Saturday, March 30, 2013

When a Family Grows

Once upon a time we were a family of five. 

Mom, dad, two sisters, and me.

Then there were three weddings, and five became six became seven became eight.

Mom, dad, two sisters, two brothers, David and me.

Almost two years ago Sister K had a beautiful little girl and eight became nine.

And today.

Today at 2:02 pm my amazing sister gave us a baby boy to love and suddenly, nine became ten.

My family is bigger, and my heart is full.

Mazel tov Sister K and A. I love you guys. 

My flight tomorrow morning can't come fast enough.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Standing on the Threshold of History

Sometimes I think about what it might have been like to experience the great historical events of the modern day. What it would have been like to be a woman on June 4, 1919, when the Senate passed the Nineteenth Amendment, granting women the right to vote. The horror of atomic bombs falling on Japan. The pride of watching men walk on the moon for the very first time. How it must have felt to stand at the Lincoln Memorial and hear Martin Luther King speak about his righteous dream. The confusion of Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas at 12:30 pm on November 22, 1963.

These are among the days the helped define us as a nation. Events that divided our timeline into "before" and "after." Events that made our future profoundly different than our present. Events that would leave us forever changed, for better or worse.

I believe, and I hope, that another one of those days is before us now.

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in two landmark marriage equality cases. The first is the appeal of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals' decision overturning California's Proposition 8 - which added a section to the California Constitution defining marriage as between a man and a woman - and the second is the appeal of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals' decision finding Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional insofar as it defines marriage as "a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife" and spouse as "a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife."

Nine states, the District of Columbia and the president of the United States support same sex marriage. A majority of the people living in this country support the right of same-sex couples to marry.

And yet the fight continues. This fight for love. For family. For equality.

And it is equality - and the argument to overturn DOMA - that is really the crux of the issue.

Because even in states where gay marriage is legal, equality remains elusive. Because when a same-sex couple gets married in New York, they have to file separate federal tax returns since under DOMA, the federal government doesn't recognize gay marriage. Because when I plan an estate for a gay couple, I have to think about what happens if they move to another state where their marriage isn't recognized and I have to add special provisions into their documents to ensure that they can benefit fully from the federal estate tax benefits that heterosexual couples enjoy as an automatic right - and sometimes they just can't, no matter how carefully we we draft their wills and trusts. Because when a married gay soldier dies in the line of duty, the death certificate says "single" rather than "married," and the surviving spouse is ineligible for death benefits.

So you'll forgive me if I find the "just leave it to the states" argument a ridiculous cop-out. Love and family are great and important, but equality matters. Legal rights matter. As a lawyer and as a married person who just filed a joint tax return I understand that. And gay couples deserve more than just the ability to get married. They deserve the right to be married the same way I'm married. With full recognition by the federal government and enjoyment of all the federal benefits of marriage. Because right now, no matter how married a same-sex couple may be under the laws of the state of New York, the federal government still treats them as strangers rather than spouses.

During Wednesday's oral argument on the constitutionality of DOMA, Justice Ginsburg asked the lawyer arguing in support of DOMA, "if we are totally for the States' decision that there is a marriage between two people, for the federal government then to come in to say no joint return, no marital deduction, no Social Security benefits; your spouse is very sick but you can't get might well ask, what kind of marriage is this?"

I think that the answer is, one that is not good enough.

This isn't - and shouldn't be - a religious issue. Religions are free to define marriage in any way they see fit and marry or not marry any kind of couple they want. This isn't about religion. This is a legal issue and a civil rights issue. This is about treating all people as equal under the law. About ensuring equal access to the federal benefits and privileges of marriage.

This country can't continue to systematically deny an entire population equality under the law, and then promise LGBT kids that it gets better.

We have to do better before it can get better. And equality seems like a decent place to start.

The Supreme Court is standing on the threshold of history this week. I hope that when their decision comes down in June, we find out that they walked through the door.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Passover and Spring Break

Tonight as the sun goes down and the sky grows dark, I will be sitting around a table filled with family and friends, reading the story of the exodus from Egypt, drinking four cups of wine, and eating foods reserved specifically for one week a year.

For the next eight days, we will not eat any leavened food products. We will eat off of different dishes than we use the rest of the year, we will use different utensils, and we will try our best to make dessert that tastes good - a truly overwhelming feat when you consider that ingredients like flour are completely off-limits.

Because tonight begins the Jewish holiday of Passover.

In my mind, Passover means warm(er) weather, blue skies, and my first pedicure of the year. Passover means peep toe heels, new dresses, and long sunny walks outside.

Except this year it doesn't mean any of those things, because I am sitting at my desk right now watching the snow swirl outside in this endless winter. This year the skies are grey, I am still wearing winter clothes, and my toes are sadly completely encased in rubber rain boots.

But Passover is here, nonetheless.

The next eight days will be a bit of a whirlwind. We are spending the first half of the holiday with David's family, and then on Sunday we are flying to Cleveland to spend the second half with my family at my sister's house. She is pregnant and minutes away from her due date, so we are all hoping that by the time we get there, we have another tiny baby to love.

The first two days (tomorrow and Wednesday) and the last two days (next Monday and Tuesday) are the most important days of this holiday. They are days where we don't do any work or turn on lights and computers. We don't watch TV and we don't talk on the phone. For two days this week and two days next week we all unplug and enjoy being together as a family.

So the next two weeks will be a bit of a spring break for me on this blog of mine. Because of the way the holiday falls this year I won't be able to make the Yeah Write grid for the next two weeks, or write as much as I usually do. My mind will no doubt be swirling with ideas, and I already can't wait to get back here once the holiday is over.

If you celebrate Passover, I wish you a happy holiday filled with food, family and fun. And if you don't, I wish you a swift end to this interminable winter, and blue skies and warm days ahead.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Sick of Hearing About the War on Women? Me Too.

So, you're sick of hearing about rape culture and the war on women? God, so am I.

I was hoping we had left all those pesky conversations behind once the election was finally, mercifully, over. I thought that maybe, just maybe, all the anti-choice, anti-woman rhetoric was just an overblown conservative response to what looked like a near certain democratic victory. I was hoping that we, as a country, were better than that. That maybe we could start to focus on other things, like passing common-sense gun laws or making sure that the President has a cabinet so that he can, you know, run the country.

I was wrong.

I want to write something like, "here we go again," but the truth is, it never really stopped.

Because two weeks ago Arkansas legislators overrode a veto by a democratic governor to pass what was then the most restrictive abortion law in the country. The law bans abortions after twelve weeks and mandates an ultrasound for women seeking an abortion. Rejecting decades of Roe v. Wade precedent, the Arkansas law defines viability not as the ability of the fetus to live outside the womb, but rather at the arbitrary date of twelve weeks.

The Arkansas law held the illustrious title of "strictest abortion law in the country" for nine days before another state claimed the crown.

Last Friday, North Dakota passed a law outlawing all abortions where a fetal heartbeat can be detected which, for some pregnancies, can be as early as six weeks. Deciding that he knows more than actual doctors and the Supreme Court of the United States, a sponsor of the bill said in a discussion before the vote that "We all know the significance of a heartbeat. It is the universally accepted biological proof of life." The bill, along with another one outlawing abortions for genetic abnormalities and gender selection, overwhelmingly passed.

Not one single voice in the North Dakota legislature spoke out in opposition. The bills will now go to the Governor, who has not indicated whether or not he will sign them. But the truth is, I'm not sure it matters whether he signs them or not. Because if they don't get enacted this time, they will be proposed again next term, and in the one after that. Because the burning desire to limit the freedom of women to make choices about their own lives and their own bodies knows no bounds.

If that was all it would be more than enough. But that's not all.

Because on Sunday the sentence was handed down for the two teenage boys on trial in the Steubenville rape case. If you're not familiar with the case, allow me to summarize. Ma'lik Richmond and Trent Mays are football players in Steubenville, Ohio. In 2012, they were arrested and charged with raping an unconscious 16 year old girl at a series of parties in the summer of 2011 while their friends - male and female - stood by and watched. They took pictures and videos of the rape, and shared them through social media and a series of text messages. It took a full year from the rape for any charges to be filed because the incidents were covered-up by police and the local football coach in order to protect the football players.

On Sunday, both boys were found guilty of rape. And the punishment for their crimes? A maximum of three years in a juvenile correctional facility.

We could debate for hours whether the sentences are harsh enough. Whether doing time will rehabilitate these boys who so obviously have some serious emotional issues. Whether the boys should have been tried as adults. Whether our justice system is actually just. But, well, criminal law has never been my strong suit, and there are more important things to discuss, like the reactions of the media and the various parties involved in the case.

In their first coverage after the verdict, CNN lamented the death of the "promising futures" of these "star football players" and "very good students." They spoke to an legal expert who discussed the severe ramifications of the boys being labeled sex offenders for the rest of their lives.

When their fate was read, the boys broke down in court and tearfully apologized to the victim's family for taking pictures and sending them out.

Even the judge himself used the verdict as a cautionary tale about the dangers of overuse of social media.

Something seems to be missing here, no?

Why was CNN carrying on about the loss of the boys' bright futures, when what they should have been talking about is the absolute horror of sixteen year old boys raping sixteen year old girls? Why were the boys apologizing for taking and sending pictures when what they really should have been saying was "we are so terribly sorry we raped your daughter"? And why was the judge discussing social media when he really should have been talking about the travesty of sexual assault?

I think everyone is getting the story wrong.

This story is about two boys who raped an unconscious girl. Who violated her in the most heinous way one can be violated. This story is about rape. And I don't think there is any message to be taken away from the Steubenville rape trial other than the message that rape is wrong. Rape. Is. Wrong.

More and more it seems like we are living in two worlds. The first is a world where women run countries and Fortune 500 companies. Where women are earning more than half of all college and graduate degrees, and control nearly sixty percent of the wealth in the United States. Where women can choose when and whether to "lean in" and "lean out." Where girls dodge bullets and bombs to get an education, and where we teach our daughters that they can be whoever they want to be.

The second world is a far different place. The second is a world where women are told by the states when and whether to have children. Where women are forced to submit to an invasive procedure before obtaining a legal abortion. Where a sixteen year old rape victim is the one ostracized from her community, rather than the ones who raped her. Where we are more concerned about the future of the rapist than we are about the rape victim who will live with the memories of the attack for the rest of her life. Where a man is aggressive but a woman is a bitch. Where a candidate for the U.S. Senate thinks there is a difference between "legitimate rape" and other kinds of rape. Where women are paid less than men for equal work.

And until we figure out a way to live wholly in the first world, we, as a society, have failed.

I'm sick to death of talking about the war on women, and I'm sure that you are too. But I'll keep talking about it anyway, because that's the only way things will ever get better.

And they must get better, because I'm not so sure how much farther we have to fall.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Won't You Be My Neighbor

"Imagine what our real neighborhoods would be like, if each of us offered as a matter of course, just one kind word to another person...One kind word has a wonderful way of turning into many"

Like every self-respecting Pittsburgher who grew up in the city between 1970 and 2001, I have a story about the day I met Mr. Rogers. I was probably five or six, and we went to see the show being taped at the WQED Pittsburgh studio that was home to Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. We all sat cross-legged on the floor and watched the magic unfold, and after it was over, we got to shake his hand.

A simple introduction to a simple man who, quite simply, changed the world.

I remember where I was when I found out that he died. It was my sophomore year in college. I was in my room studying for a midterm with the TV on in the background, and I heard it on the news. And for a moment, I was terribly sad. And I remember thinking that this day, the day everyone's favorite neighbor died, will be a day that is commemorated for years to come.

Unsurprisingly though, it is not the date of his death that is remembered each year, but this day. March 20th. The date of his birth. And it feels right, somehow, to honor this perpetually positive man not on the day that he left this world, but rather the day that he came into it. To celebrate his legacy of hope and neighborly lessons on a happy day, rather than a sad one.

In Pittsburgh, March 20th is designated as "Won't You Be My Neighbor Day." A day when the The Fred Rogers Company urges us all to wear our favorite sweaters, and do something to be a good neighbor. On this day, The Pittsburgh Children's Museum offers free admission so kids can play in the original set from the show and climb through a giant red trolley. Volunteerism is encouraged throughout the city. 

In Pittsburgh, and across the country, Mr. Rogers will never be forgotten.

Every time there is a tragic event, from the 9/11 attacks to the Newtown school shootings, our grief is eased just a little when we hear his familiar voice telling us to "look for the helpers."

And the first bars of the song "Won't You Be My Neighbor" are enough to make anyone over the age of twenty stop and smile.

His message is timeless; his legacy eternal.

Happy 85th birthday Mr. Rogers. Today, and every day, you are our favorite neighbor.

Won't You Be My Neighbor Day, 2009
Where we met Mr. McFeely and felt like we were meeting a rock star

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


Flip-flops flapping, towels around our waists, and ponytails flying in the cool breeze of Northern Ontario, we raced, arm-in-arm, up Girl's Hill to our cabin.

We slammed through the creaky door and fell onto my bottom bunk in a fit of giggles as Dave Matthews' voice drifted through the boom box.

Come and crash into me baby.

It was the anthem of our summer afternoons. The soundtrack to those magic hours between swimming and dinner when twenty-three girls ran back and forth between two cabins borrowing clothes and makeup, and approving each other's outfits as the sun dipped in the horizon.

We were thirteen, it was July, and summer would never be over.

"Greg likes you, I know it," Jessie said, as she lay on my bed, head dangling over the edge. "You have to look pretty tonight. Wear Noa's jeans. He'll ask to walk you back to the cabin for sure."

Getting asked to walk back was serious business. And when it was a sure thing, the whole cabin pitched in to help. We got ready for dinner in a flurry of sparkly eye shadow, Bonnie Bell Lip Smackers and Angel perfume and walked down to the dining hall in a pack, talking all at once even as we kept an eagle eye out for the boys.

When they appeared we all turned towards each other, whispering and laughing and pretending like we hadn't seen them.

I saw Greg approach out of the corner of my eye. Continuing to ignore him, my voice rose just an octave as Jessie and I talked nonsense to each other.

He tapped me on the shoulder and I turned, my stomach alive with butterflies.

"Can I walk you back tonight?" he asked.

"Sure," I said.

He smiled and walked back to the boys. I turned to the girls who were already squealing and offering advice.

"Leave your arm at your side so he can hold your hand."

"Take the long way around the field so you have more time together."

"Come up the back way and maybe he'll kiss you."

Kiss. Me. I had never been kissed before. And with a shimmery excitement I wondered if tonight would be the night.

The sky was dark when Greg approached me after evening activities and we set off. We hadn't even taken four steps when he took my hand and I could hear the other girls giggling behind us.

We took the long way and everyone was already in my cabin by the time we came up the back.

We stood, face-to-face. My stomach felt the way it does on a roller coaster during a spiraling, dizzy drop.

And then it happened.

My first kiss.

There were thuds and rustling inside the cabin and I knew my friends had been looking out the window.

And then I heard Dave Matthews start to play.

For you, for me, come crash into me.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Thirty Years of Friendship and a Very Special Birthday

We met when she was hours old.

If you want to get technical, we really met months before that.

Our moms have been best friends since middle school, and nothing would do but that they have their first kids together.

So they did.

I was born in January, and R made her appearance on St. Patrick's Day, 1983.

So today. Today we celebrate her 30th birthday, and 30 years of friendship.

And there will be presents, and phone calls and dinner and more. But most importantly, there will be two girls with a beautiful shared history, and a future inextricably linked.

Happy birthday R. Here's to us, and to the next 30. Love you.

Pregnant moms, December 1982

Friday, March 15, 2013

How You Know It's Friday

Office lights off. Lamp on. 

Desk buried under piles of paper.

It's Friday.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

A Weird Week

As seen on my way to work. The sign couldn't make up its mind

Stop or go?

Anyone else feeling this particular brand of confused this week?

Maybe its daylight savings time, or the fact that I was alone in my house for eight days and not sleeping too terribly well, or the wild roller coaster New York weather, but this week seems never ending, sluggish, and a little bit strange. 

I know its only Thursday, but I am already looking forward to this weekend so I can sleep off the exhaustion, read some good books, and purge the weirdness of this week with a long, sweaty run along my new favorite trail.

Just counting the time until my 4:00 train home tomorrow afternoon.

27 Hours, 50 minutes to go.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

To My 16 Year Old Self

I read part of a book recently called What I Know Now: Letters to my Younger Self. This amazing work is a collection of letters penned by famous females to their younger selves. It's filled with strength, humor, and even a touch of sadness, and it got me thinking. It got me thinking about my younger self, and what I would tell that girl if I could talk to her now. If I could reach back through the years and offer some words; some courage, some strength, and some insight about what the future holds.

It’s a worthwhile exercise, really. Because to become our very best selves, I think we have to understand who we were and where we came from. So we can keep moving forward.

So back in time I went. And I reached out to that girl. My 16 year old self. Scared, insecure, uncertain. And I held her tight. And I talked to her. And this is what I said.

Dear Sam,

You don’t have to get up from that bench. The bench where you sit, reading your book, waiting for the bell to ring. You feel like you need to. To socialize, to talk. But the thought of approaching that group of girls by the lockers fills you with a paralyzing fear. You would much rather read your book. It makes you happy. Makes you calm. I understand. It’s ok. You can stay right where you are.

You already know you are not like most of the people around you. You are thoughtful, and introspective rather than loud. You quietly understand things it might take others a lifetime to internalize. You will learn later - much later -  that you are what they call an “introvert.” You don’t like crowds, or big groups. In high school, this is a terrifying fate. It makes you feel different. So painfully different. But it’s ok. Because being an introvert is glorious. You will learn to treasure your own company. To relish the quiet moments where you can regroup and recharge. There is immense creativity in the quiet. And soon, you will learn exactly how to harness it. And you will thrive.

And don't worry about those girls. The popular ones. The ones with whom you don't have much in common. It's ok to not want them as friends. Because you will have amazing friends. Friends who understand you, and help you find your way. You will all lean on each other in good times and bad. You will be together through college and law school. First apartments. Weddings. First jobs. Births. Deaths. You will be silly and serious. They are soul deep friendships. They are your forever friends. As close as family. And just as important.

You will have a family that grows closer each and every day. Your parents are just parents right now, but they will become your twin pillars without whom you could not stand. Your sisters are just sisters right now, but they will become your greatest friends and fiercest allies. In them you will find the missing parts of yourself. You will complete each other in a way that only sisters can. And they will bring two men into your life. Men they love, and who you will love too. Brothers. And your family of five will start to grow. And one day, your youngest sister will introduce you to your great love.

Yes, you will have a great love. A huge, complex, and extraordinary love. In him you will find your mate.  In many ways he will be your opposite. Outgoing where you are quiet. Quick-thinking where you are methodical. But don’t let that scare you. Because you will compliment each other beautifully. Completely. He will be your most treasured companion. You will challenge each other. You will laugh. You will plan. You will hope. You will dream.

And with him you will learn something else. That you are born to nurture. You are fighting it now because it’s not cool. It’s not popular. You think it makes you timid, maybe even a little weak. It doesn't. Embrace it. Treasure it. It is one of your truest gifts. To understand how to care for others. To know instinctively, and in your deepest heart, what the people in your life need and how to offer it is an exquisite miracle. And it’s yours.

Just about a year from now you will read your very first romance novel. The first of many. These books will open up a part of yourself that you didn't even know existed. You will relate to the books. You will learn from them. And in a few years, you will start to write about them. 

And once you start to write, you won't be able to stop. You will write about books and love and friendship and life. You will hunger for the keyboard. To put words to page. Writing will open up new worlds for you. It will satisfy and fulfill you in ways you never experienced or thought possible. To give your words to the world, and for people to read them. And one day, you will write a book of your own. It's not completed yet. As a matter of fact, it's barely started. But you will know in your deepest soul that you will finish it. And it will be your life's greatest accomplishment. Because this is what you are meant to do.

I won't tell you not to worry, because I know you will. Instead, I will tell you to be confident. And to be happy. Because this is life, my girl. Messy. Complex. Satisfying. Beautiful. Your life. My life. Our life.

Just be yourself.


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A Hole

The Glee kids are singing and I'm enjoying a "home alone" dinner of pretzels and Diet Sprite when my tongue feels something foreign. Or rather, the lack of something.

A hole. In my mouth. 

I jump from the couch and continue probing the empty space as if it would feel different standing. As if being upright would suddenly allow my brain to say "why no, Sam, of course there's no hole. You just continue watching Glee's 500th song and eating those pretzels."

Of course, my disloyal brain says nothing of the sort.

Because there's a hole. In my mouth.


I literally pinch myself to make sure I'm awake. To be positive this isn't a weird Freudian dream or something.

And it hurts, so I'm obviously awake and anyway if I was dreaming, I would probably be eating something far more awesome than pretzels.

And the Glee kids are still singing, but I can't focus on the song because THERE'S A HOLE IN MY MOUTH.

I obviously have a disease. Some horrible exotic malady. And my tongue drifts warily over the rest of my mouth to see if any other holes have spontaneously appeared. No more. For now.

I fall on my computer and google "broken teeth" and click on WedMD and wait for the names of mysterious illness to appear. 

The normally scaremongering website says it's not serious unless I feel pain, in which case I should see a dentist immediately before the nerve dies.

And oh my god, now it hurts with the pain of a thousand lashes.

I leave an appropriately panicked message on my dentist's emergency voicemail, and wait for the call back which will obviously be soon because THERE'S A HOLE IN MY MOUTH.

But my phone stays silent.

I don't brush my teeth before bed because all my teeth are probably falling out anyway due to wasting disease so who cares if they're brushed or not.

I sleep in snatches. Each time I wake up I check and see if the empty space is still there, and of course it is because mouth holes don't just go away.

At 7am my dentist calls and tells me to come in. He sounds remarkably calm considering THERE'S A HOLE IN MY MOUTH.

An hour later I sit in his chair and he snaps on those hateful gloves. He fills my mouth with tools without saying a word and his silence is deafening.

I know he is trying to figure out how to break the news to me that I'll live a sad, toothless life. And now I'm starting to squirm and sweat and wonder if I'll spend the rest of my life removing my teeth at night to soak in a glass.

"Ok," he says, removing his gloves, and I brace myself for what comes next.

"Easy fix. Stop with the hard pretzels though. They're hell on the teeth."

My tongue drifts to the side of my mouth, and the hole is gone.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Where the Snow Ends, and the Sky Clears

Remember last Wednesday and Thursday when there was supposed to be a crazy snowstorm in New York? Well, it never happened. And I took it philosophically even though I dearly love the snow, and was hoping for one last winter wonderland before spring comes soaring in.

Next year, I thought.

Well, imagine my surprise when I woke up Friday morning to snow. LOTS of snow. Nine inches of snow, to be exact. And I wanted nothing more than to stay home and grin out the window at what would probably be the last big snowstorm of the season. But since I had to go in to the city, at six in the morning I donned my winter gear and headed outside to shovel my car out of the rising snow drifts left by the plows and the wind.

The city was not nearly as beautiful as my little slice of the suburbs, and I cursed the fates that had me walking through this:

instead of enjoying my idyllic snow-covered backyard.

But what's a girl to do?

The snow was still there when I got home, and I watched it swirl out the window while I prepped for my weekend. Since David is still away on business, three of my friends came over for dinner Friday night and spent the night and all day Saturday at my house. So, of course, I needed to make things like this:

Delicious chocolate cake

The snow stopped just as I finished my cooking and baking, and just before the start of Shabbat. And right before I struck the match to light my shabbat candles, I glanced out the window and watched as the sky began to clear after three days of gray.

Can't argue with a day that begins with snow, and ends with good friends, and a view like this:

Friday, March 8, 2013

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Home Alone

Things that happen when I'm alone, Part I

Things that happen when I'm alone, Part II

One of the things I really loved about our house when we decided to buy it was that it is a great size. It wasn't so small that we would feel like we hadn't upgraded much from apartment life, and it wasn't so big that we would feel like we were rattling around while it is just the two of us, but it has plenty of room to expand once we need more bedrooms and more space.

Yes, it really is the perfect size.

That is, until David goes away and I am living in it by myself.

Yesterday, David flew to Austin, Texas where his company will have a booth at the South by Southwest trade show. It's an amazing opportunity for his company, and I am incredibly proud of him. But the truth is, being home alone is just weird.

When we lived in our apartment I didn't mind being alone at all because the truth is, I never really felt alone with people coming and going in our building at all hours of the day and night. But being alone in a house in the suburbs where I don't know all that many people is a whole different experience.

I'll get used to it, I know, but this is the first time I'm really alone for any significant period of time since our suburban life began, and my once perfectly sized house feels as big as a castle.

So, what's a girl to do? Bake cookies and watch a Gilmore Girls marathon of course. I may not have gotten a lot of sleep, but I was certainly well fed and constantly entertained.

And with Rory and Lorelai's delightful chatter, it was really hard to hear the wind howling outside, and the creepy settling noises my 100 year old house makes all night long.

It's going to be a long eight days. Glad I made a lot of cookies.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

A Company Was Born

It was just before we got married that he came up with the idea. 

He had spent the year before perfecting a more powerful, more versatile and less expensive version of the Microsoft Surface, which he called the mTouch. The mTouch was a multitouch coffee table that functioned like a giant iPhone, and it had garnered some pretty serious attention. So, one weekend in August of 2010, I flew to Pittsburgh for my bridal shower and he flew to Los Angeles, where he would spend the next few days showcasing his tables at the ESPN X-Games.

And while he was there, ESPN asked if he could allow people to Check-in in Four-Square, Follow them on Twitter and "Like" things on Facebook straight from the tents at the Games. But the Apps were slow, Wi-Fi not readily available, and it took far too long for every visitor to log in using the mTouch.

And he thought, wouldn't it be great if these people could "Like," "Follow," and "Check-In" instantly?

A few weeks later, a company was born. He called it Social Passport.

And in the past three years, Social Passport has grown into a complete social marketing platform for retailers with methods to drive traffic and reward customers, and with a point-of-sale terminal that revolutionizes the way retailers do business.

I married an entrepreneur, and I am crazy proud.

And this month he's taking Social Passport on the road. 

First it was this booth at the International Restaurant show at the Jacob Javitz Convention center. 

And as soon as the show closed last night, he packed up the booth and got it ready for its next stop.

Because today. Today he is on his way to the airport with his booth to catch a flight to Austin where he will be setting it up at the South by Southwest Festival Trade show.

I wish I could be there too but, alas, I have to work, so I'll be in New York, keeping the home fires burning. But if you happen to be in the Austin area starting on Sunday, head on over to Booth 627 at the show and check it out. 

Tell him I said hi, and pick up one of these rockin' t-shirts.

D. Wishing you lots of luck. You make me proud, every single day. As always, I'm amazed.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Restaurant

It was the night before the OJ Simpson verdict was handed down.

I may not remember all the details, but for some strange reason, I remember that one.

The Station Square restaurant where my parents undoubtedly took my sisters and me in order to avoid a major scene when they dropped the bomb was packed. Waiters were bustling around, people were dropping utensils, and at the bar a group of college age guys were cheering at some sporting event or another.

In retrospect I think I should have guessed what they were about to tell us. For about two months, there had been little signs that something was different. That something wasn't quite right.

My dad, who always traveled a great deal for work, had been traveling quite a bit more. A few times, my mom went with him, which she generally didn't do.

But it was the message on the answering machine the month before that really should have done it. It was a Sunday night. We had company for dinner and, as usual, there was talking, laughing, food and people running around everywhere. When the phone rang, no one bothered with it. Most of the people we cared about were right in our house and everyone figured if it was important, they would leave a message.

After the beep, a strong southern accent boomed through the machine.

"Hi y'all, this is Beverly Brandenburger from Jacksonville. I have the information you asked for on that house you were interested in. Give me a call when you get a chance. Bye, now."

Confused, I wondered why my parents would be interested in a house in Jackson-something when we lived in Pittsburgh. Had always lived in Pittsburgh. Would always, as far as I was concerned. I barely even knew there were other places in the world to live. My grandparents were all born in southwestern Pennsylvania, for god's sake. I certainly didn't know anything about any place where someone with an accent like that would live.

I pondered it for a little while, but by the end of the night the call slipped out of my mind, and all was as it should be.

Until the restaurant.

It was unusual for us to go out on a weeknight, but when we were growing up, once in awhile my parents would surprise us with nighttime adventures. A summer evening trip to the amusement park, homemade chicken nuggets and french fries for dinner, and popcorn and a movie on TV long after we should have been asleep were all a part of what was a fun and pretty idyllic childhood. So dinner out on a weeknight, while rare, was not unheard of.

But it wasn't one of those fun and exciting childhood nights. Even at age twelve, I knew it almost as soon as we sat down at the table. The waitress had just delivered our drinks when my mom took my hand, and my dad started to talk.

"Girls, we're moving to Florida."

*The move was for business reasons, and after thirteen years in Jacksonville, almost four years ago my parents moved back to Pittsburgh and are now happily ensconced in the city of all of our childhoods. And all is as it should be in the Brinn family.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Half-Marathon Training Take Two - A New Route

With a little over eight weeks until race day, training for the half marathon I'm running on May 5th has kicked into high gear.

As most long distance runners know, there is a distance threshold beyond which runs are incredibly hard. Not that runs below this threshold are always easy, but just that they are more manageable.

After almost three years of distance running, I have come to understand that this threshold is more psychological than anything else. And for me, that threshold is six miles. Any run shorter than six miles seems, in my head, relatively simple to handle. I can generally do it in under an hour, and it is pretty easy to piece together a six mile route no matter where I am.

But once I get beyond six miles - once I am running for more than an hour - I need a little mental boost. It is no longer acceptable to me to cobble together a route on the streets where I am stopping and starting for traffic lights and busy intersections. The bland scenery of houses and buildings doesn't suit me for such a long period of time - since I don't run with music I need a little ambiance and some distractions along my route.

So it was with some trepidation that I approached yesterday's seven mile run, and the eight, nine, ten and eleven milers in the coming weeks. As you know, I have been struggling with my running routes since moving out of Manhattan. I never really thought much about routes before I moved since I did all my running in Central Park, where there is no traffic, plenty of ambiance and sundry distractions. But now they are pretty much all I think about. Because when one spends a significant amount of one's time running, the route better be good.

I decided on Friday that I needed to find a Central Park-like route that pleased me for the second half of my training season. So I took to the internet, determined not to stop researching until I found some new pavement to pound.

In short order, I discovered the Bronx River Pathway, a trail that runs alongside the Bronx River Parkway from the New York City-Westchester line all the way up to Valhallah - a 13.2 mile stretch. Being a big believer in fate, as I am, I figured it was no accident that the trail spanned the exact distance of a half-marathon. I had to try it out.

So I plotted an out and back route that would take me from the White Plains Metro-North station, where I could leave my car, all the way up to the end of the trail and back for my seven miles. And when I woke up Sunday morning I couldn't wait to get started.

I wasn't the least bit disappointed.

The run was delightful, the trail gorgeous. In some places I had company, and in others I was alone. There were ponds, benches, trees, bridges - all the things I loved about my former Central Park home.

I was so excited about this new development in my running life that I couldn't help but stop along the way to document my first run on the Bronx River Pathway - the first, I am absolutely sure, of many.

Friends, I do believe I'm back.

Starting Line (and Finish Line)

The Trail

Halfway Marker

Kensico Dam Park

Friday, March 1, 2013

A Recipe and a Heritage

I come from quite a long line of good cooks and bakers.

My great grandmothers, both of my grandmothers and my mom. And now my sisters, my cousins and me.

And with so many cooks and bakers in one family, sharing recipes has become a bit of a pastime.

And of all the recipes that we share, it is our challah recipe that is our most important.

The recipe was passed down from one of my great-grandmothers on my dad's side, and she used to make it by hand. I spent quite a bit of time with her when I was little, and one of my very first memories is of standing on a chair in her kitchen on Thursday afternoons while she kneaded the dough that would become her challah.

When my parents got engaged, my great-grandmother bought my mom a Kitchen Aid mixer, and passed along that same recipe. It would be a few years before my mom started baking challah, but my great-grandmother gave her the tools, knowing that before long my mom would be measuring flour, yeast and water to follow the recipe that had become our heritage.

When my great grandmother passed away after a long and beautiful life, my dad's mom took up the challah-baking torch, using that recipe that tasted of my great-grandmother long after she took her leave of this world.

I was about ten when my mom made her first challah, and nearly every Friday afternoon since the smell of baking bread has filled her kitchen.

When my sisters and I got married, my grandmother's present to each of us was the Kitchen Aid mixer of our choice and the recipe so that we could start baking challah of our own.

I don't get a chance to bake every week, but last night I did. I measured and mixed and kneaded and braided, and used the recipe that is inscribed in my brain in indelible ink.

And as I followed the familiar steps I felt, as I always do, a link to the generations of women who came before me and the ones who are here with me now. To the women who have grown me, shaped me, and made me.

This is our recipe. This is our heritage. This is what we bake. This is who we are.