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All My Friends Are Getting Married and Having Kids...I'm Launching a Book Instead

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*Disclaimer: This is NOT a piece about marriage or having children or any statement of judgment on either of these two things. If you’re my friend I’ve probably been in your wedding, held your child, or both. I love doing this for you. Please continue to let me be a part of these beautiful life milestones in whichever ways you see fit.*

Phew, glad we got that out of the way.

Now let’s get into this shit.

In the summer of 2014, I went to a friend’s wedding up in the mountains of Colorado and spent the entire time hiding my sobs underneath burlap table runners and behind adorable photobooth props.

It was snowing. In May. And she looked fucking beautiful shivering in the snow in her little cowboy boots.

But no, I wasn’t crying about that.

I wasn’t emotional because I trekked through the snow in my high heels to get to the barn or because I watched the groom cry tears of joy when he saw her walk down the aisle.

I was crying because I knew this shit would never happen to me.

At least not with the guy sitting next to me that I’d been Fake-gaged to for nearly five years (that’s ‘fake’ and ‘engaged’ if you were wondering).

 Me: *gets distracted for 30 minutes* Sorry...got distracted by all the wedding porn on Pinterest...

Me: *gets distracted for 30 minutes* Sorry...got distracted by all the wedding porn on Pinterest...

This rustic and Pinterest-perfect barn wedding was not in the cards for me then.

Neither was the garden palace entrance another friend made that same year. Or the magnificent old school church setup yet another friend had the year after that.

I’ve been going to weddings non-stop since I graduated college four years ago.

I’ve seen seven-layered dips, champagne fountains, and cakes made out of maple-bacon donuts.

I’m the real life 27 Dresses except I’ve gotten smart and have recycled a few so as to not burn a hole in my non-existent wallet.

I fucking love weddings.

And while I sometimes gripe about shelling out cash for airfare, attire, and gifts, the fact of the matter is I’m stoked for this bottomless mimosa situation you’ve got going on here, my friend.

But more than the fun, I rather enjoy watching my friends be happy.

Weird. I know.

The painful part was knowing that I wasn’t happy like that.

I hid it well during the festivities, shying away from the “how are you?” questions and answering instead with, “OH MY GOD THIS IS MY FAVORITE SONG LET’S BOOGY” and sprinting to the dance floor with the 5-year-old cousin of the bride.

I didn’t want the looks of pity. Or the well-intentioned but weird commentary about my joke of a dating life.

“Oh, you’re into online dating, how…adventurous…” they laughed uncomfortably as they held hands with their significant others or patted their pregnant bellies. I imagined them having a discussion about how worried about me they were later as they brushed their teeth together.

Because that’s what you do when you’re married right, you like brush your teeth at the same time, shit I don’t know I’m not married.

For a while, I was sulky and obsessed. I thought married people my age could go suck a big fat one. I’d never say that to any of their lovely faces, obviously. But they had no idea about my single person pain.

I hated that I felt this surge of anger every time a good friend of mine “bit the dust,” but I couldn’t shake it. Especially after my big breakup left me feeling like I’d been so close to that mountain barn party only for it to go up in epic flames at the last second.

I pictured my poor guests running for their minivans from the explosion as I sat in my tarnished gown, alone because my betrothed got trampled to death by the horses in the stables, using my broken heel to roast the marshmallows from my all-you-can-eat smores buffet.

In reality, I was miles and miles from being emotionally equipt for something like marriage.

And kids? Ah, shit don’t even get me started on how un-ready I was to birth a small human out of my you-know-where (I still am by the way).

So here we are in 2018.

I’m 26. I have a health insurance plan that I don’t know how to use. Single in every sense of the word. No kids although I take care of other people’s children. With a book on the way and all saddled up for the most life-changing year of my life.

Did I mention I’m single with no kids? Have we covered that?

And guess what.

That’s fucking okay. That’s more than okay. That’s the best news I’ve heard since He Who Must Not Be Named began his stupid orange dictatorship.

I did not always believe this.

It’s taken me years to come to terms with who I actually am, and also who I’m becoming now. I’m not there yet. There are a lot of things I want to get done in my personal and professional life. I want to get better with money. I’d like to lose ten pounds or so. Get a pug puppy. I want my Ted Talk to go viral and my book(s) to become best sellers which will land my delicious, athletic booty on Ellen’s awesome white couch.

And I’ve got time, Y'all.

Holy shit I have so much time.

And I’m not really talking about marriage or kids anymore, although there’s time for that too. The time I’m speaking of is the amount of hours, days, months, and years that I have in this life to love myself and what I’m doing. Time to make an imprint, no matter how small. Just a tiny speck of a scratch on this earth’s surface that proved that I was here and that I mattered.

And even if nobody sees it ̶ even if a bunch of fucking aliens pass by that lil’ speck like it’s nothing when they colonize our asses and blow this shit sky high ̶ at least I will have known that I was there.

So at the end of the day all this bullshit about some 30-year-old deadline to accomplish these life “milestones” like getting married, having kids, or having a 401-K and a stable 9 to 5?

It’s exactly what I just said. It’s bullshit.

Hopefully, you read my disclaimer, or you’re probably real mad at me right now. Maybe you’re mad because you have these things and you think I resent you (Nah, I don’t). Or you’re mad because you don’t, but desperately want them for yourself (it’s cool if yuh do).

And maybe you should be mad.

Be mad that society pushes us to care about stupid garbage values like “not dying alone.”

You know what I wanna do when I’m croaking on the side of some toilet and all my vital organs are shutting down causing me to shit my own pants and cry so loudly I might actually wake the dead (that I’m about to join)?

Be by my fucking self.

Jesus, I don’t want my family or loved ones to see me like that are you kidding me?!

Don’t you hear how ridiculous that sounds?

So onto the main attraction of this blog post.

What life changing event am I preparing for this year?

Oh, you know already! My book is coming out! HOLY SHIT I KNOW RIGHT.

So what does one do with such an epic life accomplishment?

Have a big ol’ party! With the donut cakes and champagne towers and everything!

Yes, you’re invited. And aren’t you all stoked that I don’t care who you bring as a +1? Bring your grandma, your dog, your second cousin three times removed, IDGAF! The more the merrier!

BECAUSE I’M GETTING MARRIED (TO MYSELF) AND HAVING A (BOOK) BABY!

And just like my friends out there in suburbia, I’ll be taking on a lot of new responsibilities and expenses to prepare for my big day. I’ve got linens to pick out, book jackets to design for my little one, and food truck vendors to call.

I’ve got to come up with hotel plans for other people’s in-laws, prepare thank you speeches, and I will most likely spend way too much money on my dress, hair, and nails because this is my special day and you can’t put a price on happiness (yes you can it’s approximately several thousand dollars that I don’t have).

I’ve got my hands quite full.

Literally. I’ll probably be hauling 300-odd copies of my book from some warehouse to the launch party to distribute to you, my fine-ass audience.

But damn I’m going to look and feel like a million bucks up there. I’m going to have my moment in the sun and errybody’s gonna wanna have sex with me.

I’m not gonna lie, it’s not what I expected.

It’s better.

Nothing against weddings, baby showers, and the “standard” trajectory. I’m just doing things differently right now. By myself. Which is how I like it.

But I’m never really alone, am I? Because I have YOU.

Yes, you reading this right now because I probably tagged you in this and you’re like oh my god seriously quit blowing up my newsfeed with your blog posts I have better shit to do.

And I’m going to need YOUR help!

Because it turns out getting married to your dreams and birthing a book baby can get pretty expensive. There’s the venue, invitations, marketing, food, decorations, and flights back and forth once I plan on touring the U.S. for comedy shows and book signings.

It’s starting to add up, Y'all!

Which is why I’ve started a GoFundMe page and opened up a separate bank account solely for my big day and making it the best it can be.

I know you’re going to buy the book. And that makes me so happy! I’m going to enjoy that 10¢ royalty check from you so freaking much (Yes, you read that right! Welcome to my fancy author salary! Hollywood here I come! Step aside, Peasants!).

But in the meantime, I’d really appreciate it if you threw a couple dollars into my GoFundMe campaign. If you were planning on getting a Starbucks this morning, just keep walking past that twelve-armed Sea Lady and put those $5 toward your ol’ pal Memes chasing her dreams instead.

It would mean the world to me.

And if you send me your address I will hand write you a thank you card.

I just picked up like a thousand from Target. They’re cute AF.

I’m thrilled to go to all of your weddings, graduations, live-water-birthings, and your kid’s pre-pre-K coronation ceremonies. And I’m so glad to be a part of all of your stories, no matter how small my presence may be in your day to day life.

Thank you for reading and being my friend (and donating!)

Stay tuned for my book launch updates in Denver and New York City and the release of my memoir, “I’ll Be OK, It’s Just a Hole in My Head” coming to bookstores near you this September!

Click here if you'd like to pre-order my book and click here if you'd like to contribute to my GoFundMe campaign. 

*clink*

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I'm on a Health Journey, Not a Weight-Loss Journey. There's a F$@*ing Difference

 Don't mind me, just gonna be conquering the world with my awesomeness over here on this bridge.   Photo by the amazing  Jajuan Burton  

Don't mind me, just gonna be conquering the world with my awesomeness over here on this bridge. 

Photo by the amazing Jajuan Burton 

It was Sunday and I was doing stand up for the first time in nearly a month.

I was rusty and I didn’t really have any new material or care to put in the effort to write better jokes.

So my good friend Kimmy lugged me out of the house and we hit two all-female open mics (Bunt Cake Mic and Laughing Buddha Ladies Mic you should try them out!). I felt empowered having all those ladies around me and excited to grab the microphone.

I felt good.

And then I got on stage.

I was doing my “brain bits” and I ended up trying a new bit about how weird it is when people say they’re sorry about my injury…which leads me to fuck with them mid-conversation and pretend like I’m remembering a bunch of repressed memories and that I didn’t actually have a brain bleed on a blind date, but that I’m remembering the person saying sorry having stabbed me in the back of the neck at brunch.

Et tu, Britney?!

Yeah, still working on it.

Anyway, Kimmy records me on my phone and we head to the next mic where I decide to do my “Angel Dicks” premise instead, which goes well in a room full of women who are really tired of men bragging about them.

I’m funny. We’ve established that.

It was viewing the playback of the video that was the problem.

When I watched the first video I saw one word burn into the screen hotter than the stage lights on my curly mop top: “pregnant.”

I looked pregnant.

To confirm this fact, the 4-year-old I nanny poked my stomach last week and asked me if I had a baby growing inside of it.

Now before you get all woke on me about this and tell me to shut my mouth, I’d like to remind you that I get to decide how I feel about my body. Me. Just me.

So what I say kind of goes in this situation. To be clear there is quite a long list of things I actually love about my body. Including but not limited to: my kick-ass curly hair, my baby blues, and my adorable tiny feet that are so ridiculously small that they get stuck in sidewalk cracks sometimes.

That joke was for you, Kimmy.

I can blame the oversized shirt I was wearing or the lighting or the fact that I wasn't even remotely “sucking it in.” But at the end of that video, I was sure of one thing: it was time for a change.

So after a few phone calls to trusted health allies (Alexis P. and Emily H. ladies, you are simply crushing it right now and Wellness Con Katie, your community is beautiful), I decided I was going to cut the crap. I need to be healthy.

Mmmm, now don’t you notice that I didn’t say SKINNY?!

Did you catch that little detail?

If you don’t recall, I’d attempted a health journey last summer and documented my results on my blog. I tried a 30-day Cleanse Diet program suggested by a great friend and experienced some initial success.

 FYI I'd just eaten a giant grilled cheese sandwich, a bag of Doritos, and was sucking it in for the After Shot but YAY GO ME I AM STILL UNHEALTHY AF.

FYI I'd just eaten a giant grilled cheese sandwich, a bag of Doritos, and was sucking it in for the After Shot but YAY GO ME I AM STILL UNHEALTHY AF.

But there was a problem. For that attempt, I’d only wanted the Before and After shot; the famous picture I’d seen so many of my friends posting on their Facebooks and Instagrams the past year. I wanted that too! I wanted to wake up and casually post a pic of the new me, the better me. I wanted all my ex-boyfriends to slide into my DM’s and tell me how foolish they’d all been in leaving my sexy new ass.

As one would imagine, I gained it all back (and then some) almost instantly. And with it, an even lower sense of self-worth.

See, because of my fucking mindset. Oh, and cheese fries.  

I’d gone into that “weight-loss” journey with just that, an unrealistic goal to lose weight on a scale. Nothing else.

I didn’t care to educate myself on nutrition, I just wanted to pop a pre-made smoothie in the blender and forget about it. I didn’t want to read up on exercise techniques. I figured I would just run a few miles every couple of weeks and call it good.

Why?

Because changing your body is hard work.

It requires almost a complete overhaul of lifestyle to truly see a difference. And the fact of the matter is that most of us don’t want to alter our belief system just to fit into skinny jeans.

But we really should.

And that’s what I’m doing right now. I’m educating myself on my own body, talking to people who have had successes of their own, and trying to find the best path for me. I’m listening to podcasts, reading books, and joining online communities where I can learn about this weird sack of human bones and muscles and fats and awesomeness that I walk around in all day but have no idea how it actually works.  

But as cool as that is, somehow I’ve still caught some flak for it.

From friends, family, the internet.

“You don’t need that fancy gym membership!”
“You’re wasting your precious money!”
“Those supplements are all evil!”
“Your personal trainer is an anarchist!”

And y’all mean well! Really, you do. The intent behind these statements is surely: “I love you and I want you to be happy!”

And I love you for this intent.

But do you know what those words really do?

They take the wind right out of my sails and make me feel like a god damn lunatic. Like everything I’m doing is somehow wrong and I should stop doing all of it because that’s what everyone is telling me to do and they love me so they must be right, right?

Wrong.

My suspicions are that people who love me say these things because they themselves wouldn’t do them. They wouldn’t spend the time or money or take a risk that might not pan out. And hey, that’s cool. You don’t have to!

It really is an investment. Not just monetarily, but emotionally, physically, and probably spiritually to some degree.

So far for me, it has been very taxing on my pocketbook and my planner. This is a choice I made because I lack the skills and motivation to do this journey alone. And maybe that will change down the road once I get a solid foundation.

But it’s like that one little company called Microsoft that a few people invested in back in the 80's and everyone was all, “what are you doing Bill Gates this technology stuff is crazy AND THE ROBOTS WILL KILL US ALL.

Who are we to judge if a few of those silly investors just so happen to be multi-millionaires now?

You didn’t invest.

Shit, I didn’t invest. But I was also not alive.

There’s also an added element here that we should consider, and that’s my favorite thing about me: my brain injury.

2014 was a real rough year for my body. Immediately after a breakup that summer I lost about 15 pounds because I stopped eating and started running like a crazy person. A real rom-com stereotype. My roommates tried to force-feed me but I just couldn’t bring myself to eat. I was depressed.

And then my head exploded and I lost another 20 lbs. of muscle mass.

Fucking muscle mass, you guys!

I also temporarily lost my taste buds on the left side of my tongue so not only was I so sick I couldn’t eat, but if I did I couldn’t enjoy it anyway.

Fast forward to me leaving the brain rehabilitation center after several weeks of regaining my motor functions, and I walk out with…wait for it…a pamphlet on nutrition!

With pictures of vegetables on it!

Yay for me! I can eat veggies on a white circular plate!

Well, my taste buds came back, y’all. And like, have you heard of mac and cheese though?

There was no guidance, no mentorship when it came to this sort of thing. I had no tools for nutrition or wellness post-injury and I was so god damn tired all the time from relearning how to walk that I wasn’t about to start rewiring my belief system too.

And I don’t regret that.

Do you have any idea how good food tastes when you can’t taste for 3 months?

It was like a multi-layered foodgasm every time I put something in my mouth. And it was fucking awesome.

But here I am, four years later, refusing to post an Instagram comedy video because I can’t stand the sight of my own body bombing up on the stage.

But you know what? My eyes are open now. Painfully so.

I had my first (and complimentary!) personal training visit at my gym and she pinched some fat on my arms and tummy to reveal that I was 34.5% body fat.

Above 30% is considered…obese!

I was shocked. And honestly not that surprised. And more than anything, I really wanted to understand what had gone wrong since my slimmer glory days. Back when I played college ice hockey but still ate whatever I wanted and could somehow fit into any clothes I needed to. I still wasn’t healthy back then, but at least I could squeeze into my jeans from high school.

But I’m not looking to lose weight. I actually don’t want to lose anything. I want to gain. I want to gain confidence and strength and willpower and lift a fucking car over my head just because I can.

This, my friends, is a true health journey.

It’s not a 30-Day Gut-Busting Juice Diet or a Slim-Down-Now Extreme Exercise Subscription. It’s not going to happen quickly. And I’m going to be a real human about it and eat a piece of chocolate if I want a piece of chocolate. Just not the whole bag. And I’m not going to be shameful about it either.

It’s a brain game. And I have a long way to go to truly understand what my brain and body really need in order to be healthy and operating at peak performance. There’s a reason I fall asleep standing up at work every day at 3:30 PM and cycle back into unhealthy eating habits to try to temporarily ease the emotional pain.

I’m not healthy. And that’s something you can’t always see on a little number on a scale. It’s deep inside my body, cradled inside my neurons and in the dark corners of my mind.

I’ve got my work cut out for me. And I hope that you do too. I hope that you seek knowledge as power and work your ass off for what really counts: health.

And I hope you keep your well-intentioned (and bullshit) weight-loss remarks to yourself 😂❤️️👏

Editor's Note: As of this morning's measurements with my Personal Trainer, I am down approximately 5 lbs. of fat with a total body fat composition of 30.6%. Ah, hell yeah. 

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You Can Take the Teacher Out of the Classroom But...

 My collection of weird teenagers during our final Comedy Club meeting.

My collection of weird teenagers during our final Comedy Club meeting.

Ah, damn it.

Are you serious? I thought we were done with this teacher shit.

Didn’t you like set your classroom on fire and run away to New York or something?

Nah, brah.

They’re back.

And I don’t mean the students I just sent to the Dean’s office for the millionth time.

I mean the feels.

They’re back with a vengeance and a lot of tear-stained tissues.

We are quickly approaching my one-year quit-iversary of being a high school teacher and boy it’s been a crazy 365ish days! Do you smell something burning? Oh, it’s my pants? My pants are on fire because that’s just a perfect metaphor for my insane lifestyle right now?

Great. Glad we’re all on the same page.

On this particular (and currently post-work and pantsless) evening, I am having trouble focusing. I spent the afternoon nannying with the world’s goofiest boys as always. But when I returned home I had only one thing on my mind: writing.

I.Must.Write.Or.I.Will.Die.

But what shall I write tonight? Will it be what’s behind door number 1, an episode of my new podcast that I need to finish by next week or I will look like a fool in front of my very first guest?

Will it be door number 2, a few hundred words of my 3rd memoir that I believe will be the key to unearthing myself from my seasonal depression?

How about door number 3, an article I decided to write yesterday for McSweeney’s on my inability to hold down jobs as a barista?

Or maybe even door number 4, a few minutes of stand up comedy related to the incidents leading to door number 3?

Just as I begin to open door number 1, I decide I really should clip my fingernails…

But then there was the matter of a second dinner and engaging in a glass of wine session with my roommate proved to be of utmost necessity.

And then I had to check my email.

And then I had to Google a few things really quick for no apparent reason other than to convince a private investigator in the future that I am a complete sociopath.

And then I absolutely needed to check my Instagram.

Now before I lose you, this is where shit gets interesting.

See, because there was a tiny little notification in the corner of my Insta informing me that somebody had left me a message. How exciting! Maybe it’s one of those cute guys I’ve been not-so-secretly cyber-stalking for the past few months…

UhhhhhhNOPE it’s a former student.

Now, this former student is a very special former student to me. A student who I spent many after schools with, typing away into a miniature Chromebook as she talked at top speeds, trying desperately to capture her genius. This was how we wrote her papers. Me at the keyboard and her getting her thoughts into the air as quickly as possible before they left us both in the dust.

I fucking love this student.

Of all the students to hear from at this hour, I am NOT mad about this one popping into my little inbox.

Not only was she always in that front row ready to listen to whatever ridiculous thing that came out of my mouth every single day, but she actually heard me. She heard me and she understood me.

And when I learned that she was struggling with a neurological disorder I was all over that shit. I was on the phone with Mom consistently, pestering her other teachers about letting her take her tests orally instead of on a scantron, I mean I'm pretty convinced I'd hide a body for this young lady, okay. 

About a year ago I revealed my social media accounts to her and some of my favorite students in the wake of the news that I was quitting. I’m not entirely sure why I did it, other than wanting to be that weird teacher who keeps tabs on their kids from time to time to make sure they’re not drinking from red solo cups or dating shitty people. Maybe I really did just want the followers, who the hell knows.

I’m young and hip and annoying so it makes sense.

Every few months I get an email, Facebook message, or Snapchat from a kiddo. The majority of them are innocent and not weird. Aside from a kiddo that called me cute (after seeing a picture of 16-year-old me LOL) and a few daily Snapchat bombardments with just the word “STREAKS” on them which seemed excessive and strange, we’re all good with this whole former student-teacher social media game.

I won’t run into any of them at the grocery store or the gym anytime soon and I’m sure if I end up settling back down in Colorado someday they’ll have long forgotten about lil’ old me and the windowless classroom we once shared all those years ago.

So here she is, my sweet, sweet girl.

And what does she have to say this evening? It’s not a text, or a random picture of her dog (although that is encouraged) but rather two pictures of a handwritten letter from a notebook.

“Hey I just found this and I never gave it to you because I never finished it and I’m sorry for the handwriting…lol”

Hold on to yer butts, folks, cuz you bout to shed some serious tears…

The letter reads:

September 27, 2016

I just wanted to say thank you so much for sharing your story with us. I understand that can be really hard and I’m really sorry you went through all of that. I’m sorry the response you got wasn’t respectful or caring. I have so much respect for you and what you’ve gone through I wish the vibe and open-mindedness was here in the class more. I see how much you care and wanna help these kids. You have such a big heart and I can see that! The way you are about us is unbelievable. You deserve so much from life and I hope you get that. It’s not fair that your emotions aren’t being reacted to or are taken into thought. I want you to know I hear everything you’re saying! I’m so happy to say I have a teacher that I connect so much with and you didn’t even know it. We have the same passion and visions for the school and just life in general. You can see the beauty of life as I do. I aspire to be like you and keep hope for change. Lately with everything going on it’s been really hard to keep that but your words have started a spark a light back inside me and I just wanna tell you that you are making a change and with everything you’ve been going and still trying to get pieces of you back. I have so so so much respect for you. Thank you for your letter! It really meant a lot to see that someone cared when I had nothing from anyone and was losing hope and strength. You reminded me that I’ve always been a fighter and whatever is going on won’t impact me the way it has been. I want my life back and I will get it back. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do but I won’t let it get a hold of me and change who I am. You’ve been helping me in so many ways without even trying. You are so important to a lot of people and I appreciate you. I love the way [you] meditate, your style, the little things you like ̶  *

Now if you can’t see your screen properly because the tears are flowing so heavily it’s practically Niagra Falls in this shit…YES, SHE REALLY SAID THESE WORDS AND YES, THE WALLS OF MY UTERUS ARE SHEDDING MAKING IT 20 BILLION TIMES WORSE.

She wrote them actually. Which is a big deal considering all those modifications we made to her History papers. She wrote the words on a piece of paper during what I can only tell you was one of the most terrifying and life-changing weeks of my life (alright second only to brain surgery).

It was actually the very week I first had the thought to move to New York City.

Now is that some cosmic shit or what?

I never saw the letter then, you see because that wouldn’t have been nearly as cool (although I still would have bawled my eyes out like I did just now).

Instead she’s sending me this NOW, days after losing a job, feeling a little bit sorry for myself, and around the same time frame that I remember last year was filled with summer anticipation, fear, and a fuck-ton of phone calls to parents telling them that their child was failing and needed to get their shit together like three semesters ago.

This unbelievably sweet letter comes at a time when I’ve started to settle into a certain lifestyle here in New York that I enjoy, but I’m also mourning the loss of the one I left behind. And most of all, mourning the loss of all the kids those two years who made me feel like I was a person who mattered.

Not some face in a crowded subway to be squeezed past or just another name on the lineup at a comedy show to be quickly crossed out at the end of my set, but a person who fucking counts.

It’s a feeling we so rarely talk about when we talk about work or success or joy or happiness.

It’s a feeling I want to replicate for the rest of my god damn life.

But I was suffocating.

My classroom had no windows. I was literally gasping for oxygen every single day for two whole years.

In that amount of time, I’d had more panic-induced mental breakdowns in the teacher’s lounge and in front of 5th period than I cared to remember. And that was just it, I didn’t want to remember.

The day she wrote that letter I don’t think I’d showered in days and my eyes were probably still puffy from crying over my recent tough break up. I was at my lowest low when this KID decided to open her notebook and tell me that I was real and that I mattered to her and to many others.

What had I said that day to deserve this little love letter? What ‘story’ was she talking about?

You know what, I honestly have no clue.

I can’t remember.

My guess is something brain-related. A story about maneuvering a wheelchair or learning how to do 3rd-grade math problems in rehab perhaps? Or something less recent? A story about being scared I’d lose my dad when he got into a car accident behind our house when I was in high school? Maybe I’d really fallen off the wagon and told the entire class that I’d just ended the best relationship I’d ever had in the most heartbreaking way possible…

What in the fuck came out of my mouth that day and how did it have the power to possess her to write such touching and honest words?

I’ll never know.

And I don’t have to.

What I do know is that I’m still a teacher.

Try as I might to lock that part of myself in my parent’s storage unit back in Colorado, I am still here.

Teaching and sharing and encouraging like I always have.

Making stupid jokes and telling people not to give up even when every fiber of their being is telling them to abandon all hope.

That’s my job.

And a year ago I thought I’d hung up the hall pass for good. I thought I was running away. I emptied the entire contents of my classroom into my car and then into that storage unit and shut the door tightly behind me, hoping to never look back for fear of confronting my deepest and darkest insecurities.

The little voice in my head that whispered, “You couldn’t hack it as a teacher. You weren’t tough enough.

The opposite is actually the truth. Not only was I tough enough, but I was SO tough that I had to quit so that I could give everyone a god damn breather from how intense I was.

I’m like fucking Rocky Balboa before he’s all old and shit.

So what am I doing now you ask?

I’m actually still teaching.

Yes, I literally teach comedy writing classes on the Upper West Side on Monday nights, but I actually teach every day of the year.

I teach when I get on a stage and share a story.

I teach when I write my books.

I teach when I encourage a new friend to keep doing comedy even though it’s really fucking hard.

I teach when I tell people about my life.

I teach when I blog.

I teach when I podcast.

I teach the 4-year-old to ask more questions and the 2-year-old to tell me when he shits his diaper instead of just letting it sit there and making me look like the World’s Worst Nanny at the play place.

Just because I’m not suffocating in a public school classroom 80 hours a week, 10 months out of the year on slave wages doesn’t make me any less of a teacher.

I’m actually an even better teacher now that I’ve left that environment. The proof is in the handwritten letters. This is not an outlier. There are at least 200 letters much like this one tucked away just waiting for my blubbery eyes to discover; some back in the storage unit and about 50 stacked up on my nightstand right now.

And on my worst New York days, I turn to these letters and I remember who I am.

I am a teacher. And I matter.

Now pull out your damn headphones and let’s get to work.

 My notorious 5th Period cheesin' during our Civil Rights Museum project day...

My notorious 5th Period cheesin' during our Civil Rights Museum project day...

*Student gave permission to publish this letter.

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30 Things You Should Do Instead of Building an IKEA Storage Bed (Brain Injury Awareness Edition)

 Oh, I'm "set" am I? The only thing that's set over here is this nail that's gone clean through my middle finger, YOU CHEAP-EXCUSE-FOR-FURNITURE MOTHER FU-

Oh, I'm "set" am I? The only thing that's set over here is this nail that's gone clean through my middle finger, YOU CHEAP-EXCUSE-FOR-FURNITURE MOTHER FU-

Oh hiiii friends! Almost didn’t see you there from under this pile of shelves and assorted tools that I don’t know how to use!

If you didn’t know, I have the soul of a 75-year old retiree named Marge who just loves to craft. And build. And tell everyone at the E.R. that the power drill was “really being finicky today” as they stitch up my little old lady hands for the millionth time.

I’ve been haphazardly trying to build things since I was a kid; cutting up old doll dresses and trying to sew them back together in new ways, hot-gluing marbles on wine bottles, and even hauling a broken dresser into my apartment and refinishing it.

It’s like I think I’m a carpenter or some shit.

Which I guess I technically am since I come from a carpenter-turned-architect father and a mother who used to make me every complex Halloween costume I demanded with not even a smidge of bitterness or resentment.

I can’t explain it. But there’s something that happens in my brain when I see a piece of wood, some Mason jars, and a handful of mismatched buttons. It’s like a switch goes on and I see it.

A project. A fucking cool project.

Since my first hot-glue gun purchase back in high school, I’ve been slowly getting more and more ambitious with my crafting endeavors.

I started with small things; those bejeweled wine bottles, painting old wood I found on the street and transforming it into coat racks and cutesy accessory shelves.

But this time. This time I did it. I really did it.

I screwed the pooch on this one.

Okay, alright. I hate that saying. But you get it. I really did myself in with this last project, okay you guys.

Before I get knee deep into telling you all the things you should do INSTEAD of this crafting project, let me just tell you that IKEA is a joke, mmkay?

Always has been. You know this already.

And I get to say this because I spent a summer in college behind the register at the Denver location getting my shit rocked by angry moms and impatient people who’d just spent the last 5 hours in a wormhole and blamed me for the very concept of the store.

Assemble yourself? Tools sold separately? You think I came up with this idea?

Okay, so maybe my previous monologue about my childhood as an amateur craftsman would lead you to believe that this was all my doing, but I don’t make the rules, okay lady?

Anyway. I found this guide on the IKEA website called the Square Footage Challenge.

And let me just say. This 10-step, happy-go-lucky, look-how-easy-this-all-is guide is buuuuulllshiiiiit.

Fool me once, well, shit, now I'm just bleeding and covered in cheap wood shavings. 

I won’t derail my mission too much here, but suffice it to say that this guide is not legitimate if you live in the United States. Or specifically, if you live in New York. Or if you’re a human being. And especially not if you’re a human being living in New York, U.S.A.

But seeing as I’m Marge, the adorable old lady in your local hood who likes to buy fresh flowers for my table that nobody sees but me cuz' my husband is dead and my grandkids all have microchips in their heads and are too busy anyway, I just had to indulge in my creative calling.

It’s a storage bed. Made of, wait for it…kitchen cabinets!

So much storage! What a great idea for my tiny New York room with no closet cuz who needs a closet when you’re LIVING YOUR DREAMS (lol, me actually it turns out)?!

So anyway there I was, standing in a line at 9:59 AM waiting for a you-take-your-job-way-too-seriously security guard to open up the caution-taped gates into IKEA, land of broken furniture dreams and divorces waiting to happen, and I think I’m gonna be smart and avoid the maze and just cut straight to the customer service reps. Surely if I show them a picture of my dream bed they’ll kindly press a few buttons on their magic computer and summon all the parts and tools I need to bring this fairytale furniture project to life.

Oh, yeah. THAT totally happened.

Instead, I was ordered to go up to the Kitchen’s department, through the maze I was trying to avoid, and take up my request with them.

Cue a 30-minute interlude of shots of me running around in circles, coming across the same rug every time shouting, “DAMN YOU IKEA. DAMN YOU MARGE. DAMN YOU ALL TO HELL” intermixed with light war cries and intermittent sobbing.

At this point, you’d think I’d have had the sense to quit the project altogether.

But Marge never says die (and I already had the Uhaul for another 12 hours…), so I found the Kitchen’s department and committed myself to dropping several hundred dollars on cabinets that I had no idea would work out or not.

If you’re at all curious, the cabinets in the guide are not available in the United States. Just one more piece of evidence that should have alerted me that this project was just too damn extra and I really should have quit while I was ahead.

But no matter, Marge can compromise! We’ll take the other cabinets! They are white just like the ones in the picture that inspired this madness and surely they’ll do the trick.

Oh, Marge. You naïve and adorable little bastard, you.

Purchase made! I regret nothing and also everything and I’m not even worried about this whole cabinet building excursion because ̶

Wait…you guys? How am I supposed to get all this heavy shit (including 3 large MDF boards that I had chopped down to size at the Home Depot after about an hour of trying to defend my honor against at 19-year-old in the Lumber department who didn’t get why I was doing all this when I could just do…I don’t know, literally ANYTHING else) up to my apartment? Or into the truck for that matter? Also, how am I going to park this thing in front of the apartment?

These tiny but important steps were not in my 10-step guide, of course. The next 2 hours proceeded in a very hazardous manner; including but not limited to:

  • Scraping my hands on the wood when trying to wrestle them out of the Uhaul
  • Parking the Uhaul around the corner and sweating heavily making trips back and hoping for a kind stranger to ask, “Do you need help?” which never happened
  • Pulling a back muscle because I can’t lift 50-pound cabinets correctly
  • Dragging the boards into the apartment lobby and damaging them
  • Saying fuck it and leaving the cabinets and boards in the lobby with sticky notes that read: “Please don’t steal, I’m not strong enough to get these up the stairs” until my roommate came home to help me airlift the heavy fucks into the apartment (shoutout to my main squeeze, Simone, you the real MVP!)
  • More intermittent screaming and crying

You really should have been there. It was quite captivating.

No seriously. You should have been there. That would have been a huge help. 

 Me: (Googles 'damn you gif' finds gif of her actual friend Tiffany)

Me: (Googles 'damn you gif' finds gif of her actual friend Tiffany)

And that was just getting the materials, people.

Needless to say, the building part took me an entire day. Mistakes were made. Tears were shed. And a tiny chunk of skin came off my middle finger during a particularly rough tussle with a screwdriver.

I don’t know about y’all, but Marge is starting to sound like a damn psychopath.

But at the end of all the errors and corrections, I’d done it. I’d built the damn thing.

It wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, and I had to take a break with the doors and shelves because at that point I feared for my own safety if I continued my course being that tired and bloodied.

But I did it. I built a bed.  

If you think this is cool and want to build your own bed just take a moment to slap your own hand across your face. Don’t do it, okay? DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME. DO NOT PASS GO. DO NOT SPEND $500 DOLLARS.

Instead, here’s a nifty list of 30 things you can do INSTEAD of building an IKEA storage bed:

  1. Order a simple boxspring from Amazon or even some cool bed raisers and slide your luggage, shoes, and various shit underneath the bed.
  2. Pay IKEA $75 to assemble your furniture.
  3. Pay some rando on Craigslist $15 to assemble your furniture.
  4. Never go to Pinterest, IKEA.com, or any crafting website to avoid exposure to unrealistic projects.
  5. Leave your bed on the floor as a statement of how cool and bohemian you are.
  6. Read a nice book instead.
  7. Consult your friends and loved ones if you get the urge to build your own bed lasting longer than 4 hours.
  8. Call up that nice therapist you had that one time, I’m sure she’s into helping you out with this whole thing.
  9. Take up gardening. But only if by gardening you mean succulents. Those are small and manageable and hardly ever die even if you don’t water them for years at a time.
  10. Go hang out at the Dog Park and make some new friends.
  11. Start a nice blog for your mom and cousins in Alabama to read.
  12. Research if you actually have cousins in Alabama.
  13. Make your blog about finding your long-lost cousins in Alabama.
  14. Book a trip to Alabama and enjoy the local culture while you search for your cousins.
  15. Check your bank account on your mobile. Did you know you can do that now?
  16. Reflect on all the outrageous purchases you made on your vacation in Alabama.
  17. Enroll in a 401K, get an IUD, or join the KGB.
  18. Watch a good Bruce Willis film.
  19. Watch any Bruce Willis film.
  20. Listen to Taylor Swift’s newest album.
  21. Pick a fun recipe that only uses 3 ingredients.
  22. Research new healthcare plans to enroll in once yours expires in a few days.
  23. Go to a Bubble Tea place when they’re having a 2 for 1 sale and then shit your pants from all the sugar in those damn things.
  24. Go to a coffee shop and eavesdrop into a very serious conversation in which a young Indian man asks an elderly white man for advice on "how to get more pussy."
  25. Get on a bus and get off at a random stop.
  26. Make an online dating profile.
  27. Delete your online dating profile.
  28. Use the money you would have spent on an IKEA storage bed an invest it in Apple. Or even better, something that actually fucking matters. Like cancer research. Or getting all the whales out of Sea World.
  29. Take a class on Finance.
  30. Sell a kidney. 

As we wrap up March, which is Brain Injury Awareness month and my favorite month of the year, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on this experience and how it relates to my overall journey and ultimately, my fucking unshakable stubbornness. 

Losing your independence changes a person.

And in 2014 pretty much everything was taken away from me when my head exploded. It was infuriating. I couldn’t walk, I was exhausted and dizzy all the time, I had to relearn 3rd-grade math problems.

So when I got it all back, I was adamant about doing things on my own, pretty much to a fault. 

I didn’t want help reaching things or getting to the bathroom. I wanted to do shit on my own. Because I was an adult. And I wanted to feel like it.

Recovering from my brain injury made me even more stubborn about doing things on my own than I already was. If that’s even fucking possible.

When I try to do something now ̶ lifting a box, reaching for a high shelf, assembling my own furniture ̶ and if that thing is hard for me? Of forget it, I’m for sure doing that thing no matter how many fingers I lose in the process.

I do that thing like my life depends on it.

And if you think about it, it kind of does.

The act of proving to myself every day that I can do something is like my own mini Olympics. And every Gold medal will be the pride and joy of Braintown for decades to come.

I will never be building an IKEA storage bed again.

And honestly thinking about moving in a year or two gives me mild PTSD just thinking about how I’m going to dismantle and probably dispose of this thing.

But I did it. I built an IKEA storage bed. AND YOU CA̶

Hahahahah just kidding. Don’t do it. Whatever you do, don’t build an IKEA storage bed. If you have any damn brain cells left after this blog post please, for the love in all that is holy, step awaaaaay from the table saw.

But if you do, Marge will be here with a power drill and some band-aids if you ever need them!

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50 (More) Things You Learn Your First 6 Months In New York City

 Just moments after taking this picture I lost my metrocard...

Just moments after taking this picture I lost my metrocard...

Oh hey again.

It’s me.

The clueless curly-headed buffoon jolly-romping around New York City and getting on all the wrong trains (still).

Because I only operate on a shit-show level of 57 and obviously need more things to fill my schedule right now, I thought I’d go back to my first posting back in July and see what I’ve learned now that I’m officially a New Yorker (just kidding Mom don’t disown me it was a JOKE).

Here are a few (more) things I’ve learned after roughly six months in The Big Apple…

1. All the friends you thought you’d see and hang out with every day like an episode of Broad City…you still haven’t hung out with. Because we live in NYC. And they, like you, have approximately a 20-minute window of time to offer on any given day, or month, maybe year for spontaneous social gatherings.

2. Renting an apartment in New York is exactly like Broad City told you it was though. Down to the creepy-ass apartment in a basement crawling with roaches that looked amazing in the photographs, quirky character realtors, and a sinking reality that you live in the most expensive city in the world, maybe even the universe.

Me: I need to make how much to live here?

Realtor: 100K

Me: *starts laughing*

Realtor: What’s so funny?

Me: Oh, for a second there I thought you said $100,000-

Realtor: That’s correct

Me: If you’ll excuse me I’m just gonna- (approaches fire escape and attempts to leap off of it)

3. But when you do find a place in your price range (yes, it’s possible) you are expected to promptly hand over every tax return you never knew you had, letters from employers explaining how great of a person you are, and might as well be asked to do a backflip in the kitchen right then and there to get the apartment. Oh, and did we mention how much money you’re expected to hand over on the spot? Yeah, this is going to run you and your roommates (because you need those) roughly $8,000. Mmmmm feels so gooooood.

4. Just because Google Maps tells you that your destination is less than 3 miles away it doesn’t mean you’re actually going to get there quickly. Actually, I can pretty much guarantee that you won’t. The MTA has made damn sure of that.

5. While we’re on the MTA, it’s pretty much a known fact that it might take you five different subway lines to get to your destination because the one that would be the most convenient isn’t running today. Or it just isn’t running for your stop. Therefore, you should be fully prepared to take several different subways, walk to a bus station, get stranded in some random neighborhood, and just say fuck it and get a Lyft which is just included in your budget now and you’d be out of your mind to attempt any other means of transportation short of walking your ass all the way to the Upper West Side.

6. You have actually walked your ass up to the Upper West Side and it actually made your ass feel quite fancy.

7. Not every part of New York is like it’s portrayed in the movies. Sure, you get a thrill everytime you see the Empire State Building light up all cool-like. And maybe you think nearly getting hit by a taxicab is kind of nostalgic and Hollywood. But nothing can prepare you for the smell of trash day in NYC. Which pretty much every day in NYC. And no amount of romantic comedy watching can take away from the fact that there are gigantic, smelly trash-castles lining the streets of New York making you seriously question your life decisions and hold your nose all the way through Midtown.

 Mmmmmmmmmmm, smells so yummy!

Mmmmmmmmmmm, smells so yummy!

8. Just because you’re from Colorado doesn’t mean you understand Winter. It turns out you know very little about Winter and will be smacked so hard into reality by “The Bomb Cyclone” that you start crying in the middle of the street because you thought this was your heavy jacket.

9. After the shock of humidity and windchill, you’re going to spend an hour and a half in a hot shower and immediately order an Arctic-level jacket, long underwear, and heated socks from Amazon using your Christmas money.

10.  Real New Yorkers are going to take pride in making fun of said Arctic-level jacket and laugh at you constantly because it truly resembles a sleeping bag but you don’t give a fuck because at least you’re warm now. Until the weather shifts radically to the other end and you’re caught wearing Big Blue and are now sweating through it, leaving tiny drips of sweat behind you as you walk.

 Gage (age 2) modeling "Big Blue" before a trip to the corner store for stickers.

Gage (age 2) modeling "Big Blue" before a trip to the corner store for stickers.

11. A “Do Not Walk” sign is a challenge to a New Yorker. And you don’t generally think of yourself as a risk-taker, but you sometimes find yourself following a brave soul out into the middle of a street because hey, you’ve got somewhere to be, right?

12. Food delivery services like Blue Apron are great for single people living in New York who don’t want to spend $1,000 on eating out.

13. Just kidding, you can’t do Blue Apron because some asshat on your block has figured out when you get yours delivered and is stealing them off your front porch while you’re at work. ENJOY THE FILET MIGNON ASSHOLEEEEEEE.

14. New Yorkers aren’t lying when they say it’s all about who you know. It seriously is. And even if you’re an introvert and don’t like talking to other humans, there’s this great thing I’ve discovered called Facebook Groups that allow you to network with complete strangers in New York who are somehow totally down to hook you up with all kinds of cool shit like jobs, gigs, apartments, and more! I’m not exaggerating on this one. Pretty much every cool thing I’ve found in New York (and most of my jobs I now have) came through hitting somebody up on a Facebook Group. You’re welcome.

15. Speaking of who you know, did you know that it’s entirely possible to get a book deal from meeting some random guy at an improv show who happens to know a publisher? I mean at least that’s how it happened for me. Which is pretty cool considering my method of cold-emailing agents and hating myself wasn’t really working out too well for me.

16. It’s entirely possible to end up living out the New York 20 roommates stereotype for a few months. And joke to all your friends that you live in a commune. Which you kind of do, let’s be honest. But this co-living lifestyle allows you to slowly start writing stories about the weirdos you live with which you plan on keeping to yourself until you move out in a month or so. And then there’s really no holding you back. You’ve got an hour-length comedy special about the weird shit that went down in that commune.

17. Sometimes you’re going to feel alarmed when a stranger smiles at you. Yeah, really alarmed. That shit’s weird. Where are we? In the twilight zone? Don’t you see I have my fuck-off earphones and resting bitch face on?

18. Homesickness will come and go at random times. In one moment you’re crying by yourself on a subway because you saw someone refuse to give up their seat to an old lady and the next you’re feeling like Jack in that scene from Titanic where he’s all like “I’M THE KING OF THE WORLD.” These two emotions will probably occur on the same day, if not simultaneously.

19. You’re going to try to get smart and use a different airport every time you fly home just to research which is the easiest one to fly in and out of. Which the answer is none of them. Especially since you don’t have a car anymore and will convince yourself that the public transportation to LaGuardia can’t be that bad.

20. You’re never going to get anywhere in under an hour. I don’t care who you are or where you think you’re going. It’s not going to happen for you.

21. Dating in New York is a joke.

22. Dating in New York is a joke.

23. Dating in New York is a joke.

24. It’s a joke because New York has this beautiful shiny glow to it that convinces everyone that there’s always something, or someone, better out there so no need to go past a first date really because who gives a fuuuuuuck.

25. For this reason you will spend a lot of time explaining to the 4-year-old you nanny why you don’t have a husband or children for him to go on playdates with.

26. It’s entirely possible to get away with not paying for a gym membership. All you have to do is sign up for a “free day” at every gym in every borough. You don’t even have to use a fake name. There are that many different kinds of gyms to try.

27. You eventually might want to get real and get a gym membership because all this 99¢ pizza has really gone directly to your hips and that’s just not okay.

28. You’re going to get sick virtually all the time. But at least you can try to convince yourself that you’re building up your immunity for the day when the next deadly monkey germ hits the East Coast.

29. Swallowing your sketchy bag of vitamins on the subway is a great way to get people not to sit next to you, but at least you know you’re getting your daily dose of Vitamin I Don’t Give a Fuck.

30. When you look back on your first days in New York, you laugh because you were SOOOO worried about getting a job. And then you have to stop laughing because you now have five jobs. All of which require a different part of your brain, separate skills, and will create quite the interesting story on your tax forms next year.

31. You were worried about running out of money and having to head home like a failure. And now you’re like “how many minutes do I have to cram this sandwich in my face in between my barista gig and my nanny gig?” and “can I make it to Queens for this comedy show after teaching my writing class?” and “should I take this $20 freelance gig and write a 400-word piece about how to winterize your pipes?

32. The answer to these questions are “approximately five,” “yes,” and “hell yes.”

33. You always used to think about the word “hustle” in terms of drugs, as in, someone smuggling them across a border. Now when you think about the word, it’s just a gigantic picture of your tired-ass face plastered in a dictionary. Your parents might refer to you as “deranged,” but they’re also real impressed that you found a way to live rent-free in New York City for about six months (you managed the commune, like an adult RA, that’s how).

34. Time works differently in New York. Even though you want things to happen magically and overnight like they do in the movies, it doesn’t work that way. But patience is key. And your hard work will pay off down the line if you wait for it. I think this is why some people come here in the first place; they want an immediate change from the lives they’re living. They want that New York magic. And believe me, this place is fucking magical. But sometimes you have to wait a little longer for some stars (shit, half a star) to align. And when that happens there is no better feeling in the damn world.

35. If you don’t believe me, ask the guy that was sitting on the park bench near Prospect Park when I got the email that I was going to be published. I don’t know his name or where he lives or really anything about him. But he saw something amazing happen that day. And a lot of screaming intermixed with tears and more screaming followed by more tears.

36. You’re going to show up more on people’s radars now that you’ve moved to New York in pursuit of your dreams. Ex-boyfriends, old colleagues, some random person you met on a plane once. They’re all going to start dropping you a line and caring about your Snapchats all of a sudden. You’re fine with that. Except for the ex’s. You’d rather they shut the hell up and deal with the fact that you’re awesome (which you always were by the way).

37. Despite people finally realizing how cool you are, people are still going to flake out on you last minute. Because in New York, if I’m asking you to come to my comedy show, you’re definitely going to say you’re coming. But at the same time you can easily talk yourself out of it if you’ve had a long day at work. Or if you have a slight cough. Or if there’s something better to do within a closer proximity to you. It’s usually nothing personal. It’s just hard to convince a friend to come see you crush on a Tuesday at 11PM in Midtown. Ah, New York.

38. I’ll still be friends with you, by the way. But I’m just saying if Jimmy Fallon ever does call, I’ll be the first to forget to invite you if you’ve flaked out on me 5-7 times already.

39. Speaking of flakes…SNOWFLAKES. Ah, they’re so pretty in New York, aren’t they?

40. I apologize for that last one because I just decided maybe I’m running out of sage New York wisdom to tell all of you…

41. WAIT. Quit putting your MetroCard in your pocket! It’s going to get bent and then every day it works will feel like a god damn miracle! Get a nice plastic cover thing, or a necklace or something really nerdy but actually necessary.

42. You will trek back the to the bar in Williamsburg to find your MetroCard in a bathroom because it flew out of said pocket when you were taking care of business (#1 calm down, people!) and you will be so so thankful to be living on this amazing planet, I mean really that was a close call.

43. Even though I just said New York isn’t what Hollywood cracks it up to be, being a comedian in New York is pretty much just like that movie Don’t Think Twice and you’re pretty convinced you can be on SNL if you just dump thousands of dollars into the right improv theater or a big producer will just happen to be in the front row of your show and in dire need of a curly-headed white lady with a few hot takes on dating and yoga classes.

44. Speaking of which, you’re going to have to come up with some pretty creative responses to your grandparents at Christmas when they ask you why you aren’t on SNL yet.  

45. Some days, you’re going to look at your life and not even recognize it anymore. Which is equal parts cool and terrifying. It’s cool because your “old life” or your “pre-New York life” seems like a lifetime ago and your “new New York life” is just so fucking awesome you can’t believe you didn’t think about doing this before. It’s also terrifying because you wonder if people know how unhappy and scared of life you were back there, and you wonder if others are experiencing what you did, and are struggling to break into something new. You hope they get their acts together and move to New York, or Start teaching English in Japan, or Whatever it is they're dreaming of doing someday.

46. Life can be pretty damn lifey. No matter where you are. And for me, New York has brought out the coolest and most awful experiences of my life and somehow smooshed them into a few quick months. When I think about all the lifey shit I’ve been through since making the jump, it’s absolutely amazing that I’m still alive. Really. I’m pretty sure half of you expected me to be taken out a taxicab by now.

47. While you’re off galLIvanting in New York doing your comedy thing, your friends’ lives back home are going to change too. They’re going to call you up and invite you to their weddings and tell you about the homes they’re buying and the babies they’re having on purpose. It’s going to feel a little weird at first. You’re going to second-guess your choices for about five milliseconds. And then you’re going to snap out of it, be happy for them, and continue sending them funny Snapchats of you drunk on the subway after a great set where you shared a stage with someone who was on Conan.

48. Being on Conan is actually a lot more common than you once thought. Which makes you feel kind of not as bad about yourself when you explain to your mother that there was only one person in the audience last night at your show. His name was Steve. He was really nice. 

49. Your mother is not going to care about this detail because she’s so god damn proud of you. Yes, it stresses her and your dad out more than you will EVER understand (because you yourself don’t have kids that have run away from you to the Big Bad Apple), but the real truth is that they’re both up to their little ears in pride about what you’re doing with your life, even if they lightly shame you every once in a while or say “I told you so” every time your shit gets stolen off your front porch.

50. New York is going to be your best friend on your best days, and your worst enemy on your worst. It’s going to fill you up with sparkly magic and simultaneously kick the shit out of you on the curb in front of your cool new friends. It’s going to make you work for it. Because if you don’t, there’s just going to be a few billion other people who will. You’re going to get lost all the time and find yourself in ways you didn’t think were possible. New York is going to push your fucking buttons. But at the end of the day, you are still here. And you’re going to keep showing this city that you mean business because that’s what you were born to do.

 Photo by:  Jajuan Burton  

Photo by: Jajuan Burton 

Editor’s Note: This post was actually written in Denver, Colorado. Because as the universe would have it, I’ve been invited to audition with 79 other people for a speaker position at tedxmilehigh from 14,000 applicants. Updates to come if I made it in, but honestly who gives a shit when you look at those numbers? I am crushing ittttt.  

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How I Moved To New York With a Plan and Found Magic Instead

 If you squint real hard you can see my best-laid plans going to shit but finding better things instead. 

If you squint real hard you can see my best-laid plans going to shit but finding better things instead. 

It’s a Tuesday night at 9 PM and I’m transcending.

I’m holding a beer standing in the back room of a bar I’ve never heard of. Big winter jacket and heavy backpack still on and weighing me down.

But right now I am light as a feather.

Because a stranger is standing on a tiny stage before me surrounded by twinkly lights playing what I can only comprehend as pure magic. He’s playing wine glasses filled with water and singing a song he wrote at the height of the Syrian refugee crisis.

It occurs to me that there are only about 15 other people in this tiny room experiencing this right now with me. I wonder if they too understand. I wonder if they know just how privileged we are to be in this room surrounded by this sound. 

My heart is so full I think I might burst into a pile of confetti on the floor.

It was a Thursday night and I saw my first improv show since moving to New York. The lights came up on the stage and I remembered the first time I fell in love with comedy; sitting on the floor in front of the TV with my sister well past our bedtimes watching reruns of Whose Line Is It Anyway? until we both fell asleep.

It’s a Monday night and I’m coming home from my day job as a nanny. I saunter through the downtown streets of DUMBO, Brooklyn and have to stop myself because the light is hitting the city across the river in such a breathtaking way that I take the long way to the subway.

The really long way.

In fact, I forgo several stops and almost walk myself all the way home.

It was another Thursday night when I followed a crowd of improvisers I didn’t know to a bar I’d never heard of and had the most important conversation of my life.

A conversation not unlike any other introductory walkthrough about who I was and why I was there in New York City.

“I’m a writer,” I announced a little unsure. “I mean my book isn’t published yet or anything, but I’m working on it.”

I guess I hadn’t realized that the words “my” and “book” might generate some interest to a complete stranger.

And some follow-up questions.

As fate, or coincidence, or even magic would have it, this particular stranger (Hey Aaron! You’re THE MAN) knew a publisher who just months later would take a chance on me and my little book, changing life as I knew it forever.

I used to be afraid of magical moments such as these.

I would watch moments of pure joy and wonder come into my life and brush them off as mere happenstance; anomalies in my overall “predictable” life.

Like that time I sat on a rooftop drinking wine in Toledo, Spain with my best friend staring up at a billion stars and a 3,000-year old cathedral thinkin' "dayum, life is good."

 Oh, you know, just sitting on a roof with the most amazing view fine how are you.

Oh, you know, just sitting on a roof with the most amazing view fine how are you.

Or when my best friend and I single-handedly curated two amazing art shows in Denver with 13 artists in a gallery that we couldn't really afford with an audience of 300 people and we felt all fancy and shit. 

 Here I am using fake confidence to tell an artist that I've kind of screwed something up in his exhibit. He's taking the news really well.

Here I am using fake confidence to tell an artist that I've kind of screwed something up in his exhibit. He's taking the news really well.

Or that time I went to New York City for the first time a few years ago to take an improv class just weeks before starting my short-lived career as a high school teacher.

It was there that I’d get my first real taste of the magic.

This isn’t real life,” I’d spit back to the universe as I performed on one of the most notable improv stages in the world at the end of the week-long intensive.

“I can’t actually do comedy in New York. That’s not a life I get to live. That’s just ridiculous.”

For whatever reason -fear, doubt, perceived adult responsibility- I didn’t believe in magic back then.

The idea that I could find and even create wonder in my day-to-day life terrified me. Magical moments were spontaneous, and my meticulous and planning-obsessed brain didn’t like spontaneous.

In fact, my brain fucking hated spontaneous.

It was hard enough trying to conquer the grocery store without sucker-punching someone back then, much less try to organize my life in a way that allowed for disorderly magical shit.

I returned from my week-long improv adventure in New York a bit shook up, traumatized even. For I’d seen a taste of something I didn’t think was possible or realistic for me.

“I had a lot of fun,” I told my mother (true). “But I don’t think I could ever live there.” (False).

To this day my mother recounts this very conversation as evidence enough for me to come home right this very minute you hear me. And at that time I truly didn’t think I could live in a place as magical as New York.

The night before I packed my two suitcases and took a one-way to the Holy Land, I had an epic meltdown in my parent’s kitchen while finishing a bowl of mac and cheese. 

“I’m so fucking scared,” I said, discarding my cheesy carbs and looking up from my detailed and color-coded check-list titled “New York Attack Plan.” Items included hilarious things like “Week 1- Get a job” and “Week 2- Sign a lease.

“What are you scared of?” My dad said from the sink as he scrubbed a pot.

“Dad,” I gulped. “I’m scared I’m going to fail-” The word “fail” was promptly interrupted by a cascading waterfall of ugly tears.

Oh, sweetie,” he said softly and rushed to my side. “You are not going to fail.” My tears were globbing down my pink face now and making a mess of my lovely (and supremely unrealistic) to-do list.

“First of all, you’re too stubborn to fail. You get that from me,” he chuckled. “And second, as bad as I want you to stay, I know in my heart that you’re going to get out there and do something amazing.”

My scared tears quickly turned into “why is my dad so adorable” tears and it took a bag of chocolate chips and half a box of tissues to get me down off the ugly crying ledge.

There would be a lot more ugly crying once I arrived in New York City.

There would be job rejection after job rejection. My dad would get some cancer* and I’d have over $1,000 stolen from me by a student loan scam. I’d have a heartbreak and I’d spend a lot of time on subways contemplating the meaning of life but also just staring out into no-mans-land and missing my stops.

The fear of an unknown place with a billion people zooming around my head sometimes made me question if I was going to figure my shit out without completely draining my savings account or if I was going to have to stick my thumb out and bum my way back to Colorado like a total failure.

But hey, guess what.

That didn’t happen. Because I’m still here.

Dad was right.

I’m sitting in a kid’s play studio watching the boys I nanny parkour off of gym equipment and kick soccer balls with ridiculous accuracy at my head. I’m submitting 400-word pieces to clients like banks and plumbing companies and podcasts for $15 a piece. I’m managing a 20-person co-living space that I tell everyone is a commune. I fill my days with performing plays about talking Brocolli to 4-year-olds and fill my nights with telling jokes to drunk strangers about performing plays about talking Brocolli to 4-year-olds.

And maybe this is all a little magical too.

I propelled myself into a magical life by letting magic exist in the first place. It hasn’t been easy or anything like my carefully-crafted “Attack Plan” would have predicted.

But I’m staring out of the boy’s bedroom now, tucking them in** and telling them they can’t have another popsicle. And out of the window, I can see it. The most magical of all New York structures.

The Empire Fucking State Building.

 Up close and personal with Mr. Empire in 2015 probably about to get hit by a taxi while taking this. 

Up close and personal with Mr. Empire in 2015 probably about to get hit by a taxi while taking this. 

If that’s not magic I don’t know what is.

 

*I am happy to report that Dad is now cancer-free and as awesome as ever.

**This has been the most arduous, horrendous, and emotionally traumatizing of bedtimes for these lil ’ monsters including the 2-year old chucking a baseball directly at my eyeball during storytime, lots of tears (from them and possibly me), and a kitchen tantrum/Mexican standoff involving a popsicle stick and a ham and cheese bagel. I’m just lucky to be alive right now let me tell you.

P.S. If you want to make this fun for me, comment below with your #magicmoments! 

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Today Is A Day That Will Live In Infamy

“Today is a day that will live in infamy.” -FDR

On this* day in 1941, Japanese kamikaze planes filled the sky over the U.S. Navy base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, dropping bombs all over the damn place and officially bringing the United States into World War II.

On this day in 2016, I might have been teaching on this very subject to a room full of rowdy, adorable, and you’re-really-testing-my-damn-patience 16-year-olds.

My memory alludes me, so I can’t remember my pacing guide exactly (and honestly looking back at my lesson plans tends to bring back a tiny surge of PTSD…Post-Teacher Stress Disorder), but I’m pretty sure I’d be on WWII by now.

Today, as I sit in my laundry-ridden room in my coliving house in Brooklyn (aka NOT a commune) sipping on tea and spilling cereal on my lap, I’m planning out the day in my head:

Finish this blog post, go to the coffee shop for my interview for the coffee shop, stay at coffee shop and write out my set for tonight, quietly practice set to myself and try not to speak too loudly or draw attention to the fact that I look like I’m talking to myself, write a few hundred words of one of my incomplete manuscripts, maybe the novel but probably just another to-do list, go to comedy show, slay comedy show, hopefully book another show by the end of the night because I slayed, come home, post this blog*, fall asleep while swiping left on Tinder because I’m bored and tired and maybe there’s a guy cool enough for me out there but probably not.

Oh, well. I’m too busy being awesome anyway to make room for a boyfran. #iaintneednoman

The truth is, today really will live in infamy. Because today is the day I start calling myself an author.

Okay, okay, okay. Let’s back up a second.

An author? Capital A-U-T-H-O-R, Author? Wow, that word sounds weird when you spell it out and say it a bunch of times, try it: authorauthorauthorauthorauthor.

Yes, the secret’s out, everybody. It’s true. Mimi Hayes is an author now.

I know you’re like, “pfff whatever, you’ve only been writing for a few years and you get some book deal and now you’re an author?! AS IF.”

Actually, I know you’re not saying that because that’s a really rude trash-human thing to say.

Actually, you’re probably being really nice to me. Because you supported me this whole time and didn’t laugh me out of the coffee shop the first time I told you I was writing a book and trying to become an author.

But let’s back up again. I never had any intent or desire to become an author.

That’s actually the very LAST profession I ever considered. And like I said, I never considered it.

Up until today, I've done a variety of jobs: barista, camp counselor, nanny, teacher, college football team videographer and equipment manager, barista again, improv instructor, watering the neighbor’s plants when they were away, that one time I worked at a Bubble Tea place for 3 days.

And I really wasn’t any of these things. Not truly.

Teaching, well that’s kind of in my bloodstream. It’s like some family gene, we’re all teachers and we all put on our special teacher voices at parties when people can’t settle the fuck down. That doesn’t really count.

I’m talking about who I am.

On online dating profiles, to strangers on airplanes, and at the bottom of my email signature, I tell people who I am.

I am an author.

Getting a book published helped (validate me), but it did not make me an author.

I became an author the minute my best friend Shannon told me on a very sad walk around the block that I had a story inside of me that others might benefit to hear. I didn’t really believe it, but I went home that night anyway, opened a blank word document, and began typing:

“Writing this sentence took five minutes. Or is it 5 minutes? I’m not a writer, how am I supposed to know? I’m not entirely sure if you are supposed to single or double space after every sentence. Geaz, I hope I don’t have to go back and double space all this when I’m done. Google is my go-to source for grammar tips. Is anyone still reading this? It will get better…I promise? But in all seriousness, typing this paragraph is a Christmas miracle in more ways than one. In two ways, actually.”

Those were legitimately the very first words I wrote in my first memoir. It really did take me five minutes because my head was bleeding and my fingers typed slow AF. Isn’t that adorable? This is awful! So awful, you guys. I mean like cute, but like when a kid is practicing an instrument for the first time, like awwwww this is painful!

I even denied my own existence: “I’m not a writer…”

My, my, my, how the tables have turned.

It’s almost like I was trying to talk myself OUT of being an author. Like I knew I was getting into something that had the capacity to change my whole life, I just wasn’t sure if I was really ready for it.

I wasn’t by the way.

I’m still not.

Somewhere in the first few months of writing this book my dear friend Kristen Jorden (hay gurl) told me she was writing a book too, and that she’d been looking for publication like since I was born, which made me extremely jealous of her but also love her as my friend and mentor even more.

We decided to play a game.

When someone got a rejection letter from a publisher or an agent (or in person from a certain meanie pants author who shall remain nameless *COUGH COUGH RHYMES WITH SHBLEEVE SHMALMOND*), we’d owe that person one dollar in a piggy bank. Once one of us got published, the other would buy us dinner using the rejection piggy bank. 

K-Dawg was definitely in the lead, sending out her work with confidence and getting rejections back like it was no big deal. I think I owe her about a thousand dollars right now. That's like five really nice steak dinners (here we are above at my publication dinner, which was fancy french fondue

This agent said they didn’t like the beginning, this publisher only takes science fiction it turns out, this one…” it went on and on. She was (and is) a rock star.

And I was pretty lame.

Now don’t worry, I’m about to get less lame in a second here. But I was pretty lame back then.

“Back then” when I was trashing myself on a blank word document and simultaneously allowing 16-year-olds to make me cry in the teacher’s lounge after school. I was a teacher. Authoring was just something I did at random increments of stolen creativity and time spent sitting with Kristen in coffee shops wondering if I could muster enough energy to write a lesson plan much less a book that people would buy if they saw it on a shelf.  

People always used to tell me that being a teacher was a noble profession. But people used to also talk to me like I had cancer.

"Wow, the bravery."

"Oh, I could never be a teacher."

"Bless your heart."

"I had no idea, oh, I am so sorry."

"Let me pour you some more wine."

Noble? Fuck that, I don’t want to be noble. You know who’s noble? Spartan war generals. And I’m pretty sure they’re like all dead right now.

Don’t get me wrong, I really loved teaching.

And more importantly, I love my kids. Notice how that’s not past tense. I can still love them even if I’m not locked in a windowless classroom with them anymore. I can still impact their lives as an author, probably even more so.

Hey there past students of mine reading this, y’all want some required reading?! Don’t worry, this will be on the test. The YOU’RE AWESOME AT LIFE test.

What you call yourself is really important, whether you realize it or not.

It’s taken me several years to own up to being an author, an artist, and a comedian.

What do I do during the daytime, you ask? I take care of small children.

Not mine, obviously.

I push strollers and make popsicle stick crafts and try not to laugh every time the two-year-old calls animal crackers “animal fuckers.” It’s putting some money in my pocket for the time being, as do other small jobs I do like freelance write about how to winterize plumbing and being a house mom for the big house I live in that is not a commune.

But what am I?

I am an author.

I write words on pages not because I chose this life for myself, but because my damn brain won’t shut off until I do. I write about what I know and what I think I know and then I come to the conclusion that I know absolutely nothing.

When I tell people what I am now, they don’t treat me like I have cancer.

They actually treat me like I’m a fancy celebrity.

More guys want to go on dates with me now because they hear I have a book coming out and they “want a chance before I get big” (their words, not mine).

I don’t really know how to feel about this quasi-attention right now, other than it’s nicer than when people treat you like they can see the knives sticking out of your heart from all the dreams you’ve let die by being a high school teacher instead of the author you really are.

Being an author is not easy, people.

Like any profession or state of being, it comes with its ultimate highs and crashing lows. It’s a lot of years of bleeding on a page, asking yourself the hard questions, and restraining yourself from setting the whole book on fire when you get stuck or discouraged but likely both.

Writing a book is like running a marathon that you haven't trained for, that you may have not even wanted to do in the first place because your friends signed you up for it, and you're in a heavy spacesuit, and you can't even tell where the finish line is because it doesn't really exist and did I mention you have a spacesuit on like what the fuck is that about that's heavy as fuck like are you okay in there can you breathe, would you like some water-OH, SORRY. Your book has been rejected by an agent for the millionth time because you don't have enough Twitter followers so NO WATER FOR YOU, SPACEPERSON.

Writing a book that is a memoir is like pointing a high-definition mirror at yourself and being like, "oh shit, is that really me in there? Oh, God, that's DISGUSTING. Nope. I'm not doing this. Don't like this mirror, put it away. I can't put it away because this is my life? Break the mirror. BREAK THIS FUCKING MIRROR THIS WAS A HORRIBLE IDEA WHO EVEN AM I ANYMORE." 

Don’t even get me started on how much money and time I’ve poured into this whole being an author business. Not to mention the gallons of coffee I’ve consumed in the process.

But alas, I have no choice. This is who I am now.

I am an author. And I fucking love it.

*Editor's note: This post was originally drafted on December 7th, for all you History nerds that think I messed up the date of Pearl Harbor. Nah, I just got home at 3 a.m. last night from my comedy show and didn't post this until today. 

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What It's Like To Be a Comedian The Year After Trump Gets Elected

I’m not a teacher (anymore).

I’m a comedian.

I joke about awkward Tinder dates and farting in yoga class.

I joke about the fact that I look like a 12-year old and have to constantly convince 30-year old men on dates that they’re not pedophiles.

I joke I like my Kombucha like I like my cocaine, overpriced and I use it to make me skinny.

I joke about drugs even though I don’t do them and sometimes have to awkwardly explain to weird old guys at the bar that I can’t help them “acquire an 8-ball of cocaine.”

I joke about asking friends to avenge my death in the event that my skin gets made into a lampshade on my next blind date.

I joke in dive bars, prestigious clubs, basements, windowless classrooms, and my kitchen.

I joke on the subway in my little notebook, constantly trying to scribble down a new concept that could be funny but probably isn’t.

I joke late at night, which makes my mother nervous.

I joke to crowds of strangers, friends, drunk people, and sometimes drunk strangers that have recently become my friends.

I joke on my hands with setlists inked on my palms like badges of smudgy honor.

I joke even when my palms get sweaty and my entire set list is ruined. 

I joke I have a brain injury and I am still really bitter about not getting a handicapped parking spot.

I joke in my sleep and in the shower which is annoying because I can never remember any of the jokes produced in these two locations.

I joke I saw this weird guy today, let’s make fun of him.

I joke I’m actually the weird guy, let’s make fun of me.

I joke about my inability to get someone to date me for longer than two months.

I joke about ex-students, ex-boyfriends, and that one time I thought the Office Depot guy was hitting on me but he was really just checking to see if I was in the “Rewards Program.”

I joke even when everyone at the bar is yelling, someone forgot to shut off the music in the back, And there’s a band setting up for their show on the stage during my set and they absolutely can’t wait three more minutes to test that drum kit.

I joke to people that paid to be in the audience.

I joke to people that I paid to be in the audience.

I joke Wait, I have to pay to get an audience?

I joke sober and I joke 1-2 beers in.

I joke about funny shit kids used to do in my classroom like try to barrel-roll out of my classroom to escape to the bathroom, stealing my phone, and showing up high every day to 1st period.

I joke about how silly it would be if men had to have periods, like a traumatic scene out of Saving Private Ryan.

I joke about how bullshit salads are and people should really quit judging me for my salad topping choices, who are you, my DAD?

I joke even when men explain comedy to me despite my combined six years of improv, sketch, and standup experience, personal study, reading, workshops, and training at comedy theaters.

I joke while struggling to figure out who I am and if I like the person I look at in the mirror every day.

I joke to the sound of hardy laughter, confused laughter, and often times an exotic form of “silent laughter.”

I joke about a lot of movie references, specifically romantic comedies, which I’ve been told is only funny if you’re a white women between the ages of 18-32.

I joke word-play and puns.

I joke about my medical history.

I joke about my anxiety and depression.

I joke in several medium-sized notebooks, which I misplace on bar stools and in bathrooms every night.

I joke while looking up to comedians that are funnier than me, practice more than I do, and are crushing because of it.

I joke even when I’m discouraged, disheartened, and in general need of therapy.

I joke as therapy.

I joke Oh, you’re gonna’ try and heckle me during my set, good sir? Go ahead and try. Oh, shit. Now I’ve done it. Please, sir, shut up. No really. Shut the fuck up.

I joke despite breaking the microphone 97% of the time I use it.

I joke in a black fedora that people now don’t recognize me without.

I joke in sneakers because ain't nobody got time for that shit.

I joke in the presence of the most talented comedians in the country.

I joke backstage trying to decide if I have time to nervous poop right before my set.

I joke after long days of work and emotional turmoil.

I joke even when I am the last to sign up for an open mic and don’t make it up on stage and spent the past three days preparing but stay anyway to support my fellow comedians. 

I joke to supportive audiences, my mother, and mostly a room full of other comedians who have all heard my jokes before and don’t look up from their phones.

I joke Have we covered dick jokes? after an entire hour of dick jokes at a mic.

I joke with comedians that started when I did, have busted their asses, and are on their way up.

I joke about the creepiest Groupon massage I ever had, performed by an 86-year old Trump-supporting Bavarian man with the sniffles.

I joke in 3 to 10-minute increments.

I joke about all of these things and more.

But what I don’t joke about is how to be funny.

Not how to write a good punch line or how to use the microphone.

But how to be funny when nothing has been funny since Donald Trump got elected.

I don’t joke Fuck, are we all going to get blown up in a nuclear war?

I don’t joke I better stock up on birth control pills before the President takes them away from me for good.

I don’t joke hate and bigotry and fear.

I joke Listen to me my fellow comedians, I love you more than you will ever know and I will fight for your right to tell jokes on this stage until my last dying breath.

I joke even in years like this one when it feels like every atom in my body is screaming.

I joke for you and I joke for me.

Because America has been the least funny place in the entire world this year and we owe it to ourselves to keep laughing.

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An Open Letter To My Depression

 Hello darkness my old friend...

Hello darkness my old friend...

Dear Depression,

Hey there. I’d say, “long time, no see” but I think we both know that’s not the truth. I hesitated for a long time even calling you by your name.

It felt, well, it felt wrong.

Because you see, I didn’t want to acknowledge you. I was trying to ignore you, actually. I thought that if I averted my eyes when I saw you, walked on the opposite side of the street, or ducked into a crowded room that maybe you’d go away or just give up.

But you are very persistent.

You’ve followed me through the years like a silent shadow; through traumatic heartbreaks, medical mishaps, and even just plain old everyday shit.

Sometimes you linger at times that are appropriate, others not so much. I’m not entirely sure anyone noticed you either. I was pretty good at shoving you neatly under a rug or tucking you in the back of a dresser.

At one point I tried to ward you off with medication but ended up with more dangerous side-effects than actual progress. I paid a lady with a couch to talk about you for a while, too. I’ve spent hours reflecting, trying to pinpoint what your fucking deal is and why you won’t get off my case.

You’re elusive, too.

Which is also why I didn’t like naming you because I wasn’t really sure it was you.

You morph and change all the time.

Sometimes you leave me dry heaving for oxygen as tears burst from my eyes like little flames.

Other times, well, other times you just make me feel fucking empty.

Like I’m missing something, but I can’t put my finger on it. Like walking into a room and then forgetting why you went there in the first place.

You’ve made me feel tired.

The kind of tired that can only be described as an unwillingness for my bones and spirit to move at a normal pace. I can fake it. But only for a little while until you remind me that I ain’t shit and my bed is the safest place for me to be.

I don’t feel comfortable telling my friends and family about you.

Sometimes I’m not sure if they’d believe you're real, tell me to just “get over you already,” or show genuine concern for your obsession with my body and mind.

I don’t want to talk about you because then I’ll feel weak.

Like I haven’t matured properly or like I’m some kind of failure of a person for having to deal with you. I don’t want people to misunderstand. I don’t want people to feel sorry or try to fix. I just want you out of my face, so I can move on with my life.

I haven’t even written jokes about you because I can’t find any possible scenario where you’re funny. And I certainly don’t want you to be funnier than me.

And you know what they say, tons of comedians talk about how sad they are on stage.

“It’s just what we do.”

Well, I want no part in it.

I don’t want to give you a single bit of my stage time or recognition. Even writing this letter is probably a waste of my time.

You haven’t whispered dark and terrible ideas in my head for a while now. You know, like the ones about killing myself. It’s been probably six years since you tried to feed me that shit and I never believed you.

I don’t want to die, you sick fuck. I want to live.

And that’s also what’s so frustrating about you. Every time I live and do something awesome, you still can’t be happy for me. You can’t pull your head out of your ass and tell me your proud or honored to know me.

A lot of cool shit has happened to me recently and you can’t even be bothered to notice.

I moved to New York City. I am doing all the comedy I ever wanted to do. I fell in love for a while. I am inches away from getting my book published.

And you’re too busy trying to convince me the world is on fire and that all the fire extinguishers in the world couldn’t keep everything I know and love from burning to the ground.

You’re such a fucking asshole.

There. I said it. You. Are. An. Asshole.

And not just to me. Shit, you’ve been hurting my friends too. My family. You’ve had your hand in so many of our lives and all you do is take, take, take.

Well, you can take your hand off me, you filthy bastard because I’m through with you.

I’m done hiding from you and pretending.

I refuse to let you rob me of my happiness, past, present, or future.

You get nothing.

You don’t get to push me around anymore or tell me what to do or how to feel.

I hope you had fun because those days are over. Done. I’m arming myself up with everything I can find to make sure I never see your face again.

I’m going to meditate.

I’m going to run.

I’m going to write.

I’m going to speak out.

I’m going to eat.

I’m going to enjoy.

I’m going to do the fucking work.

Because I deserve to be happy.

And you?

You’re dead to me.

Nah, you know what? You’re worse than dead. You’re decomposing. Like the rotting banana I see on my way to the subway every day.

You’re so insignificant I can’t even be bothered to notice you anymore.

So goodbye and good riddance. I hope the door hits you on your way out.

 

NOT Sincerely,

Mimi

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What I Learned on a 30-Day Cleanse Diet

  Hello, there my tiny scale friend! What news brings the day? Hark! A higher number than yesterday I see!

Hello, there my tiny scale friend! What news brings the day? Hark! A higher number than yesterday I see!

I’m not good at 30-day things.

My 30-day yoga challenges turn into 3-day yoga followed by 362-day no-yoga. With a few hot yoga’s thrown in there just because I hate myself and keep holding onto the idea that sweating my weight in liquids onto my yoga mat is actually fun and not the worst idea I’ve ever had.

This past month I tried a 30-day cleanse diet. And boy was it a doozy!

Never in my life would I have sought this kind of thing out on my own free will. But thanks to a lovely friend who posted a transformation photo and story recently (SHOUT OUT to Layne if you out there, girl you duh best), I thought hey, why the hell not.

I had zero expectations with this thing. Negative expectations actually.

I had this conception in my head that people who went on diets were crazy, deranged, wack-a-doodle’s. And sometimes just plain ol’ bat-shit sociopaths.

Who is this motivational person on this pamphlet to tell me not to eat bacon?

I. Don’t. Think. So.

But I called up my ol’ friend from middle school and we chatted about her transformation. It was amazing. She told me she not only looked great but actually felt great too. I liked the idea of not feeling so fat and lazy all the time.

I’d hit a point where I started to notice extra fat hanging around my sides in photographs. I took a selfie and had a double chin without trying. I ate a lot of delicious foods in Europe in the spring and I think they attached themselves to my belly button. Alright, I told myself. What the hell, let’s just do this thing.

Here is my (abridged) experience:

Day before:

  • A lot of my friends are resisting the idea of me being on a diet “You don’t need to lose weight,” they say. “Haven’t you heard of working out?” “That’s a pyramid scam,” or my personal favorite, “Just cut out carbs, it’s easy.”
  • I promptly want to punch them all in the face.

  • I buy a sugary coffee on my way to an improv show, there was 5 dollar minimum on the card so I had to buy a bag of skittles (obviously).
  • I drink a beer with new friends after the show because I have a feeling this is the last time I can do this kind of thing.
  • I buy a tube of Pringles on the subway home. I feel hopeless and probably not even that hungry. I see a guy pissing on the side of the subway, run to the opposite side of the platform, and eat half the tube in disgust and shame. I get on the subway and try to offer the other half of my Pringles can to a homeless man and even HE didn’t want that shit. I get off the subway and proceed to throw away the can in the nearest trashcan.

Day 1: Sat 8/12

  • Wake up, tired at 10:30 a.m.
  • Read the directions on my giant box of mystery weight loss products.
  • Take a “natural accelerator” pill.
  • Drink 1 oz. of a weird brown liquid and start to question my life decisions.
  • Make a vanilla shake, not the worst thing I’ve ever had. But it’s no doughnut.
  • It’s snack time! I am so excited to eat again that I try to cut into a baby avocado that isn’t even close to ripe and butcher it horribly.
 My life summed up in one photograph...

My life summed up in one photograph...

  • I end up eating 10 grape tomatoes and a tiny spoon of hummus and kind of want to punch my boyfriend* as he opens a bag of Takis while simultaneously offering me a scoop of ice cream.
  • Make banana bread with chocolate chips that I can’t eat and lick the spoon on accident.
  • 2nd shake of the day, strawberry…I get the consistency down a bit better.
  • First meal of day: half plate Kale (it’s surprising how good Kale can taste when you haven’t had solid food all day), half plate whole grain coos-coos with spoon of garlic, some artichokes, and a handful of grape tomatoes, plus some Trader Joe’s Mango Sweet and Spicy dressing (probably not supposed to eat this dressing but fuck it).

Day 2: Sun 8/13

  • I feel sick this morning, like pukey. Maybe it’s the consistency of the shake. I’ve let it sit for a bit and now it’s lukewarm. I try to drink it, but cast half aside unable to stomach the texture of what feels like warm drool.
  • I gulp down the brown liquid stuff again and feel like a whiny 9-year old taking my cough syrup medicine.
  • For a snack, I have lentils and rice and veggies and don’t totally hate myself.
  • Only one word can describe my emotions at 11 a.m. HANGRY. FUCKING HANGRY.

  • I have my 2nd shake and a handful of almonds.
  • I make dinner. A baked stuffed pepper with quinoa, asparagus, tomatoes. I inhale half of it and then have to get on a train to a house event.
  • I break not once, not twice but THREE times at the house party. I sneakily inhale three bites of fettuccine alfredo, then cut a pizza into a small triangle and inhale that in shame, and then cut a small piece of bread. In my haste, the bread drops to the floor and I pick it up and dust it off, cover it with brie cheese and homemade berry jam and eat it anyway.
  • I feel like a giant dumpster fire of a human being.

  • No one at the party senses my disdain for them all as I watch them merrily eat everything and anything they want. Those fucking assholes with their brie cheese. BRIE.
 LOOK AWAY.

LOOK AWAY.

Day 3: Mon 8/14

  • I feel much better this morning and have my 1st shake of the day and prep for an interview.
  • I get really hungry right as I’m leaving for the interview. I’m stressed because I’m helping someone new move into the house. I eat a “Go Lean” Isagenix bar and make a strawberry shake for the subway ride.
  • My train is about to leave and I’m walking the new guy to the train but he needs to refill his MetroCard. I apologize and run onto the train anyway, not stopping for him because I can’t risk being late to this interview.
  • I am early to my interview, encouraging me to stop at Starbucks and order an unsweetened pineapple black tea and call my best friend Kristen.
  • I eat a quinoa bowl and water for dinner! Go me!

  • I go to a friend’s comedy show. There is a 2 drink minimum which I confuse with a 2 item minimum. I buy zucchini chips…(okay they are fried), a hot chocolate with peppermint schnapps (minus whipped cream), and a way too expensive Perrier.
  • I get to keep the mug from my alcoholic drink but steal the pen from signing the check because I spent 40 bucks and feel empty inside.

Day 4: Tues 8/15

  • I get help from a friend on how to manage the 20-person co-living space I’ve just been hired to manage. I drink my shake slowly over the course of 3 hours.
  • Later I go to a coffee shop and get a tea while I prepare for another interview for the next day.
  • It’s 4 pm and I’m still at the coffee shop and now I am STARVING because I suck at following an eating schedule.

  • I get home and eat a handful of nuts and cranberries.
  • I eat 5 mini pretzels with cheese.
  • I eat 5 cinnamon sugar almonds.
  • I have my 2nd shake.
  • I lead a house meeting and order pizza for my housemates. I eat a salad and fruit and try my best not to even look at the pizza. Go me!

Day 5: Wed 8/16

  • I might be losing my mind but there are weird beige spots on my arms today…are these bruises? Am I dying? Wtf is going on.
  • I feel more energy today but feel like I need more to really crush my interview. I eat a Go Lean bar on the way to the 911 Memorial and stop at Starbucks for a small iced coffee with a pump of vanilla. I crush my interview and feel awesome on the sugar high that I'm not allowed to be experiencing. 
  • I drink my 2nd shake then meet at Whole foods in Tribeca for manager training and dinner for my house. I get a box and head to the salad bar. I get some grilled veggies, salad, stuffed zucchini, tiki masala…and shit now I’ve gotten 2 large spoon’s full of mac and cheese, how the fuck did that happen. Oh, well.
  • I decline dessert even though the CEO’s are buying.
  • I go home and have a weird bowel movement.

Day 6: Thurs 8/17 (Cleanse Day 1)

  • It’s cleanse day #1 and I talk to Layne on the phone about the schedule I should follow for cleanse days. I have absolutely no idea what I’ve gotten myself into.
  • I spend the day eating my chalky capsules, pills, juice concoctions, chocolate (that’s my favorite part), and water.
  • I sit and watch my boyfriend* order a veggie burger at a restaurant and can barely stand it.
  • I have one slice of cucumber and a slice of tomato on accident.
  • I’m writing like mad today because a publisher has requested my manuscript. I am having trouble focusing on the task at hand because I like to eat when I write. A lot.

Day 7: Fri 8/18 (Cleanse Day 2)

  • It’s cleanse day #2; they are back to back every few weeks and I feel like that’s a recipe for disaster (and not the delicious kind).
  • I’m actually doing okay. I’m surprised that I survived yesterday without real food.
  • I follow the hourly schedule with fighter pilot precision.

  • My boyfriend* lets me have a bite of mango at 3 p.m.
  • This is more of a mental game than anything else. I don’t think I’m even that hungry, I just want to eat food to eat it, you know?

Day 8: Sat 8/19

  • My book is due to the publisher today and I am stressed AF. I get up early to write, make a shake and forget to eat again until 5 p.m. I eat some pretzel crackers and avocado in .02 seconds over the sink.
  • I lead an improv workshop in the basement of the house and buy some sugary snacks and alcohol for everyone. I eat a few pieces of chocolate but restrained myself from alcohol (okay so I took a sip and then bf was like “what are you doin’” and I was like “you right Bae, thanks”).
  • I eat 2 bites of zucchini pasta and a shake for dinner.
  • I weigh in and have lost about 5 pounds.

Day 9: Sun 8/20

  • It’s Brunch Day at the house and we’re pulling out all the stops: biscuits and gravy, eggs, an entire case of champagne…
  • Restrained myself and had Kombucha instead of Champagne and I’m going to be honest they taste about the same.
  • I try to keep it light and have a few potatoes, half a biscuit, and tons of fruit (the non-Tequila-soaked ones).
  • Lesson: I don’t even crave the alcohol, it’s the company. The people. I want to be around my friends!

Day 10: Mon 8/21

  • It’s my first day at my editorial internship and I’m excited to walk into the office feeling like a big girl with a big important job.
  • I kind of forget to eat again during normal lunch time but brought snacks and had a salad and shake.
  • After the internship, I meet up with my new friend Becky and BREAK the shit out of my diet by eating a cheese board, bread, and “world famous” mac and cheese.

  • I regret nothing but also everything.
  • I feel a bit guilty, but also manage to restrain myself from alcohol for the 3rd day in a row! Wow!

Day 11: Tues 8/22

  • Adding this Isagenix orange energy powder thing to my Vanilla shake (tastes like Orange Creamsicle) is rocking my world right now.
  • I do a 4 mile run at Prospect Park and talk to geese and turtles and see a swan floating away like he didn’t want none of your bullshit.

  • Lunch/Dinner: Veggie burger with Ezekiel bread, garlic spread, sweet corn salsa, tomatoes, and cucumbers OMG FOODGASM.
  • Another shake at night and some bites of curry (bf is so supportive he gives me bites but only of healthy stuff).
  • I realize that I am saving so much money on not eating out, drinking alcohol, and grocery shopping! YAY ME.

Day 12: Wed 8/23

  • This Orange Creamsicle invention is still giving me life.
  • I find out about the release of a new shake flavor, Cookies n’ Cream. I order it immediately and within a few hours, it completely breaks the internet.
  • I make Quinoa pasta with Ezekiel bread on side for dinner 😊
 Looks like I'm cheating...doesn't it. WELL I'M ACTUALLY NOT THIS TIME.

Looks like I'm cheating...doesn't it. WELL I'M ACTUALLY NOT THIS TIME.

  • I notice: not drinking enough water! Bad!
  • Not much physical activity today but I felt pretty energetic.

  • Made banana bread and subconsciously (or consciously) forgot to add the 3/4th cup of sugar! Woops. Still tasted good though with chocolate chips, soy milk, applesauce, and some agave.  

Day 13: Thurs 8/24

  • Was doing fine today until I saw an almond croissant from a bakery window…I ate it, naturally. I thought to myself, wow that was bad, why don’t I make up for it with this $8 juice, that must be healthy for me right? Um, NO. 190 calories, 810 mg potassium (okay, that’s okay right?), 45g carbs, 16g sugar, 340% Vitamin C. Alright, so not altogether awful. At least it’s not a Coke, right? But definitely not as healthy as the happy leaf on the front of the bottle would have you believe.
  • I also notice when I tell myself I’m “hungry,” I actually get hungry. Like if I wasn’t thinking about food 24/7 I probably would have gotten on the train, skipped the almond croissant and juice, and been just fine.

Day 14: Fri 8/25

  • I think I did okay today?
  • I drink two shakes, a sushi dinner…is sushi in my diet? Can I eat this? No matter, it’s fucking delicious.
  • I do some stand up at an open mic and don’t get any alcohol.

  • When I get home some of the boys downstairs are playing a drinking game on the porch. I join them and feel super awkward when I decline alcohol again. “C’MON, ONE SHOT!” They scream. Nah, I’m okay. I just want to watch you all fail at the simplest of tasks in this game right now.

Day 15: Sat 8/26

  • I have a comedy show tonight! I’m super excited and surprised that I got booked (shoutout to Raman if you in dis, thanks for hookin’ me up!).
  • I have my shakes throughout the day and prep my set.
  • I go to lunch with my good friend and brain buddy Emily who I haven’t seen for 6 years and we order a pizza and some salads. I wonder if it’s healthier because it’s gluten free but at this point, I think I’m just trying to make excuses. A pizza is a pizza.
  • The show goes great and I feel back in the swing of stand up!

Day 16: Sun 8/27

  • I’m getting a little frustrated because I’m not seeing the number on the scale go down…like at all. Damn it, pizza.
  • I’m also on my special lady time so I’m bloated and feeling gross.
  • I go for a run today which feels good.
  • I want to eat a lot today, and I’m not really sure why...
  • We do a taco bar for house dinner and I make mine like a salad…which is still probs not that healthy because I’ve dumped a bit of queso (okay a luxurious amount of queso) onto it.
  • I’m not loving myself today. I feel shameful when I have these “fat” moments. It feels like I’m really screwing this up pretty much every day. Maybe I’m just emotional because my uterus feels like it’s on fire? I don’t know.

  • I eat some snacks in the basement when we watch the Game of Thrones finale and feel real triggered.

Day 17: Mon 8/28

  • Ate a “snack” tablet (kind of like a chalky tablet version of a shake) and an energy shot before my…wait for it…10.5 mile run. Yes. It’s true. I actually spent like 4 miles of this run getting lost in a cemetery, because that seemed like a good idea at the time.
  • Finally arrive at my destination (a Trader Joe’s, obviously) and am a little disappointed by the scope and size of this location’s store. I buy some protein bars, water, and a non-Isagenix protein shake and call an Uber right as my phone is about to completely die.
  • Take a shower. Get lunch with boyfriend* and another friend at an Israeli place down the street. I don’t realize what I’m ordering and it’s a sandwich. I pick off the bread and eat all the yummy veggie insides.

Day 18: Tues 8/29

  • The granola from Trader Joe’s is like crack cocaine…I hope I’m allowed to eat this. It looks healthy. It’s gotta be healthy. I mean come on.
  • I snack during the internship on dried mango, a banana, and some chips and pico de gallo from the deli downstairs during lunch break. I’ve spent all day writing about food that I can’t eat and alcohol I can’t drink. It’s getting kind of annoying.
  • I stop at a chocolate store to buy something (for my boyfriend*, not for me!) and end up getting a sample piece of chocolate and a sample of a pistachio macaroon. What! What was I supposed to do? Turn down a macaroon from the nice man? Come now, I might be on a diet but I do have a soul.
  • Caught a whiff of Chick-fil-A on the way from the chocolate store to the subway and hate everything.

Day 19: Wed 8/30

  • A French house guest catches me making my shake this morning (with my new Cookies and Cream flavor!) and comments that “zat stuff eez really bad for you.” Hmm. Pourquoi, my little French busybody? I guess it’s starting to piss me off a reasonable amount that everybody and their mother has to weigh in on my dietary choices. What’s that? It’s bad for my liver you say? Please tell me more as you smoke that cigarette.
  • The office ordered pizza for a meeting. And I sit contemplating my next move. Which is to eat 3 slices, obviously. I proceed to hate myself despite the deliciousness. I try to tell myself it’s okay because it was thin crust.
  • Bargaining. The third step of grieving. Next, I will slip into a foodie depression.

  • When I get home I eat some biscotti cookies.
  • I don’t have my second shake until 11:30 p.m. I just can’t seem to get the scheduling down. I get distracted and I’m like “oh I already ruined my diet today so might as well just not eat!” That’s not good.

Day 20: Thurs 8/31

  • I felt much better today. A bit more in control. I have 2 shakes throughout the day, some light snacks, a veggie patty, salad, and risotto (okay it had cheese in it but that was an oversight on my part, don't judge meeeee).
  • It was a stressful day at the internship. I have a lot on my mind today and people are moving in and out of house like crazy. A friend calls to tell me she is having health issues. I cry for five minutes in the private phone booth at work for no apparent reason other than being overwhelmed.

  • I probably ate something small I wasn’t supposed to at some point today. I can’t remember.

Day 21: Fri 9/1 (CLEANSE DAY 3)

  • I hated today. I was very emotional, and it felt like there was drama around every corner. It was a terrible day for a cleanse day but I stuck to it. I watched a friend eat Indian food in front of me and I’m really proud of myself for that.
  • Just a bullshit emotional day.
  • I’ve lost 10 pounds.

Day 22: Sat 9/2 (CLEANSE DAY 4)

  • I’m still emotional and at this point, my eyes just look puffy from all the crying I’ve been doing. I go for a run and call a friend to debrief her on the newest developments in my emotional roller coaster ride.
  • I fucking hate not eating.
  • I look real skinny today though.

Day 23: Sun 9/3

  • I feel happy to be back to shakes today, Cookie’s n’ Cream is pretty bomb and I’m happy it exists.
  • I go to a BBQ for my house and feel a little anxious about not being able to find food there that I can eat. I’m relieved to find a veggie burger.
  • But I have a few Oreo’s from the dessert table. I’ve had a rough freaking weekend. I deserve this.

Day 24: Mon 9/4

  • I wish I knew what went down on this day. I can’t find my notes for this day anywhere. Oh well. Use your imagination!

Day 25: Tues 9/5

  • I did aiiight today.
  • I did manage to start pinning doughnut places in NYC to my favorite’s tab today during work so that I can visit all of them once my diet ends. Sounds like a great idea.

  • I made veggies and a sweet potato for dinner. Veggies go bad so fast I notice…

Day 26: Wed 9/6

  • The Hannah’s (the names of the other interns, lol) are making fun of me for my lame shakes at our internship today. Not like in a mean way. I think part of them admire my quasi-dedication to this thing.
  • I have a veggie burger for dinner and it’s delicious but I wasn’t supposed to eat the bread (don’t care). I eat some chips and guac and a swig of fancy cognac (that’s alcohol, and no I don’t care) for a friend’s going away party at the house.
  • I make scones for the house snack. And eat one.

Day 27: Thurs 9/7

  • Made a healthy quinoa breakfast with blueberries, cinnamon, and some other healthy bullshit. It’s actually really good. I know I’ve been grumpy these past few days, but really it’s not so bad.
  • I accidentally skip a meal.

  • I get home to find that my boyfriend* has made me a bowl of ice cream with blueberries and it makes me feel very special but I also know I’m not supposed to have it. I agree to have several bites and make him eat the rest of it.
  • I eat some Ezekiel bread with garlic spread close to 10:30 p.m.

Day 28: Fri 9/8

  • My boyfriend* and I stay in all day. We have granola and fruit for breakfast, order Pad Thai, and binge watch Bollywood movies all day.
  • I’m feeling down this week, for a lot of reasons unrelated to the diet, but a few caused specifically by the diet.

  • I’m getting really angry about having to say no to food. I feels like an open invitation for people to question me when I’m out somewhere. I also don’t think I’ve lost as much weight or fat as I wanted to, which I know is probably because all of my not-so-sneeky food cheating. I’m back up a few pounds from the cleanse day when I was at my lowest weight.

Day 29: Sat 9/9

  • I unofficially end my diet a day early by eating peach french toast out with a friend for brunch.
  • I get a green tea frappacino later in the day as I kill time before my improv class.
  • After class I meet my boyfriend* at the bus station to go to Saugerties, a small town in up state NY where we’ve booked an Airbnb and decide to take a long weekend.
  • Our bus makes a stop along the way at a cute diner and we order grilled cheese and fries.
  • I have definitely ended my diet and I feel a lot of things about it…
 I raise a grilled cheese to YOU, good friend.

I raise a grilled cheese to YOU, good friend.

Day 30: Sun 9/10

  • For breakfast we go to a cute little restaurant in the main strip of town and I order a vegan pancake. I feel a little better about ending the whole thing but the lure of vacation food is too tempting. For lunch we have some chips and queso and for dinner I eat a steak taco and get a cider. Later I drink half a bottle of wine and we watch more Bollywood movies.

If you’ve made it this far, congratulations!

You’re likely well suited to attempt a 30-day adventure just by your shear will and determination to get through this long ass post!

A few last thoughts.

Since ending my 30-day diet I have bounced back pretty closely to where I was before, numbers wise. I’m not happy about this, but I know that I was also going through a tremedously difficult season of life (and still am). I realize now that it took extreme focus to live my life this way for this period of time, even if it wasn’t executed perfectly.

I know deep down I could have done better, I could have been more careful about falling back off once the diet was over. I could have done a lot more sit ups, probably.

But this is life. It’s a process. There are no 30-day magic fixes for our lives, in the health department or otherwise. I’ve decided that this was the first step that I needed to take to achieve a healthy lifestyle and I’m willing to try it again and would truly recommend it for anyone who wants to be healthier in body and mind.

I think there should be a balance though. This thing was no joke. It was extremely strict and as a result I sometimes felt ill-equipt to follow it with precision. But what I was doing before (and started to slip back into after) was the completely wrong way to go about eating.

I had no mindfulness about what was going into my body, nor did I care what it did to me.

And this truly has to change.

I’m still working on it. It might take me another 30 days. Maybe 90. Shit, maybe 365. But I’m conscious of this now and I owe it to myself to keep working.

 Not half bad for sneaking contraband food items under the table more than a few times...

Not half bad for sneaking contraband food items under the table more than a few times...

*Editor’s note: Yes, it’s true. I was dating someone during this time. And it truly made me a better candidate for success. If your curiousity is killing you because you haven’t talked to me in 2+ months please feel free to call me on the phone, send me a hand written letter, or a carrier pidgeon if you wish to know further.

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50 Things You Learn Your First Weeks in New York City

 Me: "HEY, I'M WALKIN' H-" Taxicab: *proceeds to move toward me*

Me: "HEY, I'M WALKIN' H-" Taxicab: *proceeds to move toward me*

I’ve done it, you guys.

I’ve survived. I saw a rat and it didn’t eat me and I can get on the subway without the doors closing on my backpack now! Isn’t this all so exciting?

As hopefully you noticed by now, I moved to New York two weeks ago.

Geaz. I hope you noticed I was gone. That would be really shitty of you to not have noticed that kind of thing.

Anyway.

As the excitement of the first weeks winds down and I find my routine, I’ve been reflecting a lot on what I’ve learned in this short amount of time. It has been the most humbling, exciting, and terrifying 14 days of my life. Here are the biggest lessons I’ve learned so far:

1. Don’t go to Target for produce. Okay, or for anything really. I know this is hard since you’ve been handing 60% of your income to Target for about 15 years now. But really, just avoid Targets, okay?

2. It is easy to convince yourself on your first grocery shopping excursion that you can just take one backpack and fill it up with food and be fine. Please note that by the time you leave the three different grocery stores needed to get adequate food, you will have accumulated one large, human-sized bag in addition to your over-stuffed backpack that you must carry on the subway by yourself hoping to God you don’t recreate that scene from Home Alone where the bag of groceries rips in the street and reveals that he’s not a real grown up after all.

 What's that? Do I need it double bagged? Why would I need it double-ohhhhh...now I see. Be gentle. I'm new here. 

What's that? Do I need it double bagged? Why would I need it double-ohhhhh...now I see. Be gentle. I'm new here. 

3. Sometimes it’s just too damn peopley outside.

4. Other times you will enjoy seeing hundreds of thousands of people and feeling like they are all tiny mysteries with their own stories to tell.

5. But if there’s ever a deadly outbreak of a disease you’re going to absolutely die first because you come into contact with 7 billion people every single day.

6.     Leaving the house without a cellphone charger is pretty much a death sentence.

7.     It’s not impossible to have kids in New York. I’ve seen a single mother of five well-behaved and beautiful children on a subway train at 10 p.m. and it may have been past all of our bedtimes, but they handled it like total champs.

8.     Buzzfeed will not let you upstairs to “see Dan” if you don’t have a legitimate interview.

9.     Most places will not let you upstairs to see “Dan,” “Tim,” or even “Katherine who you emailed that one time” without a legitimate interview.

10.  It’s extremely annoying when people ask you: “So how many interviews have you been on?” and you have to explain to them items 8 and 9.

11.  It’s less emotionally defeating to just email or call to follow up on a job even if your whole life you thought “showing your face” was the quickest way to receive employment and prove your worth in society.

12.  It is entirely possible to sweat through denim jeans. Or denim shirts. Or denim anything. Jesus, why are you wearing denim anything you sociopath, it’s TOO HEAVY A FABRIC.

13.  There are those who can stand up on subway cars without holding onto anything…and then there’s me.

14.  Automated hand dryers are very useful in the event of arriving to a fancy digital media business and learning in the bathroom that you’ve sweat so hard that it looks as though someone has dumped a bucket of water on your back.

15.  If a receptionist has no recollection of your repetitive email correspondence she will ask you if you “want a sticker” to try to get you to leave her desk. If that doesn’t work, a dog will come in and everyone will surround that dog and you will be forced to leave with your stupid sticker because at this point your odds of getting anyone’s attention are negative one billion.

16.  Some subways are air conditioned. Most are not.

17.  New sweat glands that never existed before open up when you move to New York.

18.  Shoes that you could wear comfortably for an entire day now feel like constricting metal death vices filled with shards of glass. Or like an oven mitt that’s been set on fire and then filled with Legos. I’m trying to find a fancy way to describe this and it’s kind of going south but you get the idea: SHOES HURT.

19.  Due to #17, blisters are a thing.

20.  Nexcare Foot Tape will save your life and you will never leave the house without it again.

foot tape.jpeg

21.  Sometimes people in Brooklyn double park onto the sidewalk.

22.  It’s not creepy to make silly faces at a baby on the subway as long as you do it for five stops or less.

23.  The Statue of Liberty is not nearly as big as she looks on TV. Plus she’s got some man hands.

24.  Don’t fall for the “Subway Sob Story” which usually begins with a strangely dressed man and the words, “Attention Good People of the L Train –”

25.  While you kind of feel bad for the person in item #24, you find it hard to believe Steve’s girlfriend would have dumped him and kicked him to the curb after learning his 4-year-old daughter was diagnosed with hemorrhoids and is in need of immediate butt surgery.

26.  Headphones are the easiest way to avoid awkward people on the subway.

27.  Even though you easily catalog 50,000 steps a day, you will retain your muffin top. Because cheese and sugary wines are still your best friends and most mortal of enemies.

 Why, yes. Yes, our waiter did have a man-bun. How positively cosmopolitan of us.

Why, yes. Yes, our waiter did have a man-bun. How positively cosmopolitan of us.

28.  Listening in to conversations will become your newest and most favorite hobby. *Thick New York accent* “Listen, Jerry. I got this cheeseburger, kay? Are you listening? Kay, I got this cheeseburger. Took a bite. Jerry, I took a bite. Sour.”

29.  Seeing trash on every street becomes normal and doesn’t smell so bad if you just walk faster.

30.  You must resist the urge to scream, “HEY, I’M WALKIN’ HERE” every moment of every day because a taxicab will try to run you down at any opportunity and will not find your witty antics funny nor will they stop their vehicle.

31.  Calling your mother daily is absolutely necessary and actually comforting.

32.  If you don’t drink enough water you might as well go buy a shovel and start digging yourself an early grave.

 First day expectation vs. reality. This is the shirt I sweat through from item 14. Why, yes, that is a white shirt. 

First day expectation vs. reality. This is the shirt I sweat through from item 14. Why, yes, that is a white shirt. 

33.  Guys on Tinder in New York will offer you to come to their apartment after exchanging approximately five words with you. Or less.

34.  Bars have a $20 minimum on credit cards.

35.  When you see a rat, it is customary to leap off of a park bench and into an oncoming crowd of people.

36.  Sometimes when you go to check out a hip new “start up” in the city, you may come to find that the people at the address listed have never heard of this place and when you try to email the HR department that you’ve been in contact with for several months, that email might bounce back at you and also tell you that this place doesn’t exist.

37.  If you find an apartment under $700 dollars, the neighborhood will have a cop car on every corner and the people scheduled to show you around will conveniently have forgotten that you scheduled to see the place. Take this as a sign and proceed to the nearest subway station and never look back.

38.  Going to an improv class is the quickest way to make new friends who will gladly walk you to your subway station and ride along with you to make sure you reach home safely.

39.  People in New York are not as mean as the reputations that precede them. Each and every one of them went through the same ordeal of finding legitimate employment and housing. They know things that you don’t know. And 99% of them are willing to help you in any way they can.

40.  Your parents and loved ones will question your choice to come here most days, but deep down are supportive and loving and excited that you’re doing this.

41.  You will also question your choice to come here most days. But deep down you want to piss yourself in excitement every time you see a cool building or walk through Central Park.

42.  Google Maps is not great at navigating through Central Park so it’s often necessary to rely on your own (skewed) sense of direction. Or your friend with a flip phone that keeps questioning why Google would take us that way. Or that way. Hey, aren’t we just going in circles?

43.  Ellis Island is absolutely amazing but you must beat the Boy Scouts to get on the Ferry. If you time it just right, you can see the entire museum before noon and leave just as 12,000,000 people are coming off of more and more boats making you wonder if you’ve accidentally entered a time machine and are actually in the year 1901 and in line to get your eyelids pulled on by a scary metal tool to check for trachoma.

44.  You can get into The Museum of Modern Art for free by being really nice to the receptionist and getting her to feel bad for you that you came all the way into the city to give your resumé to Human Resources and they “don’t work on the weekends.” Proceed to wander around MoMa for the next three hours enjoying the air conditioning and getting to see Picasso’s, Pollock’s, and Warhol’s.

45.  It’s completely acceptable to sit at Tompkin’s Square Park listening to Mumford & Son’s song “Tompkin’s Square Park” and cry while you eat your lunch in broad day light because of that one person you miss back at home.

46.  Getting anywhere in under an hour feels too good to be true. And probably is.

47.  It’s easier than ever before to feel inspired in this place. All of a sudden, you are surrounded by creatives, entrepreneur’s, and hustler’s that make you want to be the best version of yourself.

48.  Sometimes you worry if you’ll ever get to that best version of yourself.

49.  Sometimes you fear your own fragility and failure and that the city will eat you alive and sweat you back out.

50.  But deep down to your very core, you know this place will change you, challenge you, and transform you in more ways than you ever thought was possible.

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The Sandwich That Changed My Life: Bliss and Where To Find It

I’m not a big sandwich gal.

I mean don’t get me wrong, they’re great. I just can’t seem to finish a whole one. I always find myself dissecting the second half and pulling out the pieces that I like and leaving the other bits mutilated on the plate.

I don’t know why I do that. That’s kind of weird.

Anyway, the reason I tell you this is because a sandwich changed my life.

This past March I spent a week in Spain and a day in England. This was truly a magical week of visiting breathtaking cathedrals, eating yummy Marzipan shaped like cathedrals, and long walks around ancient architecture.

And while this was surely life changing, the most memorable part of this trip was actually something very simple. Eating a sandwich.

Let me provide some context.

After spending an amazing six days with my best friend Kristen and her lovely family (and becoming quite smitten with her 4-year old son), I took off on a plane and landed myself in London, England for a 16-hour layover.

I landed around 9PM and grabbed a cab to my hotel. I still had stars in my eyes from Spain and just hearing the British accents in the airport plastered a giant smile on my face.

The cabbie pulled up (on the opposite side of the street) and asked me where I was headed.

“Hayes!” I said. The town where my hotel was located was called Hayes.

As we drove around and out of the Heathrow Airport, I looked out into the night, my gigantic travel bag sitting next to me like a supportive friend. It was fun feeling like a world traveler. Me and this bag had seen a lot of amazing things the past week.

We arrived at The easyHotel and I pulled 30 Pounds from my worn Wells Fargo envelope for my cab driver.

When I stepped into my hotel room I felt like I was actually in Tokyo, Japan. It was like a little capsule and the bathroom door looked like the entrance to a spaceship. It wasn’t extravagant or expensive. It was simple and clean and would do the job nicely.

In the early morning I showered in the spaceship and took a cab to Windsor to see the Windsor Castle. It wasn’t open for tours until 9:30AM but because I had to check out of the hotel by 10AM I decided to go early. Plus they didn’t allow bags. My travel pack could not accompany me on this adventure.

So, there I was at 7:30 in the morning, stepping out of another cab in front of a castle. It was chilly and I’d only packed a light sweater, but the glow of the sun peaking out from behind the castle brought warmth to my soul.

I mean kind of. It was still really fucking cold.

I walked all around Windsor, seeing the castle from all angles. I took “The Long Walk” down from the castle and contemplated life. Tomorrow I’d be back in my classroom with my students. I loved my kids, but I was already feeling depressed about checking my school email, lesson planning, and grading things I should have graded weeks ago.

But for now I could just walk. Down this cold and open path. It was too early for tourists. It was just me, my footsteps, and a long walk.

Like really long. I must have walked a mile down that thing. (Editor’s note: The Long Walk is 2.65 miles or 4.26 kilometers if you’re British)

I walked back to the front of the castle, meandering down side streets and getting a little lost (it’s okay, Ma. I have a smart phone!). I got back to a coffee shop, ordered an English Breakfast tea cuz’ that sounded like a proper English thing to do, and booked an Uber to pick me up (cuz’ British people like Uber too).

When I got back to the hotel I packed up my human-sized bag, checked out, strapped it to my back, and headed down the street. I didn’t know where I was going or how I’d get there. It didn’t really matter. I still had a few hours to kill before I needed to be at the airport.

So I walked some more. And some more. And some more.

I didn’t stress myself out about where I was or where I needed to be.

But I was getting hungry from all this walking.

At this point I could go for a beer, but it was still only noon and I wanted to have my wits about me maneuvering the Heathrow Airport.

This is where the sandwich comes in.

I bet you were wondering. It’s been a very long build up. Get it. Because I was walking The Long Walk.

Okay, sorry. Back to the sandwich.

I decided to walk myself into a little grocery store to find some food. It was like a 7-Eleven except classier.

I was feeling rather European so I found a baguette, some cheese, prosciutto, and a handful of mustard packets. And a Red Bull. Because that bag is like 40 pounds (and I mean weight not price) and I’d easily walked 10 miles (16.093 kilometers) by now.

I brought my goodies to a park bench by an open courtyard and began to assemble my sandwich.

I sat there in that small courtyard and ate that whole sandwich, my bag and I taking up the entire park bench.

And as weird as this is about to sound: that was the happiest moment of my life.

It was the purest bliss I’d ever experienced. It was so simple. I was eating a sandwich. Granted, the fact that I was in a beautiful part of the world didn’t hurt, but I wasn’t taking pictures at Big Ben or any other tourist site. I wasn’t hitting the town for an exciting live band or salsa dancing with a sexy foreigner.

I was just eating a sandwich.

Time stopped being time. It was just place. Here on this bench with a mouthful of cheap bread and cheese with my travel bag sitting next to me quietly.

I stopped worrying about my upcoming existential crisis of quitting my job. I wasn’t looking at my phone. I wasn’t sending cute travel snapchats to my friends or panicking about how much money I had left in my little envelope.

I was just there. Truly in the moment. Slobbering all over myself with a giant smile on my face for absolutely no one to see but myself.

Transcendence. Mindfulness. Bliss. Whatever you want to call it, I was doing it.

For the first time ever I realized that happiness doesn’t just happen to you, you have to make it happen yourself. In every small and insignificant moment.

I’d traveled the world, seen beautiful things, yet I was still content to stress myself out about things that I couldn’t control. I felt burdened by my thoughts, feelings, and circumstance. And in that moment I let go. I let go of everything and allowed myself to be present in the simplest of events.

It’s not easy.

I’m not saying the next time you eat a sandwich you can’t transcend like I did, hey, maybe you eat a lot of bomb-ass sandwiches. But it might not happen that way for you. Everyone is different.

But I do know that bliss and happiness is possible. In the everyday and tiny moments that we can consciously choose to be present for and enjoy.

So show up for your life. Know when to pay attention to the small details and when to let yourself be in the moment. Travel the world and eat as many sandwiches as you can.

You only have this one life.

 "2007 called, they want their jumping pictures back."

"2007 called, they want their jumping pictures back."

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It's Time to Cut the Shit About Trumpcare

As most of you know, I had a Craniotomy in 2014.

That means a really hot dude in his 40’s took a very fancy tool to the back of my noggin' and fixed some shit back there. I got a lot of fun drugs and a few weeks in an intensive therapy center where I spent a lot of time telling therapists that I didn’t need a wheelchair.

As you can see I’m super nonchalant about all this.

It’s easier that way.

I get to joke about my medical history all I want now.

And I can do that because I’m fucking alive.

You see, I had this thing. It’s called health care.

For those of you that don’t know what that is, it works like this:

Me: “Hey Dad, just curious, how much did my brain surgery cost?”

Dad: “About $285,000 dollars –”

Me: “I’M SORRY, WHAT?”

Dad: “Oh, yeah.”

Me: “Did you have to sell your body parts to pay that? DAD, DO YOU COOK METH.”

Dad: “No, I don’t cook Meth, dear. We had to pay about $14,000 or so to meet our maximum and our insurance paid for the rest.”

The number $285,000 dollars didn’t make sense to me. Even $14,000 was a high amount for my messed up brain to contemplate. How could it possibly be that these numbers added up?

Even scarier, what would have happened to me if I didn’t have health care?

The answer from my parents was a bit more complex.

“Remember in the E.R.?” My mom asked.

“I remember very little,” I said. “Except for being fucking terrified.”

The Emergency Room was a very scary place for me. It was like those scenes in movies in the hospitals where everyone is running around and people are screaming and dying. I didn’t close my eyes the entire time I was there.

hospital.jpg

“There was this guy in the hall outside your room,” Mom said. “He looked really messed up. It looked like Heroine or something else. They hooked him up to an IV and then once he was sober they threw him out on the sidewalk.”

“Did they give him a bill for thousands of dollars too?” I asked.

“They folded it up and stuck it in his back pocket,”

“What if he didn’t pay it? What if he was homeless or something?”

“The hospital pays it.”

“But what about me? What if you couldn’t afford to pay those hospital bills for my surgery?”

“They would have found a way to get our money.”

I don’t know a lot of things, but I do know this:

American health care is run like a business.

If you don’t believe me, ask my mother about the THREE times I was turned away at the ER without medical imaging or hospital care because I looked fine. I mean my brain was bleeding from the inside, but hey, I looked amazing. Then, anyway.

And this is with health care.

Listen, nothing in this world is perfect, okay?

Obamacare sought to keep insurance companies from denying people the right to apply for health insurance if they had pre-existing conditions.

This is great, you guys! That’s me! I have like five of those pre-existing conditions. Including being a woman, apparently.

The problem is people are the worst and some started abusing this system which hurt insurance companies. But here’s the thing too. The health care under Obamacare? It currently covers millions of people. And once that shit goes away?

Well, hang on. I’m getting ahead of myself.

I had to do some research. Because I was a little confused. Okay I was a lot confused.

What is Trumpcare anyway? According to trumpcare.org here are the 7 points of the proposed health care bill and my take on each of them.

1. Completely repeal Obamacare. Our elected representatives must eliminate the individual mandate. No person should be required to buy insurance unless he or she wants to.

Nobody wants to pay for insurance, obviously. Do you think I like having this shit taken out of my paycheck, you peasant? Oh, I forgot this is YOU we’re talking about. You’ve probably never had to pay for anything your whole damn life, my apologies.

Listen: you know what I do enjoy though? Knowing that if my fucking head explodes that I won’t DIE. So, you know what, give me the health care. Give me all the damn health care. I’ll take two beefy health cares with some health care sprinkled on top. With a pre-existing condition on the side.

If you're curious about how Obamacare compares to Trumpcare, I found this lovely graphic courtesy of trumpcare.com:

2. Modify existing law that inhibits the sale of health insurance across state lines. As long as the plan purchased complies with state requirements, any vendor ought to be able to offer insurance in any state. By allowing full competition in this market, insurance costs will go down and consumer satisfaction will go up.

Okay, I don’t truly know what to think about this one other than that the words “full competition in this market” don’t sound like they should be in the same sentence as my health insurance. Also “consumer satisfaction.” That’s funny to me for some reason. Do I get to buy a Snicker's Bar in the ER? That would make this consumer very satisfied

3. Allow individuals to fully deduct health insurance premium payments from their tax returns under the current tax system. Businesses are allowed to take these deductions so why wouldn’t Congress allow individuals the same exemptions? As we allow the free market to provide insurance coverage opportunities to companies and individuals, we must also make sure that no one slips through the cracks simply because they cannot afford insurance. We must review basic options for Medicaid and work with states to ensure that those who want healthcare coverage can have it.

You know, this part sounds great. If you do your taxes, that is. I guess when I think about people “slipping through the cracks” I think back to that dude on Heroine outside of my ER room. The truth of the matter is, the hospitals will not turn you away if you don’t have health insurance. They will treat you. I mean they won’t make you a banana split from the dining hall or anything, but they’ll try their best to keep you alive. As for Medicaid, I don’t personally have it, but I know people that do. And they’re all gonna be fucked.

4. Allow individuals to use Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). Contributions into HSAs should be tax-free and should be allowed to accumulate. These accounts would become part of the estate of the individual and could be passed on to heirs without fear of any death penalty. These plans should be particularly attractive to young people who are healthy and can afford high-deductible insurance plans. These funds can be used by any member of a family without penalty. The flexibility and security provided by HSAs will be of great benefit to all who participate.

I’m sorry. But do you know what I’ll be “passing on” to my “heirs?” A hot glue gun and a closet full of ripped clothing. Who the fuck even are you? Okay, so I did some research on this one. Health Savings Accounts were available under Obamacare too. HSA’s are high deductible health insurance plans with tax benefits. I’ve hit my deductible for the past couple of years, okay. Like, real quick. Do you know how expensive an MRI is? That’s beside the point, but anyway. HSA’s work in that once you hit that deductible, the insurance company starts paying. Then that money left in the HSA builds interest. And I’m asking myself…what LEFT OVER MONEY. What, you think there’s just left-over money hanging around after I pay for my Giant Metal Donut Exam (that’s what I call my MRI’s)?

Also: did you just say, “young people who are healthy who can afford…?” I SHOULD SMACK YOU. Okay, okay, so maybe it’s just me with the extensive list of medical problems and a net-worth of negative $76,000 dollars, but I mean are you serious? I know way too many young people who are not only in debt, but who are living without health care and just praying not to have anything wrong with them so that they don’t have to take out another loan or sell a kidney to take care (of that kidney).

That’s funny.

Selling a kidney to take care of a kidney.

Damn, I’m good.

And did someone say "death penalty?" Hey, man. Everyone's thinking it. You said it. 

All in favor of throwing our orange leader to the stocks say "I!"

5. Require price transparency from all healthcare providers, especially doctors and healthcare organizations like clinics and hospitals. Individuals should be able to shop to find the best prices for procedures, exams or any other medical-related procedure.

Hey, I like this one. I like shopping. Especially when it’s for shit that could keep me alive. I guess I just don’t see how this would really work.

Doctor: “Your next MRI is due. Here are your options, $25,000 from Images R Us, $23,500 from Donut Holes Inc, -”

Me: (checks wallet) “Nah, you know I think I’ll skip this year.”

6. Block-grant Medicaid to the states. Nearly every state already offers benefits beyond what is required in the current Medicaid structure. The state governments know their people best and can manage the administration of Medicaid far better without federal overhead. States will have the incentives to seek out and eliminate fraud, waste and abuse to preserve our precious resources.

This one? Oh, this one’s hilarious. You’d like to “seek out and eliminate fraud, waste and abuse” now, do yuh? Let’s start with you shall we- (rolls up sleeves, drags giant waste bin to White House).

Alright, alright. So I can’t throw the President of the United States in a trash can. But I really fucking want to.

I guess what scares me about this one is that states get to decide things. Isn’t this what leads to gay marriage being illegal just because a “state doesn’t want to?” States are kind of starting to sound like assholes to me. All I’m saying is, laws should be laws. I don’t like the idea of certain states opting out of something that’s right just because they feel like it.

And I’m sorry, but providing health care to people who need it is just the right thing to do.

7. Remove barriers to entry into free markets for drug providers that offer safe, reliable and cheaper products. Congress will need the courage to step away from the special interests and do what is right for America. Though the pharmaceutical industry is in the private sector, drug companies provide a public service. Allowing consumers access to imported, safe and dependable drugs from overseas will bring more options to consumers.

Hmm. This one’s interesting. Didn’t I just read in the paper this weekend that Mr. Trumpy thinks everyone is being a giant bully to U.S. trade? Didn’t I just read that Trump has already threatened to terminate NAFTA with Canada and Mexico and thinks that the World Trade Organization is biased? Isn’t he trying to get rid of all this foreign trade nonsense? But I mean hey, if I can get some sweet new brain pills from Singapore, let’s do this man. I’m all about it.

Listen, I don’t have the answers to this whole mess.

I’m just a brain damaged comedian looking for ways to survive in this world. And right now things are okay for me. My head isn’t bleeding anymore. I can see right-side up again. We’re all good over here.

But I’m scared.

I’m scared of what the Emergency Room will look like in the next few years. I’m scared of the fact that my own doctor didn’t want me to get medical imaging because it was too expensive. I’m scared that this triage method of care will kill thousands of people like me that look fine on the outside, but are in desperate need of a closer look.

Recently, Trump acknowledged that the requirement for all individuals to have insurance, or face a fine, is un-american. And while nobody likes being fined, this isn’t a business, okay? These are people’s fucking lives.

According to a press release by Senator Charles Schumer (D) today, “Trumpcare would be a cancer on the American health care system,” he says. “Unless you’re a healthy millionaire, Trumpcare is a nightmare.”

Our bodies are so supremely fragile. We need health care like we need breathing. This isn’t a choice to be left up to politicians anymore.

Please like, comment, and share this blog. Visit the links throughout this post. Start conversations with your colleagues. Call your Congressmen and women. Sign petitions. Riot. Kick and scream.

Fight for your own lives.

Because nobody else will.  

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What I'll Miss About Teaching...And What I Won't

The cat’s out of the bag. Or more accurately, the pencils have scattered onto my carpet. The Cheetos have scrunched themselves all over my teaching desk. Whatever metaphor you choose, I’ve officially released the information:

I’m quitting my job as a high school teacher.

I decided this in September, a mere two months into the new school year. It was a painful realization.

I’d just ended a relationship and I was the biggest mess I’d ever been. I stumbled into the coffee shop to meet my best friend Kristen for our monthly writer’s group.

“I think I’m dying,” I said sobbing into a cup of coffee. “It’s over. My life is over. Everything is awful and I don’t know what to do,”

Kristen listened patiently as both of our coffees got cold. I explained to her my pain and anguish. I told her I choked on a muffin once on the way to work and thought I might die on the way to my shitty job.

That’s when it hit me.

Maybe I wasn’t just unhappy that I lost a loving relationship. Maybe I was also unhappy at my job.

It was the biggest light bulb to ever explode in my consciousness.

“But what am I supposed to do?” I asked her. “I can’t just quit,”

“Yes, you can,” she said. “You can quit.”

I don’t know why I needed her to say the words. But somehow I needed permission. I needed someone to tell me that it was okay if I didn’t want to be a teacher anymore.

I was becoming a martyr. Every single day I was losing more and more of myself to my career. I didn’t even recognize myself anymore.

And even scarier, I was good at hiding it.

When I told my students last week that I was leaving, they were shocked. Some gasped out loud. A few started tearing up. Many came to hug me at the end of class. One shouted from the back, “I bet she’s leaving because of us.”

Don’t flatter yourself, darling. This actually has nothing to do with you.

The news didn’t impact every kid. I still found a tiny penis made of clay on my computer keyboard. I still stepped in a wad of gum on my way out the door. The world hadn’t stopped existing because I’d said the words.

I have a lot of feelings about the past two and a half years of teaching. Some that make me laugh and many that keep me up at night. It’s hard to say right now if I’ll end up in a classroom again. I can’t say for sure where my life is taking me or what I’ll accomplish in this lifetime.

But I do know that there are a few things I’ll miss about this job. And a few things I won’t.

What I’ll Miss:

The look on a kid’s face when they finally get what I’ve been trying to teach them for the past hour.

What I Won’t Miss:

The fact that I’ve been repeating the directions to this assignment for the past hour and you just now are listening.

What I’ll Miss:

When a kid tells me that I am their favorite teacher.

What I Won’t Miss:

Realizing that I might be surrounded by some really incompetent teachers.

What I’ll Miss:

When a quiet kid in the back cracks a smile at that joke I just made.

What I Won’t Miss:

When half my class is on their cellphones and misses that joke I just made.

What I’ll Miss:

Finding surprise love notes from my children on my desk.

What I Won’t Miss:

Finding surprise hate emails from parents in my inbox.

What I’ll Miss:

My kids embracing my weirdness.

What I Won’t Miss:

Having to embrace the weirdness of telling a parent their kid can be kind of an asshole.

What I’ll Miss:

Seeing my sleepy 1st and 2nd period classes try to stay awake during a note taking day.

What I Won’t Miss:

Trying to stay awake during Profession Development meetings.

What I’ll Miss:

Wednesday’s after school with my Comedy Club.

What I Won’t Miss:

Not getting paid for all the cool shit I do after school.

What I’ll Miss:

Seeing my students participate in community building and volunteer work like a week to raise thousands of dollars to send a terminally ill 4-year-old to Disney World.

What I Won’t Miss:

Being told I have to buy my own paper to make copies for my students. And also that I’m not really allowed to use the copy machine in the first place.

What I’ll Miss:

When my students wave to me in the hallway, then whisper to their friends about how cool I am.

What I Won’t Miss:

When I get a pen from administration on Teacher Appreciation Day. Okay and some ice cream. That was nice I guess.

What I’ll Miss:

When my student’s remember to say “please” and “thank you” because I’ve taught them the value of being kind and respectful.

What I Won’t Miss:

When I tell people I’m a teacher and they treat me like I have cancer. Or when they tell me the education system is fucked up because of me.

What I’ll Miss:

When a kid writes something funny on their paper, or leaves me a cute drawing.

What I Won’t Miss:

The endless stream of grading papers that is so intense I have literally started grading papers in my dreams.

What I Won’t Miss:

Not having a social life for 10 months out of the year.

What I Won’t Miss:

Being told I don’t deserve to have Spring Break's, Christmas Break's, or Summer’s off.

What I Won’t Miss:

Spending thousands of dollars on school supplies for my students.

What I Won’t Miss:

Ripping literally EVERY nice article of clothing I have on a damn desk because my classroom is above capacity.

What I Won’t Miss:

People adding more and more students to my classes and then having to add more desks to my room for me to trip over.

What I Won’t Miss:

Spending several hours in a meeting that could have been an email.

What I Won’t Miss:

Passing out on the disgusting couch in the office throughout the school day because I am so tired.

What I Won’t Miss:

Other teachers telling me “not to be tired.”

What I Won’t Miss:

Bullshit tasks that measure my “effectiveness” as a teacher.

What I Won’t Miss:

STANDARDIZED TESTING, MOTHERFUCKERS.

What I Won’t Miss:

That one kid. That one motherfucking kid.

What I Will Miss:

The rest of my kids.

I could keep going. For ever and ever.

The truth of the matter is the only thing I’ve ever loved about this job is the kids. When I told them that, they gave me a round of applause. They supported me. They knew I would always love them. They asked if they could add me on Snapchat and Instagram at the end of the year. I said I would think about it.

It’s been the toughest choice of my life. After all, I’ve spent the past 20 years of my life thinking about and becoming a teacher. It’s hard to imagine my identity as anything else.

But I know that I have worth outside of my classroom.

As a writer, as a comedian, and as a creative force.

And I wouldn’t be any of those things without the experiences I’ve had as a teacher.

So maybe it’s not goodbye forever. Maybe I can simply close the door to my classroom and open a window and crawl in elsewhere.

And maybe in that place I won’t have to step in any more gum wads or Cheetos.

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13 Reasons Why You Need to Talk to Teens About Suicide

Listen. I love Netflix binges.

On Saturdays and Sundays, and sometimes (if I’m really getting addicted) on a weeknight. I’m likely not unique this way. There’s simply nothing better than getting wrapped up in a good story.

I’m also aware that I live under a rock.

Aside from my Facebook news feed and my high school students, I’m pretty damn oblivious. And with the way things are these days, I generally like it that way. 14-year-old's, college buddies, and the occasional depressing dose of National Public Radio are my only connections to “the world.”

And don’t forget those Netflix documentaries.

After seeing My Beautiful Broken Brain I immediately emailed the producer demanding to meet her and the writer. After watching Black Fish I cried for one whole hour, called my best friend, and then watched Free Willy and cried some more.

The information we consume in the world and on the screen emotionally impacts us. These things have the power to take hold of us, consume hours of our time and make going to the bathroom in the middle of a binge seem like high treason.

“Miss,” my student piped up as I was about to change the slide on yet another thrilling lecture on The Cold War. “Have you seen 13 Reasons Why?”

“I haven’t,” I said. “What is it?”

“Oh, MISS. You’ve gotta see it. Netflix. This weekend. You’re welcome.”

And so I went home like any respectable and curious teacher and voila, there it was.

“The kids won’t shut up about this show,” I told my mom. “Want to try it?”

And so we sat. For hours. Binging one of the most emotionally compelling, depressing, and horrifying program I have ever seen.

I won’t spoil it for you. That’s just mean.

But what I will do is tell you how hard this show was to watch, not only as a human, but as a teacher who has lost a student to suicide and who interacts with children every day.

Here are 13 Reasons to talk to a teenager today about suicide:

1.     Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 10-24 years old after motor vehicle and other related accidents.

2.     Four out of five teens who attempt suicide gave clear warning signs.

3.     As girls begin to enter puberty earlier and earlier, they encounter changes sooner. According to Arielle Sheftall at the Center for Suicide Prevention and Research at the Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio “girls might be opening the door to anxiety, depression and other psychiatric disorders earlier on in life.” This in turn makes girls into women faster, leaving them vulnerable to sexual abuse, harassment, and cyber bullying.

4.     Teens are highly influenced by the media and news they consume daily. Things as small as a twitter post or a video can go viral in an instant, and so too can stories of teen suicide and the perceived and real attention it gathers. “When you talk about death, you be sure to talk about the resources that are available in that community for people who may be at risk,” says Jarrod Hindman of the state Office of Suicide in El Paso County, Colorado.

5.     Children are still developing the problem solving and reasoning areas of their brains. Many teenagers don’t know yet how to process their emotions or feel that they could be punished if they reveal them. This can make asking for help difficult.

6.      Since 1995, a new game among teens has developed called the "choking game" which involves the dangerous practice of strangling yourself (or being strangled by someone else) to get a quick high from the oxygen being cut off from the brain. In a report released in 2006 by the Williams County Youth Health Risk Behavioral Survey, 20% of the survey sample of 17 to 18-year old’s in the county had participated in this fatal game.

7.       Teen suicide often comes with what is refered to as a “cluster effect.” Madelyn Gould, of Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute in New York City's team of researchers “used state death data to find 48 teen suicide clusters that occurred across the United States between 1988 and 1996. Each cluster involved a community where between three and 11 teenagers killed themselves within a six-month period.”

8.     Our world can make it hard to catch warning signs in teens like loss of interest, over or under sleeping, small changes in appearance, and more. Classrooms are packed making it hard for teachers to talk to each student every day. Parents are busy. Friends can be flakes. We live in a society that is so fast paced and distracted that simple and preventative measures are not taken with children who may be struggling right in front of us.

9.     People can be really shitty sometimes. Adults, children, and elected government officials. Not everyone is taught to truly care about other humans around them. Not everyone learns that love is stronger than hate. If children are not shown love properly, it is no wonder they see the world as a cruel place, which sometimes it can be. Teens who attempt or succeed suicide try to escape bullying, humiliation, and harassment and often feel that they have no other choice.

10.  There are more resources surrounding suicide today than ever before. There are help groups, phone numbers, outreach programs, and start-ups. Survivor Dese’Rae L. Stage created the Live Through This project, inspiring hundreds of suicide survivors young and old to share their stories of struggle and survival openly to others in need.

11.  Luis. Luis is a 14-year-old. He’s in my Geography class. Over the past year I have developed a special soft spot for this kid. In the 8th grade Luis got hit in the head by a soccer ball by another student on purpose. He had a severe concussion and has recently been overcome with anxiety and depression over his new symptom of memory loss. Sometimes Luis tells me he feels “behind” his peers and takes longer to do assignments now. He has an A in my class and works his butt off for it.

The day after Donald Trump got elected Luis came to me crying. He was scared that the new president was going to take his mother away from him because she didn’t have papers. I let this sweet child cry on my shoulder that day, and many days since then.

This year Luis made the counseling department’s watch list after expressing to me and the counselor that he was depressed and that he’d thought about hurting himself. He felt alone and scared. He didn’t think his brain could heal or that he’d be able to keep up with school or have a social life.

When I was in Spain for Spring Break I worried about Luis a lot. I worried that for 10 whole days he’d be on his own without me to protect him. I found Luis’ last name on a little key chain with his family crest and brought it back to him.

He wouldn’t even take it out of the plastic wrapping. He told me it was his most cherished possession.

In the past few weeks I’ve convinced Luis to join my after school Comedy Club program. He’s a natural. He has a shy and sneaky comedic presence and the crew has taken him in as one of their own. The other boys invite him over to their houses to play video games and the girls in class even share their fun drama with him.

I monitor Luis closely. Because he’s more special to me that he will ever know.

12.  His name was Charles. Sometimes Chuck. He made me cry during my student teaching semester in the Spring of 2015 when he challenged my authority after an administrator from another school was observing me teach for a job interview. He was quiet, but social. He might have appeared broody, poetic even. His handwriting was messy. I think he had a girlfriend, or at least a girl he sat in the hall with during lunch. He wasn’t much for talking to me, but he was smart. Scary smart for a 14 year old.

One time he wrote something concerning on an assignment I graded. It was hard to make out because of his handwriting. But it was political, maybe even a little aggressive. I got the impression that he did not think that people were genuinely good. “Nobody actually cares.” I told my cooperating teacher and we took the assignment down to the Psychologist’s office. We talked to her about Chuck and our concerns, we were told to “keep an eye on him.”

I made an effort to ask him how his day was going. I think I asked to stand on his skateboard once. He thought it was funny to watch me goof around and lose my balance.

Maybe he smiled. Then again, maybe he didn’t.

My memories of this young man and our time together are as quick and fleeting as a startled bird in flight.

Chuck committed suicide in the Fall of 2015. I got the call from my friend and former cooperating teacher on my way home from school.

My new job. With new faces and new names. New stories of students who had the ability to make me want to drive my head through a wall and smother them in love all in the same 50 minute class period.

I hadn’t thought about Chuck in a long time. I hadn’t thought about all the small moments that could have lead to his decision to leave forever. In a sense I’d put it away. He was a tiny memento on my teacher desk. I could still teach my new students. I could love them without fear of losing them.

That’s when 13 Reason’s brought it all back.

It brought everything back like a painful collision with a 2 by 4 to my entire being. I couldn’t even measure what I was feeling. I couldn’t understand why my stomach felt like it had slowly fallen out of my belly button and onto the floor.

How many Chuck’s have to sacrifice themselves before we finally see the truth?

I know in my heart that I did everything that I could think of at the time to help Chuck. I know many others that did the same. I know the cruelty that the world can possess and the consequences of feeling alone. I know that Chuck’s story is one of millions.

And I need it to stop. Right here and right now. And I know what I have to do.

I have to keep loving my children. Big and small. Size 14 Shoe and Soon To Be Growth Spurts. Mexican, Muslim, and even that one kid that I’m pretty sure is a Nazi.

I have to love them. And love them. And love them some more.

And even when my time in the classroom ends I will still love them. I will dream of grading their papers in my sleep. I will write letters to each and every one of them before the school year ends.

I will cry a whole lot. Because I can’t save them all.

But I will love them anyway for as long as I can. Because the world does not need reasons to help a child in need.

Not a single one.

For more resources about how you can help combat teen suicide please click the bolded links in this blog or visit www.safe2tell.org for more information and share this post with friends and family.

Editor’s Note: Writing reason number 13 was interrupted by half an hour of sobbing, a teary eyed phone call, 6 hours of sleep, and a school day. It was not until the next day that I was able to compose myself enough to finish this.

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Brain Injury Awareness Month: Stop Telling Me Not To Be Tired

 Who me? Oh, I'm fine. Never been better, actually. 

Who me? Oh, I'm fine. Never been better, actually. 

I’m tired.

I’m tired of being tired.

But mostly I’m tired of people pointing out that I’m tired. And telling me not to be tired.

Most people would attribute this to, you know, normal tiredness. A standard result of lack of sleep, early mornings, and insufficient amounts of caffeine. But most people don’t understand what it feels like to have a brain injury.

In honor of March, Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness Month, I’d like to take you on a little journey inside the mind of brain injured person. Please keep in mind that this is only my story. There are thousands of people with TBI and I am only one voice.

Here goes.

4:45 A.M. My alarm goes off. A lovely Adele tune. But Adele can fuck off right now cuz' I’m pushing snooze.

4:55 A.M. Adele’s back. And this time she sounds aggressive about awakening me with her love ballad. But it won’t work. I don’t need to shower that bad. I roll over after carefully selecting an increment of time to awaken me once more.

5:08 A.M. Okay seriously, Adele, fuck off. Fine. Fine. I’m up. I peel the covers off one baby toe. Nope. I was lying. It was a farce. A charade. I’m not ready. I add an unknown amount of minutes to the alarm and crumble back beneath my sweaty covers.

5:12 A.M. The alarm sounds once more and I delegate if I really need to wash my hair or if I can just throw some water on it and affix it to the side of my head like a chic explosion of hair. How hipster of me.

5:12 A.M. I pull my phone from the charger and close one eye as I check my Facebook feed for any new friends to be engaged or pregnant. I have to close one eye or else my vision is double. At least this early in the morning. Three engagements today. I then open my email to check for any email responses from book agents. One. We’re sorry to inform you that your book is not the right fit for us at this time. I think about asking if they’d reconsider in a few months once they’d lost weight. I chuckle because I think I’m funny. Instead I say nothing and violently throw the covers from my body.

5:13 A.M. I stumble out of bed, knocking things over and dropping my phone on my big toe. I grope my way to my dresser and find several bottles of medication. Some to keep me from getting fat. Other to supposedly keep me awake. And a gummy vitamin because I’m a god damn adult.

5:15 A.M. I’ve made my way to the shower now and am waiting shivering and naked for the water to reach 1,000 degrees. I step inside carefully, making sure to hold onto the towel rack as I enter one shaky leg at a time.

5:20 A.M. The scalding water renews me. I spin in slow circles as waves of warmth hit various parts of my tired body. But I’m dizzy. I’m always a little dizzy in the shower. Every so often I have to stop and check for the presence of walls and try not to slip my way to an embarrassing death.

5:27 A.M. I pull my towel from the rack and press it to my face, then to the back of my neck. I let the soft material trace the outline of my scar. I shake it through my soaking locks then reach again for the towel rack as I clumsily step out of the shower and onto the bath mat.

5:33 A.M. I tear apart my closet looking for the shirt I want to wear. I could have sworn I put it back in the correct spot. But instead it plays hide and seek as I run around my room naked and helpless. I refuse to wear any other shirt.

5:40 A.M. I discover the shirt rolled up and under my pillow. Which makes absolutely no sense. By now my hair has frizzed out and requires a complex set of taming techniques to regain composure.

5:41 A.M. Did I take my medication? I can’t remember. Fuck.

5:45 A.M. I sit down on my floor in front of my mirror and begin the task of making my face look less terrifying. I add layers of tinted goo to my cheeks and nose and make sure to cover any trace of acne. Which is a pretty lengthy task. What am I, a fucking 14 year old? What the hell is this, the surface of the Moon?

5:55 A.M. My face is done but my eyes fill with tiny tears as I yawn. They stream down my face like I’ve just watched The Notebook. I dab at them and riffle through the kitchen for breakfast and lunch options.

5:55 A.M. I wander around the kitchen but then forget why I’ve gone there.

5:55 A.M. No seriously, what am I doing in here.

5:55 A.M. Oh shit, food. Okay, I can do food. Food is good.

5:58 A.M. I throw a frozen burrito in my bag and pull hot water from the microwave for my tea. I know it’s a bad idea to go with tea instead of the coffee. But maybe it’s all the coffee that’s making me so tired. Also I’m an addict. So I am already flirting with disaster and it’s not even 6.

5:59 A.M. I see a reflection of myself in the microwave and notice that all of my yawning has effectively ripped half of the make-up from my face. I run back to my room to fix myself.

6:05 A.M. I leave the apartment and walk swiftly to my car, trying my best to see through my fogging contact lenses.

6:20 A.M. I’m well into half-way through my commute to work now, jamming to Backstreet Boys and sipping my tea carefully. I’ve already sipped prematurely; burning my lips twice.

6:25 A.M. I feel comfy. Like I might fall asleep. The problem is I’m not in my bed, I’m in my car. Driving a metal death machine. I stretch my eyes open wide and turn up the music louder.

6:33 A.M. Shit am I going to make it to work? How am I this tired? Didn’t I get the standard 8 hours of sleep last night? Did I take my medicine? I can’t remember. I must have. But it’s not working. Focus. Focus. Sip tea. Focus.

6:40 A.M. I arrive in the parking lot of school and close my eyes in relief. But I open them immediately because I’m afraid that I’ll fall back asleep and miss 1st period.

6:50 A.M. I finally exit my car after 10 minutes of trying to coach myself out of the vehicle. You can do this. Greet the day with enthusiasm. What a load of bullshit.

6:52 A.M. Another teacher starts speaking to me from across the parking lot as we approach the school. “Are you awake? Time to wake up, Mimi! Rise and shine!” I feel like hauling off and hitting her. She has no idea the battle I’ve endured just trying to arrive here without committing vehicular homicide.

7:00 A.M. I’m in my classroom now and I’m moving slowly around the room trying to decide which task on my to-do list I should tackle in my tired stupor.

7:15 A.M. I didn’t tackle anything on the to-do list. Because I’ve passed out on the couch in the office and am awoken by the sound of colleagues moving around the office and tapping me to make sure that I’m breathing. I’m sure they are annoyed that I’ve been drooling all over the couch but they kindly motion me to join the waking world.

7:30 A.M. My students enter looking as exhausted as I feel.

“When I say ‘Good,' you say ‘Morning.’ GOOD………"

"mmmoroingign……."

"GOOD" 

"mmourrni.”

They mumble and grumble and we’re all just putting on a brave face because we all have beds at home and couches in the office missing us dearly.

8:15 A.M. My tea is cold because I’ve been too busy pestering my freshmen about writing in complete sentences to drink it. There’s also a bowl of yogurt getting warm because I haven’t remembered to eat it. And a burrito thawing in my bag because I’ve forgotten to put it in the freezer. There’s a pill on my teaching desk that I think I was supposed to take with food.

8:35 A.M. 2nd period. They’re a pretty chill group of kids. Except on days when Diana thinks it’s funny to shush me and Shawn literally will not stop asking me to check his grade. I am slightly more awake now and take a few bites of my warm yogurt. I am so busy helping students I forget to take attendance until the bell rings to end class.

9:20 A.M. I have 3rd period off. I want to take another power nap but I know I have to make copies and do shit. I finally put my burrito in the freezer. I heat my tea back up again.

10:00 A.M. I am trying to grade papers I’ve been putting off for days but keep getting distracted at how dirty my classroom is. I spend the next 15 minutes picking up every scrap of paper and gum wad on the carpet.

10:15 A.M. I decide to try to finish a stack before the kids come in for 4th. I search my desk for my tea. I’ve forgotten it in the microwave and it’s probably cold again.

10:16 A.M. I give up on the tea and pour some hot coffee from the pot instead.

10:20 A.M. I sip that coffee like it’s the only thing between me and a dark and mysterious death. It revitalizes me.

10:35 A.M. 4th period rolls in as the loud bell sounds shrill to my ears. I wince as the bell seems to last 30 whole seconds.

11:00 A.M. The kids start yelling at me because I keep telling them it’s Tuesday when it’s actually Friday. I misplace my worksheets three times and Brendan has to help me find them.

11:22 A.M. I haven’t sat down in what feels like years and I can’t remember the last time I went pee. Should have gone during 3rd. I stand on a chair to make an announcement to the class then immediately forget what I was going to say. “Have a great weekend!” Damn it, I hope it wasn’t important.

11:30 A.M. Lunch time. Hell yes. I heat up my burrito and sit happily to eat it. My colleagues join me in the lounge and the small office fills up with sound. Suddenly every word feels like a blow horn. I try to focus on eating and checking my phone. I have 30 junk emails, 5 Snapchats, 1 text message, and a missed call. I am overwhelmed and put my phone back on the table.

12:05 P.M. The Children of the Corn are here -I mean 5th period. There’s less than a 5% chance that they’re going to listen to anything I say or get any work done whatsoever. I adjust my collar and fake a smile of confidence as they enter my classroom.

12:15 P.M. If someone walked in this room right now they’d fire me or take me to jail. I haven’t taken attendance, my coffee is cold again, and I already lost my patience with every child in this room. Half of them are either eating (not allowed), texting (no), waltzing around the room (what the fuck are you DOING), or yelling to each other and cursing.

12:22 P.M. Just when I think I’ve gotten most of them SEATED with a god damn PENCIL so that they can answer a simple QUESTION on the BOARD, the phone rings. Angel’s mom is here. Great. Okay, bye Angel. Okay, back to-

12:22 P.M. A kid walks in the room with a pass. Alex needs to go to room 308. Okay. Go. Get out of here. Fine whatever. What am I teaching? Is anyone listening? We haven’t even answered the warm-up question.

1:05 P.M. I’ve resolved myself to attempting to carrying out the lesson. I can feel my blood pressure rising and my emotions the past half hour have ranged from psychotic to on the verge of a mental break down.

1:15 P.M. The calm after the storm. 5th period is gone. I collapse into my chair. I want to take a nap again or maybe cry in a corner, but I have to go to a meeting. I go to the office to fill my water bottle that I haven’t used all day. I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror on the wall. I look like death warmed up.

1:45 P.M. The meeting’s done but I’m not sure I understood what anyone said. The words seemed to fill the air and get stuck there; tangling together. I leave the meeting and go to the restroom for the first time all day.

1:50 P.M. I go to the teacher’s lounge to buy a Cherry Coke. I sit on the couch and pass out until the bell rings for 7th period to start.

2:20 P.M. I sip my Coke and tell the kids that I fell asleep twice today on a couch older than I am. They laugh and we get our notes out for our activity. I walk them through directions but stutter on some of my words. They slur too, like I’m a little drunk.

3:21 P.M. I take attendance again as the kids are leaving, trying to remember which kids were in class. I peruse my room for further signs of food wrappers and scraps of paper. My body feels as though it’s been hit by a bus. My pedometer on my watch reads 7,000 steps.

3:45 P.M. I begin the long journey across town to my apartment.

4:10 P.M. I’m tired again. The kind of tired I was this morning and pretty much every moment since Adele rudely woke me up. I call up a friend to talk to me and keep me awake in traffic. She’s worried I’m so tired all the time. I tell her I drooled on myself today.

5:00 P.M. Home. Thank God.

5:01 P.M. Pants are off and I’m in bed.

9:30 P.M. I wake up to the sound of my own snoring. Is it too late to eat dinner? Cottage cheese and some potato chips? Is that fine? I eat my snacks then brush my teeth and wash my face and return to bed.

4:55 A.M. I do it all over again.

Traumatic Brain Injuries are unique and all-encompassing. They can mess with your emotions, your memory, and even your sense of self. Every survivor of TBI fights invisible battles every day.

Many of us are frustrated at the obstacles we face now that were never there before. We are tasked with overcoming these obstacles in whatever ways we can, all the while having to explain to people why we are the way we are in the hopes that we’re not told we’re “over reacting” or that we “look fine.”

My legs work okay. I’ve ripped 3 pairs of pants and a skirt this year while running into desks in my classroom. But I don’t have cancer (that I know of) and I can drive a car. I have singular vision now except in the morning when I wake up. I can do all the things I never thought I could just a few years ago.

But since then I’ve found that the struggle is still very much real. There are things I deal with every day that have changed who I am as a person and have held me back from certain things.

I’m not upset at my TBI. I actually think it’s the coolest thing about me. Not to mention all the hot dudes I can pick up in bars now with my sick scar.

But it’s changed me in a lot of ways that I am still coming to understand. And as I learn more and more about my brain and how it has impacted me, I just ask that you please be aware of TBI’s around you.

Don’t tell me not to be tired.

Ask me how I’m doing and mean it. Let me sleep on the couch and try to remind me to eat when I’m supposed to. Help me remember to take attendance and keep an eye out for where I hide things from myself.

Please help spread awareness for Traumatic Brain Injuries this month by clicking here.

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ROUGH Art Show!!!

 This took my best friend like a lifetime to make...isn't she the  best ?

This took my best friend like a lifetime to make...isn't she the best?

"One masterpiece is the work of ten thousand rough drafts." -Emily Freeman

I never met Emily Freeman, but I bet she was one dedicated artist. The woman must have scrapped literally thousands of beginnings, middles, and endings of pieces I'm sure she considered giving up on entirely.

I've never considered myself an "artist."

In high school I began dabbling in stick figure art on the back of my homework and on tests I knew I was going to fail, but that didn't count.

I did theater, choir, and later in college I took up improv and stand-up comedy. For some reason I didn't think that counted either.

Then I wrote a book.

Two actually. And a third on the way (not pregnant, Mom...just ready to POP with ideas)

And oddly, nope. Still not an artist. 

It's not that anyone told me I wasn't, I was just conditioned by society to believe that art was done by professional people in impossibly clean galleries and with things I wasn't allowed to touch.

Many years ago I was in an art gallery in Boulder, bopping around a lot of obscure statues when I swung around and nearly knocked an octopus-shaped vase off of a stand. In that moment I knew I was out of place. 

I was a reckless child in an adult's quiet room.

But doesn't anyone else think this kind of "art" is a little weird? That you're just supposed to stare at this thing on the wall with no context, no investment, and no permission to interact with it?

Art is messy. Art is frustrating. Art is years and years of wanting to throw everything you've ever created or touched into a fire and watch it burn to the ground and become one with the Earth because it's absolute shit

Sound familiar?

Back in October I got real drunk. So I did what I normally do and I wrote a bunch of weird shit down.

Among the gems were: 

  • Make Periods Funny Again
  • I like my Kombucha like I like my cocaine...extremely overpriced and I do it to make me skinny
  • Hang book from the ceiling

From the items above, it appears that the last one on the list is a joke. And a drunk one at that. But a few weeks later I stumbled upon the list and told my friend Kristen about it. 

This is a really stupid (and drunk) idea...but what if I hung pages of my book from clipboards from the ceiling of an art gallery and gave people pens and they could mark it up? It would be like an art piece PLUS imagine how much I'll save on editing this stupid thing!

I sent the email thinking that would be the end of it...but no. Oh no. Nononononono. Kristen Jorden is one serious motherfucker. 

She told me it was not only a great idea, but possibly the best I'd ever had. She suggested expanding the show (it was a thing now) to multiple artists. She said we could make it interactive. She fucking emailed me everyday for a month.

And so it was. The birth of a monster. A beautiful, beautiful monster. 

And best of all, the mission was revolutionary. 

"Art is for everyone," she said. 

I'll never forget the first time anyone called me an artist. And it's true. Every human being possesses art within them, just waiting for us to be courageous enough to let it out. 

Not everyone believes this.

On our hunt for the perfect gallery for our art show, Kristen and I met her.

Her was a petite French woman who owned a gallery in the art district that we stumbled into on our search. We started asking her questions, telling her about our show, and inquiring about galleries in the area.

Le Petite French was not interested in our inventive art show. LPF couldn't give one fuck, really. 

"Art is not for the poor," she said as I bent down to the floor to pick up my jaw. "It is something that is not to be given to the public. It is not theirs."

Not even her lovely French accident could save her from my strong hands throwing her out the stained-glass window. 

Okay, so I didn't throw her out a stained-glass window. But I fucking wanted to. 

Kristen and I left offended and with bleeding ears for LPF had talked them off, leaving not even a nook or cranny of room for us to try to explain to her that WE were poor and WE were artists and WE were amazing. 

This show, ROUGH, means even more to me now than ever before. It contains 14 artists; painters, photographers, architects, quilters, writers, and ceramicists. It contains risk-takers, rough drafts, and the microcosms of art in-progress. 

This show is put on by artists and for everyone, for we are all artists. 

Please join us for this amazing opportunity to interact with live art in the works and give feedback to each artist on the direction of their pieces. They are counting on you to ask questions, suggest revisions, and play with their masterpieces that are yet to be fully realized.

And if you have a little snooty French artist friend, bring her too because we're going to knock her socks off all the way back to Paris.

Click here to check out our event page on Facebook! See you there!

Date: Friday, February 24th, 2017

Time: 5-10PM

Price: Free, Donations Accepted

Location: ReCreative Denver

765 Santa Fe Drive
Denver, Colorado  80204
720-638-3128

 

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What Having My Phone Stolen Taught Me About Myself

  Look at me, I'm a nice new phone whose pictures haven't been backed up! Wanna take me for a field trip?

Look at me, I'm a nice new phone whose pictures haven't been backed up! Wanna take me for a field trip?

It’s 2:30pm and the florescent lights in my classroom are flickering ominously.

It’s been another long day and my patience dried up around 2nd period. I broke up a fight in 5th and spent the afternoon emailing a parent sending my condolences because one of my student’s grandmother had died.

Then there was the Inauguration.

My students were fidgety, the buzz of what would come in the next 4 years looming over our heads like a muddled storm cloud.

But I was optimistic. For a reason unknown to me I felt a surge of rebirth at the start of 7th period. It was a project work day. My upperclassmen Psychology class would be working on their “Build-A-Brain” projects today.

I unearthed an unusual amount of crafting supplies from my closet.

“Alright y’all,” I said enthusiastically. “I’ve got paint, I’ve got glue, I’ve got Popsicle sticks, string, a hot glue gun -about the glue gun please be careful, I’ve burned myself on this thing at least 5 times this year…

I set them to work; my hope in humanity revived as they reached for paint brushes and rifled through old magazines for pictures.

“Miss, can we add a Cerebellum to our brain?” A student asked.

“A Cerebellum?” I said. “Well of COURSE you can add a Cerebellum, Christine! That’s my favorite part of the brain!”

As I watched their creative gears turning madly I began to feel hopeful. I loved these kids. And they loved me. It was now 3pm on a Friday and we were happily working to create visual representations of our own beautiful brains.

I turned around to see Michelle painting her hand purple.

“Michelle?”
“Yes, Miss?
“What are you doing, my little angel?”
“Oh, I’m painting my hand,” she smiled. “I like how the paint and brush feel on my hand.”

It was the most adorable thing I’d ever seen take place in my classroom. This was a room filled with 17 and 18 year olds yet she was as pure and innocent as a Kindergardener on the first day of school.

I wanted to capture her in this moment; so happy and messy like a child.

So I took my phone from my drawer. I opened Snapchat to videotape her and her purple hand.

“Whatcha doin’, Michelle?” I asked holding down the record button.

“Painting my hand,” she said.

“How good of a teacher is Ms. H?”

“She’s the best,”

“That’s right, she’s the best because she let you paint your hand. That’s right.”

I sent the video to my closest friends and put the phone back in my pocket. I laughed with her and the others at their adorable nature then handed them my Clorox wipes.

“Now don’t get any of that paint on your sweater or your mom’s going to kill me,” I fake scolded.

It was moments like these that I treasured more than anything; the tiny instances of a child’s kindness and innocence. It was all I ever wanted to hold onto that 10 seconds forever.

And now I could. I’d captured it on my cell phone.

I knew it wasn’t necessarily allowed to do these kinds of things in school, but it was for me. It was my own little record of how much I adored my students.

When thinking about the fact that I was not supposed to be using my cell phone in my own classroom I hastily took the phone out of my pocket and put it back in my desk drawer. I heard it hit the bottom of the drawer with a small thud.  

I circulated back through the room to check in on students. Many of them were now ripping paper, gluing, and making an altogether fuss about which flavor of frosting to use on their brain cake. I joined them in their excitement and helped them think of creative ways to show me the functions of each lobe of the brain.

I checked back at the clock. Time had accelerated at unknown intervals.

“Alright folks!” I shouted over their buzzing. “Time to clean up! Man, time really flies when you’re having fun, doesn’t it? Just like that article we read on the first week of school about how the brain processes time –” I trailed off as we threw the craft supplies back into bins and I scoured the floor for trash.

“HEY, don’t you be leaving without your piece of trash and a smile, people! You owe me one piece of trash and a smile at the door and then you don’t even have to see me for 3 whole days!” I always tried to leave for the weekend with a spotless classroom. 7th period usually took one for the team and were tasked with finding every small scrap of paper on the floor before they were allowed to leave.

“…Piece of trash and a smile, thank you, Thomas. Piece of trash and a smile, Christine -and what a lovely smile, Christine! Thank you Jose, piece of trash and a smile, Clair have a lovely weekend –”

I probably sound like a fucking flight attendant.  

As they exited I noticed a student packing up slowly, reminding me that I needed to print him the notes that he’d asked for earlier.

“Oh, don’t go anywhere, let me go pick up those notes off the printer for you!” I hurried out of the room, leaving him unattended. None of this crossed my mind as dangerous territory because I was so happy that I’d ended the day on a high note.

Now I could go home and binge watch The OA and make some mac and cheese with extra cheese.

The printer needed more paper, so it hadn’t printed his notes. I filled the paper drawer and waited patiently as the pages printed. I’d forgotten to only print the few pages he needed so the document printing was quite long. It was taking a while so I thought I’d grab my student so that he wouldn’t think I’d left him high and dry.

“Hey, sorry it’s taking so long,” I said as I walked back into the room. “Why don’t you join me in the office and then you can grab them when they’re done?” I attempted small talk for a few minutes.

The notes finally finished printing and I handed them to him happily.

“Here you go! Have a great weekend!” As I handed them to him he was already on the phone with someone.

“Hey, where you at?” He said to his friend. He barely made eye contact and jutted out the office door and down the hallway. He seemed just as ready to go home on a Friday as I was. No matter.

It was 3:30pm now and I was slowly reorganizing my craft bins and getting ready to leave. A few students rolled in to say goodbye to me and I remembered that as tired as I was today, we’d survived another week together. 22 of them to be exact. And we’d still have another 20 some odd weeks ahead of us to get to summer. But we were in this together.

As I packed up my bag I reached into my drawer to grab my cell phone. It wasn’t there.

Hmm, that’s odd. I thought. I could have sworn I threw it in there after Michelle painted her hand.

I checked my bag. Nope.

Jacket pockets. Nope.

Floor. Nope.

Holy fucking shit where is my cell phone.

I’d done this sort of thing about a million times since my head injury. It’s normal for most people to misplace things, but for someone like me it’s a much larger problem.

If I don’t really focus on what I’m doing it wouldn’t be hard to put my keys in the freezer or leave my phone in the fridge.

I struggle with my memory on a minute to minute basis.

Okay, keep calm. I told myself. Walk backwards in a circle and retrace your steps.

I’d taken it out to record the painting incident. Put it in my pocket for a few minutes. And then put it…in my drawer right? Or was it in my bag? No, I already emptied my bag onto the floor five times already. Could I have hid it in the file cabinet? That’s insane. Yet I could see myself doing that...

I walked myself through all of the hypotheticals imaginable. All except the most obvious: theft.

A teacher friend walked by my room and I flagged her down.

“Hey, can you call my phone real quick?”

She called once and it rang through to voicemail. I crawled under my desk searching for the sound.

“I’ll call it again,” she said.

I waited anxiously for my phone to erupt from a pile of papers or fall from the ceiling tiles.

“Straight to voicemail this time,” she said.

“What does that mean?”

“It means whoever stole your phone just shut it off,”

I sank to the carpet. I couldn’t believe it. It couldn’t be. It was impossible. How could my students steal from me? A teacher who let them paint their hands purple and printed them missing notes on demand?

I sat in disbelief for several minutes thinking of what to do. I turned back on my computer and typed “FIND MY PHONE” into the search bar. I downloaded a Samsung tracker. The only problem was that it needed to be turned on and connected to WiFi to be tracked. No dice.

I went to my classroom phone and dialed my dad. One of 3 numbers I have memorized.

“Hi Dad,” I cried. “My phone’s been stolen, what do I do?”

It had never occurred to me what to do in such a situation. Should I call the police? Just go home? How do I contact someone if I get hurt? Send them a carrier pigeon? Are pay phones still a viable option?

Dad called T-Mobile to shut off the device and I sat in traffic in agony for the next hour. The entire drive home I lamented over who it could possibly be. It felt horrible; sitting there in my misery trying to decide which student had betrayed me.

When I got home I opened my laptop and went directly to the Samsung Search App. Within seconds of logging in a tiny flag popped up on the screen.

YOUR PHONE IS HERE. At the intersection of Colfax and Fulton.

On Colfax? What the fuck?

I typed in the intersection on Google Maps and a pawn shop popped up on the corner.

OH HELL NO, I shouted at my screen.

It was true. My cell phone hadn’t sprouted legs and taken a leisurely stroll down Colfax. A student had taken it from my desk and had sold it to a pawn shop within the hour.

Now at this point in the story I became Liam Neeson.

I immediately pulled up my 7th period roster and began Google Mapping each of their addresses to see who was closest to the pawn shop. I even called my phone using Skype credits (that I had to pay for…most expensive voicemail of my life) and left a threatening message.

“This is Ms. Hayes speaking. The OWNER of this phone. Now listen up and listen good. I DON’T KNOW WHO YOU ARE. BUT I WILL FIND YOU.”

I took out the murdering part of the monologue because it’s kind of frowned upon to threaten to kill a student. Nevertheless, my head was reeling with excitement at finding the phone.

After calling the pawn shop from Skype it was discovered that another teacher’s phone (a friend of mine down in the art department where several of my students visited during my class to “get paper”) had been taken that same time, and she’d tracked her phone to the same store. I asked them if a young high school kid had come in that evening and they described him as a young black male, but that was all they could say. I later learned he was caught on tape at the school in the other teacher’s classroom.

I knew who it was. It was the student that I’d printed notes for after school. The one who’s life was finally turning around after being in jail last year. The one that was finally starting to show up to class. The one that wanted his missing work so that he could be successful.

As my dad tried to rifle through old phone boxes over Skype looking for my phone’s serial number I began to cry.

Of course I was distraught about being without a phone, but more than anything I was upset that he had hurt me. The phone had been wiped clean. The past two years of my life in pictures and videos and contacts and he’d destroyed them in an instant.

And worst of all he’d destroyed me.

I cried until my tears filled my mouth. I choked on them and spat them back out again. Two years of teaching in this classroom and I’d never felt this hurt by another person.

Someone that I believed in, trusted, and wanted the very best for in the whole world.

By the time my roommate came home I was all dried up. I’d used up my tears and was now drinking wine to re-hydrate myself to cry some more.

But then something amazing happened.

I didn’t know what time it was.

I’d begun my mac and cheese binge on the couch. Time had passed. But how much? I had no idea.

I also didn’t know if anyone was trying to get a hold of me.

I’d sent some panicked Facebook messages to my mom and a few select friends. But other than that nobody was talking to me.

I also wasn’t anticipating anything.

No creepy Tinder messages or parent emails to pop up on my bright little screen.

When I decided to go to bed I had no idea how I was going to wake up in the morning.

“Do you have,” I hesitated. “An alarm clock?” I asked my roommate.
“I don’t,” she said. “But you can use my old broken phone as an alarm clock if you want to,”

It felt ridiculous. It was almost as if time didn’t exist without my phone. I was no longer aware of it or how I was to keep track of myself in time and space.

In the morning I didn’t know how cold it was outside. I walked to breakfast with my best friend without a heavy jacket because I hadn’t checked my phone for the temperature outside.

When I drove to the Women’s March in Denver after breakfast I wasn’t positive where I should park or which route was the best to get there. So I just got in the car and drove to where I thought I should go.

When I got to the rally I couldn’t take pictures. I couldn’t Snapchat or Instagram or Tweet. I couldn’t share with the world that I was there or show them the amazing protest signs I saw. I couldn’t text my friends to see where they were so that I could stand by them.

Amidst 200,000 people I was somehow all on my own. Until I realized that I didn’t need my phone to enjoy the incredible historic scene before me.

I didn’t even need my phone to find my friends. I ran into my friend Patty and my work buddy Corey in a crowd of thousands.

And although I wanted more than anything to take pictures and share my experience, it forced me to truly be present. As I stood in that crowd with no way to contact anyone I listened to the words, “Women move mountains” over and over again as my heart filled with tremendous joy.

My student hurt me when he took my phone. He hurt me when I smiled at him as it sat in his pocket and he said nothing and he hurt me again when he cleaned out all of the memories in that small plastic device and sold it to a pawn shop.

I will never again see that video of Michelle’s purple hand or the countless loving texts from friends and family throughout the years.

But I will forgive him.

Because all I can hope for is that this student learns someday that he hurt me. And that life gets harder when you hurt the people that love you.

I cannot save him, nor do I want to. He will have to make this journey of life on his own.

And cell phone or no cell phone I will always cherish and love the moments I have with these students. The purple hands and the giggles and the tiny things that hold us together in this broken world.

I don’t need a phone to remember these things. I will always have these snapshots burned into my brain.

But if I do happen to get that phone back you better believe I’m locking that shit up like Fort Knox. 

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What It's Like To Be A High School Teacher The Day After Trump Gets Elected

I’m not a politician. I’m a teacher.

I teach History and Geography and Psychology.

I teach how to make evidence based claims and how to raise your hand when you want to speak.

I teach teenagers to keep their hands to themselves for 90 minute increments.

I teach please’s and thank you’s and eye contact.

I teach respect.

I teach Anakaren to put her phone away every single day.

I teach objectives and "Student Learning Outcomes."

I teach assembly line simulations and Great Depression photography.

I teach Hitler and I teach MLK.

I teach picking up your trash and recycling.

I teach could you please stop taking Snapchats while I’m talking.

I teach Mexicans, Muslims, and boys with raging hormones.

I teach complete sentences.

I teach problem solving and critical thinking.

I teach in French occasionally and with a Scottish accent when I need your attention.

I teach while eating bagels and sometimes give kids coffee from the teacher’s lounge.

I teach that the human brain can do amazing things.

I teach PUT YOUR NAME ON YOUR GOD DAMN PAPER.

I teach to wonder.

I teach to ask questions.

I teach standardized testing.

I teach you are more than a score.

I teach to handle things with care.

I teach while accidentally bleaching the carpet.

I teach watch out for that wad of gum on the floor, Jose.

I teach treating women with respect.

I teach treating men with respect.

I teach that you can never have too many pencils in your back pocket.

I teach to please remember your pencil because I am spending too much money on pencils.

I teach that I will always give you a pencil.

I teach Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and what feels like twice on Fridays.

I teach standing on top of a chair when I am excited or when I need you to hear when this assignment is due.

I teach to capitalize and empathize.

I teach okay Jason you can somersault across the floor just this one time.

I teach kindness and I teach smiles.

I teach I'll wait til' it's quiet.

I teach no seriously I'll wait.

I teach to tired, hungry, and fidgety.

I teach that you can always come to me when your dad kicks you out of the house again.

I teach laughter and bad history puns.

I teach with coffee and more coffee.

I teach no you may not change my seating chart.

I teach it’s okay if you want to cry.

I teach shake my hand at the door.

I teach on good days and on bad days.

I teach Hurricanes and political cartoons.

I teach of course you can get make-up work.

I teach Vietnam and protest posters.

I teach kids who push my buttons and kids who make me want to pull my hair out.

I teach them that I love them even when they drive me crazy.

I teach all of these things and more.

But what I don’t teach is how to ask your teacher what to do.

Not what to do for a question on a paper or to write with a pencil.

But what to do if Mr. Trump takes my mom away.

I don’t teach Miss someone told me today to go back to where I came from.

I don’t teach hate and bigotry and fear.

I teach listen to me my children I love you more than you will ever know and I will fight for your right to be in this classroom until my last dying breath.

I teach even on days like today when it feels like every atom in my body is screaming.

I teach for them.

Because America has just taught them that this “land of the free” might not be as free as we thought it was.

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The Brave Little Toast Bar: My Discovery of the Trending 'Toast Buffet'

 Ohhhh...look at that sexy toast right there.

Ohhhh...look at that sexy toast right there.

Living in a growing (ha) city like Denver, Colorado I thought I’d been up to date on my foodie trends. My friend's friend started a sushi food truck last summer and I’ve been all up in that business.

But then I took a trip to the Midwest this July to see some college buddies and everything changed.

“Let’s go to the Toast Bar,” my college buddy Sami said as we rolled out for a morning on the town.

The what?” I asked.

The idea that toast could blow my mind sounded ridiculous, childish even. I liked the idea that it was a "bar" of sorts. But what could be so thrilling about a piece of bread?

Tucked into the art district of downtown Minneapolis, MN was a build-your-own-toast buffet. Included were three different homemade jams, four flavors of nut butters (step aside peanut, there are some new nuts in town), an Egyptian honey, and more cheeses than I could have ever hoped for.

You mean I get to put whatever I want on there?” I asked the lady behind the counter while eyeing the tubs of butter.

Nothing against pancakes, but who knew toast could be so great am I right?

Since my stay at Canteen I have been on the hunt for the best toast bars in town. They've been trending in the Midwest and beyond. But I have yet to find something as great as that first time. I literally haven't stopped thinking about toast since that fateful day in July. It's kind of a problem, actually. 

Like any first time, it’s shrouded in mystery and nostalgia.

Plenty of my favorite brunch restaurants in Denver, City O’ City, Snooze, and Jelly, offer French toasts, pancakes, and build-your-own omelets. But I have yet to discover the illusive Toast Bar.

But I shan’t give up. I will march on in my pursuit for the perfect toast experience. I will walk boldly into the unknown on my never-ending hunt for golden and buttery perfection.  

 Photo credit: Google.com

Photo credit: Google.com

For where would that Brave Little Toaster be if he didn’t take a leap of faith off that trash compactor to save Blanky?

Dead. He’d be dead.

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