family, Travel, Walt Disney World

Disney Tips for Those with Limited Mobility

A few months ago our family took a trip to Walt Disney World. If you know me, this is nothing new. We love Disney and typically go every year, once in a while we are lucky enough to visit twice in one year. This past trip, however, was much different from many of our former vacations. This time we were traveling with a family member with disabilities requiring a wheelchair. We had five people in our group, I was nervous, to say the least. Would we manage to keep up the fast pace we are so used to, getting the most out of every second of the day? What would it be like moving through the crowds at each park? Let me just tell you, this was our best trip yet! Disney did not disappoint. Their attention to detail in providing excellent costumer service exceeded my already high expectations. We made some beautiful family memories that we will always treasure as well as some much needed quality time together. I can’t wait to do it again. Here is what we learned from our experience… Tip #1 Take your own wheelchair or scooter… We traveled to Florida by car, so we were able to take our own wheelchair with us, saving money and a lot of time waiting in line to rent one each morning in the park. Having our own wheelchair was very convenient, but many people don’t. If you are unable to travel with your own wheelchair but don’t want to wait in the long lines at the park to rent one, try checking local mobility rental companies to see how much it would cost to rent one for the week. It may be worth it, I’m not sure you save money but you will certainly save precious time that could be spent in the park and not waiting in rental lines each day. Cost to rent at Disney: Wheelchair Rental – $12.00 per day or $10.00 for a multiple day rental ECV (Electric Conveyance Vehicle) – $50.00 per day Tip #2 Use a wheelchair NOT scooter… If you’re trying to decide between a wheelchair or a scooter (ECV electric conveyance vehicle) I suggest wheelchair. I know what you’re thinking…someone has to push it all day. Yes, that is correct. Obviously you will only be able to use a wheelchair if you are traveling with people who are able to push you. We had four able bodied adults that had no problem taking turns with the wheelchair. Florida is flat! It is extremly easy to push the chair. So, the reason why we chose the wheelchair over the scooter can be summed up in one word: CROWDS!!! It’s my experience that traversing the chair through the crowd is much more convenient than the big scooters. Our family member in the chair used a scooter the previous visit and saw a remarkable difference in how we were able to manage the crowd. I noticed a lot of people struggling to maneuver their scooters through the crowds and buildings. It’s a matter of personal preference I guess but if given a choice, we choose wheelchair. Tip #3 Always check in with a cast member before each attraction/show Everything we wanted to do provided wheelchair accessible queuing areas. Some rides allowed the guest in the wheelchair to wait in the usual queue and transfer to the ride while other attractions have what Disney calls an auxiliary entrance where the disabled guest and five family members may wait together. The only caveat is if the disabled guest is able to transfer on their own to the ride or if they must stay in their chair. This is why it is absolutely essential to check in with the cast member and get assistance. They will know just what to do in either scenario. Another quick tip on accessing rides: don’t be afraid to ride the continual moving attractions. The cast members will stop the ride to allow the guest to board safely! There are even designated viewing areas during the parades for those in wheelchairs, but get there early because they fill up quickly. Tip #4 Take Breaks! We take breaks…we go strong when we’re in the park but we are not afraid to get out of the park and rest for a bit. This would be a tip I would give to anyone visiting Disney whether disabled or not. The parks are at their fullest typically between 11:00 and 4:00 and they can get hot depending on when you go, so we usually go back to the resort for a couple of hours during time frame. It is great to get a bite to eat, cool off in the room or by the pool and then go back in to the parks in the evening feeling refreshed and ready to get back at it! The bottom line is that Disney is a great place to visit, don’t let a mobile disability stop you or anyone in your party. For more information on services available at the Disney Parks and Resorts check out disneyparks.com or call (407) 560-2547.
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Big Cedar Lodge, Branson MO, family, Travel

Big Cedar Lodge, Ridgedale MO

Without a doubt one of my favorite places in the world is right in the middle of the gently rolling Ozarks hills. It’s an enchanting resort tucked away in Ridgedale Mo. just a few miles south of Branson on Table Rock Lake. For me it’s a place that feels as if I’ve gone back in time to a much more simple and carefree attitude of life.  While there is an overwhelming feeling of “back to the basics” family fun, make no mistake, this is a unique destination of pure rustic elegance.

How did an East Coast girl such as myself develop such a love affair with this “off the beaten path” destination? It began after moving to Springfield, Mo. for a couple of years. I met my husband at Evangel University and we took a little road trip to have dinner one evening at Big Cedar Lodge. We had a fabulous meal and enjoyed a romantic stroll through the perfectly pastoral setting filled with waterfalls and surprises around every corner. Of course, this was our first destination as a young married couple, spending the first few nights of our honeymoon in one of its grand buildings. This was back in 1990 and although we married and immediately moved out east, we manage to visit as often as our schedule will allow. Our two boys have developed a mutual admiration for our beloved lodge as well.

This place has an old world charm with an exquisite attention to detail within its sprawling 4600 acres of picturesque land with multiple lodging and dining options.
You’ll find winding trails through the majestic cedar trees and ample opportunity to enjoy various water adventures on Table Rock Lake. The on-site amenities are endless with something to please every member of your family including a gorgeous spa and brand new indoor entertainment facility. I literally have so much to say about this place, but I must pace myself and share more in my future blogs. I can assure you that Big Cedar is tugging at my heart even now, as I sit on a beautiful beach and write this, I’m dreaming of my past visits and wondering when I can get back to my Ozarks mountains and this beautifully alluring lodge. Please do me a favor and visit this charming place as soon as you can, I know you will love it as much as our family has! Visit bigcedar.com for more information.

family, Grief, Live

A Journey Called Grief

Today is my dad’s 69th birthday. It’s a little different for our family now that he will be celebrating in heaven this year. We celebrate the fact that he is eating all the ice cream he desires and maybe even partaking in one of his favorite past times: playing a little baseball with some of the greats that have gone before him. If there are rocks to skip, that may be where you will find my dad. I would like to think that skipping rocks in heaven would be somewhere on a beautiful shoreline filled with he most perfectly shiny smooth pebbles. Just one easy flick of the wrist and that pebble would glide across the top of that majestic water finding it’s resting place at the bottom of the crystal blue shallows. Or perhaps he is blissfully waiting along the waters edge of some sort of heavenly tropical beach, with the bottoms of his jeans cuffed so not to get them wet. “Meet me at the beach” is what he would tell my mom before he passed away. I guess he wanted my mom to know where to find him when she entered through the pearly gates. If he were here, he would start the day by making a larger than life batch of pancakes for the grandkids… pancakes were about the only culinary delights he would attempt. Cooking was not his thing, but his “flapjacks” would make the grandkids come running and demanding more. The last several years, we ended his birthday by taking in a Tide’s game, it was his favorite past time, he was a darn good ball player in his younger days. I remember as a very young girl watching him play slow pitch with the ball the size of a grapefruit. I could never figure out how in the world you could ever catch that thing, it was ginormous!
As we have just recently passed the three month mark of his passing and celebrate his birthday today, I have been reflecting so heavily on precious memories that are more valuable than any rare jewel. I’ve been reflecting on grief, trying to process that last seven years. And I’ve been reflecting on what it means to move on, to continue this life without someone you love so dearly.
Grief is a funny thing. I thought when my dad passed on that we would have a sense of relief, that we would start the process of living our lives again. Picking up where were left off so to speak. But it hasn’t been like that. I guess I thought we had grieved so much over the years and had faced so much loss that possibly those days of sadness were coming to an end. I was wrong. There is so much to process these days that my head spins much of the time. Now that my dad’s suffering has stopped, we are relieved…but now what? The sadness that has blanketed our family during these past three months has been brutal. There has been glimpses of hope and happiness that surprise me and catch me off guard at times. I am so thankful for those moments that remind me of that thing called “happiness”. On the other hand there is so much heaviness and sorrow to wade through and try to process so that I can move forward in my quest for normalcy one day. Why did we feel so isolated and alone for so much of those seven years? How long will we carry this heavy baggage of this terrible loss? There were many wrestling matches with God during the last couple years of my dad’s life. Trying to come to terms with the “whys” but realizing it’s really about the “why nots?” Now I wrestle to overcome bitterness and overwhelming sadness that come in terrible surges like the powerful but frightening waves of an angry ocean.
Oftentimes, while in the midst of our trial, I was embarrassed of my sadness and felt apologetic for my feelings. I don’t anymore. I would find myself in places where I should have felt loved, accepted and safe with my emotions. Instead, I would feel judged, misunderstood or even disregarded. People would look at me funny, or not look at me at all which was even more painful. I still feel that way much of the time, I really wish I didn’t. I tried to bury my grief after my dad passed away, wanting to magically move on and live a normal life again. I didn’t understand that although we’ve been through a never-ending tsunami of suffering, now there’s a different kind of grief period.
But today is my dad’s first birthday in heaven…. so what do I do now? I know that my dad would not want me to stay this way, so I won’t. I know that my dad would want me to love people, so I will. My relationship with God is much more vibrant and pure than it was just a few months/years ago. Somehow when God seemed silent and absent in our situation, He was somehow the most present. He was working His greatest, most refining work I could have ever imagined. I don’t fully understand the theology behind it, but I just know, “His ways are higher”. To go through something like this and not be changed for the better would be calamitous. Thankfully I feel that my senses are much more attuned to those struggling, when I look into someone’s eyes I want to know their story. I want to know their struggle, their pain, or how they overcame or how I can come alongside them in their journey to provide support. Although I have many setbacks as I try to traverse grief, bitterness and loss… I also know that a new day is coming when things will get easier, life will get sweeter and the world’s colors will come back in all their fullness. I also know that one day I will be sitting on the beach with my dad, or maybe watching him play slow pitch again… I will search for the perfect pebble on the heavenly shores of majestic rivers and partake of the calorie free / fat free deliciously fluffy pancakes. Until then, I will keep living, I will stay on my journey that Christ has set before me and I will go to Cracker Barrel on my dad’s birthday and order the highest stack of “flapjacks” they have on the menu.