredibly lucky to say that. Because being able to tell you that means that I am in the top tier when it comes to having a privileged, beautiful life. It also means that it's hard to empathize with the Parisians who were injured this weekend, and almost impossible to empathize with the people who live lives where that kind of fear and violence is commonplace. I am so incredibly sad for them but my life is so far removed from that, I can't know what they're going through.

I had been planning on a post about Derrick and my anniversary on Friday (or, if we're being honest, mostly just about the celebratory crepe), but somehow that doesn't feel right today.

Instead, all I can think about is how much hate there is out there. And there's so much of it. The hate that can convince someone to kill people he doesn't know. The hate from those who blame innocent people for it. The hate from the ones who dismiss the people who are mourning or mock the people who are showing support. There's so much hate, it feels like we're drowning in it.

This post isn't to criticize people's anger or their grief or their fear. And this isn't a political post about how I think the world should respond. Hell if I know what to do about this.

All I'm trying to say is that this weekend was just another reminder that there's a lot of hate and a lot of cruelty out there, and that it's capable of overshadowing all the beauty in life, if you let it. There's not a lot I can do about it and it's not something I can control, but I can control what I decide to contribute.

Because the way I see it is that if you're one of the lucky ones who live a life that can be so, so beautiful, the least you can do is make sure you don't let your own hate take that away.

November 12, 2015

The Biggest Secret in Wedding Planning


Getting engaged is sort of like the first time you're about to walk into your college's cafeteria as a freshman: you're absolutely pumped. You've spent your entire life dreaming of a room filled with endless spaghetti, and now that dream is a reality.

But then you swipe your student card and suddenly, you're completely overwhelmed. Sandwich station? Approved vendors? 24-hour cereal? Cake-cutting fee? Is that ground beef?? If you're not careful, both wedding planning and cafeteria-going can quickly escalate into an all out panic.

But I'm here to tell you that it eventually gets easier. And actually, you even learn a few secrets of the business while you're at it.

In college, I learned that not all that looks like ground beef is actually ground beef. As for wedding planning? So far, the biggest secret of the business seems to be that the best way to get a discount is to...

Ask for one.

Literally. Just ask if you can pay less.

I know, I know; when I first read it in my Bridal Panic 101 manual, I couldn't believe it either. I mean, how could that possibly work? WHY in the world would that work?

Well, I don't know how, but it does. So  much so that so far, I've saved around $500. $500 of discounts just because I asked.

To be clear, I don't even mean that I put on my car dealership face and went through rounds and rounds of greasy-mustached haggling. Actually, I started out saying something like, "I love this napkin set, but it's a little more than I wanted to pay for a napkin set. Is there anything I can leave off the napkin set to lower the price a little?" But nine times out of ten, the napkin seller has said something like, "There's nothing I can really remove from this napkin set, but how about I give you a 5% napkin discount?"

And the next thing you know, I'm choosing colors for my discount napkins.

Now, it might not always work. And sometimes, especially if it's an independent artist I really admire, I don't worry about getting a lower price. But for streamlined vendors (like my venue and my caterer), I figured there's no harm in asking. And surprisingly, it's really paid off.

I guess it's just a lesson that applies to a lot of aspects in life: sometimes, the easiest way to get what you want is to just ask for it. Also, mystery meat casseroles are not your friend.

But I guess that's a lesson for another time.

November 10, 2015

I Stopped Blogging for a Month, and Here's What Happened

... I started blogging a few weeks later and titled my post with a deliberately click-baity title.

Ok, I know, that was lame. You don't have to say it. And I am truly sorry if you clicked this post thinking I'd share something shocking.

(Except that I'm not really sorry. Because as George W. Bush once wisely said...


And seriously, you can't tell me you've never clicked on a blogger's "I went on a juice cleanse, and here's what happened next" post only to be disappointed to hear that she started feeling slightly hungry. Act like you've done this before, you know?)

Anyway, I stopped blogging temporarily mostly because wedding planning is like a needy set of triplets drinking Diet Coke, and also as a personal vendetta against public opinion-sharing. I guess I just read one too many comments about the #MerryChristmasStarbucks debacle, and decided that we'd be okay if everyone didn't tell us what they thought.

But when I told that to Derrick over our weekly Sunday tacos, Derrick told me that actually, he was very entertained by people online. In fact, he said that he followed Herm Edwards particularly for the opinions.

And since Herm and I are more or less one and the same, I figured that that this was my cue: time to jump right back on the blogging bandwagon and have at it. So let's just jump right in, shall we?

1. Sometimes, a cardboard coffee cup is just a cardboard coffee cup, not a political statement or brainwashing tactic. But if it really bothers you, just get an iced green tea. That way, you can ensure that your selfies are 100% PC.

A photo posted by Nicole (@nicoleleigh_724) on


2. There are few things in life finer than a Maryland crab feast. And all of those things involve Old Bay anyway.

A photo posted by Nicole (@nicoleleigh_724) on


3. Knowing your friend's wedding hashtag and not posting about it is equivalent to handing out raisins for Halloween. I mean, c'mon.

A photo posted by Nicole (@nicoleleigh_724) on

A photo posted by Nicole (@nicoleleigh_724) on

A photo posted by Nicole (@nicoleleigh_724) on


4. Sometimes, social media is fake. Sometimes, you really do drop a carton of eggs at 8:30 on Tuesday morning.

A photo posted by Nicole (@nicoleleigh_724) on


5. Florida doesn't suck.

A photo posted by Nicole (@nicoleleigh_724) on

So there you have it, both my opinions for the week and also what I've been up to since I last posted. It's surprising that Herm has so many more followers on Twitter than I do, isn't it?

Also, if once monthly updates aren't cutting it, feel free to follow me on instagram, where I post about even more relevant and valuable matters. Such as these shoes.

A photo posted by Nicole (@nicoleleigh_724) on

Happy Tuesday, everyone!