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.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Overwhelmed and Overjoyed

I'm laying in bed and I should be sleeping. Instead I'm finally allowing myself let it go and be truly emotional since Tuesday when I got some very big news.

Disney invited me to officially apply for a job with them in Entertainment, and tomorrow I have my phone interview.

I can't tell you how overwhelmed I am by all of this. I'm excited, scared, nervous, so thankful, shocked, overjoyed, and confused.

How did I get here? I don't know how this is actually happening. Despite the fact that I've always had the gut feeling that this is what I'm supposed to be doing, I suppose I let myself believe that there's always a chance that I'd never make it. It's always been my biggest dream. Somehow I'd convinced myself in this little place in my mind that I wasn't good enough. And now I'm trying to fully accept that I actually AM good enough!

All of the tears have been worth it... including the ones overflowing right now as I smile. All of the late nights with my husband talking about my passion for Disney. All of the strange looks I've gotten from some people when they heard me tell them my dream. All of the times I've let my imagination take me away to the moment when I would be told that I actually did it.

And now finally, tomorrow, there's a very good chance that I'll be told that very thing. I don't know how to handle all of this. I mean... it's a dream. You're not supposed to actually achieve them... that's why they're dreams! I'm learning that as cheesy as it sounds, dreams really can come true. I just can't believe it could happen for me.

On top of all of this overwhelmingly joyful feeling, I'm so stressed at the idea of actually moving. It's not the living in Orlando part that makes me nervous. It's not working at Disney that makes me nervous. I just don't know how to get our house sold, pay for movers, find Matt a job, and find an apartment that won't break us... and all in such a short period of time. The cost of living is so different there than it is here in Michigan. The adjustment is going to be tough. I just keep trying to have faith that if it's meant to be, it'll all come together.

Something kinda strange, but I've been thinking about Rapunzel a lot lately. I feel like I relate to her so much more right now than I ever have. Just like Rapunzel, I have imagined what this would be like my whole life. I've done everything I can to get to this point. The part from Tangled that I keep playing over and over in my head is this...

Rapunzel: I've been looking out a window for eighteen years, dreaming about what I might feel like when those lights rise in the sky. What if it's not everything I dreamed it would be?
Flynn: It will be.
Rapunzel: And what if it is? What do I do then?
Flynn: Well, that's the good part I guess. You get to go find a new dream.

What do I do once my dream has come true?

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Part of That World

Hey friends!

I realized I have not given everyone much of an update on what's going on in my "Disney life." While I can't divulge too much information, I would still like to give friends, family, and my blog readers some insight into what has been happening since my initial audition with Disney Entertainment.

My audition was on March 11th, and 9 days later I got an email from Disney Casting. The email said that they'd like to see more of me for potentially being friends with a lovely Disney lady. I made an audition callback video and sent it to Casting. About a week later, I got an email from Disney saying that I would be ideal for close friendships with not just one, but two popular Disney princesses.

When I had my first audition here in Michigan, I put on my audition form that I would not be able to start work until July or August. My guess is that I wasn't extended immediate employment simply because they would have no idea what positions will be available in 5 or 6 months. It makes absolute sense. I'm essentially just waiting for Disney to give me a call and start the process of getting me down there.

A couple girls that I auditioned with got callbacks as well, and were actually selected to begin their Disney adventures very soon! MaKenzie and Cassi are going to be moving at the end of May, and are even going to be roommates! Both are very sweet girls that will do an amazing job... I seriously have no doubt.

When Cassi had her interview, the interviewer told her that they basically call people based on the start date that they gave to Disney on that form we all had to fill out. Both Cassi and MaKenzie had "ASAP" listed, so I'm hoping that I'll get a call by June with some good news.

Matt and I are really trying to prepare ourselves for the possibility of moving. The tough thing is that without knowing a definitive answer, it's a challenge to know what to prepare for exactly. We do have a home and two pets that we have to think about. Finding an apartment will be more of a challenge with two pets. Physically moving will be more of a challenge with two pets. We already have many belongings that we'll need to take with us. It's not like we're just starting out and are going to buy a bunch of new stuff anyway. We already have everything we'll need to get by, we just need to get it down south. For me, the "up in the air" feeling is the most stressful thing going on right now. It's not even a stress related to the job, it's a stress related to the moving process. I'd really like to get a jump start on it.

I know there are quite a few people out there who have wanted a special life experience with the Disney Company since they can remember. I'm one of them. I have always been drawn to it. Honestly, I can sometimes lack confidence in my abilities and my feelings. But not with Disney. I never have. It's this gut feeling that I just KNOW where I'm supposed to be and what I'm supposed to be doing. And it's a GREAT feeling to know that there's a home and a future just waiting for me.

Thanks so much to all of you for your support and well wishes. It puts a smile on my face daily to think about how many people get me and understand my dreams. Before this journey started, I truly had no idea that there were so many people that believed in me. I sort of always felt I was standing on my own, and just hoping I could someday prove to both myself and to others that I could really do this.

I'll leave you guys with a letter that I wrote in my Disney autograph book when I was ten years old. I was a bit dramatic and missing my favorite place. The result was quite humorous and sweet.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

My Big Audition!!!

I'm sure so many of you are dying to hear how my audition for Walt Disney World Entertainment went on March 11th in Canton, MI. So, I will give you all the low-down starting with Monday night before my audition day.

After work on Monday, my nerves were not as bad as they had been the previous weeks. I just kept thinking, "I'll do my best, and what is meant to be will be." However, I ended up breaking out into itchy hives all over my back. It was humorous. My wonderful husband went out to get me Benadryl. Soon, I was sleepy from the medicine and was out like a light.

My alarm went off very early the next morning. As soon as Matt got home from work, he changed his clothes, we took Ellie to his parent's house, and we were on the road. I was really not that anxious, but I still had a breakout of hives on my back. We made it up to the dance studio at about 9:45, which was 15 minutes before sign-ups actually began. At that point, my heart was absolutely racing.

When I was standing in line to get signed up, I met some REALLY sweet girls that ended up being my saving grace at the audition. I was very nervous thinking about if I'd meet nice people there, and if there would be really supportive girls that weren't catty. The girls I met made the experience more fun than stressful.

When all 152ish of us were totally signed in, we were squished into a tiny studio together. All of us were sweating and just wanted to get started. The energy was SO high! It was wonderful and infectious! The group was split into two, and we learned a simple dance pretty quickly. Everyone lined up to perform that dance in front of the casting director from Disney. They then made a large cut. About 50 people were asked to stay and continue on with the audition. I was pretty surprised that my number was called, because I messed up on the dance the last time that I did it. However, I guess he saw something in me, and it was enough to keep me.

The really fun and spunky choreographer taught us about animation and also taught us the second dance sequence. The second dance sequence was quite a bit more difficult than the first. While the moves themselves weren't hard, it was challenging to learn the dance because there were SO many people in that tiny studio trying to watch the very short choreographer. About 75% of the time, I couldn't see what she was doing, so I just had to do my best at following along. The dance was taught really quickly, in my opinion. There were a lot of REALLY good dancers that clearly have been taking dance since they were a kid, so picking up the dance very quickly was easy for them. This was just painfully intimidating to me.

We all left the room and had a few minutes to go to the restroom before they started calling us in to perform the dance and animation sequences. I wanted to go in a nearby studio to practice by myself, but I had to stay in the main room in case they called my number. They weren't calling in order, so I wasn't sure when it would be my turn.

I ended up getting called in with four other girls, sort of toward the end of everyone else. I felt really really good about my animation performances. Acting like a crazy fool is so easy to me, and I knew that was where my confidence was. The first time I performed the dance I messed up quite a bit. I knew I had to make up the second try at the dance. I did so much better the second time, but still not perfectly. Still, I kept smiling and reminding myself that I was just happy to be getting a chance at this. The casting director then asked us to just stand there so he could look at us and take some notes about our appearance. I could see the reflection of the other girls I was with in the mirror, and some of them looked so nervous that they couldn't smile and be happy. That was my reminder to smile big and just beam with energy so I could stand out. All five of us got asked to stay out in the lobby after we left the room.

I was SO excited that I got asked to stay. I ran over to Valerie (a new pal I met) to tell her that I was going to be staying with her. I was really hoping they wanted to take pictures of us because they were considering us for "face." Valerie and I joined about eleven or twelve other girls to get our pictures taken when the dance/animation auditions were over. I just kept saying to myself, "I can't believe I made it this far. I cannot believe it." I was so disappointed with myself for not performing the dance like I KNEW I could have done it, so when they asked me to stay I was just floored.

After that, I was free to leave. I ran out to Matt in our car and told him I got pictures taken. Then... I started crying. Of course!

I was (and still am) in such disbelief that they held me, given how poorly I did at the dance. I knew that I just kept smiling and beaming with confidence even though I was messing up the second dance. I remember a moment in my brain where I thought to myself, "Stacey, you just screwed up the first chance to show them that you actually CAN dance well... you have to make up for it in your animation if you want to get your lifelong dream job." My nerves definitely got to me in that dance studio. I was getting frustrated with myself when I was learning the dance because I couldn't get focused. My mind was racing the entire time. I think that everyone that's auditioned before in their life can say that they've had "that kind" of audition before. Where you walk out thinking, "What is wrong with me today?!" Yesterday was definitely that kind of audition for me. Plus, I'm so hard on myself that no matter what I did in there, I'd probably walk out saying that I could have done better.

Matt treated me to The Melting Pot (by my request) after my audition. We had such a great meal. It was the perfect way to top off a successful day.

If you or someone you know is thinking of auditioning for Disney, these are my tips. First of all, no matter what you do... SMILE! It needs to come from within and it needs to be genuine. If you don't believe in yourself, they may not believe in you either. If you mess up, OWN IT! Don't point out your mistake with your face. Instead, accept it and move on with a smile on your face. Be kind to everyone around you. It makes the experience more fun when you support your fellow auditioners, instead of being catty. When you're performing your animation and dance, do what they ask you to do, instead of trying to be a princess. They want to see your versatility. If everything you do is done so sweetly and graceful, you're not showing them that you have multiple skills. Lastly, take pride in your appearance when you're there. Whatever you usually do to your hair (or makeup) that makes you feel the most confident, do it for the audition. Wear something that makes you comfortable, but also an outfit that makes you feel confident. If you aren't feeling confident, they can probably tell.

That's it! I'm happy to answer questions, so feel free to ask. I will say that I can't talk about what our animation "concepts" were, or what the dance included. Other than that... ask away!

Thanks, friends!