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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Thursday, June 17, 2010

They're called vegetables. Get over it.

They’re called vegetables. Get over it.

If you’re so damn tough, Mr. I Don’t Have To Eat Tofu I’m At The Top Of The Food Chain, Ms. You Can Have My Bacon Cheeseburger When You Pry It From My Cold Dead Hands, why does vegetarian and vegan food scare you so damn bad?

I’m serious. I’ve met you. I’ve cooked for you. I’ve prepared plates of vegetarian food for you, in front of your very eyes, while listening to you trash-talk tofu and vegans and anyone who doesn’t eat the way you say you do.

(Except when you’re eating vegetarian whether you know it or not. Like how you scarfed down that whole vegetarian crepe situation I put on your plate with hardly a pause for breath. Yeah, I saw that. Were you thinking about what you had ordered when you started ripping on vegetarianism? Or is it just your bad-mannered reflex?)

I’m not a vegan, although I have been in the past. I’m not a vegetarian either, although I also did some time as an ovo-lacto sort. I eat meat and poultry and game and eggs and fish and I’d eat milk if I could. I wear leather and bone and, for that matter, even some old inherited ivory. I eat meats you probably don’t even dream of eating: ear, tail, thymus gland, brains, stomach. Blood sausage, blood soup. Tongue. Eyeballs. I admit I’m not a big fan of eyeballs. But I willfight you over cheek meat.

So don’t come at me all macho, like if you didn’t eat meat your balls would shrivel up and fall off and that’s why you mock vegetarians. Hell, I’ve eaten testicles. Raw. (Not bad. Better battered and deep-fried, but what isn’t?)

What impresses me even less is that when I’ve talked to you about it, I find out that in general, your type are not even honest meat-eaters. You don’t want to think about the fact that your big manly steak was once a dewy-eyed, gentle herbivore, and that between field and fork there was blood and death and a whole lot of cutting up the body of the dead into convenient portions. Well, here’s what I think about that: I think that if you couldn’t handle slaughtering and butchering the animals you eat you have no goddamn business eating them. You owe your fellow creatures that much dignity. You want to dicksize about your confirmed carnivorehood? Fine. I’ll meet you in the alley behind the kitchen with a couple live chickens and a couple sharp knives. First one to turn out a platter of fried chicken wins.

And let’s not even start about how hungry you’d be if you had to actually hunt your own meat, ‘kay? There’s a reason most hunter-gatherer cultures are, in effect, primarily vegetarian with occasional meat bonanzas. Critters are harder to catch than you think.

What I want to know is this: what scares you so bad about vegetables? Behind all that posturing you do, Mr. Humans Haven’t Evolved For Millions Of Years Just To Eat Soybeans, I smell the reek of fear. I don’t get it. They’re plants.

Is it that you’re scared you’ll fall off the top of the status ladder? Meat is status, no question. As billions of the world’s poor, who are mostly vegetarian by default, know full well. So is what you’re saying that you’re so much better and more important than the majority of the world population that you couldn’t possibly eat the way they do? That it’s beneath you?

Is it that you’re scared you’ll fall off the top of the gender ladder? Meat is coded masculine, no question. So is being a jackass with regard to vegetarianism. It’s chest-thumping. I get it. Trust me, I would not dream of doubting your allegiance to the patriarchy. But I sure do wish you would, and not just because I find your meat-eater self-aggrandizement tiresome.

Is it that you’re just ignorant? There’s a lot more variety in the plants we eat, even with the limited repertoire most Westerners are familiar with, than there is in the animal foods we consume. Maybe you don’t know much about plants and how to make them taste good, whereas any idiot can buy an E. coli-tainted pack of frozen burgers and throw one in a pan or nuke it to a greasy grey microwaved oblivion. Maybe you haven’t had a lot of money to work with and yeah, vegetables do cost money, though generally a whole lot less than meat, but that’s money you might not be able to afford to write off if you get scared because you don’t know how to prepare your vegetables and so they sit in the fridge and rot.

I can give you the benefit of the doubt, the way I usually do, and assume you just don’t know any better. I make up backstories for you people all the time. Every time I encounter another chest-thumping “carnivore” (and you’re an omnivore, by the way, let’s just get that straight — if you don’t believe me, take it up with your cat) I imagine the reasons why. Your mother was a terrible cook and it scarred you for life that all the vegetables you were ever served were the same shade of defeated khaki. You were raised on canned vegetables. You were told so many times that vegetarians all get sick, or become impotent, or anemic, that you can’t bring yourself to eat a carrot.

Whatever it is, get the hell over it. Just let it go. Food is important, yeah, but darlin’, you’re bigger than it is. Or at least you should be.

If you’re scared of vegetarianism because you don’t know any better, educate yourself. Take it as a challenge. Learn to cook a week’s worth of meals without using meat. Learn to cook a week’s worth of meals without using meat, dairy, or eggs.

Learn to cook a week’s worth of meals without using meat, dairy, eggs, or any meat, dairy, or egg substitutes. Just food that happens to be vegan. (There’s lots. I promise.)

I guarantee you that your horizons will widen, you will learn things, and you will find new favorite foods you didn’t expect. That’s an ironclad guarantee from the Department of Done It Myself.

If you’re worried about nutrition, I promise you won’t die of scurvy. If you’re still worried, take a multivitamin. You should anyway.

I also promise you won’t die of protein deficit. Bison and elephants and such are 100% vegetarian and honey, all that protein and minerals that goes into all that muscle and bone comes from somewhere and that somewhere is plants.

If you’re scared of vegetarianism because you think tofu is icky, do some research. Bet you never stopped to think about the fact that people rarely eat the stuff cold out of the little plastic tub. Or that tofu can go bad, and turn sour, and some people don’t know how to check for that and end up eating bad tofu without realizing it. Billions of people eat tofu every day. You may rest assured that they aren’t all gagging it down by the cold, jiggly spoonful. They’re preparing it. In ways that range from the moderately tasty to the downright addictive. I expect you might even be smart enough to figure out what some of them are, if you try.

Seriously, y’all, it’s old, the Mr. Grrr Me Big Meat-Eater Man thing. It’s tired. It’s boring. It’s kind of like people without tattoos getting all upset about people who do have tattoos: ever notice how people who have tattoos never get their knickers in a twist about the fact that other people don’t have them? Don’t be one of those hidebound twits who can’t unclench long enough to let other people’s tastes and habits simply be. It’s annoying and it’s petty and it’s small-minded and it’s provincial and it’s just not cool.

Besides, you know damn well you eat tortilla chips and salsa.

And those, my friend, are vegan.

I like to think of them as a gateway drug.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Rachel on the Trampoline (and me)





Pictures of Nature. Again.


Tracy's cat.
Unknown beetle.
Bee.
Unknown caterpillar.
The "Daring Jumping Spider"

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Rediscovering Camp Coffman: The Derrick 5/24

Rediscovering Camp Coffman

By JENNIFER BUTCHART

Some family traditions never die. Becoming a Boy Scout or Girl Scout can stay in families for generations, and the network of people met through Scouting is always growing.
At Camp Coffman, Boy Scouts of all ages from across the United States gathered on May 22nd to relive their childhood memories, make new ones, re-familiarize themselves with the camp, and start the final push toward improving the camp even more. The day kicked off with a free pancake breakfast, where nearly 300 people were in attendance.

Jennifer Wesner, a Girl Scout since the age of 12, came to Camp Coffman as a child. “I’ve enjoyed scouting all my life,” said Wesner as she reminisced on the fun times she had at the camp.

“I’ve always wanted the swinging bridge back,” she said. Wesner and her husband, George Shaw, donated money to rebuild the swinging bridge.

Ray Beichner, president of Camp Coffman ministries, remembers coming to Camp Coffman as a Cub Scout of Troop 14 in Oil City. He walked across the swinging bridge—an infamous part of the camp—with his fellow scouts, carrying hand-carved torches to guide them to the natural amphitheatre for bonfires.

Ray even participated in winter camping, called “Operation Eskimo,” and would hand-weave newspapers into mats to help insulate him from the cold. “I had the best Scout Master in the world, R. M. Stewart,” he said.

Ron Knight, another scout, remembers fly-fishing in the creek. “I would wade in until I couldn’t wade anymore,” he said. “It was ice cold, too.”

Vince Beichner, Ray’s brother, came from Kentucky for the reunion. “I remember scratching on tents like bears to scare the younger scouts,” Vince said with a chuckle.

Mike Buckholtz, Scout Master of Troop 73 of McKean, located north of Edinboro, brings his scouts to Camp Coffman in the spring. “I remember the plaques from troops and flags from jamborees on the ceiling in the dining hall,” said Buckholtz. “It’s the atmosphere here, the people, and the staff. The staff was always fun.”

Mike Zentis, Assistant Scout Master of Troop 73, said that the camp “has an awesome setting.”

Tom Spence, the executive director of the Oil City YMCA, commented on the state of the camp, “We’ve done about $500,000 worth of improvements, but we need another $700,000 to get the camp where we’d like it to be.” The first donation of the day, around 250 acres that were once part of Camp Coffman, was presented on behalf of the Clinton Hepler family.

Camp Coffman currently offers a Day Camp for ages 6-12. Activities include sports, horseback riding, archery, canoeing, arts and crafts, fishing, and nature hikes. Families can enjoy the beautiful scenery of the camp by renting cabins on a nightly basis.
The Camp Coffman family tree continues to grow, as it was discovered between Ray Beichner and Mike Zentis that Zentis’ wife is R. M. Stewart’s granddaughter. R. M. Stewart was a Scout Master for 15 years, and received the St. George Award in Scouting. “Like I said, he was the best Scout Master in the world,” said Beichner.

“A lot of money and time was donated here, and it is very well-appreciated,” Beichner said. “It’s exciting to see the camp coming back. I want people to rediscover Camp Coffman.”

Thursday, April 22, 2010

POV: In-Class Exercise (Unedited)

Objectivity: an increasingly ominous term used by journalists around the world. What is objectivity? Why do I need to practice the art of journalism within the ever-growing realm the term encompasses? How can I practice objectivity if it’s so abstract? Why does it even matter?

Objectivity matters, dear friend. It matters. Imagine that you are walking down the street. Imagine that you have just come out of the courtroom. You’ve just met with your lawyer and judge because you’re being sued for a tremendous amount of money for a hate crime that you didn’t commit. The person suing you knows that you didn’t do it, you know that, but the judge doesn’t know that.

As you are walking, you approach a dark alleyway. We all know what goes through the minds of many when passing by these types of alleys. You know exactly what I’m talking about: a couple dumpsters, puddles of God-knows-what, the strongest scent you’ve smelled in your entire life.

Now, your mind is on other things when, suddenly, a man makes his presence known to you by putting you in a headlock and dragging you into the alley. He may or may not have a weapon. He is any race that you are not. You struggle. You scream. You kick. You bite.

Eventually, after underestimating your strength, the man gives way and you sock him one right to mouth. Then you give him another, straight to his gut. You don’t care about the blood streaming down his face or his cries for agony as you dart from the alley.

There are a lot of little details that could make or break this unfortunate event for you. It’s all in the hands of the journalists who are now calling you for an interview, knocking at your door. You respectfully decline to speak with them.

The next day, headlines read: Man Accused Of Hate Crimes At It Again! You wake up to that, staring at you from the newspaper on your front porch. You can now kiss goodbye any hope of ever winning that lawsuit. You can thank those pesky journalists you declined to speak to.

Now, I know that you are not a vicious person. You may have never punched someone in your entire life. But the people who are writing and printing the stories don’t know that, do they?

This is where our friend Objectivity comes in. You see, objectivity is nice to everyone it meets. You’re a convicted felon? No matter, I’m just reporting the facts. You’re a star athlete? That doesn’t matter either, because I’m just reporting the facts. You’ve just won the lottery? Cool, but I just want the facts.

Objectivity plays a large role in the world of journalism, and although its lines are always blurring, it’s very important that everyone practices it. Most people don’t appreciate a biased article or broadcast.

(This is not finished.)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Some Photographs That I'm Proud Of


My sister looking at the Cathedral of Learning.
A self portrait of sorts.
My puppy. It took forever to get her to sit still!
I took this while walking. It's a coffin, symbolizing civilian deaths and an anti-war sign.
My friend, Katie. She was holding a flower and I wanted to capture the moment for some reason.


Cody jumping off a swing at Hasson Heights Elementary.

Assignment: Experiment With Point Of View While Writing A Feature


When Confronted With the Choice of Leaving or Staying, Your Criminal Record Could Be in Jeopardy

Fight or flight: a cliché used every day. Imagine that sudden sense of urgency that grips your body, pulling you away from whatever danger is in front of you. Or maybe you take the boost of adrenaline that surges through your body and fight back. Would you fight back against a police officer? I’m not sure that’s such a good idea. Calling a cop a pig isn’t a good idea either, for the record.
The sun was beating down on my winter skin as I gripped my makeshift anti-war sign. I was going to march in an anti-war protest; boy, was I hot stuff. Well versed in one-liners about the current war in Iraq, I was ready to defend myself against any word assault thrown my way. Any other type of assault was out of the question, as you know, because nonviolence is the way to go, right?

Wrong. Imagine a group of young college students, closely followed by police officers, making their way through the confusing streets of the District of Columbia. They occupy one lane of traffic, as that is their legal right, and they march down the rows of corporate headquarters, shaking their fists at each of the buildings, as if the building is the thing committing the crime. Then, out of nowhere, the police officers surge toward the kids. Some stay where they are, some dodge, some run.

Freeze frame.
Did you know that, in the fleeting moment you have to decide if you’re going to walk away coolly or get up in someone’s face, while cells inside you are reacting so fast to the adrenaline pumping through you and your hair raises and sweat droplets form, you could be arrested for civil disobedience? Just something to keep in mind. Lights, camera, action!

As I slowly made my way to the sidewalk, I felt resentment building toward the officers who were pushing me into the mess of people and the jackass who threw a paint-filled balloon at the Army Recruitment Center, ruining the protest. Cue the chanting.

“Get those animals off those horses!”

“Whose streets? Our streets!”

“A, a ti, a ti capitalista!”

At this point, I’m most likely attempting to ask someone what is going on, but I can’t be sure of the response because of the yelling and screaming directed toward the officers. Should I join in? Maybe. Do I want to get arrested? No. We’ll go with no on the disrespect to the cops, one of which is standing right next to me.
The DC Metropolitan police: Dressed in baby blue uniforms, some on bikes or horses, can seem intimidating. In fact, many police officers are intimidating. Imagine one standing next to you in this high-risk situation. Now imagine him with sunglasses on so you can’t see his eyes. Yeah, I know, it’s scary. And remember our flight-or-fight friend? That police officer is ten times as scary when you’re deciding to flee or to duke it out.
What do you choose, then?
Well, given the circumstances, most people don’t want to be arrested. If that’s the case, walk away. If you do want to be arrested, break the law. I do not have plans that regard wearing handcuffs anytime soon, so civil disobedience is out of the question.
But, as you can imagine, some crazy hooligan who can’t get enough excitement at the local McDonald’s will probably detach from the general crowd and stick his neck out there for it to be rung by a ready-and-willing cop. They are ready and they are willing.
So, the next time you decide you want to be a punk, don’t do it around the police, please. I can just imagine me standing on the sidewalk, watching you being drug away in handcuffs.

Assignment: Interview a Living Person and Write His Obituary

David Schraeder, Lifelong Student, Dies at 50

David Alan Schraeder’s nickname, “Mr. Science,” wasn’t just a nickname. It was a way of life for Mr. Schraeder. He was known for his spirit of adventure, desire to learn, and honesty. Mr. Schraeder’s love for learning followed him throughout his life.
From a young age until he was 50, Mr. Schraeder had a dream to become a professor, to literally profess his love of knowledge for college students. Mr. Schraeder, born on March 7, 1959, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, died Monday.
When he was young, Dave was a bit of a mischievous fellow. He built model rockets, made bombs, and spent time in the great outdoors.
Dave and his father went on Canadian finishing trips to northern Ontario every year. He soon came to love the outdoors at a young age, and with that love, the love to know just how it all worked. You could ask Dave any question about any topic in science, and he would have an answer.
After graduating high school, Dave decided to take a year to test the waters of the business world. He found work at the number one locally owned gas station in Pittsburgh, and quickly ascended the corporate ladder. His manager had high hopes for him, both as a person who could relate to people and as a manager of a business.
That prompted Dave to apply to the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Engineering. He was accepted there, but decided that college life wasn’t for him just yet. Under the suggestion of his Uncle, Dave entered the service. He attended the Great Lakes Naval Base in Illinois, and entered the nuclear power program. He attended his specialty school for Engineering in San Diego, California.
Dave was discharged from the Navy, and then decided to attend the Community College of Allegheny County, where he earned his Associates Degree as a paralegal. He was in the midst of attending the University of Pittsburgh for media and professional communications.
Apart from his love of learning, Dave Schraeder was an avid reader. He enjoyed non-fiction and fiction alike; Michael Crichton wrote his favorite books. Dave had too many books to count in his home on the South Side of Pittsburgh.
Dave lived the single live, although he met the love of his life, Sophie, in his twenties. His mother, Barbara, is a retired Registered Nurse. His father, Albin, deceased, was a physicist at the Carnegie Institute of Technology. He had a younger sister, Donna.
Dave’s family was very important to him. His friends were also important to him. Dave learned a tremendous amount about life, and shared that with his closest friends. David learned to adapt to his surroundings, and fit in very well with his environment.
Although he was not religious, Dave saw himself as an existentialist and a pacifist. He enjoyed the simple things in life.
A friend recollected, “We would full up the gas tank and just drive. Cruise around on the open road.”
Dave had a love for details, and his work throughout his life showed that passion. His work also reflected his knack for adventure and his intelligence. He was a natural writer.
Dave lived his life brilliantly: he had fun. His love of hard rock and gift for science made him into the individual he was. He will be truly missed, by his peers, classmates, professors, and above all else, his friends and family.

For Thomas School of Dance


I made this for Thomas School of Dance. It's going to be on the program and the poster for the show.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Monday, April 12, 2010

Interruption

Interruption: No one is home. Sorry. You turn back to the car that brought you, shrug. You think to yourself, They must be at church. I hope they’re at church. I want my daughter to be a God-fearing person. You walk down the sidewalk that my father, my real father, constructed. The woman in the car is restless; why did she give you a ride if your destination was not set in stone? You put on your best I’m-not-disappointed-because-I-never-tried-to-know-the-girl face and get back into her car. The heat from the blazing sun silently chokes you as you fumble to put down the window. Why is it so hard to push a button? The world turns red, red, red as the sun comes closer and the button disintegrates, right under your finger. You now know what it’s really like to feel alone, to know that the presence of what you want and need has mingled with yours at this very spot, and you can do nothing to reach out and grab it. Now you know how it feels to want something so fleeting, to sit by a phone that does not ring, to smile in the mirror that does not smile back, to greet the ghost of your past and only receive a cold stare in return.

I come home, only 5 minutes later.

I would have liked it to be this way.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Ode à la jalouse

What is the point in apologizing
to your lover by taking her to a ballet?
Or taking her to a dingy street in
downtown New York to see the black kids krump?
What difference does it make to lie and say you were wrong,
to amague ballet d’action, and that you’ll do better next time.


What point for dancing is there, then?
The complex techniques and movements—
movements like dark chocolate,
smooth and irresistible against your tongue.
And what good is dinner to describe
how sorry you are, a cake walk—silver forks
aligning themselves to stab into her aching heart.


And what for pas de deux,
gliding toward the etoile,
before your lover comes in to stretch.
Fouette en tournant on Broadway,
sold out girls who beg for your love flashing on the marquee.

What is the point to remember your
combination made for you?
From your legs come the quick,
terse movements. You know when to keep her
and when to throw her away.
With your strong arms you cling to the barre,
knowing there are ladies watching and
wanting your every move. They know they shouldn’t.

Backstage, you always pique on the others.
Your movements not for quiet girls, only for
the ones who beg for your attention.
You remind me that, Dancing means you can
leave it all on stage. All your wrongdoings, you say,
are gone. I still remember how you led her onto
the floor while leading her on,
smiling inside at your ability to be so graceful in both.


Shows have passed, what is the point of
apologizing to your “lover?” The talented one,
why would you want to break her down on and
off stage? My feet, you tell me are young and callused.
Like my heart. What now? Dancing to impress you
and make New York alive. Pirouette en pointe.
What if I chose to unlace my shoes?

[This is a poem for my creative writing class.]

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

600 Words: Edit First Profile

I had to edit this down to 600 words.


Take Two: A Profile on Kristen Criado

During the week, Studio 22 Dance Academy has a steady pulse of girls and boys of all ages enter dance studios in the old schoolhouse. Located in Franklin, Pennsylvania, Studio 22 has become a well-known institution for its dance program and thriving creativity.

The sounds of tap shoes hitting the wooden floor, giggling girls, and the steady beat of music reverberates through the red brick building. Most students spend two hours to six hours a week taking classes here. However, one person can be found at the studio more than any other. Her name: Kristen. She owns this dancing superpower.
Kristen spends her days preparing paperwork and banking for the studio. At 3:30pm, she makes her way downstairs from her studio apartment to her office. Her warm, inviting smile greets her students and faculty as they arrive.
In elementary school, she began her journey as a pianist. “I never wanted to practice,” she said. “I would watch television and during the commercials, I would run to the piano and ‘practice’ before the show came back on.” She began accompanying the school chorus. Her choir director pushed her to become the best accompanist she could be, even when she didn’t want to.
“I can remember thinking to myself, ‘I really hate this,’ but I just kept going.” Throughout her years at Grove City College, Kristen accompanied her friends during their senior recitals. During her senior year, she drove back and forth from Grove City to Franklin to stay involved at the Barrow Civic Theatre.
After college, Kristen began work at DJA Inspection Services where she inspected oil tanks for oil companies. She would arrive at DJA around 8 in the morning and leave at 4:30 in the evening, then travel to the theatre and stay until late at night.
From 1992 until 2001, Kristen worked this tough schedule. In 2001, her mental and physical health took a turn for the worse. She quit her job at DJA. She stopped at the theatre. She struggled with anorexia and bulimia.

After four years of living with her eating disorder, she sought professional help and the support of her closest friends. One friend in particular helped Kristen buy the dance studio she now owns.
Now, five years later, sitting in the office of her dance studio, one would never suspect that she has gone through so much. She’s back at the theatre, and people there are proud to call her a friend.

“When I first noticed Kristen in a Barrow production, I was struck with how pretty she was!” said Beth Orris, a friend and colleague. “Since I've gotten to know her as a friend and accompanist, I feel as if I'm just beginning to crack the surface of her talent and natural smartness.”
Kristen has been involved with close to one hundred shows at the Barrow.
Katie Kirby-Rogers, also at the theatre said, “I love when I get to be involved in a show with her.”
Kristen even composed music for an off-Broadway show called Topsy on the Boardwalk.
Going through so much emotional pain and struggle has yet to leave its mark on Kristen. In fact, many people know very little about her and her past. “I like to stay behind-the-scenes,” she said.
Back at Studio 22, a little dancer is crying from an upset stomach. Kristen swoops the child into her arms and comforts him. Putting everyone before herself, even when times are tough, is how she makes it through the day. “It doesn’t matter if I have a splinter or if I have a broken neck, I will do anything for my friends, my teachers, and my dancers.”

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

When You Stand in the Grocery Store Wondering Which Coffee To Buy

There was a time when the scent of coffee reminded
me of her lips So tender and tasting
like Folgers house blend The best part of
waking up next to her was not the coffee
she brewed upon leaving our bed It was the way
her fingers curled around
the mug as she held it close to her heart
as if to warm it Even in the middle of
the summer And when she kissed me
under the covers I was reminded of her
twisting, pulling, contradictory hatred for
who I was which kept us together even
when the sex was bad and every word
was an argument And when her fingers
slid into mine her rock solid grip made me
shudder and squirm I was reminded of the
way my mother who was warmer than coffee
slipped her arms around my waist and sheltered me from
anger and freedom and sadness The same
sadness that surrounds me now as I
breathe the scent of coffee

A Profile.


For my Journalism class, we had to do profiles. This is my very rudimentary attempt at one.


Kristen Criado: From Beethoven to Businesswoman

On any day of the week at Studio 22 Dance Academy, there is a steady pulse of girls and boys of all ages, entering three spacious dance studios in the old schoolhouse. The towering red brick building, located in Franklin, Pennsylvania, is a well-known institution, for its dance program and the creativity that is housed there.

The sounds of tap shoes hitting the wooden floor, giggling girls, and the steady beat of music reverberates through the building, and greets the ears of everyone inside. Most students spend anywhere from two hours to six hours a week taking classes and perfecting their respective dancing styles. However, there is one person who is at the studio more than any other person. Her name is Kristen Criado, and she is the owner of this dancing superpower.
Kristen spends her days preparing paperwork and banking for the studio. At around 3:30 in the afternoon, she makes her way downstairs from her apartment to her office. Her warm, inviting smile greets her students and faculty as they enter the building. A few people stop to chat with her as she takes checks for tuition payments, but most head straight into their classes. Behind the businesswoman in that office is a soft, loving person who comes into view after a few minutes of speaking with her.
Born on March 8, 1970, Kristen Ann Criado was far from ordinary. Thick, brown curls framed her ever-smiling face. Her eyes, brown and sparkling, caught the attention of every passerby. Her father, Phil, a retired state policeman, describes Kristen as being “a caring and loving person, friend and daughter. She’s extremely talented and gifted. She is beautiful both inside and out.”

Kristen is, indeed, a very talented individual. In elementary school, she began her career as a pianist. “I never wanted to practice,” she said. “I would watch television and during the commercials, I would run to the piano and ‘practice’ before the show came back on.” She began accompanying the middle school choir, and soon began accompanying the Madrigal choir of Franklin High School. Her choir director pushed her to become the best accompanist she could be, even when she didn’t want to.
“I can remember thinking to myself, ‘I really hate this,’ but I just kept going.” Throughout her years at Grove City College, Kristen accompanied her music major friends during their midterms and senior recitals. During her senior year of college, she drove back and forth from Grove City to Franklin to stay involved in the Franklin Civic Operetta at the Barrow Civic Theatre. She graduated with a degree in English Literature.
After college, Kristen began work at DJA Inspection Services, while still balancing her life at the theatre. She would arrive at DJA around 8 in the morning, leave at 4:30 in the evening, and travel the short distance to the theatre, where she stayed until late hours of the night, working with the actors and her music.
From 1992 until 2001, Kristen worked a tough schedule. “I love music, the theatre, and my friends there,” she said. However, in 2001, Kristen’s mental and physical health took a turn for the worse. She quit her job at DJA. She stopped at the theatre. She struggled with anorexia and bulimia, dropping down to 120 pounds. “A healthy weight for me is 170 pounds. I’m tall, and I’m big-boned,” she said. “I was just addicted to being skinny. I thought that if I was skinnier, I could wear whatever I wanted and look good… and that people would like me.”
After four years of living with her eating disorder, she decided it was time to get better. She sought professional help, and the support of her closest friends.
Now, five years later, sitting in the office of her dance studio, one would never suspect that she has gone through so much. She’s back at the theatre, and some of her closest friends there are proud to call her a friend. “When I first noticed Kristen in a Barrow production, I was struck with how pretty she was! Since I've gotten to know her as a friend and accompanist, I feel as if I'm just beginning to crack the surface of her talent and natural smartness. She's vulnerable, loyal, giving, creative, artistic, instinctive and sets high standards for herself and people around her,” said Beth Orris, a long-time friend and colleague. Orris directs a choir called Venango Chorus, which is geared toward adults who love to sing.
Katie Kirby-Rogers, another theatre dweller, said: “I've known Kristen for 16 years now... which is a good chunk of my life. She's one of the most constant performers I've ever known. She's a fantastic pianist and she has a great voice. No only is she a solid performer, but she has an amazing personality. Sweet and snarky at the same time, I love when I get to be involved in a show with her.”
Kristen even composed music for an off-Broadway show called
Topsy on the Boardwalk.
Going through so much emotional pain and struggle has yet to make its mark on Kristen’s pale, angelic face. In fact, many people known very little about her. “I like to stay behind-the-scenes,” she said.
Back at Studio 22, a little dancer is crying from an upset stomach. Kristen swoops the child into her arms and comforts him. Putting everyone before her, even when times are tough, is how she makes it through the day. “It doesn’t matter if I have a splinter or if I have a broken neck, I will do anything for my friends, my teachers, and my dancers.”
While many people don’t know much about this modest artist, one thing reigns true about her: she is a gifted, humble, beautiful, and wonderful friend, who will do just about anything to see a friend smile.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The purpose of this blog is...

-To show my friends and family my bored musings.
-To display some of my non-professional photography.
-To entertain you? I guess.