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Glamping Adventures

My unplugged vacation was a success! Although I did find that despite being on top of a mountain in basically the Middle of Nowhere, Virginia, I did still have 4G LTE which was surprising and also didn’t entirely cut me off from social media. But I still enjoyed myself immensely and was actually able to RELAX which is a big deal for me.

I even went the whole week without writing or filming or editing any videos! What madness!

But honestly, it was a welcome break from not only my day job (which is video producing/editing) but also my YouTube life. And sometimes you just need a little YouTube vacation!

However, I wanted to share with you, the magical place we stayed because you can stay there too! It’s working farmstead called Cair Paravel (Narnia reference!) and has 3 sites available on AirBnB including the very cool yurt we stayed in!

So if you don’t know what a yurt is, I brought you a handy-dandy dictionary definition:

But it should be noted that we weren’t staying in a movable tent. This yurt (and many others available for rent around the U.S.) is based on the ancient tent-like shelters of Mongolia, but it’s modified to be much more sedentary with a hardwood base and ceiling, a working kitchen and bath, running water, a small A.C. unit, ceiling fans, and even a loft for extra sleeping space! While it’s an open layout with a lattice framework and screened windows with several layers of flaps to open and close in order to help cool/heat the structure, it was really like a beautiful, round cabin in the woods!

Now while the yurt itself was a beautiful sight to behold, it was really all the interesting things that happened while we were there that made our trip memorable.

Clumsy McClumsy Pants

So as soon as we arrived we had to explore the yurt which mean opening up all the cabinets and flipping all the switches to see what they controlled. It also meant running up to the loft area to check out the row of cute twin-size beds and even musical instruments! Parker drummed a bit on the bongos and we looked up through the skylight and marveled at this awesome little place we got to stay in for a few days.

Then we decided to begin our descent so we could make a trip to the grocery store (a nice 30 minute drive) to stock up on food for the week. You would think doing something as simple as walking down some stairs would be easy-breezy for me, right? No. Nothing is easy when it comes to managing my physical body the way it’s supposed to be managed.

Parker took the stairs first and I followed quickly behind. I’d taken about 3 steps when I felt my foot slip a bit and I caught myself. (I was was wearing socks which was my first mistake). And I said, “I’m going to slip, Parker.” But I kept descending and with another 2 steps, my feet slipped again and I reiterated (a little more distressed this time), “I’m going to fall down these stairs!” Then one more step and somehow I was gone, my feet completely out from underneath me as I desperately tried to hold onto the railing and then eventually the cables that lined the stairs. I’m not sure how I managed to fall the last half of the stairwell without killing myself (or at least seriously injuring myself), but somehow I made it off the stairs with just a bit of a sore back from where it had bumped its way down a few stairs. And Parker staring at me like I was crazy.

“Well, you did say you were going to fall down the stairs,” he quipped matter of factly.

So it was with that slightly traumatic instance that I began my vacation. Fortunately I was not seriously injured. And I did NOT go back up the stairs. I also did not wear socks while in the yurt anymore after that. Socks + hardwood floors DO NOT mix well.

The Wildlife – Both Beautiful and Terrifying

We also experienced LOTS of wildlife on our mountain adventures. Some were a bit scary. Like when I spotted a snake slithering through the rocks of the firepit that Parker had just been walking on and around to stoke the fire. (After some research I determined from its markings and head shape that it was a non-venomous water snake. Still creepy but we weren’t in imminent danger. It just liked our warm fire!)

We also had a funnel weaver spider. I tried googling the exact kind of spider it was (Maybe a grass spider? Maybe a barn funnel weaver?) All I know is that it was BIG and it made funnel-shaped webs and it was IN MY BEDROOM. Googling was futile because it just gave me the heebie-jeebies, made my skin tingle, and made me NEVER want to go to Australia because their funnel spiders are deadly. (Is Australia just one big deathtrap?) There was a “Bugzooka” in the yurt which Parker considered using to dispose of this creepy giant in our living space, but he was so high up and Parker is just as freaked out by spiders as I am and it required him to get way too close to it.  So…we just lived with a spider roommate all week. We eventually became a bit desensitized to him and would even walk under the doorway where he’d taken up residence. But sometimes he would disappear for a few hours (hopefully just down into a nearby crevice), and it would freak me out. He was much too close to my open luggage and it made me think I would be taking home our new spider friend!

On the not-so-scary side of wildlife encounters, we also ran into a few deer. The first was on our trek back up from White Oak Canyon falls. This encounter was actually a little concerning because it was a lone deer, criss-crossing the trail around us and seeming completely unconcerned with us (or several other human passersby). Parker mentioned it made him wonder if it had rabies. (She got close enough where we could actually see her ribs poking through her sides and I felt like during the height of the summer there should have been enough deer yummies to fill up her tummy. But I also know very little about deer.) It was an interesting experience to get that up close and personal with a deer as we basically walked a good quarter of mile on the trail with her.

The best wildlife encounter though was with a fawn and his momma. (Can you say Bambi!)

These deer were quite a bit more standoffish than the previous one although after determining that we weren’t a threat, the fawn slowly explored his way closer to us as shown in this awesome video:

We also watched the sweet baby deer having a case of the “zoomies” (or rather deciding he needed to show off for his new human friends). He made several laps at top speed on the hill above us with his (probably exasperated mother) looking on and rolling her eyes. All in all, this was probably my favorite experience of the trip!

Midnight Intruder

There was also an instance when I definitely thought I was going to die.

Parker has been begging me to watch “Se7en” for probably a few years now. And for some crazy reason when we were downloading movies to watch while at the yurt and he (I think somewhat jokingly) suggested it, I agreed. I did note that watching a creepy movie in a cabin in the woods is probably NOT the best idea. And what did we do? Watch it at night with the lights off. (Admittedly, we had started it before the sun had gone down and just hadn’t turned any lights on yet. It was not intended to make the creepy factors off the charts!) We were near the end when there’s a general sense of unease because catching the killer seemed just TOO EASY when we suddenly heard a set of footsteps running across the deck outside. Parker and I looked at each other in the glow of the laptop screen like, “What the heck!?” We waited a moment, expecting a knock on the door and perhaps Whitt, the owner of the property to be there. It was about 9:30 PM and bit late for him to show up, but that’s the only thing that would make sense. After a moment’s waiting and no knock nor anymore footsteps, I turned on a light and Parker jumped up and went towards the door. The next few moments were a rush of turning on lights, grabbing sticks as weapons, and peeking through the blinds but finding it too dark to see much.  Parker then decided it was best to turn off all the lights, plunging us back into blackness, and lie on the floor listening for more footsteps or just any sounds at all. (I started getting particularly creeped out because the yurt sits up off the ground and there’s significant open space below the deck and body of the yurt that someone could hide in. After literally 15 minutes of lying on the floor and listening, Parker then decided he was going to check the grounds and left me, brandishing his belt like a weapon in the pitch-black yurt while he explored outside with a flashlight. This only made my anxiety worse because though I heard nothing from the outside I kept thinking, “What if he doesn’t come back inside!? This is how all the horror movies start! You never split up!” And I was imagining what I would do, who to call, how to fight, etc. It was an awful 5 minutes in my brain. Parker finally called for me from outside and asked me to come out too. (Which I didn’t particularly like because there were in fact two doors to the yurt and I imagined someone slipping in the second one while I was outside). He said he couldn’t find anyone or anything so it was best just to go back inside and forget about it. Which we did. (Although apparently after I’d gone to sleep that night, Parker had checked the loft area and the outside one more time).

Flash Forward to the next day when I thought, “Maybe it was one of the dogs running across the deck? If it’s a farmstead, surely there might be some dogs loose at night.”  I sent our AirBnB host a message telling her about our scare and suggesting that perhaps it was a dog (even though the footsteps we heard did not sound like a normal four legged creature).  What we found out is that they 1.) Do have some dogs loose at night and they like to patrol the property and 2.) Most likely we’d heard Tsuki, their three-legged dog, whose gait would have been just a bit different.

You cannot believe how much we laughed when we realized this absolutely was the explanation and how silly we would have looked to anyone on the outside of the situation, lying on the floor listening for footsteps for 15 minutes!  It was a welcome relief. And also Tsuki is creamy white/yellow and sweet and definitely not a midnight murder!

WRONG WAY!

Our final adventure of the trip involved turning our four mile hike up to Hightop Mountain into a six mile hike because I didn’t look across the street from our parking area! We ended up going about a mile in the wrong direction (and unfortunately downhill) on our last day of hiking when we were trying to make it up to Hightop Mountain. I was kicking myself for not taking the time to double check the trail and following my gut when we didn’t see an obvious trail head at the start. We were both tired at that point and trying not to overdo it since neither of us has done any significant amount of hiking in the last month or so. But we decided after turning around and making it back to the carpark that we still wanted to make it to top even with the extra pre-intended hike mileage. And we did it! Although we were feeling some fatigue on the way back which is always a little scary on rocky and steep trails like this. One misstep or a weak ankle and you’re out of commission!

But fortunately, it all turned out okay. No twisted ankles. No spider or snake bites. No rabid zombie deer (as far as we know…) I’m so glad we got to spend a week in this magical and special place. We’re definitely planning on going back (preferably in the fall or maybe early winter when it’s a bit cooler). And if you’re interested in staying in the yurt or one of the other cute places at Cair Paravel, you can book it on AirBnB here!

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When You Hate the Things You Love

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I had a super stressful weekend when it should have been super amazing and exciting. It’s been a goal of mine and my good friend Alanna’s to make a video together since we now live in the same city.  And we’ve been working on said project for the last few weeks. This Saturday was the big day when pre-production moved to production, and we planned to shoot all day.  Which on the one hand, is AWESOME because I’d get to hang out Alanna all day doing something we both love.  But on the other hand, was causing me some SERIOUS anxiety because it was an ambitious plan and everything leading up to the production day seemed to be heading towards flames. I’d ordered a cord I need to record Parker playing the piano for the music we were using, but in my rush I accidentally one-day shipped it from Amazon to my parent’s house instead of my apartment (of which these two places are over 2 hours apart). This was after trying to use “Prime Now” for the first time and for some reason, it was “undeliverable” even though I gave them very specific instructions.

I had also spent the previous few weeks in an internal hell worrying about how we were going to get the piano music in the first place and what I would do if we didn’t. (Parker finally came through for me in that last week and learned the song surprisingly easily, at least from my perspective). And then circumstances changed in such a way that we no longer had a 3rd person to work as camera operator in the few scenes we’d planned where we’d both need to be on camera. This resulted in a text frenzy and frantic searching for someone, ANYONE who was free Saturday evening to hold a camera for us. So by the time Saturday rolled around, I was an anxiety-riddled, emotional, and crying mess. All the anxious parts of me screamed, SCRAP IT! SCRAP THE WHOLE THING! But I was also torn by duty and the rational knowledge that this was a good project. It was a fun activity to do with Alanna. And it would result in a video that I would not have done on my own. And isn’t that one of the reasons, I wanted to move closer to my friends? So that I could collaborate and expand beyond my modus operandi on YouTube?

So then why did I experience so much internal resistance? Admittedly, there were a lot of things that went wrong in the pre-production process like not ordering the cord I needed earlier or not fully communicating what we needed with the camera operator.  But I think the biggest issue in the whole mess of this past weekend was that it was something different. I have a comfort zone in my YouTube creating. And any time I step outside that comfort zone, especially when it involves other people and their own schedules, I start to feel overwhelmed. And I eventually get to the point of utterly hating the thing I usually love most. I tend to love the idea of doing new things or trying something different, but when it comes down to actually do that new thing? Nuh uh! No way! My brain resists like crazy and tries to come up with every possible excuse for bailing. And quite honestly, I think there’s a fair amount of self-sabotage (e.g. see list of pro-production fails above).  

But I also can’t stay in my little box of comfort. I’ll never learn or grow that way!

I did end up having a lot of fun filming with Alanna on Saturday, and I think the project we’re working on is going to be super cute and amazing. It’s definitely not like anything else I’ve done on my channel, but it’s something I’ve wanted to do. So now, even with all the pain and angst, I’ll have experience and the next time I do a project like this, it will hopefully be just a little bit easier. That’s really the only hope that I can draw from this. I don’t know how to change my anxiety or my innate desire to stay in my comfort zone other than to push myself out of it and deal with the consequences. There’s usually a fair amount of crying and general rage at the world, but once I get past that (and please note that it’s not a walk in the park or anything), I do enjoy doing the new thing and challenging myself. I start to remember that “Hey! Yeah, I do love this thing. I hated it for a bit. But now…eh, it’s not so bad.” 🙂

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The Time a Teacher Told Me My Art Was Too “Crafty”

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While in high school, I was so much of an overachiever that I couldn’t fit all my passions into my class schedule. So my love for art was relegated to an after school activity in a small “Gifted Arts” program. It was two hours after school once or twice a week with an art teacher where we worked on various projects and explored new styles since the handful of us in the class were talented but not taking an art class as part of our course load.  During my sophomore year I had a wonderful teacher,  Mr. Pitsenbarger, who was hands-on and taught me creative skills I still employ today when brainstorming a project. But my freshmen year teacher almost made me quit art.

I think the first problem stemmed from her way of structuring the program.  Where Mr. Pitsenbarger had specific units and weekly projects with set goals, this teacher allowed us to develop our own large-scale projects and then work on them during program time with her help and critique.  While this seems awesome in theory (Woo! No assignments! No rules!), it really made the entire experience a free-for-all where I didn’t really learn much in terms of art theory or skills or practice. She helped me do a little research when I decided to work three-dimensionally and encouraged me in certain directions, but really what ended up happening was me feeling pressured to make the piece a certain way (that is, her way) and so I lost the original inspiration I had for creating it. Which resulted in a hideous fabric covered box and a failed attempt at starching and wiring fabric into a sculpture.

I remember getting extremely frustrated with it because it had mutated out of my original idea to a point where I barely even recognized it and the teacher seemed irritated with me that I had taken on such an intensive project when it wasn’t even something I had wanted!

But the thing that struck a chord with me the most and what honestly put me off from making any art for several years was that she told me all my ideas were too “crafty.”

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In a social media-infused world where “craftiness” is EVERYWHERE from artfully presented recipes to Dollar Store Hacks to holiday decoration tutorials, it seems weird that being told you’re “crafty” would come off as insult.  Now being “crafty” is a pretty lusted after asset especially when you can show off your craftiness to your social media following daily.  But at the time (and with the implication of being “too crafty”), it decimated my artistic confidence.  Instead of embracing my artistic style (which involved collage, mixed media, and a fair amount of fabric) and helping me develop it even if it didn’t fit the “traditional” style of art she was used to teaching, she shot me down and boxed me into some preconceived notions of what art should be. Which ultimately lead me to resent her and resent traditional forms of art (besides my time with Mr. Pitsenbarger I haven’t developed any traditional art skills like sketching or painting in class format since then).

So now, years later, with little attention paid to my traditional art skills (which I deeply regret), I’ve come to realize that my craftiness is not a detriment to my art. While the art and creative projects I enjoy doing may never hang in the Louvre or the Met, they bring me joy.  And for me, art is about the emotion–whether it’s joy or sorrow, empathy or anger.

I’m not painting grand landscapes on life size canvases, but I am making DIY costumes for cosplay like Judy Hopps for this past Halloween. And participating in the Creative Sprint where many times the goal is to make something out of nontraditional elements. I also started collecting magazines because I feel like getting back into collage and seeing what my life and creative experience since then will help me create.

I’ve also been super inspired by one of my fellow NextUp winners Cinnamon–known as the Art Sherpa on YouTube–to start painting again. I’ve been watching so many of her viewers post pictures of what they created based on her tutorials and pieces they painted because of the skills and confidence Cinnamon taught them. I love the positive and supportive community she’s created! I have a feeling if she’d been my art teacher she wouldn’t have told me I was too crafty!

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It’s Cinnamon aka The Art Sherpa teaching you how to paint!

But I also don’t want you to think that I hate that art teacher or that I want to shame her for her comment. While at the time, I was angry and hurt by what she’d said about my art and my art process, I know that most likely she didn’t mean to hurt me. She was doing the best she could in an after school art program for a rural public school system where she probably wasn’t getting paid for the extra work. It’s not like it was easy for her or that she was trying to be a self-righteous judge lording over us.

No, she was trying to help me the best way she knew how. It just so happened that it resulted in an unfortunate opinion about my work that stuck with me (because I was a very sensitive child, honestly).  But I hope that you know, that art shouldn’t ever be too crafty. Even straight-up crafts are art in their own way!  It all stems from the creativity and passion you infuse it with.

So go out and get on with your creative and crafty self! Don’t let someone shut you down because your art is different. I mean, learn the theory and basic skills if they’re teaching it to you, but also develop your own style even if it’s something your teacher (or friends or parents, et al.) haven’t seen before.  Let your art be as unique as you!

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Behind the Scenes at Howl-O-Scream 2016: Dolls, Clowns, and My Worst Nightmares

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It’s that time of year again! I’m so excited to bring you what’s new and scary at Howl-O-Scream in Busch Gardens Williamsburg this fall!  If you have a fear of creepy dolls (thanks Chucky and Pretty Little Liars), clowns, and carnivals, you’re in for some scream-inducing mayhem!

Busch Gardens added several new features to the park this Howl-O-Scream including a haunted house “Circo Sinistro” which has a carnival/circus theme, a Terror-tory in Italy called Sideshow Square which continues the circus theme, two Escape Room experiences, and the Starfright Orchestra on Saturday evenings playing your favorite Halloween tunes.  I really loved the “Evil Encore”/Circus theme because it’s surprisingly bright and fun sounding while being thoroughly creeptastic. In fact, I wish that more of the park could have incorporated it, and perhaps even expanded upon the Mr. Karver/Georgie the Doll mythology that I glimpsed in the Escape Room.  It’s scary without being so overwhelmingly terrifying that you feel you like you can’t have any fun, which for me, made for a super great experience. So let’s break the new and interesting things down for you:

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No Escape → Escape Room Experiences

Have you been to an Escape Room yet? It’s a difficult adventure where you’re locked in a room with some friends and you have to find and solve clues to escape before the clock runs out!  I did one in New York City when I was at YouTube NextUp in the spring, and it was so fun once I got the hang of it.  Busch Gardens is catching onto the trend and put together an amazing experience.  Not only are they Halloween themed (Mr. Karver’s creepy doll workshop, and the mystery of Jack the Ripper), but they also have performers in the room with you! I don’t know about you, but I haven’t heard of a Escape Room with that added element yet. It certainly ups the difficulty factor as you’re a little worried Mr. Karver is going to cut off one of your limbs at any moment!  I didn’t get to play the rooms, but I did get to tour them, and they look amazing! The Escape room experience isn’t included in the price of admission, but I think it’s well worth the price because it’s a puzzle experience and show all in one!

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Sideshow Square

Terror-tories have always been something I tried to avoid in Howl-O-Scream. I’m not a big fan of  people jumping out at me when I’m just trying to eat some funnel cake.  But sometimes you have to walk through them in order to get through the park quickly which is why I actually really like Sideshow Square. While you do have some extra creepy guys in weird clown masks walking around with chainsaws that sound like clown horns, you’ll also find fun (but still scary) “sideshow” style areas.  For example, I got tricked into pressing a button to have my fortune told and ended up with a fortuneteller jumping out of the booth at me. Ah! It makes you want to linger a little more to see everything that’s there rather than power walk through it like your grandma on steroids.

Circo Sinistro

I’m not a big haunted house fan. I’ve learned to somewhat enjoy them when I have a big group of friends, and I can hide in the middle and use them as shields. However, walking through a haunted house essentially alone because you’re wearing a GoPro harness with a light pointed at your face that is basically blinding you, makes for an entirely different experience. Parker was hanging out behind me filming from a different angle so I didn’t have any manly biceps to cling to. I was really nervous to go in! But I would say that of all my Howl-O-Scream maze experiences, this one is actually my favorite! It’s long and has several different stages. It also didn’t feel so closed in and claustrophobic which is usually my one complaint with haunted houses. I remember the Catacombs maze in France in 2014 where I kept bumping into walls and it nearly made me hyperventilate.  But man, are the dolls and clowns in this maze horrifying! It’s pretty much full of every part of carnivals, circuses, and dollhouses that you HATED as a kid (and an adult). So good luck and Godspeed!

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Starfright Orchestra

I haven’t actually gotten to hear the Starfright Orchestra at the time of writing this blog because they only play on Saturdays, but I really hope that I get to take another trip on a Saturday just so I can sit and listen! If you’re a scaredy-cat like me, and really just like going to Howl-O-Scream for the Halloween-esque atmosphere, I feel like this is the perfect place to chill out!  I love the idea of just hanging out and listening to some fun Halloween-inspired tunes from some super talented musicians!

 

If you’re looking for even more Howl-O-Scream goodness (and fright!), check out my latest video from the park! I go behind-the-scenes in all the new areas that I summarize for you here, so if you’re still skeptical, you can see for yourself!

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“Whose Wife Are You?:” The Problem of Being Artistic in a Traditionally Professional World

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So I have a new job which means I have new coworkers. And it also means getting to know said coworkers.  I have the interesting situation now of being extremely diverse in skill set and professional interests in comparison to my coworkers.  In the past, I was surrounded by a small core group of other creative types who I could call across the room to if I ever needed an opinion or help.  Now I work in an building with Economics faculty who, while impassioned and interesting people, are unlikely to know the answer to my problem of determining the best way to aesthetically animate line graphs in After Effects.  It’s a different setting for me to be working in so it’s taking some adjustment, but I wanted to share one anecdote that revealed a truth to me about the difference between creatives and most of the rest of the professional world.

On a recent weekend, the Economics department held their yearly Fall Gathering with the intention of alcohol flowing freely and introducing new faculty and staff to the rest of the crew.  Suffering from sometimes debilitating social anxiety, I was skeptical of going, but eventually decided to attend (even though I was getting over a cold and illness has always made a perfect excuse for bailing on social events) because I knew it would be good to socialize with my new coworkers in a non-work setting.  (Plus free alcohol and food. Who can turn that down?)

First, I learned that these people are amazing and have done some pretty cool things. Many of them have traveled quite a bit–Scotland, Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, Caribbean islands.  Second, everyone is fascinated by the entertainment industry.  So an easy talking point for me is movies, my film education, and if they’re on the technological up-and-up, YouTube and other online content.  All of this is to say, “Hey! They’re just like me!” With perhaps a bit more educationally-funded, exotic travel in their repertoire. How we differ though is usually in how we look.

I am an eccentric dresser. I love bright colors. I love trying trendy statement pieces. I love wearing something that makes my outfit POP!  And despite what one might believe, I don’t love these things for the attention these things sometimes bring me. (In fact, sometimes I wish I didn’t love them so I didn’t bring so much attention to myself).  I love being an eccentric dresser because the bright colors, the trendy pieces, the POP! of textile excitement brings me joy.  However, it usually sets me apart from your Average Joan.

At the Economics Fall Gathering, I wore a bright purple pleated mock-neck shift dress with southwestern-inspired embroidered heels.  I wore my hair in my signature “Victoria Secret” waves with some super-long, dangly earrings and gold jewelry.  I felt out of place the moment I walked in the room. (I hadn’t known if this was a classy event where we were supposed to dress up or a casual event. So when in doubt, I tend to opt for “Artistic Kaitlyn” which is LOUD and colorful and dangly.  It turned out to be a “wear whatever you want” with people in ties and dress pants and others in jeans and unbuttoned shirts over t-shirts.) But after a glass of wine and a fun conversation about the normalcy of people walking around dressed in colonial garb when attending The College of William & Mary, I had forgotten I was dressed any different or was any different professionally then they were.

And then the party came to an awkward halt when a new arrival looks to me and says “And who’s wife are you?”

(NOTE: From an outsider’s perspective, the situation I’m about to recount might sound very rude, but I will say it was entirely amusing from my point of view.)

The introduction of new faculty and staff (there are 3 of us) occurred at the beginning of the event.  The lovely and boisterously Italian woman who burst into the room an hour late had missed this announcement and she was the one faculty member who I had not met at all yet.  She first assumed I was the wife of one of the other male faculty members that I was standing beside at the time. He quickly corrected her, and so that’s where the “Who’s wife are you?” came from.  It was followed by, “You look like someone’s wife! And we haven’t met before so….”  I think at that point she started to see the horror on some of the other faculty member’s faces who were standing near me.

While both comprehending the implication of what she’d said (I look like someone’s wife not like a Economics faculty member who should be here of her own right) and trying to encourage a laugh with her rather than a laugh at her faux paux, I told her I was the new Learning Media Specialist for the department.  She later pulled me aside and profusely apologized in her very amusing Italian accent and demeanor (I mean, really guys, it was like someone pulled her out of a classic gangster movie). I told her I knew she didn’t mean anything by it. And in fact (though I didn’t tell her this), I completely understood why she would think I was someone’s wife. I certainly don’t look like a professor of economics! I might be able to pass for a professor of Art or Visual Media or something like that, but I generally don’t think I have the “look” of the average professor. Not that professors can’t be eccentric, of course. But I know that wasn’t what she was expecting when she came to the Economics Fall Gathering and she may  not have known there was a new staff member yet.

So instead, it all became this big globby mess of confusion and embarrassment and the realization that creative professionals, while just as skilled in their respective fields, almost always will feel like outsiders in the traditional professional world.  It’s in our general make up.

But that’s okay. I kind of like being the eccentric one.  It’s fun when I can forget and just be “one of the crew,” but I wouldn’t give up my “one of a kind” status for anything either.

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I’m a 2016 YouTube NextUp Winner!

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I have wonderful news IMAGINE-Nation Friends! Can you guess where I’ll be going the week after my birthday? New York City! For a fun and hard-working week at YouTube Spaces NY because I was selected as a 2016 YouTube NextUp winner!

Now, you might ask, what’s YouTube NextUp? What’s YouTube Spaces? What is all this madness! So let me break it down for you.

YouTube NextUp

A program started in 2011 where influential YouTube creators applied to get a boost for their channels from YouTube itself. It’s changed over the years. In 2011, the winners received $30,000 to produce a project and attended a 5-day YouTube boot camp. Today, it’s more closely tied into the YouTube Spaces located around the world as that’s where the YouTube boot camp will take place and winners receive training in both production skills (like lighting, camera, and sound) and growing your audience/brand (with the help of the YouTube Partnership team). Plus there’s a $2,500 voucher for equipment to help take your channel to the next level!

YouTube Spaces

These are production houses created and run by YouTube. And they’re FREE for creators. There’s a minimum of 10,000 subscribers for full access to the Spaces, but there are lots of other resources for channels below that threshold to help you grow. In the U.S., they’re located in Los Angeles and New York City, so I haven’t been able to go to one yet.

What does this mean for Kaitlyn and iIMAGINEblank?

For one, it means that once again I’m being recognized for doing the right things, working hard, and being a great creator. And for me, that’s really important. I live far away from the buzz and bustle of the main YouTube community (NYC and L.A.) and I only really have VidCon as a yearly boost for my channel and my creative juices. It’s easy, at my slow but steady growing rate to feel like what I’m doing isn’t worthwhile or that it won’t pay off in the long run. But then something like this happens, and I’m instantly reminded that all my hard work does have pay offs. They may take time and A LOT of effort, but they reap amazing results.

But on a more technical level, this is really a wonderful opportunity for my channel. I struggle with not having the resources or network to create some of the more innovative content I would like to make and feeling a little in the dark on what could make my channel better as a whole. So I’m really look forward to the mentorships and the networking opportunities YouTube NextUp is going to provide me!

Plus who can argue with spending a week in New York City? Ha!

I’m so excited about this opportunity and I hope you are too! If you want to hear more about YouTube NextUp and how thankful I am to all my subscribers for bringing me to the place I am today, check out this week’s video!

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How to Have Fun at Busch Gardens’ Howl-O-Scream When You Hate Being Scared!

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The ghosts and goblins have come out to haunt Busch Gardens at this year’s Howl-O-Scream, and despite my aversion to Halloween horrors, I was there to revel in the mayhem and attempt to escape alive! (Obviously, since I’m writing this post, I succeeded!)

I love Howl-O-Scream. I don’t like scary things or haunted houses but somehow I still love Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens. You can ride rollercoasters by day and dodge scary creatures lurking in the fog by night! So how does someone who doesn’t like being scared enjoy a theme park transformed into Horror Central? You could hide in the bathroom or ride the same rollercoaster over and over, but I’d suggest going with one or more of these ideas:

1.) Make it a game to avoid the scarers as much as possible.

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When I first started going to Howl-O-Scream, this was my tactic. Busch Gardens has changed the way they distribute scarers throughout the park over the years. Sometimes they’ve placed them in areas that are tight but avoidable. In more recent years they’ve instituted the “Terror-tories” where themed scarers wreck havoc on whole areas of the park (usually centralized in a certain country). This means if you want to get through the park, you CAN’T get around them. But you CAN make it a game among your friends to see how many scarers you can get past without them noticing you or trying to scare you! There are many options for this tactic: laughing in their face, remaining stoic-faced, dodging around them, and even being creeptastic yourself. Pretty much anyway you go, you’ll be left with belly laughs instead of nauseous fear!

2.) Look for the irony and hidden humor.

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Haunted houses are scary, but the creators almost always have a sense of humor. For example, two of the new houses in 2015 are called “Cornered” (where you travel through a corn maze on the property of the McCobb family farm) and “Lumberhack” (where you must try to escape the axes of a band of zombie lumberjacks). It’s funny! When you think about it, you have to laugh. So instead of being scared stiff, just try to find the hidden jokes!)

3.) Bring a large group.

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Peer pressure is bad. Unless you’re in a scary park and the pressure is to scream and laugh at the same time. One of the first times I went to Howl-O-Scream I was just with my boyfriend, and it was awful. Neither of us liked scary things and we accidentally stumbled into an elaborate haunted house experience that we thought was going to be a show. (BIG NO!) But the last few years I’ve been slowly adding more and more people to my Howl-O-Scream group, and it’s become more fun. First of all, it’s so much easier to wait in line when you have a large group of friends to talk with. Second, there’s always an arm to hold onto or a shoulder to stumble into when you get caught off guard by a spooky ghoul. And finally, the more people there are, the easier it is to laugh off those scary moments. You can laugh at your friend getting scared by a creepy guy on Demon Street with a chainsaw and laugh at yourself when a pack of vampires freak you out in Germany. Friends don’t let friends get scared by alone.

4.) Enjoy the not-so-scary parts of the park.

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If all else fails, you can always retreat to the not-so-terrifying parts of the park. While not horror-tastic, they are still just as awesomely Halloween-themed and fun. The shows are always amazing with my personal favorite being “Monster Stomp” in England because you can’t argue with dancing skeletons and music made from beating and scraping knives on a coffin! There’s also the Rocky Horror Picture show reminiscent “Fiends” in Ireland where you can get your fill of sexy, pink-haired nurses, the more audience interactive “Night Beats” in Das Festhaus, and new for this year and the live-action dining-experience of the Blood Banquet™ at Vampire Point™ Hotel in Germany. Once you’re done checking out all the shows, you can’t go wrong grabbing a “bite” to eat at any of the delicious dining options which are always appropriately renamed for the Halloween season. And if you’re old enough (and inclined), there are many alcoholic options to get yourself a little looser and maybe ready for the scarier parts of the park. My favorite this year was Scarlett’s potion, a spooky-looking mixed drink with color-changing lights in the glass available just outside the entrance to the park’s headlining haunted house: “Unearthed: Scarlett’s Revenge.” You can down that sucker and then stride right into the scariest house in the park like the boss that you are!

All in all, Busch Gardens’ Howl-O-Scream is a wild ride for both the horror-junky and the faint-at-heart because the key to the park is to have fun! As long as you’re not taking yourself too seriously, you’re guaranteed to have a delightful time!