Monday, September 24, 2012

Sister Saturday: Happy Fall, Ya'll!

I know I'm a couple of days late for a "Sister Saturday" post, but the picture was taken on Saturday! And it was the first day of Fall!

I got to spend the weekend with these sweet girls and one of the things we did together (along with Grandma) was take a little trip down to an apple orchard. I did not have expectations for us to pick apples, only to buy some apples and some apple butter and to enjoy the late afternoon drive. I think those expectations were met and we got to see some pumpkins as a bonus!

I'm usually a "wait until October to get excited about Fall" kind of person, but since the weather has given us a little teaser, I've loosened up on my "rule" and have started drinking pumpkin spiced beverages and hung a Fall wreath on my front door.

In case you can't tell, I love Fall!

Friday, September 14, 2012

A Trip Home: Old Favorites and New Experiences

Happy Friday! Can you believe that I have posted almost every day this week??!! But, sadly, I don't know by the comments whether anything was read. I know this isn't Facebook, but . . . just sayin' (and hinting).

To wind up my posts about my awesome Labor Day trip to NJ/NY, I just wanted to post some random pics of things that I felt compelled to take a picture of for sentimentality's sake. Also, I actually got to do something I had never done before in NY:  I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge! So cool, even with the construction that was being done on the bridge. I highly recommend it if you're ever visiting NYC.

And speaking of visiting NYC, I could easily be swayed/bribed to take small groups of people at a time for personalized tours. I mean, think about it:  how often are you able to go visit a city with someone who grew up there and knows people who are even more familiar with the area? It would be fun!

This is a chain restaurant known for ice cream. The wattmelon roll is significant in our memories, because our friend Lara C. loves watermelon sherbet w/ chocolate sprinkles.

I had to get a pretzel from a street vendor. I had already shared and eaten some of it by the time I took the pic. I don't do mustard on my pretzel.

No trip to NJ is complete without a trip to a diner. We at breakfast at this one in Nutley on Labor Day. I had never been to that one before, but used to frequent diners w/ friends back in high school. I got some yummy French toast.

The beautiful Brooklyn Bridge (looking toward Manhattan).

This is the place in Brooklyn where we ate lunch (pizza) out in that courtyard. Didn't get the name of the place nor did I get pics of the pizza. It was good, though, and we had plenty to take home for supper!

Got to ride the subway several times. Not all of the cars have this, but it's a nice addition to be shown/told what the next stop will be. Helps me look like I know what I'm doing without having to look at the map!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A Trip Home: Remembering Dad

One of the reasons I felt like I "needed" to go to NJ and NY was to help me remember my Dad. It was his job, his calling to ministry in the city and to planting churches, that moved us there. Dad was the one who introduced me to the hustle and bustle of the city and helped me to be able to say, "I "heart" NY."

On Saturday morning of my weekend up there, I got on the DeCamp #33 bus on Broad Street in Bloomfield and rode into Manhattan to meet Randel, my uncle and my dad's youngest brother. The emotions I felt as I rode the bus along Route 3 (up there we pronounce it, "root" not "rowt") and saw the Manhattan skyline and went through the Lincoln Tunnel were very mixed. I was excited, sad, a little nervous. I kept thinking of how my dad would ride the bus almost every weekday to get to and from his office on W. 72nd Street. While I was on the bus, I had the epiphany that one of the reasons I felt so compelled to go to NJ was that I was "looking for" my Dad. That was where I remembered him being young and active and unhindered by Parkinson's Disease. I also realized as I rode into the city that my Dad is not there. But memories of him are all over that place and that made me happy and comforted my heart and soul.

View of the Manhattan skyline from the bus, coming back out of the Lincoln Tunnel

My uncle moved to NY in 1982 to pursue a career in music and while he has had several career changes since then, he has become a New Yorker. When I turned 16, I was allowed to ride the bus into the Port Authority, where Randel was given instructions to meet me as soon as I got off the bus (or got into the main terminal). When Randel and I were talking on the phone prior to my trip, he suggested that we meet at the statue near the ticketing windows that was our old meeting place. And for the record, Randel was about a half hour late, just like he used to be when I was a teenager. It was just like old times!

The meeting place:  these statues have been there for as long as I can remember.

I had asked Randel to take me on the subway to go see where my Dad worked, at the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association. I told myself I'd be content to just walk by the building, but it was very special that we were able to go inside and get a quick tour to see the recent renovations to the six-story building. It was great to be able to reminisce about where my Dad's offices were (for the first few years, his office was a glass cubicle on the 2nd floor and then later he moved up to the 5th floor, to an office with walls and a door and a view of 72nd street).

Street view of the MNYBA building

In the renovated chapel at the MNYBA building, there are canvas prints on two walls with this verse written in the various languages represented at churches in the association.

After we visited the MNYBA building, Randel and I walked around that neighborhood and I quickly saw that things had changed a lot since I was a kid. The Royale Bakery, where my Dad would buy us special "bakery" cookies, is no longer there. The "green grocer" on the corner of 72nd and Broadway is now a several-story building with a Trader Joe's store on the street level. They have added a new subway station at that corner, although the old one is still standing and is in operation.

The "old" subway station at 72nd and Broadway

We walked up Columbus Avenue and onto another side street and found a restaurant with a side-walk cafe where we ate a nice brunch. Then we walked off our frittata and omelet (and potatoes) by going up to W. 80th Street to a specialty grocery store called "Zabar's" that is fun to walk through (very "New York"). We didn't really intend to keep walking all the way back down to the Port Authority at 42nd St. and 8th Ave., but that's what we did. And it was awesome to just walk in the city. It was fun for me to dodge the people on the sidewalk and to see things I remembered and new things that have been built over the years. It was great to just hang out with Randel in the city, like we used to do, and to talk about Dad and remember him together.

Randel bought me a pink New York baseball cap at a souvenir shop near the Port Authority and then took me back to my bus terminal and waited with me until the 4:00 bus got ready to board. As I rode the bus back to NJ and back to my friend's house, I realized that the day had been exactly what I had wanted it to be. And I was happy and content.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A Trip Home: Seeing friends

As I mentioned yesterday, after seven years, it was time for me to take a trip back to where I grew up. Thankfully, several of my friends still live in the general area and we have stayed connected or have reconnected via Facebook. One of the reasons for the trip, and one of the highlights of the trip, was to get to have a mini-reunion with some of these friends.

Friends since 5th grade

My friend Nicolette and I met in homeroom in the fifth grade. My last name, Ryals, was right before hers, Salerno, on the roll, so we essentially sat next to each other for most of the next eight years in class. We were in the marching band together. We endured some of the same classes and teachers and homework and the joys and heartaches of growing up. After we went to college and got married, we ended up having baby boys just a couple of months apart.

Elizabeth, Nicolette and Ryan

Nicolette, Bill, Ryan and Elizabeth live about three miles from the house where I grew up. Their backyard borders a large park where we'd go for picnics and to play. A block away from their house is an ice cream and confectioners shop where my dad would buy treats to bring home to us on special holidays. It was so cool to be able to stay at their house and to be so close to many familiar things from my childhood.

The house where I grew up

On Sunday while I was there, Nicolette and I drove out to western New Jersey to the home of another friend from high school (and middle school), Deborah. She and her family welcomed us into their home and it was fun to meet her husband and four kids and to sit around their table reminiscing about our years together in the 80s and catching up on what we'd been doing since graduation. I hadn't seen Deb since 1985.

Sue, Me, Deborah, and Nicolette

Also with us on Sunday was Sue, my very first friend in Glen Ridge. We moved there in March of my first grade year, so everyone pretty much had formed friendships and knew each other. Sue and a guy named Sean, came up to me on the playground at Central School and offered to be my friend. I remember that we were pretty much the "three muskateers" for the remainder of elementary school. We drifted apart through the years, but through Facebook, Sue and I reconnected and it's been great to hear about her daughters and to see what life has been for us over the years.

Elaine, Me and Nicolette

One more friend we reconnected with was Elaine, who lives in Brooklyn and is a partner at a large law firm in Manhattan. We walked across the Brooklyn Bridge after we visited the 9-11 memorial and got to spend a few hours catching up with Elaine. Again, I hadn't seen her since high school graduation.

There were some other friends who it would have been nice to see, but it didn't work out for this trip. That just means that I'll need to make another trip up there, hopefully sooner than seven years from now!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Trip Home: Remembering 9-11-2001

I recently took a trip back to where I grew up, in northern New Jersey, and to the city that I relate to as "mine," New York City. I want to say that I do not consider myself a "New Yorker," since I technically lived across the river. Also, I have now lived away from there longer than I lived there, but it still has a special place and connection in my heart and mind.

It had been seven years since I was up there and for several reasons, it was time for me to go back. I'll get to that in another post soon, but today, on the 11th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center, Pentagon and Flight 93, I will start with my visit to the 9-11 Memorial in Lower Manhattan.

My friend made plans for her family and I to go to the memorial on Labor Day. We drove into the city from New Jersey and my friend's daughter said something about how beautiful the Manhattan skyline is (she has lived there all of her 15 years of life). I had to agree. But it still seems strange to me that the Twin Towers are no longer in the skyline.

I don't know how many times I visited the World Trade Center, which actually included several other buildings besides the two that came down. I have several memories of taking friends and out-of-town family members to the top of the WTC to see the spectacular views. The elevator ride made your stomach drop. You could see a long way from up there (although my favorite panoramic view is still the one from the top of the Empire State Building because you can see further north in Manhattan from there).

On the day we went to the memorial, I didn't really recognize the area and there is a lot of construction going on around there, rebuilding some of the surrounding buildings, including the new Freedom Tower. Once we went through the tight security to enter the memorial area, I was immediately drawn to the first fountain, which was the footprint of the South Tower. I walked all around it and looked at some of the names engraved in the granite ledge. I looked down into the infinity fountains from every angle and took some pictures. It felt sobering to me, as I think it should to everyone who visits.

We walked to the North Fountain and walked around it as well. We had gone just a little way around when I found the name of my former neighbor on my street who had died that day. Along another side, I found the name of the younger brother of one of our high school classmates who also lost his life that day.

At some point during our time at the memorial and maybe while driving to and from Manhattan, we talked about our memories of 9-11-01. Where we were when we heard the news. What we did the rest of the day. How we felt. Our three kids (my friend has two teenagers) were very young:  ages 4 and 6 (her son and Daniel are the same age). They don't really remember life before 9-11. To my nieces and other children for generations to come, the attacks will be something they read about in their history book (or online).

The museum is not completed/open yet, but we got to see a couple of things in the visitor center. One thing that was displayed was the fire helmet pictured below. I do not want our generation or future generations to forget the sacrifices and heroism of the responders who were doing their job that day. I do not want us to forget the innocent victims who went to work that day and didn't come home. I do not want us to forget about the families and friends who are continuing to live their lives, but have to do it without their loved one.

I didn't get a full shot of this because the line was moving to get into the memorial.

The corner views give you the best idea of how big the fountains are.

The white, slanted building is the museum that has not opened yet.

Freedom Tower

Tommy Bowden lived on my street.
One of the things I remember from 2001 is that I was doing the Beth Moore Bible Study, Breaking Free, with a group of women from church and on the night of September 11, I read a focal passage from that study that taught me that Jesus came to heal the brokenhearted, to comfort those who mourn, to rebuild the ruins, for His glory.

Please take time to read Isaiah 61:1-4 below (and the whole chapter sometime on your own) and pray for the families and friends of those who lost loved ones on that day in 2001. Pray for all of us to know Jesus in the ways that He came for us and to know that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday (on 9-11-01), today, and forever" (Hebrews 13:8).

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
    he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
    and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor,
    and the day of vengeance of our God;
    to comfort all who mourn;
to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
    to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
    the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
    the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.
They shall build up the ancient ruins;
    they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
    the devastations of many generations.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Access-Life Expo 2012

A couple of weekends ago, I was able to go participate in another Access-Life Expo in Dandridge, TN. My friends, Doug and Leanne Goddard, are the leaders of this ministry to people and families affected by disabilities. There are several of these events that take place in different areas of the country throughout the year and it is a highlight of my year to be able to volunteer and be a small part of what God is doing.

It's always fun to get to visit with Doug and Leanne and to serve alongside them, as well as our other friends, the Umbarger family. (I neglected to get a picture with Doug in it this year--oops!) It's awesome to see how it all comes together each year, with the help of hundreds of volunteers, and how God has grown this event in the three years it has been held in Dandridge. This year there were a total of 650 who attended the event, either as a volunteer or a participant.

My role as a volunteer has been to help with the photography of the event. There are "roving" photographers who take candid shots throughout the day, as well as some photographers who are stationed at the dock fishing area to capture shots of people catching fish (some for the first time in their lives). I helped at the photo tent, where we took pictures of participants standing by a boat or with their faces showing in some fun stand-up cut-out props. Some of the photos from the day are printed out and the participants can also make a picture frame to go with it to take home as a souvenir of the day. To me, the smiles on the faces of the participants is what it's all about!

I encourage you to check out the Access-Life website and to consider being a volunteer at a future event (right now, the closest one to Nashville is in East Tennessee, but that could change in the future).

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Sister Saturday: Birthday Edition

My sweet sister, Jeanette, had a birthday this week, so I wanted to give a little "shout out" as part of her birthday celebration. As sisters go, I think she's TOPS! I love watching her as a mommy to her precious girls and as a devoted and encouraging wife to her husband. She gives me love and encouragement every day, whether it's via text, chat, phone calls, or in person. She knows that I am a pretty independent person, but she loves to look for ways she can help me in my life, and I love and appreciate that about her.

On Thursday night while we were eating out as a family for her birthday, the waitress looked at us and said,
"You must be sisters!" I'm glad that people can tell from our looks and our actions that we are related.

I love you, Jeanette, and I'm thankful each and every day that God blessed me with a sister-friend for life!