My Visit To Vancouver

I recently had the opportunity to visit Vancouver, British Columbia for work and I was looking forward to it since I haven’t been there since I was about 14 years old.  I must say, although I didn’t get to sight see a great deal, Vancouver exceeded my expectations.

Vancouver is a thriving multi-cultural community situated between a breathtaking mountain range and the beautiful waters of the Pacific Ocean.

The city appears to have invested a lot of money and effort into developing its harbour and shoreline trails.  As a former roller derby player I was envious of the miles of smooth pathways and wished I had brought along my roller skates to get some exercise and take full advantage of these wonderful trails.  Without my skates I had to settle for a leisurely 10 km jog around the scenic Stanley Park. I say leisurely because there were many photo stops along the way to photograph the natural beauty of the area as well as cherry and apply blossoms which were in bloom while I was there.

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Not far from my hotel, the Hyatt, was the 2010 Olympic Cauldron which was considerably less magnificent than I had remembered from watching all the television footage of the event.  In its defence however, I did not get to see it lit up and there was a barrier around it to the mar the visual effect.

One item that was as good as the hype from the Olympics was the Japadog food truck.  A juicy hotdog with traditionally Japanese toppings like seaweed and wasabi sauce may sound odd together but came together in a surprisingly tasty meal.  I completely understand why they were in such demand during the Olympics.

As with most conferences I attend I seem to eat my way through them and the conference in Vancouver was no exception.  I can’t even remember how many mouth-watering salmon dishes I gorged myself on, especially sushi.

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One of my favorite meals was at the Cactus Club across the street from the Hyatt. I had the butternut squash ravioli with truffle butter sauce and jumbo prawns for an appetizer and the raincoast greens salad as my main.  Everything was so fresh and tasty and the Bellini and their Signature Sangria weren’t too bad either.

They Hyatt itself is a newer tastefully decorated hotel with the most attentive and helpful concierge staff I have had the pleasure to deal with in recent years.  Not only did they provide maps, directions, suggestions and arrange multiple tours and transportation for our diverse group. They also (without us asking them to) called around to confirm attractions we wanted to see would be open and thankfully too, since the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Chinese Garden was not open on the day we wanted to visit.

My one minor complaint with the Hyatt was the new elevator system that could not keep up with the extremely large volume of guests that wanted to use the elevators all at the same time when the sessions let out.  I took more than one elevator trip with a repair technician as he tested the system but I was comforted by the fact that they were actively trying to correct the problems.

One of the tours that the concierge suggested was a free tour and I love free. Tour guys operate in a number of larger centers and their guides work strictly on tips.  Emma (I believe her name was) was our guide for the morning, leading us around the downtown core telling us about some of the more interesting buildings, like the Marine Building and Christ Church Cathedral.  She also pointed out some of the many art pieces, like “The Pendulum” and “The Drop”.

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I found it commendable that in the current climate of cutbacks for the arts Vancouver has implemented a policy whereby for every square foot of new private sector re-zoned space built in the downtown core the builder is required to contribute $1.81/per sq. ft. to a public arts process.  These art projects have certainly lent themselves to the beautification of the area and created more interesting items for tourists (like me) to admire.

All in all I had a great conference in Vancouver.  Oh, and I learned some stuff for work too.  LOL

As I said at the start of this post Vancouver exceeded my expectations and I can’t wait to return.

 

My Disney Parks Moms Panel Experience

Everyone who knows me knows that for many years now I have been trying to make it onto the Disney Parks Moms Panel and every year I’ve been shut down in Round 1; that is until this year.

Early in September, Disney Parks Moms Panel puts out the call to apply to be on the panel for the next year.  In the first round you have to pick your specialty, which for me is always Walt Disney World Resort, but includes such others as Disney Cruise Line or Disney Vacation Club. You need to answer a series of questions. Some are short and factual and others are essay style but all have a maximum number of characters allowed for your answers.  The number of characters is often an odd figure and I have fun trying to understand the significance of these numbers.

Every year I fret over my answers and spend many hours debating and changing them.  This year I was away at a work conference and didn’t have as much time to dedicate to my answers as I have in the past and actually had to submit my answers from my iPad mini.  The process is challenging enough without the added issue of sporadic internet and such a small screen to work on so when I hit submit and realized my iPad had autocorrected a word to something I didn’t want I felt my heart sink.  It was going to be another year of me not making it past Round 1.

With the realization my dream would be on hold for another year I watched and waiting along with everyone else and commiserated with others on the Facebook pages who were in the same situation.  The wait to hear seemed like an eternity but I kept telling myself the longer the selection panel took the longer I was still in the running.

On the day we were to hear who made it to Round 2 I tried to stay away from social media so as not to feel more upset with myself over not catching my mistake than I already did when I saw all my friends make it through.

Imagine my surprise when I received the email saying I made it to Round 2.  Shock can’t begin to explain how I felt. After the shock wore off I started to wonder what I did different this year that I hadn’t in the past and the only thing I could come up with was writing from the heart without second guessing myself or worrying about what the selection committee was looking for. Trying to be what I thought they wanted hadn’t gotten me anywhere before, so why continue.  With this piece of information I decided to do the same thing for the next round.  I would be myself.  I’m not a flowery writer.  With my experience in the legal field I tend to stick to the facts with my own personal experience on things added in and that is how I would continue to answer the questions.

Round 2 was more questions along with a video about what sets Walt Disney World Resort apart from other vacations.  The questions didn’t give me anxiety but the video was giving me heart palpitations.  I’ve never done any videos before and neither had anyone in my family to be able to help me.  I wrote up a basic script of the main points I wanted to include and set my iPhone to video.  I did one take sitting in my favorite chair in my Minnie onesie pj’s with my ears on and my family all told me I looked like some crazy freak.  My next idea was to video on my front porch with all my carved Disney inspired pumpkins around me but my daughter refused to stand out there and video where anyone could see her.

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Finally I settled on just standing in my backyard in the cold and wind that has settled over the area.  I was lucky I finished when I did because within hours it was snowing.  It took four takes to get one video that was satisfactory.  I won’t say I was happy with it but I wasn’t going to torture myself with dozens of takes when I knew I would never be thrilled with a video of myself. It wasn’t very creative but 71 seconds is not a long time to show your personality and still get your point across.  It was done and what would be would be.

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It was time to wait again.  I must commend Gary Buchanan, leader of the Disney Parks Moms Panel, on keeping all the hopeful panelists engaged, during the waiting periods.  He would post brain teasers and hints on what was to come and I loved them all.  It made the waiting fun.

I can’t adequately explain how I was feeling about my prospects of making it to Round 3. The realist in me knew it was a long shot, the optimist in me held on to hope and through it all I was thankful to have made it this far in the process when I’d never been given the opportunity before.

I was at work when I received the email about Round 3 and I was not sure I read it correctly.  I actually asked one of my staff to come in to my office and read the email to make sure I wasn’t imagining it.  I was moving on to Round 3.  I had tears in my eyes and was in a state of disbelief.  I called my husband to let him know and he later told me that he could barely understand what I was saying because I talked so fast and was so hyper.

The notification email said we would receive another email from Karen so we could provide her with our contact information for her to call us and set up an appointment for a telephone interview with Gary Buchanan.  I waited more than a day watching others say they had received their emails and spoken to Karen and had interviews set up for 2 days hence and I still had not received my initial email.  I was starting to panic. Maybe it really was a mistake. Self-doubt was creeping in.  Finally I received my email which indicated this was a second email as the first one was returned undelivered. I was happy this was real. I was on truly going on to Round 3.

All was booked for an early 8am telephone interview.  It dawned cold and nasty that morning.  A snow storm had blown in overnight and I had to contend with shoveling my driveway and salting my steps to get to work where I was planning on taking the call in peace and quiet.   The call came in and within the first few seconds I made a foolish mistake.  I spoke as I always did, with honestly, so instead of starting saying it was a great morning I admitted it was a miserable cold morning. Probably not the best first impression.  The call went by so fast I hardly remember what we talked about.

As the call was wrapping up Gary asked if I had received the email he had just sent. I opened my email and said I had so Gary promptly said you have 45 minutes to answer the question time starts now and hung up.  Wow, what a twist.  Although I wasn’t totally surprised by it, I still was not expecting only 45 minutes.  I did my best and hit submit with only about 2 minutes to spare.

It was time to wait yet again.

One of the things that was different in the application process this year was that they were going to be specifically looking for Portuguese and French speaking panelists.  We heard through social media that these people would be having interviews with someone from Disney’s International Departments in their language.  I was glad to see that the panel was expanding to include a more diverse group.

The panel has traditionally included at least one Canadian and I was hoping to be that person but during the waiting period it was leaked that the panel was looking for someone who spoke French to be the Canadian on the panel.  I must confess I found this very hard to deal with since I do not speak French.  I spent many hours wondering if this meant there was no hope for me.  There were a number of other Canadians who were debating this as well.  If the selection committee was only looking for one Canadian and that person needed to speak French then why did they bother interviewing the strictly English speaking Canadians? I held out hope until the bitter end that they would be selecting more than one Canadian.

When the emails finally came out letting us know if we made it or not it was no great surprise after seeing all the language debate on social media that I did not make the panel.  This still didn’t make it any easier to deal with the pain of not being selected.  Part of me felt defeated but the eternal optimist within me reared its head and told me there is always next year and I’d never made it this far before so I was thankful for the experience.  I will never give up on this dream and I hope that next year will finally be my year.

In the mean time I will continue to help friends, family and even friends of friends plan their vacations.

Whether I ever make the panel or not Walt Disney World Resort will always hold a special place in my heart.

 

What do you say?

What do you say to friends and co-workers who lost their job in a large downsizing at your company?  That was my dilemma last week.

 

I was torn with emotions.  Relief and happiness that I was not one of the people to be terminated.  Despair for those who were.  Even a little guilt thrown into the mix since I guessed it was coming but could not say anything or I would have lost my job too since I’m in the Legal Dept and confidentiality is absolute.

 

“I’m sorry” just seemed so insufficient and no words could accurately express the turmoil and empathy I felt.  In the end I settled on the truth.  “I’m not sure what to say that doesn’t sound stupid but I want you to know I’m thinking of you.”

 

When you think about it, Monday to Friday you likely spend more waking hours with your co-workers on a daily basis than you do with your spouse or family so their leaving is going to be adjustment for all people concerned not just those that are gone.

 

The day after everyone left my workplace felt almost like we were at a funeral. The remaining employees, me included, were still an emotional wreck.  I think there may have been more tears that day than the prior.  When we were informed of the terminations people were in a state of shock but by the following day reality had set it.  We were no longer going to be sharing stories and having coffee breaks with the people who had shared our lives for so long.  We were in essence grieving over the loss of our friends and co-workers.

 

Again I was in a situation of what do you say to those who are left.  “Everything will be alright” didn’t seem appropriate so again I pulled from my honest approach to life and said “Change happens. We don’t have to like it, but like it or not it’s going to happen.  We just have to try to make the best of it.”  

 

Nothing profound or terribly inspirational came out of my mouth last week but I hope those that I did talk to understand what I was trying to convey.  Quite simply, that they aren’t alone and life will go on.