Disney World

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Fox and I, just the two of us, were on a bus going from The Port Orleans French Quarter Disney Resort to Epcot, where we would meet up with Jeremy and my 10 year old nephew Charlie who had just spent 45 minutes in line at The Seven Dwarves Mine Train in Magical Kingdom while I was back at the hotel napping with Fox after a full day at Animal Kingdom. (If that sounds like a lot to pack into one sentence it is… and only a glimpse of how much action we were packing into our week at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.) Fox was strapped to me in his Ergo carrier and we were sitting next to a little boy with red hair and a freckled face named Kyle (his Scottish accent made it sound more like “Kah-ell”) – I learned he was eight years old and that this was his 4th time to visit Disney World. I had actually seen Kyle out by the pool earlier that day – dancing with much enthusiasm and without any self-consciousness to The Macarena, The YMCA, and a few other great classics that come with coordinated dance moves. I thought “I need to be more like that kid.” Kyle was sweet – Fox would grab his hand and chew on his fingers – and he let him. Apparently Kyle has a one year old nephew and is used to it. I also learned that Kyle rode the Tower of Terror when he was four years old but just really started riding roller coasters this year.

This freckled little redhead from the other side of the pond had been to Disney World four times in just eight short years. With that, I started counting my own Disney trips:

Summer 1989 – My first time to Walt Disney World. My family made the 20+ hour pilgrimage in our family station wagon without air conditioning. I had just turned seven years old, I wore my hair in an un-ironic side pony, and pretty much cried the whole time because I was hot, tired, and my little flamingo legs just couldn’t seem keep up.

Summer 1991 – My second time to road trip to Disney World with my family. I think most of my formative Disney memories come from this trip. I remember being obsessed with the lizards hanging outside of Thunder Mountain (real! wild! lizards! just out in the open!), riding Space Mountain and becoming hooked on roller coasters, and decompressing in the Carousel of Progress – still very much a favorite. I remember drifting off in my moms arms in the air conditioned Tiki Room while boring-ass animatronic birds serenaded me to slumber. I ate my weight in Churros and rocked a sailor cap with my name embroidered next to Mickey mouse on it.

Summer 2002 – I actually forgot about this Disney trip until writing this. When I was around 20 years old my ex-husband and I drove out to San Diego – he promised it was the coolest place in the world – and LA. All I remember about this trip was getting a burrito at a taco stand, spending hours in a huge record store, and visiting Disneyland. While at Disneyland I was embarrassed because my husband kept cussing around small children and going out of his way to find a designated smoking area every thirty minutes. While I’m sure we had a good time, the rest is pretty much blocked from my memory.

Fall 2008 – I was now divorced from my ex-husband who liked to smoke and cuss around small children in the happiest place on Earth and had been seeing Jeremy for right at a year. We went to Disneyworld with my whole family – including my brother who flew down from NYC with his first burlesque-dancing girlfriend who introduced me to things like raw food, fixed gear bicycles, and the power of Arnica for soothing bruises and sore muscles. We shared a room with them and I remember she lined the air conditioner with no less than 100 bottles of vitamins. We made fun of the dorky couples wearing bride and groom mouse ears and pretended like we were in an almost famous band when the ride operators would ask us who we were. Barack Obama won the election on this trip (we had sent in absentee ballots) and just a couple days later, after asking permission of my parents and them warning him that I was a handful, Jeremy proposed to me under the fireworks at the Magical Kingdom castle. I said yes. My brother and his girlfriend bought us bride and groom mouse ears that we wound up wearing the rest of the trip.

On this trip I reminisced over the lizards outside Thunder Mountain. I saw Mickey and his friends. I enjoyed the irony in the Carousel of Progress now that we had surpassed the “future” of interactive kitchens and virtual reality. But I also saw the crowds. Fighting families and crying children. The endless sea of strollers left me questioning why anyone would bring a child who couldn’t even walk, let alone create concrete memories, to Disney World. I could see the bolts holding the rides together. In some ways it felt as if the magic had turned into a machine.

Fall 2014 – Just six years later we’re back at Disney World with my whole family and this time with my nine month old baby. I explain to my friends who think I’m going to Disney World for Fox’s sake that he’s just along for the ride – and that really, most rides he’ll be hanging out with my 68 year old dad under a shady tree near the gift shop. But I was surprised at how many rides Fox could go on – and over the course of the week I realized how many memories, even if it’s on a cellular level, Fox was making.

THE HIGHLIGHTS:
• My dad wears coveralls, which are trendy amongst old men who like to fish in East Texas, but leave him feeling like an outcast at places like Disney World. So I convinced my whole family to surprise my dad by wearing red coveralls (I’ll post this photo to my Instagram just as soon as I find my phone – which I’m always misplacing).
• It turns out the singing birds in the Tiki Room aren’t actually that boring. Holding my sleepy baby in The Tiki Room was one of my favorite moments.
• Riding Expedition Everest five times in a row with Jeremy
• The very best moment happened as we were leaving Animal Kingdom and we spotted Thumper and his lady friend doing a meet and greet. There was no line and it was clear they were wrapping up – we almost didn’t stop but decided Fox might like it. Well, it turned into a bit of a bunny, bunny, Fox three-way and probably the best moment of Fox’s life so far.
• Watching a mini-film about Walt Disney with my dad and Fox. As a creative entrepreneur it inspired me to create something that will evolve and grow even after I’m gone.

So there were crowds and seas of strollers, yes. And it was hot. And we pretty much lived on jalapeno cheese pretzels – which in theory sounds awesome but in practicality left me feeling more and more sluggish by the day. I could see fighting families and lethargic “cast members” as Disney likes to call its staff. I could see the machine but more than ever I could see the magic.

Coming Home

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This summer we moved out of our old home – the one Fox was born in, the one Braid was built in, and the one Jeremy and I were married in. I thought I would be a little more nostalgic as we moved out – I had this idea that I might walk through our empty home and shed a single tear in each room as I recounted all the life we had lived in that space. But just hours in and I was already settling in to our new home – a midcentury modern split level with a mint green kitchen – as Jeremy handed off the keys to our old home to our new tenants.

Moving homes this summer didn’t make any sense – financially or otherwise. We were still sorting out up from down after bringing a tiny person into our lives. But when this house became an opportunity – even through my postpartum haze – I had a vision and this home was the backdrop. A vision of becoming the mom I want to be – of creating new traditions and rituals that would bond our little family together like Gorilla glue. A vision of finally coming home. And now here we are.

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A big thanks to Greer for capturing us, just as we were on any given rainy Saturday morning.

Power Lady Posse

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I’ve always been a girl who likes girls. In fact, I came out as a lesbian to my entire family when I was 13. And then when I finally hit puberty at the ripe old age of 17 I realized that I most definitely preferred making out with boys. And for the girls who have always been “the girl that gets along better with guys” – well, I’ve always been equal parts jealous and suspicious of those girls… until we become friends, that is.

So anyway, one of my favorite parts of Designer VACA is the amount of generosity, transparency, and friendship that is openly offered by a bunch of women who may or may not have at one time been the kind of girl who gets along better with guys. And instead of exchanging business cards we exchange ideas.

This was my third year to attend Designer VACA. And every year it feels more and more like summer camp for grown-ass bad-ass women with killer style. Actually, I never went to summer camp so I can’t really even compare it to that – but what I do know is every year towards the end of our pool-side time together we say things like “Oh my god, let’s get together before next year!” and “Oh my god, I love you so much! I miss you already!” and every year seems to roll by a little faster and we can never believe it’s been a year since we’ve reunited.

Towards the end of Designer VACA one of the new attendees commented on how cool it was to hang out with so many other women – technically competitors – she said that she realized finding her tribe is important. And she’s right. Because it’s not just about the work you create, the blogs you post, or the beautiful vignettes you share on Instagram. It’s about meaningful connection. It’s about friendship. It’s about creative women supporting each other to be our best selves– lifting each other up instead of dragging ourselves down by playing the comparison game – or worse tearing each other down with snark.

The opening night of Designer VACA Jessica Hische talked about her experience in LA vs. NYC – she said in NYC she was “one of the guys” busting her ass through the weekend. But that in LA there is a Power Lady Posse of women who are badass and pretty much refuse to work on the weekend. She said she’s all about the ladies these days. Me too, Jessica.

P.S. My friend Jane captured her experience at Designer VACA with loads of vulnerability and beauty in her post here.

And here is my new friend Kyla Roma’s take on Designer Vaca.

Salvation Mountain

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Leonard Knight created Salvation Mountain – located just 1.5 hours outside of Palm Springs, California in Niland, Califoria – with what started as a failed attempt to spread his message of God is Love with a giant hand-crafted hot air balloon. The fabric of his fantastic balloon rotted before he could ever successfully launch it. So then with just half a bag of cement he decided to make a little monument in the desert before fleeing from his failure. Well, half a bag of cement and a little bit of paint turned into Salvation Mountain. But not without another failure – this mountain you see here is actually his second attempt after his first mountain collapsed. (source)

So when my family had the opportunity to take a little excursion out to Salvation Mountain after kicking it in Palm Springs for Designer VACA I knew we had to take it. We made the drive out to Salvation Mountain with our friends Star and Jamaica – we chatted about app development and game design – something Jeremy has been interested in doing lately. About 45 minutes into our drive, as we were passing the uninhabitable Salton Sea, Fox started to lose it. When no amount of books, toys, plastic bottles (his favorite thing), or Itsy Bitsy Spider would calm him down I unbuckled myself and contorted my body and managed to reach what felt like an itsy bitsy boobie to his mouth to finally pacify him. The border patrol didn’t seem to mind as they waved us through – surely they have children too. We drove past a man with a long beard and blistering red skin walking barefoot down the road. We stopped at a cash only gas station, complete with a horse-maybe-donkey hitched to a post, with a dirty bathroom tucked behind a meat counter.

And then we finally made it to Salvation Mountain. It felt kind of magical and kind of insane. And perhaps even a little post-apocalyptic. You can’t experience a piece of work like this without being moved. And I was moved but I can’t quite pinpoint how. It’s kind of like a not-quite-scary but very odd dream where you can’t quite remember the narrative but you’re left with a funny feeling all day after you wake up – that’s what Salvation Mountain was like.

Getting Back to Work

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Late last week I spoke at the Circles Conference to a packed (and quite stylish) audience full of designers. And now I’m nursing what my friend Brené Brown calls a vulnerability hangover.

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My talk was about how painful it can be to be a working creative because of The Fear. But that if we can just do a few things – like get specific about what both the worst case scenario and the ideal day look like, get clear on what we really want to be doing all day, and maybe make a mantra to remember what that is – then maybe it won’t be quite so painful to put your heart into your profession. I didn’t really get serious about my talk until two weeks ago. I had written out what I wanted to say – and when I read it out loud it sucked. So I recruited my speech writer and voice coach (that would be my sister and business partner, Tara) and we spent an entire Saturday afternoon out at my parents lake house writing my script – word-for-word. Then I spent the next week memorizing my cues and designing my slides. The night before my talk in the hotel room I practiced forgetting the script so I could sound casual. As if I was going to walk up on that stage and give a story that had just come to mind – like lunch with a friend. Then I practiced walking (the stage strut – not quite a model stomp) and talking at the same time without forgetting that words were supposed to be coming out of my mouth.

Oh. And that was all only after getting my snotty and over-tired baby to sleep on the hotel bed – two hours after his normal bedtime. Which for a baby, and a new mom, is kind of a big deal.

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After my talk I felt high. I had a quiet, humbling moment of gratitude when I found myself backstage. And then when I was sure nobody could see me I pumped my fists in the air – like a dorky protagonist in an 80s romantic comedy who just scored a date with the homecoming queen. I know it’s probably not cool to admit that I was proud of myself … but I was proud of myself.

I made my way back to the conference lobby buzzing with inspiration and energy. And that’s when I saw my sister talking to my creative girlfriends – my tribe from all over the country (and even Canada!) – and my baby crawling around on the floor at their feet … and for a minute I felt like I had it all. And that I could actually do it all. But today. Today, I have fears, my self-doubts, and my vulnerability hangover. And now I’m getting back to work.

P.S. You can watch the talk here. 

Talk notes drawn by Terence Tang.