Renior in Retrospect

Sunday, October 27th, 2013

I left Philadelphia in 1985. I was bright-eyed, ambitious and hungry for life’s experiences. I left behind friends and a way of life that would never be mine again. Though the way life works is funny, and sometimes these things circle back. The very sweet silver lining of loosing a beloved friend to a terrible disease this summer was reconnecting with a childhood friend in a new way. This weekend, Julie came to DC to bring her daughter to look at colleges. Funny circle that was created – my leaving point was our reconnection point. The power of that was not lost on me as I made plans for a day doing some of what I have always loved, followed by an evening reconnecting.

Bob and I made plans to visit my all-time favorite art-space in DC – The Phillips Collection. There, we would enjoy the Van Gogh exhibit –  interestingly enough called Repetitions (an exploration of Van Gogh’s repeated study of the same subject matter). It is a worthwhile show and a very engaging way to connect with some some of my favorite Van Gogh subjects (the towns of St. Remy and Arles as well as the families that filled his world).


Luncheon of the Boating Party (Renior)

As we wandered thought galleries on 21st Street, I made my way to another old and very dear friend. I have been visiting Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party  at the Phillips Collection since I arrived in DC in 1985. I have powerful memories of standing in front of this majestic, lush painting with my mother, my friends, various dates and certainly alone. I would dive deep into the narrative of the painting – paying close attention to the characters. I saw myself in the painting – that was clear. I was (or longed to be) the flirty, alluring woman in the top right. She had a twinkle in her eye was surrounded by two rapt men. She did not lack for company or attention. She did not lack for anything it seemed. Though yesterday when I stood in front of that painting, I allowed myself to look not though my old lens but with fresh eyes. And as I did, tears began to flow from my eyes as I realized with complete clarity that I was not that girl. I may have been, and that may have once worked for me – but that “moment” seemed far away.  I looked harder, wondering if I was even still at the party. And I was….my eyes connected with the woman sitting confidently alone, sipping her wine and taking in the scene with a quiet strength. This is the actress, Ellen Andree.  I did not realize that I was crying until the lovely, young docent walked over and asked if I was ok. I explained what I had been considering and she said clearly, kindly and with total conviction – “that is who you want to be – that other woman had a messy, complicated life — the actress was the best of the guests”.  I will take it…

This weekend was about revisiting. And while backwards is not my preferred trajectory – I am glad I did.

First Comes Love, then comes – FOOD!

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

I had to share this foodie-fantastic casting call…


Are you engaged to be married anytime between May-August, one or both of you work in the food industry (not crucial), have food differences, both of you have big personalities and aren’t afraid to share your opinions, food is front and center the most important aspect of your wedding?  If so and you’d love to be a part of a Food Network pilot where you’ll be able to test out different foods at different venues giving us your expert foodie opinions then please email a 2-3 minute casting video showcasing your fun & vibrant personalities while telling us briefly about yourselves, how you are foodies, what foods you both prefer at your wedding (differences), what you do in food industry, how important food planning is to your wedding todanielle.gretz@leopardfilms.com ASAP. We are looking to have this pilot cast within a week!  In your email in addition to the video also include your names, wedding date/location and a recent photo. Thanks & good luck!!

Bueller Parenting

Monday, January 30th, 2012

I just got to see the amazing Matthew Broderick Ferris Bueller Superbowl ad. I loved it so I ran out and purchased a Honda CRV (OK, I already had one). It was a treat and I am still smiling, ear to ear!

I grew up in the age of John Hughes. The 80s had a lot to teach us (my children find my knowledge of neon fashion, ripped tees and well John Hughes to be more than impressive/ annoying). But what they don’t get is how much I learned from Ferris Bueller. That day, that one wondrous day has it all…and there is nothing that comes close to that pitch-perfect  movie.  I have been trying to get my  kids “in” but  the movie moves too slowly for them, my kids can’t really appreciate it – somehow the wildest adventure of all time feels dull to them. I am miffed.

Still, Ferris has played a big part in their growing up. My  parenting style (call it what you will) has always been balanced by an eye towards that day off. The fact that we all need it. And sometimes, quite badly. And so in the world where I am Mommy (cut to the 2012 Julia shot – still me , but wait – where are those cool highlights?!?!) each one of my kids is allowed one “mental health day” per year. On that day we go our own wild adventures – we visit museums, watch movies, try new restaurants, take a drive, take a shop, explore new neighborhoods – we just take a day off. It is completely a la Ferris and completely rich on so many levels. I see them as they see the world – just one on one – with no agenda but discovery and fun. It is bonding and bumming all at once. An really it is priceless. Yup, I am sold…

Cue the Ferris music….

Bastille Day…the best of my French Food Adventures

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

one all of my all time favorites - L'Oustalet in Gigondas, France

One all of my all time favorites - L'Oustalet in Gigondas, France

Weekend Market - Uzes, France
Weekend Market – Uzes, France
cheese in Annecy

Cheese in Annecy

Oh France can not come soon enough….bon (or Bob!!) appetit!

Goodbye to the Big Man

Sunday, June 19th, 2011

Oh this is completely off topic – except that there is no possible way to understand me and thus all that is now Forty Weeks without first imagining me in my yellow bedroom on Frobel Road in Laverock, Pennsylvania completely lost in my Bruce albums. I got a brand new stereo for my Bat Mitzvah (thank you Uncle Herb) and I can still see myself there, in that end bedroom (when not spending countless hours on my “private” line 232-5332) listening to Bruce albums. The River had just been released and it seemed so had some powerful passion inside of me. I still cry when I hear certain versions of The River. It was bigger than any emotion I had experienced and the notion of being de-flowered of my emotional innocence still rattles me a bit. Loss? Hopelessness? Despair? Disappointment? The street? All this was new to the newly minted teenager in Philadelphia.

I went journeying backwards through the Bruce catalog and spent my days making sense of the world through his poetic lens. There is none of that without Clarence Clemons. There was something about the way he blew that sax that drew me in and never released me . It was not just the melancholy it was also the party that he brought to the table. And the best part – back then, was the live shows and the amazing camaraderie between Bruce and Clarence. That is how I wanted my work to feel (and it does, btw) – connected to and surrounded by people who love what they do as much as I and frankly who feel it…big, juicy and real. This was  a relationship that moved and motivated me to find  and surround myself with my own - loving, like-minded, and spirited,  The friendship, care and respect is so evident in these images:imagesCAERGP18bruce clarencebigman

And so last night, in the wee hours (I really could not sleep) I wrote my goodbye to the Big Man. And so with love and sadness, goodbye Clarence, goodbye and thank you.

It is a sad, somber day on E Street.  Saying goodbye to one of the most talented, charismatic and soulful spirits – what a gift you were! Clarence has been the omnipresent musical force that has elevated, emoted and engaged both on stage and off. There is no soundtrack of my life without his sax, and for that I am grateful. RIP to the Big Man…oh how you will be missed.


Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

As my kinder, friends, office-mates and beloved Bob will tell you I don’t eat potato chips (ok, I do eat Popchips – they are quite good).  I don’t even keep chips in the house. My children will tell you this just adds to my status as “Meanest Mom Ever”. Yet, there is something magical, even transformative that happens to this Philly ex-pat when I drive by Taylor Gourmet in Bethesda, Maryland in the wee hours and see this…

NEW herr's t tuck

Finding Holden…

Friday, September 24th, 2010

I went to my second back-to-school night this week. And good news for those of your rooting me on from home, I only have one more to go (two if you count parent’s weekend at Penn State where I return to the Beta Sig house no longer ISO of a party and some cute Jewish boys but  now as a Mother of a Freshman boy – insert prayers here)…whew!

Last night at Back-to-school night, I made my way through Rebecca’s 9th grade schedule – the usual suspects where all there – French, World Studies, Geometry and more. It was the usual too, in terms of the rhetoric:  we can’t operate without your money or your time and oh yes, we are a community and we are superior and did we mention we have set the annual fund goal higher than your life insurance policy, etc.  I was holding it together just fine though – small talk, smile, knowing nod, repeat. Then came D block English and with it the announcement that Rebecca would soon be reading A Catcher in the Rye. And then, only then did I get excited. And from that moment of giddiness,  came the decision that I would read it along with her – despite the fact that the 20+ years since I last read it have moved me well out of coming of age status – I would take the journey back and see what the years have netted.

I started thinking about Holden.  When we first met I was young, impressionable and full of frizzy hair (see horribly embarrassing photo which I will insert when I get up my nerve). The world was full of possibility. I spent my days madly in love with a long-haired brilliant musician boy (Tim Kostar, are you out there?). He and I were above notes – instead we would pass a notebook of “important” lyrics between us. Typical entries including the Pink Floyd Classic:  “we’re just two lost souls swimming in a fishbowl, year after year…” you know the drill. We were deep….or something.

The years passed. The next Holden I came across was Holden on As the Word Turns – we only met because my friend Brooke had a role on the soap as Carrie. Being the ever proud and good friend, I would go well out of my way to catch her on the tube. Time passed and there was not a Holden to be found. Not until 2002 when I declared that my unborn son should be named Holden, I was sold on this as both a strong an independent name not to mention the mark of a literate and engaged child. My Mother killed that one – Holden Bromberg was ironic she said – more like an example of “what not to name your kid” than a mark of greatness….ok then, no Holden (Hi Sam!!!).

And so here we are, it is 2010 and I am taking a big leap into the way-back machine with Rebecca. We will both read A Catcher in the Rye(and we will both use styling product to reduce frizz) and I am eager to see what we glean from it. Is there enough there to move a 14 year old in the reality show-laden, technology saturated, it’s all that easy world? Will she long to evolve, see the world, make her mark?  Will I read it still crave something bigger than me,  some elevated version of the reality I know,  or I have  taken to long and hard of a journey to “go there” ? Time will tell. The good news is that Rebecca and I are turning this page together;  we are reading what I still consider to be one of the most important volumes of our time together. And, of all I’ve shared here today, that is the most important truth!

A View from Today

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

Lila and Rebecca 9/9/2010

Lila and Rebecca 9/9/2010

Today marked the Jewish New Year. It was a clear and sparkling fall day – reminiscent of so many sunny days in which I journeyed to temple with my family.  I was struck by how the years have defined the very concept of family and the concept of me for that matter. I can remember being a little girl, walking to into the large and powerful sanctuary (in suburban Philadelphia) with my very young and attractive parents, leading the way with their three girls in tow. They knew the world it seemed, they owned it for that matter – I was as in awe of them as I was the pageantry and power of the holiday. I can remember growing older, confident and independent – making breaks for the bathroom to meet with friends, flirt with boys, sneak outside (we cooler than all that). Later, in my adopted hometown of Washington, DC, I was in a new congregation first as a single professional, and then as a young wife, a young mother, young divorcee and single mother. And finally, here today as the (not so young anymore) matriarch of a blended family, the second partner to the truest, gentlest and most loving man I have ever known. I am now the keeper of so many lives.  I notice of course that despite of the many colorful iterations of me, they all land here.  Open and committed to observing these sacred days. This year – despite the overwhelming challenges of the summer, and despite being “one man down” with Matthew away at college – I am still here.

 As the morning wore on, I dressed myself and my children.  And as I made my way towards ready, I eagerly opened my jewelry box. The sheer thrill of it never eludes me! As picked out the pieces that would warmly connect me to my past, filling me with the power of those who came before me – I am stopped somehow. In a wave, I realize this year of crashing down bumps and hard-earned victories has left me not broken but full…and grown in a way.  And suddenly I know it is time.

 I begin to pull out (smaller) memory-laden shiny objects from my youth – considering carefully where to begin because it is time to take one more leap into adulthood (and funny how obvious that chasm was this morning – a clear reminder that we are never really where we think we are).  On this Rosh Hashanah, I gave my daughters each a piece of my jewelry – not to borrow – but rather to keep. For Lila – a bracelet that I had designed with my grandmother in high school- a reminder to Lila that her stunning creativity was hers to access as she desired – she should continue to fuel her creative flames and bring herself joy. For Rebecca, the very first bracelet I purchased through my own hard work and income. A reminder that she too should set her sights on goals and make them so – never wait, rather define and then go after her dreams and desires. They looked at me in amazement as I handed them each a piece of me complete with back story and love. Funny how they only noticed the shiny pieces when really, I have given them each so many pieces of me already. Or maybe, they already know…

Time Flies

Sunday, August 8th, 2010

Well this wonderful trip is about to come to an end…I promise great tales and pictures too. In the meantime, here is some Paris to warm your Sunday!



Making Peace with my Own Personal Mad Men

Sunday, July 25th, 2010

I am the direct descendant of a Mad Man; Mad Men, actually. I spent my childhood surrounded by all the trappings of that most remarkable heyday – or really the remains of the day. The family continues to thrive in the post-mad men, super-digital, Wild West era.  My grandfather’s raging creativity and risk taking in the late 1940s and 1950s set the stage for generations of us making a living in the luckiest and sometimes riskiest  of ways – surrounded by remarkable people who, like us fed on good ideas and  were always on the hunt and at the  ready for the next thing. We were blessed with an amazing history, back-story and powerful genes. And the lot of us have all found our way into the most remarkable places. Mine is here at the helm of Forty Weeks. I’d like to think that my unearthing and nurturing of a new niche would be just the thing that would float my Grandfather’s boat – and I am sure he would be proud.

Watching Mad Men, for me has been strangely bittersweet. On one hand, it feels familiar and inviting. I am captivated as the faded family photographs come to life.  And why not?  I have paid close attention to and savored this new glimpse into the era (I feel like my little kid self – looking down the stairs from the second floor landing) – the design, the music and the mood of the day are all a treat for the senses. The clothes, the cars the parties are all so familiar. Even the office furniture rings real.  There are the offices, the homes and the clubs (and if you are wondering about those clubs and other institutions of the day, we were terribly assimilated and that is how that worked).  It is a time I had glamorized in my mind. There is little doubt that I have let the cream rise to the top and had all but ignored what I must have already known. The rise of advertising, and the culture that it propagated was a white boys club. This was the cultural norm, this was everywhere and this was the social standard. And is our collective history – not just mine but ours.  And while I knew (yes I had information about where women and minorities did and did not fit in) I know it never really connected it to my personal history. And certainly, I never really allowed it to permeate my view of the day.  

Along comes Mad Men. And with the new, rekindled romance of the times comes a new found take on the reality of so much of what was wrong about it. Mad Men has forced me to reconsider the role of women in my family and in our business.  And to, finally process the whole of it – not just the sweet and shiny parts. And so, I will do just that. Somehow, come to terms with the glory and the shame of this era, my personal history and then tuck them away somewhere safe. Mainly because I have miles to go before I sleep and the legacy of all who came before me urging  me on to the next creative challenge…not to make it right but simply because I can.