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

Thursday, April 30, 2015

tears for my little coffee bean

kaya's been getting up early. like 6.30 am early. i suspect it's to spend time with me. so we put her little beach chair in my bathroom. there she sits, wrapped up in her fuzzy robe, favorite toy in hand, watching and hanging out with me as i get ready in the mornings.

this morning as she sat on her little chair, she pointed to her foot and showed me a blister on her toe. she's peeling the skin with a worried look on her face. i tell her it's no big deal, i explain that it's just a blister and her toe is just making room for new skin. that little flap will peel off and new skin will be ready underneath. her face lit up. "will my skin be like everyone else?" my heart stopped. what was this question and where did it come from?

as i tried to recover from the shock and trepidation, i scrambled to come up with something normal to say. i didn't want to alarm her with all the feelings and thoughts that were going through me. my first questions made her clam up even though i was non-challant in my tone. it was clearly a topic that bothered her. slowly she told me that she felt that she was different from everyone else because in her words "my skin is brown". my heart was breaking. 

two years ago i read about children recognizing their similarities and differences amongst each other and using skin color as a method to organize themselves and create associations. i blogged about it here. it's human nature to create affiliations and skin color is an easy method to spot associations just as hair color, eye color or any other attribute is. not to say that bonds or groups are formed over these characteristics but when one of these things is not like the other ... well, then spotting the difference becomes obvious. and we live in a dominantly white community. in fact, kaya may be the only dark skinned child in her preschool. there was an entire chapter on this in that book Nurture Shock: New Thinking About Children. my worries began that day. and although, it prepared me somewhat for the possibility of the issue arising, i wasn't prepared to hear it so soon. i certainly wasn't prepared to see and feel the sadness in my little girl over the color of her skin. it took everything in me not to bundle her up and just take her away from it all. i dug around for something to say. something that would make her feel better. 

i started with ... "you and daddy have the same color". i moved into describing people we know and what color they were. then i asked her if she wanted to be a different color. she hesitantly answered yes. then we talked about what color she would like to be. i asked if she wanted to be blue or green or purple. then we giggled about how silly that would be and how different it would still be. then i told her that summer was coming and so many of her friends would be turning brown from the sun and all that time at the beach. then i told her that i loved her color and that i wished that i was that color too. and THAT made her look up at me and smile. she hugged me with relief. my sweet little coffee bean. 

this is the world we live in. this is the life she has to live.i will do my best to teach her to love her difference and to embrace it. i hope i can stay strong for both of us and not well up with tears as i'm doing now. i hope she will always be able to talk to me about these and any other worries she may have. little dia will have worries of her own. this one may not be one of them but i hope when the time comes, she and i can talk about whatever it is too. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

slow down with that "c" word

when doctors throw out that word "cancer" all the red lights go off...

it started with one spot on my jaw. the spot started growing and puffing up in the heat. i thought it was a rash of some kind. i didn't have time to pay attention to it. actually, maybe i just didn't make the time. then there was more than one spot. in fact there was starting to be a whole bunch of them. i finally remembered to ask the doctor about it and he dismissed me saying it was just age spots. interesting.

the following year, at my annual, i ask about the spots again, there's a few more now and they aren't going away and i'm not sold on them being age spots. he looks at my chart, tells me that i asked about them last year and he really thinks that's all they are (i'm making this guy sound kinder than he was. i really didn't like him but was too lazy to change).

last year, new insurance, new doctor, new opinions. this doctor doesn't want to be too dismissive so we start up on some creams to see what it does. nothing. a dermalogical referral, more creams and a biopsy later....

actinic keratosis aka precancerous lesions on the skin. primarily found on fair skinned people. there's that "c" word! totally buried in the middle of all that. but the truth is, it's NOT cancer. it COULD be, if i left it and didn't take care of it. bummed that i'm susceptible. i guess i'm more fair than i am brown. boo. so, yeah, not panicking. just taking care of it. so if you see me looking like i had a measles or chickenpox explosion on my face... it's just the cryotherapy treatment. it's not pretty but it's not permanent. more importantly it's taking care of the problem.