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Buying Tickets To Walt Disney World: A Little More Complicated Than 25 Years Ago

Twenty-five years ago, buying tickets to Walt Disney World consisted of showing up at the gate and purchasing a ticket. It was simple, and it didn’t require much more effort than having money in the bank to afford them. Now, thanks to our new normal that includes living with COVID among us, buying tickets to visit Disney World is a little more complicated than the last time I did it in 1996.

image of tickets and text save money on your tickets

2020 & the Dawn of the Park Reservation System

Prior to the March 12, 2020 closure of Walt Disney World, the park reservation system did not exist. Once the park reopened in July, it was necessary to implement new COVID-19 restrictions and procedures to ensure that park employees and visitors were able to safely enjoy the park. Part of the new normal included face protections (masks), social distancing rules in the ride queues as well as on the rides, and limits to the number of attendees in the parks. Now, for one to enter one of the four parks at Walt Disney World, both a park reservation and valid ticket (or pass) for the same park on the same date is required. And heads up, the limited availability of park reservations means that you should make your theme park reservations IMMEDIATELY after purchasing your admission tickets. Don’t push it into the “do it later” pile and end up without a park reservation.

Get comfortable with the idea of the park reservation system. Disney has announced the system will be in place until at least 2023!

Start Here

Before you do anything, and especially before purchasing your tickets, check out the calendar of theme park availability to see if the days you wish to attend are available for a reservation.

Below is an example from the Disney site that shows the desired search result: green means all parks available.

calendar of days for Disney World

You’ve got the green light for dates, and now you’ll need to get your tickets. You have many options when buying tickets. You can purchase direct from Disney, you can go through a travel agent, and there are a number of websites that sell tickets, too. Don’t forget your local banks, credit unions, shopping clubs, and possibly insurance companies. Check out their website or give a call to inquire if they sell tickets. Discount tickets are everywhere, but vet the sources before spending your money. You’ll really need to do your homework when researching ticket vendors. Read reviews of those services and sites. I did a lot of research and happily landed at Undercover Tourist.

Discount Disney Tickets

The Undercover Tourist site is user friendly, and there is no delay between ordering tickets and receiving communication from them, whether it be receiving an emailed receipt or the confirmation of the purchase of your tickets. For example, I received an email with a receipt at 1:30 and had my ticket ID numbers emailed to me at 1:36. They do not charge any hidden fees, tax is included in the price, and your actual tickets are mailed to you with free shipping! You will receive an email with the actual ticket ID numbers that will allow you to immediately go into the Disney phone app and reserve your park preferences! I was seriously nervous about plopping down $1,500 for the tickets to an unknown source, but the online reviews were all extremely positive. They were also running a great promotion that discounted the purchase an additional $30.

The Undercover Tourist offers a refund policy. Per their site, “Your confidence in purchasing takes priority, which is why we offer a 90-day Return Policy and use common sense and fair practices when dealing with your cancellations & refunds. If you believe you are eligible for a refund, please contact us for further shipping instructions. Once tickets have been received and verified by Undercover Tourist, we will issue a refund back to the initial form of payment according to the terms below within 15 business days.”

image of piggy bank with money with every dime saved counts text

Our plan was to visit Disney for four days, providing one day per park. Undercover Tourist featured a promotion for a 4-Day ticket with an extra day at a great rate, so we chose for that option, giving us five days at the park.

My purchase:

order summary of purchase for disney tickets

Note that this is a 5 day ticket! Tax is included and that is a nearly $100 savings (see below)! The online promotion made it an easy option to pick up an extra day!

When price comparing, check out the daily price of the ticket at the Disney site. The price will vary based upon time of year, day of week, and what ticket option you are selecting (park hopper, water park admissions, etc…). My party will consist of three adults, and we wanted four days in the park with the park hopper option without any water park visits. It works out that we are traveling when tickets appear to be less expensive, and that really helps the budget restrictions. The more days you add to your visit, the cheaper tickets are per day!

Let’s check out the Disney site. As you can see, tickets per day are $106, for a total of $527.39 per person before tax.

calendar with prices for disney

After tax, the total came to $1685.04. Also note, the tickets at Walt Disney World are not refundable. They do offer free shipping on your actual tickets mailed via USPS, or you can opt to receive the tickets via email and use that email when you reach the park.

price of five day ticket to disney world

4-Day Disney Theme Park Ticket with Park Hopper® Option – with Extra Day – ADULT $529.82 per person (and tax is included in that price), but after the $30 promo discount (and applying $10 of the discount to each ticket), that brought the tickets per person down to $519.82! Five days at $104 per day!

At the Disney site, the 5-Day Disney Theme Park Ticket with Park Hopper® Option -ADULT $527.39 per ticket (before tax) and after tax, $561.08 per person. Five days at $112.22 per day.

Undercover Tourist came out ahead for a total savings of $125.58 versus purchasing the tickets at Disney. I’m excited to have the option of an extra day, especially if we need extra time to fit in the rides we are really hoping to experience, like Rise of the Resistance.

Remember, your savings experience may vary. You may find a greater discount when you are combining on-site lodging with your admission tickets. Different coupons and promos may be offered at Undercover Tourist, too. For the purposes of my trip, and as a general guidance, I am encouraging everyone to evaluate the options that exist and scoop up the best deals that will help you create the memorable trip you desire.

Have a frugal ticket purchase tip? Let me know!

Disclaimer: I became an affiliate for Undercover Tourist after I used the service and wanted to share them as a resource.

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Planning A Frugal and Fun Vacation to Walt Disney World and Universal Studios

Come along with me as I plan my vacation to Walt Disney World and Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida! It will be frugal, it will be fun, and it will be in September 2021! I haven’t had a vacation since 2004. Seventeen years! I think I’m overdue for some relaxation and fun at the Most Magical Place on Earth* and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando.

* while I love Disney World, I consider the most magical place on earth to be Asheville, NC.

I’ll be sharing my tips, tricks, and guides that I am discovering throughout my blog. You can always check out this page for the running list of posts, and don’t forget to check out my list of essentials for the trip!

The cute cups you see photographed are from TJMaxx. 🙂 I’m not a diehard collector of all things Disney, but this is a big trip for me, and I want to have fun counting down to the event as well as attending it.

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Blue Light Protection From DIFF Charitable Eyewear

This is my frame, but they are currently out of stock. Yes, I’m wearing readers on my head. I’m 45 and I rock the reader.

FINN – SEA TORTOISE + BLUE LIGHT TECHNOLOGY

Thank you, AllTrue (previously Causebox) for introducing me to DIFF blue light technology glasses. They were an option to choose from as an item in my SPRING 2021 AllTrue subscription box. I didn’t choose them, but they were available for purchase in the add-on market and thought I would try them out. You can check out the unboxing video below.

I initially thought they were a gimmick and the latest fad that everyone professes they need to have before they forget the glasses in a few months in the back of the junk drawer. My few weeks in these glasses has proven beyond beneficial, and I can honestly report that they are 100% necessary if you work on a computer or use your phone a lot. If you need to find out why blue light is worrying, here is a great article from UC Davis.

The lenses have a slight yellow to them that warms up the online page. It is much more comfortable for my eyes. I notice a difference in eye strain when I’m watching tv as well. In a chat with their online customer service, they stated the lenses are 30% blue light blocking.

photo of diff glasses

Bottom line: While I don’t have a method to measure what blue light is reaching my eye, I believe they truly help protect your eyes from the harmful blue light emitted from your digital screens that is contributing to your eye strain. I believe this because my eyes just feel better when I’m wearing them and they feel worse when I’m not. That’s easy math for me, and I’m a convert.

I’m wearing size medium, measurements for the glasses are 48 – 21 – 145, they are unisex with scratch resistant nylon lenses and the frame is a hand cut acetate. Additional bonus points, if something happens to the lenses or I just need another pair of glasses, they can be fitted with prescription lenses!

I love that DIFF is giving back with every purchase we make with them! “Every pair of DIFF glasses sold helps to provide the gift of sight to someone in need through eye exams, glasses, medicine, and surgery. To date, we’ve donated over 1.5 MILLION pairs of glasses worldwide — and that’s just the beginning of it.”

You can also purchase the glasses at Amazon. They would make a perfect gift for the writer in your life!

Some links on my site are part of affiliate programs, and if you click on them or make a purchase from the link, I may make a few pennies.

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Goodbye to My Groovy Kind of Love

painted canvas of a young boy and girl under the night sky by Jeannie M. Bushnell
I love this clip of Phil performing “Groovy Kind of Love” on Donahue. It shows fashion and hair of the times.

In a month, he will be gone from this Earth for a year. For me, you died today, the moment I saw your obituary. Until we know someone has died, they live in this forever alive bubble that gives us false belief that we could see them again one day. Until we can’t.

I started writing this a month ago. It has taken me that long to navigate my feelings and discover how I wanted to express the sense of loss I feel. Writing is the way in which I do that, and this is the platform I have to express it upon. This is my goodbye to my first puppy love. I don’t use that term as a negative. Quite the opposite, as I use it with reverence. We had a fantastic love that consisted of loving one another for who they were. I use puppy as a term of youth, not to say we didn’t have true feelings.

I had slept so soundly, in a way that I hadn’t slept in twenty years. I woke up remembering I had dreamed of Jason. It was a vivid dream that felt so real, as though he had been right in front of me. In my dream, we were on a park bench, surrounded by fall foliage of incredible colors. I asked him why we were meeting here, and he said because he knew I liked it. He then looked at me, smiled from his eyes, and told me to look him up. I asked what he meant, and he told me to look him up. I woke up, feeling incredibly rested and happy. I’d certainly not gone to bed expecting to dream of him, but what a nice visit we had in my dream.

Later that day, I felt a pull on my mind, hearing his voice instructing me to look him up. I quickly felt all the joy I’d experienced earlier leave me. The first return on the internet search was his obituary, dated 2020.

I could never stay mad at him. He made jokes about his mistakes and made sure you quickly replaced anger with laughter. He was pure sunlight to me. Bright blonde hair and blue eyes that never made me want to stop gazing into them. I was a serious student who thrived on teacher approval, and he was the class clown who didn’t care for school and was often punished with spankings or whoopings, as we called it, with a wooden paddle, for failing to complete his homework or talking in class. Corporal punishment was alive and well in Tennessee in the ’80s.

Captured as we waited for our school bus to go home. Eighth grade.

We were boyfriend and girlfriend from the sixth to the eighth grade. My father thought Jason could do no wrong. Truth be told, Jason was very similar to my father in personality, but his spirit was more sensitive and gentle. Jason worked hard in the fields in the summer, and my father liked that. He also liked the way Jason made me smile. “If he makes my daughter smile like that, he can’t be too bad.”

He was everything I didn’t have in my life. He was steady and dependable. He loved me openly and without judgement. He had lived in the same town his whole life and knew he would die there, too. I was a wandering leaf, blowing in the wind, never staying in one place long enough to call it home. I had learned to be independent and quiet. He lived life out loud, dancing when the spirit struck him, and always finding a moment to be tender with affection. I’d never experienced anything like him.

Our Sixth grade Graduation. The rebel removed his tie.

Our differences made us great friends and the points where we touched and overlapped made us always seek one another out. I have so many fun stories of my time with him, but ultimately, the greatest moment we shared was the time we had to say goodbye.

My life was tumultuous at best, and in my thirteen years on the planet, I had learned that the rug was always waiting to be pulled out from under me. It had happened many times before, but this time, I was completely caught off guard. It was early November, and everyone was preparing plans for Thanksgiving and school break. When I got home that day, my mother opened the door to tell me that I needed to start packing, as my father had left us, we were evicted, and we were going to Arkansas to see my half-sister who I hadn’t seen since I was three.

We had been evicted before. My father had left us before. I’d moved around a lot. The difference was, this time I was connected to someone that made me want to never move again. I wasn’t crazy about the small town in Tennessee, but I was crazy about that boy, and the thought of leaving him made this time hurt way worse than all the times before.

My mother moved about in a frenzied state, calling U-Haul to get a truck, smoking cigarette after cigarette as though it gave her body fuel. She paused long enough to tell me how embarrassed she was because the cop who served the eviction notice was Jason’s Uncle. He knew of me and had been very kind to her. I wanted to disappear. I knew this small town would soon be craving more information and making up stories to fill in the gaps. The story was simple–my father was poor at money management and frequently found himself in need of financial support from his mother. He’d run off to her open arms while my mother and I cleaned up the mess he left behind. I’ve never publicly said any of this, as it was always drilled into me that my life should be a secret, and no one should know what happened in our home. It isn’t easy to write.

Jason called me later that night, and I listened to him tell me about school and what he was looking forward to over break. I just wanted to listen to him. He noticed how quiet I was and asked what was wrong. I honestly cannot remember if I told him then or the next morning before school that I was leaving. I have an extraordinarily good memory, but this moment is blank for me. I can only remember hurting and feeling like I needed to protect him from the pain I was about to inflict.

The next day at school, I had to alert my teachers about my move. I wanted to leave the school as quietly as possible. I didn’t like to attract attention when I exited a school. I didn’t like to attract attention at all, but being the perpetual “new girl” as frequently as I was, it was unavoidable. I didn’t plan on telling anyone about my move until a nice boy in my class commented that I seemed so sad that day. I was always the happy girl, and people notice when you aren’t smiling. We were in the hallway, between classes, and I told him. I figured I didn’t have anything to lose. He was a friend, but not someone I was very close with or knew well. His face fell and he started to cry. I hadn’t experienced this before, as I usually wasn’t around when people discovered I was no longer at the school. He hugged me, and I started to cry. We drew a lot of attention and word quickly reached Jason that I was hugging a boy and crying. He came to me immediately, and soon there were a number of students hugging the three of us. It was a profound moment for me. I truly felt that I would be missed, and I hadn’t experienced that before.

Jason was in a very quiet mood. He wasn’t speaking to anyone, and friends reported to me throughout the day that he was crying off and on in classes. I had wanted to avoid this. I felt so badly for his pain, and I didn’t know how to ease it. This was my last day at school, and I didn’t want to be there. I wanted to be with Jason, but I didn’t want to talk about what happened or why I was moving. It was not a topic I was allowed to speak about. It didn’t really matter; I was a kid and my parents told me what to do and when to do it. I was leaving, and that was it.

That night, as we were preparing to leave Tennessee, Jason’s mother invited me and my mother over so that we could have dinner and and say goodbye. I don’t know what magic Mrs. B. said to my mother, but it worked, and soon my mother and I were at their home. We all visited for a bit, but Jason was more than ready to get outside and speak to me in private.

Jason lived atop a mountain and it was very cold on this November evening. The sun was already down, and the clear night meant it was a perfect night for stargazing. We talked about what happens next, and he spoke to me in the softest, gentlest way that my confused and broken heart needed. I had no idea what was in store for me in the coming weeks, and he knew that I was putting on the strongest front that I could muster. He held my hand so tightly and told me that he loved me and would never let me go. He wanted a plan for communication and he gave directives on the need for phone calls. His mother would periodically poke her head out to check on us, making sure we hadn’t frozen to death.

We held hands, looking at the stars, astounded by their beauty, knowing that no matter where we were, the stars were going to always shine on us, creating a connection between us. He turned on a nearby radio and “Groovy Kind of Love,” by Phil Collins started playing. It was our song. I’d never had a song with a boy before. We held each other as we swayed to the music. A barn kitten crawled up the exterior of my pants and tried to nestle between us. He removed her, placing her on the ground with instruction that he needed nothing between us. The swirl of sadness and gratefulness for the moment were overwhelming to me. I never wanted the night to end. I was scared as to what would happen to me next, unprepared for the future that had no plan.

Jason pushed my hair out of my face and kissed me. It was my first adult kiss. My breath was taken away, and I felt like I was in a movie. We paused long enough for him to look me in the eye and smile in that charming and silly way that made my heart accelerate. “No matter what happens, baby. I’ll always be here for you,” he said.

Jason and I would write and call one another over the next year. He always wanted to know when I was coming back. “When are you coming home?” he would ask. I’d say that it wasn’t home for me anymore, and he’d say that wasn’t true. When we talked, it was as if I had never moved. He kept me updated on his work, school, and friends. He wanted to know what was going on with me, and it was difficult for me to talk about my home life, so I didn’t. I knew that if he really knew what was happening, he would be angry at his inability to make things better for me. He truly was someone who wanted to make things the best they could be for those he loved. I knew I wasn’t moving back to Tennessee while I lived at home, and I had no desire to move back when I went to college. I knew that the best thing to do was to let him move on. I stopped calling as often, and he followed suit. I hadn’t heard from him in few months, and out of the blue, there he was. “Hey, baby.”

He’d just gotten in from a baseball game and wanted to know what was new. I was angry with him for calling. I told him that I was trying to get over him. “Well, good thing I called. You aren’t supposed to get over me,” he replied. I could hear the smile in his voice. Knowing I’d probably never see that smile again hit me harder than I was prepared to acknowledge. We quarreled. He didn’t understand why I wasn’t over the moon to talk to him. I told him I just needed to close that door. I stressed how important it was for us to be realistic. He grew angry at my distance and he asked if I wanted to talk to him again. I said no. We both hung up the phone saturated in anger and sadness. I really missed him, but I knew I’d never return to his world, so it was easier to let go. I didn’t really have a choice.

Fast forward to my first year in college, and I called him. His father answered the phone, and we talked for a bit, as he was happy to hear from me. He passed the phone to his wife, and we spent time catching up and laughing about old times. She was remorseful that I’d never moved back and expressed that Jason would be so happy to talk to me. She kept stressing that if I had stayed things would have been different for everyone, but she didn’t elaborate. Jason would need to call me back, as he was at work.

I’d busied myself after that call and wasn’t sure if I’d hear from him, but true to his mom’s word, he rang. I didn’t have Caller ID, so when I picked up the phone, I did so blindly. I said hello and heard him smile before he said, “Hey! Hey, it’s Jason! Mom said you called! I can’t believe you called…” and he took off talking a mile a minute. Years melted away, and we were two kids laughing and catching up. He grew serious when I asked him what his Mom meant about things being different. He explained he was about to become a father.

I smiled. Jason had wanted kids since we were in the sixth grade. I know that sounds odd, but he always looked forward to being a dad. The details of his saga didn’t matter, for I knew he would do the right thing by the mom and the child. We talked about my being at college and how, by all measures, our paths were going as planned.

Sixth Grade Graduation. I was only slightly embarrassed to have my father take this photo.

We both expressed how we’d missed the other over the years, and he asked if I’d ever “found another blonde haired, blue-eyed boy” to replace him. Nope. Never had. He was pleased at that. We spoke about the letters from each other we had kept (letters I still have). We ended the conversation with laughter, and I could feel his love and friendship as though no time had ever come between us. It was the last time I ever spoke to him. I would go on to see his brother and have communication with him for a bit, but I never spoke to Jason again.

When I discovered that Jason had died, the ice cold reality that I’d never have the opportunity to have the chance to see him, either by plan or circumstance, hit me on a level I couldn’t have expected. People we’ve not seen in a period of time live in a realm of possibility. We might get together one day. We might run into one another one day. When they die, that moment will never happen. Never. The finality of that is a harsh lesson to hold in your heart. I suddenly realized that I had hoped to see him one day and discover how it all turned out. Death destroys hope.

I’ve always been in love with the stars, but I find myself looking up and smiling at the energy I believe was added to the universe on the moment of his death. He is infinitely beautiful and a guiding light. His energy exists in the stars now.

Jason, I’m grateful for having known you. I’m honored to have been loved by you and to have had the opportunity to love you. I hope you had more days of joy and laughter than you ever had of sorrow. Thank you for being the boy who taught me that I didn’t have to fear the love or touch of another. Thank you for always making me feel beautiful and giving me the gift of your smile and supportive ear. Thank you for running to my defense when you felt I’d been harmed, and thank you for never hurting me. My sweet, groovy kind of love, thank you for seeing me. May you rest in peace and love.

I recently had the pleasure of attending an online painting class, and this is the result. It really couldn’t have been more perfect.

“Groovy Kind of Love” painted by Jeannie

The class I took, for those interested, is by Artist’s Palette Durham Region and Vera Malitskaya

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See You at the Girls Shopping Network Lifestyle Show in Mooresville, North Carolina

girls shopping network

I’d love to see you at the Girls Shopping Network Vendor and Lifestyle Show in Mooresville, North Carolina!

Come out and pick up a signed paperback of Manual Exposure and my handmade items: embroidered hoops, original coffee mug designs, Cozy to Go! cup wraps, earrings, necklaces, greeting cards, key fobs, and more! Mother’s Day (May 14, 2017) is just around the corner, and Bushnell Unscripted Handmade items make wonderful gifts.

See you there! Look for my banner!

March 18, 2017

10:00 am – 3:00 pm

In the Old Burlington Mill

Merino’s Furniture & Design

This event will have a separate entrance – look for signs!

500 S. Main Street Mooresville, NC, 28115

girls shopping network

 

Visit my shop to see a sampling of the items available:

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Traveling Author: Epicentre Studio Movie Grill

Epicentre Studio Movie Grill seats

Charlotte has some great movie theaters, and one of my favorites is the Studio Movie Grill at the Epicentre in Uptown Charlotte.

Check out my view from my sweet seats in the theater.

Movie time! #theaccountant #Charlotte #movie

A photo posted by Jeannie M Bushnell (@jmbushnell) on

What Makes it Unique

Studio Movie Grill has the first-run movies you want and alternative/retro movies you can’t wait to see on the big screen. The in-theater dining includes the old popcorn favorite, but they have a full menu to order from, including a black bean burger for your veggie friends! There is a full-service bar, too.

As the video below shows, you push the little button on your seat table and an SMG team member appears at your seat and takes your order. You now sit back and relax in the reclining seats and enjoy the movie. Your food arrives hot (unless you order something chilled) and freshly made. The servers are not a distraction during the movie, and surprisingly enough, the smell of the various foods being eaten are not bothersome. Unless your bladder alerts you, you won’t have to leave your seat for a refill or to purchase the food. All transactions are brought to your seat.

Discounted Tickets

Studio Movie Grill frequently runs a promotion on Groupon for $5.00 movie tickets. If you are like me, and you consider movie tickets to be a nice treat, then you will want to scoop up the frugal ticket price when you see it on Groupon. At 51% off the regular price of a ticket, you will find yourself treating your friends and family to a night on the town and a movie.

Please note, food is not included in the Groupon ticket price, and you cannot use the Groupon discount toward food.

There are restrictions on the Groupon ticket purchase.  For example, the tickets are not valid for movies at 5pm or later on Friday – Sunday. They cannot be used for Special Event movies, Crowd Sourcing, or Film Series Movies. There are extra fees for 3D movies. See the link above for additional restrictions.

Buy Tickets in Advance or in Person

If you are attending a movie where you may be running late, or you anticipate the theater will be full, then you may want to redeem the Groupon tickets online and reserve the exact seat that you want (a $1.50 convenience fee/seat applies).

Otherwise, have your Groupon ticket ready to redeem at the counter, and you can pick your seat from the ones still available. You will know going into the theater what seat number you will be sitting in. Pretty cool, eh?

Parking

Parking in Uptown isn’t scary at all once you realize that SMG validates parking (up to 4 hrs)  in the self-parking area of the EpiCentre parking deck for guests of Studio Movie Grill. Valet parking will not be validated.

Be sure to check out the other restaurants and stores at the Epicentre. Fun events happen every day of the week, and if you are still hungry after the movie, you can swing into Five Guys and feed your french fry addiction. I know I’m not the only one who loves a potato.

Studio Movie Grill Experience from Studio Movie Grill on Vimeo.

Location and Phone

210 E Trade St, Charlotte, NC 28202

704-972-1062

 

 

Check out some of the views you can see at the Epicentre!

uptown charlotte
uptown charlotte epicentre

#Charlotte sky is dark and cloudy. #sky #clouds #night

A photo posted by Jeannie M Bushnell (@jmbushnell) on

 

 

This post contains affiliate links that help to support me and my french fry habit.

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Seventeen Years a Vegan – Happy New Year 2017

drawn chicken in a pan

Happy New Year! 2017! Wow. I don’t know about you, but I’m happy to see those last two digits change, and with the progression, I look forward to a blank slate–a year filled with possibility and opportunity. I’m also reminded of years past, and I grow nostalgic of certain milestones in my life.

drawn number 17

This New Year’s Eve, I celebrated 17 years as a non-meat eater. The stark revelation of how many years it has been since that cold Illinois night when I looked down at my skillet and decided that I could no longer be a hypocrite nearly overwhelms me. That night, I put a change into motion that forever altered the course of my life. No, it wasn’t the only life-altering moment I’ve ever experienced, but it was a major one.

Growing Up…

My family believed that if you didn’t ingest meat, you weren’t healthy. There were meals where meat was absent, but my parents tried to make sure that a meat was served at least once a day. Meat equaled nutrition to my parents. They did not see it as a bad thing, and they certainly did not have a clue as to what was happening to animals on the slaughter room floor. I never discussed the plight of farm animals with my parents. My father had hunted animals and my mother cleaned and cooked the animals he killed, but as a child, that was as close to a discussion or experience I had with them regarding humane methods of killing animals.

I never cared for meat. Yes, I ate it. I was taught to eat what was placed before me. However, when given the choice, I gravitated toward vegetables and fruits.

Educating Myself and Others…

From the age of 18, I was involved in animal welfare causes and rescue organizations. With each passing year, I became more involved, and I would later begin working with a local humane society and eventually become the vice president of the Board of Directors.

As an animal advocate, I rescued animals from horrific conditions and treatment. I saw behind the curtain of slaughterhouses when I learned how animals raised for human consumption are treated and killed. Once you know these facts, you can never “unknow” them. You can never mute the cries of pain.

I spent a majority of my time educating the public about humane animal treatment.  I opposed dog fighting and worked to enact legislation that would increase the penalties for participating in the activity. I worked diligently to help provide a voice for the animals who had none.

illustration of confused girl

Changing Tastes…

Suddenly, on New Year’s Eve in 1999, as I stood above my skillet filled with popping fried chicken, THE truth hit me, and I could not unring that bell. How could I, in an attempt to raise funds and awareness for abused animals, participate in a fundraiser where I served a meal that included animals who were treated similarly or far worse? I was a hypocrite, and I did not want to be one. The only difference was a label–one is pet and the other is a commodity. Pain and suffering spans all species and labels. I turned off the skillet, and over the next few days, my three dogs would consume the chicken that pushed me into a new year and awareness about my life’s journey.

 

illustration chicken fry

 

I lived in a rural part of Illinois. The small store twelve miles from my house sold pantry staples, but if you wanted something else, you had to travel to one town 45 minutes away, or drive over an hour in the other direction. It was 1999, and meat substitutions weren’t on every store shelf and readily available. I didn’t have a friend who was vegetarian or vegan, so I didn’t have a model from which to learn or emulate. As a lover of food, especially southern foods, I really didn’t know what to do, but I knew that my days of eating meat were over. I became a vegetarian.

I embraced the challenge, and on New Year’s Eve in 2009, I became a vegan.

Seventeen years later…

“I couldn’t live without meat” is a comment I’ve heard many times. Well, look at me, eating a plant-based diet for 17 years and living just fine! Deciding to leave animal products and by-products out of my diet is the best decision I have ever made. Unlike other decisions, I’ve never regretted it.

Happy New Year! May 2017 be a year of growth and success for you.

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Book Signing at The Last Word in Charlotte

jeannie m bushnell book signing

I just wanted to post a big “Thank You” to the gang at The Last Word in Charlotte, North Carolina. They hosted me for a book signing on October 10, 2015 from 2:00 – 4:00 pm, and I had a great time. If you are looking for a great bookstore, check them out when you are in Charlotte. Stay tuned to their website, as they are getting some new digs in a few weeks!

Here are a few photos from the event, and I want to say a special “Hello!” to Jeannie from New York. I love meeting another Jeannie, and I hope you love the story of Kirby and Sage.

Here I am at my festive fall table for Manual Exposure. I made some vegan caramelized onion dip to eat on “leaves” of Healthfull seeds and nuts bread.

jeannie m bushnell book signing

You never know when I might bring food to an event!

vegan dip

 

I love being accessible to my readers and meeting them at book signings. I appreciate each and every person who stops by my table.

Jeannie M. Bushnell Book Signing at the Last Word in Charlotte, North Carolina

 

Sherlock drawing Cumberbatch
The Last Word offers local artists space to sell their art. Check out this cool piece of Benedict Cumberbatch! I’m sorry I couldn’t see the name of the artist.

 

 

and finally, I had to get a photo with the infamous “Frankie” at the store.

 

author jeannie m bushnell and frankie at the last word bookstore

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Traveling Author: SCarowinds

terrified man

 

 

scarowinds sign

Starting in September, Carowinds becomes SCarowinds. It is a haunting event for the young and old!

scarowinds tree
A spooky old tree greets park attendees. SCarowinds 2015.

 

Scaredy Pumpkin

 

scared pumpkin

 

For $8.00, you can purchase a plastic necklace that features a glowing pumpkin to alert the costumed employees that you do not want to be scared. I know, there are some of you who think this is ridiculous. After all, you’ve come to SCarowinds to be scared, right? Well, while I didn’t purchase one of the necklaces (because I think they cost too much and I didn’t see them offered until I was leaving the park), having had the experience of the employees getting a little too close for comfort and screaming in my face, I can see the value of purchasing such a necklace.

No, I don’t like to be scared. I like to stand back and admire the scary displays and costumes, but I do not like to be screamed at or grabbed, and I’m not a fan of someone coming up behind me in a darkened walkway to scare the crap out of me. Nope, not a fan.

terrified man

Mazes and Scare Zones

I went through the Seventh Ward maze (aka haunted house), and had the actors refrained from shouting in my face or reaching into my personal space, I would have enjoyed it. The strobe lights and mirrored walls didn’t help. The maze is indoors and very detailed and interesting, but I couldn’t enjoy it due to the constant onslaught of people screaming in my face.

I didn’t want to go in any other mazes after touring the scary “mental institution” that I’d raced to get through. My friends (two adult males in their 40s) went through the Cornstalkers maze (which they found scarier than the Seventh Ward), and the Zombie High maze (which they also found spine-tingling).

There are also established scare zones. The Bloodyard resembles a junkyard where you are surrounded by thirsty vampires waiting to turn you into one of their own. The London Terror scare zone doesn’t look too bad, but the small area in which there is to walk, and the mass of costumed characters waiting to scream at you make it less than a welcoming stroll down the streets of London.

If you love haunted houses, I think you will love SCarowinds. If you don’t, I think you should invest in a glowing pumpkin necklace or just skip SCarowinds and stay home where you can watch a scary movie with the mute button depressed to prevent hearing the horrible scary music and sounds from reaching your sensitive ears and heart. Is that just me?

 

rip buckley train car
A painted train car speaks of the death of Buckley. RIP Buckley the cat. – located in the Bloodyard Scare Zone

 

skeleton key

Delights for the Ears and Eyes

The employee costumes and makeup is definitely my favorite thing about the SCarowinds experience. With over six hundred monsters to create for the event, the work of the makeup artists really shines. Read more on the SCarowinds blog to discover what goes on behind the mask. The article states that each artist is given 8 – 12 minutes to complete the makeup, and as someone who has toiled for hours to get Halloween makeup 1/2 as good as what the employees of the park are sporting, I am amazed at how quickly it all comes together every night of the event.

There are a number of shows offered for the event. I attended the Tribal Terror drum show and I enjoyed it immensely. The musicians did a great job. Showtimes are 7:00, 8:00, 9:00, 10:00 and 11:00 p.m.

Rated PG-13, Leave Your Costume at Home, & You May Not Re-enter

The park states that the event is rated PG-13 and may be too intense for young children. I saw plenty of small children in the park enjoying themselves, but I know that won’t be the case for all young children. The younger children (or scared adults) can always come to Carowinds during the day before SCarowinds opens in the evening, and there is even a Great Pumpkin Fest to enjoy.

There is one extremely odd caveat to the SCarowinds event: guests cannot re-enter the park if they leave for any reason. It is normal for Carowinds guests to receive a stamp on the arm upon exiting so they can re-enter the park during the same-day visit with ease and no extra charge. This is not happening for SCarowinds. Everyone is held captive to this rule, so don’t think you are exempt Gold Card Members. I’m not sure why they’ve put this new rule in place, but that means guests can’t take a break to exit the park during their SCarowinds visit. What makes the SCarowinds event so special that guests cannot leave the park and return? I have no idea. If you find out, let me know. I asked several employees during my visit but none seemed to understand the arbitrary rule, either.

Darkness & Security

The park is too dark during SCarowinds. The regular low lighting that is used at night is made worse by colored bulbs and fog machines that occasionally make it hazardous to walk. There was security presence at the park, but the two people I saw aren’t enough for such a large crowd. The lack of security is one of the features that most people find disconcerting during regular Carowinds hours. Considering that the majority of the employees are teenagers, the park doesn’t exactly feel like the safest place at all times. While I know that many people feel safe allowing their teenagers to go to the park alone, I would not allow a minor to go to the park alone with the current security presence.

monster werewolf

Scary Deals & Dates

The best deal (outside of the regular Carowinds Gold Pass) is the Haunt Pass which allows for unlimited admission to SCarowinds. You can attend every night of the SCarowinds events for a low price of $59.99. If you have a regular Gold Pass to Carowinds, you can also attend every night of SCarowinds, too. If you don’t have a pass, prepare to pay $15.00 to park.

Do yourself a favor and check the site before you head out to the park. If you are looking for some Halloween night fun, the park is open from 7:00 pm until 1:00 am. Have fun, but you won’t see me there. I’ve had my fill with the one night I attended. But then again, I’m a scaredy pumpkin.

I’d love to hear about your visit to SCarowinds!

Hours for SCarowinds:

September
Fridays & Saturdays
7:00 p.m. – 12:00 a.m.

October
Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays
7:00 p.m. – 12:00 a.m.

Late Night Closings
October 24 & October 31
7:00 p.m. – 1:00 a.m.

 

 

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Banned Books Week 2015: Celebrating Intellectual Freedom

bannedbooks

 

Banned Books Week – September 27, 2015 – October 3, 2015

I love reading banned books. It encourages the tiny rebel that lives in a dark corner of my psyche. Who are YOU to tell ME what to read?

I don’t know about you, but when I look at the titles on the banned book list, I see books that have made a profound impact on my life. The books are deep, thought-provoking literary guideposts that reflect our culture and experience on this planet. What one person labels “dirty” or “inappropriate” shouldn’t be the deciding factor on whether or not another person has the opportunity to read a book. Parents who protest a book’s inclusion into the school library because it speaks about slavery or homosexuality should be allowed to have their child excluded from reading the book, but they shouldn’t be allowed to speak for every parent and child.

There are those who defend the censorship, but when you show them the banned books list, they are dumbfounded when they realize one of their favorite books is included on the list. Well, some people will have this reaction and others will continue to blindly defend the censorship.

It is hard to believe that in 2015 such a thing exists, but readers and writers must continually be on guard against the myopic view of censorship and continue to fight for intellectual freedoms.

 

Watch this clip from Bill Moyers on September 25 2012The Bane of Banned Books“On the 30th anniversary of Banned Books Week, Bill explains why censorship is the biggest enemy of truth.”

Celebrate your freedom to read what you want and check out these other pages about banned books and censorship!

100 Most Frequently Challenged Books By Decade

An Interactive Timeline that Celebrates 30 Years of Liberating Literature

Project Censored
National Coalition Against Censorship

Support the ALA and spread the word with these free downloads

banned books poster
“Artwork courtesy of the American Library Association.”