Friday, December 05, 2008

What Happens When...

...your favorite singer/songwriter babysits your kiddos? Songs are written and videos are produced. And holiday songs, to boot.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Disney World

I felt agoraphobic for a little while... there was so much space, so much open air! And everything was a little too perfectly manicured, spot-on timed, and... smiley. Honestly, friends, is there something wrong with me that I longed for a little bit of trash? The smallest whiff of something unpleasant, to remind me of home?

Oh my. Disney does what it does very, very well.

Except for the food.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Stranger Relations

I don’t know what it’s like to be 7 and growing up in NYC. I grew up in rural suburbia-- ponds, red barn, woods behind the house, the works. My siblings and I spent much of our days outside, rambling aimlessly with great purpose, digging in the mud with sticks and discovering Great Things like snake skins, box turtles, and imaginary bad guy hideouts wherever we went. We waved to our neighbors as they barreled down the driveway in their conversion van, and we hoped that later we could make use of their trampoline. We rode bikes and built forts and iced skated. It was wonderful.

Chloe, on the other hand, waves goodbye to the doorman, steps outside the apartment, and immediately encounters concrete, international cuisine, taxi cabs, and more diverse humanity than I could have dreamed of at 7 years of age. It is wonderful.

Chloe faces different challenges than I did at her age, and one of those challenges includes the subtle rules of stranger relations. “Never talk to strangers” has never applied less, and it has never applied more. “Never talk to strangers,” because the man across the subway aisle is staring disconcertingly and just took a bite out of his beer can (yes, that actually happened). “Never talk to strangers,” because it’s 7:00 in the morning on the uptown R train, and the half-awake straphangers want a high pitched jabber in their ears like they want a hole in the head, and we need to respect their space.

But if we never talk to strangers, how do we enter into the lives of the myriad around us? How do we come to fully appreciate the beauty of the diversity? At some point, we absolutely need to talk to strangers, and cross those lines, and become acquaintances and friends… But how in the world do I help a 7 year old know the difference? After the beer can bite incident, Chloe was terrified to sit next to any male that resembled that man. I talked to her about respect of people’s worth, about the affront it causes when we move away from them, etc… and I felt strongly about it, so I’m sure I was… eh, hem… stern with her. The next day, an unstable person sat down next to her and started leaning in. I grabbed her hand and moved away to the far end of the subway car. No wonder she is confused.

I am thrilled, though, that Chloe and I are walking this journey together. That as I move away, I can talk about mental illness and what causes it and how it can be treated. I can talk about how God’s image is still in that person… how mental illness is the result of brokenness in this world, just like any illness, and how God looks upon that person with the same unconditional, undeserved love that he lavishes on us all.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I'm Sorry.

That's all I've got for you, friends.
I've been gone too long, and I'm sorry.

How have you been, anyway? What's new? Not only have I failed to fill you in on all that's been going on, but I've also not even had the time to peek in the front windows of my Blogsville neighbors. I promise to stop by soon and check out your harvest decor and your mums and the political signs in your front yards. I want to hear about how the kiddos are doing in school this year, what they're going to dress up as for Halloween, see the new paint in the kitchen ... all the good stuff. Please mull some warm spiced cider and be ready for the drop in. I miss you.

I've let a lot of stories slip by and be lost in the busy. I'm not even sure where to start, really, but I'm telling you now that I'm going to stop in more often. A couple times a week, I hope. Hang with me. In the meantime, some pics from the opening worship of City Grace Church. So beautiful.

(Blogger is not letting me upload pics. You'll just have to trust me. It was beautiful.)

Monday, September 29, 2008

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I'm Sensing a Trend?

Not long ago, on a Saturday morning walk down the Hudson, I looked up from my iPod playlist and saw this:

Then, about two weeks ago, the kids and I happened upon this:

Upholstery theft is on the rise, I hear. It's senseless. But soft.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Oh, and Hey

Here are a few pics that I took last night. Our apartment is across the (large, 4 lane) street from the World Trade Center site. I stepped outside to walk for a while and noticed that the two lights seemed to be coming from our building. (Apologies for the quality; the iPhone is good but not necessarily a professional quality night vision camera).

Head Above Water. Now Breathe.

This morning Jonathan woke me up at 4:45. Which is really of no relevance to this post but deserves a mention, because it's a Saturday, for Pete's sake.

I've been absent from Blogsville for a long time. Longer than I would like, because I so enjoy sitting on my Blogsville front porch and sharing my silly little stories with you and hearing (reading) all about you and how your jobs and kids and cars and political views are. There are 68 unread items on my Google Reader, and I'm writing before I read them, which makes me think I've got it backwards and am seeking first to be understood and then to understand, and Mr. Stephen Covey himself would give me a good talking-to... but I fear that if I don't write now, it'll be another week before I sit down in front of the computer for longer than 30 seconds.

So, I've been away on business, as is usually the case when I don't blog for a while. The Friday prior to Labor Day, I very unexpectedly and happily stepped into the job that I left in the spring. It's a long story... a story full of lessons learned and values examined and God's provision and redemption... so it's a good story, and if you're ever in the area, let's grab a drink and I'll tell you all about it... but in the end, I'm thrilled to be back in a job that 1.) doesn't bore me, and B.) allows me to work with some of my best friends, and 3.) gives me the opportunity to wave to the kiddos on their way through the school hallways. All that being said, September is to a school office administrator as tax season is to an H&R Block accountant, and I've been insanely busy. Experience tells me that it will all even out in a couple of weeks, but still, working full time again is an adjustment, and for now, both my blog and the cleanliness of our apartment are suffering. Just this morning, Chloe said to me, "Mom, you know what I don't like? When I walk around the apartment and little crumbs stick to the bottom of my feet."

Me either.

Big things are happening with the church, too, which means Steve is also insanely busy, and there apparently is not a sane adult left in our household (good thing Chloe is 7 going on 37. She'll keep us on task). First, we've found a perfect, so good, can't-believe-how-good-it-is spot in Greenwich Village for our Sunday morning worship. Secondly, we've changed our name. City Fellowship Church has become City Grace. Hey, we'd love for you to join us. Really.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

2 Conversations

Chloe started it.

Mom, my tummy feels like I ate too many sweet tarts. It's like all jumbly and mixed up and excited and nervous.
Oh, honey, is it because of school tomorrow?
Yeah... it's kinda like I can't wait to go but I'm still nervous.
What exactly are you excited about?
Seeing my friends.
What are you nervous about?
Oh, just... it's just because I just don't know exactly what's going to happen.

Jonathan piped in.
Mama? We need to talk.
Yes, babe, do you need to talk about school, too?
No. We need to talk about glow in the dark vampire teeth.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Seriously. I'm so Thrilled.

Ashley Jones has agreed to lead the music for our worship.
Oh man, she's so good.

School Haircuts

Chloe hates hers. I think it might look a little familiar...
And everybody knows it's all but illegal to take pictures with Photo Booth and not mess around with the effects. Attractive.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

From Yesterday's New York Times

Newcomers Adjust, Eventually, to New York

Sometime over the course of a person’s first year in New York, there usually comes that moment. It can happen in the first days or weeks, or after 10 months. It can happen repeatedly, or without people noticing, at least not at first.

Newcomers suddenly realize either that the city is not working for them or that they are inexorably becoming part of it, or both. They find themselves walking and talking faster.

The subway begins to make sense. Patience is whittled away; sarcasm often ensues. New friends are made, routines established, and city life begins to feel like second nature. In other words, newcomers find themselves becoming New Yorkers.

“It can be lonely, very lonely, and I knew I would find it hard,” said Lisa Phin, 25, who moved to New York from Dallas in late May, and is building a network of friends through events listed on Web sites like “But if you can stick it out for one year, you’re home free.”

Rebecca Thompson’s moment happened shortly after she moved to the city in January. On a visit home to Oklahoma, Ms. Thompson, 24, found herself flummoxed when a hostess at a party and everyone else there were inexplicably acting so nice.

Gabrielle Sirkin’s moment came on the heels of Thanksgiving Day last year, five months after she moved to New York. Every day until then, she felt as if she was doing battle daily with the city. But suddenly, on a night flight to Kennedy International Airport from California, Ms. Sirkin, 26, caught sight of the glittering skyline, and, to her great surprise, felt a surge of joy.

“I was really caught off guard by my reaction,” she said. “But I could see Central Park, and the lights on the Chrysler Building, and I wasn’t looking at it as a tourist. I was looking at it as though I was home.”

Ian Ingersoll’s moment happened within weeks of his move from Seattle to New York last fall. He suddenly found himself exasperated by slow moving pedestrians, and, like a true New Yorker, began darting around them instead.

“That was when I realized I was getting in sync with the city,” Mr. Ingersoll, 25, said.

For newcomers, there is often great comfort in these flashes of recognition, which can serve as signposts along the often arduous path to integration with New York.

For Mr. Ingersoll, the sense of getting aligned with New York felt like balm, because the city, for all of its exquisite appeal, ended up nearly breaking his spirit.

Mr. Ingersoll painstakingly saved $8,000 over a year and a half in Seattle, working three jobs to prepare for life in the city of his dreams. He burned through it in no time when he could not find full-time work. While he had admired New Yorkers’ famed acerbic attitude from afar, he found the brusqueness wounding once here. Making friends also proved hard; Mr. Ingersoll spent last Christmas wandering alone through Central Park.

But slowly, more than halfway through that crucial first year, life is brightening for Mr. Ingersoll, who is an actor. A close friend moved here, too, and now shares Mr. Ingersoll’s basement apartment in Union City, N.J. Mr. Ingersoll found a full-time job and has an audition or two lined up.

“I knew it wasn’t going to be easy — it was something I had to do,” said Mr. Ingersoll, who grew up in Alaska. “I am in love with the city. And what relationship is good if you don’t work for it?”

Young people have flocked to New York City by the tens of thousands for generations, to chase their dreams and test their mettle. And they continue to come in strong numbers. In 2006, nearly 77,000 people in their 20s had been in the city for a year or less, according to the annual study by the United States Census Bureau for that year.

But for many, the thrill of arrival is often tempered by the sinking realization of what an alienating place the city can be, especially for those who are not wealthy or who do not have a pre-existing network of friends. Nothing comes easily, even if one can get past the dauntingly high cost of living. The subway maze seems indecipherable. People are everywhere, but ignore each other on the street. Friends might live in distant neighborhoods, and seeing them often requires booking time, like an appointment, weeks in advance.

“Any time I want to see someone and catch up with someone, everyone takes out their BlackBerrys and says, ‘This weekend isn’t good; how about three weeks from now?’ “ said Ms. Sirkin, who moved to New York from Milan in June 2007. “How can you form really good and solid relationships with people if you see them once a month?”

Not every newcomer has trouble adjusting. Alexis Vuatrin, 27, from France, said that New York fit him from the start. The skyline, the bustle and the taxis seemed familiar, thanks to movies and TV shows, and he quickly fell into a sprawling group of French friends. Then again, Mr. Vuatrin had already lived in Geneva, Paris and Hildesheim, near Hanover, in Germany.

And by comparison, he said, “The people in the street here are so nice, and smiling.”

But nice is a relative thing. Boris Chen, 22, moved to New York from California early in July for a job with a finance company in Midtown. He is still trying to stomach what feels to him like a whole new brand of rude.

Mr. Chen also had to get over his lingering childhood fear of taxi drivers, which he believed came from movies. “I always thought any time I got into taxis they were going to kidnap me, and I was going to die,” he said.

That fear is behind him, largely because Mr. Chen refuses to indulge in it, and he is tackling city life systematically. He is cultivating friendships with people he met while apartment hunting on Craigslist. Through them, he has learned valuable insider city tips, like what kind of subway pass to buy (30-day unlimited), and whether he should tip deliverymen (yes) or doormen (it depends).

“Learning the transportation is sort of what I’m working on right now,” said Mr. Chen, who lives with two roommates on the Upper East Side. “I’m pretty good with the subways now, but at night it’s a little weird, and I don’t really know how that works.”

Ms. Phin already finds herself getting annoyed more easily, even though she arrived from Texas only two months ago. The culture at her job, as a marketer for an engineering company, was a lot more abrasive than she had expected. “Nothing is sugarcoated,” she said. And so, she is finding herself growing a tougher skin. “I thought I’d bring my niceness with me,” she said, “but already I feel an edge developing. Because you need to, to deal.”

Ms. Thompson, a native of Oklahoma who moved from Chicago six months ago, has adjusted to New York life relatively easily, she said, largely because she interned here a few summers ago. She also has friends from college in the city, and has made new ones through her church, St. Paul the Apostle.

But the city has changed Ms. Thompson, who lives in Hell’s Kitchen near the tourist-clogged streets of Times Square. “I’ve definitely become the pushy New Yorker who has to get around everyone on the sidewalk,” she said.

During a recent week back home in Oklahoma, Ms. Thompson said she found herself holding doors for others, but she was transformed again immediately upon her return. “I had a horrible flight,” she said, “and I snapped back.”

There also usually comes a time, early on, when newcomers must accept that the city is a power greater than they are.

“My friend said, ‘The city abuses you, and you just have to abuse it back,’ ” said Ms. Sirkin, who grew up in California and moved to New York reluctantly, after having visa problems in Italy last year. “The subway doesn’t work in the morning, and you’re a half-hour late for work, and that’s not in your control. You have to find ways of surviving.”

Ms. Sirkin’s friend Sarah Kasbeer also recalled being consumed by a common strain of existential New York City angst: the sense that no matter where one is, something better is happening — the real New York is in full swing — somewhere else.

“When I first got here, I’d go out in the city with people I worked with, and I felt I was missing something,” said Ms. Kasbeer, who moved to New York from Milan in 2006. I was going to clubs in Chelsea, the Lower East Side, things I wouldn’t do now.”

But sometime during her first year, she stopped trying so hard. “I just realized that I didn’t need to find ‘it,’ that my place in the city would fall into place,” she said. “Now I don’t make an effort; I roll with things. It’s not just the city, it’s yourself that you have to deal with as well.”

Ms. Sirkin continued to resist feeling part of New York long after her revelatory experience last Thanksgiving. And, yet she has begun to come around, taking acting and photography classes, and forging new friendships. It took a year, she said, but now, at last, she is starting to feel connected with what she describes as “this terrifying city.”

“Every day you encounter situations where you have to step out of your safety zone, and it’s really kind of a self-discovery experience,” she said. “I see myself fighting it, but I also I see myself, every day, becoming a New Yorker.”

Monday, August 25, 2008

I've been walking this summer. Alot.

Mostly, I walk in the evenings after I've tucked the kids in for the night (please, don't call CPS. Steve stays in the apartment with the sleeping beauties). And on those evenings, I often walk past two men and their two beautiful golden retrievers. These men sit on the same bench each time I see them. They are relaxed, happy to be there, talking and laughing with whomever stops to say hello. The esplanade is their front porch and New York City is their small town. And sometimes I want so badly to join them on the porch that my feet involuntarily slow down as I pass. One of these nights, I will stop, and introduce myself, and pet their beautiful dogs. I'll ask them how long they've lived here and if they ever tire of watching the sun set behind the Statue of Liberty. We'll talk about the breeze and the boats and how you've got to keep an eye out or you'll get run over by the esplanade bikers. And I'll bet that they'll ask me about my "I Vote American Idol" tshirt. I won't blame them.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Surrey Sans Fringe

We've been exploring Governor's Island recently. Governor's Island, which rests in the harbor just south of Manhattan, is an old army/coast guard facility turned national park. The island is accessible only by ferry.

Our last trip included a surrey rental... the kiddos found it quite conveniently relaxing that their feet couldn't reach the pedals. I found it quite perplexing and patronizing that the steering wheel on my side was for looks only, and no matter how fast or furiously I turned it, Steve maintained absolute directional control.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Grammatically Correct Vandalism

From the Uptown 6 subway station at 52nd St... See the green semicolon? Nicely done, Anonymous Vandal.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Saturday Morning on the Esplanade

The view that I have on my daily walks - it just never gets old.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Add This to Your NYC Travel Guide

Visitors to New York: Please, please do not wear a purple balloon hat. We are a safe and tourist- friendly city; still, if you chose to do this, you will be mugged, mocked, or quite possibly, both.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Well, Here It Is. And It's a Bit Rambly.

I've sat down to write this post no less than 5 times, but, man, I've had a hard time committing to this list of favorite songs. Look, I know it's just a silly list on a little blog, but haven't I shared with you how much music means to me? Committing to 5 songs is important to me, and I want to get this right.

Also, I'm quite fickle.

My friend Laura asked me this weekend if this list of songs is going to include music that has changed my life, songs in which I heard deep wisdom or insight that caused me to move forward in a different direction. The answer to that is no. Because, as Laura rightly pointed out, you can recognize those songs but not necessarily like them or even want to hear them again. No, these songs are songs that I can hear 1,000 times and not grow tired of them, songs that have stood the test of time for me, songs that have both lyrics and music that are ageless. Because of this, these songs have indeed touched my life over the years, certainly, but not in the way that Laura is referring to.

There's a scene in Tommy Boy (stay with me, now) where Chris Farley talks about a sale he wanted to make so badly, and he blew it. He makes this (hilarious) comparison to JoJo the idiot circus boy, who loves his new pet so much but doesn't, eh-hem, know how to love it very well, and the pet dies under the weight of his love. That's me with songs. When I find a song that I like, really like, I listen over and over until it...croaks. (Just ask my mom and sister, both of whom must have heard Bleeding Love at least 25 times while I was in Michigan for two weeks last month.) Most songs can't stand up to this kind of love. The "hook" in the song eventually breaks down and gets old, and I move on. Not so with the songs on my list.

All that being said, I've got one more thing to add: this list is not in any kind of order. If I had tried to put them in order from most to least liked, I doubt this post would have ever happened.

Here goes:

1. Least Complicated by Indigo Girls
The Indiglos, hands down, are my favorite band of all time--I have no problem committing to that. I've been to 5 of their concerts, own a half dozen of their albums, and could sing the harmony to at least 20 of their songs in my sleep. The challenge I had with the Indigo Girls was narrowing it down to only one song (my arbitrary rule was that an artist could only have one song on this list). Would it be Closer to Fine, which was the song that introduced me to the band and drew me in with one measure? Or perhaps Power of Two, which played at our wedding? Or Watershed or Love Will Come to You...? All worthy songs, but I settled on Least Complicated because of the simple joy that it brings when I listen. It's as basic as that.

2. 32 Flavors by Ani DiFranco
One verse in this song gets me every time:

And God help you if you are an ugly girl
Course too pretty is also your doom
Cause everyone harbors a secret hatred
For the prettiest girl in the room
And God help you if you are a pheonix
And you dare to rise up from the ash
A thousand eyes will smolder with jealousy
While you are just flying back

And the drums at the end of the song as it is on Canon are... delicious.

3. In Christ Alone by Stewart Townsend and Keith Getty
This song speaks my faith in a beautiful yet succinct way, telling the story of Jesus while never forgetting the why of what He did -- because of pure, uncompromising, never ending love for me.

4. In da Club by 50 Cent
Just kidding. Though those of you at the retreat this weekend could testify that I do indeed like that song way more than it deserves.

Real #4. I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For by U2
It's U2; It's Joshua Tree... I think that's enough explanation.

5. Kingdom Comes by Sara Groves
I enjoy the majority of Sara Groves' music. She sings of life and relationships and faith in a way that is very much aligned with my own understanding of such things. Her voice is unique and engaging, and her music is simple, not overdone. Kingdom Comes is special because of the topic; it addresses how faith comes down to every day life -- what it looks like when the rubber hits the road. I understand how difficult that is, and the song inspires me.

Well, there it is. I wouldn't mind a bit if you all shared some of your favorites...
(I reserve the right to make editions as the mood strikes)

Friday, August 01, 2008


Friends, I know I owe you My Song List. I've got it narrowed down to four, but the fifth selection eludes... and I've been busy these past few days. The church is having a retreat in the Poconos this weekend, and we're leaving tonight. Look for a post early next week...

Monday, July 28, 2008

On Music, and What's More, My Favorite Songs of All Time

I've been thinking of music frequently lately. This is, in part, due to the fact that we're planning for "real church worship services" (please read all sarcasm into that phrase, as I do not in any way think that a real church is just about the worship on Sunday morning) that will begin in the fall. A big part of all that planning is the music-- what style, what tempo, what musicians, what key...

The other reason that I've been thinking about music is that I've been taking the time to clean out and organize my iTunes, and I'm once again amazed at the random cacophony that is my musical library. Abba is next to Ani DiFranco is next to Chris Tomlin, and there are still dozens of CD's waiting in queue to be imported. I like it that way.

Music is important to me. More than any other art form, music touches me, makes me cry, reminds me of specific moments in time. I will, I will cry during worship songs in church (and I'll try to hide it for a little while, then I'll give up and just let the tears roll down my face, so be prepared. And thanks in advance for the Kleenex). I'll listen to the same song 3 times in a row when a specific lyrical phrase or turn of the piano catches my ear. I'll make Steve and the kids listen to it, too, and then feel a twinge of disappointment when they don't get it. I'm one of those unfortunate people who are just musical enough to realize they aren't musical enough.

What's my point, you rightly ask? I've been taking a lot of walks this week, and as I walk, I've been trying to put together a list of my top 5 (maybe 10) favorite songs of all time. It's a struggle. I'm not even requiring of myself that I put them in any kind of chronological order (that would be too much commitment for a promiscuous music lover such as I). I simply want to give credit where credit is due: "Joe Musician, you touched my life." I can't seem to narrow it down, though. Too many songs have touched me, made me cry, sung me through a breakup or a breakdown or a breakthrough. But I'm working on it.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sunday Afternoon and It's All Good

I'm thrilled. The kiddos have started watching the DVR'd episodes of So You Think You Can Dance with me. The perfect way to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon, I think.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

You Delivered Again, NYC

A perfect summer evening...
Thanks again, New York, for making my citylove a two-way street (because unrequited love is never any fun).

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

This is why it's good to leave and return

I'd forgotten how much I sweat here.
What I mean is -- how much I would sweat if I weren't a lady, because we all know ladies don't sweat. Going from a cool, air conditioned apartment to the humid, 90 degree temps outside to the humid 110 degree temps in the subway station to the mildly air conditioned subway cars and back again... well, it seems to break some internal body temp regulation. And, like I said, if I weren't a lady, I might just start to have some sort of strange, sweaty hot flash experience.

I'd forgotten how much I appreciate the beautiful eccentricities of New Yorkers.
When I sat down on the subway and pulled out my pink ipod, the man next to me pulled out his pink ipod and said, "Nice pink ipod." I smiled and glanced down. We were also wearing matching toe nail polish (red).

I'd forgotten how great it is to discover new places to meet friends, like the very chill Bohemian Beer Gardens in Astoria, where we were last night. (I'm gonna miss you, Joe and Kristen. Portland doesn't know how lucky it is.)

I know I say this often... but, my friends, I love this city in big way. When I leave and return, my love is absolutely affirmed. I'm not being naive; this place presents its sweat and dog pee smells and crazy expensive cost of living and all its other multiple challenges upfront and clearly. Yet, I love.

And the city loves me too, I know it. As a little welcome back gift to me, I found $40 on the sidewalk today. Thanks, New York, I love you, too.

PS- I did ask all the people around me if they had dropped the cash, and I received plenty of strange looks, but no takers...

PPS - I recently downloaded Justin Nozuka's album, Holly, and am blown away. I highly recommend a listen.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Down on the Farm

What a joy it was today to visit the Kuperus Farm...
to gaze out upon the rolling fields,
to drink iced tea out of Mason jars,
to breathe in the scent of hay,

to have a chicken hop on my shoulder.

Thursday, July 10, 2008