July 24, 2012

33,309 Strong

The Minis and I just returned from our national church youth gathering this past week in New Orleans. I cannot think about anything else until I share some reflections and observations with you. I appreciate your indulgence.

There is an amazing energy that radiates when you gather such a high number in one geographic locality. The youth gathering is highly structured (as it should be when turning that number of teenagers loose in a city that is well known for crazy debaucherous stunts).  As a chaperone, I will admit, seeing The Big Easy as a chaperone for a teenage youth gathering was not how I envisioned my first trip there. There truly was no down time. I came in with an idea that we'd have time to explore what the city had to offer. What I learned was the city was waiting to see what we could offer it. That shift in perspective was mind boggling, but welcome. 

The theme of our gathering was Citizens With The Saints (or #CWTS if you're a Twitter sort). We were not there to take, but rather to give. Sometimes that gift was labor, sometimes it was monetary, and sometimes it merely was listening. Each group attending the gathering was required to spend a day in service around the city. It was interesting, as no group knew where they'd be assigned prior to the project. Our national church surveyed the non-profits in the area and  asked, "what do you need, how can we help, tell us what you want?" Once that information was gathered, it was a number game. We were assigned days as well as times of service, with one requirement. Show up and do what you're asked.

And we did.

We learned that our assignment area was "Community Care" and told to make sure we packed gloves and wear closed toe shoes. Expecting to weed city gardens and the sort, I stashed extra gloves in my suitcase, figuring I had the "just in case" covered.

We arrived at the Superdome, at 6:30 AM, ready to go. We had no additional information, so we waited patiently. We clustered with our bus assignment and waited some more. Papers were passed around for us to fill out and that was our first hint. We were assigned to something with the Park System in the state. We loaded a bus with other groups from around the nation, including Colorado and Minnesota. Our Colorado group was a bit subdued, thinking about the tragedy that befell their area the previous day. But we had a purpose.

The park ranger kindly explained that State Parks were also destroyed in Hurricane Katrina. They lost their cabins and invasive plants took over their forest. After getting a brief botanical education, we were released to create a new hiking path in area of the bayou, the swamp lands. The soil was muddy, the bugs dense, and the trees, hindrances.

Yet, it was our project and we attacked with vigor.

We ripped out trees (invasive, non native trees) and pulled up weeds. We swathed a path. We laughed when one of our girls ripped a tree out bare handedly, yet shrieked a moment later when she couldn't identify a bug flying by. We had to cut our work short as lightening and thunder were in the vicinity. We loaded the bus and drove back to the Superdome. The water in the streets had reached flash flood heights. We disembarked from the bus into knee-deep water.

We marched with joy. Our insides were exhilarated. We sang, danced and marched with not just purpose, but JOY. Pure unadulterated joy. We smiled at the trials and tribulations we logged, as we stood face to face with nothing more energetic than... JOY!

Every day, we took a recap... best/worst moments of the day. We also asked our kids to share any God moments they had (on the off chance those God moments weren't part of the best/worst summary). As the week progressed, there were more and more God moments as well as best moments.

This tale isn't intended as a chest thumping "I'm a Christian" moment, but rather as a reminder that when we spend time reflecting on our beliefs and practicing what we hear, those God moments find us. Those moments are always there, as is God. We just have the chance to see, hear, and live them.

We can take that energy and love out to the world. In fact, I challenge my group, as well as anyone else reading this to inhale that God moment. Feel it and share it. Take it out to the world. When you're sent into a task knowing nothing more than "Care for the Community" grab onto it with two hands. Grab onto it with gusto. Hold that moment with all you have and remember it. Cherish it and reflect... because...

That's how God talks to us.

July 9, 2012

Oh Brother(s)

I am the luckiest woman in the world. When I was not quite two years old, I became a sister. I became a sister not to one sibling, but two. My younger twin brothers. 

Today is their birthday(s). When we were kids, by virtue of being the only girl, I pathetically tried to play the games they played. I played football, baseball, whatever it took. I was a tomboy, albeit a clumsy one. I had a few moments of victory as the oldest. I embarrassingly started a secret club and part of their initiation was that they had to eat a piece of dog food. I don’t know why I did that to be honest, but at the time it seemed an appropriate abuse of power.

As an adult, it inadvertently led to a remark I’ve never lived down, I dared to lump myself into the category of “the brothers” and say “well none of us were very athletic growing up”.  My one brother took my remark as a horrifying insult instead of an attempt to feel like one of them.  I cannot say any of us were ever “athletic superstars” but I can now imagine how mortifying it must have seemed to my brother who did well at golf and was in softball and bowling leagues to be lumped into a “nonathletic” place. He also was on the football team in high school. I was on no such team, for any sport. I was purely academic.

As we grew up, our family unit struggled. Our parents divorced and we found ourselves moving out of state after our dad remarried. We were thrust into a lot of new situations that we tried to make sense of, and all the while, found comfort in each other. I can remember my dad telling us, friends will come and go, but you will always be brothers and sister.  His way of reminding us that we were forever.  While my attempt to join their sports world was grasping, we soon were found in a world of youth groups and school clubs. We didn’t have a lot to work with, as far as interests went. By high school, indeed, my brothers gravitated to sports endeavors, while I went the academic route. But our family ties stayed intact.

We moved again the summer before I graduated from high school. I was a senior and they were sophomores. I was scared, as I tried to figure out a place I fit in during my last quarter of high school. I’m so grateful that they didn’t shun me while the spent the next year figuring it out. But no matter how different we were, I knew that while I was in the halls of that new place, they would still be there for me.

Right after I graduated, one of my brothers and I both got a job at the same grocery store. That solidified a bond because we discovered that we could both have the same friends and that realization made life a lot more comfortable. My other brother and I bonded over working our way through college. I can still remember going to visit him and how he made breakfast for me and whatever friend had made the trip with me. We bonded over that.

We were bonded by blood but have become further bonded by life experience. One brother is a family guy, the other is a hard working businessman. The two are not mutually exclusive, but rather the primary thrust in their lives. The businessman is indeed devoted to family and the family guy has a good head for business. I remain their mother hen, spouting advice that I know they don’t need, but I don’t know how not to give. A lifetime of experience as I reflect and think of them today.

They are separate people, but they share a day.  One year, at a church retreat, one brother talked about how great it was to have a twin. I listened to his words and realized that while maybe I was a bit jealous, but I also loved that they were that close to each other. We bonded in so many ways growing up, swimming in the pond, the bionic man, hiding the granary, telling stories (S) on late summer nights, sleeping on the porch or the backyard tent, playing kickball… all of it. My life is woven with them.

I am so proud. I love being their sister. I love them. I am proud to bask in the world that is my brothers.

D & D, I hope your day is wonderful.
I Love You.

July 6, 2012

Pixar's Brave Trivia

This is a great chance to share with my readers the cool Pixar Insider notes, part of the reason I love being a Disney blogger. Enjoy!

TRADITIONS – All of Pixar’s films feature some hidden gems and “Brave” is no exception. In fact, these time-honored traditions are all featured in one set.  There’s also a tribute to longtime Pixar story whiz Joe Ranft in the same location.

  • Visible somewhere in every Pixar film to date, A113 is the classroom at CalArts that has been “home” to John Lasseter, Brad Bird, Pete Docter and Andrew Stanton.
  • Each Pixar film pays homage to “Toy Story” by featuring the infamous Pizza Planet Truck.
  • Pixar films always tease a character from the next Pixar release.

LET YOUR GUARD DOWN – Actor John Ratzenberger, Pixar’s “lucky charm,” has had a voice role in every Pixar film. “Brave” is no different – Ratzenberger plays one of the castle guards at the entrance to the great hall. And the second of the hall guards is voiced by none other than “Brave” composer Patrick Doyle.

ANCIENT DELIVERY – The Witch, an eccentric crone disguised as a woodcarver specializing in whittling wooden bear figurines and conjuring haphazard spells, showcases her mysterious and inexplicable knowledge of the future with a carved figurine of the infamous Pizza Planet truck, an iconic delivery vehicle that’s appeared in nearly every full-length feature film from Pixar Animation Studios since 1995’s Toy Story. Disney•Pixar’s Brave is in theaters now.

hidden Pizza Planet truck from Toy Story

NO MONSTERS IN THE CLOSET – A carving of Sulley, the lovable blue monster slated to return to the big screen in 2013’s Monsters University, appears on a piece of wood in the home of the Witch, an eccentric crone and woodcarver in Disney•Pixar’s epic action adventure Brave, in theaters now.

hidden Sully woodcarving from Monsters, Inc.


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