They say if you live in New York for 10 years, you can officially call yourself a New Yorker. But the trained eye can always spot the ones who were born here.
– Sex and the City

This is the 18th in a series of posts about New York; a guest post by my fellow Refine Method-addict and marathoner, EMG.

It was a Tuesday morning: my first full week, third day at a brand new school. At 9:48am, the headmistress called me out of the library where I was studying for an upcoming test, almost an hour after the first plane hit the World Trade Center. Seventeen minutes later, the building where my mother worked on the 92nd floor collapsed.

My life would never be the same; New York would never be the same.

Nearly 14 years later, the city, for the most part, has recovered. I am not sure that you can say the same for me. The City has held some of my best and worst life moments. Every time I walk down the streets and visit the places that I grew up in I am reminded of the wonderful 14 years I had with my mother.

These daily reminders proved to be too much for my father who left New York four years ago. For me however, they are fresh air. They allow me to remember the good times and not to focus on what everyone tries so hard to not forget — the worst day of my life. I remember the bagels that were eaten on a Saturday morning at our local bagel shop; my mom dropping me off at school and family dinners out every Saturday.

The City is an integral part of who I am. My life would be so remarkably different if not for New York City and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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About the author
E was born and raised in Manhattan where she currently resides with her Shitzu Mr. Flip half a block from her childhood apartment. E works for the City of New York. She is a fiercely loyal friend, a creature of habit, a boutique fitness fanatic, and an avid marathoner.

This is the tenth in a series of posts about New York, a guest post by my friend Kat.

In 2010, I became possessed by an urge to visit New York City.  There is no simpler way to put it.  Having never been, but having watched Keeping the Faith one too many times, it was my North Star Of The Moment.

How it actually ended up going down is that we flew in on the tailwind of Hurricane Earl.  As we dragged our suitcases from the bus stop to the subway station, I was so enthused by this billboard and the feeling that we were really In The City that I took a photo of it.

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We airbnb’d a place directly across the street from the Flatiron building.  I had no idea what that was at the time, but it seemed in the middle of a lot of stuff and the price was right, so it was the place for us.  We learned very quickly had rented this studio apartment from a woman, who the neighbors informed us, had recently been in a bike accident and was hospitalized.  This is also where the well-meaning neighbors informed Marcus, Lindsey, and me that in the owner’s absence, we were tasked with caring for Prince Sterling, her black Persian cat.  Helpfully, they described him to us as being “spiritual.”  While no feline spirituality was revealed over the course of the weekend, Prince Sterling’s chief accomplishment was aggressively chasing Lindsey around the apartment in circles at 2:00 AM.

All of this for the opportunity to go to the city and just be.  But as you all already, know, New York is not a place that you can just Be.  You have to Be somewhere.  So we set out to meet up with Marcus’ Friend Who Works In Fashion (something I felt added a lot of cachet to our roving party), we equipped ourselves with tall cans of beer, and we set out to traipse about the city.

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I will also take this time right now to tell you that I spent quite a bit of time thinking about what, exactly I would wear in the big city and the above outfit was one that I was quite proud of.  I wanted to look like I was comfortable without trying too hard.

We walked, and we walked, and we walked some more, sipping our secret beers.  We crossed through Times Square, which had only recently been closed to vehicular traffic.

Times Square 2

It was bright.

Undeterred by the late hour (we were in the city after all), we headed down to the pier to take a night ride on the Staten Island Ferry to see Lady Liberty and the city at night.  The water was black, the boat was quiet and so were we as we moved across the waves.

All of this which is to say that the first night in New York, everything was so shiny, and so new, and so full of potential.  We could be anything and we were surrounded by millions of other people chasing their own anything that night.

About the Author
Kat is a runner, an HR professional, a Minnesota native, and she is the woman behind the curtain at Tenaciously Yours. She is also a ferocious cook, and avid traveller, who, along with her husband Marcus, is happily found both globetrotting and relaxing Up North at the Cabin.

This is the eighth in a series of posts about New York, a guest post by my best friend, Jade.

I guess I don’t have much left to say about New York. I’ve written at length here and elsewhere, publicly and privately. Ten years ago I was deeply entrenched in a long distance love affair with the city, THE City, New York City, where you go if you’re smart and serious and don’t have to smile all the time and being elegant is better than being “hot.”

I’d make quarterly visits, hopping the same jet blue flight and spending 3 or 4 blissful days sleeping beside my best friend, her bed our shared lifeboat in the muddle of new adulthood. She’d slip off to work and I’d walk north to south and river to river until I knew the city, the subway, until I’d had dinner alone in every neighborhood. I kept my watch on Eastern time, jaywalked, strode past the mall zombies who hadn’t yet mastered walking down the goddamn street, and plotted my escape from Los Angeles, this land of highlights and starvation. For an actress and musician who cared more for the art than the image, Los Angeles seemed incongruous, New York inevitable. But while I pondered a cross country move, LA experienced a cultural renaissance the likes of which hadn’t been seen since the 60’s, or even the 20’s. Downtown came alive, the underground art scene pulsed with both fresh and veteran blood and I woke one day in an economically and artistically thriving community. The Wild West, where there was still land to claim. And so I stayed.

I found everything I wanted in New York, in LA. Even a neighborhood I could walk in. Even the subway. Even the person I thought I could only be in New York. And after years of quarterly visits and Eastern time and longing and certainty, I realized I haven’t been to the city in 2 years.

It’s time to visit again. New York may have released me from infatuation but still retains a piece of my heart. My friends gave birth to tiny New Yorkers. There are bridal showers and Hamptons weddings. There is my best friend, her apartment with good scotch and good cheeses and blissful nights giggling in her bed where we are at once children and impossibly grown-up women. We remember our youthful affairs, ourselves at 21, when the world was open to us and we dreamed of who we would be. I tell stories of my life out west, by the sea, and she tells me of her travels and we dream new dreams in this shared little lifeboat, on this great island

About the author
Jade has been my best friend since the early 1990s. She is as singer/actor/musician, based in Los Angeles.

Put your hand the gearshift
Put your foot off the break
and take one last look at the place that you are leaving.
Take one last look.
 Oh take one last look at the place that you are leaving.
Take one last look.
– 
Tom Waits

This is the fourth in a series of posts about New York; a guest post by my friend Smplefy.

Tom Waits debuted this song on one of the last Letterman shows.  It resonated with me and got me thinking about New York.  The crowd energy on Letterman always made it clear that the show was filmed live in New York City.   That show is gone now.  One the other hand Jimmy Fallon brought the Tonight Show back to New York.  That’s a microcosm of New York right there, with things and people coming, going, redefining, repurposing, reinventing.

In 1995 I stood on Statue of Liberty Island and took a picture of my wife, Laura with the Twin Towers prominently displayed in the background. That black and white 8×10 still hangs in our living room.

During a visit to that same island in August 2001, Laura asked if I wanted to retake that picture.   Wanting to conserve film and oblivious to the events just weeks away, I callously said, “No, I already have that picture”.

On this 30 May, 2015, I stood in line at the opening of the One World Observatory, an observation deck on the 103rd floor of One World Trade Center. This beautiful and sexy building stands adjacent to the site of the lost towers, where two solemn memorial fountains remain.

The observation deck presents the visitors with a 360º view of the city and surrounding areas. The views of New York were beyond breathtaking on a clear day.   I was giddy as I saw all of Brooklyn spread out before me in one direction.  Standing there I could make out Prospect Park and could see all the way to what I thought should have been Coney Island.

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Brooklyn from the One World Observatory (click to expand)

Along another wall was Manhattan in all its glory with its landmarks and beautiful bridges beauty.  Just over there was Queens and back there was Staten Island in yet another direction.  I sat on the floor for a while in each direction, seeking out and studying the landmarks like I was taking some type of a test that I had been studying my whole life for.

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Manhattan from the One World Observatory (click to expand)

I was told many years ago, that if you want to take a great picture of the Statue of Liberty, you have to find a unique way to take it.  The view of the Statue of Liberty from of the observation deck was unlike any I’d ever seen before. It eventually struck me that this was how many in the World Trade Center used to see the Statue of Liberty on a daily basis.  That realization brought me pause and brought me back to the tragedy.   That’s the thing about this observation deck, it exhilarates and it reminds us.

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Lady Liberty from the One World Observatory

I circled the observation deck several times during my visit.  In my last moments there, I got up close to the glass and discovered a view of the 9-11 Memorial fountains I hadn’t seen before.  It was an unexpected surprise to see a new angle on what is a relatively recent addition to New York.

As much as I would have enjoyed staying to see the sunset, I had a plane to catch.  I kept seeing the One World Trade Center from various points along the train ride to New Jersey.  It seemed to be waving goodbye and inviting me back.

And when I settled on my plane, while the other passengers were still boarding, I looked out window and there she was again, following me in her twinkling dress.  With Tom Waits’ voice in my head, I took one last look at her and the place that I was leaving.   I tried to take in the moment and hold it before the plane took me away from this day to start a new adventure, elsewhere.

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One World Trade Center from Newark Airport

Foolish is the man who loves places and things, for that love shall be unrequited.  The Twin Towers were a source of pride for New York and then they were taken from us along with so many of the strangers that were part of the New York family.  These two buildings in this city that I hold dear have not been replaced, but the space has been repurposed to remind us of all we have, what we have lost and what we hold dear.   I don’t mean the girders, rebar and concrete, but the spirit, the enterprise, pride and love of ourselves and one another.

Welcome to the New York family, One World Trade Center.  Be great.

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The One World Trade Center

About the author
Born in New York, living far from the land he loves, but still happily managing to live the dream in Sunny, drought-stricken, California.  If you read this, send water.

A Guest Post by my friend Jennifer Lyn King
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If you ask me on a normal day what I’m thankful for, you’d likely hear me mention ice water and sunshine, the flowers still blooming outside, or the sweet hug my eleven-year-old gave me on his way out the door. It’s not because my life is all roses, but that I’ve grown increasingly appreciative of many things in recent years.

About six months ago, my family and I moved back to the United States after four years of living on the outskirts of Prague, Czech Republic.

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Our time in Prague was an incredible yet difficult experience all rolled into one. We were able to travel by car throughout Europe, which was a dream—as far as Sweden, Dubrovnik and Montenegro, Hungary, Spain, Great Britain, and Italy—always Italy. We learned to change languages at borders like some people switch hats, and experienced places and things I had never imagined getting to see. Some sights changed my perspective forever, like the rows of whitewashed tombs lined up like dominoes in the rocky hillside villages of Croatia, and the shell marks which still pock Bosnian buildings from their very recent war. We traced our fingers over the remains of the Berlin Wall, walked the paths of ancient Greek Mycenae high above the Aegean Sea, and slept in Italian centuries’ old stone dwellings surrounded by endless vineyards. The traveling was marvelous, but not everything during those four years abroad went smoothly.

We had scary times, while traveling and while home in Czech Republic, including break-in attempts on our home, mafia-related stake-outs on our tiny street, and even a blown gasket in our car’s engine while I drove the German autobahn near Munich. And, the most traumatic – my youngest son fell and broke the end off of his elbow one Sunday, requiring immediate emergency surgery in the former Communist hospital—the expat mom’s biggest nightmare. Those days and nights in the hospital, the fact that I had spent months learning a conversational amount of Czech paid off. I was able to speak with the nurses and beg them to let me stay overnight, which was usually forbidden.

I remember the first time I stepped into the village Potraviny (food market) in our village of Horoměřice, Czech Republic, taken back by the filth creeping out from the walls, the ripe smells of the other shoppers and the butcher stabbing meats from his case, and the toothless woman selling an assortment of bread from her baskets. I also will never forget the first time I had to get mail at the local Pošta, when the post office woman scolded me in a flurry of Czech, and I was forced to leave empty-handed and on the brink of tears. I remember wondering why—why do the locals not smile, not help strangers, not give a little compassion? The Czech culture seemed rough, impossible even. Yet it wasn’t until I walked the desolate streets of Terezín, a Nazi concentration camp just north of Prague, and soon after began reading about and hearing stories from friends, about what happened to their families during Communism, and the forced labor camps at the Uranium mines, that my questions began to change. By learning about them, about their history, I began to see things from their side and gradually understand. The layers of “normal” began to peel back and open my mind to new reasons and ways of doing things.

Prague in winter

The most difficult aspect, and biggest blessing, of being an expatriate is that everything is different—the people, the language, the weather, the culture. The people’s responses and the reasons behind them are foreign, as we are to them. But when we begin to listen, to slow down and try to understand the suffering of individuals, of entire countries and regions, we open ourselves to one indisputable truth—we are so much better as a whole when we have tried on someone else’s shoes and walked a few miles alongside them.

Travel does that. Daily living in another country pries open our beliefs and widens our perspectives. It makes us grateful for things we never would’ve noticed before, and bonds us to those friends and family who are there with us, holding our hands while we gain a more expansive view of our lives and of our futures. To me, it is grace.

The experiences I was able to have with my family, my husband and three growing sons, far surpassed any dream I ever dared to have. Those four great years abroad changed me from the inside out, and I will always be profoundly grateful for the experiences I had with my family in Europe.

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Jennifer and I met at a writers conference years ago, and have been fast friends every since.  She is a writer and author who loves to read and share great books with others. Jennifer has recently moved back to the USA after living for four years in Prague, Czech Republic. She enjoys photography, oil painting, tennis, and traveling with her husband and three sons. She is currently at work on a novel set in New Orleans and coastal Italy. For more about Jennifer, visit her website and blog at http://jenniferlynking.com. She can also be found on Twitter @JenniferLynKing. 

(All photos for this post were taken by Jennifer — definitely check out her site for the writing AND the art!)

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Throughout the month of November, I will be posting stories of change, gratitude, forgiveness, and grace — both my own words, and the tales of carefully selected guest voices.

A guest post by my friend Katka:
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I have been thinking about this post for a while.

I am honored that Meredith asked me to write a guest post again; I had written one a while back when we climbed Whitney together with Strand. And I thought about what to write when we celebrated after the ING New York City Marathon that Meredith and her brother ran together. What a great experience for all of us from near and far who had the opportunity to cheer them.

What am I grateful for?  Family and Friends. That is what I am most grateful for — I am grateful for the ones who are close as well as the ones who are oceans apart. They are what have gotten me and my husband, Matthew, through the tough times; helped us take big and little steps forward; and they are the ones with whom we have celebrated with along the way.

This year has been a challenging one for us.

We experienced a terrible tragedy in January, losing our son at 23 weeks of my pregnancy. I went into preterm labor for no explained reason and we found that we had to make extremely difficult decisions that would impact us for the rest of our lives. But I truly believe that every tragic moment goes hand in hand with a moment of joy and happiness. Our son was delivered and we got to hold him — then he peacefully passed in our hands, pain-free, and surrounded by love.

It was a very sad moment but it was also a new beginning.  We dug deep to continue our journey forward to another day. Matthew and I are committed to each other and we are getting stronger day by day while we have grieved, cried and laughed together. I am thankful that in the times of sadness, we rely on each other even more and it has made our partnership stronger.

I am thankful for the medical care that we have received from our doctors and nurses that helped us to deal with the infertility battle and conceive our son, along with the care that we received at Columbia hospital during those tragic days in January. There has been a lot of negativity in the news related to vaccinations, ultrasounds, medication and prenatal care. Everyone should spend some time to educate themselves about both pros and cons of any medical procedure at any stage of life, but I am thankful for the science, medical advancement and care that has allowed Matthew and I to have a family one day.

So what is it that keeps me pushing forward throughout this challenging year? The immediate support of my family and friends when the worst hit, but also, as the time passed, the days when it was tough to go forward and I was able to send out a text to ask for help. My mom and dad flew from Slovakia for 10 days and we would take hikes, cook, bake, play Angry Birds on iPad – pretty much anything that would make us smile and laugh. Matthew and I took a quick getaway to Disney World in Orlando before I went back to work after my maternity leave. We would make plans with our friends during weekends, apple picking, wine tasting, doggie snuggles, long walks on the beach and in the woods; BBQs on our deck or just spending time reading. I studied over the summer and we both kept pretty busy despite some additional life roll coaster events.

A positive attitude, a smile on my face and the constant reminder that we are lucky to be surrounded by all of you is what I am grateful for. Cheers to that!
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Katka is my hero; one of my best friends; a finance gal; a climber of mountains; a woman who cannot be deterred from any goal once her mind is set.  Katka is someone who is incredibly important not only to me, but to my entire family.  She lives in Fairfield County, Connecticut with her husband, Matthew, and is kind enough to let Roo bunk in with them when I travel.  She was a part of the inaugural Women of Winesday Mount Whitney Expedition 2011.

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Throughout the month of November, I will be posting stories of change, gratitude, forgiveness, and grace — both my own words, and the tales of carefully selected guest voices.

A guest post by my friend Belle
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To put it bluntly – my husband got a 21 year old prostitute pregnant.

Let it sink in. Breathe. Run. Run far. Run fast.

The weekend of our 8th anniversary–eight years since I met this man and fell head over heels in love.  Autumn Equinox. The seasons change, and so changes my life. Except this change, this is Change with a Capital C.

How do you even know it’s yours, I rage at 3 am while snatching our framed wedding photos from the walls and slamming them into the ground, not caring if I wake the neighbors, secretly hoping they’ll call the cops so I can expose my lying scumbag husband to the world. He just knows, he says. He slept with her, so its probably his kid, he says. Hello? how stupid are you? she’s a hooker!!! He’s the only john who stuck around after she told him. Ya don’t say? He’s a good guy, he’s doing the right thing. After all, what other married guy would call her back and agree to take care of the baby that is going to destroy his life?

Oh wow. You’re an idiot.

I pack up and leave. Being in our home, being near him, makes my skin crawl. My first stop is my sister’s place around the corner. I spend 2 days on an air mattress on the floor of her living room. Stare at the ceiling. Stare at the wall. Don’t speak. Don’t eat. This is shock.

Go see a divorce lawyer. Hear the horror stories. Realize all you’ve given to your husband, and discovery exactly how much more he can take.

Run. Run far. Run fast.

Stop. Run many miles away from home. High in the Rockies where the air is so thin you can hardly breathe.

And there it is. Clarity. Breathe in. Breathe out. Stop and look around. What do I do now?

God I love this man so much it hurts. It hurts that he has done this to me. It hurts being away from him. He’s my best friend. I have never been away from him for this long.

 As angry as I am, I miss him so much. My vows. Our vows. We promised.

I take you to be my husband. I promise to be true to you, in the good times and the bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.

I said it. I meant it. I believe in my vows. Even if he doesn’t. Or didn’t. Or can’t. Whatever. I promised. I’m not a regular church going person, but I was raised Catholic and I still have a strong faith. When I married him, I believed in the sacrament of matrimony and I still do. My parents were married until death. His parents have been married 46 years.

I never saw divorce as an option.

I can’t help but review every word, every day, every week of my marriage, of my life. How did I not see it? How could I not know? Was any of it ever real? Yes. Of course it was.

It is.

I stare out the window, watching the snow fall. What a change this is from home! When I left, it was 90 degrees. Here I am 2 days later in the snow. This is change, small c change.

The last time I watched snow fall, it was through the gloomy windows of an ICU room. I held his hand as he held his mother’s nearly lifeless hand while the tears silently streamed down his cheeks. At 41 years old, he finally had to face his parents’ mortality.

Six months ago, he encouraged me to quit my dead-end job and devote myself full-time to graduate school. One income instead of two; one partner a housewife/student and one a working professional. I thought that when we were married, that it would be a Change. But really, we exchanged rings, I got a new last name, and life went on happily like it always had. It was change.

After a few weeks in the mountains, I call home. I miss you, I say.

I miss you too.

I love you.

(silence)

(Ouch.)

I want to come home.

It’s your house too. I can’t stop you.

I make arrangements to fly home that weekend. The first night is ugly. I scream. I say awful things. He sits and takes it until he finally can’t anymore. Goddamnit! Isn’t your sister’s couch free?!? Just get out of my house!

I’m the victim here, why should I leave? I haven’t really slept in weeks. I haven’t been eating. I am physically and emotionally drained, so I go to our bedroom, lock the door, and crawl in my bed for the first time in weeks.

The next morning, as I’m poking around in the bathroom during my usual morning routine, I notice the assortment of feminine hygiene products in the cabinet. It hits me: When was my last period? A long time ago. God, this stress is taking a toll on my body!

So I stay back home. I don’t know what to do, so we just live our lives. My husband and I get along swell as roommates. We don’t speak about the pregnant hooker. We don’t speak about divorce. He goes to work. Comes home. I take care of the house. Cook dinner. We watch TV or a movie. Chit-chat about current events. I sleep in the bedroom; he stays on the couch.

We both still wear our wedding rings every day. Is this strength? Or is this just crazy?

Then CHANGE comes along.

I’m pregnant.

I don’t know what to say; what to feel. I’m supposed to be excited, but that is not one of the many emotions surging through my head. I’ve been through a lot in my young life and I’m a pretty tough woman. Mostly though, I’m scared.

I have to agree with Robert Frost when he said, “In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on”

So this is CHANGE.

Its you and me, baby. Just you and me now.

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Belle, one of the strongest women I know, lives south of the Mason-Dixon and is surviving — which is all she, or any of us, can do.

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Throughout the month of November, I will be posting stories of change, gratitude, forgiveness, and grace — both my own words, and the tales of carefully selected guest voices.