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Jeff & I went to DragonCon again this year.  I mentioned last week, that we are only capable as going as who we are now, today, and we are both emotionally and physically tired from the changes that have happened in our house in the last month.

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It is still huge.  57,000 people registered this year, and doing single day sales on Saturday and Sunday.  Although  I didn’t seem many Saturday tags there were a lot of Sunday only folks.

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Saturday at the Hyatt in the morning (pre-parade) and the Marriott at 1:30 on Saturday.  Jeff & I had both been looking forward to the parade all year, but the staging call time and me liking total control over where I parked left him a bit …

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Some people were so stunningly beautiful and creative.  It is inspirational to be around people so deeply committed to being ready for weekends like these.  There is also a moment where I wonder about my Valid Card and making sure that I have it with me.  Jeff asked today if I was disappointed that nobody wanted to take OUR picture.  I said that sometimes I am, but that I believe that people like these two ladies should totally pull focus.

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We have fun thinking about costumes and I’m ok with being limited by my abilities.  I spend the time I choose to, and I end up with what we have.

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We look like this.

For panels and celebrity stuff we had a nice balance.  Jeff liked the puppetry stuff again this year, and we loved the Sunday morning science fair.  We learned the basic timeline for designing board games, and checked out the game room.

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We got pictures taken with Sir Patrick Stewart and some power Rangers.  I got a selfie taken with Vincent.  He was busy hugging me in apology for assuming Jeff wanted his picture (he didn’t).

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Last year there was some sexist ass-hattery that I didn’t encounter this year, and every volunteer that was staffing was stunning.

We don’t have to choose right now, which is good because we’re tired.  Maybe go in for the parade next year, but just to watch.  A day pass on Sunday.  Certainly a much larger awareness of who will be there.  It was good, it has been a good weekend – but like I suspected – I’m glad it is now a memory.

My friend Ashley mentioned a book called The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown back in July.  Now, Ashley talks about a LOT of books because she is quite literary and writerly and stuff.  Happily, she has many friends and other lovely folks keep up with her on such conversations while I sit quietly, eat my lunch, and wait for an opportunity to talk about mysterious desert communities.  This book stuck in my mind though, as a possibility to read.

Brene Brown is perhaps best known for her research on shame, and specifically from a couple of lovely TED talks about same:

This book, however, is about living a whole hearted life and I absolutely loved it.  I didn’t *read* it, so much as let monotone Kindle lady read it to me (she is also currently dead panning How To Think Like a Freak – which is awesome).

My friends were surprised that I was so giddy about a book that was written by someone whose main calling card is shame.  They don’t see me that way, and I don’t see me that way.  I would say 98% of the time I am not driven in my actions or thinking by shame or guilt in an conscious way.  I would like you to like me, but more than that I am confident that I am likable and sometimes … meh.  The Gifts of Imperfection was exactly the book I needed right now.

She drew pictures that said, “the world can be this way” without the hint of a parenthetical “and everybody else already knew that”.

It is in that storytelling (because, she is deeply rooted in a rich ability to tell stories) that she opened the windows again for me.  I know and live a lot of the things that she said, but we all know that there is a difference in a warm spring day, and a warm spring day with the windows open.

She talked about Digging Deep and what it can mean BEYOND “I will continue though exhausted and disinterested” and it was brilliant.  She had enough cred in that moment that I would have listened to the rest in just the hopes of another glimmer – I got plenty.

She talks about the connection between gratitude and joy in a way that makes sense and is something I’ve seen in my life.  I want to keep that chapter for myself.

She talks about play and rest in a way that reminds me that I have a new ukulele that hasn’t been tuned up and tried out yet.

She dances in her kitchen with her family and describes it as “full body vulnerability” and can only think of one other situation for adults where that description is also true.

She talks about meaningful work and how it interrelates to the rest of life but not in a way that screams Follow Your Bliss but that clearly gives a nod to Not Feeding Your Child Bliss.

Chapters (she calls them guideposts, but ok, yeah, they are chapters) have ways to “dig deep”, and other people who have done work in specific areas (as an example – the Happiness Project lady – who I also enjoyed), and what she personally can attest to as her own experiences in each Guidepost.

It was lovely, and if you wonder what I’m going to get you for Christmas?  THIS.

Writers Block

 

I’m less than 48 hours from the start of my new gig.  I am delighted at how much walking into a new role in a new facility just feels like going home.  As I sat with the news that I had been hired I mainly remember thinking, “ok, cool, I’m back in it now.”  It feels right.

Last year I wondered about how I would spend unstructured days, and when I would be Aspirational Me and when I would be slacked out on the couch.  Ten months later, here is what I can tell you:

1.  My days and weeks were anchored by Writer’s Block, my nickname for my friend J.O. and I getting together and working quietly next to each other.  It kept me working on projects when it would have been easier to do anything else.  I am glad hearted for this time with her and I will miss it deeply.

Also – the local coffee place Hendershots has a great core of routine people during the week, we aren’t friends but by golly you get a group of folks to make eye contact with.

2.  My weekends were anchored by CK lunches.  Friday lunch with my awesome circle of female friends kept me from feeling lonely, isolated, or alone.  I am going to miss the predictable routine of seeing these ladies and sharing our lives with each other.  When things feel all a mess there isn’t a thing that can’t be solved with chunky guacamole and ALL THE GREEN.

3.  I was athletic for a bit.  I got to try out if I was someone who could work out a lot, and I was, for awhile.  I got as far as 5 days a week with a double on Friday and the movement felt good when I did it but after I took a week break to rest my screaming feet I (kind of) never went back.  Even with the time and endorphins I struggle to keep moving my body.

4.  I didn’t improve or expand my cooking at all.

5. I essentially never slacked out on the couch, maybe an afternoon here or there but the hours upon days of watching reruns just never happened.  For that I thank Writer’s Block and CK Lunch.

6. I can plan a decent Time But No Money vacation, with the help and support of a lot of people.

My husband and son were wonderfully supportive, the stars aligned when I needed them to, and my heart is grateful over and over again.

I am a fan of Chris Colfer as an actor on Glee, and I’m curious about him as an author, and as actor in other shows (he is amazing in the staged read of 8):

He has written a couple of best selling YA novels.  The first one I read, the second one I listened to part of, they are interesting and fun.  Not my usual genre but pleasant.  So now that he is on a book tour for the third I checked to see if we would line up anywhere, and low and behold we did.  I ordered two books, got two tickets, and planned to go stand in front of him (as hundreds were doing every day) for eight seconds.

Each person *could* have six items to sign.  There are photographs into the 250 person range with me overhearing one employee saying there were 400 tickets distributed.

Two things start to happen in tandem to each other.

The first is that I became acutely aware of him as a person, and I cannot imagine spending three weeks going around the country doing what he is currently doing.  Even with staff to help (Neil Gaiman has written interesting things about being the guy in the center of a book tour), being excited about the potential to promote the book, and being genuinely interested in the people who read it … I just.  Couldn’t.  I wanted to bring a bottle of water, or diet pepsi, or an apple.  Something to acknowledge his humanity in this.  I wonder about the surreal nature of being a 24 year old guy who wins awards, is a New York Times bestselling author, who sings like a dream and has gotten very very fine in the last couple of years and looking up and smiling …

…while the second thing is happening.

The girl who I overhear saying that she has worked for an hour a night for 30 nights on what she wants to give him.  I see her later, after she met him for 8 seconds sobbing Beatlemania style outside the book store.

I see the retiree who is hopping up and down.

I see the woman in front of me who is older than I am, has two Glee related tattoos that I can see, and has a special made phone cover which is a picture of her and Darren Criss.  I hear her say to a stranger / new friend that Darren has seen her at so many events that he recognizes her.

I know there are many shades of intensity in any fandom, and that a lot of them are healthy (or mainly healthy most of the time at least).  Hell, I’ve chosen to drive for an hour each way to spend 8 seconds with him.  I’ve made special shirts for other things.  Fuck – I’m going to Dragon*Con in costume (AGAIN).

Still, I think about some things Glee cast members (especially Chris & Darren) have said in regards to the actions of the fictional characters they play.  I think about people who find solace in fandom (me, sometimes) and those who drift over to the deep end of fandom where their own life drifts away on a cloud of gathering information about someone else.

I love seeing people excited about stuff, I know that my geek shows up in strange ways, I know that adults are not allowed much in the way of giddy reaction to anything, and more than anything I kind of hope that (1) everybody at that book signing was ok by the end of it, and (2) that Chris enjoys his work because I doubt that he predicted that it would be like this.

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Things that are true:

1.  Two weeks into Epic Summer Roadtrip.  Great time, wonderful visits, working on dealing with homesickness.

2.  Went to a book signing on Thursday (Chris Colfer for TLOS3) and it was interesting, good , strange, fast, and has me debating all kinds of meta stuff in my head which I would talk about except that it is the shape of a circle and I cannot find the entry point.

3.  Kiddo is McDs binging right now and WOW.

4.  The very first place I wanted to go when I had a minute to myself was the garden store that I love so much, but I knew I wanted to go there because my first thought was “I need to go to church”.  It is about reverence and peace.

5.  I thought my robot necklace was lost but now it is found.

6.  AirBnB is a GREAT way to (1) save money, (2) meet cool people, (3) actually experience a town when you travel.  Do it.  It isn’t mutually scary – only scary on your side and it will work out fine.

7.  I like borrowing dogs.

8.  I like this, but it is hard and I am a bit tired.

My son and I are collapsed at the Quality Inn Downtown Baltimore (new drapes and bathroom, surprisingly lovely) at the end of day two of the Summer of 2014 Adventure.  We are utterly exhausted.  He is awake (still), and I am barely so -but it is worth talking about.

I made a mistake by not upgrading my phone to a talking GPS / maps function.  I regret that.  So far, that is pretty much the only thing I regret.

The first night we stayed in Raleigh, NC at a home I booked through airbnb.  It is not natural for me to pull into a residential neighborhood walk up to a house I’ve never seen before, introduce myself to strangers, and spend the night.  Still, it worked out well, they were nice, the room was completely what we needed (it had a bed that was comfortable) and it allowed us to redirect our resources for stuff we wanted to.

We were directed to a restaurant where we ate, and then more importantly to Pullen Park which we did not see *much* of but it was AMAZING.  We would not have known to do that without our hosts.  At this point Jeff would likely point out that I swear – a LOT – when I am driving in unfamiliar cities.

We got up in the morning (they made blueberry pancakes, ham, cereal, coffee, and juice) and hit the road early.  We knocked out the first 150 miles like BOSSES.  Then we hit some construction, but we were still rocking, then we got near Quantico  and

 

we saw the peak first, then the signage and in 1.5 miles went from “What is that?” to “Let’s go”.  My dad is a Korean war vet and I wanted to get him a quick gift but we walked into the atrium (it is free) and it was breathtaking.  We gaped, and I got teary, and then we hit the store and tried not buy ALL OF IT.

So back in the car, drive around /through Washington DC (which I will be happy to NEVER do again), drove the lovely parkway between DC and Baltimore and then got to the National Aquarium which Baddest Mother Ever had pointed me towards.

About halfway through I remembered the museum class I took as an undergraduate and realized how we are in a golden age of museum pieces right now.  Both the Marine Corps museum and the National Aquarium are clearly designed with specific amazing goals in mind.  It is a golden age to be sure.

Then, to dinner, a water taxi, and around to the hotel.

I must sleep, as much as I am genuinely and surprisingly sad to leave Baltimore we have family to catch up to for the rest of the week.

 

 

Drum Corps International in conjunction with Fathom Events shows two big drum corps shows at theaters across the United States.  One at the beginning of the season (tonight) and one at the end (August).  Happily, here in Georgia where the only live show is in Atlanta at the end of July, my local theater broadcasts the shows.

I’ve been watching DCI for about 25 years now, it is part of how I know it is summer.  Drum corps is the one aspect of my college years that I genuinely believe would have been affected by staying at my first college – because I would have become a strong enough horn player to audition.  It is also the only thing I feel like I might have missed out on a little bit because I needed more skill and more bravery in those moments.

ANYWAY.  I love the stuff, not in a mournful way, but in a way that has me typing faster than I usually do and the show ended an hour ago – I JUST WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT.

Each corps has a 15 minute opportunity to play their guts out, and with it being the first show of the season there are still kinks to work out for a lot of the corps.  To be clear – the members have worked their ever-loving’ ASSES off and they are as strong, as tan, and as in shape as many of them will ever be (and for a bunch of college students that is saying something).  They are doing a great job.

And now (as I open up the notes I took during the broadcast) some thoughts of mine.

Cavilers – the corps of my heart.  The corps of my neighborhood so to speak because they are out of Rosemont, IL.  I love these guys, I really really do.  If you have a chance to see a DCI show they are playing it – pay for best ticket you can simply to see 15 seconds of marimba work.  It is totally worth it.

Madison Scouts – It was a great show, and the most distracting thing came from the camera work.  I think by about halfway through the small ensemble highlight pieces the booth realized really couldn’t shoot men in white uniforms in the majestic upward angle.  With the camera guy kneeling and filming towards the sky … because of … well …. really clear silhouettes.

The theatre show handles the corps change overs by talking to the directors and staff who spend the year putting the show together.  So when the director of the Boston Crusaders said the show was called Animal Farm and then said it was NOT based on the book, but told us about the windmills, the piece that was written for the show called Boxer, and the drill team wearing animal masks … someone needs to rewrite the line that says it is NOT about the book.  The announcer and color guy didn’t like this show but I LOVED IT.

The Cadets.  The announcer and color guy “had chills”.  I was so angry I was desperate for it to end.  The orator, the props, the recorded speeches.  These are the kids that my heart aches for.  They are spending money and time and energy (especially the orator guy who is GREAT) and the staff of the corps gave them an absolute agony to work with.  They do – however – do an admirable job (there is some silk purse / sow’s ear statement but I’m already NOT talking about Animal Farm).

Realized I missed taking notes on Phantom Regiment – they did a great job like always.

Carolina Crown, the defending champions, the most character building uniforms, there are trampolines for pete’s sake.  This is the second time I saw their show and I will say that I like it 1000% better than the first time but the trampoline thing really bothers me.  I had started to think about props and what I was going to say about them.

It started with “I’ve never met a large scale drum corps prop I liked…”

Then the Bluecoats played a show called Tilt.  Absolutely fucking stunning.  Prop filled.  I am corrected.

Cavilers are my heart.

Carolina Crown is defending.

For this year – you’ll hear me yelling BLUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUE!

Go see some DCI if you have the chance.

I love performance & the rehearsal that goes with it.

I love backstage, and greenrooms, and pitchers of water set up for “us” who are decidedly not “them”. I’m dressed inappropriately for the season, I carry the folder with the gold lettering. I am walking taller, and with a longer stride as part of the “us”. Dress rehearsal, where the seating is a mess and the sound is foreign and I actually, briefly, sing completely the wrong part – goes just the way it should.

Jeff has a tech rehearsal coming up, into a new theatre looking out onto different seats than he has seen before, with a new backstage. I saw a bit of it at the winter show, he gets taller too.

Call time makes me smile if it is for me or for Jeff. The special name for the time before performance, when you need to be there and getting into whatever element of zone you like. Get a drink, go to the bathroom, make sure they know you are there. Think through the plan. Get ready.

My mom asked me what it was like to sing in front of 1,000 people a night.

For me – it feels right as rain.