Search This Blog

Monday, April 17, 2017

Observing Families on Vacation in NYC: Nurturers and Protectors

Spring is in the air here in New York City--blossoms on the trees, tulips in the gardens, and tourists lost on subways.
Tulip field about a 3-minute walk from my apartment


It must be Spring Break for most of America right now because I have not seen it so crowded since I moved here in mid-September.

I can spot the families on Spring Break pretty easily because they have quite a few things in common.

  • School-aged children in the middle of the day
  • Hats, t-shirts, or jacket with NYC on them
  • Looking up at buildings
  • Taking pictures of said buildings
  • Not making eye-contact with those who pass by.  (Okay, who am I kidding? New Yorkers don't do that either.)  
But I have to say the number one thing I have noticed about these families is the fathers and the mothers.  They all pretty much do the same thing.  

FATHERS 
The dads in the family are almost always at the front of the pack.  They are leading the way as the family tries to navigate around other pedestrians.  Walking on sidewalks is akin to driving on a highway.  We have lanes and everyone is expected to maintain a minimum speed.  The fathers create a path for the family to follow.  

Fathers also seem to be the "holder of stuff."  They have more bags in their hands than the others, and also are usually the one carrying the valuables, cameras, bags, etc.  What is it about dads that make them such good pack horses?  

As soon as a family gets on the subway, the dad looks for the subway map, figures out which stop they need to exit, and informs the rest of the family which stop is theirs.  I have seen this repeated many times. Most New Yorkers just know to lean to one side if they are sitting in front of the subway map without having to be asked.  

MOTHERS 
Mothers tend to walk either behind or beside the children.  I've noticed that they like to have all of their kids in view.   Depending on the age of the kids, they may even hold their hands.  I think the best image I can relate it to is a mother hen gathering her chickens.  

When the family gets on the subway, I see the mother do a quick check to make sure all the kids made it onto the subway.  Then they look for a place for their kids to sit or stand.  I can tell they don't want their kids to sit next to someone who looks questionable.  (Fortunately, very few people are like that on the subway, most are tired commuters or other tourists.)  

As I have observed this pattern repeated among different family sizes, ages, races, and nationalities, it has caused me to wonder, why.  Why is just about every family behaving the same way in New York City no matter where they are from?  Where did all these fathers and mothers learn to act like this? 

The LDS Church published a document called the Family Proclamation in 1995.  You can read the full text here. 

In it we read, 

"By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children."  
Family Proclamation to World, emphasis added


What I observe on the streets in New York City, isn't all the different than what we see in families everywhere.  Fathers work hard to clear the dangers and obstacles for their families and make sure the family is going in the right direction and doesn't get lost.  Mothers are looking out for their children and making sure they are cared for.

Of course not every family is exactly what I just described, but as I see this description repeated over and over, it tells me that a father's and a mother's role is by divine design. 

This divine pattern was established long ago with our first parents, Adam and Eve. 



They are our First Parents.  The reason why we are here is because of the choices they made in the Garden of Eden.  They brought about what is known as the Fall and made it possible for us to live here on earth.

Almost 24 years ago, a certain Englishman and I assumed the roles of father and mother.  As our kids came quickly within a six and a half year period, we didn't really have much time to think about how we wanted to fill that role, we were too busy just doing it.  


But as I look back on almost a quarter of a century of parenting, I realize that I am primarily the nurturer and my husband is the protector and the provider.  Not to say that I don't ever provide or protect, or that he never nurtures, but we have been the main person in our respective roles.

I am grateful that the Plan of Salvation allows us to live as families here on earth.  We can learn more about our Heavenly Parents by caring for some of Their children.  Whether it is to our siblings, children, nieces and nephews, or any of God's children, we all have an opportunity to be a protector or a nurturer, even outside of New York City.  


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Finding a New Home: Attending the UN Panel Discussion on Refugee Resettlement Work

Every once a while living in New York City allows me an opportunity that I otherwise would never have.  Today was one of those days.

I found out a while ago that LDS Charities was organizing an event with the UN. The Director of Public Affairs for the LDS Church in the New York New York Stake wanted our help to fill the room.  So I signed up for a ticket and then promptly forgot about it.

About a month ago, I had a chance to fly to Utah to be with my husband and son. We were going to all fly back to NYC on the 13th of April.  I looked at my calendar and saw that it was the day of the UN meeting.  I decided to stay in NYC so that I could attend.

Best decision ever.

I decided to get there early since I knew we'd have to go through security and you know, I get lost a lot.  I always try to budget "Don't know what I'm doing" into my itinerary whenever I go somewhere new.

Well, I over compensated and ended up being the first person to walk into the conference room.

See how empty it is?


 It was just like what I imagine from the movies.  Tons of microphones and screens at each desk.  Large, padded leather chairs to allow for sitting for long periods of time were arranged in large semi circles.

I'm not sure if this is the same room, but it looked just like this.


  I finally walked up to someone to find out where the "nobodies" like me were supposed to sit.

"You can sit wherever you'd like," she said.

"You mean I can sit here?" I said pointing to the leather chairs.

"Sure, you are the first one here so get a good seat."



I could see that the best seats in the house were being reserved so I chose front and center, three rows back. I had a beautiful view of the panel and the screens.  In fact, I ended up seeing myself on the screen quite a bit throughout the meeting.

CARYL STERN

The moderator of the event was Caryl Stern who is the President and CEO of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF.

Before she introduced the panel, she told two very personal and contrasting stories.

Her mother was a refugee who left in 1939 to escape Hitler's regime.  She was 6 years old and accompanied by her 4 year old brother who traveled with a woman who escorted them to New York City on a boat.  Once they arrived they lived in an orphanage in the lower East side.  For as long as Caryl can remember she has heard about how it was because of this woman, that her mother safely made it to America.

The other story is of her grandfather who was on that fateful ship, the SS St. Louis, or more commonly known as the Voyage of the Damned.  For those who don't know, a group of Jewish refugees arrived in Cuba only to discover that they had false documents and Cuba would not accept them.  They stayed on the ship for 40 days while the nations argued as to what to do with them.  No country would accept them and they were sent back to Germany and for many, their deaths.  Fortunately her grandfather survived, but again this story was retold many times in Caryl's family.

What Caryl subtly told us with her two stories was that we have a choice.  We can create our own story in how we respond to the millions of refugees in the world today.

JEAN BINGHAM

The first panelist to speak was the recently called General Relief Society President for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Jean Bingham.  Jean's credentials definitely made it clear why she was there today.  As a former member of the General Primary Presidency for the LDS Church she has traveled the world visiting children in need.  She has taught English as a second language to immigrants and for nonprofits.  Just 6 weeks ago she was in visiting children in Africa in association with UNICEF.

Despite how shell shocked she must still feel that she is now the General Relief Society President, she spoke clearly and eloquently about what the LDS Church is doing to help refugees around the world.  She also spoke about how important it is to work with other faith-based organizations in this effort.  I would say the theme of her speech was that small and simple ways to help really do make a difference.

ANWAR KHAN

Even thought I'm not Muslim, I really had a soft spot for the next panelist, Anwar Khan.  He is the CEO of Islamic Relief USA.  This is a man who must overcome more obstacles than he should to provide relief to Muslims around the world who are suffering.  He must constantly deal with those who do not agree with his beliefs or what he is doing.

My favorite line from his speech was,

"We answer their hate with love."

He made it clear to me that what we see on your 24/7 news feed is not reality.  There are many faiths working together to help those in need.  He told the story of a group of people who came to Washington DC to welcome a group of refugees to the airport.  "This is more of what we need to see on TV," he said.

BARBARA DAY

Barbara Day must have a business card the size of an index card.  She is the Domestic Resettlement Section Chief at the State Department's Bureau of Population Refugees and Migration.  In English that means that she helps place refugees in the US by working with official resettlement refugee organizations.

She made it clear that they do not select organizations based on their faith or if they are even faith-based.  Each organization is held to the same standard.  Every refugee that is resettled in the U.S. receives the same goods and services no matter what their faith is.  She said that any organization can be nimble, and it can also be root bound.

What impacted me about her speech was when she said that a woman from Bosnia said that what she wanted most was someone to have a coffee with.  She said the greatest gift we can give, is a gift of friendship.

REV. CANON E. MARK STEVENSON

Rev. Mark Stevenson is the director of the Episcopal Migration Ministries, which is the official refugee resettlement program of the Episcopal Church.  He said that they aren't the largest resettlement organization, but they definitely have a punch above their weight class.  Last year they resettled 5,000 refugees from 32 countries.

He pointed out that Jesus Christ was a refugee due to infanticide.  He had to flee because of his beliefs and his religion.

I was brought to tears when he said this profound statement,

"I cannot conquer the evil in the world, but as a Christian I don't have to.  Our Savior already has."

This brought peace to my soul.  Learning about the refugee crisis can definitely be overwhelming and discouraging.  But that is not how we should feel about this problem.  We should feel empowered to do something about it.

ABDUL SABOOR

Abdul Saboor is a resettled refugee from Afghanistan.  He's currently getting his Master's at Syracuse University.  He is currently a match grant program coordinator at Interfaith Works.

He told his experience about having to leave his home and community.  He said that his community was on fire.  He had to choose between survival and death.  But he learned that there is something stronger than fear, it is hope.

He said that now we have refugees here because their homes are on fire.  But, he pointed out, we are all refugees.  None of us are living in our true home, which is with God.

MARIA FARE

I think Maria Fare was a new addition to the panel, because her name and bio is not listed in the program.  She works for the UN with their Sustainable Development Goals.  I'm so glad she made it on the panel.  I couldn't get enough of her.  She resonated with me with her talk about citizen participation, something I'm passionate about.

She said that in 2000 people from the UN got together and created eight Millennial Development Goals that were to be accomplished in 15 years.  She pointed out that no one asked the people in the developing countries how they felt about those goals or what they wanted.

So in 2015, they worked to create new goals for the next 15 years called Sustainable Development Goals.  Seventeen goals were set to be accomplished based on input from those who would be impacted.  What amazed me is that over 80 percent of the respondents did not respond online, but with pen and paper.  What an incredible effort.

But the input has ended.  Now they are using surveys to find out if the goals are working and changing lives.

Here is a list of places we can go to find out more:

Humans of MY World 
World We Want 2030 
UN Virtual Reality (she said that donations go up 30 to 70 percent when people can experience through virtual reality what it is like to be a refugee.)
Festival of Ideas 

Then the panel was asked two questions and invited to answer.

Question #1 "How do you respond to those who are against what you do?"

KHAN - When someone tells me that they won't give me their money because we help people of other faiths, I say to them, "Keep your money.  You need it more than we do."  Mary and Jesus could have just as easily been Syrian, so ask yourself, "What would Jesus do?"

BINGHAM - It is good to ask ourselves, "What if their story were my story?"

DAY - We need to remember to take care of ourselves.  It's easy in this work to forget about our own needs trying to help the refugees.  But self care is what makes us resilient to the criticism.

STEVENSON - If you are buying the narrative that the 24/7 news cycle is telling you, go out and volunteer.  There you'll find the true narrative.

SABOOR - Engagement is the key. We need to meet face to face with those in need so that we can share information with them.

Question #2 "What are you doing on the ground?"

DAY - Last year Americans donated $7 billion.  Repatriation is the ideal, next is local integration and then if necessary resettlement.  The U.S. has resettled more refugees than all other countries combined.

KHAN - We are trying to keep Syrians in the country.  We go into the most dangerous areas and try to help those in crisis, if we don't, they are going to walk away and then will need lots more help.

BINGHAM - LDS Charities are involved with different programs.  We look to provide clean water, immunizations, food, community projects, emergency response, neonatal care, vision care, and wheelchairs.

SABOOR - Currently we are helping those who are refugees due to violence.  But we will eventually see refugees due to climate.  We need to be prepared for the onslaught of climate refugees as well as violence refugees.

STEVENSON - The Episcopal Church has a program called Young Adult Service Corps.  These young people go throughout the world and look for ways to serve.  They then report back to the church what they have observed and learned.  We also work with legislators teaching them how they can use their tenets of faith to drive policy.

STERN - We all want the same things for our children, no matter where they live.  We want to serve them a hot meal, tuck them in at night under a warm blanket, and hope that when they fall asleep they dream big dreams.

The meeting ended with some final thoughts from Jeff Brez who is with the Department of Public Information for the UN.  He said that our two goals for the refugees should be to provide them dignity and safety.  He left us with the charge to find the thing that we can do, and do it.

I want to end with a few thoughts of my own about today's panel discussion.

It can be overwhelming to look at all the pictures of the suffering refugees realizing that there are millions and millions of people who are displaced.  It's easy to ask ourselves, "What can I do?  I'm just one person."

But we have something greater than the problem before us, we have hope.
Like the Bible says, "They that be with us are more than they that be with them." Kings 6:16

We might not be able to donate millions of dollars, or thousands of hours, but we can offer friendship.  We can speak kindly to them and about them.

Being a refugee does not define who a person is, but how we respond to them will definitely define us.




Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Strollers, Hot Chocolate, and Cronuts: Playgroup in NYC

When I was raising my kids my lifeline was playgroups.  This was in the days before Pinterest, Instagram, and even the Internet.  The way we got moral support, tips, and adult conversation was by actually hanging out with other adults.

Typically playgroups were one day a week at a park.  We'd pack a lunch, and the kids played while the moms visited.  Sometimes we congregate at someone's house, or at an event, but it was easier to just go to the local park the same time each week.

In downtown Manhattan, you might think the moms don't have a playgroup.  Well, I'm happy to tell you that you are wrong.  There is a very active and fun group of women who take turns picking something to do in the city with their toddlers and strollers in tow.   And these amazing mothers are gracious enough to let me tag along.  

Today's playgroup was a walking hot chocolate tour in SoHo.  Because, you know, you can do that sort of thing in NYC.  The plan was to buy a hot chocolate at each shop, and then pour a little bit into each of our mugs and take a sip.  

I decided to run to TJ Maxx because all my travel mugs are in Utah, and I didn't want to be the one with a simple mug from my kitchen.  I felt like I needed to be more cosmopolitan than that, I mean I've been in the city 6 months now!  

After picking up a travel thermos, I walked up to what is known as the red cube which is a popular meeting spot for the downtown moms.  

Not hard to see how it got its name, right?




Fortunately, in downtown NYC, everything is really close, it was a just a couple streets from TJ Maxx.  


After we were gathered, we walked to our first stop, MarieBelle. 


MarieBelle is officially in the SoHo district.  This is an area south of Houston street.  And if you just said "Hewston" in your head when you read the word, Houston, you are pronouncing it incorrectly.  I'm happy to say that here in NYC it is pronounced "Howston" which is how my Houston line pronounces their last name.



SoHo is right above TriBeCa (which means the triangle below Canal Street) and next to Little Italy and Chinatown.  It is known for its shopping, but today we were there for the hot chocolate.

Our first stop was MarieBelle.  This place is more like France than France is like France.  



The staff was extremely friendly and even invited all of the women to bring their strollers into the store so that we could sit in the back and enjoy our drinks.  We explained that we are actually just tasting different hot chocolates and couldn't stay.  

The back of the store has a Cacao Bar where you can sit down and sip your drink.  They  have different chocolate bases you can use to design your own drink.  



We ordered the Hazelnut and the White Chocolate drinks to share.  The white chocolate had Tahitian vanilla bean, and the hazelnut was like drinking melted Nutella.  Both were very good, but very different.  Most of us agreed that it was like drinking melted chocolate and could maybe use a little milk to make it more drinkable.  


Imagine my surprise when most of the moms pulled out their ceramic mugs to try the hot chocolate. One mom brought small dixie cups to try each flavor.  So smart.   Much more practical than my silly travel thermos!  Here in NYC cosmopolitan = having common sense.

Our next stop was around the corner at Vosges Haut-Chocolate .





This place also had lots of French decor.  The funny thing is that I don't remember hot chocolate being that big of a deal when I lived in Lille, France, of course I was there in the summertime.


Vosges sells a flavor that is called Bianca, that I highly recommend.  That is if you like lemon lavendar-flavored white hot chocolate, which apparently I do.  It tasted more like lavender lemon tea with tons of cream than like a hot chocolate.  But I'm someone who likes a little bit of tea with my cream, so I was just fine with the flavor.  

The decor was a deep rich purple with a dark wood, quite a contrast from MarieBelle, which was like being inside the palace of Versailles.

Our last stop was just down the street at Dominique Ansel Bakery.  



 Have you ever heard of Dominique Ansel?  No?  Well, have you heard of a cronut?  Yeah, Dominique invented that.


This was a very light and inviting store.  The staff was also extremely friendly and accommodating. One of the things I really liked about Dominiuqe Ansel is that has a sun-filled room in the back where you can sit and enjoy your rose pistachio cronut.  They also sell the blossoming hot chocolate, also invented by Dominique.

A flower-shaped marshmallow is covered in white chocolate to hold its shape and then dropped in a hot chocolate where it blossoms.  You can see how it works by watching this video.  


After our hot chocolate tour, we all walked home, which for me was about a mile and a half.

I don't think I'll ever cease to be in awe of these strong, confident women who are raising their toddlers in a condensed, crowded city.  Their strollers are their mini-vans.  They know where all the subway stops with elevators are.  They know which parks are safe for kids and which ones to avoid.  They put up with rude comments from busy New Yorkers trying to walk past all the strollers to get to work.  They also let a middle-aged woman hang out with them for the day!  



Monday, January 23, 2017

Layers: Squeezing millions of people onto an island

After we moved to NYC, I decided to do some math.  What if Utah had the same density as NYC?  How many people would be living in Utah?  The answer?

84 billion people!



The earth only has 7 billion people.  

So how does that many people fit on the island of Manhattan?  I think the easiest way to explain it is in one word.

Layers! 


After a few months of living here, I've tried to observe the layers that this city has to offer.  Because there are so many people, you can find several different layers.  Where a person fits mainly depends on one thing.



INCOME 


For my son's sociology class, we've been studying the social classes.  The bottom is called "lower class" and the top is called "upper-upper class."  I can't think of any other place that shows the stark contrast between the two than NYC.

LOWER CLASS


For those who don't know, there are people who are tricked into taking on debt to come to America with a promise of a job.  They become an indentured servant for the rest of their life.  I usually see them late at night scouring through the garbage looking for recyclables that they can turn in for 5 cents each.  While technically they have a job, they'll never pay off their debt, and since they are undocumented, they don't have any recourse.  Essentially, they are slaves.

While NYC has many resources for the homeless, many choose to go it alone with their cups and memorized speeches on the subway.  They tend to congregate near the tourists spots where they'll get more traffic.  As I walk past these individuals every day, I rarely see anyone give them money.  It is clear that some are battling some pretty severe health problems, particularly with their feet.  Since my mother battled health problems with her feet for 15 years, I can almost imagine the kind of pain they must be in.

Some people live in NYC and collect a welfare check.  One of my new dear friends is one of these individuals.  She was born with the cord wrapped around her neck and as a result has cerebral palsy.  All of her family has passed away with the exception of a brother who struggles with addictions.  She has lived on the same block all 50 years of her life.  She has home health care workers who come in to help her clean her apartment and take care of her personal hygiene.  She's very hard to understand, and uses a wheelchair.  She is a light in my life and I love her.

WORKING CLASS - Many commute every day from Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx, and other boroughs to work as doormen, clerks, and other service jobs.  I met a woman who commuted on the subway 2 hours one way to work at a Duane Reade in the Upper West Side (those west of Central Park).

MIDDLE CLASS - While the middle class is definitely shrinking, you can still find evidence of it in NYC.  You have people crammed in one apartment to save on rent in Harlem (uptown from Central Park).  Young families with the husband working long hours hoping to get a promotion.  While it's hard to live in NYC on less than $100,000 it's not impossible.

UPPER CLASS - I don't know but I would guess this is the most represented here in NYC.  Especially if upper class is defined as $100,000 or more a year.  In some parts of the country that may seem like a lot of money, but not here in NYC.  These are people whose wealth came because of their own work and not from inheritance or trust funds.

UPPER-UPPER CLASS

A great example of the upper-upper class can be found in the Upper East Side which is east of Central Park (UES).  The UES wives will get injections to get their feet numbed so they can wear the latest shoes.  They have to find a dealer to help them buy a $150,000 purse.  Having the cash isn't enough, you also have to have the right connections to own one.  They hire tutors to make sure their kids pass their entrance exams and get into the right kindergarten.  That's right, kindergarten.  In the UES summer is a verb, not a season.  Where you summer is a sign of status.

How do these different income levels manifest in NYC?  A stark difference is in transportation and housing.

TRANSPORTATION


Here in NYC we have lots of transportation options.  I'll try to list as many as I can think of with their prices:

  • Downtown Connection Bus - free but only runs along the edges of lower Manhattan
  • Subway and Bus- Monthly pass $117 or $2.75 a ride 
  • Car - @$600 a month to keep in a garage
  • Bike - @$50 a month to store in a building
  • Zipcar - @$100 a day 
  • CitiBike - $15 a month or $150 a year
  • Train - Between $95 to $485 a month depending on zone
  • Taxi/Uber/Lyft/Juno - Minimum fare is between $8 and $25 dollars 
  • Chauffeur and Limousines - $75 to $500 an hour - minimum 5 hours
  • Personal driver - $150K a year
  • Charter Helicopter - about $1750 to each airport (not sure about around town, I have to request a quote to find out and if I have to ask, I can't afford it.)
  • Walking - free
I personally like the subway.  It's fast because it's underground.  I feel like I can get just about anywhere I want to go quickly.  I feel safer because I'm never alone.  But it definitely has its drawbacks. It's hot in the summer, has strange smells, and lots of pan handlers.  I like the bus too, but they aren't as reliable and you have to deal with street traffic.

Car services are nice, I like them to get to and from the airport.  I don't really like using them around town because I feel like I'm just paying all this extra money to sit at a red light.  They are great if you have lots of stuff you need to carry or you don't want to walk in the rain.

We bought a Trolley Dolly with stair climbing wheels so that we can transport lots of stuff easily.  It cost as much about 3 taxi rides.  We love it.








HOUSING



I'm not sure I know enough about NYC housing to include all the options, but I'll try my best.

  • New York Housing Authority Developments a.k.a. "The Projects" - These are buildings designed to give low-income people a safe and affordable place to live with access to community and social access.  In my church's congregation we have some who live in these buildings.  The income disparity is huge compared to surrounding neighborhoods and buildings.  
  • Micro apartments - by law an apartment in NYC must be 400 sq. ft.  (or the size of our shed in our backyard in Utah) but in 2015 a new micro apartment was born under Mayor Bloomberg's idea in 2013.  These apartments are 260 to 360 sq. ft.  (or the size of our daughter's bedroom in our home in Utah)
  • Studio - These are apartments that have one room and usually a separate bathroom.  Some will have a separate kitchen, others will not.   
  • Flex - this is where you take a a room and create a bedroom by adding a temporary wall.  Some buildings allow this, some do not.  If the room does not have a window that opens to a street, garden, or courtyard, it's not legally considered a bedroom

  • Walk Ups- any building with more than 6 floors must have an elevator. A walk up is simply a building with multiple apartments without an elevator.  Each tenant must walk up and down the stairs to get to their unit.


  • Penthouse - To be considered a penthouse it must be set back from outer walls, but not all penthouses are on the top floor.  Some will be 2 to 3 floors from the roof but with a recessed roof to have a terrace.  
  • Loft - These were high-ceiling living spaces in old industrial buildings with exposed pipes and beams, but now builders are purposefully building a loft space in new buildings. 
  • Prewar - These are old, thick-walled, beautiful architecture buildings in the Upper West and Upper East Side that get higher rents.  
  • Floor-through - unit takes up an entire floor
  • Duplex - unit is two levels and is connected, triplex is three levels
  • Condo- each unit has it's own deed and tax bill, shares hallways and other amenities with rest of building
  • Co-op - owner doesn't own a unit, but shares in the entire building based on the size of the unit
  • Garden apartment - bottom floor of a townhome or Brownstone
  • Railroad apartment - one room leads to the next, no hallways, like a shot gun house
  • Brownstone - 4-story building built of sandstone in the early 1900's, located south of 125th street in NYC.  Other similar structures not made of sandstone is a rowhouse or a townhouse
In addition to the type of housing units, there are some key amenities that can affect your rent and your lifestyle in NYC.

  • Elevator 
  • Doorman 
  • Laundry in building or Laundry in unit (huge difference)

  • Rooftop access
  • Workout facility
  • Bike room
  • Parking garage
  • Proximity to metro stop
  • Live-in super


We live in an apartment that has laundry in the building (we have 2 washers and 2 dryers on our floor) 24-hour doormen, 24 maintenance, a workout facility, rooftop access, large lounge with a kitchen, two dining tables, and two living rooms sets, yoga room, game room, playroom, and multiple bathrooms and within a quarter mile of multiple subway lines (this is why I love living in lower Manhattan, this is where most of the subways converge) We are in a quiet suburb-type part of NYC known as Battery Park City.  We are close to the Hudson River and the Esplanade which is the longest park in North America.  I would say that we are living in the middle class part of Battery Park City..  Sort of like being the smallest house in the nicest neighborhood.

So how do so many people fit in one little space?  We literally live, work, and travel on top of each other.  You know, in layers.




From what I have observed, you have different kinds of people within each layer.  There are those who are desperate to move up from where they are, either for prestige or just so they can know where their next warm meal is coming from.  There are those who feel lucky to be where they are.  There are those who know they are in a good layer, but annoyed by those below them.  And of course those on top, who don't even realize who is below them.  Luckily, I've met those who are very kind and loving to those living below them.  It's true, being kind doesn't cost a cent.

I believe that it's possible to be just as miserable living in the UES, as it is to be homeless living on the street.  (I mean, shots to numb your feet?  Jeez!)  It's also possible to be just as happy living in a walk up with no laundry as it is in a penthouse with a personal driver and maid.  It's not a matter of which layer you are living in, but your attitude while there.






Saturday, September 24, 2016

Sunset, Skyline, & Swedish Meatballs: Date Night in NYC

Are you looking for an evening out?  Have I got a deal for you.

First, you and your loved one will take a quiet stroll through the heart of the Financial District until you reach the water's edge.  Next, you'll take a ferry ride where you can see beautiful views of the Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty.  Then, you'll enjoy a European meal as you watch the sun set on the East River.   Finally, enjoy the lit skyline against the night sky as you head back to Manhattan.

How much would you expect to pay for such an evening?

$50?

$100?

Try

10 bucks!

That's right, a certain Englishman and I have figured out the cheapest date in NYC.

Go to IKEA.

You see, IKEA is in Brooklyn, which is across the East River.  So they have a water taxi that costs $5 to ride.  BUT, if you spend $10 at IKEA, they take $5 off your bill, and there isn't a fare to get back home.  So the ferry ride is free, because really, who goes to IKEA to spend less than $10?



Here we are starting our ferry ride. 


After we docked at the IKEA parking lot, we went upstairs to their cafeteria and bought their Swedish meatball dinner which is $5.

You can sit with a view of the Manhattan skyline, or a view of the Statue of Liberty.

After dinner, we went downstairs to do our shopping.  Tonight's theme is called, "Bedding."


They even have an escalator just for your cart to make it easier to get out the door.


As we waited for the ferry to take us back, we got to watch the sunset behind Lady Liberty.



By the time we left, it was dark.



As we made our way to the pier, I looked over at the Brooklyn Bridge were Johnny was with a large group of teenagers for his first NYC MTC activity.

He ended up walking home all the way from Brooklyn, crazy kid!

I'm learning to feel like I'm close to home when I see the Freedom Tower.


Not bad for a $10 date!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly - Week of September 11

Something I promised my friends before I left for NYC was that I would write about everything, not just the fun and glamorous parts of my NYC life.  I've decided to start a weekly roundup called "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" in order to keep this promise.  


Online Ordering

THE GOOD: 



I'm so glad that Google Express got here before I did.  I can have delivered to my apartment just about anything that Costco, Target, Walgreen's, and other stores sell that's non perishable.   If I realize I need something on Monday night, it can be at my door the next day, sometimes as early as noon.

THE BAD: 

Furniture delivery.  Ugh!  These can be tricky.  Some items must be scheduled in order to be delivered, especially if they are bringing it into my apartment.  If we bring it in ourselves, we have to pay a $500 deposit and let the building know 24 hours in advance.  If we don't break anything on the way up, we get our money back.  

I've been waiting on three large pieces from West Elm.  I called to find out where they were.  I discovered that 2 of the 3 items have been sitting in their warehouse for a week waiting for the third piece.  While they are willing to deliver them to me one at a time, they weren't going to let me know that.  

THE UGLY:

About 50% of the furniture we have already received has been damaged or broken.  Returns are tricky in NYC, because you are responsible for transporting it back.  When a certain Englishman bought a couch at IKEA, he paid $50 for a driver to bring it back to our apartment.  He took the huge boxes upstairs only to discover that one piece was damaged.  So he had to pay $55 for an SUV Uber to go back to Brooklyn to switch it out and then another $45 to get the right piece back to our place.  This was over 10% of the cost of the couch.  

DOORMEN

THE GOOD:

I LOVE our doormen.  They are really amazing.  After our first meeting they know our name.  With 548 units, I don't know how they do this.  These are the most friendly, funny, New Yorkers I interact with on a daily basis.  It's like having a loving family member looking out for you.  I want to give them all a hug.

THE BAD:

While the doormen themselves are wonderful, it can be tricky having them.  They aren't allowed to let anyone up to your apartment unless we tell them in advance that they are coming.  So visiting and deliveries aren't anything like they are out in the suburbs.

THE UGLY:

Fortunately the doormen are there to receive all packages, 24 hours a day.  Unfortunately, they receive TONS of packages every day.  Each one must be processed, scanned, put into a computer, and then the apartment is notified of the package.  They do this by putting your apartment number on a big screen, emailing you, and even calling you if it is Google Express.  As you can imagine this takes quite a bit of time for them to do this.  So a package that you desperately need may be downstairs but you can't pick it up because it hasn't been processed.

SUBWAYS 

THE GOOD:

I really like taking the subways.  They bypass all the street traffic and can get you around town much more quickly than a bus or car.  There are lots of apps that help make using the subways much easier.  My favorite is Citymapper.


I don't know how I'd get around without Citymapper.  It tells me how much an Uber would cost, how long it would take to walk it, which buses and subways I can take to get there.  It even alerts me to delays.  It was through Citymapper I found out about the explosion in Chelsea.  

THE BAD:

Weekends are tough on subways.  This is when most of the construction happens and you never know what will be open and what won't.  A certain Englishman was an hour late getting to the airport to meet us because of a line closure he didn't know about.  We have had to travel by foot long distances because of unexpected train delays or closures.  

THE UGLY:

As convenient and inexpensive as subways are, they are also a popular place for the indigent.  While illegal, many times someone will beg for money with a prepared speech.  Last night as word of the explosion made its way to New Yorkers, many of us discovered that we are on a subway line that was shut down preventing us from getting home.  Many people had out their phones and were trying to book Ubers or find alternate routes.  While all of this was happening, a man who was trying to start his speech asking for money, started to yell at everyone to be quiet and to listen to him.  He didn't realize what was happening.  All he knew was that no one was paying him any attention.   We finally stepped off the train so that we could hear each other, as did most people.  

We had just bought our weekly groceries at Trader Joe's and had two heavy bags.  We ended up walking about a total of 12 to 15 blocks at various points throughout the city so that we could find a line that was running.  

Which leads me to.... 


Compeed


THE GOOD: 

This pretty much is the best thing ever when it comes to blisters on feet.  It comes in a carrying case that I keep in my purse. 

THE BAD:

Shoes that have been really comfortable in Utah, are not so much in NYC.  Fast walking to catch a train or get to a meeting, puts lots of stress on my feet and shoes.  Ouch!

THE UGLY: 

What my feet look like when I don't put on Compeed fast enough.  

NYC Walls and Ceilings

This week our wall mount for a 55" TV came in.  A certain Englishman set aside Wednesday night to install it.  He finally got it finished Saturday afternoon.   Here's why: 

THE GOOD: 

According to NYC code, all walls shared with another apartment must be double sheet rocked.  This equates to about  1 1/4 inches of sheet rock.  This means we can't hear anything coming from the apartment next to ours, even their yappy little dog.  The ceilings are made of concrete and keep us from hearing anyone above us.  We also don't have to worry about making noise and disturbing anyone below us.  

THE BAD: 

The screws and anchors that came with the wall mount, wouldn't work.  NYC doesn't use wood studs in high rise buildings, they use metal ones.  This means you have to use an anchor system with togglers.  



These actually work pretty well but can be tricky to use.  And when one breaks and slips behind the sheetrock, you have go back to the hardware store to buy another one, which is a 15-minute one way journey by foot.  Thank goodness for teenage sons!

THE UGLY:

As frustrating as learning how to navigate thick sheet rock can be, figuring out how to hang from a concrete ceiling is worse.  This requires a special carbide drill bit and special anchors.  And as we learned the hard way, a different drill.  A normal drill can't cut it (literally).  You need what is called a hammer drill.  Fortunately, our neighbor already has one we can borrow.  But it was a long afternoon figuring all of this out on our own.

Grocery Shopping 


THE GOOD:

Grocery stores and fruit stands are everywhere.  It's hard to walk very far without someplace that sells food.  Trader Joe's has national pricing, which means while it can be expensive in some cities, it is incredibly low-priced in NYC.

THE BAD:

Grocery shopping is tricky because you have to be able to carry what you purchase.  Lots of grocery delivery places exist, but some can cost $300 a year just in membership fees, and I'm just not ready yet to have someone else decide which bananas we want.  A certain Englishman is very particular about the level of ripeness in his banana.  So I like to make my own purchases.  Which means weighing the trade off of getting the larger size with more savings versus having to carry it home.

THE UGLY:

Living with a teenager, we go through lots of milk.  I found a market in TriBeCa where the milk is only $4.29 a gallon.  (I can't believe I just used the words "only" "milk" and "$4.29" in the same sentence.)  But the store isn't too close, and if we suddenly run out of milk, it would take a while just for one gallon.  I decided to see what the market across the street from our apartment charges.  I figured it would be more expensive, but maybe worth the savings in time.

Are you sitting down?

First of all the store only sells half gallon sizes.  I guess there aren't too many teenagers in Battery Park City.

Secondly, half a gallon of milk cost $5.00.  

That $10 for a gallon of milk!

Think about that next time you load up on milk at Costco.

And there you have it, the good, the bad, and the ugly of our first week in New York City.


Monday, September 12, 2016

You Are Now Ours: The LDS Church in NYC

For those not familiar with the LDS Church, our congregations are divided geographically into what are called wards.

Here's a short 2 minute video that explains what a ward is in our church community.


I've always wondered how those not in the LDS faith move to a brand new place with no friends or family close by.  It must take a lot of bravery and confidence.  Or, I imagine it would, because I have never had to.

When my two youngest kids and I lived in France one summer, one of the first things we did was try to find the LDS Church building.  At the building we met two sister missionaries and were invited to a baptism which allowed us to meet several members of the ward.  By the time we attended Sunday service, we were already part of the family.


Here in NYC, the wards are divided based on subway lines, not neighborhoods.  Our ward is relatively close to the 1,2,3 subway lines in lower Manhattan.  We are called the Union Square Ward because our church building is near Union Square.


New York City's population is .36% Mormon.

Which is a huge change from Pleasant Grove, Utah which is 89% Mormon.  Which might explain why my last ward's boundary looked like this.

Almost every home in our ward has a Mormon living there. 

After a long day and night getting moved into NYC  , we pulled ourselves out of bed (the 2 hour difference from Utah is felt the most in the mornings) and went to church.

We have attended service in this ward before, so it was nice to see familiar faces.

As the Bishop (the congregational ecclesiastical leader) opened the meeting, he welcomed the Stake President, President Buckner, who was sitting next to him on the stand.  The stand is the area behind the pulpit.  Multiple wards are grouped together in what is called a stake.  Manhattan is one stake with 15 wards and branches (small congregations are called branches).

I didn't think anything of the announcement because a Stake President will frequently visit the different wards within his stake.

The Bishop then said that the Stake President was going to speak to us.

Pres. Buckner stood up and said that he was there to call a new Bishop.

He then gave some interesting statistics.  I learned some others that day as well, that I'll also include.

  • The Manhattan Stake has 15 units, because of this, the stake has permission to have 15 members on the High Council (a group of High Priests who support the Stake President and his two counselors), most have 12.  
  • The average time someone is a Bishop of a ward in the Manhattan Stake is 1.8 years.  That number is skewed a little high because two bishops have been currently serving for 7 years.  Typically an LDS Bishop serves for 5 years.  
  • In the Manhattan Stake, there are 3000 members of the Relief Society, the women's organization within the Church.  Many stakes have around 900 and many much less than that.  
  • The membership of the Manhattan Stake has a turnover rate between 20 and 30 percent, every year.  


President Buckner said that being the Stake President is like running an aircraft carrier.  There are airplanes constantly landing and taking off.

While learning all of this, I was starting to wonder if we would just be viewed as one of those many airplanes.  Today you land, tomorrow you take off.  Please get out of our way and leave quickly so that we can get back to work.

Later that night, I ran into the wife of the newly called Bishop.  We ended up riding the subway home together (another great reason to divide wards by subway lines.)

She said something that brought me comfort.

"Once you move to New York City, you are now ours.  We will immediately bring you into our family.  Some accept the embrace and jump right in, others just wait on the sidelines until it is their time to go back home."

I plan on jumping right in.