On Female Beauty

The new Shape Magazine arrived in yesterday's mail, Jennifer Love Hewitt's bikini clad body in all it's airbrushed perfection on the cover. Grabbing it off of the sofa, Chloe started talking about the picture and how perfect the model's skin was. We talked about abs, and Photoshop, and about how Jennifer Love Hewitt had been persecuted in the media not that long ago for being too "fat" in her bikini. But mostly we discussed how real women's bodies just don't look like that.

This is a bit of a touchy subject in our household, given what I do. There's an awful lot of discussion of beautiful girls because I'm excited to share what's happening at the agency, and I'm acutely aware of Chloe's ears soaking up everything that's said. I try to emphasize how nice the models are that we work with, how hard they work, and that we represent all different types of women, but I imagine it's tough to sometimes feel that your mom thinks other people are prettier than you are. Maybe I should just say, "Oh baby, of course you are the most beautiful to me," which is true in my heart, which couldn't love her more. But I also strongly believe that we need to speak the truth about beauty, just like we do about any other gifts. There will always be someone more beautiful, someone more talented, someone richer, or better at math, and yet, we can each celebrate our own special gifts, our own individual kind of beauty.

Earlier in the evening I came across a terrific art piece on the Huffington Post, The Nu Project. This collection of nude photographs, shot by photographer Matt Blum, attempts to show women as they really are, in their own homes where they are most comfortable. It's a bounty of beautiful images of all different types of women, with all different shapes of bodies. Some are clearly beautiful by any definition, but most of them are beautiful precisely because they are real, because they are vulnerable.

NowThisLife.com - The Nu Project

I decided to show these photos to Chloe. We looked through them together, and there was a quiet respectfulness to the looking. It was a different attitude than the one we usually have browsing through a magazine. These are moms and sisters and aunts and cousins; these are clearly real women that could be our neighbors, our friends, our loved ones, our selves. It felt like an important moment.

NowThisLife.com - Macy's - Clinton Kelly

Today, I took Chloe with me to see our models at the Clinton Kelly event at Macy's. We're both big fans of What Not to Wear...it's one of the two shows Chloe and I watch together (the other being Bunheads.) The models were specifically cast because they are representative of a variety of women's body types. There is gorgeous Linda, in her 50's, silver haired and slim. Dena, of the megawatt smile, who is a size sixteen. Paula, a mature and sophisticated lady with a curvy lower half. Petite Nisha, with her lovely coppery skin and ample bustline. Delphine, a beautiful blonde who fits everyone's stereotype of what a model should look like...happy and fit and healthy.

Macy's had a terrific turnout for the show, literally standing room only. Clinton Kelly described each outfit as the models came out and walked through the crowd, and all around us I heard such positive comments. "Oh, she's got such a beautiful smile." "That dress looks so pretty on her." "That's so cute." "She's so adorable." "She's my age. I could wear that." Such a different reaction than I've seen at other fashion shows, where the models are all young and very thin. The audience truly appreciated seeing women they could relate to, women who made them feel good about themselves, women who were glowing and smiling, of different ages and races and body types. It was refreshing.

At the end of the show, Clinton addressed all of the "moms, grandmas and young girls" in the audience and talked about how the images that we see in the media aren't real, about the teams of people that it takes to make someone look like the model we see on the billboard. He told all of us to not hate on ourselves, that our bodies are a sacred vessel, the means by which we live in this world, the way that we love one another, that we move and experience life. It was such a wonderfully positive way to end the presentation, and he was so funny and caring throughout, while still being honest in his message about dressing to make the most of yourself. I felt good being there, and good sharing it with my daughter. Afterward, we went backstage and I introduced Chloe to the models, and to Sarah Kreutz, who did the styling for the show. Everyone was so kind to her, and she basked in the attention.

Sometimes, I wonder about this industry that I am in. Fashion can be such a strange beast...the extreme emphasis on youth, and thinness, and a very narrow definition of beauty. I worry about the girls that we shepherd through this career, and we do our very best as agents to treat them as we would want our own daughters treated. I worry about my girl, watching all of it. I try so hard to make sense of it all for her, to show her a path where beauty is something other than those images of perfection, where it is real and where it glows with intelligence and life.

And once in awhile, with help from so many caring people, I feel like I manage to get it right.

NowThisLife.com - Chloe


Kairos Time

I'm in the habit of watching each day for its best moment. Some days it can be a real challenge to find anything at all, but I make myself find something. On a difficult day I might look up and notice the blue of the sky, or an interesting reflection in a puddle and think, well, I best remember because this just might be it for today.

But most days, the moment just jumps out at me. Tonight, I was hanging out on the sofa, talking with Ron when Kayla walked up with a look on her face I haven't seen in awhile...the "I'd really like to get on the sofa with you" look. So I reached down and hoisted her up, a bit of a challenge as she is still heavy, even in her thin elder dog state. I got all of her settled on top of me and gently stroked her soft side, and she finally relaxed and fell asleep, her head on my chest, her body stretched out along mine. Little soft snores, the feel of her silky fur under my hand, so lovely. Kayla used to snuggle with me all the time, especially happy any time I'd curl up on the sofa and call her to join me in her favorite spot, her head on my thigh and her body nestled in the crook of my legs, the two of us ready for a nap. But as she's gotten older, and less agile, the cuddling is very rare. Tonight felt like a chance to go back in time, to live one of those many moments over again, but this time, fully aware of the preciousness of it. Definitely a best moment.

Yesterday, at the end of the day, looking back, I realized that my best moment was sitting with Therese on her front steps, after our walk, reciting my broccoli cheese soup recipe to her while she wrote it down on a little pad of paper, with plans to make it for her family for dinner. Such a simple little thing, but layered, and delightful.

I've found that these favorite moments are very rarely anything big. They aren't a terrific booking at the agency, they aren't a raise or a big night out. They are over and over again some little thing, something that you could have just as easily not noticed. They are most often during a walk outside, from a found conversation with Chloe just before bed, or maybe a pause over a beautiful line in something I'm reading.

A facebook friend shared this essay, which describes all of this better than I ever could. The author talks about Kairos time, which is when time stops for a second, when you suddenly SEE...see the world, see the specialness, feel that something sacred is going on.

I live for those Kairos moments. They are what make us all say that parenting is the hardest job we've ever done, and yet the absolute best one too. They are what make this life, with all of it's hamster-on-a-wheel craziness and hardship and heartbreak, worth it.

And, ah, to recognize them while they are happening, that is when we are most truly blessed.


The First Green Growth of Spring


NowThisLife.com - Spring

This is what I long for, what I wait for all through the long months of November, December, January, through the fog and the rain, through the grey. Today, here she is, softly calling my name with the warm sunshine through my window at work, whispering to me in the white blossoms suddenly burst forth on the trees. Singing through the baby yellow daffodil faces popping open. Spring.

This moment, this very first moment of the new season, when everything is potential, this is my absolute favorite time of the year. It all lies ahead, all the warm weather, the flowers, summertime. Just like the first day of vacation is the best day, so it is with spring. And the very beginning of spring, she is, simply, heaven.

Whatever may lie ahead of us, here she is, again. So thankful.

(This post's title? One of the meanings of Chloe.)


A Family Kind of Valentine's

Not surprisingly, somewhere along these eighteen years, Valentine's Day changed from a lover's holiday to a family day in our house. I think it may have had something to do with the birth of a certain ten year old girl. It's different, and, in some ways, better. The charged expectations are gone, replaced with something softer and easier, something comforting.

This morning Ron drove Chloe to school so I could have an hour alone at home before work...I slipped little Valentine gifts into gift bags, made heart stickered tags, tied ribbons, set our dinner table and spread the felt heart confetti we reuse every year. At some point in all of this domesticity I realized that I felt really happy, that I was smiling, and content and relaxed. Just that little bit of time made all the difference in my day.

NowThisLife.com - Valentine's Table

NowThisLife.com - Valentine Gifts

One of our actors delivered cookies and thank yous to Cast Images today, and I got to watch Jessica so joyous when she had a personal flower delivery from her special someone. Very sweet to see them enjoying their relationship, and also sweet to not feel envious. I was looking forward to coming home to our spaghetti dinner, to our little gifts to each other, to my daughter's smiles.

NowThisLife.com - Valentine Cookies

After way too much spaghetti, topped with my mom's famous sauce, followed by coconut cupcakes with blueberries, we're laughing at Impractical Jokers on TV while Kayla snoozes on the floor. The shelf is filled with pink and red cards. There are daffodils on the windowsill, a vase of flowers on the counter, truffles in the pantry.

Not the romantic Valentine's Day of younger years, but just perfect for this stage, this time, this day.

I hope your Valentine's Day was lovely too.


A School Visit, Bark, and Remembering Joy

Sometimes in the daily busyness of Cast Images, I forget the sheer joy that can exist in this business. I had a couple of great reminders this week, and ah, they were such treats.

NowThisLife.com - Natomas PFAA

First, we had Chloe's school visit at Natomas PFAA (Performing and Fine Arts Academy). The day started out in the beautiful Benevenuti Performing Arts Center, with a performance by PFAA's dance company...a flowing, jumping, joyful group of girls in white lace dresses and sashes, a few boys lifting them, and so many smiles. My heart nearly burst watching their youthful exuberance. With Chloe sitting beside me, all I could think was, Ah, this is what I want for you my girl. The joy of performing, the joy of being in your body, moving and leaping and grinning. The joy of doing what you love, of finding who you are.

NowThisLife.com - Natomas PFAA

Later we had a terrific, if rainy, tour of the school, where we saw kids creating large Dr. Seuss murals in the black box theatre room, up on ladders, paint brushes in hand, with a teacher who was so enthusiastic about the whole process and generous enough to share it with us. We also met a history teacher who expressed his views of the school to us, especially focusing on the welcoming aspect of the student body...that there are all kinds of people there, and they accept each other. So good to see kids in an environment where the arts and individuality are respected and encouraged; so good to hear from instructors and administrators who want the kids to become fully who they are supposed to be.

NowThisLife.com - Natomas PFAA

Then, another night this week, we went with friends to see Bark at the Sacramento Theatre Company. Everything you want a musical to be...full of life, poignant and funny, with first rate performances by actors who were obviously thrilled to bring their doggie characters to life. I watched one of the kids with us, his shining face, his eyes moving from performer to performer and back again, his big smile, and I watched my girl looking back at me and laughing into my eyes at the funny parts, and I remembered just what theatre, what acting, can be. That when it is done well, it gives so much joy to both the actors and the audience. That it's not just booking a commercial, or getting an agent in LA, or getting our people to castings. There is truly life there, there are amazing gifts to be had. So good to remember. (Bark extended their run through February 24th, and tickets are still available. Dog lovers, do not miss this one.)

NowThisLife.com - Bark The Musical

Today, after this wonderful and expansive week, I turned in Chloe's application to PFAA with a wish glowing in my heart. A wish for her to find that joy, to grow into the young woman she is meant to be, and, of course, for me to be privileged to witness the remarkable journey awaiting her.



Sometimes You Bomb

Public speaking? Tough. Public speaking coupled with reading your own work out loud? Way more than tough. Reading your own work, out loud, in public, and pretty much bombing? Not as hard as you would think.


Last night, after work, I  changed into a cute dress and high heeled boots, put on some lipstick and a scarf, and took myself to Bows and Arrows for Words Aloud, a new reading series put on by Sacramento Connect. This first night featured two mom bloggers, Kelli Wheeler of Momservationsand Janelle Hanchett MacDonald of Renegade Mothering, followed by an open mic session and general snacking and hanging out.

NowThisLife.com - Words Aloud - Sacramento Connect

Totally enjoyed sitting there like a grown up and watching Kelli and Janelle read their work...especially Janelle who is wicked funny, painfully honest, and full of heart, all rolled into one tough girl package. Never having read in public before, she proved an absolute natural. The audience was completely in her pocket, laughing hard at the many hysterical parts and quieting down when the feeling moments landed perfectly. Definitely check out her blog, it's more than terrific.

Before the reading began, I met a couple of great new friends, and we encouraged each other to take a turn at the mic. Kate Abbott, who has a middle-grade novel called Disneylanders in the publishing process (cover art just approved!), read a tender and stunning excerpt from the memoir she's writing, which is about her struggle with post-partum depression. When she was finished, I made myself raise my hand and volunteer to be next.

Earlier in the evening, I'd thought through what I might read, and decided on my To Be Twenty Again post, thinking it was kind of light, short, and a little bit fun. Clutching my folded paper in my sweaty hand, thinking I looked quite Michelle Obama like in my sleeveless dress, I walked up to the microphone.

Now, I've spoken in public plenty of times, but this was different. This was putting myself out there in a whole different way, opening that inside part of myself up and asking people to like it, and it definitely made me more than a little nervous. I knew, though, that I'd regret it if I didn't get up and read, that I needed to be brave.

Deep breath, read...try not to rush too much, don't trip over your words, try to look up once in awhile.

A little introduction, okay, I'm doing all right. Keep going. Gee, it's awfully quiet in here. I'm not feeling it, but maybe it's just my imagination. Keep reading. Then, about half way through my two minute reading, I realized that it was not going well. At all. No one was laughing at the mildly funny parts, and when I managed to tear my eyes away from the paper in my hand and look at the audience, there was no sea of friendly faces. I was clearly bombing.

Yep, I bombed. And you know what? It wasn't all that bad. I didn't die. I didn't even cry. In fact, I felt kind of triumphant. Because I DID IT. I got up there, and so what if I sucked? Who said I needed to be a pro my first time out? I blew it, and all I could do was...smile.

I walked back over to the kind women I had met earlier, took a seat and had a great talk about writing and blogging and books and how difficult it can be to both want positive feedback and yet not want to be swayed by it. We encouraged each other, and listened to each other's stories, and had a little writer's community moment, which is exactly what we all came out for in the first place.

While I was driving home, it dawned on me that I really picked the completely wrong post to read. I got up and my reading asked the question, "What would you do if you could be any age again for one week?" My seemingly shallow and vain answer, in a nutshell, "Go back to being a model in Paris and go to the South of France."

No wonder they didn't like me! I must have come across like a real ass, out of context like that. Especially after Janelle and Kate had read such intimate, heart felt pieces. Much better that I would have chosen something about mothering, something with a little more of me in it, something with a bit of vulnerability. Next time I'll know better, and I bet I'll do a little better too.

Oh, and that Michelle Obama dress I felt so cute in? Sacramento Connect posted a picture of me at the microphone on facebook today, and I might just have to burn that dress! Far from looking cute, I instead look fairly pregnant and decidedly un-Michelle Obama-like in the arm region.

But you know what? I'm still smiling.


Lottie Mae, Chloe, and Teaching Mama a Lesson

We almost got a dog last week.

Lottie Mae. Found malnourished, without adequate food and water, with nine puppies to care for, this girl lucked out and ended up in a foster home through the SPCA. Her puppies went to separate foster placements, and all are doing wonderfully thanks to some loving volunteers. The puppies will be up for adoption soon.

I first saw Lottie on a video on the SPCA's facebook page, where she wagged her tail so hard that her whole body wiggled. Something about her just captured me. I showed the video to Ron and to Chloe, shared her picture with them later in the week, and reminded myself of all the reasons why we're not ready for a dog.

My heart though, my heart was ready.

Finally, sick of my obsession with her, Ron commented on facebook, "Just get her already before I have to watch this video again." That was enough for me. A quick phone call to him and I was ready to drive to the SPCA and bring Lottie home.

Luckily, Chloe called me before I left. When I mentioned to her that I was going to go and look at Lottie, and maybe adopt her, she was not happy. At all.

All along, since Gracie died, our plan has been to let Kayla live out her senior time in peace, as our only dog. She's a happy girl, but pretty frail, with back leg muscles that are slowly wasting away, and she's deaf too. When our friends got a puppy, we brought him over here briefly to introduce him to Kayla, and to see if she could tolerate a little one. I was very proud of Kayla's patience and gentleness with that little guy, but she clearly wanted him to leave. Immediately.

Somehow, in my mind, Lottie, three years old and house trained, would be different. Maybe even a friend for Kayla.

Chloe, though, felt otherwise...not just heartbroken that it would hurt Kayla, but also sad that we would get an adult dog instead of a puppy, which she desperately wants. Mostly, Chloe was disappointed in me. So upset and hurt that I would make such a big decision without asking her, without even thinking of her really. And my daughter was absolutely right. In my falling in love with that dog in the video, I didn't think of Chloe's feelings, not truly, and once I realized it, I felt horrible.

Raised by a very strong mother, I've always prided myself on being independent. I was taught to take care of myself, to not depend on anyone, to be strong and sure. It was very tough for me when Ron and I first got together, because I was so used to doing everything my own way. We had some pretty intense fights as I worked through that and learned to let him in.

Now, once again, I have a new way of thinking to learn. And this time, it needs to include my girl. Sometimes it's easy to forget that she's not little anymore, that she needs to be included in decisions that affect our family, that her input is crucial. Time goes by so quickly, and that baby of mine has grown up in so many ways.

She's certainly grown up enough to teach her Mama yet another lesson.

When Kayla is gone and we decide it's time to adopt a puppy, we'll be doing it as a family.

And, Lottie Mae? She had already found her forever home, complete with two boys to love her, before I even decided to drive to the SPCA that day.

Happy endings all around.

You have to admit though, she is one cute wiggly dog:)


A Midtown Walking Minute

Sometimes, taking a walk during the middle of the day is completely necessary to avoid falling asleep at my desk in a big crumpled heap, or, on another sort of day, killing someone. I'm thinking that both of those things are probably best avoided.

Today, a little walk was mandatory because the sun was out. In February. A few minutes to soak up the light, take a few pictures, and smile.

I love working in midtown.

NowThisLife.com - Midtown Prevues Chicken

NowThisLife.com - Midtown Bikes

NowThisLife.com - National Poetry Month

NowThisLife.com - Midtown Porch

NowThisLife.com - Camellia


A Birthday, Again

Forty-seven. How did that happen? I certainly feel forty, maybe forty-two. But forty-seven? It just doesn't seem possible. Yet, here it is...another year past. Another chance to be so thankful for that fact that I am here, embraced by my family and friends, this day, this age. It's hard not to think about loved ones who didn't get the chance to celebrate forty-seven, and to want to share this day, just a little, with them too.

But, mostly, lightness. A sunny February day, such a joy. A walk with Therese in the warmth. Dinner with my family, a game of charades, a birthday cake and a silly "Happy Birthday" song rendition from my jokester husband. Hugs. My green and white apron tied on to make enchiladas. A bright new spring scarf, a purple hydrangea to find a spot for in the garden. Chloe's birthday letter to me, Kayla here to celebrate with us again. Lots of facebook messages from friends, some new readers of this blog. So much good.

And photos. Always photos.

NowThisLife.com - Birthday Table Setting

NowThisLife.com - Purple Hydrangea

NowThisLife.com - Birthday Cake

NowThisLife.com - Birthday Cards

NowThisLife.com - Kayla

NowThisLife.com - Chandra

 Thank you for reading. I can't even tell you how much I appreciate you:)


Just Grateful


A little dinner at Lucca's, a little movie at Tower, a big dose of friendship.

It doesn't get any better.

Quartet - NowThisLife.com

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