Sunday, May 12, 2013

Family Times/Ties/Matters

Heavy-handed TV show referencing. Also, ignore that it is May. This post was drafted up a long time ago, and there is too much to just scrap.

So...I love Christmas. I make this abundantly clear to anyone who will listen the entire month of December. I love the music. I love the lights. I love the stories. I love the baked goods. I love the smells. I love the snow. I love all of the sparkly things. I love the prospect of being with my family. I love getting presents. I love plotting and giving the perfect presents. I love the neighborhood parties. I love the mystery and the magic and the formal regal-ness, and the kitschy-ness. I love wearing sweaters and onesie sleepers and drinking hot cocoa in front of fireplaces.

But, can I just say that so many of my merry-making talents are wasted at Christmastime because I am single? I would stuff such a great stocking for my significant other! I would be so good at keeping secrets and surprising them on Christmas morning! I would make such a wonderful Christmas breakfast and wake them up all gently with delightful scents wafting in to them! All of it is wasted.

I mostly kid, but with two sisters now married, I think this is really the first Christmas I felt the pang of not having someone just for me. It wasn't a huge ache, it was not in any way constant, but the nigglings of wanting someone in my life on special occasions besides just my family made themselves known for the first time in a truly conscious way. It was kind of weird, but probably about time I got feeling this way again.

I mostly ignored these slight hints by playing with my neeps and being the President of Christmas. Now in case you're confused, there was no official election process for the position, but I rule during Christmastime with the willing consent of the governed. The Mom and Dad Legislative do act as a check on some of my power, but I largely reign unopposed (with the bureaucracy of Caitlyn and Michaela doing much of the preparatory legwork while I am in absentia)

Me thinking about and planning Christmas festivities:

This year I was extra excited since this is the first Christmas Alex has spent with us - the first time he has seen our ancestral home even. And since Alex is fairly new to this whole Christmas thing, we (I) had to make it even more fantastic than normal.

This was also the first year we bought presents for just one family member/member and spouse rather than everyone getting for everyone. Yep, we've crossed that threshold and there is no going back. Except we only sort of played by the rules. I had Erica and Alex (PERFECT!), but still bought presents for Mom and Dad (of course), and my neeps. Because we're keeping favorite aunt status firmly in this corner at all costs, people. And it's really fun to by presents for little kids.

Since E&A had sickeningly adorably sappy Christmas lists full of flirtatious comments for each other, I got them tickets to see Steven Cohen, an old-fashioned magician who performs at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York so they could spend some time together on a mini vacation. Basically I'm just bragging now.

I flew in to Utah from Wisconsin a few days before Christmas (with homemade ginger cookies in my bag - I'm telling you, I get a little caught up in the Christmas month moment) and spent some time at Aislin and Justin's. I also went paragliding for the first time, but that is a story for another post. While at Aislin's, she and I both got a text message from Alex asking about what to put in Erica's stocking since our family traditionally have spouses fill each other's. Aislin's answer was fairly straight forward and helpful. Mine....well, our lists definitely overlapped in some areas. This is our conversation:

Do you see what I mean by needing a significant other of my own? Had Alex not asked me for help, I would have had all of this bottled up Christmas spirit that I hadn't been able to release in the normal way since we all bought fewer presents than normal this year. Who knows what I might have done.

Also, let us pause to appreciate Alex's wording. Their children will either laugh all the time, be really witty themselves, or roll their eyes and groan constantly. Or all three.

Anyway, I picked E&A up from the Salt Lake airport on Sunday, handed them some snacks, ginger cookies, and chapstick (Idaho is brutal to the uninitiated), and headed North listening to delightful selections of Christmas music for the next four hours (really more like 5+ since a certain someone who was navigating whose name will not be mentioned kept missing the turn off for where we were supposed to return the rental car....).

When we got home it was, well, home. I love how you can be away from somewhere for so long - or away from certain people for so long - and coming back is perfectly natural and normal. (It's kind of the way Alex has fit in to the family. It feels natural and right.) Caitlyn had gone to great lengths to put up lights outside and the house smelled wonderful and looked lovely and was stacked to the rafters with food waiting to be prepared and eaten. My family doesn't do many elaborate or extravagant things (despite what I sometimes try to encourage), so there really isn't any tangible reason why we were all so excited to be there. We tend to talk about it like it's Disneyland and a zen garden and an inspiring war memorial all wrapped in one. But it's the simple routines (almost rituals now) of gathering in the kitchen to talk and opine on random, ever-changing subjects, of helping make parts of dinner, of all sitting in fetal position as we read or watch movies, of bringing up and laughing over old stories, of asking my dad gospel or science questions, of admiring my mom's newest project, of playing board games, of sleeping in and wandering up stairs to see what's left for breakfast, of looking and smiling and randomly draping our arms around each other and saying I'm glad of you that make us all know that we belong here with these people right now and that is worth moving mountains or using all of your vacation days and flying across the country for.

Monday, March 25, 2013

I literally have lists of ideas, people

Recently I was set apart as the Temporal Welfare Committee co-chair at church*. Since the name doesn't tell much about the committee, the other co-chairs and I spent several weeks figuring out what our mandate is exactly. It turns out we're in charge of cleaning the church on a rotating schedule with the other wards that meet in the building, planning and organizing emergency preparedness for the ward and its members, and discovering and creating meaningful service opportunities for our members that serve our community and help non-members have a positive experience with LDS people. The bishop, in his own words, has "a service itch the stake's** service activities just aren't scratching". Kind of a broad mission statement.

This calling plays to several of my strengths and past experiences, namely: 1. Being a creative activity planner 2. organizing times, dates, supplies, logistics, etc. 3. Telling people what to do 4. Convincing people they want to do something 5. Solving problems 6. Running events with lots of people in attendance 7. a desire to make people happy.

My recent project manager past, though, makes me want to organize things in a very specific way. I have to stop myself from sending out emails listing "follow up items" or specific "goals for the meeting". Now, these are all good things that lead to efficiency and organization, but they can be kind of intense for people who are doing this on a volunteer basis on top of already-busy lives. I've had to come up with ways to accomplish the same thing without heavy-handed methods. Part of my strategy is to make sure there is food anytime my co-chairs and I have a meeting. It seems to soothe the fact that it comes at the end of an additional four hours of leadership and church meetings on Sunday.

However, my hyper-management ways got an additional fire lit under them yesterday at church when the ward clerk and I were talking about the budget. Basically he said that the budget is a flexible tool, and money can moved to other areas as needed. Basically that whoever first comes up with good ideas to benefit the ward gets the money. Basically that if I am more organized than the next committee, I get all the money I want. I think he was kind of kidding, but I'm running with it.

Sometimes I want to be Leslie Knope. Sometimes I believe I am her.

Leslie: I spent the last few months brainstorming, and I have some really great ideas, and I put them in my idea binders. I mean, they’re color coded for god’s sake!

Today, I’m getting organized. It’s long overdue and even though it’s gorgeous out (spring! don’t leave! make summer wait!), I’m camped out at the coffee shop w/free wi-fi and organizing myself.
Yay for Action Notebooks! It makes me feel like i’ve gotten far more done than I have — and I have a better grasp of who I need to contact/harass. I’m putting my “no’s” on the back page of each section, and am looking forward to being able to cross those names off and add them to the “yes” section — I figure I can check in three more times after the first “sorry, they’re unavailable” response. Perhaps a little excessive, but it can’t hurt to try, right? In email, they can’t kick me in the shins. However, in email, they can’t see my awesomeness it’s harder to win them over to my cause.
I’m getting better at calling people on the phone, though. Maybe I need to lead with a “Deputy Director” title before I go into my spiel — but I don’t know if I’m bold enough for that yet.
Leslie: I spent the last few months brainstorming, and I have some really great ideas, and I put them in my idea binders!

Competition for limited resources, what? If I am more organized I get to help more people, what? All I have to do is tell people what we should do quickly and succinctly, what? Done. I'm sorry co-chairs, get ready for a whole lot of due dates and action items coming your way. There will be dinner at our next meeting.

* The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints consists mainly of a lay ministry and members of the congregation that are asked to fulfill various roles ("callings") in helping the ward run smoothly. We do everything from tend toddlers to teach teenagers to count the tithing that is donated to leading the ward choir. We fulfill these responsibilities for anywhere from a few months to a few years - changing whenever the bishop (also a volunteer) asks us to do something else.
** The LDS church around the world is divided up into wards (the equivalent of parishes) that are then grouped into geographically-based stakes that are presided over by a stake presidency.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Public Transportation

I like traveling. I like traveling with like-minded people. I like traveling among people. Some of this comes from my enjoyment of moving, of seeing, of experiencing, of almost magically getting on in some quiet borough and getting off in a busy, dizzying metropolis. It helps that I can (and do) sleep almost anywhere in almost any position. But no matter the destination, getting there is also enjoyable.

Now I could launch into an analogy about life and how we're supposed to enjoy the journey and how we get there is just as important as arriving, but I won't.

One of the best parts of the actual travel part of traveling is the people (besides flying. Flying is awesome. Looking at the tops of clouds is awesome.). Of course there are the super garrulous folks who want to talktalktalk the whole trip when you just want to read or sleep, but I think they're annoying because we've decided that they're annoying. I always enjoy traveling more when I take my headphones out, I close my book, and I look around me and interact. And then go back to reading my book because, dang it, I really want to read my book.

Thanksgiving 2011 really brought this home to me. I was living in Wisconsin and traveling to Boston to visit my sister (Boston is awesome at Thanksgiving. Massachusetts is like Thanksgivingland.). I was traveling on the actual morning of Thanksgiving, and I was wondering how people were going to be. Turns out they're fantastic. Traveling Thanksgiving morning is the best because everyone is going somewhere happy. People are boarding shuttles and planes with large tupperwares of cookies in their laps. They're going to see family. Couples are traveling to some exotic locale. I saw a large extended family maneuver all of their children onto the plane for a destination holiday. And the kids weren't complaining. Partly because it was super early in the morning and they were still half asleep, but partly because they were going somewhere awesome.

I once flew next to a woman who spent the entire flight engrossed in a manual on growing lilies. Engrossed. It was all about different strains of lilies, how much water to give, how deep to plant them, etc. There were complex diagrams and everything. Yes, I was reading over her shoulder. Don't tell me you don't do it on the plane sometimes.

I was on the metro here in DC near Valentine's Day and I overheard an older, well-dressed man order $75 worth of chocolate covered strawberries to be delivered. Now I don't know much about the chocolate strawberry market, but that seems like a lot of berries.

I once entertained a little girl sitting in front of my on a flight for half an hour by playing peekaboo and pulling weird faces. I have a lot of weird faces. Apparently she was very upset when I ended up falling asleep.

I met a woman on a flight who was in the final stages of preparing for her significant other and her to bicycle across the continental US. The summer before they had done the entire Appalachian trail. Look it up.

During a stormy flight once I talked to a man in industrial design who explained to me that the wings of the plane were designed to bend and flex, but maybe not quite as much as they were currently doing. It was super comforting.

The other day on the metro I talked to a nice man about human rights abuses in the Baltic states and about his children and the schools in the area.

An old couple I was sitting with one time were convinced that I was the perfect match for their grandson and that moregirlsthesedaysneedtohavemoregumptionlikeIdidinordertotrynewthingsandnotwaitaroundforpeoplebutstillIshouldmarrytheirgrandsonbecauseIwouldbegoodforhim. They got my number and everything so they could invite me over for dinner. Sadly I never got a call and never met this paragon-of-manly-virtues-grandson. My loss, apparently.

There really is nothing like mass transit to get so many dissimilar people in a space together, have them be quiet, and have them studiously ignore each other for significant periods of time. Some groups of people make it harder for people to ignore them than others. But there is always somebody interesting or some interaction to observe that is funny or heartwarming or odd or memorable. Especially when your phone dies and you have no other choice but to finally look up.

Monday, February 25, 2013

In which I refuse to make any puns involving the word "Epic"

And in which I try and answer the question "What in the world was Suzanne doing in Wisconsin?".

First of all, I lived in Wisconsin from November of 2011 to January 2013 and worked as a project manager/implementation specialist for Epic Systems Corp, a software company that develops and implements an electronic medical record system. This was my home for 14 months (no seriously, I was here or traveling more than I ever was at my home) :

Aerial view of the campus. The buildings included the main administration building, a gourmet cafeteria, a building devoted to classrooms and an auditorium (not pictured above), and buildings devoted to offices and meeting rooms for the implementers, software developers, technical services, writers, QA-ers, statistical gurus, hardware and network systems managers, doctors, interface experts, lawyers, etc. that make up a large software company. When I left, there were over 6000 employees.

That auditorium I mentioned. It came in handy when we invited all of the bigwigs from our customer teams to come for a week and take classes, share lessons learned with each other, and just generally geek out overs electronic medical records and Wisconsin culture. This building is now too small to hold everyone, so they're building a much bigger one. They're always building something.

Big fans of going green. Between the solar, thermal (and potential wind!) energy and organic food grown on the company's farm, Epic is looking to be fully self-sustainable.

The tree house used for team retreats. No heat. No wifi. No electricity. Just a time to gather together and be creative.

Hubris? Ambition? Humor? Probably a bit of all three.

A river ran through it.

What do you get when you cross the architectural stylings of the contracting firms that built the Microsoft headquarters and part of Disneyland, respectively? Well, classroom decor that looks a little like this.

And this.

And this.


And, yep, this.

Such unique buildings need unique artwork. Enter Madison's flourishing local artist population. Flourishing partly because Epic buys so much of their stuff.

 All of this was the backdrop to what became some of the most stressful, most intense, most high-living months of my life. Epic pays well and offers great food and great benefits, but the life of an implementer can be very intense. The company brings in young-ish people from all backgrounds who show potential for leadership, creativity, critical thinking, perfectionism (and a whole host of other things I don't know about that they evaluate) and teach them about customer relations, the ins and outs of a very complex piece of software, being effective and organized people, etc.

I learned to appreciate software design in a way I hadn't considered before. We always think of developers as very unique people - sometimes lacking in social skills, sometimes lacking in hygiene, sometimes super nerdy hackers - but I think that is because such design takes a unique type of person (that stereotype is very wrong in some instances, but very right in others). True software design, in that it goes beyond coding, seems to be an exercise in world building. You have to create this world of cohesive logic and design that functions consistently in an understandable, approachable, intuitive way. it's part math, part language, part architecture, part culture creation. No wonder people who do this are interested in world-building games online and inter-personally. If such people are so marginalized by society, I think it is partially society's fault and its loss.

My ability to do much on little sleep came in handy here, and I met a bunch of people all like me - over-developed sense of responsibility, good in front of a crowd, creative problem solvers, etc. However, I met a lot of people who took all of this and ran with it. There are some crazy, organized, goal-oriented people out there. I have personality traits. They have turned them into a lifestyle. Some went overboard (and were basically living off of adrenaline, coffee, and alcohol-induced relaxation on the weekend), but many people were just efficient and effective at being human. Definitely something to learn from.

Like all implementers, my team traveled very frequently, we had good team moments, frustrating team moments, moments of panic, moments of triumph, frustrations with doctors and customer team leaders, moments of synergy* and fantastic collaboration... We just did it all with a smaller-than-usual team, a shorter time frame, and one of the biggest customers ever. No big deal. Cue no more exercising, no more having much of a social life, and cutting my hair very infrequently.

I also ate more sushi at this point than I ever had. And salmon. And other good food while on trips. I stayed in nice hotels. I drove nice rental cars. I was reimbursed for all of it. I saw interesting places. I racked up great frequent flier miles and Marriott points. I also started to get used to - and expect - the lifestyle. It's a nice lifestyle - one I definitely worked for - but it was a fake life in so many ways. Yes, I could live like that again, but I never want to come to think it is required. I can, and should be, content with less. My happiness does not depend on king-size mattresses and free breakfasts and room service whenever I want it. Such things were nice with a busy life, and made it so I didn't have to worry about those things, but not necessary for my happiness. I'm glad I left before it became too much of a habit for me.

This life was full of tender mercies as well. I got staffed to a customer who was implementing at a hospital in Salt Lake City. My customer had an initial go live before I left so I didn't feel like I was totally abandoning them or missing out on a learning experience. My outpatient clinicals team had a secondary application coordinator who worked with me so I could fairly easily transfer my knowledge and responsibilities to him without my customer feeling like they were being left high and dry. I was scheduled to be on a trip right around my sister's wedding so I didn't have to pay for the ticket. I was scheduled to be on a trip around Thanksgiving so I didn't have to pay for that ticket, either. Or the one that took me home for my birthday. Or... All in all, I probably saw members of my family more working in Wisconsin than I did while going to school in Utah.

It was an eye-opening experience in which I saw some of my faults under a magnifying glass, learned new skills, came to better understand a whole industry, came to see doctors as people - flawed, normal people - who deserve respect but maybe not the awe that the white coat sometimes confers, stretched, grew, laughed, almost cried from exhaustion and stress, and came to know new people who came from new parts of the country. I don't regret it at all. The job was an aberration from where I saw my life going, but a necessary one.

*Yep, I worked in the business world. I used terms like "synergy," "action items," "follow ups," "reportable metrics," "key performance indicators," and "let's take a deeper dive here". Frequently. Unironically.

(P.S. I don't own these pictures. I got all of them from my friend Google. Never got around to taking many pictures. I should work on that.)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A moment in my head

When I'm riding the metro and listening to a great song with my headphones in, on the outside I'm like

But on the inside I'm like

And this has been a moment in my head.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

All about EFY, part 1

How do I condense all that was EFY into one post? I don't. I can't. I'm not sure how long this will take since I continue to look back at my experiences the summer of 2011 and learn from them.

I'll begin with the good stuff.

My last summer of doing EFY was a multi-state, multi-position, multi-team extravaganza.After applying to be a building counselor (BC), I was invited to be a field coordinator (FC - one of the peeps in charge of the sessions) that summer for the Idaho team after the girl who had been selected decided not to work EFY. I was thrilled. Overwhelmed. Excited. Nervous.

Because of my complete lack of experience in the upper echelons of EFY-dom, the office staff tacked me on as an extra BC/extra FC to another team in Provo for the first two weeks so I could learn the ropes. It was a great team to be with. They were close, they were funny, they were experienced. We had some pretty crazy moments those weeks with scheduling conflicts, weather issues, kids missing, false reports (luckily) of abductions, etc. that the team handled incredibly well.

Even though it was a whole new look at EFY, I was thrilled to be back. Those first weeks I had boundless energy. Boundless. I was just sprint places sometimes because I had too much energy that I had to work off.

This year I embraced my half-blindness and wore a scull and crossbones eye patch to games night. Counselors often dress up that day with crazy hats, funny sunglasses, weird suspenders, etc. I was just going to go with the patch and leave it at that...until the first group of youth showed up to my station ready for me to teach them a game.

Now, I'm an extroverted person who gets a lot of energy from people paying attention to me. I like the attention. I like performing and making people laugh and cheer and have a good time. That being said, I should not have been as surprised as I was when my already-high energy level combined with the attention of eager teenagers, funny games, and an eye patch to produce a dirty, old Scottish man pirate voice out of nowhere. I truly was not planning on it. It just kind of popped out. And lasted the rest of the night. I was yelling, I was haranguing, I was explaining twists on the game, I was announcing winners all in this dirty old man pirate voice.

The teenagers - especially the teenage boys - loved it and responded in kind. I had kids saluting me the rest of the week and yelling "Oy there, Cap'n!" whenever they saw me. I felt a little sheepish about it the next day when we were all dressed up and supposed to be spiritual. The kids would call out to me in pirate-ese and I would quietly answer back, slightly chiding them for being irreverent,  but chiding them with a twinkle in me eye and a burr in me throat and a slight grimace to me lips. Because you can't not play along. If someone trusts you enough to invite you to play pretend with them, you just gotta.

Another bonus to the patch was that it was cool enough to land me a spot on one of the front pages of the counselor training manual the next year. I'm a big deal.

Also, please ignore the hair. It was the summer of trying to grow my hair out and never having time to go get it trimmed. It looks bad in about every picture, but particularly bad in this one because I had been running around.

It wouldn't be a true post about EFY fun without mentioning the dances. I've always loved them. I have injured myself several times at them, but I have always loved them. I love seeing kids come together and let loose and forget about stresses or concerns and just have fun for a few hours. My heart always warmed when I would see particularly mature kids - guys and girls - seek out those who weren't having a good time and ask them to dance. I couldn't help but smile watching guys conference together and then boldly split up to go ask girls to dance. They thought they were so cool. And they really were.

Being part of management, I saw dances a little differently this time. More people sitting in corners, more concerns about modesty or inappropriate dancing, more stresses setting up and taking down equipment, more frustrations with counselors who weren't paying attention to their youth or not quieting them down after the dance was over. But I also had the chance to float between groups and dance with lots of kids and counselors. I had the power to see problems and then work to correct them. Plus I got to DJ sometimes. Turns out DJ-ing is really fun. It's about power and control and playing cool music you want to listen to and leading dances. All at the same time.

Counselor freeze! The kids would get so weirded out when all of the counselors suddenly stopped moving. And then they realized they could pose us.

Line dances! They're only not cheesy at EFY.

Double Dream Hands with some youth on stage. If you don't know what that is, look here. Yes, I do know that whole dance.

I loved being able to teach counselors, to buoy them up, to offer advice, to laugh with them. I wasn't as intimately involved with the youth anymore - which I missed terribly - but I had some great experiences being able to teach large groups of young women about the empowering doctrines of their eternal identity, the true nature of an eternal, equal, celestial marriage, and about the blessings and lessons from family through The Family: A Proclamation to the World.

I met incredible youth and counselors and saw new places as I floated from Utah to Arizona to Utah to Colorado to Idaho. I tried a burrito with fries in it down in southern Arizona (and P.S. it's really good. It will kill you, but it's really good). I mastered completely unloading and loading a bag of technical equipment at airport security in record time. I drove all night through the Arizona desert and danced in the sunrise to the Black Eyed Peas with one of my health counselors. I cooked hundreds of pancakes for counselors after Fast Sunday. I invited 60 counselors to my house for a movie night outside with a movie projected on a sheet hanging from my deck. I tried to learn how to break dance from a real DJ. I slept little, fretted much, laughed more, got a horrible hacking cough for several weeks, organized, planned, surprised BCs with late night Taco Bell runs, felt cool using walkie talkies, lived in ill-fitting polyester polo shirts, felt the Spirit every day, and made unforgettable memories.

I have finished my EFY counselor run - it felt right to end it when I did - but I would love to come back as a teacher (maybe session director too...???) in the future. I have a lifelong love for the youth of the church, and can't wait to work with them again. Our future is in good hands.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Graduation (Mis)Happenings

Even though I graduated in December of 2010 (still 2010! Still graduated the year I was supposed to!), I decided to walk in April 2011 to have The Experience. I'm a big fan of tradition and rites of passage.

My parents came down for the event and my older sister sent me a lei - because we Mormons like to pretend we're all Polynesian. I kid. The flowers were lovely.

After lining up with the rest of my graduating group from my department, they asked me if I would lead everyone in. Mostly because I near the front of the line anyway.

This was their first mistake.

I said yes, and eventually they signaled me to start walking around the Marriott Center to the entrance we were going to use to get onto the arena floor. 

But here's the thing about being in the Anthropology department - "anthropology" begins with an "A". They line our departments up in alphabetical order. I was the front of the front of the FRONT. I had hundreds of people behind me. Keep this in mind.

So the Corps of Graduates and I start walking and some official comes and puts the Master's students in front of me. I'm fine with this because it means I don't have to lead everyone anymore. We continue walking. I feel like the weight of responsibility is off of my shoulders.

We get to the entrance of the Marriott Center. We get inside the Marriott Center. The Master's students confidently walk in with admirable order. The officials stop me from going in. They instead have the students who will be sitting on stage walk in instead. Which makes sense and is all orderly and good.

The problem is that once those students walk in, all of the Master's students have already taken their seats. I am supposed to sit right behind them. AND I HAVE NO IDEA HOW THEY GOT TO THEIR SEATS. There is no usher waiting at the entrance to direct me where to go. All I have is a sea of chairs in front of me. I can't tell where there are (or if there are) aisles. I know nothing. I try to signal the usher across the way to let her know I have no idea what I'm doing. She doesn't pay attention because she is busy directing the graduates who are streaming in from the other entrance. So I'm standing there. With hundreds and hundreds of people behind me.

Here is a rough model of the Marriott Center to help you understand. Diagrams done in Paint always make things clearer.

The stage you can see. The yellowish lines on the edges are the bleachers. The Marriott Center, lest we forgets, seats about 22,000 people. And it was full of excited parents, grandparents, and significant others all paying hawk-like attention to the graduates walking on to the floor. The grey lines in the middle are the chairs for the graduates. Except there were a lot more of them. The "X" marks the entrance I was dithering at.

Now, I'm not one to give up if I don't know what I'm doing. I usually just make it up and forge ahead. After a quick conference with my friend Courtney behind me, we decide that we couldn't just stand there. We had to  do something. So I gamely walk forward. This is close to the path I took.

The green is the path that, looking back, is the one I *think* we were supposed to take. The red dotted line is how they eventually got us sorted out.

But, remember, we weren't the only ones walking into the Marriott Center! There was the other equally long - but better organized - line on the other side of the floor. They were filing in at the same time! And if you throw one cog in the graduation seating process, it messes up the whole delicate machinery. This is what the place probably looked like as a result:

The dark green lines are concerned and angry parents storming on to the floor to see what (or who!) messed up the careful choreography of the Most Important Day of My Child's Life.

Now I don't know if this is exactly how it looked, of course. I had my head down in shame until the first speaker stood up.

The upside to this is that unlike other parents who had to crane and use binoculars to find which be-gowned blue dot what their child, my parents had no such problem. They could easily point out that their Wonderful College Graduate was the one who messed everything up. You're welcome, Mom and Dad. I did it all for you.