Wednesday, December 16, 2009


My mom is ill.
Nothing I can do but to stand still.

Fate pounds at the door with much zeal.
I am pretending that my soul is made of steel.
But this is how I really feel:

I am halting a hurricane with butterfly wings,
I am stopping a fire with a tear stream.

I am flying to the moon on rusty swings,
I am listening for a melody but I can’t sing.

I am building a dream castle out of thin air,
I am fixing an engine that's beyond repair.

I am whispering a prayer into the merciful Space
And all I am hearing in my head is, “Impact imminent. Brace!”

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Rhapsody in Blue

Rhapsody in Blue - Acrylic on canvas - Rina Koshkina

I've been listening to the WQXR, the Classical Station, since I came to the USA as a teenager, almost two decades ago. All through the first tough years of acclimation and assimilation in the new land, WQXR has been my constant, daily companion.

Through all the difficult AND triumphant stages of my life - births, deaths, “English as a Second Language” classes, college, marriage, successes and failures, "hellos" and "good byes," ups and downs, good times and bad - I knew I could always count on the little black dial of my old warn out radio to transport me into the special world of classical music. A world where musical notes are the ONLY possible native tongue.

In celebration of Thanksgiving, WQXR asked its loyal listeners – what’s the one piece of music they are especially thankful for and why? I couldn’t resist. I had to respond.

Here is what I wrote (more or less):

"Rhapsody in Blue by Gershwin is my personal anthem. I am especially grateful for it because it provides an impeccable musical expression of my memories, of the essence of me and reminds me of...

- Thanksgiving because it was the first holiday I fully understood and appreciated as a new American...and now celebrate it every year.
- The time when my father, a musical genius, had to play in the subway to make a few bucks. He didn’t make any money, but since that time I learned to judge less and give more (or at least aspire to do so).
- The day I took the Pledge of Allegiance to the United States of America. It was at the Jacobs Javits Center in New York City. I remember how I stood there, with my right hand on my heart, proud, with my parents and grandparents by my side, along with thousands of others.
- The moment I knew I am going to make it here and it's going to be okay. It happened when I saw New Your City’s skyline from the window of my uncle’s car. New York City winked at me and said, “Chin up kiddo! You and me – we’ll get along just fine."
- The smile my grandmother bestowed on me when I told her I was pregnant. And then the radiance of her face when she finally met my son.
- The enthusiasm and the hope America represents to me - always has and always will.
- The day I learned how to say “I love you” and not be afraid of the consequences. It’s an acquired skill that comes with practice and courage, until it becomes a second nature.
- The day I was very afraid and knew nothing for certain.
- The day I learned that it’s okay to be afraid, as a long as you forge ahead and that certainty is the new uncertainty, the same way blue is the new black.

So, every time I hear Rhapsody in Blue it offers me hope that there is so much more ahead. I feel an almost unparallel sense of joy. This pure joy and gratitude…for everything and for nothing in particular. A kind of feeling that only comes for no specific reason. In fact, it comes in spite of all the reasons and is often accompanied by a strong, vibrant, honest melody, not unlike Rhapsody in Blue.

Warm wishes, your faithful listener,


Friday, November 20, 2009

The Universe's helping hand

There was a light drizzle when I emerged from the subway. I had a few blocks to walk, so I turned on my old (really old) Walkman. It’s actually an FM only radio with a dial. No screen, no buttons, no colorful “skin”, just an on/off switch and a dial permanently set on the Classical station. "Hello, I am Midge Woolsey and I'll be with you for the rest of the afternoon" said a beautiful soothing voice of WQXR. "This is your weather report. It’s a cloudy and wet day, about 55 degrees. Thanks to the remnants of Hurricane Ida, there will be periods drizzle and steady rain". “Babushka, Grandma, I miss you”, I thought. “Thanks for passing by with a little drizzle. I don't mind it as long as I can sense you around me.”

As I walked towards 5th and 82nd, the feeling of guilt was almost palpable. As in, I could taste its bitter flavor in my mouth. The stern voice in my head (the one that Martha Beck in her book "Finding your north star" calls the "social self") was whispering "sweet nothings" in the ear of my consciousness. It went something like this: "Who do you think you are? Taking a half day away from work? Do you know how many messages and emails you'll get on Monday? What kind of way is this for a grown woman, a wife, a mother, a professional, for Pete's sake, to spend HALF a DAY? I don't believe the audacity! Do you have a doctor's appointment, is your new stove being installed, is there an emergency!? NO! You are going where!!!?? Museum! @*!!!$$" And, yes, my social self is often a nasty angry thing, and yes it curses. That day it sure sounded pissed!

I was so lost in this disturbing monologue, that I didn’t even notice how I arrived at the destination. When I looked up, I realized that I was standing in front of a majestic palace, one of my most favorite places in the world - The Metropolitan Museum of Art (the Met).

I kept thinking that my crabby social self was partly right...What business did I have to spend an afternoon HERE, in THIS WAY!? But my essential self (that’s the part that is your pure core, the one you are born to be, according to Martha Beck) was blooming with happiness and enthusiasm. It was also doing a little celebratory dance and was so excited that it lost its ability to "speak." Plus, there was some business to attend to. My essential self was enrolled in the Art History Grad school, and we (all three of us: me and my two selves) had a homework assignment - to see a painting by Henry Fuseli selected for my thesis on the 19th century art.

After the blur activity including purchasing a ticket and opening my bag "wide" for the security guard, I was in front of the staircase leading up to the main galleries. The world (at the least the world of the Met) was my oyster. "Look at you...drooling, dumb smile on your face, don't get too excited! You have to leave at 4 sharp to be on time to pick up your son...remember, your son?!" Yes. This was once again, the scrooge of my "Christmas," my well-trained social self. The UN-fun part of me.

I shoved the guilt a little deeper down and walked up to the information counter to inquire where my thesis painting is located. "It is not on display" the clerk said. "What!!!!????? It can't be! I prepared, I studied, I pulled a ton of research material together. I have to write about this painting and I MUST see it...” He just shook his head, "Sorry, it’s in the storage".

I felt crushed. Martha Beck writes that when we do things that are nurturing to our true selves, that bring us closer to the life of fulfillment and joy, the Universe will provide a helping hand. For instance, there will suddenly be an additional ticket to a sold-out concert where you are meant to meet your soulmate; if you are in traffic, the plane will be delayed and you'll be upgraded to first class, assuming you are going to a city where you are meant to find true happiness; the painting will be ON DISPLAY when you are enrolled in a grad school program you are meant for......pause here for a screeching sound of the breaks. "Hahaha!!! Well, there you go, wipe off your drool, check your Blackberry and get back on the subway to pick up your son early. What? You don't want to make him happy and pick him up early? Selfish."

The clerk, clearly seeing me being totally distraught said "Okay, call the 19th century department. Maybe they'll help." The next thing I knew was I was on the phone with someone named Patricia

Patricia: "It’s in the storage and you can make an appointment to see it."
Me:"Appointment? But...."
Patricia: "Yes that's what people normally do. Let me see, the next available appointment is in February, will that work for you?"
Me: "But it’s November"
Patricia: "Yes, I am aware. Look, the painting hasn't been on display for a long time. It’s all the way in the back of the storage room and it will take several technicians to move other masterpieces to get to it..."
Patricia: "Hello, are you there?”
Me: "Yes. So there is absolutely nothing you can do? It’s so hard for me to find the time to come here...I would be forever grateful if I could see the painting today.
Patricia: “Impossible”
Me: “You see I am in the grad school, and I have to do a presentation on this painting. And part of it should be a detailed description of the painting which requires seeing the art work itself."
Patricia: "Well, I won't promise anything but I'll try to help you. But it will be about two hours until I know for sure. Give me your number and I'll call you"

Me, with my heart pounding in my ears: "You'll call me? Wow! Thank you".
Patricia: "But don't get your hopes up, chances are you'll have to come back and even if they let you in the storage you won't have more five minutes to look at it."

I thanked Patricia for giving me a sense of hope and hung up the phone.

I had two hours to "kill/" Of course, being at the epicenter of the artistic life of NYC (one might argue), there was no shortage of things to feast my eyes on. Speaking of a feast, suddenly I felt terribly hungry. You see, when I wait for something (good) I can only do one of two things: wait or eat. I am wired in such a way that I can't possibly occupy myself with something more useful than stuffing my face or just sitting and waiting. Plus, happiness or anticipation of happiness make me really, REALLY hungry. Aha, I saw a sign pointing to a cafeteria. There, I had a little "snack", generous serving of some of my favorite things including steak, rice, and steamed vegetables...and a small bottle of red wine. What the heck!

After inhaling the food (I had to eat fast so I can seriously concentrate on the important task of mindless waiting) I started checking my calendar for potential days in February I could make this appointment for. "What the hell are you doing here? You don't belong among these people who can AFFORD to spend their time leisurely lunching in the museum cafeteria. And who is buying this crazy notion that you HAVE to see this silly painting? What's with the misplaced obsession? What you SHOULD be worried about are you real life responsibilities instead of this ridiculousness. And you have a piece of steak stuck between your teeth. Look at yourself in the mirror!"

Again the scrooge was theoretically right. The painting is somewhat hideous and could even be considered disturbing. It’s supposedly a scene of an infant sacrifice. Fuseli was a bit out there…and maybe there was something seriously wrong with him. Maybe something is seriously wrong with me. Why am so fascinated by it? Why the Art History degree? What am I doing here?

Just then I heard a little, childish giggle...a bit tentative, but audible. It came from somewhere within. “Its just a burp” sarcastically said my social self. But I knew better. A part of me really belonged here. The giggle was real, I felt like a fish released from a fishbowl ("nice analogy! You have lost your marbles, sister!")

My phone buzzed. A message? Could it be....I was afraid to hope. "Rina, I got a hold of the technician and she agreed to show you the painting. At 2:15, you should knock on the door of the storage. It’s on the second floor” Pause. “…Honestly, it’s quite a miracle...that someone was available to move the painting and stuff. Anyway, glad I could help! Good luck.”

I was on cloud 9, maybe even 10! "Five minutes in front of some crazy painting. THIS is what you are excited about? I don't even recognize you anymore!"

"Hee-hee" said my essential self. I gathered all my stuff and ran, even though there was plenty of time. In just a couple of minutes I was in the Rembrandt’s gallery where the storage door was located.

I finally took a deep breath, found a spot on the bench and looked around. The dumb smile was still on my face. Wow! Breathtaking. To the right of me was a beautiful courtyard, in front of me was Rembrandt’s famous “Aristotle with a Bust of Homer” and to the left was the magic door, behind which was the painting I was meant to see.

Every now and then (about every 10 seconds) I looked at my watch. My essential self was bursting at the seams; my social self was sulking in disgust. Just like in my childhood, the time moved unbearably slowly.

I walked over to the balcony with the view of the courtyard. I looked up. A glass roof. I’ve never noticed it before. The rain had picked up a bit. The remnants of Hurricane Ida were crying. But I could tell they were tears of joy. She was happy for me…happy with me.

“Miss, Miss” I looked up. The woman in a blue lab coat summoned me to the door. “You are the one who wanted to see Fuseli, right?” I nodded unable to utter a word. “Well, we hung it up. It’s on the second floor, 19th century gallery, room B”.

My head started buzzing a little. And what is it? The tears. No not the tears! “How inappropriate. You’ll just make her feel uncomfortable. Pull yourself together immediately” Said my impatient social self.

“May I give you a hug” I said to the technician “Sure,” she said. “It’s no problem, really. You can see it any time now.” “You made my day,” I said, shook her hand and started walking.

So, it’s true, when you are in the right place at the right time, when you are doing that which connects you to, what Martha Beck calls, your “North star” (the thing that you are meant to do), the Universe smiles its wide, charismatic smile and extends its hand. And then, cautiously but gratefully you take it and leap into a big, wonderful, pool of endless sweet possibilities.

“Yes, it’s true. THIS kind of joy is what life is all about.” Said my essential self. “Don’t forget to take good notes for your paper. Don’t be lazy now. I won’t accept anything less than an 'A' in this class” Said my social self.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Adapt and adjust

Like a well-trained lab mouse, I've developed a coping mechanism, a way of working through life's unfairness, through the maze of bitter and sweet, a process I affectionately call “adapt and adjust”. I also call it “everything happens for a reason”, but that motto hasn’t been as effective because until (and if) the reason becomes apparent you've got to “adapt and adjust”. In other words, whatever the fear - big small, medium, large - whatever the pain, adapt to the new reality and adjust your actions accordingly.

Since then when the floor opens up under me (I am pretty good at balancing when the rug is pulled. The floor is a different story), I stop breathing, eating, drinking, and attend to the situation at hand. Like a triage nurse in a war zone, with my hair undone, I apply iodine, disinfect wounds, and bandage the un-bandagable...

When the crisis subsides, while you can still see the evidence of it by the circles under my eyes and an occasional eruption of a bad temper, I regroup almost immediately. First I start breathing again, eating and drinking (not necessarily in that order). Then I pick up exactly where I left off. Like a hungry animal, I jump on the joys of life as if they were a fresh piece of flesh I've just battled away from a pack of wolves. As a matter of fact, with each proverbial blow, or rather after it, as I am assessing the damage to my proverbial jaw, I get more joyful, more grateful, more introspective, more alive...more the person I aspire to be.

Now, don't get me wrong, I don't claim that this is an ideal coping mechanism (if there is such a thing). I am sure Dalai Lama doesn't “cope”. He lives with joy, every day, every moment of the day – or does he? Once, I read that Dalai Lama had a health scare and had to be taken to a hospital. I thought, “How does he deal with it? Is he scared? Is there anyone he loves next to him saying “it’s going to be okay, Master, hang in there”. And does he look at them with smiling eyes and a mild reproach, as if to say “it’s all in God's hands, therefore it’s already okay”.

The wise of all ages proclaimed that the true beauty of life lies in all its expressions. I agree. I am just not wise enough yet to live it every moment of every day. Reaching this level of certainty would be like winning a Noble Price for Living and perhaps one day I will. In the meantime, I’ve got to move forward with as much dignity and grace as possible.

As I continue to get mixed grades on my spiritual exams, and especially when shit hits the fan, I repeat my chant, over and over again “adapt and adjust”. I shut my eyes and I invoke the Spirit of Certainty that's somewhere within me. Please tell me it’s all gonna be okay. It’s all already okay.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Things I value

A short list of "valuables"

- Passion - Enthusiasm, passion at least about one aspect of one's life
- Ability to laugh - Having and/or appreciating a sense of humor
- Authenticity – Being "real", comfortable in ones own skin
- Honesty – Especially honesty with yourself
- "Glass half full" attitude - Ability to see opportunities as oppose, or at least in addition, to impediments
- Basic courtesy - self explanatory
- Courage – Especially courage to ask questions, acknowledge you made a mistake; courage to apologize and to propose a solution
- Flexibility - Planning things in advance yet being flexible to adapt to new ideas and approaches AND being okay with it
- Intention - Have a sense of intention in things one does, not simply following orders (remember the saying “do it for your own reason or don’t do it at all”)
- A commitment to living one's best life - taking responsibility for one's own life
- Grace - especially under fire
- Generosity of spirit - embracing the world with the deep underlying notion that we ARE all ONE.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Life after 25(ish) - Top 10 (or so) Lessons Learned

1.Some stars are blinking at the rate of your heartbeat
2.A child's laughter can be heard billions of miles away on the star that blinks at the rate of your heartbeat
3.As I get older my tears taste saltier. But my disposition gets sweeter.
4.Being a millionaire requires…well, having at least a million dollars (give or take). FEELING like a millionaire, requires a specific mindset.
5.Time doesn't heal, just covers up the symptoms (like Tylenol).
6.Black really DOES go with everything (not mention, it makes you look thinner)
7.Living your purpose requires A LOT of selfless sacrifices from those who love you unconditionally
8.Having wrinkles is a privilege (not that I have any!)
9.There is no scarcity. There is just abundance.
10.It’s darn hard to narrow down so many years of life into just 10 lessons. So, here are 4 more as a bonus!
11.You can choose your own family. Blood is NOT always thicker than water.
12.One of the hardest things to do is to just BE.
13.Reasons fail. Possibility of love endures.
14.The sun always rises in the morning.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

To beloved grandma (10.24.27 – 5.25.08)

Fly away my treasure…
May your beauty be chiseled into the book of life.

Fly away my beloved…
May your love energy embrace the whole universe.
May your legendary angelic radiance cure all ills and mend all sorrows.

Fly away my irreplaceable…
May your butterfly wings carry you all the way to heaven.
May your soul be as light as air.
May your eternal rest be as peaceful as a quite autumn rain.

Fly away…and stay with me forever.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

God 101

“Have you talked to your son about God yet?” someone recently asked me. Hmm, I thought, no I haven’t. I probably looked puzzled enough for the inquirer to continue, “What religion are you bringing him up in?” There was a long, uncomfortable pause and finally I said “None.” She didn’t give up, “Well, what religion are you? Jewish?” I just nodded (am I?) “Passover is coming. Are you going to celebrate it?” I nodded (liar!!) “At some point, you’ll need to introduce God into his life.”

That short discussion got me thinking…about many things.

Before I can set out to establish my son’s relationship with God, I had to figure out what mine was. Questions kept popping into my head. What religion am I? Well, let’s think about that one.
What’s Jewish? Isn’t it just my “nationality”? Is it not still printed on line #5 in my old worn out Soviet Passport? Isn’t being Jewish the opposite of being Ukrainian (at least back in the Soviet Ukraine that’s how it was)? Does the fact that I came to the US on the grounds of religious prosecution on a refugee status make me Jewish? Or does the fact that I’ve been called a “dirty Jew” since I was two years old count towards my Jewish-ness? Maybe it’s my name, which in Hebrew means “a happy song” given to me by my parents because it sounded Russian enough? Perhaps it’s my Yiddish nickname “sweet face” – shainer punim – that my grandfather gave me when I was born?

I tried to become more religious for years. Even went to the temple regularly, albeit a reform temple. Main reason – I wanted to be able to tell people that I am Jewish, without the longwinded explanation that came with the statement. My attempts didn’t work out, at least not yet – never says never, right? I had a hard time really connecting to the words spoken by the rabbi, maybe because they were in a language that was even more foreign than English. Oy, who am I kidding – I couldn’t even connect to the English words.

The only Jewish holiday I understand and appreciate (and follow) is the Day of Atonement – Yom Kippur. It’s simple in its profound meaning and requires that you are sincere about accepting and atoning for your sins. Check, check – got it!

Recently, my grandfather asked me “What kind of Jews are we? We don’t even know how to celebrate a Passover. Sweetie, do you feel Jewish at all?” I answered, “Yes. I do. You are Jewish and I’ve inherited your sense of humor. Therefore I am Jewish too. I laugh therefore I am …Jewish.” We laughed together.

What, I suppose, makes things even more interesting is that fact that I am married (happily, head over heels in love!) to a Turkish man whose relationship with God requires its own long thesis. What’s interesting though is that in naming our son, we used the Old Testament for references. After months and months of grueling debates we picked Adam to be our first son’s name. In the dictionary it said “This is the Hebrew word for a 'man'. It also literally means a "man" in Turkish. According to Genesis in the Old Testament Adam was created from the earth by God. A man of earth! What a message to the universe!

Well, all that is well and good. And being inquisitive, in a purely rhetorical kind of a way, is a healthy exercise, but it still didn’t bring me any closer to the original question. What will I tell my son about God? I had to begin somewhere. So, I started formulating my position on the whole “God question.” A sort of God 101:
  • Jewish or not, God and I are on the first name basis, except I often imagine him to be George Burns, just like in the movie “Oh God”. So, I guess my God’s name is George?
  • God and I have known each other for a long time. How do I know that? Well, for starters, we often understand each other without words. Sometimes it’s a breeze, sometimes it’s the subway train humming the first few notes from the “West Side Story”, sometimes it’s a white butterfly….Then, you know the feeling, you get comfortable with each other. You can voice your opinions knowing that you’ll be loved no less. So, I often voice my opinions…and they are not always pretty or even well thought out, sometimes they come with tears and begging. He always listens…
  • I imagine that instead of, or maybe in addition to, to the houses of worship, God lives on the internet. Seriously. I mean, I know that he is everywhere (do I know that for sure?) But the World Wide Web (how else could it be?) is where he receives his messages from humans, from our souls.
  • I regularly communicate with God through emails. Because I don’t know his exact email address ( I send my messages to someone who loves me. The email system always delivers them promptly and even confirms with a nearly divine conclusiveness “Your message has been sent”
  • When it’s more urgent, or I am simply tired and desperate, I pray. There is a special place in my home where I stand on my knees and speak to God (in my mind’s eye God wears a baseball cap, has large glasses and barely noticeable all-knowing smile). That place is in my kitchen. It’s sacred. It’s by the oven.
  • Sometimes I cry, then I always feel guilty about it. Sometimes my prayers are soft whispers. Sometimes I say “thank you”. Sometimes I just look up and say nothing at all. He always listens…
  • Even after all the years of spiritual studies, I still get mixed grades on my spiritual exams. Let’s be honest, I often fail them miserably (the same way I failed ESL – English as a Second Language  multiple times). Then I curse at myself, I scream inside. He is always patient. He always listens...
And after all this introspection, I gathered all my courage and finally decided to introduce God into a  conversation with my young son.

Me: “Hi sweetie, do you know what God is?”
Adam: “Yes! No! I don’t know, Mama, what is it?”
Me: “It’s too late now, but I’ll explain it to you tomorrow.”
Adam: “No, no, I want to know now!”
Me: “Okay, but you have to promise that you’ll always remember what I tell you”
Adam: “Okay!!”
Me: “God is love. The essence and the energy of love. Do you understand?”
Adam: “Yes Mama. I understand”. Thinking a moment. “Do you love me?”
Me: “Of course I love you. So much”
Adam: “Me too”, smiling sheepishly “Can we read five books tonight?”
Me: “No Adam two books and that’s it”
Adam: “No, at least four!”
Me: “Okay three”.
Adam: “Fine”
Well, that didn’t go so bad, huh? Nobody said “God 101” was going to be simple course.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

To Paris and Back

In the air
“Flight attendants, please be seated for take off”, a reassuring and confident (always a hesitant traveler, I desperately wanted to believe that it contained both of these attributes) voice of the pilot resonated through the speakers. The engines roared, the airport structures started to flash through the window like in an old black and white movie, and in just seconds the plane was in the air. Every single time I fly, I am genuinely surprised when this happens. Could this heavy metallic bird lift its weight up and stay in the air? A miracle.

I looked out of the window and a breathless “wow” escaped out of me. It was a dark and clear late evening. No clouds to mess with the view. New York, in all it’s glory below the belly of the airplane, illuminated by hundreds of thousands of lights. I thought to myself “this looks like an overturned contents of a jewelry box.” I imagined that the sparkling is generated by diamonds, pearls, emeralds, sapphires, aquamarines….all scattered around and glistening.

I sat like that glued to this incredible show of lights until we reached the Atlantic Ocean. My eyes fell on my wedding ring…a much more modest diamond and most important one in my jewelry box. I smiled.

The lights in the cabin were turned off and I dosed off for a while only to wake because of a small commotion around the lavatory. “We are still in the air. The big metallic bird is still flying”, a comforting thought registered in my mind. A window, my constant companion, lured me back into the abyss beyond.

Stars! More jewels, sprinkled generously on the vast black background. I thought, “this high up – are we closer to God?” And just then, a shooting star, exploded, painted a trajectory and disappeared. “Is that a ‘yes’?” I pondered…

First day in Paris
I love New York, almost as if it were a person. I feel married to it and it's a great marriage - loving, supportive, passionate. The first day I spent in Paris, though, this city managed to steal my heart. I felt that I've begun an affair that could last a lifetime. Or maybe it was the beginning of a stereotypical French-inspired fling. Time will tell.

I was eating a scrumptious chicken sandwich, watching Parisian life buzz with activity, I couldn't help but wonder...Is it okay to cheat on NY? But I knew it was a rhetorical question – it was too late. Paris’ magic has already seeped through and under my core. Like a fast-acting drug, it was making my head spin, creating an un-wipeable grin on my face.

How did it happen? When was I “drugged”? Hard to say. It all seems like a blur (is that the first confession AAA members make at their meetings?)

Could it have been the views from the tour bus that took me around the Sienna?
Could it have been the wind blowing through my hair?
Could it have been the view of the famous Notre Dame or the "0km" mark on the square in front of the cathedral from which all the roads in France are calculated? Could it have been the smell of croissants and coffee?
Could it have been the Louvre? Mona Lisa who may be smiling because she just had a third child?
Could it have been two vivacious elderly French ladies who seemed to have argued and then hugged each other before parting their ways?
Could it have the bridges, the intricate architecture, elegant lamp posts and myriad other things?
Of course it could.

Yet, among all this beauty, there was a turning point – the first time I saw the sun rise on the Champs Elysses. The bright, bold, blinding sun, stretching its rays, smiling, warming up freshly washed, broad sidewalk …I couldn’t help but return the smile, thinking “I could really get used to this”. The symbolism was unmistakable: in the beginning of the day I walked towards the sun (and the Egyptian obelisk) in the direction of my new Parisian office, and upon return the sun was saying good bye to me just slightly to the left of the Arc.

Love at first sight
In the elevators of the Eiffel tower, I really experienced the feeling of “butterflies in your stomach”. I promised the majestic lady – the Eiffel Tower - that we were going to see each other soon. She shone her bright lights on me and said, "Of course we will. You won't be able to stay away. What can I say, Chérie, I have that effect on people." “What a lovely French accent”, I thought, walking backwards away from her. She thought I wouldn't notice, but she blew me a kiss...

What I learned
One night, I had a fancy dinner at my company’s headquarters, in a room that looked like French kings just stepped out of it. I felt like I was in a museum. My colleagues around the globe looked at each other nervously, not willing to break the silence, clearly shy to speak.

To make things a bit more casual, I proposed that they share their childhood dreams with everyone, namely what they wanted to be when they were growing up. Usually, people don't dream of being in insurance.)So, the stories are often wild. It was no different this time. I heard everything from a flamingo dancer to a famous writer to a cook to a rock star to a train operator…to a flower.

And then in one flash, light bulb, “Aha” moment, I realized – all the people around the world are the same, we are one big whole. They dream, they love, they cry, they live, they love, they laugh, and they come to boring long meetings and day dream about what they wanted to be when they grew up. Now, I know it sounds ridiculous that it’s actually somehow surprising to me. Theoretically, I’ve always known this, but sitting at this elaborate table, in Paris, eating one of the most amazing dinners (albeit small) I’ve ever had, drunk from the enormity of it all, with my new-found friends from Japan, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, England, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany...more than ever I felt connected with the rest of the world. I will miss them.

And back…
The car service pulled up. I rang the door bell. John’s face lit up. Our son was crying hysterically “Go back, Mommy, go back!”, upset that I’d disturb his idyllic daily routine with Daddy who adores (and spoils) him.

“How was it?”, John asked, relief and happiness on his face. “It was amazing. I’ll tell you all about it later. How was it here?” John lowered his eyes, “It was great. I love being with our son but without you this isn’t a home…” I kissed his scruffy cheek (didn’t he shave all this time??) and thought “Ah, Paris, the shootings stars, the ebbs and flows of the river of life…It’s here and now that I am closest to God.”