So, this just happened! Tim McLellan, of HGTV's "Boomtown Builders", showed up with his film crew to do a Design Consultation with me. I entered a contest and won, but what was really cool was meeting Tim, and his lovely wife and assistant, Ericka. They have ties to the Old Jerome High School Art Center, where my studio is located. Once owners of Western Heritage Furniture in the building right next door, Tim was here in Jerome for over 20 years. With a passion for restoring old historic buildings, and being a Jerome-local, who else better to help me figure out what to do with my studio?
As soon as he walked through the doorway, I knew this was the guy for the job. It always makes me smile when I watch someone walk into my space for the first time, and see the expression on their face, much like the one that was on mine when I first entered this old classroom. High ceiling, old hardwood floor and a wall of tall windows - what's not to love?
After a brief tour of the room we got down to basics: #1 storage, and #2 sprucing up the place. Some of it was easy, like a fresh coat of paint, a light cleaning of the hardwood floor and some track lighting for the ceiling. Some of it, not so easy, like where to put everything. I spent weeks clearing out most of the clutter, but there was still stuff that needed a proper place in the room. Tim surprised me with an idea, floor-to-ceiling cabinets and shelves similar to an old library, with a rolling ladder to get up to the higher shelves (I am kinda short.) The storage structure would be removable, which gave me another idea - painting it a deep teal green - a great contrast color against the freshly painted white walls.
The old classroom is an actual "classroom" for art sessions and photography workshops, making the bright white walls necessary for creating without distractions. But a splash of color on the cabinets and shelves on the one large wall will make me happy.
The surprise of the day was Tim's suggestion for the windows. I hadn't planned on doing anything with the windows, since I love the North-facing natural light. But his two-cents worth made a lot of sense to me. Blocking out the natural light to control lighting in the studio is brilliant, especially with photography. Not every photographer likes natural light. But here's the awesome part - each huge window will have its own tapestry of art, created by yours truly. Each panel will hang from a hinged rod at the top of each window, like sails. Each one will swing open, or shut. This is the kicker - when they are all shut, it will be one huge wall of a piece of my artwork. That deserves a celebration!
I love the idea of controlling the light in my studio with the large banners, opening the ones I want and keeping a few shut, or opening all of them. They can even be easily removed and changed out, as I continue to create more pieces of art for the windowed-wall. Thank you, Tim, for stirring up all kinds of artistic ideas in my brain.
Watch the video and stay tuned for the progress of my studio transformation. Oh, and "Happy Valentine's Day!"
Thanks for reading,
With an extensive resume in fine art modeling, Zushka is now available for select projects.
Being an Over-50 Model has its perks and demands. With 6 years of vast experience, Zushka offers a variety of diverse skills in both live art modeling and photography.
Click here for a sample of Zushka's online portfolio.
Detours are great for showing me what I'm really passionate about doing, instead of what I think I'm supposed to want to be doing. Being thrown off-course isn't necessarily a bad thing. I'm returning to my first love - writing.
It's been a long time coming, but there is a new book in the works, and at least the title has been knocked out. Throwing together my insights and experiences into a frank and candid book about what it's like to be a woman in the 21st century, I write just like the way I talk, so expect the F-bomb, hysterical humor and a whole lot of honesty. No matter your age, background or ethnicity, we ladies all go through the same bullshit. It's time to take back our power and own it.
badass is the new pretty will be released at the end of 2019, just in time for the holidays. In the meantime, subscribe to my blog and get periodic updates.
I'm excited about this latest chunk of writing, what this new year has in store for me, and for sharing a big part of it with you.
I'm the last person to ask advice from when it comes to relationships, but this is what I know for sure:
Love is a decision. It is not a fairytale. Do you want a relationship that will last? Are you ready for commitment? If you are, you have to be open to compromise, honest communication and making someone else a priority in your life. Create a solid foundation with your partner, built on trust, compassion and understanding. What does that mean? It means talking, a lot. And not just to have a conversation about the weather or small talk about the latest trends, movies, restaurants, blah blah blah. I'm talking, TALKING. Tell him about your fears and insecurities. Show him who you are - the real you, not what the world thinks you are. It takes courage and vulnerability to allow a relationship to grow and expand.
Don't be afraid to speak your truth. Tell him what your boundaries are in a relationship, what your needs are and what you are able to offer him in a partnership. And ask him what his boundaries and needs are, and what he is able to offer you. A good solid relationship that has a chance of lasting has to be based on a decision to do just that, first. It is a decision.
Get deep, even if it scares you a little bit. Make eye contact. Hold his hand, or massage his foot - physical contact is important while reaching out and having meaningful dialogue. Choose your words carefully, speak from your heart and always bring the focus back to you. Give him the opportunity to speak and don't interrupt each other. Listen, and I don't mean just with your ears. Really listen, give each other your full attention.
A strong loving relationship begins long before the bedroom. I know, I know... it's one of the first things we all want to do. But seriously, wait. For some of us, we already know that jumping into bed with someone too quickly, ends the relationship quickly. Be best friends first. Make that phone call in the middle of the day, asking him how his day is going. Tell him about your day. Be the last voice he hears on the phone before he falls asleep at night. Stay connected throughout the day. Send the text, letting him know you're thinking of him. It's okay to be cute and sweet. My guy sends me a corny line once a week for good measure.
Get out and do things that you both love. Take photos when you're out on a hike, see movies together, discover new restaurants or pack a picnic lunch and go to a park. Check out that band, or go to that rave together. Dance. Play. No matter what your age is, loosen up and discover new things with him. Let go of what the world told you you were supposed to be. Get real, and share that with him.
Look, there should be no one else on the planet you should want to be with more than him, so be exactly who you are, without fear. Accept him for exactly who he is, without judgement or criticism. It is true, that we show people how we want to be treated. Show him, by example.
Not everyone is the same. You may not agree on everything. Actually, you probably won't agree on everything, and that is totally okay. Learn each other's quirks and pet-peeves, and don't step all over them. Discuss, negotiate, compromise and adjust. That doesn't mean be a doormat. Find a healthy middle-ground. Trust me, it works.
Mean what you say, keep your promises and hold yourself accountable. It's not that hard. When you love someone, it's pretty easy. Allow trust to grow. Bond with him mentally, emotionally and physically. Make your home together your sacred space. Keep it a safe place where you both feel comfortable and free. Cook meals together, do the household chores together, discuss your finances together. Get ready to be mature and plan your future together.
If you're one of those "flight or fight" types, don't give up. When you feel the urge to bolt, stop. When you want to lash out at him for no apparent reason, don't. Take a moment, or a day or two, to be alone with your feelings, because it's not him that's making you feel that way. There's always stuff from our pasts that pop up when things might seem to be going too well. Don't self-sabotage. Allow yourself to feel what you're feeling, process it, let go of it and move on. Don't leave him in the dark, let him know what you're feeling. He will be glad you did, he will give you your space and he will be there when you get back. Trust him.
What are relationship goals? For me, it means being okay to be not okay, and knowing that he's not going to run away just because of that. It means making time to be together and not wavering from that. It means keeping our private life private, and not allowing drama in. It means keeping toxic people out of our relationship, respecting each other and honoring what we are creating together. It means knowing that I can depend on him, and he can depend on me. It means not making excuses and not holding back. It means believing in each other, supporting and encouraging one another. It means giving each other space when we need it, while still staying connected.
Anything worthwhile in life is worth the effort. And it takes effort to be in a mature committed relationship. But here's the thing - don't settle! Please, for the love of God, don't settle just because you don't want to be alone. You are worth more than that. That guy that's wild and crazy - yea, that's all that he is. Don't go there. That guy that's great in bed, but won't answer your calls any other time. Don't go there either. Respect yourself. Wait as long as it takes. Meet people and be aware of the red-flags. You deserve the best, and you can't make someone be something that they aren't, so don't try that either. We all have potential, but when that's all he's got, move on. When someone shows you who they are, believe them.
That guy that's your best friend, the one who is there for you when a boyfriend dumps you and you're crying in the middle of the night. That guy who listens to you, looks forward to the times when he can spend a few minutes with you. That guy who thinks it's funny when you get tired and whiney. That guy who calls you just to see what's new in your life. That guy who surprises you with your favorite coffee. That guy who binge-watches Netflix and eats pizza with you, while you're in your pajamas all day, and you feel totally at ease with him. That guy who remembers your birthday, and everything else that's important to you. That guy who has seen you at your worst, and at your best, and likes you any way. That guy. Spend time with him.
Wow, I guess I had a lot of advice to give after-all. But remember, this is just one woman's opinion - my own personal experiences with the greatest guy I've ever met in my life. He was so worth the wait.
Thanks for reading.
Wednesday, November 14th, 2018
The walk I walk is treacherous.
The hill I climb is not for the weary.
I am a veteran of the castle, hanging off the side of a mountain.
The hippies, artists and thieves awaken in the gulch.
Coyotes call from the distant hills.
There is a calm hush over this sleepy little town, the quiet before the rush.
The sun attempts to break through the haze on this cold fall morning.
It struggles, like most of us. It is Hump Day after-all.
The air is crisp and my nose is cold.
Wearing white long-johns and sweater-boots, an oversized turquoise sweatshirt with a gray thermal shirt underneath, black gloves and my dreaded Michigan coat, I step outside into the early morning chill. Not because I want to, I’m simply out of half-n-half. Coffee without creamer is torture for me.
My views of the Verde Valley are shadowed by an overcast sky.
A hot air balloon is barely visible in the smokiness that hides the red rock mountains.
I crave snow and the smell of wood burning in a fireplace.
My breathing is heavy. I stop halfway. A laundry-line strung across a porch for all the world to see - socks and shorts, t-shirts and towels - frozen in time. An empty parking lot in the middle of town, Jeromies emerge from their homes half-alert, classic rock music plays from a radio on a windowsill of an apartment above the storefronts. The volume is turned down low, just like the voices of passers-by.
A nod, a wave, a smile, a “mornin’” thrown at me here and there.
A simple smile is returned.
I open the door to the little coffee shop, the warmth and the aroma overwhelm my senses. A sigh of relief stretches far across my face. An Americano with creamer and a cranberry-orange muffin served warm are well worth the walk up the hill. Breakfast on The Steps, there’s only a few things better than that.
A black glove mysteriously wandered off, I hold the other for ransom.
Retracing my steps back down the hill, I find the escapee and return it to my coat pocket.
With my feet on the earth, I am reminded why I'm here.
I am a part of this place, and it is a part of me.
The warmth of my studio invites me back in.
My day has begun.
- Zushka Biros
Photo Credits: Zushka's iPhone
Art Debut: Expect the Unexpected
A combination of Zushka's original artwork, plus artwork created of Zushka, in one show.
I'm going to start off with this statement: "My name is Zushka, and I am anorexic."
That does not mean that I am starving today, or manipulating food, or over-exercising, or stepping on a scale, or measuring my hips, or a multitude of other dysfunctional behaviors that stem from the disease. Simply stated, it reminds me that I am not cured.
I didn't plan on becoming a model, it just sort of happened. Nearly 6 years ago, a friend of mine who was also a photographer, invited me over to her house to test some new lighting equipment. I belly danced in her backyard while she shot away. That began an invisible healing process, which continues to this day.
The photos are stunning for sure, but there is a lot more going on behind the scenes, and I don't mean physically. Body Dysmorphic Disorder and Anorexia are diseases that remain inside a person's psychological makeup throughout their lifetime. I use the analogy of Alcoholism as an example: Even after an alcoholic becomes sober, they are still an alcoholic. The disease of alcoholism does not go away just because the alcohol has been removed from their life. The same is true for Anorexia and BDD. The absence of dysfunctional coping mechanisms and activities does not remove the disease(s).
The healthier I became, the more I believed that the disorders would leave, and go away once and for all. Years had passed, and when that didn't happen, anxiety started to set in.
Eleven years ago, I "sobered up" by learning how to eat, what portions to eat and when to eat. I learned which foods affected the body in which ways. I detoxed, with the help of a Naturopath. I took a lot of supplements, hired a personal trainer and started gaining muscle weight. It took a while before I noticed any difference in myself. I relied on what the professionals were noticing. BDD is tricky, and although I felt better inside, I couldn't see what was going on outwardly. In other words, when I looked in the mirror all I saw was a distorted view of my body.
Here's a little crash course on BDD and Anorexia:
Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a mental disorder characterized by the obsessive idea that some aspect of one's own body part or appearance is severely flawed and warrants exceptional measures to hide or fix their dysmorphic part on their person. In BDD's delusional variant, the flaw is imagined.
Anorexia nervosa, often referred to simply as anorexia, is an eating disorder characterized by low weight, fear of gaining weight, and a strong desire to be thin, resulting in food restriction. Many people with anorexia see themselves as overweight even though they are in fact underweight. If asked they usually deny they have a problem with low weight. Often they weigh themselves frequently, eat only small amounts, and only eat certain foods. Some will exercise excessively.
Studies have been done for decades, trying to figure out how and why certain people end up with BDD and/or Anorexia. The conclusion could be genetics, low self-esteem, childhood abuse, trauma and any number of variables. In my own personal experience, childhood abuse and trauma resulted in a nightmare of starving myself, without knowing I was.
Fast-forward to adulthood: The word "anorexia" didn't become a part of my vocabulary until I was 35 years old, in a therapist's office. Yet it still took 7 more years before I decided to do anything about it. And another 7 years after that before I even knew what BDD was. (Flashback: my flavor of anorexia began at age 7.)
What does modeling have to do with any of this?
When I belly danced in my friend's backyard, and she took lots of photos, I was able to see myself for the first time. I know how weird that sounds, but it's true. When she stopped and showed me an image on the back of her camera, I started to cry. I didn't believe it was me, even though I had watched her take the photo. I kept asking her "is that me? Is that really me??"
She had no idea I had a problem with my body or food, all she saw was a pretty normal-looking person. I told her about the disorders and she also began to cry. I kept moving and she kept shooting, and by the end of the 5 hour shoot, it felt like a huge burden had been released from me. I wrote about the experience as soon as I got home that evening.
Since that time, I have modeled for 23 photographers. Each shoot is different, artistically as well as mentally, for me. I journal about each experience, but what makes this one different than all the rest is this: I just turned 53, and I never thought I'd live this long. There is permanent physical damage as a result of the disease, and, well, frankly, 53 is a long life for an anorexic.
I showed up for the shoot on the morning two days before my birthday. My boyfriend drove while I tried to sleep during the car-ride. It was a long drive. I was dressed appropriately, wearing huge pajama pants with a leopard print, and an over-sized soft sweater; thick socks and slipper-boots.
Dave's cabin out in the woods of Payson, AZ, was a peaceful place - part photo-studio, part home. The clawfoot tub out back in the woods caught my attention right away. I, of course, brought way too much stuff with me. I knew we wouldn't be using it all, but I like having a variety of things to choose from. Photo shoots are spontaneous, although they are somewhat planned.
I don't get nervous on the day of a photo shoot, which is amazing. I mean, I would imagine most people would be a little nervous baring all for a stranger. Nude modeling comes naturally for me. But this shoot was unlike any I've ever done before. I would be wearing a garter-belt, stockings and sexy heels.
Rosemary, a brilliant local musician and salon owner, created a look for me that was perfect - my hair was transformed into burgundy and deep brown with pinkish-purple at the ends. It was time for a serious hair change, and she did not disappoint.
I applied makeup, which I only use for photo-shoots. Any average day you'll find me wearing no makeup whatsoever. I prepped for weeks, but that's a story for another blog.
I introduced my boyfriend (who, by the way, is also a photographer) to Dave and his lovely wife, Linda. And then we got to work, while my boyfriend took a walk with his camera.
First pose was in the clawfoot tub. I took my sweater off and sat in the tub, while Dave took some test shots. Connecting with the photographer is important, in my opinion. If I don't feel a personal connection, the shoot is a bust. We talked, while he was shooting, about photography, modeling, life. I liked him right away.
One of the rooms in Dave & Linda's home is for boudoir shoots. We went there next. A couple of hours posing nude, semi-nude, clothed in barely anything - this is where the magic happens. What's going on behind the scenes inside of me is what it's all about. The finished images are just the icing on the cake.
The fact that I was turning 53 in just a couple of days was running through my mind, while posing nude for a photographer with an incredible reputation for his artistry. I felt empowered. I've probably used that word in other blogs about modeling, but this time it was overwhelmingly powerful. When I told Dave my story, and how modeling has nothing to do with vanity for me, he set his camera down for a moment and listened.
"These photos represent that I'm still alive, when really the odds are stacked against me. And that I'm more than just alive, I'm healthy. I have earned all of this, my weight, my curves. My body has been scary-thin, very fit, and now, this. I accept it for what it is today. I'm turning 53, and I feel more vibrant than ever. I'm grateful for all of this."
I call it invisible healing because no one can see what's going on inside of me while I'm modeling. No one knows how the shoot is affecting me psychologically. I show up and I'm totally myself, I don't know how to be anyone else. And what comes across through the lens is truly magical, because the photographer is capturing the essence of me, not just a flat image of what I look like on the outside. Whatever shines through in that moment when the shutter clicks, is a glimpse into who I am.
How I felt when I saw the first image that Dave sent to me: Wow! Just, WOW!! "Halloween & the Full Moon" is what I captioned it. The second one, "Birthday Suit", was the perfect birthday gift to myself. Thank you, Dave Kelley.
Why do I write about BDD and Anorexia?
It's really simple. I believe that when you expose something dark to the light, it loses its power over you. When you speak your truth, it becomes less frightening. And before you know it, other people reach out to you who understand your path, because they have experienced it too. It was not easy for me to admit that I was anorexic. The word was terrifying to me, so much so that I could only whisper it when I was in therapy at age 35. Thanks to a 12-Step Program, I was able to see it for what it truly was, instead of a glooming overpowering grasp on my life.
I love what I do, and I'll keep doing it for as long as I am able. I'm grateful for the community of young models who inspire me, and I am glad that I inspire some of them. We are all on this planet for a short period of time, so do whatever your heart calls you to do. Create art, build a house, climb a mountain, bake cookies for your kids, design an empire, whatever it is just do it. That's my little bit of advice for those who want to hear it.
Thanks for reading.
Have you ever woken up and realized that your life is the dream you've been creating all along?
Today is one of those days for me. They happen periodically, sometimes quite often, but today it hit me. My studio, and the business that I run from it, has been in existence for almost 3 years. Actually, 2 years and 10 1/2 months, to be exact.
What a whirlwind of a ride I've been on since November of 2016! I had no idea what would transpire over time, or how long I would have my studio in Jerome, Arizona. I happened upon it by chance, and what a great leap of faith it was for me to take it, without a concrete business plan or a sense of what would come. All I knew was, once I wandered into that space, I had to be there. I didn't know what for, I just knew I needed to be there.
With just a desk, chair and computer, I got to work doing what I did best - writing, and developing websites, marketing & social media promos for clients. Within weeks, the photographers, whom I've worked with, started to come up the mountain to Jerome, after I sent them photos of the huge wall of windows and natural light - a photographer's paradise.
The monthly photography workshops started just a few months later. Today, with over a year and a half worth of workshops under our belts (me and the instructor, one of my photographers), an incredible reputation gradually grew, offering unique photographic opportunities with amazing professional models.
Since that time, a lot has happened. Last October the monthly art shows began. Shortly later, musicians were paired with the artists, creating monthly events that have only grown in attendance and popularity.
Classes, workshops, events, meetings and services have come and gone, evolved and transformed over time, opening up what's to come in this next year.
I still write, and there are several books in the works. Blogging and short stories (and soon, an online magazine for artists) are my thing, and I love it all. I still model, and have several big shoots coming up before the end of 2018.
Here's the scoop: I've partnered with an entertainment company, promoting music events and parties (raves). Our first independent show will be on Saturday, October 20th, just in time for Halloween. I am beyond thrilled to be organizing and arranging something this huge. It calls to my passions, a combination of art, music, visual and technical skills, writing press releases, meeting all the players, arranging the event details, photography and videography, creating marketing material and promoting. I couldn't ask for something better than this. It's like putting together a party on a gigantic scale.
What's coming next? January, 2019 - LOOK OUT! Zushka Transformed.
Watch the video on this Blog, see the cast of characters, the usual suspects (including yours truly), and follow me by subscribing to my blog.
Original Blog on Red Bench Photo Studio: BLOG
I am truly grateful for everyone's support and encouragement.
#Tagboard is one of my favorite things on zushkabiros.com. Want to know a little bit more about my personality? Go there! Inspirational quotes, funny quotes, motivational quotes, silly quotes... they're all there. Not a website follower? No problem. There's more on Instagram, plus other random photos. Have an adventurous Labor Day Weekend.
As many of you know, I take several 30-Day Digital Detoxes each year. (And incase you didn't know, this is something that reenergizes me.) My life gets busy, I have less and less time for jumping on social media, and before I know it my health is failing. Scrolling through newsfeeds on Instagram or Facebook, texting instead of calling, and responding to tons of emails isn't a healthy choice for me. I become desensitized.
Around 4:00 this morning and immediately got to work on my computer, when an idea came to me to separate myself from digital devices, particularly my iPhone. This is something I've been wanting to do for months, and I spent a lot of time preparing for it. Life just feels a whole lot better when I'm disconnected. I'm ready to take the leap off of social media.
For those of you who are already asking me "why", here's the scoop:
1. I am busy. SERIOUSLY busy. Between my photography business, modeling, website design work, writing, my art gallery and event planning, I simply don't have time for social media anymore, and that's totally okay. I'd much rather spend my time creating than scrolling through newsfeeds.
2. I found myself looking at my phone too much. Even though I disabled notifications months ago, I still found myself looking at my phone throughout the day. It's not only not-good for me physically (my neck - looking down), it drains my energy on a soul-level.
3. Although it's fun to keep in touch with people, I'm pretty much old-school. I like meeting people for coffee or a walk, and talking to them face-to-face. I like meeting up with friends for a movie or a show. I'd much rather have human interaction than digital contact.
4. I believe that we are what we eat, look at, listen to and practice. I made a conscious decision years ago to change my life, and that included where I lived, what I ate, what I read, what I watched, what I listened to and with whom I chose to spend time with. Social media doesn't nourish me.
5. I'm totally an introvert and an empath. I love being alone, which means lots of time meditating, reading, journaling, detoxing, resting and reenergizing.
6. For me, social media can be a big distraction. I could spend a lot of time scrolling through my newsfeeds, to the point where it could become addictive. I've spent a lot of wasted hours looking at things that are really none of my business.
7. I'm a pretty private person, and although I've shared a lot on social media, I have found that I feel like I'm exposing too much of myself out into cyber-world. Not a good mix for me.
I think that about covers everything. Of course, nothing is ever written in stone, but my goal is to stay off social media through the end of the year, hopefully longer or indefinitely.
For me this is a healthy decision. Life is short, and I'm seriously looking at where my time is being spent, what I'm allowing into my life and what my personal boundaries are.
For those of you who are in the same boat, welcome aboard! Take a 30-Day Digital Detox challenge, see how you feel. I'll warn you, my first one caused serious withdrawals, but the outcome was so worth it.
Thanks for listening.
I am living the dream, one day at a time, and sharing my experiences with you.
If you liked what you read today, you may make a contribution and support my writing. Much gratitude!
© 2016 ZUSHKA BIROS ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.