…A dear friend on Instagram just messaged me out of concern. They were worried that I was suffering from insomnia, I think. I’m sure they meant well, and I wasn’t offended but as they explained their concerns further I did become frustrated. Not because they were offensive, (the opposite) but because they seemed unaware of a few things I’ve tried so desperately to be clear about. And I do try to be clear. Unfortunately I have no idea what people understand and what they read. He may or may not read this blog… Who knows. Truly.

But either way, I think it’s tougher for others to understand us online than we realize. There’s a lot to sort through.

So, since they seemed to worry that I might also be feeling lonely let me clarify this: While it would be nice to have more close friends (I used to have more) and I miss my family back in Seattle, I am not lonely otherwise.

My marriage has changed a lot for the better over the last year. There have been two times in the last three years we’ve separated but…I fell in love so deeply with Mark at the start for a reason. And he married me and allowed me to see gradually into his heart and let me into it for a reason. He’s not one to trifle with and he rarely opens up so if he does it’s meaningful. I’ve realized this now…

He loves me. But it’s taken years to understand that… Sadly. Because, Mark is soo different from me and I’m different from him. We think differently due to our innate personalities (and not due to our problems mind you). He’s a math genius and I can do math but I’m average at it at best. I am more verbal and I’m more of a “people person.” He loves reading but isn’t as verbally inclined. And again, it’s not that those differences are bad but we communicate our thoughts and feelings differently. We have different approaches to life at times.

He knew that I loved him but he struggled to make it clear to me. He’s not the best at sharing his feelings (stereotypical guy thing, I know). He’s told me he loves me but…he’s more one to communicate with meaningful actions than words or romance. And I’d seen his rejection in his actions in the past but missed how much he tried to prove his love…

In the last year in particular I’ve seen his love so often in moments of vulnerability that I’ve realized more of his heart. And of course, he’s happy I’m finally believing him that he he means it when he says he loves me the few times every once and a while when he manages to truly say it. 😂 He never wanted our marriage to end but didn’t know how to fix things beyond just being himself… And thankfully, for us, that’s currently more than good enough.

I can’t guarantee the future but I can say that we’re in a much better and different place than we’ve ever been in.

Who knows what people are thinking though… I can only imagine. This person, again, was trying to be kind today. Lord only knows what my enemies believe… 😂 (like the other recent message I received)

I do try to be honest though. Truly…

Oh well.

Bragging about my Family

And now to once more confront this issue (as raised by the message on Instagram).

While I will admit to purposefully sharing more than I thought was wise about my family in the past, at times I have to ask: What’s the difference between bragging and just telling people things? It’s not always clear. For example: It varies what qualifies as bragging depending on who you ask. Who’s definition or guideline is the one to use?

I think I often just share about my family because family history is fascinating. Everyone’s family’s history or lack of it is interesting. Truly!!

And actually most of the the things I could brag about go unsaid. If anything, I’ve often downplayed things about myself and my family (family history included). That might not sound possible to some (??) but I have. It’s instinctual.

Let’s see… Let me just share stuff and you can determine how “braggy” it sounds to you. But to clarify, to me I’m at least mostly just sharing stuff in the following paragraphs… (And I’m doing this because I refuse to be bullied)


My mother is an artistically gifted lady.

Am I supposed to find her faults and list them now to not be bragging? I suppose that is what people do, isn’t it. But…she really is gifted artistically. That’s just a fact. Those aren’t just the words of her loyal daughter.

Anyway, she and her siblings are all well educated. They all have college degrees and a couple of them have graduate degrees. So were her parents… And while my one aunt was at the party attended by the Kennedy family the night of the disaster at Chappaquidick (she was seriously dating a son in a family who were friends with the Kennedy family)… None of them were ever “party people” per se. That she was there is almost funny to me.

My other aunt was a “cool kid” in her high school and I know she went to parties but…the siblings really aren’t “party people.” I don’t think they drank much, they didn’t do drugs, etc. That just wasn’t them. The one time my uncle tried smoking a cigarette in his teens (he thought it was cool) he threw up and got so ill that it was his last time too.

My mother is actually a teetotaler. None of her parents, grandparents, etc. were alcoholics but she just hates drinking… 😂 Her brother, my uncle, makes his own wine though (or once did) and they have had heated discussions on the topic. He’s kind of a foodie though and has been for years. But, my mother believes there’s no proper time for drinking. Not even during dinner.

…My mother is one to do things on principle often though. She once went on a vegan diet (in the 1970’s) but did it poorly and started to loose the hair on her head. 😂 Yet, she she encouraged others to do likewise with passion. Her family was kind about it but naturally not persuaded. 😂 …She eventually stopped that diet and ate meat, etc. because of her hair loss and other health problems it created. …But now she’s much more well-informed (she’s been researching it all for decades now as a hobby) and laughs about her first attempts at eating so very healthily… ☺️ I did grew up taking disgusting tasting vitamins because of her though. 😂

…Her family and extended family are all very close on her mother’s side. I’m close to them too.

Her father’s family were mostly southerners. Everyone got along but after my grandfather and grandmother divorced in the 1960’s people didn’t interact as much.

My grandfather remarried too… My grandmother never did.

They were in love but ill-suited for each other. My grandmother was a quiet, sweet lady who eventually became a full time English teacher after her divorce. My grandfather was a very creative, somewhat tempestuous and brilliant man. He composed music and loved horse racing passionately… Even though he did later become a judge he spent his younger years absorbed in numerous business endeavors (a restaurant, a movie theater, etc) that were not always successful. That was a strain on their marriage. And I don’t they understood each other very well.

My mother has a memory she’s sometimes shared of one of her paternal aunts. That aunt gave her the prettiest bottle of 1950’s hot pink nail polish (in the 1950’s) when she was little. She kept the pink polish in a small handbag. Sadly however, that bottle broke and all the pretty pink polish spread in the bag and dried. It was a little tragic at the time… Her mother, my grandmother, did not wear almost any makeup (other than lipstick). Women back then didn’t wear makeup as often – it was seen as somewhat risqué to wear “too much” of it (and that wasn’t just “a thing” among certain conservatives or etc. either). So she prized that pink polish because it isn’t something her mother would have likely purchased for her.

My father’s family was fairly well off. My paternal grandfather was good in matters of business and so was my grandfather. And they cared about being honest too and their community. For a while my paternal grandfather was the president of the school board and my grandmother was a church pianist (among other things they did for their community).

My grandmother knew my father’s family and when my mother asked for her blessing to marry my father she readily agreed. They were a “good family.”

Actually my grandmother and her siblings used to attend the same dances in the 1930’s and 40’s as my father’s uncles, aunts and parents did. And my paternal grandmother’s family were at those dances too. My Great Uncle Ed once told me that my Great Aunt Mabel, my grandmother’s sister, was a wonderful dancer.

BUT, my parents didn’t know each other growing up. They met through a mutual friend later in the 1970’s. My father was studying to become a Christian missionary (at a college in Minnesota) after being in Vietnam and finishing his undergraduate degree and my mother visited that school with thoughts of attending too. Their mutual friend told my mother to “look my father up” because she thought they’d get along. They did. They were friends… And then my father became determined they should get married.

My mother is talented with sculpture. She made a bust of her grandfather… It’s good.


I guess, just know that while I have shared some things in the past that could qualify as intentional bragging because I’ve been irritated, I also share things that aren’t meant to be anything other than sharing. And also, please stop projecting things on to what I write or assuming things out of hostility… Although, if it’s out of ignorance then I guess the person assuming things wouldn’t even know… But I actually do try to be careful and not share things that could be “impressive” to some people if I shared them because they’re awkward to share. I’m not successful at that all the time though.

I just find stories from life fascinating and it’s hard to know when to share and when to not share… I’d want to hear it if it was someone else because I find everyone’s life intriguing. And I find history very enthralling. (I’ve said all of this before so many times) That sounds silly but it’s true… Well, provided that what people share is a true (and what I share is true of course).

But…really. I was a history major for a while (over a year in college) before becoming a political science major (called Politics at Messiah College). I love hearing about people.

One more quick story.

In the late 1990’s my mother received a phone call from a man who had been a hired hand on her great grandparent’s farm when it was being run by her uncle, my great uncle. They were friends too. My uncle was a kind and very down to earth man.

Anyway, this man probably had been a hired hand in the 1950’s or a bit earlier? I think…

Anyway, this fellow had succeeded in life since then. I believe it was through investing in real estate? Matter of fact, he had done so well that he managed to buy an old mansion either on or near Summit Avenue in Saint Paul, Minnesota. He was very proud (although still humble) of his accomplishments.

This fellow had tracked my mother down because she was in the family that he used to work for as a hired hand and we lived in a suburb of the Twin Cities somewhat near him. He invited us heartily to come see his mansion. 😂 And while my mother decided against it she did find it fun to reminiscence with him. Apparently he just wanted them to know how well he had done after being their hired hand when he was young, and perhaps he said some other lovely sentimental stuff.

I’ve often regretted not talking my mother into visiting him though. It would have been fun to see his historic mansion. I love old architecture…

It Never Ceases…

I just received a very hateful message on Instagram.  This person wrote a scathing message calling me arrogant and claimed that I likely either am secretly poor, ugly, have a husband who is on drugs, a child who is retarded and a delusional disorder or that I need to stop bragging about my family if I’m not just crazy.


Aside from blocking someone like that there’s not much I can do.

But I’m sure there are others like them lingering about who just don’t openly write messages in dm form or anonymous comments on my blog (they no longer can comment on here).  Although they may not be quite as passionate about their feelings as this individual was.

So, just to be clear (although if you want to believe something you likely still will find some way to do so): I am not lying. Aside from glossing over my marital problems a few years ago at the time on my blog I’ve been pretty clear and authentic.   I also tried to be much more open about my marriage after that and I have been. Maybe too honest actually…  I know some people are dishonest on social media but I’m not one of those people.  Have I been 100% truthful?  Probably not.  But I do try to be truthful and what you see is pretty much what you get.

My husband is not “on drugs” thankfully.  He doesn’t do drugs, smoke or drink alcohol. Actually he hasn’t drank alcohol for over seven years…  And the only drugs he’s ever done are mushrooms and pot. He tried mushrooms once in college in Amsterdam. And he smoked pot a handful of times in college and in his 20’s. …He does drink coffee though.  Haha…  Is that what they meant?  <rolling eyes because I know they meant something else>  We’re not poor thankfully…  My son is actually gifted to the point that he gets bored in class and we’ve had to find a school that allows for that because he tends to get hyper out of boredom.  I don’t share his photo to protect him not because I’m hiding him. 🤦🏼‍♀️ …Honestly, that this person attacked my son is despicable.  There’s no excuse for that!

Ummm…  You can think I’m ugly if you want of course?  <shrugs shoulders> I don’t think I am and frankly that’s not something people generally have told me (and not just because they’re being polite).

I did once start hallucinating out of severe exhaustion when I lived in Seattle.  I had just had a double corneal abrasion (I was cleaning the bathroom and accidentally sprayed Lysol in my contact case), had three impacted wisdom teeth removed and was taking care of a sick son all within a matter of a few weeks.  And Seattle was almost always cloudy when we were there too.   …And our neighborhood never slept. After a while it affected my sleep to the point of a medical problem…  (it’s actually kind of funny to me now though 😂)…    But I do not have any mental illnesses that I have been diagnosed with other than depression, and ptsd in my early 20’s from a traumatic event years ago I believe I’ve recovered from almost entirely, and those diagnoses have not caused me to have any delusional issues, thankfully.  Although I do still occasionally get depressed with lots of exhaustion, stress or etc….  But I do not have a delusional disorder.   I am in touch with reality and am healthy in how I present that.

Really, I do try to be honest.  And I would say that I’m honest all the time, but that’s almost impossible to do and be polite or maintain some privacy or etc. at the same time. 🤗


I will say that I can sort of relate to what this person said a little though, in that there is a lot of dishonesty on social media.  People do lie about what they own.  Or they lie about its authenticity.  Its worth…   Sometimes people shade the truth or totally fabricate stories to keep up appearances or compete.  Or they just gloss over things physical, material, or otherwise to make them look prettier than they are for some reason.  At times it can be weird.   Other times it can be funny.   And sometimes it’s sad…   Occasionally it’s irritating.  But, I think that despite that, it’s important to a. not fall into that pattern yourself and b. to not assume that others are making things up just because you feel some sort of envy about that something they have that you don’t have…or because you find reality too upsetting to deal with in some way.



Within the last couple of weeks the Pew Research Center released a handy dandy social class calculator for Americans to use. I don’t like it and I’ve considered writing about it but haven’t until today. And, by the way, my feelings about it have nothing to do with the result I got about my immediate family from their calculations. 😂 I wasn’t actually surprised by the result… No, the reason I don’t like it is because it factors your class entirely on income and while I understand why they and other groups like The Brookings Institute calculate it that way I don’t think it’s fair or accurate. It’s actually a even little genuinely harmful to the accuracy of the national narrative in my opinion…

The premise is flawed and it just goes downhill from there.

(Yes, this blog will now have my random thoughts every once and a while)

Not even touching the importance of family, background, experience, etc. as possible areas that are neglected there’s this: There’s no accounting for debt. Income isn’t net worth. I’ve discussed this. It’s common sense. Also, what about trust funds etc.? That’s not truly your “income” in popular parlance. What about those who are retired? What’s “income” for them? It’s not clear. Right? What am I missing?

But I suppose they’re just trying to appeal to the “middle class.” Almost everyone who takes the test finds themselves in the middle income bracket, or as it was interpreted by news outlets and many readers, the “middle class” (Pew calculator ). And I suppose that’s nice and comforting for many people to read.

Of course, it’s good that the Pew calculator does allow for the effect children and location have on class but…I don’t think that’s specific enough. And while the calculator etc. is interesting it’s not any more truly accurate and meaningful than a personality test on Buzzfeed, in my humble opinion. Instead, it was designed for the middle class to feel good about being in the middle class. But again, that’s just my opinion.

But, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Americans get wobbly in regard to class. It’s been observed by foreign visitors for centuries now.

We shun “titles” and try to pretend we’re a truly free society and to some degree all that is true. But…humans developed those old structures around the world for a reason and it seems to be hard to create a structure that totally avoids certain human tendencies… And really, I think Americans do have more of a firmly entrenched hierarchy than we openly admit and have since we started…

Of course I do appreciate our egalitarian ideals in the US but it’s frustrating that we aren’t more honest about class in this country. Although, again, the freedom, irreverence, casual charm and privacy that lack of openness allows is a beautiful thing. It’s truly lovely. Again, I just think it diminishes the quality of certain discussions in regard to many national issues. And it can actually create more inequality, ironically, in my opinion because I think it has a tendency to project an overly optimistic impression of where we are as a country. But I won’t go into all of that except for the following two examples:

A man inherits a lot of money from his parent’s investments. His father, a shrewd businessman, saw potential in certain sectors and made some wise purchases decades and decades ago. This man benefits when his father dies and receives checks for $90,000.00 every month from those old investments for a while and then likely $10,000.00 to $80,000.00 or so every other month or every month for over a decade. It just depends and varies, but it adds up. So, he invests it while still also receiving more money from his father’s investments as usual, and is careful with what he has as he was taught to be by his family. However, his actual job is fairly humble and he only has an “income” of $40,000 to $50,000 from that job a year. Of course, he has little debt (but lots of savings, investments, etc). How do you allow for that sort of chaos in regard to income according to the Pew Research Center calculator? Also, what if this individual has properties in multiple locations? Which location counts? The rural ones, like a lake house or summer cottage, where things are cheaper or the non rural location(s)? It doesn’t make sense. At least, that’s the way it seems to me. According to the calculator he’s middle class? Or is he?

Or what about the following: A young grew up in a very bad neighborhood and had a lot of challenges but she overcame them, graduated top of her high school class and then went to the local university and then to medical school to become a doctor. Now, in order to get through her education she took out loans. Lots and lots of loans. And by the time she finished her residency she was wildly in debt. And not just from student loans but from credit cards. Now, even as she’s working she’s still leasing her old car. Thankfully, she may make over $100,000 a year starting out. She’s single, and lives in a less expensive community and so according to the Pew Research Calculator she’s likely “upper class.” And it’s true, she does do well but a lot goes out every month to creditors. Let’s say she owes over $150,000.00 in student loans and another $25,000.00 on credit cards and from her car loan. In truth, she’s actually just a few steps away from bankruptcy and there’s no one in her family or who she’s that close to who would help her if she had serious financial problems. They just couldn’t despite how much the might want to. So, she’d be in huge trouble if something went very wrong. And according to that calculator she could slip from upper class to poor in a matter of months for getting into a bad car accident or etc. Unless her employer is understanding… But what if she loses her job temporarily? Then what? There goes her social class?!?? That’s ludicrous… 🤦🏼‍♀️ There’s no accounting for her experience, education, etc. in the upswing and no accounting for her challenging family background and overall upbringing in creating a barrier to her financial (and class) security in the calculator (as far as I can see). It’s incomplete at best.

Of course, as it often goes, thankfully, our young doctor will probably be much more solid financially in a few years but…these ways we have of figuring class (like the Pew calculator) don’t seem fair. They might be comforting in some way, but they don’t accurately assess the realities we all live with. And the examples I gave were just off the top of my head. I’m sure there are better examples of the inaccuracy and etc.


Guidebooks for the Heart

My first serious boyfriend in college, one who broke my heart and secretly started seeing a young lady behind my back while we were dating (who he eventually married), understood me. Well enough, at least. Of course, he didn’t love me (his own words). But he did have me right under his thumb for long enough to get what he wanted. And that’s because he did “get me” to a certain degree…

He could be very good and decent and kind or…the opposite. And his brilliance made most things possible (he had an IQ of 140 something) for him. Of course, I should say that Mark is also brilliant but…where “college boyfriend” was capable of manipulation (consciously or not) Mark is more bold, brash and unabashedly honest. Mark will easily hurt your feelings from time to time but he’s very genuine, it’s rarely intentional if he does hurt you and he’ll apologize if he knows he’s wrong. However, “college boyfriend” was rarely rude or even mildly upsetting but you often wondered what he really thought or was feeling.

I’m more like Mark but in a reserved way. We match each other well… I’m not a passive aggressive person either. I’m reserved and hold back but I’m not disingenuous. And I rarely get angry. I tend to be very even-keel. But if I don’t like you or find you annoying or obnoxious or difficult to deal with you’ll know if you pay attention…or you’ll misunderstand and think I’m just blindly angry, or…something else? People do misunderstand us all at times… That’s not to say I don’t get angry. But I tend to leave situations in some way before I become truly angry.

I do get genuinely angry though. I have on this blog. But generally it’s not to any noticeable degree unless I’m provoked over time or you hit a raw nerve of something that’s been provoking me for a while. I don’t like hurting people and I often wonder if I’ve misunderstood people, so I always try to hold back final judgement (and anger) until I just absolutely and positively can’t stand it. Of course, that doesn’t mean I’ll keep engaging with you though. Again, I will often leave conversations or interactions long before I’m angry or that angry if I can tell they’re likely going to become potentially pointlessly or uselessly hostile. Some bridges haven’t been built yet. …And I wish people would respect that more at times… Of course, that’s not to say that if I’m totally stressed out I don’t accidentally ghost people and I’m sure it’s annoying to figure out the difference at times for some people. I’m not perfect. That’s certain…

Anyway, case in point about misunderstanding people: Once when I was dating “college boyfriend” I had a roommate who I was becoming close to and one day we were out to lunch with another roommate’s mother when that mother decided to be lovingly but brutally honest and tell me that “college boyfriend” was never likely to love me and I was wasting my time dating him. She was absolutely right, of course. And frankly she’s one of the only parent-age adults I’ve ever meet who cared enough, was mature enough, was worldly enough and was wise enough to tell me something like that. Later I used her advice that day (not just in regard to “college boyfriend” but in regard to love in general) to figure out Mark and if I should trust him… And she didn’t steer me wrong.

But, it was painful to hear what that lovely mother said. I had just returned from Washington D.C. after visiting “college boyfriend” and was still being hopeful that we’d work out long-term. Now, mind you, he was actually already going to trivia nights at bars with our mutual acquaintance who later became his wife, as I’ve already mentioned, but I trusted him with my heart. And he swore they were just platonic friends.

Anyway, I had dreams for us… So, I got very quiet when that mother of wisdom dropped the truth on me about my romantic life at lunch. Very quiet.

Then the roommate (not her daughter but a friend of both her daughter and mine) who I was getting close to at the time said, “Awww!! Karrie… Awww.” with a pouty face. And then she reached over and grabbed my arm from her seat.

She later claimed that she meant that gesture seriously and empathetically but it came across to me as incredibly patronizing. Her tone seemed like she was trying to comfort a sad, naïve little girl who was just told she’d never grow up to become a real life Barbie princess… Also, she often acted like she understood men and relationships better than most young women our age so in context she truly seemed condescending to me. I stiffened-up and reacted coldly to her…

Later, when that roommate told me that I, “…always seemed angry.” I was hurt and baffled… (even college boyfriend found her comment off and incorrect, hilariously) But then she eventually explained that she was hurt when I didn’t receive her comfort that day at lunch. She thought I was “angry.” Of course, I was feeling anger not at her but instead at the prospect of the potential death of my romantic dreams. Although I was offended by her seeming condescension…and I was rejecting her in that moment. But either way, she was more keen on thinking me, “an angry woman” who was pushy too (another misunderstanding) than anything else. And it never occurred to her that if I seemed “angry” around her she might have something to do with it? But Oh well… I doubt I understood her all that well either, sadly.

But really, I wish we all came with guidebooks. Wouldn’t that be nice?

For instance, I don’t understand jealousy. Truly. With the hippie parents I had and given my personality I just don’t ever experience much jealousy at all, if any. And I don’t get being competitive outside of sports, games or actual competitions either. I just don’t… And while I’m sure it’s not a pleasant emotion to have it’s hard when you meet someone you’d like to be friends with and admire and then find them being competitive… It makes me want to experience it noticeably enough myself just to be able to know what to do.

I have learned to stand-up for myself (awkwardly still) over the years or I withdraw, but it’d be nice to get inside their heads more. How does someone beautiful, intelligent and gifted find that one thing they feel insecure about in others? It’s like they look for it around them constantly and if they find it they can’t let go… It ruins friendships for those of us who don’t know what’s going on. Although I suppose some people aren’t helped by being able to relate. 🤔😂 But for me, as an intj/infj and with my background it would be nice to at least intellectually know what that really feels like. And it’s hard to get people to open up and talk about how it actually feels…

Now, just because I don’t experience that doesn’t mean I’m deformed. 🧐😆🙄😂 I can just see someone getting jealous and saying that if I don’t experience jealousy I must have some disorder. 😂 But truly…I think some people just don’t experience it much and some do. And it’s not that I can’t label that emotion in myself either. Really, I think the degree you experience jealousy is just caused by a combination of what you’ve experienced and your innate personality (as with many things).

I do have depression at times though. I’ve experienced that. More than most. I have since I was a very little girl. But over the years I’ve learned to cope with it (in healthy ways) and it’s also improved. Although with exhaustion it can get worse.

…Anyway… I wish we all understood each other better or understood goodness and beauty (God’s essence from my view) more… Or both.

Fleur de Feu

This magical beauty is very animalic on my skin (Guerlain 1948 and recreated but *not* reformulated in 2014). Of course, that’s despite a noticeable amount of aldehydes and what, for me, are a prominent lily-of-the-valley and rose (not carnation as I’ve read in other reviews 🤗🤔🤗 – I smell the carnation *much* more when sprayed on fabric and it’s a slightly sweeter fragrance too). But the aldehydes are honey drenched and there’s a passionate jasmine (I’ve seen this jasmine before in a few 1970’s fragrances) that affects the composition in such a way that it’s quite saucy. Of course, there’s a slightly cool, bergamot tinged, woody, green, muskiness too. And this combination (along with the other notes) and procession creates an overall aura of calm intensity. It’s a very sincere, unadulterated, passionate and romantic floral… But it’s a little mysterious too. And while at first I didn’t love it, when @coffeeandalgebra was so taken with it on me I started examining it more and now I think I’m starting to see what he does… It’s perfectly named.

Nose: Jacques Guerlain (recreated meticulously using the old formulation including old ingredients by Thierry Mugler in 2014)


Top notes: aldehydes, honey, jasmine, and bergamot. Middle notes: jasmine, lily of the valley, rose, ylang ylang, violet, musk, sandalwood, and sweet acacia. Base notes: heliotrope, tonka, vanilla, and orris.

Engagement Rings

I have many hobbies and interests, one of them being perfume of course, but another is gemology.  I’ve mentioned this before.

And, I rarely share everything or that much of what I know about almost anything in my posts or in one place or time in general and I think it’s hard to if you have any genuine interest in something and don’t want to bore people with details they may or may not care to hear about.   At least, that’s the way I approach my reviews and many other things – I don’t want to bore people and I’m not sure how much people really want to hear me go on and on about certain things. There are blogs and reviews like that and they do it well. Maybe I should try more? But I like how I do my posts, etc. for the most part.

But that being said, I would like to share a bit more about gemstones as I considered being a trained gemologist years ago, with an emphasis on grading diamonds if I could advance far enough in the profession.   It started with a minor fascination as a young lady with gems but, when I was shopping around for an engagement ring late in 2010 and 2011, I became totally enamored with gems.  I am a curious person and I love to research and analyze things so I researched gemstones and diamonds in particular for months and months.  Eventually, I even started collecting loose gemstones (with some possible intention of putting them in settings).

I’d like to share what I’ve learned over the years.

First of all, there are a lot of ideas in popular culture about gemstones that are incorrect.  People often have the impression, for example, that diamonds are the most expensive gemstones you can buy.  That is somewhat true, but there are other gemstones that are actually rarer and more expensive.  Furthermore, as much as Diamonds are genuinely amazing, of course, there’s a lot hype in the diamond industry and oftentimes companies will use different marketing techniques to sell their diamonds that are somewhat deceptive, or at least their claims shouldn’t be taken at face value alone.  It’s not uncommon for major sellers to brand-name their diamonds and tout their superiority regardless of what the GIA might actually grade them as.  You are always best off with a genuine GIA report for your diamond (or other gemstone) over what some salesperson says to you or however a diamond is otherwise labeled.  Always.   And the truly best jewelers won’t bat an eye (or shouldn’t) if you ask for a GIA certification for your diamond (especially if you’re from the US).

Anyhow, here are two stories from my life that allow me to further discuss what I mean. And let me say, again, that diamonds are not the only engagement ring options… At all.

I love sapphires and I decided that I wanted a sapphire as my main stone in my engagement ring (although my preferences have changed off and on).  So, we went to several jewelers and eventually decided that, although it’s a “mall jewelry store” Helzberg was where we wanted to buy our custom made ring.  They just had really excellent customer service and the stores felt casual but nice and cheerful.  That was in 2011…

Now, we found a setting that we liked and that could be easily modified and we weren’t terribly particular about the much smaller diamonds they used in the setting (less than 1/4 ct each) because we knew that they would be at least ok and for diamonds that small I wasn’t going to go to the trouble or ask them to go to the trouble necessarily, but we wanted them to definitely GIA certify the center sapphire as it was going to be natural and we wanted to make sure it was good quality.  And…sadly…as much as I loved Helzberg for their customer service and otherwise experience, they had trouble with our request to certify the sapphire because it was outside their norm – they are a “mall jewelry store” after all.  That was not acceptable to us though, of course, and we eventually gave up on Helzberg for my main ring.  Although, I still love that store and for lab created stones it’s one of my favorite places to start looking, at least.  We even bought a white gold and lab created sapphire ring there that was a replica of Princess Diana’s ring as a quick substitute engagement ring for our Vegas wedding (since we didn’t have the custom ring ready yet before we took off to get married). The replica ring cost about $500 and was actually fairly fabulous.  A ring of similar perfection (lab created stones are real but cheaper because they’re man-made although they are theoretically perfect) and size with natural stones would have cost tens of thousands of dollars and been much harder to find.  It was delightful, fairly carefree as far as rings go and it was right there in stock to buy.  It just had to be fitted.   (we bought a white gold diamond wedding band in Las Vegas) Helzberg sadly no longer sells that ring though…

That being said, again, I do think Helzberg was a good experience overall (at least back then) and as much as I would never recommend asking for information, advice or for repairs from a “mall jewelry store” like Helzberg for or about vintage or antique pieces (I’ve said that before) I don’t snub my nose at them entirely and I would never suggest that people should.  If you can’t buy what you want there (ie a certified natural stone) then that’s a problem but they do sell some lovely pieces and there are some well trained and qualified people who work there, especially if you go to a nicer “mall jewelry store” in a nice mall.  And, frankly, unless you are prepared to do some serious research (or have someone do it for you) and shop on eBay, Etsy, or etc. for your engagement ring or other jewelry (and always require genuine GIA certification from the seller, etc.) then you might be best off shopping at a “mall jewelry store” if you are on a budget less than $7,000 for an engagement ring.  Discount jewelers are not something I would personally recommend…    Also, not all smaller jewelry stores are created equal and there is something to be said for the corporate standards stores like Helzberg have to maintain.   Those rules are not always a bad thing…   They can control quality for the better on occasion.  Also, as compared to online stores, you can try on the items you are looking at…

Frankly, if I had had a budget less than $7,000 for an engagement ring I would have likely either ventured to eBay or Etsy very carefully or I would have gone to a store like Helzberg and just found something in my price range that I liked (with GIA certification).  There are a lot of very pretty rings that don’t cost more than $1,500.   Truly.  And when it’s about the love behind the ring anyway, the price isn’t the point.  If you can afford something more, great and if you can’t it shouldn’t stop you from enjoying yourself and finding something of some at least ok quality that’s truly lovely.  Also, it’s about the experience too and stores like Helzberg are still very fun to shop at (all those beautifully displayed gems shining and sparkling behind the lights on velvet).

“I shopped around” a ton though.  Truly.   And I loved it!   But one of the most interesting experiences was when we were in London.  We stopped at several jewelers before deciding on Bentley and Skinner (where of course everything was certified, etc.) and one of them was a small store that specialized in vintage and antique jewelry.  They had some lovely emeralds but the assistant informed us that in order to buy any good natural emerald of a decent size (ie not just as an accent or at least as big as the equivalent dimensions of a 1 to 2 ct. diamond) you would likely find yourself spending upwards of $25,000.  Most natural emeralds have many flaws…   Finding ones that are less flawed entails higher than “average” cost.   And, after my research, I knew that was true but it came as a bit of a surprise to my husband who is far from uniformed or unintelligent, but again, you see, that’s the way it goes with perceptions of gemstones.  I’ll say it again: Diamonds are touted as the most expensive and the best (in the US especially).  People don’t realize that emeralds, sapphires, rubies, and etc. can actually cost much more than a comparable diamond if you buy them natural and of good to high quality.  Or at least can cost as much.

But, I didn’t want an emerald because emeralds are too fragile for my use.  I needed something like a sapphire or a diamond.  So we bought a diamond flanked by two smaller diamonds at Bentley and Skinner.  Although, I lost (they ended up in the ocean, etc. although I never sold them) most of my rings and I no longer have many of them including the one from Bentley and Skinner.  But that’s a subject for a different post… 😂 …Anyhow, one of the only ones I’ve kept with great intent (and worn on my left hand in place of a wedding ring) was not even from Mark but one I bought myself (the Art Deco ring I’ve discussed before). That ring I bought one year from an antique jewelry dealer after some research and for a good price. Mark is remedying my lack of a ring from him though, right now, permanently.

And…that brings me to the details.

Any time you start researching the basics of diamond buying you run across articles explaining that you want to focus on the four c’s: Color, cut, clarity and carat weight.  Now, the GIA covers all that for you by experts who meticulously grade the diamonds.   However, you have to decide what’s best for you among the ratings. Personally, I’ve always required at least the second or third highest rating in color, cut and clarity unless it was a very vintage/almost antique or truly antique stone (an Old Mine Cut diamond from the 1920’s I had for example) but then I did give up on larger carat weight on occasion as I didn’t want to overspend on jewelry (I think that regardless of how much you have to actually spend you should always have a budget or you’ll overspend and make a mistake).  Of course, I am always willing to pay for quality but to me quality doesn’t mean going larger than necessary (ie I would never wear a diamond engagement ring over 3 carats center stone – I don’t like how larger diamonds than that look on my smaller boned hands).  For some people carat weight has to be bigger though, of course, or they don’t like the piece. So, for those folks, perhaps they either just have to spend more or they have to find a way to sacrifice quality in the other c’s just enough to compensate without buying a diamond that’s clearly flawed or…they have to buy something with a lot of smaller diamonds creating a larger tcw or the illusion of more weight.

Just to illustrate my thoughts further and because I truly love looking at and analyzing gemstones I’ve decided to link to a few examples of rings that I love at “mall jewelry stores” that vary in price range under $7,000.   These are just pieces I would choose for myself depending on price range and are not meant to be taken as endorsements or anything of that sort.  Thanks for reading and here they are:

Under $1,000: Ring No. 1 Ring No.2 Ring No.3

$1,000-$2,000: Ring No. 1 Ring No. 2 Ring No. 3

$2,000-$4,000: Ring No. 1 Ring No. 2 (I would need to have this and the others GIA certified for the center stone at least, if they aren’t already and it would have to be at least moderate, ok quality )Ring No. 3

$4,000-$6,000:Ring No. 1 Ring No. 2 Ring No. 3 Ring No. 4

$6,000-$7,000:Ring No. 1 Ring No. 2 :Ring No. 3

Here are the rings I talked about:

This is the diamond solitaire flanked by diamond accents in platinum made by Bentley and Skinner. This was lost in Seattle down a drain.

This was the setting we picked in 2012 at Helzberg and that center diamond was going to be replaced by an emerald cut natural sapphire. The sapphire would have had to have been raised slightly… But, of course, it was never made.

This was my Old Mine Cut center diamond with side diamonds 1920’s/30’s platinum ring. It was lost in the Pacific Ocean…

Here is the Art Deco natural sapphire, diamond and platinum ring I bought myself:

And this is the Helzberg replica white gold and lab created (real but man-made sapphire) ring I used for my wedding (the first photo has the diamond wedding band too). The wedding band was lost down drain in Duluth and the replica was lost in London (and by lost I don’t mean stolen, traded, sold, etc.):

Bijan (women)

Opulent. To me, this classic 1980’s fragrance is the epitome of the opulence of that era. Today, vintage Bijan (Bijan Bijan 1986) smells niche. It’s rich, engaging, and nearly aromatic in its intensity. 🌿The opening is warm, with florals arranging themselves adorned in base notes that shimmer like expensive gold baubles. Then a fairly green narcissus, carnation and rose seem to stand out most. Sweet woods introduce themselves finally, after flirting indefinitely. And as it continues one becomes entranced. 🌿In the bitter cold of winter I imagine this is just loud enough to be heard. But I can only imagine how beautiful and lush Bijan must be on a mid-summer day. …I’ll find out next year!

Top notes: ylang-ylang, narcissus, orange blossom, bergamot, neroli and pimeto. Middle notes: Persian jasmine, Bulgarian rose, lily-of-the-valley, carnation, honey, orrisroot and tuberose. Base notes: Moroccan oakmoss, sandalwood, patchouli, amber, benzoin, cedar, heliotrope, musk, Tonka bean and vanilla.

Nose: Peter Bohm

Random Thoughts on 9/11

It’s been seventeen years since September 11th 2001, but I recall it vividly as so many of us do. I was sitting in A.P. Economics in my senior year of high school when I heard the news. As someone who watched politics both internationally and domestically like a hawk (I planned to make a career and life out of it) I had been predicting an attack on New York City for years (possibly by terrorists) and I automatically knew who had likely been responsible. I remember telling my economics teacher my ideas and seeing his face search for any evidence in his mind to support or discredit my impressions. But he was silent.

But after that…everything changed for the worse. Politics became increasingly toxic and bitter. Fear grew in everyone’s hearts and minds like a cancer. Brave men and women went to war and many sacrificed their lives. But the world became more and more chaotic… It still is. Thankfully, we haven’t seen any more death and destruction through a single act of violence in the US to the level of 9/11 but…it has not been a peaceful era to say the least.

So here I sit, a housewife, having never quite finished my political science degree (I was about under 30 credits short I believe)… After gaining almost a half a year of college credit through A.P. courses in high school I spent one year at a decent Midwestern university in the honors program and four years in college in Pennsylvania. And then I did one semester online at the first university (UND) when I was first pregnant with my son in an attempt to finish it. But I just couldn’t complete that degree… It was almost entirely out of exhaustion from undiagnosed hypothyroidism when I was there (as I’ve discussed) but I have to account for a little bit of it also being from an aversion I developed to the study of politics. And I think that aversion came from the feeling of this age.

It’s been a time of hatred, fear, anger and confusion. And, for me, the best thing to do has been to re-emerge outside of the ugliness. And I already loved art anyway…

I was fascinated by foreign relations (I did canvassing for two politicians and other work though) and had a very lovely internship I’m quite confident I could have secured in D.C. with a foreign policy advisor to a U.S. Senator on the Foreign Relations Committee (I had a private, professional/personal meeting with the advisor). Once I even had an advisor to at least a couple of US Presidents tell me that a question I asked in regard to the Middle East was very astute. But…beside being very tired, I just couldn’t stomach it all. I couldn’t force myself to engage as I should have and I let it all pass by me. And then, of course, I planned to try again in Wales and I met Mark…

Now, I’m planning to finish a PhD by my late 40’s, but in history. Possibly art history. And I’m going to keep writing. And I love working with antiques, including selling them.

…I doubt I’ll get directly involved in politics again though. If I do, I’ll be coming at it from a skeptical place with much less of my heart and life invested. Sadly, or not.

But that’s truly nothing, of course, to being one of those who died or lost their loved ones on 9/11. I don’t mean to say otherwise than that for a second.

Still, we’ve all been affected. One way or another. And it’s mind-boggling to consider what would have been for all of us.

Of course, less pivotal moments affect us equally but…these days of intensity in history do stand out. Indeed. And every year in September we are reminded again.

At any rate, let’s try to be more loving and appreciate each other more. Because, if nothing else, this day teaches us the fragility of all of it.

Be well.


A salty, oakmoss-green and crisp, rose and peony are flanked by a haunting woody warmth (Dior 1991). The opening is sublime. Other delicate florals emerge in a bed of amber hued beauty. Airy yet opulent, Dune is a sunny, late summer or early fall day at an ocean beach – one with the smell of rose bushes and green woods wafting from land to sea. And into the drydown it sweetens and mellows to a nothing but a kiss of the sun.

Top notes: bergamot, mandarin, aldehyde, and peony. Middle notes: jasmine, rose, ylang-ylang, lily, and wallflower. Base notes: vanilla, patchouli, benzoin, sandalwood, amber, oakmoss, and musk.

Noses: Nejla Barbir and Jean-Louis Sieuzac