happy winter solstice

Happy winter solstice, friendly neighbors! You might be wondering why I am wishing you a happy first day of winter, which is my least favorite season (i.e. I don’t do winter). I am trying to focus less on the fact that it is now winter and more on the fact that daylight time will now start increasing by about two minutes per day. More daylight time in dreary winter is a very good thing. Bring on the light!

In case you didn’t know how hardcore a science nerd I am, I wanted to share with you how I celebrated the solstice tonight. The Museum of Mathematics hosted a solstice celebration across from the Flatiron Building in the plaza at 23rd Street. Math and science enthusiasts showed up to create a seven-pointed star, live streamed from a camera on the top floor of the Flatiron Building. We all gathered along the lines of a star that was measured with a giant protractor, drawn in chalk on the ground. Here’s the MoMath top math dude dropping some solstice knowledge on the crowd with his giant protractor:

Museum of Mathematics Solstice Stars 2015

Then we held foam glow sticks horizontally so they were touching end-to-end to form the sides of the star. The star looks like this without people:

Museum of Mathematics Solstice Star

Why did the star have seven points? The outer angle of each triangle measured approximately 26 degrees, which is the highest altitude of the Sun in New York City on the winter solstice (at noon). Starting tomorrow, daylight time will gradually increase by about two minutes per day as the Sun’s noon altitude increases a little bit each day, up until the summer solstice. Since the Sun has a longer apparent path to follow during the day, it takes a longer time to do so (as the Earth rotates on its axis 15 degrees per hour, which is the actual motion that makes the Sun appear to move throughout the day), resulting in more daylight time. I cannot. freaking. wait. for more light.

Nerdy enough? Heck yeah it was. Hope your solstice was on point, too!

elephant life lessons

Greetings, friendly neighbors! I hope you are having a wonderful holiday season. To enhance your holiday cheer (and as solace for those of you who struggle with SAD and/or the holidays in general like I usually do), I wanted to offer you some inspiration and joy from the remarkable elephants at The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, TN.

The sanctuary is home to 14 magnificent female elephants who are now living happy and free after decades of captivity as circus or zoo entertainers. These elephants deserve all of the goodness we can give them, especially after the horrible conditions they have had to endure. There are many valuable lessons to be learned from The Girls, all good reminders for this emotional time of year.

So! I have compiled a list of Top Five Elephant Life Lessons for you.

1. Life is a gift.

Although I have much love for all elephants, Shirley is my favorite elephant in the whole world. Why? She has endured captivity as a circus elephant, a fire on a sinking ship, and 22 years in a tiny zoo, shuffling between only a plod of grass and a small cement holding pen. She had no other elephant friends. She wore chains. For 22 years.

But then she was rescued by the sanctuary’s friendly neighbors and brought to the sanctuary in 1999. At that time, she was reunited with Jenny, an elephant who performed in the same circus as Shirley about 25 years before. Shirley and Jenny totally remembered each other right away. Shirley showed Jenny her crooked hind right leg (broken when Shirley was attacked by another elephant in the circus), the missing part of her right ear (ripped off in the ship fire), and her various scars from the fire. Jenny patted Shirley’s injuries all over with her trunk. They were bonded for life, a love that transcended space and time, and Shirley carries Jenny in her heart to this day.

Shirley and Jenny, reunited after 22 years

I write people love stories, but my favorite animal love story is Shirley + Jenny, reunited after 22 years. You can watch Shirley’s arrival at the sanctuary and their amazing reunion here. WARNING: There is no way you can watch this without crying. Be prepared.

Shirley is a survivor, and a role model for all elephants and humans. She knows that life is a gift to be appreciated every single day. At 67 years young, she is super active and gets around like the rock star she is. Go Shirley!

2. Enjoy the Now.

Elephants are a lot like people. They have distinct personalities and mannerisms. They have favorite things just like we do. Misty loves napping. Tarra likes watermelon and socializing. Sissy takes her tire around with her like a security blanket. Tange loves mudding. And my girl Shirley enjoys simple pleasures like basking in the sun or going for a swim. She likes to walk over small pine trees for a belly rub and scratch her ears with sticks.

Shirley likes belly rubs

These sweet Girls are gentle souls who understand that it’s all about the little things.

3. All you need is love.

Shirley and Tarra

This Trunk Hugs video of Shirley and Tarra says it all.


4. Treat others the way you want to be treated.

For her 65th birthday, Shirley received a delicious treat. A frozen fruit popsicle all for Shirley! While Shirley was enjoying her birthday treat, Tarra came over to investigate. Shirley is well aware of Tarra’s snack stealing tactics. But out of respect for Shirley’s special day, Tarra did not try to snatch a bite of the fruit. Instead she swirled her trunk in the air, then put her trunk in her mouth to taste the fruit essence. Way to be a friendly neighbor, Tarra!

5. Practice daily gratitude.

These sweet Girls are now very happy elephants. They have been given the gift of ele-heaven, spending each day in true sanctuary style doing whatever they choose. Elephants never forget. The Girls remember their life before sanctuary, the scary situations and lonely years they suffered, the losses of their fellow elephant friends they have mourned. I think that makes them even more grateful for the wonderful safe haven they now have in their forever home.

I watch the Girls on The Elephant Sanctuary’s EleCams. A lot. They looked especially happy today, grazing, dusting, napping, sunning, and socializing. When Shirley is extra happy, she does not hold back. Like the time she was in such a great mood she trumpeted right into Tarra’s mouth!

Shirley and Tarra, BFFs

You can watch this video and lots of others on The Elephant Sanctuary’s YouTube.

Eternal thanks to co-founders Carol Buckley and Scott Blais, and everyone at The Elephant Sanctuary for giving these gentle souls such loving care, a beautiful environment, and a forever home. Here’s to many more years of happy elephant bliss ❤

the even advisory system

One reason I love interacting with you guys on social is that some of you know the kind of quirky stuff I adore. To the point that you will send me things that are so me I can’t believe I didn’t think of them first.

A perfect example is this Even Advisory System, shared by friendly neighbor Greg H. on Twitter:

The Even Advisory System

I wrote a decent amount of “I can’t with that”, “I can’t even”, and “I can’t” into Take Me There. That was back in 2007. At the time, this slang was on the newer side. My editor and copyeditor didn’t quite know how to handle it. They were like, “Can’t with what?” and “Is there a word missing at the end?” But I stuck with this supreme slang because it was just too good not to.

It’s been eight years since I left teaching to write full-time, but I still miss geeking out over shiny new school supplies. I also miss that sense of a fresh start filled with infinite potential. It’s a transient sensation that can only be captured in September. By October, the freshness has gone stale, and the motivation you had when school started has succumbed to boredom (for students) and exhaustion (for teachers).

Even if you did not go back to school this month, you can still harness the power of that fresh start with the Even Advisory System. How? By completing each prompt to create five statements expressing how much you can’t, then identifying five solutions to mitigate their severity.

I’ll start.

  • I can’t with summer ending. Fact: There are seven days left of summer until the autumnal equinox on September 23. Solution: Enjoy the eff out of them.
  • I can’t even with the upcoming lack of summer fruit. Fact: You might find berries and melons in the winter, but they will not taste good. Solution: Inhale as many pints of berries and entire melons as I can while they are still edible.
  • I just can’t even with people who cross the street when an ambulance or fire truck is coming right at them. Fact: Sirens exist for a reason, but not everyone’s reasoning skills are sharp. Solution: Point out that an emergency vehicle is coming to people who are about to demonstrate a sad lack of awareness.
  • I cannot with people who litter. Fact: The earth is not a garbage can. Solution: Run after people who toss garbage on the sidewalk, pick up their straw wrapper / gum wrapper / napkin, hand it back to them and be like, “I think you dropped something.”
  • I literally can’t even with negative energy. Fact: Haters gonna hate, but I have no time for anyone throwing shade. Solution: Minimize exposure to negative energy just as I would with any other toxic health risk.

Feeling much better already!

Have fun working your own system, friendly neighbors 🙂

the power of looking up

Non-coincidences happen all the time. Whether you make it possible to notice them is up to you.

What are non-coincidences? A non-coincidence is a term I coined in Something Like Fate to describe how we are connected in magnificent ways. We are only beginning to understand the forces of energy around us. The Universe works in mysterious ways, but one thing is clear: We are all connected. The more open we are to welcoming in the energy, the more opportunities we have to witness non-coincidences. David Life of Jivamukti Yoga said, “If you believe in coincidence, then you aren’t paying attention.” That quote is included at the beginning of Something Like Fate. Non-coincidences happen when the Universe brings two people, things, or events together in profound ways, both big and small.

Everything is connected...

An example of a small non-coincidence involves Zayn Malik leaving One Direction and my cell phone. How are these two things connected? The day I broke my Guinness World Record lifetime trifecta of never owning a cell phone/TV/microwave by getting my first ever cell phone was March 25, 2015. March 25, 2015 was also the day Zayn left One Direction. See, I knew breaking that Guinness World Record would have disastrous consequences. Just kidding. Sort of. A lot of events happened on that date. There might not be a connection between those two. But I don’t know…part of me feels like this was a non-coincidence reflecting that Zayn and I were both embarking on major changes.

One Direction

There are much larger non-coincidences. Like my Gram dying on my 30th birthday. I had a Knowing she would die on my 30th birthday a long time before she did. Non-coincidence. Then there was the time I took the subway at a time of day I’m never on the subway, a line I rarely take. I was reading while I was waiting for the subway. When the train pulled up, I had a sudden feeling to run ahead to the next car and get on that one instead. So of course an old friend I hadn’t seen in years who doesn’t even live here got on my subway car a few stops later. We would have never seen each other if I hadn’t run ahead to that other car or if I hadn’t looked up from my book. Non-coincidence. Sometimes the Universe does that, pulling people together in ways we don’t even realize to make sure we connect in a way that will help us with the next chapter of our lives. But again, this phenomenon really only happens when at least one of the people involved is open to that positive energy. And that person is looking up.

The more you look up and connect with the world around you, the more you will notice non-coincidences. Like the other day when I ran into a friend on the street. That kind of thing happens all the time in New York. Way more than the probability of those interactions statistically occurring in a city of 8.5 million people. But this wasn’t one of those times. This was a non-coincidence. About half an hour before, I had brought two big bags of donations over to Housing Works, only to be greeted by a locked door and sign in the window saying they were closed unexpectedly. I lugged the bags back home in the heat, bummed that I would have to lug them back another day. I’m one of those people who like to cross things off my to-do list and be done. The day was just challenging me in general and I was feeling scraggly. But as I left my apartment again and headed out for an adventure to hopefully turn things around, I reminded myself that as long as I keep my attitude bright and face the world with smiles and lots of positive energy, the day would get better. Stay strong. Never give up.

Felicity Porter, rooftop

So I was on my way to the Dean and DeLuca from Felicity. I am a hardcore Felicity fangirl. I have lived in New York City for almost 20 years. Yet I’ve never ventured down to the exact Dean & DeLuca where Felicity and Ben worked, even though it’s only like a 20-minute walk from my place. That’s one thing I love about New York. Every day brings the potential to discover something new, even after all this time. My goal was to go there and get back in time for my gym class later that evening. I was waiting for a light to change at 12th Street when, just like that day waiting for the subway I never take at a time I never take it, I had this sudden feeling to turn down the street and head west instead of crossing it to go south. Which is when the non-coincidence happened.

I was about half a block down 12th Street when I heard, “Susane!” I looked up. And there was my gym instructor for the class I was taking that evening. She’s also my friend and I really enjoy talking to her. Fortunately for me, she was looking up and noticed me. I might have walked right past her. While I like looking up at buildings and the sky and stuff, I don’t look up at people I’m passing on the street as much as I probably should. But she was looking up and was also walking down 12th randomly because she was going to walk this whole other way and then switched directions for a reason she couldn’t explain. We stood there and talked for like an hour. The conversation shifted towards a project she’s working on that she needs a translator for. Two good friends of mine own a translation company! I hooked her up with their contact info. That’s a conversation we probably wouldn’t have had at the gym, and it provided her with contacts that could help her in amazing ways. This is the kind of example I’m talking about when I say that looking up opens doors of possibility for you.

You might be wondering how Dean & DeLuca was. Dude, I was bummed. I was expecting to go in and sit at the table where Ben gave Felicity that necklace and have this meta New York City experience. But it wasn’t like that at all. The tables were only brought in for filming the show. That Dean & DeLuca location is actually a grocery store! But the marble countertop at the cashier station was familiar. Same with the placement of the coffee makers. And the view out the window was the same. Of course I documented it for you.

Felicity Dean & DeLuca

Akhmose was another friendly neighbor who looked up and noticed me on the street. He wasn’t even going to walk that way. But it was the second really beautiful day of spring and the trees were calling to him down my street so he went that way. He was just about to take out his phone when something told him not to. Something told him to enjoy the day, be in the Now. I’ve had that same feeling many times before. That’s the Universe telling you to look up. Akhmose looked up and saw me and came up to me like, “Excuse me, but are you an author?” He remembered me from five years ago when we met outside the New York Public Library on 9th Street. He was selling scrolls of encouragements he used to write and decorate. It was one of those New York City moments I love, discovering something new and connecting with someone fabulous, that I documented here on my blog. Akhmose is a motivational artist who went by the name KIMM back then. Now he’s affiliated with The Future Project, encouraging children and teens to live extraordinary lives of passion and purpose.

Maybe one of you reading this post right now will be inspired to connect with The Future Project…which might change your life or the life of someone you know. That’s the magic non-coincidences. That’s the power of looking up. They can have infinite reach.

When you look up, you notice possibilities you otherwise would have missed. You connect with the world around you in a spectacular way. You allow the energy to open doors for you that you didn’t realize even existed. You wake up.

What will you see today?

you are not alone

Thanks to everyone who participated in my Facebook Q&A last week! It was super fun. So fun that I’m planning another one for later this summer with an international giveaway of City Love. Thanks also to No BS Book Reviews for taking it all off in this City Love edition of Novel Nudity. And this Justin’s Book Blog interview in which I was asked only one question: How has your life impacted your writing? I could have rambled forever on that one!

There was one question during the Q&A that I started to answer, but decided to answer more completely here when it was taking up too much time. Catherine S. asked, “What advice do you have for dealing with loneliness?”

I know what it’s like to feel so alone that you can hardy breathe. To feel like no one will ever love you or even understand you. To feel like you will never have a true best friend or find people who are really your people. Feeling alone makes everything in your life an enormous struggle. Things that seem easy for everyone else are almost impossible for you. You feel like you’re living in a foreign country where you can’t speak the language and don’t know the local customs. I wish I could have told myself back then what I know now. But I can tell you, and if you are feeling alone, hopefully it will help.

Here’s the first thing I need you to know: You are not alone. This phrase gets thrown around a lot. Kind of like It gets better and You are loved. These three encouragements would have done pretty much nothing to make me feel better in my teen years. My argument would have shot them down like this: Yes I am totally alone, things getting better later does nothing to help me now, and no one loves me. I felt so trapped in my small world that it was extremely difficult to see the bigger picture.

The thing that helped me survive the most in high school was hope. Hope that I would eventually create a happy life. That life felt like it was a million years away, but I knew it was actually four years away, then three, then two. Senior year was much easier since every experience was the last. The best advice I can offer is to find your hope. What do you hope for that will make your life better? Carry that hope in your heart. Remind yourself of that hope every morning, every night, and as many times during the day as you need to. Believe with everything you are that what you hope for will happen. Hope is a really good reason to keep holding on.

You are the architect of your own destiny. That means whatever you are hoping for is in your hands. Your actions in this present moment are shaping your future life. How will you achieve your most important goals? What can you start doing right now to begin working towards turning your dreams into reality? Identify at least one thing you can do every day that will bring you a step closer to achieving your goals. Then make that action a daily priority. Taking control of the things you can in a situation where so much is out of your control will make you feel more connected to your world, and inspire you to build connections with new people who are on your wavelength.

Books were my best friends in high school. My favorite time of day was after school when I could go home and read on my bed. Books, shows, movies, and of course music saved me. They made me feel less alone. Because even if I was only connecting with characters in books and on TV, that sense of connection and validation helped me feel understood. The work that authors, show writers, directors, and musicians were creating inspired me. They gave me safe places. They gave me a sense of community. Now you can go online and find actual communities of people who love what you do. Find your happy. Let the things that make you happy show you that people are out there who are dealing with the same challenges you are.

Are there already people in your life who want to help you, but you’re not letting them in? I kept my high school friends at a distance. There were so many embarrassing parts of my life I was too busy hiding from my friends to show them the real me. But if I had opened up to them, I would have realized that I was not alone. And I was already loved. And it could have gotten better just by reaching out to the people who were right in front of me.

Volunteer work helped me feel less alone in high school. I was a candy striper and a Girl Scout leader-in-training, both of which gave me a sense of purpose and places to belong. Find your people in the places you love. If you love bookstores, coffeehouses, and parks, your people love them, too. Connect with them. Build new friendships. Do not let fear hold you back. A world of possibility is waiting for you to discover abundant happiness. What are you waiting for?

You are loved.

It gets better.

You are not alone.

the love of your life

Happy NewYorkiversary to me! Nineteen years ago today, I moved to New York City to start a shiny new life, build my dream career, and find love. Not just any love. True love. The love of my life. I’d always had a Knowing that soul mates were real and I was determined to find mine. New York City was actually my first true love and the inspiration for my upcoming City Love trilogy. All these years later, I still feel the city love every single day.

Tribeca rooftop, New York City

Growing up across the water in New Jersey, I knew New York City was my true home. I could feel the pull of this magical kingdom even before my first visit. New York is a place where everyone is free to be exactly who they are. No more feeling like an outsider. No more feeling like I needed to escape. When I finally turned this big dream into reality, I knew my whole life would feel completely different in a way I’d always hoped it would. I practiced a lot of creative visualization: imagining my ideal life, writing out my goals, and taking steps every day to turn my dreams into reality. When you have a clear idea of what you’re looking for, it’s easier to recognize once you find it. And having that calm clarity allows the things you want to manifest.

Back in my teens and early 20s, I thought that once certain things changed in my life I would finally be happy. I really believed those things had to happen first before I could find happiness. These were some of the big ones:

  • When I get married, I will be happy.
  • When I find an apartment in the West Village, I will be happy.
  • When I finish paying off my student loans, I will be happy.
  • When I reach my fitness goals, I will be happy.
  • When my first book gets published, I will be happy.

But I was wrong. I had it backwards. It wasn’t that those things had to happen first and then I would be happy. I had to be happy first and then those things would happen. I had to build my own internal happiness, to love myself for exactly who I was, to allow those external things to happen. When you are at peace with yourself, you are able to attract the positive energy necessary to turn your dreams into reality.

When I  am happy, things will change.

Ever notice that negative people who are constantly complaining about their life never seem to get what they want? Negative energy attracts negative energy. You get what you give. If someone is spewing a lot of negative energy out into the Universe, that is exactly what they will get back. Being happy first is key to achieving your goals…and then your happiness grows even larger once those goals are achieved.

How can you be happy when there are so many goals you want to achieve? By appreciating what you do have instead of fixating on what you don’t. The decisions that you make earlier in life shape your future. Being the best version of yourself ensures that you are creating the best possible future for yourself and your loved ones. Being on your game as often as possible opens so many doors of opportunity for you. Everything from recommendations to internships/jobs to special favors someone in power decides to do for you because you are so sweet/awesome/intelligent. The possibilities are endless. Including the possibility of finding a soul mate.

I refused to settle for less than finding the love of my life. Even when people told me that I needed to settle if I ever wanted to get married because I was in my late 30s and this is New York City where the probability of a woman getting married over 40 is smaller than the probability of being struck by lightning while simultaneously having a piano dropped on your head. Even when people told me I was being unrealistic, that the total package didn’t exist, that true love was a myth, I had a Knowing that the love of my life was out there. I allowed myself to find him by never giving up.

How do you know when you’ve found the person you’re meant to be with? You have this feeling of clarity you’ve never had before. The feeling is undeniable. The feeling tells you the search is over. Of course there are more specific details that are evident to the whole world. One way you know you’ve found a soul mate? Is when you get each other the same holiday card. Like these adorable Papyrus cards my BF/soul mate and I got each other this Christmas:

Soul mate holiday cards

To clarify, finding the love of your life does not mean finding a perfect person. No one is perfect. It’s just that the love of your life is perfect for you. Soul mates have flaws just like the rest of us. The love of my life doesn’t rinse the dishes before he puts them in the dishwasher. He struggles to maintain the closet organization systems I have established at his place. Sometimes he doesn’t read emails carefully and misses important information. But so what? If I listed all of my flaws, there would not be any more room on WordPress for anyone to blog about anything else. So please don’t misinterpret “soul mate” to mean “perfect person.” Soul mates are real, just like anyone else.

You can find the love of your life. Love yourself first. Build your own happiness. And refuse to settle for less than what your heart desires. Your dreams deserve to become reality. You deserve as much happiness as your heart can hold.

Here’s to infinite possibilities in 2015!

 

look up – free public baths

There are so many spectacular look up moments to have in New York City I can’t even remember all the ones I’ve had in my nearly 19 years here. Or even most of them. Research shows that we tend to remember the experiences we have alone more vividly than experiences we have with other people. A lot of my look up moments have happened alone. They are burned into my brain like a kind of creative fuel I run on. But I had a recent look up moment with someone that I want to share with you.

We were walking around the East Village on a spontaneous cookie crawl. We hit up DeRobertis (good thing since it tragically closed a few weeks later after 110 years) (and don’t even get me started on Bruno closing after 40 years) (and Gobo closing! How can my favorite vegetarian restaurant be closed?!), Veniero’s, and Insomnia Cookies. Skittering around on a sugar high, I looked up and saw this:

Free Public Baths of the City of New York

The old-school etching above the doorways said Free Public Baths of the City of New York. The building was massive. What was it now? Upon further inspection at the open gated entrance, we discovered the building is now an upscale photography studio. But what did it used to be? We researched and found out something really cool. There was a whole public bath movement in New York City back in the 1840s. People who lived in the old East Village tenements didn’t have access to bathtubs or showers in their apartments. They came to the Free Public Baths, which had seven bathtubs and 94 showers. After bathrooms became standard in apartment buildings, the Free Public Baths closed in 1958. Then it was used as a garage/warehouse until 1995, when it became the photography studio it is today.

How fascinating is that? I never even knew about the public bath movement. And I probably never would have discovered this important part of New York’s history if I hadn’t looked up as we walked by.

In a city where old-school institutions are closing due to skyrocketing outrageous rents, it’s reassuring to look up and see that the historical flavor of New York City is still all around. I will continue to look up…and learn way more about my city love.