Sunday, January 25, 2015

Party In Your Parka 2015: Event Coverage


Lots of ice skaters were out on the maintained ice trails Saturday afternoon!

Party in Your Parka 2015 was a total blast this year!

There was a great turn out, and we really enjoyed walking around, drinking local beer and wine, and partaking in all of the wintery goodness that was all around, from ice-skating to snowman building!

The artisan tent was a nice break from the cold (though the weather was great and generally mild for a Michigan January!), and we had fun tasting gourmet jerky and checking out local handmade products, like the incredible beard conditioner we picked up from Wilder Beard Company. It smells EXACTLY like a mellow, vanilla-cherry pipe tobacco, and it feels amazing on the skin...I can't tell you how much I love the smell of this product! It's amazing. ;)


One of the tastiest aspects of the Winter Sports Complex...the yummy soft pretzels!


The Luge!






All in all, it was a great time, and I'm totally looking forward to next year! 
See you then!


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

#PartyInYourParka2015 With a Thrifted Hat!


 #PartyInYourParka2015 With a Thrifted Hat!

Check out the awesome vintage hat I thrifted for $2 at Muskegon Rescue Mission Thrift! You can easily go out and find yourself the crowing glory to any cold weather ensemble with an awesome secondhand hat. So many places I've been lately have everything from fur hats to knit collections that are just a few dollars and perfectly full of life!

This fur number was just asking to get paired with buffalo plaid and it's definitely what I'm rocking at Party In Your Parka this year! I'll be heading out to the festivities on Saturday during the day to enjoy some hot chocolate and FREE fun winter activities with the fam. Will you be there? 


Don't forget to hashtag your selfies and fashionable snow gear shots on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook with:

^^^Check out what's going on anytime by bookmarking/clicking on the link above!

I'll be scoping out the situation online all weekend and posting a roundup blog, and I'd love to include your images! =)


Monday, January 12, 2015

Sub-Zero Scarf Fashion: Party in your Parka 2015! 

Image courtesy of

Sub-Zero Scarf Fashion: 
Party in your Parka 2015!

Let's get down to business. You aren't going to want to miss Party in Your Parka 2015. Not only is it an outdoor winter wonderland at Muskegon Sports Complex where the event is held, but you get to celebrate the birthday of this beautiful state of Michigan in style, with tons of outdoor activities (family friendly during the day) as well as hang out in a heated tent, with local vendors and delicious microbrew. DID I MENTION IT'S FREE??? I can't wait!
Every year that I help out as the official stylist of the event, I always think: how can you look fashionable in sub-zero weather? (Often here in Michigan during January that is what we've got going on with wind chill involved). You really don't want to skimp on personal warmth or safety for fashion (unless you're Kim Kardashian or something). Of course, having a stylish winter wardrobe (namely, an awesome coat!) is important, but I think the true answer lies in ACCESSORIES.

Let's look at some different (and super fashionable) ways to wear your winter knits!

Image courtesy of
    Over-the-Head-Infinity Loop 
    You'll need an infinity (or tied together) scarf for this look. Simply use one end as a hood and wrap the other section around your neck. (Work backwards on this one...neck first, then twist the scarf, then put head through).

Image courtesy of ThreeBirdNest
    Infinity Loop with Added Flair
    As mentioned above, the infinity scarf can be a solid loop scarf, or one you've tied together yourself in to a circle and doubled. But what about this added flair? I LOVE the idea of tying off one side with a simple bow or ribbon. So cute. Also think about adding a brooch!

Image courtesy of
    Extra Chunky Pretzel Knots
    I love the standard pretzel knotted scarf but this takes it to the next level! Great texture and you can get the whole tutorial on how to achieve this look here:

Image courtesy of Ebay
    Embellish a scarf by adding jewelry to it! This sliding ring was made to fit over a smaller or pashmina scarf, but how can you achieve this look with a thicker scarf? How about trying bracelets or necklaces...Hmm. I'm intrigued!


Image courtesy of
    Twist it Up
    It's easy to achieve this look through a simple series of twists; check out the easy directions here at Fit Fab Fun!

What else can you come up with?

Don't forget to check out my Winter Coat Style pins on Pinterest, and my Five Best Cold Weather Beauty Tips from last year!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Upcycled Cloth Napkins From a Dress Shirt and a New Series: "Resolve to Repurpose!"

 Upcycled Cloth Napkins From a Dress Shirt
and a New Series: "Resolve to Repurpose!"

I'm always mixed on New Year's resolutions.
On one hand...goals are good, mmmkay?
But on the other, expectations are the devil.

This year, I've opted to continue the healthy self-care I've had in place for a long time, but that doesn't mean I don't have goals. In fact, I thought 2015 would be a great year to even further increase the ways I can up-cycle used and vintage things in to a new series called "Resolve to Repurpose!" 

There are many ways to do this without cluttering your home with toilet paper tubes and old coffee cans, and most importantly, you can do it with thrifted, gifted or free items!

So, without further ado, I present my first craft project of the new year: up-cycled cloth napkins! This project was so much fun and yielded a very useful product. If you have a few old dress shirts laying around then you won't need a thing--otherwise, you could easily pick up a large shirt at a thrift store like Hope's Outlet for around $2. Read the instructions below! 



Gather up your materials! You'll need:

-At least one large or extra large dress shirt 
(I went with plaid because I love it, but any dress shirt will work nicely!) Each dress shirt of this size will yield about 6 napkins using the measurements I've provided and that is without using the sleeves, which I saved for a future project. ;)


-Measuring Tape


-Sewing machine with zig-zag stitch setting (optional)



Using a soft tape measure, I marked off 11x11 squares wherever I could fit them in! (You could easily do slightly smaller or larger, but I was also leaving a small amount of room for a 1/2" hem on each side). 
I was able to cut two squares from each side of the shirt in front, and a grid of four squares on the back. 

The next step is optional...
read on to find out why!



IF you are particular and precise, you would carefully press the edges of your napkins to make a 1/2 inch zigzag hem on all sides before sewing.  

IF you are a un-apologetically lazy seamstress like I am, then you get on your sewing machine and start the party! 

IF you don't have a sewing machine at all or simply don't want to mess with that aspect of things--good news! You can gently pull out vertical threads and skip this step altogether to create a pretty fringe border. If that's the case, carefully rip out the vertical thread on each side of your napkins with a seam ripper or needle until you see the fringe border you want, in the thickness you like. This is a little time consuming but does work nicely!

Then, get an ice tea and sit back and appreciate what a domestic, up-cycling goddess (or god) you are!

If you're thinking that these would make an excellent right you are! Trust me, I'm keeping this project on my radar for next year's handmade Christmas giving, because who wouldn't want an adorable setof up-cycled plaid napkins? You could even get fancy and monogram them. More on that next season... ;) 

The next step is to enjoy your super cute cloth napkins and relish in the fact that you are helping to reduce consumption of paper products! Cloth napkins feel so much more fancy and they happen to look exceedingly adorable, as well. 


Follow me on Instagram or explore the hashtag, #ResolveToRepurpose2015. 

What can you re-purpose today?

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

No Bake Carob and Coconut Macaroons: Raw, vegan, gluten free--only five ingredients!

7 copy


These raw, gluten free, vegan no-bake cookies sprang from a well of desire for one of my favorite candies ever (Mounds!). I wondered if I could make something similar without baking; a quick and easy (plus way healthier) treat. My beta version was a huge hit (even for my fiance, who isn't afraid to express his dislike for carob).  They were a yummy addition to the Christmas Cookies we gave to friends and family this year AND they look like little adorable ice cream scoops!!! So let's get started!


1/4 cup cold pressed coconut oil (I used Simply Nature organic brand)
2/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (I used organic bulk coconut from my local health food store)
1/2 tsp liquid organic stevia (or any other sweetener to taste)
4 tsp coconut flour (you could easily substitute a finely milled rolled oat or something similar)
3 tsp carob chips

OTHER OPTIONAL ADD-INS (careful not to add too much of anything)
-a drop or two of vanilla, almond flavoring or even peppermint
-a small amount of slivered almonds
-finely chopped maraschino cherrries


In a glass bowl, melt coconut oil in microwave for 30 seconds and stir until fully melted. Add stevia or preferred sweetener and stir together. Add shredded coconut and stir until coated in oil. Add in final ingredients (coconut flour and carob chips) and incorporate carob chips as evenly as possible. Add any additional flavoring or ingredients. At this point, if you've used stevia, the mixture may taste slightly bitter, but that flavor mellows after the cookie sets!

Using a rounded tablespoon to measure, tightly pack mixture into the spoon and press on the top of one end of the spoon wtih your finger to gently pop the macaroon out. They are very delicate and this part takes some patience! You can also experiment with other tools or simply pack ice cube trays or another small mold with the mixture. The little scoops sure are cute, though!

Once you have the tiny scoops on a plate, pop in to the freezer to set (minimally 10 minutes, though they may be ready before that). These actually keep quite well in the freezer and are yummy cold, but we always eat ours within a day! 

Once the coconut oil has chilled and firmed they are actually quite well set, and do well at room temperature from that point forward.

They are certainly a much healthier version but BOY, do they ever taste like Mounds! If you use stevia to sweeten, they are actually quite low carb considering the coconut is unsweetened and the coconut flour is very low in carbs as well. Don't forget about the awesome health benefits of coconut oil!

This recipe yeilds 8 tbps size cookies. They are petite and adorable!





Pumpkin Black Bean Hummus



Looking for a light New Year's Eve or New Year's Day snack to serve that will offset some of the heavier things that may have been on the table this past week? Try this dish!

I was looking for some healthy and filling options to add to my Christmas Eve menu, as this year we celebrated with appetizers and cocktails rather than a regular dinner. This hearty and tasty recipe was one of a few that I came up with! Stay tuned for one more recipe: a raw, vegan and gluten free dessert tomorrow!


--One can (drained) of your preferred brand of cooked black beans (or roughly just under two cups of cooked beans if you prefer to do it yourself). I used SimplyNature organic brand.

--One half of a can of your preferred cooked pumpkin puree (or around 1 cup of cooked pumpkin). I used Libby's!

--Tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

--Cumin, salt and pepper to taste

--For anyone who likes a little heat, a dash of Sriracha or your favorite hot sauce or powdered spice


Creates about three cups of hummus and serves 4-6.

Combine all ingredients in your food processor and blend until somewhat smooth (I actually like my hummus a little on the chunky side!). This could also be done in a blender but you would end up needing a little extra liquid for blending, and your hummus would be thinner. With this recipe, you could easily hand mash the black beans and stir in your pumpkin puree, as black beans are quite soft! Your hummus would be a little on the chunkier side.

I served my hummus with carrot, broccoli and cucumber slices, as well as rice crackers. It was delicious and full of protein, fiber and antioxidants (plus the pumpkin gives it a nice vitamin A and C boost!).


Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Dress with the Radishes & Beauty in Disrobing

April, being awesome

The Dress with the Radishes & 
Beauty in Disrobing  

When I was about thirty years old, my mother called me on the phone to tell me about some clothes that my aunt had given her. “I’ve got a dress that Gail saved for you!” she boasted. “It’s your style, you know--vintage. I think it might be old. I know you’ll love it. It looks like something Marilyn Monroe would wear.”
     “Sounds great!” I responded, but my inner enthusiasm was curbed. Mother was notorious for collecting beaded butterfly blouses with transparent sleeves, chunky high heel mules with clear plastic straps and wedding dresses that were three sizes too large or small. (Forgive me mom, it’s true.)
      Therefore, months later, when she arrived for a routine visit with a crinkled TJ Maxx bag full of goodies, I was pleasantly surprised to find the modest halter dress, which was, as touted months ago, quite darling, though it wasn’t truly vintage. It was made of sky blue cotton, and covered in an adorable ruby radish print that was bold and quirky. It was just the sort of thing I’d wear.
     I scanned it over with my eyes, estimating that it might be snug but would probably fit (that horribly, terribly disappointing thing that girls tend to do when they see a dress that they WANT to fit them so badly).  Naturally, it was sleeveless, and I was already concocting plans of how I could pair it with a cardigan or something else to cover my arms (a body part that I felt terribly insecure about revealing at the time). I hung it in the closet and admired it from afar, daydreaming for a few weeks about how I would style it.
     Until the day I tried it on.
     It almost fit. Almost. The waist and the skirt, though they didn’t fall perfectly on my plump shape, weren’t the biggest problem. No, the real obstacle was that it wouldn’t zip. The dress was definitely NOT going to zip, any time soon. In a maddening mockery, it went halfway; maybe even 3/5 of the way up. And then, the tired little white zipper stuck, threw its hands in the air, and said “Screw this!”
     At that point, I could have squatted, gnashed my teeth, and flexed--splitting the fabric in half, Incredible-Hulk-style.
     Instead of doing that, I held my breath like an Elizabethan housewife. Ignoring the fact that my breasts had found new spaces in the dress to occupy (other than the chest area), I ruminated over how I might get this dress to fit. Embarrassingly, I settled on the idea of adding elastic straps to the back where the zipper wouldn’t close. Why not? I knew that I’d never wear the dress without covering my arms, so no one would be able to tell, anyhow.
     I sewed a few white strips of elastic over the gap and permanently fastened the zipper where it had “given up”. I wore it more than a few handfuls of times.
     Yet, every time I sported the dress , I felt badly about myself. No one could see the ramshackle trick I had used to make the garment wearable, but I could feel it, and it made me uncomfortable, as if I was living a lie.
     “HEY EVERYONE!” I thought I should probably yell from the street. “I’M ACTUALLY TOO FAT TO WEAR THIS RADISH DRESS!”
     I hung it in the back of the closet, with the shameful elastic pieces out of sight. Every now and then, the radish fabric would peek out from the sides of another vintage cocktail dress or pair of dress pants, mocking me. It stayed there for years.
     Then, one afternoon, I took the dress off the hanger, but it wasn’t to wear it. I turned the article over and carefully pulled the elastic and stitching from the back, undoing the seams around the zipper that had held it in place. I zipped it all the way up, for the first and final time, and drove it to corner where a World Mission clothing donation box was located. I hoped that a radish print cocktail dress would be the sort of thing someone in Kenya would wear.
     I thought of this experience this last fall when I visited with my friend April (who is a brilliant dietitian and founder of Choose to Change Nutrition). April has done tremendous work in the field of eating disorders and been absolutely inspirational to me in my own quest for body image acceptance, as well as a beacon of knowledge for feeding myself properly. She also happens to exude energy and is wonderfully comfortable in her own skin.
     It was late afternoon, and I was shooting her professional portraits next to an abandoned school house near the very high school that we had both graduated from, nearly twenty years prior.
     One of April’s outfits was based around a black shift dress, and I showed her a few previews from the LCD screen of my camera. “I don’t like the way this dress is making me feel,” she said. “Let me take this off.”
     She pulled some of her clothes out of my backseat and threw some jeans on, and much to my surprise, ripped off her shirt in broad daylight next to the road, smiling. “You know I have to photograph this, right?” I teased. “Of course!” she laughed, and smiled brilliantly. “I’m serious!” I continued. “I’m going to have to blog about this!”
     Once she was dressed, we began to chat about the wardrobe change. Why, as a society, were we always inclined to blame our bodies for the discomforts or insecurities we felt (in photos or just in general)? Perhaps we should blame the clothes a little more often.
     It made me ruminate over all of the times I had stood in front of the mirror in an impossible pair of stretch pants, fuming at my pooched belly. All of those awful moments I had spent in the dressing room at Target, spitting with anger over my own reflection and the terrible way that a pair of ill-fitting jeans encased my meaty thighs like Jimmy Dean sausages.
     YES—why had I never blamed the clothes? Not once!? I immediately cursed my body—“You horrible, terrible vessel, you! You never look the way I want!”—when I could have easily said, “You wretched little pair of skinny jeans. FOUL, dastardly dungarees. I hate you and I will most definitely send your sinister ass to the return rack.”
     It seems like a hilarious notion, but in all actuality, it’s brilliant. There is NO TIME in life for ill-fitting clothes or outfits that make you feel less than superior. Yet, there is immense energy in the articles of clothing you have that empower you, lift you up, and make you feel beautiful or comfortable. And it only takes a moment to sort between the two.
     Therein lies the challenge: wade through your closets, raid your dressers. Find your radish dresses, and pack them up—throw them out! Disrobe—in the middle of the street, if you have to—but don’t allow the fabric of negativity to dissuade you from your own, true, spectacular self. Your body is the gift. Cover it in only the finest cloth.

What can you clean out of your closet today?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Something Creepy This Way Comes: Weird Stuff I Saw at the Thrift Store

Weird Stuff I Saw at the Thrift Store

The other day I stopped in to one of my favorite thrift store haunts with a few things on my shopping list. 

     This was not one of the things on my list.

     My brain came to a screeching halt. Was this pantyhose covered, Idaho-Russet resembling lump in gathered stonewashed stretchpants a doll baby? Why did it have only a few curly strands of Cabbage Patch kid hair? What would it look like if I were to turn it over?

I never did summon the courage, because I was pretty damn sure I was going to see this:

Creepy dolls seem to be the number one scariest thing I run in to regularly while thrifting. Here's a few examples from the past (click the image to visit):


What weird stuff have you seen at the thrift store lately?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Winter Berry: A fabulous (gifted) Vintage Coat


Winter Berry: A fabulous (gifted) Vintage Coat

My friend Jaleen messaged me some time ago to ask if I'd like to have a vintage coat that she had been given. She thought it would suit me. Snapping a cell phone pic, she sent me an image of the red dress coat.
     LOVE. At first sight.
     I adored the cut, and the military style details on the front. Interesting beading on the buttons, loop fastening and plenty of additional snaps were a plus, as well, but the REAL cherry on top was the absolutely perfect way that it fit, and how incredibly comfortable it is.
     It is a fitting wardrobe piece for Christmas, and very appropriate for the chilly (yet balmy and unseasonably warm) weather we are having here in Michigan for December.
     Still, though it fits as though it is made for me, perhaps one of my favorite things about the coat is that it comes from Houseman's of Grand Rapids, Michigan, and the name carries a rich history that was a large part of Grand Rapids and its economic growth--from law firms to tailors. It all began with one man--Julious Houseman--and his immigration from Germany.
     THESE amazing sort of truths behind vintage clothing are precisely what draws me in. I can literally feel the remnants of energy from the past in every fiber of what I'm wearing, and when I find something like this red dress coat that fits me so wonderfully, I have to wonder if it belonged to me in a past life.

Reunited and it feels so good!

What do you wear that connects you to the past? Have you ever felt a strong draw to an item or a piece of clothing simply because of its history?





Sunday, December 7, 2014

Breathe--Styling a Tshirt and introducing "GlamPunk Clothes"!


Styling a Tshirt and introducing "GlamPunk Clothes"!

Just breathe. A novel concept for someone (like myself) who is a type A personality and a perfectionist. I've had to force myself to do a little of that with the holiday season (plus full time work and college), but a little reminder is always handy.

That's where GlamPunk Clothes comes in with this great graphic tee! 

The shirt itself (made in the USA) is a soft jersey tee, similar to a tunic style that is extra long. I love layering shirts like these, or tying them into a little bun in the front for a flattering and slimming look!

It is an item that was handpicked by Monica, a dear friend of mine who is an up-and-coming female entrepreneur in Miama, Florida and the owner of the new online clothing store, GlamPunk clothes (find them on Facebook, here!).

Her collections are fun, urban and edgy. I suspect that with her recent success the selections will be growing, and you can order the graphic tee I am wearing as well as other fun items like this Boho inspired fringe tunic and this stretch colorblock knit dress.

I styled this teal t-shirt with a little twist and threw some white up in the mix. Every other element that you see here is thrifted and secondhand: from the white Nine West pumps to the fun vintage shades.

Check out Monica's store and by all means, don't forget to BREATHE!











Friday, November 21, 2014

The Time The Jersey Dress Betrayed Me (How I Came to Love a Picture That I Hated)

An example of the crazy wind that day...
Photo by Rachel Kaye Photography, 2014

The Time That Jersey Dress Betrayed Me 
(How I Came to Love a Picture That I Hated)

I knew when I felt the wind that I should have prepared myself more thoughtfully. 

It was only a few short weeks ago, and though the ground is now whitewashed as though the sky had something to cover up, Michigan, at that moment, was still resonating with autumnal weather. Thirty-mile-an-hour winds and dark skies encroached upon us as my fiancé and I embarked on a “save the date” wedding session with our wedding photographer, Rachel Kaye—one of two sessions we had planned before our wedding next September.

I, myself, was also photographing a session that day on a windy rooftop in Muskegon, and I had hoped Rachel might join us to capture some industrially romantic snapshots. She happily agreed to meet us on location and I was excited to think about finally having some official engagement style portraits done with my soon-to-be husband.

Prior to arriving, the afternoon had been rushed, but I felt pretty confident about my outfit selection; a grey jersey dress with a cotton moto jacket over tights and black combat-style boots. I curled my hair meticulously, outlined the cupid's bow of my lips in red, and hoped for the best.

I really hadn't been prepared for the windiness of the rooftop. I had expected a breeze, but what was happening near the lake that day on top of the four story building was more of a hurricane. Tears were literally blown from my eyes as I photographed my clients first; the whole time Rachel tagging along and anticipating our own session.

Every single curl was blown away from my head and my hairs were straightened with the cool wind tunnel power of Lake Michigan. The sticky air coating every strand reminded me of childhood motorcycle rides, and running my hands through my mane with popsicle fingers.

When it was time for Ben and I to be photographed, Rachel ran around on the rooftop like a kid at a candy store. “Stand over here and do the 'Rachel Pose'”, she laughed. “Do you guys kiss? Is that, like, something you do?” She had a fun and infectious energy and we felt totally comfortable playing along as we tried to milk the last 45 minutes of precious sunshine left in the day. My hair blew sideways and my nose and cheeks were bitten with the cold wind, but I loved the overall feeling of our setting and I had fun being photographed.

We wrapped up our meeting with a couple of beers and a glass of wine, and concluded that things had felt great. I couldn't wait to see the images and I knew Rachel was going to do a phenomenal job.

The next morning, I logged in to Facebook and was served with a notification.

If you’ve ever struggled with body image or any sort of negative feeling about your physical appearance, there’s something to be said for that trepidation that wells up inside you when your social network alerts you that:

“_________” tagged a photo of you.

At times in my past when I felt less strong, my inner dialogue would go something like this:

“PLEASE let it be from the waist up. Not an underneath angle. I hope it was my good side. Not a close-up of my crooked smile. Dear God.”

I’ve grown since then and usually, I hope for the best and click without giving it too much thought, so that morning, I bravely explored the tagged photo with excitement. Only a moment’s time passed before my heart sunk, because the very first thing my eyes were drawn to in the image was my POOCH.

What I originally saw in the picture with my exclusive tunnel vision

THE pooch. The oddly asymmetrical, saggy, poofy trophy that I won post-partum; the pregnancy parting gift that I’ve tried to give back with diet modifications and 6-day-a-week workouts for years. And then, the fabric of my skirt, which blew sideways in an illusion of elephantitis—my calves appearing wider than they even were (which is pretty wide).

I felt like Sallah in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom: why was my jersey dress betraying me? It had suddenly transformed into a hateful Aladdin pantsuit, and that was all I could see when I looked at the photo.

Of course, Rachel had done an amazing job with all of our photos—they were lovely. The problem didn’t lie in the photography, not in the least. Yet, a few days later, as I looked over the entire session at some of the full body photos of me in the grey jersey dress, I couldn’t help but feel a lump in my throat. Runaway tears escaped and I told my fiancé in a shaky voice, “I just thought I would be so much farther by now. All the work. All of the healthy eating. All of the exercise. But all I see is fat.”

He hugged me and told me I was beautiful, but after listening to my self-sabotaging talk for a day or so, grew weary of it. “Look,” he said gently, “I can’t stand to listen to this anymore. You’re offending my sensibilities. When I tell you I see beauty, and you tear yourself down, you are essentially saying that what I see isn’t real.”

That shut me up for a moment.

I’ve heard it all before—every word of enlightenment, every pat on the back, every bit of encouragement. Though I’ve appreciated any and all of it, when the self is hurting, sometimes words of encouragement are like seeds through sieve; they can’t get through.

Perhaps it is because I feel so entitled to a different body some days. I eat moderately and incredibly well, lift weights five days a week and run or perform some other cardio for the same amount, if not more. Though I’ve lost weight since delivering my son, I’ve hovered at my current size for a few years, despite tremendous work. A strong family history of hypothyroidism, including my mother, had led me to years of inconclusive testing, which is still ongoing, but all of those facts are nothing more than dandelion seeds, blowing away from me in a slow haze. I’m still standing here, holding this flower, being myself. I can’t escape it.

And I can’t convince anyone that, I am who I am. They have to just believe me. Trust me that I’m a runner. Take stock in the fact that I eat a whole foods diet. Because my body doesn’t look like it. At least, not to me.

“You look loved,” a good friend of mine told me, regarding the photo in question. At that moment I realized, I had completely ignored my fiancé in every image. I had missed his sweet eyes, his smile, his gaze upon me, and the obvious body language that was speaking in every possible tongue: “I love you, here in this photo.” I felt like the worst, most horrible person on the face of the earth.

I looked at the photos again.

In the cold skyline and the rust-eaten smokestacks I saw something burning beneath the photo session that was so much more than my clinging jersey dress. I stared over and over again at the particular images of my body that I hated the most, letting it sink in. I looked at Ben’s face and his postures. I began to ruminate over the real reason behind my self-harm.

As a person who hasn’t always accepted love easily, I tend to run away from intimacy. Feelings of self-worth, the terror of being exposed, and the fear of abandonment after submitting to love can easily choke out a moment of happiness for me. I began to wonder if that might have more to do with meltdown over the pictures than any particular ensemble I was wearing.

“You have permission to be present in your own life,” a friend had told me that week, prompting a lump in my throat and stinging eyes.

As I gazed upon the picture that had initially triggered my emotional breakdown, I noticed for the first time the colorful bricks behind us, covered in peeling tar. I saw the patterns in the dull, marbled clouds in the backdrop. The tightness of our grip as we held hands, and the way we grinned at each other. Instead of gazing upon my stomach or scanning my full-body image, I interpreted the picture as a whole, finally understanding it—as if it were some type of hieroglyph, or a calculus equation.

In that moment, I was looking through the lens of Rachel’s camera. For that second, I was seeing myself with Ben’s eyes. And in that instant, I perceived the true image before me for what it actually was: a snapshot of love.

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