Monday, December 31, 2012

Here's what happened, the short version that doesn't require stories or details or too much personal information...buy me coffee or something if you want the good parts.

  • 31,595 airline miles flown (seriously, that's a lot I think)
  • Five states (New York, Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Washington)
  • 28 different airplanes
  • 10 cancelled flights (eight of which happened to be in the same week)
  • 14 layovers at DFW
  • Nine Columbia classes with 24 credits
  • At least two dozen hospital visits (none of them for me)
  • One certification exam and qualifying paper completed (kind of a big deal)
  • Nine Broadway shows, plus two trips to Broadway in Bryant Park
  • One wedding (also not for me, but also kind of a big deal)
  • 10 different weekend visitors to Hotel Katie and the Big Apple
  • One trip to the top of the Empire State Building (only one?  totally slacking this year)
  • A dozen or so new celebrity "friends"
  • 103 posts on {the ivy project}
  • First cross-country flight experience (it's a long way out west, people)
  • One major fire in my apartment building
  • Three movies filmed on my block
  • One major hurricane (missed the whole thing), tornado NYC (in which I taught tornado survival lessons), and my first Nor'easter
  • Nine truly spectacular New Yorker friends
And now for some photo highlights of the year that was...

Even still, I'm ready for 2013.  Now about those resolutions...

What's Next, New York?

Monday, December 17, 2012


{the ivy project} got interactive.  Check out the survey over there in the right sidebar.

Here's the deal.  My friends and I really like each other a whole bunch.  Not sure we can live without each other in our lives.  Definitely cannot work without each other.  But really, how much do we work?  It's all Central Perk and Friends and lots of funny stories.  So clearly we have to make the next move together.  Anyone looking to hire six or seven people with a variety of degree subjects and res life experience?  We're a very well-rounded group...English Ed, Adult Learning and Leadership, Occupational Therapy, School Counseling Psychology, International Affairs, Classic Lit, etc.  Together we made a list of cities and decided majority ruled.  Now, clearly this isn't really happening, but it's a nice thought, you know?

So here's your chance, blog friends.  What do you think?  What's next, New York?

Grown Up Christmas List

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Well done Saturday Night Live...well done.

This morning I heard a Meet the Press commercial use the words "Learning in Tragedy" to reference an upcoming show.  It caught my attention because that is the beginning of my dissertation title (the rest of my title is way boring, trust me).  But I wonder how much we...as a nation, as educators, as lawmakers...will learn from it that really makes a difference.  And the Today Show anchor said that there aren't many people who truly understand what it's like when a typical day at school turns to violence.  But there are a few who do.

One of the reporters asked a school security specialist if there was anything parents should be concerned about in sending their kids to school tomorrow.  And my first thought was that they should be and will be worried about everything.  But the thing is...it's a very different world than what my parents experienced in school or what my grandparents knew sending their kids to school.  I'm guessing my dad's parents worried about all the young men they knew who were draft age during Vietnam, and that's something that I will probably never understand.  But I'm also guessing my parents never walked across the campus of Oklahoma State University with a mental emergency plan for what actions to take if a gunman emerged on campus.  I know my grandparents never thought the possibility of mass violence in sending their kids to school or the movies.

But if you're in your twenties, it's all you know.  I was in the sixth grade in Oklahoma City during the bombing, high school during Columbine, three weeks into Baylor on September 11, and grad school for Virginia Tech.  It's a scary world out there and if you're around my age, it's all you've ever known.  Forget fire and tornado drills.  It's bomb threats and active shooter drills and lockdowns.  I don't and won't talk about it much, but when it was my campus, the baby boomers didn't understand the fear students and young staff felt...but we grew up with a fear they did not and knew what it meant when it actually happened.  And now the generation that grew up with school violence at every level are teachers and leaders in those schools...and it's still there.

So we can talk about school security and policies, and we should do everything we can to keep schools as secure as possible.  And we can talk about gun control...and we should do a whole lot more than talk about a ban on assault weapons.  But it's not about guns, not really.  I firmly believe that people should have the right to legally carry weapons to protect themselves, but I do not believe Kindergarten teachers should feel forced to carry firearms or that individuals should have military-style automatic weapons, certainly not without background checks.  What we really need to do is stop ignoring mental health issues and trusting our gut when we know something isn't quite right.  It's not everything, but it's definitely a start.  If you haven't read it, Thinking the Unthinkable is worth it.  Gun control alone won't help.  Mental health awareness alone won't help.  Security policies alone definitely won't help.  I don't know if you've noticed, but criminals do not tend to follow security procedures...they shoot their way right past security procedures.  But all of it together just might start to make a difference.

Maybe it's cheesy and it's definitely naive, but I've been out Christmas shopping and subway riding, and I just can't escape one particular song...

No more lives torn apart
Then wars would never start
And time would heal all hearts
And everyone would have a friend
And right would always win
And love would never end
This is my grown-up Christmas list


Friday, December 14, 2012

A few years ago I swore up and down that I would not get a doctorate.  That I had no interest or desire to write a dissertation or do research.  Fine for others to do it, but it wasn't for me and never would be.  No way.  So here I am, five semesters into doctoral coursework with just two left.  I passed my exam in August.  I did the administrative paperwork.  In the midst of a tough semester personally, I put all of my emotions and energy into my qualifying paper, the second step of the certification process due February 1.  Of course, The Chief raised an overachiever, so I submitted the final draft December 1.  Which means that I'm the first in my program to be certified and officially became a doctoral candidate, instead of just a doctoral student.  Still a lot of steps left to go before someone calls me doctor...  

But I'm sitting here in my cozy little Upper West Side apartment surrounded by books about campus tragedy, with an app for building a timeline of school violence and an Institutional Review Board application open to gain approval to do my own research on crisis and tragedy on campus.  I have two tabs open for student affairs journals, since I'm hoping to submit that qualifying paper on campus tragedy for publication.  I'm writing a learning contract for what I need to accomplish in my final semester at Columbia before formally beginning my dissertation research.  Not to brag, but my very well known advisor has started treating me as the campus security and crisis response expert.  

And what I really want is to not have a legitimate reason to do this research.  

To not have my local news station broadcasting nonstop coverage of children running through an elementary school parking lot.  For the reporters I see every night on the late night news to not have to ask five year olds which way the bullets were going.  To not see pictures of panicked parents waiting for their kids.  For 20 families to have their lives and kids and happy holidays back.  For my advisor and second reader and IRB committee to have to tell me that there's not enough to go on and that I need a new topic.  

I would so gladly give up my degrees or career or cushy life in New York to not hear news stories about safe places that will never again be safe.  

I'm 29 years old...single and childless and living what is by all accounts a fantastic life in the world's greatest city.  I'm Ivy League educated and probably 18 months from earning the title "Dr." and a pretty well established higher ed career.  What I really want, more than anything, is a good man to share my good life with and have great children.  I don't know if it will happen, but I hope and pray that it will.  And I watch the news and write my research and sometimes just want to hide at home.  Sure, you could homeschool the kids and what...never take them to the mall?  or a movie?  or church?  or who knows where else?  I know just a tiny bit about what it's like when you hear that gunfire on campus.  I will spend the rest of my career in front of a college classroom or in a higher ed office.  My sister is a preschool teacher.  We go to movies and malls and church..and hope and pray that we will be safe in places that we should never have to think twice about.  

For someone who spends her days talking about the worst-case scenario, I am speechless.  And most of all, I am grateful for a God who understands the impossible.

"With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." (Matthew 19:26)

Holiday in the Sky

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Holiday in the Sky is pretty much the whole reason I moved to New York.  Well you know, that and Columbia and a lifelong dream.  But it definitely ranks near the top of list...

Now, if you're in your late twenties or early thirties, chances are you always secretly imagined that high school would be like Saved by the Bell and that college would be some mix of Saved by the Bell: The College Years and Dawson's Creek (the part when they went off to college).  If you took the leap and moved from suburban, middle-of-the-country life to big city living, I'm guessing that you had at least one moment when you thought that life in New York or wherever you landed would be just a little like Friends (or, more recently, How I Met Your Mother).  I, as someone who is obviously still 25 (wink wink), really truly sort of believed that New York twenty-something life was all Central Perk and the apartment and a group of friends who just always seems to be there.  Clearly, Zack Morris did not fall in love with me.  While I will always love Pacey Witter, the Dawson's Creek influence on my life wasn't quite like on television.  But as it turns out, this late-twenties New York life really is all about Friends.  The ones who know without asking and do silly things like get on the wrong train at 2:00 a.m. and could not possibly not be a part of each others' lives.

And the ones who throw really epic unforgettable holiday parties (conveniently hosted on the first night of Hanukkah).  Sometimes it still blows my mind that I can get all dressed up, walk across the street, take the elevator to the 17th floor, and be at a swanky When Harry Met Sally style New York City party with a spectacular skyline Empire State view.

Cause I get by with a little help from my friends...

...and this city is the best.

Back to December

Sunday, December 2, 2012

It is for real officially holiday season in New York.  And if you've never done holidays in New York, you are seriously missing out.  This is without a doubt the absolute best place in the world for Happy Hanukkahs, Merry Christmases, and ringing in a brand new year. Here's how we rang in December.

Columbia lit up College Walk.  It's my favorite.

Laura and I hit up Hell's Kitchen (it's a neighborhood, seriously) for the Teach for America alumni holiday festival.  As it turns out, it was actually a bunch of 22 year olds newbies just getting started with TFA.  Children sang holiday songs.

Even better...children sang Empire State of Mind.  Note to all men out there who might be someone I have children with someday.  Our kids will know every word to Empire State of Mind.  Right after they learn Jesus Loves Me, it's next up on the teaching list.  I mean, really...how adorable is this?

Next up?  Upper West Side birthday party for Lauren, one of my favorite New Yorker friends.  She's the best.  

Now, I've said it before, but New York is actually a surprisingly small town.  I walked into the birthday party and ran right into a friend from high school, who I probably haven't seen since high school.  Same thing happened a couple of months ago at a shop on Fifth Avenue.  Maybe there are just a lot of us ex-Panthers in the Big Apple, but it really does feel smaller than the eight million residents.  But it was a great birthday party and way to ring in December 1...that is until it was way way way late and we learned the hard way that late at night the 1 train is not the only train that stops at the 86th and Broadway station.  It's my church stop and gym stop and Cafe Lalo stop and I've never seen anything but the 1 stop at 86th, but when it's that late and you think you're so lucky to get there right as the subway is getting there, you're probably not actually that lucky.  Subways are notoriously few and far between late at night.

Which is how Dan, Claire, Laura and I ended up in Harlem at 2:00 a.m.  And that, my friends, is where the story of December 1, 2012 will now conclude.

Brave New World

Friday, November 30, 2012

I did something really brave people.

For the first time ever, I got my hair cut and colored in New York City.  Now, I know what you're thinking.  New York City is pretty much the fashion and beauty capitol of the world.  You just pull a Devil Wears Prada makeover transformation and call it good, right?  Why would it be stressful or require bravery to get your hair cut in Manhattan?

Here is why.  Because this city is ridiculously expensive.

I am a very frequent customer of pretty much the most expensive salon in Oklahoma City.  I can sit down in Becky's chair, say "I'm sort of thinking something darker-ish with some layers and I'm not sure what else" and the woman works magic.  And that costs me about $120, which I consider to be totally worth it.  Of course, I tip her well and buy a couple of products, so it's actually around $175.  But you have to tip the hair stylist...don't want them to mess up your hair in the future, right?

But New York is a whole different story.  Please refer to my recent post about my new favorite place DryBar for an example.  To get your hair cut here, much less do any sort of color or highlights, is to shell out a not-so-small fortune.  I'm talking an amount that most Okies pay for rent.  I personally know a very normal non-reality star or housewives type woman who once paid $800 for a cut and highlights in New York City.  I am not kidding.  I don't think my first car cost $800.  Actually, I don't even really know who paid for my first car, but that's a different story.  Maybe The Chief knows?

Every time I go back to Oklahoma, the first thing I do is call Becky at my favorite salon and I'm good as new.  This fall, I've now been in Oklahoma three times, two of which were unexpected last-minute visits.  Great, I thought, I can get my hair cut.  And every time I've had to cancel my appointment because of the nature of those unexpected visits.  This most recent time, my ICU-trapped father told me that my hair looked green.  And I wanted to scream that it was his fault for my cancelled hair appointments, but that might be a tad insensitive when the man's on a ventilator.   And even longer I would go with faded stringy hair.

So six months since my hair had some TLC, feeling not-so-cute after a stressful month of a guy, a hurricane, and a bunch of airplanes and hospitals, I took matters into my own hands and went to a highly recommended (ok, one person told me to go there) Aveda hair training institute in SoHo.  And I was so freaking nervous.  I was about to let a student hair person touch my hair.  I had to sign a hold harmless agreement, just in case the student screwed it up.  Freaking out.  Is it too late to back out?  Enter super sweet 18-year-old stylist student who had been in the city for five months.  18 years old.  Five months in hair school.  Crap dang.

But it turned out ok.  I had to be a lot more specific than I normally would, spending significant time negotiating the right color and style.  Her teacher checked the color mixture before it got smeared all over my hairs, the cut, and the final product.  It only took three hours.  And I was good and didn't even buy any new products.  So $80, I had at least decent hair again for a total New York bargain.  $80 for a cut and color from a student with five months experience.

But I still miss Becky.

Deserted Island

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Look beyond the first glance, the busy streets, the chaos, and the surreal nature of life in New York City, and you just might find that it's kind of like a deserted island.  Somehow this city that is the hub of the entire world sometimes ceases to have any real connection or resemblance to life outside this tiny little 23.7 square mile island.

Hurricane Sandy was definitely a worst-case scenario for this deserted island theory.  With dozens of tunnels and bridges and connections to the outside world, Manhattan was virtually unreachable.  I know, since it took me eight cancelled flights to get back from the west coast.  And people had hurricane parties and played Scrabble in the dark and lived it up, hurricane style.  But in all seriousness, parts of this city are still feeling the hurricane in a big way...and probably will for a very long time.

When you need an escape from the rest of the world, New York is your town.  Life got you down everywhere west of the Hudson River?  New York is your escape.  I love the way you can get lost in this city, wander new neighborhoods, discover fun little cafes and shops, and pretty much just disappear for a while on this island.  Sometimes it actually does feel like a small town (I'm serious), but most of the time it's the perfect place to forget your troubles and escape.  Deserted Island, at your service.

And let's be honest people, it's a pretty darn fun island to get stuck on, if you're going to get stuck.  Here are the latest subway advertisements/reminders of good times in a great city...

And the trapped on a deserted island romantic notion everyone has daydreamed about at one point or another?  It happens here.  When the moment is just right, this city has a way of making magic...like someone somewhere is orchestrating this perfect moment of pure New York bliss.  It's those nights when the city pulls out all the stops and almost takes your breath away, and you think to yourself that New York has outdone itself yet again.  The stars twinkle through city lights, a street musician plays the perfect song at the perfect time, and the city creates the perfect evening for perfect things to happen.  Things that aren't real beyond the shores of this tiny little metropolis of an island.  And you forget that magic exists only in the moment...

Because New York is always magic.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

I just love these people...

They make being 29 years old and still eating in a college cafeteria completely worth it.  And you know how you secretly sort of envision life as a twenty-something New Yorker to be a bit like a sitcom, Friends and How I Met Your Mother style?  It totally is.

Highway 20 Ride

Monday, November 19, 2012

I'm back...and still thinking about what's next.  

And the theme of the last several posts, which is that I feel like I spend my whole life on planes/in airports (specifically the Dallas/Fort Worth airport) and hospitals (specifically Baptist Hospital in good old Oklahoma City or the St. Luke's ER in Morningside Heights/Harlem).  Remember a couple of weeks ago when I criss-crossed the country on a fun-turned-Hurricane-turned-hospital excursion?  Yep.  If the airlines and my job cooperate, holiday travel begins tomorrow with some quality time with American Airlines, followed by an Oklahoma City/Muskogee/Tulsa road trip.  Christmas a month later.  Loving my newfound frequent flier elite status.  Also lately, I've been to the hospital three times in the last two weeks with students, all of which occurred at hours I should be snuggled in my bed.  This is in addition to the hospital time that was part of the USA tour two weeks ago.   I know that one day soon people will call me doctor, but perhaps I should have gone the med school route instead.  At least I would have been paid like a doctor-doctor, you know?

Airports and hospitals.  This is my life.

But all this got me thinking about another place I feel like I spent my whole life.  I sort of feel like I grew up on that stretch of I-35 between Oklahoma City and Waco, Texas.  From that very first drive my junior year of high school through the months in grad school I made the 4.5 hour journey almost every weekend, those highway miles and little towns and country music stations along the way became part of who I am.  There were Sunday afternoons in Oklahoma City I would have done anything to avoid the hours in the car, and I never dreamed that there would be a day I longed for that drive as much as I do now.  Life was just so much easier then.  It was all Tim McGraw and wheat fields and phone calls with best friends and good people waiting at either end of the drive.  My Friday Night Lights, Oklahoma-Texas line story...

And New York is amazing.  But so are those 300 miles between my two homes.

So when you drive and the years go flying by
I hope you smile if I every cross your mind
It was the pleasure of my life
And I cherished every time
And my whole world, it begins and ends with you
On that Highway 20 ride...

What's Next?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Want to hear something funny?  Earlier this week I coordinated an event called "What's Next?," where we attempted to help students answer that question from a number of different perspectives, especially if they are unsure of their post-college plans.  These girls think I am a grown up.  All the advice I wanted to give them sounded so cheesy, but they were totally eating it up.  I was all, "find people who support you no matter what and ignore all the others" and "pay attention to the things that scare you the most, because chances are that's what you'll end up doing" and "stop comparing yourself to what everyone else is doing."  Meanwhile...

When it comes down to it, I am an excellent giver of advice.  The best.  Seriously, need some direction about something important?  I'm your girl.  It is a skill we student affairs folks develop early.  Most of us go into student affairs because we want to sit and have coffee and talk about life.  Of course, the actual policy and paperwork and boring bits always get in the way.  We are the ones who want to discuss bucket lists and life goals and why you think the way you do about what you don't even know you think about.  This is my (dream) job.  But still, over seven years post-college, I'm not sure I still have any fantastic life plan going on over here.

Ok yes, I know what you're thinking.  I am awesome and brilliant.  You are right.  But there isn't really much of a plan going on over here in Morningside Heights.  Columbia was definitely not part of the plan, but here I am loving it.  But guess what friends?  Coursework ends in June.  I got my final semester schedule today.  Yikesabee.  How can it possibly be almost the end?  And more importantly, what's next?

Yes, I could stay in my current job until I finish my dissertation (probably hopefully December 2014).  I just don't think that's the best thing.  It's time for a new experience, new job, new challenge, and, as much as I'm not quite ready to admit it, maybe a new city.  Or at least a different experience in a different part of this city.  As much as I am not even close to being ready to leave New York, I'm not planning to stay post-June.

For one, I cannot keep spending money on plane tickets and depending on pre-booked flights to get home for holidays and family things.  I have been on more airplanes this Fall than I have been in cars.  I'm not even kidding people.  I miss the freedom of just being able to get in the car whenever I want and drive wherever I want.  I don't necessarily need to be in my hometown, but no more than a day's drive would be nice.  I used to love flying...until I had to do it.

So here's what I am kind of thinking...

That's a 580 mile radius around Oklahoma City, which I figure is about one day's drive.  (I did math.  Aren't you proud?)  Here are some highlight cities in there (or sort of close-ish) that I might consider...  

Chicago: 13 hours (but not really...maybe a little too far)
Nashville: 11 hours (I hear it's a cool place...)
Denver: 11 hours
Houston: 8 hours
Austin: 6.5 hours
Kansas City: 5.5 hours
Waco: 4.5 hours
Dallas/Fort Worth: 3 hours
Wichita: 2.5 hours (Baby Sister's basement, anyone?)
Tulsa: 1.5 hours
Anywhere in New Mexico, Nebraska, or Iowa: are you serious?
Mississippi: really, that fits in the circle?

Sometimes it seems impossible to leave New York.  Sometimes it seems like that 580 mile radius I sort of arbitrarily decided on should be more like 50 miles.  There's still that pesky business of a job search to consider.  That's a whole different issue entirely.  I want to teach.  I need to write my dissertation.  I am still hoping for the job that lets me enjoy coffee while discussing life.  

So what's next?  A city and a job and a dissertation...and more important things I just hope might happen.  But what's really next?  Who really even knows...


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

So I have 37 different songs on my iPhone that have the word "home" in the title.  That's a lot of home people.  And as it turns out, I've been home to Oklahoma twice this Fall completely unexpectedly, with two more actual planned trips before the end of the year.  Lots of good Oklahoma time, just when it means the most.  My family is the greatest.

But somehow, somewhere along the way, New York City started to feel just a little bit like home.  How is that even possible?  This city that is so over the top and fast-paced and frantic all the time could not possibly ever be home.  But the one thing I have always known about New York is that it has a way of sneaking up on you...of reminding you how much you love it, just when you need it the most.  And after a terrible horrible no good very bad week last week, it's something about my six best friends dropping everything for a three-hour dinner my first night back that makes this city feel like home.  That, and the first snow of the season today.  It is impossible to not fall in love with New York during the first snow.  

And so while I decorate my Christmas tree (don't judge me), watch "Love Actually" (again, don't judge me), and watch that first snow, here's a selection of some of those 37 songs about home...

"Settle down, it'll all be clear
Don't pay no mind to the demons
They fill you with fear

The trouble it might drag you down

If you get lost, you can always be found

Just know you’re not alone

Cause I’m going to make this place your home"

"And I’ve been keeping all the letters that I wrote to you

Each one a line or two

“I’m fine baby, how are you?”

Well I would send them but I know that it’s just not enough

My words were cold and flat

And you deserve more than that

Another aeroplane

Another sunny place

I’m lucky, I know

But I wanna go home"

"Well I'm going home
Back to the place where I belong
And where your love has always been enough for me
I'm not running from

No, I think you got me all wrong
I don't regret this life I chose for me."

"The sun shines bright on my old Kentucky home."

"Sometimes you just need a little home
A little "hey, you’ve been gone way too long"
Yeah, way too long
No matter how grown up you get
Oh, no matter how far you roam
Sometimes you just need a little home"

"And if you wait for me
I'll be the light in the dark if you lose your way

And if you wait for me
I'll be your voice when you don't know what to say

I'll be your shelter
I'll be your fate
I'll be forever
Wait for me
I'll be the last train
I'll be the last train home."

"I'll be home for Christmas
You can count on me

Please have snow and mistletoe

And presents on the tree"

“Thank God for hometowns
First kisses and touchdowns
Thank God for the county lines that welcome you back in
When you were dying to get out
Thank God for Church pews
And all the faces that won’t forget you
And when you’re lost out in this crazy world
You got somewhere to go and get found
Thank God for hometowns”

Rose Garden

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Great movie moment, people.  One of my favorites...

Bundled up this morning to vote bright and early on Riverside Drive.  Guess that means I'm a real New Yorker now, that is if anyone can ever be a real New Yorker.  Now I'm waiting for the snow, pretending to study and watching election returns.  So go vote before you miss your chance...and enjoy the movie.

10 Days

Monday, November 5, 2012

So if you haven't already read it, you really should start with the previous post: Flyover States.  It's important for really getting the full picture of what's about to come...

Got it?  Good.

For lots of reasons, I just did not see the last 10 days of my life coming.  I seriously had very different images in my mind of traveling to Seattle, coming back to New York for a few days, and then jumping back to Dallas for Baylor Homecoming, our own version of a green and gold family reunion.  We (almost) never miss it.  I seriously cannot stress how big of a deal Baylor Homecoming is for our family.  So in a nutshell, that was the too-good-to-be-true plan.

But I sometimes feel like I spend my whole life in the Dallas airport and Baptist Hospital in Oklahoma City, and this week was no exception.

First, I even unexpectedly went to Dallas on my way to Seattle.  I am destined to be in that DFW airport.  I came back to DFW leaving Seattle (two days later than planned), where The Chief picked me up for a trip to OKC.  Here is my way-too-frequent view of life...

As I arrived at the Seattle airport to catch my flight to DFW for an extended fun weekend with family, Baby Sister called to tell me that my dad was in the ICU with some pretty serious neurological issues and related complications.  Without sharing all the details, it was really bad people.  I was not sure how Wednesday would be ending.  The Chief drove to Dallas to pick me up instead of letting me rent a car...just in case there was reason for me to not be alone on the highway if something happened.  Bad.  

So there I was in Oklahoma City, where I never planned to be, jet lagged and tired from Seattle and suddenly standing over an ICU bed and seeing my dad on a ventilator and feeding tube.  Lots and lots and lots of prayers all around.  We spent the next several days talking with pulminologists and neurologists and internal medicine people and some other important doctors.  Turns out, my absolute favorite college friend-turned doctor kind of specializes in the condition dad had (note to self...always have a neurologist best friend, just in case).  Baby Sister, Just Matt, The Chief and I also played a whole lot of card games in that hospital waiting room.  I never won...not even one game.  I blame the stress.  

Needless to say, we never made it to Baylor for Homecoming.  Every day, the doctors told us that they might could remove the ventilator the next day.  I finally decided that if he was improving, I really had to come back to New York.  Hadn't been here in a week and a half, you know.  Work was piling up and I had done nothing to prepare for my upcoming class weekend.  So since all my flights had been so disrupted already, I couldn't get a flight out of OKC.  The Chief, Baby Sister and Just Matt drove me down to Dallas, where we spent the night with my family in Waxahachie, Texas.  It looks like everything you would imagine a place called Waxahachie to be.  On the way to church Sunday morning at good old First Baptist Church, I checked my iPhone app to find this lovely message...

It was at that point that The Chief, Baby Sister, Just Matt and I had a collective panic attack.  One more cancelled flight on top of everything else was just the last straw.  For the record, that was my eighth cancelled flight in the ten days I was gone.  NYC airports are still running on limited service, so they just didn't have the capacity to handle a normal flight load.  I talked my way onto one an hour later.  It was seriously time for me to go home.  I felt like I hadn't really slept since I left New York.  

We finally got some good news after church, when the ICU told us that dad was off the ventilator.  After all the possible diagnoses they threw out and so many days waiting, we were seriously starting to doubt that we would ever see that day.  One Pappasito's TexMex lunch later, there I was back at the DFW airport.  Again.  Story of my life.

So I'll be back at that DFW airport in two weeks for Thanksgiving, but for now I'm extra thankful just to be in my cozy little Manhattan apartment.  And at least that DFW airport that feels like a second home never lets you forget that you're in Texas...

Flyover States

Sunday, November 4, 2012

So here was the plan...

Leave New York last Friday, stop briefly in Chicago and then arrive in Seattle for a long weekend in the Pacific Northwest. Return to New York late Monday night (yesterday), then work for the rest of the week (including several events and a Halloween party with a superhero costume). Leave again Friday morning (November 2) for Dallas, where the fam would pick me up and head to Hill Country for Baylor Homecoming, finally returning to good old NYC on Sunday November 4.

So here is what actually happened...

Went to the airport Friday morning to be met with a two hour delay. My flight was stopping in Chicago before continuing on to Seattle on that same plane. No worries if there was a delay since I didn't have to worry about missing my connection. But when I went to ask the gate attendant about my new arrival time, here is what she said: "Oh honey, this one's not going to Seattle anymore." Cool lady, thanks for telling me before hand. So before I knew what had happened, I was on another plane bound for Dallas. Yes, Dallas to get to Seattle. Awesome geography lesson there. So there I was in Texas, just taking off at the time I was supposed to find my Seattle person at the airport.

By the way, did you know that Seattle is really freaking far away from New York? It's a big country out there people.

And just as I got settled on the west coast, I got confirmation on what I suspected. Hello, Hurricane Sandy. Before I left, I prepped my hurricane supplies just in case. I thought it was totally obsessive and probably unnecessary, but I'm good with natural disasters for a reason. But I was right. So I have no idea what I will return to find, but I'm not returning anytime soon.

Instead, I'm chilling in Seattle for a few more days...

So now my plan is to leave Seattle tomorrow, fly to Dallas, drive to Oklahoma City to check on a few things, drive back down to Waco for Baylor Homecoming with my family, and finally fly back to New York on Sunday. Who knows if it will actually turn out that way. I was definitely not packed for a trip like this.

But the more of them you see, the more you understand why God made those flyover states...

Insane Courage

Monday, October 22, 2012

POTUS, Nightmares, and My Entire Career

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Hello there..

Before we get started, please be sure to read the required pre-reading for this edition of {the ivy project}.  Yep, seriously.

Those Manhattan Mini-Storage ads?  Awesome social commentary on life in New York City.  There are some others that are even less blog-appropriate.  You can google if you want.  It's just funny people.  But the latest seen-on-the-subway pitch to store your stuff with their company that has nothing to do with storage?  It kind of struck a chord with me...

Now, you should also know that I waited almost an entire week after the last presidential debate before writing this blog.  I needed to calm down a bit, and anything I wrote about it last week would have been just as annoying as all those political Facebook posts that cause you to unsubscribe to "friends" statuses.  Because last week I was kind of mad.  So here I am, calmly discussing it.  It's not about who I'm voting for or who you're voting for.  I don't care who you vote for...but I do care that you vote.  

I'm quickly approaching the end of coursework for my doctorate at Columbia.  In June, I'll (hopefully) officially be ABD...all but dissertation...at which point I can move anywhere and do anything and just write that pesky little 400-page paper.  And the topic of that pesky little 400-page paper?  How campus leaders respond to and make sense of tragedies like mass shootings on college campuses. 

There are several reasons why this topic is important to me, and we don't really need to get into it all right now.  Something about helping people who have to go through it handle it, even if it's just a little bit.  Even though I can tell you all the strategies and tactics and best practices for how colleges should respond to campus tragedy, my heart still stops every time I actually hear about something awful happening.  I can read the official report of a campus crisis and tell you what they did right or wrong, but it doesn't change the fact that it happened again.  Somehow I've kind of become an expert in the subject.  

Which makes me say, with a good amount of confidence, that it is going to take more than just creating more "two-parent families" to stop crazy people from taking automatic weapons into safe places and killing people.  There, I said it.  Education reform and parental involvement definitely helps.  But single parents do not lead to mass violence.  I'm also pretty confident about that one.  It is going to take gun control enforcement and mental health awareness and people speaking out when they think there might be a problem.  And maybe even this guy who has been riding around Columbia's campus all week...

So I will keep on with my 400-page book that no one but my advisor will ever even skim through, and I will pray for every campus that finds itself qualified to be a part of my research.  

Start of Something Good

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."  (Hebrews 11:1)

I have lived in New York for 17 months now.  That's a lot of days in the city that never sleeps and considers Sunday brunch one of its most religious and sacred occurrences.  Love me some good eggs benedict and french toast, but still...there are more important things.  And when I realized that I was spending more time than I would like to admit on Facebook or other people's blogs and more money than I want to admit on Amazon books, I started thinking maybe I should be more intentional about the things I say are more important.  I'm thinking that it is no coincidence that my Bible study topics for the next two weeks are peace and patience.  Nice work on that one, God.  The last two weeks were about love and joy, both of which I am feeling a lot of lately with all the visitors and other good things happening.  But peace and patience?  Good lessons for a more or less full-fledged New Yorker on the brink of some big things.  

First of all, peace for a New Yorker is just a foreign concept.  The local nightly news is scarier than any crime show on prime time television.  And I generally believe that living in New York develops a kind of unparalleled resiliency and feeling that I can handle anything, but then I occasionally have dreams about bad things happening to major landmarks in this city.  Living in the number one targeted city in the world does not come without a degree of fear.  And every time I turn on the TV I hear about some strange thing happening to some flight somewhere or see that new preview for the scary Flight movie...and it makes me want to road trip long distances rather than board an airplane.  I was never scared of flying until I moved to New York.  Too bad I fly...all...the...time.  In the next three weeks I will be on six flights, and then eight more by the end of the year.  Peace.  Good timing. 

And patience.  I've never been so good with patience, but really, who is?  I always want to know what's right around the corner...what's coming up next.  For at least three quarters of my twenties, I job searched like it was a hobby.  Even when I had a good job that I liked, it's just what I did.  I haven't really done that since moving to the city, because I (sort of) firmly believed that I was exactly where I needed to be.  But I know that there is a time limit on it, and I'm already starting to feel the desire to know what's next creep back in.  I finish coursework in June and don't plan to stay in the city.  But where will I go and what will I do?  I would much prefer to be around people I care about, rather than just move somewhere for a job.  I kind of could care less about the job part right now.  But still...Oklahoma?  Good old heart of Texas?  Someplace else new and exciting?  I don't really need to know right now.  It's just sort of strange to know I won't be here, but not know where I will be.  Patience.  Good timing. 

Also, I'm just pretty excited for some upcoming trips and such.  Good, fun, hopeful patience on that part for sure.  I kept this one particular verse on my refrigerator for most of college and grad school, in the form of a postcard from the good old days of college life at Highland and awesome worship with the one and only David Crowder at UBC.  I'm not really sure that I knew what it meant at the time, but I like the postcard and it seemed like a good idea.  Seems like an even better idea now.

"Yes, Lord, walking in the way of your law, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts."  (Isaiah 26:8)

And now just for fun, one of my new favorite, listen on repeat, happy songs...

One Step At A Time

Friday, October 12, 2012

This pretty much sums it up...

This whole doctoral business?  What kind of crazy idea was this?  I mean, really.  Insane.  My head is full of stuff I do not understand.  Actually, that's not entirely true.  It's only the statistics I do not understand.  The rest, as I am learning, I am either brilliant enough to understand and argue...or I have become established enough in the Ivy Leagues that it's ok if I choose not to understand it.  It's my call...well, sort of.  But at least I am one step closer, as of this week.

Remember that big giant scary certification exam I took in August?  Just to catch you up, I spent the whole entire summer studying for it.  Here's a blog recap if you care to flash back.  They told us to expect results in November.  I spent the first month post-exam stressing about it and waiting anxiously for my scores...then I just kind of forgot about it.  Seriously...I barely remember what I even wrote about on the exam.  So anyways...flash forward to this past Wednesday.

I had a meeting scheduled with my professor to discuss my qualifying paper, the second step of doctoral certification along with the exam.  Now, you should know that this professor is everything you would expect from the Ivy League.  Older, brilliant, East Coast accent, incredibly sarcastic, may or may not drink in class.  So he gave me some really good feedback about my progress on the paper and then asked if I had checked my email that day.  I had...and there was nothing all that exciting from anyone school-related.  And then he proceeded to make me sweat it out for about five minutes.  But then he proudly told me that I passed my exam!!!  So yeah, I'm brilliant.  Rocked it.

Actually, I don't know my scores at all.  I just know that I passed, which is all I need to know.  And in true Columbia University fashion, he proceeded to open a celebratory bottle of ____________ (please choose one: diet coke/sparkling cider/wine) and we just sat and talked for an hour.  So you know you've arrived when you can sit and your processor treat you like you're the expert on something.  

Yep.  I'm kind of a big deal.

Actually, that's not true at all, but I felt like it for a little while.  Next step?  Finish that qualifying paper and I'm officially certified as a doctoral candidate, not just a plain old doctoral student.  Just one more step on this crazy journey.

And then you will all be forced to call me Doctor.  At least for a little while.

Call Me Maybe

Saturday, October 6, 2012

So here's the deal.  Not to brag or anything, but it's not often that I feel stupid.  I am a pretty smart person.  I generally can handle just about anything academically and hold my own in these Ivy Leagues.  I usually feel like the hardest part was getting in.  And it was really hard to get in.  Columbia is a pretty big deal.  I wrote a killer essay on Thomas Aquinas and Aristotle, in which I read and cited the original works (well, you know...the translated ones).  It was impressive people.

(Sidenote: I went on a date last weekend, and the cab driver who took me downtown told me I looked brainy.  Um, thanks?  Not exactly what I was going for mister.)

But then we got to statistics.

People, it's bad.  Real bad.  Worse than bad.

Yesterday, I read seven chapters of my statistics textbook and spent about seven hours attempting to answer four homework problems.  After three hours and a few tears, I went for a run through Riverside Park.  I may or may not have listened to the Pitch Perfect soundtrack along the way.  I used an entire eraser and almost a whole notepad in my attempt to answer these four questions.  

That last one was the worst.  I erased that page and started over at least six times.  And I know that I could have called friends or a tutor or something, but I felt like I should at least give it a good effort before I called for backup.  Math just never has been my thing.  I can write essays and argue theories and be philosophical all day long, but give me a basic math problem and we're all screwed.  Luckily my class is pass/fail.  But that still means I have to pass, you know?

So if you know statistics and want to help, call me maybe?  I mean, I don't know who you would be...who knows statistics?  Why is that even a thing?  And why did God invent Z scores?  Except that I'm pretty sure God did not invent Z scores, because He loves me too much for that.  But still...call me maybe?

Heart and Soul

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Did you know that my favorite childhood movie (and one of my favorite grown-up movies) is Big?  It's a classic.  Epic.  Defined my childhood.  Seriously, if you haven' seen it, you should be ashamed of yourself.  Go watch it...right now...then come back and continue reading.  I'm serious.  But if you have seen it and just need a little refresher, here's a great one...

And one more, just to seal the deal...

Seriously.  Classic.  So for part of Staycation/Vacation 2012, Baby Sister, Just Matt and I headed to the far ends of the Earth (or, you know...Brooklyn) to relive a bit of our childhood dreams.  Half a dozen Doughnut Plant donuts...

And an hour and a half long subway ride later, we finally (skeptically) arrived at the legendary Coney Island!

And people, it was completely deserted.  Turns out no one goes to a boardwalk, beach, and amusement park on a random October Tuesday when the weather looks more like Seattle than the beach.  It's ok though.  I like Seattle.  And even though we were pretty much the only three people in sight, we had a great time...

I mean, what's not to love?  Boardwalks?  Ferris wheels?  Love.  But really, it started raining pretty hard, so we had to take cover in the aquarium.  We also like fish (and Finding Nemo).

Last stop?  The 4D theater for a special showing of Happy Feet.  And as it turns out, I could not manage to get the glasses on straight (really, no one told me?).  And also as it turns out, I did not know what 4D involved.  I got really freaked out when things started poking me and shaking me from the back of the seat.  Not cool people.

So all that was missing was the Zoltar machine.  I'm pretty disappointed we didn't find Zoltar.  If you don't know about Zoltar, watch Big (and google it).  I've got some wishes to make...