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.


Sunday, April 19, 2015

NYC: Spring

I complain about living in New York, but I really love living here.  There are certain times of year that make the congested city life worth every penny of overpriced real estate and food.

Spring is one of those times.

A small window to Paradise briefly opens and the breezes from heaven kiss our metropolis.  I know that is cheesy, but it's true.  For a few hours yesterday I was not a grump.

It started with a bus ride down to the lower east corner of Central Park.  The wife and the boy went to the Central Park Zoo, and I jumped across the street to use the bathroom at FAO Schwarz.  Too much information?  Too bad, it is Spring, and I am happy.

I took this picture of the Plaza hotel because it's pretty and it was on my way to find a bench.



Across from the Plaza there was a Public Art Fund exhibit.  If you are in NYC and see something that looks out of place, then it is probably art.  Just look around and find the sign that will explain it.  This one was cool.  A summary: each spool of rope represents a walking path in Central Park.  Some are short, some are long, just like the paths.  Apparently each spool is also the length of the actual path.  Anyways, I had a book to read, so I moved on.


 I like the zoo because they have bears now, but with crowds like this I prefer to read.


I found a bench across from the zoo and started a book and people watching.  There is something really fun about being alone in a crowded space.  I even had my picture taken a couple of times by tourists... I didn't smile.


 When they were done at the zoo we went to Heckscher Playground.  A great place but there were crowds, so I found a bench.


 Eventually it was time to go.  The boy was tired.  The wife was content.  I was happy.


Spring is awesome.  (Mostly because I like to sit on benches and read books while thousands of people walk past me (just in case I didn't make that clear))

Friday, April 10, 2015

Sorting Pearls

I have been thinking about pearls a lot lately.  They come in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors, hues, and origins.  Some are natural; some are cultured.  Some pearls are cheap, and others are very expensive.  At its core (pun intended) all pearls start the same way-- with an irritation.  A clam or oyster is perfectly happy with life when all of a sudden something gets in its mouth.  It could be a particle of sand or rock or even the shell of a fellow mollusk.  Between the constant irritation and the passage of time, a pearl is created.

The pearl is significant for many world religions and is found in many scriptures.  It is fascinating to see how the interpretations play out, but this post is about me.  For me: Pearl=Truth.  Truth is natural, and truth is cultured.  We find truth around us on a daily basis.  We accept and reject various truths as they present themselves to us.  Truth does not need to be a grand all encompassing claim to life and the secret to heaven.  Most of our truths are found in our daily routines.

I have a ton of truths:  I know the best time to take a shower in the evening and change into pajamas.  I know how many hot sauce packets are needed to perfectly cover a Mexican Pizza from Taco Bell (and  Macho Nachos from Del Taco).  I know how much (and sometimes how little) soda to drink on a road trip to perfectly time the bathroom breaks with refueling the car.  I know when to ride the subways and which lines to take to avoid the masses.  My personal favorite truth: I know when to walk out of church because the three hours is up and the teacher is still teaching (because nothing ever good happens when teachers don't stop talking).

But just as some pearls are more valuable than other pearls, some truths are more valuable than other truths.  The more valuable truths take time to discover and an even larger irritation.  Call it an irritation; call it a struggle; our greatest truths are found when we are pushed (sometimes shoved) beyond our comfortable confines and confronted with daily dilemmas and personal conflicts that require us to evolve.  As we eventually reconcile the differences in our lives, we are left with a pearl of truth.  These pearls are precious and rare because we fought for them.  We dove deeper into our spiritual oceans and held our breath longer despite the pain in our lungs and swam longer even as our limbs were failing to finally find this pearl. These are the truths we need to keep.

I may forget which rest stops are the cleanest, but I will remember how I came to know God.  I will probably forget about my Cookie Monster pajamas when the fleece is no longer soft and super comfortable, but I will remember how I found happiness in a woman who lovingly pieced me back together after a terrible fall.  The memories of schools and colleagues will eventually fade, but the lessons of parenthood are locked deep inside.

So anyways, I've been thinking about pearls a lot lately.


Monday, March 30, 2015

Another Year Older

We celebrated a birthday last week, and it was a lot of fun.  Because the happy day was on a Monday, and our weekday schedules are very busy, we started the partying on Friday.

There was a bit of snow, but that didn't cramp our style.

Kim made a fancy pinata cake filled with M&M'S


It was super fancy, and the boy was super excited.



The birthday boy was very, very happy with this surprise.




The cake was amazing, but having this cool guy in our home is even better.





Sunday, March 22, 2015

Giving to the Nine

Another Bible story has been rolling around my head for the last few weeks.  In the 17th chapter of Luke Jesus encounters 10 lepers, they ask to be healed, they are told to go see the priest (they are healed on their way), one of the 10 realizes that they were healed and returns to thank Jesus.

Moral of the story: give thanks to God.

But there is more.  I have been thinking about how Jesus gave these men an unconditional gift.  He did not judge the men.  He did not ask for loyalty, discipleship, or fame.  He gave.  He could have healed the single man he knew would show gratitude, but he chose to give to all that asked.

Fast forward to NYC 2015.

I want to be a better person.  In NYC there are plenty of opportunities to give, but I quickly shut them down.  In fact, I have perfected the snub and can keep the beggar at bay with just a glance.  I judge a person before they even open their mouth to ask for help.  I see the cup and know that the jingling coins will fuel an addiction and not a recovery.  I navigate this city knowing that anyone who asks me for help will not find me a fool.

While I secretly like the curmudgeon I've become, I miss being a nice guy.  In an attempt to emulate the master teacher, I decided to be a good giver and share with those who ask for help.  I may not have a lot to give, but I certainly have enough to share.  A few coins from my dresser does not constitute a fortune, but I thought it was a good start.

My goal was to keep 4 quarters in my pocket and give them to the first person who asks for help each day.  With renewed zest for life, I set out in hopes of finding my inner nice guy.  It turns out that I wasn't asked for help as much as I thought I was.  The first day no one asked me for help.  The "regulars" I saw on a daily basis weren't in their regular places.  Turns out that the the same thing happened on the second day too.  I was really confused.  I had a dollar in my pocket and no one was asking for it!  Finally on the third day I saw a man holding a cup by the entrance to the subway.  As I approached him, I reached into my pocket.  When I was pulling the dollar out, I noticed that the man was sitting on a new jazzy chair and smoking a cigarette.  No way.  Not going to happen.  I was giving this money to someone who needs it, not another hustler...  I put the dollar back in my pocket and marched down the stairs.

Goal Fail.

During the ride home I had a long talk with myself, and I came to this conclusion: If I refuse to help the people that don't deserve it, how will I be ready to help the people who do?

It is not my place to judge.  It is not my role to decide who is worthy of help. All I can do is try to be a better person today than I was yesterday.  This change starts by giving to the nine.


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Lucky

I have a good life. Actually, it is a fantastic life. I would like to think that I earned this state happiness through some random rubric of pain and suffering, but I don't think that's the case. I just got lucky.

Lucky to have great friends near and far.

Lucky to have a beautiful wife with a gentle soul.

Lucky to have a precocious son with a forgiving heart.

Lucky to have roof over my head and food on my table.

Call it fortune; call it blessings. Today, I call it luck.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

NYC: MoMA

One of the advantages to living in overpriced, cramped quarters is that we have access to some of the most incredible museums in the United States.  Many of them are affordable/free, but some of them are still quite expensive.  The Museum of Modern Art is one of the expensive ones; except on Friday nights when it is FREE!

We decided to have a Friday night adventure:

It started with a trip on the LIRR from Gabe's school in Bayside back to Manhattan.

We stopped at St Patrick's Cathedral

Took a cool picture with the photosphere feature on my phone

Went to the Lego store at Rockefeller Center and saw a Lego Rockefeller Center

It was big

Lego man made a Lego man

The batmobile... because it was a Lego batmobile...

Got some Ben and Jerry's in the Concourse while waiting for mom. (Tonight Dough! Amazing!!!)

And played several hands of Go Fish, War, and Pyramid

Rode a super skinny escalator

Arrived at the MoMA and got our sophistication on

"This is art."

You all know what this is... the lady on the left never moved, and it was a very crowded space.

Naked!

He liked this one and was convinced that there was a no parking sign on the top.

"This is also art."

Monet... I still don't get it...

Selfie with a statue.

He was really interested in this exhibit about making letters with eye motions.  It's art.

Minecraft Art

Bjork had her electronic harp on display (It really made music).

"Hello NYC!"

The train ride back to Harlem

Too tired to cook?  One word: Popeye's!

The end.