Friday, February 28, 2014

Summer Dreaming On Such A Winter's Day

I think, I really think, that it will be winter for the rest of my life. And I say that as someone who loves winter.

But this winter is unlike any other. And I say that as someone who grew up in Pittsburgh, PA with its lake effect snow, and who went to college in Boston, MA and its frigid New England temps.

Today is the last day of February, daylight savings time starts next weekend, and we are a mere 20 days from the first day of spring. Yet the temperatures outside feel like negative numbers, and we are expecting another foot of snow on Monday.

And I think that if I have to shovel snow, or spread salt, or drag garbage cans to the curb through iced over snow drifts, or put on a wool sweater, or drag on boots one more time I might scream.

And it makes me feel bad, because winter and I have always been good friends. Maybe it comes from having a January birthday, but I have always loved the cold. I love being outside in it. I love soup and chili and cozy nights in front of the fireplace. I love ice skating and various other outdoor winter sports. I love running outside and breathing in frigid morning air. I love the way my house looks covered in snow.

I really love winter.

But those warm and fuzzy feelings are escaping me this year as the cold and snow drags on with no end in sight.

So I have decided that my winter ends now. Today. Yes, it may be freezing outside with more snow in the forecast, but I am pretending like that's not happening. For me, today is the first day of spring. The wild cheery Slurpee I just had said so.

I know that in a few months when it's dreadfully hot outside I'll be dreaming of colder days.

But for now, I declare winter over. 

Who's with me?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Bright Lights, Big City Memories

I thought it would take me forever to find a parking spot.

Four storms worth of snow had fallen and been plowed off of the streets up the Upper West Side of Manahttan and then iced over, causing four foot solid snow drifts to build up along the sides of West End Avenue, all but obliterating what little parking there was in the first place.

But, as luck would have it, someone was leaving a spot just as I passed 72nd Street, and I slipped my car in easily. So the extra half hour I left to find a spot before I was supposed to meet my friend for dinner was now mine to do with what I pleased. With more parking up in the 80s and 90s, I don't often find myself strolling in the 70s these days, now that I have moved to the suburbs and drive my car to get into the city on the weekends. It was oddly warm after weeks and weeks of seemingly endless subzero temperatures, so I decided to walk the 20 or so blocks to the restaurant instead of taking the subway.

I made the right turn onto 72nd Street and found myself standing in front of my old building.

The same weekend doorman was sitting at the front desk, and the same woman from the 14th floor with all the dogs let herself out and headed towards Riverside Drive, just as I saw her do every night over the years I lived in the building.

As I stood on the sidewalk in front of the building the treated me so well, a tide of memories washed over me. 

Going up to the apartment with David after our fourth date - seeing where and how he lived when I was already sure that he would be mine. Letting myself in with my own key after we had been together for awhile, watching his big TV on the couch and waiting for him to get home from work to watch with me. Getting engaged on that same couch just a few years later. Moving in officially just days after our wedding, and trying to fit both of our things into an apartment clearly meant for just one. Walking out of the building as dawn was breaking over the silent city, heading towards the park for my morning runs. More fun than fights. More laughter than tears. Packing up the apartment when we decided it was time to move on. Driving away towards our new life, trying to look backwards and forwards at the same time.

I waited to be sad, but I wasn't. I was something else. Something I can't pinpoint exactly, but that felt a lot like grateful. Grateful that I had the time I did on this street, and for the life that it gave me. That I lived in this incredible city long enough to make it my own. To know that even though I don't live here anymore, it will always be mine. 

Some people say that New York can be rough and it can be mean. And I guess sometimes it can. But it wasn't to me. When I first came here almost nine years ago for law school I thought it was temporary. A place I would come to live and to learn and then to leave. It never occurred to me that it would become home. New York gave me a life, a career, a husband and friends who are my family. 

I am forever grateful to New York.

And I'm grateful for whatever twist of fate moved us to a place where we can have the best of both worlds. Where can have grass and trees and endless closet space, but that is close enough to head into the city not just for work, but whenever we miss the crowds and the lights and the buzz of energy that suburban life just can't provide. 

And at the end of the night, even though we leave and head north towards our new home, the city will always be here for me when I need it, its lights gleaming in welcome.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

An Interview, A Department Store, And Some Very Expensive Shoes

When I got the call from Cardozo Law School asking me if I could come in for an interview that very afternoon, I figured that the gods of law school admissions were smiling down on me. 

I could have still been home in Florida for winter break, but the week before I had randomly decided to change my plans to detour through New York for two days before school started again. So when I got the call, I was sitting in my pajamas in my friend's living room on Long Island. 

The dean only had one slot available that day and I assured his secretary I would be there.

"But what will you wear?"

My friend's question burst my happy balloon as I suddenly remembered that I was on my way back to school with a suitcase full of jeans. A glance through her closet told me that we were nowhere near the same size, and a glance at the clock told me that I had approximately four hours to get to the interview.

Twenty minutes later I was on the Long Island Railroad speeding towards Manhattan. I deferred to my friend's expertise and headed straight for Macy's on 34th Street when my train pulled into Penn Station, where she assured me I could buy something presentable.

Standing in my underwear in a dressing room, surrounded by piles of discarded clothes, sweat slid down my back and my heart was beating fast and furious and I tried - and rejected - suit after suit.

With the interview drawing closer and visions of sitting in front of the dean stark naked racing through my head, I went out to the racks one last time. Having given up on the idea of a full suit, I headed for a rounder of skirts and pulled some out at random. I grabbed a handful of sweaters and ran back to the dressing room.

Once again, skirt after skirt ended up in the reject pile until there was only one left. It was brown and wool with a label that said Tahari, which didn't mean anything to me except that miraculously, the zipper slid up easily and it kind of matched one of the sweaters now sitting in a heap on the dressing room bench, so suddenly it was my favorite brand in the world.

Without a glance at either price tag I flew to the shoe department and circled the room four times before I finally found the one pair of brown heels in the store. They were Nicole Miller, which also didn't mean anything to me except that they fit and they matched and my interview was in 47 minutes, so I went straight to the check-out counter.

645 dollars, 30 minutes, a stop at Duane Reade for stockings, and a stop in a Starbucks bathroom to change later I walked into the dean's office.

Three weeks after the interview I got rejected from Cardozo.

But since I'm sitting in my law office wearing the skirt and the shoes right now, I figure I got my money's worth anyway.

Friday, February 21, 2014

So Much To Watch...So Little Time

I think I have taken exhaustion to entirely new levels this week.

I'm not talking about your normal, garden-variety tired. I'm talking a numb limbs, word slurring, unable to concentrate kind of exhaustion. The kind borne of night after night of very little sleep. Of late bedtimes, early mornings, and nary a nap during the day. When I sleep, I sleep like the dead, but unfortunately I haven't slept nearly enough.

And where, you may ask, can I place the blame for this sudden stretch of fatigue?

On a confluence of events so rare that it has never happened before, and may never happen again.

It all began a couple of months ago when Netflix announced that the season 2 of House of Cards would be released in all of its 13-episode glory on February 14th. Then I looked at the calendar and realized that February 14th was right in the middle of the 2 week-long Winter Olympics and happened to be just before the ice dancing and ladies individual competitions began - my most favorite Olympic sports. Soon after that, a glance at my DVR's upcoming recordings informed me that the week after House of Cards was released was also the week that American Idol went to its 3-episode a week format to choose the top-13 for the finals.

So what's a girl to do?

Well, at first I figured that we would just plow through all 13 episodes of House of Cards in a single weekend, thereby eliminating one arm of the television trifecta that was threatening to take over my life. The idea of a 13-episode binge, complete with sweatpants, snacks and dirty hair, filled me with glee in a way that only people who have experienced it themselves will understand. But pesky personal lives and various errands and responsibilities over the weekend sadly made that impossible. We were relegated to watching the episodes two or three at a time, thereby ensuring that the entire series would take us at least four or five days to get through. Unchartered territory for us, as we are champion binge watchers, but we were determined not to let it get us down.

When Monday night rolled around and we still had five episodes to go, I knew I was in for a doozy of a week.

I knew that not watching all 3 1/2 hours of the NBC prime time Olympics coverage the night it aired was a total non-starter. The idea of missing some unforeseen Olympic moment made my palms sweat and my severe Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) when it comes to pop-culture events simply wouldn't allow for such a thing. So the Olympics had to make the cut.

I guess I probably could have saved American Idol for this weekend once we were done with House of Cards and I had my entire Sunday free to do nothing but watch TV, but I knew that Twitter and my favorite American Idol recappers would give all the results away, and well, we couldn't have that, could we?

So I decided to watch them all, and my nights this week have gone something like this: 

Get home from work...rummage around in the kitchen to find something for dinner...take said dinner to the couch and commence Olympics coverage until David gets home from work...pause Olympics coverage when he gets home, make cursory "how was your day" conversation while he takes off his shoes and takes his place on the couch...hook iPad up to the TV for 2 episodes of House of Cards and sit in front of the TV with mouth hanging open because Frank Underwood did what??...Go upstairs to bed except don't actually go to sleep...Finish Olympics coverage...Prop open eyes with toothpicks and start the 2 hours of American Idol...Realize I have fallen asleep in the middle of a really bad performance...Rewind said performance anyway because don't want to miss a thing...Finally finish American Idol and turn off the light...Check phone only to realize that favorite AI recap has been posted...Fall asleep with phone in hand in the middle of the recap...wake up when my alarm goes off with phone still in hand...Get up and get dressed for work...

...And repeat.

Needless to say, I'm pretty tired. But honestly, it's the good kind of tired. The kind that tells you that you have really accomplished something great. Because smashing seven hours worth of TV into a single evening is no easy feat. It takes years of conditioning and training and an unrivaled love of TV, which we possess in spades.

By this time next week the Olympics will be over, we'll be done with House of Cards, American Idol goes back to its regular twice-a-week format, and I'll finally be able to get a little sleep.

Except, starting on Tuesday, all 25 of my shows that have been on hiatus these past few weeks will be back and my DVR will once again be entirely filled up, just the way I like it.

Who needs sleep anyway?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Park That Will Always Be Mine

I lived in New York for almost five years before I really discovered Central Park.

I knew it existed, of course. My friends and I spent Saturday afternoons lazing around the Great Lawn, every now and then we would go to a summer concert or outdoor movie, and the first fall that David and I were together we used to eat breakfast there on Friday afternoons. But the vast green space in the middle of this concrete-filled metropolis remained, for the most part, a mystery to me.

Every time I walked into the park I got hopelessly turned around. I could never figure out where I was, or how to get where I needed to be, and heaven help me if I somehow needed to cross the park completely from west side to east. I never remembered where the ice skating rink was or where I could find the tennis courts, and I though I knew that the Central Park Zoo existed in theory, I would have been hard pressed to tell anyone how to get there.

Three years ago on a whim, I signed up to train with The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Team in Training for a half marathon in Manhattan. I'm not quite sure what possessed me to do it, but one minute I was minding my own business pouring through some estate planning documents for a client, and the very next minute I was making plans to attend the first session of a thirteen week program. I had flirted with running before - having two marathoners for parents will do that to a girl - but I never got particularly serious about it. Nevertheless, on a cold November night in 2010 I made my way to the middle of the Central Park 72nd Street transverse to start my training.

And it was on that cold November night that Central Park became mine.

Over the next months I did every single training run on those roads, never venturing past the gates of the Park and into the city - the Park gave me everything I needed. Three or four times a week I would circle the roads with the army of runners that call Central Park home. I learned the routes and I knew every twist and turn and hill, and how to run three miles in any direction from my 72nd Street starting line. I took my first tentative steps on those roads, and, in time, steps became strides, and fear turned to confidence. I felt like I could run forever, as long as I was running in the Park.

And after the training was over, I couldn't stay away. I kept on running, and the Park became my home. Those loops and roads hold my secrets - the ones I whispered to myself in the middle of a ferocious ten mile run. They hold my laughs and my stories and even some of my tears. The Park became a part of me, and I a part of it. It is the place that has shaped me and made me and helped me find my way.

I don't live in Manhattan anymore and yet the Park still pulls at me.

Every time I am near it, I have to go in, even if only for a couple of minutes. And when I am there I see myself, running the loops, stretching by the 72nd street benches, running through rain, snow and blazing heat, nursing injuries, and running through highs and lows.

I may not live near it or run in it very much anymore, but it will always be mine. Because it was there that I found myself, and it was there that I became who I am.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

I Wasn't Such A Badass After All

I guess I should have been nervous as I made my way to the imaging center in Columbus Circle, but the truth is, I felt like a major badass.

It had all started a couple of weeks before when I felt a nagging pain in my left leg on a long run. I was halfway through my training plan for what would be my very first half marathon and feeling strong. An injury was definitely not on the schedule, so I did what any runner would do and pretended it didn't exist.

That worked until it didn't, and I finally convinced myself to go get it checked out.

I wasn't exactly jumping up and down at the thought of going to see an orthopedist, but I wanted to run in the race, so I got adult about it and called a doctor that came highly recommended.

A cheerful receptionist asked me to describe my problem, and when I told her it was a running injury she said, "Hon I think you would be better off with a sports medicine doctor who treats athletes like you," and rattled off a name and number.

Athletes like me? I'm an athlete?

And I started thinking that maybe this whole doctor thing wouldn't be so bad after all.

On the day of my appointment I sat in the waiting room of my brand new sports medicine doctor and looked around at all the lean, fit people, thrilled to be a part of such athletic company. When I got called back to the exam room and told the very young and very good looking doctor about the pain I had been feeling, he told me he thought it was probably shin splints and then spent 10 minutes talking to me about distance running and marathon training. It seems he was similarly obsessed, and similarly afflicted with shin splints.

"It happens to us runners. It's no big deal," he said.

Us runners.

I left the office with a prescription for an MRI to confirm his diagnosis and the distinct feeling that with this injury I had just joined a special club of runners.

I felt like I had arrived.

I was almost excited when I walked into the imaging center a couple of days later, expecting to once again be sitting among my fellow runners in the injury trenches.

I wasn't.

Frozen in the doorway, I took in the other patients scattered around the room. The elderly woman in the wheelchair with an IV pole attached to her arm. The frail young man, head criss-crossed with scars. The boy with casts on all of his limbs. The cluster of somber faced women - some without hair - sitting by the doorway marked "breast imaging." A doctor in a lab coat murmuring something to a crying woman.

I took myself and my running injury to an empty chair in the very back corner of the room and sank into it as my leg gave a dull, pathetic throb.

I didn't feel so badass anymore.

Friday, February 14, 2014

There Are Really No Words

So pictures will have to do.

Behold, yesterday's snowstorm, our attempt to clean it all up, and my attempt to get into the city for work this morning, before the sun rose.

I love the snow. Have always loved it. There is something completely fun and romantic about being snowbound, cozied up inside with movies and hot drinks as the flakes fall and the world turns quiet and white. 

But after 6 big storms in 2 months - not to mention the snow we're supposed to get tomorrow and again on Monday - I might be ready for spring. Besides, it can't snow anymore because, as you can see, we have absolutely nowhere left to put it.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Where A Morning Ritual Becomes Something More

As I stepped through the front entrance to the train station, the sign shone like a beacon in the darkness.

"Reunion Coffee"

I had, for the most part, been making coffee at home which, while satisfactory, didn't make me feel like a real suburbanite. In my mind, real suburbanites stopped for coffee on the way to work. They had a regular place they went and a regular order they didn't have to place because the barista already knew it. I observed evidence of this phenomenon dotting the train platform every morning, in the form of to-go cups in hands, while I clutched my paper hot cup, bought in bulk at Costco, feeling like an impostor among the more seasoned train-riders.

I was still getting used to moving my schedule an hour earlier to accommodate my commute, and mornings were tight, leaving no time for me to make an extra stop and still get to my train on time. So I figured, for the time being at least, I was stuck with my regular old homemade coffee.

One morning, just a couple of months into our suburban adventure, David needed my car for the day so he drove me to the train and dropped me off at the front entrance, which I had never used before. And when I walked through the automatic sliding doors, the glorious smell of coffee hit me in the face and the sign was the very first thing I saw.

Without even thinking about it I joined the line, and before long I was standing at the window where a smiling woman manned the cash register.

"What'll you have?" she asked.

I ordered a large coffee with skim milk and stepped to the side. Thirty seconds later the to-go cup was in my hand, and I made it up to the train platform with more than a minute to spare.

The next morning I was back in line, but this time I didn't have to order. I had barely reached the window when the cashier looked at me and said "large with skim?"

And so began my morning ritual.

Every day I paid a visit to that coffee shop, and spending thirty seconds with those smiling women who knew exactly what I wanted made me feel more like I belonged in this new place than all the synagogue new member baskets and the hundreds of "welcome to the neighborhood" visits and phone calls combined.

Just after New Years a sign informed us that at the end of January Reunion Coffee would be closing, having lost their bid to renew the lease.

And two weeks ago on their final day, as I expressed my disappointment along with my fellow patrons, it occurred to me that I have been here long enough now to be a part of all of this. The opening and closing of stores, the coming and going of people, the hustle and bustle of lives lived. This new town that is not so new anymore.

And the next day I started making my morning coffee at home again.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Two Years of Blogging

Two years ago today, I started this blog on a whim.

It was a Friday and I didn't have anything to do. I was staring out the window at the dreary, misty afternoon, when words started running through my head. This was not, at that point, an unnatural occurrence. For weeks, whenever I had a free moment, I found myself scribbling essays. I had legal pads filled with stories and sentences and thoughts and words, but I didn't know what to do with them until that Friday afternoon.

I created a bare bones blog and in just a few minutes I had emptied my head of the words that had been filling it and, for the very first time, pressed publish. And it was thrilling. It didn't much matter to me that only 10 people read my first post, and that seven of those people were related to me either by blood or by marriage.

Suddenly I had a voice.

At first, this blog was a fun way to write and to be read, if only by a (very) few people. But over the past year, during my second year of blogging, it has turned into something else entirely. Writing on this blog has given me a way to process what is in my head before I am even aware that it is there. It gives me a way to say the things I want to say, when spoken words are too difficult to find or not nearly enough. It helped me through a traumatic movethe end of a friendship I thought would last forever, and other tough stuff. It has been a way to celebrate old friends and best friends, and say thank you to new friends for welcoming us in. It has been a way to mark change, both hugely significant and quietly important. It has been a way to document things I never, ever want to forget. It has been a way to celebrate family, and it has even been a way to celebrate myself, as things change, and as time marches on.

This blog has given me opportunities over the past year that I never could have dreamed of. Things I have written here have won contests and then won again. My words have been read by more people than I ever thought possible. And I had the absolute honor of having the hardest words that ever came out of my head published in a book alongside the most beautifully talented female writers I have ever had the privilege to read.

As I prepared to publish this post - my 377th one - I found myself looking back at my archives and re-reading some of my old posts. I laughed a little and cried a little and cringed a little, but realized that one thing is absolutely true. I am proud of what I have created here in this place, and this blog is a piece of myself that I would be lost without.

Thank you a million times to the incredible writing community I am lucky enough to call my own, and to you all, for coming back day after day to read the words I suddenly can't stop writing.

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Magic of The Library

White Plains, NY Public Library

"Amid the hectic pace of our lives, a library is like a comfy chair in front of a cozy fireplace on a wintry day, where people of every age and status can sit down and feel like they've come a world without boundaries, to the world of books"

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Blue Underwear

"Wear nude underwear. Not white. White will show through your pants and dresses, and no one needs to see that," said Mrs. Tyler as she stood behind the podium at the front of the cavernous auditorium.

At other schools it may have been strange for a science teacher to lecture a room full of students on the color of their underwear, but not at my school. At my high school, this was the assembly everyone waited for. The one where a much-loved teacher lectured seniors on the dress code for graduation. There were no caps and gowns at my southern private school. Instead, there were white dresses and gloves for the girls and white pants for the boys. And nude underwear for everyone, apparently.

I slouched in my seat somewhere in the middle of the room trying to be as invisible as I felt. This assembly didn't apply to me.

I didn't need to know what color underwear to wear to graduation because I wouldn't be going to graduation, not by choice, but by circumstance.

My high school graduation took place on a Saturday morning, and as an orthodox Jewish Shabbat observer - the only one in my high school class of 186 - I wouldn't be able to attend. There was nothing wrong with sitting at the ceremony on Shabbat of course, but since I couldn't drive to the school, be in any pictures, or even carry my diploma from the stage back to my seat, that plan was rife with complications.

Early in my senior year my parents and I approached the school's board of trustees to ask them to consider changing the day of graduation. But this was the south, where tradition was everything and progress moved at a snail's pace, so the board barely even considered our request before telling us no.

They said "this is the way it has always been." And they meant "this is the way it always will be."

And that was that.

When Mrs. Tyler finally said all she could about underwear and called the assembly to a close, the room still buzzed with excitement as everyone discussed graduation, dresses, and the rapidly approaching end of finals. The festivities were a mere two weeks away, and I couldn't help but feel like every day until then would be one more reminder that I was - and always had been - on the outside looking in at this school.

With nowhere to be for the rest of the day, I got up and quietly walked out of the auditorium, straight to my car, every step taking me closer to the day I could leave high school behind and move on to a place where people understood me. Accepted me. Were more like me.

And on graduation day, while the rest of my class sat outside clad in white, I sat in my synagogue with my family, wearing blue underwear.

Just because I could.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Five Superbowl Moments

It's not that I'm not a football fan. I really, really am. I grew up in Pittsburgh, and I practically bleed black and gold. I spend every Sunday during football season in front of the TV watching games, I had a fantasy team this past season, and I read Peter King's Monday Morning Quarterback column religiously.

When I turn on the Superbowl I'm not thinking about commercials and halftime shows. I'm thinking about football. I actually like to watch the game, whether the Steelers are in or not.

But last night's game was something else entirely.

I was pumped before kickoff. Since the game was in New Jersey, media week was centered in Times Square, a mere 8 blocks from my office, so there was a buzz in the air all week. There were players and celebrities roaming the streets of midtown, and during the hours of pre-game I watched on Sunday the landmarks captured by the areal coverage were ones that I see every day.

I made dinner, and parked myself in front of the TV for what was billed as a showdown of the number one offence and the number one defense in the league, battling it out for the Lombardi trophy. Except it wasn't that. Not at all. By the end of the first quarter I was bored. By the end of the first half I was contemplating going to sleep and skipping the rest of the game.

But the thought of going to sleep and missing something epic like last year's blackout, or Peyton Manning staging some kind of miraculous comeback kept me wide awake. Because there is almost nothing I hate more than missing out on a pop-culture event and having to read about it the next morning. I like my pop culture live, thank you very much.

Well, nothing like that happened. The Broncos never came back. The commercials weren't that great (except for this one, which is brilliant), The Seahawks flew themselves to victory. People got mad that public transportation was crowded. There was an amusing sign on the stadium scoreboard asking people to stay in the stadium until the New Jersey Transit station platforms had cleared off.

So, Superbowl 38 is in the books. What will I remember from the game? Probably not much.

Well, a few things.

Like these.

Guys, 24 is coming back. Did you hear the clock?

Jack. Chloe.

#JackIsBack. Can. Not. Wait.

How can I become the person who looks up these arcane facts?

Poor, sad Peyton Manning (said in the drippingly sarcastic tones of a
Steelers fan born and bred to loathe the Mannings and everything
about them)