Tuesday, April 30, 2013

My Books and Finding Order in Chaos

It was August. My wedding was in seven weeks and I had to be out of my apartment in two.

Since I was moving into David's when we got married and I would be traveling for most of the next seven weeks, I decided it would be easiest for me to move all my stuff into his apartment when my lease was up and live out of a suitcase until the wedding.

I had been moving things slowly for a couple weeks. Since I wasn't taking any furniture I decided to do it all myself. We lived twenty blocks apart after all, and I was at his apartment almost every day anyway. I just took stuff with me every time I went over, and it worked pretty well.

Until it didn't.

The third Tuesday in August started out fine, until I couldn't find the outfit I decided on for work. I rifled through my closet and drawers, but it was nowhere. In a flash, I knew what had happened.

It was in the bag of stuff I took to David's the night before.

A panic I was unaware had been simmering just under the surface started to rise.

I looked wildly around my chaotic room at shelves still half full, and piles of clothes and books waiting to be packed. My eyes fell on a stack of wedding presents in the corner, and I thought about similar such stacks in David's apartment, at my in-laws' in the Bronx, at my parents' in Pittsburgh.

My chest got tight, and my breath hitched.

Still in my underwear, I grabbed a massive rolling duffel and started throwing books in by the handful. When my entire collection - three hundred in all - was packed and I reached back to close the zipper, I saw the clock. If I didn't leave in two minutes, I would be seriously late for work.

I picked up the phone and called in sick, got dressed, and rolled that duffel straight out the door.

I hefted the bag into the first cab I saw and gave the driver David's address. David was already gone, so I let myself in and started unpacking.

When the bag was empty, I had books stacked all over the floor, but nowhere to put them. All the shelves were full.

Breathing hard with crazy eyes, I proceeded to take David's stuff off of every single shelf in the apartment, stack it all under the coffee table, and line up my books.

I figured David probably wouldn't be too pleased with my solo redecorating, and I spent the rest of the day preparing for a fight and figuring out how to explain that I needed all the shelves for myself and he had to find somewhere else for his stuff.

When I heard his key in the door later that night I forced myself to wait him out.

He walked in, saw the shelves and looked at me. I tensed, spoiling for the fight, expecting the explosion.

"So what's on TV tonight?" he asked.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Friday, April 26, 2013


7 days until Pittsburgh.

9 days until the race.

Ready or not, here I come.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Get Excited Sports Fans

Don your football jerseys sports fans because today in NYC, the NFL Draft comes to town.

Normally these kids of massive, traffic stopping, crowd inducing events in Midtown Manhattan make me crazy, but not the NFL Draft. 

The Thursday and Friday of the Draft are really fun. There are college football players walking around everywhere, Midtown is ripe for celebrity spotting, the networks set up booths all along Sixth Avenue, and you can buy pretty much any souvenir you would ever want, and hundreds of things you would never, ever need with the NFL logo on it (what, you didn't want a slipcover for your couch that says " NFL Draft 2013?" Because God knows I do).

And anyway, who wouldn't want to step out of their office into an actual red carpet?

Time to start counting down to football season.

218 days until kickoff.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Table in the Restaurant

The man and the woman sat diagonally from each other at a small table in the crowded Japanese restaurant.

In silence.

They were scrutinizing their menus as if the secrets of the universe were inscribed on the pages.

The waiter arrived.

"Can I get you anything to drink?" he asked.

"Just water," said the man.

"Just water for me too, and I think we're ready to order," said the woman.

The waiter took out his pad, clicked open his pen.

"Actually, can you hold that order for a second? I have to hit the restroom," said the man, abruptly standing up from his chair.

"I can just go get your water and come right back," said the waiter.

"Don't worry about the water yet, I'll be back in a second," said the man.

And off he went, leaving the woman to wait.

Thirty seconds later he returned. The waiter was still standing there.

"Actually, I have a work emergency and I need to leave, but you should feel free to stay," said the man to the woman.

He grabbed his jacket and hurried off without so much as an apology or a backwards glance.

The woman sat, eyes wide, face pale.

She stared after him, biting her lip and clutching her iPhone for dear life.

"Are you going to stay?" asked the waiter.

She looked at him blankly.

He stood, waiting, his eyes kind.

"Oh, well, no I guess not," said the woman.

She pushed back her chair and stood slowly, put on her jacket, and left the restaurant, blending seamlessly into the stream of midtown commuters, making their way home.

I watched this scene play out last night at the table next to me at a 
restaurant in Times Square, and have been thinking about it ever since, 
and wondering about their story

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

I'm Ready Right Now

The baby's cry pierced the edge of my consciousness and I woke slowly; my room at my parents' house where we were celebrating Thanksgiving shrouded in the murky half-light of dawn.

Down the hall a door opened and I heard my sister pad towards the sound of the cries.

With a few whispered words, she picked up her three week old baby girl to soothe, to feed.

It would be an hour yet before the sun rose, but my sister's day had begun.

I laid back, my eyes heavy with exhaustion. I had only one thought as I dropped back into sleep to the sound of David's slow, even breathing beside me.

I'm glad it's not me.

Ever since my sister had called me seven months before to tell me she was pregnant, I wondered how I would feel when the baby arrived.

I wondered how our family would change. I wondered how my sister would change. I wondered how I would change.

But most of all, I wondered why, at 28, I didn't feel the urge to have a baby of my own.

I wanted kids. I always had. And we were planning on it. Someday.

But when I arrived at my parent's' house for that Thanksgiving and in short order found a three week old baby in my arms, my brain screamed.


And I handed her over to a nearby set of willing arms.

And I worried. I worried I would never be ready to give us that someday family. That maybe I wasn't meant to be a mother.

I had always assumed that having kids was my birthright. Part of the privilege of being a woman. And I felt betrayed by my lack of maternal urges.

I also felt relieved. Relieved that we didn't have to fit a baby into our tiny Manhattan apartment. Relieved that we only had ourselves to worry about when Sandy cut a swath of devastation across our city. Relieved that we didn't have to move to our new kitchen-less house with a baby in tow. Relieved that we could settle in to our new life on our own schedule.

And we did settle in, together. We held on to each other as we built a home, learned a neighborhood, and solidified a marriage that was a mere two years old.

And together, we radiated the kind of contentment I had always hoped for. Wished for.

And I started to think that maybe there was something else for us on the horizon. Something good. Something new. Something different.

And then.

Three weeks ago I held another one of my sister's babies in my arms - a boy this time. And as he slept with his tiny head on my chest and I breathed in his sweet new baby smell the voice in my head piped in once again, not at all panicky, but just as strong.

I'm ready right now.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Back Yards and Lazy Summer Days

When we were looking at houses last spring, one of the things that sold us on the house that we ultimately bought was the back yard. The previous owners had built a big deck off of the back of the house at some point that looks over a pretty slice of grass, perfect for lazy summer afternoon lounging.

We could imagine ourselves out there. The big outdoor table we would buy, the grill that would grace the corner of the deck, and the parties we would have under the stars on balmy summer nights.

Sure, there were some changes we wanted to make to the deck so it would be ours, but we fell for that back yard, and there was no turning back.

Except we moved into the house at the beginning of November

A week later it started to snow, and until about three weeks ago, it never stopped. So instead of enjoying our brand new outdoor space, we sat in the living room, gazing longingly at the empty, snow-covered deck, and dreaming of summer.

Well, spring may have been slow to come to the Northeast - and judging from the temperature outside today, it may be another week or two before warmer weather is really here to stay - but at least it stopped snowing. And this past weekend, David decided it was high time to start using the back yard. But before we could start using it, there was work to be done. 

Because while the snow fell in New York, David was busy planning our outdoor oasis. He was researching landscaping, scouring the stores for patio furniture, and learning how to rebuild and stain a wooden deck so we could remove the wheelchair ramp that the previous owners installed and change the color of the wood.

He knew exactly what he wanted, and I was just along for the ride, which suited me just fine, since that's exactly how I ended up with my really terrific kitchen.

And this weekend, it was time for some demo.

With sledgehammer and saw in hand, David went to work, and before long, our deck looked like this:

It may look like a bit of a mess right now, but I've seen the designs so I know that in a few weeks, it will be absolutely fabulous, just in time for Memorial Day.

Anyone for an early summer BBQ, Chez Merel?

Friday, April 19, 2013

Half Staff

White Plains, New York.


Flag at half staff.

Thinking of my Boston friends, and my Brandeis University family in Waltham, MA.

Stay safe.

Thursday, April 18, 2013


We are runners.

We run when we're happy and we run when we're sad. We run in celebration and we run in mourning. We run for every reason and for no reason at all.

We run when the sun is out and when the rain is falling. When it's windy and when it's snowing. When it's freezing cold or boiling hot.

We run when it's dark and when it's light. We run after the sun sets at night and long before it rises in the morning.

We run on streets and on trails. In the woods and on tracks.

All we need is our shoes. And we run.

And this week, we Run For Boston.

Soon after the bombs went off this past Monday, a movement began.

Runners all over the country and all over the world did what we do when we don't know what else to do. We put on our running shoes, and we ran.

We ran for us and for them. We ran for all the people who finished the marathon and those who were denied that moment. We ran because a city is grieving. We ran because we have hope for brighter days ahead.

We ran because to not run means letting terror destroy this sport that we love so fiercely, and we are better, and stronger than that.

And after we ran, we logged our miles and our messages on this Google Doc created by a runner in Columbus, Ohio who decided to connect with runners around the world in a massive showing of solidarity. As of this morning, over 3,300 runners have logged over 13,000 miles and have tweeted about their #RunForBoston.

And there's more. Because on Monday April 22nd, in cities across the country, groups are gathering in blue and yellow to run as one, Boston Strong. Because even though running is so often a solitary sport, sometimes we need to be a family. A running family.

I'll be joining #BostonStrongNYC at 6:30 on Monday evening at Tavern on the Green. If you are around the New York City area, lace up your running shoes and come run Central Park.

Together, we will #RunForBoston to mourn, to remember, to celebrate, and to begin to heal.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

This is a Time For American Heroes

"...More than any time in recent history, America's destiny is not of our own choosing. We did not seek nor did we provoke an assault on our freedom, and our way of life. We did not expect nor did we invite a confrontation with evil. Yet the true measure of a people's strength is how they rise to master that moment when it does arrive...The streets of heaven are too crowded with angels tonight. They are our students and our teachers and our parents and our friends. The streets of heaven are too crowded with angels. But every time we think we've measured our capacity to meet a challenge, we look up and we're reminded that that capacity may well be limitless. This is a time for American heroes. We will do what is hard. We will achieve what is great. This is a time for American heroes and we reach for the stars. God bless their memory. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America."
                                      -President Josiah Bartlet
                                       The West Wing, Season 4, Episode 2

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Finish Line

Marathon day.

The buzz in the air is palpable. It saturates the starting line with a dizzying cocktail of excitement and nerves. Runners loiter around. They stretch. They eat. They talk to each other. They laugh. They either try not to think about the distance stretching before them or they focus hard on the miles ahead. The starting gun goes off. The crowd cheers.

The race begins.

They run the course, feet pounding the pavement in a metronomic rhythm soothing in its familiarity. They run through neighborhoods and city streets alongside thousands of strangers who are not strangers but family - a running family. They feel a strength born from months of training and a fierce determination earned for battling cold, heat, rain, snow, doubt and injuries on their journey to the start.

At some point along the miles their energy might begin to flag and they may wonder if they have enough to reach the end. They focus on the spectators lining the course; the people who stand for hours to cheer on family and strangers alike. They grab a cup of water from a smiling race volunteer. They offer some encouragement to another runner in need. And they feel their second wind kick in.

This is their race. This is their time. They are runners. So they run.

And then they see it. The finish line, rising in the distance. Two meters away or two miles, it doesn't matter. Because it's there. They stand up a little straighter. They run a little faster.

They've got this.

Pain is forgotten, as they start to fly. The roar of the crowd helps carry them down the final stretch. They cross the finish line. Head up. Eyes clear. Legs strong.

When they stop moving, the fatigue comes crashing in, but with the medal heavy around their necks the exhaustion feels good. It feels right. It feels earned.

The finish line belongs to them.

Last May that finish line was mine, and in two weeks it will be again. But for the runners in yesterday's Boston Marathon who had yet to reach the finish line when the running world forever changed, and even for the ones who already had, it wasn't theirs. It belonged to horror. To violence. To suffering.

When I cross the finish line in Pittsburgh in two weeks time it will be for me, but mostly, it will be for them.

And when my legs stop moving, and the fatigue comes crashing in, and the medal is heavy around my neck, my tears will mix with theirs.

Monday, April 15, 2013

20 Days until 13.1

Twenty days from now I will have already (hopefully) crossed the finish line of my second Pittsburgh Half-Marathon. With just two more long runs to go before I board my plane to Pittsburgh, I am already planning for race day. I have my clothes picked out with options for all different kinds of weather, I chose my romance novel for the day before the race - the entirety of which I plan to spend on the couch - and I decided what I'll  be eating before, during and after the race.

The race buzz has begun, and thank god for it.

Because, the truth is, I had some trouble this time around. While training is usually pretty hard, it has been a different kind of hard over the past few months. After we moved, I had a hard time getting used to running on the streets of my new neighborhood after so many years spent running in Central Park, and it wasn't until halfway through my training when I found my new Central Park - The Bronx River Pathway - that I finally started to feel like my old running self.

And I am definitely back, because yesterday. Yesterday started like any normal Sunday. I was already awake when my alarm went off, and was already bargaining with myself.

"One more hour of sleep, and then I'll do my long run."

"No, I should get up now and just get it done."

"Maybe I'll just do six instead of eight."

"No, I really have to do eight."

And so on.

The voices of my better angels prevailed, and I got myself up and out the door. The sun was up, the breeze was cool, and I had the streets to myself. I ran the mile to the Pathway, and started my now-habitual six mile loop, and the miles were easy. I felt light. I felt strong. I felt fierce.

It was my fastest run, ever.

I'm ready.

Watch out Pittsburgh Half, I'm coming for you.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Saturday Mornings

Our relaxing, technology-free family room

Five days a week we are busy. Very busy. We wake up at different times, and nearly every weekday morning since our marriage more than two years ago, I leave the house first, before David even wakes up. At the end of the day we make our way home at different times, and often don't lay eyes on each other until well into the night. We eat dinner together in the living room in front of the TV because we are too tired to make conversation. And when it's time for bed, I always go to sleep first, due to the aforementioned early wake-up. And most nights I drift off to sleep to the sounds of a laptop keyboard clacking and a television humming, often well into the night.

This is what emerges when you stir the cauldron of one full time job (mine), two self-owned companies, which generally translates into about four full time jobs (David's), and the various other obligations and activities that make up a life.

Five days a week we are busy. Very busy. So that is why, in our house, Saturday mornings are a break in the pattern.

We are lucky that Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath, gives us a built-in pause button. For 25 hours beginning right before sunset on Friday and lasting until a little after sunset on Saturday we just stop. We don't answer the phone, turn on lights, or drive a car. We don't watch TV, use a computer, run errands, or set an alarm. iPads and wallets go into a drawer, the washing machine stands silent, and there is no cooking happening in my kitchen.

Instead, on Saturday mornings we wake up when we want to, sit on the couch and drink coffee. We read books and magazines, and have actual conversations. We don't sit in our living where we spend most weeknights, but rather spend the day in the family room - a room we outfitted with comfortable couches, my bookshelves, a skylights and tall windows, and absolutely no electronics. We eat lunch when we feel like it, spend most of the day in sweatpants, and take a nap if the mood strikes. If the weather is nice, we might take a walk or visit some friends, but we don't always. We could go an entire day without seeing anyone but each other.

Once the sun goes down on Saturday night the phones start ringing, the TV goes on and plans are made, either together or separately. Sunday is filled with errands and chores and long runs and things, and on Monday we wake up and start all over again.

I'm not sure I could make it without having Saturday morning just beyond the finish line of my week.

Five days a week we are busy. Very busy. But that's just fine with me.

Because Saturday morning is our time, and we are not busy at all.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Summer in the City

You wouldn't know it by the 20 degree temperature drop in NYC between yesterday and today, but summer is coming to the city.

And how, you may ask, do I know?

These babies, parked on every corner. 

Now, I haven't really embraced the food truck phenomenon when it comes to actual meals, but I love a good ice cream truck, and there is none better than Mr. Softee.

And nothing says summer in the city like chocolate ice cream and rainbow sprinkles in a cake cone, handed to me through the glass window of a truck parked on 51st and 6th while the traffic flies by.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Strength, Survival and Sisterhood

We knew the end was near - had known for some time.

My two sisters and I sat by her bed, watching the steady rise and fall of her chest, comforted by each other and a lifetime of memories, and secure in the knowledge that she would soon be with our father - her beloved husband of nearly sixty-five years - who had passed away the year before.

When she stirred, we all snapped to attention. Her time awake was getting shorter and shorter, and none of us wanted to miss a minute.

"I need to tell you a story."

I could see instantly that something was different. Her eyes were clear, her voice strong.

"I have a sister," she said.

Our faces were masks of confusion. My mother had always told us she was an only child, and the only one in her family who survived the Holocaust.

We didn't dare speak as she continued her story.

"You know that I was twenty when the Nazis stormed through our town and took us away. But it wasn't just my parents and me. It was my sister too. Her name was Marion. She sat next to me in the cattle car when the soldiers slammed the doors and padlocked them from the outside. She was with me when the car pulled through the gates of Auschwitz. They sent my mother and me in one direction, and my father and Marion in another. My mother was screaming and Marion was crying. And I just watched as she was herded away. That was the last time I ever saw her."

A tear slid down my mom's cheek as she pulled her arm out from under the blanket and gazed at the tattoo on her forearm. The numbers faded, but standing out in stark contrast to her white skin.

"Every day of the four years I was in the camp I looked for her, and when the camps were liberated I tried again, but no one remembered seeing her after that first day. I came to America, I met your father, I raised you girls, I built a life, and I tried to forget what came before. But I couldn't.

Mom's eyes were clear again as she searched each of our faces.

"Please find her."

Exhausted from the effort of her story, she drifted off to sleep. And never woke again.

On the third day of shiva, while we were eating breakfast, the letter was delivered, addressed to my mother.

The plain white envelope was simple, but it was the handwriting that made it stand apart from the rest of the junk mail and bills that had piled up since the funeral. The address was written in fountain pen in a beautiful script that looked both meticulous and old fashioned.

Curious, I opened it and began to read.

Dear Eva,

I am your sister, Marion.

This piece of fiction commemorates Yom HaShoah - Holocaust Remembrance Day
We honor the six million Jews who were killed, celebrate the enduring spirit of those who survived, and promise that we will never forget, and never stop telling their stories.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

A Writing Community and A Family of Writers

My stomach churned as I clicked "add your link" and sat back to wait.

I had complicated feelings about the story. For five hours that day I sat at my computer and took myself back to eighth grade. To those days of fear, anxiety and longing to belong. For five hours I examined memories long buried, and laid myself bare.

For the six months that I had been blogging my writing had been light, but I had begun to think that maybe I had something more. Something important.

I felt the words marinating inside me, their flavors deepening, but not quite ready to be consumed.

But the day they were ready to be written, I knew.

So I sat, and I wrote. And it was different. It wasn't light this time, but a little dark, a little complicated, a little sad.

And when the last line was typed, I went back to read what I had written and I was stunned at what had come out of me.

I sat for a minute, wondering what to do. My first instinct was to leave it in my drafts folder. To save it for me and me alone. But there was a whisper in my head that got louder each time I read back through my story.


I wanted to share it. I wanted people to read it. Because I thought that, more than anything I had ever written before, these words said "this is me." It was honest, and it was real, and I was proud of it.

So I published it to my blog, but it wasn't quite enough. Because the people who read my blog - my parents, my sisters, my family - knew the story already. I wondered what people who didn't know the story would think. Whether my writing would stand up. Whether they would understand what I felt, what I was trying to do.

I had been lurking at Yeah Write for the summer, reading excellent writing and trying to summon the courage to join the party.

That day, I found it.

So I added my link to the grid. For an hour I waited while my post was moderated. I knew I would get an e-mail when my story was approved, but I still pressed refresh every thirty seconds.

And when my story finally appeared on the grid, a fresh wave of anxiety washed over me.

What if it's not good enough? What if no one likes it?

But then the comments started coming in. Supportive and wonderful comments from other writers. From people who knew. Who understood what it was like to put your words out there and hope for the best.

One that day, the day of my very first Yeah Write post, I found more than my voice. I found a community. A family.

And I am grateful.

Happy, happy 2nd birthday to Yeah Write and to the amazing ladies who keep it running.
Endless thanks for giving us a community and a family to come back to week after week.

Monday, April 8, 2013

A Lot Can Happen In A Week

One Week.

Two Trips.

Four Plane Rides.

One New Baby Boy.

One Big Sister.

Twenty Dozen Cookies With Blue Sprinkles.

One Exhausted (and Happy) Family.

And Normal Life Resumes...

Friday, April 5, 2013

A Beautiful Blur

I took this picture this past Sunday as my car sped along the Henry Hudson Parkway at sunrise, heading towards LaGuardia Airport.

It's a beautiful blur, much like the last two weeks have been.

And today at noon, I will get back in the car for one more trip to the airport, and at 2:30 I will board a plane heading back to Cleveland to spend the weekend with family and friends to celebrate my sister's new baby boy.

For two seconds I considered skipping this weekend, since it meant another flight, more time away from work, and a third trip in two weeks. But then my mom said something to me, something that has stuck in my head ever since.

"You have to celebrate simchas" 
(loosely translated in English as "happy things")

And she is so incredibly right. So much can go wrong in a lifetime, that when good things happen, it is our privilege and our responsibility to celebrate them.

So this afternoon I will fly to Cleveland, hug my sister again, play with my niece, and cuddle my nephew. I will smile and laugh with my family, and gather around this brand new life that has graced us.

You have to celebrate simchas. And this weekend, we will.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Dear Sister K

Dear K,

Early yesterday morning I was sitting on your couch cuddling your four day old baby boy when you came out of your room with your still-little girl, now a newly minted big sister. You carried her into the kitchen for breakfast and then sat her on your lap as she ate Cheerios and chattered away, bright and cheerful as the sun. And you chattered right back as you held her snack cup of cereal, checked to make sure the new baby was still sleeping, and made lists for this upcoming weekend's festivities.

And I watched. Awed. Amazed.

The four days I spent at your house were a whirlwind of family, food, and the frenzy that comes with a new baby who arrives smack in the middle a major holiday. And there is nowhere else I would rather have been than right there with you and with this ever-expanding family of ours.

I know how hard it must be to have a new baby and an energetic almost-two year old at the same time. But I hope that through the sleepless nights and the haze of exhaustion you know what I know every time I see you with your babes.

That you are a beautiful mother. A fun and interesting one. You took to this new, most important, job quickly and seamlessly. You are raising bright and happy kids, and I love watching you do it. When it's my turn, everything I know about motherhood I will have learned from you, and I hope that I can be half as good at it as you are. It is a remarkable thing, really, to watch your sister become a mother, and it is my greatest pleasure to look up to you as you blaze this path for L and me to follow.

Thank you for having us in your house with all our noise and confusion during this huge transition in your life. For giving us babies to love. For being you. Keep doing exactly what you're doing, and if you need us, we are always here.

I love you, and I am so incredibly proud of you.