Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Best Thing That Happened At Dragon Con

John and I are home from Dragon Con, still recovering from the annual 5-day Geek Gauntlet. I'm exhausted, exhilarated, peppered with bruises from wrangling Agnes, and more than a little overwhelmed thinking about all the amazing stories and photos I have to share with you guys.

But first things first.

Let's start with the memory I'm going to forever treasure most. The one that hasn't quite sunk in yet. The one that made me dance and shake and get all tongue-tied and probably say even more awkward things than I usually do.

It went like this:

Agnes is more than a little hard to transport, so huge sections of Dragon Con were completely off-limits for her. After careful mapping and planning, though, John and I determined we could get Agnes to exactly ONE of Karen Prell's panels, where we hoped to catch Karen's eye and perhaps get a moment or two to say hello. (Karen is the original Junk Lady *and* Blue Worm puppeteer. She's also Red Fraggle, and more recently has worked with Pixar and Valve for Portal 2!)

I'll spare you the details of the Herculean effort it requires to get a large costume like Agnes anywhere at Dragon Con - especially on Saturday - but suffice to say it required four people, significant upper body strength, and a LOT of time and patience.

We budgeted plenty of time, but even arriving early, we were told the panel line stretched outside a few blocks (where Agnes could not go), and we had no guarantee of getting into the large room.

Enter my dear friend-and-Epbot-reader Renee, who in addition to being on Agnes detail that afternoon, also knew the stage manager for this particular panel, Wendy. A few frantic calls/texts later, and we were being ushered backstage.

I was in Agnes at the time, and with the crushing crowd and noise level, I had no idea what was going on. (Not all that unusual, come to think of it.) I figured we were being led into the panel room to get us out of the way, not backstage!

But then, just moments later, I heard someone say Karen was there. I peered through my scrims all around and spotted her standing several feet in front of me, the most delightful grin on her face. "Karen!" I called out, "KAREN! I AM SO EXCITED TO MEET YOU." 

****

Maya Angelou once said, "People will forget what you said... but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I think about that a lot. I think about how much harder it is to project feelings than words - and how much more important it is to get those feelings right, and not so much a perfect script. It's something I'm always striving for, every blog post, every meetup.

So when I tell you I don't remember exactly what else was said at that moment, only that Karen made me feel happy and, weirdly, seen, I hope that tells you what an amazing woman she is.

 I told her I was grinning on the inside. And I was.

Then I asked her to sign my junk.
:D


 Since we'd sadly lost my Labyrinth book off the junk pile en route (a minor heartbreak), John had Karen sign our saw blade:

We made the blade out of plastic poster board for safety.


There were quite a few people milling about backstage at this point - almost all looking at us - plus it was dark and I was, y'know, in a giant pile of junk. So when I heard another voice ask, "Oh, what's this?" I didn't think too much of it. The voice came closer, and I felt the energy in the people around me shift. There was an expectancy, an excitement. The man was too close and too tall for me to see his face, so as John introduced Agnes again I squinted through the scrim to see his badge... and slowly made out the name, "BRIAN HENSON."


There has never been a more appropriate Kermit Flail in the history of Kermit Flails, you guys.

The panel was about to begin, so Brian didn't linger long; by the time I'd recovered (I honestly can't remember if I said *anything* to him) he was being led away. The crew invited us to stay and watch from backstage, so John helped an oh-so-shaky me out of Agnes, then gave me an encouraging shove toward Karen, who was still nearby. She gave me a hug (!!) and we took a photo together, which no one will ever see because I looked terrible, and then she, too, went onstage.

But wait, there's more!

The panel was fantastic and hilarious, and even my mega-fangirl self learned a few new things about how they filmed Labyrinth.

When it was over, I asked John if anyone had taken a photo of Brian with Agnes earlier. They hadn't. But of course we didn't want to ask now and risk bothering him. So we just kinda lingered - without trying to look like we were lingering -  as Brian and Karen made their way back through the small crowd of fans and volunteers. After a few moments Brian suddenly asked, "Hey, did we get a picture with the Junk Lady?" And then to someone nearby, "You've got to see this one!" plus some other lovely things I won't repeat because I get to remember them just for me, and that's enough.

So not only did Brian Henson lead the group back over to our Agnes, he then struck this fabulous pose:


 Showing off his crazy-colorful jeans. Ha! 
(I don't think Agnes approved. Surprise, surprise.)
(He said during the panel his 10-year-old daughter picked the jeans.)

Brian was quite keen on getting a good picture, even asking for someone with a flash to take one - though my camera actually did pretty well for it being so dark. I remember shaking his hand, and blurting out, "It's a privilege to meet you," and immediately regretting my word choice and feeling like an idiot for the rest of the day. "Privilege?" Why did I say that? Honor, sure. Pleasure, of course. But PRIVILEGE? What is even wrong with me aaaaaaaaaauuughhh

Ahem.

Despite my fangirling, I managed to mostly hold it together for one last conversation with Karen, who seemed happy to share some stories and answer my questions about Junk Lady. I left thinking we could totally be friends if she lived nearby, but managed to restrain myself from inviting her to lunch and/or be besties, because barriers, Jen. Barriers.


FUNNY POST SCRIPT:

As we were wrapping up our photos and goodbyes backstage, Brett Dalton of Agents of SHIELD was led in to prepare for his panel, up next. I recognized him, of course, but was all starry-eyed over Brian and Karen, and so barely glanced up when I heard him exclaiming over Agnes.

Anyway, I'm told that during Brett's last panel on Monday someone asked what the coolest thing he'd seen at Dragon Con was, and he replied that before his panel on Saturday he'd seen the actual screen-used Junk Lady.

To my knowledge, no one has corrected him yet.


And that, everyone, is a fitting end to the best thing that happened at Dragon Con this year.

Hope it gave you a smile.

(Oh, and stay tuned for many reports on all the second best things that happened. 'Cuz there are LOTS.)

104 comments:

  1. *joins in the Kermit flailing* Oh my goodness, Jen! This post made me teary-eyed with sheer glee! So amazing!

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  2. O M G ---- thanks so much for sharing part of your wonderful adventures with Agnes. I got goosebumps reading this. Kermit flail "fer shirely"

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  3. *all the Kermit flailing!!!!!* I'm so happy for you guys!!!! ^____^

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  4. Oh my goodness!! I'm just giddy for you both over this post. OMG!! What a well-deserved honor for you both. And a privilege. ;)

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  5. Any creative person will recognize a fan's weird babbling because they LOVE your work. A brillant creative person will take the time to acknowledge this fan. Why? Because it reminds THEM of what they have done and could do. I am so happy for you, Karen and Brian to have met.

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  6. So much awesome! And thank you for letting us readers take part in this! I'm sitting here at work grinning like a fool because of this :D

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    1. I am also grinning like a fool at work! A most apt description :D

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  7. Oh, Jen. How amazing and wonderful!! I'm so glad all the work you and John put into Agnes garnered the appreciation that it has. She totally deserves it, as do you guys!

    *joining in the collective Kermit flailing*

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  8. I just squealed and giggled my way through reading this. I can only imagine how happy you felt. I know i'd have been a babbling mess. Kermit arm flails all around.

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  9. Oh my god! Oh my god! This is the best story ever. Agnes is amazing and you and John deserve so much credit for her, and I am so pleased that you're getting it. And Karen and Brian sound like the amazing people I've always assumed they must be. I'm so happy for you!

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  10. What an incredible experience! I'm SO glad that Brian and Karen got to see Agnes. I fangirled over her on Thursday night at the Hyatt - Agnes looks even more amazing in person than she does in pictures. We did Brian's panel on Friday, and it's probably one of the best DragonCon panels I've ever attended. He was a fantastic speaker.

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  11. I was totally tearing up reading this. I am SO happy for you... and totally jealous. *kermit flail*

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  12. Oh, Jen! Oh wow - tears here, on your behalf. What utterly amazingly wonderful things to happen! You and John put so much work into Agnes, and she looks incredible, so I hope you enjoyed every fangirling, Kermit-flailing second. You deserved it!!

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  13. HOLY CRAP!!! I am joining you in the Kermit flail!!! This is just so AWESOME!!! :-D

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  14. This post has really stirred up the dust in this room. What an incredible memory and thank you for sharing!

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  15. That is the coolest Con story ever! Way to go!

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  16. Dang! My office is so dusty this morning! Made it hard to read this. THANK YOU for sharing that with us Jen.
    Maureen S

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  17. Wow wow wow! It's like all the stars and planets aligned for a few moments. Be careful and don't trip after you get off cloud 9.

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  18. So cool! So great! So awesome! SO.COOL. (sits back and sighs with a gleeful look on her face.)

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  19. Wow, it's dusty in here today! ;) I don't know if I could have stayed composed during that! Kudos for you guys to brave Saturday crowds- Toronto's big con was this past weekend as well, and I wasn't brave enough to bring out my big cosplay (a Doctor Who snowman).

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  20. What a cool story, and what generous people Bryan and Karen are! Thanks for sharing it with us.

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  21. Holy kermit flail.....I've met Karen and she is AMAZING so I knew you were going to have a blast there, but BRIAN HENSON???????????? SO SOOOOOOO excited for you guys that is so freaking awesome!!!

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  22. AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!! Kermit Flail 100 times or more! That is so totally awesome! And doesn't Brian look like his dad? I can't grin big enough!!!

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  23. Ahhhhhh! *arm flail* Oh my god! I think I would have passed out! So amazing. You guys are so incredibly insipring and your talent always blows me away! I am so glad that they recognized all of your hard work with this build. You guys deserved every ounce of attention and love!

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  24. I'm at work and BARELY HOLDING IT TOGETHER ON YOUR BEHALF. That is all so awesome and Amazing and I am so happy for you two! *proud internet mom is SO PROUD, Y'ALL*

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  25. Amazing! Amazing! That is way better than a costume contest win any day of the week!

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  26. WOW!!! I'd be giddy too! What an amazing story and an amazing day! You guys worked so hard and you deserve props for it. And props from people you truly admire are the best kind. :-)

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  27. This One "Best thing ever" is SO Very Far Beyond Awesome that I can't even Find words. Totally Stellar in every sense of the word. So Excited for you! I just.... can't even. :D

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  28. SQUEEEEE! Joining the *kermit flails.* That is so AWESOME! :)

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  29. That is an amazing story and what an experience for you and John! Also, could Brian look ANYMORE like his dad in that photo?!?

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  30. I am awed! An amazing story that happened to two of the best people on the internet. Y'all are awesome & I'm ridiculously excited you were able to meet them all!!!!!

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  31. So much wonderful! I think I would have straight fainted at recognizing Brian Henson.

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  32. FLAIL!! Brian Henson!!! He looks so much like his dad! Aww! That is just...wow. I am getting misty eyed here.

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  33. Another person wallowing in dust. Must be all the Kermit flails stirring it up. So very happy for you both, and thank you so much for sharing with us!

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  34. Your shared joy is a boost to my day. Thank you!

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  35. YAYAYAYAYYAYAYAY for all of you guys! I'm so proud of you Jen and John for being such amazing folks yourselves.

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  36. I talk to my coworker non stop about your blog, explained Labyrinth, Agnes, and all of the wonderful geekyness I get to be apart of through you! I SQUEALED, tapped my feet, and pointed at the screen while I excitedly explained that while I don't know you personally (not yet, planning on a meet soon!) someone I know got to meet the son of my hero! Jim Henson was and always will be one of the MOST brilliant minds of all times.

    We have the ENTIRE Muppet Collection on my laptop that I refuse to get rid of. Brian Henson introducing episodes gives me a glimpse into what it would be like to know Jim Henson.

    Karen Prell is fantastic, The Junk Lady and The Little Blue Worm were some of my favorite characters in Labyrinth, Red is my all time favorite Fraggle, and I can't wait to see her new work coming out.

    Jen, you have just lived a fantasy of mine, but in a way that I never could have imagined! Thank you so much for being you and making this possible! Screw the dust theory, I am proudly crying, knowing (kind of) two people who make me feel the way I hope I make people feel everyday. =)

    Cecilia Williams

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  37. I ended up once kinda surprise visiting a friend in Minneapolis, where my favorite SF writer also lives, so I got the writer's email and invited her to lunch because what's the worst that could happen? She could say no, right?

    She said yes! It was the most awesome lunch I've ever had. So you should definitely invite your favorite people to lunch. They may accept. Wouldn't that be awesome?

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  38. Amazing! Wow! What a beautiful experience you guys had! Love the photos so much! Thanks for sharing this story with us so that we can all feel the happiness and excitement with you. I'm absolutely thrilled for you both. You deserved this!

    So sorry to hear that your copy of Labyrinth has gone missing! I sure hope it will turn up at a lost and found at one of the hotels! Did you check yet? I hope it wasn't an irreplaceable copy with a personalized inscription or anything. Well, if it was, you probably have an even better chance of getting it back because DragonCon folks are pretty honest and sweet, right? I'm sure it'll turn up!

    KW

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  39. Oh wow, what an awesome story and experience for you guys! I'm so glad you got such an amazing opportunity. Thanks for sharing your special moment with us!

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  40. That is so amazing! I'm so happy for you guys! You worked so hard on Agnes and while the fab finished product is reward in itself, it's so, sooo awesome that you work got to be seen and appreciated by them in particular!

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  41. YAY! SO MUCH YAY! omg that's just...wow! mucho kermit flails for you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  42. Worth noting that Karen also said she was excited to see the costume in person because she'd seen the pictures "when they first started going around a few months ago" but had no idea you'd be at DragonCon. So she totally knew of you guys even before she met you backstage :-)

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  43. This is just the absolute best. So amazing. I'm smiling so much for you right now!!

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  44. This. All. Of. This. Makes me so happy for you. It's awesome that you got to meet both Karen and Brian + even more awesome how personable and lovely they were. They know how much work you put into Agnes and appreciate the love you have for their creation. You didn't happen to ask either of them if "Junk Lady" ever had a real name, did you? I'd be interested to know if they ever called her anything else :)

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    1. Karen actually calls her Junk *Woman*, which we found interesting - and yes, we asked! Seems Junk Lady & Junk Woman were used interchangeably during filming, no other name - though Karen did know Brian Froud named his initial sketch Agnes, which of course is where we got the name.

      Oh, oh! PLUS! We got to see that original Froud sketch in the Labyrinth exhibit, which I'll be sharing & writing about later! *squee!*

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    2. The more I hear about the Labyrinth exhibit the more I wish I could go! I really hope my local comic convention can get Brian and Wendy Froud to come one year, I'd love to get him to sign my 'Goblins of Labyrinth' book!

      Random question for you about Agnes... how do you guys transport her to the convention site? I've daydreamed about doing a big costume like her but part of what's always stopped me is wondering how to get from my house to the convention! Did you guys end up walking to the convention with her? Or does she come apart in pieces that you can load into a car?

      Anyways, I hope you took tons and tons of pictures about that Labyrinth exhibit so I can live vicariously through you (and also hopefully I can use your photos as reference for future costumes, ha ha)

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  45. It may be because I'm pregnant, but there are TEARS streaming down my face. What an amazing experience for you guys!!! You deserve it. Seriously. That story makes my heart so happy.

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  46. I was so happy to see your Junk lady at the con. It is even more magnificent in person. I caught up with you guys outside the panel you describe, since I saw your tweet during the panel :-)

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  47. Maybe I need my estroven to kick in, but this made me cry! I'm so happy for you! (And a tad jealous)

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  48. Slight welling of tears, ninjas of joy are in the area with their alliums, I don't know whether to cry tears of happy or to just sit here grinning so I'm going to do both. If my face freezes this way I'll know to blame Agnes.

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  49. *claps hands giddily*

    THIS is the story I've been waiting for since Jen tweeted that she met Brian Henson.

    So so so so SO! happy for you, Jen and John.

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  50. I am somewhat overcome and teary with joy and delight and I wasn't even there! Thank you so much for sharing such a magical experience. <3

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  51. Brian Henson! EEEEEEE!!!! I literally had chill bumps pop up all over my arms when I read that. I cannot even fathom the amount of excitement burbling in your throat.

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  52. Like everyone else here who has posted, I'm absolutely ecstatic for you and John! I'm so excited that your heroes seemed just as excited to meet you!

    And Brett Dalton? Swoon... :)

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  53. sniffle!!! I am so happy for you guys! I CRIED when I got to the biran Henson part and still have tears in my eyes!
    sighing like the big dork that I am.....

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  54. Ok, so I teared up with joy for you. I know you won't judge me :) Congratulations Jen! Well deserved, and thank you for sharing!

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  55. BRETT DALTON!!!!! You buried the lead on that one Jen.

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  56. Couldn't happen to better people! So exciting! that's just wonderful!

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  57. Holy squeeee, that whole story is awesome!

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  58. This story actually made me tear up a little, because it's so clear how much it all meant to you, and doggone it I'm an empath on steroids, so YEAH I CRIED TEARS OF JOY FOR YOU JENN. I REALLY DID AND I'M PROUD OF IT!

    Ahem.

    I think I understand what you mean by being "seen" also. As a very enthusiastic kermit-flail-about-all-the-things short and spunky person, all I ever really seem to want is someone who joins me in that enthusiasm. Who grabs onto my idea and contributes to it. It's the difference between talking TO someone and talking WITH someone. So being truly "seen" is like a person knowing and respecting and high-fiving you for your enthusiastic effort. They are kind of stepping into the bubble with the real you, because they were clever enough to find the hidden door that leads inside.

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    1. Love this descriptor. You get me, you really GET me! ;)

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  59. I love how you shared this experience and I might love it even more that every single comment in this thread is overwhelmingly supportive, positive, enthusiastic and free of envy. Great community!

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  60. I am so glad that they got to see Agnes. We met at I think the Orlando convention but it might have been Tampa. I told you I was the senior judge for the Friday Night Costume contest at DragonCon. I was hoping that you would have this opportunity and so happy to see that you did. Good on you.

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    1. Hi Kathleen! Sorry I didn't see you at DCon to chat more; I really loved talking with you. Hope we bump into you again sometime.

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  61. Geez Jen: woman, don't you have a filter?! *insertmegrinninglikeadork-doesanyoneevenusetheworddorkanymore?!?* I definitely had goosebumps all over :D

    Thanks for writing your heart out <3

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  62. Jen, Brian Henson won't remember what you said; he'll remember how you made him feel! :) So happy for you!

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  63. I'm so happy and excited for you that my allergies are acting up.

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  64. This. Is. AWESOME!!! We somehow managed to miss seeing you and John while there, and were so bummed about it. But this is I think the best thing I have read about Dragon Con this year.

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  65. There just aren't enough flails to Kermit over how awesomatious this post is!!!!! (FWIW, I would totally feel privileged to meet you and John!) :)
    -Zippy

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  66. That is just the best thing EVER! How wonderful to actually meet Brian Henson!

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  67. I saw the Junk Lady as you walked her through the Hyatt lobby. Completely blown away by the effort and attention to detail. Absolutely the best thing I saw at DragonCon this year. So glad that you got a chance to meet Karen and Brian, and had such a wonderful experience backstage with them.

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  68. And that's how I felt when I came up and talked with you. Totally stupid and awkward with terrible timing because you were directing Agnes through the lobby. Soooo Sorry!

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  69. This made me grin so much - so sweet that you got to meet some of the people who helped shape your childhood (mine too!). I'm not even jealous ;)
    One of these years I'll make dragon con!

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  70. I couldn't stop grinning! ::Kermit flail::

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  71. Your Agnes was SUPER FANTABULOUS! And I'm fan girling over here with you! That was so totally awesome!

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  72. What a lovely, lovely reason to Kermit-flail! Congrats, Jen, John and Agnes!

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  73. This post just put the biggest grin on my face. It matches the grin I had 20 minutes ago reading a FB post about a friend's daughter's first-ever experience at Dragon Con. So much DCon happiness in one day! :-)

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  74. I am so, so, so happy for you! Oh, and Maya Angelou's quote is on the door to my classroom, in vinyl, glued with several things so it stays there for a very long time...Congratulations!

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  75. This. This right here is worth every kermit flail, ever. I'm giddy from the awesomeness that you got to meet Karen and Brian. I got home from a long day at work, and this brightened up every iota of my soul.

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  76. Oof, this made me tear up a little. What a great thing!

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  77. You so made me smile with your keeping your Mr. Muppet Magic words of affirmation to yourself. Brought to mind the phrase, "Treasuring up these things in her heart." I am so happy for you 7 John.

    Also, I'm trusting that this totally makes up for the lack of love Agnes got from the judges, since I think I heard she didn't get any nods? Ah, who cares. The two people who gave their hearty approval are those whose spirits Agnes is embodying. It's all so beautiful. Thank you for sharing this story.

    Also, I want Brian Henson's pants.

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  78. Just to second Kathleen's post above - my partner and I actually have taken Karen Prell to lunch at a previous convention years ago and I still carry her business card in my wallet, so yes it never hurts to ask; maybe your hero is actually hungry for some lunch. (We had a great time.) I'm so pleased you got a chance to meet her and show her your excellent work!

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  79. I'm bedded for two days with high fever and a non stopping head ache. Thanks for filling my day with glee and a lot of internal kernel flailing

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  80. What an awesome experience for you and John, thank you for sharing! It is amazing how uplifted our spirits feel when someone recognizes and embraces the true uniqueness that is a part of each of us. Massive Kermit flails for you and I hope you never forget just how special you are.

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  81. It makes me so glad to hear that you are keeping those words of affirmation to yourself to treasure. You have shared so much with the world, for which I will be forever grateful, but I have learned how important it is to keep some things close to your heart and protected from the world. These past few years have been very difficult for me, but through your wonderful writing I have felt connected and had amazing experiences, even when my health was at its worst. You don't know me, but I will always consider you a friend.

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  82. I am actually embarrassed to tell you that I burst into tears when I read his nametag along with you......So. Freakin'. Amazing.

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  83. Not only did I smile, I think I might have teared up a little. This is so, so beautiful. Keep all of those words (the ones you can remember), and ESPECIALLY those feelings. That's just...amazing.

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  84. Tears (of joy, clearly) are running down my face reading this. So happy for you and such an amazing experience. Thanks for putting it out there to share.

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  85. FYI, Labyrinth will be in (select, Regal) theaters on September 11 and 14. I figured you must already know about it, but just in case: https://www.facebook.com/RegalEntertainmentGroup/photos/a.161225899198.149136.109497419198/10155300346899199/?type=3&theater

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  86. Couldn't have happened to nicer people ❤

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  87. oh my gosh we met you and I didn't even know it was you I'm so amazed I'm going to cry I'm so glad you had such a nice time and you looked so perfect and did such a wonderful job ;A;

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  88. Oh my gosh, Jen! I am so happy for you right now I'm crying happy tears on your behalf. I'm so glad you were able to make such an amazing memory and meet your heroes in such a cool way.

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  89. This post is so excellent I have no evens to can't.

    FIRST omg. I am so pleased for you and think you need to remember this moment next time a craft (or life! same thing right?) gets shitty and hard.

    SECOND Don#t even dare stress over what you said to Brian like, I don't actually understand what you're worried over as that seems like a perfectly normal thing to say to someone who you really respect? I'm a young scientific researcher and you would not BELIEVE some of the utterly stupid shite I have said when meeting people who's work I really respect and admire. Believe me I think you performed top 1% social interaction there.

    THIRDLY can we talk about opening an paragraph with 'I was in Agnes at the time' . Can we? No? Ok.

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  90. Ah-ma-zing!! I have so many warm fuzzies for you right now, I can't even tell you!

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  91. That is so cool. One day I may make it down for DragonCon but for now I'll just live it vicariously through you and several of my friends who make it.

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  92. I think this makes me happier than if I'd met them myself. What a wonderful memory, and my does he look like his father <3

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  93. This is belated but... *joins the Kermit flailing* This whole story is wonderful.

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