Husband and I celebrate five years of wedded bliss this December. With the big day comes big plans. We are hoping for a romantic getaway to celebrate.
We were ambitious a few years ago. We talked about returning to the South Pacific to commemorate the five year mark. Or maybe something new, like a two week long tour of New Zealand, Iceland or South Africa. A lot has happened between then and now; some good, some bad. The economy, my health, our dogs, our house, etc. We have adjusted our expectations and instead will be driving to our destination of choice. It won’t be as hokey as it sounds. Being smack dab in the middle of Northern California we are within driving distance of many amazing, unforgettable places. Places people the world over take on great expense and effort to visit.
I want to be sassy and confident, and drop fifteen pounds for this special getaway. I want Husband to look at me, to desire me over those four or five days, is if I’m the hottest thing to ever hit the earth. I will see it in his eyes and actions, no matter what. But I want to feel it.
I have a problem. I don’t think it will happen.
I feel like a biological disaster.
I want to somehow channel that hard, healthy body I enjoyed when I was twenty-five. Before lupus. Before chronic pain. Before all this crap that has taken over my life.
I sometimes pull out my old clothes, hold them up and say to myself “God, I used to fit into that?!?!?” It’s exasperating. I wish I can look on the bright side. My super skinny days weren’t all that. I had no ass and no energy. Okay, I still don’t have any energy, but you get my point. People used to look at me with sympathy. I didn’t know what it meant until much later.
I was happy when I abandoned extremes and found some measure of self love, put on a few needed pounds and found my happy weight. I estimate I’m probably ten pounds above that number right now. But I want to lose even more, to see if I can do it. Because I know how intoxicating it will be if I do.
I know it’s wrong to believe ten or fifteen pounds will make the difference. That it will make or break the experience of our time together, and all the love and celebration that comes with it. It angers me that the state of my ass, boobs, and waistline matter, how each one holds a certain power. Why is it so hard to accept what I have? That it is all beautiful and worthy of love?
The way I see it, I have two choices. I can set ridiculous, lofty goals to barely eat and exercise way more than I should, to somehow morph my nearly forty something body into the one I had at 25, and do it all without the resources of a Hollywood starlet. Or I can work on accepting what is, because what is really is fabulous, plus or minus fifteen. He likes it. He tells me every day, every chance he gets. I need to keep working on the self-acceptance thing and get on board.
I don’t want to be controlled by the numbers on a scale, and lose sight of all that is good in my life, how when it all comes down to it I really have so many of the things I dreamed about as a young girl, like passion, love and possibility.
Despite all the wisdom, the knowing what is right and what is wrong and how I should feel about myself, I still don’t know what I will choose. But I start today, with healthy, clean eating and exercise.
Let’s see where my plan, and my emotions, take me.
Photo Source: http://blushingapples.tumblr.com/
The love I’m supposed to have for my body.
The other day I plopped down on the couch, and I heard it. The sound of my thighs slapping together. An odd, disturbing sound that made my heart sink. I was beyond mortified. I panicked and looked around, afraid that my husband heard it, too. Then I remembered he wasn’t even home.
Really? I said to myself. Is this what it has come to?
Far too many times in my life unexpected things like this, even mean and unsolicited comments from others, have held a certain power. The power to ruin perfectly good moments, perfectly good days. The power to dismantle my self esteem like it’s nothing. The power to take away all the progress I have made on this journey to self love and acceptance. The power to make me forget all the amazing things my body can do, and how it is beautiful just the way it is.
There I was, forgetting all that was good and gorgeous about me. It is so easy to do.
He came home and found me on the couch, still freaked over my thigh moment.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
I stared at the ceiling. “I’m not liking myself right now.”
“Watch Jerry Springer. That will make you feel good about yourself.”
“That won’t fix it,” I replied, barely above a whisper, my voice quaking and on the verge of tears.
If he noticed my impending onslaught of emotion, he didn’t let on. “Come on, let’s watch anyway. We’ll feel like winners after seeing whatever cast of characters he has on today.”
I appreciate my husband’s sense of humor most of the time, on this day it was no different. But sometimes watching Jerry’s guests wax poetic about trailer park love triangles, pole dances and other colorful topics still can’t distract me enough to break the funk I find myself in.
I got up, careful to avoid another thigh slap heard ’round the world, and decided to spend some time on my laptop. I did an odd thing. I found myself browsing online images of curvy, delicious, feminine bodies. Maybe it was my subconscious way of feeling better, to relate to it somehow, to find some sort of validation. Or, sadly, my subconscious way of punishing myself, to potentially leave me feeling worse. I don’t know why I did it, but knowing how I can be, my reason for doing it, I thought, was most likely the latter.
An interesting thing happened.
It was actually the former of the two possibilities. The exact opposite of what I really expected.
My keywords of choice inevitably led me to classic images of none other than Marilyn Monroe. I can’t really call myself a fan of her acting, but I always thought hers was a sad yet compelling story; and I always related to her for one reason. The thing that made her an icon.
I came across an old favorite. It wasn’t Marilyn. Instead it was Norma Jeane. Casual strawberry blonde, before the coiffed, calculated, platinum blonde bombshell persona that made her famous. I looked at it, and unbelievably I saw myself. The single roll of flesh at her waist. The healthy, average size and shape of her thighs. How her arm wasn’t super skinny, but instead healthy looking and feminine. I took in the whole image. Soft. Inviting. Real.
It was me.
This is what I look like.
And it’s beautiful.
If you look at photos over the span of her adult life and career, you will notice that her weight fluctuated sometimes, just as it does for most of us. You can also see when she was troubled, when things in her life weren’t going so well; and the good times when she was on top of the world. But it always seemed the roundness of her belly, the shape of her legs and the softness of her arms remained a constant, all of it a part of her allure, which has remained with us all this time, fifty years since she left us.
If I can look at these photos and see a womanly beauty, then I must see it in myself.
This is me.
A somewhat slender waist with the right amount of softness.
My backside of delicious curves.
Ample legs that get me places.
A come hither smile.
No matter what, to someone we are perfect. In my world, I am married to that someone. I just need to work on knowing it in my dark moments, when a fat day creeps up on me. I need to feel it on my own, for myself.
Today is a good day. I am loving what I have. There will be days when the love isn’t there, and on those days I will seek out my inspiration. Marilyn, or Norma Jeane. Or any one of the millions of other beautiful women who look like me.
But today is today. I don’t need any help.
I choose love.
I have a ritual. Every morning, without fail, I go to my bathroom mirror and study my face. This probably isn’t the smartest thing to do. It has a way of messing with my head a little bit. Usually I am focused on fine lines and dark circles, but I noticed something new a month ago, and it threw me into a borderline panic.
There was a four day build up to my freak out. I gave it a few days, studying everything closely and wanting to be absolutely sure. But there was no denying it. It was true.
My eyelashes were definitely looking stubby.
I can’t have this.
Since being diagnosed with lupus (and secondary fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue) nearly fifteen years ago, I’ve put up with a lot, having to accept what it has done to my appearance. My skin calmed down several years ago, and by some miracle I have managed to keep my figure mostly intact. Instead the crisis going on inside of me wreaked havoc on my hair.
The universe was on my side in some ways. On my wedding day nearly five years ago my hair was long, full and healthy, and at that point I was ten years into my illness. I am so grateful that I at least looked vibrant on the most important day of my life, immortalized so prevalently in photos. But three months after the big day I hit a rough patch I never fully recovered from. And that’s when I had hair all over my pillows, and in my brush and shower drain.
I baby the hell out of what I have left on my head. But no matter what I do, no matter what products I choose, and no matter how my stylist cuts my hair, it seems terribly hopeless at this point. I feel like a disaster.
All is not lost. My hair may be fragile and half of it has fallen out, but my compromised follicles are not dead, just dormant. If I can get my disease under control for any length of time and take good care of myself inside and out, I can get my lustrous locks back. Unlikely, but at least there’s a chance.
I’m sure my stubby lash discovery last month is connected to my hair conundrum. After I came off the ledge and calmed down a bit, I started looking into what I could do about it. I don’t wear a lot of eye makeup. Most days I don’t wear anything at all. And on the days when I actually care enough to put forth some effort, one coat of mascara does it for me. I don’t have the patience or desire to mess with the other stuff. But this also makes my lash deficiency even more problematic. I have counted on my long lashes to make my eyes pop without makeup.
I’m sure most of us are familiar with those fabulous, seductive Latisse commercials. The lash growth progression is amazing and being prescription strength, results are proven. But like a lot of prescription drugs, side effects can complicate things. Skin irritation and pigmentation changes around the eye have been reported. And I understand you have to continually use it in order for results to last. Continuous use translates to continuous cost. My mom tried it for a while and it worked for her, but when she stopped her lashes went right back to the way they were.
My concern with Latisse is the cost, side effects are a concern, but secondary. I believe it comes to about $130, maybe more, for a two month supply, and of course being cosmetic it isn’t covered by insurance (unless your reason for using it is glaucoma related, what the drug was originally marketed for). My mom had no problem covering the cost, but she is in a much better position than I am financially. I could swing it, but I can think of other things I could spend that $130 on, like acupuncture or other things I need to feel good.
I settled on two over-the-counter lash serums, and honestly I see a big difference in how my lashes look. I am thrilled with the results. First I tried NYX Grow Lash Serum. This is a mild product with zero irritation (at least for me) and I applied it at night after my contacts came out before bed. It probably wasn’t necessary for sound results, but I drenched the roots of my lashes both top and bottom, and brushed the serum on to the length of my lashes as well. Within one week I noticed my lower lashes were much longer, and my top lashes weren’t far behind. I also bought NYX Long & Full Lash mascara formulated with the growth serum so I could get the benefits during the day with my mascara wear. I wasn’t as impressed with the mascara product, but strictly from a cosmetic standpoint. I expect a mascara to wow me and it really didn’t make my lashes look full and thick, though I do think wearing it during the day benefitted me in my lash growing goals. The NYX serum (.15 oz) was about $22, the mascara about $13 (.24 oz) at Ulta. Ulta often has sales such as buy-one-get-one (same brand) for 50%. Also there are coupons and other discounts if you are a participant in their points program, so cost can be substantially lower if you shop at the right time. I did exactly that.
My curiosity was getting the best of me, and I wanted to try another lash enhancing product. The next one I tried is Smartlash by iQ Derma (.16 oz). I found this gem at the Dermstore online, and I purchased it for $30. It is my understanding the price is usually much higher, but I locked in to the introductory offer and will have a new tube sent to me every two months. While this product is applied the same way as the NYX serum with a small precision brush, it can’t be applied as liberally. There can be a slight sting if it drips into the eyes, so I applied it carefully to the lash base only, top and bottom, and I made sure my contacts were out beforehand. I applied it just before bed, though the product literature does say it can be worn during the day, advising users to allow the product to dry before applying makeup.
I am experiencing good results with Smartlash, too. Now I am less focused on lash length, and now I am noticing new growth and a thickness at my lash base.
I am one satisfied customer without having to resort to Latisse, with its cost and side effects. I don’t see or sense any issues with using NYX and Smartlash interchangeably, so I’m running with it.
And the best part? I feel prettier and more confident now that I have my lashes back.
For more information on NYX products, visit: www.nyxcosmetics.com
For more information on Smartlash at the Dermstore, visit: www.dermstore.com/Smartlash
Photo Source (done up eye with false lashes): http://weheartit.com/
As an avid reader and lover of all things fashion, I was excited to learn of the latest collaborative collection from the house of Louis Vuitton. Marc Jacobs, the driving artistic force behind the timeless label, decided on the legendary and avant-garde artist Yayoi Kusama. Known for her fun, bold polka dot motif, in her over sixty year career she has splashed it on everything from sculpture and canvas to entire rooms (even her wheelchair).
Hers has been and is a fascinating life. Moving to New York City from her native Japan as a young woman, she now resides again in her home country, having voluntarily committed herself to a mental institution over thirty years ago. Every day she goes to her studio to create her amazing work. Beautiful and inspiring at 83, Kusama joins the illustrious company of past LV collaborators such as Takashi Murakami, famous for his colorful take on the legendary LV monogram.
The highly coveted Infinitely Kusama collection is set to debut in October, and will surely make its indelible mark on the collective consciousness of the fashion world. While I suspect most items will be out of my price range, I may try to get my hands on these super darling, flirty sunglasses.
And if the universe is on my side, maybe even these delicious heels.
A girl can dream, right?
At the very least, millions of fashion mavens the world over will be introduced to the work of a very talented lady.
For more information on Yayoi Kusama, her amazing story and her collaboration with Louis Vuitton, please visit:
On Friday I had my once-every-eight-weeks ritual. It was time for a hair trim and style, and the customary 45 minutes in my stylist’s chair. One may think I would look forward to this opportunity of pampering and beautifying my outside. On the contrary. My heart sinks with every sharp snip of the scissors, and with every little bit falling to the floor. I honestly dread it.
My stylist is a kind, funny, patient man who has turned out to be a wonderful friend. Despite my aversion to regular maintenance, finding him was one of the best things I have ever done. I wasn’t too sure about him at first. When I met him I knew right away he was straight. I wanted to run right out the door and find someone else. I know it sounds odd, ignorant, even bad. But at that very moment I could not fathom a straight guy with the immense responsibility of maintaining my precious hair. I imagined my very straight husband taking on the task, then all my straight male friends, and even (oh God) my straight brother. I shuddered. But I managed past my doubt, took a deep breath, sat in his chair, and 45 minutes later I had the silkiest, most amazing blowout ever. So now he can’t ever quit, retire or move, because if he does I will probably have a nervous breakdown.
Here’s the root of my anxiety: every time I sit in his chair, I am reminded of what I have lost. Three years ago I had one amazing head of hair. Espresso brown and hitting right at the small of my back. Thick, lustrous and gloriously dramatic. I got comments all the time. When I went for my first wedding gown fitting, my consultant peeked into the secluded dressing room and said “God, Allyson, what exactly have you done to get that hair?” I didn’t have an answer for her. My hair just happened. It was mine in all its long, natural, shiny glory, without any effort or intervention.
My health changed dramatically, and a few years later my disease finally got around to wreaking havoc all over my head. My hair is now a good six inches shorter. I would say I have lost a third of its volume. Autoimmune disease and fibromyalgia in and of themselves can cause this to happen, but in my case I have severe nutritional deficiencies that are fueling the crisis. If only I can get all of this under control. Maybe, just maybe, that long, full and beautiful fairy-tale-princess hair can once again be mine. It is a possibility. My hair follicles are dormant, not dead.
None of those happy thoughts really help me now though. Hair matters. It has since antiquity. If it didn’t matter, all of these celebrities and even average people wouldn’t seek out expensive, mile long extensions and the drama and sensuality they bring. Long, voluminous hair is healthy. It practically screams sexy. It saddens me that it’s no longer mine. I hate how the thought can ruin a moment, even a day, and sometimes hold me back from loving how I look.
And I really hate how the outside matters so much. Because most of the time I think my inside is pretty wonderful, and it deserves my recognition. I don’t know why it has to get lost in my sadness and disappointment, over what being sick has done to my appearance.
I experienced the usual apprehension as I sat in my stylist’s chair, his hands buried in what is left on my head. I did the customary bitching and crying, and he, with the patience of a saint, dutifully and lovingly voiced his sympathy and talked me off the ledge. He trimmed just enough. In the end, and as usual, he managed to work with what I’ve got and made it beautiful. I left with a silky smooth blowout that fell past my shoulders just right. I admit I felt amazing. Even though I didn’t feel that heavy swish of hair breeze past the small of my back. I may feel it again someday. I hold on to the hope and possibility.
I know my health is primary, my outside secondary. Right now I am doing everything I can to eat well and be healthy again. Hopefully my efforts will pay off, and a calm, sound body will result. The outside will follow. And if it doesn’t, I have to remind myself every day of what I do have, what lupus and fibromyalgia can never take from me. A good heart. The sincerity of my smile. My expressive hands and their long, slender fingers. Arms and legs that work. Eyes that can see the beauty in this world.
The wisdom to recognize all that is mine.
And all that is good.
Photo Source: http://weheartit.com/