Be prepared....this is long! But I wanted, in fact needed, to capture this! Enjoy! I took over 600 photos, but here are just a few!
How can you feel comfortable with a group of people you have never met in real life? Only through scrapbooking! Only through sharing stories of our children, preferences, daily lives could I walk into a hotel and instantly hug people I've known only through 1x1 avatars!
I spent 4 days at Walt Disney World with most of the Creative Team of Designer Digitals. I'm still shocked they want me to be part of the site, so getting together with them was just surreal. Katie and Randy, the owners of DD, were so generous in hosting a fabulous trip!
I met Debbie at the airport as we happened to be standing in the same long line for the Magical Express bus to our hotel (the bus was neither magical or express). She was a delight! Full of energy and passion for her craft and warm and I could go on and on. The perfect person to meet to set the tone for the weekend! We then realized we were sitting just a row away from Terri. She's a delightful mom to four boys who I laughed a lot with!
Not long after that we were joined by the lovely ladies from England Sarah and Melanie. I was so looking forward to meeting Melanie as we connected over a year ago and just had so much in common. Greeting her was like saying hello to a dear friend I hadn't seen in a few years.
Then we waited a bit before the arrival of Buddy's mom Kathie. Every time Kathie opened her mouth I laughed uncontrollably! She is funny! And being from North Dakota has a wee bit of an accent (that she denies!) We then waited for Jess to arrive after her flight was delayed! So began the first night of sleep deprivation as we talked and talked and talked! The amazing designer Jesse Edwards joined us as well. She's delightful!
Friday morning was a frenzy of activity meeting everyone as they arrived, saying hello to faces I instantly recognized, hugging what felt like long lost friends. We slowly moved toward the Magic Kingdom, no easy task knowing that new faces were arriving by the hour!
We hopped on a few rides. Space Mountain -- much faster than I remember, Peter Pan -- much shorter than I recall, Buzz Lightyear Spin something, and It's a Small World -- fitting for our group I thought! Somewhere near Space Mountain we met Janet and Kari and Merr. Off to Downtown Disney from there to eat some nonpark food. (being vegan at WDW is not an easy task...)
At Downtown Disney we were able to meet up for dinner with at least 15 of us! I think we overwhelmed the restaurant we chose, but I did warn them! Pattie and her hubby Tom, Lynn, Cassie, Christina, Sarah, Angie, MaryAnn and Shanah all joined us. What an amazing time! I wish I could capture in words the feeling of instant comfort and pure enjoyment I experienced.
Then Myra and I missed the bus with everyone as the result of making a needed stop (not for shopping mind you!) I am so glad though. It made us a bit panicky about making it on time to the fireworks at the Magic Kingdom, but it gave us the opportunity to chat on a deserted bus (how does that happen at WDW?!) Not only did I discover she is one of the kindest most sincere people I've met we discovered we have over a dozen life parallels. We are both middle children who spent time with no televisions in our homes, married amazing men, each have one son, see the world similarly and really don't understand the obsession with putting everything in a ziploc bag! I wish she lived just down the street so I could spend time with her everyday. She is remarkable!
Our quiet bus trip was soon traded for Main Street Disney just moments before the fireworks began! In a crazed blur I met Wendy, Steph, Kim, Janet, Paula and Caroline seconds before the booms began!
Fireworks were followed by another bus trip (a theme of WDW) back to the hotel for a night of chatting! Sleeping was just difficult when surrounded by so many amazing women who all care so passionately for preserving memories. (Imagine the cameras!)
After staying up until 2AM getting up early was a little difficult! But we were out of the hotel and to breakfast by 8am! A group of us made our way to Epcot, rode several rides, and by 1:00 found our way to England. We found a spot at the Pub and let everyone know that I was going to stay there and they could check in with me! What fun! At one point there were at least 15 of us packed into a very small space answering questions about who this crazy group of women with all the cameras was. "Are you photographers?" "Are you a photography group?" "Those are big lenses!""I feel inadequate!"
I also discovered what a remarkable person Paula G is! She taught me a little Irish slang and showed her little evil side! I laughed more than I can remember!
There were pictures of people taking pictures of people taking pictures of people taking pictures of me taking pictures of my beer! What fun! And I got to have a beer in England with Melanie and Sarah! Perfect!
After, mmmm, a few hours there, it was off toward America for our dinner. We stopped by a shop (the only one I shopped in the entire weekend!) to buy Ian the sword I had reluctantly told him I'd bring back from Florida. Some photos along the way in great light and suddenly it was 6 o'clock! Time went by so quickly sharing it with such a wonderful group!
We had a private dinner with character visits and yummy food in America! Taken up the secret elevator and pampered with our own Disney photographer, who was just a little overwhelmed with the number of cameras in the crowd!! After dinner our very own Disney staffer (or whatever they are called) guided us with a large glowey stick to a private viewing area for the fireworks! Dessert and front row, water front seating with plenty of space and NO ONE but us was perfect! It was just...magical!
The fireworks were spectacular. Then back to a private bus for a comfortable and chatter filled ride back to our hotel. I finally got to spend more time chatting with Kim and Jodi, but wish I'd had more time! They are both so interesting! And Kim is such a talented photographer, I'm hoping just sitting next to her helped rub some of it off on me!
A late night of cards, more conversation, and the beginning of goodbyes. Lots of folks headed out early Sunday morning.
Sunday morning was difficult. Saying goodbye to such good friends. People who need to live on my block so we can get together and enjoy each others company, compare camera settings, scrapbook together, and solve the worlds' problems. My life is forever changed having met them. The trip was more than I imagined. None of the uncomfortableness of first meetings just the warmth of old friends!