lauren spitler

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Celebrate the Small Victories

I do not write regularly scheduled blog posts, which if you follow this page in some regard, you will know. I write when something specific has been on my mind, and tonight it's the idea that we need to celebrate the small victories in life.

I wrote a post awhile back and left it as an unpublished draft. I revisited it before opening the blank page for this post, and it actually covers a lot of the same material I want to write about now. Clearly, this has been on my heart for longer than I realized.

To start, nobody is going to celebrate the little things in your life. The little changes, moments of growth, glimmers of hope. At least that is what I've come to expect. People from the outside perspective want to see something noticeably different before they acknowledge, let alone celebrate. If you have somebody in your life that DOES celebrate you and the little things, don't let them leave your life! I have a few people like this, and they are truly special.

If you know a little about my story, you'll know that I took a break from school that became a longer break, and turned into a number of jobs occupying my time instead. During this time away from school, I've seen other people go on to accomplish great things. People my age have graduated from their respective schools, and became a professional in their field with their full-time jobs and careers. Others have continued on in their education to do post-grad work. Some are married, some are expecting children, and a small amount have already expanded their families with little ones. 

Now cut to me.

After years away from school, I started to look into the process of going back for classes. I applied and got accepted, and that's where I'm at now. I haven't registered for any classes because I need to meet with an admissions counselor to get an idea of where I am and what I need to take next. I haven't had the time to do that meeting yet because I've been busy working during office hours. 

For me, deciding to go back to school was a small victory. Looking into a school? Small victory. Actually applying? Small victory. Getting accepted? Small victory.

None of these things in and of themselves is huge. At the end of the day, I still don't have a college degree, and that is all some people see.

There is no glory in the process. Until I have something to prove that I did it, that I finished what I started years ago, some people see no change.

While everyone else was going on to do great things with their lives, I was comfortable just kind of staying where I was. They got the trophies, and I got the participation certificate. 

During this time I've been away from school, I have been asked by a number of people, countless times, "When are you going back?" "Are you going back this semester?" "Have you decided where you are going to go?" I've been handed course catalogs, and told when the respective deadlines are for applications. It's been draining to have to respond with the notion that I'm not ready and not looking to go back that semester to a school I didn't know about, doing a major I didn't feel ready to decide.

Flashback to the moment I actually applied to a school more recently. I secretly couldn't wait to tell certain people that I was doing this. I mean, I was finally doing what they wanted for me, and what they saw best. SO... color me surprised when I was greeted with criticism, arguments, and shaming instead.

Like, what???

I mean, I wasn't expecting a party, or applause, or showered praise, but to look down on my plans and treat me like I'll never be successful now is crazy! I want to say to people sometimes, "you heard the part about how I'm going back to school though, right?? You know, the thing you've wanted me to do for years? It's going to happen! You wanted this for me, and it's happening! So… where do you get off being rude to me about it now?"

Maybe it's because I'm not pursuing a business degree and I'm going to do something "creative" (aka a degree some people view as fluff, a waste of money, and useless). 

Speaking of celebrating the small victories! In high school, I took AP Calculus. If you know me, I hope you just had a good laugh. See, I'm not a math person at all. I know that, and it was made painfully obvious when I seemed to be the only student struggling in the class. My mind doesn't think that way. While taking notes in class, I would usually draw something each day on my sheet. I'm going to be honest; it was usually a colorful monster with a funny name. It was always something quick and fun just to make me smile. See, the other students around me would work on problems together and bounce ideas and solutions back and forth with ease, while I sat there with whiplash from watching and a headache from lack of understanding. I would try and keep it light as a way to just get by... ahem, participation certificate please! In class, I learned to celebrate EVERY small victory that came my way! I got a problem right! SCORE! My graph's picture looks just like the teacher's? HALLELUJAH! I definitely didn't excel in this class, but I made it through, and I made it through with a few laughs at the end of the day because I chose to celebrate the little things. 

With this whole school/life update thing, I forgot that not everyone looks at life that way. Some people are never going to be satisfied with my life choices, and that is TOTALLY okay! I'm not trying to over-glorify my recent progress in life, because I know that relatively speaking, it's not a lot, but in MY life and after the years of indifference and lack of motivation in this category, this is HUGE. I'm going to celebrate it that way.

It may be a party of one, but I'd rather that than a room full of party-poopers raining on my parade. 

Things for me still aren't completely finalized, but I'm almost there, and I'm choosing to look at all of the small victories with pride.

x Lauren

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Waiting Game

Twice this past weekend I was asked by two different people what I “do.” On both occasions, like every time someone has previously asked me that question or any derivative of it, I hesitated to answer.

Initially my thoughts are always feelings of embarrassment and moments of “Do I tell them?” and then it becomes a quick game in my head about how well can I phrase the answer to sound the best. The “best” being whatever carefully selected words will make me sound like I have my life together and can be somewhat professional.

This makes me wonder why that is my initial response. Quite frankly it’s because others have expressed disapproval or judgment about where I am in life in the past, and for whatever reason I let that affect me.

If you know me, you may know that I took a break from school, and that break became a longer gap than I anticipated. If you asked me back when I was in high school about my plans for the future, the immediate response would have been that I’d finish college next. That would have been a no-brainer to younger Lauren. On the checklist for my life, it would have gone high school (check!), college (check!). Instead, it’s been high school (check!), one solid year at a very good university (check!), a semester of core gen-eds locally (check!), my Disney College Program Internship (check!), and… working doing a variety of jobs to make and save money (ongoing, but check).

I’ve been asked the question of, “when are you going back to school?” more times than I could ever keep track of. The question itself is harmless, but when asked by the same people almost as a regularly scheduled activity, it drives me nuts. Nothing makes me feel like a failure more than having to always answer back with “I don’t know.” The people asking the question feel bad for me, or at least that’s how it comes across, but do they have any idea how I feel?? Ugh. I feel like crap!

I have two older siblings that have graduated their respective Universities with honors and have moved onto their respective careers and made their own homes and lives in different states. I have a younger sister that is passing me in classes and at this point, it looks and feels like she will definitely graduate before me. I have friends from high school that aren’t close anymore because they have also moved on (literally) and are simply at a different place in life now.

I fell off that path and am having a really hard time finding my way back to it. At one point, I would sell my story to others by saying that I was “making my own path” since I wasn’t doing what everyone else was, but by trying to find my own way, I seem to have gotten lost.

Now this is where you, reading this, are thinking, “it seems pretty obvious, Lauren… just go back to school…you’re the one making yourself feel this way,” and I get that and expect that so you don’t need to share those thoughts with me, but like most things in life, it hasn’t been that simple. If it were that simple, I wouldn’t be writing this post now.

Over the years of concerned family members and close friends making comments about my choice to not be in school right now, I’ve adopted the idea that this should embarrass me. I have felt the need to validate myself to the point where I consider twisting the truth and reality to sound “better.”

I have come to the realization that I’ve clearly been in a season of waiting. I’ve always been someone who likes a plan, but from my experience with Improv, been able to wing it a bit, and figure it all out as I go. This time that I’ve been away from school, I’ve been winging it with different jobs to save money for the time when I do go back to school (which side note is way too expensive, what the heck??). While I’ve been in this season of waiting, I’ve been learning valuable lessons and skills, both related to life and being an adult, but also related to work, and what I think my gifts are in the workplace. I wouldn’t have experienced these lessons, in this way, had I not taken the break I did.

This time has been teaching me and preparing me for things and opportunities in the future. I really do believe that I’ll look back one day and see how this piece of the puzzle fits into the bigger picture, and how this time made me ready for what’s next, in a way that I wasn’t ready for years ago.

I can’t explain to other people how this piece fits into the bigger picture of my life yet because obviously, I, myself, haven’t figured that out yet. I know that until then I’ll have to continue saying “I don’t know” and telling people what I am doing with my time that is not school, and I’ll have to accept whatever comment, face, shrug or sound they make as a reaction (I’m looking at you hmm-ers, ehh-ers, and pshh-ers).

BUT! If you are reading this and have been concerned for me, I want you to know that I am okay with where I’m at now. I’ve accepted it. I can’t change things from the past; I can only go forward from THIS point. Just because it’s a different path than I expected, doesn’t mean it’s been the wrong path for me. This is where I am, and I'm doing my best to look at how I can make things work for me, in this situation, going forward.

I write that last bit as a reminder to myself, just as much as I write it to share with you all, maybe even more. If my life went according to my expectations when I was younger, where's the fun in that? Haha, that would be predictable and boring. Instead, I've been given a life with so many plot-twists, and I'm just trying to keep up! The goal for now is celebrating where I'm at and the person I've become because of my struggles, keeping my head held high, and finding joy wherever I can.

Thanks for reading this far if you made it! I want to leave you with this: You are enough. Don't let others make you feel like you are less. I've been doing that related to school, and it's been unfair. Don't rob yourself of happiness by comparing your story to anyone else's story. Please. You are worth more than that :)

x Lauren

As always, if you have any thoughts you want to share with me, whether you've felt in a similar position before, or something else resonated in some way- PLEASE let me know! I'd love to chat :)

If you're looking for something more to read today, might I suggest my sister, Christine's blog post! If you need a little encouragement, this just might do the fix! (I think it really lends itself nicely as a follow-up to this post!) Tell her Lauren sent you! It will give me some good sister points ;)

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Time to Uproot?

During one of my classes at Disney, my facilitator in passing told us to "bloom where you are planted." Now, I know that that is a well-known quote, but at the time, I had never heard it, or at least never focused on the words, so for me it was such an "aha!" moment!

If you know me at all, you may know that I've felt stuck for awhile. The idea that you may be planted somewhere in life, but that you have control over what happens, was liberating. If we're talking in plant-terms, I can choose to "bloom" and achieve or wither and remain stagnant.

At some point in the last few years following that Disney class, I stumbled upon this quote by Jim Rohm: If you don't like where you are, move. You are not a tree. 

Again, for me, it was another "aha!" moment! 

Recently though, I've had to think of these ideas realistically and practically, not just as quotes you could find on Pinterest, and I'm finding these ideas to conflict.

Like I mentioned before, I've felt stuck for awhile and I've been trying to make the most of things. I've been trying to bloom where I'm planted. Different circumstances change, and situations occur that make me question why I feel the need to make things work where I am. If I'm not happy with the way things are, I should change them, no?

You can't be the plant that blooms if you are choosing to uproot yourself. This is the idea that I've been struggling with. If you choose to change things and start over, I feel like society makes you feel as though you've failed. Especially if you're not uprooting for the first time.

If we really want to stick with this vegetation metaphor, what is wrong with moving a plant? If we find that it's suffocating and dying where it is, shouldn't we try to give it new life in a new place with new soil for it to take roots?

If we are no longer prospering in our lives, and are finding that we just cannot continue to grow and bloom, shouldn't we move? Or am I being all too assuming that this is the end, but that really you should just keep trying to make things work?

I'd love to hear others' thoughts on this topic.

At what point do you decide that you can no longer bloom where you are planted? At what point do you choose to uproot yourself? Do you try and stick it out to see if things can and will get better or do you change the environment in which you want the growth to take place?

x Lauren

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Farewell, Dream Along!

Hello again! It has been awhile, huh? How have you been?

I’ve been thinking about what I wanted my next post to be, and today it became quite clear. For those of you who don’t know, Dream Along with Mickey, the long-running musical on the castle stage at Magic Kingdom had its final performance today.

Every one of my social media feeds was filled with tributes to the show and shared memories from the show today. So I thought why not add mine via my blog? Warning to all: this post will be my personal thoughts and feelings about the show and my nostalgic response to it so… if that’s not your cup of tea, no worries, but you may want to click away now!

Two years ago I attempted a post explaining why I love Disney so much. That’s quite a huge task for a blog when honestly, I could write a long-winded book on that topic, I’m sure. One of the things I mentioned was about Dream Along:
I was at Magic Kingdom in July, and while watching the Dream Along with
            Mickey castle show, which I have known the lyrics to backwards and
            forwards for a few years now, I was still swept up in the magic of it all. It
            was the strangest and yet coolest thing for me. I am telling you, I know
            that show, I really know it. I knew what lyrics were going to be sung, and
            yet while I was singing away in a crowd of hundreds, when we reached a
            certain line, completely unprepared for it, I cried. There, I said it! You think
            that’s embarrassing? I think it’s awesome!

Let me expand on that now. I was on that trip years ago because I was looking at a few schools in Florida. I have taken an unconventional college route, which I could go into another time as it’s quite lengthy in itself, but basically at the time, I knew I wasn’t happy at my current school, and needed to start looking for something else. My dad and I went down to Florida for a few days, and were able to have one Disney day, which was the coolest bonus for me! I was getting one Disney day and had to choose one park. Magic Kingdom was an easy choice, and one of the reasons was because I wanted to see Dream Along. It’s always been one of my must-dos at the parks!

“Have faith in your dreams and someday your rainbow will come smiling through.” That’s the line that had me in tears. At that time in my life, I was feeling like a failure. Looking back on it now I can tell that that point in my life was the lowest in my long depressive spell. I needed some hope, and that is exactly what Dream Along was serving up for me that day. Before that day, this line never stuck out as anything extraordinary to me, but when I heard it that day in June, the tears fell instantly as an emotional response which was greatly out of the ordinary for me.

Just the fact that I was feeling hope again was huge, but the fact that I had an emotional response of any kind was even bigger. With depression, I feel numb a lot, and for the majority of my life, I’ve not processed emotions, and definitely not outwardly expressed them. This castle show acted as a turning point for my life in a way. My thinking began to change, and I seriously credit this moment for helping me.

Dream Along with Mickey has so many great takeaways, it’s hard to keep track of them all.

First of all, it’s a celebration. What are we celebrating? Anything and everything! It’s a “magical occasion for everyone to share.” It reminds us that every day is a reason to celebrate.

Mickey tells us all that he’s brought a surprise—he’s invited some special guests to the party. Donald asks, “That’s the surprise??” To which Goofy replies, “But Donald, they’re going to bring their dreams along to share.” I love that Goofy identifies sharing our dreams with each other and living life together as something special.

Donald doesn’t believe in dreams, but Minnie tells him, “Oh, why everyone believes in dreams! You see, that’s the only way dreams can come true.” I’ve never thought about it this way, but I like it! If we don’t believe in our dreams, how can we expect them to come true? We have to keep on believing!

This musical inspires kids, and the kids at heart, to dream up anything they can think of! There is no limit to what we can dream.

Life isn’t always perfect though, and darkness finds its way in (cue Maleficent). I love that Dream Along shows that the dark side of life exists too, and whatever that may be or represent in your life, it can be defeated! I think it’s important that Donald, the once dream-skeptic, is the one to remind everyone to believe in their dreams which ultimately saves the day! Quite telling for us all.

“Every day discover dreams you never dreamed before. Make believe and let your imagination soar!” We have the power to do this. I think that is very cool.

Thank you Dream Along for the years of telling us all to seize the moment and let our fantasies and dreams set sail. Thank you for reminding us that anything is possible and wishes DO come true.

For ten years, it was the best castle party I’ve ever been invited to. (To be fair, it was the only castle party I’ve been invited to, but you know, it’s also the best!) The show’s audio lived on my phone so that I could participate any time I liked. The party is leaving the castle stage, yes, but I will still find my way to the party when I want to. Of course it won’t be in person, but rather via YouTube, but you know what? I’ll take it.

Dream Along with Mickey is a show that I will always find to be classic and timeless, and there is never a wrong time to look it up online and watch it now!

So yes, I knew the words to the songs and the dialogue, and I picked up choreography over the years, but this show gave me and so many others alike so much more—it let us celebrate the magic of dreams and watch a variety of “happily ever afters” come alive.

As they say in the show… “find a dream inside of you” and “take the dream with you, wherever you may go!”

I leave you now the same way Dream Along with Mickey ends every time, and that’s with the words of Mickey, “see ya real soon!”

x Lauren

P.S. To see many more of my photos from Dream Along, look at my Disney Instagram account: @thefantasticaldream OR this previous blog post :) 

Sunday, February 7, 2016

DIY: Disney Suitcase

As I prepared to leave on my Disneyland trip back in November, I teased a picture on my Instagram of this suitcase I painted. You can see pictures from that trip here if you haven't already!

My sister gave me this suitcase she bought at Goodwill years ago and no longer needed. I came up with the idea that I wanted to paint it. I look back on this project and smile because this was one of those things where I had no idea how I was going to accomplish it, but I had a vision for it, and made it happen.

The suitcase was probably just a few dollars, and it certainly wasn't perfect. There are a few little hiccups in the zipper (nothing major), and one of the little feet on the bottom of the suitcase is missing, but it's okay! These quirks give the suitcase some character… or should I say characters?? (ba-dum-ch) Get it? See, because there are a bunch of characters on it… hahaha.. ah.. boy.. moving on!

I had to learn a bit about the painting process along the way and figured I would share my new knowledge with you all in case you find yourself wanting to do something similar in the future!

If you are interested in knowing HOW I did it and what I used, keep reading after the pictures below :)

Back: Peter Pan, Aladdin, and Tangled!

Left Side: The Seven Dwarfs :)

Right Side: My other favorite group of guys along with the Dwarfs, the Lost Boys!

Front: UP, Finding Nemo, Dumbo, Mickey and Minnie, and Ariel with Flounder, Sebastian, and Scuttle! Also, can you spot the Hidden Mickey? Leave a comment on this post if you found it!

I had to be sure and include a bunch of my favorites on this suitcase!! I have many more favorite characters and scenes in mind and ready for a future project though, whenever that may be :)

**If you would like to see any close-up pictures of any sides in particular, let me know--I would be happy to whip the camera out again! Just comment on this post or message me about it, and I'll post the additional pictures here for you to see :)**

What I used:

  • A vinyl suitcase (probably just a few bucks when my sister purchased from thrift store)
  • Acrylic paint (yes, the cheap stuff you can get at the craft store for like 60 cents a bottle)
  • A variety of paintbrushes including very tiny ones for details
  • Satin Varnish (Can also be found at most craft stores)
  • Gloss Varnish
  • Flat (and quite wide) sable paintbrushes to seal

I had never painted on vinyl before so this was a bit interesting, but my go-to paint for any project is acrylic paint from the craft store. I learned about different ways to possibly seal my project once it was finished and decided on the varnishes listed above. 

The beauty of using the acrylic paint on vinyl is that until you seal it in the end, it can be fairly easily washed off with just water. So, what this means is that if you're not happy with something, you can take a cotton swab with a little bit of water, like I did, and "erase" your work. Also, when I was all finished with a side, I took a wipe along the edges to clean it up and this was EASY and gave it a much cleaner look and the illusion that I'm a more precise painter than I am. All smoke and mirrors, people. Let it be said for those that are worried your hours of work will be for waste, once it is sealed with the varnishes, it cannot be wiped off with water. Phew.

Now, I can't just list you all a step-by-step to-do now because that will be up to you and your design! I chose to paint on all sides of the suitcase, leaving some of the vinyl exposed for contrast. My technique was to finish a side completely, let it dry (for at least a day), and then paint on the varnish coats. I used one coat of Gloss Varnish first, and then followed with two coats of the Satin finish, with at least 3 hours between each coat, as the product labels instruct.

If you have any further questions about the process, let me know OR if you think you are going to embark on your own Disney DIY project soon, tell me about it! 

If you were to paint a suitcase of your own, which characters or scenes would you want to see on it? :)

x Lauren

Monday, December 28, 2015

Step into the Magic | Disneyland in November

"Just imagine: if you were standing right here over 60 years ago, you’d be standing in the middle of an orange grove. One visionary man stood right where you are now, but instead of orange trees, he envisioned a Magic Kingdom. This man’s name was Walt Disney, and his dream would be called Disneyland."*

As the huge Disney fan and former cast member I am, I made getting to Disneyland Resort during their Diamond Celebration year a huge goal! I'm so happy to say that I made it happen!

I have been to Disneyland before, but the last time I went was 12 years ago, long before I came to appreciate the history and imagineering Disney is known for. In a lot of ways it felt like the first time I was visiting, and to say I was excited would be an understatement! I went to California with one of my long-time family friends, Stephanie, one of my former WDW cast member friends, Lane, and I met up with my Disney College Program roommate, Maggie who works out on the West Coast now!

The first day was spent entirely at Disneyland, and we went open to close! It was cool to experience rope drop, Disneyland-style. Our main goal was to accomplish as many Disneyland exclusives as possible.

Some highlights of this first park day were Indiana Jones Adventure, Paint the Night, A Christmas Fantasy parade, meeting Chewbacca (I know!), Matterhorn Bobsleds, and Disneyland Forever. (Many of which were repeated numerous times!)

This was Lane's first Churro EVER, so yes, it was documented! The man who took our photo thought it was hilarious and was happy to be part of the moment. Gotta love people like that at Disney!

I may or may not love an animated character. It's cool guys, I promise.

Stephanie, me, Chewie, and Mags :)

It’s a world where you belong,
Where you can dream aloud.
Your heart will follow!
Get up, and sing along!
The moment’s here and now.*

One of my only Paint the Night photos because I danced along way too much to stop and take photos :)

Day two was spent mostly at Disney's California Adventure where I finally got to see Cars Land with my own eyes!! It's gorgeous and exactly as I'd hoped it would be! We finished the night by watching World of Color, and this is where I'd insert the heart-eye emoji if I could, as it was beautiful! Honestly, all of Disneyland and California Adventure was love at first (or first time in 12 years) sight for me. 

If we believe in the fantasy,
It will carry us away, carry us away.
You and me, makin’ memories today.


Meeting Chip and Dale was so much fun! They started to fight over who loved me more which resulted in me receiving a TON of Chipmunk kisses :)

The third and fourth days in the parks were spent pretty equally in both Disneyland and California Adventure, trying to conquer even more undiscovered features of the two parks!

This is a picture from my first ride (and only so far) on a ferris wheel! I had to make sure my first ride was on a wheel with my good pal Mickey's face on it, haha

Minnie is a great pal when you need a little girl chat! So fun to laugh with her!

Turn on your light!
Come on, and live the magic.
So much to find,
Come on and live the magic.*

I love this sequence of photos so much (annoyingly pats self on back) because Mickey is so stinking cute, and they make me happy! 
Just a suitcase and a dream!

Totally calling me out, haha! Heyyy Mickey :)

Forget the fact that this was clearly taken at night with a flash (hence the weird lighting), but this is like our family photo! 
Mickey and Minnie are family to me!

One quick It's a Small World pic for good measure!

…and jump to a cell phone picture cause we posed as bears before I left!

Step into the magic;
Watch the stories come to life!
Step into the magic;
Every color shines so bright.
Step into the magic!*

(see how I made these ears here)

These next few pictures are from Mickey and the Magical Map, the show I never knew was missing from my life before. I love live entertainment and musical theater, and I LOVE Disney entertainment like none other. I saw this show twice while I was visiting, and I wish I could see it a million times more. This is probably the case where other people would think, "that was nice!" and move on, and question me as to why I would want to devote entire days to seeing multiple performances of it, but hey! I seriously adore the show, and am listening to the music from the show right now as I type this, so yes, the newest obsession is real. 

Just think, all of this is yours… forever!
Come on, and live the magic!*

Goodnight, Uncle Walt.

For those of you who don't know, above the Fire Station, is Walt's apartment. He had the apartment built originally because during the park's construction, he spent so much time there on site. Mags has toured the apartment and that makes me so incredibly jealous! It's on my life goal list of things to do now! The light in the window (during Christmas time, the light is a mini lit-tree) never goes out. It remains on to honor Walt, and I sure took a moment to think of the man who dreamt of and created what has become a huge part of my life.

"As Walt Disney said, 'Disneyland will never be complete.' And as the future will show us, with enough imagination, it will continue to build and grow on one enduring promise—that all who journey into its magical gates will feel forever young. And the magic, as Walt assured us, will never end."*

Thank you for taking this Journey into Imagination with me!

x Lauren

I want to know, my friends, when can we do this again?*


** From Disneyland Forever
* From Paint the Night

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