Thursday, September 4, 2014

Catfishing with Katie

A reader/friend emailed me the other day to check to make sure I hadn't fallen off the face of the earth, or stopped blogged, either one being awful, I suppose. Granted, I've fallen behind in my blogging, but I think I'm hopefully in the upswing, and back to it. I'll be honest, I thought about just shutting things down all together, calling it quits, more than once in the past month. You've heard all the usually reasons from other bloggers who have fallen by the wayside--- takes too much time, feel like a sell-out, don't feel inspired,etc.,etc. And in the past three years, I've seen a lot of bloggers bow out, but not for the reason I'm about to give. 

I'm too famous. Or maybe the problem is I'm not famous enough. Now before you just cuss me and close out of this screen, thinking to yourself, "Katie, has done lost her fool mind for real this time!", hear me out. Read me out, whatever, you know what I mean.

 I'm clearly not famous. I make just enough money from blogging that I can occasionally buy myself some new clothes from Old Navy (hence the Old Navy-heavy #OOTD in this post). But I'm not famous enough that Old Navy wants to work with me, even though I do ACTUALLY WEAR their brand, unlike most of the bloggers currently shilling for them. Alas that's a rant for another day, so back to my original point. 

I've never been stopped on the streets by a  "fan", but apparently I'm all over Pinterest to the point that my students want to mention it during class, while I'm teaching, on a daily basis. This is not something I expected from blogging---this intermixing between my regular day-to-day life and my blogging life, and it is not something I enjoy. Why are my students so obsessed with the fact that I actually do something in my spare time? Again, another day...

I'm not going to be able to quit my day job and blog full-time ever. But it has recently come to my attention that someone is using my blog photos to catfish people on OKCupid. Until two weeks ago, I really had no idea what OKC was, other than another dating site like Match or Christian Mingle or J-Date or whatever that Wanna Date a Cowboy dating site is. I think it's a step up from that hook up app, Tinder (which I literally had to Google the name of, that's how out of the loop I am), but since I have been married for over ten years and don't use dating sites, I'm not entirely sure. Oh, I'm so simple and naive.

Let me start at the beginning. I wake up one Monday morning, and since I am dreading getting out of bed and actually starting my workweek, I am wasting time on my phone. I see that my blog's Facebook page has a new message, so I click over to check it out.  Expecting one of my usual FB messages about where to buy cardigans (I know, I own a bunch) or just a general "Hello, I like your blog" (which I love to receive), I'm reading still half-asleep with one eye open and picking crusty eye boogers out of the other one---glamorous I know! Well, here's the message:

Ummm, awkward?! Feeling pretty wide awake by this point, I debated what to do. Originally, I wasn't going to respond to the message at all. Curtis thought the whole thing was hilarious, but I was (and still am) seething over the fact that someone is using me to try and hook up with other people. And clearly, the whole thing was a ruse because they would never be able to meet face-to-face because they aren't me!

Truthfully, as much as I was creeped out by the whole thing, I felt kinda bad for dudeman. I mean he went through all the trouble to reverse image search my photo and track down my blog and then my Facebook page and then message me. And it was all for naught. After explaining that I do not have (and never will have) an OKCupid account, I asked the guy to give me the profile link, so I could check things out for myself. Sure enough, a photo of me, with a promise of more photos if I "click" with the suitor.

Now there are people who will say that when you put your life and photos on the internet, then you are fair game to whatever happens with them. I have seen photos of myself on Pinterest with horribly degrading comments. I have dealt with plus size women criticizing my photo's on a plus-size retailer's Facebook page- oh, the irony. I have seen my photos on Tumblers dedicated to the fetishism of  plus-sized women. All this abuse and degradation for a couple of new fall items at Old Navy? Hardly seems worth it sometimes.

I started my blog as a way to feel better about myself and encourage other women to get out of fashion slumps and dress for the bodies they have. I know first-hand that self-esteem and confidence are slippery slopes and that sometimes something as a simple as a new dress can make a huge difference. That is still the main reason I blog, but it gets harder and harder to justify it with this kind of insidious invasion. It gets harder to enjoy blogging and sharing photos when I worry about where they may end up, you know?

I've contacted OKCupid three times asking for something to be done about the profile, but I've yet to receive a response from them. Not that I'm surprised really, but it's frustrating nonetheless. But the fear is, what if this is just the tip of the iceberg? What else is out there that hasn't surfaced yet?

Cardigan: Old Navy (Buy Here)
Camisole: Old Navy (Buy Here)
Skirt:Old Navy (Buy Here)
Shoes: Kohl's (Super old, but Similar Here)

Monday, September 1, 2014

Styling a Short, Layered Bob

It's been almost two years since I decided to chop off all my hair, and even though I don't regret it for a moment, I got pretty lazy in the spring and summer, so when school started back I found myself with a pretty nice little bob, totally by accident. Instead of cutting it all off, I decided to play around with this length for a while. I've had several requests for photos and info on my current cut, color and styling, and on this Labor Day weekend, I finally got around to posting it. 

My best friend Callie is also my hair stylist, which is crazy convenient for me. I trust her explicitly with my hair, and I usually just tell her to do "whatever" when I settle into her chair. I did ask her about dying my hair back dark for the fall and winter. I feel like that's what you are "supposed" to do, right? Light hair and highlights in the summer, dark hair in the winter. I had a lot of really light pieces leftover from my summer fling with blue, and I was concerned--- about what? I'm not sure- looking to cool and carefree for fall I guess. Stupid, I know! 

Anyway, so if you are into the color, here's what I've got--- a dark chocolate base with blended caramel and honey highlights. Anyone else hungry? As far as the cut, Callie recommends that you ask for a short, layered bob with lots of texturizing. I will tell you I have really coarse, thick hair with a pretty strong wave (you can see here what it looks like after air-drying and being slept on), so I can't guarantee that yours will look like mine. Please don't sue me, okay?

I'm also not very good at styling my hair. I have gotten better over the years, thanks to the BFF/hair stylist, but I'm still really impatient with the actual styling process. However, Callie says to get this casual, natural look in the photos below, all you have to do is use Aquage Uplifting foam at the roots for volume. Then blow dry messy, AKA don't worry about it being all smooth and perfect as you dry it. Use a round brush at the crown for lift and volume. For the record, I own a round brush, but I am too scared of getting it permanently tangled in my hair and having to get it cut out to actually use it,but hey, you go for it! Then I can use a flat iron or curling iron (whichever is easier) to mix in waves and flips. I don't curl each piece in the same direction, mostly because I'm not that skilled, but Callie says that's the right thing to do to make it look natural and carefree, so, yeah, I meant to do that! Then spritz with Paul Mitchell Stay Strong hair spray for hold.

Full disclosure- this was the day AFTER Callie styled my hair. I should have
taken photos on the original day, but I forgot. I had also just woken from a nap, so the back
is really flippy and sticky-outy--- that's official hairstyling terms, BTW.
TLDR; I woke up like this ;)

P.S. If you have any questions, I know Callie will answer them, so ask here in the comments or head over to my Facebook page!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

What Will Your Verse Be?

I've actually been sitting on this post since February 2012. I felt like it was too personal too share, too out of the realm of my niche as "plus-size personal style" blogger. But ever since I saw the news of Robin Williams' death last week, I keep coming back to this post. It's not the easiest thing to read, or to write, and there are no cool fashion photos---- just to give you a head's up before you continue.

Much has been written in the past week about Williams' suicide and how mental illness, if it doesn't affect you personally, is hurting the people closest to you. Many people have written eloquently on the topic, and I have shared multiple articles on my personal Facebook page. I have seen outpourings of love and affection for a man that many admired, but so few actually knew. It gives me hope that the stigma that has long surrounded depression and other mental illness is lessening, and it has been staggering to see the number of people in my life (both real life and online) who have come forward and announced that they too struggle with the dark side of humanity. Do I have anything new to add to this ongoing conversation? Not necessarily, but sometimes a story just needs to be told.

It creeps up on me when I least expect it. Like the sun being blotting away from the winter's night sky. It's so subtle, I don't even notice the change. And then suddenly I am alone- cold and in pitch-black darkness. Depression and anxiety belong in the night. They are dark, creepy subjects most people try to ignore or brush off.

I can't really determine when this latest wave hit me. For some reason I am usually the last person to notice when I have fallen into a "funk". I think I realized last week that I had been really "tired" lately. I'm always tired- it's a combination of deep-set laziness and slight medical issues. I've already blogged about how much I love naps. But this is always different. It's not the decadence of a midday nap, it's the necessity of crawling into bed as soon as I get home. It's not getting up when the alarm goes off the first time or the fourth time. It's waiting all day to get back under the covers and sleep away the world.

I am pretty sure I can pinpoint my first depressive episode to eighth grade. I don't remember much (it was a long time ago!), but I remember missing a ton of days and being so incredibly tired. I struggled off and on for years with depression and anxiety, always too afraid to ask for help. In college the stress of working full-time and going to school full-time finally became too much for me, and after some encouragement from a close friend, I made an appointment with a psychiatrist- one of the scariest AND bravest things I've ever done.

And thus began my ten-year journey through medicated depression and anxiety. It's a vicious cycle- I would go on an anti-depressant because I just couldn't survive anymore. Then in a few months when I felt better, I would take myself off of the drug (often with disastrous side effects and withdrawals). A few months later I would begin to feel bad again, and go to the doctor for a different anti-depressant. And so the cycle continued year after year. I have been on nearly every available anti-depressant on the market and can recite the litany of side effects like the commercial voice-overs.

To prepare for conception, I again took myself off my anti-depressants. I was wracked with depression and anxiety. I was sick with worry and finally, halfway through my pregnancy, admitted my problem to my OB who immediately put me on, you guessed it, another anti-depressant. I have already blogged about my experiences with post-partum depression and anxiety here at ModaMama, and it wasn't a fun experience. Looking back on it seven years after the fact, I can clearly see how those months following Sean's birth, which should have been the happiest of my life, were my darkest moment.

In the past three or four years I have continued my cycle of on-med/off-med, until this past May. As I sat at our high school graduation ceremony, I found myself struggling to breathe. I was sweating and nauseated. I was panicking, imagining the humiliation I would experience if I vomited on stage during graduation. The people sitting around me could tell something was wrong. I spent the entire ceremony planning my exit from the stage and desperately willing the time to go by faster.

As I recounted the incident to my physician, she gently told me I had experienced a panic attack, and despite the fact that I am an armchair physician and a WedMD hypochondriac, I had never realized I have panic attacks with some regularity. And then she said something that in the past ten-plus years no doctor has ever told me. She told me I was never going to get better. That my anxiety and depression were never going to magically go away, that I would probably need to be on an anti-depressant forever. For some people this may sound like horrible news or  discouraging, but this was exactly what I needed to hear. It's not my fault. It's not something I can control or fix on my own.

In high school I took a creative writing class, and in that class I expressed for the first time the depths of my pain and sadness. Now we are required by law to report students exhibiting suicidal or self-harming tendencies, but the laws must have been more lax because I just can't believe that I didn't get locked up immediately. I recently tracked down my journal from that class to share with my current creative writing students, and I was shocked at the contents. Yes, there was plenty of super-cheesy, lovey-dovey poems, but the vast majority reflected the inner demons I was battling on a daily basis. In one, dated just ten days after my 16th birthday, I wrote: "I remember the first time I wanted to die/ The gun held against my head/There were no more tears left to cry/ I felt I was better off dead."

Original poetry and artwork, my poetry journal from 11th grade and me at 15-years-old
I know that this dark side will always be with me, sometimes just under the surface and sometimes pulling me down. I know the fragility of human life and the tragedy of suicide. I have lost people close to me and I have mourned the death of a man, that through his beloved characters of Peter Pan and Genie and Mrs. Doubtfire, was more of a father figure than anything I had in my life at the time. I know what to look for in my own son as he gets older. I know that there is help available if you are able to ask. I know it can get worse. But I also know it can get better.

Please know the warning signs of depression and suicide. Please don't be afraid to speak up if you need help or if you think someone else needs help. Too many people have complained that the media and others have glamorized Robin Williams' death and made suicide mainstream or cool. I don't see that at all. I see that through his tragic death we've all been able to open up about a topic that is too often ignored or trivialized. However, I do want to end with probably the most touching tribute to Williams I've seen. Have a tissue handy because if you haven't already seen it, you will probably tear up.

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