It’s Okay

I’d like to talk to you all about grief.

We are all experiencing it to one degree or another. For those of us here in Nova Scotia, or with ties here, it is unfortunately far stronger now, but the whole world is going through it.

Grief for lost liberties, grief for loss of free movement, for loss of employment, for loss of social interaction, for loss of human touch.

You may not even realize that grief is what you’re feeling, but you are.

The thing is, grief takes some really unpredictable forms, and that makes it harder to recognize sometimes. That outburst you had the other day when your shower turned cold? Grief. The sudden onset of sadness for no reason you can actually name? Grief. A tendency to lose track of time? That’s grief.

The thing is, it’s okay. What you’re feeling is okay. You’re allowed. You know that thought of “but other people have it worse, so I should just suck it up?” That thought is wrong. What you feel is okay.

However, let me tell you what else is okay. Laughter. Joy. Positivity. That funny meme you want to share, but you’re worried you’ll be seen as insensitive for posting it when others are going through so much sorrow? Post it, people need a moment of laughter. That sweet video you saw? Share it. It’s okay for you to enjoy it, and it’s okay for other people to see it. It will help them.

It’s okay to want to enjoy things. It’s okay to want to feel good. You are allowed to feel good, you should try to feel good.

I’ve said this a lot lately in my posts, but let me say it again: be kind to yourself. Those aren’t just empty words I keep tacking onto my posts. I mean it. Be kind to yourself. Cut yourself some slack here.

It’s okay.

Want to follow or interact with me on social media? Find me on Twitter by following @jennifermorash or head over to https://www.facebook.com/jennifermorashblog. I post blogs every Wednesday.

When This Is Over

Right now, as I write this, the world is still in the grip of the pandemic lockdown. All of us are affected. Some of us are stuck at home, unable to go out for any but the most important errands, if that. Others work in some essential capacity and so are having to risk their own health to go out and work.

This isn’t going to last forever, thank goodness, and I’m fairly sure almost everyone is eagerly anticipating the day when all of this is behind us. I certainly am.

However, there are some things I devoutly hope to see when the dust clears.

  1. Remember what you learned

It’s darned difficult to live through something like this without learning some sort of lesson. Perhaps you’ve learned to really appreciate the people who deal with your garbage, deliver your mail and ring you up at the grocery store. Perhaps you’ve learned patience. Maybe it’s the importance of checking on your more vulnerable friends and family. And hey, maybe it is as simple as appreciation of the freedom to go out into the sun just because you can.

I hope that whatever you learn, you hold onto it when this is over. When life returns to some semblance of what we used to think of as normal, don’t let these lessons slip away, especially the hard ones.

  1. Keep some things going

There are people out there for whom this pandemic has changed very little about their lives. They are the people who are stuck at home as a general rule. Those with disabilities that keep them house bound, those with social anxiety that make it harder for them to deal with people. Those who live in remote areas. For them, things have suddenly popped up that are actually making their lives easier and more enjoyable.

Virtual choirs, online courses, writing groups, free audiobooks… there is a long list of clever and inventive ways we’ve come up with to keep in touch and keep one another sane.

Please remember, when we step back out into the world, that some people can’t. I know that not everything can be kept up, but I’d love to see some of these wonderful things kept in place for those whose lockdown is permanent.

  1. Remember that we did this for a reason.

If this works, and I am in the firm camp of believing it will, there is going to be a segment who will claim that we over reacted. There will be those who point to the fact that death tolls were less than initially projected, or that not as many people got sick as was initially claimed could happen. There are those who will look at success, and interpret it to mean that we did all this for nothing.

They will criticize the response. They will criticize the measures put in place. Don’t listen to them. What we are all going through isn’t pointless, and it isn’t an overreaction. If this works, it will be because of the measures.

  1. Take note of the world

Dolphins are returning to the coast of Europe. The canals of Venice are running clear. The tops of mountains are visible for the first time in decades. Sea turtle eggs are popping up in higher numbers. I could go on with a list of all the marvels of nature that are showing up in the short time that we’ve been prevented from causing our usual mess.

Most of us aren’t doing anything out of malice. We don’t set out to wreck the world. But we’re doing it anyway. We haven’t been stuck at home for all that long, and look at the incredible difference it’s made.

I know we probably can’t keep up this degree of lack of pollution, but I hope to the depths of my heart that we can at least look out at what’s been happening and use that as a lesson. If it took such a short degree of time for major improvement to become visible, that should tell us just how much damage we’ve been doing. Maybe we can learn from this, and do a little less.

So, what do you hope to see when all of this is done?

As usual, be kind to one another and to yourself.

An Honest Answer, a short story

A quick explanation before we get into the story. I decided to post this because I think we all need a diversion right now. It is part of a writing challenge I’m doing this month. We were told to get someone to tell us a true story, and then write that story in such a way that changed absolutely everything but kept the core of the story. So here is mine. Can anyone guess what the original story was?

Captain Carole stood in the hangar bay of the enormous space station she called home, staring at her small craft. Granted, it was only precise to call this place home when she wasn’t on the move, which she often was. Still. A lady needs some place to keep her things.

The problem was the anti-grav lift. A tiny fracture had grown, all unnoticed, over time. Or, she thought it was an overuse fracture. For all she knew, some unexpected bang had caused the minute break. It didn’t really matter, though. At the end of the day, it made the lift completely useless until the self-repairing nanobots were done with it, and that was going to take at least a week.

In the meantime, she had the drive crystal to replace. The very heavy drive crystal. Though Carole looked a good deal younger than she was, and no one seemed to believe her actual age, she just couldn’t lift something as heavy as that crystal, no matter how independantly minded she might be.

And until she replaced the crystal, she couldn’t leave. She might make it to her destination at the distant Denys Outpost, but she’d never make it back again on that old drive crystal.

Captain Carole’s musings were interrupted by footsteps, and she turned to see a young, short man emerging from the inter-station travel pods. When he spotted her, he gave her a friendly sort of nod.

“And how are you today, Ma’am?” he asked.

The polite thing to do, of course, was to say that she was doing just fine, thank you, and let him go about his business. It was the acceptable thing to do. Even in these advanced days of interstellar travel, polite social fictions hadn’t died.

On impulse, Carole gave a rueful half-smile, running a hand through her short hair. “Honestly? Not so great.”

All she expected from this was some offer of sympathy before the man stroede onwards to his own destination. Instead, he stopped, cocking his head.

“Is there anything I can do to help?”

Such a simple question. She wondered for a moment if he was just being polite, but there was such an earnest look in his soft, brown eyes.

“Oh. Well. It’s the drive crystal. I need to replace it. But my anti-grav lift is busted, there’s no available ones to be borrowed or rented, and there’s just no way I can move the replacement from where it’s waiting over there to the engine casing.” She gestured off across the bay to where the large crystal sat, right where it had been delivered.

The young man smiled. “I can get it for you, Ma’am.” He gestured for her to step back, an all too common occurance these days, as spacers could bring back who-knew-what strain of disease from worlds, so strangers just tended to stay two meters apart at all times.

Carole stepped back, and found herself blinking back tears of gratitude. The man vanished, and reappeared toting the huge crystal in his arms. He hadn’t even grabbed one of the manual, rolling dollies that were available.

“Goodness. You must be strong, to carry that all on your own,” the captain said, still blinking back tears.

“I’m in the space marines, Ma’am,” the man, who Carole realized was even shorter than her own petite frame. “Just waiting to be deployed. The daily exercise regime is intense.” In moments, he had stepped aboard her ship and deposited the new crystal in its bracket, where her own vessel’s machinery could lift it into place. When he emerged with the old crystal in his arms, though, a tear actually did escape Carole’s blinking eyes. That was just going above and beyond.

Once the crystal had been taken to the reclamation zone, the marine turned back to Captain Carole. “Anything else I can do?”

Shaking her head, Carole smiled. “No, no. Thank you so much. I’d give you a hug if I could.”

Grinning, the young man merely offered her a jaunty salute, despite her lack of military rank. “Just happy to help, Captain. You have a good day, now.”

The fellow turned to head off, and Carole boarded her ship. It was time to head out to Denys Outpost. Sometimes, an honest answer got you kindness. She’d remember that, and pay it forward.

Want to follow or interact with me on social media? Find me on Twitter by following @jennifermorash or head over to https://www.facebook.com/jennifermorashblog. I post blogs every Wednesday.

Disney Planning Resources

The world isn’t feeling very magical right now, but that doesn’t mean we can’t plan and dream about magic in the future.

I’m sure my regular readers know me well enough to know that this means that we’re going to talk about Disney. Well. That and the title.

Are you planning a Walt Disney World trip for after this storm has passed? Are you feeling just a bit lost or overwhelmed? Here are some resources for you. Some are niche, some are general. All are ones I have used myself, and still check out for entertainment.

Pammie Plus Parks

Let me start with the disclaimer that I write articles for this one, and Pammie is a friend of mine. Some bias exists, but both the writing and the friendship came about after I discovered the greatness that is Pammie. So that totally negates it, right?

You can find Pammie on youtube, and also at http://www.pammieplusparks.com which is where you’ll find the stuff I wrote. Pammie focuses on plus sized, accessibility, mobility, sensory and cognitive issues around travel and, more specifically, central Florida themeparks. She is a ray of sunshine and positivity.

Will Save For Travel

Erm. Again: this is a friend. But she still has some great things to say, and I am convinced I’d feel the same even if she weren’t someone I went to college with. She does travel in general, but is a huge Disney fan and so you’ll find that, too. You’ll learn all about how to budget for travel. She’s also just an awesome person.

You can find her at her youtube channel of the same name, and her blog is at http://www.willsavefortravel.com which is where most of her material can be found. It’s super useful.

Ivy Winter

Moving out of the territory of plugging my friends is Ivy Winter, who you can find on youtube. It’s a small channel, but she talks a lot about solo trips, as well as travel with anxiety, so if that is something that relates to you, this is a great place. She also cohosts the Tomorrowland Transit Authority podcast with fellow youtuber Rob Plays, who isn’t a great resource for trip planning but is an awesome one for fascinating videos on the esoteric history of the parks and is more than worth checking out.

Christine is warm, encouraging and smart. Bonus: she hosts a monthly, Disney-themed bookclub.

The Disney Food Blog

This is probably the largest of the resources I use in terms of subscribers. Largely, as the name implies, they talk about food at Disney, and food at Disney is far better than you think it’s going to be. They also do a lot of general tips and tricks that are almost mandatory viewing.

You can find them on youtube under DFB and at http://www.disneyfoodblog.com

All Ears

Found at http://www.allears.net and on youtube under All Ears.net, this is another one with lots of tips and tricks, from how to score fast passes to all the best Mickey shaped foodstuffs (spoiler: there’s a lot of them). I also like that they do a lot of long-format videos, which is useful right now when we desperately need things to watch. Plus, the website has a section for reviews of rides, shows and places to eat, so you can see what other folks think.

So, got any suggestions of your own? Feel free to leave links in the comments below.

In the meantime, keep on being kind to one another, and we’ll seeya real soon.

Want to follow or interact with me on social media? Find me on Twitter by following @jennifermorash or head over to https://www.facebook.com/jennifermorashblog. I post blogs every Wednesday.

The Empathy Challenge

We are living through some very difficult times right now, and at times like this, a little bit of empathy for one another can go a very long way.

So, what is empathy? Empathy is the act of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes emotionally and understanding, to the best of your ability, how a given situation might make another person feel.

We can never truly understand every last nuance of how those around us feel anymore than they can understand completely how we feel, but we can make the effort. That effort can make all the difference.

Just now, a lot of people are scared. Fear can manifest itself in many ways, none of them particularly logical. Those around you may be saying or doing things that just don’t make much sense to you. It’s all too easy to get frustrated.

But that’s not going to make things better. Compassion, however, can.

So, this week, I’d like to challenge all of you to give this a try: put yourself into the proverbial shoes of someone else. Not someone who agrees with you in all things. It doesn’t need to be someone diametrically opposed to you, either. After all, I’m not expecting or asking all of us to become saints. But just pick one person. Try to think of why they might be doing or saying something. Try to think of times you acted irrationally. Try to understand where they are coming from.

You don’t have to agree with them. In fact, changing your mind to mirror theirs isn’t any better than outright dismissing them. But if you can understand, even a little bit, why they’re acting in a given way, it gets a lot easier to meet them with kindness and compassion.

And right now, we need a little more of that.

Want to follow or interact with me on social media? Find me on Twitter by following @jennifermorash or head over to https://www.facebook.com/jennifermorashblog. I post blogs every Wednesday.

Self-care During Social Distancing

Right now, most of us are pretty stressed. Both the news and social media are full of worrying statistics and facts, not to mention equally stressful misinformation, and a lot of the things that might help us are out of reach.

However, it is still important to take care of ourselves. In fact, it’s more important than ever. I’m sure by now that you know about social distancing, but for anyone happening upon this in the future, social distancing is the suggestion that we keep six feet or two meters away from one another and limit our exposure to the general population as much as possible to help flatten the curve of COVID-19.

That may mean that some services and activities that you rely on for self-care are out of reach. But there are things you can still do, and here are some.

  1. Get out of the house.

No, really. So long as you are not showing symptoms and have not been exposed to those who are sick, social distancing doesn’t have to mean quarantine. You need to avoid large groups, yes, but you can take your family or just yourself out to the park for a nice walk, take a drive, or things of that nature. This may be slightly more difficult for those of us further north and still in the grip of winter, but if you can get out, you should.

  1. Stretch

You may not be able to get a massage right now. Your therapist may not currently be treating – I’m not – or you yourself may feel that it’s not a good idea. That, combined with added stress, is likely starting to build up some tension.

Try to work stretching into your daily routine. For maximum benefit, a stretch should be held for thirty seconds and repeated three times. If you’re not sure how to properly stretch a given muscle, there are many resources online.

  1. Meditate

To those of you who don’t meditate, it may sound hokey, but it really does make a difference. Try to find time every day for this. Find a quiet place, get yourself into a comfortable position and meditate.

Not sure how? Again, the web is your friend. There are apps for that. Apps such as Calm and Headspace have some good programs, even for beginners, and while those are paid services, both of them have free trials that you can try to get the basics down. Audible also has many, many, many audio programs for meditating, and in fact a few that are free for members. To find those, open the app, go to “Discover” and scroll down to the bottom.

  1. Yoga

You can even combine the benefits of the above two things with yoga, as it does incorporate stretching poses with a meditative state. No, you probably shouldn’t go to yoga classes right now, and likely couldn’t find any running, but try checking out youtube for some guided yoga sessions. Even if you’ve never done it before, you’ll find something. Granted, this is best done with a yoga mat, but you can be inventive with this.

  1. At-home spa day

Missing your monthly mani-pedi? There are so many things you can do at home. My personal favourite is the sugar scrub. I put a bit of sugar in a bowl, toss in some oil (I use coconut oil for this myself, which you can get at any grocery store and is always good to have around) and because I always have some, I toss in a drop or two of essential oil. You don’t need much oil, so start with just a bit and see if you need more. You can also use epson salt and just a tiny bit of water. You then have your own sugar scrub. Rub it vigorously ofer hands, feet, or anywhere else you want to exfoliate and rinse off. If so inclined, feel free to add some fun nail polish in, though that obviously isn’t a requirement.

You may not be able to get to a steam room or hot tub, but you can still do a relaxing bath. If you have epson salt, toss a handful of that in. A nifty trick I’m fond of is to put a few drops of essential oil onto my handful of salt before putting it in the tub. If you put oil directly into water, it beads on the surface, but if you let the salt absorb it first, it will dissolve through the water. You can actually also do this with a bit of milk, as the milk will absorb the oil but still mix with water.

There are many other at-home recipes for things like facial masks on the internet, and a lot of them use things you likely have in your kitchen.

You can even put on your streaming music service of choice in the background while doing these for that final little touch to make your home feel like a spa. All of these suggestions (well, not the nail polish perhaps) are good for both your body and mind.

  1. Just be kind

It sounds so simple, right? Now, of course you should try to be kind to those around you, especially if out in public, but what I’m talking about here is to be kind to yourself.

Perhaps you can’t work in the current climate. That can lead to all sorts of feelings. Anxiety over finances, guilt that you may be shirking your duties, loneliness. Or perhaps you have to work, and are experiencing fear over getting yourself and your family ill, resentment that your career is one that requires you to be out there when others are not, and paranoia.

Some of these are based in reality, and some are not, especially the guilt and paranoia ones. Be gentle with yourself. If you find that nasty little inner voice saying its usual nasty things, confront it. You wouldn’t say those things to someone you love, right? So why are you saying them to yourself? Tell that voice to shut up, and then go do some of the earlier suggestions, there isn’t a single suggestion on this list that won’t improve your mental and emotional state.

So. As you can see, there are things you can do to keep yourself in better condition. I truly hope that these suggestions help.

Now, stay safe, stay calm and stay kind.

Want to follow or interact with me on social media? Find me on Twitter by following @jennifermorash or head over to https://www.facebook.com/jennifermorashblog. I post blogs every Wednesday.

Give Kids The World

When I was a child, I spent a lot of time in the hospital. Most years, I lost at least a month, often more, to hospital stays. I was never critically ill, as my condition was entirely eye related, but I both knew the toll that sort of thing can take and met a lot of other children who were far more critically ill than I was.

I think that’s why Give Kids The World strikes such a chord with me.

What is Give Kids The World

There are many charity organisations out there, such as The Children’s Wish Foundation, Make A Wish and the like, whose purpose is to grant the wishes of critically ill children. Roughly half of those who make such a wish choose a Florida vacation for that wish.

Enter Henry Landwirth and a little girl named Amy. Henry was a hotelier in Florida who was contacted to grant the wish of a little girl with leukemia named Amy, who wanted to visit the Florida themeparks. Though Henry agreed to provide the accommodations, the rest of the funds took too long to raise, and Amy sadly passed away before her wish could come true.

Henry never wanted this to happen again. At first, he partnered with a number of other local hoteliers to provide accommodations for families, sometimes in as little as 24 hours, but as the number of families increased, Henry realized that what they needed was a resort entirely dedicated to the needs of the sick kids and their families.

The Give Kids The World Village opened in 1989 thanks to Henry. Initially 31 acres, it has grown over the years to its current size of 84 acres with 166 villas for families.

Give Kids The World provides critically ill children and their families cost-free, week-long vacations in central Florida that includes accommodations, food, themepark tickets and on-site entertainment. It even has a few small, fully accessible rides and round the clock icecream.

GKTW is not an offshoot of any one wish-granting foundation, but is instead an independant entity that partners with foundations from around the world, helping families from not only the US but 76 other countries.

Why It Matters

So why support a foundation to give vacations, rather than one looking for cures for some of the critical conditions? Finding cures is important. Of course it is. But what about those kids out there who are suffering right now?

The cost of medical care is, for many, exceedingly high. That doesn’t leave space for most families to do something fun. Moreover, for some of these kids time is short. For others, much of their childhood is centered around dire situations, giving them no time to have fun as most children get to. That last part, I understand.

So we have families with no extra funds on hand, and children and parents whose lives are full of stress. Stress that can often make conditions worse. And for some, little time left to form happy memories.

That’s why Give Kids The World matters to me. For a week, these children and their families get to escape to a place of fun and magic. There, they are treated like royalty, fully supported emotionally and medically, and can just focus on something positive. That can make all the difference in the world.

I have spoken to people who were part of a wish, both as the sick child and as the family of the sick child, and the stories of what it was like amaze me.

How You Can Help

Obviously, financial help is both always needed and always welcome. If you wish to donate directly, go to https://www.gktw.org/help/give.php for more information.

If you just don’t have the finances, though, there are other ways you can help. Raising awareness is obviously one of those ways, which is why I’m writing this post. The more people who know about this wonderful charity, the better.

Give Kids The World Village is largely run by volunteers. And you don’t have to be a local to help out, though locals are certainly welcome. You could give up one day of your own Florida vacation to, or even make an entire vacation out of, volunteering at the village. If this interests you, check out https://www.gktw.org/volunteer/index.php for info for both US and international volunteers.

Finally, there is fundraising. You can help to organise a fundraiser in your company, school or other group, or else start an online fundraiser. In fact, a fundraiser is what initially introduced me to this wonderful community a few years back, and I have hosted my own small fundraising thing for my most recent birthday. If you want to know more, check out https://www.gktw.org/help/fundraise.php for information.

For general information, including how to apply as a family, little facts that I couldn’t work into this, pictures of the village and the like, go to https://www.gktw.org/index.php

And please consider giving some of your time and money towards making the dreams of critically ill children come true.

Want to follow or interact with me on social media? Find me on Twitter by following @jennifermorash or head over to https://www.facebook.com/jennifermorashblog. I post blogs every Wednesday.

My Disney Bucket List

A year ago, as I write this, I was in the most magical place on earth… Walt Disney World. For me, that’s not just an advertising slogan. It really is the most magical place for me. My happy place. By the time this posts, it will be a year since I returned, but close enough.

With Facebook memories tormenting me with daily reminders by popping up all the pictures I posted complete with happy blurb, is it any wonder that I have Disney on the brain? Okay, who am I kidding, I often have Disney on the brain.

At any rate, even though I wasn’t there that long ago by my own standards, there are still things I haven’t done. I’ve been there five times, there’s so many things I haven’t done. I have it on pretty reliable authority that it doesn’t matter how often you go, there’s always going to be things you haven’t done.

There’s always next time, though, right? I’ve decided to create a Disney bucket list of things I’ve never done and really do want to do at least once. I wasn’t aiming for a top ten list, but ten is the number I naturally came up with, so it works.

So here they are, more or less in order.

  1. Magic Kingdom after hours event

Disney has events in multiple parks where, for an extra charge, you get to stay after the parks close. As numbers of tickets are limited, you’ll often get a drastically reduced wait time for rides, there are snacks and drinks included in the ticket price (plus some specialty ones you can buy) and often specialized entertainment. I’m sure the ones at the other parks are great, but it’s the Magic Kingdom that I actually want.

There are currently three to choose from. The Villains one is, well, themed to villains with a couple of ride overlays, a parade, and a stage show. Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween has all of that plus trick or treat stations, and seems to run from late August to Halloween. The Christmas party replaces trick or treat places with cookie trails, and runs from some time in November to Christmas. Villains and the Halloween ones are the ones that interest me the most.

  1. Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival

Epcot has four festivals that run throughout the year. Festival of The Arts, Flower & Garden, Food & Wine and Festival of the Holidays. I’ve experienced Festival of the Arts, albeit on the final day, but Food & Wine is the one I yearn for. Food booths are set up all around the World Showcase, with eats and drinks from around the world. Plus some classes and the Eat To The Beat concerts. Yum. It’s also the one that runs the longest from August to Novemberish.

  1. Visit the Polynesian Resort

Look, I’m not even being greedy here. Staying at the Poly would be wonderful, but probably out of my price range. It would be nice and all, but I doubt I’ll ever go above moderate resorts. Still, I’ve always wanted to at least visit and explore the resort, maybe go for a drink at Sam’s. I did get to visit the Contemporary last year en route to fulfilling a different bucket list thing (eating at the California Grill which is worth it if you’re wondering), but it’s the only Deluxe resort I’ve set foot in. The Poly has struck my fancy since I was six and passing it on the monorail each day.

  1. Visit Galaxy’s Edge

To be fair, this land wasn’t yet opened when I was last there. I’m not as diehard a Star Wars fan as some, but the three original films will always have a fond spot in my heart, and I am just old enough to remember seeing Return Of The Jedi in the theatre. Everything I’ve heard about this land sounds fantabulous.

It’s located at Hollywood Studios, and is an immersive land that evidently really makes you believe that you’re on an alien planet, to the point where all the cast members (that’s Disney terminology for staff) act in character. You can fly the Millenium Falcon or sign up for the resistance and have a grand adventure with storm troopers and other bad guys. You can hang out in a cantina or go make a light sabre complete with ceremony. You can even buy blue or green milk.

  1. Ride the carousel as an adult

This one is almost a cheat. I have ridden Prince Charming’s Carousel once, on my very first trip, on my very first day. I think it may have been my first ride… it was either that or Dumbo… but I’d like to ride it as an adult. It’s silly, but I can be a silly person. They do have adult-sized horses or just stationary bench seats. This one is all about the nostalgia.

  1. Ride the Grand Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros

So, I’ve been on the original Mexico boat ride. Many, many times. But they reimagined the whole thing with Donald Duck and his friends from the Three Caballeros short film. I honestly forgot to do it last year. I meant to, it was on my mental “must ride” list, but Epcot is distracting and I was having too much fun doing all the other things. It is my personal pet theory that this will eventually be replaced with something Coco themed – which I would love – but I’d like to experience this version.

  1. Ride The Skyliner

Again, this is something that wasn’t available on my last trip, but it was built in terms of infrastructure. In fact, they were testing it the day I was at Hollywood Studios, so while I obviously can’t see it being blind and all, I did get to hear the gondolas go zipping past overhead. And I could hear them. Not because they really make noise in and of themselves, but something moving past like that makes sound.

Now, I may not have a cause to ride them unless I’m staying at a resort with a station since I think I’ve decided that I prefer not to park hop, but I would totally ride them just for the heck of it.

What is the Skyliner? The avid Disney fans amidst my readers already know, but most of my audience isn’t the huge fangirl that I am. It’s a new transportation system featuring gondolas that travel on an overhead line, and currently connect Hollywood Studios, Epcot, The Riviera Resort, Caribbean Beach Resort and Pop Century/Art Of Animation, which means that every tier of resort has one (or two for the values, though they share a station). Each gondola can seat up to ten people and is enclosed. It’s way faster than getting a bus and just sounds rather nifty.

  1. Eat at the Garden Grill

This is a restaurant in The Land pavilion at Epcot. It’s not the fanciest or the most expensive place to eat, but it sounds cool. Every review I’ve read rates it pretty highly. It’s a family style all you can eat, like a buffet that you don’t have to stand up to get. It’s also a rotating restaurant that circles the Living With The Land ride, so you can see scenes from there and, I assume, peek into the nifty greenhouses. It’s also a character meal with Chip and Dale, Mickey and Pluto. Pluto is now my favourite classic character, too. Of all the restaurants I haven’t eaten at, this is the top of the list.

  1. Go to Senses Spa

There are two Senses locations, but it’s specifically the one at the Grand Floridian that I’m thinking of. This would be pure luxury, and I’ll probably never do it, but hey. I’m a massage therapist. So getting a massage at Disney just sounds like all kinds of awesome, and it would get me to visit that resort.

  1. Eat at Cinderella’s Royal Table

This is the one that everyone says is a must do at least in your lifetime. You get to eat at Cinderella’s castle. Actually inside the castle, up top. It is also a character meal with oodles of princesses, including Cindy herself. The reason this comes in at the bottom of the list is that by all accounts, the food is only okay, not worth the high price tag. This is one of those places where you’re paying for the experience, not the food. I suspect I’d only do this if I got the middle or upper tier dining plan. But it would be nice.

My Single “Never Done It, Never Gonna” item

I’ve never ridden The Tomorrowland Speedway. I never will. I’d be quite happy if they just got rid of it. It was closed on my last trip, and it made me happy. No noisy engines, no fumes. Now, I’m blind so this wouldn’t do anything for me anyway, but even if I could see, I’d never go on this one. Sorry to those who love it, you’re welcome to your opinion but this one’s mine.

Seeya Real Soon

So, that’s my list. If something isn’t on here and you’re shocked, there is a high probability that I have already done it, or it’s just not enough of a priority to make it (like the special tours, which sound nice but don’t fill my heart with even a little yearning).I may have to go in the fall sometime, since I could do Food & Wine and also get the Halloween party in. I’ve never gone at any time other than the January to March window, actually.

I have no immediate plans to return, and there were fourteen to fifteen years between my last few trips so I’m sure it will be awhile, but a girl can dream and I’m bound and determined for a shorter window this time. And it’s nice to dream, especially in the doldrums of late February and early March.

Have a magical day!

Want to follow or interact with me on social media? Find me on Twitter by following @jennifermorash or head over to https://www.facebook.com/jennifermorashblog. I post blogs every Wednesday.

What It’s Like: Having A Guide Dog

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about what using a white cane was like. I said it was like navigating by frustration, though my inner critic is kicking itself for not coining the term “navigation by frustration”. Oh, well.

If using a white cane is navigation by frustration, then using a guide dog is like navigation by adoration.

To get a guide dog, you first have to be skilled in orientation and mobility. Basicly, you already need to know how to get around independantly. That’s important, because while a dog can make simple decisions, you’re the one who has to tell it where to go.

There are many schools all over the world, and they have different requirements, but that one is pretty standard. I got mine from Guide Dogs of Canada. I had to fly out to Ontario for a month and train, and one day I’ll likely write more about that experience, but for now just know that it does take some intense training to learn how to be a guide dog handler. Part of that is learning the commands, but part of it is also learning to trust your companion.

The basics of how it works is this: Every guide dog wears a harness. The harness has a long handle which you hold onto, putting the dog a bit ahead of you. You’re the one calling the shots, though. You tell the dog when to go forward, turn right or left, turn around and stop. Additionally, though, the dog is trained to make a few of those decisions on its own, and will automatically stop at stairs, curbs, doors and the like as well as veering right or left to get you around obstacles. As the dog walks forward, it puts a gentle pressure on the handle you’re holding onto, and you follow its lead.

The dog is also trained to know when to disobey an order. For instance, if you are wanting to cross the street and order the dog forward, but a car is coming, the dog will not obey.

Trust lays at the center of the relationship. You are trusting your dog to get you safely from point a to b, and the dog is trusting you to know what you’re doing. In that dog’s eyes, the two of you are a pack and you’re the leader of that pack, which is why I call it navigation by adoration. You and your partner are going to go everywhere together. Unlike a cane, the dog can’t just be tucked away on a shelf when not in use.

Having a guide dog has its disadvantages. For one thing, be prepared to be remembered more for your dog than for yourself, and often the dog will be greeted before you will be. Be prepared for clueless people to try to pat your dog at the most inopportune times, more on that below. Be prepared to have to take that dog outside in the worst of conditions. Blizzards and rainstorms don’t matter much if the dog has to go. And be prepared for facing the fact that you’re working with a dog, not a machine, and dogs aren’t perfect.

On the other hand, I found that having a dog gave me a lot more freedom than using a cane does. My cane can’t see anything. It doesn’t know where the door is. I did things with my dog that I’m not brave enough to do without him, because it felt much safer. I also had a constant companion who loved me unconditionally, even when I accidentally stepped on his paws.

I did mention above the problem of petting the dog. I know it’s tempting. They all just look so darned cute with their harnesses on, and there’s also the novelty of encountering a dog where you usually wouldn’t. Most of you do have the sense not to pat the dog when it’s actively working, at least, though I have experienced someone patting my dog while I was in the middle of crossing a road where it intersected with the highway. However, even if the dog is just sitting there at the feet of its handler on the bus, doing nothing, don’t pat the dog. That dog is trained to associate wearing the harness with being on duty, and to not seek out affection or attention while working. You patting the dog is a tiny crack in that training. If it happens enough, the dog will start to think that it’s okay to seek out attention. The only time it’s okay to pat a service animal is when the harness is off and its handler has given you permission.

I do miss having a guide dog. Perhaps someday, I’ll get another one, though for many reasons I’m not currently in a position where it would be a practical choice. But having one is absolutely fantastic. They are amazing animals.

Navigation by adoration is absolutely worth any of the disadvantages.

Want to follow or interact with me on social media? Find me on Twitter by following @jennifermorash or head over to https://www.facebook.com/jennifermorashblog. I post blogs every Wednesday.

Dispelling Massage Myths

There are many myths surrounding massage. Most of them are harmless, but not all. Let’s dispel a few of them, shall we?

Myth: Massage is a luxury experience

Truth: Now, I can sort of understand where this notion comes from. Massage can feel very nice, and it is a service that is commonly found in many spas. However, massage therapy can and should be considered under the healthcare umbrella. It is at its best when used preventatively, but can also be used to help you recover from injury and lessen symptoms of a number of conditions.

Myth: It has to hurt to work

Truth: No pain, no gain is just not true. It is okay to like deep tissue massage and harder pressure, I prefer it myself, but that doesn’t mean pain. In fact, your massage should not go past a 7 on a 1 to 10 scale. Think about it, your response to pain is usually to tense up, and I’m trying to decrease tension. Fighting one another is not actually a good use of your time.

Myth: Training is easy

Truth: Nope. I’m including this one mostly for those considering a career in massage therapy. The program is certainly not impossible, but it is challenging. Just go into it with full expectations of studying things like anatomy, neurology, pathology and the like as well as actual techniques, and you’ll be okay. This is not something you can learn in a quick three month program, but the effort is worth it.

Myth: Masseuses and masseures are the proper term.

Truth: Please, no. We are massage therapists. A masseuse is, at least in North American culture, used to refer to something a little less… professional, shall we say? Please don’t call your therapist a masseuse or masseur.

Myth: I should only see a therapist of the same gender as I am

Truth: Absolutely untrue. Now, if you are seriously only comfortable doing it this way, that is fine, but for most people gender should not play a role in choosing your therapist in either direction. I urge you to try something different, at least once. A massage is a professional, therapeutic experience and gender plays no more of a role in it as it would in choosing one’s doctor.

Myth: Prenatal massage is dangerous

Truth: Prenatal massage is wonderful. All massage therapists, at least in Canada, have at least some basic training in prenatal massage, and some of us (myself included) pursued further training and experience. True, some modifications do need to be made, especially in the first trimester, but it is both safe and beneficial. In later trimesters, you will either be placed on your side or on a special bolster or massage table designed to accomodate you. That said, you should always inform your clinic ahead of time if you are booking a prenatal massage.

If you ever find yourself with uncertainties about massage, do feel free to ask your therapist. We’re always happy to explain things.

Want to follow or interact with me on social media? Find me on Twitter by following @jennifermorash or head over to https://www.facebook.com/jennifermorashblog. I post blogs every Wednesday.