Friday, October 15, 2010

Recapturing memories & Building new memories/ Rebuilding Faith, Trust & Pixie Dust during the midst of disaster

My husband and I had always loved Disneyland. We had both gone there all our lives at least once a year. We both loved to watch Disney Movies and enjoyed the whimsy of Cartoons. But at the time Disney was not as big a part of our life as it is now. Memories of Disneyland and the joy we found there helped rebuild a lifetime of memories that were stolen in one tragic moment.

Saturday, January 31, 1997 my husband went to visit his brother at his job site. His brother is a contractor and was remodeling an office. Ross, Scott’s brother told him that he needed to get certain things done before they could go out to get something to eat. Scott offered to help by taking out a lit exit sign that was no longer needed at its location. They followed the wires back to the circuit breaker and disconnected them and the light went out. They felt sure the power to the sign was cut and it was safe to cut the wires and remove it. Scott climbed the latter and followed all the safety procedures. He was on a fiberglass ladder, had rubber soled shoes and a new insolated pair of wire cutters.

Scott cut the wire and sparks flew! The dykes were shattered by the force of the electricity and pieces imbedded themselves in the cement ceiling above his head by ½ an inch. Scott climbed down the ladder and sat down at the bottom. He told everyone around that he had just been electrocuted and that his wife, little ol me would kill him for touching electricity! He has had 3 open heart surgeries and a shock is not a good thing for him. He also asked 911 be called right away. Within 30 seconds of him coming down the ladder he collapsed and went into full arrest. 911 had already been called.

There two of the construction workers knew CPR and they jumped in and started CPR within seconds of his heart stopping. The paramedic station was right around the corner and they showed up within 5 minutes of him going into arrest. They tried for a couple of minutes to get his heart going as they loaded him into the ambulance. The hospital was just 4 blocks away from the worksite. He was in the emergency room under a doctor’s care less than 15 minutes after going into full arrest. The doctors, nurses and respiratory therapists worked for another 30 minutes to get Scott’s heart going. Combined time from the start of CPR until his heart was beating steadily on its own was 45 minutes. Nobody survives CPR being done for that long without major brain damage.

My brother-in-law contacted me at home about 20 minutes after the accident. He told me Scott had been electrocuted and the doctors were doing CPR but he would most likely not survive. He told me to get there as fast as I could. Scott had our one and only vehicle and it was parked over an hour away from home just 4 blocks from the hospital! I called my parents by my dad had just blown a disk in his back and my mother was in the emergency room with him! For over an hour I called friends and family but few were answering their phones. Those who did were unable to help for various reasons. Finally I got hold of my mother in law. Mum came and picked me up and we drove to the hospital in the pouring rain. It was the worst winter storms the Los Angeles area had seen in decades! Freeways and side streets were flooded. Rock slides had filled some freeway interchanges. I tried to find somebody to watch our daughter who was 3 at the time. She is/was so hyperactive nobody could or would watch her so she came with me. Mum and I took turns chasing her around the ICU waiting room.

Before I left to see him I called Scott’s work and told them what had happened. Word spread quickly throughout the hospital he works at. He has worked at that same hospital for 27 years now. So he knows many of the 4,000 employees. By the time I got to the hospital where he was an emergency room doctor from the hospital Scott works at had gotten there. He was with me when I first saw Scott 4 hours after the accident. Scott was on full life-support and in a coma. He looked like he was having seizures but it was strange to me. First he would “posture” turning his hands out away from his body and stretching his head back. Then he would quickly go the other way with his hands turned toward his body and his chin coming down to his chest. Our doctor friend told me that one direction showed minor and possibly reversible brain damage. The other direction showed permanent irreversible damage to the brain stem and brain death. The fact Scott was bouncing between the two directions showed rather “conclusive” proof that he had at the minimum major brain damage or was brain dead. I was asked what mortuary I wanted called. I was also warned that in the slim chance he survived he would be a vegetable for the rest of his life and have no quality of life at all. I was told no decision should be made until at least 24 hours after the accident. This was to give the swelling of his brain time to go down.

At the end of 24 hours I was told that the tests they had run showed Scott had irreversible brain damage and was brain dead. They said his body “might” survive but there was no chance of any quality of life. I was asked if they could take him off life support the next morning because he was fighting the ventilator and hurting himself and the nurses. They could not give him any more sedation because that would stop his heart again. They were sure that taking him off the ventilator would allow him to die in peace. I told the doctors that he was in God’s hands not theirs and God would do the right thing. I gave permission to remove the life-support the next morning. I took my daughter home for the night and cried the night away praying that God’s will be done. I told God I needed my husband but if it was His will to take him then do it quickly and peacefully.

Monday morning came even wetter than the day before. More freeways were flooded causing closures. I was not there when Scott was taken off of life-support. 36 hours after the accident I walked into ICU. There was an excited hush in the unit. The tension was thick but not with fear or sadness! A nurse quickly came to me when I entered and escorted me to Scott’s room not telling me what I would find when I entered. What I found was not what I expected. I expected to find my husband lying lifeless or dying on the bed. What I found was him sitting up in a chair talking calmly and reasonably with the nurses!! He was telling him about the three open heart surgeries he had as a child, the first one was experimental when he was only 3 years old. He was telling him his medical history using complex medical terms! His voice was not his normal voice. He sounded like a four year old child but the words were adult. It was totally surreal!

Scott kept asking questions. “Was I electrocuted?” I answered, “Yes.” Did they have to do CPR?” Again I told him, “Yes.” “Did they have to shock me?” Once more it was, “Yes.”  He kept asking these and other questions over and over and over . . . . I quickly realized his memory was affected by the accident. I knew it was up to me to help him rebuild his memories. The first thing I did was write down all the questions he kept asking about his accident. I numbered each question and had the answer written under it. Once he had the note when he would ask, “Was I electrocuted?” I’d answer, “Number 1 dear.” This gave him the tools to answer the questions he had himself even if I had to leave to take care of our daughter or myself.

After dealing with the initial questions of what happened and what is happing now I started reaching back and talking to him about friends, family and events of our lives. I brought in pictures and showed them too him and talked about vacations we had taken. We spent a long time talking about our early friendship and our honeymoon. I kept finding a lot of the conversations kept going back to Disneyland. I found we had lots of precious memories there. The Wednesday after the accident Scott was moved from ICU to a regular room. None of the medical staff had ever thought he would leave ICU let alone so soon! On Friday, just 6 days after the accident Scott was sent home! Before we left the hospital Scott demanded to be allowed to over to ICU to say thank you to the nurses there. All of them cried when they saw him. One nurse fell off her chair in shock of seeing him walking and leaving the hospital after them seeing him in such bad shape. 30 days after the accident Scott went back to work! He needed to go back to work. Physically he should have taken longer but he needed to return to rebuild and reconnect to his memories of the little parts of life and work.

Scott said it was like his memories were there but the paths/roads to his memories had been destroyed. He needed to find a way to his memories. He needed to rebuild the paths to him precious memories. Doing things for himself, visiting places he had been, talking about family and friends helped. We also spent hours looking at pictures and talking about vacations and places we had been too. Once again Disneyland was a major part of the conversation as we are homebodies and done really travel much. We decided that when Scott was ready we would go.

When Scott was strong enough we went back to Disneyland. We waited almost a year so he could endure the stress of the crowds and being so physically active. We knew we had to consider crowds and stress because the electrocution left him nervous and quick to anger. Most people never saw the anger but it chews at him still. This is how he describes it. Have you ever walked across a carpeted floor and then touched a door knob and gotten a shock? The first words out of your mouth are not ones you would wish your children or mother to hear. You feel so angry right? That is a normal physiological reaction. The stronger the shock the more angry you feel and the longer that lasts. When you take the level of shock Scott you never lose that angry feeling. We needed to consider his emotions when we went into any situation.

When we went to Disneyland the first time after the accident Scott started to cry as walked into the park. It was tears of joy and release he cried. He was like a little child coming to the park for the first time except it was also bringing back memories.  All throughout the day we stopped and looked at the little things. Things we might have just walked past before. We made sure we got on all the rides we loved the most and enjoyed sharing the fun with our daughter. It was a healing time for all of us. It was the first time since the accident we just laughed and played for an extended time with no problems. When time came to leave Scott did not want to go. Neither did I. As we drove home that night with our daughter asleep in her car seat in the back we decided we had to get Annual Passes and keep this joy. It took another year for us to get our first Annual Pass but the wait was truly with it and we have had a pass ever since.

Disneyland helped us recapture old memories and make new ones. It allowed us to rebuild Faith in God, Trust in each other and to find the Pixie Dust of God’s gifts of joy and whimsy.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Disneyland Edutainment Part 10 – Disney California Adventure Part 2

Now that we have done Condor Flats, Grizzly Peak, Challenge Trail and Paradise Pier lets head over to Bugs Land.

The obvious thing is stop in and watch “It’s Tough to be a Bug” and learn a bit about bugs. You get an idea of why bugs are important and we can’t just kill them all off. It helps to learn about the different kinds of bugs. You get an idea of how the protect themselves and what they eat. Step into the area where the Bugs play and get the feeling of what it might feel like to be as small as a bug. Ride in discarded food cartons’ and take a spin in a Lady Bug car. Bump around like a pill bug and ride on Hymlick and see how the world (and food) looks and smells to him.

Take a detour into Pacific Warf and step into the Mission Tortilla Factory and see how Tortilla’s are made. Pick up a free sample and some recipes before you leave. Walk across the way to the Bakery and see how sour dough bread is made. Watch it being made and then enjoy a free sample. Stop off at the Bakery Café for a bite to eat. There is soup in a bread bowl and other great food. Look around and you will see the bakery then there are Mexican restaurants and Chinese restaurants across the way from each other. This shows the diverse make up of California.

Slip into the Blue Sky Cellar and check out what is new and coming to Disney California Adventure. Take a look at the miniatures they have set up of the new rides and other things. It gives an idea of how the rides are built. Maybe try to design a ride for yourself once you get home.

Go through Bugs Land into the back end of Hollywood Backlot. Take a ride on the elevator of the Hollywood Tower Hotel (Tower of Terror). Here you can talk about the physics of the ride as well as looking at the story the line area and ride tell. Think you might get any good ideas for things to do for Halloween?

Make sure you take time to go to the Hyperion Theater and see Aladdin the Musical. Not only is it going to be an amazing show with fantastic effects, music and acting it is a good place to talk about literature. Maybe read some of the original story of Aladdin and the Magic Lamp. Watch the movie and then the play. What is the same and what is different. Can you come up with better jokes for the Genie? How do they do all the stage tricks? What is the moral of the story?

Drop by the Animation Building and visit with Crush from Finding Nemo. He is there in Turtle Talk, an interactive show where you get to ask Crush questions of about life in the sea. Be aware Crush just might ask you about what it is like to live high and dry on land. You can ask about the food Crush eats, how fast he swims or where he travels. Let your imagination run wild when thinking up a question for Crush! Keep your eyes open for other visitors like Dore and the whale from Finding Nemo.

There is a “class” you can take where they teach you how to draw a Disney character. They change the character they are drawing every few shows so you never know if you will be drawing Mickey, Donald, Goofy or maybe even Pluto. Nice way to rest your feet and cool off.

Go into the Sorcerer’s Workshop and draw your own animation strip. You can put it in a zoetrope and see it animated. You also see some premade strips that you can spin and see move. You can talk about how the eyes trick the brain into filling in the missing information. They show many ways to trick the mind into believing a still picture is moving.

Just for fun stop in the Beast’s Library and take the personality test to see what character you are most like. Be careful you may just find out you are a bad guy! There are some nice special effects in this room see if you can figure out how it works.

Now go visit Ursula. Try to put your voice into a scene from your favorite Disney movie. This will give you an idea just how hard it is to match your voice to the timing and movement of the animated movie. You can pick a singing part of just dialog.

There is a beautiful display off of the lobby that shows how things look animated using a strobe light. Be careful if you are sensitive to flashing lights. There are also some figures that Disney animators use to help them draw the various characters.

For now that is all there is for DCA. With all the construction things will change and there will be more thinks to talk about. I’ll come back to DCA and the edutainment there when the construction is done.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Disneyland Edutainment Part 9 – Disney California Adventure Part 1

Disney California Adventure Park opened in 2001 and was almost totally educational. With its Artventure interactive spots to make different craft projects that taught things like aerodynamics with paper airplanes. Others taught things like Chinese culture by teaching how to make paper lanterns and other Chinese crafts.  The Farmers area taught how to make things from crafts of early California history like corn husk dolls. They also had a fun area with questions about the fruit and vegetables grown in California and how they first came to be grown here. Golden Dreams was a favorite of our family and is greatly missed. It showed California history from the viewpoint of the people who came. It discussed each people group and that group of people’s Golden Dream that lead them here. It was sometimes a harsh look at what happened when different people groups came to California and America in general. Over the years little by little the more educational attractions are being taken out and replaced with more thrill rides and just for fun things. Is that to say there is no educational merit in DCA? Heavens forbid! With an open and creative mind you can learn no matter what you are doing.

Over all DCA is a look at California history and culture. The beach theme is heavy all around the park but so is mountain! On the side of Grizzly Peak is a beautiful set of waterfalls. It makes me feel like I’m standing at one of the smaller falls in Yosemite National Park. This shows the wide range of ecosystems in California. California is unique in the fact you can have breakfast at the beach, lunch in the desert and dinner in the high mountains. There are even rain forests to head to for a very late night, or early the next morning snack! DCA gives a taste of this diverse states geography and it’s unique history. If you don’t like the beach, no problem head to the desert. Don’t like the heat? Go to the mountains! There are plenty choices!

The entrance to DCA has the beautiful Golden Gate Bridge (for now but soon to be gone forever) but the general area is reminiscent of the area around Hollywood and Burbank, California. Both are places important to Disney the man and the company. To the left is the Hollywood Backlot area. To the right is Condor Flats.

One of the signature rides at DCA is Soarin’ Over California. In this short ride you get a good aerial view of the different areas of California from beach to big city. You get the feeling of flying and as you wait in line you can discuss one of California’s greatest but sad to say now mostly gone industries, aerospace. Some of the greatest developments in human flight came from California. Once inside the line look around at the walls as you wait. There are pictures of some of the greatest pilots and designers alongside pieces of various planes. There are name plates next to each telling you what the part is as well as what plane it is from. The pictures also tell you who they are and a little of their history. Discuss how this ride works and the fact that it was designed using a child’s toy! Do a Bing search and find out all to took to make this ride. What was the importance of Aerospace industry to California and the United States? What part did Aerospace and Walt Disney play in helping the United States winning World War II? I think you will be amazed to find out the answers! Go find them for yourself and enjoy the trip through history, both America and Disney.

There is a small plane parked at the end of a short runway. (Really a walk way for cast members to go backstage.) What is unique about this airplane is it is the same type of plane Amelia Earhart was lost in. It is a scaled down version of the plane. So this brings up the topic of early aviation and women pilots. What really happened to Amelia Earhart? You can also continue your general discussion of flight as well.

Continue down the path and swing around to Grizzly Rapids. Here you can talk about the sport of river rafting and the fun and dangers of swift water. What type of survival gear would be needed to stay in the wilderness for several days while riding real rapids or just camping? All around Grizzly Rapids there are antiques from the early days of California. There is a water wheel (not an antique but a replica)! There is a sign that discusses how it works. There is a Mule Engine just sitting there near the water wheel. There are many wonderful things to find that help you understand how early California life was and what creative things people came up with too survive. There are signs telling you about each of these items.

Across the way is Challenge Trail! Listen as you enter the area. What do you hear? There are different animal and bird sounds being played around the area! Look down. On the “trail” you will see impressions left by animals, birds and leaves. If you follow the bird and animal tracks they lead you to a sign that tells you what type of creature left them. Did your child or you guess correctly? Near the place you find the leaf print you will find a sign that tells you what type of tree that leaf or nettle was from. Were you able to identify them? Go up and check out the Ranger Fire lookout Station! You will see radio equipment, maps and books about the area and how to protect it. The entire “station” looks exactly like an old fire lookout post! There is even a beautiful topographical map of Yosemite there. Let the kids burn off some extra energy so they can stand quiet in a line by letting them try the rock climbing wall. Take a ride on the Smoke Jumpers ride. Stop in and visit with Brother Bear and hear their story. Around the area the stage area are various totems. Each is a different animal and there is a sign telling the story behind why the Native American’s honored them. Write down the information and look up more information and some of the stories the Indians told.

After exiting Challenge Trail turn right and then right at the next turn. This area has the feel of the San Francisco. The second story windows all have things that hold to the theme of San Francisco. Go right at the next turn and follow the walk way over to Paradise Pier. Along the way you will find rides that were and still are popular at various piers around California. The Golden Zephyr is a fine example. The Pier area itself feels like the good old Santa Monica Pier. On all the rides you can discuss the physics of the ride and if it tells a story what is it and how would they do it differently.

For now I’m leaving DCA and letting you figure out some of the answers to the questions I posed already. I’ll come back and continue our edutainment excursion through DCA later in Part 2. There is still Bugs Land and Hollywood back lot to explore. That is where I’ll go next. In the next few months new things will be opening and we can explore them together.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Finding Faith, Trust and Pixie Dust

People ask us why we go to Disneyland so often. Well the answer is both easy and hard. The easy answer is we go to have fun and play. With an Annual Pass it is not that expensive to go. Now for the harder and in truth more real reason. Please read on with the understanding that this is my opinion and I am not trying to force my opinion on anybody.

Have you ever noticed how a child deals with stress when allowed to just be a child? They play and make believe. A child has faith that tomorrow will be a better day. They will believe that as long as the adults in their lives assure them it is true and do their best to make it so. They will lose that hope when some unthinking adult tells them to stop looking at the world with rose colored glasses and see the harsh reality of life. A child can and will put aside “reality” to believe the impossible at least for a moment and they allow that to help them creatively solve hard problems. They will continue to do so until some “well intended adult” tells them they need to “grow up and stop making believe”. Yes, they suffer and hurt but let them have space for childhood whimsy and they will heal and find solutions to their problems and find joy again. My husband and I have made the choice to keep this childlike attitude in our lives.

All of this goes to our faith. Jesus said, “Come to me as a child.” Why a child? A child is uneducated, selfish and unable to do much for themselves. So why did Jesus say come to me as a child? Maybe it is to keep the childLIKE joy. Did you notice I did not say childISH? Not selfish or uneducated but instead come with eyes wide and open hearted excited to learn something new. That is the difference between childish and childlike. Maybe it is so we can suspend reality just long enough so we can believe in something beyond and outside of ourselves and what we can see.

So what does my faith have to do with Disneyland? Well going to Disneyland exercises my whimsy and helps me to keep an open, joyful heart. It reminds me to look at the amazing with childlike eyes and be awed again at what God does for me everyday.

I have had many problems in my life but for today I’m going to tell you about my Peter Pan daMan, Scott. My husband works as a respiratory therapist. He works with all patents but specializes in neonates, new born babies.  Some of these babies are not well or even dead when they are born and placed in his hands. Most of the babies he cares for survive but it is hard for him to see them suffer so and sometimes die at the beginning of their life. Going to Disneyland restores his faith and gives him hope and strength to continue what he does. He sees healthy children running all over the place excited to be there with their families. This brings him joy and reminds him that children do heal and have happy lives. He sees children, like the very sick ones he cares for in wheelchairs, on crutches or being carried around the park in the arms of loving family members smiling and enjoying life even though their physical or mental abilities are limited. When he sees that 10 year old with Downs Syndrome at Disneyland laughing he knows that the little one he delivered the day before can have a joyful life even with the problems. This gives him renewed strength and purpose to go back to work the next day and do it all over again.

Scott often wears scrubs with Disney characters on them. His work ID lanyard is covered with Disney pins, many of them Tinker Bell. He carefully chooses each one. The Tinker Bell pins bring him joy because they make him think of me when we are not together. His patients will ask him why all the Disney stuff and it gives him a chance to tell them all it takes to move forward from where you are today is Faith, Trust and just a little Pixie Dust. He encourages them to hang onto or find whimsy in their lives even during the middle of a hospital stay. This allows him to help himself and his patients.

So why do we go to Disneyland so often? We go to play, renew, heal and find Faith, Trust and Pixie Dust. What do you do to find Faith, Trust and Pixie Dust?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Disney Soda Fountain and Studio Store

My hubby and I have a favorite place to go for a date when we wish a Disney fix with a meal but don’t have time for a trip to Disneyland, The Disney Soda Fountain and Studio Store. Every time we go it is magical and fun.

Back in 1989 Disney purchased and refurbished a historic theater that first opened in 1926 as a legitimate live stage venue. This theater had fallen into major disrepair. This beautiful theater had housed live stage shows in the late 20’s and 30’s. It was the only place willing to premier Citizen Kane back in the 1941 and that started it’s run as a movie house with that movie. It houses a working old Wurlitzer Grand Organ! The Disney Company restored the building’s interior to as near the original design as they could. They installed modern lighting and stage equipment and before most shows they have a live show with Disney characters. This is an amazing place to see a Disney movie and often includes a display of props and costumes in the rooms below the theater. Going to the El Capitan is like going on a trip back in time to the Glory Days of Hollywood in the 1930’s-40’s. Disney later added The Disney Soda Fountain and Studio Store next to the El Capitan so guests could enjoy a meal before or after the movie and purchase items themed with Disney and/or the movie they came to see. Ticket prices at this theater are on average with the other local movie theaters but they also offer options for purchasing a VIP reserved seat that comes with a soda and popcorn. Disney primers a good number of its movies at the El Capitan.

This quaint little Soda Fountain is next door and part of the El Capitan Theater in Hollywood California. It opened in 2005. It shares the street with famous neighbors such as the Mann’s Chinese Theater with all the stars foot prints and autographs outside in the cement. The Kodak Theater, home to the Academy Awards is directly across the street next to the Chinese. This area is rich in history and deeply tied to movie magic and history. This is the center of “Tinsel Town”. It’s right down the street from Hollywood and Vine! Be aware when going to Hollywood the tinsel of “Tinsel Town” has gotten tarnished and lost its shine over the years. The stars on the “Hollywood Walk of Fame” are cracked and covered in dirt and gum. That said the area in front of Disney Soda Fountain & Studio Store and El Capitan Theater is the cleanest and some of the best maintained in town.

Standing outside the Soda Fountain you are drawn by the whimsical window displays. The window displays changes with the current movie in the theater and DVD release. Look around as check out the stars in front of the location. Tinker Bell just got her Star last month to celebrate her new movie! There is a walk up window that is not open often where you can order food to go. When not open it is a great place to get you picture taken with Mickey Mouse!

Once inside the Soda Fountain & Studio Store you are inside the magic of Disney. The feel of the restaurant is mid 1950’s. You can ask for a seat in a booth, at a table or take a seat at the counter. There looks to be a Disney Vault near the roof in one corner. Coming out of the vault is a film strip with single frames from different Disney movies of the past. The food is fresh and cooked to order at a fair price. They have a special treat for Pin Trading fanatics. It is the Pin Traders Sunday. It is 2 scoops of your favorite Ice Cream with Hot Fudge, Marshmallow Topping and Mickey shaped sprinkles. This wonderful treat comes with a surprise limited edition pin! The cost of the Sunday is the same as the cost for the pin alone so this is a great deal for any Pin Trader with a sweet tooth and a love of Ice Cream.

Peppermint Stick Ice Cream Pin Trader Sunday!

When possible the Soda Fountain teams up with the El Capitan and offers a special meal deal with a meet and great along with a ticket to the movie. These tickets are pricy but come with many advantages. These seats are reserved and you purchase a ticket for the seat of your choice and don’t have to stand in line hoping to get a good seat. For the recent release of Alice in Wonderland they had Tea Parties where Alice and her friends would come visit while guests had tea before or after the movie.

A part of the Soda Fountain is the Disney Studio Store. It takes up about 1/4 of the actual space and has items that are unique to this location. There are cups, aprons, Disney plush toys and special limited edition pins. Most of these pins are limited to 300 and are often themed to go with the movie that is playing in the theater. They also sell some hard to find Disney movies on DVD and BluRay.

So if you are in the Hollywood area and wish a Disney fix stop by the Disney Soda Fountain and get yourself a bite to eat or stop and look at what they have in the store.

Around the Disney owned Soda Fountain and El Capitan are plenty of other things related to Disney. Here are some of the Stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame that are within two blocks.

Over the years many people have placed their foot prints at the Mann’s Chinese Theater just across and down the street from the El Capitan. Here are a few that have ties to Disney.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Disney turned my Step-Father into my Daddy

These are memories of my Father and how Disney changed our relationship. It is not always in time order but it is in an emotional sequence.

My mother remarried with I was 15. My Step-Father was not the warm and fuzzy type. He also had no idea what to do with a teenage daughter! We did not do many family fun things. If we went out as a family it was to go camping or wherever else my Step-Father wished to go. Very seldom were my youthful desires or needs considered. Disneyland and other amusement parks were considered uninteresting and not worthy of the time or money. I found ways to go without my parents. I’d take my nieces and nephew along with neighborhood kids as an excuse to go. It did not matter much because my folks traveled 3-6 months out of every year without me so this was my fun get away. Father always said, “The day I can’t travel you will put me 6 feet under.” They were gone a lot!

I grew up and married. We always wanted children. We waited 15 years before my husband and I adopted a beautiful baby girl (who is now almost 16 years old!). My husband and I made a choice to focus on our child and enjoy her childhood with her. Trips to Disneyland were a MUST for us. My father could not see why we made such a fuss! He thought we were crazy and wasting money when we purchased our first Annual Passes to Disneyland in 1999. We pointed out how, with the pass we could spend an entire day at Disneyland for $25-$30 or even less! Many hours of fun for the entire family for the cost of a movie and popcorn! He could not understand the emotional value so we did not even try to explain that to him.

The years went by and now our daughter was 7. Father had a stroke. He had limited mobility before the stroke due to many lifelong health issues now he was even more limited. He was confined to a wheelchair or scooter. We had been going to my parent’s house once a month or so for several years fixing and cleaning things my elderly parents could no longer take care of. Now we decided we had to step it up and drove 20 miles each way once a week or more to help them in any way we could. We felt and still feel family must take care of family. This continued for three years.

After a year of going to the folks house once a week without any expectation or desire of pay or even help with the gas my parents decided to treat us to a day at Disneyland. We had not renewed our Annual Pass so we used it to help pay for our new pass. My step-father said he would try to enjoy it but, well, “Disneyland was for kids and he had never taken his own son there as a child.” What an interesting day!!

The day started out warm and bright, typical early July summer day in Southern California. We decided to do Disney California Adventure because it had opened after our pass expired and we had not seen it yet. My parents were also interested in seeing what all the fuss was about so they agreed. Before we left the house I went online and found out about handicap accessibility and what rides Father might be able to get on or even like. We made sure there were things Father might do so he would not be just sitting in the sun.

We got to the park early and got our maps at the gate. We had talked to Disney on the phone and knew we should stop for an assistance pass for Father to help him get around. The day went well and for the first time in several years I saw Father smile! Mom also enjoyed every moment. The things they liked the best were the little things. They clapped and laughed at all the little shows. We had to stop at every Artventure post and try the crafts they had. Soarn’ was a favorite of Father’s because he had been a pilot and loved flying his little plane. He loved looking at the picture of people on display in the line for Soarn’. He knew many of them from his days working in aerospace in the 1940’s and 50’s. He would point at the different plane parts and tell us what they did and some he even had a part in making! Father insisted on paying for meals and even a couple of small gifts! We went back to Disneyland without the folks several times over the next month or so. Every time the folks would ask what we saw and if we enjoyed ourselves. Little did we know this was the beginning of the Love of ALL things Disney for my folks!

We should have seen it coming!! After several months my Father asked when we were going to Disneyland next. He said he was sick of looking at the same four walls and if he did not get out of the house he would die! We knew he could no longer travel as he had before so we told him when we were going to Disneyland and said he could join us. We met at the folk’s house and caravanned to the park together. We hung out together and made sure the folks were able to get onto several rides and saw several shows together. We all purchased family service radios, cell phones were not that big back then and we could not afford them so we could keep in touch and find each other in the park. Father got an Annual Pass for himself and mom. In 2002 he finally purchased Annual Passes to Disneyland for the entire family!! That is himself, mom, his son, daughter in law and their two adult children and their spouses along with the three of us! Eleven Premium Passes in all! He paid for those for about 4 years! We all enjoyed ourselves!

Dad called every few days after we our day at Disneyland asking when we would like to go back to Disneyland with them. His cold attitude toward us changed to warm. Instead of saying, “That’s my wife’s kid.” He said, “That’s my beautiful girl and her family.” He wanted to be with us! He loved telling people that HIS daughter and her family were at the park with him! At first we went to the park about 2 times a month with them. In 2004 it became about once a week! By 2005 we were all going to the park at least 2 times a week! We were also living with them taking care of them because daddy had another stroke and mom had cancer. We would sometimes go together and sometimes separate. My Father became my daddy. His heart toward us softened and ours opened wide to him.

We saw that if dad did not have Disneyland to get him out of bed and give him joy he would have died years before he did. Here is an example. In 2003 dad had another stroke and heart attack. His abilities were further limited. He said he would no longer be able to go to Disneyland let alone anywhere else. I saw him going into a deep depression and giving up on life. His birthday was coming up and I talked the entire family into making plans to celebrate dad’s birthday at Disneyland with a special desert treat viewing of Fantasmic. His birthday was 1 month away and there was no way he could go but we would do it when he was well enough. My daughter and I went to Disneyland with several birthday and get well cards a few days before his birthday. All the cards had Disney characters on them and we wanted to get each character pictured to sign the cards with get well and birthday wishes. We could not find one of the characters that was on the cards, Daisy Duck and when I asked a cast member where I could find her he told me she was not out in the parks at all. I explained my goal and he asked if he could take the cards backstage to the characters! He winked and told me he knew where they are all taking a break. He also asked me who my dad’s favorite character was. I told him Goofy. He returned with all the cards signed and with a signed 8x10 picture of Goofy!

On dad’s birthday I gave him the cards and photo along with a small Goofy gift and Disney balloon. We told him of our plans to see Fantasmic together when he was well enough. Dad’s attitude changed for good that day! Instead of doom and gloom he started talking fondly about Disneyland and how much he wanted to go back. Within 3 months after his heart attack, stroke and bypass surgery he was at Disneyland watching Fantasmic with the entire family! After that anytime daddy got sick and would start to talk about giving up on life we would start talking about our past visits to Disneyland and work on planning a special event for the next time we went together.

I have many fond memories of my daddy and 99% of them were at Disneyland the last few years we had together. He even took the entire family for a week at WDW and a week on DCL in 2005 for OUR 25th wedding anniversary! Daddy died last year and I miss him. When I’m on certain rides or at some shows at Disneyland I think of him and how much he loved that ride or show. When something new comes to the park I often think of how he would have liked it.

Thank you Disney for turning my Step-Father into my Daddy!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Disneyland Edutainment Part 8 - Adventureland

Adventureland is an exciting place to wonder through. This area inspires thinking about the world. Talk about travel and what places would be interesting to go to. You can talk about the different continents and the countries they hold. Again travel, both local and global can be discussed.

Explore The Jungle Cruise. It is a fun place to talk about the different animals and rivers outside of America. How far can a tiger really jump? What real signals do Hippos give before attacking? What areas of the world are represented in the ride? Did I see the Nile River? Are we wondering through Africa? Wait is it Egypt? What other jokes could you make up for the ride? Think about the Captains patter and think how you would do it differently. How do they make the animals move?

Indiana Jones is a good place to talk about archeology and the study of history. What do real archeologists do? Do real archeologists always have such exciting adventures? Does the ride tell the same story as any one of the movies? Did or do people really worship gods like the one in the ride? What is the story the ride is telling? Can you figure out how they do your favorite effect on the ride?

Tiki Room is a fun place to talk about the Polynesian culture. Where is this culture from? Why do they have different Tiki gods? How do they make the birds, Tikis and flowers move and sing? What would it be like to live on a island? Have the child think like a bird, flower or Tiki and write a poem, song or story.

Tarzan’s Tree House is an interesting place. Read the original story and then watch the movie. Take a walk through Tarzan’s Tree House and see how it shows different parts of the story. How would you build a tree house? What type of things would you put into it? Stop at the camp and enjoy making music with the camp supplies that are around. What things can you find at home to make music with that are not real instruments?

Adventureland is a place to celebrate the wonder of doing something new and different. It encourages an interest in exploration. It is a good safe way to expose young children to the idea of travel outside of their know environment. It can encourage reading by having the child read exciting stories of adventure and exploration. Maybe to continue the adventure at home set up a tent in the backyard and let them play explorer. Let the family dog become a wolf, elephant or hippo, the family cat a tiger or lion and see the child’s mind expand. Have them write a story of their adventure.