Thursday, October 17, 2013

A Light in the Darkness

      After Damon went missing I was sad and angry for a long time.  And then one day I came across a blog that made me laugh.  And I felt so guilty.  But underneath that guilt I felt a tickle of happiness in the pit of my stomach.  And I craved that, that lightness, that joy.  So I devoured that blog, reading through the archives until eventually I had to wait for the author to write another.  That stranger gave me back so much that I didn't even know was missing.  And I will forever be thankful to her.  

      Once again I find myself in a dark place.  A dear friend has suffered a tragedy and I feel helpless.  I'm having a hard time processing it.  I learned a long time ago not to ask "Why?" because many times there just isn't a logical answer to that question. And while I honestly believe that everything happens for a reason, there have been a handful of times that have made me question that belief.  And I have yet to come up with the answer to those situations.

      So for now I will try doing what that stranger from so long ago did for me, I will try to spread laughter and light.  I will keep surrounding those around with me with love and hope that it is enough.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Disney- Part 3

Since we had success with going to the park in the evening the day before, we decided to hang out at the condo this morning and go to the park later in the day.  The place we stayed at was a timeshare but you didn't have to be a member to stay there and you didn't even have to sit through a sale pitch.   Mom saw an advertisement for it in a magazine and it turns out the daughter of a friend of hers had stayed there and recommended it so we decided to give it a try.  It was great!  We rented a 3 bedroom condo which was made up of their 2 bedroom and 1 bedroom units with a connecting door.  So we ended up with two full kitchens,  two sets of washers and dryers, three full baths, and enough room to sleep twelve.  The condos also had a waterpark, two swimming pools, mini golf, paddle boats and daily activities, all of which were included in your stay.  We took advantage of the waterpark this morning.

This day we went to Hollywood Studios about 4:00, just in time for the rain.  Yay.  Once again I had a list of things to see and do but unfortunately I didn't have the times listed for the different shows.  Learned the hard way that although the park doesn't close until 9:00, a lot of the shows have their last show at 5:30.  And some of the shows won't go on in the rain for obvious reasons.  So we ended up missing quite a bit at this park.  We did get to see the Grauman's Chinese Theater, where we rode the Great Movie Ride.  While it was nice to see the different movies, the acting of the tour guide was so over the top I thought Swag was going to bail out of the ride just to get away from her.

Such happy children...

Mary Poppins
Wizard of Oz

We also had to check out the Star Wars simulator.  Now remember that notebook of mine with the all the info of who would like to do what rides?  Yeah, I don't like simulators and didn't snap to the fact that this was not one of my rides to ride until I was strapped in the seat.  So what do you do?  Close your eyes, breath deep and get your barf bag ready.  Luckily I didn't end up using it. Whew.


By far the coolest thing we did at this park was the Backlot Tour.  We just happened to be walking past when they were yelling last call for their last show of the day.  Consisting of two parts, the first part was a water special effects show and the second was a tram ride through the backstage of Disney.  Besides seeing iconic pieces of film history we also got to see the warehouses where both the sets and the costumes are created.   I think it would be awesome to work backstage at Disney, to be a part of making the magic happen.  I both enjoy and appreciate all the work that happens behind the scenes.

Another highlight of the tour was a special effects demonstration for an action movie.  In the scene a tanker is deserted in a desert canyon, when it bursts into flames and then a dam breaks and water comes pouring down the canyon.  Avery and I just happened to be sitting right in front of where that 10,000 gallons of water was headed and the look on her face was priceless!  

Luckily the water went safely below us and then we were taken around back where they showed us how it was done.  I believe they said the entire scene could be reset in 3 minutes, with all of that water being pumped back up to the top.

We split up for dinner with Mom, Granny, Mister Man, and my nephew going to a 50's diner.  And Joe, Swag, Little Miss and myself going to Pizza Planet from Toy Story.

After dinner we left Hollywood Studios and headed back to The Magic Kingdom.  We arrived just in time to catch part of the fireworks show from outside the gate.  

Granny didn't get to see the Castle lightshow the night before so we parked her in front of the castle and headed off to do a couple of things that we missed the day before.  In Tomorrowland we rode the People Mover and then on the other side of the park we rode The Haunted Mansion.  On our way out we once again caught part of the Mainstreet Electric Parade with Little Miss lamenting the absence of Cinderella again.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Disney- Part 2

Monday Morning-
I did a LOT of research before our trip and I had a notebook filled with helpful information what to bring, what to see, what to do.  I even went through every single ride and attraction on the Disney website and wrote down who I thought would be interested in what attractions.  One of my notes said that you would get more accomplished the first two hours that the park was open than you would during the next four after that.  Which meant that we should have been there at 9:00 am.  Unfortunately, we didn't get there until about 10:00 am.  Let me say that I am NOT a morning person.  However, I AM on vacation.  I believe that you should squeeze every last drop out of vacations, which means getting up early and staying out late.  And I was positively giddy over going to Disney.

It's hard to describe the feeling of driving up to Disney World.  I guess it's kind of like Christmas morning when you were a kid, when you still believed in Santa and life was great.

So we get to the parking lot and take the tram to the entrance, then we take the monorail to the Magic Kingdom. For those unfamiliar, this process takes about 30 minutes if you're lucky.  We made our way through bag check and now we're in line to get in.  Here's where I have to add a little back story.  As I said before, I researched everything about Disney.  One of the things I came across in my research was a discount website for tickets.  Now I know that a lot of them are scams and people are ripped off every year by trying to save a little money but I had researched this particular site and felt it to be on the up and up.  So on my recommendation, this is where we bought our tickets.  And while we were standing in line with our tickets to get in...I was TERRIFIED!! I was so worried that our tickets wouldn't work and then we would be stranded with no way in and all that money gone, just because I tried to save a few bucks. But alas, they worked just fine.  WHEW.

It certainly lived up to every expectation I had going in.  It was really kind of overwhelming.  So much to take in, but no time to stop and really absorb it all.  Our first stop was the steps of City Hall where some of us picked up our "First Time at Disney" buttons.  From there we went to the train station and rode the train over to Frontierland.  Jumped off the train and straight into line for Splash Mountain.  And here is where I first started to take notice of the little things.  While waiting in line there were several places where fans were built into the scenery, not really noticeable if you weren't paying attention, just a cool breeze coming from a barrel or out of a crate.  There was a really cool tree that had lanterns hanging from rope in the branches that would light up at night and the electric cords for them were inside the rope, little details.  Walt Disney was a genius.  Something that I noticed several times while waiting in lines was that he always kept the goal within sight but never let you see how far you were from the goal.  The lines would wind this way and that, up and down, around and over before you ever reached your destination.  But along the way he would keep you entertained with upbeat music, funny signs or just highly detailed surroundings.  He clearly was well versed in crowd control.

So we finally made it to the ride and thankfully it sat eight so we were all able to ride together.  Little Miss sat by me, in fact, Little Miss sat by me on every single ride, every day, at every park.  When we ate she sat by me, when we rested she sat by me.  I don't know what got in to her on this trip but I won't complain, someday she won't be able to get far enough away from me, so I'll take her affection now.

After Splash Mountain we ventured over to Tom Sawyer Island.  There isn't really anything to do on the island except explore, so next time I would skip it.  However if you have small children I would hit it later in the day when you're tired and the kids are still going strong.  You can sit next to the boat dock while they run and play.  From here we made our way towards Haunted Mansion.  We stopped for Little Miss to buy a souvenir, this adorable hat.

And I encountered a rarity at Disney, a snarky cast member. Who knew?  At this point we lost Granny, she decided to stay behind and have a seat while we went on ahead.  After seeing the line for Haunted Mansion, Swag decided to go jump on the river boat so off he went.   Just as the rest of us got into line for The Haunted Mansion it experienced technical difficulties and shut down.  From here confusion set in, Mom and my nephew decided to go jump on the riverboat too since it hadn't pulled out yet and apparently Joe did as well unfortunately he was carrying my backpack at the time.  So Mister Man, Little Miss and I made our way over to Cinderella's Castle where we caught part of the  parade.  Unfortunately there was no sign of Cinderella, which upset Little Miss.  By this time it is after noon and the sun is beating down relentlessly.  Another one of my eccentricities is that my internal thermostat seems to be broken.  I can go from fine to heat stroke in the blink of an eye, or so it seems.  It's as if my body doesn't know how to regulate temperature.  So remember when I said that Joe had the backpack, that meant he also had all the water I brought plus all of the money.   All three of us were wilting.  So I decided that we needed to get indoors and made our way over to It's a Small World.  I had wanted to ride this ride anyway because the one vague recollection I had of my last trip to Disney I think was of this ride.  And oddly enough the memory I had was of being really hot and then getting into a cart and going inside a building where it was cool, and there were animatronics.   Weird how history repeats itself huh?

By the time we got on the ride, everyone else was off the boat so they gathered up Granny and met us at the exit when we got off.  By this time, appr. 2:00 pm,  my nephew had had enough so Mom debated taking him back to the resort for a couple of hours and rejoining us later.  By this point I had had enough as well, so I suggested that we all leave, cool off, get some lunch and come back later.  So we did.

Granny decided not to join us on the return trip that night.  The rest of us went back to the park about 6 that evening.  We went straight to Adventureland and were able to jump on The Pirates of Caribbean ride TWICE within 10 minutes.  This is when we decided that ThIS was the way to do Disney, forget getting up early, dodging crowds, and dealing with heat. We also did the jungle cruise with our very amusing tour guide while in this area.

From there we walked to Frontierland and jumped on the train over to Tomorrowland.  Here we headed for the Tomorrowland Speedway where we all rode race cars.  Once again I rode with Little Miss who very much wanted to drive until she got behind the wheel and we were moving, lol.  Suddenly she decided that she didn't want to drive but there wasn't much to be done at that point so I pushed the gas pedal and she steered....kind of.  Thankfully, we were on a track.

Little Miss Driving?!

Then we jumped into the line for Space Mountain, which was going to be a long wait.  Remember how I mentioned my many neuroses and eccentricities?  Well, here's one more...I get seasick on a rocking chair. Seriously.  I don't do heights, I don't like small spaces, and any type of motion makes me sick.  Psychotic, I know.  So you want to hear the prescription for all of this?  Go to Disney!  Well, that and pop Dramamine like its candy.  But seriously, after waiting in line for 2 hours you'll be amazed at the things you'll do.  We get into line and once again Mr. Disney entertains you most of the way.  Then we pass a sign that describes the ride, ya know, one of those "If you are pregnant, have been pregnant, or may ever be pregnant you should not ride this ride.  If you have a heart condition, turn back now.  This ride has sudden drops and accelerations and will make your head fall off." signs.  At which point Joe turns to me and says " you know this IS a REAL roller coaster, right?!".   To which I said " what?sorry, I can't hear you over the screams in my head!  Please stop trying to freak me out!"

At a certain point there is no turning back, they have you lined up single file like cattle.  Did I mention the claustrophobia?  Lol.   I wanted to ride this ride because well, it's SPACE MOUNTAIN!!  When you think Disney, you think Space Mountain.  And after waiting that long in line there was no way that I wasn't getting on.  Unfortunately luck of the draw, or some cruel twist of fate, put me in the FIRST car.  Sigh.  It's like Walt Disney himself was telling me to be all I could be.  And by golly, I rocked it!!

And my head didn't even fall off!
Upon exiting we made our way back to Cinderella's Castle where the show The Magic, The Memories, and You was about to start.  It was amazing.  It is a light show that is projected onto the castle and features photos that have been taken by Disney photographers throughout the park that day.  When asked what their favorite part of the day was this show was mentioned by all of us.  Now, it could be because we were able to sit in one spot and be entertained for awhile, but I really think its because it was so amazing.  When it was over I wasn't even sure if the castle was really there or if it was just a projection.

Once the show was over it was time to make our way home.  On the way out we caught part of the Mainstreet Electrical Parade.  Once again Little Miss was upset that she didn't get to see Cinderella.  I had no idea she was such a fan.

MainStreet after dark
Waiting on the Tram

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Disney- Part 1

Several years ago my Mom decided that we should take a trip to Disney before my kids leave home.  Seeing as my oldest will graduate next year we thought we better get on the ball, so we started saving our pennies.  And about six months ago we got really serious about it.  The plan was to take my entire family plus my Mom, my Granny and my nephew, that's eight total for those counting along.

I have been to Disney before.....supposedly.  My parents brought me and my brother to Disney World before I started school and I remember absolutely nothing of it.  So to me, this was the trip of a lifetime and I was very excited.

We decided not to tell the kids until right before it was time to go and it was HARD to keep it a secret that long.  They thought that we were spending the week in Galveston, and honestly I think they were a little disappointed when we did tell them where we were going.

Thurs-  My nephew lives in San Antonio, so before our journey east we had to head west.   Granny, myself and Swag headed to Schulenburg that morning to drop off myself and our dog Scully at my grandfather's house.  I have a "strained" relationship with my nephew's mom so I chose not to go to her house and instead stayed with my grandfather while Granny and Swag went to pick him up.  On their way back through they stopped to pick me up and to have lunch  with my grandfather and his wife so that they could visit with their grandson.

That evening was the big reveal.  We set up a scavenger hunt for the kids that lead them to a giant Mickey balloon and this picture...

Just to clarify, the guy on the left is my nephew.  The original picture just had Mickey ears on top of his head but I have had issues with his Mom in the past in regards to his picture being posted on the internet so for the purposes of this blog any pic with him in it will be edited to not show his face.

Fri-  When Mom got off work she, Joe, and I went to pick up the rental car.
We ended up getting a Yukon, as we needed something big enough for eight passengers.  Now I don't know if you've ever seen a Yukon but while it does have seating for eight, it only has leg room for five.  The back seat literally sits ON the floor, thank goodness some of that eight was kids.  And luggage room?  Forget it!  It was crazy.

Sat- We wanted to be on the road early so we were up and at 'em by 7, which when dealing with kids (and heck, who am I kidding? ME!) was not an easy feat.  We played musical luggage trying to get it all to fit which meant we had to put some on top, thank goodness for the luggage rack!  Went by and picked up Mom and just as we were about to pull out, we hear the roar of a motorcycle pull up behind us.  My Uncle Jimmy had stopped and picked up kolaches and donuts for us and then tracked us down to share them with us.  How sweet is he?

Mom, Uncle Jimmy, and Granny

Finally, we were on the road!  Didn't take us too long to get out of Texas and then there was Louisiana.  Let me preface this by saying that I do NOT like bridges.  Mainly it's a height thing, I'm afraid of heights.  But I also don't like flat bridges that span five miles of water.  I think THAT has to do with my claustrophobia, I don't like feeling stuck.  Seems that I have quite a few neuroses at my age.  So anyway, apparently Louisiana is nothing but bridges.  You get off one bridge and oh look, another bridge. It got to be a game..."look Court, another bridge", " Is that another bridge I see?", " Here comes another bridge".  And then we missed the exit for hwy. 12.  Come to find out if you want to go straight across LA you have to get off I-10 or else you end up taking a two hour detour through New Orleans.  Won't make that mistake again!  So two hours later than expected we ended up at our destination for the night, Biloxi, MS.  We had comped rooms at the Isle of Capri casino which worked out well.  The kids got to go swimming, Mom and Granny got to go gambling, and Joe and I were just happy to be in the air conditioning (our's has been out since Nov.).   And another positive, I believe the walk from the lobby to the elevators was enough to turn the kids off ever smoking, so much smoke!

Superdome.....dang it.
Never thought I'd be so happy to see this.

Swag, Me, and Mister Man

Little Miss being silly.

Sun- We had an appt. in downtown Orlando at 8 that night so we had a deadline.  We got up and on the road plenty early...or so we thought.  First there was a time change, which worked against us.  And then there was rain.  I don't mean a little rain, I mean a lot of rain, severe thunderstorm rain.  You couldn't see in front of you and you certainly couldn't do the speed limit.  So we lost a few hours there.  Let me say that Joe did 99% of the driving and he did a fabulous job.  In fact, he drove faster in the rain than I would have but on dry pavement?   Once we got into Florida he needed to sleep for a little bit so I jumped  behind the wheel and made up some time!  Now I won't say I was speeding.  Ok, I was speeding but in my defense there were people passing me when I was doing eighty so there!  And luckily Joe woke up refreshed right before another storm so he took over and drove the rest of the way.

Impressions of Florida:
If had to see one more pro-life billboard I may have lost it.
It's surprisingly hilly, thought it would be flat.
Once we got further south it actually reminded me of CA, even had vineyards.

The last few miles before the hotel seemed to stretch for eternity.  But we finally made it a little before seven.  Did I mention that we had an appointment at eight?  Yeah, so we got checked in, went to our rooms, threw our luggage down and then got back in the car that we had already been in for ten hours.

Why did we have to be downtown at eight you ask? Well, Swag's birthday of course!  Let me clarify.  Swag's birthday is in January but like most teenagers very hard to buy for.  He had expressed an interest before in sky diving but as his Mom I couldn't fathom him jumping out of a perfectly good airplane, so I got to researching.  Turns out Orlando has something called IFly. IFly is only the coolest thing EVER!  You can FLY.  INSIDE!    His appt. was for nine but you have to be there an hour early to take a class.  So we get there at eight and find out that the class is actually half an hour and starts at eight- thirty, tricky IFly, it's like you know we won't show up on time.  So we go upstairs to wait for his class.

Guys, it was AWESOME!  While we were waiting for his class to start we got to watch the group before him fly.  They actually fly inside a glass chamber that is appr. 12 feet in diameter.  The bottom is rope netting through which air is blown up from below.  You basically walk to the doorway and then fall forward.  You have to keep your chin up and your arms and legs in a pretty specific arrangement and in this position you can fly.  Now, as we learned with the class before his, if you move one arm and one leg you can spin one direction, or of course move the opposite limbs and spin the opposite direction. Bend your body a certain direction and you can fly up, bend it another and fly down.  There was a guy in the class before his who had clearly sky dived ( is that correct?  I want to say sky dove, but it doesn't sound right either way.) anyway, he had clearly flown before and his instructor was teaching him how to do different tricks.  Like flying up, stopping, and then moving forward and backward.  Or flying on his back and then spinning.  It was really, really cool.

Swag putting on his flight suit.
Finally they called us for Swag's class and he headed up. Class consisted of a video teaching you the basic position and learning the hand signals that the instructor would use  in the tunnel to get you in the correct position.  Went back down to wait for his turn in the tunnel and a thunderstorm erupted.  Now, the tunnel, classroom and waiting area are all inside but the wind for the tunnel comes from outside and if there is rain outside, well, the vacuum sucks it up too.  And if you've ever been on a motorcycle in the rain, you know that it can be quite painful to have water drops hit you in the face at 60mph.  So....we had to wait for the thunderstorm to pass.  By this time it is 9:00 pm,  we have been on the road since 7:00 am, and have not eaten since about noon.   Finally at about 9:40 Swag gets to fly.  Everyone in his class were first time flyers and I honestly have to say that Swag was the best.  On his first flight the instructor just kept him in the air and let him fly on his own.  But at the end of the second flight the instructor took him up and flew with him, spinning 30 ft. into the air and back down again several times.  And then when the class was over the instructor got in and showed off, it was amazing, especially after seeing how hard is just to stay in the air on a flat plane.  He climbed the walls like spider-man, rode the air like he was on a skateboard and spun like crazy.  Awesome!!!

Swag mid flight

Again flying!

Swag's Instructor being goofy

By the time we left it was after 10:00 and we were in search of food.  Thankfully we found a Pizza Hut that stayed open till midnight on Sunday night and pulled in.  We finally got back to the resort about midnight and went straight to bed for the early morning that was to come tomorrow.