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

Saturday, May 5, 2018

it doesn't have to be mutually exclusive

"too pretty to be intelligent"
"she's attractive so she must be a snob"

where the hell do we learn to create these kinds of associations? i can say in honesty and with much shame, that i have thought these things of some women. i might not have said it this way, but the internal dialog and the final conclusion plays out pretty much like those two sentences. in fact, i have two girls in my circle of friends who i clearly remember, surprised me so much when i realized how sweet, down-to-earth and street smart they were. it was so very wrong of me to assume that because they were beautiful they would be A. unapproachable and B. simple minded. 

some other things of note:
  • the fact that they were the complete opposite of what i expected made me fall in love with who they really were even more. 
  • after observing their manner, i also realized that they seem to have a studied way of being EXTRA nice. as in, nicer than was normal but incredibly genuine as well.
of course, the analyst in me has to dwell on this even longer and the girl in me tends to internalize.

i know i'm intelligent. it's not a subjective observation it is merely a statement of fact proven by a list of achievements. i know that i'm personable. that's definitely subjective but ... let's go by what people have said and count that as truth. i know that i'm not un-attractive. attractiveness is a highly subjective quality and it's not something you openly discuss with friends or strangers unless you're in a contest that requires explicit judgement of that particular attribute. permutations on that combination elicit different reactions from people. the general guideline for most is that we want to be likeable. it's a quality that many people strive for. how easy it is to attain that quality seems to linger around a specific  balance in the ratio of how attractive, how personable and how intelligent one is. likeable is related to reachable and real .. in other words, perfect is impossible and could not possibly be genuine and the closer you are to it the less likeable you are.

this realization led to my own conclusion on why i felt compelled to rough up my persona with qualities that are in direct contrast to the usual expectations for someone who looks like me. i curse like a sailor. i chop my hair off. i've assumed a sportier demeanor, almost tomboyish. i wear contradictions on a whim. i do whatever i can to stay unpredictable.

now, i'm not saying that i'm by any means perfect. but i've been blessed with intelligence and a fair share of pretty and now looking back, i can see that people have at times treated me unfairly as a result. i've felt the pressure to be perfect since i was a kid and i've also felt the sting from those that instinctively recoiled from these blessings that can turn out to be curses. it's lonely when people treat you like a snob before they get to know you. it's work to have to prove that you can be both intelligent and attractive. it's also work to prove that you can be genuine when others have already stereotyped you. i can say that i've taught myself to never look up or around to see if people are judging me coz i'm so used to it being there. it hurts to see it. and when you look you find. so i just stopped looking.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

mother's day and my possibly unpopular opinion

national holidays that land on week days calls for a day off of work. mother's day is on sunday, technically a work day for us moms .. so mother's day should mean i get to take a day off right?

more on this day off concept.

what i want most for mother's day, aside from some sweet acknowledgement of all that i do for our family, is a break. i would LOVE a day where i could sleep in, couch potato, be waited on hand and foot and if i spill something on that hand or foot, someone else would pick up the mess (constantly). i want a break from wiping butts and boogers, house chores, being at everyone's beck and call, AND all the worries that come with taking even a second off from all the mommy responsibilities that i lay on myself. in other words, i would like somebody to take over ALL that i do, with no grumbling, for just a day.

that said, curtis is in vegas with the boys, doing a boys weekend. he told me last week that they randomly came up with this plan. i raised my eyebrows and said "so you're telling me that you're taking off to go have fun. in vegas. with the boys. on mother's day weekend. ... really?" to which he replied with a pause and look that said "oh shit." and before he could even backpedal, i said, "it's fine. go do your thing. but i expect you to make up for this. don't ask me what i would like. what i want is for you to think about how much i mean to you and how much you have to make up for this. compensate in kind. i look forward to seeing what you come up with." and i smile.

nobody be upset with him. nobody commend me for being incredibly generous either. wedding season has begun and he's got a few solo parenting weekends in the horizon. giving him this time is just fair. besides, lunch and or dinner out is a sweet gesture but i cringe at the cost of going to a restaurant on this highly advertised day. and i really don't have the patience for the wait or the number of people that are out and about doing exactly that for all the celebrated moms out there. then there's the usual activity that i would have to do to get the family ready to even leave the house for a day that was supposed to be for me. what would be cool is if dad took the kids out for a bit (after managing all the chores i would have done), gave me the gift of peace which i could spend on the couch reading a book, doing my nails or surfing fb on my phone if i like. then letting me get ready at my leisure to take me out to a dinner (not on mother's day) with or without the kids.

i know that the popular opinion is that kids should spend mother's day with their moms. now that i'm a mom, i think i'll be looking forward to embracing that opinion when the kids are older. at some point they will stop clinging to me and start ignoring me. at some point they will grow up and move out. at this stage of our relationship, however, we are together a lot. their dependence on me is a daily, hourly, minutely thing and it's the definition of our time together. so on mother's day, i want to declare a holiday from them and have some time with me. i love them. i love them oh so much. but do you get what i'm saying? trust me, on father's day, curtis can take the day, go surfing, go biking, go out and do what he enjoys to his heart's content. i'll take one for the team and be home to manage everyone and every thing. i'll even take the trash out and wash the cars.

p.s. camera gear, shoes, phones and smart watches cost a wee bit more than flowers but they last much longer.

just me and the girls on an all girls weekend doing girl things and spending mother's day together...

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.