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I don’t meet strangers anymore…I only meet old friends.      –Jennifer Pastiloff

What has surprised me most during this month of gratitude is the things that stand out in my mind at the end of the day are usually not things at all.

They are the moments of connection.

As I rode the bus home this afternoon following a SoulCycle workout on a summer day off, I grew antsy from the heavy traffic on the avenue.  I picked up my phone, about to tweet an obnoxious observation about traffic and traffic cops (ok, so I’m not always in a graceful frame of mind), when the woman across from me asked, “Where did you get that?”

She pointed to the paper bag that carried my lunch.  It was from Juice Generation, one of many juicing places in Manhattan.  I usually visit the store around the corner from my class for a post-cycle lunch.  (They make a pretty spectacular vegan taco salad.)  She wanted to know where the store was located, so I told her.

“Oh. My son owns a juice place near there on 62nd and 3rd.”

We—she was also with her husband—proceeded to have the loveliest conversation about their son’s business, which turns out to be a growing chain of 13 stores called The Juice Press.  I’ve walked by it, as well as a newer one downtown, many times and have always thought that I should try it.

Now I can’t wait to stop in; I’m certain the products will be infused with love.

Time spent aggravated in a traffic jam was transformed by easy conversation about juice fasts, eating cleanly, and being crazy enough to take a risk on what you believe in.  Some conversations are effortless and make you feel embraced by the world.

I feel at home in the world.  

This was one of those exchanges.

And it turns out that they live in my neighborhood.  Who knows, maybe I’ll see them again, this time as familiar friends.

Connection, the essence of grace.

What you seek is seeking you. –Rumi

This quote reminds me of so much in my life right now—and so much I wish for—but for some reason it also makes me think of this woman I’ve noticed on my morning bus commute. Usually still groggy and not yet ready to face a day of work, I rarely notice people in the morning, but for some reason I took notice of her.

She’s so open and ready to have a conversation with the person beside her. When I notice her, I’m usually grateful that she hasn’t taken the seat next to me. I’m working on being more open with people, though openness at 8am is asking a bit much of me. But she’s made fast friends with another woman, and when they see each other they talk nonstop until their stop approaches. They may only have a few minutes of conversation, but as an observer, it looks like deep, meaningful, connected conversation.

I sometimes feel envious of that.

This morning, her friend didn’t get on, so I watched as she sat next to a man, who was working on his iPad with earbuds in his ears. He was clearly in the zone in whatever he was doing.

She talked to him anyway. She leaned over and very politely asked him a question about his iPad, saying she just recently received one as a gift.

He reluctantly removed one of his earbuds and answered brusquely, like a passenger on an airplane determined not to engage in conversation with his seatmate.

She asked another question. And another.

At some point, their conversation turned to his contacts and his photos. He became animated talking about various people that had been part of his life.

“And some of these people have passed away,” I heard him say wistfully. He enthusiastically told her about specific people; they were names, addresses and photos on a tablet, but to him they were part of his personal world.

We all want to tell our stories.

When her stop came, she got up and gratefully said, “Thanks so much. I’m so sorry to have disturbed you,” and then stepped off the bus.

Energy altered, he now looked as if he could have talked to her for hours. Their connection, in its raw humanity, was palpable. There was something beautiful about it, and I felt honored to have observed it.

We all want to be heard.

Watching their exchange taught me that having someone, even a stranger, serve as a witness to our stories is the epitome of grace.

Though we may not know it, what we seek does also seek us—and somehow miraculously finds us.

There are many things to be grateful for today.

The lively conversation with one colleague first thing this morning, unexpected and funny and insightful on our brief bus commute.

The friend who “crashed” my doctor’s appointment and decided to join me on the journey of creating good health.

Our doctor friend who is hysterically funny but also deeply serious about helping people become their healthiest selves.

The work project that gave me anxiety, because at the very moment I let the worry go, it was approved without one change.

My almost former co-worker, whom I now call friend and a kindred spirit, for making me laugh over french fries and salad tonight.

So many things; a day full of grace.  How lucky I am.

What were your moments of grace?

 

I went grocery shopping after work tonight.

Maybe shopping isn’t the right word.  Meandered.  I meandered through the grocery store tonight, with no particular agenda except to pick up the two things I needed.  I love wandering through stores, seeing what I’ve not seen before, always ready to discover something new to love.

These days I don’t often have the time to meander, so it was an unexpected pleasure to take my time as I transitioned from work to personal time.   As I held two large bottles in my arms, I stood in the tea section of the store, looking for something delicious to catch my eye.  Earl Grey tea with lavender.  Jackpot.

As I reached for the carton to check the ingredients, balancing the bottles in my arms carefully, I saw a man walking in my direction.  The store has incredibly narrow aisles, so small that only one person can comfortably stand looking at the shelves.  Instinctively I leaned towards the shelf full of tea so he could walk by me.

He reached me and then stopped.

I turned to him, a little startled.  He looked at me and smiled.

Silently, he held out a basket for my groceries.  He motioned for me to put my bottles in the basket.

I thanked him, humbled and awed by such a small and beautiful act of thoughtfulness from a man I’d never met before.

“You’re welcome,” he said.  “I like your necklace.”  And then he walked away.

Grace and the kindness of strangers.

Today, this is what I’m most grateful for:

Empire State Building

Every day I walk by the Empire State Building, and every day it reminds me of how much I love New York.

It is goodness and grace and everything in between.

Since I was diagnosed with a gluten intolerance almost two months ago, I’ve completely overhauled the way I eat.  Meals are mostly lean protein and veggies, with little alcohol or caffeine.  I only dabble in dairy.  While I was cleaning out my body to be free of gluten, I figured I should do a complete overhaul.

I was surprised how easily I took to it.

But these last two weeks, I’ve felt deprived of my comfort foods.  (Hence, two recent posts have mentioned a very new need for ice cream.)  I missed foods like pizza.

So when I was in Williams-Sonoma yesterday and saw this gluten-free flour from chef Thomas Keller, I saw a glimmer of comforting hope and bought it.

Cup 4 Cup Pizza Flour

The mix looked and felt like regular flour, and it was accompanied by a packet of yeast.  Everything went into a bowl…

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…where an egg and a cup of warm water was added…

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…and a fork stirred it all together until the dough looked like little rags.

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Kneading the dough fully incorporates all of the ingredients into a ball.

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I then divided the dough into two pieces, with one going into the fridge for tomorrow.  (Yay!) The other was rolled out between two pieces of parchment

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Once it was rolled out, I trimmed the edges, then followed the instructions by folding them over and brushing olive oil over the dough.

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Pricking the dough with a fork to prevent it from bubbling when baking….

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…and it then was pre-baked in a 500 degree oven for 8-10 minutes.

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I scoured the refrigerator for ingredients to top the pizza and came up with cherry tomatoes, onions and mozzarella, with a smear of creme fraiche on the crust.

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The crust went back into the oven for another 10 minutes, when the dough emerged crispy and the toppings were caramelized and melted.

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As I ate my first slice, I felt comforted and normal.  It tasted like regular pizza.  I could regain my rightful place as a pizza lover.

And for that, I am very grateful.

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For more info on Cup 4 Cup products, visit cup4cup.com.

It was a day of simple pleasures.

Breakfast with my parents to catch up after a long week, followed by a long walk through the streets of SoHo.  A blue sky perfectly framed the picturesque urban landscapes.

SoHo Afternoon

A free scoop of ice cream from my favorite truck – Van Leeuwen – made its way into my day.  No perfect summer day is complete without ice cream.  I selected  Gianduja, which tastes like frozen Nutella.  This is a flavor that will always conjure deep gratitude for me.

Van Leeuwen Gianduja

An uneventful evening completed the day as I took in the smell of freshly laundered clothes, put together a simple dinner, and caught up on my favorite shows saved on my DVR.

It was a simple day, full of my favorite things…and so much grace.

 

As carefree as last week was, this week was full of stress.

Where I was blossoming with love—I felt like the love fairy…spreading love dust everywhere!—the last few days found me sprinkling my crankiness all around.  I needed something to flip my emotional switch.

So, with a summer Friday off, I took to the bike.

I am not the girl who follows the trends—often it’s just the opposite.  If everyone wants to do it, I want no parts of it.  SoulCycle fell into that category.  The more everyone preached the “soul” gospel, the less I was interested in trying it.

And then I did.

It’s been pretty revolutionary in my life.  As I work out my body, my mind gets cleared of all the gunk.  I emerge calmer, more focused and, dare I say, happier.

What do I love about it?

The walls are peppered with inspiration.

Soul Cycle Inspiration_2

Each of the instructors are part cycling coach, part life guru.

Turn your resistance up more, to the point where you think you cannot ride anymore. Do this for 20 seconds.  Just 20 seconds of your life.  Now you know that you can do what you think you cannot.  

Music helps get you through the difficult parts of the class, along with words of wisdom.

If you have a hill in your life, practice how climb it in here, on this bike.

The grace of 45 minutes to spin, to channel my angst into something productive, to push myself beyond what I could do yesterday, this is what fills me with gratitude today.

I hope you live your life like you ride your bike.  

Amen.

“Home is the nicest word there is.” –Laura Ingalls Wilder

Today was one of those days.

It was a day that began with a person hitting the “door close” button before I was actually in the elevator.  Guess he really needed those 10 seconds it took me to walk on the elevator.

It culminated with visits to five different drugstores in search of toilet paper.  I am worthy of Charmin Ultra Soft, but apparently I’m living in a Charmin Ultra Strong city.

And there was a whole lot of annoying in between.  It was exhausting.

But then, I came home.

Home enveloped me with calm and comfort.  It offered a comfy couch to rest, a TV to distract me from the noise in my head and air conditioning to keep me far away from the humidity outside.

For that I am very grateful.

And for this spoonful of coffee ice cream.

Coffee Ice Cream

And to be a person who can be satisfied by one spoonful of ice cream.

See, the day has already turned around.  What are you grateful for today?

“If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat! Just get on.”
–Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In

I spent this morning immersed in a training session for work. At the beginning of the session the trainer, whom I’d worked with before, told me I was intelligent and charming and personable. And then he added a couple of other thoughts.

But you need to find your voice.

You haven’t taken your seat at the table.

None of this is news to me, if I were to be perfectly honest. These are the things that I’ve been working out in these posts over the last few months. I’m learning to live out loud, to be brave and honest and open. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t often a struggle.

The grace in this is to know that I work for people who are interested in helping me become my fullest self. It is rare in this world, especially in our corporate orbit, and I am humbled by it.

Today I’m grateful to be on the journey to finding my voice….and to finding my rightful place on that rocket ship.

I was on the subway this evening, cranky and tired from a day of work and still not feeling very well.  A man and his family got on the train; he was pushing a stroller and wearing a large backpack across his shoulders.

They were clearly tourists.  This, in my tired mind, was their first offense.

I should also add that one of my pet peeves is men who wield their giant and solidly packed backpacks, oblivious to the fact that anyone standing in their vicinity could be a casualty from one swift move, particularly on a crowded subway train.  It’s as if a new generation of men has spawned and they’ve been mandated to carry every single one of their personal belongings with them at all times.

This gentleman clearly belonged in this category.  At least in my mind.

The tourist man rolled the stroller just past me and claimed his spot, his backpack just skimming my handbag.  Every now and then, he would bend down to say something to his baby in the stroller.  Each time his backpack would bang into me.

My cranky New Yorker persona in full force, each time I shook my head.  Again and again his backpack banged into me, and again and again, I’d sigh and shake my head.

His wife said something to him in another language from across the train.  He turned around, away from me, as if to see what she was talking about.

A minute later, he turned around and looked me squarely in the eye, his eyes soft and sincere.

“I’m very sorry if I keep pushing you.”

And with that one genuinely polite sentence, I snapped out of my annoyance.  I took the invisible tough and ornery New Yorker cloak off and I surrendered to what was real.

“Don’t worry about it; it’s no problem,” I said to him.  And I meant it.  I even smiled as I said it.

I caught a glimpse of his other daughter.  She was unabashedly happy, her laugh lighting up her face.

There, another moment of grace.

It’s funny how when you show up in the world as open-eyed and present, signs begin appearing everywhere.

Today was all about kindness.  Everywhere I turned, there was the word.  It showed up in newsletters and in my Twitter feed.  At least four of my Facebook friends posted a link to this commencement speech, all about kindness.  It is inspiringly beautiful.

Being present is teaching me how amazing the world is, as much as that word is overused.  But I feel awe of the loveliness—and kindness—that is all around us.

Feeling under the weather this morning, I pulled it together and went to work.  As I worked at my desk, I realized that I really needed to take care of myself.  And instead of plowing through the day, as I normally would, I listened to my body and did the kindest thing I could for myself.  I shut down my computer and I went home.

In being open to the signs of kindness, today I learned to be kind to myself.  And that is the day’s grace.

I’m on the porch, rocking back and forth on the double-wide wicker swing.

It’s heavenly to sit here without anywhere to go, without any agenda to fulfill, without the need to be anyone in this moment.

My friends are out back in the pool, sunning and sleeping. I hear a mother – her accent sounds French – beckoning her young children in the pool. She squeals with praise when they jump in, and she encourages them again and again. I’d thought they were going to break the spell of these rare peaceful moments with their loud family sounds, but it is a happy backdrop.

In Shelter Island for the weekend, it doesn’t feel like a vacation destination; I didn’t immediately warm to its charms. But I’m always happy as a clam to take a break from the city, and the breezes and blue skies and lush grasses have worked their way into my soul.

Shelter Island

There are butterflies flitting around me. They seem playfully happy, as we all should be on a summery Sunday.

At this moment, there isn’t anywhere I’d rather be. And for that, I am very grateful.

Years ago, there was an episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show that featured author Toni Morrison, where she talked about being a mother.  What she said was so profound that it has stayed with me.  She explained that all children want to know from their parent is:

Do your eyes light up when I walk in the room?

No matter what our age, we all want to be seen for who we are, in our simplest essence.

This was my intention behind this gratitude series.  I’ve been writing notes of gratitude to randomly selected people in my life—some I’ve known for decades; others have entered my life only a short time ago.  I’m able to say, I see you.  

Never in my life did I think such a small thing would turn out to be one of the most fulfilling things I’ve ever done.

It’s a simple act of being present with nothing more than a thought of what you love about someone, and then sharing it with them.  I’ve been in awe at the well of love I have for so many, and it makes me feel that I should be living out loud a bit more.

We all want to be seen.

Of course, there’s always a moment when the gratitude turns into oversharing. But it’s all part of being vulnerable and brave, so in the spirit of this series, I’m willing to risk a little mortification after I hit send.

I’d originally intended to post a summary or an excerpt of some of these notes, but I’ve decided that some sentiments should stay personal.  And besides, it’s way too much fun being the secret Love Santa, sending random messages of kindness.

I’m very grateful to be able to sprinkle some love dust in my corner of the world.

And, apparently what you give to the world is what comes back to you.  This morning I woke up to my windows foggy (and, dirty), but with an unmistakeable symbol of love:

Window Heart

Who needs your messages of love today?  Who makes your eyes light up?

XO, with grace & gratitude.

There are only two ways of spreading light—to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.

— Edith Wharton

This quote reminds me of my best friendships.

There is nothing more powerful than the bond between girlfriends who have seen each other through many of life’s changes.

When my friend Sandy unexpectedly called last night, we had one of those conversations where the feelings are real, raw and deeply personal. Though we email occasionally, we haven’t seen each other in over a year.  But have the kind of friendship where we aren’t face-to-face often, but when we are our dialogue is as intimate as if we saw each other five minutes ago.

Today I woke up feeling a deep gratitude for her and the years we’ve known each other.

Having met as young-ish adults, we now marvel at what different people we were back then.  The world was also younger and less technologically advanced, a time when email was not yet commonplace and iPods didn’t exist.  Our lives were simpler, but somehow felt complicated back then as we flailed about, trying to figure out who we wanted to be in the world.

We’ve seen each other through our varied iterations: new boyfriends, unrequited love, marriage, sick parents, homeownership and on and on.  We’ve stood witness as we grew into the women we are today.

The one consistent element throughout our friendship has been our love of food.  We’ve bonded over many things, but most especially crème brûlée.  (And for the record, we are both greedy and we want our own dessert.) She laughed about my food personalities over the years: a vegetarian who didn’t eat any vegetables when we first met, later morphing into a carnivore who ate every piece of bacon my eyes fell upon, and now navigating the terrain of a gluten-free girl.  She, on the other hand, has always been the steadfast domestic goddess, churning out beautiful baked goods for everyone in her neighborhood.

As we ended our conversation, she said, “you know, I’ve always said that we are soul sisters.”  The bonds of female friendship, uniquely and intimated tied together at the heart.

And for that I feel very grateful.

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