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.
Wednesday, October 7th, 2009
I am back from my Chicago trip. It was one of those experiences where I was so many places at once – in my head, anyhow. Eckhart Tolle would not have been impressed.
There were many triggers to my past, starting with the air. The atmosphere in the Midwest is different from the air in California – particularly the crisp, autumn air that welcomed me every day in Chicago. One step outside the door and I was transported to the mounds of fall leaves my siblings and I used to take a half-hour to pile high, only to destroy them with jumps, stomps, and raucous throws.
Staying with my friends, Adam and Joyce, and their 18-month old brought me back to my days as a young mother, nurturing toddlers. The sentimental side of me idealized the loveliness of living life with a little one, their little hands grasping mine, (more…)
Friday, September 25th, 2009
I awoke this morning to a thick shroud of fog enveloping my house. For nearly a week now I’ve awakened to fog. My house sits high on stilts, overlooking the land, communing with the treetops that neighbor it. We are equals, the trees and I. Like a child who finally reaches eye level to his parents, I feel lucky to look so squarely into the branches of my trees.
But today the branches were mere silhouettes, and the city, the view from my windows, was concealed behind a milky white sky.
Recently a friend asked me if I liked the fog. ”Like it?” I answered. “I love it!” It brings me back to my suburban childhood in Milwaukee, where fog was a rare experience. I remember looking out my window to see our quiet street to see it blanketed in gray. (more…)
Friday, September 11th, 2009
I have a birthday coming up in two weeks. This seems significant to me at this moment, as I sit in a dorm room at UCLA for a writer’s conference. Because it strikes me that, the older I get, the more I stay the same.
Take tonight, for instance. I am alone in my room, two twin beds divided by a low bureau, a desk on either side of the beds. I am stretched out in my sweats, my laptop on my legs, books strewn all about me. I am working on a final paper for grad school. When I was an undergrad, I would have been sitting at my desk, clacking away on typewriter keys, but the scene is otherwise identical to my undergrad days.
Shockingly, so are my thought processes. (more…)
Thursday, August 13th, 2009
It almost seems too sacred and private to share in a blog. Yet, I know no other way to express my sadness than to write about it. And knowing that we all connect through our experiences, I believe this eulogy will resonate with people who have suffered the loss of a loved one.
My beloved brother-in-law, Marshall, died yesterday. He was my sister-in-law’s husband. He was everyone’s best friend. We were not shocked by the loss. He had fought an incredible battle with cancer, and more than tripled the life expectancy the doctors gave him. Yet, I can’t quite grasp that I will not see that big smile of his again. Or hear his quick wit.
The thing about Marshall (as if there were one thing) is that his smile was his baseline expression. When he entered a room, he didn’t do so in a grandiose way – he did it in a joyous way, which is why his smile seemed permanent. It was as if he was getting a perpetual kick out of life. (more…)