Exactly one year ago today, I made my very first post regarding Walt Disney World after deciding to theme the blog to discuss all things Disney. A lot has happened in that year. A LOT. I will admit more often than not I’ve thought about giving up the blog – not because I don’t want to write, but I either can’t find the time to write the things I need and want to say, and then worry no one wants to read them anyway, and then fear by not writing I’ll lose what few people I do have reading my updates (thanks, Mom). It’s quite the vicious cycle. Remember when I talked about not being a professional journalist? Now would be one of those times. Most people wouldn’t be discussing this sort of thing, but I guess that’s what makes this a personal blog and not a news and information site. I do tend to wear my heart on my sleeve, both on and offline. For those that have stuck with me despite that trait, thank you. In honor of today’s anniversary, I thought I’d take a stroll down ZannaLand’s memory lane…

It’s no secret that ZannaLand has changed since its inception. In fact, when it first started there was nary a mention of Mickey and his Florida home. Originally this was a place where I sold a zine I wrote, entitled, “Zanna, Do!” all about my life as a slacker and how I was still searching for my dream job. That was in 2004, right after the sudden death of my father, after I had just turned 30 a couple of months prior. It had been my dream to be a writer since I could first put sentences together. I still have some very funny stories I wrote in grade school, summer camp, and high school which, while embarrassing to read now, bring me back to a time when I wasn’t afraid of failure or rejection. I just wrote. Then I got to college and decided to major in Creative Writing for Children and was suddenly hit with this daunting fear of “What if I fail?”. For a long time, that’s all I thought about, and decided if I didn’t try, I couldn’t fail. I then moved on to Travel & Tourism Management and living in Florida: briefly working for Disney and moving up from travel agent to manager of an Orlando area agency. I got married, had two of my children, and my dream of writing faded even further into the distance. Suddenly I was a mom first and any other ambitions went out with the diaper genie trash.

As I mentioned above, I turned 30, and two months later, my father was gone. Suddenly the little voice I’d tried to silence for so long in the back of my head was screaming at me – “Do something!”. So I wrote that zine. It seemed like a failure-free way to start out. I was publishing it myself, mailing it out to people online that wanted to read it, and even getting some independent book store distributors to sell it. It led to me writing an essay for a book that was published in 2005 entitled “If Women Ruled the World.” My piece was very fluffy and tongue-in-cheek and published alongside serious commentary on women in the world. It was exciting nonetheless. Anyway, life took over and I once again left my writing behind to carry on as a mom first and foremost. A few years passed and we relocated to Tampa, I had our third child, and as you most likely are aware, discovered twitter.

My story from that point on is well known; embracing my dreams of writing and being involved with Disney has been the best risk I ever took. Truly, I could not have been as ambitious as I was without the almost-instant support of everyone I came in contact with online. Rather than hearing “Don’t bother, there are a million and one Disney blogs out there…” I heard “Go for it, you can do it!”. Rather than hearing “The odds are against you getting on the WDW Moms Panel…” I heard, “You’d be perfect! Good luck!” And yes, my application experience was a little different because I thought I didn’t make it to the 2nd round but then I did – but sometimes technology is unreliable. Even Laura Spencer herself thought she didn’t make it to the phone interviews until right before they happened.

There will always be those that say I was picked because I was so vocal about my dreams on twitter and my blog – and yes, I was obsessed. I don’t recommend it to anyone because it truly was a 1 in 20,000 chance that I would get chosen and the odds were against me. I thought I hadn’t  made it and yes, I was crushed. I learned during those few days that it’s great to have goals, but you have to be able to adjust them if they aren’t within your power to achieve. I couldn’t *make* Disney pick me, no matter how bad I “wanted it”. I had done my best and had just gotten to the point where I was able to move on (great thanks to everyone that I leaned upon during that time, I will never forget how you all tried to lift my spirits), when I got the 2nd email telling me there was a mistake. It wasn’t a 2nd chance – it was a mistake. Obviously, my emotions were all over the place at that point and I truly can’t say how I wouldn’t handled it if I made I then didn’t make it to round 3 or the finals. But fate had different plans and I did make it to round 3, on to the phone interviews and (obviously) the panel.

As thankful and grateful as I was after getting off that phone call, a part of me never really stopped to realize what an accomplishment it actually was and to soak that in. Part of me always had my own sense of self-doubt that I had ‘bugged’ my way onto the panel. Logically though, even I can see how ridiculous that is. Why would a multi-billion dollar company choose me out of tens of thousands of entries just to ‘shut me up’? The simple answer is, they wouldn’t. The team behind the Walt Disney World Moms Panel application process doesn’t enter lightly into their choices. And while I’m never going to be the one to say, “yeah, I’m pretty awesome” the fact that Disney thought I was worthy enough to be welcomed onto this panel, is an honor to be celebrated. It has, in fact, been an amazing journey and the friends I’ve made along the way have made it all the sweeter.

Now lets get back to the blog! Once I made the panel, I was kind of in a place of limbo with the blog. Will writing it interfere with my role on the Moms Panel? Should I step away from Disney topics and attempt to be a “mom blogger”? I chose the latter and soon found out it wasn’t for me. I have great respect for mom bloggers and the real-life topics they share with all of us trying to be successful parents. I have even greater respect for those that can be completely real, dirty laundry and all, all with amazing wit and wisdom thrown in. I tried to be involved in networks and ‘get myself out there’ as much as I could. However, I soon found that blogging the same giveaways 100 other moms were posting was not for me. I had built my community of readers up by sharing my experiences and love of Disney, and now I was trying to tell them about this exciting new product. I felt like I wasn’t being true to myself. So I again returned to Disney-centric posting.

Then a funny thing happened, my adorable little baby that was crawling around suddenly started walking and talking and running and wanting to get into everything all.the.time. My older kids had a lot going on at school too and my time to blog was suddenly reduced to maybe two hours a day…and in those same two hours I had to take a shower, keep up with laundry, clean the house and once April came around, answer questions on the Moms Panel. I know thousands of women do all this and more daily, but I just couldn’t keep up and actually get any writing done. There were (and are) multiple days in a row when I just can’t update the site. Then, of course, I get anxious. “OMG everyone’s going to delete my site from their feed, stop reading, move on, and forget about me!” And yes, I am admitting that I fear that. I am not making any money from this site and I’m not in it for ‘fame’ or ‘celebrity’ in fact it makes me cringe when I see pictures or video of myself, even though I love the opportunities that take place to hang out with the other people in those pictures and videos. What I was and am in it for is to fulfill my dream of writing. I’ve made some strides there and have been incredibly grateful for the breaks I’ve been given to be a guest author and now a contributing author at Whoa, Momma! Being on the Moms Panel has also been amazing and every time I log on to answer questions, I get a smile on my face.

So, where does that leave me? Well, I’ve never been an “information only” blog. I will share news or reviews but 99% of the time I still throw my personal spin on it. The thing about blogging is you want to share your stories with others. You want people to read and connect and interact. And once you get a little of that, it does become a little addictive. It’s hard not to think, how can I reach more people? How can I get more readers? And as noted, I do have down days where I want to give it all up. This blog will always be a personal blog for better or for worse. There are 100’s or even 1000’s of blogs and sites that will tell you the latest and greatest Disney news – and they are wonderful. ZannaLand will never be one of those sites.

What I will do is tell you how walking down Main Street, USA looking up at Cinderella Castle at night still gives me chills. I’ll tell you about my interactions with Dreamfinder in 1983 and how he and Figment wanted to connect the dots on my freckles. I’ll tell you about my when my two oldest children were little and their faces lit up at the ‘snow’ and lights at the Studios or how my youngest ran to the window of Animal Kingdom Lodge and yelled out “RAFFE!” as he saw his first live giraffe through the windows. In between, I’ll share some tips and other experiences that may make your vacation more enjoyable. Maybe I’ll give some things away. Maybe I’ll share some other bloggers with you, or other travel destinations I think you may enjoy. My point is, you’ll get me, my personal experiences and then some. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. Hopefully, you’ll find something you can identify with and share back with me, because we’re just getting started.

Thank you for reading.