Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Life After 50 Begins

As the end of September, the month I turned 50 years old, comes around my time spent in Florida is transitioning from an event to a memory. I've begun the task of putting those memories into writing for preservation purposes. I will be creating a Disney Book for this trip just like the last one. Or at least similar to the last one.

I've downloaded all the pictures and will organize them. I've put up all the souvenirs to where I can see them. Disney World and the overall world of Disney now drops in priority for me. I will take my time with the creation of the book. The group of podcasts I listen to will, once again, become entertainment and not urgent trip planning resources. Returning to what I call my "regularly scheduled life" is the order of the day, everyday.

First and foremost this means a return to focusing on the growth of my relationship with Jesus Christ. I've been guilty of putting other things ahead of God for a while now. Ironically this happened during the time I was reading a book called "Counterfeit Gods" by Timothy Keller. It explains just how easy it is to make many things in this world idols in our lives ahead of the true God. It just goes to show why the first of the ten commandments about having "no other gods" before Jehovah God.

The book has kept me from drifting too far away and helped in pulling back toward the truth that God is the center of my life and I should be living for and serving Him.

Despite my spiritual wandering and willful sinning as loving and gracious as God is even in the time I've been openly abscessed with and serving other things as idols He's shown me the ways I've changed through His work in my life over the past 6 years. An example of this is in my September 12th blog post about the days following my return from my 2nd trip to Disney World compared to the first trip in 2004.

The 2nd most important "life thing" I've got to return to is my effort to lose weight. My decision to go off my diet and eat pretty much anything I wanted to while in Disney World has lasted a lot longer than I thought it would. Enjoying desserts (which Disney does VERY WELL by the way) and carbs while in "The World" put me on the path of bad habits again. Even more than 2 weeks after returning from Disney World, I've stopped most of my good eating habits and basically become the type of over eater I was back before my surgery. I've gotten addicted to carbs again. Even getting sick and feeling lousy from eating them (aka: "dumping") has not stopped me from eating too much of the wrong things.

In addition, much to the dismay of my dogs, I've stopped walking on a regular basis as well. I'm not doing the things that have resulted in my losing 180 pounds since March 08. In fact I've gained 10 pounds this month. I've got over 70 pounds to get to my goal weight. I've got to get back to the pursuit of that goal.

Paula has done just the opposite of me. She's come back from vacation on a weight loss "blue streak". She's gotten down to her lowest weight since surgery. She inspires me. We've done this together so far and I want to get back on the same path with her. It's part of doing what God wants me to do with my life.

The other area I need to return to is my ventriloquism and children's ministry. I've really neglected this area of my life since I've gone back to work. The reason for this (or is it an excuse?) is that I'm not motivated by anything but the opportunity to actually perform. The lack of my being available for parties and events on Saturdays and being able to minister at church on Sundays really has a negative effect on my motivation to work at being a vent.

But the return to start using ventriloquism to lead the music ministry once a month at AWANA nights at my church has reignited the spark to get back to work on ventriloquism. Also I've had a recurrence of encouraging encounters with the potential to learn and use the "distant voice" in my act (see blog post from 12/08/10 for a better explanation of this). I got a unique idea for a character for my new parrot puppet while I was at Disney World as well. More on that in a later post.

I've got a bunch of other personal projects I want to get done as well. The time for one of my goals for this year, the making of a new Rewind Christmas show, is growing short. That has to start with the importing all of my holiday music to I-Tunes. Then there's the writing of the script and the actual recording of the program. I want to send it as a gift to my family in Pennsylvania to feel a little closer to them during the holiday season again this year. I'm not sure I can get it done but I'm going to try.

Speaking of Christmas, even though it's only the end of September I've started buying Christmas presents already. I've gotten some good ideas and gift buying opportunities for some unique gifts for my sons and other Kentucky family members already. They're bought and stored away waiting for December 25th. I can't hardly wait the 2 1/2 months until they open them. I hope these gifts will make this Christmas a unique and memorable finish to a fantastic year.

Next up is the transformation of our house from what it is now to what Paula and I want it to be. I know it's been our goal for a few years now turn our house into a place we can really use as a base for ministry and a haven (no pun intended) to rest and grow both individually and together. It will take some work to get it to a state that's fitting for entertaining friends and family as well as a place to relax, enjoy and pursue our hobbies and interests. There's cleaning, decluttering, rearranging, organizing and more to be done to get it to that point.

Paula wants a place to start making jewelry again. I want a place write and pursue all my hobbies as well as display my personal memorabilia, Disney and baseball collectibles. Both of the rooms at the back of the house need to be cleaned out and repurposed (that's a term I've learned from Disney over the last few years) so we use them the way we want.

So there you have a list of what has to become my priorities as my life goes forward. There's so much ahead of me; so much I am supposed to and want to do. God has things for me that are so great I can't even imagine. I'm sure of that. I've got to to continue to grow in Him by reading and learning from His word. I've got to let the changes He works in me prepare me to the point where I'm willing and able to do those things.

I'm excited about all I've got to do and will work at getting it done. My goal for each day is to accomplish, grow and move forward each and every day. That' the theme for me as life after 50 begins.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Disney @ 50 Trip Review: Travel & Arrival Day

The following events took place on Monday September 6, 2010:

After an extensive packing effort the night before Paula and I left our house and headed south on interstate 65 about 4AM central time.

The first couple hundred miles we'd traveled together before. Most recently when we went to see James graduate from basic training in the army.

Once we passed Atlanta we were driving a portion of I-75 we had never been on before. We drove south through the heart of Georgia; a long 300 mile stretch until we finally reached the Florida state line.
Heave rain we greeted us as we drove down the Florida turnpike. From what I was to learn this type of afternoon storm is typical in the Sunshine state. The spray in the air and the glare on the windshield made driving a bit slow. The concentration required to drive safely wasn't the way I would have wanted 750 mile road trip to end but it turned out okay.

We kept going and soon our GPS guided us toward our Disney hotel, Pop Century. It's a resort based on pop culture of the 20th century decades: the 50's through the 90's.

We pulled up to the guard shack and gave our names and showed our driver's licenses to the security guard. He lifted the gate for us to enter the resort area.

The rain had slowed a bit but hadn't stopped as we parked in the parking lot near the resort's main building called "Everything Pop". It's a combination check-in area, resort store, food court and arcade under one roof.

We stood in line to check in less than 5 minutes. A young female cast member (aka: employee)named Melissa, who was "earning her ears (Disney term for being "in training") helped us. We ordered refrigerator to be brought to our room (no it doesn't come with a value resort room) for the length of our stay ($10 a night extra thank you very much!). We were given our card keys and a map directing us to room 1453 on the 4th floor of the 1950's building. We drove to the 50's parking area, got out and found our room.

Upon opening that door and entering that room I was no longer tired from the long drive. I was energized with excitement. I couldn't believe I was actually back at Disney World again. It was so surreal. I was very emotional but did my best to hold back the tears of joy.

After a couple of trips to the car, going up and down the elevator (it needed air conditioning or at least a fan) we had the car unloaded. People watching us must have thought we planning on staying for a month or longer.

We unpacked our suitcases and stocked the fridge, which arrived shortly after we did. It was filled with breakfast foods and drinks we brought with us. Paula took the time to review the information about the room and the resort that we were given at check-in. This included some info on just how our free quick-service dinning plan worked.

Because we were tired from the long drive we decided to go to the resort food court for dinner rather than try to do to Downtown Disney for dinner as we had planned. We rode down the elevator and instead of walking toward the parking lot side of the buildings we took the inside path toward Everything Pop. That's when I experienced my first really real magical "I'm in Disney World" moment.

It was almost like an orchestra played "When You Wish Upon A Star" in my mind when we stepped out into the common area between our building and the 60's building where the bowling pin shaped pool was. After just a few steps off the elevator we were standing next to a statue of the "Lady" the female dog from "Lady & The Tramp". The Tramp statue, just as tall, was on the other side of the common area next to the other building.

At the far end of the bowling pin pool was a 4-story tall jukebox. Right there in the night under the lights we were fully emerged in the World of Disney. It was awesome...but it was just the beginning.
In "Everything Pop" we got ourselves something to eat. The food court had 4 stations with different menus to choose from. We used our dining plan to get an entree, a dessert and a drink. We also got our refillable drink mugs. We could use them to get as much coffee, tea, or soft drinks as we wanted from the food court area during our stay.

We finished our dinner which was not bad for what it was (I don't remember what we had) and then looked around Everything Pop. We browsed in the gift shop/store to see what souvenirs initially caught our eye. We also scouted out things that were on our "must buy" list so we could purchase them any time during our stay. We found water balls (aka: snow globes), picture frames, mouse ear hats, shirts and more. I was excited because I had planned on buying mouse ears and wearing them in the Magic Kingdom. I ended up deciding not to though.

We checked out the arcade and were happy when we found pinball machines there. We planned on going in and playing one night but never got the time. While Paula sat in the check-in lobby area and rested I took pictures of all the pop culture memorabilia hanging on the walls.

There was all kinds of stuff from the 5 decades that themed Pop Century. The range of things included just about everything from the Howdy Doody TV show to the first home computers. I took lots of pictures.
Tired from our long day we walked back to our room taking pictures of the buildings and icons along the way.
We had been given a handicap room which means there was a handheld shower head with lots of different settings. That might not sound like it's even worth mentioning but that night and every day during our stay it helped relax and rejuvenate. This worked well to get us ready to go back to the parks for our evening tours and to help us unwind enough to fall asleep fast at night. It was so relaxing to feel that hot water on the massage setting hit my tired aching muscles after a day in one of the theme parks.

I reviewed our plans for going to Universal Studios the next day before turning down the bed covers and crawling in for a much anticipated good night's sleep. We were going to start off our vacation by going to see The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. That was a belated birthday present to Paula from me.

While our visits to the Disney theme parks wouldn't start until Wednesday; Monday night we fell asleep on a very comfortable mattress nestled in the atmosphere and reality of Walt Disney World. I knew from what had happened just since our arrival that this was going to be a great vacation.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Los Angeles Angels Of Anaheim T-Shirt Suprise

I know I promised to start writing about Disney World but before I do I wanted to post this picture. It shows me wearing a surprise I got in the mail the other day.

As many of you know I am currently in the on-going process of collecting a T-shirt from each of the major league baseball teams. The ultimate plan would be to purchase a shirt when I visit the ballpark or at least the city where the team plays.

This summer I bought both Washington Nationals and a Milwaukee Brewer shirts when I went there. I tried to find a Tampa Rays shirt in the Orlando area but didn't.

As I stayed in my August 8th post, I like to have a story that goes with each shirt. Doing my best to keep one foot in reality I realize that I won't be able to buy all my t-shirts while visiting the team's market. The west coast teams are the ones I'll most likely never get to. With that in mind, this summer I asked my good online friend, Mary, who lives in Southern Calfornia (2 hours from Disneyland the lucky stiff) to find me an LA Angels shirt and send it to me. She said she'd do her best.

With all the excitement about going to Disney World I had totally forgotten about it. Well this past Tuesday I came home from work and found a package from Mary in the mailbox. I was surprised because I wasn't expecting anything from her. As a matter of fact I have something to send her still sitting on the counter waiting to be mailed.

I was really overjoyed when I opened the envelope and found the shirt you see me wearing in the picture. I quickly added it to my collection and wore it to work on Wednesday. I wanted to post this entry to say "thanks" to Mary.

I don't know if I'll ever get to California to visit with Mary and her family but even if I don't she's been one of my best friends for a long time. Thanks for the t-shirt, Mary.

Over the years you've been a real friend. You've litterally stuck with me through thick and thin. Even though the shirt you sent me represents a major league team with the name you're a real life angel. to me.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Been Writing Just Not Posting

It's been over a week since I've returned from my 50th birthday trip to Disney World and I've only written one post about it. Even that one didn't have very many details about the trip. Well if the truth be told I have been writing but not on this blog.

I've started putting my recollections and memories about our Florida days together for what I call a "Disney Trip Book". I created one the last time we went to see Mickey and it took me the better part of a year. It won't take me that long this time.

In addition, I know that my faithful blog readers are anxiously waiting for details of fireworks and ride experiences. I will begin a series of posts recapping Disney World 2010 for Paula and me with my next post.

Keep checking back for new posts. I don't know how many there will be but I promise to try and keep them short and to the point. That's just a promise not a guarantee. Once I get started writing I will probably get very involved in writing about what I will always consider one of the best weeks of my life.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Comparing Returns

I have just had one of the BEST week's of my life!. What a great time we had at Walt Disney World! I'm going to be posting my trip report here over the next couple of weeks. But that's not what this post is about. The purpose of this post is a comparison of 2 specific times in my life: the days following each of my vacations to Walt Disney World.

First let's go back to January 2004 and the days after my first trip. We had a very good time as a family on our first trip. There were so many great moments that I spent the rest of 2004 writing and preserving memories of our trip in a Disney version of the Yearbooks I was creating at the time.

However I was so focused on the Disney trip for more than a year before and had planned and anticipated it with such aspirations that the trip itself could not have possibly ever lived up to my expectations. I saw it as an end. It was the total focus point of my life for over a year. After it was over I had nothing to move on to. In the days after what I thought at the time was a once in a lifetime vacation was over I actually felt empty. Don't get me wrong I still had my wife and sons to build a life with. But for the most part on a personal basis I had nothing to look forward to. I had no life goals beyond getting to Disney World.

Also for 3 months before and shortly after my first Disney trip I worked at the AFNI call center as a trainer. About a month before my trip I was told that I was being replaced in my job due to a "restructuring" of the training department. I was so proud of getting the job as a trainer the previous September. I even used my obsession with the world of Disney as part of my interview for the job.

I was told in December that when I returned from my vacation in January I would no longer be a trainer. Just exactly what my job was going to be was not yet determined. I felt completely humiliated in my job. Turns out when I got back that management had nothing for me to do. I spent most of my day sitting at my desk writing personal stuff about my Disney trip on the computer and I got in trouble for doing that.

I also had to deal with the reality of my physical condition (aka being so over weight) which was really amplified by the difficulty I had getting around on our Disney World vacation and exhaustion I felt afterward. I got really depression about it . My weight had made the accomplishment of one of my life's goals (yes going to Disney World was a life goal for me at the time) extremely hard to do and severely diminished the satisfaction of doing it. That combined with the inability to permanently lose weight and keep it off sent me into an on-going depression that lasted for years.

Although initially, I tried to use the experience (Paula called it the "Disney Death March") as motivation to start eating right, losing weight and exercising the effort was short lived. I tried but couldn't be consistent. Our new dog, Dory, helped me with the motivation to walk. I estimated that I walked about 200 miles in '04. Unfortunately by the end of the year I had gained weight not lost.

I ended up leaving AFNI in May of 2004 and getting a new job at Perot Systems. That job started out okay but I had difficulties there which simply enhanced my on going depressed state.

In the days following the 2004 Disney World vacation I felt hopeless in regard to my personal future. Therefore I was obsessed with the remembering and preserving the memory of that week in Orlando. It was the only thing that gave me a purpose.

As a result of the post Disney blues and the installation of a new pastor, in March 2004 Paula and I were led to go back to Oakland Baptist Church. At church I got involved in the children's ministry. Eventually that helped me with the depression. But that didn't happen until 5 to 6 months after our Disney World trip.

I wanted to go back to Disney World from the moment I left; but I never ever thought I'd be able to afford to go again. That made me feel even worse.

To sum it all up in the days after my first trip to Walt Disney World I was pretty depressed and felt hopeless in my life.

Now let's look at the days which are ahead of me now after my 50th birthday trip.

Let's start with the fact that despite the long 13 hour plus drive and that we were pretty much "on the go" most of the time we were there the physical effects of the 2010 Disney experience wasn't a "death march" but similar to having run a marathon. We are both tired and will need time to recover both physically and mentally. I'm certian we will recover and it will have a positive effect on our lives.

We will also look back on it as a physical accomplishment. It was difficult but it didn't "kill" us. The fact that we were a combined 290 + pounds lighter this trip is the biggest factor in that difference. We also learned our lesson and took an afternoon break (aka nap) back at our hotel two of the four days we were in the parks. This made the biggest difference in the world. The 2 evening visits to Magic Kingdom on Wednesday and Epcot on Friday were probably the most enjoyable times we had in the parks.

So our memories, both Paula and mine, of this trip will be 90% pleasant ones. That's a big factor in our decision to visit Disney World again someday. The good experience and the possibility of going back also cuts down on the "blues" of the ending of such a landmark experience in my life. I will, for the most part, not experience any depression about the fact that the trip is over this time. I'm sure I'll wish from time to time that I could be back there but with a very positive emotion spin to it.

Secondly, my job at ShopNBC is going rather well. I have really performed beyond management's expectations since returning the 3rd week of July. My days don't seem so long and I am actually enjoying being good at my job. The 40 hour week is not that bad. I am motivated to get even better and have set my sights on getting at least Sundays off sometime in the near future.

Also on a personal basis I have a lot of projects and goals that I'd like to accomplish. Some of them would probably seem rather unimportant to anyone but me. These include organizing our household a bit better, completing the conversion of my Christmas music to I-Tunes, writing and recording a few new Rewind programs as well as others.

Then there are those goals that are on very high importance level. The highest of course is returning my continuing desire to grow as a Christian and becoming closer in my relationship with God as well as doing His will for my life. This, of course, would include advancing my ventriloquism ministry. I will now, once again, focus on being a ventriloquist and getting to share the gospel with children through my puppets.

I also have the task of finally reaching my weight loss goal. As I come back from vacation I still have about 60 pounds to lose. At the rate I've been losing this will still take probably the better part of a year. But I know how to do it and am confident that by my 51st birthday I will have reached my goal and will be in the "maintenance" part of my weight control. This is the one thing I'm most excited about and determined to accomplish. I won't be rubber stamping the word "Accomplished" on the mission I started on July 6, 2009 until I reach 170 pounds. That's what I'm working toward.

I guess if I had to sum it up in one sentence I would say that the difference between returning from the Disney World vacation in 2004 and coming back from this one is a matter of having hope and purpose versus not.

This comparison between my return in '04 and 2010 shows what a great work God has done in my life in the last 6 years. It just goes to show you what changes can happen if you study the Bible for what it really is and apply it to your life with God's grace and the Holy Spirit's guidance.

So now it's now "back to my regularly scheduled life". The Disney World trip will be on my mind for a long time; especially as I write down my recollection for the purpose of yet another Disney Trip book. But I'm not going to be clinging to the time in Florida as my only means of surviving from day to day. I've got too much to do in my life to live in the past. No depression just optimism here. It's 2010, I'm 50 years old with a lot of livin' to do. The future's bright and I'm wearing sunglasses. Time to move forward.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Gone To Mickey's House

Well I was wrong in my last post. I do have time to write one more post before my birthday vacation.
Back in January if anyone had told me that I'd be in Walt Disney World on my 50th birthday I'd have given them a very sarcastic "yeah right" and told them it would happen when pigs fly.

Well in the future when I talk about this up coming week I'll have to tell everyone how swine flew.
With the blessings of circumstances and the wonderful generosity of my wife I'm heading south in about 6 hours destination Disney World.

We will be spending a day at Universal Studios, having dinner with some friends who used go to our church, and then do all 4 Disney theme parks in 3 days. It will be my 2nd trip of a lifetime. My sister in law will be watching over the house and our pets while we're gone. Thanks Theresa.

I'm sure you're probably already tired of hearing about my trip but you ain't read nothing yet. Once I get back I will write a long and full trip report here on this blog. I plan on taking plenty of notes and lots of pictures. We have over 16 GB of storage for our cameras so there's plenty of room for snapping memories.

Now it's time to finish this post, do some last minute packing and head to bed for a few hours of rest before we hit the open road in search of Walt's World. Although I'm not sure I'll be able to sleep. It's like Christmas eve when I was a kid.

My first after vacation post may be a comparison of this trip to the last and the difference in my life then and now as well. But writing that will take care of itself when I get back.
As Tigger would say "Ta Ta For Now".

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Yet Another "Catch Up" Post

I've been very busy over the last week getting ready for vacation and doing other things that I haven't had time to finish a post. I've written them on paper while at work but have never posted them.

I'm off for my birthday getaway early on Monday morning so this will be my last post until I get back. Here are some of the things that have happened in the last 9 days.

Hurricane Hassle
The series of tropical storms and hurricanes that I was worried about having an effect on our vacation are all out of the picture now. This includes hurricanes Danielle, Earl, and tropical storm Fiona. Ironically the only one that may have a remote chance of effecting us is a storm called "Gaston". It was named as a storm but then fell apart. It's now starting to reorganize but it's path shouldn't effect the trip.

1st Magnitude
This past Monday Night (8/30) James and I started our 32 week "Fall" bowling league. I'm the team's captain and gave us the name "The 1st Magnitude". It's an astrological term meaning the brightest star.

Each team in the league has 4 bowlers. We have 2 young ladies as our teammates. Karen is the niece of one of the people I go to church with. Trica is 25 years old and has only lived in Bowling Green for a year. She moved here because of her job. They are both high average bowlers (about 180 or so).

James and I felt pretty much like "fish out of water" when we started bowling. As the night went on we got a bit better in our game and James was GIVEN a bowling ball by one of the guys on the other team. He was extremely happy about that.

We don't bowl again until I get back from vacation but I'm looking forward to a good season.

Last Game Of The Season
On Tuesday (8/31) I went to the last home game for the Bowling Green Hot Rods baseball team. It was one of those nights I'd been waiting for for a while. I was excited and sentimental at the same time. I was sad that the season was over but grateful for all the fun times Ive had there this summer.
One last time I ate a small bag of popcorn but I shouldn't have. It made me really sick to my stomach. I felt awful the entire night.

I spent the game talking to all the people I knew; there was about a dozen from church. Laura Rogers, a local morning TV news anchor was there too. She looked really different in person. Not anywhere near as pretty as on TV. I also walked around the park and watched the game from different sections. Came within 10 feet of having a foul ball come to me.

Finally about the 8th inning with the Hot Rods losing 13-5 I felt badly enough to decide to leave. While listening to the game on the radio I discovered that I had missed the first and only grand slam homer run by a Hot Rods player at their home park this season. Oh well, there's always next year.

August Weight Loss
Finally I want to report that I lost 5.6 pounds in the month of August. I am now in the mid 220's and am looking forward to breaking the 200 pound mark by the end of the year. The weight loss is now slower more of an effort. My small pouch and eating plan are now just important tools in helping me lose than they are a cause of my weight loss. To lose I have to make a concentrated effort to eat right and exercise. That's not just a temporary thing that's the way it's going to be the rest of my life.

So as far as I can see this will be the last post before I turn 50 on Thursday. I'm really excited about going to Disney World for my birthday. I'm sure I will have plenty to catch up with you about when I return. See you then.