on "drinking life to the lees"

"My favorite quote comes from one of my favorite poems, Alfred Lord Tennyson's 'Ulysses':

Come, my friends.
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.

There's another line in there I love about 'drinking life to the lees,' which speaks to me as well. I strive everyday to live life to the fullest and drink in all the experiences that come my way."

~ lizzybef

* * * * * * *

One of the things I do love about traveling alone is the ability to explore without having to cater to anyone else's agenda -- you can go sightseeing all day if you want, or lay around and do nothing; go clubbing like a madperson, or have a quiet night in -- your agenda is entirely your own, without running the risk of hurting someone's feelings because you don't want to do what they want to do.  And so, when I landed in Portland last week, and discovered I had a few hours to myself before I was scheduled to meet anyone, I decided to treat myself with a few hours of "solo vacationing."

First, I asked the concierge at my hotel* for a good lunch recommendation.

"Are you looking for very casual, or ...?" she asked.

"I don't care if it's casual or formal," I said, "because this will likely be my main meal for today.  I'd just like something that serves good local food."

"Clyde Common," she said immediately.  "It's right down the street."

After quickly referring to a street map, I made my way to the restaurant.  It's a lovely small place, where people share tables family-style; instead, I opted to have my lunch at the bar, and befriend a kind bartender who served me a wonderful Oregonian red wine along with my delicious heart-attack-on-a-platter lunch.



After lunch, I decided I should take a stroll around the city (my feeble attempt to work off some of my indulgent meal).  I asked the kindly bartender which direction I should head to find something photogenic to capture, and after a moment of thought, he said decisively, "The Chinese Gardens.  They're stunning.  Definitely.  You should go to the Chinese Gardens."

I paid my bill, thanked him, and headed out.

My word.

This place is astonishing:  one mere city block of the most beautiful gardens I have ever seen in my entire life.  At every corner and turn, there was something even more gorgeous to see.




It was amazing: so peaceful and even mystical.  I didn't stay very long -- maybe 30 minutes or so -- but I had to get back to my hotel and get ready for the rest of my day.  Still, I really loved my mini "solo vacation," and it reminded me of a time back when I was single, and decided to take myself on a holiday to the Cayman Islands.  It was one of the best things I've ever done for myself, and I'd recommend to anyone to travel by yourself at least once  -- even if it's just a quick overnight trip to a new place outside of your home town.  It's liberating: it forces you to push yourself to explore things that you might not otherwise, for fear of being thought silly or disappointing by your travel companions.  Solo travel makes you live a little larger and take a chance, and even learn something new.  And more often than not, once on the other side, you'll find it's an experience you'll take a surprising amount of pride in. 

Besides, let's face it: every now and then, it's good to take some time, even if it's just a couple of hours, to drink life to the lees.

Have a great weekend, everyone.


* The hotel I stayed at was the Hotel Lucia in downtown Portland, as suggested by responses to an inquiry I put out on Twitter a few weeks ago.  Even given the small rooms, I have to say this is one of the sweetest hotels I've ever patronized.  The daily rates aren't outrageous, the hotel is clean and modern and full of beautiful original art.  But most importantly, it has the best customer service I've experienced at any hotel in recent memory.  In my short stay, it has quickly become my go-to hotel if I'm ever in Portland again, and it should be yours too.   And to be clear, Hotel Lucia did not compensate me in any way to write this paragraph.  It's seriously that good.

Images:  Photographed with my Nikon D300, 50mm lens.  Inspired by lizzybef's contribution to the photography scavanger hunt.


SongYou gotta be by Des'ree

love thursday: pink

"My favorite color is pink. In fact, I love it so much that just looking at the color makes me less hungry, visibly happier and a whole lot calmer."


* * * * * * *

Sort of like being in love, isn't it?

Happy Love Thursday, everyone.


Image:  Photographed in Eugene, Oregon, with my Nikon D300 and 50mm lens. Inspired by Elizabeth's contribution to the photography scavenger hunt.


Song: Some kind of wonderful as performed by Joss Stone.  Today's song was suggested by Terra.

on purple

"My favorite color is PURPLE.

'You are a purple person if: You are imaginative, sensitive, artistic and sophisticated. You have noble ideals and a keen appreciation of the cultural. You are alert, demanding, foresighted, confident, resourceful, spontaneous and highly independent. You take delight in the beautiful, the gracious, the sensitive, but maintain an attitude of critical appraisal. In love you seek to attain a magical quality and refuse to settle for anything less. You refuse to be "swept-off your feet" unless genuineness and integrity can be absolutely ascertained. You are active in the support of things you believe in, and are concerned with the pursuit of truth and other human values. You take chances and believe that you must do so to make the most of what life has to offer. Purple is an exclusive color, mystical in quality, blending the two extremes of the spectrum, red and blue. Traditionally, purple represents splendor, dignity, royalty, rank, and wealth. Purple is a unique color, and it is a truly unique individual who holds it dear.' - copyright 1985 Louise Z. Berenson"

~ Michelle G.

* * * * * * *

My mother's favourite colour is also purple.  She never wears it though, because when my dad was a little boy, he attended a funeral with an open casket, and the deceased was dressed in purple.  So my dad finds purple, particularly in clothing, incredibly depressing.

Even so, since she doesn't feel comfortable wearing it, I try to give her purple flowers as often as possible -- irises, usually.  And judging from the passage that Michelle G. shared above, it's totally obvious that despite her never wearing it, my mom is totally a purple person.

(Happy birthday, Mom!)


Image:  photographed in my friend Ali's front garden, in Eugene, Oregon.  Nikon D300, 50mm lens.  All part of my photographic scavanger hunt, inspired by Michelle G.'s comment.


Song: The sound of silence by Simon & Garfunkel.  For my mom.

on leaving and returning

"I just returned from a trip back to my home state in New England. Whilst there, I couldn't get this quote from Rumi out of my head:

'It may be that the satisfaction I need depends on my going away, so that when I've gone & come back, I'll find it at home.'"


* * * * * * *

I'm not going to lie to you: when I left for Oregon last Thursday, I was really ready to go.  I was cranky, and everything that Marcus and Alex did was irking me to whole new levels.  My trip could not have come at a better time:  I needed a couple of days to have a change of scenery, not to mention a change of attitude.

And honestly? I had a great time. I did a little sightseeing, caught up with friends, read a couple of books and even took myself out for some wonderful meals, all by myself.  It was awesome.

But then on Saturday, when I returned home, Alex yelled, "Mommy!" and practically bowled me over with a hug hello.  Rufus was wagging himself silly, jumping on my leg and nuzzling his head under my hand.  And Marcus came running inside to give me a kiss in welcome.  There was a great lunch in the oven, and fresh flowers in the entryway.

And that evening, after Alex was in bed, and Marcus and I were sitting in our family room with a  glass of wine each, I remembered anew:

I'm incredibly lucky.  Also?  There's no place like home.


Image: Photographed out of the window of the tiny prop plane on my way to Eugene from Portland, Oregon, Nikon D300, 50mm lens. The image just seemed to fit Sarah's contribution to the photography scavenger hunt.


SongStrength, courage and wisdom by india.arie


"Your wings already exist -- all you have to do is fly."

~ Unknown

* * * * * * *

On rather short notice, this past Thursday I headed to Portland and Eugene, Oregon for a very quick work trip.  When I landed in Portland I had the afternoon free, so I headed over to visit my friend Kelly Rae and her family, and meet her very sweet brand new baby boy, True.

(I tell you what, there's nothing quite like being near a newborn.  It's like a tonic.)

Welcome to the world, beautiful True. 

And happy, happy birthday.


Image:  True, photographed with my Nikon D300 and 50mm lens.  He was the perfect subject for the first words of inspiration from the photographic scavenger hunt I'll be doing for the next few weeks or so:  the lovely quote above, kindly shared by Desiree.


Song: Sweet baby by Macy Gray

the motherhood project: michelle

I'm working with Procter & Gamble to help promote their Thank You Mom Contest, a campaign which is refreshingly designed to celebrate motherhood.  When they invited me to work with them, they granted me tons of creative freedom -- so I saw it as the perfect opportunity to launch The Motherhood Project, featuring written and photographic portraits of women who have adult children, and who have both experienced being a mother and had themselves been well-mothered.  I came up with 9 questions about mothering and motherhood, and every other Friday through November I'll be sharing the answers, portraits and stories of some really special, beautiful women. I hope you enjoy them.

* * * * * * *

Michelle and I used to work together at a software company:  I was assistant general counsel, Michelle was a marketing business analyst whose office was right across the hall from mine.  In the year we worked together, it always seemed that the more tense a situation, the calmer and more level-headed Michelle became.  There were several occasions when Michelle talked me down from the ledge, and helped me work through a perceived injustice that had sent me around the bend.  She was a great colleague and a good friend.

I also knew that Michelle was very close to her daughter, and she was a doting grandmother.  And so, while we no longer work together, when I decided to do The Motherhood Project, I knew immediately that I wanted to include my friend here among these beautiful women.

Here's what she had to say about motherhood.

How old are your adult kids?  I have two girls:  Christina, 30; and Angelina, 24.

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?  Giving, caring, inspiring.

What makes you different?  My life is a continual journey with many ups and down that have changed me each time.  Each change is a life lesson that has given me the chance to inspire myself and others.  I am different because I accept and embrace change.

I always have strong memories associated with scent.  What scents or smells will always remind you of your mom? The scents I remember most are Jergen's lotion and Ivory bar soap and detergent.  It takes me back to my childhood.  I can still see and smell the soap in the kitchen and in the bathroom very vividly in my mind.

What makes your mother beautiful?  When I thought about this, I thought of a picture of my Mother for her engagement.  When I looked at it again, I realized that what makes her beautiful is her caring and passion for life that radiates from that photo.

Tell me about a time when your mother taught you a life lesson, or gave you advice that you hold close. When I was pregnant with my youngest daughter, I was bound and determined I was going to have a natural delivery -- no anesthesia -- after having a C-section with my first.  My Mother taught and supported me at that time to do what you feel is right for yourself and trust those feelings we get in the pit of our stomach.  During the delivery my Mother was straddled behind me on the bed helping me push.  Her Mother was standing at my feet with my oldest daughter watching as the baby's head was crowing, with my husband at my side.  Four generations of women in one room for a beautiful life experience.

What skills did you learn from your mom that you made certain to use when mothering your own children? Having respect for myself and others and passing this to my children.

Your kids are adults now -- and while you, of course, still love and support your kids, your job raising them is complete.  What issues do you see brand new parents facing that you never had to face when you were raising your own?  Parents today have to compete with so many things that are outside the family nucleus; influences that are out of their control from the outside world.  Keeping their children from growing up too fast is a huge challenge.  Parents themselves have to learn so much to keep their children safe.

What advice would you give to someone who is still trying to figure out this parenting thing?  I would advise them to let their children be little.  Keep them from doing too much too soon.  Also, have special times that you set aside for just them, and make the special memories meaningful.  Have traditions that can be passed along.  As they get older, take one evening a week to spend with them, and just talk.

* * * * * * *

Thanks so much to Michelle for sharing her thoughts on motherhood.  Also, special thanks to Procter & Gamble for their generous sponsorship of The Motherhood Project:  to read more stories about motherhood and to share your own, click here for more details on the Thank You Mom campaign, now through the end of November.

And on that note, have a great weekend everyone.  Don't forget to call your mom.


Images:  Michelle, photographed September 13, 2010 at La Madeleine restaurant in Houston, Texas.  Nikon D300 with 50mm lens.


SongBaby mine as performed by Alison Krauss.  Today's song chosen for you by Michelle.


on the edge: some book-related stuff, a photographic scavanger hunt, and a thank you

So, friends, a couple of things I need to update you on:

-  For some reason, Amazon is saying that my book will be shipped anywhere from "1 to 4 months."  I have no idea why they're saying this:  there's absolutely no reason it should take that long to have the books shipped (and shockingly, I've heard from two people who say they've received the book already!).  However, if you want to be sure to get the book before the holidays, I'd suggest buying the book directly from my publisher -- they say that it's the best way to be sure to have it before Amazon, and once you add the book to the shopping cart, you'll see a discount applied, bringing the price of the book to an amount comparable to Amazon's.  Just FYI.

- If you're going to be in Houston around Thursday, December 2nd, please save the date -- the official launch of the book will be held at Brazos Bookstore, 2421 Bissonnet, from 7 - 9 pm.  Come have a glass of wine with me, listen to a passage from the book, and if you pick up a copy (or bring one you've preordered), I'll happily sign it.  More details can be found here -- I hope I'll see you there!

-  I feel like I should do something to celebrate the countdown of the actual book launch -- nothing elaborate, just something simple.  So, if you leave a comment below -- something like your favourite colour, or favourite quote, or favourite food or drink or smell, for example -- starting next Monday, accompanying my usual posts, I'll do my best to take photographs inspired by your comments, and do so until the date of the launch on December 2nd.  Don't forget to leave your blog address if you have one, and I'll give you a little link love if I manage to take a photograph inspired by your comment.

And to that point:

- I'm not sure I've said this enough but thank you, thank you, for all your support, kind comments and kind emails over the years that I've been blogging.  They mean more than you know.


Image:  Photographed with my Nikon D300, 50mm lens

SongWhat's going on by Marvin Gaye


list #9: 10 events in my past that, to this day, still seem surreal

1.  Being invited to sit in the flight deck of a jet flying from Trinidad to Miami, and being allowed to stay during landing.

2.  Getting called up on stage to dance, along with my best friend, at a small concert by a regional band in Galveston, Texas.

3.  Sitting in my room at a luxurious hotel in Dubai, having a glass of wine with my room service dinner, glued to the television watching live coverage of the Twin Towers collapse on September 11, 2001.

4.  Being at a Lenny Kravitz concert, close enough to the stage that when Lenny decided to go down into the audience while playing his guitar, he stopped to dance with me for a brief few seconds.

5.  Standing with my dad in a hallway at a Las Vegas airport while waiting for my sister and mother to come out of the bathroom, and suddenly hearing my dad say, "Hey, Bill." As I looked to see who he was talking to, I saw Bill Cosby walking by with all his kids, smiling at my dad and saying, "Hey, how are you doing?"

6. Waiting in the entrance of a high end restaurant, when a homeless person walked in wielding a big stick. Clearly terrified (though it's unclear why), he clocked me in the forehead, fracturing my skull.

7. Calling the State Bar of Texas to find out about my bar exam results, and hearing the man at the other end of the line say, "You ... passed."

8.  Walking through the streets of Hangzhou, China, and suddenly feeling hands in my rather large afro. On turning around, two young Chinese women pulled their hands out of my hair and giggled, embarrassed and awed.

9.  Related: standing in the aisle of an airplane waiting to disembark, when suddenly I felt a hand on the back of my head, rubbing my very closely-cropped hair.  When I turned around, an American man who I'd never seen before was smiling at me, looking rather proud of himself:  "I'm sorry," he said.  "I couldn't help myself. I had to." 

10.  Receiving the phone call from the adoption agency, telling Marcus and me congratulations, we're having a girl.


Image:  Flower from Jenny's garden in central Texas, photographed with Nikon D300, 60mm micro lens


SongLet Love Rule (Justice remix) by Lenny Kravitz