Archives for February 2012

Trip of a Lifetime.

My youngest daughter, Lauren, brought us on her Make-A-Wish trip to Disney World earlier this month.  While I supported this wish, I almost dreaded the amount of work it would involve.  But her devotion and obsession with all things Disney, and her absolute obsession with the original Mickey Mouse characters (Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Daisy, et al), were too compelling to even think twice about it.  I tried to forget how much footwork would be involved and completely focused on what a magical experience this would be for her.  And it was!  Goodness, it so was.

In advance of our trip, we:  had consultations with Southwest Airlines management and operations personnel regarding the safe transportation of two 350 pound electric wheelchairs, met in-person with local TSA professionals to discuss security logistics, consulted with Orlando-based Vacation Mobility to determine which type of wheelchair accessible van would accommodate us, and finally had the stress-related aneurism I’d been waiting for.  Just kidding, an aneurism is nothing to joke about.  Though Lauren’s twin brother experienced a bowel obstruction emergency which almost required surgery two days before our trip.  Kid!  Please!  Quit trying to steal attention from your sister’s Make-A-Wish trip!  Just kidding.  His bowel obstruction was mild but very real, and while it was resolved without affecting Lauren’s wish trip, it was highly stressful and made for a less-than-pleasant flight from Phoenix to Orlando that Sunday.

Our three objectives for this trip:  Lauren’s princess makeover at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, Jenna to ride on Space Mountain, and Kyle to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.





And done.

Our trip was so, so wonderful.  Every minute of every day.  It was hard, a lot of work to be sure.  But frankly, being the parent of a disabled and medically fragile child is a lot of work–and a lot of love–during any normal day, so the  days may as well take place in some of the planet’s best theme parks.  Right?



Cassandra can be found on Twitter @aclevergirl.  Learn more about her family’s unique challenges and why they have hope for a cure for muscular dystrophy at


Read other related Make-A-Wish blog posts here.

Community. Sharing and Growing.

I have been so fortunate to have spent the last few days in Chicago at a conference for Community Managers. An UNconference to be exact. The brain child of Tim McDonald… The topics were voted on by my peers in the industry and attendees had the right to drift in and out of sessions as it suited them. The sessions themselves were very free flowing. It was an opportunity I am so glad I was able to take.

The company I work for, Spellbinders, has been so supportive of my community building efforts. When I was given the chance to speak on a panel… they happily agreed to send me. Being able to share what I’ve learned over the last several years building communities was so humbling. To be sharing the stage with people I admire and learn from was something I can never describe! I mean… Liz Strauss called me “irresistible”! (To be fair… she thinks everyone is irresistible.)

My session was called “Be Present”. It was about not just managing a community but being a part of it. I decided it would be best to open it up for discussion in the room. Allowing others to share their experiences is one of the best ways to learn. And let me tell you… I learned a lot. Not only was I able to share the things that are working in our Spellbinders community… but I was able to hear what was working for others. And to be speaking from the Google offices in Chicago was really a dream!

Not only did I get to attend, speak, and learn… I met some amazing people too. I met Anne, who I truly hope I can keep in touch with. She has an amazing story, a giving heart, and a passion for social media. Did I mention that Anne is deaf? What a great time we had talking about ideas! And I even got to pull out my sign language skills from college! (Sign Language was actually my foreign language in college… use it or loose it people!)

I also met Michelle from Sosh and Bernie Xiong from Your Life Spark. Talk about bright, innovative women! I met some of my #usguys friends in the real: @ImMarkBernhardt, @SeanMcGinnis, and @NickKellet. And I ran into old friends from over the years… Ric Dragon (I’m in his new book. Just sayin!), Brandie McCallum (My partner in crime), and Katie Felten (That’s not whiskey!). What great friends and a great Unconference!

So thank you Spellbinders for allowing me to attend this conference and share some of our strategies. And thank you community for staying supportive of me no matter where I am.

Much love…


Project: Rainy Day

The second of two blog posts from Girl Twin’s Make-A-Wish trip to Disney World is written, but still pending photos.  Fingers crossed that I can have it ready for next week!

In the meantime, bear with me.  I am concocting a plan, and I need your help to make it happen.  Hear me out:

Give Kids the World Village, as I explained here, hosted our family during Lauren’s Wish trip.  In the busy summer season, it serves as a free hotel to over 100 families with medically fragile/life-threatening condition children with wishes to visit Disney World  (only about 40 families vacationed there with us this month, the off season).

During our week-long stay there we found volunteers everywhere.  They were raking leaves in the yard in front of our duplex, delivering via golf cart coffee to our doorstep in the morning and cookies the rest of the day, picking up our kitchen trash, sweeping sidewalks, serving us free breakfast, lunch, & dinner.  They run the gift shop, the daytime and evening activities for the kids and families, the ice cream shop, the merry-go-round, and the guard gate at the property entrance.   This place is ahh-mazing.  I was astounded at how the local metro-Orlando communities and businesses have embraced such a cause and I got the sense that nothing but nothing would stop them from keeping this place up and running.

Well, they lack one thing.  This is where you come in–they keep a DVD library for families to use on our off-days.  When it comes to families with Wish kids, some days we’re not up to the challenge of visiting 7+ theme parks.  The pace of those theme park days, and the stamina required to endure them, it can completely sap us.  Having the option to take a load off and enjoy a movie in our villa was so wonderful (all the villas are equipped with TV’s and DVD players).  Plus, the weather in Florida can be so unpredictable that all the stamina in the world cannot make you want to visit Disney World in the rain.  The only catch: their DVD library needs some fleshing out.  You know those cubicle storage units that Target sells, the ones that look so useful in their pretty advertisements but when you get them home it turns out that they’re not quite so useful?  The DVD library at GKTW takes up just two of those cubicle squares.  Their DVD library is entirely dependent upon donations, so it’s all but empty.  Our local library’s DVD section has hundreds to choose from, but that’s not the case at Give Kids the World.  Not a single Harry Potter.  Zero Star Wars.  None of the Night at the Museums, and nary a sign of a Home Alone.  It’s so sad.  Instead, there were a few Blues Clues, a Hannah Montana flick, and some Lizzie McGuire discs.  Right then I pledged to survey our own DVD collection when we got home and ship over whatever we’ve outgrown.

Due to the nature of the program, kiddos who stay at Give Kids the World are facing life-and-death uncertainties and I guarantee to you that their parents are in the process of making some decisions that you probably can’t even imagine ever having to face.  If the child who has the enormous blessing (and misfortune, given the requirements to stay there) to deserve a stay at GKTW needs some downtime on the couch with a movie and her family, they deserve some age-appropriate movies that they might really enjoy.  I realize that perhaps in the grand scheme of things a few DVD donations aren’t going to make or break the good people at Give Kids the World.  But you, I ask you to realize that some Spy Kids or some How to Train Your Dragon would have been warmly welcomed during our down days.

Your task:  Go through your DVD collections.  Anything that a kid aged 1-18–or their families–might enjoy and you can do without, ship it to Give Kids the World.  They ask for only G- and PG-rated films, and while I want to respect that I still think they deserve ALL the Harry Potter flicks (at least one of those is PG-13).  Use your discretion.  Also, if you’re in the United States, use “Media Mail”–it’s cheaper than any other type of postage.

Ship to:

Give Kids The World Village, Attn: Project Rainy Day
210 South Bass Road
Kissimmee, FL 34746
407-396-1114 (Tel)

Should you wish to participate but have more money than time, visit this handy Amazon wish list I personally made for them.  It will ship directly to the good people at GKTW.

I can’t do much to show my gratitude for everything we were able to enjoy as a family during Lauren’s Make-A-Wish trip to Orlando.  But I can certainly help make the visits of their future families more enjoyable.  Besides, Kyle still hasn’t chosen what his Wish will be.  If he eventually picks Disney World, we’ll all be back at GKTW, but hopefully not be stuck with such a dismal DVD collection again…


Follow Make-A-Wish and Give Kids the World Village via these links.  Learn more about the ahh-mazing GKTW here.


Update:   I’ve had 20 DVD’s dropped off at my doorstep and three more purchased from the Amazon wish list in the ~36 hours that this post has been up.   The kiddos staying at Give Kids the World this summer will be well entertained!  Ideally there will be 300 more DVD’s sent to them, but we’ll see how it goes.


Q: How much would I love a donation of 140 Blu-Ray players for them?  A: It would make my year.  And…. go!


Cassandra can be found on Twitter @aclevergirl.  Learn more about her family’s unique challenges and why they have hope for a cure for muscular dystrophy at

Printing Outside the Wires

Remember when you were a kid… and they told you not to color outside of the lines? I was one of those kids that would do as I was told… but find the opportune moment to scribble outside just for kicks. You know… push the boundaries… see what might happen. Nothing really happened. Looking back… it was pretty anti-climatic for such a rebel move. Ha.

Being one that likes to be on the forefront of new things… I’m thrilled to have been handed new technology. Did you know you can print wirelessly from your mobile phone to your home printer from wherever you are? Mmm Hmm. You can. ePrint by HP.

And besides being given this awesome printer by HP and MomTV… I’m thankful for this technology that kept me from looking like the lame mom who forgets school projects. On Thursday… Allison had to bring in an example of something beginning with the letter “A” to Kindergarten. I get a frantic call as I’m driving to work from Daddy. No worries! At the next light… I searched Google images for an alligator and saved the image to my phone. I opened the ePrint app… chose the alligator from my camera roll… and hit “print”. ePrint did the rest. Daddy was able to pull the photo from the printer and get it in her backpack in time for the bus. Uh. Maze. Ing.

I’m told by the people at HP and MomTV that these fab HP ePrint capable printers are available online from, as well as, inside Walmart stores. You can also go online at to learn more.

Happy Weekend Friends!

Our Make-A-Wish Trip: Giving Credit Where Credit is Due.

My family just enjoyed an amazing week at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and Universal Studios thanks to the collaboration of several amazing organizations.  Our trip was entirely organized by and paid for by the Make-A-Wish Foundation*.  After I applied for Lauren’s Wish, they interviewed her, surprised her with gifts, and then agreed to send her to Disney World–holy wow, what an amazing gift for our entire family!

After weeks of emails and a face-to-face meeting with local SWA management, Southwest Airlines happily carried our precious cargo to and from Orlando.  They waved off our extra baggage fees–and our heavy baggage fees  (pallets and pallets of Pediasure)–escorted us to check-in, escorted us to our gate, the ground crew conferred with us and allowed my husband to escort the (empty) wheelchairs down to the tarmac.  They installed car seats for the twins in the aircraft, announced to all passengers that this was Lauren’s Make-A-Wish trip to Disney World, and  allowed the kids to visit the cockpit–and that special treatment was just on our outbound flight.  For our inbound flight, our family was met by TSA at the curb (in a good way!), escorted to the Southwest ticket counter, escorted through the security line, and helped us lug our carry-ons to our gate.  And there in Orlando, they also allowed my husband to escort the $65,000 wheelchairs plane-side, installed the twins’ car seats onto the plane, and were entirely attentive to our family during the 4+ hour flight.  All this PLUS they had to clean up someone else’s puke in the rear lavatory AND had to announce that whoever left their dentures in the lav should press their call button.  They don’t wear capes, but those flight attendants were Super Heroes, ya’ll.


Back to Orlando:  We stayed at Give Kids the World Village in Kissimmee–have you ever heard of it?  It’s a community of cottages, eateries, swimming pools, and other goings-on–completely catering to Wish kids or otherwise medically fragile children who are in Orlando to visit the theme parks.  A stay in this adorable and luxurious village is offered for free to families who enjoy/suffer/ the blessing/curse of even needing a Make-A-Wish at all.  But the Village is so cheerful, so uplifting, so accommodating and offers SO much free ice cream (beginning at 7:30am for breakfast and closing at 9:30pm before bed) (HUZZAH!).  The children enjoyed their first horseback rides, visits with Goofy, Pluto, and Belle, and a “Pirate & Princess Party” which has no rival.  As their parents, there is nothing more joyful than seeing them surrounded by characters and people so devoted to their happiness.  I cried a few times during the Pirate & Princess Party and tried to hide it, but I know a few others noticed–I’m sure I wasn’t the only one.  And when Lauren visited the pillow tree to “make” her pillow, and the wishing well to make her wish, her joy really was priceless.  She sleeps with her new fairy pillow every night.  And when she cast her little gold star with her name on it into the Star Fairy machine, I almost lost it.  I looked up and saw thousands of stars–one star for every kiddo who has spent time at Give Kids the World.  Given the nature of the program, I know that so many of those kids aren’t with us anymore, and that was really the first time in a long while that I’ve considered that my own children won’t be with me forever.  Such is the nature of their disease.

(closing her eyes, as she throws her coin into the well to make a wish.)


Give Kids the World is entirely run on donations and volunteers–their carousel is run by a volunteer.  Their cafeteria (“Gingerbread House”) is completely operated by dozens of volunteers.  Their “Kids Night Out, Parents’ Night In” program is run by local volunteers.  Their meal delivery is–you guessed it–run by volunteers.  Their semi-weekly horseback riding program is operated by volunteers.  Give Kids the World overall is the daily operation of an enormously successful mass of generous donors and volunteers–and we couldn’t be more thankful for or more proud of them.


Our time spent at Disney World and Universal Studios was completely out-of-this-world amazing, but that’s another blog post.  SWA and Give Kids the World deserve my spotlight this week.  You folks were amazing.  Your hard work made an amazing week for my kid.  And for my family.  We don’t get many “amazing” weeks, so this one was for the record books.  Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts.


*Did you know that the MakeA-Wish Foundation was founded here in Arizona?  It started with a little boy who wanted to be a police officer for the day.  Read the story here.


To follow Make-A-Wish, Southwest Airlines and Give Kids the World Village, simply click these links.


Cassandra can be found on Twitter @aclevergirl.  Learn more about her family’s unique challenges and why they have hope for a cure for muscular dystrophy at