Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Standing In A Holy Place Has Nothing To Do With Geography

As a single Mormon living in New York City, I have had a few variations of this question/assumption: that it must be hard to be a Mormon in the Big Apple.  So many scary, uber-liberal people!  So many distractions!  Not enough Mormons! I have had people from a massage therapist (mid-massage, awkward) ask me this, to an out of town visitor in my ward in Harlem.  It is always a little bit surprising, and causes me to pause for a second. Because honestly,  I don't even think about it, and here's why.

Being a Mormon in New York City is similar to being a Mormon anywhere else.  The city is big, and there are a lot of people.  And being a conservative, practicing Mormon, I am probably a minority.  (Definitely in my neighborhood, but that has nothing to do with my religion.  That's because I'm white).  There is a vast amount to do here, and experiences to have, for good and evil.  All of this is true, and could be very distracting, if you want to look at it that way.  But why should that make a difference in how I am able to live my religion?  That would imply that I am a victim of my circumstances, and if there is one thing I refuse to be in my life, it is a victim.  I make my own choices in how I live, every day.  Some of them are second nature by now, and some of them take more thought.  But those bigger choices, like finding time to go to the temple, or serve someone in need, or whether to go get a second dessert after a ward activity, those I would have to grapple with no matter where I live.

Here's a fact: if you want to be distracted, you can find distraction anywhere.  If you want to struggle with not having enough friends who share similar values, you can do that anywhere.  If you want to feel sad that you are in your 30's and single and there is no one to date, guess what- you can do that anywhere, even in Utah.  (Shocker).  If you want to go inactive over any of the above, you can also do that anywhere.

Here's another fact: If you want to be active in the LDS Church, you can do that anywhere.  If you want to progress in the gospel, learn from your mistakes, mess up, repent and keep going, you can do that anywhere. If you want to endure to the end, you can!  Anywhere. There is a scripture about this...somewhere....oh, got it:

Doctrine and Covenants 87:8
Wherefore, astand ye in holy places, and be not moved, until the day of the Lord come; for behold, it cometh bquickly, saith the Lord. Amen.

Anywhere I live can be a holy place, if I choose to make it so.  And there are so many holy places in New York City, among this crazy town I love.  The temple, for one.  Obviously.  But it really does provide an oasis in the middle of everything.  It is a huge blessing in my life and I am so glad to have one here.  But also, my bedroom can be a holy place.  My apartment can.  My ward building in Harlem, where we have a "come as you are" mentality, and people come from a million different backgrounds; that is a holy place to me.  All of these places are here in Manhattan.  Plus, there are myriads of churches and cathedrals and parks and quiet spaces in this city that all qualify as holy places to me. Places where I have felt in a very real way the closeness of my Higher Power.

I have felt His love and closeness on the subway as a homeless woman sang her heart and soul out for a little bit of food, and then witnessed a woman come to her aid, take her by the hand, and go with her to find more long term help.  I have felt His love for me as I walk through Central Park on a gorgeous day.  I have felt close to Him as I sit in Holy Trinity Church on Central Park West and 65th Street listening to Bach Vespers on a Sunday evening.  I have felt edified and centered when I read my scriptures online in an office that I am working at for the day.  You get the picture.

The part of not letting myself be moved is meaningful as well.  Anywhere I live, I have to make the choice to keep the covenants I have made, and not be moved from them.  Are there distractions?  Of course!  Do I get caught up in said distractions sometimes?  Absolutely!  More than I would like to admit. But it is a daily challenge, and not dictated or made harder by geography, for me.

I am not saying that there are not unique things about living in New York City as a Mormon.  I just don't feel like geography, in this case, adds an extra burden or challenges my ability to choose to live the gospel.

Now, being a Mormon actor, there a few more factors that can be called distractions. Or things to think about as I make career decisions, like what types of characters I want to play, what shows I want to be a part of, things like that.  But again, those are decisions that I get to make, and since I try and keep a solid foundation under me in general, I trust that when those decisions come, between the Lord and I, we'll be alright.

I am by no means saying that my life is always easy, or that I don't make dumb mistakes on a regular basis, or falter, or question, or struggle. I am a work in progress.  But I am a work in progress in New York, just like I was a work in progress when I lived in Utah.  I have created a holy place here, and it was not a surprise.  I am only surprised when others find it surprising.

Monday, November 18, 2013

I'm Terrible At Selfies. And That's Fine.

Apparently there is a technique to taking selfies.  I had heard the tip about taking them from above you, but that's it.  I was told the other night that holding your body at an angle and/or bending the front leg a little bit (who knows why) are also secrets to a better selfie.  So I decided to practice.

How am I doing?

This is my friend Melanie, providing a stunning example of one of the worst selfie crimes ever.  Kissy Face Selfies.  I can say this because I know she did this in jest.  Not OK.

And my friend Jon, who is actually the Selfie King, showing us that it is permissable, and preferred, in my opinion, to occasionally let yourself NOT look good on camera.  He sent me this to prove he could do it. :-)

And yes, this all happened outside the temple.  Why do you ask?

The Self-Soother On The Train.

Last week I got on the train to go home after a pretty long day.  As I settled in to my book, I looked up and saw this.

That woman proceeded to suck her finger ALL THE WAY to my stop.  Sha alternated between sitting there with her finger in her mouth, and then dozing off and actively sucking, exactly like a baby would on a pacifier or its own thumb.  I was dying.  She would go rummage in her bag with her other hand, or scratch her face, fall asleep, wake up, look around, all with that finger in her mouth.  It was the best. Whew.  She must be tired.  I just wondered if she had buck teeth. 

As I got off the train at my stop, I accidentally bumped her foot.  As I looked at her in apology, she just waved me off with that hand, finger still in her mouth.  Like it ain't no thing.

I am getting very good at taking pictures of people on the sly.  Is that a talent? 

And, I couldn't leave you without my latest running picture.  LOVE. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Friends, Food, Counter-Productive Announcements and a Big-A Tree

Last week, instead of working my life away, I actually played a little bit, and worked of course.  But here is what I did:

I went to Ender's Game with some friends (so fun and stressful, even though I have read the book) and after a stop at Shake Shack (of course) we were out on the street talking before heading home.  All of a sudden this police escort starts rolling by, really slow.  We were bugged, because we wanted to cross the street, and couldn't see any apparent reason why there were four police cars blaring their sirens.  Then we saw this:

The Rockefeller Tree!  On its' way to the Rockefeller Center!  Our outbursts of "come on!" quickly turned into delighted squeals and the grabbing of phones to take pictures as fast as we could.  And just like that, we were giddy like kids.

Then this happened in the train station:

I have no answers for you, but that must be important information.

Cue cute roommate pic with Abby.  Nailed it.
On Saturday I played again with my friends, and went to Brooklyn for the Smorgasbord.  It is basically a huge food flea market with tons of booths.  We did good: we all bought different things and shared.  So I did NOT leave thinking I was going to die, like I thought I would.  But I mean, come on.  The view of the City!

Sunday, November 10, 2013


You go get cheap Chinese take-out with your girlfriends, and there is a diet menu.  Sometimes that diet menu has inspiring pictures of ladies doing Jazzercise next to it.

Ask me if I ordered off of the diet menu.


And then sometimes you host a Halloween party with your friend Jeff, and your friend Seth shows up dressed up like your old Young Ambassadors director, Randy Boothe.  And it is creepy and amazing at the same time.

It's the little things that make me happy.

Some Of My Favorite (Fall) Things

Besides leaves, of course.

I always have to have a fall seasonal candle.  Always. 

This was a new discovery for me this year, and I am totally feeling it.  I love herbal tea, especially in winter, and this Harvest Blend from Trader Joe's it definitely making me happy.  (Do you think I could get some money for my awesome endorsement?  No?  Darn.)

And of course, a pumpkin spice cookie from my fave treat place, Schmakery's.  This place has made multiple appearances on my blog, and I am sure will make many more. 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Customary Blog Post About How Much I Love Fall Leaves...

Morningside Park
 The last couple of weeks I have really tried to take advantage of the beautiful weather and the changing leaves before they are all gone, and it is cold enough that I just want to hibernate with all the animals.  Well, not with the animals, that would be weird.  But at the same time as the animals. Anyway... here are my pictures that I have to show for it.  I love this time of year so much, and am so lucky to live in New York City where it is so beautiful!

Just on my way to the subway, you know.

Bow Bridge in Central Park

Central Park (with filter)

Central Park

Central Park

Central Park

Central Park
Central Park.  I do love old fashioned lamp posts.

Central Park with my dear friend Jeff!

A little tree hugging on a fall afternoon never hurt anyone.

So...I started running.  Weird.  And this was what I found one morning.  Central Park
Central Park

Central Park

Lastly, the ones below all happened at Morningside Park.  Again, a running morning.  And by run, I mean a slow pace, with walking interspersed (for the back, you know) and periodic picture breaks.  Don't count on my busting out any marathons any time soon.


Friday, October 18, 2013

Who Says I Don't Have a Love Life?

No one, I tell you.  No one. Well, everyone. 

But.  Let me tell you a story about that said love life.

In my ward, there is a man.  His name is Elijah.  He is very nice, and though he is hard to understand because of his Liberian accent (nothing against Liberia), he seems to be a faithful member of my congregation, and of a happy disposition.  This was my impression of the older gentleman, even if I had not had much direct contact with him.  But, since I am a Sunday School teacher, I would call on him occasionally and try to piece together what he was saying to tie it into my lesson somehow.  It was not always easy, for real.  And he gets off topic easily.  So it was a practice in my creative B.S. skills, to say the least.  He is also one of those that gets up almost every fast and testimony meeting and speaks for a while about who knows what.  There is at least one in every ward, and the point is, I always found him a little addle-brained, but harmless....

It all started back in May.  I taught Sunday School that day, and after class, Elijah came up to me.  I had previously learned that he was supposed to be my home teacher, along with my friend Ned, and at that point I had no objections, other than wondering how I would get through a lesson of his while understanding only 50%.  He approached me, and I thought he was going to talk to me about home teaching.  But he presented me with a paper rose and told me something about how he thought I was beautiful and a good teacher and wanted to give me the rose.  I was nodding and hoping I wasn't agreeing to anything like giving him my first born child or something.  He then showed me an invitation he had to some Republican party dinner and told me he was allowed to bring some friends, and did I want to go with him? 

(DISCLAIMER: Although I did get better at understanding Elijah's words, his dialect is still very difficult for me desipher.  So, be aware that all of the conversations that I will recount are paraphrased with the gist of what he said, unless otherwise noted.  They are, however, true accounts of the idea and feel of the conversation.  It is appalling that I even have to write this.)

I looked at the date and in a panic, said the first thing that came out of my mouth.  "Oh, I usually work on Tuesdays, so I won't be able to go.  But thanks anyway."  I know some of you are probably thinking, "Nicole, why didn't you just be honest and tell him you weren't interested?  Nip that in the bud."  Well, I wasn't sure exactly what he was asking, honestly, because I couldn't understand everything he was saying!  And, when dealing with an older, foreign, possibly fragile man, I decided on the softer approach, just in case.  I took the rose and went home, a little bemused.

That night as I talked to my parents, I said, "you guys, I have to tell you about a boy."
My mom competely perked up, of course. "I have to hear about this!"
"Well, his name is Elijah."
"He's in my ward."
"He is from Liberia and is probably in his late 60's."
I don't know how amused Mom was about my stringing her along like that, but I was entertained.

The next Sunday I walked in to the chapel, and sat down.  Immediately, like a bee to honey, Elijah was next to me. 

"Hi Elijah." (Not encouraging any further conversation).
"How are you?"
"Fine, thank you."
"I have not been so good."
"Oh really?  I'm sorry.  That's too bad."
"I've missed you."
"Oh really?  You don't need to do that.  I'm just here." (????!!!!!!)
"I brought you some lunch for after church."
"Oh....really?  Elijah, you don't have to do that. (No, really. You don't.) Um, OK.  Thanks."  At which point he proudly presents me with a gift bag decorated for a child's birthday filled with grapes and some nasty pasta dish he bought at a bodega down the street.  I didn't want to offend the man and who knows what his culture dictates for courtesy, so I accepted it.  Yes, I admit that I did.  Judge away.   But then he proceeded to go gather his things and sit next to me for Sacrament Meeting.  I spent a very uncomfortable hour and 10 minutes.  At the same time, Ned, my home teacher, had been about to approach him about coming to see me.  One look from me, and he instead went to the Elders Quorum Pres. to have his partnership changed, seeing how uncomfortable I was, and assessing correctly that I did not want this man to know where I live, let alone be in my home.  Then in Sunday School that week, I was not teaching, but was sitting in the singles class that is held once a month.  He walked in and made himself comfortable.  Not next to me, thank goodness.  But later, in the middle of the lesson, he got up and walked over to me with a piece of paper. 

"I forgot to give this to you."

It was his name, phone number and email, telling me to call him if I ever needed anything.  Full voice.  In the middle of someone else talking.  I wish I could tell you that was an isolated incident, but he does that all the time.  No concept of how NOT to pull focus from the teacher or discussion happening in church. Awkward.

Over the next few weeks, Elijah turned up the heat.  He came bearing gifts of ice cream Crunch bars, two boxes, because he wants to give me diabetes or something.  Never mind that it was the middle of summer and they were melted.  Irrelavent.  More lunch items on a fast Sunday (??).  Some kind of invitation to give me my own personal birthday party, in which he tried to get my phone number.  (Definitely did not give him my number and thank goodness my birthday is not anytime soon).  One more episode of him sitting next to me in church, despite my efforts to always surround myself with people.  This particular day, he went up to bear his testimony, and in the meantime, two people came and sat next to me.  I thought, I am free!  But no, when he came back, he made them MOVE OVER so he could sit down by me again.  I was dying. 

I let him give me a couple of things out of trying to be polite and patient and give him hints I wasn't interested.  But after a couple of weeks I had my first chat with Elijah. 

"Elijah, thank you for the gifts.  That's very nice.  I don't know exactly what your intentions are, but if you are trying to court me, I need to tell you that I am no interested.  I am looking for someone closer to my age."
(He looks at me with total, utter confusion.)
"Is this your way of dating, of pursuing me?"
"OK.  I am looking for someone closer to my age, so I am not interested, and you don't need to give me gifts anymore."
"OK.  Thank you for telling me."

I walked away feeling like it was done, and we had had a nice chat.

Famous last words. It was just getting started.  And by "It" I mean, Operation Woo Nicole Till She Submits To My Charm.

The VERY NEXT week, I came to church, confident that the situation had been dealt with.  I looked up, and that man was in my face.  I am positive he was waiting for me to walk in.  He presented me with a larger gift bag, this one for a baby shower, filled with two more packets of grapes, two personal sized sweet potato pies, some granola bars, and... an umbrella from some work conference he must have gone to or something.  Or picked up at Goodwill.  Who knows.  Oh, and a love letter inside expressing that age does not matter to him, he wants to seek "good Christian marriage" with me, that he is totally in love with me, and giving me a list of all the physical things on my body he loves. (Creepy).  And that I am a good teacher.  Thanks for that shout out to my intellect and spirituality.

I told him that day I could not accept any more gifts from him.  Is it bad though, that I just really needed fruit, so the grapes were a welcome surprise?  I am a terrible person.  The sweet potato pie wasn't bad either.  But at this point, I realized I needed to start being more clear than kind.  So I felt pretty clear when I said, please don't bring me anything else.  I will not accept it. 

By this time, every week as I go to church, I am wondering what that day will bring.  I am getting the idea that Elijah is persistant, or clueless, or a little crazy, or all of the above.  The next week I went to church, and after the first meeting, I passed by him on my way out the door.

"Hello!" (Sticks out his hand for me to shake.)
Feeling that this is harmless, I shook his hand and said hello.  Elijah didn't let go of my hand and started to talk to me about who knows what; I couldn't understand him and was trying to pull my hand away.  He wouldn't let go.  I think he was definitely telling me about some revelation he had had to court me, or something.  I finally said, going for clear over kind,
"I can't understand what you are saying to me."
"Jehovah will show you who I am."
"Um, OK.  I gotta go."

After teaching Sunday School, I was cleaning up when he found me after class and proceeded to ask me to pray about us, however long it took.  He could wait.  I told him that I didn't need to pray about it, I wasn't interested.  He could pray for whatever he wanted; I would not change my mind.  Clarity over kindness.

A week or so later, before heading to church, my roommate Karen said to me, "you should know that Elijah has asked Jessica (in our ward) to give you something from him.  I don't know what it is and neither does she.  But just be aware."  At the same time she tells me that he confided in Jessica and another ward member about his feelings for me, and they were ready to help me if I needed anything.  Apparently this is not the first time Elijah has pursued someone like this, but I am the youngest.  So his antics were not a surprise to some, including my Bishop, who by this time was ready to say something at my signal.  But I was still trying to just handle it myself without getting anyone else involved.

At church that day, I saw Jessica coming in late, and Elijah harrassing her at different times, including in the middle of Sacrament Meeting.  But I didn't talk to her until after church when she told me that she forgot Elijah's missive and he was really upset about it.  That's fine. 

After coming back from Seattle, Elijah quickly found me in church (he really is always watching for me) and presented me with a manila folder. I was so confused I took it.  Now, I have to be honest and say that I was pretty sure it was whatever Jessica was supposed to give me and forgot.  So I took it out of part cofusion, part curiousity.  Again, judge away.  A little while into the meeting, I opened it up.  Inside the folder were the following items:
A copy of his passport (I now know that he is 68 years old.)
A copy of his Certificate of Naturalization. (Phew!  He's a citizen!  I was hoping...)
A copy of some document that states he does NOT have HIV. (A huge relief. That really was the only thing holding me back.)
A love letter stapled to the back of hospital discharge documents. ?
The love letter stated that, among other things, age matters to women because they can't have children past 50 years old, but never fear, men can.  (So he was basically telling me he was thinking about fathering my children.  I wanted to throw up).  Also, he related the story of the woman caught in adultery for some reason, and told me that he thinks other men were pushing him away out of jealousy.

I walked out of Sacrament Meeting right then, and took pictures of everything.  I realized Elijah really does have a screw loose and I needed to start documenting these things. After the meeting I went up to him, handed him the packet back and told him, "Here. I don't want this.  Take it back."  After which ensued an argument about how his behavior was totally inappropriate and was making me really uncomfortable, and really needed to stop.  I didn't want him, he was WAY too old for me, and it was VERY inappropriate of him to be thinking about having children with me.  Yuck.  He returned with the fact that he had had to go to the hospital because his blood pressure was so high from all of this.  I told him his health was not my concern, and that if he did anything to pursue me ever again I was going to get the bishopric involved.  I was done.  Way past done.  His comment?

"Jehovah will make you see the consequence of your insult to me."
"OK.  That's fine.  I will take that up with Jehovah."  And I walked away.

I went to Sunday School, not teaching, and that man walked in and SAT RIGHT NEXT TO ME. 

The next week, I got to church and he was immediately in my face again with a canister of something.

"What is this?" (So incredulous that this was still happening).
"Ice cream." (Home made? Just kidding.)
"Elijah, I can't take this. I don't want it." (Pushed it back toward him.)
"OK." (Walked away.)

After the meeting I went and told a member of my bishopric it was time to say something to Elijah.  Cameron told me he would, then I went to teach a lesson in Sunday School about eternal marriage.  Of course.  As I was introducing the lesson, he walked in and very loudly let us all know where he was going to sit, and then raised his hand without even knowing what I was asking.  I ignored him, but then made the mistake of calling on him when I asked a question about marriage in general.  He piped up and said,
"People don't get married as much these days because they are more worried about age than love.  L.O.V.E. LOVE."
Are you kidding?  Are you  kidding.

After the class he gave me some piece of paper that I immediately gave back to him, and at the same time found out about another couple that he had asked to intercede with me on his behalf. 
Off. His. Rocker.

Well, Cameron did talk to Elijah that day.  So no more gifts have come.  BUT-

One or two weeks later, fast and testimony meeting again.  Elijah got up, and for some reason, I just knew that something was going to happen.  That man proceeded to talk forever, and even though I still couldn't understand half of what he said, the half I picked up was about me, and how some troublemakers in the ward are trying to keep us apart.  (I still don't know who he thinks these troublemakers are).  He went on and on about "this young woman in the ward that he loves."  I was cringing and fascinated all at the same time.  That same day he also approached me about this supposed consipiracy against our love.  I told him in no uncertain terms that there was no one except him causing trouble.  He was to blame.  See how I can be firm?

Again, off his rocker. 

Well, since then, not a lot has happened except catching him staring at me, or giving dirty looks to any male is sitting next to me at the moment.  I feel like a terrible person, because even though I really was uncomfortable and annoyed and slightly alarmed, I was also entertained a little bit.  I couldn't make this up if I tried.  I know I am forgetting details as well.

I really do feel sorry for him in a way, but I got to the point that in order to hold my boundaries and be clear about what those were, I couldn't feel sorry for him.  I could not afford to have compassion.  Compassion for Elijah was only a loophole that he saw.  So weird. 

But, I mean, this is love, right?  See?  I totally have options.  Because men can still father children after 50.

I just threw up in my mouth again.

Sunday, October 13, 2013



I love Fall.  For rilsies.  I get so excited to do fun seasonal things, like wear warmer clothers, eat lots of soup and devour anything that has anything to do with pumpkins.  And the leaves!  I am obsessed with changing leaves.
 In moving back to New York, I discovered the Fall tradition of apple picking.  Well, I went for the first time this weekend and fell in love!  Apples+friends+treats+me=happy.

Brendan, Deb, Abby, Jeff and I went to see Brendan's mom and step-dad upstate in Bainbridge.  It was really too bad about the view behind their house.  I didn't take a million pictures of it or anything. Not even a little bit.  We also got a little touch of history with Brendan's Senior
I mean, that smolder.  And we won't even talk about the hair.  OK, we will.  It is huge, and red from Sun-in.  And it was all made even better when he told me that his tux was actually just a half shirt they all put over their clothes for the picture.  I love him. 

Back to the weekend.  We started the festivities with going to the Lafayette Apple Festival.  The biggest thing I got out of it was feeling a little more festive, laughing my guts out, and starting off the apple-themed eating for the weekend.  Apple cider (the good stuff that I crave every Fall, not the crap from a grocery store), cider donuts, and real apple fritters.  Let's talk about those apple fritters.  I have had them before, or so I thought.  I have had the ones from bakeries, that are usually a yummy pastry of lots of glazed dough with some apple chunks strewn throughout said glazed, fried dough.  I had no idea what I was getting in to, actually.  At this here apple festival, we are talking thick slices of cored apple, encased in dough and deep fried, then sprinkled with cinnamon sugar.  WHAT.  I can't.  But I did.  Like, four times over I did. 
The day just got better as we made our way over to an apple orchard for the actual apple picking.  I swear I was in the Garden of Eden.
 (I know, I know, I said Seattle was the Garden of Eden.  Details, details.)  We just loved it, and picked enough apples to last us for a while back in the concrete jungle.  How do you like them apples?  I will tell you.  A lot.  I think the world "frolic" is apropos here.  We frolicked in the orchard.  (Side note: I just discovered by looking at the above picture that I hate the way my sunglasses look on my face.  That will be remedied with a new pair very soon.  How have I owned them so long without realizing they are terrible? I digress...)

Back to the gorgeous home of Lori and Bob to do the baking.  Did I say baking?  I mean BAKING.  I kind of love baking in the Fall. There is something about it that is so comforting to me, and super yummy, of course.  Weird that I would think that...Apple pie, sour cream apple cake, and apple crisp.  It's fine.  Sitting on the kitchen floor, just pounding apple pie at 11pm will live on forever in my memory of moments that made me really, really happy, and really, really full.  It hurt so good, I tell you. 

This morning we went to church and came back to a brunch of baked french toast and the aforementioned apple crisp, with some amazing bacon and sausage.  After a leisurely few hours of sitting on the huge front porch of a country home in upstate New York, we left.  And came back to our real home in the City.  And I am hurting from everything I ate.  Worth it. 

Don't worry that this happened over the weekend, and Abby, Jeff and I may or may not be introducing polygamy to Harlem. Brendan and Deb were paired off, so...it's a thing.   (Not really).

My friends are the best.  And so is Fall. 

PS- One more shout out to this view.  Isn't it fantastic?  I thought so.