The Lucky Rabbit

Yesterday, I was greeted with a familiar, happy sight, a brown and blue cardboard package from the Disney Store, that contained a not-so-familiar sight, a tiny stuffed Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Although he is gaining popularity and working his way back into our pop culture, there are still many people that do not know this little Disney icon. To be honest, I don’t know much about him either. I read some of his general history and saw a few of his shorts, but I definitely cannot consider myself an Oswald expert. I can say, though, that Oswald is still an important part of my Disney fandom.

Walt Disney said, “You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.” Every time I hear or see this quote, I think of Oswald. As the legend goes, after Walt learned he lost the rights to Oswald (click here for that story), he spent the train ride home inventing a brand new character that changed his entire company forever, Mickey Mouse. Just when Walt thought Oswald wasn’t so lucky after all, the circumstance Oswald put Walt in was the luckiest thing that could have happened for the company.

I wear Oswald clothing and have a stuffed Oswald not because he’s my favorite character or I know everything about him, but because he’s an inspiration and a reminder that kicks in the teeth can be gifts in disguise. Luck doesn’t always announce itself, and you have to keep moving forward to realize it’s always there.

Photos from Buena Vista Street in Disney’s California Adventure at Oswald’s

Advertisements

Just Keep Swimming

“Take a look around you- the ocean’s alive! In the big blue world, it’s time for you to arrive!”

Fort Lauderdale beach isn’t one of the most exotic of oceans, and I’ve never been to the Great Barrier Reef, but as I sit here, gazing at the infinite green sea we call the Atlantic Ocean, I think back to the times I really felt like I was a part of “the big blue world.”

Last summer, I had the opportunity to snorkel in St. John. It was a serene beach with crystal clear water and a wide stretch of sand. I had never snorkeled before, so I had a few issues with the mask, but overall, it was a magical experience. I’ll never forget the seconds a swam with a whole school of fish. Within that moment, I believed I was one with the sea, and I wondered how Ariel was so willing to give it all up to be on land. My friend, Holly, who plays her in our character entertainment business, pointed out, “Ariel really had no idea how good she had it!”

A year later, I stood at the entrance of Shark Reef in Typhoon Lagoon, practically unable to move. I wondered why I was so afraid with an incredible experience under my belt. At the same time, my travel partner, Emily, who also snorkeled with me in St. John, was freaking out over the sharks and stingrays. (I swam with stingrays in the Grand Caymans, so that was no excuse for my anxiety either!) We were the only swimmers left; it was “now or never,” even though the lifeguard encouraged us to “take our time.” The exact second I swam past the drop off, a panic attack settled in. I couldn’t see fish, I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t figure out how far I was from land. All I felt was chilly saltwater and the presence of a wimpy shark 10 feet below me. I got out of Shark Reef in a few seconds, but it seemed like hours. Afterwards, I was absolutely disappointed in myself. Our whole Disney trip had been full of fear conquering. This was pathetic.

A few hours later, I was ready to face the reef again. I gave myself a quick pep talk. I had done this before. I knew what I was doing. This was a great opportunity – I had no idea when I’d be able to do this again. I needed to be brave. I needed to face my fears. I couldn’t keep hiding anymore. We grabbed our disinfected snorkels and wrapped around the empty queue. We got into the reef right away, and it was as if all of the fish had come to celebrate. There were sharks, stingrays, colorful fish, and a few of the Dory variety. I was disappointed at the end, only because it was over far too quickly!

It’s amazing how we can lose sight of ourselves when we’re overcome by fear. I’m a relatively strong person, who looks up to Pocahontas, dreams of being Nemo in Finding Nemo: The Musical, and has always adored The Little Mermaid, and yet I couldn’t breathe at the sight of a minuscule shark. This happens to the best of us in an array of situations. A straight-A student can forget an easy answer, a linguist can get culture shock, a singer can get stage fright. We feel the pressure of living up to our personal definitions, and that itself is the problem. The pressure is only from within, and therefore, is not necessary. Our personal definitions can be so restricting, and what I’ve been learning lately is that perhaps they are not necessary either. Fear can get the best of us sometimes, but as I looked down at Dory swimming below me, I remembered her insightful lyrics:

“Sometimes things look bad, then poof! The moment is gone! And what do we do? We just keep swimming on!”

Faith, Trust, and Pixie Dust,

Lindsay

The Courage to Sing from the Heart

Fear is a human limitation we force upon ourselves, not an act of natural instinct. Often times, fear is our only obstacle standing in the way, the sad part being that we are the ones who put it there. I am nowhere near fearless; in fact, I’m afraid of a lot of things. However, there had always been one fear holding me back from countless opportunities: my fear of singing in public.

This fear did not make sense compared to the rest of my personality. Acting is one of my favorite activities, and in that aspect of performance, I don’t have stage fright. I’m very loud, too, and not afraid to say what I think. I’ve been singing my entire life in school and church, but after all of those years and missed chances, there was never a solo. I had done singing auditions before, but I often let my nerves get the best of me, limiting myself in the process.

Once my friends and I started our small business, Enchanted Rose Entertainment, I knew I’d have to sing publicly. I wasn’t sure how I’d measure up to my experienced colleagues, but I was willing to try. After our first party, Chick-fil-a heard about us and booked us for their Princess Night. I was going to have to sing as Belle, in front of a crowded restaurant. Before I could even worry about how scared I would be, I had to pick a song. Immediately, I knew what I had to sing.

Ever since I had heard “Home” from the Broadway production of Beauty and the Beast, I hoped that one day, I could sing it. This goal seemed at first like a lost dream. How could I sing a song like that? I’d never have the guts or the range. Years later now, I was more experienced, and although I hadn’t tried it before, I had a few weeks to achieve this dream.

Every rehearsal with my mom was getting better and better. My Enchanted Rose partners, Holly and Olivia, were over for a meeting, so I figured I’d give my song a try. It didn’t go so well. I messed up a few times, and my voice wasn’t strong. I didn’t have any confidence. If I couldn’t sing in front of my best friends, how could I sing in front of a herd of strangers?

A few nights before the event, I was home alone and I knew I needed to practice the song, even though I was terrified to face it again. I got my instrumental recording ready, and paused for a minute. This time it had to be different. I could no longer bear to live in this constant state of fear. It was time to sing this song from my heart. I pressed play, and felt the rhythm of the piano notes. As I opened my mouth to sing, I heard my inner’s Belle’s voice, echoing her deepest emotions into my breath. By the end of the song, I had completely transformed into her.

“Build higher walls around me, change every lock and key. Nothings lasts, nothing holds, all of me.”

This fear could no longer limit the power and passion I held within myself. I absolutely loved Belle- she was able to see beauty where others could not, she always stayed true to herself, and she experienced pure love. I could relate to her, as well. Books are always my escape, and sometimes I feel as though the people around me don’t understand me. Her songs have brought me to tears on countless occasions, almost as if Belle is inside of me, weeping for her old home or realizing that she had learned so much during the hardest period of her life.

I finished the song with a sweet silence, followed by a dramatic applause from the rainstorm outside. I could hear the tiny droplets cheering me on, urging me to do this. All it took was the courage to sing from my heart. It had been there all along.

***

At first, I wanted to end this story with that tender moment, but I realized that had I done so, I wouldn’t have actually completed the tale. I hadn’t officially faced my fear yet. The performance day came, and I was feeling good. There were little nerves, only excitement. We rehearsed and got ready, and before I knew it, we were there in full character. Many of my family and friends stopped by; support was all around me. (For anyone that came, thank you. Without all of you, I wouldn’t be able to accomplish any of this. I’m truly grateful for you all.) The children couldn’t have been sweeter, and I felt honored to bring a little extra magic into their imaginative minds. This was exactly what I lived for.

It was nearing my time to sing, and I heard a little girl say to her father, “I want Belle to sing!” If I hadn’t been in character, that request would’ve brought me to tears. I went over to the girl and said, “Hey, princess! I heard you want me to sing! I’d like to sing my song to you!”  The music started and I got down to her height to sing her the story of how I gave up my freedom for my father’s. At first, it felt like it was only us, but as my song went on, the room increased. I was sharing my experience with the whole restaurant- no fear or nerves, just bare honesty. I was free,and  just like Belle, I was starting a new chapter in my life, a chapter I knew would be worth the read.

Faith, Trust, and Pixie Dust,

Lindsay

The Thought that Counts

One of the most used expressions in the English language is, “It’s the thought that counts.” It’s a saying that is so often repeated that over time, it has lost its true value, simply drowning in a sea of meaningless words. As it goes with the most  profound definitions, the true meaning of this expression came to me practically out of the blue.

My 16th birthday was the epitome of the most loving thought: two parents wishing for nothing less than a trip that would make their daughter’s dreams come true. They spent months planning the perfect getaway, mostly without my help! I was completely blown away when they showed me the itinerary; I never dreamed I’d be going on a trip like that!

The first day of the vacation was straight out of a dream. I needed to pinch myself every hour in reminder that this was real. We got back in our room decently late after a day of adventure. I felt as if I was on the top of the world, and I was super excited to climb into my Polynesian bed to reenergize for the next day’s events. I entered the room and was greeted by a massive Mickey Mouse-shaped gift basket paired with Tiana and Minnie Mouse balloons. Inside, it was filled with coloring supplies and a personalized Mickey ears hat. The Disney Florist left a small, personalized note with the basket. It read:

“Today you have been given two gifts. One gift is the treasure you hold in your hands. The other is the gift of thoughtfulness. Both were meant for you.”

I sat with this note for a while, rereading it in my head. I smiled at its innocence, but moved on to exploring my new gifts.

Three months later, I was sitting in my mother’s classroom, eating my lunch. I pulled out my chunky peanut butter and jelly on wheat from my floral lunch bag and saw a shiny Phineas and Ferb sticker on the sandwich bag. This time, something clicked.

I’m so lucky to have a father who still makes my lunch, just as I’m so lucky to have parents who went the extra mile to give me the greatest birthday present. However, it’s one thing to just give someone a gift, and a completely different thing to do so with love, compassion, and thoughtfulness. The gift basket and the sticker were unexpected additions, but as sweet as single cherry atop a 10 scoop sundae.

The big picture is often what most people think about, but the small details are the most important. Just as a song would sound empty without bass, a gift is nothing but a material possession without care. There are so many things in life to be grateful for, but most of all, we should be thankful for the simple things brought into our lives with love. If we notice the feeling behind a gift rather than the gift itself, we ultimately receive a greater gift: the knowledge that  it is the thought that counts.

Faith, Trust, & Pixie Dust,

Lindsay

A Jolly Holiday with Mary

“Oh, it’s a jolly holiday with Mary! Mary makes your world so light! When the day is gray and ordinary, Mary makes the sun shine bright!”

It was a cloudy day in the big apple, but I felt the warmth of a thousand suns. Being a lover of the theatre and Disney, I entered New Amsterdam Theatre ready for what I heard was a “practically perfect” musical- Mary Poppins. A sense of enthusiasm overtook my body. I felt as if I was in the presence of greatness, standing in a temple where the musical genius of the Sherman brothers resounds daily, where the perseverance of Walt Disney is admired decades later, where the breathtaking smile of Julie Andrews radiates into the soul of every audience member. I was reminded of Walt’s words, “I would rather entertain and hope that people learned something, than educate people and hope they were entertained.” Would this show be one of simple pleasure or profound knowledge? After only a few songs, the answer quickly arose within my heart.

Mary Poppins spoke to me with many timeless themes, that of which I was lucky enough to witness and receive. My first lesson came through the stubbornness of the children, too unwilling to see Bert’s colorful interpretation of their dull park as reality. (Unfortunately, my hometown isn’t too inspiring, either.)  In “Jolly Holiday,” as Bert transformed the park into what his heart saw, rather than his brain, I learned that all it takes is a less conventional perspective, and “something as plain as a park becomes a wonderland!”

*

We live in a world where working is nearly inevitable, whether it is at a job, at school, or household chores. Mary reminds us in “A Spoonful of Sugar” that “in every job that must be done, there is an element of fun! You find the fun, and snap! The job’s a game!” The only thing keeping us between a dead-end task and pure joy is a positive outlook. Finding a positive in daunting situations can be quite difficult at times, but once we do, the rest will come like pure magic, “in the most delightful way.”

*

One of Walt Disney’s favorite tunes portrays the largest message in the show. “Feed the Birds” is a beautifully constructed metaphor saying that parents must care for their children, for that is what they desire most. It doesn’t take much, the bird woman reminds us, and “you’ll be glad if you do.” Children are the greatest natural resource on this earth, and the easiest way to unlock it is through the love we give them.

*

My favorite song of the show is “Anything Can Happen.” Every lyric is purely inspirational. We’re told, “Dreams are made of strong elastic!” I’ve noticed that too many people in this day and age are far too quick to let go of their dreams. Dreams don’t ever have to die. They may take a hit every now and then, but dreams are stronger than one might think. In my short lifetime, I’ve seen that they are indeed quite flexible- far more flexible than I could ever be.

While chasing your dreams, “broaden your horizon, open different doors! You may find a you there that you never knew was your’s!” As I continue to grow in this ever-changing world, I’ve learned that we must go on our journeys together. Dream chasing often succeeds when it’s a team effort. One of my really good friends, Josh, who is wise beyond his years (although he’d never admit that), told me, “We must use others as mirrors for our identity and self-knowledge… We can utilize the perceptions of others to learn more about ourselves, if we possess the mental faculty, insight, and imagination to do so.” Finding a new you through someone else’s window is just a part of Mary’s lesson: Anything can happen if you let it.

The epic ending of this song blew me away. The stage lit up as bright as Mary’s smile. It transformed into the “heavens” itself- a remarkable stage transition. Mary and the cast repeated, “If you reach for the stars, all you get are the stars, but we’ve found a whole new spin! If you reach for the heavens, you get the stars thrown in!” Never settle for something less than what you dream of. Without dreams, there is no life. With settling for less than your dreams, there is no purpose. Don’t be afraid to shoot for the highest goals; they can come true (if you let it).

*

“A man should never neglect his family for business,” preached Walt Disney. This philosophy is ever-present in the Mary Poppins tale, however, the show stands not just as a moral for busy parents. Mary Poppins is laced with themes that everyone can learn from. I left the theater not simply with a grin on my face and tears in my eyes, but a smile in my heart. That itself was worth the price of admission.

Faith, Trust, & Pixie Dust,

Lindsay

“Go and chase your dreams; you won’t regret it! Anything can happen if you let it!”

Through Hadley’s Eyes

I slowly turned around, looked into the mirror, and gazed into the eyes of the princess staring back at me. I was not looking at Lindsay- it was Princess Belle. She wore a large, gold ball gown, and her hair was pulled back, exactly like the movie. She smiled a sweet smile, with eyes that had read hundreds of books. I looked away from the mirror, and realized Princess Belle had taken over my body. I was wearing the dress; I was the princess. I finally knew what it was like.

It was my first party. With two of my best friends, Holly and Olivia, we started our own business to provide character entertainment at parties. Working under the name “Enchanted Rose Entertainment,” we created a Beauty, Little Mermaid, and Rapunzel. After countless meetings, costume creating, and rehearsals, we finally pulled it together for my wonderful niece, Hadley’s, birthday. For being on this earth for only five years, she has already become one of my best friends and a guiding light. Many friends of mine told me how sweet it was to do such a nice thing for her, but it wasn’t really like that. Hadley was the one giving me a gift.

Being a Disney fan since day one, I always dreamed of becoming a princess. I shared their struggles, their dreams, their ideas. There was always a tiny glimmer of light in my heart, telling me that there was something more out there. That light of hope promised that I’d be able to live my dreams, find the courage to follow my heart, and maybe someday meet a prince charming who would strengthen my spirit rather than destroy it. I never forgot these things, but at some points in my life, they were pushed to the back of my mind, as Jessie from Toy Story was left under the bed. As Hadley grew older, she crawled under my bed and pulled out the forgotten toys until old was new again. Hadley single-handedly revitalized my childhood.

She reintroduced me to myself, and I introduced her to the magic of Disney World. In between repetitive viewings of Finding Nemo, we watched the free planning videos. While parents and cast members reflected their sweetest memories on the television, I gently cried tears of joy and hope that Hadley would be able to have as pure of a childhood as she deserved. Long before I met a Disney Imagineer, I knew it was what I had to do. I needed to dedicate my life to keeping childhood’s innocence for the generations below and above me. I was lucky enough to experience a genuine childhood, and it shaped my life in an immeasurable way. Every child on this planet absolutely deserves that.

After the party, Hadley’s fantastic mother thanked my friends and me for our work. It was praise I didn’t even want to accept. I wanted to weep at her feet and thank her for bringing Hadley into my life and ultimately awakening everything good in my life. Yet, there are simply words in thankfulness which cannot be expressed. If only I could do the lexicon of appreciation justice.

All that I accomplish must partially be dedicated to Hadley. That one little person is the symbol of all that I want to work towards. She has truly helped me more than I will ever be able to help her. As I write this, I know that our relationship is love at its finest.

Mulan said, “I just wanted to look in the mirror and see someone worthwhile.” Through the eyes of my precious niece, I looked in the mirror and saw someone to be proud of. I may have looked like Belle on the outside, but on the inside, the tiny glimmer of light nestled in my heart was finally shining through.

Faith, Trust, & Pixie Dust,

Lindsay