Chinese Teahouse: The People of February

IMG_4049Happy March! After a snowy and dark February I am delighted with our Colorado Bluebird Day that we are having today. To continue my regular monthly updates for my 100 People in 100 Days project, here are my musings on some of the people that I met in February:

Number of new people met in February 2015: 65


How I met them: On the first day of the month I met a woman named Beth at church, who was waiting for her daughter to finish up a marathon. A few days later I chatted up a guy at a bar named Gideon, who was in town from Denver and who works as a high school principal. I also met people at a new boot camp that I’ve been trying out, at a local gathering of my artist-friends, a Valentines’ party, and a meeting about City for Champions. Towards the end of the month I spoke at a docent-appreciation lunch at work and met some of our new tour guides. This project makes me mindful of the new people filtering in and out of my life under normal daily circumstances such as these.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the last two years of flooding have exacerbated some issues with my poor tiny house. I’ve had several people out to give me bids on what to do. The first company that looked at things in January told me that I would need to pier my house into the bedrock to the tune of $15,000. After I picked myself up off of the floor, I decided to get a second opinion and met a guy named Craig who specializes in historic preservation. He came over and gave me some very reassuring and sensible advice: take care of the water issues and patch up the cracks. We’re going to grade the front of the lot to move water away from the foundation and epoxy the cracks. Through this experience I also met a structural engineer named Steve who came over with his laser level and confirmed that course of action. A structural engineer and a contractor: two people I didn’t know to hope not to meet. All in all, though, I think they are good guys and even though I’m frustrated with the circumstances I met them under I’m thankful for them.

On the weekend of our Snowpocolypse (which didn’t materialize as powerfully as predicted), I attended an orientation session for my cross-cultural trip to Southeast Asia. While I was annoyed to be working on a weekend, it was a very fruitful occasion for meeting new people: at least 19 new faces.

Most Interesting Person: On the last day of February, two friends and I walked to a new Chinese teahouse in our neighborhood. It was a surprising experience! Jars filled with teas and herbs lined the walls, and the young female owner told us about all of them. We thought that she would give us a cup of tea and leave us to enjoy it on our own, but instead she sat down with us and served us the entire time. We watched in amazement as she warmed our tiny cups, gracefully pouring water onto her wooden tea box. To our surprise, she made herself the focus of the conversation and she told us quite a lot about herself. Shes a young immigrant from China. She opened her tea house a year ago. She had such a sad, wistful expression on her face when she asked how my friends and I know each other. She told us that she misses her girlfriends in China, and that on a Saturday there they would spend all day shopping. After she expressed how homesick she was, she moved on to some very strong thoughts on all kinds of matters. She hates Milan, Italy. She hates Denver too, but does like Colorado Springs. (This is my opinion on the essence of both cities too). She thinks we’re all too busy in America. She also told us about how she learned about strippers through a neighboring store that sells “stripper shoes,” and innocently asked us, “It’s normal in America for people to not wear clothes, right?”

I think a lot about building intentional relationships: deeply investing in people’s lives, minds, and souls. As a good INFJ I think it’s pretty natural for me to see straight through to a person’s inner being and care about them. For the last several years I have tried hard to build these kinds of friendships with the people close to me, but this project makes me realize that I need to be intentional with the new people coming into my life as well. In church yesterday we heard one of our local young business owners talking about strategically building friendships with the people that we meet around town. He and his business partner have built a wonderful gathering space for the community and they are deeply investing in the lives of their staff members and in the lives of their customers. I started my 100 People in 100 Days project last year because I had just endured a bitter season of loss and simply needed to add some extra people into my social circle, and to have a challenge to pull me out of a dark place. Four hundred and twenty three days later, I am thinking about what it would mean intentionally invest in these new people’s lives.

Miss(es) and Mister(s) January

Since I did such an abysmal job of counting all of the people that I met in 2014 through my 100 Days 100 People Project, I thought that I should start summarizing that data at the end of each month this year. Yes, I still need to count my 2014 people, but until then, here’s a glimpse at the people I met so far in 2015.

Number of new people met in January 2015: 56

Where did I meet them? January was a busy month for me and had some great people-meeting opportunities. As I mentioned in my previous post, I traveled to Louisville for the AASLH Program Committee Meeting, and you’ve already heard about my serendipitous re-encounter with a stranger that I met at a museum. Prior to the Louisville leg of the trip, I flew into Indianapolis for a very quick 36-hour visit with one of my best friends from grad school. I met her adorable baby M, who is four months old and gives excellent baby snuggles.

I caught a ride to L-ville with a friend from the Indiana Historical Society and as I waited for her at IHS I met some of the new hires there. Once in Louisville, I met several of my colleagues in the field. I also had a chance to meet the manager of the schmancy restaurant Proof, and she told us about the “art gallery” across the hall. This gallery turned out to be the famous Hotel 21C – a cool art hotel in downtown Louisville. Thanks to this nice lady, my friends and I squeezed in an extra hour of adventure during our post-dinner art viewing. On the way home I sat next to an early 20s guy who had forgotten his carry-on luggage inside the airport terminal.

I had my first solo art show at the Ute Pass Library. I met awesome Librarian Lisa and I got to see her sweet little library branch for the first time. At my opening/closing party I met friends-of-friends and several curious library patrons who wondered what was going on.


Other than that, I met people in the usual way through daily life: guests at a few parties, a barista who got my Starbucks order wrong, congregants at church, new people at work meetings, two art models, etc. I also met Cody, the foul-mouthed middle-schooler who told us to get the *#& off of his school campus when my trainer and I were doing laps around the track one morning.

Favorite People: Baby M, Justin-of-Museum, and Librarian Lisa


Standing in the security queue at the Louisville Airport, a young guy walked next to me in the maze of stanchions and ropes. I thought I recognized him, which was weird because other than my cohort that I had met with downtown this weekend, I don’t really know anyone in Louisville. He ended up standing just a few people behind me in line and I overheard him talking on his cellphone. “Hi, this is Justin,” he said to the anonymous person on the other end of the conversation. Suspicion confirmed and feeling brave, I caught his eye when he finished talking and asked, “Hi, did I meet you this weekend at the Frazier Museum?”

Yes! And he remembered meeting me too. A serendipitous chance re-encounter for the latest round of my 100 People in 100 Days project!

I am writing the draft of this post from a bumpy airplane ride home from Louisville, Kentucky. This weekend I served on the AASLH Program Committee. It was a great time and I enjoyed being reunited with three of my SHA2013 friends. During our 48 hours in Kentucky we served our field by helping to put together the program for this year’s AASLH annual meeting. Naturally, we also found some times for adventures too including a serendipitous discovery of the 21C Art Hotel.

Friday afternoon I met a friend at the Frazier Museum. We both wondered how the unusual collections of arms and armaments came to be in Louisville, theorizing that Frazier must have been the collector and donor who amassed everything. We walked out the door as the museum was closing and stood in the late afternoon sun for a few moments, gazing at the beautiful building. My friend decided to go back inside to ask how this particular building became a museum space.

I followed him inside and we found a staff member chatting with two guys: a younger man with his hands resting lightly on the handles of the older man’s wheelchair. We patiently waited our turn to talk with the staff member but overheard the two men were asking pretty much the same questions that we had too. Drawing near the little group, we eventually became part of the conversation ourselves. The staff member we met, Jodi, turned out to be on the AASLH local arrangements committee and she was really excited that we had come to the museum. After chatting for about twenty minutes I also introduced myself to the historically curious civilians. The older gentleman’s name is George and he recently moved to Kentucky to live in a retirement home near his son. The younger guy is Justin and he was visiting his family, and taking his granddad/uncle (never sure exactly the relation) out for the afternoon. We all shook hands, said our goodbyes, and went our separate ways.

So yes, I was quite surprised to see Mr. Justin-of-Museum walking into the security line at the Louisville airport 46 hours later. What are the chances of someone that you randomly meet in an unfamiliar city showing back up in your life two days later? What are the chances that a fellow tourist that you meet at a museum has a flight back home on the exact same day as you, at nearly the exact same time? And, even better, what are the chances that this stranger you talked to for about 20 minutes will remember you too and the details of that conversation? Crazy!

Justin and I went through security together and on the walk through the terminal I found out that he works in pathology in New York City. He also likes museums, and in fact visited another museum right before coming to the airport. We parted ways with a handshake and a curious feeling that our second meeting was somehow meant to be.

Despite the fact that I recently re-met photographer Larry Marr after a full year, I never really thought about how the people that I’m meeting on this project are processing the experience on their end. I think that I’ve been operating under the assumption that most of the time, I’m just white noise to these strangers and that they pretty much immediately forget about me. Perhaps I’m more memorable than I thought. And maybe I should be thinking a little bit harder about the nature of God’s sovereignty in my daily life.

The National Debut of Our Archival Images

IMG_0557Over the weekend Jim Downing, the oldest living Pearl Harbor Survivor and one of my good friends, was on ABC News. We were able to provide some archival images for the footage. I was out of town at the AASLH Program Committee Meeting and didn’t have a chance to watch the coverage live, but I did get to see it when I got home. I’m so excited that my friend got his important message out to the world, and I’m even more excited that our archives made it to the Big Time. I never thought I’d have a chance to see our images on national television. Watch it and rejoice with me.

Jim is scheduled to attend the State of the Union Address in Washington, DC tonight. You should keep your eyes peeled for him.

You can read more about Jim’s story in an article that I wrote for The Colorado Collective at

Day 365


Hey, remember my 100 People in 100 Days project? Last year on January 9th I challenged myself to meet at least one new person every day for the first 100 days of the year. Well, today is Day 365 – the one-year anniversary of my project.

Technically my 100 days were over on Good Friday of 2014, but I liked it so well that I decided to continue it with only a few modifications. In the last 265 days of the year I tried to average one new person a day, which worked well. I had promised that I would count everyone that I had met at the end of Day 100. Unfortunately, I only got up to March in my journal and notes before I got too depressed about the beginning of the year to continue. I never did complete that official count. After a much, much better fall I’m feeling less anxious about completing that count up to Day 365. I hope to spend some time in my journal, notes, day planner, and scraps of paper in order to come up with an official number soon.

I wasn’t really expecting this to turn out to be anything much, but my 100 People in 100 Days has been one of the sweetest surprises that I’ve had in a long time. This has been profound experience, and now, on the one-year anniversary of the project, I want to tell you why. I found that most people love making a human connection, even on a very small scale. Every person has fully developed life, and sometimes they’re willing to let you see a tiny peek into their stories.

History People

It was a big year for professional development, which was a great help to the project. I attended three big conferences in California and Minnesota. Lots of people to meet at big history conferences, as well as the local hoteliers, shopkeepers, restaurateurs, museum folk, vendors, etc. I also gave talks to several large groups. A university class came to visit my historic site so I met those thirty students. This fall I spoke to the Friends of the Cumbres and Toltec, and met another forty of so of their members. I met the preservation specialist who is helping us update our National Register nomination.


At AASLH 2014 I “met” Garrison Keillor (if listening to him talk in the plenary session and then standing next to him in the crowded hallway as he signed books counts). In October I attended the Museum of the Bible Gala, where I met Steve and Jackie Green of Hobby Lobby ownership, along with the president of The Pocket Testament League, and Adrian Rodger’s son. On a smaller scale,  I met Eric Singer, a former news anchor here in town. This summer I met a camera woman from CSPAN who was here to do a report on Colorado Springs history. She and I hit it off right away and had a nice chat about how lovely the Pikes Peak Region is in the summertime. I also met Lisa Anderson, an editor from Focus on the Family that one of my friends wanted me to meet. I met a state senator and county commissioner at the Navy Ball.

County Commission Sally Clark with my friend Jim Downing

County Commission Sally Clark with my friend Jim Downingc

People I met Through Circumstances I Don’t Want to Be In Again

You already know that my ACL tear caused me to meet several doctors, orthopedic surgeons, physical therapists, MRI technicians, and insurance agents. So not what I had expected when I wanted to meet 100 new people. These are all lovely people who I enjoyed very much, but this year when I re-up my commitment to the project I’m adding “medical people” to my list of people that I don’t want to meet. On a positive note, though, I met the rock-star trauma therapist who has been a big, big, part of my healing journey in the last six months.

I also met two plumbers who unclogged my bathtub drain and told me I need to replace all the pipes in my 1950s house. Boo. When my refrigerator broke I met a few salespeople who ranged from awesome (thanks, Home Depot!) to scuzzy (*ahem, Appliance Factory Outlet), and the two nice but overworked delivery guys who delivered my shiny new one. 2015: no more appliance salespeople or delivery people, ok? Also, enough with the home repair stuff.

New Friends, Swell People

Mostly, though, the people that I met, though, came to me through the ordinary circumstances of my daily life. I met my Presbyterian pastor a few months before he left to move back home. At a mutual friend’s birthday party this spring I met a nice girl named Rebecca who is now my friend too. I made friends with an opera singer from Boston, and an illustrator from Japan. At an art show in December a stranger asked me about buying one of my linocut prints. I met our new general manager and our new CFO. I met the security guard who gives me a visitor badge every time I visit City Hall for meetings. I met the guy and gal who run the Mountain Pie Meat Company and bought a meat pie from them almost every Sunday during the Acacia Park Market.

In Oklahoma I found out that the front desk guy at Enterprise Car Rental had just graduated from my alma matter, and in the middle of the OKC airport he shouted “Bison, go with ka-rip!!” and we both launched into our school chant, in a fit of delighted laughter.


Lastly, at the end of 2014 I met one of our staff members who is going to take me to (drumroll please) Southeast Asia this summer.


I’m so thankful for a project that pushed me to say “hello” to people, especially those I see in ordinary circumstances that don’t really require introductions. From photographers on hiking trails to the security guard at City Hall, I’m amazed at how the simple act of paying kind attention to a total stranger makes them blossom. I’m also thankful to have had a reason to remember all of these random folks. When you think about it, most of us have people coming and going from our lives all the time and we don’t really make much note of them. This project made me actually pay attention to and remember those random people I shake hands with in church. And those friends-of-friends who I’ll maybe never see again. And the thirty students on a field trip. And appliance delivery men.

This really surprised me. Shocked me, even. As an introvert, I had never pushed myself to talk to so many strangers and the amount of openness and friendless that most people responded to me with was so lovely and sweet. I think it helps a lot that I’m a kindly-looking, WASP, small, blonde, young woman. I’m not so sure that the social dynamics would be the same if I were, say, a male (as a young woman I am generally way more guarded towards men that I don’t know) a little older, a different class, or another race (most unfortunately.)

I’d like to challenge a few others to take on the project with me again this year. It would be great fun to have a friend do it with me, to see how many people we can meet between the two of us. Or to challenge one of the total strangers that I meet to take on the project. Or to have a cultural anthropologist who remembers more about analytics than I do who could do it and then write about it.

Yesterday, in a fun twist of fate, I re-met someone I had encountered for the first time almost exactly a year ago when I first began this project. At lunchtime I walked by photographer Larry Marr, who was taking pictures of a hawk in Garden of the Gods. He stopped me, and said, “We met before up on the Dakota Trail! Do you remember me? How has your year been?” Oh, Larry, of course I remember you! It was this project, started 365 days ago, that made me ask you, a total stranger on a hiking trail, what kind of lens he was using on his DSLR. On that brilliant January day you were kind to me, showed me the photos you were taking of the bighorn sheep, and we had a nice conversation. Thank you, Larry, for sharing a small bit of your day with a strange girl in hiking boots and a work dress. Your kindness and openness encouraged me to keep going on my brand-new challenge, and my life is so much richer.

Into the Woods

On a fateful Sunday morning in the early 1990s, young teenage Susannelein got sick and her parents let her stay home from church – a rare occasion. She turned on the television and found some sort of musical playing on PBS. Our girl was a geeky little 80s kid and anything that smacked of musical theater was instantly mesmerizing to her. She watched the fractured fairytale playing out before her and was hooked from that moment onward. As the final credits for the filmed-stage-production rolled she finally found out the name of the production: Into the Woods. After acquiring the soundtrack for the show, she and her friends studied the lyrics from the musical so intently that they memorized ALL OF THEM. Every single rap, every rhyme, everything. So while Into the Woods isn’t exactly her all-time-favorite musical, it holds a very dear place in her heart. Because really, the lyrics that you memorize when you’re 13 stay with you your whole life.

That’s why grown-up Susannelein is so very relieved to report that the new movie adaptation of Into the Woods is really good. I’ve been watching (over and over and over) every new trailer that had come out during the summer and fall and anticipating Christmas Day 2014 because means it was Into the Woods Day. After hearing the rumors about certain song titles being cut, the fates of characters being changed, I did get a little nervous. I mean, this could have gone the way of the Phantom of the Opera adaptation, which affectively ruined my love for the stage show. I finally made it to the theater on Boxing Day to see the movie. As the final credits rolled, I gave a very happy sigh of relief: it was splendid.

The music is gorgeous. The thin sound of the old stage-production soundtrack coming from my 1998 stereo has nothing on the full symphonic surround sound of the theater. Just so beautiful. The singing is all good, minus Johnny Depp who basically serves as the Russel Crowe of the film. I thought I might miss my gal Bernadette in the role of the witch, but Meryl Streep did a surprisingly wonderful job. I’ve had my eye on Emily Blunt and James Corden for a while now, and was impressed with their performances in this movie.

In terms of the changes from the stage production to the movie, I only truly missed one of the songs that has been cut. Without giving too much away, let’s just say that I could have watched the reprise of the certain song that has our two princes singing bare-chested on top of a waterfall in the first act. The transition from Act 1 to Act 2 is abrupt and I missed the rap about bears/40-foot-feet/griffons/giants. “No More” has been cut but I never liked that song anyway.  In terms of the flow of the movie, there’s not much passage of time in the movie between the first acts either, certainly not enough time for the characters to realize that perhaps the thing they most wished for wasn’t making them happy. That’s why I think the 2nd act in the movie doesn’t work as well as it does on stage. Still, though, the tromp through the flattened forest is worth hearing Meryl Streep singing “Last Midnight.” We also get to hear the classic line from Cinderella’s prince, “I was raised to be charming, not sincere.” Now ladies, how many men in YOUR lives could that possibly apply to? A lot of them? That’s what I thought. Me too. Scoundrels.

The ending of the movie is also rather abrupt. It’s somehow more comforting to leave our characters stranded in the forest with an uncertain future on the stage versus leaving them thusly in a movie.

After the show, I discussed the show with my companion who did not enjoy the music.  I wonder how many more Into the Woods newbies will feel the same way. It really is a show that improves upon study. For instance, the genius of the witch’s rapping and Little Red’s ambivalence about her hard life lessons take some time to absorb.  We also had a great conversation about the lessons of Into the Woods versus the lessons of Les Mis. We both agreed that we prefer the redemptive themes of Les Mis over the post-modern find-your-own-truth of ITW.

All in all, though, I thought it was a splendid film and I plan on seeing it several more times in the movie theater before its run ends.