Speak Up Storytelling #16: Monica Cleveland

Episode #16 of Speak Up Storytelling is now available for your listening pleasure. 

On this week's episode, Elysha and I talk about finding excellent stories in your everyday life using my strategy "Homework for Life." Specifically, they discuss how storytellers can sometimes be in the middle of a story and not even know it.

Then we listen to Monica Cleveland's story about a long, silent date, followed by commentary and critique, including:

  1. Inhabiting your story
  2. The B-A-b-C structure of storytelling
  3. Preserving surprise via misdirection
  4. Silence in storytelling
  5. Choosing the appropriate amount of description for a story

Then we answer listener questions about storytelling for children and handling stories that risk alienating an audience.

Lastly, we each offer a recommendation. 

If you haven't subscribed to the podcast in Apple podcasts (or wherever you receive your podcasts), please do. And if you're not one of the 60 or so people to rate and/or review the podcast in Apple Podcasts (who are the best people ever), we would love it if you did.

Ratings and reviews help listeners find our podcast easier, and it makes us feel better about ourselves and our work. 

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Speak Up Storytelling #15: Roquita Johnson

Episode #15 of Speak Up Storytelling is now available for your listening pleasure.

Elysha Dicks and I talk about finding excellent stories in your everyday life using my strategy "Homework for Life," including moments that storytellers see but non-storytellers might not. 

Then we listen to Roquita Johnson's story about finding her calling, followed by commentary and critique, including:

  1. The components of an especially effective beginning to a story

  2. Outstanding use of dialogue in stories

  3. Variations in tonality

  4. "Seeing" your story

  5. The best moments to add description to a story

  6. Preserving surprise in a story

Then we answer listener questions about becoming emotional while telling a story, the past and present tense, and how to pitch a story to Speak Up.  

Lastly, we each offer a recommendation. 

If you haven't subscribed to the podcast in Apple podcasts (or wherever you receive your podcasts), please do. And if you're not one of the 60 or so people to rate and/or review the podcast in Apple Podcasts (who are the best people ever), we would love it if you did.

Ratings and reviews help listeners find our podcast easier, and it makes us feel better about ourselves and our work. 

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Speak Up Storytelling #10: Kristin Budde

Episode #10 of Speak Up Storytelling is now ready for your listening pleasure.

On this week's episode, we talk about finding and crafting stories in your everyday life using my strategy "Homework for Life." I describe how searching for stories in your present day life can unearth moments from the past that you can't believe that you've forgotten. We also discuss how not every storyworthy moment needs to be a full story in order to be useful. 

Next, we listen to a story by Kristin Budde about a day of doctoring gone wrong. Then Elysha and I discuss the strengths of his fantastic story as well as suggestions for improvement.

Finally, we answer a listener question about our marriage and the rules that I establish in my new book Storyworthy: Engage, Teach, Persuade, and Change Your Life Through the Power of Storytelling

If you haven't subscribed to the podcast in Apple podcasts (or wherever you receive your podcasts), please do. And if you haven't rated and/or reviewed the podcast in Apple Podcasts (who are the best people ever), we would love it if you did.

Ratings and reviews help listeners find our podcast easier, and it makes us feel better about ourselves and our work. 

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Speak Up Storytelling #7: Special Storyworthy book launch episode

Episode #7 of Speak Up Storytelling is now ready for your listening pleasure.

This week's special episode features part 2 of the live audio from the book launch for Storyworthy: Engage, Teach, Persuade, and Change Your Life Through the Power of Storytelling.

In this episode, you'll hear me tell two BRAND NEW stories, never before told at Speak Up (and two never before told on any stage anywhere). followed by short lessons on the finding and crafting of stories. 

This episode also includes the question and answer session following the stories, and best of all, features Elysha playing the ukulele and singing publicly for the first time! 

If you haven't subscribed to the podcast in Apple podcasts (or wherever you receive your podcasts), please do. And if you're not one of the 30 or so people to rate the podcast and 20 to review it in Apple Podcasts (who are the best people ever), we would love it if you did.

Ratings and reviews help listeners find our podcast easier, and it makes us feel better about ourselves and our work. 

It also makes Elysha smile. Isn't that incentive enough?

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Speak Up Storytelling #6: Special Storyworthy book launch episode

Episode #6 of Speak Up Storytelling is now ready for your listening pleasure.

This week's special episode features live audio from the book launch for Storyworthy: Engage, Teach, Persuade, and Change Your Life Through the Power of Storytelling.

In this episode, you'll hear me tell three BRAND NEW stories, never before told at Speak Up (and two never before told on any stage anywhere). followed by short lessons on the finding and crafting of stories. 

Next week we'll feature the second half of this book launch event, including two more BRAND NEW stories, Elysha's debut performance on ukulele, and the question-and-answer session from the evening.  

If you haven't subscribed to the podcast in Apple podcasts (or wherever you receive your podcasts), please do. And if you're not one of the 30 or so people to rate the podcast and 20 to review it in Apple Podcasts (who are the best people ever), we would love it if you did.

Ratings and reviews help listeners find our podcast easier, and it makes us feel better about ourselves and our work. 

It also makes Elysha smile. Isn't that incentive enough?

Speak Up Storytelling #5: Renata Sancken

Episode #5 of Speak Up Storytelling is now ready for your listening pleasure.

On this week's episode, we talk about finding and crafting stories in your everyday life using my strategy "Homework for Life." I describe how I discovered two important things about myself that apparently everyone else already knew. 

Next, we listen to a hilarious story by Renata Sancken about ghost hunting in the south. Then Elysha and I discuss the strengths of his fantastic story as well as suggestions for improvement.

Finally, we answer a listener question about telling a good anecdote, and we each make a recommendation.  

If you haven't subscribed to the podcast in Apple podcasts (or wherever you receive your podcasts), please do. And if you're not one of the 15 or so people to rate the podcast and 11 to review it in Apple Podcasts (who are the best people ever), we would love it if you did.

Ratings and reviews help listeners find our podcast easier, and it makes us feel better about ourselves and our work. 

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A celebration of so much more than just a book

On Saturday night, I took the stage at the release party for Storyworthy: Engage, Teach, Persuade, and Change Your Life Through the Power of Storytelling, and told five brand new stories to an audience of more than 200 friends and family.

It was quite a night. 

My friend, storyteller, and producer Erin Barker once told me never to produce a show and perform in that same show. I've been violating her rule ever since launching Speak Up five years ago, but there have been nights when I fully understood what she meant. Preparing to perform while managing the multitude of problems that can occur in the process of producing a show can be challenging.

So it shouldn't have been surprising that being the only storyteller of the night, telling five BRAND NEW stories in addition to a brief lesson after each story, is extremely difficult and mentally taxing. I've done solo shows before, many times, but never before had I taken the stage with completely new material. Stories Elysha had never even heard before. 

It was a lot to hold in my head. 

Thankfully, once I stood behind that microphone, everything quieted in my mind and I knew exactly what to do. The stories were there, just waiting for me to begin telling. 

Happily, I wasn't the only performer that evening. Andrew Mayo of Should Coulda Woulda opened the show with a reconfiguration of his band consisting of three of my former students (and his children), the parent of a former student, and the siblings of a former student. 

They were brilliant. The perfect way to begin the night. 

But the highlight of the night came when Elysha took the stage in the second half of the show and played her ukulele and sang in public for the first time.

The story that I told just before she performed was about the months following a brutal armed robbery. I was battling post-traumatic stress disorder at the time but didn't know it. I was clawing my way through life, not sleeping or eating, and oddly not able to pass from one room to another without suffering incredible fear and mortal dread. 

Then one night I found myself standing before an iron door at the bottom of a dark stairwell in an abandoned building in Brockton, MA, wondering if I could find the strength to walk through that door to the room on the other side.

I was there to compete in an underground arm wrestling tournament (crazy, I know) with the hopes of winning some money and taking one step closer to paying off a $25,000 legal bill after being arrested for a crime I did not commit. 

I found the courage to do the hard thing that night. The impossible thing, really. That was the hardest doorway I've ever walked through in my life. And even though I would continue to suffer from PTSD for the rest of my life, that doorway in the basement of that building has made every doorway since so much easier to step through. 

I wanted the audience to understand the value of doing the hard thing. I wanted them to put aside any fears that they might have. I wanted their dreams of someday to be dreams of today. I wanted them to understand that every hard, frightening, seemingly impossible thing that I have done in my life has always yielded the greatest results. 

I was terrified about taking the stage for the first time at a Moth StorySLAM in July of 2011 and telling my first story. But doing so changed my life. 

So I asked Elysha to perform for the first time that night to show people what the hard, frightening thing looks like. She's only been playing ukulele since February, and she's never sung in public or taken singing lessons. It was hard for her. Frightening. Yet she stepped through that door and was brilliant. 

Elysha performed Elvis's "Can't Help Falling in Love," and during the final chorus, the audience joined her in singing. When the song was over, everyone leapt to their feet in the loudest applause of the evening.  

I was so proud of her. I still am. 

It was a wonderful night for everyone involved. I can't thank everyone enough for the support.

We recorded the evening and will release the audio in two parts as episodes for upcoming Speak Up Storytelling podcasts so that you can hear the stories and the lessons and Elysha and everything else.

Speak Up Storytelling #4

Episode #4 of Speak Up Storytelling is now ready for your listening pleasure.

On this week's episode, we talk about finding and crafting stories in your everyday life using my strategy "Homework for Life." 

I share an important moment in from my life that Elysha had never heard before (and I had forgotten until just recently). 

Next, we listen to the story by Sam Carley about a hilarious and uncomfortable bus ride across an Indian desert with his new love while desperately needing to pee. Then Elysha and I discuss the strengths of his fantastic story as well as suggestions for improvement.

Finally, we answer a listener questions about storytelling and dating, and we each make a recommendation.  

If you haven't subscribed to the podcast in Apple podcasts (or wherever you receive your podcasts), please do. And if you're not one of the 25 people to rate the podcast and 11 to review it in Apple Podcasts (who are the best people ever), we would love it if you did.

Ratings and reviews help listeners find our podcast easier, and it makes us feel better about ourselves and our work. 

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Speak Up Storytelling #3: Mansoor Basha

Episode #3 of Speak Up Storytelling is now ready for your listening pleasure. 

On this week's episode, we talk about finding and crafting stories in your everyday life using my strategy "Homework for Life." 

Elysha gets a little annoyed with the moment that I share. 

Next, we listen to the incredible story by Mansoor Basha about the 1990 invasion of Kuwait by Iraq and it's echoes years later. Then Elysha and I discuss the strengths of his fantastic story as well as suggestions for improvement.

Finally, we answer listener questions about telling a story at The Moth and humor in storytelling, and we each make a recommendation.  

If you haven't subscribed to the podcast in Apple podcasts (or wherever you receive your podcasts), please do. And if you're not one of the 17 people to rate the podcast and 5 to review it in Apple Podcasts (who are the best people ever), we would love it if you did.

Ratings and reviews help listeners find our podcast easier, and it makes us feel better about ourselves and our work. 

Our first review, by the way, came from a woman named Kate who is my former third grade student, Elysha's former fifth grade student, our former babysitter, and now a teacher beginning her career in the same school where Elysha began her career. 

Remarkable how your former students can sometimes remain a part of your life long after they have left your classroom. 

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My 2016 Christmas haul

Every Christmas, I take inventory of the holiday gifts that my wife gives me.

Some people wish for cashmere sweaters, new video game systems, stylish watches, and jewelry. My hope is often for the least pretentious, most unexpected, quirkiest little gift possible, and she never fails to deliver. 

For the past seven years, I’ve been documenting the gifts that Elysha gives me on Christmas because they are so damn good. Every year has been just as good as the last, if not better.

The 2009 Christmas haul featured a signed edition of a Kurt Vonnegut novel.
The 2010 Christmas haul featured a key that I still use today.
The 2011 Christmas haul featured my often-used Mr. T in a Pocket.
The 2012 Christmas haul featured my fabulous No button.
The 2013 Christmas haul featured my remote controlled helicopter.
The 2014 Christmas haul featured my "I Told You So" pad.
The 2015 Christmas haul featured schadenfreude mints: "As delicious as other people's misery." 

Once again, my wife did not disappoint.

The best gift (and one of the best gifts I have ever received) is this artist's rendering of the map of Yawgoog Scout Reservation, the place where I spent many of my childhood summers and my favorite place in the world. She found an artist on Etsy, contacted my brother and two of my former Scouting buddies, and together, they ensured that all of the most important landmarks were included. 

I am not ashamed to say that I cried upon opening the gift and realizing what she had done. 

In addition to the map, she also included this set of fabulous Christmas stocking stuffers, including two Shakespeare related items, two Patriots-related items, a golfer's multi-tool that was admired by fellow golfers on Christmas day, and the pen whistle, which should make my days at school much more interesting. 

I love each and every one of these gifts and will put all to good use. 

The Moth: She Held My Hand

In August of 2015 I told the story of my first date with my wife at a Moth StorySLAM at The Bitter End. The theme of the night was Guts. 

I won the slam that night, but being the hyper-critical person that I am, I hear a lot of room for improvement in the story. It's not my best.

Frankly, I get annoyed at myself during the story for some of the choices I make. 

Still, it's about Elysha and me and our beginning, and, so here it is, in all its imperfection.

After almost getting my wife nothing on Mother's Day, it turns out that I gave her a lot. The list is extraordinary.

Happy Mother's Day to all the moms of the world, and especially my wife, Elysha, the best mother I have ever known.

Please remember, mothers, that there's an apostrophe in Mother's Day, meaning it's your day. Don't let anyone else's expectations interfere with your desire to do whatever the hell you want.

It's your day, damn it.

My thoughts also go out to those of us who have lost our mothers, oftentimes making this day bittersweet at best.

I know it's bittersweet for me. 

My plan for Mother's Day was to give my wife VIP tickets to the upcoming Duran Duran concert this summer. Months ago, I asked her what band from her youth would she like to see most, and she said - almost immediately - Duran Duran.

Seconds before clicking the buy button on the tickets, I decided to check with Elysha in order to confirm that we had nothing planned on the date of the concert. It's a date close to our anniversary, and I wasn't sure if our our plans would overlap the concert. 

That was when I learned that she had no desire to see Duran Duran.

Two days before Mother's Day and now without a Mother's Day gift, I panicked.

Now it's Mother's Day morning, and I still have nothing. 

Well, almost nothing.

  • It's approaching 9:00 AM and she's still asleep. This is not uncommon in our home, but I know many mother's who would kill for this. I'm taking credit. 
  • I swept and mopped the basement stairs. This is a monthly chore that I don't think Elysha even knows exists. It's a pain in the ass, and I'm pretty sure that in the eight years we have been in this house, I'm the only one who has ever done it. Doing a chore for eight years without any acknowledgement is worth at least one-half of a Mother's Day present. 
  • I emptied the trashcan and replaced the bag. I often don't replace the bag, because after bringing the garbage all the way to the can, the 14 steps required to put a new bag in the can seems inconsequential to me.  
  • I negotiated a truce in two sibling wars over toys while she slept. 
  • I bought and hid five Mother's Day cards for her around the house. Each one includes clever commentary, including post-it note warnings, a critique of domestic violence, a Clara-induced error, and a warning against clutter.   
  • I bought her five large plastic bins for her sewing paraphernalia. One might argue that this is a git more for me than her, since I'm the one who can't stand to see the sewing stuff all over the house, but these bins will help organize her stuff and make her husband much happier, so that's a double win for her.    
  • I didn't purchase a new sexy Princess Leia costume to replace the one I bought for her years ago but has apparently been misplaced since I never saw her wear it even once.  

I guess I'm not doing so poorly after all.

We'll also be visiting The Eric Carle Museum and taking a walk in North Hampton later today, and we agreed that she could just find something that she wanted there. 

It's not quite the surprise of Duran Duran tickets or the awesomeness of a sexy Princess Leis costume, and in retrospect, she's already received a lot. 

But it's a good idea nonetheless.  

A peek into a typical day of our marriage

Last night I told Elysha that I had a song stuck in my head. She asked me what the song was. I told her that she wouldn't know it. She assured me she would. 

"Fine," I said. "It's I've Never Been To Me."

"I know it," she said.

Of course she knows it. The woman can't find west if she's driving into a setting sun with a compass on her lap and a flock of geese visibly flying south overhead, but she knows just about every song ever written. 

She asked me how this song could possibly be stuck in my head. I explained that it was on a CD that I would throw in at weddings if the dinner was running long. Before my DJ partner and I could burn our own CDs. "I heard it today in the supermarket," I explained. "It's been trapped ever since." 

I also told her that a quick Wikipedia dive revealed that the song had tanked in 1977, barely scraping the bottom of the Billboard chart, but it was re-released in 1982 after some insane DJ in Tampa began playing it and his listeners - also clearly insane - liked it.   

"I can't believe you know the song," I said. "You even know the ridiculous spoken words in the middle?"

"Yeah..." she said. "What were they?"

"I'm not saying," I said. "I don't want the song any more stuck than it already is."

"If you don't tell me, I'm going to play it." 

"Don't."

"I will," she said, smiling. 

"Don't." 

Then she did. She played it, And sang it as it played, To me. Smiling the whole time. Looking beautiful and joyous in a way that only she can. Speaking the words from that ridiculous spoken-word bridge (which is wisely absent from the Youtube version of the song) like she was speaking them to me. Cementing the song in my mind. 

"I've been undressed by kings and seen some things that a woman ain't supposed to see," she sang.

"Yeah?" I said. "What wasn't she supposed to see?"

"Ugly penises." 

I laughed. She's annoying and cruel, but she's funny, too. 

More than 24 hours later and the song is still jammed in my head. She tried to tell me that research indicates that the best way to rid yourself of a song it to play it all the way through. Beginning to end. 

Nonsense, of course. Or at least nonsense if the person you love is singing along. 

Now she's sitting across from me again right now. Same song still playing in my head. It's so awful, and it's going to be with me for days. 

I'm not saying a word to her. She can sit over there and think that my mind is empty of subtle whoring (yes, a line from the song) and Marlow in Monte Carlo and ugly penises.

She can't be trusted. 

Four things to consider before dating a coworker: An office romance with my future wife.

Jackie Zimmerman of Time’s Money section writes about four things to consider before dating a coworker.

The last coworker who I dated was my wife. When we started dating back in March of 2004, she was teaching in a classroom one door down from mine. A friend and colleague now teaches in Elysha’s old classroom, and though Elysha’s been gone from that classroom for more than five years now, I still think of it as ‘Elysha’s room.”

I still leave school almost everyday through that classroom’s outer door, even though it often means going out of my way to do so. Before I push that door open and step out onto a wooden ramp, I always pause and purposefully recall something about those days long ago when Elysha and I worked together and spent so much of our time side by side.

I remember so I won’t forget. I remember because I was one of the best times of my life. I remember because it makes me smile every time even though is also often makes me sad, too.   

Some couples could never work together. Many couples, perhaps. Elysha and I loved working together. It made my days brighter and better. I’m always hopeful that someday, we may be able to work together again.

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In reading through Zimmerman’s four suggestions, it looks like Elysha and I did well when we dated (and married) as coworkers.

1.  Avoid Getting Involved with the Wrong Person

Zimmerman’s suggestion pertains to dating people in positions higher up the corporate ladder. Though I always thought of Elysha as unattainable in every sense of the word, we were both teachers when we started dating, with no power over each other.  

2.  Know Your Company’s Policy Before the First Date

Before I dated Elysha, I had dated another colleague at the school and had already checked with my principal to be certain that there were no policies against it. He told me to make sure that if things didn’t work out, we ended our relationship amicably.

Not exactly a policy, but a good suggestion.

Thankfully, I have always been highly skilled at ending relationships. I’m friendly with almost all of my ex-girlfriends. In fact, the colleague who I dated before Elysha remains friends with me to this day, and in July, I will be the DJ at her wedding.

Still, I thought it was important to keep my principal informed when I was dating someone at work, so on April 1, 2004, as he crossed through the school auditorium, I told him that I was dating Elysha.

“Ha ha,” he said. “April Fools.”

“No, we’re really dating,” I said. “I’m serious.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” he said, walking across the auditorium and out the door. “You and Elysha dating. Right.”

I have no idea when he realized that I wasn’t joking, but he was the person who married us two years later.   

3.  Consider the Worst-Case Scenario

Zimmerman suggests that you take careful stock of the person you are considering dating. If you break up, is this someone you can trust? Someone who you want potentially influencing your career? Could you still work together afterwards?

Honestly, this wasn’t even a consideration when Elysha and I began dating. She practically moved into my apartment immediately, and three months later, we had an apartment of our own.

Six months after that, we were engaged.

Even before we started dating, on one of those late night phone calls that people who are falling in love tend to have, she told me that if we ever started dating, she knew that we would never break up. 

A bold move, I thought at the time. And my heart soared.

I had also known Elysha for almost two years before we started dating. We began as colleagues and eventually became friends. Close friends. So I knew her well. I knew we would never break up, but I also knew that if the unthinkable happened. we could remain friends.   

4.  Remember that During Business Hours, Work Comes First

Despite one lunatic claim that this wasn’t the case, Elysha and I always took our jobs seriously and never placed our relationship ahead of our responsibilities. When you’re a teacher dealing with students and their futures, this is not hard to do.

That said, it doesn’t mean that our romance didn’t find ways into the workplace. I purchased her engagement ring online with a committee of fellow teachers after work one day in a first grade classroom. I plotted my proposal with a colleague in the office of our curriculum specialist. I was known to leave her notes on her desk during my lunch hour, and at least once, I sent three dozen roses to her classroom.

One dozen per hour for three hours.

We kept our relationship a secret from our students for quite a while, but one day, after Elysha’s students saw a fairly innocuous note from me on some chart paper, one of them asked, “Are you and Mr. Dicks dating?”

She admitted it. Happily. Over the course of a school year, your students become as close to you as any of your friends or family. At least that’s the way it’s always been for us. Letting them in on our secret was so much fun.

I guess I really, really, really love my wife.

I had a dream that I was living in some alternate reality. I wasn’t married to Elysha or anyone else.

I was standing by a stove, looking at a serving dish, and I realized that I would never feel as good about that serving dish without Elysha in my life. That serving dish would always been a dull, lifeless representation of itself if I wasn’t with my wife. 

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Then I looked around the kitchen and saw that everything in the room was as dull and lifeless as the serving dish. A second later, my mind saw beyond the kitchen and I knew that the most beautiful objects and the most majestic vistas on the planet would never shine for me again because Elysha was not with me.

Then my eyes returned to that serving dish. That simple, ceramic serving dish, sitting on the counter beside the stove, that I knew could be so much more if Elysha was standing with me. Beside me.

I have a lot of nightmares. Post traumatic stress will do that do you. But I have never felt more hopeless and sad in a dream before.

99 reasons that I love Elysha Dicks

Today is our seventh anniversary. Please forgive me this indulgence.

Here are just some of the many reasons that I love my wife as much as I do.

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1. The way she sleeps on folded hands

2. She once yelled at a 90 year-old woman who was cheating in Scrabble

3. The way she is like a mother and a sister at the same time to Clara

4. She once skipped school to play The Legend of Zelda

5. Many of my friends consider her to be the ideal wife

6. She is one of the finest teachers I have ever known

7. She asked to stop talking to watch The Simpsons on our first date

8. She makes me a better storyteller

9. She loves Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Paul Simon and Patsy Cline

10. She feels bad about the spiders she kills 

11. She tells me what to put me on my plate in a buffet line

12. She asks me when Hard Knocks is starting again

13. She can navigate any mall flawlessly but almost nothing else 

14. The way she disappears for two days when she reads a book

15. Her senseless fear of aliens

16. Holding her hand

17. Listening to an audiobook with her on a long drive

18. The new set of parents that she has brought into my life

19. She looks beautiful in a baseball cap

20. She way she puts her hand on my shoulder after a nightmare

21. She knows me better than I know myself

22. The way she plays with infants in her lap

23. The way she runs her hands through my hair while I'm driving  

24. Her aggressive response to people who cut in line

25. The way that my friends have become her friends

26. Her infinitesimal lisp

27. The way she reads her childhood stories to our children

28. Her undercover streak of unrelenting nonconformity

29. Watching her dance

30. The way I knew she was pregnant with Clara before she did

31. Her complete and total lack of jealousy

32. The way she has never told me what to wear

33. The degree to which she hates people who hate me

34. Her love for Battlestar Galactica

35. The way she fills our home with music every evening

36. Her ability to react quickly and without panic in an emergency

37. The partnership we share in writing, storytelling and creativity

38. The way she looks in her green Smith tee-shirt

39. Her lack of concern over what others think of her

40. Her inability to watch any scary movie

41. The way she wraps gifts in magazine photographs

42. Her Buffy the Vampire Slayer fandom, including the soundtrack

43. The way she looks while wearing a headband

44. Her astounding patience

45. Her “good rice and chicken” dinner

46. Her fierce love of her grandmother

47. Her ability to name almost any song on the radio within three seconds

48. The way she cried when I asked her to marry me

49. Her harsh but frequently necessary criticism of my writing

50. The way she said Charlie’s name for the first time in the delivery room

51. Her timeless beauty on our wedding day

52. Our “South Park is better than The Simpsons” talk

53. The way she looks in a knit cap

54. The extreme diversity of her friends

55. The way is takes about 15 minutes to become her lifelong friend

56. The fact she has not poisoned our dog or cat yet

57. Her untapped, underutilized and yet remarkable design aesthetic

58. Her camera-ready-but-still-natural-looking smile

59. The way she sneezes multiple times, every time

60. Her willingness to eat ice cream for dinner

61. Any cookie or cake that she has ever baked

62. Watching her dance. I repeat because it is my favorite thing

63. She is in the black in career winnings in poker

64. The way she wept when upon receiving news of my first book deal

65. Her love for a Patriots game on a fall afternoon

66. The way she weeps uncontrollably during year-end school speeches

67. The way everyone seems to love her almost as much as I do

68. Her universal and unfailing support of me

69. The way she has never made me feel guilty about being away from home

70. Those moments in life when she is uncommonly proud of me

71. Falling asleep on my shoulder at the drive-in

72. Her unwarranted confidence in almost everything I do

73. Her love and attachment to yet independence from her parents

74. Her rejection of senseless tradition

75. Her tears on our wedding day

76. The way she stretches in the morning as she wakes up

77. The way she looked on the beaches of Bermuda

78. Her lack of investment in trends and name brands

79. Her embrace and love of Christmas

80. The way her former students still love her years later

81. The way she sings to our children at night

82. The way she barely grips the toothbrush while brushing her teeth

83. The way she speaks to our children the same way she speaks to adults

84. Her unwavering defense of my quirks and eccentricities

85. Her genuinely violent yet laughter-filled response to tickling

86. The way she walks when she is tipsy

87. Her grudging acceptance of my last name

88. The way every wedding I attend makes we want to marry her again

89. Her unparalleled, unjustified acceptance of me in every way

90. The inexplicable pleasure she feels in bathing our children

91. The fact that we have never had an actual fight

92. Her talent for filling stockings with perfect presents at Christmastime

93. The way she dances with our children in the kitchen

94. The affection she feels for her own childhood

95. The way she folds a shirt

96. Her reference to me as a “manly hunk of man meat”

97. The frequency at which she changes her order in a restaurant

98. Her rejection and abhorrence of snobbery in every way

99. Agreeing to marry me on the steps of Grand Central Terminal

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