Thursday, December 31st, 2009
I sat at a cafe and glanced down at an abandoned newspaper. The Lifestyle section had a column titled “Fifty Things We Learned in 2009″. I sighed. It seemed that everywhere I turned, the media was assembling synopses.
At first I thought the summaries bothered me because I am more comfortable looking ahead than I am looking back. Or it could be because I thought it was preposterous to try to sum up 365 days in one column or television segment.
But then it dawned on me. The reason I didn’t want to review the last year was because it was dangerous territory. If I dipped my toe in the water of nostalgia, I would likely be pulled in by the tide of gratitude. If I gave it just a little thought, if I put together the pieces of the last twelve months, I would see that I had a year overflowing with mind-blowing blessings. And I really needed to write a final paper for grad school today.
As I sat in the pew of my synagogue, mesmerized by Harrison’s d’var torah as he become a bar mitzvah, I knew it was a special year. A shy child become a bold man, looking his guests in the eye as he shook their hands, allowing himself to be body-passed over the dancing crowd, hugging me when he thanked me and Michael at the end of the night. It was a year of watching Olivia mature, too, as she generously handed her brother the limelight, and as she made fresh choices for healthy friendships. There was nothing like watching her ferociously face opponents on the basketball court, too.
My brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, sisters-in-law and parents astounded me with their bottomless well of love in 2009. They flew out to California for Harrison’s bar mitzvah, and filled the crowd at my book launch in Milwaukee. They called me and offered me support as I decided to leave consultancy and seek the next career move. Throughout the last year, they constantly told me words that still make me cry today: I’ve got your back.
It was a year of nieces. Sabrina moved in with us, and Stephanie spent after school hours with the kids every week. They both share their spirit, their humor, their zeal for life with our households. They are forbidden to leave the state. I’ve offered them incentives to lure their siblings to California.
This year I finally deeply understand the transitions my mom had the courage to go through in her own life, and I credit her with my strength and stamina. She was my first one to read my manuscript, she is my first call after a victory, and the first voice of support on a bad day. She held up my book at every one of her networking meetings, boasting about her daughter and selling books, and she scheduled my book launch in Milwaukee. Forget the woman behind the man. She’s the mom behind the woman.
Hikes with girlfriends and candid conversations were the highlights of my weeks last year. I am so fortunate to have friends who showed such unbridled enthusiasm when The New Jew was published, and their support for everything I do means the world to me.
My book tour gave me the unexpected bonus of spending time with friends I had lapsed with. They opened their homes to me when I stayed in their cities, feeding me, giving me vitamins when I was getting overrun from exhaustion. I felt nurtured and loved every time I travelled, and friendships have found second lives.
A surprise romance opened my heart to love in a new stage of life, and I am so very lucky. It’s different this time around – kids, schedules, careers and life’s daily bustle make it challenging to see each other sometimes, but I’m learning to integrate, and it is lovely.
It was a year with death. My brother-in-law Marshall passed away. I miss him very much. I don’t think I’ll ever see a smile like his again. I was stunned by the death of my friend Robert, a friend of mine from Larchmont Temple. When I was last there he took a photo of me that I loved so much, I use it on my Facebook author page. They, and others, are gone. But they are not forgotten.
It is confirmed – I cannot possibly summarize an entire year in an essay. For every sentence of gratitude I begin, ten more pop into my mind. How can I recall each pomegranate colored sunset over my deck, the cat’s smug expression from the sofa, the raucous games of Pictionary, the sound of the branches brushing my window, the taste of the best smoothie ever, the feel of my daughter’s hand in mine?
I have just one New Year’s resolution: to give back even half as much as I received last year.
Happy New Year.
Tuesday, December 29th, 2009
It is vacation time. The kids are on school break and I am enjoying the simple pleasures for the first time in a long time – sporadically anyhow. No planes to catch, no interviews to schedule, no books to send. It has been board games, making tissue paper flowers, challenging kids in scrabble and humiliating myself on Wii games in between interviews, meetings and final papers.
One of Harrison’s and Olivia’s biggest treats is reading past midnight. This has seriously cut into my opportunity for late night television, something I indulge in just a few times a year. So, when the kids left for Tahoe with Michael, I surrounded myself with DVD’s and munchies and ended the night with an episode of CSI: New York .
There are a few seductions to this show, and they all reflect a sampling of my fantasies: of being a detective, of having curls like Melina Kanakaredes’, of having a job with cool, high-tech gadgets, (more…)