Still Here, Much to Say, Stand By.

Today was the last day of keeping/feeding The Dancer (more on that soon) three days a week. My food budget is heaving a huge sigh of relief, because damn, that kid can eat. Feeding a 5′ tall 10 y.o. dancer is a reminder that dance is a sport and athletes are bottomless pits. Keeping her also messed up my exercise plans, because she arrived at around 7:15 am, making it awkward for me to get any exercise before I had to shower and be at my desk by 8 (and before 6 there are Giant Mosquitoes).

Not that I’m complaining, the kid is fabulous and was no bother at all and I enjoyed having her, but we did treat ourselves to McDonald’s a few times and there were cookies and otherwise things that would normally not be in my house, and if they are in my house, I will eat them. Add the aforementioned lack of walking in the morning, and yeah, tomorrow the regrouping begins. I have plans for July.

I turned 64 yesterday. I swear in my head I still feel like I’m in my 40s, which is not possible in real time. So far my body is holding up better than expected so I’m okay with this in general, but damn, why can’t I just retire in a year? Retirement was always at 65 when I was growing up, now I can’t get full Social Security until I’m 66 years 8 months. The difference isn’t really life-changing, so I’m still thinking 65, if I can stand this job beyond that it’s gravy

Anyway, July will be all mine, outside of work, which is…work. My ass is in a chair, staring at screens. I have to break that up when I can. I have plans. I want to get back to paring down my shit to things that I really need, and exercising and getting back on the WW wagon and all that good stuff.

I will write about politics after I get a week of walking and yoga and general settling of my nervous system, because holy shit. We are living in interesting times.

And, Back in the Real World…

I’m still not sure about the new job. I mean, I know I love getting a decent professional salary (for Florida) and the benefits are outstanding, and all I have to do is stick it out for roughly another two and a half years until I can get full Social Security. But the work is…not fun. I’m doing it, I understand it, I can do it, it’s okay, but I don’t like it. And I don’t enjoy the new people as much as I did the old people.

The stress level is the same, the difference is the laughter and swearing about it. These people are just so earnestly polite, nobody ever complains, it’s just weird. After nearly three months, I still feel like I don’t fit in.

I am cautious about discussing my exact job or where I work for I hope obvious reasons, the internet being what it is, so you’ll have to forgive my vague description of what happened on Friday afternoon.

My boss texted me and asked if I was available to talk, at 2 on a Friday.

My instinct was “Ruh-roh!” This cannot be good. I was prepared to be told that it wasn’t working out, I wasn’t what she thought I’d be, and buh-bye. It wasn’t that.

So: THREE months after I left my former position, they still haven’t found anybody to fill the position. People who are covering it are losing their minds, because it takes the ability to absorb a lot of trivia about local and state government and carry details in your head and have a sense of humor and it helps if you drink. (At least, a medicinal quantity of wine at the end of the work day had helped me.)

And they’ve advertised and interviewed and can’t find anybody qualified to do it. (Because it’s a contractor position and upper management can’t get it into their heads that it needs to be a decently paid employee role.)

My former supervisor in that empty position, where I was an underpaid contractor, reached out to my current boss and asked if they could borrow me back half time. Insert necessary vagueness here, but it’s a serious situation and a corporate necessity and can she please come back and help us?

I of course said I was fine with that. As I told my current boss, I’m here for a paycheck and I’ll do whatever is needed wherever I’m needed. (That I’m fucking counting the days until I can retire was implied, and she got it.)

So now I’m officially employed by the company in one position, but on half time open ended assignment to my old role.

We’ll see how it works out in practice, but I’m hoping that the fact that they had to “borrow me back” to do it will convince upper management that maybe it should be an employee position? I’d be happy to go back to it, and if it’s an employee role it’d be a lot easier to fill with a qualified person when I retire, because I’m still counting down to retirement.

Life continues to be weird.

Weekend at Animal Kingdom Lodge.

There’s a backstory here, I debated about sharing it. Four-ish? years ago, we did a family weekend there with my daughter and her now soon to be ex-husband and The Dancer. I fell in love with Animal Kingdom Lodge that weekend, and also got the first clues that my daughter’s marriage was not going to last. Things were…awkward.

Oh, and I broke my toe early on the first morning last time, and was in pain for the rest of the stay, so yeah, it wasn’t the best experience. I adored the resort but was hobbling around, I still loved it. I have wanted a do-over ever since, and as we emerged from the covid lockdown I snagged a passholder discounted Savanna view room months ago, just in case we could make it happen.

We did. Animal Kingdom Lodge is my happy place, and it was a truly fun and fulfilling experience.

As with Animal Kingdom the theme park, it is a mild stretch beyond the comfort level of some people. The restaurants are mildly exotic, the hallways have exhibits of African art, there are giraffes and antelope outside, and in normal times, much of the staff is legit from Africa. They’re truly cultural ambassadors and are happy to chat with kids (or adults) about their countries. There are crafts and music and dancing and animal education experiences. It is an incredible experience, and this weekend reminded me of how wonderful it can be.

One of my favorite things about staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge (henceforth to be called AKL) is staying in a room with a view of one of the savannas. We were on the Sunset Savanna on the second floor, and this was my morning coffee on the balcony view:

At one point there were four giraffes under my balcony. We were on the 2nd floor, so close we could hear them chewing.
Ancole cattle on the move, waiting for breakfast. The spotted one was quite vocal.
The giraffes chased the food truck like kids after the ice cream man.
The ostriches were watching the people watching them from our balconies. I think we were there for their entertainment.

Sadly, the lovely drumming and singing ladies and the charming cultural ambassadors have not returned yet. The Dancer was a tad too young on our previous visit to fully appreciate all the educational offerings, and when we stayed there this weekend those elements had not returned. So, we’ll just have to do it again when they do, because it was fabulous.

It was a lovely, relaxing weekend. We arrived on Friday around noon, left our bags with Bell Services and grabbed lunch while we had a short wait until our room was ready, earlier than 3 p.m. check-in. We headed to the pool.

The weather forecast was dire with high rain chances every day of our visit, but as I keep telling people in the Disney groups on FB, the storm forecasts are not set in stone, or even in whipped cream (which melts instantly in this heat). In summer, Florida rain is a crapshoot. The day before, the forecast was dire, like 70% chance of rain every day.

The reality was one actual, brief but heavy thunderstorm on Friday, after we’d had an hour or so at the pool. We retreated to our room at Jambo House to watch animals and eat snacks brought from home and get cleaned up for dinner at Boma.

The Dancer is ten and is therefore an adult diner by Disney standards. Up until a few months ago this would have worried me, because those buffets are damn pricey. Fortunately this summer she eats like a football player and isn’t afraid of unfamiliar foods, so she did enough damage at the buffet to justify the cost. (She had a lot of opinions, but loved the food and wants to do it again.)

Disney food is notoriously expensive. Disney is expensive, and the truly vast array of dining options from elegant sit-down to buffets to fancy quick-service to your basic burger or a slice of pizza is dizzying. Your opinion about this will depend on your foodie-ness, your appetite, your excitement about the menus, whatever. There’s definitely something for everyone.

My daughter and I love Boma so much we did it last Thanksgiving, so we were totally going to do it at least once this trip. We did it twice, once for dinner on Friday, and then again for breakfast the next day, because my daughter is the Reservations Ninja and snagged one at the perfect time. We did a last minute schedule change and it was all perfect.

When I’d originally planned it, I’d scheduled one sit down buffet a day – Boma dinner on our arrival day, Crystal Palace on our Magic Kingdom late afternoon/evening, then Boma breakfast (which I actually think is superior to dinner) on our departure day.

We rearranged at the last minute to do Boma dinner, then Boma breakfast the next morning, then quick serve meals at The Mara and Columbia Harbor House for lunch/dinner on Saturday, because last year we introduced The Dancer to the glories of the lobster roll. We also indulged in the brownie sundaes at Magic Kingdom:

I took this picture about two minutes after getting the sundae. It was already on its way to being soup. Still delicious.

Even with two adult foodies and a ten year old dancer/swimmer who eats like a linebacker, three buffets felt like too much food. Sunday morning we did online ordering at The Mara and took it back to the room to eat while we packed. I was full until dinner at home, and also exhausted. But damn, this was a fab weekend! Expensive, yes, but I’d planned and saved for it, and it was worth every penny to get quality girl time in such a uniquely wonderful place.

I want to go back. I miss my giraffes.

Tap-tap-tap…is this thing on?

Sorry about the long radio silence, nothing bad happened, just a lot of life adjustment, mostly to the new job. It’s…it’s…it pays a helluva lot better and the benefits are outstanding. So, yeah. I paid off my car this month, so yay. But yeah, it’s different, and my brain is too tired to blog.

My former (contractor) position remains unfilled. I’ve let them know that if they want to make it an employee position, which it really SHOULD be, I’d come back, but 6.5 years of no vacations and no sick days and a salary I earned in the 90s was enough, thankyouverymuch.

But mostly I just want to hang in until I can retire in a couple of years and go work at Disney. I’ll be 64 at the end of this month. I see the end zone, I just have to keep on going….

Current events: I cannot, I just cannot, talk about it, I have to protect my mental health and blood pressure. (Insert endless streams of profanity.) We are at all hands on deck here, so don’t despair and don’t bitch, just do everything you can to GOTV, donate to candidates, write postcards, phone bank and door knock if you have anything left at the end of your workday, because we are fighting for democracy here. And we can win. We just have to turn out in November in numbers too big to challenge or cheat. Sitting it out is literally a vote for fascism. We are there, we are living in an existential threat. Wait, I said I wasn’t going to talk about it. Changing subject.

Today was The Dancer’s school recital, so of course I was there. Our seats weren’t great so no photos. My daughter was, I could tell, very irritated with everything but there was no time to talk. Fingers crossed that this is the last year of dance, but I’m guessing it will not be, because it’s The Dancer’s world.

I was struck by this watching this year’s crop of tiny dancers – the three and four year olds – facing their first recitals. It did not go well. In the first dance one little one just stood there and cried, while the rest either danced a bit or just looked confused and overwhelmed. One girl in that group definitely had It, that performance spark, and I suspect she’ll be stalked for the tiny dance team when she’s 5. It was kind of like that all the way through with this year’s crop of littles, they were noticeably not as bubbly as The Dancer and her cohort were. Some of the girls she danced with as Tiny Tots went with her through the very junior classes and then onto the competition team.

It’s not that The Dancer was a born superstar at 3 and 4 years old, but a lot of that group of little girls were really good and LOVED to dance, you could see they were just having a ball on stage. They’ve grown and supported and fought with each other, like family. I’ll have to see if her mom has the video of her giving subtle cues to one of her friends during a tiny tot performance, while smiling and emoting like crazy for the audience, it was priceless.

I did wonder if the current group of littles really are showing the effects of missing out on socialization during the COVID lockdown, but honestly, in FL it was never more than half-assed and abandoned quickly, so I don’t think that could be it. More likely it was just first recital freakout. It’s not at the studio, they’ve totally outgrown that space, so it was held on a stage at a high school with a big audience and professional sound and lights and lots of chaos, and it was just a bit much for the little ones.

The Dancer of course is an old pro at this, she’s danced all over the state at this point and does her own hair (it’s a ballet bun for every dance, they’re not showgirls, but that bun is a bitch to get perfect) and does her own costume changes at 10, but even when she was 4 she took this in stride. I never had that confidence, but I’m really glad she has it.

Swim team starts soon. Grandma still has her fingers crossed that she’ll switch to swimming in middle school and then high school, but we still have to get through 5th grade, I think she’ll be more inclined to give it up when she starts middle school.

But then I see the girls who were in their teens when she started at 3 and are now back after college to teach part time, because this studio really is a bit of a cult, I mean FAMILY. I see the girl who was her Big Sister at maybe 11 or 12? When she started on the team as a little, and I’ve watched that girl mature into a different person.

This girl was a skinny blonde, all knees and elbows and glasses and braces, and so sweet and so nice and a really good, responsible, caring kid and a very good dancer, but definitely a geek. Last year I saw her on stage in a solo, and she had morphed into a superhero. She wore a black long sleeved crop top and flowy pants and bold eyes and red lipstick, she had contacts and the braces were gone, and she exuded confidence and poise and her dance was dramatic and powerful. I just sat there awestruck – the all knees and elbows gawky glasses and braces kid looked like a young Uma Thurman, elegant and confident and a wee bit dangerous and freaking beautiful, ready to conquer the world. Holy shit, when did this happen? So yeah, while reality TV makes dance look ridiculous and trashy (and it can be) it’s also kind of awesome with the right teachers. I don’t know if this girl will continue to dance or return to the studio as an instructor, but I know she’ll arrive at college ready to take charge of her life.

Yes, Delaney is going into 5th grade. Yes, I do feel old as fuck.

Still Alive. New Job Tiring.

Worse than the old job, but for about 30% more money and far better benefits I’ll adjust, but after staring into multiple computer screens all day, my eyes and brain are just too tired to post much.

I will not speak of politics because my brain is already strained. I’ll just say that Republicans are worse than even I thought, and I’ve always had a really low opinion. The midterm elections are down to democracy vs. fascism.

Anyway, in the interest of my blood pressure:

I had a lovely Mother’s Day! My daughter scheduled a visit to Animal Kingdom, our mutual favorite park for relaxation. We and The Dancer had a lovely day, though it was hot AF by the time we called it a bit after 4 p.m. (The Florida Weather Gods of course gave us the finger after Sunday, because today was an absolutely drop dead perfect spring day, high of 84, low humidity, and I was in a conference room for a meeting for six hours.)

Sunday was over 90 degrees by the time we agreed we had to go home and do adulting and “kid prepping for school” things. But it was a lovely day.

It was a busy day, because it was Mother’s Day and also a weekend day, so I popped for the Genie+ for the first time. We really wanted to do the safari and the wait time was well over an hour, and because it was Mother’s Day and this was the high point of our day, I popped for the extra cost. I don’t think it’s necessary at every visit. It’s the first time we’ve used it, and I do have to say it’s smooth and fast. We walked onto the safari in minutes. Even the old fast pass system had a longer wait.

It also let my daughter get basically a walk-on to Everest, which was also about an hour long wait. I wouldn’t say you have to do this to get on anything, but if you want to leverage your time, yeah, you might as well.

We all had the option to ride Everest via Genie+, but I’ve kind of sworn off that coaster. Not because it’s scary or dangerous, it’s a lot of fun, but because for me it’s just sort of unlucky. I always seem to get off with something banged up, usually self inflicted. Last time I rode it I left the lap bar one click too loose and my ass slid all over the seat, so I braced a foot to steady myself. By the time I got off my bad left knee was angry, and I limped the rest of the day. Sometimes I bang an elbow. It’s not the ride’s fault, it’s just me.

To my surprise my granddaughter was also not feeling it. She’s been on it many times but was just eh, she’d rather not. (We had eaten lunch not too long before, and she was full.) We waited in the spot where the trains come down for the big swoop, but still missed seeing her mom ride. I’m not sure why this was a big thing because we’ve all been on it together many times.

We saw many animals, we ate a delicious lunch at the very tasty and IMO very underrated Harambe Market. It’s open air seating, but the food is reliably delicious and there’s plenty of shade. Animal Kingdom has some high class quick serve options. I don’t know why anybody settles for pizza in a park with so many better options, but they have pizza and burgers and stuff for picky eaters who must have theme park food.

We ordered bowls with grilled chicken (me and the grandkid) or ribs (my daughter), cilantro rice, salad, and both a gingery dressing for the salad and a fresh pico de gallo sort of topping. Delicious and also reasonably healthy and quite filling. Sitting outdoors in the shade with African music nearby and the general sound of the passing crowd, and the train to the Conservation Station pulling in to the Harambe station, it was just relaxing and lovely.

We went to the Conservation Station, we hadn’t done it in years! (Seriously, you can go to Disney all the time and still not do some stuff for years. There’s just that much.)

There’s a petting zoo with goats and pigs that when it’s not so hot, wander around hoping somebody will grab a brush from a bucket and give them some lovin’. They were mostly napping because we were getting into the afternoon heat, and you of course can’t pursue them if they’re napping.

There’s an indoor exhibit area with lizards and insects and a whole veterinary space where, if you time it right, you could get to see a tiger get his teeth cleaned or something. On Sunday afternoon nobody was getting any work done, but we’d missed some sort of exam on an exotic pigeon that had happened at 10 a.m. They also do a drawing lesson, but we hadn’t signed up for that. Another time.

The dancer was drawn to this elderly cow at the petting zoo area, grabbed a brush and began grooming her. Other people saw this and by the time we left, the old girl had a lineup of kids and adults with brushes at the ready. The CM said she was very old and very sweet, and she’s spending her golden years as a petting cow, and loving it.
She’s a very sweet old girl, and was very grateful for the humans chasing away the flies.

So, it was a lovely Mother’s Day. I owe my son a longer chat, because he texted me while we were in the park, then the work week started. Oy, this job is a learning curve, not because I don’t understand what’s supposed to happen, but because the systems are, um, different? It’s not bad, it’s just…seriously? THIS makes sense to anybody? I’ll adjust.

I Need a Reset.

Nothing about windows or Disney or my job here, just life stuff.

At some point in the last few months I came across a motivational speaker named Mel Robbins (no relation to Tony). She has a couple of podcasts on Audible, she’s on YouTube, she has written books, and I like her a lot.

This is a very unusual thing for me, because I normally have a visceral dislike of “motivational speakers” as a species. I blame this on my real estate development past; many years ago I worked for a builder that “treated” us to a day of Tony Robbins, Zig Ziglar, et al.

It creeped me out to see an arena full of grown-ass adults jumping up and shouting motivational “salesy” phrases on command. It was mortifying just to watch; no way in hell could I fake that shit. I claimed a sudden headache and left after an hour. The headache was real. So it’s safe to say I don’t do motivational speakers.

I’m not sure what caused me to try one of Mel Robbins’ podcasts on Audible, but I’m glad I did. She’s different. She delivers practical, motivational ass-kicking, not about sales or business but about life in general.

I’ll tell on myself here: over the last couple of years my world shrank, not just from Covid, but from mild depression. Waves hands at everything. Little by little, my hobbies got set aside, my ass expanded, I went from feeling younger than my age to feeling even older than I am. I want to get my shit together, and I’m not going back to “normal” without putting in some work.

I’ve rejoined WW, where I was depressed to see that it had saved my weight since 2020 and I wasn’t imagining that I was over 12 lbs heavier. I discovered ashwagandha last year and it really works to balance my mood, but I need a plan and a friendly ass-kicking to develop habits in line with my goals.

So I was noodling around on my phone this week and Mel Robbins popped up on Facebook Live talking about a quick free program she’s offering next week: Spring Reset. And I listened to her and then signed up and downloaded the accompanying pdf, and I’m looking forward to it because damn, I need a reset. The timing is perfect. Serendipity.

About the Latest Disney Drama.

God, the Stupid Hot Takes on this on social media are just exhausting!

“Disney should just move!” Yeah…right. They should abandon their half century investment in billions of $ of infrastructure, roads, hotels, and of course the theme parks themselves, because a governor who got elected by about 30k votes is aiming to run for president as the even more ruthless Second Coming of Trump. That’s not going to happen. People saying that are just ignorant and should be ignored.

What does this Reedy Creek thing even mean? Florida has lots of special taxing districts. They have various purposes, but in the case of Reedy Creek, it means that Disney self-funds their infrastructure, like water and sewer and roads and trash collection and fire and rescue and a lot of other things, in exchange for a tax break. They still pay millions a year to the counties, they just do the operational infrastructure themselves and fund it by taxing Disney property through Reedy Creek. They do it in a partnership with the counties where they own property, which is why you may see Orange County deputies with radar guns on Western Way, which is the back way into WDW off the 429. (Pro Tip: PAY ATTENTION to that speed limit drop to 35 as you get closer to the signage for the resorts/parks.)

Anyway, and ahem. The point: Disney doesn’t take a lot of services from the counties, because the counties couldn’t possibly cover all the expense of running Disney infrastructure without massively raising taxes on everybody else. Disney still pulls county building permits and stuff, that’s how people on the Disney media beat keep track of new development. It’s not a secretive corporate cabal, doing mysterious things. They pick up their own trash and manage their own wastewater and stuff via contracts, and it’s complicated but way cheaper than shifting that burden to the counties where WDW sits.

This isn’t a weird thing unique to Disney, a lot of large developments have similar taxing structures. The Villages has the same kind of deal, but because it’s very Republican friendly nobody’s considering taking it away. If you’re a big developer going in to develop thousands of acres this is actually the way it gets approved, because the counties are not going to approve expanding water and sewer and roads and stuff for land that isn’t going to be able to pay it back for decades.

Disney does it next level, because Reedy Creek is actually a legal entity that runs its own fire and rescue service and sewers and other services. It’s basically a municipality. My former neighbor worked for RCFD, he may be retired by now, but anyway, this is not some secret corporate tax dodge thing, and anyone who says so should be ignored, along with the dipshits saying “Disney should just move!” These are people who have NO idea how huge WDW is, and are picturing a Six Flags or something. Yeah, Disney World won’t be going anywhere. DeSantis, OTOH….

And why is this happening now? Oh, no, it’s not because Disney pushed back on the “Don’t Say Gay” Republican idiocy. Not that this is also not a real and infuriating thing that will be challenged in court, but the timing was just the distraction. This was the real agenda:

Annnd…NOPE. Probably.

Okay, I absolutely LOVED this window company’s guy. He was sweet, personable, knew his shit, explained everything very well, even Gidget came out of my office while we were sitting in the dining room going over things. She kept her distance, but she too thought he was a very nice guy.

Only problem: Those windows, fabulous as they are, are FOUR TIMES more expensive. They offer a concierge level experience, they deal with the condo approval, they deal with stucco repair and repainting after the installation (this is my first question because it’s a thing that is part of window replacement and it costs money.)

If they’d been even half again as expensive, maybe even nearly twice the price of the other guys, I’d have gone with it just for not having to project manage all the other pieces of the job. But there is no way I can rationalize those window prices. This is a nice, solid, high end Toyota/low end Lexus of a neighborhood. It doesn’t need Rolls Royce windows.

If I had a single family house worth upwards of half a million, I’d totally go with them. But his patter about improving my property value with this investment fell on cynical real estate ears. My property value is governed by the market, especially in a condo. I don’t need the most expensive windows in the neighborhood, I would in no way recoup that investment. So, sorry, charming, personable, truly excellent young salesguy, the numbers just don’t work for me.

As I’ve said over and freaking over, I want new windows that open and close properly, and keep the weather out and the AC in. That is all. This is a condo, so they have to match the standard window style in the community.

He DID know his shit about windows and gave me good advice. When I flinched at the price, he actually suggested I skip doing the giant expensive sliding doors to the balcony and just get them professionally serviced, because they aren’t exposed to the worst of the elements on my screened balcony and spending eleventy billion dollars to make them super-duper hurricane proof really isn’t needed. That would cut the price quite a bit. Ditto the garage window – get Lowe’s to do that sucker, save a lot.

So I’ll do this one more time with one more company, then decide what I’m doing. All I really want are windows that don’t leak and do open and shut. And as this is a condo, all those innovative window styles are wasted on me, because they have to look like the rest of the neighborhood. I know my windows are larger than standard and I was prepared to bite the financial bullet for the size differential, but OMG, I had no idea it would be this insanely hard.


is going to be my first paid day off in six and a half years. It’s so weird, I feel almost guilty for taking it when I could be working?

I’ll get over it. I’m very, very grateful that this has happened, because it’s just starting to sink in how very fucking HARD the last decade really was, and how lucky I was to get through it and reach what appears to be a level of financial stability.

Back to the windows saga.

So, I reached out to another company about an appointment. Made appointment for this Saturday. Assumed my part was done, as I am, yanno, the CUSTOMER.

Oh, no. I got called early today to confirm Saturday’s appointment. I couldn’t pick up immediately, because yanno, job, but I called back within minutes. I got a child receptionist who told me she couldn’t confirm my appointment herself, and nobody was picking up the phone, so somebody would call me back.

Nobody called me back.

I did get a text from the company, asking me to call to confirm my appointment.

The guy who answered was very nice, but also could not confirm my appointment.

More terrible hold music, finally a perky woman answered and did, at last, confirm my appointment, and grilled me about the details of what I wanted from them.

Windows. Bitch, I just want new windows that will keep the weather out and the AC in! You guys do windows, right? I want you to show up and take measurements and give me a price for new windows. This is your business.

It’s like they’re screening for customers, putting us through a challenge to see if we are worthy of their time. I’m just baffled by this shit. I know I need windows, I want windows, I just want a company with a standard level of professionalism that makes an appointment and doesn’t make the customer make four extra calls to confirm their appointment. If you can fucking text me, you can fucking confirm the appointment via text. WT Actual F here?

This is torture. I had no idea it would be this ridiculous.

OTOH, I have my first paid day off in years tomorrow. I will focus on that.