the top 10 ways to show the world how beautiful you really are

Own Your Beauty is wrapping up, after a year of exploring beauty in all its glorious, different forms.

The video above summarizes everything we've learned over the past 12 months. Click here to read the final post.

Thanks for all your encouragement along the way, friends.  I learned a lot.


UPDATE:  Well, friends, it appears that I totally underestimated the number of people who would be interested in the Chookooloonks Path Finder!  Because of such high enrollment, I'm afraid I'm going to have to close registration at 12:00 p.m noon today, Houston time.  So if you're still interested, please register now.   And if you miss today's registration, never fear:  I'm planning on having a late fall session as well.


Thanks, friends!

second grade eve

Today is the last day of Alex's summer.  Kids in most of the rest of the state have already returned to school; however, for reasons that I won't go into here (except to say that Alex has always excelled in school, so it doesn't have anything to do with that), Marcus and I made the decision to enroll her in a different school this year.  Her new school has an excellent reputation, is much smaller, and goes all the way to 12th grade; therefore, on paper, this decision was really a no-brainer.

So naturally, I'm really nervous.

It doesn't make any sense, of course:  Alex is a kind, gentle and social kid, and gets along with everyone.  Also, since this school requires all new students to have 2 weeks of summer school to get them acclimated, she's already familiar with her class, her wonderful teachers and the other new students.  The school has a great student-teacher ratio, and has extra-curricular activities that I know Alex is excited about.  But I'm a worrier, and always have been.  I mean, what if she misses her friends at her old school too much?  What if aliens come to Earth and inhabit her teachers' bodies, turning them from wonderfully compassionate educators to rampant ogres?  What if we've made a huge mistake?




To be honest, I'm a little worried for her classmates too:



I know, I know.  She'll be fine.

Images: Portraits of Alex photographed with my Nikon D300 and ancient 50mm Nikon lens.  aperture 1.4, shutter speed 1/125, ISO 400


Song: Rockstar by Nickleback.  Alex has been singing the hook of this song on repeat. She tells me her father let her listen to it while I was out of town this summer. 

That'll teach me to leave those two alone.



In preparation for my trip to Kenya with ONE, I was required to take anti-malarial medication (although, I suppose "required" is strong.  More accurate: I chose to take anti-malarials over the possibility, however remote, of catching malaria and risking death).  I've only ever taken anti-malarials once before:  about 10 years ago, for a trip to Nigeria for work.  Back then, the most common anti-malarial to take was Lariam, but rumours around the office were that Lariam had some nasty side effects, most notably the tendency for vivid dreams, to the point of making some people who took it suicidal and/or homicidal.  Even worse, the side effects would linger, sometimes for months after the last dosage was taken. 

"I dreamt for weeks of brutally murdering my wife," said one co-worker, who worked in the IT department.  "Over ... and over ... and over again..."

I wasn't sure, but I think I saw a smile play around his lips when he said it.*

Needless to say, when I went to the travel clinic to get my dosage, and the clinician mentioned a brand new medicine named "Malarone" that didn't seem to have nearly the severe or lingering side effects of Lariam, I signed up without hesitation.  I took the Malarone for my trip to Nigeria without incident.

So for this trip to Kenya, I had every intent on taking Malarone again.  Even still, when I told friends about the need to take the medication, some said, "you're going to get really vivid dreams."

"Wait ... I thought that was Lariam," I'd say uneasily.

"Well, I took Malarone, and I got really weird dreams," some would insist.  "Nothing too frightening.  Just wild ones."

Nonetheless, when I went to the travel clinic this time, I asked the clinician to prescribe me Malarone.  "Have you taken it before?" she asked.

"Yes, about 10 years ago."

"Any ... you know ... side effects?"  she asked, one eyebrow raised.

"Uh ... no... should there have been?"  I asked, worried.

"Oh, no, no," she responded quickly.  "You should be fine."  And she wrote the prescription.

I filled it, and again, I took the medicine without incident.  And of course, I've been back from Kenya for about a month, my final dose of Malarone was about 3 weeks ago, and things have been fine.


During the last week or so, I've had a few crazy dreams.  To wit:

-  About 10 or so days ago, I had a dream that I was hired to take the portraits of people who lived at Buckingham Palace:  royalty, staff, the works.  While there, I became very good friends with Kate Middleton, who proceeded to give me all the skinny about what the Queen was really like, how Prince Philip was always in her business, how Prince Charles pretty much kept out of their way and how much she really loved William.  By the time I left, we'd made plans to go clubbing.


In real life, Kate seems like a very nice young woman; however, I have never really had much of an interest in the British royal family.  In fact, leading up to the wedding, I frustrated a good English friend of mine by exhibiting very little knowledge about Kate's dress or flowers, or really anything related to their nuptials.  So for me to dream of Kate and I being clubbing partners (I mean, clubbing? Me?), is just bizarre.

-  That very same night, I dreamt that I was invited (by whom, I don't remember) to visit a fundamentalist Christian church, where the entire congregation, including the minster, was dressed in pristine white robes.  Furthermore, the entire interior of the church -- the ceiling, the floors, the pews, the carpets on the floors, the altar, the statues behind the altar -- was all white.  In fact, the only colour in the whole church was featured on these huge, lush yellow drapes that hung at every stained glass window in the church (but the stained glass was actually stained white).

But this is not the weird part.

As soon as the service started, the minister didn't speak, he sang.  And then the entire congregation began singing in unison as well, and dancing.  Which of course, isn't strange, except everything was choreographed.  They danced on the altar, on the pews, they ran in and out of the vibrant yellow drapes in perfect precision, like a Broadway show, or extras from Glee or Fame.  There were high kicks and jazz hands.  People began swinging from wires attached to the white flying buttresses, some people peek-a-boo'd from behind the large white statue of Jesus, and I think there was even one dude breakdancing near the white Virgin Mary.  Since I was brought up in the Catholic church (that part actually is true), I stood there, mouth agape, watching the performance with a mixture of crushing admiration and mild terror.

I don't remember what they were singing.

- Finally, just two nights ago, I dreamt that I was traveling and sightseeing in ... wait for it ... Iraq, with my two "best friends": one was Rye Barcott (who, in real life, is the author of one of my favourite books I've read this year, and who I met only briefly in Nairobi), and the other was some unidentified woman, but who bore a striking resemblance to Salma Hayek.  We were walking through Baghdad with our backpacks (as one does), and Rye decided to take a nap on a park bench.  While my Salma-lookalike-friend and I were wandering around waiting for Rye to wake up, two armed officers appeared out of nowhere and arrested her for "inappropriate dress," dragged her screaming into a beat-up old police SUV and drove away (in the officers' defense, she was wearing a short-sleeved tight dress, and was not very well covered).  I rushed to get Rye, and while we were trying to figure out how we were going to bust Salma-Lookalike-Girl out of the Iraqi jail, I woke up.

Marcus tells me this dream is because I had cheese for dinner the night before.

Now normally, I don't remember my dreams in the mornings, so for me to even remember these is rather odd.  Furthermore, these dreams were vivid -- when I woke up from them, I was disoriented, wondering where I was and what happened and is Kate not going to call me, then?  It could be lingering effects of Malarone, I suppose, but I sort of doubt it -- it's been a while since my last pill.  Or it could be that I've got some deep-seated issues that are manifesting in my dreams.  Who knows?

But I kind of hope they don't stop.


*  I never asked him to fix my laptop again.


 * * * * * * *

If you're interested in participating in the Chookooloonks Path Finder, just a reminder that today is the last day to get early bird pricing, at US$ 55 -- after today, the course will be offered at its regular price of US$ 75.  And registration for this early fall session (which starts Monday, September 5, 2011!)  will close on Friday. 

Click here to register.

(Of course, I realize that by sharing with you the inner workings of my clearly disturbed mind, above, some of you might be scared off.  Understandable, really -- but I promise I'm totally lucid when I'm awake.)


Image:  Photographed on July 31, 2011, flying over Greenland while on my way back from Kenya, with my Nikon D200 and 17-50mm Tamron lens.  aperture 7.1, shutter speed 1/1000, ISO 200.


SongDreamin' by Amos Lee


3/52 (self-portrait project)  

I can't tell you how excited I am about the Chookooloonks Path Finder -- especially because of the people who have been signing up to participate.  You guys are from all over the world, ranging from recent college graduates to recent retirees.  Some of you are experiencing huge changes in your life, while others of you are just looking to tap into your creative sides.  It's so great to hear all of your stories:  thank you so much for sharing them with me, and I can't wait to officially meet you and start all the fun.

(And for those of you who haven't signed up yet, but really, really want to, we're still at early bird pricing -- I'm offering the course for US$ 55 until midnight Monday night/Tuesday morning, after which the price will increase to $75.  So go now -- I anticipate we're going to have some good times.*)

Speaking of gratitude and fun, my new post on Bliss Your Heart, my gratitude blog over at Babble, is up.  This week, I'm all about good friends, beaches, talented cooks and Marcus (we celebrated our 9th anniversary this week!).  Please go take a look, and share what good things you noticed in your life this week.

And with that, have a great weekend, friends.


* By the way -- if you've signed up for the course, please keep an eye out in your inbox for a login and password from Squarespace, to get into the private community site.

introducing the chookooloonks path finder!

First of all, thank you so much for your enthusiasm around the concept of an online course!  For the past two days, I've been toiling behind the scenes, and now, I'm ready to announce The Chookooloonks Path Finder -- a guided self-study program to help you inject some awesome into your life!  Here's the gist of it:

When:  Beginning on Monday, September 5, 2011, and continuing five days a week, Monday through Friday, for 5 weeks.

Where: Online and in your email inbox -- the course is self-paced, and as private as you'd like it to be.

How: Every weekday, you'll receive journaling prompts, exercises, lessons and meditations in your inbox. In addition, each lesson will be posted in a private, password-protected site, allowing for conversations and community with other class members, if you so desire.

Who: Anyone who is in a place of transition, professionally or personally; or who is just looking to inject a bit more awesome into his/her life.

Why: Because discovering your own beautiful different is an amazing thing.


And now, for the cost:  many of you suggested that you would be interested in doing the course, but it would depend on the price.  To start, since this is the first time I'm doing this, I'm going to be offering the course for this session (all 5 weeks in total) for $75.  But, even if that's a little rich for your blood, for the next few days, through Monday, August 29, 2011, I'll offer the five weeks for US$ 55. After that, it'll go up to $75, until registration closes on Sunday, September 4. Because of the high volume of interest in the course, registation will now close on Friday, September 2, 2011.  I'm sorry for the confusion -- if you're interested in registering, please sign up before this time!

I'm really excited about this, and am hoping that you'll be excited about it as well.  You can read more about the course here, and if it sounds good to you, you can register for the course here.

And thanks again, friends -- I'm looking forward to this.  Hopefully this will be an awesome adventure for us all!

(oh, and happy Love Thursday!)

a photo from the archives to distract you while i do some more research

Wow!  I'm so very excited that you're interested in the online class I mentioned yesterday!  Okay, I'm going to continue to do a bit more research, to make sure I know exactly what it takes to make this happen.  While I do, if you haven't already told me you're interested in a guided self-study program to help you manage a transition and/or discover your beautiful different, and you are, please leave a comment below.

And in the meantime, I'm sharing a photograph from my archives with you:  that's Alex, almost 7 years ago, in her very first Halloween costume.  That photo slays me every time.

More very, very soon.



So I have this idea for a class.

You see, recently, I've been running into really wonderful people who are in a place of transition in their lives: some of them are considering career changes, some are in the middle of personal life transitions, while still others don't have any plans on changing their current routines, except that they just want more.  I so get this:  over the past three years, I've gone through my own transition from a practicing attorney to being a photographer, writer and author; despite some bumps and bruises along the way, I have to say that I've emerged happier than I even imagined. 

So it's probably not too surprising that a couple of weeks ago, I was struck by the idea of an online course -- or really, more of a guided self-study program -- that I could put together to help those who might be in similar transitions (professional or personal).  I began to get so excited about this idea, when we were in Port Aransas I pretty much monopolized my friends' time trying to talk through it with them.  I couldn't help myself:  I think I might be onto something.

But before going great guns, though, I wanted to ask you first:  would there be some interest in doing something like this with me?

Here's what I'm thinking:  since summer's practically over and those of us who have kids are about to put them back in school (or already have), now would be a great time to focus on ourselves (plus, I've already mentioned how much fall feels like the perfect time to start fresh).  My idea is that by the end of the program, you'd have in your hot little hands a very personal record of what it is you love, what you hope for yourself, and something of a plan on how to go forward to inject some awesome into your life -- whether it's related to your career or your non-work life.  There would be a way to share your stories with each other if you wanted to; however, because life transitions can be such intensely personal experiences, you could also keep all of the work you do a secret, and still feel like you fully participated.  And I'd be doing the exercises and journaling prompts right along with you.

What say you?  If there's considerable interest, I'll look into pulling everything together to start in the very near future.  Please leave me a comment below or send me an email (karen AT chookooloonks DOT com) if you think you might be interested!



Image:  Photographed with my Nikon D300 and ancient 50mm manual lens.  aperture 1.4, shutter speed 1/320, ISO 400


Song: If I ever feel better by Phoenix

beautiful beaches, ocean life, and why it's good to live in the information age

Several weeks ago, my friend Maile (she of the amazing Epiphanie camera bags for women), invited me, our friend Laura and our families to spend a weekend with her family at a beach house in Port Aransas, Texas

Now I'm going to admit something to you that I'm not particularly proud of, but hey, it's who I am, whaddya gonna do:  I am a complete and total beach snob.  It comes, of course, from being from a Caribbean island; nonetheless, the truth is that my only experience with Texas beaches to this point was limited to Galveston, and even Galvestonians have to admit that their beach is not the best.  In fact, every time I ever go to Galveston,  I don't even bother to put on my swimsuit, because there's really no reason for me to go into that dark, silty water.  The town?  Absolutely, no question that Galveston is a great little town.  But the beach?  Yeah ... no.

Still, in a fit of uncharacteristic optimism, right before leaving for our trip late last week I packed my swimsuit, just in case Port Aransas surprised me.  As you can see above, it totally did.

And as you can see below, our kids were enchanted from the word "go."

The kids ran to the water, and Marcus ran after them, to make sure they didn't get into any trouble.  This, of course, left the rest of us adults alone to do more important things.

Like, you know, prepare the rum punches, and, of course, recline.

Photo by Laura Mayes.


The coast was teeming with life that day:  from the shore we could see dolphins playing just beyond the breakers.  Laura ventured out into the water with Marcus and the kids, and then she rather quickly ventured back in.

"We saw a couple of stingrays," she said nervously.  "I think I'll stay under the umbrellas."

And so, she did, and we all sat there, watching the waves and Marcus playing with the kids, and generally having a great time.

After about 30 minutes, we saw Marcus and the group slowly making their way back to shore.  The kids promptly plopped down to start digging in the sand, except for Emily, who ran ahead of everyone to announce to those of us under the umbrellas:

"Uncle Marcus got bitten by a fish!"

Marcus came walking up, not looking too concerned, and I asked, "Did you get bitten?"

"Yeah, a little bit," he said, and I looked down at his foot, to find his toes covered in blood.  I quickly counted.  They were all there.

"Dude, what happened?!" I said, alarmed. 

"I think I stepped on a stingray," he said, surprisingly calm.  "It stings a bit, and I can start to feel the pain radiating up to my thigh."

And this, my friends, is why it's good to live in the Information Age: iPhones flew out of nowhere, as we all quickly googled can you die from a stingray sting, how do you treat it and oh my heavens isn't this how steve irwin died.  We learned that yes, indeed, it was the cause of Steve Irwin's death (though it was because the stingray's barb caught him directly in the heart), but that stingray stings are rarely fatal.  We also quickly ruled out peeing on the wound (that's for jellyfish stings, it turns out, much to the boys' dismay), and finally discovered that near-boiling water on a stingray sting is the best treatment, to help neutralize the venom.

"Marcus, I think we should go up to the house and boil some water," I said.

"Don't be daft," he responded.  "I'm fine.  It's really not getting any worse."

He really seemed okay, so we punished him by making him sit and dig sandcastles with the kids, while the rest of the adults watched him like a hawk for any untoward behaviours -- like, you know, anaphylactic shock, or unexpected barking.

Luckily, within an hour or two, the pain subsided completely -- we suspect the stingray must have been a baby.  Nonetheless and needless to say, for the rest of the trip we were pretty fanatical about keeping the kids really close to the shore.  They didn't seem too upset -- after all, there were gulls to feed.




Stingray excitement notwithstanding, this weekend was truly an excellent getaway. We ate well, we drank well, and we played well.  Our kids loved each other and loved the beach, and the adults loved spending time together without any schedules, agendas, meetings or conference sessions to attend.  It was a glorious time, and more than once I found myself marveling at how happy my life was, and how much I loved my friends and family.

And soon, school starts for the kids.  What a wonderful way to end the summer.


Images:  Photographed with my Nikon D300, 17-50mm Tamron lens.


SongGolden by The Tontons.  Thanks to Laura's husband, "Barnes," for turning me on to this song.

bliss your heart*

2/52 (self-portrait project)

"Nonetheless, what I’ve learned is that by developing a gratitude practice, my life, overall, has become more joyful, just because I stop to notice the things that are good.  And honestly, when things aren’t going so well, it has become a practice that has sustained me through the tough times.

The second thing that I’ve learned is that my photography has really helped fuel my practice of gratitude.  Since I shoot practically every day for my personal site, Chookooloonks, and I like to only shoot what I find is beautiful, in many ways the mere practice of taking the time to photograph my surroundings forces me to take stock of the good in my life.   And the best part?

You don’t have to be a professional photographer to use the camera as a tool to capture the things you’re grateful for."

I'm so excited to tell you about a new gig I have over at Babble, my weekly gratitude practice called Bliss Your Heart.  Please come check it out -- and I hope you'll share your own images and thoughts about what makes you grateful!


Image:  Photographed with my Nikon D300, 17-50mm Tamron lens.  aperture 2.8, shutter speed 1/500, ISO 200