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

Fur and Feathers Photoshoot

Fur and Feathers Photooshoot

Lauren Athalia, a snazzy Tennessee photographer asked if I could model for her (in exchange for a costume shoot I approached her about doing). She had a photography series she was wanting to shoot called Furs and Feathers – a fusion of fashion and animals. (Though in terms of co-stars and highlighting local rescues and animal organisations. No animals were taken advantage of in any of the shoots.) You can see more of her work on her Facebook page –> https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lauren-Athalia-Photography-Design/272197242805463.

The shoot I was asked to model for was the last of the series. The original idea was to have me in Christian Dior-esque apparel surrounded by miniature horses. Alas, getting the horses to work with us was a significant undertaking. They could have cared less about this bedecked human peacock running around their grounds trying to guide them for pictures. Grass, as it happens, it much more interesting. So unfortunately we weren’t able to get the shots Lauren originally envisioned. BUT the owners of the horses had an amazing backyard that we used to our advantage. That coupled with Meredith Malone’s absolutely beautifully designed outfit made for some very neat shots. It was definitely a departure for me to be wearing a blonde wig (and with a snazzy top hat!), but it was a neat experience to see myself so transformed from my normal brunette look. But without further adieu, here are the photos…

Fur and Feathers Photoshoot

Fur and Feathers Photoshoot

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Fur and Feathers Photoshoot

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Fur and Feathers Photoshoot

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Stay tuned for the next post for a behind-the-scenes look at the shoot!

Photography & Editing: Lauren Athalia
Custom Skirt & Neck Ruffle By: Meredith Malone
Hair: Kristina Noel Wojtkowski
Make Up: Galilee Bagwell
Lighting Assistant: Josh Wood

© Lauren Athalia 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Strawberry Sherbert

A client approached me a couple weeks ago to do a couple of fashion illustrations for her new nursery in the style of Henry Dale House (a gifted Atlanta artist who no longer appears to be in business). While not doing an exact replica of any of his work, I tailored my usual realistic, comic-style of drawing to his more abstract, stylized way of rendered figurings. This one was my favourite of the bunch (the others, I felt, were not as well-rendered. But I’m also new to marker coloring. So practice makes perfect!).

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If you would like to book me for any illustration, fashion/costume design, or storyboard work, feel free to check out my art gallery at http://www.brianalamb.com or email me at briana@theladynerd.com

Inspire Magazine Photoshoot 2 – Vintage Vamp

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Sometimes student photographers can pull out some amazing shots. I rather like working with college photographers, still practicing their craft and wanting to get their feet wet. There’s a lot of room for collaboration and helping them branch out in content and feel more confident in their work.

I really enjoyed working with Rachel of Samonia Portraits, even if the location was a bit hazardous. It was a beautiful abandoned mansion in Atlanta, but oh my…hot Georgia summers (with nearby stagnant water) make for a hotbed of mosquitos! Apparently I was on the lunch menu for a group of local mozzies, so my best friend got to play connect-the-dots with my plethora of mosquito bites when I came home for dinner.

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And that was just my back! You should’ve seen my legs…

Photographer: Samonia Portraits and Designs
Assistant: Richard Ladd
Makeup: Lou Lou
Hair: Sweet Peach

Inspire Magazine Photoshoot 1 – Futuristic Dreads

Tearsheet from Inspire Magazine in Atlanta (2013).Magazine1174627_10100383866784728_1443905184_n
I remember looking at myself in the mirror during the shoot and being reminding of the twins from the Matrix. Suddenly I showed up in print as a duo. Coincidence? I think not. jraglin_futureedge_036_mirror_lojraglin_futureedge_047_mirror_lojraglin_futureedge_070_mirror_lo

BEHIND THE SCENES

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So according to this shoot, Caucasian women of the future wear Na’vi dreads and abstract geisha makeup. I’m okay with this!

Photographer: Jerrica Raglin – http://jerriphotography.com/
Assistant: Rachel Wright
Makeup: Kat Yin – http://www.modelmayhem.com/2214500
Hair Stylist: Nina Lee – http://www.modelmayhem.com/2692677
Wardrobe Stylist: Crystal Owens and Donald Leslie –http://www.modelmayhem.com/2941583

Geek Couture – Superhero Fashion

There are times where it seems the worlds of fashion and geekdom couldn’t be farther apart – one bedecked in expensive fantasies of chiffon, leather, and Swarovski crystals while the other  revels in fabric superhero prints, graphic tees, and leggings galore. But the two are not so far off each other as one might suppose. While the two have skated around each other, seeming like polar opposites, their orbits are coming ever closer (and, in fact, have crossed paths before). From Rodarte’s Star Wars runway line last year to the growth of formal-themed cosplays at conventions worldwide, the blend of geek couture is on the rise.

In this category, Geek Couture, every week I will feature one of these so-called blends, whether it be from the fashion side or the geek side of things. Today’s feature comes from the 2008 issue of Vogue where (my personal favourite model) Coco Rocha and photographer, Craig McDean, did a superhero-inspired editorial (inspired by the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and their big spring exhibition, “Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy” that same year. A quote from the Costume Institute’s website, “… to reveal how the superhero serves as the ultimate metaphor for fashion and its ability to empower and transform the human body.“)

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Poison Ivy with a Nina Ricci Swarovski custom-made embellished dress
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Catwoman by Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana with Christian Louboutin for Rodarte shoes

vogue-us_2008_05_craig-mcdean_daring-do-5Dawnstar in custom sequined Dior haute couture dress

coco-beautyThe Little Mermaid with Gaultier rubber bodysuit with shell detail and sequined detail
coco-beauty5Another Batman-inspired Armani Prive silk dress

1082042379A Batman inspired custom made Rick Owens zippered leather-and-cashmere suit
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coco-beauty6Aurora with Martin Margiela custom made bodysuit
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(Photos via http://www.mymodernmet.com/profiles/blogs/superhero-style-by-craig)

Outfit of the Week – An Ode to Chambray

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A Lesson in Shopping Strategy:
Being the frugal sort, I rarely spend over a certain price point. This dress was $130 or so from Talbots. I really liked the cut, though sadly, their smallest size still didn’t fit me. A thought then struck me….a couple hours and a few clicks later, I managed to snag the smallest size on Ebay for a mere $20. Then, I took it to an alterations place and had it custom-tailored to fit. So I now own a beautiful custom-fitted dress for a fraction of the store cost!
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Along with the flattering feminine cut, the chambray material is deceptively light and breezy. The shape feels polished, but the rustic fabric keeps it casual.  I find this to be a perfect dress to wear visiting places, like a new church, family gatherings, or even a nice afternoon out with friends patroning a local cafe.

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A proper skirt swish! It’s a beautiful thing.

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Looking back on it, I feel like this outfit is still missing something….a belt perhaps? (I’m still learning about this thing called ‘accessorizing’). Any suggestions? Possibly a thin light brown belt?

Dress – Talbots (via Ebay) Shoes – Steve Madden Necklace – Borrowed (my mom’s!) Umbrella – Ross

Photography: Ryan Booker (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ryan-Booker-Photography/211786438841449?fref=ts)

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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Geek Couture – Vogue Loki

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(Note: Another new section! On Wednesdays, I will be rolling out Geek Couture – a category of the blending of the fashion world and geekdom. To give you a better idea of what I mean, I thought I’d start off with one of my own creations…)

Shortly after the Avengers film came out, a friend suggested that, in no uncertain terms, I should do a female version of the title villain, Loki. After a few rounds of online research, I came to the conclusion that the only femme designs created at the time were cocktail dresses or short Lolita-esque frocks (not that I mind anyone wearing these sorts of things, mind you. The designs just didn’t quite jive in my head). Loki has a flair for theatrics, so I figured if everyone showed up somewhere in cocktail dresses, Loki would show up in a full-fledged gown. Why? Because she could. So I quickly sketched out a two-piece gown inspired by both the film and comic version of Loki. My representation is not as exact as I wanted to keep a high fashion element to it. Thus Vogue Loki was born.

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The biggest deviation on this costume design was that I pulled from my experiences as a model and love for high fashion to craft an haute couture look. This ended up being the main influence for the photoshoot, to push it more towards looking like a magazine editorial.

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COSTUME NOTES:

Hair: My own hair simply blowdryed, brushing the hair back from the face then spraying the heck out of it for sheen and staying power.

Makeup: MAC makeup artist Aisha Daly did the honours. She did a mixture of black and green eyeshadows with green glitter eyeliner on the top and gold glitter eyeliner on the bottom, complete with false eyelashes and black glossy lipstick. (We also opted to go for a “no eyebrows” look, common on high fashion, but also because that is the look Female Loki in the comic sports!)

Dress: All one piece made by Angelica of Angelly Cosplay – https://www.facebook.com/angellycosplay?fref=ts (I designed it completely, but I can’t sew to save my life, so I left that in her much more capable and talented hands). The green fabric is 100% polyester made to look like silk dupioni (we used the wrong side because it had a nicer sheen to it). The skirt has 13 panels in it to give it that wide, flowing look. The black material is actually a polyurethane psuedo-leather skirt from the 80s we hacked up for the vest-like piece. On the shoulder, we put in a brass zipper from Hobby Lobby, pulled apart with separate strands on each shoulder.

Necklace and cuff: Forever 21

Tights: DKNY

Shoes: Aldo

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Picture 1: Brownlee of RBC Image (https://www.facebook.com/RBCIMAGE)
Pictures 2-6: Kyle McLaughlin (http://www.studiokgm.com/)