Thursday, December 18, 2014

2014: The Year in Review

I can't believe we're approaching the end of December. I've been down here in Florida for almost five months. FIVE MONTHS! How is this even possible? I feel like I just got to the sweatiest state in the USA yesterday! Time sure does fly when you're having fun and busy as heck, right? Well, as this year comes to a close, I really feel compelled to write about what happened in 2014, the best year of my life.

Some of you reading my blog probably don't know my "story" entirely. Let me take a moment to catch you up.

Since I was a young child, Disney has been my life. I first came to Disney when I was just nine years old. I've pretty much been addicted ever since then. My life's goal has always been to work for the Disney Company. I always said I could be sweeping the streets in Magic Kingdom for free and I'd be totally content. People in school knew me as the girl that A) loves to perform, and B) loves Disney. Still following? I'm sure you can see where this is going.

Fast forward to adulthood. I got married and bought a house at just nineteen years old. I also started a job at a bank that same year. A job that brought nothing but unhappiness to me. I felt unfulfilled. I lacked passion for the job. Still, I let the contentment of the "simple life" pull me down into the abyss of normalcy. For 7 1/2 years, I lived a life that made me feel lost and yearning for more. The entire time I knew that Disney was calling my name.

In February of this year, I experienced one heck of a breakdown. Crying in my kitchen, I told my husband that I couldn't go on living with myself anymore. I couldn't be that person, living that life.

Just a few weeks after that, I took the first steps toward my Disney journey. I took my first steps toward a more fulfilling life. From March 11th on, everything was different. My life was flipped upside down. Matt and I had so many struggles getting to Florida. I mean... SO MANY STRUGGLES. Virtually nothing about this adventure was easy. Yet, here we are. Five months later. Still standing and I'm living my dream. Actually living my dream. You have no idea what that means to me.

Every day that I'm at work, I have to pinch myself. Seriously. I've been given so many amazing opportunities and created so much magic in just five months. It's so emotionally overwhelming to think about the fact that I'm doing what I always said I wanted to do. While not every day is amazing at work, I'm still thankful for being here and having the chance to make the next day better than the last.

The highlights of my job so far would definitely have to be experiencing the Magic Kingdom Welcome Show with Anna and Elsa, as well as spending a few nights with Flynn and Rapunzel at Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party. Both events totally made me incredibly emotional. It was all so surreal. I'm lucky that I had the most wonderful partners on those days to help me, encourage me, and share in making special memories for ourselves, as well as guests. There's no possible way I could ever express to my co-workers (and now, friends) how much their kindness meant to me on those very special days.

Job stuff aside, I have had some pretty memorable life experiences as well. I lived through the craziest Michigan winter since I've been alive. Matt and I took our friends to Disney World back in February to celebrate Matt's 30th birthday. I came ridiculously close to being hit by a vehicle when a minivan drove into my bank when I was working by myself. I traveled to the amazingly perfect Roxbury Motel in the Catskills to celebrate my wedding anniversary with Matt. At the end of summer, I finally quit my job in banking and moved from Sturgis to Orlando. I finally got the chance to take Matt and my mom to New Smyrna Beach, which was amazing. Matt and I traveled to Chicago to finally see Yusuf/Cat Stevens live, after ten years of being hardcore fans. Last, but not least, I met so many incredible people here in Florida that have truly changed my life for the better.

If you missed any of my previous blog posts about my Florida adventure this year, I'll help you out and link you to some of the highlights.

One of the happiest and scariest blog posts I've ever written... right before I accepted the position with Disney. 

Three months into my Florida Life...

What I love about this new life...

Picture time? Yeah. Picture time.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


Today, while shopping for a Thanksgiving meal for two, it dawned on me that while nothing is traditional or familiar this holiday season, I still have so much to be thankful for.

I have talked about this dream of mine since I was very young. I've told countless people how badly I wanted to work for Disney. More often than not, I was met with eye rolls and negativity. Where I'm from, it's just not a realistic life goal. Still, that never ever stopped me from talking about it. Knowing most people would think I'm silly, I'd always courageously express one thing… that this gut feeling of what I should be doing with my life just wouldn't go away. That I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I would be so good at this job. It's the one thing I have never questioned in my life. The only thing I have confidently believed to be true. 

I've been telling my "story" a lot recently to co-workers and others I've encountered through my job. The more I tell it, the more I realize that my journey is a miraculous one. So many people in this world talk of their dreams, but so few of them actually have those dreams become reality. I'm one of those few that made it happen. There's no possible way I could express how thankful I am.

Another thing I am grateful for is family and friends that supported me all along and never doubted my ability to see this dream through. Conversations I've had with my greatest supporters are the conversations that I still remember vividly. I allowed myself to not take to heart the negativity that I'd encounter. I can't wait to make my encouragers even more proud as I continue on this journey.

Speaking of which… I'm looking forward to all of the opportunities available to me with the Disney. There's so much more I can do! I never really knew what it was like to want to "do more" and take advantage of opportunities with my previous jobs. With Disney, I frequently imagine all of the new challenges and fun experiences that await me. I suppose that it just takes some strong will and passion for what you do to pursue all of the possibilities in front of you.

I'm incredibly thankful for the Disney guests that I've met from all around the world and from all different walks of life. I get to hear guest's stories of how much Disney means to them. I get to share my passion for the company through my job. As much as I feel like I get to give to others, I feel like I receive so much more. 

This year has been the craziest time of my entire 26 year existence, and it isn't even over yet. I'll continue to be a dreamer and overcome anything challenging that's thrown my way. Without the difficulties, I would never know how to cherish all the little things in my life.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Three Months

Hey, friends!

I apologize I have not written for my blog in so long. Here I am, 3 months living in Florida. Time flies when you're crazy busy and having fun, right? 

I realize that writing about Disney has actually become harder since I have started my job with the company. There are so many things that I want to say, and yet I can only say so much publicly. I need to find a way to properly document my incredible experiences for myself to look back on years later. More than anything, my trainers have told me to keep a journal of some sort for when the days get tough and you need to remember why you're doing what you're doing. It's a great tip, and I need to follow it because I've already forgotten the most wonderful interactions simply because one day flows into the next and it's hard to keep up with it all. 

I'm starting to get into a routine of sorts at work, even though I don't have a set schedule. I'm mostly working at Magic Kingdom lately and I really like it since I live so close to the park. On my days off when Matt is busy working, I really like going to the parks by myself. While it's really strange to some of my co-workers, I've had years of experience as a solo park goer. It allows me to reconnect with the emotional aspect of my job, and is a great reminder as to why I love Disney so much. I need to find a hobby in the area that isn't Disney related… something new. Sure, I still love to watch television shows and play guitar, but I feel like I need something totally different to immerse myself in during my down time.

I'll admit that I have been getting really lonely lately. I'm not sure if it's just that Matt's the only person I see, or that I work crazy hours so it's hard to feel normal, but I just find myself feeling pretty lousy when I'm not at work. Truly depressed. However, I LOVE my job! Partially because it's such a great distraction from my real life. I don't sleep well anymore. I usually wake up around 5am with my cat and we just look at each other for a solid hour. My mind races, and soon I really just wish that Mr. Sandman would come visit. But, of course, thinking of Mr. Sandman makes me think of the movie "Cry-Baby", and then I start thinking about who I'd like to play in that movie and all of my favorite parts. Before you know it, I have the entire soundtrack stuck in my head, and in between each verse of every song I think about something that stresses me out. That's my brain.

At work I'm surrounded by some really incredible people. Folks from all different walks of life and everyone has such a variety of life stories. I absolutely LOVE getting to know people. I do struggle with my self-confidence sometimes, and I do find myself nervous to say hello to some people. However, there have been certain individuals that let me know that I'm wanted and welcomed. I love those people. Sure, there have been some stinkers. Some people that clearly want nothing to do with me, and people that I've learned I can't trust. That's life. I had that all at the bank in Michigan, and now I have that in Florida. 

Making friends is pretty tricky here. It kind of feels like high school at times. I'm not sure what people want to be friends and what people just talk to me because I'm right there in front of them. I feel quite different than most of the people I work with. Maybe it's because I'm married. Maybe it's because I'm older. Maybe it's because I don't like to feed into the catty negativity that floats around. Either way, I don't know who is being real and who is just tolerating my existence. My job makes it really hard to truly bond with someone while at work. You really have to take the time outside of work to try and get to know a person. Man, you'd think that at 26 years old I'd have friendship figured out by now, but girls are confusing and I don't think I'll ever understand them. Still, I'm not giving up because there has to be someone here that I can share a connection with.

Lately, I've been thinking about how terrific it is to be surrounded by so many talented people. Sometimes I come to the parks just to watch and learn from other entertainers. Supporting each other is really important… even the people that haven't exactly been friendly toward me. I've been coming to the parks for years, and somehow I still get blown away by Disney entertainment. It's something that I know will never get old. 

I really miss my family, but I don't miss Sturgis. Not even a little bit. I waited 26 years of my life to get out of that city, and I know it's great for some people, but I never ever felt like I belonged. Maybe eventually I'll have a desire to drive around there and feel nostalgic, but right now I'm quite okay with having this life in Florida. Everything here is so beautiful. The sky even looks different here. It's more open and clear. The sunsets are more picturesque. It's a perfect place to be myself and appreciate the little things in life. 

I look forward to what's to come in the future months here in Florida… cooler weather, holiday decorations and events, and family visiting. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Greetings from Florida!

Hey guys! I finally am getting a chance to update all of you on what has been going on in my life. Thank you so much for holding out and being patient with me. My schedule has been absolutely bananas and very irregular. Matt and I also don't have internet just yet, so I have to go over to the clubhouse in our community to use the free Wi-Fi. I figure the easiest way to write this all out is to just break it up into sections. I apologize if this is too long for some of you, but I am also documenting this experience for myself. 

Just to preface, there are certain details about my job down here that I can't talk about. If you ask me a question (or have asked me) and I haven't answered it, it's simply because I'm not allowed to, not because I'm a big jerk. 

The journey down here was one of the most challenging things about the last month. We rented a trailer that attached to Matt's parent's vehicle. However, the trailer ended up being too small for all of our stuff and we had to leave some items behind. For example, we have no vacuum. Yes, it's driving me crazy. Matt and his parents drove the trailer down, while my mom and my brother came with me in our Yaris. We ended up accidentally taking two separate routes and we weren't together at all on the way down. The drive was going really great for us until we hit Georgia and decided to stop around 1:30 a.m. to sleep for a few hours. Sleeping was a huge struggle because of a couple of factors. The humidity was ridiculous and our dog, Ellie, decided to sleep the whole drive down to Georgia and stay awake once we got there.

My car made it to Florida about 2 or 3 hours ahead of Matt's clan carrying the trailer. I had to sort out some details with our apartment lease before they would give us the keys. The price ended up increasing because we missed the expiration on the quote we were given by a couple of hours. Crazy stressful moment for me in the leasing office. Once Matt and his parents arrived at the apartment, we all worked really hard and unpacked the trailer… hauling everything up 3 flights of stairs. 

The first week in our new home is sort of a blur when I look back on it. Our family stayed down in Florida with us for that first week and we are SO grateful for that. They really helped us ease into this new life. My brother helped us figure out how to arrange our furniture, he hung up artwork for us, and every other little problematic task you could think of. Our parents were our emotional support. Just having them here made us feel a lot better and not so alone. We had a fun week together going to the beach, a few Disney parks, air boating, and dinners in Celebration. 

My Disney journey started with the onboarding experience. Sadly, it was not pleasant initially. I had a complication, and the initial woman I interacted with in the office very rude and unhelpful. I actually had to contact my recruiter so she could be the go between and help me out. She was fantastic and a lifesaver for me. Four days after onboarding was my first day of work… Traditions. Seriously, it was one of the best days of my life. It was such a surreal experience! Traditions was the most fun class I've ever taken in my entire life. I met a lot nice people, some of which I got to be with throughout the rest of my training.

My first week of training was pretty much everything that I expected, only much more challenging. It was emotionally and physically exhausting. The days were long and most everything made me feel really overwhelmed. The only thing scarier than my training, was my first day out of training. It was like my first day of high school. Actually, every time I've had to work at a new location it's felt like my first day of high school. Where I'm the little newbie that doesn't know anyone, or where anything is, or what I'm supposed to be doing. I seriously walk around saying, "Hi, I'm new. Can you help me?" Luckily, I've met some very nice people that have been willing to point me in the right direction. Last night I worked at Disney's Hollywood Studios for the first time, so I've now worked in all four major parks. The scariest is still Magic Kingdom. The other day I was leaving work at Magic Kingdom and meeting Matt on Main Street to watch Festival of Fantasy. I didn't know how to get "onstage" from the tunnels. Someone told me to just take any staircase… so I did. I ended up coming out a random door, looked up, and there was Cinderella Castle right beside me. Pretty cool, huh? 

My job itself is the most rewarding thing I have ever done. I get to make magic and spread happiness to people. I work for a company that I love more than I could ever explain. I literally have my dream job. Every bit of it is still so surreal to me when I think about it. I seriously waited my whole life to get to work for the company. It's pretty much totally and completely amazing.

Let's talk about Florida now. Obviously, it's hot. Really hot. As this random stranger at a gas station told Matt the other day, "You don't get used to it. You just learn to tolerate it." Totally reminds me of how I view Michigan winters. I absolutely love the area we live in. There are so many things close to us that we never had in Sturgis. A nice perk? Target is closer than Wal-Mart. In general, retail stores are a little more costly down here, but nothing ridiculous. Our rent is what's ridiculous. We don't have internet yet because it's so expensive, and we don't have our money situation figured out yet. Matt just took a job with Lowe's, so up until this week it's been just my income. We've been living on a lot of leftovers, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and bananas. 

When we left Sturgis, our house sale was pending. A few weeks after we were here in Florida, we got some disappointing news. The appraisal came back lower than our sale price and brought the sale to a halt. We were planning on closing within August, not have to pay August's mortgage payment, and using the small amount we made on the sale to put toward a second car that we absolutely need. Now, we've worked with the bank and come up with a solution to still sell the house, but Matt and I will make nothing on it. In fact, we'll be paying out money in order to complete the sale. The housing market is just not in our favor. We bought the house for significantly more than what we're being forced to sell it for. This has easily been the single biggest stressor in our lives the past month. Everything was just too good to be true. Matt and I literally cannot pay our rent at the end of the month AND our mortgage (and all of our other bills). We even discussed the idea of being forced to move back to Michigan and how we'd handle it. I just crumble at the idea of it. I love it down here so much and I don't want to leave. 

The four of us (Matt, Vinnie, Ellie, and myself) have all adjusted to Florida living quite well. Thank you all so much for caring about us and following along on our journey. There's so much more to come! I'll be sure to post more pictures and keep you all updated whenever I can. Please keep us in your thoughts!

Friday, July 11, 2014

It Hit Me

Like a ton of bricks, it hit me. Just now.

In two weeks, Matt and I will be picking up our lives and moving 1,100 miles away. It seriously just totally and completely set in that this is really happening. To be honest, I'm not liking it.

I don't have some huge fear of moving. I don't have a fear of this new job with Disney. I am experiencing total heartbreak that I'm leaving behind my family, and I have no idea when I'm going to see them next. It's selfish of me to ask my mom to come see me once a month, but that's really what I want to say. I want to tell everyone to just relocate down there as well so I don't have to be without them. I'm really going to miss seeing the people I'm closest to every single week.

Up until now I was just thinking about how I'm more worried that people will be without me. I have been telling myself that I know I'll be okay and handle everything just fine. That it's everyone else I'm worried about. Now that isn't really the case. I don't know when I'll start to get time off at work to be able to fly back home. I might have to go without seeing some family until next year. That's just really hard to swallow. I seriously give credit to military families that go through being apart all the time.

I have been really trying to push my emotions down to make it easier to handle everything else that is going on. Just the past few days I've been forced to come face to face with the emotional aspect of moving away. I'm leaving my job of 7 1/2 years. Leaving my house that I've lived in for 7 years. Leaving the only little city that I've ever lived in. I know that I'm gaining so much by moving to Florida, but I can't help reflecting on how much life is changing for Matt and I.

I'm very thankful that we get to spend a week in Florida with Matt's parents and my mom. This will be a nice way to transition into a new life. Aside from getting Matt and I settled, we're all going to be able to do some fun things together. I can't wait to drive around the area and see things I've never seen before. "Look at the stuff. Isn't it neat?"

My six year old niece and I had a heart to heart the other evening. I told her that I'm really going to miss her when I'm in Florida, but that she can come see me and I can come back and see her. Then she tapped me on the shoulder and whispered in my ear, "But, Aunt Stacey! You know what? We can Skype!" In that moment, her little voice made me feel so much better and filled me with hope that it will all be okay.

Well... until next time. "TTFN, Ta-ta for now!"

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Moving to Florida: What It Means

Back on Matt and I's "Disneymoon", we met a very nice woman during park opening at Epcot. She was a Florida resident and actually had a lifetime pass of some sort to the Disney parks that she obtained when Walt Disney World first opened. While boarding Soarin' with her, the woman told us that she's retired and "just woke up this morning and felt like riding Soarin'." I remember Matt and I looking at each other and both of us saying, "That must be the life!" After we exited The Land pavilion, we watched the woman casually stroll right out of the park. It was a moment that has always stayed with me, because until then I'd never actually thought about what it might be like to live so close to the parks.

Today, it somehow just dawned on me that Matt and I are going to be able to live like that woman. We can have our date nights at the Boardwalk! We can hit up Aloha Isle if we're craving Dole Whip! We can even walk into Animal Kingdom on a hot day, enjoy Kali River Rapids, and then go right back home to get dried off. I really cannot believe this!!!

I also realized today that I am going to live an hour away from New Smyrna Beach. YES! I want to cry just thinking about it. I miss that place so much, and it's been over 10 years since I've visited. I can go there and lay on the beach, play in the waves, just like I've always imagined doing again.

Friends and family are going to be able to come visit us in an area with endless things to do. In Sturgis there isn't much to do, so we always end up leaving town to find unique activities or restaurants. The Orlando area is overflowing with killer bars, theme parks, recreational activities, vegetarian-friendly restaurants (something we're not used to having), and so much more.

I don't know what it's like to go outside in the middle of winter and not feel the need to wear two pair of socks, snow boots, a scarf, gloves, thick hat, and a winter coat. The only snow we'll be seeing in Florida is on Main Street, U.S.A. during Christmastime. After this past winter, I'm actually very much okay with not seeing snow every day for 5 months out of the year.

Yes, there are some downsides to moving away from Michigan. We're moving away from our family and the comfort of "home." Yes, I know that Florida IS SO HOT in the summer, but Michigan is SO DAMN COLD in the winter. I don't want to have to bundle up like an eskimo to take my dog outside for 3 minutes. Yes, moving is a humongous pain that is already stressing me to the max, but in the end it will all be worth it. I'll finally be living my dream with my husband right by my side.

1,150 miles to go...

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Best Day Ever!

Monday really was the best day ever. Seriously.

Out of the blue I received a call from a recruiter for Disney Entertainment offering me a full time job with the Disney Company starting August 2nd. Of course I said, "Yes! Yes! Absolutely! Yes!"

I'll sort of give you the run down of what has been going on since, and what will be going on in the near future.

Just minutes after I accepted the job offer, my email inbox was bombarded with loads of paperwork that I needed to electronically read and sign. A great part was a video from Bob Iger saying, "Welcome to the team." What is my life?! It's so good!

My husband and I have been trying to sell our house FSBO since we found out that there's a good chance that I would get the job. On Saturday we had a showing, and this week we have three. I've had a lot of people inquire about renting or land contract but we're just not interested in that option. We'd consider a land contract if we trusted the buyer, but we certainly will not rent it out to strangers with us being 1000 miles away. I feel confident that we'll figure something out before the end of July.

I have to go down to WDW for onboarding July 28th or 29th. Then a few days later will be my first day of orientation. I'll be going through a "Traditions" class where I'll learn about the company, and then take a tour of Magic Kingdom along with other new hires. My first week of work will consist of me doing some core training for the role I'll be doing. The next week will be more in depth and I'll get to become good friends with a lovely Princess from Arendelle.

If we don't have a solution for the house by the time that I have to start work, I will end up going down to Florida without Matt, rent a car, and live with someone until he can join me. That is our absolute worst option. I really don't like that because it would mean I'd be going through the move without Matt. I think the first few weeks being away from Michigan will be the hardest. I'd really love to have my best friend there to be my support system.

Having to tell the bank that I'm leaving after seven years was actually something I was really dreading. I was totally surprised when everyone was really happy for me. HR wants to run an article on me in the company newsletter. So crazy! Usually when they make the announcement that someone is leaving the bank it goes something like, "So and so will be leaving us on July 1st. We wish so and so luck in her future endeavors." Not mine. Nope. Mine started with, "Congratulations!" It felt good to be acknowledged at the bank after seven years of feeling somewhat invisible. It just took me leaving to do it. Ha!

We're very lucky that Disney is paying for my relocation. It takes a HUGE stress off of Matt and I since movers are very expensive. Being able to downsize what we have is actually a really fun process. I love getting rid of the excess in my life and focusing on what I really need.

That's all the information I have for now. I promise I'll update you guys whenever something new and exciting happens.