gratitude-a-thon day 2054: everything changes: emerson park

I lived in a converted brick Victorian condo when my son was born. A perfectly renovated three-story walk up, so beautifully and stylishly restored, I wanted to marry it. When I first saw it, I said to my husband, “Nothing bad could ever happen to us if we lived here.” But of course, I was wrong (I lost my mom to brain cancer, my mother-in-law to her high school boyfriend and my fertility to endometriosis), but loads of good things happened to us there too, just as I’d thought, like (after a three year battle with my female anatomy) I gave birth to my sun (and yes I mean sun), Jake.

We didn’t have a yard at my perfect little condo, but what we did have, just one long block away, was Emerson Park, named after Ralph Waldo and boasting scads of green lawn, flowers, decades-old trees, a sprinkler to run around in and a playground with swings, slides and climbing structures, featuring a sandbox with a colorful pirate ship made of wood. Argh!

I had no idea, when I stepped foot into the park for the first time, that it would become a second home, a place for me to, bleary-eyed, connect with other mom’s to find out if I was at all normal, or if my child was, to make friends that would be in my life, until forever, to eat dinner on hot nights with a picnic basket of great food, or a pizza delivery and lots of juice boxes and wine, to gather for birthday parties, to discuss sleepless nights, politics and potty training. I never suspected this would become a place for celebrations, last days of school, play dates and even a source of much needed and familiar comfort on the night of 9/11 when we all wondered if the world was ending.

My children played there, peed there, partied there. It was at this Town Center of sorts, that my kids learned to share toys, to pump their legs to make a swing work, to throw and kick balls, to practice soccer, to climb without falling, to run fast, to ride their bicycles. On that ground, my children made friends, learned about being good citizens, fell down and very importantly mastered how to get back up.

And so it was with a pit in my stomach that I watched a renovation of the park begin a year ago (when Jake was two, we moved just three blocks away from my original condo–even closer to the park, which was where Ally was born and our love affair with Emerson continued). They dug up every corner of the space, leaving not a trace of the original land my children had, like time-lapse photography, grown up on. I felt a certain sadness as I’d walk my dog around the perimeter, watching each phase of the massive construction, while movie clips of the past popped into my head– the time Ally fell off the top of the climbing structure and had to have stitches in her you know what, the castle cake at a party that took up an entire picnic table, the time Jake had to compromise over a beloved truck in the sandbox, the days of worry I had when I felt I was working too much, or not enough. I secretly wanted some of the dirt–dirt my kid’s tiny feet had touched. It seemed a brutal daily reminder that my children were no longer little and that I had no idea where all that time had gone.

At 23 and 20, my children’s childhood is over, and so too, is the original Emerson Park. Interestingly, and perhaps, appropriately, they seemed to coincide. Don’t get me wrong, it opened a few nights ago, with loads of celebration and it is gorgeous! The town did a fabulous job of updating and beautifying. I walked through with my third baby (Riley, my dog) last night and had a smile on my face right up until I exited. There they were, the new crop of Jake and Ally’s, accompanied by worried parents, just like me, who wondered if they were doing it all ok, how they might get their kids to sleep through the night, what pre-school they should go to, glorying in the site of their toddlers toddling, climbing, swinging, pretending, while fending off the deep exhaustion of parenthood.

Twenty million sippy cups of gratitude for what that park has given to me. And even though it’s all spanking new, I’ll remember the old landscape and knowingly smile at the new generation who presides over it now. “I was once you, and you will be me,” I want to say to the mommy’s, but they’ll find that out soon enough.

Sooner than they can ever imagine.

It’s 3:45 A.M. I am in the throes of jet lag. I arrived home from the indescribably gorgeous Tuscan countryside last night, a zombie, weighed down in bags and chocolate (and a few extra pounds around my middle).  I could barely tell my family about my trip because I was in that sliver of space between asleep and awake. I made it until 8:40, when I had to call it, falling into my bed like a dead weight. I think I was moaning from the pleasure of my cool sheets, my own mattress, or maybe it was just the pasta coma I was still in.

The trip was to honor my yoga teacher, Roni Brissette’s 20th year of teaching. But it was so much more than just an anniversary soiree. Spending a week with people who you only know in a classroom, where they are trying to perfect their Bhujangasana and  Utthita Parsvakonasana, speeds up intimacy. I left Val D’Orcia with 15 new friends.


Something interesting about the makeup of this little travel group was that we ranged in age from 39 to 79. What was fascinating about this was how well we all got along and genuinely liked one another. Might this be a way to accept and respect aging–to have lots of friends at different stages? Am I behind–does everyone already do this?! Really, it was kind of brilliant and I learned as much from the 39-year-old (Lana for president) as the 79-year-old.

Rarely do things equal your expectations, but this trip blew mine out of the pasta pot. The combo of being in a secluded, sophisticated and subtly lux farmhouse, taking day trips to small and postcard-like towns, eating sublime food around-the-clock, walking for miles, laughing our faces off and participating in daily yoga classes was a recipe for vacation nirvana. Perfect, I tell you (you know, except for I wasn’t sharing it with my family and for that I did have some Catholic guilt passed down from my mother’s lineage–thank you Rotellos).









The flavor of Tuscany is different, oh for God sakes, no pun intended. It’s not just the truffle pasta (although everything is the truffle pasta), it’s the importance of not only food but good and beautiful food. It’s the flowers and herbs and vegetables that are planted everywhere and honored like Gods. It’s the vibrant language echoing down through the streets, the quaint villages–every square inch a history lesson, the aged patina, the cobblestones that would blow your mind apart if they could sit down and tell you about their lives over some vino.

There’s not one thing in the world like traveling to set your mind on fire, to challenge your curiosity, nourish an exhausted soul. Italy hits you from all sides, like one of those fabulous showers with multiple heads. It has looks and brains. It honors its monumental history while keeping you firmly entrenched in the day. Dolce vita prevails, not just because everything is set to make it so, but because Italians know this is the secret of life–to enjoy the good stuff, to eat the rich pasta without thinking calories, to gorge on garden fresh vegetables, to tear a hunk of crusty bread and smother it in olive oil, like you were smothering a baby in kisses. Drink the wine with lunch. There’s a siesta every afternoon–how civilized and gorgeous a way of living is that?



I have a muffin top of gratitude. This trip enriched every pore. I will never forget the generosity shown to me by people I barely knew, the eurphoric days of sunshine and pasta, the inability to escape beauty, the photo opportunities around every curve of winding road. It was a week of pure bliss, born of a love for an exceptional yoga teacher and person, which turned into so much more. How lucky to find myself in this situation, in this community of asanas and amazing, kick-ass humans. How lucky am I and how very, very grateful.







gratitude-a-thon day 2052: the pasta


Busting out the major gratitude for Italy. Where is the ugly in this place? I am thinking it doesn’t exist–here it seems the garbage is attractive. The renovated farmhouse we’re staying is situated inside of a postcard. I actually think I might still be asleep and dreaming when I wake up and step outside. But then I feel the dew on my feet and I find I’m really awake. As I write, a conference of exuberantly chatty birds are in the distance and the sheep are waking up and ready to be herded into the valley. It feels like they come out just for me–to give me a show.

We learned to make pasta last night. Simona showed us how to roll out our dough Twiggy-thin, which looked effortless in her hands and gave me an intense upper arm workout–Pasta Padasana–a new yoga pose. Simona then, like magic, turned her dough into bowties and linguine and a cornucopia of delectable shapes.


When our pasta was served (and fortunately nobody could tell which were my mishappen noodles), I became a human Electrolux. Not even kidding in the least (I have witnesses). I simply could not get my fill of the homemade pasta. I had six servings, almost half a platter by myself, and still, I could have eaten more. I had to force myself to leave the table (mostly so I wouldn’t eat it).

While the unspeakable is happening in the U.S., I am trying to ignore it until I arrive back to the shit show in 48 hours and just nourish myself with the dolce vita of this place, these people and did I mention, the pasta. Gratitudine.


gratitude-a-thon day 2051: Namaste in Tuscany


A pano of where I’m sitting right this minute. Internet service is tricky, so this is all there is for now, but oh, there will be more. 


It is practically impossible to express the 1,398,973 volumes of gratitude I have this morning.

I am in Italy.

‘Nuff said, right?

But no, there’s more. I am on a yoga retreat celebrating my most exceptional teacher’s 20th studio year (Roni Brissette Yoga)  with a stupendous and interesting group of people, put together by Morso Soggiorno, owned by the warm, exuberantly passionate travel planner/social worker/chef, Linda Plazonja who, while being able to do almost anything, can also drive a nine seat van with a stick on the hairpin turns of Tuscany like she was competing in the Indy 500 and winning. If you want to take a trip that’s beautifully curated, she is most definitely your girl (I would be remiss not to mention her funny husband, Jonathan, because he’s a hands-on part of the company as well).

The hotel we are staying at is an old farmhouse in Contigliano that has been renovated down to the pencil. To. The. Pencil. It’s both rustic, sophisticated and more perfectly appointed than the human body. I cannot find fault. Every time I think I wish they had this, there it is, and in the most stylish version that exists.


The patchwork view surrounds us on all sides–rolling hills of farmland, in verdant green and varying hues dotted with lines of the Italian Cypress trees,  so synonymous with the area. There are fields of orange poppies, light brown rolled bails of hay, white cows and herds of singing sheep. And we seem to own this valley–there appear to be no other people anywhere near us.

The first day we arrived, I became very sick with what I now believe was food poisoning, but thought might very well be the flu (Toilette sightseeing was not on my agenda for this trip, however there I was). But after sleeping 13 hours straight and having depleted whatever badness was in me, I woke up yesterday and felt just fine. So, that alone is a big pasta sized plate of gratitude right there.

The food so far can be summed up in one word for me: truffles. More later (a few pounds later).

I’ve not traveled without my husband in, well, maybe forever. And while I wish I was sharing all this beauty with him, I am in the best company and enjoying every millisecond (and morsel of pasta).

gratitude-a-thon day 2050: kate spade


My little square black nylon Kate Spade evening bag made me feel like a sophisticated and worldly adult, when I was anything, but. My mini backpacks, one black, one maroon featuring that iconic logo, made me feel sporty, but stylish. My oversized black diaper bag, large enough to hold the baby and diapers, made me feel like even though I was a now a mom, I could still be cool and fashionable. My multiple wallets, my cute beaded sandals. I loved everything Kate Spade. She was the sweet side of New York. The whimsical side of adulting.


The old logo. I loved this logo, still do.


I coveted that logo and all it meant to me. A feeling of being a modern and successful grown-up. Walking down Newbury Street to my jobs in advertising, I wore my bags and swung my arms and held my head up high. I hadn’t quite arrived, but my bag most certainly made me feel like I was on my way. I was nervous in her Back Bay store, like the proverbial kid in a candy shop. I carefully touched the nylon bags, ran my fingers lightly over the leather and quietly and internally swooned. Her quirky style, bold colors, natural and unfettered charm and that adorable updo, I still wear to this day, made Kate my aspiration. She was soaring, but she seemed down to earth.  She was cute, but reeked of a particular sophistication that her beautifully designed logo allowed you to share with her. She made coming-of-age bags. And then, so much more.



Fresh thinking, sophisticated and charm for days. 

I felt shaken by the news of her death yesterday, particularly saddened that it was a suicide. My daughter said, “How could she kill herself, she was so successful?” And of course, she was. And of course, that matters little if you’re depressed.



I loved my back packs.


Kate Spade’s creativity and brilliance helped me grow up. And as a grown up, I now say to you, if you’re feeling unendingly sad, or depressed and like it just won’t get better, or you know someone who is, make a call, reach out. Kate had a unique take on the world. So do we all. We need you. The number for the suicide prevention line is 1-800-273-8255.

Thanks, Kate.


gratitude-a-thon day 2049: reblog: if i were giving the graduation speech

Today is the graduation at BHS. This is the blog I wrote the day my daughter graduated. I thought I’d share again. I still and will always believe all it says.


If I were doing today’s BHS graduation speech:

Get a dog. Because when life feels like a tsunami is all up in your face, and the chickens get out of the coop, and you’re having a perpetual bad hair day, and not one thing is going right, that dog will still love you. And that love will sustain you to get back up and out and on with being amazing.

Love. Not money, or a $100,000 car, or a logo on your bag, or a house on the beach, well maybe a house on the beach, is the thing to strive for. Not just the love of a lover, but the love of friends, of community. Choose a career you have passion for, and make enough money to pay your bills, and be able to travel as much as you can, but more importantly, make relationships. All sorts of them. Because this is the money shot. Swear to god. This is everything.

Equal to love is resilience. Failure is not only inevitable, it’s the best professor you will ever have, better than your favorite elementary school teacher. It’s not how you trip, how you fall on your face and break your nose, how you stumble and get hit by a drone, it’s how you get back on your feet, how you stand again, the grace with which you straighten up and fly right. It’s in that space that growth occurs. It’s in that kind of misery that we truly morph into people who can stick our middle fingers up at anything that comes, and not only make it, but soar.

That’s it, class of 2016. Love and resilience. Now go. And fucking be amazing.