Stress….a friend??


My friend, Mimi, sent me a link to a TED talk called “How to make stress your friend” by Kelly McGonigal.  I would highly recommend you click on that link and listen to her…but I’ll give a synopsis here.  Kelly McGonigal PhD is a health psychologist, graduate of Stanford University, as well as a lecturer there.  She’s got the creds!

So, the basic gist of the article is that stress can be good for you in many ways….but the most important is the way you react to stress.  She references some studies that asked the participants, “Do you believe that stress is harmful to your health”….and then they looked at the death rates of those participants.  Those who answered yes to that question died at a higher rate than those that answered no…even for those that had little stress in their lives. So, basically if you change the way you feel about stress you can change your body’s response to that stress.  Everyone has those times when you’re sweating, heart pounding, breathing faster.  For those that thought it was bad, their blood vessels constricted…not good…but, for those that thought stress wasn’t harmful their blood vessels stayed relaxed….their bodies were dealing with the stress.  Think of those performers, Barbra Streisand/Meryl Streep, who have said they are terrified right before they go on stage and perform…but it makes them better performers.  I’d assume they learn to accept the challenge of that stress and as they walk onto the stage they relax.

Ms. McGonigal goes on to explain how stress makes us more social.  For those that seek help from friends and family in times of stress their oxytocin levels go up…and oxytocin is an anti-inflammatory, directly related to your heart response….more oxytocin, more calm, better bodily response.  She also explains how caring for others…reaching out to help your friend’s and family in their times of stress….can also benefit you.


In a nutshell it’s the way you react to stress that can make you a stronger person and also cement those close relationships that we all need in our lives.  Meditation, Zumba and daily affirmations help too!

I wish you all a stress-free weekend…but if you experience stress, I hope you’ll be able to deal with it in a productive way for your body and your life.

TEDtalks are awesome!  You can learn so much from so many of them, but beware, you’ll get sucked in, so give yourself a time limit in front of that computer screen!

 You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails! 

Feng Shui…changing orientation to change your view


My last home…cute cottage on Balboa Peninsula

I’ve always had fun decorating whatever home I’m in…whether my first studio apartment in San Francisco or our larger 2800 sf home.  When I first started out it was fun to get recycled, re-purposed and castaways-on-the-side-of-the-road furniture.  We’d strip, paint, sand, change knobs on whatever was thrown our way.  It was a challenge that was very rewarding that I still really enjoy today.  When we were fortunate enough to buy new furniture for a larger home, it was fun to put different colors and designs together to make the house a home.


Another view of my previous home…Quinn loved her perch
photo credit: Angela Cartwright

I live, once-again, in a tiny studio with lots of light and windows.  When I first moved in, my sister, brother-in-law and I placed all the furniture where we thought it would work for the short time I’d be here.  I only had a small love-seat to sit on, so my bed became my sofa…and I just swiveled the TV to accommodate whatever area of the room I was watching.

308 marine

the original layout

I’ve pretty much loved every place I’ve lived and have been successful in making it feel like a home, but this place just didn’t feel right.  Even my sister said, “This is the first time you don’t seem excited about your place.”  It’s been weird, because I LOVE Balboa Island, my little place has an amazing amount of light, the MOST adorable kitchen ever, and a feeling of community, with all the activity going on outside my window.  ….but I’d come home and it just didn’t feel as welcoming as I’ve always felt.  I’m not a complainer so it really bugged me that I didn’t LOVE where I was living.  …and then I came home from my recent trip to NYC!

I walked in and due to numerous calamities with the remodel in the downstairs store I had to spend a few nights at my sister’s beautiful home a few blocks away…not a hardship!  Anyway, I decided one day that I just needed to rotate my bed so I didn’t see the bottom of it when I walked in every day.  I have no idea why that mattered, but I thought, what the hell just move it and see how it looks.  I rotated the bed, moved some side tables and voilà!!  An amazing thing happened!  I now really like sitting in bed and watching TV or sitting on my little love-seat and reading.  I’m sure there’s a Feng Shui expert out there that would tell me that the room has better energy now???…and I’m sure they’d have a reason, but I have no idea.  Even my cat likes it better and sleeps at the bottom of the bed (she used to sleep on the loveseat…go figure!)  I’m just glad that it feels more like home and I’ll enjoy the next 4 months that I have here in this magical place called Balboa Island.


the new layout…feels more like home…cozier!

So if you have a space that doesn’t feel quite right…re-arrange the furniture, it may make all the difference!

You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails! 

Motivational Mondays…Optimism


I had to share this pic of the coffee we had while we were in New York
at our friend’s apartment….now that’s some motivation…and it was really good coffee too!

Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence….Helen Keller

 You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails! 



On our recent trip to New York City, my older sister and I saw “Beautiful, the Carole King Musical.”  It was a fun walk down memory lane…kind of like a concert with the added back-story.  You won’t believe some of the oldie’s she co-wrote before her own Tapestry album was released in 1971…did you know “One Fine Day…performed by the Chiffons” was one of her songs? I would recommend it if you ever get out to NYC….or catch it on the North American tour in a city near you.  When we came out of the theater, my sister said to me, “You should write about that song, Beautiful.  It’s the way you start your day.”  I thought, wow, that’s such a nice thing to say and, of course, it made me go back and look at the lyrics.

“You’ve got to get up every morning
With a smile on your face
And show the world all the love in your heart….”

How nice for someone to notice something about you that you never really gave a second thought.  I don’t do it consciously, but it is the way I start my day…and it’s definitely not always easy.  Everybody has bad days and there are many times when I’m anxious about what the days meetings, activities, etc… are going to bring my way, but I try to make a concerted effort to orchestrate each day so that it’s pleasant for those around me.  I know this may sound archaic, but I remember from my Catholic elementary school days that a teacher (probably a nun) once told the class to start every morning by thanking God for the day.  It’s not a daily thing, but I still do it when I remember…sometimes it just feels like second nature.  I just look out at the gorgeous sunrise or the blue sky while I’m still in bed and thank God for giving me the day.  I just do it silently to myself (in fact, I’m not sure my ex-husband even knows I did that?) and relish in the feeling of gratitude.  It, obviously, doesn’t change the bad and hard things from happening in your life, but it helps you face them with a little more courage and optimism….and gratitude.  Have a BEAUTIFUL weekend!


P.S…thanks to my sister and my friends for all the ideas you continue to give me to write about in this blog….keep ’em coming…couldn’t do it without you!

  You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails! 

A Thank You Note to NEW YORK CITY

Thank you Barrie for these warm boots!

Dear New York City,

Thank you for the years of entertainment, culture and excitement you’ve given me!  Thank you for enveloping me in your Broadway shows and diverse population.  Thank you for giving me winter and all that it entails!  …And thank you for taking care of my children, offering them jobs and wonderful relationships as they navigate their early adulthood.  You will always be part of my history and for that I am forever grateful! 


I’ve loved NYC for as long as I can remember.  My Dad was born in Manhattan, growing up in the Irish neighborhood known as Inwood, my Mom spent most of her childhood out on Long Island in Breezy Point, and both of my sisters lived there for about 10 years in the 80’s…not to mention the fact that all five of us were born in neighboring New Jersey.  It’s kind of been ingrained in my siblings and I from a young age that NYC was a great place.  Yes, California has amazing weather and I don’t think I’d want to live anywhere else, but there is absolutely nothing like NYC….Paris is a close second!  When we took a family trip back in the late 90’s, Austin said “I’m going to live here some day!”  Right now both of my kid’s, and their fiancés, live on the east coast, working in New York City/Brooklyn (although my daughter is not really a fan of city life).


bought some much-needed NYC jammies at the airport on my way home

I’ve wanted to write a post about NYC many times, but there is soooo much to say and share about this great city that I’ve just procrastinated, hoping I would find the words to convey the enthusiasm I have and the energy you get when you visit.  I traveled back there last week and have been bursting to share everything NYC!  Because there’s so much to say about the city that never sleeps, I’ll do a mash-up of a few trips and share the things I love most about them….number one being the fact that I get to spend time with my kids and their fiancés!

Before the wheels even touch down at JFK, I crane my neck to catch a glimpse of the city lights through the tiny plane window.  The excitement builds as I take a taxi (…or the cheaper, convenient, A train if I’ve only got carry on luggage) over the bridge and see the lights of the Chrysler and Empire state buildings come into view.  The last couple of times I’ve visited I’ve stayed with the kids, but my sister’s were joining me this past week, so we stayed at a friend’s on Central Park West….amazing location and view!  It’s 11pm, but “it’s really only 8pm, right?” we all say and head over to Empire Szechuan on Columbus for their cold noodles with sesame sauce…my mouth is watering just thinking of them (we used to go back in the 80’s when my sisters lived there).  As we sit and order more delicacies people keep arriving…it’s midnight!…gotta love this city that never sleeps!  We leave around 12:30 am…as people continue to arrive and the delivery guy is heading out with an order (FYI….they’re open until 1:30am if you ever arrive on an evening flight…highly recommend).


Our  stunning morning view from the apartment

Wandering!…I’ve said it about Paris, but my love for wandering started in NYC.  There are so many unique neighborhoods, with their own distinct feeling and story, that you can be in Italy one minute, China in another, the 70’s in another…with a mix of poverty and opulence within blocks of one another.  There’s theater and museums to keep you occupied for months on end and if someone said they were “bored” in NYC I might have to slap them!  I was there last January for a week and I could have stayed a month….the train to adorable, very Mayberry-like, Cranford, NJ to stay with Taylor & Dan; seeing the incomparable Savion Glover at the intimate Joyce Theater was a treat; the train to Connecticut to stay with my childhood friend Kelley, & Justin; a few days with Austin and Kate in the very hip Williamsburg area of Brooklyn, including a fun cooking class and a Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum; the MET; strolling through Central Park; window shopping on Madison Avenue (’cause it’s too damn expensive to buy anything there); The Mackenzie Child’s store on 57th….and so many amazing restaurants that it’s hard to pinpoint just one…although I’ll give a shout out to The Waverly Inn & Roberta’s…YUMMY!


Adorable Cranford Westfield

Adorable Cranford & Westfield

Fairfield, CT

Fairfield, CT


Jean Paul Gautier at the Brooklyn Museum (2014)


Fairfield Beach, CT

I started planning this past trip much the same as last year’s…just visiting the kids (I made the reservations the Tuesday after they left from their Thanksgiving visit out here).  I’ve gone in February the past few years because the flights are cheaper and I get a bit of much-needed winter weather…with coats, scarves, sweaters and boots!  It was quickly, and gratefully, transformed into so much more!  My two sister’s and my niece would join me and some neighbors would, coincidentally, be in NYC too.  Sounds like a party waiting to happen!  We, my sister’s and I, took the train out to Long Island and spent a long-overdue visit with our wonderful Aunt, my mother’s sister.  A large group of us invaded my neighbors stunning rental apartment and enjoyed cocktails and hors-d’oeuvres in the shadow of the Empire State Building.  We took in a few Broadway shows and threw a fun bridal shower for Kate, meeting more of her friends and extended family.  I didn’t get to wander much this trip because it was so f-ing cold, but it was a magical trip, just the same…as only NYC can offer!!  If you ever go, please contact me…I have a five page word document that I try to update periodically with  “Everything NYC!”

Here’s a visual storyboard of my favorite city & some special events…..


My sisters, niece and I


Kate’s Bridal Shower


greatest gift….customized corn-hole game…and the beautiful bride


the bridal shower



A gift from my sister…LOVE!!!


A Valentines Day toast!


Cherche Midi…french bistro…recommend!


It was cooooold!



Bryant Park fountain…did I mention it was cold?!


Bright lights, big city


Ice skating in Bryant Park


Welcome to Bryant Park Grill…who is that greeter in the doorway?


love this Central Park gazebo near Strawberry Fields memorial


amazing architectural stairways


Joe Allen…where Broadway stars go after their show


Washington Square Park…near NYU

Go see this musical!

Go see this musical!


Our last morning together…cozy on the couch
(Austin is taking the pic….& we missed Dan too)


Bryant Park merry-go-round

I can’t wait to go back!  So many more pictures I could share…but this post would be even longer than it already is….so, I’ll end it with this serendipitous fortune!

I got this last week...the day after I wrote my "Hope" post

I got this last week…the day after I wrote my “Hope” post…SO TRUE!!

    You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails! 



Very early in the New Year I was thinking of what my “word” would be for 2015.  As I was wandering in and out of shops in Quebec City I came across some “wish” bracelets, each with various glass beads and their corresponding meaning.  Each color signified something different…Red=Passion, Pink=Love, Orange=Strength, Yellow=Peace, Green=Hope, Blue=Healing, Dark Purple=Spirituality, and Multi Color = Resolutions.  The idea is that you make a wish as you’re tying it on and when it falls off your wish will come true.  Well, I’m not much for the whole “wish will come true” idea, but I liked the idea of a daily reminder to strive for something.  The weird thing is that I had already been leaning towards the word “HOPE” and this just seemed to be a sign that cemented the idea in my mind.  My friend, Maggie, who gave me the word a year idea and some angel cards, says that the word chooses you…and I believe that to be true.  I bought the bracelet, the shopkeeper tied it on my wrist, and I have been wearing it ever since.

hope bracelet

Wikipedia describes Hope as “an optimistic attitude of mind based on an expectation of positive outcomes related to events and circumstances in one’s life or the world at large.”  Hope resonated with me because there’s going to be a lot of big events in my life this year….an anticipated, memorable move and my two children’s weddings…and my hope is that they will all be awesome!  By acknowledging my expectation, there is a greater chance that these events will happen as I envision them and that I will work towards those goals!  Shane J. Lopez, PH.d is a world renowned expert on the psychology of hope and author of the book “Making Hope Happen.”  He says that some people confuse wishing with hoping.  Wishing is a passive occupation, whereas hope is an active one.  How you see your future helps you nurture hope, it pulls you forward and makes you believe that your expectations will be fulfilled…wishing is just a thought, without actions to back it up.

So, 2015 is my year of Hope…and I will HOPE..fully!!  Have you picked a word for 2015?

Got this tonight….my HOPE for the year!! (maybe I should buy a lottery ticket with those numbers!)

 You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails! 

Motivational Mondays…it’s all about you!

on the pier

“The golden opportunity you are seeking is in yourself.  It is not in your environment; it is not in luck or chance, or the help of others; it is in yourself alone.”… Orison Swett Marden

(I really like this quote…but “the help of others” & the support they give, is immeasurable…reach out, ask for it!)

  You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails! 

A Happy, Wacky Childhood

“One of the luckiest things that can happen to you in life is, I think, to have a happy childhood”..Agatha Christie

I grew up with two parents and four siblings…one younger, three older.  I used to take for granted that I had a happy, idyllic childhood.  As you are entrenched in your self-centered youth and adolescence you assume that others have it just as good (or bad if that’s the case)…and that your upbringing is nothing special.  It is only when I’ve looked back as an adult and reflect on my childhood….and examined other children’s realities…that I am truly grateful for the gift my parents and siblings have given me.

egan family original 1960s

I love this family picture…yes, I’m the one making the face on the right

Is it nature or nurture?  Well, that’s a completely different post that I’ll get to at some point, but let me share a few things that made my childhood so much fun.

My parents loved road trips (either that or it was just cheaper with all those kids!) and we embarked on one almost every summer to someplace new.  When we were really young and lived in New Jersey, we drove to Vermont and “The Tyler Place on Lake Champlain.  After moving to Calfornia, one of our car trips was out to Monument Valley where my dad was filming a movie…another year was to see Apollo 11 launch from Cape Canaveral (okay, we flew across the country, but then meandered the south from Florida to Houston in a wood-sided station wagon.)  I know my older siblings have many more memories than I or my younger sister, but these stick out for me….as does the “trains, planes & automobile” trip up to Vancouver that we took as a family, which was epic!  I know that nowadays (wow, I sound old) there are video games, movie screens, etc.. to distract kids while on long road trips, but it was fun singing “boom, boom ain’t it great to be crazy…,” “100 bottles of beer on the wall,” or just playing “20 questions” to pass the time.  Oh, sure there was plenty of “don’t touch me!!” between my siblings and me, but we knew there was a fun destination at the end waiting for us and this was just part of the journey to getting there.  “Stuckey’s” was one of my personal favorite stops along the way!  When my own children were young we made the 5-6 hour trek every year up to Mammoth to ski.  I love the memory of playing “I spy” and “geography” games with them, as well as singing our share of Raffi songs (dang, now I can’t get that Baby Beluga song out of my head!)  It wasn’t too painful, was it, kids?

road trip stationwagon

Yeah, we pretty much looked like this, only I don’t think our car was green.

Another fun memory was my parent’s nutty parties with their somewhat eccentric friends. My Dad was in the entertainment industry and my mom was a stay-at-home mom until I was in high school, which I realized later in life was not always the norm.  Being in “the industry,” as they call it, made for some really wacky parties.  I think my favorite was when they, and their friends, decided to have a “prom.”  At one of their parties they put names in a hat (I’m assuming they put the wive’s names in a hat) and the men then picked someone from said hat. That would be their prom date.  It would have still been fun, and easy, if my parents and all the other adults just drove themselves to the party house…but, no..this was PROM!  Mr. Smith* came to the door in a tux, corsage in hand.  My Mom left with him in what looked like a borrowed/rented bridesmaid dress.  My dad, and Mrs. Jones* were the chaperones, so they were dressed as a priest and nun, respectively.  They all arrived at the William’s* home, where I’m sure a night of laughs and frivolity ensued.  There was a full band and a photographer to take the prom pictures.  Oh to get my hands on those pics!! Too funny!


There are some simple things that made my childhood idyllic, such as… the love that I felt when I walked in the door and our home enveloped me…the security of knowing my parents would be there and my siblings had my back (..and still do!)…selling oranges on the corner with my little sis’ (we had 13 orange trees…& we were entrepreneurial!)…re-building the “fort” in the backyard every summer and insisting we wouldn’t let it fall apart this time…riding our bikes until it was dark, not a care in the world…the camaraderie of team sports…our annual Christmas tree cutting parties (yes, even in Southern California we went, with a bunch of other families, to a tree farm, picked out the “perfect” tree and sawed it down)….dancing around & singing to the soundtrack album from “Sound of Music” or Christmas Carols (I actually don’t remember this much, but my mom swore we did…and I definitely danced and sang around the house with my kids, so something sunk in!)

blowing bubbles

Let me re-iterate that I have four siblings and they may (probably would) dispute at least some of the “idyllic” childhood that I’m conveying, but I guess that’s where the “nature vs. nurture” concept comes in and the perception it entails.  Stay tuned for that post!

*names have been changed to protect the innocent
egan kids reenactment

2013 re-enactment of the original…you can’t even see that we’re sitting on the same love-seat from the 60s (no tree available for the background)

  You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails! 

Get thee to the Getty

This past weekend I had the pleasure of seeing a fun new play Serrano, The Musical up in L.A. (my cousin Beth is one of the backers!)  It has catchy tunes, fun choreography and beautiful singing voices….everything your looking for in a musical theater production.  See it before it closes in March! The theater is on Melrose….go early and enjoy the funky shopping and yummy restaurants in the area too!

So…since I was going to be driving up to L.A. and spending the night at my sister’s home, I thought I’d make an adventure of the day and stop at the Getty Museum too.  I haven’t been in over 10 years….it was time to go back.  In addition to their amazing permanent collection, they also had a current exhibition of black and white photography titled Josef Koudelka: Nationality Doubtful and In Focus: Play.  Aside from dance, black and white photography is my favorite art form, so I was excited!!  You have to pay $15 for parking at the Getty, but then the rest of it…the museum and grounds…are free.  Getting to the top of the Santa Monica mountains, where The Getty is situated, entails a 15 minute steep walk…or the more desired option, the tram. The Richard Meier designed Getty Center is a wonder of architecture, but the tram, in and of itself, is also a modern day marvel.  The tram was designed to quietly transport 1200 people per hour from the very large parking structure up to the center without disrupting the neighboring homes, while at the same time offering sweeping views of the city.  It accomplishes both.



On a clear day you can see forever…from the tram

It was a grey day, with a slight drizzle in the air, but that did not detract from the beauty of the grounds.  Okay, on a clear day you have a view of downtown and the ocean, which is probably more desirable, but it’s still gorgeous in the rain.  The Getty website describes the central garden best”….an evolving work of art, with tree-lined walkways that lead visitors through extraordinary sights, sounds, and scents.”  It is a feast for the eyes and the senses….just as much as the architectural beauty of the museum itself.


This is the sculpture as you get off the tram….it reminded me of a basket on a lacrosse stick. The buildings in the background are the campus of Mt. St. Mary’s College, where my mom worked for over 25 years.


this captures the grandeur of the space…this is just the cafe


there’s symmetrical beauty in this row of trees…even without their leaves

Josef Koudelka, although an engineer by trade, made the switch to photography in his mid 20’s.  He started by photographing local theater in his Czech homeland, but his fame came while photographing the Warsaw Pact invasion in Czechoslovakia in 1968, smuggling those images to the West, and ultimately being exiled in 1970.  Because he had no proof of his birth in Czechoslovakia, he obtained the legal status “Nationality Doubtful”  hence the name of the exhibit.  While some of the photographs from around the world were at times haunting, some were also quite poignant.  No photographs were allowed in the actual exhibit, so you’ll have to see them and judge for yourself.


Although quite small, I really enjoyed the variety in the exhibit In Focus: Play.  It was a diverse grouping of pictures, ranging from the serious to the whimsical by different photographers.


One of my favorites…1937 Lower East Side, Weegee (Arthur Fellig)

Here are a few iconic paintings also on display…. (isn’t it interesting/weird that you can take pics of some of the paintings, but not others?)


Irises by Van Gogh 1889


Wheatstacks by Monet 1891


Sunrise by Monet 1873….no surprise that I like this one!

I love to travel and explore new places, restaurants, views, etc.  This day made me realize that I don’t have to go that’s in my own backyard.  Los Angeles is about an hour drive from my home, but seemed like such an adventure (…and I grew up in the San Fernando Valley..go figure!)  If you find yourself with a free day, make it a day in L.A. with The Getty, shopping, eating and Serrano, The Musical (I have a few discount tickets for those interested.)

 You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails!