Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Boots

I've been thinking about the Boots. It started before I went to see Love, Loss and What I Wore.
The play is another act of brilliance on the part of Nora and Delia Ephron, a must see for women. If you're like me you'll leave thinking about your own list of what you wore.

The lemon yellow A line dress with the mandarin collar, puff sleeves and white piping my mother made for me. I wore it on our class trip to the Metropolitan Opera to see Tosca. My white Go Go boots that I couldn't afford in real leather and made my feet sweat but I wore anyway because they made me feel so cool. The purple suede Hobo bag I thought I might die if I did not own that my brother bought me one Christmas at A&S. The hand painted tuxedo shirt I bought at the end of a trip to Aspen that I never wore once but could not throw out, certain the right occasion would manifest. The zebra Capri pants that I was told only I could pull off that my dry cleaner managed to lose.

But mostly I have been thinking about the Boots.

The Boots have been with me for the better part of the last two decades. They have lived in Philadelphia and DC. They moved back to New York with me. They have walked in snow in Aspen, Vail, Jackson Hole and Lake Tahoe. They have seen every major snowstorm in whatever city I was living in at the time. They have fallen in love and out of love. They have caused people to stop me and ask where I got them. They have provoked looks of disdain and looks of longing.

I have been thinking about the Boots for the last two weeks. Ever since that first big snow. I put them on and heard a flapping noise. The gum sole had pulled apart from the boot. Again. I had tried to repair them twice. Each time the glue managed to seep inside making them smaller and tighter. This time I knew. The Boots had seen their day. It was time. I was going to have to let go of them.

As the play suggests, clothes for women are generally more than the article themselves. They contain history. They evoke how they make you feel when you wear them. And when I wore the Boots I felt safe.

They were always a struggle to get on. No zippers. And a struggle to get off. But once on they were like wearing bedroom slippers only much cooler and much sexier. My feet were warm and dry, no matter the elements.

I bought my Tecnicas in Bloomingbirds in Aspen. I think it was 1991 but I can't be sure. There was a lot that was outrageous about buying them at the time. The price for one. But when my feet were comfy inside, the world looked a bit different.

I am not sure I can really throw them out. Maybe. I've had so much change the last year and a half I am not sure I am ready to let go of one more thing. Perhaps I can just store them in a box in the back of the closet for a while until I get used to my new ones. But then that's the other thing. Where am I going to find a replacement pair? Or will I?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Silver Aluminum Tree: A Christmas Story

I think it started the year we got the aluminum Christmas tree. Artificial trees were in vogue in the early 70s. My mother had enough of cleaning up pine needles all the way to August. She seized the opportunity and bought one. Silver. She always liked to be a little different so she chose silver.

I was appalled. I was old enough not to believe in Santa anymore so I didn't care about being naughty or nice. I voiced my dissent but it didn't matter. I had been outvoted.

Christmas was never the same for me after that. In fact, ever since I have been seeking the magic of Christmas before the silver tree invaded the living room.

Christmas was a big deal in our house. No matter what our financial situation was my parents managed to have the foot of that tree overflowing with presents. My mother started baking weeks before. It seemed that every day I came home to the aroma of buttery cookies or sweet bread. Our little apartment was filled with Santa Clauses and Snow Men, the windows trimmed in colored lights.

For years our parents had us fooled that the bells from Mom's Christmas apron was really Santa making a quick stop in the living room. I caught on to Dad sneaking the presents in from the garage one Christmas Eve, but kept it to myself. My brother deserved a few more years before the spell of Santa was broken.

And then there was the family. Dad being one of five and Mom one of seven filled our home with our big fat Greek family. Before the silver tree we all exchanged gifts. Christmas morning Dad would pile my brother and I into the car while Mom got dinner started. We traveled the Brooklyn Queens Expressway making stops, dropping off gifts and oohing and ahhing at each relative's tree until we came home to the smell of lamb roasting in the oven.

I complained about that tree for years. Christmas trees were green. Bells were silver. No one paid any mind.

It was never the same after the year of the fake tree. Christmas was still fun, filled with family, food, laughter and gifts but it wasn't the same. And each year it changed more. Yes, there were certain traditions kept, usually having something to do with the food served. But it shifted a bit more each December. People passed. Some moved away. Families expanded. Seeing everyone over a two day period became impossible.

I've been thinking alot about that tree this year. Before that tree when Christmas was over the first thing my brother and I would ask is how many days until it comes again. Now I find myself breathing a sign of relief when it is done and counting the days until I can take the tree down and be on with life.

I like to blame it all on the aluminum tree, but I know that's not it. Things change. Fighting change is generally futile. What it's taken me all this time to learn is that it's easier to embrace it.
Each year since has taken on its own uniqueness. Like this year I'm serving buffett on Christmas Day instead of a sit down dinner. But the one thing that doesn't change is that moment on Christmas Eve when I stop and feel the joy and love that is what the season is all about. That never changes. Silver fake trees or real ones.
Wishing you all a joyous and happy holiday!
Thank you so much for reading my blogs!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Promise Of Spring

Something felt different when I got up this morning. I couldn't pinpoint what it was. It didn't seem quite as dark at 6:30 as it usually does. Then I remembered. Yesterday was the Winter Solstice, that day when the earth's axial tilt is the farthest it can get from the sun. The result being the shortest, darkest day of the year.

Now I am all about sunlight. The more of it the better. I admit that I get the SADS in the depths of winter. So knowing that starting today, each day moving forward will give me a little more daylight feels pretty good.

In prehistoric times the Aboriginal people experienced great difficulty in Winter. They were able to notice a slight elevation in the sun's path a few days after the Solstice and so made it cause for celebration. The Pagans celebrated with Festival. They saw this day as a time of planning for the future, of renewal and rebirth. The Hopi tribe saw the sun being ready to return and give strength to budding life. There are many that suggest that Christianity chose to celebrate the birth of Christ around this time to coincide with the Solstice.

For some reason yesterday seemed a shorter and darker day than usual. Perhaps I just noticed it more than I used to. But I like the feeling of today. That tiniest of indications of lighter and brighter, with each day bringing more sunlight. The promise that Spring will return.

I think that in the midst of all the Christmas celebration over the next few days I will follow the guidance of the ancients. Take some time for introspection and think about what Spring is going to look like for me. How about you?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

What Matters Now : Letting Go

I just finished reading Seth Godin's latest stroke of brilliance. It is a wonderful ebook entitled What Matters Now, a collection of essays on the subject. Seth always challenges me to think, so I took his suggestion and wrote my own take on what matters now.

Letting go. That's what I think matters now. The world seems to be in such chaos at the moment, with so much change swirling around. Those who want to change, those who resist the change, those who can't see change. I think if you are one of the ones who wants to effect change, globally or personally you have to let go or you don't get to move forward. The more you refuse to do that, the more you resist, the more things will stay the same.

The best example I can think of is what goes on in Washington. No matter which party is in office, the other party refuses to accept that. The party not in control pushes so hard against the other that the result is very little ever getting done.

I don't believe you can fully let go without first accepting where you are and what is at this very moment. No matter how much it makes you angry or sad or how unjust it feels, the first thing you have to do is accept it. Then you can change it.

My experience has been that resistance can cause exhaustion, rage,frustration, feeling helpless and most importantly, no movement. Nothing gets accomplished. Nothing changes.

Someone told me recently that it is only through the acceptance of our bondage that we are released from it. By accepting, we are letting go, and by letting go we can change whatever we want. That's what I think matters in 2010.

It also matters that you take a moment, click here, and download a copy of
What Matters Now so you can see what all the others have to say.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Writing To Save Myself

Some days I really do wonder why I am doing what I am doing. I question my decision to go this path at this point in my life. Right out of college I chose the safe route. I took that job offer to teach school even though I knew I didn't really want to teach third graders. It was safe. It was what I had gone to college to learn how to do.

Now all these years later, when I am supposed to be winding down that second career in ad sales, I am venturing on to a third one.

Some days I think I am crazy. Last night I was reminded that I would be crazy not to.

I have been taking this great essay class with Susan Shapiro, author of Speed Shrinking and six other books. Susan is high octane, funny and passionate about writing.(If you are a writer, sign up for a class. If you are a reader, buy one of her books)

I don't remember what the question was, only the answer she gave. You write to save yourself.

Fifteen months ago when I was considering my options I saw no other choice but this one. I forget some days. This morning I woke up and knew. I am saving myself. That's why I write. That's why I am doing this.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


It happens every December. That moment half way through the month when I want to stop and get off the holiday roller coaster. The list of everything that has to get done is not getting any shorter. There are cookies to bake, presents to buy, parties to attend and a tree to trim. And then there is the day job. Except that this year I don't have that office to go too. The essays I am writing, the edits on the novel and the blogs to post are as far as my desk in the living room. And I am still overwhelmed.

So how come?

I have eliminated Christmas cards so if you don't get one don't think I dropped you from the list. This year there is no list. I have shrunk my gift giving to a fraction of what it used to be. I am more disciplined than ever with getting to the gym and watching my alcohol intake. But I still feel it. Overwhelmed.

I want to give in and stop. To do what my Louise Hays calendar says today. Give myself permission to do absolutely nothing. But I am too overwhelmed. Besides I have a tree to trim.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Greek Connection

The first time I saw George Stephanopoulos off camera was Easter Week at St.Sophia's Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Washington, DC. I was living there while working for CBS Radio. It was during the Clinton years when he was still on staff at the White House and frequently photographed as the man about town.

So you can imagine my surprise when I noticed that one of the men assisting the Priest in the Holy Wednesday ceremony was George. I nudged my neighbor standing next to me. Is that who I think it is? He confirmed. Didn't I know that both George's father and grandfather had been priests? No, I only knew that he was Clinton's Communications Director and like me, George was Greek.

Greeks tend to be proud people and boastful of fellow Greeks. Just being Greek denotes you are somehow connected. In My Big Fat Greek Wedding, the character, Gus Portokalos asks to take a word, any word and he will show you that the root of that word is Greek. I grew up listening to my father point out every famous Greek , as if merely by being Greek, meant they were a little bit better than everyone else.

I preferred to keep my distance from my ethnicity as a kid. Being Greek was odd in the Queens neighborhood I grew up in. There everyone was of the Jewish faith or Catholic. Being Greek meant celebrating Easter at a different time than everyone else and enduring last names that were cumbersome and difficult to spell. I didn't think there was anything cool about being Greek.

I've changed. I love that I come from a rich heritage and unusual tradition. It gave me all the material for my first, not yet published, novel. Now, like my father I take note when someone who is catching headlines is Greek and share the same guilty pleasure watching them rise to celebrity.

Which brings me back to George. I had a swell of pride when he started hosting This Week. I enjoyed watching him grow into what is now becoming a rare quality in a network anchor. To be informed, to report on facts, to understand the difference between news and commentary and to foster healthy debate as opposed to the inciting of rage that has become so pervasive.

So when I heard today that he would be replacing Diane Sawyer as co host of Good Morning America, I couldn't help but blog my congratulations. Not only was a talented, deserving broadcast journalist being recognized but as my father would say, a Greek, to boot!

I didn't expect that later this morning after writing most of this post and on my way to take a park break I would get to congratulate him in person. Yes, as I turned the corner onto CPW, not too far from the ABC studios, there was George.

I did a double take, took out the ear buds from my IPhone and stopped. I told him I had just blogged about him. As if he knew me. He must have been as surprised as I because he didn't put his head down and pretend he didn't hear me. He extended his hand, asked me my name and thanked me graciously when I congratulated him on his new gig. I told him to look for my blog.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Friends For Life

We've been friends since the fifth grade. I am not going to say how many years that is, only that it's a lot. I don't remember how or exactly when our friendship started. We lived across the street from each other until the day my family moved away. There were no scheduled play dates, neither of us was involved in any sport. But we were always together. She came to my house to see the Christmas tree and eat my mom's Greek cookies. I got invited for Sunday night Chinese and learned all the Yiddish I know from her father. In between we spent hours on the phone in a day before call waiting and multiple phone lines.

Our lives got much different as adults. She chose marriage, children and a house in the suburbs while I opted for a career, serial monogamy interspersed with casual dating and a life in the city. We don't see each other every day the way we did growing up, but it never seems to matter. Because when we do, we pick up where we left off.

That is what happens with friends who know you from a time you didn't know you. The love is unconditional. You didn't become friends because of a common interest you just became friends because something in your young mind told you it was the right thing to do.

So when we planned for her to visit me in the city Sunday and she told me she wanted to see the holiday window displays, I said of course. Yes, I would fight the crowds with her on Fifth Avenue and yes, I would go see that tree.

These are the things I avoid as a New Yorker.

But I didn't try to talk her out of it. After all, I knew Monday morning I no longer had to deal with my own throng of people in an office. I would have the quiet of my writing space. I could look at it differently.

Besides this is what we did as teenagers. As I gave her directions to the subway from the LIRR and I heard her voice quiver. I reminded her that we used to do this, that at fifteen we would take the bus up Union Turnpike to Kew Gardens, transfer to the subway and wander the streets of the 'city'. That's what people who grow up in the boroughs call Manhattan, the 'city" We would leave exhausted and full of excitement from the adrenalin rush.

I navigated us through the crowds in that way that distinguishes the locals from the tourists. We paused at Bergdorf's, walked through the main floor of Bendels and got as far as across the street from Saks. We laughed as we always did. She reminded me of the time we saw Romeo and Juliet at the Paris theatre and when we went to Radio City to see the Christmas show. I saw the city as I did when I was a kid.

As different a path as we have taken in life, I felt as I always did. Completely me. Completely accepted. That's the thing about friends for life. The love is unconditional. Which is why I did not whine about pushing through that mob of people to see the tree at Rockefeller Center. In fact I rather enjoyed it. And got close enough to take a photo.