School Pictures.

And other thoughts.

Anyone who ever set foot in my childhood home likely has distinct memories. It’s just how that house (and the people, or shall we say person, in it) was. You might remember that the door was never locked (even, at times, when we were on vacation); or maybe you remember a certain smell (likely because my mom was cooking something she knew you’d like or something she knew you needed); or maybe you remember how cold it always was, regardless of the season (and how my mom didn’t care what you thought: “Put a hat on! Get up off your as*!”).

I remember the way the light came in from the back of the house in the afternoon, often so bright that you couldn’t see the TV screen. I remember navy and maroon dinner plates and the butcher block counter, and pile of shoes at the front door (because no there wasn’t a “mud room,” and yes, there was always a crowd of people there). I remember the house decorated for Christmas - especially the front banister wrapped in garland (and not the fake kind that we all use now, but real branches from the trees on the side yard, cut and styled by my mom repeatedly throughout the season).

And I remember the shelf of pictures running along the entire back wall of the family room; the Brady Hall of Fame if you will. I’m sure it started small, just a few pictures of immediate family members, but I’ll only ever remember it crammed front to back, side to side, picture upon picture of family and friends, all negotiating with one another for space. At a certain point, my mom ran out of real estate completely, and so she started replacing the existing framed pictures with new ones. When we packed up the house to sell it, we unearthed decades of pictures stacked one on top of another; a story of a life, really.

Cecelia’s school pictures came home in her backpack earlier this week. I just about gasped when I saw her through the window on the envelope - pigtails, gaps in her teeth, the jumpsuit from 2 Easters ago that she insisted on wearing. My first baby who is no longer a baby. And when I pulled the pictures out, I gasped again, this time because of what I had ordered.

I can only imagine that I was looking for the cheapest package when I chose the one with four 8 x 11 pictures in it. Or maybe I was thinking I would give one to my dad, who was still alive when I placed the order. An 8 x 11, of course, is the size only a parent or grandparent can appreciate, and suddenly my math was all wrong.

My mom wasn’t given nearly enough time in her role as a Mimi. But if she had been, I can guarantee that the back shelf, the Hall of Fame, would now be full of 8 x 11-sized pictures of her grand-kids.

It’s these smaller moments, invisible losses I’ve heard them called, that add up; they can bury you if you let them. The small, daily reminders that you have no living parent, that your children have lost half of their grandparents already.

People have told me I should write a book. Strangers have told me how much my writing about my parents - my loss - means to them. And I usually mumble something about how it’s nothing. I look away, unable to make eye contact, feeling like a fraud, mostly. But what if it’s not nothing? I certainly don’t think I’m a Pulitzer Prize level writer. God no. What I do well is bringing people together; connecting; maybe making you feel less alone. And I’m proud of that.

And this might seem like an odd segway into my work with Beautycounter, but bear with me for a minute here. Talking to you all about something that has become a passion of mine (clean beauty/skincare) lets me connect with friends and family in one more way. It really feels like an extension of this thing that I’m good at (just with more makeup demos :)). And I love it (and I hope you love, or even just like it, too).

For those of you who are new to hearing me talk about Beautycounter - hi there!

Here are some shocking numbers for you all. According to the Environmental Working Group (ewg.org), women use, on average, 12 personal care products each day (shampoo, conditioner, face wash, body lotion, ETC). This, in turn, exposes women to around ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTY EIGHT (yes, I said 168) different chemicals through just their beauty products every day. Sure, low level exposures to certain chemicals (say, parabens, for instance), might not be an issue in isolation, but when you add up all of these exposures every day, and when you consider the fact that the personal care industry is largely unregulated, this is problematic.

What I like most about Beautycounter is that they have combined education and advocacy for better beauty laws, with really great products. Really great products that work, that is.

I’m leaving you here with a cute image of some of the limited edition holiday gift sets available now from Beautycounter. There’s something for everyone on your list (my favorites are the Jellies, the Skincare Favorites set, and the 2 eyeshadow palettes - if I was forced to choose).

PS: If you’ll be in Rochester for Thanksgiving, come sweat and shop at F.I.T in East Rochester, where Julie (Schiller) Earl will be leading a Tabata class, starting at 9 AM, with all proceeds going to a local Teen Empowerment program. I’ll have a table full of Beautycounter goodies (including these holiday sets) for you to try, with 20% of my proceeds going to the same charity. Sweat, shop, eat!

I’d love to chat with any of you who are looking to swap out some of your beauty or skincare products for cleaner versions. Let me know how I can help.

xox,

Ali
www.beautycounter.com/alisonschramm
Instagram: @alischramm_atouchofblush
Email: alisonmbrady@gmail.com

PS: isn’t she the cutest?

PPS: I might have exaggerated the size of the pictures. They might be 5 x 8s. Numbers have never been my strong suit.