Monday, September 30, 2013

Circling For a Landing

As my plane flew over Queens yesterday, drifting in for a landing at LaGuardia Airport, I had only one thought on my mind.

It's been a whirlwind.

I've been on a sprint since the fall Jewish Holidays began, just a few days after Labor Day. With four holidays over four weeks celebrated in three different places, I'm sufficiently exhausted. September was a delightful month, filled with family, fun, food and travel, but I'm ready for a little downtime, and I'm ready to be back here on this blog, writing away.

One of the best things about this past month was that, for the duration of each holiday, I was forced to disconnect. To turn off my phone, shut down my computer, and to be present.

But there is one thing about being disconnected for three straight days. While I was off the grid, the rest of the world certainly wasn't, and each week I turned on my phone on Saturday night - having turned it off on Wednesday evening - to find that one can miss quite a lot in 72 hours.

No week was that more true than in this past one.

I turned on my phone this past Saturday night, logged in to all my various accounts, and let the e-mails and updates come rolling in. When I clicked over to Facebook and Twitter I noticed that I had approximately 40 missed notifications, way more than the one or two I was expecting.

Because while I was unplugged, the Top 13 for Blogger Idol was announced, AND ONE OF THEM IS ME!!!!

Since the Top 13 was announced on Thursday, and I couldn't respond until Saturday night, the messages trying to find me got more frantic as the days went on. I read through them all and frantically responded to all the Facebook posts and Twitter messages that no, I was not lost, and to the e-mails with some variation of "I'm here please don't disqualify me."

With my very first Blogger Idol post halfway done, and the schedule copied to my calendar, I am a tiny bit nervous, but also unbelievably excited and incredibly honored to be a part of this competition.

September is over, the holidays are in the past, but it seems that the fun is just beginning.

So stay tuned. It's time to rock and roll (and write).

Monday, September 23, 2013


For forty years after the exodus from Egypt, the Jewish people traveled the Sinai Desert. The Torah teaches us that as they walked, they were surrounded by "clouds of glory" that shielded them from the danger and discomfort of the desert.

Each year, as the seasons change from summer to fall, we commemorate those years by constructing a temporary hut - called a succah - outside of our homes in celebration of the holiday of Succot. For eight days we eat all of our meals in these huts, and some people even have the custom to sleep in them, something I don't do now, but did once with my sisters and friends when I was about eleven and sleeping outside was a fabulous adventure.

Succot is, above all, a time of happiness and joy. The ten days of repentance are over, and for eight days we fill our succahs with guests, have meals together, and celebrate family, unity and Jewish continuity.

This year in our new house, we got to build a succah of our very own. My parents came to visit for the holiday, the weather has been glorious, and we have spent much of the past four days enjoying it right here:

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Blogger Idol: Because #writersarethenewrockstars

Confession: I love American Idol.

I was a freshman in college when I sat around with my friends watching as Kelly Clarkson stood under her confetti shower and tearfully sang her coronation song, "A Moment Like This," and I have been hooked ever since. I've sat through the good (anything by Jessica Sanchez), the bad (anything by Jacob Lusk), the downright horror (think, anything by John Stevens or Sanjaya Malakar), and the absolutely transcendent (think, Melinda Doolittle's "My Funny Valentine," Haley Reinhart's "House of the Rising Sun," Adam Lambert's "Mad World," and Candice Glover's "Lovesong).

I love every single thing about it, judges and all, and I will continue watching it until the show breathes its last, dying breath.

So when I heard that there was a writing competition created in the image of American Idol, I had no choice but the check it out. And what I found was rather spectacular.

It's called Blogger Idol, and it goes like this. The contestants are bloggers, who audition by submitting the blog post they think best reflects who they are and what their blog is about. The judges narrow it down to a top twelve, who compete weekly using writing prompts. Every week someone is eliminated until one blogger is left standing.

And what do we win, you might ask? All kinds of fabulous things from Amazon gift cards, to gifts certificates for blog management, Pinterest management and mobile accessories are up for grabs.

Want to join in the fun? Come check out Blogger Idol at, on twitter at @bloggeridol, and on Facebook at

I may not have a singing voice to rival Dame Clarkson, but I can write. So here goes nothing.

Friday, September 13, 2013

"Let Us Tell How Holy This Day Is"

There is a prayer, midway through the morning service on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, that gives me chills. That gives everyone chills.

The ark opens so that the Torah scrolls are visible. The congregation stands. For a second there is silence, and then one voice rises from the front of the sanctuary as the chazzan - the leader of the service - begins to chant the prayer. No matter what synagogue you are in around the world the melody is the same. Slow. Haunting. Timeless.

The prayer is called "U'Netaneh Tokef Kedushat Hayom," loosely translated as "Let Us Tell How Holy This Day Is."

It begins by recalling the power of the ten days that encompass Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the holiest days in the Jewish calendar. Because it is in these days, our rabbis tell us, that each Jewish person is judged. It is during these days where all of the events of the year ahead are decided. We learn that on Rosh Hashanah, our fate for the coming year is written down, and on Yom Kippur, it is sealed. And the days in between the two holidays are days of repentance, where we have a unique opportunity to change our fate.

Even the customary greetings we give each other during these holidays reflect the power of this time of year. On Rosh Hashanah we say, "ketiva ve-chatima tova," meaning "may you be written and inscribed for good." But as Yom Kippur draws closer, the greeting changes to "g'mar chatima tova," meaning, "may you be sealed for good.

U'Netaneh Tokef continues with a recitation of a litany of possible destinies that could befall us in the year to come. The chazzan recites the paragraph slowly, the ancient words explaining that on this day God will decide, among other things, "how many will pass from the earth and how many will be born into it," "who will live and who will die," "who will rest and who will wander," "who will be impoverished and who will be enriched," and "who will be degraded and who will be exalted."

It is solemn and scary and powerful. But it is ultimately uplifting.

Because the climax of the prayer is not the listing of all the gruesome ways in which we might meet our fates over the coming year, but instead when the entire congregation joins their voices together and declares "but repentance, prayer and charity remove the evil of the decree."

Ultimately, the message of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is that we are masters of our own destiny. That there is a God who may inscribe us for a certain kind of year, but that we have the ability to control what inscription is sealed for us. The idea that we may transgress, but that we can - and will - be forgiven. By ourselves. By each other. By God. Even Yom Kippur, a day of fasting and prayer, has an undertone of joy in the spirituality of the day and the confidence that we will be sealed for a year of goodness and prosperity.

As the beginning of Yom Kippur draws near, I find myself comforted by the thought of the 25 hours ahead. Hours where I will sit in my synagogue with my community and immerse myself in ancient prayers. Hours where I will think about the year ahead, and my wishes for myself and for my family.

And tomorrow night when the sky darkens, the final prayer is said, and the single blast from the shofar is sounded indicating the end of the fast and the beginning of a clean slate, I will walk home lighter, happier, and hopeful for what is in store for all of us in the coming year.

Wishing all who are celebrating a g'mar chatima tova. May you and your families be sealed for only the very best.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

September 11th: Twelve Years

It's hard to believe that twelve years have passed.

I just had to write the date on a piece of paper and for a second my pen paused and I tuned out of the conference call I was on, and I wondered if it will ever feel normal to write the date "9/11" again. Probably not, and maybe it shouldn't.

Twelve years ago today I was a freshman in college outside of Boston. I was passing through the student center on my way back from an early class when I joined the crowd tightly gathered around the big TV. All day we watched as lower Manhattan burned and life changed forever, my eyes fixed on a city that I didn't know all that well. That was not yet mine.

A few years after that September day I moved to Manhattan and for more than seven years I made it my home. And even though I moved a few miles north, New York City is a part of me. I am proud to work here and play here, and create memories here. To be building a life in the shadow of this place that is full of grit, beauty and ceaseless energy.

Today, this city is mine.

And today, I honor it.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Upper West Side Memories

Early yesterday morning, I found myself standing on my old Upper West Side block.

After living in the neighborhood for seven years, every street has some significance to me, but this block, 72nd Street between Broadway and West End Avenue, is the most important of them all.

This is the block where I met my man. Where I learned to live, and where I fell in love.

This is the block where I got engaged and where "I" became "we."

This is the block I returned to after I got married, and where we started to build our brand new life.

This is the block where we decided it was time to move on, to find out what comes next.

This is the block where we weathered the storm.

This is the block where a big green moving truck parked last fall, ready to take our stuff to our new suburban home.

This is the block we drove away from, feeling twin tugs of sadness and sweetness.

This is the block that I missed, desperately, in those first few months away.

This is the one block in the city that, no matter how long I am away, will always be mine.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Happy New Year, 5774

A weird thing happened over Labor Day weekend. The three days normally reserved for barbecues, swimming pools, and final beach trips were instead, for many people of my acquaintance, filled with apple picking. 

Yes, apple picking.

The beloved annual outing normally reserved for a crisp late-September day took place for many this year as summer poured out the last of its steamy heat. Not because they relished the idea of sweating their way through an apple orchard, but rather because apples are an integral part of the Jewish new year, otherwise known as Rosh Hashanah, which, this year, falls strangely early on the Jewish calendar.

Essentially just an extension of the Labor Day long weekend this year, Rosh Hashanah begins tonight, approximately two weeks earlier than the norm. Along with the first night of Chanukah and Thanksgiving falling out on the same day, the freakishly early Jewish holidays have something to do with the way that the Jewish calendar is slowly moving out of sync with the solar calendar.

It is so unusual, in fact, that last time Rosh Hashanah fell out this early in September was in 1899, and the next time will be 2089. So it has never happened in our lifetime, and unless I live to be 107, it will never again happen in mine. 

And the Chanukah situation is even more fascinating. Try and get your head around this. Thanksgiving is the fourth Thursday in November, which means that the latest it could ever be is November 28th. November 28th is also the absolute earliest that Chanukah could ever be. Because of the aforementioned syncing of the lunar and solar calendars, the last time this could have happened would have been 1861, which was two years before Thanksgiving was formally established in the United States, so it has never, ever happened before. And apparently, if the Jewish calendar is never modified in any way, the next time that Chanukah will fall on Thursday, November 28th will be the year 79,811. So, basically, never.

These, folks, are historic times.

These are also family times, times of reflection, and times of celebration.

Tonight, as the sun begins to set, I will light candles and welcome in this most important month of the Jewish calendar. For four successive weeks, we will celebrate four different holidays, and come out the other side of this month ready to start again, to begin as we mean to go on.

Because of the holidays, my time here on this blog will be limited over these next weeks. I'll look forward to being back full force in October. But until then, for those of you who are celebrating, I wish you a sweet and peaceful new year filled with health, happiness and success. Or, as we say in Hebrew, Shana Tova. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Monday, September 2, 2013

This Is Thirty: Love For Thirty Project

I'm here on this Labor Day with some fun and exciting news.

A few weeks ago I wrote a piece about thirty looks like, seven months into my fourth decade. A blogger friend of mine named Peach recently had one of her incredible pieces featured on the website My Thirty Spot, and it gave me a push to submit my own story.

And today, I am honored to be the My Thirty Spot headliner.

I hope you'll head on over there and read my story about what it means to me to be thirty, and all that it different, and still very much the same, as time continues to march on.