Sunday, June 26, 2016

Frozen Takes Over Disneyland

I know this does not come as a shock to anyone who has been to a Disney theme park in the past couple of years, but Frozen is taking over Disneyland. Two years ago the movie became a surprise hit, and Disney scrambled to figure out how to capitalize on it. This all happened since our 2014 trip to the House of the Mouse. 

At some point I heard California Adventure added some small show in the sound studio (maybe dancing with Elsa and Anna?), then there was a sing-a-long where the Muppet 3-D movie had been. I'm sure there were other adjustments to Disneyland that I was oblivious to living on the other side of the country.

About a week before we went to California for a post-graduation/end of school year trip, Frozen Live at the Hyperion opened. For 13 years the Hyperion was home to Aladdin. This 58-minute show takes all of the charm of the movie Frozen, but condenses it so there is no need for an intermission (good thing since there are no bathrooms in the Hyperion) and lets them do three (later this summer, four) shows a day.

Here are a couple of Daps Magic links about Frozen:

And one from Playbill (known for talking about Broadway shows):

We didn't learn until late on our first day that the only way to see the show is to stand in line for up to an hour for a FastPass to one of their performances. Not only do you need everyone in your family's passes in order to get the FastPass, all family members need to have entered California Adventure that day (meaning: no stragglers allowed to hang back at the hotel eating breakfast while one person gets the FastPasses). You are not given a choice of performance (they have one at 12:30, 2:40, and 5:10), or which section. A complete case of you get what you get and you don't get upset. There is a standby line where a few people get to enter if not everyone shows up, but the likelihood of sitting together is practically nil.

The show itself is pretty amazing. Don and Ashley saw it three times -- once from each section (balcony, mezzanine, and orchestra). I only saw it from the top two levels as I was a bit Frozened out by the third day. They took some amazing pictures by sitting in the front row, including these. Elsa has a split second costume change on the top of a rotating ladder during "Let it Go" that is worth the price of admission alone (yes, the show is free with park admission, but still). Olaf and Sven are portrayed through puppetry and they really do convey their spirits nicely. There are some changes from the movie -- after all the show version is less than an hour. The biggest change was deciding to rewrite the words to "Love is an Open Door" and end it with that song.

The "Frozen" love doesn't end with the show. Princesses Anna and Elsa have meet and greets that take place in a lovely new air-conditioned room only steps away from their show. Their line (unlike most other character lines) is open the entire time the park is open and moves quickly, even though the princesses give each guest ample personal attention. I wanted to spend more time with them in Arundale. Two years ago the line was over two hours long and was squeezed into a tiny spot in Fantasyland -- in a spot where even a submarine driver could become claustrophobic. This was a nice change. Olaf also has his own meet and greet spot. Ironically his is outside where he could melt.
Seeing Frozen with Masumi and Hiroko

The love continues on the other side of the esplanade. In Disneyland "Frozen" balloons (selling for close to $10 each) were easier to find than ones of the Fab Four. What I really could not get over was that they now have a slot in the classic Storybook attraction in Fantasyland.

The sisters are part of the fireworks, World of Color, and Paint the Night parade. The pictures of the fireworks and World of Color are generic. If I go back and see them, I'll take better pictures, or if someone wants to send them to me I'll include them with photo credit. During the fireworks when they reference "Let it Go," it snows on Main Street and by It's a Small World.

I asked my friends to explain to me the appeal of "Frozen." The best one I heard was the movie appeals to girls when they are at an age that boys are icky, but they might have a sister they love. Therefore while the "someday my price will come" story line might appeal to an adult, it doesn't to a little girl. Plus Elsa has super powers and Olaf is cute. (Thanks, Angie) I still don't fully feel the "Frozen" love, but at least I understand it a little better now.

2016 Art All Night Buyer/Seller Reception

2016 marks the 10th anniversary of Art All Night -- an event that has proven ten times over that if you build it they will come -- in this case, they will come out to party all night long in the city of Trenton, a city famous for having it sidewalks roll up after the state workers go home.

It is a fabulous event that keeps growing each year. On Father's Day weekend it is held in the Roebling Building, a former factory that has been gutted, cleaned out, and sits vacant most of the other 362 days a year. I have recently heard about other events taking place there, but that took many years.

As usual we each submitted photographs, which we priced at $20 with 100% of the proceeds going to Art All Night. For the first time all three of ours sold! Not an easy task when competing with 1484 other pieces of artwork.

The room was super crowded
The weekend after Art All Night has become the Buyer/Seller Reception and an event where select pieces are displayed. This year the large room in the entrance was solely dedicated to the select artwork. Those that sold were relegated to a tiny, crowded room in the back. I am hoping to find some statistics about how many pieces sold, how many people attended, and how much money they raised. I just checked their website at it has not been updated yet.

Some of the selects

Some of the selects

As Ashley had other plans, Don and I attended. I felt like a crazy stalker person trying to see who bought my photo, but I did it anyway and I was glad. While we did not see who bought Don and Ashley's artwork, I met the lovely lady who bought mine. She is planning a trip to Cuba to celebrate a friend's 60th birthday and plans to give her this picture, unless she decides to keep it. I offered to email her a copy of it. We talked about Cuba and Iceland (the other choice for the destination birthday). She thanked me for donating the proceeds to Art All Night. I thanked her for buying my picture.

2016 Art All Night

Art All Night is a fabulous 24-hours of art in Trenton. I blogged about it in 2015 and 2011. The basic premise has only expanded to include more music, more forms of art (including an iron pour and graphic graffiti). It seems to grow in popularity each year. It is definitely more popular at night than during daylight. Someone said it seemed to pick up around 9 PM -- ironic for a city with a reputation for rolling up its carpets after the state workers go home.

11:30 PM

1 PM

The artist's mother and grandmother
This year 1483 people displayed pieces of art -- so many they took to hanging some of them from the ceiling and other new places. Some of the pieces seemed larger this year, too. A friend's son had a full-sized door with a peephole showing an 8 mm film loop of the Jersey shore in the 1950s (I'll admit given some of the art shown at this event, I was not going to "peep" first, this was before I knew who the artist was.)

As has become tradition, we each submitted an 8 x 10 framed photograph, set the price at $20, and had 100% of the proceeds donated back to ArtWorks. For the first time, all three of our images sold, ensuring we did not have to return at 3:15 PM to pick up our art. As the drop off line this year was nearly an hour long, we were not looking forward to the pick up line. It was nice to skip that and be able to get to 5 PM church on time.

Our art:

Don's -- of a waterfall in Iceland

Mine is on top: the Malecon in Havana, Cuba.
Ashley's is on the bottom of Kitty Lucy yawning.
Both times we bumped into friends. I later noted most of the people we saw who we knew were from Ashley's school, though we did see neighbors, and people from other parts of our lives. Seeing schoolmates made me realize it was a good school to send Ashley to for six years.

Here are a few other images from that event:

Don's artwork in context

By one of Ashley's friends (Michelle)

Our art in context

At a less crowded moment

Don's mom came with us

George created the suit of armor
The following weekend we were invited to the buyer/seller reception.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Be the hands of Jesus

Heard at Ashley's graduation was be the hands of Jesus, which is the topic of the third in the trilogy of inspirational thoughts today.

The others are be the change you want to see and be the last stop.

Father Gerard started 8th grade graduation mass with a story about a church in Strasburg, Germany that was completely destroyed during World War II. Only a statue of Jesus was left nearly intact, though he was missing his hands. As the church was rebuilt a famous sculptor offered to make new hands for the statue. After careful consideration the congregation declined the offer and instead used it as a concrete metaphor (which sounds like an oxymoron to me) of how WE are the hands of Christ in this world. God needs us to do his work on earth. (The story of the church in Strasburg can be found in different sources, but I referenced Billy Graham's devotional, an image can be found HERE on the Faith Christian Reformed Church website)

There are many ways to do God's work, and all of us can do something, but none of us can do it all. The strongest example in the bible (in my opinion) is Matthew 25:25-40

35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
37 The the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go visit you?'
40 The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'

I know people who do this. Who bring people into their homes, or visit those in prison, even working at a rest stop during a race and providing water to us thirsty runners instead of having the joy of running the race. It is hard work being the hands of Jesus. It means stepping out of my comfort zone. It will mean leaving my cozy suburban house and looking at people, truly looking at them to see how I can be the hands of Jesus, see what I can do to help them. Maybe that means truly listening to others. Maybe it means instead of passing that homeless person giving them some food. As Ashley and I recently walked around NYC I wondered what reaction I would get if I offered an apple to every homeless person with a sign seeking food (I thought of an apple when I saw a homeless person eating an apple, and realized they are fairly hearty food). It is not much, but it is something.

I often pray asking God to show me how I can spread his love, maybe I should change my prayer to ask God to show me how I can be his hands.

How are you the hands of Jesus? How can I learn from the way you are leading your life?

Pray for me.

Be the change you wish to see

This is the second part of a trilogy.

The first was be the last stop.

Be the change you wish to see was something I heard during parent orientation for my daughter's new high school. It is not a new thought. I have heard others reference it. According to BrainyQuotes, Mahatma Gandhi said it long before that mom did.

The thought has bounced about in my head for the past month. I need to figure out how to be that change as she transitions to a new school with new opportunities for her, and new experiences for us.

Let me back up. After six years, Ashley recently graduated from a pre-K through 8th grade school (she started in third grade). As with every learning environment (make that every environment) there are things I would have changed. After she spent kindergarten in public schools, I home schooled her for first and second grade. I made the conscious decision when she went to a brick and mortar school I would become hands off and only step in when there was a serious issue. 

I certainly won't say I was always successful, but I tried.

I will say I never felt the school was open to change, though over the six years we did see some changes take place. A notable one was the switch from sending home a packet of paper each week to the electronic PIE (Parent Information Envelope). Personally I preferred the papers because I felt once the switch was made I didn't see all of the information, but other people rejoiced in going eco-friendly and had children who did not always bring home the PIE (it was automatically sent home with the oldest child in each family, not necessarily the most responsible one). 

I could not convince them to make a similar change with the school newspaper. That still went home only twice a year, and on paper. As leader I hoped to change it to electronic, which would have reduced expenses and allowed us to send it home more frequently.

Other changes I wanted were to encourage recycling and composting; the recycling bin in the cafeteria was always overflowing with food waste. I also wish they stuck with capping classes at 28 (which is still large) instead of changing that number to 30 when she was in 6th grade, or at least communicating that change to parents. 

In general I wish there had been more communication between those at school and the parents. They all say they are trying to teach children to be responsible (even as young as 3rd grade), but it came across as a wall between parents and teachers, when I thought we were all on the same team. To my part when I lead a club, I emailed the parents and kept them in the communication loop. When I took pictures at an event, I emailed a link to the parents so they could see the photos. Some appreciated it, most ignored my efforts. It just wasn't part of school culture for parents to think they should receive communication from those who spend time with their children.

Now she is about to start a new school. A new chapter. One that encourages parental involvement (at least in theory), but does not require it (her former school required 25 hours a year from each family, and had a complicated system for keeping track of those hours -- another thing I would have changed). The parents who are involved are there because they want to be there for their kids. The school seems receptive to new ideas and suggestions, in ways we never felt possible at the smaller K-8 school.

We know the next four years will fly by. My advice to Ashley is to try new things, explore new opportunities, see what she really loves. Advice to Don and I should be similar -- get involved, try new opportunities, see what we love. In only four years she will be flying the nest and going to college, which brings a new stage of life for all of us.

We want to embrace this time. I want to be the change we wish to see at her school, in the community, and in the greater world. I want to be a role model for her so she grows up knowing change is possible, but only through someone being the change (and that she can be that someone). I want to enjoy these next four years with her, just as I have enjoyed the last 14.

Rather than complaining about what is wrong (in my mind), I want to lead the change to make it better, or at least understand why it can't be changed. 

Be the last stop

Nearly two years ago (September 2014) I attended Marge's funeral. Marge was my aunt's husband's mother. Everyone called her Marge. Even her children and grandchildren. This isn't a post about Marge, but about something the minister said at her funeral that has stuck with me 21 months later. He charged all of us "to be the last stop."

What does it mean to be the last stop? As Marge aged she was in hospice care in an assisted living facility. This care allowed her children and grandchildren to visit more with Marge, and not have to also take care of her medical needs. Her home health care worker, Tammy, said she saved Marge to be her last stop each day because she knew when she visited Marge while helping Marge, she would end up feeling uplifted. Hospice care can be very rewarding, but it can also be very draining and demanding. Marge made sure those around her left feeling good about themselves, better than they felt before they saw her.

How can I be the last stop for someone? Yesterday I met with a pastor and spiritual adviser. What we talk about is confidential, but I don't think I'm breaking any rules by sharing a comment he made to me at the end. He said he thought I helped him more than he helped me. That is a good feeling to have.

Earlier today a friend asked a question: filet mignon or lobster for dinner? It was a metaphor for which job to take. When she emailed me from across the globe she left me with the impression she values me as a sounding board, and respects I won't make the decision for her. It felt great connecting with a friend as I was waking up for the day, and she was getting ready for bed.

Being the last stop means being someone people WANT to spend time with, even if they HAVE to spend time with you. Listen to people. Participate in the conversation. Don't do all the talking.

I can't tell you the number of times I have been with people and left drained because they just talked about their own problems, and suddenly ran out time before I could talk about what was on my mind. Granted, sometimes people do need to vent (believe me, there are times I just need to vent), but when there is a pattern of one-sidedness, recognize they are not last stop kinds of friends. In some cases, they might not even be friends.

I know I have a tendency to talk to much. I am working on listening more, but not so much that people feel they were talking to a wall. The best kind of gatherings are when we both leave smiling and happier than when we started. The really good ones are when we make plans to see each other again.

As I strive to be the last stop, I also strive for friendships with others who feel the same way.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Hoping to Return to Blogging

A friend has recently been showing up in my FB newsfeed with what I call "popcorn" blog posts -- little snippets of things that happened during his day. They are usually only a few sentences, but they always get to the heart of the matter succinctly. Umm..probably a skill I should use in my rather verbose posts. Whereas he has posted nearly daily, sometimes multiple times in a day, I have gone at least a month since last posting something in the blog. 

A month where THIS happened:






and THIS




And countless other things I want to put in words, but haven't and I don't want to forget them, so hopefully once I finish culling some pictures, I can return to blogging with a more open mind.