Wanna Go to Oslo?

 

I like to think Jesus talks to me through small, bizarre acts.

Remember when Kelvit the Uber driver distinctly remembered me? I took that a sign that I need to slow down on the weekend mimosas.

I always remember the story of the man who was stuck in a flood and asked God for a miracle to save him. If you haven’t heard of this story, click here. I interpreted this bit of wisdom that instead of overanalyzing the bigger picture, you should look for the small signs that life gives you.

Last year I decided that I wanted to be a little more spontaneous. So, I planned a trip to Europe. And when I say “planned,” I mean we had a folder of itineraries. Not quite as spontaneous as one would think, but WE WERE GOING TO EUROPE. I don’t know about you, but when traveling abroad, I want to know exactly what I am getting myself into.

And then the day of the trip arrived. I left 4 hours early for the airport, made it through security without an issue (which is actually unusual), and drank a few beers. My spontaneous trip was going according to plan.

Elizabeth, Sally and I got on the flight and right before take off, a gentleman turned towards us and asked, “So why are y’all going to Oslo?” UM EXCUSE ME. Sir, this plane is going to Iceland.

Instead of screaming, “THERE’S SOMETHING THEY AREN’T TELLING US!” I decided to go with it, hoping my suitcase had the right clothes in it, because it looked like this trip was taking a 180 degree turn. TO OSLO.

Sadly (or fortunately, depends on how you look at it) the man did not have the same approach. He was kindly escorted to the correct plane, and we were assured that our flight was indeed going to Iceland.

As I was looking for signs, I realized that perhaps the issue is that I’m misinterpreting them. What I really should have taken from this first encounter was that this was about to be a hell of a trip – spontaneous or not.

 

You can teach an old dog new tricks

Stanley

It all started with a heart attack.

Stanley, my sweet grandpa who stands at 6’2” and maybe weighs 170 pounds soaking wet, had a triple by-pass and was told (politely) that he needed to change his diet.

Because apparently eating ice cream for every meal is unacceptable. Who knew?

Most 75-year-olds would say, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” However, Stanley took this as a personal challenge to #eatclean. He met with a dietician, learned that canned soup is 99% sodium and 1% processed meat, and then vowed to everyone in our family that he was going to live to be 150.

This diet has also changed a few other things aside from his eating habits. For instance, prior to this, Stanley could not cook.

When I was approximately 3-years-old, my parents left me at my grand parents house for a weekend. With Nonna being MIA (she was more than likely playing the slot machines,) Stanley realized he had to feed me somehow. He found pancake mix, knew that water was a reliable resource, and figured he could get eggs from the chicken coop in the backyard (that’s another story). The only thing he needed to complete this trifecta was cooking spray. After finding a spray bottle of God-knows-what, Stanley began cooking.

Do you remember learning about dramatic irony in your high school English class? No? Well this is where the audience knows what is going to happen before the main characters do.

In the movie called, “Devin’s Life,” y’all would have gasped when Stanley thought he was reaching for PAM cooking spray, but instead grabbed spray starch. Three pancakes, some funny reactions, and a call to poison control center, we later learned cooking is not one of Stanley’s strong suites.

But I digress.

Post-heart attack, Stanley is realizing survival of the fittest. In order for him to maintain his health, he will have to go to the store himself. Most of this stems from my Nonna making him potato soup one day post-surgery saying, “The crema no kill him.” BUT ACTUALLY, NONNA, IT WILL.

Last week, I received a call where he was boasting about how he learned to use coupons. He was so excited that you could get a discount on things you normally wouldn’t buy. Welcome to this thing called modern society.

He said, “They were giving away tomato sauce for a discount. SO I BOUGHT 22 CANS OF SAUCE.”

His excitement continued. “And, you can get Kroger-brand jam 2-for-1, so I bought you 8 jars. I shipped them, and you’ll get them next week!”

And, since I’ve written his, he has renewed his membership at SAM’S Club because the only thing better than a discount is a discount in BULK.

The (Un)Popular Vote

I was having a conversation with my best friend Elizabeth about high school and how much we have changed in the past 10 years. Most of the people I interact with have only known me since I’ve moved to D.C., so they don’t know what I was like in college, let alone what I was like in high school.

It dawned on that me that 10 years ago, I started my freshman year of high school. I remember exactly what I wore to orientation (a double layer of Ralph Lauren polos because 2006 HOLLAH), who I was friends with (read: I only had three friends, and they still are my bffaeae), and that I actually haven’t changed that much (I have, however, stopped wearing double-layered polos).

To give you an idea of what I was like in high school, I will share one memory – and this isn’t the one where I happened to break my wrist during freshman year gym class. I like to think that was God’s way of telling me that I’m a better spectator than participant.

My senior year of high school was a tad different than the rest of my class. I had a few best friends, and we opted to hang out together on the weekends and watch Saturday Night Live. If I told you that we didn’t get invited to parties, I bet you wouldn’t believe it.

I wasn’t a cheerleader, a track star, or the girl that everyone wanted to date. I was the editor of the yearbook.

As you can tell, I was basically the coolest person in the class.

My senior year revolved around working tirelessly on the yearbook to ensure a top three win at the Columbia Scholastic Program of Achievement (aka Yearbook Competition). I even went as far as enrolling in “Yearbook Camp” in the middle of July at Gettysburg College.

I also didn’t win “Most Popular” that year. But I did get second place in the national competition.

My high school cafeteria was a scene out of Mean Girls. Where you sat was dependent upon your stereotype. You were, in some combination, a senior, a hot popular girl, hot popular boy, jock, nerd, goth, or redneck.

And then there was me. And my best friend Rachel.

We didn’t fit into any of these categories, mainly because we didn’t brush our hair and packed our lunches.

We didn’t fit into a stereotype, and we also didn’t have many friends. Anyone who didn’t have a table to sit at ended up gravitating towards us.

By the end of the year, we had a double-sided table full of misfits.

May finally rolled around, which meant one thing: prom. Our class, like Mean Girls voted on prom court, and the top 15 vote getters made up the senior court. And like any movie depicting high school and how stupid it is, our school announced prom court over the intercom. Why.

We were sitting in science class when the principal interrupted with the results.

“In alphabetical order …. Rachel Colasessano.”

A collective gasp came from the class. I looked at Rachel.

She laughed so hard that it became contagious.

A few names later, the principal read my name. The teacher choked on his own spit.

Every single girl in the classroom stared at Rachel. And then me. And then back at Rachel.

Meanwhile, Rachel couldn’t stop laughing.

Lunch finally rolled around and we walked into the cafeteria together. We had people congratulating us, asking us what we were wearing to prom, and inviting us to sit at their lunch table.

When we got to our table of misfits, each one told us that they voted for us both with hopes of us becoming prom queen. And at that moment, we realized how we got on court.

If you’re wondering, neither of us won prom queen. Turns out, you do have to be the most popular girl in the class to win that title.

PROM

Home(town)less

Coffee

Sometimes I miss home. I miss the way folks know exactly what you want to drink when you go to the local diner. I miss the way that neighborhoods have block parties, and kids run in the middle of the street with no worry of getting hit by a car – because the whole street is there and not a soul is driving. I miss summer on the river, hometown grocery stores, and the fact that in my hometown you can show up to your neighbors’ home unannounced and end up staying for a few hours discussing local news over a cup of coffee and a piece of cake.

But, over the past few years, I’ve become a local to a new hometown. I’m officially a big city gal who has a metro card, understands you can’t give directions by using minutes or landmarks (even if you turn left at the church on the corner, and then walk four minutes and you’ll see the restaurant on your right), and has learned the art of training a puppy with no backyard.

In my new hometown, people aren’t as friendly. People push, people shove, people yell and people honk. And it’s really easy to become jaded and to say, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” But no matter how many times I try, I can’t shove someone on the metro or get mad at a kid running too fast on the sidewalk – because everyone has a story, and mostly everyone came here from somewhere else.

So this spring I decided that the best way to cure my homesickness for the kindness and compassion that small towns have to offer was to extend a hand to those in need. I decided to help feed the hungry.

In a city where there are roughly 7,700 homeless persons on any given night, I realized that I couldn’t help every single one, but I could help a few by serving them breakfast. So I took on the task. I was up at 5:00 a.m. and arrived very sleepy and confused, and a tad scared.

But then the coordinator asked, “Can you serve coffee?”

You bet your bottom dollar I can. Growing up in the restaurant business, I can serve coffee over my shoulder with my eyes closed. OK, that may be a slight exaggeration.

“Sugar is over there, coffee is over here. They get three sugars per cup,” she said.

Seems simple enough.

Promptly at 6:30 a.m., the doors swung open and people started walking in. There were elderly folks dressed for church, single moms, single dads, groups of friends, and those by themselves.

“Miss, can I have some coffee?” a man asked.

And every time they asked for coffee, I then asked how many sugars they wanted. And every single person replied with three. Three sugars. Take that in for a moment.

We live in a society where most of us need coffee to get going in the morning. We need a few cups to function, and then by the afternoon, we need a pick-me-up. We spend $5 for a brewed latte with a fancy logo, and we view this as a necessity. How many times have you heard yourself saying, “Hold on, I just need a cup of coffee before I can start this meeting.” I’m sure a lot.

But, here I saw a group of people who would like a cup of coffee, and they would also like three sugars because they don’t get the luxury of having this everyday. Something so simple, like sugar with your coffee is a thing that every hometown takes for granted.

I asked each person how his or her day was going and learned a lot from each person I spoke with. One man played the piano for the guests, and we learned who liked blues music, who liked oldies, and who could dance really well. We learned each other’s names, who likes grits and who likes bacon, and we learned who the favorite basketball team was in the room. And we learned all of this from who likes sugar with their coffee, which made me feel like I was home for a little bit.