Inside Out and Upside Down

Inside-Out-Teaser-PosterInside Out is an adorable and smart movie about the emotions living inside 11-year-old Riley’s head. Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust work together to guide Riley through transitions and the ups and downs of life.

The movie made me smile. It also made me think about how I approach life and react to problems. Do I respond with joy, sadness, disgust, anger, fear or a combination of emotions?

Ultimately, it made me think of who or what is manning my control center.

I like to think it’s joy, but I know it can be sadness, disgust, fear and anger as well. This isn’t always bad – these emotions work together for our good unless we give one too much control.

I think we have a problem in the church. I’m going to call it the “curse-of-always being-blessed-and-having-no-other-adjective-syndrome”. It’s pretty serious. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. You’ve talked to that lady (or man) at church before who is always blessed, right? Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about (unless you are that person, in which case, bless you).

For some people suffering with the “curse-of-always being-blessed-and-having-no-other-adjective-syndrome” they have the misfortunate fortune of nothing ever going wrong. Nothing breaks, they can go on vacation, they have a good job, their kids are not crazy and their dog is even sweet. They are #blessed.

Then there’s the person whose car is making weird noises, they are scrounging money for a weekend getaway, they are thankful for their job, but don’t get paid much and there are holes in the carpet from where they pray on their knees each night for their kids. They are blessed too.

See how this can be annoying? Sunshine and rainbows do not equate being blessed. Being a Christian does not mean you must be happy 24/7. Having the Spirit of the living God active and alive in you means you’re blessed. A better word would be divinus, the Latin word meaning divinely inspired and sacred. I also love the Greek verb eulogeo meaning to praise or to consecrate with solemn prayer.

I once stopped in a church’s office where the receptionist quite literally answered “blessed” (insert sappy tone here) to my question of “how are you?”. This is too much people.

“Joy” does not man the control panel on her own. Let’s be the complex beings we were made to be filled with the Spirit and reflecting our Father’s love, whimsy, thoughtfulness, riskiness, courage and wisdom.

If blessed is still your favorite word, have yourself a little party in your pew and be happy. I’d rather be divinus. Want to join me?

To Infinity and Beyond!

1171308My Disney College Program has come to an end.  I have learned much from my time at Disney.  For example, I’ve learned how to stay behind the yellow line and exit through the open doors to my left.  (It’s surprisingly a confusing concept for many Guests).  I’ve learned how to Disney point, answer a question and yell the next show time all at the same time and all while smiling.  (This takes practice).   I’ve also learned how to unlock about 30 different types of stroller brakes and how to park correctly.  (Trust me, there are many wrong ways to park a stroller).   And most importantly, I’ve learned how to wear white pleated granny pants with over-sized button up shirts.  (Stylish, I know, but please don’t try this at home).

Although I had planned on staying with Disney and moving to Orlando, I have recently had a change of plans and will be staying home.  This was an unexpected decision, but one I am very excited about.  I don’t know what lies ahead, but I look forward as the adventure continues to unfold.  The sky is the limit and I’m dreaming to infinity and beyond!

I am so thankful for all the memories I made at Walt Disney World.  I loved working at Hollywood Studios, my favorite park since I was little, and I loved being a Cast Member, which truly was a dream come true.  I treasure the friends I’ve made and all the special memories I’ll carry with me.

It’s always hard leaving Walt Disney World, the most magical place on earth, but instead of saying goodbye, I think I’ll just take my cue from my pal Mickey and say, “I’ll see ya real soon!”


50108Have you ever gotten the travel bug?  The itch to go someplace far away or exotic or just someplace new?  Every now and then I’ll feel the deep desire to travel – to see something new, experience history, relax far away from home, or go to a favorite vacation spot.  

 I just finished reading Eat, Pray, Love, and page after page describes the vivaciousness of Italy, the intrinsic tranquility of India and the unique beauty of Indonesia, and I find myself thinking, “I wonder what it would be like to ride an elephant, take a bike ride through endless fields, eat pasta and pizza like a mad woman, dance, laugh and eat strange and delicious food.”  So that is why I am now in Italy.  

 Well, to be exact, I’m at the Italy pavilion in Epcot, but hey, I’ll take what I can get.  I love traveling, but random adventures wherever you are can be just as exciting.  This is why walking around the World Showcase at Epcot is one of my favorite things to do.  I pretend I really am in Morocco as I listen to the exotic music of the drums, the delicious hand-twisted pretzel I enjoy in Germany reminds me of my travels in that beautiful country and a walk through France brings memories of the culture and romance of that wonderful city of love.  I pass Japan and Canada and think of all the places I’d like to go someday.  I also think of my family – a photo shoot in Morocco, piling into a British phone booth, and dancing in . . . well, every country!

So this Christmas, may many random adventures be yours! 
Cheers, au revoir, auf wiedersehen, adios, ciao!

Mickey, Magic and Memories

8939221Being a Cast Member is all about creating happiness for our Guests. Cast Members can make or break someone’s vacation.  Although there are many magical moments you experience while working at the parks, there is another side to the magic that Mickey doesn’t always tell you about . . . the Guests.  Guests can be perfectly charming or they can be perfectly difficult (the latter are often my favorite).

As a Cast Member, you get a variety of less than intelligent questions from less than well meaning Guests.  The Honey I Shrunk the Kids Playground and the Voyage of the Little Mermaid show are perfect examples.  I know it can be overwhelming coming to Walt Disneyworld and planning what shows and attractions you can enjoy all in a day’s time, and I know that the Show Times Guide, which coincidentally states all the shows and show times, can be a little confusing, and the giant board with the attraction wait time can be easy to miss, but that’s where us Cast Members come into play.  We’re here to answer all your questions such as, “What time does the 3:00 parade start?”  “Do these stairs go up or down?”  “The sign says it’s a 45 minute wait, is it really a 45 minute wait?”  “The sign says 2:45, does that mean the next show is in 2 hours and 45 minutes?”  “Where’s the potty?”  “Does this door go in or out?”

Questions like these that have prompted a fellow Cast Member and I to start thinking about creating our own theme park.  Among all our brilliant ideas, I must say I have the best idea for this theme park.  Before a Guest can buy a ticket, he or she must take an I.Q. test.  Don’t worry it’s nothing difficult and it won’t take more than five minutes.  It will just ask simple questions such as:

When you see a yellow line, do you stand behind it, on it, or past it?
Upon approaching an attraction, what does the board with the wait time mean?
Nine times out of ten you can’t take food or drinks onto an attraction.  True or False.
The park closes at seven does that means all attractions are closed at seven?

For me, the most magical moments with Guests occur at the Playground.  The conversation usually goes as follows:
Hi!  Welcome to the Playground!” says Esther, the most cheerful Cast Member at the Studios.
“Thank you,” says the distracted Guest.
A few feet later one can hear the Guest mumble to his or her companion, “What is this?”
Finally, they turn around and ask, “What is this?”
“It’s a playground,” I reply with a smile.
“A what?”
“A playground.”
“It’s not a show?” says the distraught Guest.
“No, it’s not a show.”
“Where’s the show?”
“We don’t have a show here,” I answer.
“So this is just a playground?”
“Yes, this is just a playground.”

If I had a dollar every time I had this conversation with Guests, I’d be a rich woman!  But in spite of the many questions, there are moments with Guests where you remember why you’re here.  Like when a little girl gives you a hug because you picked her to be your First Mate at The Voyage of the Little Mermaid and she just happens to be Ariel’s biggest fan, the little boy who blows you a kiss because you gave him a sticker, the mom who is overjoyed when you choose her and her two girls to be your First Family and sit in the front of the show because her girls were sad that they had to say goodbye to their dad that morning because he had to go back to work.  It’s the moment where a husband and wife come up to you with an autograph book and ask for your autograph to thank you for creating magic and happiness – They were celebrating their anniversary, but were more concerned about thanking the Cast Members than making it to shows and attractions.  It’s also the Guest who watched you find a “Lost Parent” and thanks you for helping that parent even though they were just bystanders and did not know the family.  It’s the girl who asks you to tell Ariel that she says hi.  It’s the boy with special needs who thinks you’re a princess simply because you said hi and gave him a sticker. . .  Its unexpected moments like these where the real magic happens.

Walt Disney once said, “Of all the things I’ve done, the most vital is coordinating those who work with me and aiming their efforts at a certain goal.”  Well Walt, there are still some of us here who think of you and create magic and happiness for our favorite mouse.

Fireworks, Icecream and Mickey, Oh My!

2563676October brought with it a fun filled visit from my family.  Family vacations to Disney World have always been our favorite and this trip was no exception!  Joy and I showed off our wizardly ways at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, while the rest of the family made a grand adventure at the Animal Kingdom.  A day at the Magic Kingdom was fun and exciting.  Epcot was filled with random adventures – doesn’t everyone video tape “Living with the Land” with your own running commentary?  And a trip to Hollywood Studios included a fascinating tour by yours truly.  There were fireworks to see each night, Mickey icecreams to eat . . . each night, and of course Mickey Mouse to say hello to!
I love you guys!


4897534Fall is in the air, well not really, it’s still warm and wonderful, but it just seemed fitting to start out by saying that.  October brought with it the loveliness of fall as well as a surprise visit from my good friend and favorite former choir teacher Darren!  I was determined to make Darren’s first trip to Disneyworld a truly magical experience, so with Pluto hat, camera, trading pins and Disney crocs in tow, we began our journey at Epcot.

At Epcot, we journeyed to Mars, survived a crash test, soared over California (which is tricky when you’re in Florida) and we found Nemo.  A trip around the world was delightful, but the greatest delight of them all was seeing the parks though fresh eyes.  I’ve been determined not to take for granted the magic of being at Disneyworld, but being at the parks with someone seeing it all for the first time reminded me why I’m here and breathed life into that magic once again.  Speaking of magic, let’s go to the Magic Kingdom!

The Magic Kingdom was adorned with pumpkins and fall décor galore as the “Three Caballeros” set out to conquer Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.  The Headless Horseman led the way and thus began a parade filled with lovable characters and friendly spooks.  There were rides to ride, and candy to acquire and commandeer for children of all ages (just ask Darren and his magical “First Visit” button).  As if the night couldn’t be any better, fireworks lit the sky in true Disney form.  After all that ghostly music, we just couldn’t help ourselves, so we gathered up our courage to brave The Haunted Mansion.  You better not think I’m joking, because I’m dead serious . . .

After racing through space, enjoying a trip to Neverland and surviving “the wildest ride in the wilderness,” our haunted Halloween evening had to come to an end, or was it just the beginning?

What this fall will hold for us all, I can only guess.  But I do know this – Good friends are where the magic is.  So wherever you are this fall, whatever you’re doing, take time to celebrate the changes of the season with friends and family.  And with the falling of the leaves, may your cares fall to the ground.  Love, laugh and dream big.  It’s fall and anything is possible!  As Walt Disney said, “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”

Faith, Trust and Pixie Dust

4750575What do a playground, a mermaid and a playhouse have in common?  Well . . . me!  That’s right, throw some pixie dust on this Cast Member because yours truly is spreading her Disney Magic across Hollywood Studios!

Want to come along?  Then just think happy thoughts and off you go!  No, not to Neverland, but to the glamorous Hollywood of old.  Come with me to Hollywood Studios where every Guest is a Star.  Here at Hollywood Studios, we put you right in the middle of the action and let you experience the creation of the magic and the movies!

Our first stop is the Honey I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure.  Here Guests shrink and become smaller than ants as they play and explore this recreation of the backyard of the classic film,Honey I Shrunk the Kids.  Pose with Anty, slide down a giant role of film and climb a treacherous spider web if you dare.  This playground is not for the faint at heart!

Next stop is Playhouse Disney where kids of all ages can come and play at Mickey’s Clubhouse.  Dance and sing along with Mickey and friends, The Little Einsteins and Handy Manny in this live stage show!  If you like music and story time, then this is the place for you!  Come play with us at Playhouse Disney!

And finally, come under the sea to visit Ariel and her deep sea friends in a live stage production based on the characters and songs from The Little Mermaid.  This spectacular journey is one of a kind and is sure to entertain and inspire all Guests who love classic Disney.  What are you waiting for?  Let’s go!

Twists and turns abound in the journey, but with faith, trust and a little pixie dust, I am bound to soar!  And what better place to shine like a star than Hollywood Studios?  Some people may think this glamorous and picturesque Hollywood was never real and is just a figment of our imagination.  Perhaps I’m a hopeless romantic, or maybe the magic has just gone to my head, but I believe that this Hollywood was indeed real.  So come experience the magic, come and be a Star, come to Hollywood Studios!

The American Idol Experience

4131074We’re live in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 . . . . Hello everyone and welcome to The American Idol Experience!  Please welcome your host, Esther Owen!

Well, although I’m not the host of the show, I am now officially qualified to welcome you into our American Idol Experience Audition Facility, Studio 2B, and see you to your Casting Director where you will sing a 30 second a cappella song for your audition.  Are you ready to sing?  Alright, let’s go!  Then, if you make it past one of our Casting Directors, I will welcome you into our Coke-a-Cola Lounge where you will rehearse a song from our Idol song list to sing for the Producer.  This is when you really give it your all!  Are you ready to go?  Great!  As you’re singing for the Producer, they are not only listening to your voice, but are also checking to see how you look on camera, your stage presence and your song choice!

Did you make it past our Producer?  If you did, then congratulations!  I will now check you into our backstage access where hair and make-up, and voice coaches will take it from there!  Do you have family or friends with you?  Great!  I will now welcome them into The American Idol Experience theater where they will be shown to their VIP seats.  Don’t worry, we’ll get them in the theater before the rush of Guests come in.

Speaking of Guests, I hope you all enjoyed the pre-show as you were waiting to enter the theater!  And don’t forget to cheer for that cute blond girl giving an official Idol Spiel for the Guests waiting to come in to the theater!  Alright, are you in your seat now?  Great, because it’s show time!  Over to you Ryan Seacrest!

Destination Disney

838085I arrived in Florida last Monday and was immediately ushered into registration and orientation, all to the beat of the latest Disney Mania music mix, of course.  After recieving information about my role at the Casting Center, I headed back to my new apartment to meet my new roommates.

I enjoyed Traditions the next morning, where I got to watch videos of Walt Disney himself  and learned all about his legacy, and the part we play in honoring his legacy and his staying true to his philosophies.  A tour through Utiladors (the tunnels under the Magic Kingdom) was exciting, but the greatest moment was when Mickey Mouse himself came for a surprise visit and brought us our Cast Member name tags!

My first few days at work were overwhelming, but fun.  I am working at the attraction at Hollywood Studios called The American Idol Experience.  It is as it sounds – a show where you can experience American Idol, as see on TV.  You can sit in the audience and enjoy our Guest performers and even vote for your favorite one!  Or if you really want to experience American Idol, you can audition to be a participant in the show!

I was surprised to find out that The Disney College Program is not actually an internship.  The program just consists of working in the Parks.  Although it’s not what I expected, I’m looking forward to all that lies ahead.  Thank you for your support and prayers!  I love you and miss you all!

Just 10 more days to Go!

3471577“Beep, beep, beep.” 

You reach over to turn off your alarm clock and pull the covers back as you smile.  The sound of an alarm usually doesn’t warrant a smile, but today is different.  Today you’re going to Disneyworld.  You get up early to be there before the park opens.  You wait in the long line of excited Guests waiting to enter.  Then finally, it happens.  A loud and joyous announcement is made declaring that Disneyworld is now open.  As the lines begin to move forward, you join in with the eager chatter.  

 You can hear the sounds of children laughing, teens talking and parents delighting in the smiles of their kids.  You are enveloped in the tantalizing smell of popcorn as you pass the lively machine.  Then you see it. Cinderella’s Castle, tall and beautiful looming ahead of you like a perfect story book picture and you know it’s going to be a great day.  

 The sights and smells and sounds indulge your senses as you step into another world.  The change of music and scenery as you pass into Adventureland draws you into a time and place of the past where you are the adventurer.  You are now the character, the actor as you step from one world to another. The stage is set and the script is yours.  You are an explorer as you journey down the Nile River, you become the toughest Ranger in the West as you survive a daring train ride through the wilderness in Frontierland, you are a renowned innovator as you step into the future of Tomorrowland and you are the beloved princess who rules Fantasyland.  The past, present and future are yours as you move from one adventure to the next.  

 There is something in the air, charging the very atmosphere.  You look around to see what this could be, but you see nothing.  Yes, there is the music, the characters, the attractions and thrills which all lend to the excitement, but there is something more.  You look around again to find this incredible force.  As you look around once more, your eye catches something.  Just in front of the Castle you can see a statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse holding hands.  

 “That’s it,” you breathe.

 And you know, without saying a word, that the special element is that classic and ever present Disney magic.  It began with Walt Disney as he claimed a vision and pushed the envelope to make a dream a reality.   It began with Walt when he drew an optimistic little mouse on a blank page and brought him to life.  His legend is alive in the sights, sounds and smells of this blissful world.  Some call it Disneyworld; others call it the Happiest Place on Earth.  But whatever it is called, the magic is alive and as Walt said, “I only hope that we don’t lose sight of one thing – that it was all started by a mouse.”