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“So how can my normal not be normal? If it is what has always been, isn’t that normal? And how can that be wrong?”


The Girl Before by Rena Olsen

Holy dark&twisted, Batman! I consider myself a psychological thriller aficionado (because really, in this day and age, who isn’t?!), but “The Girl Before” took that genre to an entirely different level — and in the best way.

Without giving too much away, I can tell you the story revolves around Clara Lawson, a 23 year-old girl who finds herself taken from her home and led to a room for questioning. As she’s dragged from her home, she hears her husband urge her to stay quiet and say nothing…The chapters alternate between “now” and “then” to paint a perfect picture of Clara’s dark, disturbing reality.

Olsen does a brilliant job bringing Clara’s emotions and inner turmoil to life. Often times, I find myself wanting more in psychological thriller protagonists — more development, more raw emotions, more believable scenarios. “The Girl Before” left me with NONE of those feelings. Clara’s development through the novel progressed (and regressed) appropriately, and to me, it was exactly as it should be for a protagonist in her shoes. I don’t know that I would have changed a thing about the novel, and that’s a rare statement coming from me.

I hate that I read this so soon after it was published…now I’ll have to wait a hot minute for her next book. Good thing every author is on the dark & twisty bandwagon and there are (quite literally) thousands of options to keep me occupied through at least 2025.

**Sidebar: while this novel is amazing in every way, it does touch on some serious themes including rape, murder, kidnapping, human trafficking, prostitution and abuse. If any of these are triggers for you, I’d recommend skipping this read.

My Life with AA (and no, I don’t mean alcoholics anonymous…) – Part 3

I feel it’s appropriate to begin the second half of this saga with the second half of my battle with AA. Over the last two posts, I covered topics that happened when I was a teenager. Sure, I still struggle with those demons every now and then, but the AA battle I started fighting as an adult was actually much harder for me to handle.

When I started losing my hair as a teen, everyone would say, “oh, but at least you have such beautiful eyelashes and eyebrows!” At the time, I absolutely HATED that statement. Admittedly now, I probably hated it most because I knew it was true…I had a great hair piece that, when styled correctly, completely hid my bald&shiny head. And unlike some other alopecia patients, I still had THICK eyebrows and long, full eyelashes. Looking back, I never realized just how lucky I was…

Fast forward four years from April 2004 – I can still vividly remember the day I realized I was losing my eyebrows and eyelashes. Sitting in my bedroom at the sorority house, I held a good pinch full of eyebrow hairs in my hand. Cue the sloppy, ugly waterworks display. As I always did when I felt something spiraling out of control, I called my mom. From 200 miles away, she sat there and cried with me. She promised me we would do everything in our power to stop it from falling out, and at the time, it’s exactly what I needed to hear. That night, I needed hope. I went back on the crazy restrictive diet in an attempt to stop the hair loss – it didn’t work. Slowly, but surely, I watched all the hair disappear from my face. I filled in my eyebrows with a pencil until I no longer had enough hairs to act as my stencil. I bought 10+ different kinds of fake eyelashes from CVS to try and hide my naked eyelids. Quite frankly, it sucked. Most people don’t realize JUST how much of an impact eyebrows make on your appearance. They can make you look innately surprised, angry, happy, pleasant, sassy, crazy…changing their shape or losing them completely wipes away so much of how nature intended your face to appear to others. In this case, a clean slate isn’t exactly the best gift. And in a world with no eyelashes – do you have any idea how much makeup/dirt/dust/pollen your eyelashes keep OUT of your eyeballs?! Let me tell you…it’s sh*t ton. Every time your sad, it becomes a “tears pouring down your cheeks” kind of cry. Without eyelashes, there’s nothing there to catch the gentle tear here and there. These are things you learn when you suddenly become a naked mole rat.

I had never been a huge makeup person – most days I only wore concealer (to hide my constant dark circles) and mascara (to wake up my dark, tired eyes). That’s it. Suddenly I found myself Google-ing tutorials on “how to apply false eyelashes” and “how to draw your eyebrows from scratch.” At the time, there weren’t any good advice sites out there. Basically, I would have to learn the old-fashioned way – a hellllluva-lotttuva trial & error. And I quickly learned that my “trial & error process” would never end. It’s ongoing. I still try new products, learn new tricks, test new ways to apply my eyebrows. For reference, here’s a diagram of my facial hair evolution from high school up to today.


When I first lost my eyebrows, I started drawing them on with eyeliner pencil. It was the best I could do…I tried to use shadow a few times, but that never gave me the look of thick, full brows like I was used to. I wanted my large and in-charge brows back, so I thought a thick, dark-brown line was the way to go. I know now that I was a mess…it wasn’t a good look for me, it didn’t fit my bone structure AT ALL, and it looked ridiculously fake. But at the time, it worked for me. And that was good enough.

Now I use the following products to apply my eyebrows: Anastasia Brow Powder Duo (Medium Brown/Taupe-Based Brown) || Chanel Angled Brow Brush #12 || Chanel Le Crayon Yeux Precision Eye Definer (59 Coffee Bean)

My eyelashes change depending on my mood, where I’m going, how big of an impact I want to make, etc. Sometimes I’m feeling understated and I’ll wear shorter, thinner lashes. But other times I want va-va-VOOM lashes that make my eyes pop. Learning to apply strip lashes with glue took a LONG time. Especially for someone who’d never worn eyeliner on her top lid before…yes, I know. Crazy, right? I made it almost 20 years without applying eyeliner to my top lid. And then I learned.

My eyelash regiment consists of a combination of the following items: Kiss Ever EZ Lashes (#01) || Duo Striplash Adhesive (White/Clear) || Ardell Natural Eyelashes (#105) || Ardell Natural Eyelashes (#110) || Ardell Lash Grip Adhesive (White/Clear) || Chanel Le Crayon Yeux Precision Eye Definer (59 – Coffee Bean) || Chanel Le Crayon Kohl Intense Eye Pencil (61 Noir) || Bobby pins (to apply glue to the lash strip)

As this site progresses, I’ll write more tutorials on how I actually apply my eyelashes and eyebrows everyday. But for now, a brief intro will have to do!

Tomorrow will mark the end of the “My Life with AA” saga. And tomorrow’s post is the hardest one to share…How do I cope with it? How has living with alopecia changed me? Am I really as calm as I appear on the outside, or are my emotions stuck riding a never-ending roller-coaster? Who knows – we shall see…


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