Something Good About to Happen

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I have had this uncanny sense that I’m about to experience some miracle.

Is it the onset of summer? A time of less work? I have been freelancing, leading workshops, substitute teaching, tutoring and working my ass off. Okay, I wish I worked my ass off, just a little — not that my ass is too big — but well, you know, metaphorically.

And then, there’s the work of family life — the endless meals and maintenance that my three teenagers and disabled spouse require.

But two of my darlings will be in summer camp and one will be on a school trip to Botswana soon. And my husband will be on a fishing trip in Canada. So, maybe it’s just that — soon, for a couple of weeks, I will have less responsibility. I will be free. I can watch what I want on TV. I won’t have to work so hard.

Maybe, it’s the longer days and the light. The birds are definitely chirping when I wake in the morning.

Long summer days, picnics, in Riverside Park.

Long summer days, picnics, in Riverside Park.

I can ride my bike everywhere and I am always happy on my bike.

I can’t quite put my finger on why I feel lighter in spirit. I just know that something good is about to happen. And I wonder what it is.

 

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I blog about happiness and honesty

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When I started blogging, I had four blogs:

  • My Beautiful New York, my NYC people and places
  • Running Aground, my goal to run a 5K
  • the Connected Life, getting my kids off technology
  • A Church A Day, on trying to find meaning by visiting a church a day.

Now they’re all rolled into one (thanks to web developer extraordinaire Felicity Fields). This one, To Pursue Happiness, is about those four goals and the primary goal: to stay happy.

I pursue happiness though I may have absolutely no reason or right.

I feel a loss that my kids are growing up at lightning speed. I feel a sadness that my husband is increasingly challenged by his Parkinson’s Disease.

While these are challenges, they don’t define me. I don’t have to enter or stay in a place of permanent sadness or loss. Life is about what you do with the hand of cards you’re dealt. And I’m dealing.

I’m thriving. I’m staying honest. I’m finding joy. Two great joys in the last couple of weeks were:

Curtain call at the Listen To Your Mother show

Curtain call at the Listen To Your Mother show

  • As a cast member of Listen To Your Mother at Symphony Space
  • As the leader of Artists’ and Writers’ weekend in the Adirondacks.

I was anxious about how these would turn out. Would I deliver the goods? Could I? I did!

In these forums, I could be honest, funny, and surprising.

I could write about and share a lot of feelings, including but not limited to sadness or happiness. A range of emotions, even ambivalence and anger, is acceptable and encouraged in my writing.

So while I still do feel, at times, lost, I can find myself through writing and in the company of other women writers. That’s how I pursue happiness.

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from LTYM

Before the Listen To Your Mother show, the cast warmed up. And that’s Shari Simpson-Cabelin, assistant director, doubled-over, laughing. (I’m in the white pants.) (Photos by Jennifer Lee)

At last week’s Listen To Your Mother show, I was reminded that I am not alone. There are a lot of women telling their truths, deep stories about hardship and love.

Here are some of the Listen To Your Mother (LTYM) New York City posts from my fellow cast members.

Thanks to Shari’s blog for compiling these so I could repurpose! And thanks to producer Holly Rosen Fink, a steady presence, who made this show such a hit.

I got to work with the fab director Amy Wilson, who blogged on motherhood conspiring against her, even as she put on a show.

Here are more stories from the Mother’s Day show.

  • Co-producer Varda Steinhardt‘s piece was about tracking the orbit of her sons’ stars. 
  • Marinka received the dreaded call from the nurse’s office, It’s Always Bad News.
  • Kim Forde, 8 and 1/2 month pregnant, read Welcome To The Circus, a guide to the family circus.
  • Elizabeth (Kizz) Robinson wrote About Me, on how to be child-free and loving.

I haven’t posted my story yet. I want it to be a surprise.

Over the summer, you can see the show at the Listen To Your Mother YouTube channel. There will be videos from all 24 shows across the country, some still going on. Also, upcoming are professional photos of our NYC show by the awesome Jennifer Lee.

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At my Adirondack retreat and at my LTYM show, I heard a lot of stories that make me go, “aww” – and I feel in the company of AWW — Awesome Women Writers.

Through relentless honesty, these women writers (and one guy) make it okay to be honest and to tell my story too.

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getting through december

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Last year I went cross country skiing at the Hildene estate in Manchester, Vermont. So fun. So pretty. The winter months don't have to be depressing.

It’s no wonder people find Christmas depressing. It’s a holiday in a dark month full of rabid consumerism and fake merriment.

Here’s how I’m going to power through the season:

1. I will be exceedingly good-natured, especially to crabby people. This is my passive-aggressive way — if I hold a door for you, a stranger, at the bank and you don’t say, Thank you, I will shout exuberantly, You’re welcome and have a beautiful holiday season!

2. Seriously, I will try to maintain a sunny attitude, even while facing layoffs, long lines, and disappointing gifts from my children.

3. I will give and go to a lot of holiday parties and have conversations with family and friends that are so deep and meaningful they cannot be summarized in a tweet. (But follow me any way on Twitter @MaryBethC — Self promotion? Not gonna stop!)

4. Delve into some childhood memories and try to make some damn good memories for my kids — but NOT memories of things like iPhones, but memories of experiences, like hanging out with cousins, eating fondue or looking at the Rockefeller tree. (We live in NYC and we never do any of the touristy, Christmas crap.)

5. Do some Christmas-y NYC things:

  • see the Renaissance angels at the Met
  • see the origami tree at the Museum of Natural History
  • see the windows on 5th Avenue
  • listen to Handel’s Messiah
  • eat Scandinavian food

6. Write a lot.

7. Travel a lot (to Chicago and the Adirondacks).

8. Drink a lot (of egg nog).

This was last winter’s post from my visit to Hildene.

Next 3 Saturdays Writing Workshop

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Excited to be leading The Story of Your Life at the Heritage House in Westport, New York this Saturday morning. At this community center, I’ve struck a yoga pose and smiled at the plein air art shows. All in one place, my favorite things: yoga, art, and, now, for the last three Saturdays in August, from 10:30 to noon, creative writing.

This is Dan's book that inspires the workshop, The Story of Your Life.

The Heritage House http://www.westportheritagehouse.com/ was once a federated church, Baptist and Methodist. Now it is a visitor center and home to a community art show, the title of which I love — The Spirit of Place. I want to build the spirit of place into the writing workshop.

The Story of Your Life is inspired from the workshops led by my friend and mentor, Dan Wakefield, who also wrote a book by the same name. http://www.danwakefield.com/ If you’re anywhere in the Adirondack region, please join me in this place.

I sent this blurb to some Adirondack newspapers so I hope we get a few people:

Write about your life — from childhood through the present day –- the small, quiet moments and the large, public events. In this creative, supportive, and fun workshop, you will discover threads of humor and meaning through writing and sharing your writing.

This hour and a half workshop is intended for the experienced, casual, and non-writer. ($10/class)

The workshop is led by Mary Beth Coudal, a writer and teacher, whose essays have appeared in the New York Times, Self magazine, and other newspapers, magazines, and websites. Mary Beth blogs about creative writing at: http://gettingmyessayspublished.wordpress.com (that’s this blog, heh). She also writes about the spirit of New York at: http://mybeautifulnewyork.wordpress.com/ and she writes a lot more than that too.

And now I’m writing this blog in the third person, the first sign of narcissistic tendencies, so I must stop writing and start reading. As the saying goes, enough about me, What do YOU think about me?

Blogging — Going A Different Way

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On Faith

I love how easy it is to change directions on WordPress. I changed the name of A Church A Day blog to My Rules http://mbcoudal.wordpress.com/ when I realized visiting a church a day was too much of a commitment. (Although I just won a journalism award for that blog, so I will probably go back to A Church A Day when the kids go to camp this summer.) I also want to stick to My Rules because I want to be accountable to the 7 life rules I made up for myself.

On Fitness

I changed the focus of my running blog http://runningaground.wordpress.com/ to health when I found out I had basal cell cardinoma. But I still love the idea and name of Running Aground. I am logging, blogging, slogging my way to fitness.

On Writing

I changed this blog http://gettingmyessayspublished.wordpress.com/ to The Connected Life — a much better title than Getting My Essays Published. At first, this blog had a private setting because I wanted to keep track of where I was sending my essays and where they were, or were not, getting published. It seemed a personal and boring endeavor, the pursuit of publication. But then I wanted to comment on so many things about social media. I’m not really in love with this blog’s URL or the name. It’s kinda meh.

On NYC

My favorite of my blog titles is My Beautiful New York. This is the only title I haven’t changed since I started almost two years ago. I still love the name My Beautiful New York.

The title says what a blog title should say: Here’s something delicious. Here’s what I’m passionate about — or at least musing on. For a few months My Beautiful New York was mostly pictures downloaded from my phone.

When I post and want to refer back to an earlier post, I sometimes wonder Which blog did I write that for? Then I Google MBCoudal and a tag. 

And then there are times I wonder which blog to post on — should I post my musings on My Beautiful New York or My Rules? Like those several posts about the sidewalk art. They seemed like quintessential New York stories, but ultimately, I decided they had more to do with an epiphany or synchronicity. And that jibes more with My Rules.

Also there is this questing of PostADay2011, posting every day of 2011. The tag PostADay2011 is getting too big in my clouds. It’s dwarfing my other tags, so I’m going to have to untag PostADay2011.

I’d do it now, but I’m going to watch a movie with my kids. I love my kids even more than I love blogging. I do love blogging, especially because you can change their names. Kids? Not so much.

Sidewalk Art

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Enough with the sidewalk art!

H. and I had just come from the New Museum where we saw George Condo’s Mental States and met the great man. http://mybeautifulnewyork.wordpress.com/2011/05/08/george-condo/

On the way into the park, we stepped on De La Vega’s sidewalk art.

A man with a feather in his cap sat near the first chalk drawing, around 97th and Central Park East. H. wondered if that was the artist, Jamie De La Vega. But not all artists hang near their art. Like all bloggers do not hang near their blog.

One message on the sidewalk did not have the silly helicopter or fish image — simply words across the pavement with a message, “It will continue to get better.” That made me happy.

Chalk artists have to know the forecast.

Minutes after we arrived at H’s Little League game, a dark cloud hovered, opened up, and sent me running to the field house.

My first thought was I should not have spent that $25 to get my hair blown out. And my second thought was all that sidewalk art  probably did not survive the downpour.

Art is ephemeral. Like the bubbles in George Condo’s paintings.

Life too is fleeting. This applies to My Rules Number 6 and 7.

6. Live every day as if it were your last

7. Embrace uncertainty

And yes, it will continue to get better. But there will be rain.

Become Your Dream Part III

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Yup, I stepped in it, more sidewalk art by De La Vega.

On Saturday afternoon, the girls and I were heading into Central Park around 96th Street with our picnic to watch H. play Little League in the North Meadow, 23 acres of fields (thanks Wikipedia). And I saw the chalk drawing beneath my feet.

“Move, girls, I want to take a picture,” I said.

“Of what? There’s nothing,” C. said, shrugging, looking around.

“Look down. See? A little guy dragging a vase.” No, that may be wrong. That might not be the image. Maybe the little guy wasn’t pulling the vase, but the vase was pushing the little guy. As if to say — art propels you, not drags you.

The other two times along with the little helicopter guy, De La Vega had written three words: Become Your Dream. And that was an apt message for me — because the first time, around New Year’s Day, I had been wondering, “What are my three words for the New Year?” And there they were, resting on a pile of trash. Become. Your. Dream. Three excellent words to guide me in 2011. http://mbcoudal.wordpress.com/2011/01/03/my-3-words/

And then almost exactly two months later, I saw his sidewalk art when I was coming from picking up my number for the 5K Coogan’s fun run at the New York Road Runners office. I took the words — Become your dream — as a sign. I should set goals for myself, like running a 5K, and then achieve them. http://mbcoudal.wordpress.com/2011/03/04/become-your-dream-part-ii/

When I saw the words on Saturday, it was almost exactly two months after seeeing them on the night I picked up my race number.

I was again committed to a goal. The next day I was going to ride in the 5 boro bike tour. I was going to pedal 50 miles, go over 5 bridges and visit every borough in one morning. http://runningaground.wordpress.com/2011/05/02/5-boro-bike-tour/ And yes, I did it.

The girls and I only stopped for a minute to notice the sidewalk art and for me to snap this picture with my phone. We walked on to meet our friends in Central Park and to watch our team, the Giants, play baseball. They lost, but not by much. There’s still time left in this season for the Giants to become their dream.

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Become Your Dream Part II

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I first noticed  the words propped up with the thrown-out Christmas tree. I might have seen them around town but they didn’t click.

Just now, I noticed the words again written in chalk outside the Whitney Museum. It might be hard to make out the words from my pictures, but the words were, BECOME YOUR DREAM.

I had just picked up mine and the kids’ registration for our 5K Coogan’s run at the NY Road Runners Club on East 89th. Yes, it’s been a dream of mine to run a 5K. [The last and only time I ran a 5K (hoping to beat 41 minutes): http://runningaground.wordpress.com/2010/10/19/i-did-it/ ]

So I felt a frisson, an emotional charge, an old friend, a coincidence, an epiphany, an Aha!, a click, an all’s-right-with-the-world feeling when I saw the words again.

Of course, I snapped a couple of pics on my phone. (I think this photo is upside-down.) When I got home to the West side, I googled Become Your Dream. I learned the artist is James de la Vega  http://dynamomagazine.com/?p=1646

There are pictures and sightings of his words and the spunky Keith Haring-like helicopter all over the city, mostly on the Upper East Side. Bitchcakes (love her name!) has a nice photo and thanks the artist responsible “for this act of pure joy and positivity.”

http://www.flickr.com/photos/bitchcakes/5386588568/ Nice.

I want to thank the artist too. It was about 5:45 when I walked towards the Whitney. I thought. ‘Maybe I’ll duck in and see some art. I hope I have enough money for admission. Ah, no worries. The museum closes at 5:45.’ So I started down 5th Ave. That’s when I saw the sidewalk art next to a bit of construction in front of the museum.

Seeing the words thrilled me. It reminded me that art is on the street. Art is at my feet. Art inspires me to keep walking or to get running. To keep going. To get out of my comfort zone. I love my beautiful New York. http://mybeautifulnewyork.wordpress.com/ 

I love street art. I love the idea of it and the feel of it. I love Become Your Dream. These are my three inspiring words for 2011.

Here is my blog entry about my three words when I saw them for the first time in the garbage two months ago: http://mbcoudal.wordpress.com/2011/01/03/my-3-words/

Posting Every Day

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I post every day. Okay, every night. I plan to do it for 66 days because that’s how many days it takes to make a habit. I’m up to 33 days. Half-way there!

I love it. I love mulling over what to write. I jot down ideas on the back of envelopes in my purse. Then, later, can’t decipher my handwriting. It’s big and scrawly. Other times, I know exactly what I wrote. Like I saw the phrase —  “glory = Riversd Park = walkin home as lmpsts light.” I’ll post that one in My Beautiful New York.

I like the feeling of scooping a story. I believe I was one of the first people to post about the new astrological sign (thanks to my friends at Happy Hour!). I did expect my readership to soar the night I posted that little piece of brilliance. http://mybeautifulnewyork.wordpress.com/2011/01/13/the-zodiac/

There might have been a slight bump in readers. I don’t obsess over my stats. I am just glad that I have readers. (THANKS!) And I’m doing it partly for myself — to figure out what it is I’m thinking.

And I don’t have to go on long in these blog posts. Once I hit 100 words, I figure I’m nearly done!

I want to conclude with a picture of where I was when I started writing this post — a new cafe on 120th and Broadway at Columbia University. How charming is this! I am in love. I am in love with New York City. This spot had been a construction site for years. Now it’s a lovely place to hang out and write in the early morning.

Go figure. Life is surprising. And so are the things you discover every day.