list #7: 10 smells that take me back

1.  Vitalis -- my Dad.  Always used it, all his life, perfectly groomed hair.

2.  Freshly poured concrete -- Trinidadian construction zones.  They are ubiquitous.

3.  The ocean -- my childhood on Mayaro beach.

4.  Peanuts -- my paternal grandmother.  She roasts her own.

5.  Brown sugar and guavas -- my maternal grandmother.  She loved her guava cheese.

6.  Polo cologne -- walking through the men's dorm at Texas A&M University, c. 1984-1986.  Especially on a Friday night.

7.  Coconut oil -- sitting on the floor between my Auntie Aqui's knees while she braided my hair when I was a kid.

8.  Old Spice -- my Grampa.  Always and forever.

9.  Jean Naté After Bath Splash -- my mom.  I don't think she wears it anymore, but she definitely did while I was in high school.

10.  Rain -- the rainforests of Trinidad.


Image:  Brasil cafe during a sudden downpour, photographed with my Nikon D300, 60mm lens.

Song: I can't stand the rain, as performed by Missy Elliott (Lumbajack remix)

on revolutionary acts

This weekend, the anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech, I found myself tweeting all the quotes I could find of his that were under 140-characters long (you'd be surprised how many there are).  Some of my favourites:

"Let us develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness."

"We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope."

"I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear."

I was thinking about how amazing King was -- to stand so strong for what he believes in.  To doggedly work toward peace and love and justice, in the face of possible injury and violence and even death to himself or to his family.  I wondered if I would ever be strong enough to do the same thing.  I'd like to think I would be, but I don't know -- if someone threatened Marcus or Alex, the truth is, I might just fall silent.

But then I kept thinking.

I thought that when it comes to peace and love and justice, often the smallest kindness, the smallest show of connection, of compassion, particularly when it is extended to someone who is very different from us -- in physical appearance or in ideology, whatever -- that small act can be nothing short of revolutionary.  That living our beliefs -- making a conscious effort to act with good intention -- necessarily affects the people who know us.  The children who watch us.

At one point over the weekend, I said :  "I do not say this lightly:  you have the power to change the world."

I really believe this to be true.

* * * * * * *

Also this weekend, the following video just happened to come across my feed reader, published by TED.  It's really interesting, but it requires a bit of attention.  So whenever you have about 11 minutes to focus, come back and watch it -- it's related to the above.  I'd love to hear what you think.


Image:  Flower outside my home office window, photographed with my Nikon D300 and my 60mm micro lens.


SongChange the world as performed by Eric Clapton

random thought: on friendship

Over the last couple of days, I've spent some good, in-depth time with two very good friends for a huge project that I'm working on for the book (more on this to come very soon).  The sessions have been really so much fun, and had me thinking a lot about friendships.

In my past life, when I made my living in engineering and then law, I spent far more time with men than with women -- and truth be told, up until about 15 years ago, my closest friends in life have always been men (one, in particular, I made family).  But other than my friends Trish and Victoria, I haven't had a lot of really close women friends.  However, in my recent past, I've become much closer to women -- and in the past couple of years, since leaving law, I've made a few really amazing close friends.  In the words of one of them, I would fight dogs for these women.

It occurred to me over these last couple of days, that while it's often very easy to tell the people with whom we're in love how we feel about them,  it's not as common to tell our really close friends how important they are to us.  Personally, I think I need to rectify this.  I need to tell the friends who mean a lot to me how much they mean to me.

Because, really, if not now, when?


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

Image:  Photograph of my friend Katherine's closest feline friend, taken with my Nikon D300, 50mm lens.

SongIn your eyes, as performed by Sara Bareilles

love thursday: home

Anthuriums are flowers that, for some reason, I associate exclusively with Trinidad.  I know they're a tropical flower, and therefore logically found all of the Caribbean and South America; however, this doesn't matter: the heart-shaped petals always remind me of home.

They were a comforting sight in Puerto Rico.

Happy Love Thursday, everyone.  May we all take a moment to think of the place we call home today.

Image:  Puerto Rican anthurium photographed with my Nikon D200, 60mm micro lens.


Song: First train home by Imogen Heap

first grader

This week, Alex started first grade.  Last night, I decided that a quick photoshoot was in order to commemorate the occasion.

If you'll permit me a bit of maternal introspection, I have to say that I'm in a bit of a shock that my tiny baby is already in first grade.  I know that mothers all over the world say this, but she's just so grown up.  She's full of jokes and puns and double entendres and sass.  She's reading chapter books with ease.  She's full of insights that I didn't expect for another few years.

She's also harder to photograph these days, having far less patience for my constantly taking her picture.  She makes faces, crazy expressions, and often does the opposite of what I direct.

Luckily though, if I show a little fortitude, in between fooling around trying to keep me from taking a decent portrait, she inevitably cracks up.  And that's when I grab the shot.









Every 6 months or so, since the day she was born, I say, "This. This is my favourite age."

But seriously, this time, I mean it.

This is my favourite age.

* * * * * * *

Also, last call: today is the last day to get your images and words of peace to me for the Photobomb.  I love the shots you've sent me so far.  I can't wait to receive more.


Images:  Shot in our back garden yesterday evening around 6 p.m., with my Nikon D300 and my 50mm lens.  Incidentally, I also processed these with Adobe Lightroom 3.  I've decided that I really love this product for quick, light processing; however, I still find I save my very detailed processing for Photoshop.  I still need to explore the archiving tools within Lightroom 3 (which is what I hear it's famous for); so stay tuned.


Song: Hey, soul sister by Train.  This is one of the two songs that Alex hasn't stopped singing over the past two weeks.  The other is "Hava Nagila." 

To my knowledge, we've never played either of these songs in our home.

We're as confused as you are.

second eighth

Yesterday, I was surfing the web, and came across the following video on my friend Elspeth's blog.  It's about 6 minutes long, and worth the watch; however, you really want to have some Kleenex next to you as you watch it, because it's beautiful. And heartbreaking. And beautiful.

(Seriously -- get the Kleenex.  Don't say I didn't warn you.)

Danny & Annie from StoryCorps on Vimeo.


On a related note:  it's our second eighth anniversary today.  Happy Anniversary, Marcus.  I'll never go back to black & white TV again.


Image:  Puerto Rican petal, photographed with my Nikon D200 and my 60mm micro lens.


Song: Your love gets sweeter by Finley Quaye

chookooloonks life list update: number 73, visit 20 caribbean islands (the puerto rico edition)

About 2 months ago, I decided that I'd had it:  it was time for our family to go on holiday.  I'm not sure why the need to go on a vacation had come over me so thoroughly and completely.  I know, in part, it was because it had been quite some time since I'd been near an ocean or sand or a beach, and when you've spent most of your childhood near an ocean or sand or a beach, every once in a while you are viscerally and biologically compelled to return.

It also might have had something to do with the fact that the three of us hadn't taken a vacation together alone in two years -- it seems that most of our recent trips have been to visit more family or friends, often to attend a wedding or some other major life event.  And while these trips have been a lot of fun, they haven't been particularly restorative, or provided much intimate family time. 

This situation clearly needed rectifying.

It's not like we could actually afford a vacation, you understand -- my new life, while personally satisfying, to date has hardly been lucrative.  Still, I began to do a little research, knowing that we would have to dip into savings to make this holiday happen. 

I knew that Mexico would be a cheap option (what with our state being on the border and all), but as much as I love Mexico, our last family vacation was there. 

I wanted us to go someplace new.

So I kept looking.  Eventually, I came across a vacation package offered by Continental Airlines to San Juan, Puerto Rico.  I'd been to Puerto Rico before, but I was a child, and really didn't have any substantial memories of it.  Marcus and Alex had never been.  Since the package cost less than anything I could find in Mexico, Central America, or even the US (!),  plus it would both allow me to both go home to the West Indies and allow us to experience someplace new together, it was the obvious choice.

As soon as we landed on Monday, the airport smelled familiar.  There's something about Caribbean airports, I think -- they all have sort of the same smell:  a mixture of luggage, salt and inexplicably, burnt sugar.  By the time we got in the taxi, I was sure I was home:  the topography and buildings look exactly like Trinidad, save for decidedly American touches, like Walgreens, Starbucks, and God-help-me, Denny's (Puerto Rico is, after all, a US territory).

"Marcus, Puerto Rico is like Trinidad and the United States had a love child, and she was raised by her Spanish-speaking grandmother!" I said emphatically and authoritatively.

Marcus stared at me, nonplussed.  "You seriously need help," he mumbled, shaking his head and returning to his magazine.

I still think he saw my point.



The five days we spent in Puerto Rico were blissfully restorative.  Save for the city bus we took into Old San Juan on our first full day of our visit (a breathtakingly beautiful and historic place), we spent the rest of our days on the beach, reading, building sand castles, journaling, hunting for seashells and bathing in that warm, wonderful ocean.  

And after five days in this lovely place, the "Island of Enchantment" with its beautiful people, we have returned to Houston ready to jump back into our routines and our lives.




And I feel like my homesickness for the West Indies has been eased in the most warm, comforting way.



* * * * * * *

Thanks so much for playing along last week, trying to guess where we were!  There were some really awesome and rational guesses, as well as some guesses from people who think we're inclined to be far more adventurous in a 5-day vacation than we actually are!  However, the first person to correctly identify that we were in San Juan, Puerto Rico was Jessica, who somehow figured it out based on two pictures of merely a flower and a tree.  Well done, Jessica!  I'll contact you via email for your address to send you some photographs of our holiday, as promised.

This was seriously fun, everyone.  I may have to do this again the next time we go on holiday somewhere new -- which, sadly, likely won't be for a while.  The good news, however, is that we've made some great memories on this one to sustain me for some time (also:  that's one island from life list item number 73 down, 19 more islands to go).

On that note, have a great week ahead, folks. 

(P.S. -- Don't forget:  a mere 3 days remain for you to get your images and words of peace to me for that photobomb that we're planning to fight hate.  I've received tons of your photographs already -- I hope you'll send me a few more!)


Images:  All images photographed with my old Nikon D200, and various lenses.


SongJaleo by Ricky Martin, one of Puerto Rico's native sons.  Listening to this song while looking at the photos above takes me right back to San Juan.

clue #5: where's walrond?

And finally (despite the fact that we had on winner on the second day!), clue number 5.  This photograph is taken at arguably the most famous landmark of this particular city: similar images adorn postcards that you may have even received from friends when they visited (and if you have really good eyes, you might even notice the flag of this particular place flying on the rampart in the distance).  In fact, some of you may even live in this city.  Does this picture confirm your guess?

In other news, we're headed back to Houston today.  Thanks so much for playing along this week!  If you're still not sure where this is, I'll reveal our holiday destination on Monday, as well as announce the official winner and share some more images. 

In the meantime, have a great weekend, friends.

clue #4: where's walrond?

You're all starting to sound much more sure of your guesses.  Nice.  As I mentioned yesterday, we already have a winner -- just by looking at the flowers and the tree posted earlier this week, someone correctly guessed where we're on vacation.  Amazing.

But still, I figured there was no reason to stop the fun; and besides, I couldn't resist posting the above shot today.  Does this convince you your guess is right?

And on that note, Happy Love Thursday, everyone.  May you take some time to enjoy the people you love today.


(Also: Don't forget: the photobomb, the beauty of different blog and the Beauty of Different Facebook page. And I'll share the last clue of the week tomorrow.)

clue #3: where's walrond?

I'm sort of stunned:  based on a picture of beautiful flowers and one of a tree, we already have a winner -- someone has guessed the right answer!  Still, I'm sort of having a lot of fun reading your guesses, so I say we keep going before I reveal our holiday destination, don't you?

Here's clue number 3.  Can you guess which city we're in?  (And congratulations to the winner -- do you know who you are?)


(Also: Don't forget: the photobomb, the beauty of different blog and the Beauty of Different Facebook page. More tomorrow!)