Thursday, January 27, 2011

Disney Cruise Line and other cruise lines cancel stops at Mazatlan!

I booked our Cruise on the Disney Wonder going to the Mexican Riviera last February. We will be on the Wonder from March 6th to the 13th. The family is excited to go on our second Disney cruise but we have had concerns about going to Mexico from the very beginning. Living in Southern California we hear a lot about the violence in Mexico and the problems with the drug cartels. The problems come across the border into parts of California. We figured that going with Disney they would not stop at a port if it was unsafe. As long as we either stayed with Disney planned Port Adventures and/or stayed on the ship we will be safe. Still we kept our eyes open for what is going on and we are watching for things happening in the ports we were scheduled to go to.

Several days ago I was looking at our reserved plans for the March 6th-13th Disney Wonder cruise to the Mexican Riviera. I noticed that one of the ports of call had been changed. I saw that Mazatlan was not there and Cabo San Lucas was listed twice. I thought it was a mistake and thought nothing of it. I figured that the website was wrong because I had book a Port Adventure for Mazatlan and it was still there.

Today I saw the news report saying Disney and other Cruise Lines are dropping Mazatlan and decided to look into things. I’ve received no notice about a change of itinerary or a safety concern for our cruise. First I checked the Disney Cruise Line website and I found nothing there about Mazatlan being dropped as a Port of Call. No safety warnings were posted on the site as I’ve seen in the past when there was a hurricane or other problem. In fact the page that tells about Mazatlan and showing the Port Adventures for there is still there. This is very disappointing to me. I thought Disney would do better at helping guests make informed decisions. After checking the site I decided to call DCL and ask about the stop at Mazatlan. I wanted to make sure I knew exactly what was going on. I was told that Mazatlan as been dropped as a Port of Call and that the ship will go to Cabo San Lucas for two days instead.

How do I feel about this? I have mixed feelings. I feel sad and concerned because tourists have been injured in areas where the Cartels have so far stayed out of. I feel safer because Disney showed they are willing to change plans to insure the safety of their guests. At this time I’m considering my options and watching what is going on. If things get much more violent we may change our plans and reschedule our trip and go out of Florida or go to Alaska. In truth I like that idea better but the cost is so much higher for us going from Florida or to Alaska than it is from Los Angeles to Mexico.

By either changing our plans and going out of Florida or some other location or just staying on the ship even if we go to Mexico we are sending a message to the government and tourist industry in Mexico. Get control of the drugs and violence or lose money! Hopefully someday soon they will get control so this beautiful area of the world can be enjoyed without fear. By getting control the quality of life of the area will improve because people will come and spend their money bring jobs and stability.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Pencils, Paper and Pixie Dust

I just have to share this personal story. I’ve shared before how my husband had an accident and was declared brain dead. The accident happened 13 years ago January 31st. I’m going to focus on what helped him recover from the brain damage he suffered. It is another part of Disney Magic that we could have at home.
When Scott was released from the hospital the doctors told me I needed to find a creative outlet for Scott. He needed something that would be enjoyable for him to do so he would joyfully participate. He also needed something to work his hands and keep his brain active with learning. Now Scott had always done woodworking but that was not a good option. He still did not have enough hand control to safely use power tools, well less safe than he was before and he did not have the physical strength or energy to make things with wood. Poetry and short stories were always things he did and still does but with the injury words sometimes escaped him, were clumsy and totally frustrating to him. So word craft would not work and it did nothing for the physical side of the rehab he needed.
Scott had always dreamed of learning to draw. He had tried many times before and even his stick figures were uninteresting. In fact it is kind to say his drawings were as good as kindergarteners’ crayon in clenched fist first attempts at art. (His words not mine! Don’t be mad at me or think I’m unkind. LOL) I kind of half joked with the doctors and physical therapists about getting him drawing supplies. They did not think it funny. They thought it was inspired! So off I went and got him a set of good pencils and a quality sketch pad. I also picked up a book on the line of Drawing for Dummies. I also picked up some Disney coloring books with Scott’s favorite Disney characters to use as reference. This turned out to be a very wise move as he kept asking, “What should I draw?” Scott loves the human form and thinks the feminine form is the most beautiful of God’s creation. Tinker Bell and Ariel are his favorites and he also loves to draw fairies and mermaids of his own making. Within a few months his pictures were very respectable and he became even more excited about drawing. I also started to draw as something we could do together. Our daughter also joined in and drew pictures.

By Scott Hoagland
When we go to Disneyland we bring drawing pads and pencils and usually take some time to sit and draw while waiting for a show or ride. Sometimes we draw buildings and such around the park and sometimes we pull out one of our coloring books for reverence and draw a character. Sometimes we will stop in at one of two places at the Disneyland Resort where they have artists drawing Disney Characters. We stop and talk to the CM doing the drawing and share what we have done. They always encourage us to keep developing our skill.
Sometimes, while sitting and drawing other guests will come over to watch us draw. Within a couple of months of the accident we were taking a break sitting at the Corner Café and drawing. A guest came over and asked to purchase one of Scott’s drawings! People still occasional ask if we work for Disney or if we sell our drawings. We say no to both questions. Our drawings are for ourselves or done as gifts. To sell them would be a copyright infringement but giving them as gifts is totally acceptable. We find it helps us stop and relax when the park gets too overwhelming.

By Scott Hoagland
Scott and I don’t get the time to draw as much as we would like to but it is still something we enjoy and we hope to do more of soon. Once again Disney Magic and Pixie Dust had given encouragement that lead to healing and joy.
Self portrait by Carolyn Hoagland

Sunday, January 16, 2011

What Martian Luther King Jr. means to me

Today is Martian Luther King day.
I’m white so of what importance is this day to me? Well let me tell you how important it is to me.
I was born in 1958 in Burbank, California. The town was all white. Black folks lived in Watts and other places not our city. They could be there and work there but not live there. I remember watching Dr. King on the TV. I remember hearing his I have a Dream speech. I listened to his words and they sunk deep into my soul. His dream became mine as well. I loved how he spoke of standing up for yourself with firmness but without violence. I loved how he talked of all people being united and standing for each other.
When I was a teen in the early 1970’s the first black family moved into town. Their teenage children were the first black students in the Burbank School system. There were a few people who made threats but most stood with them. When the white power youth showed up trying to burn a cross in their yard a group of several hundred high school students, including my husband showed up at to make sure it did not happen. None of them knew the family at that time. This would not have happened without the spark of understanding and acceptance MLK lit in our countries soul.
My husband and I wanted to have a large family with lots of love and laughter. Soon after getting married I found out I had a genetic disorder and cannot have children. For 12 years it was just my husband and I loving each other and our furbabies. Then we decided our dream of having a family had to happen. It took 2 years to fill out all the paperwork and be approved to adopt. The first question we were asked was would we accept a child of a different race. Before MLK changed our countries thinking about race we would never have been asked that question. It was not allowed to adopt outside of your “race” before MLK. Our answer to the question was HUMAN. We wanted a child of the human race. The color of the child’s skin made no difference to us. Then almost another year went by before we got THE call. Would we be willing to talk to a young lady who wished to place her baby with us. Would we consider a biracial child? The birthmother was white and the biological father black. We said YES!!
Now, 16 years later we have a beautiful 16 year old daughter. She is ours, a piece of Mahogany grafted upon our white pine family tree. She belongs in our family tree. She is rooted to it and cannot be removed. She is strengthened by our family bonds and we are enriched by her.
In closing I would like to leave you with this thought about America and why our cultural differences make us so great.

Racial makeup of America – Melting Pot or Stew Pot

For generations America has been called the "Melting Pot" of the world. I say that is a poor analogy. In a Melting Pot all items put in become homogeneous, indistinguishable from each other. We are not, never will be nor should we ever become “homogeneous”.

It is better to call America a "Stew Pot". In a Stew Pot each ingredient retains its unique properties. A piece of beef never becomes a carrot and a piece of potato never becomes pea. They never lose their identity. They do take on the flavors of the ingredients around them and are enriched for being in the pot together.

Just like the ingredients in the Stew Pot the different cultures that have come into America retain their unique flavor. Each people group has kept all or parts of their ancestral language and has passed it on to their children. They bring celebrations and traditions that they share with their children and neighbors sharing the flavor of their culture with those around them.

Each culture that comes into America adds to the strength of our great culture just as each ingredient adds to the flavor of the Stew. Take pride in you ethnic heritage! Pass it on to the next generation and share it with neighbors and friends who are of different heritage! Take pride in being an American once you become a citizen. Teach your children to be proud Americans.

Instead of saying I’m German-American, Asian-American, Hispanic-American or African-American how about saying I’m American of … That way we might get rid of some of the racial decimation that is going on and focus on the problems we all need to solve together.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

How to add Magic and Pixie Dust to a Day a Disney Park

Most adults do not know how to act around whimsy and a Disney Park is totally full of whimsy!
Watch a small child as they see Mickey Mouse. Take a step back and watch for a moment. What is going on in that child’s mind? Who exactly is that child “seeing”? They are seeing Mickey Mouse in his full glory! That is really him standing there in his Movie Barn!

When a young child sees Buzz Lightyear walk through Tomorrowland they yell out, “To infinity and beyond!” If Buzz hears he will wave and salute back. Why can’t an adult do that? It is wrong for an adult to “play” with the characters like that? NO it is not wrong and there is no reason an adult can’t play with the characters. It is just one more way to have fun at a Disney Park. There rules and limits to the play that must be followed.
Know the character and the movie they are from. It helps to know the general story plot.
Know their name and the names of the villain or if they are a villain the hero they are tied to.
Know the names of their friends.
Know any catch phrases they use.
If they have a hand motion or salute and you know how to do it salute them. I once saluted Buzz and he ran across Tomorrowland to give me a salute and hug.
Some of the most wonderful times I’ve had were with the characters. I often watch the parades and when Cinderella’s evil step sisters go by I boo them. Often they will stick out their tongues at me. Once they walked over to me and called out for their mother! Lady Tramain came over and “scolded” me. Another time Captain Hook was going by the Peter Pan float in the Electrical Parade. I yelled out, “Hook is a cod fish, Hook is a cod fish!” When the float came even to me Hook leaned out and shook his Hook in my face!! These and many others are memories I will always cherish.

When you are at Disneyland or any other Disney Park remember to suspend reality and enjoy the whimsy. You might ask, “How do I do that?” It is the same as when you watch a movie or read a book. When you watch a great SiFi movie or even a war movie you are taken away into that moment and universe. When it is a good story you let your mind go and are there. Do the same thing when at the park when visiting with the characters. If you play with them they play with you.
Albert Einstein once said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge...” Stretch your imagination and play with the characters!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

A Date at Disneyland!

When you think of a trip to Disneyland who do you think of going? Is Disneyland for kids, families, teens looking for fun, young couples looking for excitement or is it a romantic place for couples of all ages?
I bet you did not say a romantic place for couples of all ages! Well it is!
Disneyland is a very romantic spot for my husband and I. The River Rats Jazz Band at the French Market noticed and told us we were in love 32 years ago.  Our response 32 years ago was, “Best friends forever. Romantic NEVER!” We love just walking around Main Street, especially after dark when the lights are on and stealing a kiss or just holding hands.

What is the secret to a romantic day at Disneyland?
1.       Do not be in any hurry and pick one or two things that are must do. Do you love the fireworks?? Then plan on seeing them and make sure you get the view you like the best. Maybe splurge on VIP seating. If there is a ride or show that is special to the both of you make sure you do it!
2.       Do not rush to do rides unless that is really what you want to do. Pick one or two that are special to you as a couple and enjoy and do others that have short lines that catch your attention. Does the Matterhorn have special memories for you as a couple or do you like holding each other tight as you ride? Then ride it for sure!!
3.       Take time to sit and talk. There are lots of benches around Disneyland offering beautiful views, sit and enjoy the view and people watch as you hold your sweeties hand.
4.       Look for special spots to take pictures together. In front of the Castle is obvious as is Snow White’s grotto to the right of it. My husband calls me Tink so Pixie Hallow is a place we like to take pictures. There is a small alcove on Royal Street in New Orleans with stairs leading up to a Cast Member staging area for singers and musicians. Those steps have been a place we love having our picture taken on special occasions. Don’t forget Character photo ops as well! Get a picture with your favorite toon!


5.       Find a nice place for dinner and make a reservation. We are a little toony so we enjoy Goof’s Kitchen but don’t do it often because of cost. Plaza Inn at the end of Main Street has a Victorian era and romantic feel. The Blue Bayou and Café Orleans are wonderful full service restaurants with a romantic touch. The French Market is a great place and has a life Jazz Band on their little stage so check the times and arrange your schedule if you want to hear the music.  The band playing there almost 32 years ago told us we were in love. We denied this at the time but just 6 months later were married. You may want to go to DCA, Downtown Disney or one of the Hotels. Make sure it does not conflict with plans to see Fireworks, Fantasmic or World of Color if those are part of your plans.

6.       If there is a place or ride in Disneyland that created a romantic memory for you in the past revisit it. Enjoy the memories while making new ones.
7.       Ignore crowds. If the person next to you is not touching you they are not there! Don’t let people bother you.
Now all that said here is what we did for our romantic 31st anniversary at Disneyland. As we drove to the park we called and made reservations for dinner at Café Orleans. We got to the park shortly after opening. Our first stop was City Hall to get our Anniversary Pins. We told them the story of how we realized we were in love because of the band at the French Market and they gave us Happily Ever After Pins as well. We got a locker so we did not have to carry things we did not need with us but wanted available. We wondered Main Street enjoying the shops and looking around.
I had eaten lunch at Carnation Café on Main Street in December and loved the Baked Potato Soup. I had told Scott about it so we decided to have lunch there. We sat at the front of the Café were we could watch people walking up and down the street.
After a quiet lunch we decided to get our picture taken in front of the Castle. The photographer had fun taking our picture. In fact he moved us around to several locations to take pictures. The Christmas Snow had not yet “melted” off the Castle so it was even more beautiful than usual. While taking pictures at the side of the Castle we heard the music from Pixie Hallow so we decided to go there to take pictures. We spent a long time at both locations just having fun with our identical cameras.

Scott did not get to see the park in its full Christmas glory so we went to see what was left of the Christmas special things. We were disappointed but not surprised that Haunted Manson Holiday was closed but very happy that Small World was still in its Holiday overlay. So off to Small World we went to see the World. We then went to Toontown to see Mickey and enjoy time in Mickey’s home town.

We then wondered through Fantasyland on our way to Frontierland in hopes of seeing the Laughing Stock stage show at the Golden Horseshoe. No tables at the Horseshoe but no worries we refused to be bothered. A great second choice was a romantic evening ride on the Mark Twain around the Rivers of America. Stole a few kisses while watching the shore go by.

By now it was almost time for our reservation at Café Orleans. There was time for a walk around New Orleans to enjoy what was left of the Christmas Decorations then dinner. We sat outside at the Café Orleans even though the evening was cool. It offered us a beautiful view of the Rivers of America and the Mark Twain with all its lights on sailing past several times. The meal was wonderful and we sat and talked about how we realized we were in love so long ago.

After dinner we had an hour or so to wonder Main Street. We stopped at the Castle again and spent time getting our pictures taken again. We also took our own shots of the Castle with all its lights on. As the park closed and the Photographer was taking her camera down, she offered to walk with us down Main Street to take our picture on Main Street, a hard thing to do with the dark night and bright lights.

All in all a romantic and enjoyable day and the perfect way to celebrate 31 years of Pixie Dusted marriage!