Thanks To Vegas

I spent this morning praying the same thing over and over: Lord, what do I do?

In the wake of yet another confusing, terrifying, heart shattering tragedy, I’m left empty-handed and full-hearted, longing to know how to make a difference for those who are grieving, even as I grieve.

I log into Facebook to see the instant politicization of these lost lives.

Gun control! One side chants.

Anything can be a weapon! The other responds.

I am tempted to respond. Tempted to take my stance. Tempted to try and solve the problem, yet again.

I’m a student of the human mind & the human system. These attacks leave me desperate to understand. Desperate to fix it. Desperate to see us all come to a common place of sorrow & compassion.

Instead I see people tearing at each other, condemning each other. I see politicians using these events as a platform. I see justifications and racist media representations of the aggressor & exploitation of the victims. I see traumatic videos shared callously with empty, emoji ridden captions.

I want to throw up & scream & cry & hold the hand of Jesus.

So today, I prayed. & I got an answer.

I am fighting a battle that’s already been won. I’m fighting against a world that’s already so broken only One can fix it, & He already has.. the time just hasn’t come to see it fulfilled yet.

I’ve struggled with feeling like my faith is a cop-out. I fear being seen as complacent, I fear losing my sense & drive for justice. So I share information & reminders, I write about my convictions, & I hope my words don’t fall on deaf ears. But in the end, I can’t change anyone. I can’t prevent mass shootings. I can’t prevent people driving others down. I can’t prevent people being stabbed. I can’t prevent rape. I can’t prevent poverty. I can’t prevent police brutality. Yet, I have poured my energy into attempting to fix these things, so much so that I’ve had none left to pour into doing the most important thing there is: loving others.

It was seeing so many people searching for their family member or friend that made me realize I never know if I’ll be the last unfriendly face someone sees. I have no control over the last moments of someone’s life — but I have control over the moments I leave in someone’s life. What if I’m the angry person honking my horn at someone on the freeway because they didn’t merge fast enough and they are hit by a drunk driver on their way home? What if I’m the irritated customer rushing my cashier who is killed by her abusive boyfriend when she gets home late from her shift? What if I’m the sour face in the waiting room before the other patient passes away from surgery complications?

These people will never care about my social media campaigns for safe driving, for domestic violence advocacy, for better health care. But in those small moments, they’ll care that I didn’t take the same amount of time to share a meme as to make an effort to look at the bigger picture and let go of my own frustrations and give grace. Give love.

Thanks to Vegas, I’m done with politics. I’m done with spending my energy trying to convince others to change. I’m done trying to fix a world that’s out of my control.

I’m just going to love hard. Im going to smile and encourage my cashier, the stranger next to me in the produce aisle, the lady sitting next to me at the doctor’s office. I’m going to let go of my need to be everywhere doing everything at once & breathe.

We’ve been told to live like every moment is our last.

But what if we lived like every moment is the last for those around us?

Thanks to Vegas, I’m going to try.

xoxo, B

Styled: A Social Commentary

Styled: A Social Commentary
Styled: A Social Commentary

Did you know that every 62 minutes at least one person dies as a result of an eating disorder?

5% of people diagnosed with anorexia will die. 1 in 5 of those deaths will be suicide. Just under 2% of people diagnosed with bulimia will die. 1 in 10 of bulimics will have a comorbid substance abuse disorder.

Research is inconclusive as to what degree societal expectations really have on the prevalence of eating disorders, but there is no doubt that there are particular pressures put on women to conform to a specific body type.

Styled: A Social Commentary
As a woman who has always been on the curvy side, battling the perception that I needed to be smaller was a constant. In high school, I got into the habit of hunching my shoulders inwards to make my breasts appear smaller and insisted on wearing boot cut or flared jeans to compensate for my wider hips. I was most comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt or sweatshirt that hid the discrepancy between my waist and curves. I had one thought constantly running through my mind: take up less space.

It took me years to find any kind of style that I could be comfortable in or reliably find clothes that were cut for someone other than a broadly built woman or an underdeveloped teenager — when I was right in between. Now, as a mom of two, my body has changed even further and I have the added pressure of getting my pre-baby body back. Going clothes shopping can feel like a nightmare. Often I grab a piece I think will look good on, only to be caught off guard by how poorly it fits. Then of course, there’s the models in various styles that they make look amazing, styles that I’m too scared to even try out when I’m 5 inches shorter and 50lbs heavier than your average super model.

Styled: A Social Commentary
Recently, the Trendage company approached me to review their new app Styled. Their mission for this app is for it to be a way for women to see what popular styles would look like on them in real life. They want to contribute to the body positivity campaign by allowing women to feel good about how they look in current trends and styles. You start by taking a selfie, which is then pasted onto an avatar where you select a hairstyle from the presets they have loaded. The third step is to select a body, either one from the presets or by setting your own measurements and selecting your proportions

Styled: A Social Commentary Styled: A Social Commentary Styled: A Social Commentary
After your avatar is created, you’re presented with a slideshow of different outfits. From here you can save your favorites to a section on the app, you can also write/draw on the images, and send them via the app.

Styled: A Social Commentary Styled: A Social Commentary Styled: A Social Commentary
As you swipe, you’re awarded coupon codes to use at actual retailers like Lands End. After a certain time period or number of swipes (I’m not sure which), you’re locked out for the day unless you invite friends to join the app. By swiping in each direction, you get to look at new dresses.

Styled: A Social Commentary Styled: A Social Commentary
What I Loved:

1. Getting to see some new styles on my body type was great! I chose to put in my measurements and proportions and felt as though it was a very accurate representation of myself. There were a few cuts of dresses I never would have tried on that I really liked.

2. The promo codes were a brilliant way of getting people involved in the app. Even though I’m not sure if I will use them, it’s a nice perk.

3. The app is easy to use. The only issue I’ve had is with changing my selfie (hence the goofy face in all the pictures 🙄). I do wish there was a tutorial (or maybe I missed one?) that explains what to expect as far as the app goes, but that’s just cause I like everything laid out for me. It isn’t difficult by any means to figure it out.

What I Wish Was Different:

1. The selection of clothes wasn’t what I was expecting. Granted, it’s a start-up and I know there will be changes over time. But I would have loved to see more shirts and pants mixed in with the formal dresses — since most of us won’t be wearing formal dresses regularly.

2. I felt like the promo was a bit misleading. They say that these clothes are from top merchandisers like Nordstrom, which is where I do most of my shopping. But there is no indication of where the clothes come from in the app itself. I would LOVE this app and rave about it everywhere if it allowed me to see what clothes I could buy looked like on me without the dressing room hustle. Let’s be honest, online shopping is a mom’s best friend. Essentially: I was envisioning a virtual dressing room and it’s more fashion Tinder.

3. The proportion of selfie to head is a little bit off. This is probably silly to even include. But it was distracting to me to see this giant face framed by small hair. Give those lock some volume, Trendage!

Overall

It’s worth the download to check out. The idea behind the app is fantastic and I love that they’re tackling body positivity in such an easily accessible way. I do believe that an app like this could help teenagers who are at risk for developing eating disorders and change the ways we look at ourselves (2D me is looking good!). I would love to see it be a bit more realistic though. Most women want to look great in the clothes they grab off the hanger when they’re running late — not the formal gowns to wear to an event they will prepare for. Having access to the retailers who sell the clothes they’re promoting and being able to fine tune the selection a bit would go far in making the app more versatile. Thanks for your efforts to contribute to a more woman-friendly society, Trendage! I’m looking forward to seeing where Styled goes.

What do you think? Can apps like these help us battle unrealistic beauty standards? Have you struggled with an eating disorder? Download Styled By Trendage and let me know in the comments!

xoxo, B

5 Reasons Why “Beauty & The Beast” Is The Best Thing Disney Has Ever Done

I should start this with a disclaimer: I love Disney. Like, I don’t just really like the movies and think Disneyland is cool, I LOVE Disney. Chances are, if Disney produces it, I will see it. I am not even sure I can help it. Is there such as thing as Disneyholics Anonymous?

With that said, I was iffy on the live action Beauty & The Beast. I mean, the original is a classic. There are lots of Cinderella stories, but there’s only one Beauty & The Beast and it’s a treasured tale. I didn’t think it was possible to love anything more than the animated version I grew up with and I really wasn’t sure I’d even like it. I love Emma Watson, I really do, but I was nervous about her tackling Belle. I was afraid she’d portray her as too earnest, a little immature. Like… Hermione. But locked in a castle? Like… Hogwarts gone bad? Anyways. The point is, I wasn’t sure if I’d regret seeing it in the theater or not, since I’m pretty much an oh-it’ll-be-at-Redbox-soon movie watching gal.

5 Reasons Beauty & The Beast Is The Best Thing Disney Has Ever Done - My Alabaster Heart

So trust me when I say: this movie is the most exquisite masterpiece that Disney has ever created and I {the hesitant theater goer} am planning on going to see it again.. this time in 3D. Here’s the top 5 reasons why. {There are a few spoiler type comments so read at your own discretion}.

1. Belle is the princess every girl needs to look up to. I’m pretty defensive of the Disney princesses. I think they get a misguided bad rep for being shallow and having impossibly perfect hair. They have qualities I’d love my daughter to possess, like courage, and empathy, and impossibly perfect hair. But Emma Watson takes Belle several steps forward. She’s witty, strong, clever, compassionate, intelligent, and brave. This new Belle doesn’t laugh off Gaston’s sexist remarks, she engages and clearly denies him. She doesn’t passively succumb to her fate in the castle, nor does she exhibit the classic signs of Stockholm Syndrome as her animated counterpart, rather she plans an escape out her window, questions the condition of the castle {because come on, talking housewares should freak anyone out}, and when she returns to help the Beast recover, it is out of compassion, not obligation. I could probably write a whole post about Belle herself, but suffice it to say, she’s a character for the ages.

5 Reasons Beauty & The Beast Is The Best Thing Disney Has Ever Done - My Alabaster Heart

2. The soundtrack is award worthy. With a fresh take on the classics like Be Our Guest and Tale As Old As Time, and the Beast’s wistful I Dreamed A Dream-esque solo, Evermore, the strong, emotive vocals and passionate score are reminiscent of Phantom and Les Mis. I can’t say enough good things about Emma Watson’s vocal performance, her voice went above musical theater and her technique was excellent — something I am often critical of in musicals. I would have gone again for the soundtrack alone {I already have it added to my music library}.

3. Despite the “gay agenda” rumors, it may be the most innocent love story written. Okay, I LOOKED HARD for the gay scene. Either it was so fleeting and disguised that I missed it or {more likely} Disney did nothing more than portray LeFou like the desperate, longing-for-love buddy that he is. It’s obvious he has some feelings for Gaston, but did we really think it was normal for a man to unrequitedly dote on another man as much as he does without some deeper affection? That bit aside, the romance between Belle and the Beast was beautiful. They have a tolerance that develops into a sweet friendship, but Belle is not swept off her feet by the softening Beast as she is in the original. Rather, when the Beast asks the line “Do you think you could be happy here?” after their dance, she responds after a pause “Can anyone truly be happy if they aren’t free?” {No more Stockholm Syndrome rumors, folks.} When she does confess her love after the epic storming of the castle, she kisses him tenderly on the forehead, and he is not revived by her kiss, but rather by the Enchantress, who comes to take away the curse. This spoke volumes to me as it came across as a phileo love rather than an eros love, a story in which the bitter, twisted Beast is saved not by a woman who loves him as a man, but by simply being loved. Of course, they do get married and live happily ever after, but that moment provides a depth to the story that I didn’t expect. Even the romance between Lumiere and Plumette lacks the sexual overtures from the original.
5 Reasons Beauty & The Beast Is The Best Thing Disney Has Ever Done - My Alabaster Heart5 Reasons Beauty & The Beast Is The Best Thing Disney Has Ever Done - My Alabaster Heart

 

4. The gaps in the original are filled in. Rather than retelling the story, Disney did an excellent job of building on what was already there, including some of the original script. A lot of the critical questions {What happened to Belle’s mother? Why did she and her father move to the village? Why was the Beast so cruel and selfish? What was up with that Enchantress anyways? How did a whole castle of people and a prince just disappear?} that we may have about the animated story {which is actually pretty decent for 60 minutes of screentime} are answered. I won’t go into too much detail, but I will say that the expansion only enriches the story and the relationship between the characters.

5. The cast brings a beautiful humanity to their characters. I’m not sure there are words to express the experience of watching iconic actors portray iconic characters in the purest form you can imagine. Belle and Maurice share a real bond, he is a strong and loving father, not the rather silly mad professor he was originally. LeFou isn’t a fool, he’s a gentle soul misguided by his affection for Gaston, who is more than an amusing cocky jerk, he is a cruel man who sugar coats his behavior by being classically charming. The housewares are more than content subservients to the Beast, they were his caretakers and friends, and that is evident in their behavior toward both him and Belle. The finale in which they all return to their human state is truly joyous, and I cried at the reunion of human Mrs. Potts and Chip. Emma Thompson is every mother when she grasps Chip tightly and exclaims “You smell so good!” And the Beast, obviously the hardest character to humanize, clearly develops from a feral, bitter, angry boy into a man who has learned to love, without the naivety his animated other portrays.

5 Reasons Beauty & The Beast Is The Best Thing Disney Has Ever Done - My Alabaster Heart

If Disney has shown me anything in this film, it’s that they still know how to craft a timeless, rich classic. If you’re hesitant to see the film because of misguided media frenzy, you are truly missing out. The costumes, the scenery, the sheer magic of the movie make it one you can’t miss on the big screen if you can help it. I am truly impressed and looking forward to a generation of girls with women like Emma Watson and Lily James portraying the princesses they will look up to.

All images owned and copyrighted by Disney. I do not own any rights to the images pictured.

My Alabaster Heart - The Top 5 Reasons You Can't Miss The New Beauty & The Beast
xoxo, B