Thursday, December 7, 2017

Thoughts during a lockdown

Warning: not about tots

I'm sitting here, in the school I work at, in a real live lockdown.

When I was a child, we didn't have lockdown drills.  It wasn't even something we thought about...you know, huddling in a corner in fear that someone with a gun might come into our school and shoot someone else.  It was a childhood luxury, not fearing something like that.

But here I am, in my 6th year of teaching.  Dozens of drills later.  I am an outward expert on these types of things.

But inside?  I am less of an expert.  I am still a 13 year old girl, trying to  hide my concern for the community of which I was, and will always be, a part.

When Columbine happened I was in middle school.  I was in French class, waiting for lunch, when we heard an announcement over the loud speaker that simply stated someone at Columbine had been shot.  In the foot.  We would be kept in our rooms until further instruction.  I spent  the entire time convincing myself that out of 2000 students, the likelihood of the one person who was shot being my brother was slim, right?  No way he was the one who was injured!  And if he was, a foot wound?  Not a big deal.

At first I was excited to be in French because my Francophile heart was already in full swing.  Plus it wasn't anything boring like Math.  But then the hours passed slowly by and I saw the movements around me.  My substitute teacher looked anxious (I would find out later her son went to Columbine).  Students started being picked up by their parents.  We knew nothing, but we knew something was happening.

Around 2:30, there were only a few of us left.  We weren't allowed to be dismissed to walk home when the time came because of safety.  We were getting more bold with our questions, but answers were slim.  When dismissal time finally came and only a handful of us were in the room, they succumbed and turned on the news.  Fear filled my body.  It was a stark contrast from the film Angels in the Outfield we had just been watching; shots of fleeing students filled the screen and I froze.  This was bigger than I could've imagined.

My mom finally picked me up just before 4, the last one on the pick up list.  We went home and tried to process.  I'm still trying to process.

During the first lockdown I experienced as a teacher, I was working with a small group on math skills in this side office off a classroom.  The few teachers and students crawled into a corner, locked the door, and waited.  It wasn't an announced drill, so concern consumed me.  Flashbacks of the unknown entered my soul.  What would I do if this was real?  My reaction was powerful and I had no idea how much my 13 year old fear still lingered within me.

It's not as strong, but I still get nervous every time I hear the word lockdown over the loudspeaker. 

Lockdown lifted.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Tots

I have always had a positive relationship with tater tots.

When Napoleon Dynamite came out, I saw that movie 7 times in the theatre.  This was especially impressive because for the first few months it was in theatres it was only at the art house movie theatre on Broadway in Denver, and I was in high school and barely drove to school and back, so I had to enlist and convince a variety of people to see it and also, then, drive me along.  Thankfully it expanded later on, and I was able to see it to my hearts content close by.  I loved it.



All this to say that I was proud to see the power of tater tots coming to light from this film.

My family had always treasured a bag of Ora Ida tater tots.  That cheerful red bag could light up our whole freezer...that is for the short amount of time before we cooked and ate the entire bag in one sitting.  And eating in our house was not for the faint of heart; if you loved something and wanted more than a normal portion, you had to eat fast.  You had to get in there and grab and not feel sorry for the people around you.  This was your time to shine.

Then: college! I was excited to go but freshman year was difficult as it was confined to the dorms, where I didn't have access to a full kitchen.  Less frequent opportunities for tots, but the friends I made made up for it.  I might not have had the tasty, golden potato cylinders at my beckoning call, but I always knew they'd be there for me if i needed them.

I was lucky enough to have a great group of people throw me a surprise party during college and the food spread brings a smile to my face just thinking about it.  It reminds me of the cuisine I want to have at my wedding reception one day: trays of tots, Dino nuggets from Costco, Little Debbie snacks, and Kool Aid.  Boy, did I go to sleep that night blessed by the thought of my friends and their knowledge of my love of food meant for children.

Fast forward to 2016.  I move to New York City, home to the finest people and restaurants in the world. One such restaurant: Big Daddy's.  I'll give all credit to my friend Todd, who has going there for years.  In fact, every time I would come to the city for a visit, we would end up in one of their booths.  But now, as a local, I could go anytime I wanted. And I do.

It's not a pretentious restaurant.  It's a classic diner, themed with actors and logos from the 1980s.  Memorabilia hangs on the wall and retro lunchboxes and gumball machines are scattered throughout their decor.  The most delightful waiters I've ever had the pleasure of forcing into friendship seemingly dance from the kitchen to the tables, bringing both physical and emotional sustenance.

I love it there.

If you have visited me in NYC or if you plan to, I will take you to this restaurant and I will make you eat tater tots.

Tater tots are one of their staples; an option to always accompany your meal (regular! sweet potato! and if you really want true happiness, Totchos!)  But recently they have become so much more.  You see, on Halloween they hosted an Instagram competition and the prize: free tater tots for a year.

I have never been more proud to be a winner.

Now, every time I walk by, I go in and grab some free tots.  Not only a delicious snack, but a raging river of memories flooding every corner of my brain.




Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Moments with Strangers

I was walking near Times Square on Saturday because I wanted to sneak a Big Mac into the movie The Founder and that theatre time was the best option for me.  I'm super busy* (*jokes. I'm not) and didn't want to wait for a late night show.  Look...I'm really cool...I promise.

As I was passing Madame Tussauds wax museum, one of those guys that tries to shove a $5 coupon in your face tried to shove a $5 coupon in my face.  I usually ignore or nod my head no in these situations, but I was feeling content so I smiled at him and said a cheerful "no thanks".


He immediately pulled me aside, held my hand, and said "that smile! It's like I was waiting for that smile all night!  You just really brightened my night!"


This gentleman was probably 10-15 years my senior (being generous) and so he wasn't old enough to have it be grandpa-ly cute, but he also wasn't young enough for me to feel alarmingly flattered.  But his cold hands held onto mine as he asked me where I was from ("I live in Harlem"..."What are you doing up there?! You belong on Park Ave!"), what I was doing, and then he proceeded to say I shouldn't be running errands but grabbing a drink-perhaps coffee or wine-with him. When I shot both of those options down ("Then what DO you drink?!"), and eventually thanked him for his offer and walked away, I giggled.  I giggled the whole time home.  Because it was a tiny, insignificant moment that brought two strangers together.  And I think we need more of these, quite frankly.

Since this experience I've been thinking a lot about other small but perfect moments I've had recently: 
-I talked to an alarmed father about his daughter who was in a car accident but after he asked me for cash I thought it was a scam and I still don't know what to make of it
-I went to a Troubadour performance where I was the only person under the age of 60 in the audience (and I loved EVERY MOMENT-shout out European Studies major!).  Here is a link of who I saw perform and yes the flute playing was everything and more.
-My Uber driver last week pitched me his short film and we became Instagram friends all in 15 minutes
-I went to my students basketball games on Saturday and had an intense cheering battle with the moms/sisters/cousins from the other team
-When I was the only person on the bus a couple weeks ago, the bus driver caught my attention (i was really jamming to Frank Ocean at the time), called me up, and we had a delightful conversation that was actually so pleasant I wish I didn't have to get off the bus.

In conclusion, talking to strangers is the best option 90% of the time.  Everyone should do it.

Friday, January 27, 2017

because we all need another opinion; my war-cry

I'm sitting on my bed on a Friday night, so so so exhausted from this last week but unable to sleep.  Tears are forming in the corners of my eyes and I consider some of the mighty changes this week that will have undeniable effects on people who deserve better.  

It's been a strange few weeks for me.  Clawing out stronger beliefs is challenging and sharing those beliefs is terrifying, but I've finally arrived at a point where I can no longer remain silent.

I hate labels.  I've hated labels my whole life.  I've often prided myself on the fact that it sometimes takes awhile for people to realize I'm a Mormon.  Because people always have an idea in their minds about what being Mormon looks, sounds, and acts like.  And I'm very often not those immediate stereotypes of the word.  It contains moments of insecurity and disappointment for both me and the person with whom I'm speaking; the constant question of "Am I being the person I need to be? Am I Mormon enough?"  Labels create expectations (positive or negative) and I've never felt as though I fit those expectations.  

Which is why I've spent the last couple weeks questioning my labels.  Trying to figure out if my beliefs and my beliefs were contradictory or if they were aligned.  

I went to the Womens March in Washington last week and let me tell you; it was wonderful.  I felt a spirit of unity and hope for change during an unsettling political transition.  If I can be frank, it was a feeling I wished I felt more regularly in Relief Society (one of the largest women's organizations in the world and something I have increasingly learned to appreciate over the years).  I was marching for equality for everyone I love; for the refugees and the immigrants; for team LGBTQ; for my students who have limited control of their life situations; for acceptance of everyone.

My poster read "Nasty Mormon" because I am finally ok with my labels.  I am Mormon.  And I used the word nasty because I want to share my voice and work for positive progress.  I am not a docile, timid woman (#surprise!).  I will fight for my students and my friends and my loved ones with my voice and my actions.  I will not sit idly by and wait for the right time because the right time has always been now.  I only received positive feedback for my poster.  I wasn't alone.  No one was alone and no one should be alone.

But then I got back from the march and I felt guilty.  I felt guilty for being white and for it taking this long to fight for my friends who aren't white.  I felt guilty because I felt like I wasn't Mormon enough.  I started questioning myself in a very serious way.  Was what I fighting for wrong?  Was this not the right thing?  I pleaded and prayed and yelled and cried.  Now that I had finally accepted my labels were they starting to falter? 

(Spiritual moment) I opened my scriptures and immediately turned to Luke 10.  I gobbled up the verses and the accompanying study guide.  I read of loving ones neighbor and the Good Samaritan.   I read of Mary and Martha opening up their home to receive our Lord and Savior.   I thought to myself: this is what it's all about.  THIS.  And in that moment, my beliefs perfectly aligned.

Love is always the answer.  

President Howard W. Hunter
“We need to remember that though we make our friends, God has made our neighbors—everywhere. Love should have no boundary. … Christ said, ‘For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?’ (Matthew 5:46)” (“The Lord’s Touchstone,” Ensign, Nov. 1986, 35).
So I go forward with more confidence in the fight for goodness and charity.





Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Welcome Winter

I moved to NYC this summer during a heat wave.  It was about 4804 degrees, according to my calculations, and I almost instantly hated it.  Did I really move to this city to sweat with my closest 45 friends on an unairconditioned subway car?  I had no desire to touch any other human or object. #sweat.

Now that the weather is a little cooler, though, I'm really starting to dig on the NYC vibes.  There are Christmas lights everywhere, people aren't as angry at each other, and there are delicious treats on every corner.

Yes.Plz.

Winter also means one other thing: cuffing season.

I don't know when or where this term came from (I just googled it and there are some interesting facts but I'm not going to write them all here, although I do appreciate all the graphs on this Huffington Post article), but from what I understand it's basically mating season for humans.  It's cold, people want to hibernate, but they don't want to hibernate alone...they want someone else in that corner with them.

Listen.  I get it.

And I think I've unintentionally fallen in this cuffing season trap.

Without realizing it, I've been recommitting a little harder to Tinder, I've been giving second glances when I would normally gloss over, and I've been hitting on waiters and cell phone store guys like it's going OUT.OF.STYLE.

I mean, last week when I was jumping on the bus at 6:30 am, I made eye contact with a guy on the street and he did the lip pucker thing to me, and I almost winked back at him.  Why would I do this?  Was I really interested in this stranger?  Or did I just like the idea that if I had winked back, we could one day be sipping on hot chocolate while listening to Christmas music and ice skating in Central Park?

Because that does sound delightful.  I should've winked.

So now as I pursue the winter storms in this city of 8 million, and I as I contemplate the upcoming months, when the holidays are over, the lights come down, and people yell at each other again, I wonder if it's worth it.  Should I try to jump in this game of love, even if its temporary?  Should I stay out late past my 10 pm bed time to try and find a snuggle buddy?  Or will it end before Valentines Day and will I end up drowning in a pool of my own tears?

I ask these questions...now you give me the answers.



Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Last 24 hours

Things I’ve liked in the last 24 hours:
-Snapchat singing to Celine Dion with friends in Denver.  Felt like I was there
-Bringing cinnamon rolls on the bus this morning (including 1 transfer)
-Deciding to name my turkey bowl football team “the Ford Force” and wearing Star Wars themed clothing
-Telling my students Gerald Ford was my grandpa
-Despite today being the day before a long break, having a decent lesson prepared and being presented while having an unexpected visitor (along with the dean of instruction).  The students sounded like they were learning!
-Beginning to appreciate a student I haven’t really liked that much
-A fun day with our kids involving a Turkey Bowl
-My team winning the championship of said Turkey Bowl
-Attempting to cheat to win said Turkey Bowl
-The school drumline during halftime
-Getting a turkey hat (and a trophy)
-A pleasant potluck w the students where they all got along and no one was annoying! They were just normal kids!  
-Taking a nap on some random table in some random atrium in Midtown
-Seeing some of my favorite humans who are in town from Colorado (makes my heart soar)
-Two random men on the street complimenting me in a non-creepy way
-Random Japanese food that had good reviews but that was not very good but excellent company so it don’t matter
-Christmas spirit in the city (so many lights!)
-Thinking about actual Christmas break
-Realizing the guy at the Verizon store had been hitting on me on Saturday and thinking about texting him all day but then forgetting (there’s still tomorrow)
-Relating to the film Moana in weird ways and also wishing I was Polynesian
-Thinking about all the trips I want to and will go on in the future
-Friends from afar texting me
-Telling my guy Mo at the bodega next to school that I’ll miss him over the break and him returning the sentiment
-Candy

Things I haven’t liked:
-The pizza station at Costco being down for the day so no pizza even though I went through the effort of sneaking into Costco


All in all, I’m starting this Thanksgiving break LIKE A BOSS.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Running to the Bus

I know what you're all wondering: am I still only eating at McDonalds or has my palate become so sophisticated that I only dine at the finest New York restaurants.  Also because I'm a teacher so OBVI I'm rolling in the dough and can afford it.

I don't want to crush your dreams.  I ate nuggets last week.

It's official that I live here now and I think I'm finally hitting my stride.  It's interesting because you think about moving to New York and then you end up here and you realize life is mostly the same. You go to bed early because you need to wake up before the sun so you can run to your bus stop so you can make a transfer to another bus so you can get to school on time to pick up the kids and steal one of the breakfasts they get and then try to figure out how to teach the 2016 election without providing your own personal commentary on everything that's happening because these little minds need to figure it out on their own.  And then when you finally DO leave work, the sun is already setting and you're so tired that all you can manage is a BBQ chicken wrap from the Golden Deli around the corner from your apartment and you watch an episode of Arrested Development and scroll through Tinder before falling asleep by 10 (at the latest).

So glamorous.

And to be honest, there have been hard days.  There have been days I've missed my bus and then my train and then I've forgotten I need to do laundry and my grocery bag has ripped open and I've cursed this city and all that it is.  Because sometimes it's terrible.


Those are the times I go to bed and wake up and remember that every day can be great.  Those are the days I remind myself that I've moved here on my own volition and I can do something today that I wouldn't be able to do anywhere else.  Most of the time that includes talking to someone from such a different walk of life from me that I learn something I never knew before.  Sometimes that means going to a Broadway show or a museum or eating Kool-aid flavored ice cream.  These are all real things I've done and yes, the ice cream was super good.  I would highly recommend it.  I wouldn't recommend the churro ice cream cone, however.  Basically living here has opened my eyes to the creativity of the ice cream world.  But not the ice cream museum because those tickets sold out too fast for me and I'm still mad about it.


I've done some other things, too.  Below is a smattering of Halloween, bro-visit (#fordstakenyc), and a kid who seemingly doesn't have any bones in his body.