Weekly Workouts and Updates 12/14-12/21

Instead of the usual blahs that accompany a Monday morning, it seems like everyone is truly in the Christmas spirit, eager to get through the next few days before heading home for the holidays! At least, that’s what it seemed like on my walk to work this morning. Even though my family doesn’t celebrate Christmas (it’s Hanukkah for the family and Chrismukkah with friends) I am definitely looking forward to enjoying their company come late Thursday afternoon. Until then, here are my weekly workouts and updates.

 

 

Christmas wreath

 

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Giving Back During the Holiday Season

This Thursday, I’m thinking out loud about giving back during the holiday season. Sunday marked the start of eight nights of Hanukkah, and with Christmas coming the halls are decked. The holiday cheer all around brings the desire to ensure that others can share in our joy at this time of year.

 

Giving Back During the Holiday Season

 

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Giving and Gifting

As a follow-up to my earlier post on the holiday season in New York City, I thought I’d take the time to share my thoughts about a major part of the holidays for many fortunate people – the giving of gifts. Whether it’s a pile of presents beneath a Christmas tree or the steady stream of them over the course of eight nights of Hanukah, most children grow up dreaming all year long of the bounty that awaits come December. I’ll be honest, I was one of them. Every year, once Thanksgiving had come and gone, I’d start making a list of all the things I wanted. But at some point in my late teens, I took a look around and realized I had enough “things” and didn’t really need any more. I started to understand that experiences are really what matter in life.

 

 

I used to spend trips I was lucky enough to take trying to choose the perfect souvenir to remember a place by. I’m not sorry I did that, because I ended up with a pretty great shelf in my childhood bedroom of bits of culture from around the world. A tiny Canadian Eskimo dog from Quebec, a painted glass charm from Florence, a nesting doll from St. Petersburg and even an Anne Boleyn Christmas ornament from the gift shop at the British Museum (I was obsessed with the Tudors when I was eight). But now, looking back, my memories of those trips did not become any more vivid because I had the objects I associate with them. It’s the constant telling of certain stories, over and over, that embedded some experiences more firmly in my mind than others. The way a certain place made me feel is hard to forget.

 

 

I think this house is a gift to the world in its own way - it brightens your evening to pass by

I think this house is a gift to the world in its own way – it brightens your evening to pass by

 

 

Now when the holidays roll around, I think less about the gifts and more about the giving. Some of my best memories are of times made possible because a family member or a friend gave of themselves to make something happen. My mom driving me to and from a thousand Nutcracker rehearsals, so I could have the unforgettable experience of performing on stage in front of thousands. My friends at Oxford organizing a potluck party for ‘Oxmas’ replete with a Secret Santa in which the gifts were all tasks we would be willing to perform for one another when each was struck with the malady known as exams. My little brother letting me hold the Shamash on the first night of Hanukah, and pick the colors of the candles because he knew I liked to make different patterns and see how the colors fit together.

 

 

I still love holiday windows!

I still love holiday windows!

 

 

 

These times are what make the holidays so special, and why I love this season. And lately, I’ve had cause to think more and more about what I can do to create a little bit of magic for others, and not just my own family and friends. One of the biggest parts of my life is the time, energy, and money I put into philanthropy, both as a volunteer of the Junior League and supporter of other organizations. I love contributing to the Met and the ballet.  They are particularly important to me because they shaped the person I have become. Ballet taught me grace and strength, not just in the physical sense but in how I handle everything that life throws my way. Art has been both my refuge from reality and a way for me to develop a more nuanced view of the world and all the people in it.

 

 

I’ve come to believe that though I am just one (rather tiny!) person, I can make a difference in my own way. This holiday season, I’d like to ask you all to think about the places that educated you, shaped the way you think, brought a smile to your face and made you feel good about your life. Choose to give to them, and it will be the best gift you can imagine.

 

 

 

 

© Renaissance Runner Girl. All rights reserved.

‘Tis the Season

I’m often asked what the best time of year is to be in New York City. The answer, without a doubt, is the holiday season. The month from Thanksgiving to New Year’s can be cold and wet, but even so it is the time the city puts its best face forward to the world. There is nothing more magical than being out on Park Avenue in a residential area in the evening as a light snow begins to fall, blanketing the surrounding streets in white as the twinkling lights strung around the trees on the median sparkle, reflecting the whiteness and making the shadows dance. I admit that come morning, that blanket of white will be a messy puddle of gray making the commute most unpleasant, but your commute will probably be unpleasant if it’s hot and muggy in July or sheets of sleet are coming down in February, and during the holidays you at least get some decorations to make up for it!

 

Decorations on Park Avenue

Decorations on Park Avenue

The lights on East End Avenue

The lights on East End Avenue

Many of the avenues are set aglow with sparkling white lights. Of course, everyone wants to see the tree at Rockefeller Center, but I think it’s just as wonderful to have a little holiday cheer spread around the rest of the city’s neighborhoods.

 

 

 

 

 

The halls of all the city’s grandest buildings are decked to the fullest, as well as the pathways that lead to them.

 

Trees light up College Walk at Columbia University

Trees light up College Walk at Columbia University

 

Even the smaller green areas boast decorated trees. The one below is my favorite because it reminds me of the Christmas tree I spent the most time up close with as a child, the tree in the Nutcracker (although this one doesn’t magically grow as Marie battles giant mice onstage!)

Carl Schurz Park in Yorkville

Carl Schurz Park in Yorkville

 

Sometimes there are surprises to be found in regular buildings, whether shops, schools, synagogues and churches, or museums. Candles, presents, menorahs and dreidels – I’ve seen it all!

 

Gifts hidden in a staircase

Gifts hidden in a staircase

 

And like I said, even in the city, the most breathtaking decoration can be Nature’s – especially because it’s unexpected!

 

Snowfall in Riverside Park

Snowfall in Riverside Park

 

 

© 2014 Renaissance Runner Girl. All rights reserved.