Happy Selah Day!

It’s a beautiful Sunday, and we’re taking the time to enjoy a day of rest.  Join me in simply…resting.  Lord willing, I’ll be back Monday and hope you will, too. 🙂

Have a blessed Sabbath!


Family Travel Review – New York City, Part 2 of 2

<<Continued from Part 1>>

4. Things to do:

* Apple store.  Toy store for adults.  🙂 Plan to spend some time in here, but there are many hands-on displays to keep the kids occupied.

* Hershey World in Times Square.  If you need a chocolate fix.  They offer varieties not often found in stores, give free samples, and if you agree to take their survey they pay in chocolate. Kids love this stop!

* Midtown Comics comic book store.  A secret hidden away off of Times Square.  Take the small stairs up to this amazing haven for all superheroes.  It feels like something out of a movie.  Very cool.

* LEGO store and Nintendo World in Rockefeller Plaza.  Go here when parents are ready to decompress for a while.  It’s also a good diversion from the site-seeing for kids – if they brought their spending money. J

* American Girl store.  This store has multiple floors, and you’d better like the color pink.  They have a restaurant with all the bells and whistles.  Nice bathrooms.  Pricey, but fun to do once with a special little girl or young lady or those wishing to relive their childhood. ;0

* Grand Central Station.  Fun to walk through and say you’ve been there.  Who knows, a flash mob may break out any time!

* We rode the escalators in Macy’s.  I’m not a shopper (and definitely not for those prices), so we just looked and left.

* Little Italy.  Prettiest at night.  A small strip that packs a big punch.  Lots of places to eat and shop.  Product prices are negotiable most places – great for a good deal!

* Chinatown.  We got lost here and wound up on a back street that smelled like rotten fish.  But, on the front side of the street it is amazing to see the different foods offered.  Definitely worth visiting.  Once, we approached a fire truck decked out Chinatown style and asked for a photo.  The firefighters were more than happy to let the kids jump up on the front bumper and these community heroes hammed it up for our photo.

* Ice skating – Wollman Rink versus Rockefeller Plaza.  Rockefeller is nice, but is small and always crowded.  We prefer Wollman Rink (owned by Donald Trump).  It is nestled in a picturesque setting in Central Park a short walk off the beaten path.  Typical skating prices.  Food is expensive for what you get.  There is a fee to watch and not skate.  This is a great rink and very fun to do in NYC.

* Staten Island Ferry cheap and a break from walking.  Nice water tour – much less that the “official” water tours.

* Ground Zero – we visited in 2006, so there was still a lot of damage and construction was under way.  It bothered us that vending carts capitalized on this tragedy selling patriotic paraphernalia around it.  This is something very humbling to pay respects here, and we look forward to going back and seeing what it looks like now.

* Central Park playgrounds.  There are many playground scattered throughout Central Park.  A great way to let the kids run off some energy.  Map them online!

5. Accommodations:

If you can do it, stay in Times Square.  That’s where all the action is.  Our favorites…

We also have family nearby, so staying with them and day-tripping in is the best financially and more fun with more people!  When driving in, we take the Lincoln Tunnel, which spits us out at the mouth of a public parking garage “Park & Lock” on 42nd & Dyer St.  From there, we walk or take the subway.

6. Transporation:

Walking is cheapest and good for you. J Wear comfortable shoes.  I love my Lands End all-weather mocs (I have both brown and black – goes with anything I wear in NYC).  In this case, I think brand name does make a difference.  Then I add memory foam insoles in them by Dr. Scholl’s and I can walk the entire day without tired feet (which is typically 12hrs of walking with our crew).

Subways – we’ve personally never had an issue on any subway.  Some are definitely nicer than others, like the express subways, and some are pretty gross.  Once my shoe actually stuck to the floor and wouldn’t lift up.  Bleck.  But, as we make the most of our ride time discussing our next target stop, New Yorkers are very happy to help give us the best route, offer suggestions on where to eat, etc.  They are also very helpful picking from the myriad of subway routes.  Be prepared to get on at least one wrong line.  You get off and start over.  No biggie.

Taxis – We have only taken one taxi just to save a very long walk from upper Manhattan to lower, and yeah, it was kind of fun.  The taxi driver laughed at me as I was feeling all Law &Order-ish zipping in a taxi  through the streets of NYC (that was on first trip there – now we plan our routes better).

Personal vehicle – when we drive in, we tour the city at the end of the day at our leisure.  It’s free except for gas and lets us get a scope on what we want to further explore next time.

7. Dress code:

Yep, anything goes.  On our first trip, I asked my husband, who periodically travels on business there, what I should pack to “blend in.”  I didn’t want to stand out as a tourist.  He smiled and said, “It doesn’t matter what you wear, because the camera hanging around your neck gives you away.”  Rats.  He also said, anyone who walks down the street looking up and around at the sites – tourist.  Oh well.  Still, I dress seasonally, but try to step it up a notch to help camouflage the camera.

Useful Apps – Have2P (it locates nearby restroom facilities) and subway apps.

We’ll add more as we return back to this beloved city as we tend to return to our favorites and add one or two new things each time.  We hear there is a great fish market and zoos to visit.  Can’t wait to go back!  We’d love to hear your favorite finds!

Next review, Orlando, Florida.

So long, control freak

The warmer weather we’ve been blessed with this spring is good for both the body and soul.  Joggers, runners, walkers, dog-walkers, kids playing – everyone seems to be overjoyed at the temperate climate.  We, too, just have to get out and savor it!  One thing our family loves to do is bike ride.  Long rides.  Hours-long rides.  I make sure sunscreen has been applied; we check our tires for air; stock up on water and protein bars; dig out the sunglasses; make minor adjustments to our bicycle helmets; make sure everyone is wearing good socks; double-check that everyone has gone to the bathroom; grab my cell phone and a few band-aids and then set off for an adventure once Mom’s checklist is complete.  I take my job as mother very seriously.  While our chicks are in our nest, they are our responsibility.  It’s my job as a mother.  The job I’ve wanted since I was a very little girl.

One particular day, we chose to take a long ride on the less-traveled, country road versus the congested city path.  This back road is quiet and pretty.  There wasn’t another person or dog or vehicle anywhere.  My kids and I took our time cruising along the tree-lined street.  We were all well-spaced apart, because we could be on this lonely road – with no threat of danger.

I noticed my youngest son had lagged a bit behind, so I stopped my bike under a large shade tree to wait for him.  Birds sang, the breeze blew the tall, golden grass as if it were bowing down to the sun.  It was such a picturesque moment.  I was about 10 yards ahead of my little guy, patiently waiting, when all of a sudden a huge, black Suburban came barreling around the corner.  It came up behind my son like a shark locked on a target in the ocean.  My heart raced and palms began to sweat, as I stood wide-eyed and helpless – just out of reach to help my son.  I held my breath and said to myself, not wanting to startle him on his small bike, “Steady, steady, just don’t fall.”  Right as the Suburban passed him, my son hit a hole in the road and fell into the street.  I mean, exactly as the enormous vehicle whizzed by him, he fell directly into that space of road – narrowly escaping the large, heavy tires.

I gasped!  Then screamed!  Thankfully, he was okay.  The Suburban just missed him.  I ran to him, in shock of what had just happened.  We were on a desolate street.  Birds were singing, and we were enjoying such a wonderful bike ride, when in a split second everything changed.  I saw my son’s young life flash before my eyes.  Where did this vehicle come from?  Why did my son have to hit a hole in the road at the precise moment the vehicle passed by him?  Everything happened so fast. I was clearly shaken – more than him.

I asked him repeatedly if he was okay – both body and mind.  He was fine.  I was not.  He was young enough to shake it off.  I wasn’t ready to move an inch.  Not only did I witness something terrifying as a person, but this was my son and it is my job to keep him safe.  I felt like I had failed.  Miserably.  Physically, there was nothing I could do.  I was just far enough away that no matter how fast I can run, I couldn’t have intervened in the nano-second long moment.  For the rest of the long bike ride, I was haunted by the image of seeing him fall into the street, narrowly missing the large, ominous vehicle.  I replayed it over and over trying to think of anything I could’ve done to prevent the situation.  Nothing.  There was nothing I could’ve done.  That brought me back to feeling like a failure.

If you ask my husband, I can be a little over the top when it comes to keeping my kids safe.  Although this was a freak accident, I kept thinking that it must have been – in some way – my fault, because I couldn’t stop it.  Deep feelings of anxiety and angst welled up in my heart, and I nearly had to get off my bike to breathe.  That’s when God reminded me that He is the One who controls all – not me.  He is God of time and space – I am not.  He sees all, knows all, and is in all.  My job title as a mother is simply manager.  His job title as God…is God.  The two are not equal.  This was my lesson for the day.  Bad things do happen, and boy do we have stories of ER visits from school injuries, hardware store injuries, sports injuries, etc., because we live in a fallen, sinful world.  No one can escape that.  And I never thought I was God, that would be ridiculous and insane, but I had bought the lie that I could be the end-all, need-meeter for my kids.  Clearly, I cannot.  That was never written in my mommy contract.  I suppose my maternal hormones kicked in when I first became a mom and I hand-wrote an addendum to my mommy contract because Mamma Bear just can’t help it.  What that lie did was create an enormous amount of pressure on my myself to be the perfect mother.  Not to have perfect kids, but I believed that I could always be there, every time, for them.  This bike ride proved I cannot.

What I can do is release my children into God’s care.  Try as I might to be their best mother, I will fail sometimes.  A lot.  And that’s okay.  Because more than being dependent on me for every need, I want them to be dependent on God.  He is the One that knew them before they were born, knew their names first, counts every hair on their head, understands their every thought, every dream, and watches their every move – both past, present and future.  He is their all-in-all.  He’s mine, too.  Much peace returns to my heart when I remember His omnipotent presence.  Below is an excerpt from the devotional, Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young.

“This is a time in your life when you must learn to let go: of loved ones, of possessions, of control…You can feel secure, even in the midst of cataclysmic changes, through awareness of My continual Presence…The One who never leaves you is the same One who never changes…As you release more and more things into My care, remember that I never let go of your hand.”

Both Psalm 139: 1-17  and Psalm 121 roll around in my mind and speak Truth to my restless mother’s heart.  When I remember who God is, I am free to be who I was called to be – a mom, saved by grace, doing the best she can.  And, I have much peace knowing that God’s got my kids in His hands, even when they aren’t holding onto mine.

Someone lost a bet

On a cool, spring morning, I stood in the alcove of my church.  Palms sweating. Heart pounding.  Hands shaking.  I was about to walk down the aisle and get married.  Struggling for a deep breath, I was very sure about who and why I was getting married, but it was the what I was crumbling under.  What does our future look like?  How many kids will we have?  Will he always love me? I wish Mom were here.

Bruce and I first saw each other when I was 15 years old.  He was 19. We didn’t meet that night, but I knew, from the bottom of my soul, I was going to marry him. Two years passed without him darkening the door of our church again.  One day, he just showed up!  It was exactly one month after my mom died.  I was 16, almost 17.  He was 20 and in the Air Force.  My, oh my, how handsome he looked in uniform.  We became instant friends.  He tutored me in math (my worst subject ever!) and I graduated high school.  On my 18th birthday, he took me to a wonderful dinner and a show, then he drove us to our favorite spot on the beach. In a stokin’ hot blazer and dress pants, sweating profusely in the summer humidity, he knelt on one knee in the sand and proposed.

He and I were just beginning to find our paths in life.  I was a mess from my childhood unraveling like an old sweater – tragedy after crisis after  tragedy – and he was completing his military service.  We both knew our goal was to be college-bound, but that’s all we knew.  No money.  No help.  Just the two of us and God.

I was 19 on my wedding day.  He was 23. I mustered the courage, said a prayer under my breath, and walked the aisle to my awaiting groom.  People at the wedding took bets on how long they thought it would last.  I knew then what I still know now about the statistics for young marriages.  Statistics for a shipwreck like myself.  Statistics for not finishing college once married.  Yes, I knew all that.  But, God had this crazy plan that bucked the system.  He told me I was no longer a statistic.

Twenty-two years later, we celebrated our anniversary with our kids’ soccer and football games, a delicious Italian meal and a show.  Our three amazing kids also surprised us with breakfast in bed that morning with a pathetic, begging dog standing by – just waiting in hope for the “accidental drop” of scraps.  Over the last few days, I’ve reflected on the past 2+ decades and have come to a few conclusions:

First, someone lost a bet.  Our marriage is still rockin’ on.  With God, all things are possible.  I didn’t have to remain a victim, anymore than our marriage was destined to become one.  A fresh start with God means a fresh start.

Also, after being married this long, I feel I can have some opinions on married life.  I’m not 19 anymore, and Bruce and I have a whole lot of water under the bridge.  Sometimes the water has been calm and clear.  We could see straight through it to the treasures lying beneath the surface as we floated past.  Other times, the water has moved more swiftly with life’s current.  We’ve learned the value and benefit of remaining adaptable to the changing flow that can rock the boat.  Still other times, our boat has capsized in the ominous, raging river.  Life’s storms have been unpredictable, overwhelming and difficult enough to make us want to attempt to swim to shore.  I’m so glad we hung onto the overturned boat and rode it out.

That’s the focus of my recent thoughts.  I’ve been married to Bruce longer than my entire life before him.  We joke that we finished growing up together.  I love what someone once said, and if I could remember who it was I would quote them – you marry not one person, but many.  Meaning, Bruce and I have changed a lot over the years.  With those changes, we’ve had to adapt to a new normal…many times.  But it’s been well worth it.  Through frightening illness with the kids, car accidents, moving, injuries, surgeries, job loss, family deaths, and a myriad of things we’ve gone through together, we continue to reap the benefits of staying married – trust, comfort, and joy to name a few.

I look at Bruce today and know exactly what he’s thinking.  He can say the same about me.  I know so much about him, but because he is constantly changing, as I am as well, life is never boring.  He told me just the other day that he no longer prefers his beloved hazelnut coffee creamer (shocker!).  He also told me his entire vision of what He believes God has for our family is shifting.  Whoa.  Okay.  I am so glad that we haven’t give up on God – who promises to help us – nor on each other, because I like who Bruce is today and I like our marriage.  Whether things are smooth sailing or we are working hard to patch a leak in the boat, we’ve got each other to travel this crazy river of life.

There is no promise for a problem-free life, but God offers immeasurable joy when He is the captain of the boat.  Keep rowing.  Keep investing in each other.  If the boat tips over, hang on and ride out the storm.  Then climb back into the boat.

Paul said it best in Philippians 4:12-13, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength.”

This sounds familiar.  Oh yes, Bruce and I took an oath under God when we got married – for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, to love and to cherish ’till death due us part.  I am content, not because Bruce or I know how to beat the odds on our own, but because we have discovered that the power of Christ in our marriage can weather the storms and show us that marriage, indeed, is a beautiful journey when we stay in the boat and enjoy the ride together.

<<See the companion song to this blog on my Tunes page!>>

True Beauty

Recently, my teenage daughter and I began reading 5 Conversations You Must Have with Your Daughter by Vicki Courtney.  We were instantly hooked on this book!  It pulls no punches when discussing true beauty and self-worth compared to the false standard society wants us to believe.

The first section title reads, “You are more than the sum of your parts.”  Yes! Beautiful truth poured from this book into my daughter’s heart (and mine, too). Refreshing.  Empowering.  However, less than 24 hours later, I stood speechless in the checkout line at the grocery store as one magazine cover caught my eye.  It is a popular, mainstream magazine with its place marker square in the middle of the stand for all to see.  What I saw on it, I wished I hadn’t.  There was a woman, fully naked, donning the cover.  Even part of the article title said so-and-so bares all.  There was no ambiguity here…they absolutely put a fully naked woman on a magazine that will sit on mainstream stands across America, and who will see those magazine covers?  You, me, and our children.

I was still digesting the powerful statements and facts 5 Conversations gave us the night before regarding the value of inner beauty and the ugly lies disguised in the latest fashion trend, when there I stood face-to-face with the antithesis of the book.  A fury ignited in me.  How dare people subject my sons to this!  We prohibit movies, video games and books that have this kind of imagery in them, and all my tween and teen boys have to do is wait with me to buy milk and are subjected to an image they ought not to see.  I was angry that my sons, who work deliberately and diligently at being gentlemen, would see this. Then another horrifying thought occurred to me.  What if my daughter had been here?  How do I justify this magazine after reading 5 Conversations last night?  Of course she knows I wouldn’t outwardly rationalize and justify the nude, seemingly perfect body and everything it represents, but if I say nothing then I am sending the same message of approval.

After checking out, I asked to speak to the manager.  I told him how disappointed I was that a grocery store that advertises itself as family friendly would put this front and center of the checkout line at young children’s eye level.  I pointed to the article sidebar, …and make no mistake, she’s naked.  The title even says it. He replied that he has seven children and understands my concern, but has no control over it.  I agree that he has no control of what they put on magazines, but as the manager, he does have control of what he does with that magazine in his store.  I offered three suggestions: remove this issue; move it to the back of the store where the other questionable magazines are; or, if by contract it needs to stay at the checkout line, then it should have a cover in front of it.  He offered to remove this issue from the racks altogether.

The next day, I’m back in the store for a forgotten item, and to my surprise, there was the magazine back on the racks of the checkout aisles.  I asked to speak to the manager again.  He explained that the ones he removed were still sitting on his desk and that someone else must have restocked more copies.  I reminded him of his seven children, and my children, and all children, and said, For this magazine, perhaps you should check on it more frequently until a new issue comes out.  He said he would remove the new ones and ask the clerks to keep an eye out for future similar problems.  To my delight, my third trip to the store several days later revealed not a single issue of that magazine on public display.

Was I an annoying, high-maintenance customer?  Probably.  Am I sorry?  No. My children aren’t the only ones subjected to these magazines staring back at us in checkout lines.  As a parent, I will remain vigilant to protect my kids from needlessly stolen moments of childhood.  For my sons, it is so they will not be tempted and become desensitized to what should be held sacred.  For my daughter, it is to reiterate that she is indeed more than the sum of her parts.  If we don’t tell our own daughters this, who will?

It is our responsibility to speak up and prohibit society’s unattainable, mirage-like status from becoming status quo in our homes.  Lives are at stake.  Health is at risk.  Self image becomes a slippery slope with enormous repercussions if not cultivated in the Truth that we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).   After all, if someone had taken the time to tell the woman who posed for the magazine that she, too, is worth more than the sum of her parts – she is a wonderful work of God – then perhaps she never would have sold her body for a fleeting photo in the first place.

The Easter Dress

I took my daughter shopping last night for an Easter dress.  Drawing in a deep breath, I knew this trip would be different because we went to the junior’s section first – not the girls, though she can wear both.  She picked out a dress, but I suggested we also look in girls.  As we meandered among the girl racks, glancing at dresses in princess style and Easter-egg color, she said, “I’m looking for something more teenage-ish, not little girl-ish.”  I thought my heart would burst.  Until now, she has always measured an Easter dress by how poofy the skirt is and if it’s “twirly” enough.  I walked behind her, slowly running my hand on the dresses she used to want to wear.  At some point, her childhood turned a page and I didn’t notice.  Why?  Because she is still so whimsical, silly and creative; she loves climbing trees, dressing up the dog and finding frogs.  Tired from a long day, I sat on the sofa outside the dressing room and tried to remember when was the last time I had to be with her in the dressing room to help her.  I can’t remember.

She tried on the junior’s dress, the one that I questioned on the hanger, and to my surprise, it is adorable on her.  She looks so cute!  As I waited while she gathered her things, I fully realized that this dress suits who she is right now perfectly, and she is beautiful in it.  She makes the dress.  And she loves it.  My little girl isn’t so little anymore.  Her Easter dress (modest, I might add) was found in a department playing creepy music videos and donning skimpy clothes.  No Hello Kitty or footie pajamas as far as the eye can see.

However, more than I want to stay in the girls department, I want to stay by my baby girl’s side through every phase of life.  I don’t want to miss who she is now, and is becoming, because I can’t let go of who she was yesterday.  I know what it feels like to cross over from girl to young woman alone…without a mom to show me the way.  It’s hard.  Really hard.

For my daughter, I will ask for strength from God to help me let her grow, and I will be grateful I am here to guide her, because although growing pains can really hurt my heart, it would be more painful to miss out on what an incredible, amazing young woman she is becoming.  Every day, I am thankful to be a part of her life, and even more thankful that she wants me to be a part of it.  Just like the dress, adolescence isn’t one size fits all.  May my daughter continue to wear it well.  Dear Lord, let me never forget to tell her how beautiful she is in simply being who she is today – while enjoying the mystery of who she will become tomorrow.  Oh, and God, please give me a granddaughter one day so I can once again shop in the girls department for princess dresses with poofy, twirly skirts.