Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Pirate Birthday Party

For about a year now I've been wanting to start working in the area of children's birthday parties.

Last year I put up posters at area businesses including some of the party supply stores to try and make some contacts to book birthday parties.

Well it wasn't until this past week when I went back to work at ShopNBC that I made my first real birthday party connection. Yesterday, I entertained at a small birthday party for the daughter of one of my coworkers.

Although it was just a small party with mostly preschoolers; it was good first experience. The little ones, including the 3 year old birthday girl had a fun time.

What was special about this first experience was that the party had a pirate theme. I promised my coworker that if she booked me for the party one of my puppets and I would dress up like pirates.

Well I gathered costumes, accessories and supplies throughout the week. These included: a small treasure chest with lot of pirate "treasure" in it; costumes, for both me and Ruben Nathaniel Young (see picture above); a CD of pirate music, a new parrot puppet named Archie (see 2nd picture above) and more.

I brushed up on my pirate vocabulary and came up with a routine. At the party I called on my skills for entertaining preschoolers from my days as children's church teacher.

I took the children on an imaginary treasure hunt with the birthday girl as the leader of the crew. The hunt came complete with an ancient treasure map and lots of sailing and digging and orders from Captain Ruben Young.

At the end we "found the treasure chest. I opened it and gave everyone a piece of the "bounty" while giving the birthday girl special tiara proclaiming her not just a great pirate but a princess as well.

Like I said the kids all had a good time. My coworker and her husband were really pleased. I got my first birthday party experience under my belt. Now I have something to build on so I can offer a "program" for parties in the future.

This was just another great experience on my journey of ventriloquism. I hope it's a road that leads to the highway of party performances.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Triple Digit Mileage

Today was a significant day in the ownership of my Saturn Vue. Five years and four months (1947 days) after driving it off the dealership lot the odometer turned over to 100,000 miles. That's an average of 51.3 miles a day.

A lot of great trips have been taken in that car. I'd have to write a book to write about all of them in detail.

I guess the trips to Pennsylvania to visit my family and driving to Nashville and Gatlinburg for both of our son's weddings are probably the most significant voyages taken in the Vue.

I can't neglect the fact that all the trips to and from Nashville during Paula and my surgeries last year were in the Vue as well. Those were extremely significant.

To some it may not seem like a big deal but the first 100,000 miles driven in this vehicle has been a marvelous journey for me.

Reaching this milestone in the life of my first brand new car also means that the vehicle is about middle age now as far as cars go. But it's far from being sold to the junk yard. I love my car and plan on driving it for another 100,000, at least.

I guess it's only fitting that the body I live in and the car drive hit significant marks in their existence close to the same time. Turning 50 years old and achieving 100,000 on a vehicle in the same year only makes that year an even more memorable one.

So "Happy 100K" day to my Vue. I guess I'll end this post with a word of optimism and encouragement to both my car and myself. It's a paraphrase of one of my favorite quotes from the Robert Frost poem, "Stopping By The Woods on A Snowy Evening". We may be a bit older with some wear and tear on our bodies but we're nowhere close to the finish line or getting where we want to be. We both have "miles to go before we sleep".

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Last VBS of The Summer & Back To Work

It's been a very busy, interesting and rewarding week so far. The two main things that have occupied most of my time are completely opposite of in nature. One was something I did for the last time this year and the other was something I hope to be doing for the rest of the year and foreseeable future.

First, beginning last Sunday night, I began participated in my third, and last, VBS of the summer. It was our new church in Edmonson county. I did "triple duty" this time around. I taught the music and the missions classes while doing ventriloquism two of the four nights.

Last night was the final night. It was a busy time but I got a great pay off. One of my fellow teachers named Ben introduced the kids (and me) to a song called "A Tooty Ta". If you've never heard it or seen the dance to it I can only describe it as a secular version of the old Sunday School favorite "Father Abraham". The dance has a lot of strange and potentially embarrassing movements to it; but it's a lot of fun.

At the end of the session last night everyone gathered in the church sanctuary for the closing ceremonies. The children sang and did the motions to 3 songs I had taught them all week. They did a wonderful job and I was very proud.

But then I got to stand back and watch all the VBS teachers, including the church pastor, do the "A Tooty Ta" dance in front of the children. It was a hilarious blessing to watch them reluctantly participate and laugh at themselves. Those few minutes and the relationships I got to build with the kids made the whole week worth it.

Secondly, I started back to work at Shop NBC on Monday. For most of the first day I really didn't want to be there. I was dreading getting back on the phones and taking calls. I was worried that I wouldn't remember what to do or how to do it. There are now standards of production that are even more difficult to achieve than before I was laid off.

But after a few days of calls I was back in "the groove. I realized that with the clear mind I had from the time off and a positive attitude I could get through the day and it not be so bad. While I'm not yet meeting the production standards with some more time on the phones I'll get there.

Sure I'd rather be home getting things done or just relaxing but wouldn't we all. So for a week that has held a significant change in my daily routine, returning to work, and the end of my summer ministry with the last VBS, it hasn't been so bad. It's been a bit rough on me but, thankfully, with God's help I've made it through.

Now I just have to find new opportunities to minister and perform when I can. Keep working on being a good call center rep and look forward to September when I get to go to Walt Disney World.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A Change In Exercise

With the pending "Disney @ 50" trip Paula and I have decided that we should learn from our past mistakes. In 2004 when we went to "the world" for the first time we didn't prepare ourselves for the amount of walking required. This really effected our enjoyment of the vacation. Paula to this day refers to it as "The Disney Death March". We were tired and sore most of the time we were there.

But this time we're going to "train" ourselves to be able to walk longer distances. The "unofficial guide to Walt Disney World (a book I highly recommend to those of you planning a trip to see "the Mouse") states that the average visitor to Disney walks 4-6 miles a day.

To prepare for those extra steps, over the last 2 weeks we have increased our average daily walking distance. We are now walking about 3 miles a day. This is not only to prepare us for our Florida trip but to increase our metabolism and help us with our weight loss as well.

After more than a year since our surgery, our rate of weight loss has slowed considerably. We are now in a place where we really have to "work" at losing weight. This means increasing our activity and or walking.

Increased exercise in the mid July's heat is a strategic endeavour. The first adjustment we've made has to do with the distance we walk our dogs. While both our pups enjoy walking with us; they are still very sensitive to the high temperatures. After about a mile of walking they start showing the wear of being exposed to the heat. Therefore we only walk them about a mile or 2 each day. This walk is usually around the cemetery near our house.

After dropping the dogs off at our house Paula and I continue our walk through our quiet little town. We go another 2 miles round trip. Ironically, the place we turn around is right in front of a Wendy's restaurant.

So that's the change in exercise we've made. We've done it with a 2 fold purpose. First, to increase our metabolism and restart our weight loss efforts. Second, to condition us for walking long distances like we will in Disney World.

Hopefully the efforts will have positive results in both cases.

Friday, July 16, 2010

A Vocational Recall

Just like the 7 dwarfs in Disney's Snow White, this afternoon I started singing "Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho It's off to work I go".

This afternoon, about 4:30, I received a call from Amanda in the HR department of Shop NBC. I had been talking with her about a "work at home" opportunity with the company. I expected that the phone call was to give me an update on that possibility. Instead she told me something I was not really expecting. She told me that I was being recalled back to work after a 6 week layoff instead of 12. I will be going back to work this coming Monday.

Overall this is a good thing. I will start getting 40 hour paychecks again; something that I haven't had since the end of February. We could really benefit from my returning to a full paycheck. The only thing that bothers me is that I am going back to working the same schedule. Saturday through Wednesday with Thursday & Friday off.

This schedule sets back some of my plans for advancing my ventriloquist career and ministry. I won't have Sundays off so I can go minister at different churches in the area. I also had planned on trying to perform at some of the local day care centers and nursing homes during the last month I was supposed to be off of work. That opportunity will now be limited to my days off.

While I'm a bit apprehensive and taken back a bit about going back so much earlier I must have faith that God is still in control. My ventriloquism is the one place I really need to exercise my faith. By returning to work on the same schedule I am in the same place with ventriloquism as I was before the layoff. I am not off of work on weekend which is when most of my performance opportunities would be.

But God has blessed me during this lay off with a lot more opportunities to use ventriloquism. I am forever grateful for the chances and advances I've gotten over the last 3 months. Now even though it looks like I won't be able to take advantage of those types of opportunities in the future I'm sure God will make a way.

Perhaps I should return to focusing on practicing and developing better routines so that when the chance to perform does come up I am ready and better than ever. See all I had to do was look for the chance for growth and I knew I could put a silver lining on the situation.

Also, the possibility of working for Shop NBC from home is still open, at least for now. I'll have to see how that works out. If it does it might be a good thing. I'll keep you informed on that.

Anyway, the bottom line is that I will be returning to work at Shop NBC on Monday. This doesn't mean I'll stop looking for another job. I don't see myself working there this time next year. I'm almost positive God has something better for me. I'll just have to wait and see what that might be. But until He shows me what's next for me I'm going to do my best to pick up my pick axe and my lantern and head back to the Shop NBC call center and make the best of the situation. Heigh Ho Heigh Ho...

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Return To I-Fest: Part 3

Late Thursday afternoon (July 8) I arrived in Bourbonais (pronounced "Bur-Bon-ay) Illinois for the last 3 days of the International Puppet Festival on the campus of Olivet Nazarene College.

I-fest, as it's called, is a week long "camp" on a college campus for church puppet team leaders and their team members. It's mostly a performing arts youth camp. It has classes and competitions for puppetry, ventriloquism and interpretive dance.

It was my 2nd time at the festival. When I went, for the first time, in 2008, I had such a great time I decided to go back. All though it goes on for a week the last 3 days are called "Superfest". Its 3 days of classes and competitions that gives those who can't be there for the entire week the opportunity to come and enjoy I-fest.

After I checked into my hotel, I went to the Superfest orientation and the evening rally. I saw a pretty cool puppet presentation by a church puppet team. The featured performers, were a husband and wife team who did a combination of puppetry, ventriloquism and magic. The wife presented a very unique object lesson using an old fashion folding ruler. I think I may use it sometime in the future.

I concluded my first night at I-fest by attending the experienced ventriloquism competition. There were 5 ventriloquists in the show. "Experienced" means they have been performing for 4 years or more. As I watched in my mind I felt that I was probably just as good or better than 3 of the 5. I regreted not signing up for the competition myself. But I would get a second chance to rectify that the next day.

On Friday I went to several ventriloquism classes including one about using music to enhance your performance. The facilitator of that class was Steve Parker. He's a pretty good ventriloquist. What's unique about Steve is that his "everyday job" is in law enforcement in Iowa. He's also the voice of the McGruff the crime dog. I'm sure you've seen the character on TV over the years. McGruff is one of my favorite characters. Steve even had a McGruff puppet that he used during the class.

The afternoon was spent in classes about building a ventriloquist performance with a storyline and advanced performance techniques. That last one included information on performing the distant voice, the baby cry, holding a long note and the trick to drinking water while a character is singing. I plan to use that last one in the future as well.

With the afternoon/early evening scheduled as "free time" with no classes available I decided to go to a local mall to see a movie. I went and saw the Disney movie "Prince of Persia: Sands of Time." I liked it. It wasn't the perfect movie or the best I've seen this summer but I enjoyed it. Also I was only 1 of 2 people in the theater.

When I went back to I-fest I planned on attending the novice ventriloquist competition. When I found out that there was still room for people to participate I asked to be put on the list. I had brought both Cecil the Turtle and Ruben Nathaniel Young puppets with me all the way from Kentucky. I wanted to use at least one of them while I was there. So I decided to do my Roux-N-Y routine with Ruben.

I didn't have any time to rehearse but I knew the routine so well that it wasn't much of a problem. I was nervous as I went out on stage but did the best I could. The competitions at I-fest aren't so much competitions as they are evaluations. In my case there I did a 6 minute presentation and was "judged" by 3 expert ventriloquist judges. They filled out a form regarding my performance which I received the next morning at the AM rally.

Everyone was impressed with my unique way of presenting my weight loss testimony. I got a lot of complements. It was a very nice night for me despite not being very prepared. I went back to the hotel and fell asleep with a good sense of satisfaction.

On Saturday morning, I went to the AM rally in the main hall. I went on stage with all the others who were in the novice vent competition the night before. (see picture above). My fellow competitors included a 13 year old boy named Spencer Overbay. He is from Nashville. I gave his dad my business card and told him to look me up on facebook. We were all given our evaluation sheets and were told that we would be receiving our trophies in the mail.

That's right I won a trophy for my performance. Its what they referred to as a "bronze trophy". I guess it's based on your combined judges scores. My score averaged 81.

The last class I attended was about how to perform the distant voice. I have been wanting to learn how to do this ventriloquist "trick" almost ever since I started ventriloquism back in 2006. See the post from December 8, 2009 for details on my hopes and experiences with the distant voice.

Steve Parker was the teacher in this class as well. He took us through some of the exercises and techniques used to develop the distant voice skills and how to use them. It was very encouraging. I think I've learned some things that will help me learn and use "distant voice" in my act in the future. I just need to learn to practice and refine it.

At the conclusion of the class, I looked at the daily schedule and realized that there really wasn't anything left on the agenda that I really wanted to see or do. There was a closing ceremony and performances by the "dream teams" of puppets and ventriloquists but I wasn't interested in them.

What I was interested in was getting back home before it got dark. I had a ventriloquist performance scheduled at a local church the next morning. I wanted to get home before it was very late. I had a 6 hour drive ahead of me. So I very quietly left I-fest and headed back down interstate 65, through the wind turbine field again and back to Kentucky.

I-fest 2010 was over. I had a very good time and felt proud about my performance. Going to the festival gave me some time around fellow Christian ventriloquists. That's a rare thing for me. It also reignited the spark of enthusiasm and optimism for the future of my ventriloquism ministry and career. I am now going to focus on getting better at my craft and working as many performances as I can.

I thank God for the opportunity to go to I-fest again this year and for the blessing of being able to go to the 2 baseball games before hand as well. My prayer is that God will give me the motivation to keep working hard enough to advance my ministry. I want to look back on attending I-Fest 2010 as a turning point in my service as a ventriloquist.

What a great trip this was. What a memorable year this has been for me. There's still over 5 months left with 1 major vacation remaining. I can't wait to see what God has in store for the rest of the year.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Baseball Road Trip-Part 2

I was up and out of the Motel 6 by 8:30 AM. I went to a local Wal-Mart to find a Brewers t-shirt. That's been the place I have been able to find shirts with team logos on them cheaper than at the ball parks. The shirts at the parks run about $30 each. I got 2 of them at Wal-Mart for that price. I also got some lunch meat, cheese, and other stuff I'd need for to eat and drink while in my room while at I-Fest the next 3 days. I put them in a cooler to keep while I was at the game.

After finishing my shopping I headed toward Chicago. I was going to the White Sox game against the California Angels of Anaheim.

As I left Milwaukee I programed my GPS to take me to Chicago without taking the toll road. The highway it guided me to was a two lane route with several sections of construction. It seemed rather slow going but before I knew it I was on the Chicago loop heading toward the ball park.

I got to US Cellular Field about 11:15am. I was immediately introduced to the differences between Milwaukee and Chicago by paying $23 for a front lot handicapped parking spot. The same type of spot only $8 at Miller Park. It was a really good spot (about 20 yards from the gate) but really outrageously priced. I mentioned it to the people I sat next in the stands. They said "Welcome to Chicago".

It was about 2 hours before the game started. The crowd was already gathering but the gates weren't open yet. I had time to walk around the outside of the stadium and take pictures. By the time I'd made it all the way around the gate was opened letting the fans in.

Once inside the park, I walked counter clockwise around the main concourse of the stadium. There were all kinds of great places to eat. I went into a souvenir shop and bought a pin with the name of the ball park on it. They didn't have any refrigerator magnets.

Soon I found my seat down the left field line. It was a really good seat in good foul ball territory.

It was kind of cloudy and overcast. There had been some rain on the way in but it had stopped. I was hoping it wouldn't start again. Just the opposite happened. The clouds cleared away and the midday July sun came blazing through. The temperature and humidity levels jumped (pardon the pun) sky high. It got really hot. I had to keep drinking to make sure I stayed hydrated. In a major league ball park that gets expensive.

For my lunch I had sausage with peppers & onion sandwich. Again I didn't eat the bun. I also got some fresh roasted peanuts and ate a few of them as well.

The game was a good one. I was a little disappointed because Bobby Abreu and Hideki Matsui,former Yankees who now play for the Angels,didn't play. The White Sox scored a run in the bottom of the first inning to take a 1-0 lead. Their starting pitcher, John Danks, didn't give up a hit until the 7th inning. He gave up the only 2 hits the Angels would get. He ended up pitching all 9 innings for the shutout; completing a White Sox sweep of the 4 game series.

It just goes to show you how great the game of baseball is. The White Sox game ( a 1-0 win for the home team) was completely different from the Brewers game (a 15-2 loss for the home team) but ironically the winning runs for both were scored in the 1st inning. I love baseball.

The baseball part of the my 4 day trip was over. What a great time I had at both games.

Upon leaving US Cellular Field I got back on the Chicago loop and headed south on interstate route 57. My next destination was Olivet Nazarene College in Bourbonais IL. That's where I would spend Thursday night, Friday, and the first half of Saturday at the One Way Street International Puppet Festival. I would be blessed once again. I'll give you the details in tomorrow's post.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Baseball Road Trip-Part 1

On Wednesday July 7, I left my little Southern Kentucky town on a 4 day solo vacation that was really 2 trips in 1. The first part of my excursion was venture to a two major league baseball parks in 2 days.

I turned left onto I-65 and headed north about 9:45AM. My destination was Milwaukee WS. I had a ticket for the Brewers game at Miller Park against the San Fransisco Giants at 7PM.

My first memory from this trip came into view along I-65 in between Indianapolis and Chicago. For about a 5 mile stretch to either side of the highway all I could see were white wind turbines. The interstate went directly through the Earl Park Wind Farm in Benton County Indiana. It was an amazing sight. Like I said slick looking wind turbines as far as the eye could see.

Once I got to Chicago I went through the city on their toll road. While the most direct route through the city, I had to go through 5 toll booths and pay a total of $6. On the way back I took a different road.

After I got through Chicago and headed toward Wisconsin I noticed the sky was clouding up. I knew from looking at the weather forecast there was supposed to be rain showers. I was worried at first but then realized that the Brewers' stadium had a dome. A rain out was not a factor. Still rain had an effect on my day.

As I got into Wisconsin the skies opened up and it poured. For the next hour to hour and a half the rain came down in sheets. I had to slow down traveling no faster than 40 mph. The water pooled on the highway splashing up into the my wheel wells slowing me down even more. At times the only thing I could see were the taillights of the car in front of me.

Finally about 30 miles outside of Milwaukee the skies cleared and the rain slowed to a sprinkle. I tuned into a local radio station to catch the traffic information. The weather reporter said that the rainfall had been measured as 3 inches in about 90 minutes. That was a lot of rain.

The exit to Miller Park was easy to find using my GPS. The road to the parking lot was just a turn or two. The cost of parking was $8. The handicapped parking spot I found was less than 50 yards from the stadium gate.

By the time I parked it was raining pretty steadily again. As I sat there looking out my windshield at the Miller Park sign (see picture above) I realized that this was the first time I'd been to a major league baseball game that I didn't have to worry about the rain. I retrieved an umbrella out of my back seat and headed inside the park.

The gate I went through was right in front of the section where I was going to sit. My ticket was for section 117 row 15 seat 10. It was right behind home plate. It was a great place to sit. The only thing was that it was right in the middle of the row. I knew during the game if I wanted to get up and go somewhere it would be a hassle having to get past the people in the seats on either side of me.

I was the first one in my row to arrive. I sat and took some pictures and then decided to go look around. I was hungry too so dinner was on the agenda as well. I explored the entire ballpark, walking around the concourse. I took pictures of the various views of the field and had someone take a picture of me. I bought a hot dog and a brat. I ate them both (but not the buns) back at my seat.

The game held lots of promise. Cy Young Award winning pitcher, Tim Lincieum, was the starter for the Giants. I'd never heard of the Brewers starter, Chris Narveson, but I was hoping it would be a good game. Well those hopes would be dashed extremely early.

In the top half of the first inning the Giants hit Narveson up for 4 runs off 3 home runs. Later in the 4th they would score 7 runs including a grand slam by 1st baseman, Buster Posey. The Brewers managed a couple of runs on a homer by Ricky Weeks and a late inning sacrifice fly.The game ended with a 15-2 score.

Of course since I was there alone I was sitting among people I didn't know. I tried to talk to them throughout the game. The couple to my right weren't so receptive. The couple to my left were from Tampa, Florida. They were very nice to talk to.

During the game the weather outside cleared up a bit so they opened the roof. It was a novel sight to see. I was glad they did it because it was very humid with it closed. Although it did drizzle a bit when they first opened the roof it was cooler and rather nice. The game was over about 10PM. I did some souvenir shopping. I got a pin with the name of the park on it and a refrigerator magnet with the Brewers logo on it.

My night concluded with my checking into a Motel 6 near the Milwaukee airport. I made the reservations online and had no idea what kind of hotel it was. It turned out to be a real fleabag.
I wouldn't let my dogs stay there if I had a choice. But I was tired and it was only for one night.

When I got to my room the air conditioning was not on and the room was really hot. The AC unit was a wall unit that was not very good and it was very noisy. I turned it on, moved one of the beds down in front of it and tried my best to get to sleep. It was after 1AM when I finally did.

Nevertheless, as I did go to sleep I thought back on the day and my wonderful experience at Miller Park. I really had a great time. I couldn't wait for the next day when I'd go to see the White Sox play in Chicago.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

One Year Later

Today is the 1 year anniversary of my gastric by pass operation. I consider it my "2nd birthday". What a year it has been! The changes in my body, mind, soul and spirit are amazing and all bring me great joy. When I realize all the work God has done to change me, I am certain that it will take eternity for me to express my gratitude.

Where do I begin to sum it all up. I guess since losing weight is usually gauged by numbers let me start there. Today I am 160 pounds less than the day of my surgery. Since the day of my first consult with my surgeon (March 20, 2009) I have lost 173 pounds. I have reduced my Body Mass Index number from 63.2 (the day of my surgery) to 37.5. I now wear pants that are 7 sizes smaller than the day of my surgery. My T-shirt size has gone from 3X & 4X to 1X. I walk an average of 2 miles a day.

My personal accomplishments are too numerous to list here. Some of those I am most proud of are: walking the 3.1 miles from my house to my church; being able to ride a roller coaster; sitting in a booth at a restaurant; standing up to perform my ventriloquist act; taking a walking tour of some of the sights and museums in Washington DC; climbing up the wooden stairs and getting things out of our attic without breaking the stairs; and playing softball again.

The pictures you see at the top of this post were taken at a fast food restaurant 1 month before surgery and while performing at a local church during VBS just last month. They are visual evidence of the physical changes in me. Those changes have made my life better in many ways.

Also today is memorable day for me in regard to my sister, Peggy. After seeing the results my sister, Shari; my wife, Paula; and I have had with the gastric by pass operation, Peggy had the surgery today. Her and I will now have the same "2nd birthday". I can't wait to see her travel the same road and experience the same success that I have.

Today, I celebrate my weight loss and return to health. This first year has held so much success and accomplishments and it's still not over. I've got more weight to lose. I'm about 60 pounds from my personal goal weight. There are still achievements and things I want to do as I get closer to or reach that goal.

I can't end this post without once again giving the glory and honor to God for working in me and giving me the strength to be what He wants me to be. His greatest vessel for providing me with the help has been my wife, Paula. She has been my greatest supporter and helper in all I've done over the last year. I couldn't have, and never would have, done it without her.

So as my first year as a gastric by pass patient comes to an end and my 2nd begins I look forward to the things God has in store for me over the next year and beyond.

Let me conclude this post with one statement. It's something that is said over and over again by the people who attend the Weight Loss Surgery support group I go to each month. I'd do it all over again. Weight loss surgery has been the tool I've used to bring me back to life and allowed me to serve my God in the way I've always wanted to. Because of those two things it's all been worth it.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

"Disney @ 50" Makes A Comeback

A few years ago I when I was "totally obsessed" with everything Disney and going back to Disney World I determined that when it came time for my 50th birthday I would be going back to see Mickey and friends in Orlando.

I came up with a plan and started putting aside the money that would enable me to live out the plan which I called "Disney at 50". I was so "into" this plan that I even created a logo to help remind me of my goal. It was a black sillouette of a "classic Mickey Mouse head with the words "Disney @ 50" in the center of it in white.

However God's work in my life resulted in spiritual changes which led me to reprioritize everything including my finances. I had made a return to Disney World a "god" in my life and it needed to go away for a while. An 8 month stint of unemployment also contributed to the decision to scrap the "Disney @ 50" savings campaign.

Moving forward to November 2009. The idea of a 4 day weekend trip to Disney World in 2011 with my son, Michael, to celebrate his 30th birthday awakened the hope and reality of another trip to see Mickey. A few months later in March of this year, after reviewing the plans for the "Michael" trip I realized that a 4 day trip wasn't going to do it for me. I wanted to go back and do all the parks again.

I decided that it was time to plan a return trip to Walt Disney World. I sat down and evaluated what kind of trip I wanted to take researched an estimated cost. I decided that, since it would be our first time to Disney World over 6 years, to do it right would require an 8 day trip. The plan would be to fly there and stay on Disney property at a moderate resort. After calculating and estimated cost; I figured if I started saving, this year, in a way that's within our budget I would be able to return to Disney World in 2014.

It seemed like a long time to wait for something that I really was anxious to do. But I bided my time by listening to Disney podcasts and reading leisurely reading through the "Unofficial Guide to Disney World" book. My interest in Disney World had increased as the year went along. By May I was downloading and listening to, at least, about 6 different Disney World podcasts each week. Although in the overall scheme of things it wasn't that far away, the 2014 plan continued to seemed really far away. Nevertheless, I continued to stick to the plan. God had grown in me the ability to keep things in perspective, the desire, and appreciate of the quality of doing things in my life that within His guidelines. His work and the changes He's brought about in my heart was enough to help me keep my desire for Disney under control.

Last month, just before we went on vacation, my wife suggested something to me that made me smile from ear to ear. She said that since September was my 50th birthday maybe we would be able to manage being able to spend a couple of days in Walt Disney World. My heart skipped a beat and my mind began racing with just the mention of the idea.

We talked about it over the course of our vacation. Paula spoke of it only as an idea. I thought and spoke about it as a reality. When we came home I began gathering information, crunching numbers and searching my "Unofficial Guide to Disney World" book for specific information about our trip.

Over the last couple of weeks the trip has gone from 4 days, including travel time and 2 days in the Disney World parks, to 6 days with 3 days in the Disney Parks and a day at Universal Studio's newly opened Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
That last addition is my birthday present to my wife, a big HP fan.

So as the writing of this it is nearly certain that on my 50th birthday I will be in a theme park at Walt Disney World. I am so excited and feel blessed that my wonderful wife loves me enough to want to make my dreams come true.

The trip is only 65 days away and I can't wait. I'll make sure I update you on this blog and on Facebook before, during and after our trip. I can't wait.