Thursday, January 30, 2014

Here and There

Six days. That's how long it's been since I wrote here on this blog. It's the longest that I have gone without posting here in over a year.

Two weeks. That's how long it's been since I posted a piece at Yeah Write, my beloved writing competition, and the best blogging community around. I've skipped a week here and there if I felt like I was too busy to read all the posts for the week, but rarely two in a row.

And it was strange. Strange not to come here first thing in the morning and post something. Strange not to spend my Tuesdays and Thursdays reading and commenting on the challenge grid posts.

And it was illuminating. Because a little time away made me realize how much I depend on this place. This place where I write words and think thoughts and have friends that are every bit as real to me as the ones I see in person every day.

It's not that I haven't been writing. I have. For two weeks I have had words weaving their way through my head, pushing themselves towards my fingertips, aching to be released onto the screen. And I gave those words their due. I wrote and I wrote and I emptied my head of the thoughts and feelings that had been crowding up my life for a few weeks. And when I finished I felt better, stronger, blessedly empty of the worries and anxiety that had been dogging me lately as I went about my days.

But for the first time in a long time, when the arrow hovered over "publish," I paused. I went back and read over my words again. Moved the arrow to "save," and pressed that instead. Closed out of the blog. I could have written something else, or posted some of the pictures I've been taking lately, but I didn't, because at the time, everything I could possibly write seemed pedestrian, juvenile and infinitely less important than what I had already wrote.

There is a lesson here, of that I am sure. There is something bigger I am supposed to glean, to understand, from this time in my life. And it's coming to me. I'm almost there. I know that when the dust settles and I look back on this time I will look back with clarity. I won't see things through the haze of uncertainty that clouds my days. I will know things that I can't know now. I will smile at how the enormity of it all threatened to swamp me at the time when in retrospect, it was just a moment in time.

But until that day comes, I'll keep writing it, and pressing save.

Because some things are not meant for publishing. Not just yet.

Friday, January 24, 2014

What I'm Reading: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

I started this book as my train pulled out of the station this morning.

In what felt like two minutes later, the train pulled into Grand Central, and I had to tear myself away from a story that gripped me and tugged me in from the very first page.

I haven't stopped thinking about it all day long, and am counting the minutes until my train ride home so that I can pick up where I left off.

And as soon as I get home this afternoon I am sitting down on the couch, and not getting back up until I have read straight through to the end.

There is something utterly magical about being absorbed in a book.

I can't believe I waited so long to read this one.

But I'm glad that I have it now.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

(Another) Snow Storm

Because I apparently can't get enough of posting snow pictures this winter...

I sat at my desk on Tuesday, waiting and waiting. The storm had started earlier than expected, and it was getting bad. Everyone at work was getting antsy, especially people who had to do more than just hop on a subway home. The hours dragged by, and still nothing. No e-mail from the head of the firm with that magical subject line: "New York office closing early."

And me? I wasn't worried about getting home, I assumed that I would make it somehow. I was mostly just excited about the possible early dismissal from work, the same way I used to be excited when school closed early for snow and an afternoon of snowball fights, snow angels, hot chocolate and cookies stretched before me like a long and endless road.

And then, at 2:15, it came.

And suddenly, I was ten years old again.

I packed up my stuff, put on my boots, and hit the streets. Everywhere I walked people were slipping and sliding and complaining about it. Bemoaning the seemingly interminable stretch of snow that we have been getting lately. But not me. I made my way to Grand Central on foot as the snow swirled. With nowhere to go in a hurry I took my time, enjoying the rare site of the city covered in white, snapping pictures all the way.

I guess I should probably be sick of it by now, but I'm just not. I'm a winter girl, and this is the best time of the year.

January 21, 2014.

Usually I can see New Jersey from my office window.
Not today.

Snow-covered 6th Avenue

Impassable 50th Street
(although it was fun watching a cab try)

Slippery 5th Avenue, South

Slippery 5th Avenue, North

Deserted Rockefeller Plaza

Driving Home. Can't See Lanes.

More than a foot

My favorite snowstorm view

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

This Is Romance

My alarm went off half an hour early this morning. I figured I would need a little time to help dig my car out of the snow and attempt to de-ice it so I could make it to work; a job that I don't mind under normal circumstances but that was distasteful at 6:30 on a freezing cold morning.

In the still-darkened room I reached for my phone to check my work e-mail, but there was no alert telling me that my Manhattan office was closed due to snow and subzero temperatures. I clicked on the MTA website to check on the trains, but it seemed that everything was running relatively normally, with only the regular delays that one would expect when mother nature gifts Westchester County with more than a foot of snow on a weeknight.

I put the phone back on my nightstand and it was about that time that I noticed I was alone in bed.

I went into the hallway where I stood in the darkness for a few seconds listening for the quiet rumble of the TV or the clicking of fingers on a keyboard - sounds that become commonplace, and even comforting, when you are married to a night owl. But the house was silent.

Figuring that David had probably spent most of the night toiling away in his garage workshop, I headed to the window to check on the weather and see how much snow I would have to contend with.

When I pulled up the shade, it took my brain a minute to register exactly what my eyes were seeing. A quiet street. Every house, car, sidewalk and driveway covered in an undisturbed blanket of snow.

Except for my own.

My own driveway was buzzing with activity. Both cars were cleaned off, and running. The entire thing had been cleared, top to bottom. And there, in the center of it all, stood my man, snow-shovel in hand.

I pulled a sweatshirt and sweatpants over my pajamas, threw on some boots and went outside. The frigid air stole my breath as I made my way down the completely clean and positively ice-free driveway. When I reached him and looked at his face - cheeks rosy and eyelashes frosty from hours outside in the cold - it hit me.

This is romance.

To me, romance isn't candle-lit dinners and surprise date nights. It's not moonlit walks on the beach or vacations to exotic destinations. Instead it's this. It's shoveling the driveway so I didn't have to. Warming up the car so the heat would be on when I was ready to leave.

It's stealing the last minutes of darkness before the sun rises, standing together in the cold as the stars disappear and night slides towards day. And it's bundling my freezing cold man into a blanket on the couch and making him coffee before I run upstairs to get dressed for work.

When I look back fifty years from now I may not remember every bouquet of flowers or every present we ever gave to each other. But I know, without a doubt, that for the rest of my life I will remember today, and these moments, when a regular winter morning suddenly became something extraordinary.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Early Morning Magic

It always seems like a good idea until the minute my alarm goes off. Or, until the minute I wake up five minutes before my alarm goes off. 

I have to get up right away, before my brain starts working. If my brain engages, even for a second, it's remarkably easy to talk myself out of morning exercise and close my eyes for another hour of sleep, and then the opportunity is lost. 

When I do get up, I'm always happy I did, but those first few minutes are always, always painful.

This morning wasn't an exception.

The alarm rang at 5:30. It was half an hour before I normally get up to exercise, but with my new-found discovery of spin classes, I wanted to catch a 6am class before work. So 5:30 it was.

I turned off my alarm as quickly as I could so David wouldn't hear it, and crept out of my room, eyes practically closed and hands full of the clothes I had laid out the night before. 

By the time I was awake enough for my brain to protest I was already in the car, backing out of the driveway in the darkness.

The first few minutes of the class were slow and sluggish, but as the music kicked up, so did I. I shook off the exhaustion, and for 45 minutes, I flew. 

I left the class feeling energized, as early morning exercise tends to do.

And when I pulled back into my driveway to rush inside and get ready for work, the sun was just starting to rise. So instead of rushing I got a cup of coffee, went back outside, and took these pictures.

Those first few minutes are always torture, but the rest of it? Not bad. Not bad at all.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Cycling With Soul

I went because I wanted to spice up my exercise routine. But mostly I went because the first time was free.

The room was pitch black but for a single candle on the floor, and even the excess light from the flame reflecting off the wall of mirrors at the front was soon obscured as the mirrors fogged up from the heat.

"Let me see your SOUL," boomed the instructor as he blasted the music so that the throbbing base seemed to shake the entire room.

"Let's RIDE," he said with a maniacal grin. "Everybody UP."

I followed the movement of the perky, ponytailed girl next to me who stood up on her bike in a fluid motion while maintaining a breakneck pedal speed. She made it seem as easy as a stroll through the park, while I held on for dear life and wondered when we would be able to sit down.

The answer seemed to be, never.

Within seconds sweat was dripping into my eyes and my legs were on fire. I am a runner and consider myself to be in reasonably good shape, but it was clear to me almost instantly that running shape and SoulCycle shape are wildly different.

"Speed it UP," yelled the instructor. "Turn up the INTENSITY," he screamed as the music sped up.

Muscles I barely knew I had were shaking and threatening to collapse, and a quick glance to my left told me that Perky Ponytailed Girl, damn her, was actually smiling as she reached down and gave her resistance a full twist to the right.

My vision blurred, my quick breaths caught in my chest, and I was dying of thirst, mostly because I was afraid that if I reached down for my water bottle I would take a header straight off the bike.

And through the fog of exhaustion and pain came my fierce vow to never do this again, along with a certain smugness born from the knowledge that I had managed to resist whatever addictive properties most of the world has found in the SoulCycle machine.

And then, the music slowed. The room grew darker as the candle was extinguished. In a voice barely above a whisper, the instructor told us to sit and close our eyes while we pedaled.

"Lose yourself," he said. "This is your moment. You can do anything."

I wanted to smirk at his platitudes, but I couldn't. The music arrowed through me and as I pedaled the pain and exhaustion of the class fell away. I found a rhythm and all of a sudden I felt like I could pedal forever and for one strange moment I wished that the class would never end. That I could stay in this hot and steamy room and ride this bike for the rest of my life.

Then it was over.

And as I joined the sweaty masses headed towards the door I was already thinking about when I could come back for more.

That I would have to pay for.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

College Friends. Forever Friends.

I remember it clearly.

First night of college. Common room. 40 girls sitting around, making small talk, and trying to pretend like everything about the night wasn't weird, awkward, and different. I sat towards the back of the room, observing the mayhem, and trying to figure out where my place would be among these strangers.

It happened practically without me even realizing it. Some of the girls sitting in that room, and some who had been sitting in other common rooms on other floors on that very same night, became my friends. And, over time, they became my family. The women who know my stories and who know me all the way through in a way that few people do.

Last Saturday night I drove into Manhattan to celebrate my thirty-first birthday with those women, the twelfth birthday of mine that we have all celebrated together. And as I sat around the table in a darkened restaurant all I could think about was how lucky I am to have them, and how grateful I am for the miraculous twist of fate that brought us together.

Today I am guest posting on The HerStories Blog, talking about college friends, forever friends, and the path that we all walk together. Head on over there and read my story, and check out some of the other great pieces on their website about female friendship in all its forms.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

When Weather Isn't Just Weather

I was sitting at my desk at work when the snow started to fall.

I'm usually a big fan of winter in general, and snow specifically, but when I saw those first flakes drift over midtown Manhattan I dropped my head in my hand and muttered, "what else?"

I had never really been one of those people who focused on the weather. I had preferences, to be sure, but I never complained much when the weather was crappy. When it rained I opened my umbrella, when it snowed I pulled on my boots, and I mostly took it all in stride.

But overnight, or, more accurately, over the course of nine days, I had become an entirely different person because of a hurricane and because of a house.

I had recently become a homeowner but I hadn't moved in yet. So I spent Hurricane Sandy away from my house and passed the time worrying and wondering. I worried about my new car in the driveway and wondered what would happen when the debris started flying. I worried that our basement was flooded and that our power was out. I worried that our roof was leaking or that a tree had fallen. I worried that after the storm our house would just be a pile of rubble, and then I hated myself a little for thinking that maybe if that happened we could just stay in Manhattan forever.

All of a sudden I felt vulnerable and exposed. The night of the storm it occurred to me that I didn't have a landlord to call if my power went out or something even more terrible happened. Weather was no longer just weather. Instead, it was an insidious beast sent from above to mess up my house and empty my bank account.

So when the snow started to fall a mere eight days after Sandy and only four days after we moved into the house I just piled new anxiety on top of old until I was a quivering mess.

By the time I got home that night half a foot had fallen. The roads were hideous and I found myself dreaming of underground subways and sidewalks that were someone else's responsibility to shovel.

When I pulled into my driveway I saw David in the garage, building our kitchen cabinets and practically oblivious to the fact that the apocalypse had clearly arrived. I was desperately jealous of him and his homeowner confidence when I was approximately five minutes away from staking a "for sale" sign in the front yard and fleeing back to the world of landlords and apartment living.

I didn't really want to go into the house alone, but I was freezing, so I reluctantly left David to his tools and trudged up the unshoveled driveway, one eye warily on the roof, and one on the tree with the branches bending under the weight of the snow, leaning precariously close to the power lines attached to my house.

And I wondered if weather would ever just be weather again.

After a huge snowstorm and days of subzero temps, I can honestly
say that a little more than a year later, weather is just weather once again.
And I love a good snowstorm, even if it might drop a tree straight onto my house

Monday, January 6, 2014

One Weekend: A Blizzard, A Birthday And A Snow Day

Sometimes the universe conspires to bring you exactly the right thing at exactly the right time.

This past weekend was proof of that.

All day on New Years Day I watched news of a big snowstorm that was headed for the Northeast and supposed to hit sometime between Thursday and Friday morning. No one was quite sure yet how much snow we would get; forecasters were predicting anywhere from nothing to over a foot. But by the time I went to sleep on Wednesday night, it was clear that we would be on the high end of that prediction. 

Since moving to the suburbs where I rely on a car to get around and park that car in a driveway, getting around in the snow is a little trickier than it was when I was living in the city. And I knew that if we got a foot of snow I wouldn't be able to move the car, the trains would be running on a weird schedule, if at all, and I would probably have to stay home on Friday instead of making the trek to Manhattan for work.

And I was kind of hoping that would happen. Because I love snow days as much as I did when I was ten years old and school closed down, and also because Friday was my birthday. And a birthday snow day would be the best present of all.

It was 7:00 Thursday night when the snow started to fall. And it fell, without stopping, for thirteen hours straight. And I was the person running around outside in boots and a sweatshirt capturing the scene as the snow piled up in my neighborhood.

8:00 pm: The Snow Begins

8:00 pm

8:00 pm

8:00 pm

Good thing we turned totally suburban and got ourselves a snow blower
before the storm hit

11:45 pm: Wind Kicks Up, Snow Still Falls

11:45 pm

11:45 pm

I set my alarm for 6:00 Friday morning, because if it turned out that the snow hadn't been as bad as they forecasted, and it turned out that I had to go into work, I figured I would need some time to clear off my car and get myself to the train station.

But that wasn't at all necessary. Because when I opened my front and back doors, this is what I found:

6:15am: A Foot Of Snow, It's Still Falling, And I'm Outside
Documenting It In My Pajamas

6:15am: A Sea Of White. Not a Plow In Sight. I'm As Excited As
I Was When I was 10 And School Was Cancelled

We were snowed in. And all of a sudden, I was a little kid again.

While I waited for David to wake up I did a little work, made snow day chicken soup, and answered my phone as birthday calls came in from all over the place.

Chicken Soup On The Stove For A Snowy Birthday

And when David finally woke up, we went outside to play.

The Best Homeowner In The World: Super Excited To Use
His New Toy

And To Toss Me Into The Snow As A Birthday Present

Snowy Selfie

 It was the best birthday ever.

Birthday Flowers From Great Friends

A little more snow clearing on Saturday night, and then we were off to the city for a birthday dinner and dessert at some of my favorite places.

Saturday Night: Handling The Rest Of The Driveway
Note The Glowing Red Light Of His Heated Jacket

Manhattan Birthday Dinner

And Dessert

My Nearest And Dearest

Cutest Dessert Restaurant Ever

College Girls

The snow stuck around all weekend, and I spent Sunday morning running through it as freezing rain fell from the sky.

Sunday Morning: A Snow Covered Running Path

Post Sunday Run: Rain and Sleet Edition

A blizzard, a birthday and a snow day.

A great, great weekend.

Friday, January 3, 2014

This Is Thirty-One

Today is my birthday. I am thirty-one.

A few months ago I wrote a post all about what it felt like to be thirty. And the truth is, reading that post back now, I realize that thirty didn't feel all that much different than twenty-nine. But for some reason, thirty-one is different. It feels significant in a way that thirty did not. Thirty gets a lot of fanfare, and thirty-one does not, but for me, this birthday is big. 

This is thirty-one.

Thirty-one is getting a blizzard and a foot of snow for my birthday, and loving every minute of it. It is drinking coffee on my couch while I watch the last flakes fall and being thrilled that I get both sun and snow on this day. It is being as excited for a snow day as I was when I was ten years old, and it is waiting for the streets to get cleared so I can head out for a snowy birthday run.

Thirty-one is celebrating my birthday with only my nearest and dearest. Thirty-one doesn't need a lot of fanfare. It just wants dinner in Manhattan, an amazing dessert, a fun drink or two, and my very best friends all sitting around the same table. It is realizing for what feels like the millionth time that these people I call friends are really my family, and that this path I walk would be impassable without them. 

Thirty-one is becoming a published author for the very first time. It is a feeling of incredible pride, having my essay in a book alongside those of writers and bloggers that I have admired for years. It is the honor of knowing that the hardest and saddest blog post I have ever written turned out to be one that is utterly relatable. It is learning that there will always be people who are critical of what I write, but understanding that this blog of mine is a place where I am safe to explore my most complicated thoughts and feelings and to be vulnerable. It is knowing that as long as I am being real and sensitive and truthful, it matters less and less what others think of me.

Thirty-one is being handed the toughest challenge of my adult life and making the decision to put my head down and forge straight ahead, rather than dwell on the "what-ifs" and the uncertainty of it all. It is knowing that I am doing the very best that I can, and that at some point you just have to let go and leap and trust that there will be a soft landing down there somewhere. Thirty-one is learning, over and over again, that sometimes the biggest choices are out of our hands and learning to be ok with that.

Thirty-one is missing my sisters every day now that they both live far away. It is having an amazing week with them at my house in New York and being confident that, despite the distance, we are just as close as we always have been. It is knowing with absolute certainty that they understand me better than anyone in the world, and that time with them is the cure for whatever ails me.

Thirty-one is walking the delicate line between appreciating what I have now and anticipating all that is still to come. It is trying hard to be present in these days and these moments, knowing that change is inevitable as time marches on.

Thirty-one is a home I love and a husband I love. It is friends and family and a life of meaning and purpose. It is struggle, but also happiness. It is reading and running, and doing the things that make me feel good. It is relishing the fact that life can still surprise in the most wonderful of ways.

This is thirty-one.

Today, I am thirty-one.

The Very Best Birthday Present

Thursday, January 2, 2014

New Years Day 2014

New Years Day dawned clear and cold. It was 10:30 by the time I dragged myself out of bed and pulled on running clothes. After a late night I was still pretty exhausted, and with visions of a warm blanket on the couch, vats of coffee and some kind of delicious breakfast, exercise was the very last thing I wanted to do.

But that didn't much matter.

Because certain traditions we keep, whether we feel like it or not. And a New Years Day run is one of my most sacred traditions. It is one I learned from my dad back in his long distance running days. He taught me to begin each year as I mean to go on. And I am a runner. So I start each and every year with a run. Not necessarily a long one, but just enough to breathe cold air as my muscles warm, to remind me of how much I love this solo sport.

And I love it most especially in the winter.

It was 27 degrees when I got in my car.

I could have run the streets of my neighborhood. It would have been easier, and wouldn't have required a car ride, but my Bronx River Pathway was calling me, pulling at me, so it was there that I went, and I was rewarded with this view, and this stunning winter sky:.

And even though I was tired, once I got going I felt great. My last mile was the fastest that I have ever run, so I think we're starting off the year exactly right. 

Happy (and tired) girl, post record-setting mile
When I got home the endorphins were still flowing, so I decided to hit the kitchen to bake a New Years Day treat. Behold, chocolate chip muffins, before and after. The recipe said it would yield twelve regular sized muffins, but sometimes you just need a giant muffin amiright? So I double filled the muffin tins, and well, happy 2014 to us.

Discerning eyes will count 5 here. I ate one before I remembered
to take the "after" picture. 
With my birthday tomorrow and a giant snowstorm on the way, I am loving this month already. 

Hope your New Years Day was equally delicious. Happy January!