Compiled by Elise Stahl
The holidays may be over, but there’s still plenty to do around town. Here are some festivals and activities happening in Tucson to keep your February fun:
Cruise, BBQ & Blues Festival & Car Show
View a variety of trucks and cars, enjoy live blues music and fill up on barbecue at this show celebrating the art of vehicle design, hosted by the Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Alliance.
The event will be held from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. in the Oro Valley Marketplace, 12155 N. Oracle Road. Tickets are $5, with a $1 discount for veterans and active duty military with a military ID, cash only.
La Fiesta de los Vaqueros Tucson Rodeo
(No PCC classes Feb. 23-24 due to rodeo holiday)
Feb. 18-26: Rodeo
Watch rodeo events and participate in barn dances at the Tucson Rodeo Grounds, 4823 S. Sixth Ave. Wear pink on Sunday to support breast cancer initiatives. Daily admission prices range from $15 to $31, with barn dances an extra $5. Parking costs $7.
Feb. 23: Rodeo Parade
The country’s largest non-motorized parade begins at 9 a.m. along a 1.5-mile route starting at Ajo Highway a half mile east of Park Avenue.
It proceeds east then south on Park to Irvington Road, west on Irvington to Sixth Avenue and north on Sixth to the north end of the Tucson Rodeo Grounds.
Grandstand seating on Irvington Road, which includes pre-parade entertainment beginning at 8 a.m., is $10 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under. Street spots along the parade route are free.
Details: tucsonrodeoparade.com or tucsonrodeo.com
Tucson Women’s Comedy Festival
Celebrate women in comedy with the Tucson Improv Movement as it presents three nights of storytelling, improv comedy and standup comedy from local and out-of-town comediennes.
Shows run from 7:30-11 p.m. each day at Tucson Improv Movement, 329 E. Seventh St. Tickets are $5.
35th Annual Peace Fair and Music Festival
The Tucson Peace Center will hold Arizona’s largest gathering of peace, justice and environmental groups from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. downtown at Armory Park, 220 S. Sixth Avenue. The festival’s 2017 theme is demilitarization.
Live music, food, entertainment, informational displays and children’s activities are all included at this free event.
Mardi Gras – Carnival!
Enjoy themed food, drinks and entertainment at this festival, which combines Mardi Gras and Brazilian carnival traditions. Entertainment includes face painters, 10-foot puppets, Samba dancers and more.
The free event runs from 5 p.m. on Feb. 28 through 2 a.m. on March 1 at Hotel Congress, 311 E. Congress St.
Details: hotelcongress.com/music/mardi-gras-carnival or downtowntucson.org/event/mardi-gras-carnival-club-congress
By ELISE STAHL
In August 2016, I decided to try the Whole30 diet. For 30 days, I ate no gluten, dairy, legumes, sugar or additives.
I had never done something like that and, as wimpy as it sounds to say, it was one of the scariest challenges of my life. But I made myself do it.
Along the way, I talked to many people about my endeavor. As I passed up appetizers and desserts at social events, I inevitably received the question, “Why?”
As I explained, I received a unanimous response from everyone: “Oh. Good for you. I could never do that.”
I hear that line from people all the time. “I could never…” run a 5K, or give something up for a month, or perform in front of an audience, or what have you.
“I could never do that” is a response programmed by fear: the fear of stepping outside your comfort zone. The fear of the unknown. The fear of failure.
The moment you say you could never do something, you cut yourself off from something new. You lose the opportunity to challenge yourself and grow as a person.
I get it: everyone is in pursuit of a life free from pain, awkwardness and failure.
But living in fear of those three things doesn’t make life any happier. They are necessary parts of the human experience. Working to overcome them is the key to a fulfilling and truly happy life.
The only way to conquer them … is to face them.
Now don’t get me wrong. It’s not easy. But when you do something that makes you uncomfortable, you remove the fear factor. You take away its power over you. Not only that, but you build confidence that can help you tackle the next challenge that lies ahead.
Because once you’ve done one thing you thought you could never do, why can’t you do another?
So I encourage you: The next time someone mentions something they’re doing that automatically makes you think “I could never do that,” stop. Ask them questions. Think about it.
Maybe, just maybe, it’s a challenge you could take on yourself.
Elise Stahl is always finding new challenges to master. She is learning to embrace the uncomfortable and face her fears with confidence.
Compiled by Elise Stahl
Number of Americans who use dating sites.
Percentage of people who think a smile is the most attractive feature.
Percentage of Americans who are single (as of 2015).
Percentage of people who have Googled a potential partner before their first date.
Percentage of single people in Idaho (the state with the least single people).
Percent chance a person will actually like a date set up by a friend.
Average number of minutes it takes to make a first impression on a man.
Percent chance a man will call after a first date (if he didn’t call within the first 24 hours).
Percentage of women who start relationships with partners they met at a bar.
Percentage of men who start relationships with partners they met at a bar.
Average number of hours it takes to make a first impression on a woman.
By ELISE STAHL
Scores of unusual objects line the tops of Kenneth Vorndran’s office cabinets.
One object appears to be a miniature brain sitting in a pan. Another is a dog toy with an Icelandic address written on it. Still another is a stuffed canine being skewered by a small nail.
And there are dozens more. What do they mean?
Vorndran, 55, a writing instructor at Pima Community College’s Northwest Campus, explains that each object is an excuse letter.
“I require that my students do an excuse letter that is fictitious and that is entertaining, and it’s good for one day late on one assignment one time during the semester,” Vorndran says.
The brain in the pan, then, is a representation of a student whose “brain was fried.” The Icelandic dog toy argues that one student’s excuse was “far-fetched.”
And the little dog getting stabbed? It symbolizes the phrase “screwed the pooch,” which means just what it sounds like: messing up terribly.
Vorndran says the excuse letters afford students “an ability to be human.” He recognizes they will likely either forget, misplace or fail to properly allot time for an assignment sometime during the semester.
“That’s the way it goes,” Vorndran says. “We’re all human beings.”
Vorndran has taught writing for 34 years, but his approach differs from most mainstream instructional techniques.
“I’m not a good lecturer,” Vorndran says. “I’m very good at facilitating. I’m very good at conversation.”
Thus, he structures his classes around questioning and discussion.
And not just on subjects of his own allocation.
“I don’t assign topics,” Vorndran explains. “My goal is to say, ‘What do you want to write about, and what do you want to research?’ and to try to give you the latitude to be who you are.”
Vorndran has taught writing at high school and university levels, but believes he belongs at a community college.
“This is not a default,” he says. “This is where I want to be.”
Vorndran says he feels a special connection to community college students because his situation was once the same as many of theirs: working through college, unable to afford the more prestigious universities.
“I identify with my community college students,” he says.
His ability to connect with students often leaves a lasting impression. He stays in touch with students from years past, like Renée Schafer Horton, the internship coordinator for the University of Arizona’s School of Journalism.
Horton took Vorndran’s short story writing classes in 2006 and 2007. She remembers that, as a journalist whose occupation depended on the accurate reporting of facts, she was unused to inventing stories.
“I was sitting at the table, writing and scratching out … and he comes over and he squats down in front of the table so … he’s eye-to-eye with me,” Horton says. “He said, ‘Report what you see in your head,’ meaning, ‘Do it like a reporter.’”
She says Vorndran’s words fit fiction writing into a context she understood.
His willingness to work within her framework left an impact on her.
“He’s one of those rare teachers, that he really cares about undergraduate students,” Horton says. “[He] will always advocate for the student.”
Vorndran’s heart for his students has kept him at Pima for 15 years. He’s not sure where his future will lead him, but he is clear on his legacy.
“I want to help people,” he says. “I want them to be saying sometime down the road, ‘You know … I really had this good connection.’”
In conjunction with his desire to foster connection, Vorndran holds strongly to a philosophy of acceptance.
“Acceptance … doesn’t mean we have to like something,” he explains. “But just saying, ‘OK, this is the way it is. How am I going to work with it?’”
Vorndran especially cares about accepting other people. “I want to look at you … and go, ‘You are a full, complete human being who’s going to love, who’s going to hate, who’s going to succeed, who’s going to fail, who’s going to have this complicated life,’” he said.
“If I start there, with that full acceptance of you as a human being … that’s the connection. And it starts with acceptance – very, very deep levels of acceptance.”
And that is the epitome of what Vorndran represents. From an amusing excuse letter policy to the ability to approach writing from the perspective of people like Horton, he accepts and works with others’ differences.
“The world is what it is,” Vorndran says. “Let’s come to accept this. If we can do that, we’ll change the world.”
By ELISE STAHL
Ah, Valentine’s Day. The day of chocolate, roses and fine wine … all of which can be a drain on your savings account.
The average amount of money spent by an individual on Valentine’s Day in 2016 was $146.84, according to Time.com.
Not surprising for a nearly $20-billion-per-annum holiday, but not good news for the broke college students of the world.
Let’s face it. Many of us just don’t have the extra cash to splurge on a fancy dinner and a beaming bouquet for our significant other.
But fear not: Expensive outings are not this year’s only options.
Below are 10 ideas for a broke but beautiful Valentine’s Day:
- Cook something
If you don’t have the dough to wine and dine your sweetheart this V-Day, why not make your own food adventure and cook together? Even if your concoction doesn’t turn out restaurant-worthy, the memories will be worth the effort.
- Go stargazing
There’s just something timeless and romantic about a sky full of stars. If the weather is clear, lay out a blanket or two and spend some time staring at the sky together, hand in hand.
(And if you can catch the sunset before the stars come out, 10 Couple Points for you.)
- Hold a dance party for two
Why pay to go to a club full of strangers when you can put together your own setup for free in the comfort of your home? Push the furniture against the wall to create space for a dance floor, throw on your favorite tunes, turn out the lights and jam out together.
(And if you’ve got one buck to spare, hit up the local dollar store for a pack of glow sticks to add some psychedelic flair.)
- Give each other massages
Forget shelling out dizzying amounts of dollars for a couple’s massage. Instead, set up your own spa station. Lay down some towels on a bed or a couch, light a few candles, play some soft music and take turns giving each other the royal treatment.
- Make a blanket fort
Gather your biggest blankets and reconnect with your inner child by building an epic, cozy tent. For some extra “camping” flair, roast marshmallows over the stove and make indoor s’mores.
- Take a hike
Nothing says “romance” like panting and sweating while trekking through dirt, rocks and cacti. But the view from the top will be all the more breathtaking with your lover by your side.
(For bonus Couple Points, see how long you can hold onto each other’s hands while navigating the rougher spots on the trail.)
- Try Dressing Room Dress-Up
Get a free taste of the high life by spending a day in the dressing rooms of your favorite stores, trying on the fanciest clothes you can find. For a fun twist, choose outfits for each other and get a glimpse into your respective fashion psyches.
- Play Netflix Improv
Hop on Netflix, pick a film neither of you have seen (preferably a rom-com, in the spirit of V-Day), then mute the TV and make up your own dialogue. And during the kissing scenes? You know what to do.
- Have a game night
Kick it old-school with a gnarly game night. Pull out your old Scrabble board and see if all the knowledge you’ve gleaned from Words with Friends will spell success.
Or, try your hand at that random game that’s been sitting in the back of the game cupboard for ages, yet you’ve still never played.
- Write (and read) love letters
Take some time to write each other good old-fashioned love letters. Recount such things as your favorite shared memories, the little things you like about each other and how you have become better people through your relationship. Then read your letters aloud to each other.