be in the running: va momentum.

burgIMG_2848When Brandy and I started this blog, it was simply a way to preserve our memories and share with anyone out there, who might be remotely interested, what it’s like for ordinary people living in the Burg. And it still is that, generally speaking. But our outings have become much more. We realized, at some point, we didn’t want to keep reporting on the same places and events over and over… so we became purposeful about our plans. It went from “Jesus-I-need-a-beer-meet-me-at-Jack-Brown’s” to “Wow! This sounds cool. Let’s go!” And so over the last three and a half years (nearly 1400 days!), we’ve lived much more fully and richly than we might have if no one had been watching.

In that time, we’ve learned that Harrisonburg has some awesome people doing phenomenal work. But more than that, they have a spirit, an energy… a super power that turns ideas into action. We’ve seen this power first hand. We’ve seen it pouring out of 32 taps at a beer festival. We’ve seen it riding a bicycle in a ridiculous costume. We’ve seen it pacing in the back of a theater in the 23rd hour of a 24-hour project. And it has inspired us to create an award for people who live in that spirit on a daily basis.

We thought we thought of it about a year ago, when, at some function, we said, “Man, this person deserves an award!” But Brandy corrected me when she showed me this, from one of our earliest blog posts published in May of 2012:

actionfigures2actionfigures3Maybe I planted a subconscious seed that day three years ago that eventually grew into something, or maybe I thought of it and then forgot, because I have a raging case of CRS (Can’t Remember Squat). Either way, it feels serendipitous. And so on Friday, September 25, Brandy and I presented our very first Harrisonburg Action Figures™ award to Kevin Gibson and Alan Maynard of VA Momentum. We lied to Kevin in order to hijack the mic, telling him we needed to make a short announcement, and then runners patiently waited in the rain for me to choke out a speech held with a quivering hand and pronounced with a cotton mouth.

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photo by Danielle Campbell

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photo by Danielle Campbell

 

burgIMG_2857Fed up with their own unhealthy habits in college, Alan and Kevin decided to form VA Momentum as a way of sharing their new appreciation for wellness with their community. It started humbly with one race — the Valley 4th Run, where runners choose their distance and a charity to support — and it’s grown so much that Kevin ditched his job at JMU to pursue VA Momentum full time. Alan and Kevin’s wives, Kristin and Emma, have also worked their fingers to the bone to get the organization up and “running.” VA Momentum’s events, like the Diamond Dash, Pound the Peak, Valley Vines Twilight 5k, The Rocktown Turkey Trot, The Valley 4th Run, Brothers Craft Brewing Three-Miler, and Run, Sweat, and Beers, have raised more than $25,000 for local charities.

Their award consists of a sweet, one-of-a-kind trophy created by Harrisonburg artist Jeff Guinn and sponsored by Hello Harrisonburg Podcast and Beyond Restaurant and Lounge; gifts from Bella Luna, Midtowne Bottle Shop, and Court Square Theater; and an elegant certificate Brandy created.
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photo by Danielle Campbell

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photo by Ben Fraits

Harrisonburg has not become what it is by accident or by luck. It’s because of hard work. A desire to improve the community. A brilliant idea hatched between friends over a couple of beers that ultimately turns into action. This award celebrates behind-the-scenes heroes – people who have gone way, way beyond human limits to build something great for this town. People who have sacrificed in uncountable ways, who have lost sleep, time, money, their social lives, and possibly their minds to bring their idea to this side of reality, where all of us can enjoy it. These are Harrisonburg’s Action Figures. We’ll be memorializing all of them on this page of our web site. When you see Kevin and Alan at their next event, thank them. And stay tuned for our next recipient, whom we’ll announce in January!

burgIMG_2850bsomeIMG_4014Copyright © 2012-15 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

grass roots: our community place annual lawn jam.

burgIMG_8510Before meeting Brandy at the (approximately 18th) Annual Our Community Place Lawn Jam, I had lunch at The Little Grill. Sitting on a stool at their three-seat counter, I read an article on my CNN app called “America’s Quietest Town.” Greenbank, West Virginia – home of the Robert C. Byrd Greenbank Telescope, a massive, 485-foot structure weighing 17 million pounds that cranes its ear into the darkest corners of space and lures passionate and accomplished scientists from all over the world. It’s a big deal.

And to live in a town with such incredible, powerful, cutting-edge technology, one must sacrifice one’s own modern conveniences. Because even the tiniest emission from someone’s house can disrupt months of research. Spark plugs have caused problems for the telescope. Electronic doorbells. Even faulty electric blankets. They all create “noise” that can interfere with interstellar communications. And so, of course, bigger items, like microwave ovens, cell phones, and wifi are strictly prohibited. Employees of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory ride around Green Bank, patrolling the town’s 143 citizens for illegal emissions. These technological restrictions have rendered the town of Green Bank forever old-fashioned, if you will. Forever lacking all the bells and whistles of our web-connected, web-constructed reality. Oh, those lucky souls.

From there the article trails into a rant about cell phone dependency. It makes me think of the video going around Facebook of the guy who misses the whale that swims right next to him because he’s on his phone. “Pathetic!” we all scream at him. The irony that I was reading the article on my phone while eating alone at the Grill was not lost on me.

All trends reach an apex and fold in on themselves. A few years ago, a new form of snobbery was in full swing – owning a smart phone. I mean, what kind of loser doesn’t have one? GAH. Now that force has reversed itself and I find myself feeling judged if I pull out my phone anywhere, even just to check the time. I kinda hope the folding in continues, because yes, we have become a rude and detached society. And as the Green Bank resident explains in this video, the lack of technology has allowed people to “discover who you are” in a way that is different from the modern world and its huge, global context.

burgIMG_8569So when Brandy arrived, I chucked my phone into my purse (plus, it was almost dead anyway, haha), knowing I was already with the people I wanted to be connected to. And we walked into the crowd.

burgIMG_8547May I say, Our Community Place has really got their act together. Having officially opened in their current location (E. Johnson Street) in 2008, the idea for OCP was born across the street in The Little Grill. Ron Copeland, who bought the Grill in 1992, wanted to prepare a free meal for “anyone in the world,” where people of all walks of life could sit and dine together once a week. That’s how Soup Kitchen Mondays began at the Grill. In 2008, the meal moved over to the finally-renovated (I mean, years and years of fundraising and renovations!) Our Community Place, where they’re now able to serve five meals per week. According to their web site, Our Community Place is “a Christian organization that seeks to accommodate, foster and provide activities and programs related to personal growth and community well being; be a resource in the community for individuals seeking information or services already provided by other organizations; educate and empower individuals toward self-sufficiency, thus creating social capital for the community at large; and nurture a community that appreciates diversity and sees differences and conflict as opportunities for spiritual growth.” And anyone in the world, anyone and everyone, is welcome. People can get a meal there, do laundry, get Internet access, worship, shower, and enjoy each other’s company with games and sports. There’s also arts and crafts, a theater group, classes like drumming, pottery, and Tai Chi, and movie nights. Finally, they host and sponsor lots of events, such as the Lawn Jam and the Shenandoah Bicycle Fest earlier this month, an annual plant sale, Walk for OCP in October, and the OCP Christmas Concert.

burgIMG_8548 burgIMG_8549The purpose of this year’s Lawn Jam was to raise money for their kitchen renovation and new food-based business enterprise. They need to raise $36,700 to complete their projects. To that end, they sold raffle tickets for fifty cents each; prizes included gift certificates from Clementine, Bed Bath & Beyond, Greenberrys, Chanello’s, Court Square Theater, Fox’s Pizza, and Capital Ale House. They also had an AWESOME silent auction with a zillion really great items:
~ a half hour airplane ride with pilot Scott French
~ a beautiful framed mirror
~ assorted rings from Hugo Kohl
~ a one-hour massage from Kathryn Cheeks
~ two tickets to the American Shakespeare Center
~ Old Crow Medicine Show merchandise
~ bicycle panniers
~ a Natural Hair Care Basket
~ a compost roller
~ a day of skilled carpentry
~ a Natural Garden tote bag
~ two watercolor paintings by Shelley Pope
~ a kids’ cycling jersey from SBC
~ New Creation Body Products gift bag
~ JMU football tickets and prize pack
~ Walkabout Outfitters water bottle and t-shirt
~ Lunch with Mayor Jones
~ and a gift certificate from TJ’s Dermographics!

burgIMG_8561 burgIMG_8564On the lawn, people enjoyed two free meals, volleyball, face painting, tie-dyeing, corn hole, basketball, a swing set, each other, and live music all day by Tom Weaver, Eric Olson-Getty, Jeff Gorman, Jake Cochran, Kat and the Travelers, Dr.How and the Reasons to Live, Nic Melas, and members of the Walking Roots Band. You could also put money in a jar to vote either for Mark Doll to wear a Hillary 2016 shirt or for Ron to shave off his beard (!). Not sure if you’ve seen his photo on FB yet, but Ron lost. Big time. Hopefully, though, this year’s Lawn Jam was a big win for him and Our Community Place.

burgIMG_8513 burgIMG_8522 burgIMG_8524 burgIMG_8530 burgIMG_8534 burgIMG_8538 burgIMG_8540burgIMG_8551 burgIMG_8553 burgIMG_8555 burgIMG_8559burgIMG_8566 burgIMG_8572 burgIMG_8579 burgIMG_8582 burgIMG_8587 burgIMG_8590 burgIMG_8593 burgIMG_8596 burgIMG_8598 burgIMG_8607It was truly a beautiful day of beautiful people being simply connected by their common humanity and not disrupting a giant telescope. If you’re interested in volunteering or donating to the Kitchen Renovation, visit their web site, call Ron at 540-236-4314, or email him at ron@ourcommunityplace.org.

burgIMG_8584Copyright © 2012-15 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

hearts and crafts: from grain to growler, court square theater.

burgIMG_2359Beer entered the realm of human existence around the 5th century BC, roughly the same time as the invention/discovery of bread. One can only imagine it was some kind of heaven-sent happy accident. And we’ve been lucky to enjoy the beverage ever since. Several hundred years later, big corporations figured out how to manufacture huge quantities of beer very quickly, but the selection of beer – the types – remained relatively skimpy. I remember, for example, when Guinness was a luxury beer. And when, if the bar also had Bass on tap, you could get a Black and Tan. Guinness – and I still like it, don’t get me wrong – was this exotic, dark, mysterious, fancy beer consumed by college philosophy majors and poets. It wasn’t Keystone or Natty Light – the beer for everyone else.

I traveled overseas a lot during college, and I remember a youth hostel I stayed in that had a 24-hour bar downstairs. They served Guinness on tap and the most awesome grilled cheese sandwiches. I remember waking up at like two in the morning with a hankering, throwing on my bathrobe and slippers, and playing Rummy with a bunch of other Guinness-swilling cheese-munching revelers. I was in hog heaven. To this day, I want that. I want access to good beer, good food, and good people at any given time. I doubt with Virginia’s ABC laws that I’ll ever find such a paradise in this state, but who knows? Virginia’s been at the forefront of beer evolution, in case you didn’t know.

I learned this and other fascinating information about the craft beer movement when Brandy and I saw From Grain to Growler, a short-film documentary by Aaron Stanley and Megan Troy about independent beer brewers in the Old Dominion. Sometimes things come full circle: the whole craft beer phenomenon hearkens back to traditional breweries of yesteryear, with a modern technological sophistication. In other words, the “little beer guy” now has access to what the big beer companies have had for a long time: technology, equipment, reach, and ease of distribution. This is all due to a few passionate brewers who pushed for legislation that would open doors for the little guy.

I was so excited to see a movie about beer that I nailed down a babysitter like two weeks in advance. I made the kids do calisthenics and take extra vitamins to make sure they wouldn’t get sick that day. Okay, just kidding about that. But I did hound Brandy (“Can you go? can you go? can you go?”) about it til she was near the point of slapping me.

And so we went. Of course we had to swing by Capital Ale House first. Brandy’s got this new camera lens that doesn’t zoom, so she has to physically lean forward and back to get the right shot, and wouldntchaknowit, she knocked over her beer. I predict about twenty more spilled beers before she gets used to that thing.

burgIMG_2356 burgIMG_2347Then on the way into the theater, she banged her flash on the door frame, which is pretty much like banging YOUR CHILD’S HEAD. Thankfully we made it to the front row without injuring ourselves or anyone else and plopped down. The film started and I was taking notes like crazy: that short little thing contained TONS of information shared by TONS of beer experts. Following the film was a lively panel discussion that included representatives from Three Brothers, Midtowne Bottle Shop, Pale Fire Brewing, Champion Brewing, and Lickinghole Creek. Here’s what we learned during the film and the awesome panel discussion that followed:

burgIMG_2377Currently, Virginia is 4th in craft beer production. In 2010, there were about 40 brewpubs in Virginia. These were places that brewed their own beer but also sold food. They operated like a restaurant but sold their own beer. Everyone loves a brewpub, yes, but staffing and operating a full-on restaurant just to get to sell your craft beer is kinda expensive. So in 2012, the Virginia Senate passed SB 604, which essentially granted “vineyard rules” to breweries: brewers could sell their beer on site, but without having to provide a full food menu. Like at a vineyard, customers can buy snacks or bring in outside food, then enjoy freshly-brewed beer. With Harrisonburg’s outrageous food truck presence, we have a nice little set up: food trucks roll up to breweries like Three Brothers or Three Notch’d or (coming soon!!) Pale Fire, hungry patrons buy some grub to go with their suds, and everyone’s happy. So Yay! to everyone who lobbied for that bill. Because of it, it’s much easier for brewers to stay in business, hone their skills, and enjoy their passion.

During the panel discussion, several questions were answered. One was, “Who is your beer hero?” Answers ranged from craft beer pioneer Sierra Nevada to Russian River and something called Toad Spit. Panelists were asked what beer logo they’d have tattooed on themselves: Big Sky, Firestone Walker, anything by Flying Dog, and Tim chimed in with the original Calhoun’s logo. And when they’ve had a really rough day, which beer do they want the most? One panelist answered, “The one I can get in my mouth the fastest.” Amen, brother.

burgIMG_2375We learned a great deal about farming and beer, too. Apparently hops is very hard to grow in Virginia; still, our craft brewers try to use as many ingredients from local farmers as they can, which has led to some interesting collaborations. I have a sneaking suspicion that beer fanatics are just trying to get their daily fruit and veggie servings through their beer, what with blueberry beer and pumpkin beer and such… I don’t know… call me paranoid. But farmers have certainly inspired brewers. Which brings me to what I affectionately call Beer Porn. Get ready for these stimulating facts!

* One brewer named his new brew after Jerry Garcia because when he tasted it, “smoke came to mind.”
* Three Notch’d and Adroit collaborated on a Bloody Mary beer called Bloody Roots. Yes. A Sunday morning beer.
* Three Brothers’ Rum Barrel Aged Belgian Dubbel will remind you of Bananas Foster. And it’s won awards, people.
Port City Revival Stout contains oysters.
* The panel agreed that the weirdest name they’ve ever heard is the Woodbooger Belgian-style Brown Ale by Strangeways.
* Many of these ideas came to the brewers because they couldn’t sleep one night, or they dreamed it. So, no, you’re not the only one who wakes up in the middle of the night thinking about beer.

burgIMG_2384In short, it’s hard to brew a beer from start to finish with ingredients all from Virginia, but thanks to dedication, the willingness to sweat and lose sleep, hard-fought legislation, cooperative farmers, and just plain inspiration, we’re getting there. Let’s celebrate those victories, and all victories, and heck, let’s celebrate our troubles, too, at one of our local breweries: Three Brothers, Three Notch’d, and coming soon, Pale Fire and (rumor has it) Back Bay Brewing from Virginia Beach. Let’s face it: Harrisonburg loves beer. We have at least three big beer festivals each year, we were voted Best Beer Town by Blue Ridge Magazine for Pete’s sake, and we have beer-related events constantly, like this Tour and Taste one this Saturday, and now this Beer and Book Share (OMG I AM GOING TO FAINT)  on October 19. Thank you to Megan and Aaron for so eloquently conveying the evolution of craft beer in our state, and thank you to all our local craft brewers for being a HUGE part of that, and thank you, Beer, for ALWAYS BEING YOU, and always being there.

burgIMG_2388Copyright © 2012-14 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

show of hands: court square theater.

Court Square Theater nightI was expecting a different lesson, one about working hard to overcome obstacles and achieve a lifelong dream. After all, Little Bread HenBarefoot Puppet Theater‘s rendition of the old, similarly named story – follows a little red hen’s endeavor to make bread from scratch. Planting and tending the field, cutting down the wheat, doing whatever-is-typically-done to make flour… seems a bit ambitious for a chicken, if you ask me. So I was expecting a lesson about struggle and reward.

But Heidi and Sam Rugg, who operate this outfit, had something else in mind. In a spoiler-free nutshell, Herr Brotmeister and his daughter Maguerite own a bakery in an undisclosed European nation. They have a few hens running around – you know, for eggs – and Marguerite gets particularly attached to one of them, Millie, named for her deceased mother. Business is good.

barefoot puppet 4Then the villains show up: a fox and an older lady who’s got a thing for the widower Brotmeister. Another woman comes in and orders sixty strawberry custard pies for the Strawberry Festival in Paris. A tall order for this tiny operation run by two people and a herd of chickens.

At this point I think, “Wait. Maybe this is about Herr Brotmeister finding new love after the death of his wife! Then again, maybe it IS about overcoming obstacles, what with the pies and all.”

barefoot puppet 2This is what happens when an English teacher attends a puppet show. She tries to pin down the THEME. So I stopped taking notes and decided to just enjoy the show like a kid would. Wasn’t hard.

Herr Brotmeister is so distracted by all these women that he forgets to tell Marguerite about the fox… and Marguerite leaves the gate open… and then gossip spreads through the farm animals like mad cow disease about a dog named Fred and his possible murder… which, of course, causes all the animals to be unwilling to help evil, old Millie make bread, which results in a bread shortage. Ah, consequences. It’s all cause and effect, people.

And so the lesson is a bit less hopeful than my original prediction: If no one helps, everyone gets NOTHING.

barefoot puppet 1The husband and wife proprietors of Barefoot Puppet Theater, Heidi and Sam Rugg, take lots of folktales and add twists and quirks. They also make all their puppets and sets, man all the puppets, each with a different voice, and use props for interactive improv with the audience. It’s really very clever and fun to watch, their antics resulting in squeals and giggles from everyone in the audience, blurring the line between kiddo and grownup. After the performance they were happy to answer everyone’s adorable questions.

barefoot puppetbw 9They’ve been known to perform in major cities up and down the East Coast including Long Island, DC, and Atlanta, and isn’t it nice that we live in a community where awesome entertainment for all ages is just a quick stroll downtown? A quick note to parents: A membership at Court Square Theater is about as vital to your family as your library card and your Kohl’s cash. Court Square Theater members get twenty percent off tickets and FREE popcorn, for the equivalent of about seven bucks a month. Plus you’re helping support the arts in your community. And you can purchase and drink beer and wine in there!! (And of course the usual sodas and other beverages, which I’m admittedly not as excited about.) Now THAT’S family friendly!

Tonight through Sunday you can catch a performance of Valley Playhouse’s Kiss the Moon, Kiss the Sun. In coming weeks, you’ll find a variety of entertainment, including a dance performance, a craft beer film (yow!!), and concerts like Danny Knicely and Ellis Paul. Time to get that membership!

barefoot puppetbw 3Copyright © 2012-14 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

home is where the art is: arts council progressive party, 2014.

progressive party signHarrisonburg, you know how to throw a good shin-dig. I’ve been to some that were all pulled pork and PBR. Some that were wine and cheese and silent films. Some that were champagne and eggs benedict. Some that were margaritas and enchiladas. Some that were craft beer and local food. I even hosted one that was sushi lessons and gourmet cake. But this one was something brand new.

I went to my first-ever Progressive Party with Brandy and I LOVE the concept. A progressive party is one in which guests move from one home to another to enjoy a multi-course meal. Cocktails and appetizers at one location, dinner at the next, coffee and dessert at yet another, and so on. Until a couple weeks ago, my only experience with such a thing has been at my own house. I sorta have my own version of the progressive party… snacks for the kids on the coffee table, then dinner at the kitchen table, followed by maybe a popsicle or ice cream sandwich on the porch. And cocktails for me throughout. Okay, so maybe that’s not really a “party,” but there usually is a fair amount of laughing, dancing, and spilling. And yes, I have been known to make a meal out of cheese, crackers, and rolled up salami held together with those little festive toothpicks.

Anyway, Brandy and I were lucky enough to be invited to the Arts Council’s Fourth Annual Progressive Party. Because our lives are a sitcom, the evening started out strangely. First, the people we’d invited as our “dates” for the evening both succumbed to last-minute illness. Thankfully, Brandy’s sister Brook was available, and that woman went from sweat pants to cocktail dress and drove thirty miles in like 43 minutes. Then, we weren’t sure where exactly we were going, so there’s that. That, and trying to explain the location to Brook. Once there, Brandy managed to get her purse caught in the lace of her dress and then pointed out the three holes in her pantyhose. Meanwhile, I regretted choosing to wear my “superbra” because I couldn’t stop tugging at that thing.

Now, it’s hard for a herd of 260 partiers to eat dinner at one person’s house, so this Progressive Party deviated from the norm a bit. All the guests assembled for happy hour at the home of Chuck and Geri Barker (co-hosted by Keri and Joel Davis). Their spacious home, patio, and garden perfectly accommodated all of us, and we enjoyed a lovely selection of beer, wine, and hors d’oeuvres. We saw lots of friends there, like Mike and Suzi, and Lindsay and Don, and Rachel and Andrew. I complimented Patrice on her dress, and then I learned that apparently, you can RENT clothes. I mean, clothes that are not a tuxedo. You can rent a dress for an evening. And by “rent,” I don’t mean buy it, wear it, spray it with Febreze and return it for a refund the next day. I mean, you can RENT a dress. Perhaps the inventor of rent-a-dress and the inventor of the progressive party are one and the same.

progressive party lawn progressive party patio progressive party patio2At about six o’clock, we were instructed to move to our dinner location. All 260 guests were divided among roughly twenty host homes for a home-cooked meal. Brandy, Brook, and I were assigned to Meg and Bill Wightman’s. In a typical progressive party, Meg and Bill would just serve us the next course, like salad, and then we’d go to another home. But because of the crazy number of people involved in this thing, we stayed put at the Wightman’s for SIX more courses, to be deliciously outlined in the photos that follow. Prepare to drool.

While we waited for everyone in our group to arrive, we looked around their adorable home. The kitchen is gorgeous, and that coupled with Meg and Bill’s unbelievable calmness assured me we were in for a good meal. We admired precious art work by their kids, Alice and Liam, like the butter dish Alice made at You Made It. And we saw Bill’s collection of defaced dollar bills. He would buy defaced bills from the bank, rescuing them from certain shredding.

progressive party butter dish progressive party dollarsprogressive party dinner tableEveryone arrived, and to our delight, we were joined by Chuck and Geri Barker (from whose house we’d just come) and Lindsay and Don Denny. So our group consisted of Meg, Bill, Lindsay, Don, Chuck, Geri, Brook, Brandy, and me. Then the food started. First, this martini glass filled with pink snapper and mango salsa plus jalapeno — yow! Man, that was delish. They get their fish from Pickford’s Fresh Seafood — it’s overnight-ed from Hawaii!! And wine from Vintage Wines — both stores are across from Costco. Oh, and Vintage Wines has tastings on Fridays and Saturdays.

progressive party mangoNext up was spaghetti with Pecorino cheese and pork and some other things I missed because I was eating noisily. Then a salad of baby greens, homemade Hawaiian bread croutons, and goat cheese.

progressive party pastaBetween courses, we chatted about family and friends, about death and legacy (Geri’s mom had recently passed), about kids, and about nearly dying from canoe-related mishaps, which nearly everyone at the table had experienced.

progressive party gals progressive party guestsThen came THE MEAT. Omgahd, the meat. Lordy. Bill grilled these lamb chops and served them over this butternut squash, red lentil, and coconut puree, and I think there was spinach and garlic in there somewhere, and heavens-to-Betsy, it was SO SCRUMPTIOUS. And the little flatbreads with coriander chutney — Lord.

progressive party lambAfter that Meg asked, “Is anyone else hot, or is it just my stage in life?” Or maybe it’s that she’d been running in and out of the kitchen all night. At any rate, the next course cooled us off: a grapefruit champagne sorbet. And finally, dessert. A blueberry-white chocolate bread pudding with amaretto sauce. You wouldn’t believe the reaction. Everyone just wanted to move in. We all fell in love with the Wightman’s at the first bite.

progressive party bread puddingLamentably, the meal ended, even though I was stuffed to the gills and couldn’t possibly have eaten more. Except maybe one more lamb chop. Or five. At any rate, the final “course” of the progressive party was a performance by Blue Label at Court Square Theater. They played songs by artists from Elvis to Stevie Wonder to Lady Gaga. We heard “Happy” and “Footloose” and “PYT.” And people were dancing like CRAZY. I was seriously trying not to scald someone with my coffee as I wiggled my way down the aisle. And once I felt I had safely digested most of that delicious meal, Brandy, Brook and I cut a rug, too! In another part of town, in fact just a few yards away, MACRoCk was raging… but I’m pretty sure we had just as much fun.

progressive party concert1 progressive party concert2If you ever get a chance to attend the Arts Council Progressive Party, you won’t regret it. Not only will you be treated to an exquisite meal, but you’ll have warm conversations with friends old and new, you’ll get to dress up (even if you have to rent it, girl), you’ll get to hear some music and dance your feet off, and most importantly, you’ll be helping the Arts Council continue to provide Harrisonburg with meaningful art experiences. Hope to see you next time!

Copyright © 2012-14 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

all in a day’s (and a night’s) work: the 24-hour project.

24-hour project mike and laurieAfter the awesomeness of Friday at the 24-Hour Project, Brandy and I decided that Saturday we’d return, this time with Michael and some of the kiddos in tow. We scoured the program, reading through the descriptions of the 24 performances scheduled for day two, and with input from all involved, decided to try to make it to the theater in time for Mike Hudson at 1pm, because according to the program, he was “a guy you haven’t heard of” who “plays songs on the piano that you haven’t heard, in ways you haven’t heard.” Our curiosity wouldn’t allow us to miss THAT.

So after some breakneck-speed sledding down a steeper-than-we-thought hill, we raced home to put on dry clothes and then raced to Court Square Theater. We managed to score seats right up front again. I don’t know why more people don’t sit in the front row. We love the front row: I love the leg room, and Brandy likes to be able to get where she’s going without awkwardly squeezing between seats, bonking people on the back of the head with that giant lens.

Mike did exactly as promised: he played songs on the piano — some we’d never heard. A sad one called “I Couldn’t Say It To Your Face” about a quiet exit from a relationship. An unusual assortment of other covers, from “Music for a Found Harmonium” (Penguin Cafe Orchestra — you might recognize it from Napoleon Dynamite) to a Belle and Sebastian song, to Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes.” As many times as I’ve heard that old number, I’d honestly never heard the lyrics so clearly as when Mike sang it. A primitive protest song. At one point Mike told the sound booth he’d “feel a lot more confident if I could get a little more in the monitor.” They made the adjustment, but take it from us in the front row: we detected no such lack of confidence.

The female vocal ensemble Shekinah (which means, roughly, God’s presence among the people) performed next, bringing with them only a bongo, a tambourine, and a chair. At first I thought the chair was just in case the pregnant lady needed to sit down… but no, it was for the bongo player. Brandy and I saw these ladies at the Our Community Place Christmas Concert in 2012. Cal was enthralled and loved their purple dresses. I remember he asked me if he could “pet” them. ??? Anyway, they dressed in purple on this day, too.

Shekinah proves with their voices that the human being is the greatest musical instrument in existence. I can’t understand the concentration required to do what they do. Each of them must somehow hear only herself, because each woman seems to sing a distinct part, but she must also pay attention to the group so she doesn’t veer off and end up somewhere else. Not only that, but they sang ten songs in seven different languages, including a Dolly Parton cover, a traditional Irish children’s song, a Finnish song based on Psalm 100, and a sassy Bulgarian number.

After Shekinah, we took a little break at the Explore More Children’s Museum. The beauty (well, one of the many beauties) of the 24-Hour Project is that you could come and go. When the kids finally got all their wiggles out, we returned in time to see the Ears to the Ground Family take the stage.

ears to the ground family 1Any time you get a chance to see this band, you MUST. I mean this sincerely — I can’t believe how great they sound. Beautiful harmonies, clear as bells, never a sour note, never a lackluster performance. It’s probably not a priority to be “famous” or whatever, but they totally could be.

They have a few instruments — guitar, trumpet, bongo — but they also make use of their hands and feet, shoes and skin. My favorite of their set was Nichole’s song for her mom, in which she repeats, almost chants, like a prayer, “With a love like this, I will not despair.” Also, “Prison Cells,” a song about, essentially, forgiveness (and hypocrisy) inspired by a judicial system that just won’t “let them forget what they done wrong.” And the song about time: “Why waste so much precious time when we can float downstream in the living water, be grafted to the vine?” Thank you for that reminder!

ears to the ground 2Lastly, Chris Howdyshell took the stage. Yes, he was the last performer. The closer. By this point, a certain… euphoria hung in the air. Maybe it was sheer loopiness emanating from everyone who’d been up for 24 hours. It became clear that Chris’ job was to keep everyone from keeling over in exhaustion. He was their Red Bull. And really, there’s no better person for that task.

chris howdyshell 1He sang a few songs… “He Is a Friend of Mine,” accompanied by the story of Oliver’s birth. The one for Mariana, with the Alan Watts backstory. The song about workin’ and money and family — mighta been called “Walkin’ With the Devil.” But no, it’s actually called “Happiness.” But mostly he just talked to us. He entertained with a string of meandering anecdotes, like how he once ran into Nick Melas at the community health center, and even with a mask on, Nick was the “best looking guy in the place.” He also recalled the history of Open Mic at Little Grill… let’s see, it started with Ron Copeland, then Jay Zehr hosted it, but “only for a year because he got old,” and then Chris took over in the year 2000 until he left the Grill a year or two ago to become a restaurant manager.

chris howdyshell 2Which led to a story of his near-death experience. He’s taking phlebotomy classes, and during class, students “practice” on each other, and someone accidentally pushed IN on the syringe. Chris expected to die instantly, but he didn’t (obviously)… but his hand, where the needle went in, did swell up and get huge and black and horrifying… and after that big, long story he reminded us that he “paid money for that!” And the last thing I remember was  something about a wicked book from elementary school that scarred him for LIFE.

I wonder, next year… could there be a 36-hour project? Or 48? <cringe> Or, how about this — have a 24-hour project every quarter. This one was so much fun, I’m sure people will be eager to participate and attend the next. Here’s hoping that happens soooooon!

24-hour project survivors 2Copyright © 2012 – 2014 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers.This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

 

 

all day and all of the night: the 24-hour project.

24-Hour Project programsThe week leading up to the 24-Hour Project at Court Square Theater, I only worked one day. It was a teacher workday – we were finishing up first semester grades and planning for the second semester. I had a most productive day. I finished my grading and made a couple weeks’ worth of shiny, pristine, gorgeous lesson plans.

As usual, when I get ahead at work, we get a snowstorm, because the Universe can’t allow me to be fully and confidently prepared for tomorrow. So, we missed school the rest of the week. And each day, I thought, “Surely we’ll go back to school tomorrow,” so I made sure to be AS LAZY AS POSSIBLE that day, staying in bed as late as possible, returning to bed as often as possible, exerting as little effort as HUMANLY POSSIBLE. If I had known, lol, that I’d have a whole week off – man! I would’ve accomplished sooooo much more. I would have cleaned out the fridge, painted my kitchen cabinets, and laundered the linens on all five beds. Instead I ate Cheez-its, drooled on my pillow, and junked up on Dr. Phil. My mind grew as soft as the Playdoh my kids had dropped all over the family room carpet. Meh.

But Friday, January 24, I showered. I dressed. I did the hair and makeup. And I met Brandy at Capital Ale House for a sip before we embarked on the 24-Hour Project. Did we make it the whole 24 hours? Pffffffft. Heck no. For one, we got started a couple hours late. Two, I’d reverted to such an infantile condition that week that I worried what might happen if I wasn’t back in bed with a Binky by 11pm. So… this is a recount of what we actually saw.

When we got to the Capital Ale House that evening, the bartender immediately asked if we were responsible for “those love notes.” Did you see any of those? Someone (and no, it wasn’t us) sent love notes to local businesses. We could tell – based on handwriting and content analysis – that the notes came from a group of people. Creative people. People who could write a love note using the phrase “bloodless corpse” (Midtowne Market’s note). Dragonflies Toys and the Yellow Button also received notes, among other businesses. And Capital Ale House got this one:

Capital Ale HOuse love note frontCapital Ale House love note backWhat a nice ray of sunshine in that dreary week! Ah, Burg. You are so loved!

More evidence of Burg love: the attendance of and participation in that evening’s main event. The 24-Hour Project welcomed 46 acts (more than 200 performers!) who gave of their talents and time to put the Harrisonburg arts community to an “endurance test.” Could a theater stay open for 24 hours straight, managing back-to-back performances, patrons who arrived at all hours, and their own sleep deprivation? Yes. Could artists of all kinds get themselves to the theater and deliver a quality performances at any ungodly hour? Yes. Would patrons be so excited by the variety of performances that they would stay awake and attend the event for 24 full hours? Yes. And this 24-hour period is merely a microcosm of our arts community and the endurance needed to continually promote it and grow it.

We arrived at the theater, got a couple beverages, and found empty seats on the front row. I leafed through the program and read the descriptions of the performers. Some were quite intriguing, like Chris Howdyshell’s invitation to take a shower. Or Akota Chase: “the place you find yourself after drinking just enough to realize you’ve been conversing with the devil.” Or Crab Action, who managed to include “corpse paint,” “space opera,” and “uplifting” in their 40-word description.

First up for us was the JMU Horn Society, who for thirty minutes soothed and entertained us with several French horn pieces… from Handel’s Watermusik to a more playful number, “Hide and Seek.” In fact, JMU was quite involved with the Project, contributing eight performances and more than three hours of entertainment.

JMU Horn Society1 JMU Horn Society 2

Bourbon Barrel Congress hit the stage next, and if you haven’t seen these guys perform, you need to find out when you can and make arrangements. THEY ARE SO GOOD. Ethan Hawkins’ voice made me want to sob during the first number… sadness tinged with a weeeee bit of anger/vengeance/romantic tension: “I want you so bad… I want you so bad.” But then Chris Davis sang. Lordy. “I put some whiskey into my whiskey, I put some heartbreak in my heart” and that whole mournful thang. JUST STOP IT. We were mildly confused when they sang “Nothing Gets You Down Like Your Hometown”… Brandy pointed out that they must be from Staunton. Wamp! Good one!

Bourbon Barrel Congress 1 Bourbon Barrel Congress 2Luke Gibson and friends were… well, hilarious. I laughed continuously for their 15-minute set, even during the “uncomfortable silence” advertised in the program. At times he stood, at times he sat, at times other people came on stage… he joked about the stress of having to perform, his math teacher who sells drugs (it’s a JOKE, people), and delayed sentiments leading to heartache… None of that sounds funny as I read over it now. I guess you had to be there.

Luke Gibson 1 Luke Gibson 2I probably won’t adequately express how, ahem, funny Ivan Christo was, either, during his stand-up routine. He joked about how Virginia is just North Carolina upside down, what if hats could talk, and how some jokes only make sense in Wilmington, and his props (a piece of neon green poster board) added a much-needed element of awkwardness :) Punchlines included “drop your drawers,” “bald beagle,” and “it’s freakin meowt.”

Ivan ChristoDead Professional (aka John Harouff, aka the guy who’s also in Cinnamon Band) is just awesome. He does this thing with drum loops and two vocal tracks and his guitar. He harmonizes with himself. It’s part trickeration and part sheer talent… except it’s no trick: he’s responsible for all the sounds… playing music with his hands and feet and heart and lungs, all by himself.

Dead ProfessionalIt was getting kinda late and my Playdoh mind was wandering. Do musicians ever, during a performance, just get tired of singing? I mean, I love to sing, but I never sing for ninety minutes because I run out of hot water after like thirty. I also sing in the car while my kids cringe in the backseat. And even that’s never longer than thirty minutes or so… and even still I find myself saying, “Man, singing makes me tired!” Maybe I’m just doing it wrong.

The last performance I saw on Friday night was Medicine Calf. They are the loudest two people I’ve ever heard. And I mean that in the best of ways. The drummer played with those giant Q-tip things, and the brushy things – I love that sound. I loved their complicated rhythms and tempos; I heard tones of Pink Floyd and Radiohead at times, and at other times, I’m not exactly sure what happened. But they were phenomenal.

Medicine CalfI got in the car. I was bushed. I thought about the many long hours ahead for the theater staff, volunteers, and performers. I thought how committed and caffeinated they must be. I resolved to return the next day, kids and all. There was too much good stuff; I didn’t want to miss more than I had to.

Growing an arts community isn’t easy. Many people have forgotten that art is a natural part of daily life. It brings depth and meaning to the rest of life. It softens the demands of work. The stress of family. The pinch of finances. Art suspends time, and that suspension is about as good for the soul as anything. After a long day of work, it’s sometimes hard to go back out just to see a couple paintings or a performance. But once there, you are infused with such energy that you want to return soon for more. And that’s why, after a week of Cheez-its and Dr. Phil, I NEEDED to get into that theater for an infusion. The arts cannot be looked upon as extra-curricular, as something one enjoys on a special occasion, or something reserved for those of a particular class. Harrisonburg works hard to provide regular, affordable access to all forms of art, and that work – the constant fundraising and promotion and creation – takes a level of endurance many communities just don’t have. Thankfully, our community does have it.

Stay tuned for the story of Saturday’s performances at Court Square Theater.

Court Square Theater nightCopyright © 2012 – 2014 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers.This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

screen shots: rocky horror picture show 2013.

burgIMG_5791bwburgIMG_5822 burgIMG_5831burgIMG_5804bwCopyright © 2012-13 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

quite frankly: rocky horror picture show 2013.

burgIMG_5891bw burgIMG_5918burgIMG_5839bw burgIMG_5852bwburgIMG_5798Copyright © 2012-13 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

prepare to be euphemized: rocky horror picture show 2013.

rocky horror picture show posterOr maybe euphenized. Whatever. What I’m saying is, this blog is usually rated PG. And what I saw at the Rocky Horror Picture Show — on screen and in the audience — was NOT.  So I’ll be putting some things mildly, if you know what I mean.

Gahd, I love this town!

Brandy and I planned for WEEKS to attend Court Square Theater‘s presentation of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I’d never actually seen it on the big screen… I’d only surreptitiously viewed bits and pieces of it long before I was old enough to, and the last time Brandy watched it was when she got it through the BMG video club. On VHS. Yes. Needless to say, I didn’t know exactly what to expect. I knew it was “weird,” and racy, and interactive… but I did NOT expect the level of participation I witnessed that night.

When we arrived at the theater, I noticed people were dressed up. Not “dressed up” like fancy… but dressed in costumes. Everyone was feathered and painted, horned and sequined, glossy, ruffled, glittered, laced, fishnetted, fedora-ed, boa-ed, suspendered, party-hatted, and even slightly naked.

rocky horror picture show costumes BW rocky horror picture show costumes2I was beige. Sitting in the middle of the theater with my glasses and notebook and clicky pen, wearing beige pants and a slightly darker beige sweater. BEIGE. I was immediately recognized as a first-timer by this gal…

rocky horror picture show JK… and promptly tagged with a big red V. I felt a little better when I had two Three Brothers Great Outdoors-es in my hands. I carried them and our baggie of props — assembled and sold by the theater for a totally-worth-it five bucks — to our seats. The baggie included rice, a rubber glove, a noisemaker, confetti, a page of newspaper, even a water gun (egads!), and I’m sure some items I’m forgetting, plus a set of instructions for when to use said items. The teacher in me was excited to organize our supplies while the emcees (Julian “J” Kline — the V lady — and Tony “Left Skate” Lopez) welcomed the ever-burgeoning crowd.

rocky horror picture show bag contents rocky horror picture show bag listBefore the show, everyone who dressed up (which was pretty much everyone, except Brandy and me) was invited to participate in the costume contest. First, the Magenta competition. All the Magentas filed onto the stage. Tony gushed, “So many French maids! I’ve never wanted my home cleaner than I do right now!” The audience cheered to indicate their favorite Magenta.

rocky horror picture show contestrocky horror picture show maids BWNext up were the other characters… the Brads, Frank-N-Furters, Rocky’s, Riff Raffs and such… and here are the winners!

rocky horror picture show costumesThen all the newcomers, like me, had to stand up while everyone yelled “Virgin!” at us. I felt something reminiscent of middle school shame… Then, the giant lips appeared, and the ride had begun. Don’t worry. There are no spoilers here. While I was thoroughly entertained by the film and the audience, there were several times I didn’t know what the heck was going on. Plus I was so consumed by the baggie of props and being ready for the next activity that my attention was divided. I mean, I wore the rubber glove for like ten minutes because I didn’t want to fall behind.

rocky horror picture show riceAND, right at the moment I was supposed to squirt water all over people, I DROPPED my water gun and was completely defenseless. No worries. J came down the aisles and sprayed everyone. No one escaped. It sounded like a flock of geese in there when the noisemaker part happened, and Brandy and I were both nerdishly concerned about the mess after the confetti landed all over the wet floor.

Based on the colorful words everyone was screaming at Brad and Janet, I guess they weren’t the hero and heroine, but I kinda felt sorry for them. Innocently having car trouble, innocently approaching a house to ask for help, innocently having silhouetted encounters with others behind a sheet. Wait.

rocky horror picture show lipsAnd right when I thought those two would never make it out of there alive, Meatloaf showed up. And I had to pee. Did I? Hell no. Meatloaf was on, singing his fat head off. And everyone was dancing in the aisles and it was AWESOME! Then the film took a violent turn, and Meatloaf, as Brandy said, became hamburger. Toward the end, the characters took a friendly dip in the pool and sang “Be It, Don’t Dream It,” which was rather touching, and all the frozen characters were electrically unfrozen. And after all he’d been through, being held there against his will and all, a forgiving Brad asked about Frank, “But what’s his crime?” Really, Brad? You’re soaking wet and wearing a corset. And then there’s a bizarre return to the home planet where everyone’s hair is awful. I still don’t know what the point was of that neckless narrator guy.

See? No spoilers!

When the film ended, the room exploded in applause. It’s weird to clap at a movie, because it’s not like the actors are going to come out on stage and take a bow. But we all clapped and clapped and clapped some more. The last time I clapped at a movie was at Rocky (the one with the Russian). Or maybe it was Return of the Jedi. Either way, I was a kid and my dad was sawing logs in the seat beside me.

rocky horror picture show tony JKThanks to Court Square Theater for hosting the show and making those goodie bags. I’m sorry to the folks who had to clean that up, but thank you to them, too. And thanks to Tony and J for enthusiastically and energetically emceeing the event. And thanks to all the Burgers who dressed up and made us smile!! You ROCK!

Today and tomorrow at Court Square Theater, you can catch Enough Said at 5:30 or 7:35, and next week is the SuperGr8 Film Festival, Wednesday and Thursday! Yay! If you’re curious, here’s what happened at last year’s festival.

See you out and about!

Copyright © 2012-13 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

city kids: a guide to summer fun in the burg.

I don’t know about you, but during the school year, I am BUSY. And my kids are busy. The end of the year arrives none too soon, but still shockingly fast, and I often find I’m… unprepared. Come Monday, June 10, I’m going to have that “oh-my-gosh-what-the-heck-am-I-gonna-do-with-the-kids-now” freak out. But this year, I’m determined to be prepared when they ask, “Mom, what are we going to do today?” So I’ve compiled this list — for myself, for you, for everyone who might find themselves in this predicament — of activities, camps and classes offered by Harrisonburg businesses and organizations to keep your kiddos busy allll summer long.

kids on a slip-n-slideSpitzer Art Center Children’s Workshops
Children ages 5 – 10 can sign up for one of many classes offered at the center. Register one week ahead for topics such as collage, drawing, water color, greeting cards, and more.

Larkin Arts Youth Summer Art Program
Kids ages 6 – 14 can attend week-long, 3-hour classes for $85. Classes include papier mache, sculpture, basket making, drawing, collage, photography, food art, painting, and a bunch of others.

larkin arts signArts Council of the Valley and Court Square Theater Summer Art Camp
These 3-hour, Monday to Friday classes cost $80 and include acting, characterization, script writing, choreography, improv, singing, dancing, poetry, filmmaking, comic creation, plus many more. Ages 6 – 15.

You Made It! also offers week-long camps, Monday to Friday for three hours, for $185. Ages 6 and up. Classes include clay, canvas painting, wheel throwing, pottery painting, fused glass, and several others.

kid in treeExplore More Children’s Museum offers 4-day classes, three hours per day, for ages 3 – 5th grade. Topics include LEGO engineering, Jedi training, Culinary Kids, Project Funway, Castles, Crowns and Catapults, Animal Adventures, and Construction Junction, to name a few.

kids hands holding LEGOSBlue Ridge Community College Learning Can Be Fun 
BRCC offers a zillion classes for grades K – 12, including art, music, dance, theater, culture, history, literature, nature, science, technology, sports and outdoor recreation. The classes run Monday – Friday for 3 hours each day, through the end of July.

James Madison University
JMU also boasts a large assortment of camps for summer kids, including baseball, softball, soccer, basketball, volleyball, lacrosse, football, fencing and field hockey. They also offer band camp, diversity studies, poetry workshops, nonviolence seminars, and STEM classes.

Harrisonburg Parks and Recreation
In addition to spending some time at one of our many city parks, like Purcell, A Dream Come True, or Hillandale, your child can enjoy swimming at Westover Pool (open Monday through Saturday noon to 7pm and Sunday 1pm to 7pm) and a variety of classes. Some of their offerings include guitar, mountain biking, water adventure, adventure sports, rock climbing, rafting/kayaking, a ton of dance classes, archery, fishing, jump rope, skate boarding, and pretty much every major sport.

child in pool child at poolMassanutten Regional Library kicks off its annual Summer Reading Games, but you have to register THIS WEEK to get the free pass to the Massanutten Water Park. Other activities include Baseball Storytimes (Turks read to kids), Crafty Kids, LEGO Club, and Stitch and Knit, plus others.

RMH Wellness Center has full- or half-day camps on a weekly basis, for kids ages 4 – 11. Kids will learn about topics like dinosaurs, medieval times, the ocean, and space, plus participate in activities like swimming, rock climbing, indoor and outdoor games, playground time, crafts, fitness, and sports.

Library signYes, summer is about relaxing and decompressing after a stressful school year, but keeping your kids active will make them healthy, blah blah blah. Really, it’ll make them SLEEP WELL at night :) So sign up for something today! Consider it an investment in the sanity of your household. You’ll all be better for it.

child asleep in carCopyright © 2012-13 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

heaven on wheels: costume bike parade 2013.

Bike Parade 1Oh, suburbs, you’re killing us all.

The invention of suburbs was one of those “seemed like a good idea at the time” developments of the modern era. People could move out of those crowded, noisy, dirty cities and into a larger home on a sizable lot and enjoy peace, quiet, relative privacy. It sounded divine at the time and was quickly accepted as “a good idea.” But, as humans are wont to do, we didn’t think about the consequences… longer commutes in the car, more gas, more time, more water and other resources all for the sake of having a slice of real estate all to yourself. And the cities, vacated, simply fell apart. Businesses left. Factories closed. Crime increased. What a mess.

Then postmodernism came along and showed us that we don’t know jack. We have no foresight. We bulldoze along without thinking of ramifications down the road. At least we started to become aware of our lack of awareness, right?

And now we’re in some kind of post postmodernism where we’re trying to stem the tide of all those bad consequences. For example, we woke up to the fact that cars use too much gas, and the hybrid was born. Yay — fuel conservation! But what do I do when the battery in my Insight poops out?? I can’t just throw that thing in the landfill… And plug-in electric cars that require no gas at all — what a great idea! But if you’re plugging it in to an outlet fueled by coal, then… there’s not much environmental advantage. These are the problems we now see and are trying to fix… but when we fix them, will we finally have developed some foresight so we don’t create yet another new problem?

Problems like this reach an apex, where they’ve been worsening at an exponential rate and they start to double-back on themselves… and the only option is to start over. Get back to basics. We probably all recognize, on some level, that we can choose to simplify now, or we can wait until conditions deteriorate so badly that we’re forced to. Here in the burg we’ve been working on simplifying for some time. We have a number of community farms, like Port Road Community Garden, Collicello Gardens, and Our Community Farm, to name a few. The folks at The Natural Garden will actually arrive by bike to work in your yard. We’re a town of co-ops and collectives and local businesses and farmers markets. All of these endeavors underscore Harrisonburg’s desire to get back to basics: to reduce urban sprawl and make it easier for people to ditch their cars and walk or bike to work and school. To spend money locally. To undo some of the damage we’ve caused and try to conserve a little here and there. And to work as a community to solve our own problems, rather than leave those solutions in the hands of strangers. Slowly but surely, this community is gaining ground.

Bike Parade kids 3To that end, it’s Bike Month in Harrisonburg, kicked off on May 3rd with a Costume Bike Parade downtown. As I headed to the Turner Pavilion to meet Brandy, I saw the first cyclist of the evening: Noel Levan, sporting Kermit The Frog socks and a clown nose, among other silly items. Little by little bike enthusiasts started rolling in. Some of the costumes included a Banana, Mario, and a shiny metallic sword-bearing Robot (Nate Shearer). Some type of fox-like animal, which might have been a kangaroo because I heard him refer to himself as marsupial. An old man in a bathrobe, a spring fairy, and a cat with a bull horn. A cow wearing a boa, a butterfly, and a disco sompn-or-other.

Bike Parade group 2 Bike Parade group 4There were a dozen or so kids — a little Spiderman, Pebbles, a doctor, a knight, a couple of fair princesses…

Bike Parade kids 2And there were a few scoundrels — one who looked like Captain America but might have been a sinister Gladiator… gun totin’ Blue Bullet and the Bandits (they actually had a horse head on the bike)… and <eeek!> Jason.

And let’s not forget Tony Lopez being assaulted by Dark Spiderman!

Bike Parade group Bike Parade group 3After the parade, participants attended Singletrack High and the Adventure Seen Cycling Film Festival at Court Square Theater. What a night!

Bike Week theater 1 Bike Week theater 3But that’s not all. The month of May is full of bike-related events to bolster support for our ever-growing cycling community. Just last week Harrisonburg enjoyed Bike to Worship, Bike to Work, and Bike to School events, as well as the annual Ride of Silence. Still to come, an Ice Cream Ride, Sunday the 26th at 2pm at the Wolfe Street Kline’s, and if you donate to the Northend Greenway this month, you could win a bike with accessories! And the burg has lots of long-term bike initiatives in place, including Rocktown Trails, Bluestone Trail, the Northend Greenway, and the Bike-Ped Plan, all in the name of improving safety and accessibility for cyclists and pedestrians.

Bike Week theater 2When we look at the world, or rather, our corner of it, it’s easy to see the problems, the destruction, our detachment from nature, other people, and ourselves. But little things, like this event, start as a seed of hope in one person’s heart, germinate into an idea hatched among friends over a few cups of coffee or mugs of beer, grow into a community event, and then evolve into a movement. Action. Awareness. Progress. I moved here nearly twenty years ago. I was a 21 year old wearing a huge set of blinders and didn’t know squat about art or the environment or social consciousness. I essentially grew up here; most people do mature a great deal between age 21 and 41. But this city made me evolve; it made me aware; it woke me up. This is where I learned to care about things way bigger than I. I am so grateful my kids are learning, too. So grateful this is my community. So grateful for all of you.

Copyright © 2012-13 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers.This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

loud & clear: MACRoCk 2013.

MACRoCk tee shirtOn Sunday, April 7, I saw this post on Facebook and laughed out loud:
macrock facebookIt was like 8pm.

Not surprising. God bless those folks who once again brought this two-day music conference and thousands of people to Harrisonburg. I can’t even imagine where to start putting something like that together. If I can get rice, chicken, and green beans to be ready at the same time, I’m impressed with myself.

We attended MACRoCk on Saturday, the second night. And actually, the day started early, at the Larkin Arts first-ever Art Market (read about that here). More than a dozen artists plunked their wares on tables outside the Denton building. It was sunny and bright, people were chatty and cheerful, and the burg was a-bustle with locals and visitors alike. A happy morning.

Many Nights AheadAfter a bit we made our way to the Blue Nile for the label expo, where we saw books and upcycled clothing, tee shirts, buttons and stickers, pottery and “animal-friendly taxidermy,” and, refreshingly, lots of vinyl.

Label ExpoLabel Expo Label ExpoThen Brandy had to scoot out for a bit, and Michael and I headed to the Dodger. By now it was 2:30. We’d already been downtown for four hours and had ten hours yet to go. When we arrived there, Pachangacha was on stage and the place was packed. We found a tiny sliver of space at the bar. It was funny to watch the crowd come and go. After Pachangacha finished, this massive throng of people vacated, chasing the next show, and some seats opened up. We quick planted ourselves at a table. We enjoyed a performance by Amanda X — three ladies out of Philly: Cat Park, Kat Bean, and Tiff Yoon. They released their first EP back in August. Have a listen! Then sure enough, the mass of spectators shoved through the doors, and this time we scored a booth!!

Artful DodgerNext up was a band from New York called Lvl Up whose latest album Extra Worlds had JUST been released that very day. And they were loud as ohmyfreakinears. In a good way. And with quiet segments that would build to some kind of sonic boom. They’ve got two guitars, a bass, and drums, and they took turns singing or sometimes all three of them sang. I heard a little hint of Weezer at times. They were really great, and it stands to reason that we liked the next band, too — Sirs — because the two bands share some band mates.

MACRoCk Dodger 8 MACRoCk Dodger6Seat update: After Lvl Up we snagged the coveted “circle booth” at the Dodger. We knew Brandy would be coming with Danielle and Ben, and I was right tickled to know that everyone would have a seat. So we moved ourselves and all our stuff one last time, and stayed there through two more bands.

Artful Dodger 3As I was saying, Sirs played next and then Monument, from Maryland. Both bands were awesome, freakishly loud, extraordinarily tight. Brandy (sporting her MACRoCk press pass…. eeeeeee!), Ben, and Danielle arrived and we all mouthed “hello” to each other. Then we had a conversation about where to go for dinner by passing around a spiral notebook. Yes, it was that loud. Louder even. I felt like I was stuffed with cotton. In a good way.

press passIt should come as a surprise to no one who ever reads this thing that we ended up at Beyond. I don’t remember a whole lot about our dinner conversation, probably because I couldn’t hear ANY of it. But a good portion of it was devoted to the fact that Beyond had just gotten a keg of Juju Ginger beer, and Brandy got THE FIRST GLASS OF THE SEASON. This was better than the press pass, I think.

Juju JujuWe also talked about the band descriptions in the MACRoCk program. Some of our faves:

Black Mask – If you’ve never been curb stomped, Black Mask is probably the closest you’ll come without doing the deed. Metallic hardcore from Punxsutawney, PA for fans of early Converge, Nails, and Black Breath. Makes you wanna puke blood in the best way.

Barbelith – Atmospheric depressive black metal inspired by the wrathful elder gods, soiled by the scummy streets of Baltimore.

Borrowed Beams of Light – Borrowed Beams are a soundtrack to the perfect sunny summer indie-rock barbeque that you and all of your friends want to get drunk at.

Dope Body – Noise-rock freakcore from Baltimore. Do you ever think that your punk could use a little more metal and your metal could use a little more funk and that your funk really should be garage rock and not funk? You’re on this band’s wavelength then. Noisy guitar spazzouts are cut with freak hybrids of punk and funk rhythms.

Legs Like Tree Trunks – Mellow guitars with a side of reverb-heavy twinkles and soft-sung, dreamy vocals. Sounds like taking your shoes off after a long day of work.

Shat Shorts (omg) – Very, very weird punk. Blends hardcore, noise-rock, and thrash into one ridiculously chaotic package. Rhythms jump and shift drastically, and this one guitar is just spazzing out the whole time.

Other than that, the only really notable part of the conversation was when Brandy asked, “Wait. Is Jimmy short for James?”
Beyond Restaurant Beyond sushi

fansUnlike the hordes of people who zigzagged through downtown, moving in and out of venues like kids on a scavenger hunt, we tended to stay a while. So our second and last stop of the evening was Court Square Theater, where we saw Wynter Poe, Half Circles, and Timbre. That place is so comfy, what with its cushioned rocking chair-ish seats, age-defying lighting, and beer, there’s just no good reason to leave. We got there at about 7:15 and found seats on the front row. Good for photographs, and good for leg room.

Wynter Poe was unexpectedly awesome. I mean, we really had no expectations, but she impressed the crowd. The band — four people including Wynter — played at least five instruments: a couple of guitars, a bass, drums, a dulcimer. Here and there they sounded a bit like The Sundays, and Wynter’s vocal quality reminded me of Christina Perri. Other than that, the band defies comparison.

Wynter Poe Wynter PoeWynter Poe Wynter PoeIt was fun to see Half Circles, an eclectic Harrisonburg band who played far more instruments than they collectively had hands for. The guitar at times smacked of The Cure; another description that comes to mind is “bluesy Smashing Pumpkins,” but neither of those comparisons can pin down their multi-dimensional sound because suddenly there’d be a melodica or a xylophone or a flute to change my mind. Honey-laced vocals by Dan Baker and the unassuming, hands-in-pockets Amanda Styer led each tune and provided a solid foundation for their instrumental concoctions.

Half Circles Half CirclesWe fell in love with Timbre last year and couldn’t wait to see her again. And hear her, too, of course. But part of a live show is the visual aspect. And when one band member is seated behind a cello, one is seated behind a harp, and one behind a drum kit, you might not expect much in terms of a visual experience. BUT, that cellist was amazing to watch, Timbre looked beautiful in her gown behind that gleaming harp, and the drummer (who played a gorgeous wooden Whitney kit) actually danced while he played. They were all obviously quite happy on stage and love what they do. So they looked great. Add to that their incredible, crystal clear sound. They are made for live performance because their hypnotic music fills the space so well.

Timbre TimbreAdd to THAT their lyrics. Lines like “No one will know you long enough to sing your song back to you when you’ve lost the tune” juxtaposed with “Pain can be beautiful, my dear.” And a song inspired by the George MacDonald story “The Day Boy and the Night Girl” about light and dark and how they came to discover each other. The song centers around her perspective, from her dark cave. Her lamp, and the only light she’s ever known, breaks. She finds a way out of the cave and sees the moon for the first time. Then she meets Day Boy, and he shows her the sun. She wants the light, even if it hurts or kills her. He wants to be unafraid of the dark. They need each other’s strength. As the song says, “If I have seen only the night, can I imagine the day?” We see what we know; we know what we see. Sometimes we must step out blindly, even when it’s scary.

And on that “note,” (oh, ha!), we stepped out into the dark night with the moon shining and music playing in the distance and people laughing and our minds buzzing and our ears ringing. In a good way.

See you next year, MACRoCK!!

Copyright © 2012-13 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

MISSplaced blame: women in focus at court square theater.

After viewing Miss Representation at Court Square Theater, then sleeping on it, then thinking on it, and then writing about it for several days, I reached this exciting and hopeful conclusion: we’re ALL culpable. Women point the finger at men, and at each other, men point the finger at women, and all that’s left is your own finger pointing at yourself. Which finger you choose to point with is entirely up to you.

When Marian Wright Edelman, Founder & President Children’s Defense Fund, states in the documentary, “You can’t be what you can’t see,” I understand what she means. It’s hard for children, male or female, to become something that, for lack of a decent example, they’ve never been exposed to. For instance, if a child never had a responsible, loving parent, then how can he or she become one? But tell that to Sally Ride or Amelia Earhart. History shows us that every new advance, any kind of progress, starts with some sort of pioneer… there’s a first time for everything… and those pioneers — people of all genders and races and backgrounds — did indeed become what they couldn’t see. This pioneer spirit might not be fully awakened in us all, but if one female child can aspire to be the president of the United States, she clears a path of hope for the rest. What I’m saying is… we don’t need a TV commercial to show us our potential. We don’t necessarily even need a good role model, although that certainly helps. Some people need only the pioneer spirit, to rise above their current circumstance and see themselves differently. This is where social progress occurs. In the heart of each individual.

artfuldodger1One part of the film I thought particularly interesting discusses the impact of WWII on women. As I’m sure you know, during WWII women entered the workforce in droves to fill the gaps left by deployed men. This was a new and tantalizing taste of freedom and purpose and ambition for women. After the men returned, most women were laid off. Okay. But what I didn’t really think about, which the film points out, is that television during that time — its programs and commercials — subtly urged (is that an oxymoron?) women to stay home and attend to domestic responsibilities. Commercials and shows depicted women cleaning and cooking and the like, and doing a good job of it. Here were thousands of women feeling displaced because they’d enjoyed their jobs during the war and were now relegated to scrubbing Jello off the kitchen floor again… television gave women a renewed sense of pride in being the woman of the house. And it was necessary, really. (Personally, I would have LOVED being a stay-at-home mom. That ship has sailed, and I accept that, but I am nurturing by nature and would have been GREAT at it!) Anyhow, the film contends that this steady diet of domesticity fed to women by their televisions created a social environment where women stopped believing they could competently work outside the home. It’s been nearly seventy years since then, and the film asserts that seven decades of this message has caused today’s young women not to aspire to high-level professional occupations. I don’t recall the exact statistic, but the idea is that if you poll really young girls, many of them will say they want to be the president or a business owner when they grow up. When asked a few years later, after countless hours of discriminatory media consumption, those same girls say they want to be teachers (gasp!), or nurses, or other typically female, lower-level positions. Ergo, the media erodes a girl’s confidence, and fewer women enter high-level jobs or seek positions of power. But… Sally Ride and Amelia Earhart and countless others have transcended gender stereotypes….

womeninfocus1So now we get to the blame game.

One of the female interviewees in the film states that men are “emotionally constipated.” They, too, have been negatively affected by how the media portrays women. They are not immune to the objectification, dehumanization, or “pornification” of women. And as her remarks continue, she seems to imply that men are being conditioned to be abusive. I am concerned about this with my son. As his mother, I’m his primary female role model, but there’s only one me, and lots and lots of other females in the media who project a different image. Of course I don’t want him to grow up thinking women are fake or plastic or worthless objects. Then again, my dad served in WWII and until 2005, also received this same diet of June Cleaver and Lucy Arnaz, and, other than making us eat dinner in the family room on Saturday nights so he could watch Solid Gold, he didn’t objectify women. He had great respect for his mom, his wife, and his three daughters. Heck, even my tenth-grade students understand that wearing Victoria’s Secret underwear will not make them look like Heidi Klum.

So what’s our excuse? Women can’t totally blame the media for all their issues or shortcomings, because someone like Oprah Winfrey or Billie Jean King will come along and shatter those misconceptions. Likewise, men can’t blame their “emotional constipation” on the male-dominated media, because someone like my dad will come along and show he doesn’t buy into all that.

That’s the key. We just have to get every single person on the planet to stop buying into ridiculous images and ideals of women AND men. It’s really just awareness. I mean, once you realize you’re being manipulated, then it’s your own fault if you continue to be. Hence the finger pointing earlier. And so that’s what Miss Representation strives to do, even though I’m still not sure the film adequately conveys it… Let’s just drop all notions, related to groups of people (genders, sexes, races, income levels), that are limiting. Let’s just decide not to believe it any longer. And let’s stop blaming the other groups for our own oppression and access our pioneer spirits. Visit the Miss Representation web site to join one of their many campaigns to empower ALL people and dismantle sexism altogether.

Thanks again to Court Square Theater for providing a chance for the Harrisonburg community to explore our own culpability.

Copyright © 2012-13 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

MISSleading media: women in focus at court square theater.

womeninfocus8The saga continues…

Here we are, at the third installment of this series about Miss Representation, a documentary which explores the effects of various media on women. Tonight I’m writing about mixed messages—mixed messages the media sends to women of all ages, and mixed messages in the documentary itself. For example, there’s a part of the film where Gloria Steinem and Jane Fonda (two separate interviews) rail against the unfair, unrealistic expectations that women must be young and beautiful and sexy and physically perfect in order to be valued… yet these two women are caked in makeup and hair spray. Again with the makeup thing… really? I know, I know… but I couldn’t help notice that two well-known and highly respected women who have, their whole lives, supported the ideas of equal rights, feminism, and self-expression, are worried about looking their age. ??? Have they, too, fallen under the same spell they’re criticizing? And if Gloria Steinem and Jane Fonda can be duped, is there any hope for the rest of us? Ugh.

I’m sure I’m remembering the segments of the documentary out of order, but I recall a part where a series of images is projected—images of Bratz dolls and Sarah Palin, of Paris Hilton and Florence Nightingale, of Barbie and Daisy Duke and Hillary Clinton. There are also photos from various fashion magazines, and a demonstration of how photo editors digitally “enhance” (manipulate) the faces and bodies of the models. Why do we even need real-life models anymore, now that we have this technology? How has the modeling industry survived the advent of Photoshop? I mean, the models’ eyes get enlarged and widened, their cheekbones defined, their noses straightened, their waists whittled, their breasts lifted, their thighs thinned… all with a few clicks of the mouse. In the end, the images look only remotely like the original models. Sorry, viewers, but what you see is a carefully crafted illusion… not a real human being.

The dolls, sexy movie stars, and Photoshopped models send an immediate and lasting visual message, that’s, for some, more influential than a speech by Margaret Thatcher or an interview with Georgia O’Keefe. And while we know commercials are inherently deceptive and manipulative, even “reputable” news channels like to report on our female leaders’ appearance much more frequently than they would a man’s. So even female politicians, artists, doctors, scientists, humanitarians are reduced to their physicality, rather than elevated to their intellectual capacity. Why would a young woman aspire to become a leader if even the news doesn’t acknowledge female leadership? This leads me to what I think is the most disturbing portion of the film: “news leaders” like Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, and Glenn Beck calling women (like Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, and others) “b*tches.” In one clip a news anchor asks if Sarah Palin had breast implants! I mean, I made fun of (then) Governor Palin’s “Russia” comment, but I didn’t call her a b*tch and question the authenticity of her body parts. I also remember an image of Hillary Clinton wearing something that revealed about a centimeter of cleavage. Like Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction,” this incident was quickly dubbed the “Cleavage Controversy.” Can you imagine hearing about Bill O’Reilly’s “Bulge Controversy”? Never. And have you SEEN Rush Limbaugh? How he could ever remark about someone’s looks is beyond me. Can someone Photoshop him?

I’m sorry – was that b*tchy?

The point is, women have bodies, and whether they dress themselves in business suits or bathing suits, someone will criticize their appearance and ignore the rest. And THAT is a mixed message. What’s worse is the effect this constant negativity has on the relationships among women. Women question each others’ ability to lead, because we believe women lack the emotional fortitude to be tough, firm, consistent, rational, logical. (I’m laughing now, thinking of my mom and how strong she is, in so many ways. Really, you have no idea.) The constant focus on female appearance has created a habit of unhealthy comparison. This “beauty competition” causes jealousy, which causes hatred, which is really just self-hatred. Do men have this dilemma? I’m asking sincerely, because I truly don’t know.

And so we’ve ingested the poison. We’ve been conditioned to hate each other. A common compliment among women is to say, “You’re so pretty. You make me sick.” That is self-loathing wrapped in flattery—another mixed message—kinda like a cockroach wrapped in bacon. Goes down so smoothly you don’t know what you’ve consumed.

All this, unfortunately, has a lasting effect. One that can be overcome with awareness, yes… but it’s hard to “un-ring the bell,” so to speak. Once an idea is firmly planted and grows into an ideal, it’s hard to uproot it. If I had to give a name to this burden, I would call it unworthiness – a sense that no matter what one does, it’ll never be enough. As one high school student says in the documentary – her name is Maria – “When is it going to be enough? How long is it going to be for someone to take a stand?” I’m sad that she feels so defeated at such a young age, and that she doesn’t see herself as someone who can take a stand.

womeninfocus9I’ve always been tall and slender, just like my parents. Yes, I used to run a lot and completed a couple of marathons, but no matter my current level of fitness or what I eat, I stay pretty scrawny. I’ve gotten some flack from other women about this… I’ve been on the receiving end of “you make me sick.” Many people think that because I’m an ectomorph, I’ve had it easy. I haven’t. Like the film explains, women of all shapes and sizes will be judged for their shape and size until… until it’s no longer a value, I guess. So I’ve been judged, too.

Let me paint you a picture, lol: In ninth grade, I was 5’11” (like I am now) with a size ten shoe, and thirty pounds lighter with red, frizzy hair. I was Ronald McDonald. My two best friends in high school were David and Austin, because to the girls, I was that “weird girl,” quiet and awkward and lanky and bookish. I didn’t wear a bra until I was fourteen, and that was only because kids made fun of me for not wearing one. I didn’t need one, and I still don’t. I remember my friend Shannon in seventh grade coming to my defense, telling other girls that my bra was invisible… the latest thing! While other girls/women hated me for my thin frame, I coveted their curves and long straight hair. I would wear leggings under my jeans in hopes of filling them out just a little more. I never went so far as to stuff my bra because I would have been mortified if the sock had somehow moved to a strange position or, God help me, fallen out. But I certainly considered it. On the flip side, no men ever say to me, “Hey, baby! Nice protruding hip bones!” or “Look at the rib cage on her!” A mixed message: women seem jealous of my body type, but men seem disinterested in it.

Okay, my face is starting to flush because I’ve revealed A LOT in this post. I will add this: my body has served me well, and it continues to serve me well. There’s really nothing I can do to change what I have (or don’t have), and that’s fine. My short hair doesn’t get many whistles either, but I like it. I think it suits me.

But I’m still not leaving the house without makeup on.

Copyright © 2012-13 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

MISStaken identity: women in focus at court square theater.

Part Two of Four

future woman, in focus.

future woman, in focus.

The previous post, “Girl Talk,” summarizes my experience talking to women about issues facing women. It also underscores how totally confused I can get when faced with a complex topic. The remaining posts in this series — this one and two more — will explore the statistics presented in the documentary Miss Representation, the complexity of gender stereotypes, the mixed messages conveyed by the “media,” and ways of sorting it all out and moving forward. Maybe. ha ha.

I should re-iterate that this type of post is a slight departure from what we usually do, and everything you read here is what I see through my personal lens. That’s really all anyone can offer. So, I take full credit or blame for the ideas contained herein (official disclaimer).

After the Women In Focus social at the Dodger, I headed to Court Square Theater for the documentary. I must’ve gotten there earlier than I intended, because there were just a handful of people seated around me. But sure enough, just two minutes before the film was to start, a long line formed in the corridor. Now, ladies, do we have to be late for everything? And did we have to perpetuate a female stereotype at a film that explores the perpetuation of female stereotypes? So Michael Weaver politely took the stage and assured us that the film would start just as soon as they could get everyone through the ticket booth. And several women, ahem, just talked right over him. Eventually, the theater filled up: eleven men and a zillion women.

I’d like to share this synopsis from the Miss Representation web site in case you didn’t see the film:

“Like drawing back a curtain to let bright light stream in, Miss Representation uncovers a glaring reality we live with every day but fail to see. Written and directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the film exposes how mainstream media contribute to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in America. The film challenges the media’s limited and often disparaging portrayals of women and girls, which make it difficult for women to achieve leadership positions and for the average woman to feel powerful herself. In a society where media is the most persuasive force shaping cultural norms, the collective message that our young women and men overwhelmingly receive is that a woman’s value and power lie in her youth, beauty, and sexuality, and not in her capacity as a leader.”

Writer and director Newsom, a former actress turned activist and documentary filmmaker who herself experienced debilitating body image problems, narrates the film. The film relays lots of disturbing statistics, some of which I’ll try to summarize and tie together here.

First, as a nation (according to the film), we spend more on beauty than on education. However, the film does not fully substantiate this claim. Does it mean that a lifetime of beauty products and procedures costs more than four years of college? And what if the student gets a scholarship or grant? There aren’t grants for beauty products, so I can see how those numbers might be unclear.

STILL, the statement implies that women value beauty over education, which IS a sad idea, no matter what you believe. If you believe it, then it stands to reason that, according to the film, sixty-five percent of women and girls will experience some form of eating disorder. If females value beauty so highly, then they’ll go to extreme lengths to achieve it. Newsom also implies that the MEDIA forces/conditions/brainwashes women (starting at a very young age) into valuing beauty over education. This is the part I struggle with. I think it’s safe to say that our upbringing and social/economic environments do shape our values as kids. But once we’re adults, we can choose our values, and if I value beauty over education as a grown-up, that’s my choice, not necessarily the media’s fault. What the film strives to do is make everyone aware that the media is manipulative (in many ways) and therefore, what the media “tells someone” about him or herself is not necessarily true. For many of us, this awareness occurs naturally as we age, but not for all of us. And even if we DO become aware, it’s hard to reverse the damage.

The documentary also gives statistics about females in the film industry. Only seventeen percent of protagonists in movies are female, and these roles typically “revolve around the pursuit of a man.” That IS a sad statistic, yes, but I can think of a few films where the female protagonist had an agenda other than something romantic: Jackie Brown (my all-time favorite); Million Dollar Baby; and The Silence of the Lambs, to start.

womeninfocus7The film purports that “women appear to be empowered” but any female protagonist is “very much objectified and exists for the male viewer.” Further, the film states that objectification leads to violence, like rape. I believe this to be true, but not purely in a man-objectifying-woman sense. As a culture we’ve become object-oriented and materialistic, and many times we mistreat others because of our view that they’re somehow disposable. We’re all collectively guilty of that. However, just because a man sees a sexy or scantily clad woman in a movie does not mean he’ll commit a violent crime. Plus, that would suggest that by wearing provocative clothing, women are “asking for it.” I don’t think Beyoncé was promoting rape during her half time show.

So, how is all this objectification occurring? Well, according to Miss Representation, women comprise only three percent of people in “positions of clout” in telecom professions. Essentially, men are the “puppeteers” and women are the “puppets.” But let’s not forget — women are accepting the Hollywood roles that they themselves are objecting to… right? I mean, women are PAID money to portray certain characters, who might then have a negative effect on a female audience. We can’t talk out of both sides of our mouths. A woman can’t rail against the chauvinism of a Hollywood film AND be its leading lady. I’m not an actress, but I do wear makeup. If makeup is a problem (and if you’ve seen a mascara commercial recently, you’ll probably agree that it IS a problem), then I am part of that problem. I am contributing to it by purchasing the product. The film, and the web site, asks us — all of us — to stop purchasing products that contribute to objectification in this way, very much like the way we’ve evolved to avoid products that harm animals or the environment. I can’t disagree with that philosophy.

But, I like makeup. I like feeling pretty. I like getting compliments. That doesn’t happen when I leave the house without my face on. Clearly, I am contributing to my own objectification and that of others. Uuuuuuugh. Like I need more to feel guilty about.

To me, all this data adds up to a bunch of mixed messages, which the film also explores, and which I’ll delve into next time. Thanks for reading. Please offer your comments! We are lucky to live in a nation where we can openly discuss topics like this, and we are doubly lucky to inhabit a city that encourages social debate, awareness, and progress. Thanks again to our Court Square Theater for unearthing the discussion.

artfuldodger2Copyright © 2012-13 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

girl talk: women in focus at the court square theater.

Part One of Four (yes, I’m serious.)

Well, what a night this was. One that dredged up all sorts of psycho-emotional sludge I try to pretend no longer exists… stuff that, at age forty, I should be beyond, I guess. And so what started as a pleasurable outing with several ladies of the ‘burg, our conversations meandering innocently enough, turned quickly and unexpectedly to doubt about my ability to “successfully raise” two children, anger and shock, dismay at my evolution as a human being, and sadness that as a woman, maybe I haven’t “come a long way, baby,” and really, I have no one to blame but myself. As I work through my notes about the Women In Focus social at the Artful Dodger and the documentary Miss Representation hosted by Court Square Theater, I see they reveal a disappointing truth. Warning: this is the first ever potentially offensive ilovemyburg.com post, lol. And, the views expressed in this post are solely mine… unless you agree with me, which would reeaally make me less nervous right about now.

Women In Focus was a celebration of women’s stories hosted by the Court Square Theater, featuring presentations of Miss Representation, a documentary about women and the media; North Country, a film starring Charlize Theron as a mine worker; and The Vagina Monologues. The series kicked off with a social at the Artful Dodger. Lots of ladies, and men who love and admire them, attended – including several strong female members of our community, like Sara Christensen, owner of The Lady Jane, Lara Mack (she’s back!), Alice Wheeler, Ashley Hunter, Laurie Benade, Suzi Carter, and several others.

womeninfocus3

event organizer, Laurie Benade! Bravo!

womeninfocus4 Brandy, Sara, and I got on the topic of Condoleezza Rice, and how some magazine called her a dominatrix because of her outfit – forget the fact that this highly educated woman was at one time the US Secretary of State and that she could smoke your butt on Jeopardy. Somehow her outfit that day smacked of sexual power (not intellectual or political power)… even though she was not at all dressed in a manner one might call “provocative.” Then we talked about what THAT means – dressing in a provocative or promiscuous way… and then the question was posed: can a man dress promiscuously?
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
What would that look like? Low-slung pants? Tight pants? No pants? No shirt? And would a man look at another man’s outfit and say, “Look at that slut!”? Then again, when did “we” (whoever that is) decide that any type of attire is bad or inappropriate? I know I am uncomfortable showing a lot of skin, but I don’t know WHY I am. Gosh, this is confusing. But somehow, in terms of women’s fashion, most people equate conservative dress with frigidity/prudishness, and revealing dress with promiscuity/porn stardom.

This led to a discussion of Beyoncé’s Super Bowl halftime show. My kids and I watched the Superbowl. My daughter watched the game with great interest, and when Beyoncé performed at halftime, she made no mention of Beyoncé’s outfit, but rather remarked about the TV screen dance floor and “cool special effects.” My son, who for the entire first half of the game ran in circles around the family room, wearing a cape and underpants and wildly waving a foam sword, had a different reaction. He sat down and watched her performance, every second of it, mouth open, eyes fixed on the TV. He dreamily said, “Mom, she’s shaking her body” and “Why is she only wearing her underwear? Isn’t she cold?” Now, these are children, and I didn’t coach either of their responses –these were their natural reactions to Beyoncé’s show. Interesting. And I really don’t know what conclusions can be drawn from it. My son seems to admire the female form.

Okay.

My daughter complimented her singing and did notice that Beyoncé’s entire band was female. But neither of them criticized her. What were the adult viewers thinking? Did the men ignore her talent and dedication and only see her thighs? Did the women also ignore those things and secretly hate her thighs? Geez. Now I sound like some kind of feminist. Or chauvinist. Or alarmist. Or extremist. Or maybe just a polite receptionist. I don’t even know.

Later, as the effects of this evening sank in, I wondered… should I have told my six-year-old son not to have stared at Beyoncé? Would that have shone a light on something beyond the scope of his kindergarten mind? Am I a bad mom for letting him – or both kids – see it? By doing so, have I created in my daughter a self-destructive habit of comparing herself to others? Egads. Beyoncé is a beautiful woman – yes – she’s also talented and successful, whether you like her music or don’t. Can we praise her and condemn her in the same breath?

And so I think about what I want to impart to my children. My kids see what many people don’t see – they see me in the morning, with my pale face and crow’s feet, my rumpled, frizzy hair, no makeup, frumpy bathrobe – they see me in the raw. But they also see me prepare to leave the house, in full hair and makeup and appropriate under- and outer garments. Am I silently teaching them something I don’t want to – that I am ashamed to leave the house without my mask?

womeninfocus6As I reread this post now, I see how confused I am. Or was on that night. Or still am, because I’m not done thinking about it. I even noticed the “lol” I typed earlier, like I’m apologizing for having an opinion someone might disagree with. If I were a man, would I have typed that “lol” ?

Lol.

A thousand words, and I haven’t even GOTTEN to the documentary yet. Also, the word “Beyoncé” starts to sound weird when you’ve read it/written it 27 times. Okay, I’m taking a break to watch something with Will Ferrell in it. I’ll be back with more heavy stuff soon. Stay tuned for part two.

PS–a big thank you to Court Square Theater for bringing these issues to the forefront, as uncomfortable as they might be sometimes. And to the Artful Dodger for letting us hang out.

Copyright © 2012 – 13 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

going to gr8 lengths: super gr8 film festival.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge came up with it… what he defined as “awakening the mind’s attention from the lethargy of custom, and directing it to the loveliness and the wonders of the world before us.” It’s one effect that art—music, poetry, film—has on us: transportation to another time and space, whether comfortingly familiar or refreshingly foreign. It doesn’t matter which—we just like to go there. And that’s why we love to read a good book or watch a riveting film. As my daughter simply put it, “It feels good to sit in the recliner and forget my own ideas for a while.”

Yes.

The term Coleridge coined for this phenomenon is the “suspension of disbelief.” And although he was originally talking about poetry, it applies to any art form and has evolved in movies since Thespis and the origin of acting itself, to the cinematic pioneering of Antonioni, to the funny/grotesque stylings of Tarantino. It’s that moment when, in the viewer’s mind, Marlon Brando stops being Marlon Brando and simply IS Don Corleone. Sylvester Stallone IS Rocky Balboa. Daniel Day-Lewis IS Abraham Lincoln. Will Ferrell IS Ricky Bobby. You get the picture. Ha.

Sometimes the “suspension” is caused by a filmmaker who’s soooo good that his or her film carries the viewer to another realm entirely; other times it results from the willingness of the viewer to ignore low-budget special effects and narrative hiccups and just go with it. The Super Gr8 Film Festival showcased both methods, in full force, forty-seven times over.

We got to the Court Square Theater lobby just before six on the first night (Black and White night), expecting a long line. Thanks to advanced ticket sales, there was none! Yay! That meant we had enough time to grab a beer at Capital Ale House. Once again confronted with that giant beer menu, I decided to just let the bartender recommend something. I raised my hand and waited to be called on. Michael and Brandy chided me mildly for it, and even snickered, but the bartender came right over and took our order. I chose the first beer the bartender suggested. Unfortunately for him, that variety was upstairs. So was the beer Brandy chose. That’s when Brandy came up with the best freakin’ idea since 8mm film, a device she calls… ready? The Alevator <insert trademark symbol here>. Yes, that’s right, an elevator for beer, so those poor chaps don’t have to scurry up and down the stairs all night.

Before long we heard some activity in the corridor so we drank up and headed out. I’ve never seen so much smiling and hugging, people laughing over their many mishaps during filming, others curiously predicting the slate of films that evening. The line moved swiftly and in just a few short minutes we’d gotten our tickets from Danielle, our programs from April, and beers from John. Beer at a theater is a really nice feature, and so… European or sophisticated or something. But they might consider serving shots next year because, oh my–the nerves. Several people needed a stiff drink :) Anticipation was reaching critical mass. And the place was packed solid.

The films began, and my disbelief immediately ceased. So many films to get lost in, like El Viajera, where a cornfield is the saddest place in the universe, and love is expressed in feet. Or Onward, a solitary soul’s journey to the peak. Jump, with the best slow-motion jumping I’ve ever seen, and Funny Dancing in the City, which had the best message–“So Much Fun!”

One that particularly touched me was Ode, in which an older couple gets ice cream cones together. Old hearts, new love. Something so simple… a film haiku, if you will. I want that. Clean, Classic, Safe 2 also spoke to me. It asks, “What is the meaning of age in the context of eternity?” Seconds later, he sticks her in the freezer.

The rotating shotgun scene in Take One impressed me in a craftsmanship kind of way… yet the couple, whose love endures no matter the circumstances, impressed me emotionally. While all the films were funny/touching/weird/random/sad/nostalgic, the one that elicited the strongest reaction in me was The Alamo. The young man’s voice reading the letter to children… his difficult experience in a war zone getting sanded down to something palatable… “The work we do here is very important.”  How does one explain war to a child? I wish we never had to. To me, that film felt SO real that for three minutes, everything else fell away.

The conclusion of that night’s films brought cheers and applause and hoots and shouts, and then we all slowly returned to reality and started to file out. I heard many beautiful comments and compliments among the filmmakers, the actors and participants, and the fans. Everyone warmly celebrating all the achievements of the night, large and small–from the perfect way Barbie rolls across the floor in her car, to how a piece of music fit its film perfectly, to the seemingly effortless way Paul and Tim made it all come together. This buzz of happiness and relief followed us all to the Nile for the after party.

Even though there were awards up for grabs, no one seemed nervous at the Nile. The hard part was over–seeing the film for the first time.. having all those nerve-wracking questions finally answered–did my film turn out at all? Did the music match up with it? Did the ending get cut off? Aaaaaggghhh! All that was over now, and the rest of the night was about being with fellow artists and art lovers, curing one’s lethargy with the loveliness and wonders of friendship.

I’m sad to say that I was unable to attend the Color Night, so I can’t relate that experience. However, if you missed either of the two nights of films like I did, they’re ALL being shown again November 29 and 30 at 7pm. All 47 films on each night!! Visit this link at the Theater web site to get tickets and information.

And finally, here’s a list of the winners of this year’s Festival. Congratulations to all, and thank you so so much for suspending my disbelief for three minutes at a time.

Black & White Film Awards
Best Visuals – Jaguardini’s Electric Jesus
film by Ivan Christo

Best Actor / Actress – Take One
film by Brandy Somers
actor Luke Wilson

Best Soundtrack – El Viajera
film by Ben Fraits
music by Don Townsend

Best B&W Film – Jaguardini’s Electric Jesus
film by Ivan Christo

Audience Choice – Chris Happens
film by Jeff & Emily Guinn

Color Film Awards
Best Visuals – The Other Side of the Record
film by Jay Zehr

Best Actor / Actress – Storm in the Heartland
film by Joseph Huffman
Actor Joseph Huffman

Best Soundtrack – Super Gr8 Heroes
film by Teale Davies
music by Bran Flakes

Best Color Film – The Birds and Lady Justice
film by Aaron Cook

Audience Choice – Herbivore’s Revenge
film by April Sedeen & Tim Estep

Paul & Tim Award – Paper Plane Pilot
film by Elwood Madison III

Tim & Paul Award – The Alamo / La Corrida
films by Jeremiah Knupp & Holly Marcus

Stay tuned for more super photos of the festival this week! And see you at the encore presentation!!

Copyright © 2012 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers.This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

that’s why it’s called ROCKtown: MaCRoCk 2012.

When I handed Brandy the press pass, she actually squealed. And the night only got better from there. Well, except that she kept flashing that thing like she was the fire marshall or something. As if people don’t already get out of her way when they see her coming with that monstrous camera.

It’s been at least ten years since I’ve attended MACRoCk, definitely before my kids were born, and it’s even awesome-er now than back when I didn’t tire out so quickly. Brandy and I went on the first night (Friday, April 6) because it was also First Friday downtown (post forthcoming!) and there were so many cool things to do. How do two girls on one night cover an event that spans thirty-one hours and showcases more than eighty bands? We really can’t. Child protective services would be at my door (JUST KIDDING.), Brandy’s camera would explode, and my notebook just isn’t that big. Sorry. But we can do the best we can and have fun. With so so many bands participating and no clones of ourselves, we had to be focused and disciplined. We wanted to see a couple of local bands, for sure, so we let that goal carve a path for us that evening.

First up, Elephant Child at Downtown 34. This local three-piece suit features John Hostetter (guitar and vocals), Aaron Propst (bass), and Scott Whitten (drums). The crowd grew as the performance continued, and soon the place was full of fans all nodding their heads to the music. Which of course is a sign of approval, but it might also have been involuntary because those three guys were so chest-thumping loud, the whole place was vibrating.

Sidebar: I love music, I love live music, and I love loud music, but I’ve noticed that spectators do strange things at shows. Like clapping. From a very young age we are taught to bang our hands together. Why do we clap? When and where did this start? I mean, who was the very first clapper, and how did clapping evolve into the custom it is today? Don’t get me wrong… I clap, too. Enthusiastically. But I find it strange. And sometimes I watch myself clapping and think, “How odd of me to do this.”

Okay. “Beehive” was a great number… “We drove out to the canyon and we lost our minds…” Heads nodding, hands clapping… we wish we’d gotten more than forty minutes of them.

It was dinner time, so we grabbed some food. It didn’t take as long as we thought, so we had time to meander from the path and go to Court Square Theater for a couple of shows. Once there, Brandy’s press pass suddenly acquired magical powers, because I looked up and she was just gone. I think she teleported in there or something. Anyway, the band that was playing–The La De Les, from Ohio–had already started, and I entered the theater just as they finished a number. Now, I embarrassed Brandy when I said loudly, “BRANDY SOMERS,” but I was not going to scan all those hundreds of people, looking for the back of her head. And where was she? Front row. Yep–press pass. Once I was finally settled in, we really liked the performance. Again it was just three people–Jocelyn, Aaron, and Cody–and they sort of all played everything.

Jocelyn sang and played keyboards; Aaron played a bass, a drum, and his Mac, all in bare feet… he even recorded a drum track as he played; and Cody sang and played guitar. Their sound was like, according to the MaCRoCk program, “golden beams of light shining through huge white fluffy clouds.” I’d say that sounds about right. I love all the technology they used and how they played with sound. Lots of layering of sounds that distilled into this ethereal, melodic effect.

We stayed put for the next band–Timbre out of Nashville. As soon as I saw the harp, I knew two things: I’d love this band, and I’d cry at some point. Timbre, the female harpist, wore a gown and a long braid and reminded me vocally of Leslie Feist plus Joni Mitchell (my all-time fave, by the way). Her frighteningly massive range revealed a pure and unfaltering voice. There was also a cellist and a percussionist, and I was absolutely glued to their performance.

There was no head-nodding, no clapping… not a sound anywhere but on stage. I think we all stopped breathing. They closed with a gauzy, goose-bump inducing cover of Radiohead’s “Like Spinning Plates.” After their set, Brandy and I sat there stunned, then looked at each other and said, “Damn. That was good.”

It was time to head to Clementine to catch Invisible Hand from Charlottesville. The place was PACKED and just kept getting packed-er.

It was 10pm. We’d started our adventure at 6:30, and the evening itself was shaped like a piece of music–an energetic, yet low-key beginning, followed by an emotional bridge, and now crescendoing into a beautiful crowd of happy people all smushed together to see this four-piece blow the roof off.

Brandy flashed the pass and wiggled her way to the front. And anywhere else she wanted, for that matter. They had two drummers–one standing and one seated–two guitars, and a bass. Loud and fun and quirky and dedicated, they were very much loved by the crowd.

At this point, I must admit, I was TIRED. Happy, but tired. And though I wanted to see Valkyrie at the Nile, I didn’t. Brandy, however, was NOT out of energy,  and she went. Infused with the power of the mighty press pass, she found the endurance needed to see MaCRoCk Night 1 through to the end. She said Valkyrie was awesome, so awesome that “everyone went crazy and I feared for the safety of… my camera.” No worries–she got some shots of them and got out with no scratches or cracks.

I was unable to go again on Saturday, but Brandy did–and you can see photos of The Cinnamon Band, Bison, Bib-bi, The Turlocks, Psychic Teens, and The Beets at her photography page here. Wowee–that woman is busy!!

MaCRoCk staff and participants, thank you for a crazy night of talent. Ya blew our minds.

citizens’ upRISEing no. 10: RISE.

When I saw the Slinkies outside the door, I was instantly reminded of that Jim Carrey movie Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls and the scene where he lets the slinky travel down all those stairs, yelling “It’s gotta be some kind of record!” and singing the Slinky theme song. If you remember, the Slinky stops just before the last step. Ace throws his hands in the air and shouts, “Oh, man! Can you believe it?! It was RIGHT THERE!” Ugh… all that excitement and anticipation and then… a last minute fail. Little did I know how relevant that movie scene would be to the sermon that day at RISE.

RISE is a Methodist church housed in the Court Square Theater. What a super venue: comfy seats, great acoustics, all sorts of audio/visual capabilities, and CONCESSIONS. (!) If you haven’t been, here’s a glimpse of what to expect.

When we attended one Sunday last month, we were met with a large, friendly crowd. Worshipers of all ages, infant to elderly, mingled in the lobby like long-time friends; people casually chatted while sipping coffee and nibbling muffins… it smacked of a family reunion. Yet another thing I love about this town.
Upon entering the theater with a shameful amount of goodies clutched in my arms, we heard Brent Levy and a six-piece band warming up the crowd with music lively enough to raise the dead (uh-oh, I feel a whole bunch of church jokes coming on. I apologize.). They have their own arsenal of songs, but they also play popular favorites from bands like the Avett Brothers, U2, Journey, and even The Muppets. And above the stage hung several large signs that said things like, “You can do it!” and “Yep… even THAT guy” and “It’s all good.” Wow–signs from God, right here this whole time. (Yuk, yuk, there I go again. Sorry. Okay, no more.) The signs were all part of a continuing series called “That’s What God Said.”
Pastor Amanda is absolutely darling–a powerhouse of heart and spirit with a cute haircut and a humble yet captivating demeanor. I loved watching her retell well-known Biblical stories (David and Goliath, for example) with a new energy, peppered with funny and touching anecdotes from her own life.

The first thing she said to the congregation was, “You are a gift.” Well, I almost started crying right there. Instead I inserted another muffin and got a grip. The message of her sermon was that God gravitates toward ordinary people and says over and over, “You can do it!” She pointed out several instances in the Bible where this occurs. Sometimes people think God has forgotten them because they’re “small, ordinary” people. They forget they deserve grace just as much as anyone. And she asked this question: “Why do we expect ‘wow’ to be something we can’t reach?” God thinks we’re ‘wow’ just how we are. Perhaps we could try looking through a similar lens. She demonstrated this idea with a story about her Senior Prom. The theme was Carousel of Dreams, and it might have been the ugliest prom in history. It was one event in her life that had a great deal of build up, then turned out to be ordinary, followed by a nasty bout of disappointment. But, there’s beauty in ordinary, too. Sometimes we’re Slinkies that don’t make it all the way down the stairs.

Then I spaced out for a bit while I remembered my own prom. I realized I don’t remember much of it. I don’t remember a theme. Here’s what I do remember:
1. Instead of going out to eat, my parents cooked us dinner at my house and served it to us in courses. While wearing aprons. CUTE.
2. The DJ played the senior class song, “I’m Goin’ Straight to Hell” by Drivin’ and Cryin’.
3. My date and I didn’t stay long. (Sorry, Mom.)
Here are some things Amanda said that stayed with me:
~”When we say we’re not enough, we’re also saying God is not enough.” Think about that one.

~ “Life is messy. Stop saying you’re sorry for being human.”

~ “We focus on who we’re not”–because we live in a society that commodifies and measures everything, imho.

At one point Amanda projected a picture of Jesus and laughingly called Him the Swedish Jesus with Highlights. I audibly guffawed at that remark–I mean, we’ve all seen that portrait of Jesus, right? And it reminded me of a time when my daughter was three and she saw a similar picture and asked me, “Mom, was Jesus a surfer?” Because of His hair, not the whole walk-on-water thing. So thank you, Amanda, for reminding us that Jesus was not from Scandinavia. Or California.

You can attend RISE every Sunday at exactly 10-ish at the Court Square Theater. You can get a free cup, tee shirt, and yes–a Slinky. Receive love, give love, repeat.