Disney To-Dos: Little Known and Hidden Things

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The key under the mat in the queue for Muppet Vision 3D.

One of the things I love so much about Disney is that there’s always something new to do, some area that can be explored just a little more. I like that you can go on a ride that you’ve been on a million times and notice a new detail or you find a new, quiet place to sit in a bustling park. Here are 10 hidden gems things I want to explore, find, or do during our next (yet to be scheduled!) trip:

  1. Meet the Mayor and pin trade with Scoop Sanderson (two of the Citizens of Main Street). Seriously, this has been on my to-do list forever, but I always miss them!
  2. Go to Jellyrolls to hear the dueling pianos.
  3. Find 10 Hidden Pascals in the Tangled rest area in the Magic Kingdom.
  4. Finally see the famous hidden Mickey plate arrangement in the ballroom scene in the Haunted Mansion. Somehow, I always miss it!
  5. Spend some time at the Animal Kingdom Lodge at night. I’d like take advantage of the night vision goggles (!!) to see the animals at night, or listen to an African story by the campfire. Obviously, we’ll be forced to stuff ourselves at Boma first…
  6. Submit a joke to the Monster’s Inc. Laugh Floor. I also want to be “That Guy,” but I’m a girl so maybe I can’t be? BUT, maybe The Dude can!
  7. Check out the Metrophone in Tomorrowland and listen to intergalactic conversations. I am nosy, after all.
  8. Meet DiVine in Animal Kingdom. I’ve heard rumors that there’s a male version, too, but I’m not positive. Anyone know?
  9. Find and press the “Press for a Surprise” buttons in Epcot’s Italy pavilion. I’m sorry in advance if I inadvertently squirt you with water!
  10. Spend time appreciating hidden or in-the-background atmospheric details. For example, I love hearing the music lessons on Main Street U.S.A., but have never heard the people talking/dishes clattering on the back patio of Tusker House. Epcot is also full of these little features (like the talking water fountains in Future World or the single cracked tile in each of Morocco’s mosaics).

I can’t wait to go back!

Flags a’ Flying

Few things excite me more than the news of a restaurant opening, particularly if it’s in our neighborhood or very close by. I love the anticipation of seeing the storefront change day-by-day, of reading blurbs about the chef and restaurant concept on blogs or in magazines or taped haphazardly to a front window. I love wondering what the food will be like and whether it will become a favorite spot and I love when it finally opens and I get to pour over reviews before The Dude and I get to try it for ourselves.

The Dude just wants them to take down their damn grand opening flags.

There is a restaurant in our neighborhood that has been open since 2012 and their grand opening  flags are still flying. I got a flyer from them the other day, in fact, that advertised a “Grand Opening Special!”. Whenever we drive by, The Dude squints and grimaces at the flags. He hates them.

He also hates the huge “Grand Opening!” banner on a Little Caesar’s that’s on our way into the city and has been opening grandly almost as long as our neighborhood joint. I think he’s actually shaken his fist at that one.

A part of me agrees with him, agrees that there should be a limit on how long restaurants can advertise themselves as new. But, another part of me feels bad for those restaurants. If they were as successful as they wanted to be, would they still feel the need to fall back on novelty?

I imagine conversations between the “new” restaurants and the old, successful ones to go something like this:

Flag Flutterer: But, I want everyone to notice me! Look, I’m new and shiny and have things flapping around everywhere.

Old Standby: Ah, but they know me. They know how delicious I am.

Flag Flutterer: But, I’m good, too!

Old Standby: But, I’m better.

Flag Flutterer: I’m just as good as you are.

Old Standby: Hah. You have to wave things in front of their faces to get them to notice you. They just remember me.

Flag Flutterer: I’m just as good as you are. I AM.

Old Standby: Hah. Prove it. Take down your flags.

Flag Flutterer: But, I’m new and shiny…

The Dude hates those flags: “Leave them up 1 month, maybe 2,” he says. “This is crazy. We can’t ever eat there. I hate those stupid flags.”

And, we haven’t eaten there, not at any of those places. I don’t think we will.

Creative Writing: June 30th, 1944

I’m not sure how many creative pieces I’ll put here, but the Writing 101 prompt moved me in that direction today. Please note that this piece is totally fictional.

Prompt: You discover a letter on a path that affects you deeply. Today, write about this encounter. And your twist? Be as succinct as possible.


Mom decided it was time to clean out Grammy’s attic, a daunting task if there ever was one. When I was a kid, I loved going into the attic and exploring. I loved the dusty boxes with their untold treasures, the grainy photos of people I had never met but seemed so familiar, and the cedar chests with the most beautiful clothes I had ever seen. Even now, even at the end, when we visited Grammy, I found myself sneaking up there to have a peek, to see if I would discover something new.

But, today, we had to start clearing it out. We had to start opening those boxes and cedar chests, had to remove the treasures and put them in piles, categorizing a life now faded. Sighing, I opened the door and started up the stairs.

An envelope fell from somewhere and landed on the step just above me. Yellowed with age, I recognized Grammy’s stationary, the kind she used since her coming-out days. It was addressed to my Grandpa Charlie. Smiling to myself, I opened it.

The letter was short, but so full I thought my heart would burst. In her strong, flowing hand, she had written:

June 30th, 1944

My Charlie,

It has been 25 days since your last letter and I cannot breathe. I think I’ve forgotten how. Do you think you can forget how to breathe, Charlie?

The garden has come in well; the roses are especially lovely and the tomato plants are threatening to take over. We will have lots of sauce this winter!

The doorbell rang three times yesterday. Every time, I thought my heart would leap from my chest. It wasn’t someone with news, Charlie, but it could have been. Doorbells have been ringing all over town, men in uniform giving their condolences to so many families.

Mrs. Carson and Betty Townsend both heard those bells. Mother said they had to take Mrs. Carson to the hospital. It’s all three Carson boys, now.

None of them will eat sauce again.

I can’t even imagine.

Oh, god, Charlie, it’s been 25 days since your last letter, 600 hundred hours since I last took a full breath.

Charlie, when you come home, you must help me plant an apple tree or two. I’ve been craving apple pie and Mr. Jenkins has raised his prices again. Promise me you’ll help?

Tomorrow, I’m going to make a new dress. It’s been so long since I’ve had one and all of mine are wearing through. Luckily, Mother squirrelled away some fabric in the blue you like so much. If there’s leftover, I’ll make you a nice shirt. Ha! Then, we’ll match like all of those couples you laugh at.

600 hours, and I cannot breathe.

(The next lines were scrawled so quickly, I could barely read them:)

Oh, god, Charlie. The doorbell just rang… Please, god, just let me breathe…

I could barely breathe. June 30th, 1944: the day Grandpa Charlie came home.

Things I Miss in Disney: Pappy

When I was 6 or 7 my grandparents took two of my cousins and me (and, our moms) to Disney World. For part of the trip, I was sick – not sick enough to not be in the parks, just sick enough to have no energy. My youngest cousin refused to let me ride in her stroller when I got tired, so my Pappy carried me everywhere. I don’t remember very  much about that trip, but I do remember him holding me.

I also remember sitting next to him in the Tiki Room and hearing him sing along. He’s never had a good voice.

One of my most vivid childhood memories is being in Disney World with him and going on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. I’ve always been small for my age, so this was my first “big girl” roller coaster. I remember standing in line and watching the train speed around the tracks and hearing those tracks rattle as it moved around. I remember clutching his hand and thinking that I didn’t think anything could go as fast as that train.

I was terrified.

I was terrified, but determined to do it. Pappy had been talking about this ride and promised that I would love it. He would never lie to me, I knew (and, still know). My Pappy, the strongest man in the world, would make sure I was safe.

I remember getting into the train car next to him. I remember him putting his arm around me and scooting me closer. I remember his telling me to hold on tight.

And, I remember him smiling from ear to ear.

We took off into the darkness of the mine. I remember getting splashed by water and screaming and we started to pick up speed. I remember looking over at him as we emerged from the mine and seeing his face filled with joy. I remember that, suddenly, I wasn’t afraid anymore.

And, I remember him looking at me and laughing. I remember that I started laughing, too.

It could have been yesterday: my Pappy and I, him in his brown polo shirt and with his arm around me, racing around a Disney-made mountain and smiling and laughing like we didn’t know how to stop.

Now, my Disney memories are made with The Dude, something I love and would never change.  Still, a part of me will always miss being there with my grandfather; I miss seeing that wonder in his eyes as he sees a new show or rides a new ride. Even now, when I go on Soarin’ or see Enchanted Tales with Belle, I think about how much he would have loved it.

My Pappy is still very much alive, but our days of Disney travelling are, I think, done. But, that memory of laughter and safety and joy never will be. Whenever I go on Thunder Mountain or hum the Tiki Room song, I’ll remember all over again.

And, I’ll smile like I don’t know how to stop.

Magical Glastonbury

I think Avalon is the most magical place in the world.

No, not Avalon, New Jersey (though, I’ve heard it can be lovely), but the magical, mist shrouded island from the King Arthur mythology. In the legends, Avalon is where King Arthur was taken after he was gravely wounded by Mordred. It is the place where he rests, waiting for the time when the world needs him to come back.  The magical island figures heavily in one of my favorite King Arthur retellings, The Mists of Avalon, where it is home to a group of  Celtic priestesses, including Arthur’s sister, Morgan le Fey. In all stories, it is a place of magic and wonder, protected by mists and mystery.

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The Dude looking at the town from the path to the Tor.

In the late 12th century, monks from Glastonbury in Somerset, England claimed to have found the bones of Arthur and Guinevere. Around that time, Glastonbury and it’s marshlands became associated with the magical Avalon. In some legends, Avalon gave way to Christianity and modern life and simply became Glastonbury, in others both lands exist simultaneously, but on different planes of existence.

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Peeking Through the Mist: Tower of St. Michael on Glastonbury Tor

Either way, the legend of Avalon and Glastonbury and it’s crowning Tor have filled my imagination since childhood. When The Dude and I went to England a few years ago, I knew that we had to go there.

I remember driving up to Glastonbury and seeing in the distance a mist-shrouded peak. I remember my breath catching in my throat when, through the haze, I could just make out the outline of monument on the Tor. I couldn’t believe that it was real and that it was right in front of me.

The town itself is charming and whimsical and absolutely embraces (and capitalizes on!) its mystical heritage and mythology. We stayed at a wonderful B&B (Parsnips; I highly recommend it!) that was a short walk from both the main drag in the town and the Tor. We had delicious and satisfying meals at Hundred Monkeys Cafe and The Who’d a Thought It. We wandered through the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey and saw the (alleged) burial place of Arthur and Guinevere. We even bought some of their famous hard cider home with us!

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Sheep and Goats

And, naturally, we trekked up the spiraling pathway to the Tor. I loved the sheep and goats (the Dude even made a friend) and how quiet everything was. The sun was shining brightly that day, but there was a slight breeze that made the hike comfortable. You could smell grass and clover and earth and poop (lots of sheep and goats, remember); the smells made walking through a legend seem so real, so grounded. I never lost the awe that comes from walking through a place you’ve read about for your whole life, I just felt more connected to it.

List Therapy

This week, even shortened by a day (Monday was Memorial Day), felt so very long to me. I know it’s been an especially stressful week when, by Friday, I can’t successfully concentrate on anything for any length of time. Sometimes, to try (“Do or do not, there is no try.” See? Told you I can’t concentrate.) to rein my concentration back in, I make a list.

The list can be anything from groceries we need at home to supplies I need to buy for work to Disney restaurants I want to try (see an upcoming post!).  I love making lists and though I never spend much time making them, the act of focusing on something very specific and non-taxing centers me enough to make it through the rest of the day.

Here’s a list of things that went through my head from about 3:00pm – 3:10pm today:

  1. I love listening to Disney music at work.
  2. Crap! Did I send that email to Tigger (not his real name)?
  3. Why won’t someone answer the phone?
  4. Crap, crap, crap!
  5. Aww, Mrs. Wood (6th grade English teacher) loved that word.
  6. Heh. So did Mrs. Finnegan (12th grade AP English teacher).
  7. Crap, the email. (I did send it.)
  8. Ugh. What is that noise?
  9. I wonder what we’re having for dinner tonight. The Dude is going to kill me if I ask again.
  10. Seriously, what *is* that noise?!
  11. Oh, tacos! Not the noise. Dinner tonight.
  12. Crap, I forgot to move those meetings.
  13. I hate wearing pantyhose.
  14. Did that student finish her training? Crap.
  15. It’s a stapler. (The noise, not dinner tonight.)
  16. I love tacos.
  17. And, avocado.
  18. Oh, good. She did finish her training.
  19. I wonder what I’m going to order for dinner tomorrow?
  20. Stupid pantyhose. I can’t wait to put sweatpants on.

Ah. Got that off my chest. Now, I can go back to my regularly scheduled tasks…

Kindness Matters

Prompt that inspired me: What’s the one piece of advice you wish someone had given you a year (or five, or ten…) ago?

Do you remember getting your picture taken in school and then getting a bunch of those wallet sized pictures that, after writing some profound thoughts and acronyms on them, you’d pass out to all of your friends? Well, I remember them and I remember amassing a huge collection by the time I finished high school. Still, I only really remember what one of the said.

During my senior year, I had class with a new girl (new to the school). She was very sweet, but a little quiet. We sat next to each other and, not thinking much about it, I started talking to her (I was a chatty Kathy back then). We were never really friends – we never hung out after school or even exchanged phone numbers – but we chatted every day in class. At the end of the year, she gave me one of her senior pictures and on the back she thanked me for being nice to her, for not caring that we weren’t in the same group of friends, for not caring that some people thought I was popular that she was. She thanked me for making the “new kid feel comfortable in a new place”.

I was floored. It had never crossed my mind that I had that power: to offer comfort and a sense of belonging by just… being nice. While I got other pictures with nice words or funny anecdotes or joyful memories, nothing stuck with me like hers did. Now, every day, I make an effort to be nice to whomever I meet: I smile at the young woman on the way to the train station; I ask the coffee shop clerk how his day is going; if I see someone crying, I stop and ask them if they’re okay. They’re not big things, they’re not hard to do, but I can’t help but think that they matter.

So, I wasn’t inspired to write about what I wish someone told me, but rather what I’d tell someone else: Kindness matters, it matters so much more than you may think. We all have the power to affect someone else’s day.