07/06/2012 11:00 am ET Updated Sep 05, 2012

20 Ways

The twins and I have been visiting family in California. One day my cousin, Josetta, a FIERCE shopper, took me to The New Mart, a place she and other savvy women and girls flock to the last Friday of each month. My cousin is an art consultant (she owns Fresh Paint in Los Angeles) and brings this creative sensibility to fashion, particularly in how she accessorizes. I marvel at Josetta because I admire and severely lack such skills. But alright... This is why I shop with her.

So here we are, fighting the crowds on a day not unlike any other Friday at the Mart. The women push and grab, ready to pounce on bargains as if they were devouring the very last slice of chocolate ganache cake in the whole world. You can't help but get swept up in the frenzy, so I, too, found myself lunging for deals, reaching over fellow shoppers, asking questions like "Can I try that on if you're not going to take that?" Floor after floor of crowds and hot items. And Josetta saying, "Nancy, here. Here. How about this? Oh Nancy, you REALLY should."

Five-dollar tank tops. A lined cotton dress for $10. These are serious deals by designers you might recognize. About an hour into our venture I needed air and spotted relief in an empty boutique. A young woman introduced herself as Ximena Valero, the store's designer, and asked if I wanted to try on her blouse. "You can wear it 20 different ways." The tag listed the price at $35. "I'll give it to you for $20," she said, clearly eager to make a deal. Partly because I was tired of bucking crowds, partly because the young designer was so polite, and partly because I was intrigued as to how one can wear a shirt 20 different ways, I tried the cranberry-plum tunic on. Sure enough, she began to demonstrate the various ways you can style the shirt: sleeves on, sleeves off the shoulder, halter neck, high front, low back, pulled long, bloused at the waist and so forth.

I bought the shirt. And I love it not only because it's stylish and fun and original. I love it for the way it has become a muse, helping me to appreciate "20 ways" as a blueprint for life.

Think about it.

There are 20 ways (and more) to write a sentence, paragraph, chapter, book, poem.

Twenty ways to make a marinade or spice rub or dressing.

Twenty ways to tell a joke. Like this one from my 11-year-old son, Casey. How many snowboarders does it take to screw in a light bulb? Three: one to do it, one to film it, and one to say, "Oh dude that was awesome." You've heard the same light bulb joke dozens of times, right?

Twenty ways to love. Through silence, words, gesture, touch, the observed ritual, food, art. Sometimes we love by letting go, giving space, and making peace. This is especially true for parents, for whom 20 ways is a matter of daily practice.

Twenty ways to remember. To memorialize our loved ones, choosing to remember them in health not sickness, dancing to the beat of life, young and immortal in our minds. We remember in so many ways.

Twenty choices at any moment. Twenty ways to see the world. How do you embrace the pleasing, full sweep of life?