Friday, February 26, 2016

It's easy to believe in yourself; but it takes real courage to believe in someone else.


     I mentioned that while I was in Fort Myers I would be taking the challenge of my first Tandem bike ride; just one more simple task to cross off my bucket list.  But I was certain it would a piece of cake compared to the 13,000 feet jump from the airplane that I would be making the following day.

     My cousin, Keith, seen below wearing a "Team Leapfrog" shirt as a proud new member of my team for the Bike To The Bay, thought it would be a great idea to ride this crazy two person bike in the Critical Mass bike ride they were holding in down town Fort Myers the night I got in town, because it would be a lot more relaxing for me than a single rider bike.

     For the record... It. was. not! At least not at first... As soon as I got on this contraption I had the feeling that it might not end well... I think my exact words were "WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE!!" I saw a major case of road rash in my future!
          What's the problem you ask??  I mean after all, it's just a regular bike only it had two wheels, two seats, two sets of pedals and made for two people.  That would mean twice the man power and a chance for a rest every now and again.

     That was the furthest from the truth.  This bike was a real mental workout more than anything.  Sure, seeing all the cool bikes with their colored lights and the Fort Myers sky line was amazing, but I'm not gonna lie; making that first turn of the pedal, in the dark, and not having control of where we were going, or when we would stop, was enough to freak anyone out.  If you could imagine riding a bike while blindfolded; yea, like that... As nervous as I was about sky diving the next morning, I was thinking that would be less dangerous.
     We know tandem means two people/one bike; and though my pedals were on the same chain as Keith's, the brakes and steering was all his, and I had no control.  But that didn't stop me from trying to be a back seat driver... 
     Being that it was dark and I couldn't see what was ahead of me I had to go simply by my gut feeling. If Keith started to turn right, I would lean to the left so we didn't tip over.  I know this is totally wrong, and I'm sure I was driving Keith crazy; but in my mind we were tipping, and I was just trying to straighten us out.

     The beginning of this ride was like a three ring circus.  It's true, the average person starts to pedal with their right foot, but you know I am anything but average.  My left foot is the strong one, so every time Keith started on his right we had to back up and bring the left pedals up to the top and start over.  And it wasn't long before I was yelling STOP! STOP! STOP!!  My shoe lace was caught on the pedal.  This was becoming a real side show:)  Keith got off and freed my shoe lace from the pedal and in the attempt to avoid a repeat performance, strategically tied them in quadruple knots. we were not doing this again...

     Oh, that little nap I planned to get in was out of the question. I soon discovered that there would be no slacking for me what so ever.  Being that the back pedals were connected to the front pedals I was going to pedal whether I wanted to or not.
          The half way point of this 13 mile ride took us to the Edison Center; and as the group of riders congregated for a quick pit stop, I was mesmerized by the gazillion colored lights.

          While we were on our brief break, one of the other riders came up and tried to convince Keith that I wasn't pedaling; obviously she was joking, and we all knew that was impossible.  Believe me I tried...:) 

       This bike ride was a true test on my part.  We finally got into our groove, but it didn't happen until I trusted that Keith wasn't going to let us fall or crash.  At one point backing up the pedals got old, and Keith told me being that I'm not that big, he could just hold the bike up without me putting my feet on the ground when we stopped.  I really liked this idea; of course I could have taken offense to his backhanded compliment "THAT big"... but hey, if it gave me some "slacker" time I didn't care what he called me:)

     By the time we had finished this ride I had learned that this wasn't about riding a tandem bike at all; it was about putting my trust in someone else.  And once I gave in to the fact that our fate was out of my hands, I was actually very comfortable riding this bike.  In fact, I could have very easily closed my eyes (I think I did once or twice...) I even began to lean right as we were turning right... funny how that works...

     My whole life seems to be like that tandem bike ride; I try so hard to control my own destiny;  but sometimes I just have to hand over the reins and put my trust in someone else.  It might not be the path I planned, but I have faith that in the end it will all be okay.


Have a great day!!


Friday, February 19, 2016

Big girls don't cry...

        One thing I've learned over the years is, as long as I plan ahead, I can overcome anything my crazy challenging life presents me with.  Airport security was no exception; I had a system to get through it fully in tact, and it hasn't failed me three times over the past year.

      So as long as I make sure to get to the airport super early before the huge lines, and give the security guard my whole life story (and maybe my first born...) they always let me go through without removing my shoes or any of my bionic paraphernalia. This whole re-assembly could be a possible cause for missing my flight.

     First I tell them I have MS, therefore I have an electronic nerve zapper to make my toes go up when I walk, but it also causes the metal detector to go off as well.  

     Then I have my brace for the hyper-extension in my knee, which is metal and... yep... a "metal" detector WILL go off...


        Of course, getting the nerve zapper and brace to line up just right is a fine science and timely ordeal.

     Then I show the guard my Doctor's note to carry on my syringes for my MS meds, which could be a weapon..., along with the mentor card, certifying my reconstruction from my breast cancer, which I guess can also throw up a red flag under ex-ray, but I had it covered...  

          The flight from Toledo to Punta Gorda was easy peasy; I gave them my song and dance, and after a thorough pat down, x-ray and wanding I was on my way; fully intact.

    I was amazed at how smoothly my flight there was; I even had my own personal body guard meeting me upon arrival...
     Okay... it was my cousin, but he thought he was my body guard... :)

     Now my flight back home didn't start out quite so pleasant.  That day Punta Gorda security wasn't so nice...

      It was so unlike last year; where I breezed through security with a smile on my face.

     This year we left for the airport in what would seem like plenty of time, based on my experience last year; only this time they surprisingly had two flights taking off from this tiny airport, and the line wrapped around the building. 

     I had a little bit of anxiety, wondering if I would have the time to go through my whole routine and make it to the plane on time.  But it soon faded when I started up a friendly conversation with the couple ahead of me. They were heading to Kansas City; which confirmed that there were in fact two flights taking off that morning.

     We had been in line for quite some time, and as we approached the security check point, there was a stern looking guard standing in between the two conveyor belts.  As stone faced as a robot, he yelled out commands, one after another... " Empty your pockets, place all electronics and liquids in the bins, and remove your coats and shoes...!!"  This was okay, I would just politely tell him my situation and he would let me through intact.

     Unfortunately, this guy wasn't in the mood to make any exceptions.  I mentioned very nicely that security always lets me keep my shoes on because it's hard to get them off and back on with my brace, and in return I allow them to turn me inside out... He didn't care; he snapped back "well your taking them off today!!"

     I wanted to argue my case further, but my anxiety had gotten the best of me, and tears began to well up in my eyes.  I feared the whole production could cause me to miss my flight. But the nice lady in front of me said "don't worry, I'll help you take your shoes off", as she bent down and started to untie my laces... the lady behind me then said "I'll put your luggage on the conveyor belt..."   At this very humbling moment my tears were in full force.  I don't know if it was the anxiety, the way the guard made me feel, or simply the fact that people were being so kind that was causing them; but now I was an emotional train wreck.

     By the time we had gotten to the metal detector I was rendered speechless (which doesn't happen often...).  The female security guard said "what's wrong honey?" Before I could get the words out the ladies on either side of me replied "That guard made her take her shoes off, regardless of her brace".  The female guard said "He should have never done that.  Don't worry, we'll help you put them back on."

     Of course not knowing my story, then subsequently  hearing the metal detectors go off like the forth of July, she told me, unfortunately, she had to give me a very thorough search.  I already knew that, and I patiently stood there as she eventually named every freckle on my body.

     She then had me sit as she ran the wand over my brace, and to no surprise, it too began to beep.  She suspiciously ran it over again, and yet once more.  Perplexed, she asked another guard what she should do... he said "It's metal; it WILL beep. Let her go."

     Just then the lady I had befriended in line earlier ran up to me and said she would get my things from the conveyor because my flight was boarding.

     My shoes were finally back on, and I was eventually on my way, but by now the airport was an absolute ghost town; the plane had completely boarded.  At this point all I wanted to do was make it on that plane, and I did.
       As I was pulling my luggage down the tiny airplane isle, I remembered that when I checked my seat assignment the night before It looked as though the seat next to my isle seat was vacant.  This was one consolation, because as much as I love to talk, I was in no mood by now.

     As I got to my seat I noticed the gentleman by the window had a mile high stack of papers on his lap, and it was obvious he was a business man hoping to catch up on some work, which was just fine with me because I didn't want to engage in any idle chit chat anyway. I just wanted to be left alone.

     I was finally situated in my seat and ready for a quiet flight home, where I could sit silently and wallow in my own self pity.  But I looked up, and a young man, I'm guessing in his mid twenties was standing in the isle next to me.  He said "Excuse me, I think that middle seat is mine...". I stood up to let him through and he looked down at my brace... He then said "Torn ACL??"  I hear this on a daily basis and this is the point where I usually say something humerus like "It was a bar fight or a run in with a bear...", but I wasn't feeling it, so I just said No, MS..."  he then said "Oh, I'm so sorry:(".  

     Just then, I realized my pity party made this young man feel bad; something I never wanted to do.  So I quickly put on my happy face and said "Don't be sorry!! After 31 years I'm still walking!!  Last summer I rode 55 miles in the Bike To The Bay and two days ago I went skydiving!!" That awkward sorrow was soon over.  As he sat down, he told me the only reason he asked was because he had torn his ACL, and the brace brought back memories.

     By the time the flight landed he had told me the whole story of his brutal soccer injury, and of course I told him my life story as well:)

     As I was leaving the airport my new friend yelled out from across the way "It was a real pleasure talking with you!!"  And I knew my old self was back:)
      I learned some extremely valuable lessons that day.   First... as much as I want to prove to the world I'm a very strong woman; a melt down is still very possible. Second... It might only take one unkind person to steal your spirit, but there are many more kind people waiting to build it back up.  And lastly... You can plan all you want, and rely on the kindness of others... but at the end of the day, you're the only one who controls your happiness.

Have a great day!!


Friday, February 12, 2016

Talk about a leap of faith!! I can't run; but I sure can fly!!

     Over the years I've taken many leaps of faith;  It's been what has kept me going when I can't make sense of my crazy life.  In fact, this is where the name "Team Leapfrog" came from.   I always knew if I just believed things would work out; then they eventually would.

     But this day was one of the biggest leaps of faith I have ever taken. My cousin Keith somehow convinced me to sky dive, and I would be diving head first 13,000 feet into the clouds, uncertain of what would be waiting on the other side.  This was one of the scariest things I have ever done; but then I realized life is all about having faith, and not actually knowing what's on the other side of the clouds.

     As you can see, this plane wasn't very big; yet we managed to squeeze in the pilot, the two guys that soon become our Siamese twins (you can't see one of them), my cousin, and me. I imagined this was what sardines felt like... When it was time to jump I would turn around, get on my knees, then my tandem buddy, Bruce, would strap himself to my back, so tightly that we were almost sharing the same skin.

          We had gone through the drill ahead of time, so I knew what I had to do.  But when Bruce told me to put my foot out on the ledge and then I looked down, seeing nothing but clouds; I seriously wondered why I was doing this...

         Convincing myself to dive head first was the hard part...  But there was no turning back now; and I actually did it!

      In this picture below, you can see the plane is now above us; and at that point we were falling at 140 miles an hour, head first, towards the little blue and green ball they call earth.

     I had no idea what was going to happen next, but believed it would be okay... After all, Keith survived it many times before:)
     At this point I felt as if I was flying like a bird!  It didn't matter what my legs were doing; I had wings!!

     It wasn't long before I could see what was on the other side of those fluffy white clouds...

     From high up in the sky I could look down and witness God's beautiful creation!  And at this moment I hadn't a worry in the world...

          As we slowed down and hovered, thousands of feet in the air, I asked Bruce if the shoot had opened... when he confirmed it had, I asked him if we could stay up in the sky forever... But there were many others who had to experience what I had, so we eventually had to come back down to earth.

     But not before he let me take the wheel; and the loop-d-loops were better than any roller-coaster you'll ever find on earth.

     As we began to descend to our final destination, you can see once again, the clouds became a barrier above us; only now I knew what was on the other side.
     As we got closer to our landing point, I had just one last question of uncertainty; and that was what would happen when our feet hit the ground; we all know I don't run... 
     Amazingly, we came gliding in on our behinds, as smoothly as a bird landing on a piece of drift wood.
     From the very beginning Keith had no intention of letting me back out of this venture; and until this point he had no idea how grateful I was that he pushed me.

          Of course, this wasn't his first rodeo; he's convinced several others to take this leap of faith before me.  And now I would do this again, a million times over.  If I can convince even one more person to take this leap of faith with me then my job is done:)

Click here to see my sky diving video!!  Words can't even begin to describe it:)

Happy Valentine's day!

Image result for frog with pink heart

Friday, February 5, 2016

What goes up must come down; but at 140 miles an hour?!?

     So my trip to Florida has finally arrived, and as you're reading this there's a good chance I'm 35,000 feet up in the sky.  If not, then I'm somewhere down south, soaking up all of the sunshine:)

     The fact that I had to write this before I left, you may recognize this photo at the airport from last years trip; but I'm assuming the only difference between last year and this is the outfit:) And this smile was because I actually made it through security... You have no idea!  Fingers crossed for this year...

            I had planned on waiting until after the fact before I told you about the next thing I hoped to mark off of my bucket list just to make sure I followed through, but then I decided that if I documented it, then it had to happen.  Remember, I don't quit easily.

     So several months ago I mentioned that I really wanted to mark sky diving off my bucket list; to which one or two people said I am CRAZY!  Well now that we made the down payment and have the jump scheduled I'm beginning to think they were right...

     My cousin Keith is the one who put this ridiculous idea in my head in the first place because he has been sky diving before, and he started telling me all of the logistics just FMI, or maybe it was to scare the bejeepers out of me! 

      First of all, he made sure to tell me how many feet up we would be... 13,000 feet, YIKES! then he said we would be free falling for 45 seconds at 140 miles an hour; DOUBLE YIKES! Now, that might seem easy enough to you, but he started giving me scenarios to put it in perspective.  He told me to look at the second hand of a clock for 45 seconds to which I did... Wow!  That is a long time!  And then he told me to drive for 2 and a half miles, which was how far the drop would be, OMG!  He did mention we had the option of jumping from 13,000 feet or a mere 10,000; I told him we may as well go big or go home; after all, if there were any technical difficulties I'm sure the splat would be equally the same:) Incidentally, that would take one mega ginormous  mop!  I'm starting to realize why they call them "bucket lists"...

     I know they say if you can't count on family, then who can you count on, but I started doubting that theory when Keith mentioned that he thought it would be cool to get a picture of him pushing me out of the plane.  I had to question the cool part... was it cool because of the hilarious pictures he would have, or simply pay back for our childhood years...
        When I get back home I hope to have many pictures of this crazy stunt I'm doing; and who knows maybe I'll love it so much that I'll be looking for someone as crazy... or should I say gullible as me to convince to put this on their bucket list as well:)  Wish me luck!

Have a great day!!