the year that did not kill me

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I’ve been writing and rewriting, wanting to sum up 2015 for you guys, and for myself to no avail.

Word picture: Me, butt in chair, staring at a computer screen and eating potato chips, for hours.  That and drinking massive amounts of coffee. Then going outside in our forever summer to smoke. I know, smoking is bad, but it relaxes me.

SIGH.

Then I saw this cartoon on a friend’s Facebook wall and I’m thinking YES, this is it. THIS is 2015 in a nutshell. That which did not kill me has made me weirder. And maybe a little harder to relate to. Or not, I’m not sure really.

Oh no worries, 2015 did not make me neurotic. I’ve been that way for years. Ask anyone, they’ll tell you.

I’m the daughter of a prom queen. The rules were simple, Mom was always the prettiest woman in the room. If I gained five pounds, she threw up and I pay for my own therapy.

I can live with neurotic, trust me.

Part of me believes that I have this semi-empty-nest-grown-kids thing down cold, but when the guys (husband included) all went to see a movie over Thanksgiving weekend and didn’t invite me, that got me right in the feels. We made up for at Christmas by going to see Sisters with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. Wonderful movie. I loved it. I also loved spending time together as a family. So even though I’ve proven since 2012 that there is life after kids, the bottom line is, they are still my favorite people to spend time with when they are home.

Now, where was I?

Oh yes 2015.

This is the year of Catch Me If You Can. I’ve traveled everywhere it seems. Sometimes for fun and sometimes not. We lost my brother-in-law to cancer this year and my mother died from COPD and Depression. She was miserable in the end. That doesn’t necessarily make her passing easier though. She was my mom. Our relationship was complicated by a lot of things including the lack of relationship she had with her mother but we made the best of it and had our moments. I miss her. A lot.

So, highlights:

We saw Garth Brooks in concert (It was AWESOME!). I went to San Francisco for the first time ever to see my best friend from childhood. I performed at the Syracuse Funny Bone and was given the nickname “Hippie Chick.” Went to New Orleans (Another First) I spend five months  in Upstate New York taking care of Mom before she passed away. Went on a Muse Cruise with my girlfriends and visited Haiti, Jamaica and other islands. Every place I visited, I found someone playing banjo which is pretty cool to me. I spent a week in St Petersburg Florida with friends performing at Coconuts. I did a show at the Tulsa Loony Bin with other friends. Celebrated my 25th wedding anniversary. Turned 50 (E-Ghads) and didn’t die. Recently discovered my Dad is in the early stages of dementia and will soon need more care than I can provide. (I’m not even going to discuss the bed bugs in my NY apartment or my airplane catching on fire and the emergency landing)

Simply put, I survived the roller coaster that is this crazy mixed up life. And if that makes me weirder, so be it. If nothing else, it gives me great material.

 

And that is 2015 in a nutshell. I learned this year that I am stronger than I ever gave myself credit, that we all need community and I have wonderful friends, that I’m a halfway decent banjo player and I am going to go back taking lessons after the first of the year, that life after kids comes with twinges, that a name (or lack there of) on a birth certificate doesn’t mean anything really, that alcohol and grief don’t mix well, and that I am indeed funny.

May you look back on 2015 with peace and gladness and may 2016 be all you ever dreamed of. Happy New Year my friends.

And don’t forget to breathe darlin’

Deana O’Hara

The Bee’s Knees

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From left to right: Christine Sneeringer, Justin Fennell, Leslie Norris Townsend, Joby Saad as Aunt Jolene, me, and Michelle Krajecki

I recently spent a week in Tampa Florida, doing a Clean Comedy Show at Coconuts Club on St Pete Beech with friends. We had a four day run and after that, Joby, Michelle and I performed at the Ale and the Witch at St Pete Mall. Oh what an incredible week.

I have great memories of St Pete. My in-laws used to live there so we visited quite a bit. That and my youngest was conceived there years ago.

It turns out those “cute name” little drinks they serve on the Tiki Hut bars become verbs instead of nouns if you have enough of them.

Yes my mother in law did that math, giving her second reason for hating me.

Do you know her first reason?

 

I married her son.

Oh well.

Back to my story.

 

Someone told me recently that they wish God had given them a gift that allowed them to travel. I didn’t know what to say so I just smiled and hugged her. She’s in the middle of young child season and i miss those days. I could try and explain that, or tell her how i woke up one day, my kids we’re grown and the career i had before I became a stay home mom no longer exists and cutting my husbands meat really isnt an option, but she wouldn’t understand.

I could tell her don’t rush this season, it’ll end soon enough, cherish those days. I could tell her that all I really know how to do is be a wife (its all I’ve done for 25 years)and while that isn’t a bad thing really, I’m in a new season with no clue how this is going to turn out. Not better or worse, just new. And that’s okay.

Besides, it’s not like God said to me, “Go! Though shalt now be a comic.” It’s was more like a whispered, “follow me.”

So I follow the whisper.

How did I get here? This place where I can travel with friends and tell jokes. I still think it’s a dream some days.

Truth is though, I can sum it up in one word: FAILURE.

That and of course GRACE.

So I guess that makes two words really. I never was good at math.Which really messes with my name it claim it friends who want blessings in return for right behavior.

Yes, hard work, faith, and other things come into play here. But there is really more than that going on in my life right now.
I can still remember my lowest point ever in my life. My dream of working in a church fell to pieces around me due to spiritual warfare. And the Non Profit I worked for closed it’s doors. I stood on the precipice of “now what” and shook in my boots.I also went on meds and spent three years in therapy, so you know. I wasn’t firing on all cylinders for a while. My hobbies back then included wrapping myself in a blanket, chain smoking and staring out into the abyss that is my back yard.

I LOVED that life. I didn’t want to let it go.

The pre therapy one I mean not the abyss. That would just be weird. And sad.

As much as I hated that time, and as painful as it was – the most amazing blessings have unfolded as a result. A stranger came along, grabbed my hand and put me to work for her promoting her events. I took one small step after the other until I learned how to breathe again. I went from there working larger events and helping plant a church. Each step, each choice to say yes beget more things and more opportunities. And so, I pulled up my bootstraps, leaned into God with everything I had, put one quivering foot in front of the other, and with the help of a delightful mentor I learned to say yes to the Holy Spirit.

Didn’t realize I was saying no until she pointed that out. Note: Never use the words “I could never do what you do, I’m just happy to be here” to a Spirit Filled woman – she will start praying over you and well — you’re toast.

She suggested an experiment – she wanted me to spend one year only saying yes to where I am invited. Don’t knock on a single door and then watch God work. Let’s see what He thinks about these so called limitations you think you have.Now I don’t always recommend that because we can get too complacent sitting around waiting for God to move. I still moved – I said yes to things I never would have said yes to before because I was so busy. And I learned to say no to the things and places I didn’t belong.

I started writing again and I remember wanting to write a series about life after kids and pondered her advice to say yes to everything I was invited to even if it made me throw up from fear. The result? I made amazing new friends, learned that I can too stand up for myself after all, that fame means nothing to me (Hey my husband AKA “Guitar man” opened for Mitch McVicker remember? Cool yes, but Mitch isn’t a rock star and never wants to be – best lesson ever), worked production for some amazing christian artists who aren’t rock stars either. I’ve even invited a few of them to come to my church and perform. I also rode a horse through the jungles of Belize, swam with sharks, and started doing stand-up (which is a huge stretch for a story teller like myself.)

Every single thing a blessing. I’m not a name it claim it girl. I don’t throw God’s promises back in his face, rather I thank him for today and go on. Now some people are really good at reminding God his promises. It’s just not my way. it’s not our relationship. It’s not a theology I understand even though it is a popular one.I wouldn’t go around demanding my parents, family, or friends do really spectacular things for me just because I’m so awesome. They’d call me an entitled brat if I did that. So, I don’t treat God that way either.

The only way I can describe the past few years is it feels like I’m in the middle of this passionate love affair with a God who’s yes trumps every no I’ve ever been told in my life.

No you can’t join this church, you’re just a kid.

No you can’t be on the this board, it’s already full with charter members.

No you can’t be a deaconess (I don’t care if you took the classes already) you weren’t raised Lutheran.

No. No. No. No.

Here bring cookies to the funeral.

No thanks.

Jesus didn’t die for me – or you – to be relegated to sitting in a pew on Sundays and being told that’s all you deserve because you are an adult convert. Which is a common occurrence in some older churches. I know this: Jesus lives so that you can have abundant life.

God’s YES will ALWAYS triumph a world full of nos.

That is pretty cool.And if someone is telling you otherwise – they are lying. So when somebody asked what I did to deserve this or that event, (and they usually do) I honestly answer “Nothing.” I tell the truth about who I am and what my accomplishments are – and my goals. I don’t embellish (because getting found out is easier than people realize) and I trust God with the journey. I could run around and “work” my connections and strive to arrive more quickly, but that’s exhausting. I’d rather take my time, make friends and learn. I’m enjoying the journey.It doesn’t matter what any of us do for a living really. No one is “more called” than some one else. No job is more important than the other. The hand is just as important as the foot.

Remember Mitch? – That man travels to small churches, cut up blue jeans, shirt, bare feet (much like Rich) and plays his heart out for God – not stadiums. I LOVE that. And even so – his job isn’t any more important that the janitor who takes time to talk to troubled teens, or the gal at the check out counter who smiles every day – or the corporate executive — They all matter to God. We’re all called to live life by a God who adores us not for our “here is how I’m going to bless you today Lord” lists quickly followed by an open hand wanting something back as if he were a vending machine – but because He created us and he’s mad about us. Oh that we could love him back not because he’s Santa handing out wishes and accolades based on our own perceptions of righteousness and entitlement, but because he’s God. Would that not just be the bees knees right there?

NOTE: No clue why my formatting is messed up. But thank you for reading. Have a great day peeps.

the tulsa looney bin presents: Laughter With The Ladies

Join me and my friends this Wednesday night, October 28th at 7:30 pm for loads of fun and laughs. Tickets are $5 in advance or $10 at the door. Hope to see you there.

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Friday Funny: Guess who was at the Funny Bone This week… ME!

photo (23) So here I am in New York, minding my own business when what to my wondering eyes should appear? A comedy Dojo workshop in my little town, led by none other than Chili Challis at the Syracuse Funny Bone.

Chili was one of the judges for a comedy contest way back when. He’d seen me once, maybe twice on stage and I am fairly certain I stunk both times.

Most of you guys remember that story. Little old still struggling with stage fright, had only played open mics at bars up until this point ME,drove her shaking butt 15 hours to Indiana to put it all out there in front of the pros. If you guys recall, that was the show where I was told to never EVER do comedy again. Give it up, find something else – go do movies or something. And that was just my first night. I had to do TWO more sets after that. Good Golly Miss Molly.

That was also the time when my car got stolen upon returning home and learned if you are a comic, no one including the local police will ever believe your car was actually stolen and not repossessed.

Saving Grace to that whole week was one lone comic from NY who called bullshit on my entire set. I’d bought into this “I’m nobody special” lie and it really came through on stage. He saw it. He also saw a funny, beautiful woman behind the fear as well as potential and told me to go home, reevaluate not only my set, but my belief system. And I did.

I spent 14 months with a broken leg and took my entire set and beliefs about myself back to the studs and started over.

I remembered Chili from  the contest. One because he looks like Jerry Garcia and is funny as heck and two his words were far more kind and I took them to heart.

“We all have bad nights, do this as long as you want to, whether you go pro or wind up with a really cool story for your grand-kids, it doesn’t matter. This is one of the scariest jobs on the planet. The fact that you got up there, says a lot.”

I’m back performing in Tulsa between trips to NY and my new voice feels more right than ever. When the notice for a dojo led by Chili came across my Facebook feed, I jumped on it. Tuesday night close to a dozen want to be comics met at the Funny Bone, we shared parts of our sets, worked out kinks, gave each other advice and got to know each other.

On Wednesday night we ALL came back for a show case, including three people who’d never done a live show before. Their courage fueled mine. Chili hosted the night and Thaddeus Challis headlined. They were hilarious and they made it fun for us, which translated to us having fun on stage and made an enjoyable evening for the crowd.

That’s how it’s supposed to work, and most of the time it does.

While it’s true the world is full of egos, there are those who reach out, reach back, and give a hand up. Comics are some of the most generous people you will meet. They are generous with praise, encouragement, and laughter.

You don’t have to be a comic to be generous and kind, you can do that in your every day life.

What dreams do you have?

They don’t have to be something as scary as public speaking, they can be anything. Why not try. You may succeed, or you may wind up with a really cool story to tell your grand kids.

Either way is a win.

You got this, now go for it!

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