Artist to Artist- In the Moment-Adventure Incorporated-

Dear Readers,

Now for something a little different. I have long been passionate about different types of art and their purveyors. So begins the “Artist to Artist” series.

Mike Ellison is a colleague of mine who I am lucky enough to work with in a completely different capacity as we are both customer service supervisors at HomeAway.  We are also fellow artists, hence this post!

I sat down with Mike “Danger” Ellison who is one of the hosts of a Dungeons and Dragons podcast called “Adventure Incorporated” and they are heading into their third year. You can find it here

For those who don’t know- Dungeons and Dragons –

Dungeons & Dragons (abbreviated as D&D[2]) is a fantasy tabletop role-playing game (RPG) originally designed by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. It was first published in 1974 by Tactical Studies Rules, Inc. (TSR). The game has been published by Wizards of the Coast (now a subsidiary of Hasbro) since 1997. It was derived from miniature wargames with a variation of Chainmail serving as the initial rule system.[3] D&D‘s publication is commonly recognized as the beginning of modern role-playing games and the role-playing game industry.[4]

As is so often the case, when you take the time to learn a little bit more about the people you work with every day, you peel away quite the onion layer. It’s pretty fitting that Mike was my first interview as this whole series was sparked by a casual walk and talk at work.

What follows is our chat about D and D, art and the artist, and truth and passion in podcasting.

Professor Haston (PH)- What is your name Mike “Danger” Ellison all about? 

Mike Ellison (ME)- Well, my mom named me in accordance with her “rediscovery of God” so in pursuit of giving me a name that was religious, she picked Michael David, instead of Jesus Christ. I noticed on my social security card it said, Michael D and because I was a 12 year old buffoon, I started calling myself “Mike Danger Ellison” . 

Mike(Danger)Ellison

PH- How long have you been playing D and D? What appeals to you about it?

ME– 22 years – It all started in Gifted and Talented program, part of an independent study for “Odyssey of the Mind” because we were bored with regular school. I love love stories.  I think fiction is the greatest invention of humanity. I really love storytelling and think that when people can come together to tell a story it is the pinnacle of human achievement. 

PH- How has it evolved for you? Have you ever taken a hiatus? 

ME- When it started out, this was the dorkiest thing you could do. People would admit to video games and reading comics and writing fan fiction and I love sci-fi but I WOULD NEVER play D and D! So people were willing to do a bunch of other things but no one was willing to say “Let’s roll some dice!” I changed high schools and went from age 13 (this was when we had a silly and stupid storylines) to about age 22 (where storylines were only SLIGHTLY elevated) with no D and D games. In 2008, Fourth Edition was released and everyone was talking about how easy it was to play with the advent of this release. People were playing World of Warcraft and everything around D and but took the mechanics and streamlined the game. My friend Charlie put together a game for me and my girlfriend and some friends to play when I was 25 and we played that for six months and then the group fell apart. It’s pretty common for games to fall apart after a few sessions. 

PH- What happened to bring you back to it? 

ME- Fifth Edition came out, I got super excited about it and decided I was going to run a game with a bunch of people at work. I bought all the stuff and spent way too much money and someone I worked with started a game using Pathfinder (not Fourth Edition) and it lasted about two years. We played every week because we worked together and it helped make us a lot more accountable. Life changed again, but I really wanted to play Fifth Edition so I pretty much bullied all my friends and girlfriend into coming over to play my “shiny new thing” and I said, “So come over and we will do a thing and if you hate it, we will never do it again, and if you love it, you are welcome” and they LOVED it. The game fell apart after a couple of months, so I was without D and D again. 

PH- So what led to the birth of the podcast? 

MEWell, a great and close friend of mine from college, Anthony, we find all the same things funny. Smart and dumb things, we both think it’s hilarious in the same way. We just “get” each other and he happened to play D and D too. I reached out to him and said, “I want to play D and D Fifth Edition and I want to play with you.” At the same time, a buddy of ours was going through a super rough time and was a former D and D player. I posted recaps on social media and he reached out and was always commenting and asking questions about it since he couldn’t play locally, this was our way of helping him and solidifying an already deep friendship but we had to all commit to getting together every other week at a certain time. This is common in every group of friends, unless you have something keeping you accountable, you are just as likely to sit in your underwear watching the latest Flash episode. We knew that if we didn’t have a common goal it would NOT happen. Something will always come up, unless you are properly motivated. Anthony offered to DM the game and I was super relieved cause I just wanted to play. So knowing the group of friends and how stage hungry and attention driven they all are, we came up with the idea to do a podcast to record us playing the game every other week, which is hard, because sometimes every other Sunday is Christmas, or your mom’s birthday, or someone is in surgery. One of the players is a doctor, so as you might imagine he can’t commit to anything, so routinely we get messages from him bowing out due to his whole life-saving thing, so no problem, they created a mechanic in the game to play for him that will die and then come back as a new character. We wanted him to play so bad so we made it work.

PH- How does the podcast work? What are the mechanics? Do you think about your audience? 

ME: So there are five players and the DM, so six of us total. 

Here they are!

TheAdventureIncorporatedGang

We all record our audio (using various forms of microphones and in one case a shoddy internet connection on a phone from the Dominican Republic) and send it to the DM who mixes it down and uploads it. We play over skype, and being able to see each other while we talk is invaluable. I know it seems super obvious but the first year and a half we played and recorded without looking at each other but after a year or so, we started to figure it out. We are just a few weeks away from our “Adventure March” which is the celebration of our anniversary.  We do a thing for the anniversary every year. One year we did dice bags with our logo. 

Check it out!

AdventureIncorporated

This year some super fun stuff is coming up. A coloring contest! We will send out black and white drawings (that were made by fans of the podcast) so people can color them. This community is so awesome.  

PH- How do you deal with haters? 

ME- It’s super easy. Sounds like this isn’t your show. There are tons of other podcasts and maybe you should go listen to those other shows. 

PH- So how does doing improv and playing D and D intersect?

ME- I had been improvising in town with ColdTowne Improv and was curious about getting back onstage and doing more scripted work. Playing D and D is kind of like the intersection of those two things because you’ve developed this character and you don’t know what’s going to happen but you know everything about that character and so as long as you are true to who that character is, you are basically playing out a script even if it hasn’t been written yet. I think D and D is a interesting middle ground between improv and scripted work because of that. 

PH- What is your favourite thing about the show? 

ME- I love hanging out with my favourite people doing my favourite thing. I love telling a story together that is the type of story that I want to hear. We don’t really worry about what the listeners might want to hear, we are playing our game. It’s knowing I have a creative outlet and knowing it will always be there. Knowing that the rest of the team are all conceptually aligned. Going into Year 4, and super strong. 

PH- What do you do to stir the creative process? So how do you approach your character? 

ME- As a player, my job is a lot easier than the person running things. Anthony (our DM) has to do a lot of collaborating since the players will do something completely different than what he had in mind and then he has to roll with it and find a way to make it work. As players, we all have different styles of play. Personally, I think a lot about what Jebeddo (my character) does in between (also called the moment before) like what steps he is going through (mentally) in his head. Just before the show starts, Steph (Jennuevera) (her character) usually does a recap about what happened and then in between we will talk about the show all the time. 

PH- What’s next for the intrepid explorers? 

ME- We are going to Dragon Con in August and have submitted our application for panels there so keep watching for updates on that… 

PH- What’s the most important part of the creative process for you? 

ME- The Doing. It’s all the Improv 101 stuff. Being sure you are reacting honestly and being vulnerable and being true to the character that you have created. It’s all the stuff you get told on stage whether improvising or scripted work and all the rest can go up in smoke and as long as you are true to that character, it’s still really listenable.  If everyone’s acting within character something nice is going to come out of that moment. Overall, I think it’s also important to talk about the three conversations. The conversation of  Character to Character, Actor to Actor and Actors to Audience. I think keeping that in mind through the show is crucial. The nice thing about podcast is you can often have that conversation Actor to Actor after the show. **** SPOILER ALERT*** In a recent episode, one of the characters (Gillik) is being tempted and the other characters are HATING it and reacting accordingly, so after it was over the actor was said, “hey guys, I can tone it down” and we were all saying. “No, it’s awesome” it makes it so much richer that we hate this thing that your character is doing so keep moving through it in a way that makes sense to your character. On stage, you can’t have that conversation, being able to talk Actor to Actor about it, opens it up.

PH- Who is your favourite artist? Why?

ME- Oh. Heavy..  hmm like everything? John Darnielle- The Mountain Goats- He has recorded over 600 songs and ALL of them are different. He has a massive creative brain. His most recent album was called Goths and growing up goth. Another record is all about wrestling. The next album has no guitars on it at all. The album before that was his favourite bible verses. Very excited about his next album which is all about Dungeons and Dragons. How is that for a segue? 🙂 

PH- What inspires you?

ME- Honesty. Honesty inspires me. It’s so refreshing for people to just be honest and open. Watching that happen makes me want to create more. In addition to that, passion. I think it’s so important to me that people care about what they do. 

I couldn’t agree more, Mike!

The podcast is Adventure Incorporated; it can be found on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, Podbean… basically, anywhere you can download a podcast from? We’re on it.

Support us on Patreon
Come and join our Discord Server
Follow us on twitter @AdventureIncPod
Like us on Facebook facebook.com/adventureincpodcast
Check out our website adventureincpod.com
Don’t forget to rate/review/subscribe!

Before this interview, my only exposure to D and D was my mom, who plays and is super awesome for many reasons. I hope I have faithfully reported the world and done it justice.

My final thought is this. The next time you hear a term you don’t fully understand, instead of being afraid to admit it, open your mind and your eyes to a brand new world, you might be pleasantly surprised by what you find out.

Think About It.

 

My 10 Takeaways from the 90 Day Challenge!

Dear Readers,

Recently I took part in a 90 day challenge to do a Facebook Live every day for 90 days in a row. The idea behind it was brought to us by my speaking coach and famous speaker, Darren LaCroix and the idea is to clarify your message and define what you are passionate about as a speaker.  You go on Facebook live and do a message for your followers that is 2-4 minutes every day for 90 days. No substitutions, exchanges, or refunds.

 

I have 10 takeaways from this challenge and a few thoughts I wanted to share.

First, I want to say, there is so much value in doing a challenge that really makes you stretch.

Like so many things, when you say you are going to do something, there will be things to get in your way. Fear is the first one, and it can be loud. Fear gets loud when you decide to do something important.

Facebook Live is exactly what it sounds like, You press a button for “facebook live” and then you are live on camera, no takebacks! Also, when you do a Facebook Live, you automatically gain more views because anyone who is online gets notified that you are “going live” so you have the “privilege of the platform of someone you might never encounter otherwise. One of the benefits of this challenge is you say you will do something for 90 days, you do it, every day, because you said you would. I definitely had days where I did NOT want to do it, and integrity is very important to me so I kept saying, well, I said I would, so I must. Also, as my buddy Albert Chang (a fellow speaker) says,”This helps build your speaking muscle for 90 days!” I workout at the gym so why wouldn’t I do a speaking “rep” every day for 90 days? (hard to classify this pose as a pull up– but stretch your imagination.. I know! We can call it a “speech up” ?  Thank you, I will be here all night!

JenniferTheSpeaker2019

Before this, I was really scared to go “live” but now, I am going to be delivering a message once a week to help my followers be inspired. What follows below are my takeaways and I hope they help you with your next presentation whether it’s a “facebook live” or standing in front of a room or your next one on one. If you have thought about doing a facebook live, stop thinking about it, and just do it. Then you will have done something you have not done before.

  1. Look at the camera and don’t take your eyes off the viewfinder. (harder than it sounds, trust me)
  2. Do not drive and Facebook live! it’s dangerous and stupid!!!!
  3. Keep it between 2-4 minutes- longer than that, and you risk losing viewers.
  4. Don’t overthink, have an idea (title it to give viewers a teaser) but adapt to changes.
  5. Be sure your message has value for your audience.
  6. Have a call to action (questions are best) to your audience for engagement.
  7. Start with Silence (Gives your audience time to get ready)
  8. Be authentic (dentist appointment, lives with guests) but don’t overshare.
  9. Stay on topic, and don’t greet your watchers, it pulls focus from your message.
  10. HAVE FUN and remember it’s not about being perfect, it’s about connecting to your audience.

So maybe you don’t have any desire to do a facebook live, that’s okay, think about something that will stretch you and then make a game plan and go do it.

Think About It.

Ghosts…

Dear Readers,

“Goals you refuse to chase don’t disappear, they become ghosts that haunt you.”

I read those words in Jon Acuff’s book “Finish” a little over 2 years ago and I realized that a ghost I haven’t chased was very much in my face. I put the thought away, just as I had so many times before. Yet, it lingered.

I wasn’t ready to do anything yet, but the thought started to fester. 

Over the years, I have given a little weight to it, and then dismissed it, saying things like, I don’t have time. I don’t really need it. I am doing great without it. So then that ghost would be pacified by my rationalizations (always temporary) and so would quiet down and go away but not completely, it was always kind of hovering in the background.

Then I would forget about it for a while and then conversation with friends and colleagues would turn to backgrounds and schooling and I was suddenly very interested in other people and we somehow never got around to me. This was purposeful and I have dodged the topic for years. It’s time to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. 

I think many people (some of whom are reading this) would be very surprised to learn, I have an Associates Degree in Drama and while I am very proud of my degree, it also took me five years to get a two year degree.

Yes, you read that right. It should be mentioned, I worked full-time and paid for it as I went which is why it took me so long. 

When I graduated from Austin Community College in May of 2005, I was working at Apple and was surrounded by wonderful and supportive people  (Like this wonderful woman, who was my boss at the time) who were very excited to be there, took pictures with me and cheered me on and no one asked what’s next? 

andrejennifer2005

Most likely this was due to the fact that I had a great job and I was generally considered successful, and I surely did not make any noises about wanting to continue my college career. I had taken 5 years to get that two year degree and I was proud and a little stubborn because I was so successful that I didn’t need another degree. 

So a few more years passed and I kept working and acting (so you could say I was successfully utilizing my degree) and continuing to believe I was fine and didn’t need the additional schooling. 

Recently, I started to think about it a little more and thinking has recently turned to research and now finally, action.

Why? Well, I have a two year old daughter and I want her to be proud of me. Before you say she will be proud of me regardless of whether I have a bachelors degree or not, that isn’t really the point. I finally realized, this is something I need to do for me to to be PROUD of ME.

When you decide to do it, Put it out there so others can support you and cheer you on and keep you going when you are in the “this-sucks-and-is-way-harder-than-I-thought-it-would-be- why-did-I-ever-say-I-would-do-this” they can pull you back and remind you of all the reasons you decided to pursue your goal.

So (deep breath) I am taking my own advice. I have decided after a 14 year hiatus, I am going to go to school and get my Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology.

Mini-wave and celebration of me! THIS IS BIG NEWS, PEOPLE!

I am not sure how this is all going to work, what with working full-time and parenting full-time but I do know that I can’t hide from this ghost any longer and it’s time to confront it at last. I also know that in the history of my life, any decision I have made to do something challenging, I have ultimately figured it out, even if it took a little longer or frustrated me a little or a lot. But enough about me, How about you?

What ghost is haunting you? What haven’t you done that is lurking just in the background, what do you need to do that you have been putting off, what do you need to do to be proud of you.

Think About It.

My Birthday Wish…

Dear Readers,

Last week was my birthday and every year I ask people to give me one thing.

I only ask for this one thing. I am always so happy to hear the stories later.

It’s like a continuation of my birthday for the next few weeks as I catch up with friends and they tell their tales!

It occurs to me people might want to do “act of kindness” so I did some research for you on some things you can do. I love lists so here is one!

Acts of Kindness For Strangers

  1. Leave quarters at the laundromat.
  2. Pay the toll for the person behind you.
  3. Give someone a sincere compliment.
  4. Buy someone behind you in line their morning coffee.
  5. Pay for someone’s groceries behind you. (I can’t wait to do this one!)
  6. Give up a good parking spot. (tough I know… but imagine how happy this will make someone?)
  7. Smile at someone. (if someone looks at you weirdly for smiling at them, like has happened to me, smile at someone else, usually they will smile back.
  8. Hold the elevator or door open.
  9. Let someone behind you at the supermarket check out first
  10. Give up your window or aisle seat for someone who has a middle seat.
  11. Bring your flight attendant some chocolates.
  12. Help someone struggling with heavy bags.
  13. Help someone take a photo.
  14. Take time to give someone who looks lost directions. (this requires that we not be on our phones and actually “SEE” other people!
  15. Stop and help someone with a flat tire.
  16. Carry a $5 gift card with you and give it someone randomly.
  17. Give someone else the cab that you hailed.
  18. Let someone else get seated before you at a busy restaurant.

  • Don’t overthink your random act of kindness! (A small gesture to you, could mean a world of difference to someone else!)
  • If you’re introverted and intimidated with talking to a stranger, you can always make an effort with someone you know and then tell them and they will do an act for someone else and then it will ripple out to others.
  • A bonus ? Do an act of kindness for someone who will NEVER know you did it.
  • This look on my daughter’s face definitely makes me think of a person who has had an act of kindness sent their way. viviennesmilesseptember272018

Can you bring the kindness back?

Tell me YOUR ideas for bringing more kindness to the world!

I can’t wait to read them all!

Think About It.

 

 

 

Do you Age or do you A-G-E-?

Dear Readers,

There has been a recent craze going around on social media to post a question about “AGING” – “how hard has aging hit you?”

As my birthday is coming up this week, I thought it apropos to talk about this and since I have a platform, here we go! I find it interesting and accurate that I am about to perform in one of these pictures and performing in the other.

Naturellement! I am, after all, a performer!

aging20092019

I think that a picture is often worth a thousand words but sometimes it’s worth a heck of a lot more.  The one on the left is 2009 and the one on the right is 2019.

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Considering our daughter wasn’t even (literally) in the picture then, it’s worth noting the changes over the last ten years.

To make a very long story short, Jeremy and I have changed tremendously in the last 10 years, We are debt-free, we have become parents, and both of us had different jobs 10 years ago. It also worth mentioning that in those 10 years time we have been together, we have had three different addresses.  In the quest for authenticity and vulnerability, there has also been loss in that time and definitely lots of rejection for both of us, and that’s a necessary part of life.

On the whole, I think it’s safe to say that “aging” has been kind to us both and likely if you REALLY think about it, no matter what your profile picture, you will find the same. Most of us are better off now than we were 10 years ago.

While we are on the topic of “aging” — Here’s a few things to ponder…

We all age every day, but do you AGE?

Every night before bed, I write on a slip of paper these three things:

A- What I accomplished – Sometimes the answer is “nothing” and that is okay, Do-Nothing Days are sometimes GOOD for the soul!

G- What I am grateful for- (there is ALWAYS something to be grateful for!)

E- What did I enjoy? (This one is usually my favourite because it’s a great way to remember the day and the joy that was sparked in it. )

I did this for the last month of the year and then on the very last night of the year 12/31/18, I read them all and “relived” my year. It was VERY satisfying and I highly recommend it.

The second thing?

My birthday is on Saturday and every year I ask for one thing. Just one.

Please do an act of meditated and planned out kindness for someone. This can be small or big, your choice. The only thing I ask is that you tell me about it so I can enjoy your generosity to someone else!

Can you bring the kindness back this January 19th?

Think About It.

The Kindness of Strangers…

Dear Readers,

This past Christmas my husband and I were traveling with our little girl and while we normally pack everything but the kitchen sink in her diaper bag, this particular time we neglected to pack an extra outfit, so of course, this was the one time we really needed it because she got sick and needed a change of clothes but we didn’t have one.

No problem, there is a store on every … oh wait, It’s Christmas and we are in Brady, Texas and NOTHING is open except a gas station. So hoping against hope that they would have an extra shirt or heck, even a towel,

akindnesstowel

so we could put her in it so she would have something to wear. No such luck, and as we walked around the gas station, I saw several glances of pity and a few of judgment as I walked around the store with my two year old (she was in her boots and a diaper)

akindnessfromstrangers

both to look around the store for something (we didn’t find anything) and to get her a break from the car as we filled up the gas tank.

I do my best to ignore judgment and I was having trouble because I was feeling pretty bad about being unable to dress my child for the moment. I walked back out to the car and two families came over and offered us some clothes for her. We were overcome by this kindness and said so, we offered to mail them the clothes back and they said, No thank you, Merry Christmas.

It’s easy to think there is only bad people and bad things in the world and then something like this happens and it truly restores your faith in people. My husband and I were both near tears as we got back in the car and he had the fantastic idea that this shirt (which is currently about 4 times too big) will be the shirt she wears every Christmas so we remember this Christmas kindness. I can’t wait to tell her this story to help illustrate how kind people can be. I was reflecting on this story today as I pulled over to the side of the road to get a box out of the street and a person on the other side of the street said, “Here, I can take that” and he took it and smiled at me, I smiled back and that was it. My day was instantly improved and I was reminded again of the kindness of strangers…

How about you? What can you do in your way to help “Bring Kindness Back?”

It really doesn’t take much. A smile to another person. A sincere compliment to someone when they don’t expect it. Letting someone go ahead of you in traffic. Picking up some trash on the side of the road or maybe putting your neighbor’s trash cans back for them.

Think About It.

 

 

 

“Seeing” in 2019

Dear Readers!

So it’s almost 2019, and if the collective messaging around me is accurate, most of us are very happy to say “GIRL BYE” to this schoolyard bully of a year.

I won’t point fingers AND it has been at least 10 of you saying, I just don’t feel appreciated or things aren’t going well or it’s just been hard this year. I think it all comes down to not feeling “seen” or “noticed” or “appreciated”. That isn’t a hard feeling to come by given all our devices and machines that keep us from LOOKING AT EACH OTHER!

This topic is near and dear to my heart, and is in the heart of my TedX.

It’s really terrifying to tell you about that or really even the IDEA of that actually being a thing-that-maybe-could-possibly-happen because it could happen next year or it could be in five years. I don’t know. I am having to be at peace about that as I spent a good deal of time this year being in “holding pattern” about it.  This picture is a placeholder.  Okay, that’s done.

Tedx

So moving back to you….

What grandiose visions do you have for your future?

That sounds really big.. so let’s break it down to more bite-size chunks, shall we?

Instead of a resolution, what promise will you keep that you have made to yourself?-

Some people are talking about “less screen time”– We have touched on that in the blog before, that is different for everyone. Though I consider myself to be very conscious of that, it was not until I started tracking it that I realized how much I do use my phone so I became aware of it and have already made that a new promise to myself.

I promise when I am with my child, I will be on the floor and “looking at her and playing with her and my phone will be in the other room” –

That’s specific and measurable and tangible.

Some people are talking about working out or weight loss goals. That’s pretty flabby, no pun intended.. What specifics can you put to that? Again, make a promise to yourself!

How about “I will exercise in the course of my day as well as run on the treadmill at least once a week.”

You see where I am going with this, right?

What can you do to “SEE” yourself and realize that best version of you as you look in the mirror?

Don’t get me wrong, you should love yourself exactly as you are, AND feel free to strive for goals all the while loving yourself in that process.

Suffice it to say, I think we should ALL do ALL we can to be sure that others are seen and in so doing, we might just be “seen” ourselves. It’s not a hard equation and it really doesn’t take a lot. Just put down your phone, and open your eyes and your heart and listen. Can you do that?

Think About It.