Unfortunately, I haven't done a trip report in awhile (since 2006!!), so forgive me if I've forgotten how this goes. Here's the deets:
Me, HTanner, Mom (30----ish)
Carl, Hubby, Dad (OLD MAN-ish)
Josh, Son, Big Brother (8... I can't believe it!!!)
Natalie, Daughter, Lil Sis (6, going on 13)
Grammy (a young 68)
Uncle Will (as old as the Haunted Mansion)
This trip was originally planned for early 2010. We try to go every four years. After our last trip in 2006, we knew we wanted to go in the winter months. We all wilted in the heat in Sep. 2006, and the thought of going again when there was any heat, whatsoever, was not pleasant for any of us. Granted, we're from the cold part of California (Pacifica) and our HOT is around 75. (I always say that when it hits 70, we enjoy the beach; 80, we go inside and enjoy the air conditioning; 90 and our county calls it a federal emergency... LOL). We originally decided on late January because we heard the weather was great and crowds were not so bad.
In early 2009, I was forced to close my side business due to the loss of a big client. I run a small contract business doing side work for other attorneys. At the time, I also had a full-time lawyering gig. I was busy, had my own office, and was making a good chunk of money. My husband and I decided 2009 would be the year we finally saved up enough money to get our from under our debt and to have a down for a house. So, we were cranking out as much work as we could handle.
The loss of the business was sad, but we were grateful I still had a full-time job that paid all of our necessaries. Unfortunately, we still hadn't gotten enough out from under our debt to save anything substantial after the close of the business. Still, we were doing well enough to not stress.
In May 2009, my firm suffered a significant loss of revenue when one of our insurance companies decided to stop writing policies for the type of cases we received. It meant that, after the cases we were working on, that company would no longer give us work. My boss scrambled to find more revenue but, without that promise of work, he couldn't afford to pay me full-time. I was "temporarily" placed on part-time status as they reassured me it was temporary and they knew they had work coming after the summer.
Now, we were dipping into that savings we had just started to accrue. We had just renewed our lease with an apartment complex that wasn't at all sympathetic with our plight (they offered to let us out of our lease if we paid two months' rent in penalty - - nearly $4000!). Knowing it was temporary, though, I didn't worry about using the savings to tide us over - that is what it is for, right? Still, we downgraded everything we could, just in case.
On August 26, 2009, two days before the kids started school, my boss came into my office. I will never forget the ashen look on his face or the way my stomach dropped when he said, "we're going to have to let you go." The firm was collapsing and everyone was jumping ship. I was the last employee hired and the last one let go - - at least I can say, for sure, it was not because of my job performance.
Like most people, I assumed my layoff would be temporary. I would collect unemployment and go on interviews and be back at work in no time. After all, isn't that why I went to college and law school? For various reasons, I did not want to open my own firm - - I suffer from great anxiety and I know being a trial attorney is not for me because of it. I also did not want to open a firm unless I could do so responsibly - with full insurance and the confidence to represent whomever walked through my door. So, I went the traditional route.
The first shock was how few jobs were listed for attorneys. I used to say attorneys would never be out of work because when things get bad in society, people are more likely to sue for things they'd otherwise just let go. Especially employment cases. Back when I got my job with my old firm, there would be 10-12 listings per day that fit my qualifications. When I was laid off, sometimes days would go by without even one listing.
The second shock was how many resumes I sent out without even a nibble. I wasn't shy about being laid off. I shouted it from the rooftops. I like to work. I let everyone know I would do anything - and anything, I did. I painted, I babysat, for two years, I drove kids home from school (it paid for gas and groceries). And, with the help of a great lawyer friend, I resurrected my contract business - which has saved me more times than not.
Things got very desperate quickly. I went from saving for a down for a house to living without a clue as to how I was going to feed my kids the next day. It is amazing how much you take for granted. Simple things like buying school supplies was suddenly wrought with tension because the kids needed them and I didn't want to embarrass them by saying we just couldn't afford them. Even worse were the monthly eviction notices we received while playing the waiting game with my unemployment. Every few months, one would be delayed - so, we dipped back into the 401K to cover those months. Sometimes, by the time the check would arrive from unemployment, it would be mostly eaten up by late fees and bounced charges on our account.
To make a long story short, we had to delay the trip. I refused to cancel it because it was the beacon of light keeping us all going. Some nights, when the power would be out or when I was particularly down about our situation, just talking with the kids about when we would finally be able to go made us all perk up. It kept hope alive in our house.
We moved the trip from January 2009 to November 2010. By then, surely, I'd have a job. I'd been out of work 6 months, but things must be getting better in the world. Surely, I'd have something by then!
I was desperate to go back to work. I missed being around people and feeling capable. I had several part-time jobs (working at a hotel gift shop, teaching reading at the kid's school... anything!) and I was going on interviews constantly. I was signed up with every temp agency, hiring agency, or whatnot in my area. And everyone I met, I told about my needing a job. I even did a two day stint as a hotel maid for a Marriott hotel.... NOT for the faint of heart. (After two days of back-breaking labor, I could not get out of bed for a week...).
By August 2010, things were slightly better. My husband was working regularly at long-term temp gigs, and my unemployment had gotten extended. Between that, my part-time work, and unemployment, we were able to pay rent on time more months than not. But, I knew we did not have the money to make the trip. I made the very hard decision to delay the trip, again.
We decided to make the trip a full year away - in December 2011. Surely, by then, we would be in a better position!
In mid-November 2010, I learned I was likely going to be laid off again from my part-time hotel gift shop job. The company didn't tell me. The employees of the hotel told me the shop was closing and being eliminated as part of a remodel my company had known about for 6 months. I found documents in our store room that showed they were intending to close the store and fire all of the employees. When I confronted my supervisor, she denied it saying we would be temporarily transferred to another location. The only location near me was already over-staffed, with the employees complaining about not getting enough hours.
Shortly after that, I qualified for a lower-rent apartment, but only if I could move in two weeks. The rental amount brought the total rent down below what I was getting for unemployment - which meant I would have money for savings, groceries, and all the things I had been missing out on. Not a lot, but enough. I took the apartment and began preparing to move.
I asked to not be scheduled the days I needed for the move. I was part-time and, because of that, I could ask to be on the schedule or not. My supervisor told me if I didn't work every day that week (aka a full time schedule), she would fire me immediately.
That was enough for me! I decided to go back and shake all the trees I had shook dry and see if there was any more fruit anywhere. And, that is when I got the call from an old friend saying one of her old employers was looking for an office manager. The rest, shall we say, is history.
I can still remember the day we made the final payment on the trip. I cried because I never thought we'd be able to go. Never.
So, the plans:
Early on, I decided to add an extra "acclimation" day. We always traveled all day Friday and then ran into the wall the next day because of jet lag. So, I decided to travel on a Thursday, and take Friday to just get used to being on vacation. This proved to be a very good idea!
We argued for about a minute over where to stay - Wilderness Lodge or someplace new. My mom put her foot down and said she would stay all by herself if she had to... so, Wilderness Lodge, it was!
We stuck with the first week of December which we had heard was relatively quiet (SO wrong!).
Dates: 12/1-12/11, 2 regular view rooms at WL.
Flights - we kept looking for flights, but the prices were terrible. We finally found a new direct flight on Virgin. We'd never flown Virgin, but the flight times were perfect - - leaving SF at 9:45 and arriving Orlando at around 5 (local time).
Now all we had to do was wait until it was time to go!!!
Tomorrow: Day One of the Trip O Fun!