Now at 150 pounds, I’ve gained much more than weight.

at 150 pounds, I've gained much, much more than weight

I have a confession to make.

I haven’t been entirely truthful. With myself, I mean. What I’ve said to all of you, about aging, about weight, about embracing all of that and rocking it and loving it, all that has been true. But when I’ve said those things to myself, I’ve lied.

Until now.

I weigh 150 pounds. I weighed myself this morning, and have been in a fit all day over it. That number; that fucking number–it’s been driving me batSHIT! But just hours later, I think I’ve worked it out. (I’m a Virgo.) Try to follow me, because this is important for me to say, and although I could fill books with this stuff, I’ll try to keep it manageable.

When I was 13, I went out with a friend one night and hung around the movie theater. Some boys arrived; they were kind of tough boys, not like the ones I knew in my neighborhood. They all wanted to get with (and in 1973, that meant they wanted to hug her or kiss her) my friend, and nobody wanted to “get with” me.

“How the hell can that be?” I remember thinking to myself. “She’s not as pretty as I am; she’s kind of chubby; she’s got acne scars and frizzy hair. Why would someone choose her over me?”

I never forgot that night, and until recently, I never did understand why they chose my friend over me. It’s funny what we take away from our childhood experiences, isn’t it? My friend, my frizzy-haired, acne-scarred, kinda plumpy friend owned her body. You could just tell by looking at her. She was completely comfortable in her skin–in her flesh–and I, though petite next to her, was still decades away from getting the pink slip on my own body.

I took these photos today to show my husband just how much weight I’ve gained in the past few years. Thirty pounds. Thirty fucking pounds. Some of it is age; some of it is the meds I have to take for my back problems; some of it is the hormones I have to take so I can fucking sleep at night and not go apeshit on people during the day. And, let’s be real: some of it is Nutella and Hershey dark chocolate kisses.

I took these photos expecting to be repulsed by them. But on the contrary, I adore the way my body looks. I’ve never, never ever, looked like a woman. I’ve always been skinny and bony and angular, and even when I got breast implants in 1992 (I had them taken out three years later because I didn’t like men staring at me), I never felt sexy. The implants weren’t mine; they weren’t part of my body or my experience; they were just put there by someone who assured me that they were all that was missing.

Wow, was he off by a mile or what?

I love what Jessa in “Girls” said recently: “I’m going to look 50 when I’m 30…because I’m going to be so full of experiences.”

I don’t know if Lena Dunham meant that to be a literal statement by her character, but I love thinking of it literally. This (I say, while I’m holding my belly), this is a body full of experiences. This is a life well lived! This belly held my daughter while I was pregnant; it’s a pillow for my husband’s head, or my dogs’ napping bodies. This belly has my favorite tattoo on it: “this is who we are.”

This is who we are. How often do I need to look down and read that and remind myself why I got it in the first place.

I have gained weight. And I’ve gained experience. And I’ve gained friends. And talent and inspiration and love and respect too.

So am I just replacing one body-image stereotype for another? I don’t think so. When I was young I often had no idea what I was doing, or what I wanted to do. There were a lot of empty spaces, waiting for all the things that I’ve spent my adult years gathering [see above]. I’m full now. I’m full and I’m more (but not fully) complete. I’m softer. I’m sexier. I’m more confident. I’m happier. Yeah, I’m older, but I’m wiser. And anyone who knows me can totally be assured: I’ll never really grow up.

Maybe just…out.

the best studio dog & “husband possibly stealing limelight” story ever.

Ok, I have to tell you this story. It’s the cutest story ever (and even if you have to be me to think that, I don’t care, I’m going to tell it!).

Home studio. Dogs at home. Ok, you get the set up. About 6-8 months ago, Jack started doing this…thing, out of the blue. When I’d start to prepare for a shoot, going and turning on the power strips, adjusting the soft boxes, etc., Jack suddenly started sitting in the middle of the studio. (Actually, it started when I brought home that famous leather ottoman.) He’d just jump up there, and sit and wait for me to do my light check. He’d actually sit, or lay down, and wait until I got off a few frames, adjusted my light, etc. Only when I started to turn off the power strips did he get down off the ottoman and sit at my feet, waiting for, apparently, his pay 🙂

Without my even asking, Jack became my lighting stand-in, and he does this for me without fail, without my ever having to ask him, without ever even showing him how to do it. I’ve told Mr. Susan this story a bazillion times, but only last week did he actually see it happen.

I wanted to take the profile kissing shots of John and I before he left town, so I basically made the set and asked John to sit down on one of the apple boxes while I adjusted the light. While I was doing this, I noticed Jack circling John. He’d sit down, then get up; he was nervous or anxious; you could tell something just wasn’t sitting right with Jack. I laid the 2nd box down on its side and Jack jumped up there immediately and looked at the camera. He was actually freaking out a bit that John had seemingly taken his job! So I got off a few frames, turned the light off and he jumped down, and we went and got a treat. It was the first time that John had seen Jack do that (and honestly, I think that Mr. Susan thought I had probably exaggerated the story), but it was incredible.

In the photo below you can see him kind of wriggling on the box (he takes his job very seriously and he really is the best studio dog!) and actually, after I started to take a few shots, he got up and gave John a kiss on the mouth. LOL.

My dogs never fail to blow my mind; and come to think of it, neither does John.

Why you should ask your photographer to watermark your images.

Most people I’ve encountered in my nearly 6 years as a full-time photographer don’t want my watermark on their lo-res photos. Lo-res images are the ones that are too small to print; they’re used for emailing, phone wallpaper, and for sharing on places like Flickr, Facebook and Pinterest.

I’ve had people remove my watermark without my permission (now it’s written into my agreement that cannot be removed or cropped out). I can see, from a client’s viewpoint, why you wouldn’t want a watermark “messing up” your photo. But that watermark is a good thing. You may think that I, or your own photographer, are trying to grab some “free’ publicity, but that’s just BS. That watermark is there not just to help me, it’s helping you! It’s helping reduce the chances that that photo of your darling baby’s bare butt won’t be stolen and used by someone you don’t know for a purpose you didn’t approve!

Photo theft is a real problem for photographers–and our clients! I can’t even count how many horror stories I’ve heard about people finding out that their family photos have been using in marketing and advertising campaigns–usually overseas.

[Edited to add this part] And then there’s Pinterest. The fastest-growing social network there is. What’s Pinterest all about? Photos. Lots and lots of them. Pinterest is a lawsuit waiting to happen, and lots has been written about taking care when posting there, but people still share photos without a thought to credit them. I like when people share my photos; I do! It’s good publicity and honestly, it makes me feel good that someone likes my work enough to repost it. But when my work is reposted and text is added to it; that’s a whole other problem. I could spend 10 hours a day, every day, looking for all my images that have been changed by someone else, and I’d never find them all. It was always the assumption of those who don’t create the art that anything on the internet is free. Pinterest took that misguided notion and blew it up. So by adding a watermark, people know that it belongs to me. And even if they don’t credit me with then repin, my logo is there, representing me when I’m not around.

Yes, watermarks can be removed by someone who really really wants it gone. But look at it this way: let’s say you’re some skeezy marketing person (with questionable business practices) on the lookout for a free stock image for your new ad campaign, and you Google “baby’s bare butt”. You’re going to come back with page upon page of choices. You might see a really great one that you want, but it’s got a watermark on it. But hey! Right next to it is another that’s maybe not so great, but there’s no watermark. That means it’s free, right?

Um, no. Nothing you find on the internet is free unless that website or author explicitly states that it’s free. But in our example, you, the skeezy marketing person, you’re  probably going to pass over that really great one with a watermark and move onto the one that’s not so great but good enough, and that you can grab right off the search page, and BAM! Slap it into your campaign.

Take a look at the images below. I shot all of these, and my watermark is on all of them. Just think of how many ways they could be put to (illegal) use if they didn’t have a watermark on them. Note: When I post client images online, in my blog or on Facebook, etc., the watermarks are very much like they are below. When I watermark images for a CD, they’re smaller and always placed in the same spot, usually the lower corner. Will that make them completely safe from theft? No, but it will help.

When I take your portrait, I don’t have the right to sell or license that image to a company without your written permission. So if even I don’t have that right, why in the world would you let a total stranger on the other side of the world (or, let’s face it, just down the block) have it?

These are your photos, yeah? You paid for them. You have a say in how and where they are shared (I always talk to my clients about posting their photos to Facebook before I do it) and if you don’t want your photos shared online…well, you have a say in that as well!

A small watermark identifies the photographer, so a) if a legitimate company is interested in using your photo they know who to contact. (Seeing your dog’s or your kid’s image in an ad campaign is kind of cool, actually!) It also reduces (reduces, not eliminates) the chance that it will be used unscrupulously.

And you know what? It also gives your photographer the credit she/he deserves. It helps people like you find photographers you like, that you may want to hire!

Watermarks, in my opinion, are all good. If you’re purchasing hi-res files to make prints, the watermark will of course be removed. But for online sharing, for Google image search, for Pinterest, for all the ways that thieves are stealing your life images and making money off of them, believe me, it needs to be there.



A sadness that I wear like a coat

That’s what I have today. It’s not a new feeling; I’ve had it before, and I’m sure I’ll have it again. But the circumstances for this sadness are new to me. I don’t know what to do with this sadness, except let it be and learn from it. The lesson I learned today is that sometimes, you have to feel like a shitheel before you feel better.

As most of you know, we took in a little dog last week. She’s a Rat Terrier who came from the Seal Beach Animal Care shelter (which is no-kill). You can find the backstory on my Facebook page, because honestly, it’s too exhausting for me to relive in the retelling.

Yesterday I had to return Spider to the rescue. Wait. That’s not right: I decided to return her. If you’re thinking bad things about me, no worries: they can’t be any worse than I think of myself today.

She’s a wonderful dog. She’s already house-trained, and despite the nearly crippling fear she had in the shelter, she adapted within less than a week to having a home and loved laying by the fire at night. A few times she even crept up to sit on my lap. She let me pick her up (something she would never allow at the shelter) and give her kisses.

But she didn’t fit with my guys. There was fighting. I’ve seen dog fights; hell, there have been plenty in my house. But this was scary fighting because it terrified T and Jack.

You know the story of T and Jack right. I didn’t just rescue them. They rescued me. After my third dog in less than a year, my mija, my Gracie, died, I came upon these two and brought them home “for company” till I felt better. (That’s what my rescue friend said when she helped pile them into my car.) I didn’t want them. I didn’t like them. Their histories were unbearably sad (T was three when I got him and I was his first home. Jack was SIX. He spent the first 3 years of his life breeding in a puppy mill and then spent another three in the rescue circuit. Jack was SIX before he had a permanent home. And it was me.

To say I love them, to say we’ve bonded, is a vast and ridiculous understatement. Every day, everything I do for them is out of a love and a desire to make those bad years disappear. But there are still signs; lingering fears that pop up now and then that even after all this smothering love, they can’t shake.

I am always clear that my guys come first. When I started to fall for the little one, I felt a smidge guilty. But when the fights started, I was crushed. When I saw T run away and pee himself, I knew what I had to do. I had to return her.

Please don’t take away from this that Spider is a bad dog. She’s a great dog. Maybe here, with some time and training everyone could be made to get along. But, and I’m sure many will find this to be selfish, I feel that I owe my dogs more than “getting along.” It took us over four years to develop a routine in which they felt safe and secure, where they could be as happy as they could be. I should have known that another dog would break that routine, but we’ve fostered before, for short periods, and didn’t have fights. So Spider was probably the boss in her house. T and Jack have never been the boss anywhere but here. In fact, they’ve been the opposite. Would a trainer have worked? Maybe. But here’s my question (and it’s a toughie): how much do I frighten my dog before he’s ok? How many times does he have to run to the back room, or wet himself, because he’s frightened, in his home? To me, the answer is “not one.”

Ok, I’m rambling. I’m making excuses. I’m rationalizing. These are the things I tell myself when I wake up in the morning and put on this coat of sadness. Guilt. Regret. Whatever you want to call it, it’s raw and it’s shitty.

Here’s a picture of Spider. She is a great dog and will give you lots of love if you give her a little space, time and patience. If you know someone who’s thinking of getting a dog, tell them to go see her. And remember too that what you see in the shelter isn’t a dog’s true personality. So if she appears distant or skittish it’s because she’s frightened.

She’s at the Seal Beach Animal Care Center, 1700 Adolfo Lopez Dr., Seal Beach CA 90740. Telephone: 562-430-4993. Email:



People of Earth, I give you…Dog.

Why yes, that was the title of my post yesterday, and yes again! It was a photo that is strikingly similar to this one. Go see for yourself; it’s just one post back. It’s even got the same title, except for one little word.

love that photo I posted yesterday; it was from a session here in the studio last week with Summer and the Nerd Herd (aka Kahuna, Eugene and Shark, pictured here). But as much as I loved it, there was something missing. Something was off. So I asked Summer to drop by again today. I had the picture in my mind; I could see in my head what it should look like, but I just needed another few minutes alone with Summer and her crew.

And I got it. This! This is the photo I wanted and I’m so happy to be able to show it off. So here am I, showing it off:

Ok, this isn’t bragging. This is me being excited over shooting. Excited like I haven’t been in awhile, and that’s even more excited. I’m excited that I’m excited! And that’s more exciting. I guess you could say that I’m exponentially excited. (Oh, being a word nerd, that sentence just excited me too.)

It’s not often that we photographers can look at a photo and truly feel satisfied. We’re pixel-peepers, you know. The whole lot of us are known to zoom to 400% to see if that eye is as sharp as it could be. Of course, we don’t admit it. But we all do it. There should be a support group for it, really. It saps your creativity and it squashes you motivation. And if there’s one thing that full-time photographers need, it’s creativity and motivation.

So here’s mine. Hell, this’ll keep me going for the next half of next year. I mean, come on; the world didn’t end. I’ve got jobs to book and ideas to get.

In the meantime, I’m just going to love on this photo and thank Summer and Shark for giving me what I really believe is the best portrait I’ve taken thus far in my career.

WOW! That feels really good to say.

Thanks for listening.


Lo, wouldn’t I shake from this sweet gnawed dream to rise

I’ve been so busy these past few weeks, I don’t even have any pretty or shiny stuff to put up for you today.

Instead, I’m writing this post for an online friend; someone whom I’ve never met (I don’t think I even know her real name). Her dog died yesterday, and I’ve been thinking about her all day. This photo is one of my recent favorites of me and my guys, and the poem below is my absolute favorite ever. If you’re a crier, it will do you in. If you’re a dog person, you’ll know this poem in yourself, in your bones. You’ll likely have lived this poem, or may be living it now, as my friend is.

Greenkozi, all the hugs I give to Jack and T today will be for you and Mac. I hope for you comfort and happy memories to last a lifetime.



Fetch, by Jim Simmerman
The marrow it’s this;
that night after night I dream
you alive, dream you clawing
up and through the snarl
of spade-lopped roots and loam,
through the cairn beneath the pine
in a bower of pines, a wildwood
of pines, beneath a wheeling moon–
shaking from your body
the tattered blanket, shaking
from your throat the collar
of blood–the ball
in your mouth where I left it,
your coat wet where I kissed it–
breaking through underbrush
onto the trail, tracking it back
to the tire-rutted road–
loping now, running now–
your nostrils flared
and full of the world–
ignoring the squirrel,
ignoring the jay, ignoring
the freeway’s litter of bones–
night nearly dead as you
bolt for the lane,
up the drive, into the yard–
panting now, breathing now–
racing from door to window to door,
scratching at the screen,
whining at the glass, the ball
in your mouth–Lo,
wouldn’t I shake from this
sweet gnawed dream to rise
and fetch you in
with the light that returns
me day after day,
takes you again and again.

1 minute out a life that was forever changed by adoption


While Mr. Susan and I were out shopping this morning, I picked up a couple of squeaky toys for the Vatos. Pickle (his real name is RT or just T) doesn’t like squeaky toys–well, he likes the toy part but not the squeaky part, so he just nibbles the fur off of them like they were a fuzzy piece of corn on the cob. He’ll start with the nose and eyes, and eventually just shred the thing until it’s a 4″ square piece of cloth that becomes his Favorite Thing In The World.

Jack loves squeaky toys, but he doesn’t really squeak them (and by “doesn’t really” I mean “practically never.” He’s squeaked a toy maybe three or four times since we adopted him nearly four years ago. What he does like is to pull the stuffing out; he goes crazy for that, but I always have to tear a piece of seam and show him the stuffing inside. Then, he goes batshit with it and doesn’t stop until it’s completely eviscerated. But after that, he loses all interest and then T takes over to do that nom thing he does .

They do have strange ways of playing, and that’s because when we adopted them together (four years ago this September 14), they didn’t know how to play. I’ve rescued so many dogs in my life, and I’ve seen all kinds of phobias but I’ve never come across a dog who didn’t know how to play or one who was actually afraid of a toy. Balls and toys were Hugely Frightening Things to Stay Away From at All Costs.

T is now a ball monster. The terrier in him finally overcame his fear and shyness, and you can’t say any word that even remotely sounds like “play” or “ball” without setting him off (this consists of him jumping all of you and looking at you the way only a terrier who wants to play ball can look. We keep the balls in a particular drawer and once he hears the handle on that drawer jingle, well, it’s over: you have to play ball, you just have to. He won’t let you not play ball.

Before today, like I said, he’s squeaked a toy maybe four times that I’ve seen, and all those times it’s been when nobody’s been in the room with him. Once, we heard him in the middle of the night, and we just lay there in the darkness, pretending we were asleep, and listened to what must have been some sort of investigation on his part 🙂 A couple of squeaks, and that was it.

So, those of you who have followed the Vatos’ story since we adopted them know this: and it really is the short version. Some of their issues still linger; they probably won’t ever completely go away. But in this video, you’ll see a truly amazing thing: Jack playing with one of the new squeakies the way a “normal” dog would: you know, squeaking it! I can’t tell you how happy it makes my heart to see him roll onto his back and hold the baby between his paws; or to grab it and bound through the living room while he makes it squeak over and over and over. And check it: he’s been doing it all day!

Today’s the first day I took any video with my DSLR, and man, did I pick a good day.

Jack’s story (and T’s) and video shows you what a huge impact you can make on a living, sentient behing by adopting. I can’t even begin to understand what Jack’s been through (3 years as a breeder in a puppy mill, and 3 more years in the adoption circuit) or what T has had to endure (3 years being bounced in and out of homes and the animal shelter), but I do know that when I look at these faces, I have to ask myself: Who in the world could say, “no, I don’t want you”?



a gentle reminder

Anyone who knows even the slightest bit about me knows that I’m all about my dogs. They (you) also know that about three years ago, I was standing on the edge of the biggest, blackest hole I’d ever encountered. It’s a very long story; some of it can be found in my Flickr photostream (though I’ve long deleted many of those dark posts). But below is one of the original posts about that period. I like to republish it every year or so for a few reasons. It gives me solace. We are all, at different points in our lives, going through this, sometimes over and over and over. But mostly as a gentle reminder–to myself and to others–that you should take some time out every day and give the animals who own you a big snorgle. Imprint their scent, the feel of their fur, on you. Remember how glorious this feels, because one day, that memory is all that you will have to comfort you.

is there anything more sobering than the 3 seconds immediately following the injection of the fluid?

of course, it’s not really just 3 seconds. it’s days, weeks, months and years. it’s the same 3 seconds that you think about over and over and replay in your mind and it’s one of those things that you know you can never, ever take back and that is just the oddest feeling, you know? because you can take almost anything back. you can do it again. you can change your mind.

but in those 3 seconds, the reality that you cannot change your mind, you cannot make a different choice or relive it, stops your heartbeat. your head spins, but the world doesn’t. you hear things, mostly silence. and it’s loud.

and when you’re driving down the road, you’re thinking of an appointment that you have to be at, and your mind is on a thousand things all at once and then, the 3 seconds comes back to you. and you relive them.

all over again.

[click on the image to see large]

xo & snorgles to all the babies we’ve rescued over the years; and to those who have rescued us.

the quiet

Anyone who’s lost a dog knows the quiet; in a house that used to hum with the sound of clumsy feet running after a ball; the clicking of nails on hardwood floors in the middle of the night; or the comforting, rhythmic breath as you drift off to sleep. These are the sounds that go missing in a house where a dog once lived.

I doubt that there’s anything that has touched me more deeply, or changed me more profoundly, than the loss of my dogs; in particular, the loss of Gracie (my mija), Lola and Buzz all within an 11-month span. So when someone calls me about a session with a dog who is terminally ill; I have to brace myself for the rush of memories; the reddened eyes; the sighs of people who haven’t slept in days. These are things that we all have seen and felt in a house of dogs.

Pelei has cancer. Her girls–Katherine, Victoria and Mary–have decided not to put Pelei through the pain and discomfort of chemo. They’ve decided that this is life, that this is Pelei’s life and that they will respect that life and make it as meaningful as it can ever be in the time she has left.

I cringe when I think of how many times I have blogged about the death of a dog. here, for example. And here. And the plight of the shelter dog, here.

These shots of Pelei are meant to show her life, how much life she has in her, and how much life she gives. They are meant to hold back the quiet that will come. To fill these girls’ hearts with enough memories of Pelei the goof, Pelei the love, Pelei the elegant and Pelei the silly so that when she is gone, it will be only her body, her physical presence that will be missed.

When you walk through the quiet house where a dog once lived, you are walking through every moment, every breath that dog took in that house. And it surrounds you and comforts you and angers you all at once. Such is love. Such is the state of a house where a dog once lived.

true love will find you in the end


I’m so so happy to finally be able to upload a quality version of this, a PSA I’ve been wanting to do since photographing these dogs nearly two years ago.

I’m very involved in rescue and shelter work in my community; and I encourage everyone to get involved. Yes, it’s very difficult to visit a shelter (that’s the main reason people won’t volunteer). But the animals there need you, they need your companionship and your reassuring voice and short walks. After you’ve volunteered at a shelter a few times, it does get easier. It is still heartbreaking, but you can leave knowing that however little you think you did, you improved that dog or cat’s day by, like, 1000%.

Please look into helping your local shelter or rescue in any way you can; if you can’t visit the shelter, considering a blanket drive, or a toy drive. Anything to help spread the word and get people to keep adopting, and not shopping, for pets.

(ps: thank you thank you thank you Alison for putting this together for me.)

[The song, “True Love Will Find You in the End” is sung by Beck, written by Daniel Johnston, and available on The Late Great Daniel Johnston: Discovered Covered