Friday, April 27, 2012

An Hour to Listen

Weekday mornings my alarm rings at 6:30. I push back the covers, still half asleep. I put on the clothes that I laid out the night before. Don't bother looking in the mirror. I tiptoe around my darkened bedroom, so as not to wake my still sleeping husband. And I creep silently out of my apartment.

I am a runner. And early on weekday mornings, I run in the park. Central Park, that is. In all four season. In driving rain, blinding snow, bitter cold, and stifling heat. I run the park.

Each morning, I walk the 3 blocks to the Park's entrance. The streets of the Upper West Side are empty. Silent.

I start to run. The Park, too, is silent. But not empty. There are other runners quietly making their way around the loops. Most, I notice, like me, run without headphones on these early mornings. Some probably do it for safety. But not me. I leave my iPod at home on these early mornings for another reason entirely.

To listen. To listen to the mood and rhythm of the Park in the early morning. To listen to the pounding of the sneakers of an army of early morning runners. And most importantly, to listen to myself. To hear my own thoughts. Sometimes I spin words and stories as I run my habitual morning loop. Sometimes I work out the answer to a particularly vexing problem. But always, I am listening.

And what I discover when I listen on these early mornings? My own thoughts. Pure and quiet.

These early morning runs are a small gift I give myself. An hour alone. Before the day begins. Before my time is no longer quite my own. Before coffee, and clients, and memos, and emails take over.

Living and working and writing in this city is a tall order. It seems wherever I look there are people. Thinking people. And sometimes it feels like my thoughts get all tangled up with theirs. And that makes it hard for me to listen.

And I need to listen. To think. To feel.

So I run. And I listen. And I learn.

Today's post is part of the Momalom Five for Five. The topic is Listening.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Growing Together

We took this picture just a few weeks ago. We were on vacation. Young. Wild. Free. Nearly two years into our married life. The life we are building. The future we are creating. Together.

I look at this picture, and I think. I think about that life and that future. And what it will hold. I think about our plans. Our hopes. Our dreams. Our wishes. 

We are young now. So young. And there is so much ahead in this good life. Our life. So many milestones we have yet to reach. 

One day we will look back on those milestones reached, and marvel at how quickly time passes. But I am not afraid to age. To grow older. Not afraid of what the years will bring. I look forward to it. Hope for it. Embrace it. Because we will make that journey together.

And perhaps one day when we are old we will sit side-by-side. And we will hold hands. And we will look at this picture and other pictures like this, and we will remember. We will remember how it felt to be young, and wild, and free. And we will smile. At a life well lived. A good life. Spent together.

Today's post is part of the Momalom Five for Five. The topic is Age.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Picture of Her. A Picture of Us.

It was one moment in an impossibly hectic day. My wedding day. Me. Big White Dress. Surrounded by cousins. Sisters. And our grandma.

The photographer arranges us. Tells us where to stand. Where to position hands and feet and flowers. It seems like the millionth picture of the day. Cheeks hurt from smiling. I am wishing pictures were over. I want to get on with the day. My wedding day. I am anxious to see him. Excited to see him. So excited. He has not seen me in my dress yet. He won't until these family pictures are over. And they drag. On and on. Until I am a quivering mess of nerves and excitement and anticipation. Because today. Today, a new part of my life begins.

But first.

"Lean in" the photographer tells us. "Lean towards your grandma." So we do. And I am so happy that we did. That we took this picture. The same picture we had taken twice before. At two other family weddings. But this one was different. So very different. Because in 3 short months, she would be gone.

And we would gather together once more. To remember. To cry. To smile through our tears as we talked about the woman who gave us life, and love, and laughter, and memories. As we said goodbye.

There have been two more family weddings since mine. And twice more we stood. Surrounded by cousins. By family.

"Lean in" the photographer has told us twice more. "Lean towards each other." So we did. We leaned in towards each other, and towards an empty space that will never quite be filled. An empty space that holds memories of strength. Of a good life. Of a life well lived. Of family. And of love.

Today's post is part of the Momalom Five for Five. The topic is Pictures.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Witness

Any book review that I have ever given has pretty much gone as follows: call mom, call Sister K, call Sister L, e-mail best friend R (my loyal, romance-loving soul sisters). "I just read a new romance. It was amazing. Please read it. You'll love it." End of review.

I understand and appreciate that not everyone shares my view on romance novels. Some people think they are trashy (they're not, if you read the right ones). Some people think the writing is bad (It's not, if you read the right authors). And some people just downright can't stand them (this is a viewpoint I have a hard time understanding. Seriously. They are awesome. Give it another try. There's something for everyone. I'll recommend a good one). For this reason, when I started this blog, I decided not to do book reviews. Also, because I love every single book by Nora Roberts and SEP, without exception, any review that I wrote would probably not offer much in the way of literary critique.

And seriously, who needs literary critique when it comes to the books we love? Isn't it enough to just enjoy the books? Do we have to dissect plot, character development, and ending? Pretty futile when it comes to romance novels, since my reviews would be something like the following:

Plot - Amazing
Character development - Amazing.
Ending - Happy. Amazing.

All that aside, I am reading a book right now that I simply have to share with you.

I have a little tradition when it comes to Nora Roberts books. By tradition, I mean, I buy them the day they come out. Without exception. Whether they arrive at my bookstore in hardcover or paperback, I buy them. Always. If I don't buy them that day, I feel a rising sense of panic when I walk past a bookstore and see them, shiny and bright, in the window. I feel inexplicably unhinged, knowing that there is a story out there, a brand new story by my favorite author, that is not yet gracing my bookshelves. I don't always read them the day I buy them, but buy them I do. Right away.

Nora Robert's new mystery/romance, The Witness, was no exception. It came out last Tuesday. And I bought it. With several other books in my queue, I didn't start it until Sunday. But once I started it, I couldn't stop. I read late into the night on Sunday. I read yesterday on the way to the subway. On the subway. And late last night.

The story was gripping. The characters complex, layered, and really fun. The ending satisfying. And happy. Always happy. It was one of the best I have read. Those of you who know me, know that is not something I say lightly.

Nora, my girl. You've still got it.

So even though I don't like to give reviews, I have to give this one. Here goes.

I just Nora's new romance, The Witness. 

It was amazing. 

Please read it. 

You'll love it

End of review.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Virtue of the Happy Ending

Today is one of those days. You know what I mean. The kind where nothing goes right from the minute you step out of bed in the morning, until the minute the lights go out at night. This happens to me every now and then. Probably to you too. And that's life, isn't it? Trips. Falls. Spills. And smiles. Needless to say, I think a little levity is in order. You too? Read on.

I have mentioned the phrase "happy ending" six different times over the past few months. So I figured it was time to talk about it in more detail. In case you are new to my blog, you should know that I have a very important rule when it comes to choosing the books I read. There absolutely must be a happy ending, or I simply will not read the book. No exceptions. Ever. I don't care if the entire world is reading the book. I don't care if Oprah says the book is an absolute must. I don't care if the book becomes a blockbuster movie (Nicholas Sparks, I'm looking at you. See below for further explanation).

This obviously presents a bit of a quandary when it comes to choosing new authors to read.  Nora Roberts has written 172 books. I have read them all. Susan Elizabeth Phillips has written 21. I have read them all. And they all have happy endings. Every single one. I can always count on those girls to give me my hearts desire. With a new author, I never really know what I'm getting. This is highly problematic. So much so that I have been known to read the last chapter of the book first when it's a new author. I might have inherited this act from my mom, who often does the same thing.

When I finish a book I want to feel like turning it over to start it again immediately (yes, I have actually done this - Brides Quartet, I'm looking at you). I want to bask in the glow of love found. I want to pick up the phone immediately and recommend it to my sister and my mom. And I want to put it in its place of honor on my bookshelves. I honestly do feel happy - almost by osmosis - by the hundreds of happy endings in my collection.

What I certainly don't want when I finish a book is to feel any of the following: sad, depressed, heavy, pensive, teary (unless from hysterical laughter - Phoebe and Dan on the 50 yard line, I'm looking at you), and like I want to march to my garbage can and toss the offending book away so that it doesn't have a bad influence on the rest of my collection.

Obviously, my need for a happy ending spills over into my taste for movies as well. I think my favorite movie list communicates that message quite clearly. The American President. You've Got Mail. Sleepless in Seattle. When Harry Met Sally. The Holiday. Not that I don't enjoy a good thriller. I really, really do. But that's an entirely different story. When it comes to movies about love, my need for a happy ending rules the day. I have skipped some of the most popular movies of my lifetime because they failed to meet this single requirement.

I actually remember the book that sealed the deal for me when it comes to my "Happy Endings Only" rule. I was a freshman in college and was delayed at Boston's Logan Airport on my way home for winter break. I ran out of books to read (a mistake I certainly never made again), and headed to the small bookstore in the USAirways Terminal. Now, remember that this was relatively early in my romance novel career, and I naively thought that all romance novels were created equal. At this point, I had also only read romance novels by Nora Roberts. Happy endings one and all. So I marched over to the romance novel section, and after seeing that I unfortunately had read every single Nora in the bookstore, I chose a book by an author new to me. One I had never heard of before. The book? A Walk to Remember, by Nicholas Sparks. I read the back. It sounded great.

I parked myself at my gate, and began to read. In no time at all, I was consumed by the thrilling love story of Landon and Jamie. Knowing in my deepest soul that the last chapter would be a flash forward. These young lovers, all grown up. Then I got to chapter eleven. It was obvious from the beginning of the chapter that Jamie was not well. I didn't like the looks of this, but the optimist in me urged my brain to keep reading. Surely such a beautiful story would end just as beautifully. Not so much. Jamie is dying. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I closed the book immediately, never to be opened again. I looked around for a garbage can in which to toss this sorry-excuse-for-a-romance-novel. The book lover in me rebelled, and I ended up leaving it, unfinished, in the airport for someone else to read. And I felt like I needed a shower to wash off the disappointment of that ending. I never ever again opened another book by Nicholas Sparks. And you can bet that I skipped the tragic movie adaptations of his books. Especially this one. Because it turns out that all his books are like this one. Everything is amazing until it isn't. And then the book ends. No thank you.

I have come to understand over the years why I read. I read to be entertained. I read to laugh. I read for joy. And I read for fun. I don't read to have my emotions tweaked. And I don't read to have my thoughts provoked. There are plenty of emotional and thought provoking moments in real life. I don't need those in my books and movies too. So if you are anything like me, I urge you to embrace the happy ending. Hunger for it. Need it. Love it. Cast aside those books that leave you feeling depressed and unfulfilled. I promise you, you won't be disappointed. Because an ending that is happy? That is simply amazing.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Five Years

We met five years ago this week. I was a second year law student with spring finals fast approaching. The thought of abandoning my study cave left me teeming with anxiety. But I did leave. To meet you. I think at the time we both made the date to humor our younger sisters. It was their idea for us to go out. I think we were both skeptical. They were in high school. What could they possibly know? How very wrong we were. And how very, very right they were.

So I made the trip to French Roast, a small cafe on Broadway. You were already there when I arrived. Leaning up against the ubiquitous Manhattan scaffolding. Waiting. For me. I approached you. Nervously. You looked up at me and smiled. Nervously. For the very first time, your blue, blue eyes met mine.

We got a table outside, and sat for hours. Talking, sharing stories, laughing. Not polite laughter. No. Loud, uncontrollable, tears-rolling-down-my-face laughter. We could have stayed there talking all night long. You walked me home afterwards. The 10 blocks seemed to pass by in an instant. We lingered over goodbye outside my building. And then I returned to my study cave. I called my sister. "Best first date ever," I said. I learned later that you called your sister and said the same. I sat down at my desk. But I couldn't study. Not that night. Because this was different. This was Something.

We went out twice more that very same week. Movie and Dinner. Bowling. The setting didn't seem to matter. Because when we were together, it was simply magic. This was definitely different. This was definitely Something.

We danced the new couples dance over the next few months. I met your family. You met mine. We joined friends. We talked. We learned. About each other. About ourselves. We shared a summer filled with fun. And those first, tentative words of love. Whispered at first. And then spoken louder. And often. Summer turned into fall. We shared Friday breakfasts in Central Park and New York City adventures. Together. We shared birthdays and holidays and family occasions. Together. Always together.

And one day, you asked me a question. You asked in the best way I could have imagined. In a way perfect for me. For us. And I said the word I had been waiting to say. Yes. And a few months later we stood before family and friends and said something to each other that was both simple and profound. I choose you. Forever. Always.

For me this anniversary, of the day we first met, is the most important of all. Because without this one, we would have none of the others. And I am endlessly grateful for all of those others. Because finding you, finding each other, is nothing short of miraculous. You are my everything. My all. You make me smile. You make me laugh. You make me feel. You make me think. You make me dream. You make me hope. You are my husband. My best friend. My forever man. I choose you. And this life. Our life. Forever. Always.

To the past five years.

And to the many, many more years to come.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

That Which Unites Us

You may have noticed my absence last week. I certainly noticed. It has been months since I spent an entire week away from writing. And I missed it. Deeply. My brain was filled with thoughts just dying to get out. And I could hardly wait to get to a computer to put those thoughts on paper.

As I mentioned on Monday, I spent last week on an amazing vacation in Israel. While I was there I thought about the kind of post I would write when I got back. Would it be about the beauty of the country?  It's rich history? The time spent with extended family? Our daily activities? My very first experience with an Israeli wedding? While all of those things are interesting (and feel free to ask me about any of them), none of them seemed like quite the right topic. I knew it would come to me eventually. And this past Thursday, it did.

We spent most of our vacation on the beautiful beaches of Tel Aviv, but on Thursday, we took a day trip to Jerusalem. Of course we went to the Kotel, the Western Wall. And we spent some time walking around the ever popular Ben Yehuda Street. But the inspiration for this post was about our very first stop.

Upon arriving in Jerusalem, Husband D told me he knew of a great place. A place we had to go. A place he discovered and frequented during his semester abroad at Hebrew University. A place he loved. A place I would love. Proving yet again just how well he knows me, ten minutes later he led me in here:


It was a small bookstore that doubled as a cafe. There were English books and Hebrew books. And we sat among those books as we drank coffee and looked out onto the hills of Jerusalem. There were posters for book signings. Fliers for readings. And a few books of nearly every genre. Some book lovers like me browsed the shelves for their heart's desire and sat at small tables while devouring their selections. I felt an instant kinship with the people sharing the cafe with us. We speak different languages. Live in different countries. Undoubtedly have different hopes and dreams. But when surrounded by books, none of that seemed to matter. 

It's hard to describe the comfort that this revelation brought to me. Here I sat, thousands of miles from my home. Thousands of miles from my own books (although, several of those romance novels accompanied me on vacation). But still, as always, surrounded by books. I even managed to spot a romance novel in the stacks. That which unites us is certainly greater than that which divides us. 

After that day, wherever we went, I looked around for a bookstore. And I found them. Tons of them. Because no matter where you are in the world, there are people who love to read. Just like me. On the streets of Tel Aviv, I stumbled across this used bookstore. It could have been any bookstore, in any city, anywhere in the world. But the scene is the same. Shelves sagging under the weight of books. Hundreds of them. All different genres. All different languages. Waiting to be read:

Frequent readers will know that used bookstores occupy a very special place in my heart. Finding one while meandering through a foreign city made me feel instantly at home. The country might have been different, but the setting was comfortably familiar.

My favorite of my Israeli bookstore finds was one that we happened upon in a Tel Aviv Mall:

I discovered that, like Barnes and Noble in America, this is a bookstore chain with branches all across Israel. The most well-known bookstore in the country. Intrigued, I walked in to take a look. And there, right in the front of the store, I made this happy discovery:

A Nora Roberts section. In the middle of a shelf of romance novels. In Israel. Eagle eyed readers will even spot one of my most favorite Nora's of all time. Happy Ever After. I very nearly bought it, despite already owning a copy of the book. But cooler heads prevailed.

I made my way to the back of the store where the Hebrew books were located. There was a girl there, about my age, stocking the shelves. I asked her in Hebrew whether the store carried copies of Nora Roberts' books translated into Hebrew. I thought that might be a fun addition to my collection. And her face simply lit up. In English she said to me, "of course we do. Nora Roberts is my favorite." And my face lit up in turn. "Mine too." Here, in a bookstore in Tel Aviv, was my kindred spirit. My soul-sister if you will. Our conversation turned to our favorite Nora's. She told me she had never read the Brides Quartet. I told her that they absolutely must be next on her list. She told me Nora Roberts is extremely popular in Israel. Women come in all day long for her books. That which unites us indeed.

She led me over to the Nora Roberts Hebrew section. Alas, they were completely sold out of her Hebrew volumes, so I don't have a picture of those. After a few more minutes of browsing, I said goodbye to my new friend, and left the store a happy, and more enlightened, romance novel-lover.

I am back in America now. Happily reunited with my shelves full of books. But I discovered something on this trip. Something I may have already understood but never addressed. That I am endlessly proud to offer, in this small way, my voice to the world. To share my words. To write my stories. Because now I understand a few things. The power of written words. That books unite. That the written word is ubiquitous. The language might be different, and the setting unfamiliar, but when there are books around, what is foreign becomes familiar and strangers become friends.

I told that girl in the bookstore that I write. That I have a blog. That I have been sharing my thoughts and my words. About books. About reading. About life. I hope she pays a visit. And I hope she tells her friends. So that we can unite, readers one and all. And talk about what makes us the same, rather than what makes us different. Because while our differences may be significant, our similarities are simply divine.

Monday, April 9, 2012

I'm Back. And So Are My Books.

I spent the last week on an amazing vacation in Israel. My next post will be teeming with details about said vacation. I promise. But today I offer a picture. And a question. Because, you see, whenever I go away for any amount of time, I am faced with an impossible dilemma. Which books do I bring with me? My mind scrambles to anticipate every mood I might encounter while I am away. Because I require different books for different moods. And then I start to calculate all the down time I might have. Because I am a fast reader. And while I have never, ever run out of reading material while on vacation, the thought of such a fate strikes fear into this book-lover's heart.

Since I don't use an e-reader, all of my reading material gets packed in my suitcases and carry-on bags. And for this trip, in anticipation of two 12-hour flights and countless hours of beach time, I needed a stunning amount. To get into the gate area for a trip to Israel, I had to submit to a search of my carry-on bags. When the nice TSA woman started her search, this is what she saw:

And instead of asking me the generic questions about who packed my bags, and whether they have been in my control since I packed them, all she said to me was "I guess you like to read." And then, with a line of people behind me waiting to have their own bags searched, I had a 3 minute conversation with this woman about romance novels. Turns out, she is a romance-lover too. We are simply everywhere.

Lest you think that I only packed 5 books for an 8 day vacation, these were just the ones that I packed in my carry-on bag. I had 2 more in my purse, and 3 more in my suitcase.

How do you choose your vacation books?