Friday, August 30, 2013

Summer Travels

If you read my last post about This is Kirtland!, you know I said that the show ending wasn't really a sad event and that I was basically ready to move on with the next stage of life. Well, part of that was due to the travel plans I had!

After we had the cast party on July 22 and then did a cast recording session July 23, I got moving on my first leg of travel beginning July 26 and lasting to August 4. I left for Perrysburg, Ohio, where I visited my good friends Michelle and Julie, and my friend Amanda, who was visiting from Utah. My reason for visiting was that I was scheduled to sing at the Toledo Mud Hens baseball game on the 27th, so it was nice to be able to visit with Michelle, Amanda, and Julie and they were able to be at the game! As is always the case, singing the national anthem never gets old. This was not only my first time singing for Toledo, but my first time ever at a Mud Hens game (they are the AAA affiliate of the Detroit Tigers). Despite a slight delay for rain, the performance went well and the weather ended up being great! Even better was that because of the delay, most of the crowd was in the stands when I sang and it ended up being at or near a sellout of over 11,000. Even better, it was a fireworks night!

Ended up being a beautiful night for baseball after a rain delay before
it even started. It was my first time ever going to a game in Toledo! 
I was very happy with my performance that night, plus a lady sitting in front of us asked me for my autograph for when I "become famous". It definitely made me smile, and yes, I totally signed it. She even asked me to make it out to her personally. I got tons of other very nice compliments from people as I walked around the ballpark (I took a bunch of pictures and got some food too). One guy even told me that his friend was a season ticket holder and I was the best singer he's heard all season. Always great to hear. I'm hopeful to sing for another baseball game somewhere, but nothing is scheduled this point. This season, so far, I've sung for the Columbus Clippers (AAA affiliate of the Cleveland Indians), Akron Aeros (AA affiliate of the Cleveland Indians), the Cleveland Indians, and the Mud Hens. I'd love to sing for some other Major League teams, but so far, only the Indians have responded.

Amazing to think how far we've come and that we've known each
other over 10 years now!
Anyway, I had a great visit with Michelle and Amanda, and we spent several hours talking about everything under the sun and just catching up, staying up for hours and hours longer than we should have (it was totally worth it, by the way). I really enjoyed it, though it was only for 3 days. I left Sunday afternoon and continued west to visit my sister and her family in Indiana, where I stayed for a week.

While in Indiana, I had a great time just hanging out mostly with my sister and nephews and my brother-in-law when he was home from work. We did something every day, as simple as going to the library for a bit to going to Indiana Dunes State Park and spending the afternoon on the shore of Lake Michigan. I also went with Becky and the boys to the mall and the candy factory, and we had an adventurous time eating out one night at a restaurant in Chesterton. All in all, a wonderful week and tons of fun for me getting to spend time with everyone and help Becky out a bit with the boys during the day. It was also the first time for me having both carseats in my car. We have a carseat here in Kent that Becky bought a few years ago since they still lived in Utah and flew here, so bringing a carseat would've been more difficult. I brought that with me and then we took Ryan's carseat out of their car since David needed it for work some days, so that made things a tad easier than having to move both carseats.
"In disguise" thanks to Amanda :)

Being taken out of the park against his will
At the mall while Nate rode the carousel
Indiana Dunes State Park on the shore of Lake Michigan

Getting Nate in this far is somewhat of an accomplishment...
this kid is not a big fan of water
Venturing out...he was promptly knocked over by the
next wave, and yes, I was right there to get him out :)
One thing I did in Indiana was crack Nate's resistance to eating all his food at meals. Seriously, this kid would eat like a bird and hardly ever ate the little bit of food he had been given. Becky went so far as to "offer" $1,000 to anyone who could get Nate to eat an entire meal. Well, let's just say I'm owed $1,000. How? Somehow I figured out that using the timer feature on my iPhone would be a motivation for him. I would give him about 8 minutes, and he'd eat while he watched the phone count down. They were visiting Kent back in July right when I first got the phone and I remember he just stared at the countdown for a good 10 minutes in church when he was playing with it. Well, it worked and he ate every meal except the one we ate out (because he had way too much food on top of a larger-than-normal dinner). It was almost a game to see if he could beat the timer, plus we tried using the stopwatch to see how quick he could do it. I also "bribed" him with Jelly Bellies, but it was great because I could give him a whopping 4 and he thought that was a good amount, so I went with it.

I have to say what I enjoyed most about being in Indiana was hearing Ryan talk. The things he says always make me laugh, plus the way he says them is even better. Just a few complete sentences here and there ("I want chocolate", though he says "chock-it"), but my favorite was when he wanted a drink "mm drink" or when he say candy and he'd say it really fast. What a character.

After I got home from Indiana, I had just under two weeks before the next trip, so I got to work on my main project, which was painting the back part of the house, which we call "the addition". The addition is basically a larger room and a smaller room with a bathroom (which I painted last summer) in between. This job was to paint those two rooms and the ceiling, which was quite the undertaking since we have tons of furniture in there and nowhere to move it. What I ended up doing is basically moving everything together, then moving it all again as I progressed around the different parts of the room. It made for a very cumbersome job, but there really wasn't any other way to do it. Outside of Sunday, I worked on it every day from Saturday until late Wednesday night (early Thursday morning). Not only did I have to paint, but I had to do plaster repair on several places where the drywall tape was coming off or had gotten wet from the roof damage (which was replaced recently). After that, I got some of the big furniture moved around as we decided to switch where the office area had been with where the TV had been. Because Mom and I were leaving for Nashville the morning I finished the painting itself, the room was largely a disaster, but I did manage to get the TV set up by moving the wiring for the U-verse and getting both computers set up while everything else stayed away from the walls. The rooms definitely needed painted not only for regular maintenance, but the paint had faded quite a bit to the point if we moved any of the pictures on the wall, you could tell where they went. Yikes!

Can you see where the pictures used to be?
Visual evidence that I did actually paint...
FINALLY removed the chalkboard that was a holdover from the
office days. You can see the original color of the room too. The white
strip on the side there is where I had to remove and later replace drywall tape
and plaster (see the debris below it).
Where the chalkboard used to be!
After a somewhat trying day where the ceiling had to be scraped in parts
due to earlier water damage that caused the old paint to peel off when
I painted over it. Oh, and my feet hurt like #$%&
After getting back from Tennessee, we've been working more on getting organized. Still not totally there, but making some big progress! It's exciting to see the changes, especially finally getting the chalkboard out of the room (the addition was built to house my grandma's tutoring business in the late 1980s, so it still had the basic setup of an office even though it hasn't been such in 20 years).

So, on to Tennessee. Mom came with me for this one as we went to get out of town for a bit and to celebrate my niece Evelyn's 1st birthday. We were planning on visiting Tennessee at some point in the summer anyway, so I decided it would be fun to come for the 1st. I'm glad we did because it ended up being a really fun week, especially for me!

Evelyn only recently started walking, so it was great to see her moving around. I discovered she's a daddy's girl too (NOT surprised!!). By the time we left, I'm pretty sure I was an acceptable substitute for her dad as she cried a bit when I handed her off to my mom when I had to go out to the car (we were hanging out while Heather got some of the cleaning done). What was funny was when I first got there, she cried since she didn't recognize me, but once she got used to me, hey, we were best buds! The last day I was there I went to the Nashville Zoo with her and my brother, and we had a great time even with the heat and humidity. She was a bit out of it because she was recovering from hand, foot, and mouth disease, which she came down with about the time we arrived (I first noticed her coughing that Sunday).

Mom and me (NOT "Mom and I") traveling to Tennessee. And yes, after
seeing this picture, I fixed that handle in the background!
Evelyn's actual first birthday with her favorite: spaghetti.
No shortage of pictures of this kid!
Cakes Heather made for the birthday. The little lady bug cake was just for Evelyn
Yes, she liked her cake!
SUCH a daddy's girl!

Little E is cool with me too :)
Opening presents on her birthday (we did a larger "party" a few days
later when some of Heather's sisters could be there)
Grandma with the granddaughter
Another thing I enjoyed doing was singing in sacrament meeting in Andy and Heather's ward. I love to sing--no secret there--so I like to sing in different wards (congregations) outside my own whenever I get the chance. Since no one was scheduled for their ward the week I was going to be there, I figured why not? Not only do I get to do something I enjoy, but it's a great way for people to notice who you are and gives them an excuse to come talk to you, which can be tough when someone is visiting like me. I've done it in my sister's ward in Indiana and when I came back during my visit, people remembered me and later asked my sister if we could sing together again :). She likes to sing too, so now she'll get more opportunities too. Anyway, I was very happy how my song went and was most grateful that Heather plays the piano! She did great on short notice!

During my trip to Tennessee, I made a "trip-within-a-trip" down to Louisiana to visit my friend Will, who was a missionary companion of mine in Las Cruces, New Mexico from December 2002-February 2003. We've kept in touch over the years, but hadn't seen each other since 2008 when he was a student at the University of Maryland, College Park and my brother was living in the same area near Washington, DC. Hard to believe that was 5 years seems much sooner than that. I had intended to visit him last year when I was in Tennessee for Spring Break, but he got called out for work (he's in the Air Force) at the last minute (I was visiting another friend in Texas, so was in the area, but just went back to Tennessee earlier than expected). Will lives 8 hours from my brother's (which is how long it takes me to get there from Ohio), so it was a bit of a drive, but I enjoyed it. It was great to see him and to meet Megan (his significant other) and Brody (their dog) and just relax a bit. I had originally planned to stay just overnight and then head back to Tennessee, but Will convinced me to hang around an extra day, even though he and Megan would be at work on base for most of the day. I didn't mind since it meant I got some sweet solitude and really, as long as I have an Internet connection, I'm OK. Even without it, I'll find something to do. I told him "boring people get bored." But really, it was so good to see him and catch up a bit. He showed me the planes he flies for the Air Force (B-52) and took me around the base. Megan was a good sport with all our mission and Mormon jargon as we talked too. But yeah, it was good to talk.

I've been in the cockpits of retired planes, but never a live one outside this one
time when I was 6 and I got to see the cockpit of a commercial liner. This
is the cockpit of an active B-52 bomber. It was built in the early 1960s.
I guess Will is like a brother to me...we had a great time serving together
in Las Cruces, though hard to believe it's been over 10 years!
Me with Brody!
We stayed in Tennessee 2 days longer than originally planned, but that was because of my trip to Louisiana adding one more day and then after going to the zoo on Friday, I was pretty exhausted and had a headache, so we left Saturday. The only inconvenience was Mom needed to do the bulletin for church that coming Sunday, so we got it set up on my laptop and after much effort, got my Grandpa to send her the Microsoft Word file so she could type it all up. Once we got back to Kent, I set up a Microsoft SkyDrive account for Mom (cloud storage) so she can access all her files from any computer from now on. No more having to talk someone step-by-step through the process!

It's been a great summer and certainly eventful with This is Kirtland! taking so much of my time and energy through July. It was so nice to finally get away and just relax and enjoy some new sights, familiar sights, and being around people that I enjoy being around and enjoy having me around. And hey, those long drives are actually very therapeutic for me, so long as I don't have to deal with traffic problems (thankfully only minimal ones on all legs of the trip!). Still one more trip to come as Mom and I will be heading back to Indiana in about a week to spend time with everyone there, enjoy some local events, and help Becky out a bit. I found out while I was in Louisiana that she'll be having a girl in December, so I'll be getting TWO new nieces by the end of the year! Yes!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

30 Things Ohioans Love?

Many of you have read the Buzzfeed "article" going around Facebook called "30 Things Ohioans Love", written by a New Yorker (I'm assuming New York City as opposed to someone from elsewhere in New York state) who went to college in Ohio and is dating an Ohioan. I thought I'd evaluate his/her various "discoveries" based on my own experience living in Ohio for pretty much my entire life :). Overall, there weren't that many I found that were uniquely Ohio or they were regional to part of the state but not the entire state. It would be interesting to find out where this person went to college in Ohio and where the person he/she is dating is from. Probably the biggest mistake is assuming that Ohio is rather homogeneous when it really isn't. Each section of the state has its own local customs, sayings, dialect, and preferences that can vary greatly.

1. Ohio State football
Ohio State vs. Toledo in Cleveland, 2009
I'd say that's a pretty accurate assessment, though it's not universal. Places that you'll find some animosity towards Ohio State football include Athens (home of Ohio University), Cincinnati (home of the University of Cincinnati), and Toledo (just south of the Michigan border and not far from the campus of the University of Michigan), though even in those places you still have many OSU fans. It's similar in many other states that have a large flagship public university or with Mormons and BYU (though not THIS Mormon!), or Catholics and Notre Dame.  But yelling "O-H!"and getting "I-O!" back is pretty common. I had that happen to me in Salt Lake City when I was walking in the airport with my Ohio State sweatshirt on. Someone passed me and yelled "O-H!" and it took me a second to realize what they did and then I yelled back "I-O!"

2. Being a Swing State
I definitely enjoy the fact that Ohio is a swing state. Sure, it means we get TONS of political ads running for months on end and a seemingly endless stream of visits from candidates, but still, it's nice to feel like your vote really matters. Part of that is because Ohio doesn't have a dominant metro area like New York (NYC) or Illinois (Chicago), so you have a balance of rural vs. urban and a pretty even balance of conservative vs. liberal. I'm sure a lot of Ohioans, though, would rather not be in a swing state so that they don't get robocalls every 5 minutes for months before an election.

3. Ranch dressing
I fail to see how this is unique to Ohio or that Ohio has some kind of unusual affinity to Ranch dressing. I've lived in 3 other states and visited every one of them except California, Alaska, Hawaii, and Delaware, and have never noticed anything different. I mean, I like Ranch dressing, but hardly exclusively, and I've seen it in peoples' homes all over. According to this article, Ranch dressing is the top-selling salad dressing in the US, and has been since 1992, so while many of us Buckeyes do love Ranch, so does most of the rest of the country.

4. Hating LeBron
I am certainly not a fan of LeBron, but I wouldn't call that "hating". It's more because he plays for a different team than anything else. That said, I'm not really a fan of any specific player to the point I follow them if they change teams. For the most part, I think most Ohioans are indifferent to it all, particularly in his hometown of Akron where he has a fair amount of support because of charitable causes he participates in there. There is still a fair amount of animosity over how he left, but mainly with sports fans and not everyone here is a sports fan by any stretch.

5. Mountain Dew
I've seen people drinking Mountain Dew all over the country. Hardly anyone I know drinks it (LDS or not), and I certainly don't. I have never noticed any unusual love affair with Mountain Dew in Ohio. If anything, I've noticed more teenagers and college students drinking it.

6. Referring to random parts of random towns and cities as "downtown"
Downtown's not Manhattan, but it's still
a downtown!
For the most part, Ohioans follow the national norm of calling the central business district of a town "downtown", though sometimes it is misapplied, particularly in typical suburbs that never developed around a central business district (local examples of that are Stow and Streetsboro, though I have only rarely heard people refer to the centers of those places as a "downtown"). Many of the older smaller towns, Kent included, do have central business districts that have higher density and mixed use zoning, and are often referred to as downtown. But that's not unique to Ohio by any means and is fairly standard across the US and Canada. See Wikipedia: Downtown.

7. Sperrys
I have never owned nor wish to own Sperrys, and to be honest, didn't really know what they were called until I read this. I guess I have seen a lot here, but haven't noticed anything unusual or higher than any other place. I seem to associate them with certain types of people (very laid back, easy-going) rather than places. Maybe they had a lot where the author went to school or are popular with college-aged people?

8. Donatos
This is a regional thing, not a state thing. I am familiar with Donatos, but rarely ever have pizza from them because they don't have a location near where I live. I can list several other national and local pizza chains that are probably more popular than Donatos, at least in my experience, so I'm guessing this was another item more specific to where this person went to school or he/she was just around big fans of Donatos.

9. American-made cars
Maybe because I have a Honda, but I seem to notice quite a bit of foreign-made cars here, though it should be noted even many of the "imports" are manufactured either in the US or in North America (my Honda was manufactured in Canada). It would be interesting if there were a survey done of what kinds of cars people drive and if Ohio actually does have a higher percentage of American cars. We do have assembly plants for Ford, Chrysler, and GM in northern Ohio, but we also have a Honda assembly plant in central Ohio. Again, not something I've really noticed a major difference. In my own family, only my grandparents on both sides have American-made cars (Ford and GM) and my dad has a GM. The rest of us have Hondas, a Hyundai, and a Kia.

10. Defending the Cleveland Browns
I don't know if I'd call it "defending" the Cleveland Browns as much as it is just being a fan. We definitely have lots of loyal fans here for the Browns. Hope springs eternal every fall. But that is certainly not true in southern Ohio, which is Cincinnati Bengals territory. Parts of Ohio closer to Pittsburgh obviously have more Steelers fans, and NW Ohio has its share of Lions fans too. I would never say the Browns are "Ohio's Team" by any stretch.

11. Chinese buffets
I'm not really a fan of Chinese, so I don't go to buffets all that often. Again, this is something I can't say I've seen anything abnormal here, but who knows?

12. Dating their high school sweetheart far into college… or, eventually, just marrying them
The author must've known several people who did this. I know of some, but they're not all from Ohio. I know just a few from my own class who dated in high school and continued and got married eventually, but I also know people from other states who have done the same thing.

13. Cedar Point
Cedar Point, 2010
Yes, Ohioans love Cedar Point, but so do lots of people from around the country as Cedar Point is one of the most visited amusement parks in the US. Ohioans also love Kings Island near Cincinnati.

14. Referring to soda strictly as "pop"
I am one of those who generally use the term "pop", but my mom says "soda" and I know many people here that also use soda or they interchange "soda" and "pop" regularly (I do that sometimes). As this map shows, it's hardly unique to Ohio to use "pop" by any fact, it's fairly common across the northern US.

15. Most restaurant chains (namely: Panera, Olive Garden, Chipotle, and Outback. I could go on.)
I'm guessing that since the author is from New York, he/she generally has a local place or places they frequent. In most of Ohio, and most other places outside large cities like New York, you generally don't have lots of local choices. But that's not unique to Ohio by any means (New York is hardly void of restaurant chains) and varies from place to place. Even here in Kent, we have several local places or regional chains. In all my travels around the country, mostly by car, I haven't noticed anything unusual about restaurant chains in Ohio or Ohioans preferences.

16. Their high school
If you ever see this picture out on the web, I took it in 2009!
Rah rah for Roosevelt!
I think, for the most part, this is pretty valid, though, again, it's not that unique to Ohio. I have found that many Ohioans do keep tabs on their high school and feel like it was a good place, but isn't that what we want? Even so, I would say most of the people from my own class are completely detached from high school. Some communities are more into their respective high schools than others (usually smaller communities are more into them, but that's typical across the country). I certainly fall into that, but a lot of that is because I live in the town I grew up in, so it's easy to do (same with my college). I would say Ohioans are more into high school sports collectively than most other states.

17. Wearing athletic clothing while having no intention of working out
I'll have to watch for this. I wear what, I guess, could be considered "workout clothing" when I do yardwork, but mostly in the summer because it is lighter. Workout clothing for me, though, is typically gym shorts and a t-shirt. I've seen people in the stores here in what could be considered "workout clothing", but I just assume they're coming from or headed to some kind of workout or other use for it. Since I don't follow people around, I can't comment if they actually work out or not.

18. Chicken bacon ranch pizza and sandwiches
I have never had chicken bacon ranch pizza (I like bacon, but don't really get it on my pizza very often) and have only had the chicken bacon ranch sandwich from Subway once several years ago when it first came out. I'd say buffalo chicken is more popular, but that's my observation and preference. Come to think of it, I can't even think of even seeing chicken bacon ranch pizza until I read the article, and I live in a college town!

19. Drive-thrus in general
That's typical for just about any suburban area, so I guess it would be accurate that Ohioans love drive-thrus, but so does pretty much the entire US.

20. Saying “you’re fine” instead of “no problem” or “no worries”
This is true, though, I say "no problem" and "no worries" quite frequently. I do hear "you're fine" quite often, but haven't noticed it only in Ohio.

21. Skyline Chili
Skyline Chili is mainly in central and southern Ohio. I had never even heard of it until recently when I met some friends in the Cincinnati area at a Skyline Chili there and had a nice lunch (I actually got a wrap...I'm not a chili person). There are a few Skyline Chili locations in northern Ohio now (4 in the Cleveland area including Stow and one in NW Ohio in Lima), but it's still mainly found in the Columbus area and south and is based in Cincinnati. According to the Wikipedia article, Skyline also has locations in Indiana, Kentucky, and Florida.

22. Cornhole
It does seem popular here, so I guess it's accurate. I'm not really a fan of it, but will play it. It seems more popular with college-age and high school-aged people, though.

23. Claiming to live in a city but really living in a suburb
Yep, it's a city, like it or not!
I'm not totally sure what this means, whether it's a case of people saying they live, for instance, in Cleveland but they really live in Westlake, or a case of calling Westlake a city. Both aren't unique to Ohio. I frequently hear people say they are from a larger city, but if you ask "which part?" then they mention the more specific suburb. As for "city" vs. "suburb", a suburb often is a city, not a big city, but a city nonetheless, at least in Ohio and in the broader sense of the word. Since the author is from New York I'm not all that surprised that they make the difference, but in Ohio, any municipality over 5,000 residents is considered a "city" even if it doesn't have a central business district or is anything beyond a bedroom community. In some states, places with even just a few hundred people can be classified as a "city" since it often carries different legal definitions. "City" itself is a very ambiguous term that varies across the world and even in the US.

24. "The range"
I have never gone to and don't know anyone who goes to the range (based on the picture the author uses, I'm assuming they meant shooting range). I know people who regularly go to a driving range for golf, but not a shooting range. I'm guessing it's more of a rural thing. I can't even tell you where the nearest shooting range is off the top of my head.

25. Referring to sneakers strictly as “tennis shoes” or “tennys”
My experience has been that athletic shoes are often referred to as "tennis shoes". I hear "sneakers" a lot for shoes in general, though it's not a word I use very often since my shoes are running shoes. If I had sneakers, I'd probably just call them my shoes and then differentiate from my "running shoes". I usually call my black dress shoes "church shoes". I have never heard the term "tennys" used.

26. Graeter's Ice Cream
I had to look this one up because I've never even heard of it. Turns out, like Skyline Chili, it's based in Cincinnati, which would explain why I haven't run into it here in northern Ohio. It does have some Cleveland area locations, but none of them are anywhere close. My favorite local chain is Katie's Korner, which has a few locations in the areas around Youngstown, Ohio, including Kent.

27. Going to the beach aka Lake Erie
Lake Erie beach in Euclid, Ohio, 2013
In my experience, most people who go to the beaches along Lake Erie live fairly close to the lake (like within an hour). Many of the beaches, though, aren't bad, which is true for many of the Great Lakes, though some are rather rocky. I visited the Indiana Dunes a few weeks ago on the shore of Lake Michigan, and it was just like any ocean beach except the waves were a bit smaller (though that largely depends on the wind).

28. Referring to vacuums as “sweepers”
My grandma does this (she also calls gas stations "filling stations"), but it isn't a term that my mom adopted or that I use. Most people I know, myself included, call it a vacuum, though I do hear "sweeper" somewhat regularly. I've always considered it kind of an archaic term. If you want a unique Ohio term, try "devil strip" for the strip of grass between the sidewalk and the road. That's pretty localized to Akron and the general vicinity. Many here also call it the "tree lawn".

29. Wendy's
I enjoy going to Wendy's, but can't say I go there any more frequently than other places when I get fast food. Yes, it's based in Ohio, but it's everywhere in the US. I can't say I've noticed any greater affinity for Wendy's here than anywhere else. Maybe in Columbus where it's based... (it's actually in suburban Dublin, Ohio).

30. Being "the birthplace of aviation"
My idea for a plate
I'm actually not a fan of that slogan, though I don't think it's out of place or wrong or even questionable. The Wright Brothers were from Ohio and did a lot of their preparations for the first flight in Dayton. They chose Kitty Hawk, North Carolina because of the favorable winds and other factors, and likely slightly warmer weather since it was done in mid December. Even so, I think most Ohioans are tired of that slogan and never really identified with it. For whatever reasons, whoever's in charge of that at the BMV really likes the slogan.  I've found a lot more love for the previous slogan "the heart of it all!" I made my own license plate that draws on the many aviation and space pioneers that have come from Ohio, particularly the first person on the moon Neil Armstrong.

There you have it. I guess I was disappointed that many of the things the author attributed to Ohioans weren't unique to Ohio at all or were localized to parts of the state (in these cases, central and southern Ohio), at least in my experience, but it did stop and make me think about the many wonderful and crazy things we do in this state and why.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

This is Kirtland! 2013 Edition

Now that This is Kirtland! is over, I can finally catch up on some blogging. I had intended to write prior to the show closing, but here we are a month after it closed! 2013 was the 10th run of TIK and will be the last until at least 2015, if not longer. While I anticipate the show will return in 2015 after a one-year hiatus, it's not a done deal. The good news is that the 2013 run was good enough to get people excited about the show again to the point we had many people asking us why the show was going on hiatus instead of thinking "yeah, I can see why they're taking a break!"

Cast photo
This was my 8th year as part of the cast and, counting my very limited involvement the first year in setting up and taking down the stage lights, was my 9th year with the show (only year I didn't do anything was 2008 when I was in grad school). The big BIG difference this year was that in addition to being in the cast, I was the director, which made for lots of traveling to and from Kirtland, lots of late nights, and more stress than I ever imagined possible.

Talking to the Rollins family with Mary Elizabeth and Caroline (played by Emma and Mara respectively) during a rehearsal. Photo by Lisa Lovato
I can't remember when, exactly, I was asked to be director, but it was sometime last November. At the time it felt so far away, but it also seemed like a huge mountain I was about to begin climbing to get everything to come together the way I wanted. I found a costume head purely by chance in January (we can call it divine guidance!) and I followed the advice of past director and stake presidency member Nate Johnson in choosing our assistant director and choreographer, both of whom had tons of theater experience. Calls were answered for photographers and our various tech people, and we were finally able to get stage managers just after rehearsals started.

Showing Tracee what I had showed the guys to do in the song "Education". I did the traditional choreography for the guys in that song while she did the Young Women and children. Photo by Lisa Lovato
I remember after my first meeting with assistant director Angela and choreographer Tracee back in February how excited I was and that I knew this would be good. Like I said, they had tons of experience, so they shared a lot of the same expectations for detail and quality that I had to make the show technically strong, but also the importance of the spiritual aspect that this show has, a 4th dimension as Angela put it. Tryouts started April 17 and continued April 20, and then we did callbacks a week later. While it was never my intention to cast everyone who tried out, that is exactly what happened. Why? We had a very limited amount of people who tried out, particularly adults. In that, many of those who tried out were part of family groups, so it would've created scheduling hardships for several families if I had cast the two parents and some of the kids, but not all of them. What it ended up doing was giving us a few more kids than normal, but overall the cast of 60 wasn't significantly bigger than it has been in years past. I looked up past directories and all of them had over 50 in a given cast, some right near 60. We did have more very young kids (ages 4-6) than we have before, but we also had some older kids and teens (particularly young men).

The Rollins Family kids were supposed to act like they were having a battle with the utensils since they were singing "of battles and kings..." Here, I'm showing James Rollins (played by Isaac right behind me) how I wanted him to do his line
Photo by Lisa Lovato

So, if everyone got in did it negate the reasons for auditions? Hardly. Even if everyone gets in to a given production or group, auditions serve as a way to know where to put people. The great thing about casting this show was that the leads pretty much cast themselves. In other words, I knew right away who my leads were going to be for everyone except Mary Elizabeth. Mary Elizabeth is a young girl who has a solo and I had quite a few girls who could've easily done that part well. In the end, the girl who ended up being cast did a fantastic job, but that's not to say none of the other girls wouldn't have done equally as well. It was one of the most difficult decisions I had to make, and I told them that at callbacks. But really, with most of the other lead roles, I knew after the first auditions who I wanted to be in a given role, as did the committee that was with me. I should also add that even though everyone who tried out was cast, it certainly didn't diminish the quality of the people or the end result.

Photo by Lisa Lovato

We had our first company meeting May 1st and started rehearsals May 4. I remember how excited I was after that first meeting; I knew the show was going to be good, but I never could've imagined just how much work and stress it was going to take to get it to be as good as I knew it was going to be. The rehearsal calendar in itself was a major mountain for me to climb. I'd never set anything up like that and wanted to make sure we had enough time for dance rehearsals for the various groups, as well as blocking and polishing. Of course there were a host of other considerations I had to think about, like availability of the building, other commitments that cast and crew members had, and more. The schedule I came up with inevitably changed several times, so having Google Calendar to use made that much easier than having a hard copy that I would have to constantly change. In general, times would get changed here and there, or I'd move groups to different days because of a planned absence.

Directing while being in the show definitely added some challenges, but I'm glad I decided to be in the show, even though it was only for parts of 2 scenes near the end.

As you can imagine, rehearsals were quite the range of emotions! Some of them were incredible, some made me laugh hysterically, and others made me wonder why I'd gotten myself into. Still others had drama that wasn't of the stage variety that really made me wonder if I could do what I'd been asked to do. But, we made it through. I think I can speak for all of us when I say those last two weeks of rehearsal were pretty brutal, not just because of what I, Angela, and Tracee were demanding, but just the length of time and having to wait for this or that to happen. We also had to deal with various youth camps and other events that caused people to be absent for periods of time, despite my best efforts way back at tryouts to get people to commit to not missing any of those rehearsals. I'm pretty sure our July 2 rehearsal, just 3 days before we opened, was the first time the entire cast, crew, and orchestra were all together. As a result, it was a pretty rough rehearsal and I left wondering how this was going to be presentable in just 3 days. Even so, though, I had that feeling it would be OK. Well, the next day, July 3, we had a double dress rehearsal that ended up going until about 10:45 PM, WAAAAAAAY later than I ever wanted to keep anyone for rehearsal, but especially those with young kids, but you know what? Not only was the show significantly better at those rehearsals, I remember being backstage during the 2nd rehearsal and everyone was in a good mood, very upbeat, and no complaining despite being the 2nd time through and how late it was. After that, I knew we'd be OK.

Our performances ended up going very well overall. Yes, of course there were many things each night that could've been better or didn't go quite as we'd rehearsed, but overall, people walked away from the show each night impressed and entertained. I got so many wonderful compliments on every aspect of the show, especially the dancing. What was even more encouraging was the attendance. Our nightly average was right around 300, well above 2012 and higher than we've had in awhile. In 2012, we averaged just over 200 or so each night, but there were some nights that had barely 100. This year, there was never a night we had less than 200, so that meant we had decent crowds every night. To make it better, we had an increase in attendance even though we had noticeably less tour buses. Usually, we can count on a few nights where tour buses or other large groups will come and account for, in some cases, half or more of the audience. This year, we still had nights with those groups, but not nearly as many, meaning we had a lot more locals who came this year. That alone was reason to celebrate because if this show has any hope at coming back and sustaining itself, it needs local interest.

Yep, I was in the show too, but only at the very end. I came in during the big feast scene and danced with the guys, then danced in the temple song. The solo in the temple song is one I've had the last two years (I'm the only one who's ever sung it!), so I kept it and the same trio we had last year! Photo by Rebecca Thornton
Photo by Rebecca Thornton
During the run, we had a new addition in the Historic Kirtland 5k, which was run Saturday morning, July 13. What was kind of funny for me is people who knew I was directing the show would ask me questions about what to do for the race and it was like "I'm not the director of the 5k!" :) We provided 4 singers in costume to sing the national anthem to open the race, and some other cast members came in costume to create a more festive atmosphere. I'm really glad I was able to participate and am hopeful that even with the show on hiatus next year, the 5k can still go on and some of the cast members can come in costume again! It really adds an additional dimension to the race and ties in the whole "Historic Kirtland" part of the name. It did make for a pretty long day for me, though. We had a show Friday night, so I got home around 10 PM, then had to be back in Kirtland by 8 AM and the race was over around 10:30 AM. Since I didn't want to drive 50 minutes back to Kent only to have to return to Kirtland by 6 PM, I just stayed up there all day, running a few errands at the Eastlake Walmart and then hanging out at the Kirtland Stake Center until cast call at 6. Thank goodness for Netflix! 

Singing the national anthem to open the Historic Kirtland 5k on the steps of the NK Whitney store in Kirtland. Photo by Chandice Richards
At the Historic Kirtland 5k in front of the NK Whitney store. Photo by Chandice Richards
Our last performance was Saturday afternoon, July 20. To be honest, I really wasn't sad to see it end, but more relieved that we were done and that it went well. I guess I felt accomplished more than anything, and ready to move on to the next events in life, which so far have included some much-needed road trips! I've never directed something of that magnitude, though there's no way I would've been able to do it without the support (physical and moral!) of my assistant director Angela, and the creative visions of my various crew members, especially Tracee on choreography. As I said at our final company meeting on the 20th, the dancing is what made the show sparkle! But along with that, our tech crews, and especially our music crew. I don't know what I would've done without my musical directors Nancy and Camilla. And I could never forget the moral and physical support of Nate. He had to listen to quite a few of my rants about this or that!

End of the feast scene, which was better than ever this year!! Photo by Rebecca Thornton
Choreographer Tracee Walker, Assistant Director Angela Baker, and me just before the last performance on July 20. Photo by Rebecca Thornton
Looking back, I can say that everything I wanted to have happen really did happen, maybe not how I envisioned it happening, but it did happen. Even the little things like a cast photo board and pictures taken during rehearsals and shows happened (WAY better than I ever imagined...especially the photo board!) or getting the program done the way I wanted (I ended up doing it myself) or having a professional looking and fresh logo. Things did come together in the end, somehow, some way. I'm grateful for the experience and while I won't be campaigning to be director again, I certainly would consider it if the opportunity was presented to me again, which is how this all happened in the first place. I wasn't looking to be director, but the opportunity presented itself and I took it. I enjoyed getting to know so many people and am grateful for ALL the experiences I had, even the ones that maybe weren't as pleasant as I wanted. In the end, they were all very valuable learning experiences for my own good.