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.