Tag Archives: vacation

Never Enough Time…

24 Nov

It’s been 21 whole days without his embrace, holding his hand, and being wrapped in the tightest, most perfect hug I’ve ever received. 21 whole days waking up without him here. 21 whole days of breaking out into tears at least once and not fully understanding what triggered them, but knowing in my heart they are the tears of missing him that I can no longer hold inside. The whole first month afer saying “see you soon” is always the hardest on me.

Long distance relationships (LDRs) are not for the easily distracted or the weak-hearted. These types of relationships are for those willing to put in the hard-work and dedication to someone they’ll only see and be with in person half a dozen days out of the year. LDRs can be complicated with opposite schedules and technology that doesn’t always work.

Days can be a long time or a short time depending on your point of view. These two photos were taken 7 whole days apart….an example of not enough time.

There’s never enough time when you’re finally reunited with the one you love. Time simultaneously speeds up and freezes. And now, sitting here reminiscing, I can replay each moment as if it has just happened. My fluttering heart when he greeted me by surprise at the resort checkin counter. Hurrying through the rain at Disney Springs (I really hate that they changed the name from Downtown Disney) just so I could get the Holiday Sandwich at Earl of Sandwich and a chocolate milkshake at Ghirardelli. And wondering around Disney Quest, the first time I’d been back inside since my last shift as a Cast Member there in May 2011. I beat Scott and two other guys at the Mighty Ducks Pinball Slam game, it was awesome! And then returning to the resort that first night and falling asleep while watching a movie and listening to his heartbeat.

This vacation was filled with the little, everyday moments I spend most days longing for. Rides in the car, meals together, holding hands while waking around somewhere, sideways glances and bright smiles, opportunities to make each other laugh and capturing our favorite moments with photos.

We had many adventures in our short visit – Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party in our matching Haunted Mansion Hat Box Ghost glow-in-the-dark shirts his mom got us, Food and Wine at Epcot, riding around on the monorail waiting for the fireworks to start, and riding his attraction three times just so I could find him at work! (Don’t ask where that is, I’ll never tell!)

But this time, we also found our adventures taking us outside the happiest place on Earth to downtown Orlando for a dentist appointment one day and a wedding on another, Halloween night to be exact. Scott was a groomsman in the wedding and I was his guest! Our first wedding as a couple! We even got to see the Orlando Eye all lit up on our drive back to the resort after the reception.

And then, when we were lost in the wonder of being together and not paying attention to the time passing, it was time for me to return home. This time was going to be particularly difficult for me as I know I won’t be returning to Walt Disney World for a few years (time to do the grown-up, money saving, budget planning, returning to school for my master’s degree to improve my future type of thing), which meant not knowing when we’d see each other next. But, because Scott is the most perfect guy for me, he had several surprises waiting for me to make getting on the pain less sad.

And to top it off, we are now planning his FIRST trip to my home state for him to FINALLY meet my family! Needless to say, I’m just a little, okay A LOT EXCITED! IS IT JANUARY YET?! Yes, long distance relationships are hard, stressful and sometimes lonely (especially as we prepare to go into yet another holiday season), but like so many things in this world, that is all forgotten the instant you are reunited with the one you love and discover like always how easily you pick up right where you left off from last time as if no time has even passed at all.

And just for fun, a couple of my favorite pictures from this trip! There’s so many though, so I don’t know how I’ll choose! Enjoy and stay strong my long distance friends! We’re one day closer to being with the other halves of our hearts!

2015 Hershey 10K Race Weekend Recap

20 Apr

Hershey 10K 2015Standing at the starting line in the early morning hours of Saturday, April 11th, all I could think was this seemed like a much better idea in January when I signed up for it. But there I was, at 7:30 AM in somewhat chilly weather with my Disney sister, Catherine, waiting for the Hershey 10K to begin.

Actually, I’m getting ahead of myself in this story, let’s start with the drive to get there on Friday. I live roughly 5 hours from Hershey Park where the race was taking place, a drive that would consist of nearly 300 miles on the Toll Road through the winding mountains, and decided to use my Easter holiday at work so I could make the trip earlier in the day. I planned to arrive around 2:30 PM, which meant I would need to leave around 9:00 AM, which meant that my family had already left for work and school when I came downstairs around 8:00 AM. but much to my surprise, my little sister had left this very sweet note for me to find taped to the kitchen cabinet.

good luck letter from my sister

I have driven through the Pennsylvania mountains only once before when Catherine and I met up with a third Disney sister, Lisa, while she was attending Penn State a couple of years ago. From the trip, I already knew mountain driving terrified me as I live in the relatively flat mid-west. Now, to add to my anxiety about this long drive, as soon as I cross the state border I enter into a torrential downpour that does not let up until I am 10 minutes from my destination, Catherine’s boyfriend’s (Matt) parent’s house. It was raining so hard, I could hardly see five feet in front of my car while twisting and turning around these mountains and because that just wasn’t scary enough, there was this section that according to the signs is a terrible fog area. I felt like I was driving blind. I could see nothing to my left or right, nothing in front of or behind me. I have never held so tightly to the steering wheel before.

At this point, I would say my stress level is a 7 but it quickly rose to a 9 when I had to drive INTO the side of the mountains. Typically I’m not a claustrophobic person, but driving in those tunnels (and there were 6 total) my heart was pounding so hard in my ears I could hardly hear anything else. Deep breathing and pep talks got me in and out safely. Reflecting back what I find interesting is that I have driven through mountain tunnels before as the passenger and I’ve never had a problem with them so I wonder why being the driver in a tunnel makes me so nervous.

Just when I was beginning to think I was never going to get to Matt’s house and that I would be driving around lost in the Pennsylvania mountains forever, I heard the most beautiful words coming from my GPS “arriving at destination on right.” In that moment I could have cried I was so grateful to be done driving and to see Catherine waiting for me in the driveway!

Excitedly she tells me she has a surprise! Much to my amusement and Matt’s dismay, we found ourselves at a Disney outlet store, because where else would two Disney sisters go for entertainment?! We had a blast looking at all of the Disney merchandise, and as you can probably tell, we did not leave empty-handed! She walked away with some cute pjs while I bought an adorable Duffy pillow-pet that was 50% off – I couldn’t believe it! Mickey Ear hats

Duffy the Disney Bear 21927_10152834430631693_7832908977077473312_n

After the Disney store, we drove around a bit looking for the Amish farm that sold milk and cheese, then it was dinner and back to Matt’s for some much-needed shut-eye. At dinner we determined that because the race started at 7:30 AM, we wanted to be at Hershey Park around 6:30 AM since Matt and Catherine had pick-up or packets already. We allowed for 45 minutes to get there from Matt’s house, which meant leaving at 5:45 AM. To make sure we didn’t sleep through the race, I set a first alarm for 4:45 AM and Catherine set a second alarm for 5:00 AM. And when that terrible sound pierced through my dream and startled me awake, I really wasn’t excited to be a runner, all I wanted in that moment was to be a sleeper. But I pulled it together, checked the weather like the non-newbie runner that I am and decided on pants and a jacket for the morning’s race.

Amazingly, Catherine and I stuck to our time schedule very well and only had a tiny bit of excitement in our journey to Hershey Park when my GPS apparently got a bit confused and started sending us in circles. But not to worry, we found our way and made it to the starting line with plenty of time to spare. And before we knew it, it was race time!

All 3,000 runners packed into the starting corral. It was exciting for me to see that some of the other runners were wearing race shirts from runDisney races I had also done in the past! I felt connected to these people, like we shared a bond of not only racing, but of Disney as well. Silly what your mind thinks about at different moments.

And just like that, we’re off! Now for those of you who may not be familiar with different race distances, a 10K is 6.2 miles – half the distance of a half marathon, which I completed in November. So with my music blaring in my ears, Catherine and 2,998 of my running buddies at my side and chilly mountain air in my lungs, I felt ready to tackle the course. However….there was one thing I forgot to plan for in my not-so-decent training for this race (hey, we had multiple blizzards this winter, made running outside a bit challenging!), ALL THE HILLS NEARLY DEFEATED ME!

I mentioned it once, where I live is really pretty flat in the grand scheme of things, sure we have some hills, but they are NOTHING compared to running on the side of a MOUNTAIN!

Hershey 10K 2015 course map

Catherine and I started off together, but eventually the hills and the chilly air got the better of me, and so I told her to go ahead, I’d catch up. I ran when I could and walked when I needed to, but I never once stopped moving. I knew that I needed to keep a 14 minute/mile pace or I would get detoured around the park and wouldn’t be able to run through – I wasn’t about to let that happen. About 2 miles in I settled on a rhythm – jog a little, walk a little, just keep breathing, jog a little, walk a little, just keep breathing. I had found “my people” – runners who shared my pace, runners who fought with every step to be runners, runners who didn’t “look like runners” but were, runners who kept me moving forward.

By the time we came to the first of two water stations, we had already gone under an over pass, up a small hill and crested a large hill to get up onto the main road. My energy levels and my spirits were beginning to drop. but then I heard someone cheering my name, telling me specifically great job, you’re almost halfway there. At the time I couldn’t figure out how they knew who I was – I was 5 hours from home, I didn’t know these people, it wasn’t until after the race it dawned on me, my race bib had my name printed under my number! Those volunteers with the cups of Gatorade and water will never know how much they encouraged me to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Up another hill, around a corner and through a shopping plaza. I was beginning to wonder if I’d ever see mile 4. Just as I was losing hope I spotted a fellow runner who had finished cheering us on! From her Minnie Mouse ears and Sparkle skirt I wondered if she was also a fellow runDisney fan! As I went past her I heard her say one more turn and you’ll be in the park! One more turn, just one more and I would get my first glance of Hershey Park. I pushed a little harder and by golly if there wasn’t ANOTHER hill once I passed through the back park gates! Ugh! But the coasters – holy cow!!

With only 2 miles left on the course I was doing good until, you guessed it…MORE FREAKING HILLS and would you believe it, the beginning of a terrible Charlie Horse! But, at least the race photographers got some great photos of me in action! So glad I bought these!

With only a quarter-mile and two turns between me and the finish line, there was Minnie Mouse ears and Sparkle skirt again! How did you do that?! Didn’t I just see you about a mile and a half ago?! Once again she cheered “Mariah, two turns and you’re there! You’ve got this!” I was so tired and emotional I almost burst into tears! With pain shooting through my leg and the finish line in sight, I dug a little deeper and gave it my all as I completed my race with an official time of 1 hour 29 minutes and 34 seconds! It was great having Catherine, her boyfriend Matt and his dad there cheering me on at the end! This is what complete exhaustion and accomplishment look like!

And so, yet another race is in the books – this one however I have dubbed a one and done kind of race. I’m not meant to be a mountain race kinda girl and that’s okay! Finally it was time for some much earned breakfast (Catherine and I had split an English muffin before leaving for the race, but it was long gone by now!) I had the pleasure of enjoying the most delicious sourdough french bread at this cute little diner while we waited for Hershey Park to official open for the day.

Since I had a long drive home ahead of me that evening I wasn’t able to spend a lot of time exploring Hershey Park, but I did have a chance to go on the Hershey Chocolate World Factory Tour ride, Skyrush, Lightning Racer, and Wild Mouse. All day long I had been wearing my Fitbit Charge HR so it was fun for me to see what my heart rate was when we go off each ride!

And before I left on my long journey home, Catherine and I took a couple of celebratory photos with our shiny new medals!

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On the road again by 2:45 PM, this time in beautiful, sunny weather. Still hate mountain driving and tunnels, but way less stressful when you can actually see the winding roads you’re driving on. One insensitive to get home quickly was the large chocolate chip cookie that was in the snack pack bag racers received at the finish line. When I finally got home at 7:30 and went to take a big bite, much to my disappointment I discovered it to be a RAISIN COOKIE masquerading as a delicious Hershey Chocolate Chip cookie. What a let down! But cookie mix up aside, the weekend was a blast on so many levels! I got to add racing in a new state to the list, hung out with one of my wonderful Disney sisters, explored a theme park I’ve never been to before and once again proved to myself that while running may not come as easy to me as it does to others, with a little determination, training and a supportive running community, there’s nothing that will stop me from crossing the finish line of any race I commit to!   

Wine & Dine 1/2 Marathon and the health nightmare that followed…

5 Dec

It is no secret that for months now I have been preparing for my very first half marathon – the runDisney Wine and Dine Half Marathon to be exact. I have logged the miles, improved my time and pace, practiced hydration and fueling along the course and read every advice blog and article I could get my hands on about what to do get ready for your first half. I felt ready. I had a game plan and as long as I stuck to it, I would be golden…however, best laid plans have a way of changing as I would ultimately find out. This post is the comprehensive account of my experience, from the best of times to the worst of times….

Let’s start at the beginning shall we….I left for vacation at Walt Disney World on Thursday, November 6th. The plan was simple, enjoy catching up with my Disney sister/runDisney addict, Monique, that evening at Downtown Disney until Scott got off work and would meet me at the resort, while also waiting to hear that another Disney sister, Catherine, had safely landed in Orlando and was in route to Disney. For the most part, this night was perfect, although the bus did seem to take forever, but maybe I was just anxious to be back at the most magical place on earth and see the people I had been missing terribly!

Friday, November 7th, consisted of getting to the race expo early to pick up my packet and scope out the merchandise! I’d had my heart set on buying the runDisney New Balance Cinderella shoes, however, I decided that I’d probably never wear them for fear they would get dirty, so when a maroon warm-up jacket in my size happened to catch my eye, it was fate – we sure did belong together. At least that’s what I told myself the entire time I was waiting in the super long check-out line (you would have thought I was waiting to ride Toy Story Mania or something by the wait time!) I also purchased one of those Mickey head car magnets that says 13.1 – but let’s face it, that thing will never see my car, it’s currently living on my dry erase board. As for the expo itself, I wasn’t overly impressed, although I was mighty glad they had printers because I discovered moments after getting to ESPN that I had left my race waver in my resort room. The entire time I’m at the expo, Catherine and I are playing phone tag, we never did meet up. 😦

 

After the expo, I went to visit Scott at work at Animal Kingdom, stayed there for a few hours and then went to Hollywood Studios where we enjoyed the first night of The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights after he got off work.

Saturday, November 8th – Race Day. Game plan was to take it nice and easy – so we slept in, hung out at the hotel until late morning and finally made our way to Hollywood Studios. Disclaimer – there is no such thing as an “easy” Disney Day for me, while we mostly only watched the shows and rode the Great Movie Ride, by the time we made it back to the resort at 4:30 PM, we had already walked 6.5 miles. Don’t ask me how, I’m still trying to figure that one out. I knew I needed to start getting ready for the race around 6 – 6:30 PM and that Monique would be coming over around that time as well, so I took advantage of the downtime and took a nap! What I have failed to tell you about yet is the massive rainstorm scheduled to hit at the start of the race…. Bless Monique’s heart for running to the store to buy us ponchos in a pouch – we could carry them until we needed them at least. I was also extremely thankful to the kind stranger on the bus to the starting line who shared his box of zip-lock plastic bags with us. According to him “the fastest way to make friends with runners is to have a box of plastic bags for cell phones and the fastest way to make friends with strangers in the airport is to have an extension cord.” He had a great attitude, I think we would have been good friends!

weather map rain

 

Our costumes this time around were a mash-up of Disney Princess meets The Hunger Games. Check out our pictures!

While Monique and I were getting ready, Scott was creating this! I love him so much!

race spectator poster

And here’s Catherine and runner Peter Pan! Monique and I were FINALLY able to meet up with her, and her sister Alison at the starting line “party”. We were so cool we danced sitting down! (It’s a joke, seemed funnier late at night – just don’t ask!)

 

And the rain came down before the race ever started… standing in corral I, I pulled out my poncho. We were about 40 minutes to the start and I was FREAKING OUT! Luckily, there were some very great people around me who offered advice and suggestions and all around encouragement. I love the runDisney family, doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner or Olympic Gold medalist, we support and cheer everyone equally. My group took off around 10:20 PM and then it was 3.5 hours of running in the pouring rain.

Wine and Dine Half Marathon 2014 course map

I ended up doing the majority of the race blind because by the time I had reached the 3 mile marker I had wiped my glasses off no less than 200 times – in that moment I took off my glasses and fully relied on my other senses to carry me through. Well and the other runners. Luckily at this point I had found a group of people who were just my speed and I was bound and determined to stick with them. I trusted them – if the group veered left or right and then back to the center on a straightaway, that began to mean large puddle on the opposite side of the road. By miles 6 and 7 I was hurting bad. I had blisters, large ones and as luck would have it a few had broken open. But I was only to the half way point – I had to keep going. I was thankful for the rain – no one could actually tell I was crying.

Mile 8 and we were getting ready to enter Hollywood Studios and I was running low on belief in myself and the will to press forward. And that’s when I picked my “running buddy” for the remainder of the course – the blob (remember I can’t see anything clear farther than the length of my own arm!) in the bright green shirt with the long dark hair. You didn’t know you were chosen obviously, because I was always behind you, but when you ran, so did I, and when you walked I thanked the Heavens above. We were playing a game, you and I, and it was called “Catch me if you can, but don’t you dare fall even farther behind”.

I had convinced myself it wasn’t far to the The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights (oh you know, just another short 2 miles!!!!) and once I was there, I couldn’t even enjoy them, not really. I tried to take a few photos, made difficult because I was out of energy, shaking and it was STILL pouring. On the bright side, bright green blob must have been enjoying the lights because we walked this whole time.

 

By the time we left Hollywood Studios, we were saying hello and goodbye to mile marker 11 – we were heading to Epcot and the finish line energy was palpable. Bright green blob was feeling it too, we moved a bit quicker where we could, but the path narrowed and got pretty slippery. I think now is a great time to publicly thank all the volunteers and spectators along the route – you have no idea how much your cheers of encouragement meant to me. When I needed a pick me up, someone was always there with a “you’ve got this!”, “keep going you’re almost there!”, or a “yeah runners! we’re proud of you!”

When we made it to the bridge at The Boardwalk, there were two cyclists waiting off to the side – I thought for sure I was about to get swept (not be allowed to finish for all of you non-runners out there), but they let our little group pass on by. Still my heart had lodged itself in my throat and somehow my stomach had found a new home at my knees. And when I finally entered Epcot something inside me broke loose – all the fear, all the pain, all the excitement, and the knowledge it was almost over was so overwhelming I cried. I high-fived strangers. I smiled when I wanted to grimace. I put one foot in front of the other and kept moving forward toward my goal. I have a quote by an unknown author that has been hanging in my room for the last few weeks of my training and I thought of it just then – “On the last mile when your legs are tired and your lungs are burning, GET ANGRY. GET ANGRY for being tired, then RUN FASTER.”  At that point I couldn’t feel my legs, my fingers, my nose – I didn’t know if the ground was still solid below me or not, but I knew I was half a dozen turns away from the finish line.

And then, like a beacon in a dark night, there it was – lit up and welcoming. I sprinted with every ounce of energy I had left in me, afraid that if I didn’t, in that moment I would collapse and never make it across. I know there were hundreds of people screaming, but I heard nothing but my beating heart, saw nothing but the finish line clock – I would finish under my time goal at 3 hours and 27 minutes and just before 2 AM.

And then that medal was around my neck and all I could think was “you did it and you are still standing!”

Wine and Dine 2014 finisher

Although it was still raining, I pulled out my cell phone and let everyone know I had made it – I had finished. Then I was focused on finding Monique and Catherine and leaving. I was so sore and cold and miserable I didn’t even want to stay for the party. Catherine finished before I did and had already left. Monique was waiting for me at the entrance to Epcot – sadly she had been swept at mile 8. Like so many others, Monique and I did the broken-runner shuffle to where the buses were waiting to take us all to our resorts for showers and warm beds. When Monique and I got back to the room, we discovered Scott had set out towels and bananas for us! He’s so thoughtful!

I don’t know how long I slept the next day – it was a very restless sleep. Everything on me ached – my feet from the blisters, my back from hunching over in the wind and rain, my head with a splitting migraine for not wearing my glasses for so long – I felt like I was falling apart, but I had earned that medal and I was going to show it off in the parks! I moved very slowly the remainder of my vacation, but I didn’t let that dampen my spirits or stop me from enjoying myself – all day Scott asked me if I wanted a wheelchair. I refused – there was no way I was going to ride around all day with my hard-earned medal. Monday night we did Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, Tuesday I had a meeting to go to and had to shove my injured feet into high heels, and Wednesday I flew home.

I was still in a lot of pain and by Friday afternoon at work (November 14th), my feet were red, swollen and extremely painful to walk/stand on. After a trip to the local urgent care center, I was diagnosed with Cellulitis in both feet from the broken blisters I got during the race. I was given a 10 day, take twice a day prescription for Bactrim, told to drink plenty of fluids and keep my feet elevated above my heart for the next few days – and if the swelling didn’t go down or the pain stop, head to the Emergency Room.

So for the next two days I could be found with my feet up, watching Hallmark movies, drinking lots of fluids and taking my medicine once in the morning and once at night. It seemed to work – the redness started to fade, the swelling went down, I rediscovered my ankles! By the time Monday rolled around I was feeling better and seemed to be on the mend. By Thursday, however, my energy levels had dropped. I wasn’t sleeping even though I had started going to bed by 6:45 PM – and when I did manage to catch a few hours, I had terrible nightmares. And on top of it all, I had a migraine like you wouldn’t believe – and nothing soothed it.

Monday, November  24th – After a night of being unable to get comfortable and having less than two hours of sleep, my alarm went off at 5:30 AM for work. When I turned on the light, I noticed I had the beginnings of a red, itchy rash running down both arms – and since I work at a hospital and knew they’d probably send me home for fear it was something contagious, I took two Benadryl, called out sick and tried to go back to bed.

Tired of tossing and turning by 8:30 AM, I got up and made my way downstairs. At 9:00 AM I took my last dose of the Bactrim and fell asleep watching a movie. I woke at 11:00 AM in terrible pain – the Benadryl had worn off, thank goodness it was time for another. While I was sleeping, the rash had spread quickly to my chest, back and legs. It was harder to breathe (not like an asthma attack where you feel like you are trying to breathe air through a clogged straw, more like trying to expand your lungs while a sumo wrestler is standing on them – it took a lot of energy to inhale and exhale shallowly).

It was about this time my dad text me to see how I was feeling. I told him about the difficulty breathing and the red itchy rash spreading. And he responded with what I already knew was coming – “call Papa and see if he can bring you into the ER. Also tell me the name of that medicine you’ve been taking for your feet.”

I relayed the information and made the call. Then I sent my dad this photo:

Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis Disease

And then his instructions changed – “Call the ambulance. Tell them you are having a severe allergic reaction to a medication.” But I already knew this – I don’t remember much from my first go-round with Stevens Johnson Syndrome, but this was how it started and this I remember quite well.

Oddly enough, my sister Megan’s boyfriend, Austin, was the EMT who answered the call. When he walked in the door, I think I scared him – I wasn’t doing well at that point – red, swollen and breathing hard. I watched him take a deep breath and go to work. Papa was here as well helping to keep me calm. When two other EMTs arrived from the next township (need more than one person to transport) we all loaded into the ambulance, Papa following behind, and headed for the Emergency Room at the hospital where both I and my dad work. There was nothing they could really do for me in the ambulance other than give me pure oxygen to help ease my breathing (I wasn’t wheezing, so I didn’t need a breathing treatment) and give me ice packs to put on the rash to help ease the urge to itch. They monitored my blood pressure.

My dad met me in the ER and mom was there not long after. By now it’s 12:30 PM and I am in such intense pain, the rash is still spreading and becoming a deeper red. I am exhausted. In a word, I was miserable. I felt bad for the nurse who had to put in my IV, but luckily she found a spot on the inside of my arm where there weren’t a lot of blisters, and she had this cool black light type tool that helped her to find a good vein on the first try. And then I felt bad for yet another nurse who had to put the sticky EKG pads on my already irritated skin.

Emergency Room

Finally after an IV, blood draw, two bags of saline fluid, a shot of pain reliever and 6 long hours of trying to explain to the ER doctor that this is how my first reaction of Stevens Johnson Syndrome started and that I needed to be seen by a specialist at a burn center, I was discharged and feeling a tiny bit better. My parents and I were then on our way to hospital number two so I could be seen by a burn specialist. At one point during my stay in the ER they were discussing admitting me, but that was vetoed because they didn’t feel there was anything else they could do for me there, so then the discussion switched to which hospital I’d like to be transferred to – the hospital with the burn center was not one of the choices at that time. I’m glad we decided to just drive there ourselves – I was STARVING at this point (I hadn’t eaten since 8:30 AM and we were now pushing 7:00 PM!!), so thankfully we grabbed some food on our way!

It has been 10 years and 2.5 months since my first visit to this burn center. I wasn’t scared or nervous – I knew what the treatment would be if in fact this was Stevens Johnson Syndrome and if it progressed. I just wanted to know what this was and how I could relieve the pain long enough to get a few hours of sleep. There was a nurse waiting for me when we arrived. She led us over to one of the Outpatient Rooms, had me change into my second hospital gown of the day and asked me the same set of embarrassing questions I was asked earlier. I was informed the specialist wanted to see me himself to determine what I had, but he was in a surgery and his resident was attending to a trauma in the ER and she wasn’t sure when either of them would be up.

Outpatient burn center

About 15 minutes later, the resident walks in and while looking at my chart says “hello, my name is Dr. Burn, but you can call me Nick.” The irony of his last name was not lost on my mom or I, we exchanged a suppressed giggled glance. Oddly enough, he could have been EMT Austin’s twin. Then he looked up and I had the privilege of shocking him. Here’s why – this burn center is located within a CHILDREN’S hospital, and seated before him was me – a fully grown, 26-year-old female. THIS WONT BE AWKWARD AT ALL – HE’S MY AGE FOR CRYING OUT LOUD! (sarcasm) Dr. Nick checks me over, asks questions, writes some stuff down and let’s us know he’s going to go talk to his supervisor and they’d be back.

Another 10 minutes or so and Dr. Nick and the specialist return. Again I am examined from heat to toe and everywhere in between. Thank goodness the sweet nurse I met at my arrival has been there the whole time – she makes it less awkward. The diagnoses – Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis (TEN) Disease – another form of Stevens Johnson Syndrome, but on a lesser scale. Just as before – there is no treatment, no magical cure, it just has to run its course – however long that may be, no one could say for sure as everyone reacts differently. Because I did not have any blisters or open skin wounds, I was fortunate to go home and not be admitted to the burn unit this time around. I was given a medical release slip from work for 10 days as stress could cause my reaction to worsen. I was told to take Benadryl and Tylenol for the pain and if after a few days that didn’t help, I was given a script for another pain reliever. However, this was passed along with a caution – it is not known what introducing a new drug to my system during a reaction would do, it may help, it may cause things to get worse. I made up my mind right there I wasn’t going to be filling that script. My only job for the next two weeks was to drink lots of fluids to help flush the toxins from my body and to rest.

After a few days I was finally able to get some much-needed sleep. The redness faded and the spots began to go away as well. The migraine came and went. The itching and the aching pain in my muscles and joins held on longer. Slowly even the bruise from my IV began to heal.

IV bruise

Everyone thinks having two weeks at home on the couch sounds like a wonderful thing – however, once you begin to start feeling like yourself again, you start to go a little stir crazy wishing you could leave. I am looking forward to going back to work on Tuesday (December 9th) – I miss my normal routine, I miss feeling productive, I miss my work friends and I’m ready to put all of this behind me. And with two weeks off work I know there will be a mountain of projects each demanding my attention that will carry me through the end of December.

Needless to say, this was not the experience I had been dreaming about for my first half marathon. And I honestly feel like that moment was stolen from me due to the rain. At this moment in time I don’t know if I’d sign up to do another half marathon, certainly nothing longer, but then again, I’m dying to run through Magic Kingdom (it’s the only park I haven’t run through yet) and I really don’t want this to be the only half marathon experience I have to reflect back on. So with that being said, I’ve got some time to think about it, to weigh the pros and cons, and probably be convinced by my Disney sister that next time will be better – and IF I decide to run again, I’m looking at you, runDisney Princess Half Marathon 2016.

T minus 30 days….

6 Oct

At this exact time in 30 (short) long days, I will have been in Florida for just about 5 hours! Now, if you’ve been following my blog for sometime now, you’ll know my love of all things Disney, and more recently, my love of all things runDisney and racing. And this trip is extra special, I will be participating in my very first half marathon – Wine and Dine 2014! Never in a million years would I have thought I’d be preparing to run 13.1 miles FOR FUN.

Like all of my previous runDisney races, I’ll be running with my Disney sister, Monique – who got me hooked on this expensive, but thrilling, hobby….

 

This time, we even convinced another Disney sister, Catherine, and her sister, Alison, to join us! I can’t wait for our Disney CP roomie reunion!

Catherine and I on "It's a Small World" - we were celebrating her birthday!

Catherine and I on “It’s a Small World” – we were celebrating her birthday!

I have been training for this race since April, and some days I’ve discovered are harder than others, physically and mentally. I’ve learned a lot about myself – running it turns out helps me process life and problems and issues and just lets me clear my head. Yes, I listen to music as I’m running/walking/crawling (okay, I’m joking, but some days it feels like that’s what I’ll have to do to get back home!), but honestly, 9 times out of 10 I don’t even know what song is playing. I’m much too busy watching for loose stones and rocks and pot holes and cars – I’m a county road runner, we don’t have sidewalks. And I’m an asthmatic, which means a good portion of my brain is focused on breathing and picturing my “happy place” – sandy white beach, soft waves at sunset, when I feel my lungs start to tighten. I’ve taught myself to visualize wide open spaces, my lungs filling with fresh air – it calms me down (when you can’t breathe, it’s VERY stressful) and helps me refocus at the task at hand – placing one foot in front of the other.

When I began my training, a 5K was difficult. The last long distance run I had done was the 2013 Tower of Terror 10 miler in October. Now, I live in the northern part of the U.S. and winters here are harsh, especially this past one, so needless to say, I was back in terrible shape. I was frustrated. I KNEW my body was capable of running a distance of 10 miles, but I could barely go three. I told myself it didn’t matter if I was the last one to cross the finish line, or if I had to crawl across it, one way or another, I was going to prove to myself and every naysayer I’d ever met, that I could do it. I decided then to set a goal – I was going to run my first 13.1 training run on my 26th birthday (September 14th) – I had 5 months of hard work ahead of me.

My mom began walking with me – my little sister encouraged me to keep going – my Disney sisters and I checked in on each other’s progress, but best of all, I downloaded RunKeeper and set it to post to my social media as a way to keep myself accountable. I wanted needed my friends and family to keep me on track, if I didn’t train for a few days, there was someone there to remind me I was slacking, or to encourage me when I felt I’d hit a wall, or experienced runner friends to offer tips and tricks that may help.

All of that hard work was put to the test the morning of my birthday – a Sunday. I had never been more nervous for a run, but the weather was the perfect temp, the sky was clear and not one dog barked or chased me during my run. And guess what, I DID IT! I went farther than I needed to in under the time I was aiming for. I was OVER THE MOON. I had done it. I finished. I survived. I exceeded my own expectations and I loved how comfortable I felt in my own skin for the first time in a very long time. I was proud of what my body had just accomplished.

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Yesterday, I had planned to do another 13.1 training run. It didn’t go according to plan. For one thing, I think we’ve seen the last of our warm days, and the cooler air set in quickly. When I left for my run, it was a balmy 38 degrees Fahrenheit. I was comfortably dressed in a running tank top, over shirt, wind jacket, Under Armor pants and a running skirt. I was even rocking my brand new running shoes – they were a birthday gift from my parents!

running shoes_september 2014

The cooler temps and the strong wind took its toll on my lungs and my knee. I couldn’t finish all 13 miles, I had to stop at 11. I felt defeated. my lungs were on fire, my knee wanted to buckle under me (I’ve had four knee surgeries, any slight change in air pressure causes pain.) and I had some nice blisters forming on my feet. I returned home after 2 hours and 45 minutes. While I am glad I listened to my body when it demanded I stop (there’s no way I’m risking an injury this close to the race), I started to panic that I wouldn’t be able to finish – enter my FANTASTIC support system. Someone pointed out I STILL have a month, and that’s I’m miles ahead of many people who will show up in November, another friend pointed out that my pacing was right on track from my birthday training run – had I been able to keep going, I would have finished at roughly the same time, and a third friend pointed out the weather conditions will be just a little more favorable for racing (warm air for my crumby lungs!!) and last but not least, I was reminded of how far I’ve come in such a short time, and that as long as I have fun, why worry!

So I had one bad run, but really, it was a success – I went 11 miles. It was 47 degrees when I returned home. My muscles have relaxed and I’m not in pain. Still worried about those blisters, though.

I am ready for Wine and Dine. I am ready to wear that medal with pride. I am ready to runDisney.

“When I’m with you, I don’t feel so alone.” – Hercules

27 Apr

It’s hard to believe that exactly one month ago today I arrived in Florida, it already feels like a lifetime ago. That after-vacation glow is starting to fade and become more like a dream I was too suddenly waken from. It wasn’t just the fact that I was back in Florida, or back at Walt Disney World, I was with my friends, my surrogate family, people who mean more to me than I’ll ever be able to express in words.

Before my vacation started, there was an 8 hour work day ahead of me…LONGEST DAY EVER! By 9:30 AM I was practically bouncing out of my chair with pent-up excitement and nervousness, but I pulled it together.

If you know me personally, you already know that I LOVE to fly and that within the last year or so I have also developed the habit of flying dressed-up. I leave for the airport straight from work and it’s a hassle to remember to pack a change of clothes, also I am convinced people treat you different because they believe you are someone of great importance. Allow me to present Exhibit A – My BRAND NEW flying to Florida outfit:

Flying to Florida outfit

In all honesty, I had an alternative reason for wanting to look extra nice. My boyfriend, Scott, was the one picking me up from the airport. If you’ve read any of my posts before, you know we are currently in a long-distance relationship. While we talk all the time thanks to Google+ Hangouts and texting, the last time we were in the same state together was October 2013, 6 very long months ago. Maybe it’s just a girl thing, but I wanted to impress him. 🙂

You know that scene in movies where the girl and guy see each other for the first time after an extremely long time apart – everything is in slow motion, heart in their stomachs until their eyes meet from across the room, painfully slow they make their way towards each other, face-splitting smiles on each face and then suddenly they are in each other’s arms and nothing else in the world matters or can interfere with their happy bubble. That moment, those perfect couple of minutes are real. The only thing missing was an elegant and uniquely composed instrumental soundtrack to enhance the feelings of relief, love and togetherness.

But alas, we had to return to the hear and now, and there was a fun moment were we wondered around the parking deck looking for his car.

My Disney adventures began the next afternoon when we met up with my Disney College Program roommate (now I call her my Disney sister because we are so close), Monique. Her 30th birthday was a couple days before I arrived and we had planned that I’d take her out to lunch to celebrate. We ended up at the Trail’s End Restaurant at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground

 

After lunch, we found ourselves at Epcot so I could visit my friend Stephanie, who is a manager at The Electric Umbrella. And then it was time to go on an adventure! This time of the year at Epcot they have the Flower and Garden Festival, it’s really something to see. Here are a few of the amazing arrangements:

I had my first experience with the new Fastpass+ system. We were able to get a FP for Test Track but it wasn’t until later in the afternoon. Then around the world we went, starting in Canada. Somehow in all the time I’ve spent at Disney, I’ve never seen the little movie in the Canada Pavilion, so it was a fun first. It takes place in a 360 degree theater and takes a little time to get use to. (Make sure to hold on to the railings so you don’t fall over, you may feel a bit dizzy as you look all around you.) From there we made our way around towards France, America and Italy. Somewhere in that area, there was a representative handing out free applesauce drinkable pouches, which weren’t half bad.

Once at Test Track, I was very excited! Not only is it one of my favorite rides at Walt Disney World, it was also recently refurbished (within the last couple of years) and I’d only been on this “newer version” once before. With this “updated” version of the ride, each person designs a car and puts it through its paces on the course, competing with the other “drivers”. Check out our AWESOME car, we may have gone a smidgen overboard. 😉 And it’s green because that’s my favorite color!

Design a car at Test Track in Epcot

We finished off the night at Downtown Disney. I couldn’t believe all the construction that was happening, I almost didn’t recognize it! Also, Disney Quest had a paint job, and as a former cast member of the “big blue box,” I was not a fan. Once all the construction is complete down here, I think it’ll be a nice area to come and relax with friends. One of these days I want to go bowling at Splitsville, from what I’ve heard from friends who still live down there, it’s a great atmosphere and a lot of fun!

Saturday, Scott had to work, so that’s how I found myself at Animal Kingdom at 7:00 AM. Now, I am not a morning person, but I think I hid that fairly well. 😉 Of course, it HAD TO BE RAINING (wouldn’t be a Disney vacation if it didn’t rain at least one day), so here I am in my borrowed rain gear waiting for the park to open at 9:00 AM. On the plus side, I was the first one in line and the first one to enter Dinoland, USA, where I use to work and it was strange seeing no one wondering around, but that just meant I was also the first one on Dinosaur, and it felt like my DCP days all over again!

But my favorite part about being at Animal Kingdom was getting to visit Scott at work!

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And I was one of three people to ride the Wildlife Express Train while he was driving! Check out my video!

After a bit more running around Animal Kingdom, I made the switch back to Epcot to meet up with Monique. We had big plans to meet Anna and Elsa, the characters from Disney’s Frozen. While waiting in the 2.5 hour line, the sky opened up again and drenched us. You know you are a dedicated (read as crazy) Disney character meeting person when you brave lightning storms and threats of tornadoes to have your picture taken with a fictional character. THIS is what made us such great friends from the beginning, our willingness to do insane things together all in the name of our love of Disney. In the end, our perseverance paid off and we got those pictures, please excuse the fact that we look like “drowned rats” according to Monique.

Then it was back to Animal Kingdom to meet Scott when he got off work. Apparently Epcot was my park of choice this vacation, because we found ourselves back there so we could watch the firework show, Illuminations. We watched them from the Mexico pavilion, and it was pretty cool, as we were waiting, some of the technicians came around to get the fireworks ready.

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I have no pictures of the actual firework show from this trip, because believe it or not, I just WATCHED, and soaked in all the amazement and wonder. We did notice there was a slight glitch, one of the fountains wasn’t working and then a speed boat zoomed out there, someone fixed something and zoomed away before more fireworks exploded on the water. I know they know what they’re doing, but I was still kind of nervous for that boat being out there in the middle of the show!

Sunday found us at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. We started off the morning in a drawing class learning how to draw Olaf from Disney’s Frozen.  “Do you want to draw a snowman? I promise it isn’t very hard. The teacher tells you what to do, and guides you through each circle that you make….he tells you how to shape his head and body too, it’s a super speedy class….do you want to draw a snowman, it might not always be a snowman. Okay, draw.”

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Of course we hit all the main attractions here, Indiana Jones Stunt Show, Lights, Motors, Action, Rock n’ Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith, and AVOIDED Tower of Terror. We did see Fantasmic, a firework and water show. My advice, get there early to get a good seat because even though this is a HUGE theater, it fills up fast, and trust me, you don’t want to be in the “standing room only section.” We started to leave a few minutes before the end of the show to beat the crowd of people because we were going to head over to Magic Kingdom to watch its firework show, Wishes. I have seen this show from various places around the park, each of the resorts around the Seven Seas Lagoon and from backstage behind The Haunted Mansion when I had a perfectly timed break. On this particular night, we watched them from the cast only parking lot. It was pretty neat, the fireworks appeared to be SO CLOSE! Every time there was a big boom, different car alarms in the parking lot started going off. It was different seeing the show and not hearing the music, but when you’ve seen the show as many times as I have, it doesn’t matter because you have the soundtrack memorized and can sing it yourself. 🙂

On my last full day in Florida, it was finally time to return to Magic Kingdom. I will always get chocked up when I see Cinderella’s Castle or visit Mickey for a picture. I will always call Ad/Lib my “home” because I worked at The Haunted Mansion. I will always find such joy in talking to people in line, especially if they reveal it’s their FIRST TIME TO DISNEY, as happened while I was waiting to see Mickey. The family in front of me was from Georgia and they had a little girl about three years old. I couldn’t help but overhear they were already lost and not sure what to do (where you meet Mickey is right inside the entrance), so I offered to help. In the 30 minutes we were in line together, they downloaded the MyDisneyExperience App and we had planned out their entire vacation. Moments like that always bring back my Cast Member days, and it’s exciting to know that I haven’t lost who I was back then. If anything, those days changed me for the better – before the DCP I never in my wildest dreams would have voluntarily spoke to strangers in line, I would have been too shy. But now, it’s who I am – if I can help make someone else’s vacation a little less stressful and more magical, that’s just a bonus for my own trip.

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In the meantime, while I was visiting Mickey, Scott was saving us seats at the train station so we could watch the new Festival of Fantasy parade from up high! It was the perfect spot! There was so much to take in during the parade that I’m glad I had Scott record it so I could watch it again when I got home (yes, there are videos on YouTube already, but it’s different knowing your watching a recording from when you personally experienced it). I’ll share a couple pictures so you can see what I mean!

We ended the night watching the Castle projection show and Wishes. For me it was bittersweet – the next day I had to leave. Say goodbye to Scott, Florida, Disney, my friends, my home. I don’t know exactly what it is about Wishes, maybe because it was the first show I saw when I became a cast member, but it always makes me emotional, I will always cry. Always. I tried to hide it because, well, most grown women don’t cry at fireworks, but for me, it will always be more than just a firework show. I’m emotionally connected, there are memories, good and bad, that I will forever associate with that show and they always come flooding back to me. Luckily, I’m in good company in this crazy reaction, because I met up with another DCP friend, Jayme, who was also there on vacation, and she had done the same thing!

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Tuesday morning I woke up crying. I didn’t want to leave. I hate goodbyes and they never get any easier. I was breaking on the inside. Do you know how it fells to leave your heart behind, not only once, or twice, but now three times? There’s an empty space, calling it a hole would be a joke because it more than that, it’s this place where even though you can smile and be happy on the outside, you aren’t complete because a part of you is missing. All of those feelings, and trying to prepare and hope this time isn’t as bad, make the tears fall randomly throughout the day.

Since I had to be at the airport around 4:00 PM, we decided against going to a park. Instead, we went Mini Golfing at Fantasia Gardens and Fairways Miniature Golf, it was 18-holes themed around the classic animated film, Fantasia. Now, on a side note, you never really know the person you’re dating until you play mini golf together. I was happy to discover that we are both somewhat competitive and can be rather sarcastic (joking of course) with each other. Yes, Scott won, but that’s because I let him! 😉

 

And then all too quickly it was time to go to the airport. More tears. A heart-wrenching goodbye and he was gone. And I slowly made my way through security and to my gate, and then like magic I was home. While the last month has been hard being so far away after being together, it’s only made easier because as of this post, there are only 193 days until I return to Florida. And then, once again, I’ll be right where I belong. ❤

Where dreams come true2_March 31, 2014

Wordless Wednesday – 4/2/14

2 Apr

 Missing him already. 😥

Mariah & Scott in fron of Cinderella's Castle

Wordless Wednesday – 3/26/14

26 Mar

I’m just a LITTLE bit excited for my vacation….20140326-161812.jpg