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Splash Mountain is one of the coolest rides at Walt Disney World. There’s a catchy soundtrack, the audio-animatronics inside are delightful, and the foreboding ascent and steep drop down Chick-a-Pin Hill give the attraction its “E-Ticket” status. However, there’s a risk one must take before accepting to embark on this ride of a lifetime:

You May Get Wet.

Despite the attraction’s name, the numerous warnings posted throughout the queue, and the fact that water canons visibly shoot jets of the wet stuff on the descending log boats, there are always people who exit the ride mad that their pants are soaked through and their shoes and socks a bit squishy. So many people, in fact, that Disney recently made some changes to the ride which eliminated the excess blasts of water.

Unfortunately, the next big attraction headed our way cannot be calmed by a few mechanical adjustments and an extra verse of “Zip-A-Dee-Do-Da”:

Welcome to Hurricane Irene. You may get wet.

When I started writing this post yesterday, Irene was predicted to hit New Jersey as a Category 2 hurricane, something I’ve never experienced in my lifetime (it’s since been downgraded to a Category 1, but still–it’s a hurricane! They’re closing the New York City subway for crying out loud!!). The last major hurricane I remember coming our way was Floyd, in 1999. I was a sophomore in college then, living in youthful ignorance on the university campus. The storm was fun; it was something to get excited about. A bunch of students stood out in the torrential rain, mud-diving into the slosh pit that had formed by a small creek. However, now I’m a homeowner in my 30s. I live in a house surrounded by huge trees. My husband and I have two cars sitting in the driveway under said trees. We have a refrigerator and freezer full of expensive foods from Wegmans and Whole Foods. Our precious sump-pump, which has always saved us from any basement flooding, is at the mercy of working electricity.

I was filled with anxiety yesterday morning, not sure what “to do” about the impending storm. We had a once-in-a-hundred-years earthquake just days ago; it was frightening at the time, but it was completely unexpected and caught everyone by surprise. There was nothing “to do” beforehand. With this hurricane, though, there is the gift/curse of foresight, and being able to watch that churning mass of weather off the Atlantic coast made me feel like I had “to do” something. Mostly, worry.

Just like the dozens of “You may get wet” signs posted along the Splash Mountain queue, the news stations are posting all kinds of warnings and precautions.

On Splash Mountain, yes, even though you may get wet, there are plenty of things you can do to protect yourself from the threat of the water jet. You can tuck your camera and phone into a plastic bag. Remove your watch so it doesn’t get damaged. Perhaps change into sandals before embarking instead of wearing socks and shoes that could turn into mush. Some people don ponchos throughout the whole ride.

Here in New Jersey, we’ve taken similar precautions for Hurricane Irene. We stocked up on nonperishable foods; we have plenty of flashlights scattered all over the house. Our basement floor is cleared of anything that could be damaged by water. My husband cleaned the gutters yesterday and adjusted the downspouts. We’ll be charging our laptops and phones and iPods one last time tonight, cranking the refrigerator temperature down to its coldest setting. I’ve already decided we’re sleeping downstairs tonight so we’re as far away as possible from the tree limbs that hang near our bedroom windows.

We have no choice; we’re riding the ride now, so we just have to follow the rules and prepare for splash-down. Of course I am still worried, but I am trying to let go of the things I cannot control. I don’t particularly like getting drenched on Splash Mountain, but that doesn’t mean I skip the ride entirely or spend the first 6 minutes of the ride whimpering, oblivious of the animated storyline unfolding around me. With Irene, even all the worrying in the world can’t stop electricity from going out or tree branches falling–we’ve put on our metaphorical ponchos and just have to enjoy the ride, I suppose.

Thursday was my office birthday celebration, which meant my manager brought in the treat of my choice (brownies!) and decorated my cubicle with the “Happy Birthday” confetti.

This time last year I felt anything but happy. I had never associated turning 30 with “getting old,” but then right before my birthday my hip situation worsened and an MRI revealed a torn labrum. At the same time, an x-ray of my leg revealed a mysterious “thing” in my femur, and I went for three agonizing months not knowing for sure what it was. Before I had a specialist deem it a harmless “bone island” (a true medical term, not the next FOX reality show, I swear), I spent my days making orthopedist and bone scan appointments, experimenting with antidepressants (which lasted for a week; I couldn’t stand the side effects), and having to take anxiety medication to go to sleep. The timing was awful, and I felt like my body was a cruel prankster, making everything break down at such a milestone year of my life.

Yet, even with those setbacks, being 30 turned out OK. The hip thing makes my body slightly more fragile, but I have learned to cope with it, taking my time getting in and out of cars, avoiding pigeon and related yoga poses, and always toting around an ice pack to strap on my side after a long day of walking or a cycling session at the gym.

I know I look older; I can no longer mask a night without sleep–the dark circles under my eyes give it away. I have a few more wrinkles on my face, and I am oh-so-crotchety. I am a 30-something, female version of the “Get off my lawn!”-yelling grandpa. Or a cuter version of Larry David. Either would be correct. Just ask my husband.

But, before I go grab a frying pan and yell at the local youth walking across my grass, here’s a look back at the high points of Year 30:

• I celebrated the big 3-0 down the shore with my sis. It was a great lil’ getaway; we went to Wildwood, a shore town we used to frequent annually as kids but then hadn’t been in years. We did some rides, strolled the boards, took goofy pictures, scared ourselves silly riding ducks suspended on an overhead track, took the “back roads”-way home to avoid an accident that left us thinking we accidentally drove into Kansas, and then sat our sandy and sweaty beach butts down at IndeBlue back home for dinner.

I dorked out seeing Morey's Pier after such a prolonged absence.

Even mannequinns get heatstroke.

Heads up!

I've been on countless roller coasters, but returning to the Sea Serpeant fuh-reaked me out! I'm Death-Grip Donna, fourth row from the top.

• 30th birthday celebration II: Surprise Riversharks baseball game with friends. Bryan coordinated the event with a respectable number of guests; any more and I would have cried. I made it very clear to him that I did not want any big birthday surprise parties!

My kind of crowd!

• Birthday celebration III: Another outing with my sis, which included mango mimosas and omelets for brunch, a random African flea market, and a friend’s production of the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, during which I was asked to be a part of the cast!

• Birthday celebration IV: A trip to Atlantic City, to redeem Bryan’s birthday gift to me: Tickets to the Season 7 So You Think You Can Dance tour!

Robert and Dominic!

• One of the greatest moments of my 30-year-old life was visiting a Disneyphile’s Mecca: Disneyland! Walt Disney World in Florida is my home base, but our trip to California last September allowed us the opportunity to walk in Walt’s footsteps.

The very first Disney castle!

As an East Coaster my heart will always belong to WDW, but the trip allowed us to see lots of cool things original to Disneyland:

An outdoors "It's A Small World"!

The Matterhorn!

A Monorail that runs through the park!

A Haunted Mansion that switches over to a "Nightmare Before Christmas" theme!

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride (does my shirt scream "Geek"?)!

A whole new Disney park–California Adventure!

Totally awesome evening show: World of Color!

• Being in California also meant seeing some really cool sights in the LA area:

Hollywood from the hills

LA traffic

The Walt Disney Concert Hall

A frozen yogurt junkie's heaven

The beautiful Getty Center

Sepulveda Dam, which I thought was so lame at the time. (I have a new appreciation for it, now that I know it was featured on "24" and "Alias.")

• My 30th New Year’s celebration included some awesome rooftop fireworks over Philly, which we may never see again now that our friends who lived in the high-rise apartment complex have moved.

• After maintaining a fairly private blog since 2003, I started this here Flowtation Devices in March!

• After being without a “yoga home” for more than a year, I find a studio right by my office–and a teacher whose classes I love!

• I took time to polish up my resume, reminding myself that I done good.

• I put on my big-girl shoes and drove to Philly by myself so I could start attending 5Rhythms classes in the city.

• 30 became the year of fanatic plane watching:

• One of the best places to watch planes is Red Bank Battlefield Park, which became a go-to spot for Bryan and I on nice days:

• My dad won tickets to a Phillies game–my first time at Citizens Bank Park, and some SWEET seats, too!

• I finally got to bang on my djembe a little more at some rockin’ drum circles:

Facilitator Jim Donovan and Old-Lady Friend Carrol.

• Bryan and I spend the evening with fellow NPR nerds at a live recording of Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me at the Academy of Music. Things get even better after Christmas, when Bryan gets me a shiny red iPod Nano and I can finally listen to the podcasts!

• I enter my first sporty competition and complete the swimming portion of a team duathlon.

• A railroad crossing near our house that has been closed since the dawn of time OPENS, meaning we can drive from one side of town to the other without having to make a giant u-turn. I consider this 30th Birthday Celebration V; it was a huge victory in our town!

• Bryan gets a new job that allows him to work from home–more husband time! And weeknight dinners together, too–a brand new concept for the wife of a former newspaper photographer!

• I supervise some kick-ass interns at work. It feels good to work with young, intelligent minds…and even help one score a full-time gig!

Round II of physical therapy for my hip includes some odd moments (nothing like having a male PT assistant glue electric nodes to my “underwear” area), but I walk away from the 2-month endeavor feeling better and armed with some incredibly useful hip and back exercises.

• I take blogging to the next level by joining an online community. Ahhh, commitment!

• While delving into all kinds creative movement, I fall head-over-heels in love with Biodanza during an introductory workshop. (It’s returning to Philly in August!)

___________________________

…So there you have it, kiddos. 30 was such an odd year for me, because I do the pee-pee dance when I see Donald Duck dressed as a pumpkin (and break down in tears when he walks away before I get a picture), yet I grumble and scowl like an old lady when kids go splashy-splash in the pool during my lap time at the gym. How one can be so much like Dora the Explorer and Dorothy Zbornak at the same time is a mystery…but–yes, thank you Lady Gaga–dammit, I was born this way!

A real-time photo of me transforming from age 30 into 31.

Now that we’ve booked our trip to Walt Disney World, I have to work harder than ever to really live in the moment and not to get caught up in that giddy “I can’t wait!” anticipation of an upcoming vacation. There are less than 2 months to go before we board our Southwest jet to Florida, but that time frame is both agonizingly long (I want to see Goofy NOW!) and also painfully short (we return from our trip just a few weeks shy of the start of FALL!). Summer is my absolute favorite season of the year, and I don’t want to spend every gorgeous 90-degree day wishing that it was September, because once fall arrives I’ll just wish that it was summer again! You can see how this unnecessary cycle of longing just causes suffering, and you’d think after all these years of yoga and going to Tibet and pouring over Buddhist texts that I’d get the point, but the truth is–it’s a work in progress.

But the point of this post is not meant to be about Eastern philosophy; rather, Western gluttony. I’m talking about FOOD, and lots of it.

Breakfast at 'Ohana (Polynesian Resort)

I love pixie dust, nightly fireworks, Mickey Mouse, and a hotel with a geyser that erupts every hour on the hour, but one of the best parts of a Disney vacation is the eats, especially when you get your meals for free (thanks to the free dining plan offer we received as part of our package). Bryan and I love sitting down beforehand and mapping out which restaurants we want to try/return to/skip and how they all match up with which park we need to be on which day. For example, if we’re planning to see the Main Street Electrical Parade on Tuesday, then we best be eating dinner in the Magic Kingdom area that night!

The dining plan includes per person, per night: a snack, a counter service meal, and a sit-down restaurant meal.

Snacks include basic things like an espresso, popcorn, and soda, but also way more fun treats like:

… a chocolate-chip covered Mickey pretzel

… a famous Kringla sweet pretzel from Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe in Norway

… an iconic chocolate-coated ice cream Mickey or “crisped rice” Mickey

… or a “Hey, it’s kinda healthy” chocolate-and-nut covered frozen banana.

Counter service meals at WDW are plentiful, with many food options (the same cannot be said for Disneyland, unfortunately). Some of our favorite, standby quick-service places include:

… Sunshine Seasons, located in The Land pavilion at Epcot, which has four different food stations with lots of options

Quick-service meals usually come with a choice of dessert, but many places have fruit options that you can sub. Here, I opted for the apple and Bryan stuck with the brownie.

… Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe in Tomorrowland, Magic Kingdom, where for the past 4 years I have stuck with my trusty veggie burger/Fixin’s Bar combo (I love fixins!)

… Pizzafari at Animal Kingdom and Pizza Planet at Hollywood Studios. At home I don’t like eating pizza more than once a month, but at WDW I’ll eat these babies 3 times a week:

The Junkyard Combo @ Pizza Planet (includes side salad, dessert, and drink)

… and finally, the Tangierine Cafe in the Morocco pavilion, Epcot.

Chicken wrap, couscous, lentil salad, and baklava.

The best part of the dining plan are the sit-down meals, of course, especially when you’re getting the plan for free. Meals can range anywhere from $20 an entree to $50 a plate (especially when you do a buffet), and the food is almost always spectacular.

From The Wave (Contemporary Resort): Salmon in a corn and edamame salad/stew topped with cilantro chutney.

'50s Prime Time Cafe (Hollywood Studios): Pepper stuffed with whole grains and ratatouille.

Prime Time's famous giant S'mores dessert.

Tusker House (Animal Kingdom)'s dessert buffet--and that's just half of it!

Because of the free dining plan offer, reservations at the hottest restaurants are being snatched up fast, especially because Disney opens online reservations 180 days in advance of your stay. Bryan and I booked our trip with only 2.5 months to spare, so it was our priority to get our meals in order. We’ll be staying at the resort for six nights, which means we have six formal restaurant options. After much debate and menu examining, we finally narrowed down our list and made our reservations.

Isn’t the suspense killing you? (or am I the only one who gets overly excited about Disney dining?)

Four of the restaurants are repeat visits. We’ve done ’em before, we love ’em, and we keep coming back:

1. Whispering Canyon Cafe, Wilderness Lodge (our resort!). The name is ironic, because this place is loud, boisterous, zany, wacky, and loads of fun. There are horse races, ketchup wars, and servers who throw straws at you.

All-you-can-eat Canyon Skillet aftermath. It started out as smoked pork ribs, pulled pork, oven-roasted chicken, beef brisket, mashed potatoes, cowboy beans, corn on the cob, mixed greens salad with apple vinaigrette, coleslaw, and cornbread. Oh, and refillable milkshakes, if that's how you roll.

2. Boma, Animal Kingdom Lodge. A generous buffet of African and African-inspired foods. Lots of flavors and textures, way beyond the traditional theme-park food. Be prepared to lengthen the belt a bit after eating here.

A little bit of everything, including nom-nom chicken curry soup.

No one leaves Boma without a Zebra Dome from the dessert buffet.

3. Kona Cafe, Polynesian Resort (mostly for the dessert).

The Kona Cone, which includes candy toppings and cotton candy, of course!

Kilahuea Torte (a.k.a., "Heaven")

It's what's on the inside the really matters.

Dinner isn't too shabby, either. Almond-crusted chicken with mixed greens.

4. Crystal Palace, Magic Kingdom. Another buffet, but this time with characters!

Pooh characters make the rounds as you eat.

Buffet overload!

Bryan loves the soft-serve bar.

Why did I ever think an apple would be a good dessert option?!

Our other two selections are new for us, but we’re looking forward to trying out:

5. Teppan Edo, in the Japan pavilion at Epcot; and
6. Yak & Yeti, Animal Kingdom.

Bryan and I never eat this much at home, but we’re able to do so in WDW because all we do all day is walk (in 90+ degree weather!). I wore a pedometer throughout our last trip, and our daily distances averaged between 8 and 10 miles. Plus, Disney food isn’t any old food–it’s fun! I watch my sugar intake at home, but it all goes out the window at Disney:

…Although I’ll admit, aside from being sad about leaving the Happiest Place on Earth, one of the hardest parts about coming home from WDW is going through some serious sugar withdrawal. And general food withdrawal, too! My stomach is always confused for the first few days after returning, wondering why I’m not eating 454879548 calories a day.

Just a little grander than my usual bowl of Kashi GoLean.

So with all that said, of course I am looking forward to going to Disney World and eating my brains out, but as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, now that all of our reservations are set and confirmed, the only thing I have to worry about now is enjoying the present moment, like the Jersey Devil tomato growing in our driveway:

...which tasted so divine with a dash of salt and pepper.

Time to savor the moment before it’s too late!

I had to rush out to Staples this afternoon to buy a new planner because my current one only goes through July, and my schedule is already extending into September. 5Rhythms classes throughout the summer; a comedy show in July, a possible kayaking trip, a drum circle; in August, there are kundalini classes, a Phillies game, the return of Biodanza (!), my sister-in-law’s going away party; and in September–already marked on the kitchen calendar with Mickey heads and sunshines–is the impromptu Disney World trip Bryan and I booked last week.

This will be the fifth consecutive Disney trip that Bryan and I are taking together; since 2007, we’ve been going to Florida every September; last year we paid homage to Walt’s baby out in Anaheim; and now this year we’re headed back to Orlando for a week at the Wilderness Lodge. We hadn’t intended to do Disney this year; in fact, one of my New Year’s resolutions for 2011 was to back off on the Disney trips for a few years and wait until 2014 (our 10-year wedding anniversary) to return for a Disney Vow Renewal Extravaganza with our friends Zak and Cathy.

Instead, Bryan and I tried to discuss alternative vacation ideas. We talked about renting a shore house for a week. I was thinking about skittering off to Kripalu by myself for a few days. We briefly considered a cruise. We talked and pondered and hemmed and hawed, but nothing was getting penned in permanently on the calendar. There were no Mickey heads to draw into September’s squares.

The decision to return to Disney was drawn out over about a week’s time, with back-and-forth debates between Bryan and me a regular nightly occurrence. Then Disney announced the return of its free dining plan…and about 12 hours later, we were booked. I got to draw the Mickey heads on the kitchen calendar once again.

My reasons for being obsessed with Disney are beyond the scope of this post (it all dates back to my first trip in 1987), but, in short, it’s a place where–once we drive through that giant red and purple “Walt Disney World” gate–I am free. I am free to slow dance on the train platform with my husband after the evening’s fireworks show, with thousands of people surrounding us. I am free to wrap my arms around a life-sized Pooh bear, kiss him on the nose, and ask for his autograph. I am free to “Yo Ho” like a pirate in the middle of Adventureland, pretend to be asleep during the biggest drop on Expedition Everest so it gives me something to laugh about when I see the instant attraction photo, and get goosebumps when the character-filled steamboat rolls out during the end of Fantasmic!, even though I’ve seen the show well over a dozen times by now. Bryan and I are free to wear matching Wall•E shirts, I can wear Mickey ears in public, and it’s completely acceptable for a 30-year-old woman to join a conga line led by a giant blue alien.

So it kind of made sense this past Friday when, as my 5Rhythms class drew to an end, I sat up from my final moment in Stillness, joined the group in a sharing circle, and compared 5Rhythms to Disney World.

“It’s a place I get giddy just thinking about. I count down the days to 5Rhythms the same way I do before we go to Florida. I go to Disney World, I can be free. I come to 5Rhythms, I am free. 5Rhythms is the Disney World of dance, a place where you can twirl, jump, and fly down the street without inhibition, a place where it’s OK to be goofy if that’s what calls, a place where magic transpires, dreams are realized, and a place you never want to leave.”

Bryan and I get teased a lot for continuing to return to a destination that’s “for kids.” I never received an official adult rulebook, but if it says that being married and having a mortgage mean that eating Mickey-shaped ice cream sandwiches while watching Tinkerbell fly out of Cinderella Castle is not for grown-ups, well, hell, just call me Peter Pan then. I don’t want to grow up if “adult” = “not allowed to crack a smile when 5-foot-tall Chip and Dale chipmunks fight over who gets to take me out to dinner.”

The same misconceptions are held about dance. As Meg from Spirit Moves Dance has pointed out, we are born dancing. We wiggle in our cribs, spin in circles on the lawn, bust out in toddler hip-hop when a cool song comes on the radio at the grocery store. Gradually–and sadly–this boldness begins to fade as adulthood approaches. It’s a condition called self-consciousness, and it’s what stops us from dancing in the park when the guy on the bench over there is playing a really cool song on his guitar, and man, I’d just like to groooove to that, but then everyone would look at me, and, well, kids can get away with that, but I’m an adult.

A fellow new to 5Rhythms understood my Disney/dance metaphor. He started the class somewhat reserved, simple swaying motions, cautiously moving here and there around the studio. Two hours later, he was running around the bamboo floor, arms spread wide open, smiling from ear to ear: “I look at my 3-year-old daughter. She does this all the time,” he shared afterward. “She just moves freely, twirling, spinning all over the place. I don’t even remember the last time I spun; it’s been forever. It felt great to spin again.”

Another question Bryan and I get about our vacation preference is “Well, is there anything different there this year?, as though there needs to be something spectacularly new to validate our trip. Sometimes there may be a new attraction or show, but we don’t book a week-long trip simply to try out the revamped Star Tours ride. Disney World trips are like snowflakes–no two are alike. When you look at the big picture, sure, it has the same foundation: a castle, a giant golf ball, a sparkly Sorcerer Mickey hat, a fiberglass Tree of Life. But when you focus in on the small things–really pay attention to the details–every experience is unique. Consider, for example, the costumed character Stitch (my favorite). In over the course of just one trip, Bryan and I witnessed him:

• play with my dangly earrings.
• lick his finger and write on my arm, pretending to sign his name in spit.
• embrace me a death grip and wouldn’t let go.


• cover Bryan’s face when the photographer went to take our picture.
• play with Bryan’s baseball cap.
• push Lilo away and kept me all to himself.
• emerge from his break with flowers in his giant ear and one on his head.
• try to take a Stitch backpack off a woman’s back.
• remove a Stitch keychain from someone’s purse and stick it in his ear.

A 5Rhythms class always starts off the same: gentle music, a warm-up to Flowing. Sometimes the instructor even plays a few of the same songs he played during last week’s class. It can be the same studio, same people, same music, but no two 5Rhythms classes are ever the same. Movement there is not choreographed: A tribal drum beat that had me flying from wall to wall last week may inspire me this week to slither on the floor. Last month all I wanted to do was dance differently from everyone else; during this past class, I got the urge to mimic others’ movement and do something of a “shadowing” dance behind their backs. One moment I am gliding across the studio to the Swan Lake score; 20 minutes later, I am thrashing my hair around to techno music.

I think my calendar speaks volumes about what I’m most passionate about. Of course I look forward to seeing comedian Jim Gaffigan in two weeks and taking a kundalini workshop at the end of July, but the things that get me giddy–the events for which I draw Mickey ears and exclamation points and count down the days in my planner–are the core of who I am and what makes me happy.

Disney World and 5Rhythms make me spin; what items on your calendar make you dizzy with anticipation?

About the Author

Name: Jennifer

Location: Greater Philadelphia Area

Blog Mission:
SHARE my practice experience in conscious dance and yoga,

EXPAND my network of like-minded individuals,

FULFILL my desire to work with words in a more creative and community-building capacity;

FLOW and GROW with the world around me!

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