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So much sweetness.

Over the last few weeks, we’ve talked about fall. I’ve come to see what a beautiful metaphor it is for shedding all the things not serving a purpose any longer. The leaves fall, releasing all that needs to be pruned away. And life follows suit.

I understand that now.

This year has been a series of endings. To outmoded ways of thinking, to worn out routines, to almost everything that has become familiar, including some relationships. This year has offered up a tough and often confusing mix of situations, with one just coming to a conclusion.

So much sweetness.  

This is what keeps playing in my head, like the chorus of a song with an unforgettable hook.

Here’s the beautiful thing. Whenever I thought I’ve been alone, completely adrift and on my own, I’ve been met with support. At times it was almost as if people fell out of bushes to give me messages of encouragement. Grace, somehow, in the sweetest of ways, has always been at my side. For this, I feel humbled and grateful.

Trust. This is what I’ve learned.

Trust in the unexpected and the unknown. Trust people—even, perhaps especially, people you never imagined—will stand in front of you with offerings of friendship and love. Trust, and the universe will rise up to catch you when you stumble, to push you when you think you cannot get up, to hold your hand when you are in need tenderness.

So much sweetness. 

That gives me faith in a future full of things that will serve me well.

One day I came out of the subway and was greeted by this sidewalk chalk inspiration. Signs are everywhere.

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xo, with goodness and grace.

 

This week we celebrate the 5th anniversary of Goodness, Grace and Grub!

I’ve given a lot of thought to what this blog has meant to me, and it’s been challenging to think of it in a way that’s not cliche or trite.

But, here’s the deal.  The truth is, I started this blog for me.  I wish I could say I had lofty goals of changing the world by seeking only the good, but that wasn’t the case.  At the time, I found it—and sometimes still do—ridiculously easy to be sad or angry or unhappy with life.  I was fed up with the constant chatter in my head and the rage against people who were unkind or indifferent or just plain mean.

So I asked myself, what if I flipped the switch?  What if I paid attention to what was right and good and beautiful, instead of all the other stuff? What if I decided to be uplifted by the world, rather than brokenhearted by it?

And what I have found is grace.

I have found light.  I have discovered each of us is the light, and in those times when ours is shining dimly, we can rely on other people to help illuminate our path using their own beams.  We can be the beacon for one another, in a world where it sometimes feels like there isn’t enough to go around.  Our collective light is plentiful.

In this idea, I have become a light chaser.  I seek it in sunsets, in moonrises, in the love in someone’s eyes.  I know now that light is everywhere—it encircles us, encouraging us to show up as the people we know we can be.  All of us form a circle of light, and through support and comfort and by bringing our talents into the world, we uplift each other.  The light helps us become our best selves.

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And so I say thank you.  To every restauranteur who has made me feel welcome in their establishment and every chef who have cooked me a beautiful meal, to every author whose words have inspired me to live a better life, to every friend who has sent me or Instagrammed pictures of their “signs of love,” to every person who has left a comment on this blog or sent a note to say something I wrote showed up in your life at the exact moment you needed to see it, to all of you, I say a very deep-hearted thank you.  In the times when I needed it most, you have lit my path to help me find my way in this world.

May light grace your days and brighten your nights this week and beyond.  Here’s to many more years of celebrating the beauty of life.

xo, with goodness and grace.

When my month of Grace & Gratitude ended, I felt a little lost without a means to share what moved me regularly.  There was a magnificent rhythm to living the day with eyes, heart, and mind open to the possibility of grace appearing.  As I published the last post of the series, I already missed it.

Grace of the Day (or Grub or Goodness of the Day) posts will allow me to keep the fire of presence alive.  I’ll still share Goodness, Grace and Grub posts, but these will allow me to concisely share what fills me with awe, maybe not daily, but more frequently.

For example.

Today I was having one of those conversations where I was trying to understand something.  I was in the space of why:  why did this unfold this way, why did I feel that way?  Why, why, why.

The very wise person I was talking to had been intently listening to me.  She stopped and took a breath before answering.  Then she very clearly and succinctly gave me an answer that brilliantly answered my whys.  Her answer gave me a perspective that I wouldn’t have thought of, and she answered in such a way that told me she fully understood me.

It was a moment where I felt completely connected, wholly tethered by the moment.

Moments of connection, where you are understood implicitly, are the epitome of grace.

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.

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.

In watching all of the devastation left on the East Coast from Hurricane Sandy, I’ve tried to find the grace that it presents to us. For me, it’s being able to appreciate the simpler aspects of life.

Electricity. An intact roof and a dry, warm place to sleep. Hot water. Food in the refrigerator.

I find myself grateful to have all of these things when so many people in my city do not. I understand how lucky I am.

I’ve also found an appreciation for the small moments that exist when the chaos of everyday life is stripped down. If I was to find a grace in this storm, it would be time away from daily obligations. I couldn’t go grocery shopping; I couldn’t go to the cleaners; I couldn’t do any of the normal chores that clutter our hours.  Like snow days from my youth, the storm gifted me with two days to just be.

I know that makes some people stir crazy, but I found it heavenly.  And that is a blessing of grace.

Wishing merciful grace to everyone affected by the storm.  For ways to help, click here and visit the Red Cross website.

Hurricane Irene did this weekend what nothing else has ever done: it shut down the city that never sleeps. Luckily, my neighborhood – like most of New York City – was spared any severe damage.

This morning, while I awakened to see sheets of diagonal rain, gusts of wind blowing trees and piles of leaves on the city street in front of my window, I felt overwhelming gratitude.  Within that feeling lives a deep appreciation for the city officials who took precautions to keep us all safe, for my parents who brought me D batteries when there were none to be found, for the blessings of friends who checked in to be sure I was out of harm’s way.

The glorious cup of coffee that warmed my being this morning was a beautiful way to start the day.  And, the sky is now brightening with the promise of sunlight.

May your day be filled with beauty and grace.

I have a lot of wants in life.  Particularly at this moment.

  • I want to sleep in late, until I awake feeling rested.
  • I want – I long for – three days with nothing scheduled and no commitments.
  • I want long stretches of time to wander through my beloved home city.
  • I want to spend an afternoon on the couch indulgently reading a book.
  • I want to cool off on a hot, humid afternoon with a Hazelnut Frappuccino.  Who knew you could customize the drink with any flavor you want?
  • I want to hang out in the park on the cool, dewy grass until the breeze tells me it’s time to go home.
And I intend to spend the long weekend indulging in every single one of my wants.
Happy Memorial Day – welcome to summer!!

Today marks the finale of The Oprah Winfrey Show.  The show has been such a staple of life for the past 25 years that it is difficult to describe how meaningful it has been to me.  I can truly say that she has often made me look at life in a different way, the very meaning of the “a-ha moment”.

One of my favorite Oprah lessons was something she said at the end of this season’s Ultimate Favorite Things extravaganza.

Although the stuff is really fun, it…is about hope.  It’s about knowing that something really magical and joyful and wonderful can happen to you when you least expect it.

Oprah taught me to believe that living your best life is possible for anyone, including me.  And, though you may have a dream for yourself, sometimes the universe has a bigger dream for you.

She is one of my favorite things.

I went to my first fashion show this week.  3.1 Phillip Lim.  It was awesome.

Apparently I was very, very excited.  Because all my pictures came out blurry.

Which reminds me of other times when I tried to chronicle something that made my heart sing with a visual diary…and it all went wrong.

Like this amazingly delicious bag of freshly popped popcorn…

…and that beautiful blizzard….

…and those pumpkin pancakes with pumpkin seed streusel and warm maple butter.  It’s pancake month.   And not only did I not remember to take the photo before we began eating them with abandon, I couldn’t figure out how to properly light the pancakes in the romantically lit restaurant.  At 6pm.  While I was celebrating someone else’s engagement.

We live in an age when everyone wants to share their special moments with the digital stratosphere, whether on Facebook, Twitter…or in a blog.  With all of the distractions that this connectivity brings, it’s easy to forget to be present.  It’s all well and good to photograph something cool in order to share with everyone we know, but not if we aren’t actually experiencing the moment.

All of the moments from the photographs above have given me a special memory that I hold dear, and the imperfection of the pictures just remind me that it’s okay to put the camera down every now and then, put my feet up and just be in the moment.

After all, the angels are still watching over us, whether or not the Christmas angel shows up blurry.

Savor the special moments, even the imperfect ones.

Today marks the first anniversary of Goodness, Grace and Grub!

Today is a milestone in the magical idea that grace is sometimes just one thought away.

Today I celebrate how searching for goodness, for pleasure, for enchantment is a journey well worth embarking on.

Today I commemorate one eye-opening year that has acted like a firecracker in my life, urging me to pay attention to the magnificence all around me.

A big thank you to all my readers and a gracious welcome to those who have discovered this blog for the first time.  I am grateful for each and every one of you!

To see how it all began, take a look at the first post from exactly one year ago today.  https://goodnessgraceandgrub.wordpress.com/2009/11/26/welcome-to-the-goodness-intervention/

My hope is for you to find inspiration in being present and seeing the beauty in every day.  Here’s to a holiday weekend that will bring you the magic of goodness and grace in every moment.

Today I have a milestone birthday.

Today I turn 40.

It’s a been a hard number to wrap my brain around. I’ve been so focused on being okay with this number that there were days where I forgot to be 39. I needed to remind myself that I wasn’t there yet, that it was silly to be freaked out by something that wasn’t even real yet.

Deep down, I still feel like a kid.  I’m sure I felt something similar when I turned 20.

Anyway, I started thinking about what I’ve learned over these last couple of decades, what wisdom I wish I’d possessed when I turned 20. What would I tell my younger self about life? I realized that the great thing about getting older is that while physical things change, the wisdom you’ve gained over the years makes life more fun.

So, with that in mind and in no particular order, here are the 20 pieces of advice I would give to my 20-year-old self to make the journey a lot easier:

  1. Get a good neck cream. Mom will constantly worry about the turkey neck that runs in our family. This will make you paranoid if you don’t take action. Maybe you should heed her advice now.
  2. Understand the meaning of work-life balance. Work will multiply and permeate every crevice of your life like mint in a garden, if you let it. But work will not bring you chicken soup when you are sick or stand on the long line with you at Momofuku Milk Bar & Bakery when you crave Crack Pie or cuddle with you on the couch on a Saturday night while you watch Suze Orman yell at people. Make sure you have a life.
  3. Take good care of your health. This will alleviate the need to have the conversation during your physical which ends with the doctor saying, “Ummm…okaaaay…you need to get a life!” See #2.
  4. Rethink your non-existent dating strategy. See #3. The doctor means well; she doesn’t want you to end up lonely.
  5. Food has always brought you joy – don’t ever become afraid of it. Please. There will be neurotic people all around you, counting every calorie, including the ones you are eating. They will be afraid of real butter, real sugar, the food coloring in your beloved rainbow sprinkles and, oddly, cantaloupe. They will tempt you to be neurotic too. Don’t do it.
  6. It will be easy to lose who you are in other people – friends, family, men – but resist at all costs. Be who you are, no matter what they say or how cute they look.
  7. Remember to laugh when construction workers whistle at you on the street. It’s easy to be annoyed by them, but you should revel in the fact that people find you attractive.
  8. Don’t sweat the bad haircut. It’s hair and it will grow back. And you will have a compassionate friend at work who will listen to you talk incessantly about how much you hate it over the following months and tell you each time that you look great. Act as if she were right and move on.
  9. Take the leap and move to New York. It will change your life. And Al Pacino, the hero of your adolescence, will be your first celebrity sighting.
  10. Spend lots of time talking to your parents. Ask them questions about what life was like when they were growing up. They are really cool people.
  11. Corporate America is everything you thought it would be…and so much worse. Be brave, hold true to your dreams and find a way to live the creative life you always dreamed of.
  12. Trust your instincts. Listen to them. Act on them. They will prevent you from inviting people into your life who don’t serve you well and from doing things everyone else thinks you should do.
  13. State your case and own your opinions. Bosses and co-workers will mistakenly think that because you are nice you don’t have a backbone. Having an opinion and arguing passionately in favor of it may make things messy and uncomfortable at times, but you will be able to look yourself in the mirror knowing that you did your job to the best of your ability.
  14. Don’t hesitate before buying the Diane von Furstenburg dress. Wear it more often than you think practical. And work it.
  15. Remember that love is the answer, whether it worked out or not.
  16. Get a Christmas tree, no matter how small your apartment is. It won’t feel like the holidays if you don’t.
  17. The Bachelor and The Bachelorette.  Just. Don’t. Watch.  Save yourself while you can.
  18. Pay attention. It’s the little things in life that will bring you joy: the scent of hyacinths wafting through midtown Manhattan in the spring, the enormity of the full moon rising over the river, the way your nephew looks at you when you tuck him into bed.  Be in awe of the world around you.
  19. You are worthy of the best.
  20. You rock. Never forget that.

The view from 40 is looking pretty good.  I’m embracing it and intending to make great things happen.

Sometimes the most powerful things in life catch you by surprise, like being awakened at 5am simply because the approaching dawn wants to get your attention.

Sunrise over Lake MichiganSunrise over Lake Michigan

I’m very blessed to have a fantastic mother who would go to the ends of the earth for me.  If she knew you were in need of something, she’d probably help you too.

She’s also slightly psychic – growing up, she’d often tell my brother and I why certain people in our lives would prove to be absolutely no good.  She was usually right.  We finally told her that we just didn’t want to know.

She’s a great cook, a fashionista and always in possession of the latest gadget.  And she’s incredibly courageous on top of all of that.

Today I celebrate her and all the reasons why I’m proud to be her daughter.

Now, you may not have had the ideal mothering experience growing up.  You may have chosen an alternate mother figure: a sister, an aunt, a grandmother. Or perhaps even someone outside of the family to fill that void.  Whoever that person is, celebrate them today.

Maybe you’ve had to pick up the slack and have had to mother yourself.  Bravo to you for your courage in developing a skill that most of us would benefit from.  For an insightful perspective on why it’s necessary to mother yourself, check out this article by noted yoga teacher Tara Stiles. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tara-stiles/mothers-day-the-importanc_b_567512.htm

And maybe you are a new mother yourself and are just finding your way.  May grace light your path as you embark on the most sacred work on the planet. For the stay at home moms who need a voice to say the things in your head, read my friend Alyssa’s new blog at http://www.prettygirltosahm.blogspot.com/.

No matter where you are in mother worship, here’s to a happy Mother’s Day to everyone.  May it be filled remembrance and celebration for the mothers in your lives – and with goodness and grace.

There is this obscure movie from the ’70s that my mom loved when I was younger, “Running” starring Michael Douglas.  It’s about this guy who is a kind of a loser, with a failed marriage and a reputation for never finishing anything.  The one thing he was good at was marathon running, and his one way of redemption in the eyes of everyone around him was to do well at the Montreal Olympic games.  I don’t remember all of the specifics, but I do remember  that towards the end of the movie (spoiler alert), he was running the race of his life.  Then he fell, and once again, he seemingly didn’t follow through on something.  But he picked himself up and, though his face was beat up and disfigured from the fall and he was hobbling with hard-core injuries, he made his way into Olympic Stadium with a crowd on its feet cheering for him – finally, finally a finisher.  He may have been last – or nearly last – but he did it.

This is kind of how I felt this morning.

I declared a few months back that I was training for a half-marathon.  Unfortunately, my training was derailed several times by the Winter of Illness.  After the head cold, I went right back to training.  After the cold/flu, I resumed training, but every time I did, I got sick again.  This went on for about three weeks, until I finally gave in and gave my body a rest.  And right before the stomach flu, I’d gotten back on the treadmill, but that illness had me crying mercy.  (Among many other things.)  After this three month spell, running was pretty much out of the question.

Not wanting to give up, I decided keeping my word to myself was important.  So, I stuck to my commitment, altering it slightly so that now I’d be walking the half-marathon instead of running.  Everyone still thought I was insane.  I tried not to think about it too much, mainly because I agreed with them.

The race conditions this morning were not ideal, at least not for me the non-runner.  It was chilly – in the 40s – and it rained the entire time.  I chose to see it as a baptism of a journey with an uncertain outcome.

I dug deep.

The first mile was an eternity, but I kept going.  Somewhere between Mile 3 and 4, Lady GaGa kicked in on my iPod and gratitude filled my soul.  Momentarily.  Let me just say that it is especially humbling when the leader of the race passes you on her SECOND loop around the park, when you aren’t even halfway through the first one.

Many naysayers say not to listen to music during a run (or walk).  They don’t know what they are talking about.  Music saved me, my grace of the day.  I developed close and personal friendships with Eminem, George Michael, Janet Jackson and Coldplay.  (Yes, an eclectic mix.)

Oh, and Jesus.  He is now my homeboy.  We talked a lot during the walk.

Especially during Mile 8, when I was convinced I was dying because my left arm had suddenly gone numb.  I was pretty sure I needed to stop, because I was clearly having a heart attack or something.  Knowing I made it more than halfway had to be enough.  Then Steve Perry started singing the song I put in the playlist as a joke, just in case I some needed cheesy, nostalgic inspiration.

Don’t Stop Believing.  I took it as a sign.  I now had a friend from above, after all.

I slowed down, was gentle with myself and took it easy for a while.  I learned that by the time you are 10 miles in, it is downright silly to stop.  So I didn’t.

I dug as deep as I could go.  I am in awe of my body and the journey it took me on today.

And I did it.  I finished. With strangers cheering me on as I crossed the finish line, I felt euphoric.

I achieved something great today.  I achieved the thing I thought I could not do.

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