Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Moderate Social Drinkers

We went to Omaha last weekend. The side effects of this trip often include fun and CRV dance parties.  Let me detail it for you, because, you know, that's what I'm here for.

Joe and I piled in the car with much photo equipment, luggage and the dog on Friday after work. We listened to Joe's hand crafted music mix on the drive up. Everything from Elvis Costello to the friggin' Lovin Spoonful, Buddy Holly, Cake, The Who and the Pixies plus damn near every other song that either one of us has ever truly loved. It was a car rave minus the flashing seizure lights, ecstasy and tweaker kids sucking on ring pops. It was choice.

We were entertained on the last half of the trip by an insane lightning display. A thunder storm was looming over Omaha and the sheet lightning was nearly constant. It was beautiful. And naturally two seconds after we arrived, as we hauled the bags into the house, the sky exploded and dumped a bucket of water on our heads. I looked like I'd just gotten out of the pool. After toweling off and rinsing the chlorine out of my hair, we hung out with Sherry and John, Joe's parents, and ate some 500 calorie per slice muddy rocky road brownie chocolate devil cake with Cool Whip on top, as Sherry said "to cut the richness." Then we collapsed and I read an uplifting book about murder.
Photo by Jim Sands
Omaha Weekend

Omaha Weekend

Omaha Weekend

Saturday Joe had a photo shoot with his photo club at the Omaha Zoo. Photo shoot and photo club are loose affiliations of photographers, because those folks tend to like to wander and do their own thing, unconstrained by group dynamics. So Joe and his brother Jim, who was in town for a dental conference, wandered around the zoo for a couple of hours. Gorillas, lions, tiger poop because they are boys, meerkats, jaguars, peacocks, butterflies, all and sundry other animals and fish were photographed. While the men went on a wild life expedition, I did delicate lady stuff.

Dottery Painting in the 'haDottery Painting in the 'ha
Not needle point or playing the spinet, but drinking caffeinated sugary beverages, chatting with girlfriends and painting pottery. Katrina, Bethany and I headed out to It's Yours Pottery and settled in before the chaos of the two kids' birthday parties began.  I like these women. As I've written about here before, Bethany and Katrina were friends with Joe in high school and now he has to share them with me. We talked home schooling, mothers, marriage, booze and blogging. And we may have different experiences or disagree on some of this stuff, but we can talk about it without anyone's feelings getting hurt. Friends should be able to do that.

Dottery Painting in the 'haDottery Painting in the 'ha

Dottery Painting in the 'haDottery Painting in the 'ha

We painted. We talked. We took random photos. Bethany gave us some painting tips. We glanced sympathetically at the pottery shop staff.  We listened to the screaming, sugar dosed kid's party at the long table next to us. Gangs of 4 year olds are not calm and are not good at sitting still, taking directions or painting for that matter. Mob mentality takes over. Especially when the two parents present were jabbering in the corner, leaving the harried pottery shop employees to wrangle the frolicking kid mob. Running, chattering, shrieking, climbing on tables like a passel of wild monkeys, one girl lifted her plate of birthday cake and smashed it in her face, bursting into laughter. The other kids froze for a second, and then several promptly mimicked her. Cake all over. And we kept painting. Once you tuned out the chaos we had a great time. I look forward to seeing the finished products in a couple of weeks.

After that, Blue sushi (blogged here by the lovely Katrina) meet up with the Sands boys. Volcano roll is spicy heaven.

Then dinner party at Katrina and Matt's house which included tasty Bethany and Katrina-made vittles, Joe getting assaulted by four 5 year olds wielding Nerf dart guns, of course more photography by Joe, some margaritas in Tiki glasses, a multi-layered ice cream sandwich cake, and Joe delivering a revenge MarioKart beating to the 5 year olds. Another stellar evening with friends.

Omaha Weekend

Omaha Weekend

Omaha Weekend

Omaha Weekend

Omaha Weekend

Omaha Weekend

When we got back to Joe's parents' house, Sherry and Jim were watching Public Enemies, the Johnny Depp as John Dillinger vehicle. Now this wouldn't warrant mention here, I didn't watch it and have no opinion on the movie itself. But the subtitles were turned on.  I thought this was odd, as the movie is in English. Jim and Sherry are not hard of hearing and no one was running on the treadmill at the gym. But all the description, whispers and sound effects are clearly described in the closed captioning. And since Sherry is a bit of a talker during movies, this actually enhances the experience for everyone. You don't miss anything. Because even if Sherry is talking, you can just read the screen. Handy. I stopped mocking them about it and started reading the movie. Because like Jim said, I like reading.

That was pretty much our weekend. Sunday we had a big family breakfast. Then Jim headed back to Madison. And Joe and I headed home. It was a jam packed couple of days, but getting the chance to spend time with friends and family is always worth it. And really the three hour drive, compared to any road trips we've taken lately, is pretty brief. Especially when you travel with your own personal DJ.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Chicks for Free

No, he didn't play "Money for Nothing" and that was a good thing. Because though that song may be his most famous, Mark Knopfler is a long, long way from the '80's heyday of Dire Straits. And he's a better, more original, honest musician for it.

Joe loves Mark Knopfler, his solo work and his work with Dire Straits. My dad also loves Mark Knopfler. I vividly remember being 10 or 11 and staring at the cover art on the cassette tape of the Brothers in Arms album, sitting in the backseat of my dad's Nissan Maxima. With that beautiful National guitar on the cover, we'd sing along to "Walk of Life", "So Far Away" and of course "Money for Nothing", which was in heavy video rotation on MTV at the time. So when Joe heard that Knopfler was starting a tour last year, through the Mark Knopfler fan club, which of course Joe is a member of, we had the chance to buy tickets before the general public. And was that the best idea ever? Absolutely. Because we bought the 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th seats that went on sale. We sat front row, center, 8 feet from Mr. Knopfler. And while the concert was amazing, the most thrilling and enjoyable part was sitting between my husband and my dad, both with glowing, giddy smiles plastered on their faces for the three hour show.


Joe and I started the evening off trying to grab dinner at our favorite downtown restaurant, The Bristol, for their cheap happy hour specials. We weren't the only concert goers to have this idea. It was packed.



So we headed down the street to Gordon Biersch, home of potent garlic fries and home brewed beer. We sat outside overlooking the Power and Light District, the weather was mild and sunny. The food was tasty.  I had a couple of garlic fries, but didn't want to reek like a Transylvanian the rest of the night, so I mostly focused on the indulgent Hawaiian Kobe burger sitting in front of me. Joe helped me polish it off, but it was yummy and diet busting.


Then as we were leaving the restaurant, Joe got stopped by this lovely petite blond woman, who grabbed his arm and said, "I know you!" Turns out it was citrusgirl,  from our 7 days Flickr photo group.  Joe is now a minor celebrity in the Flickr-verse. She just happened to be in town from Georgia for the night, visiting a friend, and recognized Joe from his fantastic 7 days shots. Small world! We felt like Bethany, meeting the internets one person at a time.


And then we headed off to the concert, my dad and Kristy were meeting us there, their hectic work schedules had forced them to come a little later, but Dad made it right around the opening act and Kristy made it only about a 1/2 hour into the main show.

Mark Knopfler Concert

And here comes the music. Oh, the music.

Mark Knopfler Concert

The opening act was a young singer-song writer, Pieta Brown, a good Midwestern girl who plays a mean guitar and writes beautiful country tinged folk, rock songs. Yeah all of those genres, kind of mixed up and mellowed out. Pieta played with Bo Ramsey, a well respected guitarist and record producer, whose facial expression alone would have been entertaining, even without his massive guitar skills.

Mark Knopfler Concert

Speaking of massive guitar skills, after a solid 45 minute set from Brown and Ramsey, Mark Knopfler and his band took the stage.  And they dominated that stage, all eight musicians. There were more than twenty different instruments: multiple guitars, tiny guitar, turtle shaped guitar, National guitar, lute, banjo, mandolin, bass guitar, upright bass, piano, flute,  pipes, keyboards, and drums. And on and on, but not overdone. Just consummate musicians performing perfectly executed gorgeous songs together. The energy, the passion, the skill and sheer pleasure they obviously got from standing on that stage and playing together was visible and so fun. I haven't been to see live music in awhile and somehow I'd forgotten how much I love feeling that thumping music inside not just my ears, but my whole body. Surrounded by the music, the energy of the crowd, the passion of the performers, the gorgeous historic theater, everything just fit together like a perfect puzzle.

And I'll just borrow from better writers and reviewers than myself here: The New York Times remarked that that Knopfler “radiates wariness and maturity as well as poise,” while USA Today called it “full of ripe, haunting melodies and gently vital, folksy arrangements that showcase his robust and lyrical guitar work.” True. They switched skillfully from gentle folk story-telling ballads to those raucous 80's classics. And the crowd loved every minute of it. And so did we.

Mark Knopfler Concert

Of course there were the requisite rich, drunk old dudes with their pocket size blond trophy wives, sitting next to us, clapping, hooting, and growling when no one else was. But isn't that to be expected? Isn't that the fun of seeing live music, the crowds? The crazy masses, the fanatical fans? The drunk dudes certain that they are Mark's biggest fan, know all the lyrics, connect personally with Mark, have so much in common. When you are sitting in the front row this is only intensified. Even I got a little giddy from making eye contact with the musicians and getting a smile or a nod. Cause that's cool, because they are cool, because they are so damn talented. And I'm not too old to admit that. This was a fantastic concert. Today, still basking in the glow from last night, I signed up for the email newsletter for several of my favorite bands. Get ready, baby, we're going to more concerts!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Random Thoughts Edition: Monday

Sitting in the car at a stop light on the way back to the office after lunch, behind an older Caucasian gentleman in a pick up truck with a Dixie flag bumper sticker that says "Fighting Terrorists Since 1861!" My first thought is, what the hell does that even mean? Then my second thought is, this man would not be hired to landscape my yard or even scoop my dog's poop out of said yard. Two businesses, that in addition to his ignorance, his pick up truck is advertising. Plus he's chewing tobacco, nearly hitting my car with his wet, brown saliva. Gag. Which is more repugnant, the lame bumper sticker or the gleeking? It's a tie.

I'm not sure I could get through the work day without access to music. Any music, but preferably of my own choosing.

I would like to have dinner with Mark Twain and Ira Glass. I would be happy to do the cooking and the dishes.

A Wings song, even covered by Axl Rose is still a Wings song.

Lemon bars were created by a kind and benevolent God/Goddess/Superior Being/FSM.

If I had a lot of money I would make massive donations to Kiva. Right now I should make a small donation to Kiva. I'm going to do that. It will make me hate Monday less.

This is the view out of my office window. I like having a window. It makes me a more accurate weather reporter. I think I'm up there with Gary Lezak. Without the personal trainer partner.

I also think that Jason Kottke would receive an invitation to the Twain/Glass dinner party. Anyone who has these three stories on their website is guaranteed to keep the conversation stimulating. Oh, and Sufjan Stevens. Though he doesn't have to talk. He can sing.

Do they offer classes to learn to control facial expressions? Like bluffing class? Should I just sit in front of my mirror and have someone provoke me so I can learn to hide my feelings? I am not good at this. Though I'm a decent liar when needed.

How much pink is too much pink when it comes to clothing? I think the lady walking her dog across the street this afternoon answered that question for me. After age 80 who cares? And the matching pink hat tied the whole thing together.

 I have Cape May diamonds on my windowsill. Mine are unpolished. I like them that way.

I'm between books, which one should I start tonight: The Murderer's Daughters or Sexing the Cherry or The Club Dumas? (That's not pronounced dumb ass. I don't think so at least.)

I'm thirsty.

Is it quitin' time?

Damn, this database is an idiot.

This spreadsheet has a vendetta against me.

I am anthropomorphizing software. It is time to go home.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

We Went, We Saw, We Did

Gift of Life

I have nothing earth shattering or momentous to write about today. I just had a pretty great Saturday. Leisurely morning, finished some household chore stuff, watched The Soup as Saturday morning ritual dictates, and then Joe and I went to Go See Do KC. Go See Do KC is one of the most creative, fun, and educational nonprofit fundraising events in town. Gift of Life  runs the event every year to raise money for their mission, which is to build awareness around organ and tissue donation and offer support to transplant patients and their families. They are a strong and savvy organization with smart, creative leadership and dedicated volunteers. Go See Do KC is part party and part tour of Kansas City. Attendees have their choice of 8 different tours all over town, tours around music, art, sports, food, there is something for everyone. And the tours always offer behind the scenes insights, the chance to meet fascinating entrepreneurs and people that thrive on sharing their expertise with others. And then after the tour of your choice, all the tours head out to Starlight for the party: live music, great food, and auction shopping. Highly recommend attending if you can!
Gift of Life

This year we took a tour at the Culinary Center of Kansas City, noshed on some delicious profiteroles and learned how to make choux pastry and chocolate caramel sauce. Previous years tours have included private curator guided tours of the Nerman Museum, and the chance to see the Nerman's massive private modern art collection in their home, which looked like a mini-Guggenheim.  They were both amazing. I've attended for the last three years, Joe for the last two, and since Gift of Life is a client of the company I work for, I get the chance to attend for free if I work the close of the party, the silent auction and donation check out. The dreaded mine field of tired patrons ready to go home with their Cabo vacation packages and their hotel gift certificates and their orchids. But this event is run so smoothly and carefully, that check out is a breeze. I'm thrilled to get to work with them every year. And I'm already looking forward to next year.

Gift of Life

Gift of Life

Then I came home from the party and Joe had already gone grocery shopping, hit Costco, and had dinner planned. I love it when he takes over. All I had to do was slice some tomatoes and mozzarella and throw some green beans in the oven. We had one of those spring meals that seems nearly perfect because the ingredients are basic and fresh. Nothing fancy, but just good food cooked well. Joe has gotten really skilled at cooking on the grill and the parmesan encrusted grilled scallops were perfect. Some cold white wine, a breeze coming through the open window and watching a movie with my husband. Pretty much the ideal ending to an all around delightful Saturday.

Gift of Life

Gift of Life

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Dirt Under My Fingernails

Spring Gardening

"You shouldn't plant until after Mother's Day."

But I couldn't wait. The weather has been warm and spectacular. Everything is covered in a light yellow layer of sneeze inducing pollen. Spring has arrived in full force and that means sticking my hands in the dirt.

I used to think gardening was something for grandpas in coveralls or suburban matrons with prize winning roses, but I've shaken that assumption. I like it. Now I'm a novice. A total novice. I'm not even sure I could be called a gardener. I'm more like a dirt dabbler. I like things that are easy, I like things that are perennial and colorful. And I like things that I can eat. And I like this website, You Grow Girl.  It's full of  smart-alecky, funny and straight forward information.  Any site described as "under a cheeky veneer of scorn for conventional gardening wisdom lies a solid base of horticultural information" is the gardening website for me.  And this article in particular was great. It smacked me in the face and said I need to focus less on being embarrassed about my gardening mistakes and instead analyze and learn from them. Duh.

Spring Gardening

So this year's Bravely Obey gardening adventure has begun. We sliced and diced our existing gargantuan hosta with a huge serrated bread knife and replanted them all around the front and side of our house. They are nearly indestructible. We split irises and relocated them along our front wall, I'm hoping they still bloom, but the leaves are green so that's a good sign. I have no idea what color they are, but we can always move them again later. Perennials are amazing. So we've got the perennials under control. I'm embarrassed to admit this, but only last year was I finally able to remember that perennials come back every year and annuals die. I kept switching the two. Joe had to keep reminding me, while rolling his eyes and feeling superior. He likes that I think.

Spring Gardening

Annuals are lovely and what I typically plant because they are what I know, I know how to throw things away when they die. And every year we seem to plant impatiens. And as pretty as they are, they have gotten a little boring. I'm trying to branch out. Not far mind you, but no impatiens. I bought bold red geraniums, some vinca vine to fill in and add some layers and textures, some violas (which are secret perennials) that I thought were pansies, but turns out there is really not much difference. They are a deep purple and vibrant yellow and contrast well with the dark green and white tipped vinca and red geraniums.

Spring Gardening

Spring Gardening

Spring Gardening

I also bought herbs this year. Chef Jeff hooked me up with mojito mint, sweet basil, rosemary, and fern leaf dill. Chef Jeff is just the herb brand, but I prefer to picture an Anthony Bourdain type in chef whites helping me hand select my herbs. That is not really how it happened in the parking lot of Ace Hardware, but a girl can dream. I'm not starting a huge herb garden. Because I know myself and I know I don't want to be weeding in July when its 199% humidity and 189 degrees outside. So container gardens for the herbs. Plus I figure if they are small enough I could bring them inside and try to keep them going. I'm planning on new potato salad with fresh dill, and perfectly crafted mojitos on the deck, and bruschetta made with our tomatoes and basil. Now we just need to buy a cow so we can whip up our own mozzarella cheese. Maybe something to add to my list, and this leads me to update that Bravely Obey in Action list progress...

12. Design a garden with plantings for each season. - I would say that this one is in progress. Kind of an ongoing deal. I need to focus a little more on actually planning and designing instead of wandering around garden centers and randomly buying things because they look pretty. I also need to ask friends and family for cuttings from their gardens. I hear that gardeners like to share. And it's cheaper.

16. Develop a better relationship with my mother. - Again another ongoing project. But we've had a good time the last couple of times we've gotten together. I'm still working on being less judgmental and bitchy. You know this is hard.

27. Take more photos. - Total success here! I'm doing it. And it's fun. Now again, like #12 I need to focus a little more and do a little reading to brush up on my technical skills, instead of just "That's pretty, I'll take a picture of it." I'm no Joe, but I'm getting better. Especially when I use his equipment instead of my crappy iPhone camera.

39. Stop yelling and cursing at people when I'm driving. - I've made a concerted effort in the last two weeks to curtail my road anger, not rage, just anger. Ridiculous, blood pressure raising, head shaking anger. Instead of cursing, when for example, someone hasn't accelerated after the light we are sitting at has turned green, I don't say "Go, you stupid motherf(*&(*er!"  I now say, quite calmly and repeatedly, "The light is green, the light is green, the light is green..." and only rarely does this turn into "The f&%#$ing light is green, you douche bag!" That's progress.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Just Me and Some Strawberries


I had dinner with my mother last night, and she asked me if I was nervous with Joe out of town. The question seemed odd to me.  But then she told me that when she was growing up my grandmother was always very anxious when my grandfather traveled, and my grandmother would ask my mom to sleep in her room when he was gone. Until my mom got in to high school and said, um, no, too old for that. My grandmother used to spend the night at our house when I was a little girl for the same reason. I mostly remember running to wake her up, my brother and I climbing all over her in the morning, trying not to scrape our legs on the sides of the pull-out couch. My grandmother married young, moved right out of her parent's house into her own house, and probably was rarely alone. She was a little skittish.  Maybe it's a generational thing.  Maybe I'm just stubbornly independent. But I can't image feeling nervous with my husband out of town.  I feel a lot of things, but nervous isn't one of them.

City Market Saturday

Joe and I have been together for a long time. More than twelve years and married nearly nine. And while I miss him when he's out of town for a few days, I take it as a bit of a challenge to not just laze around, but to force myself to do things alone. Not because I mind doing things alone, I'm just used to having a partner to share my time with. It is an unfamiliar feeling to run around town by myself on the weekends. I went to the City Market this morning to buy some produce, just browse around and enjoy the weather, people watch and maybe pick up some plants.

 City Market 

It felt strange to be there alone. I kept wanting to turn to Joe and laugh about the goofy hippie woman with daisies woven in her hair, or share a taste of this amazing grainy bread, or discuss which salad greens he preferred, should we grow basil and cilantro this summer? But it was just me. And after about twenty minutes of wandering around, chatting with vendors, tasting some succulent berries and enjoying the sun on my face, I settled in to myself.  These five short days will fly by. And Tuesday we will both have stories to tell and photos to share, and catch up with each other in minutes. Sliding right back to the familiar, warm, funny, loving, constant that we are with each other. 

City Market SaturdayCity Market Saturday

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

The Hardest Button to Button

I have this dark purple button down shirt.  I bought it a couple of years ago after I'd lost some weight, I was down a couple of sizes, and it fit perfectly. This is a rare thing to find for a lady with an ample bosom. Ample bosoms and button down shirts rarely get along well.  And yet this perfect shirt has been sitting in my closet nearly untouched for the last year and a half. But why you ask?  I couldn't button it. The color is luscious, the little bit of a sheen in the soft fabric is pleasing to the eye and to the touch. But the damn thing didn't fit anymore. Son of a bitch. Yeah, gaining twenty five pounds will do that. I was sad. I love this shirt. And so this morning, as I was groggily getting dressed, pre-coffee, I pulled it out and wore it as a jacket over a white shell. Buttons be damned.  And then I got to work and realized, wait a minute, that shell is way too big. It looks frumpy. I look frumpy. I hate looking frumpy. So while washing my hands and critiquing myself in the bathroom mirror, I had the minor revelation, "I bet this stupid thing fits now." And guess what? I took off that baggy shell, buttoned that glorious shirt up and it fit perfectly. So happy weight loss result! See crazy eyes below.

I'm clinging to this tiny triumph today, because my weight loss has totally stalled out in the last three weeks. Completely my fault, too. I haven't gained anything, but I haven't lost either. The combination of traveling, lots of eating out, not working out consistently and I'm falling back on old habits. So today, after the minor thrill of an old shirt fitting like new, I'm rejuvenated and ready to refocus my energy. I worked out yesterday, stayed under my calorie limits, ate lots of fruits and veggies and I'm going to do that today and tomorrow and the next day and the next day and pretty soon I'll be in control again. So why am I even writing about this? Again, I need a little help via public accountability/humiliation. The next time you see me, feel free to ask me how the weight loss is going. I give you permission. Because I know that this whole topic is sensitive and personal and I'm trying to reduce the secretiveness and the shame around all of it by posting here. I hate feeling embarrassed or disappointed in myself. And I'm not going to anymore. I'm just not. That's enough self absorbed ranting for today. Is there anything more boring that listening to someone elses' diet woes? Doubtful. But it has been a shockingly wonderful experience to write this nonsense and get such supportive responses from my cozy little readership. So thank you again. You don't know how much it means to me. Now I'm going to go eat some strawberries.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Thespians Do it On Stage

High school was rough. I was 14 and my parents were going through a nasty divorce, one of the nastiest ever recorded in the history of the world. Ok, that's my high school dramatic girl talk taking over.  But I felt ignored and neglected. I was ripped in two, with each parent holding one piece of me. I had responsibilities at home that most high school kids didn't have. I wanted to protect my little brother from all of it and couldn't. I had no clue who I even was most days. I felt tall and fat and hideous. Everything was a drama, a chaos, an overblown fiasco. I thought it would never end. I would never be old enough to get out on my own. I was the only one in the world with these thoughts and feelings. Everyone else in high school was blissfully happy and popular and loyal pep rally attenders. No one understood me and no one knew the self consciousness and self loathing that I fought through everyday.  And that was just freshman year. But I found something that year that got me through it all, brought me friends, role models, success, pleasure, skill, a brazen confidence and a bold glee, and that was theater.

I fell in love with theater, hard. You could get away with being weird and different in the name of theater. A glorious group of like-minded misfits and creative souls, with the occasional rare jock joining in. Unabashed theater nerd, I had a bumper sticker on my little white Camry that said "Thespians do it on stage." I had found my people. Plays, musicals, auditions, drama classes, being the drama teacher's assistant, after parties involving midnight showings of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, I worked behind the scenes, I performed on the stage, I read plays, I directed plays, and I was in heaven. And the extension of that love was competing in forensics competitions.

Forensics is just the formal name for speech and debate competition, through the National Forensics League. Students compete against each other in tournaments held at high schools all over the city, and perform in front of judges who rank them and provide constructive criticism about their performances, then the highest scored students move on to the the final rounds, where the top finalists receive medals for their performances and the chance to compete on a state level. I never got excited about the debate side of things, but the speech and drama events were perfect.

Students can choose between a variety of performances including poetry or prose reading where you are allowed to use a book to prompt you, dramatic or humorous interpretation either solo or duet which is completely memorized, some improvisational acting and then the original and extemporaneous speech events which I rarely did. I was a drama girl and I dabbled in all the drama events. I won 6th in the state of Kansas for my improvisational duet performance. Oh yeah, I still have the medal.

I found something I was good at. I got up in front of strangers and talked in accents and yelled and cried and laughed and jumped around like a fool and acted my ass off.  And sometimes I won medals and most of the time I didn't, but I loved every minute of it. And it changed me. It saved me. It trained me to speak in public, it allowed me to laugh at myself. It taught me the value of tapping into my creativity. It showed me that taking risks, even in the face of frequent massive failure, is still worth something. And so when my favorite high school teacher, Mr. Max Brown, asked on Facebook for forensics tournament judges for this weekend's tournament at my old high school, I signed up with alacrity! (Forensics taught me fancy words, too.)

BVN Forensics Judging

God, it was fun. I hadn't been back to my old high school in about fifteen years. Because even though I live in the same town, why would I go back? But going back as a judge was a seriously entertaining experience. I got to have coffee in the teacher's lounge, the forbidden territory. I got to say hi to Mr. Brown. And the kids, man, these kids are talented and brave and funny and loud. They are babies, but they are talented babies. I had the luck, or maybe Mr. Brown just knew what I would like, but I got to judge poetry, humorous solo interpretation and dramatic solo interpretation. There were some bold choices, pieces about being Catholic and gay, pieces about slavery, murder, school shootings, death, revolution, and of course wizardry. I loved seeing the kids all scattered around the hallways rehearsing, watching their anxious faces, hearing them tease and praise each other. I gave each performer my complete attention, I judged as fairly as possible and I filled up the comments section. Because I remember standing up in front of that old lady judge, praying to make her laugh, see her smile, guess what she was writing about me, working to see a tear in her eye, and hoping, just hoping, to be good enough to win a medal. Now I'm that old lady judge. And I like being on this side of it so much better.

BVN Forensics Judging

High school is brutal.  Kids can be dense and cruel. Hormones and body chemistry wreck havoc on your teenage brain. The sheer pressure to figure out the world, make decent choices and the constant emotional upheaval can be exhausting and exhilarating and nauseating all at the same time. But it doesn't last, and that's the good news and the bad news. It's over so quickly, you turn around and you are 34, married, mortgaged, working. But if you do it right and you're lucky, everyday after high school graduation just gets better.