the beckoning of lovely

I'm just back from a lovely evening that began with beckoning lovely, and ended with dinner with my very wonderful friends, Laura Mayes, Katherine Center and Jenny The Bloggess.  It was sort of an odd, wonderful and yes, lovely evening, and I'll try to capture it here as best I can -- although so much happened in one hour at the little Blue Willow Bookshop that it's unlikely I'll remember everything.  These are, however, the highlights.

The evening was hosted by the Amy Krouse Rosenthall, who is the mind behind The Beckoning of Lovely, and who also happens to be a very accomplished writer of both grown-up books and children's books (I bought one of them, Spoon, tonight for Alex -- it's all about how being different is beautiful.  It's a fantastic book, and I can't wait to read it with her).  Amy led us through a series of little exercises that were, well ... lovely.

First, Amy enlisted the aid of a sweet young man to perform a beautiful poem by Shel Silverstein (forgive me, but I don't remember which of Silverstein's poems it was).  (Update:  Rhonda, one of the women I met last night, informs me that the poem was "How many, how much."  You can read it here.)  She whispered the lines in his ear, and he said them loud and proud.  It was really sweet.


Amy then talked about how, at various performances, like movies, or theatres, you're asked to turn off your cell phones.  So instead, she asked us to turn on our cell phones, and text someone the words "I love you."

I texted Marcus.


The lovely Katherine Center read an excerpt from her book, Everyone is Beautiful.  It's a great book, and it's always so wonderful to hear the book read in the author's voice.  Lovely.


Amy told a story about this beautiful snow globe ring that a friend gave her when she admired it.  Amy spontaneously gave the ring to one of the attendees, with the instruction that she is to wear it only until someone else admires it, and then pass it along.  Eventually, the ring will hopefully make its way back to Amy, having been worn by people who loved wearing it.

Amy shared some of her favourites of her tiny music box collection.  You really have not lived until you've heard "Stairway to Heaven" on a music box.  Seriously.


One of the participants sang Patsy Cline's Walkin' after Midnight.  It was surprising, and really great -- she belted it out, and we all clapped our hands to the beat of the rhythm. 


And finally, we all sang, and Amy recorded us all.

And these were only some of the activities -- there were also moments of silence, and stories of laughter yoga. There was even sidewalk chalk art.  And it was all done in 60 minutes.

As I said, it was strange, but it was beautiful.  We all met some really great people.  And we spent an hour without worrying about anything but being in each other's company.

Thanks to those of you who made it out -- I hope you walked away thinking the evening was lovely and special, too.  At the very least, hopefully you left with some ideas about how you can beckon a bit of lovely into each of your own lives.


SongWalkin' after midnight by Patsy Cline

fortune (n): fate, lot, destiny

From a recent fortune cookie.  Photographed with Nikon D300, 60mm micro lens.

I love Chinese food, but my favourite part of a Chinese meal is the fortune cookie at the end.  I have a little ceremony that I perform each time I have one:  first, I crack open the cookie, then I eat a small piece, and then I read the fortune (because it's bad luck to read the fortune before you taste the cookie.  I don't know why I believe this, but I do).  And I'm always a little disappointed when my "fortune" isn't foretelling, but a mere statement (like the one shown, above) -- and thrilled when my fortune tells me something about my destiny.  And if it's a positive fortune?  Man, I walk a little lighter for the rest of the day.

I think it would be really cool to have the job of writing fortunes for fortune cookies.  I think I would be really good at it:  You will find you are more enlightened than you believe yourself to be.  Or All the wealth you seek is actually closer than you think

Take that, Confucius.

If you could write your own fortune -- one that would make you walk a little lighter -- what would it say?


SongDestiny by Zero 7

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Don't forget everyone -- the Beckoning of Lovely is TONIGHT!  If you're in Houston, I hope you'll try to come.

through the viewfinder: random weekend thoughts

Cleaning up the kitchen at sunset. Photographed with Nikon D300, 60mm micro lens, and a Kodak Duaflex.

A tiny wedding, held in the garden of a deeply under-construction home, requiring you to walk through lots of debris can be wildly romantic.  Who knew?

Things which are concerning me: (a) Marcus taught Alex how to play Pocket God on the iTouch; (b) she loves it, particularly causing hurricanes and  throwing the island natives into the volcano (does she realize that her mother, in fact, is an "island native"?); (c) these newfound daddy-and-daughter-bonding-sessions have resulted in Marcus making such profound utterances as: "Alex, the sun burns vampire skin.  Remember that.  IT'S A LIFE LESSON."  I fear something has gone terribly, terribly wrong in our household.

It's been a long, long time since I've had one of those dreams where Marcus does something unforgivable in the dream, and then I wake up furious at him, and he avoids me for the entire morning, confused about what he could've possibly done wrong.  I'm taking it as a good sign of a healthy relationship.

When I tell people that I've recently become a vegetarian, they always ask me if I've lost weight.  You're supposed to lose weight when you're a vegetarian?  Because if so, I'm feeling really ripped off.

Song: Run around by Blues Traveler


things which made me smile quietly to myself over the last few days

Photographed yesterday during a wonderful downpour.  Nikon D300, 24-85mm lens.

Yesterday, it stormed like crazy -- one of those intense, insane Texas thunderstorms.  There's nothing I love better than being safe at home, in my office working, while an intense, insane Texas thunderstorm is raging outside.

A new friend this week turned me on to Very Short List -- a service that sends you a short e-mail daily about new cool things, like books, or movies, or cool inventions.  I can't believe I didn't know about this before, and love getting each day's email.

This same friend told me about The Photographic Dictionary:  when you click here, you come to a page that contains the alphabet.  Click any letter, and a list of words appears.  Click a word, and its definition shows up -- as a beautiful, intriguing or provocative photograph.  I could get lost for days in this site.

Speaking of photographs, I'm entranced by these portraits featured in Matt Hoyle's Barnumville, which are inspired by the American sideshows of the 1940's.  I really need to start doing portraiture more.

And most of all, two very dear friends are secretly getting married today.  This makes me happiest most of all.

SongMan of constant sorrow, by The Soggy Bottom Boys

love thursday: the beckoning of lovely

Heart rock, found as photographed, lying in my neighbour's garden. Photographed with Nikon D300, 35mm lens.

One of the reason that I started Love Thursday so long ago is because I love the idea of being able to find love in unexpected places. I love the idea that love is, indeed, all around us, we just need to open our eyes and look. It's right there. It's always right there.

Related to this fascination for love is my attraction to all things serendipitous and kind -- strangers doing nice things for one another, random acts of kindness, people doing deeds of charity, philanthropy or just plain goodwill or grace without giving it a second thought. People who extend a hand of friendship for no reason than just to do it. It's the reason I loved the video I linked to in yesterday's post, or that great Free Hugs Campaign that was so popular a couple of years ago.

It's also the reason that I so love the following video, The Beckoning of Lovely. Take a look at it, and see if it doesn't move you. (And by the way, if it does, and you live in and around Houston, keep scrolling down -- there's a wonderful surprise at the bottom of this post.)

Happy Love Thursday, everyone. Please leave the links to your words and images of love in the comments section below. And may you beckon some lovely into your life today!

* * * * * * *

For those of you who are in Houston, great news: Amy Krouse Rosenthal, the beautiful mind behind The Beckoning of Lovely video you see above, will be here in Houston next Tuesday, March 31st, for the sole purpose of joining you and me and all of us to create more lovely! Here are all the details:

WHERE: Blue Willow Bookshop, 14532 Memorial Drive  (phone: 281.497.8675)

WHEN: Tuesday March 31st, 6:00-7:00 pm

WHO: Nice, interesting people like you

WHY: To feel like wow, that was an exceptionally well-spent hour

WHY NOT: Exactly.


In other words, just show up, and let's see what magic we can make.  I can't wait to see you all there.

SongCloser to fine, by the Indigo Girls

for heaven's sake, what is a chookooloonks?

My chookooloonks. Photographed with Nikon D300, 50mm manual lens.

When people first learn of my site, invariably two questions arise.  The first is always, "What in God's name is a 'chookooloonks'?"  The second, usually asked before the first one can actually be properly articulated (or responded to), is "How the hell do you say it?"  In previous incarnations of this site, I've always included the definition of chookooloonks, because it was much more applicable to what I was writing at the time; however, it's been brought to my attention that I've been remiss in including the explanation in this version. I figure now's as good a time as any to rectify the situation.

When I started this blog five years ago, Marcus and I were waiting for Alex to be born, and I was writing about our experiences; both our emotions as Expectant Parents, and later, our adventures in becoming More Experienced Parents. My main motivation was due to the fact that our families live all over the world, and I thought a blog would be a great way to keep them involved in our lives.

As I was trying to come up with a name for the site, I knew I wanted it to be memorable, somewhat vaguely related to the fact that a child was about to join us, and preferably Trinidadian, since I am, after all, Trini. Then it hit me: the perfect word, the one from my childhood, the one that just felt right, was chookooloonks.

If chookooloonks were in the dictionary, it would look something like this:

choo•koo•loonks (n) A Trinidadian term of endearment, used especially when addressing a child.

In other words, chookooloonks is like "darling."  Or "sweetheart."  There are variations on this word:  you might choose to call your son "choonks." Or "choonksie."  Or, as my dad calls Alex, "choonksie-woonksie."  It's just a fun little word that we Trinis (and for some reason, it's primarily Trinis) like to use for our kids.  Over the years, I've received e-mails from people who have found this site, and say things like, "Hi!  I'm a fellow Trini/my dad is a Trini/my mom is a Trini/my wife is a Trinidadian and I found your blog on Google.  When I saw the name, I just had to come over and see where you were from.  Only a Trini would use that word!"

Nowadays, of course, I photograph and write about much more than just Alex; however, the name has stuck, and sort of become a brand in its own right.  And so, my blog and my business remain "Chookooloonks."

And to pronounce it?  Just like it looks:  CHOO-koo-loonks.

So there you go.  And of course, going forward, feel free to use chookooloonks in your everyday lives.


Song: Speaking of "everyday," check out this video by Dave Matthews Band.  Guaranteed to make you smile.


Photographed with Nikon D300, 50mm manual lens.

I love this time of day, particularly when it starts to get warm -- the crickets start to chirp, fireflies start to come out and you can just feel the world begin to quiet down.  To me, twilight is all about gathering with friends or family, sharing a bottle of wine, some cheese and silly pipe dreams or fantasies.

Spring and summer are just around the corner.  Here's to wonderful, warm twilight hours.

Song: If I had a million dollars by Barenaked Ladies.  Total twilight music, man.

more random weekend thoughts

After dinner, Sunday evening.  Photographed with Nikon D300, ancient 50mm manual lens.

I am still wrestling with what my proper response should have been to Alex suddenly calling out from her bedroom Saturday morning:  "MOM?  Can I have a whip like Indiana Jones?"  Should it have been laughter?  Pride in her choice of a successful and adventuresome anthropologist as her role model?  Curiosity in her motives for needing a whip in the first place?  Unmitigated concern in my own parenting skills?

When I mentioned to Marcus that I thought I wouldn't like to have a funeral upon my death, he suggested that he have me cremated, throw a party in celebration of my life, and combine my ashes with the grated nutmeg that would garnish the rum punch he served the guests in my honour. I am vacillating between being deeply horrified by his suggestion, and dumbstruck with admiration at his ingenuity.

Also? If I die, and Marcus invites you to a party, don't drink the rum punch.

Alex has taken up beatboxing.  In describing the visual, I woudn't be exaggerating if I told you to imagine a somewhat flatulant (or at the very least, raspberry-making) mouse, doing, inexplicably, Riverdance.  Marcus and I have decided we can forgive her form, since it turns out the kid actually has some rhythm.


SongLoveStoned/I Think She Knows Interlude by Justin Timberlake.  Just 'cause it's all about the beatboxing.