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I. Never ever

I recently returned from Florida where I spent a week cleaning out my mother’s house so that I can sell it and pay for the memory care facility where she presently resides. When I finally got around to the bathroom, I groaned. Not because it was filthy or because it stoked my ever-simmering sadness, but because my mother never in her life left the house unless she was wearing makeup.


And oh boy, did she ever have a lot of it.

My mother was the Countess of Cosmetics, the Baroness of Blush. I remember as a child sitting cross-legged on the floor, watching her “put on her face.” I was fascinated by the vast arsenal of products splayed out across her large countertop, mesmerized by the precise, dedicated manner in which she applied the foundation, the liners, the sticks, and the shadows. It seemed like it took her forever, and I can still hear the echo of my father’s impatient voice imploring her to “Come on already.”

By the time I reached the age where many girls begin enthusiastically experimenting with makeup, I wanted nothing to do with it. I was far more interested in embellishing my mind than my face. Instead of blackening my lashes with mascara, I hid in my room darkening my thoughts with Sartre.

It just about killed my mother. She hated that I “didn’t take pride in my appearance,” and she often wondered aloud (jokingly, I think) whether the hospital had handed her the wrong baby by mistake.

Patti Smith put it well when she said, Even as a child, I knew what I didn’t want. I didn’t want to wear red lipstick.

It wasn’t as if I was trying to make a statement by avoiding makeup, I just preferred how I looked without it. I preferred how all women looked without makeup, and didn’t really understand why they would want to hide their natural beauty behind artificial colors.

Most of my girlfriends wore makeup, I guess because it made them feel better about themselves. They knew how I felt, but still they often ganged up on me before a high school dance, pleading with me to bedaub my face with synthetic color, insisting that I would look prettier. Better. Sexier.

I always resisted. Regardless of peer pressure, media pressure, or maternal pressure, I knew I was never ever going to wear makeup. Not for any friend. Not for any man. Not for any reason.

II. What would you be willing to do for a chance such as this?

Long ago, before most Russians even knew there was such a thing as the Internet, I was living in Seattle in a tiny studio apartment on the top floor of a five-floor building overlooking Highway 5. I had a minuscule deck outside my window where I would sit and smoke while watching the ever-rushing traffic below me. If I craned my neck just so, I could see the Space Needle shooting up between two ugly office buildings.

After crawling back through the window, I’d sit at my desk-cum-dining room table and research possible markets for a genetics software program that my super-smart friend Tim was creating to allow breeders – cow, cat, plant, you name it – to input genetic data into a graphic interface. If he ever finished writing the code, it was going to take the software world by storm. While waiting for Tim to deliver me a shrink-wrap-ready product I got a call from my father, asking me if I wanted to go to Russia.

“To do what?” I asked with ignited interest. I mean, Russia? Boris Yeltsin had recently been elected President and the country was throwing open its previously-shuttered doors to the rest of the world. I wanted to be one of the first tourists to step through.

“You’d be selling makeup,” my father replied.

“Makeup?”

The cosmetics giant, Maybelline, had recently transitioned their ubiquitous blue-colored packaging to an au courant black, and now they needed to unload a few million units of the old stuff. My father, a man who was forever spawning some unconventional deal, somehow fell in with the owner of the corporate trading company charged with selling off the démodé eye shadows and blushes and lipsticks to fashion-starved Russian women. In order for my father to be in on the arrangement, he needed to come up with a sales rep.

He picked me, the woman who knew nothing about selling makeup, let alone applying it.

“Oh, and you’re going to peddle your own skincare line too,” he continued. “The company will create it for you.”

“My own—?”

“Yeah, I figured you should go over there as a…a personality, you know? Like an American starlet. They’ll eat it up. Your new name is going to be Lissa. Lissa Cazzel.”

“But I have no idea how to—”

“You’re going to have a ball, Lissa Cazzel,” he said, interrupting me before I could list my concerns. “You fly to New York next week.”

So it was that I allowed a Vietnamese woman to glue long red acrylic fingernails over my own short unpainted ones. I submitted to makeup lessons, using only Maybelline products. I slathered baby blue eye shadow across my lids and fiery orange lipstick over my lips because women in Russia, I learned, lusted for those colors.

I was outfitted with a new sexy skin-hugging wardrobe. I agreed to wear very high ankle-cracking heels and lots of costume bling after I stored away my Tibetan yak bone choker that I’d bought at a crafts fair in Portland.

I assessed my eponymous product line, sniffing the bath gels and rubbing the lotions onto my skin. They smelled like cheap perfume. When I suggested a more subtle scent, I was told that women in Russia love strong smells. The stronger the better.

Two weeks later, I landed in Saint Petersburg with two suitcases full of clothes and eight boxes filled with makeup and Lissa Skincare products, and checked into Hotel Astoria, the same hotel where Hitler had planned to celebrate his conquest over the city (good thing that party never got started).

You know what? Other than having the hardest time removing my contact lenses with my red talons, I did have a ball. I traveled all over Russia and Czechoslovakia, and even into parts of Finland, meeting with beauty shop owners and store managers and government officials (as well as un-officials).

Every morning I awoke before dawn so that I had enough time to “put on my face” – my very painted face – before rushing to meet Tanya, my interpreter, in front of the hotel. (As she was a Russian citizen, armed guards barred her from entering the hotel.)

Besides helping negotiate business deals, Tanya was also my tour guide and companion. She instructed me to stay silent and look angry as she pushed me along the much shorter Russian-Only lines at museums and other tourist attractions.

Tanya protected me from making bad decisions. During a business dinner, a Georgian businessman asked me to marry his son, a war hero. When he showed me his photo, I almost accepted his proposition on the spot, the guy was so handsome. Tanya leaned forward and, with a false smile on her face so the Georgian wouldn’t know what she was saying, told me that the son had been shot in the head during the war and was presently in a vegetative state. His father desperately wanted his son to receive better medical care and figured it’d help if he married an American starlet.

Since no business deal in Russia can ever be closed without first making many toasts with many shots of vodka, Tanya also taught me how to drink for hours at a time without falling face-first into my borscht and effectively blowing the sale. Which is why, when I finally departed Russia, I gladly gifted Tanya the rest of my samples. She would have enough blue eye shadow to last her a few lifetimes. It wasn’t as if I had any use for them. The moment I landed back home, I cleaved off my fingernails, scrubbed my clogged pores clean, and went back to being au naturale.

My mother kept a framed photo of me from when I was in Russia, the one where I looked “so beautiful.” It wasn’t that my mother didn’t think I was beautiful. She just loved makeup so much, she couldn’t help herself.

Mom couldn’t help herself the day I got married either. After she fastened the back of my wedding gown – a 1960s dress from Paris that I bought at a consignment shop – I turned around to face her. Of course I expected her to say, “You look beautiful.”

Instead she said, “Would it kill you to wear a little lipstick?”

Sure, I’d compromised my anti-makeup beliefs to go to Russia. I also knew it would make my mother wildly happy to see her only daughter wearing makeup on her wedding day. Yes, there was a small part of me that thought my wedding album might shine a little brighter if I smeared some color across my skin, but in the end, I really wanted to be my best unmade self that day.

“No,” I stated with a small smile. “I want Victor to recognize me when I walk down the aisle.”

III. A different shade of blue

I’ve always thought my mother was more beautiful without makeup, but the only time I ever saw her facially naked was in the mornings when she awoke or sometimes late at night if I went to sleep after she did. As she read her book in bed I’d lean over her to kiss her goodnight, silently breathing in her clean clear skin. I loved it when she didn’t smell like artificial dyes.

She smells like that now. Now that she no longer wears makeup. Now that she needs to be reminded how to use a phone. Now that she has no idea what day it is. Now that dementia is taking over her brain.

She’s still adept at conversation. She remembers the distant past, but has no idea what she ate for lunch. She recognizes people, but often sees or hears people who are not there, like her dead mother or my brother who lives in California. Remarkably, she doesn’t seem to care about her face anymore and leaves her room in the morning completely fresh-faced, straight from the shower.

Perhaps it’s because she doesn’t want to look at her own face anymore and so putting on makeup has become more of a burden than a desire. The woman who used to check her makeup in every mirror she passed now avoids them. I wonder if it’s because when she glances in the mirror she sees the shadows framing her reflection, the ones that are slowly smothering her mind.

I filled two Hefty bags with the leftover makeup from my mother’s bathroom. Part of me was grateful she no longer needed it. Grateful that she will spend her remaining days looking like her real self, even though so much of that self no longer exists.

I miss her. I don’t miss her criticizing my looks or my lack of fashion sense, but I sort of miss the painted lady that she was, the woman who cared too much about what other people thought about her looks.

She was beautiful then and she’s beautiful now. Just a different kind of beautiful.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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Parents in New Jersey will soon get more money and more time for parental leave after welcoming a baby.

This week New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed off on legislation that extends New Jersey's paid family leave from six weeks to 12.

It also increases the benefit cap from 53% of the average weekly wage to 70%, meaning the maximum benefit for a parent on family leave will be $860 a week, up from $650.

It might not seem like a huge difference, but by raising the benefit from two-thirds of a parent's pay to 85%, lawmakers in New Jersey are hoping to encourage more parents to actually take leave, which is good for the parents, their baby and their family. "Especially for that new mom and dad, we know that more time spent bonding with a child can lead to a better long-term outcome for that child," Murphy said at a press conference this week.

The law will also make it easier for people to take time off when a family member is sick.

Because NJ's paid leave is funded through payroll deductions, workers could see an increase in those deductions, but Murphy is betting that workers and businesses will see the benefits in increasing paid leave benefits. "Morale goes up, productivity goes up, and more money goes into the system," Murphy said. "And increasingly, companies big and small realize that a happy workforce and a secure workforce is a key ingredient to their success."

The new benefits will go into effect in July 2020 (making next Halloween a good time to get pregnant in the Garden State).

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Whether you just need to stock up on diapers or you've had your eye on a specific piece of baby gear, you might want to swing by your local Walmart this Saturday, February 23rd.

Walmart's big "Baby Savings Day" is happening from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at participating Walmarts (but more deals can be found online at Walmart.com already and the website deals are happening for the rest of the month).

About 3,000 of the 3,570 Supercenter locations are participating in the sale (check here to see if your local Walmart is).

The deals vary, but in general you can expect up to 30% off on items like cribs, strollers, car seats, wipes, diapers and formula.

Some items, like this Graco Modes 3 Lite Travel System have been marked down by more than $100. Other hot items include this Lille Baby Complete Carrier (It's usually $119, going for $99 during the sale) and the Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat (for as low as $199).

So if you're in need of baby gear, you should check out this sale. Travel gear isn't the only category that's been marked down, there are some steep discounts on breast pumps, too.

Many of the Walmart locations will also be offering samples and expert demos of certain products on Saturday so it's worth checking out!

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Any Schumer has not had an easy pregnancy. She intended to keep working, but if you follow her on social media you know she's been very sick through each trimester.

And now in her final trimester she's had to cancel her tour due to hyperemesis gravidarum, also known as HG. It's a rare but very serious form of extreme morning sickness, and on Friday evening Schumer announced she is canceling the rest of her tour because of it.

“I vomit every time [I] ride in a car even for 5 minutes," Schumer explained in an Instagram post.

Due to the constant vomiting she's not cleared to fly and just can't continue to the tour.

This is not the first time Schumer has had to make an announcement about HG. Back in November, just weeks after announcing her pregnancy, she had to cancel shows and again broke the news via Instagram.

She posted a photo of herself in a hospital bed with her little dog Tati, and spelled out the details of her health issues in the caption. "I have hyperemesis and it blows," Schumer wrote.

Poor Amy. Hyperemesis gravidarum is really tough.

Kate Middleton, Ayesha Curry and Motherly co-founder Elizabeth Tenety are among those who, like Schumer, have suffered from this form of severe morning sickness that can be totally debilitating.

As she previously wrote for Motherly, Tenety remembers becoming desperately ill, being confined to her apartment (mostly her bed) and never being far from a trash can, "I lost 10% of my body weight. I became severely dehydrated. I couldn't work. I couldn't even get out of bed. I could barely talk on the phone to tell my doctor how sick I was—begging them to please give me something, anything—to help."

Thankfully, she found relief through a prescription for Zofran, an anti-nausea drug.


Schumer probably knows all about that drug. It looks she is getting the medical help she obviously needs, and she was totally right to cancel the tour in order to stay as healthy as possible.

We're glad to see Schumer is getting help, and totally understand why she would have to cancel her shows. Any mama who has been through HG will tell you, that wouldn't be a show you'd want front row seats for anyway.

Get well soon, Amy!

[A version of this post was published November 15, 2018. It has been updated.]

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As a military spouse, Cydney Cooper is used to doing things alone. But when she delivered her twin daughters early after complications due to Influenza A, she was missing her husband Skylar more than ever.

Recovering from the flu and an emergency C-section, and trying to parent the couple's two older boys and be with her new infant daughters in the NICU, Cydney was exhausted and scared and just wanted her husband who was deployed in Kuwait with the Army and wasn't expected home for weeks.

Alone in the NICU 12 days after giving birth, Cydney was texting an update on the twins to her husband when he walked through the door to shoulder some of the massive burden this mama was carrying.

"I was typing up their summary as best I could and trying to remember every detail to tell him when I looked up and saw him standing there. Shock, relief, and the feeling that everything was just alright hit me at once. I just finally let go," she explains in a statement to Motherly.

The moment was captured on video thanks to a family member who was in on Skylar's surprise and the reunion has now gone viral, having been viewed millions of times. It's an incredible moment for the couple who hadn't seen each other since Skylar had a three-day pass in seven months earlier.

Cydney had been caring for the couple's two boys and progressing in her pregnancy when, just over a week before the viral video was taken, she tested positive for Influenza A and went into preterm labor. "My husband was gone, my babies were early, I had the flu, and I was terrified," she tells Motherly.

"Over the next 48 hours they were able to stop my labor and I was discharged from the hospital. It only lasted two days and I went right back up and was in full on labor that was too far to stop."

Cydney needed an emergency C-section due to the babies' positioning, and her medical team could not allow anyone who had previously been around her into the operating room because anyone close to Cydney had been exposed to the flu.

"So I went in alone. The nurses and doctors were wonderful and held my hand through the entire thing but at the same time, I felt very very alone and scared. [Skylar] had been present for our first two and he was my rock and I didn't have him when I wanted him the most. But I did it! He was messaging me the second they wheeled me to recovery. Little did I know he was already working on being on his way."

When he found out his baby girls were coming early Skylar did everything he could to get home, and seeing him walk into the NICU is a moment Cydney will hold in her heart and her memory forever. "I had been having to hop back and forth from our sons to our daughters and felt guilty constantly because I couldn't be with all of them especially with their dad gone. It was one of the most amazing moments of my life and I won't be forgetting it."

It's so hard for a military spouse to do everything alone after a baby comes, and the military does recognize this. Just last month the Army doubled the amount of leave qualifying secondary caregivers (most often dads) can take after a birth or adoption, from 10 days to 21 so that moms like Cydney don't have to do it all alone.

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