Favorite Feelings

The first day of a vacation, i.e. what today is for me. (I’m coming for ya, Allyssa and Iowa and South Dakota!)

The first sip of a large Diet Coke with vanilla from Sonic, because it’s extra vanilla-y.

Reading in a pool, your body half-submerged as the sun warms your shoulders and arms.

When you flip on the Food Network and the Pioneer Woman is on. She’s fantastic.

The crunch of a tortilla chip dripping with creamy jalapeño sauce from Chuy’s. UGH. I melt.

A perfectly clean room.

When you sit down to write and your brain actually spits out ideas.

The first time you listen to an album or a song, and you end up loving it. It’s the magic of listening to lyrics for the first time, you know?

When you used to work at Disney World and you visit for the first time in over a year, and Russell from Up remembers you and walks you to the Wilderness Explorer Clubhouse. (Oh, Disney. I MISS YOU.)

Receiving snail mail from your friends. Just sayin’ hi.

Sitting between the shelves of the local library, writing. You feel so official.

Actually seeing–not FaceTiming, not texting–your best friend for the first time in months. (Tomorrow, tomorrow!)

The tickle of your dog’s tongue on your nose.

Watching baby birds evolve: from aliens to gargoyles to feathered gargoyles to real life birds.

Long drives by yourself. You sing at the top of your lungs and no one judges you when you zone out to think about life and stuff.

And on that drive, you’re able to think of new story ideas and blog posts (like this one) and you feel energized and creative and productive!

And, finally, the satisfaction that comes with writing your thoughts down. There’s nothing better.

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“She’s Imperfect, But She Tries…”

Hey friends. What’s up? How’s it going? Long time, no write!

(Do I say this before every blog post? Yes. Yes I do.)

I wanted to blog a bit about my experience seeing my favorite musical as of late: Waitress. I recently (like yesterday recently, at least at the moment I’m typing this) saw the touring production, and holy moly, I was so blown away; it was everything I imagined and so much more. I’ve been listening to the original cast recording for some time now, and to see the story come to life on stage was all sorts of magic.

A little background on the musical, if you’ve never heard of it:

  • Created by Broadway’s first all-female creative team (#girlpower)
  • Music was written by Sara Bareilles
  • Based on the 2007 movie by the late Adrienne Shelly
  • The story charms the pants off of you and gives you all the #feels (at least in my experience)

Why do I love this musical so much?

Last year, before grad school, when I was living at home after the Disney College Program, working two jobs, and trying to figure out what the heck I was doing with my life (ha), I “discovered” the Waitress Tony performance on a late night YouTube binge of Hamilton vids. (Because I had just “discovered” that show, too. Ha. Haha. I’m always late to the game).

The last song of the performance, “She Used to Be Mine,” was performed by Sara Bareilles and Jessie Mueller, and it broke me in the best way. Long story short, on that night more than a year ago, that song (“She Used to Be Mine”) and Jessie Mueller’s performance reminded me of my mom, the strongest woman I know. The resolution of the musical also reminds me of my mom–she has always puts her girls (my sister and me) first, and I love her so much for it.

I spent that night bawling all by my lonesome in my childhood bedroom, and then I promptly downloaded the album. The music became the soundtrack to my day: “Opening Up” and “Everything Changes” for the morning commute, “Bad Idea” for my weekend jogs, “A Soft Place to Land” for shower singing, and “She Used to be Mine” for literally anytime, anywhere. Since starting my MFA last August, the music of Waitress has become a go-to writing soundtrack and inspiration for my own characters in my stories–I focus on women’s experiences and relationships (especially sister and mother-daughter relationships), and the music puts me in the perfect mindset to bring my characters to life.

Let me tell you, actually seeing this beautiful production was such a joy. This musical has everything–I laughed (so much), I cried, and my heart soared. (Can we talk about how cheesy that sentence was?)

I also had an incredible view: fourth row (the best I’ve ever had during a performance/concert/etc.). Also, the couple in front of me didn’t come back after intermission (why, though?!), so I COULD SEE SO WELL for Act II. I COULD SEE THE ACTORS’ FACES so CLEARLY.

This, my friends, is a very big deal to me.

If you have a chance to see this musical, do it. It’s heartwarming, heartwrenching, and an overall wonderful experience. If you love stories about real, good people just trying to do their best, you gotta see Waitress. 

Also there’s pie. Who doesn’t love pie?!

Reading/Watching/Obsessing/Doing

It’s finally SUMMER. Oh, sweet summer! I’m done with school until August, and I’ve been whole-heartedly enjoying my “break” so far.

Let me tell you–I’ve been writing. A lot. But not for this blog, as you guys could confirm. I’ve been brimming with ideas for fiction, but I’ve been coming up short when it comes to this blog.

SO. Here’s a little post about what I’ve been up to since the end of the semester: what I’m reading, watching, obsessing over, and what I’ve been doing.

Reading

Since turning in my students’ final grades, I’ve been enjoying reading what I want to read. One of the best feelings in the world is the ability to choose your reading material and read at your pace, at your leisure. Ugh, I love it so much. I’ve read so much so far, at least for my natural pace–which is pretty slow for a lover of literature.

Since I”m trying to write literary fiction and mostly short stories, my goal this summer is to “catch up” and read as much literary fiction as possible. I finally made a Goodreads account, and HOLY MOLY I’M OBSESSED! I love the idea of tracking what I read and creating a “to-read” list! All in a handy dandy app! UGH! It’s so great.

My current reads are Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff (who has quickly become one of my favorite authors–holy cow) and What it Means When a Man Falls From the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah, a short story collection. Both are so good. I will say, I enjoyed Groff’s Delicate Edible Birds a little more than Fates and Furies so far, but MAN can she write!

So far, both books are on their way to earning a five-star rating. If you’re interested, check out my Goodreads page.  

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Watching

So a book I was required to read this past semester was The Handmaid’s Tale. I read it for my seminar in fiction class, which focused on creating stories influenced by “landscape.” It was the first book we read, and it couldn’t exemplify the course’s objectives more perfectly.

I’m currently obsessed with Hulu’s adaptation; I paid 99 cents for a three-month trial of Hulu just to watch the entire series. I’m caught up, and each week I look forward to Wednesday so I can check in on Gilead. I love how they do a weekly release–it brings back those “good old days” vibes when we had to wait a WHOLE WEEK to find out what happened next.

If you haven’t already, watch this series. Read this book. You’ll be disturbed, but man, oh man will it make you think!

Obsessing

We have barn swallows building a news on our back porch, and I am completely obsessed with them. They are the prettiest birds, and, according to my extensive Google search, some cultures believe they bring good luck to the household.

My goodness, I love them so much. Their names are Bernard and Bianca. I’ll [maybe] keep you updated.

Doing

Writing. Reading. Writing some more. Running a tad. Working on projects. Reading submissions for my university’s lit journal. Enjoying every single second of summer and its sweetness.

That’s all for now, folks. I hope you’re enjoying the warmer days, the sun, and, most importantly, your reading material. If you’re reading stuff you don’t like…STOP. Visit your library. Peruse its shelves. Fall in love with reading again.

Okay, that’s all. I’m off to watch my swallows build their nest. I love them, I love them, I LOVE them.

 

The End is Near

The end of the semester, that is.

GUYS. I’m almost done with my first year of graduate school. What the heck? This time last year I was searching for apartments online, and now I’m published (just once, but it’s a start!), have a semester teaching under my belt, and I’ve made such great friends with people in my cohort.

I also don’t feel as clueless–I felt so clueless at the beginning of all of this. I had no idea what I was doing (and I still don’t sometimes), but gosh darn it, I’m DOING this grad school thing. That’s something!

I think I have a handle on things? I think?

And while the end of the semester is certainly near, I have so much to do in such a short period of time. But it’s all good–really. Sure, I’m stressed, but who isn’t? I’m so lucky to be in graduate school, to be learning so much. And I mean SO much.

My brain has grown three sizes at least.

(And, yes, I know that’s not how the acquisition of knowledge works.)

Here’s a little list of some of the things I’ve learned during my first year of my MFA:

  1. Grad school is a lot of work and requires a TON of multitasking. My time management skills have DEFINITELY come in handy! I know this seems like a “You think, Kaila?” kind of point, but there is truly a difference in the workload between undergrad and graduate school, at least in my experience. If you happen to be thinking of pursuing your MFA in creative writing, it’s a good thing to know you will be doing lots and lots and lots and lots of work. (Which is awesome.)
  2. I know very little about fiction writing, but I’m learning so much every single day.
  3. Teaching is so much more than the time spent in the classroom. I knew this before coming in, but you really don’t know to what extent this is true until you actually teach.
  4. Teaching is great and I love it. It’s also stressful, but the great stuff outweighs the stress stuff.
  5. Cooking at home is such a stress reliever AND a money saver. Oh my goodness, I have learned the greatness that is eating more meals at home!
  6. “No homework days” should not be spent feeling guilty about not doing your homework. Savor it. Rest up. (I’m still working on this one.)
  7. Library book sales are an incredible thing and they happen once a semester. Buy all of the books!
  8. Taking your dog on long, long walks helps you destress, helps your dog release some energy, and makes for a productive evening of work.
  9. Making friends with your colleagues means that classes are fun, offices are fun, everything’s fun. 
  10. I love school. I knew that, but now I’m pretty sure I want to stay in school for as long as possible–teaching or otherwise.

As I finish up my last bit of writing and grading for the semester, I can’t help but be so grateful for this opportunity to learn and work on my craft. I can’t wait to see what the next couple of years bring.

 

 

 

Change

Well. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably noticed things have changed around here. My blog has a different name, different look. No more “Kaila’s Wonderland.”

Why did I change these things? Why change my name, the aesthetic?

I started this blog in 2014 to have space where I could write about what I loved in a non-academic way. Things I love/loved include books, pop culture, my life, Disney stuff, school. Really none of that has changed–I still [really] love Disney, books, pop culture, my life, and now graduate school. Since starting my blog, I’ve graduated college, done a Disney College Program, worked as a content writer, and worked as an editorial assistant for a city magazine. Now I’m pursuing an MFA in fiction and I’m writing fiction regularly.  I even have a story published (check out the new “Publications” page), and I’m constantly submitting work in the hopes of getting more stories published.

With all that I’ve done, I’m starting to know what I want to do with my life–or at least have an idea of what my “next step” will be. And with this knowledge, it was time for a little rebranding.

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you know this site used to be called “Kaila’s Wonderland,” or kailainwonderland.com. I’ll always love the part of me who began the blog, the college junior who couldn’t sleep one night so she started a blog on a whim. That name–“Kaila in Wonderland” or “Kaila’s Wonderland”–was my first and favorite idea, and I was so proud of the worlds it combined: my name, Disney, literature.

Now that different aspects of my life are in focus–writing, my career–I just know it’s time to change things up. I won’t necessarily write about different things, but I’ll write about more things in this space, particularly about my life in graduate school, my writing, etc. Perhaps there will be more musings, more ramblings. I don’t know. But I’ll  always write about things I love, which includes everything I’ve always loved.

The new name of the blog, my new “brand” if you will, truly encompasses everything I am. I’ve always lived my life like me, “By Kaila.” I’ve always written words by me, “By Kaila.” This is a space where I’ll continue to do that, and I hope you’ll continue to follow along.

Thanks for reading, friends, and thanks for sticking with me since 2014. I can’t wait to keep writing in this space, and I hope you enjoy all the words written by me, By Kaila.

Hope and New Beginnings and All That Jazz

I’ve talked about how much I love the New Year on this blog before, but this year I love it times ten. I’m so hopeful and so energized and ready to take on whatever comes my way.

Like so excited.

I think I’m ready to not feel like I’m in a “funk” this year. I’ll be honest, after returning home from my college program in August of 2016, I felt lost and out-of-sorts, unsure and hesitant. Kind of…blah. I think the transition from college to Disney World to the real world to graduate school has been daunting and rough at times. But now I’m feeling good. More balanced. Ready. Excited. Hopeful.

Some quick little goals/resolutions:

  1. Enjoy my first year of teaching–I’ll be teaching composition one as part of my graduate teaching assistantship this coming semester, and I am so excited to give it a whirl.
  2. Make my health a priority this year. Work out! Feel like an athlete again! Eat well! Be mindful! Feel great!
  3. Write and write and write and write and write and revise and revise and revise and revise and submit and submit and submit and submit to magazines and whatnot.
  4. Be happy. Stress less. Enjoy the little things.
  5. Find a hobby–maybe cooking? Something?

I hope everyone has a happy, productive, and magical 2018.

Random Things I Miss About the DCP

Did you guys know it’s almost been a full two years since I began the Disney College Program?

TWO. WHOLE. YEARS. And so much has changed.

I’ve been missing that time in my life a lot recently–like, a lot, a lot–and it’s hard to explain why I’m missing it so much. I wouldn’t trade where I am and what I’m doing for the world. I know I’m where I’m supposed to be, and I don’t necessarily want to go back to Disney to work (although that option will never not be there).

There are just random things I miss about the experience. And I miss them so much lately that my heart aches.

Why am I so dramatic?!

I think it’s that time of year where nostalgia creeps in and you start thinking about your past and your childhood, and the Disney College Program encompassed the most complete feeling of carefree-ness I’ve ever experienced. I lived and worked at the most magical place on Earth, and I focused on having fun for six whole months. It was hard not to be happy during that time, and naturally you start to miss feeling like a kid 24/7.

In the spirit of procrastination as I work on my final projects of the semester, I wanted to make a list of random things I miss that aren’t necessarily the obvious things, for my enjoyment and for yours.

Enjoy!

  1. My friends (obviously). The people I met on my DCP are my kindred spirits, and I miss them every day. I’m thankful for group texts and Snapchats and Skype calls.
  2. The green carpet in my apartment at Chatham Square. I can’t explain why I miss this, but I do. I’m weird; it’s weird.
  3. The smell of Flame Tree Barbecue during my shifts with Dug and Russell–during lunchtime, my stomach was always growling.
  4. The smell of characters as you hug them. It’s distinct. You get it if you know.
  5. The Tree of Life in the mornings before the park opened. I’d walk to my location and think I was the luckiest girl in the world because I saw something so beautiful sans crowds.
  6. Loop music that I’ve now memorized the melodies to. I’m looking at you, Asia in DAK. Also–the loop music in Adventureland is exactly the same as the loop music on Discovery Island (specifically the Pizzafari area). That music is my jam.
  7. Taking pictures constantly and never feeling awkward. Selfies all day every day. Princess poses galore. Foot pops, silly faces, the works.
  8. Park days where the crowds are low and your enthusiasm is so high and you do so much stuff and skip around saying, “Nobody’s HEEERRREEE!!!” with your arms outstretched to demonstrate the emptiness.
  9. Looking at pins you swear you’d eventually buy–some you do, and then you realize pins are EXPENSIVE. But you still buy some more. Because why not?
  10. Smells. All smells. Even backstage smells. The drive-through at my local Panera smells just like backstage Tusker House and it’s weird and thrilling.
  11. Speaking of backstage…walking toward base at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and walking by an unfinished Pandora with its floating mountains and its mystery and wishing you could see it finished one day (mission accomplished).
  12. Wearing ears constantly. I love ears. They complete any outfit.
  13. Solo park days when you just sit somewhere and just take everything in.
  14. The Voices of Liberty. I LOVE THEM.
  15. Watching Festival of the Lion King multiple times in a single day. Because we could.
  16. Doing the Tumble Monkey’s “Circle of Life” choreography as soon as you exit the Harambe Theatre, and saying “Look guys, I can be a tumble monkey!” to your friends.
  17. Main Street. And Photopass. Stopping at every Photopass down Main Street. “WE HAVE THE PHOTOPASS!”
  18. Scoring fast passes to big-ticket attractions the same day you plan to ride them. Frozen! Soarin’! Mine Train! SUCCESS!
  19. Feeling sweaty and sunburned and freckled 99.9999% of the time.
  20. My Teva tan. I was proud of it, because I never tan.
  21. Pinning my name tag to my blueberry shirt every day and nearly sticking myself with the pin every day.
  22. Exhaustion-driven sleep–the best kind, the most “out like a light” kind.
  23. Talking to kids all day, and seeing those same kids’ faces light up when they meet their favorite character or when they see the parade or the fireworks for the first time.
  24. Festival of Fantasy and reciting the entire opening monologue thing and singing along to the lyrics: DREAMS THAT GLOW / WONDROUS, DAZZLING, BRILLIANTLY.
  25. CELEBRATE THE MAGIC! (R.I.P.) Also crying when Walt Disney said something about remembering it all started with a mouse…who could that be?
  26. Oh yeah. Mickey. Mickey Mouse. I miss seeing him.

That’s all for now, folks. I’ll see ya real soon.

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After receiving my Traditions ears… I CRY. Forever thankful for Disney and the sweetest memories. 

 

Uncontrollable Sobbing in a Movie Theater

Also known as “the time I saw Disney-Pixar’s Coco.” 

You guys. I needed this movie, and I needed it so much that I didn’t even know I needed it.

I’ll probably write about some spoilers, so if you haven’t seen it, stop reading and GO SEE IT NOW IMMEDIATELY PLEASE AND THANK YOU.

I’ll wait.

***

Ok. Glad you’re back! Did you get some popcorn? Always get the popcorn.

Wasn’t this movie beautiful? I was so inspired by the visuals and the aesthetic of this movie from the opening scene–animation etched into colorful flags, marigold petals that glitter golden and magically, the skin (I know…weird) of the characters so perfectly imperfect. This movie was just gorgeous visually.

Now to the themes. They’re what left me a sobbing mess as the credits rolled, they left my sniffling on the car ride home, they left me contemplating life and my family and loved ones days after the trip to the theater.

Now let’s get a little deep.

Without giving so much away, this movie is about how our loved ones are remembered after they’re gone and how important it is to honor and remember their stories and pass down their memories so that they can live on in our hearts and live on in a real sense.

How Pixar conveys this message is so beautiful, and the ending of the movie made me think about my own family in a very real, very hard way. I couldn’t stop crying–red faced, swollen eyes, runny nose, heaving chest–because I couldn’t stop thinking about my grandpa.

My grandpa passed away about twelve years ago, but he’s still the most amazing man I’ve ever met. He made everything so fun for my sister and me, and he was a storyteller to boot, a spinner of tales, a pretender-of-sorts–all in good fun and for our entertainment, of course. He was the ultimate believer in imagination and make-believe, and I feel so lucky to have had him as a grandpa. He always lived his life so others could feel loved and happy, safe and secure. He wanted his loved ones to have fun above all things–even when the cards were against him (believe me, my grandpa faced so much heart-wrenching adversity), he faced life with incredible positivity and love and a joyousness I haven’t seen in too many people.

Ugh. I love him so much.

Coco reminded me to always keep his legacy alive through storytelling, the very thing he was so good at. My grandpa’s story deserves to be told to my future children, their future children, to people on the street, to this blog. My grandpa touched my life more than I can express, and he deserves to live on through the spoken or written word.

All of these emotions about my grandpa and about my own legacy in the world hit me like a ton of bricks as the movie ended, but that’s exactly why I thought this movie was so good–its message transcends into real life. Yes, all movies can do this in a way, but the themes in Coco–family, remembrance, legacy, love–are so universal and so poignant.

The movie’s tear-inducing, but it’s also change-inducing. That’s why it’s so good.

In short, go see Coco. I loved it, 5 out of 5 stars or pixie dust particles or whatever tickles your fancy.

P.S. Coco‘s got a great soundtrack, too. I’m telling you, this movie is gold.

Rapunzel Hair

Hair is a funny, funny thing. We become attached to our locks, desperate to find the style that’s right for our faces, for our personalities, for our “aesthetic” we want to portray to the world.

I used to cling desperately to my long hair. There was a point when I had “mermaid hair,” hair so long it could cover…well. You know.

But I’ve always wanted a long bob. Always, ever since I was a little girl. But fear and my involvement in athletics made me wary of chopping my hair–I thought a long bob would make my face appear thicker, or I thought I’d miss braids and long ponytails. I thought my long hair was such a big part of me, and I was so afraid to part with it, even though it’s what I truly wanted.

You know what I finally realized just a few weeks ago? HAIR GROWS BACK. So I cut it. I’m going to try to find pictures of the longest hair and my shortest style and insert them right here:

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You know what’s amazing? This was my first haircut in which I almost HAPPY CRIED with the results. I WAS SO HAPPY THAT I FINALLY DID WHAT I WANTED! And I’m still so happy!

The moral of the story? Hair (or anything, really) doesn’t define you. You define you. Your dreams define you, your personality, your likes, your spirit. Our girl Rapunzel is the perfect example of a physical thing not embodying your essence–while she didn’t cut her hair herself, her hair was still her defining quality before the chop. When it was lobbed off, she was free of an expectation, free of Mother Gothel’s abusive restraints.

She went from “Rapunzel with the hair that glows when she sings” to just “Rapunzel.” And that’s all that she ever really needed to be.

I’m not saying long hair’s bad. Not at all–mermaid hair (or buzzed hair or blue hair or any kind of hair) is beautiful. I’m just saying to do what you want to do, do the things that truly make you who you are, and become who you want to be. That’s all we can ever do: love the things we love, be nice to people, and find joy in doing exactly the things you’ve always thought you’d never try. Let’s do the things we like and make a little bit of a difference in our little corners of the world.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go shake my head because I love how my new hair bounces when it’s curled.

Best. Day. Ever!

Grad School Update and the Disney Stuff That Gets Me Through it All

Geez. Long title.

If y’all don’t know, I’m pursing my MFA in creative writing (fiction concentration).

It’s crazy. I’m crazy. You’re crazy. Wait, what?

Grad school is tough, but I’m learning so much. I know, know, you guys are probably like:   “Kaila, you’re at school, of course you’re learning a lot.” But learning is not always a given, I’ve found.

But I am. I’m learning. AND I LOVE LEARNING!

As a budding fiction writer, I’m learning that not all I write can be about sunshine and rainbows and happy happy happy. Of course, there could be moments of happiness, or there could happy(ish) undertones to literary fiction. But happy doesn’t always make a good story, and I’m finally finding my groove when it comes to the themes I want to tackle. (You’d think I’d know this by now, but hey. I’m admittedly a novice when it comes to making up stories.)

BUT. I feel like my writing is already improving by leaps and bounds. I’m constantly working on my stories–before class, after class, at home, in the student union, in bed, while Ellie chews on my feet. I’m either thinking about writing, actually writing, or editing writing. I read, too. Not much for fun, but I still make time for a bit of recreational reading. Workshopping is scary/tough/disheartening/empowering. But I’m learning to love the process.

My blog’s taken a backseat, I know, but I’m changing that right now. I miss talking about Disney on the daily–okay, I actually haven’t stopped talking about it, but the subject isn’t as much of a priority anymore. At least in my daily life. I gots school and work and stuffs. Sometimes I tell the students I tutor in the writing center that I worked for Disney (they see my stickers on my laptop), and that’s always a fun icebreaker.

Anyways. Here’s a list Disney things helping me get through my first year of my MFA:

  • Music. Always. Currently been loving the new Duck Tales theme song–Donald’s my favorite, so listening to this while I put my makeup on is a way to start the day, let me tell ya.
  • Club Mickey Mouse! Those kids make me smile! It’s sad that I’m so old that I call 16-18 year-olds kids. Ha.
  • My apartment is so cute, and it’s filled with mostly Disney crap. I’m just now figuring out where to display my Tsum Tsums. Once my living room is sort of decorated, I need to take some pics and show you guys. I love it.
  • I bought Bambi recentlyso that was nice.
  • The anticipation of Coco and The Last Jedi. Goodness I can’t WAIT for both!
  • Ellie. She’s my dog, but she’s got a Disney name, so it works. She got fixed the other day, poor baby, but she’s doing great.
  • My backpack. My Vera Bradley Disney print backpack actually broke (darn zipper), but my student union carries the JanSport DISNEY COLLECTION! I died of happiness inside. I bought the print with Mickey and Donald climbing up a mountain; I’ll insert a link to a photo here.  (Ignore the horrid price tag, I was desperate and it was cute, okay?!) Donald’s face cracks me up and makes my heart happy.

There you have it. A quick list of Disney stuff I’m loving.

I’ve missed you, blog. I’ll try to write more often, because you make me happy.

See ya real soon!