The Art in Us

08292013 maya mess

Last week I had an informational interview with a recruiter.

I took my notes home and read and re-read them.  Talked it over with my hubs.  At first, I thought he was being a Debbie-downer and I felt discouraged.  Then I realized he was just getting me to think.  It’s good when our partners challenge us; make us a little uncomfortable.  David just wants the best for me– for our family– for us.  I’m realizing lately that it’s when I’ve been the most uncomfortable that the best comes out of me.  The canvas comes alive and the art I create is more vibrant, clear and beautiful.  No, I’m no artist by any traditional sense of the word.  I’m talking about my life– how I live it– all of it is art.

I’ve also learned to celebrate the season I’m in.  Even though I’ve always wanted to be a full time mama, the last nine months have been surprisingly fulfilling.  I live in an area of the country where everyone works incessantly, often into the wee hours of the night.  Call it good or bad, imbalanced or hard-working, that’s just the way it is here!  So when gifted with the SAHM gig, at first I thought I might feel out of place not working outside the home.  I wondered if I would feel awkward meeting people and not having a glamorous answer to the inevitable “what do you do?!” question.  But I can’t pretend not to love it; I do.  I love being home with my girl.  And I celebrate the gift of being able to do it right now.  This– this is the art I’m creating right now.

I love how Emily Freeman from Chatting at the Sky puts it:

The first thing we know about God is that he made art. The first the we know about people is we were made in the image of an art-making God.

Now when I read quotes like this: If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough! I am still inspired, but I also now know the size of our dreaming isn’t the point.

The size of our God is.

Christ’s pursuit of me is more important than my pursuit of anything else.

I don’t care if you’re the President or the janitor – your ability to bring glory to God by simply being the person you fully are and embracing the job you’ve been given to do is a uniquely human privilege.

Christ is in you and he wants to come out through you in a way he won’t come out through anyone else. You have been given your two hands, your sick parents, your rotting back door. You have been given your extra deadlines, your diagnosis, the children at your table.

But you have also been given your sense of humor, your skill for writing, your passion to bring light to dark places. You have been given a heart for orphans, for animals, for food or for the poor.

You have been given your life, what you hold in your hands, the ground beneath your feet. You have been asked to show up. How do I know? Because you were born. Show up as you are, not as you think you ought to be.

Don’t run from your calling, no matter what it is.

There isn’t one great thing you were made to do. There is one great God you were made to glorify.

Throughout your life, you’ll do that in a million little ways.

~Emily Freeman, A Million Little Ways

This is Urban Hallelujah.

It’s our mantra, our cry, our prayer, our laughter.  It’s our breath.  One great God we were meant to glorify, for whatever season we’re in, through whatever job we have, in whatever city/suburb we live.

The art we create is vastly different from each other, but art nonetheless!

Our circumstances change but the God of the universe doesn’t.  He allows us to experience each season and provides a way, a home, the money, the meal…  The everything.

The ultimate artist paints the perfect picture of our lives with the clearest of intentions.

And the informational interview?  That’s just a little something I’m playing around with, a little doodling on my art pad. 🙂

What art will you create today?  What story is your canvas painting?  Whatever it may be, look at it as art.  It’s beautiful.  Thanks for reading. 🙂

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Looking Back

imageThis week marks 6 months that my family has been living in Manhattan…

6 months that will go down in history as some of the most challenging and exciting months of my entire life!

-Since moving to to the city, I went from living in a 4 bedroom house in the suburbs, to a one bedroom apartment in the middle of the insanity that is New York City!

And while our living space is 1/3 of the size that it used to be,  our rent and grocery budget has easily doubled!

-We got rid of both cars, and nearly all our possessions – even down to our dog, grade school yearbooks and christmas tree – and are now limited to keeping the little we still possess to one tiny coat closet off the living room.

-We have transitioned from my husband working what would have been considered a flexible schedule, to that of a grueling ‘6 day a week, every week’ schedule, thus teaching me to navigate life and parenting without him always around.

-I also have found a super-human physical strength in myself that I never knew existed, being that I am now one of the many Manhattan Mommies that can carry my 2 year old, sitting in her stroller, with the diaper bag filled with enough snacks to keep an entire eskimo family fed through the winter, up and down up to 20 flights of subway stairs!Take that, Jillian Michaels!

And the look of astonishment on tourists faces, always serves as the perfect reminder that even I, didn’t know something like that was physically possible! Until I moved to NYC, that is…

image-I am also proud to say that I have memorized all the Upper East Side and Upper West Side streets!

…And can now make perfect sense of the subway map!

-I have learned how to use the subway, bus, Metro North, New Jersey Transit, and PATH train. That’s 5 methods of transportation, covering 2 states in 6 months!

…and occasionally you can even find me giving a tourist or two some PHENOMENAL directions! 😉

– Not to mention, I can now walk wicked fast, even for a girl with short legs!

Since moving to New York City, I can barely recognize the person I used to be!

Growing up I was paralyzed by perfection.

In elementary school, I spent PE class hiding in the bathroom while the rest of my class played kickball, for fear that I would let my team down. I can remember sitting at my desk, endlessly ripping sheet after sheet of paper out of my notebook, so that I could start over when my handwriting wasn’t neat enough.

I also falsely believed my outer beauty was directly correlated with perfectly curled hair, flawless nails that coordinated with my outfit, and high heels.  And that the best way I could adequately show my love for my family, was by making every meal homemade and slaving in the kitchen for hours.

Since moving to New York however, I’ve had to let go of the expectations I unknowingly, seemed to have placed on myself over the years…

For one, my kitchen is tiny, and any meal I make is sure to set off the fire alarm!

And even on my best days, my curled hair wont be flawless by the time I take the 3 trains it takes to get to my desired location!

Not to mention, heels are entirely out of the question!

Growing up I also was surprisingly dependent.

I would definitely still categorize myself as independent, but until moving here, I never realized how dependent I was on the men in my life.

Throughout my childhood, my Dad was always there when I needed him; voluntarily calling the mechanic for me when my car broke down in college -and if we are honest, probably paying for it!  My husband than took over the reigns once we got married, and I relied on him to do everything from calling for takeout, putting gas in my car, taking out the trash and going with me to every one of my daughter’s doctors appointments.

In our new lives however, with my husbands new schedule and responsibilites, I have spent the better part of our time here, braving New York City alone.

Learning how to navigate life with a toddler without a car, how to get my laundry done without a washer and dryer, and learn how to get my groceries up ‘the stairs of death’ without dislocating my back or having my toddler lock me out of the apartment!

It literally felt like someone dropped me and my daughter ‘Hunger Games style’ from a Hovercraft into some foreign land- a place where the languages are different, the people are meaner, and literally everything is a trillion times more difficult!

My Dad called a couple months ago and laughed at my newfound life “ Krista, you realize as a child you struggled to order your own food at a restaurant? And now look at you! You are jetsetting around New York City!”

My 16 year old brother put it a little less kindly when he blatantly called me out, “No really… how are you surviving?”

By the grace of God, my friend, by the grace of God… 😉

In the last 6 months, I have been stretched farther than I thought could ever be possible-

and yet, I have to say, I am empowered!

I feel privileged to know that I COULD BE stretched that far, and even more honored that HE WOULD stretch me that far!

And although all my earthly possessions fit in a mere 650 square feet-

my heart is unexplainably full!

In Matthew 19:27-30 Peter asks Jesus

“See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?”

Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you… everyone who has left houses, or brothers and sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold…”

Just like in this verse, I feel like I have sacrificed it all!  Often times even questioning God the same way Peter did; inquiring if there could possibly be anything left…

And yet, like I said, there is no denying that my heart is unexplainably full just like He promised!

And I can assure you its not just because NYSYNC reunited! Although, that definitely doesn’t hurt… 😉

In John 10:10 the Lord goes on to outline His purpose as wanting to ‘give us a rich and satisfying life’

We like the sound of that don’t we? “Rich and satisfying…”

Our thoughts jump to winning the lottery; buying a penthouse suite complete with a chefs kitchen, and floor to ceiling windows overlooking Central Park, with a doorman named Alfred, that greets you with a “Good morning m’ Lady!” and who regularly insists on bringing up my groceries, refusing a tip!

Or maybe that’s just me… 

And yet after poring over this verse for the last couple days – knowing that my heart is full, but tossing around whether I consider my life to be the rich and satisfying life the Lord talks about – I realized that if we were to talk about ‘rich and satisfying’ as it pertains to food, the meaning would change almost entirely!

A rich and satisfying meal doesn’t always mean you have endless amounts of food – or even the highest quality food for that matter – a rich and satisfying meal is one that leaves us full, with no need for even a bite more! Complete fulfillment.

There are times where we are ravenous, and it takes much more to keep us satisfied, but even then it doesn’t take grass-fed filet mignon seared to perfection by Chef Curtis Stone to do the trick! The simplest beans can satisfy even the emptiest of bellies.

Other times its a small taste of the richest velvety cheesecake, that is just enough pure bliss to hold us over to the next oppertunity to indulge.

As I look back on the last 6 months, there have indeed been moments – small bites – of pure bliss in my new life in Manhattan, and times where I have ate my fill of the greatest experiences…

And then there have been days where I have ate my fair share of beans – day in and day out – until I was blue in the face!

Even then, I have never been less than satisfied!

Haha, Ok, that’s a horrible analogy… But the point is, my heart is full, and I am in need of nothing more.

Do I have wants? Bet your bottom dollar, I do! But my greatest needs are covered, which leads me to believe that I indeed DO have a rich and satisfying life! Or at the very least, am headed in the right direction of obtaining one…

imageLooking back on my time in NYC, causes me to feel overwhelmed to the point of tears; remembering all the sacrifices that had to be made, all the fears that had to be worked through in the middle of the night, and the excuses that had to be put aside.

The conscious decision I had to make, to stop hiding in the bathroom when there was adventure to be had, and to tear down the walls that I had barricaded myself against for so long in the name of ‘what was within my comfort zone’ !

To be willing to fail miserably, venture out alone and get beautifully lost in the process!

It’s only been 6 months, but I can barely recognize the person I used to be!

And the truth is, I think that’s exactly what the Lord intended! 🙂

Krista Signature

***Thanks for listening to me reminisce, and for being an encouragement just by reading! Thanks to those of you who have rooted for me, laughed with me, cried with me, and for those who have bravely shared their own amazing journeys with me along the way!

I truly value each and every one of you!

Something Weird

08222013 subway station

Last week was…  Well, let’s just say it was weird.

I saw a man pushing a stroller… Without any kid in it.  Up and down our street he went.  I thought about calling 911, but then I didn’t want to be one of those people who call 911 because their cable went out.  So I just thought to myself, that was weird.

I went to look at two potential new places to live.  Both were duplex/apartment type homes and neither had a “living room.”  Both had oddly long hallways with doors.  I picked a door, and it was a bedroom.  Picked another door, and it was a bathroom.  Picked another, and oh.  I guess it was the “living room”?  This is so weird!  I thought as I kept picking doors and opening them.

I went on the subway.  Nothing eventful happened.  We hung out with Krista in the city and had a marvelous time watching our girls love each other and play with Gia’s kitchen.  Open the oven door, stuff in as many toys as they can, close the door and then open it again only to have toys spill out all over the ground.  Maya was in pure heaven playing with her best friend.  My heart melted.  Krista made homemade chicken noodle soup and we talked like best friends talk.  I left feeling so happy, encouraged and grateful for their friendship.  On the way home, however, I got off the subway and something eventful did happen.  I saw a man get beaten with a stick!

I had walked down the subway stairs through the door to the street.  A gentleman was politely selling incense under a tree in the sun.  Others were trying to sell limo or taxi rides.  That wasn’t weird, that’s just the Bronx.  I crossed the street with my girl and passed a group of people waiting for the bus.  I texted David so he knew where to pick us up.  I took Maya’s hand and we walked towards the end of the street, away from the crowded bus stop.

I remember thinking to not go too far away from everyone, since you never know what can happen and witnesses are always a good thing, right?  So we headed back, slowly, since Maya isn’t quite the fastest on her feet yet.  I decided to stop in front of a convenience store and sit on the little curb right outside while we waited for David.  I saw a white SUV roll up, and for a moment I thought David had arrived.  But then a man and a woman got out and began walking towards the bus stop.  There was an urgency to their step, even though she was in heels and dressed up.  I dug around in my bag for a snack when I heard the first whack.

Suddenly I looked up and the man who’d just gotten out of the white SUV was hitting a guy at the bus stop with a baton!  He was beating him badly.  The guy was on the ground, alone– everyone else at the bus stop must have retreated.  He was bleeding.  The man gave him one final blow on the head and then he and the woman got into the car and peeled away.

As it was happening I thought about calling 911.  I mean this definitely wasn’t for the cable going out or anything, right?!  But I also happened to be right in front of this guy’s getaway car and I didn’t want him even noticing me on my phone at all.  I looked away and pretended to be oblivious as they got in the car and left.  Maya had no idea what had just happened; she continued to waive and smile at people on the street.

Two minutes later, David arrived.  Everyone was back at the bus stop, and everyone was on their phone.  911 I bet, I thought as I made a beeline for David’s car.  The beaten man had gotten up and taken off his shirt to wipe up the blood.  I tried not to look.  I felt out of place.  This is so weird, I thought.  And so horribly sad.

Weird because I never felt scared.  It happened way too fast.

Weird because I never called 911.  Maybe that’s not weird, maybe it’s just mean.  I feel guilty about not calling.

Weird because no one helped.  Not me, not anyone.  The crowded bus stop was immediately deserted.

Weird because for some crazy reason, it felt like this might be normal here– like this might not be the worst this subway stop has ever seen…

I wondered what the story was.  Was it drug or gang related?  Could it be an overprotective brother acting on behalf of his betrayed sister?  Was it a jealous lover?  Was it the mafia (I know, I’m getting carried away at this point!)?  It just seemed so weird, so sad.. So awful all at once.  One minute it’s a normal day in the Bronx at a bus stop, the next minute you’re getting beaten to a bloody pulp.  What?!

And you know what?

That man who was beaten and the man who did the beating need a savior…

…And before you think I’m totally judgmental, just know that at that moment I realized that as much as they need one, by the same measure I do too. 

Sobering, isn’t it?

A few months ago at church our pastor was talking about the chaplain who led Jeffrey Dahmer to Christ.  Talk about weird– this guy ate people and was a serial killer!  The chaplain explained that he was asked the same questions about Jeffrey over and over again.  “Was he really saved?  Was he sincere?”  He went on to say that many times he felt as if people didn’t want to believe that Jeffrey could have actually changed and seemed to be looking for a way to reject him as a brother in Christ.  I’m not gonna lie…  I understand that.  It’s a hard pill to swallow– that I need Jesus as much as Jeffrey Dahmer does.  But I need him just the same.  I need Him.

Was Jeff saved? Were his sins taken away? Is he a Christian believer? Did he repent of his sins? Or was the blood of Christ shed on the cross somehow too weak, too thin, too anemic to cover his sins?

~Roy Ratcliff, Dark Journey, Deep Grace

The gospel is weird.  It is uncomfortable.  It welcomes thieves on a cross, serial killers and beaten men at bus stops.  And the same gospel says I need a savior too.  Even after I feel good about reading my morning “devotional” (which is just christianese for ‘bible’ or ‘journal’ or ‘spiritual-book-with-verses-in-it) I blow up at my husband over nothing and am harsh with my little girl for spilling juice.  And although I didn’t beat up anyone, I am just as in need of a savior as they.

The gospel is weird.  In the most amazing of ways.

He came for all.

For you.

For me.

For men at bus stops.

And even for those who don’t have living rooms and push empty strollers.  🙂

 

Rachel Signature2

Though Much is Taken, Much Abides

imageLet’s see if you can relate to the week I just had-

My family has had an ongoing cash reward for whoever finds the missing sippy cup, that was filled with milk, and got misplaced 3 weeks ago…

and this week we found it!

Although I wouldn’t categorize what we found as looking like ‘milk’ anymore – or tasting like milk for that matter – by the look of my daughter’s face when she took a swig! – Praise Jesus.

I also got in my first ‘NYC style argument’ with my husband, and am now fully aware of the problems it poses; because when you are exceedingly annoyed with nearly everyone in existence, and you live in a 650 sq ft apartment in Manhattan, and your daughter is sleeping in your one and only bedroom, and your husband is watching sports in the living room…

the only place left to retreat is the bathroom….

and the only place to sit in the bathroom, is the toilet!

Definitely not my most glamorous exit-in-a-fit-of-rage-to-prove-my-point scenario!

But I probably deserved it since my newfound New York attitude had me out of character and spitting off attitude that had me groveling endlessly the next day.

Then my sunglasses broke!

And my daughter woke up an hour early every. single. day.

Screaming!

I also got so lost in Central Park that even google maps couldn’t pinpoint the trail that I was on, and I broke my dining room table chair when I sat down to eat dinner  (which I don’t have to tell you is upsetting for more reason than one!)

And after a long night of having nightmares of mice. ..specifically mice getting their back legs stuck in the sticky traps I layed out and dragging their bodies still attached to the traps, by their front paws, squealing as they make their way towards my bedroom… The next morning, I sit down groggy and disoriented, my morning cup of coffee in one hand, and flipping through the latest Martha Stewart magazine with the other.

I pore over her promising tips on which grain will help lure your “ideal bird” to come eat of the $40 bird house you have in your spacious back yard that you had landscaped to look like a Japanese Garden. And continue reading, to consider her recipe for ‘Pork with Pears and Parsnips’ that she vows will make all your dinner party guests swoon…

Really Martha?

I don’t even know what a Parsnip is.

And I secretly kind of want to punch you in your face!

So after a long week of being taunted by Martha, trapped in the bathroom, and pleading endlessly with my daughter to STEP. AWAY. FROM. THE. MILK CUP!!!!!  Naturally, the only thing that would suffice in reversing the trauma of this past week – other than therapy, of course – would be to dim the lights, and take a candle lit, lavender scented bubble bath where finally, I can be alone with my thoughts!

Oh to dream…

because our bathtub is broke!

Sigh. Only in New York City….

I doubt it’s any surprise to all of you who have been reading these past few months- but since starting this blog and writing out my thoughts each week, I have truly realized how despicably human I am! It seems like every week I am in desperate need of an attitude adjustment – a ‘Come to Jesus Moment’ if you will!

So after a week like that, I did what I thought would put me in my place, and I opened up my bible.

I read about Noah, and how out of obedience to God he built an ark…

I read about Abraham, and how even after he reached the land God had promised him, that ‘he was like a foreigner, living in tents’ -and I laughed, because boy can I ever relate to that now that I live in NYC!

But believe it or not, it was once I closed my bible and instead, got on Facebook, that the Lord truly spoke to my discontent and weary heart!

And I can thank my friend Christina for that!

Christina and I have been friends for a little over 3 years. And in the short time that I have known her, she has been the picture of  immeasurable strength and courage! A true example of what it looks like to possess true happiness;  the kind that isn’t dependent on outside forces.

Christina is a dear friend to me, and yet I have only met her face to face twice.

It’s complicated, but I think Christina’s words to me best describe our friendship:

I know we’ve hardly ever met, but something about you and your husband is special to me, I don’t know how to describe it. Sometimes people are put in our lives at just the right time.

You and Ricky reminded me what it was to be young and in love, and inspired me with your posts, just when I needed a boost. So it always seemed like a friendship.

In our mere 3 year Facebook friendship, she was one of the very first people to ‘like’ our ultrasound picture the day we announced that we were expecting a baby. And still to this day, I can remember the heartfelt message she sent the day we brought our precious little baby girl home with us from the hospital – no doubt reminiscing herself, of the day when she did the same with each of her own children.

Even when my husband and I humorously bickered back and forth, or posted borderline cruel pictures of each other on Facebook, she seemed to instantly get our sense of humor and was always sure to intergect her playfulness and wisdom – which of course, always pointed towards me being right!

She was always so genuinely happy for us, and I couldn’t understand it. I almost felt unworthy of the overwhelming kindness she never failed to flood us with!

Still to this day, she is one of the only strong friendships I’ve had on Facebook, with someone I’ve nearly never got to spend time with in person!

But like Christina said, “Sometimes people are put in our lives just at the right time.”

That was proven, when throughout my father in-law’s battle with cancer her constant presence was there; leaving encouraging messages of high hopes and support, and offering an understanding few others could give…

because she too, was in the fight of her life!

We watched as she battled stage four breast cancer, and as the fiery red curls that had once cascaded down her back, fell out…

But she was never anything less than captivatingly!

We read her vulnerable posts expressing the immense physical pain she was under…

But she stayed courageously hopeful!

There were times when she was candid, and raw; vocally standing up to the cancer that kept knocking her down…

But her graciousness and compassion never wavered!

There were small victories, where we all rooted enthusiastically for her from the sidelines,

And there was heartbreaking lows, that had us in tears on the other end of the computer screen.

imageAfter an extensive battle, it was decided that all treatment would stop and that she would enter hospice.

Once again, she would take us all by surprise, when – the day the heartbreaking plan was announced – she changed her Facebook profile picture to one similar to this;

Life is good.

And there it remains still to this day!

Looking back on her posts, I read one from January 1, 2013

I’m feeling pretty good today, on and off,  the best I’ve been for awhile.

I got to witness some great acts of love and holiday spirit. I live for those, you know…

A good and happy day where I can type, are few and farther now, so I celebrate them.

Thank you all for the happiness and love and great visits and chats. Thanks, so many thanks.

6 days later Christina passed away.

As I almost ‘studied’ her last facebook status, I was overwhelmed with shame -imagining the magnitude of the pain she had suffered over the course of those last two years-

Her ability to describe a “good and happy day” as one where she can merely type!

Embarrassed, I thought back to the last few days of this week, where upon my husband returning home from work, I could barely muster up the words to describe my day as anything more than “difficult”

Why, because my living room floor is an endless sea of books and toys?

Or because as a stay at home mom, my lack of reasons to get out of my pajamas and put on makeup in the morning, often leaves me to question my worth?

Or the fact that I am up to my neck in errands that need to be run, behavior issues that need to be handled, and baths that need to be given – and re-given when fuchsia frosting is found, and my daughter looks like a real life ‘Pinkalicious’!  

Not to mention the looming responsibility of making a ‘homemade meal’ that by society’s standard should be prepared with love (and preferably organic with no GMO’S), and conveniently being pulled from the oven at the exact moment my husband walks through the front door- Inconvenient for me however, because this is also around the time that I’m nearly at my wits-end and about .04 of a tantrum away from having one myself!

Christina reminded me however, that no matter how real these feelings can be at times, one thing is certain- I don’t know ‘difficult’!

My heart sank, as I realized that if SHE was able to speak out of such sincere gratitude when she was facing ultimately, the greatest loss – her life! – Then what on god’s green earth was MY excuse?

This week, Christina taught me a valuable lesson that both Noah and Abraham combined couldn’t have breathed into these lifeless lungs!

I need to celebrate life!

Celebrate till my last breath the way Christina did!

Celebrate that fact that even the dingiest apartment can be made ‘homey’ with vanilla scented candles, early morning giggles under the covers, and freshly baked bread on the stove.

And that the husband I may feel like doesn’t see eye to eye with me every second of every day, is still the only man on the face of this planet that can give me butterflies!

Celebrate that even on the most tiring of days, with my daughter cuddled up in my arms, all the tantrums, timeouts, and snotty noses, melt away in the name of snuggles and bedtime stories.

imageEven when my frustration mounts, and the endless people and pandemonium of NYC gets to be too much, I can celebrate the beauty of it from across the river, allowing just enough space to fall in love with it all over again!

Christina is right,  it’s most definitely ‘a good and happy day’ !

Life is good.

And we’ve been waiting way too long to celebrate it!

Though much is taken, much abides;

And though we are not now that strength which in old days

Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;

One equal temper of heroic hearts,

Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

-Alfred Tennyson, as posted by Christina’s husband throughout her battle with cancer.

Krista Signature

Ready or Not, It’s Coming

08152013 fall

Last week, I felt fall in the air.

I was sitting on the porch one early morning with my coffee in hand.  David was out for his run and I was reading.  It was a morning like many others, however this morning I felt it.  Maybe it was the slightly cooler temperatures or the rustling of the wind through the trees.  Perhaps it was the sight of a pair of boots gracing the advertisements in my US Weekly (guilty pleasure!  Ha!) or the sight of the pumpkins beginning to grow on the side yard (thanks for planting them Mama!).  Whatever it was, I felt it.

A week later, it’s hot again and humid.  The rain has poured the last few hours but in that tropical, stormy kind of way.  Mostly the sun has been shining and the sky has been what we’d call in my last job “perfect flying weather.”  Thank goodness!  I’m nowhere near ready for summer to be over.  Even still, I can feel it.

Ready or not, Fall is coming.

It’s weird, I know.  I feel oddly in-tune with the seasons.  And I absolutely love the feeling of fall.

To me, fall has hope in the air.  Anticipation.  Excitement.  I’m motivated and ready to work hard.  I’ve always thought goal season really should be in the fall, not in January!  I’m ready to jump in full force after a summer of long, warm days.  Fall represents a blank slate and a fresh start to me.  It’s like a brand new beginning.  Kind of like moving, but not as scary or exhausting!  It’s a time to get back into routine, enjoy cozy nights at home and bring out all those amazing scents like vanilla, cinnamon and apples.

I’m so looking forward to my first northeastern fall!

My favorite thing about fall, though, is just being home.  Summers for us are usually jam packed with either travel or visitors, and while we absolutely love all of that, there’s something special about just being home.  I love how Ina Garten puts it in her cookbook:

A good home should gather you up in its arms like a warm cashmere blanket, soothe your hurt feelings, and prepare you to go back out into that big bad world tomorrow all ready to fight the dragons.

I’m basically a nester.  All day long, I feel as though I’m batting back the baseballs that are being hurled at me: decisions to make, places to go, cranky people to deal with…and when I come home, I want my house to feel serene and beautiful, like the way you feel when you get into a bed piled high with down pillows: you’re safe.  Jeffrey and I have moved many times in the years we’ve been married and though we’ve always had a house (or at least an apartment), I’ve never been comfortable until I’ve made it a home.

~Barefoot Contessa at Home (p. 12)

You know what?  I do feel at home here.  It’s weird because it’s a comfortableness that I know is temporary.  We don’t plan on living in New Jersey forever, but we also don’t know how long we’ll be here so we’ve jumped right in as if we’ll be here indefinitely.  I’m comfortable with that– with not knowing.  All the more reason to embrace the season we’re in and truly make our home a refuge and rest.

My home is wherever Jeffrey is… (p.5)

After many years and lots of houses, we moved to the east end of Long Island.  I’ll never forget New Year’s Day 1985.  For the previous seven years, I’d owned a specialty food store in Westhampton Beach called Barefoot Contessa.  Jeffrey and I were driving into East Hampton that day to see the new space that I had rented.  As we drove down Montauk Highway on that bright, chilly morning through the double allee of ancient sycamore trees whose branches reach elegantly across the highway, past the picturesque town pond with ducks and swans, around the historic Mulford Farm with its perfectly preserved building dating back to the seventeenth century,, I remember thinking that I was really, finally, home.

Twenty years later, I look back on that day and smile.  When you find a chair that’s comfortable, you just know it.  That’s how I feel about the place I live.  I can’t imagine being happier anywhere else. (p.14)

I don’t know when I’ll actually get the feeling of being really, finally home.  I guess I’ve always thought that would be when we eventually move back to California.  But my home is where David and Maya are and I can’t imagine being happier anywhere else than with them, here in New Jersey right now.  After surviving Oregon’s rain, I realized I can live anywhere as long as David and Maya are there. 🙂

As fall approaches, and the ovens turn on, squash hits the produce stands, we again roast our veggies and drink pumpkin spice lattes, I’m excited to spend more time at home.  It’s ironic since we’ll be moving in anywhere from 2-6 months, so I’m not sure where home will physically be, but I have the two people I love the most in the world and home will always will be where they are.

I can feel it.  Fall’s a comin’!  You’ll know where to find me when it does get here… I’ll be home. 🙂

Rachel Signature2

A Day in the Life

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I hear it all the time-

“Before I read your blog, I always thought Manhattan was so glamorous!” 

The truth is, Manhattan IS so glamorous!

… And then it isn’t.

It’s true, we walk the same streets as the rich and famous – or are lucky enough to see Tom Selleck outside our apartment window!!! <—- It happened. And for the record, I may never be the same!

We have our weekly bible studies in places like Whole Foods where you can literally watch celebrities buying their weekly granola and almond milk (Only if you are watching though -which of course you are NOT because you are wholly immersed in the Word Of God! 😉 )

We also picnic in Central Park, and kick back on our friends rooftop decks drinking sparkling water as the sun sets over the city.  Ok, that’s a total over-exaggeration, but it sounded cool! 

Even still, there is an entirely different, MUCH less glamorous – yet, completely intriguing – side to living in this city! One, some of my ‘fancier’ Manhattan friends might not want you to know about!

Like the fact that I nearly broke our tv remote last night when I chucked it at a mouse in my living room!

A mouse, that is nothing compared to the size of the RATS that I see in the subway Every. Single. Day!!

Or that I once saw a homeless man peeing into a soda can as I exited the train one morning!

Not my proudest collection of moments, that’s for sure….

But all that to say, I’ve decided to create an ongoing blog topic called “A Day In The Life” where from time to time,  I will attempt to capture the nitty gritty of what real life looks like in Manhattan, and even the abnormal way us city folk do some of the most normal things! All the things I can assure you, that us Manhattanites aren’t posting on our Facebook’s for the world to see!

This week I will show you how we do Costco!

And if you thought the method for shopping at Costco was pretty universal, well than Blimey! Tis’ wrong you’d be my dear!

Sorry, I have been watching waaaay too many Downton Abby reruns this week!

In Manhattan- the young, fabulous, and car-less, have to be a whole lot more creative when it comes to taking part in the surplus of underpriced bulk goodness that is Costco!

And while it’s not necessarily as easy as it once was, it is nevertheless, just as worth it!

So let the journey begin!

Once the hubby gets home from work, we walk a block with the little one in one hand, and our Costco reusable bags in the other!

image … and then another block and a half!
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Then we wait at the bus stop, and I sneak a couple quick pics of this sweet little girl, who by the looks of it is the only person excited to ride the bus tonight! (What’s not pictured however, is that I look like a mule; carrying all the snacks, diapers, and toys needed to KEEP that smile on her face!)image

Then we ride the bus;  and I whisper promises of gooey turkey provolone sandwiches and hot dogs the size of newborn babies to my daughter and husband, to keep them both sitting nice and acting well-behaved during our 20 minute ride!
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Once we get off the bus, it’s another 2 blocks…

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Until we finally reach our destination!!!

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Then we shop just as you would.

But when we come across Double Stuf Oreos, a moment like that in Manhattan, literally demands you stop everything you are doing and break out in an interpretive dance to symbolize your gratitude to the Nabisco Gods for all the double chocalety goodness that they have so graciously bestowed upon you!

Because in Manhattan, those cookies – which my husband would argue are essential to living a happy and fulfilling life – are quite the luxury around here at nearly $6 a package at our local grocery store!

So after living a tragic six months without even a single Double Stuf Oreo, this is one extremely happy man!

What I refuse to tell you though, is how many boxes we bought…

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And you know it’s been a job well done, when your cart is filled to the top, nearly $300 has been spent, and that cute little toddler from yester-year has turned into unrecognizable arm flailing, head spinning demon in the laundry detergent aisle!

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And after you’ve checked out, this is where those handy dandy reusable bags come in!

Because while living in NYC means you have nearly everything at your fingertips, I have learned that customer service isn’t one of them- so pack up yo’ own bags Busta’!

And if you want some of those shipment boxes that Costco is so known for packing your purchases in, then its your responsibility to sift through a mountain of leftover boxes that are in the corner waiting to be recycled, and do it yourself!

Oh suburbia, how I miss thee….
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Upon leaving Costco, there are cars lined up outside waiting to take us ‘city peeps’ back to our apartment! They help you load up the car, and drive you home for a flat rate.  Awesomeness!

As for my husband, this is about the time he started not being super enthusiastic about me following him around with a camera.  Like he has a new-found street cred to uphold or something? Whatev’s…

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Then we head home!

And yes, my daughter is sitting in the car without a carseat! GASP!

I know my mother is probably having a heart attack right now, but know matter how truly alarming it is, this is how we do it in Manhattan!

On an entirely different note, how cute is that finger sucking action?

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And while your method for bringing home groceries probably consists of that handy little devil that allows you to – at the push of a button – open up your garage (aka the HOUSE you have for your CAR that is equivalent to the size of my entire apartment for a family of 3!!!)

If I sound jealous, it’s because I am…

Our method however is a little different; my husband unloads the car on the street and pays the driver, while my job is to unlock the two doors leading into our building and use the heavier items to keep the doors open so that he can bring the rest of the stuff in.

…. All while pleading with my 2 year old in an attempt to prevent her from breaking every bone in her body while trying to climb “The Stairs of Death”….
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(Case in Point: The Stairs of Death)

Once everything is in the building, it’s the hubby’s job to bring each each item up [The Stairs of Death!] and into our apartment.

And – as you can see in this picture – to question why we bought so much stuff in the first place!

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The final step is to find a home for all these lovely little treasures, which in 650 sq ft can pose as quite a challenge! A challenge I am always up for! Because these groceries would cost $200 more if we bought the exact same items at the grocery store down the street!

That my friends, is an Urban Hallelujah!
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Now quick!  Grab your keys and take a drive to Costco!

And when you catch a glimpse of Double stuf oreos, think of us-
better yet, pray for us- because like I said, we still have mice!

And as you tuck your kiddos into bed and close your eyes to recite heartfelt prayers thanking The Lord for Great Aunt Bertha, and cousin Jimmy…

Make a quick addition and thank God also for your car, garage, pantry, Costco employees who smile as they box up your banana nut muffins…

and for the absence of the stairs of death in your life!

And once you’ve settle in for the night and turn the tv on to watch the latest ‘America’s Got Talent’ LIVE at Radio City Music Hall, observe how the opening shot sweeps over the city capturing the bright lights and glamour of Manhattan

and smile to yourself-

because you know the truth! 😉

Krista Signature

Moving and Marriage

The tree at Rockefeller Plaza during Christmas time!

The tree at Rockefeller Plaza during Christmas time!

I can’t say enough amazing things about Krista’s post earlier this week on marriage.  The wisdom she shared was absolute gold.  You know how they say breast milk is liquid gold?  Well I would have to say her words were verbal gold.  Okay I just said breast milk in a post.  Moving on!

It’s purely coincidence that today I’m sharing what I’ve learned about moving (we’ve moved three times in the past four and a half years, all to different states!) and how it’s affected my marriage (yes!  Thank the Lord almighty we are still married after all that!).  Moving is tough.  Marriage can be tough.  But they’re both exciting, adventurous and fun, too.  Put the two together, though, and sometimes it can make for a rocky ride.  It’s like hiking when you don’t know how much further you have to go– or going to spin class when the instructor won’t tell you how many more dang hills you have to climb!  It takes endurance and it’s hard sometimes!  And believe me– we have done the worst, the best, and the stupidest (throwing bibles— really?!) things to each other.  We are nowhere near worthy of giving any sort of advice.  So take this not as advice but as what one FTW (Field Traveler’s Wife) has learned– and truthfully– is still learning.

For us, the most important thing we’ve learned:

::Our spouse comes FIRST.  Not our daughter, or extended family, or home…  Our spouseOur spouse comes first.

I know, you’re probably going to gag yourself right now and stop reading.  But I’m not talking about the mere idea of putting someone first– like letting them pick out the ice cream flavor or something ridiculous like that.  I mean really putting someone first.  I mean surrendering my right to be right.  This is woah-crazy-bite-my-nails-hard for me.  Naturally, I default to myself.  Moving is a challenge in and of itself– and begs us to neglect each other.  Throughout our moves, David’s been learning a different job while I’ve either been unemployed, working, or taking care of a baby.  My needs are different from his while we’re adjusting to a new place and figuring out a new routine, and needs have changed with each move based on our circumstances at that time.  I thought after one move we’d be golden for the next one!  But time passes and things change, and so do our wants and needs.  But if I can remain true to really putting my spouse first, then I can focus on what’s important and communicate love.  It’s when I focus on how much I abhor ironing his plethora of suit pants that I lose sight of how much I love my husband.  Get it?

Our first Christmas as a married couple was exhausting.

We had a whirlwind of parties and events to attend, all which were incredibly fun but taxing on our time together as we’d only been married just six short weeks.  We were still unpacking our wedding gifts, sleeping on a futon by the Christmas tree in our small living room and getting back into the swing of things after a Thanksgiving honeymoon in Cancun.  The holiday season had crept upon us quickly!  Suddenly we were juggling family commitments and traditions while trying to create our own.  I wanted to go to every Christmas party we could, David was less inclined to accept every invitation.  We had to juggle and schedule family Christmas celebrations now that we were married and had two sets of families!  It was emotional because we didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings by coming late or leaving early to make the next get-together!

It was then we realized we had the focus all wrong.

We had to put each other first, not our extended family’s parties! 🙂

As we’ve moved, this has been very critical for us.  When we lose sight of each other and putting each other ahead of ourselves, I can bet we will argue.  We will fight.  And the fights will be dirty and last longer the longer we put off loving and respecting our spouse by putting them first.  And Christmas?  Christmas gets even more complicated after a move!  There are more people to see and things to do and parties to go to.  We always feel pressure to do everything.  But when we put each other first, it does make it easier!

A-Rod said on the news today “I have to fight for myself.  If I don’t fight for myself, no one will.”  Putting our spouse first ensures we don’t have to put ourselves first, because someone else already is.

::Believe the BEST about our spouse.

I married a reasonable, sensible, loving, caring and adventurous man.  So why is it that I don’t always believe the best about him?  When he has to work later than expected, I’ve got to believe that decision is truly the best for our family that day.  When his travel schedule coincides with something I’ve planned, I’ve got to choose to believe that he loves me, wants the best for me, and is the best man for me.  Believing the best about my spouse reminds me that there’s a bigger picture, and even if I’m upset or disappointed my spouse has the best in mind for our family.

I remember when David was looking for homes with the realtor when we first moved here.  I wanted to see these places so much!  I wanted to know what the homes were like before having to actually live in one.  But I moved into this house sight unseen, believing that my amazing husband would find something that would work perfectly for our family.  And of course he did!  I was so incredibly happy to see this beautiful house when I walked up the porch steps for the first time!  I still wonder if I might have even gotten in the way of us getting it if I had been here!  I’m so glad I believed the best about him.  It gave him the freedom to really be the best without me getting in the way!

And now…  The tricky one…

::Have great expectations.

Mid-discussion one night, David turned to me and said, “I’ll live up to your expectations of me.”

I remember staring back, soaking in what he just said.  What?!

As we continued to talk through whatever it was we were discussing at the time, I ‘got it.’  Our spouse truly will live up to what we expect of them!  If you expect a lazy bum who eats cereal out of a mixing bowl on Saturday morning while watching old reruns in his boxers with one sock on, you just might get that.  If you expect someone who will wake up and go to the gym with you before church, you just might get that.  Having great expectations of our spouse doesn’t mean that we have unrealistic ones, rather, we expect the best because we believe the best and put each other first.  Isn’t it funny how they all tie together…

Let me tell you that I am still learning all these things.  I have not mastered one of them!  I would like to though! 🙂

Moving isn’t easy on a marriage, but it doesn’t have to be ridiculously hard.  It can be a time that helps shape us, but doesn’t necessarily define us!

Marriage doesn’t ensure moving will be easier, but it always can make moving better!

***If you’re not moving right now, I can almost guarantee one day you will!  And when that day comes you’ll be ready!  Not because you read this post but because you are amazing, fearless, beautiful and strong…  And well-equipped for the journey ahead.  As I prepare to move again in the next six months, please pray that I would put my husband first, believe the best and have great expectations!  Thanks again for reading.