friday chookooloonks life list update: number 59, learn to solve rubik's cube? CHECK. numbers 17 & 18, alex and i make friendship bracelets? CHECK. CHECK.

Bonus chookooloonks life list image:  a flower bud (number 64)!  Yay me!


Last Friday, I was scanning my life list, and realized that I had put "learn to solve Rubik's Cube" as item 59.

Last Friday seemed as good a day as any to get that done.  So I went out and got a Rubik's Cube, and did it.







You cannot imagine how great it feels to see those colours finally come together at the end.  If you'd like to experience it yourself, go pick yourself up a Rubik's Cube, and start watching an excellent series of instructional videos I found on YouTube, which start here.

* * * * * * *

As if that wasn't enough, also on Friday, I received a lovely email from reader Misty, who, noting that number 17 on my list was to learn how to make a friendship bracelet,  kindly sent me a link to a video with the easiest directions on how to make one, ever.  So, Saturday morning, since Alex and I had some Girl Time alone, we ran to our local hobby shop and bought an entire kit of embroidery floss.

I picked out 4 colours ...

... and look what I made!



So, given that number 17 was complete, I decided to tackle number 18, to teach Alex how to make a friendship bracelet.  So she picked out 4 colours, and look what she made!


Okay, she only made about two-thirds of it before she got completely bored, and I finished it.  But I figure two-thirds counts, by gum.


And on that note, have a great weekend, everybody.

SongOne week by Barenaked Ladies

cool stuff


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So there's lots of cool stuff happening these days:

Since we were talking about life lists yesterday, I thought perhaps some of you might be interested in the upcoming Mondo Beyondo online course being put on by the always lovely Andrea Scher and Jen Lemen.  It might be just the thing to help make some of those big ticket items on your life list come to pass.

Another online course that I'm seriously thinking of signing up for myself:  Kelly Rae Roberts' Flying Lessons.  This e-course is designed to show you how to build a successful business from your creative talents.  Kelly Rae is one of the most financially successful artists I've ever known in real life -- so if you've always dreamed of launching your own creative business, I suspect this course is for you.

On a completely seperate note, tomorrow, Thursday April 29th is Dining Out For Life  -- several restaurants all over the United States will be donating up to 33% of their food proceeds for the entire day to the local HIV/AIDS prevention/awareness organizations in their respective cities.  Click here to find out which restaurants may be participating in your neck of the woods (there's a pulldown menu at the bottom of the page), and consider treating yourself to a restaurant meal tomorrow.  After all, you gotta eat -- you might as well do it for a good cause.

And finally, after watching the following video showing an architect turn his 344-square-foot studio into a 24-room apartment, I will never again complain about not having enough space:

Dude.  If that's not "thinking outside the box," I don't know what is.


SongI can't go for that as performed by The Bird and The Bee.  Trust me, this ain't yo' mama's Hall & Oates.

on creating a life list



Recently, I've had a spate of people tell me that they are strongly considering writing their own life lists, which, as you can imagine, excites me to no end (Maggie, see what you've started, here?).  However, I have a lot of people who are also giving me reasons why they're afraid to come up with their own life lists, and this makes me sad.  Having had this list for about 2 months, I fully agree with Maggie that simply writing down the list is transformative -- and, like Maggie, I truly and sincerely want everyone to do their own lists, because it's such a powerful thing.  So today, I thought I'd share a couple of tips and tricks to creating your own life list, in the event you haven't yet, and are just looking for a little nudge to do so.

1.  First of all, write it down.  I suspect many of you, like me, have had sort of a running mental list of things you'd like to accomplish in your life, but you've never actually written it down.  You might be walking through some open-air festival, see someone juggling, and think to yourself, "Huh.  I'd love to be able to do that."  Or maybe one day you're watching TV, and muse to yourself, "Wow.  I'd love to ride with the horsemen of Mongolia."   The problem with avoiding writing these things down is that by not doing so, the thoughts remain exactly what they are:  fleeting thoughts.  But when you write them down, suddenly they become more concrete.  Even more, they're little reminders -- so that when, a week later, you come across a weird little ad in a local paper advertising juggling lessons, or your church talks about a mission they're planning to take to outer Mongolia, you have a concrete reminder that you'd always intended on doing those things in the first place.  Writing your life list down makes it more likely that you'll actually attempt to do some of the items on it.

2.  Do not be intimidated by coming up with 100 things.  Choosing 100 things to put to your life list is obviously not mandatory (because, let's face it, coming up with a life list at all isn't mandatory), but I love the idea of a ridiculous number of possibilities laid out before you to attempt over the rest of your life.  There's so much optimism in doing so, you know?  Also, realize that you don't have to come up with 100 items in one 30 minute sitting -- when I came up with my list, I probably had 50 items down in about 30 minutes, and then it took several hours (and Marcus suggesting items to do!) for me to come up with the second 50.  Just make the goal of coming up with 100, and don't beat yourself up if it doesn't happen right away. 

That said, I promise you, you can come up with 100 things, even if you've already had an amazingly rich life.  Read on for how.

3.  Sprinkle some everyday stuff in amongst all the mondo-beyondo-type stuff.  If every item on your list is something along the lines of "travel to the opposite side of the planet to do some daredevil insanity," I suspect that once you're through writing it, your list is going to intimidate the hell out of you. Be sure to add some everyday stuff, things that you've always meant to do, but just have never gotten around to doing it.  For example, let's face it, my number 64, growing a flower from a seed, isn't that wild a thing to do; however, I've never actually done it before, so it made it on the list (and dude!  Gayla confirms that as of yesterday, I have a flower bud on one of my plants!).  Scratching those sorts of things off the list provides a lovely shot of satisfaction -- maybe not as big a shot as jumping out of a perfectly good airplane, but trust me, you'll still feel enough pride to lift your spirits for at least a day or two.

4.  Consider things you've already done before, but may not have done with a particular person, or in a certain way.  For example, I've been to Paris before, but I've never eaten truffles there -- so that made it on my list (number 79).  I've hand-churned ice cream before, but I'd love to do it with my daughter, since "hand churning ice cream" is a lovely childhood memory that a lot of kids probably don't get to have these days -- so that got added as well (number 11).  Maybe you know how to quilt, but you've never made one with your mom, and you'd love to -- that should go on your list.  Perhaps you like to fish, but have never gone fishing with your dad, and you want to -- that should go on the list, as well. 

5.  Make a few items fit under the heading "doing something I love many, many times."  I think it's important that your life list allow you to exercise your passions, as well.  For example, I've obviously taken many portraits before, but it's my favourite type of photography, and I love faces -- so "photograph 1000 faces" (number 16) was a no-brainer to put on my list.  Similarly, I love a good rum, and being from the Caribbean, I feel like I owe to myself to learn what makes a good rum, so "try 50 rums" (number 80) is on my list as well.  I enjoy scuba diving, but haven't had the opportunity to dive recently -- so I added a few  places I've never been diving before to my list.  In other words, be sure to add the things you love or you have passion for to your list.  And challenge yourself to do it often.

6.  UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD YOU PUT SOMETHING ON YOUR LIST THAT WILL MAKE YOU FEEL BAD ABOUT YOURSELF FOR NOT COMPLETING IT.  For example, you will notice that "lose 20 pounds" is NOWHERE on my list.  This is not because I don't think I should lose weight; it's because I didn't want my list to be a constant reminder of me not losing weight, or not working out, or not foregoing a piece of chocolate, you know?  I'll deal with goals like that separately.

Your life list should be about adding moments of joy to your life, not about adding moments of guilt.  Life can guilt you enough, I think.  Your life list shouldn't. 


7.  Do not let the fact that you might not complete every item on your list within your lifetime stop you.  A friend told me once, "I'm afraid to actually write down my list because if I don't do everything on my list by the time I'm an old woman, I'll feel awful."  Right.  I hear you.  Although, here's a secret:  I don't actually think I'm going to do everything on my list. I mean, it would be really cool if I did; however, practically-speaking, it's not likely.  But the thing is?  That's not the point.  Your life list isn't a "must do before I die" list, it's a list to help remind you as you're going through life, when opportunity comes knocking (and really, it's surprising how often it will come knocking), you should go ahead and give it a go.  It's a list to look at when you find yourself somewhat bored, or needing a little jolt, so you can pick something to try to do.  It's a list that, when you're old, you'll look at it and think, "Wow.  Look at all the cool things I attempted in my life"; a list that perhaps you can pass on to someone younger than you and say, "Your turn.  Feel free to embellish and amend as necessary." 

If it helps you to call it an "Inspiration List" instead of a "Life List," feel free to do that, instead. 

8.  Don't feel like you're limited to 100 things.  You know what's interesting?  Just like many of you, I didn't think I could come up with 100 things.  It took me hours.  But then?  Once I did, weeks would pass,  I'd think of something else to do, and go, "DAMMIT!  I should've put that on my life list!"

Then last week, as I watched a show on Easter Island and thought the same "DAMMIT!" it suddenly occurred to me: why, exactly, couldn't I put "visit Easter Island" on my list?  It's not like it's against the law to add things to my list, right?

In short, I've found that writing the list actually begets writing a longer list.  So do not feel limited -- if you think of 101 things or 342 things or 10,000 things by this time next year, just keep adding to your list.  There's nothing to lose and everything to gain by doing so (see also number 7, above).

So!  There you have it:  all you need to go write your own life list.  So go on -- grab a cup of your favourite beverage, a piece of paper (or notebook or journal or, hell, your blog), and get started. 

Go inspire yourself.

(Incidentally, that teapot you see in the picture above?  When I took that photograph, it was holding my third blend of tea from number 56 on my life list:  drink 700 blends of tea.   Jenny gave me this one: it's Indonique's blend of jasmine-scented green tea.  While it wasn't quite in the league of my favourite jasmine tea from my favourite Thai restaurant in Houston, it was very, very good.)


Song: Whirlwind by Dispatch



random thoughts: 10 things i believed when i was her age (and a giveaway!)

My favourite 6-year-old.

1.  I believed that 42 years old was really, really old.

2.  I believed that by the time I was 42, there wouldn't be any cars anymore.  Only personal jetpacks.  I would simply strap the jetpack to my back, and fly to wherever I was working -- you know, as a paleontologist.  Or a professional singer.

3.  I believed there would never be any such thing as phones where you could actually see the person while you were talking to them.  'Cause really, that's just ridiculous.

4.  I believed my parents knew everything there possibly was to know, and that when I reached my parents' age (which, at the time, was considerably younger than 42 years old), I would also know everything there possibly was to know. 

5.  I believed after you graduated from college, you'd never have to get up early ever again.  Because you'd be a grown-up and you can do whatever you want when you're a grown-up.

6.  I believed that grown-ups were wrong when they said that the environment needed "saving."  Because I was living right next to hills with tropical rainforests, and frankly, they looked okay to me.

7.  I believed that if you ever ran out of money, you could just go to the bank and get more.

8.  I believed that when my mom was pregnant with my sister, she should've eaten some clothes so that the baby wouldn't have had to have been born naked.  After all, she ate food so that the baby could eat, right?

9.  I believed that every person had a unique name.  The first time I met another "Karen," I was horrified -- surely her parents were going to have to come up with a new name, now that they knew I existed.

10. I believed the Oreo cookie was the world's most perfect food.


* * * * * * *

Speaking of being a kid:  Lately I've been working with Juno Baby, an Emmy award-winning company that makes educational DVDs and CDs for kids (think Baby Einstein, except with original composed music, and actual orchestras playing).  They kindly sent me some samples to listen to and watch, and I have an extra DVD and CD I'd love to give away.  So if you have a child in your life who is special, say between the ages of 0 and 5 years old (and obviously, this doesn't have to be your child -- think of what a cool "auntie" or "uncle" you would be for giving this as a gift), please leave a comment below before midnight Monday night/Tuesday morning, and I'll pick a commenter randomly to send both the DVD and CD to.  I'll announce the winner by updating this post.

Good luck!


Update:  Thanks for commenting!  The winner of the Juno Baby DVD and CD is Michelle G, who said, "Alexs eyes look as if she is speaking from her soul. without saying a word. You have always been able to capture this in everyone you photograph. You made me think of when I was 6 all I could think about was how was I going to get away. I ran away from home since my mother had just had my brother number 3. Funny thing there were 2 more boys added to that later. Thanks for making me smile."

Thanks, Michelle G!  I'll contact you via email to get your mailing information.


SongChasing pirates by Norah Jones

friday chookooloonks life list update: number 16, photograph 1000 faces (the erma bombeck writers' workshop edition)


I took my camera to the Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop, hoping to get a few photographs of Dayton, Ohio, since it's a town I'd never visited before.

Unfortunately, I didn't have much time to get out and about. 

Fortunately, I was able to grab some portraits of some beautifully different people, in furtherance of number 16 on my life list:  photograph 1000 faces.

Like Billy, shown above.  I met Billy while waiting at the gate for my flight out of Houston to Dayton.  He had just left Afghanistan, after spending three years on a military tour of duty there, and he was on his way home to Mississippi.  And he was, not to put too fine a point on it, quietly freaking out.  "I'm not sure what I'm going to do next,"  he said, looking nervously at me.

"Dude, this is an exciting time for you.  You've got a whole new future to make, just for yourself."

He looked at me skeptically.

When I asked if I could take his picture, he protested, but I insisted and he relented.  "I look awful," he said.  "I've been traveling for 28 hours straight."

"You look beautiful," I responded, and took the picture.

Hang in there, Billy.  I hope things are going well for you so far.


One of the first people I met was Deb, during registration.

"Your hair is stunning," I said.

"Thanks," she responded with a smile.  "I've only recently allowed it to go all white."

Definitely her colour, don't you think?


Matt is the director of the conference.  See that calm, kind, never-to-be-ruffled expression of his?  That's how this man is all the time.  Just being around him felt like taking a deep breath.


Matt's lovely wife, Teresa.  She's responsible for getting me to come to the conference in the first place.

Thanks so much, Teresa -- I had such a great time.  Seriously, I owe you.


This is Robin, who sat down right in front during one of my sessions of my talk.  He was wearing this awesome chunky sweater, and specs, and a beard, and he looked just so ... writerly.  I told him as much, and a couple of people in the room agreed.  Awesome.  He thanked me, and then mentioned he left his pipe and suede elbow patches at home. 

Of course.

Robin also happens to be the author of Smart Dad, Dumb Dad -- and tells me he is a master of parody.  Which makes me wonder:  was he really writerly, or was he just parodying writerly people?



Pat, star of her own one-woman show, Hair Theater.  Is she not radiant?  This woman is all about giving, and sharing, and celebrating people, and she's a firm believer that by being kind, you automatically become physically beautiful.  I love her style.


Before dinner on Friday night, I ran down to the hotel lobby bar for a quick drink (not rum this time, I'm afraid), and bumped into Dave.  Dave is the author of Globejotting:  How to Write Extraordinary Travel Journals -- and you know how I love a journal.  He is SUCH an interesting guy -- but the best part:  he's also the founder of Globejotter Tours, which is, as he puts it, "a travel adventure and creative writing workshop rolled into one."  This year, in October?  They're going to Vietnam.  Man, I am so tempted to go.  In case I don't, though, feel free to sign up here, and then email me daily about your trip, so I can live vicariously through you.



This is Bill, a lead writer for David Letterman, who I've already gushed enough about over here.  Seriously funny man.


And finally, Yvonne, author of What Could Go Wrong?  Lessons from Living On The Edge.  A couple of awesome facts about Yvonne:  she's an adoptive mom (like me!) and an identical twin -- and she had some really cool stories about how she and her twin, even though they don't live near each other, often buy the same clothes, and call each other at the same time (resulting in busy signals), and if something bad happens to one sister, the other sister feels depressed without knowing why.

So cool.  Always wanted an identical twin ...


Anyway.  Amazing stories, aren't they?  I so loved connecting with them all and am so grateful to all of them for allowing me to take their photographs.

And with that, have a great weekend, friends.


(P.S.  I've decided that I need to add something else to my life list -- visiting Easter Island.  I suspect that I'll probably be adding things every now and then.  I figure it can't hurt.)


Song: Higher ground by Stevie Wonder


love thursday: a definition


"Love is not an affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person's ultimate good as far as it can be obtained."

~ C.S. Lewis






Happy Love Thursday, everyone.  And also, Happy Earth Day!  Here are some really cool ideas to show some love for the Earth, if you're so inclined.


(P.S.  Irises always remind me of my mom.)


SongBlack horse and the cherry tree by K.T. Tunstall

(a) secret to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness

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An admission:

Yesterday, when I took the photo of the flower above, I was in a supremely foul mood.  So miserable, in fact, that just looking at it made me angry.  I was in one of those moods where I felt like the only way I was going to feel better is if I went into my entryway, grabbed that blasted flower, and ripped every petal off of it.  The best part? There wasn't a reason for my bad mood:  you know, other than earthquakes, and volcanoes, and politics, and carrying around extra weight, and a bad hair day, and running out of eggs, and ... and ... and.

You can imagine what a joy I was.

Because there wasn't anyone home with me to slap around, I scanned my instant messenger, and realized that my friend, talented designer Laurie Smithwick, was online.  So I decided to pick on her.  After spewing a few choice profane invectives her way, she became understandably alarmed.

"Dude.  You need a break," she said.

"I do not have time for a break," I typed back, childishly.  "I have way too much work to do."

"Do you have a hammock?" she asked, ignoring me.

"No.  I have a swing ..."

"Seriously, go.  Go outside, sit on the swing, listen to the noises.  Do this for 30 minutes."



Let me tell you, it has been MONTHS since I meditated.  But I figured that there was nothing I had to lose, and the weather was cool (which, here in Houston, is not going to last), so I decided to try it.  I went outside, brushed off the swing, sat down, gratefully noted that the mosquitos weren't out yet, and I closed my eyes. I'm rusty: it wasn't easy to stay focused for more than 2 or 3 minutes or so, but I didn't give up.  I stayed that way for 30 minutes.

And afterwards?

I was calm.  I wasn't cured, mind you -- it's not like I leapt out of the swing in a fabulous mood, shooting sunshine out of my ears or anything, but I was calm.  I felt better.  And then I remembered something I'd seen over the weekend:

While in Dayton, I had the opportunity to meet a really warm, friendly woman named Suzette Martinez Standring.  We sat next to each other at dinner Thursday night, and she was telling me about her planned talk on creative writing.  It sounded incredibly interesting (the words "self-hypnosis exercise" came up), but because of conflicting schedules, I couldn't attend her session.  However, I did see a tweet during the weekend about something she said during her class:


You know what? I believe her.   Judging about how much calmer, how much less stressed I felt just taking that break yesterday, I have to think I delayed the appearance of a wrinkle by at least a second or two.  It was such a good lesson for me.

So am I about to tell you that you should start meditating 30 minutes a day?  No (although, if you feel so moved, by all means, go for it).  But I will mention that perhaps the next time you're tense or all wound up, you should do what Laurie suggested:  go outside, somewhere you can sit by yourself, and take a mental break. Close your eyes, listen to the sounds, and breathe deeply, even if it's for 5 minutes.

It may do wonders for your mood.  Trust me.


SongBreak up the concrete by the Pretenders

raindrops and ... fairies. let's just say it's a fairy.


On Sunday afternoon, it rained.  Hard.

After the rain passed, I decided to grab my macro lens to take a few shots -- because you know how I loves me some water shots.  After I shot a couple of one of the trees in our back yard (above), Marcus directed my attention to how the raindrops were clinging to this tiny little potted plant I brought home and left on our patio a couple of months ago.



Needless to say, I was enthralled.  So I took a couple more.




When I pulled the images up on my computer, I was really pleased to discover that there was very little processing needed to make them look decent.  So I was having a great time, just quickly sharpening them a bit here, upping the contrast there ...

... and then I pulled up this picture:




You see her, right?  I didn't process this image at all, for fear she would go away.  But you see her, right? And she's clearly not my reflection.  And I was alone when I took the shot (Marcus had gone inside by this point), so she's not anyone else's reflection, either.

Marcus sees her, and he's as creeped out as I am.  Alex and her best friend saw her, and excitedly pronounced that I had captured an image of a fairy.

Yeah.  A fairy.  Okay, that's what she is.

A Fairy


Let's go with that.




Comment of the day:  "Um, she looks a little pissed off. (kind of how I look when someone snaps my pic unawares). And if that's the case.. maybe you should give the camera a break for a day or two. Just sayin. Fairy revenge must be a bitch." ~ kaela

SongPlace your hands by Reef