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

 

An Evening with “Anna” and “Elsa”

I’ve been dreading July 3 since THE BIG MOVE, and earlier in the week had a few meltdowns about it’s impending doom. I decided to plan some fun things to keep myself busy. Most of my friends already had plans (Three Day Weekend/Holiday/Family time/etc) so I decided to take myself to Disneyland.

The highlight of my morning was when Peter Pan spotted me walking through Fantasyland, chased me down yelling “YOU HAVE MY SHADOW!”, and asked if I wanted to take a photo. He told me how to pose:
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He even noticed my Second Star to the Right tattoo behind my ear, and told me to keep it hidden else people would think I’m a pirate.

Then I had breakfast with Huey, Dewey, and Louie
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Had a Fun Wheel
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And enjoyed a concert from The World Famous Disneyland Band
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It was a great morning. I hadn’t seen the Paint the Night parade yet, nor the new fireworks, and I dithered about whether or not I wanted to stay. Parking at my new place at night is a challenge, it was a holiday weekend so it’s extra busy, and I was simply tired. I found a curb on Main Street, nestled between a bench and a pole, and figured no one would bother me there. I pulled out my kindle, and thought I’d spend the next couple of hours reading while I decided if I actually wanted to stay. Worst case, I’d watch the sunset over the castle and leave before it got too crazy.

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But soon, a little blonde girl dressed like Elsa, and her red-headed sister dressed like Anna sat next to me and asked me what I was reading. This began one of the best conversations I’ve ever had. I was live-tweeting some of the adorable things they said, but I wanted to put them here to keep everything together before they get buried in my Twitter feed.

***

Anna had Ninja Turtles on her shoes, I asked if she like turtles and her face lit up. I told her I had a pet turtle, and both girls thought I was the coolest thing ever.

***

Elsa: What’s your name?
Me: Emiliy
Elsa: Is that with an “E” or with an “M”?
Me: With an “E”
Elsa: MY NAME IS EMILY WITH AN E TOO!

(note: I didn’t mention the extra “i” because it’s confusing enough for adults. I later found out Elsa’s real name was Brooke, and she sometimes says her name is Emily because that’s her best friend’s name)

***

Elsa: What did you eat for dinner?
Me: Popcorn
Elsa: What did you eat for Lunch?
Me: Ice cream
Elsa: Well then what did you eat for breakfast?
Me: … a cookie…
Elsa: YOU CAN NOT EAT ALL OF THOSE THINGS FOR YOUR MEALS

I got schooled by a 6 year old dressed as Elsa.

Later:

Elsa: Mom, her name is Emiliy with an E not an M. She had a cookie for breakfast and popcorn for dinner!
Mom: That’s what you get to do when you’re an adult
Elsa: (jaw drops)

***

Elsa: So, it’s just you and your turtle?
Me: Yup.
Elsa: That sounds like the life.

***

Anna and Elsa’s dad brought pizzas. 
Elsa: This pizza is OK, but my dad stole all of my pepperoni.
Me: (laughs, looks up at her dad)
Dad: (shrugs) She stole my pizza. It’s fair.

(this began an argument between Elsa and her dad about pepperoni. Elsa is full of sass. I decide I like her)

Me, to Anna: Is your pizza good?
Anna: (sighs) It’s ok…
Me: Did your dad steal your pepperoni, too?
Anna: (eyes get really big) THERE WAS PEPPERONI!?

***

The girls climbed in to my lap and asked to see photos of Edgar.
Dad: Girls! No! Get off of her!
Me: It’s ok, I don’t mind. I have a pet turtle and they asked to see photos.
Dad: You have a pet turtle? Turtles are [Anna]’s favorite. It’s all she ever talks about.

***

A Cast Member came by and told the girls that the real Anna and Elsa would be in the parade. The girls nearly lost their shit. They were screaming and jumping and it was adorable.

***

Playing an iPhone trivia game to pass the time.
Me: In the Hunger Games, who was “The Girl on Fire”?
Elsa: I KNOW! It was Snow White!
Anna: NO! It was Olaf!

***

During the Parade, THE Anna waved at “Anna” and I thought she might faint.

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***

The girls asked me if I was going to watch the Fireworks “because tomorrow is the 4th of July and we need to watch the fireworks together”. During the Frozen/Let It Go scene, it started to snow on Main Street, the girls looked at me, then at each other with the most perfectly excited look filled with awe and wonder. I was able to catch a photo of it, and will be emailing it to their parents. I don’t want to post a photo of someone else’s child on the internet (I’m still essentially a stranger to them) but trust me when I say it was magic.

***

Despite all the somber and emotions that July 3 was meant to bring, this ended up being one of the best days I’ve had at the park. I dithered about staying all day, but I’m glad I did. From Peter Pan chasing me through Fantasyland all the way to my two little guardian angels in the evening, it truly was a day filled with Disney Magic.

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Second Star to the Right and Straight on ’til Morning. Jupiter and Venus watch over the Disneyland Fire Dept while Walt looks over the Park.

Disneyland Bucket List

In September, my parents promised me an Annual Pass to Disneyland if I moved back to California before Christmas.

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I became one of “those”

The majority of 2015 has been me meeting up with my girlfriends (who also all happen to be former Disney Cast Members) once or twice a month for Fun Wheels and Disney adventures.

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Fun Wheels are indeed quite fun.

A few weeks ago, while chatting over Fun Wheels, we discovered there were a number of things at least one of us have never done in the Parks, and our Disneyland Bucket List was born. I’m pretty sure we were at least one Fun Wheel in, but the best ideas come about when you’ve been drinking. And so far we’ve been having a lot of fun knocking things off the bucket list:

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Animation Academy (because drinking and drawing is safer than drinking and driving)

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Riding the Golden Zephyr

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Breakfast in the Park (that cinnamon roll french toast will be served in heaven)

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Attending an Annual Passholder exclusive advanced movie screening (Inside Out! Go see it!)

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Riding in the driver’s seat on Radiator Springs Racers (and being in the park early enough to snag a RSR Fastpass before they sold out.)

We have several things planned for the summer, but we need some more things to add to our list. What have you always wanted to do at Disneyland? (or Disney’s California Adventure. Or Downtown Disney…)

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.

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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.