Sunday, October 27, 2013

My experience with Disney's DAS card

Disney recently changed its policy regarding disabled guests and how they could access rides (for the official policy from Disney, see here). We just got back from a trip to WDW with my parents where I experienced these changes first hand. And let me say, I am NOT impressed. The changes do not help those who need it- in fact, the policy is confusing and not handled well.

This was my parent's fourth trip to WDW with us, and for her previous three trips, she had a GAC (Guest Access Card) that allowed her to enter an attraction through an alternate entrance- usually the fastpass line. My mom has arthritis in her back, hips, left knee, and feet. She had a total right knee replacement in February of 2012. Thanks to her knee replacement, she is now able to walk without pain- although she is quite slow. However, she can't do stairs (she doesn't trust the strength of her knee on stairs), and she is unable to stand in lines well.

On our first day at WDW, we went to Hollywood Studios. We stopped at Guest Relations with her GAC from a previous trip, and explained her limitations to them. They told her she didn't qualify for a DAS (Disability Access Service) card because she could use a courtesy wheelchair (that is supposed to available at every attraction) in the queues. I explained again that she was unable to do stairs, and how would a wheelchair help her in queues with stairs? I was told again that she could use a wheelchair that was available at the attraction. I felt that the Cast Member at Guest Relations wasn't truly listening to what I was saying, but simply repeating the stock line of "use the courtesy wheelchair." Maybe it's because I'm a blonde, but I don't understand how I am suppose to push my mom up and down stairs in a wheelchair. So, we left Guest Relations and just went into the park.

We had FastPasses for Toy Story Mania, so we decided to just talk to the Cast Members at the attraction and tell them her limitation. We explained to the first Cast Member who looked at our FastPasses, and they said to simply tell the next Cast Member. We then told the Cast Member who took our FastPasses, and without delay, they sent us up the ramp to the handicap loading area. They were all very nice and polite about the situation.

The next day, we went to the Magic Kingdom, and knowing that two of my mom's favorite rides have stairs (Tomorrowland Speedway and Splash Mountain), we asked again at Guest Relations about a DAS card. For the second day in a row, I was told to put her in a wheelchair for stairs. Again, I tried to explain that I didn't see how that would work, and was told to use a wheelchair. By this point, I was getting rather frustrated that Guest Relations wasn't listening and was simply saying the same thing over and over. So once again, we figured we would just see how it went at the rides.

The first ride she did was Splash Mountain. The Cast Member at the entrance was great. He escorted her and Matthew (the only ones riding) to a second Cast Member, who took them through the exit and onto the ride. They both said the experience was a very good one. Later in the ay, we went to Tomorrowland Speedway. Now, she not only can't do stairs, but she also needs extra time getting in and out of the car. We explained this to the Cast Member at the entrance to the attraction, and the first thing he asked us was "Does she have a DAS pass for that? She should have one." I explained to him that she had been denied one, and he looked at me like I had three heads. But, he immediately took her in through the alternate entrance and was extremely polite and nice. He explained that she would enter and exit this way, and that she could have as much time as she needed getting in and out of the car. I thought it was very interesting that the Cast Members at the rides were expecting at DAS card while we had been told repeatedly that she didn't need one.

Our fourth day we went to Animal Kingdom, and mom was still proud of the fact that she was walking around, but she was definitely getting slower and the crazy hot and humid days were starting to take their toll on her. We obtained FastPasses for the Safari (again, doing what Disney suggested to minimize her time in lines) and went to the line at our return time. For whatever reason, the FastPass return line was over 30 minutes and not moving. Mom knew at this point that standing in one place wasn't going to happen at this point and had finally ok'd sitting in a wheelchair. There was a Cast Member walking through the line telling us it would be a few minutes before the line started moving. We told her that my mom couldn't stand in one place for long and the Cast Member told us "The line will start moving again before too much longer." Well, that's great, but for the time being, my mom was still standing and definitely wilting. Again, we told the Cast Member "She can't stand for long- is there anything that can be done for her?" The Cast Member repeated her statement that "The line will move soon." It's my understanding- based on what I had been told repeatedly at Guest Relations- that she should have been offered a courtesy wheelchair. This didn't happen.

All in all, I ended up going to Guest Relations five times over seven days in the parks. Every time, I walked out more and more frustrated. I felt that I was NOT being listened to. In fact, two of the times I went with complaints about how we were treated by Cast Members, nothing was written down. Guest Relations simply said "Sorry, that shouldn't have happened" and sent us on our way. There seems to be a huge disconnect with what guests are being told at Guest Relations and what is actually happening at the rides. The new DAS system is NOT helping those who need help. Yes, I agree that Disney needed to do something about the abuse that was happening with the GAC, but this new system is not the answer. It is penalizing people who actually need help, and guests are not being listened to. I came away completely frustrated and upset over this- not the way you want to feel after a Disney vacation.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Racing and Thor... It's a RUSH!!!

If you know me, you know how much I love everything about the movie poster above. Racing- yes please... Chris Hemsworth (aka Thor)- YES PLEASE (along with a rag to wipe up my drool). So when I first saw the trailer for the Ron Howard F1 racing movie Rush, I knew I had to go see it. It has racing, Chris Hemsworth in a firesuit, and Chris Hemsworth out of a firesuit.

Thanks to some tweets I posted about the movie, I was offered a chance to go an advanced screening of the movie (ps- the official movie Twitter handle is @rushthemovie. Follow them for good stuff). Of course I jumped at the opportunity to go see it.

Now don't worry- I'm not going to post any spoilers about the movie. I went into the movie knowing it was based on a true story, but I didn't know much more than that. I purposely didn't want to know more- I wanted to experience the movie. The movie depicts the 1976 F1 Championship battle between Niki Lauda and James Hurt, as well as background into the two racers leading up to that point.

You can tell that Ron Howard is really a racing fan. His direction of the movie is really amazing. I loved how the movie didn't romanticize the sport. The drivers were as human as you and I- we got to see their flaws and weaknesses, as well as what drives them.

The acting in this movie- HOLY COW!!!! As I said before, Chris Hemsworth is my Hollywood eye candy crush- and yes, he looks fabulous in this movie- but he really truly became James Hunt. There were moments where you loved him, and moments where he was a total a$$hole. He showed depth that you don't get see with him in some of his other roles- he was the perfect actor for this role and this role was perfect for him. The actor that played Niki Lauda also did an awesome job. At times, it didn't feel like they were acting, they were truly Niki and James. (Now I will add I wasn't a fan of Olivia Wilde in this movie- I thought for the most part she was very blah. The scene of her and James Hunt in the restaurant in NYC was the only time she showed some true emotion).

So should you go see Rush? Yes, yes, and YES! It does help if you are a racing fan, but I think even non-racing fans will enjoy it. There is more to the movie than cars going around in circles (well, around circuits since it is F1 after all). The acting and the story line add up to make a very enjoyable two hours.

PS- These two beauties sitting outside the theater courtesy of McLaren (their reason for involvement became clear to me during the movie) helped set the tone walking in... If only I could have taken one home- or even for a spin :)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A letter to NASCAR from the fans


I'm going to make this real simple... GET YOUR CRAP TOGETHER!!!!

I'm not talking about the governing body of Nascar- I'm talking to the drivers, crew chiefs, spotters, team GMs, and owners. You are the ones that have given the sport a major black eye in the last week, and the fans aren't happy.

NASCAR fans are some of the most passionate sports fans anywhere. We stand behind our drivers when they run well, and when they don't. Yes, we want our driver to make the Chase, but we want them to do it because they drove the wheels off the car week after week and deserve to be in it. We love the passion the drivers themselves often have for the sport. We want to see racing and drivers going all out.  We want to see the helmet throws, drivers giving each other the bird, words on pit road after a race, bumping, banging, rubbing... That's what racing is. Racing is NOT back-room deals, slowing down on the track on purpose, intentional spins and cautions, fake pit stops... That crap is cheating and it has no place in the sport we love.

Y'all may think the fans are nothing but loud rednecks who drink and cuss too much... And yes, that may be who many of us are. But you have overlooked one thing- we aren't stupid. We have longer memories than many of the drivers. You piss us off once, we stay pissed off for a long time. We will put up with a lot of stuff, but messing with the integrity of our sport crosses that line. You talk about how important the fans are to NASCAR, but then you go and pull stunts like you pulled at Richmond and you basically are telling us that you don't give a damn about us. Be careful, because if you push us too far, you will push us away.

So right now, you are on thin ice. Us fans are waiting to see what happens. We want to see some amazing racing this weekend at Chicago. We want those drivers to go out and drive like they are pissed off- and many of them are right now. The last thing we want to hear about is more fishy team communications and team orders, or anything that hurts our sport. Because yes, this is OUR sport too- and you would do well to remember that...

NASCAR fans everywhere

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Yes, I am addicted to Disney

Hi. My name is Jennifer and I'm addicted to Disney.

There- I said it. I mean, we all know it's true, but now I've admitted it out loud.

So what exactly does being addicted to Disney mean? It's simple, Disney is my drug. I have to have it. Seeing the Castle as you walk down Main Street. Walking in and seeing SpaceShip Earth.

Driving under the arch. These are all like hits of a drug to me. They make me smile. They make me happy.

If I go too long between Disney trips, I almost start to twitch. I get cranky. I need my happy place. I need my Disney. I need my drug.

If there is a Disney show on TV, even if it's 10 years old, I feel compelled to watch it. I don't care that I've seen it 25 times and recite almost every line- I will watch it again. And I will point out everything that has changed in that time. Because that's what Disney addicts do.

Now my Disney addiction isn't just because I like to see the various sites at Disney. There are so many strong memories tied to everything at Disney. Hours spent at La Cava del Tequila... Rock 'N Roller Coaster... Soarin'... Flying Fish... Each one of these is an awesome experience by itself, but add in cherished memories with friends and family, and they become even more special.
I've spent hours in this wonderful place with friends

My dad and Matthew at Tusker House breakfast

I no longer go to Disney just to experience the rides and attractions. I go to experience Disney itself and everything that means to me. This is how I know I am addicted to Disney.

(and no... I don't want help quitting my addiction!)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The awesome and the awful- interacting with NASCAR drivers

This past weekend we attended three days of racing at Pocono Raceway for the 400. Thanks to the people at the track, we had some amazing opportunities that gave us the chance to interact with many of the drivers.

(OK- quick side note here... If you are NASCAR fan and don't follow Pocono Raceway on Twitter, what is wrong with you??? They do lots of awesome giveaways and have what I think of as the best social media team in NASCAR. Follow them here!!!)

Friday morning, Matthew and I ended up by the Media Center as some drivers were going in and out for media questions. The first driver we saw was Ryan Newman. I hate to say it (actually, no I don't), but Newman was a jerk. As he got off his golf cart, he started signing autographs for fans. Matthew was standing there waiting his turn patiently hoping Newman would sign his hero card. Ryan Newman looked right at him, saw he was holding the card, and turned and walked away to another group to sign more autographs. Yes, Matthew was wearing his Kyle Busch hat, but still... He's a kid and a fan. That was a crappy move in my book. Matthew came back over to where I was standing by the rails and the nice guy next to us who had also seen what happened, called out to Newman's PR guy and pointed out Matthew and said he wanted an autograph. (I also took off his Kyle hat at this point too...) The PR guy did make sure Newman signed Matthew's card, but I was shocked it had to come to that.

Newman finally signing Matthew's card

The next driver that came out was Jeff Burton. He signed for all the fans that were there waiting. When he got to Matthew, he not only signed the card, but he took the time to ask Matthew his name and chat with him for a few minutes. Jeff Burton is a total class act, through and through.
Jeff Burton signing Matthew's card

Then, much to the excitement of pretty much everyone, Jimmie Johnson came up on a golf cart to go into the Media Center. He didn't sign anything or even walk over by the fans on his way in, but he did say he would be back. Now, if you know me, you know I am NOT a JJ fan, but Matthew has decided he's his second favorite driver... So we waited. When he came back out, it was like a magnet attracting iron fillings- he had an instantaneous crowd of autograph seekers around him. Matthew was one of the kids right up in front by JJ while I stayed out of the mess of people. Jimmie made sure all the kids in the front got autographs before he moved on to the adults. You still won't find me rooting for JJ on Sunday, but I will admit that he is a nice guy and did right by all the kids there.
Signed JJ card

On Sunday, we were in position to have every single driver- yep, all 43 of them- walk by us on their way to driver introductions. The first driver that came through was Dale Jr. Apparently he was going through for a special presentation. On his way to the stage, he didn't sign any autographs. On his way back, he only signed one- a serviceman (National Guard, I think) had his uniform hat for him to sign. Jr stopped and signed that hat. The serviceman was ecstatic beyond belief after that. That was a nice move by Jr.

The drivers started coming through for their intros. The first few drivers just walked straight through and didn't stop, but none of them were rude or anything. Then more of the "bigger name" drivers started coming through and were standing around talking waiting for their name. The first one was Danica. One of the fans (they were only about 20 of us total waiting there) asked her for an autograph and she said "No." She then proceeded to turn her back to the fans and talk to other drivers, completely ignoring the fans.
This is how she stood the whole time

This is why I don't like Danica... That was rude and uncalled for- she had no reason not to take the time to sign a few autographs. She isn't better than anyone else, despite what she thinks.
I'm ok with drivers not signing if they didn't have the time or had their kids with them, but she was just a bitch.

A few drivers came through with their kids, such as David Reutimann and Marcos Ambrose. They didn't stop and sign anything, which is understandable. Matt Kenseth was waiting about 5 minutes before his name was called, but he had his young daughter with him, and stayed over by a wall and kept to himself. Again, very understandable.

Matthew saw some drivers he wanted to get an autograph from, but didn't really have anything for them to sign. So he decided he would ask them to sign his shirt. Every driver he asked agreed to sign his shirt. The first driver he asked was Bobby Labonte.
Bobby Labonte

He asked Clint Bowyer, who looked at him like he was crazy and said "Your shirt?", but then signed away.
Clint Bowyer signing the shirt

He also got autographs from Kevin Harvick, AJ Allmendinger, Travis Kvapil, Mark Martin, and Dale Jr (who did take the time to sign for more fans when he came through a second time).
Kevin Harvick signing
AJ Allmendinger signing
Travis Kvapil signing
Mark Martin signing

Now, Matthew's favorite driver is Kyle Busch. All I heard for three days was how he had hoped to Kyle's autograph. Kyle came up for his intros and Matthew started immediately asking him if he would sign his shirt. What happened next is classic Kyle Busch. He stopped, put on his sunglasses (keep in mind, we were INSIDE!!!), and found a place on the sleeve of the shirt not close to where anyone else signed.
Kyle Busch- and his sunglasses- signing the shirt

But- he signed the shirt. Matthew was sooooo excited he couldn't stop bouncing. I'm not a Kyle Busch fan on the track, but that was definitely a nice move by him.

The shirt with all the autographs

Overall, NASCAR has some of the best drivers who really understand, more than any other sport, fans are the reason they are here and that fans are such an important part of the sport.

Monday, June 17, 2013

I'm not a perfect parent

Time to talk about parenting for a minute. I've noticed the last few months an increase in what I call "perfect parenting." You know what I mean... Those parents whose children are always doing something cute and wonderful, never do anything wrong, and those parents that are just the best in the world and never make any mistakes with their kids. I actually saw someone post on social media "I'm thankful I've never made any mistakes with my child." All this got me thinking (which we all know is very dangerous).

I adore my son. He is the center of my world. He is bright, funny, sarcastic (shocking, I know), and has a heart of gold. He has taken up my hobby of cussing like a sailor. His current favorite phrase is "Who pissed in his Cheerios?" He is a typical 9 year old. But there are times I am willing to sell him to highest bidder... Ok- let's be honest- I'd sell him for a case of beer.
One of his angelic moments

I am so not a perfect parent. I readily admit I have made many, MANY mistakes with my son. I have even apologized to him several times for for things I have done. I often joke that he doesn't have a college fund, he has a future therapy fund. When I post something on social media about my son or my parenting, I think it's safe to say no one could ever accuse me of trying to present my parenting skills in a perfect light.

I parent the same way as I appear on social media. I cuss in front of my son; I am sarcastic; I enjoy life. I also treat him with respect and teach him to do so to others.

I get that parenting is hard- I mean it's REALLY dang hard. I fully believe that we as parents need to be there and support each other. Let each other know that it's ok to have a really rough day where you want to just go in a corner, curl up in the fetal position, and rock. Enough of this pressure we put on each other to be perfect- its crap and we know it. And if you don't want to be my friend because I'm not a perfect parent, it's probably for the best- we really wouldn't get along anyway...

Monday, June 3, 2013

Yes, they raised the prices...

It was announced on Friday that Disney would be raising the costs of tickets at Walt Disney World effective yesterday. These increases were across the board, and include Annual Passes and the Premier Passes. Since the announcement, there has been LOTS of discussion about how people feel about the price increase. Well, here is my two cents on the topic- and please realize this is simple MY opinion on the topic.

I am amazed at people who appear to be shocked by the fact that Disney increased ticket prices. I don't understand this. Every year, if not twice a year, Disney raises their ticket prices. Yes, the increases are more than the cost of inflation increases, but come on- this doesn't shock you does it? If you really expect Disney to keep the cost of tickets the same every year, then I want to live in whatever Fantasyland you live in.

Disney is a business. The purpose of a business is to make money. Yes Disney also talks about dreams and memories and magic, but they do this to encourage you to visit and spend your money. The marketing team at Disney is one of the best in the world. They come up with taglines and jingles and promotions that make you want to visit The Happiest Place on Earth over and over and over. And let's be honest, people are going to keep doing that no matter how much Disney charges for a ticket.

Disney is also trying to keep up with places like Universal, and also their own overseas parks. This requires money. And I know, Disney probably has plenty of money to accomplish all of this without raising ticket prices, but they have to answer to stock holders who want to see a profit being turned and increased year after year.

Does this mean I like that Disney raises ticket prices? Not at all... But it isn't going to change the fact that I have an Annual Pass, and will be renewing my AP in August when it expires. I won't be renewing as a Premium Annual Pass, but that's due more to the fact that they have cut back the benefits with that pass. I also hate the fact that they charge as much for a child AP as they do an adult AP, but again, it's not going to stop me from going.

For the first time, Disney separated out the cost of a ticket to Magic Kingdom, making it more expensive than a day at the other three parks. I think this stinks, but it makes sense. They have been pushing experiencing New Fantasyland and Storybook Circus- every ad or commercial makes sure to mention these new areas. But I think it's simpler than that- my thought is when most people go to WDW for a single day, they will head to the Magic Kingdom. It's what people think of when they think of Disney World- I mean, how many times have you heard someone refer to the Magic Kingdom as Disney World? It's like fingernails on a chalkboard for me, but that's a huge perception out there.

My Precious (aka my Annual Pass)
In fact, because of my AP, I end up going to Disney more often, even from Pennsylvania, than I would without it. Over the course of several years, the way my family and I visit Disney has changed, but that's a whole different topic. I love Disney and what it means to me. Yes, it's a business, but it's also a place that is near and dear to my heart. Disney has turned their business into transporting you to a different place when you are there. And can you really say that an additional $35 a year is going to stop you from going to your happy place? I can't... I'll gladly give Disney my money- year after year.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Let's talk bras...

I was perusing the web this morning, when I came across an article about how Jockey (yes, the underwear/bra people) were attempting to redefine how bras are sized. As I continued to read, it should surprise no one that I formed some opinions on this topic.

First, anyone who knows me, is aware that I'm not shy when talking about my lack assets. Let's be honest, when the boob fairy was sprinkling her growth dust around, she forgot about me. And I'm ok with that- I like being the size I am... But that's whole different topic!

Back to the bras... I agree that finding and sizing bras are a nightmare. I recently took a trip to Victoria's Secret and decided to do it right. I let them measure me and tell me what size they thought I should be. Well guess what, even the trained staff there got it wrong. Oh sure, I tried on the size they said I said be... But it was wrong. The band was too tight and the cups were too big. So we tried several more bras until we found one that fit. In my size, the options are limited, but I did manage to find several very nice, pretty bras that I'm very happy with.

Now, I know I can't speak for the more well-endowed gals out there, but I think they would say the same thing. It takes some time and patience, but you can eventually find a bra (or two or three) that works well for you.

So this whole Jockey thing raises several questions for me. First, how do I know that the way the plastic cups fit at home are going to be the way the bra fits me? And how do I know that the band will fit right? And yes, $60 for a bra is a lot of money, but honestly, some of nicer bras at VS run in the upper $50 range, so that's not outrageous. But do I want to spend $60 on a boring beige, black, or white bra that I can only order online and have to fit myself and so on? And your bra size isn't just a size- it's more like a combination to a safe... 9-36 or 10-40, or 2-34. It just seems like a lot of work and hassle for something that doesn't have a lot of upside.

Yes, the bra sizing system isn't perfect, but when you are dealing with a world full of women and none of them built the same way, what do you expect? Several manufacturers have made smaller cups with sizing like "Nearly A" "Nearly B", and so on. And I'm sure that there are other options out there for women who need larger cups. So all in all, to me, it seems like Jockey is trying to fix something that really can't be fixed and making it overly complicated. I think I'll stick with my canonical brassiere size and trying bras on until I find one that works for me...

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Enough of a break... I'm back!

Well, as you can tell, it's been a while since I last blogged. Over a year... Over 19 months... But who's counting.

Why did I stop blogging? I'm not exactly sure. I guess my heart just wasn't into it. I didn't know what direction I wanted to take my blog. I've created dozens of possible blog posts in my head in the last few months- and that's when I knew I was ready to come back.

It's been a busy 19 months. My son finished 2nd grade and is almost done with 3rd grade (I still refuse to believe he is really growing up). I have taken numerous Disney vacations, including another trip on the Disney Dream. I've also continued my hobbies of cooking and enjoying NASCAR. And I'm so glad to see spring/summer finally arrive- this winter I slipped on ice and broke my wrist and spent 3 months with surgery and physical therapy.

So, all this amounts to one thing- I'M BACK! I've given the blog a little bit of a new look and committed myself to blogging again. I may not have anything worthwhile to say, but I'll come here and say it anyway.