Some De-Stressing News

The media in recent weeks has been filled with alarming, stressful stories. Since having had breast cancer, I always find this even more troubling because I fought hard to stay alive, and I fully appreciate just how important it is to keep stress at bay. I shake my head when I see the actions of individuals who don’t seem to place the same value on the incredible beauty of simply being alive. Understanding all of this is way above my pay level, but I do realize it can bring incredible stress into my life. And, I’m assuming if I feel stress, many of you do as well.

With that thought in mind, I felt like this would be a good time to look at some innovative ways we can relieve some of the stress and get back to what is more important – honoring the time we’ve been given here on Earth.

Stress is known to suppress our immune system; raise our blood pressure; elevate the risk of stomach acid and ulcers; contribute to headaches, backaches, and neck-aches; colds; and even cancer. Stress is also linked to shortening of the telomeres, protective caps on the ends of chromosomes that shorten each time a cell dies. Research suggests that we want our telomeres to be as long as possible, because length is associated with a lower risk of developing cancer and heart disease, as well as a longer life. So, if you ask me, I will take the extra-long version – PLEASE!

Here are just a few innovative ideas to bust that stress and come out the other side feeling, if not worry-free, at least a bit less burdened.

woman inflating yellow balloonBlow up a balloon. Since our bodies need oxygen to relax, this is a simple tool you can use. When we are stressed we tend to take short, shallow breaths. Blowing up a balloon forces us to breathe more slowly and deeply, since we’re using our diaphragm. It also activates our parasympathetic nervous system, reducing our heart rate and relaxing our muscles. No balloons handy? Then remind yourself to take a deep, calming breath each time you walk through a doorway. You know the old saying, when one door closes another one opens – well, you can now add when one door opens I let go of some stress!

Try laughter yoga. Did you know that children laugh about 140 times a day? Adults, not so much. Actually, the average adult only laughs about 12 to 14 times a day. Every time we laugh, we release an endorphin, and those are 200 times stronger than morphine. Laughter yoga, which is becoming more and more popular nationwide, blends attempts to provoke laughter via eye contact and childlike playfulness with breathing exercises. If you can find a local class, try it. The child in you will be very thankful!

Play the drums. Drumming allows you to have fun, stay very much in the present moment, and release stress both consciously and unconsciously. So grab those bongos, snares or tom toms and let the good times roll! Heck, even a tambourine will do the trick. Just remember to choose your drum playing time wisely, or you may be adding to someone else’s stress levels!

If you are still young enough (and lucky enough) to be able to call your mom, do it! Researchers have found that in stressful situations, hearing the sound of your mom’s voice reduces stress hormones while boosting levels of oxytocin, the feel-good hormone.

Take a break from the news. It’s time to turn off your TV, shut down the laptop, and stack those newspapers and magazines in the corner. A temporary vacation from world events give us time to clear our head, reduce our worries, and put our life in perspective. Give it a week – and don’t feel guilty. Unfortunately, the major stories will still be around in a week, and just think how nice it would be to escape from worrying about something you can’t control for a few days.

Climb a tree. If you are healthy enough (and fortunate enough to live in a place where there are full-grown trees in your neighborhood), now’s the time to revert to some childish behavior! Give yourself a lift. Climbing a tree is active, playful – and fun! Again, don’t add to someone else’s stress level by being too much of a monkey and climbing to a dangerous level. Just high enough to get a new perspective. When you get back to ground level you’ll be surprised at just how much stress you’ve relinquished!

Learn to play again. Try something like jumping on a trampoline. Go rollerblading. Blow bubbles. Spend some time hula-hooping. You have no goal other than to simply cut loose and enjoy yourself.

Create a “life is a banquet” collage. This world we live in does have its stresses, but it is also a place filled with humor, humanity and hope. When you are feeling overwhelmed, look for stories, cartoons, pictures, articles, song lyrics, ads, and quotes that bring these emotions to the forefront. If possible, add to your collection every day. Then, the next time the news is grim, bring out your collage and spend some time immersed in things that make you feel good.

You may also like this post: Feeling stressed? Meditate

Got a great stress buster? If so, please share!

Posted in Healthy Living, Lifestyle, Mental Health, Positive Thinking, Stress, Uncategorized, Wellness | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gym or Yoga Studio? Look great either way in Amoena Active wear

amoena active wear racerback tank-top

Renee, 60, and Beatte, 51, are both breast cancer survivors.

We’ve been very excited to introduce retailers and consumers to our new line of Active wear! Have you seen it? Maybe it’s caught your eye at the gym or studio in the last few weeks. It’s good for all kinds of activities — intense workouts like cardio and strength, and gentle stretching (or even running around town but just wanting to be comfy)!

I was thinking about gyms and yoga studios recently. In my (admittedly limited) experience, there are significant differences between the two! They both benefit your health, of course — and there are excellent reasons to visit both of them regularly. I’m not saying one is better than the other. Just making a couple of observations:

Difference #1: Towels.

Yoga Studio: Neat little pyramids of fluffy white towels sit in a wicker basket on a bench, with some sort of beeswax candle nearby to enhance their ambiance. I’m afraid to touch and disassemble them.

Gym: Thin, half-gray dust cloths hang unceremoniously on the edge of the treadmills and weight machines, accented by plastic bottles of off-brand blue spray that’s supposed to keep things clean… Yeah, I’m afraid to touch them, as well.

Difference #2: Drinks.

Yoga Studio: While I’m lying on my back in Shavasana at the end of class, my instructor is in the corner, quietly brewing each of us a warm cup of peppermint tea.

Gym: “Want some Powerade?? Want some Bottled Water? Or something called ‘Muscle Milk?’ That’ll be $2.50!” laughs the vending machine, “or you can brave the water fountain in the corner. Don’t mind the drops of sweat from other patrons. Here, use this towel.”

Difference #3: Music

Yoga Studio: We just want you to barely think of it as music. If you listen to your heart, you may hear the song of a bird’s wing in the rain. Or the melody of air.

Gym: PUMP PUMP TECHNO HIP-HOP THUMP THUMP ELECTRONICA, to remind me very insistently that I can DO THIS.

Hey, it’s all good. Sometimes I need to hear the air, and other times, the encouragement over the loudspeaker. At any rate, I’ll look good in my new Active top! Want a sneak peek at some of the Active styles coming this fall? Take a look! We hope you’ll love them!

amoena active wear fall 2013

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I Wasn’t Just Born Yesterday!

Well, Easter has come and gone, but I’ll bet a lot of you still have the remnants of an Easter basket if not close at hand, then somewhere in the near vicinity. And any Easter basket worthy of the title must contain some PEEPS®. I don’t know about the rest of you, but my PEEPS® tolerance is pretty low. I don’t mean I don’t like them, because there are few things I enjoy more than a stale PEEPS®. It’s just that as an adult my ability to consume large amounts of sugar without suffering the consequences grows smaller each year.

PEEPS Chicks and BunniesI’m pretty sure as a kid I would have not only been able to consume the PEEPS® in my Easter basket, but those in my sibling’s as well. High on sugar, I probably even attempted to convince my parents that “No, I did not take Ted (or Lisa, or Tom, or Jenny’s) PEEPS®.” I will blame the sugar for any falsehoods that happened to pass my lips. Lucky for me, PEEPS® only came in yellow or white back then, or my parents would definitely have been able to figure out what else had been passing my lips!

Since PEEPS® are such a vivid part of my childhood memories, I decided to see what Google could tell me about these sugary treats. I quickly discovered that PEEPS® are the creation of candy company Just Born. Upon further investigation I discovered that Just Born is a family owned business that was started back in 1923 by Sam Born. Obviously, Sam liked to keep it simple!

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that Just Born also makes Mike and Ike® and Hot Tamales®. This news alone made me think they should have paid for my childhood dental work! Mike and Ike® are still one of my all-time favorites. Unlike Jujubes®, Dots®, and Jujyfruits®, they don’t contain any of the dreaded licorice or spearmint versions that made a child’s taste buds balk. Although all of these candies have been known to cause our teeth to pretty much become glued together at some point.

Here are some fun PEEPS® facts right from Just Born’s website:

  • In 1953, it took 27 hours to create one PEEPS® Marshmallow Chick. Today, thanks to advances in technology, it takes six minutes.
  • Just Born produces enough PEEPS® Brand Marshmallow Candies in one year to circle the earth twice.
  • Yellow is America’s bestselling color of PEEPS® chicks and bunnies.
  • Yellow and white PEEPS® chicks and bunnies came first, followed by pink, lavender, blue, green and orange.
  • If you had 8,000 PEEPS® bunnies, and you stood them in a straight vertical line, you could reach the top of the Sears Tower in Chicago.

And PEEPS® aren’t just for eating – not by a long shot. There is even an artist by the name of David Ottogalli with a website devoted to PEEPS® inspired artwork.

peeps-bra While I was avidly seeing what Google could discover, I happened upon an Instagram image from Melissa Hall that I just had to share here. Someone has definitely figured out what to do with their leftover PEEPS®!

I wonder if it comes in a pocketed version?

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Behind the Scenes with Amoena’s Survivor Models

We’ve just posted our latest video, and it’s so much fun. You’ll get a peek “behind the curtain” and see how we create the beautiful photos that we use in our catalogs, on our website and in ads and brochures.

Don’t miss this special look “inside Amoena,” with three of our survivor models.

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This is the New Me Essay Contest — 1st Place Winner, Terry Werth

This past summer, we hosted an essay contest for our Club Amoena members – style-savvy women who are fans of Amoena products. We chose 2 winners — this is the submission from our 1st place winner, Terry Werth,, of New York. Look for her essay in your Spring 2013 issue of Amoena Life magazine, which mails out to subscribers next week!

terry werth, club amoena essay winnerSomeone once suggested to me that one way to make use of life experiences – good or bad- is to ask yourself: What have I learned from this? With no suggestion of guilt or judgment, it is just a call for honest reflection that could make a difference down the road.

If you are a person who searches for “the meaning” of things, this is the question that can give meaning to the struggle or the miracle.

This is probably a good question for cancer survivors to ask themselves: What have I learned from this? I have read many articles that tip toe around this issue, perhaps because many cancer survivors feel like “victims.” They didn’t knowingly do anything to bring on cancer. It has negatively altered their health, their body and their spirit and so drawing lessons from it seems like too much to ask, if not just plain wrong!

But one answer I have often seen goes something like, “In some ways, cancer has been a gift.” I think I have said it myself. But upon closer examination, I have to say, REALLY? A gift? Come on!

What I meant, and what I think survivors mean when they say this, is that this experience of having cancer has presented unexpected opportunities to receive kindness, compassion, generosity and to reflect on one’s life from a new perspective. It invites me to take a hard look at reality and to become definite about what matters most and not at all. The lesson is that even something bad can produce something good.

So I asked myself the question and came up with five lessons that now define “the new me” and how I am living my life.

1. I use all of my senses. The cliché would be, “stop and smell the roses.” But I don’t want to just smell the roses. I want to see the roses, touch the roses, plant the roses, pick the roses. I want to hear the birds and the traffic sounds, hear and smell the crashing waves, feel the silky sand between my toes, notice the sound of children laughing, remember the strong hug you gave me and the way my favorite wine tastes. I don’t want to miss any of it but I can only take it in if I live intentionally.

2. I practice gratitude. My mother was a tyrant when it came to teaching her children to express gratitude for gifts. Writing thank you notes was never optional. They would be done well and in a timely manner. As odd as it seems, I do believe that is where I learned to practice gratitude for the big presents and the little niceties of life. Whether you thank a Higher Power, a stranger, a family member or service provider, you contribute to the kindness of our species and become more fully human in doing so,

3. I recognize what gives me joy. Since my cancer diagnosis, I have cultivated a new habit. Every night the last thought I have before I close my eyes is, “What brought me joy today?” I always have an answer because all day long I am looking for it. Most days there are so many examples I can’t remember them all. Some days I struggle but I find one. I have learned that not a day of my life is lacking joy if I will only take the time to recognize it.

4. I invest myself in making memories. Living intentionally requires living in the present tense when it may seem easier, more comfortable, to dwell on the past. That is as unproductive as worrying about the future over which I have little control. The logical, and sometimes more challenging choice, is to enjoy each day. Making memories with family and friends is a gift we give each other by sharing time and experiences. Lacking any guarantee about the number of days, months or years anyone has to make those precious memories, I am committed to investing my whole heart in making them every day.

5. I allow myself to grieve…briefly. Any serious illness translates into a sense of loss: loss of health, energy, peace of mind, loss of sound sleep, appetite, sex drive, loss of hair, breasts, dreams, loss of financial resources, strength, and innocence. To mourn these losses is appropriate and necessary. A stiff upper lip will not take away the very real pain I experience confronting the reality of these losses, and so I will allow myself a moment, here and there, to feel the loss, but even the pain lets me know that I am alive! “So much has been given to me,” said Helen Keller, “I have no time to ponder over that which has been denied.” And so I live. Refer to lesson number 1.

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This is the New Me Essay Contest — 2nd Place Winner, Holly Tabor

holly tabor club amoena essay 2nd place winnerThis past summer, we hosted an essay contest for our Club Amoena members – style-savvy women who are fans of Amoena products. We chose 2 winners — this is the submission from our 2nd place winner, Holly Tabor, of Georgia.

 

There is a new me in town. Three years ago, I became a brand new person. Three
years ago, my life changed–hopefully, forever.

Three years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and was immediately swept
into a nine-month spinning vortex of doctors, tests, surgeries, medicine, and
ever-shifting emotions. I felt as if I were walking on quicksand, never knowing
when the ground would be swept from beneath my feet and I would be drowning
in a sea of muddy thoughts and bleak outlooks.

Cancer. A tiny, six-letter word that conveys so much confusion, anger, fear and
pain. Even to the uninitiated, the mere mention of the word stirs up nightmare
visions of hospital rooms, illness, tons of anguish…and death.

This morning I remember those feelings of darkness, pain and fear. I’m sure it
doesn’t help the image by waking up to a horrible head cold that leaves me
physically drained…vaguely reminiscent of the chemo fatigue I lived with for so
many months. For just a few minutes, the fears, the memories, the agony of those
days envelope me again. I cry hot, bitter tears in the shower while trying to allow
the water to wash away the virus, the emotions, the fears, the memories…and the
deep, dark depression that eagerly wraps its tentacles around my heart.

Then, I hear a song–a song that has been my mantra since the early days of my
“new” life, after cancer. A song with a one word title, made of six little
letters…Thrive. A six-letter word that washes away the fear of that other six-letter
word, and conjures up images of everything I most desire in life.

Because life isn’t just about breathing. It isn’t just about getting up, getting the
job done, going to bed and beginning it all again the next day. It’s about
thriving–choosing to focus on each and every experience in each and every
moment, and choosing to live each and every one fully. Webster’s dictionary says:
thrive–to prosper; to be fortunate or successful; to grow or develop vigorously;
flourish. Synonyms: advance, bear fruit, bloom, blossom, grow, prosper, radiate,
shine. What an incredible mental image these words convey. I want to blossom. I
want to radiate. I want to shine!

I realized, after I received my cancer diagnosis, that what was missing in my life
was my living life. I realized that I wanted most–want most–is to live. Really
live…not just going through the motions, not just swimming slowly upstream to
my death with the rest of the fish in the stream. I want to LIVE. I want to have
fun. I want to have new experiences. I want to see old things in a new way. I want
to experience each moment as if it were my last one. I want to get messy with life.
Big sloppy wet kisses, mud pies, rolling in the autumn leaves, dancing in the
rain…exciting, spontaneous, exhilarating…life. Every moment is to be savored,
treasured, enjoyed to its fullest extent…the good, the bad, even the mundane and ordinary. Life is about trying to make every moment count, viewing every
moment as worthwhile, no matter what you’re doing…this is how you thrive.

The head cold that makes my head pound and my throat feel like I swallowed
sandpaper is just one more experience to be savored…if I choose to make it one.
No, it’s not exactly pleasant, but with every ache, pain, sniffle and sneeze, even a
cold can vividly remind me that I am ALIVE….blessedly, blissfully, wonderfully
alive.

As my tears dry, I find myself croaking away to the song with a smile on my face
and joy in my heart. Joy that comes from my overwhelming desire to live…to
blossom…to thrive…in each moment I’ve been given. A desire born out of my
diagnosis with cancer, that nasty, six-letter word. Yes, this disease brings
confusion, fear and pain–these things will always be part of the frightening
reality that is cancer. I can–and will–choose to focus instead on life.

I have been blessed with three years of moments to thrive in–so far. Some I
blissfully savored; some, tragically, I allowed to blow past in a frantic flurry.
Overall, my desire is to make it to the end of this journey without regret, knowing
that I have wrung every drop of living out of my time on earth–to truly thrive.

That day, three years ago, changed me forever. Now, instead of filling my life with
the paralyzing fear of an ugly six-letter word; I choose another, better word. I
choose instead, to thrive. This is the new me.

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All Dressed Up and Someplace to Go!

When I was a little girl, my grandmother worked at a department store in Indianapolis called L.S. Ayres. One of my fondest memories involves that store and what it used to mean to go shopping. Today, we can sit in the comfort of our homes and purchase just about anything online. Back in the day, going shopping was a big deal, or at least it was for us.

Back then, the ONLY place you could actually go shopping for anything other than groceries was downtown. Although we had a car, my dad was a traveling salesman, so he was gone much of the time. This meant that a trip downtown required not only taking the bus, but transferring more than once. As a child, this was very exciting. It’s only been as an adult that I’ve come to realize what a challenge that must have been for my mother, since she had her little gaggle of five young ones in tow. I was the oldest, so it was my duty to carry the diaper bag, which I initially felt was a high privilege. As I got closer to being a teen, I looked upon it as the highest form of humiliation.

Going downtown also meant getting dressed up. Not only did I have to wear a dress, but the uniform of the day was white anklets, black patent leather Mary Janes, white gloves, and quite often, a hat. I was always threatened within an inch of my life to stay clean until Mom got everyone else ready. This was no small task for a six or seven year old. I mean really, white gloves? I think that qualifies as cruel and unusual!

diners at The Tea Room of L.S. Ayres department store

Elegance and finery used to be synonymous with going shopping. Image from www.boston.com and Indiana State Museum.

Our big reward upon arrival would be having lunch with grandma in the Tea Room. If I finished my lunch I got two treats. One was the Snow Princess dessert. This was an amazing ice cream scoop decorated with whipped cream and sugar flowers, then topped with a china half-doll figurine and a tiny paper parasol.

And then, before we left, we got to pick a wrapped toy from the children’s toy chest. You could tell by the color of the ribbon whether it was a girl’s gift (red ribbon) or a boy’s (blue ribbon). Sometimes I would grab one with a blue ribbon just to make my brother Ted mad. The gifts were nothing much; in fact, I have a hard time remembering anything other than a set of jacks, but getting a gift when it wasn’t your birthday or Christmas was really a big deal for a little kid.

Times have certainly changed dramatically! Much of the change has made our lives easier, but there are some customs we left behind that were part of a much slower-paced lifestyle and way of life. I love being able to shop 24/7, but I will admit that every now and then I long for the anticipation we felt when shopping was still an event. In those moments, my quick fix is to don a pair of white gloves, grab a pint of ice cream, and then head to my computer to shop for something that still makes me feel special – like lingerie!

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Amoena Swim 2013 is now online!

If you’re like me and starting to think about warmer weather, then let’s just indulge those dreams: Take a look at our new Swimwear Collection!

Amoena Swimwear collection 2013

Shown here: Black Sea, a figure-shaping one-piece tank with Lycra spandex and a pretty square neckline.

As always, our swimwear is pocketed to securely hold a breast form or Aqua Wave swimform in place while you enjoy the sand, surf and sunshine.

(I have to close my eyes and imagine that for a minute….it’s so nice there…)

Look for these suits in your local Amoena retail stores this month!

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What Goes Down Must Come Up!

I’ve been having one of those weeks. Before I get too embroiled in telling my tales of woe, let me just say, I absolutely, positively realize there are people all over the world having much worse weeks. I appreciate and honor that from the bottom of my being. It’s just that when you are in the midst of a @*#$(& storm, it’s sometimes difficult to remember to be grateful for any glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

You know the old superstition they have in Hollywood about the power of three? Just in case you actually have a life and don’t manage to store completely useless trivia in your noggin at all times, I’ll explain.

In Hollywood, if someone has the audacity to pass away, there are always two other famous people who are likewise doomed. I doubt anyone has ever done the math (I mean, what happens if five people kick the bucket on the same day in Hollywood?)… suffice it to say – when three people shuffle off their mortal coil (not to be confused with shuffling off to Buffalo, although you might not be able to tell the difference) everyone sort of gives everyone else that look. The look that says, “I told you when so-and-so died on Monday that you-know-who and who-knows-what were probably trembling in their boots!”

So, when I had bad luck last Monday, I should have realized there was more in store. Of course, if I had realized, I might simply have crawled under the covers and tried to wait it out. Unfortunately, I have a job and they frown on me spending my time in that manner.
First, I had a plumbing problem. Anyone who is responsible for the upkeep of a home knows that the moment you have to call a plumber you had better either have a rich daddy, or room left on your credit card. Let’s just say I was not born to wealth (I know, hard to believe, huh?).

When I received his bill I reminded myself to breathe. Just let it go, the calming voice in my head said. Just let it go. Although I couldn’t successfully let it go completely, the voice was more like this: by the end of the day.

The next day I somehow managed to lock myself out of my house, which meant spending two hours waiting for my husband to come home and let me in. He also reminded me that he’d hidden a key in a strategic place, but had forgotten to tell me where. When I asked him where, we had one of those moments, because even he couldn’t remember. I’m pretty sure a burglar somewhere knows, and will make use of this information the next time I skip down my steps!

And then on Saturday morning, just as it began pouring torrents of cold, pounding rain (I might be exaggerating just a bit, but I’ve had a bad week!) the automatic window on my VW decided to roll half-way down and stay there.

No matter what I tried, that window wouldn’t budge. I had plans, big plans – like going somewhere and doing something – that were immediately put on hold. By this point, I’m not even trying to remember to calm myself down. It feels good to throw an old fashioned, foot stomping, curse-word tossing tantrum. Although, when my neighbor looked out her window I remembered my manners and smiled sweetly and waved.

little girl crying

Oh, sorry, was I whining? Yes, yes I was.

Of course, it was a Saturday. Mishaps like this on a Saturday mean having to wait until Monday for anything to be done. I drove to my local VW dealer and tried my best to sound authoritative and demanding (I think I probably sounded more whiney and pathetic). I even reminded them I’d already had this window fixed once before. They reminded me that was over two years ago. Now that’s craftsmanship!

I simply cannot tell you how desperately I wished I had an old fashioned window with a hand crank so I could have smiled and rolled the window up on the guy’s smirk. Admittedly, it may just have been his face, but when you get to that point, everyone is suspect!

So now it’s Tuesday. I have my car back. My windows work (my credit cards don’t)! And for the moment, I’m holding fast to the belief that three’s a charm. Although no one had to shuffle off anywhere in the telling of this tale, I’m really, really hoping my next piece of luck will be good! You know, like they discover the cure for cancer is a foot stomping, curse-word tossing tantrum!

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Amoena USA’s updates for 2013 – Happy New Year!

I love how January feels so refreshed and full of hope. Or, at least it feels like the proverbial  “clean slate.” I always make an extra effort to put things on my desk in order before I leave for the winter holidays, so I’ll be welcomed back in the right state of mind.

www.amoena.us new homepageAmoena has refreshed in another way, too, which you may already have seen: Our new website! We hope you’ll really love it. We redesigned it with you in mind, so it showcases our products with larger photos, and the text is easier to read. It’s also more robust, I think — more inspiring, informative articles (with more to come!) to keep you coming back. For a sampling, check out:

One note about Amoena Life magazine: We usually publish in January, but this year, we have moved that date out. Look for your new issue in mid-March. We’ll still spotlight our Club Amoena Essay Contest Winner, and you’ll finally see the articles we’ve been working on since mid-2012! We’re sorry for this delay, but we’re hopeful the new schedule, March and September, will serve readers better by alerting you to bras and breast forms that are available in stores at the time of publication.

Now, if I can just figure out what’s going on with the extra-bold font on this blog (what happened, WordPress?), we will be all set for a clean and beautiful 2013!

Wishing the same for you. Please let us know what you think of the new look and the new year so far!

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