Friday, August 21, 2015

I Renewed My Domain AKA Why I Stopped Writing

I renewed my blog domain tonight, so I decided to come back over here and maybe write again.  I'm just going to write and see where this takes me.  In fact, I don't think I'm even going to go back & reread and edit.  This is me.

I've blogged since high school. There's something cathartic about writing out what's going on in my life and allowing people to read it. In high school and college, the writing was rarely read by anyone else, but when I moved over to Blogspot in 2006 shortly after I moved to Texas, my adult friends started reading my posts, and I found my voice as a casual blogger.

Fast forward to 2009 when I returned to Walt Disney World as an adult and somewhere soon after I converted my blog to a "Disney blog" where I typically shared trip reports and tips from my family's & my trips to my happy place.  I discovered posts with images were better received, so I made sure to add photos to each post.  This post won't have photos.

Along the way I found others in the Disney community who shared my joy in Disney and my love for writing about it.

At first this community of Disney lovers was full of pixie dust and excitement!  I was taken on as a writer/blog stop on for a group of bloggers who linked their blogs for monthly blog hops.  I met a man on a Disney dating site, and we went on two trips to WDW together.  We vlogged while we were there, and those trips were some of my favorite Disney memories.

Then something changed.  I can't pinpoint what exactly happened or when it did, but at some point I stopped writing just for the joy of telling my story.  I started learning as much as I could about promoting my blog.  I wanted page hits, comments, shares, and more! I wanted to be KNOW as a Disney blogger! I dreamed of being invited to a press event like other Disney bloggers. I longed to be a household name when people talked about planning a Disney trip! "Joanna, the goddessofmath!" they would say! "She's phenomenal! Go read her blog!"

But. Instead. I let my joy be stolen from me.

Let it.

That's the key. I allowed others to influence my love of writing. You see, there's so much that happens behind the scenes in the blogging community. So much of it is honestly very good and supportive. I've made some great friends who I have stayed Facebook friends with even now. Sadly, I also made some enemies...

I had stopped writing for the blog hop. The topics were starting to feel like a stretch, and they were no longer fitting well with the other series I was writing on my blog. I remained friends with those bloggers though.  Then, a giveaway happened. I linked up with those bloggers to write reviews for a product that was sent to me free of charge with the understanding that I would get to participate in a HUGE giveaway later. I wrote the review to their standards. In fact, my review was darn amazing! I also commented, tweeted, Facebooked, all up to what they asked me to do. It was a TON of work, and it spammed my friends. But I did it because it would lead to the giveaway which would drive major traffic to my blog.

Somewhere in this mess, I was still writing, still promoting, still working to make a place for myself on the internet. Every post had special images, they were pinned, they were tweeted, they were promoted like it was my job! But it wasn't my job. It was supposed to be fun. It stopped being as much fun as it used to be.

Back to the giveaway: weeks passed, months passed, and after asking around, we (those who participated in the reviews but no longer wrote for the blog hop) were told they were going a different direction, and we were no longer allowed to participate in the giveaway. All that work, and the pay off was taken away. On top of that, there were MAJOR hard feelings over it. New people had taken over the blog hop, and the camaraderie that we all shared was exploited and destroyed. I unfollowed, unfriended, and blocked multiple people over it but only after I privately BEGGED them to change their minds, to see what they were doing was unfair and breaking an understanding we all had. They remained steadfast in their unilateral decision. Others begged. They blew them off. That was the end of some friendships and a huge chink out of the Disney magic.

Sometime in all this my friendship with my travel buddy also deteriorated. I reached out and tried to understand what happened between us. I was never told by him, but I was told by a mutual friend what was said about me. It was all untrue. To this day I believe what happened was a grossly overblown misunderstanding that could have been settled as friends had we actually talked about it. But I couldn't force him to talk with me. I was in a new relationship with a man who was jealous of me traveling with my male friend anyways, so I let it go. I should have tried harder. I suppose some friendships server their purpose and are only meant to last for a season rather than a lifetime. It's unfortunate that things ended as they did. However, that was another chink in the Disney magic.

Meanwhile I've gone on two Disney cruises since my sisters trip that I abruptly stopped writing about. I have so many photos and so much Disney awesomeness that I'd love to share, but I've always felt like I needed to explain to my readers (if I have any anymore) why I stopped writing. The joy was gone for me.

Maybe "Inside Out" is right, though. Maybe I can look back on those memories with the mix of emotions they brought on because emotions are complicated. Over time, the anger and resentment has faded into sadness. I honestly don't regret much of what happened, but I do mourn the loss of certain friendships. The bottom line is that I don't believe in pushing people down to promote myself.

So there you have it. That's why I stopped blogging. Maybe now that I've jumped this hurdle, I can go ahead and start writing about things I love again.

Monday, January 06, 2014

New Posts Coming Soon!

Unfortunately my blog has had to go on hiatus for a little while as I've been recovering from surgery and spending time with family over the holidays.  2014 will bring the remaining Magical Moments as well as a cruise on the Disney Fantasy.  Thank you so much for your patience as I get back on my "blogging feet!"  Can't wait to share more pixie dust with you all!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Magical Moment #13: Grab a Glass of Sparkling Wine at the Flower & Garden Festival

We didn't have to go far to make it to Magical Moment #13.  The EPCOT Flower & Garden Festival had much more than breathtaking topiaries and fragrant blossoms.  It also boasted a number of food booths throughout the park.  Before our trip I researched the menus for each of the booths.  I really wanted to try some new adult beverages on our kid-free trip.  The Taste of Marrakesh booth in Morocco had a sparkling wine that caught my eye.  It was called the Desert Rose and had a touch of pomegranate liqueur in it.

Behold the beauty of Morocco!

As we approached my much-anticipated booth, I noticed the lines for other food booths were quite long.  I was counting on a long line at all of the booths.  Silly me... while I was eager for the Desert Rose, no one else was really eager for the other Moroccan treats, so the line was nonexistent.  The cast members seemed over-joyed to have someone visit them!

This sparkling wine was sweet, bubbly, and gave me a quick happy buzz.  One glass of wine and I start talking about feeling it "in my toes." (I promise that's a real thing... does no one else feel it in their toes?? I can't be the only one!)  Sipping a glass of wine while cruising through the World Showcase is the life!

Magical Moment #13: Desert Rose
Next week we'll get closer to being halfway through with the Magical Moments.  What have we missed that you would have done?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Magical Moment #12: Prank Call Someone on the England Phone Booths!

A new day brought a new feeling of freshness and eagerness to make the most of our magical days!  Thankful that the mystery sickness had passed, we got up and caught the bus to Epcot.  At this point not everyone had Magic Bands, but all Keys to the World cards had the RFID chips in them. That meant we didn't have to stand in the line to feed our tickets through the readers. The best part about this is that most guests didn't realize this, so we almost always walked right up to the new ticket readers and got in the parks quickly!

Just Tap, wait for the green mouse ears to light up...
...put your finger on the scanner, wait for the green light, and you're in!

On the way into Epcot, LaRae took our tickets to get FastPasses for Test Track while I went to Guest Services.  Did you know that you can get a Disney VISA Rewards card at Guest Services in any of the parks?  I snagged a card and called VISA to ask for my Disney Reward Dollars to be placed on the card.  While on the phone, the cast member asked if I was at Disney right then since she saw some Florida purchases on my card.  She kindly placed a notice on my card that I was out of town, added my reward dollars to my new card for immediate use, and wished me a "magical day" as I strolled to Journey Into Your Imagination to meet LaRae.  She wasn't there yet, so I took some photos:

The day was slightly overcast. I was so proud of this
photo though! Love me some Monorail!

Selfie time! Yes, I was wearing a birthday tiara.
Small and tasteful of course!

Our imagination stimulated, we took a leisurely stroll through the World Showcase.  When we're at Walt Disney World with our family, we tend to rush through the World Showcase because at that point the kids are tired or bored or hungry.  Not a problem, but we both love the WS, so some time to really enjoy it and look around was a welcome change.

Before the trip we found the phone numbers for the phone booths in England.  The plan for this Magical Moment was for me to wait until someone entered one of the booths to take a photo and then call the booth.  Sadly, the phone numbers we had which worked in November had stopped working by March.  We still said it counted as a Magical Moment because I tried.  (Gold star for trying!)

My sister made my shirt for me.  It says "Birthday Princess"
on it, and it's mouse ears with a tiara. It's one of my favorite shirts!

France is one of the best stops in the World Showcase in my humble opinion.  I mean, just look at this Flower and Garden Festival topiary!

Another first, or maybe first in a long time, for LaRae was watching the movie in France.  If you haven't stopped to see it, I recommend it.  The scenes are delightful showing various areas of France, and the narrator's voice is peaceful and honestly, pretty sexy. Ooh la la! I couldn't resist taking this pic when I noticed the gargoyle as we waited to go in to the movie!

Magical Moment #13 will post on Friday.  We'll be continuing around the World Showcase!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Magical Moment #??: Break for Magical Bathrooms in the Magic Kingdom

When I was a little girl I drove my mother insane every time we visited anyone's house because I always wanted to go to the bathroom.  This was especially true in houses I'd never been in before.  You see, it wasn't that I really needed to go, it was that I was fascinated with bathrooms and wanted to see what each person's looked like. At least that's how my mother tells it. I swear I always had to go! Anyhoooo... when I heard the new bathrooms in Fantasyland were Tangled themed, I knew I would magically need to visit them as we walked by.

Side Note: This is the night LaRae and I decided to close down Magic Kingdom. It was supposed to be open until 3 AM. Heaven knows it was an insanely early wee hours of the morning time, but we really wanted to do it. We mostly focused this evening on fun in the Magic Kingdom and paused the Magical Moments, so this post doesn't have a numbered moment. 

We started the evening with some attractions like Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion.  I LOVE going through the Haunted Mansion queue in the dark!  If you haven't taken the time to do so, you absolutely should!  Splash Mountain was closed for refurbishment, but empty logs were going down it most of the evening. The splash at the end was turned off, so the whole silent logs crashing down to a small splash was oddly eerie.  I've only ridden Splash once in my life, and I spent most of the ride scared of getting soaked, so I really do want to ride it again someday!

The Liberty Belle all lit up at night.
Have you noticed the lighting in the Haunted Mansion queue? So pretty!

As we approached Fantasyland from the Haunted Mansion, Rapunzel's tower loomed above us. It's so gorgeously lit at night and visible from various areas of the park. If you listen closely, you can sometimes hear Rapunzel singing. There's also a "find Pascal" game around her tower. 

Lanterns hang all around the rest benches, charging stations, and bathrooms. While pretty during the day, it's almost breathtaking at night! Yes, I just described bathrooms as "breathtaking," but seriously Disney Imagineering outdid themselves with this new area!

This is the point where I think LaRae, my sister, decided to pretend she didn't know me. I made sure no one was in the bathrooms but us, and I started snapping photos like crazy! I'm not a big photos in the bathroom fan, but this needs to be shared!  The bathrooms are decorated to the nines. Artwork on the walls and ceilings look like Rapunzel herself painted them. The stall doors are super neat and fit right in. The details are just fantastic.  (Now I wish I'd gone in the men's room to see what the decorations in there were!)

Rapunzel took a hand in decorating in here!
This is her "seriously, you are not my sister" look. ;-)

In the end of it all, I didn't actually USE the bathroom there. I was too busy looking around and taking photos! Since we were in Fantasyland though, we decided to stick to the area and visit some of our favorite attractions like it's a small world.  The ending of this attraction was recently redone. I like the changes:

We got stuck waiting for the Main Street Electrical Parade to pass.  At this point our feet were really starting to hurt, and as LaRae said "you went all quiet on me."  I was starting to feel really nauseated, but I wanted to stay until park closing, so I was trying to make it through. I waited a few hours to tell her I was sick, but she knew pretty dark quick something was up.

LaRae had never seen the Castle Projection Show, so I wanted to be sure we caught it.  We had just enough time to have a ride on the Jungle Cruise, another attraction that is totally more awesome at night, before we found a bench to watch the show. Every time I see it, I love it even more!

Wreck-It Ralph

At this point of writing this post, I'm realizing I like Magic Kingdom best at night. We went to Tomorrowland next which is another favorite place after dark. The neon lights and electric sounds of Tomorrowland are exciting and thrilling at night. LaRae hadn't experienced the joy of Stitch's Great Escape, so we continued her night of firsts. I love the pre-show in SGE, no joke, and while I don't love the chili dog burp, I genuinely like this attraction. It's a "try it at least once" kind of attraction.

Our family can never get enough Fantasyland. It was becoming fairly evident that I wasn't going to be able to hold out through the end of the night. Each step I took I wondered how I was going to make it back on a Disney bus while losing my dinner in a plastic bag. (I didn't end up losing it, but I really thought I was going to.) However, I pushed through because darn it, this was my birthday trip, and I willed the sickness to go away!  The calm attractions of Fantasyland allowed me to stay in the park a bit longer.

Have you seen the painting of Mr. Toad handing the deed to
Owl in the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh? 

Prince Eric's Castle is one I'd love to live in (right behind Prince Adam's Castle because it has an amazing library)!  Check out how beautiful it is all lit up at night.  *Swoon* Makes me wish I was there right now!

On the way out of the park, I was still snapping photos despite how I felt!  I was so glad I spotted this backside of the Castle and took a photo. It's almost better than the front!

We made it until just after midnight.  While it wasn't park close, it was pretty late.  We'd had a wonderful day full of food and fun, and I wouldn't trade it for anything!  The next day I found that I woke up feeling much better and eager to start a new day at Walt Disney World!

Magical Moment #12 will post on Wednesday.  Join us as we visit Epcot!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Magical Moment #11: Delight in a Birthday Cake Pop

While we were in Downtown Disney, LaRae and I visited Goofy's Candy Co. We love the caramel apples and other treats there. Did you know you can get a custom made Rice Krispy Treat (in mouse ears form) or caramel apple? With tons of toppings to choose from, the sky is the limit! LaRae ordered a custom caramel apple. As we were waiting, I commented on the colorful Mickey cake pops in the case.  The sugar on them sparkled in the lights of the case, and the colors were vibrant! Even though I was still full from our lunch at Kona Cafe and dinner at Sandwich of Earl, I really wanted to snack on one of those pops!

This photo doesn't do these babies justice!

Next thing I knew, LaRae was handing me a pink cake pop all my own! What a sweet sister to get me my own personal birthday cake on a stick!  We carefully placed our treats in a bag to eat when we were a bit less full.  (If you're going to do this, be sure to take into account the heat. Carrying around a chocolate treat can get super messy super quickly in the Florida heat!)

LaRae and Randy Disney-mooned at Walt Disney World back in 1998.  Let me tell you, the stories they tell of the dining plan alone show how much things have changed in 15 years!  They stayed at the Wilderness Lodge for their honeymoon.  You can't go directly from Downtown Disney to a park, so we took a boat to Wilderness Lodge for LaRae to get a t-shirt for Randy.  When they came back from their honeymoon in 1998, I didn't understand what was so great about the Wilderness Lodge.  I mean, wasn't it just a glorified giant log cabin??  Then I ate breakfast there one morning a few years ago and realized it was absolutely so much more than a log cabin! It's gorgeous! It's breathtaking!  It's a place I want to stay!

After looking around a bit and finding a t-shirt, we went to the docks to take a quick boat ride to Magic Kingdom.  The cake pop was making my mouth water, so I decided to dig in while waiting!

Magical Moment #11: Can you believe how HUGE this thing is!?

This chocolate cake pop was rich to say the least. The ears are actually marshmallows which balance out the cake nicely.  The chocolate coating is white chocolate. I'd call that a great choice since it allows the brightness of the sanding sugar to shine.  All in all, I love this treat, but it could easily be shared.  Quick tip: don't do what I did - make sure you have a drink with you when you eat this! I was thankful for the water fountain on the dock!

Magical Moment #12 will happen in the Magic Kingdom! This evening the Extra Magic Hours were until 3 or 4 AM (something crazy late), and we decided our goal was to shut down the park! Can we do it? Come back Friday to see!

Friday, November 08, 2013

Magical Moment #10: Get a FREE Birthday Sandwich at Earl of Sandwich

After a filling lunch at the Polynesian Resort, LaRae and I took a boat over to Downtown Disney. Traveling by boat is one of my favorite ways to travel at Walt Disney World (topped only by traveling by Monorail). It kept our pace calm and peaceful after our leisurely lunch. 

I love shopping, so I don't have very many photos of this part of our trip.  I usually wait until I get to the World of Disney Store to get most of my souvenirs, but since we went to Walt Disney World in November, I didn't buy too much.  I did grab a few "must have" items though.  Our goal was to have a late-ish dinner at Earl of Sandwich and then have a LATE evening closing down Magic Kingdom. 

You see, I LOVE Earl of Sandwich. Their Italian sandwich is toasted to perfection, ooey-gooey, cheesy, perfection, and before our trip I got a birthday email from the Earl with a free sandwich coupon. There is not an Earl of Sandwich within driving distance of my home, but this year I got to save my coupon for Walt Disney World!! Best. Sandwich. EVER!  Magical Moment #10 is even sweeter because is was FREE!

If you make it to Downtown Disney, I highly recommend a sandwich from Earl of Sandwich. The queue inside the restaurant might make you feel like you're back in a Disney park, but don't be alarmed. The queue moves quickly and efficiently. The first time I ate here, I was pretty confused because I thought it would be more like Subway where you move down the line with your sandwich telling the food preparer what you want as toppings. At EoS you order a sandwich as is from the menu, but don't be afraid to ask for changes or clarification. They are always slammed and seem hurried, but I've never had anyone make me feel bad for asking a question there. The other tip is this: don't get a table until you have your food. Nothing is more frustrating (well some things are...) than getting your food and seeing 10 tables being held by a single person waiting for people ordering and no tables open for those with food. Please wait. If you do, there's almost always a table opening up either inside or outside. One time my friend and I took our sandwiches down the ways a bit to some tables by the water. That proved to be a beautiful, unique place to enjoy our meal.

**Edit** Want to join the Club and get your free birthday sandwich coupon?  Go sign up for free here on the Earl of Sandwich website. I signed up never thinking I'd be there for my birthday, and look how it paid off! :)

When you go to Downtown Disney, where do you love to eat?