Category Archives: Disney World

Feasting On Tragedy

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I attended my first writing conference last weekend. It was exhilarating and exhausting. It was scary (I have a serious shy person problem) and fun. Mostly, it was exciting. I stepped out of my comfort zone. I met new people. I read my work out loud. I talked to people who I want to be when I grow up, and I didn’t say anything stupid (mostly). I learned a ton, and I even slept on a bunk bed in a dorm!

By the time Sunday morning arrived, I was beyond tired, but I was inspired and anxious to get home and do ALL the things I learned to reach my goals big and small. Everything was awesome. And then I saw the news ticker at the bottom of the television screen in the cafeteria at breakfast.

20 PEOPLE DEAD IN MASS SHOOTING AT NIGHTCLUB IN ORLANDO

I finished my breakfast, attended the last session and closing ceremony, and loaded up my car for the long drive home. At check-out, where I handed over the keys to my dorm room, I saw the news ticker at the bottom of the television screen in the office of residential services.

50 PEOPLE DEAD IN MASS SHOOTING AT NIGHTCLUB IN ORLANDO

Fifty.

I got in my car, turned on one of the news channels on the satellite radio, and listened to the horror unfold for the next four hours while I made my way home. Just like after 9/11 and Aurora and Sandy Hook (and so on), I had to take it in. I had to feel the sadness and pain and fear and anger. I had to absorb it and let it race through my veins because why were those people experiencing unimaginable terror, shock, and loss and not me? Why was I having the time of my life at a writing conference? Why was I alive? Why were my children safe?

I fed the beast.

Halfway home, I stopped for coffee at a highway rest area. I was afraid to go inside. Eventually I did, but not without wondering the whole time if I were safer near the front entrance or toward the back of the building. I thought about how when I go to see a movie with my kids, we’re not only told to silence our cell phones, but also to be on the lookout for “suspicious characters” and to know where the nearest exits are. When did this become normal? When I returned to my car, I turned the news back on.

I fed the beast, and the universe took note.

On Monday, the strap on my favorite pair of shoes broke on my walk to get the kids at school. That evening, I noticed a mark on my face under my right eye that had changed from a red spot to a pimple-like bump just like the one that turned out to be a basal cell carcinoma a few years ago. I made an appointment to see my dermatologist on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, we lost Internet access at the house all day. Ugh. That afternoon, a police officer at school pick-up gestured aggressively at me because he didn’t like the way I brought my car to a stop at the crosswalk.

By Wednesday morning, I was convinced that if the sun was shining, the earth was burning. My shoe broke because I shop too much and spend too much money. The Internet went down to distract me from doing my work because I didn’t deserve the indulgence of being a writer. The police officer singled me out because I was a bad, irresponsible mother. And obviously I had skin cancer. On my face. Again.

I was sweating the small stuff. All of it. Meanwhile, 49 innocent people were dead and another 53 were injured. All of their lives – and their family and friends’ lives – were forever changed. Forever broken.

I watched, I read, I listened. I fed the beast.

On my drive to the dermatologist, I listened to a news update about a two-year-old boy who was snatched from his father’s arms by an alligator and presumed dead at Disney World. And about an up-and-coming pop star from “The Voice” who was shot dead by a deranged fan. And about the wife of the nightclub shooter who knew of his of murderous plans but didn’t speak up.

I imagined the stitches, the bandages, and the scar I would have after another Mohs surgery on my face because I didn’t take good enough care of my skin.

I fed the beast.

After an anxious wait, the dermatologist walked into the examination room, looked at my face closely with special light, and said, “You have a pimple.”

You. have. a. pimple.

These four words ended my feast.

I didn’t have skin cancer. I didn’t shop too much (for the most part). I didn’t not deserve to be a writer. I wasn’t a bad or irresponsible mother. I convinced myself that taking on others people’s pain would alleviate their grief (and my guilt), but instead of creating light, I let darkness spread. I spiraled into an abyss of negativity. I had a bad week, but I was alive. My kids were safe.

I feasted on tragedy, and I made myself sick.

Interestingly, the last session of my writing conference was about self-care. It was about taking good physical and emotional care of ourselves – preventing pain, developing healthy sleep habits, taking breaks, communicating well, acknowledging Imposter Syndrome, and trusting that we’re good enough – in the midst of stress, chaos, work, and life in general.

I have not taken very good care of myself this week.

I’m still going to watch the news. I’m still going to feel helpless and heartbroken for the lives lost and ruined. I’m still going to imagine the unimaginable, and I’m still going to wonder why? Why? But I’m going to try to stop eating when I’m full. I’m going to remember that punishing myself won’t set anyone free and that tragedy will sadly always be there when I come back to the table.

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Filed under anxiety, death, Disney World, fear

Home Is Where The Hard Is (Or, Us)

Our weekend trip to Disney was fun.  I mean, I knew we were going to have fun even if it was Clark Griswald’s “We’re all gonna have so much fucking fun we’re gonna need plastic surgery to remove our goddamn smiles” kind of fun, but it ended up being the real deal fun.

The hotel was fantastic, being with friends was a blast, FastPass+ rocked, the boys braved (and loved!) Splash Mountain, and I kicked everyone’s butt on Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin.

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My score! For real life!

I connected with my husband, laughed with my kids, went with the flow (even when the Polynesian Luau Dinner Show turned out to be a really bad idea), put my phone away, watched fireworks with my bare feet in the sand, and was present. Present.

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Magic Kingdom fireworks seen from the beach at Disney’s Polynesian Resort.

It was an amazing getaway, and it reminded me how much I totally and completely love my family and friends, and how easy and pure and comfortable and fun it is to be with them.

Then we came home, and home is hard.

Home is laundry and dinner that no one wants to eat and hockey gear and hurry up and bills and we’re out of milk and homework and alarms and school lunches and get dressed and tie your own shoes and you flooded the bathroom again and house projects that need to be done whether we stay or sell and relentless work schedules and writer’s block and pressure to publish and fear of rejection and the reality of rejection and I have nothing to wear and I feel fat and wanting to turn back time because parents do get old and they don’t age the way we want and not fitting in.

Home is uneasy. It’s lonely. It’s wanting more and wanting less. It’s wondering what’s next. It’s wishing days and relationships and health and to-dos and everything were easier, lighter, and happier.

Like when we were away.

I’ve felt an unexplainable sadness this week. A similar feeling washed over me when Mike and I returned from our 10th anniversary  cruise.  As soon as the ship sailed away, we rediscovered the Us that had been lost in the grind of our home life. Quite frankly, it was a relief to know it was still there, but as soon as we disembarked, it was lost again. Last weekend, I caught a glimpse of Us again – this time the Us that included our children – but the glimpse was too brief, and the return home has been jarring.

Home is where life is. Real life and all of the chaos and grit that buries Us deep. Home is where the heart is, but home is where the hard is, too.

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Us.

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Filed under Disney World, family, friendship, travel, vacation

The Boy Who Cried Poop

We just returned from a weekend trip to Disney World, and, of course, I have a poop story to tell. (For the record, I also have pee story about a boy and a lei at a luau, but that’s a tale for another day.)

As my boys get older, I worry about telling pee and poop stories for obvious reasons. But in this instance, there are valuable lessons to be learned, and thus, I I’m sharing it because it’s in the poopy trenches of Mamahood that we earn our stripes (and glasses of wine at the end of the day).

We made a brief stop at Downtown Disney on Sunday morning because we didn’t get a chance to shop on Main Street at the Magic Kingdom the day before. Dylan predictably chose an Iron Man Lego set at the Lego store, and Riley unpredictably chose a Pirates of the Caribbean treasure box play set at my suggestion and in less than ten minutes, which was a personal record for my adorable but slowest shopper ever. After the shopping was complete, we grabbed lunch before hitting the road. On our walk back to the car, I asked both children, “Do you need to go to the bathroom? Daddy and I don’t plan to make any stops on the drive home. If you need to go to the bathroom, you should go now. Do you need to go?”

Lesson One: Don’t ask if your children need to use the bathroom; rather command them to go.

Once we pulled out of the zoo of a parking lot at Downtown Disney, which was chock full of clean restrooms, Riley announced, “I have to poop! It’s coming! I have to go really, really badly!”

And just like that, our relaxing retreat at the Happiest Place on Earth was over. With a bang.

“What?!?!” I yelled. “Keep it inside!”

“I can’t!” he said.

“Don’t let it out!  You’re a big boy.  You can do it.  I know you can!”

Lesson Two: In a situation like this, be descriptive and explicit, appeal to their maturity, and stay positive.

It took about ten excruciating minutes of stop and go traffic, red lights, multiple “Don’t let it outs!” and general panic from everyone in the car (except Dylan who was happily playing Subway Surfer on his Kindle and clearly grateful that the chaos had nothing to do with him) before we finally pulled into a Chevron station. The store looked decent, so I had high hopes for the bathroom, especially since we’d be in there for an eternity. While Mike pumped the gas, Riley and I, both in a cold sweat, rushed into the store and swiftly asked the woman behind the counter, “Where’s your bathroom?”

Her response was, “I’m sorry, Hon. The bathrooms are out of order.”

Of course.

Lesson Three: Expect the unexpected. Always.

I rushed Riley back to the car so we could find another bathroom, which I knew would require approximately six traffic lights and twelve U-turns and by then it would be too late. Mike’s brilliant solution was to let him poop in the bushes behind the gas station.

Lesson Four: Never ever leave the children alone with Daddy.

Flabbergasted and terrified of poop happening in all the wrong places, I hurled Riley into his booster seat. As I fumbled with his seatbelt, he reached forward to grab his Kindle from the seat pocket.

“Riley,” I said annoyed, “I need to buckle you first because we have to find another bathroom. Quickly.”

He said, “It’s okay, I don’t have to go anymore.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“I don’t have to poop.”

“Riley,” I said through gritted teeth, “Once we get on the highway, we’re not stopping for three and a half hours. You’re telling me you don’t need to pee or poop?”

“Yes,” he said.

“Riley, why did you tell us you had to poop and then yell and scream all the way to the gas station?” I asked.

“It was a joke,” he said.

Lesson Five: Children are ridiculous.

“Riley,” I said relieved and furious all at once, “That’s not a funny joke. That’s the kind of joke that could get you in big trouble. Like yelling fire when there is none or yelling for help in a pool when you don’t really need it. Do you remember the story of the boy who cried wolf?

“Yes,” he said.

“Do you understand why your joke wasn’t funny?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said. “Can I have my Kindle now?”

It should be noted that it was approximately 11:45am and for reasons unknown I hadn’t had a cup of coffee yet. I decided that his punishment would be twenty years of hard labor forcing him to go to the bathroom whether he wanted to or not and that the sentence would be carried out at a Starbucks, because surely I deserved a grande skim iced latte for being the Mama of this absurd child.

He begrudgingly peed at Starbucks while I sipped my coffee, and three and a half hours later he walked into the front door of our house and went straight to the bathroom and, you guessed it, pooped.

Lesson Six: Poop happens. (If you’re lucky, in a toilet.)

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Filed under bathroom, Disney World, poop