July 31, 2011

Disney - 6 Months Later

  • I discovered what it feels like to pay bills, grocery shop, and navigate a new city by myself. Most 18 year olds don't have that opportunity.
  • Florida confirmed my lifelong love for palm trees and trade winds.  
  • I now know that I can work 60 hour weeks with shifts ending at 5 am.
  • One of my favorite things was being able to shake hands with the world in a day without leaving the radius of a kingdom. 
  • I can take good care of my car on my own...even after it's been hit by another driver. 
  • I've discovered that I have no self control when it comes to cake/ice cream/brownie batter/all of the above. 
  • 6 months in the Magic Kingdom...and I know all of its ins and outs.
  • I've decided that I never want to live in another crummy apartment again...but in hindsight, being able to laugh at a building that is falling apart builds character.
  • I've discovered a hundred best friends that I never in my wildest dreams could've imagined meeting.
  • I now know the words to every single castle/parade/firework show at Disney World. 
  • I know that I'll never work under the shadow of a castle every day again, and that makes me sad. 
  • I'll miss walking up and down Main Street and knowing almost every cast member I see. The Glow carts...the balloon people...PAC... photo pass...I'll miss seeing all of them every night. 
  • I'll miss my parade vending crew. "Dang Maureen, ten miles?! Chelse-A! Where is it? In the sky." and all of the other jokes that we have. 
  • I'll miss going to sleep on my squeaky mattress. No, I lied. I won't miss that at all. 
  • I've loved the drive to work and the rare days when I got off before the sun set. 
  • Disney spoiled my sense of adventure, because there has always been someone hanging around who wants to go do something...and that something was usually exciting.
  • I'll miss getting to watch Wishes almost every night. 
  • I'll miss dance parties in 1309. 
  • I've learned that you don't know adrenaline until you're stuck selling drinks on the Frontier land hill in the middle of the road with the 3 o'clock parade right behind you and your drink wagon is dying. By the way, thanks random stranger who helped me push it up the hill. You saved my bacon. 
  • I've learned that sometimes when you stand alone in your faith, you discover more about what you believe in that you ever do in a crowd of people. When you stand alone, it forces you to say, "Is this worth it?" And the answer has been, time and again, "With everything I have, this is worth it."
  • I've learned what it mean to be independent. To solve problems, big ones, on my own. 
  • I've learned self resilience, how to say no in a crowd of people saying yes. 
  • I've learned where my weaknesses lie. 
  • I've learned the streets of Florida better then Oklahoma City.
  • I've learned that I run from getting my heart hurt and that I hate goodbyes.
  • I have learned that sometimes it's less about following your dreams and more about following your gut.

Working at Disney World taught me so much and pushed me to my limits over and over again. I know what it feels like to be exhausted but still be required to be kind. I know what it feels like to make someone's day. I know now that I need people and relationships because they are precious and invaluable, I can't run this race alone. Disney taught me that hard work is often rewarding and that little kids have magic in their smiles. Before I came to Florida, all I had was a crazy dream to do something different. To follow a path that none of my friends were taking. To build my story of independence outside of my comfort zone. Since then, in the words of the man who chased his dreams and built this empire, I have learned that "it's kind of fun to the impossible." 

July 28, 2011

Disney - Hard Goodbyes

Kiera, me, Elizabeth, and Jasmine. Main Street Cru 4 Lyfe. 

This is hard.
Harder than I ever thought it would be.
The goodbyes.
The "one last time's".
The "you're one of the best friends I've ever had but who know's when we'll see each other again's."
I never imagined that Florida would steal my heart like it has.
I never imagined that I would find a hundred friends who have changed my life like they have.
I never thought that my heart would break like it is.
Because it's breaking, breaking in the best kinds of ways.
Breaking because I have made friends who have stolen it completely.
Breaking because I have opened myself up to love these people with everything I am.
It's a good kind of hurt.
The hurt that lets you know that none of it was wasted.
If I had to choose between guarding my heart over the last six months, of never having met the friends who I love, of never getting hurt...
I would choose the heart break every single time.
I wouldn't do one thing differently.
Because living here, knowing these friends, these have been the best days of my life that I've ever had.
This has been the time of my life.
And I don't have any regrets.
Not one.
It hurts, I'm breaking, but it's worth it.
I'd do it over a hundred times again, because Florida...Florida has stolen my heart.
This is home.

July 24, 2011

Disney - Long Live The Magic We Made

Well, I said I wasn't ready to leave Florida, and it looks like Disney is trying to keep me here a little longer. I just got my schedule for next week, the schedule that I shouldn't really be getting because my last day is July 31...oops. I'm a little nervous because now I have to go talk to my managers and clear everything up before I leave, there must have been some mis-communication between Yield Management and my work location when I asked for an early release from the program (because of school), but it'll work out. Hopefully really quickly. haha.
But this is it, this is my last week working for Disney. Everything feels so bittersweet. Even walking down the half a mile long tunnel after a long day of work, the tunnel that I've walked a thousand times, felt a little weird last night, when I realized that I won't be walking it every day for too much longer. But I am excited to be reaching the finish line, to be able to say that I finished this program, and not just survived, but absolutely loved it. It's just a little strange, a little surreal, to be planning life beyond Orlando. To be moving on. I'm ready but I'm not. I'm excited but I'm nervous. I'm sad but I'm happy. I'm a basket case. :)
It's going to be an amazing week, no doubt about it. No more sad faces, no more tears, this is the good stuff. The last few times to watch the fireworks, the last few parade vending shifts that I absolutely love, and the last few days with the best of friends. What comes next, who knows? I'm living in the right now. And there's still a little pixie dust left to cover these last few days. :)

Long live the walls we crashed through
How the kingdom lights shined just for me and you
I was screaming long live all the magic we made
And bring on all the pretenders
One day we will be remembered

July 23, 2011

I Run Because...

I run because I don't need to dress up to hit the pavement.
I run because I like waking up sore the next day.
I run because I don't know what'd I do with all that free time if I didn't run.
I hit the pavement because the road doesn't care how my day went, it doesn't need me to spill my problems, it doesn't offer a listening ear to everything that seems to be going wrong...but somehow at the end of the run my day turns for the better, my problems feel smaller, and I feel like I don't need to talk about everything that is going wrong anymore.
I run because physically, I have every reason not to, and I love breaking through the expectations of other people.
I run because I need to.
I run because I'm not coordinated enough to play any other sports.
I run because the muscle I've built would turn to fat if I didn't.
I run because it's a habit I can't break.
I lace up my shoes every day because the road is waiting. The sun is rising. The wind is whispering. And the sky is high above me. And when it all comes down to it, that's the only thing that matters to me while I'm running. It's me and the world, unsheltered, unobstructed, the wind in my face and the sun on my back. That's why I run.

July 21, 2011

Disney - Skydiving & Graduation

Ever have those days when you're sitting there thinking, "Where did the time go?" The past few days have been the best days off that I've ever had, completely filled to the brim with living. Yesterday morning I went skydiving again with some friends, and then we had our graduation in the evening....all in all, so many laughs, so much adrenaline, and so many good friends.

It's down to single digits, I won't even say how many days I have left because it makes me sad. I have been blessed beyond belief down here in Florida. This feels like home and my friends feel like family. It's doesn't get any better than that.  I just can't picture what it'll be like to go back home when my home is as much in Florida as it is in Oklahoma. I'm excited, it will be so good to be in the same state as my family, but it'll be different because I'm different from who I was when I lived there last. Not bad, in fact, I think that I'm going to have the time of my life as soon as school starts, just...different.
Living in Florida has provided so many new opportunities...skydiving for instance, is a new hobby of mine...never thought I'd say that one! My second jump was so crazy fun, I was trying to keep the mindset of, "I've done this before so I have nothing to be worried about", which helped keep me calm and enjoy it even more. And the adrenaline rush, wow, you just can't beat it. Standing on the edge of the plane, looking down at earth three miles beneath you, and jumping. Man, it's intense. I love it. And the bragging rights are pretty sweet too. Especially now that I can say I've done it more than once!

Well, like so many other nights down here, I work a long 13 hour day tomorrow (I won't miss those!) and I'm exhausted (hopefully I'll catch up on sleep...sometime...Christmas break, maybe?) so I'll keep this blog short. Just a note to say that I've officially graudated, I've earned the ears, I've made it, and the finish line is in view. How crazy. How unreal. How bittersweet. But how amazing it is to be surrounded by friends that I love with my whole heart. 

It's all been worth it, so so worth it. :)

July 16, 2011

Car Troubles at Disney - Part II

If you've been following my story from the beginning of my move out to Florida, you might remember something about a deer colliding with my car on my trip down here. It was quite the episode, my little Honda (who after six years, finally has a name...which I will disclose oh so shortly) was the worse for the wear, spending a good week or two in the auto shop to fix up the front lights and bumper. Well, five months later...it appears that Florida couldn't let me leave without a fight. Or rather, couldn't let my car leave without a fight.
Thursday afternoon I was out running around with my friend Jessika, and we decided to go to Cast Connection to pick up some t shirts and things like that. I slowed for a yellow light, and after being stopped for a few seconds we heard the screech of brakes, and then, BAM. Hey there Jeep Liberty in my car's bubble, thanks for pushing me out into the road. After pulling off into the resort parking lot, both me and the other girl were shaken up a little, but nobody was hurt and both of our cars are drivable. The girl who hit me is actually another CP, one who's still really new, and she felt horrible. Basically what happened was she either hydroplaned on the wet road or her brakes locked up.
The good news, I couldn't have had a nicer person to wreck my car  thank goodness she has insurance), also good news, I'm hitting the road home within 15 days, and I'll know more after I take my car in to get an estimate, but I think it'll make the trip home before I have to get it repaired. The bad news: I live in central Florida where it rains every single afternoon and I'm driving a car with a trunk that is currently, well...less than water tight. So we'll see.
After getting hit, I was pretty shook up, there's nothing like that moment of impact when you just sit there going, "Did that just happen?!" But I am so thankful for Jessika being in the car with me to think clearly when I was shaking, and then having a calm dad to call up and say, "So what do I do now?" After we worked things out and the other girl drove off, I called him up, and I won't say what we were talking about (because above all else, it most certainly was not about saying cuss words. Never. Why would you think that?)  but we were definitely laughing. It's good to be able to calm down and laugh with your parents over little things when it'd be very easy to over react.
Get this though, the story gets even crazier, because my dear older sister was making a few wise cracks about me getting in a wreck before her, because I have a tendency to avoid riding with Jenn at all costs. But then on Friday, I got a call from dad saying, "Hey Mandy, Jenn is okay but she was rear ended." I really thought he was joking, because it's just ridicules! No joke though, Jenn got rear ended up in Pensacola less than 24 hours after I was rear ended.She's okay and her car actually looks a little better than mine, but her actual wreck was worse and the lady who hit her totalled her car.
Long story short? I think it's time I get this little blue Honda, now named Jinx, out of the Sunshine State! For some reason or another, it hates my little baby blue. Oh me oh my. What a week. What a week.

July 14, 2011

Disney - An Average Day

Halfway through July.
18 more days in Florida.
A fine mix of emotions.
As I begin to count down days, instead of counting down months, I am being reminded that I've failed horribly at blogging.
There are a million stories that I've forgotten to tell.
Like all of the conversations in radio code that fill my life. Yelling "10-4!!" Down the hallways as we're running out of the door.
I could tell you about the hilarious encounters with the large tour groups of Argentinians on Main Street. Like the group that figured out my life's love story for me. I was paired up with a guy who sells balloons, my friend Jake, right in the middle of Main Street. Somehow a cheer was started that had at least fifty people cheering for "Jake and Mandy!", and then it was decided for us that Jake would take me out to Burger King the next night. Oh my goodness. We laughed SO hard over the whole situation. Please, if you see me anytime soon, ask me to tell you the story. It was my favorite thing that's ever happened while parade vending.
Then there are the constant cases of 101, when we're out in the streets selling drinks and the rain comes a pouring down, so it's off to the garage we run. Those are the moments when everyone goes, "Wow, you guys look dry. *cough cough*" And we laugh about the freaky Florida weather.

I could tell you about the sisters I call my roommates, Katie and Kirsten and Jenni (who will always be our roomie no matter if she lives with us or not), because they have really changed my life. I love them with my whole heart.
If I was re-capping my everyday life here, I would mention the crazy random trips we take every day. Just this morning, it was, "Hey! Let's run out to the Pops Century resort and grab breakfast!" And I'm 90% sure that tonight I'm running out to a park to watch fireworks. I forget that that's not normal life.
There are a million things I do every day here that I can't believe I won't do after 20 days. Drive by palm trees. Show my ID to security. Walk up the three flights of stairs to my Vista Way apartment. Talk to all my gym buddies who frequent the gym with me during the wee hours of the night.

This is the life that I've been building since February. This everyday...  run here and there, forget about sleep, listen to Justin Beiber, hang out with friends...life. I have a million little stories to write that have my identity sketched all over them. But tonight, there are dance videos to make and a cookies to eat. Oh, and like always, memories to be made.

July 10, 2011

Not Yet Come - Papa's Story

Papa has tears forming in the corner of his eyes as he tells the story he's told a million times.

"Ring that bell." God calls to Samuel, and Samuel answers by picking up a rusty pike, bent from the impact of hitting the old bell over and over again, and he lifts it up once more. "I told God I would serve him until forever, and forever has not yet come!" Samuel hits the bell again and again, as the war cry is raised and all hell begins to break loose.

Meanwhile, in the middle of the night, the missionary, my great-great grandfather (the "original" Harmon), had a troubled spirit and felt called to go and visit Samuel. So he mounted the stallion whose name in Zulu meant, "no good" and rode all night to go to Samuel's church. As the African sun rose slowly in the sky, my great-great grandfather crested the land just in time to hear the ringing of a bell and to see the sun glinting off of an army of spears. Leading his soldiers, a Zulu chieftain was charging down the hill towards the church, "I will make an example of Samuel and his wife and child that all of Africa will never forget!" Samuel was told not to ring that bell. Told that if he rang the bell on this Sunday morning he would be burned alive in the church. And yet there he stood, in the dust of Africa, ringing that bell.

My great-great grandfather rode towards them, and as he rode into the thick of it, he rose his hands to the sky. By some miracle, the wave of spears stopped. These men had heard of this God that Samuel and the missionary served before, and they were afraid of Him. In the split second that the men stopped, my great-great grandfather rose his voice to yell above the clamor and chaos, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only begotten Son!"

Papa's voice breaks into Zulu as he quotes John 3:16. Then he continues to tell me the story of Samuel, of the day that the one Zulu man stood apart from the rest and said, "Missionary. Nobody told us that this is the message that Samuel brings. I will not raise my spear against it." And as he stood off by himself, the entire tribe soon stood behind him. Papa tells me how Samuel's story continued after that day when he answered God's call to ring that bell no matter what. Samuel's path led him through the military as the chaplain of the troops when they went off to war to fight a battle larger than they had ever fought before against a giant called Germany. Papa tells me about the day when Samuel came home and with his wife taken to Heaven, the mission station told him, "Retire, Samuel." But Samuel was not done yet, "No," he said, "Let me go to a people I have found. They live in caves in the mountains, and they are alone." So Samuel went to minister to a leper colony that the world had ignored. As he organized this colony, the UN's interest was piqued, which led to a team of scientists being sent to the foothills of Africa. As a result, the cure for leprosy was found. Samuel's story takes him through the kingdom of God, into Africa and America and the world.

And Papa cries, his hands shaking with the tremor left by Parkinson's disease, his memory not faltering today, although it grows harder for him to tell his stories. Papa cries as he remembers Samuel standing over the grave of my great-great-grandfather, praying, "God! I am old. Take me home!" and then Papa's dad, my great-grandpa Elmer, came to him and said, "But Samuel, who then would we point to, in this young generation, when we want to say, 'This is a man of faith. Here is a man who will ring that bell in the darkest hour. Who then?" Papa remembers Samuel smiling and saying, "Thank you missionary, for reminding me. I promised God that I would serve him forever, and forever has not yet come."

Grandma and I are crying as Papa's hands shake. I watch as the tears gather in my grandparents eyes, the eyes of two people who have served God whole-heartedly since they were teens. Two people who have traveled the world together, touched mankind in palaces and slums, two people who have given everything they have and then given more... I watch them as they remember the story of Samuel with tears in their eyes. My story is only just beginning, but as I sit around a table with the two people who have lived lives fuller than most people can ever imagine, lives so saturated in following God that even in the midst of chaos, their faith has shone in the darkness,  I realize that my charge is the same as theirs. My charge is the same as Grandma's. It is is the same as Papa's. It is the same as Samuel's.

  I will serve Him until forever. And forever has not yet come.