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One night after work, I went for a long walk and ended up inside St. Patrick’s Cathedral near Rockefeller Center.  Everyone needs a place where they can go for a respite from the overwhelming duties of life, and this is mine.  I am not Catholic, not even particularly religious, but that doesn’t really matter.  It is a space that calls to me, offering up reverence and devotion and grace in every corner. Weekday nights are especially comforting, with the tourists back in their hotels or long since home.

It has been under construction for some time, but even with the scaffolding it is still majestically beautiful.

St Patricks Interior

At first it gave me pause to think that it has been under construction for so long, but aren’t we all?  We are all being remade every day, shaped by our difficulties and our triumphs, and somehow we too emerge more beautiful.

And, it’s always helpful to know that angels are among us wherever we turn. Seeing them in candlelight fills me with joy.

Angel in Candlelight

xo, with goodness and grace.

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Up early on Saturday with a throbbing headache (okay, maybe I had a lot of fun the night before), I went out for a comforting meal to nurse my woe. Amazing what the wonder combination of coffee, eggs and potatoes can do in easing your pain.

After my hangover headache treatment, I walked around SoHo, marveling in the peace of the neighborhood at that time of morning.  Normally, it’s trampled by masses of tourists who cram the narrow streets like it’s a perpetual suburban mall on a holiday afternoon. On this morning, the cool air and the calm energy hummed on low, so I went for a stroll.

My walk led me toward the new downtown location of Ladurée, whose beautiful macarons I’ve written about before, but my inner GPS kicked in and redirected me towards the Dominique Ansel Bakery, home of the foodie cult favorite, the Cronut. For those of you that don’t know, a Cronut is a cross between a croissant and a doughnut, fried then filled with a flavored cream and glazed on top.  They’ve reached near legendary status here in New York.

Unless you are willing to line up at 6am, chances are you won’t be able to buy one.

Somehow this was a lucky day.  I walked in and saw someone eating one.  Not sure if they still had any left, I took my place on the relatively short line…and scored the flavor of the month.  I bought two of the Raspberry Lychee Cronut goodness.

On the Cronut Line

Now, having been gluten free for almost 8 months, you’d think I wouldn’t care about such a thing.  But I’d promised myself if I ever got my hands on one of these, I would try it.  Because, YOLO, y’all.  (Please note that if you have gluten issues, you probably shouldn’t follow my delinquent behavior.  I was willing to suffer for pastry.)

Immediately I texted my father, who has long been my food partner in crime.

“I got us CRONUTS!!! Should I swing by?”

“You should be on your way right now,” came his reply.

We opened the box.  And then we stared at them.

Raspberry Lychee Cronuts

Because they are hard to come by, we were uncharacteristically hesitant to devour them.  I timidly dug into one, cutting it in half and saving one piece for my mom. (I’m generous like that.)  The inside is a thing of beauty, all airily layered and creamy and oozing with raspberry jam.

Inner Cronut

Biting into it was a festival of senses: the crunch of the dough tingling with sandy sugar crystals gave way to a creamy lychee filling—which was reminiscent of a bright lemon flavor—and married with the sweet tartness of the raspberry jam.  I loved it.

My dad took his time with his, reflecting on the flavors of each bite.  In between the munching, we caught up on the week just past, chatting and laughing with coffee and Cronuts, our feet on the coffee table.  These really are the treasured moments of life.

The Cronut was just a catalyst to be able to steal some time to hang out together. This is the essence of goodness.

Showing up in my social media feed a few weeks ago was a question that caught my attention.  “What advice would you give your younger self if you only had two words?”  Immediately, two words came to mind.

Be brave.

An odd pairing of words, I thought.  But the next few weeks made it clear why those words were so relevant to me.

A few days later over tacos and cocktails, I was talking to a friend about something I’ve always wanted to do.  She was silent and thought about what I’d said, and then she lit up with an answer.  She remembered a friend of hers who could guide me.  A day later, she emailed to say that her friend said I should reach out to her. I wrote back, saying I’d reach out to her that day.

And then I sat on the email for a week.

It took me five days to write her, drafting about forty versions of an email during that time.  I became emotionally paralyzed, wanting desperately to make a dream come true, but immobilized in a deep fear of asking for what I wanted.  The note I ultimately sent her was perhaps the most self-conscious thing I’ve ever written.

It went something like this:  “Dear friend of my friend.  I really want you to like me.  Will you like me if I pretend like I’m opening my heart, giving you a glimpse into my dream, while I’m really saying absolutely nothing?  Pretty please?? Thank you.  PS – I know you are busy and have a rich, full, successful life, so I really don’t want to ask anything of you.  You can write me back…or not.”

Just admitting that makes me feverish with vulnerability.  If vulnerability was an ongoing college course, then I have failed over and over again.  I wonder if it’s possible to get expelled from the college of life.

Be brave. 

I’m reminded of a lunch I had years ago with my parents and a friend of theirs, who commented on a bracelet I was wearing.  At the time, symbolic beaded gemstone bracelets — rose quartz stood for love, turquoise meant strength, and so on—were all the rage.  She commented on mine, and I proudly offered up details on the bracelet.

“It stands for courage,” I said.

She laughed at me, mocking the idea that a bracelet could hold super powers and making fun of me for needing courage from my jewelry.  I felt the flush of shame that I’d bought into the idea of what it meant, that I’d dared to wear it, that I spoke about it as if it were some truth etched in stone.

But the need to have audacity keeps coming back.

Be brave.  

At work last week, we had two full days of meetings.  The first day was an easy one, with lots of nice presentations on the state of our union.  The second, however, was an exercise in being exposed, defenseless against doing something new in which none of us were skilled.  Learning about the craft of storytelling, we each had a turn to speak in front of our peers, to practice being terribly bad at it and risk looking silly.

At one point, the trainer asked for volunteers to participate in an exercise.  No one raised their hands.  My boss, who was sitting directly behind me, called my name quietly and implored,  “come on.”

“Okay, okay,” I said as I got up.  I spoke out loud in a large room full of my peers, most of whom I see every day but don’t know very well.  The world didn’t end.  I wasn’t injured.  No one mocked me.  I learned it was okay to just try.

My boss would later would tell me she was impressed with my storytelling abilities. She would say I had much to offer.  She would say people had a lot to learn from me…and that I needed to use my voice more.

This moved me more than I could say.  But these are often the moments when the good girl filter has gone to sleep, when you are weary from a long day of trying to seem fearless, when really you just want to crawl into bed and hide under the covers—because someone has seen you and recognized you for the magnificent person that you have become.  This is uncomfortable.

My response to her compliment?

“REALLY???”  The doubt that is in my head I actually spoke out loud.

Sometimes we play small.  Sometimes the only thing in our way is the fear of what it would feel like to stand in the fullness of who we are.

Fear can keep you small, or fear can be a catalyst to asking for what you want in life.

Be brave.

A few days ago I had to have a difficult conversation with someone I’ve known for almost two decades.  Though I knew it was the right thing to do for me, I also knew the conversation was going to hurt this person’s feelings.

What amazes me is how we can continue for years in situations that we know aren’t right, and we stay in them anyway, because maybe people won’t like us anymore.  Because maybe needing something else means we’re selfish.  Because maybe we don’t really deserve better.

Enough of that.

I had the conversation.  It was uncomfortable and odd and probably more painful for me than the other person.  But I did it.  Life as I know it wasn’t shattered. There were no fits of rage, no explosions, no broken glass.   The conversation even ended with a hug.

For a few moments, I allowed myself to be vulnerable and ask for what I needed. For once, I was brave.

Perhaps that is a new beginning.  Perhaps courage and fear can travel the same path.  Perhaps they can lead the way.

Sometimes you turn a corner and something so simple and small catches your breath and makes you stand still.

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I was going through pictures I’d taken a few weeks ago, and I found myself as mesmerized by these balloons—unexpectedly hanging above a downtown city street—as I was on the day I saw them.

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Let yourself be moved by surprising enchantments.

xo, with goodness and grace

The words “I’m tired” have been on a constant loop in my head lately, as I try to fit so much life into each day.  (I usually end up failing miserably and, well, tired.)

Last night I went grocery shopping and began cooking as soon as I got home, forgetting completely about the tulips that I bought.  Once I remembered them, I cut the stems and put them in water.

They were limp, lifeless and lackluster, all of their bright pink heads lying on the table.  I went to bed, resigned to the fact that my neglect of the flowers meant for their untimely demise.

I awakened this morning and was greeted with flowers doing their normal tulip-y thing, simultaneously floppy and upright.  I felt unexpected joy on a Sunday morning.

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A reminder that sometimes all we need is a pool of water and some rest to recharge.  Here’s to a good week!

xo, with goodness and grace

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