Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Because I was told.

I was told at age 6 that girls couldn’t play with boys.
But I grew up in a neighborhood that told me otherwise.

I was told at age 7 that I was too smart.
But I grew up with the smartest person in the world as a mom.

I was told at age 10 that I was too bossy for a girl.
But I grew up with models of women in leadership roles.

I was told at age 11 that my ideas for student council were unrealistic.
But I grew up with female role models in public office making real, empowering change.

I was told at 15 that my skirt made me ask for it.
But I grew up instilled with an understanding of autonomy and consent.

I was told at 16 that women just weren’t as funny.
But I grew up in a family of comedians.

I was told at 17 that my passion for justice was not feminine.
But I grew up with women who marched for their rights. And fought against every wrong.

I was told at 18 that my knees looked knobby. My skin was ugly. And I’d never look good enough.
But I grew up with beautiful women of every shape and size.

I was told at 19 that women couldn’t be pastors.
But I grew up with one as the head pastor of my church.

I was told at 21 that I was too nice for a leadership position.
But I grew up learning that those things were not mutually exclusive.

I was told at 23 that good writers weren’t women.
But I grew up inspired by their work.

I was told at 24 that I should pursue a sport less demanding on my body.
But I grew up with women who pushed themselves every day.

But I grew up with women and men of wisdom. Who proved that they were wrong. That I can be strong.
By their words and their actions, I’ve learned what is true, what is right, what is real.
That I can. And that I will.

I’m forever thankful.
Because now I get to pass it on.

"She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Choosing the sun

One morning on my way into work the office a few years back, I heard a story on the radio. A reporter was traveling in China and he'd offered to take a few young men back to their hometowns to celebrate Chinese New Year. 

One of the young men he was driving home offered to connect his iPod through the radio. His song of choice: Country Roads by John Denver.

I was immediately taken back to an 18-hour road trip to Ft. Lauderdale with my college friends. Screaming classics like Wagon Wheel and Country Roads, munching on Slim Jims and slurping gas station slushies til our mouths turned to blue and our bellies to grease. 18 hours in a five-seat Subaru Forester. All seven of us. 

I immediately connected with these strangers in this story — I immediately felt more attached to their heading home for Chinese New Year.

As the piece fades out, the song is played again. Denver’s milky soulful melodies slightly washed out by the cracking, off-key sounds of a bunch of dudes in a car singing — enjoying a trip I’d taken before. Immediate connection. My eyes filled with tears.

Needless to say, this isn’t the first time I’ve cried at NPR. Perhaps it’s the perfect concoction of a 9AM city commute, combined with the ironically private experience of being in your car by yourself (ironic because anyone and everyone who passes you can see exactly what you’re doing … or singing). Mix in the addition of the perfect balance of catchy transition music, personable and human reporters, and just enough curious background noise to suck you in. Nonetheless, there is power in good storytelling, and there is also power in telling a good story. (Those seem like they’re the same, but they’re not.)

Research shows that more people are drawn to news that is more negative in nature: this disease, that trial, this horrible cabinet member cough cough, that terrible company (Tonight at 5).

But research is also starting to show that when it comes to online social, people aren’t looking for the next negative thing. They want positivity — stories that make them feel good. This little girl committed 600 acts of kindness in a year. That manufacturer is becoming completely zero-waste.

Last night on the Indivisible radio podcast — which is an incredible and open conversation talking through the new administration’s first 100 days — the two commentators leading the discussion mentioned that the 2016 presidential campaign was the most negative in American history.

All throughout history, the most positive, optimistic campaign has won. Every time. Except this year.

All the more reason for us to embrace a positive story.  All the more we shine when we start fighting for what is right. All the more we must stay focused on the truths we hold to be self evident — keep our eyes, our words, our actions on the things that make America so freaking great.

How do we make for a positive story?

We start with living a positive story.

We treat people well.

We go the extra mile for close friends, new friends, and strangers on the street.

We share life's joys and connect with people from all walks of life — over weird-it's-a-small-world-kevin-bacon strong connections or simple little things like John Freaking Denver. 

We pick up the phone and call our grandmothers.

We smile at panhandlers even when we don’t have any change.

We stop dragging our feet at the mundane.

We start skipping in the sun.

One of my favorite authors, Donald Miller, says it well:

 “We live in a world where bad stories are told, stories that teach us life doesn't mean anything and that humanity has no great purpose. It's a good calling, then, to speak a better story. How brightly a better story shines. How easily the world looks to it in wonder. How grateful we are to hear these stories, and how happy it makes us to repeat them.” – A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Quit yer complainin

Sometimes I catch myself complaining about really freaking stupid things. This blog is one of those. But I need to get this off my chest to make room in my brain for more meaningful content. 

Here we go:

It really bothers me when I go to restaurants — most commonly the fast-casual type, like Panera — and the water cup they give me is the size of a thimble.

It bothers me to my core.

Okay, so because 14-year-olds think they can cheat the system and fill their cups with Sprite, I, a good, honest and paying customer must be punished with undeserving thirst?!

Do you know how much it costs to sell soda? Like, boogers. It costs boogers. (One blog found the cost breakdown was something like this: $0.12 for the soda, $0.07 for the cup, $0.01 for the lid, $0.015 for the straw.. and what do they charge.. $2.00? With that profit margin, you could technically afford 8 cheaters for every cup of soda purchased. I'd say those odds are in your favor.)

Those little water cups are my scarlet letter. “Here sits this cheap-ass woman, who couldn’t be bothered to buy our 450-calorie green tea mocha sunrise splash with whipped cream because she was too busy spending 20 dollars on a French baguette."

What's even more annoying is movie theatre water cups. Like, I just spent $7.00 per piece on popcorn, which, by the way, is also another ridiculous profit margin. You seriously can't give me a full cup of water? 

I get that as the sole refreshment provider while I'm trapped in the theatre, you have a monopoly on solving my hunger, and I vow to always buy into that buttery, salty goodness in a bucket, but why must you require my thirst to be quenched with either bottled tap water or sugary soda? And why is your solve this tiny dixie cup that won't even get me through one trailer? WHY MUST I BE PUNISHED?!

I once asked for my water refilled like 12 times throughout a movie just to take a stand — and the squeeky-voiced, acne-covered teen working the concessions stand eventually gave me a free ICEE to get me away. (I'm just kidding, that didn't happen. I wish it did.)

If I was a real radical, I’d stop going to these places. 

I’d start the biggest boycott since Chik-fil-a circa 2012, and I'd demand civilized treatment for tap water-drinkers everywhere.

This is not right! I demand equality!

Instead, I started carrying my own water bottle.

Problem solved.

Planet saved too.

Next week, we’ll discuss how simple-minded you must be to assume you are an exception to using a turn signal while driving.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Remembering the good

I never got my senior yearbook.

It was something like $65 at the time. And I thought that was astronomical. It kind of was.

I didn't like asking my parents for money with the whole impending college thing, and I had a $6.85/hour job but spent all of my money on chipotle and gasoline. Gas was $4/gallon at the time and I drove a Jeep Wrangler for the better part of my senior year, which just guzzled the guzz out of it.

I was pretty involved in high school. Choir, cabinet, TI, theatre. I worked with the superintendent on a huge presentation. I was voted Most Outgoing. I should have cared, but I just didn't then.

I'm sure I rationalized not getting one in some way or another — maybe I'd just eventually marry my senior crush and we could share.

At the time, I think I wanted to just get out of there.

As it turns out, I am not marrying my senior crush. (For the record, thank Jesus.)

And so, a half-inch size slot on my bookshelf remained empty.

But nearly a decade later, the fact that I never had it made me really sad. I'd never even seen the thing. And as people from my school started living their stories — some really tough, others deeply beautiful — I realized the longer I waited to track it down, the harder it'd be to ever see it.

I emailed my wonderful guidance counselor who sifted through storage and tracked it down for me. It was nice to catch up with him, and see that he's still there doing great things. He even shipped it to my house. (Sidenote: Who knew all I had to do was wait seven years and I'd get it for free.)

I found the book on my doorstep a few days later.

Naturally, the first thing you do is look for yourself, so I opened it and went to my photo.

I looked like hell.

A memory came back that they'd decided you had to use their in-school photographer instead of everybody's senior portraits, and so I'd actually never seen my photo. I was in that awful greenish stage between dying my hair brown and fixing it back to its natural blonde. And I hadn't quite figured out what to do with my cowlick.

I flipped to the choir page. Buncha sophomores.

Went to the cabinet page. I'd missed the meeting on picture day.

Turned to the big panorama of my entire class, thinking I don't remember all crowding into the gym to take a senior photo. That's because I wasn't there that day.

Was this a conspiracy?

As I kept flipping, I was reminded about how much I'd grown since then. How much my heart had grown. And I was really, truly proud of the pages that I did appear on. Speaking about character to underclassmen at a Teen Institute retreat. Working on Verve, our student magazine, where I first discovered my passion for storytelling.

It was as if the universe wanted me to remember the good stuff, and forget the bad.

I smiled.

I flipped through class photos and pointed out people to my fiancé. My best friends Lucas and Maddie, of course. But also people who surprised me.

"She was in choir with me. Made me laugh so hard every day."

"He was an amazing artist. Brilliant designer."

"Some of my favorite conversations happened with her in AP Calculus."

I wanted him to know about these people — these incredible people — the ones who've made lasting imprints on my heart, even though I hadn't talked to them in years.

The little things — the day-to-day things. The little, positive bites of memory are the things I end up cherishing the most.

This is the only photo I could find from HS journalism class. Notice giant 'Yearbooks for Sale' sign above my head. I had no excuse.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

A story about poop

Those who know me know there is nothing that gets my blood boiling more than litter.

"Oh, no, she's said the word ... here we go guys." - those who know me.

It's not just the very act of littering, which, of course, is an effing horrible thing to do — you know, the whole completely disregarding the planet and the wildlife who live in it thing.

It's the people who have the nerve to litter that really rankle me.

What I hate most is this: the mentality that throwing a piece of trash somewhere is actually an acceptable behavior.

Because what kind of mentality must you have to not only overlook the environmental damage you're making, but even just to blatantly shirk the general landscape of the place that you live. And to think that your tiny contribution to a bush's litter-to-leaf ratio would not add up to a greater, larger, more devastating, ecosystem-ruining and human-life-as-we-know-it-ending problem is pure self-regard.

And it's not just this one thing, littering, in a person's psyche that makes them do that. In fact, I believe littering is just a symptom of a more horrible psychological problem — one psychologists like to refer to as narcissism. It's a problem that plagues this nation, and it's this tragedy of the commons that makes driving on I-70 through Frackville, Ohio such a goddamn miserable experience.

To think that if you're finished with an item the best place it should travel next is in some bushes on the side of the road willy nilly, my god.

What kind of people litter? The answer is garbage. Garbage people.

So that not-bitter litter rant brings me to my poop story.

On my dog, Pete, and my usual walk this morning, we waited for a woman in a mini van to pull out of her driveway as she blocked the sidewalk waiting on traffic. (Don't worry guys, I waved her ahead and she waved back in appreciation. She's not the bad guy in this story.)

Pete clearly hadn't seen my little hand conversation with this nice woman, because he was very impatient, pulling from side to side as the 10 pounds I had on him worked its booty off to keep him in check.

She pulled away and we proceeded.

Then Pete pooped in her yard.

Almost as if to spitefully say, "I'll show you, slow van." (Of course not to say that. After all, he's a dog. Not a cat.)

Shit, I thought.

Not cuz he was, but because I'd forgotten the cute little plastic bone that goes on the end of his leash and is filled with little green biodegradable bags so I can be a good neighbor and also not leave crap around the world like I so passionately loathe. (Sidenote: Leaving poop in the woods or in a bunch of bushes is completely different than a 16 oz. styrofoam MegaFreeze cup on the side of the highway because fertilizer, biodegradation, etc.)

I felt horrible.

There it was.

Pete's steaming pile of stink.

Staring at me.

I looked around.

The giant dog at the end of his leash tugged on my wrist.

I'll finish the walk and put Pete in, then return with a bag and dispose of the waste, I thought.

We continued our walk.

We got closer to the baseball fields just down the street, a park where I usually let Pete sniff and pee.

We approached some bushes I have to pull Pete away from on a daily basis. They're filled with giant burrs that stick to his cotton-ball furr like bubble gum, and apparently they have the best smells.

I started to tug to keep him out of the bush. Until I saw it. Sitting right on top of the sticklers, practically floating with an angelic glow behind it. The voice of monks singing praises. There it was. A perfectly intact plastic bag.

I grabbed it with only the kind of joy a child feels when Santa brings exactly what she'd always wanted. I dusted it off. I held it high above my head.

Not today Garbage People.

Not. Today.