nesting * geeking * critiquing

Posts tagged “travel

Super Fan Serendipity

You may have seen the cast of Star Wars: The Last Jedi on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” last Friday night. I saw them, too…in person. From the front row of Kimmel’s show.

Our tale of kismet begins 12 months ago: December 2016. After securing ridiculously inexpensive airfare to Los Angeles, we purchased annual passes for Universal Studios Hollywood (mostly so we could imbibe in all the butterbeer deliciousness we could handle). As our year of wizarding drew to a close, we decided to make one last pilgrimage before our passes expired. That trip, booked several months ago, was scheduled for 30 Nov. – 4 Dec.

Knowing we were headed west again, I started checking 1iota for tickets to tapings of “Talking Dead.” And that’s when I found the Star Wars Super Fan search. Initially there weren’t any details about the event other than that it was on 1 December, perfectly situated during our brief time in Los Angeles. To enter, I just needed to submit a short video about why I’m a so-called Super Fan.

You know that feeling when confidence washes over you and you think, “Well, that’s in the bag!” Yeah, me neither. But this was about as close as I’ve ever come to feeling it.

I wrote an unimpressive script, tidied up my impressive (most impressive) Star Wars haven and stepped in front of the camera, awkward and unflattering as could be. After fighting with some video editing apps on my phone, it was done. I exploited a moment of bravery, posted it to social media and waited.

Wednesday afternoon I received word that I’d been chosen by the 1iota team as a Star Wars Super Fan!

After a day of travel and an evening at Universal Studios—the new holiday decorations and light show at Wizarding World are STUNNING btw—I found it impossible to sleep Thursday night. And so I arrived at the 1iota offices on Friday morning to film a Super Fan video interview with puffy eyes and a stomach full of butterflies… all before heading to the Jimmy Kimmel studio.

Guys, I can’t say enough good things about everybody I met at 1iota. They were every bit as cool as you’d expect from a team of L.A. creatives with the added benefit of being super nice, funny and relatable, too.  I’m told the video will go live sometime next week ahead of the release of The Last Jedi. I’ll update here when it happens (unless I’m even more awkward and terrible than I thought, in which case we’ll just pretend it doesn’t exist).

The Kimmel taping was a really cool experience. We found ourselves seated in the front row, which ended up being somewhat uncomfortably close to the man of the hour when he filmed his monologue. It took every bit of my self control to keep from chasing down surprise guest BB-8 to take home when he rolled our way. And I couldn’t hold back the tears when Rian Johnson, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver and Mark Hamill first took the stage not 20 feet away from us. For better or worse, I managed to maintain some semblance of self-control; otherwise the watery eyes would have inevitably escalated to sobbing, which probably would have drawn unwanted attention and created a scene. I mean, I desperately wanted to meet them all but not like a blubbering idiot.

A few observations from the taping: the entire cast seemed so charming! I didn’t have quite the same visceral reaction when John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Laura Dern, Kelly Marie Tran, Andy Serkis and Gwendoline Christie came on stage—instead of crying, I wanted to fist pump. They were all flawless, of course, but Gwendoline Christie looked especially ethereal in person. I was a little surprised there was virtually no mention of our beloved Carrie; since the actors were unable to talk about plot points, I thought they might have engaged in a more lively discussion about behind-the-scenes interactions, which I assumed would have revolved largely around the late Ms. Fisher. The entire show seemed to go by so much more quickly than I expected, I was so engrossed. I’ve heard from friends and family that we were briefly spotted on TV but we still haven’t watched the episode.

Our 1iota pals caught up with us afterwards for another quick interview on Hollywood Boulevard, then we were on our way to the rest of our vacation adventures (read: more butterbeer and Disneyland). The entire day was absolutely priceless and one that will live in my memory for as long as genetics and brain functions allow.

I need to go stock up on tissues now because The Last Jedi happens in less than a week and I know I’m going to be a hot mess. May the Force be with you!

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#My5Days A Tale of 2 Beaches

A new Star Wars movie came out yesterday!!!! So you probably think you know what I’m blogging about today, right?! Amazingly, Rogue One isn’t the topic. I did see it last night and really loved about 80% of it (the other 20% is up for debate), and I’m going again tonight so we’ll see if that number fluctuates before I post about it exclusively.

Instead, I’m sitting in front of a space heater, watching it sleet outside and reflecting on days spent at the beach. For many people, a day at the beach means hot temperatures, warm water and roasting oneself in sunshine. I prefer something a bit more rustic: rocky shorelines, pine-crested bluffs and the fewer people, the better. Foggy and overcast is A-okay by me, and I’m perfectly content not venturing too far into the waters of the Pacific (COLD!). So it should come as no surprise to anyone here that Washington and Oregon are my go-to happy places.

Back in September, I spent a week on the Oregon Coast with my momma; naturally, we had a fantastic time! Temperatures topped out in the mid-60s, and each day boasted a beautiful mix of sun and clouds. One very special afternoon was dedicated to visiting what is perhaps my favorite place on earth, Indian Beach at Ecola State Park. Just north of the bustling Cannon Beach tourist destination, Ecola is a divine mix of old-growth forest and pristine shoreline. Though hikers and surfers and casual revelers like ourselves typically flock to Ecola, this day was blissfully quiet. Our own perfect little slice of heaven, shared with only 4 or 5 other people and their canine companions. As the golden hour fell before sunset, the tide quieted and mirror-smooth water lapped against the shore, create exquisite reflections of the soaring landscape. I wanted desperately to capture the beauty through the lens of my camera, but I found it difficult to concentrate on that task…instead, I let the serenity of my surroundings wash away my self-imposed anxiety over capturing a perfect image, took in as many mental images as possible and left the rest up to my trusty iPhone.

It’s hard for me to overcome the feeling that every moment needs to be documented. Heaven knows I have enough photographs of even the most trivial bits of life stored on my phone, computer and external hard drives. But when you stand in the midst of natural splendor like Indian Beach, sometimes the strongest desire is to simply soak it all in sans camera. I hope you’ll enjoy the reflections I did capture, imagine the salty brine of crisp ocean air and unplug from the bustle of the season for a moment and do some reflecting of your own.

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In stark contrast to the peace and calm of Oregon, my husband and I found ourselves in Los Angeles at the beginning of December. In addition to christening our new Universal Studios Hollywood annual passes—Wizarding World of Harry Potter with waaaaaaayyy shorter lines than Orlando!!!—I thought it would be great fun to photograph architecture and Hollywood landmarks and all of the things that make Southern California so different from my beloved Pacific Northwest. And then I got sick. Really sick: a 104 fever yielded a diagnosis of flu and pneumonia from the minute clinic in Burbank, CA. So the first 2 days of our trip included quarantine in the hotel room and even without having cable at home, it wasn’t awesome. The nurse practitioner had instructed me to wear a mask if I went in public, which seemed like a miserable option. Instead, we found a loophole: avoid people. As you may know, this is no small task in southern California. With a little help from Google, we drove an hour and a half north of Los Angeles to a quiet beach in Oxnard and were shocked to discover we were the only people there! A couple of fishermen showed up later, but the majority of the day was spent simply walking the shore and breathing in the healing power of the ocean.

Unlike the ragged cliff faces and thick vegetation that leads to Indian Beach, Ormond Beach is surrounded by flatlands that feature a U.S. Navy base to the south and an abandoned (I think?) power plant on the northeast side. Instead of the fairy-tale forest walk to the shore, it felt more like navigating a postapocalyptic wasteland, complete with signs for rattlesnakes. My illness kept my quest for adventure at bay, so I mostly just sat on a little sandy ridge as we waited for sunset over the beautiful, blustery Pacific. I would have preferred to be healthy for our little trip, but the limitations made me slow down and be deliberate about taking care of myself. If that’s not a worthwhile way to spend a “free” day from work, I’m not sure what is.

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I’ve worked for Hallmark Cards 8 years now in various editorial roles, currently as a writer for the e-commerce team. This year, the Creative division decided to start at its core by giving each employee 5 days to use (apart from regular PTO) for finding inspiration and tapping into creative outlets that may not be leveraged in our everyday positions. A couple of days exploring the West Coast were just what I needed to refuel! #My5Days


Blind Date #My5Days

As I approached the unassuming entrance to the restaurant, I couldn’t deny the overwhelming rush of anxiety that pulsed through my veins.

It’s a scary thing, meeting someone for the first time; far scarier than plunking out an email and hoping it’s well received. MA and I had exchanged a few photos over the years, but the vast majority of our interaction revolved around the written word. Never had I heard the timbre of her voice—outside of how I imagined it in my head—or seen the mannerisms that accompanied the smooth cadence of her communication.

Did I look okay? Was my eyeliner drawn on too thickly, causing me to look like a tramp? What if I chose the wrong kind of flowers and they triggered allergies or suddenly dropped their petals? What if I didn’t live up to the expectations she had accumulated over our last 3 years of correspondence?

Miraculously, my feet managed courage beyond what my nerve-wracked mind could spare and we ended up at the hostess’ station to announce our arrival for the already-seated party. “I don’t know how people go on blind dates,” I squeaked to my mom. (What, you don’t drag your mother along for an engagement some 350 miles from home?!)

And so, we followed the nice young lady around the corner to our fateful meeting…

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I first learned of Edmond Sun newspaper columnist Marjorie Anderson in June 2013 when one of her articles caught the attention of our corporate intranet’s “Buzz About HaIMG_0663llmark” feature. More often than not, the “Buzz” was little more than a mommy blogger’s review of a product we had sent her for free; those posts didn’t get the satisfaction of my click traffic. This particular post, though, caught my attention and held it for many hours as I read through entry after entry of Ms. Anderson’s “As I See It” column.

With tired eyes, a fresh jolt of inspiration and an overwhelming desire to express my appreciation for this dear woman’s writing, I emailed the newspaper editor. “If there’s not already a published collection of these columns,” I urged, “there needs to be one! Marjorie Anderson is a national treasure, and these entries deserve recognition and preservation!” (In truth, this is but the essence of what I penned—the actual message is long since lost to the tragedy of 60-day automatic mail purge.)

Within hours, I was reading a response from the editor with Marjorie Anderson herself copied. Armed with her personal email address, I embarked on what has become one of the most fulfilling campaigns of my life: a budding friendship and digital pen pal connection with a writer whom I greatly admire.

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There she sat, in the flesh, before my very eyes. Even with a handful of photos lodged in my memory, I hadn’t been entirely sure what to expect of my octogenarian friend. What I found was a saucy and sweet, bright-eyed lady with rosy pink lips and cherry red fingernails. A woman as tiny as a little bird but not the least bit frail looking, quite possibly even better coordinated physically than yours truly, who happens to be some 50 years her junior.

I set the vase of flowers on the edge of the table and reached out to join hands with MA. She looked full on my face and asked in astonishment, “Is it… is it really you?!” And I’ve never felt so honored and astounded to have someone ask me the words that were mirrored in my own mind.

We settled into the booth with my mom sitting across from Brett Barney, MA’s son, and I across from my mythical-turned-even-better-in-real-life confidant. The anxiety I’d carried quickly faded in favor of warmth and familiarity as our conversation flowed effortlessly from topic to topic. We touched on the journey from Kansas City, MO, to Edmond, OK; the similarities and vast differences between MA’s teaching and my mom’s career in school administration; and how we had all arrived at this very place. I’ll admit I found it hard to concentrate at times with the ridiculously delicious honey-pepper bacon burger on the plate in front of me. If you find yourself poking around the Sooner State, it’s worth your time to seek out an Interurban restaurant.

After lunch, we followed Brett and MA to meet with the writers’ group, and Su-the-weenie-dog(!), at MA’s house. IMG_0666While the group usually meets on Thursday afternoons, a special exception was made for my attendance. A tremendously talented author named Paul Gaines joined us and shared some of his short stories and character studies. Like our mutual friend MA, Mr. Gaines is utterly charming and endearing; I’m honored and delighted to have met him!

There can’t be many better ways to spend an afternoon than sitting around MA’s kitchen table, nibbling on cookies and hearing pieces penned by the group members read aloud. The group shares feedback and suggestions, and I wish I had prepared something to take along. Perhaps one day before too long I will repeat the trip with the express purpose of gaining some criticism on one of my works…and getting some more “kisses” from little Su.

As the sun did its best to scorch the earth in high-afternoon Oklahoma fashion, we decided it might be time to go on our way. I’ll fondly remember this beautiful experience and hope I can one day make such an impression as Ms. Marjorie Anderson. It’s wholly fitting that she signs off on her correspondence with “smiles, ma” because smiles are precisely what she brings to this world!

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Me, Su & MA (8.19.2016)

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I’m approaching my 8th anniversary working for Hallmark Cards. When I was brought on board as an on-call proofreader, I never imagined I would transition to working as a technical editor and eventually a bona fide writer (though not one who writes the card sentiments). I’ve been blessed with editorial opportunities I’m not sure I could have experienced anywhere else in this amount of time.
Hallmark is not exempt from the marketplace changes and various challenges that face corporations today, but the Creative division is committed to ensuring we stay the heart of Hallmark and find new ways to help facilitate emotional connections for our consumers. This year Creative decided to start at its core by giving each employee 5 days to use (apart from regular PTO) for finding inspiration and tapping into creative outlets that may not be leveraged in our everyday positions. A day for a trip to Oklahoma to meet MA was at the top of my wish list, and it did not disappoint. #My5Days

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Geeky in Seattle

If I’m being honest, I have to admit that before this last trip we’d never spent more than roughly 24 hours’ time actually in Seattle. We can luxuriate in a relatively bustling city scene here in Kansas City if we really want to (we generally don’t) but have nothing comparable to the ocean and mountains and temperate rainforests, so most of our time in the PNW is spent enjoying those natural splendors. And indulge in the outdoors we did: we walked stunning ocean shores, hiked to waterfalls, ventured to the northwestern most point of the continental U.S., decompressed with beautiful lakeside vistas and paraglided for unrivaled sights and exhilaration.

While searching for a hike near North Bend/Snoqualmie*, we stumbled across a film crew at a local diner. Perhaps you’ve heard about the resurrection of a cult favorite tv show, Twin Peaks… You guys, we were in North Bend while they were filming Twin Peaks! We really didn’t see much, as the flurry of crew members obscured most anything interesting and accessibility near the set was limited. (David Lynch was apparently unhappy with fan presence; this article was published the day before we coincidentally ended up on-site.) We might have been more obnoxious in trying to obtain photos had we binged all 22 episodes prior to going rather than just finishing it this week.
I can tell you that from a couple of blocks away, down a back alley, we saw the classic turquoise waitress dresses—couldn’t discern which actresses were wearing them. One gal had curly hair but looked too short and a bit too round to be the fictional Shelley Johnson.

*We never found the hike I had planned. Crews were working on Middle Fork Road, so that access was cut off and we opted to return to the hotel for an afternoon nap rather than search for work-arounds.

Twin Peaks wasn’t the only geeky indulgence on our vacation. The EMP Museum in downtown Seattle ensured that, as our time in town corresponded with the traveling exhibit “Star Wars and the Power of Costume.”

The exhibit itself was quite nice, if a bit overpriced. Past exhibits “Star Wars in Concert” and “Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination” showcased many of the same costumes, but that didn’t hamper my enthusiasm. This is, after all, the year of Star Wars!

EMP also featured brilliant exhibits for fantasy, horror and sci-fi costumes and artifacts. There was something for virtually every geeky indulgence, from Ghostbusters to the Wizard of Oz, Alien, Harry Potter, Doctor Who and Game of Thrones to The Princess Bride. I definitely recommend visiting if you can stand to pull yourself away from the majestic wilderness.

To see the full complement of photos from our trip, including MANY more geektastic exhibit images, trek on over to my share site (HERE).


Overdue Update

When last we spoke, I was preparing for our latest adventure in the Evergreen State. We’ve been back nearly 6 weeks now and I’m finally getting around to posting photos and reflecting on our time away.

As I’m shoulder-deep in writing for Christmas 2016 at work (yes, you read that right, 2016!), I won’t be sharing much in the way of words here until early November. In the meantime, I offer some photos. The shots below are a few of my favorites from our hikes.

Next post will focus on the photos of geeky aspects of the trip—namely the Star Wars, fantasy, horror and sci-fi exhibits at Seattle’s EMP Museum as well as our serendipitous encounter with the North Bend filming location for Twin Peaks.

If you want to cheat and see the full complement of photos from our trip before I post them here, trek on over to my share site (click HERE).