Friday, December 13, 2013

Sometimes we fail, and that's okay.

I've worked for the same company off and on for five years.  In that time, I've worked in over sixty different schools, probably for a total of well over 300 days.

On Wednesday, I received my first ever bad review.

My representative called me and said she wanted to discuss some feedback I'd received from a school. She named the school, where I had been last Friday, and have been too more times than I could count in the last four years. The school has almost entirely new staff, and they don't know me. This school used to request me every single day. Every.... Day..... But the last two years have been full of turn over and I can count on my hands the times I've been there.

The school informed my company that a teacher had observed me sitting behind the desk much of the day and playing on my phone.

And you know what? I was.

I know better. I do. I even thought to myself that day, "You should be circulating more. You need to put your phone away - you're not hiding it by just putting it behind your purse." The kids were being WONDERFUL, and I was exhausted, so I wasn't working my hardest. THIS IS NOT ME. this is not how I normally perform.

And I got caught. I admitted to what I had done, though I'm sure my defenses had me downplaying it.  My representative thanked me for being honest, told me not to let it happen again, and moved on.

I called back a few minutes later on a totally unrelated note, but I apologized again and told her all the steps I would take to ensure I never had another day like that. And she was fine.

But worst case scenarios flooded my mind. "OMG what if she calls the school and they tell her it was way worse than I made it sound?!?!" "I'M GOING TO LOSE MY JOB!!" "These schools all know each other and they're going to spread the word and no one will want me!" "I'm never going to be able to use my network of schools to help me find a job when I graduate!" "My company isn't going to think of me as one of their favorite employees anymore and I'm going to get trash-talked during staff meetings." "They're not going to give me work on Friday just to punish me and I have Christmas presents to buy!"


 But the truth is, none of the above is true. The ordeal is over, two short days in, and things are back to normal.... I hope.

You know why?

Because our failures don't define us. They teach us. When my representative called me she was SHOCKED. She told me she assured the school that I was one of their most requested employees and that this was very much out of character.  She backed me up in saying I must have been having an off day.  AND WE ALL HAVE OFF DAYS. But because I've spent almost five years establishing myself as not just a reliable employee, but a superior one, my representative knew that this was an isolated incident.

I learned from this experience. I learned that being really good at what you do does not exempt you from following rules.  It made me reflect up on my time at Summit. When I was there, every day I felt like I was a failure. I felt like I could do nothing right. I wasn't very good at the job, and even when I thought I was doing a great job, I was called out on something I didn't do right. It was miserable.

I am so thankful to have found a field in which I excel. I've had three different social work internships at this point, and I've left all three of them each day feeling like I'd been successful. I'm so thankful for the relationships I've built with almost all of my schools.

I showed up to work at a school today nervous. I felt as though a cloud was hanging over me waiting on me to fail, even though, in over three hundred days I've only had the one complaint, but it was looming.

Today I am working at a school where I have spent many of days over the last two years.  I even got their social worker her job after they started asking me when I was graduating and did I know anyone who was available for this year.

I walked into the office this morning, rushed because it was a day-of assignment. I rounded the corner to see the receptionist.

"Hey!!! It's our favorite person from school professionals!! So glad you're here!"

Yeah, I think one failure is okay.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

What I like about where I am

I said after my last post that I would follow it up with a post about why I love my current field placement oh-so-much, but then, grad school happened, and I haven't been up for writing this semester (This is not just applicable to the blog, I straight up don't feel like writing even for school. This is foreign.)

Somehow this semester felt especially draining. What I realized eventually is that
a) I don't have any time during my work day in which I can write process recordings or work on papers - and I had plenty of that last year
b) While I love love love this internship, it is far more emotionally draining than last year, and while that may not affect me AT work so much (okay, sometimes it does), it manifests itself in little ways like making me feel extra tired in the evenings and causing me to be a little bit more absentminded.

All that to say, I do want to share why I feel so at home where I am.

As I said before, I work in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at NY-Presbyterian Weill-Cornell Medical Center. I do family work, particularly with parents whose newborns are being treated for critical illnesses.  My primary job is to serve as a support system for these families. I meet with them when they are first admitted and find out what kinds of supports they have in place, if they have job situations to put on hold, if they have family nearby, if they live close enough to visit, that sort of thing.  I then take this information and figure out how I can best be a support.

Sometimes being the extra support means getting Mom a cup of water. Sometimes it means being the one to give mom a bereavement packet with information on things like "Twinless Twins" and support groups for losing a child after she's had to withdraw care on one of her triplets.

Sometimes my families are really really strong, and have amazing coping skills.  Sometimes they need someone to talk to more than anything and don't have anybody, so I step it.

Did you read that?! I get to TALK to people, as a job. I get to LISTEN TO THEIR STORIES all day long. It's BEAUTIFUL. And tough. Some of these stories are hard. Okay, MOST of them are hard, but going home knowing that I eased someone's stress by simply being a listener and using my "clinical skills" (whatever that means), to help them to feel at ease, that makes me excited to get up and go the next day.

Of the three internships I've had so far, this is the one where I feel I'm getting the most practice at using my actual counseling skills, and having the ability to do that in a place where I get to interact with SO MANY DIFFERENT TYPES OF FAMILIES with so many unique stories, well that's just more than I could have ever asked for.

I admit that some of my days are really really hard. When you walk this journey with these families, you experience it with them, first hand. I was in the room the day one of my babies was about to go into surgery and had just taken a really bad turn and mom called for a priest to come up and do a baptism stat and was waiting on dad to get there to say his goodbyes while we all stood around and watched the nurses do everything they could to keep her stable until time to go into her emergency surgery (and for the record, she's okay :) ). I waited outside the door for the news that one of our babies no longer had a heartbeat after we had to withdraw after months of fighting for his life unsuccessfully. I experience these things with them. I maintain my professional demeanor in the room then go home and cry some nights. But the experience is beautiful, even if sometimes it's that ugly kind of beautiful.

To see these families come through it. To see how they handle being told "he's going home tomorrow," after months of waiting, only for him to have another episode and have to put off that homecoming even longer. To see these moms who have wanted a child their whole lives and finally get to have one at 41, 42, 47.... It's incredible.

Mostly, I like to see them go HOME. I miss these families, and it's always bittersweet when they walk out the door, but there is not much more beautiful than seeing a car seat with a 6 pound child in it and remembering the time when he was 1 pound and thinking "wow, this kid is going home."

As I head into my semester break, I'll miss those babies. I hope that a bunch of them won't be there when I get back. I am in a setting where I never pictured myself working, and I love every second.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

How God Put me Right Where I'm Supposed to Be

Last year, I had my dream job. You could not have written a job description for a social work intern that was more geared toward my career goals and interests than the job description I had. In my field application, I wrote that my long-term goal was to work in a school setting, but particularly with adolescents with disciplinary problems. I also wrote that I had a strong interest in violence prevention. So they put me here, as a school social worker at Passages Academy - the school that serves the kids in the Horizon Juvenile Center. I had been really nervous about whether or not choosing NYU was the wisest decision - because ya'll, it's expensive. Like, really expensive. I had just taken a class at church on how God wants us to steward money, and I felt like I was ignoring that... but somethign in me just kept telling me, after all of my prayer, that this was the right decision. Getting that placment sealed the deal. The things I learned there are another post for another day - but suffice it to say, I'm more passionate about improving the juvenile justice system than ever.

So when Spring rolled around and it was time to start talking year two placements, I was like "Seriously, I already had my dream job, put me anywhere." My faculty advisor couldn't believe this. You see, most people's first-year placement is kindof a flop. They don't usually cater your first year to your goals, and I listened to story after story of colleagues of mine who had bad supervision, didn't learn anything, were working with a population that did not line up with their goals or gifts, etc. So for me to say "I had my dream job, my supervisor was amazing, and I loved every second of it," was completely unheard of. Your second year they let you cater your goals a little bit more to what you want to do, and people are generally very pleased.  I had no goals to cater to, I'd already done it. I wanted a new experience just to broaden my horizons.

We decided to request hospitals. Many of the jobs out there are in healthcare, and I have ZERO experience in healthcare, but a TON of experience in education.  Seeing as how education jobs are hard to get but healthcare jobs are a-plenty if you've got the experience, I thought it'd be worthwhile, for practical purposes.

At first, my supervisor insisted I work with adults, because, if you don't know I DONT LIKE WORKING WITH GROWN-UPS. For real. It's terrifying. Not to mention my patience runs really then when I have to repeat myself and explain basic things to a grown person. I don't mind doing it for kids, but you're an adult, grow up. THEN, we decided that, since my long-term goals involve schools, I need to be better at working with parents (seriously, I really really used to hate the parent-invovlement aspect of teaching becuase I was terrified of parents...) So we requested pediatrics. Kids are not in the hosptial alone, so much of the work in pediatrics is with FAMILIES.

LITTLE DID I KNOW that pediatric internships are incredibly rare. Most hospitals are afraid that it's too much for an intern. It's intense, so they simply won't assign you there. They feel like it's not for the inexperienced. So, I prepared myself that there was a good chance I'd end up in a normal grown-up hosptial setting.

Then, I started to have friends going through some pretty serious losses. Two good friends lost babies in their second trimester. One friend had an early miscarriage. I also had a bazillion friends who were pregnant (like, for real, everyone got pregnanat at the same time). I prayed about how God could use this in some way. When you're twenty-seven, and want babies, and everyone around you is having babies, and you're still waiting for your first boyfriend, like a twelve year old, it can be pretty hard.  So, I prayed about it. Then it came to me: WHAT IF THERE ARE JOBS IN OB/GYN OR NEWBORN SOCIAL WORK?! I immediately started researching. Is this a thing? If so, do they take interns?

The first two hospitals that came to mind were New York Presbyterian, and Mt. Sinai. So I started browsing their websites and found out that, yes, it is a thing, and as a matter of fact, there are even social workers in the NICU!  What?!

So I emailed my faculty advisor. I'd been awaiting a placement for about a month at this point, and was getting anxious, even though I knew it could still be two or three months before I got one. In my email, I asked her to add an additional request, if that was even possible, for a job working with pregnant or new mothers. She told me she didn't know if it was available, but she'd forward my request to NYU.

And then, within twenty four hours, I received a call.

"Hi, Danielle, this is [important professor of field placement at NYU], I'm looking over your resume and requests and I wondered if you'd be interested in me sending your resume to New York Presbyterian?  particularly in the neonatal intensive care."

My response: "YES YES YES YES YES!"

[Important professor]: "You know, this isn't a placement we just give away, it's tough, so I want to make sure you're okay with that. Typically people aren't as excited about it as you were because it's a hard field, so I was a little surprised at how enthusiastic you were."

Me: "I take it you got my email from [insert facutly advisor]"

[Important professor]: "No, I haven't received any emails from her today."

WHAT?!?!?! Ya'll God is amazing. Again, reinforcing just how awesome he is at directing us to where he needs us to be. Long story short, I interviewed, I was taken on a test-run through the unit to see just how I handled seeing all of those adorable little tiny babies in their little isolettes with little tubes, and I passed. I got the job. And I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE it.

I met with important professor in person last week for the first time, and she had me recount to her just how this placement had come to be because she said "I place a lot of students, and I know that I won't just place anyone there. We're very selective with who we place in pediatric units."

I am complely floored by how God has moved through my graduate school experience, and placed me in all the right places, and used tough experiences to shape me and change my vision.

I will follow this up with an update on just WHY I love my job and what my days look like, but this post is really long, so I'm cutting it off here.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

"Disenfranchised Grief": Mourning the Loss of the Things You Never Had

Today I read what is quite possibly the best explanation of what it feels like to be single and Christian that I've ever read. It was one of the first times I've heard SOMEONE ELSE voice some of the things I feel GUILTY for feeling. I highly encourage you to read it before reading what is, in essence, my response to it. Check it out here.

I won't echo her post by going on about how the church unintentionally puts married life on a pedestal and makes the rest of us feel like aliens, but I will note how much I resonated with one of the comments on that concept. There are tons and tons of sermons and messages about marriage and family out there. There are not NEARLY, not by a long shot, as many about being single. So everyone's like "Don't be discouraged though, I mean, you can find ways to apply anything to your own life, and it never hurts to learn more about marriage if you someday hope to have one." You're right. I do listen to plenty of these messages and gain a lot from them. I also listen to many of them and cry because it makes me want to be married more than ever. One of the comments on this post essentially said that, married people and pastors tell us that all the time, so let's flip the tables. How about we start having churches focus their sermons on what it's like to be SINGLE. Lets start bombarding our bookstores with books on being a single Christian, with very few resources for marriages.... and then tell them "It's okay, you can find a way to apply it to your life." Not so easy huh?

Anyway, that's not the point of my post. The title of this post is "Disenfranchised Grief" because I feel like those words FINALLY summed up the feelign I've been trying to express to my friends for YEARS.

Very often when I'm having one of my truly horrific lonely days, I express to my friends that I feel like my husband has died. That sounds extreme, for sure, but that's exactly how it feels. The kids I've never had, I mourn them. I see other people have kids and I grieve. I am no less happy for my friends that they have children, but for myself, I feel like my dreams have been stabbed in the heart. Every time a friend of mine posts a picture that says "Date Night," I cry over the dates I've never had (considering I've NEVER once been on a real date, ever).

Then, I feel guilty for feeling this way. Because I'm told I should be hopeful. I'm told I should be so happy for the "freedom" I have. On that note: NO ONE WHO KNOWS ME WILL LOOK AT MY LIFE AND THINK I'M NOT ENJOYING IT. When it comes to finding silver linings and squeezing out every ounce of living that life has to offer, I'm your authority. But that doesn't make the pain of not having the one thing I've prayed for and asked for since I was a kid go away.

Everyone says to simply look at the blessings you have and be thankful for those, because why dwell on what we DON'T have. You're right, and trust me, as noted above, I AM thankful for every single blessing I have, but I've asked for ONE THING, repeatedly, for years upon years, and I'm getting everything BUT that, and I have ZERO control over that, and it's not okay. It's like, at Christmas, when year after year I ask for Saints tickets, and I'm given a bazillion other awesome things that aren't Saints tickets, and I'm never disappointed, and I always feel like I've had a great Christmas, but just one year it'd be nice if I actually got Saints tickets - and I'd be willing to trade in all of the other things I might have gotten instead. Except, it's so much bigger than football tickets, obviously.

I'd trade so so so so so so so so so many of the blessings I have to have a family of my own. Each year that passes is one  year I get closer to it being impossible for me to have that family. And that scares the mess out of me.

I've made the comparison before to the barren woman. I've had many people try to tell me that's not the same, but then no one can really articulate WHY. Because it IS the same. I am just as unable to have kids as any of my friends who can't. I've had several friends have miscarriages in the last few years. That is a truly painful experience. They're mourning the baby they never had.  But when trying to comfort a woman who's dealing with infertility or miscarriage, would you ever say to them "Oh, it's okay, you're young, there's still plenty of time to have kids"? or "Maybe God wants you to focus on him right now instead of a baby"? or to the woman who's been trying to get pregnant for several years "It's okay, it'll happen one day. All in God's timing"?

If you would, you are insenseitive, and you should stop trying to comfort people because you're bad at it.

So why do people feel like it's okay to say that to single people? Every time someone says to me "Stop worrying about getting married, you're young, you have plenty of time." I want to punch that person and let them know that YOU ARE NOT HELPING ME!!!!! AT ALL!!! SO STOP!! 

In the comments of the blog someone made the following comparison: "It's like telling someone who hasn't eaten in a week 'It's okay, your body can go six weeks without food.  You have plenty of time to eat before your chances die out'" while they sit in front of you with five pounds of crawfish, potatoes, corn, and a Purple Haze (okay, the exact food they compared it to was different.... but you get the point).

Also, people don't tell women who haven't been able to get pregnant for years that they will someday have a baby because THEY DON'T KNOW IF THAT'S TRUE. It's dangerous to set such expectations on something both you and they have no control over. Same thing with being single. I've never ever had a boyfriend in 27 years. I've barely even skimmed the surface of coming close to it happening. Time and time again I watch as I meet new great guys and they somehow immediately check off the "Friend only" box and leave me there. I've had guys who were in every way shape and form perfect for me, even one in particular who I just KNEW was actually interested and we had everything in the world going for us and this was most-definiely-certainly-going-to-turn-into-something-no-doubt-100%-yes, and everyone agreed and then. it. never. happened. THEREFORE I have ZERO evidence that this will ever change. So don't be confused when I run into a corner and cry after you tell me "He's out there somewhere." Because maybe he's not.

So bear with me when I mourn these things. When I meet a little girl whose name is that of one I'd planned to name one of my kids and I cry the same way a mother who lost a child with that name would cry becuase I don't have MY little girl in my arms (or when a close friend or family memeber actually names their child the name you've always dreamed of and you realize it is now off the table). When I see a little boy in a Saints jersey and I have a breakdown, because I don't have the little boy I just knew I'd have by now. When I see people holding hands walking down the street and I mourn the hand that I've never gotten to hold. When another guy friend gets engaged, and even if I was never interested in him as a husband I question, "Why didn't he ever consider me?"

Bear with me when I ask you over and over "What am I missing?" "What am I doing wrong?" "How did I screw this up?" because I cannot fathom any reason why I've never ever had my affections for someone reciprocated, but there must be something. Some grand secret someone's not telling me. Bear
with me when I start crying because you're telling me just how "incredible" and "beautiful" and "smart" and "fun" and "such a prize for any guy out there" I am because that's NOT helping the fact that THEY aren't seeing it. And especially bear with me when I get upset because you tell me I've just got so much going on that it "intimidates" guys, because that's a bunch of BS.

It is soooooooooooo incredibly frustrating that the struggles of single people are seen as petty. That they are seen as a problem to be remedied. That the church avoids addressing them because frankly, it's just too hard.  It's so frustrating that almost every book about being single is written by a married person, or that every sermon preached aobut singleness is preached by a married man - because so few churches are hiring unmarried pastors. It's frustrating that I've actually had people tell me "You know, maybe you're dwelling on this too much, and honestly, I'm kinda tired of hearing it from you," when you know good and well that you would never tell someone who was grieving an actual physical death or loss that they were "dwelling on it too much." It is a loss. A painful one, and one that may never have an ending or resolution.

I'm not writing this to get a pity party. Because I'm a pretty happy person, with a pretty awesome life. I'm writing this because I read this post, and, it was one of the first times I've felt truly VALIDATED for feeling GRIEF, and not felt guilty for it. Her next post is about validating feelings, and I highly encourage you to read that.

On that note, I'm going to try to get some work done and then start reading her book, which I totally downloaded right after reading that post.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

I love my body, therefore I respect it. You should too.

I love my body.

This is not me trying to make some bold declaration about body acceptance. My opinions on body acceptance could be a post of of their own. Or two. Because I think, as much as I love that women are being confident in who they are, there's a fine line between accepting the way one LOOKS, and taking care of one's HEALTH  (and on that note health ≠ skinny).  But this not the the subject of today's post. I'll gladly write one on my opinions on that if anyone actually cares that much about my opinions.

Back to where we started.

I love my body because I've worked really really hard to get it to where it is. I've also worked really really hard to accept the things about it that aren't "perfect." I've worked through a lot of my own confidence issues and annoyances and have learned to be thankful for the cruddy metabolism, large thighs/hips, and annoyingly-in-the-way oversized bra size I inherited. I'm thankful because if I was one of those people who could eat whatever I want and never excercise I probably would be, and I'd miss out on all of the awesome rewards that come along with taking care of one's health for more than the sake of weight.

So, because of all of this hard work, when I look in the mirror, I like what I see. I'm happy with this shape and every little curve of it.

Because of this, men of the streets of New York,  I EXPECT YOU TO RESPECT IT.

I've always been annoyed by the men who shout out cat calls on the streets. They yell their little "Hey baby"s and "have a nice day"s and I keep walking. They're usually pretty non-threatening, just annoying - like the cabbies who see me dressed for work and honk incessantly assuming I'd rather ride with them than take the bus.

Two nights ago I was walking to the gym, backpack in tow from having left a coffee shop where I was working on a paper, and all of the sudden I hear this man yell, "I like your pretty a**."  Typically I'd have just kept walking. I hear things like that on the street, and they annoy me, but I move on. For whatever reason though, on this particular night, before I could even think otherwise, I turned and yelled "WHAT?!" and he REPEATED, "I said I like your pretty a**." To which I responded "That's not okay," and kept walking. He continued to yell his thoughts on why I would not be accepting of his "compliment" and I just kept walking.

On that particular night, because I was going to the gym, I was wearing a pair of tights, which naturally show off my curves more than the clothes I wear on a regular basis. Even so, I had a t-shirt on with them, which was long enough and loose enough to essentially cover up most of the curvy parts. I've had more than one instance lately in which I've been wearing fairly conservative clothing and had similar things said to me. I don't know the motives behind these men, why it is they feel the need to shout these things at women they don't know, but it's not okay.

Why is it not okay? If they aren't harming me, what's the problem?

The problem, for me, are the women who aren't so confident. Particularly young girls.

When I was a teenager, I wasn't cute. Seriously, I know we're all awkward as teens, but I was never a girl that stood out from the crowd in terms of looks or my body. When people talk about "oh, if only I could go back to my 17 year old body, or my 20 year old body, and I thougth I was fat THEN" I cannot sympathize. I have some clothes from high school still laying around that are actually too big for me now. The best shape I've ever been in was at age 23, and I'd say right now I'm very close to where I was then.  So when I was a teenager, I was not getting cat-called. That, and I didn't live in a big city so there really wasn't anyone to "cat call" me. But still. It got me thinking: If I was a teenager with a cute figure, and I had low self esteem (as many teenage girls do), would I respond differently to these street "compliments"?

I don't know, but there's a big part of me that thinks maybe I would. Lot of the girls I have worked with are not taught to respect themselves or their bodies by their families for whatever reason - and these men, THEY KNOW THAT.

The other day, I was on the train, and TWO different teenage girls got on at different stops. One was wearing a hot pink lace bra, one wearing a black lace bra.

You might say, "Danielle, why were you looking at their bras?"

I wasn't. They were in my face, bright and clear, as these girls both had on shirts with the enitre sides cut out. On their way to school.

If I'm getting cat called and yelled at when I'm in conservative clothing, HOW ARE THESE GIRLS BEING TREATED??

I honestly could go on and on about this on so many levels but I'm already getting way off topic.

Now, I'm not for "slut-shaming" and saying that girls who dress inappropriately are "asking for it." No one is asking for it. BUT I do think that our bodies are very precious. And that we need to respect them, and that we need to recognize when they are being disrespected by someone else.

I do not work ridiculously hard to take care of myself so that you, Mr. 168th street observer, can tell me it looks good. I don't need your approval. I know what I look like.

TRANSPARENT MOMENT I love my body so much that sometimes I WISH it was socially acceptable to show it off, and that no one would react, trust me! But you know what, that's pretty vain of me. And thats not what my body is for. Lord willing, someday I'll have someone to show it off to whenever I want, and any man that yells things at me now or then is stepping on that one special guy's turf. Not cool dude, not cool.

When I look through instagram, and I follow my teenagers, and I see the pictures they post of themselves, and how they fish for "likes" and beg people to follow them and post picture after picture of themselves dressed provocatively or making sensual expressions and seeking the approval of others, IT MAKES ME SO SAD. It breaks my heart. Where are we failing our girls? Why are we letting this be okay?

I recognize that this will likely not be read by any of these street-calling men, or young girls, but seriously, MEN - start respecting women. You may think your calling out is harmless. You may not even have any expectations from it, but it's not okay. It's just not. We women are not flattered by it, we're annoyed. and GIRLS: don't let them disrespect you! Don't stop to talk to a strange guy because he compliments you on the street - even if he's your age.

Recognizing I have very little authority to give dating advice, I CAN testify that it's better to let a man get to know you based on the beauty that shines THROUGH you than because he looked at you and liked the clevage you were showing.

To me it's a no brainer: when I dress myself in a flattering yet modest way, it eliminates a whole slew of crazy-characters from the men who show me any attention. It doesn't 100% weed out the perverts (I've had my fair share of "nice guys" in my life who turned out to have no respect for my body), but it sure does weed out the crew of people who disrespect my body from the get-go.

I'm saddened that this even needs to be said. Who is teaching these men to talk and act this way? Who is teaching these girls to seek out all of this approval? I get it, when I take a cute picture of myself and post it online, I look for the compliments - it's what we do, but I don't take provacative or revealing photos of myself and ask total strangers to rank them (oh man, don't even get me started on the "ranking" posts on IG). We need to be sending the message to our young women that they are special, and are beautiful, and they don't have to dress in revealing clothing or post sensual photos to get that approval.

(on a side note - I love Dove models, and if I thought only the women of the world who need to learn body confidence would see them, I'd totally volunteer to be one. I like the message of beautiful ≠ size two and perfectly proportioned, but I don't like that having pictures of women in the underwear for just anyone to see is the way to go about it...)

Friday, September 27, 2013

Because, sometimes we have dry spells.

I'm going through one of those dry spells in my faith.

I. hate. dry. spells.

It's one of those times when I'm having a hard time connecting to God, and I know why, and I'm being stubborn about fixing it, and I'm annoyed with myself for not fixing it, and the cycle continues. It's Satan playing his little games and me being all ADHD and jumping in on the fun.

So, I don't have any words of wisdom from my own personal studies in the word these days, because my studies have been surface level. And it's driving me nuts.

Why is that? Why do we let ourselves get all stubborn? I know GOOD AND WELL that my life is infinitely greater when God and I are totally on the same wavelength (okay, I legit realize I can never be FULLY on his wavelength, but you know what I mean), but I keep letting little things get in the way. Little sins I'm having a hard time shaking. Little distractions from spending more time with him. This happens on occasion. I'm over it. I want to be completely washed up in his awesomeness in the very near future.

The beautiful thing that I keep reminding myself when I fall into these spells is that the mere fact that I KNOW what I'm missing out on PROVES how great my relationship with him really is. Think about your close friends. When you and your close friends have been unable to speak on a regular basis, you RECOGNIZE that. You feel it. When you do or say something that hurts that friend, it weighs on you. I'm actually experiencing a little taste of that with a good friend of mine right now. There are plenty of people out there who I'm just not that close to. Those people, while I enjoy spending time with them, I don't really care if I go out of my way to do so. It's not like I'm sitting around thinking "Gosh, I really wish I could talk to that person right now." I'm just glad when I do. My close friends, I feel their absence. I miss them. All the time. I think about them. If not talking to them is my own fault, I feel that distance even more heavily.

THATS how I know what I have with God is special. I miss him in that way. It's not that we aren't talking. We just aren't talking the way we used to, in that really close, day-to-day intimate way. I'm not going out of my way to learn from him like I like to, and I feel it.

So that's my goal, to get refocused, repurposed. To be reminded of just how amazing he is and the ways he provides for me and takes care of me and genuinely loves me.  I'm thankful that, while I'm failing him, he's here reminding me that he hasn't gone anywhere, and it makes me want to run to him even more.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

So I've been quiet lately...

I've had a bazillion blog topics on my mind and haven't had time to sit down and organize my thoughts on any of them.

I started my second-to-last semester of grad school in the last few weeks, and on top of trying to organize my readings, go to class, adjust to a new internship, and start back to work, I had my big brother in town for a few days AND I've become addicted to Breaking Bad, like the rest of America
***************I'm just now finishing season two tonight, and if you spoil anything for me......

Anyway, so my internship this year is in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at New York Presbyterian Weill-Cornell Medical Center (The Cornell University Hospital).  It is INCREDIBLE!!!  I was a little worried that, while the work seemed interesting, I would feel as though I was abandoning my vision a little - since I feel a strong calling to working in social justice among youth with disciplinary problems.... and this is NOT that. BUT the skillset I'm acquiring is absolutely phenomenal in terms of learning to work systems, support people through really tough times, etc... which is EXACTLY why I asked for this type of job. Not to mention that my resume was forwarded to them before NYU received my email about wanting to work in a NICU (totally a God thing, yall). 

So, someday soon, I plan to jump on here and discuss topics God has been laying on my heart, like I usually do, but for now, I'm going to eat some New Orleans flavored Brooklyn-made Steve's Ice Cream and watch the last two episodes of BB season two - while I avoid doing any school work... 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Snail Mail is FUN

My last post was about a mug exchange, which was AWESOME! But EVEN BEFORE that, I got to be a part of a monthly Snail Mail Collective for the first time. This was great, because I had the incredible opportunity to get to know Beth over at That Little Spark for several weeks via email before sending good old fashioned snail mail. It was so wonderful to make a new friend that way, and to be able to think about things that she might enjoy receiving in a package. As with the mug exchange, I was in New Orleans when it was time to send it, so, while sticking to the theme for the month: Under the Sea, I also threw in some fun New Orleans goodies. 

Beth is from Arkansas, but lives in Texas, so my package was mostly Texas themed. I may never want to live in Texas, and I may say some not so nice things about it sometimes, but undeniably the people I know there are great!

Beth is a designer, so her package was really adorable! She had such fun little drawings all over the box! See the cool little sea creatures?!?

Fun Packaging

She sent me a package of goodies, including a really sweet letter, a t-shirt, a postcard, a little Texas license plate with my name and a WIND UP FISHING GAME! That, I kid you not, I tried to buy at Wal Mart to send to her but they were out! Crazy!

I already signed up for Septembers's exchange and am so excited to be paired up with yet another great blogger!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Mug Swap!!!!

I've obviously been on a bit of a blogging break. This is mostly because I was in New Orleans for the last two and a half weeks, and if you know anything about New Orleans, you know that time and care and things you're supposed to do tend to slip to the wayside there. I was on vacation. It was amazing. More on that later, though.

I returned home today anxious to see if I had a package waiting, and sure enough, there was a little pink slip with my name on it! Thankfully, I live really close to the post office, and by some miracle today's package pickup line wasn't that long (I had been on a plane and some trains for several hours and really just wanted to sit down, but I didn't want to miss out on seeing what was waiting for me at the post office!).

To my surprise, I received my package, only to realize it wasn't from the same person I had sent my package to! I guess I misunderstood things, so I was super excited that I got to meet ANOTHER blog friend through this exchange. I'm currently involved in a snail mail collective too and we were paired up so that you sent mail to the same person who sent mail to you. I guess I got confused.

Being the goofball that I am, I totally forgot to take a picture of the mug I  mailed to my assigned person, Emily at Naptime is My Time. Emily is an awesome crafty mama in the Cape Cod area who described herself as a minimalist at heart, so I didn't want to send her anything too outrageous. Being that I was in New Orleans, I went with a mug from a certain famous coffee & beignet stand.  It was their newest mug in their collection, so I could be pretty well assured she didn't have one already from any trips of her own to my city. I also threw in some Southern Candymakers pralines.

So now, back to the awesome mug I received today. Amber over at The Butterfly Effect was assigned to me.  I could tell the second I opened the package that she had really put thought into it, as purple streamers came bursting out of the box.

Check out the fun polka dot tape!! So excited!

Purple paper!!!!

Amber knew that my favorite color combo was purple and green, but I'm not sure how she also knew that I like to throw blue in there now and then too (maybe I put this in my info for the mug swap... but probably not.  I got a beautiful green mug with a set of green and blue pencils and some cool green sticky notes!


And also TEA!!!! HERBAL TEA!!! THAT TASTES LIKE BERRIES!! I am so excited to sip this down as I do my reading this semester :) 

The note she wrote along with it so was encouraging, and it was so fun to know that she'd been reading my blog and really putting thought into what to get me, despite the fact that we'd never even communicated! I'm really looking forward to following her blog and keeping up with her! She's located in Texas, making this the third package I've received from Texas in the past month.... Including my snail mail collective partner (I'll post about that soon too... I'm a few days behind on that one), and from Ashley, who is just awesome and sent me something awesome because that's the kind of person she is (you should totally read her blog too).  

I hope to do this mug swap thing again next year. It's so much fun getting a surprise gift in the mail from a total stranger - and not in the creepy unibomber kind of way, obviously.... 

Mug Swap!

Monday, August 19, 2013

C'est La Vie de la Nouvelle Orleans

I'm home.

For a bit.

As always, coming home makes me instantly want to pack my bags and put down roots somewhere near Magazine Street and Louisiana Avenue (and actually... that just might happen next summer).

My heart is always torn in two between the city I adopted as home, and the city I truly call home. Over the last seven years or so, my love affair with all things New Orleans has intensified to unprecedented levels (this from the kid who wanted to write a Louisiana History book for my fifth grade writer's project). But then, I've got that big town up North, where the speed of my brain is finally matched by the speed of activity around me.

It's tough.

As I sit here writing in a Community Coffee House on Magazine street, sniffing the fresh brews of coffee and chicory, having watched a sweet afternoon South Louisiana rainstorm out the window, I'm reminded that no matter how long I live in New York, I'll always crave these afternoons. The problem is, no matter how long I live here, I'll always miss the people that make my big city such a fantastic home-away-from home.

In my perfect world, I'd pop back and forth between the two seamlessly. If ever I had one of those financial situations in which I could spend money without thinking of it, that's exactly what I'd do.

Unfortunately I only get to call one home at a time, and that's tough.

So a few things I'll be praying about over the nine months:

1. preparing myself for huge life changes - no matter what finishing grad school and starting a more permanent career is a big deal, but it's likely going to involve a move. That's something my heart aches just to think about - even if it does mean moving where my heart truly lies.

2. decision making - I'm going to have LOTS of decisions to make over the next several months, from choosing which  job is best fit and when to turn down something even if there's nothing else on the horizon (or if that's even somethign to do!), to picking a city to plant my roots.

3. housing - there's great potential that my dream apartment could be opening next door to a friend around the exact same time I'd need to be moving back - but with enough of a time delay that I could find a job to solidify my application. If that were to work out, my geographic decision would be basically made.

4. senioritis - so since my program is only two years, it's hard to really call it "senioritis," but I've found graduate school to be ESPECIALLY easy, and so staying focused in a second year might be tough. Thankfully, despite the ease, I do LOVE my program. I'm just worried about getting to lax and not getting enough out of it even if my grades are good.

5. internship - my new internship is in a TOTALLY different branch of social work than I've ever worked with. I'm rather excited about it, but rather nervous at the same time.

ANYWAY. Throughout the year I'll be updating on my journey, but in the meantime, just keep praying that God opens doors and closes necessary ones.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Mug Swap and Other Fun Stuff

I always like meeting new people, so I signed up for a couple of exchanges that mean getting actual physical mail.

Mug Swap!

That one ^^^^^^^ means picking out a super awesome mug and getting a super awesome mug in return. Excitement.

I also signed up for a snail  mail collective, which sounds pretty amazing. You can sign up here. 

Tales from the inside: What outsiders should consider when relating to us single people

I really don't know how I'm going to fit this all into a decently-concise blog post. It actually may take a few tries and edits before I publish, because frankly, it's a topic about which I have many feelings. So while I sit at home alone on a Friday eating Ben and Jerry's from the pint and debating whether or not to order Dominos, I'm going to use this time to voice some things that have been on my mind.

First of all, I'm not writing 100% original material here. I've noticed a lot of great articles and blogs out there on this topic in recent months, but I've decided to present my own perspective on it because, if I'm being honest, I really like having an opinion. And I like reading my own opinion. And I like hearing your thoughts on my opinion. So indulge me.

I've been single for a LONG time. Not just "not married" single, but like, straight-up no-boyfriend, I-don't-even-need-a-whole-hand-to-count-the-dates-I've-been-on single. When it comes to writing about what it feels like to be an "insider" on the single-people demographic, I'm one of the world's leading experts.

So here are a few of my thoughts on things that you not-so-single folks should consider when relating to us. (DISCLAIMER: I also recognize that this blog-post will most likely be seen by more single people who are looking for a reason to say "Amen" than by people who need to are reading it to know what not to say, but whatever, I'm always looking for "amen" articles myself).

Don't say "You just have to put yourself out there more"

What does that even mean? What exactly is "putting yourself out there?"  I honestly don't know. If one of you could ever ACTUALLY explain what this meant, maybe I'd be willing to scratch this off my list, but when I press for a "how" I'm usually met with a lot of "uhhh.... hmmm....ummm..." reactions. As a Christian woman looking for a man who is going to pursue me in a Godly fashion, I'm not exactly into the whole "Let's go out to the bar on a Thursday night and get some phone numbers" technique (is this still even a thing? I'm not sure). I mean, I love a good happy hour as much as anyone else, but I'm not about to just go out, let someone judge me based solely on the most shallow of qualities and then decide if they'd like to get to know me more, PLUS how do I know they're Christians? So what exactly is this "putting yourself out there"?

My only guess is that perhaps you mean we could go to some of those Christian singles events, but, sadly, in my experience, most of those things are full of people much older than I am. I don't know why that is.... I also think my own insecurities about being skeptical of just about any guy I meet who seems interested in me despite the fact that we don't have a ton of mutual friends who've already talked me up or we haven't just had the world's most meaningful conversation probably play into this pretty heavily. Plus, there's something inherently uncomfortable to me about going to an event that is designed solely for the purpose of people meeting people to date (even if they frame it as an event just the hang out - we all know why we go to these things).  It's like going to an audition, and awkwardly knowing that every person of the opposite sex you meet there is judging your datability.

All that to say, if you can define "putting yourself out there," maybe I'll take your suggestion, but since none of you seem to be able to do so, keep it to yourself. You're only making me more frustrated.

On that note:

I'm tired of explaining to you why I haven't tried online dating

Exception: if you found someone this way, you are allowed to bring up this one. Obviously.  But MOST of the people who bring this up are people who didn't find their boyfriend/husband/girlfriend/wife this way. They didn't even have to give it a shot.

I have my own personal reasons for not going the online-dating route at this point in life, but that's another blog post for another day, but I'm tired of having to explain this to people who probably wouldn't have tried it had they been in my position themselves. There are plenty of single people who have tried online dating, and so maybe this one doesn't apply to them. Maybe they don't mind talking about it, but then again, if they're single, and they've tried it, it may be a sore subject, because maybe it didn't work... I don't know. This one's messy. But you get the point.

I'm probably not looking for your advice, I'm looking for someone to hear me out

Sometimes, we just need to vent.

Sometimes, I just need to rant and rave and cry for hours about, oh I don't know, the guy who is just perfect for me in every single way and everyone seems to know it but him (this is a real person btw, but I'm not even gonna go there right now). Sometimes I just need to go off about how absolutely absurd it is that I only ever get asked out by people I'd never go out with, and even then it's like, once every two years. Sometimes, I'm just tired of being ALONE when this is on my mind, and I just need someone other than the teddy bear I've had since third grade to hear me cry about it. We all have things in life that frustrate us, and we all need to just get it all out there sometimes.

The number one thing I've learned in social work school is that social workers are never supposed to give advice. Our main goal is to normalize feelings, and to be a sympathetic ear (seriously, easiest job ever). This same thing really should apply to our friendships. Unless being specifically asked for advice, don't offer it. I just need you to say "You know what, you're right, it's tough." I have a friend who's gotten really good at this. She and I are in very different places in our lives, but I know that at any time I can text her and just say "I'm really frustrated today over this situation" and go off on a rant about it, and her response is usually something along the lines of "I can see how that could be very frustrating. I will pray for you to feel better." Sometimes, that's all we want to hear. In return, I'll gladly listen to you on a day when you need to vent over how frustrating apartment hunting is, or infertility, or whatever your current situation might be.

While we're on the "don't give me advice" subject:

If you got married before you were 25, stop trying to relate to the waiting period

I mean that. I know it feels like an eternity. I remember being that young and still feeling like it was an eternity. But it's not. So don't try to offer me tips on how you got through it.

I recognize that there are women who are older than I am now who are saying the same thing about me, so if I get married any time soon, I vow to stop trying to relate to peole in their thirties who are still waiting it out. Because I won't get it... thought it this rate, I'm likely goign to be one of them so...

We still want to be your friends too

At this point in life, the majority of my friends are coupled up. I've been a third, or fifth, or seventh, or ninth wheel pretty much since I was twelve. I'm pretty used to it at this point.  I cannot tell you how heartbreaking it is when you find out your friends have all gone out as couples and you were not invited. If you're going out on a date, that's one thing, but the second you start inviting other couples along, you're making it a friend thing, a gathering, and we want to be a part of it. I promise, you're not making me feel awkward. I get that sometimes there are appropriate reasons to have couples events, just like there are appropriate reasons to have singles events, but please don't leave us out just because you're going out as a couple and invite another couple. I'm perfectly fine with being the cumin if it means I get to hang out with awesome people (though I prefer to think of myself more as a can of Tony's).

Think about it, unlike you, I don't have a built in partner with whom to do things. Couples tend to be people who at least enjoy the same activities for the most part. This way, when you're like "Omg, my favorite band is coming to town," there's a good chance you've got someone to go to the show with. Or when you're like "I've always wanted to go for a picnic in Flushing Meadows," you can turn to the person next to you and ask them to tag along. For us, it tends to be more of a stretch to find people, especially us big city people. The more opportunities you give me to spend with other people, the better, so I don't mind if that means being the only single person there. Is that ideal? no, but I'll take it. As the adventurer I am, I've gotten really good at going out my own to do things I've always wanted to do and not worrying about doing it alone, but unless I'm in one of my moods where the purpose of my outing is to reflect and pray and enjoy just being me and God, I'd 99.9% of the time rather have someone to go on that adventure with me. (on a side note, I'm working hard to overcome some of my own social awkwardness in the area of inviting people to do things so I don't have to do them alone, and I think I'm making ground... but again, another post for another day).

Please don't tell us "It'll come when you stop looking for it/least expect it"

Please reflect upon your own life and find a time in which you "stopped looking" completely. Did that ever happen?

Didn't think so.

I hear it all the time. "Oh, I had stopped looking and then there he was." What because you were like, a junior in college and decided it was too early to settle down anyway so you decided to focus on school? Right. that's the same.

We're always looking. We can't help it. I had a time in my life where I went on a "romance fast" and made a conscious effort to not look, to not surround myself with any sort of romantic movies or books, and to catch myself every time I started thinking of a guy as a potential mate and pray that I wouldn't instead - and yes, it taught me a LOT, and was one of the most valuable experiences in my spiritual life to date, but it still didn't change the fact that deep down I kept thinking "Well, maybe right now while I'm 'not looking' he'll come along."So really, was I not looking?

We're never not looking. We're never going to be not looking.

Sometimes, we just need a hug

Very often, we may go days or weeks in which the only physical contact we have with another human being is on a crowded subway. I never could quite put my finger on why this was weird until I read someone recently who said that it can make you feel like you aren't human. Best explanation of that feeling ever. Sometimes, you just need a hug, or someone's arm around your shoulder to feel like a physical being.

Personally, I'm convinced physical touch is one of my love languages, so this is a huge one for me. It also, on the flip side, is the reason I can be very particular about how I give and receive hugs. That said, sometimes I just need a hug, even if I'm in the best of moods, just to be reminded that I exist.

"Freedom" is scary

I wrote a whole post about this over a year ago. You can refer to it if you really want details on what this means.

Often, people who are married and have kids are all "You're so lucky, you can just move wherever and do whatever you want whenever you want." Okay, that's a legitimate point, but I promise you, I'd trade in that freedom any day to know that I'm needed in someone else's life on a day-to-day basis. Again, refer to previous post.

We want to be included in your conversations. 

I was once at a weekend long wedding celebration for the wedding of one of my closest friends from college. She had a small wedding, and I was a bridesmaid. Over the course of the weekend I realized that I WAS THE ONLY PERSON THERE WHO WAS  NOT MARRIED OR ENGAGED. What this meant was that every conversation we had while arranging flowers, getting pedicures, whatever, was about wedding-planning and men. I had absolutely zero to contribute to the conversation. I was supposed to stay in town the night of the wedding and continue to hang out with everyone one more night, but instead, as soon as the wedding was over I hopped in my car and drove to my cousin's house a couple of hours away - crying like a madwoman because I could not stand one more conversation about something I had no knowledge of.

That's an extreme example, but it is not far-off from the types of things that often happen when you're the only person around who isn't at a particular life-phase. Sometimes, it's conversations about babies - and if I try to bring up stories from babysitting, or cousins, or whatever, just let me do it - it's all I've got. And when you're talking about male-female relationships and I bring up a guy friend of mine who acts a certain way, indulge me despite the fact that I'm not talking about a significant other- because it's really all I've got. I've talked to a lot of my single friends who've dealt with these same issues of feeling like an outsider in conversations about kids and spouses. So indulge us, or change the topic.

Why do we treat the pain that comes with childlessness as legitimate concerns, but we treat the pain that comes with singleness as a lack of faith?

Seriously. When someone is crying to you because she's been trying to conceive and has been unable to for whatever reason, or she's suffered a miscarriage or two, we mourn with these women. Legitimately so. It's tough.

But whenever someone is crying because she so desires to be someone's wife, it's like "Oh, God has you waiting for a reason," "Be content in just Jesus right now," etc. C'mon, seriously? So instead of validating our feelings you're going to also make us feel like we're lacking in our faith? Great. I appreciate that. I'd like to remind you that most of us who are single are also childless, and we're not having any babies anytime soon either, out of circumstances totally beyond our control, so it's like, double whammy. I'm 27, which apparently (or so I hear from some legitimate scientific source somewhere that I'm not going to bother citing right now because it's 12:13 am and I'm tired), is the peak year of fertility in a woman. Scientific source or not, I know what's going on in my body. My hormones very much know I'm supposed to be making babies right now. I can smell out small children like The Witches.  I see babies on the train, at work, wherever... and I have to consciously remind myself that it is not okay to ask a stranger to hold their baby. Seriously. There are a bazillion crazy things going on with my hormones right now - suffice it to say, I understand the pain of the infertile woman. I am one. Just for different reasons, and at the end of the day, I don't even have a husband to cry to about it.

Stop demeaning your spouses

Pop culture already does a good job of making marriage seem like a burden. I don't need you to buy into that and try to sell it to me - like the guy trying to sell me his home-produced rap CD on 14th street - you're wasting your time, I know better.

I read a great blog post by an acquaintance of mine about how men are portrayed to be idiots by so much of our culture. It's kindof what inspired me to go off on this little rant tonight, because I was thinking of how frustrating it is every single time someone tells me "men are a pain, you don't want one," and then I started thinking about all of the other things people say that make me crazy.

Seriously though, every time a married woman complains publicly about her husband, my heart breaks a little. No, I do not expect to marry someone who is perfect and who fulfills my every longing - because that's way too much to expect of any human being and we weren't created for that, BUT, how disrespectful is it to say something negative about your spouse to other people? I have a friend who makes sure everyone on facebook/instagram knows every time her husband pisses her off. I can't even wrap my mind around that. Even if 90% of the time you're posting praise about your spouse, if that other 10% of the time you're complaining about them, then you need to re-evaluate what you're posting publicly.

Certainly, my friends need to vent their frustrations now and then too, and I get that. I had a friend just the other day asking me to pray for her as she's going through some physical issues that are, in turn, causing her to take out her frustrations by being incredibly annoyed with every thing her husband does. This is life. We are people. These things are to be expected, but my friend didn't text me and say "Oh, be glad you aren't married, my husband is driving me crazy. You don't want one of these." There's  a BIG difference between those attitudes. NOTHING BOTHERS ME MORE THAN FOR ONE OF MY MARRIED FRIENDS OR FAMILY MEMBERS TO TELL ME HOW MUCH I SHOULD ENJOY BEING SINGLE BECAUSE HUSBANDS CAN BE A PAIN. Every time I want to say "So you're telling me that in all seriousness you'd trade your husband right here and now given the chance to be single again and make your own decisions about life and not have anyone 'annoying' you?" If the answer to that question is "yes," then these friends have deeper issues and should be in couples counseling - and I don't mean that as an exaggeration, that's a legitimate concern. Thankfully, most of my friends do not ACTUALLY feel that way, but I wish they'd stop telling me that. It's not comforting. It doesn't make me more grateful for my current experience. It makes me frustrated and annoyed that you don't appreciate this gift you've been given.

AND, Speaking of gifts.

We know singleness is a gift. You don't have to remind us all the time. 

Every sermon on singleness, so many articles about it, and many conversations you have with coupled up friends all love to point to the fact that Jesus was single, and Paul was single, and what do you know, Paul even wrote about how being single is gift n stuff. Yup. We know. And we embrace it, seriously. Speaking for myself, I've definitely come to terms with the fact that I'm in a very unique period of my life and I should embrace it. If you know me, and you don't think I'm embracing it, I implore you to browse my instagram (@danielleinthecity) - I document everything. THAT SAID, having THIS gift doesn't mean I don't long for a different one.

When I was in fourth grade I asked for a Starter jacket for Christmas. It was a cool jacket at the time - and apparently I was a Hornets fan way before they came to New Orleans and subsequently became the Pelicans (which is an awesome mascot, btw). I got the gift I'd asked for. I loved it. I wore it as often as humanly possible in South Louisiana where it's only cold like, five days out of the year. Eventually though, that gift ended up in a Goodwill pile because I'd grown up and moved on.

I am embracing this singleness gift while I have it, but I hope to one day move on to a new gift, one that moves and changes with me. One with whom I can grow. I am no less thankful for this one even though I desire a new one at some point down the road. But seriously, you don't need to keep reminding us of how blessed we are WE KNOW.

We love you anyway, despite the fact that sometimes you make us feel like aliens :) 

For real tho. I am SO INCREDIBLY THANKFUL for the amazing people God has placed in my life, particularly for the couples he's brought around me who've shown me the prime examples of what a wonderful Godly marriage looks like. You all may be in a season we wish to be in, but that doesn't mean we are not happy for you. I may want kids, and get really weepy every time I hear yet another pregnancy announcement, but seriously, my best friend just had her fourth kid and the first thing I'm doing when I arrive in New Orleans next week is rushing to her house to meet this baby.  We are still your friends, we still love you, and we recognize that sometimes, we're the ones alienating OURSELVES (I mean, seriously, I just wrote this entire blog post on why we're different... but the same... but different and requiring instructions... I know, it's confusing). All that to say, we wouldn't trade you for the world, and we'd appreciate any advice on things to consider when relating to you too.

********** BONUS MATERIAL************

I realized after I published this and some people already read it that I left off two very important yet related points.

Don't tell me about being picky....

Stop it, just stop there. I will actually go off on you if you say this, so if you don't want to see me turn into a 1970s Lou Ferigno impersonator, jus stop. seriously.  I have standards,  I have preferences, and I have things are are absolute "no"s.  I do, in fact, recognize that some of them might be a little petty, but some are pretty stinking important. I'd like you to know that in my life, of all the times I've been asked out, twice has it been by a Christian. Twice. Count that 1, 2.... that is all. So I'm not exactly given a humongous pool to choose from.  I had legitimate personal reasons for saying no to both of them. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't interested in dating like, 8 out of 10 eligible men that I come into contact with. Most of my single women friends can say the same.

If you can show me this large room full of men I'm being picky toward, I might oblige you, but since you don't seem to know where it is, keep you mouth shut. (That said, if you do find a room full of single men, would you kindly direct me there, please???)

Don't remind  me that "attraction grows on you."

I am aware of this. The first time I met the most recent guy who I've pined over, I wasn't attracted to him. Nor the next time I saw him. It took my friend talking him up and me praying about it a lot before I was legitimately like "Please, put me in a room with this person." THAT SAID, I'd rather not, out of my own social awkwardness, go out with someone under the pretenses that we might like each other if I'm not already in at least some way attracted to him. Seriously. That's just awkward, y'all.

I'm a big proponent of "guy friends." Trust me. I at some points have had more guy friends than girl friends. The vast majority of my guy friends I had no initial attraction to (Because if I did, I can assure you I'd have had a bit of a crush on them from the start). So many of them, though, as I've gotten to know them, I've realized "hey, you know, if given the opportunity, I wouldn't turn this down..." (disclaimer - this does not apply to all of them, simply because some of them seriously make amazing friends and I just would rather keep them that way, it's muddy water....).

Maybe I'm just being foolish on this one, and maybe it's why I've been single for so long, but I seriously would just rather be attracted to a guy in at least some form BEFORE we start trying to get to know each other on a non-friendship level. This might be wrong, and if it is, you're only frustrating me by reminding me that my inability to try it any other way is keeping me lonely. But I can't change that, I've tried praying over it at changing the way I view things, and it's likely, not going to change. Sorry. So don't remind me.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Fabulous Five on Friday

This week I've had a lot of awesome things to look back on, and the weeks to come are full as well! New York City in the summertime is something really special. I've gone away the past two summers, and it's been so great to be here this year, especially knowing I may be headed back home for good next summer (but that's for another day). I'm trying to get into a habit of posting a weekly wrap-up, because it reinforces my awesome ability to reflect on blessings, and I love that! Hold me accountable!

So here are a few things that made my week fabulous.

1. Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue - Monday night in a very rainy Central Park, my very favorite music artist of all time performed live, and I got to see him for the bazillionth time. If you are unfamiliar with Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews and his band Orleans Avenue, please click here or here YOU'RE WELCOME

Troy and I at the Maple Leaf last summer.
It's always  awkward talking about Troy like he's a big celebrity, because we run in the same circles in New Orleans, but I met him AFTER he was famous... Before we took this picture to the right one of our mutual friends was joking around telling him about how much of a big celebrity crush I have on him [blush... but look at him...] and he was laughing and telling me how he's just a good 'ole New Orleans boy... and he's right, which is why I love him more and more every time I see him. And he's seriously like, the sweetest guy ever. Also, I'm giving you one last chance to click on a link to see him if you havent. So.... click HERE now (that's troy on Conan, and probably my favorite of his TV performances ever).

[I'd also like to point out that the this picture was taken on what was the coolest night ever in the history of any job I ever had - but that's another story for another day, one that involves Lenny Kravitz, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Ricky Williams, otherwise known as "The Night I was Working for a Grammy Award Winning Band and got to Hang out with a Grammy Nominee, a Four Time 'Record of the Year' Grammy Winner, an Academy Award Winning Actor, and  Heisman Winner"]

Troy on Monday Night

2. Amazing Weather - For whatever reason, minus Monday's rainstorm (which was actually quite fun...) the weather has been FANTASTIC this week. It was like Fall. After last week's heatwave, and the never-ending winter that lead up to a summer of extreme hot, I was really thankful for a couple of days in which I could wear a dress but still break out a cardigan. Tuesday and Thursday mornings on my way to work there's a farmer's market in Cadman Plaza, and I always stop in for some fruit and berries. On this particular morning, I happened to have a little extra time to enjoy being at the market rather than run straight to the berries and buy them. One of the vendors was a little bakery, and they had WHOOPIE PIES!!!!!!!!! Good ones. From fresh ingredients. So I got to enjoy a sweet delicious pumpkin whoopie pie as my mid-morning snack later on :) Perfect treat for the perfect "Autumn" day in July. 

3). This fabulous skirt from Target I pet-sat last weekend and I forgot to bring some essentials to my friends' apartment, so I ran to their closest Target, which of course meant I had to check the sale racks... and I came home with this skirt. NOT ONLY THAT. I didn't realize it was reversible until the next day, so it was like, double happiness. I now intend to go back and buy it in a few more colors, because it's actually even cheaper in store than it is online. I'm thinking green(???) And the plum/pink one as well, for football season. So comfy, so airy, and so versatile!
I'm not usually one to post fashion... but....
What I woke up to today....
4. Brandon and Tyler - I love love love love love those little boys. Oh so much. Seriously. For those that don't know, I lived with a friend of mine from church last year for a few months when I was between apartments. She's a single mom of two of the cutest little boys ever, and I fell so in love with them that I just can't get enough. I realized the other day that I hadn't seen them in a couple of weeks, which is crazy. Their mommy wasn't feeling well, so she asked me to come over and spend the night last night in case she needed help with the boys. gladly. So when I woke up this morning, those little cuties were sleeping across the room from me. We had folded out the sofa bed so we could watch a movie last night, and at some point in the middle of the night both of these little stinkers had snuck out of their room and back onto the sofa bed. Before leaving for work today, Brandon jumped up in my arms to give me a hug goodbye, but he was all cuddly and sweet and I just couldn't bring myself to put him down. I told Karen I think I am starting to get what it feels like to be one of those mom's who has to leave her kids for work each day. These aren't even my kids and I was almost late because I didn't want to put him down, which is usually the case whenever I stay over - unless it's one of those days where I have to walk them to school, at which point they try to make it difficult and I'm usually okay with leaving them by the time I get there.... Also, I find myself at least once every time I see them whining about how they're getting too big and I don't like it (Brandon is five, Tyler turns four next month - I think they can stop growing up now). 

"Young boys should never be sent to bed, they always wake up a day older"- J.M. Barrie (Johnny Depp) in Finding Neverland

5.Youth Outings -Saturday we took the kids to the Guggenheim Museum and to Shake Shack. Tonight we took them to see a string quartet in Bryant Park and to Dallas BBQ.  Our summer missionary planned all of our youth events for the summer, and since we don't have anyone to run a full-time program, we've been trying to soak up these little events and make them awesome. I love spending time with these kids. They are, after all, the reason I moved here. It's been kind of heartbreaking to see how our group as sort of fallen apart with all of the changes we've been through in the last four years, so it's nice when we can get a few of them together and just pour into them for a few hours. What a blessing it is. Pray for us at Graffiti as we search for a new youth director. We don't have a ton of funding for the position, so it's hard to fill the job as no one wants to have to fundraise almost their entire salary - and it's really hard to keep a group of teenagers afloat with no leader. 

******  Trombone Shorty's new album is going to be released September 10th!! (same week the Saints open the season against the Falcons - good week).  I highly recommend getting his old ones and buying this new one when it comes out. If you want suggestions for favorite tracks from the old ones to download individually before committing to a whole album, please ask!*****

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Life between highlight reels.

I just received a text from a dear friend of mine that read, "I'm sick of baby news on Facebook."

To many folks, that text might read as insensitive. I'm not usually one to criticize what people post on facebook. Whatever makes you happy I say. Whether it's a picture of your dinner, a record of your workout, or a video of your three year old singing on a toilet - if you feel it's good to share, share it! I get it! I recently had a cousin post that if you were tired of seeing news about his baby then unfriend him. I get that too.


What you wouldn't know in reading my friend's text is that she recently lost a pregnancy in her second trimester. She is not alone. Two weeks later that same friend's sister also lost a baby in the second trimester. I had another close friend, just a week or two earlier, who miscarried due to something she would have never known about had she never gotten pregnant - but is going to make it difficult for her to ever carry a baby. These are HEARTBREAKING things. I've wept with and for these women, but I can never know what that feels like to them. I guess it was inevitable that since pretty much everyone I know is pregnant or just had a baby in the last few months that statistically, more than one of them was bound to be unsuccessful or have serious complications - but my friends aren't statistics. They're hurting women.

Both of these dear friends of mine have had to take facebook hiatuses at some point during this season. Why? Because going on facebook is a daily reminder that people all around them have what they almost had. While you want to be happy for your friends, you can't help but to hurt knowing they're all going on with their lives while you're in pain.

I've also faced this in my own life, and it's been a factor in a few of my own breaks from social media. At my age, everyone I know is getting married, buying houses, and having kids. All things I thought I'd have done at this point. So after a while the ongoing newsreel of weddings, engagements, and baby announcements starts to eat at me.

I find it it really hard to balance my emotions between being incredibly happy for my friends and wanting to punch them for rubbing it in my face - then feeling guilty for feeling that way. 

To the people who truly recognize just how unique a gift their lives are, I am generally more accepting. I have a few friends who genuinely recognize that these things are BLESSINGS not GIVENS. I recognize that being called to live in New York  and go to social work school is a GIFT that I am thankful for and humbled by each day (yes, even today when I got on the "hot car" on the subway... TWICE). I try to post under that context - and I do my best not to complain too often. But I cannot tell you how often I want to scream "Wait... SHE has this great boyfriend?! What's she got that I haven't got?"

Once there was one of those quotes-on-a-picture things going around that said "Home is where your husband is." I wanted so badly to respond "So what am I, homeless? Lost?"

It's easy to get lost in the sea of "I can't imagine life without my husband/kids" posts. And even more difficult not to compare.

Every year around mother's or father's day someone makes it a point to recognize that we need to be careful what we post or say because there are a lot of hurting people out there who've lost a mother and/or father. Everyone tries to be sensitive to that, as we should. I am absolutely positive there are things I post on a regular basis that unintentionally stir up some kind of hurt in someone else - someone who's longing for something I have that they dont. We all do, but when I find myself getting lost in comparisons  I have a few things that have helped me to remember just how blessed I am in my current state, even when it hurts. .

  • Social media is the HIGHLIGHT REEL. People don't post the awful things going on in their lives for the most part (except the women who constantly complain about their husbands, thus publicly humiliating them, and I wonder why they bothered getting married if they have no consideration for this guy's feelings...). Typically people show you the highlights. No one is instagramming funerals. Even today, I was having an emotional wreck of a day, and I bought myself a float at Shake Shack to try to cheer up, and I almost made some comment about just how wonderful Abita root beer is and how I am so thankful to work so close to a place that serves it on tap... (This is my life...), but had I posted it, it would have looked like I was having a wonderful day, and I wasn't, not by a long shot. Not only was I already a mess, but Shake Shack triggered a memory that sent my into an emotional tailspin that resulted in some fairly embarrassing public weeping overlooking Fulton Street. I need not tweet about that.  Keep in mind when you see happy babies and happy mommies and happy weddings that things aren't lace and roses all the time, but that IS what people want to share. 
  • YOU ARE NOT DEFINED BY YOUR MARITAL OR PARENTAL STATUS. That's a tough one. I literally have to remind myself of this every morning. While I may be pining over what I don't have, it does not define me, and chances are no one but me even notices (I haven't figured out yet if that's a good thing or not, but I'm going with yes?). So when you start to look at yourself and think "Everyone must think I've got some major flaw because I've never had a boyfriend," remind yourself that pretty much no one gives a crap about that but you, and maybe your mom... 
    • "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light: - 1 Peter 2:9 THAT is where our identity should lie. 
  • BABIES ARE CUTE, WEDDINGS ARE PRETTY. Like really. I torture myself because I can't get enough of your baby pictures. I can't get enough of your wedding pictures either. So when I start to blame other people for posting too much, I also recognize that I SEEK these things so it's kinda my fault. Check my wedding board on Pinterest.... it speaks for itself. 
  • It's okay to hurt. God calls us not to covet, but that doesn't mean you're going to long for what you don't have - it becomes a sin when you start letting it define who you are, and affect the way you think of others. I admit I've idolized the family I don't have, and I've coveted yours. I have to die to that, even when it hurts, I need to be content with my life (which is actually a pretty stinking awesome life). 

One of my prayers lately has been that if I ever do get the chance to get married and have children  that I remember this phase, and how much it hurts, so I can better minister to women who are where I am - and so I don't end up hurting them myself. I have such a hard time finding women to talk to who GET IT. I love my friends, but most of them got married in their early twenties, to guys they've dated since college or high school. I love their input, but I cannot imagine they could know how I feel - but the truth is, I dont know how they feel either.  

 I recently read THIS wonderful blog post written by a woman who was 39 and about to get married and wanted to remember what it was like to be single. So much of what she said rang true for me - single girls don't want to be asked about our relationships or new guys we're hanging out with, if you got married really young -shut up, and my favorite: we sometimes go days or weeks without so much as a hug, and never having any physical contact with another human being can make you feel inhuman and also dredge up all sorts of temptations. I pray that  if this season ever changes, I remember what it was like, and that I'm sensitive to it. 

I sometimes feel like this is why God has kept me in this state for so long - so I can minister to women just like myself, who find themselves lost in conversations about romantic relationships (because they've never had one), or who don't know how to respond to yet another engagement announcement, or who watch their guy friends get married one right after the other and wonder "why didn't they ever consider ME" (even if you've never considered THEM...). If that's why he's maintained my middle-school level of relationship status and dating experience, then I guess I'm up for the challenge, but that means I need to be as vocal about this as others are vocal about the things that remind us of what we don't have - and being that transparent is hard. 

So here's to being willing to admit that sometimes, we aren't living in the highlight reel, but even in the dull times, life is a pretty good show.

"Therefore since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through out Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God." - Romans 5:1-2

Monday, July 15, 2013

Holy Cannoli, Hoboken!

I'm not used to having a formal "day off."  I might squeeze in a Saturday here and there, and I might have that occasional "holiday," but I've always been one to work multiple jobs, be in school, babysit, etc. Last summer in New Orleans was the exception to this rule, in which I was essentially on a three month vacation - and it was every bit as delightful as that sounds. This summer, I have a day off built into my work week - two actually, if you count Saturdays. On Saturdays I typically have plans with friends, or try to get caught up on laundry, or go for long runs. The usual stuff. But Mondays, Mondays are special.

The beauty of  Monday is that it provides a "buffer day."  I've never had Mondays off EVER, and I HIGHLY recommend it should you ever have the opportunity to make your own schedule.  Sundays are very busy and exhausting for me, so I'm usually not very rested for work on Monday - and that whole "taking a Sabbath" thing never actually happens. Seeing as how that's in God's top ten rules, and is one of Graffiti's mandatory requirements for its workers, I figure it's pretty important to take a day to rest and pray. So this summer, I'm taking advantage. I get that extra day before the work week to relax and just be with myself and Jesus - while everyone else I know is working. It's glorious.

My goal for each Monday during this very brief season is to find an activity I haven't done before and go for it. The rules are:

1. Must be free or almost free - I am cheap and broke.
2. Must not involve using excessive amounts of energy - so no hiking the Old Croton Aqueduct
3. At least part of my excursion must include a location I've never seen before.

Last week I took the Metro North Hudson Line up to Irvington, NY. It was cute, and it was relaxing, but I wanted something a little bit different this week.

I chose Hoboken, NJ. I've wanted to explore Hoboken since 2007, but because its SO easy to get to, I always put it off, knowing I can go whenever I want (seriously, its
MMM Chips!
closer to 14th street than my apartment is).  I took the PATH train over to the old Lackawanna Railroad station and set out with no plan other than to find a burger. I found my burger and enjoyed a yummy batch of homemade kettle chips .

While eating my burger Charlee texted me that I absolutely must go to Carlo's Bakery.  If you know me at all, you know that when faced with visiting the local "tourist" places - usually popularized by television, I am all "Oh you know where you can find the REAL deal..." So visiting an Italian bakery made famous by TLC of course elicited lots of "I am not gonna bother, I can go to Venieros, or Capultos, etc." But Charlee and I live vicariously through one another, and the line wasn't long, so I decided to stand in it at her request. I got a few cannoli (who doesn't love a cannoli?!) and an oatmeal cookie. It was good. Really good (but Venieros is still better....).

Leave the Gun, take the Cannoli
The hi light of my day came after my delicious pastry experiment. I decided to sit and read for a little while and to let my phone charge, so Foursquare found me a coffee shop on a side street where I could make this happen. As I'm pulling out my Bible and journal, I overhear the two old me having a conversation next to me.

"Nah man, I just watch the Yankees and listen to my Frank Sinatra," says one of the men. My mind says "OMG Thats the most Jersey thing ever." Before I can even get out my phone to text a friend who I knew would appreciate the exchange, the other man turns to me and says "what do you think of that?!" and I tell him exactly what I thought. He introduced himself and his friend to me and started talking.

He told me he and his three brothers grew up in Hoboken on Monroe street. His uncle owns the property where Frank Sinatra was born, and he grew up in the house next door - but not next to Frank.

My friend said he and his brothers learned to race horses on the streets of Hoboken (I still haven't figured this out...) and they all went into the horseracing business. He launched his career at Belmont - where he groomed some award-winning horses. One of his brothers worked in multiple places, including the fairgrounds in New Orleans. While in New Orleans, the "Cajuns" were very suspicious of this "east coast" boy. He nailed the New Orleanians on that front - skeptical of all outsiders. The local boys juiced his brother's horse's food. The brother's horse was a hot-pick for the bookies, and having ben hormonally enhanced, was the frontrunner to win. Right before the race, the horses were drug tested. When his horse failed the drug test, not only was the horse disqualified, he was put on a 90 day suspension. Because of the tremendous losses suffered by the bookies as a result of this, the mafia was not a fan of my new friend's brother. As the story goes, some mob guys showed up to his house, put a 45 to his head, handed him 100 dollars and told him to get out of town. The brother packed his Cadillac and headed to New Mexico.

Pat is 82. He's been around a while. He told me his dream is to write a book about the "stinks and smells" of Hoboken. He went on to describe the smells of the Maxwell Coffee factory, and the sweat coming off the handkerchiefs of the laundry maids. He seemed to be lost in his own memories.

When I told them I was from New Orleans, the reaction of both men was "Basin Street!" not "Bourbon Street!" which made me appreciate them all the more! Charlie, the slightly younger man, was a teacher for about 45 years and is now retired and has a successful Frank Sinatra impersonation gig.

I had the most wonderful hours sipping my tea and talking with these two old guys. Normally on these days I don't like to be bothered. I don't want to talk to the people around me, but I knew there was something special about this conversation. These guys lived around the corner from one another but had just met a few weeks before. Pat, knowing that Charlie was such a Sinatra fan, insisted on giving Charlie a tour of his hometown, which is what today was all about for them. Thanks to Pat, I also knew the address where I could find Old Blue Eyes' birthplace, so I made that my last stop before heading to the river for a pretty view and getting back on the train.

After the old guys left, I read my Bible for a little while, and I prayed for them - at their request - both are having major medical procedures in the next few days, and then I walked to 415 Monroe Street and paid my homage to Frankie, as well as to see Pat's childhood home.

I like Jersey, I always have. Today reminded me why. 

The View from the Hoboken Waterfront