Winter is Coming


In a week it will be dark at like, 4pm. I will probably look back at today's 40 degree temps with the lustful ardor of an scorned lover.

Winter is coming is a perennial theme in our house. I have prepared for the onslaught of dropping temps like a general preparing for battle. I have a coat that's bigger than I am, boots filled with down and fleece and then encased in waterproof, probably bulletproof rubber. I have extra blankets in the closet. I have a hidden stash of,  lano multipurpose super balm, hydrating mists stashed in every corner of the apartment. I have gloves, a "real hat" lined with fleece. I have plans to acquire pallets of Stagg Chili and other supplies should we be stuck in our apartment. My dogs have coats. I have a scary light therapy mask (some of you may recognize it from my IG stories) that is also anti-bacterial and promotes collagen growth.  I have a sexy ass man to keep me warm.

If ever there was a person who is prepared for cold weather it is I. But am I ready? I have inside of me the stubborn desire to prove all the people wrong who think I can't "survive" winter. I "survived" cancer, I'm pretty sure I can handle cold.  Just in case, I decided to make a list of things I am excited about winter to help me ground myself in gratitude.

1) My pedicures last forever. Such irony that when you're basically the only person who sees your feet - they hold up so well.

2) I have a good excuse to not leave the house and lie in a pile of puppies and watch garbage TV. Not that I need a good excuse to do that but it's nice to have one.

3) Winter food is delicious. It's toasted bread and roasted root vegetables. Juicy meats in delicious sauces, sugared fruit sauces, creamy soups. It's stick to your ribs food.

4) The gym empties out and it becomes my personal playground. I don't know why other people don't like the gym in winter, but for me it's like I get to be warm and sweaty and wear tank tops and it's awesome.

5) Nobody looks at me sideways for the frequent application of balms and lotions.

6) Winter candles smell the best. The best.

7) TV is better. Have you watched Westworld? OMG. This is Us. Younger. New episodes of Criminal Minds and Law & Order SVU. I could go on and on.

8) Bourbon.

9) Slippers. Lined with fur. 

10) Proving to the haters that you can literally survive anything.

Take that uber driver.

LIPS: Cake with a Hint of Jam | Camel coat | Coated Jeans | Sweater | Scarf | Sneakers | Sunglasses

Picking a Winter Hair Color

I feel like having a hairdresser for a mother comes with so many perks it should be a list all it own, but one I learned (long before celeb stylists were asking for baby pictures)  is that everyone looks the best with their natural color. You need less blush and bronzer. Faux tanner becomes optional. Lips and cheeks look rosier and flushed with health.

Right about now - pre or post halloween depending heavily on costume choice - is when I give up on applying paper thing layers of faux tanner religiously. In the waning syrupy golden light of fall, it starts to look more and more orange with every passing day. I also feel myself getting "washed out" by the summery highlights in my hair. The flaxen strands I coveted in June now look crunchy and unnatural. I crave my fall clothes with something I imagine others feel about pumpkin spice latte. Now is when my babies come out, the ones I'm either less likely to wear in summer (my blacks and greys) or the other kind of white blouse, the kind that is not gauzy or embroidered. Dark, thigh hugging jeans  + white/grey/black top  +some kind of leather jacket = as close as to a uniform as someone can get who has never worn the exact same outfit twice.  Oh the time I save getting ready. I take it all and spend it moisturizing. Let us never forget, winter is coming.

Why do I find this monochromatic pallet so appealing to my "medium-neutral" skin and naturally dark hair?  My cheeks (and nose and lips) becomes permanently flushed from cold. I think I look a bit like a freckled snow white. Like a disney princess, but an empowered, hero-of-her-own-story kind of one.

On lips: Glossier Gen G in Like On Hair: Ouai Hair Oil + Straightening Iron

Everlane  U-Neck tee (a steal at $18, just remember to size way down) | White shades from Alexander McQueen (similar) and my vintage Swedish Hasbeens | Cream Leather Jacket (sim) | Flared Jeans 

How to Do a Natural Glowing Dewy Foundation with Coverage

Let me start by saying that I had to do a complete make-up and skincare overhaul. I started seeing a new dermatologist because the hormonal acne on my chin was OOC. It was painful, throbbing, leaving behind red and blue discolorations and I think at one point I had more pimples below my nose than I'd had on my face the whole of 2015. New city means new water, new weather, even new sunshine (my other doctor told me that in Chicago we are so far north that we don't even get an adequate amount of Vitamin D from sunlight here!) All of that, combined with my hormone therapies and of course, stress, meant my face was a mess. Basically the sahara desert from the nose up and a teenage boy taking recreational steroids from the nose down. Gah.

So my awesome new dermatologist has me on a science magic regimen and it is working. So when he told me I needed to redo my cosmetics and then gave me a long printed list of his approved picks... Well, I went to Sephora and I did a major online purchase (some of you saw and commented on my instagram stories.)

So, enough about my very specific and personal skin problems. Let's get to the good stuff. I've spent the last for days playing with my new haul and have come up with a magic formula that makes my skin look incredible. Even as I heal (which means I've got some pigmentation on my chin, some irritation around my eyes, and a whole host of other things you CANT EVEN SEE because this routine is so on fleek) I love how light this feels, even though I know there are hella products involved.

Let's begin:

1) Start by prepping the face with a moisturizer. I'm currently using and loving Atopalm's sensitive skin friendly daytime undermakeup moisturizer (use this link for $10 off!) I am obsessed with it because it was developed by a dermatologist with severe dermatitis and it mimics the skins natural lipids and is awesome for dry, sensitive, eczema prone skin.  That basically goes on from the nose up. From the nose down (aka the breakout zone) I'm using a specially compounded nogenic moisturizer that my new dermatologist made just for me.

2) Apply the photography fluid as a primer to the cheeks, nose, undereye and forehead. This kind of scary looking lotion (it's white and shimmery) actually dissolves into skin forming a gorgeous, smooth canvas. ,

3) Because I like my "baby contour" by placing the photography foundation in golden tan just on my cheekbones and in the "3" (over the brow, cheekbone, chin) on my face.

4) Then I cover my whole face in paper thin layers of  oil-free foundation applied with beauty blender + mist. I start with a pea sized drop for my whole face and then layer more on my chin where I need fuller coverage.

5) I spot treat the acne spots on my lower face with this creamy, dreamy blemish fighting concealer, then pat to blend with my finger. I've tried a bunch of these and this one is head and shoulders above the rest for coverage and not getting a weird pilling texture. It lasts decently well (not the whole night, but maybe one touchup? not bad for those pain in the butt blemishes.)

6) Using my fingers again I apply the glossier stretch concealer around my eyes. Then I place the  no bronzer bronzer under my cheekbones and  haloscope in quartz on top of my cheekbones.

7) I finish with brows and last night's mascara. Here I've got on boy brow in black followed by a brow pomade to fill in the growing out spots.

How Tissue Expanders Work


Hey Guys, for some of you this post will not be relevant - but after the 5th person sent me a message on instagram asking me about my breasts, I realized I had a duty to write a blog post and explain somethings.

Before I go into it though, let me give you a 101 for those of you not currrently undergoing a mastectomy with reconstruction.

When a mastectomy is performed, the doctors make an incision and remove as much breast tissue as possible. Often times they will attempt to "spare the skin" especially the nipple. This depends on the location of the tumor and ensuring they get adequate margins (space between the lump aka the cancer and the healthy tissue) because cancer is microscopic. The larger the margins the more likely to get it all out. For example, I was unable to save my nipple (see photos) because the tumor was pressed so close to the skin that they had to remove a very large section of the skin from my chest in order to get good margins.

The removal of all this breast tissue and skin is the mastectomy. Think of it like an amputation, they need to ensure that all the damaged/sick tissue is removed so they work hard to scrape out as much as possible.

After, if you opt for a reconstruction, what you're left to work with is not the same as if, say, you were just going to get breast implants. You've got less skin, and also no breast tissue - both of which are what holds that implant in place. In order to work around that, during the removal of tissue the doctor will insert what's called the chest expander.

The chest expander is a flat, deflated implant with a magnetic pump. This magnetic pump can then be located so a doctor can insert a needle and slowly reinflate the implant, expanding the "chest" slowly. I say "chest" because there are two ways to do this, the most common and most likely to get good results is actually done by inserting the expander underneath the chest wall. This makes the expansion more "uncomfortable" but provides better support long term for the implant.

So that's the basics.

Here's the part that gets confusing.

Once the expander is in you have to heal for a little bit. This time frame varies based on your doctor. During this time your chest is completely flat. Once you are ready, the doctor begins to slowly inflate the expander. You go in on whatever your schedule is (mine was weekly) and they add in as much as you can stand (it's uncomfortable slash potentially painful if you do it too fast.) The inserting the needle part looks scary but feels like literally nothing - those nerves were severed during the mastectomy and have not knit back together yet. That area is totally numb. The painful part is the expansion, which feels sort of like you've done too many pushups.

Once the expander is as big as your chest/skin will allow, then you have to wait.

For me this was the hardest part.

The expander is shaped like a perfect circle. It's hard as a rock. It's located in a weird place on your chest. It does not move at all when your body does. You can feel it scraping against your ribs on the inside.

This is the part where I freaked out. This is what most of the questions I get on instagram are about. This part is horrible, not because of physical pain but because of the toll it takes on your psyche.

It looks bad. Not like sexy, porn star fake boobs.. Like there's an alien shaped like an upside down bowl trying to burst through the skin of your chest.

There is a very strong feeling of "holy shit, is this what I am always going to look like? It's terrible."

No, this is not what it's always going to look like.

The point of the expander is to create a "capsule" of scar tissue.

Hence the waiting. My doctor once told me if you did the swap too early it's "a bloody mess in there" and you can't build a good shape. He explained that the capsule is like a fist of scar tissue. The tissue is strong and shapeable to hold the implant. During the reconstruction, they score the scar tissue (here he expanded his fingers creating space between them) to make the shape of the breast. Then he moved his opened fingers in different shapes to show how he could basically do anything with this "capsule" including matching perfectly the shape of my other, natural breast.

This is the part that I think a lot of people don't understand, hence the blogpost. I recently described it to someone like an orange peel. The fleshy pulp is the soft implant. The peel is the scar tissue capsule. Once it's "healed" you can then shape that peel however you want, something that wouldn't be possible with the thin, papery flesh that covers the individual peels.

This process can be frustrating because it takes about 6 months all in. The mastectomy and expansion is a lot of hurry up and wait. You need to heal, then get opened up again, then heal again. There are many steps, each one taking a varying amount of time depending on your body and how it heals.

But once it's all done, you can have breasts that look like whatever you want. I chose something slightly perkier than natural, but closely resembling my 16 year old chest. Not so pert that people automatically assume they are not natural, but they kind of wonder.

You will have cleavage. They will be soft. You will no longer feel the hard, flat edges of the expander sliding along your ribs. You may even need to wear a bra sometimes (I do to workout, and to sleep because it's more comfortable).

It will get better, they will be gorgeous.

Ask me anything, I am here to answer whatever questions you might have.

Sending lots of love and healing vibes.

How to Wear Brown Lipstick

Listen, I'm not going to tell you again that fashion is repeating itself. I already wrote beautiful metaphors to acknowledge my feelings of deja vu. I've talked about how 90s Dena would love my current look. I also remember hating it every time my mom would notice me in something cool and "new" and would say "OH, I remember wearing those." But mine are different Mom. I can hear myself whining. You don't need that from me. It is all same, same but different.

Take brown lipstick. Something I thought I would never never be into again. It's back. It's just a saturated, punched up, dirtier nude. It looks sexy. It's flattering on lots of skin tones when it's done right. This time I will not be wearing it with eyeliner as lipliner. I will not be slicking my hair back except for two pencil thin pieces which will hang languidly in my eyes. I will also be wearing blush (something I did not get in high school) and I will have found a color that plumps my lips instead of sending my upper lip receding into my gum line.

My current favorite? The wash of subtle brown that is Leo by Glossier. And no, not just because of the name, although I love the name.

Instead of using it to bash people over the head with my edginess, and my sporty lipstick wearing contrariness, I am going to channel the emo sophistication of a super model. 90s Gwenyth Paltrow, not 90s Gwen Stefani (love you girl, your style rocks, it's just not for me anymore!)

So, I pulled out my most sophisticated stops. Big amber glasses. Camel coat. Black cut-out turtleneck with true black high waisted jeans.  French Girl air dried hair. Nod to 90s raver chicks with my beloved "candy" bracelets from Roxanne Assoulin + apple watch stack. Fuzzy Slippers. Ok, maybe there's a little Stefani in there after all.

The Feel Better Pink Bath: Muscle Healing Oils and Masks

I gad a triple whammy last week - chemo + flu shot + lupron - and my body was aching. It was brutal. I could barely get out of bed and when I finally did I felt sore and gross and yucky. Nothing an amazing bath can't fix right?

I'm recently obsessed with this amazing muscle therapy bath oil which turns the water a perfect shade of pink, doesn't have a strong medicinal smell, and magically melts away soreness.

Combined with a host of amazing masks: Glossier Green Galaxy to detox, followed by their super serums, some rose balm on my lips, my favorite Mizon snail essence sheet mask, and the ouai treatment masque for my locks. Top it all off with my delicious warm & cozy candle (which I also used as body lotion on my feet and hands after soaking!)

I emerged from my pink bath feeling more like dewy, energized self - and then promptly went back to bed. #healing #fuckcancer

Also shown: Oversized "Bath Mat" (It's actually just a normal rug we use as a bathmat, tbh)

Lazy Political Halloween Costume 2016 Don't Grab this Pussycat

What do you wear to a costume optional Cards Against Humanity tournament benefitting the Hillary campaign? Answer, whatever you have lying around the house. In my case this meant making "kitty ear buns", a cat eyeliner, all black including (very important) a Hillary shirt (you can totally make your own) and then you're out the door.

Easy as voting. ;)

Here's what you'll need:

2 hair elastics
2 bobby pins
black eyeliner
the ability to draw a straight line on your face (probably the hardest part)
all black clothes
Hillary shirt

1) Make two small pigtails at the top of the head using the elastics.
2) Wrap the tails around the base to form two ears, securing with bobby pins.
3) Apply cat eye.
4) Put on black clothes.
5) Walk around all night saying "I do not want to be grabbed by a yellow crayon pretending to be a presidential campaign. Can you explain tax evasion to me?"

Meet Bit the Rescue Puppy

Puppies** have tremendous therapeutic benefits. They lower blood pressure, aid with anxiety and stress, and some studies have shown that pet owners actually live longer than non-pet owners.

Bit is the newest rescue dog to join our family - an interesting addition picked from Paws no-kill shelter in Chicago by her big brother Fenway. They adore each other. It's ridiculous. Nobody expected two animals of such different sizes to get along as well as they do.

Sometimes it just works.

We have no idea what she is but they suspect some combination of Jack Russell Terrier and Yorkshire terrier. I call call her a Jorky. Catchy, no?

Her favorite things include sleeping on or near her family, being as close to her brother as possible at all times, being carried around in a purse or in the front of a shirt or jacket, other forms of snuggling, and having her picture taken. Walking down the street with her without interruption is almost impossible. Put the two of them together and it's basically a traffic jam.

Her hobbies include ballet (look at that turn out!) and scaring the shit out of her mom by sleeping underneath her gigantic brother/father. She's also an expert at chewing on phone charging wires, wrestling with her brother, and manipulating people and animals with her absurd cuteness.

Bit enjoys wearing clothes, human jewelry and anything else that will make people say "OH my gawd, she's so cute!"  She is also quite fearless, making her a very popular addition to the local dog run with her propensity to play with dogs ten to fifteen times her size.  Her willingness to "defend" her much larger brother is  also a phenomenon to be seen.

She rarely barks but does occasionally squeak. She also makes a ferocious play noise she picked up from her brother which on her sounds like a cat purring, but which makes him back off immediately.

Her full name is Bit Posey Smith. Knicknames include: Bitsy, Tiny Monster, and the littlest Smith.

She is featured frequently on her mom's instagram stories, and also shares a handle with her brother @fenwayandlilbit.  #adoptdontshop

Sweater | Collar (inherited from a friend who outgrew it, but this one is similar)

First photo by Auntie Zoe.

**Puppies refers to dogs of all ages and genders.

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