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...