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

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Let's Make a Commerical

Today I met Janet and Mike in one of the million Starbucks around Phoenix. I was at the wrong Starbucks for my meeting, but when you're in a coffee shop, how can you not stop and have a 'coffee' with someone?

I named this blog/book correctly because I am now a pro at coffee shops.  Except I may not be at the RIGHT coffee shop. Minor detail.

Janet looked like the lady I was supposed to meet. I asked her if she was Judy. She said no and asked me if I was Kaitlyn. No again. I said if our people didn't show up we should just take their place. She thought it an excellent idea.

"What are you here for?" I asked her. She had a real estate meeting.


I told her I had a counseling meeting. With
 someone I didn't know in a city I didn't know. Typical.

She introduced me to Mike next to her. We realized it was VERY easy to get to know people when you think you are supposed to meet them and that calling people by the wrong name is a great trick to making friends in a new city.

I didn't think the coffees would come in a new city, but apparently this is the way to go.

They liked the idea of meeting people this way so much, Janet said it could make a great commercial for their industry. She gave me her card and took my name (my REAL name) and said she would call me.

Saturday, September 19, 2015


Today at the Arizona Science Center, I saw a giant map of Phoenix. This was helpful because everyone keeps telling me I am in the easiest city to navigate but I could still do well to have a map like that.

Curiously, a woman pointed out her house. As in, her exact house on the biggest map I've ever seen which as far as I could see didn't locate things like particular houses.

It made me realize that we all see differently, even if we are staring at the same thing.

I'm learning but right now am happy if I choose the correct location somewhere in a 5 mile radius on the map.

Side note: when I give directions, I typically use landmarks. Phoenix doesn't work quite like that.

Just turn left at the sea creature mural?

I am not sure what constitutes a coffee experience anymore. I probably need to have more interaction with some of these people I meet. But I am learning a lot from them.

Good news: I think I have been to every coffee shop within my five mile radius. So, there's that.

The city is growing on me and I am sure I am growing being in the middle of newness. I probably overuse that word so I will choose another word.

It is sweet being here, and it's been easy to celebrate. Life still feels a little limbo-y, but I'm realizing that's okay.

None of us have it all figured out along the way.

Change is so weird, but I think it is necessary. Since I didn't have a lot of words about this season and change, I am grateful Emily did.

Here's to change and even if it sounds backwards, finding little ways to celebrate it along the way.. aka I will accept any wall map you want to send my way as long as you can find your house on it. 

linking with kate

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

There are Trees in Arizona

I want to be like the palm tree.

The palm tree only gets stronger by the blowing winds because it digs its roots deeper. I don't worry about the palm tree outside my window falling down for good when the weather changes drastically. It might have moments where it topples a little but as it digs its roots down deep, it straightens up again and is even stronger.

It's easy for me to be light and airy during most of my writing on here, especially because I am interviewing other people and talking about adventures, but I still need some moments to remember things like what the palm tree teaches.

It reminds me to dig my roots down in Christ who strengths me and anchors me because otherwise it's too easy to topple around everywhere. Life is so strange and cool and funny and sometimes words don't explain it but I am so grateful for all His grace in this new season! A fun city to explore. My fave coffee who makes life sweeter. Trees. New faces. Train rides. Mountains. Reminders of people in my life all over who are still there. Lots of adventures already!

Update on Timbler: he is safe and sound and rode the train for the fun of it this afternoon. He hardly wanted his picture taken. Don't tell him he's been the feature story in the blog today..

Maybe they aren't the same trees, but there are still trees in Arizona.
Linking with kate for a very delayed post!

Timbler the Traveling Man

I am learning my way around and have been enjoying traveling around the city of blue skies and sunny days. It's been the rainy season here so I encountered my first Arizona storm last night. I was about to take a walk when the weather changed in the matter of seconds. In the morning, all was well again and it was as if nothing ever happened. Onward, we go.

Before I left North Carolina, my friend Amy and I decided to purchase a traveling friend who would belong to both of us, and split his time between Phoenix and Raleigh. We found the tiniest of traveling creatures and named him Timbler. We knew he was just right for the job.

Don't underestimate him.
He made the long journey and then he made his first stop in the desert at Lola's to eat some breakfast. Yum.

The library was fun but big! He liked riding the elevator. He decided to go easy on the reading for awhile and just keep seeing the sights.
Where will Timbler be next?
He was in my car the last time I checked, but now he's not there. You can't be lost when you're on an adventure, but hopefully, he didn't try to escape during the storm last night.
I will keep you posted. He is such a traveler, I am sure he will have many stories to tell us. Perhaps over coffee.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Storied City

A week ago today I moved to a new land.

All at once everything feels different and then nothing feels different at all.

I feel like I am supposed to be here, this strange place. I feel like I don't know where I fit, this strange place.

What do you do when you're anonymous in a new place?

You get out and see the world, that is all you can do.

I promise there are more pictures, friends, but true to my life, I am out now, at a coffee shop no less, and my phone has died once again.


I have had a couple distinct coffee encounters so far in Phoenix (I will write about them in a few minutes, I promise), but for the most part I've only been able to take in all that is happening around me before actually engaging in it too much. I have always been one of those people who has to understand a little before moving toward.

I want to engage this storied city, but everywhere, things are different. Truth: I need to understand this place a little more but the stories are still here, still coming. They are coming in bits and fragments, and I don't understand how they fit together yet. But that's okay.

The group next to me only further confirm and inspire in me the idea that I may have landed in the desert, but this place is flowing with creativity, diversity and art. They seem to be writers, maybe screenwriters. I am trying not to eavesdrop too much on them but I keep hearing about skits involving clown strippers and puppets on trial..Who are all these people???

It's amazing to be somewhere new, not just for the point of a short travel where time moves quickly and you still see from a distance, but with eyes up close and when foreign meets familiar. It's starting to happen but slowly, or maybe quicker than I imagined.

How much do we forget that we are creatures of habit? What of life when we lay open to what a day brings us? What a place and its people bring us? And when we CAN'T be in control because everything, everything is new?

There, perhaps, is a blessing in disguise.

Monday, August 10, 2015

The coffees keep coming

For those of you following this coffee saga, you know that I left off meeting my neighbor, a stranger, who became a coffee turned friend on the spot. That doesn't always happen, but it did in that instance, and we just realized this past weekend that we have only known each other a couple of months.

Sometimes my coffees are short and some evolve, but they keep changing me along the way, and I keep learning about people. And possibly about the point of this book. I think that's evolving, too.

I wanted to have a clear picture but like these unplanned adventures with the coffees, sometimes all you get is a foggy outline. 

I met an older man Steven today at a coffee shop. He's a writer slash life coach slash personal trainer. He told me if you come to him for personal training you might shed a few tears first because you have to get down to the whole mind/body/spirit thing. Pretty serious stuff.

I'm fairly certain he overheard the whole phone call I was on because he made some comment afterwards. Then he went on to talk with me about his writing and how he liked to be observant and talk to people randomly. Hmm, sounded familiar.

Talking with him was a little bit like looking into a mirror because he said he can pick up on conversations and things happening all around him, and it just all gets absorbed and then accounted for in writing at some point. Interesting. When I'm paying attention and able to see the world through eyes like that, I do the same thing. I used to think I was Harriet the Spy when I was younger.

Experiencing coffees doesn't have to look like busy, busy places and chatty people. Also, today, I went to a corner seat away from the hustle and read a book (I went a lot of places today). Sometimes, even then, you meet Lynn, who was in a terrible car wreck because she was hit as a pedestrian, but is doing better despite brain trauma. I didn't expect to learn anything when I sat down. I thought I needed time to be still. But, I am learning to be present with what each moment asks, whether it's quietness away from the crowd or taking a moment to listen.

I have a bit of flexibility with my time at the moment, and you'd think that would create in me a drive to seek people out. Actually, there's been people everywhere in this season and it's been a time of change so I haven't thought about the people of 87 Coffees that much. But.They.Won't.Be.Stopped. They keep happening.

Steven asked me how I became the person behind 87 Coffees. What made me want to write about that. That is a good question! See what I mean about looking into a mirror. That's something I would wonder about to someone else.

I guess as the picture gets clearer, I start to see the person God made me to be, just like when I meet other people, I can see it in them. I love people and I would have these unplanned adventures all the time if I could. Perhaps as the story unfolds, I'll understand things more, but for now I'm okay not knowing the why, just that I enjoy it and I hope the others do, too.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Imaginary coffee -- and a break for the magic hula hoop

I would love to tell you all that there have been lots of scribbles that just didn't make print in the blank space of time between the last post and this one, but sadly that is not the case. I've been writing more lately with notes on my phone (Is that even writing? There are words so I hope so.)

I take my notebook with me everywhere. I took it with me on a walk/ sit tonight when I went to one of our lakes but my pen didn't work. I thought about asking the fisherman for a pen because he was the only other person in sight but he looked so content so I didn't think he needed to be bothered.

There have been so many coffees, so many adventures lately, and for the moment, it's okay if there's not. It's okay for quiet and trees and water and ducks and no pens for writing and spending time seeing what's there. Because when I think nothing is happening or when I'm afraid I'll miss something, I'm yet again reminded moments are important in and of themselves. I don't always have to document all the things.

Why is this the thing I keep coming back to in my journey, even though I have dozens and dozens of stories to tell you?

I work in counseling, where the rule we live by is if you don't document it, it didn't happen. It's so true and yet so untrue.  These things we document, they did happen, of course, but no one else knows about them yet, I guess, and you can't prove them if you don't make notes. Document, document, document. That's what we learn along the way. Write it down.

Mix that with an already writer who likes to write things down anyway and this project should be easy-peasy. Just document all the fun, adventurous, out-of-the-ordinary, DAILY encounters, and your book will be written.

Why is it not that simple?

Because it's not about pounding out words just because.

I mean it is but it isn't.

Things don't have to be that complex, but when you're writing about people, I find they are sometimes. Interactions are organic, which is a beautiful thing, and life is sweet that way.

Maybe though, I am left wondering how to do all of them justice in this way.

I will try.

When I was starting this project, I skyped with Amy and she asked me about the process and the purpose of the story as a whole, and maybe this is part of it.

All we can do is try to put into words what we experience in life, knowing it's never quite the same the second or third or fourth time around.

Stories are important though. They can be a bridge from who we are to others and perhaps we all can remember the truth of our lives a little better that way.

Just like the pictures above that capture the moment from tonight, these words are the best I have to record what I've seen, who I've met.


My new neighbor has been a recent and surprising coffee! I surprised myself because normally I am open but I am more open with either strangers or people I know really well, not the in-between for some reason. The in-between, the daily-ness of knowing people can be hard, because you have to let them in.

I kind of realized right away my new neighbor would be one of those people. The moment I met her we had more than just a surface level conversation and I told her we ought to sit down and chat sometime. So she sat down right then and there on the stairs and said "why not now?"

Now is as good a time as any for coffee.

She named it, too.

We told her son that's what we were having when he came by, a teenager who was looking at two grown women on a stoop pretending to have coffee (I rarely ACTUALLY have coffee in these adventures).

It's an easy way to get to know someone, a shared love for fake, imaginary coffee.

That was last week. We've talked several times since then and we hope to walk sometime soon. She told me tonight it's so great having a neighbor who is a 'social worker' because apparently it is nice for talking and also entertaining, as I came home tonight with my magic hula hoop*. She liked that. Everyone needs a little fun in their lives. She said she's sure I'll be hula hooping it up on the grass before too long. Truth.

Neighbors are fun. They make wonderful coffee adventures.

*magic hula hoops are hula hoops that shake inside and where you can actually hula hoop for long periods of time. It's totally magic, but more on this later...

Thursday, April 30, 2015

What I'm learning -- the uncoffee edition

I'm sorry, wonderful coffee friends, you're not forever forgotten. I'm postponing talking about our meetings for now because I was starting to think I had forgotten what it was to write just to write, without an agenda. I want to get 87 coffees done, but I also know this project needs me creative and feeling alive with the work. I love writing and miss it. I've been knee deep in other work for awhile and I wanted to get back to the basics, so I'm sharing some things I learned in April here on this blog for a change. Don't forget to link up with Emily to join in the fun.

Here are 5 (hey 5 is better than none) things I came up with that I've learned or paid attention to recently:

1. I've been taking a class on crisis management, and I am once again reminded how much the C word is overused.

I mean, I'm having a writing crisis. I mean, I had to say it because everyone else is using it...

Note to self: there are so many movies with 'crisis' in them. You may never look at another movie the same.

2. My house might mimic the state of my brain at the current moment; if there's lots going on and clutter from work and school and life, then perhaps some sense of balance is needed (ie: writing?). It gets better but it's still a constant process of cleaning up after myself. I haven't found any keys in the freezer yet so we're good.

3. I CAN return library books on time.

This is such a big deal. I just want to leave it at that with no further explanation.

But, I'll just say this. I have a terrible track record of returning books. I finally returned a book to my friend who went to  live in Mexico but she asked me specifically (from Mexico) for the book back. I gave it back and she was happy! It was like she got a present, only not really because I held her book hostage (unintentionally of course) for a few months. And apparently while she was overseas, people there asked her all about the book and had she read it or did she own it. I am not sure if there was a section in the book about lending people your stuff, but the good news is, she's still a good friend.

4. Little babies know how to swipe phones.

I'm a little afraid for the next generation because we think it's bad now but my friend's darling baby got into my phone and nearly deleted some pictures with the swipe of a finger. She's still a baby who I promise just learned to walk. What she doesn't know: my name. What she does know in addition to how to mess with phones: a few words like "uh-oh," how to use chopsticks and eat sushi. No matter that they kept falling to the floor when I was out with her and her mom at a restaurant a couple weeks ago; the girl might be a budding genius.

5. I need to move it move it.

I went running for the first time in awhile yesterday and it felt good. I'm not so much a runner but it's nice to move. Perhaps if I can get out more routinely for such active engagements I will not be like the characters below who have a lot of energy to burn.

You're welcome..

I may or may not have played this on repeat for a little while just now (while sitting on my couch..)

Happy almost May!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

So many coffees: grocery store camp out

No, I didn't really camp out at the grocery store to meet people and have some new stories/coffees for you all.

What do you think, that I plan these things?

I can't help it that the grocery store is a magnet for humorous adventures.
 I just go there and seem to end up meeting strangers almost every time. I'm behind in documenting this so I may just lump a couple together from tonight.

There's Mike, the produce man who is always in a good mood. He performed a rap song for me about bacon (because I was buying bacon, of course), and told me tonight the secret to success is 'just give it time.' Not sure what that refers to exactly but that's not important. Most things he says are profound, even if they are short and to the point. He's not a stranger anymore, because every time he sees me he throws out a wise word or two.

Then there's Renee, who told me she has having a long day. We got into a conversation about when the store is busier and why, finding deals and seniors who shop on Thursdays because there is a discount. Since I shop at her store a lot, she encouraged me to find someone over 60 and ask them to shop with me on discount days. I told her I didn't know too many people over 60. "It doesn't matter," she said. "You can just find one off the street."

An experiment in its own right...

A few weeks ago was Shonita (98 percent sure on her name), a cashier from Target.  She had so much energy and enthusiasm. She actually pulled us --me and the most interesting coffee I've met yet -- over to look at some jewelry she got for her friends in Bible study. Lots more conversation happened, I think about Hamburger Helper, and we left realizing we had met someone very southern and very friendly, in the best possible way. I don't know why southern makes a difference anymore, since I've lived here eight years, but I think it's the southerners who have made this northern girl branch out the way she has. Carrying on conversations in line is totally normal, entertaining and can also be a learning experience here. Thank you, Shonita, for reminding me of that.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

When someone shares coffee with me: airplane adventures

It's already April, and it's time to get down to business with these coffees.

I had one of those moments the other day on an airplane when I didn't think I was going to be able to pull off all my coffees by the end of this year (or was it a year from October when I made a goal with the guys on the train?). I think I have until October, but still, 87 is a lot of coffees. I picked a big number. Why didn't I pick 27 or something?

Just when I was feeling a little ambivilant toward the whole project, I sat down next to two chatty ladies. By the end of the flight, I had learned that the neighbor my left (Kelsey) was in a bad car wreck a couple weeks ago. She showed us pictures of the car. Danielle, sitting to her left, kept showing us pictures of her trip to Columbia. Go there, she said, if you ever get the chance. I also learned they BOTH love their dogs very much.

All these conversations began because of one simple question: "Are you Irish?" I saw the ring she was wearing. After I asked, Danielle piped in that she was Irish, too.

These two cured my recent bout of favoring anonymity over meeting strangers, especially on airplanes and trams and the like.

Of course, every time I come out of my shell again, I'm dazzled by the stories and all the adventures (except when traveling makes me motion sick but that's neither here nor there). And I'm sure the tales I learn keep changing me.

I wouldn't have guessed that Danielle came from a tough background, one I fight all the time in my work with my kiddoes. But that's her story to tell, not mine.

Her kindness and spirit, I don't think she'd mind me sharing with you. Because she and Kelsey made the coffee happen, hands down.

Thanks, ladies, for reminding me that this job isn't always work. Sometimes, I get to just sit back and watch the stories unfold.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Yellow Light

"And what does it feel like?" we asked.
"Well," she said, leaning over to us like a secret, "it feels like a gust of wind blowing inside your heart. It feels like bright yellow paint." - The Persistence of Yellow



I do have a book that is called The Persistence of Yellow and the entire cover is yellow (obviously). It's a collection of recipes and poems about life (don't you want a recipe about life dedicated to the color yellow? Of course. Don't worry that most of them are fairly odd. Yellow has always been doing its own thing.

I went over to sit with my friend yesterday while she painted her new house. I am a good sitter. My friends like to have me come by while they do things like clean or paint, I've noticed.

I offered her to help but she said just pull up a chair. She wanted to paint, she wanted me for the talking.

The room we were in would have been her little girl's big girl room. Yellow was her favorite color. It's mine, too.

Yellow rooms just make things better. Painting over white walls, adding color, there's beauty in that.

As I typed the word paint, just now it came out pain..

Pain is everywhere, that's fitting. There are weighty situations at work. There's often pain in my body. It's inside my heart as I think of my friend's loss.
But through the visit, I push against what seems dark because the room is filled with light.

I try to find the paint in my heart.

It's there in our conversation, even if spotty at times. It starts to feel natural again to laugh at stories told while the white walls get covered up.

I leave from my friend and I have to get ready for a baby shower and a four year old birthday party.
Death and life are so mixed together and right now I hate it. The life part of this equation creates a sadness in me, thinking of my friends enduring now this side of heaven.
We are here not to live isolated but to live life together. 

That's the point of recording these visits, these coffees, I remind myself. To remember that it's true.

But what of the light here, in the mourning?

The light is usually easy to find in my coffee encounters.

I love adventure, and if I was seeking one out, I'd prefer lighthearted please, with all kinds of interesting strangers and characters to bring added humor to the mix and can we save the heartbreaking stories for another day?

But if I'm writing (let's hope!) a book that's supposed to be true to life and people, that's not the whole picture.

The good news is even the hardest stories to tell, thankfully, include some yellow paint..

*one from the archives

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Group of Four People...and Occassionally Other People

I haven't written on here in awhile because I keep thinking I need something big to say, a monumental moment.

I've had a lot of "coffees" lately, lots of interesting meetings. I'll be sure to get back to the business of telling grocery store and museum stories soon, but I can't forget about the people that I see on the day-to-day who make life more eventful because of the regular 'coffees' I have with them.

For example, my neighbors who don't live beside me anymore. I still call them my neighbors but instead of the luxury of living a building next to them, I frequent their new place. They are friends. A kind of family here as mine is far away.

Tomorrow, Group Two of A Group of Four People (a silly nickname that stuck) is moving back to Ohio and she'll be farther away, but her next adventures are sure to be exciting.

In fact, Group Two (far left of the first picture) was one of a handful of people I first interviewed when I was getting this book rolling last year. I wasn't sure which way I wanted to go with it, but was a bit more direct and planned back then.

I sat in the kitchen with her and had her choose a drink of her choice (she choose tea). We sat down, I asked her questions and tried to be professional. She then reminded me we already knew each other.

We never know where the journey will take us. Thankfully, it usually involves laughter.

 group of 4..had to post one with group 4's awesome facial expressions.
real group of 4 picture

Friday, January 9, 2015

A name with a face (airport tour guide)

My new favorite airport is Detroit airport. I never thought I'd have a favorite airport. Until I met a tram attendant who directed me toward concourse D and he proceeded to tell me all about where I needed to go plus did I know there was a light tunnel in the airport?


No I did not!

I was enthralled, to say the least.

I'm almost positive the airport tour guide's name was Ken, Kenny maybe. I'm better with faces than names, even though I try and work on that. I love that no two faces are the same; maybe in part that is why I like meeting new people so much.

I have a secret for you.

I've always been chasing this book. Looking to attach names with faces. I'm a dreamer soul, trying to get to the bottom of things, but especially when I was young I had lots of unanswerable questions. Like, why don't we learn the name of the person at the toll booth when we pass by him or her at every holiday trip?

There are different people there each time. It's hard to get to know the toll booth man. These answers weren't enough. I figured you can't always get a name, but you can try, and if not, you can at least give a Happy Thanksgiving.

I made my dad do this to a man at the toll booth once close to Thanksgiving because he was handing the money and I would have had to yell to the toll booth man. My dad wasn't as outspoken as me with strangers and didn't like the whole "Happy Thanksgiving" idea before Thanksgiving but I think it meant a lot to Henry. I'm pretty sure his name was Henry, but if not, the story has always kept him that way. I think I've named a lot of people over the years.

Also, here's another secret. I got a strange feeling sometimes when I traveled. I'd see people in rest stops or toll booths or even families in cars passing me by, and I had this sinking feeling I'd never get to meet them. I can't explain it, but the memory of that feeling has stuck with me even as an adult when I used to logic to tell me that I can't possibly meet all the people. Which is okay.

Maybe I can pay more attention though, and if so, the Kens or Kennys (sorry if I made this up) of this world might help us see the light.

I love these meetings because they remind me it's good for the world around me to stop for a minute and to take in the scenery, to forget all the rushing.

Perhaps a busy tunnel isn't the best place to have a picture taken, or is it?

Thanks, Ken (ny)

Monday, January 5, 2015

The power of a phone calendar (two guys on a train)

If you want to know the truth, I blame Paul and Matt for this blog.  And several other people who have helped along the way (I guess I should include you all who have known me for longer than a train ride...)


I had just left the conference that was so profound that my cousin, who I would meet up with in just a few short minutes in the city, said caused me to be 'all kinds of sentimental.' I was riding a real live train for the first time since my European excursion in 2005 so I was taking a video (of course) for my roommates-turned-lifelong-frieds from that adventure when I was interrupted by the two guys behind me.

They asked where I was going because of my seat buddy. The fifty pounds of luggage taking up space in the aisle. I didn't mind conversation even though my brain was like silly putty after the weekend's learnings. They were approachable, insurance salesmen (for mega churches,  they said) and seemed to enjoy showing me the sights as we went into the city. Of course, that included the ins and outs of the train. Fun fact: you can drink on the metra train. This was told to me by Paul. Or was it Matt? Either way, they were having fun, so as the train rolled on, so did our conversation.

We got to talking about their work and the conference at Willow Creek. Somehow, the subject of writing came up. Of course, I was hyped up on inspiration and bravery, so words about my aspiring book called 87 Coffees (which I'd been trying to write for almost a year now with little progress) came flooding out.

"87 Coffees? What's that?" they asked.

I told them it was about unplanned meetings with new faces in the crowd, 87 to be exact. Or at least that was the point on the horizon. I told them I meet people all the time through interesting encounters or connections so why not write about it? It's usually funny. This comment not to be directed at the situation in front of me where it seemed like the only people drinking on the train and making a racket were the ones talking to me. The guy across the way from us would be snoring soon, he was so fast asleep.

"You guys have got to be characters in this book," I said. " Is that okay?"

"When's it coming out?" they asked (I'm pretty sure they also agreed somewhere in there).

I squirmed a bit. Oh look, time to go...

Paul pulled out his phone calendar and said he couldn't wait to check on this project. Everyone (except the man sleeping) started getting excited.

A year. From that day.  That's when he'd check on it. "A year's enough time to do this, right?

Was that a real question? I barely had anything written.

He put it in his phone. You know, like when you write down appointments and important matters?  You rarely look back until that day, so it felt permanent.

Matt did the same thing.

I'm not sure I answered their question.

I asked another question. What about the possibility it wasn't done, what if they didn't see anything after a year's time?

"We can just push the date back a year in our phones."

What?! That's it?

Space to breathe.

They quizzed me on their names again so I wouldn't forget (with all that time that might elapse, I didn't blame them).

Me forget them, though? They just told me they were going to make sure a stranger got her book written. Who knew all she needed was a little push, knowing there were people out there waiting for the story?

I believe them, too.

I need to practice believing in people everyday, and reminding myself of the light there.  Maybe that's what'll come out of this. A whole lot of light in what is often a dark world. We'll see.

Matt and Paul (and friends!)...I don't want to wait one or more years to write your stories. Here goes nothing.