Happy New Year!

2017 was a big year, a travel year, a year of change, and a year of exhaling and finally settling in.

After two and a half years in San Francisco, it’s feeling ever more like home. I’ve got all my professionals in order–thank you Jessamyn–and know many of the little quirks that go along with living somewhere. Barry at the outdoor table at Peet’s holds Greta and Marlowe’s leashes in the morning so I can go inside and get a coffee. I have my sneaky little parking place for the Vespa right in front of Pilates. And we use the secret entrance to Baker Beach for early morning dog walks.

Was going to share here about about my travel experiences. It’s been a very fortunate year in that area, but as I started in, it sounded braggy…and so you will be happy that I know how to use my delete button.

Clever reader that you are, you can see tell from a couple of these pictures a few of the places I’ve been. Was also fortunate to study with both Tony Robbins and Bryon Katie in 2017.

And since you know I like a good story: here’s one of my favorites—probably THE favorite—of the whole year.

Early in 2017 I joined Unity of San Francisco, love the place for its quirkiness, the classes, the great music, and the love and acceptance all around. You never know what will happen. One week everyone in the congregation was given a new $20 bill.

In July, I began an Abundance class at Unity, deciding that I was “all in” for abundance. I’d do the exercises, bump up the commitment, do whatever it takes. On Sunday afternoon July 2 the class went from 1 to 3 p.m.

At 3:02 I received a text from Jessamyn. “Did you know the Ballet School is for sale?”


For 50 years my mother operated her ballet school out of an old Victorian home in Napa. A spectacular edifice, it was lovably rumpled, like a well-worn toe shoe. Where the kitchen used to be–a ballet school doesn’t need a kitchen—was the girls’ dressing room, mis-matched linoleum curling a bit at the edges. The bathrooms–one up, one down—were pasted on the back because the home was built long before indoor plumbing was a thing. We all loved the leaded glass, the grand stairway, and our special spaces at the barre. I was nine when she bought the place and would stand next to the mantel, where the hairpins rested, while Mama put my hair in a bun before ballet class.

In January 2016, six months after Mama died, Daddy sold the building to a developer who transformed it into a glorious home.

The costume closet became another bathroom. The upstairs studio became two bedrooms and the layout was rejiggered to scoop some of the hallway into the bathroom and make a laundry.

The huge redo took about six months and he told the home in August of 2016 while we were still reeling from my sister Alicia’s death. Two couples bought it together intending to both enjoy it themselves and rent it as a vacation home.

“No,” I told Jessamyn, “I did not know the Ballet School was for sale.”

In fact it had been on the market 47 days and there was a new price reduction. Two days later on July 4 I went to look at it.

It is entirely new and yet warm and familiar. A feeling unlike any other building I’ve been in. The walls are the same, high ceilings, simple molding. There’s the little curved area under the double-hung sash windows at front. The banister doesn’t squeak any more, and the missing spindles have been replaced. The treacherous staircase now has a tasteful sisal runner on it to promote quiet and reduce slipperiness. (Why didn’t we think of that?)

Where before three little doors went into the studio area now there is a large opening with a grand feeling.

And the kitchen! A fancy Italian oven, high cabinets, with period-looking handles. The understair closet Mama had piled with “stuff” is now a pantry.

The Ballet School is both utterly familiar and utterly new at the same time.

Several weeks later it was mine.

Especially exciting because it feels like not just for me but for everyone in our family. (Big thank yous to Daddy and Ariel, for occasional onsite help…accepting deliveries, gardening, managing trash barrels and such.)

With Alicia and Mama smiling down on the whole proceedings, we got to have Thanksgiving dinner at the Ballet School. Who knew the yard would be suitable for beer pong? For the first time in years that we got everyone seated at one table.

When I talk about the place people say, “You OWN a ballet school? You teach ballet?”

Well…not exactly, but you have to listen to the whole story.

And now you have.

Happy New Year.

Love, Karen

About Karen Ray

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