Anything Goes

June 27, 2018
“Anything Goes”
by Patricia Tacuri

The theme Anything Goes encompassed tales of hilarious vacation mishaps on three different continents, the freeing power of the word “NO,” healing emotional wounds through forgiveness, and timely stories of the enduring bonds between fathers and children.

With more than 200 in attendance, our vibrant emcee Ashley Garrett kicked off a sizzling summer evening with her contagious humor and enthusiasm.

Jade Fernandez took us along to Peru on a long hike in the Andean mountains that was much more challenging than she expected. The steep, slippery paths and ice-cold streams tested her physical endurance and her relationship with her boyfriend.

Sloan Murray recalled hilarious misadventures on family vacations that included his innocent faux pas with a stranger and a bloody mishap with a closet door.

In her story Susie Rawlins Tompkins captured the special affinity southern women have for their daddy — and in her case, a second, surprising target of her affection.

Celest Divine Ngeve had the whole audience shouting “No!” and laughing, too, as she discussed a way to recharge and empower yourself.

Our Crackerjack Surprise storyteller Maggie Hunter shared a hilarious anecdote about her classy grandmother’s embarrassing encounter with the shoe salesman.

David Noah captivated the audience with his endearing tale of learning forgiveness from his own father who had learned this in an unexpected way.

Deborah Gonzalez arrived on a chartered trip to Turkey, but her luggage did not. Colleagues from UGA helped her, but as days and days passed and still no suitcase, she finally had to put her foot down.

Robert Tucker shared his story of how how he learned that blood ties do not always define the love of or for a parent.

Think Before You Move

May 9, 2018
“Think Before You Move”
by David Noah

Life the Griot was the emcee, and his positive energy lit up the Foundry!

We all act without thinking sometimes, and the consequences can change our lives. The Rabbit Box storytellers told what happened in their own lives when they did or didn’t think first. The stories were dramatic, vividly told reports, taking the audience through drug-fueled violent misadventures, scary encounters with police (or maybe they weren’t police), a kid felled by a stroke in a elementary school lunchroom, and what happens when someone’s love for a dog is in conflict with honeymoon plans. Every teller’s tale showed how even small thoughtless acts can shape our lives for decades.

Wendell Byrd vowed he’d never be like his mother. Then one day he had to face a painful truth about himself — all the more important because he had a son to raise.

Christy Lin Moore ran away from home at 17 and fell in with a group of teenage gangsters. One harrowing evening she attended a drug-fueled party interrupted by a gunshot. Escaping with other partiers from the mayhem, she didn’t think at all before she got into a car with two men very high on cocaine.

Malachi Gallagher is a young man who has figured out he needs to the think before moving. In a series of funny anecdotes he detailed some of his youthful misadventures and demonstrated a maturity (and stage presence) beyond his years.

Angela Romito told a powerful story about the difficulty of making tough decisions when needs collide. Her beloved dog’s life was on the line. As a professional decision analyst, she knew methods for making hard choices, but could her mindfulness help her through the ordeal — one happening at the worst possible time?

The night’s Crackerjack Surprise storyteller was Neal Priest, who shared a short story about being a medical student in New Orleans on a day when events might have taken a second bad turn if he hadn’t kept his head. With a gun at his temple, Neal found himself wishing he hadn’t stopped by a friend’s house for a drink.

High school student Michael Morris entertained the audience with cautionary tales from his young life. Pretending guilt (don’t ask about what!) just for the attention, pranking a teacher in a way that could have been disastrous, starting a fire—all these and more made him realize the value of thinking first. Today he is one of the stars of the Chess and Community group.

On the way back to Athens from Atlanta, where she was working with police and other first responders, Jasmine Jenkins was pulled over by a patrolman. She hadn’t realized she was speeding; her mind was on a presentation for her doctoral program, and she was running late. The officer was insulting and increasingly belligerent as the episode unfolded. As a black woman, she felt especially vulnerable on a stretch of highway with no one around to witness the fraught encounter.

Can a choice to give your life to others redeem the mistakes of your past? Shane Sims knows that it can. Now a chaplain with the same police department that arrested him at age 18, he recounted the story of his fall and redemption. Released after twenty years in prison, he mentors troubled youth and has a powerful story about learning to think before you act.

Roam Sweet Roam

April 11, 2018
“Roam Sweet Roam”

Listeners were regaled with both harrowing and heart-warming tales of travel around the globe in a night of vicarious adventure.

Emily Parker, who has her own globe-trotting pedigree, was our charming emcee for the night.

Rhianna Hohbein kicked off the evening telling how, as a teen, she had crippling social anxiety. How could she ever relax with others when they might find she had nothing interesting to say? She hadn’t really known people who traveled, but a boy told her about traveling to Italy and she thought, “Maybe that’s the ticket.” That notion provided the seed of the woman she was to become and gave rise to many amazing stories, one of which she shared on stage.

After many years of schooling, Daniel LePage found himself at a crossroads. Would he take a job as a microbiologist and settle down or perhaps sell everything and set off to hike the entire Pacific Crest Trail? As a fit and confident runner, he decided to go for it, taking the more challenging, north-to-south route and racing the snow and the clock.

Robert Alan Black has decades of world travel behind him, but he told of his first long trip when he’d planned to visit 24 countries. Egypt was not a part of his plan, but he was convinced by some acquaintances, and off he went to Luxor, Cairo and Giza on a trip he barely survived.

Just out of high school, Paul Guillebeau and his buddy set off on a long road trip from Georgia to Alaska. Whether encountering a bear, rapacious mosquitos or “professionally friendly” girls, Paul had the audience in stitches.

The name chosen out of the Crackerjack box was that of Jayashree Jagadis who had just arrived in the United States to visit her daughter after a long trip from her home in Bangalore, India, via the Hamburg airport and on to Atlanta. She and her husband had never taken such a long, complicated trip. Even for sturdy senior citizens like Jaya and her husband, getting from Concourse B to Concourse Z in 30 minutes to catch a flight would be a challenge.

After years of study in Germany, Hungary and England, Jörg Mayer was ready for adventure in the New World. He went to work and travel in the United States. Before long, his German parents made their own journey across the sea to visit him, and the true adventure began. Would Jörg survive his parents’ ten-day visit?

In 2012 Brittany Barnes and her friend decided to take a trip to Leticia, Colombia, the “Gateway to the Amazon.” They wanted to trek through the jungle and experience the Amazon River. They were not very prepared but luckily found Rudolfo (and his 7-year-old son) to guide them on their journey. Supplied with cans of Spam, machetes for all, and an intimate knowledge of the jungle, Rudolfo would see them through, though not unscathed nor unchanged.

Sarah Vaughn’s first big overseas trip was with a big group of college friends to Istanbul, Turkey. After an evening of drinking, Sarah was feeling sick and decided to go back to her hotel while her friends went on to a club. She got in a cab at the same time a stranger climbed in the door on the other side. Should she share the taxi?

RB65: A Life Well Read

In March, Books for Keeps collaborated with Rabbit Box to present, “A Life Well Read.” Emcee Rachel Watkins called it a “match made in heaven,” noting that a good story can, “change your life; it can teach you empathy. It can give you direction and give you purpose.” Eight bibliophiles took the stage to tell stories about how books – or one particular book, changed their lives.

When Wallace Arnold had to go to a new school, he latched on to reading lists as a lifeline. In middle school he became even more of a bookworm. During the long, awkward years of adolescence, books were his refuge, solace, and eventually a doorway into being social.

On Ashley McKelvy‘s first day of college, she felt certain she would drop out. A professor’s joke went right over her head. But she’s a “fear-based” person, and motivated by fear, she began to read. A boring, arcane book gave her more confidence and became an unexpected guide past the barriers she encountered along the way.

Benjamin Milano Albino remembers learning to read in Puerto Rico when he was five years old. Even then, the poet recalls, he “dealt in metaphors.” Over time he realized that “the more a person reads; the better writer a person becomes.”

In high school Ashley Garrett, a budding Anglophile, was very excited to take her first British literature class. Unfortunately her teacher, on the verge of retirement, was phoning in the lessons. Ashley forged ahead, reading the thick book on her own, but that turned out to have at least one unanticipated disadvantage.

Kristy Moran was the Crackerjack Surprise storyteller of the evening. She credits books with getting her through an “awkward phase that lasted four years.”

As a child John Mincemoyer had a rough time growing up in a military family with an abusive stepfather. John credits his love of words and books as among the greatest joys of life — and reading reading reading saw him through the darkest times.

Leslie Hale, who is now the executive director of Books for Keeps, was the type of girl to wear her heart on her sleeve. After hurting someone in a difficult breakup, though, she thought she would “play it cool” for a while. But then she met an especially neat guy. A book she came across seemed to capture just the right tone to convey her feelings, but was it too risky a vehicle to rely on to put herself out there?

Angie Pendley was the first person in her family to go to college. She started out as a theater major, then switched to education, and — years later — became a librarian. But her vocation actually started in first grade, in her closet, where she ran “Angie’s Library.”

RB64: Duets

February 14, 2018
“Duets”
by Patty Tacuri

Andreana Williams and Celest Ngeve — who perform together as African Soul — were amazing and energetic MCs for our Valentine’s Day show called Duets that featured two people telling a story in tandem on the stage. The storytellers shared stories of harmonious and unexpected love, lifelong and enduring friendships, the deep-rooted bond between parent and child, a harrowing brush with death while traveling abroad, and an act of kindness to a grieving widow.

Noel Holston and Marty Winkler shared their harmonious story of love through song. What started as a possible professional collaboration became that and much more.

Denise and Mike Mount talked about their contrasting memories of screen doors slamming when they were kids. Mike’s joyful recollections mellowed Denise’s memories that formerly always had come paired with her mom’s exasperated cry.

Cindy Karp and Connie Crawley told Cindy’s story of how an expeditious bond with a stranger helped save her life.

Laurie Allen and April Taylor told a story about their enduring friendship that extended from childhood shenanigans and mishaps through the trials and tribulations of adulthood.

Crackerjack storyteller Terry Kaley experienced an unexpected and random act of kindness from a stranger on a particularly hard Valentine’s day.

Beau Shell (AKA the Lil’ Ice Cream Dude) and his mother Vickie shared their story of Beau’s intrepid spirit of entrepreneurship that helped him start a successful business Vickie has supported and encouraged since 2012.

Dave and Raquel Durden swept us along in their humorous telling of their passionate whirlwind romance in South Korea while both were serving in the U.S. Army.

Dan Everett and Kate Blane described their family’s colorful adventures abroad in multicultural Malaysia where Dan taught for a year.

RB63: Rising from the Ashes

January 10, 2018
“Rising from the Ashes”
by Marci White

Storytellers shared intense and marvelous stories at Rabbit Box’s “Rising from the Ashes” at The Foundry this January.

More than 250 people listened to moving accounts of trauma, shock, difficulty, despair, and conflict followed by healing, renewal or self-insight. The healing was assisted by some combination of time, acceptance, perseverance and personal support. Some people rose from their ashes many years ago. Others roses more recently, and, as one crackerjack storyteller said, “I’m still kind of stewing in my ashes.”

Our friend Tara Stuart was on fire as the night’s emcee!

Krystle Cobran told about some of the pain associated with everyday racism — the worst of which is when a trip to the grocery store can turn into an anxiety-producing, emotional experience.

After a traumatic event, Sarah Bradley wanted to dissolve into the earth one summer and just disappear. She realized what she really needed was a long “conversation with anger” and a path to healing.

Between Brad Smith and his dad, things came to a head one Christmas when his dad had yet another angry outburst in front of the family. Brad didn’t want his kids exposed to that and told his dad so. But his father, a Presbyterian pastor, wasn’t about to back down.

Abbey was raised in a dysfunctional family, with a parent suffering from mental illness. Now in college, Abbey has had to confront and try to find help for her own mental illness, which manifests as a severe anxiety disorder. She’s learning to accept herself for how she is, to be okay with that, and also seek help. For now, every day when she gets out of bed she is “rising from the ashes.”

John Roper found himself taken to jail again — “this time, for something serious.” If convicted he could be facing a lot of jail time. He had to go through a week of drug withdrawal in a holding cell. Then at Christmas, the harsh lights of jail softened into something golden and reassuring, and his outlook changed dramatically.

David Bothe’s name was chosen as the Crackerjack Surprise storyteller. He talked about an old mini-van with some serious issues that would be costly to repair for him or some unsuspecting future owner. Hard-pressed to pay, could he take the ethical path?

Faye Fleming wasn’t sure she could ever recover from a devastating loss. What she dug out of the ashes of that loss — and something beautiful created from what she found — finally enabled her to go on with her life.

RB62: Holidazed

December 13, 2017
“Holidazed”
by Marci White

For this special holiday show, our MC Brad Smith wished everyone a merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah and joyous Kwanzaa. Brad’s warm and welcoming spirit added a great energy to the show.

Rebecca McCarthy told about her engineer father and how he was “good at many things” but not gift-giving. After he gave his wife a green plastic trashcan for Christmas, something had to change.

Donna Fee Smith grew up in rural Oconee County in the 1970s. The only thing she knew about religion was from seeing Billy Graham on her grandma’s TV. Even after college she didn’t know much, but a Jewish boyfriend she met after college opened her eyes to the unexpected joys of multiculturalism.

Bert Parks owned and managed a trailer park in downtown Atlanta in the 1980s and ’90s, a challenging period that included difficult characters and some dangerous encounters. In this story he tells about a longtime tenant, a woman who suffered fits of paranoia and slept with a pistol. She decided to finally move her trailer one Christmas day to a “better” trailer park, but that wasn’t the end of dealing with one of his most irascible residents.

Emily Parker told a funny and self-deprecating story about being an overly confident college student traveling abroad in Germany. She soon met her comeuppance.

Raquel Durden was chosen to be the Crackerjack storyteller for the night. During her 25 years in the military, she spent Christmases all over the world and was the recipient of much-appreciated Christmas care packages – some more cherished than others.

Hannah Angel was devastated when her boyfriend dumped her abruptly during the holidays. That Christmas could hardly have been more terrible. And then her cat went missing.

Paul Guillebeau grew up in northwest Georgia, the third of four boys. Every Christmas the three oldest boys would take their grandmother’s Jeep and head off to the woods seeking the biggest Christmas tree they could possibly fit into their house. One year there was a Christmas tree disaster and a small miracle.

As a stubborn 18-year-old, Terry Kaley married a man 24 and 1/2 years older than she was. On their first Christmas together she discovered that he was too thrifty to spend the money on a tree. But a friend owned some woods and told them they could hike into the woods and cut down a tree for free. That sounded good to him, but their quest led to a difficult situation they found hard to extract themselves from. Christmas was never the same again.

RB61: An Unquiet Mind

Nov, 8, 2017
“An Unquiet Mind”
by Marci White

Rabbit Box collaborated with Nuci’s Space this month to host “An Unquiet Mind,” a show devoted to stories about coping with mental illness. Nuci’s Space’s mission is to prevent suicide. “With a focus on musicians, Nuci’s Space advocates for and helps to alleviate the suffering for those living with a brain illness.” They also work toward ending the stigma associated with mental illness.

The emcee was Jesse Houle, who was the perfect emissary, since he works both with Nuci’s Space and Rabbit Box. Jesse told about his own journey with severe depression at “The Kindness of Strangers” show in January of 2016.

Ivan Sumner knew something was very off about his housemate, who seemed delusional and threatening. At his wit’s end, he went to Nuci’s Space seeking help, and they promised him they would assist with an intervention as long as his housemate wasn’t violent. When Ivan drove back to his house to assess the situation, he found police cars in front of his house and a scene that validated his concerns and stoked his fears. What would happen when his housemate was released from the mental hospital?

When Elsa Durusau was told that her young son, whom she had placed for adoption, had symptoms of autism, she was in disbelief. Her son’s personality resembled her own quite a bit, and others in her family, and no one had ever suggested that she was autistic. Hesitantly, she began to look at the symptoms to see if that label could help to explain some of the oddities in her own, very multi-faceted personality.

Having been born to a troubled mother who struggled with depression and drug addiction, Kyrie Amos had a rough childhood. Her father tried to protect her, but also had his own issues to cope with. An excellent student, Kyrie won a scholarship to college and seemed to have escaped the demons that plagued her parents. But as a young adult, long-repressed, difficult feelings rose to the surface, leading to illness and depression. At first, Kyrie did whatever she could to push them away and numb herself. Ironically, when she thought she had hit rock bottom, a new drug showed her unseen possibilities for how to work with her difficulties and overwhelming emotions.

Though it took him awhile to understand it, Stephen Cramer’s mother coped with mental illness for much of her life. She may have had schizophrenia and/or a personality disorder. Whatever the case, her son adored her and was “proud to be a mama’s boy.” Luckily, his mother eventually found the right mix of medicines to alleviate her symptoms. Stephen showed no signs of any real problems while growing up in Detroit; everything he did was “good enough.” But after high school, depression and suicidal thoughts became the new norm. He didn’t have a sense for how not normal this was and that he needed help until his wife forced him to go see a doctor. Since then Cramer has not only become proactive about his own health but become an advocate for others struggling with mental health issues. To that end he started a music/speaker festival called Brain Aid.

The name pulled out of the Cracker Jack box at the end of intermission was John Roper’s. John told a funny and edgy story of being pulled over by the police, who found a small bag of cocaine in the door pocket of his car. The officer was sure that not only was the cocaine John’s, but that he was on cocaine when he was pulled over. But the officer had only circumstantial evidence and his own assumptions. It was up to John to prove to the judge that the officer had gotten it all wrong about him.

Briana Wells, an exceptional student, left her violent mother and her childhood home with academic honors and a bright future ahead of her. But as a young adult she found herself grappling with the frightening feeling of being possessed by the extremes of psychosis, as God and Satan waged battle within her psyche.

As a U.S. Marine, Chad Whitworth was doing his job and his duty when he was assigned a dangerous mission, and things went terribly wrong. His hearing was seriously damaged, and his knees were hit by shrapnel, requiring surgery. But more damage was there, unseen, and with debilitating symptoms. A screening at the VA shone some light on the situation.

Julie Peters told us about her beloved younger brother who was “all boy.” As a kid he was rambunctious and lovable. As he got older he had trouble in school; the family learned he had learning disabilities. Still he was a big favorite with the girls. Eventually he dropped out of school and had problems with anxiety, depression and suicidal tendencies. He never talked about his problems and never asked for help because that’s “not what real men do.” Medical expenses and health problems exacerbated his despair until he took a decisive step.

rb61 unquiet mind group photo

Prior to the show, our storytellers were asked what they thought we, as individuals and a community, can do to fight the stigmas in our culture surrounding mental illness and mental health. Here’s what they had to share, by Jesse Houle:

Ivan Sumner, a veteran Rabbit Boxer who considers storytelling at Rabbit Box his “therapy” and was glad to get “another session”:
“Recognize that all of us walk along the edge between madness and uncertainty, wobbling, with only a tiny nudge required for us to lose our balance, falling into madness on one side and despair and impotence on the other. To have real empathy, we must at least imagine it is us.”

Elsa Durusau, an avid writer and knitter who works at the UGA music library:
“I have struggled with mental illness for most of my life but only recently found out the biggest root cause of my problems. As far as fighting the stigma around mental illness and mental health… I’m not sure what the solution is. But perhaps if people just had a little more empathy and understanding of people who are different from them, then they would understand those who struggle with mental illness better.”

Kyrie Amos, who is studying social work with plans to specialize in addiction and chronic mental illness:
“The way that I fight stigma about mental illness and health is just by telling my story to anyone I meet that will listen. I talk openly about my struggles on a regular basis because they are part of who I am. I also talk about the therapeutic value psychedelic substances have had for me and think we need to open up the conversation to include alternative medicine and therapy.”

Stephen Cramer, who recently founded Brain Aid with a mission of combating stigma, encouraged folks to help with the project:
“I founded a new nonprofit organization, Brain Aid Fest, earlier this year to combine my passions for events, music and comedy with mental health advocacy.” Stephen also coordinates Duded Helping Dudes, an online forum and weekly roundtable discussion on Thursday evenings at Nuçi’s Space.

Brianna Wells, a local musician, artist, and mental health advocate:
“One of the most important parts of fighting the stigma and experience of mental illness is to work toward validating experiences. Treat the ‘illness’ as a normal response to an abnormal event or as a medical concern when necessary, not the fault of the person inside. What makes us human? Our broken souls seek the light. Surviving darkness should be rewarded, not nailed to a scarlet letter.”

Chad Whitworth, while humbly referring to himself as “just a simple man”:
“As for fighting the stigma that surrounds mental illness, education and acceptance for those who are dealing with mental illness is key. Much like any other illness it is real and palpable – no difference with mental illness than cancer, HIV, or diabetes. If left untreated it can cause great pain or even death.”

Julie Peters, who founded TREK Foster Care which operates from the Advantage offices to recruit foster families:
“I am trying to fight the stigma of mental illness by telling my story. I think the more we talk about it and educate people about it, the more we can bring it out of the shadows. Lots of people have some sort of mental health issues and it is only by normalizing it and understanding it that we will bring people to acceptance of it.”

Julie’s sentiments echo our mission here at Rabbit Box. If you’d like to share your story and help us build community one story at a time, please let us know!

For more information on mental health resources and fighting stigma, please visit the website of our event’s cohost, Nuçi’s Space or follow them on Facebook.

RB60: Masquerade

“Masquerade” at Sandy Creek Park was a remarkable, transcendent night of stories. Under the starry sky, surrounded by the sounds of the forest, we heard from storytellers sharing their unique, authentic, hilarious and charming selves. John Rogers was our mellow Master of Ceremonies. Storytellers wore masks and costumes and brought along some props to share with us their interpretation of a “masquerade.” The storytellers were: David Bothe, Nico Isaac, Jennifer Bray, Laura Rupers, Cricket Bancroft, Neal Priest, Tommy Tye and Donna Fee Smith.

Jennifer Bray (aka Long Tall Jenny) brought her inner (and outer) clown to the stage. After an eventful year of big changes and growth, she shared some insight about her ongoing journey of discovering “what she wants to be when she grows up.”

Nico Isaac stopped into a general store in Atlanta one day to pick up some cleaning supplies. The man at the cash register showed her something that would leave her forever changed. “Some people wear masks that are obvious,” she observed of the experience, “while others’ masks blend in so seamlessly that you don’t notice them until it’s too late.”

Laura Rupers’ sister sometimes struggled, and Laura would help take care of her three nieces whenever called upon. In order to make the girls laugh and forget their worries, she developed a hilarious hillbilly character who would read books to them. The outsized character raised everyone’s spirits so much that Laura found herself compelled to bring the character back for a potentially inappropriate appearance at an emotionally charged, family gathering.

Tommy Tye‘s wild intelligence began by communicating with dogs, then birds and other animals — even trees. Listening carefully to the wild animals he’s gotten to see things most people don’t ever experience. His mom was sure that by the time he was 18 he’d either be in jail or dead. He avoided both by tuning into a wild, true voice inside.

The evening’s Cracker Jack Surprise storyteller Donna Fee is a real estate agent. She went to show an expensive house to a couple that was obviously occupied by a recently divorced bachelor. Something had her on edge about the house, and her instincts kicked in.

Neal Priest went to medical school — and many a great Mardi Gras party — in New Orleans, where he made brilliant and wonderful friends. At one party an inebriated friend dressed as the Tin Man disappeared during a period when the city was wracked by random gun violence. Would Neal and his friends be able to save him?

Cricket Bancroft is a “keeper of quilts.” Every quilt has a story, but not all are of interest to her. But when she went to an estate sale at an infamous old Athens house, she knew she’d found a quilt she wanted to keep. The house had a history of violence, and when she got home and looked at the quilt, she realized she’d brought some of that history home with her.

David Bothe was the underwriter of his friend’s vision quest. His friend was gone out West for months and when the man returned, David realized that he was jealous and wanted his own vision quest. Who would be his guides? Who were his mentors who had wisdom to share? Whom would he see emerge from the cliff walls?

RB59: Toil & Trouble

September 13, 2017
“Toil & Trouble – Stories about Work”
by Marci White

Tim Denson ably did the honors as emcee for our show in honor of Labor Day – “Toil & Trouble.” Tim is an advocate for labor rights and in the past has worked as a cowboy, mental health counselor and touring musician, among other jobs.

In 1956 Tom Kenyon became the first person in his family accepted to a university. He was 17 and desperately needed a job to be able to pay for college. He answered a newspaper ad looking for a “strong man” needed for heavy labor for $1.25 an hour. Would he be able to hack it?

After college, Robin Whetstone and her friend Susan shared an apartment and worked at Ray and Dawn’s Seafood Grill, where it was impossible to make enough to live on. But one of their new coworkers “knows a guy” with some really “good stuff,” and if Robin and Susan will help him move it, he promises that their financial situation will be much improved.

Dr. Walter Freeman, early in his career as a chemist, was misled about a job. He took the job only to find out that he would not have access to the superconducting NMR he so longed to use. His determined quest for this treasured and expensive tool would call for him to develop skills not directly related to chemistry, and those came in handy throughout his career.

Gabe Newman grew up near a golf course in a small town in Georgia and spent much of his time “in the woods…looking for golf balls.” He’d really wanted to be a baseball player for the Cubs but found himself living precariously in Athens. In 2007 he had a dream that proved to be a good omen and led to a series of new opportunities that continue to unfold.

Steven Bellan’s name was chosen out of the box to be the Crackerjack Surprise storyteller of the night. As a wildlife biologist, Steven worked in Namibia studying jackals. Part of his job was trapping them to put on, remove or replace the collars that collected data about their movements. This could be very tricky, and late one night it all came to a head.

When Christy Lin decided to stop freelancing to get a steady job at an ad agency, at first it seemed intense but good. The five “creatives” at the agency worked fast-paced, 60-80 hour weeks. It was fun to be part of a creative team, work hard and be compensated well. But when a personal issue came up that demanded some time and healing, she had to face the true nature of what she’d signed on for.

The second job Joe Willey got driving a tractor trailer was a truck driver’s dream gig: hauling carpet and yard from Dalton, Georgia, to New Orleans and to Andalusia, Alabama, and then home for the weekend. But then Hurricane Erin came along to shake things up.

As a professional paramedic and Emergency Medical Services educator, Roscoe McCoy knows how things should go, ideally, when the police and paramedics are called out to deal with an emergency. One day nothing goes according to plan.