I Don’t Give a F#@k About “The Interview”

(originally posted on www.createdbychance.blogspot.com on 12/18/14)


If you’ve been following the news at all lately, no doubt you are aware of this thing called the Sony Hack and the pulling of the film “The Interview” from theaters. If you haven’t, read about it here. And leave a note in the comments about how you are able to avoid something that everyone is talking about, short of never going online again.

Seems most in Hollywood are crowing about how shameful it is for theater chains to cancel showings of the movie, forcing Sony to cancel the release of the film. Aaron Sorkin‘s pretty pissed about it. As are Judd Apatow, Ben Stiller and a host of others. There’s lots of talk about “free speech” and “censorship” and how un-American it is to capitulate to cyber-terrorists in this way.

Frankly – I think the reaction is about as American as it can get.

If you are under the impression that Hollywood exists as an exercise of our civil rights, you, my friend, live in a very idealistic world. One I’d like to visit someday, but I think might require loads of Xanax and endless pep talks from Oprah.

Hollywood’s main interest is the bottom line. Entertainment exists, by and large, to make money. Making money is the American Way. If you put some sort of obstacle in the way of making money, it is quintessentially American to remove that obstacle. If “The Interview” were to play in theaters over Christmas, at a time when many American families will be taking in a flick or two, it might convince some folks it’s safer to stay home. It’s not like theaters haven’t been subject to violence and terrorism in the recent past. If people avoid movie theaters over the holidays because of a perceived threat, remove the threat. “The Interview” is a threat to the bottom line.

Censorship is a part of the entertainment business. Why do you think you never hear the word “fuck” on primetime broadcast television? Because no writer ever wanted to add it to a script? Fuck no! It’s because “fuck” will alienate some audience members, which will mean less eyeballs, which will mean advertisers won’t be as interested in paying to have their ads run during your show. Most TV shows don’t exist to entertain us – they exist as an advertising platform. It’s the American Way.

Honestly, I really don’t care one way or another about the film being cancelled. It’s just as much an exercise of rights to pull the film as it is to show the film. Sony execs decided to make the dictator in the movie a real person because they thought it would be more provocative. They got exactly what they asked for.

What I DO care about are the work-a-day folks over at Sony whose personal information was leaked. Those in charge seem to be playing fast and loose with the private information of the girl in the office who gets the coffee or the guy who sits in the editing bay for 16 hours a day. I hope this whole debacle will serve as a cautionary tale to companies to take cyber security seriously. It’s all fun and games until you piss off one of the most volatile dictators in the modern world.

Where Did These Boobs Come From?

(originally posted on www.createdbychance.blogspot.com on 12/14/14)

I braved the mall yesterday. I thought malls were dead. Apparently, I was mistaken. As it was the second-to-last Saturday before Christmas, the place was absolutely mobbed. It took me 20 minutes to find a parking space! I even held my pee for three hours because the line for every bathroom was 20 deep. Well, for the ladies room anyway. You men have it so easy.

Why on earth would I submit myself to this insanity? In a nutshell – to buy some new clothes because mine don’t fit anymore.

I’ve put on a few pounds this year. And by a few I mean 20. It’s been kind of a hard year over here, and I deal with it by eating my feelings. And eating my stress. And eating my boredom. And, hell, eating my happiness, too. Basically I eat everything for every reason. And now my clothes don’t fit.

I had a talk with a friend about this recent phenomenon lately. She, too, has gained some weight, although hers was a result of two little humans she incubated, birthed and subsequently nursed. Her reaction to not fitting in her clothes has been NOT to buy new ones because, as she says, it will inspire her to lose the weight.

I used to feel that way, too, but I don’t anymore. Because day after day after day of opening my closet, surveying the contents, and realizing I can only comfortably wear maybe 15% of what’s in there is incredibly depressing. Instead of inspiring me to lose the weight, it’s inspiring me to eat more. Because emotions. And I eat those.

When I went to Weight Watchers my meeting leaders would tell us to get rid of our fat clothes as soon as possible. This, supposedly, encourages us to keep the weight off. It just means I have to spend more money on clothes when I inevitably yo-yo back up. That’s how it has always been for me. I’ve gained and lost the same 30 pounds for the last 20 years.

So I said – fuck it. I’m not going to be a party to shaming myself daily. I am heavier right now than I’d like to be. But that doesn’t mean I can’t LIKE myself right now and FEEL GOOD about how I look when I gaze in the mirror. Those size 4 jeans staring at me from the bottom of my dresser do like to whisper to me, “you used to be so thin that we were getting too big for you!” But there is no reason I can’t have a size 10 pair of jeans sitting on top of them, shouting, “Girl, you still look fabulous! Don’t let those skinny bitches make you feel bad!” Thus the trip to the mall.

Even though I am trying my best to be good to myself and gentle with my psyche, it is hard to stare at your underwear-clad body in the harsh light of dressing room mirrors (except for Ann Taylor Loft which, blessedly, has soft, warm and flattering light). There are things that bulge and sag that didn’t before, and seeing it several times over the course of an afternoon is not exactly uplifting.

What I did notice, however, was that I was in desperate need of a new bra. Every time I took my shirt off it looked like my boobs were trying to escape. Some women gain weight in their face or their butt or their thighs. I gain weight in my boobs. Like, crazy, fucking weight. The poor bra I was wearing was waving the white flag of surrender. It looked really tired. And my boobs didn’t care how they got out of there, whether it was over the top, out the sides, or covertly underneath, they wanted out.

Usually, when my boobs get big I try to be economical by buying a new bra at Target. When I lose weight they are the first to go, and bras are expensive. But the thought of going to Target AFTER the insanity of the mall was too much to bear. I decided to step into Victoria’s Secret instead.

If you have never gone through the bra-buying experience at Victoria’s Secret, I highly recommend it. As soon as I walked in, a sales associate came over and asked it I needed some help. I casually mentioned I needed a bigger bra because I gained some weight. No sooner did those words leave my mouth than she went into action as though she had been preparing for this moment her entire life.

She asked what size I thought I was. When I’m thin, I’m a 36A. When I’m not as thin, I can go up to a 36C. So I told her 36C. She got out her measuring tape, made some calculations, and informed me that I was now a 36D.

WHAT?! NEVER in my life have I had a D cup! No wonder my poor bra looked like it had been to hell and back. Where did these boobs come from? Is that what aging does? No wonder my mom has enormous boobs. I can see my future, and backaches figure prominently.

Anyway, she asked what kind of bra I was looking for, which for me is simple – no push-up and no lace. She filled out this little card and escorted me back to the dressing room where another sales associate met me. This woman took a look at my card and then consulted this GIGANTIC wall of sample bras in every size. She pulled out four and sent me back to a dressing room. Every bra fit perfectly and felt like heaven. I bought two. I’m actually EXCITED to wear them!

(On a side note, the only other woman to come into the dressing room while I was in there also commented to the sales associate that she needed a new bra because she had just lost weight. Is that the only time women buy new bras? When we gain and lose weight?)

What does all this mean? Well, I’m still going to make a New Year’s resolution to take off some of this weight, because honestly it makes me feel gross. I didn’t just toe the line between a weight where I feel okay and a weight where I can’t stop obsessing over my body – I jumped over it with apparent glee. It’s time to reign it in. BUT – I’m not going to give in to the shame of it. This is where I am right now. There is NO REASON that I can’t celebrate myself, even with all my imperfections. I WILL dress in glitter this holiday and draw attention to myself, even if I don’t look like my ideal self. And I WON’T get rid of these clothes as soon as a lose a few pounds. Because I may need them again someday and that is OKAY.

Oh – and if you need a new bra, you absolutely have to go to Victoria’s Secret. They will HOOK YOU UP.

Venus at Her Toilet - Peter Paul Reubens courtesy www.peterpaulreubens.org creative commons license
Venus at Her Toilet – Peter Paul Reubens
courtesy www.peterpaulreubens.org
creative commons license
“Step Away from the Mean Girls…and say bye-bye to feeling bad about your looks. Are you ready to stop colluding with a culture that makes so many of us feel physically inadequate? Say goodbye to your inner critic, and take this pledge to be kinder to yourself and others.
This is a call to arms. A call to be gentle, to be forgiving, to be generous with yourself. The next time you look into the mirror, try to let go of the story line that says you’re too fat or too sallow, too ashy or too old, your eyes are too small or your nose too big; just look into the mirror and see your face. When the criticism drops away, what you will see then is just you, without judgment, and that is the first step toward transforming your experience of the world.”

I Am Not An Expert

(originally posted on www.createdbychance.blogspot.com on 12/6/14)

I feel such relief telling you that.

I’m gearing up for a major blog overhaul for the New Year, and this morning as I journaled I contemplated what the focus of my new blog should be. I took a look at the types of articles I write, and they are all over the place – gardening, cooking, recipes, writing, relationships, self-healing, mindfulness, pop culture – the list goes on and on it seems. There is no one topic that I prefer writing about above all else.

That’s when it occurred to me – I am not an expert. At anything.

Yes, I have a master’s degree. I vigorously studied acting and theatre for seven solid years. I’ve easily reached the 10,000 hour mark that is supposed to signify mastery of a skill. Yet, I don’t feel like an expert. I see how much more I still don’t know, how many more skills in just that field alone I have yet to conquer. I can’t pull a German dialect out of my back pocket (even though I’m of German descent), and I still sometimes have to look up the rules when I’m scanning Shakespeare text. Not to mention I don’t know how to read a teleprompter, my tap dance skills are basic and rusty, and I still get nervous on set because my mind is completely encumbered with hitting my mark and making sure I’m doing the same thing with my right hand on that one word in each take so it can be edited together smoothly, let alone doing any actual acting that I was trained to do.

I realize that one of the reasons I have not been terribly successful at anything is because I lack the laser focus that is characteristic of truly accomplished people. James Clear wrote a fantastic essay on this idea, citing how Warren Buffett advises to make a list of all the things you want to accomplish. Pick the top 5 goals and ignore everything else until you reach those most important goals.

I love this in theory, but in practice I’m a complete failure. I’ve discovered that I find the world an endlessly fascinating place, and it is nearly impossible for me to focus on one, two, or even three things solely, at the exclusion of all else. Stop gardening so I can go to more casting director workshops? Don’t make a fantastic dinner from scratch so that I can get in 1,000 more words on my novel? Never travel because I might be out of town for an important audition? I can’t do that. I just can’t.

One of the greatest joys in my life has been the discovery that nearly everything is interesting. I have finally found some level of peace and contentment knowing that I can find happiness in the smallest things, and that the more I know about all these small things, the more interesting and fulfilling life becomes.

So what does that mean? It means I’m not an expert at anything, and I probably never will be. It worries me as a writer that I cannot speak about any one thing with authority. But I’m coming around to the idea that maybe I am an expert learner, an expert student. Maybe what I have to share with the world is my enthusiasm about all the things around me, around us, in this big, beautiful world. I’m just not the type of person to put all my eggs in one basket. Why? Because look at that cute box over there, or that hand-knitted bag! I could put some eggs in those, too. And why limit myself to just eggs? Some fresh-baked croissants would look awfully nice in there as well.

My new blog is not going to share any expert insight into any one thing. It is simply going to be me, sharing my journey of lifelong discovery. I hope you’ll find it compelling enough to take a walk with me now and again. Perhaps you’ll also discover some of those wonderful, small things that make life so sweet, and so precious, and so worthy of our attention.


Going Rogue

(originally posted on www.createdbychance.blogspot.com on 11/24/14)

I made a terrible realization the other day. I realized that I assume I will fail.

I’ve been an actor for 20 years. I studied for 7 years with some of the best teachers in the country. I worked on my skills, honed my talent, paid my money for all the tools I would need to have a successful career, and success has been nothing but elusive. Every time I’m about to get to the next level, a brick wall is thrown up in front of me. Nothing about being an artist has been easy for me. So my default setting is assuming failure. I realize that I now assume that everything I try will fail. I made the unpleasant discovery that success doesn’t even seem like a possibility anymore. Because failure is all I have ever known.

This makes me incredibly sad.

I keep going, though, because in my heart it’s what I know I’m supposed to do. I’ve tried doing other things, I’ve walked away from being an artist for years at a time. But that is soul-crushing, I’ve learned that the hard way. Being successful at something else does not make me happy. Not in a meaningful way.

I’d like to think that at some point, something will be easy. That my hard work and dedication will pay off. That someone will say YES. YES, Amy Clites, we want to work with you. YES, Amy Clites, not only do we think you have talent, but we know just what to do with it. My problem has never been a lack of talent. My problem has always been that I don’t fit into any mold, so nobody has ever known how to capitalize on what I have to offer. (CAPITALIZE is the operative word there – people don’t know how to make money off me.)

I recently had breakfast with a friend who just celebrated a milestone birthday. When taking stock of where she is right now versus where she thought she’d be, the truth was that she doesn’t have any of the things she thought she’d have at this age. But instead of it bringing her down, she said it was actually freeing. She made the realization that it was time to go rogue. And I’m going rogue right with her. We’ve been fed all these ideas about how to be successful and none of them have worked for us. We’ve played by the rules, we’ve taken the classes, we’ve gotten the right pictures, we’ve learned how to typecast ourselves, and NONE of it is working. As my friend told me, it’s time to trail blaze.

FUCK everything that I’ve been taught. I’m not playing by anybody else’s rules anymore except my own. You think you can tell me what I need to do to succeed? GREAT! But guess what? Tried it! Didn’t work for me! Doesn’t feel authentic to who I am! So fuck all that. As my sage-like movement teacher in grad school, Loyd Williamson, would say, “Go your own way.”

Starting today I’m doing things differently. How? I have no fucking idea yet. I have no idea how this will take shape. I have no road map. It’s time to go inward, to listen to my heart and my intuition. To say YES to things that feel good and right and NO to things that don’t. “One size fits all” success is not in the cards for me. I started on that journey – getting the education, doing the networking, taking MORE classes, paying MORE people to teach me the secret to success. Yeah, fuck that. I’m in the same place pretty much that I was 20 years ago – expect MUCH deeper in debt. That shit does not work for me.

When I was a teenager, I thought of myself as a nonconformist. Somewhere along the way I bought into the idea that I needed to conform in order to succeed. How the fuck did that happen?

I’m going rogue, y’all. It’s time to be a stubborn, incorrigible nonconformist. Stay tuned.


I’m Not a Christian, But I Prayed Today

(originally posted on www.createdbychance.blogspot.com on 11/18/14)

I prayed today.

No, I don’t normally pray. Not in a traditional, Christian-type way. I’m not a Christian, and I’ve never spoken to God in a direct way through prayer. Just saying the word “God” has always made me uneasy. I’m not an atheist, however. I am a spiritual person, and I connect to my spirituality through meditation. I feel more comfortable with the word “Universe” to describe the all-powerful, all-knowing presence others might refer to as “God”. “Universe” works for me, because my beliefs tend to lean towards the idea that everything is connected – you, me, that dog, those flowers, Jupiter, the cosmos. As Carl Sagan famously said, “We’re made of star stuff.” That deeply resonates with me, and my truth.

When I feel troubled, have a problem that needs to be worked out, or am generally feeling blue, I’ve learned to turn to this meditative state, and to find solace in the small things – my cats purring, the rose bush in bloom in the garden, a warm cup of coffee. I’ve found answers to many of life’s problems there, which is generally along the lines of “Take it easy. Don’t take yourself or your problems too seriously. We’re all part of the same machine. You’re not in this alone.”

But there are times when that isn’t enough, really. As I get older, problems seem to become more serious, more life-changing, more damaging – the potential for total annihilation seems to be around every corner. I’m having one of those moments right now. Where I’m confronted with a problem that I have discovered I don’t yet have the tools I need to really deal with it in a meaningful way. So I prayed.

Anne Lamott wrote a wonderful book a few years ago called Help, Thanks, Wow: Three Essential Prayers. In it she identifies three types of prayers – those where you ask for help, those where you thank God/the Universe because you are receiving the help you need, and those where you are so totally wowed you are speechless. I’m very familiar with the latter two, but I don’t have much experience with the first, so I decided to try it. What could it hurt?

There are many among my friends who dismiss prayer as a legitimate tool of assistance. Asking God to cure cancer seems totally futile. Is God going to reach down out of the sky with a giant hand and miraculously cure you? Probably not. But I’m coming around to the idea of asking for assistance through prayer. When I pray, I may pray to “God” (which I did this morning), but really, I am praying to myself (which, I literally believe to be true – we are all a part of “God” or have “God” inside us, whatever “God” is – that star stuff Carl Sagan was talking about).

I prayed for patience, and insight. I prayed to find the tools, the wisdom I need to deal with this particular issue with grace. I promised to clear my mind, let go of my more explosive emotions, and be on the lookout for the help that I need. I promised not to shut down, but instead to open up, to let go, to make space for the new light to fill, when it comes. I asked for help with all of this.

I’m asking myself to be open to new possibilities, to find new ways, to have more grace. I’m old enough to know that problems will never stop coming. No life is problem-free, and many of us face unbelievably heart-breaking challenges from time to time. I am wise enough to know that while I don’t have the tools I need yet to deal with this problem head-on, that this challenge is giving me the opportunity to learn new skills, to be a better person. To be a better me. I may arrive on the other side with a couple more wrinkles and a couple more pounds, but I will be smarter, my mind will be clearer, my heart will be stronger, and my soul will be more open.

I prayed today. And I think it helped. I’ll probably do it again sometime.

prayer (1)

Showing My Work

(originally posted on www.createdbychance.blogspot.com on 11/16/14)

I’ve been anxiously waiting for a book that I’ve had on hold at the library, and finally got it into my hot little hands yesterday afternoon, after a wait of about three months.

I’m already finished reading it.

In fairness, it’s a short book, easily digested, but it is FULL of GREAT and USEFUL IDEAS. That book is “Show Your Work” by Austin Kleon.



Do you know him? If not, you should check him out. Particularly if you are a creative type person. His first book, “Steal Like an Artist” is also right on the money. You can find out all about his books and his blackout poetry at www.austinkleon.com.

I’ve been thinking about this concept – showing my work – for a few months now. Ever since I started on the journey of The Artist’s Way, back in August. A journey which is coming to an end this week. I’m a changed person because of it.

I’ve got lots of ideas brewing in this brain of mine. I’m smack-dab in the middle of working on a Young Adult novel – called “New Summerland” – as part of NaNoWriMo. This very blog you’re reading right now is scheduled for a New Years overhaul, and I’m pretty excited about it. I’ve got a better idea of what direction I’m heading in, and I’m excited to share it with you.

I’ve been enjoying this new process of showing my work on a regular basis. I thank you for going on this ride with me, and sharing your work with me. We’re all in this together. We are all students and teachers, simultaneously.

Go forth and create! And show me what you’re working on!

An Afternoon in Paris – Then and Now

(originally posted on www.createdbychance.blogspot.com on 11/13/14)

I am engulfed in wonderful memories today. On this day one year ago my husband, Adam, and I were on our honeymoon in Paris. We spent three wine-soaked, wonder-filled days bumming around the city with our good friend, Wally, after having spent the previous three weeks exploring rural France, Sicily and Marrakech. It was epic.
On this particular day – November 13, 2013 – we spent the afternoon tracking down the location of a photo that Adam’s parents had taken on their honeymoon in Paris in 1949, in the hopes of recreating the photo ourselves. Adam wrote a beautiful story of our little adventure, which is posted below with the pictures – then and now.
On a side note we have recently learned that the Frank mentioned in the story below, Frank Mankiewicz, has recently passed, which makes this memory all the more bittersweet today. Frank was Adam’s father’s best friend, and later became the Press Secretary for Bobby Kennedy’s presidential campaign. Adam’s parents were at the Ambassador Hotel with Frank on the night Kennedy was assassinated, which is another story for another time, but certainly makes all of the below even more poignant for us. We certainly wish to express our deepest condolences to Frank’s family. He will always be remembered quite fondly by us.
I do hope you enjoy.

An Afternoon in Paris – Then and Now

by Adam Hall

Paris, 1949. Four years after the end of the world’s most destructive war, which had destroyed large swaths of Europe, my parents chose to celebrate their nuptials by honeymooning there. Most of the details are lost, and perhaps not particularly interesting. But central to this story is the sole surviving photo from their trip. It shows them on a motorcycle, in front of a cafe, on a street corner in Paris. I came into possession of the picture following my father’s passing in 2011. Framed simply, it hangs in the central hallway of my house, above the usual line of sight.  For the last two years I have occasionally glanced at it, trying to conjure images of what their trip must have been like. They seldom mentioned it, not out of any reluctance, as they obviously enjoyed the adventure, more from a perception that no one would be interested in the telling.

Los Angeles, 2013. I have recently married Amy, a wonderful woman who enjoys travel, and specifically travel with me. A fortuitous combination of factors led us to plan a honeymoon trip to Paris, from which seed a general plan of travel emerged. As I began the planning, the image of that picture of my parents on the street in Paris took more precedence in my mind and I began to view it as a quest for our trip. My most traveled friend always advised that one should have a quest on any trip, something which guides and provides directions in the absence of any other motivation. Even a honeymoon can benefit from some focus, so I imagined tracking down the location where the photo was taken and recreating it with my wife. We would be visiting our good friend, Wally, while in Paris, and he thought the challenge to be an admirable one.

As you can see in the picture, there isn’t a lot to identify the location. The Rue de L’Université is a rather long street in a city where streets tend to change names at every brasserie. Thanks to the advent of Google Street view it is now possible to take a virtual drive along a street, and so I had hopes of being able to spot the corner from the comfort of home prior to visiting Paris.  Unfortunately, that did not pan out. Or more precisely, I could not pan in close enough to match any of the details. Of course, it has been over 60 years since then and not surprisingly the buildings have undergone renovations, redecorating, change of tenants and use, and even entire buildings torn down and rebuilt (although, this being Paris, that is a rare event).

It was looking like the only way of identifying the building would be to walk up and down the street hoping to find someone old enough to remember how the street appeared all those years ago. How far back would that be? Did the cafe survive 10 or 20 years before succumbing to progress? There are many cafes still in business from that time, for example the ones Hemingway wrote about in The Moveable Feast. Would I get lucky and find that this was such a stalwart? At least then the cafe might have old pictures of its history, or an owner with ties to that time period.

There was one remaining link to their trip – their best friend Frank, who I recall them saying was with them at the start in Paris, and who, at 90 years of age, is still going strong and has vivid recollections of their times together (as evidenced by a set of recollections and stories he sent me on the occasion of my father’s recent passing). Whether those recollections are reliable is debatable. Frank’s family was as literate as the Kennedy’s were orate. He also had the demeanor of a top poker player, of which there was already a representative amongst the family. The combination led to some memorable family word games (trust me, it was more interesting than it sounds.) The point being, no matter how firmly and believably Frank might respond to my questions, I had to take his answers with a grain of salt.

Paris, 2013. Upon landing in Paris, I called Frank and asked if he remembered the photo. After some confusion about who was in the picture he quickly described how they had decamped to the Hotel de L’Université, using it as a base for trips around Europe that continued through the end of the year. He recollected the address as being number 5 or 6, and the intersection was Rue des Saints Pères. The cafe, he thought, was the hotel cafe and called the Bonaparte. This was all promising information, and informed by that intelligence I set off with Amy to see what we could find. We made arrangements to meet up with Wally in that general area later in the afternoon.

Amy and I arrived at the Rue de L’Université by Metro and began walking towards the location we had identified. Eventually we came to the 10s and found ourselves in front of the Hotel de L’Université. My spirits lifted as a major piece fit the puzzle. But there was no cafe fronting the hotel, nor did it look like there had ever been a place for one. More importantly, it was not on a corner, so unless a street had been closed off Frank’s data was a bit off. And in Paris, changing a street like that would be unheard of.

We continued on down the rue, looking for the next corner. The hotel ended and we started to pass other buildings. This meant that the cafe couldn’t be in the hotel. Further down the street, number 6 was just a store in the middle of the block. But then, coming to the intersection with Rue des Saints Pères, I found two cafes on opposite corners on the north side of the street, matching the shadows on the picture showing that the café was south-facing. On the near side was the Galette Café. On the opposite side across Rue des Saints Pères was the Comptoir des Saints Pères bar brasserie. To confuse things, a sign on the outside of the Comptoir touted their “cafe a la tasse” and “chocolat chaud”, similar to what was on the window in the original picture. But everything was different from the photo. Then, looking above the Galette Cafe, I spotted the window and filigreed iron railing on the second floor, and a smile lit across my face as I realized that I had found the same building. Amy and I excitedly looked back and forth between the photo and the building, and confirmed that it had the right features.

We crossed the street to the cafe, but it was closed until lunch time. With an hour to wait before it opened, and also for Wally to arrive, we adjourned to the bar on the other corner to do what Parisians love to do anyway – enjoy an espresso and watch the world go by. I showed the picture to one of the older waiters. He said that had indeed been the cafe across the street many years ago. I had my confirmation!  After a bit Wally arrived. We shared our success with him, and all sat down to await the opening of Galette.

Shortly after noon, the blinds went up and Galette Café was open for business. We walked over, sat down, and showed the waitress our picture. She and her husband were the owners (he was from Brittany, hence the specialty of galettes – buckwheat flour crêpes – in the name and on the menu) and we all traded mutual travel stories for a few minutes, including me telling about my parents’ trip 64 years ago. They had opened the restaurant about a year ago, and the previous place had been there for 30 years, which still did not go back to the original from the picture. But we knew we had the right place. We then sat down to a delicious lunch of galettes, and planned our next steps.

Paris has a system of bicycle rentals on streets throughout the city, and we decided to rent one of them to recreate the picture ourselves. Put our own spin on it, as it were. We found a nearby bank of bikes and took one back to the cafe, which by this time was half-bathed in bright sunlight coming down the street. We needed to wait for about 30 minutes until the sun passed behind the street’s buildings, so we settled into the Comptoir bar across the street again for another libation. It was a very European thing to do anyway.
Presently, the sun went behind a building and we were clear to take the re-creation photo. We took our places with Wally assuming Frank’s role across the street as photographer. I tried imagining what those three experienced on that day more than 60 years ago.  Of course theirs was a spur-of-the-moment photo. Between getting the pose right, lighting, and constant foot and vehicle traffic, it took us about 20 minutes to get the shot. I felt very uncomfortable with people staring at me so I guess I could never have a career as a model/actor. Amy and Wally (both actors) on the other hand, enjoyed the hell out of it.

Respect Vs. Compassion

(originally posted on www.createdbychance.blogspot.com on 11/8/14)

I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about the concepts of Respect and Compassion. Specifically, I have been thinking about them in terms of how they relate to the challenging relationships I have in my life, relationships that are nearly impossible to walk away from. Since these relationships are here to stay, I must find a way to come to terms with them.

Learning how to deal with contentious, long-term relationships has given me many opportunities for personal growth over the last few years. I say that a little tongue in cheek, of course, but I have truly looked for ways to let these contentious relationships make me a better person. After all, it is not how you deal with the good things in your life that determines your character, it is how you deal with the negative things that inevitably show up from time to time. It’s easy to behave with grace when life is going well, not so much when shit continually hits the fan. So how do I learn from these experiences, these painful relationships, and grow from them?

This is where the idea of respect and compassion comes in. The lesson I have learned over and over during that past few years is that compassion is king. I want to approach the world with compassion. I want to find compassion in my heart for those who speak ill of me or do things to harm me or those I love. It is not easy to find this compassion, but if I can distance myself from the relationship a bit, if I can disengage as much as possible, and step back a bit from the hurt, I can more easily find compassion and extend compassion. Compassion not only helps to mitigate disharmony, but really it just makes me feel better. The bottom line is compassion is good for my heart, so practicing compassion is kind of a no-brainer.

But what about respect? Are compassion and respect the same things? I sometimes see them used interchangeably, but I wonder if that is true. Perhaps it is just a question of semantics. But respect seems to me something that has to be earned, whereas compassion is something I can extend to anyone regardless of their perceived worthiness. I can have compassion for someone who speaks harshly about me online, but I don’t necessarily need to respect them.

What are your thoughts about respect and compassion? Are they the same thing? Two sides of the same coin? Or is one earned, while the other is freely given?

NaNoWriMo 2014 – Am I Crazy?!

(originally posted on www.createdbychance.blogspot.com on 11/2/14)

I’ve been talking about writing a book. For YEARS. Have I done it? Nope. It’s really easy to put off writing a book. Staring at that blank page, thinking about all the words you still have to write, trying to figure out how to structure the damn thing, looking for some kind of divine intervention…yeah, way easier to clean the bathroom and re-organize the garage than get started on that novel.

In an interesting bit of synchronicity, I have been lately thinking again seriously about writing a book, and stumbled on this little thing called National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short. Basically, it is a challenge to write 50,000 words during the month of November. If you finish, you win. Approximately 250,000 people take the challenge, and only 33,000 win.

Well, crap, if you make it a competition of course I want to win!

So, I threw my hat in the ring. I had an idea for a Young Adult novel in October, so I decided to run with it. Flying by the seat of my pants. I’m two days and 4,426 words in. It is extremely helpful to have a deadline and to know that the most important goal is to just get the words on the page. Keep typing. Don’t get mired down in details. Start and JUST KEEP GOING TIL YOU FINISH.

This is the perfect set-up for me.

You may not hear from me quite so often this month, as some of my dedicated blogging time will now be novel-writing time, because I am determined to finish this thing. I want to be able to look back at the end of the year and think I WROTE A BOOK. A WHOLE BOOK!!

Anyone want to join me?


A Simple List of Things I Love

(originally posted on www.createdbychance.blogspot.com on 10/30/14)

Today’s task in The Artist’s Way was to make a simple list of things I love, and to post it somewhere where I can see it. If possible, I’m also supposed to get myself something off this list to enjoy. I’ve posted here before about my essentials for happiness and things I want, but making this list felt a little different. These are the simple things that bring me joy. They aren’t necessarily essential to my well-being, but they make life richer and more meaningful.


  1.  CATS!
  2.  Slow meals with good friends and family
  3. Candlelight
  4. Bright colors and patterns, especially exotic ones
  5. Wonderful smells like lavender, lilac, rosemary and onions cooking on the stove
  6. Things that are soft and fluffy and silky to the touch
  7. Bright fall days
  8. Being surrounded by plants and flowers
  9. Rain and thunderstorms
  10. The sound of meditation bells
  11. Lemon flavored desserts
  12. Receiving cards and letters in the mail
  13. Giving gifts
  14. Traveling to new places
  15. Indian food
  16. The first glass of wine at the end of a long day
  17. Hugs from my parents
  18. Bringing a smile to someone’s face
  19. Halloween
  20. Feeling like part of a family
  21. Listening to music while driving, and singing along
  22. Street fairs and farmer’s markets
  23. Claw machines, and the feeling I get when I win
  24. Sunrises, and the quiet early morning hours
  25. Being in nature, and seeing animals in their natural habitats
  26. The first cup of coffee in the morning
  27. The anticipation of travel, of fun upcoming events, and of seeing people I haven’t seen in a long time
  28. Dramatic sunsets
  29. Clean sheets
  30. Pretty little flowers in a vase

What do you love? I challenge you to make a simple list. It feels good, and it’s a great reminder to add these little things to your life whenever possible. You deserve it.

My cats, Murray and Venus, enjoying a fresh breeze.  I love them!
My cats, Murray and Venus, enjoying a fresh breeze. I love them!