hi there! i'm michelle, southern california based photographer and curator of the coco gallery.

welcome to my blog where i share my life, my latest adventures, photo projects, random nuggets and the occasional stray thoughts.

for clients: to view my portfolio just click on this link - theCOCOgallery.com. to book sessions please send me a message through theCOCOgallery.com or contact me via michelle@thecocogallery.com | 949.734.0604

Friday, December 13, 2013

freedoms, priveleges, rights and taking it for granted

last night we saw 12 Years A Slave.  there were two other couples in the theater with us and one of them left before the half way mark.  i was emotionally shredded by this film and i'm grateful.  curtis and i are both so fortunate to live in a time and place where we are free to be who we are and to be with each other.  being born into freedom such as ours does not allow us to truly appreciate the pain of those before us who lived and fought for the freedom we have today that we take for granted.

we are an entitled society.  nobody can raise a finger against an animal without being called cruel.  the workplace is a bed of eggshells between men and women who have to tread cautiously with their words and relationships lest the gender bias be an issue.  media is full of sensitivities regarding race and color.  and now, finally, sexual preference is getting its protection from discrimination.  we've come a long way.  some issues still require resolution and we aren't done with working out exactly what equality means but we've come a long way.  and yet, not enough has been done and not enough time has passed for the wounds that have festered to be healed.

curtis and i watched that movie, fingers gripped, shoulders tensed, tears streaming down our faces.  aghast and in disbelief over the senselessness of it all. how one human being can treat another so inhumanely defies logic.  that movie was set in 1841, one hundred seventy two years ago.  that's not that long.  that's maybe three lifetimes.  that's curtis' grandfather four times removed, living in that life.  let's put that into perspective, i myself, met my grandmother three times removed.  so yeah, that's not that long ago.  when you consider how close that still is historically it rips the mind to understand where we are as a society today.  to look at the existing issues with color and race and in some countries, gender and class.  all this mind bending really put me into a funk and we've been having discussions including the effect of all this on our own children.

lots of ranting, lots of perspectives and i'm rambling but then at one point i paused.  curtis and i have closed the circle in our own way.  i am a product of the privileged class.  the spaniards ruled over the philippines for over 400 years.  they had their own version of oppression mostly based on social class and foreign influence.  my spanish lineage puts me on the side of the oppressor and curtis' lineage we have known to be on the side of the slaves.  the two of us marrying freely and having been accepted openly by our families and communities, there is justice in that.  all of a sudden, in my head, our union has so much more weight.  it bears significant value.  that gives my mind a peaceful harbor from the chaos this movie has rent in my soul.

so many lives have suffered and fought for the freedom we have today.  the legacy of our parents and the generations of parents before them is the life i have now.  i am humbled and grateful.  this thought brings me to another pause.  no matter what differences i may have had with my parents.  there is one truth that should be known.  they gave up their life of luxury to give my sister and i a chance.  i hope that they can say their sacrifices were not wasted.  i may have taken the freedom for granted but i feel that i have lived my life well and that they can be proud.  for all the opportunities open to me, i am forever grateful to my parents.  may i have the strength to give to my children as they have given to me.

from my phone :. instagram

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Give thanks by giving . Philippines needs help

To my close friends, acquaintances and even those friends that only know me through online communication. Some of you have been kind enough to take some time to ask about my family in the Philippines and fortunately my immediate family is in Manila and Manila has been spared the ripping devastation that typhoon Haiyan has left behind but we still have family and friends in the danger zone. We’ve posted in the missing person list that Google has put up hoping to hear from them soon. One of our good friends was last heard from saying that she’s prepared with food and supplies and that they’ve pretty much battened down the hatches. Her home is on the coast of Guiuan and the news is just now coming out from her town. The reporters are saying that Guiuan, the little town where it was reported that the storm first touched down, was very aware of the storm coming and they had done their preparations.  They are a town that is accustomed to typhoons hitting their area, being in the storm belt, and they were confident that they were somewhat prepared.  Evacuations to the usual centers were done like the schools, churches and similar solid structures.  The catastrophe is that these very structures sustained serious damage as well and the people seeking shelter there were scattered like ants.  With no communication coming in our out of the area they are stranded, expecting immediate help and relief, not realizing that they are just one small town out of the hundreds that were hit.   The only structure that was left intact is the airport strip. We can’t find her and we haven’t heard from her. We have extended family in Leyte where the eye of the storm pretty much hit. And we’re holding our breath to hear from them as well. Our family at home is in nervous chaos waiting to hear from the people we know and love. 

I know you guys see me as just this crazy chick and maybe I’m funny & quirky sometimes and my kids are cute. But right now I’m just crying. It’s a mess out there and I don’t really know how to help. They’re saying that there might me a TEN THOUSAND body count. I hope to god they are exaggerating the number coz that just seems insane. This little country gets hit with 20-26 typhoons a year and earthquakes too; and even when the last bad one hit they managed to bounce back, survive and keep on with a happy face. I know that this too shall pass but right now they need help so desperately. There is no food, water, shelter or medicine for HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE. The medical teams are operating in the dark since there’s no electricity and candles are even scarce. There’s looting and robbery as the survivors struggle to stay alive. 

My family and I are putting together our own fund to send food with our friends to the devastated areas. Thanks for giving me your attention for a bit. Likes are appreciated, so are hugs, warm thoughts and prayers, sharing would be nice too but really they need more than that. They need us to act and help. They need food, water, medicine, money. They need help right now more than anything. I hope you can find it in you to contribute some help.

I can’t help but feel as fortunate as I sit here at my desk, cozily wrapped up in my soft blanket and my child tugging at my arm for attention. Today will go on for me as it always does but my mind and my heart are with my friends and family back home. Please, if you know me or someone from the Philippines or if you just want to help … my little country needs all it can get right now. With thanksgiving right around the corner maybe I can appeal to you guys by asking you to give thanks by giving a little. Here’s all the different ways you can help. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

life :. vapid

sometimes i fall into a pit of gray where life is uninspired, dull and boring.  i question my talent and i judge myself harshly.  i look around for inspiration and in the search i find more reason to hate myself and my work.  i'll encounter a glimmer of hope but the instant is fleeting and momentary, like the dreams i never remember when i wake up.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Life :. Pondering over WHY and HOW

why would a beautiful young girl resort to cutting herself to vent frustration?  how do i get through to her?  what could i tell her that would make her wake up and shake her out of it?  how do i show her that i understand what she's going through and that i get it?  how do i tell her that it really does get better?  how do i make sure that my own children don't fall into this outlet for frustration and what do i say to them if they do?

i met that beautiful young girl earlier this year.  when i asked her why she thought she was doing it she gave me some vague "i dunno" and some wishy-washy pointing in the direction of some acquaintances that might have been the cause but no defined notion of what they did.  i didn't sense abuse (verbal, mental or physical); not that i'm a mental health expert or anything but after talking to her it seemed like she had a lot of pent up and built up teenage angst.  she's twelve.  the whole conversation stayed with me for weeks and really had me thinking.  i'm a long way off from raising teens but i wanted to ponder over it now.  best be prepared yes?

coincidentally, i just had a conversation with my brother-in-law about our recent bouts of depression a few weeks before i met this girl.  we talked about our individual frustrations and how we deal with it.  i've since realized that regardless of age, as humans, we all have a hole that needs to be filled.  not to over simplify but a lot of it seems to boil down to a need for success and acknowledgement.  children love to be praised, teenagers love recognition, adults live for it.  some need small gestures like a hug or pride in themselves or a simple "fb like" and others need grander gestures like trophies, money, power and fame. various levels but my point is ... it's basically the same.  i feel like the things she's going through, i'm still going through.  the difference is that i know the source of my frustration and when i'm sick of it i can step away and focus on something else.  i can bury myself in a book, a movie a bag of chips or a very expensive trip to target.  my brother-in-law hits the gym.  i know others that would turn to drugs or alcohol and others yet that become workaholics, food bingers or serial daters.  i was telling him that this driving need and the temporary solutions we take to resolve our lack of fulfillment are so "self" centric.  a lot of times we don't even know what's wrong; we just stop the gap with whatever is in our reach.  i would think that for our younger generation especially, identifying the problem might be the biggest part of the problem.  maybe it's worse.  maybe it's knowing the problem but not being able to admit it.  on top of that, the set of options available to our kids for that stop gap is a smaller list.

i wondered if it wouldn't be a more productive temporary solution to focus on helping others as an option.  it might give a two fold return.  i know that when i've focused on helping someone else for a change i learn something about myself in the process.  selfishly, their success also feels like my own and it's great motivation.  parents put their kids in sports, arts and other extra curricular activities which are great ways to develop confidence, fill that need for acceptance and accomplishment.  in my formative years, the nuns that ran the school took our extra curriculars one step further by giving us little projects to care about that were centered on someone else.  we would sponsor a child's education or go help with a poverty stricken family.  we would visit schools to share our education with less fortunate children.  it gave us a glimpse at life outside our box and something to ponder over.  it didn't make sense to me then but the experiences stayed with me and actually... it makes a whole lot more sense now.

if only life could be this peaceful always...

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Life :. Parenting Worries . Racial Awareness

the list of worries that a parent goes through seems endless.  keeping them physically safe is one of the simpler matters to maneuver.  i lose more sleep thinking about side stepping drugs, peer pressure, social media, and sex.  this week i started reading Nurture Shock: New Thinking About Children.  i'm only three chapters in and it's already added to my list of concerns.  i can't believe i forgot about helping them through the race issue.  i want to slap myself in the face over my naivete.

i grew up in the philippines and we have our own issues on social class and skin color.  my own experiences growing up cannot possibly compare to being a black kid in a dominantly white environment in america.  according to the theories and studies in this book, despite our integrated school environment children will naturally want to categorize themselves.  i now understand it as being no different than the boys vs girls thing and we all know that at a certain age little girls hate boys and vice versa.  we all think it's cute and we all know that in time those feelings will change.  skin color is just another way for them to associate and group.  there is no malice in it i don't think (at least not initially) but it should definitely be discussed.  we openly talk to our children about boys and girls and how they are different.  we even ask them to identify themselves as one or the other.  on the topic of skin color though we don't discuss it.  even in our house we haven't brought it up at all.  my brother in law is apple pie white with his blond hair and blue eyes.  curtis is half black.  i'm an amalgam of european and filipino.  some people don't even know how to categorize me when they see me.  it makes our household a melting pot of skin colors. i guess we figured it was a non-issue and therefore doesn't warrant a discussion.  THAT's naive.  the truth is that my girls are going to come across skin color discussions at some point in their young lives.  dia took after me and has a much lighter complexion while kaya took after curtis with her beautifully chocolate tones.  we live in an environment that's got a great assortment of cultures but we're short on african americans for sure.  apparently the concerns just might be greater for dia, my lighter skinned child, than for kaya (check out the story of twin boys daniel and james).

kids operate under a very simple logic.  they won't account for the mixed race of their parents; they just go by what's obvious, skin color.  even curtis whose mother is white, identifies himself as a black man.  it's just the obvious choice i suppose.  i guess i kinda do that too by calling myself asian even though i'm about 40% european but that's coz i grew up there.  even that's not right though coz technically filipinos are pacific islanders.  at some point i think we started saying "who cares" and then chose not to discuss it.  our kids are of mixed descent and that's that.  but kids being kids, they have no filter.  cruelty might be their first experience and i don't want that to be a barrier to progress.  naturally i also want to protect them and i certainly don't want my kids to be the source of the issue either.  many will say that we're operating in a much more varied racial environment now.  yes, that's definitely true but visually... we're still short on the darker skin tones in my neighborhood.  i just want to be prepared by making my children aware just as i now am.  the book of course cautioned against negative anticipation. kind of like going to a psychic and being told that you'll be hit by a car and then spending your time looking for the car.  i don't want to teach them that the world will be cruel.  the world can be cruel regardless of color.  i just want to teach them to be confident women of character.

i'm a worrier it's true.  i've been talking to curtis about this book as i complete each chapter.  i can't say that it really tells me how to handle the issues it brings up.  it's more about giving me a sense of awareness.  on this race issue i am now officially VERY aware.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

a gallon of sanity and a break

i've been such a stress bucket lately.  dia will only let me work in 2 min spurts.  no joke.  it's gotten me into such a frazzled funk. even now i have dia screaming bloody hell, trying to climb onto my lap so she can type on my keyboard as i "pen" this in.

last night i texted curtis a honey do list at about 8pm.  he was on his way home from the gym.  "honey can you pick up some bananas.  while you're at it grab a gallon of sanity and a break would be nice."  from there i went on to tell him i was ready to curl up into a ball and cry.  it's been tough to not have any personal space or even a moment to think long enough to string some maybe intelligent words together.  it's been rough.

today curtis sent me out of the house to get some work done so i took my laptop to panera.  i didn't bring my power cord on purpose.  i wanted to make sure i used my time efficiently and if the power was going to run out on my laptop then i had no time to waste.  fb was definitely off.  it was perfect!  i headed home after i was done feeling so much better.  it's not like i needed that much time either.  i just needed ENOUGH time to string a couple of intelligent thoughts together.  to show my appreciation i brought curtis lunch.  i guess he wasn't done.  i was back at 1pm and he told me i had to go pick up something for him at 3.45.  i headed out to the parcel pickup address and found myself at the door to a massage place.  he booked a relaxation massage for me.  i feel loved and i soooo soooo sooo appreciate him.

yeah... she's cute.  don't be fooled.  she's a demanding lil terror too.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

conquering fears and coming out a winner

i've raised my kids to be fearless.  i'm trying anyway.  i had such a sheltered upbringing and it's a major source of frustration for me that i'm not that adventurous and almost over cautious.  it's very much an inner struggle.

the opportunity to shoot a wedding in italy came up and i jumped on it.  didn't even hesitate for a second but as the date drew near i was experiencing anxiety.  i had only traveled internationally by myself once before and it was to go see my cousin in france.  getting in and out of planes is no big deal and going to a non-english speaking country but being accompanied by a resident?  well that doesn't count as scary at all.  this trip however was going to require me to travel solo to a country i've never been to before.  they didn't all speak english and i had to maneuver the train system by myself with ALL my luggage and camera gear.  my online searches on this process was turning up some horror stories.  i was losing sleep.  not gonna lie... two days before i left i was kicking myself over taking the job.  what was i thinking?!

it's a good thing i'm not one to back out of a challenge.  one baby step at a time i got through that trip and had a blast!  i loved it so much i would sign up to do that once a month if i could!  actually, i'm not sure that curtis would let me ... but it would be awesome!  don't get me wrong, there were some hairy moments there.  hauling gear solo through that train system was a chore.  thank god for kind strangers and in some cases creative entrepreneurs (aka bag carriers for money).  oh yeah .. i totally went there.  you do what you have to do.  of course luck was totally on my side too.  by sheer coincidence, sitting next to me on the train was kim maru, an amazing canadian wedding photographer.  what were the odds of that?!  thank god for her coz she gave me the crash course on the train system that came in really handy during the transfers.

the amalfi coast couple was amazing and so accommodating.  never mind that my brain was confused the whole time i was with them; their british accent coupled with their filipino features was throwing me for a loop.  between them and their family i felt soooo at home and so at peace.  the couple i met in venice came with an entourage of 15 friends to help them get in and out of the most well thought out 4 outfits complete with hair and makeup change.  it was an instant styled shoot and i was in heaven!  i wanna be part of their gang.  like i said ... conquer fears = winner.

here's a few of my favorite images from the trip..

Monday, August 26, 2013

missing corporate life

"people don't have to like you for you to be successful".  these are the words of wisdom from my husband.  he's trying to talk me out of my funk.

a large part of my happiness comes from validation from my peers and meaningful relationships.  i'm sure it's true for a lot of people but i can count in one (maybe two hands) the number of meaningful relationships i have outside of my family.  and validation right now is highly elusive.

when i left corporate life five years ago it was out of exhaustion.  i worked my way up the corporate ladder.  i put in my dues.  whatever job i stepped into i rolled up my sleeves and got my hands dirty.  i powered through whatever it was and i did it fast and i did it hard.  i was a workaholic.  i was happy.  the goal was not money, fame or fortune; it wasn't a title or a pat on the back.  i really and truly enjoyed what i did.  i was good at it so i enjoyed it and so success followed. (that's normal right?  enjoying something coz you're good at it?)  the problem was that i  lived, ate and breathed work and then i looked up.  that little break, that pause, it was just enough time to realize that i was actually running on fumes and quite burnt out.  so i took a break.  a break... that's kind of a joke.  i went from corporate to running a photography business when i didn't know how to run a business OR do photography.  i had to go from zero to sixty in a blink because i was impatient and crazy.

i miss the corporate life.  i've never worked so hard in my life as i have these last few years.  talk about run down and exhausted.  the artist's life is tough.  running an art business is even tougher.  so much of my identity and self confidence in the past was built on the foundations of my career and the achievements associated with it.  success was measured so easily in a the structured environment where milestones could be documented by the completion of projects and rewarded with titles and monetary returns.  when mistakes were made corrective action could be taken with guidance.  teams struggling through the ebb and flow of challenges built camaraderie and meaningful relationships.  but my current world is subjective and lonely.  i am my harshest critic and my worst enemy.  the clients that i had when i started enjoyed my images but had no clue that my photography was beyond mediocre plus i was affordable.  my husband was my biggest supporter but he knew as much as i did and only when i grew did his taste get more refined.  we learned together.  as i progressed i got better clients but they are still not the ultimate say on how well i'm doing.  it's totally a chicken and egg situation.

i have two ways to go about measuring my success in this field.  i can look at my bookings which only defines how many people are willing to pay me to shoot their weddings.  so then i wonder if i'm good or i'm cheap.  or i can rely on my peers (that is to say, fellow photographers) as mirrors.  if THEY say i'm good i first have to measure the weight of their opinion and then figure out if they really mean it or they're just being nice and then i can maybe draw some solid conclusions that i can build confidence on.  that's a lot of measuring and a lot of exposure all for the sake of validation.  that's me putting myself out there and being vulnerable for longer than i'm comfortable with and opening myself up to so much rejection with no clear direction either on how i could improve.  i'm exhausted and emotionally drained.  the newbies want to be me and i want to be the photog elite.  it's a love triangle.

seriously!  is this just the girl in me?  yes, i want people to like me but i also want to be respected for my work.  at the same time... if it's crap, then tell me it's crap and tell me what's crap about it so i can work on that.  will i cry about it?  yep.  you better believe i will.  sometimes i have to hurt to improve.  but all this guessing, this loneliness, this feeling of being in limbo, the psychology of acceptance or lack thereof.  this photography business is more high school than high school ever was for me.  i really wish i didn't care.  i wish i didn't need the validation.  but i do and i'm having a tough time filling that need.  i'm wobbly at best building myself up on a house of cards.  i miss corporate life.  i miss things being black and white.  clock in, clock out, collect paycheck, have beer with friends.

Friday, June 28, 2013

mutual respect

the philippines i grew up in was (and still is) dominantly catholic.  separation of church and state over there is more of a suggestion rather than a rule as proven by the fact that divorce is not recognized by the law.  i was educated in a convent school run by nuns.  i was born into the faith, baptized into it without choice.  truthfully, even if i was given the choice, who was i to select a different faith from what i (or my kin) had known?  i went to mass more than you were supposed to.  i was so immersed in a lifestyle based on a faith that by my sophomore year in high school i had thought that i wanted to become a nun myself.  my school was fair and taught us about other religions without bias.  but it was a scholarly approach.  we were studying history and technicality.  we didn't really delve into the lifestyle of say a buddhist or alternative christian sects.  in fact, as far as the community i was surrounded by was concerned, anyone that wasn't of our faith was viewed with suspicion.  and if you were christian but didn't believe in mary then you were frowned on.  that's what i saw around me anyway.  personally i accepted how other people wanted to live their lives.  it was of no consequence to me though i was always curious about the differences.

the more you learn, the more questions you have.  when you know nothing, you just accept what's in front of you.  when i look back at my life and my relationship with religion, that's the conclusion i come to.  i was catholic because the stage was already set for me.  and then i left the country.

i've heard this before, i can't remember where from but it's said that parents can only teach their children the way and it's up to them to use those lessons to guide their lives and make their own decisions.  there is so much truth in that.  i have a moral compass.  it's a conglomeration of lessons gleaned from my parents, friends, religion, society, media, everything and everyone i've come into contact with.  i decided some time ago that religion was no longer a dominant element in my life.  my family, as fervent as they are in their faith, has been wonderful about respecting that decision.  they don't press me or guilt me into subscribing to the faith i was raised in.  if i joined a different faith it would probably make them uneasy but i know that they would find a way to accept that decision as well.  i am who i am because of them and i feel that they are confident in the fundamental structure that they "built" and so they trust me when i make these types of decisions.  i love that about them.  i hope to be the same with my own children some day.

and so i come to the point of this post.  my immediate circle of friends and family know me and know all this (obviously) and so my life is at peace.  life is a maze of paths and every now and then i cross paths with people whose lives are not only dominated by religious faith but they feel compelled to convince others to join them on their chosen path.  it's exhausting to me to have to explain to someone my own personal journey to my current position.  i don't want to debate over differences, offend anyone with my strongly worded opinions or hurt anyone's feelings with my indifference.  i'm just not that interested or passionate about this topic enough to expend energy on it.  on fb, i have a few acquaintances that like to quote the bible often or make statements that are based on faith.  i ignore it or if it's too common of an occurrence i simply remove them from my feed.  i really like to keep things SIMPLE.  so, when i meet people i do the same.  instead of getting into it, i just get off that path, i don't engage with that person or i avoid the topic or we agree to disagree.  i respect their stand.  i applaud their conviction.  i ask for nothing in return other than to respect my choices as well.  but... if they push, prod or insist ... well then, i can't be held responsible for the turn of the conversation if it gets heated.

i have to keep everything simple coz these two dominate my life, time, energy, thoughts and decisions.

Monday, June 17, 2013


the last time the girls were at nana's house they came home with a partially eaten bag of chicago mix popcorn (a beautiful mix of cheddar popcorn and caramel popcorn).  i rue the day i tried this thing!  there was only a handful left in a very large bag.  it was just enough to get me hooked.  the perfect mix of sweet and salty sang hymns to my filipino palate.  so i went on a hunt for this thing.  i figured, knowing my aunt and seeing the size of this bag, that she got it from costco.  i checked out 2 different costco's for this stuff and when i failed to find it i called out to her to ask her where she got it from.  HER costco carries the addicting things.  and the filipino in HER not only told me where it was she also bought me THREE bags of it!  damn.  i can't stop thinking about them and i won't stop eating them until they're all gone.  try as i might... my weak disposition is no match for the mighty power of the cheddar-caramel call.  i just have a bag and a third to go ... in the meantime... i'm spending every weekday morning at 7am on the $50 excercise bike my brother-in-law bought me on craig's list (bless his heart).  i cannot fail that mission or i suffer a popcorn hoarders misery.

p.s. don't use this post as a hint to try the popcorn.  don't join me on this treck to cheddar-caramel abyss.  close your ears to it's call.  don't say i didn't warn you.

Monday, June 10, 2013

envy can be expensive

curtis and i wear very simple bands.  mine is just a thin, silver band that's beautifully square but with a twist.  his thicker band matches mine.  it suits us perfectly.  it's all i wanted although there was a time when my girlfriends kept telling me that i deserved a diamond and should fight for it early on or i would never get one.  now don't hate on my girls.  these are just some of the silly discussions we sometimes get into.  i won't deny that i deserve the bling and i won't lie and say that i didn't fall into the peer pressure.  in fact, after looking at my peers i got envious.  i pouted and batted my eyelashes and asked for that diamond ring at one point.  i didn't get it.  i want to say that at the time curtis ignored all my girlish whiles.  i was butt hurt i tell ya but only for a couple of days.  i guess it wasn't really that important to me since i moved on fairly quickly.  looking back now i'm glad he ignored my silliness but was still hurt that i got ignored.

in my line of work i see a LOT of rings.  it's one of the first things the girl and i talk about.  we giggle over the proposal, i marvel at the craftsmanship and beauty of the jewelry selected.  i window shop without having to step into a jewelry store.  each one is unique, beautiful and personally selected.  i meet them (the rings) for the first time during the consult and then we get into a deeper (more photo connected) relationship on the wedding day.  it's not weird.  i light them, pose them, talk them into a wink and a smile just like their beautiful owners.  we bond and i love them all.  luckily this relationship is enough that i don't get envious of their owners and my own ring and i are still at peace with each other.

one of my girl friends once told me that whenever the need to shop would grip her like a vice during "broke season" (most girls know about this phase); she would go online.  she would "window shop" via all her online stores to her heart's content.  fill up the shopping cart(s) to more than her credit card's capacity and then instead of hitting the PAY button she would exit out.  it fulfilled her need to shop but didn't hurt the wallet.  it made me laugh.  as i consider now that maybe seeing all these beautiful rings on all these beautiful girls is my version of window shopping, i'm not laughing anymore.  don't laugh.  retail therapy is as therapeutic as envy is expensive.

all these thoughts randomly surfaced last night.  i got out of the shower and HAD to tell curtis about it but emphasized that i still didn't mind not having gotten that diamond but wished that he could have at least entered into the conversation with me as to why i couldn't have it.  he smiled his sly smile and said that he had been hunting for a ring to go with my existing band.  i smiled back. if he bought it for me i wouldn't turn it away lol.  and yes, i would love it.  but i don't need it and probably wouldn't wear it everyday.  see?  i've moved on.  am i overly practical?  maybe ... but sap that i am i'm melting over the sentiment.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

starting again

it's been THAT long.  as in ... over a year since the last entry.  i never anticipated that having the second child would impact my time more than the one kid did.  now that i say that out loud i wanna slap myself.  D U H!

well, it's rather nice that i'm starting back up on my personal blog right after dia turned one.  i like that.  i'm into meaningful time increments.  it's also appropriate since this entry is about getting myself back and it's taken this long to get settled again.

in the notes section of my facebook page you'll find an entry for "25 random things about me".  it was one of those tagging-participation things i used to entertain when i had time (and back when facebook was still new and novel).  the first 2 entries i put into that list looks like this:

  1.  i know people think i'm skinny but my greatest challenge is keeping my belly smaller than my chest. 
  2.  at one point i considered getting a boob job to keep the proportions in check (cheater i know). it was paris hilton and kate moss that convinced me that flat can be sexy. so i'm back to working on flattening the belly. 
clearly, the entry was written before i had children.  after two c-sections the talk of surgical alternatives was back and i wasn't kidding anymore.  every girl in my family is well endowed and somehow the fates ran out of boob supply when i got created.  not sure how that happened but i got jipped.  i've fluctuated between wanting more and being happy with what i had until i breastfed the girls.  to know the potential is to know what i missed out on.  then cruelly life takes that away and then you get even less than what you had to begin with (or you still have more but it's become misshapen).  it's simply mean.  to top it off the c-sections (and 2 pregnancies) really really really messed up the ab area that was less than ideal to begin with.  LORDY!  really?!  that kind of crap just screws with your mental health.  know what i mean?

there's a sentiment i'm trying to convey here and i've rewritten the sentence five times already because i can't tiptoe past the vanity of it and i cower in shame.  forgive my bluntness but truthfully, although motherhood has done wonders for me as a person a part of me shriveled up into a ball when the strains of pregnancy and child birth wrecked certain physical attributes.  i HATE what happened to my middle section and my chest left much to be desired.   the changes really did a number on me and destroyed my tenuous hold on physical confidence.  please know that to admit this openly it's like nails on chalkboard for me.   if only those nuns hadn't pounded humility and the shame for vanity i wouldn't be choking on this right now.  it's so true though.  i would venture to say that a lot of moms feel this way.  i know it when i photograph them for boudoir and glamour shoots.  i know it when we joke about how to pose them and what photoshop can do.  i knew it when  i had to dig into some deep reserves to get my own shoot done.  i knew it when i leaned on photoshop for my own shoot and realizing that editing myself is harder (and harsher) than editing others.   i KNOW that part of my balance was off because i was unhappy with the way i looked and i couldn't get back to the way i was (on my own).  this mental block affects my daily routines because i have to get dressed every day.  i have to look at a closet of clothes i don't enjoy because i wear clothes that hide me.  it leaks into my relationships and how i perceive others viewing me.  it affects my sex life because i don't feel up to it when i feel heavy.  i can keep going but i won't.  suffice it to say that my physicality affects more than i should let it but THERE IT IS. 

last christmas i told curtis that i would start saving up for a mommy makeover (usually this means a breast augmentation and some kind of abdominal surgery).  i had been stewing over it for a while, joked about it even.  i decided it was time to set that project into motion and the first step was to verbalize the plan.  in my culture this is one of those hush-hush things you do, fodder for gossip and things that other girls do but you and your circle don't.  it falls into the category of "i wish" but you really say that dismissively.  so maybe my declaration for this project was a little dismissive as well.  i loosely gave myself a year to save up.  the only thing in my way was a list of new camera equipment and the ability to raise the funds and FEAR.  i lost my mom to a tummy tuck.  

...and then there was curtis.  for my 40th birthday he surprised me with a card and a statement ... "go make your appointment".  REALLY?!?!  ok.  so i did. 

i hunted through my friends to find the right surgeon.  i needed someone that understood what i've been through without having to be walked thru it.  someone that understood me and that i could trust.   i was looking for someone who knew how to shape me the way i knew how use photoshop on my clients (tastefully).  i wanted someone who got it.  once i found her i jumped right in.  there's a lot more to be said here on my mental rebalance and physical reinvention.  i still have an internal battle with vanity=shame.  the path to happiness and confidence will have to be a blog post for another day but the bottom line is I'M HAPPY.  i've reclaimed a part of me that's been missing for a while and i've welcomed her back (just in time for the recent trip to bali).  this feeling i can speak of with no shame and out of the hush.  and now my dear steph is already talking about my next boudoir shoot lol.

you're going to ask me who my surgeon was.. her name is Dr. Tenley Lawton.  i LOVE her and her incredible staff of fantabulous women.    i'll be eternally grateful to them and to my friend that introduced me to them. call her.  meet her.  you'll love her too.  tell her i sent  you. i don't get anything for it.  just sharin ;)  i'm also eternally grateful to my dear dear curtis for giving me this wonderful gift.

i still shy away from getting my picture taken but here are some bali photos taken by my sweet friend chelsea with her iphone