Friday, December 24, 2010

Let your heart be light

"Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."
Romans 5:1-5 (ESV)

Merry Christmas, wherever you are this season.  May your heart truly be light in the joy and peace of Christ's coming, even in the midst of pain and struggle.  You are not alone (you never have been), and you can make it through this.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The 13.1 New York (yes, that's half a marathon)

Here it is, folks.  Hold me accountable.  

I've joined my church's running team for the 13.1 New York on April 2.  All fundraising goes toward World Vision efforts in Africa.  Please visit my personal fundraising page to help me reach my goal and to open doors for children and families in Africa.  Donations in honor of a friend or family member make fantastic Christmas gifts!  

Thanks for your support.  Love you all.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

party dress reprise

So the party girl talked a bit about how she's been contemplating her place in New York.  But here's what she's discovered about her priorities:

1. Friends--and good ones--are everything.  I never valued my friendships as much as I have in the last few months.  I've rekindled a few old friendships and invested in even more face-time and phone calls with my college besties.  I've also made a serious effort to start new friendships which, surprising as it may sound coming from an extrovert, is very difficult and intimidating for me.  For those of you who have called me, gone out with me for drinks, and chatted with me in church, thank you.  I'd be miserable without you.

2. I love my family more than ever, and I cannot wait to get home for Christmas.  Enough said.

3. God is unreasonably patient.  I am slow to talk to Him, read His word, and sing His praises.  And I don't know why because every time I do, my life is fuller and brighter for it.  More than ever, I want to feel the closeness of God, so it's my goal this Christmas and in the New Year to take firmer, more deliberate steps toward Him.  Sure, I can wait until I'm curled up in the corner for Him to come banging on my door.  But I think we'd both be happier if I met Him halfway.

4. I have an ugly habit of gradually sabotaging my dreams.  I freak out over taking dance class (it's really not as scary as I think), half-practice for my voice lessons, and delay headshot retakes (go cheap now or wait for the first-rate ones when I have an extra $1300 in the bank?).

5. Confession is necessary, even if it feels icky.

6. Love.  I walk a very fine line each day between reveling in singleness and hating it with all I am.  More friends are getting engaged and married each week, and part of me feels like I'm missing out.  While I have a lot of dreams in sight, I'm no longer convinced that they're best accomplished alone.  I'm also not keen on the idea of having my first child at age 38.  That seems to be the trend here in the city, and silly as it may seem, I'm tired of seeing old moms.  I feel like I'm on another planet.  On one hand, I am hungry for companionship, affection, and someone to bear witness to my life.  On the other hand, I think I'm secretly terrified of commitment, abandonment, and rejection.  Wherever my heart truly stands, I have decided not to be complacent about my love life.  So I've (gasp) joined the world of online dating.  There you go.  Another icky (for some of you) confession.  But you'd be surprised how many of my friends are doing the same thing.  Think of it like Facebook chatting with a dinner date on one end.  Not so scary.  All that said, if you happen to know the Man of My Dreams, by all means, introduce me to him.  And if he's standing right in front of me, slap me.

Well, I think that's all the soul-baring this (almost) birthday girl can stomach for one night.  Wise words and birthday wishes are most welcome. :)  Love you all.

party dress

Sometimes, I have so many thoughts and so many things I want to say that I don't even know where to start.  I'm six years old again, in my party dress and ready to go.  But I panic under the expectation of my friends and family, and instead, I sit wringing my hands in my skirt, chin buried in chest.  Sometimes I just want to sit in my bedroom closet, blowing raspberries and cutting out paper dolls.

This hand-wringing complex only gets worse the longer I go between blog entries, so I guess the paper dolls will have to wait. Time to party, little girl.  

Sorry if this all comes out a bit random and stream-of-consciousness. Because it kind of is.

Today's opening quote to worship at City Grace Church was from G.K. Chesterton: "I have attempted in a vague and personal way, in a set of mental pictures rather than in a series of deductions, to state the philosophy in which I have come to believe. I will not call it my philosophy; for I did not make it. God and humanity made it; and it made me."

I like that what he says is at the same time both puzzling and perfectly clear (at least to me).

I don't know that I have a definite life philosophy--or at least not one I could easily explain to a stranger in a five minutes.  It all comes together much like an Intertextual (for my Whitworth theatre comrades).  Snapshots, a few measures of music, letters, fragments of conversation, news headlines, poetry, and those split-second out-of-body moments each of us has from time to time when you seem to see your life from the outside.  This is to say that I don't work very hard at constructing my own philosophy.  Like Chesterton points out, the philosophy made me.  The collective experience of God and people and every day of my life have made me into who and what I am.  It's not static and readily defined because I'm still living, and God is still moving, and there are still billions of people I haven't met.  It's kind of a massive concept to wrap my brain around.  But I try.

Travel has undoubtedly contributed to the substance of my character and my perspective on the world, especially in the last four years.  Two of my favorite places in the world are still Argentina and Thailand (but those stories are for another blog).  New York may not seem worlds away, but for a girl from rural Washington, it most certainly is.  And I'm experiencing all the culture shock and awe that comes with total immersion, like it or not.

Since moving to New York, I have spent a lot of time--either intentionally or by accident--contemplating my place and my priorities.  

Most days I still have a very pronounced understanding of the small fish-big pond thing.  The gravity of all I don't know can be terribly frustrating.  But then I have really great days when I feel like I can do anything.

Last week, I sang for Ben, who is in the Musical Theatre Writing grad program at Tisch.  He needed lab singers for a new piece he'd written, and I was happy to step in and help.  We rehearsed on Monday and presented Tuesday morning.  The first time we sang through the music, I did a little mental shout-out to my new voice teacher, David, for helping me get more of a contemporary pop musical theatre sound because the role I read for was a twelve-year-old girl.  I wouldn't have pulled it off nearly as well six months ago.

After we sang on Tuesday, Ben surprised me with quite the news flash: I'd just sang for Michael John LaChiusa (of Wild Party fame).  Apparently, he likes it when students bring new faces in to sing.  It gives him a better idea of who's around town.  You know, new faces to remember.  Holy cow.  I'm so glad Ben didn't tell me before I sang.

Then, on the way out the door, Michael John calls to Ben, "Introduce your friend once more, will you?"  So he did.  And I ran through my mental check-list: eye contact, bright smile, sincere greeting, firm handshake, thank you.  I kept my composure for the five seconds that took, but the minute I was out the door, I was doing heel-clicks and the Superstar-lunge.

It was a pretty terrific morning. :)

But like I said, most of my days are all about the slow-and-steady-wins-the-race approach.  Lots of patience and hard work and being okay with feeling like a speck.  

If I feel this small in a city of 8 million, think how minuscule I must be in the grand scheme of the entire world.  That's when I get to thinking about working on everything but me and my voice and my acting and my barre work and pirouettes.  My thoughts shift to where I've been and what I've seen and how I want to make a difference (and how I must seem like a walking cheese ball of clich├ęs to a lot of people). 

Today in church, I picked up a packet of info on Team World Vision.  In a nutshell: if I do this, I'll run 13.1 miles (a half-marathon) on April 3 to benefit World Vision.  Any funds our team raises will go to support well-building efforts in Africa, primarily in Kenya.  I got so happy reading that silly tri-fold pamphlet that I started to cry.  And I don't even like running.  I really want to be one of those girls who runs for fun, and now I have a terrific reason to become that girl.  I'm not just running for me.  I'm running for clean water and safe kids and healthy families.  Best motivation ever.

And on the topic of church, I can't even begin to say how happy I am to get up every Sunday morning.  Little by little, I'm building a community of friends there who know some of my story and seek me out each week.  They ask how my week was, and we swap life stories over coffee and cookies.  Today, at the post-service Christmas party, my friend Annie and I talked about travel and photography and merging our passions with our gifts.  She's great.  And Dana and I are making plans for a get-together, though that will probably have to wait until after the holidays.  Ryan and I discussed the merits and shortcomings of Glee, and I met a new friend, Scott, who's working on a big architectural project for the University of  Glasgow.  I'm caroling with the church choir this week, and I've already connected with a social justice small group.  It's good to have a little home away from home (away from home). :)

Well, the party-dress girl still has lots to say, but she's off to a playdate with Taryn (one of the massive blessings in my life right now).  More soon. xoxo

Friday, November 26, 2010

Shout out to God

Sometimes, I forget to talk to God.  And life gets tough.  Or maybe it's just the same as ever, but it feels harder because I try to go it alone.

And then I remember.  And God and I talk.  And amazing things happen.

If you haven't talked to God lately about how you feel, what your heart longs for, and how you're supposed to find your little place in this world, give Him a shout.  Take my word for it: you'll be glad you did. :)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

skinny days

This morning, I tried on three outfits before settling on one for the day.  And I'm not one to fuss that much unless I'm 1) going out dancing or 2) going on a date.  I didn't have anywhere special to go; I just wanted to look more put-together than my usual jeans and a t-shirt.  Sometimes, that's all it takes to make it a "skinny day."

Fast-forward a couple hours.

I'm walking to the drug store to pick up a few things, and while crossing the street, I hear a whistle.  The standard, very LOUD catcall whistle.  I smirk and keep walking.  Undeterred, the guy leans out his window and shouts, "you're BEAUTIFUL!"  Oh boy.

Then I'm at the drugstore checkout, and the cashier--a nice enough-looking guy--hits on me.  He mumbles a little, but it's something about my outfit, I think, and the fact that I dance to the music while shopping.  Well, it was "You & Me" by the Dave Matthews Band.  Who doesn't dance to that? :)  And I was happy about the Garnier Fructis sale.  I thank him, smile, take my receipt, and leave.

There's a little bounce in my step as I walk the four blocks to home.  Sure, I could roll my eyes at it all.  But for today, I'm okay with a little attention.

I guess today's a "skinny" day after all! :)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

a return to the days of backyard shenanigans

I bet you can't remember the last time you played in the backyard all day.  Sure, the outdoorsy types go for hikes and picnics in the park.  But what about just killing time outside?  That's how I spent my Sunday in Sag Harbor with three rambunctious kids.  

It's like I'm seven years old again.  We throw the Frisbee for the dog, pick grass for no reason, drink juice boxes in the sunshine, improvise with rocks as sidewalk chalk, race to the hedge and back, and generally have ourselves a grand old time.  

I do the toss-and-bat combo for Leo with an over-sized plastic baseball bat because he loves to chase the ball down the yard.  When Zo decides to run for the same ball, Leo gets frustrated because he isn't as fast.  So with the next swing, I throw Zo off and give Leo the head start so he can "win" at chasing down my line drive. I'm always rooting for the underdog. :)

I braid flowers into JuJu's hair as we sit with Leo, waiting for the "ducks" to return.  They were quite the highlight yesterday, despite their almost-run-in with Zo's face.  JuJu corrects her brother, smartly: "They are not ducks, Leo.  They're swans."  He could care less.  A few hours later, the swans show up, and all Leo cares about is finding some bread scraps to feed the "ducks."  Good thing Dad made French toast this morning. :)

Throughout the morning, the four of us rotate through our collection of pint-sized sports equipment.  I teach JuJu how to dribble, and just passing the ball to a three-year-old reminds me of how much I miss playing soccer.  I'm surprised, actually, and I make a mental note to look up a rec league near home.

Today is a great day.  Good old-fashioned play, crisp air, and plenty of sunshine.  I couldn't be at church this morning, but this is about as close a second as I could ask for.  Just when I think I've already had a terrific day, God knocks one out of the park at the bottom of the ninth.  Well, whaddya know?  We win the game. :)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

buses, squash, & swans

What a whirlwind weekend this has been.  I took the bus out to Sag Harbor Thursday afternoon, then rode back into Manhattan Friday morning for my voice lesson.  I'm back in Sag Harbor for Saturday and Sunday and will head home Monday morning.  All totaled, I will have spent nine hours and twenty minutes on Hampton Jitney buses this weekend.  Good thing I'm not paying for transportation!

Because I had all day Friday to myself, I hit the kitchen (obviously!).  My latest adventure: orange vegetable pilau (pronounced pee-LOH).  

The recipe is from Easy Vegan: Simple Recipes for Healthy Eating, the book I decided on the night I (sort of) ran into James Franco at Barnes & Noble.

Orange Vegetable Pilau

2 tablespoons light olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
1 large red chile, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon tumeric
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1 1/2 cups basmati rice
1 carrot, cut into large chunks
7 oz (about 1 cup) pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into wedges
1 small sweet potato, peeled and cut into thick semi-circles
freshly squeezed juice of 1 lime
a handful of cilantro/fresh coriander leaves, chopped

Serves 4

Put the oil in a heavy-based saucepan set over high heat.  Ad the onion (I used a yellow onion), garlic, ginger, and chile (I used a green Anaheim chile) and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often.  Add the spices and almonds and cook for a further 5 minutes, until the spices become aromatic and look very dark in the pan.

Add the rice (I used jasmine, but basmati is best) and cook for 1 minute, stirring well to coat the rice in the spices.  Add the carrot, pumpkin (I used butternut squash), and sweet potato (I used a garnet yam) to the pan.  Pour in 2 1/2 cups water and stir well, lossening any grains of rice that are stuck to the bottom of the pan.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

When the rice is tender, take the pan off the heat and add the lime juice and coriander (I used cilantro).  Stir well to combine and serve hot.

Anaheim chile, garlic, onion, and ginger

combined in skillet with olive oil, almonds, and spices

butternut squash, garnet yam, and carrot

combine, add water, and bring to boil

simmer for 25 minutes, mix with lime juice, and garnish with cliantro 
(I forgot this part!)

delicious with a slice of pumpkin tea bread from Whole Foods

This recipe obviously yields a pretty hefty batch of goodness, so find someone to share it with, or be prepared to eat leftovers several meals in a row.  It's actually one of those great dishes that almost tastes better on the second day.  Don't forget the lime and cilantro, like I did for my first serving.  The citrus tang combines beautifully with the earthy sweetness of the squash and yam.  And cilantro just makes everything better. :)

This afternoon, I spent quite a bit of time playing with the kids in the backyard.  We played fetch with the dog, caught a grasshopper (Leo called him Hopper, from A Bug's Life), and were surprised by a family of swans!

Be forewarned: they're beautiful but temperamental.  And very territorial.  Don't get too close.  One of them almost bit Zo.  No joke.  

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Vegan Cookbooks and James Franco

Tonight, I walk to the Tribeca Barnes & Nobel.  I am a woman on a mission to find the ultimate vegan cookbook.  Upon entering, I notice a voice being projected throughout the entire store.  Then I see a few plasma screens back at the music and movies area.  Someone is giving a reading.  But I can only see the top of his head.  I listen a little more closely, and then it hits me.  Oh my gosh.  That's James Franco's voice.  That's James Franco!  He's in the building.  No freaking way.  I guess I shouldn't be surprised.  After all, just in the last month or so, I've passed Alan Cumming walking down the street in a kilt, and I've watched Naomi Watts pick up her little girl from Montessori across the street.  Of course James Franco is giving a reading in my neighborhood Barnes & Nobel.  Of course.

And of course my guts swirl in a minor case of star-struck giddiness.  But thankfully, it doesn't last long, and my ego isn't damaged too badly.  I calmly saunter over to the back of the bookstore where masses of young women--and a few regular, middle-aged folks--have flocked to hear their beloved actor/artist/writer extraordinaire.  He really is beautiful to listen to.  I had no idea until today that he'd published a book, and I find myself quite enraptured in his prose.  Great storytelling.  But I guess you'd expect as much from an actor like James Franco.  I can't see him behind the crowd, so I just lean back against a bookshelf and listen, eyes closed.  For a minute, I think about buying his book--and joining the throng of adoring fans--so I can wait in line for him to scribble his illegible name across the cover of my freshly-bought copy.  

But I came here to buy a vegan cookbook.  James Franco is just a happy coincidence.

Smirking a bit at the scene Mr. Franco has created, I retreat to the cookbook section and settle down for some serious vegan cookbook browsing.  I drop my purse and sweater, and situate myself cross-legged in front of the shelves marked VEGETARIAN and VEGAN

I chuckle to myself as I imagine James walking around the corner, annoyed by the hordes of facebook profile pic-snapping college girls, only to find me intently searching for the perfect culinary guide.  Maybe he'd think me a little mysterious.  I'd imagine a guy like him might stop to wonder why I'm not falling all over him.  Perhaps he'd pause for a minute, offer a suggestion on his favorite title, and smile that squinty-eyed, dimpled grin of his.  I could go for that. 

But James doesn't come to the cookbook section.  I sit at my station, drooling over recipes for singaras with fresh mango salsa and spiced eggplant couscous while groups of drooling, giggling girls pass by on their way out, signed books in hand.  

They squawk and whine, "Oh my gosh!  I must have sounded so stupid.  Did I sound stupid?  Oh geez.  My camera's crap.  Did you get any good photos?  I can't believe I only had my camera phone!  He's so cute!  And he's so nice, too!  Oh my gosh.  James Franco.  Oh my gosh."

After carefully perusing half a dozen photo-saturated cookbooks, I pick my favorite.  I pick my way back through the thinning crowd toward his book-signing table.  I see him, and he's just as good-looking in real life as he is in the movies.  He's got a nice smile.  And he doesn't seem too fake.  That's nice.  I whip out my phone and snap a few photos for posterity's sake, then call Ben to brag.  He's jealous, of course.  

I just chuckle and buy my cookbook.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Wait, what? VEGAN?

Well, mostly.  

Since reading Skinny Bitch, picking a few brains, and consulting the near-expert advice of my aunt (an RN and vegetarian of almost forty years), I've come to the conclusion that I at least want to give this a fair shot.  So I'm not eating beef, chicken, pork, lamb, turkey, or any other meats.  I'll eat fish from time to time which, given my income, is pretty rarely anyway.  I'm avoiding eggs, cheese, and butter and substituting milk and yogurt with their alternatives.  Soy seems pretty good so far.  

If we go back to the drawing board, our bodies weren't originally created to consume such massive amounts of meat and animal products, if any.  We're herbivores without claws or massive jaws full of sharp teeth.  We weren't created to take down a cow--or an elk or deer, for that matter.  And cow's milk was meant for calves equipped with four stomachs, not our simple bodies.  Cow's milk is far to rich and complex for our bodies to handle.  It's total over-kill.

I've never been an animal rights freak.  And I'm still not one.  But the conditions these animals endure to feed us are horrific to put it mildly.  And the slaughterhouses sound like absolute hell on earth.  Considering my body isn't equipped to process what they have to offer, I don't see the point in putting any more animals through the torture.

If that's not convincing enough, look at the health comparisons of vegans and vegetarians versus those who regularly consume meat and animal products.  The catastrophic rates of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, cancer, and a slough of other maladies is exponentially lower among vegans and vegetarians.  On average, they live six to ten years longer than meat-eaters. Think about it.  In ten years, your kid could get married and have a few kids.  What if you're not around to see those ten years of their lives?

This is not to be taken as self-righteous in any way.  It's just the choice I'm making right now. What you choose to do is absolutely fine.  It's your body, your food, your life.  Frankly, I'm just excited to see all the good things that should come of this! :)

I'm centering my diet on tons of whole grains, beans and legumes, vegetables, and fruit.  With a multivitamin, vitamin-D and calcium-fortified orange juice, and a calcium citrate supplement, I should get more than enough of what I need.  And don't worry about the protein.  The soy, beans, nuts, and Naked protein juice smoothies take care of that.

Tonight, dinner is a masterpiece of a salad.  Here it is, all from Trader Joe's:

  • 2 broccoli florets
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1/4 orange bell pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups sorrento mix of baby arugula, baby spinach, and baby lettuces
  • 5 sugar snap peas
  • 2 baby carrots
  • 1/8 cup edamame (soybeans)
  • 2 teaspoons sunflower seeds
  • a handful of pea sprouts 
  • fat-free balsamic vinaigrette 

And let me tell you, it's delicious. :)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Father's Day

One of the biggest perks of living in Manhattan is the garbage.  Seriously.  People throw away some of the most valuable things.  

A few weeks ago, the couple I work for passed a bookcase on the sidewalk while leaving for their dinner date.  At the restaurant, they both mentioned how I'd probably like it.  So they called our doorman and had the poor guy drag the rain-soaked bookcase in off the street and into our lobby.  It was dirty and water-stained, but I knew it had potential.  

I bought a block of sandpaper on Friday morning and got to work that night on making the thing sparkle.  It's now almost as good as new.  I just need to find books and picture frames and knick-knacks to fill it.

Another freebie came from a friend of Gary's.  They rent out an apartment in SoHo, and a now-former tenant left a perfectly good toaster oven, plus a few other items.  So Gary took them off the guys hands, knowing I could probably use one.

It was grimy and needed some serious scrubbing with goo-be-gone and stainless steel cleaner.  And inside were the most random items: a vacuum hose attachment, a purple no. 2 pencil, and a Father's Day card.  Huh.  So I read it.

On the front cover are two cartoon dogs, a puppy and his dad.  The dog, red paper heart in mouth, exclaims "I Love You, Daddy." 

And here's the inside:
Hugs and kisses 
from me to you
Happy Father's Day

All in all, a pretty average card.  Nothing special.  

But the hand-written message struck me, quite unexpectedly.

Thanks FoR Letting me grow. im gonna make you reAlly proud of me someday.  Mommy can Be a real pain in the "you know what" But SHE's A big reAson Im gonna grow up sweeT, kinD gentle And smaRT so tAke good carRe of heR FoR me, OKy? looKing FORWAD to meeting you soon
love, ME

Who is this kid, and what is her story?  I was completely dumbfounded.  If the she really meant "looking forward to meeting you" and not just "looking forward to seeing you," I'm at a total loss.  I've never heard of a kid sending her forever-absent father a card on a holiday which, for all intents and purposes, should mean nothing to a fatherless child.

The penmanship isn't fantastic, and the letters are all mixed up between upper- and lower-case, but this kid has to be at least ten or twelve.  I wonder how many cards she's sent to her dad, hoping to finally meet him.  I wonder if he ever writes her back.

And what about the mom?  It sounds like she is already out of the girl's life--or headed that direction.  Is this another snapshot from a foster child's life?  I've seen too many already, and most of them aren't happy stories.

I don't know why I care so much about this kid.  But I do.  So much.

If it's safe and good and right, I hope she meets her dad.  And I hope he loves her as much as she deserves. 

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

small ramparts for the soul

This morning is a good start to the day.  I sleep in, make a pot of coffee, dawdle on facebook, eat a banana...then a peach, and go running along the Hudson.

In the midst of all this, I find myself missing family quite a bit.  Not quite homesick, but not totally contented with my solo living, either.  So it's a good thing I'm running.  

God gave our bodies these lovely little chemicals called endorphins.  They help me be a little happier.  And running cranks up their production, which means that while I may be sweaty and squinting in the sunshine--after breaking my second pair of sunglasses this month--I'm doing my body and spirit some good.  

And my iPod is just icing on the cake for this getting-better day.

You probably couldn't pay me to run without music.  I need a steady drive in the bass and drums to kick my butt into gear, and I have at least three iTunes playlist dedicated specifically to the satiation of that need.  Most of it is upbeat, but there are a few songs for the cool-down on the way home.  Today's was "Why It Matters" by Sara Groves.

Sara is such a poet.  And I love that music is something that evolved really naturally in her life.  She was a teacher for a long time.  Then one day, she decided to put together a record with her husband.  How cool is that?  And it wasn't some sort of fame-hungry whim that spurred her on.  She doesn't write empty bubble-gum pop.  Her music is story and spirit and beauty.

My favorite lines from "Why It Matters" speak for themselves:

Show me the love that never fails
The compassion and attention
'Midst confusion and dissention
Like small ramparts for the soul
How it matters

Like a single cup of water
How it matters

So while I may feel a little thin, I know God has my back.  His love builds small ramparts for my soul, and I'm so thankful for each one.  They come in all shapes and sizes, and I am always surprised to find them: 

  • a busy dad taking time out for a bike ride with his kids
  • an old lady walking her dog which, oddly, looks a lot like its owner
  • a couple kissing in the park
  • the easy camaraderie of dusty, worn-out construction workers on their lunch breaks
  • a bouquet of flowers on their way to be delivered to someone who is loved
  • honest smiles from strangers
  • the East Village college kid who stops to comfort the homeless man who, shaking in the grips of withdrawal, has collapsed on the street corner
  • an over-scheduled Wall Street businessman taking time to give directions to an obviously-lost tourist
  • the folks in Times Square with big smiles and signs that read "FREE HUGS"

It's easy to dwell on the war inside your spirit some days.  But try finding the ramparts.  

They're everywhere.  :)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Giving Up the Ghost

Once in a while, just a few lines in a song will take me back...

"I don't think you ever learned a thing from me,
But I'm sure that you want me to learn from you. 
And you've drawn heavy-handed lines around morality,
About yourself, and I don't share your point of view.  
It's been time to let you go a thousand times. 
You never know that it hurts to be the one that you'd regret
I have to say that I am proud to know you 
And I'll never be the same because we met. 
You might not miss this, 
But I will, I will, I will."

-Brandi Carlile, "I Will" from Give Up the Ghost

I think back to where I was just two years ago, and it's like I see a different person: a girl unsure of who she is, wearing her heart on her sleeve and about to fall head-over-heels in love.  Innocent and complicated and scared and wild-eyed.  Loud and messy and silent.  Indecisive.  Hopeful.  Sometimes, that girl feels very close.  But most days, she feels a million miles away.  

Two years ago, this small girl in her very small world learned that there are times when not even love can overcome the "heavy-handed lines."  She learned that sometimes people come along and scrawl all over your life in permanent ink.  They make demands, smirk at compromise, and leave their mark forever.  It's not always pretty, but it's there.  And it's something to look back on so you can remember, "I was there once."

Some people drew beauty and love and promise on her life.  Some drew spite and jealousy and that sour-stomach feeling that develops with a grudge.  But one left just an outline.  A brief but deliberate encircling of something that fades a little each day but never really goes away.  It's there, even at its faintest.  Like a ghost.  A quiet, passing reminder.  A spectral post-it note of sorts.

The girl is a little more grown-up now (but not so much).  Sometimes, she loves the ghost and thanks God for it.  Other times, it makes her angry.  But mostly, she just watches it pass through a back room in her heart from time to time, seeing it grow more still and faint and quiet.  She thinks she's slowly giving up the ghost.  

But then, maybe it will always be there.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A surprising audience...

Soooo...I just figured out how to see the stats on my blog (didn't know they had those!), and my readership comes from some interesting places: 

-91 from the USA (duh)
-4 from Switzerland (I have only one Swiss friend...)
-3 from Latvia
-1 from Luxembourg

Huh.  Wonder who those last five or six folks are... Anyway, welcome to the world of a silly 22-year-old newbie New Yorker!

If you're getting anything out of what I write, please feel free to comment on my posts! :)

Eyes to the sky

Two weeks ago, I stood at Ground Zero on the ninth anniversary of 9/11.  Tonight, I'm in the Hamptons after almost a week in Steamboat Springs with The Girls.  So much happens so fast.  I feel like before I know it, I'll be throwing a 30th birthday bash.

A few weeks ago, Ben and I showed up at the Booth Theatre just off Times Square to see "Next to Normal."  We entered in the lottery for $25 and didn't win.  But the perk to showing up for that was $40 "Lottery Loser" tickets.  I'd say it's pretty good to be a loser.  Marin Mazzie was phenomenal in the central role, as was her real-life husband, Jason Danieley (pictured), who played her husband in the show.  This show started near my childhood stomping grounds, at the Village Theatre in Issaquah, Washington, so I was proud to see it as a full-fledged Broadway production all the way across the country. 

While G&E and the kids were away in California earlier this month,  I got to apartment-sit.  Naturally, I took the opportunity to cook in their fabulous kitchen.  Dani King visited me in the middle of her romp through the East Coast, so I made her a brunch of French toast and coffee.  It was lovely having her here.  :)

And, of course I made use of some sad-looking bananas.  I'm proud to say they were near-perfect.  And I was even nice enough to save a couple for the kids to have as a treat when they got home.

Another of my kitchen adventures was probably one of the last meat dishes I'll eat for a while (after reading Skinny Bitch--more on that later).  Chicken fajitas are delish, especially when I'm craving something with a little kick of cayenne pepper.  Not that there isn't enough ethnic food in this city to keep me eating something different for at least ten years.  But I like being in the kitchen and doing it myself sometimes.  Plus, eating out is expensive.  And I'm trying to save for headshots.

And to add to the randomness of this blog post, here are a few miscellaneous photos of this city I love.

Sunset in TriBeCa

Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge

I'd love a house like this someday.  I saw it on the way home after dropping Laura off at JFK.

The view from my rooftop terrace on the 7th floor

New York is one of the most diverse cities in the world.  And despite the many differences among the people who call themselves New Yorkers, there is a common thread of patriotism I notice on a daily basis.  This neighborhood in Brooklyn was full of American flags, yellow ribbons, and "Support our Troops" bumper stickers.  My guess is that a lot of these families have daughters and sons in the military.  

Pray they make it home safe and healthy, in body and spirit.
The 9/11 Tribute in Light, Lower Manhattan

The light was visible from miles away and so bright that tens of thousands of migratory birds became disoriented and trapped in the lights.  Sad for the birds but a magnificent sight for everyone else.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

At Home on 9/11

This morning, I'm up at 9:00.  I throw on running clothes, grab a bowl of raisin bran, and head for Battery Park City, along the western shore of Lower Manhattan.  It's only a couple of blocks from my new place in Tribeca, and it's a hot spot for runners, roller-bladers, and moms with jogging strollers.  I'm running, but I'm still half-asleep.

It takes me a few minutes to realize what today really means.  Nine years ago today, my mom called me downstairs from brushing my teeth before school to watch the news on our tiny black-and-white TV--the only one picking up a signal at the time.  I'll never forget that day.  I was thirteen, and I couldn't understand how humans could be capable of something so horrendous as flying commercial jets into skyscrapers.

It's been nine years, and I still remember that cold, lead-weight feeling that settled in the bottom of my stomach as hot tears stained my cheeks.  And the feeling comes back every so often, especially on days like today.

This is my first 9/11 anniversary in New York City.  From where I'm running, I have a view of Ellis Island and Lady Liberty.  Just inside the Winter Garden at the World Financial Center, there's a grand staircase leading up to a wall of glass.  I stop in along my run, and through the windows, I can see the progress being made at Ground Zero.  The 9/11 Memorial is in construction, and even on a Saturday morning, there are workers buzzing around to complete their work on time.  I stand with my face to the glass, one of a long stretch of onlookers, and turn my head to the gaping hole in the sky.  It's a gorgeous stretch of sun-kissed blue.  But it's one of the saddest things in New York.  Because we're not supposed to see the sky.