life lessons, music

Paying Attention

Hi,

Not sure if you’re still here – if not, I totally get it, and if so – thank you for stopping by even though there is no rhyme or reason to the frequency of these posts.  First and foremost, how the heck are you?  What are you doing with your days that bring you delight without caveats?  Any epiphanies worth sharing with your Jewish pal over here (and yes, I think those in my tribe can have epiphanies too, of a kind)?  Thoughts that keep rolling around that you’d like to share (not mean-spirited stuff though, ok)?

There’s been little going on outside my head, given that I’m one of those immuno-compromised folks who are encouraged to adopt a hermetic existence until further notice.  I do try to follow the instructions – until I don’t want to follow them anymore (like when I stole all the Brownie merit badges out of my 2nd grade teacher’s desk, ’cause I wanted the swag, just not the stuff you had to do to get them).  I guess that makes me pseudo-compliant.

(And clearly a lover of the parenthetical)

So, here I sit with far more activity going on in my head than there was pre-pandemic.  To catch you up – Tom Brady retired and the bigotry in football management ranks is appalling; everything Lin-Manuel Miranda touches is gold – full stop; I despair over the amount of vitriol in the world; it feels like it is fomenting and growing more and more poisonous – a social virus.  Dave says it’s like we’re eating each other, some cannibalistic mindset that is fueled by polarizations and egocentric voices who have little good to say.  I’m trying to temper myself, for inside my temper is off the charts.  

And none of that is what I’m really thinking about right now.  My dad would have been 98 a few days ago.  I whispered happy birthday wishes to him and perhaps he was looking for a bit more.  A ginormous cardinal has been hanging out in our backyard for days; as I write this he is literally sitting on the retaining wall looking at me looking at him.  Dad loved to identify birds, and frankly I think he would wing it (ha! pun intended) and make up some non-existent species because if he said it, we’d buy it.  A message from the universe?  I don’t know – but there’s more…

I grew up singing, as you know.  One of my favorite singers to watch was Peggy Lee (pre-dating Streisand, Minnelli, Midler, etc).  My parents each had their song of choice – dad would sing ‘Fever’; mom would croon soulfully ‘Is That All There Is’  – a certain musical insight about both of them.  I gravitated to ‘Fever’ – even though I had no idea what I was singing about, the lyrics were easy and  I could snap my fingers.  There was something so sad about mom’s choice, even though the song encourages one to ‘break out the booze and have a ball’.  Party first, ponder later.

Why is this pertinent?  There was a segment about Peggy Lee on CBS Sunday Morning, and there she was, frozen in time singing as she did, without moving a muscle, yet emoting so much.  Fever.

And then a friend who seems to know me well without ever having met me, sent me a book recommendation “Lost and Found” by Kathyrn Schulz.  When I asked him why he though of me after reading it, he responded because of “her relationship to her father.  And yours.”.  I am in the middle of reading it, laughing, crying over some really dumb things, and nodding with an awareness of losses that are just rolled up into the very essence of who we become over time.

Now you tell me?  The convergence of all these messages right around his birthday – what is one to think?  Whether or not it’s all coincidence or kismet, star alignments or just the need to wish him a happy birthday, it brought me to this empty space deserving to be filled.  I’m going to try and see if I can offer up anything more – perhaps thoughts of more universal interest – in the days to come.  In the meantime, be well, hug everyone you can.

duality, faith, life lessons, mindfulness, music, sisters, Uncategorized

Oxymoron

Hi  my friend,

The night was sleepless and I’m wide awake…and the co-existence of contradictory realities seems to prevail.  I am a contradiction in terms – held together by the small inhalations between words.  You’d think that living within duality would at least offer up some deep slumber at the end of a day.  Ha.

Here’s one for you – I stopped believing in atheism a long time ago (yes, an oxymoron with a little hint of humor).  About the time I stopped writing everything in lower case and pretending that I was a potential hybrid of joni mitchell and e.e. cummings.  That said, I still belief in disbelief, if disbelief equals wonder and incredulity and stuff that’s just really hard to believe.

I believe in God.  I believe that there is something that I can’t adequately explain and seek daily, even though I know it’s there.  We have conversations (ok – I do all the talking, but given my profession and personality, that’s not too common).  Perhaps as my sister notes, the older we get, the more comfort we seek – whether it be in a more spiritual grounding,  greater connections with others, opening our eyes and arms a bit wider  – or all of the above.  One’s world may become more circumspect while one’s outlook widens….see what I mean?

I believe in humankind despite our reiterative behaviors of intentional cruelty and deplorable injustice.  It exists within the same construct as acts of graciousness and generosity that I witness everyday.  I cry over both.  And a sunrise can be as comforting as a sunset.  Go figure.

So much for the theory that it can be absolutely one thing or another.  Life is beautiful and unforgivably ugly.  We seek forgiveness when we find it difficult to forgive.  We ask for people to be held accountable and shy away from personal responsibility.  We’re a funny species – which makes me wonder why we came up with ‘oxymoron’ – it’s not a particularly appealing word.

And yet –

Faith is unassailable.  Small wonders are unassailable – the magnificence of a child delighting in the way a flower yields to its touch;  the silliness of dancing while taking a walk (me, with my earphones on, and yes, I did make sure there was no one around); those kinds of hugs where you feel completely surrounded by love and warmth; sunlight on spiderwebs…

And somehow it is through that prism that we look everyday – how we hold our days, each other, our lives.  Through its angles we are fractured and we are gorgeous,  a spectrum of dualities that make no sense and yet belong together.  So I repeat, go figure..

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anxiety, discretion, friendship, inspiration, life lessons, mindfulness, music

Why Is Patience So Important?

“If you want to know strength and patience, welcome the company of trees.” — Hal Borland

It seems that in the fall, I spend a great deal of time feeling tremendous respect for trees.  More than the richness of their colors and the dignity with which they prepare for their fallow season, I feel humbled by their grace.  The manner in which they bend when the wind demands their attention;  the stately pride with which they accept that time will effect its plan.

A good friend of mine has been on a fantastic roll lately.  Meeting new people, finding that her voice has more range and depth than she imagined (reminds me of Katy Perry‘s song “Roar”).  Her life – her new life has reflected  her enthusiasm, zest and openness to the thrill of possibility.  I’ve shared in this delight of course, just as I am here today when the rhythm slows, the endorphins need replenishment and the bubbles are now on simmer.  Nothing is wrong, yet what happened to the effervescence?  The days of delight?

Jo wonders about her ‘next whatever’, feeling that its elusiveness is akin to a burr under a horse’s saddle.  Itchy and unsettled, we spend many an email considering the what ifs, could bes, and shoulds – and we end up back at the reality that life is going to unfold whether we are patient or not.

Patience.  The art of being still.  Of understanding that there are fallow periods, which require only that we gain strength and sustenance and an understanding of who we are becoming.  There’s something a little unsettling about it I think.  It took me two years to undo the pleasurable and neurotic remnants of working in biglaw.  To finally realize that the primary takeaway – the only takeaway – is that I made a difference, perhaps to a few people over the span of decades.  I choose to hold onto some cherished memories.   I didn’t leave the firm with grace in my heart – a story for another day perhaps.  I struggled to understand that my next whatever would be as serendipitous as the one I had just experienced.  I still do (struggle that is) – just not as much.

I write a lot about duality; it’s so much a part of our human construct.  Yet in the fall I look to the trees.  They are indomitable and unfazed, welcoming both bird and squirrel, a child’s foot nestled between its trunk and branch.  Silently knowing that regardless of preference or wish, hope or daydream, the most important element it brings to the fall is its presence.  Its being.   Time I think to take a moment  under the trees, sway under the harvest moon and just watch life and love unfold.

discretion, inspiration, life lessons, love, mindfulness, music, parenting

Gone Fishing

That’s not true – I don’t fish.  I like the visual though – sitting on a boat in still water, line dragging in, bobbin bobbing, silence interrupted only by an occasional gurgle caused by some minor disruption to the water.  The lapping of the water as one adjusts their seating.  I have no need to catch anything – it’s at that point that my revery turns a little discomfiting actually.

But we are heading to the mountains with the majority of our children for a long weekend.  You may remember that this is an annual treat for us all – a chance to play board games, nap, golf, spa, read and catch up with each other.  Oh, and the occasional winery thrown in for good measure.

I apologize for flying below the radar this last week, only to re-surface to write you that I’m heading out of Dodge for a little while.  We’ll leave last week in the past and when I return next week I will be back to my sort of prodigious self (well hardly prodigious when compared to so many of you, but it’s a relative thing, yes?)

I’ll be checking in while we’re gone – and maybe even squeeze out a paean to the mountains majesty and the overwhelming delight in all being in the same place for a little while.  But I leave you now with one of my favorite songs from the wayback machine…Chris Rea – enjoy and I’ll ‘see you soon’…

friendship, inspiration, life lessons, love, mindfulness, music

Magic To Do

Bill @ drbillwooten.com had posted a quote from Brene Brown that has stared at me for days now..

“Owning our story can be hard, but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it.  Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky, but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy – the experiences that make us the most vulnerable…”

And, as is typical with the route of the karma truck, a confluence of moments stop me along the road and force me to pull over and take stock of my surroundings.

–  Elizabeth asks me about the act of becoming the me I am today.  Who was I before I left biglaw?  How am I defining myself today?  Oh Elizabeth – do you want the short answer or the long one?  😉

– An email from a friend with so much sadness, I thought the screen was streaked with her tears.  A chapter closing with an ending she didn’t pen.  Now a character in a story that she would have written much differently.

– Friday night with Andy, Jo and Ben seeing “Pippin” on Broadway.  A long ago story with threads that carry through from the days when I made up songs to sing while my dad played the Prince to my sister’s balletic swan.

I don’t remember when I began singing, but it has been my protection, my home, my sanctuary, my arguably limited coping mechanism when humor fails me.  Standing under Roosevelt Avenue letting one note escape from my lips as the subway rattled overhead.  Missing the green light because I was focused on holding that note until the last car was on its way to the 82nd Street stop.

When I sang at ‘Catch A Rising Star‘ my sophomore year in college, I did it I think, more out of naiveté than anything else (well that, and an incredible crush on the guy who arranged it).  Jo and Bruce were there.  Had we not bumped into each other on the street earlier in the day, the moment would have passed.  I sang “Magic To Do” – stepping up to the mike after a gorgeously built woman in a gold sequined bathing suit and heels almost as high as her hair, ponied her way through an off-key version of “V-a-c-a-t-i-o-n”.   The audience loved her, for they thought she was a comedy act.  To say I took the mike with tremendous hesitation and nausea is an understatement.  But I saw Jo – and her delight.  On the wings of her smile I let it go.  And they asked me to do an encore (I did “Summertime”).

I got an email yesterday from her telling me that she heard me singing during the show on Friday…I thought I was being pretty quiet.  But I had to sing – this was my coming of age story.  Believing that I had to do great things and having no clue what that meant.  I believed I was destined to do the extraordinary, and in my nineteen year old mind, extraordinary meant ‘big’, ‘notable’.  And I’m sure sequins had to play a part.

My extraordinariness is hardly extraordinary, but I have come to understand that it is what it is.  My sons are miracles – and though I take no credit for anything other than being their mom, I would submit that their arrival trumps any other accomplishment of the exceptional.  They were my reason and my privet for so very long.  And they moved forward into the world with the knowledge that they are more than capable of soaring.

I built a great career and felt needed by a lot of people  – which was pretty heady and gratifying and I didn’t sacrifice more of my soul than I could handle in the process.  And when it required more compromising than I could abide, more injury to my body and soul than either could handle, I left.  And where I’m heading…well, later to the supermarket.

What I am though is here.  I am in this moment for those who need me to be.  I am here to remind my heartbroken buddy that we shatter and somehow mend again.  I am here for the moments when one doesn’t know if another day is really going to change a damn thing, and suggesting that if it doesn’t, a series of days may.  I am here with a cup of hope.  And if you sit close enough to me, probably a song.

friendship, humor, life lessons, love, mindfulness, motivation, music

The Second Best Part Of A Vacation

We had a fantastic week away..the weather couldn’t have been more accommodating (with sincere apologies to my friends up north who had apparently located Nemo while we were hanging out in the sun),  the only required nod to time had to do with Andy’s scheduled tee times (and he shot an 80 the second time he went out!  The first round would have been equally as impressive were it not for the beer after the front nine).  I only listened to the music provided by the environment all around me – the leaves from palm trees as they tickled and teased each other in the wind, the ocean playing tag with the shore.  Occasionally the riff of laughter extending from one end of the beach to the other.  Oh yeah, there also was the occasional, “the drink you requested madam?”  That’s fine – call me Madam (sorry I couldn’t resist).

Tuesday morning we spent with the dolphins.  The pictures I took were awful (note to self, put on glasses before trying to focus), the pictures the conservation folks took were better (the ones below).  Ironically, we hung out with a dolphin named Andy, who apparently took issue with someone else having his name who would not kiss him with a full pucker (he gave a full on Bronx cheer to my conquering hero).  I was mesmerized by his eyes (the dolphin Andy, that is) – believe me, these brilliant mammals size us up in much the same way we assess those around us.  They pick up vibes, tease, play coy and make their share of mischief.  And don’t make the mistake of ticking them off.  I also met three new baby dolphins who are first beginning to explore life away from their moms (dolphins nurse until they are almost three years old).  Did I fall in love?  You betcha.

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I suppose this wouldn’t be a Mimi-post without a musing or two (what can I say?  I muse a lot).  There was one day when the beach was closed.  The ocean, with presence of mind and purpose, felt the need to remind the shore that just as it brought it onto the land, it could take it away.  And it did.  The ferocity of the waves was so intense that the beach chairs, tables and umbrellas were washed out to sea, some returned in pieces and left as the detritus of the ocean’s pique.  It was loud and magnificent, boastful and confident.  I watched for hours, realizing that no two waves were the same, no two sounds exact replicas, no sea foam frothing in circles and eddies that were similar.  If you looked with little sight, you might think it was just a relentless pounding and abatement.  If you looked with your eyes wide open and your ears tuned to the right station, no two notes were alike.

And so it is with our days, our minutes, our seconds.  Regardless of how many we have, no matter how they may seem at times to fold into each other with nothing easily identifiable to distinguish one from another – no two moments in time are the same.  From this perspective, it’s almost impossible to imagine how rich life is – with possibilities, choices, magic.  No two moments that are the same.  What we choose to do – how we look upon our time – that is what it’s all about.  I decided to accept a challenge posted while I was gone by davidkanigan.com at Lead.Learn.Live – to begin with three days of finding the goodness in others, and censoring the less kind thoughts I may have in a moment of impatience…ultimately extending this practice to a year (if I can do it).  I’ll screw it up of course, though I have promised myself  that when I do, I’ll get back on the board.  The truth of the matter is, I don’t really think a lot of nasty stuff about people and there are very few for whom I reserve really unkind thoughts.  I realize that I give them too much of my sacred time by according them much attention.  With that as a backdrop, I think I can do this – and enjoy the waves as I ride them.  It’s probably the closest I’ll ever come to surfing anyway.

And so the second best thing about vacation is absolutely coming home.  Anticipating the delight of seeing my kids, having Sir Teddy share my chair as I write this and Archie asleep on my Ugg slipper, the laundry spinning in the dryer, and the glorious knowledge that on this day, I got to write to you.  It’s good to be home.  I could choose nothing better than this one moment.

discretion, friendship, humor, life lessons, love, mindfulness, music

The Magic Of This Moment

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I’m easily amazed.  Others who know me might suggest that I’m ridiculously gullible (my beloved comes to mind).  When I was little, I would watch my dad pull grapes from my friends’ ears, I believed in Tinkerbell with unshakeable conviction and I knew with certainty that when I went to sleep each night, my toys came to life and had a party.  As I write this, I’m not exactly sure that the last sentence should be written in the past tense.  I’ve not changed much.

I don’t define magic as the mastery of optical illusion, the sleight of hand that can be explained by a slo-mo instant replay.  Magic is bigger than that.  Magic belongs up there with miracles, faith, love…Magic is what allows you to see two cardinals playing tag even though your heart is breaking.  Magic is the sound of a baby’s belly laugh.  Magic is in music that can lift you up and carry you to places you didn’t even know you could create.  There’s magic in the silence of the early hours of morning.  Like no other silence, it is protective and intimate and comforting.

Though I’m no magician, there is a spell that has been woven between us  that draws me to this connection time and time again.  I can’t explain how these friendships have formed, why these conversations are often more enriching than those that occur in face-to-face dialogue.  I leave it to magic – for magic allows for that which should remain inexplicable, fantastic.

How do I define the child that dances in my soul and escapes so I can play air guitar in the kitchen (I am really good at this by the way), use my brush as a microphone and turn my bathroom into a concert venue?  Magic.  Because Dahl was right – there is truly something magical to be felt in each moment that is heeded.  Each connection holds a bit of wonder that defies logic.  So, today I hope you suspend logic for a little while.  Catch a ray of sunshine and hold it close for minute.  Feel the magic.

friendship, inspiration, life lessons, love, mindfulness, music

Never Forget The Little Things

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I realize you may be thinking, “Of course, she would say this – she is a little thing”.  True enough, though height isn’t all it’s cracked up to be (bada boom).

I had my quarterly blood-letting this morning and got downtown early enough to stop at Starbucks.  I already took that as a good sign, for there was no traffic, my favorite guy at the parking garage came out to take my keys and we had the chance to catch up for a moment (his wife just had their second child) and the air – the air this morning was so fresh it was begging to be noticed.

When I got into Starbucks,  the woman behind the counter called out to me “Good morning sweetheart, what would make you smile today?”  Some people may not respond well to terms of affection from total strangers – I’m not one of them.  There was something in the way she said “sweetheart” that just tickled my core.  I asked for my venti, non-fat cappuccino, and told her that she had just made my day.  This prompted a conversation between her, the barista and I about the counters in the store (too high for me to reach my coffee, which gave us all a good laugh), how much better it was to greet the day instead of kvetching about its arrival (no one used the word ‘kvetching’, I’m paraphrasing here) and how one small exchange can manifest itself in a thousand ways.  This woman absolutely glowed kindness; she couldn’t hide it if she tried.  I told her and with a clap and a quick step from behind the register, we gave each other the most delicious hug we possibly could.

As I walked out, I held the door for a man trying to finagle himself inside while pulling his briefcase with one hand, texting on his Blackberry and holding The Washington Post with the other.  I wished him a “Good Morning” and clearly startled him (whether by the gesture or the words I don’t know), for I caught his paper as it began to fall to the ground.

In the doctor’s office, the receptionist told me all about her vacation, I listened to the phlebotomist tenderly complain about her new puppy who was still trying to figure out why no one wanted to play with him in the middle of the night.  You get the drift – it’s been a morning of the most sacred little things.  The moments that separate an okay day from a lovely one, the delight in extending one’s self just a tiny bit and receiving so much in return.  This isn’t even about paying it forward – it’s just about choosing warmth over isolation, a smile over an unfocused gaze, the underestimated value of spending one extra moment looking at the world around you and trying to shape it into someplace you want to live.

And as I sit here, the sun casting both warmth on my back and shadows on my keyboard, listening to Enesco’s ‘Roumanian Rhapsody No. 1’, I can’t help but feel that it is the little things that remain the most essential.  The generosity of a stranger, the pictures proudly shown by a new papa, the throw-your-head-back kind of laughter that erupts when you share joy.  Oh yeah, the coffee was extra delicious too.  In fact, that’s the way the whole day is turning out to be.  I wish that for you as well.  Happy Tuesday.

anxiety, friendship, humor, inspiration, life lessons, love, mindfulness, music, work life

Winding Down The Road

As 2012 begins its inevitable walk to the ‘Exit’ sign, and 2013 lingers outside the Entrance waiting for the bouncers to accept its credentials and admit it into our crazy, rockin’ psyches, I’ve got to grab a moment of retrospection about the road the karma truck has traveled since I first turned the key in the ignition in early January of this passing year.

I had no map – as you now know, it would have proven useless anyway given my challenges with geography.  I was just going to drive with an eye to the sky and an ear to my heart.  Such spontaneous, free-formed initiatives were new to me.  You don’t work within the confines of a white-shoe, professional service firm and ad-lib your actions too much (though I certainly did my share – after all irreverence can be a good and freeing thing).  But again, I digress..

I agonized about hitting ‘publish’ for the first time, returning to my computer obsessively to see if anyone had stopped by.  I learned relatively quickly to leave the ‘stats alone, and to let go of any fantasies of becoming one of those bloggers that arrive at notoriety with equal parts serendipity and timing.  And as with most illusions that are suspended, reality became a far more incredible experience.

David Kanigan (davidkanigan.com)  who writes’Lead.Learn.Live’ (read it read it read it – you will look forward to his posts daily, and feel a bit bereft if for some reason he gives himself a break to take a vacation or something) was my first ‘follower’. Lori, a writer by profession with prodigious creativity and warmth (and a fabulous gift unto herself) posting at donnaanddiablo.wordpress.com, was my second follower.  Andy, my sister Deborah and friend Joanne followed thereafter.  And now a year later with over 600 followers and 31,000 views, I still have no clue where the karma truck is going.  What I do know is that it is traveling with an incredible entourage of people who openly share their thoughts, encourage me to keep the gas tank full and forgive me some of my lamer efforts (like yesterday’s post – a non-existent YouTube video – yes, I need more Apple therapy).

There is no question I would have continued writing, for there is someplace I’m heading with this, and I am hoping that one day you all will help me figure that out with your suggestions and ideas.  But for today, as I look back I can’t ask you for anything more.  I can only thank you for all that you’ve given me.  Friendships that have grown out of invisible threads that somehow connected us – we each picked up an end.  We have shared the stories of life – marriages beginning and ending, lives changing and morphing like shape shifters in a sci-fi novel, hearts exploding with pain and/or exuberance, illness and the new breath that arrives with the spring, questions with no answers and answers that are equivocal.  We have been silly and we have been considered.  These conversations have been some of the most fulfilling and instructive and delightful exchanges I have ever had.  You let me risk tipping a hand that I have held close for a very long time.  And you graced me with showing me yours.

I’m not sure what 2013 holds for the karma truck.  I do know that I am incredibly grateful for the friendships that I have come to cherish, the absolutely crazy-with-talent people who I follow, with perpetual open-mouthed awe and an ability to be as irritating as a relentlessly circling mosquito.  Thank you for your patience and encouragement.

I hope 2013 brings joy and good health, the courage to risk and the freedom to dream, long walks and endless possibilities.  I hope you feel lighter and less inclined to contort yourself into something you are not – for you have shown over and over again how amazing you are without such unnecessary effort.  I hope friendships deepen, love visits us all generously and often, and that we’re smart enough to relish its presence.  And I hope what we put out into this world meets the threshold of kindness and grace that allows for only goodness to be returned.  Here’s to next year.

(ps.  David – if this doesn’t work, don’t tell me..;-)

discretion, friendship, inspiration, life lessons, love, mindfulness, music, parenting

Home Ec.

“Hem your blessings with thankfulness so they don’t unravel”

Good advice, though I can’t sew.  I can’t even loosely baste a seam.  I failed sewing in the seventh grade, for the teacher didn’t consider it fashion forward to have the armhole of my jumper positioned at the hip.  I didn’t do much better at home economics (yes, they had courses such as this – let’s save the shock and awe for another day, shall we?), though I excelled at pudding.  And passing notes.

Which retrospectively suggests that I had my priorities straight even then – as long as you had good people around you, everything else would follow.  Take care of the ones you love.  Pass the notes, hold the secret, righteously defend (“Mimi would be an exemplary student if she were a bit less social”).  Ah well.  It is with this limited skill set that I have built my house.  Ultimately I bought the drapes and learned how to cook.  And though no one would mistake me for Martha Stewart, I’d say this is a pretty awesome home.  People curl up when they get here, they nestle in.  Shoes come off, defenses are shed, talk is uncensored, silence is religious.  There is nothing more transcendent than this.

Our Thanksgiving plans got derailed by my little surgery a few days back and we’re staying here instead of heading up to New Jersey.  The kids will be with their in-laws.  And as much as I will miss the noise, the laughter, the hugs – I am fortunate enough to have all this love around me every day.  The air is filled with “I love you’s”,  each room holds secrets told in whispers that repeat as favorite lyrics co-written once upon a time, and there is comfort in the sighs of the couch as I settle in to listen to the stories of home.  When I feel the sun on my back and I find magic in this very moment, I know that my bounty is as massive as my gratitude.

So as many of you head points north, east, west or south – travel safe.  Eat a lot, laugh more, grab a nap.  Take a walk, give out hugs.  Share your love.   Enfold these moments in your heart, for they will become the most gorgeous aspects of your home.  They become the most treasured parts of you.