Monday, January 26, 2015

Gramma's Pearls

On the morning of January 11th, I restrung the string of glass pearls that I wore (and broke) on my wedding day, the pearls my grandmother, Evey, had given to me. On that morning, Gramma was on my mind; hours earlier, she had passed away. 

After a long struggle with smoking related illness and, more recently, the pain and disorientation of not being able to get enough oxygen, Gramma slipped away while sleeping, not in a hospital or nursing home, but at home and in her favorite chair. I think of her, alone in the dark, with Pa (her husband of nearly 60 years) sleeping soundly in the next room, and hope that her final moments, moments she had thought on with such dread and anxiety, were painless.  

In the days since her passing, I've given much thought to my time with her while trying to keep my mind from that dark place of guilt and shame for not visiting more, not calling, not showing her how much I appreciated her and for not being there at the end. My mind skims over holidays, vacations, and afternoon visits to Gramma's: time spent with my hand in a cookie jar, playing pool, exploring her spooky sprawling house, or rummaging through her craft room.

There's one recent memory that I've polished in my mind, a bright moment in time that I see now how lucky I was to share with my grandmother and that this picture, below, illustrates so perfectly. 

As I attached the corsage to Gramma's blouse on my wedding day, Gramma shared the story of her pearls with me and helped me calm my pre-ceremony jitters. We held hands and chatted, I, kneeling down in my fluffy white dress in front of her, and she as comfortable as she could be in the heat. 

Gramma made it to all but four of her ten grandchildren's weddings, and as many birthdays and holidays and baby showers as she possibly could. Just shy of celebrating her sixtieth wedding anniversary in February, and her eighty-third birthday in November, she lived a long life that, even after her passing, I'm still learning so much about.

Gramma through the years (that's baby me that she's holding!)

As my grandfather adjusts to his new life as a widower, new stories have surfaced about his life, his marriage, and Gramma. One of Pa's new old stories describes Gramma climbing over another woman to sit next to him in the car (and that was before they were even going together!) and reveals so much about what kind of a woman she was. I can't wait to hear more of Pa's stories.


This seemed like a good time to resurrect the old home movies that captured life in the 60s for my mom's family, so I took a film movie that had previously been converted to VHS, then to DVD, and brought it to the internet for family far and wide to enjoy. 

While Gramma was primarily behind the camera,  I love this shot of her, around seventeen minutes into the film, holding a stringer of fish with a friend. Having had white hair for as long as I can remember, I love seeing this Gramma staring at me from across the decades, smiling and looking like we could be sisters. I have her nose, her hair, and now her pearls, and with this love of books she has passed down through the generations, perhaps someday I'll develop her sharp wit. 

My cousins and I have made a place for Gramma on our charm bracelets. On my bracelet she has found a home nestled safely next to my bookworm charm, a fitting place for such an avid reader. 

I'm not a believer in heaven or any sort of great beyond, but it's a nice thought to imagine her peaceful and comfortable somewhere, sitting in her chair and starting the next chapter of a good book.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


On Friday evening, I had the honor of attending my fourth Marine Corps birthday ball on the arm of my brown-eyed handsome beau. As usual, it was a night filled with pomp and circumstance, cake, camaraderie and the finest dancing you'll ever see.
Each ball comes with its fair share of speeches from the Commandant, the commanding officer, a guest of honor, all recalling the Corps' illustrious past, commending the brave, and thanking those who stand behind and support a Marine.
Over dinner, light discussion is usually had about orders, duty stations, deployments and dependents; the trials and tribulations of life in the Corps. I take it all in, eager to understand what I'm missing, what I have yet to experience, awkwardly responding to the sentiments of gratitude sent my way for my actions as a military spouse, gratitude that I don't yet deserve for actions I have yet to perform.

While the ball is a reverent celebration and about more than dependents in sequin studded prom dresses, it's hard not to get excited about an opportunity to dress up. 

As my Instagram friends may recall, I picked up a dress in July that I thought was just perfect for the ball. A bit of 80s/90s does 50s, this dress had the sort of modest sophistication I look for in a ball gown. And, while everyone else was in flowing floor length gowns, this form-fitting, ankle-length number was a little more me.

Dress-- thrift store find (a $10 bargain)
Fur wrap-- from my aunt's mother in law
Shoes-- Payless, purchased for my first Marine Corps ball
Clutch-- Flashbax, Wilmington, NC, purchased for my first ball
Glass pearl necklace and bracelet-- Fair Sails
Earrings-- Ebay, purchased for my second ball

Friday was a wonderful start to a nice long weekend, which we capped off last night, Veterans Day, by heading out for a dinner and a movie. At the movie theater, when purchasing tickets to the WWII flick, Fury, the theater comped our tickets in honor of my beau's service-- a kind gesture that many veterans experienced yesterday when queuing up to see the same film.
As on Friday, however, I was uncomfortable with the gratitude of this gesture, having never had to step up as a military spouse. In the four years I've been with my beau, we have never been through a deployment, we have never relocated, we have never experienced the hardships of his service.

Before we reconnected, and while I was partying my life away at college, my beau was at war. I'm not sure if I will ever understand what he saw, and what he experienced or the lasting impact this has had on him. Physically, I know he will never be the same-- the toll of explosions, heavy flak and kevlar, and trench foot, to name a few things, have left him a changed man. He doesn't talk much about the psychological toll, and though he is seemingly well adjusted, and the same gentle, caring man I know his mother raised him to be, I know, too, that he grapples with post-traumatic stress disorder within himself and within the Marines he works with daily.

My beau: Iraq, 2007

I know he does not shy away from another deployment, as he has discussed going forward voluntarily, and, should the time come, I am prepared for his absence, though perhaps not the possible outcomes of his time away. 

No matter what he decides to do in his life within the Corps or beyond, I'll support it entirely and with no gratitude necessary; Marine or not, it is an honor to be his wife.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

From a Basement in Kaisertown

Let's hear it for vintage kismet--- those times when you've been dreaming of a particular garment, say, a 40s peplum dress or a 50s wool cardigan, only to find it hanging on the rack at your favorite thrift or antique store.
Or when the little old lady down the street finds her collection of hats in the attic and knocks on your door because she thinks you'd appreciate them.

When that vintage find finds you and it just seems meant to be, this is vintage kismet.


Time and time again I've told the tale of Mrs. Bolton's and that defining moment early on in my days of collecting, and, while I don't generally subscribe to the notion of fate or some cosmic force steering my life, sometimes, like with Mrs. Bolton's, it's hard to deny the existence of vintage kismet.

I suppose, like most things, what it all boils down to is what you know and who you know. Having a seemingly fated meeting with that vintage item of your dreams is all about knowing where to look, looking often, and knowing kind folks that think of you whenever they see something old (in the best way possible, of course). 

This outfit brought to you by vintage kismet and the thoughtfulness of friends.

My last journey to Western New York provided me the opportunity to visit a new friend at the home of her grandmother in the Kaisertown neighborhood of Buffalo, New York. Originally we had planned that her grandmother, Theresa, would be present and guide me through her incredible collection of vintage finery stretching from the 1940s-1970s, but before I could make the journey north, Theresa passed away unexpectedly.
How I wish I could have gotten the full story on many of the things we found-- the boxes of scarves and hats, the beautiful jackets and jewelry, to have know exactly what was made when each apron was worn, instead I received a beautiful recollection of family history, complete with pictures, which was pretty fantastic.

While it's true I have a (rather unhealthy) love for the vintage item itself, it's the story I'm really after. I like the idea that an object wasn't just created for me, that it has a history that precedes me and a future beyond me-- I am merely a part of its story.  

Scarf and Blouse--- Collection of Theresa T., Kaisertown, Buffalo, NY
Earrings--- West Germany glass clip ons from Fair Sails
Ring--- Gift
Polka dot capris and belt--- Modern department store (Bon-Ton?)
Patent leather wedges--- Piperlime, years ago

This outfit, and variations of such, has been a staple in my end of summer wardrobe. With loafers, it's suitably casual for milling about the house, add some wedges and it's perfect for errands around town, and un-belted, this blouse would be just perfect for the expanding waistline of an expectant mother (though I'm definitely not anticipating that anytime soon).
 I only wish I knew how Theresa wore this blouse and if she ever paired it with the same scarf. 

Other pieces of Theresa's collection are currently being added to my online shop-- Fair Sails.

So here's to vintage kismet, 
to the story behind every item 
and to, as always....

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Eyebrow Game

Sure, the eyebrow fashions of the decades are recognizable-- the thin brows of the 1920s and 30s, the more natural brows of the 40s, and the thick, dark, sharply arched brows of the 1950s and 60s, but can you recognize an actress by her brows? Let's find out.

How'd you do? Pretty well, I bet!
 You see, eyes and their corresponding brows are incredibly distinctive.

 In fact, when we take away brows entirely, a famous face becomes almost unrecognizable.

Audrey Hepburn without her signature brows via People with No Eyebrows

To tell you the truth, I had no idea what Audrey's nose looked like, but without brows, my eyes are drawn to that part of her face. 

Here's a more contemporary example:
Lana Del Rey with and without brows via Celebs with No Brows

Without brows, Lana's face looks wider and, somehow, more masculine to me. Also, her eyeliner looks incredibly out of place and she looks just plain scary (as do most people without brows).

After considering these beauties, browless or otherwise, I can see why I hold such a fixation with eyebrows--- they're incredibly important.

At some point in time during my development, perhaps about the time I started shaving my legs (middle school), I began to notice the well groomed brows of my peers and of older women. My best friend at the time, who had two older sisters, shaved parts of her very dark brows, which resulted in odd, unnaturally shaped brows and garnered a bit of teasing from girls who plucked their brows or had them waxed.

Lacking older sisters, and as the daughter of a woman who plucked her brows to oblivion in the 1970s, I was pretty clueless as to what should be done to create and maintain "good" eyebrows.
Mom's senior picture, 1978. Her eyebrows never recovered.

Little me was pretty certain that should she pick up a pair of tweezers, she'd end up like her mother.

 Eventually I did tweeze, which evolved into waxing, light plucking and, later on, dyeing and filling. (Oh how I wish I knew about filling in one's brows when I was still wearing a ton of black eyeliner, how much better that would have looked. Yes, I grew up under a rock!)

Though I continued to admire brows, I was pretty satisfied with grooming habits and brow shape for years, until my brows thinned thanks to my under-active thyroid. During the worst of it, I could go two or three months between waxing, with little plucking needed; not only were my brows not growing, the hair was falling out, too!

October of 2009: my 40s style brows. June of 2013: my hypothyroid brows and swollen face.

As my brows diminished, my brow fixation returned, fueled by the hashtag "eyebrow game strong" on Instagram

As my brows slowly grow back, I'm contemplating their shape and care. Although I know I will never have lush brows a la Lauren Bacall, I've decided to go thicker for the first time in my brow journey. 

 Recently I invested in Anastasia Dipbrow Pomade, as I've always been better with a brush than a pencil. While I'm not sure I've yet hit my stride with the product, or if thicker brows are really for me, I'm enjoying experimenting and trying to find that look that may define the next few years of my brow journey,

So, what era of brow shape do you prefer? Which set of famous brows do you find most appealing above? And lastly, just how do you keep your brow game strong? Tell me tales of your brow journey!

Monday, August 18, 2014

August the Cruel

This past week, Summer eased her balmy grip on the coast, and, as I stood here on the porch on Friday night in the soft light of the setting sun, I acknowledged the wane of the season. 

While T.S. Eliot cast April as unkind, August can be terribly cruel as well, teasing with symptoms of the coming season: a cool morning, a grey day damp with drizzle, followed by an abrupt return the summer inferno.

Though we are wise to the tricks of August, we cannot help but dream of fall. 

Time should never be wished away, but it is hard to love a season with such a brazen disregard for personal comfort. Just as one grows wise to the artfulness of August, one does the same for summer. True you cannot change the weather, nor the season, lest you change your location, living in the South means adapting. 

This year has by far been my most joyous summer here, attributed mainly to the shearing of my once-mighty [unruly] mane. 
The simplicity of having short hair-- humidity resistant, healthy, cooperative, short hair, has been a boon, not only to my ego, but to my health, for, in my experience, looking good can often lead to feeling that way as well. 

After a long day in and out the heat and humidity, my set, though a bit untidy, survived unassisted by hairspray or pomade. Had I actually remembered to spritz my 'do before heading out, this picture might have been much more impressive.

Last Friday, a day originally intended for errands, turned into a day for me. 
It's not often that I head out on my own, as my beau and I generally run errands together, but the mortgage needed to be paid, my beau was at work, and, feeling good in one of my favorite frocks and my summer-proof coiffure, I couldn't help but deviate from the bank-then-straight-home plan.

The friendly hound: after a day spent cooped up, Sam is always eager to give hugs when we return home.

Time spent perusing the softly lit aisles of the cosmetics store (my first visit ever), an hour or two spent pawing through the racks at my favorite thrift store, and an energetic, nearly frantic, visit to one of the most amazing time capsule estate sales (shopping for myself and Fair Sails) and my day was complete. 

Sometimes bliss is just browsing, alone and unhurried.

Dress-- Vintage, "A Junior First Fashion"
I cannot, for the life of me, remember where I picked this dress up, but after years of it being too big, the hypothyroid-related swelling in my lower half fills it out nicely (a glass half full approach to an otherwise annoying symptom).

Shoes-- Black patent leather wedge sandals.
(Not pictured, of course, because I couldn't be bothered to venture any farther than the porch)

Earrings-- 40s/50s West Germany faceted black glass clip-ons purchased from Fair Sails

So, here's to feeling good, and feeling you look good. To taking a day for yourself, to dreaming of fall, and adapting to the wiles of the season.