Tuesday, September 24, 2013

It's The Little Things

Don't ya' just love finding things that make you smile, things that make your life a little better?!  I sure do, and the following are a couple of things that made me smile today...

I love visits to the local drug store...I can often find a lil' something to perk up my day without spending a lot.  I have really fine hair and so "Fat Hair Thickening Spray" was an awesome find (note: I ONLY think the word fat is okay when you are speaking of hair! ...when my son saw me pick it up he said, rather dramatically, 'you're not buying that!' lol - yes, my kids know it's a dirty word! :) )...I love this product!  I equally love Maybelline's Falsies Volum Express in Black Drama - this stuff is great and inexpensive!

On my bathroom counter sits a photo of me, taken in '94 by an aspiring photographer in Natal, Brazil.  When I look at this photo I am reminded of how I felt back then (and still feel!)...that life is full of promise, opportunities, friendship, and adventure!  I love having this visual reminder every morning, it instantly puts a smile on my face and a hop in my step!   It also provides a great place to keep the three necklaces that are symbolic to me and that I wear most often...

one was gifted to me by my beautiful friend at her wedding=FRIENDSHIP, 

one represents my lil' family and my acknowledgement of my own personality and nature 
(I'm one of 'those' who thinks astrology is meaningful)=LIFE, 

and one I just brought home yesterday and is intended to protect me whilst encouraging peace and compassion=STRENGTH.

My last fave to include is a Facebook group called The Boudoir Body Challenge.  This group was started by Stacie Frazier, an awesome woman and boudoir photog out of Las Vegas, and has blossomed into the coolest and most motivating group I've found in a long while!  Ladies, look it up...I'm there with plenty of other women who are simply looking to better their own health, with the awesome added benefit of encouraging everyone else in the group at the same time...zero judgement/110 motivation!  There have been MANY tips shared on BBC that have inspired me and two of them I want to share with all of you:

1) when eating out why not ask for them to bring you a takeaway box before your meal; this allows you to halve your meal ensuring you don't overeat (com'on, those portions are out of control and I guarantee you I'll eat it all if it's A) yummy and B) right in front of me!)

2) MyFitnessPal is a free online resource that has an accompanying app...did I mention it's FREE?!  Yep, free & awesome!  I am relatively new to using it but I am really excited about the difference it will make in me having a better sense of my caloric intake/expenditure each day!  (I'm not sure how reliable the exercise module is for calculating calories burned, but just knowing how many I've eaten is a terrific first step!)

So, what made you smile today?  What little thing can you introduce or be grateful for in your daily routine to make your life that little bit better EVERY DAY?  Feel free to share in the comments and, if nothing else, go out and find a smile...it's good for your health! :D

Life - and the little things - are beautiful!

xo Lori

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Yin-Yang and other truths...it is personal!

I believe that there can't be anything without its opposing force (or complimentary force if you're a 'glass half full' kind of person!): day-night, water-fire, man-woman, yin-yang; therefore, I must also accept that for a person to experience true joy they must also face grief.

I have been consciously and sub-consciously contemplating this post since late May when I experienced a great personal loss.  This will NOT be a post detailing what happened or why; rather, I simply want to address a couple of things that I hold very dear, and I also wish to express, in writing, that I am Just.Like.You.

I have been 'feeling my way' on the social media platform for the past three or four years.  On November 7, 2010, in my second blog post here (and second of my life), I wrote this:
"As this blog-thing is new to me, I have spent a lot of time over the past week or so contemplating just what to share, and the possibilities are, obviously, limitless.  So, I've decided on some parameters which, when written down, seem to be best encapsulated by 'general goodwill'.  I want to share what I am learning, to show what I'm working on, and to elevate the conversation (hopefully) to a tone of positive attitude and caring.  So, we may go on tangents (Lord knows I am good at that!), but you may rely on this being a place you can spend a minute during your busy day without hearing me whine, complain or lay blame."
I have believed since day one that social media can inform, uplift, and entertain...but the opposite of all those wonderful impacts is true too.  I am proud that I have chosen, and continue to choose, the path of light, goodwill, and generosity everyday (with the occasional slip when something really pisses me off!) :)

All that said, these past few months have been exceedingly difficult for me and my family.  However, the reminders of all that is beautiful in my life and in the world have absolutely buoyed me.  I pay great respect to the path I've led, through Bella Faccia and now Bella Forza, over these past few years as I believe that my daily choice to be positive and to encourage women to feel empowered/beautiful/strong has helped me immeasurably in overcoming what has been the greatest heartbreak of my life.  


Obviously I'm human and suffer moments (or a tad longer) of acting in a way that is, shall we say, less than graceful; but we learn, we grow, we improve, and we step forward...and we needn't apologize for being 'works in progress' as every individual on earth is learning as they go too!

A few months ago I received a private note through Facebook from someone I haven't met in person, but who is known to me through friends.  I am going to believe that the message was meant to be inquisitive, based on this person's support over the past few years, regardless of the crass way it was written.  Essentially, this subscriber of mine on my personal page, who also receives updates from both of my Facebook business pages, had learned of my loss and wrote to me asking why I was being 'so disingenuous' with my posts, citing that they had been "too positive given what you are actually living"...the fact is that I am not disingenuous, in fact I feel extraordinary joy that I have been able to see the beauty around me whilst also suffering sadness.  I value the quality of sincerity as highly as I value trust, integrity, and goodwill...I wish to express, publicly, that when you read a post of mine - whether it is my written word or something that I've shared - I MEAN for you to read it and for us, collectively, to feel uplifted. That was my goal when I started and I am only more fervent in my pursuit of 'beautiful' now!

I recently read this quote by Rumi: 
"Learn the alchemy true human beings know.  The moment you accept what troubles you've been given, the door will open."  
Indeed, I do believe that masking pain, hiding from truth, and living a lie are all terribly unhealthy and unhelpful in living your best life.  We should be able to answer truthfully when someone asks us how we are; that said, I also hope that we choose to answer with infinite hope.  So, friends, I can say that I have been sad and hurt, and I can say that some days have felt heavy in ways I cannot adequately articulate - not unlike what every human being faces at some point in their lives;  however, I can also say that I am full of hope, optimism, and joy for the blessings I experience each day.  I am truly grateful for so much that I couldn't possibly list it here.  
I really wanted an awesome shot of me and my kids from yesterday's adventure...
and I got one; this picture makes me smile every time I look at it!
© Bella Faccia Photography/Lori M. Maloney
I do believe that LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL and I am happy to share why with any of you, on any day, and in any venue!  In the meantime, let's keep celebrating each other, our talents and foibles!

With gratitude, 


Monday, May 27, 2013

SuperMom to SuperModel!

I met beautiful Karma a few years ago, when our sons bonded over dinosaurs in kindergarten, and it wasn't long before we were friends too!  It was also fun to discover that her husband and I attended school together...such a small world!

Karma is mom to four active kids who range in age from nearly three to 17...with an always clean house, fresh baking and cooking on hand for her family and friends (she showed up to her shoot with a family portion of homemade spaghetti for us!), and seemingly endless energy, Karma definitely epitomizes the term 'Super Mom'!

Over the past few years Karma has pondered the idea of a shoot with me...I was beyond thrilled when she bit the proverbial bullet and booked her session.  As you can see, Karma is beautiful without a stitch of makeup; but being a girly-girl meant that a morning of getting her hair and makeup done and then playing model was right up her alley!  

I loved how excited and engaged Karma was in planning her shoot.  We had a pre-session consultation a few weeks before her shoot to discuss details (something I always schedule) and she also had compiled shots she loved on a Pinterest board as inspiration for us both.  In fact there was one shot, which I believe was taken by a Russian photographer Litvak Oleg (the Pinterest file didn't have the artist's name; however, a fellow photographer helped me locate the information), that she and I both LOVED and she asked me to recreate.  Here is that shot...

Other ideas for the shoot included a new pair of boots she had; some french netting I wanted to try out; and some sassier shots for her husband...all I can say is that I have been hard pressed to pick my faves as there are just too many!  Alas, here are a couple more from our shoot that I LOVE!

Karma told me that she walked up the front steps with a bit of a gulp in her throat!  Flash forward to this afternoon (the day after her shoot) when she texted me saying it was the experience of a lifetime!  Show her some love as she is simply beautiful, inside and out!

Karma, your infectious laugh, easy going demeanour, and fun loving attitude are all reasons I enjoy being around you in general, and you brought all that AND pro modelling moves to your session!  Thank you for your trust in me; having the opportunity to photograph you was so much fun and I hope we'll do it again ;)!  

Life - and moms you meet at school - are beautiful!


Friday, May 3, 2013

'You Are Here'...and 'Here' Is Beautiful!

I was recently at a museum with the kids when I noticed a "You Are Here" sign on the floor in front of the museum's map...and it struck me as profound.  I took this photo on my iPhone and have been mulling over the seemingly simple statement ever since.

My blog and Facebook posts are a mix of business and personal, and this one is no different.  The fact is that life is busy, which I know does not come as a shocker to any of you!  I try hard each day to find some semblance of balance between my health (why does fitting in a workout seem so challenging?!), cleaning the house, having groceries at the ready, chauffeuring two kids to myriad activities, supporting a  husband who has a demanding job, seeing friends & family, playing with the dogs, AND running Bella Faccia (and now Bella Forza as well)!  Now, I don't claim to be as busy as many; however, aren't we all trying to find our own 'best balance'? 

There have been many days over this past year when I felt overwhelmed and found myself subconsciously wishing things were different somehow - more time, more energy, more help (I do daydream of a housecleaner nearly daily :) ); but then, I thought, "no, I don't wish things were different...I'm loving my life...I'm loving 'here'"!  So, 'here', in this moment, I am letting go of what I thinkshould be doing, accomplishing, etc....I am letting go of any self perceived guilt...and I am going to step back from work (with one exception) for a few months to allow me time to be a (nearly!) FULL TIME MOM to two pretty awesome kids.  

That one work exception mentioned above is Bella Forza!  My commitment to the women whom Bella Forza can be of service to have my commitment and I will not turn any Bella Forza client away.  If you are wondering what Bella Forza is all about please visit the FB page at www.facebook.com/BellaForzaPortraits and the blog at bellaforzaportraits.wordpress.com).  I'd love to have you click 'like' or leave a comment if you are so inclined; it not only helps get the word out about Bella Forza but it also buoys the women who come to us!

So, during the summer months, from June 1 to September 15, I will only be taking clients for Bella Forza.  I will still be on-line and will happily be taking session bookings throughout the summer for dates after 09/15!

Life - and loving your 'here' - are beautiful!


Saturday, March 23, 2013

She Was Warrior

In early January the fabulous Sarah Byrne and I were having coffee, chit-chatting about life, astrology, and books when, out of the blue, she said, "We should plan a creative! What have you always wanted to do?"  Truth is that I tend to be a specific-purpose type of person and I'd never actually done nor pursued a true creative shoot (my collaborative shoot with Sarah, Doug Pruden, and Katie Hunt came close mind you ;) ).  All that said, I knew exactly what I've thought about doing for the past few years, "I want to do a body paint shoot."  And so the idea was born...but we needed to find a model and decide on details.

I've worked with the lovely Jeanette a number of times now - she started out as a client and quickly became my friend and model (some might say muse given how many times we have now worked together - she graces the top of this blog!).  I emailed to see if she'd be interested and she seemed as excited about it as Sarah and I were!

Next we needed a theme...there were so many back and forths between myself and Sarah that I'm not sure who first came across a shot with a headdress; regardless we were both convinced that it would be awesome and we set out to design the rest of the shoot around a headdress.  Sarah went in search and found an extraordinary headdress for us...man, you have to see this thing in person!  

During our planning, and mere weeks before our mid-March shoot; Sarah visited a friend and they painted together.  She posted a shot of her canvas on Facebook and I asked her to bring it over so that I could shoot it; thinking the texture and colours would be beautiful with our Warrior!  I haven't done much in the way of composites but I love the capabilities of Photoshop and, as this was intended to be a truly creative pursuit, I thought it would be a great time to play and learn.  

The below image is the result of three women who all invested time, thought, and heart into this shoot!  
© Bella Faccia/Lori Maloney
HMUA and Background Art by Sarah Byrne
Styling by Sarah Byrne and Lori Maloney
Model: Jeanette
I hope to post a few more from our session and they will likely be edited quite differently (trying to learn as much Photoshop as I can on this!).

My sincere thanks to Sarah and Jeanette for all of their efforts in making this shoot not only a success but a really fun day too!  (PS we're still finding beads from the bracelet I broke while readying JB!)

Life - and creative endeavours - are beautiful!


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Some Winter Shooting with OOPOOMOO & duChemin

I am going to blog about my full experience from this weekend, at the Persistent Vision seminar, very soon (it was ahhhhmazing!) but for now I wanted to simply share a few images from today's shoot.

The morning started with a carpool from Calgary to Vermillion Lakes, just outside of Banff...the snow and early morning darkness made the drive less than easy, but we made it!  We met up with 15 other photogs, including Samantha Chrysanthou, Darwin Wiggett, and David duChemin.  With a little instruction from David together with his thoughts about approaching a creative process; we all set about finding 'our shot' amidst the winter morning scene.  It was very cold, with a biting wind and blowing snow...any of you who know me will know that those conditions usually have me heading for a Baileys and coffee indoors, but I stuck it out with the help of my new friend, Cynthia Haynes (nothing like having girl chat & laughs to keep your mind off of how cold your fingers and toes are!).

As I grow as a photographer I find myself becoming freer and less concerned about my own expectations, or others, of what I "should" capture on a workshop shoot.  Opportunities like this today's, even if the conditions are less than ideal (at least for this fair weather shooter ;)!), really help concrete my belief that experimentation is fun and that shooting just for yourself is liberating (insert pep talk on this subject from Dave Brosha here!).

I so appreciate the teaching styles of Sam, Darwin, and David and if you EVER have the chance to learn from them - MAKE IT HAPPEN! 

I love the variety in my fave four below...also need to say thanks to Cynthia for reminding me how much fun motion shots are!

Life - and spending time learning with passionate & kind people - is beautiful!


Friday, March 8, 2013

For International Women's Day I am sharing an image of a woman I found to be extraordinary...during a road trip in New Mexico we met Fabiola, who marked our trip and my heart; this is what I wrote about her, and that afternoon, in a blog post in June 2012...  

"We were stopped roadside so that I could photograph the ruins of what we would discover was a Christian settlement.  There was a sign asking that you not proceed past the fence, and I was respectful of their wishes (albeit sad).  I was just about done when a beat up truck pulled up and Fabiola emerged.  She was sweet, well spoken, and happy to see people interested in the history of the place.  In a past life Fabiola was an archaeologist who lived in all corners of the globe, eventually marrying a professor and settling in her home state of New Mexico.   Fabiola gave us an 'inside the fence' tour of the ruins and, reluctantly, allowed me to take only two photos.  She told us the best place nearby to eat, directed us to the Three Crosses in Abiquiu made famous by Georgia O'Keefe, and, without question, added something magical to our road trip.  I will never forget our friend or the unexpected adventure of that afternoon."

What most impressed me with Fabiola was her absolute joy for life, for learning, and for teaching.  She had lived an amazing life in exotic locales, and now is living a contented life making masks to sell at a local market in her birthplace.

May we all endeavour to dream, to reach, to be open to all that is available to us...may we be courageous.

Life - and women who inspire - are beautiful!


Thursday, February 21, 2013

When opportunity comes knocking...

About a month ago I received an email from the folks over at oopoomoo.com, Sam Chrysanthou and Darwin Wiggett, asking if I would be interested in participating in a panel discussion at their upcoming Persistent Vision seminar and if I would also consider providing portfolio critique(s).  Upon reading the email, I first swore out loud – out of glee and fear – and then quickly wrote them back to say, ‘YES…before you change your mind!’

I first met Sam and Darwin a few years back when I attended a Scott Kelby WorldWide Photo Walk that they led.  Over the past few years we’ve come to know each other a little and I consider them friends, and I consider myself lucky to call them friends!  We’ve shot together, we’ve had beers and coffees, on an evening walk/landscape shoot I participated in their oopoomoo launch video (a shot from that same night accompanies this post), we’ve shared struggles and successes with each other (mostly me & Sam over lengthy latte dates!), and I simply think that they are wonderful people & photogs who also happen to provide tremendous resources to the photographic community (their work, workshops, eBooks, life views, and sidewalk banter are all terrific!).
After telling Sam & Darwin that I didn't think I was a 'landscape photographer'; Darwin took this shot, unbeknownst to me, to prove I could be...here I am using filters and everything! :)  (Note: if you know that you are going to be photographed as a silhouette, do yourself a favour and ditch the warm hoodie and pocketed filter case!)
When oopoomoo.com announced in March 2012 that they were hosting a seminar with guest speaker David duChemin I immediately (after checking with the bank/husband!) signed up…which was quickly followed with a post to my Facebook wall saying that this seminar would be an ‘un-missable’ opportunity if you were interested in photography!  I knew that being in the same room as Sam, Darwin, and David, would be of great value toward my goal of continually bettering myself, both individually and as a photographer. 

Flash-forward a year and you find me beyond thrilled by their recent invitation; however, I was also concerned (read: intimidated!) about being a live-and-in-person-example of ‘which of these things is not like the other’, given that the panelists consist of photographers whose lengthy bios include multiple awards and publications!  That said, maybe the fact that I am so different, at least in experience and my chosen photography path, is a worthwhile addition to the panel?  And so, as happens often, I find myself contemplating all the psychology and philosophy that I have come to believe in...I choose to remind myself of the encouragement that I would offer a friend if she were in a similar situation…something along the lines of: “Stop asking yourself, ‘why you?’ and instead ask, ‘why not you?!”  Why is it that we treat ourselves differently than we treat our loved ones?  In reflecting upon this opportunity I recalled a quote of Albert Einstein’s, “All that is valuable in human society depends upon the opportunity for development accorded the individual.”  Indeed, reaching and dreaming toward being our most robust selves serves our own life purpose and, in turn, our families, communities, countries, and, ultimately, humanity.

My friend Bruce Kirkby, accomplished adventurer, author, photographer, and, speaker, has been encouraging people to push past their fears and perceived limitations for years…this is absolutely an occasion when I have heard his encouraging whispers as I step outside of my comfort zone and wait for the ‘magic to happen’! 

And so it is, with utter humility and gratitude, that I will lend my voice to this discussion.  I am honoured to have the trust and respect of people whom I trust and respect, and I look forward to this incredible opportunity being gifted to me.

Life is beautiful!


Sunday, February 17, 2013

“Quick, we need a headshot!”

Last December I was thrilled to participate as a guest ‘expert’ at an accessories boutique’s 'Get Glam for the Holidays’ event.  The opportunity presented itself without a tonne of notice, which happens often, and they needed a headshot from me for their marketing.  Although I take seflies on my iPhone somewhat frequently I didn’t have a professional looking headshot.  I only had two hours (they could have extended the deadline but I was happy to try and make their lives as easy as possible) and so I sent them a headshot that I’d done for our family Christmas card the year before (the card had been 'Brady Bunch’ style with separate headshots of our entire gang, furry kids and all!).  The headshot I sent worked out fine and, in fact, suited the opportunity in that I’m wearing a fabulous accessory in the shot!  That said, I swore, that day, to not be caught again without a professional headshot.

Well, that was in early December, and we were en route to Mexico for a friend’s wedding...then came Christmas...then it was early January after WAY too many delicious meals...and then it was early February when I needed to have minor surgery to remove Basal Cell Skin Cancer on my cheek (I blogged about this and encourage you to read that post to learn more about what type of sunscreen you should be using!)...and then, recently, I was approached for an upcoming opportunity and they needed a headshot, and I STILL didn’t have one!

So, this past Wednesday (knowing I needed to send my headshot to someone on Wednesday!) I set up some lights, readied my assistant (mannequin), and was LUCKY to have my truly lovely friend and talented HMUA, Sarah Byrne, do my hair and makeup (I had intended to do my own but she, being the generous soul that she is, insisted on helping me!).

In approaching this self portrait shoot I waffled a little with how to light it.  I knew that I couldn’t, or maybe shouldn’t, try to do anything too moody/technical for two reasons: I don’t think the average headshot is moody (and I wanted to portray my happy self!) AND it’s tough enough when you are shooting alone to get things right and so fiddling with the light hitting me was going to make the process that much harder.  I opted for clamshell lighting (which is flattering (I'm not 21!) and I knew it would be easy to make sure I was in the light), with a boomed hair/rim, and a tall piece of Styrofoam.

I used Principessa, my assistant, to stand in for me whenever I changed lenses or camera orientation, so that I could get a crisp focus.  Despite being a lover of shooting wide open I knew that it wasn’t really necessary given that I had a plain, black backdrop, nor could I risk the focus; I shot, on my Canon 5DMII, at f/11, 1/125 second, at ISO 100.  I started the shoot using a Sigma 85 f/1.4 but found that I liked the ease of a zoom in this scenario; therefore, majority of the images with a 70-200 f/4.0.

After focusing on Principessa with the studio lights on, moving her out of frame and the stool into position; I turned off the primary studio lights (to avoid any colour contamination) and used my camera’s, which was on a tripod and aimed at subject in the small space in between the two umbrellas, 10 second self timer to fire the shutter.  I was using Pocket Wizards to fire my Canon 580 EXII flash, which was modified with a large umbrella in front of subject and angled up; the flash then triggered two strobes: one situated in front of subject angled down and modified by the same size umbrella as on the flash, and another strobe that was behind subject, camera right, situated on a boom facing the subject’s back/hair, with a 40 degree grid in the reflector.  I used the Styrofoam on camera left to help reflect back some of the hair/rim light from the boomed strobe to help add some separation on the subject’s right side.  It’s noteworthy that there are some shots that I could absolutely see the difference that the rim light provided and others that I couldn’t; inevitably I know that I moved a little when moving the stool to position Principessa for focus and then moving her back out of frame, together with the fact that I was moving in and out of frame for each shot...this was a somewhat tedious process and I only had an hour and a half until I had to do my afternoon school run!

I situated the two umbrellas so that you can see them in the diagram, they were actually in line with each other, with the camera in between them and directly in front of subject.
I knew that I wanted a really clean shot and had hoped for a headshot that was simple and without fancy clothes…after all, what I most love when shooting women are those shots that really show THE WOMAN as opposed to the fancy clothes!  The following are a few of my favourites from this adventure.  I really enjoyed the process (although I did swear a few times :) ), and would encourage any photographer to tackle their own self portrait!  

Life is beautiful!


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Zero Regrets, Infinite Gratitude & a Dash of Knowledge

I would first like to acknowledge that this is not a photography related post.  My work is derived consciously and subconsciously from my perspectives, experiences, values, and life; bear with me as I sometimes feel the desire to write about those influences.  I also believe in posting words that are optimistic, sincere and that, hopefully, make at least one person’s life better in some way.  So…

This week I had surgery to rid my cheek of the dreaded 'C' word!

I had what I knew wasn’t a pimple on my cheek for a few years.  It would sometimes be more inflamed and look almost infected (like a zit) and other times it was just a little bump.  My dermatologist had looked at it before and was not concerned; she said that it could stay or she could remove it for me.  I finally became tired of the damned thing (this is where vanity can be your friend!) and booked an appointment for my doctor to remove it.  It was at that appointment that she thought it looked suspicious and proceeded to take a biopsy.  With a diagnosis of Basal Cell Carcinoma, (which is a common, slow growing, non-aggressive, and non-fatal form of the disease) she referred me to Mohs (pronounced Moze) surgeon Dr. Jeffrey Dawes. 

Mohs sugery, named after Dr. Frederic Mohs who developed the procedure in 1938, is actually pretty incredible...they first gave me a local anesthetic and then proceeded to make the first incision, taking only the area they were confident was cancerous.   I was then escorted back to the waiting room while the doc put my ‘offering’ under the microscope to see if the perimeter was clear or if they needed to take more tissue.  This process was repeated until the doctor was satisfied that the perimeter was Cancer and inflammation free, with a 2mm-3mm margin of healthy tissue around the lesion.  I had to have three sessions under the scalpel before they were satisfied they’d gotten every last offending cell and with a safe margin taboot!  This careful and methodical process ensures that they take the least amount of tissue possible – I love modern medicine! Once they had removed all of the cancerous and inflamed area they patched me up (Dr. Dawes described it much more eloquently than that ;)!). The nurses commented that I was lucky that my lesion was quite small (didn’t seem super small to me!) and it was in an area that is relatively easy to repair, versus other areas where perhaps a skin graft would have been required.

Taken with the iPhone 4S the day after my surgery.

Clearly I knew, during my youth and beyond, that sunscreen was important and that even sun tanning was likely not the best idea; please know that I am not now standing on any soap box, I’m not.  I have ZERO regrets about my past, including the wonderful time I spent on the beaches of Brazil or diving off the boat in Fiji and I have every intention of playing in the pool for many summers to come!  That said, my surgeon taught me something that I didn’t know about sunscreen which I want to share with each of you…

I have long relied on a high SPF thinking that I was doing right by my skin; however, I never understood that the high SPF didn’t necessarily mean that I was protected.  Turns out that, for example, a “broad spectrum, SPF 100” sunscreen may prevent a sunburn from UVB rays but it may be ineffective against the UVA rays (which cause the quiet, cumulative, and aging damage and which were likely most to blame for my skin cancer).  This is because many sunscreens rely primarily on “chemical filters that can break down light, rather than more effective mineral (physical barrier) ingredients”*.  They suggest, for the most effective protection, that we use a mineral based sunscreen that contains a concentration of 5% or greater of zinc oxide and/or titanium oxide.  This mineral based sunscreen should be reapplied every three to four hours.  These types of sunscreen are more expensive and so the recommendation is that we apply them to the most vulnerable areas of the body: face, tops of ears, chest, heads (gents!), and potentially arms.  You’d better believe that my kids and I will be switching!

I have infinite gratitude that my experience was only an inconvenience and that life has already returned to normal (save the giant white bandage that I’ll need to fashion for a few more days!). I remain forever grateful for the medical help I’ve received, that I live in a time of knowledge and non-invasive treatments, that the cancer I had was nonmelanoma (melanoma is VERY DANGEROUS and if you have any concerns about changes on your skin please get in ASAP to your doctor – don’t waste one second), and that I am surrounded by people who made this experience reasonably painless – primarily my awesome husband who, as he promised to do, stands beside me no matter what.

I wondered if I should share any of this but I have decided that knowledge is power.  If I can inspire one person to switch sunscreens or to make an appointment for a patch of skin that has changed or just doesn’t look ‘right’ I will be a very happy woman.

Life – and mineral-based sunscreens – are beautiful!


*Excerpt from the handout given to me by the office of Dr. Jeffrey C. Dawes MD, FRCSC

The skin protection that Dr. Dawes office sells and recommends is called Solar Protection Formula TIZO2, SPF 40 and is available by calling his office (near Westhills) at 403-571-3141.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Dragonfly Wings

Last summer I found a dragonfly on our deck while we were having a bbq.  He was beautiful, serene, colourful, and a direct link to the past...my family enjoyed talking about our little visitor, who was chillin' in and around our feet, as we ate.  The next day I found his body in the same place.

With the most care and respect I could provide, I gently scooped him up on a piece of paper and carried his body inside to our front foyer (great evening light).  I spent a few minutes trying to capture some of the details of his amazing little body (this is big for me as I am quite squeamish, but this was different, this felt spiritual somehow).

This is a favourite shot.  Look at how perfect nature is.  Look at how delicate that wing is.  Look at the beauty.

We are like dragonfly wings...unique, beautiful, fragile, and able to touch people in myriad ways.

Last Fall I was diagnosed with Basal Cell Carcinoma (skin cancer), after my dermatologist thought the 'annoying bump' on my cheek looked 'suspicious'.  She took a biopsy and called the following week with the news (while I was enjoying a beer-garita with a best friend in NYC - needless to say it was a bit of a shock to the system!).  Basal Cell is a nonmelanoma cancer, which is really lucky as it is the golden child of skin cancers, and with a small procedure this coming week I will be totally fine.

A few weeks ago a close friend visited her dermatologist because she was concerned at how the appearance of the skin on her ear had changed.  She was diagnosed with atypical cells and the doc told her it would have progressed into Melanoma - the scariest kind of skin cancer.  She will have surgery in a few weeks.

Last week another close friend wrote me to say that she had been diagnosed with early stage Breast Cancer.  She is currently attending to the MRI's, biopsies, ultrasounds, etc. that her doctor orders and is expected to have a lumpectomy and further treatment so that she may be Cancer free.

In 1995 my mom was diagnosed with fourth stage Breast Cancer (for those lucky enough to not be 'in the know' with Cancer: 4 is bad!) and, with a grim prognosis, she fought.  We were blessed with her presence for two and a half years more before she said goodbye.  She was diagnosed late, due to a lack of luck, a lack of her medical practitioners asking the right questions on routine visits, AND - now this is the one that matters most - because, I believe, she knew something was very wrong and was too scared to pursue an answer.

So, in the next three weeks, three people I love (counting myself here!) will have Cancer related surgeries.  We are all married, we all work, we all contribute to the lives of those around us, we matter...just like EVERY LIVING BEING ON PLANET EARTH MATTERS.

Treasure yourself, pay attention to changes in your body and on your skin, know that you are loved and your presence in our world matters.  It is imperative to visit your doctor, to speak openly, and to be your own advocate.  Don't ever fear knowledge for knowledge is power.

Remember that your life is as delicate as a dragonfly's wings and you must honour and respect it, there are countless people who want you to be okay!  Know that, just as our little friend's wings inspired me without his knowledge, so too do you inspire others.

Life - and health - are beautiful!


Thursday, January 3, 2013

I don't accept your definition of "beautiful"!

I must forewarn you that this first post of 2013 is a bit of a rant, but I am so disheartened that I felt compelled to write...

I was (mindlessly) flipping through a magazine yesterday, and left it laying open on the kitchen table (it had been keeping me company while my daughter was in a time-out as I have learned it's best not to stray too far as she is quick to notice any opportunities for get aways ;)!)  Once her time-out had ended and we'd had our 'talk', I carried on with the rest of my day and the magazine, Harper's Bazaar Jan '13, just laid there, untouched.

When my husband arrived home, hours later, he wandered over to it (it was the only thing on the table) and, with obvious disbelief, said 'that isn't toned and taut!'  I was curious as I hadn't even looked at that page, never mind read the small print on the photo, and so I went to where he stood to see for myself.  This photo, credited to Sean Cunningham, on page 264, has the caption "Toned and taut backstage at Michael Kors" and in large, bold print beside it is the caption, "Better Body."  

Let me make one thing very clear upfront, I am not criticizing the model nor the photographer.  I AM criticizing Harper's Bazaar and Michael Kors.  This beautiful girl looks unhealthy and Harper's Bazaar is using her image to 'inspire' women to get in shape?!  Michael Kors likely had zero input into his runway model's picture being used for this article; however, in my mind, he is complicit by having hired a model for his show whom appears to have an eating disorder.   This layout is part of an entire series entitled, "New Year, New You", and sub-titled, "Give yourself a head-to-toe makeover in nine days with these expert hair, skin, and body tips." by Jessica Prince.  I am here to propose vehemently argue that looking gaunt and unwell is NOT the body image that women should be aspiring to!

I should admit that I have been complaining about the scale recently...just before Christmas my family attended a wedding in Mexico where I indulged in sugary drinks and bigger-than-necessary meals, returning home just in time to participate in a multitude of social gatherings complete with appies, drinks, and mashed potatoes!  I knew that I had made unhealthy choices (albeit fun ones!) and it was time to get back on track, which, for me, means portion control and more exercise.  I will also admit that I'm not lovin' the reflection staring back at me at the moment BUT that isn't because I want to look like I'm starving myself, rather because I know what my body looks and feels like when I am healthy, when I am eating well, drinking water, and exercising.  I accept (and am learning to be more accepting) of my body and the only time I feel unhappy with it, with myself, is when I haven't respected it enough to make healthy choices.  

I DO NOT ACCEPT the "beautiful" that magazines are pushing down our throats...if you are naturally a size 2 or naturally a size 12, be happy, be healthy - we all have our own, innate figures - celebrate who you are whilst striving for health.   Know that healthy for me may look very different from healthy for you, and that's okay!  

I will write the Editor in Chief at Harper's Bazaar outlining what I've said here and I will also be much more prudent in what I leave laying around - our kids are bombarded enough with unrealistic imagery out in the world, I certainly don't need to leave it on the table for them.

So, let 2013 be about your HEALTH, about FEELING GREAT, and about recognition that what we see in magazines is not real and is quite often not healthy.  

Here's to a happy and healthy 2013, beautifuls!

Life is beautiful!