Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Week 7: Chillin' in the Convent

Why is it that we never realize how great experiences are until we are looking back at them? At this point they seem so great it seems like it was someone else experiencing it and not you.

Looking back there is nothing I wish I had done or wish I hadn’t done. Now that my time here is coming to an end I can’t imagine my life without these awesome people that God has put in my path. I pray for them daily and even if I have only known them for a short time I will not forget what I have learned from them.

I have had a lot of time to reflect lately because I recently joined the convent. Obviously, that was a lie but the place I am staying is the closest thing to the convent that I have seen since Sister Act 2. The Hephzibah house is a brownstone on the Upper East Side and people have been staying here for over a hundred years. There is no cable, no Wifi, and no air-conditioning. It is obnoxiously quiet so sleeping has become a problem. In Brooklyn the train was on an elevated platform right outside my apartment so I go used to sleeping with noise. On the Upper West Side there is a $350 fine for honking so it stays pretty quiet.

This house used to be a private residence and I’m staying in the room that used to be the nursery. There are pictures of people praying all over the walls and there is a journal where previous guests can write messages to future guests. I know this sounds like I just set the scene for a terrifying horror movie.
Despite how creepy it sounds it has been an awesome place to stay. The people here are wonderful and I always have the option of enjoying afternoon tea in the parlor.

I feel like I have gained so much from this entire experience. I have decided to compile a list of some of the things I have learned.  

Never is it acceptable to have a conversation with someone on the Subway at a volume anyone else can hear unless you want to be labeled the infamous “Tourist.”

Everything is only a Subway ride away so exploring is encouarged. Getting lost is the best way to learn your way around…unless it is late at night.

If you are listening to music that you aren’t proud of keep the volume low. There is nothing more damaging to some thugs image than the entire subway car knowing that he is listening to the Mama Mia soundtrack.

Always Give People the Benefit of the Doubt. It is New York, and there are crazies but don’t automatically assume that everyone has bad intentions.

Having a conversation with someone is sometimes an awesome gift for you and them. Showing them dignity might be more than what most people do. Be the Exception!

Don’t ever let fear keep you from doing anything!  (Check out Psalm 23:1-6)

I’m not sure I have become completely New York tough but I have learned that being desensitized or cold does not make you tough. The day that it becomes normal to see people suffering and in pain is the day that I need to step back and re-evaluate what I’m doing to help these people that I am walking beside.

I hope that you all have gained something very small from this attempt at a blog. I appreciate all of your support and prayers and though I will be leaving the convent soon, I will continue to pray that God blesses your lives daily.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Hoboken Haircut

I see a lot of the same people on the subway everyday and they still look at me like I’m on the wrong train. I guess they think I’m a slow learner.

Yesterday I was walking from the train station to work and this man asked me for directions. Yes, Me! Not in Manhattan or Brooklyn! In the SoBro! In the BX! In the Bronx! I was beyond flattered. Looking like you belong in the Bronx is being the toughest of New York tough! They don’t play! I actually knew how to get where he wanted to go but I think after I started talking he realized I was not from the BX and could not possibly know my way around the Bronx.

I made another trip to Hoboken, NJ today. I love “The Boken!” It’s a quick trip from the city but it feels like a small town.
As I was walking the streets of Hoboken I saw a hair salon. I have needed a haircut but the only person that has been near my hair with scissors since I was 10 is Lori Freeman. Considering she is thousands of miles away this was a problem. I decided to be brave and let a complete stranger in Hoboken, New Joorsey cut my hair.
It was a fairly good experience. The lady was kind of sort of okay I guess but she was no Lori Freeman.

I now have a Mohawk that Willow Smith would be proud of with a plethora of colored streaks!


You can’t even tell I got a Hoboken Haircut!

Yesterday I visited FAO Schwarz, the toy store from “Big!” They still have the giant piano and a ton of overpriced toys! I’m so glad I got to experience but I’ll stick to Toys R Us for my toy shopping!

I only have a couple more days here in the “Larger then Most Apples, Apple,” and it’s very bitter sweet…the feeling I mean…not the apple. The lease is up on my sublet so I will be moving into a guesthouse that is for young people that are missionaries or working with Christian Organizations. It will be a great experience. It’s not air-conditioned and there are only public bathrooms but I’ve met a lot of people that sleep on the street so I am very fortunate.

I would like to take this time to shout out to two of my favorite people in the entire world that both have birthdays today. My lovely Grandma Ramona and Caroline “Charlene” Leahy! You are both incredible people and I learned so much from you both!! Love You!

Now you can both say that you were called out in the worst attempt of a blog that the World has ever seen. Congratulations!


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Ohana Means Family

I was fortunate enough to get to fly home and surprise the family at the big Stout Family reunion. It was fortunate for me but not so fortunate for everybody else. I know they were looking forward to a family gathering without me!!

My mom came up with this idea while she was up here visiting and it all worked out very nicely. The fantastic Hillary Yetter (You’ve probably heard of her! She’s kind of a big deal!) picked me up from the airport and took me to our house in Yukon. I then drove to Woodward. I arrived at the Dauphin abode at 11PM. My splendid cousin Heath answered the door after he stared at me through the window for what seemed like forever!! It was so great and everybody did such a great job pretending to be ecstatic that I was there.

This next statement is not exaggerated and I’m standing by my journalistic stance of objectivity: You have not experienced a good time until you have been to a Dauphin family gathering. Point of Clarity: My mother’s maiden name is Dauphin. I know even though it is the French spelling you visual people were picturing a “Family of Dolphins” frolicking. That does sound like a great time but that is not the gathering I was referring to.

A Dauphin family gathering is like no other. When you get us all in a room it suddenly becomes so very clear why we are the way that we are. It is an experience that few others would understand but the fortunate people that do are in for a great time. We are in finest form late at night because we all lose what little of a filter we have during the rest of the day.

This Dauphin family gathering was a little different because we were responsible for representing Team Ramona at the Stout Family reunion. We could not embarrass our Grandmother/Mother in front of her siblings and their families. No speeches were given but it was definitely assumed that we would be on our best behaviors.

In my opinion we represented Team Ramona very nicely. I’m sure we were judged on several occasions but that is to be expected. 

It was a fantastic weekend and I feel so blessed to have gotten to experience it. I got to see some very awesome people. In all seriousness I feel I was able to step back and realize how blessed I am to be related to such great people!!

Things I learned this weekend:
The “Sorority Hunch” is the next big thing in Greek pictures and you read it here first. It is only a matter of time before it fully replaces the “Sorority Lean!”
My Cousin Ashley Albert was in fact the voice of Stitch in the Movie “Lilo and Stitch.”
My Grandad is better at the Dougie than most people in New York and needs to be a guest instructor at Hip Hop 101.
Ohana means family. Family means that no one gets left behind or forgotten.

If you think you are up for attending the next family gathering let me know. We don’t charge too much for membership but it is a rather tedious process!  

I’m back in NY now and I’m back to being New York tough. I must say that the transition from the South Bronx to Woodward is rather drastic. I only have about a week and a half left here. Please let me know if you need me to try anything or go see anything! I may be a poor representative but I’m more than happy to accomplish things on your bucket list for you! long as it is legal

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Will "Dougie" for Water

 I was reminded of a very humbling quote the other day. Ghandi once said,  “ Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.”
I find that a lot of times I don’t do things because they seem insignificant but I have learned recently that them being insignificant gives me all the more reason to do them. You never know when you could be making a difference in someone’s life. Handing out Snickers isn’t exactly changing the world but I will continue to do so because Ghandi told me to!

The other day I was leaving a subway station and this man asked me if he could have a dollar for some water. I gave him a couple of bucks and he did the “Dougie!” I suggested that he start teaching a Hip Hop class but he just laughed. Little does he know that I know very well what makes a good Hip Hop teacher.

My favorite thing about this entire experience is that I’m learning so much about running a non-profit organization. Everyone in the office does a little bit of everything and I love that. I can successfully operate a pallet jack and I am cutting time off shrink-wrapping pallets everyday. You best not cross me when I have my box cutter or my tape gun. No matter how many times you sweep a warehouse it is dusty so I usually end up walking around looking like Dick Van Dyke straight out of Mary Poppins for hours each day.

When my mom was here we went to Bubba Gump Shrimp…several times actually. We were talking about it one day at work and Jaime didn’t know what we were talking about. My mom had the idea to buy Jaime Forrest Gump and get he and his wife a gift certificate. Jaime is now Bubba Gump’s biggest advocate! He came to work today and told me that Forrest Gump shows Jenny God’s Grace by accepting her even though she was bad.

This week we are having a Kaizen event. Kaizen is a Japanese word for Good Change. The entire office is involved in finding ways to improve our Teacher Resource Center. The TRC is an area where teachers that teach in Title One Schools (schools where more than 70% of the Students are on the Free and Reduced Lunch Program) are able to come and get school supplies for their students can’t afford them. We are divided up into teams and my team has gone above and beyond. We dress alike and made badges. Some of the other people in the office are “hatin,” (normally I would say “hating but I get corrected in the South Bronx if I talk like that) because of our excitement. 

I have been truly blessed by this entire experience. I'm going to be completely transparent with you Blog Readers for just a second. I was in a spiritual slump for a while and this experience is pulling me out of it. “SMS (Shine)” by David Crowder is a song that has really been on my heart lately. It is about someone that is completely disconnected but is yearning for some connection to God and asking him to soften their heart. I feel that it has been my prayer and it has been answered in a way I never thought possible. The people I work with are serving God daily with every aspect of their lives and I have learned so much from them.

Peace and Blessings! 

Quick Fix for Boredom: Quit Reading This Blog!! 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


It’s been a while friends! I wanted to give you all a break from my attempt at blogging. You’re Welcome.

One major thing that has become very apparent to me since I have been in NY is the importance of friends and family. Clique? Yes, but completely true!! 

Coming to NY for seven weeks was a huge leap of faith. I was nervous but not nearly as nervous as everyone else seemed to be. It all became very real when I waiting at baggage claim and I realized I was alone. I’m kind of a people person so doing things by myself proved to be difficult at first. I went to the same restaurant everyday for the first week because the little Italian nugget waiter was familiar. Luckily I have stepped out a little since then but hearing from people at home continues to be the highlight of my day!

My mom is here visiting. You’ve probably heard of her. People get to know me and think I’m okay. Then they meet my mom and continue to tolerate me so they can live from one Lisa Ross encounter to the next. I know you all didn’t think I knew but I do and I have dealt with it.

We have had a great time. We went to Washington D.C. last weekend and have been exploring New York all this week. We attended a lovely Broadway Musical about Drag Queens. The tickets were half price and we took the recommendation of a splendid Australian woman. I’m sure she had a good laugh over her vegemite sandwich thinking about the two “okies” being enlightened by her recommendation.

We have spent quite a bit of time in Time Square and people watching. I swear there is a “Rihanna Look Alike ” competition taking place currently among the girls of NYC. I am totally supportive of that as long as the next competition isn’t “Mimic the bad life choices of Chris Brown!”

My mom is leaving Monday so she can begin to prepare for the most epic family reunion to hit the family reunion scene. I am very sad to be missing it. My cousin Ashley and I are planning a decathlon. The Stout siblings will be the captains so in our case my grandma is the fearless leader. Team Ramona will be triumphant but I must watch from afar.

Saturday I get to mark something off my bucket list. We are going to see Paul McCartney in concert at Yankee Stadium. I knew I had to see him before he dies…or at least before his next marriage. Saying that “You’ll just catch the next one,” when you aren’t able to attend a wedding is completely relevant in his case.

I only have about three more weeks in NY but I know I have a lot more to learn in those three weeks.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Quakers and Hot Dogs

This past Sunday I attended Quaker Church. Not like the Oats! The Religious Society of Friends! Quakerism was created as a result of the Protestant Reformation in England in 1650. There is not one single religious doctrine that all Quakers follow but almost all Quakers believe in Jesus Christ and agree with the Apostles Creed. Quakers are known best for being extreme pacifist (They were hippies before it was cool). Sorry for the history lesson but I don't want any rumors circulating that I came to NY and joined a Cult. I have in fact joined a Cult but that's a different blog post. 

A “Friends Meeting” is run in a very unique way. Everyone just sits in complete silence and then if you feel that God has put something on your heart you are free to stand and share. I took the silence part very seriously and just observed what others felt moved to say. I compiled a list of tips just in case any of you ever plan on attending a Friends Meeting.
1.     Do not feel like you must dress colonial. Almost everyone has caught up with modern fashion trends.
2.     Do not attend if you are fighting a cold. Everyone can hear everything you do and that includes snot sniffing.
3.     Following the example of the men with neck beards that look the oldest is always a good idea. Rule of Thumb: The more they look like the Quaker Oats Man the safer you are following their example.
Going to Quaker Church was a great experience. I greatly admire their devotion and discipline! I also thoroughly enjoy that they refer to everyone as “Friend.”

On Monday the 4th I was able to attend the International Hot Dog Eating Contest at Coney Island. I have never seen anything like it.  I watched a small girl consume 41 hot dogs in ten minutes and then I saw a man consume 62 hot dogs in ten minutes. It is one of the most disturbing sites I have ever witnessed. I have taken meat and carcass evaluation. I know exactly what went into just one of those hot dogs and that is almost too much for me.

Pepto-Bismol was a sponsor so there were Pepto-Bismol beach balls being thrown around the crowd and everyone had their very own pair of Pepto-Bismol thunder sticks.  It was covered by ESPN because I guess competitive eating is now considered a sport. It was a very interesting experience. I’m not sure I have any desire to attend an eating competition ever again but I’m glad I went.

I was also able to go to the Macy’s firework display. It was absolutely amazing! It was basically 30 minutes of firework finales on the beautiful Hudson River. I think I had chills the entire 30 minutes. 
I hope everyone had an amazing and safe 4th of July! I also hope that nobody consumed anywhere near 40 hot dogs!! 

In the words of a Quaker, "Peace Friends!"

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Day Trip

I watched the movie Speed the other day. It has completely changed the way I look at public transportation. Every time I get on the subway I immediately begin analyzing my fellow subwayers. If disaster were to strike would we band together or just keep pretending that our business was the only thing that was important? Is Keanu Reeves here?! Do I get to be Sandra Bullock?!

I have found that public transportation is quite the experience in itself. You have your overly stressed subway riders, people that sing out loud while listening to their ipod, and my favorite, the people that have large dogs in their bags. I’m not sure they have been introduced to the Toy Dog concept yet.

I’m not much of a hugger but going two weeks without hugging anyone has proven to be a little bit difficult. Lucky for me I get to hug a lot of complete strangers on the express train on the way to work everyday. I feel like I should try to get to know people that I am that close to but that would not be the “New York Way!”  

Today I took a trip to Hoboken, New Jersey. Hoboken is the home of Carlos Bakery, the bakery from the TLC show Cake Boss. There was a two-hour wait to get into the Bakery so I decided just to observe those that were determined to make it in.  It was quite interesting. There were a lot of men that were not very happy to be waiting. I met a nice family from Kansas and the father was less than thrilled but his wife and daughter had on matching Cake Boss shirts. He was not getting out of this one.

Hoboken is also the birthplace of  “The Voice!” Not the TV show on NBC! Frank Sinatra! I listened to “My Way” as I walked down Monroe Street. I’m not the biggest Sinatra Fan but last Summer I dragged my grandparents to the birthplace of Michael Jackson.  I owed it to them to visit the birthplace of someone that they liked and was the same race the complete duration of his life. However, Sinatra’s song “New York, New York,” is slightly less inspiring now that I know he was only four miles from New York.

Several people today stopped me to ask me for directions so I guess I am starting to look somewhat New York Tough! Of course I have been no help to any of them but it is nice to look like I belong.

I have also continued to make friends with some of the oddest people but I’m sure that is how they refer to me in their blog.