Tuesday, May 20, 2014

This Is Staten Island (new website!)

So with the new project comes a new, more official-looking blog site. I may still post the occasional personal blog over here, but I'll mostly be posting from there from now on.

It's still a work in progress, but check it out. 


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

I'm not dead, just in the suburbs...

Friends, family, comrades...

I bet you thought you'd seen the last of this ol' blog.  I've historically been pretty bad about keeping up with things like this (this is not my first blog to fall into the abyss), but I actually miss this little guy.  And it seems from what I hear that at least some of you guys do too.  That paired with some things God's been stirring in my heart lately have inspired me to start blogging again.  So I guess I should start with a (brief!) recap of the last 2ish years.

I'm still in New York, but I have moved on to yet another borough (my third since I came here a little over 3 years ago).  Since I moved here in 2011, God has used a lot of different situations to stir my heart for Staten Island.  And sometime last spring, he really began to show me that it was more than just a love for the people or an affinity for good pizza and Italian ices - He wanted me to live there.  I could spend hours talking about that, how a pasty white girl from southeast Texas fell in love with a place and a community that could not be more different, but I'll spare you that for now.  Bottom line is that He called me there and in August 2013, I made the move.

I live in a HOUSE.  A beautiful house that was built in 1902 and has a kitchen that is about the size of my whole Brooklyn apartment, haha.  I love my home and my neighborhood.

Some other big things that have happened in the past 2 years...

I got to be a part of a new church plant.  Apostles Brooklyn met for the first time officially on September 22, 2013 and it has been one of the greatest and most humbling experiences of my life to be a part of the leadership of this church body.  I was appointed a deacon there just last month, and I really could not be more excited about what the Lord is doing through this church.

Another big change that came along with the move is that I'm no longer living with THIS GIRL:

That's right, folks, after 4ish years of living together on and off, Sara and I parted ways when I moved out to the ol' island.  She is still in Brooklyn, but don't worry, she stays over roughly 1.2 nights/week, so I'm still seeing about the same amount of her as I did when we lived together.

But the upside is that I'm now living with THIS GIRL:

Meet Chrisie, my kick-butt, Staten Island born and bred roommate.  (Did I mention she's a straight up Italian who is constantly making awesome food in the aforementioned awesome kitchen?)  Don't get too used to her though, because she will be leaving me to live with a boy in the fall (don't worry, he's putting a ring on it).

Now to answer the question that I know is burning in all of your brains...


I'm glad you asked. There have been many, naturally.  I saw Anne Hathaway jogging in Chelsea about a year ago.  Just last week I saw Hank Azaria in the lobby of my office building.  And my favorite sighting possibly ever was seeing William Daniels (*AKA Mr Feeny!!!) right by one of my offices.  Had my arms not been loaded down with groceries, I would have chased him down and made him take a picture with me. 

I also saw Charles Barkley near Union Square a few months ago.  The photographer was no good, but trust me, that's me standing next to him.

And below, see one of my numerous Jake Gyllenhaal sightings.  He's not nearly as angry as he looks, trust me.  Hahaha.  There was a period of time where I would see this guy ALL THE TIME. I saw him 3 times in one week!  I'm not complaining though.

But anyway, the reinstitution of this blog is not to talk about my celebrity sightings.  Well, not just for that, anyway, haha.  Something else inspired me to start blogging again.

It started a few months ago.  I really wanted to engage my community more, and I was finding it hard, since Staten Islanders are not the easiest people to get to know.  They are (understandably) a little skeptical of me.  But I've never really been one to let that stop me, so I set a goal for myself.  Every week I had to talk to a Staten Islander I didn't know.  On the ferry, in my neighborhood, in the grocery store, wherever.  Sometimes people didn't really want to talk to me, sometimes I couldn't get them to stop talking, haha.  But I am really enjoying getting to know people and hearing their stories.  I've met some pretty interesting characters these past few months, that's for sure.  It's pushed me out of my comfort zone too (even an extrovert like myself doesn't necessarily like striking up conversations with random strangers), and I've found that, overall, people like to be talked to, to be noticed.

The one thing I was kind of sad about is that I didn't have anywhere other than my own personal journal to record my interactions with the people I was meeting.  I didn't have anywhere but my own mind to remember their faces.  I also thought it might be cool to focus my goal a little bit, to give it a clearer purpose.  So I started thinking about why I wanted to get to know my community in the first place...surely not just for my own pleasure or entertainment.  No, I want to know people better so I can love them better.  So I can find needs and meet them.  So I and my community can live life with these people and show them the love of Christ.

So this is how this new "project" was born.  Think Humans of New York, but a little different.  I decided to come up with some specific questions that I want to ask people and that I would post their responses along with pictures (with their permission, of course) so that you could get to know them as I do.

I'm still working on the questions, but it will be a mix of general stuff ("Who are you?," "How long have you been on Staten Island?"), topical issues ("Do you take the ferry to work?", "What do you think about the tolls on the bridges?," "Were you affected by Hurricane Sandy?"), and deeper questions (family, struggles, "What is your biggest need?"). I also want to address the drug epidemic on the island (both illegal and prescription) and let people talk about how it's affected them and their loved ones.  (Check out this heartbreaking article on SI's rising heroin problem and its ties to the already prevalent prescription drug problem. Staten Island has 3 times more ODs than any other borough.) My hope is that these questions will open up opportunities for me to get to know people better and find ways to engage them and meet their needs. If you have any suggestions, let me know in the comments.

Hang in there while I get this all organized. I promise I'll start with the posts soon!  But bug me if I don't, haha (I obviously need the accountability which is why I'm posting this in the first place).

I'll leave you guys with a few of my favorite shots I've taken since moving to SI.

My neighborhood last fall

From the ferry on 9/11/13

Our Christmas tree!!
Pretty snow on the trees in front of our house

View from my window - that's the Verrazano Bridge (goes from SI to Brooklyn)

Going for a walk around my neighborhood last month

Beautiful sunrise from the ferry
View of Manhattan from the top of the hill near my house

Cherry blossoms

Sunset at Silver Lake Park

Monday, May 28, 2012

Always a bridesmaid...

So, I know it's been a long time since my last post. And believe me, I have plenty to write about.   In fact, I've waited so long I'm going to have to break it up into a few posts so I don't overwhelm you.  Haha.  We'll start with the first of my adventures...I like to call it the Texas wedding extravaganza...don't worry, the title of the post was just a joke.  I have no plans to lament my singleness or explain to you why I likely will not be "next"  (but thank you to every single guest at my sister's wedding who thought that would be an appropriate question).  Well now that that's out of the way...

So about a month ago, I made my way down to Texas.  It was a week I had been looking forward to for a really long time.  I flew in on a Friday night and was greeted at the airport by my sister Kristi and her fiance Corbett, who's wedding was the whole reason for my trip.  But we'll get to that...

I got up Saturday morning and drove about 3 hours to Round Rock, which is where I lived for about 6 1/2 years prior to moving to New York.  I was really excited to see my best friend Shahla, her husband, and this precious little guy!  Shahla had him about 6 weeks prior to my visit and I had been DYING to see him.

Sawyer in his gift from me :-)

Best end to a loooong day

Later that day, I drove out to my friend Kyle's wedding.  I have known Kyle since we were about 5 or 6 years old and he and his family are really precious to me.  I've had the honor of getting to know his beautiful fiancee (and now wife) Jen over the last couple of years and even got to see them in the fall when they visited NYC.  Their wedding was in central TX (near Austin for my Yankee friends) at a beautiful little outdoor venue in Dripping Springs.  A few of my favorite memories from the day...

Me and my cousin April

The beautiful bride and handsome groom
Me and one of my oldest and dearest friends, Vikas, enjoying some delicious ice cream sandwiches

Me and Kyle

I spent the next few days catching up with about a billion people.  I got to lead worship at chapel at the children's home, which is something I did every week when I worked there.  It was so good to see some of my former kids and lots of new faces as well.  I ran out of time long before I ran out of people I wanted to see, so I'm really sorry for those of you I didn't get to catch up with.  But Shahla and I (and Sawyer, of course) had to get back on the road to Houston for Kristi's "wedding week o' fun"!

My folks' house was full of people every day getting everything ready for the festivities.  I am about as crafty as a ...well I don't even know a crafty thing to NOT compare myself to...but anyhow, basically the only thing they trusted me with was a hot glue gun.  So my job was to hot glue twine and flowers to approximately (according to my calculations, which I mostly based on the amount of burns on my fingertips) 14,000 mason jars.

Pretty good job, if I do say so myself.

By the way, I did all of this while sitting on the floor of my parents' kitchen.  Not the most comfortable work space...

But I digress...the wedding was beautiful and wonderful and I got to see so many people I haven't seen in a really long time.   Here are a few of my favorites from the week/weekend.

Me and Kristi before the rehearsal

Getting ready for the big day
Cooper is clearly really excited to get his tux on and get down the aisle

Best friends - me and Shahla
Cutest nephew and niece in the world
Almost ready to go
3 generations - Me, Kristi, Alecia, Bella, and my mom



It's interesting how in the midst of such joy and excitement, God can use tragedy to remind us of what's really important.  I'm not really one to get too deep with my feelings on the internet (or in real life, for that matter), but I don't want to miss an opportunity to honor a very special person...

Sunday afternoon, while I was still in Round Rock visiting friends, I got word that a dear friend of our family, Kathy Norris, had been taken to the hospital with a brain aneurysm.  Kathy went to high school with my dad and has been in my life for as long as I remember.  She is one of the sweetest, most compassionate, and selfless people I know.  I always look forward to seeing her when I'm home, because she knows exactly what I've been up to and asks me very specific questions about my life in New York.  She's an avid reader of the ol' blog and I know she asks my folks frequently how I'm doing.

And on Tuesday, just two days after she collapsed at church, sweet Kathy passed from this life into the arms of Jesus.  It was hard to believe then and perhaps even harder to believe now. 

So needless to say, the past few weeks have been a pretty good mixture of highs and lows, of joy and grief. And I suppose that's what life is, really.  It's certainly made me appreciate my family and friends a lot more, and given me some perspective on some other relationships in my life.

I will end with that for now, but look for new posts soon on my recent trip to San Francisco, why I love Zipcar, and why I've been spending way too much time in New Jersey.  Happy Memorial Day!!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Victory: Easter Edition

And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands...

When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.”
Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” So he delivered him over to them to be crucified.

So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha.  There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”
When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says,
“They divided my garments among them,
    and for my clothing they cast lots.”
After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

(excerpts from John 19 - ESV) 

I hope you find time to reflect on the cross today.  What a sacrifice that has been made for us, what a price has been paid.  When we stood condemned, Christ took our place, and there is now NO condemnation for us.

I have been listening to music all week to remind me of the weight of that sacrifice.  I encourage you to do the same during this special weekend.  Here are a few of the songs that have been in rotation.  (I am putting the artists of the ones in my library, but a lot of them have been recorded by multiple artists)

Hallelujah, What A Savior - Shelly Moore Band
Arise, My Love - Newsong
Glorious Day (Living He Loved Me) - Casting Crowns
Stronger - Hillsong
He's Alive - Johnny Cash
Because of Your Love - Phil Wickham
Why - Nichole Nordeman
In Christ Alone - Matt Papa
In My Place - Village Church 

Happy Easter weekend.  Remember that you are loved in a big way by a God who endured the pain and the humiliation of the cross for you.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Musings On MLB 2012

Sometimes it's nice being a baseball fan.  We get 162 games a year and our off-season is considerably short compared to most (well if your team makes it to the playoffs, that is).  And yet, I feel like I've been waiting for the 2012 season for a lifetime.  And while my friends probably aren't ready to lose me to my MLB At Bat app on my phone, I am beyond ready for some baseball.  With Opening Day just around the corner (this Thursday!), I thought I would make a few observations about the upcoming season:

Let's just get this one out of the way - the Miami Marlins, really?  Why fix something that ain't broke?  That will take some getting used to.

2012 is the last season that the Astros will be in the National League.  This has been a bit disconcerting to me ever since they announced we would be moving to the AL West in 2013.  I found it pretty stupid when the Brewers moved to the NL back in 1998, and even stupider that they didn't just move them back this time around.  I never really realized how much league loyalty I had until now.  Or how much I hate the idea of a designated hitter.  I love having the pitchers bat.  It makes for some exciting moments (like in 2006 when Roy Oswalt and Andy Pettitte hit home runs on two consecutive nights - to date, their only career HRs), and in my opinion, it makes guys earn their keep.  I am not a fan of paying a guy millions of dollars for 4 or 5 at bats a game and NOTHING ELSE.  Especially if he can't even bat above .300.  I feel like the DH role is where baseball players go to die.  So I guess at least it'll give Carlos Lee something to do.  Anyway, I am glad I have a whole season to get my head around the move, but I don't think I'll ever be really excited about it.

The one positive thing that I took from the upcoming AL move is that at least we wouldn't have to face Albert Pujols (the Kryptonite to our Superman, if you will) but a couple of times a year at best.  But, as luck would have it, he signed a record-breaking $254 million/10-year deal with the Angels (I'll save my thoughts on the stupidity of that contract for another blog), who just so happen to be in the AL West.  So we really should enjoy this season because after 2012, we'll be seeing him a whole bunch.

I am excited about the new Astros owner, Jim Crane.  I am a big Drayton McLane fan, don't get me wrong, and I have a lot of respect for him as a man and as a Christ-follower, but his "let's blow our budget on washed-up superstars and trade away our farm system every year" mentality was getting pretty tired.  I am pretty hopeful that Crane is going to do more to develop our up-and-coming players.  Even though these next couple of seasons will be a time of restructuring and rebuilding, I think there are happy days ahead.  I'm excited to see some of our young talent develop this year.  We've got a number one pick in June and we've acquired a lot of young players through trades last year and in the off-season.  I'm particularly excited to have Jason Castro back from ACL surgery, and to see what Jonathan Singleton and Jarred Cosart are going to bring to the table in Corpus Christi.  And mark my words, Delino DeShields is the guy to watch this year.  I think we'll see him in OKC by the end of the season, and maybe even in the big show come September.

The schedule this year is not going to be too kind to me.  There are games in DC and Philadelphia, but they are during the week, so it's unlikely I'll be able to go to them.  It may be the end of August (when they have a series with the Mets) before I'll get to see them play live. Boooooooo.

Wandy is getting his first Opening Day start.  Not sure if that is the smartest move they could've made (I personally would've gone with Bud Norris or maybe even J.A. Happ), but when he's good, he's realllll good, so it could work out for us.

Alright, well that's all of my scattered baseball-related thoughts for now.  Hope everyone is as excited for Opening Day as I am, but I doubt you are. :-)  Happy April!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

New York, It's Been Real

So today marks one year since I moved here, my New York-iversary, if you will.  Some days it's hard to believe I've been here that long, and others it feels like I've been here a lifetime, but every day continues to feel like I'm right where I belong.  People ask me all the time, "What made you decide to move?," and I never feel like I have an adequate answer for them.  Nothing was lacking in my life back in Texas - I had an great job where I was getting to share the love of Christ with some of the most incredible kids and teenagers I've ever met.  I had amazing friends and family all around me, and I was really happy.  I wasn't trying to get away from anything or looking to fill any voids by coming here.  I don't even know what prompted the decision, other than I just knew and felt so clearly that this was the next step in my journey.

It would be pretty hard to put into the words the things I have learned in the past year, but since it's hard (some might say impossible) to write a blog without words, I'll do my best:

I've learned the importance of the relationships in my life.  Every relationship I have has been tested this year.  Some haven't survived.  Some have taken on a new look.  I've made wonderful new relationships in the process.  I'm so grateful for all of it.  My family has been so supportive of my move, which makes me love them even more (if that is possible).  They and my friends have called, written, "social-networked", and continued to show me that I am important to them.  I hope I've made them feel the same way, despite my strong aversion to the phone (sorry, Mom!).  And every time I think that I couldn't possibly be blessed with any more amazing people in my life, more continue to show up.  I honestly do not know why God has chosen to give me such an abundance of ridiculously great people in my life, but I'll take it. My cup runneth over.

I've learned that pursuing your passions doesn't always mean pursuing them as your career.  I always thought that because I was passionate about helping the poor and marginalized and working with kids and teenagers, that I had to be a social worker.  It seemed like a logical plan, and I will never question that my years at the children's home were exactly what the Lord had for me at that time.  But what I didn't realize I guess, was that not being a social worker didn't mean I had to stop pursuing those things.  Right now, I am working for a fantastic company (a primary care medical practice) and my day to day is not really emotionally draining in the slightest.  I'm managing staff and making sure our offices run smoothly, and while I work super hard throughout the day, it's not work I "take home" with me.  I love it, and I actually felt a little guilty for loving it so much.  I thought that meant that I was somehow betraying my "social work calling."  But then I began to find some volunteer opportunities in the community, through my church and through other connections I've made, and it all started to make sense to me.  Maybe I'll work as a social worker again, maybe I won't, but it doesn't change my passion or my calling.

I've learned that I am much stronger than I thought.  So many well-intentioned people warned me that living here might not be all it's cracked up to be.  This city can be a tough place to live, and I am just a simple girl from the south.  But it has actually been the smoothest and least painful transition I've ever had, and while I agree that it's not for everyone, NYC definitely suits me.

I've learned that I am much weaker than I thought, and that ultimately, any strength I have is from the Lord.  This would seem like something I should already know, since it is pretty much Christianity 101.  There are so many cliches about how "His strength is made perfect in our weakness", and "when we we are weak, He is strong" and about a million other versions of that same phrase.  But it's all a bunch of talk until you really take a look at yourself and your pride and your depravity and put that into perspective with who He is.  Trying to do things in my own strength is a complete and utter failure.  I continue to screw up over and over and over again because of my selfishness.  There is nothing good in me but Him.  I am learning to be not only okay with, but really thankful for my weaknesses.  It lets Him shine through that much more.

In celebration of this milestone, here is a brief photo journey through some of my favorite moments from this past year.  Here goes:

Hanging out at the promenade in Brooklyn Heights with Sara my first night here
Discovering Sarita's Mac & Cheese (S'Mac), which has now become mine and Angie's go-to place in the East Village.
Getting dressed up and celebrating my new job (before I had actually been offered the job) at Primehouse with Sara, Andrew, and Leticia.  Good thing I got the job because we spent a whole lot of money on this delicious food.
Watching the Yankees get beat by the Rangers while enjoying this delicious hot dog.
Watching the Mets get beat by my Astros while freezing in the rain (still worth it).
Meeting my current boyfriend in the East Village (or something like that).  Sorry for cropping you out of the picture, Sara, Andrew, and Leti!
NKOTBSB in Long Island (don't judge me)
Showing these New Yorkers how to ride out a hurricane and trying to move apartments in the process.  Too bad it turned out to be a total dud.
My sister, Shahla, and Candace coming to visit!  And my first trip to Coney Island.

The real life version of the Macy's Parade

Taking our little Christmas tree home on the subway
Having a little Crusader reunion when the Skaggs decided to crash last Sunday's church service. So wonderful to see them!!
Another question I get asked a bunch is, "How long do you think you'll be in New York?"  Alas, I cannot answer that question either.  Maybe another year or two, maybe a lifetime.  Right now, I couldn't imagine being anywhere else (sorry again, Mom!).

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Should You Always Have A Paul?

If you have some time today, check out this really great and thought-provoking post from one of my pastors at Apostles. 

Discipleship Myth: You should always have a Paul