Three years by the numbers

It is once again my blogiversary.  I have been slogging along writing down my thoughts for three years now.  The thing about writing this stuff and sending it out into the universe along the world wide web is that I really have no idea where it goes and who it effects.  WordPress very nicely tracks statistics for me, so while I have no idea about impact I do have statistics.

This is what I know:

I have written 256 blog posts (this is 257).

I have 79 fans on Facebook, an additional 56 followers on WordPress, plus 8 more on Twitter.

My blog has been read 7,032 times in 87 different countries.  Almost a third of my readers live outside the United States. They are not necessarily regular readers. There is a list of 59 countries where one person visited my blog once. But there are 27 other countries where my blog has been viewed 10 times or more.  I have fairly impressive numbers in France, Germany, and The Philippines.

My most read blog fluctuates between ‘The Power of Sadness’ and ‘East or West: Which Disney Park is the Best?’

I have received 2 offers to become a regular writer for other blogs.

I have received 1 negative comment.  This may be the most surprising statistic of all.

The range of topics I have covered has been many and varied.  I will continue to write whatever strikes my fancy tackling church issues, contemporary debates, movie reviews, and all things Disney.  One of my goals this years is to write another long series on the Disney/Marvel Universe.  We’ll see how it goes.  We’ve got a lot of Disney movies coming in the next few months that I will want to talk about.

Thank you to all of you who read this little blog.  It is neither cool nor famous, but I appreciate those of you who take the time to read my thoughts.  I hope you continue to enjoy it as much as I enjoy reading it.  Here’s to the next year.

 

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#MeToo

The women who read this blog know that abuse and harassment is a fact of our lives.  So much so that it often just becomes background noise as we move through the world.  Men have self-given permission to say whatever they want to us.  Our bodies are communal property that belongs to them as much as us.  They can insult us, judge us, want us, reject us and we are supposed to take it all with good humor.  Men can and do deny this reality saying not all men do this, women are over sensitive or can’t take a joke, or (my personal favorite) that it’s a complement.  I have been harassed many times in my life and my responses have ranged from formal complaint to ignoring it.  This is the story of the first time I was harassed.

I was at an amusement park standing in a queue.  The man behind me pushed into me.  I turned around but he didn’t apologize.  I didn’t think much about it.  Crashes happen in line.  Then it happened again.  I responded with an angry “Hey!” but he just laughed at me.  He started grabbing me and buckling my knees so I would fall backwards against him.  My assertions to stop were laughed at by him and his friends.  The staff person standing outside the maze literally turned his back on me when I tried to get help.  The people standing around us ignored the behavior.  Eventually the people in my group shifted so I could move away.  That probably just put someone else in harm’s way but at that point I didn’t care.  I learned several things in that 20 minutes of hell.  First, that I wasn’t safe and second that no one cared.  I was twelve years old.

I will repeat that for clarity.  I was a twelve-year-old girl being harassed in a public space by a man much older than myself.  His behavior was ignored by staff and bystanders and encouraged by his friends.

Are you appalled?

Are you shocked?

Are you offended?

Probably not.  It is a common story.  It’s not even that horrible.  I suffered no lasting damage from the encounter, but it did change me.  I stand sideways in lines now so I can see the people on either side of me.  If there is a railing or barrier, I keep it at my back.  I always make sure The Princess is in front of me in a line so I can see her.  These are behaviors I don’t even think about and only noticed when I started sharing this story with people.

That is how I was changed the first time I was targeted.  In the more than thirty years since, I have modified my behavior in many ways to minimize the damage to myself.  Most of those changes I am probably not even aware of.  But I do know the moment when I decided I had had enough.  I was walking down a street with The Princess.  She was sixteen and we were being cat called.  First from a passing car and then from a random man on the street corner who told us to smile.  I felt myself putting on my self-defense smile, saw my daughter standing next to me, and stopped.  I frowned instead.  I glared at the man and opened my mouth, not to be meek but to tell him to leave me and my daughter alone and say who knows what else.  Because that man, whoever he was, was about to get years of repressed fear and anger dumped on his head.  I don’t know if it is a good or bad thing, but The Princess noticed.  She grabbed my arm and dragged me along, repeating, “Mom, don’t.” until we were past him.

In that moment, I had snapped.  All I could see was my daughter facing the same ongoing, pointless, relentless harassment that I had face and I was done.  I remain done.  My tolerance for this behavior is over.  You can say I’m too sensitive.  Fine, If I’m too sensitive I’ve been made that way by men whose comments were not innocent.  You can say I can’t take a joke.  Jokes about violating women’s boundaries or causing them harm aren’t funny.  If you think they are, there’s something wrong with you.  You can say I can’t take a compliment but if you want to really compliment a woman running past you, try “Run strong” or “Keep going” not “Nice Ass”.

I’m done putting up with it.  If that makes me another angry woman, so be it.  I dare any man to live with what women live with and not get angry.  More than that I dare men to listen to the stories that are being told without being defensive and offended.  You know it happens.  You have done it yourself or allowed your friends to get away with it.  You have turned away when a stranger needed your voice, your help, your intervention.  Don’t be offended by the women posting #Metoo be offended by the fact that it exists at all.

There’s only one Mickey Mouse

The Disney Parks are full of magic.  We know it, the cast members know it, and the other guests know it.  Some of that magic is spontaneous, fun, and unexpected.  It comes when we don’t look for it and surprises us with joy.  I once rounded a corner to find my mom dancing with penguins. Some is carefully crafted, moments that cast members work hard to make special.  Fireworks and shows that create connections and powerful shows that bring together music, light, and emotions.  The last time I saw World of Color I cried. Some magic, however is not really magic unless we allow it to be.

There are many fictions that we accept when we walk into a Disney Park: standing in line is fun, it is reasonable to pay $9 for a ham sandwich, walking miles on asphalt every day is worth it, and many others that we use to justify what is in reality an expensive, exhausting, and in many ways inconvenient.  Then there are the fictions that the cast members maintain: everyone has a magical day, the cast members are happy to help you with anything, you are actually visiting Mos Isley, Arendelle, Mickey’s House or any number of other places.  The fiction that always strikes me the most is, “There’s only one Mickey Mouse.”

Cast members insist that this is true not just for Mickey Mouse but for all the characters.  If Merida is in a parade, you cannot meet her in her autograph area.  She’s busy.  And I understand that.  If you want children to believe that they are really meeting their favorite character, that character cannot be in two places at once.  Kids aren’t stupid.  But I have thought about this when I have heard it said and wondered what if there was really only one Mickey Mouse?  What if only one cast member was trained to be Mickey Mouse?  What would that look like?

First, of course Mickey would only be at one Park.  My guess would be Disneyland since that’s where his house is.  Mickey could only see people for a limited amount of time.  Not seven days a week, not twelve hours a day, not holidays.  Mickey could work shifts or probably only twenty minutes in high summer before heading in for re-hydration and shade.  Of the close to 20 million visitors who visit Disneyland, how many would get to see Mickey Mouse?  It’s hard to say, but certainly less than those who see him now.  Take away from that number all those at other Disney Parks, cruises, resorts, and events and I would guess the resulting percentage would be too small to calculate.  Fortunately, this in not the case.  There is more than one Mickey Mouse and we accept the fiction that there isn’t to preserve the magic.

This thought often comes to me when we have conversations in church that end in the statement, “Well, that’s the pastor’s job.”  It is a catch all to indicate that the work needs to be done by someone other than the speaker.  Interestingly the one things that these conversations have in common is that they are encouraging unwilling lay people to be more involved in the ministry of the church.  They don’t feel comfortable saying that they don’t want to do the work that the church is called to do, so they instead shift the focus from themselves to the paid professional who just needs to to more, better, more interesting work.  But just like Mickey Mouse, there needs to be more than one.

If the church is relying on one person, no matter who that person is, to do all the work of inviting, incorporating, and training the church is limiting itself.  No one, no matter how talented, well-trained, or inspirational can do it all.  No matter how wonderful, s/he needs days off, breaks, and time away.  What’s more, no one person is good at everything.  We need multiple people with multiple talents doing the work of the church (or any other place) or we will be limited by one person’s limitations and flaws.  Growth takes the commitment of everyone involved not just one person.  If we want the magic to happen, we need to have enough people committed to making it happen.  One is not enough.

There is more than one Mickey Mouse and that is a good thing.  There should be more than one person focused on any particular group goal if the group truly wants it to succeed.

 

Nightmare Revisited

What can I say that hasn’t already been said?

What can anyone say that hasn’t already been said?

We can send our thoughts and prayers to Las Vegas as we sent them to Orlando.  While ignoring the smaller tragedies in San Francisco, CA ( 3 dead, 2 injured); Tunkhannock, PA (3 dead); Orlando, Florida (5 dead); Kirkersville, Ohio, (3 dead); Fresno, California, (3 dead); Fort Lauderdale, Florida (5 dead, 6 injured); Burlington, WA (5 dead); Baton Rouge, LA (3 dead, 3 injured); and Dallas, Texas (5 dead and 11 injured) all of which happened in between those two events.  All of which are only the incidents that meet the strictest definition of what makes a ‘mass shooting’ event.  A looser definition based on the number of casualties rather than the number of fatalities brings the number of mass shootings between the two record setting events up to over 500.  What else can we say?

It is obvious that we don’t care.  Our lawmakers don’t want things to change.  The NRA doesn’t want things to change.  The gun manufacturers obviously don’t want things to change they are the only real winners in this ongoing scenario.  Despite our thoughts and prayers and tears we do nothing to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.  So in another 15 months or less we will be here again.

We will be told it’s not about guns.  Except it is.  Semi-automatic weapons are not guns for hunters they are guns for killing people.  Without the weapons available to him, the Las Vegas shooter would not have been able to do as much damage.

We will be told now is not the time for the conversation.  Except it is.  If we cannot talk about what caused a tragedy to occur when it is fresh in our minds we never will.

We will be told that gun control violates our second amendments rights.  Except it doesn’t.  The second amendment doesn’t promise us the right to own arsenals of machine guns for ‘home protection’.  It promises that no matter who we are or our station in life we are allowed to bear arms in protection of the country in an organized militia.  Want access to a machine gun?  Join the National Guard.

The sad thing is we know ALL of this.  We have heard it time and again.  The evidence suggests that we don’t care.  We let this absurdity go on week after week, month after month, death after death.  If we cared, it would stop.  We and our legislators would do everything in our power to make it stop.  We seem to be happy repeating the same cycle over and over, ad nauseum while the list of causalities continues to grow.

Don’t worry.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.  I’m sure that will help.

When the Magic is Missing

If you are a regular reader of the blog, you will have noticed that 1) there hasn’t been a blog for a while and 2) the last couple were fairly somber.  I have been trying to find my usual enthusiasm for this project, but it has been hard to find.  You see, my grandmother has died and I have lost some of my own magic.

I have written a couple of times about my first trip to Disneyland.  We took a family road trip across the country and went many places.  The place that was most vivid  to my five-year-old self and remained with me the most was, of course, Disneyland.  I have clear memories of that day in the park.  Some of our stories from that day became family canon, told over and over again.  So much so, when I returned to Disneyland as an adult I mailed home postcards of the Haunted Mansion that simply said, “I kept my eyes open,” As of ten days ago, I am the only person on that trip still living.

My Grandma took me to Disneyland the first time.  She also took me to Disney World the first time.  She loved the Tiki Room, but absolutely refused to ride the tea cups.  She was patient when I wanted to see characters.  For years we had Polaroid photos of me with Goofy, Capt. Hook, and other random characters that used to be out in the park.

Her favorite Disney song was ‘Bella Notte’.  I would bring my record player into the living room and we would listen to the music sides of my Disney story records together.   We saw more Disney movies together than I can count.  In fact we moved in our relationship from her taking me to the movies to me taking her.  In fact, the first movie I ever took Grandma to see in a theater was the animated “Beauty and the Beast”.  I paid for tickets and snacks.  She fussed about that but I insisted.  One of the last conversations we had in the days before she died she asked me, “How did you get to be such a Disney fan?”  I didn’t have the heart to tell her it was at least partially her fault.

Losing her has meant losing a little bit of the joy I always found in Disney.  She was such an integral part of all my early Disney memories.  A piece of the magic is missing.  I know I will heal.  I know it will get better.  But right now I’m a little lost and trying to find my way back.

‘Man is in the Forest’

****************************SPOILER ALERT*********************************

This blog contains major plot points in the film, “Bambi”.  If you have never seen Bambi and do not know what happens you will want to stop reading now.  I have difficulty imagining that there is anyone out there reading a Disney blog that doesn’t already know this stuff, but just in case, you have been warned.

****************************SPOILER ALERT ENDS*********************************

The film, “Bambi” has been credited for raising awareness of the natural world in generations of children.  Between the traumatic death of Bambi’s mother by an illegal poacher and the catastrophic fire at the end of the film, audiences were challenged to evaluate how they interacted with wilderness areas.  We have come a long way in the three quarters of a century since the movie was released.  Not all of our progress can be credited to “Bambi”, but it was a start.  I bring this up not to talk about how far we’ve come, but how far we still have to go.

Regular readers know that I have recently moved.  You may not know that I have moved to a small town in the Columbia Gorge Natural Scenic Area.  Unless you live in the Northwest, you probably don’t know that it is on fire.  We don’t get a lot of press out here.  Wildfires have become a fact of life in the Northwest as rising temperatures and less rainfall have turned our great forests into tinder.  This fire, called the Eagle Creek fire, is a little different.  It was not started by a lightning strike, a car, or even by a stray spark from a campfire.  It was started Saturday by a 15-year old boy and his friends throwing fireworks off a cliff into the Gorge.  They were spotted by other hikers who reported that the group was laughing as they walked off, unconcerned with the consequences of their actions.  By Wednesday the fire had grown to 50 acres and multiple communities were being evacuated.  The teenagers filmed themselves having fun.

It honestly astounds me that anyone would be this foolish.  Accidents happen, but throwing fireworks into an area with a burn ban where fireworks are illegal is not an accident.  It is at best thoughtless and self-centered.  It is at worst malicious.  People in the area are calling for these young people to be punished in the most appalling of ways.  I believe they should be held accountable, but jail time will not get the point across.  I believe that they should have to help the people who have lost their home.  They should be part of the clean-up and rebuilding process.  They should have to rebuild trails and plant trees.  They should be part of the groups that track the wild animals who have lost their homes and food sources.  They should see first hand what they did to the wider community just to post a funny video.  They should learn the lessons of “Bambi” and have to tell other young people why what they did was wrong.

My home is on fire because Man was in the forest.  It’s beauty is scarred.  It’s animals have fled.  It’s people are traumatized.

By now, we should all know better.

gorge firephoto credit: Mark Graves | The Oregonian/OregonLive

Stories from the park: Saying Goodbye

All good things must come to and end and it is a fact that one cannot live at the Walt Disney World Resort (though in fairness I would be willing to give it a try).  There comes a point when we must pack up, say good-bye and head home.  This trip the good-bye seemed a little harder than usual.  Mostly because it wasn’t the only good-bye I needed to say.  When next I go back to a Disney Park, life will be different.  The Princess may not be with me and if she is she will be an adult with her own plans and priorities.  My years of visiting Disney Parks with my child are over.  It is a hard reality to come to grips with.

I have said a lot of goodbyes recently.  After getting back from WDW, I packed up Disney Dog and the Aristocat and moved to a new community.  I said goodbye to the people and places that made up my life for the last four years.  I also left The Princess behind so she could continue her summer job.  It was hard but I was busy enough with unpacking a new house and settling into a new church that I got through it.  Then last week happened.

Last week, The Princess moved to college.  She is settled into her new dorm, making new friends, and figuring out her classes.  She is also beginning to create the bones of a new life that for the first time does not involve me.  I am on the edges of her life.  I will see her for holidays, exchange texts and phone calls, but her life is now primarily hers.  Which means who I am in my life has changed.  My life is also primarily mine for the first time in more than 18 years.  In addition to saying goodbye to her, I am also having to say goodbye to that part of me and it is hard.

Also last week, the 16 year old Aristocat had to be put to sleep.  He was sick.  It was the right choice.  But it was one goodbye too many for me.  I find that the death of my grumpy, old cat is hitting me hard.  I wasn’t ready for another goodbye.  I need my life to stop changing for just a little bit.  I need some stability.

In my mind, I know everything is fine.  I know that my life is moving in ways that are natural, normal, and good.  But my heart is breaking a little bit and it feels like it will never be whole.  It feels like the world has shifted under me and I don’t know what to do to put it back on track.

My brain keeps trying to help.  It reminds me that I’m not alone, that all will be well, that there is a plan.  I know all this.  But saying goodbye is hard and sometimes I need a reminder.

“The Lord is my solid rock,

my fortress, my rescuer.

My God is my rock —

I take refuge in him!–

he’s my shield,

my salvation’s strength,

my place of safety.”

Psalm 18: 2