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

Saturday, July 6, 2013

I love life, but sometimes...

One of the best parts of my walk with the Lord has been learning to see his blessings in every day occurrences.  I can find him all over. I can see him everywhere. And when I do, I like to share.

I love to share the excitement of all of the amazing little moments of awesome that occur 100 times a day in the most unique and random of places. If you follow me at all on facebook, you know this. Whether it's the smiles of the cute little baby the guy next to me was holding on the train today, or the feeling of accomplishment when I make fantastic grades in grad school and can't believe I have that opportunity - I always want to spread the joy.

The truth is though, all of those amazing little things also have a counter-effect I don't often mention. They remind me that on a day-to-day basis, I DON'T have a specific person with whom to share my life. Sure I can post on facebook, or text a couple of friends who I know might find whatever I just thought interesting to be equally as fascinating, but it's not the same as coming home and having someone there with whom I can spread the joy. As much as I am refreshed by sitting on my couch alone and just enjoying the peace and quiet, I am even more refreshed when I can be with other people.  And sometimes, that's hard.

I am often hit with this reality - and I've struggled with it for years, but lately it's been pretty real. Tonight, for example, I had a headache. A pretty brutal one. And I realized I was out of headache meds. My only option was to get up off my couch, get dressed, and go to Rite Aid myself, which I very obviously id not feel like doing, but I did - because there was no one there to do it for me. Then, when I got there, the service was TERRIBLE, and I wanted nothing more than to have a shoulder to lean on and rest my head while I commiserated about having to stand in line for an unnecessarily long time with a headache. There's something incredibly difficult about not having someone to share these little things with when you really really want to - be it good or bad. This is why you see me post stuff on facebook so often - because I ALWAYS have thoughts I want to share, but I'm USUALLY by myself. So what else to do but put them out in the world.

When your'e a Christian, and you talk about being lonely, everyone reminds you that God is always with you - and they're right, and that IS comforting, but it doesn't change the fact that I, one of the most talkative people alive, haven't had a conversation with a human being since my last client left work at 4:30 this afternoon (and it's 1 am now).

Maybe I'm missing something. Maybe other people really do have such a strong relationship with God that they can feel perfectly fine with him being the only person to whom they express their feelings. Maybe this is a faith issue. But I AM in constant conversation with him, so if I'm doing something wrong in that respect please help me out. I'd really love to know how to be 100% satisfied with his conversation alone. The Bible clearly lets us know that we are made for community, though, and that it's through our community that we become so satisfied in him. I absolutely believe this to be true - and I feel it.

It also doesn't change the fact that being alone means having no one with whom to make plans. For example, my 4th of July plans were cancelled at the last minute - plans I'd been looking forward to for a long time - and I was disappointed, but what was most disappointing was that I had no idea what to do next. I knew I didn't want to be alone, but I didn't quite know where to turn. It all worked out, and I had a great time, but not without having to invite myself to join in in someone ELSE's plans. I don't like that. And then, at the end of the day when I was exhausted, I wanted nothing more than to rest my head on someone's shoulder on the train ride back to New York, but instead I got to curl up uncomfortably on a seat by myself. I'm tired of those instances.

I think the most frustrating part of it all is the uncertainty. For all I know this could be the REST of my life. I have no idea if this period of being alone will ever end. The truth is, I have FUN. Lots of fun. Like, really really really large amounts of fun - because that's the kind of person I am. I make the most of EVERYTHING, but I can't help but think about how much more infinitely enhanced my fun would be if I wasn't having fun on my own most of the time.

I have some really close friends who truly light me up when I'm around them. Saying goodbye to them at the end of whatever time we have together is heartbreaking every time - even if I know I'm going to see them the next day. I get no greater joy than to be in their presence.  When I think about the people like this in my life, the people I just can't get enough of, I realize that when you get married, that's the person you get to go HOME to. What?! That can't even be REAL. To be able to go home to someone I love that much every day?! To be able to share all of those little moments with someone?! That's a real thing?! People get to do that?! HOW IS THAT EVEN FAIR!?!?!?

It's not. It's not fair. I want it, and I can't have it, and no one will tell me why. And you know the sad part? I've been so single for so long (thats 27 years and 3 months of never having had a boyfriend EVER - if you're counting), that I wouldn't even know how to BE in a relationship, so maybe THAT'S why, maybe I missed that where you get to learn how to do that so God's sparing me the pain of screwing it up. I don't know. But I don't like it. I don't like that I've been praying the same prayer since I was twelve and nothing has changed in the slightest to make it seem like it's any closer to being answered now than it was then.

So yes, this was a melodramatic post, but sometimes you gotta be melodramatic. I feel like no one expresses these feelings publicly, and I'm tired of not having anyone to look to to know that I'm not the only one feeling them. I'm hoping that maybe in expressing things like this, someone else might be comforted in knowing she's not alone.

In the meantime, I'll keep praying this changes - as jaded as I may be, and I'll keep making the best of my nights alone on my couch with ice cream and/or chocolate, and my long explorative walks around the city to burn it off ;)

Monday, July 1, 2013

Hello World, I'm here still, I promise.

I haven't blogged much in the last month. Mostly because I've been adjusting to a new routine, but partly because my internet at home stinks and since I haven't had any school work I haven't brought my computer out in public in a while.

Today I had to write a little mini-memoir about my childhood and the journey God has taken me on for a book my pastor's wife is writing called God's Graffiti, or something like that. It's a compilation of stories from people at my church - which means it's going to be awesome because have basically the most unique group of people ever at Graffiti. I mean, these people are the REASON I couldn't stand the idea of never living in this city. They are so special. If you've never been here and visited Graffiti, please come soon.

This new internship is pretty interesting. I work for the Kings County District Attorney's office, in the Victim's Services Unit. My primary career interests actually involve the OFFENDERS not the victims, but I thought it'd be interesting to see things from the other side, and it certainly has. My thinking is definitely still being challenged. Do I see myself permanently veering away from working with teens who have disciplinary issues, nope, but I can understand a little bit more about situations as a whole and how people get into them, plus I'm learning all sorts of interesting things about the legal system. Our primary focus is domestic violence - something I never thought I'd end up working anywhere near, but hey, I live an adventure, so why not?

I've definitely got some deep, heartfelt, woe-is-the-life-of-the-single-woman blogging to do in the near future, but I frankly don't have the energy for that tonight - plus I'm really tired of being at this Starbucks.  Speaking of Starbucks, I haven't paid for it myself in OVER A MONTH, because my parents sent me a gift card a few weeks back THEN I babysat for this kid simply because he was one of the most beautiful children I'd ever seen and I knew his mom needed a break - and her friend/roommate sent me a Starbucks card as a thank you! I seriously am amazed at all the tiny blessings in my life. Cute kid + free coffee = win!

So I'll get back to this soon, I'm sure. In the meantime, I need to get back to my apartment and do some cleaning and organizing - I'm much more relaxed and productive when that place doesn't look as crazy as it does right now.