15 Disney World Tips From Someone Who Has Done It All

WaltDisneyWorldSignI’m just going to say it: I’m a pro at doing Walt Disney World. I’ve been visiting the parks since I was in the womb and 28-years later, I’m still going strong. There isn’t one secret about the parks I don’t know and to further prove my expertise, I can pretty much walk the entire layout of the Magic Kingdom blindfolded. Becoming such an expert on Disney, though, took a lot of practice – and making a few rookie mistakes along the way.

Here are 15 Disney World Tips from someone who has done it all.

1. Always Stay at a Walt Disney World Resort Hotel

I’ve stayed off property a lot growing up, and it was always a fun experience. However, in today’s day and age, you aren’t really saving that much more money by staying off property than you are on. Staying in a Walt Disney World Resort hotel guarantees you free transportation to and from the parks, other resorts and Disney Springs. Furthermore, if you stay off property and drive your personal vehicle to the parks, you’re going to have to pay for parking. This can be exacerbated if you purchased a Park Hopper, meaning you’ll have to pay per each park you visit. If you visit multiple parks per day this can be quite costly! Guests staying on Disney property have access to Extra Magic Hours which enable visitors to gain access to the parks before and after closing. While you may be saving some money by staying off property, you’re missing out on some great conveniences.

2. Don’t Waste Your FastPass on Rides You Can Stand to Wait In Line For

One of the biggest rookie mistakes guests make when going to the parks is wasting FastPass on rides that don’t require them. This is not to say that there are only certain rides that have lines and the rest have no wait; that’s not true. However, there are certain rides that have a higher popularity than others meaning that the wait time is going to be longer and more substantial. Do your research on what rides are currently trending at Walt Disney World before your vacation. For example, when I visit in October, I know that the newly opened Toy Story Land is going to be insanely popular so I’m going to want to get a FastPass for rides like Slinky Dog Dash rather than waste it on the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, which during Fantasmic! may only have a 25 minute wait time.

3. Bring Your Own Water Bottle

Regardless of the time of year you go, you’re still going to fall victim to the Florida heat and humidity. The best thing you can do in Walt Disney World is staying hydrated, but it can become quite costly to buy water bottles throughout your trip, especially if you’re buying for a family of three or more. My recommendation is to bring your own reusable water bottle and fill it up throughout the day. It’s a cost-effective way to stay cool on your vacation. The same goes for snacks you can purchase ahead of time and bring with you.

4. Ride the Big Rides Late in the Day

It can be hard to wait until 8:00pm to take a ride on Splash Mountain or whirl through space on the iconic Space Mountain, but from experience, it’s best to do so if you want to cut back on your wait-time. Now, this is not a secret so chances are you may still have to wait in line to enjoy these rides, but it will be significantly less once more and more people gather around Cinderella’s Castle to watch the fireworks. Personally, I think this applies to every park that ends the night with a popular display. Hang in there and try to wait until the show starts to ride those favorite rides. You may even be able to ride them twice. There have been countless times I’ve ridden the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror in succession while fireworks were taking place.

5. Plan to Visit the Hidden Gems of Disney

So, whenever I go to Walt Disney World, like you, my main goal is to get on my favorite ride, chomp down on a Turkey Leg, or watch a parade. However, by whizzing through the parks in an effort to get to the next attraction, chances are you’re missing a lot of the magical touches Disney has to offer. For as many times as I’ve been to the Magic Kingdom, it wasn’t until two years ago that I actually realized there was a photo opportunity with the Sword in the Stone right in Fantasyland! There are countless photo ops you can encounter within the parks if only you stop to find them. As much as it may not sound like fun to take a leisurely stroll throughout the parks, it’s necessary to discover how much thought these Imagineers really put into the parks.

6. Watch as Many Shows as You Can

It should go without saying that the shows at Walt Disney World can’t compare with the rest of the outside world. Still, though, they can be easily forgotten when compared to the amazing rides around the park. They’re not only entertaining, but a great way to cool off and get some rest from walking around the parks. I recommend all of them, but my absolute favorite is Mickey’s PhilharMagic in the Magic Kingdom.

7. Try the Famous Foods Around the Park

For as many years as I’d gone to the Magic Kingdom, I only tried Dole Whip and a Turkey Leg recently. I kept forgetting about them, only to remember when I was outside of Magic Kingdom, realizing I hadn’t tried their famous Dole Whip. The lines for these items can become quite lengthy because of their popularity, but it’s worth the wait. Do your research and be sure to try their iconic snacks like a turkey leg, Dole Whip, churro and Mickey-shaped ice cream bar! They make for great photos, too.

8. Make Restaurant Reservations

I’ve had many trips where I’ve stuck to a budget and tried to economize my meals. There’s nothing wrong with it, but at least once on every Disney vacation, you should make a reservation to eat at a fancy restaurant. I tried Be Our Guest Restaurant when it first opened and was blown away by the decor and the world they recreated. I felt like I was in the movie with Belle and the Beast themselves! The one thing you’ll discover is that, while the meals are pricier than what you’d find at Casey’s Corner on Main Street U.S.A, there are still affordable options starting at $15. It’s well worth the experience (and price tag!)

9. Spend a Day at the Pool

It goes without saying that the pools at your Walt Disney World Resort hotel are beautiful and unique to your hotel’s theme. I’ve stayed at so many throughout the years, from Disney’s Old Key West Resort, to Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, Disney’s All-Star Resorts, Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter, and more, each pool experience has been unique and exciting. A Walt Disney World Vacation is not overly relaxing considering you’re constantly on the go, go, go. You’re spending the money to stay at one of their lovely resorts, so get your money’s worth and actually enjoy it! You’ll feel rested and ready to start your day at the parks again.

10. Opt for a Park Hopper Instead

Regardless of your itinerary, paying the few extra dollars for the Park Hopper option is worth it. It enables you to plan your day uniquely, allowing you to have breakfast in the Magic Kingdom, lunch in the World Showcase in Epcot and finish off the night with the Rivers of Light in the Animal Kingdom. I love the freedom of being able to jump around from park to park in a single day. Sure it’s tiring, but it’s a ton of fun especially if you’re spontaneous, like me.

11. Skip “Lame” Experiences

I hate to call any ride or experience in Walt Disney World “lame” but the truth is that there are areas that are in need of desperate renovation. I’ve spent time hiking on the Swiss Family Treehouse and Tom Sawyer’s Island, and while they’re neat experiences, they’re beyond outdated and chances are, references your children won’t even know (or appreciate). Don’t waste time on these attractions that could be spent on something else.

12. Link Your Credit Card to your MagicBand

Linking your credit card to your MagicBand has several benefits. One, it makes purchasing so much easier and eliminates the risk of leaving your card on the counter. Secondly, though, it eliminates the need to bring your purse into the park. If you’re like me, you’re lugging your bag with you. This means having to stop and have it looked at upon entry to the park, plus carrying it around with you the entire day which can get very heavy. Furthermore, it can become an aggravation trying to store your purse or backpack on each ride you go on. Trust me, go ahead and eliminate the hassle completely.

13. Book Your Trip Early

I’ve done spontaneous, last-minute trips and while fun, we couldn’t get into any of our favorite restaurants or get a FastPass for popular rides – in our case the Flight of Passage in Animal Kingdom. By booking your trip early, it gives you the opportunity to book dining reservations up to 120 days in advance and FastPass selections up to 60. It’s a great way to guarantee the most out of your experience. Plus, if you book through the My Disney Experience website, it’ll provide you with a countdown to your magical vacation. That always adds a big smile to my face!

14. Order Personalized Gifts for Your Stay

While you may not need a reason to visit Walt Disney World, many people visit to celebrate different milestones. Whether this is a first visit, an anniversary, birthday, graduation or honeymoon, Disney offers personalized gifts you can order to surprise your children or significant other. I did this for my honeymoon and have a little gift bottle of wine and matching glasses for us to celebrate our marriage. It’s just another way you can make your trip more memorable. I remember my parents doing this for me on one of my childhood vacations and I’ve been hooked ever since. It was so cool walking into the hotel room to me very own Mickey and Mickey toys to play with.

15. Purchase Disney’s Memory Maker

While I’ve been to the parks countless times, I only used the Memory Maker this past December. I fell in love with it. It gives you access to every photo taken on rides such as Splash Mountain, but different photo opportunities across each and every park. It’s a great way to download and share with friends and family all the magical memories you made in the Happiest Place on Earth.

While there are so many other good tips from a girl who’s done everything you can imagine down Disney, here are a few of my favorite. I hope they help add a little bit more magic and ease to your upcoming vacation.

Please visit this post on How to Disney and check out my other articles on Walt Disney World.

 

Poetry Hour: Fragile Floors

Fragile Floors Courtney DercquMommy’s dead

because she fell asleep on fragile floors

in between the glossy doors

that dad put up just for her.

At 6:21 in the morning,

mom is dead,

she’s been gone for hours.

While I sat on my living room floor sipping coffee

unaware that dad was already in a state of mourning.

He watched her die.

And I snapped a selfie of my Seattle’s Best.

Poetry Hour: The Space Between

If I could impress upon you anything,

with sincerity or not,

it’d be my wish for you to touch me in my sweetest place

The Space Between Courtney Dercqu 2Oh, how I hope you don’t resist!

It’s the space between my breasts

the space that’s hard and filled with bone

the space between where my heart is its own.

Oh, I wish you were capable of feeling!

The anguish that lives in the space between.

The ample spot that’s full of flesh and bone and muscle

the very birthplace of my weakness

and the fear that lives within.


 

Reinventing Myself Through Abstract Art

I’ve come to the realization that when it comes to my artistic endeavors, drawing is one that doesn’t top the list. In fact, the best thing I’ve ever drawn was a teddy bear my father helped me curate during my sophomore year of college that ultimately garnished me a C for effort.

I’ve written blogs on how painting has helped me to cope with my mother’s death, but the more I paint, the more I’ve been discovering my artistic style. As it turns out, I’m an abstract expressionist. Who knew?

A Different Kind of Outlet

Painting is a much different outlet for me than writing. When I write, I know what my intentions are. Regardless of whether or not I’m surprised where my ink and paper take me, the concept of my story is grounded in thought – and a thought I’ve spent countless workdays daydreaming over. While my characters may evolve, the story follows a format.

Painting – especially abstract painting – is elusive. I don’t know where my train of thought is going to take me until it’s already moved me there. The brush glides across a flimsy canvas. With acrylic soaked hands, my work speaks for itself, and sometimes, these paintings tell a story that I’m too incapable of saying out loud.

Abstract Painting bad art and meow

Amidst an argument I was having with a few of my closest friends, this painting emerged. It, subconsciously took three of our favorite colors, mashed them together to show what chaos had ensued. Friends argue and makeup; it’s a part of life. When I stood outside, thrashing paint across my lawn, dying blades of grass pink and purple, I realized just how cathartic painting had become for me – and just how loud a message that could utter.

bad art and meow abstract artwork

The same could be said for this painting here – ” Fever, or that time I really wanted you.” There’s a small inscription on the back of the canvas that reads, “love mom and dad,” but it’s not about my parents or my in-laws; it’s about John and I and our love for this child who is yet to exist.

It may seem strange to inscribe such a silly message with an empty womb, but I painted this on a Tuesday evening after work, after a playful conversation that made the two of us realize we were eager to start a family of our own. While we still have several months to go before our wedding, the eagerness we have to start a family has increasingly grown over the years.

Much More Than Words

Before, having a child came with all the plans we’d have to rearrange; it became all about the sacrifice. Now, what we want more than anything is to create someone that’s a part of us; someone who will be brave, be kind, be loving, be impactful to this universe.

Unlike words, whose meanings are outlined in black and white, painting is up for interpretation. A painting can be anything you want it to be. That’s the beauty of it.

 

Old North Church, Boston

On our first morning in Boston, after only 5 hours of sleep and a bland cup of coffee made from the tap water from the bathroom sink, John and I headed toward the most historic landmark in Boston – the Old North Church.

When we were in Salem a few years ago, one of our biggest regrets was driving through Boston and not actually stopping to see any of the historic sites. On my list was the sight of Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride. While I can’t say I know a lot about Paul Revere (or his midnight ride) outside of what I learned in high school, I’ve always considered myself a history buff. That’s why I consider places like Gettysburg and Virginia to be enjoyable vacations. Having the opportunity to learn about our country’s roots has always fascinated me. Who knows, maybe it’s the Philly in me?

Old north church boston ma

The Old North Church is seated in a pretty populated area, with apartments built up on the narrow city blocks surrounding it. Once inside the church, it’s amazing. There were lines of pews, all squared off in section and on them – names of different historical figures. In the front of the church is where the most important individuals were seated, while in the back were where the wardens were seated.

old north church

Each section held books of hymns and old benches, much different than the kinds of pews I grew up in having been raised Catholic. The church is much simpler than what I expected it to be, but I can assume how grand it must have been in the day – a true place for God, for family, for worship.

In the very front of the church lays a lantern representing Paul Revere. While this is not authentic, it was an amazing opportunity to see in person what this lantern represented: freedom.

old north church paul revere lantern

All in all, we spent probably 15 minutes sitting in the pews, starring off at the architecture and historical tidbits that lined the aisles before heading off to grab some lunch at Rina’s Pizzeria Cafe a few city blocks away. While we weren’t visiting the Old North Church for a very long time, it was a humbling experience to stand in a location that turned the tide of America’s history.

I Was Really Bummed Out That I Didn’t Bump In to Nicholas Cage While Visiting Boston’s Historic District

On Friday, July 13th, John and I buckled our seatbelts, ordered extra-large java chip frappucinos and began our adventure to Boston, Massachusetts. We had visited the Bay State about two years ago during an impromptu visit to wicked Salem but had remained steadfast in our eagerness to visit the “wicked smaht” city of Boston.

Having grown up near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, history is in my veins. I remember my mother and I spending weekends in the City of Brotherly Love visiting gravesites, the United States Mint, and Betsy Ross’s house, soaking up all the lush history that my home away from home has to offer. Boston, for me, is a city that holds just as much significance – if not more. Our first stop was to visit the Old North Church in Boston’s Historic District.

This historic landmark isn’t where I’d expected it to be, nestled behind curving streets and tight pathways, with apartments stacked on top of one another. I found it to be quite interesting how much the city of Boston was built up to include its history. That’s what standing in front of the Old North Church reminded me. That – and the final scene in National Treasure when Nicholas Cage tricks Sean Bean into traveling to Boston for the treasure.

Old North Church

Old North Church Boston pg

Inside the church, though, is when you really get lost in time. I felt like my middle-school textbooks had come alive and I wasn’t just reading about Paul Revere – but was standing as a part of its’ story. The most interesting thing about the pews inside the church was how high they were, not making it too easy to see those around you.

Old North Church is surrounded by other areas of historical value that I wasn’t expecting. We had the opportunity to take photos next to the statue of Paul Revere, while also having the opportunity to tour his house.

Old North Church BostonBoston is Rich in History

Boston has a rich history, but you can actually feel it as you walk down their cobblestone streets, up hills and past graveyards. The architecture is unlike anything I’ve seen elsewhere – including Portland, who had beautifully made streets and bridges. Personally, I enjoyed how quaint the city was, with local eateries, winding roads, and apparently, the Italian section of Boston where we tasted the greatest pizza of all time at Rina’s Pizzeria and Cafe.  

Rina's Pizza Cafe

I will say that Boston, unsurprisingly so, is highly touristy so be prepared to wait for photo-ops around statues and large crowds. Unlike other cities I’ve visited though, Boston seems to embrace the tourism. They’re friendly, eager to meet those of us who have traveled from New Jersey, Georgia, or Utah, like the friends we met in the hot tub back at our hotel.

*Though now I’m ready to pack my bags for a night out in Salt Lake City*

Boston Historical District

 

While we were only in Boston for a short time, I felt fortunate to visit these iconic places that describe my history and this beautiful country of ours I’m proud to call home. It’s amazing to think about how different life would be had it not been for Paul Revere. These landmarks are affordable and something you should add to your bucket list. Even if you just do Boston for a day, like us, the memories of those winding walkways will stay with you forever.

 

 

 

How I Discovered Truth, Beauty, Freedom and Love in Boston

“Because you can, can, can!” 

It was the phrase that echoed the beautifully curated Emerson Colonial Theatre from the second balcony. When word had gotten around that the prolific Baz Lurhmann film, Moulin Rouge was being adapted for the stage, I stopped what I was doing and whipped out my credit card faster than I’ve done on Black Friday for sales at my local mall.

I’d fallen in a desperately one-sided love affair with the Moulin Rouge since I was 11 years old, owning every song, carefully crafting the words as if I was singing my own Elephant Love Medley. These words – this love – it floated with me throughout the years, whisking me away in the four bohemian truths I vowed to live by: truth, beauty, freedom, and most of all – love. 

Emerson Colonial Theatre pgFrom the moment I, as my typical over-dressed self, put one stiletto into the theater, I was blown away by its beauty and elegance. The walls dripped gold, illuminated by crystal chandeliers, tall mirrors reflected hoards of people dressed in average clothes – and us, donning Marchesa Notte and dapper suits, carrying glasses of rose´ to the second balcony.

The room glowed red, hot like the steamiest burlesque club in Paris. The set was brilliant, beautifully covered with gold and trimmed in elegance. The whirling front of the Moulin Rouge stood gracefully stoic in the corner, while the setting for the most exquisite love medley commanded attention to my right, with a trunk that reached toward the sky.

Moulin Rouge Boston

Once the show started, I was pleasantly surprised when the songs I’d come to know and love were either updated or swapped out for new renditions. In the first act, Christian and Satine sang a plethora of songs by today’s hottest artists like Lorde, Lady Gaga and Walk the Moon while still paying homage to the traditional “Your Song” by Elton John and “Come What May” that described the tangled love affair of two star-crossed lovers.

Moulin Rouge Boston, MA

 

Intermission was filled with more glasses of wine, photo opportunities and anxiously awaiting the finale, which was just as bittersweet on stage as it is in the film. In the film, the death of Satine is plagued with melodramatic undertones. On stage, they eliminated that. They ended the performance with song after song, zesty dance numbers, and bubbly Harold Zidler thrusting confetti into the audience. I left feeling on top of the world, now eager to reminisce my night at the Moulin Rouge whenever “Shut Up and Dance” filters through my radio.

The transition from film to stage was an ambitious endeavor that director, Alex Timbers handled brilliantly. He took the basic bohemian elements of the Moulin Rouge and made it their own with some elaborate and fitting adjustments. They upheld the bohemian belief of beauty by implementing cinematic stage sets, glittering costumes and set changes that made your inner romantic soar. The freedom to interpret the essence of the traditional film with an updated, modern twist was accepted from the entire audience. They were true to the characters, making us fall even harder in love for Christian, played by the ever-so-talented Aaron Tveit and the stunning Satine, played by Karen Olivo while hating the Duke – Tam Mutu who played his role villainously and enigmatically.

Most of all, though, was love that exploded through the seats, adorning a classic film brought to life on the most fitting of stages, echoing a notion we already held true within our hearts – love, because “the greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love, and be loved  in return.”

 

7 Reasons You’ll Love Using Rent the Runway

I used Rent the Runway for the first time this weekend – and I still wish I could have kept everything! A few months back, I heard that my favorite Ewan-centric musical, Moulin Rouge, was being adapted for the stage in Boston, Massachusets. Naturally, I shimmied from my desk at work, hid in the cubby and grabbed my credit card to snag my seat for the Boston premiere (not caring that I don’t live anywhere near Boston).

When I was thinner, ordering clothes online wasn’t that big of a deal for me, but ever since I lost my mom, I’ve gained 45 pounds in all the wrong places. I had – and often have – anxiety over looking good in something I ordered offline because, at the end of the day, the last thing I want to do is waste my money. My experience with Rent the Runway, though, gave me a confidence boost – and just in the nick of time, too.

Here are 7 Reasons Why You’ll Love Using Rent the Runway:

1. It’s Easy to Use

The first thing I loved about the site was the ease in being able to tailor your search to meet your specific needs. I needed a dress for a formal, black-tie event, not sweaters to wear to work. I loved that I was able to bypass outfits that, while cute, weren’t what I was looking for.

2. There are Many, Many Options to Choose From

It’s not like they have a handful of dresses they recycle; they have hundreds, each somehow prettier than the next. I had six different styles in my cart before realizing I’m not Mariah Carey and can’t get away with doing a costume change in between intermissions.

Rent the Runway Moulin Rouge

3. The Quality of the Clothes

One thing that caught my eye was the high-quality of the outfits I ordered. I’ve purchased expensive products before off eBay – like my gently worn Christian Louboutin shoes or the strappy Prada heels my co-worker gave me, but I’ve never been able to afford an authentic Marchesa Notte dress. The second I slipped the dress on, I instantly felt better – prettier. I could just tell the dress was expensive.

4. Accurate Customer Reviews

The reviews are not only good indicators of whether or not the dress runs true to size, but they offer pictures of the actual renters wearing them. You get to compare how the dress looks on another woman who wears your size and see if you like the way it fits. I ended up ordering a Size 12 and it fit me like a glove.

Rent the Runway

5. Free Second Sizes

While the customer reviews can help alleviate some of the trepidation that comes with ordering clothes online, Rent the Runway provides you an opportunity to get your dress in a free second size (if available). Unfortunately, they didn’t have a second size in my dress but I was able to rent another designer dress, with a second size, for only $32.

6. The Compliments

While walking the streets of Boston to get to the beautiful Emerson Colonial Theather, we received a lot of looks, but all compliments. The dress made me stand out in the best way possible. Employees of the theatre even said we were the best-dressed couple there. The styles aren’t something you can buy off the rack; they’re unique and because of that, people are in awe of where you bought your outfit. From my accessories, purse, dress – the entire thing was rented (but they didn’t have to know that!)

Rent the Runway Boston

7. They Have Designer Brands

I’m not talking about the kinds of designer brands you’d run into at Macy’s like Michael Kors, either (not that I don’t love me some Michael, sorry xxx babe) I’m talking Marchesa Notte. I’m talking Alexis. I’m talking prolific brands with substantial followings, who, if you’re like me, would never in a million years be able to casually purchase off the streets (or in stores) for x-amount of thousands of dollars.

That alone made me feel like I was wearing something exclusive.

Have you ever used Rent the Runway before? What was your experience?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Made The Choice to No Longer Hide My Emotions While I’m Grieving

DiZlGv-UcAAN7-0As much as I’d like to say it gets better, it’s on days like these that I’m fearful that they don’t. I’ve been planning my wedding since December of 2016, after getting engaged six months earlier at my favorite cafe where my soon-to-be-husband and I shared our first caffeinated first date. Fast forward six months later to booking our venue, fawning over ideas and color schemes only to greet my mother’s death two months later.

Her death hit me like a ton of bricks, even though I was suspicious of it. You can only watch your parent deteriorate so dramatically in seven years that ultimately, you begin to fear what the cancer’s been doing all along: smothering her, destroying every once healthy molecule in her body, pulverizing them to be nothing more than the empty carcass you’ll shove six feet under in the coming months. We had just spoken the night before. We were happy, familiar, normal. And then, just like that, she’s gone and the only sense you can make out of her death is about as much common sense that goes into your car breaking down on the side of the road in a rush to get to your parents’ house because all you know is something happened- something horrible.

The months after my mother’s passing were the most prolific, angst-filled days of my young life. In twenty-six years, I experienced hands gripping my throat in a fit of rage. I was torn apart like a rag doll, emotionally tattered at every end. I was teased, brutalized to the point of switching schools. I was born with spinal injuries, tethered cords that almost paralyzed me, endured the crippling pain that until today, permeates my flesh like a hot coil. And yet, with all of that, I’d wish for them every moment if it could somehow eliminate the pain I endured while grieving my mom.

Add wedding planning on top of that. Like some twisted, demented cherry on top of a salty sundae. It just doesn’t work.

I’m Not Okay

Grief entails the following three lines over and over again until you die.

  • She’s there with you
  • It gets easier with time
  • Let me know if you need anything

In reality, though, there’s a thin line between helpful and utter bullshit. See, we say things because we don’t know what else TO say. For those of us grieving, ironically enough, we’re perfectly fine with that omission.

When it came to my wedding, loving advice was passed on to me like I was fragile. In the fits of rage and disappointment that my mother wouldn’t be there to share in these moments with, I conceded, comforted by the traditional sentence: “your mother would want you to enjoy this time.”

Indeed, my mother would want me to enjoy this time. But my mother also would understand that the emotional toll that this type of grief requires is substantially incapable of getting through without appeasing some of my more – ahem, negative, moments.

For a very long time, I’ve gotten used to carrying the weight of this burden – my grief – on my shoulders because I didn’t know how to talk to anyone else. It was kind of like my writing. What used to be helpful only mirrored my pain. If I couldn’t write, how could I simultaneously talk? The words were black and white regardless; a fact, mind you, not many people fully understood.

It’s Okay That I Hate My Wedding

In these moments of gut-wrenching agony, the last thing on my mind is my wedding. In the year and a half since I lost her, I’ve asked to elope several times. Each time was met with apprehension – and understandably so. Why would my groom want to sacrifice the traditional experience? Why would I want to sneak behind my father’s back when his grief is just as extreme as mine? I toy around with the idea before sliding it in my back pocket, only to be flung back out in a fitful vengeance when I’m choking back tears at my work desk.

People’s biggest fear is that I’m not living up to this traditional “bride” experience? But, what really is the traditional “bride” experience? Is it traditional when a bride has lost her father and has to face walking down the aisle alone? Is it traditional when the bride or groom has children from a previous marriage? Is it traditional when the bride wears unconventional colors? Is it traditional to wear Chuck Taylors in a tailored-made ballgown? Or are these examples of adaptations? Are these constructs of people’s minds, their interests, their roles, and customizing them to fit into their ideal mold – not society’s?

When I’m told to enjoy this experience, it comes out of this mindset that I have qualms about marriage, about my groom, about trying to become a parent on the day after we say “I do.” Marriages and weddings are different species and being sad over one does not diminish the other.

It’s Okay That I’m Sad

On days like these, I fight off my tears in an effort to convince myself that I’m alright – that I’m doing okay when the truth of the matter is that I already am. Grieving is a natural process and I’m tired, frankly, of hiding that. Mental health awareness begins with being able to identify what triggers you and allowing yourself to feel those vulnerabilities. I know that my wound-up emotions today won’t reflect my calmed-down state of mind tomorrow. I’m forgiving myself for days like these when all I want to do is run away and elope, feeling angry that I’m having a bridal shower, angry that I’ll be the center of attention because at the moment, what I really want more than anything is just to hide, to find an escape from these emotions, to free myself from their strings and finally be untethered. I’m discovering my affirmation: it’s okay that I’m sad. It’s okay, it’s okay.

 

 

Wizard World Comic-Con Gives Freaks and Geeks A Place to Unite

Philadelphia Wizard World Cosplay

When you’re a seasoned nerd like me, walking into the sparse halls of the Pennsylvania Convention Center on the opening day of Wizard World Comic-Con holds the same excitement as opening up presents Christmas Morning. Instantly, you’re greeted with thousands of cosplayers dressed up like every pop culture icon you could imagine. While there are a variety of popular, trendy cosplayers, the crowd goes bonkers over the more obscure or original concepts. When John and I cosplayed as Jessie and James from the original Team Rocket from Pokemon, we were stopped every two minutes for pictures because at the time, anyone who cosplayed as Team Rocket did the updated versions. It was my first time cosplaying and needless to say, that experience spoiled me. 

Wizard World Lets Adults Be Kids Again

There’s a certain comradery that exists at every Wizard World Comic Con, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is no different. No one judges you on who you’re dressed like, or how good you look in what you’re wearing. It’s a safe space where tax lawyers, waitresses, HR Managers, and bank tellers can let go of who they are Monday through Friday and let their freak flags fly for an entire weekend, losing themselves in being a kid again. Because that’s all we are: kids trapped in adult bodies.

Aside from cosplay, and meeting celebrities from back in the day, like Henry Winkler (the Fonz), your favorite wrestlers like Bubba Ray Dudley (get the tables!), or the newest Marvel characters like Jason Momoa from Aquaman, there’s enough nostalgia and excitement to go around for all ages and interest levels. 

Much More Than Superheroes…

My favorite part of Wizard World though, is taking a walk through Artist Alley. Here, you come across a gold mine of talented artists who can paint, illustrate, write and create unique works of art that bring life to the unusual – like the zombified Little Mermaid doll that has a dingle-hopper dangling from her forehead I bought for $60. 

Every year I’m taken off guard by the quality of product I bump into at not just Artist Alley, but with every vendor. You can’t feel akward for rummaging through a giant pile of plush Pokemon dolls, thinking you’re “too old” because the vendor selling it is just as obsessed with “nerd culture” as you. It bonds us – and my wallet can show the proof!

It’s not a place to be up tight or insecure. Wizard World won’t allow it. They encourage you to get up on stage dressed like Princess Peach and start singing “Don’t Stop Believing” at the top of your lungs. Always stop and ask for pictures with or of cosplayers. As Deadpool wearing a unicorn pool float and snorkles said to me, “We dress up to make people happy.” Somewhere inside I can imagine this is making a very real Ryan Reynolds very, very happy.

The End of Wizard World Always Leaves Me Wanting More

After the weekend ended, John looked at me and asked, “Did you ever see yourself going to a comic-con before you met me?” I could have said something honest and heartfelt, but the giant pink, Jigglypuff plush wedged between my arms said everything I needed to. This life – this is who I am and who I’ve always been. Wizard World is a community I’m lucky to be a part of.  That’s just something you never, ever grow out of.