Sunday, October 31, 2010

Cultivating Gratitude

They say a refrigerator is a window into a household's soul, and here is a snapshot of mine.


Art. Letters. Soccer schedules. Postcards. Important phone numbers. Mismatched magnets. Cousins. Inspiring quotes. And yes: this bumper sticker from Cafe Gratitude in Marin County.

More on that another time.

But at the cafe, after you have eaten your gourmet raw food meal you must have a real conversation with your waiter/waitress, about what you are grateful for. You can be ironic, smart-alecky or closed, but they are always open, and for one brief moment you bare your soul to a stranger.

I like the exercise. As you can see, I bought the bumper sticker.

I make the boys say what they are grateful for each night at dinner before we eat. Benji always goes first, and he goes on and on and on. He really is grateful for every little thing. He always ends with: And I am grateful for you and you and you. He breaks my heart every time.

Theo eats while Benji talks (we have had to put a time limit on him, because he really could go on for half an hour) and then says: I am grateful for my family, or something else quick and cliched. On special nights he is very grateful for one fantastic thing. And then he is heartfelt and sincere.

Jonathan always tries to get out of it (the cultivation of gratitude is something he appreciates, but somehow cannot quite get himself to dive into. He likes to be around it, but not to fully engage in it. When forced, he always says: My family. Or, My health.

He means it, but because he always says the same thing it loses some punch.

By the time it is my turn everyone is so hungry I barely have time to speak. And that is OK.

All of this is to say, we play the gratitude game, and I believe in cultivating gratitude. I know it is easier to be cynical and skeptical, and harder to appreciate. Corny, even. Such outpourings are definitely veering into the realm of the flaky, the hippy dippy and the slightly stoopid.

I grew up around a lot of negativity, so I like the exercise, even if it is just a window onto a possible different way of being.

But now, as part of my all around tune-up for my story (from meditating to diet to reframing how I think) I was actually given a prescription by an extremely intelligent doctor. Part of my homework, to reframe, in the style of cognitive therapy, is to keep a Gratitude Journal.

Now this concept has gained such credence among the New Age crowd I feel sort of over it before I have started. But my job now (since this is all part of my story) is to use myself as a guinea pig. I must suspend my disbelief and just do it and see what happens.

The gratitude journal idea comes from Robert Emmons, a reknowned positive psychologist, who teaches at UC Davis. On his web page is his picture: with him grinning so widely it looks fake or drug induced. But his studies, and the reason for his studies are fascinating. And the upshot is, medically speaking, cultivating gratitude can help heal you, and can likely prevent some disease.

(Indeed, my cultivate gratitude prescription was part of my "keep-your-body-cancer-unfriendly" action plan).

So I chose my journal, one with textured recycled paper and a pear on the front. I have only written in it for three days now. I cannot say my mindset has changed in any deep way.

But here is what is fascinating to me. The journal, where I simply list three things a day that I am grateful for, is teaching me so much about myself. It is separating out for me what I believe makes me happy, from what really makes me happy. It is breaking down my own mythology on some level, about who I am and what I want.

Ok, perhaps I am jumping the gun here. But here is an example. I am the kind of person who limps along with slightly broken things for too long. As long as it still works, I am OK. I do not go take care of it.

But in my three days I found that fixing things, or getting things fixed, is actually something that makes me very happy. Something that tops my day.

Maybe I need to pay more attention to that.

Also, writing these things down, only three, reminds me of how much joy my children really bring me. Every day. I mean, on some level, sure, I know that. But every day, something that one or both of them does, ranks as the highlight of my day. Top three.

In a world that does not place much value on motherhood, mothering, the value of mothering, just this simple listing of daily gratitude reminds me: whatever kids do for anyone else, my boys bring me joy every single day. Not in the abstract. Not in the "but of course they do" way, in a concrete, deep, ephemeral, "that-was-a-beautiful-moment" kinduva way.

That is a sweet, sweet lesson.

What about you. Have you ever kept a gratitude journal?

Did it feel frivolous? Interesting? Did it change you over time?

Do tell!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

For Beauty, Click Here!


Take the magical mystery tour, and get hooked on Lisa's gardening, photographs, and life-lessons found in a vegetable patch.

A Wrinkle in Time

Did you read this book when you were young? Did you love it?

I was a fantasy child, and I read every Madeline L'Engle book I could get my hands on. When I think of my childhood, the images from her books, and the emotions, are among the most vivid for me.

At last Theo is reading real books, and I can pick great books, and he can read, or listen, and delight.

Sometimes he disappoints me, and I find it hard to not take it personally. He did not like the Narnia books, which I lived in, from age 8-11.

"I like them, Mommy," he said, trying not to hurt my feelings. "It's just that when I stop reading, I don't really want to go back and keep going."

But when I started reading him Madeline L'Engle, he was hooked. And so was I, all over again. In fact, I confess here, that the other night, after reading a chapte, it took all my self control to not continue reading on without him after I tucked him in.

I indulged my L'Engle mania by logging in and reading her biography, and her quotes, and everything I could find. In the end, think I just loved her spirit. I loved her obsession with God, with good and evil, with love, with science, with adventure. In her I find all the passions that drive me. I love that she chose to write these highly complex stories for children, because as one of her quotes said, If your subject matter is too difficult for adults, write for children instead.

With all the talk of tesseracts and time travel, I wondered if Theo would dig it. But he is as hooked as I am. And how I love him for it. What a wonderful thing when you finally hit a book that delighted you as a child, and you see it delighting your child. Did my L'Engle reading experiece leave a genetic imprint, passed on to him?

Madeline L'Engle would say it could. And she would find the science to back it up. Then put it in a book you could not put down.

Oh Glory Be!

Last week, stuffed into my son's communication folder, among the flotsam and jetsam of school life, was a paper advertising organic produce. Organized by SEE LA (Which I had never heard of) I could go on-line, set up an account, order organic veggies, and pick them up with my child every Wednesday in a green, recyclable bag. I am such a procrastinator, a-great-idea-I-will-do-it-later-for-sure, kinduva gal, but I was intrigued, so I set up my Paypal account and ordered. The next day, when I went to pick up my children (mentally brainstorming about what I was going to cook for dinner as I walked into school) Marguerita Mees, our glorious school chef, Edible Schoolyard leader and cooking teacher ran up to me with a bag of veggies, an armful of spinach bursting out of the top.

I was delighted! Inside I found all of what is pictured here, plus green beans, brown mushrooms, and an onion, which we used last night to make stir fry. Everything is fresh, in season, and delicious. Inside the bag I also found a list of recipes and ideas to cut up and use the vegetables I had--a Moroccan spinach and chickpea stew, and a persimmon and pomegranate seed salad--for example.

The bounty was so beautiful they inspired my young artist, Theo, who laid them out on the table and began a still-life (aerial perspective), pictured here.

The thing is, they were so beautiful you DID want to paint them. But my favorite thing is that it was so effortless, so affordable, so in-season, and so full of surprises. It is like a treasure. I couldn't wait to peek inside. I don't even have to go to the farmer's market. Now it is coming to me.

You can also order per person, a bag full of enough vegetable and fruit servings to satisfy the USDA recommended amounts for a family of four. Brilliant!

Are we the only school to have this service so far? I don't know, but I am determined to get them some publicity.

In the meantime, I am grateful for the new combos, the push to get out of my normal veggie rut, and the clever delivery system.

Hey, all you mamas out there. If you could pick up your groceries when you picked up your kids, would you do it?

I am truly curious.

Leave you comments here!

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Simple Step

As part of my healing journey to overcome my PTSD surrounding my friend's death from breast cancer, and in turn, that experience's effect on my own breast screenings, I am trying to meditate daily. (All for a story, TBA)

The biggest lesson so far, for me, is to calm my monkey mind, but also, to focus on the present, and not spin out all the "what-ifs" that constantly fill my mind--both good and bad. It is to tell myself each day, I did my best with the information I had. (Then I actually have to do my best.)

But for anyone who wants to meditate, who has had "try meditation" on their to-do list for, Oh, say, 10 years, but cannot quite make themselves sit down and do it, here is a fantastic list of simple, downloadable meditations.

They are so short there is no excuse. You do not even have to get up from your chair. Or exert effort. You just download, play, and a soothing voice (that of Diana Winston, who really was a Buddhist nun in Asia for awhile, but now helps teach medicine at the MARC center at UCLA) will guide you through the steps.

Try it.

Tell me how it goes.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Digging to Freedom

I hate bills. I hate paying them. I hate opening the envelopes. I hate writing checks. I hate it all.

I practice extreme avoidance and have probably payed enough money in overdue fees in my life to buy a small cottage on the water along the Central Coast of California.

My exceedingly conscientious husband with a five star credit rating has helped me. I am in charge of paying bills now, that is part of the marital duty division of labor. I can't screw up my family's credit rating and bankrupt us with overdue fees, even if I felt fine doing it to myself.

I am better. But I still hate it.

The pile of junk mail and bills grows in a pile by the door and I skirt it. I literally won't touch it, until I know that if I do not dive in we will be in trouble. I have tried to trick myself. I bought a very pretty tray to stack the ugly bills and make them less intimidating, even decorative. I have picked evenings I will do the bills. I promise myself I can watch some really trashy television after I complete them. Still, I just want to run.

Today was the day. I had moved this unpleasant task from one day to the next all week.

So I sat down, put on great uplifting music, filled my coffee cup with my favorite and best espresso, and began ripping and tearing and filing and paying.

It wasn't even that bad.

Now I am done, and Oh My Goodness Me I feel free.

To do is always better than to avoid.

I know this. But I must battle tens of generations of procrastinators in my genes to overcome my need, my desire, my compulsion to NOT DEAL.

But it is done. And now my desk is clean, my head is clear, and I am ready to be productive.

If only I could remember this feeling so I did not get mired in it every two weeks.

Any advice from my organized, motivated, clutterbusting friends? How can I break this dreadful cycle?

My Man, In Miniature

My husband is a delight in a social situation. He is keenly observant and takes it all in. He has on ongoing patter (whispered in my ear) that is so devastatingly on target that it makes me giggle wherever I am, and he takes away snippets of conversation that are better than the best gossip column.

When I was a reporter I would take him to events and set him free and he would come back with some of the best anecdotes of the evening.

Last night I went to an art show/cocktail party by one of my favorite friends. We know her art, we own her art, we will buy more of her art, but we were there to support, to love. I dragged my boys to this fashionable gathering, because it was the only way I could go. So there we were, squished into a tiny boutique on Melrose, me, and my two boys.

I stationed them at the counter with a brownie, told them not to knock over any mannequins, and set off to air kiss, meet and greet, and congratulate my friend.

Fifteen minutes later we were out the door. A platter had crashed to the floor near the expensive clothing on the way out, but it wasn't my well-behaved boys, it was a Dad! Bad Dad!

We walked out the door and I asked the boys what they thought. (They love the artist.)

"Well, there wasn't very much art for an art show," said Benji. "I thought there would be more art."

So Jonathan. Cutting to the chase. The truth in one devastating sentence.

"The woman who owned the store said she had never had so many people in her store in her whole life," said Theo.

The snoop and the truth-teller. My husband, divided in two, genetically spread out over my two boys.

I told Jonathan he doesn't even need to come any more. I have him beside me, in the form of Theo and Benji.

But of course, I do. I love the original.

And the little ones delight me as much as the Big One.

My Boys.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Rain Rain Go Away

It is misty, foggy, wet, rainy. I am moist and soggy, like the Scot I genetically am.

My skin likes it. My soul hates it.

But I will curl up and get cozy.

Off to buy some chicken and veggies to make chicken and biscuits--the perfect winter meal.

Come to dinner if you can!

What To Think?

Last night as I lay down to go to sleep, Jonathan threw the latest Atlantic on the bed. On the cover?

"Brave Thinkers."

A series of stories about those within various professions who dared to challenge the conventional wisdom. I should say as an aside that these people were not thinking small, but big. Still, I couldn't wait to read.

The first and lead Brave Thinker story was this one, about a medical researcher by the name of Ioannidas.

This Harvard trained Greek Doctor and researcher basically calls all of Western Medicine on their flawed medical studies. And he backs it up with statistics, where they went wrong, and why our medical journals and peer review medical system do not work, and keep other researchers from calling anyone on it. He concludes, with a lot of research that you can read in the article, that most of the medical studies published in major medical journals is flat out wrong. He also points out that many doctors are still operating on information published in those journals up to 12 years later.

And he is not just talking about disreputable studies. He is talking about gold standard medical trials, considered the Holy Grail of medicine, published in the premiere medical journals.

To read this story is both exhilarating and disturbing. And for everyone who really cares about their health, it will remind you again to listen and research and listen and advocate and question and yes, probably at some level, go with your own informed decision.

Just read the story. It will blow your mind.

What To Think?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Thinking Small (but Real!)

When I was in Japan working for the Los Angeles Times, I studied shiatsu on the weekend. I studied with a very ordinary old man on a top floor in a typically ugly Tokyo apartment building. No temple or New Age music, or incense or Buddhas in the corner. Each Saturday I would trek to some unknown station, march through the garish mini-mall, and ride up to my teacher's floor.

The class was simple. He showed me how to do the shiatsu on his wife. Then he had me lie down to feel what it felt like. Then he had me try it on him. Mixed in with it all were many powerful lessons--about bodies, minds, life.

At the end of my class he gave me my certificate. He told me I had great talent as a healer. I could intuit the problems, and bond with the patient. Few people could do that. But, he said, I was too vulnerable to their sadness, their illness, their misery. In effect, he said, I was too open. I let everything in--the good AND the bad. But the bad weakened me. To be successful I needed to build up my walls a little, so I could walk through the world and do what I needed to do. I needed to control what I let in, so I could still feel the problems, but not let it debilitate me.


That was my last class. But his words have stuck with me.

I know that one of my strengths as a writer is that I can intuit the feelings of people, sometimes better than they can themselves. I am empathetic to an unhealthy degree. But usually that benefits me.

But even when it is not shiatsu, the problems of the world seep into me. I read about Obama and his efforts, and the Republicans and their stubborness just to be jerks, and I feel hopeless. I read about LAUSD, and their resistance to change, at the price of the students, and I feel hopeless. I look at our economy, our environment, our city, and it all seems so messed up and tangled that I get very depressed.

I read all the newspaper on Sunday and that is how I felt. I almost took to bed.

But Jonathan, my relentlessly positive husband took me in his arms and talked to me.

He reminded me of this: Yes, perhaps the political system, the economic system, and the educational system are all F.U.B.A.R..
But I cannot dwell on that and let myself be immobilized by sorrow and depression and hopelessness, which I am prone to do. I must think small and pure. We could not change LAUSD, never, and to try to do it would have been foolish. The system must be blown up. But we could help start a charter school. And that charter school, through example, can inspire parents and challenge LAUSD, and make the intractable institutions stop and take a look. It is not changing the world, but it is making one perfect corner that gives hope to everyone who sees it, and changes the lives of those who are in it.

In the words of my shiatsu teacher, I cannot let all of that in. I must focus on what I can do, and do it.

I must see the problems of the big institutions, but I must let them be inspiration for change, not grist for immobilizing depression.

I must build my foundation so I am strong enough to not get knocked over by the bad news, so I can focus on making the small, beautiful, inspiring changes that make a difference.

I need to just start small, and beautiful, no compromises in the vision. That is all I can do.

And that is a lot.

I will look to: Alice Waters, my aunt and uncle who started the Ironman, Allison Cohen, who started a newspaper, Marya and Jay, who started our charter school, Deepak Chopra, who has changed the way we think about medicine, the woman who built OZ in the Hollywood Hills.

How about you? Is there someone doing something small, beautiful and perfect that inspires you?

Do tell!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

So Long for Now, Emperor's College

I dove in. I committed. I paid my tuition and bought a pile of extraordinarily expensive books on Chinese Medicine (on

I went in with an open mind, ready to do it.

But after my second class I was not impressed. And my Hasidic Jewish Traditional Chinese Medicine teacher haunted my dreams. I got used to the constant Jewish allusions and the Hebrew to describe Chinese concepts. It no longer even rattled me.

What got to me was his direct claims, and constant insinuations about the powers of Chinese Medicine. You have to remember, I did not go in as a skeptic, but a believer. I know that TCM doctors have been fighting for recognition, to work in Integrative Medicine settings, and to overcome a bias, on the part of western doctors, to believe that most doctors of alternative medicine border on quacks and are sloppy with science.

I have fought with editors to take this profession seriously, and I have been impressed with acupuncture in treating nausea during pregnancy, mood swings do to my menstrual cycle, and pain in my knee, which a western doctor said would never ever improve.

But over the course of two classes our teacher either insinuated or claimed that 1) he had helped cure a young man's homosexuality by giving him more yang (his voice dropped, he started to like sports, he was less effeminate) 2) he helped a woman with cancer, with his help it was in remission, when her orthodox jewish husband forbade him to continue his treatments because the treatments were too intimate, three months later the woman died and 3) he treated a mongoloid child and after many treatments the child no longer appeared mongoloid. This is because acupuncture and TCM can change DNA. When pressed on the topic by some of the biochemists and medical school bound students in the class he backed off and it became clear he did not understand the difference between a gene and DNA.

He thanked us for challenging him. But the alarming thing was to hear him make these sloppy claims which stick in your mind, without a real understanding of what he was saying.

So I am withdrawing. Mostly because the time and the distance made the class much more complicated for my family than I anticipated. But if my teacher had been more rigorous and less sloppy I think I would have muscled through.

It is so hard for me to quit, so terribly terribly hard. But I hold in my heart that the reason I was taking this course was to explore the idea of becoming an Alternative Medicine Doc. This class will be required if I formally enter any program. But what I now know is that I need to do much more investigation of any school I might enroll in, of their classes, their professors, and the scientific/medical rigor of their program.

That would serve me better than sitting in on a class.

I loved the material. But I could not get past the rest of it.

For now, I'm done.

Perhaps I will sign up again with a different teacher for a class during the day.

Emotional. And disappointing.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Mommy Brain Overload

For four years I have focused on my children, my husband, my home. My life has had tight parameters, and while I was busy, sometimes overwhelmed, I was also completely independent. Mostly, my life was quiet, my stage small.

Now I am getting back out there. I am taking a class, meeting with people I want to hire me, doing work that is new, not natural to me, and a total challenge, trying to convince people they should pay me to write for them, and doing all the research that leads up to that, and reporting on a story that I care deeply about and requires me to get emotionally involved to be a success. All at once.

As a result my brain is on fire. Part of this is great. It feels wonderful to be jumping in, getting out there, remembering what I can do. But partially I feel overstimulated. My neurons are firing so fast I can barely keep up. This is fun. But I lay my head down at night and my synapses are still firing so fast and furious I can't get them to stop. I am tired, but I cannot turn off my brain. I lay in bed until midnight or beyond unable to calm myself.

Not even exercise or meditation can slow down my racing mind.

After such a quiet life it is like being on speed. I like it, but I can see I also need to get my brain accustomed to a certain level of stress, excitement, new information.

I love being a mother. I believe being a mother brings unbelievable power and skill to whatever you do afterward. I do not believe your brain atrophies as a mother. I do, however, believe that you get used to a quiet life. Revving myself back up the speed of 21st century life is hard.

I know that in a couple of weeks my emotions will calm down. But for now, what a strange sensation this is. Welcome, yes. But also intense.

If any of you working mothers out there have any brilliant advice (particularly those of you who have stopped working for awhile completely, then dived back in) please please please pass it along.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Unexpected. But OK? Or Not OK?

I have christened this six month period the Age of Exploration. So as I continue to freelance I am delving into other areas, like the dilettante I am. Last week I signed up for a class at Emperor's College in Santa Monica: Fundamentals of Oriental Medicine. In this four unit class I will learn the basic tenets of TCM.

So nervously I drove to my class last week and wondered if I was insane. The class was packed, with everyone from recent grads to middle aged people reinventing themselves.

We sat in the class anxiously waiting for our teacher arrrive. Finally he did, and what a shock. Our Chinese Medicine teacher was a Hasidic Jew, dressed in tallis and vest and hat and sporting a huge bushy beard that obscured his lips. I wondered if I was in the wrong place. I was so confused.

But I went with it. This is L.A.--a giant mash-up of cultures. Why shouldn't a devout Hasidic Jew teach Chinese Medicine? He was warm and enthusiastic and told us his religious beliefs would NOT bleed into his teaching, or influence it. Good to hear.

I scanned the materials. There was as much Hebrew as Chinese, but again, I thought, I am cool with this.

He made us all introduce ourselves and say why we were there. The stories were amazing. There was a female pilot, a former military intelligence officer, a middle school teacher, a German corporate type who had moved to Santa Monica to begin again, a dancer, an athlete, a former social worker from Virginia. There was a doctor, a chiropractor, and a lot of women of Asian descent who had grown up around Chinese Medicine--either loving it or hating it.

Scattered through the class were horror stories--tales of western medicine going awry. I wondered if doctors ever see these patients whose lives they ruin. The ones they subscribe a medication to, or do an operation wrong on? Are those people ever followed in statistics? Interviewed? Or are they simply invisible? I was suprised.

Our Hasidic teacher proceeded to teach. I have been blessed with the most extraordinary teachers in my life. I never thought about it, I guess, but every graduate program I have attended the professors were inspiring and top notch. Even the bad ones were good. Our teacher was fine. He was warm and enthusiastic and threw out long strings of New Age platitudes--something I normally devour--but it was a lot to take. I can get this in the Self Help aisles. I was here to learn facts! He did some hands on demonstrations, which I liked. He is open. a good man.

He read aloud to us his ten principals of Traditional Jewish Medicine, and told us how Yin and Yang corresponded with many tenets of Kabbalah. He finished the night with a tale of a patient--a 23 year old "boy" who came to him for help. The boy said he was also receiving counseling. What for, our Hasidic teacher and doctor asked him. (The patient was Hasidic, too). The boy had homosexual tendencies. Our Hasidic teacher said that when he did his diagnosis it turned out the boy had a "yang" deficiency, yang being action, male, sun, power. He gave him a little yang (in the form of herbs and treatments) and he said he heard the boys voice drop from effeminate to masculine. The boy said he had more energy. He felt it surging through his body. When he talked to him a week later, the boy, who had always loved art, now expressed an interest in sports.

He left the story hanging there--with the suggestion that TCM offered a possible "cure" for homosexuality.

The class could not speak. We did not even know how to respond. The middle school teacher finally choked out that he found the story offensive, and his attitude very similar to fundamental christians. The teacher backed off, said he loved homosexuals, respected them, whatever. This is just what he saw.

The class ended and I stumbled out into the rainy night.

I have a week to decide what I want to do. I want to learn about the Fundamentals of Chinese Medicine, but I am wary of an institution that puts someone with such strong religious beliefs in charge of an important intro. class. More importantly, I am trying to decide if I can overcome my feelings about the low level prosletyzing in my class to get to the meat of the material. I can read. I will learn the material.

I just don't know.

Any thoughts, friends?

Friday, October 1, 2010


I make no secret of it here. I am on the path to re-invention--trying to figure out what I will do next. How I will contribute to the world, and also to the financial security of my family.

So as I was winding up that gorgeous mountain road, described in previous blog post, an incredibly powerful feeling came over me. Strong, like a visitation, or a message. I am not trying to scare my non spiritual readers here. I am sure my life is so busy that any deeper thought I have simply has no time or space to bubble to the surface. Here, on this mountain road alone, I relaxed, and up it bubbled.

I should back up and say that I had lowered my standards. I actually sent out an inquiry to a health trade magazine for a job I felt grossly overqualified for. I wondered if I could stomach the bias that would come with promoting products I did not believe in, but told myself we need money, I had to try. No response, so I was spared deep thought on the subject.

But as I spun up this mountain road listening to Michael Franti and friends, who I can only describe as a musician who does positive, socially active rock. Corny sounding, but also refreshing. Hard to explain. It was Nat who had introduced me to this guy. And he has grown on me.

And suddenly I felt with conviction: I am so lucky to be alive. My friend wanted to be alive. She would have killed to have the difficult decisions I am facing now. Killed! And she would have insisted on trying to do something worthwhile in the world. Her standards were so high they may have helped kill her. But I loved her for it. I loved that she could not buy a roll of toilet paper without knowing whether it was the most environmentally gentle toilet paper around. I focus on cost and whether the toilet paper will clog up our old pipes.

I had been agonizing about which route to go: pure money, or bigger, harder, more rewarding, and definitely a job that contributes SOMEHOW in a positive way to the world--and I can see that every day. Clearly. In my work. No rationalizations necessary to convince myself of that.

And I was clear. I must stick to my ideals. This does not mean that commerce cannot enter into the plan. But I must set my sights high and aim to do good--however that turns out. It means I may not be a cog in a corporation with questionable motives. It means it is time to strike out and do my best.

Sorry to be so secretive--can't reveal more here, now. But the effect was powerful.

And two days later, when I descended into the 113 degree heat in Los Angeles, I knew I was on a path. No guarantees of success, or wild financial windfalls (tho they ARE possible) but I know the direction I need to go. For now.

Feels good.


Do you remember your dreams when you were in college of what adulthood would be? Do you remember the things you thought would make you happy?

I remember. I remember sitting in Harvard Square eating a chocolate croissant and sipping coffee and reading the New York Times, and feeling so extravagant and grown up, and thinking, if I could have this, just this, every day, I would be happy.

Then, I remember how I loved hiking with some of my best friends: Natalie, Athena, Jill. We hiked all over California. We backpacked and got lost and had grand and crazy adventures. I did not live here then, nor had I ever gotten to see National Parks. Those trips made me insanely happy. And then, I thought, if I can always return to these beautiful places with people I love, I will be happy. If I can sing and tramp along a trail and talk about life, that would be enough.

But life goes on, and it starts to get confusing.

Well, this past weekend, I was in Idyllwild. Due to circumstances too mundane to go into here, I was driving up alone. I sat through traffic and incredible heat, but finally I was off the 60 and driving across huge plains and up into the mountains. I had the windows rolled down and the hot, piney wind was ripping through my car. I was driving fast and listening to the Michael Franti station on Pandora, and every curve brought a new spectacular view of mountains that look like the Sierras but are only two hours from L.A.. My heart was soaring. And I remember that period, when I said, if one day I can have a car, with a great stereo system, and I can roll down the windows and listen to my favorite music and sing along at the top of my lungs, then I will be happy.

And you know what was weird. I am 43 years old, life is so much more complicated, but those moments climbing the mountains listening to that great music, knowing that the next day I would take my water bottle and hike up to the highest peak and see forever, I was happy. I was so extraordinarily happy.

And I wondered: Did we know better, more clearly, what made us happy when we were 20 than we do now? Do our dreams and our happiness barometers get scrambled by life in the city, worries about bills, status, our shifting notions of success, our kids? I always think "No." I know myself and I am true to that.

But driving along, feeling the purest joy, I thought, I have forgotten. I have forgotten that of course I care about meaningful work, and a nice house, and social activisim and the rest of my grown up life. But beyond all of that, those simple pleasures of life that thrilled me when I was 21 still do make my heart sing. I still love an espresso, a perfect chocolate croissant and a few great newspaper articles for breakfast. I still love the parks and feel like the wild places in California never, ever let me down. I love these parks and mountains like John Muir. They inspire me and leave me in awe. And I still love that feeling of freedom that comes from blowing down a highway on a hot day with the windows rolled down, blasting your favorite tunes, singing at the top of your lungs, and breathing in the mountain air.

It's just good to know.