A Fresh Pack of Crayons

I was at Target yesterday trying desperately to find chalk for my new chalkboard.  Per what is becoming an annual tradition, I reorganized my apartment and in the process set up a new office area:

picstitch

But I digress.  So, I was in Target and I overheard a kid talking about how much she wanted a new box of crayons.  Her father, probably thinking about the thousand of crayons they already have lying around their house, exclaimed, “No, My Gosh!  No!”.  I stifled a chuckle because I remember not a week ago having a conversation with my mom about what to buy my niece for her birthday. It went a little something like this:

Me: What about a Tinker Bell toy?  Does she know who Tinker Bell is?

Mom: Yes, she knows who Tinker Bell is, what does the toy do?

Me:  You like dress it up.

Mom: That sounds like the Smurfette toy we bought her.

Me: What about a Sofia the First coloring book and crayons?

Mom: She DOES NOT need anymore crayons.  Every holiday she gets crayons and they have to throw a bunch away.

While I settled on getting her a Smurf coloring book (her birthday was smurf themed, or snurf as she likes to call them) I did not get her any crayons, but sure enough she did get several packages of crayons.

It does seem like kids end up with an abundance of crayons, but sadly as adults we only start to see them as a nuisance.  I partially blame this on the fact that white walls and doors look like optimal drawing space, but I also blame it on the fact that as we get older we start to forget the small joys in life.  Small joys like opening a fresh pack of crayons and gliding the perfectly pointed wax across a colorless page.

kids-crayons

I have always found coloring therapeutic, and when I used to work in customer service I would occasionally color while talking to customers on the phone so that I would not get upset while they yelled at me for a reason I found utterly ridiculous.  However, since leaving that position I realize that I haven’t colored anything in quite some time.  I don’t know why, I own several coloring books, and multiple packages of crayons (like the kid a target, I frequently yearn for new coloring utensils…well, actually, office supplies in general).

I suppose now that I am thinking about it, I don’t color anymore because every time I get the urge to pull out my crayons I realize that there are a hundred other things that I should be doing. Doing something like coloring would just be wasting time. But, I wouldn’t be wasting time.  I would be bringing a small amount of joy into my day, and let’s face it even the smallest amount of joy is worth “wasting” a little time.

Almost every time I go to my home town to visit my family, my nieces draw or color me a picture. I love them.  Their artwork always brightens my day.  I don’t know a parent, grandparent, aunt, or uncle that would disagree with that notion.  So knowing what it means to us to receive these precious works, imagine how happy it would make them if we, the adults, drew or colored them a picture. It would probably bring them joy if for no other reason than that they would knew we took time out of our busy schedules to color something for them.

I guess I am posing a challenge of sorts.  Maybe tonight or tomorrow instead of going home and stressing about the crazy day we had or the even crazier day we will have tomorrow, we all find some crayons and remember what it feels like to be a kid again. Remember how it feels when you see your pre-drawn picture completed with the colors you added. And, once you finish your creation, maybe give it to a kid in your life or even a fellow adult.

It is possible that everyone will think we’ve lost our minds, but I say if even for just a minute we are able to experience the magic and joy gained from partaking in a beloved childhood activity then it is worth the potential forced trip to a psychiatrist.

 

Look!  I even found this flower coloring page on Google!

flower-coloring-pages-3

My Christmas Wish

Earlier this evening my mother, my niece, and I were getting ready for Christmas Eve service.  My niece, ever the fashionista, put on her pink leggings and blue long-sleeved shirt.  She then proceeded to her second layer of clothes: a multi-colored neon ruffle skirt and white short-sleeved shirt with pink glitter stars.  Feeling that her outfit was not yet complete she asked my mom if she could have a pink sparkle bow for her hair, and off to the craft room we all went to find pink sparkle ribbon.

“I don’t think I have any pink sparkle ribbon,” my mother said digging through one of her many ribbon boxes, “Ahh, but I can make sparkles!”  I looked over and my mother had found a small piece of silver sparkly ribbon that she paired with a piece of hot pink ribbon to tie a bow in my overjoyed niece’s hair.  You may be wondering what this story has to do with Christmas, but I will get to the point.  I promise.

As far back as I can remember my life has always been filled with little moments of magic.  I mean no one ever received a Hogwarts letter, but there were always little magical things happening around the house.  Things like finding a forgotten jar of glitter that provided the perfect finishing touch to a school project, or somehow having just the right ingredients to make pizza when all of my friends decided to drop in for a surprise visit.  In hindsight, these things can probably be chalked up to my having the most amazing mother ever, but in my memory it is all magical wonder, and there is no time that was ever more magical than Christmas.

I’ve always thought my family was pretty normal when it came to Christmas, but as I’ve gotten older I have realized that this is not the case.  We decorate every room in the house (or in my case apartment and cubicle), and there is always a whole day devoted to Christmas baking. We make Christmas pizza for Christmas Eve dinner, our tree holds approximately 800 ornaments (each one with its own story), and there are three manger scenes and three Christmas elves (Merry, Jingle, and Noel) scattered about the house. We go way overboard with our stocking-stuffers. Christmas has always just been magical, and until recently I could not have told you why.

manger

This brings me back to tonight.  After my mother magically fixed my niece a pink sparkle bow we went to church. My niece actually felt sick and ended up not going to church, but my mother and I still attended the candlelight service like we do every year.  Somewhere between the bow, the Christmas story, and lighting the Christmas candles I realized that the magic I have always known is simple.  It’s taking the time to make things for your friends and family.  It’s the small moments you spend with the ones you love.  It’s coming together to celebrate traditions no matter how strange they may be.  The magic I have always known is love.

I entitled this post “My Christmas Wish” because I know that I am fortunate.  My family is not perfect, but we are full of love (even if we don’t always show it).  I also know that this is not the case for many families.  So this is my Christmas wish:  I hope that tomorrow morning families everywhere wake up and remember what is really important.  I hope that instead of worrying about what is under the tree they cherish the time they have together.  I hope that for just one day we can all block out the bad in the world and find comfort, happiness, and love in the magic that is Christmas.

Attention All Smart Girls

While out and about representing Sofa King News on Friday, I had the opportunity to join a round table with Meredith Walker from Smart Girls at the Party at the Alamo Drafthouse in Richardson, TX.  During the round table I learned about the awesome things that Meredith and her co-founder Amy Poehler are doing to help girls realize that the best person you can be is you.

While the website and webisodes are mostly directed to those in their tweens – late teens, I was surprised at how relative their message is to women of all ages.  I have said it before and probably said before that I’ve said it before, but being in your mid-twenties pretty much sucks.  It is like you’re coming of age all over again.  Each day you become overwhelming more aware that your life is definitely not where you had envisioned it being.  I think a large part of that journey is figuring out, not who you are, but how to be who you are.

At 26 I’m pretty sure I am who I am, and reluctantly over the past six years I have come to terms with all that being me entails.  However, I don’t always know where exactly I fit in the world, and  there in lies the foundation for my quarter-life crisis.  I was hoping I was on the tail end of it when I hit my 25th birthday, but alas I was not.  Truthfully, I’m beginning to think that life is just one ‘crisis’ after another, and, you know, I think I’m okay with that.  I mean if we aren’t trying to figure something out, then what are we doing?  How boring would life be if nothing made us curious or hungry for adventure?

The genius behind Smart Girls at the Party, is that whether you are 12 or 82 you completely understand the desire to want to be yourself.  Well I’m here to tell you.  It is okay to be you!  Own you, girl!  We all have weird quirks and interests, and the things that make us authentically unique are the things that make life interesting.  In the spirit of camaraderie I am making a public Smart Girl admission:

I geek out any time someone says Doctor Who or Stargate, and I’m pretty sure that my Hogwarts letter got lost in the mail.  It is possible that I know at least one song from every musical ever written, and when I visit my parent’s I spend the whole time on their couch watch Hallmark movies.  I go on month long Chick-Lit binges, and during this time I frequently turn down plans so that I can sit at home and read.  Also, I am 99% sure that I am Nancy Drew, and I watched Tangled twice yesterday.  I go to church most Sundays and absolutely love singing old Gospel music.  I really love yoga, but think running is something you only do when being chase by a rapid dog or zombie.

All of these things are part of who I am.

My name is Michelle Cooper and I am a Smart Girl!

Farewell, Mr. Seaton

Helen Hayes once said, “I am confused by life, and I feel safe within the confines of the theatre.”  Never could any words accurately describe how I feel today.  Today I mourn the loss of a great teacher and an even greater friend.

There is a moment right before the curtain goes up, when your feet are planted firmly on the wooden stage below and the world is still.  In that moment, your mind races and anticipation consumes you.  You think of all the things that you have done and all the things you will do.  You take a slow steady breath and hope that when the curtain rises you will remember your first line.  Then it happens, the curtain is raised and the soft heat of the lights hits your face.  You open your mouth and deliver the most perfect first line you have ever delivered; all your fears and anxiety disappear into the past.

Today, I am stuck in the moment before.  My mind is racing.  I keep thinking that my phone will ring and someone will tell me that it was a mistake and that my friend is alive and well.  Unfortunately, this is a curtain that will not ever be raised.  The phone call that I so desperately hope for will never come, and the relief of uttering that first word will not reassure me that everything will be fine.

The theater has always been a safe haven for me; a place to escape when things get rough and overwhelming.  Today, I crave the theater.  I long for the subtle smell of must and gentle hum of stage lights.  I so desperately want to be in a place where the grief I feel does not exist; a place where my friend will always be.

In history class we learn about great men.  We read about men who led armies, sparked movements, or starred in earth shattering movies.  Shannon Seaton will not be one of these men; most likely his life will not be recorded in the history books of tomorrow.  But, Shannon Seaton was a great man.   For years he guided his students.  He created a place for us to explore the stage and the words penned to be performed.  He taught us that no matter how different we are, there is always a place for us in the theater.

Today I grieve the loss of a great friend, and I share my grief with his family and friends.  Loss is never easy, and today I feel it with every fiber of my being.  However, I have to remember that Seaton is not truly gone forever.  He is alive in the little things.  I know that he will always be there when I watch Auntie Mame or when I hear a rousing rendition of Oklahoma.  I know that if I ever return to the stage he will be there in that dreaded moment before, full of confidence that I will do my best.  And, I know that he will live on forever in my memories and the memories of countless others whose lives he changed.

[The lights fade to a single spot.   Seaton stands center stage staring off into the audience.  He sees in the distance the hordes of people whose lives he’s touched and he knows that his life has had true meaning.  He raises a hand as if to say farewell.  The spot fades to black.] The End.

seaton

The Last Word

To You:

Once, I told you a story about someone who made me so angry that I never wanted to be in the same room with them again.  This is not how I feel about you.  I almost let myself feel this way.  For a brief moment I thought about letting your words consume me, but then I remembered one very important thing (with the help of some very important people)…your words only mean as much as I let them.  After I remembered this simple fact, I decided to selfishly choose myself because I know I’m entitled to be happy!  In order to find happiness  I definitely don’t need the approval of someone who uses bitter  jealous words to tear a person down, but instead I need to let my own words be the wings upon which I continue to fly.  I wish you nothing but happiness and hope that you know I feel no ill will towards you.  In fact, I want to thank you again for reminding me who I am!

Sincerely,

Me

Chick-Lit to Chick-Flick

I have long been a Chick-Lit lover!  I have also spent a fair amount of time advocating the legitimacy of Chick-Lit as a scholarly genre. My argument is that just because something is entertaining and covered in hot pink, does not mean it is not a well-written, insightful piece of literature.  This is a topic that I will no doubt write about in depth at a later date, but today I write to Hollywood.

I have noticed lately that there are less and less good quality chick flicks being produced.  In my opinion, chick flicks are a necessary part of life, and one that I am beginning to miss.  Sure there has been The Lucky One and Safe Haven, but come on Hollywood there are other authors besides Nicholas Sparks. Which brings me to:

Five Books That Should Be Made Into Chick Flicks, STAT

1. Twenties Girls by Sophie Kinsella

Think Just Like Heaven meets the roaring twenties.

 

2. Enchanted Inc. by Shanna Swendson

For all the chick-lit loving  Harry Potter fans of the world.  It’s a modern fairy tale of an ordinary girl sucked into the chaos of a secret magic world.

3. Queen of Babble by Meg Cabot

Side note:  I love Meg Cabot, she is the only reason I survived high school.  My fandom aside, who doesn’t love watching a heroine with plenty of quirks traipse around Europe  with a dreamy love interest and a love of vintage fashion.

4. Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner

Jennifer Weiner writes characters that practically scream Silver Screen.  However, a size 10 actress is not going to cut it as the fabulously sized 16 Cannie Shapiro (Ahmm Great State of Georgia).

5. A Total Waste of Make-Up by Kim Gruenenfelder

This would be the easiest movie to make.  The set: Los Angeles, The cast: any available A-listers, The script: practically written and laugh-out-loud funny.

Well Hollywood, there you have it.  Now, get busy!!

The Music Within

There are two things I have always been: overly contemplative and musical.  When I say that I’m musical I don’t mean that I can pick up any musical instrument and immediately write a concerto.  I mean that every aspect of my life has been accompanied by music.  Whether belting out Blue Moon on my parents back porch or singing Time After Time (the Ella version) in my shower, I am always filled with music.

I have a saying, “If I can sing or dance to it, then I like it.”  This has never changed, but there was a time, not so long ago, that I lost my inner music. Music was still present in my life, but it was no longer a part of me or my life.  I would still pump Leona Lewis through my earphones in the wings before shows, and after a few margaritas I would get down with the rest of them to Ke$ha, but I didn’t feel the music like I had previously.  For my fellow dancers out there, I was marking my routine instead of performing full-out.

I know the exact moment I lost the music; I remember it as clear as if it happened yesterday, and yes there was a boy involved.  He unintentionally broke my spirit.  Don’t think I am blaming my woes on him. I don’t blame him at all.  The truth is that he probably doesn’t even know how much of an impact he actually made.  Let’s put it this way, when it comes to unrequited love, I wrote the instruction manual.  All that matters is that at nineteen I went from a singing and dancing goddess of love to a sad and frumpy lump of insecurity.  Everything about myself that had never bothered me before became a neon sign every time I looked in the mirror.

For the next three years I was still my outgoing self, but I second guessed everything.  Where once a musical fire burned bright, a ember struggled to stay aflame.  This all changed the year I turned twenty-three.  I was living in Los Angeles and probably felt the worst I’d ever felt in my life.  No matter how many amazing friends I made in LA, nothing seemed to go right.  There was however, a spark of hope.  You guessed it: another boy.

He was someone I’d known for a while that caught me by surprise and connected me to my home in Texas and all of the things I had forgotten I loved.  I caught myself singing all of the time, dancing in the grocery store, and listening to music I’d all but written off. My music was coming back, but it was firmly bound to him.  Whether he knew it or not he was bringing me back to life.  Remember that whole unrequited love problem I have, well history repeated itself, as it so often does.  A funny thing happened though, instead of losing my music, it grew stronger, determined not to let another person separate us again.

It’s been almost a year since I pushed him away, losing a much valued friend.  He took a few songs from me.  I feel a twinge every time I hear Ain’t No Rest For the Wicked, and almost have an anxiety attack when I hear One and Only, but my inner music is stronger now than it has every been.  Life is once again  full of subtle melodies and powerful ballads.  Chords  can move me to tears or make my skin tingle with amazement.  When I hear perfect harmony it fills my whole body.  I constantly feel like dancing, and I frequently sing sentences.

I used to hate that saying, “Everything happens for a reason”.  It is such a cliché and people always use it at the most inopportune times, but it is pure truth.  In a way I know that I had to lose my music so that when I was tested again, I would be able to hold strong to myself and the things and people I love.  Plus, I think everything that  happened in the last six years had to happen in order for me to know my life and my music are my own, and that only I can let someone take them away.

I leave you tonight with one last thought: no matter what life throws at you, just pull a Robyn and meet it head on!