Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Einstein's Theory of a Good Life

I often wonder what the key is to life. I sit in cafes or on sidewalk benches (like now, in front of BookCourt in Cobble Hill) hoping to glean good advice or even just glimpse bits and pieces of what others do for clues on what to do myself. I have taken, lately, to reading (or at least scanning) big biographies of genius thinkers, writers, artists, the great minds, in hopes that the ways they chose to live might provide some salient insights.

Last night, flipping through Walter Isaacson's tome about Einstein, borrowed from my father-in-law, I came upon a bit of advice Einstein gave to his troubled son and thought it worth sharing.

"People who live in society, enjoy looking into each other's eyes, who share their troubles, who focus their efforts on what is important to them and find this joyful -- these people lead a full life."

I agree wholeheartedly. I have, even without knowing Einstein's urging to do so, been doing this. I look into people's eyes every day, many times a day, I make a point of it in recent years, putting my own insecurity aside to really see others. Often, of course, such eye contact leads to a gold star giveaway.

Take yesterday, for example. Checking out Eli's many books at the Brooklyn Library at Grand Army Plaza, I smiled at the man behind the counter. I thought he had some new device that would allow him to check out all the books in one fell swoop.

He laughed. "No," he said, "if it were that easy I'd be out of a job..."

"True," I said, "so I guess we can be thankful modern technology isn't better than it is..."

I gave him a gold star for doing the job that we still, mercifully, need done by a human.

"Wow," he said, taking it gratefully, "I need to get my girlfriend some of these so that she can give me gold stars when I do something good!"

I smiled. "Yes. Or maybe you should give them to her when she does nice things...See, it can work both ways!"

Sharing, recognition, focus...these are the important things, the keys to life, if only we can keep them in mind.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Finding What You Need From Your Neighbors...

I am looking for a web designer. I could, of course, go through normal channels, post something on Craigslist, look online...but, no. I have this idea of serendipity, of things happening by seeming "chance" only because they're supposed to.

So, instead of more active endeavors this morning, I sat in Parco. Sometimes, it turns out the person next to me can offer up what I'm looking for, whatever it might be. Not today. The girl sitting next to me shook her head when I asked her if by any chance she was a web designer or knew of any...

"Amazingly, I don't," she said. "I should, but I don't."

I thanked her for her effort to help, and headed out the door to yoga thinking, still, that there must be some way to find a web designer easily, today.

"Excuse me," I said, walking up alongside two young bearded gentlemen. The beards offered better odds, I thought, that they might know web designers or even be web designers. I didn't beat around the bush, I just asked them, point blank:

"Are either of you web designers?"

They seemed only slightly surprised to be asked the question but, alas, they both shook their heads, no.

"But we know a million..." one said.

"I figured," I said, explaining my facial-hair theory. Even before they knew they'd receive gold stars in exchange, Anthony and Dave graciously offered to take my information and pass it along to one or several of their million or so web-designer friends.

"See," I said, "I write a lot about trying to build community, and part of building community is talking to people who live around you to find what you need."

My new friends, clad in their gold stars, agreed. We'll see what happens. Hopefully, I can find exactly what I'm looking for just by stopping strangers on the street and putting them on the case. It should be just that easy, especially in Brooklyn. 

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Smattering of Special Souls

I am sometimes overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of people around me, all trying. I cannot decide who gets a star and who doesn't. Who I am to say? It is a small gesture from a single person, not nearly enough. There are so many stories. Here are a smattering of the special souls I have connected with over the last few days.

Kim was just trying to have a conversation in Parco, but little Gael was having none of it. I love it when people like Kim put the stars smack dab in the middle of their forehead, wear it proudly like a third eye, like a special power. Gael, nappy in his cap,
was nonplussed by his star. He wanted only the attentions of one woman: his mother.

I complimented Saskia on her beautiful turqoise necklace as we were crossing the street for more free food during Park Slope Restaurant Night. "Thanks!" she said with a big smile, "I made it!" Turns out she is a jewelry designer, trying to sell her wares online at and all around. It's not easy. Just coming up with what name to use is a challenge. She's selling at the Brooklyn Flea today and at the Atlantic Antic on Sunday between Bond and Hoyt. "Good luck!" I said, as I gave her a gold star.

With necklaces on my mind, I turned and noticed Sue's amazing dragonfly. When I complimented her on it, she fingered it lovingly and got a funny look on her face.

"This is very special," she told me. When my mother was sick, she gave it to my daughter to give to me and said, 'When I'm gone, this will be me...'"

Wow. I love that. It is a lovely gift to give a loved one, a single object that can stand as a reminder of your continued presence in their life even when you cannot be around anymore. I gave Sue a gold star for sharing with me her special story.

It's funny that the necklace should be a dragonfly, a perfect symbol of the fleeting time we have on this earth, a reminder to follow our own path and pay attention to those we find along the way.  

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

What We Don't Need...

I love Brooklyn stoop sales, don't get me wrong. But passing them with kids is impossible. Despite having bagged up five full loads of little plastic things for the garbage, another three big Ikea bags for our own stoop sale and, somehow, still retaining a full complement of useless &*%4, the kids still wanted dollars from my wallet for more.

I met the gaze of the seller, whose eyes apologized, just as I do when I have my own sale.

"We all just have WAY too much stuff!" I said.

She agreed, which is why she was here, after school, sitting on the steps surrounded by things, not nearly enough of the things she needed to get rid of.

"I had too much stuff with me on vacation for two weeks, then I came home and realized it was only a small fraction of what I have and don't need..." I shuddered. "It's disgusting."

I gave Karen a gold star for her efforts to de-clutter. It is a crucial effort, especially in the cramped quarters most New Yorkers live in, without basements or attics to put things away, out of sight, out of mind. It is a good reminder, though, to be surrounded by all you have so that you don't get too carried away. My new rule is that something has to go out before something else comes in. I have a weak spot for sidewalk finds--books, shoes...I did pass on a bikini recently, although it looked promising. But enough is enough, even for free.

"Simplify," a friend advised me not too long ago when I said I felt overwhelmed taking care of all I had. And he is right, of course. Stoop sales are a good start, although with them comes a little guilt: your neighbor likely doesn't need this stuff either. Oh well. And so the world's stuff goes round...

Monday, September 20, 2010

Rejecting Perfection...

I walked in, even though I shouldn't have, to Eric Shoes on Seventh. I was in a mood for change, a fresh start, a mood that often leads me to looking for new shoes. Don't ask me why, it's a complicated equation I have never quite figured, but I often feel that new shoes offer me a new perspective, a new vantage point from which to view the world.

"They're perfect," I heard a woman say to her friend as she sat down and started pulling off a pair of boots. Quickly, though, she amended. "Well, they're as perfect as they're going to get..."

I laughed out loud, causing the woman and her friend to look at me.

"Sorry," I said, "but that's great, I love that, and it's so, so true."

In life, like in shoe stores, sometimes we have to be satisfied with nearly perfect, realizing that the extra angst and effort it might take to find the really perfect thing (if it exists at all) is hardly going to be worthwhile, will likely make you loathe and resent the "perfect" thing should your arduous journey ever connect you with it.

Ah, if only I could acknowledge this more often with a smile, make my peace with it like this other Stephanie, who accepted her gold star happily, as happily as she was planning to head out of the store with her new perfect-as-possible boots.

Eric, the owner, always loose with a laugh and wry commentary, got a star too, for making people like us Stephanies happy girls, granted, at a price.

As I looked around, past the many pairs of boots I did not need, I lighted upon the one pair of shoes I had already decided I "needed" this season: high-heeled clogs that just so happened to look perfect (yes, PERFECT!) with the loose hippy dress I was already wearing. I had paired it, a little too early in the season, with new vintage cowboy boots. The shift was an easy one. I could, and did, wear them right out of the store. I would look fabulous for grocery shopping at Fairway. One never knows who one might see, or meet...

I didn't even balk too much that the price was far more than I ever spend. I often find shoes on the street, a fact that led me to average out total shoe expenditure and come up with a great rationalization for the purchase. That and the fact that my upcoming birthday is a milestone only such sexy shoes as these might help me endure.

When I wear them, I will be reminded to remind myself not to be such a perfectionist. To try is paramount, to push oneself always further, past the point of reality, is a fool's pursuit. There is something to be said for being satisfied, or so I'm told.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Fearless Orange

"I love your shirt" I said to a woman I was pressed against on the subway yesterday, headed to the city for the second day in a row of doctor's appointments, check-ups to check that I am headed to 40 in good health.

The shirt was a bright orange, ruffled, fabulous. (The crowded subway car, sadly, offered little opportunity for picture-taking.)

"Thanks!" the orange-wearer said, smiling and pulling out her headphones. "My boyfriend says it's garish, and the only reason people compliment me is because it stands out..."

I shrugged. "But that's the are bold enough to stand out, to not give a #@$% what other people think. People admire that."

She nodded, boyfriend be damned. "It's refreshing, right?"

"Absolutely!" I said, looking around at the morose faces. "Especially on the subway..."

My fellow orange lover smiled and put her headphones back in, got re-absorbed in her book. I didn't want to bother her by continuing the conversation further. I, did, though, quickly hand her a gold star as she stepped off a few stops later. "Thank you!" She said heartily.

I didn't have time even to thank her back. The boldness embodied in her shirt was a good reminder on a strangely fear-provoking morning, on what turned out to be a strange tornado-filled day, to try to push back the panic and move through the day on my own terms, to face head-first whatever came my way.

Conversations abound around me all morning about bedbug infestations, time-sucking train delays, preparations for impending storms, and the worries had started to creep in. In reality, I've had a bedbug scare before on which I spent roughly $1,000 on extermination and dry-cleaning of imaginary bugs, so I know all too well what to do should it actually happen. (Frankly, I refuse to stop picking things up off the street, it gives me way too much joy.)

As for train delays, the woman ahead of me's dire warning of "massive problems with the train" as I walked into the normal-for-rush-hour crowd on the platform was, as I'd guessed, totally unfounded. The train came within a minute.

And the rain? My husband and younger son's warnings to "be prepared" for the storm that blue skies in the morning did not at all foretell, proved fruitless. A rainjacket or umbrella would have done nothing to protect me had I been out in the gale-force winds that hit Park Slope. Luckily, using my brain, I "prepared" by staying inside my friend's house, away from the windows, as all hell broke loose outside, all around us.

Gold stars go out to those who suffered losses during the storm, the likes of which I've never seen except in the movies, in The Wizard of Oz.

"God is not happy with us," my little orange-shirt-clad Oscar said, shaking his moppy head as we drove through the tree-strewn streets of Park Slope filled with shocked people.

Hard to know who or what's in charge. But one thing is for sure: There is so much outside of our control, and there is often very little we can do except try, try to stay calm and cool-headed, try to develop our own certainty, our own boldness, our own orange-shirted bravado, in the face of uncertain circumstances.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Puppy's Potential for Community Building

The little pug came scrambling along the sidewalk toward us excitedly, pulling its owner along. I love puppies and, of course, so do my kids. As we all stopped and stooped down to give and receive love and hugs from the little fur-ball, I looked up at its owner in apology.

"Sorry," I said, "You never get very far very fast with a new puppy, do you?"

She just smiled. "No, but it's okay. It's fun actually."

I was glad to hear it. Sometimes, puppy owners in a hurry can seem mildly if not aggressively annoyed at the attentions poured on their new charges. But Tricia relished the opportunity it afforded her.

"I've lived in this neighborhood for two years, and I've never met so many people," she said. "Eddie is a big rock star."

I shook my head. "That's amazing," I said. "People want to connect in a community, but often they don't know how. A puppy makes it so much easier."

Tricia nodded in agreement. I often think about this, wandering as I do in search of people to reward, people who might reward me with insight, that it can be a serious challenge sometimes to break the ice, to make the bold move of looking someone in the eye and saying even so much as a friendly hello.

Sadly, in our society, especially in a big urban setting, doing such a thing can often be construed as strange unless you have a reason to engage. And, even then, when people are supposedly engaged,  ordering something from a waiter or a barista, or coming across people who want to pet their cute dog on a leash, they often seem to miss the opportunity to remember that they are being offered a gift in that moment, a chance to interweave with another human being, a real living breathing body with whom even a brief connection can be magical, awe-inspiring.

As Oscar dangled a rubber snake over Eddie's head, Tricia warned him: "He'll chew that up..." She laughed. "He chews everything, including my hair."

Clearly, it was a small price to pay for all that Eddie has brought her, all that he--and she--have brought to the community. I gave Tricia a gold star for having the guts to take on the responsibility of her little bundle, and to take full advantage of her role of puppy owner and use it to establish a stronger sense of belonging in her community.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Many Ways to Mindfulness

When I sit in temple, it is often with a strong sense of hypocrisy. Judaism is a small part of my life, one I am never quite sure I want to focus on at all, mostly because I have a visceral opposition to wholehearted beliefs that often serve to separate people rather than bring them together. These are philosophies, not truths, as no one knows much for sure and no one, surely, should use their beliefs against others.

I am asked often why, then, I have my children in Hebrew School, why I show up on the High Holidays and other times throughout the year, times that I can remember well as important moments in my own childhood. The answer I come to every time is that I feel it is important to carve out time in one's life and in the lives of our children to think and talk about the bigger questions, the ones no textbook can answer, the ones we spend our whole lives figuring if we choose to face them at all.

The student rabbi at Kolot Chayeinu, Molly Kane, spoke on Rosh Hashanah about the coming year, asking us congregants to think hard about what we want from it. She guided us to practice "Mindfulness, not fear" in the face of  God's awesomeness and dread.

I love that. Preaching fearlessness is so crucial. It is this kind of advice that made me choose this particular temple. They are not mired only in the scripture and psalms, but their modern approach mirrors the best in other religions and life practices, their wisdom intended as a way to help one live a more examined, fulfilling life.

As I walked with my children to the family service in the afternoon, the kicking and screaming about going to temple having finally abated but the walk deemed "boring," I spoke of this "mindfulness" Molly had spoken of, about how the commonality between all great thinkers (Da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, Einstein) was actually never being bored, never taking any little thing for granted but, instead, looking at what is in order to see what could be.

"We have to notice everything, question every little thing in order to learn and create new things," I said.

The rest of the walk was filled with them, somewhat sardonically, pointing out every little thing they saw on the buildings and on the sidewalks as we moved along, like molasses. I began to question my own advice...But, really, paying attention is the greatest skill I can help teach my children, the greatest lesson I myself continue to learn in any way possible.

I am not completely sold on one practice, as no one thing can ever quite do the trick, I'm afraid, and it seems smarter to take a bit of what every culture has created over time to help answer the unanswerable questions. Of late, in addition to temple, I have been splitting my spiritual time between researching my daily Facebook tarot reading on sites including, and taking wisdom from Ayurvedic practices suggested to me by a great bartender we met in London who grew up on the island of Mauritius.

Ayurveda is an amazing intuitive 5,000-year-old Indian practice of balancing one's mind and body through diet, excercise and spiritual meditations, a "Science of Life," the "art of living in harmony with nature," according to Lissa Coffey, a psychotherapist, sociologist and best-selling author who is a pervasive media presence translating the ancient practice into modern lifestyle terms. I took her quiz at despite much ribbing from my brother-in-law, who was himself exploring a highly digestively disruptive cleanse to get back on track himself.

We are all of us seeking if we're smart. I give big gold stars to Ms. Kane, Ms. Coffey and anyone trying to help people figure how best to move forward, how best to manage our lives in a meaningful mindful way.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Beginning Again

I saw a Dad of one of Oscar's classmates in the drugstore the day before the first day of school, searching in vain, I knew, for elusive Flair pens.

I introduced myself, my school-year self, "Oscar's Mom," and shook my head. "They're impossible to find, no one carries them except Staples."

He agreed. "I know. It's always really hard..."

I smiled. "Well, as I see it, it's a way to get readjusted to facing the difficulties of the school year..."

He smiled back in appreciation. "Nice reframe," he said.

I laughed. "Yes, well, it's what I do."

As he waved and walked away, toward the door, likely to Staples, I realized all of a sudden: that is what I do. In the process of talking with other people, I  look to reframe situations for them and for myself, to talk out how we might put a more positive spin on things that can sometimes seem just simply annoying. And, oh yeah, for playing along, I give people gold stars. It had been so long, I almost forgot.

I ran after him, Towey's Dad, a.k.a Hugh, and gave him his gold star. For trying, of course, not just trying to find Flair pens but trying to get back into the school-year mindset and all that raises up in us as parents about our abilities or inabilities to help our children be the very best they can be. It is a challenge for sure.

In elementary school, it is the parents who carry the bulk of the responsibility for figuring things, like what exactly a Flair pen is and why they're necessary. Hopefully, in some ways, we can begin the process of handing over some of that responsibility. I sent Eli and Oscar through the CVS in search of some other supplies--baby wipes and liquid soap--but they came back empty-handed. I understood. The search for things in stores is often overwhelming. I myself nearly gave up on the soap. But at least they could then understand my plight, if just a little bit.

In line, finally, fully set (minus the Flair pens), I saw a young teenager buying her own supplies. I sighed.

"Aah, it'll be nice when my kids can buy their own supplies..." I said.

She rolled her eyes. "Oh, yeah, it's so fun having to buy my own..."

I laughed. "Well, I guess it's all who's perspective you look at it from," I said. I gave young Tarah a gold star.

"Hopefully," I said, "It will be the first of many you receive this year!"

She smiled a big genuine smile. "Thanks!" she said.

There is something to be said for new beginnings, for getting ready for the start of something potentially great.

L'Shana Tova to all those who celebrate Rosh Hashana, Happy Fall to everyone!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Putting a Positive Spin on Summer

It is confusing to call this the last day of summer, as the kids here in New York go back tomorrow for only one day before getting off the rest of the rest of the week. Still and all though, today is the day school supplies must be purchased, that we must shed our lazy routines of summer, our "what's next for fun..." mentality and get down to business.

I face this day with great nervousness and excitement as I do getting ready for all new things. There is worry that the year will not be perfect, that I will not help my children be the absolute best they can be, but also a great deal of hope that so much will be learned, so much explored, so much good will arise out of the simple act of trying.

We are often so hard on ourselves for what we have not accomplished, what we did not do during the summer, instead of focusing on all the things we did do, even if much of that was simply relaxing and unwinding from what the more prescribed seasons require.

The first day of school can be so stressful for both parents and kids as people beseech you again and again, "Did you have a good summer?" We lucked out a couple years back and found our heads--unchecked all summer--filled with lice the first morning of school. Instead of joining neighbors in the first-day-of-school photo, tromping along with everyone to face the eager questions about the preceeding months' accomplishments, we were home, combing out our hair with Pantene.

The kids didn't seem to mind and I, for one, realized when appearing on far-less-stressful day two of school, that no one cared any longer about my summer. The question had been asked umpteen times of others, it was done. I was off the hook.

Last year, against my better judgment, we did go to the first day of school, having no legitimate excuse. But my mindset had changed. I realized that it was just a brief moment, a necessary but silly excercise to even ask the question "How was your summer?" let alone feel the need to answer. It is like how so many, even I, ask people, "How are you?" and don't really expect an honest answer.

I am terrible that way, very literal with language. I often feel I have to answer the question honestly. But I don't, or at least I don't have to dig deep into my soul to figure the ins and outs of my summer, the great and the terrible moments, just to respond to a fellow parent's polite inquiry.

As my older son, Eli, pulls together pictures and mementos from his summer with which to decorate his writer's notebook, I can look back and see all the awesome things we did. I laugh when I look at photos of the kids smiling and hugging knowing that I had bribed them with crusty baguettes to get them to stop wrestling long enough to pose sweetly in front of Monet's inspiring waterlillies. Reality often differs from that image we look to portray to others. I, for one, try to be cognizant of that, to marry the two as much as possible and not try to pretend everything is perfect when it's not.

But it is important to take a lesson from pictures, from the need to say a hearty "yes!" when asked if one's summer was good: there is so much to be grateful for, so much in one's day that is good  when we do our best to focus on it.

Gold stars go out to parents and kids for putting on a smile and a positive spin on summer in the first days back to school. Along with the No. 2 pencils and those godforsaken flair pens that I can never seem to find, a good attitude, an openness to trying, is crucial.

Check out my new weekly parenting column in The Brooklyn Paper, "Fearless Parenting." Tell all your friends!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Perceiving France & England

All we know comes from what we see or, as Leonardo da Vinci so aptly put it, "All our knowledge has its origins in our perceptions."

I guess that's why I think travel is so important. It is so easy to sit in one's own home, to watch programs or read things we personally choose because they do not tax what we already think, to spend time with people who feel exactly as we do. It is easy to stereotype in our imagination, to say all the peoples from a particular region are the same. Until, that is, we actively perceive differently.

I am lucky enough to have travelled the last couple of weeks around France and across the English channel into London, to have perceived with my own eyes and allowed my children to perceive through theirs, the magical ways in which people from vastly different places are both the same and different, from us and from each other.

I gave out no gold stars on my travels. I was warned early on by my young French host, Felix, who we had loved hosting for six months in Brooklyn last year, that people in Europe did not see the gold star as the ray of light most Americans did, that instead they remember, all too clearly, that it marked people not so positively in WWII.

In Normandy, where we visited our young French friend Jeanne and her lovely family in an old schoolhouse by the sea, it was brought home to me how recent WWII feels, how devastating the loss of life and the tangible memories of medieval times a mere half-century ago. Visiting Caen and the remainder of its medieval structures, then moving along the beautiful farm-surrounded roads to the D-Day museum and cemetary along the coast, it was hard not to painfully perceive the realities of how the Allies came together to preserve personal freedoms for the whole of the world, how the French appreciated so much the arrival of Americans on their soil to help save their country and their culture.

Their culture is a beautiful one to have saved with its profusion of flowers everywhere (especially around Monet's home in Giverny, which gave rise to the whole of Impressionism)and the freshness of local foods like fragrant runny Camembert brought from the open-air market. Strangely, though, items I would go to buy, things sold in tourist shops as typically French, were often labeled in English, made in America or, often, in China. I chuckled to myself thinking of all the "French" things in my home, all the "American" things coveted by the French in theirs. How funny it is that the grass is so often greener, that what you don't know always seems better somehow.

I transcended the language barrier with one shopkeeper as I picked up an overpriced rubber magnet in the Loire region's Amboise of a man whose legs were open to make the shape of the Eiffel Tower, who wore a beret and carried a baguette under his arm. We laughed at its ridiculousness, at the ideas foreigners have of people in another place. But some things are true. Many French do travel every morning from home to buy fresh baguettes, it is a custom my family and I greatly appreciated as our hosts in Normandy and Felix's grandparents in the Loire laid out said fresh baguettes with fresh jams from the gardens their dining tables overlooked. Yum.

But Leonardo da Vinci took nothing for granted, not that French all eat baguettes, not even that it takes keeping legs straight in order to balance. It is how he figured all that he figured, invented new only from devising what had already been divinely devised. We were awed and amazed by all we saw and read of da Vinci's genius as we toured his final French home,Chateau du Close-Luce in Amboise, where Francis I installed him in 1516, at the advice of his sister, Marguerite de Navarre, so he could finish the Mona Lisa, St. Anne and St. John the Baptist and get paid 700 golden Ecus a year "to think, dream and work".

And think he did. There in the gardens surrounding the castle, IBM has brough to three dimensions the extraordinary scientific discoveries and invented machines da Vinci devised four centuries ago,from the paddle steamer to the airplane. We could have stayed there forever. It is no surprise da Vinci was inspired in Amboise.

We switched gears as we barrelled through the channel tunnel to London. Though we thought language would be easy again, we were wrong. Every culture--even those that supposedly all speak English--has its idiomatic phrases, its accents. In some ways, it was harder to communicate only because we weren't expecting to have to work at it.

London has been greatly changed over the last decade, not the least its architecture and foods, which both reflect a modernism likely influenced by the greater ease of travel between cultures that the EU has provided (despite England having clung to its currency.) We had great Italian food, amazing French pastries, Moroccan fare, all within the shadow of what the great British Empire created so long ago to protect its aristocracy.

We noted from one of the top walkways of the Tower of London that the surrounding buildings once created to keep out peasants who rose up to protest decrees of the King were filled with lawn furniture and barbecues, now part of the expensive housing stock of Central London that a British expat friend of mine in Brooklyn assures me can only be afforded by "Americans and rich Euros." I guess, in modern ways, we continue to keep down those without means.

We have returned to Brooklyn enriched by all that we learned, with a few baubles by which to remember our travels and remind us of the fluidity with which things--and people--should be able to move about and be comfortable, to thrive, even to grow. I will watch my little 2 euro French succulent from the Caen market with more care, preciously, as it traveled across the sea to its new home on my kitchen window sill.