Like many of you, I'm struggling with the world around me. I think often of getting off social media and never turning on the news again. While I know there are people out there trying to do good, and even some who take the time to share that goodness with the rest of us, what seems to find its way into my feed and onto my tv screen is typically the polar opposite of good. And today, with the Me Too campaign, I hit my wall. Followed up quickly by the less than shocking story about the President when asked about LGBTQ people in a meeting, gestured toward the Vice President and said, "don't ask that guy - he wants to hang them all!" Yes, he was joking. Yes, there was absolute truth in his statement. The two men elected to lead our country find it perfectly okay to 1) talk candidly about hanging an entire portion of our population and 2) not realize the gravity with which their comments (and worse, their core belief systems) weigh down our already struggling social system. What on earth is wrong with these people?
Let me back up...I've seen the many posts shared by women I love and respect, women I don't really know, women I know carry stories worth way more than some hashtag...and like just about any woman out there, I could add my own hashtag too - show me a woman who hasn't had dirty words thrown her way...show me a woman who hasn't been touched inappropriately...show me a woman who doesn't fear for their daughter who is growing up in a world where there is so much confusion between tolerance and intolerance - but I don't want to add another hashtag. See...if you take the above story about 45 and 45.5, it's no wonder women feel violated in 2017. It's no wonder domestic violence shelters still exist. It's no wonder men think it's okay to treat women like property or even less than that. And, it's no wonder people are sick and tired of feeling ignored and are finally standing up for themselves.
This issue is so much bigger than color or race or sex or sexual preference. Do I fully get everyone's choices in life? Of course not. Do I fully understand all the ways we are different? Nope. Are there some things that make me uncomfortable? If I'm totally honest? Yes. Do I feel guilty for feeling these things? Yes. But, I also know it's okay to believe what I believe...to live my life the way I see fit...to instill certain beliefs in my daughter...to worship as I wish...to love who I want...to wear what I want...to drive and work and write and eat wherever, whenever, whatever I want - mostly because of the color of my skin and the part of the world I was born in. White privilege. Yes, I went there. It's real and it's the giant, pink elephant camped out in almost every conversation these days. But...I'm also a woman. A divorced mom who has lived alone for almost as long I was married - and here's the really dirty part of this story - most of the nasty comments and inappropriate touching happened in these past eight years, many times by married men who somehow thought I was fair game...sometimes even by men who I thought were my friends. But, the truth is, they didn't respect me...they saw me as something less...something they thought they could just take...and while I never once thought it was okay....I also knew it was "normal" - whatever that is. And now, in 2017, we seem to be taking steps backwards rather than forwards...and that is the most disappointing and frightening part about all of this to me. I know change takes time. I know people fear change. I know power is greater than change much of the time...so, back to where this post came from...
What I really thought of when I saw all those Me Too posts was that we don't need one more thing to remind us of the shitty darkness in the world. We don't need one more way to come together based upon yet another social injustice...just hear me out... What we need is to focus on the ways things ARE better...the ways this world we live in isn't completely falling apart. For example, without much thought, I realized I know of four women preachers - women who in the not so distant past, would never have been allowed in the pulpit. Women who lead congregations. Women who counsel and share their beliefs openly with people who trust them to lead them in their spiritual journey. Women who have looked at the glass ceiling over their shoulder and gave it the bird. Yes, it's harder to find the good...but we have to look for it. We have to remind ourselves of it. We have to share it and celebrate it and give it more power than the bad. We have to stop and listen to one another rather than blame and draw lines in the sand and choose sides. Sometimes, many times, there isn't a right or a wrong. There is only different. And different may be uncomfortable, but that doesn't make it wrong. We have spent so much time and energy focusing on the wrong things rather than really taking the opportunity to make a difference. What would it hurt to really talk about why NFL players are kneeling rather than pointing out all the reasons we are offended by it? What would it hurt to let people love who they love and simply celebrate the fact that they found someone to love? These are super sensitive subjects and I'm uncomfortable talking about them myself (mostly because I avoid conflict at all cost), but at this point I don't see what good we're accomplishing by NOT having these conversations. For the love of God, stop being so offended...stop taking everything so personal (Hint: it's not all about you)...and start getting personal with the people around you...start saying the things that matter...start showing compassion and empathy and grace...and start listening more with the intent to really hear the other person.
How do we find our tribe - a word that has become popular in recent years, and one I'm hesitant to use yet find frustratingly fitting in this circumstance - our people, our circle, our...friends? It's no secret my friends are like family to me. These women I CHOOSE to do life with. The sensational six - yes, I literally just came up with that on the fly, but I think I maybe love it a little so we're gonna go with it (for this post anyway) and see if it sticks - myself and five girls (I typed ladies but even at 40 I struggle to say we are anything other than girls) I have known...MY ENTIRE LIFE. Yes, there are more friends in my life...and many I am so thankful to be walking through life with...but at this point, and for the past several years consistently now, these are the people who have done. life. with. me. The good. The bad. The mundane. We wade through the deep and we celebrate the victories - together. Period.
Here's the thing. What we do is intentional. It's a lot of time spent emailing and texting about when and where and how we will make time for brunch or happy hour because each one of us has stuff going on and while we may get frustrated when a month goes by and we haven't been able to find time to meet up, we still stick it out and make finding time a priority. And on the rare occasion that all six of us can make it, we celebrate a little extra because most of the time it's only four or five of us and since that's better than nothing we totally take it and cherish the handful of hours we're given.
Four of us got together last Sunday for brunch and spent the better part of three hours eating and drinking and laughing mostly. We cram as much as we can into whatever time we get, trying to shove the important stories into the conversation while really only covering the highlights. We now understand the value of being "in the middle" - someone is always in the middle...the person who needs the rest of us the most at that moment. The idea that when one of us is hurting, or struggling, the rest of us surround her and give her the time and support needed to work through whatever it is that's messy and painful. We've each been there for one reason or another, and while none of us likes being there, we now know it's with that support that we get through the shit storms life throws at us. This past Sunday was no different. We ate, we drank (God love Trey and his ability to keep our glasses of champagne and vodka coming), we laughed and, ultimately, we shed a few tears. See, even in this sacred circle comes the inability to fully hide shame and guilt. We each fight our own set of demons, and while we try so hard to keep them at bay, they are powerful and come at us with heavy fists in our moments of weakness. Oddly, these are the things we are each most reluctant to share. Again...shame, guilt...they know no boundaries even amongst the closest of friends. So, it sometimes take months, or years even, to fully disclose some of life's most painful sorrows - even though we try desperately to reassure each other that we are safe there, past judgments (perhaps cast most greatly upon ourselves) hinder us from fully opening up due to the walls of protection we build and the lack of trust we now carry after years of disappointment and let down. So we find ourselves hesitant to openly share some of our greatest pains in the moments we feel most raw, waiting, instead, to give the cliffs notes version somewhere down the road when the wounds aren't quite so fresh and we are better prepared to handle the advice we may not be ready to hear when in the thick of the situation.
Anyway, as we were leaving we joked about this parking garage we parked in - it has a rather prominent statue at its entrance that we use to describe said garage - and I found myself thinking about how we found not only the garage, but way more important, each other...and then found myself praying M would look back at 40, surrounded by girls she knows won't leave her no matter how tough it gets, and know she has one of life's greatest gifts. Yes, life took all of us in various directions for many years. Hell, the sixth one of us just moved home making me finally feel complete. For many years we weren't really in touch, but somehow, before life really kicked each of us square in the ass, we found our way "home". And because I refuse to think of "home" as a physical place, but rather a feeling of reassurance and comfort - it's something I find when I'm with these girls - I can't help but associate them with that. I believe God gives us the people we need when we need them...to be His arms, His hands, His voice...and He has clearly known I needed these girls the past eight years. So maybe that's the answer to the how...maybe it's Him. How else can I explain how each of us ended up back here at the same time? Although, if I let myself really dwell on that, I get worked up thinking about what might be coming next but I know I can't live like that. Maybe it's time we get to really celebrate. Maybe that's it. Maybe this time it isn't about who is in the middle for protection and safety, but to be celebrated. It's worth a shot anyway.
So maybe it doesn't matter how we find each other. Maybe that isn't the important part. Maybe the why isn't all that important either. Maybe all that matters is the fact we DO find each other in time to be there for the moments that count. Maybe that's all that really matters. If so, then we sure got lucky. Now if we could only get over the shame and guilt so we can stop feeling alone in the really awful moments, but that may be asking a bit much.
Find your "garage"...your tribe...the ones who hold your secrets and push you when you think you don't have anything left...the ones who hold you accountable but do so gently when needed...the ones who know how to make you laugh til you cry...and the ones who know when to just hold your hand and let you feel whatever it is you need to feel without judgment or reserve. Those are your people. Find them. Cherish them.
I've got five hours left in my 30's. In five hours I will turn 40. Forty. I have spent the past year saying it doesn't bother me, that it's just a number, that I'm ready...and I'm fairly certain I believed every bit of that. Until the past few days. As the days leading up to the 25th have ticked by, I find myself more and more overwhelmed with the realization the youth of my life has passed...and then, thinking through what I've done up to this point, but particularly over the past decade...and, finally about everything I haven't done. And last night I laid awake thinking through those things once more and felt my chest tighten and the hot sting of tears as the beginning of a panic attach set in.
It's a number, I know that. One I am thankful to hit. Yet, as I look around and take stock of everything, I know there are phases of my life that are definitively over. I fear I have wasted precious time, taken advantage of years I can never get back, spent too much time overthinking the unimportant while not giving nearly enough thought to what truly
matters. My Pop-Pop lived to be 80 - the youngest age of any of my grandparents - and when he turned 80, he said that if a man lives to be that age then they have lived a good, long life. Given how very quickly these past 20 (I say 20 because the first 20 didn't seem to go by nearly as fast) years have flown by, I'm certain I will wake up one morning thinking of this moment and wondering how on earth 40 more years disappeared.
I know, life is what happens when we are busy trying to live. It's the little moments, the everyday things, that build upon one another creating the years that ultimately become one's story. It's the people and the memories that shape the hours that turn into days. It's up to us to live the ones we're given fully and without regret.
So, back to the end of my 30's...I mean, what is there to say? If you've read this for long you've been along for the ride. Sure there are many details I've left out, and others I've only glanced over. These past ten years have held the most difficult and painful moments of my life...I have come face-to-face with my demons and haven't always won...and I have lived, truly and honestly lived. I've seen parts of the world I had only dreamed about, and searched desperately for myself within the four walls of my little home. I have buried two souls who impacted my life and shaped me in ways I still struggle to define. I've learned the importance of a moment and the harsh reality of time. I've laughed, God have I laughed. I got drunk for the very first time (yes...the very first time), but definitely not the last. I got a tattoo at a time when I was old enough to know exactly what I was doing and love it still to this day. I mourned a dear friend and rediscovered the value of real, true, life-long friendships...you know, those you really "do" life with...and made finding time for people my top priority. I fell. Hard. But I landed, and in that landing found my independence. I danced it out and I cried it out and I learned that both have equal value in certain moments. I am navigating life with a teenage daughter who is better than anything I deserve. I have loved and I've been loved and right now find myself thankful for every step in that process. It has been through both that I have learned humility and just how much I need to work on communication. I want to do so much more, to BE so much more. Yet...I've sat by and done nothing about either. So here's to the next 40. My body may age and my mind may get fuzzy, but I pray that God continues putting me where He wants me and gives me the willingness to see what He has in store for me.
Gran loved a sunrise. For me it's the sunsets. To see the day end...to watch all of the chaos and disarray finally come to rest...and to do so beautifully. I've always loved that no matter how cloudy or stormy the day has been, there is always a sunset...and, it's often on those stormy days that we see the most breathtaking ones. I'm certain there's something to that. Tonight, as I wrap up this chapter, I wanted nothing more than to just sit and watch the sun go down. It wasn't spectacular, but it was still something to be seen. A quiet ending for these final hours before the page turns on another year, another decade...and I'm okay with today ending like this. I think it's fitting after the past several years...and I'm hopeful for what comes next. #BringItForty
"We'll be known for our opinions, we'll be remembered for our love." - Bob Goff
We've hit that point in the year when my not so mini is gone way more than she's home. We get precious moments smattered throughout the otherwise two best months of the year, so tonight with lightening bugs hovering around us and the wind chimes out playing the cars driving by, we laid on the trampoline, watching the big, fluffy clouds and talking about things we've not talked about in quite some time.
I think all the time about everything I should be telling her...all the things I should be teaching her...fearing that I'm somehow missing great opportunities to help her become someone I would want to know...someone who she will want to be. But, most of the time I find myself without the words, without the advice, feeling totally unprepared and ill-equipped to handle whatever scenario she has laid at my feet. Yet, what I think to myself, what I find myself saying to her, is that "I've been there...I was 13 once...and I survived"...not exactly words of comfort or direction, yet sometimes that's all I've got. But tonight was different...tonight we laughed...and we talked about her need to find her place, her passion in a world that tells these kids they must have something they excel at or they somehow aren't doing/being enough (at 13...I'm almost 40 and STILL struggle with this so I find this topic particularly frustrating, but a highlight of the night came when I shared this with her and she said we were twinsies because of this very fact)...we talked about the clouds and how beautiful the sky was...we talked about her friends and I told her that if I were her age I would want to be her friend because she is such a good friend...we talked about how important it is to me that she not do anything that forces her to focus on her looks/image because she is so much more than that and who she is is so much more important.
I read Bob Goff's words the other day and they stuck with me. So simple, so true. Our opinions are the visible, outward perspective we leave with those we meet...our love, while often quiet or understated - or, perhaps withheld or not freely given, is what those left long after we're gone will remember about us. Tonight, as we talked about who she wants to be...as I shared that I still don't know who/what I want to be...I said that at this point...what is very possibly the middle of my life...I fear that I have not done, or given, or been enough. I fear that I've wasted time, or opportunities - precious moments that may not come again. I told her to be brave, to not fear failure like I've always done...I told her to chase her dreams and learn about lots of things. I told her that what matters now is watching her grow and helping her find her way, and that if I've touched a few people along the way then I know I've done what I was put here to do. I know I often give opinions without really researching them. I know I often share too much and then regret it. I know I often interrupt rather than let others just speak. I know I often feel the need to fill a space so I say something even if it means saying something pointless or unnecessary. But...I also know I love. And I just pray that somehow that love will overshadow all that other junk in the end. And, if she gets nothing else from me, I pray she will always love and extend grace especially when giving her opinion, or speaking without real thought, would be easier.
While the number may be a little higher, the story...the memories...the love are still the same. Happy Birthday, Weisy...may you always know where you came from and how very much you're loved.
To the rest...there is little I can say that I didn't say before...please read the link below and think of your own memories of her...or, of siblings you, too, cherish.
To have a sister is to have a built-in best friend...the most honest reflection of yourself...a keeper of memories...the one you learn to fight with...the one you learn to share with...the one you learn to make up with. She knows your secrets and will protect you like no other. But she will also remind you where you came from and keep you grounded in ways no other can. Our hearts are always connected and forever we take care of each other.
The last two days of our trip were just as magical as the first two. Looking back, I still can't believe how much we did in such a short amount of time, and how when it was all said and done there wasn't a thing we wanted to do we didn't get to do. Sunday we had tickets to see Wicked and plans to meet my college friend for brunch. The rest of the day was up in the air. We hadn't had dinner Saturday night because we were so exhausted when we got back to the hotel we couldn't even make a decision about what to get. M was starving and brunch wasn't until 11 so I ran over to the little Bouchon Bakery across from The Today Show and grabbed coffee and pasteries and then stumbled upon Magnolia Bakery on my way back to the hotel (they had the roads blocked off again so I had to go the long way around - this seems to happen a lot there) and had read all about how if you were in NY you HAD to get the banana pudding at Magnolia Bakery so I got the small clearly underestimating the ridiculous goodness that one little container could hold because we devoured it in about 3.5 seconds and were left wanting more.
Thankfully Stephanie appreciated my need to not make one more decision that weekend and chose a great place for brunch - The Smith, near Lincoln Center - and it couldn't have been more perfect! We met at 11 and spent the next couple hours catching up (we had only seen each other once since graduation from UNLV in 2000 and that was in 2009 when she and our friend, Marcie, came to KC while I was going through my divorce). M asked her all about life in NY because after two days in the city she had a lot she wanted to know. We enjoyed our visit and after a fantastic meal, M and I headed up Columbus Ave. through the Upper West Side to the American Museum of Natural History where we had hoped to see the dinosaurs, but the line was too long so we walked back down along Central Park, stopping at Strawberry Fields before taking the paths through the park back towards our hotel. We had one last major stop before getting ready for Wicked - Top of the Rock - and we were there at the perfect time...no real wait and the sun was just low enough to make the view all warm and shimmery. We stopped at each level, enchanted by every detail of the city below us, feeling as if for a few moments nothing else mattered except taking in as much as we possibly could: trying to memorize not only the view, but the way I felt standing next to my mini and thanking God I got to share this with her. (And, yes, the view was better up there than at the ESB because the ESB was PART OF THE VIEW from up there and that made it even more magical.)
We freshened up and walked the three blocks to Times Square in search of pizza before seeing Wicked and found two fantastic slices of pie (okay, I will likely never call it that again, but I know that's what they call it so I'm trying to be authentic) at Famous Original Ray's Pizza on 7th Ave. The place was tiny and crowded - always a good sign - and the guys behind the counter (who flirted mercilessly with every girl in there and we were no exception) were quick to give us our pizza - cheese for M, margarita for me. M had learned how important it was to grab seats when they came available so I joined her at the table we were sharing with a couple (this is normal there - not something we're used to in the Midwest, but we thought it was pretty cool...although, I think if we were doing it in the Midwest it would be more of a communal thing, but there everyone kept to themselves). After pizza we ran into the giant M&M's store and filled a bag with all sorts of colors and types (why does something so everyday like M&M's taste so much better when bought on vacation from a giant, hyped-up super store??) and then stopped in a little souvenir shop to grab a couple things before walking the two blocks to the Gershwin Theatre where we joined the crowd of people gathered in the lobby trying to stay warm while waiting for the show.
Let me just say...I saw Phantom of the Opera on Broadway the last time I was in NYC, but was so incredibly excited to see Wicked - more so than I had to see Phantom - likely because I couldn't wait to see it with M, but also because I knew the level of talent we were about to see and we were not disappointed. We were six rows back on the right side of the stage and our seats were PERFECT. We were mesmerized from the moment the first actor stepped on stage until the very last second. For two and a half hours we felt like a part of the musical, so close we could see their expressions, near enough to see them looking right at us...we could literally feel the power of the music as Elphaba closed out the first act with "Defying Gravity" and left M saying she HAD to get the music! We were speechless as the curtain closed, almost exhausted by what we had just seen. We left wanting to see it again, and feeling a little sad that it was over. If you haven't seen Wicked...do it! Pay for the good seats (our's were $160 a piece and worth every single penny), take your daughter and go. The storyline is so much more than you might imagine and hits on topics our kiddos are facing every day - inclusion, sticking up for those who can't take care of themselves, loyalty, the power of diversity, the fact that family comes in all shapes/sizes/colors - and it was just INCREDIBLE. We left the theatre feeling magical and thankful to have been in the presence of such talent.
Our final morning in NYC started early...super. early. Like 4:15am early. But, in the name of making dreams (mine, not hers - this final adventure was selfishly all for me and she was a good sport about it all) come true, no hour was too early. For anyone who has known me for any amount of time, you know I ALWAYS dreamed of being on The Today Show...of being Katie Couric (no, I'm not a stalker, just a dreamer). So, when I knew decided we were going to NYC, I was very intentional to stay near Rockefeller Plaza so being a part of a show one morning would be more likely. So, we were out the door of the hotel at 4:50am and the first ones in line at 5am! No, I hadn't had coffee and it was all of 25 degrees out, but nothing was keeping us from making this happen. I made friends with a security guard (shocking, I know) who loved hearing we were from KC (he's a big Jeremy Guthrie fan) and told us exactly where to stand and gave us a few pointers so we'd know what to expect. The plaza was all set up before we got there and we could see people inside the studio preparing for the day's show. It was MLK Day so I knew there was a good chance Matt Lauer and All Roker wouldn't be there (I was right, but that didn't take away from our experience). People started lining up with us and everyone had signs or birthdays to share and everyone was excited for the chance to be on tv. At about 6:45 we were finally allowed through security and since our friend the security guard had told us right where to stand, we made our way around the barricades and got ready for the show to start. We could see in the windows and there were monitors in front of us where we could see the anchors sharing the day's stories. The cameraman came around and recorded our shout outs, and we had no idea if ours would be played or not, but ultimately we made the cut! There was a lot of standing around in between segments and then the anchors came out for the first time at 7:30...and they were literally a foot in front of us! We got to chat briefly with them, and they were incredibly gracious about taking photos and saying hello. M and I were beside ourselves! When they came back out at 8:30 they did a longer teaser for an upcoming Valentine's Day contest they were promoting, and when Tamron Hall didn't want to say "Will you marry me?" to Willie, she turned around and handed me the microphone so I could say it! Friends! I WAS ON THE TODAY SHOW!!! Not just in the crowd, or even in a shout out...but, I spoke in a microphone (to be honest, I would have said ANYTHING at that point so I don't care that what I said was cheesy)...on The Today Show. Yes, I'm a total nerd. Yes, for me, that was an absolute dream come true. It was one of the best moments and I got to share it with my girl. After four hours standing in the cold, we were hungry, tired and ready to thaw out so we grabbed coffee and food from Bouchon Bakery and booked it back to the hotel to sneak a quick nap under the covers before heading to the airport. While we were ready to be home, we loved NYC. There isn't a thing I wish we had done, nor a thing I wish we had done differently. The city was kind to us and we left loving its beautiful chaos. I would go back in a heartbeat and while I can't ever see myself living there, I can see why so many people call it home. The neighborhoods and people, the food (oh. my gosh, the FOOD!), the sites, the history, the art, the culture, the talent, the lights and the sounds...each a part of why this city is so magical, so over the top in so many ways, yet so incredibly personal and inviting in all the ways that matter. NYC, you've got a piece of my heart and I look forward to the day we meet again.
Saturday in NY started off with a full agenda (side note: when I was talking with my college friend, Stephanie - a born and raised New Yorker - about our trip and everything we were hoping to see and do she was clearly skeptical about our ability to do it all...well, when I put my mind to something I generally make it happen and that list of fun was no exception!) A few things on our list for Saturday: get a NY bagel, take the subway, walk the Brooklyn Bridge, visit the 9/11 memorial, go to China Town and Little Italy, walk neighborhood streets, do some shopping, find some iconic tv sites, and eat more good food.
I found a highly recommended bagel shop a few blocks from the hotel so we set off early with a fully-charged phone and a vague plan. First stop was St. Patrick's Cathedral. M didn't fully understand why we were going into a "church" until we walked in...and then she was mesmerized. The absolute beauty was breathtaking and we spent quite a bit of time walking all the way around, admiring every statue and ornate detail, and imagining what it would feel like to attend church in a place like this each week.
Ess-a-Bagel on 3rd Ave. had a 45-minute wait outside the door, but we were starving (and I hadn't had coffee yet) and everyone who walked out the door raved about how good the bagels were so we hopped in line and chatted with the people around us (shocking, I know) while we waited. The wait was so worth it....an everything bagel with eggs, cheese and bacon (and of course a cup of coffee) for me and a plain bagel with strawberry cream cheese for M (her's was the best, hands down).
After breakfast we got on the subway at Lexington and 51st and rode it all the way to the Brooklyn Bridge stop, also known as the very end of the line. The NY subway didn't disappoint. The people watching was solid and after getting off the subway we found our way to the Brooklyn Bridge where we only walked to the middle for a few photos. We then made the short walk to the 9/11 Memorial after walking through the cemetery at St. Paul's chapel where George Washington once sat and the tombstones dated back to the 1700's. I have only been in NYC one other time and it was the end of August, 2002...almost a year after the 9/11 attacks. On our bus tour of the city that hot August day, we stopped at what once held the two World Trade Center towers...and was at that time a gaping hole that left me reeling with emotion and feeling like I didn't deserve to be there because while I was an American, and the attacks were on all of America, I knew no one who died that day and what I was looking at was the burial ground of innocent lives that, while unknown to me personally, felt like family on 9/11 and as I stood there that day. What haunted me then were the memorials and tributes that lined the wrought iron fence surrounding the little cemetery I had just walked through, and while they had long been removed, the memories were there still the same. We did not go through the museum. I didn't have it in me and we had a lot more on our list, but we did spend some time at the memorial. I never would have been able to come up with a way to memorialize those who died that day. Nothing in my mind could have ever been enough, but somehow what I was looking at...the huge pools and cascading waterfalls that created a calm and peacefulness in the world's most chaotic city...were exactly perfect. I found myself sad, but in a much different way than I had felt in 2002. This time I didn't feel the fear and anger I felt then, but more so the sadness I have felt at other monuments and memorials. And, while I know M didn't feel nearly the same things I felt in those moments, she was well aware of why we were there and as much as she hates to see me cry in public, she didn't dare question the tears that filled my eyes even as we walked away.
Next we hopped a bus up to China Town - a few city blocks that put M and I into sensory overload. We had hoped for knock-off purses, but decided to quickly move on to Little Italy and the heaven we found in Ferrara Bakery. Friends, I can't begin to tell you about the goodness that came in the form of strawberry gelato and a chocolate cannoli. We absolutely loved this place and got a little rest before heading towards SoHo and shopping. It was about this time it started to snow. I can only describe the rest of the afternoon as iconic New York, snow globe, fluffy, beautiful snow. It was magical, and I'm so glad we got to experience the city that way. We spent the afternoon wandering neighborhoods and going in and out of little shops. I got a killer deal on a great pair of leopard print heels that I get compliments on every time I wear them. I consider that a win. I knew we weren't too far from the Friends apartment building so we set off on a scavenger hunt to find it. I'm not sure which one of us was more excited when we came around the corner and saw the exact view we've seen hundreds of times when watching my favorite show. We snapped a couple photos and then moved on to find Carrie Bradshaw's stoop (only a few blocks away) from Sex and the City. M then asked if I thought we could find Kleinfeld's from Say Yes to the Dress. It was a bit of a walk, but so worth it when the owner herself gave us a personal tour! M was in heaven! We ended the evening at the Flatiron Building before grabbing an Uber back to our hotel. It was quite a day and we covered so much ground. To be honest, I know there are things I've left out, but we went non-stop for 11 hours and were cold and damp from the snow, but we saw so much and laughed a lot and ate yummy food. It was one hell of a day, and I know neither of us will forget it.
In January I took M to NYC for the weekend. She had just turned 13 and I wanted to share something with her, make memories with her that were so much greater than any gift. I know the next few years aren't going to go any slower. The amount of time I get with her is fleeting, and with each passing day she opts for her friends over me more and more. I wanted something that was just ours...to show her an incredible city and just be us without any of life's typical distractions for a few days. And that's exactly what we did. Here's a little peak into three, jam-packed days in one of the most incredible places. There honestly wasn't a thing on our list we didn't do, and we walked over 24 miles. From mid-town, to downtown, the Upper East Side to SoHo, the Brooklyn Bridge to Broadway, the Upper West Side to Little Italy, and China Town to Central Park...we made Manhattan ours and it was truly everything I hoped it would be and even more than I imagined. When asked what my favorite part was, the answer is simple: watching M take it all in...seeing her reaction to every site and sound...experiencing it all with her.
After a crazy early start to the day, our flight landed at LaGuardia almost an hour early (thank you westerly winds) which proved to be a huge advantage given the state of traffic into the city. I decided to take a cab from the airport so she could check that off her bucket list. And, yes, it was exactly as I expected and and over/underwhelming as she imagined. An hour and ridiculous amount of money later, we discovered that our hotel was smack-dab in the middle of a 20-block radius that was closed off for the funeral of NYC Police Officer, Steven McDonald, being held at St. Patrick's Cathedral. (Side note: there is NO WAY to give adequate credit to, or truly express, the emotional gravity and absolute sadness and pride I felt at being present for such an incredible event. I have never, and hope to never again, witness such a monumental display of gratitude and grace. It was beautiful and heartbreaking all at the same time.) Long story short, our driver could only get us to 48th St. and our hotel was on 51st between 5th and 6th so, we got out and walked the last few blocks through barricades and the hundreds of officers and all of a sudden stepped into a clearing and realized we were at...Rockefeller Plaza!! The flags, the ice rink, the crazy tall 30 Rock building, and to our left...The Today Show (stick around, there's WAY more about that later) - the place I spent most of my life dreaming of and we were looking right at it! We snapped a couple quick photos and walked around the block to our hotel.
We stayed at the incredible Club Quarters Hotel (opposite Rockefeller Center location) and could not have been more pleased with our stay! The location was perfect, the staff were beyond helpful, our room was much larger than I expected, and we even had a nice view of St. Patrick's Cathedral from our window. I would recommend this property to anyone and would go back in a second! Anyway, we settled in, and made a game plan for our first day in the city. Thanks to the Explorer Pass, we were able to purchase discounted tickets for both the Empire State Building and Top of the Rock (I wanted to do both - one to start our trip and one to end it - both iconic buildings with incredible views, neither of which disappointed) so we set out to kick off our weekend with a trip to the top of the ESB to get a view of the city. We walked down 5th Avenue - passing by the NYC Library, blocks of motorcycle officers waiting to lead the funeral processional, and thousands of people rushing from one place to another as we took it all in. The weather was gorgeous! Near 50 and sunny, which made a mid-January trip absolutely perfect!
We found our way to the ESB and when we walked into the lobby it felt a bit like something out of a movie (thank you Sleepless in Seattle and Elf for that). I had read about how long it could take to wait in line, but we were at the top in 15 minutes. The view was breathtaking. And watching M's face as she took it all in was priceless. We were able to see everything...the new One World Trade Center and the Statue of Liberty way off in the distance, the beautiful Chrysler Building just below us, building upon building each view better than the last.
From the ESB we walked back uptown along Park Ave. so we could walk through Grand Central Station and the Waldorf Astoria as we made our way to Bloomingdale's and ultimately Serendipity 3 - home of the world-famous frozen hot chocolate as seen in one of my favorite movies, Serendipity. This quirky, whimsical restaurant was more than we imagined and the frozen hot chocolate...can we just take a moment in honor of the absolute frosty, chocolatey, creamy goodness that this giant cup of heaven truly is...and, yes, I ordered fries with it!
After Serendipity 3, we strolled over to Central Park where the sun was starting to set. We wandered through a bit of the park, seeing Wollman Rink and the zoo while enjoying the paths and bridges. We talked about how for the kids who live in the city, this is their backyard, their playground and while it is a beautiful park, for us mid-westerners it made us even more thankful for our little yard and the space that is all ours everyday. It was getting dark and cold and for fun my phone died, but we had one last stop to make on our way back to the hotel - the Museum of Modern Art, which is free to the public on Friday's from 4-8pm and I had my heart set on seeing Van Gogh's Starry Night so we asked a nice gentleman walking a dog for directions (I had a general idea of where we were going but didn't want to waste a bunch of time wandering the streets of NY in the dark and thankfully he was very kind - something we found to be true of New Yorkers all weekend). We lucked out and stumbled upon the LOVE sculpture on our way and grabbed a couple of fun photos before finding our way to MOMA. Let me say, I've been fortunate enough to travel to Paris and see some of the world's greatest art, but MOMA was incredible! We were greeted by a docent who shared invaluable information with us about not only the museum, but how to navigate the massive crowds and exactly where to go to see not only Starry Night, but several other pieces I had no idea were on display. We made our way up to the fifth floor and, just as he said, came around the corner to find the piece I had been waiting for...and it was even more beautiful in person, even more incredible than the Mona Lisa...rivaling only Monet's Water Lilies - and I was so thankful to be able to show it to M...something she certainly doesn't fully understand now, but will in time. There is something about seeing great art...for me it's a connection to the past and to all those who've stood in its presence and been touched by it...and I wanted her to be able to have that memory as well. We left MOMA in awe and exhaustion ready to put our feet up for a bit before finding dinner.
After a brief rest at the hotel, we decided we needed dinner and couldn't think of a better place to find food than Times Square (just a couple blocks from our hotel). The lights, the people, the sounds - all a lot to take in and I could tell M was a little overwhelmed, so we found our way to Sardi's - a restaurant rich in Broadway tradition, with caricature lined walls and a nod to days gone by. Times Square didn't disappoint, and with a visit to the huge H&M store, we called it a night to rest up for Saturday.
I read the words "trust the timing of your life" a long time ago...and unlike many things, they stuck. I've reflected on them, I've referred to them, I've written them, and I've learned to...trust them. Timing is everything. Truly. And tonight as I visited with a dear friend, that very concept was brought up. We rush and we hurry. We push and we pull. We ask for things we aren't ready for and we let go before we should. We force situations that aren't meant to be and we hold onto those we fear releasing. We manipulate time to work in our favor almost constantly. We beg for more of it, yet waste what we're given almost automatically. We take moments for granted assuming there will always be more. And then we curse fate, or God, or each other when the time runs out.
Every decision we make, every path we follow, every relationship we make happens in time. But, how often is it the RIGHT time? That's what I think about a lot. So much of what happens to us is out of our control. When we meet someone, or being in the right place at just the right moment...having the courage to not let a moment pass...saying what we mean when we need to say it...letting go when we should...and holding on when it seems like there's nothing left to hold onto. Reaching forward, blindly unaware of what comes next and taking a chance when you have little left to give. But mostly timing affects those we meet...those we build lives around and with. What if we hadn't met them at the moment we did? Where would we be? Would we have been more ready for what they had to offer? What if you hadn't talked to that stranger? What if you had said hello? There are so many what if's, so many things to look back on and wonder...so many moments that if you had done even one thing differently your life would be completely different. Think about that for a second.
For me, there are lots of those moments. And, I'd be lying if I didn't wonder from time to time about where a certain person is now, or what my life would look like had I made a different choice. But, this IS my life and I wouldn't change a thing about it. All those what if's mean nothing unless I allow them to, but what difference does it make? There are no take-backs, no do-overs. There's only the right here, the right now. This is where we are, this is what we get - no more, no less. Looking back won't make today or tomorrow any better. If anything, it will only make them worse. Show me one person who doesn't look back with even an ounce of longing for something or someone. We all do it. But, it's what we do with what we have right now that matters.
So, back to trusting the timing...doesn't that imply that we have to let go...that we can't micromanage every little thing? What do they say about unanswered prayers? You know. The frantic bargaining we do with God, often for something or someone we are grateful didn't work out in the long run. We beg Him to give us this one little thing, or let this one person love us, or to make us this or that...but so much of the time it comes back to being, or feeling, loved. We beg for it. From Him, from others, so much of the time (see what I did there?) when it's just not meant to be. And then, when it's right in front of our face, we think it's not right or we aren't ready, or a whole bunch of other junk. #neonsign It's funny. I haven't heard God for a while...a long time now really. And tonight I didn't hear him as much as felt him speaking to me through a few simple words. See, I believe God shows Himself to us through those He surrounds us with - that we feel His strength and compassion through the arms of those who comfort us. His physical presence is only felt if we let others in, giving them the chance to show us His love and grace. And then...allow Him, trust Him with the timing of our life.