Check out my expanded horizons: An Evening with David Sedaris

Check out my expanded horizons: An Evening with David Sedaris

I think that, at almost 30 years old, I can examine my character flaws without it reflecting a lack of self-esteem on my part. There are a few aspects of my personality that I recognize as “not ideal,” at least when we’re thinking about the ideal characteristics of a human being contributing to society.

One of my most socially offensive flaws (in my opinion, anyway) is the intense desire to live in a carefully controlled bubble… a bubble containing my family, friends, nostalgic pop-culture, and music-related news.

I’ve spent my life carefully avoiding current events and nonfiction writing, because I prefer the fiction. If the fiction stresses me out, I can console myself with the fact that it’s not real. I recognize that, as a parent raising two other (hopefully) contributing members of society, this is an example I need to work on.

So, I’m trying, with baby steps, to expand my bubble. Perhaps someday, when my kids are older and more able to hold their own in the world, it will get easier to keep listening when NPR switches from Car Talk to the news. For right now, though, I’m slowly broadening my horizons with non-fiction storytelling. I’ve found that listening to things like This American Life and The Moth Story Hour makes it more possible for me to learn about the struggles of real people, without getting them carelessly dropped into my lap like a bowl of eyeballs. That might seem a little extreme… but sometimes that’s what the news feels like to me: like someone very nonchalantly handed me something horrible, in hopes of scaring me out of my wits.

So, slowly but surely, I’ve been learning about things outside of my bubble, and I do feel better for it. This is why, when I learned that David Sedaris was being brought by Omaha Performing Arts to speak, I quietly jumped up and down. Sedaris has been a fairly regular fixture on This American Life, and is one of the most spellbinding people I’ve heard (on the radio, anyway) speak. His words have a way of sounding so beautiful, even when he’s talking about things that are not inherently so. I think that seeing him speak in person will humanize him even more for me, and make his stories distinctly more real in my mind.

If you’re as interested as I am, An Evening with David Sedaris will be held on Thursday, October 30th at 7:30 pm at the Holland Performing Arts Center in Kiewit Hall. You can get tickets by visiting http://www.ticketomaha.com/productions/David-Sedaris.

I hope to see you there, whether you’re trying to expand your horizons or are simply interested in an incredible evening of storytelling! If you’re interested in reading some of his work, this website is a great place to start.

 

Real Talk: In return for this blog post, Omaha Performing Arts is compensating me with two tickets to An Evening with David Sedaris. Although I’m being compensated, all these words are my own, you guys. I ain’t no sellout.  

General Housekeeping

General Housekeeping

Why do I want to call this a “housekeeping” post? Is that a real thing? Did my brain just make that up? I don’t think it did. Anyway, I’ve got a few general announcements, and it feels like housekeeping, but not the lame kind. The kind where you fold clothes and watch seven episodes of New Girl in a row.

#Science

We’re doing something called a “Naked Egg” at home. You soak an egg in vinegar, then in corn syrup, then in food colored water over the course of four days to demonstrate THE AMAZING POWERS OF OSMOSIS! Here’s the video we found on YouTube from a couple of dudes called the Sci Guys.  Charlie loves science experiments, so if you guys have any favorites, please send them my way!

Omaha Bloggers Network

This is a pretty cool group that was started a little over a year ago by Erin at Her Heartland Soul and Lisa from The Walking Tourists, and I’m glad I’ve stuck with it. We had a meeting on Sunday at Wilson & Washburn in the Old Market, and discussed things like community, future projects, and the creation of a committee system. It’s exciting to see this group turn into something official and formidable, and I’m genuinely looking forward to participating in its evolution. It offers support and education for bloggers, a chance to share your posts, and even more chances to gain exposure and community involvement.  Leave me a note in the comments if you’re interested in joining, and I’ll help you get hooked up!

Curtain & Pen Book Club WOOOOOOOOO!

This Wednesday the 24th at 10 pm, head on over to my Facebook page to participate in the first ever Curtain & Pen online book club!

We’re discussing The Maid’s Version by Daniel Woodrell. The book is relatively short, but does take some concentration, in my opinion.

I’ve been researching some discussion questions, so all you have to do is read the book and sit down at your computer ready to chat. Pants are optional, wine/beer/hot tea/cocoa is encouraged, and I can’t wait to see how this goes!

On Thursday, I’ll throw out three new genres to pick from, and we’ll start the whole shebang all over again!

*UPDATE 9/24/14*

I totally published this too early, because a guest post that I wrote went live yesterday! Flywheel is a super-hip local company that offers managed WordPress hosting for designers and other creative agencies.  The post is about public speaking and, although it’s geared toward designers, the tips highlighted in it would be helpful for anyone. Please check it out, and share if you feel so inclined!

Barcamp Omaha 2014: What I Learned

Barcamp Omaha 2014: What I Learned

I know it’s been over two weeks since I attended, but Barcamp Omaha totally deserves a post.

I enjoyed this “un-conference” so much more this year than I did last year, and it was mostly because I changed my own expectations of the event. More on that in a mo.

I also did a presentation with my good buddy Erin from Human Illustrations. That made for a VERY different experience as well

So, in classic recap style, let’s make a list:

What I learned at Barcamp Omaha 2014:

Barcamp is a place to evaluate and supplement YOUR goals, not compare yourself to the realized goals of others.

When I went to Barcamp last year, I left feeling fairly deflated. I definitely had a good time during the day, but by the time it was over I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was trapped in work-related quicksand. Everyone there appeared cooler and more successful than me. It seemed like every other attendee had their entire days to dedicate to their small businesses, and I was the only one who was trying to squeeze things in between diaper changes. Obviously this was ridiculous, because Erin was my Barcamp buddy last year, and she, in fact, was doing exactly that.

This year was different. I attended with the memory of my feelings last year, and that was helpful. I’m also a year older, so maybe I actually learned a little bit about comparison? Probably not, but who knows. It was a little bit more obvious to me, this time around, that everyone there had something they were trying to achieve, AND that each person probably knew something that would be helpful to me.

Basically, if you go in to one of these conferences thinking everyone is too cool for school, it’s totally going to feel that way. If you go in thinking that everyone knows something valuable, and that you need to learn from them, you’ll have a much better experience. Granted, there are going to be some people who are too cool for school… but that’s life, right?

If you’ve got the opportunity to present something, doooooooooo it.

Barcamp is an “un-conference.” That means that the attendees are the presenters, and you sign up the morning of the conference to speak. There are usually a few open slots throughout the day, but they almost always get filled up.

Presenting was terrifying and awesome. Erin and I both initially walked around feeling a bit like puking, and I’m glad that we signed up for a morning slot so that we didn’t stress about it all day long. After the presentation was over, though, I felt a little bit like a superhero. I hadn’t been in front of people like that in a long time, and I rode that adrenaline alllllll day.

Our presentation was about working from home with children, which is something we’re both very, very familiar with.  Erin drew up some incredibly awesome slides to accompany the presentation, and you can see them (along with her recap) here.

That’s the beauty of Barcamp: you are qualified to talk about something. You may not feel like it, but you are. Erin and I have been working from home around our kids for at least four years each, now. That means we have both successes and failures to share… and plenty of people can benefit from them.

Are you good at keeping pet snails alive? Come to Barcamp next year and talk about it. Are you an expert at meal-planning? Please, come to Barcamp next year and talk about it. Are you incredibly good at pairing wine with chocolate? You should definitely come to Barcamp next year and talk about it. Someone is going to learn a lot from you, whether you’re a tech expert or a professional basket-weaver.

It’s okay to sit on your business for a while.

What? What does that even mean?

One of my favorite talks was a fantastic panel presentation called “The Leap.” Five local business owners talked about taking “the leap” into officially opening their businesses, and a woman named Sharon from Buds and Buttons said something that really resonated with me.

Someone had asked her if it was scary to officially open her business, and her response was “No.” I’m removing the quotation marks now, because I’m totally paraphrasing here, but it wasn’t scary to her because she had spent the last eight (I think?) years running her business from her basement. She was more than ready to open up because the foundation for her floral business was already forged and was ready to meet the world.

This hit home big time for me. I need to change my attitude.

Rather than thinking, “I’m NEVER going to make an actual living off my business,” I need to be thinking, “When I have the time to fully devote myself to my business, I will have already done most of the work.

Really. When Charlie is in kindergarten and Lucy is in preschool, I will magically have regular time-slots in the week to work. I already have clients, I’ve been gently marketing myself for years now, and I will be able to hit the ground running, rather than think, “Holy crap, what do I do now?”

 

I love Omaha. I love Omaha. The fact that opportunities like Barcamp and Wordcamp are available is something I am so thankful for. Nurturing my business has not been easy with my lifestyle, but Omaha… with the cultural, technological, and social opportunities it provides… has been an irreplaceable resource in itself.

I know that I have friends and family members in Nebraska with small businesses, and I want to take this moment to urge and beg you to fit this into your schedules next year, regardless of where you live. Whether you present or just watch, I know you’ll leave with helpful knowledge you didn’t have when you left the house that day.

When the date for next year’s is announced, I’ll make sure I announce it, too. If you come, we can totally sit next to each other and high-five at multiple times throughout the day, I promise.  OR I can promise NOT to high-five you… if you’re not into that kind of thing.

(Big thanks to Lauren at Lauren Prentiss Designs for snapping a picture of both of us NOT looking like we’re going to puke!)

WordCamp Omaha: What I Learned

WordCamp Omaha: What I Learned

This past weekend I got to dust off my professional-lady clothes and attend WordCamp Omaha.  In an extra small nutshell (pistachio, maybe?), WordCamp is a conference for users and developers of WordPress, which is the blogging platform that I use for this website.  The cool thing about WordPress is that you can make a website that doesn’t even look like a blog if you don’t want it to, but it can be done all by yourself, if that’s something you’re into.  It’s very freeing, and is an incredible platform.

Rather than blather on with intro and flowery things as I’m sometimes wont to do, I figured I’d get a much more effective blog post out of this if I stuck to some structure.  So, here I go:

Things I learned/observed at Wordcamp Omaha, 2014:

Being at a tech conference with a smartphone is just as awesome as I always imagined it to be.

Attending Barcamp Omaha last year without a smartphone was still enjoyable, but getting to participate in the Twitter conversation while the conference was happening this year at Wordcamp definitely opened my eyes to what I was missing. I followed the conference hashtag, tweeted back and forth with other attendees, and experienced a higher level of conference participation than at any of my previous experiences.

I need to give myself more credit.

The thought of attending Wordcamp was initially very intimidating for me.  From what I could glean online, it looked like a giant tech conference full of people talking in a scary code language that I would never be able to understand.  Luckily, I powered through my feelings of insecurity and fell into a world that wasn’t as scary as my neurotic brain made it out to be.  Almost all of the code I encountered was like a different language, but it looked like a language I could (and will) learn.

It wasn’t all about code, either.  I listened to presentations about building your business, marketing your business locally, and even blogging itself.  I found that almost every presentation had information that was applicable to my business and blog, and that I genuinely understood most of what the presenters were saying.

This was basically a rambly way of saying: “Lauren, you know more than you think, and are capable of more than you think.  Take more chances and you’ll find more opportunities to learn.”

One cannot become successful on creativity and passion alone.

Something that became glaringly obvious to me last weekend was that I’ve been relying too heavily on the beret-wearing, Shakespeare-loving, bongo-tapping creative person living in the right side of my brain.  I suspect that this is the most important thing I learned at Wordcamp.  This is the reason I left Barcamp last year feeling inadequate and put-out.  All I could see were creative people surrounding me being passionate and successful.  I didn’t see the tools they used, or how many times they had tried and failed, or how they built their businesses.  All I saw were men and women being effortlessly hip and passionate, and it made me feel like I’d never get there.

Wordcamp exposed me to people using actual tools and business models to build their businesses … to attendees learning from their mistakes and learning from each other.  I need to ask people other than just my friends to look at my website and give me feedback.  I need to learn about what works technically, as opposed to what just looks pretty and fun in my brain.

Barcamp’s going to be different this year for me.  I’m going to find a presentation in the Tech or Entrepreneur tracks to listen to, rather than just staying in the creative side all day.  I’m going to look around me and acknowledge that not everybody is riding around on a magical unicorn of creativity, becoming successful overnight … regardless of whether or not it looks that way.

Finally…where are all the ladies!?

Wordcamp brought not only useful information, but also great opportunities to network.  There were two “drink-and-mingle” events, and I was shocked at how devoid of women the parties were.  Plenty of the almost 100 conference attendees were female, and yet I didn’t count more than 5 women at the Friday night meet-and-greet.  There were more at the party Saturday night, but not a staggering amount.

I’m not pointing fingers.  The thought of swimming in a sea of super-smart tech dudes can be intimidating.  When I walked up, realized that I knew no one at the meet-and-greet, and that I could count the number of ladies on one hand, I started to get embarrassingly sweaty.  What happened, though?  I ended up meeting a bunch of guys who were genuinely friendly and inviting, and more than willing to share the information they had stored in their brains.  The ladies I did meet were awesome and refreshing, and I was so glad they were there.

I’m sure there’s plenty of social commentary that could go on here… but that’s not what this post is about.  What I want to say is that the connections I made at the conference were fantastic, regardless of gender, and that there is nothing to be scared of.

 

I’ll definitely be attending Wordcamp in 2015 if it returns to Omaha, and I’m planning to have used what I learned this year to be better prepared for the next.

Bluh.

Bluh.

Let me start by saying that, right now, I’m sitting in a booth at Panera with the top button of my jeans undone and the zipper halfway down because I wore the wrong jeans today. They fit me weird, and are fine when I’m walking around, but when I sit down, they dig right in to my stomach region.  Don’t worry; my shirt is covering the partial nudity, but I’m still not very comfortable.

I think that’s a pretty good metaphor for my professional life right now.

I can just almost fit everything in… at least enough to make it look like I’ve got it together, but as soon as I sit down and really try to get to work, I have something else to attend to.  Something that will take time away from progress.  I always have to undo the top button.

I’m not really even sure if that metaphor totally works… but it’s good in my head, so I’m going to just go with it.

I’ve got so many things I’d like to do and be right now.  I, of course, would like to be an active and engaging mom.  I would like to be an active and engaging wife.  I would like to make us so much money by working from home that we never have to worry about anything ever again.  We will frolic in the meadows and run the most successful cruelty-free, free-range unicorn farm in the universe.

I can have it all, right?  Cake?  Can I eat it, too?

What’s bothering me most right now is my work.  My business.  This thing I have created that brings some extra income into our home.  My business is stable and, so far, small but dependable.  This is something I’m very thankful for.

It’s not thriving.  It’s not this super-hip, wildly popular, well-paying gig that I have painted an image of in my mind.  I’ve got the time and energy to maintain, but not the time and energy to revamp, rework, or expand.  I don’t have the money to pay some brilliant web designer to create a fabulous website or the time to learn how to make one myself.

I’ve got a couple of exciting work-related conferences coming up, and I’m hoping that they reenergize me.  Even through my excitement, though, I can remember the feeling I had after the conferences were over last year… and I’m not looking forward to it.  Spending the entire day with a group of trendy young professionals doing what they looooooove has a way of fooling you into a false sense of trendy-young-professionalism.

Then you get home and step on a Lego.  Or see a bill poking out of the mail box.  Or realize that you forgot to go grocery shopping.

That’s pretty much all I’ve got right now… although I should probably add that I didn’t sit down to create an invitation to a pity party.  I’m just in a rut.  We all go through these things, and I realized that I don’t always write about it, in an effort to convince myself that I’m on top of the world, looking down on creation.

What about you guys? (She asked, for the 5th time in her blogging career) How do you pull yourselves out of The Rut?  A team of draft unicorns?

ANYWAY, it’s time to button up that top button… surreptitiously, so that nobody thinks I’m up to anything weird.  It is a Panera, for goodness’ sake.

(I’d like to mention that this post was inspired by Mardra at Grown Ups and Downs.  She’s been doing a “free write Friday” and, although I don’t think I could keep up a weekly feature, I love the idea of just sitting down and writing without worrying about structure and wit and… well, anything other than what I’m thinking.  You should check out her blog sometime; it’s completely wonderful.  I don’t even have anything cheeky to add about that!)

A Quick War Horse Review

A Quick War Horse Review

Let me start out by saying that I haven’t written a “theatrical review” piece since … well, since I was getting a grade for it.  I have almost NO experience with Broadway shows, and I don’t remember anything about specific acting styles or anything like that.  I do like to think, however, that I can tell when a play has been done well, and when it’s been filled with life.  War Horse is exactly that: brimming over with life.  The show was practically breathing.

I was so concerned that I was going bawl my eyes out throughout the entire show.  I’m (most of the time) pretty good at giving myself in to the spirit of the production and fully suspending my disbelief when it comes to seeing a play, so if there’s going to be some emotional stuff happening . . . yeah, that crying lady is probably me.

Really, though, I spent most of the time feeling breathless.  Sure, I cried a few times because of the plot, but watching the puppeteers bring those horses (and birds) to life was an emotional experience in itself.  I loved that the puppeteers were very simply there.  No extra attention was called to them, and there was no attempt made to hide them, either.  When Joey was a young horse, one of the puppeteers was moving the entire time, gently heaving the horse’s chest as he breathed.  Honestly, they were all moving the entire time.  Joey’s ears would flick every once in a while, his tail would swish randomly . . . I don’t know if I can say much more without getting annoyingly gushy about it.  The puppets were absolutely mesmerizing.

The show as a whole was . . . formidable.  An emotional force.  The only static part of the set was a giant scrap of torn sketchbook paper, which was used as a projection screen throughout the show.  I’ve seen plenty of shows that use projections terribly, and this was not the case for War Horse.  For the most part, the projections were subtle and did a good job of providing a little bit of constant setting to such a sparse stage.

I appreciated the cast, as I don’t imagine that it could be easy to share the stage with such amazing puppetry.  The accents were pleasant, the leads were strong, and the rest of the cast made for a very satisfying ensemble.  For the most part, I found there to be a quiet symbiosis between the actors and the horses, and I think that they definitely rose to the challenge of interacting with these massive creatures.  I became emotionally attached to many, and fell in love with a few of the characters, which is, for me, a sign of a job very well done.

The show is marketed as a family show, and is recommended for kids aged 9 and up.  For the most part, I agree.  Courage, faith, and love are all prevalent themes, and the ending leaves you with hope.  I will say, however, that, oh my goodness you guys, this show is physically powerful.  There are moments of music and lighting and rumbling and war that are overwhelming even for me, an almost 30-year old woman.  There are deaths, there is darkness, there are ghostly soldiers, and a little mild profanity.  You know your kids’ ability to handle mature content; use your expert judgment!

I’m so grateful to Omaha Performing Arts and the people behind War Horse for allowing me to see this show.  I don’t think I would have gone to see it without a little nudge, and I’m incredibly glad I did.

Time for a little chat…

In return for this and a previous post, I received two complimentary tickets to War Horse from Omaha Performing Arts and the touring show.  All of the thoughts in this post, however, are my own.  I also paid for my own sippee cup of wine.  I also missed 4 or 5 minutes of the show due to a false-alarm involving suspicions of a Norovirus Attack . . . as long as we’re being honest.