Sunday, April 26, 2009

Good day, sunshine!!!

Two of my favorite high school students Emma Jenkins and Elena Juliano came into the city yesterday for a gal's day out. Key phrase: DAY OUT!!! It is warm and sunny in beautiful New York, so we did a lot of walking along the Hudson River. Played at the Chelsea Pier, ate at a fab little cafe and topped it off with a bit of shopping. Three pretty girls, sunglasses, and a mission: we all brought our cameras and chose a theme for the day.

We took pictures all afternoon, creatively finding our theme in the city. Emma chose "culture," Elena chose "music," and I chose, "blue.

Here are a few of my "blue" discoveries:

I worked with the youth group at the Presbyterian Church of Upper Montclair when I was at Princeton and these two lovely ladies were some of the girls I mentored. Yes, those were the days.... breaking my rib while mattress surfing at the winter retreat, cracking my skull on a pew in the pitch dark while playing Berlin Wall, weird food games that I never really want to do again in my life... and so much more. Mostly enjoying the privilege of knowing these young people in ways that really matter. I tried to describe my job to a friend I met in Zambia. Perhaps you remember him from past bog postings?! Dear Scott from Vancouver B.C. After stumbling through a complex definition of pastor, I finally ended up with this: "Basically my job is to love people. Yep. Love people. Attend to the work of God in the world and love people."

Now that is a good job description.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A New Discovery

If a person were to get up early on a sunny Thursday morning to go on a run in Central Park, but were enough out of shape that they needed to do quite a bit of walking (a.k.a. ME), a new discovery may arise: lots of New Yorkers are crazy about their dogs (key word, crazy). I was surprised at the friendly dynamic this morning (had four hello's by the time I was finished- again- likely has more to do with the fact that it was sunny and I was moving at a leisurely pace), but I was even more surprised when people began talking on behalf of their dogs. Yes, you read correctly. "O, hello lady... you are just so interesting!"

That is supposed to be the dog talking. One woman began to tell me how her dog felt at the moment we crossed paths. "O he is so embarrassed right now. Just so embarrassed. Look how sorry he is for cutting in front of you."

Is it true? Can people actually speak on behalf of the emotional state of their dogs?

The other funny thing is that only about half the dog-owners obey the leash law. This is probably a good thing... poor dogs need to run around. But this creates a special costume that this particular tribe of New Yorkers all wear. Bright, sturdy leashes are thrown around everyone's shoulders and each carry a wad of plastic bags to use to pick up after their dogs.

I like it. This is a very friendly tribe. Perhaps a little weird at times, but a good lot. I will have to do some more experimenting and meet more of these people.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


Today has been a major church day. Preached at two morning services.... Made some jokes, people laughed. This always feels good. It feels lame to try to connect with people when they give you blank stares in return, so today was a good one. Check out this week and click on the audio version of my sermon entitled "Peace? Unity? Bah! Humbug!" if you want to listen. Yes, a reference to good ol' Dickens. Which, by the way is very hard to read as my friend Rochelle reminded me this week. I like the made-for-TV BBC versions of Dickens instead.

But I digress. I fully felt like a CHURCH MARM tonight. Yep, the evening service is small and I am the only pastor in the place, so I have to get everything ready... communion, offering plates, candle lighting, etc... I laughed out loud at the thought: future spinster, lighting candles in old cathedrals for the rest of her life. But the thought was fleeting.

Yesterday was fabuloso, fabuloso. Yes, that is two fabuloso's. First, went to dim sum for a birthday party and then on a crazy scavenger hunt all over Chinatown and Little Italy that involved actors playing characters we had to approach throughout the city (it was fictitious mafia scenario we had to solve that literally ended in an undercover cop arresting "Bunny" (one of the actors) in a bar in the Village! How fun is that?!? I then went out for margaritas and mexican food with a girlfriend because it was that kind of night.

Yesterday was beautiful. Blue-sky and flowers and trees blooming everywhere. People are sneezing and sniffling all over the city, but no one cares! Enough hibernation for one season! Bring on the good weather!

The guy on the left was a crazy Russian Italian (an actor that came slinking out of a restaurant) and insisted I was working for the FBI. He gave all of us tips on "how to be smooth" since government spies were everywhere and then tried to get us to order Russian brides from his personal website (a side business I guess). Hilarious!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Hip to be square


Holy Moly. I have got eighties music on the brain. I am supposed to be listening to recorded sermons all day (for a preaching award the church is giving out), but approximately every 9 minutes, a new tune comes into my head.

And all I wanna do is pull on a pair of hot pink tights and go leaping around Central Park with a boom box (if I still had one) and rock out to some power ballads and a few rock and roll tunes the Carnies used to listen to at the Clark County Fair. Is "Carnie" a politically correct term?! I was always a little scared of, and slightly drawn to, these thin, tattooed world-wearied men with Camel cigarettes hanging from the corner of their mouths.

Here's to you, Carnies of my dreams, a little Bon Jovi to bring us back to the good ol' days:

I ain't got a fever got a permanent disease
It'll take more than a doctor to prescribe a remedy
I got lots of money but it isn't what I need
Gonna take more than a shot to get this poison out of me
I got all the symptoms count 'em 1,2,3....

...Your love is like bad medicine
Bad medicine is what I need
Shake it up, just like bad medicine
There ain't no doctor that can
Cure my disease...

Monday, April 13, 2009

A week in the life....

Went to Chinatown today to pick up some gifts for the Zimbabwe delegation that will be coming to our church in a couple weeks. I ate a heaping pile of Chinese noodles and veggies for under $5, so I was feeling pretty good about myself by the time I got on the subway to come back home. Walked up 73rd street beneath a bright blue sky and scrumptious white plum blossoms. The flowerbeds are full of hyacinth and Park Avenue is about to explode with tulips. New York City does many seasons ‘just right’ Papa Bear and spring is no exception. Went to Macy’s on Saturday and listened to an appropriately nerdy gentleman lecture on the spring flowers that adorn every nook and cranny of the place from eye level to the ceiling. I have ZERO pictures worthy of the scene, but I assure you, the rows and rows of live tulips and hydrangea were pretty dang impressive as I walked up the escalators.

I am much more into New York City now that the flowers are blooming, the weather is less bone-chilling, and now that I am working hard to ignore rude people.

A few amusing notes from the week: I walked home late last night after watching a fabuloso little movie called Adventureland. As I was unlocking the door outside my building I noted, “That is a Rolls Royce right there parked in front of your house.” Weird. A real live trillion-dollar car at my doorstep. Exaggerated, yes, but noteworthy just the same.

Interesting thing number 2: My friends Max and Millie hosted a Passover Seder on Wednesday. Two Jewish men and two Christian women, or ‘shiksa’ as we were lovingly referred to (Gentile women). The food was delish, the liturgy truly beautiful and meaningful, and we drank enough wine to cause some serious ruckus.

I walked past a bar last night where three swanky 20-somethings were sharing a cigarette outside. I happened to hear a portion of their conversation as I walked by: “Have you heard she is into all that ‘Save the Children’ sh*%?!” Man replies, “Well, I guess I won’t tell her about all the ivory I plan to bring back with me.” Woman replies, “No, don’t tell her. Just volunteer to bring an orphan back with you.”

I paused to soak it in for a moment. Ummm. Are you kidding me? Dumb-a*% kids.

In other news: I wore pink silk on Easter. Under the robe of course, but felt pretty darn cute for the post-service brunch. The last week has been really wonderful. Egg dyeing with the kiddos; Maundy Thursday foot-washing service where literally one woman wept as I washed her feet (humbling as all get out), preached with 5 others at a Good Friday service, attended a Tenebrae service (Latin for darkness) which ended hauntingly in silence as 33 bells tolled for Jesus’ life. And finally Easter day arrived. Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church goes all out for Easter: lilies and trumpets, unbelievable choral music. The place was packed and plenty of women wore fancy feathered and ribboned hats. Holy Holy Week!!!

On Friday I preached on Peter’s denial. It should be up on the web soon and I’ll post the link.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Arise and shine!

I stole this picture from a friend, so don't credit me for noticing this sweet little word of encouragement. I am sitting here at my computer -- see pic below for the exact setting-- and despite the fact that the sky is gray and darkening by the minute, today has been much, much better. Some days are like that. Surprise. Out of the blue. A day that is just plain nice.

I poured myself a tall glass of wine because you can do that when you are 30, an official grown up, and there is no one around to watch just how full you fill the glass. I rarely do this, but sitting quietly with a glass of wine seemed the appropriate way to celebrate the end of a long day of meetings. Tuesdays are generally packed with meeting after meeting, which can be a bit of a drag, but since I didn't leave any of them in tears, it seems that there was marked improvement since last week! :-)

It's Holy Week, so that means church services galore involving candles, sad scriptures and redemptive scriptures. Life, death, and resurrection all celebrated in one week.

Arise: a mandate, a promise, a word scribbled on the Brooklyn Bridge, and a reminder that life goes on. Truly.

Arise and shine. Tis the theme of the week dear friends.

Monday, April 6, 2009


One long silver hair. Yep. I found one. I was drawing a bath tonight and while I was waiting for the tub to fill I saw something shiny out of the corner of my eye. I leaned into the mirror and to my deep disappointment, I spotted the tiny strand of stress and age. I found one a couple of weeks ago, but figured it was a fluke. But this is silver strand number 2. I ate a huge bowl of ice-cream tonight and crawled into bed early.

That is the theme of my life lately: too much ice-cream and a long strand of silver hair. Hmph.

Can I just say that I HATE being single at 30?!!? This may seem completely unrelated to the sentences above, but when you are having a bad day, these things are intrinsically connected. The novelty of being single has worn off. The whole dating-hoping-breaking up- rejection- starting over thing is getting OLD and I am sad. Please don't pity me dear readers for pity will only add to what feels like a very pathetic life. But maybe this will inspire me to get out. Cease adding to the ever-expanding waist-line and enjoy the city, meet some new people, and spend my time creatively. Yes. This seems good. My facebook page seems to think so anyway. Most of the adds on my wall are for "Mature Singles Looking for Love." OMG. When did I become a mature single? And why does this feel more like mockery than inspiration?

My blog postings are mega depressing lately. But I suppose there are plenty of chipper people in the world to balance them out. I preach Good Friday and I received some good advice today. A wise pastor suggested, "Perhaps prepare your sermon and preach it as you would if you felt healthier and wiser." I like this. And it seems very doable. Watch out congregation. I plan to preach the way I would if I was feeling healthy and wiser....

....and in the midst of all of this, I know God is present. Because that is simply God's way. On a bus, in the waiting room, in dark hours of loneliness, and in a jammed subway at rush hour. Not necessarily in the fire or in the earthquake or in the thundering voice of an emboldened minister. But in the whisper of the wind, the hands and smile of a stranger. The Spirit moves where it will.

In honor of our friends in Italy who are sad and struggling tonight, I bid you goodnight in proper Italian fashion, "Ciao!"

Sunday, April 5, 2009


That was the goal. Go in search of pretty things.

Easy cheesy people. 62 degrees in Central Park and finally, finally, finally the blossoms have come. The grass is lush green and the fingertips of all the trees are painted red and white and pink and green. Aaaah, spring.

Some more of my favorite things from today: it started with little darlings dancing up the isle waving their palm fronds on this Palm Sunday, then a Bach concert after church, and finally a stroll in the park to find rolled up jeans and bare feet, bodies basking in the sun on every spare bolder or patch of grass, lots of sweet kisses and hand holding (moms and dads with little ones and lovers galore), a boy squawking hilariously like a bird to the delight of his little sister, blue sky, birds bathing, velvet green moss, and ice cream cones.

And then as I arrived home: these fantastic hands painted on the grate outside my door. Who are these mad street artists?! I love them! Today was a good day. Hope yours was too.

Friday, April 3, 2009


I called the police tonight. One of those "non-emergency" calls. I was strolling home rather late after a surprise birthday party for a friend in Queens when I glanced up at the usually-abandoned Permanent Mission of the Ivory Coast. The front door was cracked open and the french doors off the second floor balcony were swaying gently in the breeze. The window coverings were still closed and the place was dark as usual, but the whole thing looked a little suspicious to me.

The dispatcher I chatted with had a thick Jersey accent and seemed annoyed that I called, but I felt like it was my duty as a good citizen. But calling the police in a situation like this is kind of like going to the doctor with a sore throat. You're praying you have strep just so you don't feel like an idiot when the doc tells you that you're just fine and should drink plenty of liquids. Some spy better be arrested tonight or I will feel like an idiot.

By the way, why is NO ONE ever at the Permanent Mission of the Ivory Coast? This doesn't seem very permanent to me.

My friends Liza and Debbie left today after visiting for the week. This fabulous mother/daughter pair go back in my history just about as far as most friends can. Liza and I grew up together and spent most snow days together in high school. We went to Mexico together to help build a house just across the border in Oaxaca and I recall curling up under a tiny blanket with her after our other friend Elizabeth threw up all over our bedding (poor thing was sicker than a dog).

Thick and thin people. We've got to hold onto friends like this.

This morning Liza and I got up early to brave the pouring down rain to take a walk in the park. It was worth it. Why you ask?! The daffodils. The brown skeletons of plum and cherry trees are finally blossoming and the forsythia could make me cry if I wasn't trying so hard to keep it together! Delicious. I love spring.

The gals did all kinds of sightseeing during the day and we met up for evening meals.

On Wednesday night we went to a new musical called "Next to Normal" which had me in tears by the end of the first act. Tears you say? Yes. Here is what I wasn't expecting: a musical about depression, experimental treatment for bi-polar, chronic illness, and the fracturing of a family after a suicide attempt. Awesome. What a cheerful, uplifting play. At one point Liza grabbed my hand and asked me if I wanted to go. It was a magnificent little play, but dark as all get out and certainly not what either of us were expecting. During intermission I watched a man contain sobs with his head in his hands and my heart broke with him-- a solidarity thing I think. Mental illness can destroy lives and watching it unfold on stage over several hours can be a painful experience.

On a much lighter note, we went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which was a treat as always. That building is packed with beauty. I wish I could live there-- stretch my sleeping bag out in the new Greek/Roman wing and sleep with all those marble gods and goddesses.

I love hot dogs. I don't care how "low-brow" this makes me. We bought these dogs outside the museum and I did not feel one bit of regret as some advocates for the ethical treatment of animals distributed materials to the crowd around us. I am 100% supportive of the fair treatment of animals, but I dig hot dogs. Is this a paradox? An oxymoron? I have gone to school for a lot of years and I still have no idea how to use these words properly.

Gotta love the Big Apple. It is one tough city. A tough city that could eat your soul if you let it, but is simultaneously packed with sights and sounds and people nothing short of extraordinary!