Wednesday, February 11, 2015

A Frosting in the Northeast

I wrote and posted this post on In the Warm Hold last night and then it occoured to me that it really belonged here as well. As I've said many times, I try not to cross post too much because what's the point then? But I started this post thinking it'd be a picture post for the regular blog and it spiraled into a bunch of my thoughts on staying and leaving and beauty and difficulty, which is the kind of post I like to share in this space. It actually occurred to me awhile back that there are a handful of post here that I want there as well and a handful there that I want here, so I'll be doing a little reposting. More on that later, though...

We got our first real, big snow a few weeks back. They were predicting we'd get a lot more and people were kind of going crazy worrying about the "historic blizzard". Well, mostly Minnie. I got this frantic email from her about it, warning us to stock up and prepare for the electricity to go out (not really a concern in our massive complex). Between ISIS, the "riots" Fox News convinced them have been happening here for the last four months, and this I'm almost sure I'm going to come home to a couple of patients with massive stomach ulcers. [Mick's comfort item is his Pepto bottle, FYI.]

But also I actually saw someone comment on a friend's Instagram that she was in the Trader Joe's in Brooklyn and there was a woman griping about them being out of goat's milk and organic kale. Because those are necessities in a weather emergency right? If you're a North Brooklyn hipster, they sure are. So the fear was real. Even for the Yankees.

Anyway, I was so excited Peyton had the day off. It was a real experience. We thought we'd head over to an adjoining neighborhood to catch some friends sledding, but we realized quickly that was not happening (some areas hadn't been plowed yet). So we just walked to our little neighborhood park. We did spot a bus with chains all around its tires, which I thought was interesting. So much I didn't even think about before living here.

The snow at the park was basically untouched. It was soft and fluffy and perfect. Cold, but as perfect as six inches of frozen matter can be. There's still a good bit of snow on the ground, but these days it's brown and hard as a rock.

I wonder if when we get home, I'll remember the snow as a freezing cotton ball of beauty or as my rock hard nemesis- a potential danger at worst, an annoyance at best. I sort of hope it remains the former in my memory, although that might bring some heartache so maybe it's best if I remember the most of the time (hard, brown) reality. I don't know, even if the snow remains pure and perfect in my reflections, I feel confident the hardships of Winter are etched on my memory. It is clear to me that my body wasn't made for this climate and this Winter I've wondered if my soul maybe wasn't either.

Last Winter I took to it so easily. I was talking with Minnie about why and I think a lot of it was knowing that a good bit of Winter had already passed when we moved. And knowing how much fun we'd have in the warmth if we were having that much fun in the cold.

But I also was God's grace. I have a friend and it's almost a running joke now how much I've been attributing to the Lord's grace lately. I think, for some reason, it's just become much more evident to me and I see Him in the details more. And as I look back on those early days here, equally cold if not colder than the days I've been surviving lately, I know it was. Because my first six weeks here had been this tough and this bitter and this cold? If they had left me so physically dry and so emotionally isolated? I don't know that I ever would have let my heart love this place like it did.

But here I am. Loving the place to the point of grieving our departure in a pretty intense way already. Loving it so much that I often tear up thinking back over our adventures here. Loving it in spite of the chaffing lonely parts and loving it because of the soothing words and friendly faces that ease that pain and discomfort. 

I know I'll remember the hard things about this journey and the beautiful ones. I'll likely remember the snow both on the days we played in it, fresh fallen and pure and the days I shuffled around it, hard and ugly and a hazard particularly for my small people.

I'll remember Brooklyn as a difficult dirty place to live and also as the setting of one of the most incredibly beautiful adventures of my adult life. I'm thankful for both, actually, because both have transformed me and I know I'll never be the same. And I'll treasure the memories of both in my heart.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The First Goodbye (or "Damn,That was Draining")

I had thought that tonight I'd either work on recapping my 2014 goals on the main blog or that I'd not blog at all and go to bed early. I realized I needed to get a few things out, though.

I'm super hormonal (not the pregnant kind, the kind that indicates one is not pregnant), I've been struggling with some stuff lately, and I had a really restless night a couple of nights ago and I woke up this morning just feeling like I had already been run over by a bus. I hate WAKING UP feeling like that. It took us (read: me) forever to get our stuff together and get on the road for the day's adventures and Peyton was understandably frustrated with me and I was with myself. Graves had a generally cranky (and also quite disobedient) day for some reason and really, Annie was the only one of the four of us that didn't spend the majority of the day in some sort of funk. It was extremely out of character for Peyton and Graves (less out of character for me than I'd like to admit).

Anyway, we walked to the piers and played on some awesome playgrounds because though it was cold, it was sunny, and by Yankee standards not unbearable. It's a long walk and we were hustling and I was carrying a book I had gotten to give as a present to Annie's ballet teacher. I actually ended up getting warm and taking off my coat and carrying it as well. So carrying this really bulky coat and also a hardback children's book with a book jacket that I'm trying to be really delicate with so it won't tear (which is why I didn't shove it in a bag or in the stroller). The whole thing was just physically uncomfortable. Then this lady kind of fussed at Peyton because he didn't "let her know" we were behind her when her and her dog were taking up the entire sidewalk. We didn't run her over or anything, of course, she just didn't realize we were there until we got pretty close. He got so irritated with the situation and again, that's so unlike him.

We got to the playground, though, and of course it was totally empty. We played with the kids and slid down the slides ourselves and climbed up them and played in the "bamboo forest" that surrounded them and just sat in the warm sunshine. It was wonderful. We ate a quick snack and headed to ballet.

It was Annie's last class and observation day and I took a bunch of pictures with the big camera and even some videos. Graves behaved so incredibly well. And we gave Miss Patty the children's book I had told her about awhile back and knew I had to get for her when she mentioned her own little girl last week.

I was a little sad to say goodbye to this little piece of Brooklyn that's weekly been a part of our lives for the last six months. I realized last week I would be. I'm not sure if it's because I just love Annie's teacher (a Southern transplant herself) or because I saw how much Annie adored it or because it was our first real goodbye. Or because of those non-baby related hormones. Whatever it was, it was pretty draining. Especially after already having that hit by the bus feeling.

I think some of it has to do with the fact that it's a very permanent, very definite closing of a chapter. While I don't know the extent of how strongly the friendships we've made here will be maintained, I know the important ones will be on some level. I know we'll come back and worship at our old churches, eat dinner with our old friends, and visit our favorite spots. Peyton and I have resolved that we'll visit as frequently as is practical and I know with modern technology, we'll be able to keep up to some degree with our important people and groups.

That's not really the case with Annie's little ballet studio. Tonight we closed the door on that forever. The chaotic waiting area that I used to dread sitting in for an hour with Graves but then became such a special time for just us. The worn out ballet slipper attached to a key that you picked up from a basket to unlock the restroom (shared building, so Brooklyn). The split second strip down from her street clothes to her leotard in the chaotic waiting area that Annie got so skilled at executing. The studio area that was separated by only a curtain so we could hear little girl giggles and classical music (as well as some Cold Play, on occasion), and Miss Patty's kind voice that had such a fancy, proper feel to it when she said "time to begin, my ballerinas in blue!" with almost the pitch of an opera singer. And Miss Patty herself, who I had just recently made friends with and discussed the struggles and joys of city life and who encouraged Annie, and also specifically Graves (she asked several times if he would like to learn when he was big enough), in learning a love of ballet.

I'll probably never see Miss Patty again. Never take the G train two stops and walk down Schermerhorn and do that split second strip down. Never break up a fight over who gets to hold the shoe key. [I mean, unless of course we go home, conceive another child, wait three or so years and move back to Brooklyn where she (or he) then takes ballet from Patty Foster and uses a shoe key for the bathroom and watches her (or his momma) handle the train with three (or so) kids. We've talked about it, actually.]

So it was a sad sort of goodbye, being such a final one.

And being sentimental is pretty much my spiritual gift. Or the curse of Satan. Whichever way you want to look at it.

Awhile after we started walking home Graves began crying and when we asked him what was wrong he said he "didn't get to hug Miss Patty". It broke my heart a little but Peyton sort of scoffed it because he said Graves barely knew her (of course he didn't say that to Graves, just to me). I explained that we had started visiting with her some because we're the last people out of there after Annie's class because I have to get Annie dressed and take them both to the bathroom (part of having a compulsive child means she teetees before she leaves any building with a bathroom). He understood, but he was tired and frustrated and after a good while of moaning, he got on to Graves a bit and then told him he needed to try to take his mind off of it. That's not how I like to handle emotions (distraction) and we had that talk later and Peyton agreed and said in the future he'd engage or step back and let me if he was too frazzled (which I get...sometimes I'm too frazzled and distracting is all I can do). And so that was fine and worked through. But it did leave me a lot more drained.

I also realized tonight that, especially if we stick with homeschooling, it is incredibly INCREDIBLY important that the children's teachers/coaches in extracurriculars are not just good at teaching them a skill but are super encouraging, passionate people who exude kindness and have strong character. That is a tall order, but I have no doubt Jackson is full of people like that. So I learned something new! But still, DRAINED.

And I have cried off and on all night and have such a terrible headache from it. The worst is that I know this is just the beginning of saying goodbye (and of helping our children say goodbye). And that's a little frightening. And draining.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Let's Tell the World: 2014 Slideshow

This year has been amazing, surprising, and life changing. There are not words to do it justice. In my best and biggest dreams, I couldn't envision it this way. It was a joy and a great privilege to call Brooklyn, New York "home" in 2014.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

What December Looks Like In Brooklyn (or In My Heart)

The stocking were hung by the curtain rod with care. We not a ton of time left in the game, it seemed dumb to put more nails in the wall or buy something we knew we wouldn't use in Mississippi, so this. They're always one of my favorite things to put out! 

I realized this blog has been a little neglected. We were in Mississippi most of October, and truth be told, it took most of November for me to get caught up on In the Warm Hold. I'm finally there and I felt like I needed to pay this space some attention. I'm going to pick up my "First Quarter Rewind" posts but since we're actually approaching the fourth and final quarter, I'm going to need a new name for it. I feel like there's a lot of fun stuff I want to share, but before that I think I'm long overdue for a feelings post.

I'm sure it was more than obvious that I loved Summer here. So many things about it made it rank among the best seasons of my life.

September came and it was HARD. It was probably the hardest month I've had here. I think most of that had to do with the fact that we were trying to make a lot of decisions, the most pressing one being how much longer we were going to live here but also a lot of other things that we needed to work out but could really only proceed on to once we made our moving decision. We just talked and talked about things and it was exhausting, to be honest. We knew we wanted to be back in Mississippi by Fall 2015, but we kept debating another Brooklyn Summer. A few months may not seem like a huge deal, but as alluded to, this past Summer was like magic.

October was largely dominated with getting ourselves back to Mississippi, getting Cookie married, enjoying Mississippi and our friends at a sort of frantic pace to get it all in, and then getting ourselves back to Brooklyn. It was also difficult, but so, so enjoyable. And it confirmed for me in a lot of ways the decision we finally had arrived at- which was to move home at the beginning of May.

November seemed to fly past us. If September was the hardest month, I think November felt the quickest. I'm not even sure why. We weren't super busy or anything. I'm sure it was because it took a little while to ease back in and once we did it felt like the month was nearly gone. It was an amazing month overall and it was wonderful to be back in the place we call home for now and just immerse ourselves in it. Toward the end of the month, during and after Thanksgiving, I did get really homesick. Much more so than I had in awhile. It was a good few days of it, but I came out of it eventually.

December seems to have brought a lot to the surface. I'm realizing how fleeting our time here is. I'm trying to take it in even more than I ordinarily do. There are so many times that my throat tightens and tears well up because I realize we're doing something for the last, or only, time.

Some of it is the big stuff- we went to see the balloons being blown up for the Macy's parade the on the eve of Thanksgiving and we're planning to make a special trip into Manhattan to see the big tree at Rockefeller Center. There's a handful of other things like that. But a lot of times it's the more mundane that pulls at my heart like a stubborn little tug-o-war playing child.

Every night- every single night- when I sit down at my computer to blog or email a friend or whatever, I make a point to sit (really sit!) and look at the lights strung around the courtyard. They're those bigger bulbs, about the size of a plum; but shaped more like an avocado, of course; and they're all different colors. In the past that hasn't really been my style exactly, but it's so magical and perfect to me here. They stretch out like a rainbow Candyland gameboard along the different paths that form the courtyard area of the complex. It feels cheerful and festive and beautiful and I love to just sit and be in those moments. I've tried taking a picture through the window and they come out horrible, understandably. I keep meaning to head down there and take some shots and I've promised myself that I will before the 25th.

The one big heart/head thing I have that I can't get to subside (and I know that realistically, it will probably be a long long time before it does) is that literally every day there is at least one moment where I feel either a  powerful homesickness for what (and who) I miss in Mississippi or a poignant heartache for what (and who) we're leaving behind in Brooklyn. The hardest days are when I end up having to navigate both.

I know, in truth, this will probably be the reality of my life for a good while. Probably even after we get back home and settled, I'll deal a lot with the heartache and with a new found homesickness for a place that has been, very truly, HOME for awhile.

I've mentioned, either here or on my other blog that my friend Carrie made the point that just like loving a person, falling in love with a place is a risk. I can think of very few (actually, I can't think of any) times in my life where loving a person wasn't worth the risk to my heart. And Brooklyn has been worth the heart-risk a thousand times over.

I'm so thankful for it.

Even though 2014 is the last full year we will call Brooklyn "home"; Peyton, Annie, Graves, and I will carry little pieces of this adventure in our hearts for the rest of our lives. And that's incredible, and beautiful, and in some ways to me still knock you--out shocking.

I am thankful. I am joyful. And I am home.

For now.

Halloween 2014: Oz Meets Brooklyn and Other Happenings Around the Hill

So I shared this post over on our regular blog a couple of months back. I realized it was such a "New York experience" type post that I wanted it forever in the archives here as well. So ignore the fact that Halloween was a solid six weeks ago!

- It's Fall, y'all! And it's beautiful. Sadly, I don't think it lasts very long up here and I'm fully anticipating it to drop and start snowing soon. My back is already nervous tightening over it.

- Since the temperature has already dropped some,they've turned the heat up super high and now the co-op feels like the geriatric unit it is. I'm not sure I've mentioned it, but I truly think the median age at the place is about seventy two. Which is frustrating when they sit in courtyard and tell security that Graves is playing near a window (that has bars on it!) and when they scold me for not dressing the children properly when it's in the fifties. It's also interesting though because some of the residents have been around the neighborhood (and the building) since twenty or so years ago back when Myrtle Avenue (the cross street the cooperative is located on) was nicknamed "Murder Avenue". Eeek. Makes for some interesting conversations, but you'd think it'd give them a bit of perspective on the status of my kids' fingers (mittened or non-mittened).

- We had a friend over for dinner tonight and the apartment was a bit of a disaster. I've never had company over with my home looking as ill prepared for a guest as it did tonight and CERTAINLY not for a first time guest. It's half way through November nearly and I still haven't gotten out the small amount of Fall decorations I carefully chose to bring. I had a small existential crisis where I questioned my worth as a homemaker upon realizing I'm just maybe not a woman who's given to decorating seasonally. At least not unless I really push myself.

- The guy we had over (a friend of Peyton's from his book club) was so kind and fun to be around. He played with our kids and engaged them so effortlessly and was just a really, really interesting person. I had worked myself up over the visit for several reasons besides just the apartment and I had to remind myself of something our friend Owen told us- "hospitality isn't hospitality unless it's a little bit awkward. Otherwise, it's just doing what you naturally do". I guess maybe that isn't true for EVERYONE like it is for me because some people are really gifted in this area, but honestly I do think if we let Him, the Lord can stretch us all in this way.

- I chuckled to myself a bit recently thinking about the state of our apartment. Growing up, my mom would occasionally call mine or Cookie's room (or my car) a Shit Pit if the state of things got really deplorable. [I, at times, viewed my car as a vehicle for rebellion and trashed it for the sake of trashing it. Because that felt "cool". And safer than having sex or doing drugs.] Anyway, I chuckled because while we were all four in Mississippi for EIGHT days, we left the cats completely unattended. We left a bunch of food and water and also left the toilet open for when the water ran out. Peyton actually got a couple of under the bed storage boxes from Target and filled them with liter and set up stations. I didn't experience it (thankfully!) but of course when he got back, it smelled all kinds of awful. A LITERAL SHIT PIT, guys. I haven't really told this to many people because it seems to horrify them when we do, but do y'all know how much it costs to get your pets babysat in Brooklyn? I don't and I don't want to know. And we didn't want to inconvenience a friend. All things considered, it went well. The cats are a good bit fatter from not having their food portioned, but actually Darth has become FRIENDLY even with the children. I guess the long span of time without human contact helped her realize we aren't all bad and she should maybe work with us to overcome her shyness. After six years of knowing we are good people.

- I have made soup three times in the last two weeks (Winter Soup Challenge, guys!) although the one I made tonight for our guest was a repeat because it was so delicious. It has a block of cream cheese in it. I also made salad dressing that has a cup of sugar in it. But the soup also had chicken and corn and beans and the salad had, you know, lettuce so I felt mostly good about it. Honestly, if it's not a frozen pizza or a peanut butter sandwich, I feel mostly good about it.

- One thing we've been excited about since moving is Halloween. We found our really before we moved, back when we were narrowing down neighborhoods, that Clinton Hill is a really fun place to celebrate the holiday. They close off streets to traffic, have trick or treating at businesses along the main road, and have some really intense decorations and theatrical shows. It was definitely a fun night for all of us!

We decided to go with a Wizard of Oz theme. The kids have never seen the movie, but they have some random Happy Meal toys that we acquired in the oddest, most Herrington way. About a year ago, a friend of ours who lives in Chicago was getting married and Sweet McFrugal decided to drive us and Annie all the way up there (Graves stayed home with Mick and Minnie, but AP was the flower girl) and back over the span of like seventy two hours or so. Anyway, upon stopping once at McDonalds we discovered they had the cutest Wizard of Oz toys that very much resembled Fisher Price Little People, which our kids adore. So, even though we are decidedly not Happy Meal people, we stopped about five more times to try to attain the whole set. We finished up the trip with everyone, excepting the cowardly lion. Anyway, they love them and especially spend a lot of time discussing Wicked Witch, so we decided it would be a good theme. Initially, I was going to let Graves be her and Annie wanted to be Glinda. But I decided I really wanted us to dress up, too, so an old classmate at my high school reunion helped me come up with the ideas for us.

I decided right away to switch Peyton to being Wicked Witch. I Amazon Primed the cape, hat, and face paint at the eleventh hour and it literally came to our door an hour before we were trying to leave. I think the hat was pretty amazing, but the face paint was what sold the outfit. He got lots of compliments. I also think that it makes it more fun and interesting that he's a man than if, say, I did it. Cross dressing witch FTW. 

 Annie wore an old princess dress and a crown I made for her (I think) fourth birthday. She and Peyton also whipped up a wand with some aluminum foil and wooden dowels I happened to have (which are ridiculous forr me to even have since along with failing at cleaning, cooking, and decorating my home I'm not the best at crafting, either). Graves wore a monkey costume we got on sale at Old Navy one year after Halloween for like six dollars. He obviously looks nothing like the monkeys from the movie, but he kept doing his "evil face" and I think he was adorable. Which is what matters most (aside from fun). As a side note, this is when we trick or treated down the Avenue formerly known as Murder. It was super fun to go by all the businesses. The one issue I had was with a mother who kept (loudly) voicing her opinion about the audacity of adults who were not in costume and were collecting candy. Um, how about adults don't get candy with or without a costume? That's how we play, anyway. A few minutes later I heard her tell her kid she'd "f*ck him up" over some kind of misbehavior, so at that point I really knew we weren't on the same page.

I was Dorothy's sparkly red shoe. Graves was adamant about telling people I was not DOROTHY, I was her SHOE. Anyway, I brought back one of Minnie's flapper dresses from Mississippi. This thing is literally forty years old. It's been around since probably before the crack epidemic even hit Myrtle. It served me well. Peyton also commented on my headband thing I purchased. He loved it and I told him I was planning to wear it in real life on ordinary days. He said that wow, my style had really evolved. Um...I guess the new (short! dark!) hair, the glasses that fit right in at the geriatric unit, and the piece of mental in my nose didn't give that away?!? Glad the sparkly headband did. And yes, I realize that I look way more Great Gatsby than Wizard of Oz, but I just didn't know how to more effectively execute a shoe costume. 

Peyton really got more pictures of the neighborhood, but if you have a brownstone, by all means you should set up a little jack-o-lantern menagerie in your front garden. 

Upon returning home, Annie promptly changed into her Christmas jams. Apparently, P's store did something similar because they have stacks of Santa Skittles and we got probably fifteen pounds of Halloween candy for thirty cents a bag. Also, Peyton fell asleep in that face paint. Possibly more disgusting than his shit pit idea of not boarding the cats. 

Probably my favorite picture from the night. He looks genuinely terrifying. Annie looks sweet and happy. And his little evil monkey helper is under the cape :)

These days are some of the best and I'm glad for these people to laugh and goof through them together with me. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Sunday in the City

Truly He taught us to love one another, 
His law is love and His gospel is peace. 
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother. 
And in his name all oppression shall cease.

This past Sunday was possibly my very favorite Sunday since we've lived here (which is saying a whole lot).

It reminded me of how INCREDIBLY worth it, despite a lot of transit time and a lot of effort (particularly on the weekends that I'm by myself with the kids), it is to be part of two communities of faith. Our two churches here meet very different needs and both are so very important to us.

This morning we worshiped with our TGC Crown Heights friends. It is a very diverse congregation, very dedicated to social justice while never placing it before the Gospel. There was a lot of talk about celebrating the newborn baby while also exalting the man on the cross. The sermon spoke to the importance of these things in spite of the recent events that have our (can I call it our? I always hesitate to do that) city hurt and broken. There was a palpable collective grief, evidenced powerfully when our pastor's voice broke a few times. And the conversation I had with a dear friend after the service is one I will take with me wherever we live for the rest of my life.

This evening we attended a wonderful candlelight service at a beautiful historic church (Saint George's) in Manhattan that we are also very proud to claim. The priest started his meditation quoting the stanza of "O Holy Night" above and preached on our great hope in the midst of pain and sadness. How the eternal became temporal so the temporal could be eternal and what great hope lies in just that there.

This year (and specifically this season) has not been without hardship. But it has been inexplicably worth it. And so much of it's worth comes from these two bodies of believers we are so blessed to be a part of.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Love and Barbecue (and Farm Animals and Block Parties)

If you saw my post yesterday, you know that this August saw me reflecting a lot on last August, specifically mine and Peyton's trip to the city. Over the Summer I had several special moments where we visited places that we had visited on that trip or experienced things we'd experienced on the trip and it just stirred up a lot of emotion. We've done plenty of things here that we also did on the trip- Central library, the Brooklyn Flea, the farmer's market. None of it has seemed terribly special, so I'm not sure why these things did. Maybe it's just because I was more focused on it, being that our trip was exactly a year ago. Maybe I've been extra sentimental about the city lately, realizing more fully has short our time here really will be. Or maybe these just really were very special memories from last year and now I've created new special ones this year. 

Nearly a year ago- last August- Peyton and I sat at these outdoor tables under the sign and looked out, a bit enchanted, at the area of sectioned off street with tables and trees; the gorgeous architecture; and the lively and charming people who passed by. That day, we had taken our first breaths in Kings County. We had been to the Brooklyn Flea and the Farmers' Market at Fort Greene Park. We tentatively said we very much loved it. And little did we know, it was the slow beginning of giving our hearts to a place. It was good to be back there several weeks ago, sitting in the street and eating BBQ, with the other two people I love most in the world.

I mentioned this in my post yesterday, but our co-op has a block party each Summer and it's one of the things that sold us on the neighborhood. Of course we had no idea we'd actually wind up living in the co-op and actually participating in the thing. It was just a good taste of the dynamic of the neighborhood. Well, this year's rolled around and it was great to be part of the party instead of just an observer. It reminded me of all the things I love about Clinton Hill- its diversity, its laid back vibe, its lack of pretension, and it exuberance

When we were here looking at neighborhoods during the trip, I teared up little when we saw this playground because I knew Graves would love the farm theme. It took us this long to get back there, but some things haven't changed a bit with sweet Bud. 

It's so incredible to see these things from the perspective I have now!