Sunday, October 12, 2014

Do You Wanna Volunteer (for a RunDisney race)?

This past weekend was the 3rd annual Tower of Terror 10 Miler at the Walt Disney World Resort. Usually, when a race is taking place, Im running it, but I decided to sit this one out because Tower isn't my favorite race due to the pretty boring course (from DHS out to ESPN Wide World of Sports and back) and the gravel trail portion of the race. Also, the first two years of the race have been pretty hot and humid. Luckily, this year this wasn't a factor. With temps in the 70s and low humidity it was an amazing night for a run! I was ALMOST jealous and wanted to be out there with my team. But just because I wasn't running doesn't mean I was sitting on my butt doing nothing. This year I decided to experience the other side of a RunDisney event and volunteer. Being a night race, we decided for our first time through we wanted an "early shift". The actual start time of the race is 10 PM so that means volunteer shifts could go as late as 4:30 AM (or even start around 10 or 11 PM). We were lucky enough to be able to get a 6 to 11 PM shift working gear check pre-race. I was excited because I thought that meant I would get to see my teammates, even if it was for just a quick good luck hug. Unfortunately, as the race got closer I found out we were assigned to "gear check - finish line". Which meant we (me, my Mom and my Dad) would be on the other end at the finish line before the race started.
I was a little bummed that I didn't get get see my friends but it turned out to be a pretty cool job. But before I get into race night, I think I better start from "the beginning". A few weeks before the race we each received our volunteer confirmation letters in the mail, confirming our volunteer shift and position as well as a name tag if we were working the expo or 5k. Just like the runners, race volunteers have to visit the expo to pick up their credentials (or an property office the week before expo). Because we weren't arriving until Saturday, we chose to go to expo to pick up our stuff. When we arrived at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex, we were directed to the HP Fieldhouse to a room set up with several tables. Unfortunately our experience started with a bit of craziness as the first gentlemen we encountered thought we were there to volunteer for the expo and sent us to the wrong table. The poor lady at the table tried to scan the card I had received in the mail over and over again to bring up my shift with no luck, until she looked at my paperwork and realized that I was working the race not the expo. So we were sent BACK to the other table where we got were handed an envelope with our final race instructions, lanyard and name tag. We weren't given our volunteer t-shirts there which I was a little bummed about because i was pretty curious to see what they looked like but looking back now I understand why they do that way. All volunteers are required to wear the provided shirt or jacket to their shift so to assure this, they just give them out before the shift starts.

 A few hours later around 5:30 we followed our directions and headed over to the Rapunzel and Mulan lots at Magic Kingdom to check in for our shift. Once we were checked in we were given our tshirts (bright yellow with the race logo) a blinky blue safety light and glow sticks. In addition, each volunteer is provided snacks - meaning we were given a gallon size Ziploc bag and told that we could choose 5 items from a table filled with Oreos, Chex Mix, Goldfish, trail mix and chips. Among the 3 of us that's 15 snacks (and 3 bottles of water)! Very generous! We then headed out to the parking lot to wait for our bus - which our name tags told us to board bus #4.

There was a bit of confusion among the team leaders with the busses but after about 40 minutes our bus finally arrived and we were finally on our way. Before the bus left, our team leader Bob introduced himself and took a roll call and then we headed for Hollywood Studios. On the way there the bus driver put Frozen on the DVD player, but since it was only about a 20 minute ride we only got to when Anna wakes up on coronation day...just enough time to get "Do You Wanna Build A Snowman" stuck in my head.

 Finally we arrived in the parking lot to Disney's Hollywood Studios - in the distance I could see the lights and hear the music of the gathering area of the starting area. The weather that night was AMAZING - mid 70s and REALLY low humidity - the nicest it had been in MONTHS! I was so jealous! I wanted to run - but I had a job to do! Our group headed across the lot and backstage or should I say "behind the scenes" to our set up area on the Indiana Jones Stunt Show stage. The showing having been there since about 1989 I had seen it a few times but never been a part of the show so I had never been on the stage, until that day. I had a great time getting a close up look at all the details (did you know the boulder that nearly tramples Indy in the opening scene is more of a big rubber ball?), taking pictures and having my pictures taken.

 After a bit, the tables arrived and our team lead Bob instructed us how to set them up in groups of two columns, three tables long each. Our next job was tape papers with numbers on them to the edges. At first I was confused because every few tables had the same numbers - then I figured out that each few set of tables was for a different part of the alphabet. For example, the first 3 tables were for last names A-B. The next 3 for letters C-E so the bib numbers started over each time. Confusing I know.

 For the last section, they brought in some large rolling medal racks that some of us were assigned to hang S hooks on to. This was something RunDisney was trying out, but I don't see how it would work well with the strings and I would think the numbers would be hard to see.

 Soon after, the first of the bags showed up, being transported in the carts the resorts sued for laundry. We wasted no tim e positioning the carts near their respective tables and starting to unload. At first we were told to not worry about getting the bags in specific order, just get them on the right tables.

Between trucks we had a little bit of time so most of the bags got organized in some sort of order anyway. I think with every new load of bags we learned something. For example, the first load, a couple of people were in charge of unloading the bags from the cart and putting them on the table. By the second load we found that didn't work too well because the new bags were getting mixed in with the sorted bags. Later, we learned to if possible, try to grab a bunch of bags that belong in the same area. For example, at one point I grabbed like 6683, 749 and 5 so I had to keep going around and around the tables. We also learned pretty quickly to actually look at the numbers - it was pretty easy when you were moving that fast to mix up 1023 and 10023! As the race got closer, more and more bags showed up (probably about 6 or 7 loads) and the crew continued to set up around us (barriers and signs to help the runners find their letters to get their bags). Some sections were so full that we had to make use of the space on the floor to store the bags.

 While we worked there was some area appropriate music playing....except Once Upon A Dream from the new Maleficient movie...not sure how that fits into the Indiana Jones area. Problem was it was on a loop of about 5 songs which got REALLY old after a while. I kind of wish they had some better, more fun music playing for us while we worked! Throughout the evening we did get to see some pretty interesting stuff. Some bags had HUGE backpacks shoved into them (really? you want to carry that around DHS during the party all night?) and another bag had just a single package of ClifBlox (seriously? You wasted the time standing in line, now this person will have to come back to pickup for THAT...i would have just put them in their pocket). One bag had a full sized trophy in it - guess they wanted some cool pics at the after party? While others weren't very smart with their valuables we found a couple of iPhones in the bags and one bag with $35 smashed up along the side so it was clearly visible. Amazingly, one of the first bags I put my hands on had a WDWRadio Running Team sweatshirt in it! What are the odds that I would be the one to grab that bag? Through the wonders of Facebook I figured out that bag belonged to my friend and teammate Scott...but he didn't have any good snacks in there. Boo. Before we knew it, we had unloaded the last truck, the next shift of volunteers had arrived and we were done - and IMO the bags looked pretty good and ready for pickup!

Team Leader Bob gathered us all on stage to thank us for a great job and to take a group pic before we headed back to the buses.

 The buses took us back to the volunteer tent at the Magic Kingdom lot where we had started. When we had returned all the tables that had been used for check in and been broken down except for one where we were asked to line up for check out. Upon checking out, we handed over a card that we had been given in our credentials packet and in return received a 1 Day Disney Theme Park ticket! (that only happens if you work the actual race - volunteers who work the expo, Kid's Races or 5ks have to earn 16 hours before they earn their ticket!) Considering the work we did, that was an awesome deal! Our shift was 5 hours but between the bus rides and the waiting around I'd say we actually worked maybe 2.5 or 3 hours - and we didn't have to deal with any runners. Good deal! The next day my back was a little sore but I would definitely do it again. Unfortunately there is no Tower of Terror 10 Miler next year but I don't think this is my last runDisney volunteer experience!

Saturday, September 6, 2014


Remember that scene in the movie Tangled where Rapunzel finally leaves the tower and her feelings are a conflicted mix of "what have I done?" and "This is SOOOO AMAZING!!!!" ??? Yeah that pretty much sums up my life lately.

Oh, yeah did I mention I got a job? Only took about 6 months but I GOT A JOB! No its not in teaching and its actually not something I ever thought I'd be doing - its a receptionist position?  Thats funny to me because one of my biggest fears is talking on the phone. But, I didn't have a choice. Nobody else seemed to "want" me and I needed a job so I closed my eyes and took a huge leap of faith.  The first couple of days were REALLY scary - everything as being thrown at me, I felt like I was never going to pick anything up and I was still terrified of the phones.  Luckily, my supervisor caught onto this and slowed everything way down for me.  Now, I know I'm not dumb its just that this is a whole different world for me and its A LOT to learn. I'm not just answering the phone - Im mailing packages, updating credit cards, running credit cards, helping to make travel reservations, uploading files, sending letters....etc.  The second week I started feeling more comfortable and I'm starting to finding myself doing things probably a month ago I would have been scared to death of.   I guess the song is right - what doesn't kill you makes you stronger! Sometimes when I hear people talk I do feel a little bit out of my league, but my new co-workers are all really nice and have been super supportive.

I'm finally starting to get over that feeling every morning of "OMG what am I doing?" I've realized part of it is as a teacher I woke up every morning and I knew EXACTLY what I was doing at pretty much every minute of the day. I had my folder of all my plans and copies all prepared.  Not that I don't know whats coming each day but I'm not armed big heavy bag full of stuff.

Speaking of - lets talk about the awesome discoveries I'm making. First of all, I don't have to carry that big heavy bag of stuff every morning. I don't have those mornings anymore where I'm taking care of last minute details anymore either.  I can get up, feed Bailey, relax a little bit before I have to get going (I also have a 20 minute drive as opposed to a 40-45 minute drive! WOOHOO!). And do you know WHY I don't have that big heavy bag anymore? Because I don't spend all my home time working and planning. It's not that I wasn't prepared or unorganized as a teacher, it was just the kind of teacher I was. Always worrying about finding that perfect activities and then having to MAKE most of those activities took a lot of time.  Last year, one weekend I went to Disney for an event and had to go home early because I had to work and get ready for the next week. Now, I walk out that door and I'm free until 8:30 the next morning! Also, when I was a teacher even if I was supposed to leave at 5, I was never out of there on time. I was always stuck waiting for someone to relieve me or talking to a parent or finishing up something. Now, my office is a ghost town at 5:05 - 5:03 on Fridays LOL!

It's so nice to feel "normal" again. Its been a long time - since moving to Florida I've either been pretty unhappy with my job or frustrated in a job search or scared of not being able to find a job and freaking out about the future.

While I loved teaching while I did it and really do believe i was put in the lives of my student's for a reason right now Im not feeling like I want to go back to teaching - its fun to feel free and not have to worry about lesson planning or 20 little bodies (and their parents).  So right now, Im feeling like Rapunzel when she's running down the hill yelling "I am never going back ever!"

And with that...I'm going to bed! Night night world! :)

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Bright Side of Life

Growing up in Chicago, for as long as I can remember I grew up listening to the radio station WGN 720 AM. One of the segments that one of their anchors, John Williams did was called The Bright Side of Life. During this segment, listeners would call in with things that currently made them happy or good things that were happening to them.  That's where the title of this post comes from (and now I have the cheesy song he would play - Monty Python I believe? - stuck in my head!)

The last 3 years have been quite the emotional roller coaster leaving me a little messed up emotionally. Not depression but a little down, confused, and frustrated.

Have you ever had those times when someone says something to you or you read something and it hits you like a ton of bricks (or to quote one of my favorite movies, "Hook" - "Like lightning struck my brain!")? Every once in a while that happens to me! I'll just be scrolling along Instagram or Facebook and someone posts a quote that I feel like was put there just for me!

For example, right after Christmas I was trying to decide if I really wanted to stay at the child care center. I wasn't very happy but it was a JOB and I could just try to make the best of it until the end of the school year.  Then, one day I went out to lunch at a Chinese restaurant and this showed up in my fortune cookie.

That was it - I totally agree! I wasn't happy, I felt like I was completely under appreciated and I wasn't going to grow there and six more months would be TORTURE so I handed in my two weeks notice. 

About a year or so ago I was having a really bad week and felt really small and scared and then my friend sent me this:

Ive loved it ever since and it made me feel SO much better! 

Sometimes its a song.  Earlier this year I was out running and it was one of those perfect days but I was a little down. That day there were no jobs I was qualified for and I hadn't heard back on any of the applications I had. That day I had loaded some new songs from this past season of Glee onto my iPod and the song "Be Okay" by the band Oh Honey came on. 

And it literally stopped me in my tracks: This job hunt sucks but I am SO lucky to live in a beautiful place (where I don't have to shovel snow), I have a wonderful, supportive family and thanks to them a roof over my head, food in my belly and I'm not broke. Like the song says. "Can't complain about much these days. " I know I'll be okay - I just have to be patient.

Some of these quotes I've found remind me of important lessons I seem to forget. I have this HORRIBLE habit of worrying about what others think of me or comparing myself to others - so when I saw this I printed it out to remind myself.


The last few weeks I've been taking the first steps on what I hopefully will be an exciting new journey into a new career. Of course I'm scared to death because all I've ever done is teach but then the other day my friend, Lou Mongello posted this:

"Like lightning struck my brain!" LOL! I just have to remember I'm not going to be an expert on day 1 and they don't expect me to be. And then I saw something that goes WAY back to a book that I loved when I was about 10.  

(well the actual quote was "With no mistakes in it...yet" but were trying to stay positive here!)

I've also learned that celebrities know what they're talking about every once in a while.  

For example:  

(yes I know this was in the movie Nanny McPhee too)

And Audrey Hepburn - more than once I've been inspired by her quotes.  Seriously, did she have someone writing this stuff for her? LOL

That Walt Disney guy knew what he was talking about too! 

So as I (hopefully) embark on this new journey - everybody keep your fingers crossed!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

"To all who come to this happy place..."

If you ask me which one is my favorite  Disney Vacation Club resort my quick and easy answer would be Boardwalk.  How can you not?  The lobby itself is so beautiful,  the rooms are beautiful, and the view - being able to not only to look out over the hustle and bustle over the Boardwalk but being able to WALK to EPCOT and Hollywood Studios. This past weekend might have made that answer a little bit more difficult.

A year ago, we decided that we wanted to spend the 4th of July at Bay Lake Tower to watch the fireworks.  Because we "own" points at BLT we can book 11 months out from our check in date which we did as soon as it became available - studio with a theme park view for July 3rd and 4th 2014!

Okay back to the present - the weekend had finally arrived...and did not disappoint!  We COULD have gone up to Top of the World to watch the fireworks but we enjoyed the private view from our room so much we just stayed there both nights. When we went home on Saturday I was sad to leave and realized how much I loved this place. It seemed like every time I turned around, I found a new reason to love Bay Lake Tower. Here's just a few of them:

1) You can walk (or run) to the Magic Kingdom!  Due to our seasonal passes being on summer black out we weren't able to able to go into the parks, but how cool is it that we can avoid the craziness of the busses in the morning and just walk??? Or stay in the park until some ungodly hour with Extra Magic Hours and just walk home (or take a nap in the middle of the day)?   And as a runner, its one of my favorite places to run on property.  You have to get up early to avoid the crowds but running down the pathway towards Magic Kingdom, past the boat dock towards Grand Floridian to where the path ends  is such a peaceful run.

 The run from the end of the sidewalk in front of Bay Lake Tower, in front of Contemporary, across the street (be careful!), past the Magic Kingdom entrance (follow the bricks), to the end of "the path to nowhere" is not quite 1 mile - and if you time it right you can stop to catch the "Welcome show"!

  There is also a nice jogging trail that goes around the back of the building and around the Contemporary property.

2) "Magical Touches". Bay Lake Tower always gives me that "I'm on vacation!" classic Disney feeling.  How can it not with Disney touches everywhere. Castle murals in the entry way, Disney art work on every floor and in every room and oh yeah - you can see the castle.

The feel of BLT is very uh..."contemporary" which makes sense since it is the sister resort of the Contemporary resort next door.  I like to call it "IKEA style" which is where Im sure a majority of the furniture came from. But I like the light walls with dark furniture with accents of light greens, light blues, yellows and oranges.



1 Bedroom (is anyone else drooling over the artwork?)

Even if you don't have a theme park view room you can get some pretty spectacular views of the Magic Kingdom from the hallways.

There's even a giant "hidden" Mickey on the water slide!


3) Speaking of water slide. I need to talk about the pool! It doesn't get very crowded because ONLY Bay Lake Tower guests can use it (you have to have a key to get in the gate). The Cove Bar is a great place to grab a light snack or maybe a nice cool drink (or a sushi snack like we did :D).

The splash pad. The pool is behind those chairs

  In addition, there's a hot tub which has a beautiful view over looking Bay Lake - pretty awesome in the mornings you can watch the ferry boats come out of their docking to start a new day.


And an added perk - were allowed to use the pool next door at the Contemporary too!

4) Fireworks. The whole reason we booked our stay at Bay Lake Tower.  I COULD go watch the fireworks inside Magic Kingdom with several thousand of my closet friends or watch from the comfort of my own balcony.....yeah I choose B too. :D

 Watching the fireworks from your room gives a pretty interesting perspective of the fireworks as you can see they are shot off quite aways behind Space Mountain and not directly behind the castle. The fireworks for the 4th also had fireworks going off from the Seven Seas Lagoon near the Grand Floridian to achieve a 360 degree effect inside the park.

This picture gives you an idea of how far behind Space Mountain the fireworks are shot off

 Disney is also nice enough to pipe in the music for the nightly fireworks on one of the TV stations.  And if you don't have a theme park view room (or just feel like a little something extra) you could always go up to....

5) The Top of the World Lounge. Bay Lake Tower is the only DVC resort with a "private lounge" for its guests.  For most of the year, the current policy is any guests staying on points at ANY DVC resort can come visit Top of the World but the weekend we were there and a few other major holiday weekends (especially New Years and 4th of July) its open only to guests staying at Bay Lake Tower.

Access to the lounge is a bit tedious as you have to go down to the first floor to check in with a cast member who takes you up in a special elevator but once you're up there its all worth it.

6) And last but not least, what kind of WDW fan would I be if I didn't mention food? The amount of restaurants accessible from Bay Lake Tower on foot or a quick monorail or boat ride is awesome! And that doesn't include restaurants inside the Magic Kingdom!  On this trip we took the elevator down to the 5th floor to the skyway bridge and walked over to the Contemporary for a lunch at Contempo Cafe and a dinner at The Wave.

The bridge between the two buildings takes you right across to the 5th level of the Contemporary where Chef Mickey's, Contempo Cafe and the shops are located. Its just a quick walk up to the monorail station!

On our last morning we walked over to the Contemporary and took the monorail over to the Polynesian for breakfast at Kona. That's just the start of the list of access without getting in a car or on a bus!

Polynesian                       Contemporary              Wilderness Lodge                
Kona Cafe                         Contempo Cafe                 Artist's Point                       
'Ohana                       Chef Mickey's                    Territory Lounge                
Captain Cook's             The Wave                        Roaring Forks Snacks         
Tambu Lounge                Outer Rim Lounge          Whispering Canyon       
Spirit of Aloha Show                                                 Hoop-De-Doo                   
                                                                                     Trail's End                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

   Grand Floridian                            
  Grand Floridian Cafe                     
1900 Park Fare                                  
Garden View Tea Room        
  Victoria and Albert's
Gasparilla Grill
Mizner's Lounge                      

And if you do need to get to another resort and don't have a car or just don't want to drive, walk the easy 1/2 mile to Magic Kingdom and take a bus!

Okay, that made me hungry....I'll stop there - I think you get how awesome Bay Lake Tower is. ;)