Thursday, February 7, 2013


I miss sunshine.

I'm having a blue kind of day. It's cold and gray outside, I miss my friends, and I'm feeling frustrated and down in the dumps. All I want to do is curl up in my bed and read Game of Thrones, but I have crap all day until late tonight. Sure, there are things in my life that could lead me to feel this way, but I realized that a lot of life's frustrations are a lot easier to deal with when we're getting a healthy dose of Vitamin D, and my life is not exempt from this. When I think about it, this "rut" happens to me around the same time every year for one reason or another. For instance, this emo post which I wrote about a year ago. This yearly depression has inspired the following post:

SHANNON'S RANKING OF THE MONTHS OF THE YEAR: Why Seasonal Affective Disorder is the worst thing in the entire world.

This ranking has been around for a long time, because one of my favorite pastimes is to irrationally rant. So some of you have heard some of this spiel before, and get to enjoy reading it again.

In order from best month to worst:

1. June: I feel like this month needs no elaboration, but I'll do it anyway. First of all, it SOUNDS pretty. June. What a beautiful word! Secondly, the beginning of summer officially begins in the month of June. If you have anything disparaging to say about summer, SAVE IT. It is the greatest season. It's warm, you can wear shorts, you can go to the beach, you can barbecue things and drink Corona and be tan and DO I REALLY NEED TO KEEP GOING? Besides, for all you babies who hate the heat, June is usually pretty reasonable, so quit your whining. Also, growing up, June was finally the beginning of freedom from the clutches of school, and is there really a greater joy than that? And last but CERTAINLY not least, the 26th day of this fine month marks a miraculous day for humanity...the day God choose to grace his beautiful Earth with the one and only Shannon Kingett.

2. December: Ironically a cold month makes the top 3! But Christmas time trumps everything. Besides, December is always apt to FLY by, and that's the way all winter months SHOULD work.

3. August: This is honestly a toss up with #4, but August edged out July because this is generally when my family goes on vacation. Also, Shark Week!

4. July: If you don't love Fourth of July, feel free to leave this country forever.

5. May: Ugh, I love May. Mother's Day, it's finally warm and not rainy/windy, Memorial Day rules, etc, etc. CAN IT JUST BE MAY NOW?

6. April: Finally. SPRING HAS ARRIVED. It may have brought rain, wind, bizarre weather, and seasonal allergies, but dang it, it's HERE. Bring on the sundresses! Pull out those wedges! Pour me a mint julep because it's time to PARTY!

7. September: It's got that fall feel to it, but is still 75 degrees every day. And what a good time to satisfy your boots and tights urge! The only reason April outranks September is because despite the fact that September actually has better weather, September is the gateway to winter, whereas April is the gateway to summer. And just like how paper covers rock, summer beats winter. And unlike how rock crushes scissors, WINTER BEATS NOTHING.

8. November: And now friends, we get dangerously close to winter. Yet November's saving grace is the famous day of feasting: Thanksgiving. AND it marks the beginning of the Christmas season. November may be the beginning of the end, but at least it has some major upsides.

9. October: Seriously, this is a waste of a month. Post summer depression starts to set in, and if the only good thing about this month is Halloween (which, I'd like to point out, you have to sit through the entire month to get to), LAME. Screw boots and tights, I miss flip flops.

10. March: Here's the thing about March. You might be like "Shannon, how is March almost at the bottom of the list, this is when Spring officially begins! And if Spring is the gateway to summer, shouldn't March outrank at least October and November?" Well the answer to that question is a resounding NEVER. March is a sneaky little jerk that pretends to be Spring but is really just a horrible extension of winter. By the time you get to March you are SO OVER IT, yet there it stands, 31 more days of unrelenting torture. Even when the weather IS nice, it just sheds light on the bareness of the trees and the hideousness winter has left behind. Get out of here March, I have no use for you.

11. & 12. January and February: I honestly cannot decide which is worse. You have January, which involves Post-Christmas depression, the true onset of winter, and is longer, but on the other hand, there's just something about February that I despise. By the time January is over you're like "Ok that's enough, I've survived, can it be spring now?" But no, no it can't, because you have ANOTHER month of crap. And for a month with only 28 days, February is the slowest moving month of all time. For instance, how is today only February 7th? HOW IS THIS MONTH NOT CLOSE TO OVER YET? SUN WHERE ARE YOU?!?!?!?!?!?

My feelings exactly.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Jason Smith

Next in the Jim Series: When Jim fake auditioned for the school play

It was my sophomore year, so Jim was a brand new Freshman, and he and I decided to audition for the fall play. Ok, well, I decided to audition to be in the fall play...Jim had other plans. You see, Sarah and I were both not fans of our high school theatre teacher, and we had spent quite a bit of time talking about her inadequacy before Jim had gotten to Hylton. One of the greatest/worst things about Jim was his complete willingness to get on board without any research of his own. Jim trusted our opinions, so if we thought the teacher was crap, she was CRAP. An unlike me (and to his credit, it was a way better decision), he decided he was not going to suffer through crap just to be able to be in the school play.

But that didn't mean he wasn't going to audition anyway.

When we tell people that Jim always lived for the story...this is actually a PERFECT example of that. He was simply going to do something so that later, he (and I!) could tell a story about it. And what a story it was...

The drama teacher, we'll call her Ms. D, decided that instead of a full play she was going to do two one acts. All we had to prepare for the audition was a one minute monologue. I performed the Sally monologue from "You're a Good Man Charlie Brown."

Jim performed this (start at 1:50):

No, but seriously.

The Ezekiel monologue from Pulp Fiction.

He told us what he was planning to do, so Sarah and I decided to sneak into the auditorium because we knew we had to witness this MADNESS. As we crawled in behind the seats so we wouldn't be seen, Jim walked into the auditorium with our friend Pogo (Patrick) in tow. He told Ms. D that Pogo was there because he needed a human prop to perform his monologue, and he also asked for a chair (for non-theatre people...the chair is typical in an audition...the human prop...not so much).

And then Jim...PERFORMED. I was crying through tears of laughter, not because he was bad, but because he was BRILLIANT. He had this monologue down pat. And the monologue did not end with the last word, oh no. He and Pogo followed through to the bitter end, fake convulsions and everything. It to this day is one of the most outlandish things I have ever seen. Again, for those of you who don't audition...this just...does not happen. Sarah and I were beside ourselves.

Jim then politely thanked Ms. D (who was speechless), and he and Pogo silently walked out of the auditorium. We spent the rest of the day recounting the story to everyone and laughing about how Jim had just screwed himself out of being in anything for the next four years, and that it was totally worth it.


Jim decided why not see if there were any more opportunities to live for the story, so he decided to come with me to the first rehearsal. It was pretty basic, just a read through, except that Ms. D kept calling Jim "Jason" and he just never corrected her. He had absolutely no intention of coming to another rehearsal, so why make the effort?

After the next few rehearsals, when Jim didn't show up, Ms. D asked me to tell him he really needed to start coming because he was very important to the show. A few days later, she saw Jim in the hallway, ran up to him, and said:

"Jim!! Please, if you see Jason, tell him we really need him to come to rehearsal!"


She thought Jim had a twin brother named Jason.

We STILL laugh about this. The next year when he was cast as Billus in South Pacific, she figured out that there was in fact just one person with that set of DNA at Hylton High School and that Jason Smith was just a figment of her imagination...let's just say she wasn't pleased.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Our last conversation

It's been a while.

There is so much going on right that it is sometimes too much to process. I have been wanting to blog for a while, but I haven't felt particularly inspired. Lately work has left me so fried that I can't even bring myself to think about writing, let alone actually do it.

Sarah is working on compiling people's stories of Jim for a special project, and I've been putting off compiling mine. Jim is the only best friend I've ever lost, and it's not always easy to have to recall memories of our past. It can be painful. I miss him. But after a really awesome couple of weeks of getting time with other best friends, I figured I wasn't being fair to him, to his memory. I wasn't giving him the time he deserves. I decided to sit down and start to compile. When you spend as much time with someone as I did with Jim, you gather a lot of stories, so I only have a preliminary list and I'm only just beginning to elaborate on them. Which gave me an idea.

I spend a lot of time telling people about my best friends that are still here, sharing their stories and what they mean to me. I tend to keep Jim to myself, or to people who he meant that much to too. But I think maybe it's time to start sharing some of my stories with people who maybe never knew Jim, and as long as I'm writing them down, why not use them here? It's something I'm doing either way, and what could be more inspirational to this blog than Jim?

So with this post, I introduce: The Jim Series. I cannot tell you how long it will last, how often I'll post, but I'm going to share some of my stories here. Some are meaningful, some are HILARIOUS, all are important to me, and important to who he was and is to me.

Why not start with a double whammy: Our Last Conversation

Jim was a man of action, not usually words. In our friendship, I knew I mattered to Jim not because he ever really said it, he just showed it countless ways. And that was always fine with me. I liked that our conversations were typically made up of banter, not flattery. It's ironic and beautiful that the last conversation we ever had was an absolute contradiction to the general terms of our friendship.

The week before Jim and Mrs. Smith died I gave a recital at JMU. It wasn't required for my degree but I had enough repertoire to give one and I really wanted to make more performance opportunities for myself than I was getting. I had the recital on December 11 of that year at Otterbein Methodist Church, where I sang for a church job. Almost all of my friends, several of my professors, and other people I knew in the community came. Jim was obviously one of them.

The week leading up to my recital I was completely focused on having everything ready (and passing the rest of my finals), so I didn't talk to Jim at all. What I didn't realize was that he was insanely sick that entire week, yet he dragged himself out of bed to make sure he made it to my recital. After it was over, as I was greeting and thanking people for coming, he came up to me and first introduced me to Emily, his girlfriend who I hadn't met yet, and then proceeded to say the nicest things he has ever said to me.

He first told me that he was so proud of me and that I sounded so amazing, and that he was blown away about how far my singing had come since he had last heard me. Then he told me he was just so happy that we were friends, that I meant so much to him and that he loved me a lot.

I completely taken aback by his candidness, but I thanked him over and over and told him that I loved him too and was also so happy we were friends. He told me he wasn't feeling great so I thanked him again for coming, gave him a big hug, and he and Emily left. It was the last time I ever saw him. For those of you who are new to me, my blog, my long history with the Smith family or the Smiths in general, a week later he and his mom were killed in their home by an armed robber.

I want to reiterate again how out of the ordinary Jim's behavior was. It's not that he wasn't normally a nice guy, or that he didn't say kind things, he absolutely did, he just wasn't usually gushy. At least not to me. I would have expected a "Yo that recital was the MAD NOTES" or "Seriously wtf let's get drunk to celebrate how TIGHT that was!" Maybe it was the cold meds, or maybe he just had a strange premonition that he needed to say it then and in that way. Either way, this conversation will mean the world to me for the rest of my life.

When someone dies it's natural to think about your last conversation with them, your last interaction. My last interaction with Mrs. Smith was completely opposite; she was driving me and Sarah crazy as we sat in the house two days before she died, trying to have a girl talk convo that was continually getting interrupted by Mrs. Smith going on and on about the goings on of the Hylton Choir Department. Completely typical...exactly what I loved about her. Conversely, that was absolutely the perfect ending for my relationship with her because it was true, it was real, it summarized so much about what she meant to me and how things were, how I'll always remember her.

What I love about my last interaction with Jim was that it summarized who he was. He was more than the kid who lived for the story. He was the kid who lived for the people he loved, the one who was willing to do everything for them. He was the guy who was always on board, always supporting you, whether it was at a recital or realizing your biggest and scariest dreams. He is one of my main examples of unconditional love. I treasure this moment, this glimpse of his deepest nature, and when I miss him most it is what gets me through.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

An updated and revised bucket list

So in October 2010, I wrote a Bucket List. I was feeling really down and out of control of my own life (not too out of the ordinary for a just out of college 22 year old, but I didn't quite realize that at the time), so writing down my goals helped me focus on hope and the future.

I've been feeling in a rut lately, and without hope, without direction. So I thought about this Bucket List. Maybe it's time to start crossing things off. But I reread it, and it needs revising. So why not now?! I'm trying this new thing where I stop letting fear get in the way of being me, especially the fear of damaging my pride. So I'm gonna be honest on this list. Maybe too honest. And there are things on here I might never get, and I might never do. Old me would have been afraid of looking like a failure later on because of it. But new me realizes that if you live a life of happiness, you can't fail. So maybe I won't do it all. But I'm gonna try. And I'm gonna do lots. And it's going to be amazing. And I'm gonna be happy, no matter what.

So without further ado, I admit to you, my hopes and dreams:

-Fall in love
-Read all of Jane Austen's books
-See the Vatican
-Visit Israel
-Cook an entire Thanksgiving Dinner on my own
-Visit South Africa
-Work on Broadway. There. I said it.
-Have red hair
-Run a marathon
-Go to Australia
-Go skydiving
-Have kids
-Learn how to ride a unicycle
-Learn how to juggle
-Visit every state
-Visit every continent
-Go on an Alaska cruise
-Fly first class
-Eat real gelato and pizza in Italy
-Go to Ireland
-Have $100,000 saved in a bank account
-Direct a musical
-Drive a car in England
-Become fluent in another language
-Do a multi-day hike
-Meet JK Rowling
-Go to Times Square for New Years
-Record a CD
-Take a cooking class with a legit chef
-Go para-sailing
-See an opera in Europe
-Go to the Met
-Be a guest lecturer
-Live at the Beach
-Live in New York again
-Master a cartwheel
-Perform for more than 2,000 people
-See a production of the Nutcracker
-See a production of Swan Lake
-Go to a Hollywood premiere
-Write a book
-Go to an Eagles game
-Watch the Eagles win the Superbowl (doesn't have to be in person...although that is ideal)
-Buy a house
-Have a wiener dog named Tucker (assuming I am not allergic...)
-Ride in a hot air balloon
-Make something go viral on the internet

And, as ever, MORE TO COME!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Schwartzy Speeches

So for those of you who've been paying attention, for the past two months I've been in the Workhouse Theatre's production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Yesterday was closing, which is always bittersweet, BUT it means that I can finally post the blog I've been waiting for since February!

Back story: I played Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre (Schwartzy), the youngest speller at the bee. She lisps, goes to a magnet elementary school, is up on her current events, is extremely liberal, and is raised by her two gay dads. Daniel Schwartz is one of them; he's the more effeminate of the two, and is usually played by the actor playing Mitch, who in our show was black (I promise, this is important information for several of my speeches). The other is Carl Grubenierre (hence...SchwartzANDgrubenierre as her last name), the no-nonsense, ambitious authoritarian played by the actor playing Leaf. It's revealed over the course of the show that they put a lot of pressure on Logainne, and for someone so young, she has a TON of anxiety over needed to please them. In the second half of the show, Schwartzy goes on a "rant." It's down to the final three spellers, and it's her turn at the mic, but before she's given her word, a cell phone goes off in the house. It ends up being another speller, Olive Ostrovsky, who is still waiting for her dad to show up to watch the bee. Since it's him on the phone, she asks if she can answer (TOTALLY against the rules). The bee's emcee, Rona Peretti, who is protective of Olive since she's all alone, interrupts the bee to answer the phone on Olive's behalf. This is highly irritating to Schwartzy, who not only is waiting to spell, but is a strict rule follower. It's written in the script that while she's waiting at the mic for Rona to finish the phone call, she goes on a rant. It also says the monologue must be re-written at least weekly, because it's supposed to be something topical in order to give off the impression that Schwartzy is just ad-libbing. Other than a few guidelines for what the monologue needs to include, as well as some examples Sarah Saltzberg (the original Schwartzy) wrote, it is completely up to the actress playing the role to create this rant.

This means that for the past three months, I've been writing a new Schwartzy speech every single week (and sometimes more than that). This has been quite the exercise for this "singer-first-actress-second" who balks anytime she sees an audition notice that requires a monologue with her 16-bar cut. But honestly, even though I stressed about these every single Friday, I absolutely loved this aspect of the role. As anyone who reads this blog knows, I really do love writing, and it was nice to be able to utilize that within a performance. Plus after two months of shows, I now feel WAY more comfortable giving monologues (ideally in a interdental lisp, but not all roles call for that...), so that's just an added bonus.

So this post is a collection of all of my speeches (for the most part). Every Friday I would have a panic attack realizing I had procrastinated writing the speech for the entire week, and I would open a blank email and wrack my brain (or Allison's) trying to think of what to talk about. I had a general system that developed over time, as you will see. The script had some guidelines: the topic needs to be current, it should involve Logainne's dads, and if at all possible, address something political. My formula was use the first sentence to segue into the topic (even if it didn't make a ton of sense, so I wouldn't read into the first sentences too much), make a political joke, a gay joke, potentially a racist joke (no one was spared, I guess), and have my final sentence include the words "Lady Gaga." This was so that Jeff, our "Vice Principal Panch," knew exactly when to cut me off. Once I finished writing, I would email every speech to Dan so that it lived in my sent mail folder. Then, backstage before the show, I'd pull out my phone and memorize it. What I have below was usually tweaked during the actual performance, either because it was Saturday and I was referencing something that happened on Friday (for instance, the 4/20 monologue had some tense changes to account for the change of day) or because I felt an urge to change something and just went with it. It also doesn't account for the pauses I took or reactions I gave, so you'll have to use your imaginations. I'm pretty sure there's a video somewhere of at least one of them, so when I get it, I'll post it!

I owe a lot of people thank yous for inspiring these speeches, so as we go, I'll add my commentary in this color. General disclaimer: I was writing this AS A CHARACTER. It does not necessarily mean these are my own opinions. Keep that in mind as you read. :)

Without further ado....I give you...SHANNON KINGETT'S SCHWARTZY RANTS:

February 28 (my first attempt at the speech, so please be kind...I promise they get better): This bee is about as reputable as the 2012 Oscar winners. You know there's something wrong with the world when a movie doesn't even need to have man's greatest achievement, the spoken word, to receive the highest award in cinema. Every year my dads host a themed Oscars party. This year was by far the best theme yet: "Hugo the Descending Artist". As great as the party was, I found the ceremony severely lacking. Cirque su Soleil is so 2007. The only choice my dads found acceptable was the award for Best Actress. Meryl Streep is basically worshipped by my dads. In our house, she's second only to Lady Gaga.

March 6 (the speech I used during tech week): This bee is about as successful as Lindsay Lohan’s latest attempt at salvaging her career. It’s a weekly tradition in our house to watch Saturday Night Live as a family. It’s the only time that my dads do not strictly enforce my usual 9 o’clock bed time. After whipping up our themed midnight snack of good-enough-to-steal-hummus and better-than-crack vegan brownies, we sat back to enjoy what would turn out to be an hour and a half of mediocre sketch comedy. Despite the fact that last week’s episode was panned by critics across the board, my Dan-dad, a longtime proponent of Lindsay, said that it was a big step towards recovery, and even wrote about it in his blog: “The Manifesto of a Black Gay Jew.” Carl-dad still says that SNL will never reach its fullest potential until they let Lady Gaga host. 

March 9 (opening weekend): This bee is as confusing as the explosion of news regarding Ugandan war lord, Joseph Kony. As a self proclaimed political activist, I support the use of social media to spread important information (follow me on twitter, @schwartzyspells!), but I find it pretty ironic that people believe retweeting Kim Kardashian is the way to incite global awareness. My dads were pretty inspired by the video though, so much that they decided to use the same medium to help spread their own political interests! So this week, in addition to prepping for the bee, we’ve been filming their first project, entitled: “Someday We’ll Find it: The Rainbow Connection”. My dads are the co-writers, and I’m the cameraman. It’s about 5 minutes long so far, and while there are some heavy hitting photo slideshows and statistics, most of it consists of a choreographed dance they do to Lady Gaga’s “Born this Way.”

March 16 (I was only in for one show this weekend, because we had an FSO concert that conflicted, so my understudy went in. She wrote her own speech, so I used this for the weekend of March 24 as well): This bee is about as insane as America's preoccupation with "March Madness." In my house though, we're not that into sports, mostly just politics and Perez Though my dads and I are all blue-bleeding liberals, we have been following the elephant race with much interest. That's why for the past 6 months, we've been monitoring our own "Republican Trainwreck" brackets. It's a very exciting time now that we're into the final four. If you ask me, America's true madness lies in the very real possibility that Rick Santorum may take the GOP nomination. Talk about a Cinderella Story. My Carl-Dad thought Newt Gingrich was going to go all the way, but he's probably regretting that decision now! He said maybe Newt would win if his sister was a more of a lipstick lesbian rather than a butch bag, but I don't really know what those things mean. Dan-Dad says that no matter who's up for election, he's writing in Lady Gaga.

March 30 (this was hands down the easiest speech to write. I think it took me less than five minutes. What can I say, I was inspired! I had decided to write about The Hunger Games movie in combination with Dick Cheney's heart transplant until I happened to hear a radio story mentioning the lottery, and I just knew. This is probably my favorite speech that I gave the whole run): This bee is as crazy as the mania surrounding tonight's half billion dollar lottery. I think the only other time I've ever seen 7-11 that crowded was the day after Ramadan ended! Let's be honest though, the real gambling story of the week is America's willingness to gamble its sanity by allowing Dick Cheney to get a second chance at life. I plan on being an organ donor when I am old enough to get my license, but I also plan on adding an addendum next to that little heart that says: "Except for Republicans". My dads have both decided to try their luck at tonight's big lotto. Carl-dad says that if he wins he's spending the money on high-risk investments, but Dan-dad says his list is much shorter and simpler. He'd just buy Lady Gaga.

April 6: This bee is as insane as a kid at an Easter egg hunt. My Carl dad says that other than Arbor day, Easter is the gayest holiday there is. I find this somewhat contradictory to the religious basis of the holiday, but I guess not much about a pink bunny who delivers chocolate screams heterosexual. That's why we usually celebrate at the big gay Easter parade in New Orleans Louisiana, but this year we couldn't go because of tonight's bee. But it's definitely a cultural celebration for us, because My family isn't religious. The only things my dads worship are karaoke, grey goose martinis, and Lady Gaga.

April 13 (Two of the people in my cast, Anna and Amie, were just as obsessed with Titanic as me, so we went to see it in theatres on April 12, and it inspired this entire speech): This bee is about as well thought out as the maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic. This weekend marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of Titanic, and it's not a day that goes unnoticed in our house. We usually celebrate by visiting one of America's many Titanic museums or exhibits, but we couldn't go this year because of tonight's bee. On the car ride here, my Carl-Dad said it would have been convenient if the other spellers had to take the Titanic to get to tonight's bee, but I told him that if I had to wish a Titanic voyage on anyone, it would be Mitt Romney. Then we had a good laugh. Since we couldn't visit Orlando's Titanic Experience as planned, this week we went to the 3D showing of the James Cameron film. My dads said the 3D was good, but it would have been better utilized if Leonardo Di Caprio was the one doing the posing instead of the painting. We stayed all the way through the credits, because My Heart Will Go On is my Dan Dad's favorite song. He says that nothing could ever top it....well, unless Lady Gaga did a cover.

April 20 (at this point in the run, I was starting to develop major writer's block, so the BRILLIANCE of Allison Kinney inspired this speech): This Sunday is Earth Day, which means it's time for the annual camping trip my dads go on with their friends. I don't know why they always go two days BEFORE Earth Day, but they say that's their own way of celebrating. I asked if I could come this year but my Carl-Dad says the 420 camping trip is definitely not for children. I did get to help him pack the car last night though. I was surprised at how many bags of cheetos they were going to need for a one night trip! I always stay at my babysitter's house, and we celebrate Earth Day by watching Planet Earth or Captain Planet. Is it just me, or do all the villains in "Captain Planet" resemble the current leaders of the Republican Party? Whatever Al Gore might say, if you ask me, THAT'S America's actual Inconvenient Truth! On actual Earth Day, we're having a costume party, and my Dan-Dad's is totally best. It's made of REAL DIRT. He calls it "Mother Nature meets Lady Gaga."

April 27 (this speech was inspired by two people, one inadvertently and one in another stroke of brilliance. This was my only speech not centered around a current event. That morning I got a text from my friend Chris that told me to look at that day's Groupon, because one of the things you could buy was an inflatable shark that FLIES. We have a long running joke about inflatable sea creatures, plus that sounded AWESOME anyway, so I checked it out and was obsessed immediately. There was even a youtube video of said "Air Swimmers," which I then showed to anyone with eyes. The first person I knew I had to show was Ash, because I know how much she loves sharks...well, toothy predators in general. Then, later that day, when I was agonizing over a speech topic, she was the one who suggested the shark vid...which I adapted into this): This bee is as bizarre as the recent rise of Groupon. My dads suffer from what I call "Extreme Grouponing." They're both shopaholics, so it's hard for them to resist sales sent right to their iPhones. That's why as of this morning, we're the proud owners of a $25 inflatable remote control shark. But if you ask me, Groupon is as pointless as Newt Gingrich's recent race resignation (yeah Newt, like that was a shock). For instance, my Carl-Dad got a laser hair removal Groupon, and after he finished all the sessions, he still had all his hair! Well, at least where I could see it. And it's gotten to the point that people think my Dan-Dad is African American...but really, it's just too many Groupon Spray-Tans! I mean come on, his last name is SCHWARTZ. And trust me, it was the Harvey Milk assasination ALL over again when they realized they missed the Groupon for tickets to Lady Gaga.

May 4 (For closing weekend, I did a different speech every night! This was hands down my nerdiest speech of the whole run, and interestingly enough, the only time my character vocally acknowledged her speech impediment the whole run): This bee is as unorganized as the rebel alliance's first attack on the Death Star! My dads' best kept secret is their affinity for nerd culture. They love it all: Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Comic Book movies...I'm still pretty tired from last night's midnight showing of The Avengers. But their first and truest nerd love is Star Wars, so today is a pretty big day in our house. For all you newbs out there, today is Star Wars Day! Today is May May the fourth be with you! And YES. I said it that way ON PURPOSE. I think my favorite Star Wars character is Anakin Skywalker, aka the sith Lord Vader, because his character arch is the most compelling. You know...speaking of sith lords, is it just me, or is Emperor Palpatine a dead ringer for Dick Cheney? Anyway, my Carl-Dad's favorite character is Mace Windu. He says he has a thing for strong black men with purple lightsabers. My Dan-dad loves Queen Amadala, but I think that's because she's usually dressed like Lady Gaga.

May 5 (writing this one was hard because I did on the drive back from JMU graduation on Saturday. And I didn't write it so much as dictate it to Katie, who was riding shotgun. I'm a visual person so it was REALLY difficult for me to think and brainstorm out loud rather than on paper, so I think this was the longest it ever took me to write a whole speech. But Katie was awesome for doing this and helping me brainstorm!!!): This Bee is as inappropriate as America's fascination with Cinco de Mayo. Today is not only Cinco de Mayo but the Kentucky Derby, which means that currently I'm living in a broken home. We normally celebrate them both independently, but because they fall on the same day, it's created a lot of tension. Let's be honest, just like everything in life, this all boils down to racial discrepancy. On the one hand you have my Dan-dad wanting to celebrating his ethnic background, which by the way isn't even Mexican, and on the other you have my Carl-dad with his hats and horses, aka basically the whitest thing you can do as an American...well besides NASCAR. Either way, I think both are ridiculous. Animal cruelty versus people celebrating a national victory for a country that's not even theirs? Typical America. So I suggested a compromise. That's why before we came to the Bee, we had a joint celebration which my dads entitled "Cinco de Drinko". Everyone's race hats were sombreros and they placed bets with tequila shots instead of money. That's why we had to get out next door neighbor Mrs. Rogers to drive us to the Bee. It was so embarrassing; my Carl dad kept insulting Mrs. Rogers's cats and my Dan-dad wouldn't stop singing Lady Gaga.

May 6 (MY FINAL SPEECH! Not gonna lie, was not sad that this was the last time I had to do this IN THE SLIGHTEST. I was getting pretty sick of it. I wrote this yesterday morning in the dressing room in a COMPLETE panic. It was the longest I've ever procrastinated a speech. So this speech, appropriately so, was influenced by my entire cast! :D): This bee is as stereotypical as Mother's Day. We celebrate most holidays in the typical American way. A Christmas tree in December, Fireworks for Fourth of July, A 19 pound vegan tofurky at Thanksgiving...but, for obvious reasons, Mother's day is a little different in our house. Even though it's not till next week, I'm already excited. We start by waking with the dawn, and my Carl-dad leads us in morning yoga to honor our earth mother. Then we go to brunch, not because it's Mother's day, but because brunch is pretty big in the gay community. After that we take midday nap watching fox news. Nothing puts me to sleep faster than Glenn Beck! In the afternoon Dan-dad gives his yearly presentation on the year's most compelling Baby Mama. This year we're learning about Beyonce! Then after dinner they both give a joint performance honoring their Monster Mother--meaning they do a choreographed dance to Lady Gaga's "Born this Way".

And that's that! It was really a great run and I know I'm going to miss it a lot. Since it's only Monday, it hasn't really hit me that it's over, but I'm sure come Friday I'll be feeling some post-show blues. And hey, maybe one day I'll play this role again and will have to write even MORE speeches. GET EXCITED!

The cast of spelling bee:
(Back L to R) Anthony Williams at Mitch Mahoney (Dan-dad!), Amie Cazel as Olive Ostrovsky, Shannon Kingett as Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre, Ben Gibson as William Barfée, Eben Kuhns as Leaf Coneybear (Carl-dad!), Mary Omohundro as Rona Peretti, Jeff Davis as Vice Principal Panch.
(Front L to R) Harrison Lee as Chip Tolentino, Anna Jackson as Marcy Park

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

When meaningless becomes meaningful

I don't know how it happened guys, but the Disco has gone sappy. I SWORE I WOULD NEVER BE THIS WAY! I should probably do something really epic soon to give you all the comedy you CRAVE.

But for now...introspection.

I was born and raised in a devout Catholic household (don't worry, this story is not going to be about my intelligent departure from religion, nor is it going to be about how my favorite pastime is sprinkling the homeless with holy water...just keep reading). That means that in 7th/8th grade, it was time to prep for Confirmation, which is ultimately the last sacrament you MUST receive as a full blown, from-birth Catholic (the only ones left are marriage, holy orders, and absolution of the sick, three of which you will only receive if your life goes in any of those directions).

Sacrament prep varies slightly depending on where you go to church, but most of the time, you have to pick a patron saint and write a report about them. The kids who are lucky enough to be born with classic biblical names like James or Elizabeth usually have a pretty easy choice and write about St. James, or St. Elizabeth, but those of us named after rivers in Ireland have the challenge of finding a saint that appeals to our personal interests. In the report, you have to talk about the history of the saint, but also about why you picked them.

A habitual procrastinator, I am pretty sure I wrote my saint report the day before all of my confirmation stuff was due. So needless to say, I didn't put too much thought into who my patron saint was going to be. A week or two earlier, my mom asked me how my research was going, and I answered with the typical "Oh, it's going okay. I'm still indecisive about who I'm going to pick though, there's just so many good ones," knowing that this would be enough to appease her without probing any more questions. The truth was, the extent of my research thus far had been finding a list of saint names on the internet and seeing which name sounded coolest. Maybe my mom was smarter/more perceptive than she let on, because instead of letting the conversation end there, she gave me some direction.

She asked me if I had heard anything about St. Theresa the Little Flower (yes devout Catholics, I know that's not the correct way of writing her name, but I'll get to that). I told her "Yeah I think I read a little bit about her" (lies). She then told me a story about how influential said saint was in her own life, and why I might be interested in taking her name:

St. Therese has a prayer that you can do (which I later found out is called her novena), and it is said that if your prayer is going to be answered, you will see the sign of a rose within 9 days. When my grandma was sick with lung cancer, my mom's cousin said the novena and prayed that my grandma would get better. Exactly nine days later, she went out to dinner with her husband, and was seated in front of a stained glass window that was a picture of a rose (now that I think about it, I wonder if this dinner was in the west wing of the Beast's castle). A few weeks later, my grandma's cancer went into remission. Eventually, the cancer came back as a brain tumor, and this time my mom prayed a novena herself, but this time asked for my grandma to no longer suffer, whether that be through healing or through death. If I remember the story correctly, within the span of nine days, my dad randomly brought her roses after work one day, and a few weeks later, my grandma passed away.

As 12 year old Shannon wasn't a cynic nor a skeptic (yet), this story was SUPER impressive to me, so I decided why belabor my saint decision? This saint was as good as any and had a personal connection to my life. DONE AND DONE. I dug through my belongings, found my trusty children's book on saints that I got for Christmas three years before, summarized the four paragraphs in the book into one about her life, threw in the story about my grandma, and BAM! Saint report done.

Needless to say, one paragraph on her life that I based on information in a book written for 10 year olds was really not a thorough examination of the impact she had on the world. I didn't even know that she was actually called Therese, not Theresa. But it was good enough to get me on the "Getting Confirmed" list, so I thought absolutely nothing of it.

It wasn't until years later, when I was a Summer Friendship Director, that I realized how little I knew about my own patron saint, and how much the 7th graders I was working with DID know about theirs. Talk about embarrassing. As they told me the stories of their own saints, a lot of whom were child martyrs, or men and women who performed incredible miracles, I decided it was time I learned more about my own saint so I could talk about all of the epic things she did too.

The first thing I learned was how to actually say and spell her name. GOOD TO GO.

The second thing I learned was that St. Therese? Yeah. She didn't do anything epic. She became a nun super young, prayed a lot, was usually sick, and died of tuberculosis.

WHAT? THIS was the person who represented SHANNON KINGETT?! I was so mad at myself for not researching better, resulting in me picking someone so lame. I could have picked St. Maria Goretti! St. Agnes! Someone STRONG! Someone like ME!

This was Summer 2008, and it was a period of time of over-abundant faith in my life, as well as over-abundant arrogance. I of course kept this new knowledge of my saint and these opinions on her awesomeness to myself, as revealing them would have meant revealing my vast ignorance of the faith I had basically tattooed across my forehead. I patted myself on the back for learning EVEN MORE about Catholicism and went on my merry way.

I spent the next six months becoming an even more awesome Catholic. I started keeping a prayer journal. I volunteered with the youth group at the Catholic Church in Harrisonburg. I took a vow to quit drinking completely until my 21st birthday. I went to confession. I remembered all the Holy Days without having to be reminded by my mom. I was even arrogant enough to pray for an increase in faith, because I figured I was already such an awesome person in every other way, that the only thing that could make me better was to be even MORE faithful.

Then my best friend and my second mom got murdered.

A whole lot changed after that. In retrospect, my "faithfulness" was simply a combination of a very sheltered and relatively pain-free childhood (of which I am not complaining about whatsoever, I am eternally grateful and blessed) and a deep connection with the Holy Family community, a connection that had been reaffirmed by working there 60 hours a week for two summers. This was not true faith, and it was not strong enough to endure the absolute despair I was dealing with. I think the easiest way to explain it is to liken my life, security, and faithfulness to a house. So when the dust after this explosion of a tragedy settled and I attempted to see how bad the damage was, what I found was nothing. Absolutely nothing remained of my house, and it was like the builders had forgotten to put in a foundation, so I had absolutely no idea how to even try rebuilding. And to be honest, I didn't even know if the "land" was salvageable.

I was, figuratively, homeless for the first time in my entire life.

People react to tragedy's almost inevitable shake of faith differently. I know a lot of people who depart completely from their older ways of thinking. From what they used to be faithful to. They look for new answers, new solutions, thinking that their old way of thinking must have flawed. Other people cling even harder to what they believed before. They rebuild quickly (sometimes for the better, and sometimes foolishly so). I didn't do either of those things. Rather than quickly build a new house, or move to a new one, I decided just to chill out on my little plot of land and see what happened without anything to protect me from the elements. To be honest, it was because I was completely paralyzed. The shock of what had happened to two of the people I loved most was hard enough, but the shock of what that event had done to my spiritual life? I couldn't think, I couldn't move. So I just stayed still. Which, in a not figurative sense, meant going to church (sometimes) to go through the motions, but feeling and emotionally giving absolutely nothing.

Houses, simply put, provide shelter. They protect you from the elements. They protect you from danger. So here I was, completely unprotected for the first time. It was not long before doubt, cynicism, and skepticism crept in. Part of that was due to the situation, but part of that is inherently part of my personality anyway. I am cynical, I am skeptical, and I am logical far more than I am emotional. My friends joke that if I don't know something I immediately look it up, because I always need to KNOW. And I need to have proof.

So the questions that existed in the back of my mind probably my whole life came SCREAMING to the forefront, unhindered now that I had no roof to shelter me, and suddenly I was not paralyzed by shock, but by fear. What if I've been wrong this whole time? What if there is no God? Then what? The fear of death completely crippled me. What used to be infrequent feelings of discomfort that maybe came into my mind on occasion were now constant panic-attack inducing obsessions. I was not only hanging out on my homeless piece of land, I was covering my head with my arms, unable to move from the fetal position, terrified of what might happen. Basically unable to shield myself from the storm of doubt and despair. Incoherent and basically unconscious.

The death of the Smiths was like a bomb. Highly destructive but instantaneous. But what happened to me in the aftermath was like a Class 5 hurricane. Unrelenting. Unbearable. And never-ending.

But like after any horrible storm, eventually, the winds die down. It took me days, weeks, months, years, but eventually, I realized the storm was no longer raging. It was time to open my eyes, and look at how well I had fared on my shelter-less piece of land. Not well...but I was still alive. Still breathing. Miraculously, still able to stand, to walk. And when I realized I at least had those things to cling to, even if my house was gone, I knew I had a starting point. A road to recovery.

I could do an entire blog post on what my emotional and mental recovery road has been like. But right now, I'm talking about my spiritual recovery. It has taken me so, so, SO long, but I do think I've wrapped my brain around how far I fell, and how much rebuilding I need to do. And another fun lesson I've learned through all of this is that falling away from God and faith is quick and SO easy. Rebuilding faith? Sometimes it feels impossible.

It has only been very, very recently that I have been actively seeking out answers, and not just leaving the scary questions in my head to fester. And by recently, I mean last six months recently. I cannot just sit and wait to be healed, wait for faith to find me. I know now that this is an active journey, and one shrouded heavily in mystery. But I am by nature of person of action, and it feels like I'm finally getting back on track, simply by keeping my eyes open for signs, for answers.

Which is what inspired today's post. I can honestly tell you I had NO intention of ever telling anyone the depth of my troubles, let alone posting about it in a PUBLIC FORUM. But I was so inspired this morning that I knew it was what I had to do. Airing my insecurities is a way of letting them go. Acknowledging that pride is what has been forcing me to keep this to myself, to handle it alone, is comforting. Because I can master pride. So I recognize that like with anything, this is a step.

To bring this full circle, this is what inspired this whole post. Monday and Tuesday were rough days mentally. I'm not even sure why. But all the fear and doubt was back at the forefront. I did my best to shove it out of my head, while praying for patience, strength, and peace. This morning, my mom posted St. Therese's prayer on her facebook, a prayer I'm sure I've read before, but one that hasn't resonated with me until now:

May today there be peace within.
May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.
May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.
May you be content knowing you are a child of God.
Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise, and love.
It is there for each and every one of us.

Not only were these the EXACT words I needed to read today, and not only are they perfect reminders throughout this time of rebuilding....but they are the words of MY patron saint. The "lame girl" who I "chose by accident and because of laziness." A sign?

This is something Shannon the skeptic, the cynic, and the doubter would dismiss. I'm pretty sure I wrote off a lot of signs throughout the past few years. But the newly forming Shannon-of-faith has a sneaking suspicion that choosing St. Therese was no accident. And man am I starting to see signs...everywhere. Divine Mercy Sunday was this past weekend...the story of Thomas, the doubter. The one who said he wouldn't believe Jesus had risen from the dead until he felt his pierced hands and side. He needed tangible proof. Sound familiar? And in the Roman Catholic missal for 2012, who is the Saint who has a quote listed for Divine Mercy Sunday? Twenty guesses: "You know well enough that Our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, nor even at their difficulty, but at the love with which we do them. -- St. Therese"

Suddenly, a meaningless decision I made at 12 has become something so unbelievably meaningful. I don't think I could have picked a better saint to be mine. Sure, I'm probably nothing like St. Therese. But the two qualities she exuded more than anything were unrelenting faith and a quiet humbleness. Two things I desperately lack and desperately NEED. This woman is in my life for a reason. And finally realizing this today is the strength I needed, the strength I prayed for. It won't last forever, and sooner rather than later, I know I'll be asking for help again. But for now, it is getting me through.

I'm not preachy about religion, or at least I try not to be. I respect the differences I have with others. I don't even like to talk religion most of the time, because it's something that is SO personal to me. So I'm not writing this post to prove anything. This is not a foray into evangelism. That's not who I am. But for whatever reason, writing about this journey I'm on is something I needed to do. I have no hidden motives, other than admitting that this is something I struggle with. And that I have to force myself to keep building FAR more often than I actually feel motivated to. And I know that I'm not the only person in the world with questions about spirituality, about God, about death. So I'm shelving my pride and admitting that I get lost...A LOT. Pride is a trap I fall into so much, and always to my own detriment (and the detriment of many, many others). Maybe this is a tiny, personal way of overcoming pride. Temporarily of course, but a step. A layer of brick in my new foundation.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Not a real update, but...

CHECK IT OUT! I added a best of section, with my favorite blog posts (so far...). I'm probably the only person who rereads this blog anyway, so let's be honest, this section is solely for my convenience.

BUT if you do feel so prompted, read these posts!!!!! ----------->

That way you don't have to sift through the hundreds of crap posts to read something mildly entertaining. ;)

MORE FUN COMING YOUR WAY SOON (which everyone at this point should know means in like, three months. I'm the worst)!!!!!!!!