Things I Want My Daughter to Know: Keep it Classy

There’s an woman I know who looks, acts, (and even talks!) very much like this beautiful woman in this video.  For some strange reason, she has decided to adopt me over this past year, lol, and taken me under her wing (in advice, elegant home party planning, ettiquite, proper form, entertaining higher ups, etc.), and helps me a lot with running the events I do for our wives organization.  Her level of sophistication and class has truly challenged me to step up the elegance and effort on my part.  Wow was I ever lacking in this area!

Her sweet, beautiful and kind daughter is high school age, and I ADORE watching their relationship. 😀

So I would be remiss to not post this as “something I wish my daughter to know.”

Keep it Classy 😀

Stephanie

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She Can Laugh at the Days to Come

“She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.” Proverbs 31:25

Our Fall Bible study touched lightly on a word I’d not thought much about, mirth, which means happiness, especially laughter.  

What is the value of to us as women of God to be able to “laugh at the days to come?”  When we’re suffering through something difficult, when nothing seems to be going right, or when our mental or physical strength seems to run out, the last thing we usually want to do is laugh at the trials, the uncertain future – this ability to laugh and remain joyous means we’ve found a treasure for sure!

It’s possible to live happy and joyous,

even when life is painful and we experience suffering, trials, or rejection.

 

The Proverbs 31 woman is packed full with admirable qualities, but I want to zero in on this one little verse and unpack what is so special about phenomenon and what it means.

She can laugh at the days to come because…

She has fully accepted grace.  She’s a sinner and knows it, she knows her failures intimately, but instead of being devastated, unable to move on, or guilt-ridden, she receives grace from God who makes beauty from ashes, and she is able to press on in strength and dignity, with her head held high because she’s been forgiven.

She doesn’t sweat the small stuff.  She sees the trivial things for what they are: insignificant in the big picture.  Instead of getting distracted with unnecessary worrying or drama in her life, she just focuses on living a life that pleases Him.  She is not easily moved or affected by emotions or feelings that are not rooted in Truth.

She goes through trials and suffering, but they are never bigger or more powerful than her God is.  Her faith has reached a maturity where even heartaches and crises don’t shake it, but instead prompt her to cling to God even tighter – oh that we may also have this kind of confident faith!  She is able to “stand firm,” confident that God is for her, and is not moved.

She isn’t worried about what other people think of her, but seeks the approval of God.  When we are overly worried about what others are thinking of us, if they are approving and accepting us or not, it tempts us to do things so people will like us, instead of focus on the things that please God.  It also tempts us to try to control or protect an image that we perceive we have – we’re not able to “laugh at the days to come” because we take them (and ourselves) way too seriously.  When our image depends on us protecting it, instead of trusting in God to defend us against the Enemy’s accusations, we lose our valuable mirth and become controlling, demanding, and unhappy.

She doesn’t let the Enemy play mind games with her.  She doesn’t get stuck in self-hatred, pity, or discouragement, she doesn’t dwell on these negative emotions or feelings.  She goes to God freely with her weakness and brokenness, because she knows that in her weakness, she is never stronger!

She doesn’t just strive to get by begrudgingly through life, she thrives and flourishes in God’s love and acceptance for her.  She may know the pain of suffering rejection like Christ also suffered rejection, but her heart finds it’s JOY in flourishing in God’s love.  She is no longer a victim of others’ misuse, mistreatment or rejection, but is a victor, and because of that confident victory, is able to laugh and have JOY.

She is strong and courageous, and is not afraid of people or battles she’ll have to face because she knows the Lord goes with her, and will never leave her or forsake her (Deut. 31:6).

 

 

Teaching Our Children to Care for Others

One of the things we successfully did as a family in 2015, and that I’d like to see us do more of in 2016, is spend time showing our kids (really our oldest) how important it is to reach out to others.

It’s not enough for us to just live our lives in our relatively safe, convenient homes and neighborhoods, and think we’re good people because we love God and go to church on Sundays.  If we love God, we will obey His word and proclamations of what we are to do with our time here.

God’s word announces in several places the importance of giving and caring for others, we are called to live outside ourselves constantly in His word,

If anyone thinks he is religious, without controlling his tongue but deceiving his heart, his religion is useless.

Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this:  to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

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I honestly haven’t been the best about this in the past couple of years.  Early in our marriage, and even when our oldest was very little, I would make it a point to take care of the material needs of those God put in our path.  We had SO little, sometimes barely even enough to afford food!  But somehow, even during those extremely hard financial times in our marriage, we still had surplus of material items we didn’t actually need, and God would mysteriously bring people into our lives that we could give them to… even though we were barely making it financially, we were STILL able to give out of the things we DID have.

God is mysterious, that is hands down obvious to all who know Him.  How we had the specific items that people needed when we met them during our financial poverty, I have no idea, but it was a blessing to me to be able to still give what I did have to give, and be able to meet REAL needs of the people God brought into our life.

The funny thing about being a good steward over what God’s given you, it doesn’t matter if you have very little, He can STILL use that little you DO have to bless others.  When we’re faithful with the little He’s given us, He often gives us more to take charge over – but with this, comes a greater responsibility, because He’s trusting us to use it wisely.

So in 2015, I made it a very conscious effort to do more, I wanted God to open my eyes so that I could see the people that might need help, and give our money, time, and material items to meet their needs.

We were able to help meet the physical needs of the officer I wrote about in Malicious Joy, the one who was hit by a drunk driver.  It’s one thing to hear about what happened to him, but it’s quite another to get my boys out the door, drive across town and physically meet his material needs.  Going to see him, taking him goodies and food items my son helped me pick out for him, almost every week, was such a blessing – particularly for my son!  The young man was alone, not married, and his family lived hours away… so offering to get things for him, helping by bringing him big meals, were things that he really needed.

It also took the form of visiting elderly people at a nursing home, talking to them, singing them Christmas carols, making them hot chocolate or tea, letting them enjoy my children – having the joy of holding our baby boy.  Many of them don’t get visitors, feel forgotten, and are some of the most interesting people with the most interesting things to say.  This may have blessed them, but I honestly think that me and our boys received an even greater blessing of getting to meet these people, listen to them, and even laugh with them.  We will do more of this visiting elderly people in 2016.

Giving from what we had also took the form of financially meeting people’s needs that God would place on our heart or in our path.  A young blind woman who had been abused in every way, was taken into the wing of an older woman at our church.  She had grown up in foster care homes, and many people that were supposed to have cared and looked out for her, had taken advantage of her and ultimately, left her alone in the world.  Her most pressing need was that she needed money to be able to obtain a seeing-eye dog, and my husband gave me the okay to give a significant amount for us, to meet her need.  Talking with her, showing her that people saw her and cared about her well-being and future, explaining to my oldest son the importance of what we were doing for her, was a huge blessing to get to participate in.  It was an honor for us… and she’s now gone on to decide to give back in her own way.  She decided to start a ministry in our church for people like her, so that she can give out of what she’s been blessed with!!

Giving this past year also took the form of lending our time and emotions to visit families who have lost their police officers, and bring them Christmas cheer… for me, this is something I wanted to run away from, the pain of these wives, the pain of their young children.  As a police family, we live in a kind of constant denial of the reality of what could happen, visiting these families, seeing them in pain, bursts that blissful bubble of denial.  This is NOT something I was particularly excited about, but it was SO needed, and blessing them, loving on them, hugging them, in return, gave us a sober blessing of treasuring our life together, and not taking any day, any moment for granted.

Come Thanksgiving time, we were going to serve a meal to young women and girls who live in a safe house in our city.  Police regularly deal with sex abuse, and reaching out to these young girls and young women, from the standpoint of being a police wife, is showing them that we care about them from a humanity standpoint.  These are girls usually around teen age, who are usually pregnant or with small children, and many times this is from sex slavery or by their own fathers.  Many of them came from Latin American countries.  Their children also live there with them, and so our team of wives decided to target loving on them this year.  Because of the nature of their circumstances, this was something I was not going to bring our children to so that I could serve more easily… but my childcare ended up falling through, and we missed this opportunity to serve.  I was disappointed because I was really looking forward to reaching out to these girls and women and their children!  But God showed me another way to bless them, I put small boxes together with little gifts and trinkets inside to drop off for them for Christmas.  This was maybe even better for us, because my oldest son was actually able to participate in helping me pack the boxes and drop them off for the girls!

So overall, we did pretty good, but 2015 care opportunities seemed to just happen for us, it wasn’t something that I deliberately thought about much or planned and acted on.

For 2016, I want it to be a deliberate thing.  I want to see the lost, the broken in the way that I used to when we had so little.

 

So excited about the New Year and the blessings to come, may this inspire you to think about how YOU and your family can bless others with what God’s given you!

Christmas Joy & Excitement!

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This past weekend, our family does the usual tradition of getting all the Christmas decorations out on the day after Thanksgiving, otherwise known as Black Friday lol… my son thought that sounded scary, and I guess from what it’s turned into, it is!

Getting the Christmas decorations out, putting up lights, the nativity scene for the kids, getting out my Grandma’s old glass Christmas decorations she passed down to me – telling my son stories about the family he’ll meet in heaven as were admiring their trinkets… it all makes me so happy!!!

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Throw in the Christmas music playing joyfully in the background, and you have a beautiful scene!

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Even though this holiday season has been emotionally difficult, I’m still trying to make it as joyful as possible for our little family.

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My dad is still not completely there mentally, and my brother and I have been receiving some things he no longer wants or uses. 😦   I’ve gotten his camera 😦 and his field microscope, my brother’s gotten the family rifle, and even though he’s excited and loves guns as much as I do, as we sat talking on Thanksgiving in his room (that he no longer really lives in, my baby brother has grown up!!!!) we both felt the sadness of what this meant.

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So we’re still mourning the loss in a way… and trying to be thankful that he is still here, and that we can still enjoy him.  Over Thanksgiving, we had the best times playing games together, talking, and laughing till we cried!

The morning of Thanksgiving, my older son (5) and I made a cherry pie together 🙂 I really suck at baking… but I keep trying and adventuring into this realm of the domestic goddess, and at least this pie turned out great!

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And it was even more fun that my son had especially requested we made this kind of pie this year (he was obsessed with cherry pie for months!), and so making it together with him, letting him help me do the dough and create the lattice work, was SO fun and SO worth it, even if the pie had turned out terrible.  So hooray for that!

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It looked beautiful, and tasted amazing!!!  So proud of him!

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Morning Adventures

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Yesterday morning, we went for a walk at one of our old haunts and favorite places.  It’s an outdoor mall in our city that I’ve been coming to for years.  The mall actually had it’s opening day on my birthday back in 2005, and has a rich history of our particular romance & love story.

It was a nice, cooler-than-it-looked day, and the beauty of the surroundings, especially in the late morning lighting, was just captivating to me.  You’d think after so many years, it would feel too familiar, but the familiarity seems to only endear me to it even more so.

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I think it’s good to get kids out to see the beauty of nature, whether it’s hiking, swimming in a lake or the ocean, walking on a trail or the beach, it’s just one of those things that replenishes my own joy and happiness… but seeing them enjoy it – seeing the baby captivated by the different sounds and sights of nature, is really incredible!

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The flowers everywhere still in bloom, the greenery, the vines cascading down from the roofs of the buildings… just a breathtaking place to be in the morning.  Definitely changes one’s attitude or mood if needed.

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I was talking to a sweet, older gentleman yesterday about how we’re having such a late fall here in Texas.  Everything still looks slightly like Summer, but we’re enjoying the cooler weather, me in particular, getting to wear sweaters and boots finally.

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I loved seeing this couch with the holiday pillows and wine glasses.  Reminds me of Christmas and cocktail parties that come in December.

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This red chair, along with the holiday pillow, makes it’s own statement.  So much style.

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And then we went to our favorite cooking store, when you open the doors, the intoxicating smell of delicious foods overwhelm you for a moment and leave your mouth watering.

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This woman was in the middle of cooking a delicious turkey meal, giving us some samples of Thanksgiving delights for a quick brunch.

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We have a special area my older son always loved to go see, it has clocks that tell the time of different places around the world.  We used to love going to the section and staring at the different times, and I’d explain to him what the people were probably doing in that part of the world – sleeping, eating dinner, or just waking up!  It was a romantic exercise 🙂

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I’m using my father’s camera now.  My mom thought it was a good idea to give it to me since he hasn’t (and probably won’t) be ever using it again. 😥  It took me a while before even wanting to take it out of the box. It’s a nice camera… but using it was an admission that there’s something really wrong with him, that he’s not the same as he used to be.

It does take better pictures than my old one, and maybe a part of him can be memorialized in the beauty it captures.  But it’s still a tragic change to me.

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Creamy Poblano Soup & Taco Soup

Creamy Poblano Soup

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I love a good, hearty, hot soup in when the weather gets cooler, or for those freezing Winter nights of which we have very few here in Texas.  This soup was just amazing!  I modified a recipe from Epicurious, adding in about a pound of ground beef seasoned with garlic, cumin, and pepper spices, substituting heavy whipping cream for a large can of Cream of Mushroom soup, and adding in a cup of our favorite salsa to add a little more kick, and omitting the butter altogether (it doesn’t need it!).

The roasted poblano peppers really make this soup sooo delish!  It’s hard to stop eating it!

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Taco Soup

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This recipe I came up with on the fly, based very loosely on the traditional Chicken tortilla soup – but instead, using beef seasoned with taco seasoning (garlic & cumin), adding black beans (canned or already cooked, otherwise they get crunchy – ask me how I know!), a cup of salsa, two-three cups of frozen veggies from our fridge, cooked for a few hours in a slow cooker, creates the most wonderful, scrumptious, complex-texture of soup with Mexican flavor.  We ate it with cheese, guacamole, and chips to garnish!

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My picky-eater actually really enjoyed it!  Success!!!!

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So. Amazing.

Beauty Basics – Fall & Winter Skincare

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No make-up, fresh skin, that’s wearable in the early mornings of Fall and Winter, is something that I used to not be able to do.  Summer skin seems to retain more moisture and oil naturally, making going make-up free almost preferable.  Who wants their makeup sliding off in the heat?  But with the dry, cracked, or acne-prone skin of Winter?  It’s a whole different ball-game!

As I’m getting nearer and nearer to being in my 30’s, I am embracing the peacefulness of feeling literally more comfortable in my bare-faced skin.  I love it!  ❤ I love the minimalist approach.

Of course, there are things I do though, that help me to feel this confident when make-up free.  Here are some things I’ve done over the years that have been proven to create skin that doesn’t need makeup.

Fall & Winter Skin Care Tips

  • Wash face with cleansing wash or basic face soap every day, I wash in the morning and at night
  • Wash with a specifically gentle exfoliant once every day.  I currently use a giant bottle of The Microdelivery Exfoliating Wash by Philosophy.  It’s the 32 oz, and lasts for about a year.
  • Use a thick, anti-oxidant rich moisturizer or even a basic oil (Castor Oil works like a dream and is extremely inexpensive) to sleep in at night.  Only use the oil a couple of times a week.
  • Take Omega 3 Fish Oil capsules to repair skin from the inside-out during the dryness of Winter, this also benefits your hair, making it grow faster than normal.
  • Get enough sleep!  It’s amazing to me, how much our bodies repair even minuscule damage done each and every day by free radicals that affect how we age.  If we don’t get enough sleep, our bodies literally do not have enough time to repair all the damage accrued in the day.  Sleep is one of the best anti-aging secrets then, and you really can’t make-up for lost sleep during the week, by trying to sleep extra hours over the weekend.  Our bodies just don’t work like that.  Get enough sleep each night, and wake up to healthy, beautiful, glowing skin.

Something Old & Something New

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Last night out at the field, we had a blast.  I finally was able to work up my nerve to run on the track – the real freaking track – complete with baby in tow in the stroller.  It was intimidating before, especially when you’re around other people LOL.  Run like no one is watching!

Running again felt so wonderful, I felt my muscles wake up, get rejuvenated, and felt so wonderfully exhausted by the end of it.  The baby didn’t mind it, either, he seemed to like the speed and held on tight… success!!!

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And I swear we both fell asleep faster and slept deeper after it… running used to feel easy, lol, I was surprised how exhausted I felt afterwards.

Look out, extremely random & happy baby picture below that will make you want to cuddle!!

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This kid wakes up with joy… it’s so unfair that he doesn’t need coffee! 😉

This last weekend we were gone on a long weekend get-away, a road-trip without the kids, traveling for what seemed like forever ❤  through the beautiful Texan small towns, the big cities and their lights over black waters at night, so fun!!!!  And such a great surprise from what I was expecting.  What was supposed to just be a quick trip to celebrate a good friend’s wedding, turned into a mini-vacation and love-get-away adventure.

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We drove through a little town of only a population of 90 people.  There were antique stores everywhere, with some beautiful things.

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I love finding things like this – looking at the way things were built, once upon a time… to me, walking into an antique store is exciting, full of anticipating wonder.

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Not Ready Yet

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More beautiful vacation….

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So. Damn. Sexy.

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I can’t get over this pic.

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Beautiful sunflowers everywhere in the sand….

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I’m still in denial… still not ready to be back! 🙂

Single Women – Use Common Sense with Make-Up

A couple of weeks ago, there was a youtube video going around social media of a young woman showing the different responses she had from men regarding how she looked with and without makeup.  A friend sent it to me to see what I thought about it, and wow, was it brutal….

I feel for this woman, I really do.  One of the most important things a woman can do for herself regarding her beauty, is to have the best skincare routine possible.  This means getting rid of any acne.  Yes.  Getting RID of it… in this day and age, there is simply no excuse.

If you have a daughter, it is your job to ensure that she understands how to take care of her skin… it is crucial to her future.  My parents made sure I saw a dermatologist as soon as I started getting a single pimple.  I was given prescriptions and magic potion ointments that gave me gorgeous and flawless skin that I still have today.

I was given knowledge of how to properly take care of my skin.  For a woman, this is paramount to her future.  Acne severely diminishes her attractiveness, even making her look unhealthy or sickly, but with the kinds of ointments and powerful drugs out there, it is no longer an excuse.

Some cases need harsher prescriptions, some need very affordable, light-weight drugs like Tetracycline – extremely affordable, I was able to have clear beautiful skin for $5/month just using Tetracycline.

Mothers, it is your job to teach your daughters to understand how to take care of her skin, but also how men perceive women who over-share their beauty techniques (ie: how a woman hides her flaws, as seen in this video).  It’s not that women can’t have any flaws, it’s that we need to teach our daughters to not be so vulnerable when putting themselves out there.  No one needs to see her beauty tricks if its going to put her in a negative light, this is something that should be kept private as she sorts out how to get rid of her acne (it is doable).

Single women, regardless of it you had a mother who taught you how to use makeup, understand men, or embrace your own femininity, it is now YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to ensure your skincare is under control.

Yes, the men were unnecessarily harsh and cruel to her, but this is the way men feel about a woman hiding her acne underneath perfect makeup.  

They feel lied to.  They think it’s false advertising.  Your daughter needs to know this, she needs to understand that using makeup needs to be done in a tasteful way, and that overall, her skincare (achieving as flawless-skin as possible), is what really matters.  She needs to understand common sense when it comes to men and makeup usage.  They like it, most truly do, but only when it’s not hiding something ugly underneath that they can’t see.  They know makeup makes you look a little better, but they don’t want to feel like you look like a totally different person.

It scares men when you use makeup in this way (and show them your secrets).  It simply does.

Andrew, from The Rules Revisited, did a wonderful article on What Men Think of You Without Makeup that offers some more manly insight!  

From Andrew:

“There is no question that you look better with your hair and makeup done than you do without it. If your boyfriend tells you that you are hotter without it, because he prefers when you “look more natural,” he is either lying or you aren’t doing your makeup correctly. Makeup is designed to make you look better; saying that it doesn’t is like saying that a fresh coat of paint on a house doesn’t make the house look better: it is only true when someone screws up the paint job by using the wrong colors or applying the right ones incorrectly.

In any case, although cosmetics give you an undeniable advantage when it comes to controlling your appearance, they come with the burden of deciding when and where their use is appropriate. The following points explain what men think about seeing you done up or in your natural state, so that you can better choose between the two when that decision proves difficult.

1. He cares about first impressions. We all do. They matter. Initial experiences leave an impression on the mind much deeper than most of those that follow; this is simply the way the human brain works. So make sure you are looking great the first few times you meet him; he will remember it. (Note that I did not say that you should be looking “your best” the first few times you meet him. This is because it is always good to keep a little something in reserve. If your “great” isn’t good enough for him, your “best” probably won’t be either. And even if it were, you would have to be completely focused on your appearance in order to barely keep him interested, making your life a living hell.)

2. He is going to see you without makeup eventually, so don’t make inordinate attempts to avoid being seen bare-faced after the first few dates. By inordinate I mean things like canceling a date because you won’t have time to do your hair perfectly, or completely avoiding a hike with him because full makeup and hair would be inappropriate. I don’t mean spending an hour getting ready for a date. Spending time to make yourself look your best is normal, not inordinate; so err on the side of doing this more frequently rather than less. Just beware that there is an upper limit to the benefit of added effort, since he will see you without makeup eventually.
3. He doesn’t stop wanting to see you done up. There is a misconception among some women that as a relationship develops, a man becomes either (a) less turned on by seeing you done up, or (b) more turned on by seeing you in your natural state. Neither of these are true. In fact, if anything, the opposite is true in both instances, since, as a man grows accustomed to your look, his sex drive starts nagging at him, inclining him to desire other women (though in a good relationship, this is counteracted by emotional investment, time investment, love, etc.) In any case, he certainly doesn’t stop wanting to see you look your best, or grow less disappointed when you reduce the effort you put into your appearance. There is no point at which you can “relax” without implications while you are both sexually active with each other. If this seems unfair, remember the analogy between confidence and beauty: you taking a break from being beautiful for him is like him taking a break from being strong and confident for you. While you could probably sympathize with your man’s desire to relax in this regard, and might even be OK with him showing his weaknesses to you from time to time (see #7 below), you’d prefer to always have him being his strongest, and you wouldn’t be any less turned off by his weakness just because time had elapsed in the relationship.

4. He hates a women whose life is dictated by her appearance. The negative effect of being unwilling to do activities that would require you to not wear makeup (camping, surfing, etc.) by far outweighs the advantage you gain by always being seen at your best – especially considering points #2 and #8.

5. He loves a woman who is confident in her own skin. Confidence is a character trait that both sexes find incredibly attractive in the other (even if women value it more than men) because confidence is rooted in a healthy self-perception and acknowledgement of one’s own self-worth – which all diligent and contentious people have. The attractiveness of your confidence is much more important than whatever advantage you sacrifice by occasionally being seen without makeup.

6. He loves you looking your best during sex. Remember that men are primarily stimulated visually. While there is a certain attraction to being naked with a woman who bares her whole self to you, most of the time a man wants to be sleeping with the hottest woman he can. Again, remember the analogy between confidence and beauty, and consider how you’d feel if your normally confident man man turned into a weak pushover in the sack. I am not saying that you should never have sex without your hair and makeup done. There are some instances in which getting done up just for sex isn’t appropriate, and he’d certainly rather have sex with the “au natural” you than not have sex at all. But when you have the option to get done up, and you find yourself tempted to think “oh, he doesn’t really care” or “we love each other so much it doesn’t matter,” remember this point.

7. There is something intimate about seeing a girl without makeup. When I’ve seen my ex-girlfriends without their hair and makeup done, I’ve had two thoughts: (a) she is less attractive, but (b) it is nice that I get to see this side of her. It is an expression of intimacy – and her confidence – that she can be herself in my presence, and this is worth something. Don’t use this as an excuse to ignore point #3, but allow it to help you if you struggle with point #5.

8. He isn’t expecting you to be as hot without it as you are with it. Men understand that you aren’t going to be as beautiful without your makeup on and hair done. This is expected, and it is factored in to their evaluation of your attractiveness. Yes, there are some women who get more benefit from makeup than others, and it ispossible for a man to be surprised by how much less attractive a girl looks without it. You can avoid falling into this category by understanding your complexion and wearing makeup that is compatible with your natural look; but regardless, know that men definitely hold you to lower standards when you aren’t made up.

A final point is worth noting: a genuinely feminine woman loves looking her best. She takes great pleasure in adorning herself and amplifying her internal beauty via her external beauty. You don’t need to be a supermodel to enjoy this; you simply need to know that you are looking your current best. The more youallow yourself to enjoy looking beautiful, the less you will resent the “need” to do so, and the more comfortable you will feel when you don’t.”