Books by Kamala Harris

You may be the first

to do many things, but make sure

you are not the last.

Kamala Harris’s mom

This year we learned that time flies even when you’re not having fun so why wait? This year we found much to be grateful for even as we pivoted to pursue new interests and ways of being thanks to Covid-19. This year we welcome with great expectations the fresh possibilities Vice President Elect Kamala Harris brings to our nation, young girls and the women of the world. I can only imagine the pride of her mother in watching her daughter blaze trails, going where no woman has gone before in US history, and inviting us all to “Dream with ambition and live with conviction.”

Her books will be among my better gift ideas for the holidays for both young ones and the young once:

Smart on Crime: A Career Prosecutor’s Plan to Make Us Safer

The Truths We Hold: An American Journey, a memoir

Superheroes Are Everywhere

We are thankful for the breath of hope that she brings to our nation in this brave new decade, as she paves the way for more female and immigrant voices to take their well-deserved seats in government.

Click on “Leave a Comment” to share your Kamala love and what you’re thankful for in 2020. I am thankful for women like Kamala and you!


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© Sharon Birke

Managing Member, DoubleSmart LLC

201 697 1947

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Woman

The Woman With Many Plans


It’s better to be interesting


to be beautiful.

Maye Musk


Reading A Woman Makes A Plan: Advice for a Lifetime of Adventure, Beauty and Success by Maye Musk kept me awake past my bedtime in admiration of this indomitable spirit.  She’s the woman I want to be when I grow up!  When we see women all dolled up, it’s easy to tell ourselves that she probably hasn’t been through the hardships we’ve had. Not so! Making a fresh start–often from scratch–and moving to nine cities in three countries over her adult life, Maye has had to pick herself up one extra time after circumstances had pushed her down yet again, holding her head high with positive attitude and the willingness to do whatever it takes to show up and make the best of whatever cards life dealt her.

She speaks of her parents who set the example of “Live dangerously–carefully.”  Her mother was another incredible woman who packed up five young kids with all their food/water supply to survive three weeks of driving in the African desert–their family adventure for eight summers. She reinvented herself as a prolific artist in her 60s to 80s after her beloved husband’s tragic death; then learned to make art on the computer at 94.  This reminds me to keep stepping forward in life with grace, to always embrace the new, and to be supportive of the decisions my young adults make for themselves.

At 71, Maye continues to make plans, sharing her accumulated wisdom from motherhood, modeling, and her other lifelong profession, nutrition. She explains her sensible guide to eating based on small healthy snacks/meals when you’re hungry so as not to stress your body with starvation. Plan ahead what to keep in your fridge and your day bag and be kind to ourselves on occasional indulgences, never punishing nor going to extremes with severe restrictions that are impossible to maintain. Best of all, pay attention to our feelings that goad us to eat mindlessly and understand what changes we need to make.

I want to be surrounded by people like her who don’t complain nor obsess about looks, who are unafraid of aging and wearing silver hair, people who keep themselves engaged doing interesting things and giving their best for the people they love and work with. I want to look to the future with enthusiasm, always eager to learn and have fun no matter what shows up and despite severe pain, setbacks and heartache.  I’m not planning on Mars so I’m thankful for the inspiration of your beautiful light on this earth, Maye!

Click on “Leave a comment” (top left) to share what you love about the woman you want to be when you grow up. (All photos on this page from Google Images.)









Give the women you love the most unique gift

of elegant and timeless portraits with a

Powerful Goddess Gift Certificate

for a most memorable photo shoot for up to three people!

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

© Sharon Birke

Managing Member, DoubleSmart LLC

201 697 1947

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Woman

Best Books for Grads (and Teens)


If you think you are too small

to be effective, you have never been

in bed with a mosquito.

Bette Reese


With June just around the corner, graduation has been on my mind–Tick Tock! I am sure my teen would rather get a sexy new car as his gift, but I’m equally certain our young men and women are much better served by the enduring wisdom imparted by those who have gone before them. May this collection of powerful books inspire and ignite a fire in their bellies to make their own dreams come true!

Getting There: A Book of Mentors by Gillian Zoe Segal.   For those who have grown deaf to their own parents’ talk, this book distills pearls of wisdom from the inventor of Spanx to finance whiz, Bloomberg and good old Warren.


Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth. Why making a personal commitment to doing something hard at an early age grows our power to overcome hardships later in life.

The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter by Meg Jay. It’s never too early to plant seeds for your career and relationships early.

I Need Your Love–Is That True? by Byron Katie. How to deal with people who disappointment, frustrate, and anger you.

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert.  Demystifying the genie of creation as something more accessible than we’ve been led to believe.

7 Habits for Highly Effective Teens by Sean Covey. Begin with the end in mind, eat your biggest frog first, seek to understand another point of view,… Steven Covey’s son translates his dad’s pillars of humanity for the younger set.

Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski. For a proper and enlightened understanding of female sexuality.

Free Women, Free Men by Camille Paglia. Straight talking and sharp shooting, Camille Paglia speaks of the kind of feminism that owns up to its power without hiding behind cries of victimhood. Real adult talk, at last!

The Four Agreements by Paolo Coelho.  Even those who have sworn off reading can skim this short and sweet manifesto simplifying how to live in peace with each moment.

Click on “Leave a Comment” (top left) to add your life changing favorite(s)!



Give the women you love the most unique gift

of elegant and timeless portraits

with  a Powerful Goddess portrait session Gift Certificate:

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© Sharon Birke

Managing Member, DoubleSmart LLC

201 697 1947

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Woman


Come As You Are

Women who love themselves 

are threatening; men who love

real women, more so.

Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth


Excerpts from Dr. Emily Nagoski, PhD’s new release Come As You Are:

A woman’s body and her pleasure belong to her and no one else. It’s possible to say no to intercourse without saying no to all the other things that come with it–the love, the affection, the pleasure, the play. Your own internal experience is a legitimate guide for whether or not you want to try something.

Exposure to media that reinforces body self-criticism increases body dissatisfaction, negative mood, low-self-esteem, and eating disorders. If there were a food that consistently made you sick, you’d stop eating it. So if there’s media that makes you feel more self-critical, stop looking at it.

Pay attention to how magazines, TV shows, and music videos make you feel, and stop buying what makes you feel worse. If it makes you feels worse, it’s likely to interfere with your sexual wellbeing. Even if you’ve been taught to believe that feeling worse about your body “motivates” you to “improve,” that’s a psychological trap you never need to be caught in again.

To stop watering these weeds in your mind:

Take off all your clothes–or as many as you can bring yourself to take off–and look at your entire body in a mirror. Make a list of everything you see that you like.

Of course, your brain will first be filled with all the self-criticism and disgust you’ve been holding on to all these years. Remind yourself that the day you were born, your body was a cause for celebration, for love without condition, and that’s just as true today as it was then.

Do this over and over again. Practice acknowledging the self-critical, judgmental thoughts yet focusing on the self-appreciating thoughts. Celebrate your body as it deserves to be celebrated. Treat it with the respect and affection it deserves. Never say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to your best friend or daughter.

Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to share what helps you be grateful for the beauty that you are.













Give the women you love the most unique gift of elegant and timeless portraits

with a Powerful Goddess portrait session Gift Certificate:

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

 Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother

Best Books This Summer

Too much

of a good thing

is wonderful.

Mae West

While I do my best not to get overly baked in the Mediterranean sun, do tell what’s on your reading list?  Here’s a collection by (mostly) women writers for whatever corner of the planet this summer may take you:

The Ladies of Managua by Eleni Gage. Through three generations in Nicaragua and Miami, love, loss, secrets, and the mother daughter dynamic hold true no matter where we live.


The Wild Oats Project by Robin Rinaldi. Move over, Madame Bovary! This woman’s midlife memoir  is a quest for passion at any cost.


Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave. A Sonoma vineyard provides the backdrop of a family drama, each character exploring what (s)he wants from relationships and of her/himself.


Speak by Louisa Hall. Moms will want to read this book recommended “for all teens.” What to do when your kid in high school refuses to speak out of shame and becomes a social outcast?


The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty by Vendetta Vida. In Morocco, a woman reels you in on her journey of reinvention, questioning our preconceived notions of identity, perception, and social blueprints.



The Rocks by Peter Nichols. Spanning six decades and three generations of two families, a tragic event sets the stage for the tale of two warring expat Brits in Mallorca who used to be married to each other.


In The Country by Mia Alvar. What stories do we tell ourselves to make our reality bearable? Nine short story vignettes of Filipinos working around the world, each contemplating the masks we wear and the consequences we face after tough choices.


The Unfortunates by Sophie McManus.  A New York family struggles to hold on to the waning opulence in their lifestyle. When is feeling rich (or poor) relative?


Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to share what’s in your beach/travel bag. And have the sunniest 4th of July!



Give the women you love the most unique gift of elegant and timeless portraits

with a Powerful Goddess portrait session Gift Certificate:

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

 Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother



War does not determine

who is right–

only who is left.

Bertrand Russell


I don’t like war movies, yet with Angelina Jolie blazing a brave new trail behind the camera as producer and director of  Unbroken, how can I resist?  The story revolves around the life of Olympic athlete Louis “Louie” Zamperini and is based on the nonfiction book by Laura Hillenbrand, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption.  From this first venture in film making, Angelina is already poised to win Best Director by the Critics’ Choice Movie Award tomorrow.

Maybe I’m not going to see the film for the sake of story. While my daughter loves her movies for her good looks and heroic roles, I suspect I go as a fan of a woman who forges her own path doing what she loves and growing in whatever direction her soul beckons, personal demons be damned!  I’ll likely be imagining what went through her head behind each scene more than paying attention to what’s in it. From bad ass teen to awe inspiring woman and mother, Angelina embodies survival, resilience and redemption herself.

On this page is Angelina as photographed by one of my favorite photographers, Annie Leibowitz, another woman of quiet strength–but that’s another blog post.

Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to share how you’re bad ass awesome!






 Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother

Ban That Book

Adam wanted the apple only because it was forbidden.

The mistake was in not forbidding the serpent…

then he would have eaten the serpent.

Mark Twain

Who knew this was Banned Books Week?  Who knew some of today’s popular classics were initially shunned?  And how interesting that negative attention and censorship only whets our appetite and enthusiasm (and sales) for whatever is forbidden.

These authors knew how to let judgement slide with humor, if not grace:

J.K. Rowling on accusations that Harry Potter promotes Satanism:

“A very famous writer once said, ‘A book is like a mirror. If a fool looks in, you can’t expect a genius to look out.’ People tend to find in books what they want to find. And I think my books are very moral. I know they have absolutely nothing to do with what this lady is writing about, so I’m afraid I can’t give her much help there.”

Mark Twain to his editor on the Concord Public Library banning The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in 1885:

“Apparently, the Concord library has condemned Huck as ‘trash and only suitable for the slums.’ This will sell us another twenty-five thousand copies for sure!”

And to a librarian on the Brooklyn Public Library’s ban on the same book in 1905:

“I am greatly troubled by what you say. I wrote ‘Tom Sawyer’ & ‘Huck Finn’ for adults exclusively, & it always distressed me when I find that boys and girls have been allowed access to them. The mind that becomes soiled in youth can never again be washed clean. I know this by my own experience, & to this day I cherish an unappeased bitterness against the unfaithful guardians of my young life, who not only permitted but compelled me to read an unexpurgated Bible through before I was 15 years old. None can do that and ever draw a clean sweet breath again on this side of the grave.”

Harper Lee in a 1966 letter to the Hanover County School Board in Virginia after they banned To Kill a Mockingbird from school libraries state-wide:

“Surely it is plain to the simplest intelligence that To Kill a Mockingbirdspells out in words of seldom more than two syllables a code of honor and conduct, Christian in its ethic, that is the heritage of all Southerners. To hear that the novel is ‘immoral’ has made me count the years between now and 1984, for I have yet to come across a better example of doublethink. I feel, however, that the problem is one of illiteracy, not Marxism. Therefore I enclose a small contribution to the Beadle Bumble Fund that I hope will be used to enroll the Hanover County School Board in any first grade of its choice.”

Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to share your forbidden favorites.

Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Photography for the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother


The Job of Perfection

The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is

giving up on being perfect and

beginning the work of becoming yourself.

Anna Quindlen

No one could put down Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson in my family.   Instead of starting with Chapter 1, my 12 year old went straight for the section on the thing dearest to his heart:  the iPad.  My mom wanted a quick turn to read about the childhood that spurred outstanding success (–and an early demise, Ma!)  I read bits and pieces amidst all this passing around while my husband, who rarely reads anything outside of work, finished the 630 pages in a week!

Steve Jobs’ story is about persisting towards perfection.  My 2012 resolutions lean more towards loving my imperfections:

1. I will see my fabulousness.  A girlfriend in her 40s drove home this lesson when she confided that the sight of her teen daughter’s amazing body (an exact replica of her own two decades ago) makes her wonder “What the heck was I complaining about?”

2.  I will speak to support trust in our own wisdom and the possibility that life is an adventure of learning from our choices, not avoiding mistakes and failures.

3. I will listen for praise and appreciation though critics and know-it-alls tend to have louder voices.

4. I will resist the urge to rip off the little hair left on my husband’s head when he insists on an extended search for the perfect sofa.   Surely being married to someone with high standards can only mean that I am perfect!  😉

Malcolm Gladwell‘s article “The Tweaker” sums up “how effectively Steve put his idiosyncrasies—his petulance, his narcissism, and his rudeness—in the service of perfection” in  the New Yorker.

How are you already perfect with your imperfections?

© Sharon Birke

Photography for the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother

Powerful Goddess is a trademark of DoubleSmart LLC

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