New York City with the Boys

Since many of you were interested in our last trip to New York, I thought I'd share about our most recent trip.

We are fortunate enough to live five minutes from an airport that has a direct flight to New York City which leaves early in the morning and the returning flight arrives late at night. This means that we get a lot out of a day without paying for an extra night in a hotel. This weekend our flight arrived early Friday morning in New York and we got home right on time Sunday night.  Perfect! This was our youngest son’s second flight in his life so he was due according to today’s standards. I’m pretty sure he enjoyed every minute of it.  It was a nice “You’re… (correction) WE’RE finished with the eleventh grade!” kickoff to the summer. Oh, and he enjoyed every second of the weekend and has been so vocally thankful as was his big brother. Our daughter was so very missed on this trip but is having a great time studying abroad in Spain so we didn’t pity her too badly.

New York is not my type of place in general. Crowds, smells, noise, and endless walking are not my cup of tea, but, as I go repeatedly and have seen the popular sights, I am starting to find that I can tailor the trip to be MY trip.  Having a son who lives in NYC and is so knowledgeable about the subway system and the layout of the city makes it much easier to go.  I am slowly learning it myself and look forward to learning of more of MY spots.  I see future trips being a slower pace of revisiting my favorites and discovering one or two more each time. I believe my cup of (high) tea will be had at the Plaza or the Peninsula Hotels. Window shopping down Madison Avenue on the arm of my handsome man under an umbrella was a bit snuggly and romantic.  One day I will find a shop that has my style and make it part of my routine. Anyone know of a shop that carries ladies’ clothing from the late 1800’s? Oh, I guess I will also have to find an alternate universe in which to wear those clothes. 

For such a short trip, Capers was able to pack in a backpack. My husband packed a carry on and we put our cosmetics in my checked bag.  With more effort, we could have made sure we had the required amount of liquids to take on board in a carry on, but then we couldn’t have brought home our Eiffel Tower souvenir Colton had gotten for us in Paris.  I am learning to take a larger bag than you need so you have room to bring home goodies.  I saw one lady who had a soft carry on—a quilted fabric style bag and I thought that it is probably the best way to do it.  It squishes in overheads where a hard case could not have gone, although you would have to carry it and not roll it and I would not want to set it on a bathroom floor! Tough decision. First world problems. I also recommend for ladies to travel with several gentlemen. You never have to carry a thing!

Colton met us at the airport and guided us to our hotel where we stored our luggage since it wasn’t check-in time yet. We stayed at the Residence Inn at 54th and Broadway so that we would be within walking distance of the things we wanted to do. It was too early to go to our lunch reservation so we went to the hotel’s fourth floor lounge which had comfy seating. Just what we needed. Then we were off to a delicious Thai lunch at Topaz Noodle Bar.  Don’t believe them when they say “a little spicy.” Fortunately, combining my mild rice with my husband’s “a little spicy” rice gave us both “still pretty spicy” rice. It was very good, though. We walked through the south end of Central Park for a bit before Jeff and I turned in for our afternoon nap and the boys ran off to see the world. 

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Our room wasted no space but had most everything we needed.  The room darkening curtains worked great.  I am always wishing for more hooks for hanging things but I suppose hotels have their reasons for not providing more. We had a kitchenette that would suffice for an apartment complete with crock pot.  I didn’t happen to use it this trip. Trying to think of a case when I would use it in a hotel. Still thinking. I love anything that is efficient and that usually means it is multi-purpose.  I loved the stool that matched the chair. It could be a stool to sit on, a footstool, a luggage rack, and storage.  The storage was lined in a way that I wondered if it were also a cooler in which you could chill drinks.  A colossal ice bucket?  Someone was thinking. Our 49th floor room had a great view and we enjoyed it in every phase of lighting from early morning to dark. 

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After our early flight, pavement pounding, and Asian-food induced comas, our footmen (aka sons) came for us and for Capers’ backpack and guided us to Brooklyn to see Colton’s apartment.  It’s a 30-minute subway ride from Manhattan and in a nice area of Brooklyn.  He walks past stores and restaurants from the subway and is able to get what he needs on his way home without having to carry it far. His apartment space is two-story and his room is as neat as a pin.  They have done a good job of organizing their small space and it is comfortable and clean.  Colton’s roommate happened to be out of town this weekend so Capers was able to stay with him.  We met two of his apartment mates.  Some of them graduated from the same school he did. I feel better having seen where he lives.  I don’t know why but it is settling for me as a mom. Then we took a bus to Dekalb Market/City Point which is like a gourmet food court.  We bought two $21 pastrami sandwiches to split and we were stuffed.  I have no idea who eats that sandwich by himself. It was fairly late when we ate and I dipped mine in spicy mustard so I had a little heartburn later that night.  I am finding that this ole thing can’t eat just any ole thing any ole time of night anymore. It was so good, though! Cool experience. Of course, there’s always room for ice cream because it just fills in the spaces between as it goes into your stomach. We had walked around the market looking for what we each might want for dinner but then we thought that it is better to experience things together and so we decided to eat whatever Colton was having and I’m glad we did.  Together is better.

The boys took us back to our room and these old people went to bed at 9:00. 

Saturday morning, Jeff and I had the hotel breakfast which was the typical nice hotel hot breakfast buffet. It is served on the third floor which looks just like the fourth floor lounge. We had tickets for 10am to see the Downton Abbey Exhibit.  I had wanted to go months ago and it was supposed to close in April but it has been held over and I was so excited to find that out. It is a self-guided tour though they have headsets to rent. The bottom floor is the servants’ quarters and kitchen.  It looked just like the set.  The cast appear as holograms from time to time to tease you. The library is a room where a multi-media presentation is shown. We should have sat at the back so we didn’t have to look around to see what was happening on each wall.  Very cool. The second floor is the family’s area.  The table was set and the bedroom was on display.  I have a thing about dressing tables so I loved seeing that. Many artifacts were included from the show which were from the time period.  The part that made me weak in the knees though was the costumes.  Pieces were scattered about but the third floor was dedicated to the clothing.  The detail! Designing and making my own clothes again is on my empty-nester list and I am collecting ideas. Learning about a craft or art gives you the capacity to appreciate what others have done. That was true for me this weekend in so many areas: music, acting, sewing, etiquette, health, happiness.  If you do not know how hard or rare something is, you cannot fully enjoy it. Knowledge is power: it gives you the power to enjoy.

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The tour took only an hour. Then we mosied around to kill time until lunch. The weather was perfect and the streets were busy. We met the boys at Junior’s for lunch and then walked around with them.  We went into the Steinway store and Colton played the $97,000 Steinway for us in the humidity-controlled studio. Beautiful talent. Beautiful music. Beautiful piano. So much good. On to Bryant Park and then to our respective theatres.  The boys saw the musical “Spongebob” and we saw “Hello, Dolly!” Very enjoyable. Bernadette Peters was the lead role and 72 years old, Y’all. The worst part of our trip was the woman behind us who sang along and said the punch lines one second ahead of the actors. We heard her talking during intermission about how many more drinks she thought she could handle. It is so difficult to not share some wisdom with people like that but what good would it do? We exercised patience and were reminded that others have to bear with us in our own ignorant rudeness. Still our memories of a great show are not tainted by another GertRUDE sighting.

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After the show, we headed back to Junior’s to get cheesecake to go.  I knew my friend was in New York on a family girl trip but we did not have plans to meet up, but, lo and behold, who is standing next to Junior’s?! We chatted and snapped a groupie and then my husband and I headed back to the hotel for some rest. It was already pretty late so I just rested instead of sleeping so as not to spoil a good night’s sleep. The boys came and visited a bit and then we all went to Little Italy to a cool spot called Piacere. The food was very authentic but the portions were not very large which is kind of nice so you can still handle dessert.  We strolled through Little Italy and Capers ate a cannoli which someone had told him to do while he was in New York. Colton gave us subway instructions to get back to our room and we obeyed perfectly.  It was cheesecake time so we each ate one fourth of the six inch raspberry swirl cheesecake we had bought that afternoon.  They sell it by the slice also but the six inch was cheaper if you were buying two slices.  Mr. Wonderful had suddenly decided my favorite flavor was his favorite flavor and ended up with a kiss on the cheek AND with cheesecake. I highly recommend marrying a nice man. It comes in handy when choosing cheesecake flavors and going to girly things like Downton Abbey Exhibits.  And every other day, too.

After a hard night’s sleep, Jeff went down for breakfast while I polished off all I could eat of the remaining cheesecake. Cheesecake for breakfast as you look at the NYC skyline: life gets very good sometimes. We stored our luggage with the hotel bellman and took the subway as Colton had prescribed. We collected Capers from the coffee shop where Colton had left him moments before.  Then the three of us walked to Redeemer Presbyterian Church where Colton was getting his instructions for what to do in the service.  You see, this is the whole purpose of this trip.  This is the morning that our first child to leave home was joining a church.  When we learned of the date of this event, we wanted to go but then decided that it was bad timing, etc, etc. As the time drew near, we decided that it didn’t matter what kind of timing it was; we needed to be there for this event to support our son in this good decision. The fact that we have a grown son who is willing to join a Bible-believing church is not just something that should go by uncelebrated.  We thank God for His mercy and grace that brought this about and we want our children to know that this is the big stuff.  This is a wonderful decision and a milestone in Colton’s life.  He has been involved already in the church and attends faithfully but he could do both without being a member.  This decision helps to tether him to a family away from home: his church family and God’s family. They will support him and encourage him and look after him. He is making himself a part of a local church and publicly stating who he is and what he believes and making Christian growth a part of his stated intentions. The service was wonderful. I always enjoy attending church on vacation because it makes obvious the bond Christians have. You can feel it immediately. This church is a one-race church: the human race. The hands I shook felt just like mine and our voices blended perfectly. My favorite moment though was when Colton took his vows and answered “I do” to the question of depending solely on the work of Jesus Christ to save his soul. I have heard Colton deliver many lines publicly on stage but none have ever moved me so. Praise be to God.

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His church meets early so he had a favorite brunch place picked out for us called The Smith.  It had an early 1900’s feel with black and white tile.  The food was great and I heard that the bathrooms were worth seeing: each stall was it's own little room.  Next stop was the Flatiron Building. I forget the order of coffee shop visits from Sunday because there were quite a few.  When hotel check-out is early in the day but you do not fly out until late in the day, you have nowhere to take your Sunday afternoon nap. And it was raining.  And we were tired. So the cost of a chair to sit in was the price of a cup of coffee.

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I wanted to see The Frick Collection this trip. I saw the Metropolitan Museum of Art on the last trip.  I say "I saw it", as if one could fully see it. There are New Yorkers who go regularly because you can’t take it all in.  It is massive.  It’s an elephant you eat a bite at a time.  So I should say I did a run through last time.  I will digest more of it in the future, Lord willing.  Without researching it this trip, I remembered that I wanted to see The Frick museum sometime and it turned out to be the perfect choice. Mr. Frick died in 1919 and left his home as a museum to house his art collection. The house is left largely as it was and the downstairs is open for tours. I would have been happy to buy the $22 ticket just to see the house. The mouldings, the drapes, the furniture, the paneling. Sigh. Then there’s the art!  Three Rembrandts, three Vermeers, a Degas, a Manet, and much more. We took a lovely Sunday afternoon stroll in Mr. Frick’s home and it ended by teasing me with a GORGEOUS roped-off staircase. Torture. Actually you know all tours end in the gift shop.  I bought a beautiful tote bag with a floral print taken from a piece of porcelain. It became my carry on.  Easy to please.  That’s me. 

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We navigated police barricades which were there for the Puerto Rican parade after having toured the museum to their music (not the typical museum music) to get to the Peninsula Hotel where we got hot tea and sat in their comfy chairs. We each got our own little teapots and strainers and had a delightful chat while watching others have high tea. The petit fours looked wonderful and are on my list for next trip.

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The boys had gone to Brooklyn to get Capers’ backpack so now we met in Hell’s Kitchen for French food at La Bergamote before our final “au revoir”.  Hell’s Kitchen is an area on the west side just SW of Central Park and Colton explained that the subway doesn’t go out that far so it is not as touristy. We were not able to cross one street because a man was in a rage on the other corner and we weren’t sure what was about to go down.  We scurried across when he went far enough from the corner that we could get by.  We had a wonderful meal and some French pastries to finish off a delightful day.

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After stopping by the hotel for our luggage, Colton took us to the airport and went half way through the line for security before saying goodbye. A specimen of stamina and resilience. It’s a proud moment when the child you spent your life taking care of takes care of you. Once again, I left part of my heart in New York City and had a safe trip home. Dolly may never go away again, but I plan to. Until next time, New York.

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🎈Happy Birthday to Me!

This fiftieth day of 2018 is my fiftieth birthday.

Wait. What?!  Did I say fifty? How can that be? I truly feel like a twenty-five year old in my head. However, if I’m doing the math right, I WAS born fifty years ago and I CAN account for every one of those years, so I guess I should say that I feel like TWO twenty-five year olds in my head.

But FIFTY?! That used to be so old.

In anticipation of my milestone birthday, I determined last year that I would be at the top of my game at fifty so I toyed with adopting the slogan “Fit at Fifty” or “Fifty and Fabulous” and gave myself several months (plenty of time) to attain this goal.  We joined a gym last June and I finally realized a long-time dream of getting physically fit. We began to think more about our health. I also made strides in being on a spiritual mountaintop when I came to my monumental birthday, studying the Bible and learning things that I could teach others also. I worked to come out of my shell more and be that happy social butterfly that I envy in other personalities. As I approach an empty nest, I could see that I would get more time with my aging mother and be able to do things for her I haven’t had time to do. I planned to have a photo shoot to document my happiness and publish my prettiest picture ON my big day. I would give other women hope that turning fifty was a joyful stage in life!

Well, that’s the paragraph I planned to write, but that’s not how last year went at all.

Forty-nine was not fun, not because it led to fifty, but because it was for me a year filled with many trials. Adjustments are hard. I do not run from change but the truth is that adjusting to a new reality is a shock to the system, even if it is something that is a joyful change. 

We did join the gym, but I literally fell on my knee last Fall (appropriately) and figuratively fell off the workout wagon. I became the mother of an adult child who lives in another state and didn’t need me the way I was accustomed to being needed. My daughter was away at college and beginning to date. My energetic baby boy was left at home with no siblings and two boring parents. I didn’t know how to be who I needed to be in relation to this new reality and wished I had more wisdom to offer them as they faced new challenges themselves. My mother was in pain everyday and I had no way to relieve her. I was falling apart in so many ways and just not able to deal. I wanted to quit everything because I didn’t feel like I had anything to offer that anybody would value and my own imperfections discouraged me. All of these pressures took a toll on my marriage which then caused us to get real. We should really have this thing figured out by now and sometimes it seemed like we hadn’t learned a thing.  My husband has had to find a strength and an understanding and a forgiveness and a patience to meet the challenge which has been revitalizing to our relationship.  I pray I can be there for him the way he has been there for me when he faces his greatest challenge in life.  He has certainly shown me how.

Turning fifty forces you to accept that what you wanted to be by this late date doesn’t match with what you actually are—there should have been more holiday decorations, more garnishes on the food, I should be a beacon of sunshine to the throngs who look to me for help, there should be no junk drawers (or rooms), etc.  There’s a reason perfectionists get depressed—they can never do enough to make things just right and the only place that’s perfect is heaven. Others’ imperfections are annoying, but a perfectionists’ imperfections bring on self-hate which is no picnic for those who have to live with them. Reaching an age like fifty sobers you to realize that it was what it was and there is no going back to make it better.  As a young person you have the joy of dreaming all the things you could do and become in life but older ages humble you as you realize that your story has been mostly written. It’s time to be happy with what your life turned out to be. 

(By the way, those who know me as an acquaintance may be reading this in disbelief. Some seem to think I have it all together. Nope, I am human, too.  It would take a lot of pressure off if I could tell this to the world.)

On January 2, my mother passed away. While I have every reason to be at peace with her passing, I do miss her especially today.  After all, your birthday is about you and your mother, right? She had said every time I saw her last year that I had a special birthday coming so I know she wishes me a happy birthday. It’s nice to know it would have been a special day for her, too. Her departure leaves me as the eldest in my line for my children to look to and that definitely gives me the feel of being handed the baton. If I’m going to be a prayer warrior in my older years, I have got to be becoming that warrior now.  As each of our Christian parents and grandparents pass away, we lose all the prayers they would have prayed for us.  They have set the example and it is time for us to get on our own knees and stop depending on them to do the heavenly work for us. So the next time you are bored in the company of old people, just remember that the boring life they have come to may be what allows them the time to invest in prayer for you.  If you have a prayer warrior who loves you, you are blessed indeed.  No telling how many days those warriors prayed for my children more than I did. This dependence on one another as we depend on God is another life lesson of older age. We are all on a journey and each contributing to the other. 

Last year was the most prolonged time I have ever had of being in a valley. While I would never ask to go through such an extended time of trying, I have to say that my awareness of God is at an all-time high.  I am now very aware that all I have is God and am excited beyond my ability to express it to know Him better. It’s like a colorblind person putting on those glasses that allows him to see colors for the first time in his life or a deaf person being given a device to allow him to hear the sounds that have been undetected until now. The more I know of God, the more depth I see that there is to see. My black and white world is now in technicolor and it is amazing!

I do not presume to live one hundred years or even eighty, but if this birthday can be seen as a midpoint in either my life or my adulthood, I want to focus even more in the second half on knowing God, who has allowed us to have a personal relationship with Him. Incredible! I can already see that the troubles I have come through this past year have brought me to a point of growth where I can make decisions that I now need to make. My thinking is now adjusted to be able to think thoughts that never entered my mind but now I have eyes to see and ears to hear. These are obviously decisions the old me would have gotten wrong.

One of the main things I realized at Christmas was that I do not want to attain any new thing as much as I want to keep the things I already have.  I already have the greatest things I could have asked for in this life.  Above all, I have salvation in Jesus Christ.  Not only is heaven guaranteed for me but I can live a life in amazement of Almighty God and grow more like him as I follow him daily.  This is all because I placed my faith in Him, humbling myself and trusting that it takes His perfect blood to cleanse my sinful soul. I have lived a wonderful life, largely at the hands of my parents and husband.  Yes, they have bought me many gifts and provided for my needs, but I am mainly speaking of the life and love they shared with me. I have three off-the-charts children (I won’t enumerate which charts) and we are all in good health.  Do you know how much my life would change if there were a health problem with any one of them?  We coast along as if this is the way we deserve it to be and the way it will always be but it wouldn’t take much to turn our lives upside down and we would then beg God to please put it back how it was when we didn’t realize how wonderful we had it. Good relationships, having everything we need, celebrations, health, freedom—we are rich, People!

So, now you’re thinking that I had a birthday and invited you to my pity party!  That is where I have lived for far too long, though I realize my problems are small (and are not over).  I have close friends whose children or grandchildren have died this year.  In light of that, I have no problems. But any problem can overtake us if we do not lean hard on God and those He has placed in our lives to be His hands. In my case, I needed to learn what true leaning was and to value the blessings I already enjoy. Let me encourage you to see through “I’m fine” and know that everyone is hurting over things they CANNOT tell you. I have gone to church with great needs inside and wanted to hug everyone who gave me a smile or a brief encouragement. You cannot know how much a thirsty soul needs that love.  Why be stingy with it? It’s free and it’s priceless. A kind gesture makes a huge difference.

Fifty feels like it should be my prime—definitely not in looks or memory skills, but to be young enough to do things yet old enough to have learned a lot. If you’re counting by fifties, my birth was a big celebration of which I was not aware and being one hundred would be a big celebration which I doubt I will see, so this is THE birthday that I am now guaranteed and I celebrate it as a milestone of God’s goodness.  I can never thank God enough for my salvation. Heaven will be beyond description. The family and lifestyle He has given me is more than a person could ask. But my salvation is not just about heaven; it is about God changing me. To walk with Him every day and to trust His wisdom and care and to have new understanding of the world and awe of Him with each passing day is a blessing I constantly enjoy and I will enjoy more and more of it every new day that He gives me.

Today is definitely a turning point in my life.  In many ways, it feels like my old life has died and my new life is beginning. I am thankful for everything God brought me through, every blessing He gave me, and every person that contributed to my life, but I am also thankful for the excitement I feel for a future of exploring how good and holy my God is!