Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Band trip: Ninety-five Gifts

I was filled with such foreboding about the band trip that I decided I needed an attitude change.  Modeled after the idea in the book One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp (great concept; couldn't stand the writing style), I challenged myself to find 100 gifts during the 6 days of the trip. 

That list is below, with a few comments.  This is perhaps not interesting to anyone but myself.  I might wish to read this when I am older and more decrepit, to remind myself that I was able (barely) to do this trip.

By far the most enjoyable part of the trip for me was at Universal Studios parks, in the Harry Potter worlds.  They have recreated Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley in an utterly charming, if expensive, way.  A wand costs $48, people.  That's a lot of galleons. The sales staff refer to a credit card as Muggle Money, although I was so lacking in sleep I thought they were saying “bubble money.”  That made sense to me, because going to an amusement park is like being in a bubble. The music in the Harry Potter worlds is vastly superior to the usual amusement park music pablum.

I also enjoyed seeing the dance team workshop.  These young women have a remarkable ability to quickly learn a physical move, remember it, and repeat it gracefully.  Their workshop was a huge intellectual and physical endeavor and they excelled.

Hogwarts at Universal Studios park.  I did not enter;
it was enough for me to admire it from the outside.

The entrance to the village of Hogsmeade

Over in the other Universal Studios park,
Diagon Alley

A very fine mode of transportation.  I rode this train three times.

Band trip Tuesday

Riding this bus is like living with a newborn baby.  You wake up every two hours whether you want to or not.

100 gifts
1 Younger Daughter very helpful during check-in procedure.
2 YD cheerful & enthusiastic!
3 I brought extra water which was needed for students
4 my travel pillow
5 bus has seat belts. Which I am using
6 grapes from fellow chaperone
7 my blanket
8 the chaperone jacket
9 my sweatshirt

Band trip Wednesday
Total steps walked today: at least 20,000

730 am breakfast stop at a McDonald's at Exit 57 off of I95 in Walterboro, SC. Left at 8:35. About 100 people in that McD's all at once (2 buses worth). And that's only 1/3 of the band.
Arrive Univ Studios park 2:30 PM
Met up with Sandy B (orch chaperone) and walked with her for a while. 
Bought choc frog
Arrived at hotel 10:30 PM

100 gifts
10 got extra water from band medic
11 bladder holding up well
12 short legs are better for this type trip. I have short legs
13 breakfast with egg mcmuffin, oj (no caffeine!) and grapefruit
14 so glad I had a shower before leaving home.
15 EK
16 LF
17 VM
18 Husband added more minutes on YD’s phone
19 rather short wait times at the rides at Univ Studios
20 the train between Hogwarts and Diagon Alley
21 Diagon Alley
22 Apple
23 roommate with congenial personality
24 music in the Harry Potter worlds.
25 Advil
Snow-covered roofs in Florida

Every few minutes that dragon spews actual fire.
I was not able to catch it with my camera.

Band trip Thurs
Total steps 12,800 - a lazy day

In bed at approx 12:30 AM
Did not sleep one wink
Today I spent most of the day being photographer for the dance team and flag team. Fun!

100 gifts
26 I am still alive
27 comfortable bed
28 did not have to spend $10 on a rain poncho yesterday
29 in Lahore Pakistan it is 100 degrees and I am not there
30 Younger Daughter!
31 YD got up on time and ate a healthy hearty breakfast.
32 smoked salmon at breakfast.
33 water bottle.  Spill-proof (as long as the lid is closed!)
34 granola bars and cereal snack bags I packed at home
35 flexible Disney auditions staff
36 Air conditioned audition studios
37 blessed time alone, completely alone, while waiting for second dance group to arrive.
38 knee functioning okay
39 someone in our group found my lost hotel key in magic Kingdom
40 electrical outlets on the bus for recharging phone
41 ice cream
42 I only had to spend 2 hours in Magic Kingdom
43 got to see the dance team in action
44  the Peoplemover ride
45 cough medicine and antihistamine to help me sleep

Dance team photos involve lots of flying ponytails

Apparently this guy is a member of the Disney empire

Band trip Friday

JB (student) missing pair very expensive dress shoes.

About 10:30 AM entered Epcot
11:30 call time for Band
12:00 departed on bus from Epcot to concert venue
2:30 left to return to Epcot

By 9 pm had walked 16,300 steps
Total steps probably 25,000 for Friday.

100 gifts
46 bus drivers who know their job and do it well
47 dedicated and competent band parents - all volunteers
48 my fanny pack.
49 kids tolerant, cooperative, and even sometimes enthusiastic about me taking their photo
50 athletic bra
51 peanut butter biscuit for lunch
52 Younger Daughter's henna art
53 news from Older Daughter
54 that my roommate did not drown when she fell asleep in the bathtub and that I was able to wake her up so she could go to bed
55 that sharing a bed with someone I didn't know isn't too bad.

The Happiest Iconic Golf-Ball
at Epcot

The hotel pool at 5:30 AM.  There was no time for chaperones
to enter this paradise.

Band trip Saturday

Left hotel at 10:05 am

Today is at Hollywood studios park
impressive live show about stunts in Indiana Jones.
Left that park at 5 pm to go to our 5th amusement park in 4 days.
swim party and awards ceremony at Typhoon Lagoon.
Feeling totally drained. Sciatic nerve pain when walking. Every muscle hurts.
Left TL at 10:20 pm to head for Pgh

Total steps for the day 16,000

100 gifts
56 pleasant lunch in sitdown resto with other chaps
57 Star Wars music
58 Indiana jones stunt show was cool
59 I didn't get blisters
60 apparently I am still alive
61 ice cream bar in iconic Mickey Mouse shape with dark chocolate
62 no mosquitos until Sat evening.
63 wore long pants today - good choice
64 did not get shoes wet at water park
65 did not get a sinus infection
66 did not get any stomach ailment
67 Did not get a virus.
68 weather was reasonable
69 Husband
70 Younger Daughter
71 camera seemed to function okay
72 Advil
73 my new water bottle
74 there was not a nuclear bomb
75 nothing was stolen (except perhaps JB's dress shoes)
76 that labor and childbirth doesn't last as long as this band trip
77 my travel pillow
78 granolA bars
79 gorgeous day for traveling
80 prayers of friends and family
81 that sciatica did not appear until today.

Errant marching band shoe found at the hotel breakfast venue.
Not JB's dress shoe

The Happiest and Largest Wave Pool on Earth
at Typhoon Lagoon

Band trip Sunday

100 gifts
82 chance to brush teeth for 20 seconds
83 at breakfast stop. we are 6.5 hours drive away from high school (if we could drive straight through without stopping. Which we can't.
84 I am told it is promising to be a beautiful day in Pgh today
85 Advil
86 beautiful mountain scenery of southwestern Virginia
87 saw the New River Gorge in WV
88 thought of Bil Lepp
89 a lovely thank you text from a student
90 the only thing I lost was one cheap earring and I had three of those so now I still have two.
91 there were no traffic accidents. The only bus breakdown was before we even started the trip
92 I did not hear or read one word about the election campaign during this entire trip. Not. One. Word.  Hallelujah!
93 We did not leave anyone behind.
94 If there was any illness among the students, it didn't get passed around.
95 JB found one of his shoes. 

So I didn’t quite list 100 gifts.  But I was 1000 times grateful at making it home.

The student who lost his shoes ended up finding one of his own and someone else’s shoe.  He went home with two right shoes.

I was explosively happy to arrive home

Band trip: The Call

In the first month of the year, I was calmly tending the flock of my household, mostly by deciding what to cook for dinner, and coloring in my adult coloring book when possible.

And lo, on January 5th, the Almighty called to me from an e-mail from the head chaperone of the school band.  I said to myself, “I shall turn aside from making dinner and look at this e-mail which is burning brightly but not being consumed.”  From the midst of the e-mail the Lord God said, “Apply to be a chaperone for the band trip to Disney.” 

I said, “But Lord, who am I to be a band trip chaperone?  I was not in the band as a teenager.”

The Lord said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign unto you that it is I who have sent you: When the trip is all over and you are actually still able to walk on your own two legs, you will worship God with a thankfulness you never thought possible.”

I said to God, “Suppose I say to the band teenagers, ‘Sit down while the bus is moving’ or ‘No, you may not go to the pool;  it is 11 PM and I have just completed your room check’ or, ‘I am not carrying your band uniform for you’ and they ignore me, as most teenagers tend to do?  What then shall I tell them?”

God said to me, “I am that I am.  Apply to be a chaperone before the deadline.”

* * * * * *

But, lo, the e-mail from the head chaperone did not say that the band trip would mean taking a 20-hour bus ride into the wilderness of Florida – yea, even to the World of Disney; leading a break-neck pace for the following four days; and then getting back on the bus for another 20+ hour bus ride before finally reaching the land of milk and honey, that is, one’s own blessed bed. 

These things were hidden from the eyes of all the living.

Not knowing thereof, I applied.  Lo, there was no word nor was there any e-mail for five weeks.  I assumed that I would not be picked to be a chaperone.  In the second month on the sixteenth day, the itinerary for the trip was published, and it was revealed unto me that the trip would be filled with sore travail for an adult of my age and physical stamina.  Chaperones would slumber not nor sleep.  I rejoiced and was exceeding glad that I had not been picked to be a chaperone.

Be not deceived, O Common Household Mom; God is not mocked: for whatsoever application you make, a reply shall you also reap.  For lo, another chaperone had to cancel, and I was asked to replace her.
THE MOST Happiest Place on the Earth

And the Lord said to me, “Go to a land I will show you, a land called ‘The Happiest Place on Earth’.”  I replied to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, Lord.  My skin doctor told me to stay out of the sun, and that makes me a very bad candidate for a band trip to Florida.”

The Lord said, “Bring a hat and sunscreen. Oy.”

I said, “But what if my bladder can’t last on the long bus ride?”

The Lord said, “Give up caffeinated tea before and during the trip.”

But I said, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I am not fond of amusement parks. Please send someone else.”

Then the Lord’s anger burned hot and the Lord said, “You must go as a thank offering for the chaperone who helped your daughter on her first band trip in her freshman year.  You are capable of counting teenagers as they get on a bus.  You will survive; your daughter will have a blast. Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”

- The Book of Peregrinations 9:1-39

* * * * * *

These are the garments you shall wear as a band trip chaperone.  You must wear a shirt the color of brimstone.  Get you to a craft store and buy plain t-shirts of this yellow-gold plumage for $3.99 each, and rejoice in your good find.  You shall wear garments of black on your legs.  Lo, you may wear any length of pants – shorts, capris, or long pants, but they must be black.  For these are the school colors.  And you shall wear these colors every day for six days.

This is to be a lasting ordinance for all chaperones.  Then shall you be recognized from across the amusement park, lo, even from space, as a band chaperone.

- The Book of Admonitions 7:6-19

* * * * * *

And the Lord was trustworthy. Using seven buses our tribe of 300+ people trekked to Florida, went to five amusement parks in four days, performed music for adjudication, marched in a parade, won many awards, slept less than five hours a night, and ate terrible and expensive food.  Each night the students were in their rooms on or before 12:30 AM (which means that after doing room checks the chaperones were in bed at around 1 to 1:30 AM).  The students were up for breakfast at 6:30 AM (which means chaperones were up at 5:45 AM). 

On the fifth day, Saturday at 10:20 PM, after two amusement parks, we boarded our busses to make our exodus from the Happiest Place on Earth toward home.  Not a single student was left behind.  To my knowledge there were no shenanigans or bad behavior.  We returned home on Sunday evening, to the most blessed sight: our own beds.

I would not have gotten through it without keeping a gratitude list.  That list is my next post.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Flowers from the Earth

I keep composing blog posts about the band trip in my head, but so far haven't had the time to write it properly.  I'm still recovering, and trying to catch up on other things.

Yesterday I remembered that a lot of flowers in our yard had come into bloom while I was away. This morning I rushed outside to take photos, because some of the flowers are almost spent already. Taking photos seemed like an appropriate, if not particularly conservationist, activity for Earth Day.

Happy Earth Day!  Happy Passover! Happy Friday!

Creeping myrtle. 

Kwanzan cherry buds

This lilac tree is almost done.  Except for these buds here.

Is this a Paperwhite Narcissus?  I have no idea, but it's pretty
when it greets me every morning on my way out to get the



Tuesday, April 19, 2016

It's a miracle

I'm back from the band trip.  I actually survived it.  My friend says that evidence of miracles can be submitted to the Pope and I think this one qualifies.  More about the trip later, I hope.

Immediately upon coming home, I find that I must devote some time to getting my kids settled for the summer.   Our oldest child, Older Daughter, is graduating with her master's degree in social work, and has a job decision to make.  But first she is going to Israel, the day after graduation.  She has a little bit of time after she gets back to figure out her living situation.

Our middle child, Son, will be working at an internship away from home and needs to find a place to live for the summer (and has to move out of the college dorm in just two weeks).  He is a conscientious student, and that means that right now he is concentrating on finishing his papers, projects, posters, and final exams. He also tutors other students, and demand for his tutoring services are high right before exams.  All this means he is not able to concentrate on finding a place to live.  But yikes!  Time is running out!

Our youngest child, Younger Daughter, is waiting to hear about a summer opportunity shadowing scientists at the cancer research center.  If that doesn't come through, there is always the Common Household summer merit badge program.  And summer Girl Scout camp later in the summer.

None of this is bad.  In fact, the situations are ripe with opportunity and hope.  She has a choice between job offers!  He got a summer internship! She will have interesting things to do over the summer!  Nevertheless, it is a tense time of rushing and waiting, for them, and for their mother.

The song says, "Summer time, and the livin' is easy."  I expect it will be once we get things figured out.  And really, I'm just grateful to be alive after the band trip.

A cake for summertime.
Baked by the kids in summer 2009.
I did NOT come home from the band trip and have the
energy to make a cake!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Packing List

Here's what you need to pack if you are chaperone for the band trip to Florida.

A travel pillow for the 18-hour bus ride.
A travel pillow that exhorts you to enjoy yourself is a
plus.  When I saw this at Target, I knew it was the right one for me.

Six school-bus yellow shirts, one for each sweaty
day of the trip.  Hooray for the school colors!
Six black shorts, capris, jeans.
I may be wrong in my assumption that I will be able
to wear a clean, dry set of clothes each day.  But if I can,
I'm prepared to do so.

Many, many pairs of socks.
I'm actually taking twice this many.
I can almost hear my son's scoutmaster admonishing the scouts not to leave their feet in wet socks.  The scoutmaster was an avid proponent of wool socks. I ain't wearing no wool socks in Florida, but I am taking enough socks so that I have more than one pair per day.

After agonizing over the space they would take up, I also decided to take a second pair of shoes.  It is a travel rule of mine to always take at least two pairs of shoes, but space is very tight on this trip.

sun hats with brims for the skin-cancer prone chaperone
I scored that hat on the left at Kohl's.  It is a scrunchable, foldable hat with "moisture-wicking" (read sweat-sucking) properties AND a sunscreen rating of 50!  Yessss!


The cookies are so I can score points with the clientele by passing out Keebler fudge grahams at just the right moment.  If I can find them, that is.

Herbal tea bags.
It is a dream of mine that I will have the time and the hot water to drink tea while relaxing at the hotel.  (I'll wait while you have a hearty laugh.) I've been practically living on herbal tea since two weeks ago.

Weather gear and other stuff
The problem with this stuff is that it doesn't fit in my allotted suitcase space.  I'm hoping they'll allow the band photographer a little leeway with luggage.

A day pack clearly identifying oneself as from the 'Burgh.
Burghers find each other all over the world. 
Nope.  Not taking any of this stuff.  And there better not be
 any when I get back.
I only have one pair of earplugs.  That could be a mistake.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

God weeps

I found this inexplicable stained glass at
the church conference in Atlanta.
As far as I can tell, it is a
sword with a Christmas wreath.
Forgive me, Dear Readers, and Rabbi Sacks, if I quote rather extensively from Rabbi Sacks' book, Not in God’s Name. I recommend the book.  It attempts to explain religious violence, but also has bearing, I think, on the current US political discourse.

These quotes below are from the first part of the book. Later on, he has a fascinating interpretation of the biblical story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11, and discussion of the stories of siblings in Genesis.

The book discusses things from a Western Abrahamic-religion point of view, connecting it with psychology and sociology.  It would be interesting to know what someone with knowledge of Eastern religions and philosophy thinks of his argument. 

The bold emphasis in the quotes below is added by me; the italics is Sacks' emphasis.  The spelling is deliciously British.  This may not be evident in the quotes, but sadly, Rabbi Sacks' beliefs do not extend to the Oxford comma.

* * * * * * * * *

Quotes from Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence. by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

Unlike the Nazis, who took fastidious care to hide their crimes from the world, today’s terrorists take equal care to advertise them to the world using professionally produced videos and the latest social media technology.  Their lack of conscience in committing what leading Islamic jurists and theologians have deemed forbidden, sinful and contrary to the Qu’ran is breathtaking.     We need a term to describe this deadly phenomenon that can turn ordinary non-psychopathic people into cold-blooded murderers of schoolchildren, aid workers, journalists and people at prayer.  It is, to give it a name, altruistic evil: evil committed in a sacred cause, in the name of high ideals. (p 9-10)

Why has this happened now? Because the world is changing faster than at any time in history, and since change disorients, it leads to a sense of loss and fear that can turn rapidly into hate.  Our world is awash with hate.  The Internet, alongside its many blessings, can make it contagious.  … Nor has it ever been easier to demonise whole populations so effectively. (p 21-22)

We are potentially violent because, as social animals we form groups to compete for resources and survive against other groups. (p 31)

Violence has nothing to do with religion as such.  It has to do with identity and life in groups. (p 39)

We cannot bear the absence of public meanings and collective moral identity.  Faced with the prospect, vulnerable individuals will choose death rather than life.  … a variant of this is happening in our time. It is the reason why seemingly normal, well-educated and adjusted people with careers and families ahead of them become jihadists and suicide bombers, choosing death rather than life.  …  Individuals join radical movements to alleviate the isolation of the lonely crowd, and become, however briefly, part of an intense community engaged in the pursuit of something larger than the self. (p 41-42)

[Dualism is a belief that the power governing the universe is split in two, one all-good force, and the other an all-evil force.]

Dualism is a dangerous idea, and the mainstream Church and the Synagogue were right to reject it. Pathological dualism, though, is far more serious and appears as a social phenomenon only rarely and under extreme circumstances.  It is a form of cognitive breakdown, an inability to face the complexities of the world, the ambivalences of human character, the caprices of history and the ultimate unknowability of God.       Pathological dualism does three things. It makes you dehumanize and demonise your enemies.  It leads you to see yourself as a victim.  And it allows you to commit altruistic evil, killing in the name of the God of life, hating in the name of the God of love and practicing cruelty in the name of the God of compassion.  (p 53-54)

To remoralise a nation, leaders often revive memories of former glory.  Vamik Volkan, who has applied concepts of splitting and projection to international conflict, emphasizes the corollary: the chosen trauma, an event that ‘has caused a large group to face drastic common losses, to feel helpless and victimized by another group and to share a humiliating injury’.  (page 56)

Once you can identify an enemy, reactivate a chosen trauma and unite all factions in fear and hate of a common threat, you activate the most primitive part of the brain, the amygdala with its instant and overwhelming defensive reactions, and render a culture susceptible to a pure and powerful dualism in which you are the innocent party and violence becomes both a justified revenge and the necessary protection of your group.  The threefold defeat of morality then follows. (page 56-57)
The first stage is dehumanization.  (page 57)

The second stage is establishing victimhood.  Just as it is necessary to rob your enemies of their humanity, so you have to find a way of relinquishing responsibility for the evil you are about to commit.  You must define yourself as a victim.  It follows that you, in committing murder, even genocide, are merely acting in self-defence.  (page 58)

When dehumanization and demonization are combined with a sense of victimhood, the third stage becomes possible: the commission of evil in an altruistic cause. (page 61)

Pathological dualism creates a self-contained world which becomes self-confirming. (page 63)

 [In chapter 2 we saw that] we are naturally inclined to favour members of our group and fear members of another group.  One result is that in almost any group, the greater the threat from the outside, the stronger the sense of cohesion within. … Our most primal instincts of bonding within the group occur when it confronts an external enemy.
            That is why ruthless politicians, threatened by internal discord, focus on and sometimes even invent external enemies [that is, the scapegoat].  Paranoia is the most powerful means yet devised for sustaining tyranny and repression. 

The trouble with the use of scapegoats is that it is a solution that compounds the problem.  It makes internal tension bearable by turning the question ‘Why has this happened?’ into the question ‘Who did this to me?’ If it is someone else’s fault, not mine, I can preserve my self-respect intact. … So powerful is the rapid-response emotional brain that, under stress, it can entirely overwhelm the slower-moving prefrontal cortex, the distinction- and decision-making mind, turning otherwise ordinary human beings into Crusaders in one age, perpetrators of genocide in another, and suicide bombers and jihadists in a third.

            And when the violence is over, the problems remain, since the scapegoat never was the cause of the problem in the first place.  So people die.  Hope is destroyed.  Hate claims more sacrificial victims. And God weeps. (page 85)

* * * * * * * * * *

Conjectures about the stained glass window:
- the sword guarding the entrance to Eden? (Gen 3:24)
- the sword of God's wrath, used to bring righteousness? (Psalm 7:11-12)
- Ezekiel's razor, for shaving off his beard? (Ezekiel 5:1)
- a sword waiting to be beaten into a plowshare? (Micah 4:3)
- a former plowshare, beaten into a sword?  (Joel 3:10)
- the sword that Jesus brings (Matthew 10:34-35) 
- or the one he tells his disciple to put away? (Matthew 26:51-52)
- the sword of the spirit? (Ephesians 6:17)
- the tongue of the one like a son of man? (Revelation 1:16)