Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Olympic Moments

They're here! This past Friday night, the world watched as the Queen of England declared the games of the 30th Olympiad open. The athletes marched, the crowd cheered, and Great Britain staged a gorgeous spectacle complete with James Bond, David Beckham, the Royal Family, and hundreds of Mary Poppins look-alikes falling from the sky. Can't get better than that right?

What has followed since the Opening Ceremonies is three days of tears, heartbreak, and overwhelming triumph. And I can't get enough. In predictable fashion, I watched it all. Every minute of the opening ceremonies, and many, many hours of the TV coverage since then. God bless NBC for live-streaming every event, and then showing the major highlights every night in a four-hour prime time broadcast.

For two weeks every two years (Winter Olympics, I dearly love you too), this is how I get. The heady mix of pop culture moments and sporting event history is more than enough to send me into a euphoric haze. For those of you who are not quite as passionately obsessed as I am, I thought I would take today to count down my five most memorable Olympic moments from the first three days of the games. Not necessarily the most triumphant (although a lot of them are), but the ones that we will remember, and the ones that we will continue to talk about long after the Olympic torch leaves London and heads to Rio for 2016.

5. U.S. Earns Medals in Men's and Women's Synchronized Diving

It has been twelve years since the United States won a diving medal. In two days in London, they won two. U.S. men's pair David Boudia and Nick McCrory and U.S. women's pair Kelci Bryant and Abby Johnston won bronze and silver, respectively, in synchronized diving. If you have never seen a synchronized diving competition, get ye to YouTube immediately, because this was absolutely amazing to watch.

4. Jordyn Wieber Fails to Make Gymnastics All-Around Finals

Never since the "Magnificent Seven" of 1996 has the United States had such high hopes for a Women's Gymnastics team. Well, the Magnificent Seven have become the Fabulous Five, and they are heavily favored to win the team competition, and unseat China as the best gymnasts in the world. But before the team finals could start, the top eight countries had to qualify, which the U.S. did, spectacularly. But the dark cloud over the team finals is favorite Jordyn Wieber's failure to make the all-around finals. Only two athletes from each team can enter the all-around finals, and Jordyn just missed the mark. She burst into tears as the scoreboard flashed teammate Ali Raisman's floor routine score, dashing her hopes for individual all-around gold. 

3. Misty and Kerri Win Again

Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings have won 31 straight sets in their Olympic career, which has now spanned twelve years. That means that, in all the years they have competed in the Olympic games, they have never lost a single set. Not one. Their streak continued last night, when they beat the Czech Republic, continuing their quest for three straight Olympic gold medals. What makes their quest even more spectacular is that many thought they would never make it to London. In the years since Beijing, Misty May tore her achilles and retired. Kerri had two children. But despite the fits and struggles, they returned to the London Olympics in fine form, in the hunt for gold.

2. Lochte Soars, Phelps Stumbles. Or Do They?

Phelps v. Lochte. Lochte v. Phelps. Its the world's longest running soap opera, and it is playing out before our very eyes. On Sunday, Ryan Lochte won gold in the Men's 400 IM, and Phelps, for the first time in twelve years, failed to make it to the podium. So is Lochte 2012 the new Phelps 2008? Probably not, judging from Sunday's freestyle relay and yesterday's 200 Free. So maybe all the Lochte-lovers spoke to soon when they anointed this man the God of London 2012? Or maybe this media-manufactured rivalry is causing the missteps? It's anyone's guess. There is lots of swimming over the next few days, so we'll see what we see.

1. Swimming Has a New Golden Girl: Missy Franklin Wins Women's 100m Backstroke 

During the Olympic Trials last month, I fell in love with this unaffected 17 year old from Colorado. An effervescent high-school student, Missy Franklin has turned down lucrative endorsement deals so that she can remain eligible to swim for her school's team. And she is fierce. Last night, she swam a race to qualify for the Women's 200 freestyle finals. She then jumped into the diving well after receiving special permission from the Olympic officials to do so, to cool down and then warm right back up, because she was swimming in the finals of the 100 backstroke 10 minutes later. She won gold in the 100 back, and set a new American record. Expect to see her smiling face lighting up your Wheaties boxes any day now. 

And as if we didn't love her enough after her amazing back-to-back races, when she stepped up to the podium to receive her gold medal, the announcers let the crowd know that Missy hails from Aurora, Colorado, the site of the Dark Knight movie theater shooting. Bob Costas then cut to a pre-taped shot of Missy's high school friends watching her race from Colorado, and cheering their hearts out when she won. And the tears fall.

BONUS MOMENT THAT NEEDS NO EXPLANATION - Ali Raisman's Parents Watch Her Uneven Bar Routine, Hilariously

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Quotable Wednesdays 5: Sorkinian Advice

I'm starting a new tradition on this blog of mine...I have been reading lots of books lately, even more than usual. And in my literary (and pop culture) travels, I have stumbled across many, many fun bits of humor, brilliance, encouragement, and inspiration. Every week, pop by here on Wednesday for Quotable Wednesdays, where I share some of these delightful musings.

Don’t ever forget that you’re a citizen of this world, and there are things you can do to lift the human spirit, things that are easy, things that are free, things that you can do every day. Civility, respect, kindness, character. You’re too good for schadenfreude, you’re too good for gossip and snark, you’re too good for intolerance — and since you’re walking into the middle of a presidential election, it’s worth mentioning that you’re too good to think people who disagree with you are your enemy.

                                Aaron Sorkin
                                2012 Syracuse University Commencement Speech

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


One minute your life is one way. The next minute it is something entirely different. Completely unrecognizable. Eternally changed. The time between those minutes is forever marked as the time when the universe tilted and irrevocably divided life into "before" and "after."

For the countless victims of the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado and their families, last Thursday night was one of those times.

As most of us on the east coast slept, a gunman walked into Theater 9 of Century Aurora 16, opened a canister of gas and started to shoot. A few hours later we awoke to scenes of horror. Tales of lives lost and those still fighting to survive.

Words fail. And we struggle to understand. 

Our minds and hearts send tears, prayers, support and love to the families of the injured and the dead. To those broken by unimaginable violence. We offer whatever assistance we can. We wonder how we ourselves will feel the next time we sit quietly in a darkened theater.

In the days and weeks to come there will certainly be discussions and there will be debates. Over what is an appropriate age to take a child to a midnight screening. Over whether stricter gun-control laws could have stopped a killer. Over whether violent movies beget violence in life. Over whether a comic book character is to blame. And some of these debates may be worth having. Some may not be. 

And there will be anger. Anger at a killer who was not a boy and not quite a man. Anger at parents who recognized evil but did nothing to stop its forward motion. And some of this anger may be justified. Some may not be.

But today. Today I am not debating, and today I am not angry. Today I am not sad. Today I am not thinking about violence and tragedy and lives taken long before their time. There will be plenty of other days for that. But not today.

Today, on this Tuesday, I am thinking of heroes. I am thinking about stories of courage and bravery that are rising from the ashes of this senseless tragedy.

I am thinking of Nick Yowler and Matt McQuinn who, when gunshots rang out, pulled Nick's younger sister down on the ground and shielded her with their own bodies to keep her safe. I am thinking about Stephanie Davies, who stayed with a wounded friend, applying first aid as the gunman continued to shoot. I am thinking about Jarrell Brooks, who ushered a young mother and her two children to an exit; saving three people he had not known before the gunshots began.

Today, I am thinking of heroes. The people who represent the very best of who we are and what we could be.

Today, I am thinking of heroes. And with those heroes, the promise of brighter days ahead.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Rainy Days

I have a favorite kind of weather. And it's not what you think.

I love days that are cool and cloudy and rainy. Like today.

It doesn't feel like summer outside today, and after weeks of soaring summer temperatures, that is perfectly fine with me. Because I prefer this. This weather the makes me want to curl up under a blanket with a book and a hot drink. This weather that makes me happy to be inside, looking out at the grey sky and churning waters of the Hudson River. This weather that makes me feel cozy and comfortable and content. This weather that is a welcome respite from this summer's fourth endless heat wave. This weather that makes me wish for Fall, with its crisp days and spicy scents. This weather that reminds me of all there is to look forward to in the coming months. This weather that makes me smile, makes me think, and even makes me dream.

What is your favorite weather?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Quotable Wednesdays 4: Words

I'm starting a new tradition on this blog of mine...I have been reading lots of books lately, even more than usual. And in my literary (and pop culture) travels, I have stumbled across many, many fun bits of humor, brilliance, encouragement, and inspiration. Every week, pop by here on Wednesday for Quotable Wednesdays, where I share some of these delightful musings.

Words are, in my not so humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic"

                        Albus Dumbledore
                        Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Reading and Living in the City

It probably goes without saying that Manhattan is a place unlike any other. Depending on the day and the subject, this is either a good thing or a bad thing. We can get anything we want, at any time of the night - delivered if we so choose (good thing). We have to commute to work on crowded subways carrying passengers in various stages of cleanliness (bad thing). We have 843 acres right in the middle of our city of grass, woods, trails, and fields in which to play (good thing). We live in teeny-tiny apartments and consider ourselves lucky when said apartments boast full size kitchens and closets (bad thing). And the list goes on.

After seven years of living and working in this city, I have come to understand and appreciate Manhattan both for what it is, and what it is not. I love it for all of the things that it has given me - a law degree, a husband, incredible friends, a backbone, and epic adventures. And I dislike it, sometimes immensely, for all the annoyances that come with city living - carrying grocery bags home in the pouring rain, lack of closet space, barking dogs in the apartment next door, and steaming hot subway platforms. Needless to say, I have complicated feelings about Manhattan.

But even with all the complexity, sometimes something emerges from this city of ours that is magic. That makes me say, in that moment, "I am really glad to live here." I had one of those moments recently, and because it is Tuesday, the day where I pass along fun and happy things that I discover, I thought it was the perfect time to share.

You all know that I am loud and proud when it comes to the books I read. I love to read on buses, subways, and pretty much anywhere I have a free few minutes. And even more than I love to read during my commutes though, I love to look around to see what everyone else is reading. This has become more difficult lately due to the ubiquity of e-readers. When Kindles abound, we who like to spy on readers and their book selections have a choice to make. We can either decide to let our curiosity dissipate, or we can hover over the Kindle user's shoulder to try and catch the title of the book that lives at the top of the screen while simultaneously attempting the correct body language so as not to come across as a creepy stalker. I have tried this second option, many times. It's a hard balance to strike. Trust me.

So those of us who like to carry actual books and watch other people who carry actual books are usually left disappointed and wondering what will become of our most favored accessory now that e-readers rule the day.

Enter today's bit of fun.

While perusing some blogs the other day, I stumbled upon a link to something called the Underground New York Public Library. In 2008, a photographer named Ourit Ben-Haim got an idea. Her idea was to ride the New York City subways, and take pictures of readers. For four years she has haunted subway trains and platforms, capturing straphangers immersed in the pages of books. Not in the screens of e-readers, but in the actual pages of actual books. And late last year, she turned her work into a blog.

Every day she posts pictures of people consuming their literature of choice, and invites her followers to look and to comment. The pictures are generally candid, and the subway lines are never disclosed. Ourit doesn't provide editorials, or stick to a particular author or genre. She doesn't seek out a specific class of individuals. She just looks for people holding books, and she takes their picture. Late last week she even caught a woman reading a Nora.

The result of Ourit's efforts is a stunning portrait of the community of readers that meets below the city streets. A community that I love, and a community of which I am a frequent member. At a time where countless people are embracing the anonymity of the e-reader, her work has never been more important.

I have spent a good part of my life connecting with people through the books that we read, and feel an instant kinship with the readers portrayed on the pages of Ourit's Underground Public Library. I get a little thrill when I spy a picture of someone reading something familiar to me, and have even copied down titles of books I don't recognize to add to my ever-growing library. I hope you will take a minute on this otherwise ordinary Tuesday to check out Ourit's blog, and I hope that one of her pictures speaks to you, as they do so often to me. Together, we will keep tangible books en vogue for a long time to come.

Friday, July 13, 2012

To Share or Not to Share?

I was a sophmore in college the first time I heard the word "Blog." And I wasn't quite sure what it even meant. An acquaintance of mine, who was also a computer science major, mentioned that he had started a sort of on-line journal where he wrote about things. "But what kinds of things?" I asked. "Everything. About my life, and about things I think," he said. And I think I said something like "cool," while in my head I was thinking, "so completely not cool." It all seemed a little weird to me. Like something only computer science majors did.

I was a senior in college when Facebook made its sparkling debut. And I signed up mainly because everyone else did. Because we were all equally curious and perplexed about this creature that had invaded our campus. The new site that everyone was talking about. Practically overnight, our daily language changed. "Are you on Facebook?" "Facebook me." "I'm putting these pictures on Facebook." "How many "friends" do you have?" Private lives became public, and no one was immune. Instant messenger was so completely last year. Facebook was now.

And that's where I sort of got left behind. I came to understand Facebook. I use it all the time. But then other social networking sites started to happen. In my first year of law school it was My Space. Then LinkedIn. Then Friendster. Then Twitter. Then Instagram, Pintrest, and all those other social networks whose names are escaping me at the moment, but whose message appear on my Facebook feed with increasing regularity.

I really liked seeing pictures of weddings, vacations, babies and more posted on Facebook, and I posted lots of my own. But the other things? At the risk of sounding primitive, I just didn't get it. It was too much over-sharing. Why do I need to know where my cousin's-friend's-husband's-uncle ate dinner last night anyway? So while nearly everyone I know started sharing tweets by the thousands, and everything from current locations to virtual bulletin boards, I stuck to the familiar white and blue of the Facebook page.

But then I started this blog.

I have always loved to write, and I have always loved stories - hearing them and telling them. Some of my best pieces of writing have been personal statements for various college and graduate school applications. The ones where I was not so much answering a question but telling a story. I like the ebb and flow of a narrative - the twists and turns of a story, and the unexpected place that the characters take me, even if the story is true and the main character is me. It was - and has been - eye opening for me realize how much better I can understand places and faces and events when I process and remember them by writing words.

And it turns out that there is something else buried in this vast well of creativity that I have only recently begun to tap. Hidden deep within me, in a place I barely even knew existed, is a deep desire not just to write, but to share. To put my words out there, beyond my circle of family and friends, so that other people - strangers even - can read them, and think about them, and comment on them. It is extraordinarily satisfying to be read. To receive comments. For people to say "I understand what you mean," or "what you wrote resonated with me."

So I started exploring the blogging world. Turns out there are many, many fascinating people doing what I am doing. I started reading other people's words, and commenting on those words. Leaving little pieces of myself on their pages. Telling them that I am there, that I am reading, that what they wrote touched me, made me laugh, made me think. And slowly, they are beginning to read my words as well. A few weeks ago a blogger I particularly admire left a comment on a post that I wrote, a post of which I am very proud. And it was thrilling.

And all of these other bloggers - the ones I read daily and admire greatly? They social network like pros. They like, check-in, tweet, and pin with the best of them. They post their blogs, and their thoughts. And truthfully? They make it look like lots of fun. So, after watching and thinking for quite some time, and after an interesting conversation with my social media guru of a husband, I decided to do it. Earlier this week I joined Twitter (Follow Me!). I am still getting the hang of it, but already I'm not quite sure why I resisted for so long. 

It has been an interesting lesson for this life long introvert, to feel such satisfaction in sharing myself with the vast online universe. And it is both hugely surprising and strangely comforting that, after nearly thirty years of living, there are pieces of myself that I am still discovering. I am learning as I write that we really are all just works in progress. Beautifully imperfect and exquisitely incomplete. And right now? That is just fine with me. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Quotable Wednesdays 3: A Little Jane Austen

I'm starting a new tradition on this blog of mine...I have been reading lots of books lately, even more than usual. And in my literary (and pop culture) travels, I have stumbled across many, many fun bits of humor, brilliance, encouragement, and inspiration. Every week, pop by here on Wednesday for Quotable Wednesdays, where I share some of these delightful musings.

"I Declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of anything than of a book! - When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library."

                           -Jane Austen

                            Pride and Prejudice

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Tuesday Round Up 2: Happy Susan Elizabeth Phillips Day!

As I have written before, Tuesday is not my favorite day of the week. In fact, Tuesday is my least favorite day of the week. On Tuesday, I usually look for a little pick-me-up (aside from the inevitable extra caffeine). And a few weeks ago, I decided to share those (non-caffeinated) pick-me-ups with you, in the likely event that you, too, have a day of the week where you simply can not function with a little outside influence.

And today, I have the best outside influence of all. Because today is the day that Susan Elizabeth Phillips' new book, The Great Escape, hits bookshelves. As I write this, my brand new copy, procured from Barnes and Noble bright and early this morning, sits next to me on my desk. And I can hardly wait to open it because I know exactly what awaits me.

The Great Escape is the much anticipated follow-up to last year's Call Me Irresistable, which featured Lucy Jorik running away from her wedding and her best friend Meg Koranda taking the heat. Meg falls in love with Lucy's ex-fiance, and he with her, and all is right with the world. Except we were all left wondering, "what happened to Lucy?" The Great Escape is Susan Elizabeth Phillips' answer to our questions, and I could not possibly be more excited. I am so excited, in fact, that I am saving the book for this weekend so that I can read the entire thing, from cover to cover, without interruption. Willpower of immense proportions, I tell you.

I feel like I have been looking forward to this book more than I have any new romance novel in recent memory. And I know the exact reason why. About a year ago, I discovered that Susan Elizabeth Phillips has a Facebook page. I "liked" her page one day on a whim, and am now treated to a delightful daily dose of her musings. She writes about her family, her house, her daily routine, and, most importantly, she writes about writing. She has been posting about Lucy's story for the better part of the last year. She has posted about plot, characters, re-writes and editing, and has even crowd-sourced some ideas as she motored along. I have loved having this window into her life and her writing process, and know that I will love the book even more because of it.

Another fun reason I am looking forward to Lucy's story? Because I met Susan in person just as she was starting to write it. Last year, I attended an evening meet-and-greet at the Romance Writers of America Convention in New York City. It was predictably amazing. The entire ballroom of the Marriott Marquis in Times Square was filled with writers. Every square inch was occupied with a romance novelist ready and willing to sign books and talk to fans. The line for Susan's table was long, but when we finally reached her she was sparkly and cheerful, and happy to sign the (many) books we brought for the occasion.

It was so fun to meet her last year that I e-mailed her last week to find out if she would be making a stop in New York this year on her Great Escape tour. Alas, she e-mailed me back yesterday to say that she is by-passing the city this summer and heading west instead. Wishing her lots of luck on her tour, and counting the minutes until Saturday morning when I crack open The Great Escape and read Lucy's well deserved and much anticipated story.

Happy Tuesday to all...Will you be spending this weekend immersed in The Great Escape, as I will be?

Friday, July 6, 2012

Making Recommendations Part V: Ghosts, Goddesses, Fairies, and Devils

Over the past six week, I have been making romance novel recommendations to you, my faithful readers. We have discussed the best books to read to start a romance novel careermy favorite romance novel familiesromance novels with a little mystery, and some miscellaneous fun. And the response has been amazing. Friends, family and strangers alike have been reading these books, and discovering how amazing they really are. Many of you are well and truly hooked. And I am proud.

And today, we come to the end of my recommendation series. I promised you a few weeks ago that the end would be somewhat fantastical. And it is. Because today, we discuss the supernatural. A word of caution. These supernatural romances are not for everyone. I love them. And if they are for you, I say read on with your bad self. But if they aren't, I understand. The greatest thing about romance novels is that there really is
 something for everyone.

My introduction to the supernatural romance started innocently enough. I was 16, and had just devoured the Stanislaski series, my first brush with the wondrous Nora Roberts, and the beginning of my decades-long romance novel obsession. W
anting desperately to see if this author had written anything else, I took myself to Barnes & Noble, and made my very first visit to the romance section. I would, obviously, become a very regular visitor to these shelves over the coming years, but, as with many things, there is something sacred about that first time.

The romance section was crowded. I edged my way through to the "R's" and my 16 year old heart soared with delight. Because the Nora Roberts books covered eight shelves. After an hour of browsing, I went home with The Gallaghers of Ardmore trilogy, and spent the next two days immersed in the story of the Gallagher siblings, and their lives and loves. But this book was different. Because intertwined with the story of the Gallaghers was another story. A story about a ghost called Lady Gwen, Carrick the Fairie, and their doomed romance. And I loved it.

And the more Nora I read, the more I came to embrace the supernatural. Among my favorite Noras are stories about goddesses, haunted Tennessee mansionscivil war ghostswitches and wizards, and more. These are the books I read over and over. The ones I return to when I crave the comfort of the familiar. The ones that are always in the front of my bookshelves. Nora's characters seem brighter somehow against a backdrop of the inexplicable. This, I believe, is where she is at her best.

Now I don't like all supernatural romances. I put the first
Twilight book down after four chapters and never picked it up again. Vampires are just not my speed. But give me a Nora filled with goddesses and fairies, and I'm entertained for hours. What can I say? I'm an enigma.


The Key Trilogy - Nora Roberts*
Key of Light
Key of Knowledge
Key of Valor

In the Garden Trilogy - Nora Roberts
Blue Dahlia
Black Rose
Red Lily

The MacKade Brothers - Nora Roberts
The Return of Rafe MacKade
The Pride of Jared MacKade
The Heart of Devin MacKade
The Fall of Shane Mackade

The Gallaghers of Ardmore - Nora Roberts
Jewels of the Sun
Tears of the Moon
Heart of the Sea

The Three Sisters Island Trilogy - Nora Roberts
Dance Upon the Air
Heaven and Earth 
Face the Fire

Nora Roberts Supernatural Mysteries (stand-alone)
Midnight Bayou

*Asterisk denotes my most favorite supernatural trilogy of all time.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Happy, Happy Birthday

This is the sixth birthday of yours that we have celebrated together. I was pretty nervous for that first one six years ago. We had known each other for just a few short months, and I thought maybe it was too early for presents, so I came over and made you dinner instead. And I really wanted it to be perfect. But it wasn't. To be honest, it was a bit of a disaster. I remember this very clearly. The oven wasn't working quite right, and the apple pie fell apart at the first cut. The pasta wasn't completely cooked, and the hot July day melted the ice cream I agonized over because I didn't yet know what flavor you liked, and I forgot to ask. But despite that first year's disaster, the birthday dinner became a bit of a tradition. And they have greatly improved over the years.

So today, I will come home from work, and for the sixth time, I will hit the kitchen to make your favorites. And I will wait for you to come home so we can eat dinner together and so I can wish you a happy birthday in person.

But before that time comes, I wanted to wish you a happy birthday here, in this forum of mine. So that everyone will know that today is your day. Your special day. And you will be in their thoughts all day, as you are in mine.

So, happy birthday to you:

To the man who let me cover all of his living room bookshelves with romance novels without saying a word.
To the man who proposed to me on a website that I still look at from time to time and smile.
To the man made me laugh so hard I cried on our first date, and continues to do so nearly every day.
To the man who is generous with his time, and who is always willing to be helpful.
To the man who shares my love of TV, and agreed when I said we needed two DVR boxes to accommodate our respective show line-up.
To the man who loves adventure and who once busted up an hours long bumper-to-bumper traffic jam on the Pennsylvania turnpike in the pouring rain while I sat in the car and watched, awed and proud.
To the man who loves to learn and who has an endless supply of random historical facts that never fail to amaze me.
To the man who watched eight seasons of 24 and seven seasons of The West Wing with me...all in one glorious summer (for anyone interested in the math, that is approximately 340 hours, or approximately 14 days, of television. We are hard core)
To the man who is the hardest worker I have ever known.
To the man who is my recent past, and my forever future.

Happy birthday. As always, you amaze me.