Tuesday, October 8, 2013

My Disney Bucket List

A few years ago, I was planning for one of my annual trips to WDW, and realized that I'd gotten pretty stuck in my Disney-touring ways. It'd been a long time since I'd taking the opportunity to truly experience something new. So, before the term "bucket list" become part of the common vernacular, I made just that: my Disney bucket list.
Because my budget doesn't allow me to live at any of the Disney parks, I have to space my visits out, planning carefully what I'm going to do each time. Below is my Disney bucket list, something I think carefully about as I start planning each trip.

Thanks to Tom Bricker for giving me the idea to lay this out in order of attainability (and for giving me some ideas to add to this list)!!

Note: I'm including several things that were on the original list, even though I've since completed them.

Easily Attainable:

Four parks in one day - I've done two parks in a day. You know, hit DHS during EMH for ToT and RnRC, jump over to Animal Kingdom for the rest of the day. Hit a park for the biggies, then spend the rest of the day someplace else. But until recently, I never thought to actually try and hit every park in one day. I find the thought very entertaining. I can see this happen in the next year (or so).

Attend Magic Kingdom Opening Show - The MK has an amazing opening show each morning, but I'm notorious for visiting during low attendance times, and taking advantage of that to get some extra sleep. All I need to do is get up a little earlier, and get to the park 30 minutes early. I took my mom to MK in November 2011, and we made a point to be there for the opening show. It was magical, and from here on out, I will never miss that show!

Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon - as much as I love the water, I'm not big about water parks. I'm a certified open water diver and an avid swimmer, so give me a pool or beach, and I'm perfectly content. But something tells me that a water park at Disney is a whole different ballgame.

Attend Braves Spring Training game at Champion Stadium - I've been a diehard Braves fan since shortly after birth. Growing up just outside of Atlanta, I went to several games every year. The Braves AT DISNEY?!!? Yes. Yes, please! On our annual spring trip in 2008, my mom and I saw the Braves take on the Tigers during the opening week of spring training. I hope, soon, to make this an annual part of the trip.

Attend Old Spice Classic at WWOS - the only sporting obsession that rivals that of my Braves obsession is my obsession with college basketball (specifically, the Indiana Hoosiers, but I'll watch it all). The tournament was first held in 2006, a mere year after my father's death, and neither my younger brother nor I were emotionally ready to begin attending basketball games (let alone days-long tourneys) without the man who was responsible for our love of the game. But one day.... Thanksgiving weekend 2011, my younger brother and I sat in on every single game of the tournament. I think we were about the only ones there that attended every game. While I don't see this becoming an annual thing (we skipped our family's annual camping trip to attend this tourney), we're looking at every other year, with 2013's tournament already on our calendars.

Fantasia Gardens mini-golf - as a child, it seemed like a vacation wasn't a vacation if my family didn't play some mini-golf. And while this continued well into adulthood, somehow we never played at Disney.

Participate in a runDisney event - I almost put this in my next group, but the truth is, the only thing that makes this less-than-easily attainable is my own attitude and determination. At my current weight, I know that I need to do something to get in shape, before my health begins to take a downhill turn. And truthfully, I hate running. I was on my high school track team for two years, and spent practices inventing ways to avoid the running (ok, I threw discus, so it wasn't like I had to run to compete). But there's something intriguing about running at Disney.

Drinking around the World - a beer (or mixed drink) at every country in World Showcase? Yes, please, where do I sign up?

Epcot's DiveQuest - as a certified scuba diver, diving at a Disney facility (especially my favorite pavilion at Epcot) is a no-brainer.

Monorail Pub Crawl - it's exactly what it sounds like: a pub crawl by Monorail, with stops at each resort on the line. Stopping at Magic Kingdom along the way is optional (but highly encouraged).

Moderately Difficult to Attain (truth: most of these are modestly difficult only due to the availability of finances to support them):

Disneyland/Disney California Adventure - to be fair, I've been to Disneyland. It was a belated graduation gift in 1997, the year after I graduated high school. I remember very little about that visit, other than visiting on the hottest day of the year, and what turned out to be one of the hottest days they'd had over several previous years. As for DCA, I don't think they'd even broken ground at that point.

Stay on property at Disneyland Resort - you'd think that if I were to make the long trip to the other side of the country to visit Disneyland, I'd be sure to stay in one of the on-property hotels, but I grew up in a household that always went for the cheapest rooming options available (Motel 6 by Angels stadium in 1997). This one will taking planning.

Disney Cruise Line - it's hard to justify a trip on the DCL when I can take a longer trip for less money on my old standby, Royal Caribbean. But the Aqua Duck (and the Aqua Dunk) looks like so much fun!!!

Stay in all Value Resorts at WDW - I've stayed at Fort Wilderness, the All-Star Music Resort, and Pop Century. It's a start.

Attend all character meals at WDW - I've attended the breakfast aboard the Empress Lilly several times. What? There's no Empress Lilly? Sure there is! Only, now it's called Fulton's Crab Shack, and they no longer offer character meals. (Since originally writing this, I've gone to Chef Mickey's for dinner, Hollywood & Vine for breakfast, and Crystal Palace for dinner.)

Take 10 Disney Tours - as in, Disney's Keys to the Kingdom, Behind the Seeds, The UnDISCOVERed Future World, Epcot Seas Aqua Tour, etc.

Visit all 4 WDW parks in one trip - no, not in one day. I want to spend one full day at each park, in the course of one vacation. I've done three parks in one trip, by park-hopping, but never more than two parks when focusing an entire day on each one. (Since posting, I've done 3 parks in one trip - see upcoming Sep 2013 trip report)

Take a family on their First Visit - I've always wanted to take a child to a Disney resort, and see their face as they experience the magic and pixie dust for the first time. But lately, I've had the urge to take a family. I've been visiting WDW since 1979. I can't imagine being an adult, and truly not knowing about the magic of Disney. Now, to find a family... (FYI, stay tuned. Something might be in the works) In September 2013, I took my cousins and their two boys (yes, my Bug and the Peanut) to WDW for the first time. Stay tuned for a detailed trip report.

Very Difficult to Attain:

Disney Vacation Club membership - this appeals to me on so many levels, but it doesn't seem cost-effective. A) I have plenty of free places to stay when I visit WDW (I'm originally from FL, with lots of family still down in the Orlando and Tampa areas), and B) as I'm single, with no kids, I'm looking at prices v. perks for one person. I just can't make it compute in my favor, not with my current salary and budget.

Stay in all Moderate Resorts at WDW - there are several resorts that I plan on staying in over the next couple of years, but as the price level increases, the likelihood of staying there decreases. I'm a State employee, people.

WDW and Disneyland in one day - oh, this would be so much fun! And if I actually lived in/near Orlando or Anaheim, I can see this as substantially easier to do. But since I live on the northern GA/SC line, well, not so easy.

Work as a Cast Member (again) - my plan, my entire life, was always to finish school, get a good job, save money, and one day move back to FL and go back and work for the Mouse (I was once a Disney Store Cast Member). But in recent years, my cousins have provided me with the love of my life in the form of a Bug, and I find myself making plans to move closer to him (which, sadly, is further AWAY from FL). I'll have to revisit this plan once Bug is in his 20s.

Unattainable (given the cost of each of these, I don't think any explanation is needed as to why I've listed them as unattainable):

Stay in all Deluxe Resorts at WDW

Visit Disneyland Resort Paris

Visit Tokyo Disney Resort

Visit Hong Kong Disneyland

Visit Shanghai Disney

Be part of the Opening Family at the MK Opening Show - this is listed as unattainable for two reasons: 1) I'm not likely to get chosen if I don't have children with me, and I tend to travel alone or with adults, and 2) being chosen is entirely up to the whim of a CM. No amount of money or flirtation can get one family chosen over another. I just have to hope that, if I ever go down with kids, we get there early enough and talk to the right CM.










Thursday, April 19, 2012

Biggest Loser 2012

From January through March, I participated in UGA's Biggest Loser program, through the UGA Fitness & Wellness Program at the Ramsey Student Center.  I was SOOO excited (read: terrified) to begin this program, but I just knew that I was going to show up, and it was going to be a whole bunch of teeny-tiny undergrads, prancing and dancing, while my big ol' butt fell with every attempt to do something.  How pleasantly surprised I was to show up and see that there was about 50 people, in various levels of fitness, all with the same worries as me (and funny enough, the few teeny-tiny undergrads that DID show up?  They dropped out within a week or so, saying it was too hard).

The first evening, we sat through a presentation on how the program was going to work, and then did our initial fitness assessment.

My weight: yeah, right
body fat: much higher than it should be, but not any higher than I expected
pushups: 0
crunches: 41 (woo-hoo!)
flexibility: non-existent

My goals for the program:
weight loss: 10lbs
body fat: lose 1-2%
pushups: 2
crunches: 60
flexibility: to exist

I didn't want my goals to be unachievable.  I also didn't want them to be too easy.  I thought they were reasonable, but would take work.

The first official workout (the circuit challenge) went something like this:
25 crunches
25 pushups (remember, I couldn't do a single pushup just a few days earlier)
25 squats
25 lunges (per leg - total of 50)
25 burpees (evil, evil, torture personified)
1 mile run/walk
All to be done in less than 45 minutes.

I did the crunches, modified pushups (against the wall), the squats, half the lunges, and modified burpees, followed by the mile, in just under 35 minutes.

This workout would be repeated at the 5-week mark, and then again in the final week of the program.

A week later, I came down with an intestinal virus (just FYI, the virus stuck around for the duration of the program.  It took me over two months to completely rid my body of the illness) and missed a workout. 
Two weeks later, I fell at my house, and tore cartilage in my back.
Just as my back was healing, my brother-in-law was in a severe motorcycle accident, attempted to break almost every bone in his upper body, and spent 2 weeks in the hospital.  Therefore, I spent a large portion of my non-work, non-sleep hours at the hospital.
The next weekend, I twisted wrong, and reinjured my back.
Just as that began to heal, and I was cleared to work out again, my brother decided to make a trip to the ER with a suspected heart attack (turned out to be an attack of pleurisy, on top of some severe stress).

To make a long story short, I missed over half the workouts in the 9-week program.  However, I made every class (two fitness, one nutrition and one maintenance class), I got to know the personal trainers at Ramsey quite well, and was able to get advice on training for a 5K (yes, I still want to do a runDisney race).  I made some good friends, one especially, and we are all trying to work out our schedules so that we can continue to workout together and encourage one another.

As for my goals, they didn't pan out as I'd hoped.  I was (almost) able to do one pushup, and about 50 crunches.  I didn't lose any weight or body fat %, but I did notice that my pants were fitting a little looser.  I can walk a mile a bit faster.  My form when I workout is much better, and I've learned how to listen to my body, and get the most out of what I'm doing.  I can do some killer lunges and squats, which I never thought I'd be able to do!

I will be keeping my membership to the Ramsey Center, and since my office is only about a mile away, on the very same road, I'm starting to use half of each lunch hour to go walk the indoor track.  I also just bought a Bowflex.  It is currently still in pieces, spread out on my livingroom floor, but ask me again after this weekend, and I should be able to say that I'm officially doing strength training.  I'm very excited about this!  During the few years I worked at a fitness center, I remember really enjoying strength training.  And I've wanted a Bowflex for years!  I think this is going to be good for me.

Oh, and before I forget:
I did get to do one repeat of the initial circuit challenge.  I did all the crunches, modified pushups (on a table this time, not a wall), all the squats, ALL the lunges, modified burpees, and the mile: in 31 minutes.  GO ME!

The journey of 100lbs begins with a single step.  I'd like to think I've walked a few steps at this point.  Send good thoughts my way...I want to keep stepping!!!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Bug Goes to the Zoo

(simultaneously posted on Cocktails and Dreams)

Just three weeks after FINALLY having custom orthotics made, I decided to give them a true road test.  On October 15, Bug and Peanut brought their parents down for a trip to Zoo Atlanta and the Georgia Aquarium.  They picked me up early in the morning, and we made the trek to Grant Park, home of the zoo.  It was their first visit.  It was my first visit since 1991.  I don't know who was more excited.  They were all excited about seeing the animals, I was excited to watch Bug as he saw the animals.

As we're walking through the entrance, the conversation went something like this:
Me: "Bug, what animal do you want to see today?"
Bug: "Giraffelephant."  Yes, that is one word.
Me, laughing: "The giraffelephant, huh?  Well, what about brother?  What animal does he want to see?"
You must remember that Peanut, at this point, is only 9 months old, and doesn't really grasp what animals are.
Bug: "He wants to see the pig."  Matter-of-fact.  Peanut wants to see the pig.  I love this kid!

One of the first exhibits had just what Bug wanted.  A giraffelephant.  Or, maybe it was an area that had BOTH a giraffe AND and an elephant together.  Either way, he was happy!  I think he would have stayed there all day long, if only we'd let him.

Along the way, there were gorillas, lions, tigers, pandas, snakes (Bug wasn't impressed with those), a naked mole rat (I don't know if he liked Rufus, but he sure liked the tunnel going in and out of the exhibit), birds, flamingos, gators, and a petting zoo.


There was also Dippin' Dots.


Peanut wanted ice cream, too, but we made him stick to banana puffs.


Later on, Bug convinved me to pose for a picture.


We ended the visit with a ride on the train and the carousel (Bug wanted nothing to do with them until we were on them, then did not want to get off.  Peanut liked them from far away, but was not so keen on the actual experience.  What can you do?), and then headed back to the parking lot for a well-deserved picnic.  After filling our bellies and resting our feet, we drove about 3 miles to another parking lot, and prepared to enter the Georgia Aquarium.

This was, as with the zoo, their first visit.  I, however, am an annual passholder.  Having experienced the aquarium before, I was able to concentrate what they wanted to see.  It is so much fun to see something through the eyes of a two-year-old!  Much like at the zoo (look, Bug, it's Timon and Pumba!  Look, Bug, it's Simba!), several animals were identified by their proper Disney name.

Dory!
Much like at the zoo, Bug did not want to pet the animals.


Much like at the zoo, Bug somehow convinced me to pose for a picture.


Bug surprised us all by his reaction to the shark tunnel.  Being scared of everything else, we fully expected him to be terrified of a tunnel surrounded by sharks and other somewhat frightening marine life.  Not the case, at all.  I do believe that his favorite part of the aquarium was the tunnel.  We had to end the visit by going through the tunnel one last time.  All the way home, Bug kept pointing out tunnels (underpasses, parking garages, anything that resembled a tunnel).

It was days later that I realized: There are almost no pictures of Bug and Peanut with their parents!  There really were two other adults on this trip!  I promise, there were!!!  I guess I monopolized the kids.  Oh well, consider it preparation for a trip to Disney.  Bug's first trip to Disney World is in the planning stages!

And just in case it's slipped your notice, I am so completely in love with this kid!

Monday, September 12, 2011

A Dream is a Wish.....

I've been blogging on here for awhile now, and I suddenly realized that I haven't spent any time talking about the Disney portion of my life.  It's way past time to do just that!

I don't remember how my love for Disney got started.  I've heard the stories.  My aunt took me on my first trip back in 1979.  I was a year old.  We only lived an hour or so from Orlando, and I had siblings who were in their teens, so chances are good that we made a few trips before moving away from the Sunshine State in 1980.  But I don't remember anything about any trip prior to 1983.  That year, my parents took my younger brother and me to the newly opened EPCOT center.  I remember only one thing.  It looked like this:


My brother and I were fascinated.  "It's a giant golfball!"  Memory over.

The next few memories are also simple snapshots in my mind.  Slathering on Hawaiian Tropics sunscreen in a hotel room.  Slathering on Hawaiian Tropics sunscreen in the livingroom of my grandma's house in St. Pete, FL.  Slathering on Hawaiian Tropics....yes, to this day, that is the only sunscreen I will use.  The coconut smell will always be associated with Disney.
I remember going back to EPCOT with my parents, younger brother, and one of my older brothers.

Mama, Gerald, me, Leonard - Daddy must have been takiing the photo

That same trip, my older brother convinced our mom to ride Space Mountain with him.  I wish I had a picture of THAT event!
Other trips are more real in my mind, yet there are always those certain snapshots that stand out the most.  First trip to MGM.  First trip to Animal Kingdom.  The horrid birthday cake Cinderella Castle.  The even more horrid wand for the millenium at Epcot.  First (and only) trip to Disneyland, the year after I graduated high school, and almost breaking into tears at my first glimpse of the original Main Street.  Eating baklava in World Showcase.  Eating a napoleon in World Showcase.  Watching Brandon gobble down a turkey leg (with all the appropriate sound effects) in World Showcase.  Fighting with Gerald to see who could spot the monorail colors first.  Arguing with the monorail driver over which color monorail was approaching us as we sped along the track (he said coral, I said orange.  I won).  Sitting by the big picture window in Pinocchio's Village Haus, overlooking the interior of It's A Small World.  Seeing the original It's A Small World at Disneyland.  First time we stayed on property.  The first time I camped out at Fort Wilderness.  The summer of the horrible fires near Kissimmee, and walking out of the Art of Animation at MGM into a park completely overrun with smoke.  The first trip back after Daddy died, taking Mama to Animal Kingdom for her first time.  The first girl's trip with Mama and Carol, spending the day at Epcot, and dropping over $200 at Biergarten on my birthday.



Then there were the two guys with the awesome Mickey tattoos that we followed around World Showcase, until I got up the nerve to approach them and ask to get a closer look.  There was that first trip to Disney's Wide World of Sports, to watch my hometown boys in some Spring Training.  Can you get better than watching the Atlanta Braves play at Disney?!!?

Disney is, and has always been, a part of my life.  I worked as a Cast Member at the Disney Store one holiday season.  I wish I'd been able to stay on after the holiday season ended.  I wish there was still a Disney Store in the area; I'd go back into retail for a chance to work there again.

I have two trips to the World planned for this year.  The first week of November, I am taking my mom back to the Magic Kingdom.  It's been awhile since we've been back to that park.  We're highly looking forward to being kids again!  Then, over Thanksgiving, my younger brother and I are going Disney's WWOS to enjoy a 3-day college basketball tournament.  College basketball and Disney ranks right up there with the Atlanta Braves and Disney!

Next year's trips aren't planned out yet, but I truly hope that one of them includes a Disney 5K.

Another New (and Hopeful) Beginning

Exercising over the course of the last 9 months has been a lesson in futility.  It seems as if, no matter how much I want to do something, the world is out to stop me.  Between extra work at the office, photo shoots popping up out of nowhere, injuries and illness, and the crazy weather we've had here in GA, my exercise schedule has been nonexistent.

More than anything, the biggest detriment to my routine has been my feet.  More and more, I'm having intense pain in the arch and heel of my right foot anytime I do an excessive amount of walking/running/hiking/standing.  Years ago, I was diagnosed with plantar faschitis, but even during the most intense flairup, it didn't hurt anything like this!

I decided to approach my normal go-to guy for advice (my chiropractor).  He is familiary with my history, and we've talked about the fact that many years ago, my orthopedic surgeon informed me that I really needed orthotics for my shoes.  Doc G agreed with the previous diagnosis, and made arrangements to do a fancy measurement of my feet.  The fancy machine agreed with both doctors.  Of the three main arches in each foot, one of them (the lateral arch) is collapsed in both of my feet, with the right foot being the worst.

Last week, I made an appointment with a podiatrist.  In two weeks, I go in to have him look at my feet, do some one his own tests and measurements, and most likely, will walk out of the office with a new set of orthotics.

My biggest hope is that my walking becomes less painful.  As the weather is getting cooler, I'm starting to make plans with people to hike on the weekends.  I also have plans to start back on the Couch-to-5K program.  To be successful with either of these programs, I need to be able to walk/run with feeling like I'm running barefoot over sharp, bruising rocks.

This time, my mother is not allowed to start the program with me.  The last time I started the C25K, my mom sprained her knee 2 laps in.  She is no longer allowed to run - a command given by both me and her doctor!

This time, I have a new phone to take with me, with a handy-dandy little app on it that will tell me when it's time to warm up/walk/run/walk/run/cool doown.  For me, this is a big deal.  I do much better when I am not watching the clock during any kind of routine.  I need to be able to just go, until someone/something tells me to stop.

So, overall, I think that things will start improving by the first week of October.  We'll see.  I'll keep you updated.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Riley Moore Falls

Two weeks ago, I ventured our for my first dose of athletic activity since the twisted ankle and torn back cartilage.  I made yet another trip to the mountains of upstate South Carolina, and went out on a hike to Riley Moore Falls.  Chris (my cousin) and I had been wanted to head up that way for awhile and do some geocaching down by the river.  The weather forecast looked perfect for a deep woods hike.

I didn't have a good map of the area, but I had a GPS with some geocaches stored as waypoints to give me some idea of where we were going.  Chris and I drove eleven miles into the mountains before turning onto the unpaved dirt road that took us closer to the trailhead.  We had to park at the start of an old logging road, as my Altima is NOT a working substitute for a 4-wheel drive vehicle.  The GPS said it was about half a mile from the start of the logging road to the river.

About 1/2 mile later, we reached the trailhead.  Another 10 minutes or so on the trail, and we reached the sign that said the falls were 0.6 miles away.  Now, I don't know about you, but my math tells me that by the time we reach the falls, we will have hiked around 1-1.5 miles.  Stupid GPS.  But we kept trudging along, enjoying the crisp winter air, the privacy of being the only two people on the trail, and the possibility of being the FTF on a new cache at the bottom of the valley.  And the we turned a corner....

.....the sound of the water reached our ears.  We manuevered some switchbacks, and then, there they were.

Aren't they beautiful?  The length of the hike stopped mattering.  We made our way the last 50ft or so, and stood together on the riverbank.

The next hour was spent searching for that elusive cache hidden somewhere at the falls.  You may have deduced that I'm not great at reading the maps on a GPS.  So you shouldn't be surprised that we didn't find anything except a gorgeous picnic and swimming spot.  But if that is the only things we EVER find down there, it will always be completely worth the hike.

As for the hike back UP the mountain, I will simply say that I have never been so happy to see this car.

















So, what did this hiking equation add up to?  I've discovered that I absolutely LOVE hiking.  I think I've found a new athletic activity.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

It's a Freaking Conspiracy

That stupid twisted ankle!  No, my ankle doesn't hurt at all.  It hasn't hurt since the day after I twisted it.  But my back?  My hip and pelvis?  It turns out that when I twisted the ankle, in the process of saving myself from falling, I tore my L5, and possibly the L4, facet.  Nothing horrible, nothing requiring surgery or anything like that.  But enough to cause excrutiating pain for about 3 days, followed by not-so-excrutiating pain for a day, followed by the last two days of moderate muscle soreness and stiffness.  I've had two days of treatment, which literally worked miracles.  In the midst of all the pain, I did managed to drive to South Carolina and visit my new 3-week-old cousin.  Holding him may have caused extra muscle soreness, but it was totally worth it!

So, to sum it all up, I'm still not exercising.  It's all I can do to walk from my office to my car every morning and evening (and that walk totals close to 3/4 of a mile, so I'm not really complaining).