Go see the Avatar Cirque du Soleil Show!

The Captain and I had a blast last night at the Avatar Cirque du Soleil show in Birmingham!

The thing about this show is, it’s great from the Cirque du Soleil side as the performers are insanely talented flippers, jumpers, jugglers, and acrobats. So even if you don’t know a thing about the Avatar movie, it’s still a fantastic show. But it’s also super cool from the Avatar perspective because the costumes, makeup, and setting are perfect for the Na’Vi of Pandora, and the storyline involving multiple tribes of the Na’Vi people was compelling. The blend of these two worlds makes the Toruk show really unique.

My Avatar nerdiness reached epic levels. I’ll spare you the bulk of it here (but if you wanna gab about it, I AM YOUR PERSON), but the general gist is that the blue people are the Na’Vi. They live in a moon-world called Pandora. The Na’vi are made up of many tribes or clans, our favorite being the Omaticaya (the tribe from the movie Avatar). What’s unique about this Cirque du Soleil show is that it brings in the Omaticaya but also introduces the audience to several other tribes - the Tawkami, Anurai, Tipani, and Kekunan - all of whom have unique talents highlighted as part of the story.

It’s in Birmingham for this weekend only, so grab some tickets and squeeze it in. You won’t regret it!

I’m including a far better description of the show, cut from the promotional kit (and sharing here with permission).

“TORUK – The First Flight is a live immersive multimedia spectacle that brings to the stage the breathtaking world of James Cameron’s AVATAR like you have never seen it before. Through a riveting fusion of cutting-edge visuals, puppetry and stagecraft buoyed by a soaring cinematic score, Cirque du Soleil applies its unique signature style to James Cameron’s imaginary world and 'makes the bond' between two kindred artistic visions that capture the imagination.

This live immersive experience also bears the distinct signature of directors and multimedia innovators Michel Lemieux and Victor Pilon. It is a living ode to the Na’vi’s symbiotic coexistence with nature and their belief in the basic interconnectedness of all living things.Narrated by a “Na’vi Storyteller” and populated by unforgettable characters, TORUK –The First Flight is a mythical tale set thousands of years before the events depicted in the film AVATAR, and before any humans ever set foot on Pandora.

When a natural catastrophe threatens to destroy the sacred Tree of Souls, Ralu and Entu, two Omaticaya boys on the brink of adulthood, fearlessly decide to take matters into their own hands. Upon learning that Toruk can help them save the Tree of Souls, they set out, together with their newfound friend Tsyal, on a quest high up in the Floating Mountains to find the mighty red and orange predator that rules the Pandoran sky. Prophecy is fulfilled when a pure soul rises among the clans to ride Toruk for the first time and save the Na’vi from a terrible fate.”

The tech-side of it was also highly fascinating to me! It’s truly a visually dynamic combination of technology, light, and color, and the inclusion of audience members’ smartphones as part of the show is a pretty cool idea as well.

“Total projection surface, excluding projections that reach out into the audience, is approximately 20,000 square feet, more than five times the size of a standard IMAX screen: 12,750 for the stage, 3,600 for the two lateral screens, and another 3,600 for the two columns of Hometree. There are 40 video projectors in all: half are 30,000-lumen each, the other half, 20,000-lumen. 22 video projectors are used for projections on the ground; 6 projectors send video images on Hometree; 2 projectors are dedicated to the two lateral screens; and 8 projectors are used for immersive projections into the audience.”

Every detail is carefully crafted to ensure an immersive and exciting experience. We absolutely loved every second of it, and I hope you’ll make plans to go see Cirque du Soleil Avatar Toruk today or tomorrow!

Cirque du Soleil, Avatar-style, is coming to Birmingham!

One of the very few movies we actually own that doesn't have "Disney" plastered on the cover, Avatar is one of my all-time favorite films. The setting is surprising and visually rich, and the plot is heavily mixed with the full range of man vs. man, self, and nature conflicts. There is a unique blend of science fiction with that all-too-familiar historical scenario of a native group's homeland being targeted by invaders...and oh, there's also some romance, too. Avatar is an underestimated and intricate movie that I count as a favorite, and I will go to my grave believing that Stephen Lang was robbed of an MTV Movie Award for Best Villain in it. Seriously, that last fight scene?! James Cameron is a genius. 



Recently while scooting through downtown Birmingham, I noticed an Avatar billboard. Those blue Na'Vi people will just jump right out at you. As it turns out, Cirque du Soleil has this whole big Avatar-themed show! Called TORUK - The First Flight, audience members are immersed in the land of Pandora in a performance based on the first flight of the toruk, which is the gigantic dragon-like creatures with whom the native Na'Vi people must bond before taking flight throughout the floating mountains.

 My brain can't even sort out how they're gonna pull this off at the BJCC, but these three things I know for sure:

1. It is going to be fabulous.
2. I am so going to be there.
3. I want you to see it, too!

I've been given 4 free tickets to give away to the opening night of Cirque du Soleil's TORUK! They're good for Friday, August 19th (show time is at 7:30pm and it is considered family-friendly).

To enter, comment below for an entry in the random drawing. Just tell me why you want these tickets and who you'll take if you win.

This is a value of over $130, folks! The giveaway will end at 5:00pm on Wednesday, August 17th, and I'll post the winner shortly thereafter. Check back next Wednesday to see if you're the winner!

And if you're just not patient enough to wait til Wednesday, go here to buy your tickets now.

Birmingham and its storytellers

canning tomatoes with jjajja

It doesn't even matter that we didn't make it through our bucket list this summer. It was still a beautiful season, filled with rest and reading and new experiences. The bigs got to try things like staying a week at Jjajja's house, fancy new hairdos, and watching the Karate Kid. Our family joined a local produce co-op, which has been easy on the grocery budget and fun because we never know what our basket will hold at pick-up. I tried a few things, too...creating with Miss Ruby and canning tomatoes were also pretty exciting. 

The stuff of legends is buried in all of those little summer moments, but one of the best nights of all of 2015 so far has been going with some of my favorite people to a storytelling event at the Birmingham Museum of Art. Purposed to explore the beautifully layered concept of the southern identity, this stew of an evening pulled in three main ingredients: local storytellers who were part of Arclight of Birmingham, the Frank Fleming Fantasy/Reality exhibit, and NPR's The Moth.

 I've never met Frank Fleming but think he would be fluent in sarcasm. I do love his work, though.

I've never met Frank Fleming but think he would be fluent in sarcasm. I do love his work, though.

Uptown Birmingham
Uptown bham gift card

A few friends and I met at Uptown's Cantina Laredo, where two of us got to use a gift card we won in a recent social media contest. The full scope of Cantina's menu is delicious even on a regular day, but at almost-free it became positively exquisite. Then we ambled over a few streets to the museum, where we were basically shocked to see that at 30 minutes before go-time, the amphitheater was at capacity. (Whaaaat. How can this be? We thought we were the only people in Birmingham who cared about things like southernism and live storytelling performances and art. What are all you people doing here?) The five of us split up and started up and down the steps, around the perimeter, weaving in and out of people, asking in our sweetest and most precious angel voices for people to shift over or stand up and let us pass. We got separated, but everyone had a seat and that was more than we could say for the 30 or so folks stuck back in the lobby.

You might say we didn't anticipate the interest, but we were really impressed to see so many younger B'hamians out for what we thought was mostly a nerd-love type of event. 

The Moth Birmingham

The evening's host was Taylor from Arcstories, a Birmingham-based storytelling organization that coaches people into sharing their memories. We didn't even know this group existed but are intent upon attending their next events. Taylor introduced five local storytellers, who were as different as five people could be. The first story (about but not solely about soccer) was my favorite, maybe because it was the first and drew me in to this event so quickly, and maybe because I'm almost certain that guy works at the local public library, but definitely because the theme was the theme of injuries as they relate to southern culture. My favorite quote of his was "When you are born in the South, you are born into an injury instead of out of it." I liked thinking about that in relation to a lot of modern issues in southern culture, but also because where the soccer story guy landed was that the thing about injuries is that they do heal.

The next storyteller was a post-Katrina NOLA volunteer, and hearing him describe what he saw and heard and smelled jolted me right back to when The Captain and I went down to help some friends in the days after that horrible, drama-filled catastrophe.

The third storyteller talked about her family and strained relationships and tied it all up in a very entertaining story about a moment in high school when she (as an awkward, whiter than white teenage girl) gave a report on the book Black Like Me...with her face painted black.

The next storyteller was a Birmingham area rapper who shared about art and power within it. After him came a local hairdresser who went through a beautiful story of family dynamics and how he found support and love and acceptance in the most unlikely of places. Favorite quote from this guy? "Don't tread on the deniability of a good southern family."

An art professor from UAB then shared about a famously talented southern photographer (whose name escapes me, although I do remember the professor speaking had on a dapper little vest) and read one of the stories behind one of his photos. He talked about art but also the importance of the story behind the art, which IS the art, to me. 

Then came what was intended as the main event: storytellers from The Moth. This is a podcast of people telling stories, and the artistic director (Katherine Burns) just so happens to be from an Alabama town very near Birmingham. She told the stories behind the stories, giving lots of background to The Moth and its founder. Our group agreed we preferred the local storytellers best.

But first came Tricia Rose Burt, also from The Moth, who told another story about Southern families and her own personal triumphs and tragedies (brilliantly, though that Southern dialect was too thick at first and too thin as she relaxed). I loved her story, though, and identified with it significantly.

And I think that's the point of wading through your personal trash onstage. 

Stories are entertaining. They're complicated. They require so many "just right" ingredients to be good that it's hard to even really put a name on it. You're either a storyteller or you aren't. You have it or you don't.

Stories in print form are a part of my business as a librarian but they're also a big part of my heart as a reader and writer. In Scripture, the excerpts in which God speaks to me most loudly are situational, entertaining, personal, and teaching. His stories are the best.

The thing about storytelling, and most assuredly Southern storytelling, is that those tales are also generously healing. Every time a person shares their painful or disgusting or sad or awkward or completely hysterical story, they work through that mess just a little bit more. The beautiful part is, they get to help others do the very same.

The next Arcstories event, themed to include stories from the classroom, will benefit schools in the Birmingham area. The Captain and I are already in. Hope to see you there!

Jen Hatmaker is coming to town!

If you're one of the Cable-Havers in my life, you may have heard of Jen and Brandon Hatmaker from the "My Big Family Reno" show. They live somewhere in Texasland and have several kids, some biological and some adopted. 

I'm of the Non-Cable-Haver Variety, so if you haven't seen her show you may have read her books or blog. She is, and I cannot overstate this, one of the FUNNIEST WRITERS I HAVE EVER READ. 

I'm absolutely a Jen Hatmaker fan girl, and my head exploded just a little bit when I heard she is coming to Birmingham in April! I just cannot wait to see her in person and trust me when I say, it will take all I have not to hug her and thank her for putting words and reason to so many things that swim around in my heart. 

She'll be at Shades Mountain Baptist on April 10-11 for their women's conference, and it's $40 for the Friday night and Saturday sessions. 

Go here for tickets! (Click on the location you want, which will send you to another page to purchase your ticket.)

Jen Hatmaker books you might enjoy (affiliate links):

Created for Care, Round 3

I had a hundred different very legitimate reasons not to register for Created for Care this time around (despite incredible experiences in 2013 and 2014-A and B). And in the past few weeks I have had a thousand more reasons to give up my spot to someone on the wait list. I'm not sure why it's so hard to commit to this amazing retreat for adoptive moms every year. Taking a few days away at an event like this is self-care, and a very important kind of self-care for introverts like yours truly.

So here I am, chawin' my way through this enormous mountain of emotions and research and revelation that once again this blessed retreat has ushered into my soul. It has been interesting how each of the three years I have attended, God has spoken into a different compartment of my heart and about issues going on with each of our kiddos. Each time it has been just the right message at just the right moment. Manna. 

This year, my breakouts included the Enneagram and an Adoption Triad Panel. For my third I opted for a fun little tear-free (this place is an emotional land-mine, man) felt flower crafting session, and I will have you know that I came out of that room with a fun felt flower headband for Pearl, a tiny felt flowery hair clip for Sweet Love, and a pretty little felt flower barrette clip for the Sassafras.

It was all the felt floweryness.

Now, it was TECHNICALLY tear-free but there are, in fact, third-degree burns on my fingertips because that hot glue gun and I got into a bit of a tangle. And the glue was the superhot fancy kind that didn't dry immediately, so when I touched it and jerked my hand away off came hot sticky glue strings, which also melted some epidermis into oblivion. I tried to pull it off, which only made it worse and polluted my pretty felt petals with all that junky hot glue snot. Also, in my haste to get thee away from that satanic hot glue gun, I may have accidentally glued the metal barrette part together on Sassafras's so that it's actually now just a cute flower with a nonfunctional metal stick on the back. And also also, I may have totally mis-folded the petal part of Sweet Love's felt flower, and then I did damage control by just sewing the insides of the edges together. Badly. Aaaand in the spirit of total honesty, I did this weird thing with Pearl Girl's flower and now it sticks up off the band part way too much, so it looks more like a flower head-lamp than the adorable little hair accessory I had envisioned.  

 Nailed it. 

Nailed it. 

It was not my most craft-tastic day. But it was fun. 

Now, for one of my for-real serious sessions, first was on the Enneagram. A really complex personality test, the whole purpose of this tool is to reveal your strengths/weaknesses/etc. so that you can know yourself better in order to serve your people well. You take a little test to determine your personality number, which tends to describe the individual pretty closely. If you know you tend to do this thing (insert undesired behavior) when you're stressed, you can recognize it and prevent filling that void by placing unrealistic expectations on your spouse, children, etc. The more you learn about yourself, the more you can avoid projecting your own hot mess onto your people.

I'm a Type 3, apparently, and I'd say the description is mostly accurate. It swerves a bit for me when emphasizing that Threes care a lot about what people think of them, which....is not an accurate description of me. Validation for a job effectively done, yes. But to be eager for people to like me? No. To a fault, unfortunately. And there's an emphasis on competitiveness, which is way off-base. I really couldn't care less what someone else is doing (again, this is a problem), I just want to do MY thing - whatever that currently is - to the best of my ability. Excellence and competitiveness are not the same.  

My other "serious" breakout was an Adoption Triad Panel. Moderated by an adult adoptee and counselor, the panel contained three birth mothers and two adoptive moms (one of whom is also an adoptee). You guys, it got REAL in that room, let me just tell you. The conversation was expertly guided and went into some hard places. Birth moms shared how much they love and respect and admire and crave the approval of the adoptive moms, but also kind of hate them because they get to have all the power and the control and the moments and the milestones. They struggle with feeling lonely (outside a maternity home, birth mother culture isn't a thing) coming to terms with the fact that yes, they made an adoption plan for their child and yes, that is a good thing, but dang...it hurts to have to wrap your head around the fact that YOU, the woman with that baby in your belly, cannot be the best and safest place for your child. That's hard, dark stuff. It was such a big moment to listen to these ladies working out their stories today, to come to realizations, to see them spark more questions than answers at some times. 

My heart grew three new heroes today watching those birth moms share about their fears and worries and joys and journeys to peace. 

The adoptive mothers shared about how it feels like birth moms hold all the cards, that they're the ones with the power and control. They feel like life as an adoptive mom can sometimes feel like you're the half-mom, not ever enough, not ever being wanted. They talked about feeling guilty, almost responsible for taking a child from its birth mother. There was an honest and life-giving discussion about that. 

The adoptees talked about how angry they feel that the people who were their first parents didn't stay with them, even when they don't know the reason They have so many unanswered questions, mainly all circling around the word WHY, and this follows them around constantly. It was a good reminder of the heavy burden that adoptees have to bear, and an especially good refresher that adoptive parents have to work toward creating that safe space, welcoming adopted children to talk about their questions, fears, and anxieties regarding birth parents. We can't always give them answers because there ARE no simple answers. We can give them space and encouragement and if we're brave, feel the sting of birth parent loss right along with them. 

Heavy, heavy junk. 

Between all of this and the power-packed main sessions (Beth Guckenberger again this year, and I just cannot even. That lady is a spectacular fount of Scriptural knowledge and I seriously had to resist the urge to track her down and ask her OT questions all weekend. You will be happy to know the Great Resistance was successful.), I found myself perpetually teary-eyed and just feeling all the feely things. A quick trip through the vendor hall made it better every single time, though. I am still in awe of finding this cool cuff! 

Plus also some cutesy things for my girls, "just...not a t-shirt," according to Sassafras.

And The Captain held down the fort, as usual, with complete and utter ease. I don't even have to see his enneagram results to know he's totally a Type 8/4/2, by the way. ;)