King of New York

Monday, April 30, 2012

So here is pretty much an exact play-by-play of The Chief and I's dinner conversation...

"Chief, who is that sitting over my shoulder?" (knowing full well who it was)

"Oh, I know who that is..."

"Piers Morgan"

So since my back was to him, mom gave me the play-by-play on their dinner.  I mean, the man looks good.  And that British accent.  Impressive.  Piers, who I have always kind of loved, was with a younger girl we both thought we recognized and a much older man.  Mom is telling me how an older woman joined them at that table and presented a gift to the younger girl.  The Chief tells me all about how the girl opens the gift, which came inside a soft cloth bag.  You know the kind ladies...the type of bag that protects a much nicer, prettier, more valuable purse inside.  (Note to men: if giving a gift, the best bags always come inside of bags).  Mom tells me that the protective bag says DVF on the outside...and we're both pretty impressed that this friend of Piers Morgan has given the girl a Diane Von Furstenberg purse.  And I casually glance over my shoulder...

"Mom, that's not a DVF...that is DVF."

And there, sitting next to my friend Piers Morgan, is Diane Von Furstenberg. DVF, who invented the wrap dress and reinvented New York.  DVF, who lives above the shop that I will one day stroll into and casually buy a wrap dress of my very own...or five.

I mean, that's a good dinner people.

Now, because you're dying to know by now, we were at ABC Kitchen.  ABC Kitchen is my absolute favorite place to spend a New York evening.  Now you know why.  But the food is amazing, the atmosphere is dreamy and romantic, and it's just generally fantastic.  I.  Adore.  ABC Kitchen.

I mean seriously, check out this dessert...

After lobster and crispy chicken and so many delicious things came a sundae with salty caramel gelato, homemade dark chocolate ganache, and caramel corn, as well as warm seasonal glazed donuts.  Places like ABC Kitchen are the reason I run and spin and just eat cereal so many days...and so worth it for sure.

So all of those blog posts when I insist that life in New York is really just like life anywhere else, that I have a normal life with normal responsibilities, that it's really not all fancy restaurants and movies stars?  Just ignore me.


"A city like New York where everything's moving all the time at this constant driving pace, right?  It's like a living organism breathing and changing, and over time your relationship to it becomes like this incredible romance, you know?  At first, it's intoxicating, irresistible, and then slowly it becomes comfortable and safe.  You have this cellular connection to it, as if you've known each other forever, like your oldest happiness, and sometimes you're on the outs, and sometimes you're making up, and every now and then you catch yourself in this transcendent moment where you think to yourself, "oh, my god, I'm madly in love with you, and I always will be."  And I think that's when it surprises me." 

(Please don't judge me...It's from Dawson's Creek.  But it's true.)

Three Greatest Words

Saturday, April 28, 2012

If you ask me, the three greatest words in the English language are undoubtedly, "No Other Calls."

At least, for today.  Clearly, "I love you" would be really good too.  (Really darn good.)

But for today, I needed "no other calls" like I cannot even begin to describe.  You see, "no other calls" is what I write at the end of my duty report when I have been the Graduate Hall Director on call.  Those three words may come after a long series of incident reports, chats with Public Safety, and visits to the hospital.  Or, they may follow, "All RAs called in on time."  If that's the case, then that means it was totally quiet and there were no calls to the duty phone.  And those, my friends, are my most favorite nights.  

Last semester, I got almost no calls when I was on duty.  I was the lucky one of the nine of us.  This semester, not so lucky.  I clearly cannot share any details, but let's just say I have had a lot of sleepless nights lately.  A third of all of my hospital visits all year have occurred in the last week and a half.  If it tells you anything, the last time I walked into the emergency room, the security guard said, "Oh you've been here thousands of times.  You know what to do.  Good to see you again!"

I.  Am.  Tired.

So very tired.  Now, I'm not complaining, because this on-call business provides an all-expenses paid apartment in maybe the greatest city in the entire world.  Seriously, no complaints from me.  It's just been a rough couple of weeks.  So last night, I picked up the duty phone, wrapped up an awesome work event with my RAs, and went home to await the inevitable trips to the local emergency room.  And they didn't happen.  And the phone didn't ring.  Not even once.  And I slept.  

My dad is convinced I should have gone to med school instead.  My best friend thinks a pysch degree would really pay off.  I'm starting to agree on both accounts.  Oh, the things I have seen.  And while I have big dreams for my life and hopes of things yet to come, for today, the most glorious thing that could possibly have happened to me was absolutely, "no other calls."

Catch That Dream

Friday, April 27, 2012

Just when the world has given up on a tiny little town in the middle of Texas, dreams come true...

Number two pick in the first round of the NFL draft?  Two top 20 picks?  A Heisman trophy?  People outside of Texas who know what Baylor is?  Good stuff people.

The other day, my search for the best grilled cheese in New York took me to Melt Shop on the East side.  Definitely good, but I'm not ready to go right to "the best."  But winter came back to the Big Apple this week, so I was rocking my green and gold Baylor sweatshirt that day.  Young employee at Melt Shop noticed the sweatshirt and couldn't help but grin.  And here is how our conversation went...

Him: "Baylor?!  That's Awesome.  That's my favorite team."

Me: (struggling to find the words...did some random kid in NY just say that Baylor was his favorite?!?!)  "Yeah, me too.  I went to school there.  Did you?"

Him: "Nah, I just love them.  RG3."

So here's some twenty-something kid in New York City who has probably never been to Texas who is Baylor Proud.  Dream come true.

For the first time in the more than a decade that I have lived and loved Baylor, people don't laugh when I say I went to school there.  They don't automatically talk about how bad it is, before adding some sort of consolation about how the school is good, but shouldn't have sports.  The academic in me has always been surrounded by people who admire the rich tradition and excellent reputation of a Baylor University degree.  But when you grow up in Big 12 country, or America for that matter, inevitably that's not what people seem to care about.  And that's always been ok with me...although it sure is fun to be on this side of it too.

(Side note: For every single fan of a Big 12 school near my hometown who has ever made a comment about how Baylor shouldn't be in  the Big 12 or have a football team, I told you so.  We carried the conference this year, not you.)

I love so many things about RG3, but most of all, I love that he uses this new national spotlight to point all glory to God.  He knows that it's not about him.  And on the stage of the NFL draft, he reminded us that to whom much is given, much is required.  Good lessons today.  And when asked how he felt about being the savior of the Washington Redskins, RG3 was quick to make it clear that is not true.

Because he knows the Savior.  And that, my friends, is what Baylor University is all about.

Sic Em RG3.

Manhattan From The Sky

Monday, April 23, 2012

Sometimes, life in New York is a lot more fantasy than reality.  Like when it involves dinner here...

Especially when that dinner comes after this...

Newsies was really one of the best shows I've seen in a long time.  Loved loved loved it.  And for all you Baylor people out there, it kind of felt like a three hour Sing act, which made me love it even more.

Oh my goodness, River Cafe.  Seriously, no exaggeration, one of the best meals I've ever had.  You all know that I am a Shake Shack girl at heart, but every once in awhile it's a little fun to get all dressed up for a night on the town.  And while I would choose hole in the wall Luke's Lobster's any day of the week (and let's be honest, even that's a splurge), this was amazing.

For the appetizer, I had oysters and caviar and soft shell crab for the first time.  Now, in full disclosure, I was a little nervous about the oysters.  The Chief had them once and I'm pretty sure she got really sick.  Plus, who even knows how to eat an oyster? My friend had to teach me.  But in my defense, they were in some sort of bacon hollandaise sauce and topped with a tiny bit of caviar.  So the Okie in me really didn't notice the oysters and caviar...I was too distracted by the bacon and what is basically butter sauce.  And the soft shell crab was delicious, but it was served tempura style, which is just rich people talk for what us Okies like to call "fried."  Yum yum yum.

For the main course, I had the Maine Lobster Special.  Basically a whole giant lobster already out of the shell on top of the most delicious homemade pasta in some sort of cheesy tomato goodness.  Oh man, I practically licked the plate.  Turns out they frown on that in classy places.

And dessert.  Oh, dessert.

Yes, that is most definitely a chocolate Brooklyn Bridge.  And yes, it tasted every bit as good as it looked.  Even came with an old fashioned ice cream soda served in a champagne flute.  I ate every single bite of everything that was served to me.  Because people, it's back to cereal tonight.

Hope in the Unseen

Monday, April 16, 2012

I've been trying all day to say what I want to say, and I just can't figure out how.  For someone who is moderately ok with the writing, there are no words that do it justice.  Just this...

It's funny how a day that goes by unnoticed to almost everyone in the world changed so much.  Five years ago today, I strolled home for lunch on the most perfect Spring day in Waco, Texas.  I was in my first year of grad school at Baylor, studying student affairs and all that is good about the college dream and academia.  I had just finished a Higher Education Culture and Planning class.  I turned on the TV and just like yet-to-really-begin career in higher ed was forever changed.  Because it wasn't just Virginia Tech.  It was every single person who lives, breathes, and loves college life.  

And no, it wasn't the first, and sadly, it wasn't the last.  But it changed higher education.  And it changed me a little bit too.

So now, in this crazy metropolis of Manhattan, I am doing something I insisted I would never do.  I swore I had no interest in getting a doctorate, being one of those boring research people, or writing a dissertation.  I'm still not sure what happened along the way.  Here I am, 28 years old with an approved dissertation topic and a plan for completion.  I will write a 400 page book that only my parents (and maybe not even them) will read.  There were other things that led to my topic, and it is much more personal than simply the knowledge of what happened five years ago today.  But it's not simple, is it?  

So as I research learning from tragedies on college campuses, facing the unthinkable in what is supposed to be the safest, best place imaginable, I think about hope, not fear.  There are days I wonder why I would want to spend the next couple of years so deeply engaged in such awful, horrific events.  Days when the thought of it scares me too much.  But then I walk across a college campus on a perfect sunny day, full of students waiting for their real lives to begin, and know that is exactly how it should be.  Hope.

"Tragedy is the author of hope."
(Leading with Soul, Bolman and Deal)

Strawberry Fields Forever

There's something about Spring in New York that makes you feel like every little thing is going to be ok.  Parkas are traded for sun dresses.  Earmuffs switch to sunglasses.  There are finally enough leaves on the trees that you can't see through them anymore.  Cherry blossoms and tulips pop up everywhere you look.  90 degrees in the city today.  Hallelujah.

Armed with a camera, an iPod, and a morning off, I took a little stroll through Central Park today.  And people, it's really just about the best place on Earth.

I even found a turtle family.  Obviously, I named them Danny, Mike, Ed, Mary, Delinda, Sam, and Nessa.  (And if you get that reference, I love you even more.)

And just where you least expect to find it, the world offers a little park bench wisdom...

First Love

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

It has recently come to my attention that the newest member of our family doesn't fully grasp the epic-ness of Baby Sister and I's childhood loves.  It all started with that Dawson's Creek video yesterday.  I mean, how you even begin to explain Dawson's?  These things are extremely important in order to understand just what she and I are talking crazy about at any given point.  They are our first loves.

So before Just Matt proposed, we introduced him to "Win A Date With Tad Hamilton."  Critical viewing before deciding to become part of our family...

And of course, he got this one right on...  Well done with the Riverside Park proposal, Just Matt.

And I'm not sure if he knows this one or not, but it is also vital.  Super duper important.

But here is where the real learning begins.  So pay attention, anyone interested in befriending/dating/marrying one of the two of us.  I'm telling you, maybe take notes.  It is that important. There may or may not be a test later.

Because you never get over your first love...

Say Goodnight

Monday, April 9, 2012

I was just thinking, I kind of miss these people...

I have unhealthy, inappropriate relationships with television characters.  Which, really, is a whole different topic for a whole different day (maybe that day is tomorrow).  But these people shaped my life more than I would like to admit, and there are just a couple of friends out there who really know the truth (you know who you are).  But for tonight, just feeling a little nostalgic for my old friends on the creek...

Faith In Love

So if you didn't read the first post, you might want to start with How He Loves.  Or maybe not.  Your call.  But I said there would be more, and there definitely will be.  But I'm telling you right now, you might not like it.  But just give it a chance, ok?

When it comes to happenings on Facebook, I am guilty...of thinking I'm better friends with people than I am, of sometimes not paying as much attention as I should, of going along with whatever is happening, just because it's happening.  I mean, no, if all of my friends were jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge, of course I wouldn't.  But if they were all talking about it on Facebook?  You bet I'd be talking about it too.  Just how it goes.  So last week, when two friends posted an article for comments, I noticed.  Partly because of who the friends were, partly because of the title, partly because these two individuals happen to be at opposite ends of the theological spectrum.  

So here it is...

Obviously, I was curious.  You are too.  Or, you're outraged at this point and have stopped reading.  It's fine.  But I read it.  And then I read it again.  And one more time just for good measure.

And really, I could not agree with the message of this article more.  Here it is...hate, bullying, judgment, and hypocrisy are not, nor have they ever been, God-pleasing activities. It's "I'm Christian and love everyone, unless ___________."  Whether it's gay people or fat people or homeless people or whatever, Christians far too often pretend to love and use that "love" to separate themselves from people who aren't as good, don't measure up, say the wrong things, wear the wrong clothes, whatever.  No one who walks through the doors of a church or pretends to love Jesus can do these things, because His love overcame hate.  If you grew up going to church, chances are you've been on both sides of this.  You didn't include someone who never did anything wrong, and you were excluded without good reason.  None of us is good enough for the love of Jesus.  That's what makes it so spectacular.

Living in New York means I have a lot of friends who are very different than I am.  Live different lifestyles, practice different faiths, don't necessarily do the things I think are right or wrong.  Tim Keller, the preacher at Redeemer Presbyterian Church where I've been going lately, said this in church yesterday: that most young New Yorkers think of Jesus as a combination of Religion 101 and The Da Vinci Code.  And people, it's pretty much true.  Think about how scary those two things could be...probably why they all go to brunch instead of church.  But I know this...that everyone is a sinner, and that my sin is just as bad as every other person among the nine million on this island.  But Jesus paid it all.

"For there is no difference between us and them in this. Since we've compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we're in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ. God sacrificed Jesus on the altar of the world to clear that world of sin. Having faith in him sets us in the clear. God decided on this course of action in full view of the public - to set the world in the clear with himself through the sacrifice of Jesus, finally taking care of the sins he had so patiently endured."  (Romans 3:22-25)

God hates sin.  But He does love sinners.  Hates bullying.  Still loves the bully.

I still do some things on Easter, just because that's what we always did on Easter.  It's a Baptist kid thing.    Part of me doesn't feel like it's Easter unless I've done the following four things: worn new clothes to church (preferably pink, yellow, or purple), sang "Christ the Lord is Risen Today," eaten an inappropriate amount of Mom's scalloped potatoes, and unwrapped a few pink Peeps.  So yesterday I did all of those things (even made the scalloped potatoes for myself).  But regardless of all my Baptist kid tendencies, that's not really what it's about, is it?

Easter, Jesus, is all love, all the time.  It is not, go to church with people who are just like you and exclude all the others.  It is not, pretend to do and say all the right things.  It is definitely not, "I am so good for going to church and everyone else is a heathen...Jesus must love me more."  But how often do we pretend like it is?  We are so wrong.

It is extravagant, unswerving, unwarranted, unconditional love.  

"Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly.  And the best of the three is love." (1 Corinthians 13:13)

The Dream, Part Two

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Just to prove my earlier point...

One bed, one bath
Private rooftop terrace
Washer and dryer
Windows with a view

Upper West Side (my neighborhood)

Really, nothing out of the ordinary or lavish.

Minimum 34% down
$2,198 monthly maintenance (that's on top of the mortgage)

An absolute bargain in Manhattan.

So yeah...

The Dream

When I think about the next place I will live, here is what I dream about...

Washer & Dryer
Consistent, Abundant Hot Water
Outdoor Space

Now, those may seem like really simple, trivial things.  You are all currently thinking, what's the big deal?  Everyone has those.  But oh man, if everyone had those.

Here is what my life would look like...

Cute little washer and dryer in my apartment, instead of the five loads I lugged downstairs and paid for and spent all day Friday taking care of.  Having a washer and dryer in your New York apartment is the absolute epitome of luxury in this city.  I know you all think I'm joking, but I'm not.  Only extremely wealthy Manhattanites have laundry inside their apartment.

Windows.  Ah, windows.  I mean, I have four windows in my current New York apartment, and every single one of them looks out onto an airshaft and other people's apartments approximately eight feet away from my windows.  Forget a view, I can't even tell what the weather is at any given moment.  But yeah, a view would be nice.

Now, I live on the 10th floor of a very, very old building and the hot water heater is in the basement.  So if I am lucky enough to get five minutes of hot water to shower, it is 30 minutes after I turn on the shower.  Forget water conservation.  And most of the time (like today), hot water is just a distant memory from a former life.  But in the dream, I would have hot water all the time, enough to take luxuriously long bubble baths, again preferably with a view.

And if we're going for the life I will never live, let's just go ahead and throw this in...

My version of "outdoor space" involves opening my windows...the ones that look directly into someone else's apartment and the air shaft.  I will never have this Central Park West terrace.  Probably will never even get to visit a Central Park West terrace.  But oh man, if only.  I mean, I'm not going to lie.  I would put the washer and dryer and bathtub and everything on the terrace if I could pick just one thing from my list.  And I would invite you all over for fancy parties on the terrace.  Fantastic.

Sure would be a nice life...

Three New Yorks

Friday, April 6, 2012

‎"There are roughly three New Yorks. There is, first, the New York of the man or woman who was born there, who takes the city for granted and accepts its size, its turbulence as natural and inevitable. Second, there is the New York of the commuter—the city that is devoured by locusts each day and spat out each night. Third, there is New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something. Of these trembling cities the greatest is the last—the city of final destination, the city that is a goal. It is this third city that accounts for New York’s high strung disposition, its poetical deportment, its dedication to the arts, and its incomparable achievements. Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness, natives give it solidity and continuity, but the settlers give it passion. And whether it is a farmer arriving from a small town in Mississippi to escape the indignity of being observed by her neighbors, or a boy arriving from the Corn Belt with a manuscript in his suitcase and a pain in his heart, it makes no difference: each embraces New York with the intense excitement of first love, each absorbs New York with the fresh yes of an adventurer, each generates heat and light to dwarf the Consolidated Edison 
Company… ."
Here Is New York, E.B. White

How He Loves

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Hang on friends, {the ivy project} is about to get deep.

This one's been on my mind for a while, building up since I moved to Manhattan.  But it's Easter, and I feel like writing, and I hope it's ok.  It's the first of two (maybe three) on the subject, so stay tuned.

(Side note: Grace Church in the Village might be one of my favorite places in the city.  Look how beautiful today...)

I spent my whole life in the Bible Belt.  Grew up in suburban central Oklahoma.  Went to church every time the doors were open.  Dad has an M.Div. from a conservative Southern Baptist seminary.  Mom is The Chief for a Southern Baptist nonprofit.  Uncle is a pastor.  Grandma writes Sunday School books. Chose an unapologetically Christian university (and I will forever love Baylor for that).  Interned at churches.  Majored in religion.  The whole nine yards.  Faith and my family are inseparable.

And now I live in one of the largest cities in the world, a place where Sunday brunch is as religious as attending church and diversity of religious beliefs is the norm, not the exception.  And in that regard, I am the minority.  Nine million people...nothing in this city is unusual.  I love living here.

And I love my students.  I love that I get to have amazing intellectual conversations with fantastic young women and play big sister for a few months or years of their lives.  I am as much counselor as I am teacher, maybe more so.  I'm not so crazy about the day-to-day programs and paperwork and things, but then I help a student through a crisis, offer a hug when mom's not there, and a reminder that every little thing really will be alright.  And in those moments I am certain that I am exactly where God needs me.

Even though I studied world religions in college, my students have taught me more than I could ever imagine about their faith and various ways this plays out in their lives.  I rarely, ok never, hear students talk about Christianity on campus.  Does not happen.  I do, however, have a lot of fascinating conversations with students from various forms of Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, and other faiths.  These young women are amazingly dedicated to following the laws and traditions of their faith, observing holy days, and pausing their lives to obey their religious beliefs.  They speak with rabbis before agreeing to work responsibilities that might interfere with observing the sabbath.  They pray in bathroom stalls or quiet corners when they're unable to attend the five-times-a-day prayers.  They literally put their lives on hold to obey the laws.  I have so much respect and admiration for how wise they are at 19, 20, and 21 years old.  We could all learn a little from their priorities.

But here's the thing, and it's just my thought...

I am so glad that I know a God who loves me in spite all of that, not because of it.  Who loves because of who He is, not because of the things I do or don't manage to accomplish on a daily basis.  Because I'm not worth it, and contrary to popular belief, I do not have it all together.  (I know, you're shocked.)  I don't deserve His unquestioned, forgetful of my screw-ups, unbelievable love.  None of us do.

And here is all I really know...

Too well said not to steal from the young pastor of my tiny childhood church...before I am anything in this world, I am a sinner saved by the amazing grace of God.

So I've been going to church on quiet New York Sunday mornings, slowly trying to build a life with the things that are most important to me.  I try to live my life in a way that pleases God, not because I have to, but because I want to and because He loves me.  And I am full of faith that all of the things I hope for will one day be reality.  Because the God I love and who loves me gave everything so that it would be.

"God is love... There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.  We love because he first loved us."  (1 John 4:16, 18-19)

Subway Love

Y'all do know how much I love subway marketing...

Which leads me to say...sorry for not sitting in my apartment blogging a lot lately.  I've been a little too busy out playing in the city to catch you up on happenings in New York, but I promise to share lots of Easter weekend updates on {the ivy project}.  So where were we?

Well I got a little distracted on the whole dissertation/school work thing, and here is why: Baby Sister convinced me to read The Hunger Games on my new Kindle Fire.  I had seriously protested this whole crazy business, but I do love my baby sister. And people, I read the whole 400-page book in two days.  And then I saw the movie that same day.  And then I ate cheesecake at Magnolia Bakery.  And now I'm halfway through the second book.  Whoops.

So after that, I was super motivated to get back on track with school.  Until national championships rolled around the next day.  You see, I am suddenly kind of a really big Kansas basketball fan?!  Where did that even come from?  Oh yeah, Baby Sister married a Jayhawk.  So I watched March Madness, and then I was definitely going to study.  But then the Baylor University Lady Bears basketball team also played in the national championship game, so obviously I went to the Baylor New York alumni club to watch with a few fellow fans.

And then...well, I promise I really was going to write today, but The Chief sent me a J. Crew gift card, so obviously I went shopping in SoHo this afternoon.  But here's the thing about New York...just when you get used to just navigating the streets, moving from one place to the next, avoiding tourists, you turn the corner headed home to this view...