Sunday, February 19, 2012

Extremely Wicked!

One of the greatest joys of working in Yuma has been working alongside Ms. Nikki Olsen.  She's been a good friend and has taught me a lot about what drama can do, and what drama should do.  And she has very graciously included me in so many things that Kofa drama has done, including this past Thursday when we all traveled up to Phoenix to see...WICKED!

It was one of those rare mornings down here when it was raining.  This also left he morning a bit chillier than normal, but set a nice tone for what we were heading off to do.  The clouds were gorgeous!  And as you can see, not only did we see one of the clearest and strongest rainbows I've ever seen, but it balanced out into a double rainbow.  Can you appreciate the irony?  Here's a group of 10 drama kids and their teacher, heading to see Wicked, and we find ourselves driving next to a rainbow, in a city that almost never sees rain.  I took this as approval from either a higher power, or at the very least, Dorothy was with us.

The drive to Phoenix from Yuma is about 3 hours long, and in a car full of teenagers, you can probably imagine the conversations and music.  But add to that, that these were Drama kids, and it just adds another layer.  I think we listened to "Defying Gravity" at least 10 times, and these kids sounded GOOD as they sang along.  Totally impressive.  As host in this van, I felt an obligation to provide.  So I brought ways to charge iPods, listen to music through the car's stereo, the last 9 editions of Entertainment Weekly, and enough snacks to make the other van jealous, including donuts, chips, and Oreo's.  It was a great start.

We got to Phoenix and ended up parking a few blocks away, because Gammage (the theater where this took place, didn't allow for parking.  But this was okay because we were on ASU campus and all the shopping one could want was nearby.  We were a few hours early so we wandered around shopping for a while, then eventually stopped and had lunch at a little pizza place called Slices.  Not too bad.  One of the most memorable moments was joking about Megan being a princess and feeding the birds, when I swear the birds started listening and responding to her!  It was insane.

 This was Megan and I standing outside the ticket booth.  We got pretty good prices for tickets, because we attended a special matinee geared toward students.  However, Ms. Olsen was on top of things and got us on the ground floor, meaning we had better seats than nearly any students attending.  The funny thing was, we were then surrounded by an ocean of gray hair!  There were SO many snowbirds here.!

While we were instructed not to take pictures during the event, I did sneak this one through; it's a shot of the stage before everything started.  That's a map of OZ, and an animatronic dragon that actually lit up and moved a bit at important times.  Surprisingly, the dragon blended in with everything on stage and you rarely were aware he was present.

Obviously I don't have any pictures from during the play.  While I perhaps could have snuck some, I respect the request of the theater.  The show was AMAZING!  Elphaba was portrayed by Mamie Parris, and she was brilliant.  Her voice was gorgeous, and all that she did was believable.  (As a side note, the playbill described that Mamie was actually a distant relative of Reverend Samuel Parris, of Crucible fame.  Is that irony or what?)  But her finest moments came next to Katie Rose Clarke, who portrayed Glinda. These ladies were a spectacular combination.  There were times when, honestly, it was like Kristin and Idina were performing for us.  The antics of the two we saw on stage were near identical to the two brilliant ladies who created the roles.  Amazing is the only word to describe them.

The story was fun, the songs suddenly made so much more sense (since I've owned the soundtrack a very long time) and the climax of the first half, when Elphaba kicked into "Defying Gravity" will long be burned in my head.  I think one of the best things about the show was that I had a good idea of what was going to happen in the first half, but no idea what took place in the second.  Which left for a lot of surprises.  Even the ending, with all I knew, had somehow eluded me, which was delightful!  I was sitting next to Marion during the show, and I think I surprised her when I whispered, "No way."

We were done with the play by 5, and then headed out to the trailer for a few shots.  While waiting for everyone to gather, I got one by myself.

To the left was a distant shot of all of us.  And below was a much closer one.  Dang it I love these kids
The longest part of the drive home was just getting out of the parking lot.  That must have taken an hour.  I missed my turn or took the wrong turn 3 times on the way to Gila Bend, but we all caught up by Maricopa.  We were back in town by 10, and by the time the kids had all been picked up and Nikki and I had returned the vans, I was home just after 11.  I was tired and exhausted, but still smiling and singing by the time I returned home.  All in all, a day that was fun, memorable, and extremely Wicked!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Encouragement Accepted

I've gotten so many texts and emails from family mocking me and complaining to me about my weather down here.  Yup.  Friday the 10 and it was 82ยบ down here.  Insane for February.  And it was just as pleasant yesterday, as you can see from the forecast picture to the right.  I don't know what happened to winter, but just like the rest of the U.S., it hasn't happened down here.                                                           Now while all this may sound desirable and enviable, when the A/C in your classroom is on the fritz, let me tell you, it is not as joyful as you might think.  The mornings are pleasant and cool, but by the time 5th period rolls around, the heat in my classroom is ridiculous.  And add to that 30+ teenagers, mostly boys, by the time class ends, my 6th period often complains about the smell.  Yeah.
All this said, before I left for work Friday morning, one of the things I asked for in my prayer was the ability to take advantage of this weather.  I love it when a prayer is answered.  I got home from work, I was out of my school clothes, and I was on my bike almost immediately.  In fact, this event made me wonder about prayer.  Perhaps sometimes it feels like our prayers aren't answered, because we're asking too big, too large, too not-possible-immediately.  For example, if I ask God to help me lose 30 pounds, I'm not going to see it today.  But to ask Him to help me get off my butt and exercise: Bam!  Prayer answered.  Love it.
So with my iPod attached to my head, I hit the road.  I'd be riding for nearly 2 miles when I thought I could add this event to my blog.  So I shot a few pictures to give an idea of where my journey starts.  Before I hit the pavement trail on the east of the canal, I've got to reach it.  Luckily my bike has no problem on the dirt road, so here's a shot over my shoulders.  I'm traveling south, so the canal is to the East.
I use the Nike +GPS app when I ride.  There are a couple of benefits to this, the largest being it lets me know how far I've gone.  There's a little satisfaction knowing the distances for me.  After arriving home, I found that the app, in recent updates, offered me a few things.  First is the picture to the left, which shows the route I took and each mile marker.  If it looks confusing, it's only on the map.  As I traveled north to south, I'm almost exclusively on the bike path along the canal.  However, toward the bottom of the map, you'll see I cut back and then headed west.  Turns out there was a portion of the trail I'd not ridden before, and I was surprised it continued down 20th, nearly to Ave B.  So at that point I reached the end, and then turned around and retraced my route.  It's nice to find new stretches of road to ride on.
The map to the left now is reflective of my speed.  What's tough is knowing that elevation changes all over the place, so I think this is more reflective of the journey home, rather than the start of the ride.  I point this out so it is obvious on the map at what points was I riding uphill, and at what stretches it was perhaps more level.  Very interesting to look back and compare.
My last shot of this is just the summary of the ride.  5.2 miles, 33:43 minutes.  I wish the calories burned were correct, but that would be if this was a run, rather than a bike ride.  There are apps out there for bike rides, but when I grabbed this one, it was free, and I'm okay with free.  I've heard it suggested, and this isn't perfect math, but 4 miles on a bike is reflective of 1 mile running.  So if I were to divide my calories burned by 4, that's still not too bad of a start.  Of course, not comes the hard part: doing it again.  And then again.  I'm hoping that posting this online is enough motivation for me to be performing more often.  Of course if anyone reading this wants to throw me some encouragement or advice, bring it on!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

He's No Wayne Brady

The year is already moving too quickly.  I was shocked today in church to find it was Fast Sunday.  Wasn't even on my mind.  Oops.

I've been busy down here!  Meetings for church and meetings for school and trying to have a dating life have really shortened my free time.  However, all those things I just listed are good things!  So in reality what I'm trying to do is refocus my mind into being happy with more in my life than just me.  Who'd have though living alone for 5 years would make me set in my ways?  :)

Sorry guys, but I'm not going to say anything about dating on this blog.  I just don't feel it's the place.  But you could write to me and ask.  :)  Of course, I still might not tell you anything!

Of recent note is the fact that I'm writing more with my free time.  Less TV right now, and I just recently completed another short story.  I've got the concept for an additional story in mind that I'll be starting soon.  As well, I was in Phoenix last weekend and had the opportunity to meet a handful of successful young adult writers.  When moments were appropriate I was able to ask a few questions and was givens some positive feedback.  Writing every day is my goal.

The highlight of the past few weeks has been Drama related.  I suggested to Ms. Olsen that we should throw together another night of improvisation.  We did one in August, we have one scheduled for April, but rather than wait, we would a free weekend and our number one goal was to just make a profit.  Our secondary goal was to get seen, so what we did this past week, after a few weeks and weekends of practicing and preparing, was put on assemblies during  the school day.  Thursday we spent the entire day in the auditorium, and had a blast.  The best thing was that we got to play many of our favorite games, and rather than just keeping who's best at this game playing this game, I was able to shift the kids around and let them play games they'd not done before.  In addition, with the teacher's response, our largest audience was easily more than 200 students.  That was pretty huge.  And to add to that fun, for our last 2 assemblies, we pulled Mr. Franey and Mr. Randall up on the stage and they helped us out.  The kids loved it!

Friday night was our performance, and while we were hoping for huge, we were still content with a little more than 60.  We're still getting this thing started, so we're staying positive.  While I don't have a ton of pictures, mostly video, of the evening, I did the picture above for my profile shot.

I was complimented for some of the things I came up with as I prepped for the productions.  Tell me what you think:

Let’s Make a Date
a.     A confused grizzly bear, who is slowly gaining the power of speech
b.     The world’s worst country music singer
c.     A religious priest who believes Bachelor #2 is possessed by the devil
(The religious priest was above and beyond anything I'd expected! It was brilliant!)

Press Conference
a.     Aladdin and Jasmine, announcing the Genie is in rehab
(I was pretty proud of this one, and the kids had a blast with it.  The audience roared when one of the cast accused our confused Aladdin that he was just a "street rat".)

Scenes from a Hat
a.     What the “Occupy” groups would protest at Kofa High School
b.     Superheroes that could serve the Yuma community
c.     Pick-up lines for Yuma High School
d.     The worst excuse to use when you have to leave and step to the restroom
e.     What happens at Randall’s Super Bowl parties
f.      Mrs. Olsen in 3rd grade
g.     Mr. Kelly’s theme song
(Believe it or not, but the restroom one had the most responses.  You'd think they were my kids!)

Finale: Whose Line
a.     I used to be a super model
b.     I’m going to quit teaching and try out for American Idol
c.     My nickname growing up was monkey butt
d.     I think I have brain diarrhea
e.     My girlfriend has a mustache
f.      I like to wear a tutu and do the cha-cha
For this game, I had Ms. Olsen and Mr. Randall join me on stage and the three of us played it together.  I ended up in a serious moment describing the time my father had a serious talk with me as a child and he admitted, "I like to wear a tutu and do the cha-cha."  Sorry to reveal your secret, Pop.  I also ended up with the American Idol line, and was then encouraged to sing as we ended the bit.  It was no Wayne Brady, but I think I did pretty good.  Y'all would've been proud.

Monday, January 16, 2012

More than anything else...

I only updated my blog on Sundays in 2011, but I keep forgetting to get back to this.  So since I've got the day off, maybe my blog can have a bit more freedom this year (meaning I'll get to it whenever I can!).  So many things have happened in the past month, and I've really done my best to take pictures of all of them.  Unfortunately the camera isn't always thought of until some of the greatest events of the season weren't captured properly.

Let's start back on December 22.  I was up early that morning and on the road by 3!  That's insane.  But if I've got an enormous road trip ahead of me, anyone who knows me knows that I like to get started early.  There's something mentally refreshing knowing I'm beating the sun, and driving through Vegas before rush hour traffic is such a good idea!  I highly encourage it.

I hit a snow storm just outside Cedar City, and it was rough for a few hours.  The snow was pretty heavy, and I saw 2 cars that had slid off the road and 1 that rolled over.  Pretty gruesome.  In reality, this storm cost me about an hour, slowing down my journey.  And it reminded of the one thing I'm reminded of each year at this time: No one in Arizona puts antifreeze-washer-fluid in their cars!  Suddenly I'm getting pelted by everything on the road that can filthify a vehicle, and I couldn't see a thing.  Disgusting and annoying.

I stopped and saw Brien for a few minutes, and then made it to West Jordan by 2.  Not too bad.  A trip to the library made my afternoon busy, and then I ate dinner that night with Dad and Carol, enjoying my first Philly Cheese Steak.  It was 23 degrees when I stepped outside, and that was when I finally decided I'm not as much a fan of the cold weather as I once was!  Especially in shorts.

The 23rd was spent largely with Alayna.  I did my best to help her out and just spend time with her, and it was a pleasant afternoon.  Unfortunately in my efforts to get her home, I was delayed getting to the temple with Dad and Carol.  That was a big disappointment for all of us, but I was really grateful for the time and memories with my kid sister.

Christmas Eve morning I was at the airport by 6:40.  I was one of the last to get on the plane, just 'cause, and shortly after finding my seat, it turned out the guy sitting next to me was separated from his family by a few rows, so I was asked if I'd be willing to change seats and move further back.  It was nearly Christmas so I was in great spirits and conceded.  A few minutes later, one of the stewardess invited me to sit up closer to the front, a place with more leg room.  I said, "Sure.  Thanks!" only to find out, 5 minutes later, that the person's seat I was occupying, showed up anyway.  So as I was preparing to move for the 3rd time, I looked up into the forward cabin and commented, "You've got room up there.  Can't I just sit up there?" Gratefully the pilot was right there at that moment and said, "Sure!" So Christmas Eve morning I spent sitting in first class!  One word: Awesome!

As the ride was over and I was leaving the airport, I was expecting Eron to be waiting for me with maybe one of his kids.  Instead I found EVERYONE waiting for me: Eron, Kris, Mom, Shannon, Amanda, Dan, Nick, Kayla, Taelyn (who did hug me first!), Alison, Sidney, and Trevor.  And they were all holding a banner that read, "We love you Bruce!"  Totally awesome!  It was the type of homecoming one might expect of a returning missionary (but we won't dwell on THAT!)  It was also here that I found out my favorite niece will soon be a mother.  Talk about joyous and sobering.  So excited for them both!

The next two weeks went too quickly.  Time with Shannon, Nick, Dan and Amanda, was just too brief; time with mom was awesome; time with Eron was all it's supposed to be, except once again he had the upper hand in cribbage; time with Kris is always enlightening and strengthening for our friendship; time with the girls was great, and I really went out of my way to try and keep it balanced, but I think Kayla got the most.  :)  And time with T was one word: Ninja!

I tried to take a lot of pictures, and these are some of my favorites:

My favorite picture of the holiday

The best reaction of the morning

Did you see Darth Vader at Christmas?  I did!

There are so many memories to share, that I just couldn't do them justice.  Butt-boxing Dan with Trevor, TRYING to find time to watch a movie with Amanda, falling asleep while watching the Chipmunks (first time I've ever slept in a movie theater), watching The Three Amigo's with mom and Kay, spending WAY too much for the party on New Year's Eve, Eron complaining (complaining!) about my pizza, Kayla and I completing the Disney puzzle, Mom watching SVU, Syd watching The Adam's Family, Nick recognizing geek in binary, a terrific an hopefully enlightening conversation with Kay and Tae while the rest of the house slept; brushing Syd's hair; playing cards with the girls, especially coming up with new Phase 10 rules with Taelyn; finding Ninja's on Indy Lego; and what will long be my favorite memory of the season: When Trevor showed up in his Darth Vader costume and used "The Force" to get his dad to get out of his seat, move to the fridge, and do his will.  That's what being a dad is all about!

I wish we could make more of these memories more often.  I wish I lived closer, that we all lived closer and times like these weren't so rare.  I wish I could remember every moment of these two weeks and was able to play them back at will.  I wish I had more time with all of my family.

And more than anything else, I wish you all a totally Ninja New Year!