Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Relatively Weird

There are multitudes of uniquely beautiful people in this city, which I relish. I greatly enjoy people-watching. One, because it's free entertainment, and two, because I'm nosy that way. Even on the (more) conservative Upper West Side, the show is fantastic. When our friend Matt visited the other day, he mentioned that he didn't see any two people alike on his trip from Penn Station to our doorstep. He's right, and I do love the diversity.

However, I've noticed that the phrases "Hmm. That's weird," or "Oh, that's strange," seem to be frequently flitting through my thoughts. My question is: Weird, relative to what? Relative to what I knew in West Michigan? Relative to my (narrow) notion of what a person should look like?

It occurred to me that there is a very good chance that I am indeed the weird one here.

Many people might think it weird that I'm a Christian, that I claim to know God and His grace.
I'm weird because I moved here to share with people that they can know God and His grace, too.
I tend to smile too much at people who don't always smile back.
I don't know what the heck I'm doing half the time I'm out and about.
I have a Midwestern accent (and yes, people have commented on it).
I don't know playground etiquette.
I don't leave for work at 8:00 in the morning, as do 95% of the people in my building.
I'm tall, and my husband is even taller (and yes, we do get stares).

People who know me could probably add to this list ad infinitum (please don't).

My point is, I need to stop writing off people as Weird so quickly. Because when I do that, the person stops being a complex, beautiful human being, loved by God... and they just become Weird. I don't look any further than that.

Don't I want people to look past my odd accent and my overeager grin?

Monday, August 28, 2006

Heads Up

Just a word of warning, so that when you come out to visit us, you won't be surprised.

Stuff occasionally drips on your head in New York City.
It's probably just condensation from an air conditioner or run-off from a rain shower, right?
Surely the pigeons aren't responsible.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Do you take your underwear rare or well-done?

I am ever vigilant in my efforts to save money here in the Big Apple. While really good deals are few and far between (I miss the $5 Little Caesar's pizza), I refuse to give up the search.

My quest landed me in our building's laundry room this week, where a helpful woman explained to me that the middle dryer was the hottest of the bunch. At the time, I thought I had met another deal-finder who was sharing a way to save a couple of quarters. Hotter = Less Drying Time, right? Now, I believe she was warning me.

I burnt our clothes.

They weren't blackened or scorched, but boy howdy!, did they have a strange odor. Let's see-- a fitting analogy...Have you ever held the iron on a shirt just a couple seconds too long? How about a curling iron that was a little too hot? It smells something like that. When the drying cycle was finished, I reached in to get the clothes and couldn't touch them because they were too hot. So I parked the laundry basked under the dryer and with a few "oh, ow's"and minimal contact, I swept them into the basket. I had to let them cool for a good half hour before I could comfortably fold them. Lesson learned. Fresh, un-cooked clothing is worth more than 25 cents.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Rev. Husband

It looks as if we'll be swinging by Michigan for a couple of days around Oct. 8, so Steve can be officially ordained as a Minister of the Word. I'm proud of him. Almost makes me want to have another child just so Steve can baptize him/her. But not really.
The service will be 9:30 on Oct. 8 at Caledonia CRC. Please come and celebrate with us. We would love to have all our family and friends there.

I've recovered from my whine, by the way. Yesterday was a good day, free of extraneous pee and crabby women. We found another great playground within easy walking distance that Chloe has proclaimed her Favorite Playground Yet. And we're looking forward to a visit from our friend, Matt, who is in Jersey for business.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


(*I feel a bit of a whine coming on, and it probably won't be pretty. If you'd like to exit the conversation at this point, I'd understand.)

The last few days have been a bit trying. After some reflection, I realize that most of the things that have happened are a result of my Ignorance in the City. Unfortunately, admitting that I'm ignorant doesn't make me feel any better. Especially when I'd like to imagine myself as Savvy in the City or perhaps Sophisticated in the City.

As exciting as this journey is, as beautiful, as powerful as the evidence of God's hand has been,

It still isn't easy.
I never expected it to be easy.
Even so, I'd like to share some of the events of the past few days that have led to my weariness.
  • On Sunday morning, after waiting 20 minutes in sweltering subway station heat, Steve and I decided that the 1 train was never coming and hopped on the 2 train. "They both go north," we thought, "how far off could it be?" The answer to that is, very far. We emerged in the exact middle of Harlem and speed walked the mile or so to the church (no cabs in the middle of Harlem on a sunny Sunday morning). We were 15 minutes late to the service and I had blisters the size of dimes on my feet. You can imagine the worshipful mindset with which we arrived.
  • Jonathan peed on me in the grocery store, as it turns out that bathrooms there are for employees only. The argument, "But he's going to pee his pants!" carries no weight.
  • I was scolded this morning on the bus by a crabby old lady. This is because I was so busy looking out the window to find our stop that I didn't make the kids move quickly enough to make room for another elderly woman. When I did make them move, the kids both cried and wailed like the tired, hungry kids that they were. And the whole situation made me mad (understatement).
  • I paid $7 tonight so the kids could get each get a small Tastee Delight ice cream (If you know your Seinfeld, there was an episode once where they spoofed this place- Kramer spilled some into the mayor's blood sample and his cholesteral results were all wacko). Before they could finish a third of it, Chloe said she had to go to the bathroom and couldn't hold it until we got home (see a bathroom theme, here?). We had to go into a Chinese restaurant where the bathrooms were so gross that I couldn't, in good conscience, let the kids finish their ice cream after it'd been in that space.

I know all these things are small, but when they are settled on the shoulders of uncertainty and unfamiliarity, they weigh much.

Thanks for sharing in my weariness for this moment.

I'll feel better in the morning.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Nanny Watch

The kids and I have been spending much time at Riverside Park, a long, beautiful stretch of green that lies along the Hudson River. It reminds me of Riverside Park in GR, only not with the sometime sketchy reputation for nefarious activity. Riverside has playgrounds scattered every few blocks, each with a different theme (Hippo, Dinosaur, Wild West). The one nearest to us is Hippo, and on hot days water shoots from the hippos' mouths.

I'm careful to keep one eye on the kids while they're playing, but the park is not quite so amusing to me as it is to a 3 and 5 year old. Besides the occassional small talk with other adults, I play a sort of guessing game which involves deciphering whether the accompanying adults in the park are the child's mother or nanny. When the adult and child are a different race or ethnicity, the answer is usually fairly obvious. True also when the nanny has a pronounced accent and the child doesn't. But other times, the challenge is greater. If the woman is under 30 or over 50, chances are that she's a nanny (at the bank the other day, the teller said to Steve, "You're only 32 and already have a 5 year old? Wow, you started early!"). I've also noticed that the mothers tend to be dressed down more than the younger nannies, who are quite trendy and fantastic-looking for a playground. Other than that, it's hard to tell.

Friday, August 18, 2006

The View From Here

The kids chill on the sundeck after a rooftop dinner.
The night view is fantastic, too.

Steve's and my room. It's Morrison Hall dorms at AU all over again.

The living/dining/kitchen area.

I really need to get some curtains on those windows.

Lovely, isn't it? That's what you see when you look out one of our windows. Although it's not what I would have chosen for a view, I know that we'll have to take the bad with the good. Fortunately Chloe hasn't tried to sound the words out yet...perhaps it will be a unique phonics lesson if this homeschooling thing works out.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Education Station

When we were here in July, Chloe had interviewed at a school (see the archives for a replay of the interview), and we were told that kindergarten was full at the time. I talked to the admissions man this week, and now there is a good possibility of a place for her there. We won't know for another couple of weeks, but the school would like to get paperwork in place so that we aren't scrambling at the last minute. This means that I'll not order the homeschool supplies until after this school starts, just to make sure that I'm not stuck with a large and expensive curriculum while Chloe dances off to school. It's all very loosey-goosey, but I not bothered by it. I'm confident in my ability to pull things together at the last minute (professional procrastinator, that's me), and I'm confident in Chloe's ability to adjust.

In other news, I think (read, "hope, please, please let it be") that our DSL should be up and running today or tomorrow. That will let me start posting pictures, which tell the real story of this beautiful city.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Never in a Rush

I think Steve and I are both feeling a bit antsy now that the apartment is set up and comfortable.

"Bring it on, let's start a church! Put us to work!
Change the city! Change the World!"

And while our enthusiasm is a virtue, our impatience is not.

We went to Emmanuel yesterday and were warmly welcomed. I think being there this next year will be a blessing to our family. Emmanuel celebrates communion each Sunday, and people go forward to receive it. Families go up as a whole, bringing their children with them. While the parents take communion, the pastor prays over the kids. It brought tears to my eyes to see Pastor Charlie kneel by Chloe and Jonathan, lay his hands on their heads, and ask for God's blessing and love to rain down on them. I was not crying because I believe that Pastors have some special privilege to bless my kids... No, it was more about the absolute acceptance and embrace that Emmanuel offerred to us, Chloe and Jonathan fully included.

During the worship service, the congregation shared a prayer that spoke powerfully to me and my impatience.

Wise Redeemer, you are never in a rush. You patiently fit every detail of our lives into a pattern whose aims are your glory and our good. We confess that we are impatient. We look for ready answers and solutions, and we doubt your wisdom and love when they do not come. We rush to fix things ourselves, often taking shortcuts around your commandments.

We are often content simply to be happy when your aim is to make us different.

We would rather be comfortable than forgiven and reconciled.

At the center of our impatience is cold-heartedness: we often would rather be left alone than find you. Forgive our folly. Change our hearts. Teach us to wait for you, Lord Jesus, just as you waited for your Father.

After church, we went to a Cuban diner with a couple who works for Intervarsity. It was edifying to talk with people who share the vision for the city, and they even offerred to watch the kids. Talk about edifying.

Friday, August 11, 2006

It's a Fact

...9 out of 10 New Yorkers don't know where the local branch of the public library is.

It's true. I asked at least that many people where the library was, and the 10th person was the only one who could tell me. You see, without internet access or a phone book, it's near impossible to figure out where all the important things are (post office, DMV, those quite necessary places one needs to visit upon moving to a new city). I thought the library would be a big help--would give me internet access AND new videos and books for the kids. Alas, you need proof of address to get a library card and use the internet at the library. Ironic thing was, I needed the internet to figure out where to get my driver's license, which would give me proof of address. The Catch 22 of new New Yorkers, I guess.

The move went well, as well as could have been hoped, I think. Steve was wonderful at his ordination exam on Tuesday, and then an hour later he and Davey jumped in the Uhaul and put the pedal to the metal (which means a speedy 60 miles an hour, in this case). They arrived at the apartment at Wednesday around noon, and were met by a life-saving John (the CRC Home Missions man) and 4 helpers. The Uhaul was unloaded an hour later. The kids and I got to the apartment around 4:00 to find so many boxes that we could hardly move. What were we thinking, packing all that crap? Seriously. Anyway, after many hours of organization later, I think this place is starting to be livable. I'll try to get some pics up sooner than later.

We're thrilled to be here, really. It's still a bit surreal. The kids are doing well and are excited about exploring the neighborhood. We're taking their scooters to the park tonight after a delicious and nutritious meal of whatever random stuff I can find in the cupboard.

Please continue to pray that we will meet many people here...I love to think about how God has been preparing these things in advance, that there are people who are just waiting to share their story with us.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Signing Off

We're packing up the computer today, which means this is going to be my last opportunity to blog for a while. I don't know how soon we're going to have internet access in NYC; the last tenant in our apartment is behind on his bills and we can't get service until I go to the cable company and show the lease, proving that I'm not just the same guy trying to open a new account under a different name.

I am melancholy today. Somehow, packing up all these last minute items is affecting me differently than even selling off 2/3's of our possessions did. The imminence of our move is forcing me to admit the underlying anxiety that I have--the anxiety that I was successfully able to ignore during the busy-ness of these past weeks. I am excited to begin the next leg of this journey, but I am leaving many people that I love and know and am secure in.

Please pray for our family during these next few days and weeks. Tomorrow, Steve has his ordination exam with the local church classis; it's A Big Deal. Immediately after that, he's hopping into the Uhaul and driving through the night with his brother. My guess is that the exam is going to take a lot out of him, so pray that he'll be awake and alert during the drive. Pray that when they arrive in the city that he'll easily be able to get the truck unloaded--he's concerned that the cars will be so closely parallel parked that they won't be able to get through from the street to the building. Chloe and Jonathan haven't been themselves lately; they're short-tempered and crabby. I don't blame them. How can a 5 and 3 year old process the magnanimity of this move? All they know is that most of their toys are gone and they won't be seeing their beloved grandparents and cousins much anymore. Pray for them as well.

Above all, please pray that we will draw closer to God during these hectic few days, that the details and logistics won't overwhelm us and distract us from our God, the One we love.

Thank you...

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Never Try to Sit Down in a Bean Bag While Carrying a Bowl of Cereal

The moving sale was spectacular. At times I wished I could call for back-up cashiers, it was so busy. Steve and I started setting up around 6:30 am, and the last customer left around 6:00 pm. A long day, but Steve's mom had the kids, my mom, aunt, cousin, and some friends helped with the merchandise, and Steve was available for the big item car-loading issues. I'm glad it's done, and if I never do another moving/garage/yard sale, it will be too soon.

One of the side effects of my successful moving sale is that we're now left with no furniture. Most of the stuff we're going to use in NYC is packed, still in its Ikea boxes, or yet to be purchased. Which leaves us with the bean bags. My friend Holly got her hands on 2 bean bags for the kids to use in the apartment--versatile, mobile seating. Last night in an exhausted stupor, I poured myself a bowl of cereal with plenty of milk (I was still dehydrated from the day in the sun), and I strolled over to a bean bag, the one piece of furniture remaining in front of the TV. Turns out it's quite a drop from standing position to bean bag sitting position, and I sorely misjudged the whole thing. My cereal ended up all over my shorts, and I ended up on the floor rather than nestled in the bean bag. Word to the wise: if you're looking for a relaxing way to end a long and grueling day, don't sit down in a bean bag while carrying a bowl of cereal.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Everything Must Go!

We're closing our doors early this Wednesday and Thursday to mark down everything in the store. Shop Friday for the year's lowest prices on kids' clothes, toys, furniture, and more!!!

Since I'm not Art Van, I'll stop with that. Still, we are having a rather large and overwhelming moving sale on Friday...spread the word. We've got a lot of furniture and a little bit of everything else, including the kids' clothes and toys, books, and tools. We're going to set up in the church's front parking lot for optimum visibility and parking. Hopefully we'll make enough to cover the cost of the new, micro-sized furniture that I bought for the apartment.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Old Photo Phenomenon

Ever noticed that it seems every picture of every missionary family you've ever seen is about 10 years old? The pictures are usually faded a bit, you can't even recognize the kids because they've grown so much since the picture was taken, and the hairstyles leave much to be desired? I always wondered why this was, if the families had ever heard of Glamour Shots, and in secret, felt a little sorry for them and their outdatedness.

We have joined the ranks, my friends.

One of our supporting churches has asked for a family photo to post on their missionary bulletin board, a nice big one if you please. We've been packing like mad fools these past few days, and the only 8x10 we can find is a lovely Olan Mills creation that was taken for our last church directory. It's almost 3 years old, which means Jonathan is still an infant, Chloe has tiny little pig tails, and I'm still carrying a bit of baby weight in my face. Steve, oddly enough, looks very much the same. In fact, I'm pretty sure he still wears that shirt that he has on in the picture.

I think the Old Photo Phenom must be a sort of unspoken missionary right of passage. It's a way of looking back on Life Before and saying, Good-bye, been nice knowing you, but we're looking forward now and don't have much time to be concerned with contemporary photos. That, or it's some cruel initiation joke.

Look for our Old Photo on a bulletin board near you.

In other news, I found really cheap tickets from Detroit to LaGuardia last night, so it looks as if the kids and I are going to fly on Aug 9 rather than drive through the night. I'm thrilled. Steve and his brother, David, are still driving the UHaul, but now I don't have to follow them in the mini-van and have David drive it back. If you're ever looking for good deals on tickets to NYC, it seems that Spirit Air runs specials quite often.