THE NEW, NEW YORK, NEW YORK

Times Square 2020


Even if it ain’t all it seems, I got a pocketful of dreams
Baby I’m from New York!
Concrete jungle where dreams are made of
There’s nothing you can’t do
Now you’re in New York!
These streets will make you feel brand new
Big lights will inspire you
Hear it for New York, New York, New Yooork!”

from EMPIRE STATE of MIND by Alicia Keys

I first visited New York City when I was a cash poor, college student working upstate. Regrettably, we ate only Pizza Hut and walked around aimlessly. I was warned more about crime than where to eat or what to see. “Don’t look up at the buildings, it makes you a target,” people told me. I was a small town girl visiting the Big Apple but felt I was visiting an entire produce market instead! The masses of people were bewildering. I felt compelled to ask everyone where they were going since everyone seemed in a hurry. When I went again, in the early ‘90s, Mayor Giuliani was beginning his term and I ate A LOT better. I remember seeing the volunteer “Guardian Angels” trekking around Times Square keeping order and a benevolent watch over the city. Times Square was a bit more seedy and undesireable back then. Still, the jumbo screens that only partially existed (compared to now) were a spectacular light show. And I did steal glances up at the towering buildings regardless of prior warnings.

The Plaza Hotel

I went a third time when taking my daughter to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. It was the early ’00s, after the horrendous 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. It was a difficult decision to proceed, but we felt it was more tragic NOT to go. We relished the opportunity to stay at the famous Plaza Hotel and see Eloise. She was the little girl famed to live there in a childrens book. Amazingly, the illustrator, Hillary Scott, from the original “Eloise at the Plaza” was there and signed our copy. We sipped tea in the Palm Room, wrote a letter to Eloise, and recounted history of the famed hotel. Seeing Santa at Macy’s and riding the old, wooden escalator were highlights. The Fifth Avenue shop windows were extravagantly decorated for the holidays by designers involving big budgets. Those were worth a stand in line. A chilly carriage ride through Central Park was picturesque, as was skating at the Rockefeller Center. Minus the exact site of the twin towers, the city did not reflect it had just survived its worst tragedy in modern history. Nothing could hold New York City down, it seemed.

The Palm Court at the Plaza

The attack on the World Trade Center forever changed the city (and country). I have read numerous accounts of heroicism and altruism surrounding the day’s events and those after. What terrorists meant for destruction and despair actually had the opposite effect. People began connecting and relating in meaningful ways versus the former “keep to self” mentality. I can attest that on my recent visit, I was aided on two separate occassions by New Yorkers who simply wanted to be nice. One totally inconvenienced herself by walking us to our destination. Another who appeared intimidating at first, was a godsend at the subway. He observed our wide-eyed confusion trying to choose a line and gave us detailed directions when he could have walked on. We noticed incredibly kind and friendly people overall.

9/11 Memorial

My husband and I finally visited the 9/11 Memorial site last Fall. We were silenced eyeing the massive holes in the earth where the two towers once stood. Commemoration of all that occurred in those two towers was aided by deep fountains now in their place. Water cascading towards the center of the earth solemnly recalled the parallel events. Yet now it was beautiful and serene. What irony! Loved ones left flowers by the names of those deceased. Children born well after the devastation played happily on the grounds while young adults lined up at food trucks. The massive structure over the entry to the Oculus, a three story underground mall, appeared to be a gigantic carcass. (More irony.) When I learned it connected all the way down to the subway, I was dumbfounded at its architectural and engineering genius. My husband pointed out the Trinity church directly across the street with its aged cemetery that appeared not to have noticed the events of 9/11 at all. It remained miraculously untouched. The fourth tower is slated to be built next year, I learned, while touring the Freedom Tower Observatory. Its panoramic view was astounding and limitless. With the last tower, the site will be bigger and better than ever.

The Oculus NYC

How can an event so devastating and ugly become an architectural feat that draws millions? How can New York overcome all that it has endured? It can through resiliant, inconquerable souls who love their city and their ideals. It can through those who choose not to live in fear but to look for possibility instead. It can in New York City. I know because I was there, met some of its people and saw all of it myself.

🇨🇴 A Colombian Christmas 🇨🇴

My family and I went to Colombia for the holidays. Not Columbia, but Colombia. Yes, the country where drug cartels ruled and kidnappings once regularly occurred. When I told people what we were doing for the holidays the common response I got was, “Why?” I then would explain that our daughter was teaching there and we wanted to see her. So, we made the family pilgrimage. Little did I know, I’d also come away with some powerful insights.

The trip there was about as smooth as a cracked cell phone screen. We grumbled and complained due to missing our flight because of mechanical failure. Our irritation grew as we were rerouted in the opposite direction. We actually lost an entire day scurrying from airport to airport piecing our arrival together. Then, the requisite cherry on top was the loss of luggage which ensued days of misery for one of us.

Our general misery subsided however, as we arrived to this land overflowing with abundant fruits and generous foliage. The lush, green canopies of aged, coffee plants, towering, wax palms and unidentifiable flora were breathtaking. Of course, seeing our daughter was the real prize. All six of us together on a family trip and we would have unknown memories yet to make.

Arriving during the Christmas season was extra special. My daughter had indicated that Colombia was its most festive around Christmas. The towns were lit up like gigantic, twinkling, tree ornaments. I noticed dancing lights every square inch from our aerial view during our flight from Bogota to Cali. I also noticed something odd- dressed up, lap dogs on our plane. Then street dogs, shop dogs, and personal dogs in just about every place of our first city, Salento. That was where we toured the coffee plantation and horseback rode up a mountain. For the record, most of us did not know how to horseback ride, much less on a narrow path on the side of a mountain.

Colombia is known for their flavorful coffee. I will never drink coffee irreverently again knowing all that goes into it. The back-breaking labor of handpicking ripe red, “cherry” beans (on a steep hill) and sorting through all the beans is impressive, intentional work- especially for the smaller, old fashioned farms that prefer to keep their coffee “pure.” We learned the process and that the country itself drinks the rejected beans and exports their best to the likes of us. “We are spoiled,” I thought more than once on this trip.

Coffee plant

Coffee cherry with beans

Another day, we took off on a Jeep ride to the base of the greenest mountain I have ever seen. There we mounted horses (without any education on riding- instructors couldn’t speak English anyway) and made our way up to the aged, wax palm trees. The trees looked straight out of a Dr. Seuss book. They were approximately 60 meters tall and 200 years old. Standing in their natural arbor, the panoramic view was pure art. Speechless, we took it all in.

At this point of our journey we learned a few curious things about Colombia. First, it is NOT a poor country. Second, you can’t flush toilet paper ANYWHERE in the country and third, people are extremely nice but you can’t expect anyone to speak English. Our most pleasant surprise was how incredibly affordable everything was. Our family of six could eat out for less than half of what we paid at home.

After Christmas, we headed to Cali and attended “La Féria.” It’s a traditional celebration parade of the peoples of Colombia dating from the indigenous through modern times. Each was represented with floats, music, and elaborate costumes. It was quite a site. Next, my daughter and I had a girls day and the boys tried kite surfing. I was thankful to eat a fabulous meal in a spa-like restaurant and shop Colombian designers instead. Custom clothes abound there. Many have the seamstress connected to their showrooms. I’d never seen boutique couture like that before.

New Years is a family event in Colombia, unlike the US. So, most everything was shut for the holiday. We ended up at the Marriott (notably the nicest and most expensive hotel in Cali) for a sushi dinner and people watching. It did not disappoint as people cascaded in wearing ball gowns and international flight crews arrived in their stylish, European uniforms. It was a feast for the eyes.

For our last stop, we headed to Bogota as our daughter headed to Medellin. We had one last day to see sights. A few of us headed up to Montserrat- named for the same in Barcelona- for good luck, per tradition, while others retreated from the rain.

Sadly departing, we immediately said we were coming back. Colombia we found, is NOT the TV show “Narcos,” nor is it a dangerous, third world country. As the small hotelier stated in broken English, “We Colombians don’t have access to everything but we appreciate more because of it. We have peace in our hearts and that comes from inside.”

Love You, Like You

The saying “Love you, like you” has made its way into my stash of favorites. I have no idea where it originated, but am so glad it did. I think one of our children spontaneously said it as a small child and it stuck. In our home, we tend to not always like each other but we always love each other. That brings me a lot of peace because sometimes family life is anything but peace-filled!

I have a dear friend with an autistic son who attends a special school. At the school the students and parents were asked to vote on t-shirt slogans to promote positivity and be a fundraiser. My friend voted the one with the slogan “I Love You & I Like You” and even ordered me one! I love it immeasurably. She doesn’t know the example she serves in my life. I wear that shirt with pride.

My mother in law once said that being liked is even more complimentary than being loved (paraphrased). I get what she means. We love our families and we like our friends. In this, we are basically saying “love” is commitment- not emotion led- but “like” is fun and endearing. Like anyone else I’d like to be liked too. Feelings aside, if you love someone, you might only like them sometimes. If considering just liking someone, then you either do or you don’t.

It’s the oddest thing to be disliked (and know it) but not know why. It used to bug me wondering why someone was frequently cold to me, but now, not so much. I realize I also like some people more and others not as much. Why? Who knows? It is just chemistry, or lack there of, or any thousand other reasons, I suppose.

God calls me to be like Jesus to love others as myself. I am relieved it’s okay to dislike. It is also relief to know I can still love others through my actions while disregarding my gut feelings. I guess what I’m trying to say is that liking or being liked is just pleasant- like icing on a cake. But when you’re loved AND liked, it’s the whole dessert.

The Waiting Game

I am naturally high strung and move at a fast pace through life. My father calls me Danika Patrick when he’s in the car with me. I don’t like wasted time nor wasted words and frequently “cut to the chase.” I even abhor when my TV system scrolls “please wait” across the screen. This makes me “Hurricane Katie,” I suppose. But I am beginning to realize there is great value in waiting.

My pastor preached last Sunday that the word Advent is derived from a Latin word meaning “to wait.” We are officially in Advent now and I feel I am being taught the value in waiting. I recently fell, accidentally slipping off my porch and injured my back. I had to wait three weeks to heal. It was agonizing but I learned major empathy for my older friends and their frequent falls. I also developed profound appreciation for a single moment without pain. Yes, waiting was good for me.

Try telling a two year old to wait for anything and you might witness a full on meltdown. I witnessed my goddaughter lie down in the service area at a bookstore after her parents told her she was going to have to wait to leave. It was hysterically funny and I imagined what it would be like if adults were allowed to conduct lie down protests? Can you imagine impatient coffee drinkers at Starbucks taking it to the floor over a latte??

We live in an age of instant satisfaction. I like quick results like anyone but is instant necessarily good for me? I am starting to wonder. I have learned that a lot gets accomplished while we wait. Important lessons and valuable training/equipping occur while we anticipate the future.

Patience is a learned choice, I believe. I am working on disciplining the little monster in me that beckons to cut corners and quicken outcomes. I’ve decided it’s a worthy pursuit to wait. It’s what develops and refines me. Instant coffee (yesterday) tastes bad anyway. I’d much prefer waiting in line for a craft coffee any day.

My Helper

It is impossible for that man to despair who remembers that his Helper is omnipotent.
Jeremy Taylor

Flower near Sea of Galilee

I cannot fathom existence without divine life support. It is overwhelming to manage the mundane, much less the fear of the what ifs and what might actually occur to go without.

One of my sons once quizzed me on my faith. He is in college and had recently taken a Comparative Religion course. Wanting to answer him honestly but not sound preachy, I took time formulating my answer. Finally, it came to me and I said, “Because I like it and it works for me.” I could tell he wanted to debate the subject but my simple explanation warranted none.

I understand everyone’s need to question and find their personal faith. I also understand it is everyone’s right to choose. As I once read, “God is a gentleman. He won’t impose Himself on anyone.” This is true. I just hate for people- especially my loved ones- to miss out on this marvelous, mystifying, meaningful power source.

Watching my children suffer, hurt, or struggle is particularly painful. While I can intercede with prayers and support, I cannot force or impose my faith onto them. It’s their free choice. Their quality of life and ability to dig deep down within is completely out of my control. I won’t stop praying for the Holy Spirit to disturb them some, however.

Meggido, Israel

Traveling to Israel recently, it stuck me how very simple Jesus’ message was. It has been man and our interpretation of His message that has created the complications of religion. So, I don’t talk about being “religious” but rather “spiritual.” People are created so complex and unique it’s no wonder there are so many ways to worship. I don’t judge anyone’s choice as God is a big boy and can handle meeting us all where we need Him.

To boil it all down, I was driving this week and was behind a car with a bumper sticker reading “If you have breath, speak LOVE.” I would like to practice more of that.

Via Dolorosa, Jerusalem

THE BEACH GLOBE

The sunrise hurt as I moved closer. Spying a jeweled dragonfly, a living brooch, I crept the boardwalk into my globe.  

Not a snow globe, but a sand globe, whirling with cawing seagulls and cliquish pelicans. A grey blur whizzed past my feet in the shallows and I stared into the viewmaster of the sea. I smelled memories in the air and felt the blanket of the heavy summer drape over my skin. I busily attempted nothing and actively saw everything.

My mind quietened and I motionlessly drew closer to my Creator.

 

 

 

 

EMPTY NEST

bird-nest-eggs-blue-158734.jpeg
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Entering my office last week I noticed a circular mound of grass on the ground. Upon closer inspection, I eyed a spiral mass of dried flowers and feathers, a bird’s nest. Tiny beaks had laboriously sewn and molded a home for their young. Now it lie empty and abandoned. It was literally an empty nest. Mine, on the other hand, was anything but empty.  It was the BULGING NEST!

What is the correct term for an empty nest that isn’t ever empty? Once children graduate high school and leave for college the common phrase is that you have an “empty nest.” Our daughter has flown the coop but our three sons keep flying right back. I think they take turns coming home to ensure their father never lacks a playmate.  My husband weeps when they leave. He says I’d fuel the Greyhound goodbye if I could.  It’s not that I don’t love my family, it’s just that I enjoy the peace, cleanliness, and not having to do incessant chores.

Our home might never be empty because we have the fun house on the water. Maybe it’s because my husband will cook nearly anything for them. Maybe it’s because I will wash their laundry. I don’t know. But this summer, for example, I’d drive home from work to find at least one son and his friends lifting weights in our garage while blaring base for our neighbors’ enjoyment. Or, a crew would be headed to or from the boat on the river. Weekends ensured many of their friends also spent the night. Couches spawned bodies on Saturday mornings. Some were expected while others just spontaneously arrived.  For this reason, my husband started calling our house Motel 6. Yep, we’d leave the light on for you!

light sign typography lighting
Photo by Gratisography on Pexels.com

 

As much as I’d like less noise, privacy and a tidied home, I’ve been warned not to wish away all the flurry of activity. My older friends say I will one day miss it all. Borrowing a saying from my father in law, I counter, “it sure would be nice to miss” it. With fall semester beginning, my husband gets teary talking about our boys heading back to school. Me? I think I will be fine. I look forward to missing them.

close up photography of bird nest
Photo by Evelyn Chong on Pexels.com

The Mom Mulligan

Blog post for all Mothers. Happy Mother’s Day!

Fourundertwo

person holding golf ball Photo by Jopwell x PGA on Pexels.com

The stranger’s name was Dexter. He was an older male, reserved, quiet and wary of others. I tried to be friendly but he seemed completely disinterested in any conversation.  At one point he even turned his back towards me to get his point across. Finally, I relented and left him alone. Dexter was an attractive, tie-wearing yorkie with missing teeth.

His owner, on the other hand was very chatty.  Like Dexter, he was an older gentleman that went everywhere with his tiny companion. I asked how he chose a yorkie and he said he didn’t, his wife had brought it home unannounced a long time ago. He went on to share she had died of cancer and now he and Dexter were as thick as thieves.  He got teary after I told him she was better off than us. He said she had…

View original post 147 more words

I’m Sorry. We Don’t Have Time to Be Nice.

The title of this comes from a story an author shared about herself in a Bible Study. She was mortified at her young child’s response to an elderly neighbor. The child reflected her concern for another while the mom did not. The mom wasn’t being mean, she just was in a hurry. What trait did she lack her daughter acted on? It was integrity. Why was it integrity and not hospitality? Because the daughter knew they needed to be somewhere and still cared enough about the relationship to explain.

Integrity is defined as being honest and having strong moral principles. I laughingly shared with someone recently about how years ago I read the simple statement, “You can tell a lot about someone by what they do with their shopping cart.” To this day, I cannot leave a cart somewhere random. A silly little statement has stuck with me. Am I acting ridiculous? Maybe, but I like to think I am doing the right thing. Why does it even matter to me? Because I believe a higher power is watching.

When I was married only a few years I decided to put a symbol on my car. It was the Christian sign of the fish. My husband asked me to please take it off. When I asked him why he said, “Because what if I get road rage? Then I’ll be a bad Christian example.” It’s funny he said that but he was spot on honest. Embarassingly, I often feel like the dog in the pic above if I get cut off in traffic or someone drives extra slow in the left lane. It’s human of me, but still something I have to keep in check. I don’t want to respond to that person’s behavior and get ugly. It’s so much more satisfying to end up right behind them at a red light and watch as they strain to appear busy and not notice me directly behind them. Just kidding! (Not really.)

Most people have no idea they are being rude and careless when they serve just themselves and ignore others. I’m not talking about the buffet line either. I’m talking about in all things. I’ve done it. We all have. It’s whenever we focus 100% on our wants/needs and ignore everyone else’s. Ironically, the outcome is usually not positive or rewarding anyway.

The news is chock full of people that have sold all their integrity for power and money. I recently read about a very wealthy, powerful man reduced to begging for leniency from a judge. He was no longer wealthy due to owing paybacks and certainly no longer on a power trip. But sadly, his integrity was already long gone. He was reaping what he sowed. What did that leave him to ponder in the dark at 3 a.m.? I’d prefer modest means, zero notoriety and personal peace myself.

The family name used to be a quick detection of someone’s character. Now, it’s a whole lot harder to figure someone’s true colors (or integrity.) I have always believed that my word needed to mean something. The Bible tells us that we should “let our no be no and our yes be yes.” I am assuming that’s because we shouldn’t need additional adjectives to prove our point if we are truly being honest. I also care about my reputation. I don’t care about it so people will like me, however. I’d rather be honest and hated than dishonest and loved. That way I can stand myself and tolerate my own existence.

Someone doesn’t have to look a certain way or be part of a certain pedigree or social class to have integrity. Some privileged people have the least. It’s either in you or it’s not. It can be taught but it’s within someone to choose it or not. I’d rather spend all my time with a person of integrity than someone without. You come away without all the questioning. It’s so much more rewarding and easier too.

The world offers prestige, fame and honor. It celebrates youth, success, pedigree and money. Somewhere along the way, all that has lost its luster for me. I’d rather just hang out with the authentically unique, the older, the wiser and the decidedly honest. I especially love a combo of any or all of these. These relationships are much more meaningful. I get to see a whole lot more integrity too. Who knows, maybe some of theirs will rub off on me.

NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION REDO

New year’s resolutions have always perplexed me. I understand why we make them but don’t understand how they seemed doomed and poorly adopted by most (including myself). Hearing about them on the radio, social media and in ads on TV, I’ve come to regard them mostly as holiday rebound. Pondering over mine for a week, I’ve gathered a few good ideas worth sharing.

💡

Melinda Gates has an original idea- not adopting a resolution- but focusing on a special WORD to center her thoughts and behaviors towards throughout the year. That’s a reasonable, and possibly attainable goal. A recent devotional challenged me to ask GOD what my resolution should be, rather than choose myself. I think that’s an excellent place to start. I dare not ask my family for input as I’d likely end up with a long list.

Our church has adopted the book of Proverbs from the Bible for us to study as a congregation for the new year. This has aided in getting my mind oriented towards a better ATTITUDE. Attitudes are the center of where our actions form so it’s also an excellent place to start.

Attending an event recently, I met an interesting person who discussed her PASSION and that she “couldn’t NOT do it” referring to her horse hobby. It got me to think about my passions and if those might need to be included in my resolutions? One did, but two seem in line. When I refer to “in line” I’m referring to God given passions. How does one know when it’s a God-given passion? It’s when it benefits you and others. Therefore, I realized one passion I have needs to go. (I’m not going to bore you here with details.)

What about CIRCUMSTANCES? Those may be beyond our control and quite taxing. When someone’s struggling, it’s nearly impossible to adopt new behaviors or set higher standards. So, going back to the second idea, asking the Great Creator above for input seems prudent. Resolutions are great ideals but don’t need to make us feel worse about ourselves if we fall short (and we ALL come up short).

Finally, there’s that “F” word- FORGIVENESS. It keeps popping up randomly. I’m wondering if I need to do that and/or if I will need to when I try to avoid my prior passion…..