I know when you hear the words Disney Social Media Moms Conference you picture a bunch of moms click-clacking on laptop computers and IPads and tweeting and twerking their pens on writing pads kinda like the picture below.
Yes this is true and the conference is an atmosphere of social media mavens joined in one place for a huge celebration and to learn about Disney’s upcoming initiatives as well as getting schooled by powerhouse conference speakers. But what I didn’t think I’d get was ministry in messages from inspirational people like former NFL Player Donald Driver @Donald_Driver80, Chief Executive Bear of Build-A-Bear, Maxine Clark @ChiefExecBear and Doug Bowman @Stop, the Creative Director at Twitter and many more. (I’ll tell you more about them in another post.) And I didn’t expect that my friends would provide solace, comfort and ministry to ME. It was ministry I needed to get through being alone without my family at a family-centered celebration.
During my first visit to Disneyland, I stayed at the Disneyland Resort and was treated to four days of fun during the Disney Social Media Moms Conference April 10th-13th. And I got the chance to meet my online sisters of sorts, the social media mommas who I chat with often and we were finally face to face. The first night we mixed and mingled at an outside pavilion on the Magic Kingdom lawn (sponsored by Coppertone) and heard from Disneyland President, Michael Colglazier and Director of Social Media Leanne Jabukowski, followed by a bunch of amazing giveaways.
We then headed over to Disneyland for a giant TRYit Backyard Jamboree!
I did the Chicken Dance and Do-Si-Doed at Mickey’s Toon Town Party with Gayle Feldman Turner @DisneyGals.
I braved the Matterhorn Bobsled ride with Ronnie Tyler and her daughter Janelle and took pictures with them and Doc McStuffins.
I also enjoyed the comforting talks with Ronnie’s mom as she and I bonded on a walk back through Downtown Disney to the hotel. I had goofy fun photobombing Natalie from @Twiniversity.
And I had a blast park hopping with my friend Desiree Miller.
And Margie Brill refused to let me eat alone and asked me to join her and her family at the table to eat during the TRYit! Backyard Jamboree. And Maria R Smith and her family didn’t mind the intrusion and welcomed me as I hung out with them during the spectacular World of Color water show at Disney California Adventure Park. And Gina Vercesi and her daughters adopted me and took me on a wild ride – three times – on the Radiator Springs Racers! These are moments that I deeply appreciate and will forever treasure.
And none of these ladies knew how much they were ministering to me. See, I came to Disneyland without my kids and the first and second night my heart was really hurting because I missed them so. I tried not to hurt and tried to enjoy myself but I just couldn’t help it. It hurt so much so that I had retreated to my room and almost became a hermit during one of the greatest conferences I ever attended. But my social media friends refused to let that happen to me. They all took me in like family and demanded I come along with them. Desiree even scolded me and kept saying she wished she had found me the first night. I could barely pull out of my funk until these women found cause to help me heal my heart. They did so in the DISNEY way – showing kindness, love and unconditional care, just like Disney’s commitment to Citizenship and the work to inspire others.
That’s what Disney does every day. It’s evident in a beautiful story as told by Maxine Clark, the CEO of Build-A-Bear who retold a tale of a little girl who lost her Build-A-Bear at the Disney Park. The bear’s voice was that of the girl’s deceased father. And leave it to the excellence of Disney to find the bear and take the bear on an adventure throughout the park, snapping photos at every whimsical attraction and then sending the bear home to the little girl along with the keepsake photos of her bear’s awesome adventure. I tell that story because it truly is a matter of the heart to care about someone’s mindset. I was sad. Lonely. My heart was hurting. And my friends lifted my spirits by taking me on an adventure all the same.
It makes me cry every time I think about what they did. Soon, I felt better and was back to my old self and enjoying Disney the way I should have been. And I had a ball! I got on rides, sipped up a Dole Whip, walked every inch of the park until my ankles got sore and enjoyed every ounce of the Disney Social Media Moms experience. My kids and husband may have been absent, but my FAMILY was surely there at Disney. Thank you to these ladies and so many more. It reminds me of the message Donald Driver delivered when he recalled losing his best friend to cancer. On his dying bed, his friend thanked him for one thing: for BEING a friend. Thank you ladies for being a friend in my time of need. Girls, you all are GOLDEN.
Here are my top tips on how to find yourself when you vacation alone:
1. Enjoy the moment: As moms our lives are consumed without kids. Take a moment to pat yourself on the back for a job well done and celebrate the moment without feeling guilty for enjoying you. I found solace in friends who made me realize that I deserved to enjoy the moment and have fun. It’s okay to let your hair down and be a little goofy. Let the kid inside you ROAR without regret!
2. Get up and Get out: The first thing I wanted to do because I missed my kids was sit and sulk. I was calling my husband every five minutes to check in and trying to over-parent from afar. Don’t do that. Pull yourself up and get out. I made myself do that when I walked to the World of Color show by myself and I actually basked in the sights and scenery and hustle and bustle of Downtown Disney. After the show I walked back through Downtown Disney and went shopping in the Disney store and another store called Little Miss Mismatched. Of course I bought my kids stuff but the retail therapy was so soothing. I stopped at the Jazz Kitchen and ate some old-style New Orleans cuisine and sat and people watched to my little heart’s content. At that very moment I felt HAPPY. So don’t sit and sulk!
3. Cultivate Everlasting Friendships: True friendships don’t come along that easily. But when you do find friends or just people who like you and care about you, it makes all the difference. If you vacation alone don’t be afraid to go out to a club or a local gathering and interact with the people there. They just might take you under their wing and show you a good time. Or if you have friends joining you on a trip, don’t be a fuddy-duddy who does nothing. Remember you are worth every magical moment of your trip. So enjoy it unconditionally.
Friendships are therapeutic. Be a friend every chance you can. xoxo
Stay tuned for a full account of what I learned at the Disney Social Media Moms conference!
Fabulous Photos by Josh Hallett @Hyku
***I sure hope that I will get invited BACK for the next Disney Social Media Moms Conference because the 2015 conference returns to ORLANDO! Whoo-Hoo! Wanna go? Here are some groups you might want to join:
On the Road Philly hopefuls- https://www.facebook.com/
On the Road Chicago hopefuls- https://www.facebook.com/
DisneySMMoms Alumni and Hopefuls – https://www.facebook.com/
Stay updated by visiting http://www.disneysmmoms.com
Disclosure: I was invited to the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration and paid a small conference fee for attending. I received sponsors gifts but all opinions about the fabulousness I experience are all my own.