a golden day

This weekend, on Saturday, a bunch of us got together at a friend's ranch several miles west of Houston.

It was one of those perfect, Texas-blue-sky days.  I have to say, while Texas summers are brutal, there are certain times of the year where nothing can beat a perfect, Texas-blue-sky-day.









Photo by Marcus.

My friend Jenny described the day as a "a golden day."  I love this.  I think every once in a rare while, everyone has one of those golden days, the memory of which reminds you that life is good and that people are good even on days when things aren't going the way you hoped. 

Here's wishing you a golden day very, very soon.


SongLovely day by Bill Withers

don't even get me started on "shitterton"

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Scene:  Family room, two laptops open.

Him (brow furrowed):  Flatonia?

Me:  What?

Him:  Flatonia?

Me:  Flatonia, Texas?

Him:  Flatonia?

Me:  Yeah ... what about it?

Him:  They named the town "Flatonia"??

Me:  Dude.  You're from the kingdom that named Nigg, Scotland.  I really don't think you have room to judge, here.


SongThat's right (you're not from Texas) by Lyle Lovett

chookooloonks life list #80: taste 50 types of rum (no. 1 - tommy bahama golden sun)

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Here's something sort of cool:  writing down the life list has already changed my life.  Kind of. 

A couple of nights ago, I made plans to meet my friend Victoria for happy hour.  Victoria and I have been friends for over 15 years, and it had been a few months since we'd seen each other.  So we decided to get together at a bar near home.

I arrived earlier than expected, so I sat at the bar to order my usual glass of wine.  But then, as the bartender approached, I remembered my life list.

Taste 50 types of rum.

"What would you like?" she asked.

"Um... what kinds of unusual rums do you have?"

"Rum?" she sounded surprised.  "Well, I have... Tommy Bahama Golden Sun..."

"Sold," I said.  "I'll have that."

And so I did.  Unexpectedly and despite its name, Tommy Bahama is actually a Barbadian rum, according to the bartender -- and when I googled it, it turns out that it's also a clothing company.  Who knew?  Nonetheless, the rum was quite tasty -- smooth, slightly sweet.  Very good.

After I took a sip, I pulled out my camera (from my new camera bag, words cannot describe how much I love this thing), and took a photograph.  One of the other bartenders standing nearby looked at me with curiosity.

"Oh, I'm a photographer, and trying 50 rums is on my life list," I explained.  "I'm taking the photograph to record it.  In fact, taking 1000 portraits is also on my list.  May I take your photo?"  And she surprisingly agreed.

Are you getting this?

I mean, think about it:  if I hadn't written down my life list, I would've never slowly savoured that single shot of rum that night; instead, I would've asked for my usual pinot grigio and been done with it.  Since I've taken lots of photographs of wine, I probably wouldn't have pulled out my camera if I'd ordered a glass.  And I certainly wouldn't have asked a total stranger if I could take her photograph. 

I'm starting to think that maybe the magic of writing down a life list is simply the setting of intention in motion.  Because even that little scene in that bar -- a scene which, ultimately, couldn't have lasted more than 3 or 4 minutes -- made my life just a tiny bit more interesting.



SongThe Bacardi Mojito "Muddle" song. This song sounds exactly how the bar we were in felt.

a few miscellaneous thoughts

Since the Mom 2.0 Summit, my body has been acting suspiciously like it wants to catch a cold.  I've been downing Emergen-C in my orange juice like candy, but I don't think it's going to work.  The good news is that as a result, it's unlikely I'll be at risk for scurvy anytime soon, so, you know, bonus!

One of the highlights of this past weekend was getting to listen to Gretchen Rubin speak.  A former attorney, she said one particular thing that resonated with me, for obvious reasons:  "I realized I'd rather fail as a writer than succeed as a lawyer."  Amen, sister.  I immediately bought her book, The Happiness Project.  I can't wait to tuck in.

Yesterday, I went to my mail box, and found The Handmade Marketplace: How to Sell Your Crafts Locally, Globally and Online waiting for me.  I had forgotten that I had actually been one of the people the author interviewed for this book!  I've scanned through it, and it actually looks like an AMAZING read if you're artistic or crafty and have ever even considered opening up an Etsy store, or otherwise making money with your art online.  I haven't read it from beginning to end yet, but so far, I'd strongly recommend getting it if you are.

Also, I'm unreasonably excited about my life list.  I've even begun with some of it here.  And I have a couple of ideas for a few other items on it that I think some of you might be able to help me with.  More on this very soon.


SongUnwritten by Natasha Bedingfield

my mighty chookooloonks life list

The astonishingly well-named Mighty Girl.

Some of you may be familiar with Maggie Mason, creative mind behind Mighty Girl, Mighty Goods, and, well,  a few other Mighty sites.  About a year ago, Maggie came up with something she called her "Mighty Life List:  100 Things to Do Before I Go," listing all the things she'd like to accomplish in her life. 

I love this idea.  I mean, I've always had several things in the back of my mind that I've always said I'd like to do within my lifetime, but I've never written it down or codified it in any way like Maggie has.  As it happens, over the last month or so Maggie and I have had the opportunity to spend time with each other on a few occasions in person, and when I brought up the fact that I loved her list, she said immediately, "You should do one."

"Really?" I said sheepishly.  "Because I didn't want to copy..."

"Don't be ridiculous," she countered.  "I want everyone to do it.  Because you know what?  The process of just writing it down, just putting it on paper was ... " she paused, thinking.  Then she looked at me directly:

"It was transformative for me.  It has truly changed my life."

Well, then. 

Since she's given us all permission to transform our lives, the following are 100+ Things I'd Like to Do Before I Go (in no particular order):

1.  Witness the launch of a spacecraft

2.  See the Great Wall of China

3.  See the Grand Canyon

4.  Learn Flamenco

5.  Play a steelpan in Trinidad Panorama

6.  Scuba dive in Bali

7.  Scuba dive in the Great Barrier Reef

8.  Visit Iceland

9.  Visit Tokyo

10.  Drive an 18-wheeler

11.  Hand churn ice cream with Alex -- done, July 3, 2011! You can see it here.

12.  Attend a major entertainment awards ceremony (perferably the Oscars, Emmys or Grammys)

13.  Attend the opening ceremonies of the summer Olympics

14.  Obtain literary recognition for something I wrote

15.  Own a little house by the ocean

16.  Photograph 1000 adult faces (started on February 18th here -- 180 down, 820 to go!)

17.  Learn how to make one of those kiddie friendship bracelets -- done, April 24, 2010! You can read about it here.

18.  After #17, teach Alex how to make one of those kiddie friendship bracelets -- done, April 24, 2010!  You can read about it here.

19.  Visit the very top of the Eiffel Tower

20.  Learn how to surf

21.  Learn how to sing 10 national anthems

22.  Learn how to hand make a lei

23.  Climb Mount St. Helen

24.  Learn to say "You are beautiful" in 100 languages. (Started March 2010 here!)

25.  Walk a marathon

26.  Cook a gourmet meal from start to finish

27.  Stomp on grapes to make wine

28.  Visit an ashram

29.  Visit India

30.  Grow my hair long enough that I can French braid it into one long plait

31.  Ride a parade float

32.  Renew my wedding vows to Marcus, with Alex acting as maid of honour

33.  Learn to play the drums

34.  Visit Victoria Falls

35.  Go on safari -- done, July 30, 2011!  You can read about it here.

36.  Visit the Egyptian pyramids

37.  Learn to yodel

38.  Host a dressy, adults-only dinner party

39.  Learn to belly dance

40.  Take a jewelry making class

41.  Get a part in a play

42.  Sing blues in a bar

43.  Visit Machu Picchu

44.  Sew myself a garment that I would wear out in public

45.  Hand make a ceramic vase that I would display in my home

46.  Take a train ride across Europe

47.  Learn to tango

48.  Learn to play the harmonica

49.  Photograph whirling dervishes

50.  Photograph the faces of children from 100 countries

51.  Learn how to properly twirl a baton

52.  Drink a glass of local wine in each of the top 10 winemaking countries of the world.  The countries are (a strikeout indicates that I've already had the glass!): Italy, France, Spain, Australia, Chile, United States, Germany, Argentina, Portugal and South Africa

53.  Milk a cow -- done, July 29, 2011, in Naivasha, Kenya!

54.  Learn how to juggle.

55.  Learn how to make pasta from scratch

56.  Drink 700 blends of tea

57.  Kiss the Blarney stone

58.  Have my hands painted in henna -- done, August 7, 2011!  You can see it here.

59.  Learn how to solve Rubik's Cube -- done, April 23, 2010!  You can read about it here.

60.  Photograph 100 people blowing bubbles at Discovery Green

61.  Visit Nairobi -- done, July 23-30, 2011, thanks to ONE.org You can read all about it here.

62.  Knit myself wristwarmers

63.  Learn how to process black & white film

64.  Grow a flower in a flowerpot from seed to full bloom -- done, May 9, 2010! View the entire process here!

65.  Learn to start a fire without matches or a lighter

66.  Visit Rosslyn chapel

67.  Ride in a hot air balloon -- done, June 25, 2010!  Read about the experience here, and view all the pics here!

68.  Swim with the manatee

69.  Dive/snorkel with a whale shark

70.  Start a scholarship fund for kids who want to be photographers

71.  Visit Mallorca

72.  Have afternoon tea at the Ritz in London

73.  Visit 20 Caribbean islands: Puerto Rico,

74.  Visit the top of Corcovado mountain

75.  Photograph the Maasai - done, August 2, 2011!  You can read about it here.

76.  Build an inukshuk in northern North America

77.  Photograph the aurora borealis

78.  Photograph the Milky Way

79.  Have truffles in Paris

80.  Taste 50 types of rum (started February 26, 2010, read all about them here)

81.  Visit Cuba

82.  Photograph an active volcano

83.  Attend a seder

84.  Attend a Hindu wedding

85.  Have hot chocolate at the top of the Alps

86.  Build a house with Habitat for Humanity Updated 10.11.06 - okay, I didn't really do it. But what I did do, and the reasons why, here.

87.  Take a trapeze lesson

88.  Pass through the Panama canal

89.  Harvest olives in Greece

90.  Visit Tibet

91.  Learn how to digitally process video

92.  Learn how to make tortillas from scratch

93.  Walk the length of Hadrian's Wall

94.  Visit Angel Falls

95.  Ring in the New Year in either New York City, Sydney or Paris

96.  Eat caviar in Red Square

97.  Ride a camel

98.  Go horseback riding on the beach

99.  Dive with manta rays

100.  Visit the Maldives before they disappear forever

Updated 10.4.21:  101.  Visit Easter Island

Updated 10.5.19:  102.  Photograph the Karen people

Updated 10.6.4:  103.  Learn to play the ukulele -- In progress.  You can see my first attempt here.

Updated 10.7.11:  104.  Take a photograph of Amorphophallus titanum ("corpse flower," or literally, "giant misshapen penis flower" -- I couldn't make this up) in full bloom. done, July 23, 2010!  Read about the experience here, here and here

Updated 10.11.04:  105.  Eat squeaky cheese in Wisconsin

Updated 11.03.31:  106.  Attend a nationally-televised sports championship game. done, April 4, 2011!  Read about the experience here.

Updated 11.04.09:  107.  See Bobby McFerrin in concert.

Updated 11.06.23:  108.  Host a creative retreat at the Kariwak Village Holistic Haven & Hotel in Tobago

Updated 11.06.26:  109.  Become an ordained minister. done, June 16, 2011! You can become one too!

Updated 11.08.12:  110.  Go snorkeling in the Galapagos.


I think Maggie's right -- we should all have a life list, no matter how long or short.  I mean, even if we don't accomplish everything on our lists, just by attempting some, our lives are bound to get a little more interesting, right?

Obviously, as I attempt to do these, I'll photograph and update my progress here on Chookooloonks.  In the meantime, though, I'd love to see what would appear on your list.


(UpdateMy advice on how to create your own life list can be found here.)


SongBrick house by the Commodores

the beautiful faces of mom 2.0

Jenny Lawson being crowned "Czar of Nothingness" by the Mayor of Martindale, Texas, as Allison Cznarnecki, Rachael Herrscher and Jyl Johnson Pattee look on.

After quite the exciting weekend spending time with some great folks at the Mom 2.0 Summit, things should be able to settle back into some semblance of a routine.  I had a great time at the conference, which I wrote about at some length here, here, here, and here; but the best part of the conference for me was getting the chance to photograph some of my favourite faces around the web.

Here are some of them:

The breathtaking (in so many beautiful ways) Leah.


Heather.  She makes me laugh and laugh.


Loralee.  Her different:  she is a classically-trained opera singer.  How cool is that?


Alice.  The word that comes to mind most when I think of her is "enchanting." Seriously lovely person.


Mir.  Her smile positively lights up rooms.


Rachel.  Those eyes, man.  Those eyes.


Imelda.  Just being in her presence makes you feel calm.


Susan.  Whenever I look at her eyes, I just feel happy.  She has the happiest eyes.


Jon.  My favourite thing was watching is face as he talked about his family.  Beautiful.


I so enjoyed photographing all of them, and there were many more people I wanted to photograph, but didn't get the opportunity to.  No matter, our paths will cross again soon.

One more thing:  I loved the motto of this year's summit:

What You Do Matters


Because it does, you know.

Song'Til Kingdom Come by Coldplay


the story of the lawyer and her doppelganger

So this past Wednesday, I met with my publisher's graphic artist, to begin the process of laying my book out.  After the short meeting, before going home, I decided to stop into my favourite coffeehouse, Brasil, to have a quick lunch. 

I was sitting there, watching people come and go, thinking about how much I love this place.  I was also thinking about the book, and how everyone I was honoured to photograph is so different, and how that difference is the source of so much good.  And as I was going back and forth between those two thoughts, I remembered a time about 14 or so years ago, when I met someone who, at first glance, appeared to be almost my physical twin, standing pretty much right at the spot next to the bar you see above.  I've told this story before, about 4 years ago on a previous incarnation of my blog, but I think it bears repeating -- because, you know, when you have an experience this weird, you really can't tell the tale too often.  So if you remember this story, apologies for the retelling.  If you don't know it, honey, pull up a chair, 'cause this is a long one.

So, right: about 14 years ago, Brasil was pretty much a daily haunt of mine.  By day, it's a coffeehouse that served delicious sandwiches and salads; by night, it transforms into a wine bar.  Back when I used to go at night, there was this great DJ who used to spin neo-soul, trip-hop, jazznova and all kinds of really groovy music.  The clientele was (and still is) made up of artists (tattoo or otherwise), goths, punks and academics (Rice University is very close by).  I used to visit after work and have a glass of wine and chill out, usually reading a book by candlelight by myself.

One night, I noticed this huge guy walking toward me.  His arms were covered in sleeve tattoos, and he had several piercings in several places all over his body.

"Hey!" he said enthusiastically, grinning from ear to ear.  "I haven't seen you in ages!"

I looked at him blankly, smiling one of those weak do-I-know-you smiles.

His grin disappeared as he registered my confusion.  "Oh," he said.  "You're not her."

"I'm not who?"

"The Cigarette Girl."

"Oh, yeah. No.  I'm not the Cigarette Girl."  I've never smoked a cigarette in my life.

"Sorry to bother you," he smiled.  I smiled back.  "No worries," I replied.

So I didn't think anything of this, until the next night.  This time, I was standing in line at the bar (above), waiting for my glass of wine.  A woman walked up and tapped me on the shoulder, with a cheery, "Hi!"  I turned around, and her face immediately fell.  "Oh.  God, I'm sorry.  I thought you were the Cigarette Girl."

"Um, no, sorry, I'm not," I said smiling.  She looked really embarrassed, and slunk off to join her friends again.

A few days later, when it happened a third time, I finally asked one of the guys who worked behind the counter.  "Dude, seriously, who is this 'Cigarette Girl' people keep thinking I am?"

"What?"  He looked at me for a moment, and then he laughed.  "Oh my GOD," he said, "You totally DO look like her!  Wow.  You haven't seen her?"


"Oh, she's here all the time.  I don't know her name.  But she always has a bag of cigarettes with her.  And she looks ...well, she looks like you.  You can't miss her.  Seriously.  Wow."  We stared at each other for a moment before I left to sit down with my drink.

Anyway, a couple of weeks later, I was back at Brasil one evening, and the door opened.  I looked up, and saw ...

... me.

The woman who entered looked just like me, except with a slightly darker skin tone.  She was about my age, my height, my build, and she had my face.  She was wearing a hug duffel bag of boxes of cigarettes over her shoulder.  She had on Doc Martens and her arms and upper chest were covered in tattoos.

She went directly to the counter to give the barristas her order.

I couldn't help myself:  I walked over to her and tapped her on the shoulder.  "Hi," I said, when she turned around.  "You must be the Cigarette Girl."

She looked at me for a moment, and I watched as surprise registered across her face.  "Oh my God," she said.  "You must be the Lawyer."

I laughed.

"Where are you sitting?" she asked.  "Would you mind if I joined you?"

"Not at all," I replied, pointing to my table.  "Please do."

I returned to my seat, and when she got her coffee, she sat down.  "So, I'm Kay," she said.

"You're kidding," I answered.  "I'm Karen.  But some of my friends call me K."

"Incredible," she said, shaking her head in disbelief.  "I can't believe how much we look alike."

We laughingly traded stories of mistaken identity.  I thought she was really funny and smart.  I immediately liked her.

"So, what do you do with all these cigarettes?" I asked.

"Oh," she grimaced.  "It's this promotional thing.  I hate smoking, actually.  But you know... gotta make a buck."

"What do you do?"

"Well, I go to lounges and clubs, and I walk up to people who are smoking, and I ask them if they'd like to trade their half-empty boxes of cigarettes for a full box of this brand."

"Oh," I said.  "Well, at least you're targeting people who already smoke," I said, half-heartedly.

"Yeah, I guess."

It seemed like such a weird way to make a living, and she seemed smarter than this, capable of so much more.  So I asked, "So ... is this your full-time job?"

"Oh HELL no," she said, quickly.  "I couldn't live on what I make doing this!  This is just for a little extra money."

"So what do you do?"

She looked me dead in the eye, and said, completely matter-of-factly:

"I'm a dominatrix."


Blink. Blink.

"I'm sorry," I said stupidly, "did you just say 'dominatrix'?"

She smiled.  "Yes.  I'm a dominatrix."

"Like ... whips?  Chains?  Cat-o'nine-tails?  That sort of thing?"  I asked, realizing that I sounded like a complete prude, but unable to hide my disbelief.

"Right.  Exactly."

I stared at her dumbly.

"It's not about sex," she added quickly.

"Well, right, no, of course ..." I started mumbling.

"It's about domination."

"Uh-huh, right.  Yes.  Of course.  Obviously."  I struggled with what to say next.  "So ... how's ... business?" I smiled wanly.

She laughed.  "Booming, actually," she began, and then she proceeded to tell me all about it.  She told me about the domination house (I think that's what she called it, I really don't remember now) and about the other girls she worked with.  She told me how her clientele was primarily made up of professionals -- doctors, lawyers and even schoolteachers (!).  Eventually, I stopped feeling uncomfortable, and I started asking her questions that she gamely answered. 

After a while, she looked at her watch.  "I better get going," she said.  "I've gotta get rid of these cigarettes."

"Oh, of course.  Well, nice meeting you," I said.

"Yeah, you too!" She smiled as she stood.  "Hey, we should meet for coffee again.  Should we trade numbers?"

We did, and even spoke on the phone a few times after.  Once, I remember talking with her in the middle of the day while I was at the office, and she mentioned that she was engaged.  "Really?" I said, somewhat surprised.  "Your fiancé doesn't have a problem with the work you do?"

"Not at all.  He owns the domination house."

Well, of course he does.

Anyway, I never saw her again after that first meeting, and after a few phone conversations, we never spoke again -- not for any real reason, just that apparently lawyers and dominatrices have less in common than you might initially think.  Interestingly, no one ever mistook me for her again either.  She just sort of disappeared, as if she'd never existed in the first place.

Still, all these years later, I've often wondered what happened to Kay.  Who knows:  maybe she decided that the domination world was too stressful, so she gave it all up to become a writer and a photographer and a blogger ...


SongWhip it by Devo


love thursday: my girl


I took this photograph of Alex last week, to enlarge and frame for Marcus' desk. 

Man oh man, how I love this face.


* * * * * * *


Happy Love Thursday, everyone.  Please leave your stories or links to your words or images of love in the comments below.

And go look at a face you love today.


SongGet back by Demi Lovato.  This song brought to you by Alex.  OBVIOUSLY.

random thoughts: looking for rhythm again

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I'm in this strange limbo.  After 2 weeks of my routine completely up-ended as I worked toward my Monday deadline, I find myself sort of spinning, unable to get my footing, and I'm having a hard time getting back into my rhythm.  I'm busy playing catch up on all the items I've let lie dormant for a while (the superpower forum being one of them -- I know, I'm sorry, we'll be back up and running very soon, I promise), but this week the Mom 2.0 Summit begins, and in addition to speaking, I've got some unexpected writing and shooting duties to assume as well on behalf of a local online publication (I'll link to it in the coming days).  I'm looking forward to all of it -- not to mention there are several bloggers coming to town who I'm really excited to reconnect with -- but if I'm honest, I'm also craving a little routine, a little quiet.

So -- any advice as to how to put a little calm in an otherwise hectic schedule?  I suspect I'll be having a lot of green or herbal teas in the next few days (not to mention burning a little extra incense and playing some calm music in my workspace), but any other little nuggets of inspiration will be gratefully received.


SongDestiny by Zero 7