Happy 2010 to all reading this! I took a bit of time off from writing for the holidays to enjoy some family time at home, but now it’s time to get back into full swing here at ZannaLand. I can’t tell you how excited I am for this new year and all it may bring. I thought I’d take a moment to talk about where I’ve come from and where I hope to be going in 2010.

According to my archives, I wrote my first entry on this blog on March 5, 2009. It was a pretty silly entry about working on the technical stuff and how I’d soon be updating. Then a month went by and I posted one more time. And another month and I posted a rant about annoying people leading up to Mother’s Day. Then…I decided to make the switch and talk about what I knew, Disney. In June, I started writing semi-regularly about the topic I know and love, Walt Disney World. It’s been both a long 10 months and at the same time feels like the past year flew by.

I went through many changes in a short time with the blog, wondering if I should be all newsy and informative, realizing no one can compete with the amazing Disney news sources already out there, thinking I should be more personal, starting up a sub-blog about personal things, realizing I should just combine the two, and getting to where I am today – a blog about all the things I find interesting and share-worthy about my life, family and the World (Disney World that is). I know a lot more about the world of blogging and social media than when I started, but boy do I still have a lot to learn! And I can’t wait to learn it!

I’m not sure if anyone has read my About Me section, but I thought I’d expand a little bit on it. I’ve actually been writing online for over 10 years now, before it was really called blogging. I started out when I discovered iVillage.com and the due-date message boards they had there for children born in the same month/year. I joined the January 1999 one and soon made a ton of new friends with babies born the same time as my firstborn. There were message boards for pretty much any and every parenting topic as well as women’s issues etc. Members could volunteer to be Community Leaders (CL’s) on the message boards and be in charge of keeping conversations going and welcoming new members. After being a member for a while, I decided to try my hand at leading a few communities.

Around that time, in 2001, iVillage was bought by Hearst Magazines and decided to add many new message boards themed to the various magazines they published, from Good House keeping to Cosmo (with quite shocking topics, in keeping with the Cosmo reputation). I can’t really remember which boards I was hosting now so many years later, because at one time I got up to 14 boards that I led. It was really my escape and my sanity-saver, being a stay at home mom of 2 under 2.

I remember wanting more than anything to be a CM – Community Moderator, which was actually a paid position and you were in charge of deleting inappropriate posts and motivating the CL’s to keep the boards running smoothly. I tried twice in a year to obtain one of those coveted positions, to no avail. (Think of it as the Disney Moms Panel of its time, only a paid position.) I didn’t understand why I wasn’t chosen for it until I learned of the politics and behind-the-scenes things going on. Finally I realized it was just too much drama and was not worth the heartache and headache for something I wasn’t even that passionate about. I do believe everything happens for a reason, and my lack of passion was the lesson I needed to learn at that time. iVillage is now affiliated with NBC/Universal and is I’m sure a completely different animal than it was in 1999 or even 2002. I haven’t even logged onto the site since that time frame so I have no clue what the message boards are like anymore.

Around April of 2002, my best friend asked me to add her as a friend on LiveJournal. It wasn’t until she asked that I realized I had signed up a year earlier but hadn’t done anything with it. Posting there was strange at first; it was like an online diary, and who is used to readers of a diary? I posted there “friends-only” which meant it was not open to the public, only those I added to my list could read what I had to say. Writing on lj was so freeing! I’d been posting for almost 3 years in a venue where you were censored with what words you could say, what topics you could discuss, and worry about community reaction to your words. On LiveJournal I could say anything and no one really cared. In the back of my mind even then, I longed to write publicly, but feared no one outside of my little circle of friends would be interested.

I posted there regularly, building up my ‘friends list’ and joining communities that seemed fun or interesting. I shared stories and pictures of my kids growing up, I started my own separate communities for Orlando residents, weight-loss support, and making graphics. Reading my friends list was a daily necessity as was hitting refresh all day to see what new posts had been written. At one point I had close to 500 followers, which by lj standards was a lot. While there I learned that I was not ‘just a mom’. I was friends with people from all walks of life, with all different lifestyles and cultural backgrounds. People I would never have had a chance to meet otherwise. These same people became my support system, seeing me through my rough times and my triumphs. They were there for me as we moved cross-country 3 times. There for me when my dad got sick and passed away. There for me when I took the plunge into writing and produced my own zine and later got an essay published in a book. I took risks I never thought I’d take thanks to the built-in cheering squad I had. (Twitter users, sound familiar?)

I became so close to some friends, that I actually met up with them in real life. Over the years I met about 20 people that up until that point had just been words on a screen. People came to visit me and I gladly opened my home to them like family and of course showed them around Disney World as well. One particular couple clicked so well with us, they’ve visited from California 3 times – and we asked them to be baby G’s godparents. As a shy person, I never thought I’d be able to just meet up with “strangers”, find out we had so much in common and become friends for life. I have lj to thank for that, for allowing me to take the risks I did both in life and in writing, to advance to the next level in my goals as a person. Having a place to work out the inner thoughts in my mind helped me realize what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go with my life.

That brings us back to blogging and social media. I’d heard about twitter for about a year before really understanding the point of it. Even when I finally signed up, I still didn’t ‘get it’. I abandoned my account for a while, then in March of last year, created the current account I have now,  in hopes of promoting the new blog. Soon I found out that there was a huge Disney presence on twitter. I was adding people right and left and then finding mom bloggers, businesses and even some celebrities to follow.

Within weeks I was again creating connections and even friendships via twitter. It was amazing to me to have people interested in my little 140 character updates and pictures. People actually wanted to read my blog and I loved re-tweeting links or tweets I wanted to share. I remember my ecstatic reaction to Russell Brand actually replying to my tweet to him. Russell Brand! I was equally excited when Disney Parks followed me back. I was actually networking and fostering relationships!

I will admit to going a bit overboard at times on twitter – I am easily excitable and the WDW Moms Panel was a perfect example of that. Once I had it in my mind to achieve that goal, my focus was on getting noticed and sharing my commitment to that goal. Did my constant tweeting about wanting to make the panel help? I’ll never know for sure. I mean, even now that I’m on the panel, I have no more insight into how the panelists are chosen. I am confident in my Disney knowledge and background and made it a personal goal to use and share that knowledge with others. If I hadn’t made the panel, I probably could’ve found 100 reasons why (especially after meeting my fellow panel members with their amazing backgrounds!). I will say this – there are 1000’s of people on twitter with a bigger following/fan base than I have as well as the majority of 2010 panelists not having any real twitter or online presence at all prior to being chosen. More proof that there isn’t any ONE thing Disney is looking for.

So what does the future hold here at ZannaLand? Who knows – and that’s how I like it! Anything is possible, I’ve proven that. I hope to expand my readership here as well as being involved with as many social media and other projects as I can manage. Someday I’ll write that book that lives in my head, but until then, I’m having fun just sharing my memories and life here with all of you. I am so completely beyond excited for the new year with the Walt Disney World Moms Panel and while I have no expectations other than serving my quarter answering questions in April, I welcome any and all opportunities that being a panel member may bring.

Since achieving my goal of making it to the panel and taking part in the training we all experienced, my new goal is to somehow, someway, someday become a Disney cast member again. It’s funny how being a cast member in the theme parks at 22 is an amazing experience, but really doesn’t clue you in to just the sheer number of amazing cast member opportunities that exist at Disney Parks. Getting to see the special events and PR/social media team up close and person gives a girl a whole new set of dreams. Until that magical moment however, I’ll be here sharing my stories, pictures, experiences and reviews with you – and I can’t wait to see what the new year brings us all. I’ve met some unbelievably wonderful people through twitter. Like lj, people I never would have normally met in my day to day life. I am so grateful for the connections I’ve made and friendships I’ve started because of it. Twitter and blogging are not about the number of followers you can earn, or subscribers you can garner – it’s about relationships you can create. I’m so happy with the ones I’ve created and can’t wait to make more.

Happy New Year!