Monday, March 2, 2015

A Winter to Remember

Last night, we took a walk outside. It had been snowing pretty seriously since early afternoon, and while what we really wanted to do was stay on the couch and finish our House of Cards season 3 marathon, I'm co-chair of a project at my synagogue and had to be there for a couple of hours last night. With six inches and counting of snow on the streets and no plows in sight, driving there was out of the question and it was just around the corner, so I had to walk. After blasting a path out of our house with the snow-blower, David decided to make the trek with me.

My street was completely snow-covered and utterly deserted. It's not a busy street to begin with, but with the thickly-falling snow, it was like a fluffy white blanket had been thrown over my neighborhood, and we were living in the silence beneath it.

We picked our way down the street hand-in-hand, sliding a little bit here and there and laughing while the fat flakes coated our eyelashes, slapped our cheeks, and swirled around us.

I guess I could say that I'm sick of winter. That I'm tired of cleaning off my car in the morning and of wiping up my salt-stained entry-way floors and of being so cold all the time and of snow in general. But last night when we were walking through our quiet, snowy neighborhood it occurred to me that I'm not really all that sick of it at all. In actuality, I'm kind of grateful for it.

Because this year, winter is an interesting time in our lives. In October, I found out I was pregnant, which was the beginning of a flurry of morning-sickness filled days and nights, anxiety filled doctors appointments where we sat in silence and hoped that we would still see a beating heart on the fuzzy ultrasound screen, and with each passing week a fascinating brand of hope and anticipation that this was, in fact, the baby that would be ours.

And then it got colder and the snow started to fall and we started sharing our news - first with family and then with everyone. And we started to feel more confident too. But the first half of pregnancy is a funny thing. Because even though the news was out and I was finally - mercifully - feeling better, there were still all the tests to contend with. The ones that every woman gets, that are completely routine, but that seek to unearth every single thing that could possibly be wrong with the baby you've been growing for months. And well, who can relax completely with all of that uncertainty going on?

But then the test results came back and everything is exactly the way it should be and now we find ourselves in what I have come to think of as the middle place. There are hard things behind us, and serious, life-altering change ahead, but right now, it is just us and the snow, and cold nights under blankets in front of a fireplace, and dinner together on the couch in front of the TV, and winter walks through our quiet neighborhood with red cheeks and frosty eyelashes.

Spring will be here before we know it, and then summer will come roaring in on its heels, and I'm looking forward to all of that, and everything that comes with it. But I know that, years from now, when I look back on this time, it's going to be the winter that I remember. Those days when anxiety was replaced by anticipation, and when we were still just two, living in this amazing now and dreaming and planning for the days to come, with the snow-blower growling in the background.

And I'm thinking about the days behind us and wondering how the ones to come will look, but more than anything, I am living here, right now. Because even in the face of the monster change coming in just a few months, these moments right now are still the ones that matter. And this is exactly where I want to be.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Three Years of Blogging

I remember, sometime around my sophomore year of college, sitting around a table in one of the cafeterias with some of my friends, one of them a computer science major a year ahead of me. That was the first time I ever heard the word "blog." The computer science major mentioned that he had started one, and that he was using it every day. Back in 2006, "blog" was not a word you heard every day, and we all just looked at him with what I'm sure were confused expressions until he explained what it meant. 

"It's like a diary where I write about my life," he said, "but on the internet." 

Mostly everyone shrugged and went back to whatever it was they were talking about before, well used to the strange goings-on of the computer science arm of our particular group of friends, but I remember being confused, and asking more questions.

"You mean you make your diary public?" I asked. "Like, so anyone who wants to can read it?"

He confirmed that, yes, that was indeed exactly what he was doing, and my mind flashed to the stack of well-used journals on the shelves of my bedroom at home and the one currently hidden under the mattress in my dorm room, and I was suddenly filled with horror at the idea of anyone delving beneath the covers of those books. I barely resisted the urge to bolt from the cafeteria to make sure my journal was still where I left it and that it had not been magically published online while I ate my cafeteria pizza and frozen yogurt.

It seemed antithetical to me, that one would want to publish on the internet the kinds of things that are usually written with pen and paper and buried in a journal never to be read again, and certainly never to be read by anyone except for the writer. I remember thinking I would never, ever do that. I was probably rather smug about it.

And yet, nine years later, here I am. On my blog, on the third anniversary of the day I pressed "publish". And as I go back through my archives of the last three years, I laugh at the girl who blanched in horror at the idea of sharing her life with the masses. Because that's exactly what I do now. I share. A lot.

It didn't begin that way, exactly. Three years ago, when I was just starting out, I wrote about things that amused me. I wrote about books and my family and my new-found love of running, and that's pretty much the way it rolled for awhile. But then it changed. I started digging deeper, telling stories, and connecting with other people who were also writing the stories of their lives online, and I just fell in love with it all.

Blogging taught me to keep my eyes open and to see the stories that are everywhere. It showed me that online friends are as real as in person friends, and through blogging I learned that there is a joy in writing to be read. And more than anything else, I have learned over the past three years that there is an ineffable power in sharing our stories, especially the ones that are hard. Because, as I wrote a few weeks ago, we all have rough paths to walk, and by telling our stories, we allow people who have been there before to walk alongside us, and we hold out our hands to the people behind us, so that we can help show them the way through.

This past year was, admittedly, a tough one for me, and so much of what I wrote, I didn't publish, mostly because I just wasn't ready. But now that I am seeing my way clear of the tough stuff and standing just on the brink of major change as we get ready to welcome a new baby this summer, I am ready to write about both what was, and what is to come. Because all of this - the bad, the good, the downright miraculous - this is all a part of my story, and it is a story that I want to tell and to remember because, for better or for worse, this is me, and there is a power in that.

Three years ago today I started this blog, and on that day I had no idea what I was doing or what it would become. Some days I'm still not sure, but I do know that I want to be here, in this place I made, writing words, and telling stories. So here's to year four. To memories in the past, to major changes ahead, and to blogging my way through it all.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Celebrating a Life

"At sunset tonight - Shevat 18 - we'll be lighting a yahrtzeit candle in memory of mom. Four years and I don't know about you, but there isn't a single day that goes by where I don't reach for my phone to call and tell her something about my day. So light your candles with me and eat a few Rolos. I'll be saying Yizkor and hugging Avi Freda, Mali Freda and Koby - her legacy. And what a legacy it is! Love you all."
This text message came this morning from my mom. She sent it to me, David, my sisters, my brothers-in-law, my aunts and uncles, and all of my cousins and their spouses. Because today is my grandma's yahrtzeit - the 4th anniversary on the Hebrew calendar of her death. In Judaism, this anniversary is marked each year by the lighting of a candle and the reciting of special tefilot, or prayers.

In my family, it is also marked by something more. Because we don't mourn a death so much as we celebrate a life. On this day, in Pittsburgh and New York and Cleveland and San Francisco, we are telling stories about the woman who made her mark on us all - who we were lucky to have with us for so long. We are eating her favorite foods and drinking her favorite drinks and wearing her favorite jewelry - pieces of which now live in all of our jewelry boxes; the privilege of living in a family full of girls.

It never escapes me that I am so incredibly lucky to live in the family that I do, and I marvel every day at whatever twist of fate made them mine. Looking around, I know that we are a pretty unusual bunch in our closeness, and yet, I can't escape the feeling that this is the way that it's supposed to be. That poking into each other's lives - wanted or not - with amazing regularity, celebrating big and little things, being together as much as we can, and knowing each other all the way through is how it's supposed to go. That this is family.

At least, it's my family.

So tonight, when I light Shabbat candles, I am going to be thinking of all of them. Of them, and of the woman whose life we celebrate today. The one who isn't really gone, because we are all here, together. 

Just the way she would have wanted it to be.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

After the Storm

After the ground is blanketed by ten inches of snow and the ice falling from the sky finally decides to stop, the day after, this is what is left behind.

And on mornings like this, I'm just so happy to live here. To be here. To see this.