Saturday, January 31, 2009

An Attack on My 4:12 Life

"For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and the attitudes of the heart." Hebrews 4:12

I am certain that the moment I made my commitment to live a 4:12 Life in 2009, Satan perked up his ears. Because that's what he does - everything he can to defeat Christ's church and to turn Christians away from God and back to sin. So when I decided to spend time in God's Word every day and to grow spiritually and be fully alive in Him, Satan got to work.

I have to admit, he's smart. Satan knows my weaknesses; he knows how to tempt me, how to make me discontent, and I don't even see it coming. But he's after me for sure. I'm feeling the attack. And I have to admit, at times I haven't been very strong against it. I feel every struggle and I get downhearted and discouraged.

But I continue to read God's Word, and as He promises, it is living and active, it is applicable to me, today. I've been reading in Exodus, and from the first few chapters I know that God is with me, even through the hard times, just as He was with the Israelites during their slavery and oppression. And while we do have a powerful enemy, that enemy is no match for God! God takes the worst circumstances and brings good from them. Most of the time this takes patience, something I struggle with. But good will come from bad circumstances. It happened over and over throughout the Bible, and it happens over and over today. And so I must draw my strength from that, and resist the devil. I must stand strong in my faith, and know that His grace is sufficient for me (2 Corinthians 12:9). And I must stick with my commitment to live a 4:12 Life - for Satan will be defeated.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Sincerely 'Fro Me to You - The Bird

First babies have their portraits made at 3 months, 6 months, 9 months, 1 year, etc. etc. There are a million pictures of them in their various stages of cuteness. Something happens, tho, and by the time the last of the babies comes around, we parents aren't as vigilant about capturing their cuteness. Poor Little Son was 18 months old before I had his portrait professionally taken. It's OK - you can gasp. I know I'm a bad mommy. Now I certainly had plenty of pictures I had taken of him at home - we're just talking professional portraits here.

So, at 18 months, I found a great photographer and we went out to a local park and captured some precious photos of my baby boy. Despite the heat and the mosquitoes that feasted upon his soft baby flesh, all the pictures turned out really good. This one is my favorite:

Notice his hand. Do you think he had a little resentment that I took so long to get around to having his picture taken?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Kung Hei Fat Choi!

Today is the Chinese New Year - also known as the Lunar New Year. This year is the Year of the Ox. Little Son was born in the last Year of the Ox (1997).

According to Chinese Zodiac, people born in the Year of the Ox are patient, speak little, and inspire confidence in others. They tend to be plodding and methodical; they approach projects in the step-by-step manner that serves them best, and they never lose sight of their goal. They are tireless workers who are detail-oriented and believe in doing things right the first time. The world may perceive Oxen as being far too serious or incapable of loosening up, but as a friend, family member or housemate, the Ox makes a wonderfully strong, tender and affectionate companion who is protective and always reliable. Ox people are mentally and physically alert. Generally easy-going, they can be remarkably stubborn, and they hate to fail or be opposed. They are most compatible with Snake, Rooster, and Rat people. (I am a Rooster.)

I can certainly see some of these traits in Little Son. He is very methodical - he has a true engineering mind - but the detail-oriented part of him shows his artistic side. He's very strict about rules - some might even say rigid. Heck, some might even say he needs to loosen up a little! He's not terribly stubborn, and he does hate to fail, but I don't see him as a "tireless worker". At least not yet! He is very very smart, and yes, very tender and affectionate.

Do you have an Oxen in your life? To them - and to you - I wish you Kung Hei Fat Choi, or Happy New Year, full of luck, prosperity, and longevity!

FYI: President Obama, who has pledged to begin rehabilitating the economy, was born in an Ox year. A good thing?

Inauguration Day Through Navy Son's Eyes

I lazily spent my Martin Luther King Day shining shoes and getting my uniform A-J squared away for the big parade. I spent the remainder of the day working on homework and napping because I knew that I had an inspection at 0130. Following that, our group of 90 Midshipman was herded to the awaiting Naval Academy buses. We left around 0230 and had a police escort consisting of approximately 30-40 police cars, they were everywhere! Three hours later, which normally only takes thirty minutes, we were in D.C.. All the major roads and bridges were closed, so we utilized back roads and parking lots. It felt kind of like a police chase, with police cars everywhere and turn after turn. I dozed off to find us parked in front of a grocery store. We spent several hours sitting in this parking lot waiting. I dozed off again. I awoke to find us at the Pentagon. We were instructed to get all belongings off the bus and take our rifles through the security check point to have them screened. They swept through the buses making sure nothing was on them that shouldn't be. Then they searched us and made sure our weapons were inoperable. We loaded the buses back up and headed to the mall (the area with all the monuments).

The sight was incredible! I've never seen so many people. All people, all ages, all colors huddled together. Strike that, more of packed together. Everyone was quiet; hanging on Obama’s every word. They were packed starting from the Washington Monument and up to the steps of the Capitol. Jumbo T.V.’s on the back of 18 wheelers provided people with a view of what was too far away from them to see. Some people waved at our buses as we convoyed in. We waved back. There were American flags everywhere. It was literally too much to take in, just so many people.

We then were brought to this warming tent where we finished watching the swearing in ceremony. Around 1300 we departed the tents and formed up into our formation that we would be marching in. We had anticipated stepping off at 1430. Little did we know that there was a delay and we ended up standing out in the cold for close to 3 hours. We didn't dress all that warmly because, well we were in uniform and we wanted to look sharp. It was absolutely freezing (technically below freezing) . Slowly but surely the ranks of the formation got closer and closer as we huddled together for warmth, and pretty soon we were one big group of Midshipman clinging together for warmth. Some of us started jumping up and down and others even did the electric slide to move about and stay warm.

Finally, after many false calls, we stepped off. We marched through the streets along the parade route to hear people cheers (who were crazy to stay so long out in the cold, hopefully they dressed warmer than us!) and every block our arrival was announced over a speaker system. “Now we have the United States Naval Academy, represented by 90 talented Midshipman from each company within the brigade. The Naval Academy is the Navy’s only undergraduate school and since 1845 provided the Navy and Marine Corps with outstanding officers.” Turns out later, that one of my friends from back when I was in Sicily had announced our arrival at the first block. Throughout the parade we heard cheers of “GO NAVY BEAT ARMY!” and people thanking us for our service, a very humbling experience.

Finally, we came upon the part of the parade route where our new Commander in Chief was positioned. There were so many bright lights directly ahead of us that it was like looking into the sun. I could not see where I was going. I just followed the ecliptic outline of the person ahead of me. We were told that there were snipers everywhere, which made me kind of nervous and a bit scared to even sneeze. Barack Obama was in an elevated booth with a glass partition; alongside him was the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Gary Roughhead. We received the command “EYES LEFT” and executed a left turn of the head. Very similar to what the Nazis troops would do to Hitler when they marched in front of him, minus the whole fling the arm out in front thing. President Obama and Admiral Roughhead both returned a salute. I could see Obama’s teeth, his mole on his face, just everything crystal clear. He was soooo close! It was quite the build up for such a short moment. Nonetheless, it was an awesome moment!

We finished the parade route and made our way to the buses and boarded them. I fell asleep as soon as I sat down, and we did not make it back to the Academy until 1920. It was a long, but awesome day!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Crowns, Homemade Soup, and World Peace

Tonight was to be a big night - the Annual Miss America Party! Every year Bubba's Mom and I, along with our closest beauty queen friends, gather with our crowns on to eat, drink, be silly, and watch the Miss America pageant on TV. But alas, this year I am sick. And no one wants my germs. And I feel like ca-ca. So no party.

Bubba's Mom made a big pot of homemade soup tonight, so I went to her house, ate soup, curled up on her couch with my crown and sweats on, and watched the pageant. There's nothing like having your mama when you're sick, is there?

I must say, the pageant was much better than last year. Miss America has changed so much over the years - some of the changes good, some not. We miss the days of a September crowning in Atlantic City, of Bert Parks singing "There she is....." But we still got to see the swimwear, the beautiful evening gowns, and the always entertaining talent competition (our favorite part!). They still answered relevant interview questions, altho not much was said about their platforms. In the end Miss Indiana was crowned Miss America 2009, and we were good with that. They even played a recording of Bert Parks singing that famous song as she walked the runway. But we missed Katie Lady and D... - we'll do it next year, girls! Keep those crowns polished!

Camera Critters #42

Isn't this little guy cute? We saw him and his other sea otter friends at the Texas State Aquarium when our family and D...'s family spent a long weekend in Corpus Christi a few summers ago. Other than the fishy smell, I think an otter would make a fun pet!

Friday, January 23, 2009

"Be careful!"

So I've been watching the American Idol auditions for Season 8 the past couple of weeks, and this week they were in Louisville, Kentucky. One of the contestants, a guy named Mark Mudd, sang a not-so-great rendition of Johnny Cash's "White Lightning" - and the judges told him he just wasn't right for the show. For some reason they seemed a little intimidated by him from the start, asking him if he was wearing a gun when he walked in (he wasn't). But as he left he kindly told them "Thank you" and then said, "Be careful!"

Ya'll, the judges wigged out. They thought it was a THREAT! Paula said, "You just don't say that to people!" They were serious.

Apparently these Hollywood big-wigs don't fully understand the South. "Be careful!" is one of those things we just say when we're saying goodbye - it's not a threat, but a loving kind of "see you later". I say it all the time! I'm certainly not threatening people! Hubby and I just looked at each other in confusion when the judges freaked out about it. Apparently they need to spend more time with some GRITS so they'll fully understand the lingo when they come down here!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Sincerely 'Fro Me to You - Dining Out

Cooking has just never been my thing, ya'll. I'm not good at it, and I don't enjoy it. My favorite thing to make for dinner? Reservations! (Ba dump dump!)

As a little girl, I did a lot of pretending - I loved playing dress-up and pretending to be a mommy with all my dolls, or a cowgirl riding my "horse" (which was really my bike). I never pretended to be cooking, tho. I didn't stand at my mother's knee and watch her prepare our meals, learning each step as she did it. I didn't have a little toy kitchen with pots and pans of my own. No, even as a child I knew better. When it was pretend time? I ate out.

"Yes, I'm ready to order."

"Oh, the service here is fabulous. I'll have to be sure to leave a nice tip."

Hey, I am who I am. Someone has to be the cook, someone has to be the diner. I'll choose the latter, thankyouverymuch.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Proud Mama - Part 2

Talked with Navy Son tonight - he had quite a day! It was cold, it was crowded, he had to wait a L-O-N-G time........but he said it was AWESOME! He left a comment on my post below, but he's also going to write up a blog post about his experience today and I'll post it on here soon. I watched TV All. Day. Long. What an emotional, historic day! I did finally see Navy Son - at 4:45 p.m. my time he marched past President Obama - only I couldn't tell which one in the group was him. Oh well. I knew he was in there, and I was busting with pride!

And now I must take the opportunity to brag on my OTHER son - commonly known here as Little Son.

Little Son has many talents and interests. He's brilliant, really, and I'm not just saying that because I'm his mama. Ask D.... and she'll agree. The child is scary-smart.

His most recent interest has been baking - he made a homemade apple pie for Thanksgiving, and now he's into cakes. His favorite show on TV (besides Mythbusters) is Ace of Cakes. I gave him a cookbook for Christmas that is all cakes. The boy LOVES to bake, and what kind of mother would I be to stifle his creativity and interests? I let him bake, and I snarf up sample the products of his endeavors. It's tough, but someone has to do it.

Since Christmas he has been bugging me and bugging me to try using fondant. I've heard fondant is hard to work with, and as brilliant as he is, Little Son is still just 11 years old. I've been putting him off. But the other day Bubba's Mom bought him some pre-made fondant at the craft store - all he had to do was roll it out and create his edible work of art. He was thrilled.

And so yesterday he got to work on it - and here is his final creation:

Check out the detail on the rose:

And the best part? It was deeee-licous! I think this kid is onto something. Perhaps he'll be the next Chef Duff.....

Monday, January 19, 2009

Proud Mama

Tomorrow is a big day in our country's history - the inauguration of our nation's first black president. Much hooplah and fanfare has already begun, and tomorrow it will be non-stop. While I was neither strongly for or against Obama, I am hopeful that he will be a good President. I plan to watch the festivities and ceremonies tomorrow - but I have another motive, as well.

Navy Son has the honor of marching in the Inaugural Parade with the United States Naval Academy! While I don't know that I'll be able to pick him out of the group on TV (they tend to all look alike), I'm sure gonna try! He will be a part of history - he can say he was THERE on this historic day. What an awesome experience for him! I can't wait to hear him tell about it.

If you watch the parade tomorrow, be sure to look for him! Maybe he'll wave and say, "Hi Mom!"

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Camera Critters #41

We ate some delicious seafood tonight at one of our favorite restaurants; living on the Gulf Coast we get some really yummy critters from the sea! Little Son's favorite is boiled shrimp - peel 'em and eat 'em! That's a tasty critter!

I'm Published!!

I've had my writing published before - as a kid I won a couple of writing contests, and my poem or short story was printed in the local paper. I'm currently on staff with a local magazine writing articles for their "Faithful Families" section. It's a quarterly magazine, and I've been writing for them for about a year, so I've done about four articles. I'm currently working on one for the spring edition, which comes out in March. Really gotta finish that today.....

BUT....I have never published a book. Until now.

My dearest, bestest friend ever (guess who it is?) took all of our Amazing Race blog posts - her pictures and my writing - and had the whole saga published in a book! A REAL book! Check it out:

Is that cool or what?!? AND? It's not just a book for me. Oh no. ANYONE can buy a copy of our book! I'm thinking by summer it's going to be on the New York Times Best Seller List. Better hurry and get your copy today!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Sincerely 'Fro Me to You - Reparation

In all fairness to Bubba's Mom....

Taken with the same cell phone!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

My 4:12 Life So Far

"For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and the attitudes of the heart." Hebrews 4:12

My one resolution for 2009 was to live a 4:12 Life - to steep myself in God's Word and to grow spiritually thru it. Last week, at my church's prompting, I read and studied Psalm 119. It is the longest chapter in the Bible, and at first seemed very repetitive. But it was a good start to my 4:12 Life because of its message of the beauty of God's Word. The Bible is a guide for life - a road map, so to speak - a flashlight to guide our path thru this dark world ("Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light for my path." Psalm 119:105) While this chapter speaks repeatedly of God's laws/precepts/statues, it also speaks of freedom in obedience to these laws. Contrary to what we often expect, obeying God's law does not inhibit or restrain us - instead it frees us to be what God designed us to be! Indeed, studying God's Word and obeying His laws brings great peace ("Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble." Psalm 119:165). And who doesn't long for peace in their hearts? I know I do.

So what does God want me to know? I believe He wants me to know that His Word is good, true, and powerful - and relevant in my life. What does God want me to feel? He wants me to feel the peace that comes with knowing His Word and experiencing freedom in Him. What does God want me to do? I believe He wants me to study His Word, to read it and "hide it in my heart" (v. 11), making it a guide in everything I do.

This week starts a new study for me, thru our church, so I am reading Exodus 1, and Genesis 1 & 2. The focus of the study will be on Exodus, so that is the main focus of my reading and studying this week. I'll let you know how it goes!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Christian Panties

Been There, Done That, Bought the T-Shirt

I've seen this one going around the blogs and decided to get in on it, too -

Here's what you do: Copy and paste to your blog then boldface the things you've done.

1. Started your own blog

2. Slept under the stars

3. Played in a band (I guess I can't count our family Guitar Hero World Tour band.)

4. Visited Hawaii

5. Watched a meteor shower

6. Given more than you can afford to charity

7. Been to Disneyland/World

8. Climbed a mountain

9. Held a praying mantis

10. Sang a solo

11. Bungee jumped

12. Visited Paris (Does Paris, TX count? I've been there!)

13. Watched a lightning storm at sea

14. Taught yourself an art from scratch

15. Adopted a child (Navy Son!)

16. Had food poisoning

17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty

18. Grown your own vegetables

19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France

20. Slept on an overnight train

21. Had a pillow fight

22. Hitch hiked

23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill

24. Built a snow fort

25. Held a lamb

26. Gone skinny dipping

27. Run a Marathon

28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice

29. Seen a total eclipse

30. Watched a sunrise or sunset

31. Hit a home run

32. Been on a cruise

33. Seen Niagara Falls in person

34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors

35. Seen an Amish community

36. Taught yourself a new language

37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied

38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person

39. Gone rock climbing

40. Seen Michelangelo’s David

41. Sung karaoke

42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt

43. Bought a stranger a meal in a restaurant

44. Visited Africa

45. Walked on a beach by moonlight

46. Been transported in an ambulance

47. Had your portrait painted (not painted, but drawn - so I'm counting this one!)

48. Gone deep sea fishing

49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person

50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris

51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling

52. Kissed in the rain

53. Played in the mud

54. Gone to a drive-in theater

55. Been in a movie

56. Visited the Great Wall of China

57. Started a business - Check it out!

58. Taken a martial arts class

59. Visited Russia (Can I count my "Amazing Race" experience?)

60. Served at a soup kitchen

61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies

62. Gone whale watching

63. Gotten flowers for no reason

64. Donated blood, platelets, or plasma (I don't weigh enough!)

65. Gone sky diving

66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp

67. Bounced a check

68. Flown in a helicopter

69. Saved a favorite childhood toy

70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial

71. Eaten Caviar

72. Pieced a quilt

73. Stood in Times Square

74. Toured the Everglades

75. Been fired from a job

76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London

77. Broken a bone

78. Been on a speeding motorcycle

79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person

80. Published a book (stay tuned for a blog about that!)

81. Visited the Vatican

82. Bought a brand new car

83. Walked in Jerusalem

84. Had your picture in the paper

85. Read the entire Bible

86. Visited the White House

87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating

88. Had chickenpox - That's right, I've NEVER had chickenpox!

89. Saved someone’s life

90. Sat on a jury

91. Met someone famous

92. Joined a book club

93. Lost a loved one

94. Had a baby

95. Seen the Alamo in person

96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake

97. Been involved in a lawsuit

98. Owned a cell phone

99. Been stung by a bee

100. Became a child of God

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Camera Critters #40

I love watching all the birds that come to my birdfeeder, but this guy is my favorite!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Sincerely 'Fro Me to You - My PHONE is also a CAMERA!

When I bought my current cell phone, it was my first time to have a camera phone. Of course I had to show off and take pictures of everyone and everything with it.

"Look how easy it is to use, Bubba's Mom! Smile!"


And here's what I got:

She is so impressed with technology.

Happy Birthday, Elvis

Happy Birthday, Elvis - you would be 74 years old today. You'll always be The King.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Wow! Check out my website!

Magical Getaways

Tell all your friends!

Monday, January 05, 2009

I did it!

Today I got my DBA and I am now officially the owner and operator of Magical Getaways, personal vacation itinerary planning for an unforgettable Disney experience! I am quite excited! My eight (soon to be nine) trips to Disney World give me experience and expertise that can save people valuable time in planning their Disney vacation. I will offer recommendations and booking for all resorts, dining, park tickets, attractions, etc. - all my clients have to do is show up! If you or any of your friends and/or family are planning a trip to Disney World soon, drop me an e-mail at!

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Living a 4:12 Life in 2009

OK, I said no resolutions for me this year. And I meant it. But I am taking one of my resolutions from last year and choosing to focus on it for 2009: reading my Bible more.

Hebrews 4:12 says, "For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and the attitudes of the heart."

Did you see that? Living and active. That's what I want to be! Fully alive in Christ Jesus! Studies have shown that the most powerful catalyst to spiritual growth is the Bible - and I want to grow spiritually this year, I want to have that daily relationship with God that I so long for, I want to know what He's saying to me. I love how the study notes in my Bible explain this verse:

"The Word of God is not simply a collection of words from God, a vehicle for communicating ideas; it is living, life-changing, and dynamic as it works in us. With the incisiveness of a surgeon's knife, God's Word reveals who we are and what we are not. It penetrates the core of our moral and spiritual life. It discerns what is within us, both good and evil. The demands of God's Word require decisions. We must not only listen to the Word; we must also let it shape our lives."

This will take discipline, for sure. It's very easy for me to say I don't have time, or that it's too difficult to read. Those are lame excuses, tho. I truly believe that spending time in His Word each day will change my life. Why wouldn't I make the time for that??? And the more I read, the more I study, then the more the Holy Spirit will open up my mind to understanding. God WILL speak to me thru Scripture. I don't know exactly how yet, but I tell ya what - I'm gonna find out!

At the prompting of my church, I'm reading Psalm 119 this week (yes, I do believe it's the longest chapter in the Bible!). I'm going to pray for God to speak to me thru His Word, and when I read it I'm going to ask myself three questions: What does God want me to know? What does God want me to feel? What does God want me to do?

It's the first step in the right direction - and toward a new way of life.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Camera Critters #39

Hey! Whose bed is this, anyway?

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Disney On My Mind

As many of you know, I love all things Disney. I've been to Disney World 8 times (6 times with my kids). People always ask me, "Why don't you ever go anywhere else?!" Well, we do - we've been several other places, actually. But we always go back to Disney. One of the trip-planning newsletters I receive in my e-mail from Deb's Unofficial Walt Disney World Information Guide has a great article in it this week that pretty well explains it all - here are some excerpts from the article, written by Amy Warren Stoll:

I'm sure this won't come as a big shock to anyone that many of us go to Walt Disney World in search of a little magic. After all, don't we use our Magic Your Way ticket to enter the Magic Kingdom, to watch the SpectroMagic parade, enjoy Mickey's PhilharMagic, and take advantage of the Extra Magic Hours? Aren't we even magically transported from the airport to our resort by Disney's Magical Express?........

I'm confident that long before the Disney advertising juggernaut spewed forth the notion that WDW is "Where Magic Lives," a great number of us already believed it. How else do we explain how Tinker Bell flies in the Magic Kingdom, how an entire audience can be shrunk in Epcot, or how we can enter our very own Twilight Zone at The Studios?........

Certainly we've all found our little bit of magic in every trip we've taken. Perhaps it was in the goosebumps we got as the drums sounded the beginning of IllumiNations, or in that "little something" in our eye as the music swelled and fireworks lit up Cinderella Castle, or maybe it was just in a simple hug from our favorite's become clear that countless numbers of us believe that there is magic to be found at WDW, and that when we find it, we want to tell others about it. How often do we arrive home from our trips to The World anxious to tell anyone willing to listen (and a few who are just in the wrong place at the wrong time) about our Magical Moments? We want to tell them about how our little girl was enchanted by a conversation with the real Cinderella, how we had the chance to sit quietly holding hooves with Eeyore, or how our grandfather got choked up (although he'll never admit it) when his whole family gathered for his birthday during his first-ever trip to Walt Disney World........

You should note that we don't call them "special" or "incredible" or even "really cool" moments. No, we call them magical, and we wouldn't have it any other way. But what makes a magical moment? Is it a special event that's been meticulously planned and engineered, perhaps with the help of a cast member? Sure it is. Is it a trip that's been anticipated for months or even years before finally setting foot in the middle of the magic? Of course it is. Could it be a forgettable day made unforgettable by someone seizing the moment and spontaneously making some magic? You bet it is. Or maybe it's a moment when everything stands still, when you see nothing but your friends or family and the expressions on their faces, and in that instant you know that there is nowhere else you'd rather be. Oh yeah, that's one of the most magical moments of them all........

We all know that the cast members at WDW go the extra mile in making our visits as special as possible. We all know that it's often that extra mile that keeps us coming back again and again. And, of course, we all know that without the cast members there could be no Disney magic. Looking back through the ALL EARS® archives of readers' Magical Moments, I read again and again of the memorable things that cast members have done for guests. Sometimes the cast member had clearly gone out of their way to create some magic, even commemorating it with a "Magical Moments" certificate. Sometimes they were going above and beyond trying to remedy a trip gone awry, and sometimes there seemed to be a little luck, or coincidence, or (dare I say it) a little magic that brought everything together in just the right way to touch the guest and spark what would be an indelible and unforgettable moment. But I also noticed something else. While most of the writers told us of magic that had been fashioned at the hands of a cast member, there were other types of magic that piqued my interest... and got me thinking.

I read several stories of guests actually creating magic for other guests. A few mentioned the simple act of fellow guests giving away their FastPasses, another spoke of a family sacrificing some of their park time to "stay put" and guard the belongings of strangers when they realized the poor souls had walked away without their bags. And one related the incredibly sweet story of a husband buying an entire bouquet of balloons for his new wife just so she could give them away to the children around her! Goodness, tissue please.........after hearing so many other examples of guests taking magic-making into their own hands, I'd like to think that spending a few days immersed in the magic of Disney makes us happier, freer, and gives us the idea to do those nice things that may not come to mind during the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives. Or maybe we just know that any kind or thoughtful act in that environment is a potential magical moment, and fuels the secret desire that some of us have to be a cast member making Disney magic.

Another type of Magical Moment that intrigued me was the magic that we make for ourselves. I was delighted by the stories of parents surprising their children with a so-called "last-minute" trip that had actually been secretly planned for months and months, and of a family spending their entire day at the Magic Kingdom "chasing" Tinker Bell around every corner and going to great lengths (a.k.a. golden cake glitter) to convince the youngest in their party that Tink was just mere steps away. I was heartened by the story of the large family who took the time to let their "number one planner" know how special he was for making their family gathering at WDW possible, and was struck by the countless stories of those whose magical moments were simply the emotion they felt when they were finally in the middle of the magic, surrounded by those they hold dear, and seeing the experience through their loved ones' eyes. Hmm. I didn't throw away that tissue, did I?

I'm not sure if I know why the images of magic that people found in themselves touched me so deeply. Perhaps they reassure me that we carry imagination, wonder, and magic with us everywhere we go, that we're not dependent on others to create it for us, and that we have within us the ability to make special memories for ourselves and others. Of course, it's certainly easier to lend ourselves to magic-making when we're surrounded by others doing the same. So for that, we have to thank the hard-working cast members who put all the pieces together. They give us a place to gather, they welcome us with a smile, they entertain us with thrills and whimsy, then they wow us with spectacles of music, light, and fire. In all of this, I think they give us permission to suspend reality and forget many of the cares we have at home, to see the magic in the moment, and to delight in those people who are most important in our world. Then I guess it's up to us to recognize those moments, then remember them, relive them and share them when we return home.

So the next time we experience a magical moment, perhaps we should thank Walt for creating a place where magic indeed lives... in the stories, in the characters, and in the people. But the next time we create a little magic of our own, maybe we need to be grateful that Walt's dream is a place that inspires us to believe, feel, and know that magic also lives in us.

That, my friends, is what keeps us coming back.

Part of the fun of Disney for me is planning the trip. Months in advance of our actual vacation, I start planning out our days, our meals, our activities. I love it! I have helped a few friends plan their Disney trips as well, and now my friends are telling me, "You could SO make money doing this!"

So that's what's been on my mind lately - starting my own Disney-trip-planning business. I can recommend resorts, restaurants, etc. and make all reservations. I can recommend which parks to go to on which days, which rides and attractions must be seen and done, and which ones can be skipped if time is crunched. I can share all the tips and tricks I've learned over the years from our own Disney trips. And - I can get paid to do it!

I haven't decided for sure yet. Starting my own business is a bit scary for me! But I'm seriously considering it. A new venture for a new year. Could make for a magical 2009!