Friday, August 30, 2013

Blogoversary Giveaway!

Today is the day! My two years in the Blogiverse has officially come to pass! My Giveaway will stay open until next Friday, September 6th. I've only had a couple of private entries so far and not one has been even close, and I have to say to my beloved T-Boo...dude, you've known me for 15+ years! How could you have gotten so far off?!?! I'm hurt (not really...but you ain't backin out of Disneyland 2015, if I have to drag you kicking and screaming).

So everyone have a lovely Labor Day holiday and don't purchase too much junk just because it's on sale (that was more for my benefit than yours). Ha! I just came up with an affirmation...which makes me think of one person...DARREN HAYES! I found this great clip of lyrics, and while not the official video, it's still Darren singing, so I'm willing to compromise! (Oh, and for those that know me...I'm not leaving out Take That's Affirmation song...I just couldn't find a clip I liked of it!).

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Almost Blogoversary, so let's try a giveaway!

I can't believe another year has gone by! I know I've been a crappy blogger lately and an even crappier stitcher, but as long as my head is stuck in Disney World, it's probably gonna stay that way for a while! Plus, I've been having laptop probs of late and I'm in the process of a complete reformat, so I'm sort of off-line for now anyway.

Thanks to everyone for your kind comments concerning my scattered brain's hectic Disney obsession! Speaking of my brain...Ferg-id got his annual peek-a-boo this week. I'm still waiting to hear the official word from the doc, but it looks like little dude is hangin in there:
Unfortunately, as long as he stays stable, he gets to keep "living off the land", so to speak. I'd much prefer he be unceremoniously ejected from the stadium for bad behavior, but that's not my choice to make (although, since it is my head, it should be). Maybe I'll toss him around a bit on Mission Space! If you can't remove it, kick it around a bit!!

I do have yet another Disney idea for a blog series...but I'm torn as to whether or not to go ahead. Part of me thinks I've rambled about Disney enough, but then I remember this is, after all, MY blog and I can ramble about Disney all I want! Once I get my laptop back in tip-top shape, maybe I'll re-address it then. But for the meantime...

HAPPY BLOGOVERSARY (in two days) TO ME!! So how about we have my first ever giveaway! I have an overabundance of "extra" Disney pins from my last trip (I have the worst time remembering which ones I already have) and they would make a good prize I think! So, here's the question:

How many times, with family or solo has Keebles been to Disney World?

I don't know if I've ever said the "actual number", but each trip has been referenced at many different points throughout my posts and there are other places to look (i.e. my Flickr page for instance, hint, hint). This will NOT include the two upcoming trips, but trips I have completed. Pick at random or research your best guess, post in the comments of this blog post, and, lets say on next Friday, September 6th, I'll see how many correct answers there are. If there are too many winners, I'll draw amongst them, but if not, then every winner will get a random assortment of about three or four Disney pins a piece...that sound good to anyone? If there is only one winner, I might double the prize! If there are no winners, I'll do a random drawing amongst all the entries and give away the same number of pins. If nobody tries, then I guess the pins will stay in my closet for another year!

So get your entries in and good luck!!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Going To Disney World Solo: An Asper-Girl's View - Part 8: Final Thoughts

I've said it before and I'll say it again...Asperger's kids today are treated a lot differently than in my day (where no one really even knew it existed). Everything that I do today, and everything that I am is because I had to learn all by myself to be that way. No years of meds, no special treatment from family or educators, no real therapy, no nothing. But I do believe that had I had the life that Asper kids have today, I wouldn't be anywhere near as strong as I am. Sure, I still can't do most of the stuff a "normal" person can do, but I can survive on my own doing what I WANT to do and, at least for me, that's a big bonus!

It probably seems, to the average person, from all my worries, paranoias, and freak-outs (or from the effort put forth in preventing said fears), that going to Disney is just not worth it for an Asper-Girl. But that is SO not true! Honestly, there is absolutely NO WHERE ELSE ON EARTH I'D RATHER BE THAN DISNEY WORLD! I will do anything, including compromising my beloved comfort level, to go whenever I can. Sure, my OCD comes into play here too and I whole-heartedly admit that I'm absolutely obsessed with all things Disney!

Every Asper is different, but most of us can agree that whatever we obsess upon, becomes the most important thing in our lives. For me it's Disney, but for an Asper who may not have ever gone to a Disney park before, it could be one of the most terrifying experiences of their life!

My advice for anyone thinking about taking an Asper to Disney is this, immerse them in Disney as much as possible before you leave. Ask questions, let them ask questions, and be patient. Let them study and know all the ins and outs before you go so there are no major surprises. Inevitably, there will always some little surprises, but know them enough to know what they will need to get through it...be it meds or quiet time or even a temper tantrum. Ask them what their fears are and try to work out together the best way to overcome them. A lot of Asper's get surprised by their fears in the moment and henceforth develop phobias from it. Know your Asper and the warning signs that danger is approaching...they can't always control it on their own, even adults. There have been numerous times I've been on the brink and my sister has brought me back down to earth.

For an Asper wanting to go solo, I would give the same advice, but add another caveat...go with family or people you are comfortable with FIRST. Learn the environment BEFORE you try to do it on your own. I doubt I would have ever gone to Disney World alone if not for my family. Not that every trip as been good with them...some have been downright terrible (i.e. 1981 - my very first visit, and 2004 come to the top of my head). Try really hard not to push yourself too far. You know how far outside your comfort zone you can go and when you get surprised by a moment, do whatever it is you do to get back to your happy place, don't try to push through it if you can't.

Maybe, if I can increase my Disney travels, I will be able to push more boundaries in everyday life! I'm planning a Flower and Garden Festival Trip with my good friend Kate over at The Suddenly Kate Show next spring and a Disneyland trip to California in 2015 with my T-Boo, both of which push my boundaries for sure! I've always wanted to go to Disneyland (it is the original after all) but would never be able to do it alone since it's so much different than Disney World (plus, different airports, different layouts, different booking procedures, different everything!). Heck, maybe even someday I'll get overseas to Disneyland Paris! One never knows!

I really hope you were able to read this series without getting too bored (or a bit freaked out by my crazy mind). I think, more than anything, this blog series has helped me deal with my fears of my upcoming trip. Granted, I still have two months to go and the fears could come back or I'll find new ones, but as of now, I'm pretty excited and even less scared than when I started this series! In the end, that is the most important thing, whether it's read by anyone else or not!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Going To Disney World Solo: An Asper-Girl's View - Part 7: Departure

Departure is the time at Disney that can be the absolute hardest. I'd like to be able to stay that while I'm at Disney I'm worrying about home, about work, or even about my pups...but I don't. My Asper brain may be running full speed 24/7 while I'm there, but my life, the life of Keebles, stops completely and I'm able to shut off and not be "me" anymore. This is both a blessing and a curse. It's a breather from my life but, when it comes time to leave, everything comes flooding back a thousand times over! Suddenly, I have to not only deal with the upcoming flying departure (see Part 2: Travel), but I have to be me again. UGH.

Knowing I have to look forward to dealing with the whole airport issue has trapped me from leaving the lobby of the resort both times I went solo before. I am so worried and focused on dealing with the upcoming mind scramble, I can't go out and enjoy my last few hours in either the parks or at Downtown Disney. I just sit there, in a stupor, looking at my watch every 20 seconds, mind on hyperdrive. In 2008, I actually sat in the lobby for almost 7 hours!

Managing the airport on the return trip always seems to be a much worse experience. The town car driver (always the same jerk) is even more sullen than usual (probably because he's picking up on my vibe). It's hard for me to maneuver backwards from the way I arrived backwards through the airport. Orlando Airport is such a cheery place during arrival (excluding the tons of people), but departing, it's just a cluster-you-know-what. I'm tired, dreading what I have to go home to, and I'm once again dealing with one of my greatest fears...airport security.

Once I'm home, I'd like to say it gets better, but it doesn't...not for a long time. Zoning out at Disney may be good for me at the time, but once I get home, I'm just bitter and don't want to deal with anyone. It's usually why I take off more days after a trip than before, but the extra time to get acclimated to my life again usually backfires. The more I'm alone, the more I want to be alone and the harder it is for me to "play nice" with family, co-workers, etc (pups are excluded from this mix...besides, they are so mad at me for leaving them with Grandma, they won't come near me for days anyway - this upcoming will be Bam's first experience with Grandma housesitting...I sure hope he takes it better than Zach does!).

This behavior is not just a Disney thing...I used to do the same thing when I would go stay with my father. The longer I was away from my everyday routine, the harder it was for me to return to it. Although my Asper brain still functions in its usual, erratic way, it's a different kind of erratic and I kind of enjoy the change (in a really screwed up kind of way).

Since it has been so long since I've done Disney solo, I'm trying to make allowances to prevent the inevitable. I'm driving instead of flying, thus avoiding the airport and final hours debacle. I will have the 14-16 hour trip home to blank out completely for long periods (until I get into traffic or hit a city). I've also scheduled this trip more toward the end of my week off, so I'll only have a day before I have to return to work. I'm hoping this decision doesn't backfire on me. After picking a resort, it was the hardest to make.

Plus, I won't have Disney withdrawal for too long, since we are doing a full, "real" trip in December, family included. I'm hoping that by going to Disney World solo before December, will help with the stressors of the family trip. Hopefully, if all goes well, I will be able to do all the things that I like to do in October and not feel like I'm missing out on them in December if we don't do them.

I'll have to keep all that in my mind when, on the day of departure, I had to drive my own vehicle to Downtown Disney to get my stash of Earl Of Sandwich. It's the only thing I'm really dreading (so far) for October...manipulating my vehicle through the Disney streets. Is Earl of Sandwich worth it? You bet!! Does that make it any easier? Hell, no!

Next up is Part 8: Final Thoughts.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Going To Disney World Solo: An Asper-Girl's View - Part 6: Shopping

Other than riding rides (actually being on the ride, not the standing in line part), shopping is the only other time in Disney were my fears and phobias are at a minimum. Very often, going shopping after a finger-wringing experience calms me better than Xanax. I may be bankrupting myself, but hey, I'm happy!! Rarely ever have I even regretted spending so much money...after all, I wouldn't have my very happiest place on earth, my Disney-filled house, without it.

It is so much easier to dodge other people in shops. Not a lot of cast members bother you with "Can I help you find something?" or "Are you looking for anything in particular?". It's the best shopping experience ever!

I've been through every single shop in Disney World dozens of times, so I'm very familiar and comfortable with them (like the rides). I've always been a quick shopper, even at home. I know what I want and where it's at...no need to read the labels or examine the merchandise, just grab and go! Again, another philosophy which gets me into trouble because I tend to have blind spots when it comes to price tags as well as miss some really great stuff because I'm in such a hurry.

There have been moments where it's been yucky, after all, nothing can be perfect. I think I give off a shifty vibe since I'm avoiding the world and, more than once, I've had cast members tracking my every movement like I'm a shoplifter. I'd like to say it's just paranoia on my part, but Am's been with me when it's happened (Youse Guys Moichendise in the Studios? That cast member was actually following us!). Their behavior just sends my mind into overdrive and ignites my freak out gene. I always try to make sure that, if I get that vibe from a cast member, I get them to ring my purchases up and they can see I'm not shifty after all!

This post was pretty short (compared to the other book-length posts), but like I said, shopping in Disney is mainly a very enjoyable experience for me, probably even more so solo. I can do what I gotta do, get what I gotta get, and get out!

There are only two parts left to this series, so next up is Part 7: Departure, followed by Part 8: Final Thoughts.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Going To Disney World Solo: An Asper-Girl's View - Part 5: Meals

This one might throw y'all for a loop...I actually do prefer to have sit-down table service meals solo while at Disney World! Yep, you read that right! But, and here comes the caveat, I don't do it anymore, not because it was hard for me to eat alone, but because the other guests couldn't leave me alone! Every single meal I had, at least one (and in one case, two) families felt the need to "end my loneliness and invite me to join them". Logically, I know they were just being polite, but, as far as my issues are concerned, it doesn't matter much.

Sitting at a table alone in Disney World, eating a really good meal in my favorite restaurant, is comparable to riding a ride solo...I'm in my own head, enjoying the atmosphere, and no one else exists but me and Disney. Imagine riding your favorite ride and suddenly it stops. The lights come on, some stranger jumps in your car, says, "hi, noticed you were by yourself and thought I'd join you to keep you company", and precedes to talk for the rest of the ride, while the entire building of riders are suddenly focused completely on you. That is what it is like when I get asked to join another family. My quiet solo bubble is busted and I'm exposed for all the world to see.

The one instance that stands out the most was the very first "invite". It was at Nine Dragons, which is in the China pavillion at World Showcase in Epcot and, it was so bad, I haven't eaten there since. I'm one of the few people on the planet that actually likes that restaurant...which typically makes for a good meal since there are barely any other guests there. In 2006, I managed to get seated in a section with nobody else!
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I ordered my favorite dishes, managed to get halfway through the meal:
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And then the barrage of other guests started arriving around me. Not a problem because I was already in my "zone" and wasn't paying too close attention to them, I wasn't even tuned in to their chit-chat, which is usually pretty hard for me to block out. My spidey-sense usually picks up when someone looks my way, let alone is talking about me amongst themselves!

Never in my lifetime have I felt the need to invite a complete stranger to sit with me at a restaurant! I'm there eating a meal, not noticing what others are doing, and I would hope they would do the same for me. They are in their world, I'm in mine. Nuff said!

I'm sitting eating and I start to hear this very soft female voice to the left of me, "hon...hon...sweetie". At first, I didn't even acknowledge it. Surely, some stranger wasn't talking to me, right? Next I hear, "go over and get her attention Jake" (I have never forgotten that kid's name to this very day), immediately followed by a little boy's voice saying, "I don't want to mommy" and then a stern male voice saying, "let her be, maybe she doesn't want to be bothered". I still didn't believe they were talking to me, but I glanced over anyway. Ugh...biggest mistake EVER! The second I made eye contact, that sweet little female voice becomes booming throughout the entire restaurant, "Hey hon! We saw you were sitting by yourself and thought you'd want to come join us!". "No ma'am, I'm fine, but thank you", a pretty good response I thought. "No sweetie, it's OK, we really don't mind and it would be so much better than being all by yourself! Come on over! Jake, move over for the lady.", followed by another, "I don't want to mommy". "Seriously, thank you very much, but I'm perfectly fine...and", yes, in the middle of my sentence I notice that everyone around us are now all looking and the waitress has arrived, initially to fill my drink, but now is preparing to move my plates to their table! How do I get off this crazy train???

It took quite a while to convince her I was fine and was happy eating alone. Dad was giving her stink-eye, Jake was giving me stink-eye. Had there of been a tablecloth, I would have crawled under the table and waiting for everyone to leave! For the rest of the meal (which was pretty damn short, I can tell you), she would holler across the table, asking me where I was from, why I was by myself, if I was having a good time, and even little Jake got in on the action eventually, asking me my favorite rides, favorite characters, etc. I would have been better off just sitting with them in the first place!

I wouldn't have even ordered dessert if it wasn't free on the dining plan, but this is all I managed to eat of it, I just had to get out of there!
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As if that wasn't bad enough, my waitress was at the checkout counter was speaking Chinese to the girl at the cash register (in case you didn't know, all the employees in the different World Showcase countries are actually students from those countries). I didn't think anything of them talking, I just wanted out, until cash register girl says, in very bad English, "so sorry", and "please wait". She speaks Chinese to the waitress again, who runs off. I'm thinking, "great, more embarrassment, my card's been declined", but no! Waitress comes back moments later with a replacement for my uneaten dessert! Whatever nauseous look I may have had on my face at the time of arriving at the cash register, had to be mild compared to the sheer terror on my face when she handed me that carry-out box. I really thought I was going to pass out! There was no nearby bathroom to go hide in, no place to run...I was stuck! I knew exactly what they meant by replacing my dessert...they knew I was uncomfortable by loud lady, dad, and little Jake and that I rushed out on my dessert, so they got me one for later! One of the nicest Disney gestures ever, and quite possibly the worst! Bad enough all the surrounding tables were discussing me and the invader family, but apparently even the restaurant staff were too!

Needless to say, I didn't stay in Epcot for very much longer that night. I just had to get out. I ended up wandering over to the Boardwalk to look at Christmas decorations (hence my discovery of the Yacht and Beach Club). Everything happens for a reason, and the end result was a very good thing, but why must my happy endings all be marred by bad beginnings?

I'd like to say it only happened once, but I would be lying. Like I said earlier, every single meal, and one meal twice! The twice was at Artist Point inside the Wilderness Lodge (which I have been to since, many times, but never alone). The first was an older, very poshly dressed couple. There was no pre-invite discussion, he just leaned over and asked me to join them. I thought his wife was going to kill him! She whispered to him (not so silently), "leave her alone". I didn't have to respond, he just grimaced and said sorry and they went about their meal. They never acknowledged me again (thankfully). But I couldn't help but feel her jealous daggers swinging my way...it was pretty obvious what she was thinking (which made it easier of a issue for me...I got giggles out of her being jealous!).

But I wasn't off the hook yet. The couple that replaced them did the exact same thing (but this time the female). I just declined politely and, had it not been for a very pushy and talkative waiter, would have bolted just like in Nine Dragons. Seriously? Do I have the look of a sad puppy or something?

By the time I got back to the room, I had a voicemail message from the restaurant manager. In all my Disney years, I have never, before or since, gotten a message like that! He said he hoped I enjoyed my meal, if the pork was to my liking, if I was pleased with the quality of the berries in my cobbler, and if I had any questions about the meal or had any comments, I could call him back. Needless to say, I didn't. I think, because I was by myself, they thought I was a food critic or something! It wasn't the same sort of embarrassment as being handed a replacement dessert, especially since I was in the comfort of my own room listening to a voice message, but it wasn't a happy moment for sure! Glad I stopped at the gift shop first before going back up to my room, I might of actually had to speak to him in person!

The whole experience changed the way I eat out, even to this very day! I only do counter service solo now, which does save on time as you're not waiting to be seated, waiting on different courses to be delivered, etc. There is a much different mentality to counter service...no one wants to talk, they just want you to move so they can have your seat, or in a hurry to get out themselves.

Character meals are the biggest no-no on the planet! There are some restaurants that I loved and/or always wanted to try, but NEVER will, due to the fact that they are now character meals (I really miss Cinderella's Royal Table and eating in the castle!). For those that don't know, character meals are prepaid dinners where Disney Characters come around to each and every table to visit. A normal person would love this sort of thing (especially one that is as big of a Disney freak as I am), but for an Asper, it's a sheer nightmare! Dozens of rambunctious children running every which way. All eyes in the place focused on the characters, and watching their and the people they are visiting's every movement. That's all I need, every single eye in the restaurant focused on me! It's loud, it's wild, it's sensory overload, and it's just UGH! No way in hell!

I am actually debating having one or two sit-down table services during my upcoming solo trip. Simply because there are some restaurants I absolutely love, that I rarely get to experience for one reason or another. One is Mama Melrose's in Disney's Hollywood Studios. We usually eat at Brown Derby (Am loves the Cobb Salad there) and Mama's is a rare treat. It's been quite a while and I've been thinking about Mama's a lot lately. I've also always wanted to eat the Yacht Club. The Yachtsman Steakhouse is out of my league financially, since it is a Signature (which means it's expensive), but I would be willing to give Captain's Grille a shot. I've also wanted to try Cat Cora's place, Kouzzina...a big Am no-no (she hates olives and it's a greek restaurant which means olives galore, and there is even an olive on the sign!). Epcot is covered by the Food and Wine Festival. Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom really don't have good sit down's, and I much prefer their counter services anyway. I don't know yet if I can come up with the money for two/three table service meals, so I'm not trying to book any reservations yet. Plus, I will have to get around my table service phobia as well. Time will tell!

I do have moments, if the lines are long for counter services, where I have to step back and wait before eating. Food and Wine booths are the hardest because they always have long lines and the food can be hard to pronounce. Plus, there are not a lot of tables for you to sit on. We've used garbage cans as tables more times than I can count!
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Eating off of garbage cans might be gross, but it beats trying to eat and drink while walking and avoiding other people!

The main moral of this story is, if you and your family are at Disney World, and you see someone sitting by themselves, you may feel sorry for them and want to invite them to join you, but think about the fact that you don't know them or their issues, and you could be causing more harm than good!

Next up, Part 6: Shopping!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Going To Disney World Solo: An Asper-Girl's View - Part 4: Park Touring and General Day-To-Day

So, I've made it to Disney World on my own, managed the drive, the arrival, the check-in, and finding my room...now it's time to head to the parks!

But here is where I get stuck again...busses. While Disney transport is my friend, it's passengers are my greatest enemy! There is no person on earth more rude than a Disney guest. Throughout the years my super-sonic hearing has picked up thousands comments to the tune of "I paid a fortune to be here, I deserve to be first on the bus, served in a restaurant without a reservation, get things handed to me for free, get the sole attention of every single cast member around me, and nobody else but me and my family matter, etc". They push and shove, run over you with their strollers, bump in front of you in line, leave their food remnants all over the only empty table so you have to clean it off to be able to sit down, not flush the toilets, push in front of you at purchase checkout because they "just have two items" and you have dozens, their kids are gods compared to you, the mere mortal, etc.

Sorry, off soapbox now. When the busses get filled, there comes a point when I invariably have to stand up for an old lady (although the perfectly healthy male jerk sitting across from me doesn't seem to notice there is a 90 year old woman standing directly in front of him). This is another one of my greatest Disney fears. I have absolutely no sense of balance and I'm a pooh-sized girl. Standing up on a moving bus is incredibly hard for me. I swing, I sway, I fall forward, I fall backward...you get the point. When my sister is there, at least I have someone to crash into that won't care or bite my head off, because, believe you me, I will crash at some point. I am terrified I will make a fool out of myself and/or offend someone else. I'm gripping the bar I'm standing next to so hard I start to get cramps, which means I have to let go, which invariably leads to my downfall because the bus driver decides to hit the breaks right at that moment. I am usually quite nauseous from the stress once we get to the park and it takes me a while to get over it.

Park arrival means interactions galore. You have to have your bag checked through security, go through the turnstiles with your ticket, meet the greeters, dodge the other guests, all before you see your first park icon! This process is constantly changing, especially ticketing, so familiarity doesn't offer any comfort here. I also have to renew my annual pass this time (do I use my old one and then go to the main guest services or do I brave the ticket window outside the main turnstiles with all the other guests complaining that the day price for one park is $100? All issues I'm fighting with now), so yet another abnormal social interaction will need to be dealt with. By the time December rolls around and the Magic Bands become standard...will I have to go through it all again? Ugh.

Finally, once the initial stress is over, I've made it in the parks! I don't plan every single minute of the day, but I know pretty much when I enter a park where I'm heading (more so when I'm alone because I don't have to worry about what someone else might want to do). Magic Kingdom means Haunted Mansion, then Pirates; Epcot means Soarin then Mission Space; Studios means Tower Of Terror; and Animal Kingdom means Expedition Everest.

I have had issues in the past with standing in line. I've just learned throughout the years that if I start to feel the panic level rising, just step out of line and go do something else. Nine times out of ten, I just find a bench and call my sister to gloat that I'm at Disney World and she's not! She grounds me back down, makes me laugh a lot, and I'm able to resume normal broadcasting.

I also don't usually use fast passes when I'm solo. My logic is a bit backwards as to why not, as it would be much easier to use fast passes and avoid the lines (and bored guests with their kicking kids). Anyone who has used fast passes, socially inept or not, can't help but feel the stares and stink-eyes of the guests in the stand-by line watching you walk past them. Admit it, even though you utilized the fast pass system and they didn't, you can't help but feel even a tiny smigin of guilt of walking past people who have been standing in line for an hour or more. Now, magnify that by a million, and you have my problems. I'd rather just stand in line. I don't give stink-eye to the fast-passer's, I'm too busy trying to control myself from picking up the kid in line behind me kicking my shins and bending him over my knee!

Being solo in line is often a blessing and curse. Most times, they will seat you on the ride in a row by yourself. But sometimes they don't. I hate it when that happens! You can almost guarantee that if the ride line is long, you will be seated with another guest. Walk off and try again later, that's my motto! I also steer clear of rides that require interaction...Mission Space is OK but I have never or will never do the Jungle Cruise by myself. I prefer to sit back and enjoy the show, I don't want to be part of it! Interaction on ride or queue means interaction with other guests or, even worse, all eyes are suddenly on me. No thank you. Disney is big on interaction, especially in the queue area. Their thinking is to keep the guests busy and therefore not bored. My thinking is, I'm already in line for a ride because I want to ride it, I don't care if its boring as long as the kicking kid is controlled or the man (or woman or child) behind me isn't standing WAY too far up in my personal space (and that happens all the time as well-that one little step isn't gonna get them on the ride any sooner, get off my ass!). Some things I won't do even with my own family, like Monsters Inc Laugh Floor Comedy Club - once was MORE than enough and I couldn't enjoy it because I lived in fear of being picked on! We don't do Buzz Lightyear or Toy Story Mania either (nor do I do them alone).

Generally, once I'm in the parks and wandering around, the thousands of people surrounding me tend to disappear. I am in my own little zone and it's a beautiful thing! This is the payoff after so many stressors and I relish every single moment of it! I'm in Disney World and I'm happy! Yea me!

Throughout the day I may ride some things numerous times and others none, but the most important solo lesson I have learned is, no matter how tired I get or crowded the parks might be in the afternoon, NEVER go back to the room for "a couple of hours" to rest. Once I get back to the room, I don't leave it. Happens every time. I get back to the safety (and quiet) of my room and start thinking about all the stressors getting to, and being in, the parks and I can't bring myself to go through it again (at least not for the rest of the night). I've wasted so much valuable trip time that way. When I go solo, I can't afford to stay near as long as I would with my family, so every single minute is precious. Only the guilt of wasting half the previous day makes me get out of bed the next morning and going back out again, otherwise, I'd wouldn't leave for the rest of the trip!

There is one more thing I wanted to touch on in this section...leaving the parks at night. Like I said, every minute is precious, so staying as late as I can, usually till closing time, is really important. But that leads to the worst part of park touring...crowds like you've never seen all leaving the same place at the same time! Am and I call it the "mass exodus". We even filmed 45 minutes of it one night while we waited for Magic Kingdom to clear out! But you can wait all you want, think the coast is clear and you have an easy exit, only to arrive at the bus stops and sheer pandemonium (or, you can leave before everyone else, only to have them bombard the bus stop and shove their way in front of you in the line)! Guaranteed you are going to be standing on the bus ride back to the resort and packed in like sardines. And that is only after you have waited through several busses to clear out enough people to even get you up the line! If I wasn't such a big chicken, I'd just get one of the many cabs waiting close to the bus stops and have a peaceful ride back to the resort.

You finally get on a bus, the bus driver departs and then the worst possible event for someone with a brain tumor happens...the dreaded "light flashing" necklaces, bracelets, dooma-hitchies, and thing-a-ma-bobs! The lights go off and kids around the bus turn them all on, and not to be outdone by the kid sitting next to them, spin them, throw them, hit people with them, etc. Flashing lights in a completely blackened room...just friggin GREAT!! So now, not only am I trying to hold on for dear life and avoid smushing the child in front of me, but I'm having to use at least one hand to cover my eyes to keep from having seizures since just merely closing your eyes doesn't work. WHO INVENTED THESE HORRIBLE THINGS? Parents can't be so naive that they don't realize that flashing lights in the dark are dangerous, not only to others sitting around them, but to their own selves (or their kids)! Even a person with a normal brain can pop off into a seizure if the conditions are right (i.e. FLASHING LIGHTS IN THE DARK!). I've even written to Disney telling them they need to either quit selling them or ban them from busses (to no avail). In the crowded parks, you can just look away (and it's never really that dark anywhere in the parks), but on an enclosed bus? I'm a screwed pooch. When I'm with Am, we both do the "passive aggressive mumble" just loud enough for others to hear. Maybe somebody, someday will get the hint (although it hasn't happened yet). When I'm by myself, I ain't that brave!

I'm saving Part 5 for meals simply because it's just as long a topic and needs it's own forum...so until next time, TURN YOUR FLASHING NECKLACES OFF!!!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Going To Disney World Solo: An Asper-Girl's View - Part 3: Arrival

If you haven't noticed by now, this blog series may seem a bit "scatter-brained". I'm trying to relay my Asperger's related fears and problems in the way I actually feel them...all of which are on overdrive when I'm outside my comfort zone (which is anytime I'm outside my house). My brain runs a million times a minute with all the "what should be's", the "what's actually happenings", as well as the "what ifs". I'm also hyper-aware of my surroundings, clocking everyone and everything around me...making sure no one is too close or that I don't make eye contact with anyone (because they seem to think it's OK to talk to you then). In a way, all this "thinking" is actually a good thing because it keeps me busy and not focusing on being terrified (which I would be if I thought about it). And when I say terrified, I mean terrified to the point of falling in the floor and crying uncontrollably (which has happened a couple of times in my life).

I did most of the driving last year, so the route to Disney World shouldn't be too much of a problem, however, I didn't do any of the driving around Disney World itself. But for the "getting there" part, I should only have issues driving through the cities and their traffic. When I have to switch roads, I will also feel the pressure pretty strongly. I plan to stop in Ocala the first night, saving me from having to leave home extremely early to arrive to WDW before dark, paying for a full night's stay and only getting a few hours out of it. It was just cheaper that way. Plus, we stayed at the exact same place last year (for the same reason), so it's familiar enough for me to manage. I will leave Ocala early the next day and drive straight to the Yacht Club!

Here is where the major issues begin again. Granted, I will only be driving my vehicle directly to the resort and parking her for the week, but parking was another large deciding factor in determining which resort I picked. I studied Google Maps incessantly trying to evaluate building/room/parking lot entrances and exits for all the resort choices. I wanted to make sure that the resort I chose would be Asper-friendly.

Usually, when you arrive at a hotel, you pull under the cover and one person goes in and checks in while the other sits in the car (which is me). You park as close as you can in the safest zone you can find and go to your room. At Disney, you first have to go through a gate and explain to security who you are and why you are there. When you actually get to the front of the hotel and pull under the cover, numerous cast members come running...one opens your door, another starts collecting your bags, yet another is filling out your baggage claim ticket and taking your information, and, if you're not careful, another is taking your vehicle off to valet parking. All the while, there are dozens of other guests waiting to leave or just arriving standing all around you. That is WAY too much interaction for me (and way too many tips - I'm too good of a tipper and it tends to cut into my budget significantly, plus, be it their job or not, I can't help but feel guilty for "burdening" them with my stuff). Then there are the reverse conversations of getting the bags from bell services retrieved (and tipping again), getting my vehicle out of valet (and tipping) because I was too scared to stop them, etc.

I want to be able to park my vehicle myself, walk to the front desk, and check in all on my own. Then, and only then, if my room isn't ready, I'll go retrieve my bags from my vehicle and take them to bell services. If the room is ready, I'll get to go straight to the room - which means I've only had conversations with three people by that point; the gate security who let me into the lot, the greeter who "welcomed me home", and the front desk clerk who checked me in (and maybe bell services if the room isn't ready).

But once I'm checked in, I have the overwhelming burden of trying to find my room on my own. I've only ever stayed at Wilderness Lodge by myself and have stayed there several other times with my sis, so I'm very comfortable with it. Sure, I've walked through the Yacht Club (in 2006 to see the Christmas decorations) and have walked around the lake a few times, but never in the guest room areas. I'll have to try to find my way back out and locate the bus stop. Then, I have to keep repeating these steps over and over for the next couple of days (you'd think eventually my brain would record the route, but it never does).

Once I'm there and settled, I don't plan on driving around Disney World at all. Disney transportation is my friend (in some ways). But there may come a time (especially on departing day when I have to go to Earl Of Sandwich at Downtown Disney to get my "stash" to take home), when I have to try to find my way around...here we go again with the terror! Some people find Disney's signage very useful, I just find it confusing! Signs only seem to pop up right before you have to turn and you are in the farthest lane away in full traffic. Then there are the weird turns (aka into the Magic Kingdom) that I much prefer a bus driver to handle. Throughout the years of riding Disney busses, I have always tried to make a point of sitting close to the front so I could see the route the driver was taking (not that my sense of direction could repeat the process in my own vehicle). Besides, I have this thing about "watching where I'm going". I do the same thing on planes...I need the window seat so I can watch the ground. It's the only way I can control my feeling of not having control of what is happening. I'm afraid I may not do some of the things I want to do because I'm scared of driving around.

Everything I worry about may seem silly to a normal person, but if I let these feelings overwhelm me, I will have a meltdown. Meltdowns are not pretty...think of a 3-year old having a temper tantrum. Can you imagine seeing an adult behave that way? I have done it more times than I am willing to admit. Because ultimately, all roads lead to "what if I have a meltdown and embarrass myself in public?". Everything I do, think, and way over-process is to keep meltdowns from happening. It's taken me an entire lifetime to perfect the level of control I have now (and numerous embarrassing failures along the way) and it's a never-ending burden trying to keep control. Some things are worth sacrificing my comfort level for (well, very few things actually), but I do believe Disney is my #1 sacrifice (in more ways than one!).

So next up, it's time to go to Part 4: Park Touring and General Day-To-Day!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Going To Disney World Solo: An Asper-Girl's View - Part 2: Travel

Travel is the worst part of vacation for me even with my family...solo, it's a total nightmare! Since we live 14 hours away, flying has always been the most viable option, but it's never been my preferred method. The actual flying part I have no trouble with, it's the airport and dealing with security that gets me every.single.time. It's sensory overload on an entirely different scale. You stand in lines, juggling your bags, your i.d., and your boarding pass; you're scrutinized several times by different agents all looking at the same thing (and they always seem to spend an extra long amount of time comparing me to my driver's license for some reason); you have a very miniscule amount of time to get your shoes off, put your bags in a very tiny container while pulling out your liquids, your meds, your electronics, etc; you are forced to walk away from your stuff to walk through a scanner that shows the outline of your naked body (but luckily I've avoided these up to now); you try to not look shifty while you deal with getting through the detectors, having conversations with agents, and watching your stuff to make sure someone isn't robbing you; you are forced to get your stuff, re-pack your formerly perfectly arranged bag, put on your shoes, all while trying to keep an eye on your stuff and the people around you. All of this happens in a matter of minutes! Extremely stressful for an Asper and not easily overcome. I can only imagine how little kid Asper's handle it all.

Flying solo is even worse. Not only am I dealing with all of the above, but I'm having to do it alone. There is the added fun of finding your way through airports that you only see once a year (I'm bad with directions, remember?). You are stuck in a seat next to a complete stranger who usually wants to talk the entire trip (you'd think the fact that I've wrung my hands blue might put a complete stranger off, but no!). You have to approach your town car driver yourself, make chit-chat while you wait for your bags to come through baggage (all the while watching to make sure no one else steals your stuff-yeah, for a small-town girl, I have a big city mentality). Then there is the chit-chat to the resort (I've been lucky for the past several years to get the same jerk driver who doesn't like to talk...sometimes being a jerk is a good thing). Over the years I've become quite good at faking chit-chat, but I still hate it.

Last year we drove down for the first time since we were little kids. It was a lot more comfortable for me to sit in a vehicle for 14-16 hours versus a 2 hour plane ride! We were able to buy whatever we wanted at Disney and not have to worry about shipping it home either. Guess I should explain that a bit...in the past I've mentioned the fact that you can have any store purchase (excluding food) shipped back to your resort so you don't have to carry around bags, you just pick them up in your resort gift shop the next day. You can also have them ship the items home for you, saving you the cost of sales tax, you only have to pay shipping. But we have learned from personal experience that Disney are HORRIBLE package packers! They are really quick to replace things, but it's just annoying getting your purchases and you end up having to ship them back and waiting all over again. So, to combat breakage, we started shipping a huge empty box filled with other empty boxes and all kinds of packing materials to our resort a few days before we go. When we arrive, the box is already there waiting to be filled!

This shipping process worked well in the past (with some notable hiccups), but it is time consuming both before and during your trip. When you get back to your resort late and you just want to go to sleep, you are forced to reorganize the boxes you've previously packed, adding the new stuff. Then on the last day, you have to make sure everything's secure, the boxes are sealed and labeled, and ready to go home. You have to tip the baggage handlers an absolute fortune to carry them down to the front desk where you spend FOREVER filling out paperwork. It costs quite a bit of money to ship the boxes home (because we have to ship them home air - partly because I can't wait and partly because the longer they sit in a warehouse or on a delivery truck, the more damage the carriers can do). They used to let you choose FedEx or UPS, now they only use UPS. I think our local UPS driver plays bumper cars with the boxes because they come back looking like they have been through a war zone! Ripped open, dented in numerous places, crushed...you name it! Luckily, we are really good packers and nothing has ever gotten broken. But one of these days, me and that little bastard are gonna go round and round!

A few years ago, when they still let you choose which carrier, I chose FedEx and added insurance to the package ($300 a box-which so did NOT cover the contents). It was at the Contemporary, which has a business center, but the cast member helping me was new. Needless to say, he ended up shipping them to me by UPS with a $300 due on receipt charge instead. When the little bastard driver showed up at my work demanding $1200 for the four boxes, I thought he was just being his usual jerky self! But nope, he was dead serious and refused to leave my stuff. It took me three days of numerous phone calls between Disney and UPS (and a very wonderful brother-in-law throwing around his weight with the head of the local UPS) before I got my boxes (all of which were severely damaged BTW). I was in full meltdown mode for weeks afterwards!

But back on track, last year we just put the boxes in the back of the vehicle with our suitcases, filled them up on the trip, then shoved them back in the vehicle for the trip home. No special arranging and bubble-wrapping, no sorting things so one box isn't heavier than another, and best of all, no hit to the wallet...just shove it all in the box and, as long as the lid at least partially closes, no worries! Take that UPS!

Another good thing about driving down is that you have 14-16 hours of "solo" time before you are shoved into the Disney crowds. This is crucial for the Asper. Mind prep is what I call it. You are not spending the first part of your vacation struggling through security lines, sitting in airports, riding on planes, getting off planes, getting your baggage, finding your town car driver, etc. You're not worrying about the fact that your family is furious with you because you demand that you have to arrive at the airport 3 hours before the flight so you have time to deal with security in case there is a glitch. You are also not worrying the entire trip about repeating the whole airport process all over again on the way home!

Flying and Xanax go hand in hand, that's for sure! It takes me months, yes, I said months to prepare for a flight mentally. It's also the main reason why I haven't gone to Disney World solo since 2008 (well, that and lack of funds). I've been saying that as soon as I got a reliable vehicle I would start driving down and avoid the flying all-together. Well, my lovely blog friends, that time as come!

So, this October, not only am I doing my first solo trip since 2008, but I am also driving down...alone! I'm really excited and scared at the same time! There is gas stops and bathroom breaks that concern me...I didn't handle those very well even with my sister with me. I have the feeling that my bladder is going to get really angry. Pumping gas outside is one thing, but having to go inside to go to the bathroom (which is generally very scummy) is a scary prospect. But I am determined! I have made several "preliminary" little trips, testing my, and my vehicle's, driving endurance. Other than extensive map study and intimate knowledge of my vehicle's sat nav, I am ready and mind prep is done!

Lookout Disney...here I come...but wait, I still have to get through another big stumbling block...the arrival! UGH! Stayed tuned for Part 3: Arrival!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Going To Disney World Solo: An Asper-Girl's View - Part 1: Deciding Where To Stay

In 2006 I went to my happy place all by myself for the first time! A pretty big accomplishment for an Asper-Girl! I was on meds at the time, so I had suppressed (but not entirely diminished) social issues and was feeling a bit braver than my normal state. Surprisingly though, I have always felt almost as comfortable at Disney as my own house, so it's not that shocking I could go alone. Wal-Mart, on the other hand...a completely different beast! But I also wanted to see Disney at Christmas at least once and I figured it was as good a time as any. For the most part, I did a darn good job of handling a solo trip, Asper or not! So much so, that I went again to Disney for Halloween in 2008, without the meds controlling me and still had a blast! It wasn't all chocolate and fairy tales, however, and the issues I ran across during those two trips are what have kept me from doing it since (well, that and lack of funds).

Let's start off with the planning phase. In 2006 I knew I would be going during one of the most crowded times of the year. Picking the right week or even where you go on what days is very crucial to controlling social issues...me and crowds don't mix, so if everyone else is going to Magic Kingdom or Epcot, that's my Studios or Animal Kingdom day. December also means that the Pop Warner kids are there. This increases the park population even more (as well as adds some unruly teenagers to the mix).

Staying off property is not an option for me either, solo or not. There are too many perks to staying on property. Besides, where we stay is just as much a part of the Disney experience as any other aspect of the trip. But with the added issues of driving from off property to on, staying in a strange location that is non-Disney, parking, traffic, and all the stress involved, there would be no way I could handle it.

Disney's value and moderate resorts are motels, whereas deluxes are hotels. Disney's deluxes are themed, but more "adultly" and moderates are a bit more themed, but still tolerable. The values, on the other hand, and their over-the-top theming is sensory overload for an Asper. Believe it or not, I have stayed in a value (well, for one night-we stayed in Wilderness Lodge last year, but because we were arriving late the first night, it seemed silly to pay that much for a few hours). The values have giant statues flanking the buildings, bright colors e-v-e-r-y-where (including inside the room), and the noise levels are outrageous because of the heavier traffic. There are more value resort rooms on property than any other type and since the theming is directed toward kids, a lot of families tend to stay there. I miss indoor voices and parents who control their kids as it is, but throwing myself in the deep end of the non-discipline-ing gene pool is just torture.

Sure, one could point out the fact that Disney is filled with over-the-top theming and tons of sensory overload...but at the end of a long day, I don't want to submerge in it for the final 8 hours of the day. I want calming and muted.

Deluxes:
Wilderness Lodge:
2012-0341
2012-0355
2012-2085


Polynesian:
2010-0068
2010-0135
2010-0043

Contemporary:
2012-1046
2007-0352
2007a-0001
2007a-0007

Moderates:
Port Orleans-French Quarter:
2009-0011
2009-0001

Caribbean Beach:
2004-0003
2004-0121

Value:
Art Of Animation:
2012-0073
2012-0102
2012-0107


It is very important to me to feel safe with my surroundings (as do most solo travellers). The more familiar I am with a resort, the more comfortable I feel staying there alone. This is the factor that hurts my pocketbook the most...when I go with family, most times we stay deluxe, so it's what I've become familiar with. But even then, there is the size of the resort that you have to take into consideration. Deluxes are spread out over several buildings just like the moderates and values, hotels or not. Your room may be indoors, but you may have to walk to China via Sherwood Forest to get to your building! Add in the fact that I have a very bad sense of direction (especially processing the way back from where I just came), a small deluxe with no pig trails fits just right.

Another big hit to the wallet is that you will pay double occupancy for a room, solo or not. That can add up to a lot of money for one person. I know I'm only eating for one (debatable) and buying park tickets for one, but the extra free time I have by being alone means more shopping time on top of the double occupancy...double trouble!

All that rambling comes to this: I have to be careful when I go, where I go, and where I stay, but there is still a good time to be had. Wilderness Lodge is a favorite because it's one single building, the cheaper of the deluxes, and in a very good location. I chose Yacht Club for this next trip because it's one single building, cheaper due to great discounts, and in an even better location. Even though I've been around the Yacht Club several times, I've never stayed there before, so I'm pushing the comfort level just a bit. We'll see how it goes!

Up next, the worst of the worst...travel!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Disney news!

Well, I've finally done it! I booked a room for Disney World in October so that I can renew my annual pass! I had the absolute worst time deciding where to stay or even if I should go at all, but the rates we got for December were based on my annual pass, so I have to renew it (although I could actually do that online). October is my favorite time to go and the thought of missing Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party or Epcot's Food & Wine Festival was just too much to bear. If I'm completely honest, it's probably more about their respective pin sets, but still, it's a tradition (geez, this honesty thing sucks, it's probably more of a compulsion with a side of obsession than an actual "tradition", but where pins are involved...who cares!).

It's a very short trip (only three nights) and I'm driving instead of flying, so spending money is absolutely nada (especially since every dime spent is taking money away from December, which will be a "real" trip). This will be a good test to see if I can actually go to Disney World and not spend the annual budget of a small country. For a poor person barely supporting herself and two pups, I sure can spend alot! Besides, I've finally gotten last year's trip paid off, I don't want to go through all that again. The less I spend on junk, the more often I can go (now that I have a reliable vehicle).

Since I'm only doing the Magic Kingdom and Epcot, location is definitely the key to getting the best out of my very short timeline. Wilderness Lodge is my absolute favorite, but we stayed there last October and are staying there this December. All the other Magic Kingdom resorts are WAY out of my price range (and I refuse to stay in The Indian Burial Ground Resort...there isn't enough money in the world). Luckily, Disney has some very good discounts right now and I got the resort I wanted (sort of) for the price of a moderate!

So my October home is....Disney's Yacht Club Resort! This was the best of our Disney pics that showed Yacht (it's the beige on the left-the blue on the right is the Beach Club):
2009a-0180

Given the choice, I'd much rather stay at Disney's Beach Club Resort, but it was WAY higher, and The Yacht Club is just right next door (and fairly similar in build). I've always wanted to try one of the Epcot resorts and the ability to walk to Epcot and save myself a bus trip was just too good to pass up!

Another bonus to getting this decision made is that I now have a really good topic for a new blog series - Going To Disney World Solo: The Asper-Girl's View. Social issues may keep me from the local grocery store, but never Disney!

Time flies...

I must be in a blogging lull...I'd almost completely forgotten about even having a blog until I started going through some old email (another thing left in the dust) and saw reader comments! So, first off, I have to say thank you for being patient with me as well as supportive! My headaches have been a lot better lately, but my pup-kids have had their trials and tribulations. Both are fine, but Zachary sure gave me a fright last week! He's just suffering from old man disease...hip arthritis, spinal disc degeneration, bladder stones, constipation, and cataracts, all of which were kicking off at the same time (poor little fella!).

Big news with the new Doctor Who announcement! Still not sure how I feel about it though. I've always had this notion in my head that the Doctor should be a hottie (that's the geeky romantic girl in me), and Peter Capaldi is definitely NOT in the hottie category. He's gonna have big shoes to fill and Matt Smith was nowhere near David Tennant's caliber! Time will tell.

Stitching has been hit or miss. I'm having the worst time finishing the "secret project". I'm so close, yet so far. I've finished the main design, but there is a touch of background and outlining still to be done. I look at it every night and usually just groan and move on. Besides, been spending a lot of time researching of late.

Diet has been hit and miss. I've been trying juicing in many different ways and still haven't really settled on a plan yet. I feel better overall, although my face looks terrible...I've become a total teenage zit queen! Hopefully that will clear up soon. I'm not that far from Disney weight anyway, and speaking of Disney, big announcement in the next blog post!