Sunday, July 31, 2011


My yearly mammogram was magical.

Sounds crazy, I know. How could a procedure most women dread more than, well—almost anything—be the high point of my week? It was all because of Heidi.

She was chatting away in a valiant effort to distract me from the ridiculous process of mashing each breast between two plastic plates in order to record a digital image. Pushing the gown from my left shoulder, she caught sight of my butterfly tattoo.

After a bit of oohhing and aaahhing, she asked what butterflies meant to me. As I stumbled through a lame reply, I realized I hadn’t thought about it in the 10 or so years since I’d walked into a tattoo parlor in South Beach with a sketch in my pocket.

Heidi listened as she angled my arm and shoulder into a position that only a contortionist might find comfortable. Then she said, “I love butterflies,” and pointed to a pretty enamel brooch pinned to her smock. “I wear one every day.”

I asked what the significance was for her. And that’s when the magic began. She said that her young son died several years ago, and on the morning of the funeral she went out to sit in her garden. Minutes later a single blue butterfly landed on her arm. “I’d never seen a blue one before,” she said. “I sat really still, hoping it would stay. But it flew off as suddenly as it had arrived.” Wearing the butterfly jewelry reminds her that life is a continuous transformation. “Things are always changing. We must appreciate the beauty and wonder of each moment, because it won't last.”

Rubbing the goosebumps on my arms, I thanked her for sharing her story. But later, as I dressed to leave, it struck me that her biggest gift was inviting me to share mine. I’d gotten my tattoo at a time when, after years of unhappiness, I was slowly breaking free from the conventions I'd let define me. I took more risks. Lived with a sense of abandon. And experimented with new forms of self-expression—from dying my hair red to competing in a triathlon.

So the butterfly symbolizes my metamorphosis from a good girl who always did what was expected to a woman who was far less predictable. And like the butterfly that suddenly appeared in Heidi’s garden, I’m sure it’s no coincidence that she showed up just now to remind me.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Today is Jake's birthday.

Unlike many of the events that fill the pages of my past, his birth day is fully preserved in my memory. To say it was one of the pivotal moments of my life is to both overstate--and understate--the facts. I wasn't really ready for him, although he was well-planned. I experienced the guilt and fear of failing to feel an instant bond of motherly love--and yet his arrival immediately, permanently, altered my life.

Over the past 28 years, he has become a smart, silly, guitar-strumming, chef knife wielding, sports nut that I love being around. A strong, decent, warm-hearted young man that I'm proud to call my son.

Today, as I waited impatiently on the wrong line at Whole Foods, I thought about a creative exercise I recently did. I was supposed to think about something that gave me joy, then create an image of it on a small card to carry in my wallet. If I found myself in a difficult or aggravating situation, I could simply pull out the card and--ta da!--my anger or frustration would disappear.

What popped into my mind was answering the phone and hearing Jake's voice on the other end. Failing to come up with a suitable image, I just wrote the word "Joy" on the card and stuck it in my bag.

Standing in the slow-moving line, I remembered the card in my wallet. As soon as I saw the word I'd written, Jake's voice was in my ear. My mood shifted in an instant, magically lifted by a wave of love. And I gave thanks for the precious gift of my son--and of being his mother.

Monday, July 4, 2011


This holiday weekend is the one where I declare my independence from driving.

Actually, I refuse to go to any of the places where July 4th revelers traditionally go. Like the beach, ballgames, parades, and fireworks displays. It's got nothing to do with being patriotic (or not.) And it's got everything to do with sitting in traffic jams and feeling claustrophobic in large crowds.

Instead, on Saturday I went to the Metropolitan Museum with Jake (his first time there!) and oohed and aaahed over the Guitar Heroes exhibit. Then Jim & I entertained friends with a yummy grill-less (and meatless) dinner. Sunday we wandered through Storm King in the rain and fell in love with a few new sculptures--Stephen Talasnik’s Stream: A Folded Drawing and Zhang Huan’s Three-Legged Buddha, a 28-foot-tall steel-and-copper piece that weighs 12 tons.

And today--the day we give thanks for those who liberated this country from tyranny--I liberated myself from the burger-and-hot-dogs routine, experimenting with a tempeh and mung bean recipe from my new favorite cookbook, Super Natural Every Day.

So as fireworks pop and sparkle outside my window, here's to declaring our independence from the tried-and-true. And celebrating our freedom to live life as we choose.