Archives: One-in-a-Million

Missed Love Connections

Photo Source:

All Illustrations: Sophie Blackall

You: tall, brown hair, incredibly voluminous moustache, blue/green checkered shirt
Me: tall, blonde, wearing all black and Burberry rain boots
I boarded the uptown C train at 14th Street at around 10:50 on Tuesday morning. You got off at 23rd. You were staring at me. Hard. You’re really really really ridiculously good-looking.

I am, you could say, a sucker for love.  I bear the curse of an overly active romantic imagination, which is probably why READ MORE…


One Man Taking One Million Photos!

All Photos: Thomas Hawk

All Photos: Thomas Hawk

Ready for another manic Monday?  I hope you all had a restful weekend!  I got a massage yesterday that was so good I proposed to the therapist.  He said yes and then asked me if I like dogs.  Seeing as I was naked on his table, I could see no way out other than to READ MORE


“We Have a Responsibility to Awe”

Did you know that there are scientific connections between feeling a sense of wonder and being compelled to DO good for others and FEEL good about yourself?  That’s right – forget Wheaties – forget self-help books.  All you really NEED IS…


Love Letters to Strangers

We get bombarded with junk mail – both tangible (how many times have you “won” the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes?) and virtual (penis enlargements, anyone?).  Yet I truly can’t remember the last time I went to the mailbox and found a handwritten letter waiting inside, despite my fantasies of being an 18th century British novelist with several pen pals.  (Basically I want to be Jane Austen.)

Hannah Brencher, the young girl in the video above, was “sucker-punched” by depression in college and found comfort by tucking love letters to strangers all over NYC – in cafes, libraries, and even at the United Nations.  Watch the video – it isn’t even 5 minutes long – and be amazed by her story of love letters hanging from trees and spouses learning to speak to each other again through letters. Today she runs a global organization, The World Needs More Love Letters, which writes and mails letters to strangers when they need kindness the most. You can sign up to become a letter-writer and every month they’ll send you a list of people who need your inspiration – I’m signing up.  Anyone want to do it with me?

Letter-writing may be an “art form” now that we live in a world where efficiency is the trump card, and if it can’t be said in 140 characters, sometimes it isn’t said at all.  But the world is full of artists – let’s be some, too.  And if any of you wants to start a letter exchange with me, I would love that!  Email me your address (ironic, I know) at, and I promise to write you!


You’ve Got a Friend

Marilyn Monroe and Ella Fitzgerald

Happy Monday, Everyone!  I’m on my way back to NYC after a lovely weekend on the Hiwassee River.  I have been told that the Hiwassee feeds into the Tennessee, which feeds into the Ohio River – from which you can travel anywhere in the world (sadly, not to a riverfront, swim-up Bojangles).  But, to be honest, there’s nowhere I would rather have been than gathered around the card table playing euchre with my Wisconsin ladies. (I lost 5 times and dusted off several curse words in the process.)

This weekend was a reminder to me of how important it is to have good friends on speed-dial – for laugh-snorting, problem-solving, and group overeating.   And, in fact, there have been lots of influential friendships in history – Marilyn Monroe and Ella Fitzgerald, C.S. Lewis, and J.R.R. Tolkien, and Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton - whose friendships gave us beautiful music, incredible books, and that little thing called the right to vote.

Abraham Lincoln once wrote to his bestie, Joshua Speed, “You know my desire to befriend you is everlasting – that I will never cease….” (Abraham Lincoln was a softie!)  So give a good friend a squeeze today and make plans to see each other soon – it’s good for your health and for history.


One in a Million: The Birthday Girl

The Ball Pit

I am a person who loves birthdays, which makes me nauseatingly annoying to those in my life who don’t. But for me, it’s the idea that one day out of the year, we get to make a special fuss over being alive and roll around in the ball pit at Chuck E. Cheese (the Chuck E. Cheese of my childhood wasn’t the felony farm that it is today).

But it’s not what you think – I’m not interested in being celebrated – if ever I’m a wilting flower (a rare thing, indeed), it’s on my birthday.  I prefer to slink away (I never work on my birthday) and spend the day doing the things I love.  This usually involves high caloric intake.

But a few weeks ago, I saw this video about a little girl who told her parents she wanted to give up her birthday presents for her 9th birthday and, instead, asked people to donate $9 to a charity building clean water wells in Africa.  Her goal was to raise $300.  She raised $1.2 million.  It’s a heartbreaking story with a heartwarming ending, and I urge you to watch the video – it will change you.

She’s been on my mind a lot since then – her story is transforming the way I think about how we celebrate life.  Volunteerism is a very big part of mine, so I’ve been researching ways that I could express my thanks for another year in a more impactful way and hope you’ll join me in changing the conversation about birthdays!  Just think what fun traditions we could start.

This guy is doing 30 good deeds before his 30th birthday and writing about the experience, and here are some other ideas for how to pay it forward.

What do you think would be cool ways to “donate” your birthday to others?

And here are some other amazing kids who started charities!


One in a Million: Finding Polaris

Photo Source: Copyright 1957 CBS Television

Photo Source: Copyright 1957 CBS Television

I have been thinking a lot about how fragile the order of things is since yesterday. Scrolling through the headlines and photos from the Boston Marathon bombing, it is easy to feel scared and uncertain.  In recent years, we’ve had many heartbreaking reminders that our personal safety cannot be guaranteed, and the landscape shifted again yesterday. Yet in the process of reorienting ourselves, I hope that we can find a way to focus not on the fear, rather on the immense body of proof that says we can and must rely on each other – that we are inherently good and are made up of countless men and women who run toward danger to save lives every day. Just as the North Star has guided many a traveler toward home, so should we allow the good in people around us to bring comfort when we are feeling helpless. And if you don’t believe me, even Mr. Rogers (men in cardigans don’t lie), is quoted as saying, “When I was a boy, and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”

So it’s in that spirit that I’d like to share my own personal Polaris.  It involves men in ill-fitting spandex (as do most things that make me happy) – yet I find it really touching. I realize the spandex comment could take us any number of places, including several beaches in Europe, but oooobviously, I’m talking about…real-life superheroes!

You’ve probably read about them in your local news – men and women who dress up like superheroes and fight crime and injustice in their own communities.  We have several of them right here in Gotham – regular working stiffs by day and vigilantes by night!  Some protect the homeless, some target the war on drugs, and some are simply trying to teach people a little compassion.

And while they may not be taken all that seriously and it is certainly hard to quantify their impact on crime, to me it’s more about a state of mind.  These men and woman believe in protecting those who cannot protect themselves. Forget super powers (I checked – none of them actually has one), they believe that there’s an epic strength inside each of us, and that we have the power to do herculean things with it.

And so, as we get our bearings again in the wake of yesterday’s terror, I’m going to take a moment to think about the superheroes in my life.   I am surrounded by them – the gorgeously big-hearted women in my Arts & Media program, my mom who is fighting cancer with the wrath of a league of superheroes, and a very good friend who is – simply put – the finest kind of human there is.  While there are very complicated politics at play in what happened yesterday and they, too, require thoughtful reflection, it is very UNcomplicated to take the time to recognize all the positive things happening around us.

I would LOVE to hear who your superheroes are and why.  I think it would make everyone feel a little better today.  Please tell me in the comments below!

And here’s a link to 2011′s Real-Life Superhero Project - just reading some of the superhero profiles makes me feel like putting on a breast plate and goggles right now, so if you’ll excuse me…


One in a Million: Joseph Gordon-Levitt

While Joseph Gordon-Levitt (swoon) may have only played a time traveler in last year’s blockbuster hit “Looper,” I’m now more convinced than ever that he’s a visitor from the future.

He recently announced that his company Hit Record will be making a new kind of variety show for Pivot – one that will be produced by common folk like us!  Each episode will be built around a common theme and artists everywhere will come together to collaborate on the content together on JGL’s Hit Record website.  Ladies and gentlemen, this is the future! (I am having a full-blown nerd attack, aren’t I?  I should probably be doing this in private.)

We’ve all seen the way new technology has put creative power into the hands of the people (from what I can tell, a lot of those people have really entertaining cats) – pretty much anyone with a video phone can be a movie producer.

This is the kind of project that gets me pumped – it feels grassrootsy (first made-up word of the day) and supportive and limitless.  JGL saw an untapped potential to gather that creative energy and launch it into the universe (or at the very least, onto the small screen), and I like it.

I dare you to watch this video about the project and to NOT a) doodle Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s name all over your notebook, and b) be excited!

Will any of you submit something to Hit Record?

(One in a Million is a regular feature highlighting people doing innovative things that matter.  JGL started Hit Record with his brother back in 2005 as an artists’ collective where people share their work, a sort of “for us, by us” home for the creative community.  It has been the platform for artists to launch book deals, movie projects, music tours, etc.  But you don’t have to be a celebrity to make your mark – let me know what you’re doing to make the world a cool, collaborative, creative place, so that I can share your good deeds with our fellow Wonderists!)


Introducing…The Wonderist!


Introducing…drumroll…dove release…my blog, The Wonderist! (Cue me shooting out of a cannon in some sort of patriotic leotard.)

I have spent the last year dreaming about writing a blog and thinking about how to make it interesting.  After a short-lived foray into blogging last year, I realized the only person who would want to read what I was writing was my mother (love you, Mom!).  So I took some time to really get to the heart of “what is the what” – what do I have to say that would help people feel connected to each other?  After all, isn’t that why writers write and readers read?

The name came first.  “The Wonderist” feels – to me, anyway – like the written-word equivalent of jazz hands.  I hope that it captures the enthusiasm I feel about life and hope that my blog can do the same.

They say that men think about sex every 10 seconds (okay, I made that up – you can look forward to more made-up facts when you read my blog!).  But 10 seconds is about how often I “wonder” about something – I wonder if I’ll ever live in France, I wonder if I could make a Cameroon juju hat from scratch, I wonder how many blog posts I could write about polka dots (the answer = a gajillion)?

I think life is pretty magical (I mean the fact that I got out of bed before 8am to write this is astounding), and I hope that my blog connects us all to other like-minded people who think creatively, care about helping others, and want to fall in love with every day like I do.  I know that there’s a whole community of “us” out there (I don’t mean to make us sound like aliens, but roll with it), and I truly believe in the power we have to affect change and inspire others with our shared gusto.

To that end, you can look forward to seeing things like:

  • Humor Pieces
  • Fashion and Lifestyle Features
  • Travel Journals
  • DIY Projects
  • People Profiles
  • An Advice Column
  • Book, Photography, and Music Reviews
  • And more!

This is going to be a spaghetti-on-the-wall experiment.  I’m going to try all sorts of things out, and, with your feedback, we’ll figure out what sticks.  Deal?

Let’s get started!