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!!

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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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April 3 – It’s Pretty Easy Being Green

My husband has been on a wheatgrass kick for about a year and had been hounding me to try it.  After my MS diagnosis, he was adamant that I start the day off with 2 ounces of wheatgrass.  I’ll be honest, I was not a fan at first.  It took many tries, many brands and many different ways to deliver it to my body before we settled on the least icky option.

We came across the company Dynamic Greens who allows you to order packs of flash-frozen wheatgrass cubes in bulk.  You melt the cubes in some water and sip it down.  The taste is like a very weak iced tea (as opposed to the really nasty grassy taste of other brands and fresh pressed wheatgrass from a juice bar).

After a few months of morning consumption, yesterday I decided for my “New Thing” I’d bring some juice to work with me to drink before my lunch.

Despite some sideways looks at me as I drank my dark green juice, it was great.  I had really good energy through the rest of the day and wasn’t starving by the time I got home.

Chalk this one up as another thing I think I’ll keep doing!

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April 2 – Napping…

One of my earliest school memories was my preschool teacher complaining to my mother that I would not take a nap.  All this poor woman wanted was one hour of escape from 4 year old screams and cries – but I wouldn’t give it to her.  I would lie on my mat and talk, or sing, or sneak a book to read.  Why would I waste an hour of my day sleeping when there were so many more fun things to do?

Fast forward 30 some odd years, throw in a chronic illness and a hectic job and you have yourself a woman craving just 15 minutes where she could lay her head on her desk.

Unfortunately, my job does make it difficult to take a catnap midday. There is always someone calling, coming to the door or a tour out that needs some help.  However, I could feel my health suffering because of my fatigue.  I needed to find at least 20 minutes to carve out of my day to just unplug.

So yesterday, I did it!  My first midday nap while at work!  I know it seems simple, but it really did make all the difference.  I locked the door, put a sign out that said “Will return in 15 minutes”, turned off the ringer on the phone and let my guides know to call my cell if there was an emergency.  Then I stretched out on a cot in the back and closed my eyes for 15 blissful minutes.  I was helped out by a handy-dandy app on my phone called Power Nap with Andrew Johnson.  He is a hypnotist with a soothing Scottish accent that had me relaxed instantly and let me feel refreshed and energetic the rest of the day (good thing, since my day went to 8 pm!)

This was a “Thing I’ve Never Done” that is sure to turn into a “Thing I’ll Want to Do Everyday” for sure!  Maybe a move to Spain where the whole city shuts down mid-day is in the cards for me…

 

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April 1st – Two Things I’ve never done…

I am sticking to my promise to do something new everyday in April – as long as I remember to do it!  I almost forgot to do something yesterday, but then realized I had inadvertently done two things I’d never done before!

1.  Record Breaking Day at CST Atlanta

Some of you may know that I run a tour operation of Downtown Atlanta – City Segway Tours Atlanta.  We had a spectacular day yesterday in which we got 115 riders up on Segways in one day! Our previous record was 66 (which we had only hit the day before!)

It was a bit of finagling to break that 100 mark – we only have 30 machines, and factoring in for the guides, the most we could realistically do on traditional tours would be 81 in one day.  We had 102 kids visiting from Minnesota (near and dear to my heart!) so we set up special 1 1/2 hour tours that went back to back.  Then we also had 13 folks on regular tours, so there was a lot of Segway swapping, nail biting, and prayers that all 30 machines would make it through the  day without any dead batteries.  Well, I’m happy to say, it was a success!!

2.  April Foolin’

Every year I try to get my mom on April Fools Day.  Epic “gets” include convincing her I had accidentally flooded my freshman dorm, and one year when I called and told her I had been hit in the face with a hockey puck during an Atlanta Thrashers game.  She has gotten so sly to me, however, that she refuses to believe anything I tell her on April 1 (heaven forbid I actually get into a real scrape!).  I’ve tried getting her a few days later, but she’s on to me.

With the craziness of yesterday – I completely forgot to try something (much to her relief, I’m sure).  I guess that just means I’ll have to come up with something extra special next year!

Now to come up with something I’ve never done before by the end of the day…  🙂

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Everyday in April I Will…

… do something new!

My goal for April is to do something new or fun everyday of the week.

Suggestions?  Can be something as simple as trying a new food or brushing my teeth with my non-dominant hand, or as wild as skydiving (check – April 28 with Brian David Rudd!!)

I’d love your help on this (cheap stuff, especially!)

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Can The Bert Show Help? Let’s Hope So!

This morning on my drive to work I heard Q100’s The Bert Show promoting their desire to help with folk’s “Bucket Lists”. Woot! So, I submitted my Big Adventure List to them, seeking their help on the following:

  • Go to Space Camp
  • Explore the Grand Canyon
  • Be in a film or TV show (even as an extra)
  • Ride a mechanical bull

Fingers crossed they pick me!!

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50 (ish) Miles From Home

Last weekend I participated in the Challenge Walk for MS in Charleston, South Carolina.  It was an event that I had been training for and raising money for since November.  I’m happy to say I raised over $4000 for Multiple Sclerosis Research!  Yayyyy!  Now, I could recap the whole thing, but I video blogged the weekend, and complied it all here for you to enjoy…

50 Miles!

There you have it!  Thanks for watching, and thank you so much to those of you that helped me raise $4000 for MS!

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Cell Fish

If anyone wonders what that fishy smell is, it just might be my cell phone.

I realize this may take some explaining…

Last night I had the unique opportunity to become a participant in Penn & Teller’s Show at the Rio Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. The duo started the show off by asking everyone to pull out their cell phones and hold them in the air. I thought this was going to be the typical “Please silence your cell phones” plea, until they explained that this would be a unique opportunity for someone to come on stage, be part of a trick, and have the opportunity to video tape it up close and learn the secret. Oooh, ooh, pick me!!

And pick me they did. I was brought up to the stage and asked by Penn if I had a friend in the audience who could call me. My friend and co-worker Matt G. volunteered, so they had him call me. After identifying that it was indeed my ringtone and phone, they started to video from the stage. After introducing themselves and me, they then proceeded to introduce me to Criss Angel! Well, not really Criss Angel but a life-size cutout of him. After getting a nice video Criss and I, they then had me watch as Penn dropped my phone into an empty paper cup, place it on the floor, and then stomp it to smithereens. Well, if you read my last blog post, you would know I have a pretty tough iPhone, but this time – it was gone.

Penn then had Matt G. call my phone again. Suddenly, there was a faint ringing in the back of the theater. The spotlight searched out a gentleman near the back of the theater who they asked to reach under his seat and pull out what he found there. He discovered a very large Styrofoam box. As they passed it up to the stage and I collected it, Penn asked Matt to call the phone again. Sure enough, the ringing was coming from inside the sealed, taped box. We opened it up and what was inside? A fish. A Tilapia, to be exact.

After having Matt call one more time, I was amazed (and slightly horrified) that the fish was indeed emitting my ringtone. They sliced the head off and there inside, in a plastic bag, was my cell phone!! It was handed back to me with just the one request that I not watch the video of how it was done until after the show.

Now that I know the secrets of the Universe (or at least just this trick), I debated whether or not to share the video and explanation. But then I had a thought: P&T’s entire show is about debunking magic myths and getting the audience involved in how it is done. They flat out showed us in a wonderful monologue and mime routine where they illustrated the seven fundamentals to slight of hand:

Palm
Ditch
Steal
Load
Simulation
Misdirection
Switch

Not always in this order, of course

(Also, I realized that in revealing the step by step of how the trick is done wouldn’t lessen any the enjoyment of one watching, because the pure artistry in the way these two perform is amazing. Magic, if you will.)

So here it is – the secret of the iPhone in the Fish, or, “Cell Fish.”

While looking for a volunteer, they seemed to specifically look for someone with an iPhone. After I was selected, I was asked to remove the case. Then as their banter started and the video began, so did the trick.

First up, the Steal. Not so much a steal as a gift, since I willingly handed off my phone to Penn. Then, Criss Angel. As they brought out the cut out, Penn notices he isn’t wearing his customary 20 lb cross and proceeds to put it around his neck. In doing so, he Ditches the phone into a pouch on the back of the cut out while Loading an identical phone he had Palmed from his sleeve and then proceeding to continue as if it is my phone. The cut out is moved off stage where a stagehand places my phone into a plastic bag and then into a fish with a slit cut into one side. The fish phone is flipped, hiding the slit, packed in ice and sealed in a Styrofoam box then run to the back of the theater I assume though a tunnel / trap door under the guest’s seat.

While all this backstage activity is going on, I am being Misdirected onstage. As Penn is placing the Switched phone into the cup, he drops the lid on the ground. As I bend over to pick it up, he throws the imposter phone over his shoulder to the audience’s enjoyment where it is caught by Teller, and while I am not in on the joke that the audience is with the Duo, I don’t notice because Penn is just so funny and charismatic and I’m enjoying being on stage.

Now for the Simulation. I am guessing that it would be hard to hear the ringing of a phone, inside a bag, inside a fish, packed in ice, sealed in a Styrofoam box under the seat of a 380 lb man. So, I’m thinking the tech crew had recorded the initial ringing of my phone and then looped it back through a speaker under the seat.

The rest of the trick is pure showmanship as the box is dramatically passed forward, through the shock of opening the box and finding a raw fish. The horror upon hearing the ringing coming from inside said stinky, raw fish and ending with our amazement of how a phone got inside a whole fish.

Penn and Teller have long been one of my favorite acts. Their straightforward approach to classic tricks, and then the breaking down of those tricks is always entertaining yet I still often scratch my head and say, “But really, how did they do that?!” It is pure artistry. I am thrilled to have been a part of it, even if for only a few minutes.

Video: Cell Fish (The video ends after the fish is presented backstage, but before it goes in the fish, I presume because they didn’t think I’d want 2-3 minutes of the inside of a raw fish. For that I am thankful).

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Lessons Learned In Minnesota:

1. Sometimes, over an hour to wait for dinner is definitely worth it.

2. When booking a hotel, try and find out if they are renovating the room right above you.

3. Garrison Keillor is the human equivalent of a bowl of chicken soup.

4. With the proper clothing, a Minnesota Winter is survivable.

5. My iPhone can get run over by a truck and not break.

My Minnesota adventure was a success! Sorry it has taken me so long to write about it, but work has been keeping me busy, and procrastination is one of my major flaws. I promise to work on that… tomorrow.

So, Matthew and I arrived in Minnesota after a lengthy layover in Chicago. Apparently the entire Midwest had been enjoying a mild winter until the Carter’s decided to visit. Then there were drops in temperatures, snow, high winds – basically all the things I hoped to experience while up north.

Upon arrival, we were picked up by my friend Matt G. in the most fully salt encrusted vehicle I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing since living in Boston. See, while we were flying through that Chicago snowstorm, he was driving through it. It was great having a limo service the whole weekend – especially one with child proof locks in the back seat so we could trap Matthew.

After a quick stop at the hotel to drop off bags and clean up it was time for a whirlwind trip of Minneapolis / St. Paul. Matt G. had lived there a few years ago, so we had our own personal tour guide of places he had worked at. If it weren’t for the sub freezing temperatures in the winter, I could see why it would be a nice place to live.

Matt convinced us that we needed to experience a Jucy Lucy (no, that’s not a typo) at the famous Matt’s Bar (no relation to either Matt that I was spending the evening with). A Jucy Lucy is, how do I say? The most freakingly delicious thing that you can eat, but you can’t think about what you are actually eating while you eat it. A hunk of cheese is surrounded by raw meat then pattied out, grilled, topped with onions and served right off a grill that probably hasn’t been cleaned since the Reagan years. At first I was skeptical, but the place was packed and we waited almost an hour to be seated and order. Yes. It was worth it.

Full of Jucy Lucy, we had a quick nighttime tour of Minneapolis and St. Paul, then headed back to the hotel to turn in for a night. We had a big day ahead of us and wanted to get a good night’s sleep. Sadly, the folks at Holiday Inn had different plans. Apparently the best time to start work on renovations on the floor above us is at 4:00 am on a Saturday. We were not thrilled by this, as you can imagine. It became very clear why we were getting such a great rate for the room.

Since we were getting an early start, we decided to hit the gym to train for the 50 mile MS Challenge Walk I have on March 3rd. After a nice work out and a tasty breakfast, we met up with Matt G.’s wife Joann. The first stop of the day was the Mill City Museum where the featured exhibits were “A History of Cake Mix” and “The Rise of Convenience Foods.” Sure, we were skeptical, but Matt G. was strangely excited about it, so we went in with an open mind. In short, it was one of the most entertaining and informative museums I have ever visited. Matt G. and I, being in the tourism industry, are pretty critical of tours, and we both gave it high marks. The highlight was a re-enactor who took us through the history of the Mill on the banks of the Mighty Mississippi from it’s beginnings, through a devastating explosion, its re-building, and then its closing. It was a beautiful building and the rooftop views were wonderful.

After a tasty lunch, we took another spin around the city, to see what it looked like in the day time. We then headed back to the hotel to get ready for the main event – Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion” at the Fitzgerald theater. If you’ve read my blog, you know how obsessed I have been with seeing this show live. It was a music heavy show with guests Ann Reed, My Brightest Diamond, and Heather Masse. I really enjoyed the Minnesota based Reed’s folk music, but the quirky songs of My Brightest Diamond, not so much – at first. By the end of the show she had won me over and we were humming her catchy tunes the whole way home. Heather Masse was gorgeous as always, but I did feel the show was a little heavy on the ballads, and I think a sketch or two was sacrificed for time. As always, his “News From Lake Wobegone” was rambling, yet comfortingly soothing.

After the show we headed to Broders’ Pasta Bar for dinner, where the wait was over an hour for a table. This was Matt and Joann’s favorite restaurant (and after the success of the Jucy Lucy the night before) we trusted their judgement. While waiting, it occurred that I didn’t have my phone on me. Before the phantom limb pain could set in, we headed out to the car, but it was not there. No, it had fallen into the middle of the street. Fearing the worst, I picked it up, and except for some dirty tire treads on the case, the phone was fine. Thank you Speck!!

Dinner was amazing, and the conversation and wine flowed wonderfully. It had been a long day, so we went to turn in. Thankfully, the construction crews took Sunday off, so we got a decent night’s sleep.

The next day was Mall of America Day. Now, for some folks with MS, malls can be difficult. All of the visual stimulation causes my double vision to flare up. Add in a ferris wheel, roller coaster, and 520 shops and I was blind in 5 minutes. I still loved it. Highlights were the Legoland Store, seeing Michael Oher (of The Blind Side fame) and the Sephora store. There was a ton of things we didn’t get to see – I understand now how you could easily spend 2-3 days there.

As our Minnesota adventure was wrapping up, Matthew and I remarked on how true everything we had heard about Minnesota was. The people were all extremely nice, the culture interesting, and that the best place to enjoy the weather was indoors. I was happy to check off an item on my Big Adventure List, while also doing some fun activities that were unplanned. I highly recommend you visit Minnesota (maybe in the summer) and if you get a chance to do any of the things we did, you are sure to have a blast!

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