Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Science and the Perfect Road Trip



I've seen this pin on Pinterest so many times.

Each time, I come up with three theories about it:

  1. The person who wrote it is lying through their teeth.
  2. There are secretly scientists in this country who analyze road trips.
  3. Some random physicist and biologist and maybe like a chemist were like, "Yeah, I'd call this the perfect road trip,'' thus making the statement technically true but rather misleading.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Lies from eBay

I do most of my online shopping on Amazon, but occasionally I'll also buy something on eBay. Items I have bought from eBay include old toys for Little Sister, Nintendo DS games for Baby Brother, and perfume for myself.

When I got an email from eBay saying, "Awkward Mormon Girl! We thought of you as soon as we noticed these products" I assumed that I would see an assortment of items related to previous purchases, like with Amazon recommendations. However, instead I was shown such items as this:


And this:
And this:


And my personal favorite:


I suspect eBay is not telling the truth and these items did not make them think of me. Otherwise I am giving some real mixed messages about my interests.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Why I Do It

My brothers had the time of their lives last week.

My parents got them passes to a YouTube convention here in Utah. They met some of their favorite celebrities (apart from Imagineers and Muppeteers, obviously). These celebrities include the Ballinger family, a cute Christian family whose dad is a magician and um I'm not sure what else it is they do but now they're famous, and my brothers are obsessed. They've been talking about the cute little boy in the family, Parker, for years. Yesterday they sent me approximately 10,000 photos of them hanging out with Parker. Because apparently they actually got to hang out with celebrities at this convention. It sounds waaay cooler than Comic Con.

I think Little Brother would love to attend this convention as an actual guest. He's had various YouTube channels over the years with varying degrees of success. A few years ago, he committed himself to a schedule of posting videos. After a few months, he told me that he didn't want to do it anymore. He said it was too stressful and it wasn't bringing him any happiness.

Here's what I've learned: if you're doing a creative thing just for fun and happiness, then great. It doesn't matter if you finish it or anyone else ever sees it, because it's just for fun and to make you happy. But if you do it for any other reason—like sharing it with others or for work or to get famous—then at some point, for some period of time, it's not going to be fun and it's not going to make you happy.

Sometimes, this blog isn't that fun to keep up and it doesn't make me that happy. There are days when I think it would make me much happier if I only wrote posts when I felt like it. If I wrote only when I was feeling it, sometimes posts would be only a few days apart, but sometimes they would be weeks, months, or even years apart. I keep posting regularly because I feel like the blog is adding something to the world. And I want to tell my own story. Also, when you work in the writing field, it's good to give yourself deadlines and then follow up on them. It builds discipline and perseverance, which is very useful since writing is largely self-directed.

I think it would be great for Little Brother to someday be an idea guy like Walt Disney or Jim Henson. He could bounce from idea to idea and discipline to discipline because people would be willing to invest in his ideas. However, most of us will never be idea people. To get anywhere, we'll just have to keep pushing.

Friday, August 4, 2017

The One Where I Clean My Room

It's strange how quickly we get used to things.

When I moved out of my parents' house, I thought my apartment was the coolest thing in the world. After all, for a basement apartment, it's quite lovely. The living-kitchen area is ginormous, with tons of counter space. We have a small laundry room and a pantry. There's a linen closet, a coat closet, a skinny storage closet, and a boiler room/storage space. My room has a walk-in closet. (My roommates' rooms have them as well.) We get all of this at an excellent price that includes utilities.

The first year or two I lived here, keeping the space clean was exciting and easy. For one thing, I was only working about 30 hours a week, but for another thing, I just enjoyed the novelty of having my own place.

However, for at least the past year, keeping our apartment clean has sometimes been a bit of a struggle. It's especially difficult for me to keep my room clean at times. I'm really busy, nobody ever sees my room but me, and it's way easier to throw my clothes on the floor when I'm in a hurry than it is to put them in the hamper or back in the closet.

I planned no activities for July 1st, 2017. I planned no events and no rendezvous. I decided that was the day that I would be a real adult and take control of my life. So I spent almost all day at home...in my room...cleaning that sucker!

Around 4:00, I was able to call it a day. I'd done it! To celebrate, I got myself some takeout from Olive Garden.

I was reminded that, when it's clean, my room is actually pretty cool.






And I was like, "Yeah! I love my room! I love this place! I'm so lucky to have such an awesome apartment!"

Since my very successful day of cleaning my room was over, I decided to watch a movie with my brothers. Baby Brother and I were at the store looking for ice cream to go with said movie when I got a text from my landlord.

"Uh-oh," I said aloud.

The text informed me that my landlord and his wife were selling their house...which meant that they were selling our house...which meant my roommates and I would more than likely soon be homeless.

AWKWARD MORMON GIRL: Well...at least it will probably be easier to pack up my room...now that it's clean.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Harry Potter and the Religious Undertones

Context: In a previous post, I mentioned that I could write an entire post about religion in Harry Potter. A friend from my ward later approached me and requested that I write said post. So, this year for Harry's birthday, I'm essentially dishing up an essay about Christianity in Harry Potter.

For the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter, I bought a special edition copy of
TIME. I haven't yet had a minute to sit down and read it, but when I was flipping through it the other day I saw that one of the articles within appears to be on this same topic. I decided not to peruse further so as not to taint my own thoughts. So disclaimer: this post is composed entirely of the beliefs and thoughts I've had about the series for years and has not been influenced by any outside sources.

Not long after my parents started getting into Harry Potter, my mom taped a documentary/interview-type piece about J. K. Rowling and her journey in writing the series. I think this was a little before the first movie came out. It was definitely before the Internet's heyday, which would explain why the interview seems to have never made its way online.

There were a couple of things in this piece that I've never really heard people talk about. The first thing I remember was a few minutes talking about how Hagrid's story is actually based on the story of some minor Roman or Greek god. The second thing I remember was J. K. Rowling telling the interviewer that for her, writing these books was a way to explore her religious beliefs.

Being a smallish child, this made me feel uncomfortable. I was still coming to terms with my own religious beliefs. I remember thinking something like, "Should she do that? Can she do that? Can a fun action-adventure-fantasy series actually be religious?" (I didn't yet realize that both Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings are based on a religious model.)

I never knew J. K. Rowling to bring that topic up in an interview again, but it really impacted me. As the later books were released, I examined each one through a religious lens. When seen through this lens, the entire series is pretty much about Christ.

Let me lay out my case. We know that Harry's mother sacrificed herself for him, which resulted in a protective magic. Dumbledore is aware of this from the beginning; he shares it with Harry in the first book. At the end of the fourth book, Voldemort also talks about how Harry's mother sacrificed herself. He calls it "old magic" and says that he should have remembered it. I believe I read the fourth book for the first time not long after seeing that interview, and when Voldemort mentioned this old magic I immediately thought of Christ's sacrifice. I've always believed that's what Voldemort was referring to. He was raised by Muggles, so he would have known the Christian stories. He disdained anything that had to do with Muggles, though, so it makes since he would have dismissed the notion of a protecting "magic" through sacrifice until he was faced with it.

Now, Dumbledore wasn't raised by Muggles, so it's less obvious how he would have been acquainted with this idea. It's unclear through the series exactly what role religion plays for witches and wizards, but we do have a few hints. Godric's Hollow, where both Dumbledore and Harry were born and where both their families perished, is a wizard-founded village that appears to be predominantly wizard-populated. Yet we know from the series that there's a little church there. Whether it was built by the wizards or whether it was built by Muggles, in the seventh book it appears to be well-attended. And, since Dumbledore's mother and sister are buried in the church graveyard, the church has probably been there since before Dumbledore's time.

Dumbledore was born in 1881. Had he and his family not attended church, it would have drawn undue attention to them in a time where pretty much everyone attended. So we can probably assume that, whether his family believed or not, they probably went to church to at least keep up the appearance that they were an ordinary, non-magical family.

I've always thought that this is where Dumbledore's knowledge and belief in the power of love and his (eventual) acceptance of death came from. I imagine that in J. K. Rowling's world, the miracles of the Bible would have been viewed as a kind of "magic". Maybe they're even considered Muggle interpretations of encounters with great magicians. (I'm not saying I believe that prophets are a kind of magician! I definitely don't believe that. I'm just explaining how I feel like religion would fit into Harry's reality.)

Either way, we know Dumbledore reads the Bible. He put a Bible verse on his family's graves: "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." (Matthew 6:21) (Remember that he was very young when he would have chosen this verse: another suggestion that he was raised religious.) He also put one on Harry's parents' graves (at least, I assume he arranged their burial since he seems to have been the executor of their estate): "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death." (1 Corinthians 15:26)

Even if everything I've said up to this point is all baloney and the entire series isn't supposed to have Christian undertones until (SPOILERS!) Harry's death, no one can question that his death itself is supposed to be a reference to Christ. I cried and cried the first time I read that scene. Because, yeah, I mean, it's Harry, and who knows how he's going to get out of this one? But also because I suddenly understood how personal Christ's death and Atonement were. I knew how much Harry cared about the people he was dying for...I suddenly understood how much Christ must care about me. I also suddenly understood how Christ's Atonement must work. I could somewhat grasp how a great sacrifice made from love could shake the world and generate enough power, enough "magic" to save other people by proxy.

It goes without saying that the afterlife scene between Dumbledore and Harry is one big fat religious allusion. Also, the scene where Harry comes back after being "resurrected," besides the obvious reference to Christ's Atonement, also helped me to understand sin and repentance. As Harry then points out a few times, Tom Riddle could have put himself back together if he could have felt remorse for what he'd done. However, he was at a point where having a fractured soul was actually less painful than facing what he'd done and trying to make amends.

Now is a good time for me to mention that even though I love the end of the series, I hated the way it was done in the final movie. It was rewritten in such a way that a lot of the religious symbolism was destroyed. That really disappointed me!

Anyway, those are my thoughts. If I missed anything that seems important, or if you want to add to the conversation, feel free to leave a comment.

Friday, July 28, 2017

My Ninth Stitch Fix Experience

It's that time again: the time where I Stitch a Fix!

That sounded much better in my head.

Anywho. When we last left off, my favorite jeans had just met their demise, and so I'd tasked Jessica V with finding me a new pair. Jessica V definitely delivered, but shortly thereafter my other jeans began to wear out, too. So once again I sent to the mythical Stitch Fix warehouse in California and asked them to send me some new jeans. Kind of like an arranged marriage. (Let's be realif Jessica V could match-make for me as well as she chooses clothes for me, my dating life would probably have more momentum.) I also asked for some short-sleeved tops that didn't have to be layered. 

Here's the pretty sight I encountered when I pulled my bundle from the Stitch Fix box:


And here's what Jess-Jess said:

Hi Awkward Mormon Girl!

So far so good.

I hope you are having a great summer now that it's officially here!

When you work a full-time job, my friend, summer is never here.

Thanks for updating your Pinterest board a bit, it was great to see what new styles you are loving. I really liked the capris that you pinned and I was bummed that I didn't have them available to send.

Whoa, whoa. Capris? I really, really dislike capris. Did I pin capris? I hope not. If I did, it must have been a momentary lapse in judgment.

So instead I thought you might like the Just Black jeans in this nice lighter wash. Great for casual weekend wear or wearing to work on Friday. I saw you pinned a cool bell sleeve blouse, the Le Lis blouse will give you a similar look without being to loose. Plus the coral color is so great for summer! This top would go great with your denim skirt that I sent last June.

I do love that skirt.

I thought the Le Lis top was similar to some of the comfy knits that you had posted, you will love wearing this breathable top with the jeans on those warmer weather days. Enjoy! -Jessica V

A simple dash? Sadly, pretty unremarkable and unmockable.


Just Black Lawrence High Rise Split Hem Skinny Jean: I thought the jeans that Jessica V sent in the spring were comfy. I was wrong. These jeans were like a soft cloud of wearable butter. Once I'd put them on, I didn't want to take them off. I lounged in them as I tried on the tops. Verdict: Keep. (I'm wearing them right now.)


Le Lis Riela Lace Inset Detail Blouse: This blouse looks pink, but it actually came down on just the wrong side of orange for my skin. This is the one that Jessica V said she sent because of the bell-sleeved blouses I pinned, which??? I don't see any bell sleeves here. Plus it was a little frustrating that she'd sent me a blouse with cutouts when I'd specifically asked for short-sleeved shirts that didn't need anything worn beneath them.


Le Lis Alapay Printed Back Knit Top: This one was fun and cute. I've never gotten into the flowy, floral shirt look, but I was willing to give it a try. It perfectly fulfilled the requirements of being short-sleeved and not needing to be layered.


Daniel Rainn Loryn Clip Dot Knit Top: This was definitely my favorite thing in the box! I love this color, and I've been trying to find more clothes in this shade. I think it works really well with my coloring. The fabric was soft, light, and comfortable.


Daniel Rainn Fetra Scoop Neck Blouse: I went back and forth about this shirt. It has shades of coral and orange in it. Orange is one of very few colors I simply do not wear. I don't think it works for me. However, it did meet all my requirements for tops.

Verdict on tops: I didn't want to spoil the ending by telling you which tops I decided to keep. As it turned out, after comparing pricing and deciding that I did want to take a chance on the striped shirt, I determined that the most efficient way to use my money was to buy all five items and get the twenty percent discount. I've worn every item at least twice since then, except for the odd cutout blouse. I'm still trying to decide what to do with that.

Remember, kids, if you want to try Stitch Fix, please use my referral link! (I've actually recommended Stitch Fix to at least one person who didn't use my referral link. They didn't use anyone's referral link, so no one got the benefit of having $25 in referral credit. If you're going to join, you might as well get $25 worth of clothes for a friend or acquaintance.)

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Felt

Context: Following this post, I decided it might be appropriate to post the content from my creative nonfiction project about Steve Whitmire. I've thought about it a couple times, but before I never thought there would be much interest.

Creative nonfiction is a genre that I didn't even knew existed before taking this class. It's nonfiction turned into a compelling story. This means that dialogue may be recreated without total accuracy...events may be combined...things that didn't actually happen but could have happened may even be included. ("Based on a true story" movies are, in my opinion, classic examples of creative nonfiction.) The following piece is light on the creativity and heavy on the nonfiction. Dedicated Muppet fans will know where I've taken liberties, but the majority of the Steve side of the story is reconstructed from a Steve Whitmire interview.

When Steve Whitmire got the box in the mail, he opened it right away. Inside, resting on a bed of Styrofoam peanuts, was Kermit the Frog.

The puppet was the same as the many others that had been made over the years: green felt skin, eleven-point collar, flippers, eyes with elongated pupils, and a flexible head that could be scrunched into almost any expression. The puppet’s mouth was slightly open in a half-smile, half-word. He looked like he was about to announce a guest star on The Muppet Show, sing a song about being green, or say, “Hi, Steve! How are you?”

Steve almost returned the greeting. His characters had played alongside Kermit for so long, it would have been natural for him to say, “Hiya, Kermit,” in the voice of Bean Bunny or Rizzo the Rat. But he stopped himself. As far as Steve was concerned, this wasn’t his old friend Kermit. The frog’s animus, his spirit, his essence—all of that was gone. Kermit had died with his performer, Jim Henson.

It doesn’t have to be that way Steve thought, staring at the Muppet. Jim’s spirit had left his body forever, but Kermit could be resurrected. All it would take was the right Muppeteer.

Steve picked up the famous frog and slipped his hand up into the body. He sat very still for a minute. Then he put the Muppet back in the box and walked away. 

***
With great nervousness and excitement, I considered interviewing Steve Whitmire.

“He’s sure to have an e-mail,” my creative writing teacher said, something I had never even considered. Steve Whitmire? Me, e-mailing Steve Whitmire? Well, it was something to think about, for sure.

What would I say?

Dear Steve Whitmire,

My name is Awkward Mormon Girl Obnoxious. You’re probably not aware of it, but we sort of know each other. See, I have this friend named Runner Bean. Runner Bean’s family was on Extreme Home Makeover a few years back, so he knows Ty Pennington. Ty Pennington was on a segment in a Sesame Street Christmas special, in which he interacted with the Count von Count. As you know, the Count’s current puppeteer is Matt Vogel. You perform with Matt Vogel frequently. So we know each other. Sort of. By association. Yup.


Not that.

***
Steve Whitmire had been a fan of puppeteering since he was just a kid living near Atlanta. At eleven years old, he wrote a letter to Jim Henson. Jim Henson wrote back.

When Steve graduated from high school, he had a yearbook full of scribbled notes jokingly calling him “Kermit” and a first-place prize for puppeteering in the school talent show. He jumped straight into performing a character called Otis the Beach Bum at a local theme park, then cohosted a television program with his best friend Gary. Simply called The Kids’ Show, it was nominated for a state Emmy Award. Clearly, Steve was going places.

He was in the middle of negotiating his own television show when Jim Henson called.

***
“Eighteen and a half, Joni,” I said to my Muppet. “Jim Henson hired Steve Whitmire when Steve was eighteen and a half.”

It took a long time for her to respond. This was due to my cringeworthy technique. When I say “cringeworthy,” I really mean “cringeworthy.” Usually when I pick Joni up, I never get around to performing her because I get wrapped up cringing in anticipation of my poor puppeteering instead. To be fair, I guess it would be easier for me if she were a more expressive Muppet. She isn’t, though; she’s a Whatnot, or a type of basic human puppet used in the background of The Muppet Show. Joni is great-looking: short dark hair, blue skin, orange nose, slanted purple eyes. I designed her myself on F.A.O. Schwartz’s Whatnot-making website, and I’m pretty proud of the way she turned out. However, Whatnots have fat plush heads that can’t easily be wrinkled into different expressions—pretty difficult to use effectively without additional mechanisms in the head. Alas, Joni lacks such mechanisms.

“Ahem,” Joni said. I stopped cringing and went back to performing her. “So?”

“So he’d hired teenage Muppeteers before, but that was when the Muppets were just starting and he was pretty darn young himself. In 1977, the Muppets were doing well for themselves. He could have had his pick of puppeteers, hired someone his own age. But no, he hired this super-naïve teenage boy from Atlanta, Georgia. Why’d he do that, Joni?”

“Super-naïve teenagers do amazing stuff all the time. Remember how you became a famous author when you were a super-naïve teenager? Oh… oh wait, you never did that, did you? My bad.”

“Thanks a lot,” I grouched, glaring at her. With some effort, I arranged her face in a sort of smirk. “I was always planning on it, but…”

“But reality caught up to you,” Joni said, patting my head.

***
Steve pressed the buzzer three times before the door opened. Later he learned that the door was the kind of door where you pressed a bell and then someone else buzzed you in, but on the day of his audition at Henson Associates he didn’t know that. So there he was, repeatedly pressing the buzzer, when all of a sudden the door flew open.

Hastily Steve stepped back. Out stepped Jim Henson.

“Hi!” Steve said brightly. He’d flown to New York the night before with $20 (of which he’d already spent $19), a lightweight coat, and a trunk full of puppets. He had absolutely nothing else to his name, but he’d never been more excited in his life.

Jim stared at him. “Can I help you?”

“Yeah, I’m Steve Whitmire.”

Jim stared.

“The puppeteer from Atlanta?” Steve clarified, his heart sinking down to his toes. He was overcome with a sense of panic.

He knows who I am, right? He’s got to; he paid for my airfare and my hotel! But… what if he doesn’t? What if this is all some huge mistake?

Steve highly doubted he would be able to purchase a return ticket with his one dollar. He wasn’t even sure he could find his way back to the airport. He knew nothing about New York. Before last night, he’d never been farther away from home than Kentucky.

To his relief, Jim said, “Oh yeah, well, c’mon in.” He led Steve inside, then paused at the top of the stairs.

“You know, we really weren’t expecting you this early.”

Steve looked at his watch. It was eight a.m. That didn’t seem too early, especially considering that he’d gotten up at seven and had put off heading to the studio as long as he possibly could. Sure, he’d only held off for less than an hour, but, still. He’d tried to wait, and every minute he’d been able to delay running straight towards his audition with the Muppets was a small victory.

The panicky feeling returned. “Well, you know, I could leave and come back later,” he said, trying to sound polite but hoping Jim wasn’t going to make him wait any longer. He didn’t know if he had that kind of willpower. Besides, he had no money and no place to go.

“Yeah, that’s probably a good idea.”

Steve left his trunk of puppets at Henson Associates, trudged to a Woolworth’s on the corner. He spent his last dollar on a cup of coffee and sat there for three hours, waiting. 

***
“Why didn’t you?”

“Why didn’t I what?”

Joni touched the keys of my laptop. “Can I write something?”

“No. Why didn’t I what?”

“Why didn’t you become a famous author when you were a teenager?”

“Because I never wrote anything good enough to publish.”

“Who told you that you never wrote anything good enough to publish?”

“I did.”

“Well, what did the publishing companies say?”

“They didn’t say anything. I hardly sent out any submissions.”

Joni looked at me reproachfully.

“Listen, Joni, it’s like you said earlier: Reality caught up to me. Eventually I realized I was too young to get published, okay? Adults have a hard enough time getting themselves published, and then once they are published, they hardly ever become famous. A teenager like me doesn’t stand a chance. The only thing I can do with my life right now is go to school and get my creative writing degree.”

“And then you’ll be a famous author?”

“No, then I’ll have to find something else to do with my life after I ultimately fail as a writer,” I snapped.

“Well, you could always be a Muppeteer,” Joni said in a sing-song voice. There was a long pause. “Are you cringing at your technique again?”

I put her away.

***
Steve’s audition wasn’t much of an audition. When he returned to the studio at eleven, he and Jim and Frank Oz played around with puppets for a while. Then Jim took Steve around and introduced him to the people at the studio.

After a few days of this, Jim told Steve he was hired. He wasn’t going to work on Sesame Street, though, as Jim had originally led him to believe. No, Jim was hiring Steve to come work on The Muppet Show.

***
“You have to be mean to Kermit,” Jim chided Steve.

Steve bit his lip and said nothing.

“Your character is guarding Liberace’s door. He doesn’t want to let Kermit in, Steve, and he has to be mean about it.”

“Jim,” the floor manager said softly. “It’s five minutes to eight.” Eight o’clock was when the technicians went home—always. The cast wasn’t allowed to keep them in studio a second longer than that.

Steve stared at the floor, frustrated. This was his first speaking role: easy, short, technically simple. Still, he had screwed up every take. It just wasn’t working.

“Don’t worry,” Jim said to the floor manager. “We’ll be done by then.” His voice was calm, confident. Never mind the fact that he had been working on this brief scene with Steve since seven-thirty, and it still hadn’t come together. Never mind that he could have turned to any one of “the guys”—Frank Oz, Richard Hunt, Jerry Nelson, Dave Goelz—to take over Steve’s part. It didn’t matter who played the guard in front of Liberace’s door. Jerry or Dave or Richard could easily do it in a take or two; Frank would only need one. Despite this, Jim hadn’t asked Steve to pass the puppet over to someone else, and Steve had a feeling he wasn’t going to. Jim wasn’t about to give him the easy way out.

“Let’s do it again, Steve,” Jim said. Steve extended the puppet above his head and waited for the camera to roll.

***
“Who did Steve play on The Muppet Show?” Joni asked me. I’d brought her out again after some wheedling on her part and many, many promises to be good and to not talk about my puppeteering technique.

“No one, really. Rowlf’s hands. Miss Piggy’s dog, Foo-Foo. And Rizzo the Rat.”

“But Rizzo’s an important Muppet!”

“Not back then, he wasn’t. Rizzo was a background character on The Muppet Show—some rat puppet Steve found in storage and would walk in and out of scenes. Jim decided to make Rizzo an exalted extra by giving him lines, but the rat didn’t really take off until he was paired with Gonzo as a narrator in Muppet Christmas Carol.” I shrugged. “He spent his two and a half seasons on The Muppet Show doing all the puppetry work that nobody else wanted to do.”

“Poor kid.”

“Poor kid? No, he loved it.”

***
When The Muppet Show ended in 1981, it was because Jim wanted to move on to other things. Specifically, he wanted to create a kids’ show that could lead to world peace. It was called Fraggle Rock.

Of everything that Steve has done as a Muppeteer, I envy him Fraggle Rock the most. Fraggle Rock has sometimes been cited as “the best children’s television show of all time” and, really, I don’t think that can be argued with. Because of the lofty goals Jim had for it, you’d think the show would be boring and overly teachy, but this is not the case. The show is about a group of creatures named Fraggles who sing and dance and have fun all day while learning important life lessons and cracking fantastic jokes. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Each of the five main Fraggles is complex and nuanced, made likable by the puppeteer despite the character’s obvious faults. Steve’s Fraggle was named Wembley, a chronically indecisive but goodhearted little fellow.

“Wembley, give it to me straight. Am I invisible?” Gobo Fraggle asked his best friend.

Steve moved Wembley’s head and scrunched his nose into an expression of genuine scrutiny and consideration. “Uh… well, I don’t think so, but that’s only my opinion.”

The set members choked on their quiet laughter.

“What should I do?” Wembley asked Gobo.

“What do you want to do?”

“I don’t know. Can you give me a hint?”

“That’s a wrap!” the director called.

“Good job,” Jerry chuckled as he and Steve lowered their puppets.

“Thanks. You too.” Steve carefully pulled Wembley off his hand. As he went to put his puppet away until their next scene, he noticed Jim standing there, watching. When Steve caught his eye, he nodded and gave an approving smile.

***
Guess what? Steve doesn’t have an e-mail address, at least not one you can find on Google. I discovered this after I tried every single search term I could think of. The closest thing I found was a website explaining that if you want Muppeteers to sign photos of their characters, you have to send the photos care of Sesame Workshop and pray they fall into the right hands. Unless I became a writer for a posh magazine overnight, there was no way I was going to be able to interview Steve Whitmire. I would just have to make do without an interview, and he would just have to remain unaware of my insignificant existence.

I wasn’t sure whether to be disappointed or relieved. 

***
“You know, we need to get you a main character,” Jim said over dinner in 1990.

“I have Wembley.”

“Sure, but Fraggle Rock ended several years ago.” That was true. Since then, Steve had done many movies and projects as a full-fledged, experienced Muppet performer, but he had no main Muppets. Rizzo was a fun side character and Bean Bunny was a great character originated in The Bunny Picnic. Neither of them, however, was part of the core Muppet cast. “I’m frustrated that you don’t have any main characters. I think we should work toward getting you another major character, maybe something that’s like a sidekick to Kermit.”

“Like Fozzie?”

“Yes, like Fozzie. Fozzie is there, but Frank’s not always available, and it would be nice to have another character that could fill that role sometimes. I can work on that as soon as I get back to New York.”

“Great!” Steve said. It would be good to have a main character.

Then Jim passed away, and his son sent Kermit to Steve in a box.

***
“What about that thing you wrote over the summer? Are you going to send that to a publisher?”

“Eventually. I have to edit it some more first.”

“So when will you be done editing?”

“Over Christmas break. Hopefully. Maybe.”

If Joni’d had an eye-rolling mechanism like Wembley Fraggle’s, it would have been in use then. “Hurry it up. You’re going to want to get that thing published as soon as possible so you can be a famous author.”

“And what’s the hurry, exactly?”

“Well, hey. You’ll still be a teenager until April. There’s still a chance for you to make your lifelong dream happen.”

Joni was silent as I thought about it. “Well,” I said slowly to her, “when you put it that way…” If there was anything I’d learned from Steve’s story, it was that it didn’t matter how young or inexperienced you were as long as you were willing to try.

“I guess I can hurry the revisions a little.”

“Yay!” Joni said. “Also, I would appreciate it if you worked on your puppeteering technique some more. You’re not doing me justice.”

I made a noise of disgust.

“You say that now, but who knows? Maybe if you get good, you’ll get hired by the Muppets, and you can be a famous author.”

“Yeah, and maybe I’ll become the next performer of Kermit the Frog.”

“Maybe you will,” Joni said, and she wasn’t being sarcastic.

***
Kermit could be resurrected. All it would take was the right Muppeteer, and according to Jim’s wife, his son, and the guys, that Muppeteer was Steve Whitmire.

It was a month before Steve could take the puppet out of the box again. Finally, the studio called and asked him if he would record something for them as Kermit. Nothing too stressful, just a little song or something—but even a little song became stressful when Steve considered what they were really asking of him.

“Oh, Jim,” he whispered, “I can’t do this.”

In his head, Jim said, “Of course you can, Steve. Of course you can.”

Steve took a deep breath, then settled the green frog on his hand. He opened the puppet’s mouth. He spoke.

“Hi-ho, everyone. Kermit the Frog here.”