Thank you, Kate Spade.

“I adore pretty things and witty words.”

-KateSpade

The last thing I treated myself to before I left for medical leave was a Kate Spade plastic serving tray and matching tumbler printed with lemons. I figured that if I had to be housebound for weeks, at least I could try to be cheerful about it. After all, when life gives you lemons…do something glamorous with them.

I’ve carried an ink-stained red and pink Kate Spade canvas agenda for YEARS—bought for far too much money at a Belk charity sale when I was desperately unhappy about my work and love lives. It reminds me daily to be optimistic, that things can always get better. And in the age of online calendars, it’s decidedly old school…but so am I.

I wore black satin Kate Spade sandals with bows to stroll down the aisle and kick up my heels at my brother’s wedding. The bridesmaid’s dress is history but I still have the shoes.

I’ve decorated my office with Kate Spade postcards, stationery, storage boxes and knickknacks for cheer and inspiration. The day I got my biggest consulting client and wrote my biggest story, I made notes in a large coral Kate Spade leatherette padfolio that has the phrase “She wrote the book on it” embossed on the cover in gold. It reminds me that my creativity and femininity are strengths and that my talent is unquestionable.

Thank you, Kate Brosnahan Spade. You were quick and curious and playful and strong. You left a little sparkle wherever you went. You encouraged me and so many others to escape the ordinary, in style.

♠️🖤♠️

A.

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I’m fibroid-free. (For now.)

MARCH 2018:

I’m watching happy mommies, round with bumps.

Some are accompanied by partners. They stand close. They rub their bellies. They smile and speak softly to each other.

A pair of women sit together.

Others like me, sit alone. Arms folded, eyes closed…or methodically turning the curling pages of a magazine. Some tap tap tap on their screens. Like me, right now.

I watch the ones who are visibly pregnant. One mother-to-be pulls out snacks and water. Her outfit, a striped knit bodycon dress, a jacket festooned with brassy buttons and suede flats, is sharp.

An athleisure-wearing, topknotted mom comes in with a baby riding silently in a stroller, little enough to need a cushion around its tiny head.

Others, like me, are not pregnant at all.

The desire to at least be able to give birth almost overwhelms me. It is the one thing I can’t do. Yet. Or maybe ever.

We all wait.

The waiting room is rust with shades of apple and sage green. The wall coverings are alternating panels of wheat-colored and puce brocade-print paper.

Then I am called.

No tussling with a paper gown, this time.

Just a plop of warm goo on my bare belly. The sonographer glides the wand across my flesh, and the wall-to-wall flatscreens light up.

There I am, inside out.

And there they are, all three of them that are immediately visible. Seven, hiding. Growing, insistently. Constantly. Feeding off of me.

But they aren’t babies.

Ten noncancerous fibroid tumors take up all available space. They’ve been growing there for years, in the place where a baby should be. Maybe the seed of them is genetic. Or maybe it’s environmental. One thing is for sure:

They have to be removed, in order for any baby to grow there.

I almost don’t believe what I’m seeing. I want to look away, but I can’t. When I finally close my eyes, they fill with tears that spill over onto my cheeks and run into my ears and splash onto the paper covering the exam chair. I want to scream. Instead I just cry silently in the dark. And when my doctor tells me to prepare for serious complications that could mean the end of my life I begin to pray out loud.

I shouldn’t have come here alone. I am so shaken that I don’t know how I will find my car, or get home. And I can’t stop looking at the flatscreens.

They’re huge. So huge they’re pressing on my stomach and other organs—which explains why I’m always hungry but can barely eat. Why I’m so tired all the time but can’t really rest. Why I’m in pain but can’t get any relief. Why I feel like I can’t breathe.

“Wow,” says the sonographer as she peers at her screens. “You’re so thin that I’m sure you can feel them,” she says.

I can.

They’re hard to miss, since they announced themselves with a 25 pound weight gain and 24-hour fatigue and breathlessness and mind-numbing cramps and back aches.

I’ve had so many side eyes at my expanding midsection the last two years or so that I’ve lost count. Now I no longer notice. There are only so many times you can fake-smile and explain a belly away as a food baby. And I’ve given up hiding it with Spanx.

I’ve suffered through the persistent stomach ache, the damage it’s done to my body image, my self-esteem and my emotions and the problematic monthly cycles.

Add to that the constant stress I’ve been under, which releases a hormone that (surprise!) only makes the tumors grow faster. Because the world doesn’t care if you’re sick: it’ll demand more and dump more and wreck you, regardless. I’ve been through so much personally and professionally in the last six months that I’m literally turning it into a book.

But relief is held out to me, swinging like a pendulum for me to grab and hold on to. And I grab it.

It will mean an open procedure similar to a c-section, only I will go home with no baby.

It will mean that there is a possibility the fibroids could return, since the only way to get rid of them for good appears to be to have a hysterectomy — an option that is not an option for me right now.

It will mean all my dreams for a doula-assisted natural childbirth, with soft jazz and Beyoncé and candles and my mother and mother-in-law holding each other’s hands in prayer around us, for the boy and girl fraternal twins I keep dreaming about, won’t happen.

But at this point even that doesn’t matter anymore.

Because this weight has broken me down and I can’t carry it or drag it anymore. Not one more blessed step.

And I’m ready to be delivered.

***

MAY 2018:

Well, here’s your #nofilter outfit of the day and post, over a week after my open myomectomy has been successfully completed. I’m home resting, and will mostly be offline in the interim.

Why be this transparent? I debated about whether sharing this is TMI, but the truth is not enough women are sharing the reality of their experience with fibroids.  We’ve been taught our bodies are shameful and dirty and that what happens inside them should be kept secret. But who does that help?

I’ve been anxious, afraid and ashamed for SO long. And it’s time to let it all go.

Life got real, real fast last week and in the last few months. There’s nothing like planning your own funeral to make you reevaluate the direction your life is taking. I feel silly complaining now because I know it could be worse.

The important thing is I woke up and I’m still here, thank God. And I’m going to be fine. One day at a time.

I do not have enough words to thank my family and friends for their support, prayers and practical help. My surgeon/doctor says bikinis and babies are definitely in my future.

We’ll see.

What I know for sure is, life can only get better from here. No matter what I’ve lost through this process, I have retained my sense of humor, my grasp on reality and my ability to overcome anything. So my foot is on the gas, from here on out. And with a flatter stomach to boot. Yassssssssssss!

Now before Mama takes my phone and pc away: who can I talk to about improving this outfit they make you wear? It’s the real tragedy of this story.

XO//Alexis

P.S. There are several options available to treat  and/or remove fibroids, depending on their size, location and the patient’s preferences. The purpose of this post is not to recommend any particular course of action or treatment. I AM NOT A DOCTOR OR MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL, and I cannot treat or diagnose you. If you’re dealing with fibroids, please consult with a trained medical professional to make the best possible choice for your personal situation, preferences and goals.

For more information about fibroids:

O, the Oprah Magazine

Prevention

The Chicago Tribune

The White Dress Project

WomensHealth.Gov

UCLA Obstetrics & Gynecology

The details: Dress: aq/aq| Jacket: J.Crew| Shoes: Converse | Earrings: Forever 21

I was honored to serve on the Host Committee for this year’s Chucks and Tux, a fundraiser supporting Growing Kings — which is helping to prepare he next generation of young leaders in our community. I was really worried about finding the right Converse (since I don’t normally wear them) and the right outfit to go with them.

I ended up shopping my closet and deciding to be literal, so what you see is my version of Chucks and Tux. I’ve never worn an actual tuxedo, but I like this chic, feminine version. The dress appears to be two pieces in a feat of architectural design. The jacket adds color blocking and modesty when worn over the shoulder for a bit of casual glam. I layered my bling to take the look up a notch and pick up the rose quartz shoes.

My hair and makeup were kept to “Old Hollywood” glamour to complement the look.

More important than what I wore is the amount of fun I had. I haven’t been to a party in months, haven’t danced in months, haven’t had a reason to dress up and go out for months. So it felt good to get out, and I really appreciated having two of my best friends with me. I even took a selfie with the Mayor! (Find it here.)

Seeing myself smiling on a larger than life banner at the party reminded me: the best is yet to come, there will be some surprises along the way, and there is always a reason to dance. (Shout out to Growing King’s executive director Marcus Carson for letting me bring the banner home.)

No matter what happens in life, there is always something to celebrate. For me it was being asked to participate with Growing Kings, being named a 2018 Distinguished Survivor by the U.S. Attorneys Office and finishing Girl Trek’s “Harriet Hall of Fame Challenge,” in which I walked/ran 100 miles in two months. (I have that challenge to thank for my slimmed-down shape.)

XO//Alexis

Find your #CarouselCatch at Bargain Carousel!

Haute off the press:

For some there is nothing more fun than bargain hunting! What if you could find a wide variety of unbelievable items at low prices and buying them would mean you were improving lives for women and children? The Junior League of Birmingham’s (JLB) annual Bargain Carousel makes this shopping experience a reality. (I have a things for unique housewares and always find something distinctive and fun at Bargain Carousel. Check out what I have my eye on in the photo gallery…I hope no one beats me to the punch!)

Bargain Carousel will kick off on Thursday, April 26 this year with Bargain Bash.

Bargain Bash is a casual cocktail party that offers first-chance shopping of Bargain Carousel items and impressive silent and live auctions including more than 150 items, such as original artwork and VIP travel packages. This year’s Bargain Bash is a fabulous fiesta sponsored by Publix Super Market Charities and catered by Taco Mama. Fun activities will include a tequila toss and piñatas with amazing prices. Har Megiddo, who was a crowd hit last year, is returning to spin the soundtrack for the evening.

For shoppers wanting the best selection and smaller crowds, VIP admission is the best choice, with 6 p.m. entry at $40 a ticket. Shoppers receive one hour of early bird shopping before general admission patrons enter. All guests enjoy food, beverages and the auctions. VIP admission is $40 a ticket and general admission (7 p.m. entry) is $30 a ticket. All Bargain Carousel items sell for double the ticket price during Bargain Bash.

Saturday and Sunday are a bargain hunter’s paradise, with more than 100,000 items for sale including art, appliances, furniture, heirloom items, baby and children’s clothing and furnishings, home décor, outdoors and sporting goods, and much more. Additionally, crafters and Pinterest lovers will be thrilled with the project pieces available. Bargain Carousel 2018 will begin on Saturday, April 28 (8 a.m. – 5 p.m.). Tickets from 8 – 12 Noon are $10/ticket and from Noon – 5 p.m. they are $5/ticket.   It continues Sunday, April 29 (1 – 5 p.m.) with free admission and half price merchandise.

“Bargain Carousel’s purpose is two-fold,” said JLB volunteer and Bargain Carousel chair, Marianne Gilchrist. “The sale raises money for the League’s 32 projects serving women and children in the metro area and it allows us to sell items at deeply discounted prices to individuals who can benefit from them.”

“Many people return to the event year after year,” Kristen Osborne, Junior League of Birmingham. “We have our Bargain Bash faithful who come in and buy antique pieces at double our retail price and we have hundreds of people who line up overnight for the general sale because they know they can get gently-used necessities at a price they can afford.”

Thanks to Baptist Health Foundation, Bargain Carousel will be held in Hoover just off of Exit 10 from I-459 in the old Princeton-Hoover location. The sale encompasses the entire shopping center with the main portion occurring in the former Winn-Dixie grocery store.

In 2017, more than 500 tickets were presold the day before Bargain Carousel opened its doors. People began lining up the night before to reserve their spot to pre-purchase tickets. This year, the pre-sale will be held at the sale location on Friday, April 27 from 2 – 6 p.m., where shoppers may purchase up to four tickets at $10/ticket to the Saturday sale.

A special note for the Saturday sale, all tickets are numbered, and shoppers will enter Bargain Carousel in the order of their ticket number. For information about Bargain Carousel 2018, call 205-879-9861, visit www.bargaincarousel.net“Like” Bargain Carousel on Facebook, or follow @jlbbargaincarousel on Instagram.

***

Want a chance to win a ticket to Bargain Carousel next Saturday? Comment “I want to find my #CarouselCatch” on this post! You can get extra entries by posting the same comment on the Bargain Carousel posts on the blog’s Facebook and Instagram pages. I’ll draw one winning entry on Saturday, April 21 at noon.

Mamie and Dorothy taught me.

 

The details: Blouse, slacks and earrings: J. Crew; Shoes: Steve Madden

Life is a circus. Are you the ringmaster or the clown?

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my grandmothers and missing them terribly. They had very different personalities, but a similar strength that got them through life’s struggles, loss and disappointments.

I find myself asking what they would do if they were faced with some of the challenges I’ve been dealing with lately. And I’d be lying if I said I haven’t been wishing I could ask them.

What I do know is, in spite of how they felt or however people treated them or whatever they had to endure, they still got up, made up their faces, put on their best clothes and held their heads high.

They kept going.

They still looked for the best in people.

They still gave the world their best.

I will, too.

XO//Alexis

Well Red

Dress, coat and shoes: J. Crew

Last fall my dad had an unplanned, unexpected triple bypass. If he hadn’t gone to the hospital when he did a few days earlier, he might’ve suffered a widow maker heart attack, just like Jack Pearson on This is Us.

The morning of his surgery, my tire blew out shortly after I got on the interstate and by the time I got back on the road to the hospital in Florida, the surgery was over.

In the interim, every time my cell phone chimed I wanted to throw up, afraid it was bad news. I don’t remember driving the stretch of asphalt I burned up between Montgomery and Pensacola. Only that a very real Good Samaritan made sure I got there on four good tires. I ran into the cardiac wing so fast that I broke my sandal. When they told me he made it my own heart nearly gave out.

That was the longest ride of my life. The longest day of my life. Fortunately, he lived. But I think that’s why I blacked out on #ThisisUs.

While the circumstances were different, the feelings of helplessness, shock, dread, disbelief and fear were so familiar. And the guilt. I felt so guilty because I wasn’t there. I’m the oldest. I should’ve been there in time.

I should’ve been there.

I’m still struggling with that.

Daddy made a full recovery. Thank God.

But that experience has permanently altered me. Altered how I approach life, how I love, how I spend my time and what is important to me. It’s brought into sharp focus what I can endure and what I will fight for, what I will ride for until the wheels fall off or the tires spin to shreds.

It’s made me believe there is someone who will literally be down for me like four flat tires. Or just one in an emergency at dawn.

Ride or die.

I wear red to remind me to protect my fire, to protect my figurative heart and to preserve my physical, mental and spiritual health to the extent possible. I hope you’ll take care of yours, too.

XO//Alexis

See another favorite red outfit here.

The Dream

Turtleneck, skirt and shoes: J. Crew // Scarf: Madewell // Lipstick: MAC “Ruby Woo”

Have you ever wanted something so badly that you sabotage yourself each time you attempt to begin?

Well — that has been my struggle with telling a story that is close to my heart, about a place that spoke to me but was always at a remove. And now that place could be lost forever.

Sometimes our dreams seem like just piles of bricks, things that have lost their usefulness and potential because of inactivity or impracticality. I’ve always been someone who had her head in the clouds and her feet on the ground, and struggled between reconciling the two. I struggle with knowing when to give up and find a new dream.

That’s because I believe what we dream is real. What we imagine is real. If two people or ten or a thousand believe in the same dream, then a pile of bricks can become a fortress. Or a castle. Or a paradise.

That’s not to say making it a reality won’t be hard. It’s going to be a challenge. But shouldn’t we build anyway? Shouldn’t we restore what can be saved, and hold on to it? Cherish it?

We can’t be discouraged by people who let their own dreams die. Or by those who gave up because the risks seemed insurmountable.

We can’t let our hopes fall to ruin. We can’t let our dreams become rubble. This shoot reminded me to get out of my own way, to improvise and have fun, to rennet why I started and to press forward in spite of my fear. In spite of the little voice that always second guesses me.

If you bring your hammer and memories and I bring my pen and paintbrush, with sweat equity and imagination we can make some magic come to life…

Come build with me.

XO// Alexis

[What’s black and white and re(a)d all over? This outfit. And also an edited story or article.]

This is Us.

Wild Bill loved her freckles; Red loved his sense of humor.

He proposed over a requested glass of water, with her family eavesdropping in the hallway.

When I was a child, I used to sit with my parents’ white leather wedding album and pore over the details: a huge double ceremony, both mothers in furs, the groom in platforms and to this day, my mother is upset about the florist.

What I love most about their love story is realizing these two kids have no idea what life has in store for them. The plot twists and tragedies, the good times, the adventures. The pain. The laughter. The dancing (must be seen to be believed).

They will make a home and a life.

They’ll grow up together without outgrowing each other.

For better or worse. For richer or poorer. In sickness and in health.

They’ll stick together through it all.

I wasn’t at their wedding but I’ve been around for most of their anniversaries and in spite of all we’ve been through as a family I can tell you: I’m grateful God chose them to be my parents.

Forty-two years later, Wild Bill is still pretty hilarious and Red is still undeniably fabulous — especially with her freckles. I hope that when they look at each other they always see who they were at the very beginning.

The peau de soie heels she wore that January evening have been dyed deep blue and wait for me to wear or display at my own wedding one day. I’m hanging on to a remnant of rich brown velvet from the handmade bridesmaids’ dresses. I’ll make sure she has an exquisite bouquet, and that he gets to do his signature dance.

To connect the future with the past. To honor all they mean to me that can’t be put into words.

Happy anniversary, Mama and Daddy.

We’ve already started planning for 2026.

This golden night was the only time I saw my grandfather shed a tear. My grandmother just floated. I think they had a fairly simple wedding, but this was the grand celebration they deserved, thrown by their children 50 years later. They were so happy and surprised and there was so much love and joy in that ballroom. (See where my love of fancy sequined gowns comes from?) I learned about love from them. About sacrifice, and hospitality, and faith. I learned about baseball, and big band music, the best way to butter yeast rolls and make peach cobbler and the beauty of a hostess’ caftan from them. I learned about endurance from them.

I’m grateful I got to celebrate them and WITH them.

I remember them. And I miss them every day.

Homecoming

 

The details: Coat: Vintage via Hanna Antiques // Sweater, loafers & bracelet: J. Crew // Denim: American Eagle Outfitters // Clutch: Clare Vivier

Recently I was back in my hometown during my high school’s Homecoming. Although I’m not actually at home in these photos, the pictures kind of capture the mood I was in. I think I finally faced up to the fact that you can go home again, but the view will be quite different. I thought of all that I had hoped to find when I returned home — a feeling I needed to remember — and when it wasn’t there, I felt a little lost. It was like I’d never lived there at all, a frightening feeling for someone who orients herself by her birthplace and current residence.

I haven’t blogged much this month because I’ve been trying to reconcile making the kind of art that matters to me with publishing content people respond to.  I’m actively trying to find a “home” for what I do. But it occurred to me that I can do both, and that I’ve already created a place for myself. So you’ll see a bit more of that going forward, and I hope you’ll enjoy it.

This session was shot in Norwood, one of Birmingham’s historic neighborhoods, at the site of my dream house. Yes, it’s stripped down, and no, it’s not restored to its former glory. But there’s something poignant in the possibility of what it can be, standing in the grand and proud shadow of what it was. There’s something awesome in what it is, as it is. Can you see it? As a writer/journalist I am searching for the stories in our ruined memories, looking for treasure buried by the ravages of time.  It doesn’t have to be pretty.  Somehow I think that desire was caught on film this time, with no filter. What has this house seen? What stories can it tell, and what stories does it wait to welcome? That speaks to me, and the same is true for us as people. It’s why I love what I do.

It’s also why this outfit represents Magic City classic style for me: a turtleneck sweater, suede loafers, and denim, with a classic wool and mink coat. I found the coat for $60 at Hanna Antiques in perfect condition a couple of years ago. And what I prize most is its tag from Loveman’s of Alabama (another piece of Birmingham history that we now know as the McWane Center). It’s the kind of outfit I wore when I was in college, and my taste is pretty much the same off the yard.

Knowing yourself and being true to that knowledge means you’ll always be in style.

Special thanks to Mr. Melton, the homeowner, for kindly letting me trespass to daydream.

// Alexis

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