Day 121 – Beautiful wreckage

Another semester is ending, so yeah, I’m probably feeling extra sentimental. Students have been dropping in to check in as the year wraps up. Some are sharing exciting news–they’re graduating this weekend, going onto grad school, starting new jobs, taking a break from the studying to go on much-needed vacations. Others are facing uncertainty–grades aren’t where they need to be, financial aid is in jeopardy, family issues are making things complicated. I love that they feel comfortable coming in to my office, sharing their news, asking for advice, just wanting to touch base one more time before they scatter for the summer.

You know, when I look back on the whole of my own college days, it was the best time of my life.

Now, don’t misunderstand me. My life is pretty great now. I’ve got an awesome husband, two fantastic kiddos, a sweet hound dog, a loving family, an incredible group of friends, and a job that I absolutely love going to every day. But not one bit of this would be possible without the time I spent in college, without the connections I made, the lessons I learned, and the foundation I built there.

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. I soared higher than I ever thought possible. And I crashed, burned, tried to get up, stumbled, fell back down, and had pick up the pieces and build something brand new there too.

And you know what? It was all worth it. Every. Beautiful. Painful. Moment.

And the best part of it is that it led me here, to this place, where I get to spend my days working with college students, helping them navigate this crazy transition, helping them begin to understand that our mistakes don’t define us–they give us perspective. I get to help them learn that failure is not a dirty word as long as you own it and learn from it and use it to make better choices tomorrow. I get to be the person I needed (the person I found) when I was young and scared and confused and looking for someone to walk with me on my journey.

So don’t be afraid of the wreckage. It’s an important part of the story too.

Day 90 – Come From Away

I know I’ve written at length about my love of theatre before, so I won’t spend too much time rehashing it again. Just know that when I say I’m obsessed with live theatre, I’m not exaggerating, particularly musicals. I’m mesmerized by the talent of the actors and musicians, and absolutely astounded by the sets and lighting and costumes that make the productions come to life. If I had unlimited funds, I’d buy a seat at a different show every night–Broadway, Off-Broadway, community playhouses–I’m in for it all.

When I first saw ads and TV spots for the new show Come From Away, I knew I needed to see it. I’m always drawn to stories of the “helpers”–the people who show up in the face of loss and tragedy to help recover and rebuild. If you’ve looked at any of my social media feeds in the last two weeks, you’ll see the dozens of stories I’ve been posting of exactly this type of selfless compassion taking place right here in my home state in the wake of the devastating Midwest floods.

But even more than that, it’s the story of Beverley Bass, the first female captain of an American Airlines aircraft–a woman whose persistence and tenacity helped break down barriers, a woman whose dream of flying led her to the sky. And with a long line of strong women in my own family (including my Grandma Kay who was one of the first females to fly for US Airways), this was a story that spoke to me on a very personal level.

Mom got us tickets and we headed to the Orpheum this afternoon for the show.

And I gotta say, folks…I might have a new favorite show.

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not an overly-emotional person. I tend to let a lot of things roll off, and it’s not often that my emotions really get the best of me. But every now and then, something that hits really close to home will choke me up, and there were several moments during Come From Away that I found myself tearing up and taking deep breaths to keep it under control. Anything 9/11 related always hits me hard, and in the opening moments of the show when they sing about remembering exactly where they were when the news broke. Yep, that got me. Then later when the beautiful souls in Gander, Newfoundland began to open their lives and their doors and their homes to the airplanes full of strangers without a second thought or a moment’s hesitation. Yeah, you know that got me too.

It just seemed fitting (one of those moments when the universe perfectly aligns) that I was watching this show today while this same sort of selfless compassion is happening all around me right here in Nebraska in the wake of the devastating floods just as it happened in the hours and days and months that followed the attacks in 2001.

And it’s moments like these that make me really happy to be alive and be a member of this human race.

If you believe everything you see on TV, you might have a pretty grim view of humanity. But if you can tear yourself away from the 24-hour news cycle and get a glimpse of the things that are happening right outside your front door and in communities around the world (you know, the every day sort of things most people aren’t going to bother to mention on the nightly news because it doesn’t have a flashy headline) you just might see that most of us are just regular people trying to do our best and squeeze a little happiness out of this life while we’re here.

And what a blessing to have a chance to love and connect with others at the same time.

If you get a chance to see Come From Away, DO IT!! And in the meantime, be kind to each other every chance you get.

P.S. The amazing folks from the show (including several Nebraska & Iowa natives) donated a portion of the ticket sales totaling more than $30,000 to flood relief. And many of us in attendance donated even more to the collection buckets on our way out the door. What a great way to spend the day!

#NebraskaStrong #WeComeFromAway

Day 84 – My Favorite Murder saves the world

Yes, I’m posting two blogs tonight (you’re not going crazy). Gotta make up for yesterday’s lapse. Yep, my blog my rules. And I’ve got a damn good excuse.

I came a little late to the My Favorite Murder party, finally downloading and listening to the first episode almost a full year after the podcast began. But I was hooked immediately. I mean, come on…this is the girl who started watching horror movies at age 6, the girl who read Helter Skelter at 11, the girl who took an actual college class studying serial killers (called “Dial M for Murder, thanks Dr. Maida!). This is the girl who is obsessed with the human mind, what motivates people, what gives them purpose, what makes them tick.

Trying to explain this podcast to people who’ve never heard it always elicits a reaction of initial what-the-fuckery. I mean, explaining that it’s stories of murder and horrific true crimes mixed with comedy and the sort of uncensored, real talk that only happens between true friends, between people who really love and trust each other, who respect each other as perfectly imperfect human beings–well, somehow the explanation just sorta gets lost in translation (and frankly, some folks raise a wary eyebrow and tune out after you mention comedy and murder together in the same sentence).

It’s honestly the same reason I’m still deeply invested in shows like The Walking Dead. Because it’s not really a show about zombies–it’s a show about the unfiltered rawness of human nature, about the choices people will make in a world gone to shit to either love each other in spite of the pain or treat each other with unimaginable cruelty for personal gain.

And the only way we can really fight the horror and the cruelty is the talk about it, to stare it in the face and rise up against it and force it back down.

So I joined the leagues of the Murderinos. Karen and Georgia have been my constant companions on my commute to work, while I’m cooking dinner or working out (okay yeah, we haven’t spent a whole lot of time together working out, but every little bit counts, right?) Sometimes I even pop in the earphones when I need to dig into a tedious project at work like tackling the piles of paperwork that need filing or clearing out old emails.

When the 2019 tour was announced and I saw Omaha on the list, I asked Stevie if he would please, please, please pretty please go online as soon as the pre-sale started and get us some tickets after I found out I’d be in a full-day job interview without a break. And if you know Stevie Romano, you know he didn’t just get me tickets…this man-on-a-mission hopped online and managed to get us VIP Meet & Greet tickets. Husband of the freakin’ year! (And to make the day even better, I ended up getting that job I spent the day interviewing for.)

The theater erupted when Karen & Georgia took the stage. And the audience nearly blew the roof off the Orpheum when they thanked us all for coming out to the show in the midst of all the hardship happening around us right now here in Nebraska, and announced that they would be donating $10,000 to the flood relief. We sat three rows from the stage and spent the evening listening to stories and laughing with these two badass women who (at this point three full years into this podcast) feel like old friends.

It was a late night, and we stood in a long line waiting for our turn to chat with the two gracious hosts. And even if we only got a few minutes with them to say hello and share hugs and snap a photo, Karen and Georgia have this incredible way of making you feel like you’re the most important people in the world when they grab you by the hand and ask your name and hug you tight.

Thank you to these strong, passionate women for taking the stage and shining their light out into the world and creating such a powerful community. What an honor to be a small part of it.

SSDGM

Day 70 – Welcome to Pothole Hell

Temperatures are starting to rise (we’re hitting the 50’s tomorrow and Wednesday!) and the 70 feet of snow we’ve been buried under since…well…forever is finally starting to melt. We’re in a flood watch for the next couple days and the pothole situation is officially out of control.

I already wrote about it at length. CLICK HERE to read my proposed rating system, and let me know what you think.

Day 45 – Glow Big Red

The University of Nebraska is celebrating its 150th birthday, and my building was looking mighty pretty when I was leaving campus tonight.

Go Big Red!

Day 28 – The Pothole Hotline

So with the exception of missing New York deep in my bones, I really enjoy living in Lincoln. I love its character, its history. It’s safe, affordable, and a really great place to raise kids. It’s a great little city, a fun college town.

But with all of that greatness comes a dark side, a lurking evil that threatens to destroy every man, woman, and vehicle–the curse of the potholes.

You know they joke in New York about the never-ending road construction, how there are always cones scattered around and lanes closed for repairs. But honestly, in a city like New York it makes sense. Take the amount of people, cars, trucks, busses, overall traffic in a city that large constantly punishing the roads and yeah, you’re going to need steady maintenance and repairs. But somehow, it all makes sense. There is noticeable progress. Things eventually get fixed, and stay fixed for a reasonable amount of time.

In Lincoln, it makes no sense, ever. At any given time, you’ll find numerous main roads closed for repair, often all at once, which means you have to get seriously creative cutting through residential neighborhoods to get where you need to go in a reasonable amount of time.

And don’t even get me started on the roundabouts. Someone who has been given way too much decision-making power in this town has a serious fetish with roundabouts. They’re ridiculous and they’re everywhere and we keep hearing about this double-decker roundabout they’re planning to build in the southwest part of town. I found this little video online to show how it’s intended to work…

And all I want to know is how much traffic do they honestly think we have in this town that warrants an elevated roundabout to keep things under control? Hell, people can’t even figure out how to navigate the “No Right on Red” signs at certain intersections, so they sit there, blaring their horns and cursing out the people in front of them who are simply trying to get to work on time while obeying the clearly posted traffic laws.

But all of that has nothing on the potholes. I don’t know what this city did when it paved the streets, but holy hell, you’ve never seen a pothole until you’ve seen a Lincoln pothole. I don’t know if there’s a Guinness Book of World Records category, or some sort of Extreme Home Makeover-style contest we can enter, but we’re definitely overdue.

And I’ve got a theory. I think it’s the beet juice brine. The city has been touting this magical formula of beet juice and salt (which they believe is so amazing they actually hired a lawyer to pursue a patent). They mix batches of the stuff and spray it to “pre-treat” the roads for snow and ice. I think the brine is directly responsible for the monster potholes that materialize in the wake of every winter storm–seeping down into the cracks in the concrete, freezing and destroying the structural integrity of the roads.

Prove me wrong.

It’s gotten so bad, the city of Lincoln has a Pothole Hotline. You heard me. They actually built an app called UpLNK that lets you report things like potholes, icy roads, parking violations, downed trees, and dead squirrels flung into the street by neighbors.

Check this out. Here are a few screenshots of the app with my favorite feature, the Issues Map.

You can upload a report and alert the city to issues that need to be resolved. But the best part? You can add a photo.

A photo.

A photo of the pothole you want fixed.

Of course I downloaded the app, and started testing the functionality, but I see one major flaw. The city didn’t really give any sort of rating system for the potholes. I mean, how are they supposed to prioritize if they don’t have any idea of the severity of the issue at hand. Stevie and I did a little brainstorming and we would like to suggest the following become standard Pothole Reporting Procedure:

STEP 1 – Take a clear photo of the pothole. Be sure to insert yourself into the photo or include a friend in the shot for scale.

I’m thinking, something along the lines of this image captured in 2015 in South L.A. would be most appropriate:

But if we really want to get serious, we have to implement a clear pothole rating system, which leads us to…

STEP 2 – Rate the pothole and provide a clear description of the size, location, and severity. Here are the proposed categories:

* – The CD Skipper – A small pothole that you don’t even see coming, but if you still happen to be rocking a CD player in your car, you’re going to skip a track and get annoyed.

** – The Tongue Biter – You might have noticed this pothole right before you hit it, and it was big enough for you to bite our tongue and spill a bit of coffee on your pants. Annoying, but no lasting damage.

*** – The Tire Popper – You saw this one coming, and if you were lucky enough to avoid it, you might be able to go about the rest of your day in peace. If not, you might have to pop the trunk and change a tire because yours just got shredded.

**** – The Axle Buster – You spotted this one a mile away, but if you’re boxed in with traffic, you might not be able to avoid it. Hope you’ve got the mechanic on speed dial, because you’re probably going to need a little work to fix that shimmy.

***** – The Transmission Drop (AKA The Fender Bender) – You saw it. You braced for it. And then you realized you were likely going to total your car, so you tried to pull some sweet evasive maneuver at the last minute. There’s no chance you or your car are making it out of this one without some permanent damage and emotional distress.

STEP 3 – Get your friends to download the app, and repeat. 

The only way things are going to get better is if we all work together. Let’s do this people. And go!