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Archive for November, 2013

First of all, happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrated it!  I had planned on a Thanksgiving post, listing what I’m grateful for and whatnot, but I woke up yesterday with a swollen, very unhappy wrist on my dominant hand.  I’m being ginger with it today, and trying to really limit my computer use, but I did want to get this timely post out.

So, the holiday shopping season has officially begun!  I, for one, despise the idea of shopping on Thanksgiving or Black Friday.  Crowds are not my thing in the best situation.  Even a gentle trip to the grocery store on an average day can be too much for me.  This is my hiding out period where I really try to leave the house as little as possible.

A less stressful approach to holiday shopping, in my opinion, is in Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday.  Now, I may or may not technically qualify as a “small business,” but I think I fit the spirit of it if not the letter 🙂  You don’t get much smaller than buying from a single person!  And Cyber Monday?  Heck yeah, I’ve got that covered!  Everything of mine is available online.

And what, pray tell, are these wondrous wares?  Well, let me give you a little run-down!
I have blank greeting cards available at my Red Bubble shop!

One of the many blank greeting cards I offer.

Personally, I love having a stash of blank greeting cards in a drawer, ready to go at a moment’s notice!  You never know when you might need them.  And I’ll confess, I sometimes buy cards for their sheer beauty, with no intention of giving them away.  Those ones usually end up on my wall somewhere.  Either way, they’re very well-made, handy and inexpensive!  And if there’s an image you’d like but don’t see in my shop, let me know; in almost every case I can add it for you!  Stocking stuffers, anyone?
I also sell 2014 collectable calendars!

Sarah Allegra 2014 Calendar

Sarah Allegra 2014 Calendar

Each year I put out a new calendar with 12 of my most popular recent works.  This year’s batch includes images from my DreamWorld and actor portraits series as well as my CFS/fibro/ME series Enchanted Sleep.  I genuinely love the quality Red Bubble puts into their calendars; they’re printed on gorgeous, thick, heavy paper which is perfect for jotting down as many notes and reminders as you’d like!  Plus, I love the extra magic the calendars sprinkle into every day.  And need I tell you they make excellent gifts?  🙂

On a side note, I keep my Red Bubble prices low so that they’re available to as many people as possible.  I don’t make much from these sales, but it’s important to me that as many people as possible have access to my images.

For those looking for a unique gift, either for themselves or someone they love, my on-line, self-discovery-through-photography course Introspective is an excellent choice!

Introspective

Introspective

Introspective is a fun and truly unique, eight-week experience.  Each week I will guide you through a new concept to explore with photography, such as love, fear, secrets and joy.  What do those subjects mean to you?  And how would you portray them in a photograph?  Let’s find out!  Self portraiture is encouraged (as I think it’s an invaluable way to know yourself better), but by no means is it required.  At the end of the eight weeks, you’ll have gotten to experience yourself in a new way and learned things you never knew before.

This would be perfect for your artsy sibling, the person who has everything or anyone with a desire to have an adventure and come out knowing themselves better!
And of course there are always prints available!

Sarah Allegra Etsy Shop

I sell prints through my Etsy shop, which are printed by an amazing local printer.  They are printed on museum-quality, archival, thick, luscious paper which is not unlike watercolor paper.  All the images are printed in very small, limited edition runs and come individually signed and numbered.  They come in three different sizes and are truly stunning.  These really have to be seen to appreciate how beautiful they are.  The level of detail captured in these prints is spectacular.  And as with the cards, if you would like a print of something and you don’t see it in my shop, just let me know!  In almost every occasion, I can accommodate your request.

Thank you to everyone for supporting my art through your kind comments, well wishes and purchases.  I so appreciate all of them and I hope everyone has an excellent holiday season!  Here’s a lovely DreamWorld image, featuring the gorgeous Katie Johnson!

Faerie Dust

Faerie Dust

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I want to give you all a few quick updates here on the blog.  First though, I’d like to introduce my first Blackfish-inspired photo today, titled “Concrete Cell.”  It is the first in a series, but I was too excited to share this photo to wait until they’re all finished.
The often-cited comparison of SeaWorld’s whale enclosures being the equivalent size of a bathtub to you or me not only deeply saddened me, but also sparked the idea for this photo.  Imagine it.  When you’re not forced to perform, you live in this sad, colorless, sterile world of concrete and shadows.  The intelligence of these whales makes their living conditions even crueler and more heartless; sentient beings shoved into tiny compartments where they die a little more every day.
If you also agree that SeaWorld’s practices are abusive and need to be changed, please see my open letter to Jack Hanna regarding his defense of SeaWorld.  You can read more about the issues there and take action with petitions to sign!Thank you to Katie Johnson for her beautiful underwater modeling in this!  Underwater modeling is a skill unto itself and quite tricky, but she makes it look effortless.
Concrete Cell

Concrete Cell

Secondly, there has been a lot of response to my post about suicide and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis.  This is one of those topics that is very, very real, but rarely discussed in public.  Or even in private, for that matter.  There is always a correlation between any kind of chronic illness and suicide, because there is only so much a person can endure.  This post has been shared quite a bit already, but I would love for it to reach even more people, and hopefully find its way to the original person who found my blog by searching “I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and I want to give up.”  I understand that feeling.  My blog will rage in its way against cruelties, abuses and atrocities, but its arms are always open to the ill, the hopeless, the voiceless and those in need.  This is not a place of judgement.  This is a place of love and acceptance.

Lastly, my 2014 calendars are now available!  Printed on thick, gorgeous paper, each month features a popular new image from my most recent works, including photographs from my DreamWorld, actor portraits series and my CFS/fibro/ME series Enchanted Sleep.  So add a dose of magic to your day…or the day of someone you love…with a collectable calendar!

2014 Calendar

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I like to check my blog statistics every few days.  You’re shown a wealth of information, some helpful, some less so.  In theory you can use this info to fine-tune your posts to get the maximum response… for me, it’s mostly just interesting, as I’m going to write what I’m going to write, regardless of how popular it is or isn’t.

One of the pieces of information it shows are the keywords people type into search engines which lead them to my blog.  By far and away, the most frequent phrase that pops up is “Veronica Ricci nude” or some variant thereof.  For a long time, the second most common phrase I’d see was “cyborg costume” (because of this photo); currently, people looking up things about Jack Hanna and Blackfish come my way a lot.  Sometimes the phrases are weird and creepy, but it’s still always interesting for me to see what people are looking for when they, intentionally or not, find my blog.

Recently I saw a very new phrase come up: “I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and I want to give up.”  My heart just about broke.  So if you’ll indulge me for a moment, I’d like to address the person who typed that.

 

I know how you feel.  This is a shit hand to be dealt.  It’s not fair, and it’s not your fault.  I understand why you feel like giving up.  It’s something everyone with any chronic illness of this caliber has to deal with.  The idea of having to fight the same dragon every day for the rest of your life is utterly overwhelming.  I think of it like the disease form of water torture; it’s not so much the individual moments which break you, but how they build up on each other.

I hope that whatever you found on my blog gave you some hope.  I hope that at the very least it helped you feel less alone.  I wish that I could promise you that there will be a cure soon, but we don’t know.  Regardless of what your precise situation is, you don’t have to bear it all yourself.  There is a wealth up support available online, and I personally have found great help from seeing a therapist who is a perfect fit for me.  You can also contact The Samaritans if you’re feeling really desperate.  I’ve done so myself on more than one occasion, and they really do help.

I would like to hug you and tell you everything will be ok.  Since I can’t, I hope that you can feel like love and kinship I am writing this in.  You are not alone.  I hope you’re able to find the strength to keep going.  Just as much as it becomes so overwhelming to think about the rest of your life being like this, I find it more bearable when you concentrate just on today.  Just worry about getting through this one day.  That can be more than enough overwhelming just on its own without projecting into the future.  I hope you come back, read this and it helps you, even a little bit.  And no matter what you feel from the people who surround you in your daily life, please know that I at least love you, and I care about you.

If you’d like, you can email me directly at sarah@sarahallegra.com.  You are not alone, and you are loved.

 

Much love to a fellow spoonie <3

Much love to a fellow spoonie ❤

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Back in June, I discovered the snow trees at one of the local forests I frequent.  As I walked along, truly in awe, feeling like I had accidentally stumbled into Narnia, I discovered more and more magical beauty.  Eventually I made my way into this little hidden meadow.

I don’t remember how I discovered it actually; it’s right off the wide footpath but you have to push through several yards of thick, high prickly bur-bushes.  Bur-bushes probably have a very different actual name, but I almost never know plant names ahead of time and I have to make up ones to remember them by.  In case of the bur-bushes, they grow huge burs with talon-like spikes which will cling to almost anything, delighting in making their way into your shoes or Calantha’s pads.  Ouch.

Once you get past the bur-bushes though, it became a completely different world.  I honestly felt like I was in a movie, discovering an uncharted, ethereal land.  We’ve already discussed my knowledge of local plant names, but I did recognize tons of queen anne’s lace, delicate and fragile-looking, between shocks of vividly hues flowers.  It was like a sunset had grown there.

I had already shot there with Dedeker recently, so when I went back with Katie a few days later, I knew I wanted to use the meadow… I just wasn’t sure exactly how.  It was obvious to me that it belonged in DreamWorld, but I didn’t have a character built around it.  But, I decided, not every DreamWorld photo has to be an elaborate character I spend months creating, some are just little scenes.  Vignettes, if you will, glimpsed for a second and captured forever in a photo.

So I told Katie to just go frolic.  One of the things that makes her so wonderful to work with is that she is equally skilled at following precise direction, holding very uncomfortable poses for as long as you need as well as improvising.  I would have never thought to ask her to do most of the things she came up with on her own, and I adored every frame.  I very, very rarely edit more than one photo from each set, but I made an exception here.  There were too many gorgeous moments, too many mouth-watering colors, too many beautiful flowers, too much sensual female beauty.  I managed to pare it down to what you see here, but even with this final selections, it was very difficult to choose!

Christina’s World, by Andrew Wyeth

At one point Katie mentioned how some of the photos felt similar to the painting Christina’s World, by Andrew Wyeth.  I had been unfamiliar with the painting, but agreed when she showed it to me on her phone.  When it came time to name the series, I had no idea what to call it at first, since the DreamWorld titles usually come from the characters they display.  Then I remembered our conversation, and since so much of what I love about these photos is due to Katie’s work, I went with Katie’s World.

Before I leave you to enjoying the photos, here’s your surprise!

My new calendar is ready!  Adorn your wall with 12 of my most popular images from the last year and bring a little extra magic into your everyday 🙂  Do I even need to point out what an excellent gift this makes?  Red Bubble creates really quality items; I’ve had several calendars from them (as well as other things) and I love the thick, solid paper this is printed on.  So go get one!

And now may I present… Katie’s World!  If you feel like letting me know which one/s is/are your favorite, I’d love to hear it!

Katie's World 1

Katie’s World 1

Katie's World 2

Katie’s World 2

Katie's World 3

Katie’s World 3

Katie's World 4

Katie’s World 4

Katie's World 5

Katie’s World 5

Katie's World 6

Katie’s World 6

Katie's World 8

Katie’s World 7

Katie's World 8

Katie’s World 8

Katie's World 9

Katie’s World 9

Katie's World 10

Katie’s World 10

Katie's World 11

Katie’s World 11

Katie's World 12

Katie’s World 12

Katie's World 13

Katie’s World 13

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During the five years of being chronically ill to the point of having to change my life to revolve around my illness, I have tried to keep my spirits up.  I’ll readily admit I’m naturally more of an Eeyore, but I also know that having a positive outlook can have a huge impact on one’s quality of life.  So I try to train my brain to be on the lookout for silver linings; for the beautiful amidst the ugly.

Of course, I can’t speak for everyone with ME, everyone with fibro, or everyone with other chronic illnesses.  These are just the shiniest of the silver linings that I have discovered personally.  Yes, there is a lot of bad along with this good, but that’s a subject for another time.  For now, I want to highlight the positives.

 

1. You Become More In Tune With Your Body

I, for example, have learned that I am quite sensitive to nearly all medications, even more than my small frame would account for.  There is a certain cold feeling I get in my stomach which is the warning for a bout of coldsweats and vomiting coming.  While I used to drink lots of caffeine and couldn’t get through an afternoon without some kind of energy dose, I now drink black tea in the morning, and rarely anything beyond that.  My body felt noticeably cleaner and fresher after I made the switch, and again when I became vegetarian.  You learn to listen harder to the signals your body gives you and take them more seriously.

Vanity's Murder

Vanity’s Murder

 

2. You Learn Who The True Friends In Your Life Are

After the fifth time in a row of my having to reschedule an outing due to the unpredictable whims of my body, most people would stop trying to make the outing happen.  I have been extremely fortunate to have wonderful people in my life who are as understanding about my forced flakiness as anyone who doesn’t have a chronic illness could be.   They know by now that evening events, large crowds and physical exertion are especially hard for me, but they continue to invite me to dinners and parties, always letting me know that it’s ok if I’m not up to it.  I love them for continuing to invite me, even when I have to say no 90% of the time, but even more for not holding it against me.

To The Lost

To The Lost

 

3. You Come To Terms With Your Mortality

Everybody dies.  That is an unavoidable fact.  I’ve found that I, along with many of my chronically ill peers, have given our lifespans much greater thought than our healthy counterparts.  Whether our disease is something known to shorten your lifespan or whether it’s a roll of the dice, we are generally able to come to peace with the knowledge we won’t be around forever much earlier in our lives than is typical.  This can even lead to what I call The Walter White Effect, which essentially says that when you have faced the fact that your life may not be as long as you had once believed, you are motivated into working much harder in the present.  It’s true, any of us could go at any time in an untold number of ways.  But there seems to be a quieter acceptance of this inevitable fate when you’ve had your body occupied with chronic illness for a long time.

All Hail The Queen

All Hail The Queen

 

4. You Life Distills Into The Most Important Components

I have days when there are only a couple hours (often scattered through the whole day) when I can actually get anything done.  Usually I’m able to get a little bit more done than that, and it helps that much of what I do can be done laying in bed with my laptop, but if you only had three or four hours to accomplish anything, what would you use that time for?  Lunch with friends?  Taking care of your pets?  Showering?  Taking photos?  Making love?  While chronic illness robs you of so much time, it also forces you to look long and hard at each of the things you do choose to engage in.  I won’t, for example, spend time editing photos which I’m less than satisfied with.  Which activities you choose to keep can say a lot about what’s truly important to you.

Beloved Of The Crown

Beloved Of The Crown

 

5. You Look At The Big Questions

Can you believe in a god who would allow you to live your life so sick with no cure?  Would that strengthen your faith or wipe any trace of it from your life?  What kind of legacy will you leave behind?  If you’re too sick to work and thus always short on cash, how do you define success in your life when society places so much emphasis on status, power and wealth?  If you, like most of the chronically ill, had to scrap your original plans for what you wanted to be when you grew up, how will you find meaning in the life you’re given?  What is the meaning of life when that life is often confined to a single room?

In Between Awake And Asleep

In Between Awake And Asleep

 

This is, of course, an extremely subjective round-up, based mainly on my own experiences.  What will my distilled, concentrated life look like?  What causes will I champion and where will my energy reserves go?  Where will yours?  Chronic illness tends to create mini philosophers, whether we will have it or not.  And while I will never have all the answers, the questions are still worth pondering.

 

Fae Light - Dedeker looks like she's pondering Big Questions.

Fae Light – Dedeker looks like she’s pondering Big Questions.

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Thank you to everyone who has helped spread the message of Blackfish, and a special thanks to everyone who has helped circulate and promote my open letter to Jack Hanna.  There has been such an enormous uproar of outrage over the atrocities documented in this film, and more over Hanna’s defense of SeaWorld that, you know, I think we just might be able to change things.

Not overnight certainly.  But if I personally have heard from so many people who are as saddened and angry as I am, I believe there are enough of us to shut SeaWorld down.  Let’s keep it up, keep letting them know how disgusted we are, how we will never be visiting their parks again, that they will never receive another dollar (or pound or lira or what have you) from us.  And let us keep the pressure on them to do the very least of all the right things they could do and release  Tilikum and Lolita.

If you have not already seen my other post and signed the petitions listed there, I would highly encourage you to!  It takes very little time and can make an enormous difference.

Thank you all.  The response to my letter has been greater than I ever would have expected.  So in a spirit of thanks, here is a recent photo of mine, featuring the wonderful Katie Johnson, which has a very hopeful feel to it.

Thank you, every one of you 🙂

 

Promise

Promise

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