Category Archives: Discovering joy

Music and Memories and Journeys

Thanks to so many of you for pinging me and saying you wondered what was going on with my job. In short, I love it and am enjoying my profession more than I ever thought I would.

But I have missed writing here.

Tonight, the story of “Peter and the Wolf” came up, and Darcy told a gruesome and untrue version of it. I have a distinct memory of seeing the San Francisco Symphany “tell” the story, via a famous actor whose name unfortunately escapes me. I loved the introduction to the orchestra’s instruments: the flighty and foolhardy duck who meets a terrible fate, as portrayed by the oboe, the clever and small bird (the flute), the scary wolf (three french horns), stolid Peter (the strings).

Many years later, when we were traveling through Provence, (nerd alert) I was working my way through “The Lord of the Rings” series. This was six months before the movies came out. I decided I needed to finish the trilogy before I saw the films. The books were terrifying to read in parts – I remember in Avignon, we stayed in a lone cottage in the forrest, and I was so unnerved by the description of the Ringwraiths that I stayed awake all night, jumping at small noises.

The next day as we drove through a beautiful sunflower populated road, filled with flowers leaning towards the solar rays, we randomly turned the car radio to a classical music station and listened to a French version of “Peter and the Wolf.” I struggled to understand what was transpiring, as the narrator took us through the action.

The music became my own internal soundtrack as I made my way into “The Return of the King.” As I finally reached the crucial section when it is clear Frodo has completed his mission, the strains of the triumphant procession of Peter and the wolf, on their way to the zoo, echoed in my brain. I was in a bathtub in the villa where F. Scott Fitzgerald had written “The Beautiful and the Damned,” the hobbits had won, and I felt magically immersed in literary destiny.

Tonight I showed my already blasé children a YouTube video of “Peter and the Wolf,” and to my surprise and delight, they watched every moment of the 30 minute clip in suspense and wonder.

Tonight was a truly wonderful and resonant moment, where a tradition was passed simply from one generation to the next. And this is as miraculous as a duck alive in a wolf’s belly, quacking its own tremulous tune.



Filed under Discovering joy, My Favorite Things, Parenting After IF, writing

I Took A Walk


BlogHer featured my post about needing to amaze a room with my writing. Check it out, here!

Today I found myself in the city, without a car.

I needed to get from one hospital (the wrong one) to another (the right one), and I needed to progress down one street for about a mile and a half. So I took a walk.

Contained within that distance were gingerbread Victorians, Edwardian flats and the rare rebuilt modern mid-century dwelling, as well as numerous boutiques, movie theaters, libraries, cafes, bodegas, juice stores, places of woship and fine dining establishments.

Each one of these homes, these blocks, these restaurants held some sort of memory for me. Unusually, as I walked, the memories attached to the street were almost exactly in the chronological order they occured.

The beginning of the road featured my first post-college apartment. There it was, the flat where I learned how to be a responsible adult: paying bills, cleaning my messes, parking in my correct parking zone and avoiding streetsweeping days. There I lived my young dream of being an up-and-coming urban executive. I wore suits and heels (except on Fridays), and I proudly ran in those heels down the street to catch the 1 California bus. There was the liquor store where I once bought a bottle of wine for my first real dinner party. There was the corner where Darcy and I first said “Goodnight” to each other, even though neither of us wanted to. There was the nail salon where I got a mani/pedi for our date nights. There was the driveway where we packed my meager belongings into a rented U-Haul and began a new life in a new country.

A few blocks down the road was the restaurant where I openly cried into a starched white napkin while we digested the news that my eggs were no good. A few blocks beyond that is the condo we decided to buy, where we become city dwellers once again after the suburbs, with its many happy families, became a wasteland of broken promises. The condo was a possible tenterhook leading to a new reality, one of being a childless couple.

And in that condo, against all percentages and bookmaking odds, I grew and nutured two delightful human beings, spending nine months throwing up, reading Proust, watching The Hills (“Dump him, Lauren!”) and staying in bed. A block away is the hospital where I gave birth to those bundles, who quickly taught me the power of grace and redemption.

And into that hospital I strode, where I awaited the next chapter of this wonderful, terrible, unfathomable world that continues to perplex, astoud, infuriate but mostly just surprise me.

I never know what will happen down the road. But I can truly say that no longer do I wait for the destination. The last decade (or so) has taught me that the moments of memory, of joy, pain, love, ambition, accomplishment and failure are the proof that my life has been lived. Full stop.

And the thing about pounding the pavement today? I realized that the tree-lined road I walked contained countless memories of other people. That tiny church has presided over thousands of weddings and funerals. Hundreds of couples broke up in that bistro. That’s what I love about cities: we live amongst the triumphs and ashes of millions of people’s lives and dreams. And that doesn’t make me feel insignificant. It makes me feel immortal.


Filed under Discovering joy, writing

Project: Dreamcatcher!

“Everyone has a dream. What’s your dream?”

Pretty Woman

Do you have a dream you’ve always wanted to pursue?

– Is there a fantastic vacation you’ve been dying to take?
– Do you want to become a proficient cook?
– Do you want to become good at a sport, like golf or tennis?
– Do you want to write a memoir, a screenplay, or a novel or be published somewhere?
– Do you want to act in a local play or production?
– Perhaps you want to learn how to upholster a couch? Learn how to sew?
– Do you want to become a beekeeper? Or raise your own chickens?

As women, we tend to put ourselves last. We also tend to listen more to naysayers, I believe. Or as Keanne put it: “The Dream killers.” But the good news is: women have a few secret weapons. What are they?

As I’ve seen in the past two years of blogging, we have:

1. A strong sense of community
2. Deep wells of supportiveness we can tap into at times.

Mel of Stirrup Queens pointed me to an article about how the movement around “Lean In” has shifted towards creating groups of women who can help each other in their career paths, and help them to attain leadership positions.

What if we created something similar here? What if we could HELP EACH OTHER to attain our dreams?

This is where Project: Dreamcatcher comes in. This will be a summer-long project dedicated to furthering our goals and making our dreams come true.

Are you interested?

I’ve had a dream for about a year. I want to stay focused on it and make it a reality. What is it? I will reveal it, next week!

Want to participate? All you need is a blog and a dream. You can take part as much or as little as you want. I will host a topic each week to try to help us better understand how to get to our dreams. Each week, I’ll assign you to watch one Ted Talks to help inspire you, make you think and to take steps and do the work needed to achieve your goal!

1. Week One:

Define your goal. Write a post announcing your goal. Watch this short (3 min) Ted Talk about a better way to set a goal: try something new for 30 days!

2. Week Two:

Define the steps necessary. Write a post announcing what steps you will take to make your goal a reality. Watch this Ted Talk about how following a video gaming model is a better way to accomplish goals.

3. Week Three:

Set up a goal schedule, with deadlines to help achieve your dream. Write a post detailing your schedule.

4. Week Four:

Start hitting your deadlines and doing the work needed. Write a post about detailing the work. Watch this Ted Talk about what motivates us and how to tackle an adventurous project.

5. Week Five:

Delve into the nitty gritty of the work you are doing. Does it feel like work? Watch this Ted Talk about the virtue of hard work from an Olympian athlete.

6. Week Six:

Avoiding the duldrums. Procrastinating is super easy when you are doing something that comes last. How do you avoid burnout? Watch this Ted Talks about WHY we procrastinate and what can we do about it…

7. Week Seven:

How to jumpstart your creativity, especially when you are feeling like a failure or have met too mcuh rejection? Watch this Ted Talk from Elizabeth Gilbert.

8. Week Eight:

Wrapping up: are you close to achieving your dream? Has the journey been worth it? What do you plan to do next?

Please note: you can jump in or out at any time. You don’t have to participate each week.

I hope to have people joining in!! And please, spread the word via Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc. The more the merrier.

Finally, you don’t have to be a woman to join in 🙂 All are welcome!


Filed under Discovering joy, What Say You?

La Vie = C’est Beau


It is so beautiful, is it not?

We saw all the Oscar nominees this year. I was struck most by Amour (painful, yet true) and Life of Pi.

I loved the book Life of Pi, which I read far before I ever had any significant challenges and everything was so very wonderful, adventurous and free. I was speaking to a friend and trying to convey how fabulous my 20s were. “Everything I wanted was easy to pick from the proverbial tree. Nothing was difficult, I was glamorous and valued everywhere I went. I worked with Royalty, American and otherwise, and everyone cared what I thought.”

Who can possibly sympathize with such a spoiled child? I’m stunned now to realize this was my existence for so many years. What a brat I was. How undeserved was my every success.

When I read Life of Pi back in 2002, I cleverly and shallowly deciphered the text and meaning for a book club, just to try to impress others. “Richard Parker is God,” I confidently stated. “God is unknowable. He is impossible to befriend and doesn’t care about our own desires and fears as far as we can tell. God would walk into the forest, never to stop and look back at us with any type of regret. This is why the tiger is Pi’s perception of God. God is with us, but He is unknowable. But is it better to have Him in our life?”

When I watched the movie, I realized that I had been right all those years ago. Yet, I had not really known how very much the future me would understand the movie. When I had my miscarriages, and when I heard my impossible diagnosis, God stalked into the forest, to part from me for a long, long time.

Like Pi, I have a more universal view of God than most. I think many religions strike upon the truth, but I have a hard time accepting one particular truth. I kind of believe the Ang Lee/Yann Martel version: that it is more difficult and unpleasant to not have a Richard Parker in my life at all. Richard Parker may be unknowable and harsh but he is beautiful and engaging and a comfort in some ways. I’d prefer this.

And I can’t remember a more beautiful movie or score than this one.

Life is harsh, and hard and mean. But it is so very, very beautiful. And I am so very lucky to partake in it.

The most beautiful song I’ve heard in years.


Filed under Discovering joy

Kinfolk Magazine and The New American Aesthetic


As always, my super younger brother is the only reason I am tapped into the whole hip/new/trendy aesthetic. By the way, if you are into being trendy, it’s all about being Southern and into reading old, hardbound books while growing your own food and eggs and meat. Read Kinfolk for more.

I get it.

I’m in the process of reading the “Little House” books to my kids, and I have been seriously considering home schooling my kids. If I were a hardier specimen, I would do just that. Truth is, I’m not stout. I could never feed the endless appetite of Almanzo Wilder with relentless doughnuts, bird nest puddings, homemade bread and butter, roast beef, ham and turnips.

I just watched The Hunger Games, and damn, if it doesn’t promote a similar way of life.

I read somewhere that all wise people know how to garden and live off the land.

I am frail and tired.

However, my parents live in Arkansas. Feel free to jeer and be weird about it: everyone I know does just that. They lived in the country’s most prosperous suburb and hated it and moved. And when I drive around their new town, I find myself driving around singing Fleet Fox songs at the top of my lungs (those Brooklyn posers?) and feeling at home. God, I LOVE The Fleet Foxes.

You see, for all my sophistication, I am helpless before the appeal of that self-sufficient Southern life.

There must be some strong Scots Irish in me, after all.

Have you tried to overcome family roots and found it fruitless? Do you romanticize an agrarian sensibility?


Filed under Discovering joy