Wednesday, February 23, 2011


This past President's Day Weekend, my husband and I got a taste of what it's like to be Empty Nester's. On Friday we put Francesca, our youngest daughter, on a plane to Berkeley, CA to spend a few days with her older sister, Alessandra.
At first, I was nervous about Francesca's trip. She's my baby! But, when she arrived back home that Monday night, emitting an astonishing and unmistakable new aura of confidence, I forgot about my concerns. I knew that agreeing to the trip had been the right choice.
I realize now that encouraging your children to spend an extended period of time together on their own can be one of the most powerful ways to perpetuate close bonds between siblings. Something magical and crucial to closeness happens when siblings hang out without their parents around, at least that's what my older daughter tells me.
For my girls, who are eight years apart, this year couldn't have been a better time for this trip to happen. Francesca, who's 14, and Alessandra, who's 22, are finally starting to relate to each other as peers; their age gap is finally starting to close.
For a younger sibling at the seminal point of transition into life as a young adult, spending time with an older sibling can be an especially profound and impactful experience. I didn't realize it until after Francesca's trip, but an older sibling can be an incredible resource in raising younger children. Here is another person who can provide perspective, introduce new worldviews and get your younger children to start thinking about the life stages that lie a little further down the road. As an added bonus, because younger siblings generally regard older siblings as the most gloriously cool humans to ever walk the earth, they're much more likely to incorporate the values we hope to teach them when those values are modeled by their big brothers and sisters.
We all know that it takes a village to raise a child. But as you search out role models and mentors who will help your children grow into their full potential, don't look too far; they may be right under your nose. They may even call you "mom."

Monday, February 7, 2011


Music is a primal pursuit. In the bustle of activity, it can slip easily out of our days and we forget the power it holds. Making the effort to keep music in your life is worth it because music is vital. As we open our ears, we also open our eyes. Music creates new awareness of the world in which we live.

In my book Coming Home, I talk about the crucial role of music, and dance, to building an enlivened existence:

"Music and dance can temper any mood, elevate the spirit and release a rush of endorphins. The sense of well-being that comes from dancing is a priceless gift that we experience far too infrequently. Music and dance release tension, allowing our souls to become free."

Today I want to talk about the music that, the first time I experienced it, touched me deeply and now enriches my life on a regular basis.

Five years ago, a friend brought me to the opera. We saw La Boheme by the composer Giacomo Puccini. Experiencing this tragic story through arias that trembled, glimmered and thundered with emotion changed my life in more ways than one.

Opera has a rich legacy with influences, contributors and innovations from all over the world. It is a medium that spans a wide swath of eras and finds inspiration in some of the most unlikely places. Attending operas has given me a blossoming awareness of its many traditions in opera. And the more I learned, the more the music opened me to the spiraling complexity of this beautiful art form.

About a year after I saw my first opera, I began designing products for the Metropolitan Opera. This ongoing project has been immensely fulfilling and vastly educational. It has allowed me to delve deeper into the music, and, in so doing, feel more alive.

Music of all kinds frees our souls. Different sounds speak to different people. Opera may not be the music that touches your soul, but there is music out there that will call to you, wake you and transport you to new places. All you have to do is find it and listen.

*Coming Home: A Seasonal Guide to Creating Family Traditions, Published by Abrams: Stewart, Tabori & Chang