Adventure in Seeking the Best

Last year at this time I made a grand proclamation. 2016 was going to be better than the catastrophe that was 2015. Whoops. I still kicked it in the teeth. It tried, but didn’t kill me. It tried, but didn’t break me. Rather than reviewing all of the garbage (deaths, surgery, and so much more), I’m going to try to seek out a few really good things that happened this year. It was more than an election. It was more than a mass of celebrity deaths. 2016 very nearly brought me to my breaking point.

So let’s try to make some sense of a year.

I was given a tribe. I worked and worked. I cried. I laughed. I forgot to eat. I battled my memory, but I found the most amazing people, and they took me in.

I pushed myself. I found new ways to be. I made myself be better. I made myself do better. I had to pull back from other things I care about, but it only made me miss those things too and want to work on them just as hard.

These images were a tiny dream fulfilled.

These two humans did so much more for my heart and my head than people will ever understand, and this image consistently fills me with joy.

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Honestly, these people. Every moment with them. On stage. In rehearsals. Burning fingertips making masks. Celebrating Harry Potter. Meeting late at Henry’s. This year would not have been as livable without each of them.

There was also a great deal of pie.

I was allowed to participate in An Evening With the Authors three times. In turn, I met some truly incredible people.

Did I mention all of the new Harry Potter? Cursed Child. Fantastic Beasts.

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And we got new X-Files. And new Star Wars.good-2016-22

Shakespeare readings continued in full force.

Danny Tamberelli called me “family.”

I scored some amazing best friend time. Some of it was sad. Some of it was painful. Most of it was hilarious. All of it was life-giving.

We got matching tattoos, and I eventually became mine. It was bound to happen.

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Some much needed time with my brother whenever we could get it.good-2016-28

I was loved in ways I’ll never be able to comprehend. Kindness came in so many ways, and I’m forever thankful.good-2016-33I was able to create a space for anything to happen, and I’m in love with it.

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We had so many amazing shows and so many opportunities.

I was able to do my very best to honor one of my reasons to love comedy. I think I did an alright job.

good-2016-3Even though she didn’t win, I was able to proudly and without hesitation vote for a candidate I believed in. I was able to vote for a main party candidate who also happened to be a woman.good-2016-43Gilda Catner and I became the same. It was already underway, but 2016 was the full transition.

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I wrote 115 affirmations, even when it was hard. I created 31 things for 31 straight days. I found or was sent over 100 new payphones. I communicated and received some pretty beautiful responses from two artists that changed my life, Julianne Swartz and Brian Michael Bendis. I met so many new people that I’m so proud to know. I had many successes, small though they were. I had some pretty big failures and defeats, but that’s not what this is about. Thank you to everyone who made 2016 livable. I couldn’t have done it without you.

 

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Adventure in Gratitude Day 4

Good thing I led with Guerrilla Theatre yesterday. What a beautiful transition into this thing of beauty that keeps me going.

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Let’s Comedy has done what it set out to do. We’re creating a community of comedy. It’s not perfect. Even we fight with each other. Even we struggle. Even we have fallings out. But we fight and we struggle and we fall together. It hasn’t also been easy, but it feels worth it. Things have morphed and grown, and I love where we are.

Do I get frustrated? Boy howdy. Do I get mad? You bet. Do I love every minute? Hell, yes.

Open mics. Local comics. Regional comics. National comics. Fort Wayne to Indy to Detroit. We’re growing.

I’m so thankful for each opportunity and door and friendship and conversation (even the hard ones) that exist because of this group. That Guerrilla Theatre exists. That I’ve met so many amazing people, and not just famous humans. I now have some of the best friends in the world, the most amazing support system of other female comics.

But when it comes to this team specifically, I’m so incredibly thankful for the men I work with. Who have fought along side me to create safer spaces for women, minorities, and the LGBTQ+ community. Maybe not always successfully, but we fight and we try and are constantly working to be better. Who have worked to bring people together. Who have loved me when I’m being a brat. Who have called me out on my own bullshit. Who have become some of my dearest friends. Every day, every show has not been simple, but we keep working.

Ryan, Jared, Ian, Alex, Corey, I love you all.

Even tonight, we have two shows and our first album recording, and I’m so proud.

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Adventure in Gratitude Day 3

This one was going to wait until Sunday or even Monday, but my mind is spinning about this. My heart races about this.

Guerrilla Theatre started long before I knew about it. As far as I know, my friend and former professor and director and boss Mike Burnett introduced to the theatre students of Huntington College. As a freshman I instantly fell in love with it. It was silly. It was sad. It was absurd. It was release. After Mike left Huntington the department changed, but some of us tried. Some of us fought to keep the old traditions alive. Pickle ceremonies. Costumed awards banquets. The right music at strikes. And Guerrilla.

Pickle ceremonies fell first. Then Guerrilla. But we fought. My friend Brett and I would prepare as many things as we could for it just to try and get people to come out. By the time Brett graduated and I was a senior it was gone. With it a part of me left too.

But when I joked to my friend and boss, I guess?, Ryan that I wanted to host a show on the regular, he ran with it. There sat Guerrilla in my back pocket, ready. We had a venue waiting. It was ideal.

This Sunday marks our fourth show, but already I’m so in love with this set of a few hours every first and third Sunday of each month. I’ve watched old friends who fell out come back together. I’ve seen so many people try new things. I’ve watched myself change as a performer, which feels silly to say, but I know I have. I’m massively passionate about this show, and I’m so satisfied with it. I love watching it grow and change. I love that it challenges me. I love that it challenges other people. I love that it provides a space for people who haven’t had spaces. I love it.

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Adventure in Coming Home

It’s not unknown that the last two years have been hard and confusing. That I’ve been searching for something to fill that space in me. That space that I’ve been filling with things that I do enjoy. Jokes, laughter, making other people successful, performing things I enjoy, readings.

In February, as with every February, the anniversary of the beginning of the worst things rolled around, but it was also an audition for a show I’ve always desperately wanted to be in. I simply didn’t have the strength to do it. I believed with all of my being I could have been in it, but I didn’t think I could muster my strength to actually audition. The next weekend another audition presented itself. An audition with a new company that was focused on Shakespeare and his contemporaries. After a year of reading and a summer of improv, I decided my injured brain could handle this experience. It was, up to that point, the best audition of my life. I let myself go. I didn’t have anything to lose. I didn’t know these people. I still had comedy to fall back to if it didn’t go well. I could still stand if it didn’t go well, but it did go well. It went well enough that I walked out of there confident that I would get the role I wanted. So confident I went out to dinner with a friend to celebrate that very day, despite the bad news we had received personally between us.

A couple of weeks later I was cast in the very role I was certain I’d gotten, and I knew that meant comedy was going to take a bit of a back seat. It meant that a lot of things were going to take a bit of a back seat. When the break down of scenes came out, and it showed I was in every scene, but two and later every scene, but one everyone was going to lose a lot of face time. I knew that. People were largely understanding. Most people were largely understanding. I didn’t, however, want to stop investing in things I cared about. I would, while I could, make runs to the Let’s Comedy office before rehearsals. Grab a meal and run to the office after work. When one of our guys was in South Korea this month I made a point to run to the bar directly after work before every show if I could to set up the room and then run to rehearsal. I’d eat if I had time, which usually happened after rehearsal some time around 11. This is the life I wanted.

Being busy is one of the most lovely things to me. It can be exhausting, of course, but what it also does is keeps me from letting my depression and PTSD take control. Those two things often just need time to breathe to take over, and if they don’t have time to ruminate then they can’t take over my brain. If all I can think about is how Antipholous is looking at me and how I hope the room is filling up right now for Kinane and whether or not I actually said “else never” or “else ever” and if I remembered to bring my rosary out with me this time or not and did Jensen and I wear our blue socks on the same feet tonight? I don’t have time or space for my brain to get anxious with my depression or PTSD. I just don’t, which is beautiful. I’m not saying it’s healthy. It’s just what’s happening right now.

What has also happened because of this show is I have found my tribe. These people. They are kindred. There was an immediate connection. The woman I am almost constantly working alongside is someone I auditioned with. In the cold reads I threw her over my back, and she just let that happen. We’d never met, but she just let that happen. Her name also happens to be Halee. She also happens to have red hair. She also happens to get lost in obnoxious laughter that is constantly changing. We’ve slowly melded. And we aren’t the only ones. It’s not just her. I went out for drinks with another cast member one night, and we stayed out for six hours talking. It started with silly voices then got very serious then got silly then got serious then got kindred. People who understand that you ask if you can hug someone. A man in a Peanu Keeyes shirt. Kisses on everyone’s cheeks. Everyone is safe. Something about this group of people is different than other casts I’ve worked with before. When rehearsals were first starting, I was leaving my old job, and things were getting less than savory we’ll say. I wasn’t going to say anything, but I knew it was going to be a problem emotionally when it came time for rehearsal as rehearsals were getting more intense. I contacted my director who was 1) immediately indignant with me, and 2) understanding and supportive. Supportive in a way someone in his capacity had not been before. I was home. I was safe. I know I’m not alone in that.

I know because in this cast we’ve suffered losses, and we’ve carried each other. We’ve been injured, and we’ve carried each other and adapted. We’ve been emotionally damaged, and we’ve carried each other. These people are safe. These people are home. In a way I’ve never felt before, it’s going to be hard to walk away from this show on Sunday morning. I’m going to be sad not to see them every day. They are my tribe.

When Sunday hits I will cry. I will cry a lot, I imagine. I will try not to. I will work to distract myself. I’ll probably have brunch with Piper, because I don’t want to cry about how much I miss these people. I don’t cry when shows end. I will this time.

I tell you this now, because I do have a little time and last night we got to just spend some time together. Sure we had a brief rehearsal, but I also got to witness some of that carrying, some of that love and support. But I also wanted you to know you still have time to see this bond. You can still see this show before it’s gone. May 26, 27, and 28 at 8:00 p.m. at the Auer Center ArtsLab at 300 E Main Street in Fort Wayne, IN. Tickets are only $15.0012931081_457003501170169_8199661723697369969_n

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My tribe. I found my tribe.

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Adventure in Still Talking

In the last week several things happened.

First, last Monday I started my new job, and I love it. It’s going to make things so much lighter for my brain. Already I can feel so many burdens being lifted. I can feel myself opening up space for things I enjoy and need far more than stress and pain. Chiefly, this means my brain is open to leave work and go to rehearsals without the burden of loathing. I can go to rehearsals and have a brain ready to create. I can go to rehearsals ready to delve into a thing I love.

Second, I left rehearsal Friday night full of energy. I was considering going for a run, but decided to go to the bar to see if our show was still happening. I haven’t been able to do much with Let’s Comedy, and I’ve been feeling guilty about that. I wanted to be able to be as supportive as possible. Comedy has always been something that I care deeply about, but ultimately it does sort of fill this weird space. It’s a round object in my heart, which turns out is heart-shaped. It fills so much, but not all of it. And here comes theatre again, doing its job, but I don’t want to leave comedy behind because it has taken such good care of me and brought me such wonderful people. But after the show ended I had a bad interaction. I was saying “good-bye” to some friends and noticed someone a little twitchy behind me looking at me and pacing. I decided to cling to my pal a while longer until he moved along and I could duck to the back room again where I made a break for my car. I ran for my car. I drove home. I’ve never run to my car before. Not unless challenged to a foot race I knew I’d lose. When I reached my house I sent texts to several people. To my people. The people I knew could talk me out of the car, because I found myself in my ritualistic spot in front of my house immobilized. “Does he know where I live?” “Did he follow me?” “Why does this keep happening to me?” “Is this my fault again?” “Is it always my fault?” They convinced me out of my car. That I was safe. Inside was safe. Some of them were just down the road if I needed them. I grabbed Gilda Catner when I got inside. I locked the door. I locked it again. I carried her up the stairs. I didn’t change my clothes. I didn’t do anything. Holding Gilda, I crawled into the utmost corner of my bed and sobbed. I fell asleep some time some hours later, Gilda still in my arms.

I woke up with her in my arms. A pounding headache from dehydration. I made myself leave the house. I wanted to blog something completely different on Saturday. I was writing letters. Letters I keep starting, but can’t ever seem to finish.

Because Saturday, third, I learned that Jim Leugers died. Jim Leugers was an incredible comic and artist and human out of Indianapolis. I didn’t know him well enough. What I did know was the effects of him in the community around him. Jim was this big beating heart and like arteries he pulsed this beautiful thing through so many people. So many of them, whether they realize it or not, are intimate reflections of Jim. The ways they take the time to encourage or guide people after a show, kindly or otherwise. The ways they take the time for each other at all. Comedy is such a different beast than theatre to experience, but I think what I love about this particular community is the way Jim impacted it. Because he kept it from becoming so isolating. It’s something that I hope doesn’t get lost, and I don’t think will get lost, simply because Jim isn’t here anymore. He influenced so many people, it’s impossible for that to get lost. Those reflections of him, those kindnesses (surly though they could be), I see them in so many people who knew him well, and I’m not even sure if they know where they learned it. It’s an enormous loss to his family, to his friends, to his community. But he isn’t gone. He’s genuinely left behind so much of himself in so many people. Last night I was driving someone home from a get together that was held in his honor, and he just kept saying, “I can’t believe he’s gone.” And I said, “Nah. He’s not. Just think how stupid it is that you can see pieces of him in even the dumbest people who knew him. He’s everywhere, and that’s the most annoying thing he could have done.” But it’s also the most beautiful. He shaped a whole community in Indianapolis, and who knows how far that reaches? He traveled. His friends traveled. Pieces of Jim are everywhere.

The night I found out, fourth, someone told me to never stop talking about what has happened to me, which is why I’m writing this at all. Because so many of us have been silent for far too long. This is for Spencier.

So fifth. When I was living in Indianapolis, after my third assault, I was reaching my breaking point.I think I reached it. I think I was ready to give up completely. I was done. I was going to give up on everything. Suicide was hard on the table, and I was so silent that no one would have known. I wouldn’t have known who to tell or how to talk about it. Or even why to talk about it. One day a friend of mine friend college who lived in Fishers suggested I just try going to the Indianapolis Museum of Art. “Look, you like art. It’s free. And maybe you’re just not getting out enough anymore.” He didn’t know. He couldn’t know. I wouldn’t let him know. But it was a good suggestion. So that Saturday I put my bravest face on, and if memory serves my cutest “I’m going to look at art” outfit, and I went. I wandered, and I wandered. Most of the day. It was at the very least calming. He was onto something there. Then I wandered into a room. A room where the ceiling was covered in colored wires and tiny speakers. There were a lot of people in there talking so I didn’t get it. I walked the room and looked outside. I read the placards. It wasn’t until I read the placard that I realized what was happening. The room cleared of the noisy people. I curled up on the floor in a corner, and I sat silently. I listened. I listened for over an hour. I cried. I wasn’t alone anymore. I changed my mind. I went back to that room every week until I moved back to Fort Wayne which happened four years ago tomorrow. Every time I need to go to Indianapolis, if it is my power I make a trip to that room. It is now $18 to get into the museum, and it’s worth it for me to regroup. I spent almost three hours sitting in there today. When I walked in today, I came in as the whispers of “I love you” began to swell. I sat silently as school groups shouted and ran around.

At one point a woman came in and sat beside me on the bench. We were both just looking up at the speakers. I was crying. I could feel her crying too. As she got up to leave she put her hand gently on my hand and said, “Art can do that. Enjoy your time.”

Thank you, Julianne Swartz. You saved my life.

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Adventure in Teeth Kicking

In my head this is a thing I don’t do every year, but this is absolutely a thing I do every year. So let’s recap the worst year ever, and let’s talk about kicking some serious ass in 2016. Sound good? I think so.

To be fair, 2015 wasn’t all dread. It was hard. That’s true. Some of it was down right shit.

From the very beginning of last year things started wacky and terribly dehydrated. Because as is my custom, I spent my New Year’s Eve making sure everyone else was okay, had not a drop to drink, of anything. Not water. Not booze. I got grouchy, but these kids had a great time. And carried me through the whole year. As you’ll soon see. I think even I’m about to realize 2015 wasn’t as bad as I remembered.new year new you

Then there was the whole panicked month of January. Putting together and directing a show that ends up starring three of your best friends. Your band drops out. You panic. You get a new band. Your best friend and one of your actors breaks up with you. Your show is on Valentine’s Day. And you cry for three solid days including work, excluding rehearsals. Still you find yourself with what feels like the most amazing project you’ve ever produced. Probably because it also came with a bunch of emotions, but also because it came with an absurd amount of support from so many people. I still can’t get over this.ssg 3ssg 1ssg 4

For every month of this that endured. The old friends and new friends. The real discussions and the pure silliness that came out of it. The potions and the motions. The puppy-headed monsters. Proverbs and no-verbs. These monthly Shakespeare readings are keeping my theatre brain alive. Those that participate, whether for pie, friendships, words, or any reason at all, make each month so fantastic.

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An internet challenge brought me 30 days of my own mediocre creativity, but it did force me to create, which was good for my brain. It’s proven even better now. Because while the final products are not the best things I’ve ever produced, I’m still proud to have produced them.art 1art 2art 3art 4art 5art 6art 8art 9art 10

 

This year allowed me some amazing opportunities to see and meet some fantastically funny and genuinely kind comics. Not all of them pictured. But so many incredible people. From the Puterbaugh Sisters who always treat me like a person to Danny and Mike who were just such treasures to spend time with to Bobcat Goldthwait who saved me from my rent being late without knowing it and gave me life advice to Brooks Wheelan who just wanted to talk about Bobcat Goldthwait to playing host to Kate Willett. And diving into improv again and unlocking some emotions that terrify me and suddenly connecting with a good buddy in the process. Comedy has been kind to me. It took a dark turn at the beginning of the year, and some things got lost, but it also forced us to band together and hold even tighter to each other. Which I love. It’s made us stronger. It’s made us smart. It’s made us love what we’re doing even more. Comedy, you keep doing you. You’re healing so many broken spaces.comedy 1comedy 2comedy 3comedy 4comedy 5comedy 6comedy 8comedy 9comedy 10

And a year of a heart-rending break-up. A year of a bone-breaking fall. A year of a head-injuring fall. A head-injuring fall that has caused enough complications, terrifying complications that even I don’t want to live with me, so many people are still here. Still here holding my hand. Holding my hair back. Holding my head in their lap as I cry. Crying in my lap, because I’m not alone in life being terrifying. Because one trauma can awaken trauma. And you’ve let me live, and die. You’re letting me die alive, and you’re letting me struggle to live. And I thank you for letting me fight for that. (not all pictured)

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Because as much as 2015 was terrible, and it was, I survived. 2016 might also be terrible, but I’m determined to do more than survive. I make no resolutions. I stand by my friends, as they have stood by me. 2016 though, 2016 is mine. It’s ours. I’m going to destroy. I’m going to chew it up with my mechanically and expensively straightened chompers and spit it out in 365 days. I’m going to kick its jaw off its hinge. I’m going to rip it asunder. I’m going to make more violent metaphors than I’ll make in my entire life, because 2015 broke me apart and actually broke me. 2016, I will break you.

Plus, lest we all forget, 2016 will bring us another Leap Day, where nothing counts! Because real life is for March.

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Adventure in Sensitivity as Strength

The table’s have turned.

I asked quite a few men (more than appear here, but frankly, I got too impatient and too excited to share with you*) in my life to define a couple of words. Sensitivity. Strength. What the words mean to them, and shoot me a picture. A picture that they felt expresses strength or that they’re proud of.  Some included a description with that photo. Some defined both words. Some are so simple and beautiful. Some are longer and academic. All are lovingly thought out. Some weren’t given them at once to define, so don’t think as some as more anything. I didn’t push, because I’m thrilled with what they’ve given me, what they’re giving you. I’ve cried a few times just reading through these. I’ve done a tiny bit of editing because foster parents have hard lives, but mostly you’re getting the raw thoughts of a bunch of pretty damn incredible men.

*Thank you to those who shared with me. For being vulnerable. Thank you to those who wanted to, but are bad with deadlines.

11296570_669709526119_1134630683_oNigel Berry

“With an attempt to avoid waxing poetic, I might describe sensitivity as an open posture to foreign feelings. Reflected in my photo with my oldest daughter, the sensitivity emerges as I enter into her joy and experience of love. Maintaining a posture of sensitivity can be truly life giving! But it is costly. Not everything is baby giggles and rainbows with sensitivity. It threatens pride,status, and cultural expectations to be a sensitive man. Other times, it invites us into the pain of others. I think that being sensitive, when explored, is discovered to present a lot of risk. I think fear stifles sensitivity.

Strength, to me, always centers around motion – the ability to move or to resist movement. That’s why “strength” can simultaneously be both a positive or a negative depending on the context. ”

IMG_1011Dan Schwartz

“Honestly, I don’t think of sensitivity much. Which is weird, I’m either in/over that stage in life where you stop to think about who you are and what you believe and what values are important to you. I’m not sure I’ve ever really personally defined sensitivity, so here goes.

Sensitivity to me would be the ability to be aware of another’s emotions, mood, feelings, etc., without them being directly communicated.

Strength, now, that’s a little easier. I believe strength is the ability to exert.
Strength matters deeply to me and how I live my life. Strength to me isn’t about how strong I am, but my ability to give myself to make others stronger.

In one sentence strength is pulling two toddlers in a wagon up and down a steep driveway for a half hour while the baby you’re carrying is mastering the art of pulling out your beard and chest hair at the same time.”

edit_7996_bwJohn Cessna

“I really like this headshot I have. It’s calm, confident, and honest, without feeling like I have to be an over the top clown. There’s balance, an easy ability to be comfortable in your own skin in that:

Sensitivity to me is understanding another person (or group of people’s) emotional reasoning and motivations without letting it affect your own mindset and emotional space. It’s the ability to remove your own identity from another person’s.”

IMG_3289Stephen Miliken

“Sensitivity starts with awareness and ends with action-oriented care. To grow in sensitivity means first to grow in awareness of the world around you and in you. The more you learn about both of those things, the more your sensitivities are expanded. And, in a perfect world, the more you are aware of something, the more opportunity you have to care for it, to change because of it, to do something in response to it. They say that higher education develops a person’s “feminine qualities,” their appreciation for art and for many other nuances of the world. I think it’s better explained that education brings new things about ourselves and the world into awareness. And from that point on we either have to deny what we now know about it or we can choose to embrace what we know and do something about it – we care.

Strength is the other side of discipline, its result. Be it physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, as we practices the disciplines related to each, our strength increases. At a more basic level, strength is about dealing with burden, again whether that is physical weight, or emotional and mental weight. When I think of strength, the first thing that comes to mind is strength of character and magnanimity. For me, the most important strength to have is strength of character, or integrity. This is about doing what is right against all odds, even in the face of personal loss.

And here’s the cool thing, the more you grow in sensitivity – awareness of self and world – the more opportunity you have to grow in strength (of character), they go hand-in-hand. How will you respond to what you now know? Caring about people, places and things takes a tremendous amount of strength of all kinds.”

11209579_669228604889_7677640343676459584_nJeff Blossom
“Sensitivity is being open enough to observe the world around you, to see people in the moment as they are, and to listen to both of those things. It is difficult for me to quiet my mind or life enough to be observant, and also difficult to be present enough to truly see, listen and respond. Sensitivity isn’t just an instinct; it is a practice. I really think it’s just a combination of observance and empathy, or at least the attempt at empathy.It’s strength as support as opposed to force.”

664359_596874328417_8405642997537344301_oTim Keaton

“Sensitivity: Knowing what needs to be done and when it needs to be done.

Strength: Doing what needs to be done when it needs to be done.”

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Dustin McDowell 

“In my life right now, everything is about family. My job, my downtime, my everything is my family. Unlike most people though, my family is not my own. As a foster parent, it is my job to be sensitive to the needs of the kids we take in. It is my job to not track down and beat the shit out parents who have no taken patience and time with their children, to understand them and gently care for them. It is my job to be sensitive to the fact that I have to hold it together if children we bring into our home to keep safe doesn’t feel understand just how safe they are. On top of this, it is my job to be sensitive enough to be able to cry with my wife and love these kids for the days, weeks, or months we have them before sending them back home. I’m like the Dobby of foster care. At the moment, I’d like to think that I can be as sensitive as my wife needs me, but some days I’m not strong enough to be unselfish. Most days I am, but not always. Lucky for me though, I have an awesome, understanding wife who knows that the situation we chose to be in isn’t always the easiest.”

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Ted Stavrou

“To have sensitivity is to have a willingness to appreciate other peoples’ perspectives without the need to impose your own on them. It requires patience and outward perceptiveness. There’s peace in not thinking you have all the answers, or even need them.

Strength to me is more inward; it’s a willingness to look inside yourself and discover your own values and what makes you tick, and despite any fear or pride, go ahead and be vulnerable anyway.

There are those who try to make people think like themselves and coerce others to accept their values, while others keep themselves to themselves, even putting on masks to avoid conflict or pain. Still worse, I suppose, are those who don’t care at all. Those paths all end in resentment, pride and ultimately, isolation. I think true strength and sensitivity work hand-in-hand to bring people closer together. Without love as an ultimate motivation, you can’t really possess either. Of course, there are times where love seems more like madness, but it’s really all that matters to me in the end.”

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Steve Edinger

“To me, sensitivity means awareness of what others around me are going through, whether positive or negative. In addition to that awareness, it also means thoughtfully considering how to appropriately respond to the feelings and needs of others.

Strength can mean so many things that it is tough to come up with a concise, non-rambling definition. I think that, first and foremost, strength is almost synonymous with perseverance, or a willingness to endure difficulties of all sorts. Second, confidence balanced with a willingness to accept and learn from criticism is also an important aspect of strength. That is, confidence in one’s abilities, worldview, and general self-worth is important. However, overconfidence to the point that one is unwilling to listen and learn from the perspectives of others isn’t strength, it is hubris. Finally, I believe strength can be defined as a willingness to show compassion and care for others, regardless of cost to self. An individual who tears others down to achieve for him or herself may indeed be successful at getting ahead, but has not shown strength. Instead, a truly strong person would have the confidence to know that showing compassion and building others up is more important than gaining success solely for oneself. Strength means recognizing that life is not a zero-sum game, and that my success does not need to be predicated on the failure of others.”

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Joey Spiegel

“For me sensitivity means creating space in my heart for others, which is not an easy task nor is it my modus operandi. It’s about believing people when they tell me how/what they feel rather than imposing my projections on to them. I think strength is similar in that it is about creating or finding a safe place for yourself and others; a place where vulnerability is allowed. There is no strength in subjecting others to your will. I think there is strength in welcoming others though, because that is where you are tested and refined as a human. This is weird to write but that’s all I got!”

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Stephen Webster

“Sensitivity I think primarily manifests itself as an awareness of the feelings of others. It is an understanding that other people’s needs and desires are as important as my own. It is a decision to validate other people – their thoughts, their dreams, their words through a courteous ,conscientious, attentive posture toward them.”

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Patrick Harding

“I attached a photo of me playing last night. I don’t know that it expresses either strength or pride. But performing always scares me, and I feel vulnerable…exposed. Something about that feels good.

Sensitivity: To seek understanding first before seeking to be understood.

Have you ever been in an argument with someone? An argument where both parties are seeking justification of their own actions rather than seeking reconciliation? I find that’s usually why I get into arguments in the first place.

Have you ever played a piece of music, given a sermon on a passage, performed a play, or read a book? Whenever I do something like this, something where I’m interpreting, I always come to it bringing prejudices. So much so, that whatever comes out was far less about what was intended, and far more about who I am, and cannot escape being.

Do we marginalize people? Have you ever posted heavy-handed articles on Facebook about a community you’re not a part of? Whose struggles you do not endure? Do you cringe when you see someone different than you?

I dunno. Maybe I’m being dramatic, but I assure you that isn’t my intention. But in all these cases, I think that we are just trying to force things into our mess. We all carry so much baggage, and it’s terribly unfair to try to make someone else carry it. I mean, come on. They have their own.

And finally to define strength, which is tough. Because I don’t know that any of us have it…not really, anyway.

Oftentimes, when I hear that word, I muster up images of armor-clad warriors, or of brave people fighting against the current. I realize, though, that I’ve only ever been strong or brave when Jesus was strong or brave for me…when I have my armor stripped of me, when I shiver in fear and admit that I need carrying. I have no strength in me. Just need. And that’s okay…though I often need to remake my peace with that fact.

Society often tells us to be strong, to hunker down, grit teeth, and march forward…and I get it. It’s probably more acceptable than saying “Go ahead. Collapse.” And there’s probably times when that’s true. But everything falls, eventually. And when I do, I find that something else rebuilds me.”

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Joseph Schwartz

“Sensitivity is not a word in my daily vocabulary, and not a trait that I place a higher value on than any other. I think it’s important to offer sincere sensitivity when it’s needed, and to me maybe the sincerity itself is more important. I am sort of an introvert and selfish by nature, and my own quest for sensitivity has been more focused on not being insensitive than being actively sensitive. My experience has also been that we don’t always know what need – sometimes reading between the lines is necessary/beneficial.”

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Jonny Rice
“Maybe sensitivity is allowing other people’s perceptions and beliefs to take priority over my own. It’s got to start with listening. And then meditating. And then listening some more. And maybe trying not to have a strong opinion on stuff you haven’t experienced first-hand. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how women and people of color just see the world so differently than I do. And that maybe I should just listen (and stop trying to force a conversation) when they’re speaking truthfully and from the heart. The world is not a real scary place for me. But it is a scary place for a lot of other people who don’t look like me. If I can be more sensitive to what they’re going through, maybe (just maybe) I can learn something from them, about how not to make the world scarier for them. It’s not something I’ve figured out. So I’m still listening, as best I can.

And maybe strength has something to do with it. I don’t know. We tend to define strength along really gendered terms. Strength is male. Strength is soldiers. Strength is drones. Strength is cops in helmets and riot gear. I’m tired of that. I really am. That doesn’t mesh with the Jesus of the Gospels. Christ was murdered for being poor, and brown, and preaching about turning the political state inside out. “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry.” His father’s kingdom was a radical departure from a strong and independent kingdom of Israel that the those in power had been hoping for. That didn’t sit well with some, I guess. So they killed him. Remember “hands up, don’t shoot?” Submission as an act of political protest? Surrender as an act of defiance? How about we define strength by starting there, and see where that leads?”

11647256_670276993909_1715729535_nJoel Reichenbach

“Sensitivity to me is to be considerate; to consider others. The way I experience sensitivity is how others consider me, and how I consider others around me. I find myself greatly affected when someone considers my thoughts and feelings. To know that someone has made space for who I am in a conversation or situation lets me know that I am welcome. I am also affected when others’ thoughts and feelings are not a part of the conversation. Who we are are is important, and who others are is important. It weighs heavy on me to me to make space for others. I aim (and miss quite frequently) to know others and be known by others. We all have value — being sensitive to making that value known and experienced is an important responsibility.” .

792319_10153188699380193_1750994539_o (1) Isaac Becker

 “Sensitivity to me is when someone puts another person’s interests ahead of themselves and allows the other person to be vulnerable without taking advantage of their vulnerability”

Adventure in Being Alice

Before I dive into my insanity for you I want to take a moment to brag about how insignificant I am.

This weekend I had the distinct honor of performing some mediocre to subpar stand-up in the company of these wonderfully hilarious people. Pye,Brown allowed all of us to make enough people laugh that it boosted even my self-esteem for a time. We were allowed ten minutes, and I can almost promise you I was up there for 3 of them. (Three may be a gross overestimation.)

On the other hand, the whole event took place after nine straight days of work. Nine straight days of my brain ready to collapse. Four straight days without sleep. We’ve been going through some changes at work. Work puberty, and it’s left us a little grossly short-staffed in leadership. And being the manager of my store I’m sort of stuck picking up the amazing amount of slack. Slack to the extent of someone attempted to bungee jump off of a bridge but the rope snapped, and now I’m pulling up the rope with nothing pulling back. It’s a lot of slack is what I’m saying. A den of slack, to quote Reality Bites.

Which brings me to my initial intent.

White Rabbit – Jefferson Airplane

It’s a sad world, when Jefferson Airplane speaks to you, and it isn’t because of drugs. Maybe it’s a happy world.

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Here’s what it is. You know how in Alice in Wonderland Alice gets disproportionate to her surroundings unexpectedly? After a while it becomes intentional. But when it starts Alice is just growing and shrinking.

When I was in elementary school I would be, let’s say, taking a test and I would feel something building inside of me. What it really felt like though was me growing. And as a second-grader I began to think something was wrong with me. I thought I was crazy, even before I really knew what that meant. Looking back, not knowing what it was, I think I believed I had schizophrenia. Because I thought I was hearing voices. Well, okay I was, but I was hearing MY voice. If I read a question, “What is the capital of Indiana?” My brain would actually say, “WHAT IS THE CAPITAL OF INDIANA? INDIANAPOLIS INDIANA-POLIS POLIS POLIS INDIANAPOLIS” And as I wrote it down the pencil screeched across the paper and began to shrink in my hand. Occasionally it would snap. I would lose all sense of myself in a space. I would grow and everything would shrink. As I delicately tried to grip something it would be crushed. Everything was so loud. The pencils in the room SCRATCH-SCRATCH-SCRATCHING out more correct answers. TAP-TAPPING of erasers on heads as David Ludlow muddled to find the right letters. SCREECHING and CRUNCHING of heating and cooling systems.

In second grade my teacher was not a kind man. Not to me. He was kind to pretty girls and smart or athletic boys. Nerdy boys were not liked, and ol’ Hayley Johnson was just as bad. My hand-writing was awful. It was. Actually, it wasn’t. It was awful for the expectations of a second-grade girl. Most second-grade boys had similar penmanship to mine, but I was a girl. My penwomanship was supposed to be delicate and flowy. On more than one occasion, as the pressure of bad hand-writing and a poor understanding of reading built around me, papers were returned to me with poor marks. And a stamp. A stamp with a crying dog that said “Your hand-writing makes me sad.”

I had hand-writing that made dogs cry. It didn’t make my dog cry. She never complained about my hand-writing at all. But that sad, judgmental dog made me stay in from recess on several occasions. The recess an 8-year-old girl who is overwhelmed by schoolwork needs.

As that pressure grew so did the noises. Eventually it was every time I felt academic pressure.

Third grade came around though, and it subsided with the kindness and patience of Mrs. Claire Kowatch who, to this day, is one of the kindest women I’ve ever known. She taught so vividly about the ocean and about math, which I hated, that there are times, still, that I could convince myself we actually went into the ocean to interact with jellyfish. My understanding is that we did not, but it was so well presented that if you asked, I’d be certain that Mrs. Kowatch is actually Ms. Frizzle.

Fourth grade was not unlike second grade. My fourth-grade teacher, like my second one preferred pretty girls and athletic boys to gawky girls and geeky boys. And she was not afraid to make that clear. She, an alumna of our school, was clearly the sort who was well-liked and popular herself. And in fourth grade I was being sent away by popular girls to distract other less popular girls they didn’t want around. Mounting social pressure and no academic attention brought back a perceived growth.

You get the idea. Time went by.

I remember once saying something about it, and I have a memory of my brother bringing it up as well, but I don’t know if that’s a real memory. It was, nonetheless, disregarded.

As I got older it subsided. For the most part. It became very rare. In the last few years it has started happening again. In the last months it has increased to almost the same frequency as when I was in second grade. I don’t like loud places. I don’t like loud places because it makes me think it’s happening or that it’s about to. And everyone acts the same in loud places as they do in quiet places, like it’s a normal thing, that my brain starts to process it as me being the one perceiving things differently. When in actuality it’s just that I’m not very good at social cues.

My body does begin to actually feel different. There’s a sort of weird pressure in my ears. My eyes feel as though they are opened as wide as they can be. I don’t know how to describe to you how it feels in all of the physical ways, because unless you’ve had this it’s hard to relay. Even now as I’m experiencing it, I’m trying desperately to find the best way to describe it, but I can’t. If you’re around me regularly, which I try to avoid, you can probably tell when it’s happening. I shake my head a lot. I blink a lot more. I may put my hand up to my ear and tug at it to see if I can pop my ears as if I was on an airplane, though the sensation is different. I may try to speak to you more quietly because I’ve begun to believe I’m screaming. I’ll slouch, and I won’t be able to stop looking at my hands. I’ve grown 25 feet and feel like a monster. I will try to get out of the situation, even if I was enjoying myself moments before. I know now that the less sleep I’m getting, the more often this will happen.

Recently I learned though that I am not alone. I’m not in a grand host of people, but it’s more than just me. A few months ago, when it started happening regularly, I praised God for the internet. I could go to Google and type in the weirdness, which I’m sorry, books, but I can’t do that to you. I can’t go to an encyclopedia and go to “hearing” and find a subcategory for “hearing loudness in your head.” And looking up “hearing loud voices?” Well, you can see where I began to think I had schizophrenia.

After several hours of medical blogs, medical forums, weird queries, and multiple Google searches I finally found an answer. I was scouring through a forum of people simply restating that they had the described symptoms, and then continuing to describe the symptoms (for the 80th time) I found one helpful person. One helpful person who directed my attention to Alice in Wonderland Syndrome, which primarily impacts your perception of yourself in a space. It doesn’t even necessarily explain the way I hear things. It isn’t a perfect explanation, but it is a start.

Though, I’m probably just schizophrenic.

Adventure in Aaaaall That

Last night I had the most wonderful opportunity to go to a taping of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Let me start by saying there really isn’t anyone on the TV as adorable as Jimmy Fallon. He’s not remarkably funny, but he does clearly love his job. That’s a beautiful thing to see. I will give him a strong kudos for his songs and parodies. His impersonations are also some of my favorites. Mostly I think he’s precious. People complain about Jimmy Fallon falling out of character and laughing, but I think that’s why I love him. Not because it’s so notably funny when someone breaks character, because it’s not. It’s because that’s just how you know how much he’s loving his job. Who doesn’t want someone around who constantly makes you feel hilarious? It’s something I constantly want in my life.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. My secret(ish) ambition in life is to work in comedy in some capacity. Or to use comedy in my daily life for more than my own entertainment. I used to think that meant it had to be through Saturday Night Live, but while that’d be nice and all I know I’m not that talented. I do, however, know that what I loved growing up was getting comedy for my brain. I was raised on the Muppets, and I’d say that was my introduction to comedy. I grew up watching “All That.” Likely my second introduction to comedy. Mild, kind of funny comedy. “All That” turned into “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” and “Saturday Night Live.” That turned into listening to stand-up comedians. And now it’s just me and my brain. My poor brain.

I think though the things that really stuck with me are vaguely in that “All That” vein. Not on purpose. I have visions of giant ice cream sandwiches graduating college. Honors. That’s not normal, but it’s also something I can imagine being on “All That.” Maybe it’s because I think penis jokes are too easy, so I don’t think they’re that funny. That’s not fair. They are funny, but they don’t require any real effort. It’s just an easy laugh. Anyone can make a penis joke. I mean, that’s what’s great about the Muppets. They managed to be funny without ever having to stoop that low. I mean puppets can get away with a lot more than people, but the Muppets didn’t have to make those low-brow choices. Respect.

Statler and Waldorf taught me about heckling. Kermit taught me about the straight man. Gonzo taught me about making gutsy and embarrassing choices. Fozzi taught me to keep trying. Rowlf taught me about sarcasm. Scooter taught me about puns.

I guess what it all made me realize is that I wish there was still a comedy option suitable for kids. Not that the Muppets are suddenly unsuitable, but I would like to see something current too. And I’d like to believe that kids still cared about the Muppets. They mostly don’t. Which is sad, but that’s a different issue.

For those of you questioning my funnier side, as this blog tends to be less that, I’d like to direct your attention to The Drugged Librarian. I promise I’m funny.

Adventure in music on my mind

I can’t be entirely sure what my preferred musical choices say about me, but I can say with fair certainty that this piece here being one of my favorite pieces of all time does not speak well of me as a sane individual.

The “Danse Macabre” is Opus 40 of Camille Saint-Saëns written for an orchestra in 1874. “Danse Macabre” or “Dance of the Dead’ is a relatively common focus of artists from a late-midieval period on. Death calling forth the dead at midnight on Halloween every year so they can dance for him to his violin/fiddle playing. They dance until the rooster crows at dawn, and they go back to their homes underground in their graves.

It’s a hauntingly beautiful piece that I can’t really help but be moved by. There’s something so joyous in something so spooky. Maybe it’s the rest that comes from the idea that there is more than death after death, even if all you believe in is Death coming to a cemetery and bring the dead out for a Halloween ball. The good news is, they don’t have to dress up as much more than skeletons or zombies. It’s just another deady dance party. It’s not like I particularly care for anything else by Saint-Saëns. It’s really just this one piece.

Maybe it’s association with But Jonathan Creek is something I’ve only known about for a few years, while I do love it, this piece has been in my head longer.

My taste in movies being a bit off as well. Clue. Psycho. Scream. Adam. Planet of the Apes. Stranger than Fiction. Reality Bites. Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium. Driving Lessons. Nothing particularly happy, except maybe Clue. But nothing particularly sad. Comedy in tragedy. Tragedy in comedy. All very. Even. What’s wrong with me?! But that’s sort of it. That’s sort of my brain.