Back Story, Choose to be Curious, Life Lessons


201 is an HTTP status code indicating a new resource was successfully created in response to the request

201, in binary (11001001), is the title of an episode in Star Trek: The Next Generation

Upon upload, I received a cheerful message from WordPress that my most recent blog entry was the 200th post on Listening to the Universe. That (1) came as something of a surprise and (2) makes this #201.

Upon reflection, I thought: right!  I’ve been at this almost exactly two years, and with two posts a week, every week, mostly reliably for those two years, well, here I am: 201.

And upon further reflection, I realized it was time to listen to the universe anew. Which in my case has meant deciding to hit the pause button on Listening to the Universe.

listening earsI put my listening ears on this week, both fabricated and figurative. As a Roving Reader at a local elementary school, I donned tiger-striped ears and read the story of Elizabeth Blackwell, first American woman to earn a medical degree in the U.S. to first graders; a charming confection about a child “zooming” with his mother in her wheelchair to Montessori preschoolers; and a story of Ella Fitzgerald’s youth that taught me a thing or two and kept the 4th and 5th grade band members on the stage in rapt attention despite the lunchtime din coming through the curtains behind them.  My fuzzy headband was meant to model good listening, but the kids didn’t need reminding.

I came home and put my listening ears on again, sans fur. I heard the deafening yawn of my own disinterest and knew, in my bones, it was time to acknowledge that my energy and focus are elsewhere. That this blog, in this form, was right for that time. That I’ve said what I found I needed to say, for now, here.

That it’s time to listen, deeply, to the voice that calls me in a new direction.

I invite you to join me on that journey. Much of it won’t seem very different from a lot of what you’ve seen here: in Choose to be Curious I share episodes of my radio program and plan for periodic and more in-depth writing on curiosity.  There are a few old Listening to the Universe nuggets you might recognize there already: the talk that got me started; reflections on the magical mix of curiosity and walking [this one too]; the roots of what I hope will be a robust body of work on leading with curiosity, and various interviews. It’s been fun to revisit them of late.

I began with this….

Then today, two days after my birthday, I find myself on a liquid diet, preparing for tomorrow’s colonoscopy. It’s a routine procedure and, other than a previous cancer diagnosis, I have no particular reason to be worried about it. But it is still a reminder that there are no guarantees. That life is short. So you should just do things and stop worrying about whether it’s good enough already.

Today I am reminded that my best decisions in recent months have all been about things that pushed me outside my comfort zone. That the universe offers up opportunities complete with encouraging messages more often than we realize — if we will only listen.

So here I am, taking a deep breath amid all my unvarnished work-in-progress dust, and plunging forward before I can second guess myself again. Spinning this out there among all the other stardust. Trying to listen when the universe talks. Trying to learn as I go.

The learning? I’ve certainly deepened my appreciation for the discipline of writing. I have a new reverence for the awesome accountability of wholly self-imposed deadlines and the power of operating outside my comfort zone.  I have a newfound and profound admiration for the the many, unexpected and unsettling places teachers lurk and of the innumerable lessons yet to come. It feels like two years well spent.

Please consider signing on to receive the Choose to be Curious blog posts, as you have received these. It’s been wonderful knowing you are out there, along on this journey in some form or another. Thank you for being a listening ear as I’ve tried to listen to the universe — and to myself. I am delighted to have found wisdom in both.

I hope you’ll join me next time. Until then — choose to be curious!


Choose to be Curious

Curiosity & the Farmers Market

IMG_1557What if you go somewhere familiar and choose to be curious?

What more do you see, hear, taste and learn? We find out on this fun visit to Arlington Farmers Market at Court House.

How to make soap, taste test olive oil, store mushrooms; where the best fruit grows; who plays the charango….and some of the stories behind all the people who make up the market.

Listen to Choose to be Curious #24: Curiosity & the Farmers Market.

Choose to be Curious, Uncategorized

News Literacy: Now more than ever

What to do in an age of “fake news” and echo chambers? Get curious about your news.

US and Virginia government teacher Patricia Hunt joins me to talk about news literacy and how to build strong and discerning information-processing muscle. Being intentional about what we know and how we know it has never been more important.

I love that inspiration for this story came as I sat in traffic in I-95 on the way to my parents’ house for Christmas. Proof that even those moments and hours that feel utterly lost can and do yield good fruit. Serendipity for the win!


Listen to Choose to be Curious #23: News Literacy – with Patricia Hunt.



Every mention of immigration these days is so charged, I just wanted to have a thoughtful conversation about the simple and everyday ways in which curiosity contributes to picking up and moving somewhere new.

Luckily, I found two wise young people to help me out — plus, a bonus closing cameo reflection on (re)gaining appreciation for and finding inspiration in one’s homeland. I am deeply grateful to Anderson Escobar, Mariami Shengelia and Arturo Ramirez for making this show possible.

“The world belongs to the people who are curious.” ~ Albert Einstein

Listen to Choose to be Curious #22: Immigration – with Anderson Escobar and Mariami Shengelia.




Life Lessons

Mosaic as Metaphor

I like the meditative quality of mosaic work. I can sink entirely into the task, focused only on the chips of glass and ceramic in front of me, attentive to color and shape and nothing else. Can feel the quiet, the only sounds the occasional crack of the nippers at their work and my breath, soft and even.

But there’s more to it than that. Something about putting pieces together again, assembling a coherent work, maybe even something pleasing, from jagged shards. Order from disorder, beauty from brokenness.

I think it appeals to me, especially right now, because it reminds me to be hopeful, that we can (re)assemble, even from what seems irredeemably shattered. We can pull the pieces together, play with the harsh contrasts, appreciate the colors and sharp edges. We can make something of it. Even still.

Life is a work in progress.


Thank Goodness for Sesame Street

elena_urioste_ph_tinozzi_023-1280x853Bach, Kodály, Ysaÿe, Kreisler, Halvorsen and a traditional Bulgarian folk tune each washed over us in their turn. The cello and violin playing with and for each other, with and for all of us. The music filled the space, bursting to the ceiling, finding every corner, leaving nothing out. I could imagine it tumbling out the door and down the street, a heady rebuke to the leaden sky.

Elena Urioste and Nicholas Canellakis entered the chilly church hall radiating joy. Their chemistry was lovely, their smiles genuine and warm, their technique exquisite, their playfulness undeniable.

For an hour, two, I was swept up in the incredible beauty of which humans are capable.

For an hour, two, I sat cocooned, entranced, soothed.

The program notes tell me that “as a mere two-year old [Elena] saw an episode of Sesame Street in which the great violinist Itzhak Perlman demonstrated his instrument for Elmo and, according to her parents [whom we met on the way out the door], she was hooked.”

All I can say is: thank goodness for Sesame Street.

Check her out here. Check him out here. They often play with the remarkable Michael Brown, about whom I have written before.

Yup: thank goodness for Sesame Street.