Here’s the dilemma. I’m eight years old and painfully shy. I can’t order for myself at a restaurant because that would require speaking to a stranger. I can’t go to any sleepovers because my friends have parents I don’t know and interacting with them would be too much to take. AND my dream is to become a television actor.
I can go on stage and be fine. I can use someone else’s words and not feel the least bit self-conscious. The audience, full of strangers, doesn’t bother me at all but I can’t audition for anything beyond school plays because…strangers.
Fast forward to today. My career, my calling, requires talking to strangers (which is still not my favorite part but I can do it.) And… I’ve found my voice in stand-up comedy. Am I an actor? Not yet. But I know that dreams change and I’m actually pretty happy where I am. ( although I am now available for auditions…. Call me!)
ODE TO A COFFEE POT
I bless you, dear one, for the timer that awakens you before the sunrise.
In the quiet of the daybreak you gurgle and sputter.
Dark essence of life, you drip slowly forming a pool of caffeinated hope.
Warmed by unseen elements you remain still and watchful
Until I, stumbling and bleary-eyed, arrive to receive your gifts.
I can’t thread a needle.
I understand the basics of it. I get that the thread goes into the eye and comes out the other side. My issue is that my crappy fine motor skills have always been a struggle. I don’t get it.
In college I was in marching band and we were required to make can-can dancer costumes with lots of stiff tulle and ruffles. We were given materials and simple instructions. I was to hand stitch one piece of fabric together to complete the outfit. Easy.
I stapled my costume together.
The next Saturday during the halftime show the staples started to give and stuck into my legs as we began the kick-line. I ended the show with a dozen pinpricks in my thighs and rivulets of blood running down my legs. Oooo La La…. Sexy.
I took the costume back to my dorm room, tore out the staples and swore I would fix it. The next Friday night found me hunched over the can-can skirt, stapler in hand. Each week would be a blood sacrifice to the gods of the French dancing girls and my inability to sew.
Perhaps this is where my secret obsession starts because I am fascinated by the television show Project Runway. Have you seen this show? The contestants not only know how to thread needles but they also can make entire outfits in one day. They make gowns and suits and dresses and all sorts of odd things and the judges watch the runway show each week kicking off the creator of the worst piece.
I’ve learned from watching Project Runway that my idea of a nice dress is not fashion forward. I can’t tell an avant garde look from a thrift store discount rack outfit. I still don’t know how to sew.
The finale is coming up this week and I’m looking forward to discovering the identity of the winner. I know it won’t ever be me.
All the sites we could squeeze into four days in London. Fringe Festival in Edinburgh. Side trip to Glasgow. Train ride up to Inverness. Another brave attempt to figure out the Euro-Washing machine after the first try destroyed my favorite Lands End pants.
I have details for you- I’m keeping a travel journal that I’ll edit and share when I return home. Today’s post is about the passing of time and friendship.
The Backstory: 1997 - Rob and I traveled to Las Vegas for a vacation. We were in our 20’s and were looking forward to the lights and sounds and $1.99 all you can eat buffets. While waiting for the shuttle to take us from the airport to the hotel we encountered a clearly jet-lagged couple from Scotland who asked us it they were in the right queue.
Let this be a lesson to you, kids; never talk to strangers.
In my “magical thinking mind” I like to imagine that God somehow arranged this bus trip to the Monte Carlo Hotel. We chatted the entire way and really enjoyed each other. Upon arrival at the hotel we exchanged room numbers and promised to see each other again during the week. (This was back before cell phones…the horror!) Rob and I searched out a buffet and talked about what nice people they were and how we would probably never see them again as we had both neglected to write down either their room number or their last name.
The next day dawned hot in Las Vegas (go figure.) Rob and I explored the Strip and returned in the afternoon to enjoy the hotel pool. While the pool complex was huge – it seemed as if everyone else was already there. We couldn’t find two pool chairs until we heard a lovely Scots accent calling our names. It turned out that our new friends happened to have two chairs next to them that coincidentally- were vacated only seconds before we arrived. We spent the rest of the trip meeting up every day. Before we parted – us back to Boston and them to continue their trip along the California cost- they invited us to visit them in Inverness. Again, Don’t Talk to Strangers! We arrived in Scotland several months later in time to celebrate New Years Eve or Hogmanay as it is known in Scotland.
This was the first of many trips back and forth across the Atlantic. We’ve celebrated with each other family weddings, comforted each other in times of grief, rejoiced over babies born and kept track of each other’s major life events via sporadic phone calls and emails. We met in Florida for Parker’s first trip to Disney World and they took us to Sterling so that Parker could explore his first real castle.
Then ten years ago – both couples hit that middle-age focus shift. Careers change, health changes, family situations change… you know, life happened. We would go seven or eight months without communicating. This turned into ten years of not visiting one another.
On Saturday, Rob, Parker and I took a side-trip to Glasgow to attend a family birthday party. How is it possible it was like the years never passed? It felt like we were cousins just stopping by after a weekend away. It wasn’t just us either- they commented on it as well. How is it that some friendships need almost daily tending while others remain strong no matter what?
I don’t have an answer to this yet. I plan on pondering it more but today we are back in Inverness- the place where our friends lived when we first met them. We’ve not been here in about eighteen years – so I’m going exploring. And by the way – our friends, who now live in Glasgow, might be coming up to visit us tonight. If not- we are spending more time with them later in the trip. And I hope they might be already planning on coming over for Thanksgiving.
Thanks for coming with me on the journey.
Sabbatical Travel Part Two is about to commence. We are now officially checked in for our Virgin Atlantic flight for 9:50pm tonight. The house sitter/Nessie the Bad Dog sitter has been briefed and I’ve managed to fit two extra pairs of shoes into my carry-on. All that’s left is to finish cleaning - so, of course, I’m writing instead.
Chicago was an amazing adventure. In the Second City training program I learned so much that will impact my ministry. This U.K. Trip is not about intentionally wondering what I can bring back to enhance my ministry. This is a time to travel, experience and enjoy being together with my family. I also know from previous trips that these experiences will change me and that is what I will bring back to the church.
Goals for this trip are:
· Family Fun – I look forward to being goofy and laughing a lot with my favorite travel companions
· Connecting with Old Friends – We’ve not seen our Glasgow friends in ten years! (I haven’t changed a bit….. (snort!) )
· Stage Time at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival – There are open mics and improve comedy jams. I’m going in!
· Enjoying it- even the challenging parts. (AKA- lugging a bag that is too heavy because it is filled with extra shoes!)
I’ll try to post more as we get settled. Thanks for being on this journey with me.
I'm sitting in the same breakfast place where I ate before my first day of class at Second City. In just a few hours I head back to O'Hare for my flight back to Boston. As I sip my coffee in the bucket they serve here (see picture) I am filled with conflicting emotions.
1. Relief - I wasn’t sure I could do this. Sure, I doubted my ability to keep up with the others in my improv class but, secretly, my biggest fear was staying by myself in Chicago for three weeks. I'm a homebody and during my three-week adventure I had to fight my urges to go home. I missed my family terribly and felt guilt at leaving them alone for so long. I'm relieved that this particular struggle is over and I'm going home.
2. Gratitude – yep, gratitude refocused me and kept me sane in Chicago. When ever the angst threatened, I remembered to be thankful to God, the Lilly Endowment, the Church of Christ, Congregational in Millis and my family. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity and, despite my anxious moments, I tried to take advantage of every minute. I discovered how to navigate the subway system, how to use Uber and the best way to make Google Maps behave when you are trying to find your way around downtown Chicago. I explored the Art Institute and the Field Museum, saw a touring Broadway show and ate deep-dish pizza (I’m not a fan.) All these things were only possible because I was in Chicago and I didn’t go home for the weekend.
3. Hope- After working hard for three weeks (and, yes, it was hard work…there was even home work every night!) I am enthusiastic about the possibilities. I know that I can use what I've learned to help my ministry. After I process, review my notes and pray on it, I’m sure that I can even write something that will be helpful to other clergy about improvisational comedy, the Second City process toward sketch writing and ministry.
4. Sadness- It is hard to let go of something you know will never come again. While I do hope that someday I will return to Second City to complete the final week of the program, today, I go home. I’ve made some good friends over these past three weeks. Yes, I was by far the oldest person in class (including all the teachers!) but I really fell in love with each and every person in my group. I am grateful to them for making this experience a joy and I know that I will be hearing a lot more from each one of them. They are a talented bunch.
5. Joy - How could I leave after three weeks of laughter without joy? I saw some AMAZING shows. If you are anywhere near Chicago and you don’t see “Soul Brother Where Art Thou” at Second City- you are a fool. I also spent a night in amazement at Improvised Shakespeare. One of the most fantastic things I’ve ever seen. Beyond the shows – it was the classroom experience that gave me joy. I learned how to rap (yes, me!) I played a bunch of games that tested memory and one that I failed horribly at that tested my ability to keep a straight face. I created scenes and characters. I wrote and re-wrote sketches (NOT SKITS.) I acted in other people’s works (usually cast as the mom or grand-ma but a few times I was a teenager!) This was a joy and I carry the laughter in my heart as I leave.
Thanks for being with me on this leg of the journey.
On to the next adventure…. We leave for London on Thursday...
I completed my first week in Chicago at the Second City Training Center. Some things I learned are:
- Many improv games - one I found particularly challenging was called “Whisky Mixers.” We stood in a circle and had to turn to the person on the right and say, “Whisky Mixers” it would go around the circle. If you want to send it the other way around the group you respond to “Whisky Mixers” with the phrase “Kitty Whiskers.” The final option was to point to someone across the circle and call out “Misty Vistas.” This sounds hard enough but what did me in was you had to do it all without cracking a smile or laughing. If you did - you had to run a lap around the circle. I spent 97% of the time running.
- I like people. I know this sounds silly coming from a person who's job is essentially to love people professionally. I think I just needed to be reminded. When I was put into a class with 15 strangers from all over the country and with diverse backgrounds I saw a glimpse again of the wild beauty of humans. Not a single person in the group was perfect (including me) and we formed a community anyway.
- I can rap! The exercise that scared me the most was a free form style of rapping. One at a time we had to go into the circle and rap. Hello! Middle-age white mom here! SOOOO not my art form. But I jumped in and did my best and it was actually kinda awesome!
- The shows on the main stages of Second City are amazing. On Thursday night my class went together to see the production called, “Soul Brother Where Art Thou.” It dealt with race, sexism, “bros” social media stalking and so many other issues handled brilliantly. If you EVER get the chance to see a main stage show here in Chicago - do it.
- The smaller shows are slightly less amazing. Wednesday night I attended “Game Night at Second City.” It was essentially a improv troop playing old gameshows on stage with some audience participation. Although I did get on stage with friends as part of the “Miller Family” for family feud. I would still give the show a solid “Meh.” This rating could also have been influenced by the heard of drunk middle management men there from a convention. They, of course, sat behind me.
- I'm really excited for next week. I expect the work will get harder as I go on but I think I'm feeling ready to challenge myself. This is really a once in a life time opportunity. I'm gonna spread my arms and jump.
I was told this morning in my class at Second City that Improv work is all about making choices. I was told there are no bad choices or good choices. You just have to make a choice.
This, in my opinion, is crap.
Today I made some very bad choices.
But first - background:
Stand-up comedy is by far a male dominated field. Having played in that particular testosterone filled sand box for the past five years - I was prepared to experience the same gender breakdown at Second City. Instead I discovered that the majority of the class was made up of women.
Really young women.
I discovered that I am by FAR the eldest person in the class by at least a decade. Bless the hearts of my classmates. They treated me with such deference - like the decrepit dinosaur I am.
Here is the BAD choice part -
I decided to prove that I am not old and feeble so during one scene I decided to slide onto the industrial carpeted floor. I FORGOT (must be my senility) that I was wearing shorts. I gave myself a lovely rug burn. In hindsight, It wasn't all that bad because I was able to teach my classmates two important things about me.
1. I am not above flopping on the floor to make good comedy.
2. I am not above swearing creatively when I give myself an oozing rug burn across my knee.
Tomorrow I will limp back to class with a new sense of purpose and long pants. Maybe I will wear Mom Jeans.
I arrived in Chicago yesterday.
My little condo is wonderful. It's a studio apartment with the bed tucked behind a half wall. The ceilings are high and open beamed and the coffee maker works.
Exploring my new neighborhood was the only order of business yesterday. I found the important things -
- An Irish pub where the Guinness wasn't rushed and the ruben was excellent.
- A grocery store.
The store is similar to a Whole Foods - but more expensive. I bit the bullet because it was close and I knew I would need coffee for the next morning. I purchased only the necessary supplies - coffee, milk, eggs, bacon, cucumber soda, cereal, ice cream, popcorn, fruit, salad mix, butter and coconut chips. I will admit that the coconut chips were not strictly necessary but I stand by my ice cream decision. (Did I mention there is a gym someplace in my building? I MIGHT look for it today.)
Today's plans are:
Buying the things I forgot to pack.(shampoo, face wash and sunblock) Having a phone meeting with my editor
Watching the USA Women's Soccer Team in the World Cup Final with 15,000 of my closest new friends at the USA Soccer sponsored viewing party in Lincoln Park.
I called home and am feeling less guilty knowing that Rob and Parker are doing well and are ready to head off to Boy Scout camp this afternoon. We'll see if the desire to constantly text them fades as the day progresses. I hope so, since there will be no cell phone service in the woods of Rhode Island.
Off to explore…
Death's timing is rarely good. Although we had been anticipating my father-in-law's death for weeks it was still painful. He insisted on no service. No prayers for the dead. No funeral. No grave. And so, with Rob's encouragement I'm keeping to my travel plans as scheduled.
This morning with much anxiety I leave for Chicago to study at Second City for three weeks.
My personal theme for the time is taken from a song by Eric Bibb called “The Cape.” -
(S)He's one of those who knows that life is just a leap of faith. Spread your arms and hold your breath and always trust your cape. “
Here is the link to the song : https://youtu.be/IIECz7Y01-U