1999: Where the Disney Florida Dream Started

You might have noticed our new domain for this blog – DisneynCruising.com. It all goes back to 1999 when Rich and I flew to Orlando from San Francisco and stayed at the Yacht Club for the first time. This was Rich’s first trip to Disney World – I’d been twice before: 1982 after my first Caribbean cruise and in 1987 on a combo Big Red Boat cruise to the Bahamas/WDW trip. It was always about Disney and cruising.

1999 was quite the year. In May, we went to WDW, and in November we celebrated Rich’s parents 50th anniversary on a Caribbean cruise on the Holland America’s Westerdam out of Fort Lauderdale – our second cruise together – the first was on Celebrity’s Century (see header pic) in 1997.

By December, we bought our first home together after Rich transferred to the “Silicon Forest” office in Oregon and I continued contracting for a couple of Silicon Valley companies. That’s when this whole journey began that led to three moves to Florida and where we are today.

Skipper and Buddy were born April 9, we moved into our home on April 14th, and Skipper and Buddy came home June 19th. We got Lovey a year later. The 3 Musketeers. Skipper was devastated when we lost Lovey last year. And, now, with Skipper gone, we are grieving the end of a very special time.

Shadow is grieving terribly – running around yelling all night – not every night, although tonight is one of those nights and neither of us can sleep. So I figured it was time to pay a little tribute to the journey that started with Disney World and cruising.

After church on Sunday in Orlando, I think we’ll drive by the Windermere townhome remembering when I pulled up in front of the townhome and Rich opened the front door and Skipper just walked outside to greet me. I was horrified that he was outside – for 18 years I put my heart into loving him and protecting him and worrying about him getting outside. And now he’s gone. The end of an era that leaves me feeling rather empty.

Here are a few photos from the early days.

Buddy and Skipper with their personalized collars they hated as kittens (those were soon dispensed of) in first house in Oregon

Lovey in the dishwasher

Skipper never very far away from Lovey

Little girl with her big bruiser

“The Little Couple” (Skipper and Lovey)

Lovey loving the fireplace

The 3 Musketeers – Lovey and Skipper with the “Brother/Brother-in-law”

Living 2 miles from Cinderella Castle – remembering when I parked in front of the townhome and Rich opened the front door and Skipper just walked outside to greet me


Halfway Between Disney and the Beach

We have these defining experiences in life that lead us to follow a dream until we find fullfillment.

For my L.A. mother it was living on Bear Creek in Arkansas for two years in her teen years. Not only were my father and stepfather originally from Arkansas who had made their way to California when they were very young boys, but she could not rest until she’d found her house on another Bear Creek.

What made Bear Creek so special? She’d bonded with her father as he pursued some kind of life in a cabin farming and raising cows dream, taking a break from his job at Douglas Aircraft in L.A. after his law dream didn’t quite work out.

For me, it’s growing up halfway between Disneyland and the beach. My Florida dream was to live halfway between Disney World and the beach. On one move to Central Florida, we were closer to the beach and another move brought us outside the gates of WDW. Neither was the fulfillment I was seeking.

We were hoping to have papers signed on Friday, but the VP was out of the office again. But, alas, once those papers are signed, we will be scrambling to get everything done in a short amount of time. Choosing a place to live is #1 on my list. But how can you choose, when you’re still not sure which is the right place?

Every weekend for the past several weeks have been about making decisions. This weekend is about making the housing choice, as much as we can until we can choose for real. We’re down to 3 locations: the beach, outside the gates of WDW, or in that place I’ve been dreaming about that’s halfway between Disney and the beach – a very specific place – a place we haven’t tried yet. It’s new. It seems to fit the dream. It’s unknown. It’s risky. I’m freaking out. The cats are freaking out. Thankfully, Rich is not freaking out. At least not the way the cats and I are freaking out. 🙂

Saturday night we hopped in the jeep, drove to Primm, walked the outlet Mall, bought a T-shirt for Rich from Tommy Bahama, shared a bag of pretzel bites at Wetzel’s Pretzels for dinner, and listened to Elvis radio as we headed back to the lights of Las Vegas, mulling over our choices.

It’s easy to latch onto Windermere again. Windermere is gorgeous, upscale, and very close to Disney. It’s familiar. We’ve got people there. But it is not the Disney dream. After all these years in the desert, living near the beach would be amazing, but isolating. No, I’ve got it all planned out in my head, where I want to live, and how I want to live. Now we just wait and see if that dream will ever be fulfilled or if it can possibly turn out the way I’ve dreamed of.

T Minus 1

The meeting went well yesterday. Now we wait for the next step. But what a thing to deal with when we’re grieving for our Lovey. Skipper slept most of the day, then got up for lunch at around 3 p.m., let out a big howl, and ran upstairs and went back to sleep. Shadow ran around like a crazy man, knocked over his cat tree, howled, and ran upstairs. I feel like doing the same. Instead, I’m blogging. 🙂

Grieving for Buddy was so all encompassing – I didn’t want to go through that again. But you can’t really tell yourself not to. You must grieve. Wondering how long it took to get over the initial grief, I realized, well, until Rich was in the hospital. That put things into perspective. But maybe that was just a temporary halt to the grief and the grieving only lessened as we rebuilt our lives, just the 4 of us, by changing our environment. We had a brief 4-month stop in Portland, Oregon for Rich’s job, and then Sunnyvale, California for a year.

So maybe a move would be a good thing, although if it’s Florida, this would be the first time the “original” 5 of us wouldn’t be going. No Buddy. No Lovey. Somehow that feels less than, although we’re already talking about getting a new girl kitty once we get settled, should we move on.

The hardest part is watching Skipper grieve his Lovey. They truly were husband and wife. When we first got Skipper, well, it was love at first sight for me. I felt so guilty because I’d sworn my allegiance to Ginger. I didn’t think I could ever love a kitty more than I loved her. He knew she was the Queen and he gave her proper respect, treading lightly, giving her a wide berth as we hugged the walls. When she was gone, he mourned for 3 days, and then he realized he was the new King and he took over, as the dominant cat.


Buddy and Skipper, brothers, as Kittens

Three or four weeks later we brought Lovey home, and Skipper fell in love immediately. He was so much bigger than her, but he was very gentle, and came to her rescue whenever he thought she needed it. Even when Rich picked her up to show her the outside, Skipper would give us a look that said, “Hey, be careful with her!” And those two were inseparable. He became hers – she was very possessive – and I had to admire Skipper from afar. Now I have him back but it’s not the same because the real joy of Skipper, as it turns out, was watching him with his Lovey. It’s so painful to see him mourn her. I want to take away his pain and bring his Lovey back.

After Buddy left, he was the brother-in-law, Lovey and Skipper only grew closer. It was a beautiful thing to see, and I’m thankful to have witnessed it. But I’m grieving for so much more than just Lovey. I’m grieving for Skipper and his Bride.


Skipper and his Bride of 15.5 years

T Minus 2: Part 2

Wishing I could skip the grieving process – don’t want to go through it again – but I can’t. What I can do is show gratitude for the extra 4 years we thought we wouldn’t have with Lovey. When she was struggling with diabetes and flea bites in Sunnyvale, she got really thin and bare. We thought for sure she’d never make it back to our house in Vegas. We thought we’d move back in with just Skipper. But she proved us wrong.

She got to finish the rest of her life in this house, which we think of as Lovey’s house, and what I’d hoped for her. She ruled the bed, and the boys honored her queendom. And she got to be mommy to Shadow, something she was born to do. At three years of age, he’s outgrown that need for a mommy cat, but he and Skipper have gone from a father/son relationship to pals. They wrestle and pal around with each other.

That leaves me without a girl. That’s the loss I felt after Ginger left us. I needed a girl. Now that Lovey’s gone, what strikes me the most is how much that relationship meant to me, and that with her, I aimed to please. And without a little girl to please, I feel a bit lost. I had no idea about that pleasing portion of our relationship until she was gone.

We don’t know what today will bring after this meeting, but in the midst of grief, we need to consider our options:

  1. Stay here and get another girl and a Disneyland AP
  2. Accept a potential opportunity and move on; holding off getting another girl until we can move into our next new house

The question we face is, is it better to remain in the house where Buddy and Lovey and Skipper and Shadow have all lived, providing us with a houseful of memories? Or move on, creating new memories not to be reminded of old memories around every corner?

Speaking of memories, one of the most dramatic moments occurred soon after we moved into this house. Right away I was concerned by the open wall from the loft to the downstairs entry. I was so afraid one of the cats would slip and fall and hurt themselves. Sure enough, as much as we tried to block that area off, Lovey jumped off, attempting to land in the high window but the ledge was too narrow so she readjusted herself and made a forced landing on top of the coat closet. Rich had to get the ladder to get her down. He remembers how hard her heart was pounding – she was so afraid. So we immediately hired somebody to build a wall upstairs so that this could never happen. We were locked into the master bedroom all weekend long while this work took place.


Las Vegas house where Lovey jetted off the loft wall on the left, headed toward the window and made an emergency landing on top of the coat closet.

The other Lovey memory here was soon after we moved on – she followed me out to the front porch, probably thinking it was just another room because she never went outside. I yelled, “Lovey,” and she ducked low and froze in place. I then picked her up and carried her inside. I was so afraid she’d run when I yelled her name – thankfully, she didn’t. I was always afraid the cats would get outside.

On a side note, when we were living in that Windermere townhouse just 2 miles from Cinderella Castle, I pulled up in the Mustang and parked out front. Rich stood there with the door open, and so Skipper just wandered out to greet me. He could have been eaten by a gator – we did have one show up on our sidewalk one day. Okay, so it was just a baby. Still, this is why mommies don’t like to leave the kids with daddies. 🙂


Windermere, Florida townhome, 2 miles from Cinderella Castle


And when we were living in Oregon, I’d left the slider to the backyard open without realizing it and actually took a little nap on the living room couch. When I woke up and noticed it was open, I started looking for the cats. I told myself, “I don’t want to see one of the running up the stairs” knowing they’d been able to get outside but, sure enough, here came Buddy running up the stairs with a leaf in his mouth, presenting me with a gift.

And then back to the Lovey adventures, there was that time in our house in Tampa Bay. Rich and I had opened the slider to sit out on the screened-in Lanai, and closed the slider behind us. The next thing we knew, we heard a latch. Yep, Lovey had locked us out of the house. Rich had to go to the neighbors and asked to use their phone (he was wearing shorts and no shirt) to call the locksmith. After that, we learned to bring a set of keys and a cell phone whenever we go outside. 🙂


Tampa Bay house

Oh the adventures we have had!

Pics of Lovey when she was a tiny kitten in our home in the Portland, Oregon area (where we got all 3 kitties while living there and later Shadow by plane).





The Ricardo y Catalina Bar Hopping/Dancing in Mexico Pre Trip Report

Bar Hopping Tour in Ensenada - M jpgIt’s Salsa time! I love to dance so on the days I’m not out walking I’m doing a Zumba class. Also, it’s time to refresh my Salsa moves before our next cruise to Mexico. We’ve signed up for the bar hopping excursion, which will include some dancing. Such fun. Love, love, love Mexico. The place, the people, the dance, the food, the drink, the music… did I say the people?

Yes, my first Mexican “boyfriend” was in the third grade. His name was Philip something. He called me “Mrs. Something.” lol!

In the sixth grade, my square dancing partner was Guillermo (William) – in high school, he went by “Willie.”

My next Mexican “friend” Tom and I were classmates at that blessed year at Los Amigos. When my family moved to Oregon, we began to write to each other and I saw him a few times – he drove up to Oregon – I drove down to SoCal. He addressed his letters “To Kitten” and signed them “Love TomKat.” They made my mother very nervous. 🙂

We’d planned to meet in San Francisco but he broke it off because he was becoming exclusive with somebody. I later saw him stag in the “35th High School Reunion” video but by then I was married – the first time around.

In my twenties, my Mexican friend Ray used to take me out dancing. He was an excellent dancer and taught me a few moves. What a blast we had!

Truth be told, back in the day, my mother was afraid I’d marry a Mexican (no problem for me) and the first time she saw a picture of Rich, she thought he was Mexican – lol! So now I call him Ricardo and he calls me Catalina and we dance and get to Mexico as often as we can. And when we’re at Disney World, the Mexico Pavilion in Epcot is our favorite place to hang out.

If we don’t retire in Florida, we might just retire in Mexico – a lot of expats are doing it.

(Btw, my short stories Dear Kitten and Cougars in Cabo and my novella Raining Men were inspired by those days.)

Summer of 2015: New Chef at Artist Point

Rich sent mewl_dock the link to an article about the new chef at Artist Point. So I can’t help but think about the last time we were at Artist Point. It was for my birthday 3 years ago. Whoa! We were staying at Wilderness Lodge for the birthday weekend before we moved back from Florida the second time. The shortsightedness on my part whenever we move back west is the reality that it’ll be awhile before we can get back to WDW.

Wilderness Lodge is the resort we’ve chosen to celebrate our birthdays more than any other resort. We love the atmosphere, the water, the boat dock, the pool, the bars, the restaurants, the gift shop, and the service. So we can’t help but think about it during our summer birthday season. (I’ll be celebrating this year at Napa Rose in the Grand Californian, so similar to Wilderness Lodge in architecture.)

Browsing the menu items on the new Artist Point menu, I’m also reminded of the last time the Artist Point menu had changed. We wrote about that in Artist Point Mini Vacay. That meal was a night to remember. Thankfully, some of our favorites will still be on the Artist Point menu. But I did have to chuckle when I read this:

Every dish on the menu gets a wine pairing from sommelier Alvin Burrill, with each selection from Washington or Oregon. But Alvin also might recommend a Pacific Northwest ale if you ask, like the handcrafted Rogue Ales made in partnership with Voodoo Donuts (strange but true).

Actually, not strange at all. I learned to drink beer by pairing it with donuts when I was a teen-ager living in the Pacific Northwest. You must drink beer when you live in Oregon. 🙂

Unfortunately, now beer triggers a bit of a wheat allergy and then I can’t eat bread either. As long as I avoid beer, I can also eat bread. And as a bread addict, I’ll gladly give up beer.

This Time Last Year

This time last year we were living in Hotel California in the Bay Area and I wrote a post called “8 Months in Feels like Home.” At that time we didn’t know how or if or when we’d get to move back to our home in Las Vegas. But at least it wasn’t feeling quite as strange at that point.

After we’d lived in a few other states, we couldn’t go back to the place that had been our home for over 20 years. It was even more crowded, more expensive, and now felt claustrophobic after enjoying the wide open spaces of the desert.

This morning I walked the neighborhood and was thrilled to be back in our Vegas neighborhood. I was reminded of our first home, a tri-level townhouse on the west side of Portland, and how we’d walk the single-family home neighborhood nearby and wonder if we’d ever live in a single-family home.

In the Bay Area, we’d only dreamed of a townhouse and we had to leave the area to get one. But, alas, when we moved to Tampa Bay, we were able to buy our first single-family home. We still get nostalgic about it and as much as we loved it, Las Vegas is home.

More reminiscing this morning about how we got together in the first place when we met on the job in Silicon Valley. And our spiritual journey to the Orthodox Church. What heady times those were! Hard to believe so much time has passed since then but we’ve had quite a few adventures in-between.

We figured it would take us a year to get fully settled here in Las Vegas. At first we were terribly disappointed that his employer would only allow him to work remotely for 3 months (they were cracking down on remote workers). But the day after his employment ended with them, Rich started a new job. It’s been a tough 6 months with a career change and promotion but now he can say that he enjoys this job much more than the one he had to give up by moving back home.

We’ve been back for 9.5 months now and our kitten is the same age – he was born the day we left Hotel California. He seems to grow and change every day. We’re looking forward to when he will no longer chew electrical cords and pull on the drapes. We have a feeling we’d better plan on keeping Christmas simple this year. 🙂