Monday, November 26, 2018

Dispatches from Disney - Wednesday and Friday

On Thanksgiving, after we sat through one of the shortest timeshare presentations on record, after mofongo and pernil at a local Puerto Rican spot, and after I had spent about an hour or so working on my first post-Disney recap, we headed out for dinner. And by the time we finished with that, took the Kid to dance off her Thanksgiving burger at Disney Springs, and then returned to the resort, I was too tired to finish writing all of my assorted gripes about our first venture to see the Mouse.

(So I will give you an out right now. If you are looking to read a heart-warming account of our wonderful and magical trip to Disney World with three generations of happy, grateful people, you can go back to watching whatever sticky sweet powdered sugar-covered holiday movie currently airing on the Hallmark channel with Candace Cameron Bure. I've got none of that for you here.)

I have posted the pics to the Busy Black Woman Facebook and Instagram pages in case you are interested. As is always the case with what gets shared on social media, those are the good pictures of us having a good time. Here, because I see no need to offer any pretensions, is the postmortem of our #BusyBlkFamTrip:

1. Tiring. It was the equivalent of a military exercise that required about 20 pounds of gear and rations for half a day at the amusement park. So by the time we made it to our destination, watched one parade, and then stood in line for one attraction, it was time to feed and maneuver the troops to another park. And by the time we arrived just on time to see the closing fireworks, I was so very cranky and salty and disappointed by all of that effort. Only to wash, rinse, and repeat all of that for a second excursion on Friday minus my parents (we brought them back to another park later that evening). I am still sore and exhausted.

2. Expensive. So I knew this from the outset, but when I tell you that it is easily an entire month of salary just to get into the park, I AM NOT EXAGGERATING. The happiest place on earth is also the most costly entertainment racket on the planet. There is no cheap way to do Disney, which means that you are going to pay one way or the other. Our punishment was that early morning timeshare presentation, which saved us $150 (even though they authorized nearly $600 extra on my credit card to ensure that we would show up). Yeah.

3. Time-consuming. Disney is most proficient at creating the illusion that they are efficient. This same illusion is also effective at building anticipation for rides and attractions that last two minutes, at most. We stood in line for 45 minutes to ride the Pirates of the Caribbean, and during that wait, I attempted to use our Fast Passes to schedule other attractions, which only worked time-wise for us once. By the time we made our way from Adventureland to Fantasyland to ride in the Tea Cups for 90 seconds, we thought that maybe we would have time to ride something else before making our way to the castle for the parade. Wrong. EVERY attraction had a 65 minute wait or the Fast Pass options were unavailable. Even the Dumbo ride. And the parade, which was scheduled to start at 2pm, began at 2:20. So by the time we left the park, caught the monorail, found the car, drove back to the hotel, ate mofongo leftovers for lunch, gathered my parents, returned to visit a different park, found a parking space, and made our way to the entrance, it was dark outside. And everybody stops pretending to be happy once the sun goes down.

4. Expensive. Yes, I know I addressed that previously, but let's revisit that topic for a moment. Because these folks really know how to make people want a lot of unnecessary isht like this and this. And these headbands that practically everybody was wearing. All of the cheaper/generic trinkets like tee shirts, postcards, and keychains were sold elsewhere in stores off-property like Walmart and at these tourist trap superstores that function like outlets where you could buy authentic outdated merchandise at half-price. Or, you could just buy whatever you want from your local Disney store at your local mall and save a month's salary.

5. Inadequate. Which is why going to Disney is a lot like eating potato chips. You can't go just once. You will never see everything in one trip, even if you get the park hopper passes and spread your visits out over several days. We made it to three of the four parks, but didn't get to see much at Epcot or the Animal Kingdom. We rode three rides at the Magic Kingdom in two visits. Obviously, we could call it done and let the Kid get back to Disney on her own because there is no rule of parenting that requires multiple trips. I was in law school the first time I went to Disney World with the Hub when we were first dating. I went again ten years later while in Orlando for a sorority convention. In all honesty, I had a lot more fun going there without the pressure of having to create memories.

6. Artificial. Judge me for feeling manipulated by aspects of this experience. Judge me for complaining about the admission cost. Judge me for recognizing the elaborate con of building excitement by having each transition point to the park spaced to draw out the experience of 'arrival'. Judge me for not wanting to buy stuff after disembarking from a ride, especially when said ride lets me out inside of an appropriately-themed gift shop. Judge me for refusing to stand in line to take pictures with furries. Judge me for my frustration with the Kid for still not wanting to wear that damn Uma Halloween costume.

Go on and judge me, because God-willing I would do it all over again. Not because of the memories that I'm pretty sure my Kid won't form because she is three. Not because my parents were good sports and paid for half of this trip. Not because the Hub has the patience of Job. And not even because this Busy Black Woman now believes conquering Disney is her great white whale. I would do it all over again because life is short and imperfect, and sometimes even pretend magic can produce real joy.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Dispatches from Disney - Monday

I had the bright idea to take a family trip to Disney World for Thanksgiving this year. Then I got the bright idea to blog about it...because how else can I scream at the top of my lungs and expect that someone will actually hear me?


I promise not to provide too many gory details, but this hasn't unfolded as I had hoped. It has been a mix of the usual insanity and nonsense, with the unfulfilled promise of a cherry on top. I remember what I was thinking when I concocted this wonderful idea, but I can't even imagine how I expected for things not to be as ridiculous as they have been (and it is only Monday just after midnight). It is really hard to have high hopes and expectations dashed by the harshness of reality. Children catch colds unexpectedly. Parents who aren't all that mobile at home are even less so on vacation. Husbands that drive you insane in normal life just find new ways to be annoying away from home. A trip to Disney costs the equivalent of at least month of bills, and somehow it didn't occur to me that we would be spending all of this money a month before Christmas...

But in spite of everything that has gone wrong so far, there have been little fireflies of light swirling around me. My child got a taste of the Disney magic this evening, and it was so exciting and overwhelming for her that I'm not the least bit angry that she made me take her to the bathroom no less than four times in a half hour span of time. My Dad was super psyched that he had his favorite take out Chinese food dinner at a restaurant owned by an Iron Chef. My Mom, over whom I have fretted endlessly for three days, suddenly got very stubborn this evening...and while that frustrated the hell out of me in the moment, it reminds me that she is still with me (even when she is at her most difficult). And the weather here in Florida has been absolutely gorgeous.

I still win the Busy Black Woman Anal Retentive yes-I-plan-for-everything-because-no-one-else-ever-does Award for this trip because even when I do mess up, forget things, and get overwhelmed, I still manage to manage. Yes, that might mean that I will miss part of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thursday morning because we will be stuck in yet another useless timeshare presentation that definitely will not last for only 120 minutes. But we will get to see the Mouse with Grandma and Granddaddy because dammit, that was what I envisioned! My parents haven't been on a vacation since 2012, and they need to spend quality time with their grandchildren. For all of the various challenges, there will be some great memories captured (or some funny stories to share).

We're here.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Be the Best of Whatever You Are

Today could be a good day or a bad day or a great day as we await the midterm Election results. Like a lot of people, I have been anticipating this day since November 9, 2016 after I woke up at 2am to what I thought was my worst possible nightmare. So I wrote this declaration as a promise that I would dedicate myself to the effort of voter participation and engagement.

As I reread that piece, I recall the defiance and the despair I felt that day as I snuggled with my then-toddler daughter. How I had to comfort the Hub when he returned from his work in the fields as an election monitor, because he was so distraught about the world that had just been upended. How I became addicted to cable news again. How I then kept writing over the next few days and weeks: (1) a postmortem of missteps from my #busyblack perspective; (2) a pep talk to restore my sanity; (3) skepticism for the post-inaugural Women's March; (4) gratitude to the Obamas; and (5) a renewed sense of inspiration and optimism after attending the Women's March in New York City.

My goal after the Women's March was to do everything I could to help change the political tide that had knocked so many of us down on Election Day 2016. But, let me start by listing a few of the things that I haven't done as of today, November 6, 2018. I did not get to work a shift on the Election Protection hotline because of scheduling. I won't be able to do any mobile election monitoring because my daughter has the day off from school for parent-teacher conferences. I did not get to travel to Georgia to stump for my Spelman Sister, Stacey Abrams because I didn't go to Homecoming (again). I haven't been able to attend that many political events on weekends or in the evenings because of varying commitments for parenting, caregiving, or otherwise.

I could look at all those things I haven't done and wonder if later this evening, I will be blaming my inability to do more as the reason why I'm drinking heavily and crying. In fact, I had intended to upload a very sad picture with a post to my Facebook page to that effect because I was feeling a little depressed yesterday (Monday) about my inability to make my life fit to meet certain objectives. I mean, I am the Busy Black Woman, dammit!

But as I sat at my computer to write about what I was unable to do, I remembered the title of a poem that I had memorized as a child (which is also the title of this piece). Here is a link to it, and as I recited/read it to myself, I realized that I had no reason to wallow in a malaise of unaccomplishment (and surprise, that really is a word). No, I didn't do several of the things I had hoped I would have a chance to do. Some of the projects I attempted did not gain enough traction or momentum. And yeah maybe I am feeling a little less than because I am comparing myself to others, but let me restate my title--I am the Busy Black Woman, dammit!

I didn't sell any Busy Black Women vote tees, but let's be honest, I am not a tee shirt vendor. My blog isn't set up with any e-commerce capabilities, and I don't know enough about promoting and marketing because I am a writer. And I have written a LOT over the past two years, so I feel very confident that I have stated my case about the need to participate in this election cycle. As for my inventory of unsold tee shirts, well, they will still be available. I will continue to promote my message, which I have been doing since this summer. And true to my word, I made a $50 contribution to National Voter Registration Day anyway.

Speaking of National Voter Registration Day, no I wasn't out in the streets as I had intended. Instead, I joined with members of my sorority to support their planned voter registration effort at a local high school where we were able to register four young people. I take great pride in that number because after 30 minutes of sitting idle waiting for students to come to us, I just began to solicit them. We also gave away several forms to students who expressed interest, so that is encouraging to me. By 2020, we will have a better plan.

I led the Voter Engagement Project at my church which included the panel I organized for our Social Justice Weekend, the articles I wrote for our Social Justice Defender newsletter, the presentations I gave to a various groups of members, and the reflection I quasi-bungled back in January (because I overthought my remarks in light of having to follow the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II). I wish I could have been more successful at implementing some of the outreach plans I had outlined at the beginning of this programming year, such as the adopt-a-precinct project; however, I am satisfied that I can take a few months off knowing that I did all of that on my own.

I really wanted to help my Spelman Sister out by taking to those Georgia streets, but I've been donating to her campaign every month since earlier this year. I also donated to other campaigns and causes, so I feel pretty good that I was able to support the work of other who are on the ground doing the grassroots work.

Although I can't work a physical Election Protection shift this year, I can send a few text messages to voters today. I can continue to tweet messages about the Hotline and inform people how to contact them if they encounter problems at the polls. No, I won't be able to attend any campaign events this evening with my daughter in tow, but we can watch the election returns at home together.

I had to be reminded what my best is supposed to be. My best is to show up when I can. My best is sometimes a solo project that impacts a small number of people. My best isn't to be an eloquent preacher; it is to provide an honest reflection or to write an article. My best isn't to create a viral social media campaign or to sell a lot of tee shirts--making the effort and trying might be enough. My best may never result in seeing my name as a candidate on a ballot (because I have a big mouth and a past), but I can always chip in a few dollars. Finally, my best is to VOTE and to encourage others to do the same.