Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Big Debut Event

Robyn and me at my high school graduation party in June of 1999.
I wanted to write about the Art Walk and Acu Lounge Grand Opening last night, but wasn’t sure where to begin. I came to the realization that the evening of festivities wasn’t just about photographs and acupuncture, but something more important.  It was about friendship.  I realize that sounds cheesetastic, but bear with me. Thousands before me have said eloquent things regarding friendship and how important it is and I don’t really have anything to say that hasn’t been said by someone wiser before.  What I’m going to say is what is true to me and hopefully I can manage that without sounding too corny.

Robyn and I met in the sixth grade at Nooksack Valley Elementary School and our friendship turned out to be one I truly treasure because we grew up together.  We were there for each other through the awkward teenage years and all the life challenges that go along with that phase of life.  We shared secrets, had inside jokes, got together to go to the mall or to have a slumber party, whispered about boy crushes and roamed the mean streets of Nooksack and Everson.   Through the years, we added more friends to our circle and we all survived high school by trying to be there for each other the best we could.  After high school, life pulled us in different directions.  I got married and became a working girl (no not THAT kind of working girl).  Robyn traveled and conquered the world at the same time and went on to become an acupuncturist.  Now that we are thirty-something, life has brought us back together at the beginning of a new chapter for both of us.  The beauty of our relationship is that we were able to just pick up right where we left off, effortlessly.  Cheese alert: That is one of those truly special friendships which may come along only a few times in a lifetime.  Now we stand together once more, supporting each other.

 For Robyn, this chapter is about returning home and starting her own business, The Acu Lounge.  I was in literally in awe as I watched her work last night.  She has turned out to be so professional and the girl knows her sh… stuff.  She can look at your tongue and tell what your personal health issues are.  On a side note, when she looked at my tongue, she could see I’m a total nutcase. No surprise there. Anyway, my point is that she has truly grown up to be an amazing (and I’m not using that term lightly) woman and, as cliché as it might sound, I really do feel lucky to know her and to call her my friend.  A lot of who she is has always been inside her, her compassion, her bubbly personality, her smarts, her sense of humor and the way she is able to gravitate people to her.  I believe the rest is just education and life experiences.  What I mean to say is that I’m so proud of you, Robyn.  Cheese alert: I always had this feeling that you’d go on to do great things in your life.  Okay.  Excuse me while I dab my eyes (and no, I’m not being sarcastic about that).

For me, this new chapter is about coming out of hiding and putting my photographs out there for the world to see.  I have to admit, that although I had fun, last night was also nerve-wrecking for me and part of that was the the stresses and drama of trying to prepare the actual photos.  One thing after another just went wrong, but I was able to pull it off at the end. Before the event started, Robyn and I were both feeling pretty overwhelmed and it looked like we were going to end up as roomies in a padded room on a psych ward at an undisclosed location.  We both have similar hair color and style at the moment, and with matching straightjackets, we could have been psycho twins.  I would have been the extra twitchy one demanding raspberry Tootsie Pops and screaming about making the evil chicken leave me alone. Oh and we would have totally rocket the mental institution look.

 Fortunately the men in white coats did not end up taking us away and the night turned out to be what I would call a success. We had a steady stream of friends, family and curious strangers.  It was really beneficial for me to see reactions to my work and to receive feedback.  Sometimes I just live in my own little photo bubble, and although I’m amused with my quirky pictures, I don’t really know what other people think or how they react to seeing them. Of course the internet is one great way to get feedback, but hearing it in real life is even better.  In addition, I was able to sell four pieces of artwork.  That was an unexpected bonus. Robyn was able to show off her new office, get the word about it out there and even do some treatments.  We had some veeery relaxed guests in recliners and being poked with magic needles. 

I’m grateful that Wayne was able to be there to support me too.  He was like the old Wayne, the one I fell in love with.  I haven’t seen that man in such a long time.  He pushed me to talk to people about my work and give out my business cards.  My natural instinct in social gatherings is to hide in the corner until the scary strangers leave.  We sat in the front room on “door duty” for awhile.  Wayne told me, and I quote, “You are the world’s worst door greeter.  They wouldn’t hire you at WalMart.”  He is so right. This whole interacting with people I don’t know is still a struggle for me. 
So, all in all, it was a fun night.  I got to see and laugh with old friends.  Both Robyn and I were able to promote our new ventures.  At the end of the night, Robyn went to have a drink with some of her coworkers and the old married couple couldn’t wait to get home and go to bed.  

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Dress I Don't Need

Has this ever happened to you? You’re browsing at your favorite thrift store and they are having a 50% off sale for their valued customers who are enrolled in their Super Savers Club. You happen to be a card-carrying member of said club. You’ve already filled your shopping cart with some sensible (and cute) work clothes which don’t violate any dress code rules. Nothing is too tight. Nothing is too revealing. It is unlikely that you will be ticketed by the dress code police or that you’ll make your coworkers cringe. You’re enjoying the retail high induced by the bargain basement prices. You give yourself a little pat on the back for being frugal-ish and staying under budget. You remind yourself that you’re also being green-ish by buying used, or pre-loved, goods. The retail therapy is working better than prescription drugs.

Everything is going great until you decide to just have a little look-see at the formal dress rack, just for kicks. You’re just browsing. You chuckle to yourself at the hideous 80’s prom dress on the rack. You let your hands pull out the dresses that actually look cute, but you’re not a size 2 and probably couldn’t even fit such dresses over your head. Then it happens. Something catches your eye. There is a heavenly glow emanating from a dress you almost overlooked. Suddenly you hear the heavenly “Aaaah!” of an angelic choir. You look around to see if anyone else heard it, but it is only in your head. The gown is shiny, and sparkly. You LOVE shiny and sparkly things! Yet, the dress is also elegant and appears figure-flattering. The biggest shocker of all is that the dress is actually in your size. That’s right. It is in your size, which is virtually impossible to find in formal dresses. Maybe a person your size isn’t supposed to wear something like that. It might scare the children, but you just can’t look away. The fabric is a turquoise-blue shade, one of your favorite colors. The color compliments your fair skin tone and is a great contrast with your red hair. You move your eyes to the bodice and admire the lace and sequin detailing. Sequins! And they’re not tacky! You hold the gown to your body, imagining your Disney princess moment if you were to wear the garment. Then you start to come down from that fairytale high. Miss Reality slaps you in the face.

The dress is a garment that you don’t need nor do you have an occasion to wear it to. You really have no business buying it. The cost of the sensible collection of clothing in your shopping cart has reached the limit of money you had allotted for this shopping spree. You reluctantly flip over the price tag to check if the dollar amount they are asking for the dress is reasonable. You inhale and hold your breath. The tag turns and…. Oh it is such a good deal! You take into account the 50% discount. You calculate how many minutes or hours of work you have to do at the office in order to pay for it. Then your practical side kicks you again. You gaze at your sensible clothing choices. You need work clothes. You don’t want to trade them in for a dress you don’t have a need for. You can’t bear to put away the owl figurine at the bottom of the cart (which was uh… totally in the budget… heh heh You need owl figurines). The reality is that your life isn’t exciting enough for a formal gown. You live in a stereotypically casual town in the stereotypically casual Washington State. You don’t get invited to fancy parties. You can’t even think of a restaurant formal enough for such attire. As you’re about to turn away and say goodbye, you suddenly have an uncontrollable urge to grab the dress and pile it on top of the stupid sensible clothes in your cart. You find your shopping cart pulling you towards the fitting rooms. Must be something wrong with one of the wheels. The cart is out of control! You can’t help it! It finally stops when you reach the dressing rooms.

You sneak into a fitting booth with “the precious”. It’s not like you’re seriously thinking of buying the gown. You just want to try it on and have your little princess moment. But of course the dress fits like a glove. Okay, technically it fits like a glove that needs a few alterations. You don’t quite have the boobage to fill out the top. Okay, it is technically a little too long or you’re a little too short. That could easily be fixed with high heels or alterations. But it is sooo pretty and shiny and you’re reminded of your fondness for sparkles. The fabric hugs your curves in all the right places, as if it was designed by someone who understands a larger woman’s body. Upon further inspection, you can’t even find unsightly bulges anywhere. For just a moment you forget that you’re not a skinny bitch. You forget that you are a plus-sized woman. Your ample arse doesn’t look quite as large. Your arms appear less sausage-like. You actually let go of your negative body image issues for just a moment and feel pretty, almost beautiful.

You call your mom on the cell phone from the dressing room and ask her to scoot herself over from the other side of the store in her wheelchair to come check it out. You twirl to show off the fabulousness of the dress. Your mom agrees that the garment is gorgeous. You still have no need for the dress. Your life is too casual and boring and you don’t ever go to formal events. Sigh. You’re in love with the dress you don’t really have any business buying. But the heart wants what it wants.

Somehow the dress ends up in that wacky shopping cart again and you’re guided by the force of the cart to the register. At the last minute, as you try to put the dress back, you generous mom insists that you have it and pays for it.

What? Really? That’s exact thing has never happened to you? Well, it happened to me a couple of weeks ago. I put the dress on when I got home and wore it while doing laundry.

I’m hoping to find a local Second Chance prom or some other excuse to wear the dress. If nothing else works out, I can use it for a Halloween costume.

In the end, the dress is just a dress. Someone probably wore it to their high school prom or perhaps to a wedding. Some of you will probably even think that it is tacky and that's okay. This experience was less about the dress itself (although I do love how it looks) and more about how it made me feel while I wore it. I've never though of myself as being sexy in any way. I make sure to wear clothes that cover the jiggly bits. But for once I was able to just look at myself in the mirror and feel pretty.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Behind Closed Doors

At our apartment complex, we have safety inspections two or three times a year.  I always dread that 48-hour notice stuck to the front door.  Today happens to be inspection day.  This time they are picking apartments at random, so not everyone will get that knock on the door.  Still, you have to get prepared and just hope that you have good enough karma to avoid the dreaded visit.  These kinds of things trigger a lot of anxiety for me. That knot in my stomach gets pulled tighter.  I don’t like the idea of strangers walking through my home and judging me by the way I keep house. Let’s say I’m not exactly a neat freak and there is always a mad scramble to clean up behind the scenes before an inspection.
So, while I’m on the topic, I’m coming out of my TV closet and admitting that watching reality shows about hoarding is a guilty pleasure of mine.  I’m also coming out of my cleaning closet and admitting that I have a lot of clutter. I’m not proud of it. It’s one of my dirty little secrets and I’m trying to change that. My name is Sofia Smith and I’m a stuffaholic, a clutterbug, a keeper of an “organized” mess.  I guess that gathering pretty things is one of my not-so-healthy coping mechanisms.  Just so we’re clear, I don’t have bugs crawling around the house. I don’t hold on to trash and I am able to get rid of things I don’t need.  We do not have to walk over piles of stuff to get through the apartment.  I do, however, have a little fear monster inside my head who whispers to me that I could turn into a hoarder at some point in my life.  Perhaps it is irrational, but maybe this fear isn't so far fetched after all.
The general theme on the hoarding shows seems to be that the person profiled wasn’t always a hoarder.  The out of control hoarding is usually triggered by a tragic event, such as the loss of a loved one.  You never know what is around the bend in life and how you will react to it, hence my anxiety about becoming a hoarder.  Then they bring in a cleaning crew and try to do a drastic cleanup within a couple of days as we watch the hoarder squirm and face one of their demons. 
Even though they offer the help of a mental health counselor on most hoarding shows, and do try to help the person or family, it almost always turns into a freak show.  I believe that is probably why there is one or more hoarding show on multiple cable channels.  Viewers watch with their jaws on the floor, in disbelief at the idea of someone living in such miserable state.  Perhaps part of the reason why people like me watch these shows is due to the fact that it seems to satisfy a voyeuristic curiosity.  We want to peep inside the lives of other people.   Seeing how other people live is interesting.  Even the most disgusting and disturbing episodes are intriguing.  It is that train wreck you can’t look away from.
Another reason why I am drawn to hoarding programs is that it actually makes me feel a little more “normal”.  It gives me a tool to measure where I am on the crazy scale.  I have a lot of stuff, but I’m not in an extreme situation.  I still feel like I’m in control of my clutter.  My mess is “organized”, meaning that although it looks like a mess to the untrained eye, I generally know where things are.  In addition, watching these programs actually makes me feel more motivated to get up and clean.  I’ve spent the last couple of hours sorting through my craft supplies, weeding out things I know I won’t use.  I’ve started this process with various objects many times, but at some point, I end up giving up.  If I were to psychoanalyze myself, I’d say that my mess is a symptom of the perfectionist aspect of my personality.  When the reality hits me that  I can’t make my home look “perfect”, I tend to give up.  I’m hoping that this time will be different.  I’ll just do a little bit at a time and it won’t all feel so overwhelming.  I’ll also keep watching hoarding shows to keep me motivated. 
Lastly, even if the format of a hoarding show seems to be a freak show, I do believe that there is something positive to be said about such programs.  It raises awareness.  Hoarding is a real mental disorder that has gone untreated and unstudied for far too long.  Now we know more about it, and perhaps it will make us feel more compassionate and less judgmental.  I know I’ve learned a lot and I feel like I have a better understanding of the condition and an a greater feeling of empathy.
So, there are a few of my shameful secrets.  I do feel as if I’m hanging my dirty laundry out to dry, but writing about this has been therapeutic.  Judge me how you choose, but I have shared was is true to me.
P.S. We did not get chosen for the inspection this time, so I'm breathing a little easier.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

It's All About Love

I wanted to take some pictures for Valentine's Day to use on cards.  Then I started to really think about what kind of photos I wanted to take and I decided to focus on the theme love.  I wanted to explore all the different aspects of love and not just the warm and fuzzy feelings.  Love is so complicated.  I wanted my collection to visually reflect this complexity. Love makes you feel happy and excited, even giddy.  On the other hand, love can be painful.  We get our hearts broken.  The passion dies out.  People change.  Then we try to mend our hearts again and life goes on.

Here is what I've come up with so far..

Love is rocky.

Love can keep you warm in the cold of winter.

Love is sweet.

Love is fun.

Love hurts.

Love sets your heart on fire.

Sometimes love burns out.

(c) Sofia Smith 2012
View on Flickr

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Behind the Scenes

Sometimes I dream of having a little photo studio of my own, a creative space just for me. In the meantime, I make do with what I have.  Most of my photographs are taken on my dining room table. I use natural light, and there are two big windows in the dining room, so it is pretty ideal for lighting.  Anyway, I just wanted to share a little sneak peek at what happens behind the scenes.  I took this photo a long time ago (2007?) but not much has changed. 

Here is the picture I posted on Flickr.

Here is what was going on behind the scenes:

That is Celeste, one of my photography assistants. She's giving me that "Why aren't you paying attention to me? I don't like to be ignored." look. I regularly have to edit out a stray white cat hair from my photos.  

P.S. Celeste is looking very young and slim there.  Let's just say that she is more of a full-figured feline these days.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Adventures of the Crazy Owl Lady

I've been collecting owls for awhile now. My mom says that my apartment looks like "a crazy owl lady lives there". Most of them I have bought from garage sales and thrift shops and I usually give them a little makeover with paint. Anyway, my mom and I went to our favorite thrift store for a little treasure hunt this afternoon and someone had donated a who...le collection of owl figurines to the store. There must have been at least 40 figurines of various sizes. I picked out some little brass owls and a woman shopping next to me picked out the other brass owls I had been eyeballing. The nerve! I kicked myself for not grabbing them fast enough. This triggered some sort of crazed lady inside me. I kindly asked her if she was set on buying said owls and of course she said yes. I seriously wanted to grab them out of her cart and run to the cash register. Insane, right? I'm not proud of myself. So, the moral of the story is that I should never be allowed out of the house on Black Friday, if there are owl items on sale.

Photos by Sofia Smith 2011