name in lights

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NBC, ABC and Fox need to schedule a champagne lunch to chat about my 1, 2, 3, 4, (possibly more) ideas for a sitcom.  I have a couple ideas ready to go, all of them involve Anna Kendrick as a leading actress, and my daily activities ensure that the list keeps growing, growing, growing… (did you hear that E!?)
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This weekend, for example, I taught a cooking class for Big Brothers/Big Sisters on how to make simple and healthy meals with as little as 5 ingredients.  Kids in The Kitchen provided a curriculum, and my job was simply to read and demonstrate the material.

Here is where the sitcom comes into play:  As I was teaching, I kept discovering new and interesting information, and I realized that I was learning just as much as my students.  So now I’m thinking it’d be funny to make a TV show where the teacher learns more than her students?  What do you think?
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The sitcom concept came to me when I realized that there are only 5 food groups.  I read that fact out-loud and then had an enormous “WHAT?” moment.  Last time I checked there were definitely 6 food groups — did they combine fruits and veggies?  Is dairy no longer a category?  And then I realized the worst had happened: sugar has gone missing. Can you imagine?  How do we justify those chocolate chips and brownies and fro-yo?  Any ideas?
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Do you have any ideas for a sitcom? Who would play *your* in the movie of your life?

class dismissed

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Back to school, back to school, except this time, I’m the teacher.  A couple weeks ago I got a call from Junior Achievement asking if I would teach a class on ‘resume building’ to low-income high school students.  The achievement gap in Minneapolis (the worst in the nation) is an issue close to my heart, and so I immediately volunteered.

I remember visiting my high school guidance counselor to learn the ins and outs of financial aid.  When I presented a transcript loaded with AP course and A+ marks, she asked if I was vying for the valedictorian spot. 

“No – I just really need a scholarship.”

“Well then – you’re working too hard.  Why don’t you drop the AP courses and take some fun classes?  Do you like ceramics or cooking?”

“Will that make me appear more well-rounded to the financial aid committee?”

She chuckled and explained that any of the community colleges in the area were already in the bag.  “You’ll probably get a full-scholarship, so why worry?”

I told her I wanted a scholarship to a university. 

She looked forlorn, explained that scholarships were competitive and unlikely, and told me that I might be better off working and saving money.

A few days later, my favorite English teacher sat me down and taught me how to apply for funding at various universities.  I ended up getting a scholarship to my top pick.

Looking back, I’m grateful and thankful and all sorts of appreciative that Mrs. Miller took the time to make a difference.  Now, 10 years later, I’m working to do similar things for the teens in my community.
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And, can I tell you what? It’s amazing what a difference you can make in a day.  I know I was only talking about resumes, but when I asked the class the top 2 things that should be on a resume, the first words out of their mouth were “birthday!” and “ethnicity!

Woah, cowboy!  Time for class.

I held a Q&A session at the end of each class, and I was humbled by the sweet and sincere questions the students asked: Can I wear casual clothes if I’m a dog walker?  Is it unprofessional to ride my bike to interviews?
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People often talk about wisdom they wish to give their younger self.  To be honest, there isn’t any particular advice that I think would have helped me.

What I do dream about, however, is going back to my most vulnerable moments – times when I suffered so much I felt nearly hopeless – and saying “feel this – this goodness is what’s coming to you.”  How I wish my younger self could have know that the pain and confusion would lead to a joy beyond comparison.
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And that joy that I’m talking about it – it’s not just for confused or scared high school students — it’s for anyone struggling to get somewhere, how do we say, lighter.  Whatever you’re going through, remember how quickly things can change for the better, and have faith in yourself and others that good things are coming.

but first, coffee.

ImageSo often when we think about the phrase “if you can’t say anything nice don’t day anything at all” we apply it only to people.  But why leave out the sister nouns: places and things?  Sure, leaving them out leaves us more room to complain about lukewarm burgers and messy bathrooms and cloudy skies, but why waste time on those things?
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I volunteered at the American Girl Fashion show to help the Junior League raise funds for closing the achievement gap.  The cause is reason enough to help, but I was also excited to chat about the American Girl books while helping models (girls 4-8) pick out their favorite Felicity or Samantha dress for the runway.
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Instead, I was asked to volunteer at the concession stand, “Could you make the coffee and serve the hot dogs?” Ah!  Gotta help where needed, right?  I wouldn’t get to see the show or meet the girls or chat about the books, but so it goes.  I put on my apron and headed to the kitchen and told myself to be excited about it.
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Time whirled by as I learned how to make cappuccinos and lattes and mochas and cheese bourekas.  Gaining skills, right?  The best part, however, was that the other two girls in the kitchen were absolutely sweet and funny and intelligent – their company made the morning better than anything I could have planned.  We all three exchanged numbers before we left, and we have plans to hang out this weekend.ImageI went home grateful that I suppressed my urge to complain, and it got me thinking about how lodging complaints (to the people around, above, or beside us) never really does any good.  
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When we decide to accept our circumstances (whatever they may be), we open ourselves up to new experiences (cappuccinos and friends, in my case), lift others up (instead of chatting about missing the show, we joked about opening a food truck) and remember to be grateful for the good things all around (in the scheme of things, any complaint I make is going to be pretty petty, right?)

I will not complain this week.  Bring on icy-rain and long waits and traffic jams, and I’ll use that inconvenience to practice acceptance.