The Little Red (or White) Truck

Today will be my final domestic drive day for Missoula Children’s  Theatre. Though I’m continuing with the company through the summer with an international fly tour, in a way, it feels like my time is ending now.

The truck is such a prominent symbol of this company. We are a moving advertisement;  people often start conversations with us based on our truck. There is also such excitement when kids see the truck roll into town, signaling another Missoula week.

For those of us in the cab of the trucks, however, it’s much more than just a symbol of this organization and a way to get around. With the scenery ever-changing, the truck is our constant. It is the safe place where we can vent about the day. We can sing at the top of our lungs (sometimes to songs that aren’t appropriate for children). We drink an obscene amount of coffee! We share laughs about something funny a kid did that we had to stifle during rehearsal. We share SO MUCH MUSIC. We share embarrassing moments, childhood stories, and hopes and wonderings for the future. Sometimes we sit in silence because the kids just took it out of us that day. No matter the mood, the truck is where we can truly be ourselves without having to feel put together.

I started with this company in January of 2017, and since then have driven thousands of miles. My driving experiences have ranged from New York City (yes, I actually drove through the city proper… not around it. I somehow survived) to dirt/gravel roads in Saskatchewan to snowy mountain ranges. Speaking of snow, we got stuck in snow trying to go up a hill to our hotel! I’ve crossed the US/Canadian border a number of times.  I also was thrilled to have the truck parked in my Massachusetts family’s driveway, visit my brother in Milwaukee, and stop at my parents’ house in Indiana!

 

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My first truck, Mexican Goulash, became friends with my car, Lola

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The result of driving in Saskatchewan

There’s that cliché about it’s not about the destination, but about the journey. Usually that’s a metaphor for life, but it’s quite literal on Sunday drive days. It’s always exciting to go to a new town, but what’s so fun is to see what this beautiful country has to offer along the way. Some of my favorite pit stops have been Mount Rushmore, Carhenge, and countless parks and forests with amazing hikes!  And of course, often the adventure is simply the drive itself — this country we live in is breathtaking!

So, to my dear trucks, thank you for the memories. Thank you for keeping me safe. Thank you for having an aux port. Thank you for not judging my dance moves. Thank you for humbling me by forcing me to crank windows, manually lock/unlock, and not rely on cruise control (jk… no thank you to that one). Thank you for teaching me that I should never have a large vehicle because parking is a nightmare. Most importantly, thank you for being the face of a company I hold so dear. It has been an honor to drive a little red (white) truck!

Mexican Goulash 1/17-5/17 • Dusty 5/17-12/17 • Galinda Lattice 1/18-5/18

 

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Every residency I’ve driven to so far. Now to see what this flying thing is about!!! 🙂

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…And I’m Dooneese

Recently, one of my favorite SNL sketches came up in conversation with my tour partner, and I was aghast to learn that he had never seen it. As I re-watched it with him (because I’m a good friend who makes sure important videos are viewed), I laughed out loud realizing I AM DOONEESE.

In case you’re like my poor, uninformed partner, please educate yourself below. I’ll wait.

With My By Myself

Anyway, now that you’re caught up… I know that the topic of being in your 20s and seeing all of your friends find romance is old news, but wow, it’s real. And this isn’t just a post about being single. A similar feeling of “everyone is doing this thing, and then I’m here singing to myself” applies to many areas of my life. For example:

In my apartment

In my condo

In my house

In my…..I’m homeless (blows kiss)

I see so many people my age or younger doing all of these “adult” things, and this weird/wonderful life path I’ve chosen often has me feeling like I’m anything but an adult. It’s very hard to convince yourself you’re an adult while sleeping in a loft bed surrounded by dolls and stuffed animals.

I guess I’ve always thought of adulthood as this very specific thing, or rather, set of things. Moving out of your parents’ house (I mean I don’t really live there, but my room is perfectly preserved). Marriage/a serious relationship. A job without a foreseeable end date. A house/apartment/kitchen. Bills to pay.

Thus far, my adult life hasn’t included those things, so I often joke about not being a real adult. (The number of pompoms in my wardrobe also contributes to my mindset.) I turned 24 this week, and I made another joke to my tour partner about not being a real adult, and he looked and me and said, “But, you know, you ARE an adult.”

Oh yeah.

When I was young and was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, I remember thinking that I didn’t want to be ordinary. Here I am, living a life that is pretty far from ordinary, and it makes me feel like I’m missing out on something. How silly! As for the things that I’m missing out on, I feel like I need to learn from pre-teen Samantha who was so eager to hit puberty because I wanted to be a real woman. My mom promised me that I would regret my wishes immediately. Similarly, as much as I will enjoy having my own place when I’m not on the road anymore, not paying rent/electricity/whatever people pay for will be missed.

When I did my taxes this year, I texted my dad because I wasn’t sure if I’m considered a dependent on my parents’ taxes. He laughed and said they would not be claiming me. It felt weird and almost dishonest, though, to claim myself as independent because I have virtually no expenses, except food and fun! Also, wow, when I leave the road my living standards are really going to have to drop because living in a variety of really nice homes has become the norm. On top of that, we’re often fed! Should I have claimed myself dependent on all of the wonderful hosts I have stayed with? I truly feel dependent.

Regardless, I am an adult. My adulthood is different than most people who are #adulting, but I’m figuring out that ready or not, adulthood happens as you age, and you get to define what that means.

….And sometimes I sleep in until noon, wear pajamas most of the day, and eat cupcakes for dinner instead of dessert. Is that baaaaad? Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo……

Love,

Samantha

P.S. Here are a few of my favorite moments of adulthood for your enjoyment. You have to click links because I don’t care enough to pay for an upgraded plan that lets me embed videos.

 

Post Cards

I love mail. I was a ’90s child, so I associate mail with Steve and Blue singing the mail song on Blue’s Clues (not Joe… forget him). A more noteworthy reason (pun intended), is because of napkins. One day when I was little, I ventured over to the Fellowship Hall as a few church ladies were putting up tables and place settings for an after-church luncheon. They were stewing over the big decision of how they wanted to fold the napkins. Samantha to the rescue! I so cleverly suggested that they fold them in triangles (so original, I know). Later, I received a handwritten note in the mail from one of the ladies, thanking me for the suggestion and for helping fold the napkins. Her note required much more thought and effort than my simple suggestion, and the lesson of how that made me feel has stuck with me.

I have to also credit my mom for furthering my love of mail. Whenever I went to overnight camp, even if it was just a week, she would send me a letter every day. Then in college, I must’ve gotten something in the mail every other week. Sometimes I would chuckle because she’d spend $4 to send me a package of M&Ms when I could’ve easily bought myself M&Ms. But practicality is not the point of mail. Another time I was disappointed to open up a large envelope to find underwear that I had accidentally left in the laundry on a recent visit home. It doesn’t matter what she sent; it was thrilling seeing something in my little box and knowing whatever was there had been in my mom’s hand just a few days before (or more if USPS was slacking).

When I started my first tour last summer, I decided that it would be fun to send post cards. After all, not many people get to travel to a new town every week. Post cards normally are associated with vacations or particularly touristy areas, rather than towns with a population of less than a thousand. So, I quickly learned that my writing project is also a weekly treasure hunt.

There have been a couple weeks where the hosting theatre has post cards, so that is an early victory. However, most weeks I devote an hour or so to wander through locally owned shops for a 3.5×5 piece of paper. It’s actually been a cool thing because what started as a way to connect with friends and family has led to several wonderful conversations with shop owners, parents of cast members, and other townspeople I run into while on the hunt. Yay, human interaction!

Is my hunt successful? Usually, yes! The goal is to have it say the name of the town and state. Sometimes, however, I have to write in the town name if I can’t find a town-specific one. You’d be surprised at how many small towns have them, though. I think the hardest ones to find are suburbs to bigger cities because it seems like they identify more with the larger city than claiming their own town. Anyway, I can count on one hand the number of weeks I haven’t sent anything.

Each week, seven post cards go out to some of my closest family and friends. With modern communication, people could argue that mail is unnecessary, but sometimes I feel more connected through a handwritten note than using FaceTime. I like that people have something tangible from me since I can’t see them in person.

If you could use some happy mail, please let me know. I would love to send you a post card! (But not every week because more than 7 per week would start to get excessive!)

Love,

Samantha

 

P.S. Real life worry: I write almost exclusively in cursive, and apparently they don’t teach that anymore. I like to think that all of these things I write could be held on to read years later, but I think those years may be more numbered than I’d like to admit. I’ll be teaching my kids cursive….

Me Party

A few weeks ago, in preparation for singing at my brother’s wedding, I rehearsed at home with my favorite accompanist, my mom. What started as a necessary task on the to-do list turned into a full-blown song session including songs from my repertoire dating back to the song I sang for my first musical audition in 3rd grade. (Side note: The audition was for The Sound of Music. I sang a song from The Tap Dance Kid that the angsty, overweight, but starving for attention, African American character sings. I was not cast.) It was such a joy to return to the comforting musical bubble my mom and I share, without the stress of an upcoming audition, jury, or other pressing vocal event. One of the songs I pulled out of the stack was, “Me Party,” from the 2011 Muppets Movie. Ironically, it’s a duet with Amy Adams’ character and Miss Piggy, but, in true “me party” fashion, I sang it solo.

As I was squinting to read the lyrics on the page (the piano light situation is not ideal), I laughed to myself thinking about how many “me parties” I attend regularly. Of course, the difference between what Mary and Miss Piggy have going versus my life is they have men/frogs who just happen to not be around. My “me party” is a more regular affair.

Tonight I was a party of one at a small-town restaurant where the owner’s face is on the cover, the decorations look like they came from an antique store, and there are columns wrapped in fake vines. I sat down and took my time with the menu, not having to look and hold a conversation simultaneously. I ordered, then dove into reading my latest Kindle book. I savored my meal, my book, and I even conversed a bit with the waitress. Then, I walked back to my hotel room, which is the space where I sleep, shower, eat most meals, watch Netflix, do yoga, talk to my mom, read, etc….

This job is tricky because you definitely have to be a people person. We are in a new town each week with a different group of kiddos to meet and direct. We work with the contacts who bring us in. We often live with a homestay. Sometimes, we’re invited for dinner with a family of someone in the cast. Yet, despite all of that, there is a ton of alone time, so you need to enjoy people, but not be dependent on having them around. Otherwise, it would be very very lonely.

Of course, I have a tour partner, but working together, driving together, and spending all of our free time together would just be too much. Alone time is necessary for a healthy working relationship. That being said, last night we enjoyed a post-show dinner together at a restaurant bar & grill, recommended by several cast members. “It’s a bar!” whispered a child, encouraging us to go.

This post is not to invoke pity, by any means. Sure, sometimes life on the road is a little lonely. I miss my friends and family. I miss hanging out with people my age (once again, minus my tour partner). But I know that these days of hanging out with myself won’t last forever. One day, I’ll probably have a family of my own with a busy schedule full of my kids’ activities, and then I’ll be wishing I had a hotel room to myself to do whatever I want for hours on end. So, I do my best to celebrate each “me party” I throw myself. After all, as the song says, “I’m such good company!”

Now, it’s your turn! Throw yourself a “me” party! Take yourself to dinner. Go to a movie. Go to a museum. Explore a new shop in town. It’s fun! You might be surprised how much you like spending time with yourself!

 

P.S. In case, you haven’t heard the song, please watch. I wish singing desserts would join me at my me parties. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BXH3Gnvxpw0

 

 

Exercise on the Road

I consider myself athletically challenged. My two brothers, Jacob and Will are not. In fact, they are both incredibly athletic and played/will play on their college baseball teams. Here’s a visual:

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Anyway, I never minded that much. I always just laughed it off and said that I balanced the family out by being the artsy one. The performer. The pageant girl. Little did I know, my two-year pageant career is what led to the most embarrassing “active” moment of my life.

Because I competed in the teen division, we were saved from walking on stage in a bikini and heels. Rather, we had an activewear competition where we strutted around in little exercise outfits and did a couple “flexing” poses (sometimes accompanied by a duck face), and then peppily exited the stage.

The first year was fine. I mean knew I was a total poser, but I was pretty sure that the judges didn’t. Year two at Miss Indiana’s Outstanding Teen, the week of the pageant we were informed that instead of the usual pep and pose deal, we were going to do an activewear routine. I was not prepared for that. They taught it to us, and it wasn’t overly difficult, but when my moment came… well…

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Needless to say, I was not crowed Miss Indiana’s Outstanding Teen. Thankfully, I had already ordered the DVD to treasure this moment forever. When I watched it for the first time, I had actual tears because it was so funny. I knew it hadn’t gone well, but I didn’t realize exactly how bad it was. I mean, how could I not look normal when I’m running in place?!

Due to my lack of athletic ability, I had never been into exercising. I was always so busy with all of my other activities. Plus, I was always fairly thin naturally (thanks for those genes, mother).

College. I realized that exercise is a thing that people do. It’s not just for athletes. Also, my metabolism was changing (rude)! Plus, you’re paying for that rec center as part of your tuition, so you might as well take advantage of it. I started to go on occasion, but felt very lost in a sea of people who looked like they knew what they were doing. Don’t get me wrong, I had taken gym class, so I knew how to use machines, but there’s a difference between knowing how to use a machine and knowing how to create a workout that isn’t just 15 reps on each machine. So, I’d hop on that elliptical and run for awhile.

One time I was adventurous and decided to go to a zumba class at the rec when they were all free the first week of classes. Unfortunately, I came directly from another class and was a little bit late, so I had to stand in the back of the class. Normally, that would be a good thing, but because half of the gym was the zumba class and the other half was full of guys playing pick-up basketball, I wasn’t too thrilled. Things were going okay, and then the zumba instructor said, “Who’s ready to tweeeerrrkkk?!”

I was not ready.

Sometimes, people are confused about my ethnicity because I tan really easily and my curls are confusing. Those people should see me attempt to twerk. I digress.

“Samantha, this post is called Exercise on the Road. Why are you telling us stories about your past?”

Right, right. I’ll get on with it.

With this job, I have a lot of free time, so I can no longer use my favorite excuse for not working out, which is that I’m too busy. I like to find different ways to be active. First, the job itself is pretty active with directing on my feet for four hours a day. We also put up the set and get some arm workouts carrying the heavy bags. Sometimes, though, I try to convince myself that the job itself is an actual workout. It is not.

I’m a big fan of finding places to walk/hike. A few weeks ago I walked for almost five miles (the point of the walk was to find a good cup of coffee, but nevertheless, I walked!). Sometimes, we have access to a fitness center. I always act like that is something that really excites me, but then I get there and I kind of go back to my activewear moment. People surely know that I do not belong at a gym.

I have discovered, however, that I like working out in my hotel room. Alone. No one is there. I pull up some cardio dance youtube videos and look like an absolute fool, but it doesn’t matter because I am the only one there. I am glad that I do not have these workouts captured on DVD. I’m also slowly figuring out yoga. There are also lots of cool exercise apps! It’s nice to be told what to do, so that I don’t quit the moment I start feeling tired (aka, me on an elliptical).

This is all really great, but on weeks where I am staying in someone’s home, rather than a hotel, it gets awkward again. Why is working out so awkward? I mean, it’s something that everyone does (or should do), but wow, I do not like doing it in front of other people. I don’t even really like working out in someone’s basement and them knowing that that’s what I’m doing.

Anyway, I guess the point of this post is that exercise on the road can be hard, but not much harder than exercise in everyday life. I just need to get over myself. Hopefully sharing these stories will get me one step closer to not being awkward. Or not.

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Byeeeeeee

Hey, I just met you, and this is crazy…

… but let’s spend a very concentrated amount of time with each other, and then see you never, maybe.

On the road again. I began a contract with Missoula Children’s Theatre on December 27 (and am just now getting around to writing a blog post). Anyway, I rang in the new year with what an outsider would call a complete group of strangers – the other tour actor/directors training for the job. Yet, as we were all squished into a hotel room hugging each other and wishing one another a Happy New Year, there was so much love in the room.

One of the people I hugged New Year’s Eve was my roommate, Christina, a fellow tour actor/director. She and I instantly clicked. We would finish a full 10-hour day of work and then, though we were exhausted, would stay up late chatting, crying, and giggling — like we were young girls back in the days of sleepovers. Finally, one of us would cut the other off in the middle of conversation and say, “It’s time for bed!” We would go to sleep maybe ten minutes later. Maybe. Actors have a gift for bonding quickly because we love to study people (and talk about ourselves). It’s also a necessity because we don’t have the luxury of being with our family or long-time friends, so we have the responsibility of filling that void for one another.

Training ended and I drove to Alabama, and she and her tour partner went to California. We’ll see each other when we return our trucks to Missoula, but after that, who knows? (Just kidding, Christina. We’re going to be next door neighbors and I’ll knock on your door when I need to borrow a cup of flour.)

Speaking of the end of training, that marked the beginning of the 32-hour drive from Montana to Alabama. Just me, my tour partner, Jacob, and our truck. Our friendship began during training, and as we drove across the country together, opening up about our lives. I was struck that in just two weeks I perhaps knew him more than most would learn about a co-worker in a year. Maybe I’m wrong, as I don’t have much experience with more traditional jobs, but I’m guessing that normal everyday banter doesn’t include your favorite music, guilty pleasure snack, or details about your childhood.

For those of you unfamiliar with my job, my tour partner and I travel to a different town each week and teach a different group of students Treasure Island. It may sound mundane to do the same show week after week. However, each week a new group of students transforms it to be something entirely unique. As I say goodbye to the students when they turn in their costumes after the final show, it means so much to think how far they have come in just a week. Sometimes I look at some of the younger kids and wonder what they will be like as teenagers or young adults. Many of them may not remember much of the week, but for some it may spark a passion. Either way, I feel lucky to have been involved in what is hopefully a fun, enlightening experience for them.

When we’re in each town, we either stay in a hotel or a family opens up their home to us for the week. My own family has hosted three different exchange students, several baseball players, and then there are my brothers’ friends, who always seem to end up on our basement floor. From my experience hosting, I know the importance of host-guest interaction. So as a guest, I don’t want to just go to my room; rather, I want to take advantage of this small window as life intersects with these people. So far, we’ve stayed at just two different homes, but both experiences have had a deep impact, resulting in a nearly choked up goodbye.

Tour life could be very lonely. There’s only one person that you consistently see, and the majority of the people you interact with are under 15. Yet, by allowing myself to be vulnerable and really connect with these people that I’ll likely never see again, I don’t feel alone. Goodbyes are hard, and sometimes it’s tempting to not open yourself up to such short-term relationships. Why have a conversation with someone who’s basically a stranger and is only in your life for a week when you could instead call home? Maintaining existing relationships is important, but so is living in the present. The heart has no boundaries – it continues to expand with each new connection. I am so lucky that every week I meet so many beautiful, colorful, interesting souls. And, who knows? Maybe somehow the universe will find a way for our paths to cross again.

New Acting Gig!

Blog time! It’s been awhile, as my children’s theatre contract ended mid-August. I haven’t really had much to say in my BFA blog because I have since been spending some quality time at home saving money and searching for the next acting gig. However, when I started this blog I said that it would tell of adventures during contracts and in between, so here we are. In between.

As I mentioned, I am at home saving money. I have been hired as a server, which is one of the only non-theatre jobs I have had… or so I thought.

Here are the ways I’m using my BFA as a server:

Listening

In the first semester of acting, our professor blew our little freshman minds when he said that one of the most important tools of an actor is listening, rather than our own delivery of lines. It is, of course, important to listen to the customer’s orders and make sure that it is right. I also “listen” to body language to know whether the table wants me to interact with them or give them their freaking food and go away.

Makeup

In serving, like acting, it does matter what you look like. I have never worn makeup more consistently than I have for this job. So far, so good.

Illusion of the First Time

We talk about making scenes fresh so that it doesn’t sound rehearsed, but that we are truly saying these lines for the first time. I haven’t been serving that long, but I’ve noticed it is already a challenge to bring this freshness when I introduce myself to a new table and go through all of the usual questions. I try to tailor my “lines” based on the responses of the different guests. Also known as being a real person having a conversation, rather than a robot.

More importantly, I’m getting really good at running into people I haven’t seen in a long time and updating them on my life. Some people are very concerned that I have decided to drop out of school because they don’t know I graduated in May. They are then concerned (or pretending not to be) that I am at home serving. Don’t worry, I’ll be okay. I just don’t want to move to Los Angeles with no money.

Improv

Going along with the old saying, “the customer is always right,” I’ve learned to go with the flow and be a problem solver. For any special requests, I respond with, “yes, and….”

Acting

Here are some of my best acting moments:

  • Hiding the judgment when people order incredibly fattening meals and then need about 7 more sides of ranch. *TANGENT* I never knew how obsessed people are with sauces. Why do you need to dip ranch in everything? I do not understand! One server had a man ask for an entire bowl of ranch for his cheeseburger. Oh, absolutely, have some liquid fat for your fat. Whatever. I love ice cream, so I shouldn’t judge.
  • Acting happy to serve the man who came in with a free appetizer card and ordered an appetizer and water
  • When guests ask for recommendations from the menu on things I have never eaten
  • When I first started and actually had no idea what I was doing
  • When people hear I’m an actor and then try to give me advice on jobs I should look for or say things like, “Have you ever thought about New York?” New York? What’s that? Never heard of it.

Objective

Tips.

I am so #blessed to add this credit to my résumé. Please come out and see the show!*

 

*In all seriousness, despite my sarcastic remarks, I am thankful for this job and am actually having a lot of fun 🙂

 

Living That Tour Life Part 3: Lodging

As I write this, I’m sitting on a lovely wooden lawn chair outside of my motel watching the sunset over Lake Superior, realizing I forgot to put on bug spray.

Pause to go get bug spray.

Ahh, bug spray, my favorite perfume.

Anyway, this perfect writing spot is on the front lawn of my motel for the week. Confession: I have a fear of motels. I prefer entering through a lobby, walking down a hallway, and arriving at my door INSIDE. As a kid, anytime my family stopped somewhere to sleep during a road trip, I would beg my parents to stay at a hotel. I was convinced that all motels were broken into. You literally park your car right outside your door! I mean, come on! THEY KNOW WHERE YOU LIVE (whoever they is). Pretty princess, Samantha, didn’t always get her way at 2AM, and we would have to stay in a motel. Though I was paranoid and terrified, I was comforted knowing that my parents were there to protect me. Or at least to block the invader as I make my epic escape! I kid… sort of.

I’ve joked with Kevin all summer that if we ever stay at a sketchy motel, he will have to stay with me. So far, so good. This is only our second motel. The first was a lodge in a wooded area, so I felt secluded enough; though maybe seclusion should’ve made me more cautious. This week, I have an extra layer of protection with a screen door that locks, which is probably more for bugs than intruders, but it does help me a little. Kevin is also next door so can listen for any signs of scary. If I don’t post anything later on this week, though, please send a search team.

Nevertheless, it is nice that I simply walked out the door and was able to take in this amazing view. Maybe my motel fear can subside for the week.

This blog post isn’t just to talk about this week’s motel, but to share some of the benefits and struggles of living in a new place each week.

Temperatures

I have yet to be in a place with no type of air conditioner (so #blessed for that), but I cannot, for the life of me, ever get the temperature in the room right. Usually when you walk into a fresh hotel room, the A/C is either off completely or blasting cold air. I immediately adjust accordingly to try to make it comfortable, but somehow I always manage to get it to another extreme. How do I get it to a comfortable room temperature? Last week, I was so hot, so I turned on the A/C. The next day my room was completely damp. That was Tuesday, and the rest of the week everything in my room was slightly wet. WHAT DID I DO?!

Another temperature that is tricky is the temperature of the shower. A fellow tour director, Larren, posted a Facebook status that perfectly captures this dilemma:

“Every hotel shower seems to have such a fine line between ‘Hmm this could be a little warmer.’ and ‘Boiling lava, I’m melting, it’s getting hot in here so melt off all my skin, now I’m a lobster.'”

Finally, there’s the temperature of the mini fridge, assuming there is one. I’ve found that the mini fridge is either so cold that my lettuce becomes little frozen treats and my milk is a slushie, or not quite cold enough for the freezer section to keep ice cream solid. Cereal slushies, it is!

The Beds

Mostly, I’ve been lucky to have beds that are fairly comfortable. Sometimes I immediately strip down the comforter that looks like it’s as old as the hotel itself and replace it with my trusty freshman dorm comforter.

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Note the dated comforter that has since been removed

When you live life in a hotel room, you quickly learn that the bed is not just for sleeping. Yes, there is often a little desk with an office chair, but who really wants to sit there? Therefore, the bed is where I sleep, eat, read, and watch endless hours of Netflix.

As nice as a king bed seems, I have determined I much prefer two double beds to one giant bed. First of all, who needs all of that space to sleep? I’m not that big – I’d much rather have room for activities than have that giant bed! Second, two beds are really nice because I can reserve one bed specifically for sleeping and the other bed for everything else. That way, I can eat and not sleep in the crumbs from my breakfast that morning.

Housekeeping

Do Not Disturb. Nothing against housekeepers, but it’s just me, so I don’t need my room cleaned that often. Plus, I don’t want them to judge me for my dirty dishes that are sitting around. I do wish I could be a fly on the wall when they finally do clean my room at the end of the week. They probably can’t figure out why there’s so much orange makeup on my towels.

Though I don’t need their service during my week, I am lucky to have someone else clean for me. Sometimes the kids bring us candy as a treat, so I often leave extra behind in my room as a thank you.

Living Out of a Suitcase

Or two suitcases. Or two suitcases and a cooler and a toiletry bag and bags of food.

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My possessions for the summer vs. Kevin’s possessions for the summer. Sorry, not sorry. 

Whoops. I have a clothes suitcase and a stuff suitcase. I unpack my stuff suitcase every week, which consists of a:

  • tea kettle
  • box of tea
  • George Foreman
  • mugs, silverware, food containers, lunch box, and plates
  • books waiting to be read (they remain packed until it’s their turn)
  • iHome

My clothes, however, stay in my giant suitcase. It used to be that anytime I vacationed anywhere, no matter the length of time, I would unpack to feel at home. When it’s no longer a special occasion and you travel every week, that just seems silly. I don’t mind living out of a suitcase that much, except for a few things.

  1. The clothes that I packed that I have yet to wear. I look at them and think, “Why the crap did I think I would want that this summer?” I resent these items every time I have to carry my insanely heavy suitcase up or down a flight of stairs, which I’m a pro at, by the way.
  2. The clothes that I left behind in Indiana that I miss and am longing for. Fun floral dresses, I’m talking about you.
  3. Everything is always wrinkled. Always. I’ve become very good friends with Downy wrinkle releaser spray. Sometimes the hotel has an iron that I can use (I’ve busted it out a couple times), but not always. Plus, even if there is an iron available, who irons a t-shirt? That’s just silly.
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    If this blog were super popular they’d probably send me some for free, which would be nice because I’m out….

     

Keys

I’m shocked at how many actual keys I’ve been given, rather than the piece of plastic that you scan. I have a bad history with keys. The key to my house I somehow never can manage to open the door with. There may or may not have been a time when I have stood outside my house WITH A KEY, crying because I couldn’t open the door. Luckily, I’ve had better luck with these.

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The sun has now officially set and the light from my laptop is a meeting place for the mosquitoes that do not care that I loaded up with bug spray. I’m headed in to my home for the week. Hopefully no one follows me in….

Living That Tour Life Part 2: Church

Growing up, I never had to move. The room that was my nursery as an infant is the same room that is now storing all of the years of belongings that didn’t join me for my summer contract. With that, there was a lot of consistency in my childhood, including my home church. I love my home church so much. I love the familiarity of it. I love how beautiful the sanctuary is, and I love the ugly brown stage in the fellowship hall where I got a taste of performing at Christmas programs. I love the tiny storage closet that connects the women’s bathroom to a fancy room with a piano, that I’m told a bride could use for a dressing room if she got married at the church. Though I’ve never used the passageway for that purpose, my friend and I spent many hours sitting in that closet, hiding from our moms after church, talking about boys. The congregation at my church has witnessed me grow as a singer, having had to listen to solos before I deserved a solo. More importantly, they’ve watched me from my infant baptism, to my confirmation at 13, and every step in between and beyond. It is such a joy every time I visit home to experience Centenary United Methodist and once again be with my church family.

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Selfie with my friend Gwen in the church bathroom, circa 2008. We apparently graduated from the closet to the bathroom at this point. I’m not proud.

While I did go to college and experience different churches then, this summer I have been exposed to even more different forms of worship. Each week, I keep my eyes peeled for churches around the area. Then, Saturday night I Google churches around me and pick one to go to according to very important factors, such as how early I will have to get up and whether or not I can walk there. Side note: lots of churches need to work on their online presence. It’s like they don’t want visitors – you would be shocked at how hard it is to find what time worship starts. Rude! I digress… Here’s some highlights of my experiences:

Abbotsford, WI

After our very first residency week, Kevin and I were invited to church by the parents of some of our cast members. It had been kind of a long week, simply because it was our first and we were still trying to translate what we had learned in our training into real life. We worshipped along with what we have deemed the whitest praise band we’ve ever seen. I’m chuckling to myself thinking about it, but there are no words. My home church is traditional and sings songs from a hymnal, accompanied by an organ. A few songs into worship, the whitest praise band ever decided to play an old hymn. We were sitting with the family that invited us and the son asked his mom what song it was and she didn’t know, but told him to just follow along on the screen. It was funny to me because it was the only song I actually really knew. After the service, the pastor said that the band was going to continue worshipping and we could either leave, stay and pray, or sing for a little longer. The family that invited us asked if they could pray for us. The whitest praise band ever was the background for such a beautiful moment as we held hands with this family and they prayed for safe travels, energy, and for the kids we would meet this summer. I can’t think of a better way to start a contract.

Milwaukee, WI

The next week our originally scheduled town re-scheduled for the fall, leaving us with a week to stay with my older brother in Milwaukee. Because trying to park a minivan downtown is the worst, we researched a church within walking distance from his apartment. This church didn’t come up on the original Google search, but after a few searches, we came across a church called Bent Tree. It meets in the Third Ward (Jacob’s neighborhood) in the conference area at a coffee/wine bar. When we walked in, we were instantly recognized as newbies because apparently this church just started up in February and must be pretty low key since they don’t meet in a church. It turns out it is part of a larger church based in Texas. We participated in worship with the jazziest praise band (keyboard, guitar, and SAXOPHONE player!) then were given time to go refill our coffee before the sermon. After intermission(?), a pastor from Texas was live-streamed onto the screen! It was a really interesting experience, but what sticks out the most is how welcoming everyone was. They were so excited to see new people at their church and for us to be a part of something so dear to them. Nevertheless, we dodged out as quickly as possible after it was over because we were a little bit tired of trying to explain who we are, why we were in Milwaukee for the week, and what we do for a living. Also I’m pretty sure they all thought we were a couple and one woman assumed that Kevin was there visiting the drummer (aka the one other black person there).

Wadena, MN

I got a little taste of home when I went to a United Methodist Church (after a few weeks of missing due to a visit from my mother, traveling wedding weekend, and oversleeping)…. Aside from one mom with a newborn, a dad and two pre-teens, and me, the average age of the congregation was about 70. I loved it. It was such a small group and you could just tell how tight-knit they were. After the pastor gave the morning announcements, he let the congregation pass the microphone around and give any announcements or prayer requests they had. It was like they were an actual family. Later on, it was time to pass the peace and the elderly couple in front of me said “Peace be with you,” and then KISSED! Ahhhh my heart melted — they are so in love!!!!!!! I was also feeling a little bit bad, though, because it was the two of them and one other woman. She’s third wheeling so hard. Anyway, after her morning kiss from her hubby, the one woman turned around, looked at me, and said, “I don’t know you.” Welcome to small town, USA.

Baudette, MN

This past week I went to a Lutheran church for the first time since I went with my grandma as a young girl. Now, we Methodists use grape juice for communion, so my little self was not prepared when I took a big gulp of communion wine. I spent the rest of that service consumed with the burning feeling down my throat and the awful taste in my mouth. I also got tired of singing, which says a lot, coming from me. This week, as I sat in this new-to-me church, I  was filled with a bit of nostalgia as I experienced a Lutheran service all these years later, this time more accustomed to drinking wine, less consumed with the taste, and more in touch with the meaning of it all.

There are two main takeaways from my tour of churches. One, as Christians, it seems we often get caught up in trivial aspects of church. Should we sing looking at words on a screen or words from a hymnal? Should we be accompanied by an organ or a praise band? Should the pastor be in traditional robes or look like a hipster at a coffee shop? Of course, the denomination of the church isn’t trivial. However, while I certainly have preferences of where I feel most at home and how I personally connect, despite the many differences, they all preach the same thing. God is present at every gathering. We all worship Christ, and I think in the end of time, God is going to laugh at all of us for all of the wasted breaths worrying about the slight variances in what is really a group effort.

Secondly, it is wonderfully freeing going to a church by myself, knowing no one. Rather than needing to catch up with my church congregation, I am able to really focus on what I came to church for. At first, I felt lonely, but then I remembered, all Christians are my church family. It’s like that old kid’s song goes, “I am the church! You are the church! We are the church together! All of who follow Jesus, all around the world! Yes, we’re the church together!”