2015 Ren Fest Recap

Another successful year at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival has come to an end. This was a really, really great year– the weather was lovely (only one really hot weekend), and internal drama (the bad sort) was virtually non-existant (and usually there is a LOT of internal drama).

It was also a great year for me. This year, after 11 years as a participant (5 of those on cast), I finally got up the courage to implement my very first idea for something to do at Fest, which was performing as a solo flautist. This is not to say I didn’t enjoy the (several) other ways I’ve been part of Fest, but I really, really enjoyed doing the solo thing.

There are two was by which I measure success at Fest– audience engagement (measured partly, but not entirely, by tips) and how much I personally engage with fellow participants. I wasn’t sure how the crowds would receive a solo flautist. I honestly didn’t go into it expecting to make much in the way of tips, but I think I did fairly well. (I set a goal for myself to do a $100 hat the last weekend, and I’m proud to say I achieved that goal. That may not sound like a lot to some performers, but I was quite happy with it.) And I had many, many people indicate their appreciation in ways besides putting a tip in my basket, which is completely fine– in some instances, a kind comment or smile from a child can mean more than a tip.

The other way in which I measure a successful Fest season is how much I interact/connect with my fellow cast members and participants. It was a great year on that front, as well. One of the main reasons I had been reluctant to be a solo act in the past is that I worried that if I wasn’t part of a group, I wouldn’t talk to anyone and would just be alone all the time. And even after working/performing at Fest for 11 previous years and knowing plenty of people, I was still worried about that this year.

Well, I needn’t have worried.  I’ve noticed in other situations that if I go to things (like receptions at international education conferences, for example) alone, I actually do somehow step up to the challenge and talk to people I don’t know, or don’t know as well. That proved to be the case at Fest this year, too. I talked to several people I didn’t know or know very well (Jennifer, Marco, some of the Scots, new Terps, Peter, Anita, Manna and Manna, Dennis, Saskia, Stephanie, Penn, Cornelius, random people on the Fest bus) and reconnected with lots of people I did know (Jon, Chris, “old” Terps, some Scots, Randy, the Alein’ Whalers, Too Broke Blokes, Kate, etc). Of course, it seems every year that somehow I don’t get around to seeing all the people (or shows!) I intend to–notably Jamie (I barely made it to Queen’s Gate this year!) and the Bloodwake (whom I never seem to get over to visit any more). I only made it to like 1/2 of a Four Pints Shy show this year. Doing my own thing, I feel, for some reason, a lot more pressure to be performing all the time between my scheduled sets.

This year, I took a few days off – three Sundays and Fest Friday. One of the Sundays I attended with Gerard and the brother who were visiting, and I brought the kiddo out for a couple of hours Fest Friday afternoon, but I had two Sundays completely off. I also ended up working at the Fest booth at the State Fair on the Saturday of Labor Day (because they really needed people and I can’t sit around while someone needs help that I can give), so that’s three Fest days I wasn’t there at all and 2 others I wasn’t working. Consequently, I’m not really burnt out this year. I’m not sure how I feel about that. On the one hand, I probably enjoyed Fest more because I had a few days off, even though the days I was off, I missed it. But now I’m not really ready for it to be over, whereas when I’m burnt out by the end of the season, I’m really ready for it to be over for awhile. I’m not sure which is better– to want it to be over before it is, or not want it to be over when it is!

I’m already looking forward to next year, of course, which will probably be the last year on the current site. That will be bittersweet as well. There is a lot of history imbued into that site, and a lot of magic that lives in its walls. I feel a great attachment to many of the physical spaces themselves, especially the Bakery stage area where I spent my first 5 years at Fest, Mac’s Pub, and The Estate (Terp’s green room area). I will truly miss the actual, physical space when the Festival moves.

But, as many have said, it is really we who make the Festival– the performers and participants and patrons who love the Festival, who created the magic that has seeped into the Festival grounds and structures. We will create new magic and memories at the new site. And the new site brings opportunity, as well– better parking and traffic arrangements, up-to-code buildings, flush toilets (maybe), ample camping (maybe), electricity (maybe) and less dust. I will miss the current site, but I am excited about the opportunity to be a part of building and baptizing the new one.

I also look forward to bringing my son out with me more regularly next year, when I think he’ll be old enough to mind and stay near me while I perform. I often envy those who were raised at Fest (and those whose spouses are Festies, too), and I look forward to giving my son the experience of being raised in the Fest family, with the help of, literally, a village.


2013 in Review

I’ve seen several posts on Facebook about how terrible 2013 was for many people. I’m very sorry for everyone who had a rough year… but mine has been great! 2012 was more difficult for me, and I guess the first half of 2013 was a bit trying as well, but oeverall, the good definitely outweighs the bad.


On New Year’s Day, I turned 32. At that time I was undergoing fertility testing after 2+ years of trying to get pregnant with no luck. This was not very enjoyable. Fertility testing is painful, both physically and emotionally.

A good thing that happened in January was that we got the band together! I’d been wanting to try to form this group since Fest of 2012, and in January it finally came together, and I’m very happy it did!


In February we had our first practices with the band, and Rob and I took a trip to Mexico.

Being romanced by a pirate in Mexico

Being romanced by a pirate in Mexico


In March, Rob had a surgery that was designed to improve our fertility. I was pretty optimistic about the success of the surgery, but it was also difficult because it definitely was not guaranteed to help, and both of our doctors were already implying that IVF might be our best hope, which made it difficult to maintain my optimism. I was so proud of Rob though– he underwent the surgery very willingly and without any complaint.

In March my BFF also revealed to me that she was pregnant. Although I was of course really happy for her, I couldn’t help feeling simultaneously sad for myself– a most unpleasant state of affairs.


In April, we adopted our second dog, Gilly. I’m happy to report that things are still going great with him! Trip was jealous at first of his new little brother, and he still gets jealous over toys and cuddle time with us, but every day they are becoming more and more like a pack. They haven’t quite reached the point where they will cuddle together, but Trip will now tolerate Gilly being right next to him on the couch. He also gives Gilly kisses on the nose, which is pretty sweet. We’re still working with Gilly on his mouthing and jumping, but overall he’s a pretty well-behaved pup, and he is only 2, so he’s still a young thing.

Fest 2012: Final 2 Weekends

6th Weekend:
This was a one-day weekend for me, as I had a band concert on Sunday. That was good. I needed a break, as the Fifth Weekend Effect was still upon me. Saturday was chilly but not too bad. Not too much else to say about that.

Closing weekend:
It was excellent this year. I rested up on Friday (had the day off work) and planned to hit it hard on the last weekend and go out with a bang, and so I did. I participated in some of the social dances both Saturday and Sunday (dances where I don’t like the music—I stuck our violinist with it, since she’s big on playing melody for everything, she can play the crappy ones, too). I “talked” with Twig, our lovely famous fairy who communicates only through gesture, facial expression, and a pan flute. We did a repeat of the Butt Percussion bit with I Arroganti, except with double butts this time. All good times.

Closing day was great. Every year, the closing gate show on closing day is really more for the “inhabitants” of the realm than the patrons. There are special performances, lots of singing, and of course crying and hugging. Usually, my group and I don’t participate much in the closing gate show, and last year I even missed all the emotional stuff because we were off on the side doing our own thing. I didn’t like that—it made me feel like I lacked closure for the year.

This year was different. Our director got us into the closing gate show (!!) to perform the French sword dance, Buffens. I was a bit sad that I didn’t get to play flute for it (in front of the King and Queen and everyone else), but I had to provide rhythm. So I performed a vital but unglamorous function. Still, everyone seemed to be impressed with the sword dance, so that was fun and awesome for the group.

Fest 2012: Labor Day Weekend Recap

Three days is a marathon. Usually, I take one of the days off from Fest, but not this year! I did arrive a bit late Sunday morning, because my spouse was with me, but other than that, I was there pretty much from 8-8 all 3 days.

It was the first weekend of Romance Wars, and the person assigned to ‘hit’ me seems to be going very much over the top… Romance Wars is not designed for actual matchmaking, it’s basically a Secret Santa type deal just to pass the time at Fest. It’s not supposed to cost a lot of money either—inexpensive things and making things is totally allowed, so I hadn’t planned on spending a lot on it. But on Saturday, I was hit with 2 blue leather roses—very beautiful! I expected that to be the end of it, and even that was more costly than I’d expected, but on Monday I was hit again, with a goblet from my favorite shop at Fest, Garden of Luminaria. Their stuff isn’t cheap. It’s a beautiful mug, but I felt a bit awkward about receiving it. I hope the person on the other end isn’t expecting actual romance on the other end… it’s made explicit in the rules that that’s not the purpose of the game…

It also made me feel a bit stingy about my hit. Although the person hitting me is not the same person I’ve been assigned to hit (the Gnome!), I still wonder if people in general are spending more money. My first hit on the Gnome consisted of some honey sticks and a sweet note. It cost me about $1. Ugh!

The other notable thing about the weekend was my spouse being there on Sunday. I have pretty much concluded that I don’t like to have people there with me. It’s fine if they are there and we hang out for awhile, but I don’t like to bring them as a guest and have to entertain them or wonder if they are bored hanging out with the Troupe all day. I’m very, very jealous of people whose spouses or significant others have their own occupation at Fest—I’d love to have my s.o. out there to dance with me, have lunch together, carpool, visit each other during the day. Most people in that situation met at Fest, though, I think. And I don’t even think my spouse really likes coming out that much at all. He likes it for a few hours; he wouldn’t even be a season pass holder (partly because he works most weekends, but even if he didn’t, I don’t think he would). That depresses me sometimes.

I’m actually thinking of just being a season pass holder next year. Or working in a shop. I was going to try to get a shanty-singing group together, and I might still. But I am pretty sure I will not be with my current troupe again next year. I’ll write more about that later…

Toys, Consumerism and the Disappearance of Imaginative Play

Last night I had a chat with one of my very good friends who is about 4 months’ pregnant. Without my saying anything on the topic, she brought up the too-many-toys thing, so I recommended a book that I’ve been reading, Simplicity Parenting, to her. This might seem a bit strange, since I’m not a parent and not even pregnant yet, but a lot of these concepts are things I’ve been thinking about for a long time. I just recently found this book recently that really resonates with me, and I am happy to find out that my friend shares some of these feelings. As long as I’m not infertile or something, our kids should be close to the same age, and it will be good for our kids to have friends whose parents feel similarly about some of these issues, especially since I’m sure they’ll also have friends whose parents DON’T fee the same way, which will probably be hard for the kids to understand.

Anyway, here are some quote from the book about too-many-toys and some other things. (I would just blog my feelings, but a lot of them are perfectly described in the book, and using quotes is easier than re-articulating he same ideas in my own words.  )

As a society, however, we’ve signed on wholeheartedly to the notion that more, bigger, newer and faster all mean better. We’ve done so as a survival mechanism. It is a very basic, primitive drive (albeit with its own particularly manic, modern, Western spin). At its most basic level it is understandable, thought it no longer serves its original purpose, and we’ve taken it to the point where it actually threatens, rather than ensures, our survival. (p11)

Why simplify? Over the years, I’ve come to see how a child’s quirks or tendencies can be exacerbated by cumulative stress, I’ve seen how children can slide along the spectrum from quirk to disorder when they experience high levels of stress. If I had a bit chalkboard, I would write it as this formula: q + s = d; or: quirk plus stress equals disorder. (p24)

This echoes a book I read for my Complex Systems course, that talked about psychological disorders being basically this: a quirk or personality trait amplified into a disorder.

Children’s play [has become] less focused on activities, and more on the things involved, the toys themselves. (p57)

LA, Office Typology, and the Idea of Moving House

Wow, I haven’t blogged in awhile. I’ve been busy, and at the same time, nothing much is really happening. We’re still working on the closet project. I’m still working on my masters’ (or wherever that damn apostrophe goes) thesis. I hope to have a final draft done by this time next week. Then it will just be editing, and that will be pretty sweet.

In other news, I just got back from LA. I was there for work, visiting a few schools that send students on our study abroad programs. It was a nice visit. The colleague I traveled with was not someone I knew well prior to the trip, and it was nice to get to know him a little bit. He is one of the few of my peers in the office who doesn’t really “play the game,” which is refreshing. He’s a fellow introvert, which I had pretty much guessed, but he confirmed for me. I’m thinking he’s some type of IxxJ… possibly INFJ, but I’m thinking more likely INTJ or ISFJ. I’ll get to find out, though, within the next few months, because I have insider information that we will be doing the MBTI at a staff meeting probably this summer. (I say “again” because we did it a couple of years ago, too, but I was out of town for it! And I have “insider knowledge” in that I suggested to our director that we should do it again because we have so many new staff members, and our director also likes personality assessment stuff and said she’d actually also been thinking that we should do it again, so we will. Haha.)

It was so nice and warm and pretty in LA! Every winter, my spouse complains bitterly about the MN winter (ironic, because I’m the one who gets cold easily!) and how much he hates “this state” (I love everything about the state, actually, except the weather… I suspect he feels much the same, but he is given to hyperbole) and wants to move to Arizona or some such. Usually I tell him that I don’t want to move, especially to a red state. But I do like the dessert, and the mountains, and warm weather, and being in southern CA reminded me of that. I was also reminded of how much I love the ocean.

Class Presentation on Physics!

And a long-winded brain dump about my degree plan and biological clock

The class I’m taking right now is called Chaos and Complexity. It’s a Liberal Studies seminar, which means that is in interdisciplinary in nature. In order to complete my Master of Liberal Studies (individually-designed, interdisciplinary) degree in May, I needed to take a 3-credit Liberal Studies seminar this semester so I can take the Final Project class in the Spring. I normally wouldn’t have taken a course called Chaos and Complexity, given that I have no background in physics, I hate math, and it’s not very applicable to my focus area, which is Language & Identity. But the only other 3-credit seminars offered this semester were even less applicable and sounded even more boring– one was a Nonprofit Arts Management course and I think the other one was called The Heritage of Hope or something like that. I’m an NF and that sounded too Feelery even for me!!

So I’m taking Chaos and Complexity. Really, it is fairly applicable to my degree, because once we get past the hard-science, physics-based theories, we will be applying them to the social sciences and humanities. That will be no problem for me, and I do grasp the overall concepts, but the book I had to read last week was very hard science and I felt quite in-over-my-head while reading it.

House Projects Wish List

There are several projects I really want to do to our house, ranging from small to big. From smallest to largest, they are:

1. Install 3-prong outlets where we still have 2-prong ones, fix some outlets that are currently inactive, and install an outlet in the bathroom (old houses and their outlet-less bathrooms…. how am I supposed to dry my hair?? Luckily, I rarely do that in the summer, but in the winter it’s a different story!)

2. Wall off the basement “bathroom.” Right now it’s not really even a bath “room”…. it’s basically a toilet and shower in the basement. That should be easy enough… all we’d need to do would be frame a wall and drywall.

3. Touch up paint in our bedroom, the “baby’s” room and the kitchen. This requires getting paint mixed to match the pre-existing colors in the bedrooms, since we left those rooms the colors they were when we moved in. I also want to repaint all the trim/baseboards/doors/window frames.

4. Paint the exterior of the house. It reeeeally needs it and we should have done it this summer, but the unexpected furnace and AC replacement ate up all our funds. It will have to wait until next year.

5. Refinish hardwood floors in living room, dining room and possibly the kitchen. (Not the “baby’s” room because there’s a huge armoire in it that I don’t think we could move to finish under! And our bedroom is upstairs and carpeted.)

6. Tile the main floor bathroom wall around the shower, so we don’t have to have 2 shower curtains. Also paint the walls a different color.

7. Convert some unfinished attic space (part of the attic is already converted into our bedroom) into a walk-in closet. Right now we have NO built-in closets in our entire house, and basically right now we use the “baby’s” room as a big walk-in closet. That is fine, as long as we don’t actually HAVE a baby… but our plan is to begin to have a baby next summer, so sometime within the next 2 years, we NEED to do this project so we can move our closet upstairs into an actual closet and free up the “baby’s” room for the baby!

8. Pie in the sky: I’d love to replace our windows. That’s not going to happen, though.

Number 7 is the most urgent. I think we’ll try to get that done before next summer. My husband has a buddy who is really handy and could help us out, and he works pest control, which there’s not a lot of demand for in the winter in MN, so his winters are pretty open. I think we can hire him for relatively cheap to be our guide and help us out, so we can do most of the work ourselves but not be totally clueless.  The buddy already said he’d install an outlet in our bathroom for us, so I’m sure he can help us knock out number 1, and possibly 2, as well.

Number 3 we can obviously do on our own…. we just need TIME! We’ll paint the exterior next summer for sure. 5 and 6 may never get done, but I can still dream…. I definitely think at least doing the shower would raise our house value, but it would be complicated, because currently our shower’s only against the wall on 2 sides, so we’d have to build a glass-block wall or something on the 3rd, plus one of the walls has a window, so we might even have to glass-block that in. Just tiling the wall wouldn’t be too difficult or expensive, but adding those to pieces would be a pain. Also, the faucet is currently on plain wall, not tile, so we’d have to tile the area where the faucet is, which would man cutting holes in tiles, and that sounds complicated. But having 2 shower curtains is a huge pain, and there’s no where to put shampoo and stuff. We have a shower curtain with pockets on it right now, and it works fine, but doesn’t look all that nice, and I’m really afraid the weight is going to pull the rod out of the wall one of these days…

Oh, that reminds me, the curtain rod in our bedroom is coming out of the wall, and so are the coathooks in the entryway. Those are minor repairs, but they need to be done. And our front door doesn’t open in the summer when it’s humid… probably should get that fixed one of these days….

Le sigh… the joys of homeownership…….