23 August, 2016

Summer Reads: A List

Knowing you have something good to read before bed,” Vladimir Nabokov wrote, “is among the most pleasurable of sensations.

What's one of the fastest, easiest, most delicious ways to be transported?
Read a stunner of a book.

When I was a a child, I always viewed books as a means of pure, unadulterated escapism—not like It’s-a-twister-head-for-the-storm-cellar escape, but more along the lines of flying out my window into the wider world (or hopping on a magic carpet, or a Eastern European freight train, or stowing away on a pirate ship, or ya know: whatever…)

Combine that sensation with that of summer vacation? Paradise itself. Knowing you’ve got a few fine books tucked away for the nook of a tree, the beach or a patch of green lawn is akin to absolute bliss.

One’s life can get bigger inside a good book. If you don’t have the time or money to go on that summer vacation of dreams, books can take you places! When I walk into a bookstore or a library (my absolute happiest of 'Happy Places'), I am flooded with the sensation that I am at a train station, boating dock, airport— a myriad of vessels just beckoning to carry me away… If you want to travel by book, know that the trains are always leaving the station, one just needs to hop on board.

Books take you further into the glorious mysteries of life than even the very deepest conversations or friendships, for they take you inside minds and hearts of strangers who become friends. For a moment, you not only see the world through the senses of another, you experience the profundity of their feelings as well. The art of being your most generous, visionary self is fed by empathy. I believe the closest we can get is in literature: where we experience the internal, psychological lives of others.

That said, I understand that summer is the last season one wants to sign up to puzzle through a pile of dense academic tomes, and to that end, I have done the legwork for you! Assembled here is a list of perfect summer reading with one goal in mind: worthwhile books that also promise wild entertainment.

Now that’s my kind of summer.

*

1. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
Summer is the perfect time to revisit children’s classics for there is always a day or two when you recall the ever-more-remote joys of “summer vacation,” when finishing a book (not on the “summer reading assignments” list), possibly in a tree, was the only major responsibility we had.

Norton Juster's bored and listless boy Milo is the reluctant protagonist of The Phantom Tollbooth— as much an adult as a children's book.  I'm a sucker for a brilliant pun, a detailed fantasy map, and lovable characters with snappy dialogue, and although I loved the narrative as an adolescent, the tale grows more meaningful as I got older thanks to absolutely genius wordsmithery and deep universal messages.

For Milo, everything's a bore. When a tollbooth mysteriously appears in his room, he drives through only because he's got nothing better to do…

But on the other side, things are different.
Milo visits the island of Conclusions (you get there by jumping)
Learns all about time from his companion “watchdog” named Tock
Makes noise with The Awful Din
Floats around with the Whether Man
Quells a war between Words and Numbers
…and even embarks on a quest to rescue Rhyme and Reason.

Somewhere along the way, Milo realizes something astonishing: life is far from dull.
In fact, it's exciting beyond his wildest dreams...

A gorgeous phantasmagoric adventure story with a very real heart.


2. The Matisse Stories by AS Byatt
Summer is all about lazy days, vacations, and short jaunts to not-the-city. To that end, it is my favo(u)rite time of year for the unsung hero of literature: the short story. There is nothing better than spending a weekend away and finishing a short story on your brief excursion (that is, incidentally, why I always leave collections of short stories in my guest room— I want my guests to have the joy of a completed story during their visit!)

In my opinion (and the opinion of, like, the known literary universe), there is no living short story writer like A.S. Byatt.:
A.S. Byatt (Antonia Susan Byatt) is internationally known for her novels and short stories. Her novels include the Booker Prize-winning Possession, The Biographer’s Tale and the quartet, The Virgin in the Garden, Still Life, Babel Tower and A Whistling Woman, and her highly acclaimed collections of short stories include Sugar and Other Stories, The Matisse Stories, The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye, Elementals and her most recent book Little Black Book of Stories. A distinguished critic as well as a writer of fiction, A S Byatt was appointed CBE in 1990 and DBE in 1999.

DAME (That’s right!) Byatt writes beautiful novels, but in my mind her short stories are peerless.

The Matisse Stories were brought into my life by the great Lady Chu, my high school British Literature teacher, turned pen-pal, turned life-long friend.  Each of A.S. Byatt's tales is in some way inspired by a painting of Henri Matisse, each is also about the intimate connection between seeing and feeling—about the ways in which a glance we meant to be casual may suddenly call forth the deepest reserves of our being.

If there is one thing to be said about this exquisite trilogy of stories, it is that you can tell that A.S. Byatt herself is a visual artist. Her mastery of color emerges as she describes the slightest details in the most peculiar of scenarios. Byatt also has a glorious insight into the psyche of ageing women, drawing empathetic and deeply human portraits, in this collection, told through the lens of the intensely visual. Powerfully written, fiercely observed, The Matisse Stories is worth every brushstroke.

Byatt is one of my favorite authors, and while I am an avid fan of all her work (but particularly her short stories), this collection is my favorite.

Byatt is an expert at conveying the insecurities of a woman who feels her looks are starting to go (which are really everyone's insecurities) and gets lost in the fantastic tales of her flamboyant hair stylist. Color and texture are important in all the stories and I love how you can just see and feel them through her words. Everyone should read at least one Byatt novel or collection.


3. Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli’s
Another short! Ever since a reviewer said Rovelli’s breezy “tone would give Brian Cox a run for his quarks” I’ve been salivating to devour the just-88 page shock bestseller which began, (briiiiilliantly) as columns in Il Sole 24 Ore, the Italian newspaper. Better yet, they appeared in the paper’s Culture section, eventually outselling Fifty Shades of Grey in Italy (…You heard me.)

It’s not hard to see why: few writers, let alone physicists, capture the beauty of nature and the excitement of its discovery in such clear, rich prose. And once you join the Italian masses? Hold on to your inertia, kids, you’re going on a helluva ride fueled by world-class carbs, espresso, and SCIENCE.

Aimed at “those who know little or nothing of modern science” Rovelli’s Seven Brief Lessons, are nothing like suffering through AP Physics junior year. You breeze through mind-bending topics in physics. Time dilation, black holes, particles existing in multiple places at once (and all are covered in the first 20 pages), it then goes on to examine...ya know, the casual stuff. Stuff like the heat of black holes, the big bang, global warming, gravitational waves, and quantum gravity.

The result is beyond breathtaking, it is downright poetic.


4. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, by Fannie Flagg
During the Great Depression, rural Americans witnessed the steady erosion of their farms, towns, and lives. It is shattering to draw the parallels to today’s worldwide financial crisis, and on the home front, observing how it has affected middle class Americans is chilling.

Trying to read about such experiences is never easy. Attempting to write well about them may be even more challenging. Enter Fannie Flagg—a talented radio personality, television comedienne, film actress, and most recently novelist, general Renaissance woman and Southerner extraordinaire—who gives it a glorious whirl.

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café is the story of the town of Whistle Stop, Alabama, and its residents over the course of three generations. Most of the story centers on Ruth Jamison and Idgie Threadgoode, two best friends (and implied lovers) who impacted the lives of everyone in their community. The story is told both in present tense, from the 1920’s – 1940’s, when the events occurred, and in past tense, when Ninny Threadgoode relives those events by retelling them to her friend, Evelyn Crouch, in the 1980’s.

Flagg exhibits that endemically Southern gift for storytelling—spinning tales at the deceptively easy going pace of the rural American grapevine that only seems to grow south of the Mason Dixon Line.
    "Of course, most of the house is all boarded up and falling down now, but when we came down the street, the headlights hit the windows in such a way that, just for a minute, that house looked to me just like it had... some seventy years ago, all lit up and full of fun and noise... I guess, driving by that house and me being so homesick made me go back in my mind... "
While there is a beautiful (slightly watered-down) film version from the early 1990s with gorgeous performances by some of our greatest actresses, it robs one of the joys of Flagg’s distinctive prose stylings, her quirky, feminist humor, and a total poetic individuality stemming from her unusual and fly-in-the-face-of-life personality (in her teens, Flagg wore a wet suit, mask, and flippers in the Miss Alabama swimsuit competition…I think that pretty much sums it up…)

Perfect summer reading for its description of heat, love, scandal, history, wild hunger, and boundary-crossing social politics, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café is an ideal summer companion. It’s exactly the kind of book that will make you feel as though you’ve traveled the world and made dear friends along the way.


5. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Listen up, readers.
I have a Top Ten List of Favo(u)rite Books (which, I hope you have ascertained at this point, is a wide-spread, carefully selected and highly cultivated list).  And, on that Top Ten List, if I had the guts to create a slot that was in some way a “Super Slot—” an unparalleled slot that held within it a superpower; one that could blow the other nine books up into tiny little pieces of book shrapnel in a single bound! ...Well anyway, weak metaphors aside, this book would be it.

As it is, I tend to declare this book’s power thus:

"On my Top Ten List of Favo(u)rite Books, East of Eden takes up the first three slots."

(No blowing-things-up required.)

Am I making myself clear?
This is not hyperbole.
This is fact.
East of Eden is not a joke.
It is, in my opinion, the most important book I have ever read.

DO NOT WATCH THE FILM.
DO NOT WATCH THE TV MINISERIES.
Bypass these perfectly decent attempts at dramatizing something that cannot possibly be dramatized because you might as well be dramatizing the BIBLE (which, let's face it, never really works out either...) and go for what Steinbeck considered to be his masterpiece.
Steinbeck.
America's greatest writer.
Felt this was his MAS-TER-PIECE.
Why are you even still reading my blog?
Why aren't you purchasing it right now?

I religiously re-read East of Eden every four years, and every time I find something completely new within it.

Don't hesitate to read what I consider to be the most important book in the world.


18 August, 2016

'Scientific Romance' by Tim Pratt

If starship travel from our
Earth to some far
star and back again
at velocities approaching the speed
of light made you younger than me
due to the relativistic effects
of time dilation,
I’d show up on your doorstep hoping
you’d developed a thing for older men,
and I’d ask you to show me everything you
learned to pass the time
out there in the endless void
of night.
If we were the sole survivors
of a zombie apocalypse
and you were bitten and transformed
into a walking corpse
I wouldn’t even pick up my
assault shotgun,
I’d just let you take a bite
out of me, because I’d rather be
undead forever
with you
than alive alone
without you.
If I had a time machine, I’d go back
to the days of your youth
to see how you became the someone
I love so much today, and then
I’d return to the moment we first met
just so I could see my own face
when I saw your face
for the first time,
and okay,
I’d probably travel to the time
when we were a young couple
and try to get a three-way
going. I never understood
why more time travelers don’t do
that sort of thing.
If the alien invaders come
and hover in stern judgment
over our cities, trying to decide
whether to invite us to the Galactic
Federation of Confederated
Galaxies or if instead
a little genocide is called for,
I think our love could be a powerful
argument for the continued preservation
of humanity in general, or at least,
of you and me
in particular.
If we were captives together
in an alien zoo, I’d try to make
the best of it, cultivate a streak
of xeno-exhibitionism,
waggle my eyebrows, and make jokes
about breeding in captivity.
If I became lost in
the multiverse, exploring
infinite parallel dimensions, my
only criterion for settling
down somewhere would be
whether or not I could find you:
and once I did, I’d stay there even
if it was a world ruled by giant spider-
priests, or one where killer
robots won the Civil War, or even
a world where sandwiches
were never invented, because
you’d make it the best
of all possible worlds anyway,
and plus
we could get rich
off inventing sandwiches.
If the Singularity comes
and we upload our minds into a vast
computer simulation of near-infinite
complexity and perfect resolution,
and become capable of experiencing any
fantasy, exploring worlds bound only
by our enhanced imaginations,
I’d still spend at least 10^21 processing
cycles a month just sitting
on a virtual couch with you,
watching virtual TV,
eating virtual fajitas,
holding virtual hands,
and wishing
for the real thing.

Zombie love. © Patri Balanovsky

16 August, 2016

Tzeitel Tzeremony

I am going on vacation this week from my beloved Fiddler on the Roof, and in my absence, the lovely Tess Primack and Jennifer Zetlan (not only talented colleague but friends!) will be stepping into the wedding dress.

I wanted to give them a special "bridal shower" to pass the torch for their week of shows.

After all, how could I not offer them the (achem) traditional
     Something Old
          Something New
               Something Borrowed
                    and
                        Something Blue?

Below is the "Tzeitel Tzeremony."

Enjoy!
From Broadway World:

"Based on the treasured writings of Sholem Aleichem, the classic Joseph Stein, Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick musical FIDDLER ON THE ROOF is a show that celebrates traditions as well as celebrates the need to change them now and then. As Tevye and Golde's oldest daughter, Tzeitel, in the hit Broadway revival, Alexander Silber is the first to challenge her community's tradition of arranged marriages. She also may be the first Tzeitel to make an event out of handing the role over to her two understudies while she takes a vacation. Watch the fun as Silber engages Tess Primack and Jennifer Zetlan in the 'Tzeitel Tzeremony.'" 

11 August, 2016

'Secrets of Adulthood' - Part 3

11. Emotions are not a choice. Behavior is.
     People ask me really smart questions all the time.
Questions like:
    “How do you deal with being afraid of failure?
or
    “How do you not worry about being rejected?
or
    “What if you get really really really out of control sad and you lose your mind not on stage where you might win a Tony, but, say, at the bank where you might get escorted away by security?
or
    “How do you not lose your mind screaming at really ignorant/ meany-pants/ stupid/ entitled people that all want a piece of you?

I’m aware that this is a fairly irritating answer but: I deal with fear, worry, sadness and anger by actually dealing with fear, worry, sadness and anger. Most of us (those that aren’t very psychologically ill) feel the same feelings everyone else does; thus we must try our darnedest not to identify as the emotions, but to accept, incorporate, learn what we can, and move forward in the face of those Big Feels.

In short: we can’t always chose what we feel, we can chose our actions in the face of those feelings.


12.  “Comparison is the thief of joy” — Theodore Roosevelt
     Our 26th President was more than a great orator, explorer, soldier, and environmentalist… he was also so correct about comparison. And being brave.
He also had a very fetching moustache.


13. DONE is better than PERFECT.
     Just do the thing.
Finish it.
Press send.
Print.
It will never be perfect.


14. Prioritize your health. Take it seriously.

     There are two things in life we do not respect and appreciate until they are no longer with us— money and health. When you have money, you don’t think about its absence. But when you don’t: Whoa Nellie. There is no teacher white like an empty pocket.

Same holds true for our health. One day you are in your teens and twenties, hot and a little clueless, frolicking around the world like you own the place, filing your liver with vodka tonics and ice cream like there’s no tomorrow because let's face it: There isn't! You are young! You are sooo healthy! I mean, you will be once you karate-chop the crap out of this hangover but come on: you can still see your abs so who needs that stupid BS called “Health Insurance?!” That shit is for old people and SUCKAAAAS...

Then one day? You’re a mess. (Truuuuussst meeee...) You’re wake up one day and you are on the phone with some totally unsympathetic healthcare “provider” named Linda who doesn’t give a f*** that you missed the Obamacare deadline and just got kicked off your parent’s plan and— What? how much is that medication I suddenly need to take for the rest of my life? Uhhhh right. Whoops. Maybe I should have taken better care of myself. Run a few more laps and lived a few less days fueled by coffee and enthusiasm

You hear me?

Reader, we get one ride and one vehicle, so taking care of your ONLY SWEET-ASS RIDE ON PLANET EARTH EVER is not only a freakin’ miracle, but your highest responsibility.

     Feed your body good and real food.
     Give it long and decent sleep.
     Hot, safe, (hopefully at least vaguely) meaningful sex.
     Give it fun and life-affirming exercise.
     Say nice things to it.
     Dress it the heck up.

Take charge of your health and happiness, and you'll lower your stress, become more productive, and have more energy.

Other people will doubtless benefit from your "me time," too. Prioritize spiritual resilience and do things that truly nourish you mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, and you'll bring greater patience and a more positive attitude to every aspect of your life including your relationships. You cannot help but become a better parent, spouse, team player and general citizen of the world.


and, to conclude, one of my favorites:


15. Courtesy costs nothing.
Thank you Anthony Andrews for one of the first lessons of my career. I will never forget Anthony's final performance as Count Fosco in The Woman in White in London. Anthony filled our Palace Theatre lobby with delicacies, beverages, music and decorations, and invited every single person who worked in the theatre from our leading lady to the people that worked the box office and cleaned the bathrooms. When I asked him how on earth he could even consider being so incredibly generous, his reply was a calm and heartfelt "My darling, courtesy costs nothing..."

...And wow is he right. The best things in life are free. Even if you don't have pockets full of money, a smile, a thank you, and pleasantry, is a gift you can give every day.

31 July, 2016

I've Been: June-July 2016

Ahhh The Hamptons...
- Performing on the Tony Awards. Dreams comes true.

- Indulging in adult learning thanks to The Great Courses on Audible.com

- Exploring NYC

- Weekending in The Hamptons. Casual

- Visiting with beloved old friends

- Reveling in the magic of my new (and scarcely plausible) two-book-deal from Pegasus Books.

- Dreaming of a possible life in the country...

- Meeeeelting in the NYC summer heat

- Turning 33


- Eating more watermelon than should be legal 

- Sharing and collaborating in art with people that matter to me

- Celebrating the courage and genius of my new but soulmate-of-a-friend friend Megan Kane...

- Switching from iced coffee to iced green tea. Yum!

At Google with Melanie Moore
- Standing on top of New York City at the Google building with baby sister Melanie Moore...

- Singing

-  Walking walking walking
 
- Reading more than ever (It’s only July and this year I’ve already read about 140 books—Lordy loo, and thank you Audible!) Some faves:
 - Having dinner between our Broadway shows with two of my childhood acting idols Peter Scolari and Judy Kaye. (If you had told my 16-year-old self that one day they would be beloved friends and colleagues, I never would have believed you...) 

- Giving authentic interviews that with incredible journalists. Interviews can often be a little silly, often very fun, but these have actually reflected who I am inside, and it means the world to me:

- Mentoring

- Rumbling with my health. (Really rumbling.)

- Celebrating one year of being "Tevye's Daughters!"

- Treating the "difficult" people in my life as teachers

- Loving Tatiana more every day

- Re-evaluating ev-er-y-thing...

- Basking in the glory of S U M M E R ...

Summer. Word.







27 July, 2016

The Passage of Time

Time, it seems, has a funny way of imprinting itself on your memories.

Time, it seems, has a funny way of imprinting itself on your memories. The grey land of Nerchinsk, with its worn roads, its forests, fences, and horizons laced with countless metallurgical operations—all of it had altered.

Or perhaps it hadn’t.
 Perhaps it was merely their perception, altered.

The sky, once leaden was now a luminescent blue—heavy as eyelids fighting sleep. Clouds of smoke came belching up from little chimneys in great billows, where once there had been only threads, fading into night. The already stark landscape of the taiga with its muddy hills and lonely trees, obliterated into swamp and shrub and an undergrowth of rubble. The barrack sheds and village shacks once only smudges of blackened wood, now betrayed faded shocks of color—window shutters, painted doors and makeshift murals. Silence had been pumiced by sounds of picks and carts and heavy hammers, creaking gates, cows and chickens, silverware and screeches. Above all, the wailing whistle as the train approached from the parallel tracks of the ever-growing Great Railway.

Eastern winds that once wafted smells from deepest Asia, now blew only minerals from the ever-expanding mines: the sour sickness of sulfur, the sharpness of silver, and the harshly cleansing scorch of salt that burned the nostrils as you searched to define it further.

Not to be forgotten, was all of them—memories, shadows and friends alike. They had been rubbed down, they lay worn and raw like scraps of glass washed up upon the shores by the frigid waters of the Nercha. One could see what could never have been seen before: that Nerchinsk indeed held good men, and dark ones, and those so torn apart by madness they scarcely knew themselves. Time leached all that was impure from the companions until all that remained was the world-weariness, the churlish tempers, and the intricate psychological scaffoldings, which could not be kept up or down under the pummeling of Siberian days.

It was these little things.
Nothing can compare to the first moments one realizes that time has more than simply “passed,”
     but indeed, that things are older.
And they were.
Older.
Days passed and grew to weeks, weeks grew to months, which succeeded each other one after the other, and swiftly grew to years.

They were nearer to ash, to dust, to eternity, than they have ever been before.

06 July, 2016

Interview for AOL Build Series

A wonderful afternoon at the AOL Building with @BroadwayGirlNYC, Laura Heywood. 

 "Grammy Award® nominee Alexandra Silber (currently starring as Tzeitel in "Fiddler on the Roof" on Broadway) stars in this intimate musical, "Arlington," which focuses on a young Army wife trying to keep herself from a nervous breakdown as her husband fights overseas.

For full schedule and more videos go to http://aol.com/build"

04 July, 2016

A Trip to Ellis Island

An incredible journey. My fellow cast members Michael Bernardi, George Psomas and I ventured out to Ellis Island​ first thing in the morning to explore our personal and character’s family history at the world's foremost symbol of Welcome. Here's to the Land of the Free. 
May we remain a country of Welcome. 

03 July, 2016

33

33 is:
  • A normal human spine has 33 vertebrae when the bones that form the coccyx are counted individual
  • The atomic number of arsenic
  • In reference to gramophone records, 33 refers to a type of record by its revolution speed of 33⅓ revolutions per minute. 33s are also known as long playing records, or LPs.
  • The divine name Elohim appears 33 times in the story of creation in the opening chapters of Genesis.
  • The French telephone numbering plan used for France. 
  • The number 33 was discovered to lead to the essential meaning of life (the Bible) in Dan Brown's 2009 novel The Lost Symbol. 
  • A significant number in modern numerology, one of the Master Numbers along with 11 and 22.
  • A song by The Smashing Pumpkins on their album, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness 
  • 33 is, according to the Newton scale, the temperature at which water boils. The 33 Strategies of War is a book by Robert Greene
  • The number of deities in the Vedic Religion is 33.
  • The title of the first episode of the 2004 Battlestar Galactica television series in which the Cylons came every 33 minutes
  • In motorsport, 33 is, on most occasions, the traditional number of racers in the Indianapolis 500.
  • The number printed on all Rolling Rock beer labels!
  • The 33 is a 2015 English-language Chilean biographical disaster-survival drama film based on the real events of the 2010 mining disaster, in which a group of thirty-three miners were trapped inside the San José Mine in Chile for more than two months. 
    The highest degree in the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry.
  • According to Al-Ghazali the dwellers of Heaven will exist eternally in a state of being age 33. (Whoa.)
  • In French, Italian, Romanian, Spanish and Portuguese, the word which a patient is usually asked to say when a doctor is listening to his or her lungs with a stethoscope (Trente-Trois, Trentatré, Treizeci și trei, Treinta y Tres and Trinta e Três)!
  •  33 is not only a numerical representation of “the Star of David,” but also the numerical equivalent of AMEN: 1+13+5+14=33.
  • And last but not least, Jesus's age when he was crucified
*

It has been a journey, readers, and I have reached the place longed for when I began (though, who could have dreamed it to resemble anything like this?) 

I have come to edge of all that I know and all I believe and all I could endure and all I could wonder about, and I have-- again and again-- found new firmament beneath my feet so that I could take one more step. 

Have you been there too? 

This is how I believe we all continue: stepping into the unknown and untested, stepping off the cliff to find there IS something there. That the ground will materialize under our feet as soon as we are ready to step on it--and not one moment before. If this is not the usual way to walk around the block, by now I ought to have become accustomed to it: to have faith in the PROCESS.
    - I started off 32 learning I would be returning to Broadway as Tzeitel; began rehearsals for, opened and recorded, my beloved Fiddler on the Roof:

    - Did a solo show in London and got to celebrate, bury some hatchets, and truly visit with countless lifelong friends

    - Returned to San Francisco Symphony to sing in their opening gala, and really conquered some of my huge singing myths. 

    - Was diagnosed with a life-changing chronic illness, and truly faced being...um, not-alive at 32, not once but twice. (I will reflect more upon, and share those thoughts, when I am ready to...) Fear not: I am finally, in every sense, well

    - Became a "Paleo" eater (and have never looked back!)

    - I cut off ALL. MY. HAIR.
    @theemmaexperience
    Made some very important new adult friends and business relationships. 
    The "Pineapples"
    - I MET MY ONLY IDOL ANGELA LANSBURY...
       
     

    - Did a solo show at Birdland
     

    - Finally recorded Arlington for Broadway Records

    - Cleared out the 'clutter," and replaced that clutter with better, more appropriate things (from people, business partnerships, and ideas, to actual physical stuff)

    - Had the most wonderful year yet at Pace with my beloved babies.


    - Got an actual factual ...two-book deal... and will be able to have the ultimate privilege of sharing my life and work with the world, and have a personal dream come true.



    In short, significant highs, and some of the most harrowing lows of my life thus far.


    *

    We can underline, circle, thought-map, highlight and do ritualistic chanting circles 'til our voices are hoarse about our hopes, dreams and expectations; but I have learned (at least thus far) that the actual form and function of our lives will always be different than our initial imaginings. Life will come barreling toward us with its own very personal demands for what we need to do and above all, learn

    My lessons this year have been about fortitude

    When things happen that look disastrous, empowerment allows us to see them as a stage of life that's over, and to look for the next challenge that will advance us toward a dream. Fighting against What Is in a fruitless exercise that drains us. The moment we accept what is, we are empowered to find a way to move forwardlike stepping into the unknown, the firmament we need always seems to appear the second we take that faithful stepYou take the leap, and almost as a kind of spiritual reward, the net appears. It appears despite having all the proof. 

    The journey to peace/contentment/greatness is arduous, and the tangible and intangible costs we may have to pay are high. Remember that nothing of real value was ever achieved without costs. We must have a strong heart, an open mind, and we must move with tenacity and act without retreating. After all, Vision shall always only be a vision until we take that step of fortitude to make it a reality.

    Every time I go through this process I feel vulnerable, and what I assume to be my weaknesses, turn out to be my strengths. Although I continue to learn this lesson over and over again (who doesn't have that experience?), I realized anew that no pain that we suffer, no trial or test that we experience should ever be wasted. Adversity paves the way for our Education— to the expansion of such vital human qualities as patience, faith, humility, and the capacity to endure.

    The trick is to endure it patiently. 
              . . . Easier said than done. 

    It is still possible (and allowed) to dream with a broken body and a broken heart.  
    It is possible for those dreams to manifest into greatest reality. 
    One must simply, keep going.
     
    Life is a great unending opportunity to keep re-framing disaster and discouragement into faith
    There is pain 

         but there is also, always, joy



    17 June, 2016

    Day-off Rituals: a List

    1. Tea with my [*adorable*] teapot
    You know that thing you experience every once in a while where you see a belonging a friend possesses and you quickly become Gollum-level-obssessed with owning it too? You get all “myyyy preeeecioooousssss’ about it and MUST own the thing or you will surely turn into a shriveled up old Hobbit? Yeah. That is exactly how I felt about Lara Pulver’s teapot when I stayed with her in London last September. I saw that she owned, used and loved a perfect PERFECT little teapot and basically I TURNED INTO SMEAGAL. Frankly, I’m surprised I didn’t put it in my luggage but I resisted and simply did the next best thing: I turned it upside down, wrote down all the information, and bought my very own that I now covet beyond all reckoning. I adore both it and the tea it makes.

    I use it every morning, but on days off I am able to indulge in it even more.


    2. Walking without “purpose”
    Nothing clears my head, organized my thoughts, and fills my lungs with goodness better than walking. What began as a family tradition (going on “The Walk” —walking from our front yard, up the hill to Cranbrook Road, around the bend and back again on the border of Birmingham and Beverly Hills, Michigan), is now a way of life. I live in New York City now, which offers better city-walking than almost any other place on earth, but I don’t discriminate—take to the streets and the mind will clear, calm and steady itself. Rain or shine.

    Sometimes I walk to music, more often these days to podcasts or audiobooks, sometimes to silence, or simply making myself available to the sounds of the streets themselves.

    And there is no time to enjoy walking more than when there is no time table to keep— one can utterly trust their instincts, follow their gut wherever they wish to go, and allow fate to blow you where you “need” to go.

    Afterall, I live in New York City! There is always something to take in. But you don't have to live in the city that never sleep to find an adventure. 


    3.  Reading
    Reading for leisure is a true luxury nowadays, and while I enjoy an audiobook like you cannot believe, there is nothing that can compare to holding a real book in your hands—its weight, feeling each paper page between your fingertips, and the joy of a margin note or the carnal love of the crack of a book’s spine.

    So, for a couple hours every day off, I’ll just be over here snuggled up with my cat, reading Anna Karenina, thanks.Speaking of which...


    4. Snuggling with Tatiana
    ...Who wouldn't want to snuggle up with THIS GOOSE?!


    5. Calling / connecting with / touching base with close friends
    I try to have a meaningful interaction with at least one person on my “apocalypse list.” It doesn't have to be long or particularly meaningful, just a little "Hello, I'm glad you are in the world."

    It keeps me grounded and in touch with what matters.


    6. Cooking
    I like to cook the majority of my own meals, and when you are on an 8-shows-a-week schedule, cooking for yourself can be a real humdinger. Luckily I have a SYSTEM!

    The first part of said system is buying a bunch of delicious organic meats and vegetables and things in bulk about twice a year, bagging them up with labels and putting them in my freezer.

    Second, on my days off I look ahead at the week to come and pull out a few bags of frozen delights, combine them with a few recently purchased goodies and do a great big cookout (because it takes the same amount of time to cook one chicken breast as it does to cook seven…)

    It’s also a great way to relax, invest in your health and well-being, and to listen to lovely music or a good book, all while making magic in my lovely kitchen. Then Ta-DAAA! A week’s worth of delights are ready to go!


    7. Writing
    Nothing brings me greater creative joy than engaging in creative writing.
    Here are a few of my favorites:

    The Convict's Wife

    Mikhail gazed upon his wife from across the room.

    Shura’s assignments often varied according to the wants of the camp. She would attend the hospital ward one day, work the kitchens the next, as many of the wives did. She would cook in vast quantities, clean endlessly. She swept, organized rations, and maintained as reasonable a level of sanitation as possible, often to no avail.

    But just now Mikhail caught a flash of the girl he had first encountered. He smiled to himself. How they had kept their guards up! Never had Mikhail felt so strongly for a woman, and it had frightened him.

    So many men had encountered her and been intimidated by her passions, by the strength of her will and shrewdness of her mind. She clearly expected him to be the same. Shura was proud and vain, often contrary; but despite her limited knowledge of the world, there burned a flame within her of a kind of universal wisdom.
    He was captivated.

    In her presence he felt free to not simply recant and debate the academics of his ideals, but to open up his heart and release his overwhelming passion for them. He had been teacher to her little sisters, but truly he learned from her.

    Mikhail had known women, oh yes, but here was another kind of creature altogether. She would ask illuminating questions, challenge him with a fire that would ignite him. It was intoxicating. It was real. Once he felt what it meant to love as he knew to love Shura, he was incapable of anything else.


    Shura made him feel, even at the height of their arguments, almost indescribably understood. When Shura threw her eyes upon the world she saw what he saw, and he, in turn, shared her visions too.

    It was not political. It was human. Their intimacy felt familiar from the very first moment. They would wake, and, despite their bleak surroundings, would wake happy and warm. They spoke of a future filled with fruit trees.  They touched each other’s hands, enfolded in each others' company. Then, they would pour over the newspapers and wonder what their friends were doing now. We shall change the world, they vowed, and we shall do it together. There were no more games, no proud veneers, no wonderings or hesitations. They were clear.

    His love for her was a reverence, not a worship.
    It was a joy received from her very existence.

        “You taste sweet,” he whispered that evening as he came up for air after making love to her. They were buried beneath a collection of woolen blankets in the dead of the night, silver moonlight reflecting off now thawing river and falling through the threadbare curtains.

    Mikhail didn’t cling to, clutch or embrace her. He held her—her long, radiant hair, her crowning beauty, surrounded them in a perfumed blanket. He caught its fragrance and was breathless.

    They were in this, together, for a long time to come.


    14 June, 2016

    Things I've Broken - A List

    - Countless glasses
    -    and Plates
    -    and Mugs
    - …a fast
    - Concentration
    - Some promises

    - In, shoes
    - I’ve taken a break
    - I’ve seen dawn break
    - I’ve broken
    -    “Through”
    -    “Down”
    -    and “Out” … all countless times

    - My middle finger
    - My front door
    - The hearts of a few

    The Magic Garden, Philadelphia



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