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How I Roll: Disney-Style

So I live in Arizona (duh) and just a short 6 hour drive west on I-10 is the grand city of Los Angeles. The City of Angels…

and horrible drivers.

But that is neither here or there because what I wish to talk about is the magical place of dreams and make-believe that resides in a little suburb called Anaheim.

A little place called…

The Happiest Place on Earth!!!

Yes indeed folks, Disneyland, touted as the “Happiest Place on Earth”, is a mere 6 to 7 hour drive away from me at any given moment. All the wonderment and excitement and crippling debt lives so close I can taste it!

This past weekend (well, two weekends ago now because I started this post last week and am only just now finishing it), Patrick and I went on a little sibling trip (my sibs, not his) to the Disney Parks and it was pretty dang magical if I don’t say so myself. So magical that even God cried tears of joy for us that poured forth from the heavens and threatened to drown us. But the sparks of our merriment were not doused and we rallied forth into the rain and claimed all we saw…

From left to right: Marcus (bro), Morgan (bro GF), Kim (sis), Patrick (hubby), ME (me) We were looking for Nemo on the Finding Nemo Submarine ride. Two of us are claustrophobic so this was a silly ride to be on ;-).

From left to right: Marcus (bro), Morgan (bro GF), Kim (sis), Patrick (hubby), ME (me)
We were looking for Nemo on the Finding Nemo Submarine ride. Two of us are claustrophobic so this was a silly ride to be on ;-).

Okay, so in a normal person voice now:

It was awesome to have a little bonding time with the fam at Disney. And yes, it rained, A LOT. Which didn’t bother me so much except that my shoes got soaked and I hate having soggy shoes and wet feet– UGH! Also, on the way there we broke an axle in the Outback (henceforth to be called ‘Seabiscut’) at like… 11:30 p.m. and we had to call a cab to drive us the remaining hour and a half we had left to hour hotel and our cabbie was something special, oh yes indeed, talked our ears off and my favorite conversation starter was, “how do you fear the world will come to an end?” Philosophical musings at 1 a.m. is just not fair. It was 2 a.m. before we got to sleep and then it was up and at’em at 7 a.m. so we could walk to California Adventure to start our Disney weekend…

Crazy, huh? Amazingly enough none of that dampened anyone’s mood and we tackled the parks with the same fervor the Love’s (my family/madien name) usually do.

My family has been “Doing Disney” since before I was born. I’m a born and bred Disneylander and I know how to roll Disney-Style. So here are my tips and tricks, with pictures of the trip interspersed throughout, to rocking Disney Williams/Love-Style.

#1 – Always have a game plan.

You should never EVER walk into the gates of Disneyland or California Adventure without your game plan in tow. Some key things to remember when making a Disney Game Plan (henceforth known as DGP) are:

A) Get there when the parks open. You’d be surprised at how many rides you can walk right onto just by being the first ones through the gates. By noon the parks are crawling with parents w/ littles and foreigners who have no clue what personal space means. The burdens all Americans must bear ;-).

splashmountain

We lucked out and got to Splash Mountain just as it was reopening after a short closure. Relatively short wait 🙂

B) Know what is most important to you/your group. Is your DGP to get through lines as quickly as possible and hit every ride twice before lunch? Then strategize (mini side note: Google Chrome keeps telling me I am spelling “strategize” wrong… like it is not a real word. Had me convinced for second that it was right. Okay moving on…) based on ride popularity and fastpass time. For example, in CA Adventure, ALWAYS fastpass the Radiator Springs Racers if at all possible. The waits for that ride are ridiculous and will definitely slow your roll and crush your dreams (just sayin’). Another good one to fastpass is Soarin’ Over California. Simple ride with a astronomical wait. Finally, good rides to try and fastpass are the Tower of Terror and California Screamin’, their lines usually move at a good pace but they can still be quite long. In addition to being the rides to fastpass, they are also the ones to hit first upon entering the park. ToT and the Racers are near each other with Screamin’ not too far away, I usually recommend that course of action as your initial go to plan.

In Disneyland, you want to hit the mountains first. Fastpass one, wait for another, fastpass one, wait for another, and so on. Your mountains are Space Mountain*, Splash Mountain*, Thunder Mountain*, Matterhorn, and I’d even include Indiana Jones’ Temple of the Forbidden Eye* in this as well as Pirates of the Caribbean, even though neither of them are remotely mountain-like (* indicates rides with fastpass service). These rides will always be the ones with long waits. Always. Also, if the rides are what get you off (sorry to be crude), and you could care little about anything else, then always hit rides up during parades and shows. While those suckers are watching Mickey ‘Paint the Night’, you are riding space mountain 3X in a row.

First thing we saw when we entered Adventure? Oswald the Rabbit! Had to get a photo with him 😉

Now if your DGP is to get the full Disney experience, and you want to see the shows and the parades and meet the characters, be sure to know ahead of time when the various events are happening. Most shows, parades, and character sightings will happen more than once through out the day– schedule accordingly, you can look that stuff up online also there are some awesome apps in your app/play store that will help you keep everything straight, even ride wait times. Also, if you are interested in World of Color in CA Adventure a fastpass is a must! Well, its not like a requirement or anything but if you want any chance of having a good vantage point of the show you’ll want to get a fastpass for this. The fastpasses can be picked up at the Grizzly River Run Fastpass Kiosks early in the day. They are first come first serve so if this is important to you, you’ll want to beeline here and get your passes. I think Fantasmic in Disneyland has started doing fastpasses too but I wouldn’t know where to tell you to get them.

Whatever your game plan might be, it doesn’t matter, you do you and get the most from your Disney experience.

#2 Eat ONLY one meal in Park

I don’t want to say NEVER eat in the park because some of the Disney food is AH-MAY-ZING. I haven’t tried everything on this list, but this blog has a great list of Disneyland Resort Must-Haves, as far as food goes. We made special runs by

http://www.foodspotting.com/reviews/1148448

I borrowed this photo from a review on Foodspotting.com. Does the Monte Cristo not look amazing???

The Enchanted Tiki Room and Pooh Corner just to pick up some Dole Whip and Chocolate Peanut Butter Sandwiches– it was worth it. Also, and I wish I had taken a picture of it, the Monte Cristos of Cafe Orleans are TO DIE FOR. Seriously. TO DIE FOR. OMG. Hands down, the best thing I’ve ever eaten in the Disney Parks. It is going to set you back $18 but it is worth it and, if you don’t eat a lot, you can split it (I didn’t. I pigged out all on my own, but you totally can!) as it is way more food than one person should eat in a sitting (did I already say I ate it all by myself?).

This all being said, eating in the park is *CHA-CHING* expensive! Monstrous wallet denters, if you catch my drift. I suggest packing light snacks that will tide you over throughout the day (you can bring in food and liquids as long as none of it is in glass containers) and maybe even pack a PB&J or two for lunch time. If you aren’t about all the prep time that requires, across the street to the east of the parks is a lovely McDonald’s that is clean and cool. There is also an IHOP, Denny’s, and a Buffet called Captain Kidd’s. I wouldn’t recommend the IHOP though, their prices were just as bad as eating in Disney. The one nice thing was eating inside, away from the humidity but we kinda wish we had just gone to the buffet– more food, lower price.

#3 Shop, but don’t buy, Mid-day

Part of the fun of going to a Disney Park is coming home with awesome souvenirs that you can either share or rub in everyone’s faces (to each their own). Each land has its own special feel and the shops are no exception to this. That is why I am all for the occassional “we have a fastpass that doesn’t start for another 30 minutes and we don’t want to wait in line for another ride” shopping. This kind of shopping stresses hubby out as he doesn’t like to look at all these things we can’t afford/won’t be buying but would love to have. I, on the other hand, love to get ideas of what I want to buy AT

my one and only souvenir from this trip, courtesy of the hubby-- he knows me quite well.

my one and only souvenir from this trip, courtesy of the hubby– he knows me quite well.

THE END OF THE NIGHT. That’s right, you heard me, END OF THE NIGHT. There are a couple reasons for this:

A) If I buy earlier, I have to carry it around with me. So for the rest of the day I am tethered to this item AND, as any avid tea drinker who loves to collect mugs fromplaces you’ve been, your souvenirs are often breakable items. One little jostle on Thunder Mountain and your awesome mug that looks like Chip is now in 152 pieces. Or that sweet shirt you bought for dad because he towed Seabiscut home for you is now covered in gross Splash Mountain water and sitting in a bag getting dank… these are unacceptable scenarios. I like to be unencumbered by things when doing Disney (as you will see in point #4) and early-purchasing of souvenirs does just that– and by that I mean encumbers.

B) I have a tendency to get overzealous and purchase something I only kinda like and then can’t afford something I REALLY like. Can I get an AMEN? I know there are people out there just like me. Every time I see a Stitch pillow pet I

Don't forget to get your Mickey/Minnie ears!

Don’t forget to get your Mickey/Minnie ears!

just want to buy it. Why? Because I like Stitch (more importantly, hubby likes Stitch) and I think the pillow pet is awesome. Now… If I buy a $30 pillow pet of Stitch (which, lets be honest, hubby couldn’t care less about) then I can’t afford what I really want which is the mug that looks like three tea cups stacked one on top of another (I have a serious mug addiction, it is bad). Also, what am I going to do with a pillow pet? Actually I can think of a million things, but that is not the point. The point is… if I allow myself some time to stew on a purchase, I can usually talk myself out of it or decide it is something I do absolutely want, and since part of doing Disney Love/Williams-style is saving as much money as possible, I need to capitalize on the souvenirs that I will be most happy to drive home with in hand.

The one downfall is this is a lot of people’s go to method for souvenir shopping in Disney so the stores can be busy. Make sure you have done your pre-shopping, know what you want and where you can find it ahead of time, and head straight for it. Don’t be distracted by other goodies along the way. Get in, get your stuff, get out. Simple as that.

#4 Do NOT bring more into the Parks than you ABSOLUTELY need

My parents both tell me I am crazy for this one, but I get so fed up with strollers (mostly it is just strollers) being all up in the way that when I have kids I am convinced I am going to do this. Plus, I get nervous for people who bring in strollers and leave personal belongings in there. Who says everyone who comes to Disney is pure of heart? You are just asking for people to steal from you. My dad informs me nobody messes with strollers but my question is… how do you know???

So I have decided, while I am BEYOND excited to have a kid of my own that I can take to Disney and experience the wonder and excitement with, I will not do it while they are still needing a stroller/wearing diapers. Nope, not happening, Strollers and diaper bags are cumbersome, I won’t do it. I won’t be that jerk who clips peoples heels because I am pushing a stroller around and trying to wrangle the child who is supposed to be in said stroller. No. I just won’t. The paths in that park are not big enough for your massive Bumbleride Indie Twin stroller to be carving its own path through the masses.

A saint AND a beast! Look at him go at this barbell in ToonTown.

A saint AND a beast! Look at him go at this barbell in ToonTown.

OH! and to the woman whom hubby so patiently assisted (the man is a saint sometimes, I swear) while pushing her two seat stroller THROUGH the Astro Blasters line… there is a reason they have designated stroller parking. Ugh, stroller parking is a double edged sword because it keeps strollers from being in lines but also makes narrow spaces even more narrow! I wish I had thought to take pictures people, I really do. Then you would see how miserable it is to walk through Tomorrowland and Adventureland with the way they have had to set up stroller parking. Kudos to Disney though, they do try their best to keep it all out of the way as much as possible. They even have what I can only assume are stroller parking attendants who keep everything organized. I do not envy their job.

Do us ALL a favor. Don’t bring more into the park than you feel comfortable carrying (that may include children, just sayin’).

#5 Stay in a hotel close to the Parks

I’ve stayed with my grandparents when they lived in Cali., I have stayed in a hotel several blocks away, I have stayed in a hotel across the street, I have stayed in the resort hotels– I have done it all. My best advice in this area, if you are from out-of-town visiting the Parks: Stay close by.

There are a few hotels further away that have free shuttles you can use or there are the paid shuttles for a small fee you can walk to a bus stop and they will take you directly to Disney. These are okay but if you get tired and want to nap, or

The car park wait... ha! Since we booked a hotel so close it is just a short walk and we are there!

The car park wait… ha! Since we booked a hotel so close it is just a short walk and we are there!

have little ones who NEED to nap, this can be a time consuming endeavor, and your Disney time is precious (or at least mine is). Staying in the resort hotels is awesome. I’ve stayed in two of the three Disneyland Resort hotels and it has not only been a great experience, but the convenience of it is super nice. The price tag, unfortunately, is not so nice. If you are looking to plan a budget-friendly vacation like we like to do but you want the convenience of a close location, look at one of the MANY hotels in a one mile radius around the Parks. There are some decent inexpensive hotels just across the street (and some not so decent but hey, you really are only going to be sleeping there, right?) that are just a short walk to the front gates of the Parks. Plus, a few of them have continental breakfasts (yay for “free” meals!) which is a bonus time and money saver.

I’m going to end there because this post is already so long, but if you have your own Disney advice, please share it below! I’d love to hear how you guys make your Disney experience the most magical it can be. Or, if you have questions about something I’ve talked about, or didn’t talk about, feel free to post those too! I’m looking forward to the feedback.

Stay messy, friends!

crazygroup

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How to Fall in Love with Anyone

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Our “first” photo together as a couple… can’t see me? My reflection is in the bean… it’s a fun game of “Where’s Waldo”. Early on in our relationship I was afraid to ask him to take photos with me in case it would be awkward… Sometimes I couldn’t even take pictures of him. I was such a weirdo; I’m amazed he stuck around 😉

Link diving – Verb

The act of clicking further and further from your original subject of research. Commonly related to the popular website Wikipedia.com (UrbanDictionary.com)

Link diving is dangerous.

It is dangerous for many reasons I won’t get into but the main reason it is dangerous is because procrastinators, like myself, don’t know when to Shut. It. Down. I could spend hours link diving away from my original purpose only to find myself on BuzzFeed (the death of all procrastinating link divers everywhere) looing at a list of “11 Reasons Why Things Are the Color They Are” (which is highly informative, you should definitely check it out:-)).

The point is… My name is Valerie, and I am a link diver (this is where you say ‘Hi Valerie’ and we move on).

So when I was sifting through my WordPress Reader for new posts and came across the latest from the Daily Post titled “The Socratic Method“; I was intrigued and had to dive a little deeper. Needless to say, I didn’t make it all the way through the post (I have since gone back and read through it and if you are looking for a little writing inspiration it is definitely worth the read) because the first two paragraphs touched on a study and an article about 36 questions to accelerate intimacy between two strangers.

Interest piqued yet? In the original study, two of the participants, completely unknown to each other prior to the experience, ended up married later on in life. Crazy, right?! Who wouldn’t want to link dive away to check that out?

So I ventured to the New York Times article, “To Fall in Love with Anyone, Do This“, and read Mandy’s very interesting story. I want you to read it too and if you think you are up for the challenge here is the link to the 36 Questions that could quite possibly change your life. (I recommend using their app to go through the questions as it makes the process much easier and they kind of explain how it all works in more descriptive terms).

Her article struck me personally because my dearest hubby, Patrick, has a very practical view of love. It was something we talked about often when we were dating. He isn’t romantic in the sense that he sweeps me off to faraway places and brings me flowers and little gifts daily; his romantic is bringing in the groceries, doing the dishes, walking the dogs, helping with the laundry. This article reminded me of him and how he CHOOSES to love me everyday rather rely on fleeting FEELINGS and EMOTIONS to rest his love. This article touches on walking, not falling, into love and I think, unfortunately, most young people today want the head-over-heels when in reality… the practical is so much better and so much more attainable. So read the article and see what I saw:

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To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This 

By Mandy Len Catron, New York Times, January 9, 2015

More than 20 years ago, the psychologist Arthur Aron succeeded in making two strangers fall in love in his laboratory. Last summer, I applied his technique in my own life, which is how I found myself standing on a bridge at midnight, staring into a man’s eyes for exactly four minutes.

Let me explain. Earlier in the evening, that man had said: “I suspect, given a few commonalities, you could fall in love with anyone. If so, how do you choose someone?”

He was a university acquaintance I occasionally ran into at the climbing gym and had thought, “What if?” I had gotten a glimpse into his days on Instagram. But this was the first time we had hung out one-on-one.

“Actually, psychologists have tried making people fall in love,” I said, remembering Dr. Aron’s study. “It’s fascinating. I’ve always wanted to try it.”

I first read about the study when I was in the midst of a breakup. Each time I thought of leaving, my heart overruled my brain. I felt stuck. So, like a good academic, I turned to science, hoping there was a way to love smarter.

I explained the study to my university acquaintance. A heterosexual man and woman enter the lab through separate doors. They sit face to face and answer a series of increasingly personal questions. Then they stare silently into each other’s eyes for four minutes. The most tantalizing detail: Six months later, two participants were married. They invited the entire lab to the ceremony.

“Let’s try it,” he said.

Let me acknowledge the ways our experiment already fails to line up with the study. First, we were in a bar, not a lab. Second, we weren’t strangers. Not only that, but I see now that one neither suggests nor agrees to try an experiment designed to create romantic love if one isn’t open to this happening.

I Googled Dr. Aron’s questions; there are 36. We spent the next two hours passing my iPhone across the table, alternately posing each question.

They began innocuously: “Would you like to be famous? In what way?” And “When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?”

But they quickly became probing.

In response to the prompt, “Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common,” he looked at me and said, “I think we’re both interested in each other.”

I grinned and gulped my beer as he listed two more commonalities I then promptly forgot. We exchanged stories about the last time we each cried, and confessed the one thing we’d like to ask a fortuneteller. We explained our relationships with our mothers.

The questions reminded me of the infamous boiling frog experiment in which the frog doesn’t feel the water getting hotter until it’s too late. With us, because the level of vulnerability increased gradually, I didn’t notice we had entered intimate territory until we were already there, a process that can typically take weeks or months.

I liked learning about myself through my answers, but I liked learning things about him even more. The bar, which was empty when we arrived, had filled up by the time we paused for a bathroom break.

I sat alone at our table, aware of my surroundings for the first time in an hour, and wondered if anyone had been listening to our conversation. If they had, I hadn’t noticed. And I didn’t notice as the crowd thinned and the night got late.

We all have a narrative of ourselves that we offer up to strangers and acquaintances, but Dr. Aron’s questions make it impossible to rely on that narrative. Ours was the kind of accelerated intimacy I remembered from summer camp, staying up all night with a new friend, exchanging the details of our short lives. At 13, away from home for the first time, it felt natural to get to know someone quickly. But rarely does adult life present us with such circumstances.

The moments I found most uncomfortable were not when I had to make confessions about myself, but had to venture opinions about my partner. For example: “Alternate sharing something you consider a positive characteristic of your partner, a total of five items” (Question 22), and “Tell your partner what you like about them; be very honest this time saying things you might not say to someone you’ve just met” (Question 28).

Much of Dr. Aron’s research focuses on creating interpersonal closeness. In particular, several studies investigate the ways we incorporate others into our sense of self. It’s easy to see how the questions encourage what they call “self-expansion.” Saying things like, “I like your voice, your taste in beer, the way all your friends seem to admire you,” makes certain positive qualities belonging to one person explicitly valuable to the other.

It’s astounding, really, to hear what someone admires in you. I don’t know why we don’t go around thoughtfully complimenting one another all the time.

We finished at midnight, taking far longer than the 90 minutes for the original study. Looking around the bar, I felt as if I had just woken up. “That wasn’t so bad,” I said. “Definitely less uncomfortable than the staring into each other’s eyes part would be.”

He hesitated and asked. “Do you think we should do that, too?”

“Here?” I looked around the bar. It seemed too weird, too public.

“We could stand on the bridge,” he said, turning toward the window.

The night was warm and I was wide-awake. We walked to the highest point, then turned to face each other. I fumbled with my phone as I set the timer.

“O.K.,” I said, inhaling sharply.

“O.K.,” he said, smiling.

I’ve skied steep slopes and hung from a rock face by a short length of rope, but staring into someone’s eyes for four silent minutes was one of the more thrilling and terrifying experiences of my life. I spent the first couple of minutes just trying to breathe properly. There was a lot of nervous smiling until, eventually, we settled in.

I know the eyes are the windows to the soul or whatever, but the real crux of the moment was not just that I was really seeing someone, but that I was seeing someone really seeing me. Once I embraced the terror of this realization and gave it time to subside, I arrived somewhere unexpected.

I felt brave, and in a state of wonder. Part of that wonder was at my own vulnerability and part was the weird kind of wonder you get from saying a word over and over until it loses its meaning and becomes what it actually is: an assemblage of sounds.

So it was with the eye, which is not a window to anything but rather a clump of very useful cells. The sentiment associated with the eye fell away and I was struck by its astounding biological reality: the spherical nature of the eyeball, the visible musculature of the iris and the smooth wet glass of the cornea. It was strange and exquisite.

When the timer buzzed, I was surprised — and a little relieved. But I also felt a sense of loss. Already I was beginning to see our evening through the surreal and unreliable lens of retrospect.

Most of us think about love as something that happens to us. We fall. We get crushed.

But what I like about this study is how it assumes that love is an action. It assumes that what matters to my partner matters to me because we have at least three things in common, because we have close relationships with our mothers, and because he let me look at him.

I wondered what would come of our interaction. If nothing else, I thought it would make a good story. But I see now that the story isn’t about us; it’s about what it means to bother to know someone, which is really a story about what it means to be known.

It’s true you can’t choose who loves you, although I’ve spent years hoping otherwise, and you can’t create romantic feelings based on convenience alone. Science tells us biology matters; our pheromones and hormones do a lot of work behind the scenes.

But despite all this, I’ve begun to think love is a more pliable thing than we make it out to be. Arthur Aron’s study taught me that it’s possible — simple, even — to generate trust and intimacy, the feelings love needs to thrive.

You’re probably wondering if he and I fell in love. Well, we did. Although it’s hard to credit the study entirely (it may have happened anyway), the study did give us a way into a relationship that feels deliberate. We spent weeks in the intimate space we created that night, waiting to see what it could become.

Love didn’t happen to us. We’re in love because we each made the choice to be.

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