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 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


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.