Goodbye Teens. Hello Twenties!

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December 31, 2019

Written by: Jim Smith

As I gaze through bittersweet eyes upon the twinkling lights of our tree, I realize that, after months of anticipation and planning, Christmas came, and in the snap of a finger, it has gone. We will squeeze a few final days out of our tree before we begin the always depressing task of undecorating.  Underneath our tree still lay a pile of opened gifts – Christmas wishes, new clothes, electronic toys, sweets and cute sentiments – and the occasional fallen pine needle. Soon “real life” will resume, and the climax of these last few bustling weeks will be in the rear view.

So too will the decade of the 2010s. The tens. The teens. We are entering the 2020s.  This time of year, especially once every ten years, provides an appropriate opportunity to look upon the year that was, or in this case, the decade that was.

As is always the case with life, it was full of ups and downs.  But for as much as we wish for our lives to be full of only the most wonderful things, I am a firm believer that one needs to experience the full spectrum of flavors in life’s cookbook in order to fully appreciate those things which come our way. The proverbial kid in a candy store will temporarily find a blissful existence, but too much of a good thing will soon normalize and will cease to be special (try spending more than fifteen minutes in a Yankee Candle store).  Walt Disney and Disney Legend John Hench concluded as much when they were entertaining the idea of building a Rock Candy Mountain attraction in Disneyland. The conclusion was that the attraction would be too sickeningly sweet, and could become downright nauseating to some. The idea was scrapped, preferring a “less is more” approach to sweets (and paving the way for Matterhorn Bobsleds).

And so it is that I reflect on the last decade, which was full of monumental personal moments.

We entered 2010 as a family of three, and in July of that year we welcomed our number one guy Benjamin into the world. Weighing in at over ten pounds, Benjamin has never been small. His head at birth was almost as large as his then four-year-old sister Abby’s head. The only thing larger than Ben’s body is his personality. Assertive, self sufficient, and stubborn as all heck, adding Ben to our family is without a doubt the greatest blessing of my decade.

We had the quintessential American family of four, and a wonderfully loyal dog. It was all I ever really wanted in life – a happy and healthy family. But about a year later, our little buddy Sammy crossed over Rainbow Bridge. Sammy was our little black Cocker Spaniel, who never left his mom’s side. He was never the healthiest dog, and he was often sick.  He endured a very trying experience that almost took his life several years earlier, but Nicole put everything she could into saving his life, and we got several more healthy years with him before we lost him at age thirteen. Losing Sammy was a blow to be sure, and after years of struggling to keep Sammy healthy, we needed a mental and emotional break after we lost him.

It would be several years until we were ready to welcome a new friend into our family, but in January 2014 Bailey joined our home. A ten-week old black and white English Springer Spaniel born on Mickey Mouse’s birthday (I think it was fate), Bailey spent his first two nights crying and howling, and then he fell in love with us. Bailey’s shenanigans are always amusing, his big brown eyes can tell an entire story, and his unconditional love reminded us why we love dogs as much as we do. When he first joined our family, I remember telling him that he had big shoes to fill.  You know, he never did fill Sammy’s shoes. He filled his own shoes. Bailey is just as wonderful as Sammy was, but in so many different ways. We thought we would be constantly comparing him to Sammy. But he was made his own way through our house and into our hearts. He’s six years old now, with the heart and energy of a puppy. He’s perfect for our family.

Over the next couple years, my mom’s health declined significantly. She battled for years with  Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), a lung condition she developed after decades of smoking. To see someone fight and suffer for years the way she did, but never lose her will to fight and survive, was both inspiring and heartbreaking. She lost her battle with COPD in February 2016.  It is only with the loss of someone so special that you can think deeply enough to reflect on the life you had with them, appreciate the good moments your shared, and maybe regret some things you said (or didn’t say). There are only so many do-overs in life, and my mom leaving me with a few untied loose ends instilled in me a clearer plan to appreciate my own children, now while they are young, and into the future as they grow. 

My mom left behind a beautiful family of four children – myself and three siblings. We are all married or have life partners, and between us we gave our mom nine grandchildren. Two of her grandchildren married during the decade, and another was just engaged over Christmas. The cycle of life continues, and instead of being a little kid that gets dragged to his older cousins’ weddings, I now proudly attend the weddings of my beloved nieces and nephews.

I entered this decade in my mid-thirties, having a hip problem and chronically battling with being overweight since fifth grade.  I decided enough was enough – it was time for me to get serious about being in shape. I started running, and I haven’t stopped. I first participated in a four-mile town road race, and I didn’t even get halfway through before I had to walk most of the rest of the race. That was a wake-up call, and over the course of the decade I progressed from 5ks to 10ks to half marathons, and finally to a full marathon in October 2017. The US Marine Corps Marathon in Washington DC was the single most physically challenging goal I had ever set and achieved for myself. It felt like a solitary goal as I ran the roads day after day after day. But a crush of love and support rained down upon me when almost all of my family met me at the finish line.  It was the end of an agonizingly long road, but one that ended in incredible triumph. I have a tall and lanky body, and flat feet – not the ideal build for running. I still run, but I’m not sure I’ll do another full marathon. Time will tell I suppose?

As our children started to grow, my lifelong love of Disney was reignited.  I was all about Disney as a kid, but my expression of that love faded a bit in high school and into college. Post-college adult life just sort of happened, and it wasn’t until my wife Nicole found Mickey Mouse Clubhouse for Abby around her age of three, that I stepped deeply back into Disney.  We as a family have since continued to love and appreciate all things Disney, and we were blessed to have taken three family vacations to Walt Disney World – in 2013, 2015, and 2017. We stayed at different resorts, sought out different experiences, and made each trip special as the moment in time it was for each of our children.

My passion for Disney history, and Walt Disney himself, bloomed in the final years of the decade. I have now read easily a dozen books about Walt, with several more in the queue. I have found more inspiration in Walt’s struggles and achievements than I have in any contemporary world leader.

Having learned a ton about Walt and the Disney Company over the last few years, I was excited to try my hand at writing a few articles. I shopped around a bit trying to write for other sites, but was unable to find any takers, so I decided to start my own site. “Start your blog in 10 minutes” they said. Well, for someone who was always intimidated by computers throughout school, and has never been very tech savvy, this was a deep dive for me.

But you know what? I did it.  I have literally learned my way through the process of starting a blog site, linking social media, writing posts, manipulating images, and all the technical glitches that have come along with it. When I started my Instagram page in early 2018, I called it Disney Rabbithole. I have since reimagined it as Disney Facts and Figment. I do this with a bit of technical assistance from Abby, my now thirteen-year-old daughter!

facts and figment

My blog site? Only operating since October 2019.  It is small, and I haven’t written too many posts yet.  I may only have a small handful of readers so far, but this is mine. I will continue to work at this, to publish more content.  To share my love of Disney, as well as some personal experiences and reflection. For people who are interested in what I have to offer, I will work to entertain and to inform them.  I love learning and writing about Disney, and I love this journey that I have started.

As I head into “The Twenties” my resolution to myself is to be more true to myself. I keep way too many of my thoughts and beliefs quietly inside me, including my love of Disney. Only a select few individuals even know that I have a Disney blog and social media pages. I resolve to be more true to who I am, to be more comfortable revealing myself, my thoughts and feelings, to others. And I hope you will come along with me.

Toast to the Twenties!

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