Monday, September 5, 2016

In the new land of 87 Coffees - 1 year in Phoenix

Almost exactly a year ago, I remember looking down at the ground and the soil beneath my feet in North Carolina and realizing that I was getting ready for a big change. I asked my friend who I was walking with if she thought everything would be really different in Arizona. The desert. The ground there. Me.

Not sure why the ground was so fascinating to me but there was something about the physical act of being in one place and then moving and being in a different land, on different ground, soil, dirt. Being planted somewhere different. Putting roots down again.

It's been a year here already!! Woohoo! 

I am enjoying life and I don't think too much lately about the ground, or if I'm really different here or not. Every change changes a person and I think that's a good thing. I believe I am who I am supposed to be at this point in my life here, doing what I supposed to be doing. That brings my heart joy to be able to relax in that.

87 Coffees is all a part of the journey. I am excited that the stories have continued as I have lived here. I have found people to be so open and there are many experiences to be had with people in this new city.

Vanessa and Cornell, I have not forgotten about you guys. Thank you for helping me get to the top of the mountain when I was tired and entertaining my breaks every ten minutes. It was quite an adventure meeting you and you should know from now on I properly hydrate when I hike in the summer. More on your story to come.

I am so grateful for all the coffees and new friends I have met this year. In year two in Phoenix, my goal is to evolve this story so everyone can actually read about their encounters! I know, amazing, right?!

You are faithful friends.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Rough draft

Tonight my phone went dead at Harris Teeter, which isn't too unusual.

One of my cashier friends told me she was excited to be part of my book, you know because that's what I talk about when I see people.

I almost ran her over tonight. We were talking as I was driving away and she kind of walked right in front of my moving car. She said "if you run me over, how are you going to have anything to write about?"

The good news is that there is a book in the making. Teresa was drawing pictures of dresses on receipts when I saw her tonight because she designs clothes. I asked her if she could design something for me and she said 'anything but those jeans! You're always wearing jeans.'


What a short synopsis of many, many encounters with Teresa. This one from my drafts, never published. I was going back through to check out what I had still in there.

More on Teresa later. I'm going back to North Carolina this week so that might encourage some tales to be further documented.

It's amazing how much of our stories -- and us -- are still in rough draft form.

That's okay! Write it down, girl! (Me speaking to me, and you too, if this applies to you).

Saturday, February 6, 2016

In defense of coffee and purple hair streaks

There are 75 things I could be doing right now, but on purpose I decided not to do any of them because what I needed to do was write for a few minutes.

I have interesting experiences with new friends (some people call them strangers) everyday and in this, I try and record the humanity and the connection behind the encounter. Sometimes this happens over actual coffee, sometimes we plan to have coffee to learn more, sometimes, what I call a 'coffee' is just the experience of meeting and knowing a new, unique person.

When I moved to Phoenix in September, I had a completely blank slate calendar. This was a whole bunch of things: freeing, terrifying, exhilarating, confusing, exciting, and so utterly new and strange. Where do you go with a blank slate life? As a free spirited dreamer who seems to live with a realist deep inside her, I knew eventually and little by little all the things that actually make up a well rounded life would start to creep in again, and that's what started to happen, how dare those well rounded things! But that's what is needed for a person to feel grounded and connected. We need to start building routines and stability.

87 Coffees often feels like what I do when I'm living the soulful, free-spirited, non-routine life, as I'm going in-between one season or as I'm traveling from one place to the next. A lot of my 'adventures' for this book took place during last year when I was doing a lot of traveling. Now, I'm more planted, and starting to feel like it would be easy to get back to the day-to-day (which is needed), where I forget to see the adventure and beauty in simple moments all around me.

I know God has wired me to be a little bit of an adventurous spirit. And to see the possibilities of getting to know people. There's so much wisdom if you let people and their lives teach you.

Today I saw Tamera who cuts my hair. It is worth noting that today she not only cut my hair she helped me live out my new inspiration to put color in my hair by putting purple chalk streaks in my hair. So. Much. Fun.

Tamera is a creative, too. She told me that she her interests change all the time so she can have something new to tell her customers.

It seemed curious. Like she has a dual job, to tell stories to the customers. At least that's what she likes to do, I think. We think we'll try to get actual coffee sometime and she can tell me more.

I'm glad I'm back to my focus with this book. I'm glad I'm back to meeting all the people with all the stories.

Everyone can be a storyteller, if they want to be. Perhaps the world's best storytellers are disguised as cool hair dressers.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

On friendship and improv

"The show goes on not because it's ready but because it's 11:30."

Please don't ask me exactly where that quote came from. I have a terrible history with recording quotes without stating the author (this from a former journalist!). I think it was Emily Freeman. Probably. Or Shauna. It's usually one of the two.

I found it in an old journal and liked it.

Speaking of shows going on, I met a new improv friend yesterday. As with most of my new friends in this new place, how is it that I often find myself sitting down with someone I have no connection with for coffee? It usually comes from a totally cryptic email conversation (typically on my part first) which in this case I can sum up by this:

'I am interested in doing improv in Phoenix.' -me

'Great!' -improv teacher who answers random email

'I also want to work with kids and teach them improv!' -me

'You should probably learn more improv first.' -teacher

'Right. Can I meet the kids instructor and take it from there?' -me

Fast forward to a few days later when I get to sit down with the total stranger who emails me that she has curly hair so I know who she is amidst all the dozens of people at the crowded coffee shop. It is such a fun time and I am reminded how much I get along with other people who like to make fools of themselves voluntarily. I invite myself to one of her classes that may not even exist yet. She invites me to help her with a possible support group/improv group that doesn't exist yet. Apparently, improvisers share the dreamers disease.

I met one of my closest friends in the beginners improv class I took in North Carolina. She's definitely another coffee. I am fortunate enough to get to have Skype coffee meetings with her often while she is living far away doing mission work. When I moved to Arizona, one of the reasons I knew it was going to be okay when it felt strange being in a new place was because this friend had gone before me, and she was real and true and had seen me when I made a fool of myself, on and off the stage. And there's something beautiful about that. That understanding that foolishness is a necessary ingredient in improv... and friendship.

I told my new friend yesterday that improv can still be scary to me because there are no scripts and it feels like a blank stage.

Then I told her how I moved here without too much pulling on my agenda -- you know how we people like to fill up our agendas with all sorts of things like meetings and clubs and jobs.

She laughed and said that if I could handle life in all its open ended blank state, I could handle a blank stage. Or something to the effect of, HOW IRONIC are you. You can do it.

Sometimes life empowers improv and improv empowers life and we muck through the fears and come out with lots of cool things, including friendship.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

I am All the People

I took an uber to my job interview the other day. Which makes total sense with my life. I've always wanted to try actually calling uber since I am lucky enough to get an up close peek at uber driving at its finest all the time. I thought maybe I could be a behind the scenes secret uber passenger, if you will.

But that's probably not at all what happened. I wanted to get from point A to point B, so this time it didn't matter if there was a story.

There's usually a story..

Turns out, I was the story.

The people uber drivers talk about who aren't in the designated spot upon pick up. Truth: I thought I was flagging down Alan the driver but I ended up stopping a hospital employee instead. He was kind and generous to tell me he was not said uber man.

Once I found Alan, who had eight kids and was doing uber for a few weeks while his wife had surgery, we got to the topic of stories. That's when he told me he was going to go home and tell his wife about me. Which part? Apparently, the whole job interview/uber story was pretty hysterical to him. Seemed kind of normal to me...

We shared a few stories as he is also a motorcyclist and I told him that kind of thing always sounded cool but not something I could hack. I don't even enjoy racing go-carts, as I learned the other week. Somehow, in my mind, go-carts equated to the little bumper cars I played around in as a kid. Not the same.

By the end of the ride, he agreed to be a character for this book. Although, it sounded like I became a character in his.

Funny how we think we aren't all the people but turns out we are. We've all heard stories and seen stories and wondered what to do with all the stories, but we are just the same. Maybe not exactly the same, but we're all someone's dinner time antics and I think that's alright. Maybe even comedic the way the world goes around like that.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Found: hostel

I forgot to write about the guy we met at the hostel in Phoenix. Of course, there's an international hostel in the middle of a neighborhood.

Not surprised.

We got a tour from a guy from Russia (80 percent sure about his background, and this why I need to take better notes. I am so sorry tour guide).

Don't know why I was surprised.

In retrospect, it doesn't sound too out of the ordinary to say we toured a hostel, but it's not every day a man lets you see even the bunk beds where people sleep. I stayed in hostels in college. I feel like we locked our stuff up a little better.
Hostels and all that weird traveling requires trust, if you ever want to sleep and not become delirious. I don't think we stayed too many nights in places with strangers in a large group or where our stuff was out in the open (really, what did we have? Clothes we were wearing for the fifth day in a row). But, it still is a vulnerable thing. Letting myself sleep on the train when I didn't have a cell phone with an alarm and all the gadgets we have now was kind of scary and also required trust. Trust in my travel buddies (now some of my bff's) because SOMEONE had to stay awake. If you slept, you hoped one of them would stay awake.

I stayed awake as long as possible when we were traveling because trust doesn't always come easy to me. But, as stated above, there's nothing like delirium to bring about trust and the realization that you don't have control of everything. Time, people, schedules, trains, anything really.

I find myself in a similar situation currently. I could fight trust in this new place and season but I would lose every time. Trust means letting go when you want to control something, anything, when you want to grasp at something, anything. Like falling asleep on a train not knowing where you'll end up. It may seem scary at first, but there's beauty in that.

Hostels are so cool. And weird and uncomfortable. This one had pretty lights and all different people sitting outside together like an already formed community to get some fresh (hot) summer air. Do you have any hostel experiences?

linking with kate

Friday, October 2, 2015

Being Invisible is the Worst

"I am late to court," man next to me said.

I got up to leave because I didn't have enough cash to pay for my fingerprints.

"What are you here for?" the man asked me as I walked toward the elevator. "You shouldn't need cash to get fingerprints."

"Substitute teaching."

"Oh....yeah. You do need cash if you're here for THAT."

Meanwhile, I heard another guy exclaim "Why do all these ----- (insert numerous swear words) get to go ahead of us?"

"See you later," I said to the man who was asking me about the fingerprints.

"Good luck."

I walked back outside and was about to cross the street to the CVS when I saw Ed the Hotdogger's stand again. He had given me a hot dog and two waters earlier, and a free bag of chips. So I went back to talk to him for a minute.

I passed a homeless man on the corner, sitting with his dog, who knew me by now, too, because this was the second or third time I'd walked by him as well. He smiled at me, but we didn't exchange words this time. He probably could sense I was in a hurry. I was. My meter was running out and I still had to get fingerprints.

I had given the man one of the bottles of water the first time I passed by. It was so hot out and he had asked me if I could spare anything. I pass by so many people everyday, and I KNOW, I KNOW, you can't help everyone, but something about this man was different.

Maybe it was the fact that I was about to walk by him THREE MORE TIMES.

What would it have been like if I walked right by him the first time?

I walked by Ed again, and he asked me if I needed anything.

Eight dollars?

I was kidding, but Ed said it would be no problem to exchange money and I could get some cash from him. He even gave me a free lemonade.  With his help, I got back up to the station quickly and would (hopefully) not get a ticket on my parked car.

I don't understand grace sometimes. I don't know why God would show me His love through other people.

This story, these coffees, they teach me about grace.

I walked by the homeless man again (third time? I lost track) on my way back, eight dollars in hand.

"What's your dog's name?"

"Mary Jane."

I smiled. All I could think to ask was, "how is Mary Jane doing??"

"She's doing good," he said, and smiled.

"Good.." I walked on, ready to go through security AGAIN.

Most of the time, I admit that I don't know what to do with people living on the street. In all my coffees and all my endeavors to love people, I am still a cautious person. I've had people take advantage of my 'niceness,' and I know sometimes friendliness gets misinterpreted.

On the other extreme, it's easy to become callous. It's easy to forget that there are times you bump into people again and again (literally) and if you don't see people, what a loss. What a terrible loss.

I say this to myself because it doesn't come as naturally as it seems. This is a girl who is still afraid in big cities sometimes, who doesn't like abrupt interactions with strangers, who has no words most of the time when greeted by people on the street.

There are a million stories and we all have them. I'm not a martyr for giving a man water. I don't know if Mary Jane's owner would want to be in my book or not (I know Ed the Hotdogger would, he was excited). But I think he has a story, too. I may not learn it. I may not publish it. I don't even know his name. His dog is now more famous than him. Tongue tied, that's all I could think to ask. But that's okay. At least he is not invisible. That's all any of us can ask for. Being invisible is the worst.

*stay tuned for more on Ed the Hotdogger