Phoenix Rises

The mythology of the Phoenix has resonated with me for quite some time. To have something completely burn to the ashes, and then rise again stronger and more beautiful than before.

In my late teens/early twenties, I had a boyfriend who completely stripped me of my self-worth. Coming out of that took years of therapy and rebuilding, and I decided I wanted to celebrate my new found independence with something for me and something no one would expect of me. So I got a tattoo. I drew my favorite flower, a plumeria, with vines, and went with some friends to get it tattooed on my back.

Eight years ago, I was diagnosed with a Stage 1 tumor on my right ovary. It was a scary few months there, and when I healed, I got another tattoo on my wrist of a plumeria, which tied in to the tattoo on my back, and a lotus blossom, which, similar to the Phoenix, symbolizes overcoming a hard time.

Shortly thereafter, I followed my heart and my love to New York City, and built myself a life as a new East Coaster. And then, it fell apart. And I had to pick up the pieces and move back to California 5 years later.

I’d wanted to add a phoenix to the wrist tattoo for a while, but it didn’t’ feel right. I lost track of the person who had originally done my wrist over the years, the design never worked, and I couldn’t find an artist I loved. Timing just wasn’t right.

A few months ago, I reconnected with someone I met when I was 19, and lost touch with when I was going through first rebuilding life phase of my early 20s. He told me he was amazed at the challenges I’ve overcome, and how I have handled everything with dignity and grace. I had always felt like I’ve been stuck in survival mode, but to hear it from his point of view – someone who’s known me since before life tore me apart – was a fresh way of looking at the last decade and a half.  And the idea of the Phoenix tattoo resurrected itself.

A few weeks ago, I heard that my old artist was at a tattoo place in Long Beach – the place I settled after returning to California from the East Coast. It was too perfect.

I always wanted the Phoenix as a personal reminder that I can overcome any challenge I face, but now that I look at it, maybe it’s a warning to anything in my path. Come at me, life. I’m waiting.

phoenix-tattoo

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2015: A Year of Adventures and Fun Wheels

Here’s 2014 in review.
 1. What did you do in 2015 that you’d never done before?
I started the year off eating collard greens and black eyed peas. This was a first for me, and let me tell you I will never tempt the New Year’s Day fates ever again. 2015 was one of the best years yet.
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I had a lot of other firsts, too. I rang in 2015 on the Queen Mary. I had a Disneyland Bucket List. I went to a taping of Dancing with the Stars. I watched Hocus Pocus and Breaking Bad. I went to D23 and Star Wars Celebration. I went to the Hollywood Bowl. Twice. I went to three movie previews. I moved in to my very own apartment without roommates. I made home-made donuts. I went to the Magic Castle. I ran a 10k.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I didn’t exactly have any resolutions, but I did tell someone early in the year that I wanted to run a 10k. He laughed at me and told me he didn’t think I could finish. I said some unladylike things to him, and promptly signed up for my first 10k. I crossed the finish line in November, a full 8 minutes faster than my goal.
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I’m already signed up for a half marathon in January. I’ve had chronic Achilles tendinitis for a while, that has turned in to knee/hip problems, and were all made worse after the 10k, so I’m not sure about that one. We’ll see!

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
YES! My best friend since kindergarten had a girl in January.2015inReview2

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Nope! This was the first year in a long while I didn’t have to attend a funeral!

5. Where did you travel?
In March, I went to PAX East in Boston with Miellyn.
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South Street Diner: A PAX East tradition.

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Billionaire Banshee shenanigans. 

In May, I went to San Francisco with my new PAX friends.
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In August, I joined Miellyn in Seattle for PAX Prime.
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DFFs (Droid Friends Forever)

In October, I went back up to Seattle to meet a stranger, and help him move to LA. It was easily one of the craziest things I’ve ever done, but also one of the best decisions of my life.
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He took me on a helicopter tour of Seattle for our first date.

And in November, I went to Vegas with M, and we stayed out until the Sunrise and I totally felt like I was 21 again.
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Sunrise from the Strip. 

6. What would you like to have in 2016 that you didn’t have in 2015?
2015 was a pretty great year, to be honest. I’d like to travel out of the country next year.

7. What days from 2015 will be etched upon your memory, and why?
June 1.
I moved in to my very first apartment without roommates.
October 10.
I flew to Seattle to essentially meet a stranger and help him drive to Los Angeles.
November 14. I completed my very first 10k.

8. What was your biggest achievement of this year?
Hanging my curtains. Seriously. It took 3 tries, lots of tears, and several bottles of wine before I could get those stupid pieces of fabric up on the walls. Huge thanks to Jessica for driving nearly 2 hours with a power drill and candy to get me through the task.
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These curtains were assholes. 

9. What was your biggest failure?
I don’t actually think I had any major failures this year. Every challenge that was thrown at me this year, I came through.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
I had a pretty nasty cold for most of December (that’s still lingering ugh). Also, the aforementioned ankle/knee/hip thing that just won’t go away.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
I bought my very first ever couch. It has a pull out bed, so let me know if you want to come visit!
2015inReview_couch

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Jessica Fox.
She spent the first few months of 2015 listening to me vent and cry as I recovered from 2014. She met me for breakfast and Fun Wheels and other Disneyland fun. She saved my sanity with my curtain debacle. She convinced me to take a really huge leap which led me to meet M. 2015 would have been a lot less fun with out her, and she’s the best.
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13. Whose behavior didn’t merit celebration?
Rob sent me more than one box of dirty dishes, so that was pretty shitty.

14. Where did most your money go?
My new apartment. It’s weird when you move in to a place by yourself for the very first time, and you discover all the things you never had because former roommates had everything you needed. Like a microwave. And an iron. And a couch.
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I still don’t have the iron.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
I get excited about a lot of things, but the thing that was really the most exciting was meeting M in Seattle for the very first time. I was so nervous, my friend had to circle the airport a couple of times before I calmed down, and I had to have a Bloody Mary (or two) at the airport bar before I was calm enough to board the plane. Still the best decision I made in 2015.
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God bless Bloody Marys and friendly airport bartenders.

16. What songs will always remind you of 2015?
I don’t listen to a lot of new music, but Delirious came on my running station quite frequently, so I’d say that was a recurring theme in my training runs.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: a) better hair or worse hair? b) more organized or less organized? (This question used to be happy/sad, thin/fat, rich/poor, but A’dell switched it up, and I like these better, too.)
A. I haven’t changed my hair style in years. I’ve been growing it for 4 years, and it’s the longest it’s ever been. I go through phases of wanting a major change, but then I do a perfect fishtail braid, and can’t imagine changing it up at all. Eventually I’ll need to go shorter, but right now I just can’t decide.
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My hair is out of control.

B. I like to refer to it as “organized chaos”

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Travel.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Laundry. Cleaning. Packing/unpacking (moving totally sucks).

20. How did you spend Christmas?
I went to Disneyland/DCA in the morning. I only stayed 4 hours, but I had a highly efficient day. I had peppermint beignets from New Orleans Square, rode Jingle Cruise, went on Radiator Springs Racers three times in a row (god bless the Single Rider line), picked up some last minute presents for friends, chatted with no less than three children about how awesome BB8 is, ran in to an old friend from my Disney days, and finished the day out with going on Soarin’ over California.
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Those Disneyland Candy Canes though…

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Season’s Speedings from Cars Land! 

21. Did you fall in love with 2015?
Sure. It was a pretty great year all around.

22. What was your favorite TV program?
Mike discovered I had never seen Breaking Bad, and after we watched all of the episodes, I can say it definitely lives up to they hype! I also loved Agent Carter.

23. What was the best book you read?
I devoured Red Rising, and immediately followed up with Golden Son. Seriously, if you haven’t read them yet, stop what you’re doing now and go read them.

24. What was your greatest food discovery? (Last year this question was musical discovery, but I don’t listen to a lot of music, but I do eat a lot of food. So we’re going with this.)
Mike introduced me to black cod, calamari steak, and vegetarian shellfish-free ramen bowls.
2015ReviewRamen

While I technically had my first Fun Wheel at the end of last year, I definitely had my share in 2015.
2015ReviewFunWheel.jpg

25. What did you want and get?
On January 1, I wrote on Instagram that I wanted Adventure for 2015. Between Boston and San Francisco and Seattle (three times!) and helping someone move to LA, and falling in love, I’d say my year was full of adventure.

26. What did you want and not get?
I wanted to go to NYC, but I just couldn’t find a free weekend to sneak away.

27. What was your favorite film of 2015?
The Force Awakens, of course.
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28. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 34. The night before my birthday, my friend Jason came over for dinner and took some really nice pictures of me. As a photographer, I almost never have pictures of myself, so this was really great.
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Photos by Jason Michael Hammond Photography.

On my actual birthday, I headed to Disneyland. I met up with some friends. I got separated from my group. I ran in to other friends. I drank Fun Wheels. I watched Fantasmic! I watched the Fireworks. I got VIP seats for the Paint the Night parade. I stayed from park opening to park closing. It was a blast.
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I got separated from my group, but I still had fun.

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Birthday Sunset.

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Birthday full moon.

29. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
I’d actually say this year was pretty great. I wouldn’t change a thing!

30. How would you describe your personal fashion concept of 2015
Fangirl Chic? I somehow ended up with a lot of fun skirts.
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31. What kept you sane?
Jessica Fox. Susan. Fun Wheels.

32. What political issue stirred you the most?
Let’s not get into politics here.

33. Who did you miss?
For the first year in forever, I didn’t get to have dinner with Melissa on the roof of her amazing apartment building.
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As much as I miss those NYC views, I miss Melissa more. 

34. Who was the best new person you met?
Michael, duh.
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But I’m going to go ahead and say that Josh, Corrine, and John Denver were close seconds.
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35. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2015.
I didn’t realize how hard it is to live alone. I’ve learned a lot about myself and how much I’m actually capable of. There was one afternoon where I had just finished painting my walls, and I sat down on the drop cloth with leftover pizza and a beer. I had never in my life felt more independent.
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36. Show us one of your favorite photos from the year.
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2015 was definitely the year of the Fun Wheel.

 

It always makes sense in the rear view

Rearview

Have you ever been driving somewhere, change your mind or take a weird detour you weren’t expecting, but then end up where you were headed all along?

Maybe that doesn’t make sense.

Four years ago this week, I was offered a pretty significant promotion with my (then current) company. It would’ve been huge for my career, but I would’ve had to move to Upstate NY. This wasn’t exactly the end of the world. I spent 6 months working out of that office while someone was on leave, and made friends in the area. I was on a kickball team, and people who only knew me for a few weeks threw me a surprise birthday party. While the winters were worse than Connecticut, summers in Upstate NY are one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen. Plus, Fingerlakes Wineries. However, it was a 6 hour drive from my family in NYC, and no direct flights back to California. Plus, did I mention the winters?

On the other hand, taking the job would mean leaving R. We had been together for 2 years at that point, and I wasn’t sure I was ready to leave him. I also wasn’t sure I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. The one thing I knew for sure was I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life in Connecticut.

I figured my plan would go like this: take the promotion, spend 3-5 years getting killer experience, use new experience to find a job back in California.

But R had other plans. On July 3, he begged me not to take the job, proposed marriage, told me we’d be together forever.

I turned down the job to stay with him.

His parents didn’t approve. We broke up. I slept in my car for a while. We got back together.

And then it all fell apart.

But in another sense, maybe it all fell together.

In my mind, taking the promotion was a temporary means of escape. I’d work in Syracuse for 3-5 years, gaining enough experience to get a job in Los Angeles or Orange County.

And here I am, 3-5 years later, working in the exact job I would’ve been working towards, and I never had to endure an Upstate NY winter.

Life is so weird, right? It is so good to be home.

Good Riddance to 2014.

1. What did you do in 2014 that you’d never done before?
I drove across the country. In my car. By myself (mostly). I’m still pretty shocked I did that.

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My Connecticut car in Huntington Beach.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
On December 30 2013, R’s dad threatened me and told me I was no longer welcome in their family. On January 1 2014, I knew I would need to leave CT for my own safety (and sanity). I told myself I would have it figured out by October, and on October 14th I was offered a job in California. So, while I didn’t exactly make an official resolution, I set a goal on New Year’s day and followed through with it.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Yes! My aunt (she’s a year older than me), Miellyn (although we didn’t really get close until this summer), and my BFF is currently pregnant (due in a few weeks!)

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Sadly, yes. My aunt passed away the day I was asked to come to California for a job interview. I couldn’t tell R or my job why I needed to travel to CA, so I feel like even in her death my aunt was protecting me. So lame, I know, but just interesting how the timing worked out.

Also, my dear friend’s brother passed away a few days before Christmas.

5. Where did you travel?
Well, I drove across the country, so I went through several states and knocked a few things off the old bucket list (Grand Canyon, Four Corners). I also went to Orlando in February, Atlanta in March, PAX East (Boston) in April, and California in September for my cousin’s wedding (and October for the interview)

FeetMap
My route (more or less)

6. What would you like to have in 2015 that you didn’t have in 2014?
Honestly, 2014 was so painful and stressful, I’m just happy to be heading out of it. I’d like another tattoo, does that count? I’m also planning an international trip for the fall…stay tuned!

7. What days from 2014 will be etched upon your memory, and why?
September 21: The day I took (and passed!) the AFAA Group Ex test
October 14: The day I was offered the job and broke up with R.
November 13: The day I left Norwalk CT for good
November 29: The day I arrived back in California

8. What was your biggest achievement of this year?
I still can’t believe I got a job in California while living in Connecticut and keeping it a secret from virtually everyone.

Also, getting my AFFA Group Ex certificacte, which was my backup plan to get me out of Connecticut.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Is it ok to say R? I believe everything happens for a reason, but I’m still having a hard time figuring out what the point was for me to need to be on the East Coast for so long when I just ended up back here.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
I had chronic tendinitis in my ankle, which is common in group exercise instructors. I had panic attacks for most of the year thanks to R’s folks. But other than that nothing major.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
I moved all of my shit from CT to CA and that was pretty great but also expensive.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Melissa. She invited me to stay with her several times this year, fed me tea and wine, prayed for me, listened to me, comforted me.

Cheryl. My mentor at my last job who taught me everything I needed to get the new job. She gave me life advice and work advice and kept my looking-for-a-new-job secret, even from her husband.

Sarah Sq., Sarah Sh., Sarah M for listening to me and not judging me and being patient while I figured things out. And Brooke for the same reasons but also for the buddy pass to get me to and from the interview.

Miellyn. She’s a friend I met indirectly through R, but has been one of the greatest friends I could ask for. I spent my birthday with her and stayed with her for three days at the beginning of my trip. In all honesty, if the entire reason I needed to spend 5 years wasting away on the east coast was to meet her, then it was worth it.

And of course my parents who planned a trip to CT to help me move out before I even knew I would be moving out and also helped to fund the move.

13. Whose behavior didn’t merit celebration?
R’s parents. But mostly his father. And R himself for letting his dad say some really horrible things to me.

14. Where did most your money go?
Most of my money went to the big moving adventure – from the movers themselves to the gas stations and the hotels and all of the adventures on the road.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
The first thing I was really excited about was Disneyworld/Wizarding World of Harry Potter in February, followed by PAX in April, and then finally getting to move back home in October/November

16. What songs will always remind you of 2014?
Hm. I’m not really sure actually. Can Serial count as a song? My original plan was to listen to one episode a day during my drive, but I ended up listening to the first four episodes between NYC and Baltimore. Also, how creepy/weird/awesome was it to drive through Baltimore while listening to Serial?

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: a) happier or sadder? b) thinner or fatter? c) richer or poorer?
a) definitely happier
b) about the same, actually (hooray for teaching fitness classes)
c) right now? Poorer because I haven’t gotten a paycheck since I quit my job in October. And also I’ve maxed out my credit cards in the move. But in a few weeks I’ll be back in the black.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Honestly, I wish I took more photos on my cross country trip. And spent more time sightseeing through some of the cities I was passing through. My original plan was to have ice cream in every state, but once I was on the road I just wanted to get to my next destination ASAP.

Route66_OK
One of my favorite photos of the trip. Eventually I’ll write about it.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Crying. I know that the timing for the move was just perfect, but I spent nearly every day in tears until October 14.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
We went to the beach on Christmas Eve and watched the sunset. It was 70 degrees.

HBChristmasEve

Christmas Day we had a lazy morning at my parents’ house, and then went to see Into the Woods with my cousins at Downtown Disney. We snuck in wine and cheese. It was great.

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We’re rebels. 

21. Did you fall in love with 2014?
NO.

22. What was your favorite TV program?
I don’t watch a lot of TV, but I never missed an episode of Game of Thrones, Agents of SHIELD, and DWTS.

23. What was the best book you read?
Reading in general got put on the backburner once I started the big move. I’ve been trying to read Dance with Dragons for more than a year, but I keep getting stuck in boring chapters (I’m looking at you, Danerys). I loved Gone Girl, Hyperbole and a Half, and Timebound.

24. What was your greatest musical discovery?
I didn’t really discover any new music, but in Nashville, my brother and I recorded a record together in a little music booth. It was fun

25. What did you want and get?
I wanted to move back to California.

26. What did you want and not get?
I wanted R to stand up to his parents on my behalf.

27. What was your favorite film of 2014?
I didn’t see a lot of movies this year, but I did see Mockingjay in a fun little movie theater in Austin, and that was pretty cool.

28. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 33. R took me down to see the Angels play in Baltimore. The next day we went to Miellyn and Shaun’s house for dinner (the best Thai food I’ve had in my life), beer, and tabletop games. It was perfect.

BAL33

29. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
See number 26. But that didn’t happen, so I got to move home, which was perfectly satisfying.

30. How would you describe your personal fashion concept of 2014?
I wore a lot of gym clothes because I was teaching a lot of fitness classes. And Nadia Tarr / Butter dresses. They’re the closest I can get to wearing pajamas in public and I love them.

31. What kept you sane?
Honestly? I have no idea. I remember counting down the weeks until October and just focusing on how short that was.

Also, a lot of wine.

32. What political issue stirred you the most?
To be honest, I’m not entirely sure what’s going on in the world right now. I sort of lost touch with reality once the big move was put in motion. Also, I don’t like to talk about politics.

33. Who did you miss?
Miellyn and Shaun. Melissa. My students at the gym. And NYC. I know that’s not a “who”, but NYC is pure magic.

34. Who was the best new person you met?
I don’t think I met a lot of new people this year – but I have a handful of people I got closer to and reconnected with.

35. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2014.
Not really a lesson, but the last day at my job, a dear coworker and friend said this:

BetterVersionOfYourself

36. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
“It’s a comfort to know / When you’re singing the hit the road blues / That anywhere else you could possibly go /after New York would be a pleasure cruise” -Santa Fe (Rent, Jonathan Larson)

Also, not a song lyric, but this passage is quite fitting:

WhyDoYouGoAway

Happy Birthday Disneyland!

In honor of Disneyland’s birthday today, I thought I’d share something I wrote back when I worked there.

It was the summer of 2005: Disneyland’s golden anniversary, and, though I didn’t know it at the time, my last summer working at the Park. Our Operations Manager challenged the Fantasyland Attraction Leaders (or, “Leads” in Disney-speak) to find one guest over the summer and make their trip memorable. We were given vouchers for food and merchandise; money wasn’t an object. The only rule was we were to find one guest – only one guest – and go above and beyond for them (meaning, this wasn’t to be an everyday thing).

In August, we were asked to report back with what we did for the guest, and what their reaction was. Below is the email I sent to my manager. This was then shared with the team, forwarded around the resort, and eventually made its way to Florida. The VP of Disney Parks wrote me a personal letter thanking me for what I did. The weird thing is, I don’t feel like I did anything special, because Josh changed us.

Disneyland truly is a magical place. In the seven years I worked there, my fellow Cast Members turned in to a family and guests turned into friends. I kept in touch with Josh’s family after I left Disney, and visited them in Maryland a few years ago. Sadly, Tony (Josh’s father) passed away last year, but he left a lasting impression on my heart. This is my most favorite memory of working for the parks, and a big reminder why I stayed with the company for so many years. Hope you enjoy.

**************************************

To: Jim Doyle, Operations Manager
Subject: My Homework

Every now and then you meet someone that touches your heart. Rarely does this occur at the place you work. However, I am fortunate enough to work somewhere that magic is a daily occurrence. Every day, a child meets his favorite character, someone flies over Neverland, and an adult lives the dreams of their childhood. Magic isn’t just something that happens here, its what we are famous for!

In what seemed like a never-ending summer where we were all hot, tired and slightly over-worked, my cast had lost a little bit of their own magic. Working together everyday for the last year and a half, we had become a family, and like families, we had our problems. We had daily disagreements and disputes, and many of us had grown apart. Then Josh came.

I met Josh 2 years ago, but my team had met Josh just last year. He came every day for 21 days straight, and he always sat in the front row, right on the aisle, to watch the Snow White Musical. At first, he was just that kid with the Guest Assistance Card but to some of us he became more. As we chatted with his parents before the show we learned a little more about him.

Josh was Autistic, so dealing with theme park crowds was an overwhelming panic to him. He learned to speak from watching Disney cartoons, and rarely spoke to anyone outside of his immediate family. He considered Disneyland his true home, although he seldom rode the attractions. He planned his day around the Snow White show.

At first, Josh never acknowledged us, but by the end of his trip, he was laughing with our cast members, and would walk up to you and say nothing more than I like you, before walking away. Josh had started to grow on us, but just as we were starting to break the ice, he was back on a plane to Maryland.

As the year went on, things like school, family, holiday seasons and vacations nearly erased Josh from our memory. As the summer season started and July 17th quickly approached, our minds were completely focused on our Golden Anniversary. Everyone’s hectic schedules pushed the limits of our Fantasyland Theatre family, and when the decision was made to cancel the Snow White show, cast morale hit an all time low.

A few days later, I received a letter from Josh’s parents. Josh and his family were returning the following week! He had been talking about us for the past year and couldn’t wait to see us. The letter went on to say that he had been so inspired by his experience the previous summer, he had auditioned for and was cast in a musical at a junior theater in Maryland, something his parents never thought possible.

As the days of Josh and his parents return visited approached, I scrambled to find a way to welcome him back. I bought a card that said “We’ve Missed You. Welcome home!” and golden Mickey Ears with each of their names embroidered on the back. However, getting my cast involved was like pulling teeth. Most of them didn’t remember who Josh was, and those who did were reluctant to get involved.

On the first day of their return visit, we presented the family with their ears and the card for Josh. Tony, Josh’s father, cried when he proudly placed the ears on his head. “I’ve been coming here since 1976 and this is my first pair of ears!”

Over the next twelve days, Josh became not only a friend of my Cast, but a member of our family. Even the toughest Cast Members would laugh with him, and they taught him how to give high fives. Josh became a household name, not only to the Fantasyland Theatre, but to the resort as well. Leads from other areas would call me to say “I met Josh today. He gave me a high five!”

As the days of Josh’s trip grew shorter, my Cast eagerly asked what we could do for him for his last day. We were able to arrange another Meet and Greet with the Snow White cast, and I had a picture from a former Meet and Greet framed. When I brought in the frame mat for them to sign, my crew fought over who could sign first, who could sign where, and who had the most clever phrase.

On Josh’s last day, we had a surprise party waiting for him in the bleacher area of the Theatre. We presented him with the frame, a Dopey doll (his favorite dwarf), and Seven Dwarf bath toys (since he told me his favorite part of the show was when the Dwarves were told to wash up and Dopey pretended to eat the soap). As we all sat around eating cake, I looked around at my fellow Cast Members. They were all playing with Josh and laughing with each other. They had truly come together over this little boy. The whole time I wanted to bring a little magic to Josh, but somehow, he brought magic to us.

Its moments like these that remind me why I work here. This summer, a dozen or so cast members simply came to work and yet became the world to one little boy.

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I usually wore a tie when I was FLT Lead, but this day I was training for a new role since FLT was closing. Hence the Fantasyland Attractions Costume. Also, bonus appearance by Brooke who came up from Small World to celebrate with us.

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Josh’s Farewell Party! 

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Ignore our messy break area. 

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I hope I don’t get in trouble for posting this photo. 

July 4

Eleven years ago today, I was in Hawaii for the first time. I swam with sea turtles and dolphins. I ate huli huli chicken and poi. I drank pina coladas and mai tais. I smelled plumeria flowers and watched some amazing sunsets. My dad was pulled up on stage at a luau.

4th of July
There’s my dad in his stars and stripes shirt doing the hula.  

The day after I returned from Hawaii, I had knee surgery to repair a torn ACL and meniscus, a cracked patella, and a bruised femur.

Both of my knees had been weakened over years of abuse from dancing and soccer and snowboarding. What finally did me in was slipping on a costume piece during Flashback. I landed on my knee and needed to be carried off stage. Cynthia Harriss saw me backstage and ordered her assistant to get me ice and pizza and I was told to go to the emergency room. I was convinced it was just a bruise, and I would be going to work in the morning.

I did not go to work in the morning.

Eighteen months later, I had surgery. The reason for the long delay is an even longer story but the short version is my original doctor was sued for malpractice, canceled my surgery two days before, and my insurance gave me the runaround before approving me for a new doctor.

After the surgery and six months of post-op rehab, my new doctor recommended low impact sports like cycling or swimming to reduce strain to my knee. He told me I’d never dance again. And I would never be a runner.

And here we are, eleven years later.

My knee still bothers me from time to time. I feel like it’s in a constant state of swollen. It aches and locks when it’s below freezing outside.

However…

Two weeks ago, I celebrated three years as a dance fitness instructor. And in January I ran my first 5k.

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I worked at Disneyland for 7 years, and Peter Pan is my favorite book/movie/Disneyland attraction, so I decided my first running event would be the Neverland 5k. I even convinced my brother to do the run with me.

Considering I stopped a few times to take photos (the Disney runs have Characters peppered along the course), I think a 12-minute mile average is pretty great. In fact, I ran the entire first mile without stopping or walking – a feat I’ve never accomplished before in my life!

I feel a little foolish being so proud about this. I’ve been told numerous times that a 5k is the lowest/easiest/lamest of the running events. But you know what? This is something I was told I would never do.

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Post-race!

I hurt my knee in 2002 on the Hyperion Theater stage in Disney’s California Adventure. I find it quite satisfying to cross my first finish line in the same Disney Park.

(But I still don’t consider myself a runner.)

Getting back to it

A lifetime ago, I picked up my life and moved across the country on a whim. It was exciting. I started a blog at the request of a friend to chronicle my adventures moving from Orange County to NYC. And then I moved to the suburbs and my life got boring. And the blog felt like a chore. And I stopped updating it.

Earlier this year, I decided I wanted to get back in to blogging, so I went back to the old Blogger and hid all but a few of my posts and started back up with some new resolutions. But I quickly learned that Blogger really didn’t fit what I needed. I wanted the option to password protect some of my posts. Blogger only lets you password protect THE ENTIRE BLOG. I couldn’t exactly figure out how to transfer the old blog to WordPress without paying someone to do it, so here we are. Same blog name. Different extension. No boring old posts.

To get back in to the blogging game, I thought I’d give this post a try. Just Expressive recently did this, and I thought it was a good place to start while I figure out this new WordPress landscape.

1. What is your favorite type of cheese? I’m with Just Expressive and the entire reason I’m not vegan is because I love cheese too much. (Oh who are we kidding. The real reason is ice cream). Usually I’m torn between goat cheese and a good brie, but for the most part I love all and any cheeses. I had a swiss and brie sandwich in Paris that is worth another trip to Europe for.

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the only clue I have to find that sandwich again. all I know is it was between my hotel and the Eiffel Tower.

2. What are you excited about? I bought tickets to the Belmont Stakes for R for his birthday. It’s a Triple Crown run, so I’m sure it will be crazy exciting. My parents are flying out and joining us at the races, and then Sunday we’re going to my new favorite brunch place in the City. I also have exciting plans this summer. Stay tuned for Question 7.

3. How did you celebrate your last birthday? A few weeks before my birthday, my mom turned 60 and R turned 30 so we did some pretty big trips for both of those (CA for my mom, Vegas for R). A few days before our West Coast adventure, R’s grandfather passed away, so we flew up to Buffalo three days before my birthday. Unfortunately, this caused my birthday to get lost in the shuffle. This year, however, we’re going on a mini weekend getaway and I’m pretty stoked.

4. What’s on your bedside table? A clock that doesn’t work and an iphone charger that works occasionally.

5. What do you order from the movie concession stand? Red Vines – except they don’t exist in this state, which is a HUGE bummer. Lately I’ve been getting the kid’s package which is basically the Goldilocks of concession snacks: perfect size popcorn, perfect size soda, not too expensive. Sometimes I sneak in a little alcohol to add to the soda but only when I’m feeling rebellious.

6. Do you have a garden? What’s growing? Last year we had summer squash and cucumbers, both of which completely took over the patio and surrounding walkways. This year we’re trying to grow raspberries for Edgar, but I think they’ve already died. We also have a couple of potted plumeria trees that do not live in the garden, but we just took them outside since it’s finally starting to get warmer.

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last year’s garden was a little out of control

7. Any summer plans?  YES! I already mentioned the Belmont Stakes and Gallow Green (although I guess next weekend is technically still the spring). We’re going to see Queen in July, taking a quick weekend getaway for my birthday, Beach Week in August, and in September my cousin is getting married on Catalina Island.

8. Which TV couple(s) are you rooting for? I’m assuming this is for reality shows, none of which I really watch. Sometimes I get sucked into the Bachelor/Bachelorette, but Juan Pablo was kindof a jerk, so I stopped watching pretty early in the season. Since the Bachelorette just started, I’m not as invested in Andi yet. My big summer guilty pleasure is Mistresses, which starts next week and I’m really pulling for Savvi (Alyssa Milano) and her husband to work things out. I’d also like to see Fitz and Simmons get together next season on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

9. What’s the last thing you bought? Pretzel Buns. Our local grocery store sold them four summers ago, and we ate them regularly. They disappeared for a while and re-emerged last summer as a baguette, but were only around for a weekend. R and I have been leaving notes in the suggestion box all year and they are finally back and they are delicious.

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come to me sweet food of the gods

10. What’s one thing you are passionate about? I have very many things I’m passionate about, so it’s hard to pick just one. I’ve been teaching fitness classes for four years now, so I’m definitely passionate about health and wellness. My class isn’t as high impact as some of the other instructors, so I get a lot of people in their…ahem…golden years. I love how they curse me during class, and afterwards give me a hug and tell me they’ll be back next week. This week, one of my students told me that her husband was given 4 months to live, and she loves coming to my class because it is the only place she can forget about life and feel good about herself. I’ve heard people say similar sentiments about other forms of exercise (running, yoga, cycling, etc) so I really love hearing when anyone finds healthy activities they enjoy.

11. What are you grateful for this week? This week I’m grateful for warm weather and the promise of Gallow Green’s bread pudding next weekend.