Dear Adventures in Odyssey: I Love You, But It’s Complicated

“Did you know that Lizzie used to work for Focus on the Family?” he said, she said, with a gleam in their eyes.

It’s not a secret, my internship from last decade, but it doesn’t come up often. When it does, though, it’s a conversation starter, a newsworthy item for my friends to pass along. I don’t fit their picture of someone who once worked there, you see.

Even at the time, I didn’t really think of myself as working for Focus on the Family (FOTF). I was there for Adventures in Odyssey; nothing else at the organization held much appeal.

With the Odyssey crew
With the Odyssey crew at the end of my internship (2009).

Adventures in Odyssey (AIO or Odyssey for short), Focus on the Family’s seminal children’s radio drama, turns 30 this year – today, in fact. On this day in 1987, a 25-minute episode aired about a boy named Davey who feels like a failure until kindly shop owner John Avery Whittaker (“Whit”) helps him realize his worth as they invent something that goes wrong before it goes right. The story, set in the small, Midwestern town of Odyssey, is bookended by a skit with the show’s host, Chris, who tells a story about Abraham Lincoln to reinforce the theme. “Whit’s Flop,” that very first episode, aired one year and four days before I was born, and all my life the show and I have been moving in tandem toward our own milestones.

Can I say I like Odyssey but not Focus on the Family, as I would say I like Jesus but not Christianity?

No, I didn’t think so.

It’s a poor comparison anyway. Odyssey was birthed from Focus on the Family and, like it or not, is a product of its parent organization. Jesus, however, wasn’t always entangled in Christianity, especially not Christianity as we know it today. But that’s another topic for another time.

I do know that I’m not the only one who has been able to partition the two, approving the one and rejecting or ignoring the other. A college roommate was vocal about her dislike for Focus on the Family, but made an exception for AIO.

Even when I was jumping at the chance to be an intern for my beloved radio drama, back in the day when I believed what everyone I knew growing up believed, I was still taken aback by the interview question asking “what my opinions were on the five major issues most important to Focus on the Family.” I bumbled through the answers I knew they expected of me, without much thought as to whether they were really my answers.

Lately, it’s gotten harder to separate the AIO from the FOTF. But once upon a time, it was just Odyssey tapes, Odyssey at 4:30 on the radio, Odyssey before bed and on car rides, and, later, Odyssey on message boards and at events. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

From its earliest days, Adventures in Odyssey has employed some of the best and most versatile voice actors in the business. This is not hyperbole. The show’s main actors include (or have included) Hal Smith from the Andy Griffith Show, who also lent his voice to Beauty and the Beast and An American Tale; Alan Young, best known as Wilbur in Mister Ed and as Disney’s Scrooge McDuck; Will Ryan, featured on The Adventures of Teddy Ruxpin; Katie Leigh of Totally Spies; Chris Anthony, the former voice of Barbie; and Jess Harnell with his hundreds of film credits, including Wakko Warner in Animaniacs. These actors and many others have or had extensive careers, spanning decades, and it still chokes me up how many of these people have passed away since I first “visited” Odyssey. I have met many of the actors as an adult, but I was too late for some of them.

Me and Will Ryan
Meeting Will Ryan, voice of Eugene Meltsner (and writer Paul McCusker, in the background), at the 20th anniversary live show (2008).
Me and Katie Leigh
Spending time with Katie Leigh, voice of Connie Kendall, when she came to speak at my college (2011). Photo by Cara Strickland.

I once joined a Facebook group that probably doesn’t exist anymore, about how “Adventures in Odyssey was the soundtrack of my childhood.” I didn’t grow up with Saturday morning cartoons or Boy Meets World or whatever else my peers were watching in the ‘90s. Odyssey was a cozy backdrop to my life, but it was just a backdrop in many ways, piping from the tape deck on the dining room windowsill while I would color and make lists and watch fat squirrels eat birdseed from the feeder in the backyard, filling my long-term memory and stealing my heart.

Later, I would discover Odyssey’s ability to keep me on the edge of my seat, I would get up early on Saturdays to catch the new shows, I would pull out my old cassettes with stronger feelings, I would catch the pop culture references that had once eluded me. Still later, on the verge of college and the verge of leaving Odyssey behind me, I found a fan message board, and everything dormant and untapped in me found its home and sprang to life.

AIO live show
At the 20th anniversary live show (2008). Pictured from left to right (on the stage): Chuck Bolte, Will Ryan, Katie Leigh, Dave Madden, and Jess Harnell.

In 2008, my first visit to Colorado for the 20th anniversary live show became one of the best weekends of my life. I met the actors, the writers, and fellow fans, many of whom I’m still in touch with. In 2009, I spent my summer interning for Odyssey and administrating the above-mentioned message board, and then returned to college and promptly started a club for fellow fans. We made video reenactments and went on a road trip to Colorado and even brought one of the main actors to our Indiana campus to speak in chapel.

This was the zenith of my love for the show, and my nostalgia for that time of my life is matched only by my nostalgia for the show itself.

I was never on fire for Jesus, not really, but I was on fire for Adventures in Odyssey.

Life seems a simpler place when you know what you love and you have ways of expressing that love.

I wouldn’t go by “Lizzie” now if it weren’t for the show, and I might not be living in Colorado. I might not have changed my major to media communication or worked in radio or spent three months in China or done a whole host of other things. Adventures in Odyssey helped me keep my head above water in times of deep depression. It brought about friendships that never would’ve formed otherwise, leadership roles I never would’ve accepted. Directly and indirectly, I have Odyssey to thank for so much joy in my young adult life. I will never forget this. To me, Adventures in Odyssey is much more than the sum of its dialogue.

Adventures in Odyssey Club party
The Adventures in Odyssey Club at our first Christmas party (2009).
Club with AIO showrunners
The AIO Club meeting showrunners Dave Arnold and Paul McCusker (2011).

And it was a dream come true to meet the people behind the voices and the people who wrote and directed and made magic with sound, to work with them in some cases, to go behind the scenes, to know and be known. They are lovely people, thoughtful and professional and funny.

As for the episodes themselves, the writing quality ebbs and flows, as it does in any long-running production, but I’ve found a lot to appreciate: How to craft a story arc, how to tell a story with sound, how to move forward when the actor who plays the main character dies suddenly.

I haven’t listened to any new episodes for a few years. This is partly because the aura of nostalgia is missing with the newer shows. Every semi-reboot has sawed off more of the glue binding my fate to the fate of the show, which I suppose is only natural when the child grows up but the show does not. I am also skeptical about any program’s ability to carry on indefinitely and still remain a high-quality production. The longer I listen, the more déjà vu I experience.

When I was younger, I hoped Odyssey would still be producing new episodes if and when I had kids. Now, if I ever have kids, I would want them to listen to some episodes but not others.

You see, I am not only out of the target age range, I am also out of the target ideology range. The segment of Christianity that AIO is a spokesperson for is one I am no longer a spokesperson for. I used to think Odyssey was good at avoiding denominational squabbles and sticking to the basics of the faith. However, because this show and its parent organization focus on conservative evangelicals and conservative evangelicals focus on them, it’s a narrow list of squabbles that are avoided, a narrow list of “basics” that are adhered to. Christianity has many different expressions, interpretations, and practices, but you wouldn’t know that from listening to the show.

In this make-believe world, the conservative Christian worldview and its applications have no baggage, no side effects, and no viable alternatives. All the characters are so nice and well-meaning, their faith clean and tidy and straightforward. There are some episodes that show a cognizance of the things we do not know and that hold certainty loosely, but the farther I get from my “on fire” days, the fewer stories I see, past or present, that do a good job managing that tension. More often than not, it’s oversimplifications and assumptions, and even though I find it’s usually lines here and there that trouble me rather than whole storylines or episodes, those lines add up.

This is not an “open letter” or a rant. I am not going line by line through episodes to point out everything that makes me cringe now. I know everyone is doing the best they can with what they have. Odyssey has gotten better over the years at portraying more diverse characters, more diverse families, but I still see room for improvement.

I have deeper problems with Focus on the Family as a whole, of the choices they make politically and the ways they choose to engage culture and the world. Their pictures of the ideal world or family or culture are not my pictures. When I listen to AIO now, I notice things I didn’t notice before.

Sometimes, though, I am noticing good things. I recognize how a three-part mystery from the mid-90s is all about championing differently-abled people. I am moved by unflinching stories about the Underground Railroad and the Fisk Jubilee Singers. I appreciate the nuanced handling of subjects such as forgiveness, doubt, and grief. I go on everyday adventures with the characters as they take vacations and learn how to drive and fall in love. I go on extraordinary adventures with them as they solve decades-old mysteries and foil the bad guys who want to take over the world. And the best of the Bible story adaptations capture a glimmer of why Jesus is so appealing to so many people.

I can’t help it. I will always love Adventures in Odyssey, even when I have trouble liking it. Whit and Connie and Eugene, Tom and Bernard, Jack and Jason, Jimmy and Donna and George and Mary, they all feel like real people, real friends and family members, even when they fight, or maybe especially when they fight. I’ve seen the same warmth and camaraderie in the recording studios as I see in what comes out of those studios, that sense of connection that we all long for, and this is perhaps the epicenter of my nostalgia.

I would like to think that if these characters became living and breathing people, they would not fall prey to the us-versus-them polarization rampant in our country today. I would like to think that I could have a conversation with Whit or Jack, that, despite our differences, we could sit down over milkshakes for a heart-to-heart, and they would really listen, and by understanding more of the Other with our heads and our hearts, we could change the world a little at a time.

Happy birthday, Adventures in Odyssey.

 

All my Odyssey possessions
Posing with all of my Adventures in Odyssey gear for a contest (2008).

Day 18: Suffering and Adventures in Odyssey

Mother Holding Child

“I’ve heard all the theological explanations: Because we’re in a sinful world. Because we have free will. Or because we don’t have free will. Or because it’s good for us somehow. But when people are really suffering, all those things don’t mean much.”

Connie Kendall

I’ve always loved Adventures in Odyssey, Focus on the Family’s long-running children’s radio drama. But even though I’ve become more rather than less of a fan since I turned adult, the older episodes are the ones I return to the most often, are the ones that find a natural place near my heart.

Then came this three-parter, “Life Expectancy.” I was blown away, and I know it’s not just because of the amazing acting and the emotional resonance and the surprises of this weighty storyline.

For those of you who haven’t heard it and want to, I won’t spoil it for you. This isn’t an episode review, after all, but I had to say a few words about how this episode deals with death and suffering.

Like any good Odyssey episode, “Life Expectancy” centers the conversation around God and biblical truth. But I think what makes these episodes so strong is that they add to conversations rather than finish them, that they value the characters and let them be real people who journey forwards and backwards and side to side rather than props for a sermon illustration who passively receive the “right answers.”

Death and suffering are messy, and even though we hear a few of the Christian characters philosophize about death and suffering, I heard the right context for those musings and words of wisdom. I heard “I see it like this…” rather than “This is how it is….”. Sometimes I heard “I don’t know” and “I can’t explain it.”

It’s okay to say “I don’t know.” It’s okay to really wrestle. And even if you do have peace, it can be hard to know how to explain it. It’s okay. It’s all okay.

It’s not all about having the “right answers” about the whys of suffering, or being able to explain those “right answers” in the smartest, most eloquent, and most convincing way possible.

It’s about being there, and being honest, and asking the hard questions, and listening with discernment. It’s about letting love do its work whether you’re the sufferer or the comforter.

(If you want to listen to “Life Expectancy,” you can do so via the Listen Online links here for at least the next week).

I couldn’t be happier, right here…

All day, I’ve had “…because happy is what happens, when all your dreams come true” stuck in my head. And after I figured out where it was from (Wicked: “Thank Goodness”), I decided that another line from that song would fit well here, even though I didn’t write this blog today or with that song in mind.

One late morning in August, three years ago, my dad and I pulled out of the driveway in my little gray car and headed east. We were Indiana-bound, but we had one important stop to make along the way.

Two days later, we were in Colorado Springs. This was my first time in Colorado. These were three of the best days of my life.

I was in Colorado Springs for the 20th anniversary of Focus on the Family’s much-beloved radio drama, Adventures in Odyssey.

The AIO live show in 2008

Then, what filled my heart to overflowing was the unexpected time with various members of the Odyssey cast, the heroes and role models of my childhood. I expected minutes; they gave hours.

Today, those memories are still very precious to me, but their legacy is just as significant. They sparked in me a renewed interest in Adventures in Odyssey, which eventually culminated in an Odyssey internship (’09) and club (’09-present). I can also trace the beginnings of several dear friendships to this.

Since then, my life and the world of Adventures in Odyssey have overlapped in new, exciting, and often humbling ways.

The Odyssey Club in Colorado Springs

The Adventures in Odyssey Club is the most visible example of this. It started out as a wispy dream, and now, when I see the faces of those united by this shared interest, I treasure what we are to each other and what we’ve gotten to experience together.

I graduated from Taylor University in May, but the club lives on. A few weeks ago, I was able to rejoin them to help welcome Odyssey voice actress Katie Leigh to my alma mater.

The story of how Katie Leigh ended up with us in the cornfields is one I love to tell, because it truly shows God’s hand at work.

When contacting Katie on another matter this spring, she happened to mention her dream to speak to college students. All I did was have an idea and send it to Taylor’s campus pastor. It was a long shot.

Little did I know that Katie was already looking for colleges to speak at. Little did I know that she already had connections with Indiana and even Taylor. Little did I know that our campus pastor was already planning a trip to southern California (Katie’s stomping grounds) when he got my email.

Little did I know that the timing was perfect.

A few weeks later, I found out she was coming to speak in chapel. It shouldn’t have been that easy, but God had other plans.

As the preparations began for Katie’s visit, I did as much as an absentee alumna could do to help out.

My long-awaited return to the Midwest preceded Katie’s by about a week, and I stayed as long as I could justify staying.

We danced in cars, we laughed, we stayed up late talking, we prayed together, we relived the “glory days,” and, on November 6, we surprised Katie at the airport.

Waiting for Katie at the airport!

I was the only one who had met her before, and, therefore, the only one who could attest to Katie’s similarities to her character, Connie Kendall – in voice and in personality. Until that night.

It was an absolute privilege to be able to spend so much time with Katie over the following two days. I loved getting to know the friendly, spontaneous woman behind the character. Katie is easy to talk to, and I admired her openness, her strong faith, and the ways she sought to include everyone.

On Monday, we had a full slate of activities lined up for Katie, starting with chapel and an autograph session, and continuing with an informal round-table discussion in the Student Union.

But back to chapel.

I was the one who introduced her. Who would’ve thought that my biggest public speaking experience at school (at least in terms of audience size) would take place after I graduated?

I don’t remember the first song we sang in chapel, but I remember the second one: “A Mighty Fortress is our God.” Despite my nerves, I was able to sing loudly and joyously and be reassured. They couldn’t have picked a more appropriate song.

Katie Leigh speaking in chapel

And then I was on stage. I had to pause after saying “Adventures in Odyssey” to make way for the cheering that erupted. Then it was Katie’s turn. After sharing part of her life story, she spoke about the need to trust God, the Director of our lives, even when we can’t see how everything will fit together. It was hard to believe this was her first time addressing an audience this size; she was engaging, and seemed comfortable up there.

Lunch at Payne’s with Katie*

Several of us took her to a favorite local spot for lunch, which was one of my favorite parts of the day. In an otherwise busy schedule, it was wonderful to have such a leisurely, relaxing time of fellowship. Dinner was a little faster-paced, but it was at our ice cream shop, Ivanhoe’s – our “Whit’s End.”

We spent most of the rest of the afternoon and evening in the Student Union, first for the aforementioned round-table discussion and Q&A session, then for “Adventures in Odyssey Club Live!”, a fun-filled evening of recordings and reader’s theater, of microphones and multimedia, of interactions and impersonations and elucidated inside jokes.

Reader’s Theater*

For those of us in the Adventures in Odyssey Club, it was also a time of reunion. I can’t remember a day when I gave and received as many hugs as I did on that day. All of us club alumni were able to return, which lent a sweetness to the evening; nothing could go wrong, not really.

Katie Leigh making it possible for Chris Anthony to say hello (over the phone) to everyone there!
Sharing memories

It was a wonderful evening of sharing, both of things we’d done and could do, and of things we felt and appreciated. We were among friends. Even I was reaching for the microphone by the end of the night. I don’t think I would be mistaken in saying that every one of us was exhausted by the time it was over, but we were happy too.

I remember sitting on the floor afterward with two of the guys, reflecting on the events of the day in a sort of relaxed debrief. We were the three who had done the most to make this happen, and we were completely spent. And it was good.

Katie was our most special guest, but she wasn’t the only one. Over the course of the day, she introduced us over the phone to three of her Odyssey co-workers: Will Ryan (Eugene Meltsner), Chris Anthony (the host of Odyssey), and Phil Lollar (one of the writers). Thoughtful gestures … unexpected blessings.

On Tuesday, Katie led a couple workshops on voice-acting, and later, spent some time in one of Taylor’s recording studios. I had to smile as a couple media production students eagerly asked Katie if she would lend her voice to their audio projects. She said yes. That’s another thing about her that I admired: her willingness to engage with us students during her entire time here.

If Monday hadn’t been surreal enough, Tuesday took me to new heights. I got to play production engineer as Katie treated the microphone to more than half a dozen different character voices while recording lines for an audition. Oh, the exciting life of a voice actor!

For me, however, the best parts of Tuesday were getting to spend time with her one-on-one to talk about some of her memories of Odyssey actors who are no longer with us … and getting to pray for her.

The other alumni left on Monday and Tuesday, and I followed a few days later.

Leaving Indiana after graduation hadn’t been so difficult; I knew I would be back soon.

But what about now?  Leaving was hard. It is hard. I don’t know when I’ll be back in Indiana. I don’t even have a car there anymore to anchor me to the Heartland.

“Thank you for loving me,” I told my friends right before I left. The tears didn’t come until I was halfway out of the parking lot. Those dances in the cars, and that laughter, and those late nights we stayed up talking, and the times we prayed together, and all the other things that brought us closer … they were the greatest blessings of this trip, and of the last couple years. That’s why the “glory days” never truly end.

These were the fullest, richest three weeks I’ve ever experienced.

But it wasn’t just the club. I got to spend time with several other friends in the area, and meet new people, and reconnect with professors. They were blessings too.

One of my friends, whom I first met at the Odyssey celebration in Colorado three years ago, flew out from California to drive the more than 2500 miles back to the West Coast with me. She was a blessing, and a joy.

As I pulled into my driveway again, I was struck by the realization that, in many ways, this was the end of a journey that started three years ago.

Leaving California 08
Three years ago
Today

This was my closure with Taylor University, with the club, and even with Adventures in Odyssey, to an extent. It’s time for this chapter to close, but the characters will remain, even as others join them.

The best is yet to come.

*photos courtesy of Cara Strickland

Thoughts on Writing, Adventures in Odyssey style

I came across these Adventures in Odyssey-inspired reflections among my writings, and thought they were worth sharing — even if you’re not an AIO fan or a writer:

If you’re going to introduce a character with a unique storyline, it’s important to develop that character beyond that storyline so that, when it ends, the character doesn’t lose everything that made him or her interesting. It would seem that a character becoming a Christian has the potential to make him or her much less interesting, especially if the writers have been building toward it for a long time. That didn’t happen with Connie and Eugene, though I would argue that pre- (and immediately post-)salvation Eugene was Eugene at his best, and since then, especially lately, the writers have had a hard time figuring out what to do with him (especially after all the drama with Katrina ended).

The salvation storyline is used often in Christian fiction because it’s an important issue that’s rather easy to portray, and, when done well, can be moving, thought-provoking and inspirational. But too many stories end with “and-then-he-became-a-Christian-and-they-lived-happily-ever-after.” While becoming a Christian is certainly a great, exciting thing, it’s not the end of the journey in real life, and so I don’t think it should be in fiction either … especially since it happily-ever-after from then on. Becoming a Christian doesn’t mean your problems are over. Neither is that moment of salvation the pinnacle of one’s faith. There’s the deepening of faith and love over time, the wrestling with doubts and fears and insecurities, the growing dependency on God during hard times, and the hard things that God may call you to do. It’s an adventure!

Generally, I think AIO does a good job portraying both the journey to faith and the journey of faith, but sometimes it’s hard to make the latter seem as exciting as the former. I think a lot of people sometimes fall into the trap of seeing the “becoming a Christian” part as the be-all and end-all, when really it’s just the beginning.

A Month in the Life

Writer’s note: I wrote 86% of this blog last weekend (no, 86% is not an arbitrary estimation), but only just got around to finishing and posting it.  Hence my decision to change the “published on” date from July 24 (today) to July 19.


I have two and a half weeks left in Colorado, and I’ve only blogged about the first day.  That’s not good.  What’s even worse is that first phrase, I have two and a half weeks left in Colorado.  I advised a fellow intern of mine not to start counting the days yet, but I’m guilty of doing it too.

I don’t want to say goodbye.  11 months ago, I traipsed around the Focus campus, camera in hand, photographing everything photographable in the parking lot.  That week was a mountaintop experience in every sense of the word, and I was loath to so suddenly trade the sights and sounds of Colorado for… Kansas.  And Indiana.

That’s all very close to how I feel now, with a few key differences.  Then, I was in the audience.  Now, I am behind the curtain, soaking up every drop I can and trying to create a few memorable ones of my own.  But even without the Odyssey aspect, I am going to miss Colorado Springs.  I have finally found my kindred spirits in the “introvert table” of interns, and will miss them… not to mention the great people in my department.  I have truly felt welcome here.

I still haven’t gotten over my wide-eyed awe that I’m actually here.  And yet, being in this unique position has given me a different perspective on Odyssey fandom.  Let’s see if I can explain.  There is so much we fans don’t know about the behind-the-scenes of Adventures in Odyssey.  Often, we can only speculate.  I love hearing others’ opinions on the show, but it bothers me when people make assumptions or judgments before they know the whole story.  Going from drawing board to radio, or to website, or to store shelf, isn’t as simple and cut-and-dried a process as some people seem to think.  There are more links in the chain than we know.  Adventures in Odyssey is entertainment-with-a-message, run by people who care about making the show the best it can be.   If only the people who get riled up over changes to the show would care as much for the people behind it… would pray for the actors and the staff (who, even if this is their dream job, have times of stress just like the rest of us), and would not join with the tabloids in assuming the worst.

Lizzie: Okay, now I’m going to step off my soapbox and switch gears.
Eugene: You just mixed your metaphors.
Lizzie: Oh, be quiet, Eugene.

A Day In The Life:

6:20: I drag myself out of bed.  I’m still not used to such early risings – they make it so I can’t remember my dreams, leaving me only with the sensation of having dreamed something very strange.   Last night, however, I dreamed out an entire LOST season 6 finale, and it was rather lame.  So maybe it’s best if I don’t remember my dreams.

7:30ish: Off to work!  Now that I no longer am picking up Laura, a fellow intern, it’s just a matter of time before my subconscious realizes that 7:30 isn’t cutting it close and I start leaving later.

8:00: Arrive in the Audio Drama department, drop my armful of stuff on my desk, and check my email.  If I had been writing this blog a week ago, I would’ve said “fast walk into the Audio Drama department a minute or two after 8,” but, thankfully, I’ve done a better job of being on time lately.

8:10: Meet in the war room, or in one of the sound designers’ studios for department devos, or, on Wednesdays, the glassed-in viewing room for the broadcast tapings in the Administration Building for departments devos (yeah, I know that room has a name, but I can’t remember what it is).  “Devos” sometimes consists of just talking over what we’ve been working on or how our personal lives are going, but whether we’re simply catching up with each other or learning spiritual truths from Steve Jobs, it’s always a great way to start the day.

8:45 (or later): 1, 2, 3, break!  Everyone returns to their cubicles or offices to commence the day’s work.  We interns in the Audio Drama/Book Publishing room have been playing musical cubicles almost since day 1, due to the particular demands of certain projects.  I’ve moved into cubicle #2, and while I enjoy having two computers, I won’t mind when the time comes to return to my first one, which is closer to the rest of the Odyssey team.

We usually have enough solo projects to occupy us, though sometimes Nathan pokes his head in to ask my opinion on something, or to talk about the latest draft of my episode ideas (*shudder*), or to come collect me for a podcast recording session.  But even when I’m in my cubicle all morning, I’m never bored. Tired sometimes, but not bored.

12:00: Lunchtime!  (or 11-1 on Wednesdays, when all the interns gather together to eat special food and watch an episode of the Truth Project (and by special, I mean non-cafeteria-but-ordered-out-food.))  Thursday is pizza day, but even when we’re deprived of that delicious delicacy, there’s usually something fairly good… for cafeteria food, at least.  When worse comes to worst, well, there’s always the ice cream machine, which overflows with some of the best soft serve ice cream I’ve ever tasted.  When it, um, works.

Other than the food itself, though, I also enjoy the lunch hour for its socializing aspects.  Even when the wind is blowing our food away or we’re wishing the wind would blow in some other food, it’s nice to take a break from work and chill with the other members of the “introvert table.”  Or everyone, depending on the day.  We’ve only eaten in Whit’s End once, but I’m eagerly anticipating our return – I still haven’t gone down the slide or recorded my own episode yet!  (Well, okay, I went down the slide last year.  But that was last year!)

1:00: Back to work!  Everyone, back to work!  We often wind up standing in a circle in the Chapelteria as our final moments of freedom drift away.  Once, someone wondered aloud how long we could pretend we were praying before people started to suspect we were just shirking work.  A long time, we decided.  But fortunately for Jonathan and me, we don’t dread going back to work.

The afternoon has about the same rate of unpredictable predictability as the morning, and…

5:00: …usually arrives much sooner than I’d expected.  Gather up my belongings (most of which remained untouched during the day) and waltz out to my car, the beloved Yipo.

6:00: I almost never arrive home before 6.  Then I have just four short hours of dinner, running, and/or bonding time with the ol’ computer before I have to go to bed and get ready to do it all over again the next day!

11:30: Well, okay, I should go to bed at 10, but I almost never do.

More Highlights:

LizzieG Meets ToOers

I got to meet a member of the Town of Odyssey website during my second week.  What could be better than sipping WodFamChocSods with a fellow fan?  Meeting Nathan Hoobler and Dave Arnold, of course!  So I introduced him to those venerable personages, and it was a memorable day.  Yes.

Rock Climbing

Unfortunately,  I have no pictures to document this momentous occasion, but I am proud to say that last week I went rock climbing for the first time ever, and climbed a 5.9 route!  For those of you who don’t know what that means, allow me to enlighten you: rock climbing with ropes and harnesses begins at 5.0.  Each percentage point higher indicates a route twice as hard as the one before it (i.e. 5.3 is twice as hard as a 5.2).  The hardest routes are 5.15.  And not only did I climb a 5.9+, but I even made it to the top completely unaided (of course, we won’t count the times Nathan told me from the ground where to step next)!

It was exhilarating to try something so new with a hint of danger, and not only try, but succeed!  I’m looking forward to going climbing again, though next time I plan to be armed with a camera… and an alert mind to catch all the brag-worthy facts about the rock in question.

Being Whit.  And Connie.

Last Saturday, Jonathan and I had the opportunity of dressing up in the Whit, Connie, and Sherman costumes and thereby adding an extra dose of funness to the Focus on the Family Yard Sale.  We walked around the parking lot and Whit’s End, hugging and high-fiving kids or, in the case of Connie, scaring them.  Just wearing the costumes was an adventure in itself, however – you don’t know what it’s like before you’ve experienced it for yourself.  The fat suits, the ice vests, the head fans, the head that wouldn’t stay upright, the lack of oxygen… good times, good times, and I would do it again in a heartbeat!

“We were supposed to go to the zoo on Monday.” *tear*

I had this line stuck in my head all day. Happily, though, Jonathan, Kim, and Laura did not “die” and deprive me of a once-in-a-lifetime zoo experience.   And it was Saturday, not Monday.

The four of us went to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and saw just about every animal there.  Highlights included feeding the giraffes giraffe crackers (they have very long tongues! (the giraffes, not the giraffe crackers)), watching the grizzly bear emerge from behind its rock hiding place, and having an Aslan-Prince-Caspian moment with a tiger – you remember when Lucy sees Aslan but no one else does?  Well, this tiger had a forested area in which to live, and I happened to glance over and see him standing among the grass and trees near a waterfall.  The lack of visible fencing and the fact that I was seeing him unexpectedly (and did I mention the forested environment and the waterfall?) reminded me of that moment in Prince Caspian.

We walked, we drove up to the Shrine of the Sun, we listened to Disney music, we saw a Hawaii license plate, we saved orangutans, we didn’t bring our teddy bears, we took pictures, we had a good day.

~*~

I have said more than once that I would love to live in Colorado.  Recently, however, I have been seriously considering moving here after I graduate.  I love Colorado – it’s a beautiful, activity-saturated state mostly second-to-none (c’mon, I gotta retain a little loyalty for my California), and would be a perfect place to start being an adult.

I’m not too excited to return to school in just a little over a month and greet my old enemies, Motivation Monger and Procrastination Phil, but I am grateful to have another year to ponder and plan for the future, and to spend too much time with friends before the inevitable parting.

So there you have it – past, present, and future.

“It’s A Place Everyone Oughtta See”

I just arrived in Colorado Springs, having been delayed in the Denver airport for almost two weeks due to a freak June snowstorm that kept me from communicating with the outside world!

Except, not.

I did pull an all-nighter that last night home. I never want to, but that’s what always seems to end up happening on the eve of long trips. Particularly the 30,000 foot variety. I would call it a semi-grueling first day, with a fully-functioning autopilot and a one-track mind that pled for sleep while preventing either nervousness or excitement from reigning. But I was glad to be there, there at the edge of the West, with the mountains so close and Odyssey-land less than 10 miles away!

The house I’m staying at is a very nice one, with a beautiful view of the city and the mountains from my bedroom window. My host family is nice too; they’re an elderly couple who apparently have been housing interns under their roof for quite a while. While eating dinner with them that first night, they mentioned past interns they’d hosted, including “the guy from Calgary, who worked with that radio drama, what was it called?”

My ears pricked up at this. “Was his name Corey?” I asked immediately.

It was, of course. I explained briefly how I knew him, much to their surprise and amazement, and promised to pass along their greetings.

That evening, I toiled over my three overflowing suitcases and managed to get everything stowed away, tucked in a corner, or stacked on a dresser, much to the soothing of my order-loving soul.  I fell asleep easily, despite the lack of air-conditioning.  I found out later that my room is one of the warmest in the house. Had I still been living in the red-hot heat of northern California, that would’ve been a cause for alarm.  Thankfully, though, Colorado’s temperatures aren’t quite so extreme, and I have pleasantly survived.

Tuesday began at 7 am.  For once, I overcame my all-too-pervasive  tardiness and arrived at the Focus headquarters right on time. The powers that be decided that my first hour would be best spent learning about the history and mission of Focus on the Family, so on the main tour I went, where I not only gave the correct answer to the one Odyssey trivia question (“How did Odyssey get its name?), but was apparently the first person in my tour guide’s experience to get the line word-for-word.

I saw the same push-pin-decorated maps, went up the same grand staircase, and heard the same facts that I was treated with last August. It really is a rather ordinary tour, but the ties that bind me to these unmistakable buildings, set in a rich landscape of green and mountain, inspire thrills in even the most commonplace of routines. Seeing that Chapelteria again, though empty and without the whispers of future treasures, brought back the beauty and the unquenchable joy of last year. If you’re perfectly still, you can hear the soft strains of that music, not easily forgotten, that thousands of eager hearts and fulfilled dreams couldn’t help but bring. It’s rich with memory… memory that I can almost touch. -my journal

After the tour, I finally met Ida Hoffman, the volunteer coordinator with whom I had communicated the most during and since the application process began back in January. The next step was getting my badge and officially becoming part of the system. It should’ve taken less than a minute to get my picture taken, but apparently someone had logged out of that particular program, and no one knew the password to get back in. Twenty minutes, four security guys, and a couple of phone calls later, I was finally outfitted with my new plastic “necklace.” But at least now we have the beginning of a joke! – “How many security guys does it take to take a picture?”

After filling out some paperwork and meeting a few more people, Nathan Hoobler arrived to escort me to the Audio Drama department which, for an Odyssey fan such as myself, was mere footsteps from heaven. The last time I had talked with Nathan had been when he autographed my Official Guide almost a year ago. Meeting him and some of the other “men behind the curtain” had been a surreal experience in 2008… but was the curtain really rising now to admit me – me! – an adoring fan?

My first act as an intern was to sit in on a meeting with Nathan, Dave Arnold, and Paul McCusker. Of course, I can’t relate much of what happened during that meeting, other than that I enjoyed Paul and Dave’s senses of humor (while simultaneously being awestruck by their very presence), and that I need to see Up at my earliest convenience.

Following the meeting, Nathan told me everything there is to know about everything… that is, as it related to what I would be doing this summer. They’re definitely going to keep me busy!

…and I can’t wait.

~*~

Keeping up with three separate written accounts at the same time isn’t an easy thing to do.  There’s the school-commissioned journal of my internship, the existence of which is still debatable; my sturdy-looking(-but-don’t-be-fooled-cuz-it’s-from-Wal-Mart) journal, which is currently clocking in at a hefty 16 pages for the first week; and this intangible-yet-attractive blog.  The goals of each are different enough that I can’t very well combine them into one:

  • School journal: Write about what I’ve learned and experienced, the integration of these “real world” experiences with what I’ve learned in school, my pros and cons related to this field, interpersonal challenges, and the ever-popular “integration of faith and learning.”
  • My journal: A no-holds-barred account of everything, including (but not limited to) the following: descriptions that wax eloquent, top secret information, and a fairly chronological telling of all that’s happened, particularly at work.
  • This blog: A less detail-oriented account than my journal, and with the classified stuff removed, capturing “the spirit of the internship, not the letter of the internship,” and complete with interestingly-told funny and memorable moments.

More soon!

Colorado Bound!

In less than 5 hours, this journey will begin.

It all started last summer when I trekked to Colorado Springs to join thousands of fans in celebrating the 20th anniversary of Adventures in Odyssey.  That story has been told before, and will continue to be told because it was, in all honesty, the trip of a lifetime.  And it sparked my interest in this internship to which I have joyfully bequeathed the next 45 days of my life.

Many of you may know that I am a History major, and some, that, even though I’m a scant year away from graduating, I still have little idea what course to pursue after that.  I’m hoping this internship (or practicum, as my school officially dubs it) will help me narrow it down a little, and set me going at at least a fast walk in the right direction.  But this internship means more to me than a few class credits, or the potential for future career inspiration.  As I alluded to in the last paragraph, and as my facebook profile will testify, Adventures in Odyssey was the soundtrack of my childhood, and is the soundtrack of this 20-year-old’s adulthood.  I’m excited to work for a show that has captivated me for so many years, and with people whose names and work have been familiar to me for almost as long.  And, of course, it’s Colorado; what’s not to get excited about?

I should be sleeping right now, but I determined weeks ago that I would start this blog for this trip, and I determined days ago that I would not tell anyone about this blog until I had written at least one entry.  So there you go.

I’m virtually all packed: mapquested directions to work, Walmart, and the library printed out, the Odyssey shirt tucked intentionally between less important clothing, the headset and webcam I would be loath to forget, and the surprisingly-limited-yet-specially-chosen collection of books.  It’s all ready, and so am I.

I don’t know how often I’ll be able to update this blog, but if my anticipations are correct, there will be a lot of blog-worthy happenings over the next 6-7 weeks.  And if procrastination doesn’t get the best of me, you should be hearing about those happenings as they occur.

Adieu for now!