The Thru The Stones Convention…part 2

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living in moments…

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My friend Jane Anne Davis had arrived from Atlanta hours before me and was on her lonesome.  I messaged her periodically to see how she was faring and to report my ETA. We hadn’t seen each other in over a year and a half and in the meantime, Jane had kicked not one, but two types of cancers’ ass! This was going to be our little celebratory break from real-life and we were anticipating lots of laughter and downright silliness! She was a little concerned because she had tried to make friendly overtures, but was feeling like a wallflower at a jr. high dance.  I arrived at the hotel and promptly went to our room. I couldn’t figure out why Jane wasn’t answering my insistent knocks and so, I called her.  We both figured out pretty quickly why I wasn’t standing in front of the door she had just opened and I was thankful no one was home in room 7002 and then drug my travel disheveled self down the hall to the elevators, across the lobby, past the gift shop, desk, casino, buffet, snack shop, and onto the elevator that would take me to room 702.  This time when I knocked Jane answered and I dragged my huge suitcase that had lost a leg somewhere in the airport into the room, I let go of the suitcase that promptly fell over cuz…missing leg and gave Jane a big hug!

“We are going to push each other to talk to everyone!”, I pronounced. “We are going to make sure we have fun!”

And we did!  When folks walked by us the next morning, we tried to guess who was there for the convention. We decided plaid was a fairly predictable clue and if you were wearing plaid/tartan sorry about your luck, but we were talking to you!  Some folks weren’t too hard to figure out. Their Outlander and Through the Stones matching T-shirts were dead giveaways. We met a lovely couple who had never read the books, but were here because of the TV series and had the costumes to prove it!

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We joked that her husband looked enough like Ron Moore to be his brother!  We then talked with a lovely lady who was a retired jr. high science teacher.  She was sporting a fun vest chock full of Outlander pins and patches.  She told us she loved Outlander’s historical aspects and that she spent a lot of her time volunteering.  She shared with us that her team (the Hoosier Honeypots) had a plan to win the trivia contest and therefore, dinner with Terry Dresbach!  She showed us a copy of a book of questions she had created and had been studying.  I think she said there were 800 questions! I’m not sure if her group won, but she looked like she was going to have a blast anyway!  They had a rooting section with signs!

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Eventually, we made our way to lunch where I happened upon folks I talk to very frequently on Twitter, but had never met! Sitting with Cyndi Hayes was Carole Braun and her friend Sandy Dawar and Jill Shirley.  I just kept looking at these folks I felt I knew!  It was a bit surreal. I told Jill she looked awfully familiar to me and I kept feeling like we had met before. We talked for a little bit about attending the event and I happened to mention going to NYC Tartan Week.  Suddenly, Jill jumped up and hugged me as she realized we had stood beside each other at the Tartan Week parade!  Small world isn’t it when you are an Outlander fan? I had a lovely time getting to know Jill and listening to her stories about meeting Ron Moore at the ball park in California!  Meeting likeminded folks and my Twitter friends were some of the great moments that TTS afforded me.

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ME AND JILL LAUGHING JUST BECAUSE

We walked over to the convention center to register and peruse the goods for sale at Beardsley’s Trading Post. I found a sweet pair of thistle earrings to match the necklace my husband bought me last year!  There was a great mixture of items including a place to swap books!

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TRIVA!

The next big event of the day was the Trivia contest!  Jane Anne and I had decided that we were just playing for kicks and giggles (even though I AM pretty bad-ass at trivia because I seem to know a lot of worthless and obscure shite) so, when I saw Mother Hildegarde’s Novices was looking for four members that just wanted to have fun we asked to join!  What a great bunch of ladies!  They evidently knew what was up because they came with decorations and gift bags and some food! Buton was laid in the center of our table on a swathe of plaid and our gift bags included a Starbucks card, chocolates and some homemade cherry bounce!  I think I’ve made some new Outlander friends in Terri Somgynari, Sandra Hicks and Carla Jasinski!

 

I was just biting into a piece of gifted shortbread when I heard my name being called.  It was fellow blogger Connie Verzak and I stood up and braced myself for the hug she had warned me I was going to get!  And, the answer to your question is yes, she is just as funny in person along with being warm, kind, and wicked smart.  This was one of my favorite moments!  Just sitting and laughing with Connie and her friends was one of the highlights of my weekend.  She is truly a unique person and I loved meeting her!

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CONNIE AND I

Mother Hildegarde’s Novices laughed our way through the first round of trivia and then we heard some clapping.  On stage stood Terry Dresbach wishing everyone a good time. I have to say meeting Terry was “THE” moment for me.  Like a lot of other fans, I’ve been interacting with Terry on Twitter for quite a while now. She is just who I thought she was kind, gracious, beautiful, funny, wise, and talented.  The woman has confidence and personality to spare! Terry went from table to table greeting everyone. I’m sure she could feel the love and wanted to make sure everyone knew it was reciprocated.

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JANE ANNE, TERRY AND ME

Trivia was fun and challenging! We headed back to our rooms at the end of the night feeling like we had been part of a moment of love for Diana Gabaldon’s story.  A lot of people knew a lot about those books.  Me thinks perhaps we have all read them a few times!

SATURDAY

The next day started early, I think I was too excited to sleep for long! We headed out to get breakfast and then find our first workshop class.  We found a seat around the big fireplace in the north tower lobby and wondered how this was going to work.  A large group of us were here to “talk” about Outlander.  The lady who was leading the class was a neighbor of Debbie Ford’s. She said she was taking credit for introducing Debbie to the books and therefore planting the seed that lead to TTS!  I noticed that she had what appeared to be a list of discussion topics in her hand.  It was a fairly large list and I once again admired the attention to detail and thought that went into preparing for this conference.  I had to laugh because she only got to ask one maybe two questions because if you give an Outlander fan an inch to talk about Outlander we’ll take a mile!   It was fascinating learning about how folks found the books and what the story and series had contributed to their lives.  As per usual, we agreed on our love for the series, but EVERYONE had different ideas about how successfully those books had been transferred to the screen. I think we all agreed to disagree and despite our different opinions, I left feeling part of a very large, diverse group of folks who were passionate about this story!

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The next class for us was the improv group.  There were other classes available that included everything from whiskey tasting (at 8:30 in the morning) to sword fighting! I was starting to feel a bit nervous as it was getting closer to time for my very first press conference.  I asked Jane for a few minutes to gather my nerves and she went ahead.  I sat in the lobby going over my questions and testing my tape recorder.  I heard a group of people behind me discussing the show and books and looked over to see several men in ties talking to a lady who was gushing about how if they loved the show they needed to read the books!  I checked the name of the room I was supposed to be in for the press conference for about the fifth time and decided I was as prepared as I was ever going to be and headed in for the comedy show.  As I was speaking to Jane, the troupe came into the room.  It was the men in ties from the lobby who called themselves “Guys In Ties”.  They were great and made sure to let everyone know they had watched the show and were addicted.  They asked the audience for help with the improv topics and we are a sick bunch, LOL!  They seemed a bit taken back and I loved it!  This comedic moment was just what I needed.  After it was over, Jane headed for the Scottish themed lunch and I to the press conference.  If you missed it here is my blog on that conference (link).

Loved the quilt presented to Terry by the Bonnie Beasties fan club after the press conference.  Deann Roberts shared that they have previously created quilts for Sam Heughan and Cait Balfe and their group wanted to create one in appreciation of Ron and Terry.  Squares with Outlander themes and messages to Terry and Ron were sent from all over the world  and then stitched together and quilted.  I overheard one of their group members say they wanted to “cover them in kindness” and I thought that was so sweet.

Soon everyone filed into the ballroom and found a seat for Terry’s talk on Saturday afternoon. It was perfect. She just sat down and shared. In this moment, people felt like they had gotten to know her a bit better and found her be funny, genuine, and approachable.  She said she understood that the fans were coming from a place of love.  That all that she had seen was about love. And, I have to say, everyone I talked to loved her.  In fact, I asked some attendees to share their perceptions and I’d like to share a few of their responses!

Kristen Leigh Stiner:  I thought her talk was amazing!! The way she lit up speaking about her husband and children warmed my soul!! If I had a do-over I would want to thank her for being such a strong and powerful woman!! She is truly a champion for us all yet is so very humble!! I loved her before but now she is one of my favorite people!!

Terri Somgynari : I absolutely loved how she got all emotional and teary-eyed when she talked about Ron and her children!
It was the best part..knowing how much she loves them!

Gina Kutter: Terry allows us to see the real person and real life of our favorite costume designer! She draws us in to the Outlander family with her insights and tidbits! She embodies that Outlander truly is all about love!

Mary Alberg Faber: She is so funny and warm. The thing that struck me is how much she seemed to enjoy being there, and with us. Her attitute is inspiritional. Just watching the joy in her face when talking about Ron, the show, the stars, etc. gives me joy, in return. It was like talking to your best friend. (Oh yeah, she’s a fan – maybe a bit of a closet fan; not quite at the totally obsessed stage.)

Janice Schurr:  I, too, am not a “fangirl”. I don’t order t-hirts, or jewelry, or any of that stuff, although I’ve made donations to charities. I’ve never attended a fan gathering. But, this was more than that – it truly felt like a gathering of friends. Like a giant bookclub, where we all could express our opinions and share our love of the show and the guests. Plus, Debbie Belshause Ford and her crew made it seem personal – not just something put on by an organization or PR force, but something done by true fans. I think Terry’s chat fit the group so well. It was like sitting around your living room chatting with a friend, not a “canned speech”. And Grant, with his lovely sense of humor, was so personable and seemed to so like being there, despite his adventures in travel!

Thrynn Kirby: Was incredibly flattered to see her put as much energy and attention into sharing herself and our wonderful gathering as she does with everything . This was no fly by visit. This was one HUGE HUG from a fabulous lady. I am a fan ( read as one who loves) Ron is right. She does make the sun come out!

Tina Schröder Eakins:  I loved that Terry SAW us. Not just as a group of fans, but as individuals. I really felt she was there for a chat, sitting on a chair, rather than a speaker.

Tammy Petree Proux:  I was unsure what my opinion of her was before the convention. I just know that I loved the previous convention and the fun we had. I trusted in Debbie Belshause Ford to bring great people to everyone (along with great times). I was impressed with how normal, like all of us Terry seems to be. She was extremely approachable. I loved that she came and mingled with all of us during trivia competition; I know we were all caught by surprise. She has a normal relationship with her husband. I enjoyed her relating of stories of her family; the stories of Ron and his Disney love. There are so many things. I imagine she has some interesting views on politics, but it was good that it was left out of this arena. (Though I would have loved to discuss with her as I’m sure we’re on the same page lol.)

Susan Hundt:  I really appreciated her candor and her insights on fandom, especially coming to the conclusion that it is all about love.

Helen Kratzer Lyness:  The instant connection we find with others at this event is amazing! Meet a stranger walking along with you in the hallway or in the elevator and they are immediate friends as you begin to talk about all the things you have in common. “Where are you from?” “Are you a book reader, or a show watcher?” When did YOU discover the books?” “Who turned you on to the books, or the show?” “Do you love Dougal or hate him?” What is your favorite part of Book One?” and so on . . . we have a new friend, connected in one moment, now friends forever! Thru the Stones does that for us!

I think that Terry has been adopted into the fandom.

SAT NIGHT WAS ALRIGHT!

Saturday night was the culminating event and we were treated to a Parisian dinner!

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photo credit Becky Wiley

Each item on the menu had a connection to the books.  I really liked the Chicken Dargentan that perhaps the Countess St. Germain liked!  People wandered the room in costumes from the various time periods in the books.  This was so great!  There was such a huge variety of costume choices!  Some folks were all out Parisian!

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Others chose Scotland and a salute to the Jacobites…

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Others were rocking 1700’s Scotland, the 1940’s, and 1968.  I was impressed and I think Terry was too!

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photo credits to Becky Wiley (aren’t they terrific!)

The creativity Terry’s designs inspired felt like a love letter to her art and talent!  It was hard to pick, but I have to say I had my favorites. Cyndi Hayes WWII nurse Claire walked around the banquet swilling champagne and making us all smile in delight!

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Carole Braun’s version of Frank was a hoot and I loved how he kept trying to keep “drinking” Claire in line.

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photo credits Becky Wiley

Yvonne Cloonan as Wee Roger with his biscuits in hand made us all clap in happy recognition.

There were a couple of renditions of the bar suit

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and I loved the “deed” lady and 1968 Claire in trench coat and head scarf!

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Missy Hermes as the deed of sasine lady and Julie Chenoweth Tierstriep as Claire

Terry shared on Twitter a delightful pair of sneakers done up by Karen Boilard as a homage to the red shoes and an 88 year old fan dressed as Claire who had captured her heart!

Every time you turned around, someone’s ingenuity and attention to detail caused you to drop your jaw, laugh and smile.  I’m so grateful for this bunch!  They really added to the spirit of the convention and the fun.

THIS MAN WAS SERIOUSLY ENTERTAINING

Grant O’Rourke was the keynote speaker and I have to say I haven’t been that entertained by a “speech” in a long time.   I can’t think of a moment that lagged.  I found myself mesmerized and leaning forward to hear what funny, self-deprecating, and delightful thing he would say next.  I think we were all moved by his definition of what it was like to be a Dad to his “wee man”.  “It’s like falling in love everyday”, he explained.  His description of his talking Star Trek with Ron Moore was priceless.  His failed joke had me laughing so hard I was crying.  The silence, he added, in response to his comment was so deafening that even crickets backed out of the room. I would chortle about this at random moments throughout the rest of my trip.

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photo credit Becky Wiley

There were some charming moments in the Q&A with Grant and Terry and the evening was rounded out with a meet and greet and dessert.

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photo credit Heather Frey

THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES

I had some difficulty getting home (many of us did).  It snowed!  I said goodbye to Jane and thanked her for a lovely weekend and headed for the airport at 8:30 am.

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At about one, I saw Jane again…at the airport where I got a very spicy Bloody Mary and we “punch drunk” tweeted other people who were “stuck in Iowa”.

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Even Grant got delayed and ended up going home with Debbie Ford.  I loved the idea of him spending time with a Midwest family and giggled at the image of him riding in a big four-wheel drive truck (they had to talk him out of climbing into the back!). After several cancelled flights and sitting on the tarmac until they cleaned up the birds Jane’s plane had hit, I finally made it home.  I pulled into my driveway in Ohio around 2:10 am tired, but full of the joy of living some great moments.

Thanks TTS.

P.S. Please, I’d love to hear about your favorite moments in the comments!

“It’s all just moments. We’re all just living in moments…” a reflection on my press conference at Thru the Stones weekend

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TTS Press Conference Dec. 3, 2016

Debbie Ford, Grant O’Rourke, Terry Dresbach

Sitting by the fireplace at the Isle in Bettendorf, Iowa, I was discussing inspiration for this blog with my friend Jane.  I had been lucky enough to be asked to be part of a press conference at the Thru The Stones Fan event with Grant O’Rourke and Terry Dresbach.

“Grant had a very interesting response to my asking about the difficulty of filming out of sequence.” I said.

We were interrupted by folks on the look out for coffee before they caught a taxi to the airport.  We offered to watch their luggage while they snuck into the casino for the only coffee available at that early hour of the morning.  Settling back in my chair, I continued to explain what I had heard Grant say.

“He didn’t seem to think it was that big of a deal.  He said you get a good sense of who your character is and how he serves the story and then act that moment.”

Jane nodded her head listening to me intently like she always does. It is one of the biggest reasons I love her.  She is genuinely interested in how and what I think.

“I told him I thought it would be difficult and that I had the idea it would be easier to build a character chronologically, but he made a very good point.  He said, “It’s all just moments. We’re all just living in moments anyway”.  I’m thinking that might be a good title for the article and a good metaphor for the weekend.”

We were interrupted again by a group of ladies we had met who needed hugs good bye before they left for each corner of the country they came from.  Lots of “so nice to meet you” and “follow me on Twitter” and “what a great time” were heard.  I gave a final hug to one of my readers I was privileged to meet and as she moved away she looked around and said “so many great moments”.   Well, that was just too much of a coincidence and it cemented my focus for this reflection.  This weekend was full of moments both great and small to be treasured and remembered.

First, let me thank the folks that worked so hard to give Outlander fans a great experience.  Thank you very much to Debbie Ford, Gin Wray, and Sandy Belshause, their families and friends like the neighbor who convinced Deb to read Outlander and the gentleman who was the voice of the convention.

Back in July, I received an invitation from Debbie to be part of a press conference at the convention.  Of course, I jumped at the chance to interview Terry Dresbach,  Outlander on Starz’, costume designer.  Like many of you, I have been interacting with Terry on Twitter and learning a lot about the business of costume designing and film making in general. I hadn’t had the opportunity to meet her and Iowa isn’t all that far from Ohio and so, I started making plans to attend.

Previously, I had plans to attend a talk given by the show’s writers in LA that totally fell through and so, I was very cautious about telling anyone this was happening until it actually did!  I got confirmation just a couple of days before the convention that Grant would be at the press conference.  I happened to be at my granddaughters’ basketball game when I opened the email and I thought out loud, “I’ve prepared some things to ask Terry, but I have no idea what to ask an actor! ”  My fourteen year-old granddaughter was sitting beside me with her boyfriend. “I’ve no idea,”she said.  However, her boyfriend seemed to have a clue, “Ask him what his favorite color is.  You can learn a lot about someone by asking them their favorite color.”  I thanked him with a straight face, but  thinking about it on the way home, I broke into a smile and thought that he might actually have come up with a great ice-breaker!  I thought I would tell Grant the story and then ask him what his favorite color was with the added warning to be careful with his choice because I would be psychoanalyzing his response later!

I never got the chance to ask the question or break the ice because I didn’t need to! Grant and Terry hadn’t seen each other in awhile and they just started talking to each other and reminiscing about life on the Outlander set and about one of Terry’s parties. It was a blast to watch them interact.  They were definitely at ease in each other’s prescence and there was a lot of teasing, smiles and laughter.  It was obvious that they both felt good about the working relationship between all those involved in the production. Grant shared that he had been convinced that he was going to lose his job and that he didn’t relax until two weeks had passed and he was filming the stable scene with Cait because Steven Walters, Angus, had told him that after two weeks it was too expensive for them to replace him! LOL!  They both shared bits and pieces of life behind the scenes that made what we see as a glamorous job a bit less so.  There appears to be a lot of standing around in the cold and mud and rain waiting.  Terry shared that Cecil B DeMille said ,”the most fascinating day on set is your first and the most boring is your second”.

Terry said that on Outlander everything has its own rewards and challenges.  And, in response to my question she added that filming out of sequence is the norm and that she thought it would be easier to film chronologically, so that, for instance, you wouldn’t have to film a Boston May in a Scotland November!  But, that it doesn’t happen that way. This led her to tell a funny story about her not realizing things were filmed out of sequence on her first job as a costume designer.  She said she loaded up a car with costumes and took them to the set and then didn’t bring them back the next day because she thought they were done!  They both discussed the importance of costumes in creating a character. She designs the costumes with the character and their place in the story in mind and shares the “why” of her costume choices with the actors.  She then went on to share how she loves it when the actors start to make the costumes their own.  Grant shared that he was very big on being able to dress himself.  It sounds as if their were discussions about whether or not Rupert would have worn this or styled his hair thus, etc.  and some changes were made.  He said he had started to make the costume his own by always carrying his tam in the same place inside his plaid whether he would be wearing it in the scene or not because Rupert would have always carried it.  There were a few more laughs over the fact that he said he hated to wear that bonnet. “NO!  Not the bonnet!  I don’t want to wear the bonnet”, he jokingly whined.  Terry talked about how Stephen Walters wrapped his plaid around a special rock he had been given which is an old Highlander way of holding the plaid in place called a pauper’s brooch.  The two shared a story about the time Stephen lost his rock and everyone was scouring the set for it!   “Looking for a particular pebble amongst other pebbles”, Terry laughed.

I learned that Grant thought the best episode in season 2 was Prestonpans and he was grateful to hear that we were moved by his performance.  In fact, he said he used to listen to pod casts, but stopped when he was listening to one on Prestonpans and they never mentioned Rupert!  (I made a mental note to check my blog on Prestonpans)  I learned that this was his first time in America which really shocked Terry and I overheard him ask Debbie how much time he had after the press conference because he really wanted to get some ribs.  She assured him that they knew a guy who would take care of that!  He is so quick and seems a very down to Earth guy with his priorities in place ( hope the wee man enjoys his cup).  Terry was funny, charming, and generous with her answers.

There weren’t any great revelations about season 3 shared, as expected and as it should be.  However, what was very obviously revealed was the care, dedication and love that each puts into their craft.  My overall impression of my time spent with them was that they were two people who work hard at their jobs and try to do the best they can just like the rest of us.  Terry strives to do her best job as a designer and Grant wants to serve the story with his acting.  The fact that we all find it so fascinating and that the show is so popular is just a bonus.  I’m convinced they would be giving the same effort, care and concern to whatever project they were involved in. They seem to have a sense that what they do will be farther reaching than they can imagine and are humbled to be part of something bigger than themselves.  They know that they are here because Diana Gabaldon wrote these wonderful books and they want to serve the story and the fans well and with love.

As moments go, I was grateful to be living this one.  We are very lucky fans.

Stay tuned part 2 coming soon!

Icebergs, Prince, and Outlander…My reflection on episode 2.3

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So, who the heck on the Outlander set is messing with the time continuum?  I’m convinced someone is experimenting with time travel because that was the shortest hour of television I’ve ever watched! It flew by and I found myself surprised when all too soon it was over! I believe I actually screamed NO! when the screen faded to the credits.  I have to wait a whole other week to find out what happens next? Say it isn’t so! Grief stricken, I did what any normal feeling person would do…I rewound the episode and watched again!  Whose a Time Lord Now!?! BOOM!

I  don’t do recaps.  I feel like you all watch the show if you want to know what happens next.  I don’t necessarily do reviews either.  I believe there is an element of a review when I sit down to write about an episode of Outlander, but I think what I’m really doing is …reflecting? I know what I do isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and after this week, I’m okay with that.

I’m big at making connections.  I tend to make meaning between loosely related ideas or disparate events.  A friend told me that I see a thread and pull on it until the whole thing unravels.  I like that image.  It rings true to me.  Somehow, in the process of unraveling, I make meaning and then reassemble the whole thing using a story to tell a story. That is what happened this week when I sat down to write about Outlander 2.3, “Deceptions and Useful Occupations”.   I saw a thread and pulled; Icebergs, Prince, Outlander.  Not sure you could get more disparate.  But, here I go.

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There is a phenomenon called the teacher job satisfaction curve. Teaching is a profession for idealists. Teachers want to believe that we touch the future by teaching children. We are life-long learners who constantly hone our craft in an effort to engage our students in learning in the hopes of creating a spark that will make them want to learn more!  We start out every school year excited to get into that classroom and make a difference in children’s lives.  We envision students who will arrive in our classroom ready to  learn! Students who have loads of untapped potential, who are just waiting for us to inspire them!

Yep,…reality…not so much …sometime right before Christmas break you start counting the days before retirement.  The enormity of the task you have taken on becomes crushingly obvious.  There are so many variables you are unable to control.  Not all students are ready to learn or even want to learn. If I heard, “but, we’re Seniors!” one more time, I seriously thought my head would explode!  However, the disillusionment we all feel in December begins to fade and you start to feel hopeful once again.  After all, there is always next year and so, I begin to reflect on the current year and how I will make changes and hone my skills to inspire students next year, … for sure!

During this period of reflection (at my desk at the end of 4th period), I had a particularly puzzling student approach me with a friend to ask my advice.  Without giving away too much, I doubt she will ever see this, but still, there were things happening in her life that would have made it difficult for anyone to concentrate on “The Importance of Being Ernest” or “The Canterbury Tales“.  I hope my advice did help because often I feel helpless to affect change in their lives, but her asking me reaffirmed that even when we don’t think we are making a difference…sometimes, we are.

Thinking of what this girl projected on the surface made me think of icebergs.  And, I was reminded once again to look at my students a little deeper. That behavior that drives me insane may have very deep roots and the anger or apathy they display may have nothing to do with my request that they pay attention or stop talking and everything to do with how they are trying to deal with what is happening inside themselves.

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PRINCE

This week also brought news of the death of the artist Prince.  An outpouring of grief and love for this man was found all over the news, social media, and the streets, even here in Ohio.

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Many of us became reflective.  We asked ourselves what this man’s life had meant to us, including Terry Dresbach, costume designer for Outlander.

…not only is he an incredible artist, he is a man of principal and ethics, he is fiercely independent, he is going to do things his own way. He is not going to bend to the commercial interests of corporations. He is going to control his own art. He may be as famous for his willingness to go to the mat for his work. Famously giving up his own NAME rather than control of his music, scrawling SLAVE on his face for public appearances. He refused to give up in the face of the corporatization of the music industry, fighting to the end for the rights of the artists…

So what did he mean to me?

Who am I? I am an artist, first and foremost. I am a product of my time and place. I am part of a generation,…

…As the child of union organizers and political activists, I struggle every day as an artist in a corporate world I struggle as a human in a human world. Ron constantly asks me if I could not make everything into one of my “social justice” issues. No, actually, I can’t. I will always struggle against the tide that says we all need to be managed and formed to a polished symmetry that never colors outside the lines. Whose voices and very existence, should be managed and tailored to fit into an expectation. Group think…

Well that ain’t gonna happen. I am going to continue to be me. I’m going to throw elbows at anything or anyone that tries to control me as an artist. I am not going to hire anyone to manage me or my voice. I am going to fight hard against anything like that, big or small. And I am going to play Prince as loud as I can while doing it.    http://www.terrydresbach.com/when-doves-cry/

I was very moved by her self-examination.  This world can put so many pressures on us to conform.  Sometimes, conformity is the right thing to do, but sometimes it isn’t.  It isn’t the right thing to do when you find yourself acting in ways that are untrue to your own ethics and beliefs.  It isn’t the right thing to do when you feel compelled to dim your light, so that others won’t be seen as lacking brilliance.  Attempts to hide your true self never end well.  I’m convinced that many of the world’s angry and depressed people are those who have for whatever reason not allowed themselves to be themselves.  People always come out sideways when they feel suppressed and managed.  Like Terry, I believe the only way to live authentically is to make conscious choices that are true to who you are and not what others expect you to be.

OUTLANDER

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So, ….that was a long way to get here.  The fact that I CAN apply lessons about life to this story makes me happy.  I am proud that there is a TV show on the air that isn’t afraid to show characters who grapple with moral and ethical choices, characters who struggle to do the right thing and still be true to themselves.

I will defend the writers and producers’ choice to let us see Claire and Jamie struggle to find their way back to themselves and each other to anyone who feels that this weakens their character.  The characters, the story, and therefore, the show are the better for it.  I have said it before and will say it again, it is a mistaken belief that because Jamie is strong and brave he would suddenly be able to pull himself up by the bootstraps and snap out of what he experienced.  In the book, what Claire did in the abbey was a desperate attempt at what we would now call aversion therapy.  She exposed him to what he feared and allowed him to fight back like he couldn’t before.  That would have been very difficult to reproduce in a visual format.  In fact, it took me several readings to truly understand what she did. Like most victims of such violence, TV Jamie has to figure out how to live without such a dramatic intervention and as a result, the Jamie we see on the show is… an iceberg.

 

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Dressed in sumptuous silk, smiling, going about his work, plotting  to stop the Jacobite rebellion is the top 1/4 of Jamie.  It is the part the world sees. The part we don’t see is powerfully large.  That Jamie we knew was destroyed “he broke me, I knew it, we both did”.   It is no wonder that he isn’t the Jamie we all know him to be. He is a shadow of the man he was.

Claire struggles to help him.  She tiptoes on egg shells.  Anyone who has lived with a spouse with PTSD could confirm that their loved one is altered and that they struggle to have any intimacy/closeness.  Jamie’s identity has been shaken to the core. He cannot get “him” out of his mind. Add to this struggle playing a role, being deceptive; something that goes against everything Jamie believes himself to be and you have a formula for an explosive situation.  Jamie is coming out sideways, “When do I get to feel good, when do I get to have meaning in my day?”  It isn’t that he doesn’t want Claire to be happy.  He does, but he isn’t himself.

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I love how they chose to juxtaposition Claire’s struggles with her own identify and secrets with Jamie’s.  She isn’t herself either. It is so complicated.  They are both living a lie and trying to find themselves again.  No one is going to be happy until they can.

I loved the filmed metaphor of Jamie walking down the hall and Claire following him. Every time she gets a glimpse of Jamie (and we do too, glimpses of the old Jamie) he walks behind a wall. Yet, she still follows and keeps trying.  I predict the pay-off for our patience and Claire’s will be some of the most moving television ever filmed.  It is going to get worse before it gets better, but when it gets better we will have a couple whose journey will form a bond unbreakable …even by time.

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Here’s to the costumes…what a fan learned from Outlander

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My maiden voyage into fandom has been filled with treasure troves of friendship, self-discovery and unique opportunities to learn the lay of the land that is film-making. In short, Outlander on Starz has been a singular experience. One of the reasons this experience has been so positive is my  interaction with the author and the folks making my favorite book come to life on the screen. I never dreamed I would have such access and the reality of their willingness to talk with and share with fans has resulted in a life-enriching experience.

Terry Dresbach, the costume designer for the show, has been one of the more open and accessible folks.  She very quickly realized that fans were genuinely interested in what she does and how she does it. She has been open to questions and even started a blog to help satisfy our curiosity about her creative process TerryDresbach.com. I have laughingly said she is like the Wizard of Oz and has let us see behind the “creative curtain”.  She has let us into her world of research, sketches, swatches, and interpretation. It has been fascinating.

Like many fans, I’ve been oh-ing and awe-ing over her creations. I’ve listened to her explain her creative choices and how she has blended historical accuracy with the needs and the realities of making a film. I’ve learned a lot, but per usual for me, there was an “aha moment” that caused me to look a little deeper. It was this.

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I’ve heard Terry say that costume design is about telling a story and I guess at some level I understood that, but this was the moment I think I truly understood what she was saying. HER COSTUMES HELP TELL THE STORY. Yeah…we understood that…I can hear you saying, but for me it took this minimal costuming to clarify what I learned.

“What is it that costume designers truly do for a production?” was the question I clarified for myself when I heard Terry explain this scene. Her choice to let these characters be clothed in pale linen and their own skin allowed the viewer to focus on what the actors were saying.  We were not distracted by the “costumes”. However, I’ve come to see that her design was about more than that; there was a connection to the Abby and the practicality of nursing Jamie’s wounds and innocence and intimacy and vulnerability and unity with the set design and….probably a lot more.  The thought that went into those simple garments staggers.

Here, in this scene, I understood the genius that is her costume designing.

I’ve come to understand that it isn’t about parading beautiful clothes across the screen, but about helping the viewer become immersed in the character and story. She makes her costuming a seamless part of the storytelling. Sometimes, she chooses to make something stand out on purpose and sometimes, like the abbey scene, the costumes make the scene standout by making the costumes not stand out.

I wanted to know more, so I did a little lite research. I read an interesting excerpt from the book Filmcraft: Costume Design  by Deborah Nadoolman Landis, the 2015 Edith Head Award for the Advancement and Education of the Art of Costume Design recipient.  Ms. Landis says that the role of a costume designer is to design the people in the show.  She says that film costuming serves two purposes,

” …the first is to support the narrative by creating authentic characters (people); and the second is composition, to provide balance within the frame using color, texture, and silhouette.”

The abby scene illustrates this point perfectly.  Terry’s choice in color and simplicity helps, “support the narrative and create a unified fictional space”.

Now, I’m thinking…where else did I see this color and simplicity? When I realized where, it literally brought tears to my eyes…the Wedding.

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Once again, her design tells the story of intimacy, innocence, and vulnerability.  There is nothing in the design to get in the way of the words and yet it enhances what is happening on the screen.

Her designs are helping to create authentic people within the parameters of a historical period and with an idea to each character’s personality and place in the story. A case in point is Black Jack Randall and Frank Randall.  I remember Ron Moore, the executive producer who just happens to be Terry’s husband and the person who thankfully talked her into designing for this show, describing his watching Tobias Menzies trying on his costumes.  He said he quickly went and got Terry to see Tobias, “doing it again”. What he meant by this was the transformation that seemed to occur when Tobias put on his costumes. He stood differently,…his body language was different.  The costumes helped him create and become his character.  Terry “designed” Black Jack Randall and Frank.

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I’m starting to notice other little touches and nods to character, color and texture in her designs. I was admiring the elaborate and beautiful wedding dress when I realized Terry was telling the story of two weddings! Both in silver! And, both were telling something about Claire’s role in two different time periods.  In 1945, Claire is wed in a beautiful silver suit with simple lines that is as modern and confident as she is herself.

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In contrast, in her 1743 dress she is completely the opposite.  Once again dressed in silver to be wed, she is anything but modern, simple or confident.

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She looks like a fairy-tale, but the elaborate gown only accentuates that she is a stranger in a strange land. I can’t help but speculate about what else this deliberate design choice was saying about Claire and the story. Is it that the more fairy-tale like dress foreshadowed the fantasy quality of Jamie and Claire’s relationship? Is the rushed and simple wedding significant of Frank and Claire’s doomed relationship, etc…

Once again, costumes help tell the story and design the “people”. A costume designer’s job is to help realize the screenplay, but, I’ve learned that isn’t an easy thing to do and my respect for Terry and the job she tackles has grown!

…A designer’s work is inextricable from the theatrical context and collaborative interrelationships in which they work—the dialogue, the actor, the cinematography, the weather, the season, the time of day, the choreography of movement and a dozen other dilemmas all present challenges… Deborah Nadoolman Landis © 2012

I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that Terry doesn’t do this all on her own. Her designs are brought to beautiful fruition by a very talented team. I’m sure her love and appreciation of them is great. The quality of workmanship is obvious and their dedication to their craft very much appreciated by this fan! They make me proud!

So, here’s to the costumes, their designers and makers because of you Outlander is beautiful and the characters and story have a soul.

The price

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It’s been a busy weekend and I just sat down with a cup of coffee in my hedgehog mug <g> to catch up on all the news in Outlander world.  I stumbled across an interesting thread on Twitter from Terry Dresbach our costume designer extrodinaire. She was enjoying some personal time doing some of the things that I read other folks were doing; cleaning, organizing, and planting veggies.  Everyday. Normal. Stuff.  But,… to her…it is so much more.  Terry has written about her discovery that the secret to surviving the “glamorous” life of creating films is to be grounded in a place to call home, a sanctuary.  What we see as a “fairytale” existence comes with a price tag that we might not be willing to pay.  Time.  She is doing what she loves; her art, her husband is doing what he loves; creating and writing and I’m sure like other artists they cannot picture themselves doing anything else and will do what they need to do to be able to continue because it really is a dream come true to be able to work at what you love.  But, the time…apart…from each other and family because they are chasing their dreams is tough. As Terry said this morning, “you better be sure you want that piece of cake”.  So, when I read she is enjoying her “sanctuary” and surrounding herself with friends and cooking a special recipe or curling up with a soft blanket and a cup of tea, I smile. I smile for all of us who try to balance the pursuit of what we love to do with time with those we love.  I smile when my 15year-old granddaughter wants to spend her birthday fishing off my dock and Terry plans a dinner party in a greenhouse and we both create memories and moments.  We try to find the divine in the everyday.  So, this morning I’m smiling because Terry is enjoying the good stuff of life and sad that she misses her family and happy that they long to be together…just like me and mine…and you and yours.

May your pursuit of happiness be filled with memories and moments and love,

Beth