Friday, February 27, 2015

My test of human kindness

     The story of my amazing journey finally came to a conclusion, and I had every intention of redirecting my efforts  back to the Bike To The Bay.  However, I just recently learned that I've been focusing on the wrong thing for way too long.
    Anyone who knows me knows I'm very strong willed, and I won't give up for anything.  I was so proud that I was able to do everything in my power for so many years to beat the odds of MS.  I wanted more than anything to try to be "perfect" again. 

     Then someone told me, with no intention of offence, that I never was perfect, nor would I ever be.  A little bit of brutal truth, but it was in fact, the truth.  No one is perfect, so why should I be any different?

     But that didn't stop me from wanting to be as close to  "whole" as possible.  If things stopped working, then maybe it was because I wasn't trying hard enough.

     As issues came into play, and I did everything in my power to keep strong, I seriously thought that was why people were inspired by me.  When I got the brace we all remember I had a brief melt down, because I thought I would have to turn in my "inspiration" Title.  I needed to figure out how to try harder to repair any debilitation, giving me reason for my existence.

      Riding in the Bike To The Bay as someone with MS for thirty years made me feel like it was my job to prove I wasn't going to let MS take me down.

     The thing is, it finally hit me that people weren't inspired because I was defying the odds, but because I tried very hard to be the best I could be.  It soon became obvious that it wasn't how I was doing physically that mattered, but that I continued to keep my spirit, no matter what.

     All of the kind people who have helped me, received the gift of doing something kind for another human being, and maybe my mission is to allow them to help me on my mission; therefore feeling important themselves.

     So, will I continue to fight like crazy to keep my body  strong??  Heck yeah!  Though, you can take away my body, but you can never take my spirit:)

Have a great weekend!!


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

It takes a village...

     Well, my trip to sunny Fort Myers was over, and that morning I was up with the chickens to make my very early flight.  Keith told me two hours early wasn't necessary at this airport, so we arrived one hour before take off.  I told Keith I will never forget his generosity, and this was where we would say our good-byes and  part ways, but not without the solemn promise we would do this again next year. 

     There were a lot more people in line for security then there were at the Toledo Express on my flight here.  It didn't matter though, I knew the routine and I would be in and out with out even batting an eye.  I put my luggage on the table and asked the security guard if she could just wand and x-ray me and leave me intact. 

     She said "We don't wand here."   I said "they did at the Toledo Express...".  She replied "Well, we don't HAVE wands here."  To which I said "So does that mean I have to take all of my paraphernalia off??"  She said "I can do a thorough pat down if you don't mind that."  

     Anything to avoid being taken apart, so I was more than happy to comply.  I was expecting it to be like a police frisking, and I would breeze right through, (not that I've ever had one, but I've seen a lot of cop shows...) but she took the word "thorough" literally.  By the time she was through with me I actually thought we were dating...  But I was still intact, so I caught my breath and went on my way.

     With this airport being very small the seats began to fill up fast, and by the time I went to sit down they were few and far between. As I was looking around to find a seat close to the gate I made my next friend, Meghan.  She got up and moved over and asked me if I wanted the end seat.  

     No surprise, we talked up a storm and swapped war stories until they called our flight.  I asked Meghan if I could take her picture for my blog and like every other person on my trip, she was thrilled.

     We boarded the plane, where a kind man offered to lift my luggage into the overhead, and then I would meet my next friend Diane, who was a "snow bird" on her way back home.  She mentioned that it was too bad about our mayor, right??  I told her it was so sad that he was in an accident.  She told me he passed away last Friday.  Wow, I was so busy living on the edge that I lost touch with the real world.  I hadn't seen a newspaper or the news in the past three days...

     Before long the plane landed safely in Toledo and the same kind man brought my luggage back down for me.

     Walking down the enclosed ramp I could feel the bitter cold making me wish I was still in Fort Myers.  But then I realized I had finally completed my test, and it was official that I was now a world traveler... (even if they were only baby airports...)
     I called my brother Doug to let him know I landed safely, and then waited patiently for him to pick me up.  While I waited I had to make one more friend, and that was the lady who worked at the airport coffee shop.  I told her all about my journey and what a real learning lesson it was.  

     When Doug finally arrived, carrying the winter coat I left behind, I asked my new friend to take my last and final picture to complete my story.  My awesome brother who brought me here was now taking me home, with a mind full of  memories of all the amazing people who helped me "make it on my own".  I now know, like the song Lean on me, "We all need somebody to lean on".

          You can always make it on your own, but some times it takes a village:)

Have a great day!!


Monday, February 23, 2015

Want a bad hair day?! para-sailing and a convertible will do it!


     When we left the beach after our para-sailing excursion, It sure felt like we had covered a lot of ground, and the day had a lot more hours in it.

     Keith said "I know you ride bikes right??"  Of course!  Hello...! the Bike To The Bay...?!  He said "Great!  Then I think you'll like what we're doing next."

     Well, this was kinda like riding a bike; it's old fashioned cars with pedals.  This was great!!  After all summer riding my road-bike this thing would be a walk in the park (or should I say "ride...")  

     Of course, I can't pedal with my brace and nerve zapper on my leg, so I left them in the car and Keith dropped me off at the rental booth, then went and parked.

     There were cars with two seats, four seats, and six seats respectively.  Being there were only two of us we got a small two seater.

        I soon found out this was not just like riding a bike; this thing weighed about 100 times more than my 20 pound road-bike.  

     Then, the pedals are standard in all of the cars. If your legs are long your knees are hitting your chin, but if they're short then you pedal with your tippy toes.  Being I happen to be vertically challenged I ended up sitting on the edge of my seat while trying to keep my feet on the pedals; I didn't want to be a slacker.  

     As we started riding I asked Keith if he would even notice if I wasn't pulling my weight... He looked over, smiled and said "uh... I think I would..."  So I guess there was no nap for me...

     Another interesting note; there were two steering wheels but only one steered.  I figured it would be like student driver cars where both sides controlled it.  Nope, and I was not in the driver seat, so I was at the mercy of where Keith decided to go.  

     Don't get me wrong, this was a beautiful park and the view  made it well worth the effort.  

       Along our route we came to a marsh.  Keith told me a lot of times you'll see alligators here, but it was highly unlikely we would see them at that time, because there were ducks swimming around, and they would know not to put themselves in danger.

     By the time we were back to the rental booth we had been riding about an hour and fifteen minutes, and I have to admit my legs were like rubber.  As we were getting out of the pedal car I said to Keith "I don't know if you noticed but I may have slacked off once or twice..."  Again, with that smile he said "oh yeah, I did:)"  I was busted:)

     So now I had the challenge of getting back to the car with "rubber legs", no brace and no nerve zapper...

     Keith offered to go get the car, but that would only waste time, so I told him I could walk slow if I could just put my hand on his shoulder for balance.  I mean, we couldn't walk arm and arm; he's my cousin, and we weren't in Kentucky!!  

      After a couple minutes it hit me, I was wearing sunglasses while I had my hand on his shoulder... I laughed and said "do you realize people probably think I'm blind?!"  I think I heard Keith say under his breath "Did you say blind or blonde...Lol."

     We finally made it to the car and our next and final stop for the day would be dinner at a restaurant that has nothing but salads.  Keith figured I would be as happy as a pig in mud; which I was.  He told me they even have frozen yogurt...  Wow, twice in one weekend?!  How did I get so lucky?!

     After we were done with our salads I went over to get some yogurt.  An older gentleman walked up to me and said "is that stuff fattening??"  I told him It's yogurt... how can it be??

     I looked over at Keith sitting at the table.  He rolled his  eyes and shook his head with disbelief then said "Come on, really!?!?"  What can I say.  It's like the movie Field Of Dreams, "if you build it they will come..."  I didn't know they were talking about froyo.

     Once again, the day was coming to an end, and I had a very early flight the next morning.  We called it a night, though my mind would go into overtime as I thought about all of the amazing things I did these past few days, along with feeling the confidence to conquer many more obstacles in the future.

Have a great day!!



Friday, February 20, 2015

The third day of my trip I was still a little clueless, but I'm learning!

          By the third and last day I had finally figured out the pattern.  I was getting nothing out of Keith so I just had to trust him.  We got in his convertible and started driving aimlessly (at least it was aimless to me...).  

     I knew he had something else up his sleeve, but he planned on making me work for it.  Our first stop was to sight see at the Edison Estate.  There was a lot to see but it also involved hoofing it as well, to which Keith said "I think you can handle it, but it's up to you...".  He mentioned several times that if we got too far out he could always hoist me on his back (anything to avoid watching me crawl...)  But I knew I had this... 

     Talk about backwards, this was a Banyan tree that was several hundred years old.  What was unique about it was the roots grew out of the branches, back down to the ground and then started all over again.  You never knew if they were coming or going...

     This tree, again, older than dirt (or almost) is called a Kapok tree.  As you can see it was slightly taller than I.  And growing right in front of the tree were some sort of pink flowers.  I'm guessing they planted them knowing I was coming:)

     After seeing almost every point of interest at this stop, we were on our way to the next mystery adventure.  But we needed to fuel up first.  Of course there was no time to grow roots at some sit down restaurant so we picked up some "rabbit food", AKA nuts and grapes.  We were on a mission and didn't want to waste time burning daylight.

     Keith had kept silent for way too long, and he finally blurted it out that we were going para-sailing.  Whoa!!!  Again up in the clouds?!?!  Remember when I was on cloud nine?!?  Well if there's such a thing as cloud ten I was now on it!  

   However, this time Keith was taking this adventure with me.  Maybe he wanted to take this opportunity to catapult me into the water... that or he wanted to make sure I came back in one piece.  I want to believe it's the latter:)

       The lady at the ticket booth had a two way radio that she was using to communicate with the crew on the boat.  I'm guessing when she saw my brace she must have warned them I was an "invalid", because though I wasn't wearing it on the boat, as they were pulling me on to the larger boat from the "taxi boat" the first thing one of them said was "watch out for her leg!"  However, by the time my ride was over they had realized I wasn't gonna break, and they were practically throwing me.

          They also figured out I wouldn't melt because they dipped me in the water not twice, but three times.

     It's true, my legs don't work like they used to before, but knowing what I know now, at the end of day does it even really matter??

Have a great weekend!!


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A perfect ending to a perfect day.

     Well, I finally did it!  I completed the mystery challenge of Hang gliding.  I always pictured Hang gliding as running off a cliff and flying off into the horizon.  Since I don't run anymore I never in my wildest dreams thought I would be doing that..I guess there's always a way to do anything.

     But now it was time for me to come back down to earth.  My other cousin, Paul, (Keith's brother) and his wife Tina also live in Florida and we planned to meet up with them, head to the beach, and watch the sunset.

     This was surely going to be the perfect ending to a perfect day.

          Our plans were to have dinner at an open air restaurant on the top of a Six story building, and that was where we would watch the view of the sun as it sinks into the gulf.

     However, we had some time on our hands before that happened so we went out on the beach.  One thing I learned is, briskly walking in the sand usually results in me face down with a mouth full of earth.  But just hanging out by the water was no problem at all.

     Then Keith suggested we take a walk down to the peer but only if I wanted to.  I absolutely wanted to, but began to imagine the group taking a power walk as I went flying into some little kid's sand castle.  However, I had said I was going to rise to every challenge put in front of me on this trip, so I told him I would love to, but at my pace.  I was pleasantly surprised when the walk turned into a leisurely stroll, and not one person was leaving me in their dust.  

     By the time we had finished our "stroll" it was time to head up to the restaurant to make sure we had the perfect seats facing the sunset.

This was the view of the beach from our table

          With the first sign of the sun's departure I had my camera ready to capture the entire disappearing act from the start to the very last rays illuminating the water.  Here it is...

          I had never seen a sunset more beautiful; then again, maybe I wasn't looking hard enough.  Now that we saw what we came for it was time for us to leave (before the restaurant Manager had us thrown out for loitering...)

     As we were heading down the strip there was a definite thriving night life going on, and Keith asked if I was game for walking around town.  Come on... I was a trooper for everything else so far.  Why quit now!?!?  

     We walked out on the peer and briefly stopped to listen to a band play their classic rock music and then we started heading back to the car.

          But as we were almost to to car I noticed a frozen yogurt shop and looked at Keith and said "wait..."  we need to make one more stop... Keith said "I know... frozen yogurt... She's been whining about that all weekend,lol".  I said "I was a trooper all weekend and now I'm getting it with or with out you guys..."  So we headed into the shop.

     No shock, I took forever trying to decide what I wanted; there was cherry, butter pecan and many others but I didn't see chocolate.  As a choco-halic that was just wrong.  I asked the young man behind the counter if he had chocolate and he said "only soft serve..."  I said  "perfect!!"  he sat the dish of frozen yogurt on the counter, smiled and said "It's on me!  Have a great evening!"  I said "You're kidding!!!  that is so sweet!!! thank you so much:)"  then of course I asked him if I could take his picture to put in my blog and he was happy to help.

          We left the shop and I was totally floating on air.  I said "See how nice people can be?!?! he didn't even know me and he just gave me the yogurt out of the goodness of his heart!"  

      Paul's wife Tina, who may have said two sentences all night, out of the blue responded "I think it was because he was tired of you taking forever:)"  We all laughed, but I know he was really being nice:)

     What a perfect day it turned out to be, and I knew we still had one more day ahead of us, but I seriously wondered how anything could come close to the past two days.   Though I sure was anxious to find out!!

Have a great day!!


Monday, February 16, 2015

Who says I can't fly?!

          Yesterday was amazing and one filled with many emotions.  The flight, the kind people, the sun along with the beautiful sights made me feel like I was in heaven on earth.  But this morning all I could think about was what was in store for me.  All I knew was I had an appointment at 1:00.  But an appointment for what..?? I had absolutely no idea. However, the anticipation of the unknown was going to continue, because our first stop would be at a Manatee park.


          With the temperature reaching around 75 I was in my "perfect" zone.  If it's too cold I'm a tin soldier and too hot a bag of cement.  But this day I would feel about as normal as a human being could feel.

          I never knew how "human like" the manatee actually was, in fact the skeleton looked nothing like that of a sea creature. But then again, a Manatee is a mammal so that would explain the human similarities.  They actually have lungs but unlike humans they can hold their breath under water for about five minutes.

          You can see the Manatees were a little apprehensive about greeting us at first, and with the temperature almost like bath water I can't say I blamed them.   However, they had to surface at somepoint and I had my camera ready for when they did.

        It was a little sad to know that all of these nicks were caused by boat propellers, but with their thick skin they appeared to be unharmed.

          We actually saw a mother and her baby along with many more of their friends before we left, and after a morning filled with walking in the sunshine and exploring we were finally off to my mystery appointment...  So a quick lunch on the run and we were heading to our next stop.

     The mystery had gone on for long enough and soon the cat was finally out of the bag (or should I say the Coyote...)

      I would have never said "hey, I really want to go hang gliding!!" but when it was put in front of me I was flying higher than a kite!  (no pun intended)

     They gave me a helmet and I asked the obvious question "what good will this do if I crash from 1500 feet in the air?"  Keith said "absolutely nothing, but it'll make you think it will..."

     They strapped me in securely and I never felt even the slightest fear.  When I was at my highest point (both physically and mentally)  I actually felt like a soaring bird!  Remember the song "You are the wind beneath my wings..." I always said if I had one super power it would be flying; no feet required!!  And my dream finally came true!!

     Before long the plane that we were attached to released us, and there was nothing but the wind and the sail keeping us afloat.  But at this point I didn't care if I ever came back down, and if there were any complications there couldn't be a better way to go:)

          I know my pilot, Dave, was running the show, but at one point he actually let me steer, and he asked me if I wanted to do some tricks... how can you go that high up in the sky and not show off a little:)  So we did a few dips and loops and then started our journey back down.

My pilot Dave

     I was finally back on the ground and there was no doubt in my mind that I would absolutely do this a million times over.  This en-devour made me feel like I could do anything, and I will be forever grateful to these two guys for giving me an experience of a life time; Keith, for getting me up there, and Dave, for bringing me safely back down:)

     Just think, the day is only half over... Check back to see if this day could get any better:)

Have a great day!!



Friday, February 13, 2015

A dose of Vitamin D is just what the doctor ordered.

     I said getting there was half the battle, and now that I've arrived in one piece the rest was gravy.  My cousin Keith told me the airport was small but when I got off the plane I was surprised to see just how "small town" it really was.  I could swear I saw a couple sheep ahead of me.

     Keith also mentioned he would meet me at the baggage claim area, and there was no way I could miss him because the airport was  so tiny.  I said "If you can't find me I'll be wearing pink... actually, if you lose track of me at any given time, I'll be wearing pink:)"

     He wasn't kidding about the airport being small; as soon as I went through the doors I could see someone wearing my pink Team Leapfrog shirt.  Of course I just shook my head as we both laughed.  I guess he wanted to be certain I saw him; that, or he just got a hall pass from the nut house...

     It didn't take long before we were on the road and I soon discovered "we weren't in Kansas anymore...".  This was a far cry from the foot of snow I left back in Ohio.

          I had no idea at all what Keith had planned for this weekend because he didn't want to give me any opportunity to back out.  I told him I was up for any challenge, and he was going to hold me to it.  He just kept telling me I would have some amazing experiences that I will never forget... I was excited, because this whole trip was a test to see what I'm capable of.

     Ironically, I think this trip was a learning experience for Keith as well, because he asked if he could pick my brain and try to understand what I'm going through with all of my crazy symptoms.  There are very few people who actually really understand all of the ins and outs; in fact sometimes I don't understand myself, but I planned to educate him the best I could.

     Right off the bat he mentioned he had no clue as to what my limitations were and he would have to follow my lead.  Of course, my limitations weren't actually crystal clear to me either.  A lot of the things I shy away from are due to the fear of trying to keep up with "normal" people, giving a new meaning to the  expression "taking a trip".  I've been told a few times to slow down and let my brain and body communicate, but knowing most people don't get it, I've always felt the need to just try my best to go at their pace.  For once I decided I would do everything put in front of me, only this time the pace is all mine.

      Of course, the first day was all about taking in the fabulous Fort Myers sites.  So the first thing we did was check out the beach, which Keith told me was "Florida snow".

       Next we went to "Fisherman's Wharf", which was a restaurant right on the bay and the view was awesome.  But I barely had a chance to catch my breath and  we were off to the yacht club, which was  supposed to have a fabulous view of the sun set, but nothing in comparison to the sunset we would see the next day at Fort Myers Beach.

     As we were driving down a lightly traveled service road we spotted these "burrowing owls", which to my surprise let us get about five feet away to snap a photo of them.  I think they were as intrigued by us as we were by them...   

     A little more sight seeing, along with a bit more walking then I would have anticipated, before we ended the day by getting pizza, which is something I rarely do but hey, I was on vacation, and every bit of this trip was about stepping outside the box.  However, we had to make sure to find the best pizza in town and we did...

     I knew for the next two days we would be going non stop, so it was time to call it a night and dream of many more white sandy beaches tomorrow...

     Check back later to see what surprises were in store for me the next day:)

Happy Valentines Day!!