Ben and I get a lot of questions about our love of all things related to Walt Disney World and Disney in general. It is even more prevalent in our home at Christmas time. Christmas is so special anyway to us for so many reasons. First and foremost it represents the birth of Christ. Secondly, Ben and I courted and truly fell in love at Christmas.
Seeing him and the compassion he had for the residents and the way he truly enjoyed giving of himself solidified for me the knowledge that this was someone I wanted in my life forever.
Our Christmas tree is nothing but Disney ornaments and they all have meaning. Most were acquired on one of our many trips there and some were gifts. The stockings representing our five children are all Disney themed and the mantle is Disney as well.
We know- some people do not “get it”. That is okay! Not everyone likes the same things and how boring would this world be if we did? For us, being members of the Disney Vacation Club is about so much more than owning a piece of Disney and saving lots of money on vacations. (However, we could never afford to go three- five times a year without that membership!) It is about making memories and bonding as a family.
I have always loved Disney ever since my aunt and uncle took me on my first trip there. It got very personal in late 2005. I know a lot of you have read my book After The Rain, which chronicles my journey after Hurricane Katrina. For those who have not, I will tell you that about six weeks after the storm and after losing everything we owned, my kids and I were blessed by a colleague with a trip to Disney to just try and “get our minds off of things” and have fun for three days. That trip was the first time I had seen my kids smile in over a month.
Let me ask you this……do these kids…
smiling with Tigger……..look as if only six weeks ago they had come home to see this…..?
NO THEY DO NOT. Thank you Walt Disney World!
During that trip, we no longer felt like refugees and just felt like normal people enjoying a vacation. Seeing the faces of my three boys light up as we walked down Main Street in the Magic Kingdom was so very priceless and it was the true start of the healing process for all of us. No, for us it is not just a place to go on a trip.
In May of 2006, Ben and I honeymooned in Disney. For both of us it was the most romantic trip we had ever taken there and the beginning of a long list of trips, many at Chriatmas. This was the first day of our Disney honeymoon…..
Being in Disney for Christmas, which we have done twice since 2006, is also very special for us as a family. There is just nothing like seeing the beauty of the Osbourne Lights and walking through the display with “snowflakes” falling on us all.
Being from the south, and rarely seeing any snow, that is the closest this family may ever get to having a White Christmas!
It was on our first family Disney Christmas trip in 2006 that we were able to tell the boys the news that Ben was going to adopt them. That was such a special time and our family got to light the Christmas tree at the Pop Century resort on Christmas Day. Those are memories that will stay with us forever.
In 2008, Disney was the location of the first ever family trip where ALL 5 kids got to be there. My eldest daughter was able to be on this trip and it was so much fun, it was also two weeks before my gastric bypass.
That was a powerful trip for so many reasons. Not only were we with all five kids for two weeks, but it was the last time I would be there as a morbidly obese person and the last time I would be there and not able to fit on all of the rides. I did a LOT of pondering that trip. I will never forget how I felt on New Year’s Eve, in the lobby of the Grand Floridian, when the clock struck midnight and a new year started. All I could think about was how this was the year that my life was going to change forever. Within a few days of my arrival home, I was having my surgery and a new life was starting for me.
Another big milestone for Ben and I took place two years after my gastric bypass- and yes in Disney World! That is where we finished our first ever half-marathon. THAT WAS A HUGE DEAL for us. I will never forget the feeling of accomplishment we felt as we crossed that finish line hand in hand.
Going from being a morbidly obese 325 pound person to finishing a half-marathon was just incredible to experience. Having two of my kids in the grandstands at the finish cheering us on was more then overwhelming. Yes another huge life experience that revolved around Disney.
My latest milestone, turning 40, was also experienced at my second home. Little did I know the surprises Ben had planned for me. He and the kids surprised me with a crown made by the same company that made the crowns for the Disney movie The Princess Diaries. Little did we know that this company is actually located in Lucedale, MS! For the first time in my life, I got to be the princess for day and it was so much fun! Only in Disney is it completely normal for a 40-year-old woman to walk around all day in a crown and sash like this!
So, as you can see, for the Akey Bunch, Disney is way more than a place where we go on vacation and for Ben and I Christmas is more than just a holiday. I am so grateful for all of the memories Disney has given me over the years.
And on this day, December 5th, I want to wish the man behind it all a VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!! Walt Disney would have been 110 today! Thanks for paving the way for the rest of us to believe in a little magic and follow our dreams no matter how many think we are crazy for doing it! Thanks for giving us a place to go and just get away from the troubles of life and be a kid for a while. thanks for giving my family so many wonderful memories and a place to keep making them for many years to come!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY WALT!