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.

 

Are Introversion and Activism Compatible? (Or, The Armchair Activist)

I’m thinking today about activism. I don’t really consider myself an activist. I do my civic duty: I educate myself, I vote, I sign petitions, I donate to causes that are important to me. And I speak up, in my own way, about certain causes that speak to me. But by “speak up,” I mean write, share things on Facebook, occasionally engage in private conversations with acquaintances in the hopes of stimulating them to think critically about issues at hand, and also learning from their point of view. But I don’t really do anything, and in light of recent events (Ferguson, McKinney, Charleston…), I feel like I need to do more. Fewer words, more action. But what can I do that will be more effective than my armchair, Facebook activism? Pass out leaflets? Attend protests?

I care deeply about these issues, but I’m an introvert. And I also have a toddler. Going to protests just doesn’t seem feasible a lot of the time. Take this Saturday. I’d like to take my kid to an event (not a protest, but a community-building event), but it’s right during the time of day where if he isn’t napping, he’s not going to be in the right frame of mind to engage with anything. So that’s probably out. But when he gets a little older, that will change, and I will be able to take him to things like that, and it will be a step in the right direction.

But I’ll still have to contend with my introversion. I hate saying it like that, because it makes it sound like a mental health problem. And it’s not. I have one of those, too, and it’s not the same thing at all. So I don’t like to treat it like one. But, sometimes the reality, as much as I hate to admit it, is that introversion is something I have to “overcome.” So this thing on Saturday, even if it weren’t during naptime, I’d have to, like, talk to people there. Volunteer work usually involves a lot of personal interaction. At protests or demonstrations, I’d have to be surrounded by a bunch of strangers. I don’t know if I can do it.

I struggle with the conflicting ideas that I should put myself out of my comfort zone to support initiatives to fight racism, homophobia, etc. That, as a white, straight, cis woman, the least I can do is be a little uncomfortable around strangers for a little while. And I can do that. I do, every now and then. But it’s not a sustainable way, for me, to engage with the issue.

So I’m back to square one. I’m back to writing stuff, holding private conversations, and sharing facts or stories or words of wisdom from others, usually from behind the screen of social media. I’m not a coward—I’ve never been afraid to say that awkward thing that no one else wants to say—but in-person interaction is just so exhausting. And I do feel like writing things, talking to people, and sharing information and facts and stories are important. Of course it’s important. But is it enough? I don’t know. Probably not.

On the other hand, there are plenty of people in my social sphere who (I believe) could use to think critically about some of their beliefs, so why do I need to go out and engage with strangers to try to convince them to think differently, when I can encourage people I actually know to examine their beliefs and biases? When I can do so with a message of, “You are my friend/family member/acquaintance, and I don’t think you’re a bad person. But let’s talk about this. Or here’s something you might not have considered.” When these people know me, maybe even respect me, and maybe think it’s worth listening to what I have to say, even if they still may not agree. That seems like a better starting point than making a big speech to a bunch of people who don’t know me from Adam, or holding up a clever, quippy sign. Not to disparage those efforts, but are they the only way? Or even the best? Who decided that? I wouldn’t be writing this post if someone (an extrovert, probably) somewhere a long time ago hadn’t decided that the “right” way to effect social change is loudly: by demonstrating, protesting, making speeches, and arguing.

I don’t like to think of introverts as being “oppressed” or “disadvantaged” in the same way that some groups are oppressed or disadvantaged, but it’s also true that the world, or at least the US, caters toward extroverts. There is such a thing as extrovert privilege. I don’t like to frame it in those terms, because it in no way compares to white privilege or straight privilege or cis privilege or male privilege. But it’s there.

Extroverts have the privilege of not having people assume they are boring, dull, stupid, or uninterested because they listen more than talk in a conversation. Extroverts have the privilege of not having people assume they are stuck up or aloof because they are not good at small talk. They have the privilege of “class participation”—in other words, talking—coming naturally to them, when active listening, which comes naturally to many introverts, is just as important a part of learning as speaking up in class, and indeed perhaps even more of a rarity, but seems to be much less valued in our educational system. They have the privilege of finding energy in networking or social gatherings, whereas introverts have to push themselves to participate in these activities which often make or break hugely important parts of life, like one’s career or finding a suitable romantic partner (thank goodness for internet dating!).

I don’t mean to make this blog post a cry against extrovert privilege. There is a time and a place for that (maybe), but it’s not here. This post is about what I, as an introvert, can do to use my other privilege (white, cis, straight) to help bring down a system in which that privilege exists. What I can do that is true to myself, but also recognizes and honors the struggle others go through every day that is so much greater than my own.

I believe that education is the most important tool for social change. By profession and by nature, I’m an educator. I educate students every day about cultural difference, about respect, about examining their own biases and going into a new culture with an open mind. I do my best to educate my son about racism, privilege, and human rights (as much as one can educate a 15-month old about such things). I do my best to educate myself. I share my thoughts, knowledge, and opinions with friends and acquaintances, with the aim of encouraging thought, and growth, and introspection, and exploration.

I also believe that we’re approaching a place where more physical, radical action may be required. I know I won’t be the person to lead that. I may not even be a person who participates. I don’t even harbor the illusion that I will inspire someone to be the leader of such a movement. But maybe my contribution is that I can help prepare even just a few minds to be receptive to this movement when and if it comes to fruition.

Maybe that’s not enough. Maybe it’s a cop out. But it comes from a place of knowing myself and recognizing my own limitations, and knowing that the world is complex, that these issues are complex, and that there are no easy answers. It comes from a place of not knowing all the answers and knowing I will make mistakes, but doing the best I can do be part of the solution, and not part of the problem. And that, I believe, is that place at which all conversations—and action—around such complex issues must begin.

Social Life

I have been quite the social butterfly this weekend. Last night, I went to karaoke with Karlie, Amy, and hostess Jaime. It’s always a fun time, though I felt especially off my game last night because of globus, PLUS there were lots of singers there, and most of them were really good, so I felt even worse in comparison. 😀 But that’s fine, it is always fun! Sleep-wise, it was nice that it was on a Friday night– usually Jaime hosts karaoke on Thursdays– but actually I think I prefer the Thursday nights. Fewer people, higher ratio of people I know to strangers, and generally more mediocre singers like myself than stellar voices like on Friday. 🙂

Today I had plans to go to a Geeks Who Drink themed pub quiz, and the theme was… Star Trek!!! Awesome! It was a great time. My awesome sister-in-law came to babysit (since the quiz started before the spouse got home from work), I put on my red shirt and communicator badge (my Jadzia Dax uniform, I discovered, doesn’t fit as well post-baby), and headed out to the Chatterbox Pub in St Paul, which also just happens to be one of my favorite watering holes, in my very own St Paul. Good times! There I met up with my friend Natasha and our other teammates, whom I didn’t know before (except one by sight from Fest), but who were all very nice people. My brother and sister-in-law were playing as well in Vegas. Wish we could have all played together, but alas. My team did rock, though. We called our team the “Spock Stars.” There were some hard questions. Some of them I knew, some I did not but others did, and some, none of us did. After the first 3 rounds, we had only got 2 wrong and were in 3rd place, but by the end we ended up in 6th place (out of 14 teams). But, as one person put it, we won, because we were hanging out together having fun! And it was a very fun time indeed.

Tonight I was invited to go to the Rocky Horror Picture Show with some Festies, but decided to decline because the show doesn’t start until 11, and sine the spouse is on day shift, I have to be up when the baby wakes up (usually between 6-7am). But it would have been a good time I’m sure!

Tomorrow I have plans to meet my BFF Kelly and her son (my godson), who is about 6 months older than my son. We’re gonna let the boys have a little play date and catch up.

So many social activities for this introvert! It helps that Friday I worked from home, so I had some good, solid alone time while the kiddo was at daycare. Yes, I was working, but I was still alone, and that is very refreshing. There were even a good couple hours of complete silence around me, except the sound of my work on the computer, while the dogs were napping. Lovely!

Also, as it turns out, I realized that recently I’ve been hanging out with Festies outside of Fest. Like socially, not just at Fest-related things like band or Terp practice. This is the first time I can really say that, and it’s kind of cool.

Mama Alone Time

This evening, my son is at my sister-in-law’s. My spouse is at work. What am I doing? Whatever I damn well please!

Don’t get me wrong, I love my family more than anything. Being a mom is awesome. For the most part, it turns out that being a mom supersedes being an introvert (of course it does), and it is not difficult to put my child’s needs before my own. And I do sort of get alone time on the evenings when the spouse is working 2nd shift, because L goes to bed at 7pm. So I have some down time to my self. But I’m not totally free– I can’t leave the house. So every now and then, I start to get a bit twitchy for some real alone time, when I can really do whatever I want. Even if what I want is just to sit at home, anyway.

 

2014 Ren Fest Recap

Fest has come and gone, without so much as one blog post on the topic for me. Time for a recap!

Overall, it was a pretty good year at Fest. There was a little bit more strife within the band than last year, due in part to the fact that we had made the decision, prior to Fest opening, that this would be our last year together as Hardtack Jack. It was an amicable decision, no hurt feelings or anything, but I the fact that we knew we wouldn’t be together as a group next year led to, I think, a bit of apathy and lack of musical energy, as well as some conflict and tension around people feeling out options for next year. But all in all, we still got along fairly well, and I had a pretty good season.

It’s hard to write about Fest in retrospect, especially almost a month after closing weekend. There were some huge parking snafus due to increased mining. I didn’t get caught in the worst of them, and the lesser snafus don’t seem important now. I do worry for what will happen next year, as a lot of patrons were genuinely and understandably pissed off about the parking this year. My understanding is that next year they plan to work with a trained traffic specialist to get things organized better. If they do that, I think things will be fine.

Next year may be the last year on the current site. We’ll see. While I would be really sad to see the current site go, as I have lots of good memories of the space and structures themselves, it would be nice to have a fresh start on a new site where they could plan for things like parking, building to code, etc.

As to what I’ll do next year, I have had a couple of offers to join different musical groups, but I think I am going to audition as a solo flute player. That will allow me to be part time– like only Saturdays– and also to rehearse on my own time. Both of those things will make Fest a lot more compatible with parenthood. And while I really, really had fun being with a band, I kind of miss being able to play more flutey things instead of mainly fairly simple breaks and intros and the like. I will miss singing, and I do worry that, being a solo act and an introvert, I’ll be lonely and won’t feel like a part of the community. But I think (I hope) that being with groups for the last 5 years has given me enough of a foundation that I know enough people in the community well enough to feel a part of it without my own little “family” to belong to.

Some memorable moments from this year’s run:

-Getting to know a few people a bit at Fest Friends. I joined because I needed somewhere private to pump (joy of joys), but it had the added perks of: somewhere to stow my crap besides the upstairs of Bad Manor, free lemonade and sometimes treats, a lovely privy with a FAN in it (awesome on hot days!) and a warm-water sink, and oh yeah, camaraderie.

-When the Musical Blades came over after their show opposite us on Treetop Stage, and sang “Until We Meet Again” on our stage during our show.

-Being a part of the morning Queen’s Gate musician brigade. We always have fun. If next year there are still 2 gates, I would like to play with those folks again even though I won’t be in a band.

-Playing “Hanging With the Bard.” I’ve always thought that game/act was super clever, so finally I went and played the game. It was quite fun.

-Musician’s Jam at Troubador Stage, and even leading a song (“Raglan Road”) on my brand new wooden flute. (Though really only Gabe played along; it’s hard to jam to instrumental-led pieces.)

-Meeting/getting to know some Festies that I didn’t previously know.

-Dancing and playing with Terpsichory a few times.

-Playing for a rained-in crowd at Folkstone Pub about 6 times in the first 5 weeks (and playing at Folkstone in general).

But my favorite memory of all was bringing my son out on Fest Friday. I took the day off of work and since our band hadn’t committed to performing on Friday, I entered on a ticket and just hung out. L and I listened to some of my friends jamming at the wine booth, then played along with Allen-a-Dale with a maraca. L was fascinated by the guys playing guitar, etc. He was more interested in putting the maraca in his mouth than shaking it. 😀 Then we went and saw the elephants, petted goats and looked at other animals, then hung out in Irish Cottage for a bit. Then we found a nice shady spot to just chill for awhile, then ate lunch (me, then him) and then he fell asleep and slept in his stroller while I hung out at Fest Friends. We watched SkyVault Theater’s full show, wandered around a bit more, and then headed out. Great day! It was so fun hanging out with him at one of my favorite places in the world, that means so much to me, and showing it all to him for the first time.

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Ye Olde Selfie

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Cutest baby at the Festival

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Photo by Larry Edwards

On Being an Introverted Momma

The day I found out I was pregnant with my son was one of the happiest of my life. I was so excited to be a mom. I was ready for pregnancy discomforts, poopy diapers, and big changes to my husband’s and my lifestyle. Even labor didn’t sound so bad. I was ready to go through all of those things that would transform me into a mother.

But I had some worries as well. Of course, I had the typical “big” worries– what if I miscarry? What if my baby’s not healthy? But I have to say, a bit to my surprise given my history of anxiety and being a worry wart, I was generally a pretty calm mom-to-be. The “worries” that were on my mind most often were minute compared to the “big” worries, and much less scary, but still I found myself thinking about them a lot. I just wasn’t sure how I’d handle them.

One of these concerns was sleep. I love my sleep! How was I going to deal with the sleepless nights, no more sleeping in, etc? The answer is, the same way all new parents handle it– just by getting by day to day, and eventually you (kind of) get used to it. Nothing out of the ordinary there.

The other thing I was worried about was my precious “I time”– my name for the alone time I needed to recharge my introvert self. (Get it, like “me time,” but “I” for introvert?) I found myself getting titchy after a couple of weeks with limited “I time.” How was I possibly going to get by when I was NEVER alone? When the time my spouse was at work, that used to be my time to recharge, alone in the house, would become the time when I had to care for the baby on my own? Strangely enough, that hasn’t really been an issue at all. It helps that the baby goes to sleep usually by 6 or 6:30, so I still have evenings to get my down time in. But that never would have been enough for my pre-mom self. Somehow now, it just is. It’s amazing how motherhood changes you in ways you never would have imagined.

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My little guy seems very extroverted so far. Sure doesn’t get that from me!

Mom’s Sick Day

Last week, we experienced one of the inevitable side effects of taking our son to daycare– his first cold. This wasn’t too terrible, honestly, as he only had one day where he seemed really unhappy, and everyone says it’s better for him to get the germs now and build immunity, rather than be exposed to everything at once in Kindergarten. I am lucky enough that my work allows me to take sick time to care for my sick child, so the one day I had to keep him out of daycare, it was okay. It was actually not bad at all, because he slept pretty much all day– just what his little body needed to fight those germs, I’m sure– so I got to have a semi-relaxing/productive day at home. I could have even worked from home, but I didn’t clear that ahead of time, so I didn’t. I’m sure we are in for worse sick-baby days in the (probably near) future, but I felt pretty confident with how we weathered that first little storm. I was kind of worried about the first cold and how tough it would be; turns out I didn’t need to be so worried about (at least) the first cold.

What I should have been worried about was the first time I got sick with a young baby! Two nights ago, my throat began to feel sore. Later that night, the body aches started… pretty soon, the dreaded influenza was full on, complete with fever, chills, and headache. (Luckily I was spared any gastrointestinal discomfort.) But what the crap? Didn’t I get a shot to prevent this?? It’s been awhile since I had the flu, and I’d forgotten how much it can suck. And of course, the baby, who normally is a pretty good sleeper, woke up at 3am alllll sweaty, so I had to change all his clothes, which woke him up thoroughly and made it harder to get him to go back to sleep. Rocking him, trying to get him to sleep without getting him sick(er), was agony. I felt like hell. So I called in sick to work.

I don’t know if I got sick from my son or if I got something else entirely (the symptoms seem to be different), but I hope I got it from him, because I really don’t want to give him what I have! I also don’t know if you’re supposed to bring a kid to daycare if he’s potentially been exposed to the flu from a sick parent… but I didn’t really have any choice yesterday. My body and head hurt so badly that it was all I could do to get him dressed and drop him off at daycare (dad had to work at 6:30 and our daycare doesn’t open until 9, so I had to be the one to do it). I contemplated stopping for a coffee on the way home from the drop off and decided not to– and those of you know know me well know that almost nothing can keep me from my coffee! I drove home, kept the dogs confined, ate half a banana, and went up to bed. I slept until about noon when I got up to feed the dogs, eat something, and pump, then I went back to bed until almost 3. Still felt like crap all evening and went to bed early.

When I woke up at 3 to feed the baby, I felt maybe not quite as bad as the night before. Still, I decided to stay home from work again, seeing as the flu is generally contagious for the first 48 hours, and I figured I could use some more rest.

Today was a little different from yesterday. I got the baby ready for daycare, dropped him off, and then… I got coffee! A better start already. At that point, though, I should have gone home to rest and recuperate. But no, I didn’t. Here’s what I did:

-Made a “quick” Target stop to pick up paper towels, take advantage of a good sale on diapers and formula (for supplementing), and pick up some prescriptions.
-Ended up taking a lot longer than I thought, because I realized we needed some clothes for our family photo shoot on Saturday, so I purchased a couple of shirts, then I picked out a swimsuit suitable for my post-pregnancy body, and picked out Father’s Day cards for all fathers involved.

-Got home just in time to meet the guys who came to tune up the furnace and air (even though they were supposed to come between 4 and 6)

-Fed the dogs and let them out

-Folded laundry

-Wrote Father’s Day card for my dad

-Let the dogs in

-Washed baby feeding implements

-Pumped

-Ate lunch

-Let the dogs out

-Watched 1/2 hour of TV while doing Target survey in hopes of winning a $25 gift card (I didn’t)

-Let the dogs in

-Tried to take nap, couldn’t sleep

-Let the dogs out

-Vacuumed

-Put blankets in laundry

-Gathered paper and plastic bags to recycle

-When the spouse got home with baby in tow, loaded up baby and went to Menard’s to pick up a new filter for the furnace

-Went back to Target to recycle plastic bags and pick up a couple things I forgot

-Nursed baby

-Put dinner in oven (okay, it was a frozen meal from Let’s Dish– thanks, Mom and Dad!)

-Fed dogs and let them out

-Put cloth diapers in wash

-Ran dishwasher

-Showered

-Ate dinner

-Nursed baby again

-Put baby to bed

-Chased down dog who had escaped from the yard

-Turned mattress and hanged sheets on bed

-Emptied dishwasher

-Washed non-dishwasher-safe dishes

-Washed baby feeding implements again

-Checked to make sure baby was still sleeping (he wasn’t)

and finally

-Nursed baby again and put him back to bed (which took like half an hour)

So…. yeah. So that happened. 😀

My throat is still sore, but tomorrow I better go to work. I’ll get more rest there.

/mom