Thursday, July 31, 2014

Family Weekend

We're hitting the road tomorrow. Well, the sky actually. 

Early in the morning we're boarding a flight that will take us to Cleveland for our kind-of-annual August family weekend. And by kind-of-annual I mean we did it last year, and we're doing it again this year.

All eleven of us will be there, and I will spend the next five days smothering my nephew and both of my nieces with love.

There is also another Brinn family photo shoot in the works. You might remember this goodness from last year:

Well come Monday, you'll be seeing it again, although with all of us one year older and plus one baby. We think it will be fun to document whole family every summer as we keep growing and as time marches on.

And anyway, nothing says summertime like August in Cleveland, right?

I'll be back in a few days with stories, tales, and lots of pictures of the kiddos.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

This Time Is Different

"And yet I can't shake the feeling that there is something bigger going on this time; something profound lurking in the violence and hostility against Israel and the response to it about what this means for the State of Israel, for all of us living a Jewish life, and for our future. I can't help but think that we are living a moment in Jewish history right now that we will tell our children about, and they theirs."
 I'm back on the Times of Israel writing about why this war with Hamas is different from all of the other wars. Head over and read the article here.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Summer Sunday Funday: Annual BBQ Edition

Ya know, to keep the kiddos entertained

And entertained they were. Especially when the hose came out.

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Brilliance of New York

"The brilliance of New York was the seamless blend of public and private, together and alone. Everybody was really, really busy -- which meant no one had time to worry about what anyone else was doing. Everybody was different, which meant no one was... You could ride the subway with a thousand other people, cried into a space too small for secrets, and feel absolutely anonymous, blissfully alone. You could be as quiet or as loud as you liked, engage in the world or detach completely, and New York would go on in a liquid stream around you, supporting your decision with the endless buoyant swell of an ocean." 
-Jenny Feldon, Karma Gone Bad

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

This Is How We Have Fun

There is a lot of badness going on in the world, friends.

Terror, war, planes being shot out of the sky, a trip back to the stone-age when it comes to women's health, and the list goes on.

It's bleak, I know.

So I think a little levity is in order, right?

Last week. Thursday night. I'm sitting on the couch minding my own business, when I see something move out of the corner of my eye. Now, living in a house that is almost 100 years old, as I do, I assume we've been infiltrated by a poltergeist or some such thing.

But fear not. The cause was something far less sinister.

This is how we amuse ourselves on Thursday night:

But Double the robot is not just for fun. For David, it's an incredibly useful business tool. So useful, in fact, that the company stopped by his office a couple weeks ago to interview him on the use of robotics in his everyday business.

Behold, my business mogul in action:

I hope you have something similarly great to entertain yourselves during these bleak times but if not, come on over to our place. The robot will let you in the front door.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Times of Israel

I wrote a post last week about Israel that I care about, very deeply.

The response to the post has been nothing short of amazing, and today, it got even better.

Because this morning, that piece was published on Times of Israel, a website that I respect and where I get most of my Israel news, particularly these past few weeks.

So head on over and check me out, byline, headshot, bio and more.

Friday, July 18, 2014

"...may He bless the fighters"

Tel Aviv, Israel
April 2014

Yesterday I wrote a post about Israel. It was, for me, one of the most important posts I have ever written. It was one that I took great care with, and one that had been writing itself in my brain, the words arranging and rearranging themselves, for almost two weeks. 

And when I was done with it I read it over and over again and then I finally pressed publish. And after I did I clicked on some news sites to catch up and I saw that, as I was writing my words, the Israeli government had made the decision to launch a ground assault against Hamas, and as I put my words out into the ether, thousands of Israeli soldiers were mobilizing at the border, getting ready to march into Gaza.

And so last night and today and as long as the IDF soldiers continue to fight on the ground, Jews around the world will do what we do when there is nothing left to do. We will gather together in our synagogues and in our homes, in our communities and on our streets. And we will close our eyes, and we will pray. We will pray for the security of our country and the safety of our soldiers, the comfort of our religion and the strength of our people.

And this is what we will say:

He Who blessed our forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob -- may He bless the fighters of the Israel Defense Forces, who stand guard over our land and the cities of our God, from the border of the Lebanon to the desert of Egypt, and from the Great Sea unto the approach of the Aravah, on the land, in the air, and on the sea.
May the Almighty cause the enemies who rise up against us to be struck down before them. May the Holy One, Blessed is He, preserve and rescue our fighters from every trouble and distress and from every plague and illness, and may He send blessing and success in their every endeavor.
May He lead our enemies under our soldiers’ sway and may He grant them salvation and crown them with victory. And may there be fulfilled for them the verse: For it is the Lord your God, Who goes with you to battle your enemies for you to save you.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

A Land and a People: Fighting For Our Very Survival

I tried to stay above the fray these past few weeks. To keep my beliefs to myself. To think my thoughts and have my opinions, but to have them quietly. Because the truth is, part of me felt like maybe I didn't have a right to speak out from my safe and sound American Jewish existence. That my opinions were somehow less-than because I was giving them from a house in New York instead of from a bomb shelter in Israel where I was taking cover from terrorist-fired rockets.

But then this morning I read that 13 Palenstinian terrorists were caught trying to infiltrate Israel through a tunnel with the sole purpose of attacking Israelis, I read the millionth New York Times article that began with some form of "children were killed in Gaza today by Israeli airstrikes," and I saw this completely irresponsible illustration comparing casualties in Israel and in Gaza without a single explanation for the difference in numbers.

And I remembered something. I remembered that the Jewish people alive today are the first generations that have been blessed with the creation of the State of Israel. For two thousand years we wandered and we lived on land that belonged to other nations. We prayed and we hoped and then, in 1948, the State of Israel was proclaimed. The very next day the surrounding Arab states attacked the new Jewish homeland.

And here we are. Sixty-six years later and once again fighting for our land. For our very right to exist as a nation and as a people. 

And we are all but alone.

Pick up nearly any newspaper in wide circulation or log on to nearly any news website and you will see what I see. That the level of anti-Israel sentiment in this country has risen to a frightening level. Israel is constantly touted as an aggressively violent state that is engaging in a unilateral slaughter and Hamas is painted as a group leading an oppressed people who are dying in droves at Israel's hands.

It is true that there are a lot of civilians dying in Gaza. And it is also true that some of the deaths are children. Young ones. That is a terrible thing and I promise you that any sane supporter of Israel acknowledges this. But those same people will also tell you that we need to be clear on who is to blame for those deaths.

You see, this is not an ordinary war. Israel isn't fighting a country with an organized military and rational objectives. Hamas is a terrorist organization that will stop at nothing to get what it wants; the eradication of the Jewish people and destruction of the State of Israel.

And so they shoot rockets into Israel with increasingly long ranges, they bury missiles under the buildings where their children go to school, they build tunnels to smuggle weapons, they urge their people to act as human shields to raise the body count, they fire their rockets from densely populated areas, they refuse to honor the terms of a cease fire, and they leave civilians out in the open while the commanders flee to the underground bunkers.

And Israel defends itself, just like any other country would. But before the Israel Defense Force launches its weapons it places phone calls to civilians in Gaza warning them of imminent attacks on the area, giving them time to flee. It drops leaflets telling civilians to keep a distance between themselves and the Hamas commanders, who are the targets of the Israeli strikes. It calls off airstrikes when the pilots spot large groups of civilians. It makes a herculean effort to engage in pinpoint strikes to military targets, minimizing harm to civilians as much as possible. And it puts off launching a ground invasion as long as possible, until it becomes clear that one is absolutely necessary.

It is not Israel's responsibility to take care of the civilians in Gaza, and yet it does, because Israel values life; the lives of its citizens and the lives of its enemies. The Israeli government makes sure that there are enough bomb shelters to safeguard its citizens when the Hamas rockets come flying. The country has invested time and money into a missile defense system that can not be called anything but a miracle. The army makes sure the citizens of Israel are prepared for threats and know what to do and where to go when those threats are imminent.

So to those of you who really and truly believe that the fight is unfair, that Israel is somehow oppressing the people of Gaza, I ask you, what would make it fair? Would you be satisfied if Hamas managed to kill one hundred Israelis? Two hundred? Would that somehow make this a balanced war? Would you be satisfied if Israel stopped its airstrikes and powered down the Iron Dome to let the barrage of missiles from Gaza pound the country unabated?

An entire group of people in this country and in the rest of the world have somehow gotten the mistaken impression that if Israel would only lay down its weapons, this whole pesky conflict would just go away. I guarantee you, Israel wants nothing more than to stop fighting, but unless Hamas and the rest of the Arab world will do the same, we are where we are.

I have been to Israel many times. I have strolled the streets of Jerusalem and prayed through tears at the Kotel, the Western Wall. I have stood on the top of a mountain and watched the sun set over the country while strains of Kabbalat Shabbat, the prayers welcoming the Jewish Sabbath, drifted out of a nearby synagogue. I have been to the graves of our forefathers and mothers in Chevron and Beit-Lechem. I have walked the same paths traveled by generations of Jewish people and I have felt their presence keenly. It is in Israel where spirituality is tangible. Where I understand that I am but one link in a chain that binds me to the ones who came before and the ones who will come after; to a people with a rich history and a future that we will stop at nothing to secure and protect.

And so we fight. We fight against terrorists who wish us to death and who want blood. The blood of my friends. The blood of my family. The blood of my people. We fight to safeguard our country that was built with hardship, sweat and tears so that Jews the world over could have a place to call home. And we fight because not fighting means ceding Israel to the people who wish to destroy it and we will never, ever allow that to happen.

Call me a Zionist or call me right-wing. I assure you I am both of those things. I am also a Jewish person living in a world where it has become startlingly difficult to tell the difference between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism and I believe with every fiber of my being that having a strong Jewish state is the only way to assure that we will always be protected. Israel is our homeland, our security, and our future.

And we will defend it; today, tomorrow, always.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A Friendship Forged In Big Law

2011. September. Monday.

I had been working in Big Law for a month, in an office on the 26th floor of a midtown Manhattan high-rise. Since my first day that office was mine alone, but that was about the change. Because this was the day I would be getting an office-mate. 

The "office-mate" is an interesting Big Law phenomenon. The firm takes an office that really is meant for one person and shoves in a second desk and chair and some extra shelves, and asks two virtual strangers to share the space for an indeterminate amount of time while working ridiculous hours under unbelievably stressful deadlines. The office-mate stories rival freshman year of college roommate stories in that the pairings are rarely just ok, but are generally either a complete match made in heaven or an absolute horror show.

I didn't know who she was, but I knew her name because a couple of days before someone from maintenance had come around and added it to the little sign outside the door. And I knew when she was arriving because I was told to move all of the files that I had been storing for the past few months on the empty desk that would be hers.

And then she was there.

Sometimes you meet someone, and just click. You know what I mean. It's like you have been friends forever even though you have only known each other for approximately 45 seconds. It was like that for us. Within a couple weeks we knew all about each other's families and about each other's lives. She became one of my most loyal blog readers. We had endless things in common. We told secrets we hadn't told anyone else, save for our significant others. We shared. A lot.

I was there when she got engaged and she was there when I got the call that my sister had a baby, making me an aunt for the first time. I danced at her wedding and she came to my house for Jewish holiday meals. We helped each other with some tough stuff and I'm not sure I would have made it to the other side without her there to see me through.

We don't share an office anymore, both of us having moved up and into our own, but we're the same as we always were. Not work friends. Real friends. Our friendship may have been forged in the crucible of Big Law, but it will no doubt last long after we have taken our leave of these high powered halls.

And today. Today a bunch of us got together to celebrate this amazing girl and incredible friend and send her off in style as she heads out on maternity leave.

Thanks for everything, A, we'll miss you on the home front. Wishing you months of happiness, love and excitement, and a beautiful and miraculous baby.

Monday, July 14, 2014

This is Summer. This is Home.

It's not an exaggeration to say that I have never loved a summer quite like I am loving this one. The long, hot days and short, sultry nights. Meals eaten outside. Sandals and sunscreen. Time spent in the outdoor space we made and love so much.

And it's not just because winter was a beast, even though it was. It's also because these months of heat and light and fun have rejuvenated us in a way we both hoped for and desperately needed.

We are happier and healthier and hopeful. 

And we owe it to summer.

The other day I drove home with the windows down, singing along to old school Dixie Chicks on the radio. And when I pulled into the driveway David was laying on the couch outside, waiting for me. I had groceries to put away and dinner to make but I did neither of those things. Instead I sat with him in the last minutes of sunlight while he played music and we talked about our days and about nothing at all.

At one point I looked up and the clouds that had hung around for most of the day were breaking. In their place, the sky had taken on a pink hue that got deeper and darker as the sun started to set. 

And then the sun disappeared and the sky grew darker but we stayed just where we were. And as the crickets started singing their summer tune I looked up at my house standing tall and over at my good man sitting next to me and I felt something I hadn't in a long time.


For these moments. For this life. For home. For family. For all that is mine.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Throwback Thursday: That Time I Was A Soccer Player

Me, circa 1988.

I remember it like it was yesterday.

An orange jersey. Shin guards. White cleats.

My dad running up and down the sidelines cheering me on, encouraging me to go get the ball, to get in on the action.

Me, far more interested in whether my braids were straight and in keeping my shoes clean than trying to kick a soccer ball.

Turns out team sports were never my thing.

Plus, orange was never really my color anyway.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

When A Family Grows (Again)

Sixteen months ago a family of nine became a family of ten.

Mom, dad, two sisters, two brothers, David, me, and a tiny girl and boy who aren't so tiny anymore.

And yesterday.

Yesterday afternoon Sister L had a baby girl we are all already in love with and ten became eleven.

My baby sister is a mom.

Mazel tov Sister L and R.

Our hearts are full once again and our arms are around you both and that gorgeous babe.

Monday, July 7, 2014

It's Always Been Reading and Writing For Me

My parents came to visit me for 4th of July weekend.

Whenever they come to New York they always come with a car full of stuff, mostly the results of the Costco trip my dad takes for me since I rarely find myself with time for that particular errand. This makes me lucky. I know that for sure.

This time, along with a massive bottle of olive oil, a huge container of strawberries and a 6-pack of hearts of romaine, came four boxes of my stuff that had, until this past weekend, been residing in my parent's basement. The boxes were mostly filled with school books from my various high school, college and law school classes, but there were some gems to be found as well.

Like the shoe-box filled with ticket stubs, letters and various other mementos from my college days. Or the pictures of a much younger me with various grandparents. Or the ketubah from my wedding which is actually not so much a gem as it is a really, really important document that I thought I lost, which would be very, very bad.

And buried among all those things was this book I wrote when I was eleven. I had forgotten all about it, and I still can't remember the exact circumstances under which it was written and bound, but when I dug through the boxes, there it was, wedged between a Constitutional Law textbook and a well worn copy of Huckleberry Finn for tenth grade English.

And in the front cover I wrote an inscription to myself, starting off with the phrase "I love to read!" Which I did. And I do.

I don't often think of myself when I was little, but every time I do, I get a comforting reminder of how the me that I am today was grown from the me that I was back then. It's not an accident that I turned out to be exactly who I am. It's been more than twenty years since I wrote that little book and the inscription on the inside cover, but barely anything has changed. It's still reading and writing for me, and I think, somehow, that it always will be.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Throwback Thursday: What a Difference Five Months Makes

I love a good snowstorm as much as anyone, but honestly...

February 2014

July 2014

February 2014

July 2014

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Today Is Somebody's Birthday...

Once upon a time, a little more than seven years ago ago, my younger sister set me up on a blind date. I was in law school, it was finals time, but I went anyway.

We met at a cute little cafe on Broadway and sat at a table outside under the heat lamps that had been set up to ward off the early April chill. He was blond, blue-eyed and incredibly good looking, he told me a story about seeing a man get hit by a bus that made me laugh until I cried, and we shared a 10 block stroll back to my apartment building and a good-bye befitting a really good first date.

Well, a couple years later I married that blond-haired, blue-eyed man. We've been together for seven years - married for almost four - and it's been a lot of things, but mostly? It's been fun. Really fun. 

And today is his birthday.

So, in honor of the auspicious occasion of his birth, and in celebration of the day that this world went from being a place without David Merel to a place with David Merel, I present to you a pictorial history of seven years of fun.

It was spring when we met, summer when we
knew this was something serious. Something big.

We spent that first summer and fall exploring NYC
and eating Friday morning bagels
in the gazebo by the Central Park lake.

We got engaged...

Got married

Took some trips


Bought a house

Remodeled a kitchen

Built some robots

Played with some technology 

Built a deck

That once looked like this...

And now looks like this.

Learned to grill

Played dress-up. Superheros, natch.

Watched lots and lots of TV

Turned our house into Star Wars for Halloween

Survived a Polar Vortex

And the snowiest winter of all time

Made a living room outside for summer

Where we sit, even in the pouring rain.

Discovered suburban outdoor, river-side dining

Took some convertible rides, because we're just that cool

Turns out, we're the lucky ones.

But we've always known that.

Happy, happy birthday David, my hilarious, unique and most interesting man. 

Here's to a lifetime more.