Monday, January 16, 2017

Anatomy of a Kindergarten Music Class

My kindergarten music class the first week of school. 
What I said: "Listen close because the music is very soft!"
What they heard: "Please dog pile by the speaker."

I've taught music, mostly private lessons, off and on for my entire adult life.

This past year I decided to try something new. I took a job teaching music classes at a small elementary school here in Colorado Springs.

This job has pitched me one of the biggest learning curves I've experienced in a long time. This learning curve happens weekly on Tuesdays at 1:45pm, when sixteen kindergarteners walk, run, bound, roll, pout, hug, twirl, and ninja-chop their way into my classroom.

In all my years of teaching I've never had a kindergarten class. They're much, much different than older grades. They're fidgety, wiggly and squirrelly. They have the same filters as drunk people. I often feel less like a music teacher and more like a judge that specializes in cases on line cutting. Also, I get end-of-the-day kindergartners, so by the time they come to me they're in dire need of some protein and a nap.

Let me give you a sample of a typical kindergarten music class:

1:45--Kindergarteners arrive at the music room. I tell them to line up quietly so they can get the entrance code. (A short rhythm or melody they repeat back to me to gain entrance into the room).
Amy and Mindy completely ignore me and continue talking loudly, Adam does donkey-kick-spins on the hallway floor, and Veronica shouts that Collin cutted in line. Collin claims he didn't cutted in line, he just really wanted to be in that spot. I tell Collin it's not nice to line jump, and instruct him to apologize and go behind Veronica. I ask Adam, who is now punching the wall, to join the line. He complies with a ninja move into the line and accidentally hits Sarah in the arm, who begins to cry. I tell Adam to apologize and put his hands in his pockets, then comfort Sarah and examine her owe-y. It's determined she will live.

1:47--I try to get everyone's attention by spouting off a "1-2-3 eyes on me!" This has never worked in the history of me using it (which is approximately 100,000 times), but I try again anyway because so many teachers I know swear by it. It doesn't work. Then I sing "class class!" and about 90% of them respond with the appropriate "yes yes!" Close enough. They get their entrance code and are instructed to go into the room and sit in a circle.

1:48--They begin walking into the room. Sascha, who always comes to class pretending to be a cat, meows at me as she enters. Three of the kids stop to hug me on the way in. Collin offers me a booger, and I tell him to go get a tissue. He departs the line and heads next door to the bathroom.

1:50--Half of the children sit quietly in a circle as instructed. Adam is swinging across the coat hooks like monkey bars, Annie hides behind the desk, and Amy and Mindy sit off to the side talking. Sascha climbs on a chair and meows loudly. A couple of the boys roughhouse on the other side of the room.

1:52--I loudly praise the children who are sitting obediently. This gets the attention of the delinquents and they join the rest of the class. As soon as everyone is in the same area they begin rearranging their spots in the circle. Veronica wants to sit by Amy, but Amy wants to sit by Mindy, but Mindy wants to sit by Sascha, but Sascha is between Ben and Liam cleaning her paws. No one wants to sit by Adam because he keeps saying "pooooooop" under his breath. Tucker, Sarah, and Eli all want to sit in my lap and fight to push each other out of the way. (It's the most flattered I feel all week.) Wyatt sits in his spot and loudly says, "teacher look at me! I'm sitting the goodest! Teacher! Aren't I sitting the goodest?"

I acknowledge that Wyatt is sitting like a champ, as are Jake, Tanya, Liam, Ben and Annie. I tell the rest of the kids that they have until I count down from three to find a spot and be quiet. It's amazing how this works. They all feel the pressure of the countdown. By the time I reach "one," we're in a circle. The first big task of the day has been accomplished.

1:56--We sing our "rules song" and do a rhythm game. Everything is going smoothly until I realize Collin never came back to the room after going to get a tissue. I panic and tell the kids to sit quietly in their circle while I step outside. I check the hall and the bathroom. No Collin. Uh oh. I go across to the art room to see if he wandered into that class. Nope. On my way back to the music room I spot Collin in the lunchroom, sprawled out under a table eating crumbs off the floor. I instruct him to come along back to class. He puts one more crumb in his mouth and follows.

2:09--Collin and I go back to the music room. The orderly circle I left has turned into a tiny human dog pile. Collin doesn't miss a beat and hurls himself on the top of his classmates. I'm not sure if this is characteristic of all kindergarten classes, but we tend to have at least one dog-pile per class. I make a mental note to ask their classroom teacher if this is normal behavior for this age.

2:14--I break up the dog pile and we gather around the keyboard to do the Do-Re-Mi song. Adam and Walt detach from the group and try to scale the radiator. (Our building is more than 50 years old. If the kids don't kill me, the asbestos probably will.) They get a warning and return to the group. We continue learning movements to the Do-Re-Mi song, but  I look up to see Adam back on the radiator. I send him to the time-out corner and return to the song.

2:21--Adam comes out of time out. We're about to move on to a game of Freeze Dance when Eli screams, "Emergency! The shoes on my feet are not mine!" I ask him where his shoes are. Apparently he traded shoes with a first grader during recess. I tell him to stop by the 1st grade classroom after music and trade his shoes back.

We play Freeze Dance, and then a game I invented called Musical Meerkats. Amy, Veronica, and Mindy get separated for talking. Amy argues that she wasn't talking, only answering, and there's a difference. She throws her two "best friends" under the bus and suggests they get punished instead of her. Mindy and Veronica declare they're no longer her friends and Amy starts pouting.

I look over to see Adam sitting on the top shelf of the music cabinet. He goes back to the timeout corner.

2:34--I decide we've had enough games for the day and decide it's time to move on. This week is Beethoven week, and I have a book to read them about the composer. They sit on their lines as I get the book. Ben complains loudly that he can't see the pictures. I assure him it's because I haven't opened the book yet.

I start by telling them that we were going to learn about Beethoven, who was a famous song writer and musician. Collin immediately interrupts me and informs me that he knows I'm lying, because dogs can't write music. I tell him that the dog in the movie Beethoven is named after the Beethoven we're going to learn about. This answer satisfies him.

We get about halfway through the book with little drama. Adam gets released from his second timeout. When I get to the part that talks about Beethoven's performance in Germany, Sarah blurts out, "your mom goes to Germany!" I tell her to sit quietly and not to make jokes about other people's moms. Tanya says, "She was talking to me. My mom's in Germany!"

My bad.

2:45 We finish the Beethoven book and it's time to line up. I tell them Liam is the line leader. I catch Collin trying to cut in front of Liam to claim the spot as line leader, and I send him to the back of the line. We sing "following the leader" as I escort them to their next teacher. As they exit, they bombard me with hugs, and Veronica tells me she loves me, and they run off to PE.

As I walk in silence back to my classroom to await the arrival of my 2nd graders, I am exhausted and overstimulated, but for some reason I can't wait until next Tuesday at 1:45 when I get to do it all over again. They may be sticky and crazy and loud, but they have a way of worming their way into your heart.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

"You're drinking water again? You need to live a little."

Water is my preferred beverage. With the exception of a cup or two of coffee in the morning, I typically go to water. I like it. It's my favorite. Both my doctor and the Internet say it's good for me.

I've learned that in social settings, however, consistently requesting water puts a target on your back for comments, questions, and assumptions.

...why don't you drink?
...are you against alcohol? just need to find a drink that you like.

And my personal favorite...

...don't worry, it's safe to drink here. We're not those kind of Christians.

I don't care what kind of Christians you are, but I do find it a little ironic that you're judging me for assuming that by drinking water I'm judging you. I'm not trying to make a statement. I just prefer water. 

I do drink other things besides water, including alcohol, but it's not my norm. I don't care for the texture of carbonated drinks and I find most other beverages too sweet. I've sampled dozens of beers and mixed drinks and have yet to find an alcoholic beverage that I truly enjoy. Furthermore, I have a long list of things to accomplish in life that take priority over "acquiring a taste" for alcohol.

For a while I'd order a non-water beverage simply so people would leave me alone. I'd sip it slowly, secretly pining for the cool, clear familiarity of water. Recently, though, I decided I was getting too old for that nonsense. If people can't see past my bottle of water, those people probably aren't my friends.

I finally decided to stand up to the water-bullying when someone told me the following:

"You're getting water again? You need to live a little."

Excuse me? I need to live a little? 

You want to play the "live a little" card?

Fine. Let me give you a little glimpse at my hand.

I've jumped out of a plane. (WITH a toothless, smelly hippie strapped to my back).

I just want water. 

I've gone scuba diving in the ocean. At night. With an Israeli soldier. 

A simple water, please.  

I've experienced the rush of wind and adrenaline peeing above tree line while hiking up a 14er. 

A flat water, thank you. 

I bartered passage on a supply boat to get to a small island off the coast of Honduras. 

Water, no lemon. 

I got parasites eating at a roadside restaurant while in Honduras. 

Water, extra lemon. 

I've told jokes in big cities, small towns, prisons, Canada, bowling alleys and taco shops. 

I'll take a water, please.

I've bombed jokes in front of hundreds of people. 

Water takes the edge off life. 

I've killed it telling jokes in front of hundreds of people. 

Water can be a celebratory beverage if you make it one. 

I've made friends with strangers on airplanes, at bus stops, in grocery stores, at comedy clubs, bars, in churches, and on the sides of mountains.

Please just let me have water. 

I've failed big, succeeded big, and had my heart broken big. 

Yes, I'd like a water. 

I've written books, mentored teens, written for popular blogs, deflected trolls, taught countless children how to play musical instruments, and produced music shows and comedy nights.

Show me the water!

I've traveled to nine other countries (not including Texas), rafted down rivers, hiked up volcanos, and found amazing hole-in-the-wall diners, pubs, and food trucks. 

Agua, por favor.

 I've run marathons, completed triathlons, swam in the Mediterranean, eaten an entire pizza by myself in one sitting, and consumed a record number of Chipotle burritos. 

If it's not too much trouble, I'll just have water. 

If you drink, I'm not judging you. (Although watching drunk people doesn't necessarily make me regret my decision to stay sober.)

I won't give you a hard time for drinking a fluorescent blue drink if you won't give me a hard time for drinking something naturally found covering the majority of the earth.

If you see drinking alcohol as the only way to "live a little," then I suppose we'll have to agree to disagree on what it truly means to live.

This rant is over. You are free to carry on with your day.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Singleness & the Art of Family Friendships

Recently I've had many similar conversations about singleness.

There seems to be a growing awareness that, despite all evidence to the contrary, single people are complete human beings deserving of attention and respect. I'm thrilled these conversations are happening.

These discussions have revolved around navigating friendships with those in different life stages, how marrieds can help singles not feel ostracized, and what the church can do to help. I have an incredibly diverse set of friends. They're all over the map in regards to age, occupation, and life stage, but they graciously share their life and wisdom with me.

A number of families have invited me for dinner, game nights, to the zoo, to hop in their open van seat to see Christmas lights, and extend open invitations to drop by any time. (Which I take them up on--especially when I "happen to be in their area" at dinner time.) I attempt to convey my gratitude, but these families will never fully know how much I'm blessed by this sort of inclusion.

Based on my observations, I've compiled my advice** to marrieds, singles, and the church on how to cultivate these relationships.

For the marrieds:

Please, please invite us into your chaos.

With a few exceptions, most of my relationships with friends who are married began with the line "you're welcome to come over, but just so you know, things are a little crazy here." (Side note: If you think I have it all together, just look in the back of my car. That mess comes from just me. If/when I ever have kids I'm gonna need to get a trash compacting suburban. If it doesn't exist I'll invent one.)

Don't be afraid of letting us into your mess. We can handle it. If we don't feel up to handling it we can say no. (That's a perk of being single.) Don't feel like you have to entertain or impress us. We're not there to judge. (If we do judge, that's on us not you.) I've had many deep conversations while helping someone fold laundry or unload a dishwasher. For me, it gives me a sense of belonging. Look for ways to include us at gatherings, seek us out at church, and invite us to sit at your table.

Please give singles patience and grace. 

My friends have been so good at extending grace. They listen to my problems, which are so very different than their own. In fact, my problems may seem petty to a sleep-deprived parent who spent the night waiting for their child to pass a quarter they swallowed. Yet they offer encouragement, advice, and, very often, a cup of coffee and an invitation to stay for fish sticks and buttered noodles.

If singles seem ungrateful for their season or trivial in their complaints, please listen anyway. Our problems are real to us, and when we're married with a circus of our own we'll reflect back on how good we had it during our single days.

For the singles: 

Accept/Embrace/Encourage the chaos. 

When you're at a house with kids, prepare to get interrupted, crawled on, or have a child shoot past you in the kitchen on roller skates. (Whenever this happens I get a little jealous that it's no longer socially acceptable for me to go around the house on skates.)

Offer to help make dinner (stirring things is one of my spiritual gifts), hold a baby, or fold clothes. Meaningful conversations (however fragmented) happen in the mess of life. It's easier to build friendships when we desire to be included, not entertained.

Give the benefit of the doubt and a lot of grace.

I've felt the sting of being excluded from small groups and other gatherings simply because everyone else was married and I was not. It's understandable to feel left out when events are constantly geared toward families and Bible studies happen in the morning when most of us are working to pay our bills. (I see this often with women's Bible studies.)

Keep in mind, though, that these folks typically aren't trying to exclude singles. In the case of the morning Bible studies, these mamas are at a point where their free time happens in the morning. In the afternoon, when kids return from school and husbands get home from work, it's more difficult to run off anywhere. Let's choose to support and encourage the parents in our congregation, even as our hearts ache to be where they are.

In short, people aren't going to handle things perfectly. We're not always going to be included, valued and remembered. However, I'm convinced one of the most destructive attitudes to the body of Christ is the subtle grumbling about how we're being overlooked. Be quick to forgive, and turn your energy toward seeking out others who may not "fit the mold."

For the church: 

Including singles isn't a matter of putting on more events specifically for them. 

In my opinion, church leaders have the most difficult challenge in providing fellowship for single members. Because "singles" is such a broad category (age, divorced, widowed, career, etc.) it's difficult to lump us into one Sunday School class or event.

Rather than focusing on events geared especially for singles, focus on events that include everyone in your church. Make it a point to provide, as much as you can, an atmosphere where everyone feels comfortable, valued, and included. If necessary, give the families in your congregation a little push to take initiative, be intentional, and invite singles into their world. (Much of community happens on this level. The church can facilitate opportunities, but individuals ultimately need to take these steps.)

Be sensitive to your tone when talking about marriage to singles.

I used to joke that the church's message to singles was:

"Get married--it's great! You'll hate your life, but it's the good kind of hate that God uses to sanctify you."

It probably was unintentional, but in my twenties I heard a lot of negative things about marriage from the church. (While they were encouraging/scolding me that I needed to be making it a top priority.)
I became very cynical about love and marriage. (It didn't help that I was knee deep in standup at the time and was constantly hearing comics--even Christian ones--portray their marriage and spouse as a regret.)

It wasn't a sermon or book that softened my heart toward the idea of marriage. It was watching my married friends grow closer to each other and God through the ups and downs of life, and living on mission together for the gospel. It's been through hanging out with my married friends that I've seen the honest truth: Marriage is difficult, yes, but the blessings far surpass the sacrifices.

Generally, the pendulum in the church's presentation on marriage swings between it being a sanctification torture chamber (I once heard someone say "the first year is awful, but at least you get to have sex.") and a perfect fairy-tale ending.

In conclusion (I know, finally!)

Rather than keeping score on how we're being served, let's seek out ways to bless those around us, no matter how different their life looks than our own. Life is hard. For everyone. Each life stage comes with different trials and different blessings.

My biggest hope for singles and marrieds in the church is that we'll avoid the "us" vs. "them" mentality. We're all on the same team and we need to encourage and support each other. Sometimes that means stepping out of your comfort zone, other times it means giving someone space. In all situations it means offering up a lot of patience and grace and choosing not to be offended.

I can't wait until I wake up with a husband, six kids, a dog, a turtle, a couple of fighting beta, and a list of responsibilities that accompany those things. More than that, though, I can't wait to see God's will for my life. I don't know if it includes a husband, half a dozen kids and a pet store, but I know that life is made richer when you're surrounded by people who challenge you. And that includes people walking a different path.

What's your life stage? What would you want others not in your life stage to know? 

**Please keep in mind when taking any advice from me that I teach children music during the day and tell jokes at night, which essentially makes me an adult Hannah Montana.

Teaching my friend's new baby play piano.

With my sweet friend Lisa and her family (everyone in the background, basically) at a Balloon Festival.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Sobbing on the Subway Platform: The Christmas Story Hallmark Didn't Make

**Warning: This post is longer than all three Hobbit films combined.**

Today (Christmas Eve) was a long day.

I was supposed to take a bus from Atlanta to Jacksonville to see my sister and brother for Christmas. My older sister, Lori, lives in Atlanta but got scheduled to work both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Rather than sit alone in her apartment for the holidays, we arranged for me to take the MegaBus down to see my sister and brother in Florida.

One of my sister's friends kindly dropped me off at the bus stop in downtown Atlanta. Things got weird quick. There was no station, no indoor waiting area, no desk or information person available; just an awning with a lot of disgruntled bus passengers and homeless people trying to stay out of the rain. The bus departing prior to ours still hadn't shown up and was now two hours late. The one representative present for our bus line didn't know what was going on and was trying to manage the chaos.

I stood on the corner, attempting to avoid the gaggle, and then quickly realized standing on a corner in downtown Atlanta wasn't the greatest idea. (Come on people, can't you tell the difference between an "escort" and a severely caucasion woman waiting for a bus?!) After several stares and comments I walked across the street to a restaurant until closer to my bus's departure.

I returned and there had been no change in the situation. The earlier bus still hadn't shown up and now our bus was also officially delayed. Heads hung in defeat, curses were spewed into phones at faceless customer service agents, and homeless people wandered up the line trying to sell us things they'd pulled out of trash cans.

I found some space on a concrete wall under the awning and sat down. A few minutes later a girl in her early twenties sat next to me and tried to strike up a conversation.

I'd woken up with a throbbing head and sore throat that were getting worse as the day went on, so I wasn't super eager to talk to anyone, sane or not.

This young lady, however, was determined we'd be friends and kept talking. As we waited together, avoiding eye contact with crazies, we chatted. She was heading to Jacksonville to visit her family for Christmas. She told me about her job and her school and how she'd rushed to the station and hadn't had time to eat. By this point it was clear our bus was at least an hour off, so I suggested we go back across the street to the restaurant.

She told me about her childhood in Brooklyn and gave me some tips for deterring crazy hobos. (No eye contact, don't say anything unless they touch you, then scream.)

She asked if we could sit together on the bus. I told her yes. By this point it felt like I'd known her my whole life. I could barely remember a time when I wasn't waiting for this bus.

We returned to the stop just in time to see the earlier bus pull out and a second MegaBus pull up. We rushed to get in line and waited. And waited. And waited. Our delay was going on three hours. The representative walked by and I asked what was going on.

"The bus is broken," she said. "They're sending charter buses instead."

"Excuse me," said a woman from the line. "I just got off the phone with customer service and they're saying our bus already left and is on its way to Florida...but we're still standing here!"

Another 15 minutes passed. My cold meds were wearing off and I started feeling sicker. I looked at my phone. The battery was getting low and I had nowhere to recharge. The restaurants that had provided a temporary haven were now closed for Christmas.

My young friend was also now on the phone with customer service. Based on her tone the conversation wasn't going well. The bus line representative walked by shaking her head.

"Sorry folks, they said they were sending buses but now I don't know," she lamented. "They're not telling me anything."

Curses and groans rippled through the line.

I texted my sister in Florida and told her I didn't think it was going to work out to spend Christmas with them. She texted back a sad face and a plea to wait a little longer.

I called Lori (the sister who lives in Atlanta) and explained the situation. She needed to leave for work soon (she works the night shift and had been sleeping all day) and if she was going to pick me up it needed to be sooner rather than later. She told me to go down to the nearest MARTA station (Atlanta's subway system) and take the north line to the end. She'd meet me there.

I tapped my friend's shoulder, feeling a bit like I was deserting a fellow soldier, and told her I was bailing.

"Will you be okay?" I asked.

"Yes, I'll be fine," she said, giving me a quick hug, and then returning to her heated conversation with the bus line's customer service.

I grabbed my bags and rushed to the MARTA station, my wheelie suitcase thudding dramatically on the stairs as I hurriedly descended below street level.

I got to the subway platform and was the only one on there. After the chaos of the bus stop, the silence felt oppressing.

Standing alone on a subway platform is like shaking hands with an existentialist. You feel the weight of aloneness. Raw, gut wrenching, chest-constricting loneliness.

As I stood there, not a soul in sight, tears filled my eyes and I did something I don't do often: I cried.

I cried for the weary travelers who were putting up with a horrible bus line simply so they could see a familiar face on Christmas. I cried for the bus representative, who was getting lashed out at for things outside her control. I cried cause I felt like I was letting my little sister and my new friend down. I cried for the family of a friend who abruptly ended her own life a few months ago. I cried for my friends who were raising their babies without a spouse. I cried for my own heart, which was filled with so much bitterness and selfishness this week. I cried because I'm really good at being alone and I don't want to be good at that anymore. I just cried.

My train came and I got on, my face all blotchy and tear stained. A homeless person moved to get away from me.

Unlike the passengers waiting for the bus, whose faces were filled with loneliness, anger and desperation, the few passengers on the subway had no expression at all. Disaffected apathy filled the car. These people probably weren't even aware it was the day before Christmas.

I rode the subway as far north as it went and walked out to meet my sister. She was already in her scrubs, ready for another night of delivering babies.

"If you're willing to drive me to work and drop me off after, we can go to the 5pm Christmas Eve service," she said.

Exhausted, my head pounding and my throat stabbing more with every swallow, I nodded.

I was determined to redeem this day, and to expose as many people as possible to whatever bug I was fighting.

We sat in the very back row, singing carols and listening to the pastor's reminder of the incredible event we're celebrating. God lowering Himself to become a man for us. A man who would experience hurt, rejection, betrayal and loneliness. Jesus was the Word. Without words humans can't communicate. They can't know one another without words, just like we can't know God without the Word.

I closed my eyes, partly to dull my growing headache, but also to savor the words. Jesus is Hope. Hope for everything I'd cried for on the subway platform. Hope for the rest of today, and all of tomorrow.

I'll be spending Christmas alone in my sister's apartment with a virus. Part of me is excited for a calm, quiet day. Because as I said before, I'm good at being alone.

If you're awake and struggling this Christmas Eve, please please email/text/message me any prayer requests. I'd love to pray for you. (Even if it's that you need to forget a ridiculously long and purposeless blog you just read.)

Merry Christmas, friends. We have hope!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Hitting Life's Big Milestones

Six months ago I packed up everything I owned and moved to Colorado Springs.

Since then I've reached several significant milestones.

First, I've driven in snow. This was my biggest fear moving to a colder climate, but I'm adjusting to not always being entirely in control of my car. Last night we had a snowstorm and this morning I slipped and slid my way to church. While making a turn I skidded slightly and managed to recover without panicking, at which point I yelled "did you see that?!" to my accordion, which was in the passenger's seat. (He's old enough to sit up front now.)

The key to driving in snow is to go slow. Not only does this prevent accidents, it gives you time to laugh at the sports cars, which aren't nearly as cool when they're fishtailing on a sheet of ice.

The second milestone is I'm playing accordion in my church's praise and worship team. The stage is a little small so they have me play in a portable building on the other side of the parking lot, but I'm loving it!

The biggest milestone happened in August, when I purchased my first piece of furniture. This was a bittersweet moment, and one that required a good amount of thought and prayer. I've always been able to fit everything own into my car, and purchasing this furniture piece meant giving up the freedom and independence that comes with not owning large things. Now if I want to move anywhere I'm going to have to bribe a truck owner with pizza to come transport my IKEA bed frame. (Fortunately I can deflate and easily transport the air mattress that I have on the bed frame. Baby steps.)

Or, I could just cut my losses and buy another $99 bed frame when I make it to my final destination. (This is assuming I'll move again, which right now I have no plans of ever leaving Colorado Springs.)

Life in Colorado has been beautiful. This new season has been calm, and I'm grateful. I've spent time sitting with friends over coffee, hiking mountains with my sister, making late-night Wal Mart runs with roommates, reading books, and mentally rejuvenating. I moved here worn out and jobless, and God's provided both rest and work. (Lovely irony.) I don't know what's up next, but I'm trying not to take this peace for granted.

In a Winter Wonderland.

My youngest sister Leah at Lake Powell (left) and The Grand Canyon (right): Two of the stops on our Thanksgiving Road Trip Spectacular.

Tonight I'll turn in the final draft for my next book, tomorrow I'll play Simon Cowell at callbacks for a show I'm music directing in the new year, and then Tuesday and Wednesday I'll be speaking at a school here in Colorado Springs. Wednesday evening I'll log out of my social media, shut down my computer, put on my sweats, and head out on a "Christmas Family Tour," where I'll visit my parents and siblings in their various states.

Merry Christmas, friends, and may 2016 bless you in ways you didn't believe possible.

Monday, October 12, 2015

The Man Who Insulted Everyone

I’m used to bizarre conversations. Something about my face says to strangers: “Please say awkward, weird things to me.”

Occasionally those conversations revolve around my singleness. Most of the time they go something like this:

Stranger: “Why are you still single?”

Me: “Probably because I play the accordion.”

Stranger: “Well, are you putting yourself out there and looking?”

Me: “Yes, I’m holding auditions next week.”

Stranger: “Maybe your standards are too high.”

Me: “Are you saying I shouldn’t wait for Robert Downey, Jr.?!?!”

Stranger: “Well, it’ll probably happen one day.”

Me: “Did I mention I play the accordion?”

I don’t mind these questions. They’re a little cliché, but sometimes they pave the way for deeper conversations.

Every now and then, though, a conversation with a stranger leaves me speechless. These are the exchanges I blog about.

Recently I spoke at a conference and, while reviewing my notes in the lounge a few minutes before my talk, a man helping with the conference came up and sat down near me. He was probably mid-50s and I’d spoken to him briefly throughout the day. With one short conversation he managed to insult me, his wife, all women, all men, and the partridge in the pear tree.

“So, are you in a relationship?”

“Not right now.”

“Yeah—it’s gonna be hard for you.”

(Point for insulting me.)

 “What do you mean?”

“Guys want a girl who needs them.”

(I actually do need a guy, if for no other reason than to get into buildings. I’ve always had a hard time with doors due to undiagnosed push/pull dyslexia.)

“I don’t think all guys want needy girls.”

“That’s you as a girl speaking. Guys need girls to need them.”

(Point for insulting all guys.)

“Is that how it was when you married your wife?”

“Yes, actually. Still that way.”

(Point for insulting your wife.)


“Well, you’re a pretty enough girl. The happiest guys, though, are the ones whose wife stays at home.”

“I’m not necessarily opposed to that.”

“It’s one thing if you’re really bad at your job—then it’s fine to stay at home. The thing is you’re good at what you do. Problem is no guy’s going to want that.”

(10 points for insulting all women who choose to stay at home, minus a few points for kind-of-sort-of complimenting me, 10 more points for assuming all guys can’t handle women who do things successfully.)

“I know a lot of men with gifted wives, and they live as partners both at home and in their work.”

“Yeah—well, good luck with that. Just make sure you’re running with those circles.”

(You mean hang out with people who are the exact opposite of you? Yeah, I’m on it.)

“Well, thank you for that insight. I have to go onstage now and tell jokes.”

And thank you for the new material.

This conversation wins second place, with first place still belonging to this awkward singleness conversation. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

I'm getting a divorce. (And I've never been married!)*

When I had my significant other for lunch. This was 6 months ago. 
Not a week goes by where I don't get multiple posts, memes, messages, and texts about Chipotle. Anyone who's known me longer than 10 minutes knows I have an unhealthy obsession. My tag line for this blog is even Chipotle related.

I've eaten Chipotle so much that our relationship probably falls under common law marriage. I was even excited about moving to Colorado Springs because the original Chipotle is in Denver and I could finally visit the burrito bowl Mecca.

They say confession is good for the soul, and it is with great sadness that I must confess I've been cheating on Chipotle. With Thai food.

As with most wayward behavior, it began innocently. Shortly after moving in my roommates said, "there's this really good Thai place less than a mile from our house." I'd never eaten Thai food before, and as Colorado Springs is known for its authentic Thai food,** I tried it. It started with Drunken Noodles. Then Massaman Curry. Then Green Curry. And before I knew what was happening it'd been three weeks since I'd eaten, or even thought of, Chipotle. Even more sad? There's a Chipotle less than 5 minutes from my house and I don't even care.

I've had Chipotle 4 times since moving to Colorado Springs almost three months ago. ONLY FOUR. I feel terrible. (Mentally. Physically I think I'm a little slimmer and I'm pretty sure my blood pressure's gone down a few points.)

I don't know how long this will go on. All I know is that I think about Green Curry constantly. I've barely thought about Chipotle, except when someone posts to my Facebook wall about it. Even then, those thoughts are guilt ridden, which leads me to the worst part of this whole thing: I've been lying to everyone, pretending things were okay between me and Chipotle. I've continued making jokes about my obsession and letting friends make comments and tease me about our relationship.

They say relationships have their ups and downs, and maybe Chipotle and I just need a break to sort things out. Maybe we should see a relationship counselor. I don't know. This is unfamiliar territory for me. All I know is that right now I don't want a burrito, and I don't know what to do with that feeling.

Have you ever experienced anything like this? Is restaurant polygamy a terrible social offense? PLEASE, INTERNET, TELL ME WHAT TO DO!

*I'm practicing writing headlines for Faithit.
**It's not known for its authentic Thai food.