Bowie, Proust, and Sunday Thoughts

LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this article with David Bowie’s answers to Proust’s famous questionnaire. (Link here)

Not only were Bowie’s answers thought-provoking (and funny), so were the questions themselves. So I decided to answer the questions myself, accompanied by a few recent photos.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Adventures with my kids

What is your most marked characteristic?
Noticing things that others miss

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Raising two really good people

What is your greatest fear?
Losing my children to disease or accident; lifelong fear of fire

What historical figure do you most identify with?
Nobody comes to mind, but Amelie Poulain is a fictional character that I identify with


Which living person do you most admire?
Pope Francis

Who are your heroes in real life?
My kids, Dr. Leonard

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
Impatience, Introversion

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

What is your favorite journey?

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Which word or phrases do you most overuse?


What is your greatest regret?
Not pursuing a higher-quality education, any number of boyfriends

What is your current state of mind?

If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?
A cousin

What is your most treasured possession?
My grampa’s last bottle of Old Spice, my mother’s wedding portrait

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Feeling out of God’s reach

Where would you like to live?
Santa Barbara, Chicago


What is your favorite occupation?

What is the quality you most like in a man?
Humor and kindness

What is the quality you most like in a woman?
Humor and kindness

What are your favorite names?
Drew and Tanner

What is your motto?
“It’s not what you look at that matters. It’s what you see.”


Plant Courage

“Hope begins in the dark,
the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing,
the dawn will come.


You wait and watch and work: You don’t give up.”- Anne Lamott


I marvel at plants that grow where they’re not supposed to.


It’s oddly inspiring.


Growth can happen in the unlikeliest of circumstances, in the most adverse conditions and without encouragement.

You just have to have a seed with some guts.

Signs of the Season

The leaves have been as reluctant to change as the temperatures have been slow to drop. But one thing is for sure, the days are gradually growing shorter — and my runs are getting darker. And over the past few days, I’ve noticed some sure signs of the season’s transition.

Resident chipmunk or neighbor’s squirrel has taken a liking to one of our pumpkins. And oh my, have our squirrels been skittish!  Like short-circuiting wind-up toys on crack.


Some neighborhood folks are in the spooky spirit.


This was a photo that Facebook reminded me I posted on this day — six years ago. Seriously? Have I really been on Facebook that long??


More spooky spirit stuff in the neighborhood.


But this was my favorite sighting of all. Two fiery pops of crimson right at my feet.


I think someone has an actual fire going either in their chimney or in their patio pit right now because I can smell the smokey drifts as they waft through our open windows.

Happy fall, y’all.

Behind the Scenes With Big Cats

“My favorite thing is to go where I’ve never been.” – Diane Arbus


Yesterday I took my Little Sister on an adventure at our zoo for a behind the scenes tour of Big Cat Country! What a great time! Neither of us had ever done this before.

When we first walked up to the exhibit area with our tour group, we saw this big guy lounging and enjoying the beautiful fall day. His little tongue was left sticking out after a big yawn.

He eyed our small group with only the slightest curiosity. And then, surprise! His female companion slowly raised her head to glance in our direction and see what the fuss was about.


Then we got to go to the restricted area that is typically closed to zoo visitors. My Little’s favorite? The tigers. The male was outside (below).


And the girl was inside. Unlike their lion counterparts, the tigers don’t get along socially. Well, the girl doesn’t like the boy, anyway. But she loves people — especially her keeper. She chirped and rubbed her face on the pen as we approached. She was like a really big house cat. A house cat with paws that are bigger than your face and teeth the length of your fingers.


This was the female snow leopard. I just thought she was so beautiful. She wasn’t the friendliest creature in the world, but she was gorgeous. She made sure we got to admire her teeth, also. Lots of hissing and growling.


After the tour, we made our way through the rest of the zoo, taking the train and enjoying the Halloween festival vibe. Lots of mummies and elaborate decorations abounded.



My Little’s baby doll is named Silly, a sure sign that we were destined to be friends. I just love this little girl. She’s such a hoot.


Center for Advanced Gratitude

“Let go or be dragged.” – Zen Proverb


Recently I read a column by Judy Woodruff that knocked me on my rear. It was called “I was my husband’s caregiver as he was dying of cancer. It was the best seven months of my life.”

The title alone was a hook. Those were the best months of your life? Seriously? This I’ve got to read.

I’m not going to go into the whole article (because the link is above*), but she wasn’t saying that those months weren’t filled with anger, grief, and profound pain. On the contrary. But she knew she was serving the highest purpose while caring for her husband. She was fully present for every moment, in tune with gratitude for the smallest blessings. She was the best form of herself.

That article helped me view today through an entirely new lens. Today was hospital day with Drew. MRIs, labs, oncologist, neurosurgeon, the whole nine yards. This is always a brutal day for us. Frankly, I don’t typically handle it well. Between the weight of my own fears and the thick cloak of grief and pain enveloping fellow patients and families in the waiting rooms of a place with “Advanced Medicine” in its name, it’s emotionally paralyzing.

I thought about Woodruff’s column as I looked around the waiting rooms today — and I realized how profoundly blessed we were to be there. We were surrounded by people with the keenest understanding of what really matters. Looking around, there wasn’t a single person who gave a rip that last night’s VP debate was supposedly a snore fest. No one had the energy for petty bickering at the office or name-calling on Facebook. No one was going to be laying on the horn or tossing obscene gestures to impatient drivers in rush hour traffic.

No, no one had time for that.

People spoke to each other gently. Nervously stroked each other’s hands. Fussed to make each other comfortable. Waiting. Wondering. Praying.

This is the first visit we’ve ever had that I didn’t feel crushed by the weight of fear and grief. Don’t get me wrong, I still retreated to a bathroom stall to cry it out when Drew was taken back for his ridiculously lengthy MRI. But even then, I still felt lighter than other visits. How blessed are we to be in a place where people are grateful for every moment? To be reminded how good life is and how much we want to preserve it. In this place, all of the nonsensical, pointless crap falls away, leaving us with gratitude for every tiny blessing.

Thank you, God, for this life. And for growth. Thank you that my kids, while sick, are vibrant, living well, and moving fearlessly towards their futures. And thank you for helping me find new perspective — and gratitude — in such an unexpected place.

*Please overlook or skip the brief Hillary reference in Woodruff’s column if you’re not a fan. Hopefully it is obvious that a political statement is not remotely my (or her) intent. 

Music and Memory

Yesterday during my run, I heard notes from a saxophone lift above the usual whistles, hollering, and grunting of the high school football field. At first I wondered if the band was rehearsing on the track. But as I passed by, I noticed this young musician practicing on his saxophone on the bleachers. 

Surprised, I smiled. I guessed he was keeping himself busy while waiting for a sibling to finish practice. 

But mostly he reminded me of my Dad. He used to make my brother and my kids practice musical instruments at the strangest times. Mostly out the car window on road trips. I could picture our family piled in the car with my brother honking his trumpet out the car’s back window. So stinking funny. But that’s what childhood memories are all about. 

What a totally unexpected trip down memory lane.

A Good Sign

Some people wait for pumpkin spice lattes to mark fall’s arrival. Others wait for the arrival of football as the sign of the season. Or mums. Or apple cider.

My signs of the season include funky pumpkins at the Farmer’s Market.


Or the migration of monarch butterflies.


Or landscaping changes.


And cooler temperatures.


But perhaps the sign of fall we anticipate the most in our household arrived today.



AHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!! I’m so excited!!!

Best. Cookies. Ever.

God is Everywhere

“The presence of God is everywhere, you have only to embrace it with your attention.” – Deepak Chopra 

LOVED this story in Spirituality & Health by Snatam Kaur called “God is Everywhere.” The contrast between her childhood buddy’s view of God and her own made me laugh. I tend to subscribe to the author’s view.  I do believe God lives everywhere.

In an unexpected explosion of fuchsia on the first day of fall.


…in the warm Saturday sunshine.


…in the intention of a business who focuses on kindness.


…in every phase of nature’s life cycle.


…in the littlest gifts of beauty along the lengthiest of bike rides.


…even in the nutrients that life returns back to the earth.


…wherever there is beauty, gratitude, kindness, miracles and love, in the smallest of details.

Distracted Runner

A couple of really good runs this weekend brought the most distractions I’ve had in awhile. It was remarkable. I didn’t even get photos of everything. 

I marvel at some of the random stuff I find along my routes. After four years, I just now spotted this peace sign — the fourth one of these etched in the sidewalks along my route.

This star appeared out of nowhere.
Someone had a busted onion strewn about their yard, leaving at least one heart for me to spot.Funky little pod provided a nice landing spot for his firefly friend.The “T” flash card that made me miss my youngest boy.I also saw a baby’s teething ring, plastic car keys, leftover candy from yesterday’s parade, Pom Pon strings, big toadstools, families walking home with balloon animals and kettle corn from a nearby festival, and more.

I am convinced that being a Distracted Runner actually makes me a Dedicated Runner. I can’t imagine missing out on the view of the world that being on foot brings.

Learning the Hard Way

“Nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what we need to know.” – Pema Chodron


You know, I never really understood that quote until recently. In fact, I’d never even thought about it much. But it popped in my head last night during a run.

One of the things I love about running is that it can sometimes help me work out frustrations or stresses from the day. It’s better than therapy. And yesterday brought one of these runs. I’ve realized that, for quite some time now, I’ve been faced with a disproportionate amount of frustrating or unpleasant encounters with people. So much so that I’ve actually found it confusing. What am I doing wrong? Is it me?? Why have I had to deal with multiple provocative, unfair, or unkind people so much lately? I hate this feeling of sustained anger and stress. I’m not used to it. Why is this happening now?


I stewed and steamed as I ran last night, replaying scenarios with a couple of people I felt wronged by or treated unfairly during the day.

Ugh, why do I have to deal with this? Why can’t these people just go away?


“Nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what we need to know.” 

I almost stopped in my tracks. Maybe I’m being provoked for a reason?? What is this odd chapter of conflict trying to teach me? I seldom have poor interactions with people. Why all at once? Maybe this isn’t just their problem; maybe it’s mine. My lesson to learn.

I’ve preached kindness and tolerance so much in my life. Of course, it’s easy to be kind when things are going my way. But I’ve found that kindness goes out the window when the goings get rough and the people involved are less than likable or behave poorly. In fact, I’ve failed this test miserably lately. I’ve reacted angrily and sometimes snottily. Frankly, it’s been uncomfortable, stressful, and miserable.

But perhaps there’s a lesson in the ugliness. I can’t do anything about the behavior of others, but I can do something about mine. I can try to make kindness a priority again — even when it’s hard. Especially when it’s hard.

Even if this isn’t what I’m supposed to learn from all this, I’m still grateful to recognize some big deficiencies of mine and know that I can do something about it. Maybe, just maybe, some of these conflicts will go away, even if the people don’t.


Hey, I Have an Idea!

An 80 degree day and an outing with my Little Sister?

Yes, please.

The original plan was to go to the zoo, but I had a last-minute idea. Typically, the five most dreaded words in my household are “Hey! I have an idea!” But every now and then, my ideas pan out. Sometimes even some unexpected magic happens. Like today.

Instead of going to the zoo, we opted to rent a paddle boat in Forest Park — something neither of us had done before.


And this is why I thought of it. I wanted her to see the 7,042 flag display marking the 15th anniversary of 9/11 at Art Hill from a paddle boat.

So worth it.


But here’s where it gets funny. We decided to rent a paddle boat the same day as the canine paddle boat races. Pictured below is one of the “heats.” And, obviously, a crane photo bomb. And an oblivious duck.


This dog was my favorite because he looked like he had a fro. He and his owner came in last in their heat, but they looked like they had the most fun.


And I looooved this boxer puppy.


And of course, I loved spending time with my buddy. Look at this face. Note the rhinestones in her shades. The child was born rolled in glitter and wrapped in a tutu. Seriously.

I love this kid.


I think this is the way 9/11 should be spent — living. Enjoying. Savoring. Giving.

Counting one’s blessings.

You Are What You Notice

A cat’s purr in my ear. An easy morning commute. Homemade pumpkin bread. A thoughtful note from a friend. Rainbows appearing at my feet. Texts from both of my kids at the exact same time. The arrival of a new issue of my favorite magazine. Sparkles dancing under a bridge. A cute couple picnicking under a tree in the park. A stunningly moving tribute. Free time and the ability to adventure wherever I choose.

It took me until the end of the day to realize that the good from today far outnumbered the not-so-good. I’d just invested a lot more energy and attention into the not-so-good. Duh. 

How lucky are we that life continues to be generous and patient with us, even when we least deserve it. And how lucky are we that tomorrow is a new day. We get another chance to be a little better. A little more grateful.

It’s the Japanese Festival!


Got to spend the afternoon at one of my very favorite places with some of my favorite people. Today our Botanical Garden was host to the annual Japanese Festival. Bonsai displays, art, demonstrations, food, flowers, Japanese product vendors…there was a lot of neat stuff.



We were surprised by how many people dressed in ethnic costumes for the occasion. Lots of kimonos and over-the-top Japanese fashion. This girl’s hair matched her kimono.


This was a demonstration of some sort, but I couldn’t get past the cotton candy costume in front of me.


One of the biggest surprises had nothing to do with the festival itself. As we ambled through the garden, we found a yard filled with (what we think was) crocus! What an unexpected reminder of spring as we head into fall!



Loved the pebble mosaics embedded in the pathway in the Chinese Garden.


My favorite Harry Potter tree in the Japanese Garden.


And then there were flowers. Lots and lots of lovely flowers, both growing outside in the garden and on display in arrangements inside.








Loved this day. Loved time spent with friends. So very grateful.

You Have a Good Soul. I Can Tell.


“If you realized how powerful your thoughts are, you’d never think a negative thought again.” 

I always knew that running was good for me, but I never knew that it could actually be therapy until today. Midway through my run this evening, I was getting discouraged by my pace. Lots of little criticisms filled my head until I remembered the above quote I’d read about the power of our thoughts.

And then the most bizarre battle ensued.

“You’re ruining this run with your negative thoughts!” Instead of turning things around, my mind went the other direction. I started chiding myself for my attitude, both past and present. “It’s no wonder you’ve always been so slow; your thoughts are powerful and your thoughts have always told yourself how slow you are.” Then every single perceived personal shortcoming joined the collective swarm of self-criticism buzzing around in my head. Oh my gracious. Then, just to continue the spiral, the criticisms a few other people have had for me amped up the volume — stuff that I didn’t even know was bothering me. This was not making for a fun run.

But suddenly out of nowhere, the words, “You have a good soul. I can tell,” interrupted the chaos. Just like that, my brain became silent and the swarm stopped. These were the words a stranger said to me a few years ago. Self-confidence has always been a learning process for me and this unexpected comment came during a particularly difficult time. I remember walking away from that brief conversation holding back tears of relief. I have a good soul. He could tell. The momentum of negativity had been broken. I knew I could recover my misplaced self-worth.

I’ve carried those words with me ever since and I pull them out of my mental pocket when I need them. Like today. You have a good soul. Remember? He could tell. For several minutes, I jogged through tears of relief. Positivity and gratitude carried me the rest of the way home.

To the man who unknowingly continues to help me when I get wobbly, thank you for reminding me there are good people in the world. And thank you for reminding me that I’m one of them.

To anyone who happens to be reading this: You have a good soul. I can tell. Carry that thought with you always.

(Above photo fits this post for the funniest reason. I’d texted it to my son to see if he saw a snail. He saw a thumb’s up. In light of positive thinking and running, I’m going with my son’s interpretation.)

Long and Short of It

“There is one simple thing wrong with you – you think you have plenty of time.” —  Carlos Castaneda, author

Getting older has been on my mind a lot lately. I’ve not done anything unusual in the way of self-reflection or anything, but I’ve noticed some changes in myself. People, circumstances, and difficult discussions don’t have nearly the ability to set me off the way they used to. At different times, I’ve wondered if it’s fatigue, indifference, competing priorities, or a combination of all of the above. I think I’ve finally realized that it’s age. With age, you just know better. You know which battles are worth the energy.  And frankly, the number of worthy battles is dwindling for me as I age.

I’ve also caught myself saying, “life is too short,” a number of times lately. Which is true. Someone involved in a car crash had a to-do list for the day or plans for their future that were either altered or destroyed in a split second. How many people got up today, got dressed, and moved forward with their day, having no idea what was ahead of them? So yes, life is breathtakingly short. But when God gifts you with health and longevity, life can seem pretty long, too. So balance is needed.

For example:

Life is too long to take your body for granted and not provide it with the nourishment and exercise it needs. But life is too short to not eat that cupcake.


Life is too long not to exercise your right to vote. In fact, the future depends so much on the quality of our leaders, it’s irresponsible and selfish not to. But life is too short to get into nasty political discussions and name-calling with people with opposing views.


Life is too long to make impulsive or knee-jerk career decisions when your family and your future success depends on responsible planning. But life is too short to have a job that depletes you of your joy.


Life is too long (and would be next to impossible) not to have beloved, loyal, committed, funny, and supportive friendships. But life is too short to tolerate anyone who takes more than they contribute.


Our time is uncertain. Every minute, every experience is a precious gift to savor and an opportunity for gratitude — both in the short and long-term.

*These photos I’ve taken lately share a lovely color palette. Such a happy, lucky accident.


“I never realize how much I like being home unless I’ve been somewhere really different for a while.” – Juno

After a number of trips to really different places over the past month or so for work, vacation and otherwise, I am happy to be home. And my travels are over for a little while.

But I’m happy I got to visit one of my favorite places in the whole world today at the close of a work trip — a convent in Northwest Missouri.


Check this out. That is ONE tree. It provides a natural arch over that sidewalk. I couldn’t even fit the whole thing in a picture.


This is one of the most peaceful and moving places I’ve ever been. It gets me every time. The silence is profound. Every breath, every step seems deafening and invasive.

I loved this Sister. I watched her for the longest time. She’d pray. She’d read. She’d nod off. She’d pray. She’d read. She’d nod off. I loved the way her fingers gently moved across her Bible when she read. She was delicate and fragile in build and movement, but so strong in presence.

She makes me wonder: what occupies your prayers at this point in life?


This place. Takes my breath away every single time.


We finally had to drag ourselves away and head to the airport.

Where I discovered my spirit animal.


And now I’m home.

Home, home, home. My place, my safe space.

I’m so thankful.

Art Adventure

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he* grows up.” – Pablo Picasso

*or she. Sorry, Pablo. 


Check out my Little Sister, the artist!

You can see her handiwork on this wonderful metro bus (in partnership with the Saint Louis Art Museum), along with the handiwork of lots of other artist-children.

What a fantastic idea!

This was the beginning of such a fun adventure at the art museum — a place my Little Sister had never visited before. In fact, she’d never even seen Forest Park from this vantage point.


After she painted the bus, we walked across the street so she could look out over Art Hill.

The photo doesn’t do the scene – or the day – justice. The weather was gorgeous, so there were picnickers, kite fliers, paddle boaters, bikers, and loungers everywhere.


Then we headed inside and this little girl had us exploring every square inch of this place.

Our favorites? The Chihuly…


…and Andy Goldsworthy’s Stone Sea.

This installation was created to fit in this specific space. The best part? You can see it from inside the museum…


…and outside (from above).


But the most unexpected surprise? Today was family art Sunday. So my buddy was able to create art at a workspace right inside a museum gallery. I was knocked out and so inspired. What a wonderful to encourage young artists (and old).


Today’s adventure made me love our museum and our city even more than before.

Can’t wait for fall!