When you wish upon a star…you just may win a free vacation

20150201_155407788_iOSLooking back, that first phone call doesn’t even seem real. I can remember bits and pieces of it, but I can’t even remember the whole conversation, because it was such a blur. How often do you get the best news of your life? How often are you completely taken off guard?

A few months ago, that exact thing happened. The phone call I received was from a sweepstakes company telling me that I had won an all-expense paid trip to Disney World for myself and three friends.

At first, I didn’t get too excited—I just couldn’t believe something like that would happen to me. As soon as I began receiving legal documents, though, I knew that it was for real. I had really won.

The Sweepstakes was called the “Coffee to Castle Sweepstakes,” and it was hosted by Joffrey’s Coffee (the company that provides most of the coffee in Disney World). Not only did we get 16 park hopper tickets, but we received free air fare, a hotel room and a gift card for coffee while on the trip.

The months leading up to the trip were miserable—we were all just so excited about the trip. No one was more excited than me—I couldn’t take it.

20150131_135407687_iOSBut then, finally, January 31st rolled around. At the early time of 2am, we rolled out of bed and packed up the car to begin our journey to the Columbus Airport. Two hours later, we were landing in beautiful Orlando Florida where the temperature was about 40 degrees warmer than Ohio and the sun was actually shining.

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I can’t believe how wonderful of a trip we had and how little we had to pay for. It was so great to go all out at Disney World with little expense. We even got to stay at the Caribbean Beach Resort on Disney property which provided us with some of the most beautiful pools at Disney World, along with free transportation wherever we wanted to go.

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While the package alone was amazing, the best part of the trip was spending it with three ladies I love so incredibly much. My recommendation for any woman out there is that every once in a while, you would treat yourself and take a girl’s trip. There’s nothing like having some girl time with ladies you truly love. I haven’t laughed that hard in so very long. I will cherish the memories I made with these gals for a lifetime.

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People ask me all the time how exactly I won a free vacation. Well for those of you who are interested, I recommend the site www.sweepstakesfanatics.com. I actually check the website every day to find sweepstakes to enter into. The other great place to look for specifically Disney trips is www.mousesavers.com.

I know it sounds completely crazy, but now if you ever find yourself wasting three hours of your life filling out applications, you can use the excuse that you actually know someone who won once. That should give you the motivation to press on. I know I’m not giving up on the sweepstakes anytime soon.

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I am so glad I took a crazy chance and entered in the “Coffee to Castle Sweepstakes,” because I defied some odds and got to take a wonderful trip with my girlfriends.

Joffrey’s Coffee helped make my dreams come true and gave me an opportunity I’ll never forget. If you find yourself in Disney World, take a break and grab a cup of coffee from Joffrey’s. You may not win a free vacation, but I can promise you, you’ll have a great cup of Joe.

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What I learned in 2014

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When you think of life’s milestones, you generally think about the obvious milestones everyone experiences. At 16 you can legally drive a car, at 18 you can buy yourself some cigarettes, and at 21 you can head to your local liquor store and buy some PBR. You think about going to college, getting a job, buying your first car, getting married and having children.

If we’re being honest, though, while most of those things are a huge deal, so many milestones happen along the way that teach us a heck of a lot more.

For me, 2014 was full of life lessons and sticky situations that have taught me to see the good and bad in human existence. I am grateful to look back on the last year in my life.

I learned that to accomplish something beautiful, you have to put in an insane amount of work. You have to lean on your partner in life to hold you up when you feel like breaking. You have to trust each other in those moments you feel like the stress is too much to handle. I also learned some things take a lot of paperwork.

I learned that when life gets too busy, you have to take a break. Take time for yourself, get a massage, go see a movie or bake a pie. I learned sometimes I need to put “date night” in my schedule so that I actually make the time to do it.

I learned sometimes you just have to put yourself out there. Do something absolutely insane. You just might win a sweepstakes and be that one in a million statistic.

I also learned sometimes going after something with everything you have doesn’t actually mean you will get it. It doesn’t matter how badly you want something or how much effort you put into it. There’s always a chance someone will be more talented or more lucky than you. It’s okay to grieve and feel sorry for yourself for a few days, but eventually you have to forgive yourself for just being you and embrace the qualities you do have.

I learned that death can bring people together and break them simultaneously. The death of my grandma left me with a void like most deaths do, but being with her, my mother and my aunt when it happened was beautifully tragic. Spending her last week of life living in her home with her was challenging but also something I will cherish until the end of my own life. I learned in a way I had never before how family really is the most important thing I will ever have. Sometimes you just have to drop whatever is going on in your life and be with the people you love most.

I learned to cherish the lives of my family through both health and sickness. I learned to be thankful to God when health scares turn out to be treatable. I learned to not take the lives of my family for granted.

I learned that your family doesn’t have to be through blood or through marriage. Your extended family can be the people you work for, believe it or not. They can have your best interest at heart. I learned that the smile of two little girls can put me in a better mood than anything else can.

I learned that people you worked with and considered friends can be incredibly caddy, delete you from Facebook and “talk smack” for absolutely no reason. I also learned how to not give a damn about it. Girls will be girls, but I am a woman and I can rise above.

I learned that relationships are fragile. You must be careful with the words you say and how you say them. You have to be willing to apologize and even more willing to forgive.

I learned that sometimes people really are just plain horrible, and there are people out there who truly just want to hurt you. They will lie and deceive to bring you down. Usually these people are the ones that are closest to you. Heck, they may have even been a bridesmaid at your wedding. But I learned life is too short and fragile to hate anyone. You just have to move on. I learned how to do that—to move on and to leave the toxic people behind but do so in a graceful way.

I also learned how beautiful my remaining friendships are and how each and every one of my close friends is special in her own way. I learned no one is blessed with more loving friends and that none of these women are replaceable. In all honesty, I’ve learned who my true friends are.

I learned that being a perfectionist is hard work, and I need to stop trying so hard. I’m not perfect, no one is. I’ve learned to relax and not care so much about the way people perceive me. (If I’m being honest, I’m still working on learning this one).

I’ve learned holding the hand of my husband is one of life’s most fulfilling things. I learned that our relationship is most important one I have here on earth, and I need to treat it as so. I learned no matter what, he’s going to be there for me. I learned how pure and unconditional the love he has for me truly is.

The most important thing I learned, though, was that through all of the good and all of the bad, God never left me. I learned that even when I felt alone, His presence was there, I just didn’t see it. I learned that not every prayer gets answered, but in your desperation, many will be. I learned that what they say is true, it is always darkest before the dawn. I also learned that the dawn always comes though—you just have to wait for it patiently.

This past year was far from perfect, and at times, 2014 was tough. While there were many tears shed, there were also more moments of happiness and laughter than I can comprehend. Sure there were heartbreaking times, but there were even more beautiful times that I cling to. You must take something positive from the bad times and the injustices you’ve felt and not put anything negative into the innately good and wonderful things that have come your way.

I don’t know what you learned in 2014, but I learned a lot. This was my life. This was my year.