bonus shots: the school play

Tension builds.  Photographed with Nikon D300, 70-200mm lens.

This past Thursday was the graduation ceremony for Alex's school, and all the children put on plays in celebration.  Since this was the last full semester that Alex will be attending this school (she starts kindergarten in public school in the fall), this was sort of her swan song.  And so you can imagine my delight (and I mean this without a trace of sarcasm, I really was truly thrilled) when I learned that she was going to play ...


... a chicken.


The "play" was actually a series of nursery rhyme songs about food.  Alex's section had something to do with a mommy chicken taking care of her baby chickens (thankfully, they never got to the part about slaughter.  At least I don't think they did. It was sort of hard to understand the words to the song.)  But I was sorry to learn that being a chicken wasn't actually the best role in the play.

Because, see the kid dressed in brown over to the far right of each of these shots?  Well, she was in the section that sang "On Top of Spaghetti." 

And she, bless her, was the meatball.


a tiny little bit of wonderful news

On the running trail.  Photographed with Nikon D200, 35mm lens.

This week, after what seemed like a long time, I finally met with the publisher to whom I'd submitted the book proposal.

They would like to move forward with the book.

This was exactly the kind of push I needed out of the waiting game.  Needless to say, I'm thrilled.  Needless to say, I'm a bit intimidated.  Needless to say, I have a lot of work to do.

While it's too soon to tell you everything, I will tell you that it will be a very visual book, but will certainly not be solely photography -- in fact, it will likely be equally heavy in words and images.  All new words and images.  So yes, like I might have mentioned: I have a lot of work to do.

So this is my tiny little bit of wonderful news.  And there was no way I could keep this to myself, since each of you -- those of you who have commented over the years, or who have otherwise sent me e-mails and notes of encouragement -- are absolutely the reason I had the guts to even dream about becoming a writer and a photographer.  So, thank you so much.  I owe you guys big.


SongDays go by by Dirty Vegas

love thursday: out of focus

Photographed with Nikon D200, 35mm lens.

When I was single and dating, I found that my senses would often go through a phase of being incredibly dull, eventually followed by a period of overly keen sharpness.  I'd meet a guy, and he would be wonderful, beyond my wildest imagination.  I would be completely in awe that such an amazing person actually walked the face of the earth.  I would be dumbstruck that a god like him would deign to be in the company of a schmuck like me.

And then my vision would start to correct itself.  And all of a sudden, the "god's" blemishes would come into sharp focus.  And I found myself thinking things like, "Oh. My.  Did he always chew with his mouth open?" and then, "My heavens, this guy has some freakishly weird-looking feet," eventually becoming, "Dear God, if I have to spend another day with a man who .... BREATHES ... like this, I WILL TAKE MY OWN LIFE."

Yeah.  It wasn't pretty.

I've mentioned before that Marcus asked me to marry him 18 days after our first date.  After I initially said yes, I rushed to correct myself:  "Wait! No!  This is crazy!  Ask me again in a couple of months."  The truth was, I wanted to make sure that my eyes focused properly first.  Because they were seriously out of focus, back in those days.

In a few months, it will be eight years since that first date.  And lately, as I struggle to work toward my own personal and professional goals, Marcus remains ever supportive, consoling me when things don't go as planned, and cheering me on when they do.  And suddenly today, it dawned on me:  after all this time, my eyes have never seemed to regain their focus.

* * * * * * *

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

And when it comes to the people you love (and who seriously love you back), may your eyes never come into focus.


SongBabylon by David Gray

the waiting game

Photographed with Nikon D300, 35mm lens.

Lately, I've found myself in the middle of a gripping and unrelenting bout of the Waiting Game.  You know the game, right?  The one where you know all the things that you want to do -- the things that might actually change your life, the things that up until now you've only dreamed of doing -- but you have all these fabulous excuses about why you can't get started on them?  Things like:

"I'll finish writing my novel after my son starts going to school full-time -- I really shouldn't start now. I should wait."

"I'll cut my demo CD after I've stayed in my job for a year or two more.  Being a court reporter/an accountant/a nurse is far more practical.  I should wait."

"I'll look into university/online classes/a change in career after my daughter graduates high school.  The timing would just be better.  I should wait."

The horrible part of the Waiting Game is that, deep down inside, I know I'm stalling.  I know it's just a matter of making a list of all the major steps it would take to accomplish what I want to do, along with all my perceived obstacles, and then breaking down each of the major steps into smaller ones, and then breaking them down again, until finally, it just seems silly not to take the next, teensy, tiny little step forward.  I mean, with a step that small, what the hell am I waiting on?

If I could just focus on making that list ...


SongWaiting on the world to change by John Mayer

the lights shining through on you

Photographed with Nikon D200, 35mm lens

I hate that I made so many of you sad yesterday -- that certainly wasn't my intent!  Rest assured that all of the new trees we've planted in the old oaks' places are thriving -- and we've replaced most of them with large flowering trees, so in a few years, our garden is going to pretty glorious during springtime.  Never fear - we're all change-is-good, lemons-lemonading up in here.  As you have to be, right?

Anyway, to cheer you up, I thought I'd share one of the photos that I took near our home this weekend, above.  Wildflowers are currently blooming everywhere right now, so thank heavens I took my camera with me yesterday on my morning run.  I managed to get a few lovely shots yesterday, which I'll likely share with you during the week.  At one point, a man who was running past me said with a laugh, "Now, now, you can't be a photographer and a runner ... time to put away the camera and run!" 

I laughed right back:  "I'm making it my life goal to do both!" 

(Although, between you and me, the running is likely to fall off.)


SongSunshine of your love, as performed by Funkadelic


Photographed with Nikon D200, 70-200mm lens.

When we immigrated from Trinidad to Houston, we decided against moving to a brand new neighbourhood and into a brand new house, choosing instead to live in an older neighbourhood, with 50-year-old homes and huge oak trees.  I remember when we first saw our little house with the 12 huge oak trees in front, we knew we'd found our home.

That was two years ago.  And since then, sadly, horrifyingly, the giant oaks have been dying off, one by one.

We honestly don't know what is killing our trees, particularly since the rest of our garden remains very lush and healthy, with no hint of anything affecting any other foliage.  "Sudden Oak Death," was one hypothesis, since the trees are usually healthy one day, and two weeks later all the leaves have turned completely brown.  Another neighbour presumed that a nearby house had poor swimming pool drainage, and our oaks were the unwitting victims.  Most recently, we consulted Arturo, the wonderfully gentle man who helped us in the past with one tree that ended up on our neighbour's house, courtesy of Hurricane Ike.  He stood looking up at one sad, brown shell of a tree, with a worried look on his face.

"I think this one was struck by lightning," he said.  "See there?"

My eyes followed his pointing finger up to the top of a tree, indicating a small, dark scar near the top branches.  I nodded, but remained skeptical.  Lightning might explain the demise of one tree, but not 10.  And as I stood mulling, the voice of my "ol' aunt," Auntie Aqui, filled my mind:  "Take care a jumbie eh livin' in dose trees, yes!" I could hear her saying.  And really, some sort of evil supernatural entity taking residence in our oaks is just as good a guess as any, I suppose.

Anyway, this weekend Arturo's men were back, cutting down three more trees.  As they strapped on their harnesses, clipped on their crampons and scaled the oaks, I sat helplessly looking on below.

It makes me unbearably sad to see these trees reduced to a pile of branches and tree stumps. I hate the thought of these once verdant trees being dead and withered.  But a friend recently pointed out that I am often resistant to change, and in fact, change can sometimes be a good thing -- endings heralding new beginnings, that sort of thing.  As the men worked, the air started to fill with a lovely woody smell, and the sawdust began to settle on the surrounding foliage, and flowers, and I consoled myself with the realization that the trees had lived a good long life before being cut down.  Besides, their branches and trunks would end up warming us this winter, as firewood in our fireplace. And really, what better service could an old oak be put to, than to bring light and heat to the home in front of which it once stood?

And anyway, as we always do, we will plant new trees where the old ones once stood.


(Click here to see/hear this post.)


 SongApple tree by Erykah Badu

bonus shot: one home-grown, sun-ripened tomato

Photographed with Nikon D200, 35mm lens.

One of the first few picked from our little container garden.  This is the first year we've had one.  I'd love to say I did all the work, but this baby is all Marcus.  It is very sad and pathetic how ridiculously proud I am of us for finally doing this really rather simple thing.

This one will likely feature in tonight's dinner salad.

SongHomegrown tomatoes as performed by Guy Clark

strange find

Is this what I think it is?  Photographed with Nikon D300, 35 mm lens.

So the other day, when I was shooting just about everything I passed all day long, I was running along on the hike and bike trail, minding my own business, when I passed the flower you see above.  Are you seeing this thing?  How crazy is this flower?!

Naturally, after staring at it for a while, I took about 7 or 8 shots.  The thing is, as weird as it looked, there was something ... familiar about it.

When Marcus got home that evening, I showed him the shots.  "How weird is this flower?" I asked, still incredulous.  "Like, is it some kind of weed? I've never seen anything like this before around here.  It looks like a flower from Trinidad, not Texas."

"Definitely odd," said Marcus.  "But, you know what it looks like?  It looks kind of like ... what is it? ... umm... is it a ... passion fruit flower?"

As soon as he said that, something clicked.  I googled.  And damned if it doesn't look like he's right.

But it's Houston!  Passion fruits don't grow in Houston, do they?  And besides, this thing was in a patch of weeds!

So today, I went back to the trail, and searched every inch of my normal 5 mile route.  And thank goodness, even though the blossoms had shriveled up, I found the plant.   I took my house keys and used them to cut off a 2-foot section of the vine, and brought it home.

And now, Marcus (aka He Who Can Make Things Grow) is working his magic, and we'll see if we can actually get the cutting to grow.  I'll probably contact my friend Gayla for any tips, and if we can make this work, I'll have to figure out a way to ship one of the fruits to Maggie to cross off her life list -- although, now that I look at the updated list, it looks like she's already had passion fruit

But has she had a Texan passion fruit?  Probably not.

More if we make progress.


(Update:  On an unrelated note, as serendipity would have it, I've learned that the Museum of Fine Arts Houston is looking for volunteers for its administration/legal department.  This would be an unpaid internship, but if you happen to be in any university level writing, pre-law or law programs, this could be a great way for you to get credit and learn about art law at the same time.  If you're interested, please email me at chookooloonksATgmailDOTcom.  Thanks!)

 SongWalkin' on the sun by Smash Mouth

tuesday night lights

Happy hour at the Alden hotel.  Photographed with Nikon D300, 35mm lens

As part of a photo shoot I needed to conduct for an upcoming Through the Gadling Lens feature, I asked two good friends to join me at a tony little hotel bar for happy hour last night.  And happily, they obliged.

The evening was full of secret confessions, heartfelt encouragement, scandalous memories and uproarious laughter. 

And a couple of delicious, fruity martinis.


SongFun for me by Moloko