The Decade of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride

Disney World opened in 1971 and over the years, I visited Disney World four times. Two were family vacations with my son Chris and two visits were with other family members. Of all the rides at Disney World, the two that stand out the most for me are “It’s a Small World After All” (including the mind-numbing repetitious song) and “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride”.

As most of you know, “It’s a Small World After All” is a lowly-lit boat ride that has countless brightly costumed dolls representing children of the world, all playing and singing the title song… trying to teach us about world peace.

“Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” was a lowly-lit-darker ride on which you hopped on an early 1900’s motorcar and went riding through various scenes from Toad Hall to the Countryside.  (I am sad to report that the ride was closed at Disney World in 1998 and replaced with The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Winnie the Pooh? What were they thinking?)

Those rides come to mind as I have spent some time this week reflecting on the major changes in my life. On March 21st, 2005, I began working at Cobb County government as an Administrative Assistant for Virgil Moon. (I had been working for Virgil since June 1st 2004 in a part-time position but began work full-time in 2005.)

On Friday, March 27th, 2015, I retired from Cobb County Government…. 10 years and 6 days after I started……thus, one entire decade of my 63 years was spent in Suite 500 of Building A on the Marietta Square.

I will confess that I cried all the way home on Thursday, my last full day at work. I was blessed to have a job where creating and nurturing of relationships was my primary focus. I knew retiring was the right decision…. I want to spend more time with family and friends and my Gentleman Caller with Smiling Eyes (Don) and I have things I want to do in my life while I am still healthy and my brain somewhat functions!!

But I will admit I shed tears on more than one occasion when thinking about walking out that door and not coming back.

As I write this, it has been 4 weeks since I retired and it has been a glorious and busy four weeks including a 4 day trip to Charleston to celebrate my retirement; outings with my grandchildren; lunches with Cobb County and non-Cobb County friends; time with Don; and equally important, time for me with to sit by myself in my sunroom and read inspirational books and reflect …..and those reflections led me to thinking about those two Disney rides.

The happenings of my life up until age 53 mirrored the “It’s a Small World After All” ride. My life was basically predictable—I had a wonderful childhood; went to college; got married; became a mother; volunteered in the community; and so forth.

Just as with the ride, I basically floated along through lovely scenery—sometimes the water current was slow and sometimes a bit swifter.

Certainly there were bumps along the way …illnesses ….. deaths of family members and friends….. disappointments….. but after each bump, my “boat” would come back to the center and the pleasant ride continued.

All of that changed on March 21st as I left “It’s a Small World After All” and boarded “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride”. As I look over this last decade of my life, I am truly amazed at all the “big ticket” things that happened to me during those ten years. It has truly been a “Wild Ride”.

Some (but not all) of these items include (and I am using run-on style here as it truly fits): After being a full-time homemaker for 23 years, I began working full-time for a very busy and wonderful man and handled during that time three ribbon cutting ceremonies; two ground breaking ceremonies and countless other challenging tasks; was one of the event planners for the Cobb County Prayer Breakfast (a yearly event with 1,000 attendees); my son got engaged and then married; I went through a separation and divorce after 35 years of marriage; sold my home of 23+ years and gave away ½ to ¾ of my possessions; purchased and renovated a ranch condo; became a grandmother; took three trips to Europe (England/Paris/Italy) by myself (no tour or such)  and wandered around solo and mastered all kinds of European transportation including subways, trains, planes and driving a car by myself in England; began my first blog by writing daily stories during those trips to Europe; hit the big 6-0 birthday; survived two foot surgeries and wore the gorgeous post-surgery foot boot for months each time; survived one oral surgery and then wore braces for 18 months; began writing (at my son’s insistence) this blog; had various out-and-about-as-a-single-woman adventures; began dating; met and fell in love with a wonderful man.

Whew! Just as with “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride”, I spent these last 10 years riding high and low….. crashing into things….. twirling around in the dark ….. making sharp turns ….. bouncing along ….. sometimes moving full speed ahead and sometimes heading towards oncoming collisions.

I do not know what the next decade of my life will be like….. what ride will my life mirror? ( I certainly hope it will not be like the Disney World roller coaster ride Space Mountain. My experience on that ride is a topic for another blog!!) I hope in 10 years I will still be alive; that my health will be good and I will still have stories to share.

That is my plan. But the last decade has taught me the foolishness of having a “life plan”.

What I do know is this….. these last ten years have both the worst of times and the best of times; it has truly been a “Wild Ride” and one I never envisioned.

But also I know that the memories that I carry of this last decade are without a doubt the most vivid and strongest of my 63 years. I would not trade any of those experiences, even the negative, because I have learned the difference between actively going through life versus passively getting through life….. the difference between navigating the ups and downs of the ride versus merely holding on while flying blindly.

And I understand in ways never known before that, if you allow it, Jesus Christ and Holy Spirit can be sitting next to you on that ride….can give you guidance ….. and can take the dark scenes and help you emerge into sunlight and joy.

For your viewing pleasure, a few pictures from the decade of “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride”…. joy included.