You are currently browsing the monthly archive for December 2013.

There is a Christmas tree outside one of my favorite stores in Manhattan, ABC Carpet & Home. Filled with a quirky assortment of high-end furniture and accessories, the store is a dream-like, fantasy-worthy respite from the city.  I like to say that it is my place to dream. Though I can hardly afford a thing in the store, it is a place that makes me happy.

This year’s Christmas tree has white ribbons tied to its branches. A sign next to it asked shoppers to share a wish and to “dream it, write it, and tie it on.”

I took a picture of it earlier in December, as people began to share their heartfelt wishes.

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It was moving to read the wishes for world peace, happiness, shelter and food for all. There were many wishes of love.

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One person, unafraid to dream big, wished for a movie star.

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The wish tree got me thinking of the wishes my heart would make.  Nothing like taking inventory of your life among the chandeliers and Buddhas and holiday ornaments.

2013 was a big bear of a year for many reasons. I look back on it as the year that I grew up. I’ve spent most of my adulthood saying I didn’t feel like a grown up, but this year I think I finally know what it feels like to be one.  There was no big epiphany that ushered in a new period of my life.  A series of realizations added up to a year where I emerged a changed person.

I came face to face with disappointments—from small slights to big corners I unknowingly turned only to realize the new road just leads forward, with no turning back. These were the kind that can make it hard to get out of bed. Still, I did.

I wish for the strength to keep showing up for myself, even when life gets hard.

I put myself on the to-do list.  I finally figured out that when you are no longer living in your mother’s house, you need to learn how to mother yourself.  So, I began to take care of myself, body, brain, heart and soul. I am no good to anyone if I’m not good to myself.

I wish for the fortitude to put self care at the top of my list, because I matter.  And I wish for more manicures and massages, simply because they make me happy.

I learned that to not make a decision is a decision itself. I came to know that life is what you make it, and that clarity in what you want is so very important. Being clear on the life you want to live gives you aim and purpose. I realized that I’d been living life by default. And that doesn’t feel very good.

I wish for clarity in my deepest desires so I can set about bringing them to fruition. Ultimately, the magic is in our bold willingness to create a satisfying life.

I found grace in gratitude.  A month of gratitude cracked me wide open and continued long past, and I will never be the same.  Gratitude offered me the keys to living a richer, fuller life. Gratitude showed me the way back to myself.

I wish to live a space of thankfulness, always, grateful for the goodness that is everywhere.

I made a decision to be vulnerable, to move through the world with an open heart. This is often challenging, because sometimes you invite people into your life…and they say no.  People aren’t always accepting when you walk into a room with your heart as an offering, but I try to keep it open so I can know the joy of being welcomed.  I also discovered that you are never too old to make a new friend, and that is grace.

I wish to live a life of love, rooted in rich open-hearted relationships.

Though this was a year full of challenges and left turns, through it all I remain optimistic for what lies ahead.

I wish for a new year full of love, joy, and magic—all rooted in goodness and grace.

And so we begin again. I begin comforted with the knowledge that a clean slate is an impetus to dream, and that wishes are vehicles for life-changing intentions.

A new year is about to begin. Make a wish.

Holidays are full of lights and grace and magical moments.

But they are also triggers for our stuff, unearthing barely covered things just below the surface, as well as those long-buried deep in the soul.

I had a great Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, very warm and low key days spent with my family and a welcome respite from the insanity of my normal life.  But by this morning, I could feel the chill starting to creep in, that vague melancholy that sneaks up and moves in to stay for a while if you don’t pay careful attention.

Ironically, soon after I recognized the forlorn feelings for what they were, I saw that one of my Facebook friends—a childhood neighbor from long ago—posted about how she’d seen so many sad posts today, acknowledging that so many people struggle this time of year.  She said that she had begun falling into sadness herself for her own reasons, but that she remembered.  She remembered who she was.  And she encouraged everyone to do the same.

Remember who you are! 

Funny how sometimes one little sentence can be enough to turn around an entire day.

Here is what I know I am indelibly: I am tougher than I appear. I often see magic in the ordinary. Music and movement and food and words have always been the superheroes in my life.

I danced and cooked and cycled my way through the rest of the day.

Now, I know sadness comes in many depths. It isn’t always easy to break out of a funk.  But sometimes remembering the power of who you are can be enough to get you to the next moment.

For this holiday season, I wish that for you—to recognize your own magnificence and beauty, to know the grace of fully owning who you are…and knowing that you are enough.  You are your own due north, and you are spectacular.

Happy holidays, everyone!

xo, with goodness and grace.

I missed the love.

On my walk after my early morning cycling class, I pass a parking garage where a poster of one of those love sculptures hangs, the famous one with the word “love” written in a square.  It’s been on stamps and postcards and just about everything you can imagine.  Every time I walk by the garage, I acknowledge the poster, and it feels almost as if we nod to each other in conversation.

“Oh yes, there it is.  There is the love,” I say.

“You thought you forgot, but it’s right here,” it says to me.

This morning it was cold and I was wearing my funky hat that isn’t tightly knit, so when it’s cold and breezy like it was today, it feels like gaping air pockets are funneling the icy cold into my brain.  As I was walking, I was very much in my head, beating myself up about how I wore the wrong hat and why did decide to clean out my handbag—which is always overflowing with just-in-case things—and take the other hat out just before I left the apartment?

And then I heard someone say, “Good morning”, right next to where the sign was, but I was so in my head that I wasn’t sure if he was talking to me or not.  As I walked by, fully immersed in the world in my head, and heard this person murmur kind words to me, I started to wonder if I was rude because I didn’t acknowledge the kind stranger or if I was justified because he was a creepy stranger and I was just being rude in that way that you sometimes have to be when you live in New York City.

Either way, I unintentionally ignored his wish for a good morning.  It occurred to me that his wish was a nudge to remember the poster ritual.

And in a flash I was out of the world of worry about the cold and my hat and beating myself up and into a more present one.  As I walked by I felt disappointed and thought, I missed it.

I missed the love.

I do this sometimes, miss those small moments of love that I don’t recognize while I’m in the moment. I get so focused on living in my head, wondering if my hair looks crazy or if I said something dumb or if I laughed too loudly.  Only later do I remember the look in someone’s eye as I spoke to them or the hand over their heart that I didn’t acknowledge or some sweet sentiment that I talked over.

When I was in class this morning, our stupendous instructor Emily walked around the room, speaking her inspirational words as she does, spreading her infectiously beautiful energy.  The bikes are placed close together, so she typically only walks around the front of the class.  This morning, she got off her bike and did her usual jaunt, but this time she made her way to the back row, where I always select my bike.  She stood next to me and cheered me on, “You’re doing great – you look good!”  I smiled at her as I did my choreography on the bike, more of a dance than a spin.

“It feels good to feel good, doesn’t it?” She placed her hand on top of mine, a kind, warm loving touch at 6:30 in the morning.

As I continued on my walk lamenting the missed moment of love, I thought of these moments with instructor Emily at the crack of dawn.  It made me smile.

Happy to have been present for that grace, I then looked up, and saw that I was being welcomed by the morning with the most luminous sunrise.

Moments of grace are just waiting for us to be present to them.

I could not stop making pies.

It was as if a force larger than me began channeling itself through my hands, the hands that suddenly needed to be wrapped around the stickiness of pie dough. This led me to spend the better part of November experimenting, playing, and testing different recipes, all in search of the perfect pie crust.

The irony is that for most of my life, while I’ve always loved pie, I have not been a fan of pie crust.  I would eat around the crust, especially the dry outer rim. The softer bottom was often closer to the texture of the fruit, usually apple, so I didn’t mind that so much as it really was just a carrier of the sweet filling.

But in the last couple of years, I developed a deep longing to play with dough.  I found myself yearning to make bread in my little city kitchen, even though I had never baked a loaf before.  I would dream of the smell of yeast, the crunch of the crust, the tang of the chewy interior.

I tried it once, and it was an epic, dense failure.  I came to believe that yeast doesn’t want to blossom with life in my kitchen. Or maybe I just was an incompetent baker and it was not for me.

And then I found out I have a gluten sensitivity, so my bread making experiments were temporarily derailed.

But, the whispers of “pie” soon began haunting me, and I needed to quiet them.

Working butter, flour, and water in my hands became more than just baking.  At times it feels like the nagging thoughts in my head and each unnamed worry are being worked out as I make the dough.  It’s become culinary therapy, the place where everything else is held at bay, if only for the moment.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I watched my nephew as he was transfixed by one of those rainbow bracelet looms that kids are obsessed with these days. He is a bundle of energy, this kid.  When he visits my parents, he spends the better part of his stay running up and down the hall, sometimes with a ball, sometimes with a hackey sack-esque pillow, sometimes with just his imagination.

But the loom kept him quiet and still for hours.  Literally, hours.  In him I witnessed the power of his jewelry meditation, as he strung together one rubber band after the other. He’d emerge from his room bleary eyed, but calm and content, proudly showing off the bracelet he’d just made.

This is what pie dough has become for me.

One day as I wandered through a bookstore—always my favorite way to spend an afternoon—I came across a cookbook, all about pies.  It was authored by the owners of a Brooklyn bakery that I’d heard of that had intriguing combinations, but had never visited the shop.

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As I flipped through recipe after recipe, I became breathless with the anticipation of what I wanted to make first.

Now, if there was ever a time when I didn’t have a spare moment to try something new, it was the past few months. But I’d come home late from work, paradoxically exhausted yet fully wound up, and I would suddenly have the urge to play with butter and (gluten free) flour and water.

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Then, there is the repetitive deliberation of slicing, in this case apples and sweet potatoes…

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…and the fun in sprinkling a comforting crumble topping of oats, butter, and warm spices that evoke fall.

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The finished Sliced Sweet Potato & Apple Crumble Pie tasted of the season, a warm hug of a dessert (or, okay breakfast…shhh).

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And, there was the post-Thanksgiving Cranberry Sage Pie.  An earthy filling of cranberries, apples, cinnamon, allspice and an unexpected hint of sage, it’s a pie that makes you want to cozy up with something – even if it’s only a slice.  I had a little fun with the top crust, before brushing it with a little cream and letting the flavors mingle and bake.

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My pie skills are improving, and  in the midst of the holiday season, I know how I”ll keep stress at bay.

And the secret to the perfect pie crust? When the dough gets too warm, give it a rest in the coolness of the refrigerator.  Taking time to just hang out is important to a dough’s success.

Maybe everything I need to know about life—at least for this moment—is in the crust.

And, a little apple cider vinegar in the dough works a bit of magic, too.

The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book, www.amazon.com.  

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