Spaaaahhhh!

Every once and a while you need to stop and just relax. It is next to impossible to do that these days with deadlines, phone calls, doctor’s appointments… the list goes on and on.

And nothing makes it harder to relax when you are battling illness.

You may already know about my Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis almost a year ago and why I am embarking on this adventure, but what many folks don’t know is that my mother has also been fighting lung cancer for a year as well. As she is a fairly private person, she has kept her illness on the down-low, but I asked if I could share a bit of her story so you can see why a day of relaxation was over due for her.

Almost one year ago to the day, my mom got the bad news that a tumor was in her lower right lung. Being a smoker for so many years, it may have been inevitable, but she has been smoke-free for over 5 years, so it seemed a little unfair. However, she never showed any fear or worry about the diagnosis. From the beginning her attitude was, “Okay, so what’s the next step?”

Well the next step was an intense daily chemo regimen followed by radiation treatment. Throughout the whole process the prognosis was great, the tumor was shrinking and besides some tiredness, her side effects were minimal (and she looked great bald.  So jealous.)

Then in February, she started having a problem with fluid building up in her lungs and had to do a rather painful procedure called a pleurodesis that had her in the hospital for a while. Other than boredom and the occasional annoyance at the nurses, she really was a trooper through the whole situation.

Once she was out, though, it turned out that she needed to go through another round of chemo. Great news to get before Mother’s Day, right?

I knew I wanted to do something special for her, and I kept thinking, “Spa Day.”  I don’t know why, since she has never been crazy about massages and facials. Somehow, though, I just felt that she was holding in a lot of stress and might just be open to the idea.

Then Lesley at Bucket List Publications sent me an awesome email – Spa Sydell would treat us to a Mother / Daughter day at the spa so we could check that off our Bucket List -it was perfect timing all around!

We set up our day on a Sunday morning. It was quiet when we arrived to the Midtown location, and the staff was friendly and very attentive.

First on the menu was an hour long Swedish Massage. We were put in a couples suite, so we could see each other through a window. I had Patricia start on me. She combined a wonderful combination of Swedish Massage, Acupressure and a little deep tissue on my neck. I was definitely a noodle at the end.

Then it was on to our facials. Barbaretta was amazing.  After assessing my skin, she got to work with steaming open my pores while cleansing my face and performing a gentle exfoliation. She also treated me to an additional shoulder, hand and foot massage.  For a moment I thought I was getting a mini-manicure when she placed my hands in plastic baggies, then slipped them into heated mitts. Then I realized that was just her way of letting me not be able to defend myself while she performed pore extraction. Who knew there were so many nerve endings on the tip of one’s nose? Then it was onto a moisturizing mask and she finished off with a soothing face cream. I couldn’t keep from touching my face afterward, it was so smooth!

Then it was on to the mani / pedi. I sat this one out, since the tragic loss of my two large toenails while training for the 50 Mile Carolinas Challenge Walk last spring. My mom got the full treatment and left with her toenails a bright “Cajun Shrimp” color and her fingernails trimmed and buffed to a high shine.

After 3 hours of pampering, we were new people! After a yummy lunch at Zoës Kitchen, we felt ready to tackle the week (chemo for her and Dr.’s appointments and traffic court for me – boo).

The glow we have from our spa day will stay with us for a while, though. Thank you so much Spa Sydell for the wonderful day and thank you as well to Bucket List Publications for making it happen!

               

Spa Sydell Midtown

Hmmm, maybe some shopping after?

Do we have to give the robes back?

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Books and Taxidermy

Last night I had the pleasure of attending a book reading and signing by Jenny Lawson (aka @TheBloggess).  If you are not familiar with her blog, please take a few minutes / hours to read one of the most hilarious, honest, slightly profane and entertaining writers I’ve ever met:

http://www.thebloggess.com

Okay, thanks for coming back!  Funny, right?

Well, the signing was held at the Barnes and Noble in Buckhead, and clearly they did not do their research and see that the girl had been filling up bookstores all over the country during her readings and her book “Let’s Pretend This Never Happened” is on the New York Times Best Seller List.  Silly bookstore. When I got there, the chairs were full so I decided to go ahead and just get in line for the signing.

Jenny read a particularly hilarious passage from her book about a time when she thought a rapist had broken into her house (hilarious, because it just turned out to be her cat knocking over her purse), which we could sort of hear through the weak sound system.  We knew it was good, though, because everyone was laughing uproariously.  Once the reading was done, the book signing began.  My fellow line dwellers and I patted ourselves on each others backs that we went ahead and started the line so we wouldn’t have to wait.

Well, we waited.  And waited… and waited some more.  Finally, the woman next to me (who I shall now call Helen Reddy – Hear her roar) decided she would find out what was going on.  Turns out that the Barnes and Noble staff had failed to notice the line of about 150 people snaking through the travel section with books clutched in our eager little hands.  This did not sit well with Helen, and she made sure that the entire staff knew about it.  The senior manager quickly shuffled us forward into a new holding area – right in the middle of all the science books about space flight (must… resist…)  Here we sat for about 30 minutes.  Helen was definitely antsy, and again was asking for a manager so she could yell at her.  I was distinctly uncomfortable with how upset she was.  I really didn’t feel the need to complain – partly because of my recent decision to Just Be Nice, and also because she was vocal enough for the lot of us.  Besides, I had Jenny’s book to read while we waited.

Finally, Helen had enough, and she stomped out of the store.  Too bad for her, because that’s when the line started to move, now our line was positioned in the graphic comic book section.  I started to suspect that this was all Barnes & Noble’s evil ploy to get us to impulse buy (spoiler alert – it worked.)

At last the time came to meet Jenny – what a Sweetheart!  She is in that category of celebrity that I know I would be great friends with if I could just somehow hang out with them in a non-stalkery way.  I mean, how fun would a dinner party with Matt and I, Wil Wheaton, Felicia Day, Colin Ferguson, Nathan Fillion, and now Jenny Lawson be?  Right?

She was awesome and signed my book and snapped a quick picture with me.  I give her credit, as well, cause I believe she was feeling very under the weather.

Do yourself a favor, subscribe to her blog, follow her on Twitter, and buy her book – you won’t be disappointed!

 

See, we are already Besties!

See – we are already Besties!  And yes, that’s a taxidermy monkey. If you have to ask, then clearly you haven’t read her blog yet…

 

It's worth millions now!!

If the inscription seems less than friendly, you have to read the post “And that’s why you should learn to pick your battles” which was my gateway drug into her blog.

 

Impulse Purchase for Matt

Impulse purchase for Matt…

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Adventures In Babysitting

In my 20’s, I really wanted to be a mom.  I would be an awesome mom, just like mine.  My kids would be involved in sports, theater, dance – all of the good stuff.

As I moved into my 30’s, though, I started to realize a few things.  One, kids are expensive – especially if you want them to have all you had and more.  Unfortunately, an opera degree and a career at the time in musical theater wasn’t something that lent towards saving for a college fund.  Second, being the youngest of 3 girls, I luckily didn’t have the pressure of producing grandkids, since my parents already had 3, with two more in the works.

When Matthew and I started discussing marriage, he was emphatic that he was good with not having children.  I found that I was okay with that as well.  Many people, including my family, didn’t believe me and it took some convincing that I was completely happy being my nieces’ and nephews’ Favorite Aunt, and doting all my attention on my own Fur-Kids.

Then when I got the diagnosis that I had Multiple Sclerosis, I realized that maybe it was all part of some master plan that I did not have children.  To be a Super Mom, you need tons of energy and patience – two things that I have been struggling with over the past year.

Now, all my friends are having kids, and it is a blast to see them with their babies, so every once in a while I get the “What-If” twinge.

I was in the middle of one of those twinges, then my sister had me watch her 11 and 8-year-old for a week and that twinge quickly was satisfied!

Don’t get me wrong – I love Caroline and Jackson dearly. They really are two of the most well-adjusted, intelligent, funny and talented kids I know.  How did they get this way?  Because these are two of the most involved children I know!  It was a week starting everyday at 6:15 am and going until 10:30, filled with carpools, school projects, talent shows, dance class, soccer and tennis practice, and many, many snacks.

And I got to do it all by myself.  It really was fun, especially getting to see Jackson interact with his school and soccer friends as he had two school shows – Oceans of Fun and Passport to Fun.  I also learned that he has a new obsession with hair gel.  Yes, he is an 8-year-old Zac Effron in training.

And Caroline – how do I describe her?  Imagine a Tasmanian Devil crossed with a baby giraffe, add the intelligence of a future rocket scientist, and then have it talk at about 30 words a second and you start to get the idea.  It was great getting to see her practice her solo and duet for an upcoming dance competition – was this really the girl who just a few years ago was just learning to shuffle ball change?

Needless to say, we ended the week with all limbs attached, no permanent scarring (just some accidental face tattoos, by falling asleep while doing homework) and only one ballet shoe ruined (by Bailey the Wonder-Dog).  We even managed to make waffles, teach Abby how to swim, and play board games!

I however, was exhausted…  Two days later and I’m still needing sleep.  It really was an adventure – plus it gave me an appreciation for all the Super-Moms I know out there!  Now I’m really looking forward to a Spa Day with my Mom to thank her for all she did that I never really appreciated!

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On The Radio

Woah oh, oh, oh…  Sorry, brief Donna Summer moment there…

A few posts ago, I was reminiscing about my old Kia Sportage and it’s awesome bumper sticker…  What I didn’t mention is that car car died a horrible and noisy death – and it was captured live on NPR’s Car Talk!  As I was downloading some podcasts, it seems my episode was on re-run, and I got to hear it all over again.

Here’s the story – One night, I was coming home from rehearsal in Duluth, when my car started making this horrible rattling noise.  I slowly drove it home and left it in the garage for a few days while I drove Matt’s mother’s old car for a while, until I had time to get the Kia towed to the shop.  Then I had a thought – wouldn’t this be a great subject for the Click and Clack!  I called into Car Talk and left the details about me and my car – lo and behold, I was picked.

It made for great radio when…  well, you can hear for yourself.  My call begins around the 20:17 mark…

Car Talk – Buona Fortuna

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Free Fallin’!

Saturday could not have been a more perfect day.  Sunny, blue skies, wispy clouds, a gentle breeze…  a peaceful day that became very exciting for me for about 5 minutes.

Yep.  I went skydiving!

To be honest, this is not something I had been dying to do, nor was I dreading it.  I was a bit nervous about whether or not I’d actually be able to do it when the time came or if my sense of self preservation would keep me from jumping. Turns out, I had no choice – but I’ll get to that.

Skydive The Farm is an amazing facility in Rockmart, GA – about 1 hour outside Atlanta.  When we pulled in, I had my first twinge of fear (or as Martie put it my “S#!t’s Getting Real” Moment) when I saw the airplane taking of from a grassy field.  This was, by definition, a Buddy Holly airplane that I’m sure someone was controlling by remote control somewhere.  I do have a tendency to get airsick on takeoff, so I was not looking forward to that flight.

Once we parked and headed up to the hangar, I knew immediately I was with my kind of folks.  About 8 dogs were running around and playing.  Matt and I immediately regretted leaving Ford and Abby at home.  After signing in and filling out some waivers that I think had me offer my firstborn in there somewhere, we watched the best disclaimer video.  Ever.  Sidebar – working with City Segway Tours, we show an instructional video prior to tours that has a Stick Man falling off a Segway in a number of horrifying and hilarious ways.  About 6 out of 10 times we hear the phrase “Now I’m nervous” after the video.  Well folks, our video has nothing on this one…

I don’t remember the exact phrasing, but it was along the lines of, “You are about to participate in a highly dangerous sport.  There is no such thing as a perfect plane.  There is no such thing as a perfect parachute.  There is no such thing as a perfect jump instructor. You might actually die doing this.”  Then it went on to show an ambulance pulling into a field full of people shaking their heads and trying not to throw up.  I would have been terrified if I wasn’t trying not to giggle at ZZ Top who was explaining the video.  Well, actually, it was Bill Booth, the inventor of the tandem skydiving harness on the video.  He also has a spectacular beard.  Check it out, I’ll wait.

So, video watched, then it was time to meet Chucky – my tandem instructor. Super nice guy who, with his wife, are expecting a baby boy in September.  So I knew he had incentive to come back safe. He helped me into an incredibly tight and oh so not flattering at all jumpsuit. The announcement then came that I would be in the next load.  My tummy did a little flip.

I loaded onto the shuttle bus that took me along with about 11 other jumpers to the plane.  A shuttle bus that seemed to have a hive of wasps nesting somewhere.  It was pretty funny to see these guys who stare death in the face 10-12 times a day by jumping out of a plane freak out over a wasp.

Once we arrived at the plane, my butterflies were going full force.  Oddly enough, though, I was still more frightened of the flight than of the jump.  I don’t think my brain had processed past that part just yet.  We squeezed in sardine style, and in a matter of minutes were off.

The flight was surprisingly smooth, and soon we were climbing to 14,500 feet.  At this point, my brain had gotten to the point of realizing I was about to fall from a very high distance, and my tummy butterflies had morphed into very large fruit bats.

Then, before I realized what was happening, the door slid open and people started flinging themselves willingly out the plane.  At this point I panicked because as each person evacuated, the small plane would bobble and we had to redistribute the weight.  I was the second to last to head out, so I slid up to the door behind my cameraman, Andy.  Next thing I know, Chucky had me in the doorway, then suddenly I was streaking through the air heading to the ground like a dart.

Honestly, the whole thing happened so fast that the second I was in the free fall I forgot to be scared and immediately started having the most fun I had ever had in my life.  I free fell for 9,000 feet for about a minute.  Then, pop!  Up the chute went and we immediately came to a gentle glide for another 5 or so minutes.

It was surreal seeing the ground so far below up like a Google Earth map.  And it was so quiet!  An immediate sense of peace came over me at the beauty of it all.  So much so, that when Chucky offered me the chance to steer the chute, I declined because I was enjoying the view so much.  Then the most amazing thing happened – we saw what is known as a Sun Dog – a rainbow that is circular that was reflected off the clouds below us – and our shadow was perfectly in the center of it.  I was immediately cursing myself for not strapping a camera to myself somehow.

All too soon it was over and we were coming to a gentle stop in the middle of the field.  The adrenalin surge ebbed away, and quickly I was overwhelmed by a sense of “Boo!” as I realized I was finished.  Matt came running up with a bottle of champagne and I was immediately surrounded by my friends.  And all I wanted to do was cry because the whole experience was beyond words.  The fact that it has taken me three days to even be able to put this down shows how overwhelming the whole experience was.

Of course, no skydive is complete without the video and rockin’ soundtrack, so please enjoy…

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I Believe I Can Fly!

Late last February, my friends Brian and Martie presented me an offer I couldn’t refuse.  No, I’m not in the Mafia now, but I am going to jump out of a perfectly good airplane!

A little back story.  Brian was a Type 1 Diabetic for 38 years and was in desperate need of a new pancreas and kidney.  Two years ago he got the call that donor organs were available.  Through the tragedy of death, two lives were saved when the donor’s family gave Brian a kidney and pancreas and another recipient the other kidney.

Brian is an avid skydiver, so the surgery derailed his jumps for a little while, but he was back at it just 2 months after his surgery.   He and his wife Martie had invited me on jumps from time to time, but either the funds weren’t there, the timing was off, or I just chickened out.

When they heard about my MS Diagnosis, and saw that skydiving was on The List, they knew the time was right.  Tomorrow is the 2 year anniversary of Brian 2.0, and there is no better way to celebrate than doing what he loves best.

So tomorrow morning, I am going to take the biggest leap of faith and check one more item off the list!  I can’t wait to blog about it later and will have pictures and video.

If anyone wants to join in the festivities, we will be at Skydive The Farm in Rockmart at 9:00 am.  You can hold Matt’s hand for me while I jump.

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April 12 – Know Your Meme

I’m a little late on the Meme Bandwagon.  I realize I’m hopping on some of these just as the world is getting sick of them, however, I needed to blow off some stress from the job, and thus, the following was created.

 

 

Yes, a good part of the day is spent correcting people on the correct pronunciation of Segway… and answering annoying questions.  Sadly, 90% of my conversations go like this (except for the NSFW part towards the end…  that’s all in my head)

 

http://www.xtranormal.com/xtraplayr/7875787/i-want-to-ride-a-sedgeway

 

Which inspired this.

 

 

And then this.

 

 

Public Service Announcement Here – If you frequently purchase half price coupons from sites like Living Social, Groupon, etc…  Don’t be that guy who waits until the day before it expires to try and redeem it – especially when it is for a service like a tour with limited availability.  Just don’t.

Well, now that that is off my chest, we are off to make a “Shit Segway Tour Guides Say” video…

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April 11 – Off The Beaten Path

In high school, just after we got our driver’s licenses, my friends and I often liked to just get in the car and drive until we got lost.  This made for some very interesting adventures in South Atlanta, which is probably where some nice, young, Catholic girls didn’t want to be in 1990 (before the 1996 Olympics spruced everything up).

Fast forward 20 years, and with the 259 map and navigator apps available on my iPhone, not too many chances to get lost any more.

This day, however, there was horrifying traffic on I-20, and Siri refused to give me any directions that didn’t somehow involve the interstate, so I decided to take some back roads on the way home and rely purely on instinct.

What a great adventure!  I weaved my way through East Atlanta which is now where I want to live.  Similar to Little Five Points, but with less chances of tripping over a homeless person.  It reminded me more of the Village in NYC.

I wasn’t too lost, because Matt and I had come here before to Trader’s where we bought an awesome leather ottoman.  As I drove past all the shops and restaurants, though, I thought, “Why haven’t we come back?”

I guess I’ll have to remedy that soon!

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April 5th – 10th: Just Be Nice

I know, I know, I said I would post everyday on my new experiences…  One of the groovy highlights of MS is it’s unpredictability, and I have been struggling the last week with fatigue and nausea.  Pity party for one, over here…  but I have been trying to keep up my resolve to try something new everyday!!

~~~

There are very few things about my old Kia Sportage that I miss.  It was the first car I bought with my own money, but it had problems from day one and spent more time in the shop than in my driveway.  I finally got rid of it when it threw a rod and punched a hole through my oil pan.  I donated it to charity, thinking it would be sold for scrap, but low and behold I actually saw it on the road a few days ago (or at least its bumper).  How did I recognize it?  Well on the bumper was a City Segway Tours bumper sticker and my favorite bumper sticker ever – a simple request:  Just Be Nice.

I miss that bumper sticker.  My car now is geeked out with my NASA and Think Geek’s Timmy bumper stickers.  But it was the Just Be Nice sticker (and my good buddy Wil Wheaton’s personal motto) that inspired this New Thing.

I’m not (I’m pretty sure) a mean person, but I know from time to time I can be a little distant or formal with folks, especially strangers.  I thought I’d try and change that.  So for the past few days, every person that I interacted with, I made a conscious effort to extend a compliment to them.  Strangers on the elevator were complimented on their shoes or purse; co-workers got a sincere thank for their hard work or some positive feedback passed along from customers; tenants in my building were praised on their dogs.  And something wonderful happened.  That person seemed, if for only a brief second, connected with me and I could feel the pride and happiness coming off of them.  It made me feel happy to have brought a little bit of sunshine in their life.

Try it yourself sometime.  I promise it will make the day a happy one.

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April 4, Run Kristie, Run!

Anyone who knows me knows I’m often heard saying, “I only run when my life is in danger…  and even then, I weigh my odds.” I am not a fan of running.  My body does not like it, and I have never felt that runners “high” everyone talks about – all I feel is stabbing pain and hatred.

But I have realized that my exercise regiment has gotten stuck in a rut lately, and my 20 minute elliptical routine barely even breaks a sweat now.

So yesterday I downloaded the “Get Running” app on my phone. This is a nifty little Couch to 5K app that eases you into a routine by alternating walking and running.  The first session was 5 minutes warming up and then 8 intervals of running for one minute and walking for a minute and a half, then ending with a 5 minute cool down walk.  Because the elliptical machine is kinder on my joints, I decided to do the intervals on the machine.

Wow.  Butt. Kicked.  It is definitely a challenge to really burst into a fast stride and maintain it for a minute.  The minute and a half walking intervals seemed really short, and I almost gave up halfway.

Then I thought to myself, “Self.  If you can just get to the end of this session, think of how pleased you will be with yourself.” So I soldiered through to the end and finished a sweaty, happy mess.  The only drawback was, it got me late on my day, so when I do this in my next morning session, I need to hit the snooze one less time.

No, I realize this doesn’t quite make me a runner – but it’s a start!

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