make happy

Japanese maple.  Photographed with Nikon D300, 60mm micro lens.

Yesterday I received some bad news about two friends: one of these women contacted me directly; news about the other was delivered by a mutual friend who I'd met for drinks. These two women do not know each other, nor is it likely that they will ever have the opportunity to meet, since they don't live in the same community.

What's interesting, however, is that in both cases, these women are handling their situations with intense grace.  Where most people would find themselves depressed or even incapacitated in the same situations, both of my friends are able to use humour, and acceptance, and even gratitude to manage their circumstances.  But the truth is, even in less extraordinary times, these friends are both just generally happy people.  Their natural setpoint is happy.

I think we all probably know people like this:  people who seem to deal with uncanny odds with relative ease, even humour.  And I've long had a theory that people like this -- people who just deal with life more happily -- aren't necessarily born that way, but some of them actually learn to be that way.

A quick Google search (not the most scientific of methods, admittedly) seems to indicate that I'm half right:   about half of our happiness setpoint is based in genetics, but the other half is within our power to change.

You know what?  I'll take it.

The article goes on to talk about how you can help jolt your setpoint in the right direction, and frankly, it's the kind of stuff you'd expect:  get some fresh air, go on a run, make a list once a week of three things you're grateful for, have lunch with a friend.  In other words, go out and make happy.

So today, as the week draws to a close, I'll challenge you all to take some time over the weekend to make happy.  Spend time with people you love, start a good book, or just take 5 minutes to write that short gratitude list.  You never know: by doing this, you just might actually become ... happy.

Have a great weekend, everyone.


SongCool by Gwen Stefani

alex, age 5

Photographed with Nikon D300 and an ancient 100mm manual lens.

Today was picture day at Alex's school, and she asked me if she could wear her hair wild and curly.  So we got her all fixed up, and Marcus put her in the car to take her to school.

Unfortunately, because of some crazy storms we'd had last night, the streets were flooded, and her school was closed.  She returned home somewhat disappointed, because she very much had been looking forward to taking her school photograph with her wild, curly hair.

So I pulled out my camera, and grabbed my favourite portrait lens.  And even though I'm sure sitting with me wasn't nearly as fun for her as sitting on a fake, astroturfed pastoral scene at her school, I'm still pleased with how it turned out.

Song: 1 2 3 4 by Feist

music, tea & a candle: a good start

The outside patio at Brasil, at Westheimer & Dunlavy.  Photographed with Nikon D300, 60mm lens

I spent some of yesterday morning writing at my favourite coffeehouse in Houston.  This place isn't my favourite because of the coffee (although it's certainly fine -- and so's the tea) or the food (which is actually  stellar) or the service (the employees have always been very warm to me; however, I've heard stories of the opposite).  There's just something about this place.  This coffeehouse has been around for quite a while, and over time has grown to almost triple its original size, adding lots of square footage and a second outdoor space.  And yet, the setting remains calming and soothing, despite being located on one of the busiest streets in Houston.

Of course, the wall of flowering jasmine and paper lanterns probably don't hurt.

Anyway, it got me thinking about the little practices we do every morning to start our day.  For me, the day hasn't begun until I've made myself a cup of tea, I've got some music playing on my computer, and I've lit a candle.  I've learned that if I start my day in just the right way, I'm often far more likely to be productive -- at least for the first few hours, anyway.

How about you -- how do you start your weekday?

SongI feel good by James Brown

random weekend thoughts

Another shot (different angle) from the callas. Photographed with Nikon D300 and 60mm micro lens.

After spinning my wheels for another day or so, I finally started writing something ... anything ... and lo and behold, I was on my way, making what I think is a pretty considerable dent in the book. There was admittedly a moment when I was seized with the panicked impression that the brilliant idea I had, once reduced to paper, was actually the dumbest thing ever to see the light of day, but I managed to work through it -- or, at the very least, I've decided to assume that my initial euphoric reaction when I came up with the idea is truly sound. Once I've edited the work a bit more this week, I'm pretty sure I'll actually believe it.*

Unrelated: over the weekend, I ran to a local book store, and picked up a reader for Alex, and an exercise book for her to practice writing her letters. While browsing the store, I came across a "staff recommendation" of a book on the Mayan prophesies around the year 2012. Like a bad accident, I couldn't put it down for 10 minutes, and by the time I got home, I was completely undone -- between end-of-the-world predictions, coupled with current news of swine flu and general economic catastrophe, I was a frayed, jangling nerve.

But then? Marcus made lunch. And after lunch he and I sat outside with a glass of wine, and watched Alex and Rufus race around the garden with total glee. And I realized that I was wasting far too much time worrying about the future, and not enough enjoying the present.

* And incidentally, thanks so much to all of you for your patience and generosity with me last week. It absolutely helped.

Song: Ominira by Angelique Kidjo


comment of the day (to keep you going)

My morning run. Photographed with Nikon Coolpix.

The other day, I received a lovely comment. I thought I'd share it here with you:

just a few thoughts from other people to keep you motivated:

No one’s interested in something that you didn’t do.
- Gord Downey, The Tragically Hip

If you're at a dead end, take a deep breath, stomp your foot and shout BEGIN!
You never know where it will take you.

- Twyla Tharp, The Creative Habit

Advice for writers:
Show up, pay attention, tell the truth, and don't be attached to results.
- Rosellen Brown

One of my personal favorites...

To my mind there must be, at the bottom of it all, not an equation, but an utterly simple idea.
And to me that idea, when we finally discover it, will be so compelling, so inevitable, that we will say to one another,
"Oh, how beautiful. How could it have been otherwise?"

- John Archibald Wheeler

Thanks, taerna.  I totally needed those thoughts!

Have a great weekend, everyone.

* * * * * * *

Updated to announce that two of my fellow Shutter Sisters, Jen Lemen and Stephanie Roberts, just won a photography contest:  they will receive $50,000 to travel around the world spreading hope.  Can you imagine?

Congratulations, ladies.  Couldn't happen to more well-deserving folks.  Really, really.


SongBack to life by Soul II Soul featuring Caron Wheeler

a little divulgence, and a word break

On the coffee table in my studio. Photographed with Nikon D300, 35mm lens

I mentioned last week that I'd met with some people recently, and it helped bring into focus some goals that I need to work toward for my career as a writer, photographer and artist.

So, I'll let you in on part of my secret: one of the people I met was a publisher friend, and I told her about a book idea I have.  She thinks it might have some legs.  But the bad part is that I'm still having a hard time putting it all together.  And while my house is sparkling from all the procrastination cleaning I've been doing, I've also realized that part of the reason that I can't seem to get words down on paper is because I find I put off the daunting task by focusing instead on the words that I'd like to share with you here on this site.

And so, with your indulgence, I'm going to take a bit of a word break here at Chookooloonks -- at the very least for the rest of this week.  I'll keep posting photographs daily (because I'm an addict, I have a problem, and I can't just break away from the sweet, sweet blogging), but I'm going to try to save the part of the brain that comes up with sentences, phrases and paragraphs (some of them coherent) for the offline writing I keep trying to accomplish.

But hey, don't let this stop you from commenting, or leaving your links for Love Thursday tomorrow, or whatever.  I'll keep reading and looking at everything you share.

Because I just can't break away from the sweet, sweet blogging.

(More words soon.)


SongWork it out by Jurassic 5 featuring Dave Matthews Band