Macs for Mom

Mom was the first in our family to see the light. She was the first to switch to a Mac computer six years ago, and the first to switch to iPhone three years ago… now 3/6 of us use Macs, and 4/6 of us have iPhones (does Chris have one Down Under? Not sure…) and that “6” is counting Brandon, so really maybe you should make the count out of 5 since Branny’s only nine years old. =)

For Christmas, Chris and I surprised her with a new iPhone. I sneakily purchased the phone and activated the account on the sly, so she had no idea until she opened the box. And I tried desperately to make a call to the phone so that it would ring right while she started unwrapping it…but thanks to Waxhaw cell phone service (or lack thereof) it didn’t start ringing until about a minute after she opened it. Ah well, nice try. It was still a fun surprise.

One thing you might not know about my mom, which has nothing to do with Macs, is how hard she works. She works the night shift in the ER, so that she can at least see Brandon during the week… on work days she wakes up in time to see Branny when he gets off the school bus, helps him with his homework, makes him dinner, and then drives away to work while Dad puts him to bed. She started picking up full-time hours and many shifts of overtime over the course of the past couple of years. She keeps our family afloat, and does it cheerfully. She does so much for us… and not much for herself. And so Chris, Jess, and I thought it’d be a fitting gift to surprise her with an Apple product…. again. =)

Happy Birthday Mom! Thanks for all you do, and we love you so much!

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on the upswing?

I hope I don’t jinx myself by writing this post (knock on wood)… but it seems like my grad student-ness is on an upswing of sorts. A good part of it could be because I’ve been getting up early the past couple of weeks. I have a rotation student working under me this summer, and he gets to lab at a respectable time which means I have to as well. On top of that, K has been meeting me at the gym in the mornings. Sigh. I hate the gym. But its good for me, so the waking up early + exercising + getting to lab on time is making for an interesting combination where I feel better about what I’m able to accomplish in a day.

The irony in this post is that a week from today I’ll be meeting with the Boss for a regular update, and I’m pretty sure I have nothing new to to tell him. But I think sometimes that’s not unusual for life in the lab, sadly.

I just ordered this white board on Amazon to make a longer-term to-do list to keep out & visible in lab too, so that when I dawdle and think I have nothing to do on a given day, it will be there staring me in the face.

I have a fixation with lists and crossing things off that has been augmented during grad school. Lately I’ve been confining it to the tasks list in my Google calendar, but I’m hoping this little white board will help me hammer at some of the more latent lists that aren’t pressing me day-to-day. We’ll see! I’ll try anything at this point, and hope to ride this upswing wave as long as I can before the next inevitable crash.

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Mr. Rogers

I recently saw this video floating around on the internet, and it made me laugh. I sincerely hope Mr. Rogers never fades from public memory. Such classic stuff, and the auto-tuned sing-song is a touch of today to keep it hip. Hahahaha.

 

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Photo Treasure Trove

The other day I went snooping through Kyle’s photo gallery on his phone, and found pics that I didn’t have until now… and there were some goodies. Enjoy!

On our trip to Chicago, it snowed to welcome us, and we landed just in time before it really started falling. Pretty pretty.

Freeeeeezing in Wheaton. True to my college experience, at least.

We’re watching the Miami Heat in the NBA finals this week! And here we were about to walk into the Heat’s home stadium in Miami back in January to watch an early season game. Kyle is a fan for life.

And in case you don’t know…. Kyle loves taking pictures of me looking sheepish. I have NOT included the picture where he managed to convince me to “Tebow” in the heaven room of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton (true story). Here I am marveling at an abandoned Laboratory on Roosevelt Island.

Here I am sporting a very very stylish animal hat on Navy Pier in Chicago…

And here I am shocked to find out that they named a classroom after ME at Wheaton!? And I wasn’t even a physics major… 😉 Actually, I have no idea who the Paulson engineer was… and am likely no relation. Sigh.

And here’s a nice picture from an afternoon we spent on Roosevelt Island. It’s a fun tram-ride across the East River and is a clean, neighborly, quiet, Truman-show-esque bubble caught between the bustle of Brooklyn and the mayhem of Manhattan. A nice way to spend an afternoon.

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Dad

Dad was here for my Masters convocation ceremony last month, and I realized I never posted here… we were busy while he was here. We went out for Indian food, and went to the 9/11 Memorial at the World Trade Center and walked the Brooklyn Bridge on Saturday.

In true fashion, Dad also made things happen! He helped me finish a project I dubbed a “Dad” project and waited to attempt until he was here. =) He and Kyle helped saw down the legs of a tall table I had to make it regular height… and then Dad gave our pathetic vacuum some TLC and it’s working much better now.

We went to Redeemer on Sunday morning, had brunch at Cilantro as recommended by Mom, and then headed back to campus for convocation. Aunt Jan & Uncle Lloyd drove in from NJ to watch, and it was fun to have them there!

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365 Days

Last weekend was a milestone weekend. It marked a year since I first went out to lunch with this nice guy named Kyle that I met at church. Suddenly and oh so quickly… it’s a full year later and I’m still love-struck and then some… He took me to Oeste for dinner, which had a beautiful layout with an open kitchen, so you could almost watch the chefs whip up your dinner.

I had some delicious trout… a brave order for me since I usually don’t like fish! But I figure if you’re at a nice restaurant, they probably know how to pick and cook their fish to perfection, so I went out on a limb. I wasn’t disappointed.

After dinner, we walked back to my apartment where I had this little surprise waiting for him… this shot was in my room, but I moved them out to the living room so he couldn’t see them when he walked into the apartment. Each is a picture from a year full of memories and more love than I can remember. So happy.

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Tolstoy

I recently posted a link to this quote in the twitter feed to your right, but want to post it again because I like it so much. So succinctly put, and it aptly states what I so often feel…

“I have lived through much, and now I think I have found what is needed for happiness. A quiet secluded life in the country, with the possibility of being useful to people to whom it is easy to do good, and who are not accustomed to have it done to them; then work which one hopes may be of some use; then rest, nature, books, music, love for one’s neighbor — such is my idea of happiness. And then, on top of all that, you for a mate, and children perhaps. — What more can the heart of a man desire?”
~Leo Tolstoy, in Family Happiness and Other Stories

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Sweet + Sour

I am the first to admit that I have a love/hate relationship with this city. There are sweet and sour parts of life here.

The sour notes mostly have to do with realities of living as one of EIGHT MILLION people sharing a very very small piece of real estate. The South Ferry is a little over 8 miles from my apartment, which is the same distance as the Waxhaw Post Office is from my parents house in North Carolina. I have a post office across the street from my apartment. Does that mean south Waxhaw would fit on my street? Imagine EIGHT MILLION people crammed between my parents house and the Waxhaw Post Office… and admist the ensuing mayhem, you’d get NYC.

First and sourest… the dirt. Actually its not dirt, its worse. It’s grime. And its all over everything. If I leave my windows open, within an afternoon I find a black coating over every inch of flooring and table space in my apartment, and I live six stories above street level. I breathe that floating smog every day, so its safe to assume that the same black coating that lines my floors also lines my lungs. Lets not even mention the coating that trickles down below street level into the subways–Too much to think about. I didn’t find the same kind of grime when I was in Chicago, and K and I were trying to think through why Chicago was so much cleaner than NY. Still inconclusive.

There’s also the noise of the city, and I don’t know whether to be happy or sad that my ears have become so accustomed to ambulance/police sirens blaring down the street at all hours of the day and night, that I hardly notice them. I don’t hear car horns anymore. There’s the rush, the involuntary anonymity, and people not having the time to stop and give a personal hello or ever remember your name, the lack of eye contact with anyone you pass by, the fear to smile at anyone you do manage to make eye contact with lest it be misinterpreted… There’s the exorbitant expense, for rent and for life. My bedroom alone costs me almost as much as my parents mortgage cost them for our house in MD. The reality of how much money I lose each month for the sake of having a comfortable apartment is really starting to set in. I could hole up in a tiny efficiency unit, and use the extra cash flow to satiate my desire to leave the city as often as possible…or to pay student loans. The travel option sounds increasingly appealing the more I think about it, but I also realize the reality of chronically having even more cramped quarters probably hasn’t set into my cost-benefit analysis.

The sweet notes are in a whole different category than the sour notes. They have to do with the richness of experiences here. I love the diversity of skin colors, nationalities, backgrounds, life stories, languages, food, and culture. You don’t see that kind of diversity once you leave the city. I think being around people from other countries somehow makes me feel more at home in my own, since all through growing up cross-cultural experience was part of being ‘home’. I also love that any hobbyist imaginable can find a community of people in NY who are interested in the same things: be it learning sign language, intramural sports, running, making pottery, doing T’ai Chi, being a SAHM, knitting, book clubs, karaoke, tennis, playing chamber music, or improv theater… and those are just ones I could think up off the top of my head. Meetup.com  has a wealth of things to connect over, and NY has just about every kind of MeetUp group you can imagine.

There’s also truth in being exposed to the reality of how broken humankind is. Its almost difficult for me to list this as a sweet thing, but I guess knowing the truth is a good thing. This city is like a magnifying glasses, and humanity is exhibit A. I was having a conversation tonight with a friend about how quickly (and unfortunately) you become immune to crazy people in the street, immorality, vulgarity, creud language, shockingly rude behavior… you almost have to, or else be overwhelmed by what you’re perpetually exposed to, usually without your consent. Everything from the billboards to the conversation next to you on the subway… it’s like the city wears away at any sense of shame, and blinds people to any sense of moral duty or moral standards. ‘Anything goes’ in NY, and so you see the extremes. Gay pride, mockery of anything Christian or even conservative, humor centered around stuff that shouldn’t be conversation material. You see wealth and wastefulness beyond your wildest imaginations, walking aloofly next to poverty, homelessness, mental illness, and social exile to the point of invisibility even amidst the swarms of people. Lots of homeless people suffer from varying degrees of mental illness, and would struggle to make actual use of help, even if it is offered to them. And so they frequently fall through the cracks, as Wall Street Financiers making millions walk past them on the street.

The reason I write these in the ‘sweet’ category, is that for me it paints a fuller picture for me of how desperately we need a Savior, and what an enormous difference the gospel should make in how people live. What if NY was eight million Christians? How would it look different, both physically and socially? At times a Heavenly Kingdom seems like to far fetched a dream, but I suppose I should see it more as the goal we want to work towards, and as a motivator to be a part of social change.

The sweet things about NY wouldn’t be as full or varied in other places I could live. As much as I love going somewhere spacious and quiet in the country in North Carolina, I know that the people and experiences I would have out there aren’t nearly as diverse as they are here, and the MK in me loves the diverse. Reminding myself of these kinds of opportunities makes me more apt to be thankful for the sweet possibilities here in NY, and more tolerant of the sour.

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Just the way I like it

Two weekends ago Mom was here, and we went shopping and she made me a delicious chicken pot pie. Last weekend I went to see The Avengers with K, in 3D, and it was awesome. After the movie we went to a friend’s Cinco de Mayo party and had delicious Mexican food. This weekend Dad comes, and I fully intend to take him to at least an Indian place… maybe Thai and Ethiopian too. Next weekend I fly to Florida for K’s little sister’s graduation. I am crossing my fingers for some beach time! My fluorescent white legs will unfortunately make an appearance. The weekend after that I fly to Wisconsin for my cousin’s wedding and will see the fam and cornfields and cows, cheesecurds, and plenty of good Midwestern folk. Bliss.

I love being busy, when busy isn’t related to work. =)

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Only in NYC…

I’ve had a week full of experiences I realized I could only have in New York.

Mom flew in on the 27th for our cousin-in-law’s bridal shower out in NJ. She caught the bus in from LaGuardia and I met her at the bus stop. On our short walk back to my apartment, we walked past a fantastic little market where we picked up a to-order fresh salad and some cheesy pasta shells for dinner. As mom approached the counter and saw the slew of options available for our dinner, she exclaimed “this is amazing!” and it is amazing. Lasagna, Pasta, chicken salad, curry, pork chops, chicken parm, roasted veggies, fish, burritos, any type of dinner you can imagine, freshly made. A huge salad bar with a million toppings and every dressing in the book. And all you have to do is walk in and say “I want _______” and you have it fresh, in a single serving size, for dinner, with no planning and no work required. I think I take this for granted too often in NY.

The next day we were out in NJ for the shower, and it was so fun! And yummy. Hot pink and zebra were the colors for the shower, with lots of delicious salads, fruit, and coffee (mmm!).

Repeatedly my cousin-in-law kept marveling at how generous people were, giving her so many gifts and helping her get her married-life kitchen off to a great start. Her mom was in town from the midwest, and kept marveling at how much people give out East, compared to where they live–another feature of living in the East Coast that I think is a great thing! People always say New Yorkers are stuffy or grumpy or abrasive… I’m not sure I always agree. First of all, recognize that tons of people in NY aren’t actually from New York (is there a study somewhere that actually gives a numeric value for the # of  transplants, versus native New Yorkers?). Maybe people in New York aren’t warm & fuzzy when you first meet them, but I think part of it comes from living in a city full of too many people. If you were kind and gracious to every person who wanted your attention, you’d probably be exhausted by the end of the day. But once you do get a New Yorker’s attention (for real) I think they are as helpful and pleasant as elsewhere in the country.

Last Friday I was waking home from Bible study and as I walked up a hill, I saw a woman standing off to the side of the sidewalk in a shadowy walkway, leaning against a wall and doing something with her feet. As I got closer, I saw a pretty girl in a cute outfit, with a cute pair of black high wedges sitting on the sidewalk in front of her, and her slipping off a pair of flip flops. She put the flip flops into a plastic bag and into her handbag, put on the wedges, and probably turned the corner to meet her party looking fabulous. Smart. And only in NY. Anywhere else you wouldn’t have to worry about the torment of walking dozens of blocks in a pair of killer heels. Maybe I should find a pair of fold-up flats and try the same strategy next time I wanna look cute and preserve my feet. 🙂

This afternoon I made a quick trip down to midtown to run an errand for my mom, and then rode the bus back, for free. In NY if you transfer between systems (subway-to-bus or bus-to-subway) within a two hour window, you get the second ride free. So I enjoyed the sights and sounds, boarding the bus in Times Square and ending in front of my grocery store. I see tourist buses driving through Times Square too, and think to myself “they are paying $40 per person to ride in that bus, and I’m on this one for free!” The only difference is the running commentary, but I’m fine without it. 🙂

Now I’m back in lab, trying to be productive despite the incredibly de-motivating fact that my advisor is out of town for two weeks, and if I ever wanted to play hooky, now’s the time to do it!! It’s a good thing I am passport-less for the time being, or I’d be looking for a cruise out of Chelsea Piers or quick getaway to basically anywhere tropical. Sigh. Back to work.

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