Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Just the Ticket

Amberly Neese

I never liked Chuck E. Cheese. Maybe it was the creepy mascot. Maybe it was the fact that their pizza often tasted like a dryer sheet, cost too much, and underwhelmed this consumer. It could have been the wall of prizes that were low in quality and high in ticket investment. The noise level was always overstimulating and obnoxious, the tables were sticky with soda residue, cake particulates, and kid sweat, and the scent combination of pizza, plastic, and prizes peppered the air. But my kids were there for the tickets—those little yellow tickets that kids treasured, saved, and redeemed for cheap prizes that had the sustainability of a dandelion.

As you can imagine, when Chuck E. Cheese filed for bankruptcy due to COVID, I did not shed a tear. Sure, I am sad that, yet another business came to a screeching halt in this economy, but I was not sad that I would never have to see a man in a giant mouse costume in the noisy pizzeria again. I never thought that having a rodent as a mascot for a restaurant was a good idea, but what do I know?!?!

I read an article recently about the birthday party franchise and it got me thinking. Some of the stipulations of the bankruptcy included the destruction of those little yellow tickets. Every single one of the prized pieces of paper needed to be collected and shredded. When all was said and done, there were 7 billion (yes, with a b!) tickets—almost enough for everyone on the planet to receive one. So, what does it cost to destroy 7.7 billion tickets, you ask? A whopping 2.3 million dollars!

The article made me reflect on my own life and writing. Am I living a life that at the end, people will say, “She lived so well, loved so fully, and served so selflessly that there were no tickets left”? “She wrote with abandon, honoring the Lord and following His leading in everything she wrote.”

The pandemic has been a rough time for all of us, but just like manure in my garden, it was also a fertile place for my writing to bloom. Due to COVID, I lost my job (a job I adored), but the time I would normally spend working in an office, I spent writing. I set my alarm for 5:30 each morning and got three hours’ worth of concerted writing time before my husband and teenagers woke up. I completed two book projects, did a ton of reading, and sought community with other writers.

Although I found a new job, the patterns of discipline I set in pandemic have continued to serve me well. I still get up at the crack of ridiculous (I am not a morning person, so this is truly a discipline). I have tried writing at night, but my thoughts are less linear, and I must do more editing afterward.

I am a speaker and comedian on the weekends. In 2020, I lost over 40 engagements due to the pandemic. I mourned the loss of connection with the audience as well as the opportunity to connect thousands with my writing. The loss prompted me to participate in more podcasts, host free online Bible studies, and explore new avenues of connection whilst maintaining at least six feet of distance.

My first book with Abingdon debuted in May of 2020. It was about a four-week bible study called The Belonging Project: Finding Your Tribe and Learning to Thrive. The timing was either genius or the worst in all of history. Book sales in 2020 were low across the board, but I learned a TON about book promotion. I read every article, listened to 984 podcasts (approximately), sought wise counsel, and prayed a lot. The things I gleaned have prepared me for the next book launches on May 4, 2021.

The pandemic has been hard on our world, our country, our families, our waistlines, our bank accounts, our political landscape, our mental health, and in some cases, our faith.

But it also was a huge year for learning, searching, growing, connecting (albeit via Zoom), and getting creative. I now have an established writing group that holds me accountable every day for writing. I now have new strategies for connecting people to my work and ministry. I now have many more recorded hours of playing board games with my family. I now have less tickets as a writer than I did before and a refocused drive to continue to live and write as ticketless as possible.

Are you living and writing ticketless?

Amberly Neese is a popular speaker/teacher, comedian, author, and all-around encourager dedicated to helping you become the joyful person you were created to be.

She helps people like you experience the freedom found in meaningful relationships with God and others. Her first bible study, The Belonging Project: Finding Your Tribe and Learning to Thrive released May 2020. Her next two projects Common Ground: Loving Others despite Our Differences and devotional The Friendship Initiative: 31 Days of Loving and Connecting Like Jesus release May 4th.

Amberly is a popular women’s retreat speaker, featured communicator for the Aspire Women’s Events, and the main host and female comedian for Marriage Date Night.

She and her husband have two teenagers and live in Prescott, Arizona, where they enjoy the great outdoors, the Food Network, and all things Star Wars.

For more information, visit her website She is also active on Facebook (@Amberly Neese – Comedian/Speaker), Twitter (@amberlyneese), and Instagram (@amberlyneese).