Monthly Archives: July 2016

An Invitation to the Miraculous




Some people live in joyful anticipation of the miraculous, mysterious, and bountiful opportunities life has to offer. For these people, wondrous circumstances seem to continually appear and reveal themselves, often heralding the appearance of wonderful opportunities and unexpected pleasures. Do you ever wonder how people come to locate and live in that emotional space?   And wouldn’t you like to be among them?

The key to living a miraculous life is staying wide open, ready for miracles to occur. People who live lives of great grace have mastered the art of inviting miracles into their lives–and making space for them when they appear.

Miracles are all around us, and we experience them every day. The human body, in all its complexity, is a miracle in itself. Crocuses that push their way through frozen ground to herald the arrival of spring are a marvel. Babies are geniuses, programmed to grow and learn at an extraordinary rate. The sun, the moon, the oxygen we breathe, and the way in which we breathe it, without thinking, without trying, are all miracles we take for granted. And the most miraculous of all? Our hearts, our thoughts, our emotions, and our ability to know them, experience them, and mold them.

People who live mindfully and allow themselves to experience the wonder of seemingly “ordinary” miracles are likely to be grateful and attuned to the goodness in their own lives. These people live in a state of anticipating magic. And that is the key: if we anticipate and expect magic and miracles, they will find us. They are already on their way.

Cultivating gratitude is critical if we are to invite the miraculous into our lives. When we are grateful for the things we already have, we are encouraging the Universe to send us more. We become more open to seeing subtle possibilities and opportunities all around us. A state of being thankful is a state of being open—and being open is, in itself, a state of grace.

Do you want more magic in your life? You can encourage the magical, and it isn’t difficult to do. Notice and acknowledge all the goodness in your life right now, and take a moment to be fully grateful. Appreciation and gratitude open the chambers of our heart- and create space for more goodness. The heart thrives on optimism, wonder, and growth. Our capacity for personal growth is, in itself, a miracle, and the human propensity towards growth is unending. We are all heading somewhere—and doing so with an open heart and mind, expecting the extraordinary, seems both efficient and practical.

In every moment of our lives we are consciously or unconsciously making choices. When we choose to see the dark side of a situation, we are shutting off our own creative energies. In choosing a gloomy interpretation of events we are not making room for the ecstatically unexpected to occur. When we choose to take a loving and forward thinking approach to our lives, we are supporting growth and happiness, and are thus choosing the wonder of possibility.

Choosing to see and believe in the miraculous, even when it seems impossible, is an act of faith in yourself and in the world around you. Faith in the world and all its mysteries is ultimately what guides us all, whether we are aware of it or not. The earth spins on its axis, the oceans do not slide off its surface, and gravity keeps us grounded. It is all a miracle, and we are all part of it. Harness its power; notice the wondrous and graciously invite it into your heart, mind, and spirit. And be ready, for good things are on their way!




Damp, From Camp



This essay originally appeared in the Poughkeepsie Journal, back in the day when I wrote a column oxymoronically entitled “Understanding Adolescence.” (As if that were even possible!)  My kids have all departed their teens, but I still have camp envy! Enjoy!

             A sure sign that summer is in full swing is the coming and going of kids to and from the magical kingdom of sleep-away camp. Spending a summer with 18 of your very best friends, living in a rustic fashion, can be a very liberating experience for many kids, although they may need to be re-programmed when they get back. Societal constraints are so limiting.

A sure sign that my teenage daughter has returned from camp is that everything she owns is…damp. Not just musty, camp damp, but damp with the sorrow of summer adventures left behind, of relationships marked with a fierce intensity, of yearning and longing…to return…to camp. The car ride home from the Berkshires is a thrilling ride, stories of bunk life and showering with shoes on, triumphant color war victories, of getting over on the Evil Counselor from Some Unknown Country with a can of shaving cream. The thrill of romance! The day we all dressed Goth! The Big Banquet! I want to go!

I have camp envy! I want to go live in a bunk with all my girls! I want to wear jammies all day! I want to complain about the food, and have my greatest worry be whether or not my mom will be able to successfully sneak contraband goodies into camp via the old “Re-Stuff the Teddy Bear Trick”.  I want to come home…damp.

The power of camp, for a lot of kids, is that it is their first experience in living away from their families. While still subject to authority, they have the fierce strength of an army of their peers behind them. This is heady stuff for adolescents. Camp is a very growing time, with an enormous learning curve. Young teens are great observers of each other’s behavior, and the bunk is a great observatory. It very quickly becomes clear which personality traits separate Camp Captain from Camp Flirt.

In the strange but wonderful loyalty of the camp social system, regardless of what social transgressions your kid may have committed, your bunk has your back. This entails intense drama for some teens who are experimenting with relationships and freedom outside of home base. Some kids master this effortlessly, and for others it is very difficult. The freedom to color outside the lines a little can be heady or scary.

Every year, when my daughter comes home for camp, I am impressed with the scope of her adventures, but more importantly, with the depth of her relationships with her camp friends. Social Media and cell phones have made it possible for camp friends to stay in close touch, and they do. They celebrate each other’s successes and weep for each other’s losses, from all around the world. The bond they share is somewhat indescribable— the kind of passionate friendship and acceptance that comes from sleeping 18 to a room, and sharing one massive wardrobe, I guess.

My daughter’s camp experience is about her friends more than anything. She and her pals all flourish in a society where girls can freely walk arm in arm without being called names, and where girl-loyalty supersedes girl-boy-loyalty. She enjoys a little drama, without the school-year knowledge that at every waking moment she and her middle school peers are on display for the social Queen Bees who can make or break 8th grade. She has an opportunity, every summer, to explore who she is in a space that is peer-driven but somehow wonderfully nourishing. It is worth eleven months of longing, beginning the second she comes home, and ending the day we drop her off the following summer.

Every summer, she comes home a little stronger, a little wiser, a little more true to herself. Each year as I let her go, I find my eyes are…damp. And when she’s back? I am cracking up until I cry, listening to stories of the bunk she left behind, and happy to have her back, until next summer!

“Ducky Madness and the Diaper Bag,” WRITERS READ, NYC, July 17, 2016

“Ducky Madness and the Diaper Bag,” WRITERS READ, NYC, July 17, 2016

Feeling great up at the podium, getting ready to read my essay “Ducky Madness and the Diaper Bag” at Writers Read, a literary salon, in NYC this past weekend.  The essays were all themed around “The Great Outdoors” and it was a pleasure and an honor to read with such a gifted group of writers. Each of the essays was less than 650 words (mine rang in at 648!) and here it is, for your reading pleasure!

Ducky Madness and the Diaper Bag

           I’m not sure why attending a conference for shrinks called “Creativity and Madness” seemed like a good idea, but I was hormonal, having recently produced a quintessential baby boy, and it was August, it was Aspen, and work was paying for it. The altitude was high, both in proximity to the clouds and in the pretentious vibe of the mind-numbingly boring conference. I suspect I just wanted a vacation, no, I’m certain of it, given that after the grossly unoriginal discussion of poor Emily Dickinson’s psyche on morning one, I didn’t attend a single session.

I was traveling with my then-husband and my toddling true love, Evan. Aspen in August is glorious; the air is all blue shimmer, it smells like pine heaven, and everyone there is very chi-chi, very granola, or, in some cases, both.

Colorado is perhaps a bit too rustic for this Manhattan-born cliff dweller, but Evan had fallen in love with ponies, and there was a family dude ranch near the conference I was not attending, so we set off for a baby cowboy adventure. My husband and I were almost happy. Evan was saddled up on a giant pony, his baby-face split grin-wide. I was both photographer and pack horse, hauling diaper bag, pocketbook, and the detritus that hangs off mothers of young children—sticky juice boxes that attract an inordinate number of stinging bugs, bug spray to combat same, sunscreen, and the sun hat that babies inevitably refuse to wear. It didn’t seem fair that my husband got to lead the pony around with Evan “riding” solo. I grew tired of being the nanny, so when I spotted a duck pond nearby, I suggested we head in that direction so Evan could feed the ducks.

I don’t know what I was thinking, because I don’t like ducks, and I’m phobic about birds and living poultry in general. Maybe it was the thinness of the air, or my baby’s delight in seeing a multitude of ducky’s quacking about, their disgusting webbed feet notwithstanding, that compelled me. Evan was in my arms, his dad had charge of the pony’s reins, and I still had the diaper bag slung over my shoulder, a column of Saltines at the ready to fling at the ducks. At first, it seemed manageable. Evan was hurling Saltines, watching the ducks race-waddle each other for fallen crackers, then engaging in mortal cracker combat. The ducks were too close, too many, and way too aggressive for my comfort, and more were approaching. Enough. I turned, picking my way through slippery duck shit, sublimely unaware that the open Saltine package was sticking out of the diaper bag, leaving a Hansel and Gretel Saltine trail and inviting more and more quackers to feast on crackers. Their numbers were increasing, and they were gaining on me. The faster I walked, the faster they followed. Terror. Within seconds I was running at top speed with a thousand ducks following close behind. Evan was shrieking with glee, I was shrieking in terror, and who knew ducks could even run? Trust me, they can.

I was frantically tear-assing it to the relative safety of my spouse and the giant pony, when a panicked glance over my shoulder revealed that the ducks had abruptly fallen back. Demented, I gasped out my definite sense that the swarming ducks had evil intentions. I was beyond demented when husband passé said mildly, “No, the crackers were falling out of the diaper bag with every step you took. The running was definitely not a good idea.”   Evan was chanting, “Love ducky’s, more crackers?” I was hyperventilating and emotionally horsewhipped.

Ducky madness and traumatic memories remain intact, husband passé is obsolete, and I haven’t eaten a Saltine, at any altitude, since.