Thursday, July 17, 2014

Their stars were not a fault to mine.

When you think about the most inspirational love stories, they are never the simple ones. Rather, they are often tragedies: the ones that make your heart feel heavy and your eyes shed too many tears. If you’re like me, when you see couples in public, you often wonder what their story is. I wonder about their hardships, their fondest memories, and their plans for the future. The hardest thing about writing your love story is not being able to read ahead. Weather the romantic tale lasts forever or for a moment, it is always beautiful. It can inspire you and enlighten your perspective. In my case, I found this in a novel.
YOU GUESS IT, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. From the moment the movie trailer was released, I could not rest. I watched the video, countless times, with tears streaming down my face. Needless to say, I am extremely attached to this book; I have a story behind it. As many of you already know, the book is about two, teenage cancer patients (Hazel Grace and Augustus Waters) that meet at a support group. Hazel is struggling with stage four, thyroid cancer that spread to her lungs while Augustus is an amputee, in remission, due to osteosarcoma. Along with them, Augustus’ good friend, Isaac, also attends the support group; he has cancer in his eye, from a young age, and eventually goes blind. Augustus and Hazel helplessly fall in love with the time that the stars have given them.

I trust that words, even made up, are capable of changing someone’s life, when they are precisely placed in a fashion that tells a remarkable story. It makes you feel like words know you better than yourself. I do believe that The Fault in Our Stars, not only changed my life, but helped me during the most difficult part. When I was diagnosed with my brain tumor, last May, it was the most devastating news I have ever received. I felt emotions, from pain, grief, and anger, to acceptance and gratification. I struggled with the simple fact that I will never be the same as I used to; my life is transformed. It was really hard to find others who would recognize how I felt, when I couldn’t even find myself. But, Hazel and Augustus, their stars were not a fault to mine.
Since I was very limited on my lifestyle, my days consisted of waking up at 7 am, watching the news with a cup of coffee and raisin bran, showering, putting on a cute outfit (even though I was going to the hospital, it made me happy), going to Children’s to receive radiation, and napping. So, since I couldn’t do much, it was the perfect time to read a book; you know it, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. It was as if this book entered my life when I needed it the most.
Reading this book made me feel like, for once in a long time, I belonged somewhere. I no longer felt like I fit in with the average, teenage demographic. I was so disgusted by the complaints of kids my age because they are so minuscule and selfish (Not all, but most). I was sick of hearing kids rant about their petty relationship issues, need for “more money”, and how they “can’t party this weekend”. I became so irate that others had the power to control what goes wrong with them, as they participate in unlawful activities; meanwhile, there are kids I’ve met who didn’t get a chance. No one could quite relate, but by reading this book, I was able to make parallels to my life and my emotions.
Hazel Grace, the narrator of the book, showed me that, although it can be hard living with this circumstance, you cannot live in the fear of making yourself a burden upon others. I watched my tracks everywhere I went, making sure they didn’t step on someone else’s feet by accident. I didn’t want to be “the girl with the brain tumor” who got sympathy and special treatment everywhere she went. It was hard to be in the spotlight for such a dark reason. I just wanted to be the normal me; I wasn’t and will never be. Hazel put barriers to those around her, but overcame them as she started to feel that she is not the only one who has these struggles. Like her, I started going more places, doing more things, despite the fact that I was the elephant in the room.
Augustus Waters showed me that true love will out stand even the most desperate of times. He expressed to Hazel that she is more than a diagnosis, a ticking time bomb, and a sympathy case; she is extraordinary, beautiful, and worthy of the life that she dreams of. This allowed me to relate with my boyfriend exactly. Most kids our age are frightened by this type of situation and don’t know how to handle it. Many people brought to my attention that he is just a young man with no commitment. He could have simply walked out at any moment, but he didn’t. He was at my doorstep almost every, single day when I was awfully sick. He took me to the emergency room, held my hair back (when I couldn’t keep anything down), held my arm when I walked (because I didn't have any balance), and drove me to a radiation treatment. He even prepared our own “prom” for my birthday since we missed it: a dress, incline ride, and dinner at a Mt. Washington restaurant. He was unbelievably strong for me and I will never be able to show him how thankful I am.  
Augustus’ best friend, Isaac, showed me that true friends are not blind to the reality and will not let support become too much to handle (even though he was blind). Isaac was there for Augustus and Hazel in the best and worst of measures. They knew there were times to just be quiet together, even though they knew what the other was thinking. They also knew when to talk about it: when to give advice, make them laugh, or even just ask them, “Are you okay?” Although it is difficult for people to find the things to say, sometimes being there and listening is efficient enough. Now I know, with loyalty and love, those who are meant to be in your life will always prevail.
One day, after radiation, I went up to 9C for the clinic visit with my oncologist. The waiting room was packed with children, mostly younger than me, that I felt extreme grief for. I placed myself at the small arts and crafts table with the kids and did a project with them. That was the highlight of my morning. Little did I know, something else was about to occur. When it was my turn go, I stopped in the kitchenette area a couple doors down from my oncologist’s room. They have drinks, snacks, etc; It’s Children’s, they really have everything. I normally don’t go in there, but for some reason the chocolate milk in the fridge was calling my name. Right after I closed the fridge, I saw something that struck my eye, and I dropped my chocolate milk! I called my parents to come see the flyer on the bulletin board because I couldn't believe it. The book, that I felt so connected with, was filming their movie in Pittsburgh and they were looking for teenagers with cancer-like experiences to be a part of the movie. It was like this one big sign that this book was made for me to read. Although I was too late on the offer, the fact itself that kids from my Children’s got the opportunity to do this, was incredible!

Their story showed me that, although my doctors did not know if I had cancer, they did not know if the treatment would work, they don’t know if it could grow back, they don’t know if I will ever be in tumor “remission”… I can appreciate my time that I have been given. Whether it is longer or shorter than expected, I have experienced, love and support that most people dream of having. Like Hazel says in the book, “But, Gus, my love, I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouldn't trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I'm grateful.” 
So, now that the movie is released, so many TFIOS followers have become giddy over the glamorized, yet genuine story of Hazel Grace and Augustus Waters. I can honestly say that the movie adaptation fulfilled every anticipation that I had for this masterpiece, written by the phenomenal John Green. I frequently found myself between distress in the form of mascara-melting tears and delight in the form of eye-squinting cheer.Nothing can truly prepare you for the experience that The Fault in Our Stars will present to you (especially if you have related experiences in your life). But, regardless of the impossible praise that this laudable book deserves, I shall do my finest to prepare you for it's heart wrenching yet warming excellence!
1. If you had not already read the book, do so now, or else you will be in oblivion to the treasures that the book entails.
2. You must bring tissues with you, possibly anywhere from one to ten boxes; just prepare yourself for a Niagara fall of tears.
3. In addition to tissues, be sure to bring with you a good that is comfortable with holding your hand or even wallowing and whimpering with you.
4. If you are one who prefers to wear makeup, either skip it, or bring remover wipes! This movie will make even "waterproof mascara" melt.
5. Face the fact that the sound of your own tears will overlap this masterpiece; you have no choice but the watch it, maybe two or twenty times more!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

I've always dreamed of seeing my name in print!

While I was on my whirlwind experience in LA, I had something quite special happen to me. My home-town newspaper reached out to me, and wanted to do a feature on my Make-a-Wish experience! I am so blessed to have gotten the chance to share my story to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette readers. It was wonderfully written by a lovely lady; she did a phenomenal job with bringing my journey to life! I have always dreamed of seeing my name in print; hopefully one day, it will be my words!

One of the most incredible parts about my trip was that I was given the opportunity to blog with Glamour Magazine. YES, GLAMOUR! Being a writer for a fashion magazine is but a dream to me. Hopefully, in the future, I can call myself an official fashion journalist; But in the meantime, I will live up my few minutes of fame. Check out the five trends from L.A.'s Runway that you can wear right now! Here!

I am so blessed, and I can't wait to see what the future has in store! Thank you to every one who has supported me along the way! I now feel that I am more than my diagnosis; I am an evolving story, one that is far from the ending.

C'est L.A. vie!

Time has passed, but that does not set aside the fact that, when I speak about my Make-a-Wish trip, I feel as though I am talking about a dream I had last night. On March 8th, I was fortunate enough to enter a fashion-fanatic’s fantasy. I received a warm welcome from sunny California (not only because we were experiencing an arctic blast back in Pittsburgh). Everyone I encountered was so, genuinely sweet and showed willingness to hear my story; no wonder why they call it The City of Angels. Let me tell you, I was in an haute couture heaven!

          Make-a-Wish is an incredible organization, and I am so proud to be a part of it. As one may infer, my diagnosis was the most horrifying experience I have ever had. But don’t fret, it has also been the most incredible; Make-a-Wish becoming a significant measure of that.

          So how did this journey begin? As soon as my family and I landed from the plane, we proceeded straight to a jewelry store, located in Westwood village, called Sarah Lenard Fine Jewelers. It is a charitable company owned by a lovely couple, David and Gail, and their family. I was greeted with a beautifully made sign, fabulous flowers, scrumptious cookies, and most importantly, much love! They generously gifted me with stunning jewelry, from Charles Garnier Paris, that helped me become red-carpet ready! It was a wonderful way to start a week of voyages.

Skirt: Anthropologie, Clutch: Debbie Brooks

          The next day, the first of Style Fashion Week, was a debut of darling designs and dashing details. I was greeted by the amazing sisters who made this all a possibility, Erin Whitaker (PR Director) and Sarah Whitaker (Director of operations). They made me feel like a princess; way more than a typical Disney wish. They set up my series of events, opportunities, and special treatments! Their hearts are far too great for me to express. Every day, I was able to sit front row at all of the shows, meet special guests/designers, and get my hair and makeup styled. I guess you could say…I felt as if I was the girl of the hour.

Earrings: Sabika

The lovely lady, Nycole, who made me have the power of glam-hair! It was so nice to meet a Pittsburgh hometowner! I love you, beautiful!

Skirt, top: Anthropologie

This lovely lady is so classic, you wouldn't believe: Morganne Picard
My interview with the live-streaming coverage of LAFW with Laprivy Magazine
          As I watched the stunning models pass by, I admired their fierce strut while wearing glamorous garments. It occurred to me, just then, that I am witnessing a grand moment in the fashion world; I’m not a celebrity, designer, or journalist (yet), but I am sitting front row with people who are “somebody”. This trip, allowed me to venture into a dream; this is one that I hope to, one day, call my reality. I actually got to meet a very GLAMOURUS woman, Jessica Radloff, who I aspire to be like. She is a writer for Glamour Magazine and covers all things entertainment: award events, movie premieres, featured shows, etc. She even does a segment on The Talk! She is all over the board, and she plays it well. After getting to know her charming personality, I felt like I have known her my whole life; I am so blessed to now call her my dear friend.

The first night featured one of my favorite shows from the entire week: styles by Tatyana , featured at Betty Page Clothing. She makes a confident statement with vintage-inspired class. The range of figures and sizes was a refreshing take on the modern mod. These stunning women embodied each piece with a type of sophisticated chic that I desire to have. Here’s the thing; she is even sweeter and graceful than her designs...if that is even conceivable.

If you could possibly image, the second day of LA was filled with even more astonishment. There was a knock at my door, not room service or the cleaning lady, it was a delivery. I could not even lift these two, gigantic packages. They were taped with the Glamour logo. I was overcome with nervousness while eagerly anticipating its contents. The Glamour gals hit my style right on the nail: vintage inspired elegance with a dash of boho chic. They gifted me with beautiful clothing, shoes, and accessories, ones that I never believed I would own (Kate Spade, Tory Burch, Ralph Lauren, Rebecca Minkoff,  Zac Posen, etc). For the remainder of the week, I was red-carpet ready with a whole new wardrobe!

Get this: my week, so far, had consisted of everything fab about fashion. I can go home now and sleep soundly in my suburban ranch, right? You’re awfully  mistaken. It has just begun. My Glam gal, Jessica, arranged a surprise meeting for me, with an inspiring lady that I have looked up to for years, Rachel Zoe. Yes, the A-list stylist with her pronounced panache and previous t.v. show, Rachel Zoe. I had the amazing opportunity to have a tour of her studio, see her archive, meet her media team, and above all, meet and chat with Rachel, herself. She is truly a magnificent gal. Her generous heart complements well with her shinning style. I am so blessed to have met this beautiful woman. It was a day filled with a fabulous photo shoot, glitzy goodies, and Magnolia cupcakes!
Dress: Kate Spade, Shoes: Tory Burch

Rachel Zoe, signing her new book, Living in Style

 Before Heading to the fashion shows, my family and I had a wonderful afternoon perusing downtown L.A. and L.A. Live. First, we stopped at a macaroon shop that I have been eyeing up, every time we passed! This little taste of heaven was called Bottega Louie; I fell in a sweet, sugary love, the moment I stepped in. I don't know what it is about petite, macaroon cookies with pastel colors that makes me feel like I should be sitting at a Parisian café, drinking some fancy Frappuccino, and enjoying the latest issue of Vogue. Not to mention, I loved the fact that it was called Louie, because that is what my family calls my mum; short for Lucine.
Then, we went to L.A. Live, where all of Style L.A. Fashion Week took place. We walked around and saw the sights: Nokia Theater, Staples Center, Grammy Museum, etc. We stopped to enjoy a big lunch at a restaurant called Fleming's. This was the best meal that I have EVER had out! I ordered their lunch special: a delightful Fleming's salad, delicious filet mignon with a side of creamy, fluffy mashed-potatoes, and a decadent treat of chocolate crème brulee! I savored every bite; it was worth every penny!

Found my girl, Tswift!
Dress: Modcloth

The nights were long, but before I knew it, the week was soon over. Before I said my goodbye to the sunshine, my sweethearts, and Style Fashion week, I had a few more exciting encounters! Everyone knows this flamboyant fashion designer: Betsy Johnson. Before seeing her runway show, I knew how exciting  and exquisite her styles were, but I never knew what she was like, herself. Let me tell you, the cartwheel-into-a-split at the end of her show says everything about her! I was excited to even just see her in person! But listen here: she was staying at the same hotel as my family and I in downtown L.A. The next morning, we met in the tea room and I was able to interview her. From her starting out designing to her grandchildren, we talked about it all! When I asked about her family, she always responded with a big-hearted voice, which I loved and respected. “I wanted my family to live near me,” she said, “they live in the same apartment complex.” At that point, I could just imagine the cute rug-rats knocking on “Grandma Betsy’s” door at whatever hour. She proceeded to tell me, “With them, there is either ‘crazy grandma’ or ‘Betsy Johnson’, no in-between.” I see her being the Grandma, like most, who spoils their grandkids to no end, with mostly love, of course. And, without doubt, we chatted about fashion, style, and dreams. She is an insightful woman who I am so lucky to have met. I’ll never forget her distinctive flair, with her silver-sequin pants, cheetah shoes, and all! God love her, for seventy-one!

My male model friends; always a joy.

Dress: Zac Posen
Cat Dress: Modcloth

The best chauffer in the world, Lex! Thank you again for the flowers!

Earrings: Glam with Jess

Dress: Kate Spade, Shoes: Modcloth, Glasses: Prada
Then the time had come, where I had to say farewell to fashion and go back to the cruel reality of frigid temps and far-too-early mornings. But, the thing about this trip, is that it has opened so many doors (not just closet doors). This experience is something that I will carry with me, not only in my heart, but in my ambitions, for many years to come. Goodbye L.A., I’ll see you again!

A special thanks to all of my L.A. Make-a-Wish friends, Steven, Lani, Kristen, and Chico! I love your passion and devotion to this foundation; you are all sweethearts!