Abnormally Normal

Last week I went home for Thanksgiving.

I didn’t take any pictures.

But I had a good time.

It was very normal.

I worked 10 hours in the cafe.  I drove in my car.  I listened to WFRN and all our local classics.  I ate homemade bread.  And went to Walmart.  I sat in cushioned benches at church and sang from a hymnal.  I played cranium and watched movies and ate Dairy Queen with friends.  I stayed out after midnight.  I chatted with people in checkout lanes.  And went to a family reunion with 500 other people (who I’m related to- no kidding!)

And it was all perfectly normal.

For Indiana.

And yet so un-normal compared to my life now.  In New York.  Where I sleep in a bed room (and a bed) half the size on mine at home.  Where I physically carry everything I need for the day in my backpack- or go without.  Where I buy metro cards instead of gas and empty streets are a sign of concern, not peace.

And so sometimes I am tempted to compare my two worlds as I shift between them, calling both home.  But I don’t think that’s fair.  Each place is good in its own right.  Each has something good and bad to offer.  It’s not where we are- but who we are that matters.  So I’m glad to be me.  Here.  Even if here sometimes changes.

The Truth About 24 – andotherthingsinmylife

PART 1 of this post:

This year- this week- marked the 24th year of my life.  I am now exactly the age my mother was when she had me. (I say exact since I was born in her 24th birthday.)

I wasn’t sure how my birthday would turn out this year- especially in light of the fact that the people who usually help me celebrate my birthday are so far away from me.

But it was good.  I got sung “happy birthday” to 6 times.  I got 26 cards in the mail. 24 of them were from Vanessa.  Each containing one dollar.  My sister is too clever. I got a cupcake with a flaming candle.  I got dried mangoes and chocolate and dinner.  I got 55 birthday facebook messages and singing from little Honduran children.  Basically, I got blessed.

So I’m glad.  As much as my past self could not have predicted me here, in this stage in my life, I like it.  24 is NOT to be pitied.  24 is to be lived.

“Do not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many.”

PART TWO of this post:

While having a birthday I have also been ‘up to’ some things worth posting about.

The first is related to Sandy.  This week we hosted some MDS volunteers.  I decided I like doing that.  Today I also helped at Rockaway Beach with our youth group.  Sandy hit 21 days ago and some places are still without power.  Some walls are still covered with mud, marking the waterline inside and outside the buildings.  Some people are still in need of simple things- like hot food, toothpaste, and clean underwear.  My heart goes out to these people as they attempt to pull their community and their lives back together.

My second post worthy thing is related to museums. One of my ‘NY bucket list’ goals was to visit at least 1 museum per month for the 1st year I’m here.  This started out great as I went to the MoMA my first weekend here.  However, October was midterms and I didn’t get to a single museum.  To make up for it I went to two this month with a friend from school.

The first was the American Museum of Natural History.

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The second was the Guggenheim Museum of Art.  The building itself is a piece of art as it was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.  Picasso (in black and white) was the featured artist.  But they also had a great Van Gogh.  Sadly, these are all the pictures I got since photography is strictly prohibited (Although there are no signs telling you this.  You have to wait to be yelled at by a paid personnel in order to find this out.)

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And my last post-worthy thing is food.  It’s just that you should know that we ate at ‘ShakeShack’ on both museum trips.  Because it is good.  If you come to NY I might take you to ShakeShack.  I can tell ShakeShack is good because as we were eating it in the park the people passing us on their way to the restaurant each whispered in hallowed tones, “shhhhakeshack!!”  And really, that’s the only way to say it to do it any justice.

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And to tie the two parts together: here’s the last picture of me at 23, with Theodore Roosevelt in the Museum of Natural History.

“They say you don’t grow up you just grow old.”

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Newyorkitude in the winter

Every day it’s good to learn something new.  Well, newyorkitude isn’t something I learned about today, but I did see my fair share of it. (sidenote: I did learn the phrase ‘ears are hustlin’ today.  i guess it’s the same as eavesdropping.)

Exhibit A:

on the train this morning we were solicited by a beggar. he claimed to be homeless and in need of ANYTHING we had to give.  ‘we all need to help each other’ he said.

Well, one woman decided she just couldn’t handle this.

“Why don’t you give me money?  I’m homeless!  I’ve been without power and water!  Give ME money!”

“He’s just going to spend it on drugs.”

To which the poor man defended himself saying, “I don’t do drugs.”

“Well you LOOK like it! God bless you.”

Her rant lasted the whole time that it took the beggar to walk the length of the car.

And the man next to me laughed (almost out loud) as she called after our homeless beggar.

Exhibit B:

On my train home the conductor announces:

LISTEN UP ladies and gentlemen.  The long island railroad is NOT running right now because of the snow.  There is NO long island railroad.  I would suggest you…..”

To put this in perspective.  Usually the conductor says, “Thenextstopiscalnsdlfiahfhlastreet.  Stand clear of the closing doors.” And somehow we are supposed to figure out what they are saying.

And in other news:

New York is still recovering from Sandy.  I have friends living not in their homes as their homes are still without power and were flooded.  The trains, while running, are not running according to schedule, making everyone’s commute twice as long (partially because not all the stations are open so we (I) have to make different transfers than normal and partially because the trains are not running as frequently as before, creating longer waits and fuller cars).

And in breaking news:

It is snowing. Lots and lots.  On my walk home I was on the phone, sloshing through snow and rain that threatened to spill into my socks when I glanced up and realized my path was obstructed by a branch.  Odd. And a little farther down the block, a whole tree had fallen onto the road.  Not what I was expecting when I left home this morning.  Here are some pictures.

My first steps out into the snow, near campus.Image

I love that my platform is outside.  That way I can see and feel the winter alllllll winter long. Image

And here’s the tree that surprised me. Image

I can tell we’ve had a lot of snow because how high it piles. (obviously)Image

Can you see that?  It’s the snow on our fire escape.  Image

Well. This much snow on November 7th?  I wonder if the mayans thought we’d die in an avalanche on Ridgewood Avenue?  Looks like the end of the world to me.

My First Hurricane

There are more than 8 million people living in New York City right now.  And each of us had a different experience with Sandy.  I know a lot of people at home (and various other places) asked and prayed about my safety through those long hours on Monday and I feel I owe it to them, my prayer warriors, to fill them in on my superstorm experience.  So, here comes my play-by-play.

I first heard about Sandy on Friday morning from a professor.  Over the next 2 days I heard it referenced in different ways but knew it was important when our church announcements on Sunday included, “and all public transportation is closing at 7 pm tonight.”  At this point I was concerned about a group project that was due on Tuesday as we would have no way of meeting up before class.  But once my school announced that campus was closed Monday I decided to relax on Sunday without any guilt of homework (this is a rare opportunity friends, I had to take it).  In preparation for the storm I did my laundry on Sunday as I assumed my traditional Monday morning laundromat visit would not be advisable.  We also filled pitchers and buckets with water and charged our computers and phones, anticipating a power outage.  On Sunday night I also went to the corner store to “stock up” on milk and eggs. At this point the storm was still hours from landfall and our only weather clue of its arrival was a mild, but chilling wind.  And silence.  Since moving to the city I have often missed and seek and savoir silence.  I have learned that some silence is good and some silence is bad.  And silence on a Sunday evening?  That is strange.  No rumble of trains.  No blaring cars.  Or screaming children.  The city was settling in for the storm and I could feel it coming.

Monday brought the promise of a Superstorm.  My mom called and text me continually (much to my roommate’s amusement) to check up on the situation.  Mostly, I was bored.  I found out half way through the day that school would also be closed on Tuesday, canceling my group project.  Life without deadlines is a life without purpose.

But weather-wise- the wind picked up and it rained from time to time.  The storm hit after dark on Monday but it had little affect on us.  I could hear the wind howling a low tone through the town and see our little weedy plants on the fire escape wiping about but I felt pretty safe and sound in my 3rd story apartment without any tall trees in sight.  We did get a call from the electric company saying they may preemptively shut off our power, at which point I became concerned how I would do my homework or entertain myself without life in my laptop.  But they never did cut off our power.

Tuesday morning I could feel our community recovering.  Erleen (my roommate) and I went for a walk around noon and this is what we found:

our first view- our front sidewalk:

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we found some trees down:

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the most ‘flooding’ we could find:ImageImageImage

this tree landed right where VBS takes place each year.Image

the trash fell over:Image

many streets were already clean by noon on Tuesday.

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Needless to say, Erleen and I were a little disappointed to find the midwest has better storms than a hurricane.  So we went home and spent the rest of the day chilling in our apartment again.

On Wednesday school was closed again.  The trains were still down and they can hardly expect us to get to school without the trains.  But we were bored so we got a friend to take us to the mall.  I think this is when I realized the true impact of Sandy.  There people huddled around outlets and relaxed on public couches, obvious to be thankful for the electricity.  The lines for the buses (which opened that morning) were minutes long.  I saw trees on cars and houses and realized my little neighborhood was very blessed.

Today is Thursday and life feels a little more ‘normal’ as I can hear the train rumbling outside my window again.  Public schools are closed for the rest of the week but my campus is officially open.  However, I’m skipping class as we aren’t learning anything new today and my commute would no doubt be very long as there are no trains crossing into Manhattan and I’d have to take the shuttle bus to who-knows-where.  Our church is also organizing a group to help with clean-up efforts so I’m waiting to hear about where and when we’re going with that.

So that’s just one person’s experience with Sandy.  I am very aware of the damage that others are facing as homes have burned down and lives have been lost.  Some of my friends live in evacuation zones.  Some have flooding in their streets.  Some are without electricity.  Some are facing public transportation today.  But I am safe. And sound. And thankful.