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.

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!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

What Is Disney Magic?

Confession: Almost every morning I watch the Magic Kingdom "Welcome Show" on YouTube, and every single time I watch it I get choked up.

So, during my daily Disney dose this morning, I found the little voice inside of my brain saying, "That's magic." I realized that "Disney Magic" is something that I never talked about on my blog before, and it's something that is so important to me.

I personally don't believe in David Copperfield kind of magic. It's an illusion and terrific planning. Then I went to Disney World when I was 9 and discovered that there's a different kind of magic that actually does exist in this world.

For me, Disney magic is something you can feel inside of you. It's something you can see in front of you. It's a contagious energy. I've wondered before what creates the magic that touches so many of us.

It dawned on me that the core of the magic is given by Disney Cast Members. It's a wonderful gift that's shared by people that truly believe in it as well. Without Cast Members that care about the company and their jobs, the Disney Company would just be another mediocre amusement park. Every single dancer in a show gives their all with each performance, and it's SO obvious that they care. When a little girl meets Cinderella for the first time and embraces Cinderella so tightly... that's magic. That means that there is a real connection between the guest and the Cast Member.

A few years ago on my birthday, I was in Magic Kingdom looking at merchandise in the Emporium, when a Cast Member asked how I was and saw my birthday button and asked if he could have my button. I handed it to him, and after a few seconds he handed it back to me. He changed the writing on the button from "Stacey" to "Princess Stacey." It was something so subtle and sweet that I'll always remember. I keep it displayed in my Disney room and smile every single time that I look at it.

I think that another element to Disney magic is the quality of work that Disney puts out. It's called the "Disney Difference." A good example that always comes to my mind is when I went to Six Flags in Illinois with my family, and I sat down to eat lunch (very bad Chinese food) under a pavilion. I looked up, and the ceiling paint had clearly been chipping. But, instead of Six Flags painting the whole ceiling, they just got some red paint that barely matched, and painted the chipping areas in patches. It looked awful, cheap, and lazy. However, Disney has TEAMS of people that do NOTHING but paint stuff all over the parks. Every little thing looks so immaculate and cared for.

Disney is always trying to immerse guests in a story. They go all out to make sure that you get a wonderful experience in whatever you're doing. Shops, restaurants, attractions, walkways even are all in a theme that tells a story. There are little details around every corner, and all you have to do is look for them.

Anyone else out there believe in Disney magic?

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The First Step

I cannot believe that I am actually getting to type this news on my blog.

In two weeks, I am going to be auditioning for Disney Entertainment for a Character Performer/Lookalike role.


If any of you know ANYTHING about my dreams, you would know that my goal since I was a young girl has been to work for the Disney Company in entertainment. It has been the never ending dream that I just refuse to give up on. This dream of mine has actually altered my entire life.

As a child, I constantly wanted to dress up as the Disney princesses for Halloween (or any random day). We didn't have a lot of money, but my mom worked with a woman that could make costumes. I recall dressing up as Cinderella and Ariel when I was around 4-6 years old. I wanted to wear these outfits all around the house all day, every day. At age 4 I was obsessed with Ariel. A few years later it was Cinderella and Belle. When I was 8 or 9 I became absolutely infatuated with Pochohantas to the point that I had a Pocohantas comforter, pillows, and curtains. That was all I asked for for my birthday one year. I suppose the love for Disney princesses/female characters never left me since I still get goosebumps when Cinderella waves to me during a parade at Walt Disney World.

Soon after I graduated from high school, Matt (my husband) and I decided that we wanted to move to Orlando for me to pursue my dream. We had a place to live all lined up and a time-frame for the move. However, we ended up backing out of it for a few reasons. Leaving my mom has always been a huge fear of mine, and I felt as though the transition of me graduating and then just up and leaving would be a struggle for both of us. Matt and I feared not having enough money saved up to make it down there. It was sort of a rushed decision that we just didn't feel totally prepared for.

Fast forward a few years. Matt and I got married. I took a job at a bank and we bought a house, both of which I insisted would be temporary until we figured out the blueprint for the big move. It was always my goal... every second of every day, Disney was my goal. Somehow the years just flew by in a huge blur. Eventually, I learned that Matt had a secret fear of moving away from Michigan all together. This hit me like a ton of bricks and I had no idea how to handle it. We eventually worked through this and he's now totally on board with the move, and he understands that I HAVE to try and make this dream of mine possible. I couldn't live with myself if I didn't try.

Even though quite a lot of time has passed since I could have started work at Disney, nothing has changed for me. The fire in my belly is still burning like crazy. I look very young still, and my body is in better shape than it has been in years. I feel so prepared for this upcoming audition. I have talked to many people that have worked for Disney, as well as a few who have actually been "friends" with characters in the parks.

Despite feeling prepared, I still feel haunted by self-doubt. I'm constantly criticizing myself, which is just awful. My inner critique is always, "your nose isn't symmetrical, your teeth aren't white enough, your eyebrows look weird, be careful of that arm fat." Clearly, I'm psyching myself out! I just have to be me, and either the casting directors like what they see, or they don't. I know I have it in me to be exactly what they are looking for... I just have to show them.

There are so many people encouraging me to audition and flooding me with positive energy. It's so great that Matt is supporting me and giving me advice. He keeps me grounded. He reminds me that there are other girls out there that want it just as badly as I do and are just as qualified, so I am going to have to work really hard at that audition. Of course, my mom is excited for me to finally get this opportunity, since she knows better than anyone how much this means to me.

My biggest cheerleader and inspiration for this experience is actually someone I've never even met in my life. I came in contact with her in such a strange way... YouTube. Rachel and her friend Jennifer made a video on YouTube talking about what it was like working for Disney as a character performer. Rachel is so incredibly positive that it is just infectious. You know how sometimes people tell you nice things, but you yourself have a hard time believing that they mean what they're saying? Yeah, this isn't like that. She so genuinely believes in me. I can't thank her enough for giving me that extra push and filling me with confidence.

Matt and I are still trying to sell our house. We recently got rid of our real estate agent, and have decided to sell the house on our own. This allows us to be more competitive with our asking price. Even if I got a position down in Florida right now, I would be able to accept it and have 6 months to get down there to work. That's a lot of time, and I'm sure with the proper motivation, we'd be able to get the house sold.

Sure, my heart races every single time I think about the audition, but I am SO SO SO ready! I'm bringing it, Disney!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Back to Reality

Doesn't it suck, my friends?

Knowing that your wonderful WDW vacation is over and you had to come back home to real life. While some parts of my every day to day life are great, like my pets, my bed, Netflix, and my family, I honestly miss Disney like crazy... and I've only been away for less than a week.

Currently, I'm at home writing on my blog because I have caught an awful cold. Maybe it's from the plane. Maybe it's from public restrooms. Maybe it's from the filthy little youths running amuck at Disney World (I kid, I kid). While it could be any of those things, I'm going to put my money on my body totally rejecting real life.

I had such a wonderful time on my vacation... especially the last few days. There are so many funny stories and memorable moments that I hope I'll always remember. I still have to edit the majority of my pictures, but I think you guys might like to hear about some of the more memorable experiences of my recent WDW trip.

  • I was gifted the lovely experience of a private security screening at Detroit Metro Airport. Yes. Groping at the airport is something that I had never experienced until this trip. My Express Portofino shirt had studded pockets which set off the screening machine. The TSA agent had to pat down my chest area (AKA, touch my boobs). No biggie. The TSA agent asked to go through my belongings (which was just my purse), as well as do a hand swab. Again, I just assumed it was protocol and didn't think much of it. At this point Barbara, Ben, and Matt all found this funny and watched as the woman swabbed my hands and looked through my purse. Soon after she opened up my purse, the computer displayed the results of my hand swab... "EXPLOSIVES DETECTED." She sighed and told me it was because of my lotion (glycerin is a common ingredient in explosives), and that she'd have to do a private security screening. At this point, it was just getting funny. Two female TSA agents took me into a back room, and one of them proceeded to politely feel me up. By the end of the pat down I was talking to both agents about doing theater and performing. As I walk out of the screening room, there's Barbara snapping pictures of me on her phone. Even though we almost missed our flight, and we didn't get to stop for coffee (the only sad part of this story), it was a hilarious (and educational) experience. 
  • During our visit to Be Our Guest Restaurant in the Magic Kingdom, a man walked up to me as I was grabbing napkins and silverware and asked if I was a cast member. I told him that I wasn't, but I'd like to be. He told me that he saw me during the park opening show, and asked how I knew the words to the song. Uhh... I just listen to the song nearly every day at work, and anytime that I feel like a need a pick-me-up. He didn't like my response. The man said, "Are you sure you're not a cast member?" Yes, sir. I'm sure. The man said, "So, you just listen to the song a lot? That's it?" Yep...pretty much. 
  • I'll go into more detail of our pretty rough dinner at 'Ohana in another blog post, but let me just say that it was without a doubt, the worst dining experience I have ever had on Disney property. It really didn't have much to do with the food. It had to do with the many issues that we had, and how they were not addressed properly. It was the first time I've ever had to speak with a manager at a restaurant. 
  • We experienced a very strange version of the Indiana Jones show at the Studios. There was a big technical difficulty mid-show that they didn't seem to know how to handle. At first I thought that it was just a new part to the show that I hadn't seen before, but when the actors started to obviously try and stall until a solution was determined, I knew something was going wrong behind the scenes. Pretty much everything after the opening scene of Indy and the boulder was different. They even said that they had to improvise the next stunt scene. After that, the show ended and the theater was cleared out. 
  • I finally got to conquer the Kitchen Sink at Beaches and Cream! It was one of my favorite dining experiences I've had at WDW. Ever! In the end, the bowl was a sloppy melted mess of ice cream and whipped cream. For an extreme ice cream lover such as myself, it was a dream come true. I was the last man standing, and the bowl had to be pried out of my grip before I'd stop eating. I regret nothing.

  • Spice Road Table was absolute perfection. We loved it so much that we actually ended up eating there twice during our vacation. Nadia, our first waitress that hailed from Morocco, is easily one of the best Disney cast members there is. She really gave us a cultural dining experience that I will not soon forget.

  • After Matt's birthday dinner, us ladies wanted to just take a cab back to Pop Century. The boys insisted we save some money. Not realizing that the Studios closed early that night, our plan to take the boat to the Studios and then hop a bus to Pop Century was foiled. We got a cab at the Beach Club, and proceeded to have one heck of an experience thanks to our crazy ass cab driver.  Barbara kept saying awkward things to him. One question being, "So...what are you up to tonight? Any big plans?" The cab ride ended with the guy insisting we pay him in cash, and then giving us his business card and explaining his name is, " Chaka Khan." Exiting the cab, we all turned to each other as I asked, "Did he just say Chaka Khan?" 
  • Barbara and I had an epic battle of bar seating with three fellow guests at Tambu Lounge. We went there to get a drink after dinner at Captain Cook's. Every seat was taken at the bar, so we patiently waited for something to open up. After about ten minutes, this girl that looked a few years younger than us along with her two guy friends came into the area and waited for seats as well. We see three seats opening up at the bar right in front of us, and as we approach the seats quickly, this other girl swoops in and sits in one of them. She gives us a very dirty look as we sit in the two seats next to her. Clearly, she had assumed her two friends deserved those seats. They were all dolled up and obviously thought they were too cool for school. After the dirty look we received, it was on. We anxiously awaited two more seats at the bar to open up, or a nearby table in the 'Ohana waiting area. Whispers were exchanged, more crappy looks were thrown, but eventually, we won and got two seats on either side of us after the girl and her friends gave up.
  • After we left the airport on Thursday, I was hungry. We made a stop at Del Taco for the first time. It. Was. Awesome. We paired that with a few episodes of New Girl and had one heck of a night. 
Once I get my pictures edited, I promise I'll share some of them with you! Thanks to all of you that followed along during my vacation on Twitter, Instagram, and/or Facebook. It's almost like you were right there with me. :) 

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Think of All the Joy You'll Find...

The big day is so close! In just one week from right now, I'll be on my way to Disney World with some of my favorite people on the planet.

This week was a real challenge to get through. I'm not sure why, but I feel like I have been just muddling through every day. I keep trying to find ways to keep my spirits up despite being stressed out about work, home life, future life, and every other little stressor that comes along. Now that Disney is just one week away, I have to tell myself that it can only get better from here.

On Thursday, I was drawing a picture of Michael from Peter Pan in my Wreck This Journal, and played the song "You Can Fly!" over and over and over again. A few weeks ago I realized just how happy that song makes me feel. Since then, I sing it to myself ALL THE TIME! It makes me think about how Disney is my Neverland. I don't even have to be there and it becomes an escape just to think about Disney World.

When I'm at Disney World, I'm not Stacey from Michigan. I'm not 25, going on 26. I'm not a Customer Service Representative at a bank. I'm not defined by any of that. I just feel like... me. The kind of me that I want to be every second of my life... carefree, hopeful, childlike, confident, and independent. There are no boundaries or limits as to what you can be when you're at Disney World. When I am there I feel free from judgements and obligations. The knob that controls my imagination is turned all the way up, and it feels wonderful.

Before I get to that wonderful place, I have a lot of things I need to do this weekend to prepare for the trip. Wash clothes, start packing, buy toiletries, buy Clif bars, and purchase some birthday surprises for Matt. Ellie went to the groomers yesterday, so she is all set to spend the week at Matt's parent's house (that's her Disney World). On Wednesday, Matt and I are going to go get pedicures together. He got me a gift certificate for a mani/pedi for my birthday back in April, and I still have yet to use it. I'm not into the idea of going to a nail salon by myself, but if I have someone that'll go with me then I'm all for it.

Speaking of stuff to do, I should probably stop laying on my couch and writing on my blog. I've got a fun vaca to get ready for. :)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Details

24 days until I am home!

My travel crew is so excited about our upcoming Disney vacation... as am I. I have been hammering out the details with my friend, Barbara, and we have everything planned out pretty darn well at this point. Our park tickets have been bought, Fastpass+ selections made, dining reservations are done, and we just got our Magic Bands in the mail!

Now that I know what Fastpass+ is all about and how it actually works first hand, I feel way less stressed about it than I was before my trip in November. When I first heard about Fastpass+, I thought, "isn't that kind of scheduling excessive?" In theory, yes. In practice, no. It's kind of nice knowing that I don't have to hurry and accomplish three attractions first thing in the morning, because I already have a place in line for later in the day. At mostly every park, it means that I just need to get to a couple of the more popular attractions in the morning, then take it easy from there. I seriously have no concern at all that we won't get to do something that we want to.

If you know anything about me, you know that I go to Disney World to have fun and eat. Or is that have fun eating? Eh, it all applies. Barbara and I were, of course, in charge of our food choices for the trip. My husband is the birthday boy during the trip, so he had a few requests as well. We have two painfully more expensive restaurants picked out, and the rest of our sit-down meals will be less expensive. Here is what the layout of our vaca looks like.

Saturday - Early flight, breakfast and snacks on the plane, maybe a snack at Pop Century, then off to Animal Kingdom. We'll grab a bite to eat at Yak and Yeti without a reservation. Our Fastpasses are for Expedition Everest, Kilimanjaro Safari, and Primeval Whirl. That evening, we're going to head to Downtown Disney to grab dinner at Earl of Sandwich (I haven't been there in years), and Babycakes for breakfast on Sunday.

Sunday - Magic Kingdom day! Our Fastpasses for this day are Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Enchanted Tales with Belle, and Peter Pan's Flight. We're going to be getting a Fastpass for Be Our Guest Restaurant for lunch. I can't wait to take Ben and Barbara there! Dinner is going to be at 'Ohana. After that, we'll grab a Lapu Lapu (mmmm) and head down to the Poly beach to watch Wishes. We'll wrap up the night with Extra Magic Hours at Magic Kingdom.

Monday - Hollywood Studios day! Our Fastpasses are for Tower of Terror, Great Movie Ride, and Toy Story Midway Mania. We'll grab lunch at Sci-Fi (Barbara is really excited about this), a quick dinner at Pizza Planet (Matt will kill me if we don't go here), then we're going to take a break at Beaches and Cream to conquer the Kitchen Sink for the first time! Someone will have to roll us out of there.

Tuesday - It's Matt's birthday! I have some surprises in store for his birthday, but I totally won't give them away here and now. We're going to Epcot (the best park in the whole wide world) to spend the day eating and drinking. Our Fastpasses are for Soarin', Living with the Land, and Spaceship Earth. I'm crazy excited about our lunch plans at the new Spice Road Table. We'll, of course, make a few trips to my home away from home, La Cava del Tequila. I've been craving an avocado margarita and guac like a mad person lately. Later, we'll walk to the Beach Club for dinner at one of Matt's favorite restaurants, Cape May Cafe.

Wednesday - Another Magic Kingdom day! Our Fastpasses include Under the Sea, Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin, and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Barbara and I decided yesterday that we're gonna give the Plaza Restaurant a try for lunch. I've never been there before, but have always wanted to. Since counter service options kind of blow at the Kingdom, we're going to take the boat over to the Polynesian Resort and grab dinner at Captain Cook's. Mmm... dole whip.

Thursday - Sadly, this is our last day. However, we are spending it in Epcot, so it can't be all bad. We have a lot of time to play because we have a late flight. We chose Test Track, Living with the Land (yes, we love it a lot), and Turtle Talk with Crush as our Fastpasses for the day. Since Epcot is filled with great counter service food options, we're going to play our meals by ear. I just know I'm ending the day with a margarita.

I'm trying to hammer out a situation I have with My Disney Experience. I haven't gotten it entirely taken care of yet, but when I do I'll be back to report an update.

Until next time...