Catching Fire – District 12 Set Diary – Part I

As Mockingjay Part 2 premieres in theaters, it brings an end to the era of The Hunger Games films. I had the great privilege of being able to work on Catching Fire, Mockingjay Part I, and Part II as a core background extra (meaning that I was there for many months of filming. Some crew joked that we were there more than the actors!). While most behind-the-scenes videos and commentary are understandably focused on the main cast and heads of crew departments, I thought I’d lend my voice to the little people – the professional blurs in the background. So without further adieu, here’s a background extra’s look at the behind-the-scenes of Catching Fire. Enjoy!

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It was a brisk Saturday morning in October 2012. At 3:30am, I rolled off the air mattress on my friend’s floor to pack my bag and head out for my first day ever as an extra on a film set. (What a set to start on, right? I couldn’t start on a small film to get my feet wet. Oh no, as per usual, I had to go for the gusto!) I had no idea what to expect, but I packed my little bag with a book and some light snacks and headed off to set.

Upon arrival, I got my first lesson in the game that extras know how to play best – waiting in line. Waiting in line to check in. Waiting in line to drop off cellphones. Waiting in line for wardrobe. Waiting in line for hair and makeup. (Though I’ve now come to enjoy waiting in line at extra gigs as there usually at one engrossing conversation going on Or the amusing antics of punch-drunk-sleepy extras at the bum-crack of dawn).

Briana Lamb District 12

Photo courtesy of Continuity

I was cast as one of the many thin, plain looking District 12 extras (between this and The Walking Dead, I fear I’m getting typecast. Hehe). I changed into my costume and shuffled into the back of the makeup line. After an hour of doing my best not to complain about the nippy cold outside (a stamping of feet still happened despite best efforts), I was ushered inside the (slightly) warmer tent. I found that I was one of the last of a few hundred extras to plop down in the makeup chair. I had just settled in when an exasperated Production Assistant came running in, “The extras aren’t dirty enough! They’re getting to set and the director says they’re just not dirty enough. This is a coal mining town. Get that dirt in their pores!”  And get the dirt in my pores they did…

Only about 7 shades darker than my usual pale as snow.

Only about 7 shades darker than my usual pale as snow.

By the end of the three days of filming of those scenes, I garnered the reputation for being the dirtiest extra on set (that stuff was fun to wash off, lemme tell ya. Took almost a week to get the dirt out from under my fingernails). This ended up working in my favour though as because I was so dirty, the Assistant Director wanted me up front to better represent the look of the district. Funny how that works, eh?

After makeup came hair. One of my favourite parts of the daily lineup. (I’m the gal that’ll sometimes fall asleep in the chair because getting my hair and face fussed with can be rather relaxing.) The look for District 12 was based on Depression Era Appalachia, so the wardrobe and hairstyles were simple. Some had their hair down, some had braids, but nothing too intricate. I overheard the hair stylists double-checking their lookbook notes, “No down braids of any kind on any of the female District 12 extras. That is reserved for Katniss only.” Fair enough.

As the stylist started doing my hair, I felt a familiar shape taking hold….She was doing the iconic Katniss braid on me. I remarked on that as I didn’t want her to inadvertently get in trouble for giving me a braid (silly me thought she might be a day-player. Oh no, she had done the Katniss braid on Jennifer Lawrence before, so she knew exactly what she was doing). “Oh don’t worry, hun. I’m doing this as an updo, so you won’t have a down braid.” Good! Because my hair looks like a rat’s tail when it’s braided….but then she secured the braid with only two small bobby pins. I politely let her know that my hair is a thin, slippery son-of-a-gun, so more bobby pins would be a good idea. She waved me off, “nah, you’ll be fine!

The extras piled into a pair of coach buses that drove us over to a holding tent just outside of set (which happened to be the Goat Farm Arts Center in Atlanta). The sun broke over the horizon as we filed in to claim a spot at the tables laid out inside. Then began the long wait….

Photo courtesy of paparazzi who thought they were going to get pictures of the cast. Hah!

Photo courtesy of paparazzi who thought they were going to get pictures of the cast. Hah!

A small handful of extras were called in for the first two scenes. I, however, was not called in until many hours later for the last scene of the day. But time is rarely ever wasted among extras who are friendly and a wee bit creative. I had the fortune of sitting at a table of fun, chatty folks. As I was a complete newbie at the time to being an extra, I was full of questions and bright-eyed cheeriness. I made some fast friends.

Now, remember the two small bobby pins I mentioned holding my hair up earlier? Surprise, surprise, they fell down. So there I sat with my Katniss braid laid over my shoulder. Of course I couldn’t find where the bobby pins had launched off to in order to resecure my hair. “Don’t worry, the hair stylists will see you on set and immediately stick your hair up. No Katniss braids for anyone in District 12!” the other extras said playfully. Well, the hair stylists did come around to check the extras before a group went on to set and not a single comment was made about my hair. This got the wheels turning at our table.

One of the things we did to pass the time was create characters for ourselves. Who were we? What roles did we play in District 12? One of the odd things that happened earlier on in the day was folks telling me I looked like Katniss. Not the Jennifer Lawrence version, but that I reminded them more of book Katniss (sans colouring). So I rolled that into the creation of my character, Ora; a factory worker who separated the coal and the ore (hence the name and an explanation as to why I was SO covered in soot!). She idolizes Katniss Everdeen, but alas, is not the brightest bulb in the box. Whatever Ora see Katniss do, she tries to replicate, only fails miserable. For instance, she tries to be the ‘girl on fire’, but doesn’t understand the stunt in the arena was synthetic fire. So she runs through town with a torch, but ends up singeing off half of own hair (explanation of why my hair is so thin).

And thus ‘Reverse Katniss’ was born.

Reverse Katniss

Another extra made this shirt for me for the Mockingjay Part I premiere.

The other extras at my table came up with equally interesting characters as well. One guy was Pumpernickel, rival baker to Peeta (as the extra looked alot like Josh Hutcherson). He thought he was a better baker, but in fact was much worse, not being able to quite tell the difference between rocks and bread. (On set he’d try to pass off rocks as food.)  There was Buttons, seamstress, babysitter, and tutor to Prim. Then Star, the town prostitute who didn’t actually sleep with anybody, just stole their supplies (and had a chastity belt ala Robin Hood: Men in Tights hidden under her way-too-large costume). My personal favourite was Hingle McCringleberry, mechanic and general fixer-upper who purposely didn’t fix things completely so he could get more work. Only spoke in the 3rd person. (I’m still friends with that lovely extra to this day. He looks like a mini-Cinna.)

It finally came time where we were all called to set. The scene set was where Katniss returns to District 12 via train to greet her family and the adoring throngs of District 12 to welcome her home. But all is not well as you can see in the deleted scene below.

Can you spot me? 🙂

Catching Fire Train SceneCatching Fire Train Scene

While filming this scene we discovered that Jennifer Lawrence and I are the same height. (There was some talk of me coming back to be cast as her stand-in for Mockingjay, but only if her current stand-in didn’t return. While that would’ve been fun, I’m glad the original stand-in returned. She was lovely, professional, and super funny.)

One thing that was not so pleasant was getting my foot crunched by Josh Hutcherson who was hugging his ‘family’ too fast. There wasn’t an easy opening for me to slip into due to extras who were bent on being camera hogs (there were SO MANY). He moved too fast and I didn’t move fast enough. I think one of the family extras mentioned something to him because the subsequent takes were slower. But such things happen on film sets. No harm was done and it was an honest accident. Nothing to get upset over. So I kept quiet and happily went on filming the rest of the scene.

That’s a wrap on Day One of my first ever extra gig! Stay tuned for Part II!

Her Universe and Hot Topic’s Star Wars Collection

Her Universe Hot Topic Star Wars CollectionHer Universe and Hot Topic have partnered together again to release a Star Wars themed collection for geek girls everywhere just in time for the new film. Following their successful Avengers collection, more fandom-themed dresses, jackets, and tees are already flying off the shelves in stores and online. As before, this line features a few costume-esque pieces, but none too garish as to be straight up cosplay. Probably more suited for the convention scene or having lunch with friends than to wear to work, but it’s nice to even have these options after years of being relegated to scrounging through the guys department for a decent geeky tshirt.

I’m really digging the fashion editorial vibe they went with for the photoshoot with it’s desert backdrop and strategically placed futuristic props. Alas, the fashion still isn’t quite my cup of tea as I prefer longer, more tailored pieces (partially due to personal visual aesthetic and partially due to personal body proportions). So I’ll be passing this collection up, but seeing as there’s quite a few different body types and a myriad of style preferences out there, I’m sure there are some gals this collection would look fabulous on! (Although I am debating about that sweet-looking leather Darth Vader jacket….) But without further adieu, here’s a view of the entire collection.

Her Universe Hot Topic Darth VaderHer Universe Hot Topic Darth VaderHer Universe Hot Topic Darth VaderHer Universe Hot Topic Darth VaderHer Universe Hot Topic BB8Her Universe Hot Topic Princess LeiaHer Universe Hot Topic Boba FettHer Universe Hot Topic Boba FettHer Universe Hot Topic R2D210445197_Darth-Vader-Knit-Sweater_49.5010445337_SW-The-Force-Awakens_Tour-Tee_28.50Photographs © Fashionably Geek.com

Preen 2014 Star Wars Collection

Preen star wars fashionWhile Rodarte’s Star Wars line of gowns was such a surprise that it leaked over to be reported everywhere by the geek community, another runway line slipped under the radar. In fall of 2014, Preen debuted a Darth Vader-centric fashion collection, complete with screen-printed blouses, dresses, and parkas.

Preen Star Wars dressesIn contrast to Rodarte’s more literal silk chiffon gowns, Preen’s designs opted more for almost a pop art feel, but with some serious edge, thanks to geometric patterns, cutouts, and angular features. While it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, the choice of fabrics and cuts do make those dresses look quite comfy to wear (and it bucks the trend of geek wear not being ‘fashionable’, even by hardcore fashion-snob standards).

Justin Thornton of Preen even joked with journalists who poked around at the idea of Preen copying Rodarte’s previous Star Wars line.  Thornton chuckled, “Yes, we [saw Rodarte’s line], but it was too late to change. But, they used the goodies and we had the baddie!” Coincidences certainly do happen in fashion, though it certainly makes for something interesting talk.

As it turns out, Disney had  invited Preen to work with them (with Thornton being a big Star Wars geek, there was no turning that down). So they were surprised as anyone when Rodarte stomped down the runway first in their Star Wars collection. (Personally, I’m incredibly curious how all that was handled in the copyright wing of Lucasfilm. But they do have a pretty generous policy with their characters being used under certain guidelines.)

Sci-fi chic was definitely the way of things on the 2014 runways. According to Thornton’s partner, Thea Bregazzi, the massive hooded parkas worn by eager movie-goers waiting for the original 1977 Star Wars: A New Hope release inspired the look the oversized metallic foil hooded parka seen below. (I love reading the creative thought process behind designs, to know there was an inspiration behind it more than simply shapes and textures.)
Preen 2014 parkaDid I mention the stormtroopers ‘guarding’ the models backstage? Oh yes, that was a thing.

470352739 preen+instagram+1Photos: If It’s Hip, It’s here.comSavoir Flaire.com, Getty Images, Preen’s Instagram

Her Universe & Hot Topic’s Marvel Collection

Hot-Topic-Her-Universe-Marvel-04212015-970x545In a nice turn of events, Her Universe has partnered with Hot Topic to bring a more fashion-conscious geek collection to the throngs of fangirls out there. In a market saturated with geek tshirts and leggings (not that these are bad things (goodness knows I have quite a few geek tees for those bumming-around-at-home days), but there does need to be a little more variety in the geek apparel market), Her Universe and Hot Topic have done just that. They’ve brought a line of fashion forward clothes inspired by the Avengers, just in time for the Avengers: Age of Ultron premiere.

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(I’m getting a distinct Bladerunner vibe here…)

I really like the direction they decided to go in, both with the magazine editorial like lookbook shoot as well as listening to their market as to what people would like. From the mod look of Black Widow to the Rockabilly Captain America and Iron Man dresses. It’s no secret that I adore stealth geekery and closet cosplay (better yet if you can combine the two!). The Black Widow dress and jacket certainly fall into that category. (I’ll admit, I really want to try the jacket (though alas, I have a feeling it won’t fit my Na’vi-long torso. It may just be me, but it seems like a lot of fashion right now is geared towards girls with shorter torsos (example: skater dresses. Those are practically tops on me, or at the very least, bum-skimming.) But I digress…

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A fun note about this collection is that the designers, Amy Beth Christenson and Andrew MacLaine, were the winners of last year’s Geek Couture Fashion Show at San Diego Comic Con. Here you can see some behind-the-scenes of what went into designing the collection.

Although the line won’t be available in stores til May 12, you can pre-order them now.

My Star Wars: The Force Awakens Auditions

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This weekend the internet has been abuzz with Star Wars talk, be it the new trailer for Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens, the trailer for the new Star Wars Battlefront game, or the spin-off anthology film series, Rogue One (all of which I’m super excited about! Star Wars was my first and still my most beloved fandom. Well, except maybe Lord of the Rings. Close call.) I have a small little backstory with the new Star Wars film that I thought I’d share just for giggles.

Round One: In-Person Audition

In late 2013, there were a myriad of cattle call auditions around the world for hopefuls for the main cast. Only two roles were given out – one guy, one girl (aptly named “Rachel”. Considering the character’s final name is “Rey”, it was rather a clever nondescript fake name for auditions, no?) Thankfully, one of the audition places happened to be in my hometown of Nashville, so I made a trip up to have a Thanksgiving holiday with my parents and go to the casting call. I wasn’t expecting anything to come of it as I don’t tend to have that sort of luck, but knowing Lucas (and now JJ Abrams) tendency to pick unknowns for the leads, I thought ‘oh, why not?

7am rolled around and I bolted out of bed, grabbed my materials and my incognito Jaina Solo gear (braided headband like she has in Jedi form and calf-high black boots. Because why not? I give any excuse to stealth geek), and headed out the door. As one would imagine, the lines were nuts. People were camping out as early as 11pm the previous night (although they were escorted off the premises by security). The casting call started at noon, but I got there early as I knew there would be a massive line. I arrived a couple minutes before 8am, about 5 minutes before the rush started (well….outside. I didn’t know about the 200 people line inside until an hour or so later).

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Unfortunately, as luck would have it, Nashville had a cold snap and it was well below freezing. By the time the sun hit our line at 9am, it eeked up to a whopping 20 degrees. While I didn’t have the foresight to bring a heavy coat (I wasn’t expecting it to be that cold!), I at least had ear muffs and a scarf. That’s more than could be said for many of the poor hopefuls standing in line. I also had the pleasure of standing next to a friendly, chatty group of theater students from Colorado. We passed the time chatting and doing silly dances to stay warm (one of group moms did a Starbucks run and very sweetly bought me a hot chocolate as I huddled with them).

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Once we made it inside, things went quicker. The process was simple – go up, shake hands with the casting agents, hand off your resume and headshot, smile, and then you’re on your way. I wasn’t expecting anything from such a cattle call, but my hopes were perked up when the casting agent smiled at my “impressive resume” (which I found amusing because it was all extra work or college theater. Granted, there were some big movies on there like Hunger Games, but not a resume I’d call impressive).

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Alas, I did not make the callback later that day, which I wasn’t surprised about. They were calling out girls who had much more modernly stereotypical prettier than I (aka all nice big straight-teeth smiles, long, thin noses, etc). Not as a put-down on myself, I’m just simply a different look. I’m pretty enough but I’m not typical screen beautiful. I have no delusions about that. I’m more of a supporting role type anyways (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing!). But I figured I’d try out for the role all the same (as folks have told me I favor Natalie Portman, thus could pass for one of her genetic code. That plus my martial arts and fencing background could lend to my own stunt work, right?….) So that audition was scratched. But not to be deterred….

Round Two: Video Audition

In addition to the in-person cattle call audition, there was also a digital version for a video audition. Scripts were involved with that one. It was a new, nerve-wracking experience as I had never done a video audition before. My actor friends gave me some tips and I went to a local acting company to be videotaped. Alas, I was so embarrassed by my first round of taping, that I returned to re-do it a few days later. (As I discovered that I naturally tend to look around alot. But I didn’t know that until I saw the video playback and saw my wandering eyes darting every which way every couple seconds. Embarassing! And not professional looking.)

The second taping went better, though I still have a lot to learn about on-camera acting.  Between the wandering eyes and my unfortunate tendency to talk out of the side of my mouth, this is why I stick with modeling! But I figured for the giggles and interest of it, I’d….*gulp*…post my audition video here. (Note: the weird posture in the beginning of my audition was a direction by the person filming me. That didn’t come from me.)

While the whole experience was really just a shot in the dark, it was worth the try. 🙂

Creative ADD and…Oh look! A new idea!

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I had planned to do a whole bunch of blog posts this week but dismal, rainy days (with entirely too many life interruptions) have a habit of derailing best-laid plans. Alas, even when skies are clear and time is abundant, I have a serious problem prioritizing my To-Do List. I blame it on what I call “creative ADD” – where there are entirely too many creative concepts in my brain vying for top spot. (Then there’s the added problem of when I start on a project, I ended up getting an idea for another!) To paraphrase the White Queen, “Why, sometimes I [create] as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

Actually, for me…make it ten.

I have no problem prioritizing when it comes to paid jobs or for specific events (i.e. deadlines). But open-ended creative ideas have a habit of piling up to the point that I get buried under them. Some have given the advice of, “just pick one!” and I daresay I’ve attempted that. But as mentioned earlier, while in the middle of researching for one project, a random photo or drawing will pop and off my brain goes to create another photoshoot/costume/art project.

I’d be lying if there aren’t some days I wish I could shut my creative brain off! The projects are of so many different varieties – costumes, illustrations, photoshoots, music videos, etc. – and in my typical fashion, NONE of them easy! (Now I do keep all of these ideas logged in specified places as not to lose any of the ideas. I have extensive libraries on my computer and Photobucket of reference folders full of photographs, Word documents, doodles, etc. But as has been happening lately, they are only getting larger, with nothing crossed off the proverbial list.)

I’m beginning to fear that I’ve pigeonholed myself into the Idea phase. I come up with a plethora of concepts and reference to support them, but never seem to get very far past that phase due to yet another idea (and another and another and another) surfacing. There’s so much that goes into creating a good post, from coming up with content to research to good photos to working links, etc. I have completed a few ideas from concept to finished product, but they are fewer than I’d care to admit. Having a deadline definitely helps, though strangely a self-assigned deadline like, “I’m going to finish this costume by ___ (fill in the blank with arbitrary date)” doesn’t seem to work at all. My will circumnavigates my brain in its realisation that it’s not a hard-set deadline. Oh how my creative proverbial cup overfloweth!

And on that note, I’m going to go make myself some tea.

Battle & Brew

On Friday, March 13th, 2015, folks of all shapes, genders, backgrounds, etc. waited in great anticipation outside of a deceptively large establishment in Roswell, Georgia. Today was the day many had been looking forward to for months – the grand opening of the new location of local favourite, Battle & Brew! (Oh yes, I was one of the first ones in line.)11067490_10153682717223662_8749178668620912318_nBattle & Brew is Atlanta’s first gaming bar. First opened in 2005, it was housed in a small establishment complete with a modest menu, kitchen, some beer taps, a few gaming computers, and couches for board games and chatting. Cozy, but fun. Humble beginnings indeed.

Fast forward to 2015 and Battle & Brew moved into a MUCH larger space where they now boast a full restaurant, not just one, but TWO full bars, state-of-the-art gaming computer centers, gaming lounges, and swanky decor. But rather than pontificating more, I’ll let pictures do the talking. A picture is worth a thousand words, right? 21172_10153251418282783_4480816353471005738_n10347426_10153251419247783_16592666377626031_n10351170_10153251421997783_1285835485215547229_n11066522_10153251422012783_1378331102675088668_n10437445_10153251419217783_1484278890759443235_n10942527_10153251418467783_3800778601686595679_n11075157_10153251420867783_8127580186231345325_n1054_042610440754_10153251419392783_3231694906036169621_n1054_006311010574_10153251422752783_8535062225322687936_n          10891617_10153016313647783_772192687226101887_n 10931119_10153079074182783_8012283958271698737_n   11062079_10153251421247783_6979310109606769004_n  The place is so full of inspired decorations that not even the bathrooms were spared! 11071588_10153251420927783_339831676823487543_nIMG_20150313_174238IMG_20150313_174246  11075281_10153251418292783_7543361701736067702_n Photographer:

Battle & Brew Official Websitehttp://www.battleandbrew.com/

Briana and The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

August 19, 2014.

The day started like any other.

I donned some snazzy work apparel set out the night before, checked my email over a steaming cup of mint tea, and then set out to go to work. I was only a couple miles from the office when everything came to a very sudden and violent stop.

In a perfectly-timed collision of mangled metal, my left turn met with a fast Mercedes and my body was torn asunder. In an accident that, by all accounts, should have killed me, I miraculously came away with only 3 pelvic fractures (although one did break my hip in half), fractured femur, eyelid laceration, concussion, and bone bruises. Still enough to qualify for lifelong injuries, but nowhere near what could have been. (They say the only reason I survived was because my car didn’t have a middle console so I simply shifted over to the passenger’s seat. Had there been a middle console, I would be dead, as my driver’s side door was crushed in by an entire foot.)

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But the time since that has been no cakewalk. From the two and half weeks I spent at the hospital to subsequent months of recovery, it’s been a hard road. After arriving a broken mess at Grady Hospital, it was two days before I had surgery. My hip was crushed far enough in that my leg was twisted. Thus, it had to be put in traction (which involved the squeamish detail of having a 12 inch spike drilled with a Dewalt Power Drill through my knee). I was awake for the ordeal as only local anesthetic could be applied. (Thank goodness I have no memory of it. The brain has an amazing capacity to protect itself, so I don’t remember the first couple of days after the accident.)

As one might expect from hospital stays, mine was a harrowing one. While I was admitting on August 19, surgery didn’t occur until August 21st. There was a lot of concern that the surgery would take countless hours, they might have to rebuild my left hip entirely, and I could bleed out (to potential death as can be common with severe pelvic fractures). Thankfully, once the surgeon got in there, they found that I had one massive, but clean break of my pelvis and they were able to put it back together with pins, screws, and a titanium plate in 2 hours. The trauma team at Grady is really top notch, so my hat is off to them. The recovery ward was not so nice, but that’s a different story.

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After surgery, I endured emergency blood transfusions, a plethora of IVs (my arms looked like a pincushions from how many times I got stuck), ever-present excruciating pain like nothing I’ve ever felt, energy crashes, intense swelling, and a huge dose of humility at how little I could do. (Example: In the hospital, they spent 6 hours trying to find a way to lay me in the bed without being incredibly uncomfortable. It’s amazing how much you take some things for granted like being able to move off of a crease in a bedsheet without wanting to pass out from pain.)

For all of the cries against the darker side of social media, I was lucky enough to witness social media in its most beautiful form – connection of loved ones. Within hours of my accident, word spread all over friends and family’s pages of what had happened, prayers were written, encouragement sent, friends dispersed to the hospital to and fro, updates posted, and a community held together by a singular little brunette gal, waiting in anticipation of the next post.

In an odd turn, the timing of the accident was rather impeccable as I was at Grady Hospital right near Dragoncon. So I had lots of visitors who came both in and out of costume. It became a running joke with the nursing staff if they saw anyone in costume looking lost, “She’s in room 6B35.” Needless to say, it got me through many a hard day. There would be times where I would almost collapse from the sheer volume of pain or exhaustion. Then a new message would pop up of a video from a friend or cosplay buddy giving well wishes at Dragoncon, or posting ridiculously funny pictures to make me laugh. They worked. For a moment, I’d forget the pain.

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But then came the journey of adjusting to this ‘new reality’. I had to relearn so much that we take for granted every day; such as walking, going to the bathroom, being able to roll over, standing up, stretching, etc. There is nothing more mortifying than not being able to go to the bathroom on your own. It took me a month or so to be able to hobble far enough to get to the bathroom without any accidents, so I lived with a bedside toilet for a while. (That’s a great conversation piece when your friends come over to visit…NOT!) It was a glorious day a few months in, when I discovered I was healed enough to use a regular toilet. Never thought I’d almost cry over a piece of porcelain.

Then there was the shower. Oh, that blessed, steaming liquid refreshment. It was over a month from the accident when I was finally cleared to take a shower. A real, glorious, hot shower! I took full advantage of the experience by putting on the spa music, lavender essential oil in the water, and recreated an Herbal Essence commercial by getting to wash my own hair. I felt like a new person! Before that, female friends were literally bathing me. You want to talk about a humbling experience…

As with most recoveries, mine has been a gradual progression of strength. I started out in a wheelchair, then progressed to a walker (which I used for months until I was cleared to put weight on my injured side), then to crutches, and now I use a cane. I’ve learned so much from the last few months about being disabled that it’s staggering. Technically, I was disabled before as I’m half deaf, but it doesn’t come anywhere near being mobily disabled. There’s no fight to figure out if you can fit into spaces with your wheelchair or feeling panic-ridden at being in peoples’ way in stores. There’s no struggle to get to the bathroom in time because you can’t move at a normal person’s speed, no needing to ask friends to carry things for you because you can’t move a glass of water from one side of the room to the other. I had to learn to think differently to overcome these restrictions. (For instance, because of using a walker, I couldn’t carry anything (and there was no basket on my walker), which became real problem with water as it was crucial that with all the medication I was on, to stay hydrated. Thankfully I had some smart friends who hooked me up with a Camelbak so I could have a water carrier strapped to my back wherever I went.)

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I’m normally a very active person (former martial artist, fencer, hooper, did a bit of dance), even if it’s just the manner in which I get up or bounce around a room with enough energy to power a small nuclear reactor. To go from that to taking a full minute just to shakily stand up was severely frustrating. But I wasn’t going to let it hold me down.

I had a plan.

Coupled with massage therapy to break up the scar tissue on my hip, bum, and knee, I threw myself headlong into physical therapy. My therapist found out quickly that I’m an overachiever type and got to work pushing me as far as was reasonable (The other therapists joked that I was the “ballet torture victim” due to the large amount of reps as well as the ballet-based exercises given). I even experimented with hooping to see how far I could push things (safely, of course). It was no easy task. I had a pretty nasty concussion so I can only focus for a little bit at a time and my energy levels were quite low in the beginning. Getting up and down stairs was a Herculean effort. I either had to have to have someone carry me or two people to wrap my arms around and hop on my good leg up the stairs. By the time I reach the top, I’d be completely spent. But I was determined.

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Life got infinitely easier when I moved to crutches as I no longer had to deal with the constant stop-&-go motion of the walker. But I’ll never forget my time before as it’s made me so much more aware and sympathetic to anyone I see who’s physically disabled. I’d like to think I was kind about it before, but now I KNOW their pain. I know what it’s like to feel like you’re getting in the way, slowing people down, or just plain being frustrated at your condition, taking every fiber of your being to not break down crying at the fact that your legs are useless or being permanently disabled and wishing for differently.

I often share sad smiles with elderly folks with walkers or young ones in wheelchairs when we pass each other in the store. Sometimes it’s a sad camaraderie, but other times there’s a spark of something else there. A fight. Someone who refuses to give up or let their disability dictate their life. I’ve gotten to know some pretty amazing people with physical handicaps that have been truly inspiring. Because of them, I can stand up a little taller.

Now, here I am 6 months later. My case is closed and the massive medical debt I incurred from the hospital has been miraculously resolved. I can walk. I can even do yoga a little. I walked down the aisle at my close friends’ wedding. My injured left leg is getting stronger. My eyelid laceration has faded to a rather chic-looking scar (appropriate for The Lady Nerd, no?)

I’m overwhelmed with gratefulness. I keep finding out another wrinkle in the story from my car, my injuries, the other driver, etc. of just HOW lucky I am to even be alive, and the amount of damage I suffered could have been catastrophically greater. I should have died in that accident. But it wasn’t my time yet. Not only did God save my life, but He spared my body from extreme harm.

So as the sun pours into my window, I am reminded that every minute I have is special and sacred. To feel the wind on my skin or the sun in my hair, to dine with friends over tasty dinners, or watch a sunset, knowing that I was this close to losing it all. But it wasn’t my time to go. There is still work to do. Still lives to be affected, change to be made, and people to put smiles on. So even if I’m feeling melancholy at times, frustrated, or overwhelmed, one truth is still evident…

I am ALIVE.

IMG_9765-EditPhoto by Trent Chau

Vogue Loki Makeup

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Eye ShadowUrban Decay Half-Baked (light)Kush (bright green), Cobra (dark green) (later, much more black smokey eye makeup was added for the final photoshoot)
Eyeliner Urban Decay Stagedive (gold) and Midnight Cowboy (green)
Foundation –  Clinique foundation in Alabaster
Lips –  Burts Bees chapstick and Urban Decay Half-Baked eyeshadow (later I added cheap Halloween store black lipstick)
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