Focus on the Good and Push Forward

The past month has seen me run such a roller-coaster gamut of emotions that I’m honestly surprised I survived it.

Being a woman in the Magic: The Gathering scene has often felt like tip-toeing towards fair treatment through a mine field.  Any progress felt glacial because one misstep had the potential to blow up in your face, stopping you in your tracks and leaving you to lick your wounds.  You could speak up, but not too loudly; you could move forward, but moving too quickly would get you noticed; you could attempt to disarm the dangers, all the while knowing that your odds of being successful were slim to none.

Fun fact: the mines have now made me too angry to care about how loud their explosions are.  I’m walking through this mine field and nothing is going to stop me.  However, anger can only keep you going for so long, and staying angry is exhausting, so I’ve decided that instead of flaring with rage it’s time to turn away from what makes me angry and focus on the positive things I’ve experienced recently.

It all started with Grand Prix Atlanta.

I went into the weekend so excited.  I was staying with dear friends and I was going to meet both my Collected Company mentee in person for the first time as well as other female judges that I had befriended via online interactions but hadn’t met in person yet.  I was on sides all weekend, a place I feel supremely comfortable because my good cheer shines there so well.

I left Atlanta feeling something I had never felt before.

It took me a few days to process the event, and while happily anticipating SCG Baltimore, I realized why I had left Atlanta with such good cheer.

Everywhere I looked on the floor at GP Atlanta, there was a woman in either a black judge shirt or a blue Star City Games shirt. There were several women in the judge area; women were judging both sides and the main event; there women leading teams on each part of the event.  It helped me subconsciously relax, because I knew that if any number of things happened that women deal with regularly at events I would have my concerns heard and the support I needed to recover.  When you’re only one or two or three women on an event, judging can be a very isolating experience.

I also got to see a female judge pass her panel and join the ranks as a level 3.  Being there for the announcement of Meg Baum making level three is now one of my most cherished memories.  Not only is she a friend of mine, someone who has helped push me and strengthen me, but it means that I can do it too, if I work as hard as she does.  It’s not a throw away dream anymore.

I had amazing after shift dinners as well.  I’m not always someone who wants to go to big judge gathering as I introvert hard, but these were just big enough to be fun and small enough that I never felt overwhelmed.  Judge dinners with other female judges also meant a safe space to air our frustrations in a zone of no judgement.  When you don’t face the same barriers, frustrations can be seen in the lens of complaints and whining, so we tend to be careful around whom we talk about them.

I left Georgia energized and looking forward to the next event: the SCG Baltimore Team Open.

Several months back, it had been hinted to me to keep this particular weekend open and when the head judges of both the Open and the Classics were announced, I knew why.

All four of them were women.

As far as my own knowledge of judging history is concerned, this was a big first.  As soon as it was announced I applied, and kept all manner of appendages crossed that I would be accepted to judge, even vowing to at least play in the event if I was declined.  I whooped with joy when I was accepted and it was that pure joy that kept me energized and excited in the weeks that led up to the event.  Atlanta just infused me with even more hype.

However, there was a level of frustration as well.  While several of my fellow judges were excited, others didn’t quite seem to grasp how groundbreaking this was.  Even when I would explain why, a lot of times I was replied with the online equivalent of a shrug.   I know the judges whom I talked to didn’t mean for it to come across in this way but it felt like because it didn’t really affect them, they were brushing it off as unimportant.  Even now, some of you reading this may not understand the significance, which isn’t necessarily your fault, so let me quantify it for you so that you can better understand the excitement and happiness.

I’ve been doing this judging thing for about a year and a half or so, give or take a few months.  I’ve been blessed that a significant chunk of my judging adventure has involved large event judging.  GP Atlanta was the GP where I hit double digits.  I’ve judged slightly less SCG Opens but I’d still call myself a pretty active judge on that circuit as well.  I have only had two women as my head judges, ever.  Martha Lufkin on a Classic in DC, and Maria Zuyeva as my Open head judge in Charlotte.

I have never had a woman head judge for a Grand Prix.

Martha (mentioned above) has been judging a significant of time longer than I have been (she was around for the infamous striped shirts).  I look to her as a personal hero, because she was part of the Program when it was often just her as the only woman on a large event.  She has also only ever had two women as head judges of large events, only one of which was a Grand Prix.

While neither of us should be held up as the standard, it’s still pretty glaring that we share similar experiences when it comes to female judges in very visible leadership positions.  I like to think that our equal numbers in a largely different amount of time is a positive sign, even if it is a slow one.

That’s why SCG Baltimore was so important to me; important for the program as a whole.  Going into the weekend, I knew it was gonna be great.

It was everything I could’ve hoped for and then some.

Watching Nicolette Apraez give her opening announcements for the Open on day one was empowering.  Watching her and the other judges on staff function like a well oiled machine filled me with happiness; there was going to be no complaints that this Open would be run with any less skill level than any other one.  It was just like every other Open I worked (with the difference in that I was Team Leading for only the second time), except that it was a woman with the microphone making the announcements.  It was a woman the players were having their appeals taken to.

There was a particularly poignant moment when I was discussing the event with the Northeast’s new RC, Joe Hughto (who had drive down to support Megan Linscott who was head judging her first Classic).

I had decided that I wanted a picture of all the non-male identifying judges on staff the following day, as more of us would be judging then.  As I started doing the calculations out loud, I stopped because I got choked up for just a moment when I realized we had hit ten.  I had never worked an open with so many and it struck such a happy chord in my heart.  I remember telling Joe something like, “That is so cool.  This is why this event is so important.”

Rolling into Sunday, I felt energized.  This was the big one, the day I had been hyped about since getting accepted to the event.  I wasn’t planning on working any harder than I would’ve normally (as it’s my personal goal to push myself as hard as I can in every event I work, no matter how small or large) but I wanted to be more present, almost more ready to enjoy every part of the day for what it was and what it meant.

It didn’t disappoint.

And it was the little things that made it powerful.

At one point while Brogan King was launching the Legacy Classic, all four of the women head judges were either finishing their opening announcements, starting day two of their event, or launching the next round (both the Modern Classic, head judged by Meg Baum, and the Standard Classic, Megan Linscott’s, had started before the Legacy Classic and Open day two).  All of those things are normal on day two of SCG Opens and that’s why it mattered.  It was handled so nonchalantly.  They belonged on the stage at the helm of their events just the same as every male judge that had stood there.  This wasn’t a case of special treatment, this was a showcase of the skill and competency of strong female judges, letting both players and judges know that this should be normalized.  They weren’t put here because they were women, they were put here because they were good and also happen to be women.

Secondly, it gave other women something to push forward for.  In the time I’ve been judging, I’ve had fantastic female team leads.  I knew that was something I could achieve and team leading at a Grand Prix I have on my radar.  But while I talked a big game about wanting to be a Classic head judge, or beyond, one day, there was always this nagging doubt about being able to attain it because there were so few who weren’t like me.  It can be very hard to visualize yourself pushing forward when the norm is different than you are.

Finally, it’s illuminating to the players as well.  Normalizing the fact that women judge and play Magic is just as important for the health of the game and the safety level in our community as battling against harassment.

I got to experience this importance first hand on Sunday.  I was sitting in the judge area on a half round break when I was approached by a player who came to thank me for issuing a slow play warning in his match the previous day.  I had issued it during turns when a storm player had been taking far too long to choose a target for one of his tutor spells.  It got appealed, as they tend to do, and Nicolette after listening to my recounting of things and the player’s account, upheld my slow play warning.

After thanking me he said the following, “I just wanted to say it was really cool to watch a female judge give a slow play warning, and when it got appealed, to see it taken to a female head judge who upheld it.  I know that even a few years ago something like that wouldn’t have happened.”

That, as much as everything else, illustrates how important this weekend was, and not just for me or for the other judges involved.  This is how we make the program better; this is how we make our communities more welcoming; this is how we push forward and take the people who want to make things better with us.

If we focus on the positives and push forward together, not even landmines can get in our way.


Just a Judge

A bit more than a year ago, I wrote a post about my experience as a female Magic player.  It somehow made its way onto Reddit, and from there, on to Wizard’s front Magic page.  I look back on that fondly; the reaction was more positive than negative, and it gave a lot of female players a chance to say, “Me too.  I’ve felt this.  I’ve had something similar happen to me.”  It gave them a chance to feel like they weren’t alone.

Most people don’t know what sparked that article, what put my fingers to my keyboard and in a manner of an hour or so post it in a pretty raw form for all to see.

I was angry.  Actually, angry doesn’t begin to come close to what I felt.  I was incensed, furious, raging over one of the largest miscarriages of justice I had seen: the conviction and ‘sentencing’ of Brock Turner.  My fury took the form of words and I opened myself up and spilled out everything that had hurt me while playing, everything that had made me feel alone, everything that made playing the game that had grown to be such a part of my life difficult.

I don’t know why I did it.  Maybe at some deep level I hoped that by addressing the incidents I had experienced first hand, we could keep things from being as bad in the Magic community.  A lofty goal to be sure, but if speaking out meant that even one more female player had the courage to call out the bad things that were happening to her or one more male player realized what he was doing was wrong, it was worth it.

That post was very player-centric, as I had only recently become a judge so I wrote about what I knew.

This time I’m once again writing about my experiences, only this time as a woman judge in the Program.

I’m once again writing because I’m angry; because something small happened today that was the proverbial last straw; because the past two large events have been the most emotionally draining and hardest of my judging career.

I’m writing because while the Program is vocal about change, I continue to see the same things happening.

I’m writing because I’m so tired of bringing up the same concerns again and again and again to concerned faces who lament with me about what happens but mostly don’t push hard enough to change things.

Two weeks ago I judged Nationals in Richmond.  (There were three female judges on staff. Total.  Only two staffed for Friday.)  I started off my Friday with an email explaining that I had received my first decline for staffing for a GP.  Logically I knew it was bound to happen, but as we head into the world of a single Tournament Organizer for Grand Prixs, it put me in an anxious place so I separated myself from the group so to speak and worked on helping get the event set-up before the doors opened.

Turns out I misread my schedule and wasn’t supposed to be in until later.  Oops.  My (then) team lead was nice enough to adjust my schedule to make up for having worked longer than needed, and after a nice lunch with a fellow judge, I checked in with my new team lead, and talking things over with him, I went over to begin to handle moving top four results of Last Chance Trials to one spot.

Soon after my most recent ex-boyfriend showed up and my emotional well-being went to shit.  I was going to detail the exact events that happened, but frankly, revisiting them will probably do me more harm than good.

I was upset because he was there; not because he was in the same space, but because I had asked him to stop messaging me, a request he subsequently ignored.  I was upset because it was very obvious he was approaching me because I was relatively alone and he walked to talk. I was upset because he pulled the same stunt a few months ago at another large event in Richmond, made me feel cornered and trapped and I had already told him after it happened that it wasn’t okay.

Long story made short, he played in a Last Chance Trial not to gain byes, but to stay near me because I was handling top four placements.  I know this because he scooped to his opponent in top four and then hung around.  I know this because he tried to talk to me, twice.  I know this because it took another judge on Saturday asking him to leave me alone or be escorted out of the venue for him to stop.

It shouldn’t take a male judge asking a male player to stop doing something in order for that player to not do it.  Fun fact, female judges have autonomy outside of their male counterparts and deserve the same level of respect, but we don’t get it.  I was harassed at my job because a man decided that my wishes weren’t important enough to be respected, especially since they didn’t match his own.

I almost didn’t leave the venue for lunch Saturday because I was worried about a confrontation, most likely a verbal one but every woman knows there’s always the what if factor.  We live in a world where men kill women who ignore their catcalls.

I spent way too much time in the bathroom controlling tears, even breaking down once in the judge area, though I made sure I was facing away from everyone else because you don’t want to be the girl crying or you get labeled the ’emotional’ one.  You don’t want to be the one that attracts drama and issues, especially as we move into a world of a single Grand Prix tournament organizer.  Women are stereotyped by society as being lightning rods for drama, so anytime something dramatic happens the fear that someone (usually a man) will use it as an excuse to exclaim, “Ah ha! I was right! This is why women don’t belong/can’t be trusted/are unsuited to the task at hand!” is so strong.  When women ‘stick out’ negatively, consequences of those negative interactions are unfairly put on all women; this doesn’t happen for men.

Friday and Saturday should’ve been amazing judge days; instead I spent them stressed and harassed. Sunday he didn’t show up and I had a great day.  Until the ‘Diversity’ talk.

Do you know how exhausting it is to always be the ‘expert’ on women’s experiences in judging?  To be asked time and time again to rip open old wounds so you can tell male judges what happened to you so that maybe you have one more man will believe you because it came from you directly?  To sometimes feel that you never get to be the expert on anything rules or policy related, only on what makes you and other women upset?

Look, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be having these talks, because we should, but instead of it being a round-table discussion of issues it became two women laying out their grievances to a table of mostly silent men.  Some of them looked like they were slightly interested, others just looked bored.  A very small number did try to engage us, though for a few it felt forced.  I eventually had to step away because I was tired of exposing my past hurts to the table to just feel like what I was saying was valid.

It perhaps wasn’t the best idea to have this talk at the end of a three-day judging weekend for a lot of us but I didn’t leave the table with much hope that what I said had any real effect after the blank faces and general feel that people felt obligated to come instead joining us of their own volition.  Also, without a way to disperse the discussions that are had at each event, we’re looking at multiple instances of women having to publicly produce the things that hurt us again and again, and that will drive us out just as much as the overt and subtle sexism will.  I don’t want to seem overtly critical; I think with more organization and advertising, these talks are and can be important but I left this particular one more bruised than hopeful.

At the end of the day, I just want to be a judge.  But I can’t be.  I get to be (these are a conglomeration of things that have happened to myself and others):  miss, or sweetheart, or being interrupted more, or appealed more, or talked over, or bossy, or ‘You lost to girl?!’ I’m “can I get your number” or catcalled as I walk to post pairings.  I get to be ignored while my male colleagues converse with one another, only being talked to when it becomes necessary.  I get ‘helped’ with more tasks when there are greener judges.  I get told to smile more because my neutral face is not pleasant enough.  I get beat down for being excited about a fellow woman being my head judge for a large event for only the second time ever.  I get to have never had a female Grand Prix head judge.  I get dismissive team leads who assume I’m going to do a worse job than a L1 on their first event.

I get to look out onto a sea of faces and see very few that are women like me.

I get to have a player ask me if blowjobs are something that can be exchanged for a match result.

I’ve been doing more events lately and I’m starting to, very incrementally, get more and more tired.  It’s not the tired from traveling or being on my feet for hours at a time or dealing with complicated boardstates and rules interactions.  I’m getting tired of working twice as hard to have my voice heard and not even heard as much as my male counterparts.

It is exhausting, infuriating, frustrating, and sometimes I feel, not worth it.  I’m not giving up, because pushing against it means it will be easier for the women judges who will follow me, but just once I want it to not be.  And frankly, we can’t do it on our own.  We need men to listen, and more than that, we need men to engage.  Call out each other on your problematic behavior; don’t make assumptions about our ability without, I dunno, talking to us first; when someone interrupts us, interrupt them back.  I’m getting tired just writing these sentences because I have lost count of the times I’ve said, or read these sentiments.

Women just want to be able to go to an event and judge; set goals and push to achieve them; interact with players as positively as they can.

I just want to be a judge, friends, but I need your help to get there.




It’s pretty much a given at this point that this blog has become a place for me to air my personal experiences as a way for myself, and sometimes others, to grow and learn.  I’m not the best at keeping up with it regularly and tend to only put fingers to keyboard when the universe moves me but through word of mouth as well as recognitions, I do believe my words can, will, and do help people.  That’s why I put myself out there, so to speak, to let people know they’re not alone, that they aren’t the only people going through these experiences.

I know it seems like I’m rambling, but stick with me.  I’m doubling down even harder on being open and vulnerable.  We’re gonna get real personal, real fast, but I promise there is a larger point to be made than simply discussing my personal life.

Outside of judging, it’s been a very rough year for me.  Towards the end of last year, financial stumbling blocks and an unforeseen living situation began the snowball effect of thrashing my mental health.  At 29 years old, I had never expected to go back to living with my parents.  Once I left for college at 18, I hadn’t really ever come back to reside there for long periods of time.  But the transmission died in my old car, I was forced to buy a new one, and not two days after moving to a new place and my car dying, my living situation became untenable and I had to attempt to find somewhere to live, so back ‘home’ it was.

I… don’t have the healthiest relationship with my mother.  There’s love there, but when we share the same living space it doesn’t really show up.  Most of the tension comes from the mental image she has of what she wants her daughter to be, and at the time a 29-year-old living at home who hated her job and resented being treated as if she was still a teenager didn’t really fit the mold.  We bickered, we fought, there was yelling and tears occasionally, but at the end we would mend things as well as we could and move on.

My step-father was another thing entirely.  To be frank, he resents me and having come from a generation where he walked onto a job site with only a high school diploma and landed a job that let him advance, he simply didn’t understand why I had come home.  Whereas my mother and I bickered, my step-father and I clashed.  He is very much used to always getting his way and is steeped in traditional familial roles.  Essentially, women should be seen and not heard.  That’s not a game I play and it got to the point where I would avoid him for the sake of my mom; there was more than one occasion she got between us for fear of where his anger would lead.

Things came to a head early one morning when he woke me from a dead sleep, bellowing about the latest thing I had done that he couldn’t stand.  While he was several rooms away from me, I could hear every word and this time his anger and reaction were so intense, I was scared for my life.  I scrambled out of bed, barricaded my dresser against the door and hoped against hope he wouldn’t go for the gun that was in his closet.  It was the most terrifying three hours of my life, because even after my mother calmed him down enough for him to go to work, I didn’t move for fearing of him coming back.

That ended up being the final straw for me.  Mom didn’t want me to leave but once I laid it out for her in terms she understood, she agreed that maybe I should leave.

“Mom, if I was dating a man who acted the way dad did this morning, you would tell me to leave him.”

“…you’re right.”

It was March at this point and while I had some money saved up, I didn’t make enough to live on my own in my area so I put a call out on social media to see if anyone had a place to lend.  I got one answer that would mean a much longer commute to work however once I got a look at the room (and the two lovable dogs I’d get to share my space with) I had to say yes.  I think that ended up being the first step on towards my sanctuary.

My little piece of paradise.

While I was now in a much safer place, I still felt adrift.  You wouldn’t know it from interactions with me while judging, but the anxiety monsters were strong and my perception of myself was probably at the lowest point of my life.  It was very much starting to feel like everything I did was going to end up as a failure.

Enter GP Pittsburgh and Meg Baum and Megan Linscott.

Now this event happened shortly before I left home but some of the interactions I had at this GP, with Meg in particular, stuck with me.  It was starting to become a running gag about which Meg you were referring to as we started to get staffed more and more on the same events.

“Which one, the one with dark hair?”

“The one who smiles a lot?”

“The one with the glasses!”

“You mean Megan Linscott?”

We had a bonding session over some of these interactions and it sparked a friendship.  Towards the end of the day on Sunday, Meg got an ‘Ah ha!’ look on her face and told me to wait there while she ran off somewhere.  A few minutes later she walks over with another female judge.

“Meg, this is Megan!  I think we should take a selfie together!”

I may look tired, but I had such a great event and I was happy.

Thus a tradition was born.

As the months progressed, my new living conditions helped me start my inner healing process.

But I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere without the support of Meg and Megan.  It may seem like such a small thing, but bonding over names (which is partially due to the small percentage of women judges in the program) led to kindred spirits.

And it didn’t stop with events!  It became a running joke that bled into social media, to the point where Jeff Higgins commented about us not having our own chat.  Not five minutes later I found myself in a chat with five other female judges: Meg Baum, Megan Linscott, Megan Hanson, Megan Holden, and Brogan King (who was dubbed an honorary Meg).  While I didn’t know the other Megans that well, I felt an instant sense of welcome.

Not to mention hilarity when I changed the chat name.

But can you be sure it was me that changed it?

It could’ve just ended up being a short lived gag; it has instead become a bastion of support and a sounding board for concerns, both judge related and otherwise.  Just knowing it is there in case I need to rant or if I want to share a rough judging experience or to send cute pictures of fluffy animals has led to a huge improvement on my mental and emotional well-being. I think it was the last step I needed to really start healing from the trauma of fleeing home and the self-loathing I felt as having failed in my personal and professional life.

Fast forward a few months to now and I am happier than I have been in a very long time, possibly ever.  A large part of this was taking the leap of leaving teaching but I believe it is more so the connections I have made in the Judge Program that have helped me recover.  I now chat with at least one of the ladies in the chat every day, when before I would be anxious to send any message for fear of being an annoyance.  This casual acceptance that people are okay talking with me has spread to communications with other judges and friends as well and it has helped to beat back the anxiety monsters who lie to me and tell me that I have no friends and no one likes me.  Don’t get me wrong, I still have my bad days but they are less severe than before.

I certainly wasn’t the only one making use of the chat either.  We all rejoiced in that ability to communicate and feel validated or to help coordinate projects and idea.

I know this feels very much like I was just talking about my experiences to garner sympathy, but that is far from the point.  I listed my experiences in order to better illustrate a point: find your sanctuary in the program, in your living space, in life.  Having a space you can flee to, whether actually fleeing or going off on a tirade to welcoming ears, is integral to your success and happiness.

In the Program, outside of the mentor/mentee process, I went on my own for a long time.  I was raised in a way that viewed asking for help as weakness.  I think it hurt me in the long term and I now firmly believe that if I had had a place like the Meg chat when I started out, I would been in a better place in judging and in life.

The term safe spaces seems to get thrown around with derision most often in our current climate, but it’s a term for a reason.  Form one that can go with you, and even when you’re standing on your own feet, you can know you have the support of those who care and who want your success as much as you do.  It’s invigorating, empowering, intoxicating, and it helps you believe that can do anything.

Speaking of accepting places, I had another motive to sharing my story.  I’ve recently become involved with a project I’m really passionate about.  The Collected Company Mentorship Project came about from the desire to empower and connect female judges to help them achieve their potential in the program.  Check it out!

Growing Pains


Edit: someone pointed me in the direction of a  another great article on failure written by Riki Hayashi that was posted on Paul Barany’s


Folks, I did it.

I did it, I did it, I did it.

I, finally, passed my L2 test and now have the honor and privilege of calling myself a Level 2 judge.

A lot of the experiences I have posted about in this past year have been the stumbles and downright failures I have made along this wide and varied journey.  Some people may think that by focusing on the challenges means looking at my journey through a negative lens but I would have to vehemently disagree.  In those missteps, in those frustrations, in those moments of embarrassment and frustration and anger, I discovered my drive and passion for this program and for my personal journey through it.

That’s not to say that I should completely ignore the good experiences, for there I often found reprieves and joys that helped me recharge so that I could keep moving.  But if you ignore the challenges you also ignore the growth that’s been made and to do that would be not only a disservice to myself and my unwillingness to be beaten but also to the friends and mentors that have helped me along the way.

I, personally, think that in the Judge Program (and honestly in a lot of aspects of life) we don’t talk about failure enough.  Today, the Feedback Loop posted an excellent article written by Erik Aliff about his failed Level 3 Panel.  Scott Marshall faced a combat call that ended with a mistaken ruling on coverage for GP Denver (December 2016) and posted his apology to the player in question once the event was over.

Besides these two awesome examples of publicly shared stumbles, you’ll be hard pressed to find more examples of judges sharing items in this way.  (At least, I was.)  It also seems that I’m not the only one to notice the deficiency.

I was recently the recipient of an Exemplar Recognition for my post on the IQ where tough player interactions caused me to have a bad day.  I won’t quote the entirety of his words, but Arthur Halavais penned some strong thoughts that I believe will stick with me for a long time to come:

“Often, judges feel that they need to appear invulnerable while they judge, and are unwilling to ask for help, either with the event or with themselves. You bucked this trend by being willing to talk about your frustrations and ask for support from the community. Next, you took the opportunity to write a blog post about the day. While you had the option to minimize the poor encounters and talk about positive parts of the event, you fearlessly tackled a topic that was still hard to write about, and in doing so you focused on the opportunity to use your negative experience as a chance to teach other judges and to help them grow.”

First of all, holy cow can this guy write!  Secondly, this struck a chord with me and reaffirmed my motivation for keeping this blog.

Look, I get why admitting mistakes can be so hard.  There is such a large stigma attached to failure.  In the Judge Program, it can often feel like one mistake will mean the difference between being staffed for an event or never working again, and in the future world of one Tournament Organizer Grand Prixs, or viral and heinous Reddit threads, for example, it seems understandable but feeling as if perfection is the only way forward is damaging not only to yourself but the Program as a whole.  No one can be, or should expect to be, perfect.  That’s not to say that you shouldn’t strive for excellence and push to be the best you can be, but to expect perfection of yourself, and by association your colleagues, is not feasible.

I’m also not saying that your only focus should only be on the negatives.  That also doesn’t do anyone any good.  Instead look for and strike a balance between the good and the bad.

My background in education has been nothing but a boon to me in the judge program, and one of the first things they teach you when you learn the fundamentals of education is that students will learn the most when first faced with failure.  When we choose to ignore the mistakes we make we are removing ourselves from potential learning experiences.

I almost stopped after I failed my L2 test for the second time because I was simply not used to the hardship that can come with wanting something that hinges on academic knowledge and missing the mark not once, but twice.  If I kept going, I was going to have to acknowledge the fact I wasn’t quite good enough a second time and frankly, self reflection is one of the hardest things a person can face.

Passing the Level 2 test was hard.  Facing my faults and not quitting was harder.

As a final note, I beseech those of you reading this that if you take away only one thing from this post, it be this:  embrace failures the same why you embrace successes and there is nothing you can’t do in the Judge Program or in life.

Thank You, Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot

Wonder Woman

This, for the most part, is a Magic and Judging blog.  That is why I started, those items are the ones I talk about the most, and this is the place that I process the things that happen at judging events.

But something magical happened in an entirely different way last night and I need to talk about it.

I finally got the female led super hero movie I have needed my entire life.

For whatever reason, as I’ve traveled through my 3o years on this planet, I’ve always been drawn to what a large portion of the population refer to as ‘male’ hobbies.  I’m an avid video gamer when the time allows, always enjoyed science fiction movies, was huge into Batman once I discovered the animated series when I was ten (still, easily, the best animated serial about any super hero ever), and obviously fell into playing this game who’s player base is largely male, white, and straight.

This demographic majority often means that a lot of the things I enjoy are seen through the eyes of someone of that race and gender which translates to a lot of women or women characters used as objects, or prizes, or tropes, or props to build up a man’s confidence.  We only see them or their story used in a way that betters the lead male character.  Or, in the case of video games and some cards games (though not current Magic art ❤ ) we get objectified women characters that are only their for the enticement of the male gaze.  I lost count of how many times I heard from a male player in the MMO World of Warcraft who was only playing a female character because, ‘If I’m going to stare at someone’s ass for hours on end I’d rather it be a chick’s.” *  I’ve recently finished Horizon Zero Dawn and I was so happy about playing a non-sexualized female video game lead that I often had the sniffles during the play through.

In the most recent decade of my life superheroes have gone from being part of a subculture to blasting into pop culture fame.  We’ve had absolutely fantastic superhero movies that have kept you on the edge of your seat while also pulling at your heart strings.  The Winter Soldier is a personal favorite because of how much in touch with his feelings Steve Rogers gets.  Shockingly (can you sense my sarcasm?), these movies were very male centric, with both (hey at least there were two!) female characters playing supportive roles as well as love interests.  And don’t get me started with Black Widow’s treatment in Age of Ultron.

Fun fact, being unable to bear children sure as shit doesn’t make you some kind of monster.  We’re not simply baby factories.

Despite the problematic treatment of female super heroes in major movies, I was still hopeful that we would get a female superhero movie where things wouldn’t be as bad.  I waited for Marvel to give me a Black Widow movie after the success the Avengers as they were clearly in the lead for successful big screen super hero adaptations. (Instead they produced toys that excluded Black Widow from their toy line, citing that girl’s don’t care about super heroes or some other pedantic bullshit.)

Then there were rumblings that the Batman Versus Superman movie was going to have a cameo that would make me happy.  I still remember the goosebumps I felt when she I watched the first trailer with Wonder Woman in it. After being subjected to that movie, myself and most of the people I knew, decided that Wonder Woman was the best part of the movie and by not a small margin.

Then we got the news: a Wonder Woman solo movie had been green lit.  I was filled with both joy and despair.  Finally, someone had decided to listen to the female (and non-binary and in a smaller percentage, the male) fans who had been clamoring for a female centered movie for ages.


Historically female characters have not been handled well.  I’ve already mentioned my dislike of Whedon’s handling of Black Widow.  Most superhero movies where female heroes even make an appearance, they’re put there to fulfill the ‘badass strong female character’ check mark, and nothing more.  They’re rarely offered as much depth as their male counterparts and a lot of times it feels like they just get added so the studio can claim diversity without actually practicing what the preach.  (I cannot wait for the Black Panther movie for all the same reasons; superhero fans are not just white so neither should their superhero movies be all white either.)  There was a large chance my hero was going to be sexualized and transformed into something for men to oogle more than the strong superhero I had read so much about.

Enter Patty Jenkins.  My hype increased ten-fold.  Not only was I getting a female led super hero movie but a woman was also directing it?  Sign me the fuck up.  Now I knew, regardless of the initial reviews, I was going to see it opening weekend, if only to support their decision to place a woman at the helm of a superhero movie.  Overall, Hollywood is still an old boy’s club in a lot of aspects so any chance to support at not (old) white guy I’ll take.  (A great example of this recently was ‘Get Out’ which was directed by Jordan Peele, one of the few horror movies I’ve actively enjoyed and overall a great movie.)

Fast forward to release weekend and the reviews start to trickle in.  The whisper permeating social media that it’s good starts to build into a dull roar and then it’s revealed that Wonder Woman has achieved the coveted above 90 rating on Rotten Tomatoes. (At the time of writing this, the rating was still at 93%.)  My excitement was growing and my friends were returning from the theater with exultations of joy.

That’s how I felt once the credits started rolling: joyful, ecstatic, and emotional.  I had cried during the movie and I cried once it was over.  You may be wondering I was so emotional and I myself couldn’t really put my finger on it until this morning.

Wonder Woman was not a superhero movie designed for a man; Wonder Woman was a superhero movie designed for us all.

It portrayed her as, if nothing else, human.  She was herself.  She was not there as some love interest for a man (though there was love in the movie, that was not her sole purpose for existing).  She was not there as someone’s mother, or sister, or cousin.  She did not have to be tied to a man in order to be found worthy.  She was strong and powerful but was not simply given martial prowess to fulfill some rule that all superhero movies have a ‘strong, female character’ but because it was her cultural heritage.  There was no gratuitous but shot; no super low-cut or cut out costume to show cleavage that defies physics.

The Amazons themselves were all different body types and no less strong.  They were scarred, and aged, and not just white (though the movie as a whole could’ve had a more diverse cast as much Hollywood blockbusters can).  They made no excuse for their strength, but reveled in it in a way that was refreshing.  They were not strong because that might interest a man but strong because they wanted to be strong.

That’s why Wonder Woman was so important: she was not made for men alone.  She was not there to be a sexual object for a man but more as an inspiration for woman.

I shared a picture recently on Facebook of a small girl in a Wonder Woman tiara and shirt with a pink tutu who is staring up at Wonder Woman on a cardboard advertisement for the Justice League.  She is why this movie matters so much; so that the girls and young women who see this movie see a heroine who’s not just in the movie as the final prize for the male superhero, but is instead there because she can save the world her own damn self; that she is not just an accessory to boost the male hero’s ego.

It wasn’t perfect; I had some issues with how the female villain was handled (THOUGH THANK THE GODS SHE WAS NOT THE VILLAIN BECAUSE WONDER WOMAN STOLE HER MAN OR SOMETHING. FILMMAKERS, THAT TROPE SHOULD BE DEAD AND BURIED) and I wasn’t so keen on the casting of Ares, though I won’t reveal who that was for the sack of spoilers.

At the end of the day, though, its positive attributes outweigh its flaws by one hundred percent.

Thank you Gal Gadot for portraying the kind of Wonder Woman I have always pictured in my mind.  Thank you for giving her fire, and courage, and anger, and emotion.

And thank you so much Patty Jenkins for directing a movie that left me in tears; that reminded me to not give up the fight for diversity and representation in mainstream culture.  Thank you for giving me both Princess Diana, Princess of Themyscira and Wonder Woman, two different sides of this heroine who has moved past her questionable origins to being a representation of female self-empowerment.

Thank you so much for giving me the woman led super hero movie I wanted but didn’t know that I, and women everywhere, needed so much.

*This was paraphrased and pieced together from the multiple ways I heard it.

**Big shout out to Big Hero Vince for letting me use his Wonder Woman image!  Check out his amazing cosplay and prop making on Instagram!

One Year Later

One Year Later

Oy.  It’s been a year.

There’s been struggles abound, adventures galore, and a lot of personal growth.  And that’s not even including the judge program.

They tell you as you grow up, that the more you age the easier things will be.  I’ve decided that’s a pile of malarkey.  Things don’t get easier, you just gain the ability to adapt more and once you’ve grown comfortable, that is when you run into a new challenge to conquer.  And let’s be honest, life would be pretty boring if everything was easily wrapped up and cataloged with pre-programmed responses.

I started this blog as a way to organize my thoughts and work through the events as I traveled down the Judge road.  I haven’t kept up with it as regularly as I’d like; being a teacher often means sacrificing not only your free time but also your free energy.  Most days when I get home it’s all I can do to wash clothes and keep far enough ahead on my grading that I’m not crushed by a mountain of papers.  Writing is a part of my soul and when I don’t have the energy to focus on it, I tend to push it aside until I can get to it.  I hope that a future change in careers will mean I have the time to write about more events, not just the ones that have really hit me hard (whether good or bad).

In three or four days, I’ll hit the one year anniversary of my very first GP.  You can read more about the event here but it’s safe to say that event changed me, and for the better.  While I had judged a largeish Magic event the previous weekend, it was here that a fire really lit inside me; I really loved this judging thing.  As an introvert, it felt like a way for me to connect with people and really make someone’s day better and that’s what I think motivates me to this day.  Judging is this odd mix of customer service, intricate knowledge, and people skills that means I always have to be prepared to think on my feet.  I think that’s why GP Charlotte was the turning point for me; if any GP could be considered the ‘Be Flexible and Make it Happen GP’ it was that one.

I’ve had a lot of amazing success this past year: I planned and successfully ran a charity tournament for a local animal shelter; I judged in my first SCG Open; and I’ve tackled the plethora of formats that Magic has to offer.  I even wrote something that ended up on the ‘Mothership’ (Wizard’s homepage) about the struggles I’ve had as lady Magic player.  That was an especially proud moment of mine and an illustration of how powerful written words can be.  Not only have I had several female players express similar struggles to mine, I even had a fellow judge call attention to the fact that he had a female judge candidate who was inspired to become a judge because of what I had written.  That, more than anything, is my proudest judge related moment to date. (I hope to meet her one day!)

But it hasn’t all been sunshine and daises.  I’ve punted rules calls pretty publicly; I had a tardiness situation where I wasn’t firm enough and it led to player backlash; I’ve dealt with upset players as both a floor judge and a head judge.

I also failed the Level 2 test twice.

I’ll admit, the second time I wasn’t prepared.  My new teaching job was robbing me of all my time and I made the mistake of taking it at a GP instead of in a quieter setting.

But the first time… the first time hit me hard.  I’m not used to failing at things; in fact, I have the tendency to avoid situations that put me in a spot where I may fail.  That’s one of the places I think I’ve grown the most since I’ve started judging; facing my knowledge and ability gaps in a way that I can understand them and improve.  Without failure there is no getting better, no moving on to the next level.

Now when I make mistakes, I don’t let them drag down into a spiral of despair.  I instead let them ground me and I examine them for ways I can improve.  I have the ability in me to be a very good judge, and in some areas I am already a very good judge, but in order to reach my potential, I have to know not only what mistake I made, but also how I got to the error in the first place.

But I know I’m growing.  Earlier this month, I judged side events at GP Richmond.  As the weekend progressed, I felt great but there was a nagging feeling in the back of my head that it felt too easy.  Towards the end of my second shift, I realized that it wasn’t that things were too easy but that I now had the skills to be more efficient which made me better at my job.  I also got to help coach a fellow female judge who was launching their first side event as a head judge at a GP.  I even got called a ‘SCG Stalwart’ which may have caused my heart to grow three sizes that day.

Looking to the future, I’m heading to Cleveland in the middle of June to judge another GP under Riki Hiyashi.  I was on the main event floor for his first GP in Indianapolis so I feel extremely grateful and fortunate that I get to judge under him for his last GP as well.  Fingers crossed that this will also be my first event as a Level 2 judge.

I’m hoping to check ‘Judge an Event Out of the U.S.’ off my judge bucketlist but only time will tell if that becomes a reality.

But more than events, more than simple rules knowledge, judging has helped me grow as a person.  Confidence has always been a weak point but continuing to receive concrete evidence that I can do things correctly, and even well, has pulled up my self confidence, not only as a judge, but as a person.  I still continue to struggle with depression and anxiety but overall I am a happier person.  Having to evaluate not only myself, but also other judges, I’ve learned to explain myself more concisely in order to help a fellow judge grow.  It’s like using my teaching skills but turned up to eleven.

Writing this blog has been an exercise in courage.  I still get nervous teaching in front of my students sometimes so tossing out my words for (potentially) all the internet to see can be unbelievably nerve wracking.  But if my words and experiences can help just one person besides myself, it will all be worth it.

I’m nowhere near out of steam.  I aim to keep my passion and drive for judging for a very long time.

Here’s to another amazing year of events, players, and new and old judge friends along the way and I hope you’ll join me for them all.

Will You be my Manatee?

When I first envisioned writing about mentoring, I had a particular image in my head; the wise, older individual overseeing the younger person as the future successor.  Now, while that isn’t completely wrong, it’s also very far off from what really happens when we look at mentoring in the judge community.  Whether it’s polishing rules knowledge, increasing soft skills tied to player relations, or the logistics of running events of all sizes, no judge comes to the program with all the skills they need honed and ready to go.

The level of mentorship that flies around the judge program is what makes it so unique.  It’s not something that’s defined by levels, age, or experience.  I’m lucky to have met and worked with so many judges of different levels in my journey through the program most of whom happily embrace mentorship.  The great thing about mentoring is that sometimes it’s a very pointed, on purpose kind of action.  A judge comes to you for help or growth and so you provide guidance to best of your ability.  You talk through their issues; give them advice as you can; help them push for and reach their goals.  It doesn’t even have to be something big; maybe they don’t quite understand the intricacies of WER so you spend the afternoon tweaking their skills.  It may have just been an afternoon to you but now each time that judge works with that program you can bet they’ll remember you and the help you provided.

The other kind of mentoring can happen quite on accident.  You’re chatting with a judge and the next thing you know you’ve shared ideas back and forth about tournament logistics or how to make your local game stores more inclusive.  To some this may seem to be a simple sharing of ideas but it’s also a little piece of mentoring that’s been shared between colleagues.

Manatee me
Everyone can be a manatee!

But let’s say you’re more in category one than two.  Someone has come to you for advice, seeking guidance on the tumultuous journey that can be working your way into the program.  Very few people can make it through this process without help; the sheer amount of information you need to acquire as you move forward can seem insurmountable; beginning this journey often looks impossible.  I had a great first mentor in the program, and the mentors that have followed have all approached mentoring with similar techniques.  I’m going to share a few things that I believe they did right.  This structure gave me the confidence and drive to keep going even after stumbling here or there.

Make it okay to make mistakes. As a society, we look at mistakes as things to be avoided at all costs but in actuality mistakes are how we learn.  I can all but promise you that you will and do remember your stumbles much more than you remember your easy journeys.  Creating an environment where they can be confident enough to jump and know that someone is there to catch them if they fall is a powerful thing.  It also means they’ll be comfortable coming to you when they have a problem.

Explain things in plain terms.  Nothing will make your ‘manatee’ more frustrated than you wrapping your explanations in jargon.  Yes, they do need to learn the terms and vernacular of judging but it is best to ease them into things.  Lower stress and frustration means that they will absorb things better.  It also means a happier them and by proxy, a happier you.

Don’t be afraid to start with the basics.  People will come to from all different backgrounds and with varying levels of rules and policy knowledge so you’re going to want to set a baseline.  It will give you a place to start and them a place to build from.  Understanding your limits is empowering because once you know where they lay you can push past them.  Even if they insist they don’t need it, make a baseline anyway.  They’ll be thankful once it’s done.

Communicate.  Communicate.  Communicate.  Nothing is worse than reaching out and finding silence.   Mentoring can be exhausting or overwhelming but fully retreating isn’t an option.  If it’s becoming too much let your ‘manatee’ know.  Self-care is important, in every aspect of judging.  Conversely, if your ‘manatee’ is too quiet don’t be afraid to touch base to make sure they’re still on board with the process.  Life gets busy; it could be that they need a small pause.  However, sometimes people also realize that this isn’t what they thought it would be.  It’s okay if you have some people drift away.

Be present.  The most important thing you can be is there.  Let them know you care; that you want to see them be successful as much as they want to be successful.  That doesn’t mean you have to give yourself entirely to mentoring but caring goes a very long way.  Sometimes all someone needs is the knowledge that someone else believes they can do it in order to push themselves.  Simple support and belief can make all the difference between success and belief.

Mentoring is a tough but rewarding experience.  Sharing failures can be hard but when you share successes it makes up for the stumbles along the way.  Don’t let your preconceived notions get in your way either; anyone can be a mentor and anyone can be a ‘manatee.’

Let’s help build each other up to make the program stronger.

(Photo credit to Paul Johnson, L2 Judge out of New Zealand)