Saturday, July 18, 2015

My Favorite Prophet

Elijah is my favorite prophet.  He wins for all books of scripture and even the modern era.  I know we aren't supposed to have a favorite prophet.  I was reminded of this a few weeks ago in a church meeting when I answered the teacher's inquiry about favorites.  I ignored the snarky reply because it was stupid.  I have a lot of favorites: favorite poet, favorite food, favorite chair, favorite book... I can't have a favorite prophet?

Anyway, this is not a rant about uptight Mormons, this is about Elijah.  I really like the guy.  He took on the priests of Baal, raised the dead, and rode a chariot of fire to heaven.  The dude was a rockstar.  Of all the scriptures about his life, the following has been rolling through my head a lot the last few weeks:
And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lordbut the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake:
And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.
And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah? 
 The story continues in 1 Kings chapter 19, but this is the passage I think about.  Elijah was waiting for the Lord.  He was not deceived by the wind, earthquake, or fire.

There have been a lot of proverbial earthquakes, winds, and fires lately.  It seems that we can't take a breath without some commentator extolling the virtue or condemning the vice of (insert your own trending news story here).  We are inundated with what courage is supposed to look like, how families are supposed to behave, what symbols are good, what laws are just, what freedoms are in danger, the books we ought to read, the sins we ought to shun, how gender is supposed to function, why the poor deserved to be shamed, and the science that must be ignored.

I stopped listening to the voices clamoring for the spotlight and listened to the voice that matters most.  I didn't need the shouting heads to teach me that all life is worthy of love, that compassion and mercy should always trump the demands of justice, and that my neighbors are my family.

It turns out that being a friend is fun.  Also, sometimes I get treats.

Thursday, June 11, 2015


We live in Harlem, but our son goes to school in Bayside.  The reasons he attends a school in the farthest corner of Queens are complicated and unchanging, so we must endure a long commute.  In an ideal world the trip shouldn't take much more than an hour, but this is NYC and nothing is ever ideal.  We leave the house at 6:10am, walk 8 minutes to the subway, ride the 3 train to Penn Station, take the LIRR 7:01am train to Great Neck, get off at Bayside station, walk the final 12 minutes to his school.  Door to door, the trip takes over 1 hour and 30 minutes.  The afternoon is the same route just a different direction.  If the stars align and we catch an early train back to the city, we can make the trip as fast as 1 hour 10 minutes.

 Two weeks ago we had some family stay with us and instead of using public transit we borrowed their car.  This was a faster trip.  There was some light traffic and we made the commute in under 20 minutes.

I thought that having a car would make our commute a breeze, but I realized that even with a direct route and more speed, I enjoy riding the train with our son.

There are mornings when we sit in a darkened tunnel waiting for the tracks to clear only to miss our connecting train.  There are snowstorms that freeze our noses.  There are rainstorms that we cannot outrun.  There are crowded platforms, annoying teenagers, and sleepy eyes.

But the last year of travels has been good to us.  The boy and I commuted together.  We laughed together.  We cried together.  While the storms continue to rage around our family, we are still together.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Auto Awesome Auto Memories

The nifty thing about Google's Auto Awesome is coming home from a fun day in the city and watching a nifty little highlight video.

Win for Google.  Win for us.

We also enjoyed the view from a great park.

Enjoyed the "meta" moment.

Saw a neat little stained glass house.

Enjoyed our awesomeness.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

She Sang

Last Wednesday I needed to get home quickly to meet up with an important houseguest.  My need to get home was more important than my need to avoid the 2 train.  I will do anything in my power to avoid the 2 train.  The 2 is crowded, loud, and filled with with all varieties of underground life.  When I saw a 10 minute wait for the 3 train, I chose to endure the 2 and get home faster.

The train was crowded, loud, and within minutes a frail woman raised her voice to announce that she was going to sing us a song and hoped that we would enjoy her performance.  (Sidenote: when anyone makes any kind of announcement on a train it is always annoying.  They may wish to sell us snacks, call us to repentance, or solicit donations for any number of ailments.  In all cases, the riders drop their heads and avoid any form of acknowledgement of the speaker.)  There we were, a train car full of people wanting to avoid the aspiring musician, and she sang.

She sang, and the train was no longer so crowded.

She sang, and the train was no longer so loud.

She sang, and the train experienced the beauty of life underground.

There aren't many times when an entire subway car of people connect with each other, but this was one of those times.  When she finished we clapped, dropped crisp dollar bills in her bag, and asked for one more song.  She sang again, and I was tempted to pull out my phone to record this memory but decided against it.  I wanted to enjoy that moment.  I didn't want the distraction of holding on to the present.  My stop came, and I got off the train.  Walking home, I smiled.  Sometimes when you live in the Big Apple, it is easy to get lost in the grind.  Other times it is easy to find solid ground.

You just have to listen to the song.

Monday, May 11, 2015

We are Fancy

Before moving to NYC, I envisioned a life of sleek apartments and fancy parties... then I lived here and decided that life is best when the ceiling doesn't leak.  Our garden apartment (just a fancy term for ground floor) has a leaky ceiling and a lot of street noise, but it also has access to the backyard.  This sounded great when we moved in until we realized that the backyard was full of weeds, a broken cement slab, feral cats, glass shards, and garbage.  After living here for a couple years, we decided to finally start cleaning it up.  It took around two weeks to go from this:
to this:

Now that we have it mostly clean (mostly because the only way to get all the debris out is through our kitchen, so it will just stay piled up in the yard) we can start a garden, maybe plant some grass, get a trampoline or just enjoy the glass-free dirt.

While cleaning we did see Willie's recent kittens.

 I also took a lot of breaks just to take pictures of me doing yardwork.  (I never thought that I would move to Manhattan and spend my time gardening)

But most importantly, we had a great time creating a space for more adventures.  Hopefully we can get a grill and start having some of those fancy parties at our sleek garden apartment.

Friday, May 08, 2015


A couple weeks ago we had our NORTHEAST REGIONAL CONFERENCE.  Normally when any kind of Stake or Regional Conference happens I look forward to a weekend of no church, but something about the NORTHEAST REGIONAL CONFERENCE caught my interest.  The announcements regarding the NORTHEAST REGIONAL CONFERENCE were a bit vague.  We were told that it would be a broadcast from Salt Lake City, and while each building in the NORTHEAST REGION would have its own opening to the conference, we would all start the main broadcast at the same time.

Let me say this: the only reason I went was to complain.

I know the LDS church is large and it is difficult to get people together for a combined meeting, but just because it is difficult doesn't mean we shouldn't try.  I really don't like the idea of broadcasting these meetings.  I know we broadcast general conference twice a year, but why not gather the members together whenever possible?  Are we going to start broadcasting our weekly meetings?  Can I Skype my home teaching visits?

So I went, and I learned a few things.

1- The opening portion of the broadcast was just another broadcast from another building in our stake. (that sucked)
2- People in our stake like to speak loudly into the microphone.
3- Musical numbers broadcast through the internet sound just as awful as you would think.
4- The NORTHEAST REGION is a lot bigger than I thought. (there was no way we could get everyone into one stadium) (and it would take way too long to drive to a middle spot)(See the picture below- Region 4 is us)
5- The broadcast from Salt Lake City felt more like people reading old talks from a different regional conference and changing the area to the NORTHEAST REGION.

Despite having a list of what I hated about the conference, there were a couple of things I liked.  Neil Anderson and Robert Hales gave talks and each shared a little nugget that kept my attention.

In sharing his admiration for Elder Hales, Neil Anderson said "The Lord loves Elder Hales, and Elder Hales knows the Lord."  It is a simple phrase but it made me think about the quality of life Elder Hales lives so that others do not doubt his commitment to the Lord.  I have a lot of complaints.  I have a lot of grievances.  I also have a lot of admiration for those dedicated to sharing a message of peace and love.

Robert Hales, who was born on Long Island, said "never shut the door of your heart to any of your children."  I think about this every day.  I certainly don't envision a future where I would cut my children or family out of my life, but there are times when I feel like it might hurt less to have the door only halfway open.  I have shut the proverbial door before and it has taken me a long time to reopen it.  I decided that I just need to keep it open to everyone.

In summary: I went to complain, and I left grateful.  Church wins.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Training Wheels

My son knows how to ride his bike.  He doesn't get as many opportunities to ride as he would like, but he knows how.  This is a great relief to me because I was terrified to teach him.  I don't have a bike, so I couldn't take him out on nightly rides around the neighborhood until he was practiced enough to remove the training wheels.  Also, we live in NYC where it really isn't practical to ride around the block because you will probably get hit by a bus.  Ideally, I would live in a place where taking off the training wheels wouldn't be a problem.

Like this place:

That kid can fall off his bike all he wants; he won't get hurt.

But we live in Harlem, and we must adjust.  One year ago, the little goober decided he was ready to try riding without training wheels, so we woke up early and went to the playground before the ball players and other kids arrived.  I reminded him that it would be okay to fall and that we would just try as many times as we needed to get it right.

He was ready.

I held his seat, he started pedaling, he took off, I was proud.

 Instead of crashing and screaming in pain, this kid was riding his bike and loving it.

 He's a pro.  Even if he needed my help to get started, he kept riding.

 With a little more practice he got started by his own wobbly self.

It wasn't the ideal place to teach him, but when are we ever in the ideal place to teach our kids?

The Familiar Stranger

A few weeks ago I got lost while folding the laundry.  I was still standing by the bed as I sorted the clothes, but I got lost in my imagination.  It happens sometimes.  Sometimes I find myself on a cross country motorcycle trip.  Other times I'm sailing in a pacific paradise.  That day I found myself inside the Salt Lake Temple.

The thing I like about daydreaming is I am in complete control.  Unlike a regular dream where I just sit back and enjoy the show, daydreams are interactive.  Of course it is just in my head, but sometimes I surprise myself.

So I found myself inside the temple, and the place is empty.  I figured if there isn't anyone around, there was one room I wanted to visit.  I worked my way to the Celestial room, moved a vase, opened the door and stepped inside.  But someone was already there.

There was a familiar stranger sitting in a chair waiting for me.  I greeted him and said that it was good to finally meet.  He smiled and told me that I had seen him before.  I asked if he would show me where I had seen him.  He complied and changed into the people that I have helped.  I saw the faces of family and friends.  I saw those that needed help and I was willing to share.  It felt great to see the good that I had done in my life.

Knowing that the conversation was not over, I asked if I had seen him in other places.  He said yes and started to show me the people I ignored.  I saw the people I hurt.  I saw the people who asked for my help, and I was not willing to share.  This took a lot longer than I thought it would.

I thanked my friend for his time and left the room.  As I worked my way back to my bedroom and my pile of laundry I decided the next time I had that conversation, there would be more of the people I helped and fewer of those I ignore.