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If you only watch the video of the pageant you won't quite understand why Savannah is so emotional. She would probably not agree 100% with my explanation below about what exactly caused her to be so emotional, but I am confident what I describe below played a pretty large part in it. So I suggest you read the entire article before watching the video, but it's the internet, so do whatever you want to do.



So my daughter wanted to enter the 2015 Miss Blythewood High School Pageant. This came as a pretty huge shock to me as a her dad, because she had never been the type of girl that I would describe as a "pageant girl." She was sassy, attractive, athletic, and really girly in the playful sense, but not in the traditional sense, if that even makes sense? What I mean is basically, she can rock a hair bow and look really pretty while simultaneously batting over .500 on the JV Softball team, and she doesn't own a dress but she loves fashion. Can you picture what I'm talking about?

Not really a "Pageant Girl..."
Well in 7th and 8th grade she had planned to be in her middle school's "Talent Show" rapping and doing the worm. She had been selected through the audition process both years, and both years had to back out at the last minute because a rained out softball game was being made-up on the night of the "Talent Show." (We are not pyscho-sports-parents so we were fine with her missing a practice to participate in the "Talent Show," but even she didn't want to miss an actual game.) So both years she was pretty bummed about missing her chance to rap (and do the worm.)

Savannah's back - Before and After
Over the summer after her 8th grade year she was scheduled to have scoliosis corrective surgery. This was a HUGE ordeal. It would turn out to be a 9-hour surgery and she had 13 vertebrae fused to two titanium rods in her back. Recovery time before she could even swing a bat again would be six to eight months. She was an amazing patient and came through with flying colors. She was in the hospital bed for five days and then in her bed for three weeks. Movement came back slowly but surely and steadily she got "sort of" back to normal. She gained an inch and a half of height through the surgery.

One of the main things Savannah was so upset about having the surgery was not the long recovery or the idea that her back muscles would literally be cut in half to perform the surgery, but that she was told by the doctor that because of the titanium rods in her back she would never be able to do the "worm" again. It was this news that gave Savannah the most angst. The doctor said she had too many vertebrae fused and that she wouldn't have the flexibility to do it.

This hit Savannah pretty hard. Harder than I thought it would honestly. When she teared up upon the doctors words, at first I chalked it up to an emotional 14-year-old girl just being sad about having major surgery, but over time I realized she was very serious about a specific regret concerning the specific inability to perform the worm. It was like in her mind doing the worm represented her childhood freedom. It's hard to put in words but her regret about it was palpable.

Savannah was determined to prove all of this wrong. So having a strong-willed child when she's a young little girl can be exhausting at times but as she grows up into the wonderful young lady she's steadily becoming that same strong will served her well.

9th grade rolled around. She attended every voluntary softball work-out that was on the schedule even though she could literally only sit on a bucket and watch the other girls as she occasionally ran an errand for the new coach. Five months went by and the doctor finally told her she could start throwing a little. Then an announcement in school was made that any girl interested in performing in the Miss Blythewood Pageant needed to audition that week.

Savannah came home excited and asked if she could do it. My wife and I said, "Of course." Thirty girls or more auditioned and only ten of them were selected to compete in the Miss Grand Talent portion of the pageant. Oddly enough, not every girl in the Miss Blythewood Pageant performs in the "talent" portion of the competition. (Don't ask, I don't know the reasoning.) So Savannah would finally get her chance to rap in front of her classmates. She was thrilled. When she told her softball coach, the coach immediately started calling her, "Pageant Girl."

Well in mid-December we went to the doctor and he told her because of her x-rays and her physical recovery and flexibility he was lifting all restrictions on her athletically. She could finally practice full speed. She was ecstatic! Of course, she didn't realize what this actually meant. It meant going to practice with a weakened back and arm muscles from the major surgery and not being able to throw but about fifty percent as well as she could just six months earlier. It also meant she could barely swing a bat at first. This was another blow to her morale.

But then it happened. She and I were goofing around and she said, "Dr. Piehl said no athletic restrictions, right?"

And I responded, "Yes, that's right."

Then she said, "I wonder if I can do the worm?"

And I said, "Let's not find out."

I was picturing the $209,000 bill from the hospital that the insurance paid all but $3,000 of, but she was picturing the Miss Blythewood Pageant! Well three days later she came running down the stairs screaming about how she could still do the worm! We were all very happy.

Then we had the conversation about how she wanted to write her bio a little differently from everyone else. She said everyone just usually lists a bunch of accomplishments and in her mind it just seemed a little boring. She wrote her bio (exactly the way you see it in the video) and showed it to me and asked, "Dad, what do you think of this?"

I read it and said, "I love it. I think it's you all the way, honey. And rule one is if you're being authentic to yourself, then any decision you make like this is the right one."

And I've learned one thing about my daughter. She is never going to be afraid to be herself. We as a family are just so blessed that her true self is such a beautiful kid on the inside.

Maybe I didn't think of my little girl as a "Pageant Girl" but it turns out the judges of the Miss Blythewood Pageant disagreed. One of those judges was Miss South Carolina 2014, so I guess she knows more about "Pageant Girls" than I do! Oh and one last thing. You can follow my daughter on Instagram at www.instagram.com/savvysonny22 or on Twitter at www.twitter.com/savvysonny22.

EPILOGUE

Below is a video of Savannah "being herself" in the Pageant during the "Question and Answer" portion of the competition. The instructions were for the girls to wear an outfit that reflected something about your personality. As you can see, Savannah has no problem being herself.



And one more interesting video of Savannah impromptu rapping a little in the 7th grade at a softball tournament when the song comes over the loud speakers. This is two years before the Miss Blythewood Pageant.




Marty :: 
The following is Marty Simpson's perspective on performing.

A few years ago I struggled with how to "break into" doing comedy for a living. I was very concerned and motivated to figure out a way to increase my performance fee and book as many gigs as possible in order to make a living doing comedy. At some point around three years ago I let all of that go and started focusing on a simple principle. I decided I would work on "being a blessing" instead of searching for one.

So that is how I have continued for the past three years and it has brought me great joy. There are many stories I could relate via a blog but none have been as encouraging as the one that happened this past week in a small town named Lancaster, South Carolina, just south of the larger metropolis of Charlotte, North Carolina.

As a comedian, I have this little cynical voice in my head whenever I'm driving to a small-town gig which predicts how well the show will go based on how far off the interstate the show actually is. The farther off the interstate, typically the tougher the crowd. This show was 40 miles from the interstate exit.

I went in with very low expectations, but a little whisper in my ear reminded me as I walked through the gravel parking lot into the venue, "Be the blessing tonight, don't worry about receiving one." So I calmly prayed to God to use my comedy to help bless the people in the audience tonight, and I meant it.

As I sat for dinner pre-show with the pastor of this little church he relayed story after story of the things that God was doing through and to this church. Dozens of his people came over and discussed things with him that let me know this little ministry was full of good folks. I started to get more and more optimistic about this show the longer I spent time with these people.

Marty Simpson Comedy The show was great. It was a perfect storm of snappy customized crowd work for a spirit filled crowd who was ready to receive it matched with my normal material which was just perfect for this particular crowd. I had a blast. It truly was a great experience for me and I felt blessed by the crowd.

Then after the show as people came to my merch-table to talk and what not, it happened. Faye Putnam gave me what I think is probably the best word of encouragement I have ever received as a comedian. She very calmly stated that her husband had passed away just one month earlier and that he loved stand-up comedy.


Then she said,

I lost my husband on December 20, 2013 and he would have so enjoyed your show. My husband had a funny laugh and during your show, the entire night, I could hear my him laughing so hard that I could see him rolling in the floor. Marty that did my heart a world of good and made me feel like myself again. Thank you so much.

And here I was just two hours earlier thinking since I drove 37 miles on a two-lane road that the show tonight wasn't going to go well. Shame on me.

In the comedy world we use terms about how well we did that are violent. Usually the more violent the better in terms of laughter. So to say someone is "destroying the room" or "he murdered that crowd" would mean the comic was doing really well. "Killing" is another common way to describe doing well in comedy.

So the irony here is I was able to do the opposite of what we would typically describe this show as. I indeed "killed." But this show was such a blessing to one woman that she was able to envision her husband, who recently passed away, actually AT THE SHOW and enjoying himself. To hear that from Mrs. Putnam was truly a blessing to me.

So, by concentrating on bringing the blessing with me, instead of searching for MY blessing, God was able to use my comedy to bless me anyway. That makes me happy.


Marty Simpson

Marty Simpson :: Comedian & Master Storyteller

Christian Comedian, Thor Ramsey (Bananas, Thou Shalt Laugh) said after seeing Marty perform,
I haven't laughed that hard since I saw Brian Regan the very first time.
See Marty Simpson's full bio page here.

Marty :: 
Check out my latest product. It's my very own series of Under Armour shirts. They are in all the bookstores, and at Jewelry Warehouse. I know my signature is a little bit hard to read, but if you look closely you should be able to make out the M a r t y  S i m p s o n.

I know what you're all thinking. How did Marty get his own autographed series of Under Armour shirts? Well it's really simple. Just have an autograph that is fancy-smancy enough to be mistaken for Steve Spurrier's autograph... that's how.



Marty :: 

The Price of Greatness...

Wednesday, March 06, 2013 0 comments
Recently, my 10 year old son, Walt, performed in his school's talent show, "Aviator Idol." (Named that way because his school is the "Round Top Aviators, - Where Learning Takes Flight.") For the show, he decided he wanted to rap Vanilla Ice's, "Ice Ice Baby," so I said, "sure."

At some point during his hours of practicing he said to me,

You know what would be really cool, Dad? If when I said, 'turn off the lights and I'll glow,' the lights went off and I had cool glow sticks stuck on me and I really glowed.

I immediately said,

I will make this happen.

I realize the rest of this story might make me sound like a "stage dad" who lives vicariously through his son, and to that I say you're missing the big picture. The big picture is that I'm a stage-dad who lives vicariously through his son AND daughter, but this story is only about my son.

I suggest watching the performance before continuing to read the rest of this as the remainder references many things in the actual video.



I wanted to write about this to let other parents out there know how much work is involved in a simple thing like creating a show-stopping performance at your 10 year old's elementary school talent show. Yes, that's why I'm writing this. As a service to other parents. Not to brag about my child's accomplishments... not at all. (But did you watch the video above?)

There are many moving parts in this equation. Some of them are outlined below, then elaborated upon below that. You may think these seem far fetched or ridiculous, but to that I say, each point below represents a few loose coins in a change purse, that when totaled, equals the price of greatness.

Some of the things that were orchestrated by Walt and me, in no particular order were:

  • Download the karaoke track
  • Remove all references to sex, drugs, alcohol, and guns.
  • Re-write lines that couldn't be edited out because of the song's structure.
  • Memorize lyrics.
  • Find great glow sticks.
  • Tape the glow sticks to Walt in a strategic, artistically cool way.
  • Choreograph dance steps to accentuate the glowing.
  • Make sure the auditorium could be blacked out all the way so the glowing effect would look amazing.
  • Make sure the light board operator was savvy enough to make the black-out happen at the right times.
  • Make sure we got it well videotaped so I could blog about it afterwards.
  • Go to the doctor and get a prednisone the morning of the show because Walt had a seal-bark cough and couldn't talk at 7:00 am.
  • Force Walt to take the most disgusting tasting prednisone in the world and watch him writhe in agony as he swallowed it in the McDonalds parking lot.
  • Watch Walt shove four McNuggets in his mouth at once to chase the prednisone.
  • Buy herbal tea and honey to sooth his throat all day while we played PS3 with each other instead of going to school.
  • Prioritize the talent show ahead of the school day so his voice would get the rest it needed to be able to perform, but still get a doctor's excuse.

If Round Top Elementary administrators are reading this blog, then I'm only kidding about those last two. (Also my wife had nothing to do with it either way... she had already gone to work before anything was decided.) If you are not from the administration of Round Top, then those last two are true.

There are other steps but this is a good start. If the above list seems too daunting for you, then just realize the following truth: Even if your kid is the most talented, he may never get the show-stopping moment he deserves. It takes more than just talent. It takes a border-line psychotic parent to be there along the way. From the look of the overall show, I would say there were definitely some other border-line psychotic parents out there because many of the acts were outstanding!

Below are some of the above bullet points with longer explanations.

Download Karaoke Track
I am a huge fan of www.karaoke-version.com. The reason I like this site so much is they allow you to download multiple versions of your track. I downloaded three versions. One with all the instruments and vocals, one with all the instruments and only the back-up vocals, and then one with only the instruments. That way I could create one version for Walt's iPod so he could start memorizing it with the lead vocals, but I also had the freedom to edit verse lengths and chorus structures so we could remove the bad lyrics.

The editing of the multiple karaoke tracks necessary for rehearsal and performance probably took three hours. You might say, "Marty, that's crazy." To that I say, "It's a small price to pay for greatness."

Remove All References to Bad Stuff
"Girls were hot wearing less than bikinis," just didn't seem appropriate for this elementary school performance, so we needed to change that. Also the second verse is full of "gunshots, ranged out like a bell, I grabbed my nine, all I heard was shells (grammar error in lyric, not my writing) falling on the concrete real fast, jumped in the car, slammed on the gas."

So I told Walt, we had to remove any reference to gun violence and barely dressed women. He was fine with that. That's why we cut right to the chorus after "Beachfront Avenue!"

Re-Write Some Lines
At the end of the song we couldn't just cut two lines as it would create awkwardness in the run to the last chorus. The original lines use a swear word and a strong reference to drugs. "Other D.J.'s say, D***! If my rhymes were a drug I'd sell'em by the gram!"

These lines became "Other D.J.'s say, Wow! My rhymes are so good all the people will Bow!" Which Walt wrote himself.

We also changed the last line which reads, "Magnitized by the mic while I kick my juice," to "Magnetized by the mic, while I drink orange juice," because, honestly, I didn't know what "kick my juice" meant, but it just sounded bad enough to warrant the change.

You may say, "Marty, all this editing is so much work and trouble," to which I say, "It's a small price to pay for greatness."

Find Great Glow Sticks
This was easier than I thought. Wal-mart. Total glow stick budget including the ones used at rehearsals... $6.23. Seriously. I used the self-checkout lines to avoid the anxiety attack which is induced by interacting with any employee at Wal-Mart.

Tape the Glow Sticks to Him
This was easy too, but only because I own Gaffer's Tape. Gaff tape is so awesome for clothing because it doesn't leave that nasty residue all over you like duct tape does.

As for the design of the deal, we just stood in front of the mirror and taped them on one at a time trying to make it look like Tron pretty much. We had cracked a few the day before at rehearsal and had confidence that after they were cracked they would glow for at least six hours. This was an important part of the research. Also, in hindsight, Walt wishes he wore a black shirt instead of the white shirt. In our small bathroom the white shirt didn't show up in the pictures as seen below. But on stage the white shirt did show up. Oh well... no one's perfect.


The Most Important Piece in the Puzzle: The Light Board Operator
Instead of finding out if the light board operator was savvy enough to pull this off, I decided to go a different route. I volunteered to run the light board myself for the entire show. When I was a coach and teacher I never liked parents who brought me problems and then expected me to solve them. I loved the parents who brought me solutions as they presented problems! Therefore I decided to be a "solution" to the folks running the talent show. I knew they needed someone to run the board. My son needed it to be perfect. So I volunteered. Easy-peezy. Small price to pay for greatness.

Make Sure the Auditorium Could Be Blacked Out All the Way
This one was also easy. Just make sure your school has the coolest Vice Principal in the world. One willing to perform with his own son in the show and bring the house down. (I'm not the vice principal, even though it could sound like that based on this article.) The vice principal was the fantastic Mr. Sherman, who made sure all the house lights were turned out for me! (And he did so about fifteen minutes after his own standing ovation he got for performing with his son. The performance included him dancing "gangnam style" because his son pressed a button on a remote control! Mr. Sherman understands the price of greatness.)

Prednisone and Staying Home From School
Walt woke up with a horrible seal bark and could barely breath, much less talk. He gets croupy like this from time to time and I know the drill. He usually can't talk really well for a day or two. He rarely misses school for it, because he doesn't run a fever, but this time something had to be done.

My family pediatrician is amazing. I am not going to post her name and links because I didn't discuss this with her, but if you ask me who she is I will tell you! She explained to me that prednisone didn't take effect for 12 hours after taking it, but that if I wanted my son to have it she would write the script for it. AWESOMENESS! She went on to tell me that her own daughter swears it gave her voice back to her two hours after taking it, even though all the medical books say otherwise!

I have had shows when I had no voice because of a horrible sinus infection at noon, but my buddy, who is an ER doc calls the local pharmacy in Nashville (or wherever) with a horse's dose of steroids, and I can then talk like a champ six hours later. So I know the toils of the road and I wanted my son to have prednisone!

Prioritize The Talent Show Ahead of the School Day
This one is probably strange to some of you reading this, but I am serious. I believe school is a vehicle to instill something inside our children. Something that will last a lifetime. Maybe the history lessons or math equations stay inside their heads and maybe they don't, but the overall experience of attending school will stick with a child forever if done correctly. And let me tell you, the folks at Round Top Elementary in Blythewood, South Carolina, do it correctly!

Here is how I view it. My child has spent the last month of his life walking around the house after completing his homework rapping the lyrics to this song. He has spent every ride to baseball practice listening to his iPod play the edited karaoke track and performing the entire song for me in the car multiple times per ride. He has worked for a few hours planning his costume and orchestrating the glow stick idea. He has invested a ton of his emotional well-being into this ordeal.

I think at this point, this talent show has become significantly more important than attending school. I would never let my kid cut school just because he was in the show, but if going to school on this day possibly jeopardized his ability to perform, then you're dang right I will keep him home with me!

It All Came Together
It all came together for me in the McDonalds parking lot the morning before the show when Walt was forcing down 12 milliliters of liquid prednisone. Which, by the way, tastes like a mixture of sand, crushed dramamine pills, chalk, black licorice, liver, kitty litter, and boiled egg yolks.

As he teared up from the sheer smell and gutted down the last few sips, he coughed several times, jammed a few McNuggets in his throat, chewed them up and then drank a huge swig of sweet tea. When he could talk he said, "The price of greatness, right?"

I said, "Yes... yes it is."



Marty :: 

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