Suburban Snapshots

Sexy Is a Learned Behavior

Sunday, April 22, 2012

When the email dropped to my inbox last week asking if I'd participate in the Parents Connect Sexy Mom Bloggers month, I was still covered in sweat, sitting at my computer wearing what would be best described as spandex knickers, a sports bra and one Rollerblade. That's a story for another entry, but suffice it to say I wasn't exactly feeling it. I agreed though, because sexy doesn't come easily or naturally -- it took me 30-plus years to find it myself, and if a nerd like me can learn to strut my stuff, anyone can.

5 Tips for Feeling Sexy that You Won't Find in Some Ridiculous Cosmo Article

1. Fake it 'til you make it. You know that feeling you get when you're in a Halloween costume or dressed for an 80s party and you slip so gracefully into the persona? Find that, practice it. Make your persona an unflappable badass, then see if she sticks. Or spend time each day doing something you're awesome at, be the boss of it, feel powerful. If you're still not there, go put on that one thing you own that's kind of impractical but makes you feel like a goddamned rockstar.

2. Wear good undergarments. Bad underwear suck. They can sabotage your favorite jeans, dresses and skirts. Ill-fitting bras make lumps that bother you all day long. Treat yourself to some good ones. If you have a little extra money, go for the pricey bra and a professional fitting (yes, they kind of touch your boobs but they're practically doctors, people). Alternately, lose the underwear all together. You can't have awkward panty lines when you're not wearing any.

3. Be in your shape. I'll never be a small person, but before I lost weight I always felt uncomfortably big and unpleasantly soft. I knew my best, maintainable weight and got myself there slowly, deliberately, over several months. I'm still not a small person but I enjoy my body, even the still-squishy parts. I set a reasonable and attainable goal, and I got there and it feels really damn good.

4. Validation isn't just for parking. Everyone enjoys a compliment, and in marriages where conversations about bills, kids, and the asshole neighbors often preempt sweet talk, it's especially important to remember these little affections. It's too easy to take one another for granted, to stop really seeing our partners. Give as well as you get and if you need more, skip talking about the neighbors and ask for it. It's important.

5. Have sex (admittedly this probably would be in Cosmo but might read something like "Have 80 Mind-blowing Orgasms Tonight!"). Do it while Dora's blaring from another room, do it after date night or just before daylight, do it on whatever schedule works for you but find the time. Sometimes it feels like another to-do, I'm totally with you. But the effort pays off, you get your brain and body back in the game and the next thing you know, swerve=on.

I Felt Inadequate
Before Pinterest Made It Cool

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Last week another well-written, thoughtful blog entry made its way around The Facebooks. The writer points out how as parents, we tend to let media, friends and even family make us feel like we aren't doing enough or being perfect enough, clever enough or crafty enough. The piece alludes to Pinterest, where Moms Who Aren't Me build illuminated unicorn fountains out of upcycled pizza boxes while I often break a sweat just trying to get lids onto Tupperware containers.

I definitely have Pinterest envy, seeing photo after photo of homes bathed in natural light from all directions while clean, happy kids play in their cleverly constructed closet beds with adorable handmade pantyhose dolls. But I think I'm either realistic enough or cynical enough to recognize when I don't have the skill or the time to pull that shit together. (I'm too busy trying to entertain you people and keeping my daughter off the pole, isn't that enough?!)

When Anna's birthday started approaching, I checked Pinterest for party ideas. I found a great cake that my cousin volunteered to make, and then fell down an inevitable wormhole where I discovered a DIY playhouse loft bed. I presented the blueprints to Steve and we roped in my other cousin, a builder.

Everything came together beautifully. I know Steve is proud of the bed -- it's sturdy and beautiful and Anna loves it. The cake was the talk of the party with all its gorgeous pink swirls and sweet fudge. All of it was more work than even the awesome Pac Man themed party my mom pulled together for me in 5th grade, but it wasn't just Anna who appreciated our efforts. Steve got to work hard at a job for someone who paid him in pure delight, I got to get creative just for fun, with no critiques or approvals from anyone but myself.

It's probably true that Anna didn't need a new bed, or a pink swirly cake and handmade party invitations, but ultimately we did all of those things for ourselves as much as for her, for the sense of accomplishment, for being able to get creative on our own terms, and knowing that our little client would be grateful for (video) whatever we had made.

Sometimes, in our desire to get to perfect, we end up realizing that happy and adequate is actually a better place to be.

What I Do When I'm Not At
My Other Two Jobs

Thursday, April 12, 2012

I don't usually talk about my life as a photographer here, mostly because where would I fit that in between the hilarious antics of my ever-gropey husband and back-talking daughter? But after a couple of inquiries this week from potential photo clients, I wanted to shed a little light on how we work, why we charge what we do, and what to do if you want to hire a professional, location photographer for your family.

A couple of days ago two women contacted me separately, referred by a frequent client of mine, to get some information about my fees. They'd seen my work and had glowing testimonials, but I could tell by their quick replies to my rate information that I likely wouldn't hear from them again. I know I ought not take it personally, but I admit that it irks me, not least of all because I have the luxury — unlike full-time photographers with no other source of income — of being very reasonably priced.

My story is this: I started posing and shooting family members at the tender age of nine, using a Kodak Disk camera. I graduated to shooting in a mall studio after a stint selling cameras and equipment (also in the mall) during high school. Lacking confidence, I majored in literature rather than photography because I didn't think my portfolio was good enough. Then, after working professionally as a web designer for eight years (shooting on the side all the while), I completed an amazing digital photography program in Boston, went $20,000 in debt, spent another few thousand on equipment, quit my job and hoped for clients.

I've since photographed for hundreds of hours, hundreds of subjects, and am still thousands in debt. It took me years to feel I was good enough to refer to myself as a photographer, but I know now I have the skill and experience to back it up.

So when I can tell that a potential client is going to bargain shop for the next photographer who shows up on a Google search, I do take it a little personally. There's plenty a rate doesn't tell you, like how this person will treat a client, the clients' kids, dogs or their ornery great-grandfather. What does this photographer know about client service beyond delivering great images? How much pride does she take in her work?

If you're looking for someone in your area to photograph an event or a portrait, know that there's plenty wrapped into that rate that won't be apparent. If the work is beautiful, if it moves you, if you flip through the online portfolio and sigh, talk to that photographer, get a sense for how you'd work with them, then figure out your budget.

Most of us, self-taught or otherwise, take great pride in our work. We're professionals who feel privileged being paid to do what we love, we don't expect to get rich. We're trained not only in technical nerdery, but in human interaction. We only want you to love your photos as much as we love making them.

My Reward Chart Was
Previously a Bit Optimistic

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Last month Anna disconnected her ears. It's the only explanation I can conjure for her back-talking and defiance. Per usual I consulted parenting experts (hello, Facebook) who suggested a reward chart. We bought one, and while it has made a difference, I've found I've had to lower my expectations a bit when it comes to the preschooler's behavior. Below, my more realistic interpretation of Anna's board.