Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Merry, Indeed

I know Christmas is often seen as a time you're supposed to gather with tens and tons of friends and sing 'round the tree. You're supposed to have multitudes of family near, that without all of that, your Christmas cheer is somehow lessened.

As usual, I found myself feeling differently this season. Oh, sure. I missed the friends I haven't seen in a while. I missed our families. But I wouldn't have traded anything for the wonderful, wonderful Christmas Sam and I had (and are still having, really) this year.

It was simple. But it was still joyous and loving and full of cheer. We celebrated Christmas Eve, old school-glamour New York City style. We got dressed to the nines and had an amazingly fancy meal while listening (and later dancing) to a great swing band that sounded straight from the 1940's. I even remembered most of our steps, and I believe we even held our own with the rest. Though, despite my falters, I love nothing more than to dance with my husband. I don't believe I'm ever happier then in his arms, hearing the music, and us laughing at my constant distraction. Somehow, dancing, my feet never get sore. My heart so always too light.

We walked home, late. Christmas lights shown in the apartment windows of ninth avenue. The bodegas were still hawking what was left of their christmas trees. The bars had yet to close down, and a different carol seemed to seep out onto the street every 10 feet or so. I wished a handsome cab driver a merry christmas; and Santa on a late night walk with his dog, wished us one.

It was a perfect night.

Only to be matched by a perfect day. A day of opening presents under the tree, eating fresh cinnamon rolls and watching "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer." We walked about our neighborhood, made chex mix, made dinner, watched more chrismtas movies . . . I couldn't have asked for a more lovely day.

Just me and Sam. Yesterday was just a long reminder of why I love him so. Of how lucky I am he's in my life. There's no one I'd rather spend Christmas with, no one I'd rather do anything with, really. We had a truly amazing time.

I hope you had the same.


Sunday, December 24, 2006

"twas the Night before Christmas . . .

. . . and the kittens were cuddled, all snug in their beds . . .

and Sam and I are off to go dancing . . .

Merry Christmas Eve!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Sam told me the other day I should get a job as a spin-master. (Taking normal facts and spinning them to support whatever cause need be.) I did not point out that in fact, that IS my job . . .

But, regardless, it came from a conversation we were having on how we would explain to our someday-kids what Christmas was, and then, most confusingly, why we celebrate it. I mean, Sam and I are pagans. There is no denying it, no shying away from it. And that is how we plan to raise our children. There will be no Easter for them, no All Saints Day. How will we explain the sudden onslaught of Christian winter-time tradition in our home?

Because, well, there it is. It's not blatant, or overly wrought, but it's there nonetheless. Sure, instead of a crèche we have a Rudolph scene complete with not one, but FOUR Bumbles and three Jedis. But still, there's the music, the trees, the lights . . . everything else. And of course there will be a Christmas morning.

How to explain? Sam mentioned it might be a tad confusing. I scoffed at him. He mentioned perhaps we could scale back a little. I almost refused to continue speaking to him.

I mean, I LURVE me some holidays. And while our "true" holiday is this Thursday, which our family will one day celebrate in full rigmarole and joyous occasion, I simply do not want to give up Christmas morning. Or carols. (All the other stuff I could keep, as it was all stolen from pagan traditions to begin with anyway. But the "Silent Nights" and "God Rest Ye's" - there's no real getting around that.)

But to me, it's quite simple. I'm not celebrating the birth of our savior, god's only son. I'm not celebrating all that entails, and by the look of the general marketplace, neither are a lot of other people.

I am, however, celebrating the birth of a child, and the hope that surrounded that child. Christmas, to me, is about the sheer wonder and amazing tenacity the world showed (shows) over the birth of one, small, helpless child.

I love the story. A small family, not royal, not famous, not rich, expects a child. Under circumstances that aren't ideal. They do their best to prepare; they do their best to be safe. And while they are trying desperately to keep it together, to make a home, a safe respite for their small blessing - something else happens. The news spreads. Kings lift up their scabbards, robes, and scepters and begin traveling to where they believe the baby will be. Small groups of shepherds herd their flocks to be nearer; people gather. All kinds of people from all kinds of places. They gather with hope in their hearts, anticipation in their souls.

They believe that this small babe shall change the world. Make it better. Make it brighter, bring them light.

They don’t know how, or why. Just that this will happen. And they want to play a part. They want to honor this symbol of hope, this symbol of light. This child. They want to kneel before him, before his family, on that dark night. They know not else to do.

But somehow, in the story, that is enough. That they believe in the hope of this child. That the world can be made better, different, more lovely. Peaceful. Hopeful. Beautiful. By this, the smallest of creatures.

(Who among us, even today, wants to believe differently?)

People's hearts were turned that night. And stayed turned for centuries. All because one small child was born. Because people believed that was all it took.

One. Small. Child.

Savior or no, I still believe that's all it takes. The hope that one small, helpless, lone being can change the course of a world gone wrong; can turn hearts and minds to a better place. To making a better place.

Sure, most people celebrate Christmas because their savior was born that night. I celebrate because a CHILD was born that night. That thousands were, and are and will continue to be - that night, this night and all the nights to follow. And with each comes the blessed hope that things will be made right. Better. Peaceful.

Our world can change it's course, and with every night star, every birth, every gathering that hope should be renewed. Should be recognized, acted upon, celebrated.

Because, each of us, in our time, was that child. We were that hope. We are that hope. We perpetuate it.

This world will change. It will become the place those kings and shepherds dreamed of. The one angels from the stars announced and promised. We just need to have that kind of belief, that kind of hope in our hearts. Christmas is a time, I believe, to remember that.

If once, years ago, the world stopped for a mere night in the awe of the hope that one small child would make their world a better place - than perhaps we should too. Perhaps the idea that one small, ordinary person can change our world, our lives, isn’t such a crazy notion.

Perhaps the thought that we can do so isn't so crazy either.

That's what I'll tell my kids at least. That they were born one day, to a small family that desperately only wanted to do right by them - give them a safe, happy home. And that this family believed, with everything in their hearts, that their child would make this crazy, tossed up, frightening world a truly brighter place.

That we each can.

And every Christmas I recognizer that. That each child is born beneath bright, clear stars - with the power to bring kings to their knees and make angels sing. And that is worth recognizing, celebrating, honoring.

At least I think so.

Friday, December 15, 2006


A carol that brought tears to my eyes.

""I knew everybody was playing fantastically," Taylor (the trumpet player) said -- but the feeling grew when he saw how the scene was constructed from the sweet and somehow triumphant combination of the musical arrangement, the dignity of the musicians themselves, the falling fake snow and the pictures of home."

Watch it here.

Read the story here.

Download it here.

There is so much sadness still in our world, but I hold onto the hope this season brings. The hope a simple song can bring; a small act, an attentive moment.

May we all greet the holiday season and this next year determined to make these small acts build to something greater.


Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Weekend of 80 Beers for 80 Years

So we went home this weekend (please forgive us if we didn't see you - the list is ever-so-long now). The trip was all about two things - Christmas with my parents (which was wonderful as always), and Sam's Papa's 80th Birthday!

Last May Sam and I concocted a plan to throw his Papa an "80 Beers for 80 Years - A Generation's Salute to Ted Stiers" birthday party. With much, much, much help from the rest of his family, we did so with great success. We even had a logo -

with shirts!

and steins!

And bibs for the wee ones!

It was so wonderful. Everyone who feasibly could made it showed up with bells (and shirts!) on, and even a couple who feasibly shouldn't have been able to made the forever-drives. I was once again overwhelmed with how blessed I am to have married into, and even more blessed to have been welcomed into such an absolutely wonderful, awesome, amazing family.

We sat until the wee hours, drinking, talking, and laughing until we were all struggling to stay awake. We made it to one hundred beers, and I can't wait to do it all again for Ted's 90th and Century-Mark birthdays. Or maybe perhaps just next time we're in town. . .

Happy Birthday, Papa! Here's to LOTS more!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Professional Creativity

"First, it seems that these people somehow get it into their heads they're artistes and poets. A wrongheaded and dopey notion. We're business people who use creativity as a vehicle to deliver brand messages. This is different from being someone who uses advertising as a vehicle to deliver pretentious crap."

(Creative Director from 1999, describing being a professional interactive designer, and a quote I've kept taped to my screen ever since.)

Had my annual review today and was described in writing as a "formidable creative force."

I figure it doesn't get much better than that.

Here's to being and doing your best with the best.


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

When we talk about the future, it's always gut-wrenching for me a bit. I'm all caddywhompus, I don't know what I want.

I want a house with a yard and a tire swing. I want a nursery with a crib that faces a ceiling of sky blue, with clouds I painted; just so. I want a puppy and sidewalks and grass and a garden.

I want Central Park minutes away. I want trains and people and life and the world at my doorstep. I want the eastern seaboard a train ride away. Vermont maple syrup, Maine Lobster, Massachusetts liberals. I want Europe to be a foreseeable weekend destination.

I want my life now, and the life I dreamed of as a kid. I want them both.

I can only have one at a time.

I love my life here, our life here. More than I can ever say. Some of our friends, they look at me sometimes with a kind of pity in their eyes, like I haven’t learned yet. Like I'll change my mind, coming running 'home' eventually. Leave this ridiculous city life behind. The expense, the dirt, the crime.

It's only because they don't live here, haven't seen our home, don't know how wonderful, how exciting, how right our life is here.

But it's not for forever. I remind myself of that a lot. Someday I will miss this place, I will be homesick for it. I will long for smelly sidewalks, the ramble, the zoo, the people, the food. I will sit, watching movies filmed here - straining to see my home. Our first home.

So we talk, we plan, we paint a future of what we want. I cry at the thought of leaving, I sob at the thought of never going.

But through it all, when he looks at me and says "someday, when it's the three of us it'll be my job to make sure you two are happy and safe." I know. I know everything will be alright. I know no matter where we will be - will be home.

I know we are a family. A home. A safe haven.

I know there is no other man I could have married, not in the world. And that I will spend lifetime after lifetime, meeting him, falling in love with him, marrying him, over and over and over again.

And I can't imagine anything more wonderful.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Friday, December 01, 2006

December 1st

AIDS was first identified in the United States of America in 1981. Since then, the epidemic has been steadily growing and by the end of 2004, there were estimated to be just over 1 million people living with HIV and approximately 415,000 people living with AIDS in the USA. AIDS is also thought to have killed over half a million Americans - nearly ten times the number killed in the Vietnam war - and more become infected every day.

According to UNAIDS estimates, there are now 39.5 million people living with HIV around the world, including 2.3 million children, and during 2006 some 4.3 million people became newly infected with the virus. Around half of all people who become infected with HIV do so before they are 25 and are killed by AIDS before they are 35.

Around 95% of people with HIV/AIDS live in developing nations. But HIV today is a threat to men, women and children on all continents around the world.

Started in 1988, World AIDS Day is about increasing awareness, fighting prejudice and improving education. World AIDS Day is important in reminding people that HIV has not gone away, and that there are many things still to be done. This is a cause I have supported since I was old enought to truly understand it, and one that with the loss of a dear friend, has become very close to my heart.

Our greatest tool in this fight is undertstanding and education. Today I ask you to inform yourself. Help inform others. Let's take the stigma and misunderstanding away from this horrible disease and start truly fighting it.

Wear a red ribbon today, let people know why. As I state all the time here, soemtimes the smallest act makes the biggest difference.

The red ribbon is an international symbol of AIDS awareness that is worn by people all year round and particularly around World AIDS Day to demonstrate care and concern about HIV and AIDS, and to remind others of the need for their support and commitment.

The red ribbon started as a "grass roots" effort, and as a result there is no one official red ribbon manufacturer, and many people make their own. It's easily done - just use some ordinary red ribbon and a safety pin!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


I love to travel. Rather, I love to see new places and people. That isn’t tied merely to a trip. Anyone who knows me well, knows I can sit at a table near the sidewalk and be happily distracted for hours watching the people go by. I always have loved that, and this city feeds this distraction like few other places, of course.

Here I can watch hundreds of countries, heritages, customs swirl about me as I stand still at any corner of the city. The orthodox man, dressed fully in black, careful not to touch me as he navigates past. The Indian woman, herding her children before her, her skirts and rings creating a magical music and dance in her wake. It seems there is no country, no point of view, no precious custom overlooked here. We are all thousands of miles from where we started here, making a home amidst the wonder and strangeness of a new foreign place.

And while I do love my home here with all my heart, I do know the only way to truly see the world - where all these beautiful people and their customs come from - is to actually go. To traverse the miles the city has misleadingly condensed to the lands across the seas, across the continents.

When I was first out of college that was my goal, to reach the point where I could fly to Rome as easily as to LA. I was lucky enough to have jobs where I could (and often did) hop a plane whenever I felt the urge. But I never made it past the borders. I flew to California, Texas, Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts and New York (so many times I lost count) to name but a few. I adored going places, exploring new cities and towns.

That, of course, came to an abrupt stop when I decided to move here. Going to school full-time, working full-time and living alone in this uber-expensive city made it next to impossible to travel anywhere but home for holidays and an occasional trip to Chicago to visit old friends.

But now, thankfully, Sam and I are in the blessed position to go places. To travel. To see the world as I had wanted to all those years ago. But things have changed, somehow. Where I used to blindly and gladly jump on a plane, bags barely packed, book in hand with no more thought than if I had remembered perhaps my ID; I now hesitate. I now take deep breaths while waiting in line, get horribly nervous on take off, cross my fingers and close my eyes as we land.

I have so much more now to lose, is the difference. Before, there was nothing but the next destination, the next adventure. I was living a good life. I was happy. And I figured if something went wrong, that good life was enough.

It's not anymore. Flying has never been my favorite way of traveling from place to place, but these past couple years it has truly become something I only do because I need to. Because it's easy and time efficient. Because it's necessary. Now, today, I have so much to lose. My life is better than I had ever imagined it could be, but I'm not ready to accept my fate anymore. I find myself increasingly saying a silent prayer to the gods that be, "Please, please, keep me safe. I want more time with this man - we have so much more to do and see. Please keep us both safe."

I chide myself, of course. It's silly. Selfish, ridiculous to think such things. But I know, that never will I board another plane without closing my eyes and saying a silent request. Our map has just been started; we have so many more pins to put in. This world, so small out our window, is so vast. And I want us to see every bit of it, together.

Monday, November 27, 2006


I feel, often, that I can never be grateful enough. I'm awful at saying thank you's, writing them, giving them. I never feel they sound sincere enough, gracious enough. I stumble on the words, I pause and repeat myself.

Not because I'm not overhwelmingly grateful, but because I feel so unworthy. So undeserving of the love and generosity and wonder of those that surround me. Words cannot describe, cannot tell how blessed I feel that they have noticed, that they have seen, that they have taken interest . . . in me.

But 'tis the season, and I want to write a huge thank you note to the world, because after this spectacular year, it would be remiss not to.

Thank you. Thank you for giving me my family and my friends. A husband who never tires of me, and of whom I never tire. For letting me be so lucky as to fall in love and marry my best friend; to share a life with him, in an amazing, fabulous, ridiculously awesome city. Thank you for giving us a warm, cozy and lovely apartment to make home, and an even more lovely garden to grow outside. For our jobs, mine especially, which has provided me with some of our very best friends; that challenges me creatively every single day and pushes the limits of what I'm capable of in an environment where I'm not afraid to fail.

Thank you for the friends who come quickly with jokes and stories and small ones' messages on my voicemail whenever I falter. Who love me for me, and do nothing but encourage me to try an' figure out where to go, who to become next. Without agenda.

Thank you for the doorman who wishes me good morning as I pass every day, the security guard who asks how I am. For Jose, our maintenance man, who wishes me a lovely day (or I imagine that's what he says) in Spanish when I leave for work, from our front stoop.

Thank you for beautifully illustrated children's books, dense, intriguing fiction books and iTunes. For fluffy pillows and kittens to cuddle with. For holiday music and wreaths and ornaments and ribbons and bows and the smell of fresh-cut pine from the bodegas on the corner.

Thank you for Christmas movies and a husband who lets me watch them tirelessly without complaint.

Thank you for cherry coke, chocolate cupcakes, koala yummies and paninis.

Thank you for good friends, poker nights, and long rides home on the train with his arm around me late at night. For kisses in the morning and again and again and again throughout the day.

For trips to Kansas, Florida, Ireland and Hawaii. For a new home in Hawaii. For all the trips we've yet to take.

For this life. For the hard times that make the good ones all the sweeter. For the laughter that cuts the tears, and the joy that is ever-present. For all of it. All of this.

Thank you. For each and every moment, each and every breath - I am grateful. Grateful.

Truly grateful.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


The apron Sam got me last year for my big cooking days . . .

Fresh! Baked! Bread!

Sam carving the crazy whiskey/honey glazed turkey breast I made this year .

Sam's favorite stuffing. . .

Mmmm . . .whiskey turkey . . .

And now, as Sam cleans up, I sit listenng to carols and thank the gods for such a wonderful, fun, awesome year,husband - life.

I hope you all had wonderful days as well.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


How do you become an artist? Is it something you just *are*? Part of your soul, your make-up, your being? Or is it chosen, learned, practiced, skilled? How do you come to the point where when someone asks what you do, you answer them straight-forwardly and confidently, "I am an artist."

It was never so easy for me, that answer. To this day I'll qualify it, state my title in hopes it sounds legitimate enough, quickly pass over the phrase "I'm a painter." To me, to the girl who looks back in the mirror every day, I am an artist. I want to answer proudly, solidly. Yet, to the outside world, I fumble in my response.

I have friends who are professionals. Who make their livings from their drawings and paintings. Who have galleries that show their work, who teach others how to master such skills.

I, 40-60 hours a week, design. Is that artistry? I waiver on my definition. I do not waiver, however, on my ability. There are few things about myself I am certain of, one of which is that I am a brilliant designer. (Was that too much? Hm. "Brilliant." Nope. Just right.) But Design, to me, is about solving business problems visually. Meeting objectives, planning use, leading the consumer. While I am invested, while I give nothing but my utmost to every project . . . it is not my passion. It is not what I would do given hours of free time to create anyhting I want. But I am paid for it, I am rewarded and recognized for it - and that often leads me to answer "designer" when everything in my mind is yelling "artist."

I enjoy designing, of course, but not as I enjoy painting. Holding the brush, mixing the colors, smelling the turpentine. So much of our world, my world, is digital. Holding something in my hands, envisioning it for days at a time - and then somehow getting it onto a canvas (never board or paper, I love the give of the material too much) is a rush I can compare to little else. I remember wanting nothing more than to create worlds, draw pictures, when I was child. Sitting on the floor of our tiny kitchen - my looming football player of a father helping me construct giant drawing pads from old football schedule posters; flipping them over, giving them cardboard covers, tying them together with string . . . it was wondrous to me to have a book of empty pages awaiting me and my stories.

It still is.

I remember running home after school to visit Mrs. Beth Quigel. She and George lived directly across the street from me when I was in grade school and often looked after me when my parents were still at work so I wouldn't have to be home alone. I thought Mrs. Quigel was magic, looking back now I realize Mrs. Quigel was really just the first artist I had ever known. She painted dolls and Russian eggs, she painted flowers and landscapes. Their house always had that tinged smell of chemicals, of paints and porceline, mediums and turpenoid. I loved how her brushes were so soft, how the paints on her palette so weirdly sculpturesque.

When I was in third grade she let me paint, on a small round board, a small pink rose. All by myself with oil paints.

And my life changed.

I spent the next decades learning, practicing, reliving over and over again that small, pink rose. That feeling of the plainess of the board, the mess of the paint somehow - under my own magic becoming a rose in bloom. I do it to this day, stand back from my canvas, lean away from my easel and marvel . . .


I'm not myself when I'm not painting; thinking of painting, planning my next painting. I'm not as happy, as at peace, as balanced. I am an artist. Not because I'm a greatly skilled or outrageously talented, but because I can do nothing else that feels as wonderful, as spendid, as natural.

When I'm painting, when I hold that brush in my hand, the whole world drops away: and my world, my thoughts and dreams and stories rise up. To this day I'm unable to understand or describe it. Other than to say, that it's my best magic. And it's what I offer up to the world.

It's all I have. I'm an artist, after all.

Monday, November 20, 2006

One Day past our Propose-a-Versary

We celebrated the coming Holiday season and the two year anniversary of when Sam asked me to be his wife last night. It seemed almost too much joy for one to have on one occassion.

We went to the Bronx Zoo, under the cover of moon and stars, and walked through their holiday lights show. It was amazing, seeing thr tigers fed, walking past light decoration after light decoration. We roasted smores and road the Bug Carousel. We held hands in the dark listening to carols and made faces at the camels. . .

It was a perfect night for a perfect occassion.

I to love
and you to be loved,
we have,
no matter how,
by our wills survived
to keep
the jeweled prize
at our finger tips.
We will it so
and so it is
past all accident.

The Ivy Crown
by William Carlos Williams

Saturday, November 18, 2006

New York in the Autumn

People say when they visit that New York makes them tired, that there's a pace about the city that's unrelenting. We are, after all, the city that never sleeps. But, when you live here it's much, much different. There are places in this city that are unerringly quiet, beautiful and serene.

You just have to seek them out.

This city and I, we have our problems. Like anywhere I've ever lived, there are things I'd like to change. But, unlike anywhere else I've lived - this has become home on a level I cannot explain. My heart is here. Among the bustle and crowds; up at the rooftops and pointed skyscrapers, down among the trash and cracked cement. Sam and I have made this home, and, wonderfully we have the most amazing and wonderous backyard ever - don't ever pity us for living in the city and all it's robbed us of green and nature's loveliness.

We have it in abundance, just in our own way. And a bit of me believes it makes all the beauty and wonder of every season all that more spectacular.

And, Les, if I could package this up and ship it to you, please know I would in a second . . . )

Thursday, November 16, 2006

My Favorite Houseguests

Work's been crazy, and I've been a bit crazier, winding up the semester at school. But here's a quick pictoral recap of the beginning of our weekend with the infamous . . . Having them here was spectacular - if I could have barred the doors and made them stay, I would have in a second.

Dave and Amy.

So, um - Amy? Dave? I know you have super cool jobs and all . . .

But just so you know, there's two apartments in our building which just happen to be open . . . .