Thursday, October 30, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Saying Goodbye 2 Years Ago

As I mentioned last week, for the next few weeks on Thursdays I am going to re-post some of my favorite older posts. The ones that felt important to me while I was writing them and the ones that touched me while I was re-reading them.

This week's re-post is comes from two years ago, just around this time. I was packing up my life in Manhattan and preparing to move north to our new house. One morning, about a week before we moved, I went for my habitual morning run in Central Park and I knew that it would be one of my last ones. So I ran my loops that I had run every day and when I started to leave the park and got to the top of the hill that led towards home I turned around and took a last look at the place that had become my home.

And then, I wrote this.


Farewell, Old Friend

When my alarm went off this morning, I was completely exhausted. I considered resetting it so I could sleep for another hour, but I didn't. Instead, I got up, donned my running clothes, and made my way to the park to run. And I am glad I did. Because this morning, more than any other morning in recent memory, I was thankful for my morning routine.

This is my last Friday in Manhattan. On Monday morning, assuming we are not all washed away by the monster storm headed in this direction, the movers are coming to pack up our apartment, and move us to our new house.

And I am ready.

I didn't feel ready last week, or even a few days ago, but now I do. We have been busy these past couple of days. Finishing up the construction in the new house, organizing the apartment for the move, and buying the many, many things that one needs when they move into a new house. And with all the preparation, I started to get excited for our new place, and our (semi) new life. 

And on this last Friday, I am thinking about my life in Manhattan, and my favorite place in the city. I have written at length about my love of Central Park. But now that I only have two mornings runs left, I am feeling the loss of my favorite place even more acutely. I know that there will be roads to run in my new home. I have even begun planning routes. But they won't be in this park.

This park is a part of me. This is the place where I fell in love. Where I learned to run, and more importantly, where I learned to love to run. It is the place I go to think and to feel. To process, and to enjoy.

And on Monday, I will run its roads one last time. For an hour, I will forget about moving vans, and construction, and new houses, and change, and I will run. I will join my army of runners and circle the loops that have become my home. And as I exit the park one last time, I will glance back for just a minute at the place that has shaped me, and made me, and helped me find my way.

I am forever grateful to Central Park. 

Farewell, old friend. I'll miss you.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Two Years Later: The Storm

This morning I woke up in my bed, in my room, in the house that we have been living in just five days shy of two years. 

If all had gone as planned, today would be the one year anniversary of our move. Back in 2012, our lease was up at the end of October and we opted to move on the 29th to give ourselves a little bit of a buffer. Only our original moving date was not meant to be, see, because there was a massive hurricane in the Atlantic and it was forecast to head straight for New York

So rather than move to a brand new house without a kitchen in a brand new city where we knew absolutely no one we opted to push off the move for a couple of days and hunker down in our apartment to ride out the storm. 

And in case you were wondering, I was not for one single second concerned about the storm. As the leading edge started to hit the city, I even went out for a run and posted a chatty little piece about my pre-hurricane run, the craziness of the New Yorkers lining up outside of Trader Joe's to get supplies, and the Mayor's decision to close the parks.

Empty Park

A few hours later, though, no one was joking. Because it turns out that the storm was exactly as bad as everyone said it would be. Worse, actually

The Day After The Storm

Over the next couple of days our Upper West Side apartment became a refugee camp of sorts for friends and relatives fleeing their soggy, dark apartments in Hoboken and the East Village, looking for a place to charge electronics, take showers, and get warm. David faced the challenge of trying to run a phone company when all of the servers required for the phone service were housed in Financial District buildings that had no power and basements filled with corrosive Hudson River water that incapacitated the generators. And I walked to and from work to my practically empty office that was just on the right side of the line drawn across that city that meant the difference between electricity and no electricity.

It would have been a scary couple of days without a move looming in the distance.

We had no choice, though, but to move forward and do whatever came next. And the next thing was to put all of our stuff on a moving truck and drive it north, so we did exactly that.

Hurricane Sandy and our move from Manhattan are inextricably linked in my brain. I can't now, and probably will never be able to, think of one without thinking of the other. Because as the storm raged in New York, another storm was raging too, in my head and in my heart as I got ready to leave the city that had become my home. The city that I loved and that I knew. The city that grew me up.

And today. Two years later, the storm has quieted. It has settled into a quiet contentment that comes from being exactly where you should be. And I am.

But during this week, as October melts into November, I can't help but look back at those wild few days that, in my mind, create the dividing line between then and now, before and after. And in looking back, I can see - really see - just how far I have come.

On The Love Of Running

"I always loved was something you could do by yourself, and under your own power. You could go in any direction, fast or slow as you wanted, fighting the wind if you felt like it, seeking out new sights just on the strength of your feet and the courage of your lungs."
-Jesse Owens 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Home Office Organization, Or, The Most Productive Sunday Of All Time

I really love an organized house. I mean, who doesn't, right? 

But between a job that sometimes seems like way more than full time, a 50 minute commute to and from work and all the other life bits, instead of cleaning things up I'm all, let me just eat this delicious snack and binge watch all the TV and forget about the mounds of clutter lurking in the corners.

Sure, the areas of my house that people actually see, like the living room and the kitchen, seem pretty clean and well-kept - and they actually are - but look just a little below the surface like, say, into any closet with a door that closes, and well, let's just say it's not for the faint of heart.

Almost exactly two years ago we moved into our house. It was a tumultuous time filled with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, a freak early November snowstorm and an unfinished kitchen, along with the standard-issue complexities that come with leaving one life behind and moving to another. So when it came time to unpack the million boxes that the movers hauled from our apartment and deposited in the various rooms of our new house, I took a fairly laissez-faire attitude towards the whole thing, meaning I unpacked all the things that were absolutely necessary, and left the rest in boxes, figuring I would get to it in a few days or weeks when everything settled down.

But because this is life nothing every really settled down and one day bled into the next and I realized that tripping over boxes on my way to the bathroom at 6:30 in the morning is no way to live, so something obviously had to be done. So I took everything still left to unpack, threw it into the small office off the living room, closed the doors and designated it "someday." 

Since I have an office where I go to work every day, I didn't see much need for an office in my house anyway.

But the thing about not having a home office is that there is nowhere to put things that belong in an office, like laptops and power cords and all the paperwork that one generates when they own a house (spoiler alert: owning a home kills a lot of trees). But every time I thought about cleaning out that room and turning it into an actual office, the size of the job just intimidated me, especially since the office started to become the dumping ground for everything in our lives that we didn't know what to do with, so the laptops and power cords lived on the coffee table, and things like insurance policies and utility bills became a huge pile on the radiator right inside the front door.

Not exactly ideal, but for awhile there it became normal and sometimes I didn't even see the piles, or notice that we even had doors in between the living room bookshelves.

But, after 720 days of living in our house, I had finally had enough. My distaste for piles of paper around my house combined with David's construction of his Man Cave in our garage spurred me to action, and I decided it was long past time that I carved out a space of my very own. I'm not exactly an organizational expert or any kind of home improvement writer, but today, even I'm impressed with me. 

It went something like this.

Yesterday morning after my run I got to work. When I opened the double doors to the office I had a minor panic attack when I was confronted with this disaster of our own making:

I thought about never letting these pictures see the light of day, but
we're all friends here, right?

We made this mess. We're talented like that.

For a minute I considered scrapping the whole project, but my better angels prevailed, and I dug in.

The first order of business was to find something on TV to entertain myself while I waded through two years worth of clutter. Enter the incomparable year 2000 Freddie Prinze Jr. and Julia Styles masterpiece Down To You. Spectacular.

 The next step was taking absolutely everything out of the room, throwing away what needed to go and making piles of everything else depending on where in my house it belonged.

Empty boxes

Office supplies

Way outdated technology belonging to David. All this went to the basement in about 15 trips and
is probably the reason why I can't move my arms today

When the room was empty but for the furniture I attacked the entire thing with a bottle of Windex Multisurface which is basically a miracle cleaner, a roll of paper towels, a vacuum and a mop. It was more cleaning than I have done in the entirety of our tenure in this house, and I have the empty Benadryl bottle from my dust-induced allergy attack to prove it.

Once it was all clean I took stock of what I had and what I needed, and decided I had to hit the road in search of some decor for my brand new space. Luckily I already had all the furniture, but obviously I needed some things to make this space mine (and to maybe try and rival David's tricked-out Man Cave). Trips to Target (note the plural), Amazing Savings (people who live in NY/NJ will appreciate the glory of this store), and a restaurant for sustenance to keep me going through another round ensued.

Once the day was over and the furniture moved to where I want it and a major Steelers victory witnessed, this is what I ended up with:

Because no girl's home office is complete without
a 3D printed bust of her man, amiright?

Not bad for a day's work I'd say.

Friday, October 24, 2014

"...always, always, always believe in yourself"

“This life is what you make it. No matter what, you're going to mess up sometimes, it's a universal truth. But the good part is you get to decide how you're going to mess it up. Girls will be your friends - they'll act like it anyway. But just remember, some come, some go. The ones that stay with you through everything - they're your true best friends. Don't let go of them. Also remember, sisters make the best friends in the world. As for lovers, well, they'll come and go too. And baby, I hate to say it, most of them - actually pretty much all of them are going to break your heart, but you can't give up because if you give up, you'll never find your soulmate. You'll never find that half who makes you whole and that goes for everything. Just because you fail once, doesn't mean you're gonna fail at everything. Keep trying, hold on, and always, always, always believe in yourself, because if you don't, then who will, sweetie? So keep your head high, keep your chin up, and most importantly, keep smiling, because life's a beautiful thing and there's so much to smile about.” 
Marilyn Monroe

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Throwback Thursday: A Deep Dive Into Old Posts

I know that Throwback Thursday is supposed to be for pictures, but I decided to kick things up a notch. Lately I have been going back and reading some older blog posts of mine. I am coming up on my three year blogging anniversary, which barely even seems possible, and yet it is. Over that time, I have written and published almost five hundred posts, which also doesn't seen possible, and yet there they are, right in the archives on the side-bar of my blog.

In going back through some of these old posts I had mixed reactions. Some of them leaned more towards the "oh my god how could I ever have pressed publish on this horror show" side of things, while with other ones I was all "damn girl, you can write." Anyone who blogs on the regular will understand well these dueling reactions.

Every now and then I stumbled upon a post that I completely forgot I had written, and I thought that maybe it was time to give those forgotten ones another chance to shine. So for the next couple of weeks, every Thursday I am going to re-post some of those oldies because, why not?

Today's Throwback Thursday post was published exactly at this time of year in 2012. A presidential election was looming on the horizon and since everything that could possibly be written about was already out there somewhere, the news organizations were casting about for something new to write about that was a little more interesting than more words about Romney's hidden bank accounts or Obama's birth certificate. 

CNN won the game that day when someone who I can only imagine was either drunk or high at the time published an editorial about the way that a woman's menstrual cycle effects her likelihood of voting Democrat or Republican. The responses to the article were immediate and scathing and predictably, CNN removed the editorial from their website, but the damage had already been done.

With mid-term elections less than 2 weeks away, I thought this would be a good one to share today because two years later when it comes to equality and respect for women in this country we are still nowhere, and it looks like we have a ways to go before we get to somewhere.


Beware of the Female Vote

In the current presidential election, much has been said about the female vote. What it means, who will get it, and how important it is. The candidates have spent millions of dollars courting women voters. At both the Republican and Democratic national conventions the candidates' wives stood before crowded convention floors and spoke about their most important roles: mothers. The candidates themselves spent much time in speeches discussing their own mothers, and praising their wives for the raising of the children. All of this, ostensibly, was to appeal to women across the country watching on TV. To me, it seemed a little like pandering, but political experts say that it works, so what do I know?

Well, according to a recent CNN editorial, it may all be for naught. 

Yesterday, CNN posted an editorial on its website discussing a "scientific" study that suggested that women's votes are influenced by their hormones, and they are more likely to vote for a certain candidate depending on what time of the month it is.

When I managed to get my raging hormones under control long enough to pull my face out of the Ben & Jerry's and read the study, here is what I learned:

Researchers discovered that during a woman's most fertile time of the month (i.e. when estrogen levels are at their highest), single women were more likely to vote for Obama, whereas committed women (i.e. women in relationships, not women who are actually committed, although with all of those hormones racing, who knows?) were more likely to vote for Romney.

The researcher behind this study, Kristina Durante from the University of Texas (a woman, God help us, so, depending on her time of the month when she wrote this study, maybe we can't really trust the information at all), explained that when single women are ovulating, they feel "sexier," and therefore lean more towards liberal views on issues such as abortion, contraception, and marriage equality. However, married women tend to take the opposite viewpoint because they are overcompensating for those pesky hormones that are telling them to have sex with other men. Basically, married, ovulating women will vote for Romney as a way of "convincing themselves that they're not the type to give in to such sexual urges." 

So Romney, you may want to start that matchmaking service right away to get women married before election day. But please, for the love of all that is holy, make sure those women are marrying men. Because if they marry other women, that household will have DOUBLE the hormones coursing about. The horror.

And Obama, turns out that you might want to dial it down on the "let everyone marry, marriage equality" shtick - because married ladies are so less likely to vote for you. 

I mean, I'm married, and I'm surprised that I can even find my WAY to the voting booth when it's that time of the month, much less make an educated decision about a candidate. Because really, all I want to be doing is sitting on the couch in sweatpants, up to my neck in french fries and chocolate, sobbing big fat tears as I watch The Notebook over and over again.

It's pure insanity that women are able to own property, walk the streets unaccompanied, and work for a living amid these raging hormones, much less pull a lever to choose the leader of the free world. 

Look, I get that the debates are over, and election day is just over the horizon, and the cable news networks are running out of things to talk about. But honestly, CNN, can't you do better than this? 

The backlash to this article was instantaneous, prompting CNN to remove the article from its website, stating that "some elements of the story did not meet the editorial standards of CNN." And the author of the story has taken to Twitter to defend herself, tweeting that she "was reporting on a study to be published in a peer-review journal and included skepticism in the story," and that she "did not conduct the study." Great. That's kind of like Todd Akin coming forward now to say he was just explaining the studies that have been conducted regarding pregnancy and rape, but doesn't really believe them.

Any multitude of things can influence the outcome of an election. The weather. Those pesky undecided voters. Spray tans. Debate performance. Hidden videos at $50,000 a plate fundraisersCollege transcripts and passport records. Men.

And oh yeah, what about the men?

My biggest problem here, and the biggest problem of the many thousands of furious people who have commented on this CNN story, is the idea that women are emotional, fire-breathing lunatics whereas men are beacons of non-hormonal stability. I can't help but disagree. I mean, have you ever watched a presidential debate? Or been to a football game? Or seen a commercial? 

No, men certainly have never let hormonal surges influence their decision-making. It is just us estrogen-laden women whose lady-parts run on overdrive when faced with such disparate choices during our time of the month that can't seem to make up our minds in an educated fashion.

It must be true. The science says so.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

An Unintentional, and Perfect, Edit

A new feature magically appeared on my phone recently.

Every now and then when a picture I take gets auto-uploaded to Google+, Google automatically edits it for me with some delightful additions like frames and interesting edges.

But the thing about this feature is that Google doesn't auto-edit every picture and it doesn't tell me which ones it picks, so the only time I see the results is when I log in to Google+.

One morning two weeks ago I took a picture of my backyard. It had rained the night before and the clouds were just breaking up as the sun rose. The effect was fairly fantastic, so I captured it and I went to work. Google must have liked it because when I logged in later that day I found this.

I kind of like that Google chose this picture to edit. Much like the view from the train platform, I take pictures of my backyard all the time, in all different seasons. It began when we first moved to the suburbs and I started taking early morning runs. Something about the sun rising over the back of my house pulled me in, and I got into the habit of documenting it a couple of times a week. It always struck me how different the sunrise looked in the suburbs from the sunrise in Manhattan, a mere twenty miles away.

And I still take those pictures, mostly, I think, because it still kind of amazes me that we live where we live. That we own a house and are making a life that is so far removed from the life that we had when we were just married and living in the city. A good life, and one we are proud of.

So the almost dream-like quality of this edited picture, unintentional, I'm sure, on Google's part, is actually kind of perfect.

We live here. And I don't think that will ever stop being important.

Monday, October 20, 2014

A Life That's Good

If you scroll through the photo gallery on my phone, you will see a whole slew of pictures that look strikingly similar. I would guess that there are probably close to one hundred of them now, all taken from the same spot - right in front of the first door leading into the waiting room of the White Plains Metro North station - the place I stand every morning so I can get the last seat in the last car of the 7:43 train, which is the most efficient place to sit for the quickest exit from track 21 on the upper level of Grand Central Station to the back door on 47th and Madison, which is the door I exit from for the shortest walk to my office.

I'm nothing if not efficient in the morning. Except the most efficient thing would probably be to time my morning so I reach the train platform just as the train pulls into the station, thereby shaving a couple of minutes from my commute. But I never do that. Instead, I get to the station and wait on the platform for a few minutes before the train comes barreling through. Just a tiny stretch of time between home and work where I can take a breath, check my email, catch up on blogs, or, a few times a month, take a picture of the view.

It's not a particularly breathtaking vista. There's the fence that runs along the far side of the tracks, a blanket of trees, a short stretch of the Bronx River Pathway and the highway from which the Pathway takes its name, and a parking lot filled with the cars of morning commuters.

And yet this view pulls at me.

Since the first day I took the train into Manhattan almost two years ago, this view compels me to take out my phone more often than not and document what I see. What I see every day. It should have become ordinary at this point and yet it never has. It should be something that I barely see anymore, for how familiar it's become, and yet it's not.

I have found myself thinking a lot lately about the passing of time. I have written about it a little here in these pages, but most of those thoughts are buried in my head, still waiting for their moment in the sun. Maybe now is that moment. I am fascinated, always, by the way that time can both stretch and condense depending on the situations I find myself in, and how my experiences, both good and bad, can simultaneously feel like they happened years ago and yesterday.

But time never stands still. It moves on and things change and so do people, and nothing stays the same forever. And there is a beauty in this, I think. Because the days that make up a life are both gorgeous and tricky, filled with both success and struggle. And the thing about time is that it tends to soften the hard edges and illuminate the good so that I can find clarity in the tricky moments and so that the happy ones stick with me. And all of this? It's kind of miraculous.

And this, I suspect, is why the view from the train platform pulls me in every day. Because in this view is tangible evidence of time. From snow-covered to green to golden brown, the picture keeps changing, and then it circles back and we begin again and nothing is really irrevocable because the leaves might fall from the trees in October, but by May they are back again.

For the two years that I have watched this view so much has happened in this life of mine. Big and little things. Hard and glorious things. And what I've learned more than anything over that time is to be gentle with myself. To understand that things are going to happen that are both good and not so good because that's just the way life is. And when the not so good happens sometimes the only thing to do is to just forge ahead because tomorrow is another day, and even if tomorrow isn't that much better, the next day will be, and the one after that.

Because I understand now in a real and profound way that I am more resilient than I ever thought I was or could be. And I understand that I have a deep well of gratitude for this life I am living that helps me to embrace the bad with the good and just keep on keeping on.

Lately I've been playing a song on repeat. It's called "A Life That's Good" and it's from the TV show Nashville. I remember the song from the show's second season, but I played it back recently and for the first time, I really listened to the lyrics and, well, they just knocked me out.

Two arms around me, heaven to ground me
And a family that always calls me home.
Four wheels to get there, enough love to share
And a sweet, sweet, sweet song.

At the end of the day,
Lord I pray,
I have a life that's good.

And the truth is, they really made me smile. Because they reminded me, as the song says, that "I already have more than I should." I am so incredibly lucky to have the family and the friends that I have. To live in the home and in the place that I do. To have people who lift me up and show me the way - people who mean home to me so much more than any four walls ever could. And to have a deep and abiding faith that helps me to believe that there is something so much bigger than myself out there with a plan for me that holds things that are right and good and exactly as they are supposed to be.

So when I take away all the noise and all the complexities, what I really know is that no matter what happens and no matter how quickly or slowly time marches on and what is marching in it, I have a life that's good.

And, well, that's just everything.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Memories of an Un-Ordinary Saturday Night

February 23, 2013. Saturday.

The Jewish holiday of Purim had come early that year. So early that there was still snow on the ground and it was freezing cold outside. So early that the kids who raced up the sidewalk towards my synagogue wore heavy coats over their costumes and winter hats on their heads.

And we followed those kids up the sidewalk, through the big double doors, and into the warmth and light of the sanctuary where in minutes, the rabbi would begin the recitation of Megilat Esther, the story of Purim that is read twice each year during the holiday.

And when that was finished the sanctuary went dark but for a flickering candle held high above our heads, and quiet but for the voice of the rabbi chanting Havdalah, the prayer recited at the end of the Jewish sabbath.

It had been less than four months since our move to the suburbs and everything about our town was still new, but that night, in that moment, I felt more at home than I had since the day the big truck pulled up and four men unloaded all of our things into the new house.

That feeling stuck with me for days, and the following Tuesday, I posted a piece on this blog that remains, almost two years later, one of my favorite things that I have ever written.

A few weeks ago that piece was republished as a guest post on the blog of an incredible writer who has become a friend of mine over these last few years. You can find it here.

I am thrilled to see my words up on her blog, and so  proud, when I read them back again, at how very far we have come.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Four Years

We had the best wedding date. That's all there is to it.

I knew that I wanted a fall wedding, sometime after the Jewish holidays were over but before the first snow flakes fell. And when we realized that October 10th was a Sunday - the day of the week when Orthodox Jewish weddings most often take place - nothing would do but that we pick that date. Because the year was 2010, there was no way we were passing up the chance to have our wedding on 10-10-10. 

So October 10, 2010 it was.

The day of our wedding the sky was bright blue and the temperature was in the 70s - unseasonably warm for Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where it often starts snowing November 1st and doesn't stop until June. I thought it was a good omen, but the truth is, it could have been pouring rain and I wouldn't have cared at all.

It would have been a beautiful day no matter what.

Since this past Friday - our actual anniversary - was a Jewish holiday, I spent this morning looking at some of our wedding pictures for the first time in a long time, and going back to that day in my mind. The frenzy of it all, the family and friends who gathered, the disorganized mess that our chuppah devolved into which turned into the best and most hilarious part of the day, my fortuitous change into running shoes for the dancing part of the evening which probably saved me from breaking an ankle when an over-zealous chair holder accidentally dumped me off of mine during the "lift them up on chairs" portion of the evening, not having time to eat anything but cookies, and all the rest.

My photographer took more than 1,000 pictures, and in honor of four years, I am posting some of my favorites here.

To the four years past, and to the many, many more to come.