Straight from my heart â€“ A glimpse into what makes my fellow Panelists so very precious to me.
One of the greatest gifts that the Panel has brought to my life has been my priceless friend Kathie. We share so much in common and she is truly like a sister that I never had. Beyond our shared love for all things Disney, we have found countless ties that bind. Many of those are intangibles, but a few of them are: We both grew up in New England, were born just months apart, have boys the same age, share an uncommon love for Star Wars, found our Prince Charming’s later in life, are Type-A organizers and most importantly…we share the same values and morals.
Kathie and I both tried several times before finally making it onto the Moms Panel. In fact, we were both Finalists in previous years. Kathie was an ’08 Finalist and I was in ’09. It just wasn’t meant to be back then. I believe everything happens for a reason and I know now that we were meant to join the Moms Panel Family together in 2010. During the selection process, Kathie and I first connected on the DIS boards. We were a sense of support for each other along with a big group of “hopefuls”. We quickly became Facebook friends and we often instant messaged each other. While our familyâ€™s knew how much we wanted to be able to achieve this dream, we truly understood how very much this magical wish meantâ€¦because we shared it in common. On the day that we were to receive “the” phone call which would either welcome us to the Panel, or tell us our dream hadn’t quite come true again…we were both nervous wrecks. We were anxiously chattering back and forth, when I told her I had to get off and go do laundry or something to keep myself occupied. I picked up a basket, and my phone rang. After I hung up and pulled myself out of the clouds, I immediately thought of Kathie. I honestly couldn’t celebrate until I knew she had made it too. It was lunch time, so we figured we’d need to wait a little while. The moments crawled by as we waited for her call. At one point I specifically recall her thinking no news was bad news, and that she didn’t make it again. I countered with, “I’ll believe for you then.” It was such a tense hour between when I got my call and she got hers. Finally, my phone rang again. This time sweet Kathie was on the other end sharing her magical news!
By the time we finally met in person at the Orlando airport, we had already spent hours getting to know each other online and over the phone. I felt like I’d known her forever, but I’d never even seen her yet. We were told we’d need to “buddy up” the first night. It isn’t hard to figure out who my buddy was. We chose flights that would arrive within moments of each other so that we could begin the adventure together. This photo was taken right after we landed a few gates apart, we were so excited to see what the weekend held in store for us. Looking back, I don’t think I had fully grasped yet that I had just met someone who has truly become a sister to me.
Upon returning home, I wrote my Training Trip Report for my blog. In it, this is how I described Kathie: “Where do I begin, when I want to describe ‘my buddy’ Kathie? Genuine, pure, funny, passionate, supportive, loyal, fellow-Disney-fanatic, compassionate, thoughtful, positive, companion, classic, trustworthy and friendâ€¦those words come to mind. From the congratulatory phone call way back when we first made the Panel (I think we told each other even before we told our husbands)â€¦to the countless instant message conversations weâ€™ve already hadâ€¦I feel like weâ€™ve been friends forever.”
I love this photo of her when we were waiting to ride Toy Story Mania together. I quickly discovered that she is quite competitive when it comes to that ride. She even snapped photos of the score after each “round” to show how badly she was beating me. Someone remind me to research all the “cheat sheets” before our rematch at the reunion in the fall.Â 😉
Our first night of training, we had dinner at the Prop Shop in Hollywood Studios. It was such a surreal experience, and because of how hard we had tried to get on the Panel, every tiny detail of the trip carried extra meaning for us.
This photo below includes four of us who were former Finalists who realized that sometimes the 2nd or 3rd time is the charm. Diane L. and Karen made the ’09 Panel after making it to the finals in ’08.
Kathie is an amazingly talented stained glass artist. She made this breathtaking gift of the Moms Panel logo for Laura and Leanne.
This is one of my favorite photos of us. We were headed to Downtown Disney to buy a Christmas ornament to commemorate our Training Trip. We were so proud to finally be wearing that signature “Moms Panel Pink”.
This was bright and early in the morning as we waited for our photo shoot. The sun was rising and Kathie sparkled and shined.
The next photo requires a little bit of introduction. 😉 Allow me to rewind just a little bit to an excerpt from my Moms Panel Training Trip Report: During the selection process, “somewhere after Round 2 and before the Final interview phase, when we were chatting online one night, the conversation led to our favorite rides at Disney World. I mentioned how much I love Tower of Terror, and Kathie confessed that she had never been on it. *gasp* Never been on Tower of Terror?! We HAD to fix that. So, we made a dealâ€¦if somehow we both were blessed enough to make it on to the Panel, we would ride Tower of Terror together. ” It was quite the bonding experience.
It isn’t often that someone comes into your life that you know you can count on no matter what. The Moms Panel has brought a whole bunch of those people into my life. How lucky am I ?! When the weekend came to a close, I was left feeling incredibly blessed. Not only for the opportunity to share my Disney knowledge and passion with the world, but also for my amazing new family. I knew that no matter what, we would be friends for life.
Although we chatted almost daily throughout much of 2010, I didn’t get to see Kathie again until the Moms Panel Reunion last October. We met up at Give Kids the World to make our donation.
Our kids were finally able to meet each other at that point. Her son Dillon and my son Shawn are the same age and they became instant friends, sharing laughs within moments of meeting each other.
Her daughter Dakota and my son Jared also shared many great memories that weekend and have a wonderful friendship now.
Kathie has been a huge inspiration to me on so many levels. She has lost 60 pounds since 2009. You can read about her journey here. She was the motivation behind my running my first 5K last October. Her husband and children ran with her and my 2 sons ran with me. Whenever I need a little pep talk, Kathie is right there…ready to listen and lend encouragement. We’re talking about walking the 5K together for the Moms Panel Reunion this year (if my ankle heals). It’s taking place at the Animal Kingdom Park this time, which just so happens to be one of our favorite parks. Since we’ll be rooming together along with Amanda A, it’s quite likely that we’ll drag her out of bed to join us too. 😉
Disney held a “Mom’s Panel Meet & Greet” at the Odyssey last October. We had a blast getting to know fellow WDW fans and talking about the Panel. This photo was taken just before they opened the doors to the event.
That evening Laura treated the Panelists and our family’s to an IllumiNations Dessert Reception. It was so special watching one of my favorite shows with many of my favorite people in the world. Here’s Maria, Amanda, Kathie and I.
On Sunday, a huge group of us went to Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party together. Kathie and I had made an appointment for our kids at The Pirates League. They had a blast doing the make-over together. Here’s Kathie and her husband Josh enjoying the transformations.
Our crew of pirates 🙂
Kathie and I during the Party.
A few days later, Kathie, Amanda and I met in the lobby of the Grand Floridian with our family’s. They were headed home and I was off to Blizzard Beach for the day (hence my outfit). I love these ladies so much, it was really hard to say goodbye again.
The kids all had a blast getting to know each other, and couldn’t wait for the next get-together.
In February, Kathie flew up to New England for work and we were able to meet for a few hours in Boston. This was such a special treat, as I was suffering from withdrawals. 😉
I recently hosted a “Moms Panel BBQ” over the 4th of July weekend. Kathie and her family are up in Vermont for a month, Marc was visiting the Cape from New York and Ritzy came up from Rhode Island. It was so nice to see everyone again!
Kathie and her family spent the night, and the kids had a blast reconnecting again. It’s really unfortunate that they live in South Carolina and we’re way up here in Cape Cod. We would all give anything to be able to see each other more often. 🙁
Saying “bye again” last week was a little bit easier this time, because I know I’ll be seeing my sweet Kathie again in September for the reunion. Kathie means more to me than words can possibly begin to describe, but I hope that I have managed to give you a tiny glimpse into what an incredible person she is.
Kathie and I recorded a Be Our Guest Podcast last year for people interested in joining the Moms Panel. You can listen to that here: http://beourguestpodcast.podbean.com/2010/09/09/episode-262-disney-moms-panel-2011-preview/
You can follow Kathie on Twitter: @magic2go
Read Kathie’s blog here: What Now ?!?!?
Love ya, Kathie!
*Want to get to know some more Walt Disney World Moms Panel Moms & Dads? I share a different Panelist with you each Monday! Hereâ€™s the link to all of them so far:
Be sure to stop back by next week!