Woods or Goods?


Several years ago, when my son was quite small, my mother gave me a book to read.  It sat on the shelf for a few years, unopened, and eventually I gave it away.  A few years later she gave it to me again, and again it sat on the shelf.  When we moved overseas, the book was chucked in a box and sat in a dark storage place for five years until we bought a house and liberated our treasures.  Two years ago I found the book and carried it with me all summer and back to Hong Kong, still never cracking the spine.  I had a niggling sense that this book was important, but I wasn’t ready for it until yesterday.

With deadlines for projects I’ve assumed looming, I should have taken the rare moment of quiet on a Sunday afternoon to tackle my in-box.  Instead, my children busy with their friends and my husband grouchy, I retreated to the bedroom, pulled this book from the shelf and devoted the afternoon to discovering its teachings.  The book is Bill Plotkin’s Nature and the Human Soul. Cultivating Wholeness and community in a Fragmented World.

That same evening, checking Facebook, I saw that a friend tagged me in a post linked to a new television ad for Toys R Us.  The ad depicted a busload of children on their way to a field trip in the woods who are then re-directed to the toy store instead, much to their great enthusiasm, and at the expense of a day in the forest.  Here’s the clip.


I couldn’t believe the serendipity of having just read this book about how our egocentric society has gotten stuck in adolescence largely due to a lack of connection to nature.  I first re-posted the link to my own FB page with the comment, “pathetic,” but then added another post quoting directly from the book:

Stand still.   The trees ahead and the bushes beside you

Are not lost.  Wherever you are is called Here,

And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,

Must ask it permission to know it and be known.

The forest breathes.  Listen.  It answers,

I have made this place around you.

If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.

No two trees are the same to Raven.

No two branches are the same to Wren.

If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,

You are surely lost.  Stand still. The forest knows

Where you are.  You must let it find you.

-David Wagoner, “Lost”

Toys R’US didn’t do anything wrong with their ad.  In fact, there’s probably not one among us who didn’t at one point during childhood fantasize about a free trip to the toy store.  They’re simply appealing to our collective voracious appetite for stuff and the delicious prospect of getting it for free.  But to have it so blatantly preferable to a day in the woods underscores that precise uncoupling of humans and nature that is as internally damaging on a personal level as it is externally to the planet.   I’m not a preachy environmentalist, but I think this book is skilled at linking a general human malaise and despondency with a very tangible explanation.

Some of my other favorite quotes so far from Nature and the Human Soul:

“If we look at the biographies of our society’s most celebrated geniuses, artists, and visionaries, we find that most of them had regular immersions in the wild, especially in childhood, and that all of them had great sensitivity to the stirrings of the soul’s deep imagination.” 

“Imagination might very well be the single most important faculty to cultivate in adolescence.  Without this cultivation, true adulthood might never be reached.” 

And my favorite quote that answers the question of an earlier post (The Wisdom of Art School)…

“I believe that most people would agree that we will not create a healthier society by affording women the equal right to be as pathologically egocentric as a large proportion of men have been for millennia, to acquire the equal opportunity to excel in the patho-adolescent, class-dividing world of prestige, position, and wealth, academic and corporate ladder-climbing, and power broking.  Rather, mature men and women must join together to foster soul centric development for both genders and for all races and cultures… 

If it’s true that…our environmental crises are due to a widespread failure of personal development, especially among the people in power in the industrialized nations (mostly wealthy males), then a radical overhaul in our way of parenting and educating children is in order.”

So, whether this post makes you want to go to Toys R Us to stock up for the holidays, or take a walk in the woods will probably explain a lot if you choose to listen.  I, for one, am going hiking…um, after I pick up a few things from the store.

The Wisdom of Art School

Several months ago I began an article about the wisdom of going to art school.  I tucked it away and never published it.  This morning my sister posted a link to an article on Huffington Post with a very similar rationale in which she was quoted.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/10/art-and-music-schools_n_4078962.html?utm_hp_ref=fb&ir=Arts&src=sp&comm_ref=false.  I think it’s a good time to share my two cents as well…

As a twenty-first century feminist, I have concluded that the most salient advice I can give my children when it’s time for them to apply to college is to go to art school. 

Last week I attended a lunch with Aayan Hirsi Ali entitled “Feminisim in the Twenty-First Century” sponsored by the Asia Society in Hong Kong.  Ms. Ali’s primary point was that the modern, western view of feminism has lost its way and should return to its origin.  Feminism used to focus on equal opportunities, but has recently evolved to focus on equal outcomes.  Since women will always be the bearers of children and hence always the ones to struggle with work/life balance, she posits that instead of focusing on breaking glass ceilings, women should return our focus to the protection of women – from trafficking, violence, FGM and other horrors — and ensuring women are equal before the law. 

Then I attended a screening of Missrepresentation, the award-winning Sundance movie about how the media exploits women.  The compelling film suggests that women need to focus on breaking that glass ceiling, getting on the corporate boards of media conglomerates to gain control and power over what we watch and how women are portrayed.  Similarly, Sheryl Sandberg, in her book Lean In, provides a solid argument for women staying in the workforce in large part for personal gain, to be able to regain work/life balance once we reach the upper echilons of our professions. 

So, break the glass ceiling, fight for the rights of the world’s under-served women, lean in, lean out, off ramp all while raising a family of my own?  What’s a woman to do?   Go to art school.  

Consider the benefits of art school. Art school prepares artists and art lovers with skills to do things they love.   Starting from a place of inspiration and purpose, a career can be built from the inside out instead of the other way around.   Practically speaking, an art degree is a lot more family friendly than a business degree, enabling the graduate to design and build a life around tangible skills, rather than just riding the coattails of a prestigious institution.  

Secondly, a hallmark of art school is the dreaded “crit.”  Vulnerable art students face the analytical wrath of their fellow classmates and professors as they present and defend their conceptual art to pass their classes.  A mediocre artist with a highly evolved conceptual ability and a quick wit will sometimes do better than a wishy-washy technically talented artist.   Consider the resilience and thick skin that comes from surviving the dreaded “crit”, desperately needed skills in the day of armchair quarterbacking and anonymous commenting.  

Finally, with a relentless barrage information streaming continuously, we are no longer informed by a finite source of arguably unbiased information (like the newspaper or evening news), but instead have an endless supply of input at our fingertips.  We gorge on our favorite sources, gagging on the soundbites we repeat without critical thought.  Every website in our portfolio reinforces our beliefs without dissenting voice.   It’s the age of INFOBESITY.   To keep our heads above water and our thoughts critical, we need to be curators of information, rather than blind consumers.  The extent to which we are able to put together a well culled, thoughtful, deliberate collection of topical inputs determines our competitiveness in the workplace, desirability at dinner parties, and success as architects of our own futures.  Where better to learn to curate a collection than art school?

My sister chose to go to art school.  At the time we thought what most people think when they hear a high school senior is off to art school.  What is she going to do with that?   The fact that it is arguably the best art school in the country, the Rhode Island School of Design helped, but didn’t completely assuage the concerns of how she’d put food on the table.  Twenty years later, she is the Associate Director of Admissions for RISD, exhibits annually at the alumni art sale, creatively inspires my niece with her own art work and easily puts food on the table.  She leaves work at 5, doesn’t work weekends, has flexible hours in the summer and an exciting, upwardly mobile career path, and now she’s quoted in the Huffington Post.  Starting from a place of inspiration, her professional life has fallen into place well.  I’d say that’s a success story, and a great endorsement for the power of an art degree. Go Lu!




RAMP… on or off, we’re still moving forward.

 Ever since I read Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, I have been pondering the choices I made professionally and wondering if I should have “leaned in” along the way.   I love working and I have spent most of my life preparing for and participating in the workforce, but I also love being primarily responsible for raising my kids.  What I don’t love is feeling like I have to apologize for that choice.  In a perfect scenario, I could work around my family’s needs and contribute productively to society.  This idea led me to a thought exercise that with some energy and attention, might be a first step toward more seamless transitions for men and women in and out of the workforce along a life, not just a career, path…

RAMP… On or off, we’re still moving forward.

If work life is a journey to be traveled, rather than a destination to be reached, there are bound to be stops along the way.  Think of your career as one long, fun road trip.  You travel along, at first in a stroller, upgrading to a bike, your first car, a nicer model, a sensible minivan, the midlife crisis sports car and eventually a practical Subaru (avoid the wheelchair, if possible!) and then a nice porch rocker if you’re lucky.   But on any road trip, there are pit stops, exits and entrance ramps.  These are a natural part of any trip.   When you get off the freeway for a little break, you don’t abandon your car and never look back.  Instead, you park it for a while, rest, refuel and get back on your way. Why can’t your career be like this too?

What is RAMP?

  • RAMP is a network of individuals who view their career path as a journey rather than a destination, but who recognize the need to continue to grow, whether employed or not.
  • RAMP is a social movement designed to get society to stop valuing each other by our professions, but by our intrinsic character and essential selves.
  •  RAMP is a practical resource for skills building, networking, career curation, support and advocacy.
  • RAMP is a membership-based organization, app and website that links workers with employers, or needs with skills, for project based work for individuals who are taking a break from a career, but still want to be professionally engaged.


The goal of RAMP is to become a system for aiding the off ramping and on ramping of individuals from professional career paths to family care roles and back.  The goal is nothing less than raising both society’s labor productivity and also the overall level of emotional wellness in society.  Improving social productivity in this way is an increasingly urgent economic need given aging demographics in most countries and extensive welfare spending.

Need for RAMP

Many highly skilled and educated people, predominantly women, are dropping out of the workforce in order to assume the role of primary care provider parent in their own household.  With long work hours and complicated societal demands for engaged parenting, households that can financially afford a division of labor where one is the primary bread winner and the other the primary domestic manager are feeling forced to make this difficult choice.  Increasingly this has become an all or nothing scenario, which has created an economic inefficiency that should be addressed.   Educating a sector of the population that then fails to contribute directly to the economy is time consuming, expensive and inefficient.

Beyond the economic inefficiency of educating an ultimately “non-productive” sector, choosing to leave a professional life has psychological implications that negatively impact self-esteem, divorce rates, substance abuse and so on.  The Five O-Clock glass of wine that is joked about in just about every “mommy blog” or New Yorker cartoon is actually damaging and, I theorize, a sign of deep despondency and lack of satisfaction and happiness in life.

One of the biggest things a primary care parent misses is recognition, professional growth and feedback.  Volunteering for worthy causes can help alleviate that, but for individuals to truly engage in nonprofit volunteer work they need and deserve a more formalized system of recognition and feedback that contributes to the continuity of their resumes.  This will improve the quality of the commitment volunteers make to the causes as well.

  • A  Harvard Business Review survey found that 37% of highly qualified women were “off-ramping” (voluntarily leaving their job for extended time periods) and that “three quarters [of the women surveyed] were on nonlinear career trajectories to the detriment of their earning potential and career advancement.” (HBR Magazine, June 2010).
  • With due respect to his holiness the Dali Lama who believes that happiness is the ultimate goal, we RAMPers believe that happiness is the byproduct of finding and living one’s purpose.  Viktor Frankl’s “knowing the why enables you to bear almost any how.”
  • The root of the mommy wars is not judgment of the other, but vulnerability and guilt.
  • Answering the dreaded question, “What do you DO?”

RAMP can address these issues by helping primary care parents maintain their professional skill set, sense of self worth and purpose by keeping them responsible to continually contribute to the world beyond their own families.   Rather than just drop out altogether, RAMP helps individuals create a work plan that will enable them to continue to build new skills and keep old skills fresh, and to take on projects that utilize their professional talents but still maintain schedule flexibility which is the single biggest need for primary care provider parents.

Possible components of RAMP:

1.  On-line database for skills-based project work – For people with specific skills who don’t want to work full-time, but could take on projects.  The employer doesn’t have to pay benefits and can get specialzed skills and expertise that they don’t have to have in-house without making a long-term employment contract decision.   Similar in concept to legal services firm, Axiom, individuals could even eventually work for RAMP and be hired out for projects, getting insurance and other benefits from RAMP.

2.  Political Advocacy – Want to make a real difference?  Join the RAMP Advocacy Team in being an advocate for primary care parent protection by lobbying to make changes at the government level.  Could social security benefits be shared for couples who choose to have one parent stay home to take care of children?  Paternity leave benefits?  On-site child care?  Do research and let your voice be heard to help other families navigate these important decisions better in the U.S.

3.  Networking & Community Organization – There is power in numbers.  One of the biggest concerns of stay-at-home parents is the isolation and lack of professional network they had when they “really worked.”  RAMP offers both an on-line and in-person gathering for members.  Those in the same city can meet in a common location to work together, bouncing ideas off each other and perhaps sparking innovation.  Another example would be an increased efficiency and transparency to alleviate the mommy wars.  Instead of “stay-at-home-moms” feeling put upon by working mothers who continually ask for favors without reciprocating, organize a system where stay at home moms help working moms on an up-front basis and get some kind of compensation/recognition for it rather than favors with judgment.  Mothers could join the after-school brigade coordinating carpool rides to after-school activities, hosting homework groups at their houses and so forth.  Working mothers would know that their kids were in the hands of other mothers.  Working mothers would spend RAMP stamps by the hour, while stay-at-home parents who agree to volunteer earn the stamps.  RAMP Stamps can be spent to sponsor other members, or for guidance, personal training etc.

4.  Alternate Currency – An alternate structure for RAMP might include a website/app that would match skills with needs and earn members a form of currency called RAMP Stamps.  The website would keep track of bankable hours that could be spent for other services by RAMP members.  For example:  One RAMP member is an accountant.  She is “hired” by another member to create a family budget, which takes her five hours.  She banks five RAMP Stamps.  The accountant then decides she wants a balcony garden and finds a landscape architect through RAMP to plant a garden for her, which takes four hours.  She spends four of her RAMP stamps on the garden.  The landscape architect wants to relax with a regular yoga lesson, so she finds a yoga teacher on RAMP and spends her earned RAMP stamps, one hour at a time, on yoga and so on.   The transaction requires feedback from both parties, but no cash outlay.  This gives the “employee” a professional track record that helps keep the resume current and growing even though she isn’t formally employed at the time.   It also gives the “employer” services without spending money, an issue for non-income-earning spouses.  Modeled on Paperless Post’s stamps, RAMP Stamps can also be used to sponsor other RAMP members who can’t afford the membership fees or be spent on needed services.  This will build the RAMP network along socio economic lines and encourage the spirit of RAMP in helping people help others.

Clearly this is a half baked thought exercise, not a business plan, but I wonder if it resonates with you and if you have any additional thoughts?  

Random Path Generator of Life

Today is National Day in Hong Kong. I can’t imagine it could be as unusual as the one I spent a few years ago and describe here… 

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On October 3, 1990, a pudgy college senior studying abroad in Vienna, I stood at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin and watched as the flag of reunited Germany was raised for the first time.  I hadn’t intended to go to Berlin for the unification, but Oktoberfest had been more like “drunken grope-fest” and my travel mates and I needed a good night’s sleep.  So, with our Eurail passes we boarded a night train to Hanover (a solid eight-hour destination) then figured we might as well check out this unification thing in Berlin since we were so close.  It was surreal.  I chipped my own souvenir piece of the wall with a rented hammer from an entrepreneurial German (I still have that piece), wandered the streets of East Berlin with the buildings eerily lit for dramatic effect, crossed Checkpoint Charlie and explored the museum.  As I stood at the gate at midnight on the West Berlin side, champagne corks and fireworks exploded and Ode to Joy played.  A stranger handed me a cup and we all toasted the occasion. I was moved by the celebration and the hopefulness of the people around me.

Very few days generate the detail of recall as that day, so every October third I tend to reflect on the unpredictable path that led me from the Berlin Wall to my present circumstances whatever they are each year.  So twenty years later, the random path generator of life blew a fuse and put me in a bikini on a yacht in HK with my husband, mother, Hong Kong living legend Sir David Tang, and Gwyneth Paltrow.

I had known since the spring that entirely by coincidence, my mother and Gwyneth would both be visiting Hong Kong during the first week of October. Mom for her annual kid visit and as a stop on her book tour, and Gwyneth to film a scene for Steven Soderberg’s upcoming movie, Contagion. Still, I had no idea what the week would bring and didn’t even know if we’d see Gwyneth.

Mom arrived first and jumped right into a few book related events we had arranged.  She’s a total pro.  She spoke at St. John’s Cathedral to a group of parishioners, teachers, and others who had heard about the talk.  It was well received and she sold a lot of books.  The next day I had organized a brunch at my house and invited 40 women.  I made my favorite recipes and, though it was originally planned as an open house, mom ended up giving an impromptu talk to the group that was provocative, challenging and inspiring for these worldly, but content-starved women.  It was a very nice morning, and I am so glad that we already had these two events under our belts before the crazy weekend ensued.

Gwyneth had sent me a text, “Friday night! Let’s go!! I am so excited!”  While I was excited to see her, I felt a bit of pressure, as her evening arrival coincided with National Day (many things are closed and the streets are thronged with people watching the largest fireworks display of the year), and, plus, just how do you take a celebrity out on the town for her very first introduction to HK?  I enlisted two trusted friends and, after considering a zillion options, settled on a plan.

My “entourage” that night consisted of my husband, mom, Sonya, Louis and eight-month-pregnant Kelly.  At the last minute Louis asked if we wouldn’t mind if a friend of his visiting from London joined us for drinks.  Turned out to be Dambisa Moyo, the Zambian, Harvard & Oxford, PhD, author of Dead Aid:  Why Aid is not Working and How There is a Better Way for Africa and on the Time Magazine 100 most influential people list.  “Sure.” I said.

I had insisted that GP switch hotels and stay on the Hong Kong side, as the selected hotel for her would have been impossible to reach and too crowded with the National Day celebrations going on.   We had organized a private table at the bar at the Upper House and arranged to meet for drinks there to watch the fireworks.  I had to laugh when she texted to ask me what I was wearing (now I can say that I loaned money to a Kennedy AND gave fashion advice to a cover model!).  This turned out to be a spectacular view of the fireworks and a nice way to ease into the evening, although Dambisa arrived wearing a flashing devil horn headband with her own entourage of about ten oil guys who were quite enthusiastic about the party they had just joined.  Everyone handled it gracefully, and we managed to extract ourselves from the group and head to dinner.

After much deliberation and a hundred restaurants selected and then discarded, and at the advice of several in-the-know women, I eventually settled on a private Szechwan kitchen, Da Ping Huo on Hollywood Road, known for great spicy food and the wife of the chef who comes out and sings Shanghainese opera after the meal.  I thought it would be a real authentic and not cliché HK experience.  Well it was that, but sadly the food was rather inedible.  We were the only party in the five-table restaurant (save for one lone male European tourist).  Fortunately, Frenchman Louis had brought along some nice wine & champagne so what we lacked in food we made up for in beverage.  At least in a tiny, empty restaurant we could all really talk and get to know one another. Gwyneth is as interesting as she is graceful, so no complaints around the table.  Her charming assistant Kevin was a delightful addition to the party too.  The opera serenade was a riot, and overall the experience was fun, but it was unfortunate that the food was not great.

Mom was the first to peel off from the group, sensibly heading home after dinner.  The rest of us headed to a private club called Kee.  We walked there, and on the way a few people stopped her for photographs, but other than that she wasn’t bothered by paparazzi the whole time in Hong Kong.  Kee was great fun, dancing!  After some time on the dance floor with GP (nearly sending Kelly into pre-term labor!), they headed home and the remainder of our group eventually headed to another club under the escalator called Drop.   It is a wild experience to walk into a room and immediately have the best table cleared for you and champagne corks start popping.  We stayed until 3:30 am, then Gwyneth, my husband & I headed out.  Sonya stayed and showed Kevin the late night scene.  We dropped GP and were home by 4, the latest we’ve been out in years.

My husband takes the total dad-of-the-year prize for getting up to take our oldest to a shade-less soccer field in Kowloon by 8:30 the next morning for a four-hour tournament.  He came home and slept all afternoon!  Just as we were getting home from a difficult dinner in Stanley with the kids Saturday night, my mobile rings and I hear, “Gwen?  This is David Tang.”  “Oh hey!” I answer as if we’ve been friends for years.  He’s calling to organize sending a car to pick us up for lunch at his house in Sai Kung the next day, then an afternoon on his boat.  He had met Gwyneth previously and extended the invitation to her, which she insisted on extending to us.  O-K…

Sunday was a day of hilarious contrasts.  Probably the most unusual day I have ever spent… well, except the birthday I spent in Somalia when I visited the USS Tarawa by CH-46 helicopter and met Audrey Hepburn on the tarmac in Mogadishu, but that’s another story…

Sunday was Harvest Festival at St. Stephen’s church in Stanley and, since it was Pastor Will who had invited mom to speak at the cathedral and because we have been making an effort to go there, we all rallied and went to church.  After, we dropped the kids at a friend’s house, quickly walked Finchley and then headed out in David Tang’s white Range Rover with his driver Alex.  I must admit that before all of this started, I had never heard of David Tang.  I soon learned that he’s a Hong Kong entrepreneur, founder of Shanghai Tang, China Club and many other hot restaurants in Hong Kong and London.  He has also been knighted by the Queen, enjoyed a private audience with the Pope, writes regularly for the Spectator and FT, has the exclusive distribution rights for Cuban cigars for Asia and is an all-around character and self-described “maximalist.”

His driver took us to David’s country house out in Sai Kung. The house is located on a large, lush lawn stretching to a beautiful sea view, and is full of things he loves like dogs, books, good reading light and cigars.  David’s wife Lucy is a British woman who has channeled a penchant for intense socializing into excessive exercise and now competes in ultra-marathons on every continent in one year.  She has already completed the Gobi and Sahara deserts and is off to Antarctica for the next one.  When we arrived David told us that GP had gone to dim sum and so was delayed by an hour.  That meant that we were to make conversation for the next hour with a man seated next to a photograph of himself with the Pope.  Mind you, mom’s book is a controversial take on Mary Magdalene’s role in Christianity and does not look entirely favorably on the institution of the church.

David was a total pro, though, accepting a signed copy of mom’s book and offering her one of his own signed “To Cynthia. From your acolyte, David Tang.”  Eventually GP & Kevin arrived and we headed to lunch under a tent on the lawn for a great meal prepared by his Sri Lankan staff.  I was seated at the head of the table next to David.  At one point David sat in his chair and leaned back. For a split second I thought of grabbing his thighs to stop him from toppling over, but in my hesitation as I pondered what that would look like if he wasn’t really about to fall backwards, he actually did.  Fortunately he tucked up his head, or he might not have lived through lunch, as there was a concrete drain eerily close to the spot he landed.   He jumped right back up into his seat — an impressive feat for a not insignificant man — and the meal continued.  The conversation turned to organic produce and, as that is a regular topic of the non-working Southside mom set, I launched into a tale.  But, just as  I began the story, I felt a warm wet sensation on my Chloe-clad foot.  I looked down to discover that their dog was peeing on my shoe!  I still wonder if the dog was poorly, or very well trained?


The meal complete, and a ceremonial cigar with David (how could my husband turn down a Cuban offered by their honorary ambassador?) we headed out to board their fancy “ocean-liner of old” style yacht.  We sat up on the top deck admiring Sai Kung, but one by one we peeled off for bathing suits. GP came out in a tiny pink bikini looking entirely glamorous.  I gulped hard and decided not to care and donned my own army green bikini.  Who’s looking at me anyway?!  We had just had a discussion of the dodgy water quality in HK and Mr.E’s mysterious viral water warts that his doctor had said probably came from swimming in the ocean.  So GP hesitated on the deck for an awkward several minutes after the rest of us had jumped in, probably doing a mental calculation of the risk and reward of a refreshing swim, making her singing debut at the CMA covered in water warts, and the commercially beneficial irony of actually catching a virus while filming the movie Contagion in which she is patient zero for a devastating virus that sweeps the world.

We sailed into Victoria Harbor at dusk as David held court about his views of the environment… “The real problem is not the birth rate but the lengthening of the lifespan.  If you really care about doing something for the environment, then DIE!”

Gwyneth had to meet with the director back at the hotel, so the boat docked at the star ferry pier in TST and she and Kevin debarked along with David & Lucy who were also heading off.  As we were scheduled to be on Lamma Island for mom’s appearance at the inaugural meeting of the Philosopher’s Club at the Bookworm Café, David sent us off on the yacht to Lamma.   This is how we found ourselves alone on a staffed luxury yacht in Hong Kong Harbor watching the sunset.  Go figure.

In a classic Hollywood tale, this would be the parting shot, us sailing off into the sunset, but I can’t quite end the story there, as the Lamma portion was a perfect antidote to the luxury day.  We arrived in Lamma with enough time for a quick seafood dinner at one of the local places where you point to your fish in a tank and it arrives a few minutes later on a plate.  Mom’s host met us at the restaurant and gave her the low down on the evening ahead.  Apparently, the poster his evangelical girlfriend had made for the talk had created a bit of a stir on this tiny island bastion of mid-sixties, Caucasian hippies and local fishermen, so the night portended to be quite interesting.

In fact, it was.  Completely random, awkward and a difficult set-up in a public café with half of the people there for the talk and the other half there to have dinner.  But again, mom handled it with her usual skill and the talk was well received and interesting.  She posed for a few pictures, sold a few books and we ran for the 9:30 public ferry.

So, since her visit, Gwyneth has guest- starred on an episode of Glee!, graced the cover of ELLE, made her country music singing debut at the CMA, promoted Jessica Seinfeld’s new cookbook and any number of other experiences.  For her, HK was an “interesting cultural experience” and is a distant memory.  For me, her visit was a glimpse of another world and a long slow exhale.  Now What?