Tag Archives: Walt Disney World

Stories from the park: Saying Goodbye

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The Lord is my solid rock,

my fortress, my rescuer.

My God is my rock —

I take refuge in him!–

he’s my shield,

my salvation’s strength,

my place of safety.”

Psalm 18: 2


Stories from the Park: The Jungle Cruise Mystery

Now before you Google this and check it out on Snopes, let me just clarify that this mystery only applies to me.  To my knowledge this doesn’t happen to anyone else, just me.  I seem unable to ride Jungle Cruise.  For many and varied reasons over the years I haven’t been on the ride: the line was too long, no one else wanted to ride it, it was closed, The Princess (in her younger years) had hit a wall and we needed to leave.  The list goes on.  It doesn’t help that I am the only person in the family who truly likes the ride.  Though, in fairness, I don’t think The Princess has ever been on it.  But the fact remains I have not been able to get one the ride since 1992.  But I was going to change all that.  This year I had a plan.

On our most recent trip we had The Duchess with us and one of our touring priorities was getting her onto as many classic Disney rides as possible.  We wanted her to have a good solid experience of the Disney Parks basics.  I leveraged that priority into a willingness to use one of our FastPass selections on Jungle Cruise.  It was also a nice calm ride we could do after our graduation celebration dinner.  It was a win-win.

So there we were on Day One after dinner, Fastpasses in hand, heading to the Jungle Cruise.  We walked up to the line and the sky opened.  Undeterred we whipped out our rain gear and entered the FastPass line.  We were under cover, waiting for the worst to pass when the first lightning hit.  After more lightning and a safety announcement the ride was closed.  We got universal FastPasses that we could use on any ride or attraction but we could not ride Jungle Cruise.  It was at this point I realized that I was cursed.

I have no great lesson in this today.  There is no underlying issue to expose.  I am simply banned by the universe from riding Jungle Cruise.  I don’t know why.  I may never know why.  I have heard rumors of a Jungle Cruise movie.  I am nervous.


Stories from the Park: I am an expert

For those of you who have never noticed, celebration buttons are a big deal in the Disney Parks.  There are buttons for birthdays, 1st visits, getting engaged, and getting married.  In Disneyland there are buttons for graduations, 1st haircuts, and anniversaries.  It should be no surprise then to realize that one of the first stops we made at the Magic Kingdom was City Hall to get the Princess and the Duchess their graduation buttons.  Sadly, they did not have specifically graduation buttons, but the cast member wrote ‘Graduation 2017’ on a generic Celebration button and we were on our way.  The down side of the sharpie edit it that it would rub off every day and have to be refreshed.

During one such refreshing, we go to talking with the cast member.  The Princess asked if he could add a layer of tape over the top of the button to keep the writing from rubbing off.  He was impressed with her problem solving skills and wanted to know what other tips and tricks we knew.  The conversation eventually got around to trip planning.  He was very impressed with my dining reservation skills, but what impressed him the most was the fact I got us FastPasses for Flights of Passage in Avatar land.  When I booked them, Pandora hadn’t even opened yet.  I explained that after reading the description of the two rides I guessed that (1) the line would be longer for the thrill ride, (2) it would be more fun, and (3) it would be the ride we wanted to experience more than once.  It happened to turn out that I was right on all three points.  The cast member thought I was brilliant and presented me the button above when he gave the girls theirs.  I was delighted.

I did not wear my button around the parks after that day.  I had to explain it to people frequently.  Interestingly, it was cast members who would ask me about it most often.  I felt like I had to tell the whole story to justify why I was wearing the button.  I couldn’t just smile and say, “It was a gift.  Isn’t it cool?”  I needed to explain that I wasn’t bragging or somehow putting myself above others.  I didn’t want people to get the wrong impression.  In retrospect though, I am a kind of Disney expert.  I am the person friends contact when they want to plan a trip.  I am person people ask when they have a question about Disney movies.  I have a new acquaintance who has a little girl and who wants to sit down with me to discuss how he can raise her to be strong and independent while still able to watch the Disney Princesses with all their historical flaws.  I write this blog.  By many standards, I am indeed a Disney expert but wearing that explicit label made me uncomfortable.

We are taught to be humble and unassuming.  But why?  Why shouldn’t we embrace our gifts and display them for everyone to see?  Why should recognizing our talents make us uncomfortable?    In fact how can people know that we have knowledge and skills that they can avail themselves of if we do not broadcast that fact?

“Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket.  Instead, they put it on top of a lampstand, and it shines on all who are in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before people so they can see the good things you do.” Matthew 5: 15-16

Claim your awesomeness!  Be an expert or an authority.  Be the smartest or most skilled person in a room.  Be the person that others know they can go to, rely on, and ask questions of.  Don’t be ashamed.  Be proud and use your knowledge and skills to benefit those around you.  Celebrate you.

Stories from the Park: Taking it Slow

I am not the sort of person who naps.  I am not the sort of person who takes time out of my vacation to sit around and do nothing.  When I go to Walt Disney World, I want to do everything all day every day.  The guide books that recommend returning to the room for a rest in the middle of the day have always seemed foolish to me.  Why would anyone want to take time away from the parks to lay around a pool or nap?  You can do that anywhere.  I have always understood that people traveling with young children, older folks, or those  with physical or mental challenges need to make allowances.  Those who get up at 4:00 am to run a marathon also get a pass.  But to my thinking everyone else should come to the park to be at the park.  That’s what we have always done.  Until this last trip.

Previously, we had visited in January and October and had no difficulty dealing with the weather.  It was chilly in the mornings but basically pleasant the rest of the time.  We stayed in the parks from open to close leaving only for meal reservations  This year was different.  It was the first time we had been at WDW in the summer.  It was hot!  And even worse it was humid.  By 1:00 in the afternoon we were hot, tired, and miserable.  By Day 2 we were reorganizing our schedule to incorporate a trip back to the room to rest and change.  Not only did I nap on this vacation, I napped in the shade by the pool while the girls swam.  We would get cleaned up and head back to the parks for our dinner reservations cooler, happier, and prepared for the rest of the day.  In other words, I get it.  I understand why the guide books suggest this pattern.  It makes perfect sense.

It is very typical that we judge other people’s behavior based on out own experiences.  We assume that because we can do something, understand something, or be somewhere a certain way it must follow that everyone must have that exact same experience.  Of course, that is untrue.  We could even be standing next to someone at the exact same time at the exact same place and have an entirely difference experience.  Our impressions of events are colored by so many things.  Did we get enough sleep?  Are we dealing with stress? Are we physically well?  Do we want to be there?  There are any number of personal and cultural factors that impact how we experience any given event.  Any one of which can shift our perspective away from the perspective of the person standing next to us.  The trick is not just recognizing this, but acknowledging that differing experience does not invalidate the experience that someone else is having.

We forget in conversation that our view is not the only view.  The current trend of diminishing and minimizing someone’s concerns over language, inclusion, and sensitivity is a trend based in privilege.  Even though I might not need to nap during my vacation doesn’t mean napping isn’t a valid choice.  Similarly, just because something doesn’t offend me doesn’t mean it’s not offensive.  Someone speaking out against offensive language and policies doesn’t make them delicate or sensitive, it makes them brave.  It takes courage to challenge the status quo because people don’t like it when you do.  When we challenge was has always been acceptable, there is backlash.  It is frightening to be lone voice  It make us a target for anger, ridicule, and diminishing.  And, yes, I speak from experience on both sides of the offense.

What we need to be able to do is listen to others who try to tell us where damage is happening.  We also need to be courageous enough to speak out on behalf of ourselves and others.  Know that there is more than one way to experience any given event and that experiences other than our own have value and importance.  They can teach us and inform us.  They can help us and provide us wisdom if only we take the time to listen.

Stories from the Park: One of us

As I mentioned last time, I enjoy meeting characters and collecting autographs.  Not sure why.  I know that I am really meeting cast members, but there is something fun about playing pretend for a little while.  Plus there is the fun of finding someone new, collecting that hard to find autograph, or just beating the lines to get a popular character.  Every so often you get a special interaction with a character that makes your day.  I have had several of them over the years but this is the story of how I became a Guardian of the Galaxy.

I was in line to meet Star-Lord and Groot by myself, the royal court having decided that they needed to do some shopping.  In an unusual turn of events for me, I wasn’t actually talking to anyone.  I was sandwiched in between two larger groups who were all entertaining themselves.  Since I was a party of 1, I got to go into the greeting area with the larger group in front of me.

Being a veteran of these kinds of things, I got busy trying to watch the interactions without being too intrusive.  I noticed that I had a good view of Baby Groot and if I used by zoom function I could get a good photo while I waited without interfering with the people who were talking to Star-Lord.  I was kind of in my own little world a bit, not really paying attention.  As an added bonus, the Awesome Mixes were playing in the background.  Without really thinking about it, I started quietly singing along.  I may also have been grooving just a little.  Of course, this is the moment it became my turn and Star-Lord spotted me.

A moment that could have been embarrassing turned into something else.

“You know the song!” said Star-Lord. “Let’s dance right on over here.”  So I kept on singing and danced with Star-Lord over to Groot.  Baby Groot was very impressed.  (I could tell he told me, “I am Groot.”  So there you go.)  When we finished, Star-Lord informed me, “You sang the song.  You did the dance.  That makes you a Guardian of the Galaxy.”  We got a photo or two and I headed on my way.

So there you have it.  I am a Guardian.  I am not someone who laughed at for singing in public.  I am not someone who was hurried through a line because I was by myself.  I am important, included, and valuable.  We could all learn a little something from Star-Lord about welcoming, inclusion, and hospitality.  It doesn’t take much to become one of ‘us’.  It just takes someone reaching out a hand in welcome.

Or and invitation to dance.

Stories from the Park: Something Blue

I often have unexpected encounters during my time at the Disney Parks and my last trip was no exception to that.  It is unsurprising that one might have conversations with random strangers.  There is a lot of time spent in line waiting for things: rides, characters, buses, meals.  And when you wait for a while, you get to talking.  One of my conversations was with an autistic seven year old and her grandma.

We were waiting in line to meet Joy and Sadness from “Inside Out”.  The Princess and the Duchess were off gallivanting without me since they had other things to do.  The little girl noticed I was in line alone and mentioned (loudly) to her grandma that I needed to have a kid with me.  Grandma apologized.  I informed her that there was no need for an apology and explained to the little girl that my kid was big now, but I still liked getting autographs.  We then began to share the pages of our books with each other.  I had a lot more signatures than she did.  I explained that my book was from more than one trip to Disney.  Grandma informed me that hers was too, but they didn’t get a lot of signatures because it was hard for the little girl to wait in the lines.  They would get into short lines when they could, so their book was a little thin.  (Though the little girl had signed one of the pages herself.)

I noticed that the line we were in was a little long.  It wasn’t Anna & Elsa long, but we had been in line for about twenty minutes at this point and the little girl seemed to be doing fairly well.  Grandma told me that they had talked about how long the line would be and the little girl was committed to waiting because meeting the emotions was very important to her.

“Inside Out” had been a defining movie for the little girl.  Like most on the autism spectrum, she has a hard time identifying and responding appropriately to emotions, both in herself and others.  For her, having a face and definition for five emotions was a huge tool for coping.  The characters gave her an objective measurement for what she was feeling.  She could compare her emotions to the ones depicted in the movies.  Once she identified what she was feeling, her family could help her learn what an appropriate response should be.  They were also using the film to help her identify emotions in others.  She was learning to recognize when people were acting like the characters in the movie and learning how she was supposed to react to them.  Grandma could see the difference in the little girl in the time since they had watched the movie.  And while the little girl might not have been able to identify the difference the movie made in her life, the fact that she was willing to tough it through a long (for her) line to meet these characters speaks volumes.

I have written a couple of times about how meaningful I find “Inside Out”.  It tackled negative emotions in a positive way that was empowering for people who aren’t happy all the time.  It was amazing to me to hear how the film has also become a tool to teach emotional intelligence.

Too many people, not just those with neurological disorders have difficulty identifying their emotions.  Researchers have found that when people cannot correctly identify the emotion they are feeling they respond to situations in an inappropriate manner.  Men and boys especially default to anger instead of fear or sadness which causes them to lash out sometimes to the point of violence.  Being able to correctly identify what we are feeling helps us to deal with the causes and unravel the emotion in the right way.  The fact that a Disney/Pixar film is helping children with this process is a beautiful thing.

Emotions are important.  All of them, not just the ‘good’ ones.  Anything we can use as a tool to teach this to our children or ourselves is worthwhile and important.  The fact that “Inside Out” is easy to understand and has identifiable icons of basic emotions makes it an accessible tool for a lot of people.

I stood in line to see Joy and Sadness because I like to get autographs.  For others, meeting them was a moment that acknowledges how far they’ve come and how important those two characters have been in their lives.  I was blessed to be a small part of that experience for someone else.



Stories from the Park: Something Borrowed

I had a unique experience on this last trip to Walt Disney World.  I got to ride something for the last time.  That in itself is not that unique.  What made it special is that I actually knew that I was going to be riding it for the last time and did so quite intentionally.  I am referring, of course to The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.

Some of this is speculation on my part.  I do not know for a fact that this ride is going away.  What I do know is this.  Disney does not own The Twilight Zone.  They pay a licensing fee to use the name, clips, and images in the ride.  When the licensing agreement expired for the Disneyland ride, they did not renew it but changed the overlay of the ride to a Disney owned property for Guardians of the Galaxy Mission: Breakout!  There have been no plans announced to do the same at Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World, but it would seem strange to me that Disney will not make a similar change when that licensing agreement runs out.  Therefore, when we rode the Tower this year it was with the expectation that it was our last time to experience the ride in its current configuration.

It is a little bit sad to be losing this ride.  We have stories involving the queue and The Princess when she was just big enough to ride it.  I personally find it the scariest ride in the resort.  It freaks me out every time I ride it.  It is the only ride that does so.  Haunted Mansion is fun.  Snow White’s Scary Adventure is cheesy.  Both Dinosaur and Indiana Jones lose their scare factor after the first time through.  But every time I get to the top of the elevator in Tower of Terror I am completely freaked out.  I will miss that.

Sadly, though, things that are borrowed have to be given back.  It makes little sense for Disney to pay to license a property when they have so many of their own to choose from.  Slowly but surely, I think that Disney will be letting go of all those extraneous add-ons and will replace them with their own.  I understand it, but I will miss some of them.  At least we had a chance to say goodbye to this one.