I fancy fall

Ah, fall. The season of cooler weather and scarves, crunchy leaves and boots, bonfires and sweaters, and steaming hot beverages and jackets. Okay, clearly for me fall is as much about fashion as it is about anything else. I’ll just go ahead and say it, I’m pretty sure I dress better in the fall. It might have to do with the fact that I tend to do more shopping in the fall than in any other season. Or it may be that I’m much more comfortable in the layers, sleeves, tights and boots of fall than I am in their warm weather alternatives. 
A quick peek at my Fall Fancies board on Pinterest reveals that I’m loving leather, dots, colorblocking and those oh-so-fall textures like houndstooth and tweed. Not to mention the fanciest of my favorites for fall–peplum. Be it on dresses, tops or jackets, I’m in love!

As for the image above. I have been watching all of the old seasons of Frasier on Netflix and I’ve decided to channel Peri Gilpin as Roz Doyle this season. I’ll leave the hair in the 90s where it belongs, but so far I’ve spotted her in maxi dresses, chambray and again my favorite, peplum.

This post is part of Arkansas Women Bloggers BLOGtober Fest. Check out all of the fun here.

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Why I’m wearing teal this Friday

I am an ovarian cancer survivor.  So many emotions bubble up inside of me when I make that statement. Believe it or not, shame is the one that registers highest on the ol’ feelings-o-meter. Why? I have long struggled with the feeling that my cancer experience pales in comparison with those of other survivors’ so greatly that I downplay it at best and flat-out pretend it never happened at worst. I have first-hand knowledge of the kind of cancer that takes every last vestige of hope and energy away from you, ultimately ending in the loss of precious life. My family and I were all right there with my baby brother, Russell, when the heavy burden of a brain tumor was laid on his slight, young shoulders. We watched him battle through surgery, chemo, radiation and other treatments that left him weak and sick. We saw him lose range of motion and slip into a coma. We gathered at his bedside when it was “time” on more than one occasion, including that October day when his suffering was ended.  
However, that same painful path was not planned for me. And, I might as well just say it, I feel guilty that what was laid on me was such “a walk in the park” in comparison. 

My friends, family and gynecologic oncologist (not to mention the bikini-prohibiting scar I acquired at just 21 years old) often have to remind me that my 8-lb tumor and the surgery that I went through to remove it were not “nothing.” At the same time, I was once told that my stage 1, level 1 tumor was “barely cancer,” as if there were such a thing. Since my pre-op CA-125 (the blood test that detects ovarian cancer) was negative, I didn’t even know that the watermelon-sized tumor that made me look three months pregnant was cancer until after the surgery to remove it. There were several days of waiting–in the hospital and once I was home– to find out if my cancer was all contained in the tumor or not, but I still can’t help thinking, I didn’t even know I had it until it was already gone. 
Let me stop right now and say that I am so very thankful that I was spared the awful realities of cancer treatments like radiation and chemo. Not to mention the fact that while my tumor was hey-you-can’t-ignore-me huge, the cancer itself did not progress beyond the first stage. Yet, even when saying that, the guilt weighs so heavy. Ladled upon these already shameful feelings, I think about the fact that I should be using my story as a means of hope and a light in the dark. I should be glorifying my God with unconstrained praise for not only sparing me such pain, but also for keeping my family from having to go through so much turmoil only 4 short years after Russell’s passing. It breaks my heart to think of my parents during that time. My mom, curled uncomfortably on the chair next to my hospital bed, unsleeping at 4 a.m. when I finally awoke from a drug-induced slumber and telling me that it was in fact, cancer. 
Instead, I mostly keep it to myself. Afraid that if people knew my story they would balk at my nerve to deem what I went through as surviving cancer. So I mention it in passing, wave it off when pressed for more details and sweat buckets when my family and friends request that I come to a Relay for Life and put on the purple shirt that says “Survivor” across the back in big, bold letters. I want it to remain this small thing that happened to me, yet at the same time, I so want other women to know that you can have this disease and not recognize the symptoms until it’s too late. As a billboard screamed at me while traveling home over the Labor Day holiday, “Your pap smear won’t detect ovarian cancer.” This is me screaming for those of you who read this and do not know this fact. Please pass it on to other women you know. Wear teal on Friday, and when someone compliments you (they will, it’s an awesome color), tell them why you’re wearing it. 
The Ovarian Cancer National Alliance‘s teal ribbon is in the photo at the top.
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Coupling

File
this one under “better late than never.” I have been remiss of late in
posting here. It seems all I have time to do is post my weekly guest
series on my good friend’s photography blog. If you are planning on
getting photos taken for any reason, jump over to Rebekah’s photo blog and see my photo-tastic outfit
options. The last three weeks I’ve been focusing on what couples should
wear for engagement photos.

Speaking of couples…


Lately,
I have been loving this lovely series by graphic designer and
letterpress artist/blogger Amanda Jane Jones. Titled, My Better Half,
it’s a little peek into the lives of ordinary (extraordinary, really)
couples. It is so interesting to read about these people that I don’t
know and learn what makes them tick, what makes their relationships
work.

Since
my parents recently celebrated their 36th anniversary, I decided I
would dedicate this couple-centric post to them and do my own version of
my better half featuring them. (Without Amanda’s great graphics, I’m afraid.)

Philip & Malinda: The Early Years

Dad/Philip:
1. My dad is the guy you go to if you want to know anything.
2.
He also has the uncanny knack of finding people he knows wherever he
is. On family vacations, trips to the store, a dinner outing, you can
expect him to run into someone he knows (and still remembers from high school!).
3. Has a great love for music that started in his adolescence, and he still plays it too loud.

Mom/Malinda:
1. Loves paper & tags of all kinds and collects them. Throw away a cool-looking tag off a new shirt and you are dead to her.
2.
Still wants to do everything she planned to do “when she grows up.”
This probably has something to do with why she is always in a library.
3.
Had a dream when she was younger that she was the lucky winner of a
coveted grand prize: a brand new baby. She went on to have 4 children.

Mom & Dad Christmas 2010

How they met:
The
version of the story I’ve always grown up hearing goes like this: Dad
was stationed in my mother’s hometown of Killeen, TX. Some friends set
them up on a blind date that went just okay. Flash forward to when my
mom is at church and sees this cute guy and asks her friend, “Who is
that?” Imagine her surprise when her friend told her, “that’s the guy you
went on a date with the other night!” And as they say, the rest is
history. Happy (belated) anniversary mom and dad!

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Fashion Friday blog series

I’m excited about a new blog series I get to be a part of on my friend, photographer Rebekah Wright’s blog. We’re calling it Fashion Friday and it’s a weekly series that gives styling ideas for photo shoots.

Rebekah and I have been friends since our college days and spent 2 years as roommates in Dallas. Much of our free time was spent planning photos shoots or going on spontaneous photo shoot excursions. That, and shopping.

While we have collaborated a lot with our respective photography and fashion expertise, this is the first time we have done a series like this and I am really excited about it!

Check out the initial post here. And if you need a photographer, Rebekah comes highly recommended from this girl! See my lovely blog header? That design is also courtesy of the very talented Rebekah.

Here is the first Polyvore collage of the series:

Minty fresh

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Age is but a number

It’s so strange how my mind judges age and the passing of time. As a married woman without children of my own (excepting our dog Neko, of course), I always automatically assume that anyone with kids is older than me. I am always shocked to find that people with children are the same age or even younger than I. Logically, this makes no sense, but I find myself thinking this all too often. Take one of my favorite bloggers, Ashley Rodriguez of the beautifully written and photographed Not Without Salt, who just posted about taking the plunge into her 30s. A step I myself will take in a little over a week. To be as accomplished as she and have 3 kids (!), and she’s the same age as me? It seems impossible. I hope that I will accept it as gracefully as she.
A few months ago, I told a friend that I didn’t feel like I was where I thought I would be when I reached 30. I didn’t have any real specific goals, but where I was did not match what I had in mind for myself when I pictured what this decade would bring. Her answer back to me was to point out all of the good things I had to be thankful for. Since then, I have made it my goal to replace thoughts of doubt, fear and jealousy with thoughts of gratefulness instead. I know it sounds cheesy, and truthfully, there is a part of me that wants to punch myself in the throat, but it works. It has completely changed my attitude about everything. I’m not saying I don’t still get in a funk for a few days when things don’t go my way now and then. I do. But, eventually I realize, hey, things really are good. 
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you” –Philippians 4:8-9 (NIV) 
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This morning, all I wanted to do was sleep in. Who wouldn’t with this cutie snuggled up with them?

I felt so tired and achy that even the massage I had scheduled sounded like too much effort. Several months ago, I bought a coupon from the local paper’s version of Groupon for a 1-hour massage at Regeneration Fitness in North Little Rock. It’s something I never do, but the price was unbeatable. I had never heard of the place before and judging by the “Grand Opening” sign outside when I arrived, it hasn’t been around very long.

If you know me at all, you know that I have had the aches and pains and stiff joints of an old woman since my early 20s. I have tried physical therapy, chiropractic, pain relievers, etc., to no avail. Along with the diet I adopted 6 months ago, a good massage is really the only thing that seems to help. Key word here being a “good” massage. It seems to just make me more tense if I go to someone who wants to do a relaxing, rub-you-down kind of massage. On the other hand, they can go the other direction and leave me in pain and bruised. You know that song by Deena Carter, “Did I Shave My Legs for This?” There have been many times when I’ve gone to get a massage and thought immediately of this song. Not to mention, did I pay good money for this?

My massage today with Lisa was neither of those things. It was literally the best massage I’ve ever had. (To fully understand this, you have to imaging me saying “literally” like Rob Lowe’s character on Parks & Recreation, Chris Traeger. See a video here.) I was so glad that I got out of bed and went to see her. She addressed the issues we discussed beforehand, and also used hot stones and stretching to really help with the pain. I had never experienced the latter two methods in a massage before. I always thought that hot stones were just laid on the back, etc. during a massage like you see in the photos at spas. I never realized they could be used as a tool for massage the way she used them. I really need to start doing this more often because, as Lisa so aptly pointed out, I have “issues with my tissues.” Now if I could just have her with me every day to remind me to “take a deep breath.”

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Love Song for the Crescent City

A couple of weeks ago, I took a road trip with some friends to New Orleans for my best friend’s birthday. The passing of another year is not usually marked with such an indulgence, but this year carried with it a significance no other birthday has before or will again. I speak of that uneasy transition from 20-something to 30-something.

Sunset on Lake Pontchartrain


New Orleans is such a beautiful city full of history, culture, art and wonderful food. Yet there is a sorrow underlining all of her beauty that is inescapable. I hope to go back again and uncover some more of her secrets. A lyric from “Lorraine’s Song” by Grayson Capps has been on repeat in my mind since we left: “Lord, fly me over Pontchartrain/Back to the land of sugarcane and summer rain.”

H and me (left)

One of the highlights of the trip, of course, was the “spiritual” experience of having beignets and cafe au lait at Cafe Du Monde on Decatur. This was followed by an exploration of the French Quarter.

“It seemed like an ordinary day until I had coffee with Jesus at The Cafe Du Monde.”

Simply decadent.
The aftermath
Pirate’s Alley (where Faulkner House Books is located)
“Standin’ on the corner of Royal Street”

Another day was spent in the Algiers neighborhood. We traversed the mighty Mississippi by ferry to get to this charming place that was left untouched by Hurricane Katrina.

P and H on the Algiers Ferry

Sign posted outside the “fancy grocery store” in Algiers

The day before we left, I called my brother to ask if the 2 hour drive down to Grand Isle was worth it. It was. I could have spent the entire vacation there–collecting shells, watching the porpoises and gazing out at the muddy gulf.

As my own 30th birthday rapidly approaches, I find myself closing my eyes and picturing that beach. I believe that my 30’s will be calmer and I’m quite looking forward to that. “I grow old … I grow old/I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.” -excerpt from The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot.

Sorry for the long post this time. I hope you enjoyed the photos of our trip.

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New Year’s Eve

I just had to post this video of Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. It may be a little too late in the game, but here you go!

I don’t have any big plans for this evening, just working on the house and getting organized. Boring, I know. But on Tuesday I’m heading down to New Orleans and I’ll make up for it then. Do you usually go out for New Year’s Eve, or do you enjoy a quiet evening at home also?

See another Zooey & Joseph video that I love here.

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The naming of things

I’ve always been happy with my name, but there were times growing up that I wished my middle name could be my first instead. This was mainly during my obsession with the Young Adult book series, Sweet Valley Twins and Sweet Valley High, by Francine Pascal. Oh, how I wanted to change my name to Elizabeth and be called Lizzie. We moved around quite a bit during my formative years and I swore the next time we moved I would tell everyone to call me Elizabeth instead of Julianne. I never did.

When we moved to the sleepy town of Mountain Home, AR, I did try something new with my name. It was the start of my 6th grade year and I was in yet another new school. This time was so different, a complete shock to my city-girl self. I met a sweet girl named Sara who upon learning my name asked me, “Do you go by Julie or Anne?” I had never really considered shortening my name before. Sure, people would call me Julie on occasion, but I would quickly correct them. “My name is JuliANNE,” I would tell them. But now I felt like I had options! I could be a new person altogether in this strange new place. I told Sara she could call me by whichever name she chose. I regretted it immediately.

I still go by my full name to this day. Nothing else quite seems to fit. Do you like your name? Have you ever wanted to change it?

I love these photos of that other famous Julianne. From Fashion Gone Rogue.

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In with the new

I have been meaning to start writing a blog for quite some time now. I keep getting preoccupied with getting everything in place first. What should I name it? Should I get my own domain or use a blogging site? What will I write about for my first post? Who will even read it? My husband keeps telling me, “You just need to start writing.” This is the story of my life. If I would just start writing (sewing, knitting, exercising, etc.) then I’d be on my way. Unfortunately, I think too much about everything. Today at work, while reading some magazines (yes, this is condoned–encouraged even–on the job), I began thinking about New Year’s resolutions. I have never been one to make a resolution at New Year’s. Not that I do not encourage renewal and fresh starts, I just seem to take these kinds of things on (and subsequently abandon them) at all times of the year. Just within the last 3 months I have begun a new diet that has dramatically changed my health and well-being. More on that later. As 2011 comes to an end, I find that I actually have several “resolutions.” I want to make changes in so many aspects of my life that I feel setting out to do them and resolving to follow through isn’t such a bad idea. And why wait until 2012 to begin? I decided to start with one that I knew I could keep. I figure, if I start out easy I have a better chance of success with the harder ones. 
Today, I resolved to come home every day after work and wash my face immediately so that I do not get too tired and end up sleeping in my makeup. It seems so simple, and yet so many times I find that it feels like such a task at the end of a long day when all I want to do is crawl into bed. I know I am not alone since it’s one of Allure‘s “skin sins to leave behind” and even blog queen Joanna Goddard of A Cup of Jo has broached the topic. Along with washing my face, I also I vow to take out my contacts. I have been much better about this in the last month, but I have slipped up a few times. What are your New Year’s resolutions?
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